Solitary confinement

I’m used to my own company, I am in fact quite a solitary character. I don’t need to be surrounded by other people, as I can entertain myself. However sometimes the loneliness of chronic illness really gets to me. I am having a wobble.

 

Mr Myasthenia Kid had two weeks off work (as annual holiday) in August, it’s the longest he’s taken as holiday in years. Normally he takes a week here and there throughout the year. Always holding some back in reserve in case he needs to take time off to look after me or take me to medical appointments. Usually by the end of his weeks holiday I am happy to send him back to work, as I have my own routine and ways I like to get stuff done. This time however I am finding hard to adjust to not having him home with me. We had a lovely two weeks together, laughing, talking and generally just being together and now the house just seems so empty and quiet. It’s been quite hard to g back to it just being me for long stretches at a time.

 

It is really hard to explain how empty the house seems, it’s not like he takes up lots of room or that he makes loads of noise. It’s just I got very used to his presence and having someone to talk to. When you are chronically sick and virtually housebound your world gets very small. You only see the people who can be bothered to make the time to see you. Being below retirement age all of my friends are working and have families of their own, so I am very grateful for the time I do get to spend with them . With the pace of life these days, it’s very easy to be forgotten about, out of sight out of mind. I found that back in 2008 when I left work, that all these people who I had known for 12 years who I believed were my friends, just disappeared. They think a quick comment on your Facebook page is a get out of jail free card, it doesn’t replace seeing someone in the flesh and having a conversation.

 

Most of my friendships are now online and I have made some truly wonderful friends. Particularly on Instagram amongst the crafting / sewing / creative community. I am lucky to have got sick in an age where to talk to someone I just have to open up my computer but it doesn’t replace the physical presence of another human being. I am grateful for the online friends I have but I would imagine they would agree that proper physical contact with other human beings trumps any other contact with the outside world.

 

I have always been quite a solitary character, my own company isn’t something that has ever daunted me. In fact there are days where I cherish the time I spend alone. I like being able to step back from the outside world but I also like to spend time in it or as close as I can. I like a balance of both but due to my health being so utterly rotten this year, I have barely seen anyone since the end of June. I have literally gone weeks and the only person I have spoken to is Jamie. Can any of you who aren’t chronically sick imagine what that is like, that the only contact you have with the outside world is with one person? It’s no ones fault, this isn’t a dig at any of my friends as it has been me doing the cancelling due to not being well enough. Is it any wonder now that after having two weeks of company I am finding going back to being alone so very difficult? I am grateful that we have the dogs but their conversational skills are very limited.

 

It’s hard to explain but my heart hurts with the loneliness and the missing Jay. I know he’s only 7 minutes up the road but the house is so quiet it  is deafening.

 

Every year around Christmas time there is always a campaign about loneliness and the elderly. Every year I want to scream at the TV it’s not just the elderly who are lonely in this country. There are hundreds of thousands if not millions of people whose lives are blighted by illness who see no one for weeks on end other than their caregivers or partners. It is assumed that if you are aged between 18-67 that you are in work but there are many of us who can’t work, who are housebound who are crying out for some company yet we are the forgotten ones. I don’t know if it is because people don’t understand chronic illness and can’t get their heads around the fact that there are working age people, who through no fault of their own do not have the social outlet of work and are just forgotten. It’s like we don’t exist.

 

I am extremely lucky I have friends who do come and visit me. I really appreciate those visits and I hate it when I have to cancel due to my health deciding to have a hissy fit. It takes a lot for me to cancel because I don’t know when they will be able to visit again. There are lots of people in my position who never see anyone. I know I am lucky, I am just sad this week as I am finding it so hard to adjust to Jamie being back at work.

 

I know given a few more days I will have got myself back into a routine and I will be used to being on my own again. I thank my lucky stars for my cyber friends who are so supportive and caring. Even though I am shit at messaging people because I am always in my own little bubble. I have an issue where I think of someone, say to myself “oh I must message them” and two weeks later I realise I haven’t. I’m currently struggling with what day of the week it is. Not because there has been a bank holiday it’s purely that I have no clue. To give you an example of how bad it is at the moment, I had no clue today was Thursday and was quite surprised when I started to get notifications on my blogs Facebook page. It was only when I looked I realised that my blog post for this week had been published. I tend to write them in advance and schedule them in to be published automatically. This morning I had no idea that it was Thursday. I do however know who the prime minister is and what year I was born! Just in case anyone is concerned about my mental status. It’s just the days are currently blurring into one.

