Sunday, 29 November 2020

Chicken Quilt - Check!


While the Q24 quilted 2 large customer quilts, I completed the blue and white chicken quilt, adding a lot of random blue and white squares as sashing and borders. It was pleasantly mindless but took a surprisingly long time. I dyed a cotton sheet blue for the backing and selected an all over hexagon quilt pattern that looks like chicken wire. It is now on one of my house sofas next to the Cornish-ware dresser but I have no doubt that it will stay pristine for long if cats and Scottie dogs sit on it. That does not bother me - it can be washed!

I visited Nella on a still, bright Saturday and we took a drive out to Broughty Ferry where she was allowed a short walk. The water was flat calm, it was not that cold and people were actually swimming in the sea. I drove home over the Cairn O’Mount road and stopped to take photos as the weather was so unusually perfect. 

I have had a few messages this week from friends asking how Nella is doing. Frustratingly, she is not making much progress. The hospital food she is presented with is grim and some members of staff seem to have been impatient with her. Some jobsworths at the hospital have decided that a Christmas tree is not hygienic so the festive season will be rather drab there. She is hoping to be granted some time at home during the holidays so we all just have to hope that can happen.

Sunday, 22 November 2020

Poof - Another Week Gone!

 Here we are again - another week has gone by! I got a few customer quilts done, mostly small ones and one very large one. Just when it seems I have caught up, a few more come in which keep me occupied.

I have been putting my hen blocks together, sort of inspired by an 1980s checkered plate from Habitat. I could not figure out the maths required to get a certain number of squares to go onto two different sized blocks. Illogically and randomly I came up with squares cut out at 2.25”. After quite some time it dawned on me to trim some hen blocks and extend others so they all all ended up at roughly 12.5” square. Somehow, 7 of the 2.25” squares fitted along the 12.5” block edge. I don’t know about the accuracy of the maths for this, I just made it all fit;) Despite the plan to only use up blue and white fabrics from my stash, I had to buy more blue and white fabrics because I did not have enough. The local fabric shop told me they are having a difficult time getting hold of fabric and they have no black or white in stock. I bought some white-on-white, which I hate, and used the “wrong” side.

I upgraded my phone to get a better camera and faffed around transferring things over. It does take good pictures, particularly in low light but it is still hard to photograph a black dog. Mind you, you would probably be able to see her eyes if she got a haircut!

There is no improvement in Nella’s anorexia as she is still very much struggling to eat many of the foods on her meal plan. At this point I have no idea how much longer she will remain in hospital or even what will happen for Christmas if she is unable to eat anything at home. The biggest problem is that her illness has such a strong hold over her that she does not want to recover from it and so she has no motivation. I think a good start would be to get into the habit of regularly eating less scary foods and then build on that success but I am not a medical “expert” so my ideas are generally dismissed.

I have decided to have a go at making a reversible Wixsten Haori jacket but can’t make up my mind whether to quilt the outer layer and line it or whether to quilt all of the layers and leave it unlined with exposed seams. I am also debating whether to buy thin, cheap fabric from India or whether to spend more in the UK and then be scared to mess it up!

Sunday, 15 November 2020

Give Yourself Permission


It has taken a long time for me to realise that I can give myself permission to take time out on occasion. I doubt that I will ever give up my obsession with lists or even just jottings but since Nella has been in hospital, I realise that I don’t always have to be productive. Obviously, when she is eventually discharged our days will be rigidly timetabled according to scheduled meals and snacks. In the meantime, before that happens, I should appreciate that I am not obliged to fulfil a certain amount of tasks each day. I was brought up to be busy, which is no bad thing but as an adult, I have seldom allowed myself to read a book during the day or watch TV before 9pm. Recently, I have had my nose in a book for an entire evening or mindlessly watched YouTube. 

I must have passed on my Productivity Guilt gene to Nella because she laments not filling her time with meaningful activities and has to be reminded that she is in hospital and is not actually expected to do anything purposeful. It is also interesting to note that she is giving herself permission to eat some of her meals because she is in hospital - she feels that she would not yet allow herself that same freedom at home. 

