Solace in creativity

Last week I wrote of my guilt at being happy, although I received lots of supportive comments, my emotions are still all over the place. The last week or so I have cried everyday over Mollie, Frankie and Willow. I think that is why I have been trying to occupy every minute of every day lately through some sort of creative endeavour or to get out of the house, so I can’t sit and brood.

I am beyond exhausted, last week Jay was on holiday and we spent the week catching up on jobs that have probably been outstanding for 12-24 months. Obviously I am very limited in what I can do and with Dembe ( our nearly 16 week old yellow Labrador pup) it is very difficult to do things together. We made a massive dent on the list of jobs that need done but as anyone who owns a house will tell you, one job soon multiplies and becomes another 4.

We have sorted out our bathroom, its been in a state of almost done for around 10 years I kid you not. Little jobs needing done but neither of us having the energy or inclination to get it completed. I finally cracked and decided a week before Jays holiday enough was enough and it would get completed. Initially it was just that the grout and silicone sealant would be redone. That however has evolved into the bathroom being redecorated – overdue as I believe it was last done possibly 5 years or more ago. Which then means that before the walls are painted the woodwork gets repainted. So the thing spirals. All because I can’t spend any free time doing nothing because the minute I do the sadness overwhelms me.

I have been working hard on the creative side of things as well. For a while I didn’t want to do anything, I didn’t know if I would ever be able to do anything again. Both days that the dogs health suddenly declined I was sat at my embroidery machine. I blamed myself for not paying them enough attention. To not sew or give myself a  creative outlet was a way of punishing myself. Because as I stated in last week’s post I love to make myself feel guilty.

So I thought I would share my makes with you. I am limited with how much I can type this week as my shoulder (right) is grinding away and popping out, my wrists and fingers are also playing me up. So typing is uncomfortable.

I have been making this one for a friends granddaughter. This will get turned into a cushion at some point over the next few days, depending on when my shoulders and wrists / fingers decide to cooperate.

I’m not happy with either the hedgehog or the sheep as I rushed the hooping and as a result they have puckered. However these two will be turned into cushions for our home and I was desperate to see how this design stitched out.

I love the highland Cows design, this was from the same Etsy seller who designed the sheep and the hedgehog. This one will be a cushion for us. I am toying with putting this design on one of my blank sweatshirts.

 

 

The Charlotte cushion is a Christmas present for my niece – you probably think I am bonkers but I like to work well in advance in case my health suddenly declines. That way I don’t feel stressed out in December trying to make lots of gifts to a deadline of when Jay will drop them down to our relatives.

The owl Cushion – I bought this design around Christmas time. Due to the dogs passing I never got the opportunity to stitch it out. So I had a go a few weeks ago. I am really pleased with how it turned out. 

The Evie cushion was for a friends Granddaughter. This will be the last one I stitch out of this design as it has been poorly digitised. Every time I stitch it out I have problems in the same place. I have invested in a new unicorn design now!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I made a job lot of doorstops, many of these will be gifted during the year or at Christmas. These doorstops have washable covers as the bottom has an opening that has velcro to fasten it. Inside I have used cat litter ( clean obviously) to weigh it down. I place the cat litter inside a ziplock bag and also use an elastic band so it has two forms of closures to stop any leakage! I enjoyed making these door stops, it made a nice change and was a challenge for me after making so many items the same on the run up to Christmas and with making cushions.

As I haven’t posted a photo of Dembe on here for a few weeks, I thought I would share this with you. 

This is me and the little man. He sleeps every night with his head on my pillow. Most nights his nose is touching my head or face. I love feeling his breath against me. He is such a loving little chap. Without him I’d have never made it through the last 10 weeks.

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Getting back to normal, if there is such a thing.

Around two days after I wrote my last post “Washout” I ended up contacting my doctor and was prescribed antibiotics. I had been running a temperature for around a week and I just wasn’t feeling any better. 

