Warm days 

It’s times like these you learn to live again. -Foo Fighters

  
Mom brought me this gorgeous hanging geranium today to celebrate the halfway point of my radiation treatments. Two more weeks and I’m done with breast cancer treatment.

  
Spring has sprung with a vengeance in these parts with bright beautiful warm days. The cherry tree next door bloomed this morning.   

And I finally got back out in the woods for a short hike yesterday. It smelled so damn good out there!


I set up a sewing area at home and made block 16 of the Splendid Sampler. I made soup and baked bread and watched a baseball game. 

My ambitions are quite a bit bigger than my energy levels at this point, but I’m slowly, slowly, slowly recovering and finding my way back to some sort of routine. 

Last fall when I was waiting for my treatment to start I had fleeting thoughts of achieving things while I was laid up…reading important books, practicing Spanish, catching up watching online art classes. Ha! In reality I read murder mysteries, watched Gilmore Girls and surfed the Internet on my iPad looking at quilts and crochet. I didn’t have the energy to focus on anything else. 

I’m learning to be ok with that. It’s too easy to feel like that time was “wasted.” I’m trying to shift that thinking…to think of it as a fallow time. Just this week new ideas for life and art have begun bubbling to the surface. I’m so thankful for this opportunity to reset, for this warm weather, for this beautiful spring. 

  

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Crochet Love

  
As soon as I finished gushing about gorgeous crochet in my last post, the Splendid Sampler folks released Block 11, Crocheted Thoughts by Alyssa Thomas of Penguin and Fish, made to honor her grandmother who loved to crochet doilies. My grandma crocheted too and I fondly remember long quiet summer afternoons spent reading a book while Grandma Jean worked on her latest project. 

  

And when I showed all the crochet yumminess to my mom and explained that it was mostly granny squares? Yeah, she got all excited and started crocheting granny squares from her collection of soft fuzzy scarf yarns. 

  
I started an embroidery piece on felted wool inspired by the crochet deliciousness. 

  
And I got back to work on my current crochet project, this soft drapey color block shawl. 

(Despite wanting something simple and color-blocky when I started this, now I’m thinking how pretty it would look with some embroidered flowers. I have trouble stopping my brain sometimes.)

  
But really, is it any surprise that I broke down and bought a bunch of yarn to crochet my very own medallion blanket?

Posted in creativity, Crochet, embroidery, family, inspiration | 2 Comments

Inspiration: breaking it down

  
I’m completely obsessed with this crocheted blanket from French blog Clothogancho. If there were a pattern, I would just make it as is, that’s how much I’m in love with this. But there’s no pattern and the blog is in French so I’ve had to be more creative in breaking down what I love about this piece. 

  
Here’s another blanket from the same French maker. 

  
And one more. I love all of these. But why? And more importantly, if I wanted to make something similar, where would I start?

I’ve been studying these pictures as well as poring over Pinterest and Ravelry for similar ideas and figured out the elements that are making me swoon. 

  
 
Like most art, I’m initially drawn in by the use of color. This piece from Buscando Comienzos (Is there some reason I must obsess over things written in foreign languages? And why doesn’t Google Translate work better?) shows how different the humble granny square can look when you mix up the color placement. Plus it’s scrappy. A big part of what I like about the Clothogancho pieces is the subtle variation in color that comes from using a lot of different colors. 

  
In spite of (or perhaps in reaction to?) the bright clear colors I’m using in my Splendid Sampler quilt, I’m drawn to the rich, greyed colors in this blanket by Magda de Lange, similar to the palettes in the Clothogancho pieces. 

  
And then there’s the pattern. This beautiful blanket by Ros Badger uses color placement to create a medallion. Clothogancho takes the medallion motif one step farther, using both color placement and border rows to create pieces that look like more like exotic Persian rugs than simple granny square afghans. 

What will I do with all these elements now that I’ve broken them down to manageable bites? I have a couple of ideas cooking in my head. From what I can figure out from Google Translate, the amazingly skilled and talented Clothogancho maker prefers to just start making and figure it out as she goes. Seems like a great plan to me…

Posted in color, creativity, Crochet, design, inspiration, pattern | 3 Comments

Progress Report

First, I’m so excited to announce that I’m now a contributor on my cousin Karen’s blog Shiny Objects! Karen has an amazing and powerful voice and I’m just honored to be a part of what she is creating. You can read my first post here

  
On the health front, I’m very s-l-o-w-l-y recovering from chemotherapy. Even two months ago after my first two treatments, I would have told you the pain and fatigue I’m feeling today was pretty bad. But today, three weeks out from the final two treatments? Today I’m all “hey I can walk to the kitchen without collapsing in a chair to catch my breath and wait for the pain to subside! Praise the Lord and pass the steroids!” Today I understand the true meaning of “cumulative fatigue” and “debilitating muscle pain.”  Hopefully I’ve turned the corner on that part of the journey and now I can focus on finishing radiation and healing my body. 

  
Remember a few weeks ago when I was contemplating how crazy it would be to start a 100 block quilt-a-long?

  
Well call me crazy! The 7th block of The Splendid Sampler was released today and I have completed the first 6 blocks. 