I have not exactly been slacking as I have completed 5 quilts for a customer in Wales and cracked on with a small batch of charity quilts. A friend gave me a small, double-sided Christmas quilt with Scottie fabric to finish for Nella so I quilted and bound it for her to remind her of Nessie. Nella has decided that she might as well declare that the festive season has started so she is watching schmaltzy Christmas films and enjoying her 2020 Christmas PJs. 

I have almost pieced 9 blue and white hen blocks so I need to work out how to join them up. What I had not taken into account is that the two blocks are different sizes so anything other than simple sashing will involve maths.

I have had a few ideas rattling around in my head for another quilt that might involve shisha-style circles but I am not ready to start on that yet. I might have a crack at the Purdy Bird pattern first or even a kimono type of jacket. I am conscious that I have done very little freehand quilting for some time so I could definitely do with some practice. I just have to remind myself that this does not all have to happen this week and if I feel like downing tools to read a book then I can give myself permission to do just that;)

Sunday, 8 November 2020

Counting My Chickens


I suppose I could say that this has been a week of fits and starts where I feel that I have either been very busy or very indolent but I was actually more productive than I first thought. I have produced two alternative advent calendars which I have to keep secret from my girls and I ordered Fergus a Lego Starwars calendar from Ebay, the only place that does not already appear to have sold out. 

I rustled up the hedgehog cushion in time to take to Nella midweek, quilted a customer’s dragonfly quilt to look like ripples on a pond, sewed together 3 chicken blocks, each with 33 pieces, and started on my second box of customer quilts from Wales. 

A kantha dressing gown arrived from India that I planned to wear as an indoors coat but I have also worn it out in public because it makes me look “arty-farty”. 

I have “rewarded” myself for completing my daily tasks, including my obsessive Duolingo habit, by binge reading the latest Cormorant Strike novel, torn between making it last and by finding out Whoreallydunnit. 

Nessie could not care less about the results of the USA presidential election. The dramatic, close count seemed to take forever, from Tuesday right through into Saturday and I wondered how India, the largest democracy in the world managed to gather votes from a possible 900 million voters over six weeks in 2019, count them electronically and have the results ready within two hours. Now that is over, hopefully the dust will soon settle, the world will grind on and quilters will keep on quilting.

Sunday, 1 November 2020

Sedentary Busy-ness

 I always feel that in order to feel fulfilled I physically have to have made something. I find it difficult to justify to myself time spent researching or reading which I have done a LOT this week. Much of it was about anorexia, of course but I also frivolously browsed specs for the new iPhone 12, considering whether to upgrade my phone for a better camera and a more convenient, smaller size. 

I bound and posted some customer quilts, one of which was a twin to my snowflake quilt. It looked great in the autumn sun. 

I used the “Winter Wonderland” pattern on a Christmas tree skirt panel for a shop owner and rustled up a couple of Halloween themed face masks. 

After spending so much time sitting in front of a screen I decided that I had to sew something, anything! I made a big Elizabeth Hartman hedgehog block using stash scraps but I think may have lost my edited instructions as I had to do some fudging. I will make him into a cushion for Nella’s hospital room. 

Since I cannot seem to gear myself up to a new challenge, I decided to work on a couple of unfinished background projects for now. Ages ago I cut out pieces for a blue and white chicken quilt and I started an African fabrics DWR just to practice the technique. In addition to some customer quilts, I will probably make some festive face masks. This should keep me “busy enough” for now.

Sunday, 25 October 2020

An Alternative Birthday in 2020

 I have been quite busy with customer quilts which I assume means that Christmas is coming. I had a couple of really big ones including a denim one complete with pockets and rivets. The seams were bulky and I only hit one rivet, breaking a needle. It took a while to get the tension right which was a matter of finding a reliable Madeira thread and using a size 100 universal needle, surprisingly not a jeans needle. The finished quilt felt as hefty as a weighted blanket at 4.5kg! 