 
Wednesday morning (30th January) I woke up in the middle of the night feeling like someone had smacked me in the face with a shovel. My sinuses hurt, my teeth hurt and I felt violently sick. As I quite often get migraines like this I decided to try to get back to sleep, it didn’t work. As the morning wore on the pain was increasing where as my migraine attacks last 12 hours at the same intensity I had to concede that this wasn’t a migraine, I had sinusitis and probably a chest infection. When I described my symptoms to the gp she agreed and I was given a 7 day course for amoxicillan. No wonder I had been feeling so awful.
 
After 3 days on the antibiotics I was feeling almost human again. However as usual the antibiotics did a number on my innards which required me to take at least 6 imodium a day. The diarrhoea was so bad it left me feeling drained and triggered off very painful spasms causing me then to have bowel adhesion pain. I stuck with them until the end of day 5, after that I just couldn’t do it anymore. 
 
I could cope with the exhaustion levels if my pain levels hadn’t suddenly just ramped up. Out of nowhere I am back to having extremely cold legs which have to be warmed up by a hot water bottle or by sitting on my electric throw. When going out in the cold and believe me it’s not that cold for this time of year, yesterday it was between 6 and 7 degrees Centigrade, I was in agony with my hands despite having my arthritis gloves on and my legs were aching despite having leggings on under my jeans. I had just gone through a really good period, pain wise and had barely been touching my oramorph which I use for breakthrough pain but as of two days ago, I am taking it every 4 hours when awake to try to knock down the pain levels I am currently experiencing.
 
At the moment there seems to be no happy medium temperature wise. I am either hurting due to the cold or stripping off my layers because I am suddenly boiling hot. So hot that I am sweating. An hour later I am back to freezing again and this cycle repeats itself throughout the day. I wish I knew what I could do to combat it. It’s not like the flushes I was getting before taking the red clover, black cohosh and the sage leaf supplements which have done wonders for my hot flushes. This is a temperature regulation issue. And temperature control is part of the autonomic nervous system. I guess it’s just adding in another element of fun.
 
On a happier note Dembe is settling in very well, you can read about his adventures at www.thedembediaries.com I publish every Monday letting everyone know what he has been up to over the previous week. I don’t know where I would be without him if I am honest. It is exhausting though looking after a puppy when you compare looking after adult dogs who are independent and happy to be left sleeping for most of the day.
 
Dembe is very close to me but I wouldn’t expect any different, he and I are alone together all day ( around 11 hours) bar Jay coming home for 30-40 minutes at lunch time. Dembe loves Jay too, you only have to witness the furious tail wagging when Jay comes through the door to know that. But he is a mummy’s boy at heart. He loves nothing better than curling up at the end of the sofa and sleeping, as long as I am at the other end. 

 
 
 
When I get onto my sewing machine or embroidery machine, he sleeps on the bed I made him in the kitchen. Due to feeling so rotten, not a lot of sewing has gone on. However I did manage to finish this birth announcement cushion, which is a gift for a friend to celebrate the arrival of his daughter. By the time this blog post is published the gifts recipient should have it.
 

 
I am really pleased with the cushion as the feet are from one design and the text is from an inbuilt text on my embroidery machine however I had to get the placement and size of the text right so that the cushion looked balanced. 
 
I used a product called Sarille, which is a type of interlining mainly used on curtains. I saw in various groups lots of suggestions for using wadding behind embroidery designs that were stitch dense and being sewn onto lightweight fabric. I had loads of the Sarille lying around from when I used to do my subscription box. It has given the cushion a nice bit of body at the front and it has also ensure there is minimal puckering. 
 
It’s the first bit of sewing I haven’t had to force myself to do since Frankie and Mollie passed away. For a while there I didn’t know if my sewjo would ever come back or if Dembe would sleep enough for me to manage to get anything done. Jobs are taking me longer as I now tend to wait for Jay to be home before sewing anything. Embroidery is different as I can get up and move away ( when the machine / thread is behaving), so I can keep an eye on Dembe. He is very used to me doing bits of embroidery, he  will lie on his bed in the kitchen and go to sleep. Puppies do sleep a lot although when they are manically running around, chasing their own tails it can seem like they never sleep!
 
