Balancing Act neck pain v embroidery machine

In last weeks blog post I told you all about my new toy, my embroidery machine. I’ve had it for 9 days (Tuesday) and I was very well-behaved last week. I had a quick play on Tuesday and then knuckled down to finishing off a whole heap of half-finished projects. I really dislike having incomplete work loitering and taking up space. Last week I had part made soft toys hanging around – the body parts of 15 toys to be exact and some part made Christmas stockings, along with three gnomes. I did have a really good crack at them and managed to clear all the owls, gnomes, Christmas stockings and two foxes. However one of the foxes still has his brains *stuffing* exposed as my hands have been too painful to attempt to close the turning gap. My hands are so sore this evening I am having to write my blog post using my speech to text function, which is fun!

 
My neck has at times been horrifically painful. Now I know how easy it is to exaggerate pain. People bandy around the word agony at the drop of a hat but still manage to get on with day-to-day living. When I say agony I mean no painkillers are touching it, my rib cage feels like it’s collapsing inwards, I want to puke and I can’t move very much. It isn’t like this all the time thank goodness but it can start within seconds of sitting at a table or doing anything that involves lifting my arms away from my sides. The only thing that helps is putting on my soft collar and heat. The problem with heat though is that it will trigger a hot flush or can make me feel faint. I’ve found that when it’s at its worst diazepam helps as it tends to trigger muscle spasms. As does gin but I don’t like drinking every day and I have to keep it to the bare minimum.
 
I thought the embroidery machine maybe a way of being creative without triggering the neck pain…I was wrong. Sitting in any chair where my back is not properly supported, is a massive trigger. I don’t tend to get the pain when sat on the sofa because I am not sat bolt upright. I am now waking up with the pain during the night, which means whilst sleeping something is slipping out of alignment. When this happens the only thing I can do is put my soft collar on for a few hours and hope that its enough to work as along with the neck pain I get a thumping headache. I do thankfully have a doctor’s appointment at the end of this month. I must have blood tests next week as the doctor was concerned that I possibly have vitamin deficiencies which are causing the pins and needles in my arms / hands / legs and face. However as a soft collar gets rid of all my problems I’d hazard a guess that my neck is unstable and this is the problem. Quite common in people with EDS but a nightmare to get diagnosed in the UK.
 
I had to limit my sewing to just short bursts with lots of breaks. Which meant I didn’t feel very productive at all during the week. I did manage to wait until Sunday before I played on my embroidery machine again.
 
Saturday my neck and back was awful so I spent the afternoon looking on my chromebook for free embroidery patterns. I downloaded quite a few. I also found on Etsy two really lovely Unicorn patterns. One cost me a whopping 87p! and the other £1.50. I was so proud of myself using my USB port adaptor as my new chromebook has a micro USB port, ( I’ve had to upgrade my chromebook as my mark one chromebook can’t transfer data between a USB stick and the chromebook or vice versa. It can read them you just can’t do anything with it, not very good when you have an embroidery machine that you can use downloaded patterns on). So on Sunday I decided I would give the USB stick a go on my embroidery machine. To my delight the patterns showed up straight away. I had been panicking that maybe I would have to format the USB sticks for them to be used by the embroidery machine but it all worked fine.
 
I decided I would try out the Unicorn patterns on some face cloths that I had bought as a job lot from Amazon. I already had some Madeira Avalon Film wash away stabiliser, so it was just a case of setting up the hoop – face cloth then stabiliser laid on top to stop the stitches sinking into the pile. Then place it in the hoop ensuring its wrinkle free and as taut as possible. This took me several attempts, purely as I just wasn’t feeling very confident with what I had done. The first one I messed up as I managed to sew the top right hand corner of the washcloth to the back of the design. I had to cut it out of the hoop! Apparently this is a common mistake so I didn’t feel so bad. The second one however came out perfectly.
 

I also managed to centre it on the wash cloth perfectly.
 

