Travels by Amtrak!

August 29th, 2019 — 4:06pm

Guys! Guys!

I’ve just come home from a Big Travel Adventure and I am in love with train travel and I will now tell you all about it! This post will be about my journey, not my destination — for that you will need to wait for another day.

Background: my disabilities have made travel uncomfortable/impossible for years. I can’t walk far or fast; I can’t carry anything heavy; I am easily fatigued and need to spend lots of time lying down; I require supplemental oxygen; I have an insane amount of medication to take every day, a medication pump to refill every three days, and lots of vital medical supplies that I need to have handy all the time.

I’m an extreme introvert and slightly claustrophobic. I’m also tall, thin, and bony. :)

Air travel is a nightmare for me, between the stressful time-wasting unpleasant airport experience, the humiliating security theater process, the dry, thinned-out air, and the feeling of being trapped in a tin can with no way to move about or unfold myself from a painfully uncomfortable seat. Driving long distances is just impossible.

But I have discovered the wonders of long-distance train travel and I am in loooooooveeeeee with Amtrak!

Here’s the story of my journey.

I traveled by Amtrak’s “Coast Starlight” train from my home in the SF Bay Area to visit my son and his family in Vancouver Washington. On the northbound trip, I bought a regular Amtrak coach ticket ($94). The seats are wide and very comfortable, there’s tons of legroom, and they recline quite a bit. It’s easy to keep your carry-ons close by, as there is plenty of space by your feet, an overhead bin, and some sturdy shelving for anything that won’t fit in the overhead bin. You’re allowed two carry-ons and two “personal items” with you, and you can check four more suitcases, I think, though two carry-ons are all I need plus my small portable oxygen concentrator and my purse.

In coach, there are two big seats on each side of the aisle. There’s no armrest between seats, so if you’re lucky enough to have no seatmate you could curl up across both seats to sleep. There are two power outlets for every pair of seats. I kept my oxygen machine plugged in, and my seatmate and I shared my long iphone charging cable.

Sleep was possible. Not great for a side-sleeper like me, but possible. I slept well enough that I felt ok the next day. I had all my meds, snacks, books, and knitting handy.

I was very lucky that my seatmate wasn’t chatty, but if you are sociable, you’ll find lots of friendly happy travelers just waiting to make friends with you!

Although I asked for and was promised help managing my luggage and getting from the station to the train and vice versa, it was all quite disorganized and there was a lot of waiting about for someone in an electric cart to come get me. Other passengers were kind enough to carry my luggage up and down the stairs to my upper-floor seat, thank goodness.

I boarded my train on a Monday evening and arrived in Portland (the stop closest to Henry’s house) the next afternoon. I ate lunch in the dining car which was a thrill! Dinner in the diner, nothing could be finer!

I spent most of my time just looking out the window at the beautiful mountain scenery and the day flew by.

For the return journey, hoping for better sleep and more help, I splurged on a “roomette” ($259), which is a teeny-tiny room with two big cushy seats facing each other, a huge window, and a sliding door (with window and curtain) to the aisle. The seats convert to a comfortable bed, and there’s a pull-down bunk for the second person, if two are traveling together. If you’re just one person, like me, there won’t be a stranger sharing your roomette. Just you. If you are traveling as a couple, the cost is not doubled — the roomette is one charge, and the actual travel ticket is another charge. So in my case it could probably be broken down to something like $165 for the roomette plus $94 for the travel ticket, so for two people it would have been $165 + $94 + $94. Make sense?

In a roomette there are lights, temperature controls, and ONE electrical outlet — next time I will pack a splitter!

It was a cozy little heaven. It was private and comfy, and I could partly recline my seat and put my feet up on the other one. People in sleeper cars are automatically traveling First Class, so there was MUCH more help for me! A Red Cap carried my luggage right to my roomette. I kept my bag full of oxygen stuff, meds, sleep needs, and amusements in my roomette and my other bag (clothes, shoes, spare meds) on the luggage shelf in my sleeper car.

The bathrooms in coach were perfectly adequate, but the sleeper car bathrooms were a couple notches nicer and there’s even a shower compartment for longer journeys!

Coach passengers must pay for their dining car meals (the food is quite good but pricey) but when you travel First Class all your meals are included — entree, drink, and dessert. There are maybe five or six choices per meal, including a vegetarian/vegan option if that’s your thing. I had a nice fresh salad for my lunch and salmon for dinner, with green beans and a baked potato. And flourless chocolate cake for dessert, which I took back to my roomette for a before-bed snack. Omg it was amazing.