I have also managed to get two other bits of embroidery done today, birthday presents for March. I do like working ahead so that I don’t feel under pressure. Whilst I am in the mood to be creative I tend to go for it. Its only in the last few days that I have felt the creative juices starting to flow again. That has as much to do with getting over the infections as it does with dealing with the grief losing the dogs caused. 
 
Its taken 4 weeks for me to feel anywhere near normal and it is still very raw. I am managing to go days without crying where as in the beginning I was lucky if I could go an hour without breaking down. 
 
I am finding it very difficult at the moment to motivate myself to write this blog, mainly because the dogs, our Weimaraners featured in it from the very beginning. They are what kept me sane and kept me going, when it would have been incredibly easy just to give up and not fight anymore. It is taking some getting used to being without them. It’s a new normal and it’s going to take a while to get used to it.
 
 

Hoping for a quiet 2019

My last post was published on the 10th of January when I felt like my whole world had caved in. The last few weeks have been very hard, I miss Frankie and Mollie so much that my heart aches. There has not been a day that has gone by where I haven’t wept with the pain of losing them as suddenly as we did. To lose two dogs in 7 days is something I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy. I wouldn’t have got through it without hubby by my side. In fact I would have probably given up completely had he not been here.

 
Due to the shock, upset, grief hubby has taken some time off work. He already suffers with anxiety and depression and to ensure he didn’t take a nose dive he saw the doctor and got himself signed off. He didn’t want to see anyone or talk to anyone. Losing Mollie hit him very hard as she was his dogs. Plus it was very traumatic for us over 24 hours where it became clear that she had suffered from a stroke and there would be no recovery from this. We nursed her overnight and made sure she wasn’t suffering. Right up until the end she only wanted her dad, whenever she was out of his sight she panicked. Jay stayed with her until the end as I had stayed with Frankie just the week before. To say our hearts were broken would have been an understatement.
 
I took a break from this blog as since the beginning back in 2008 the dogs have featured quite heavily in it. My Gravatar is me with Frankie, Frankie is the banner on WordPress, on Twitter his photo is my profile picture and its the same on Facebook. Although I have managed to change my about me pages on both blog platforms, I can’t remove his photo from any of my social media profile photos.  It feels like a huge chunk of my life has just vanished. Life as I knew it was taken away from me in the space of 7 days. I never knew I could feel so utterly broken by the passing of three dogs in just a little over the year.
 
For a few years Mr Myasthenia Kid and I had talked about what would happen when we no longer had any dogs. Initially we had said we would get a Labrador ( black) then we talked about a Beagle and also a Bracco Italiano. However for the last few months I had said I didn’t know if I wanted another dog, I knew losing our last two Weimaraners would hit me really badly and by getting another dog meant at some point in the future I would have to go through the pain of losing it all over again. Jay was not having any of it, he said that I was already completely socially isolated and without a dog I would have no company at all. He felt it would be very damaging to my mental health. He was right, as 7 days without a dog in the house were the worst thing ever. I missed everything about having a dog, the cuddles, the mess, the unconditional love, someone to have silly conversations with.
 
By the Sunday after Mollie’s passing we decided that we would get another dog and we started looking on-line for Labrador puppies. I had to give myself a crash course on Labrador’s having not ever owned one. I located several breeders who had litters on The Kennel Club Website. Luckily one lady immediately responded to my email and told us she had two male yellow labs for sale. Obviously we had originally said we wanted a black lab but by this point it didn’t matter what colour it was. We needed our house to feel like a home again, we were both distraught and sinking fast. We arranged to travel to see the 2 pups available the following day.
 
The rest is history, we now own a 9 week old Yellow Labrador called Dembe. We chose his name from the TV programme the blacklist, it means peace. Which you will probably agree we need by the bucket full. Dembe came home with us on Friday 11th January. You can read all about him   here as I have started his own blog for him. I will from time to time have photos of him on this blog but it is much easier to have all the news about him on a separate blog. Every Monday I will give a run down of what he has been up to the previous week. 
 