  
It’s become a bit of a ritual with mom asking me if I have any quilt blocks to make as a way to get me out of bed and moving around.

  
My quilting skills are rusty and my blocks are a little wonky and I don’t care. I’m not making a masterpiece here. I’m making this because I love to play with the brightly colored fabrics and because the making is healing me. 

  
I know that as I move forward it will become easier to make these blocks as I regain physical strength. It will also become harder to make these blocks as I regain my busy life. With any luck, a year from now I’ll have a healthy body and 100 quilt blocks. 

Posted in Breast cancer, Chemotherapy, color, creativity, Healing, Quilting | 5 Comments

New work

  
I finished this little (5″ x 7″) piece yesterday. 

  
And sketched out the next piece in the series today. I made three backgrounds with the intention of playing with portraits in my stitched collage style. I was clearly under the influence of my new tube of quinacrodone nickel azo gold when I painted these. I’m trying to be looser with my faces to give them more life; to let them emerge rather than force some sort of symmetry. These rather androgynous figures were an interesting surprise. 

Posted in collage, color, drawing, embroidery, mixed media, painting, stitched collage | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Sewing makes me feel like a human

  
I made this quilt block yesterday. 

  
This one too. These are the first two blocks in The Splendid Sampler quilt-a-long by Pat Sloan and Jane Davidson. They are small, only 6 inches, but they feel like a huge accomplishment and they are making me so happy!

A few years ago I took a total body boot camp circuit training class. Making these blocks felt a bit like that class. One of the cumulative side effects of my chemotherapy is muscle pain and fatigue. How this works in real life is that when I use my arms and legs to do anything my muscles burn like I’m back in boot camp class. Ironing and cutting fabric feels like doing dead lifts or push-ups. I needed a big glass of water and some rest breaks to get it done. 

  
Why bother? For one thing, if I don’t use my muscles I’m afraid I’ll never be able to use them again. For another, makers gonna make. All this enforced rest has meant a ton of time looking at blogs and magazines and I’m filled up with inspiration. I want to make all the things!  But most of all, sitting at that sewing machine felt awesome! Sewing these blocks made me feel like a normal, competent human after so many weeks of being down for the count. 

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Things no one tells you about cancer

 
This is me last August shortly after being diagnosed with breast cancer…tired, grubby and happily enjoying a camping trip with friends, determined to fight but also determined to live my life. I haven’t talked a lot on social media about my cancer because, honestly, I’ve been more interested in living my life than talking about my disease. But cancer is a Big Thing and it’s hard to go through a Big Thing without learning some things that stick with you. Here’s some of what I’ve learned:

  
Life still happens when you have cancer. Cancer is such a huge scary word. It seems like when you get a diagnosis a big huge door must come slamming down putting a halt to everything. Except it doesn’t. You still have your job to do and your bills to pay. You still have to feed the cats and shovel the snow and get your car licensed. There’s still Halloween and Thanksgiving and Christmas. The sun still rises and sets and the world is still hopelessly beautiful. 

It’s just that now you have this big exhausting, overwhelming list of appointments and tests and procedures and medications that you also have to deal with. And it’s scary, especially at first when you do a lot of waiting for test results to find out anything useful. 

It’s really easy to get overwhelmed by cancer and let it take over your life. And that just pissed me off. I have zero interest in having my life be about cancer. I know I alarmed some people with some of my scheming to schedule treatment so that I could still go to football games. But I knew that as long as I was not jeopardizing my health (and I wasn’t) it was important for me to do my thing, to live my life. 

  

  
It’s really hard to tell people you have cancer. Think about how crappy it is to hear that a friend has cancer. Now think about being a sensitive, compassionate person and having to deliver that news to a friend. It sucks. I did not want to be the source of that fear and pain for people I love.  I was blessed with some angels who took on the burden of doing some of the telling for me and I am forever grateful to them. 

Plus, when you tell people you have cancer, you have to talk about your cancer and that puts you right back in the overwhelm and fear. Yuck.

  
 Everyone’s cancer is different. Did you know that there are over 400 different chemotherapy medications? And that’s if chemotherapy is even appropriate to treat your cancer. Even within the category of “breast cancer” there are tons of different categories and factors that make each person’s cancer unique. And each of our bodies are unique and respond to treatments in different ways. 
After a lot of testing and discussion, I chose to have a lumpectomy, radiation and chemotherapy. I consider myself lucky the chemo hasn’t made me nauseous, but the fatigue and muscle pain have been crushing. Also, my chemo killed my taste buds and food tastes weird and sometimes gross. First world problem, I know, but something that has been tough for me. 

 Let’s not even talk about hair loss. 

I am fortunate that my cancer was found early in a routine mammogram. My surgery was successful and my lymph nodes were clear. One of the strangest aspects of this whole deal is going through all of this yuckiness without ever experiencing any symptoms of my disease. 

My friend and fellow survivor Dona wrote This excellent guide to getting through chemo  recently and I can’t recommend it enough. Some of it is just plain good advice about getting through life. 

Turns out cancer and life have this one big important thing in common: You have to walk your own path. You get to live your own life. 

 

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