Breakfast is a free-for-all, but they take reservations for lunch and dinner. If you’re in a sleeper car you get first dibs. :) A conductor comes along, asks when you’d like to eat, and gives you a slip of paper with your reservation time on it. On my northbound coach journey the train was PACKED so we filthy coach passengers were really last on the list — but I still got my lunch at around 12:45. :)

Here’s an amazing, wonderful, unexpected thing about train travel: it’s quiet. Or maybe not quiet, exactly, because you can hear some comfortable train-ish rattling and rumbling some of the time, and the far-off train whistle, but there’s no constant roar or hum or whine. All cars are quiet zones between 10pm and 6am, so even in coach it was very peaceful — and even when people were having conversations in the daytime, they weren’t shouting to be heard so it wasn’t annoying! In my roomette I heard only the right-and-proper clickity-clacking and the infrequent station stop announcements. I have EXTREME sensitivity to background noise so this low noise level was a huge benefit.

I slept very well in my roomette. I woke up a few times when the train was extra-rumbley or went briskly around corners, but I was very comfortable all night and felt well-rested when I woke up.

Also! After my train trips, I arrived at my destinations feeling cheerful and refreshed. When I fly, I arrive feeling exhausted and miserable.

Take the train, people. Take the train. Take the train while Amtrak is still operating, and write to your congressperson to support Amtrak’s continued existence, which I hear is on shaky ground. If you are disabled and need assistance, I do recommend that you splurge on a roomette if you possibly can. If you must travel by coach, find a conductor well before your stop and ask him or her to radio ahead for a Red Cap to assist you. (Even if you have already been promised that someone will be there to help you.)

Train travel is slower and more expensive than flying and driving but my goodness it’s so much more FUN! I literally looked out my window all day — mountains, forests, rivers, the backsides of tiny towns, the industrial zones of cities… there’s always something to see.

Since I found out that I have a very short amount of life remaining, my family and friends have asked if there’s anything I especially want to do in the time I have left. Up to now, I only wanted to stay home and be comfortable — but now I want to travel the country by train!

There are no great 1940s songs about Amtrak, so this will have to do:

(Fun fact: I am distantly related to the Atchisons of the Atchison, Topeka, and Santa Fe railway)

8 comments » | Blog

The Libby App!

August 2nd, 2019 — 10:24am

Time for a post that isn’t about quilts and my health :) I need to tell you something amazing I discovered a few weeks ago!

There’s an app called Libby.

Install, help it find your library, and enter your library card info.

And then BOOM you can check out ebooks and audiobooks right there, instantly. You can listen to the audiobooks right in the app, with a well-designed little player whose features include offline play, bookmarks, easy scrubbing forward and back through the book, and a sleep timer.

If you want to read with your eyeballs, you can read in the app or — get this — you can have your book DELIVERED TO YOUR KINDLE INSTANTLY. I don’t like reading on my phone, which is what has stopped me from checking out library ebooks in the past, so this is thrilling to me!

The Libby app lets you filter your search in sensible ways. You can search by genre. You can search for audiobooks, ebooks, or both. You can search for titles that are available to check out instantly, or ones which are already checked out to someone else, in which case you can put a hold on the item and it will be checked out for you automatically (with an email notification) when the item becomes available.

I tell you, it is such luxury to think, hmm, I’d like to listen to a new crime thriller, let’s see what there is… and then 3 minutes later I’m listening while I sew. Or thinking, hmm, I’ve never read “The Devil Wears Prada”, I wonder if it’s on Libby? And then three minutes later I’m reading it on my kindle.

I installed the app on 6yo Em’s iPad and helped her to find picture books to read and kids’ audiobooks to listen to.

Of course, the selection is limited. It’s not EVERYTHING you can get physically at your library. But I don’t check out physical audiobooks at all, because I don’t own any kind of cd player, so this is the only way I’ve found to get free modern audiobooks. Librivox is awesome but sometimes you want to hear something that was published later than 1923 :)

Through Libby I discovered a fantastic police procedural series by Elizabeth George, starring Inspector Lynley and his pals. I’ve been listening to them non-stop for weeks :) They’re well-written, and very long (like, around 25 hours of audio each). They are perfect for bedtime listening too — not gory or scary, interesting without being too exciting. Just right to help my tired brain fall asleep, and of course I drop a bookmark when I go to bed, so in the morning I can back up to that point and not miss anything. There are 20 novels in the series so far, so if you like ’em as much as I do you’re set for a long time. I prefer the ones narrated by Donada Peters, which is most of them.