I also know that the way I am feeling now is probably a reaction to all the stress I have been under lately. My mum has had some pretty major surgery that was needed out of the blue. Adrenaline has carried me through for weeks. Now things are starting to calm down, I have the time to spend analysing my feelings because during that time period it was just getting through that day that mattered. It was a frightening / stressful time. In a year of horribly stressful and sad events. I know I just need to get back into a routine and allow myself the period of adjustment instead of being so hard on myself that I am struggling to adapt.

 

This probably  seems quite a depressing read, I’m sorry. I have just really been surprised at the depth of feeling that Jays return to work has caused me. I don’t think in the nearly 22 years we have been together that I have ever missed him so much. Silly really as every night he is home, every morning he is here. Just at the moment being in the house alone seems a little like solitary confinement.

 

P.s Its over a week later and I am back into my old routine. I am enjoying the time I have to myself and have been really productive on the sewing front.  I have also had a visit from some friends which was really nice. Obviously I still miss Jay during the day but it’s not like the deep ache in my heart I had before. I  am much happier now that I have re-adjusted to the time spent alone.

 

My first gifted quilt

Many of you who follow me on various social media platforms will know that my mum has been quite poorly. It’s actually a massive understatement for what she has been through. She’s had a major operation that will take months to recover from. The stress of being so far away from my mum and too sick to travel impacted my health a lot over the summer. So as soon as I could take a breath and think straight I decided I was going to make her a very special gift for her birthday in September.

 

I was very lucky that a friend on Instagram gifted me a pattern for a quilt, which I had seen her make and loved. It was 4 pussy cats, spread over 4 separate panels, making it a lap quilt. The cats were made by using applique and then sewing over the raw edges. Initially when I decided to make the quilt I was going to use fabric from my stash but whilst I was mulling over the quilt in my mind I decided I wanted to buy some material for the cats. I knew I wanted muted colours rather than bright colours. I had also had the last of one of my subscription boxes, I was unimpressed with the project contained within so I decided I would use the floral fabric charm pack ( 5 inch squares ) in conjunction with the polka dot fabric I purchased. The white background fabric was bought earlier on in the year during the sales. I had no plans for it and decided this would be superb for what I wanted to do. The pattern was discreet enough that it wouldn’t fight with the fabric I wanted to use for the cats which I wanted to be centre stage.

 

I’ve not done much applique before so I was a bit stressed about it. To be honest everything was stressing me out when I started this quilt. My brain was just fixating on anything it could to worry about. I made the first two cats and immediately fell in love with them.

 

 

 

Both cats had been fiddly to do and although I loved them both, I decided to do what I always do which is make it up as I go along. When I had last seen my mum she had been in awe of the free motion embroidery I had done on a cushion.

 

 

I decided instead of having 4 cats on the lap quilt, I would have two cats and two mice, as I knew how much my mum had loved the mouse on the cushion. This also meant that the lap quilt would be completely unique with it being a mash-up of two different designs.

 

 

The above photo shows the 4 panels that have the applique designs on them. These were created using bondaweb, which is a fusible webbing. It’s very fine material that is a glue. On one side you have paper and on the other side is a rough surface which has glue on it. To begin you trace out your design onto the paper side of the bondaweb. Then using a dry iron you stick your traced shapes to the wrong side of your fabric. You then cut your fabric shapes out, then remove the paper ( I use a pin to score it as it makes it easier to remove). You then position the shapes how you want them to appear on your background fabric. Using a damp cloth and a steam iron you apply heat to the fabric to bond it to the background fabric. This is raw edge applique, as you haven’t turned the edges over, so the raw edges are exposed. To prevent fraying you then sew over the edges.