 
 
I did the second one later on in the day. When I started it I hadn’t realised there were 21 thread changes. The first Unicorn had been 10, so a massive difference. I loved the small details of the flowers and leaves which you can’t really see in the photo. Again I managed to centre this one properly as well. So these will be Christmas gifts. The stabiliser washes away. I cut off the excess as I will be able to use that on small bits of embroidery and then put both flannels in lukewarm water where it just vanishes. I put them both in the washing machine to ensure all traces of stabiliser had gone.
 
 
On Monday afternoon I had a quick play as I fancied seeing what the redwork would look like. 
 

It’s not a good photo and to be honest I am not happy with it. The tension is out or I have threaded the machine poorly as bobbin fill has come to the surface so there are lots of little white dots all throughout the redwork. Mr Myasthenia Kid wants to frame it and take it into work for his noticeboard. So I will cut it down and run a zig zag stitch around the edge so it doesn’t fray.
 
Today I had a go at this Christmas Wreath. The wreath came out beautifully but the “Merry Christmas” has come out terribly. Again either the tension was off or I had threaded the machine poorly. It’s all  a learning process. I have spent a bit of time this evening looking through the manual and found out lots of things I should have known!
 

 
 
I am really enjoying using the machine and learning all about it. The patterns it comes loaded with are really stunning. It’s only the unicorns that I have bought and a dear friend on instagram lent me some USB sticks with lots of designs on to copy.
 
So if I can get a balance between my neck pain and time that I can use my machines I will be happy!
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The storm has passed

The last 4 months have been a particularly trying time for me. Obviously some stuff I have alluded to such as my mum being diagnosed with cancer however there have been other things going on as well, which for reasons of my own privacy I won’t be sharing. I do try to share as much as possible with my readers but sometimes you have to hold a little of yourself back. When I write I always think do I care if my worst enemy has this information? If the answer is no then it gets written about, if yes well it never makes it to the blog.

I do like to have a division between my world and my life in cyber space. Like all people do in real life we have the public face the person we choose to present to the outside world and the private face, the person who only the very closest people to you get to see.

Thankfully what has been going on behind the scenes has now resolved and life can move forward again. Its feels like a massive weight has been lifted. For those 4 months I didn’t feel like me at all but someone who had a huge black cloud hanging over them constantly. I really didn’t feel like I was living and enjoying life merely  surviving. The anxiety the situation induced was off the chart. I found that the only place I felt any happiness was sat at my sewing machine, purely because you can’t ruminate ( well I can’t) and sew. My attention has to kept solely on the job in hand. When my mind wandered so did my stitches! Sewing yet again has got me through a very difficult period in my life. It is just such a shame that as I mentioned in last week’s post sewing is at times getting painful, causing me pain in my neck, back and causing pins and needles in my hands, arms and face. I now have to restrict the amount of time I spend sewing. I have found wearing a soft collar prolongs the time I can spend sewing.

Since July I have been sewing like a woman possessed! I decided earlier on in the year after my success in selling Star Christmas Tree toppers in the run up to last Christmas, this year I would experiment with opening up a little “shop” in cyber space. I’m not on Etsy – at the moment I couldn’t handle the stress that would involve! I have set up a little Christmas shop on a social media platform where my customers are by invitation only. As this is an experiment to see what sells and what doesn’t I have limited the numbers. It’s also filled with people who know me, who know that my health is very up and down and who wouldn’t hold it against me if I was slow to respond to a query etc. If I set up an Etsy shop I wouldn’t have customers who knew me and could be put under a great deal of pressure by their demands.

It has really given my self-confidence a boost. To this day I am amazed that people want to but the things that I make. Not that I think my items are crap – my heart and soul goes into them and I am my own harshest critic. I just can’t believe in 13 months how far I have come. I still have days where my self-esteem has a wobble but that’s life and I can deal with that. Living under a black cloud for 4 months is not something I want to repeat in a hurry. I didn’t feel like me at all, I didn’t act like me at all and I can’t have been a bundle of laughs to be around if I am perfectly honest. Its amazing what a difference a week can make and I feel like I am me again.