Oh! Also I recently listened to “Heartburn” by Nora Ephron. I think I found it on the “humor” shelf. It was read by Meryl Streep!!! She is an absolutely amazing narrator, and the book was great too. While I was listening, I thought, huh, this dialogue really reminds me of When Harry Met Sally. And then I found out that Nora Ephron wrote When Harry Met Sally :)

3 comments » | Audiobooks, Blog, Books

Happy August

August 1st, 2019 — 8:42am

Hi guys, it’s August and I’m still alive, yay! :) Thank you all so much for the sweet comments and emails. They cheer me up when I re-read them on bad days.

Let’s see here… what’s new. Last weekend I went to a Featherweight maintenance workshop put on by Dave of
Of course I already knew how to oil and grease my machine because I am Research Girl, but I also learned many other things, including how to clean out the bobbin casing and how to install a new belt — both of which were much-needed. My beautiful Featherweight is running smoother than ever! It was fun to be in a room with eleven other Featherweights, from the early 1930s to the mid 1960s. I believe mine was the only inherited Featherweight — all the others had been bought from collectors or thrift stores.

Healthwise, I am much the same. Every activity is exhausting and I spend most of my time in bed, but I can still get up and sew or read to Em on good days! We’re working our way through the Mary Poppins series. I’ll have recordings to share with you sometime soon.

Kirsten showed me a wonderful soothing game called Merge Dragons and I am obsessed. It has entertained me though several Tired Days recently.

Here are the things I’ve made recently:

Three Suki Robes,
two of cotton and one of a silk saree that I bought on etsy for $15! I live in these robes, over tanks and tees in the daytime and over nothing at all at night. I have serious temperature regulation issues and these robes let me adjust my warmth level by tiny increments.

Also made a couple pairs of undies (pattern is Bunte Punkte Panty from Klimpergross) and a couple of comfy tank dresses based on the Kirei Cami pattern. With POCKETS. The blue dress has badgers all over it!

And quilts, of course.

This one is the free “Summer Breeze” pattern, for Susan and Jack. Just finished it and am ready to mail it away. I made it slightly larger than the pattern shows.

I invented a pattern for my nephew John and his partner Kim, owners of a massive succulent and cactus collection. I was inspired by their Instagram photos of their cacti in bloom. :) This one is basted and ready to quilt, but I’m still considering how best to quilt it.

Oh, I also made a little quilted needle book. Pattern is by RetroMama on Etsy

And a couple of shopping bags made of leftover/practice quilt parts :)

Right now I’m piecing a quilt for my brother, so you can look forward to photos of that one next time.

1 comment » | Blog, Handmade

I’m still here

July 13th, 2019 — 9:57am

Hi guys, thanks for checking on me. I’m still here :) I’ve had a string of rough days, doctor appointments, and total exhaustion, but I did manage to finish Kathy’s quilt and Dan’s quilt, and start one for Susan.

Here are some pretty pictures:

Kathy’s quilt, based on the Garden Star Quilt tutorial from MSCQ

Dan’s quilt (the blue is not so electric in real life), based on the Grayscale Quilt tutorial from cluckclucksew

And the very beginning of Susan’s, based on the Summer Breeze tutorial from Jordan Fabrics

5 comments » | Blog, Handmade

June update

June 19th, 2019 — 9:25am

Hello, I’m still here. Thank you for all the kind comments!!

I had a 14-day migraine that ended about two weeks ago, and then 2-day migraine that ended yesterday. UGH. But in between I was able to make several things, and we celebrated Em’s 6th birthday, for which Henry, Jayla, and Lulu were here! It was amazing to get to see them for a few hours and now I am itching to visit them as soon as the side effects settle down and I am in between nasty medical appointments.

Things I made:

A bias-cut apron and a sewing kit for Em’s birthday. The apron is a pattern I copied from a friend’s apron many long years ago. I had a green one that Em loved to wear until it fell apart from age, so I made her a beautiful new one. I added rick-rack to the edges to make it prettier, and I lined to so that it should last her for years and years. It’s adult-size, with an adjustable neck strap. Sewing kit is an old cookie tin with a drawstring top attached. I filled it with a tape measure, a pincushion, a pair of scissors just for fabric, and six fat quarters of calico so she has some fabric that she can use without asking permission.

