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some news

So. I had a pulmonology appointment a couple weeks ago. I’ve been going downhill for the last few months (constantly exhausted, much more short of breath with even the slightest exertion, need more supplementary oxygen) so I expected some bad news, but yikes. Hearing it out loud was rough. Doctor says I have a year left, maybe two if I’m lucky. Let’s split the difference and call it a year and a half. So I’ll probably be dead by the end of 2020. Blah. I was in a horrible black depression for a few days but then I pulled out of it. My therapist, Suzanne, is an angel and a goddess and a true healer.

I decided to spend my time doing exactly what I please, to the greatest extent possible. I’ve had a huge burst of creativity lately. One of my huge regrets (this is gonna sound odd) is that I don’t have much more time to sew on my beloved Singer Featherweight, so I’ve decided to slow down on the sock-knitting and baby-clothes creation, since those things get lost, wear out, and get outgrown, and turn instead to quilt-making. Quilts last virtually forever, are useful and beautiful, and never get lost or outgrown.

I haven’t done much quilting in the past. About sixteen years ago I made a beautiful queen-size hand-quilted Monkey Wrench quilt for Dan, and maybe eight years ago I made a simple tied comforter for Henry, but that’s it for my quilting experience. I enjoyed the actual construction, but did not enjoy not figuring out how much fabric to buy, the cutting of large yardage into small precise pieces, nor the hand-quilting, which is the reason that Henry’s comforter is made of big squares of two alternating fabrics and simply tied instead of quilted.

Well! When I started googling for quilting techniques etc., I discovered the Missouri Star Quilting Company. They sell beautifully coordinated, high-quality quilting fabric which you can buy by the yard but also in pre-cut bundles of a few basic shapes that you can then cut into the smaller shapes you need AND they have hundreds of friendly tutorial videos for inspiration. (And they tell you exactly how much yardage you need!) Their fabric is expensive but “you can’t take it with you”, eh? Thanks for funding my new quilting obsession, Mom :)

I am now well-versed in the language of the “Jelly Roll” (a bundle of 40 strips that are 2.5″ by 42″ in beautifully coordinated prints or solids), the “Layer Cake” which is a stack of forty 10″ squares, and the “Charm Pack” which is a stack of forty-two 5″ squares.

The first quilt I made was for Steve. I drove to JoAnn’s fabric and craft store the morning after my hideous doctor appointment and distracted myself by choosing everything I needed to make his quilt. I made a few big blunders while creating it but it all turned out fine in the end, mostly because I am BAD at planning ahead when crafting (I’m a crafting improv girl) so I ended up with a bunch of extra blocks, counterbalancing the blocks I ruined with my first (failed) attempt at free motion quilting. :) Need more practice! So I switched to straight-line quilting with my even-feed foot and it all went smoothly after that. Photo time:

I cut my fabric into squares. I think they were maybe 7″? I can’t remember. Then I matched each blue square with a creamy-yellow square and sewed them together around all four sides. Then I sliced each square diagonally and pressed the resulting “half square triangles” open. Look at me, with the quilting jargon. Then I sewed these together into “Hourglass” blocks:

Then I sewed four of those together to make big blocks. This block probably has a name but I don’t know what it is. Do you? It’s similar to “Ohio Star” but not quite.

I squared them up and laid them out on the floor to make sure it would look nice:

I sewed the big nameless blocks together into long strips (not pictured) then layered those strips with batting (doubled unbleached cotton batting, only the best natural fibres for my loved ones) and backing (which was a flat sheet that I never use), then machine-quilted them along all the straight lines…

…stitched the fronts of the long strips together, then flipped the quilt over and sewed the back together by hand…

…then added a “double binding” (Jenny’s tutorial was the best), which is sewn around once by machine, wrapped around the edge to the back, and finished by hand. I enjoyed this part especially much! I’d call it ladder stitch or slip stitch, but googling those terms gives you a crazy assortment of different stitches. Here’s the Correct Method:

And, finished! Not pictured: I wrote a care label on white muslin with a fine-point archival waterfast pen and stitched it by hand to the back. It has my signature on it so Steve can take it to the Antiques Roadshow someday when I am remembered as a beloved, world-famous audiobook narrator and show it off :)

It took 15 days of pretty intense work and it REALLY distracted me. I bet this post distracted you a little too, huh? :)


Category: Blog, Handmade 16 comments »

16 Responses to “some news”

  1. Audrey Sanborn

    That is a lovely heirloom quilt, truly made with lots of love and great attention to detail. I know you’re busy and your time is extra precious, so thank you for keeping us posted and i look forward to future entries about all the other crafty items you’re making.