Some of you may be judging us, that we got a new dog too quickly or that we didn’t love our other dogs that much because we replaced them with Dembe. Dembe is not and has never been a replacement. He is an addition to our household. He is very much-loved for the dog he is and will become. Anyone who thinks any less of us for this can just fuck off as far as I am concerned, your opinion is of very little value to me.
 
So whilst I took a break from here, I have been setting up Dembe’s blog. I managed to keep writing which out of all the things I do creatively was the only thing that I could keep going. I hadn’t been able to sew since Mollie passed away. I managed on the 16th January after a break of nearly two weeks to sit and do a small piece of embroidery. Mainly to ensure that Dembe wasn’t scared of the noise the machine made. The only thing that has freaked him out so far has been the ironing board and it does the same to me if I am honest.
 
My health has been hit quite hard by the sudden turn of events. I have suffered vertigo, continuous headaches, back spasms, Eczema, migraines and ptosis. As usual it a few days after the event before I started to go down hill. Thankfully with Jay off work we have been able to manage Dembe’s care and socialisation process. To be honest without him I would have crawled into bed and never come out again. This little chap has saved us both. The lady that we are friendly with at the vets ( who had a soft spot for Frankie) called Dembe our miracle dog. She knew how much our lives focused on our dogs and also knew that without a dog in our life we would fall apart. 
 
So many people have told us that we have done exactly the right thing. It doesn’t mean that we loved our Weimaraners any less, it is because we loved them so much that we had all this love to give to another dog. 
 
Dembe has bonded with us both. He is such a happy, laid back dog. His tail wags continuously. Everyone who meets him falls in love with him. I thought at one point after Mollie had passed away that Jay looked like he was going to drop dead from a broken heart. He was just an ashen colour. I have seen Jay poorly many times but this was the worst I had seen him look for a long time. Since Dembe’s arrival he is looking so much better, we both feel like there is a future in front of us. In the immediate aftermath of losing both dogs it felt like we were staring into the abyss .
 
I am hoping that my health stabilises shortly, it is going to have to as Jay goes back to work from Monday 21st and it will just be me and Dembe. However Jay will be coming home at lunch times to help with feeding and toileting. He still has a few weeks until he will be able to go out for a walk. Whilst Jay is home though I am trying to take it as easy as possible. Jay has been doing everything for me as usual.
 
2018 ended in a way that I didn’t see coming and 2019 started in a way we never envisaged. All I can hope for is a quieter year for the rest of 2019.
 

 
 

 
I will never forget the love that these three beautiful loyal dogs gave me. Run free my darlings, we will miss you everyday for the rest of our lives.

The last post of 2018

As we are now rapidly approaching Christmas, just a week away as of writing this post, I have decided that this will be the last post of 2018. A year that I will be particularly happy to get rid of for reasons too numerous to mention. I will be giving myself a little break from blogging and will be back on 10th January 2019 which seems a date massively in the distance but in reality is a mere three weeks from the date this blog post is published.

 I haven’t taken this long of a break for many years but some times we all just need to be in the moment and self-care. I always get incredibly stressed around Christmas, it’s not something I massively enjoy as it’s built up to be this wonderful, magical thing but I actually find it quite a lonely time. Hubby gets very limited time off work and he’s back in the blink of an eye. This may sound a bit baa humbug to some but I am guessing I am not alone in feeling this way about Christmas, as in it promises much and delivers little.

I always get incredibly wound up in the run up to Christmas, I worry things won’t be perfect, all the glossy magazines and TV programmes sell the belief that if you aren’t making absolutely everything from scratch, food, decorations, wreaths etc then you are an abject failure. In the early years of being sick I would work incredibly hard trying to ensure Christmas was picture perfect. I would make the whole Christmas dinner from scratch, I would be utterly miserable and stressed out by the sheer enormity of the task and most of the time I was only cooking for two. When I am stressed I get snappy so the knock on effect was that hubby and I would spend the whole of the Christmas dinner cooking time sniping at each other and taking offence at every word uttered. It was no fun at all. The food was absolutely delicious but was it worth the sleepless nights ( I kid you not ) and the marital discord, no way.