Also, we had a couple of blistering hot days so I made myself two light cotton robes using the “Suki Robe” pattern from Helen’s Closet. Her patterns are sooooooo good. I used an alternative neckband, and added lined patch pockets. I only had two yards of the green seersucker and had to get creative, so it has a muslin hem-extender and extra-wide sleeve bands. I LOVE these robes!!

Also I finished Lulu’s quilt in time for them to take it home with them after their little visit! I quilted daisy chains all over it, with a nice loopy border.

AND! During the 14-day migraine I had some mornings when I felt well enough to sew for an hour, so I did some work on Kathy’s quilt. All I need to do now is add the borders, baste, quilt, and bind. :)

9 comments » | Blog, Handmade

Chloe’s quilt

May 30th, 2019 — 8:53am

I just finished Chloe’s Herringbone quilt and I’m so proud of it. She chose the fabric when she was up here visiting a month or two ago — a lovely set of flannel prints from the Missouri Star Quilt Company. I chose a nice creamy herringbone flannel for the background fabric, and an extra-thick cotton batting so it would be heavy and comforting. The borders and binding are some black kona cotton I had hanging around and the backing is 90″ premium muslin as usual. I quilted big free oak leaves all over it, which was both fun and challenging! I’m still not sure how I managed to maneuver that enormous heavy thing through my tiny Featherweight 221. :) The quilting took several days because a) it was so tiring that I could only work for an hour or two at a time and b) I’ve had a mild migraine for 11 days which gets a bit worse in the early afternoon.

Finished quilt is 70″ x 82″


3 comments » | Blog, Handmade

Kara’s Tabbouleh

May 17th, 2019 — 10:13am

Recipe time! I make tabbouleh/tabouli a lot in summer. I don’t care for parsley so I make mine with spinach. Also I never have mint. Who has mint? So no mint in mine. This recipe makes a nice big container.

Kara’s Tabbouleh

2 c bulgur wheat (check the rice or international section of your store)
2 c water
4 handfuls baby spinach
2-3 tomatoes
2-3 scallions or 1/4 onion
1/2 c lemon juice (maybe 2 lemons worth)
1/4 c olive oil

Microwave the wheat and water together for 5 minutes, stir, and let it cool.

Chop the tomatoes, spinach, and onion. Stir into the cooled wheat, then mix in the olive oil, lemon juice, and salt to taste. Fridge it for a while to let the flavours blend, then eat eat eat. You can, of course, adjust the quantities of everything as you like. Yummmmmmmmm.

Comment » | Recipes

Em’s quilt

May 17th, 2019 — 10:02am

I finished Em’s quilt!

She chose this pack of 10″ flannel squares from my stash (“Lil’ Sprouts” from, and she decided she wanted big plain squares with a scalloped border. We laid out all the squares on the floor and she arranged them to her taste. She also sewed some of the seams! (Em will be 6 in June). I quilted a big flower in each square and rainbow shapes around the edge. The border is flannel from JoAnn’s. Cotton batting.

Remodulin update: one minor migraine last weekend, several episodes of Hot Face (so uncomfortable, feels like my face will burst into flames), painful knees, nausea, extra fatigue, weird temperature issues — I feel way too hot or way too cold almost all the time. Quite tolerable!

2 comments » | Handmade

more remodulin

May 9th, 2019 — 9:00am

I had an appointment with my pulmonologist up at UCSF on Monday, and he convinced me to try increasing my dose of Remodulin one more time and to have another right heart cath done — they’ll put a catheter in my heart and look around and measure the pressures in there. (I’ve had this done many times and it sounds worse than it is.) He thinks there’s a tiny TINY chance that, with a little more Remodulin in my system, they *might* be able to fix the hole in my heart, which *might* lessen my symptoms somewhat and give me a little more time. Don’t get all excited, it’s a very very very slim chance.

So I cranked my pump up one notch yesterday (to 0.04 mL/hour, which equates to 32 ng/kg/min at my weight) and now I’m waiting for the hideous side effects to set in… I will probably have several weeks of near-constant migraines, full body pain, and intense nausea. If I can’t handle it, I’ll need to drop back to my regular dose. We’ll see. I couldn’t handle it last time we tried this. Anyway if you don’t hear from me here for a while it means I’m lying in a dark room trying not to puke.