  2. Mike Wilson

    Oh, man, I’m so sorry to hear about the pulmonology results; you’ve been with us for so long that I’ve just been assuming that you’d stay forever! I know that you’ve been living with this stuff for years and years, but… sorry, sorry. I’ll just keep hoping that they’re wrong.

    You haven’t been posting lots and lots for some time, so I’ve gotten used to not checking in that often; I’ll look more frequently. It’s nice to see pictures of you up, not to mention the shots showing you out and about, too!

  3. Vivian

    So sorry about the doctor’s news. My son would be sad to hear that too, he loves you and counts “discovering Kayray” as one of the highlights of 2016. On the bright side, glad to see your quilting adventures. Funny, cos I borrowed two quilting books today, wondering if it’s something I could/would get into.

  4. Suzan

    Yes, unlike me, you will be remembered for many gorgeous creations, from your crafts to your voice to your cooking. We will both be remembered as people who loved fiercely and well! We have been wildly lucky to share lots of laughs and silliness, since grandpa Mike lives in in us. We never know who will say goodbye first, but the LOVE is forever. From your old adoring auntie. 😁

  5. Gillian

    So sorry to hear about the medical situation. You were a tower of strength to Christopher when he was ill, and I will always be grateful to you for that. I will keep thinking of you and checking your blog regularly for news and photos of your crafty creations.

    I love your quilt! My mother was heavily into patchwork, but in the British “very random hexagons” tradition rather than the more structured American style. She had a very stressful job and hand-sewing all the fiddly pieces was a form of therapy for her. She gave me a patchwork quilt when I left home thirty years ago – it was made up of offcuts from my old school uniforms, bits of dresses and skirts I’d worn on family holidays as a child, and remnants of fabrics that meant something to her. It’s like looking a montage of my family history, and I will always treasure it even though after thirty years of use it is now sadly faded and a bit frayed at the edges!

  6. TL

    After listening to you on LibriVox many times, I decided to visit your site. I’m so sorry to hear about your illness, but I have to say that I appreciate your willingness to do something creative with your time left. My mom has been recently put on hospice care due to advanced cancer in her breasts, lymph nodes and spine. Her mantra is “I’m just sitting here, waiting to die,” despite encouragement to think differently. Thank you for the entertainment, enjoyment, and hope you give. You inspire me to be something special in the time here on Earth. We never really know how much time we have, now do we? It’s best to make the best of it all.

  7. Kathy

    You are a force for good like few I’ve ever met. I’m so proud of you and will be rooting for you every day and your example is in my mind all the time. I love you, dear sister.

  8. Suzan

    A force for good. Kathy nailed it, 💕

  9. Catharine

    Oh, Kara. I cannot tell you how sorry I am. Working with you at Librivox (however many years ago now!) and listening to your recordings and reading your blog has been a joy for a long time.

    I’m so glad you’re quilting! May it continue to be a source of enjoyment and fulfillment.

    [hugs] Let me know if there’s anything you’d like any of us to do!

  10. jennifer

    Sending you so much love. Thank you for sharing these beautiful things you’re making with us as well.

  11. Hugh

    Hi Kara, just posting a little note to say hello after reading this. Sending you as much positive energy as I can from montreal.

  12. Eva

    I just got on your website because my daughters (6 and 9 years old) listen to your Librivox recording of Heidi over and over and over and I’m SO SAD to see this news. I love to see that you’re creating beautiful things, though, and I wish you all the best as you deal with all this health stuff. <3 <3

  13. Brenda Hamilton

    You have blessed so many people with your readings and creativity. May all the time you have left in the world be blessed.

  14. Gesine

    Hi Kara
    Haven’t been in touch for a while but randomly read your blog/Ravelry at times, and of course listen to you. So sorry to hear about your pulmonology results. I hope you can keep your spirits up and really get to do all the things you love best! Sending you lots of good thoughts. xoxo

  15. Brenda Hamilton

    P.S. I totally get it about the Singer Featherweight. I learned to sew on one and it is still my favorite little machine.

  16. Jody

    Hi Kara,

    I just clicked on your website from Librivox (where I’ve listened to you for years and years–my favourite part of yours is in the dramatised Little Women) and stumbled across this post.

    I am SO sorrowed to hear this news regarding your heart. . . Doing what you love and find joy in will certainly make your non-tangible heart healthier, and I hope that gives your physical heart less stress and a little extra time on this earth. It isn’t everyone who remembers to live (and give) like they are dying. It’s inspiring to see you do so. Thank you for being you!

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