When in 2016 Christmas was approaching and I was suffering from a CSF leak, the stress was even worse. There was no way I could spend 2 to 3 hours upright in the heat of the kitchen without it destroying the rest of the day. The CSf leak meant being upright induced the most horrific head pain that no pain relief would touch. I came to the conclusion that for once Christmas dinner cooked from scratch could take a running jump. There was no way I was destroying my health for the rest of the day for a meal that would take 20 – 30 minutes to consume. It didn’t make any sense to me at all. So hubby bought as much as he could pre-prepared  / frozen and we had just the gravy to make along with the carrots and sprouts. Ok it was never going to win a Michelin star but it was passable and when you are chronically sick or in chronic pain that is all you should be aiming for.

Perfection is a word that is bandied around by all of us but in reality perfection doesn’t exist and we shouldn’t all be wearing ourselves out trying to achieve a marketing concept. If your roast potatoes aren’t cooked in duck / goose fat who gives a shit? If your Yorkshire puddings are Aunt Bessie’s who cares? Who knows unless you tell them and my neighbours certainly won’t be rooting around in my bin trying to discover if I was the perfect hostess or not. The pressure we put upon ourselves to have the perfect Instagrammable Christmas is just silly!

Now the above probably makes me sound like I have my shit together and that I don’t get stressed about Christmas. Nothing could be further from the truth. This year I have just found something else to worry about. Believe me if there is something I can find to wind myself up over I will and do. I just don’t get stressed about Christmas Dinner – well I might a little bit as I have to work out the timings for everything and supervise Mr Myasthenia Kid in the kitchen whilst falling over two dogs who think any food in the kitchen is fair game and only being cooked for their enjoyment.

This year I have gone down a wildly different route for Christmas presents, as in due to my new-found skills I have made the majority of them for family and friends. Initially I felt very smug about the fact that I could utilise my skills this way and wrote out lists of gift ideas and set about working my way through making them. It has proved stressful and quite difficult at times as I have battled this trapped nerve in my neck. The issue this year has been that due to the fact I have made all the gifts or the majority of them, I have panicked that people will think I am cheap.

I have found since I started that people fall into two categories, category one – handmaid equals cheap, therefore you shouldn’t charge a lot of money for any item you make. Basically they want an artisan look for pence rather than the actual cost of producing an item or category two – a basic understanding or full understanding of the price of materials, skills involved and appreciation at the fact you have spent your spare time making them a unique and individual item. It surprises me how many people fall into the first category, when you buy cheap you are exploiting another human being. Maybe that human being lives on the other-side of the world and works for peanuts so that you can have your item at a rock bottom price? If you can live with that, that’s fine.

Because this is the first time for me making gifts I don’t know what category a lot of my friends and family fall into. I don’t know if they will be making snide comments about me being a cheap-skate or if they will like the items I have made. Due to this I have probably over gifted as I don’t want them feeling short-changed. In effect instead of spending an online choosing gifts that they may not want or need or maybe thrown away, I have managed to create days of work for myself ensuring everyone feels special due to the gifts I have made them.

So yet again as you see I have managed to find something to worry about. Thankfully it is just worry and not full-blown anxiety. My anxiety levels have dropped considerably from where they have been the rest of the year, this is my normal level of worry. And to be honest if I had bought gifts I would still be worried about what people thought of them and me . So nothing has changed really.

Thank you to everyone that has read my blog posts over the last ten years, can you believe this little blog has been going on and off for all that time? Thank you to my new readers who joined this year and have provided lovely feed back either as comments on my blog or on various social media platforms.

I’d like to wish those of you who celebrate Christmas a Merry Christmas and to everyone else  happy holidays, happy Yule etc. Just enjoy the time you get to spend with loved ones be they friends or family.

See you in 2019.

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!

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

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.