I’ve been making all sorts of things for my cyber shop since the end of June beginning of July,

 Christmas bunting / garlands

Christmas Tree toppers

Christmas stockings

Soft toys

Travis bags in various designs

 Lavender Ravioli

Norwegian Santa’s / Christmas Gnomes

Christmas tree decorations

Christmas door wreaths

 

I am still making a few more bits and pieces and will do throughout November. Then at some point I need to bind two lap quilts I made for our sofas, make Mr Myasthenia Kids fabric advent calendar. Plus make family and friends Christmas presents.

And as if that wasn’t enough I treated myself to an embroidery machine, which I am calling the beast V2 as my Atelier 5 (janome) is called the beast. I can’t wait to start learning how my new machine works. I bought a Brother Innovis 800e which is a mid range stand alone embroidery machine. It has a lovely big hoop which means I can work on several sizes of design. Jamie has already put in a request that he gets some new handkerchiefs that have been monogrammed by me! It has so many inbuilt designs and you can buy more designs on-line or can get them for free.

 

 

 

 

However buying the embroidery machine also meant upgrading my Chromebook. My old Chromebook couldn’t transfer data onto a USB stick nor download information from it. I tried resurrecting my old laptop – which ran on windows 7 ( so it was basically an antique) but it was painfully slow and I find windows as an operating system, a pile of shite and illogical, especially when you have been using Chromebooks and chrome ever since they were on sale in the UK.  I spent a small fortune on the Chromebook its an Asus Flip, so you can turn the keyboard behind the screen and it works like a tablet. It is amazing how the technology has advanced over the years.

New Chromebooks can transfer data to and from USB sticks, all I needed was a USB hub as the Chromebook comes with a micro USB port. I picked up a reasonably priced one from the place that has the same name as the South American River and within seconds was transferring data between USB sticks like a pro. It is something I have never done before, there was nothing to learn, no drivers to install the screen simply tells you a new device has been located and do you want to open it. I felt like the king or should I say queen of the world teaching myself how to do this in seconds. With me and windows stuff never took seconds it could take months or even years for me to learn the most basic of tasks as it just never felt logical to me. I often felt like I was being expected to juggle and balance a plate on the end of my nose!

So although my new Embroidery machine arrived yesterday ( Monday ) I didn’t have a play on it. By the time it arrived it was close to 3pm and my back had given out completely. I must have been a sorry sight as the delivery guy brought it into the house for me. Thank you DPD! It stayed in the box another hour whilst I waited for the back pain to subside and to stop the feeling that my ribs were being crushed. I then very slowly unpacked it and set it up in my sewing room come kitchen / breakfast room. I am hoping later on today will be when I get to have my first go on it.

And hubby and I had lovely birthdays last week. Happy birthday dad xxx

Birthday Girl – what a pain in the neck

Well I turn 45 today! Yes 1st November and it’s the exact day of the week that I was born. Which is bizarre! And something stranger it’s Mr Myasthenia Kids birthday tomorrow. So we have two days of celebrations, eating things we shouldn’t and having a few glasses of pop.

This week has been odd as I started getting pins and needles really badly in my wrists, hands, fingers, legs and face. It’s so bad on my left wrist that I just can’t wear a watch because this seems to irritate the nerve. Annoying as I love my watch. Jay bought it for my 41st birthday and I really do love it. 

Initially I scared myself stupid by consulting Dr Google, what came up was a mixture of M.S and anxiety. Yes I am stressed but I was anxious or hyperventilating. So that left M.S but having calmed down a little I actually think the problem is stemming from my neck. I have lost the curve in my neck – to be honest I don’t think I have ever had one. A chiropractor I consulted due to back problems when I was around 16 took x-rays of my neck and said he had never seen such a straight neck. He said it was swan like. Me being vain took that as a compliment, not realising that a straight neck is a major problem and will provide you with no end of painful problems, which I have suffered with on and off since the age of 16 when I pulled a roll cage onto the shop floor at work that was way too heavy for me. I felt compelled to do it as the checkout manager ( a real nasty piece of work and a bully) stood shouting at me until I moved it. Excuse the language but my neck has been fucked up ever since.