In other news, I finished my beautiful Voysey print “Modern T” quilt! and it’s the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen and it is mine, mine, mine. I drew leaves and vines all over the backing and quilted from the back, which was really fun! I used a different kind of wool batting (Quilters Dream) and I think it is MUCH better than the stuff I got from JoAnn’s. Barely any fibers on the surface of the quilt after washing. I wish I’d used this better batting for Henry’s quilt, but oh well, live and learn. I also finished Suzanne’s little green lap quilt and she loves it :) :) :)

Next up: quilts for Emma Rose, Chloe, Kathy, and Lulu. I think I have enough fabric for all of them, except for the backings. I’m waiting for muslins to go on sale at JoAnn’s…

7 comments » | Blog, Handmade

SVT again

May 1st, 2019 — 8:31am

On Friday I had another bout of SVT (supra ventricular tachycardia) which was horrible horrible horrible. I was lying in my bed, reading at 5:30pm when all of a sudden my heart rate jumped to 160bpm and my o2 dropped to 84% — and I was using my supplemental oxygen at 5lpm at the time! It was awful. I waited 20 minutes to see if it would clear up (as instructed last time) but it didn’t so Marcos drove me to the ER.

They fiddled around for a while but when they decided it really was SVT they gave me the magical drug adenosine, which flatlines you for a moment so your heart can reboot. Wild, huh? I felt instantly fine again, just tired. They would ordinarily send a patient home at that point but because of all my other underlying stuff they kept me overnight for observation. I demanded that they remove both IVs and all the electrodes (because of the adhesive allergy) and they complied! I also informed them that I had brought all my own medication and that I would be dosing myself — and they complied without even much of a fuss! So that eliminated both of the major Hospital Headaches.

(The usual medication routine in a hospital is they take away all my meds and then give them back to me on THEIR schedule, which is different than MY schedule. Also my meds are so complicated that I always catch them making a mistake, and it’s stressful needing to monitor them.)

So then I was back home again by Saturday night, after waiting four hours between when the cardiologist said I could go home and when my discharge papers finally arrived. *eyeroll*

I’ve also had a little cold, so I didn’t get any sewing done for the last couple of days. But I think today I might have enough energy to sew a little bit! I’m working on two quilts at the moment: a green and white throw for my therapist and a beautiful quilt for ME which is made out of the most beautiful fabric! I will write about all that another time, but here’s a couple photos to whet your appetite:

6 comments » | Blog

more quilts

April 21st, 2019 — 8:27am

I was going to do a post with lots of photos showing work-in-progress, but I don’t think I have the stamina for that. So here are four more quilts I’ve finished:

Mom’s Nasturtium quilt (pattern is Disappearing Pinwheel Shoofly). The folded photo’s colors are more true. Machine quilted in random meanders and swirls and things.

Henry’s Stacks quilt. Machine quilted along the seam lines, with spirals in the border. After piecing but before before quilting I hand-embroidered the titles of 40 favorite books in random places.

Jayla’s Simple Squares quilt. Machine quilted in swirling feather designs, with big daisies around the border.

Kirsten and Marcos’s Outer Space quilt (traditional Log Cabin pattern). Machine quilted in spirals with pebbles around the border.

All patterns are from the free video tutorials at Missouri Star Quilt Company. Most of the fabrics are from them too. All were pieced and quilted entirely on my beloved Singer Featherweight 221.

I’m basically ok except for this odd depression that manifests as a serious quilting/making OBSESSION. Quilts are all I think about and quilting (and knitting) is all I do… No news on the health front. I had a meeting with a Palliative Care team member to talk about… stuff. You know. End-of-life comfort and that.

4 comments » | Blog, Handmade

Disappearing Pinwheel Shoofly Quilt

March 26th, 2019 — 10:15am

Henry’s Stacks quilt is still coming along nicely — I embroider a few more book titles every day — and I’ve started a Disappearing Pinwheel Shoofly quilt for Mom. I chose this pattern and color scheme because it reminds me of the nasturtiums we both love. :)

There’s a video tutorial here:

but for the impatient, here’s a quick photo rundown. And I have a couple tips of my own to add.