 

 

 

 

For the mice I used a different technique, which is called free motion embroidery. This is where you drop the feed dogs ( these are the things that pull the material under the presser foot as you sew), I also have a special bobbin case for my Janome Atelier 5 ( blue dot bobbin case) which has a lower tension on it. It makes the world of difference when doing free motion quilting or embroidery. I also attach the darning / embroidery foot which is a closed toe. I haven’t done much free motion quilting, I really need to make up some quilt sandwiches and just have a play but I’ve done a couple of pieces of free motion embroidery. The free motion embroidery gives the applique an outline and it also makes it look like you have drawn the edges on. I love the way it looks and the fact that it doesn’t have to be brilliantly accurate as its supposed to look a bit messy!

 

 

After I had completed the 4 panels, I made my patchwork backing for the quilt. I wanted the quilt to be as beautiful on the back as it was on the front and in effect be reversible. I used my charm squares for this and added in some squares of the background fabric so it tied it to the front of the quilt. Using precut fabrics speeds things up, as you can literally just sit and sew. Things come together very quickly. I was extremely lucky with the finished size of the back panel as it was a complete guess. As at the time of putting this together I hadn’t decided how big my borders were going to be that would join the 4 panels together.

 

 

I decided to use the backing fabric from the panels as part of the sashing joining the panels together. I also used some of the fabric that I had made the cats and mice out of to tie all the fabrics together. I settled on 1 ½ inch strips of fabric, sewn together with a ¼ inch seam allowance. Thankfully earlier on this year I bought a creative grids stripology ruler, which means cutting strips is an absolute doddle. Cutting that would normally have taken me hours and lots of ruined fabric – because I can’t cut straight or measure accurately for toffee, now takes a matter of minutes. I can’t tell you how much I love these rulers, they’ve made my life so much easier! I used a 3.5 strip to make the outside border.

 

 

I then freaked out for a few days over how I was going to quilt this. I couldn’t decide if I was going to leave the applique panels unquilted and only quilt the borders. Or if I was going to quilt the applique panels how would I do it without distracting from the applique. I won’t lie it gave me a sleepless night or two. This was an important present, that had significant meaning for me. It was important that I got this right because once I started there would be no going back. Thanks to Instagram and all the quilters I follow my deliberations over the applique patterns were brought to an end when I saw how someone else had quilted their work with just straight lines about an inch apart but not going through the applique. It would be tricky as each time I started a new section would mean bringing the bobbin thread up, something I hadn’t had to do for ages as my new machine means I don’t have to do this. By bringing the bobbin thread up it meant I would avoid a nesting of threads on the back of the quilt, when a locking stitch was used. Although it’s not perfect I used a few small stitches forward and back to secure my threads. I am not advanced enough at the moment for burying threads and due to when my mums birthday was I didn’t have lots of time to master a completely new technique.

 

Quilting took a few hours and a lot of back, arm and shoulder pain from terribly bad posture.

 

 

 

 

To finish off the quilt the raw edges of the material needed to be bound, if you didn’t do this the material would fray and the wadding / batting would be lost from the quilt. I made the binding using a fat quarter from the polka dot material I bought. I used my stripology ruler and cut 2.5 inch strips and then joined them together.

 

The raw edges of the binding and the raw edges of the quilt are lined up and then I used the sewing machine to sew the binding onto the front of the quilt. I had an absolute nightmare with the binding. After sewing it on I had to unpick it as I had sewn too far over and not left myself enough binding  to pull over to the reverse of the quilt. It took me over an hour to unpick. I was also having a disastrous time with mitred corners. So I have done the best I can. Once I was “happy” with how the binding was sewn onto the front I then settled down for a few hours of slow sewing whilst I ladder stitched the binding onto the back.

 

This process took ages as the polka dot material was quite thick. I have ended up with blister’s on my thumb, forefinger and middle finger. There is also a bit of my DNA in the quilt as I lost count how many times I stabbed myself! Finally the quilt was finished.

The very last job left to do was to sew the label onto the quilt. This was a personal message to my mum, so I won’t be sharing. However it also covers who it was quilted by, on what date and what the design is called. I have named it Cat & Mouse.

It’s quite exhilarating finishing a quilt but it can also leave you feeling a little flat. You are overjoyed at what you have accomplished but for me I have lost that drive of what I have to achieve for the day. I really hope my mum likes it.

update:

It was gifted to her on 1st September and she was thrilled to bits with it.