The other quilts were smaller so I used denser patterns. I also quilted a Snowflake quilt which was almost identical to mine. The pattern was called “Origami” from and I really like how it looks quite Nordic. 

It was Nella’s 17th birthday on Saturday so Freya and I arranged to have several visits with her throughout the day instead of the usual one hour slot. She was allowed to go for short drives in the car but not to get out. We were all worried that it would be a terribly sad day but in fact it was lovely, although unconventional to unwrap gifts in the car and have birthday candles without a cake. Here’s hoping that her birthday in 2021 will be more “normal”!

Sunday, 18 October 2020

Keep the Quilts Coming!

The rate at which customer quilts are coming in proves that Christmas is looming! I am not doing any in-person tuition or DIY quilts but I am able to offer simple all-over quilting and binding if requested. This week I have managed to complete 4 quilts for a Welsh customer and have got a really big denim one ready to do for a new client. Nessie thinks she is being helpful by trying to attack any wadding that hangs down or by attempting to chew the zips while I try to attach the backing.

I finished the binding on the snowflake quilt with machine-sewn blanket stitch. It does not bother me that the stitching does not line up exactly on the back of the quilt because it is for a bed and just has to be robust. I could do with another new project to keep me happy. I really don’t “need” any more quilts but since when did that stop a quilter from starting something new?

I spent an afternoon cooking home-made soup and vegetarian cottage pie because Nella was given a 24 hour “pass” home to see how she would manage. She was very nervous to come home after nearly a month in hospital and she declared in advance that she would not eat here. She said it was not just a matter of sticking to that resolve, she just did not see why she should have to eat here without the threat of NG feeding if she did not finish meals. We had a nice visit, although she did not see friends and she was unable to go for any dog-walks. We simply spent time doing a puzzle, played scrabble and watched a film in front of the fire. Nella did not want to back to the hospital and really does not want to believe that she is too ill to be at home, refusing food. This aspect of anorexia is called “anosognosia”, yet another complicated word associated with Nella’s condition. Her initial 3-4 week admission looks likely to be extended for up to 6 months, or less if she makes significant progress. All I can do is keep doing research to see if I can come up with a more creative approach and keep believing that she will be able to recover eventually.

Sunday, 11 October 2020

Sewing for Sanity

I became totally engrossed in finishing the Snowflake quilt piecing. There is something very cheery about working with rainbow brights. There were 24 squares per block for 20 blocks so it went together relatively fast. I ordered a jazzy, wide backing fabric from Quilt Sandwich so the quilting could begin at the weekend. I decided to use the Bernina Qmatic to do an automated pattern called “Late Night” from and made it denser so it looks a bit like a modern snowflake design. It is a good job I have figured out how to stitch off the machine and realign between quilting sessions because it is quite a slow process.

Because I gave Freya some face masks to take with her to Glasgow, I decided I could do with a few more so I cut a few out using scraps. There are 3 layers and I use T-shirt jersey to make the ties. 

For the first time in a year I went for a proper haircut. I was told off for leaving it so long but I think I have a pretty good excuse. It was a weird experience going into a socially distanced salon with everyone in masks, separated by plastic screens. I had to lose 2 inches of length but at least my hair now does not feel quite so much like candy floss. 

Nessie and Fizz declared a temporary truce the other night and sat near each other without starting a chase. I have no idea why my cats have never put Nessie in her place so she thinks she can torment them at every opportunity. Bumble was intimidated by the cats by Nessie thinks it is all a great game. 