Take two 10″ squares (or any size, but I wouldn’t go much smaller than 10″), your print and your background, and stitch them together with a 1/4″ seam all the way around the edge. I like to sew straight off the edge, then lift the foot, reposition the fabric, and start the next edge. For me it’s quicker and more accurate than trying to pivot that corner at exactly 1/4″ from the edge. Press, then SLICE that square from corner to corner. Press open the resulting pieces and you have four half-square triangles (quilting terminology for a square made of two triangles). Arrange them in pinwheel formation and sew them together.

Now comes the exciting part, the part where you will ruin a whole block if you’re not paying attention. Guess how I know this… *eyeroll*

(These measurements apply if you started with 10″ squares) Take your nice accurate quilting ruler and measure a line exactly 2 1/8″ from the center seam. I’ve circled the 2 1/8″ marks in this photo. See how they line up just right?

Then SLICE along your ruler. Then lift the ruler CAREFULLY, and CAREFULLY place the 4 1/4″ marks on the line you just cut. Again, I’ve circled them. There will be a little bit of edge to trim off.

Now CAREFULLY rotate your block. I bought an inexpensive rotating cutting mat, but you can also just rotate a smallish mat on your table.

Repeat those cuts on all four sides — 2 1/8″ from the center, then trim the edge at 4 1/4″ from that cut. I say the numbers aloud while lining up the ruler. One time I didn’t, and I cut a different measurement which I won’t say here so as not to throw you off but it was the number between 2 and 4. And that entire block went into the scrap box. *another eyeroll*

And now you have — ta-da — this! And each block is exactly 4 1/4″ square.

Now the magic happens. Take the eight outer squares and rotate each by 1/4 turn to the right.

Hey presto! It’s a flowery-looking thing! (Actually a traditional shoofly block with a little pinwheel in the center)

Stitch together in rows, stitch the rows together, and:

Isn’t that going to be a pretty thing?

HAHAHAHA I just spotted a triangle going the wrong way! I could pick it out but I’ll probably leave it. I’ll just put that block in the corner. No one said quilts had to be perfect and I am a total beginner anyway. :)

3 comments » | Blog, Handmade

a quilt and a blanket in progress

March 23rd, 2019 — 6:37pm

Hey all,

Thank you so much for the sweet comments and emails! I’m bad about replying but I’ll get to it one of these days… Just know that your kind and loving words meant a great deal to me.

Here’s my in-progress knitted Friesland blanket. I’ve finished 13 motifs and I have 15 remaining, I think. Yikes, it’s going to be enormous! I grafted together seven of them ages ago, and then I just kept on knitting. I didn’t realize how many I had finished until I counted them up today! I haven’t blocked any since the center 7, so I’ve got a serious pile of blocking to attend to. According to Ravelry, I started this blanket in March of 2017. Double yikes! Time to do some serious knitting.

And I’ve made a good start on Henry’s “Stacks” quilt. The fabric is the “Wit and Wisdom” jelly roll from And a plain black roll too. Doesn’t
it look like stacks of nice old hardback books? I’ve got all the strips assembled and joined together in five groups of eight, and now I’m embroidering book titles in random places. Some are books that Henry and I have enjoyed together, and some are my old favorites, so it will act as both a quilt and a list of book suggestions :)

3 comments » | Blog, Handmade

some news

March 17th, 2019 — 7:24pm

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? :)


16 comments » | Blog, Handmade

Plum-Colored Cardigan

January 29th, 2019 — 8:48am

Here’s what I did last weekend:

Pattern: Blackwood Cardigan from (Size 10)

Fabric: Plum-colored cotton/bamboo/spandex fleece from Mood Fabrics
(Christmas gift!)

It took a lot of courage to cut into the fabric. It’s by far the most luxurious fabric I’ve ever worked with — thick, drapey, and crazy-soft; it’s softer than a kitten, seriously. I made a practice cardigan first, just to be safe. (Yellow, see previous post)

Here are the pieces cut out

Here are pockets pinned in place with temporary tissue paper backing for stability

And a pocket sewn. I did all the top-stitching on the Featherweight; even though it isn’t zig-zag it’s fine because those areas aren’t under stress. The fabric was so much loftier than I’m used to that I slid off the pocket edge a few times. Oops. But no one will ever notice :)

And, finished!

It’s a simple, straight-forward, well-designed pattern. The instructions are clear, as is usual with Helen’s patterns, and it’s not much of an exaggeration to say that it took longer to cut the fabric than to sew it together! The design includes extra-long sleeves that bunch up adorably or can be pulled over the hands for warmth, but because my arms are extra-long the sleeves on my yellow practice cardigan weren’t long enough to suit me. I added about 3/4″ inch of length to the sleeve and an inch to the cuff (which is doubled so it’s actually only 1/2 inch longer).