It didn’t help that two years later my car broke down whilst I was driving in the pissing down rain, my dad ever the bloody gentleman made me get out and push it whilst he steered it into a safer location. With the road being wet I slipped and managed to sprain my neck. It was absolutely superb timing literally days before my A-level exams took place ( the exams we need to take in England and Wales to get into University, in Scotland they take Highers). I ended up having to sit through 3 hour exams with a neck brace on high as a kite on painkillers. I was given a desk at the back of the room so that I could get up and move around if I needed to. I never did, it was embarrassing enough that I had to wear a neck brace let alone draw attention to myself by moving around in a silent exam room.

A few years later and I am university and guess what? Yep my neck is causing me an enormous amount of pain. I was diagnosed with “student neck” probably now known as Text neck. Its caused by looking down and in my case reading mountains of set texts, these days it’s caused by looking down at a mobile phone (cell phone) or a computer screen. I paid out a load of money to have my neck manipulated to ease the pain.

And that is how life was for years, the last really bad period with my neck was back in 2000 around a month after our wedding and possibly a few years after that. I know I have had to attend work on quite a few occasions wearing a soft collar.

In 2016 I had an MRI to see if they could “see” my CSF leak. On the radiographers report it stated I had reversed cervical lordosis – what this means is that it now bend in my neck is bending the wrong way This link has a great x-ray image that shows a neck with the bend going the wrong way – here . 

The problem is the neck is probably the worst designed  load bearing  area of the body. The head weighs up to around 10lbs so the vertebrae, muscles and ligaments have to spend every waking hour keeping a bowling ball up against the force of gravity. Also the neck contains the spinal cord and at the very base of the skull your brainstem is encased. So anything that messes with your neck can leave you in serious hot water. A break which impacts the spinal cord at this level could mean you end up totally paralysed and unable to breathe for yourself. You’d think something so vitally important would have been designed just a little better. 

I saw my gp in July and told her that I was getting increasing amounts of pins and needles in my hands and arms. I also told her I was getting an increasing amount of pain in my neck and base of my skull. As my mum had just  been diagnosed with  “probably” cancer, I was informed by the gp that the pain and numbness was stress. This diagnosis was reached without any physical examination. Had they bothered to examine me they would have noted that I have pain from the base of my skull down to between my shoulder blades. This pain limits me doing anything sat down at a table, using my arms . Anything at all where my head maybe held in a tilted down position.

I ended up having to have a break from sewing as the minute I sat at my machine the pain in my shoulder-blade would start. I started using a tens machine on a regular basis. I got the pain under control. As long as I took a break every 15 minutes and checked my posture I could manage the pain.

Then as the pain had gone away I started sewing again, in fact quite a bit more, when I was able to. Now as soon as I sit down at my machine the pain starts. If I hold my mobile phone (cell) the pain starts. On Sunday I was chatting with a friend, nowhere near my sewing machine or mobile phone and I started to get a burning pain in my left wrist and fingers. I knew it was nerve pain and I assumed ( wrongly it was due to being deficient in B12). After she left I dosed myself up on B12 and hoped that the pain would be gone by the following day. It wasn’t. It was now down both arms and in my face. I was so frightened by it that I rang the duty dr at my gp surgery.

I must have blood tests and go in and see them towards the end of November. The doctor thinks it maybe a nutritional deficiency, thyroid or electrolyte imbalance. After having a good think about it for the past 24 hours I am pretty sure its my neck. I get some relief when wearing a neck collar.

So today my birthday will be quite a quiet affair. Spent with hubby and friends. Alcohol will be consumed mainly as a muscle relaxant in the hope I can spend the day without being in constant pain and the nerve pain in my left wrist not driving me mad!