It is a good thing I can lose myself in my workshop sometimes because it has been another stressful week with Nella in hospital. The medical team just will not listen to me. Nella is so gripped by anorexia that she says she does not want to recover. They are insisting on big portions of hospital food which if she does not finish within a strict time limit , she is topped up by a traumatic NG tube feed. She says she is only eating some of the time to avoid having to endure this procedure 6 times a day. I have suggested that they reduce the portions so she might experience some successful meals and also that they should re-examine her medication but they are refusing to try that. All I can do is read / record chapters of an anorexia recovery book and email them to Nella. I feel that if I do plenty of research then maybe one day I can come up with something that may help. She has been given a 24 hour pass home this week to see if she will eat here instead but she is already insisting that she will not try. It is hard not to have a bleak outlook and lecture her on every visit. I am investigating all sorts of alternative therapies to break the pattern of not eating. The only cure is food  but the key is getting her to eat it!

Saturday, 3 October 2020

Losing My Rag

Somehow I managed to get two simple customer quilts done this week. I also kept going with Duolingo German, walking Nessie, and have been ploughing through the snowflake piecing. I also made a couple of decent loaves of bread. 

The rest of the time has been spent on the phone trying to tell the hospital that nella genuinely HATES cheese. OK, so that is not all that has been discussed. I have been complaining - a lot. I have tried to contact members of her team who never call me back. I have got very angry, while remaining calm, with officious nurses who try to talk over me. 

Nella, who is severely anorexic and was recently on a food-phobic hunger strike is being expected to have her meals increased every two days, whilst already not managing. Despite being a strict vegan and accepting that she will have to just be vegetarian for now, every single sub-standard hospital meal is covered in cheese. Every meal must be completed within a strict 30 minutes. If she does not manage to clear her plate on time she is given a nasal-gastric feed under duress. It is barbaric and a whole lot of other things that I have eloquently expressed to the hospital, miraculously without using any expletives. 

I keep telling her that she has to try her very hardest to get back home as soon as possible. Some of the nurses are great, some are not. It is lovely that we have been receiving so many cards from friends and family who keep sending their good wishes for  recovery. 

Since she has been detained under the Mental Health Act, there is not a damn thing I can do about it. She is scared, confused, exhausted and totally lacking in motivation. I am simmering with fury at such a lack of compassion. I wonder who will be the first receive my wrath on Monday morning...

Sunday, 27 September 2020

Fear, Guilt, Distraction

 It has been a very draining week. There is no doubt that distraction always helps in mentally challenging situations. I completed two customer quilts and took far longer than necessary to piece 2 customer quilt backs. 

I made an apron based on a large, ugly one that I bought on Ebay. Considering it was just one main piece, it was actually a pain to put together and I have decided that making aprons to sell is not viable. It takes far too much fabric and time. If I really want to sell screen printed aprons I would be better off buying ready made canvas ones and adding printed pockets.

Since I am not feeling at all inspired to start any new projects, I decided that the best thing to do would be to buy a quilt kit so I have something to sew that I don’t have to think much about. I ordered a Modern Snowflake kit from Purple Stitches and I look forward to doing something colourful and easy.

I asked on Facebook if anyone would like to send Nella postcards to brighten up her hospital room. There was an amazing response of good wishes from friends all over the world. Nella is actually feeling overwhelmed because she genuinely believes she does not deserve their concern. It is also tricky when people tell her she is being brave or doing well because instead of offering encouragement it triggers the anorexia even more.

Because she was continuing her hunger strike and getting weaker, she was detained under the mental health act and given a nasal-gastric tube, essentially being force fed. It is a brutal procedure and she cannot talk about how awful it was. For now she is so terrified of that process being repeated that she is eating again. She feels incredibly guilty at eating, not protesting, giving up on veganism, being in hospital and even not being the worst patient. There is a full team of experts at the hospital but she often needs to talk to me on the phone to calm her strong feelings of guilt and fear.

The plan is to discharge her as soon as possible. She will be nowhere near cured or better, just medically stable. We are both feeling terrified that at home there is only me to get her to eat and keep her under constant supervision so she cannot exercise. 

The best I can do for now is visit twice a week, be on the end of the phone for her and just stay sane by pottering about with Nessie before dealing with what will happen when she is ready to come home.