All seams sewn on the serger; all topstitching sewn on the Featherweight (straight-stitch).

It’s a perfect replacement for my ancient worn-out Target cardigans. The fit is excellent and the fabric is cozy and quite warm; it blocks the wind better than I was expecting. I’ve worn it every day since I made it :) Extremely proud of myself.

2 comments » | Blog, Handmade

Singer Featherweight 221

January 25th, 2019 — 10:30am

As promised!

My Grandpa bought this Singer Featherweight sewing machine for my Grandma in 1951. I know the exact year because it has a special Centennial badge on it, as described in this post:

This photo shows the original instruction booklet and all the accessories:

The funny-looking thing is a buttonhole attachment. This machine only sews a straight lockstitch, forwards and backwards — no zig-zag or other fancy modern stitches. The buttonhole attachment actually moves the fabric back-and-forth under the needle while sewing. Amazing. You can see it in action in the first video here:

At some point over the last SEVENTY YEARS, Grandma lost one of the buttonhole cams and the TINY black screw that holds the feed-cover in place, but the wonderful sold me vintage replacements for these parts for just a few dollars! From them I also bought motor lubricant (specially formulated for this machine), a pretty little matching seam guide, which you can see attached to the machine in the first photo, and a thread guide for modern cone thread.

I have set my big modern Pfaff aside and am attempting to do all my sewing with just my serger and the Featherweight. It’s sort of challenging because I sew with knits a lot, which usually require a zig-zag stitch; however, with the serger for stretchy seams I’ve been managing ok. In the 70s Grandma bought a little zig-zag attachment for the Featherweight. It doesn’t work perfectly, but I think it might be good enough for the occasional hem. I need to experiment a bit more.

Here are a few of my recent sewing projects. Sorry for crappy selfies — I no longer have Henry at my beck-and-call for photographer duty :)

Practice Blackwood Cardigan (before I cut into the luscious plum-colored cotton/bamboo/lycra fleece that Steve gave me)

My third pair of Avery Leggings. This adorable striped cotton/lycra is from The Fabric Fairy:

Underlovelies, sewn without a zig-zag! I stretched the hell out of the elastic while sewing it on with a straight stitch. Worked great! Pattern is from Klimpergross. I’ve sewn about 6 pairs so far and I love them. Elli sent me the fabric, and she also gave me all three Klimper books over the past few years. Wonderful Elli. <3

This suit for Lulu is made of two layers of cotton flannel. So thick and warm! Pattern is based on Babyanzug from Kinderleicht. The matching cap is Ohrenklappenmütze by Schnabelina.

This little flannel jumper for Lulu has extra-long straps with extra snaps for growing room. Pattern is based on the Mikey Strampelhose.

Ok! How’s THAT for a real blog post? With photos, even! :)

3 comments » | Blog, Handmade

Happy 2019

January 24th, 2019 — 11:14am

Ugh, the longer I go between posts, the harder it is to get started again.

It’s 2019 and the world has an entirely new crop of Public Domain literature! I can hardly believe it. When we started LibriVox, only books published before 1922 were legal for us to record, but finally we get an extra year of stuff, so everything published in 1923 is now fair game! And if the laws don’t change, next year we will be allowed to record things from 1924. Unbelievable. We were so sure they’d change the laws to restrict the Public Domain further, rather than allow anything new to be released so this is incredibly exciting.

My health: Getting worse. All the migraines and other side effects forced me to drop my Remodulin dose back down to 0.038 mL/hr, so my shortness of breath is worsening and I need more supplemental oxygen and I’m ever more exhausted. Ah well. At least I’m still here. I have a new therapist, Suzanne, whom I love! She’s young and enthusiastic and sweet and so helpful.

My family: Henry, Jayla, and Lulu (Annaliese) have moved to Vancouver Washington! I’m so excited for them. They’re staying with Dan for a few weeks while Henry works and earns enough money to get them their own apartment. Cost of living is much better up there so they should actually be able to afford their own place, which would have been impossible in the Bay Area. I’m quite envious of their rain and trees and I can’t wait to visit once they’re settled.

My Life: On weekdays I pick up Em from school and ferry her to her wonderful after-school care at my friend Uwimana’s house. Uwimana’s daughter is Em’s dear friend so it is perfect. And then I pick her up again at 5:30 and give her dinner and spend some Em-and-Kara time with her till her parents get home. She’s an incredibly kind-hearted, empathetic, creative, artistic, sweet-tempered, bright little person and I adore her.

I’ve been playing Stardew Valley on the Switch; and on iOS my current favorites are Clash Royale, Pocket City, I Love Hue, and the Cryptic Crosswords apps from Teazel.

I Love Hue, in particular, is a very special game, unlike anything I’ve ever played. It is gentle and calming, with no timers or punishments of any kind. There are hundreds of levels — I’ve been playing for months and am nowhere near the end — and now that I’m at the very advanced levels I’m able to sort colors that are almost identical. It’s astonishing what the brain can learn to do.

Speaking of learning, I gave up on online MOOC courses ages ago, because what the PAH and all the meds and everything my short-term memory is shot. HOWEVER! My ability to learn languages seems to be relatively unaffected! That bit of my brain must be extra-strong. I improve in German all the time. I’m reading familiar novels with relative ease, and just last night I noticed that I don’t always need to translate into English in my mind. I just… understand the German. Sweeeeeet. Also I’m working through the Italian course in Duolingo, at least two lessons a day. Today is my 137th consecutive day.

OK enough for now. Next time I’ll tell you all about my new Prize Possession — my grandmother’s Singer Featherweight sewing machine!

4 comments » | Blog

I’m still here!

November 20th, 2018 — 8:25am

Oops. Big gap, there. I had a couple months of nearly constant ferocious migraines. Back in September I raised my dose of sub-q Remodulin because my PAH is worsening, and one of the (many) side effects is migraines… But the headaches have finally calmed down now, knock on wood. I need to raise my dose again because I’m still sliding downhill, but I’m gonna wait till after Thanksgiving.

I got a nifty little iphone app called Migraine Buddy which helps you track your headaches, triggers, sleep, symptoms, pain location, etc. It’s really friendly and useful, and I recommend it if you are a migraine sufferer too.

Thanks to a twitter thread about women in podcasting, I discovered a fantastic new podcast: Here’s the episode I started with:

When you’re feeling unwell, what’s the book you read to make yourself feel better? And why does it work?
Clinical psychologist Jane Gregory explains why she sometimes prescribes novel-reading to her patients; and academic Guy Cuthbertson tells how post-WW1 Britain was soothed by Agatha Christie’s murder mysteries.

After listening to that one, I went back to the first episode and have almost caught up to the present day. I love love love Helen’s style. My other two favorite podcasts ( and usually come in at about an hour per episode (the longer the better, if you ask me) but The Allusionist usually comes in at around 15 minutes — so give it a try if you want something short and brainy!

That’s enough for now — more soon. I’ll tell you about the things I’ve been sewing, knitting, reading, and watching! :)

2 comments » | Blog

The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe

August 27th, 2018 — 9:43am

Brand new, and full of cheerful family noise :)

You can subscribe to this book as a podcast and download all the chapters at once. Copy this rss link and paste it into your podcatcher:

The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe

You can stream these chapters non-stop from here:


01 Lucy Looks into a Wardrobe
02 What Lucy Found There
03 Edmund and the Wardrobe
04 Turkish Delight
05 Back on This Side of the Door
06 Into the Forest
07 A Day with the Beavers
08 What Happened After Dinner
09 In the Witch’s House
10 The Spell Begins to Break
11 Aslan is Nearer
12 Peter’s First Battle
13 Deep Magic from the Dawn of Time
14 The Triumph of the Witch
15 Deeper Magic from Before the Dawn of Time
16 What Happened about the Statues
17 The Hunting of the White Stag

3 comments » | Audiobooks, Blog

Beezus and Ramona

July 24th, 2018 — 7:48pm

A new recording for you! Lots of cheerful family noise in this one, folks :)

Here’s a brand-new feature: you can subscribe to this book as a podcast and download all the chapters at once. Copy this rss link and paste it into your podcatcher:

Beezus and Ramona, by Beverly Cleary


01 Beezus and Her Little Sister
02 Beezus and Her Imagination
03 Ramona and Ribsy
04 Ramona and the Apples
05 A Party at the Quimbys’
06 Beezus’ Birthday

4 comments » | Audiobooks, Blog

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