Signs of Spring

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A few days of calm sunshine make it look like Spring is on its way. Most of the snow has melted, the swollen river has receded and crocuses are poking through. The hens are laying productively and I have not needed a winter coat. I am even thinking about starting some early potatoes off in Freya’s poly-tunnel.

 

I completed the Christmas appliqué quilt, getting rather carried away with intense background quilting that the customer did not specify. I hope she does not hate it! Since she did not ask for the whole-nine-yards, I will charge her the basic price that we discussed originally when I thought she wanted an all-over design. No wonder I never turn a profit;) 

 

The next quilt was also meant to be simple stitch-in-the-ditch but I decided to add extra lines and then quilt chevrons in the printed blocks. It is a wedding quilt and the customer intends to free-motion some song lyrics in the white silk. Both of those jobs made me realise how little creative quilting I have been doing lately. 

Time in my workshop is limited to a couple of hours a day with Nella at home. This week we have been playing Animal Crossing which has been fun. She is still very much struggling with food and terrified that she will have to be readmitted to the hospital. She is aware of her propensity to self-sabotage her recovery yet is unable to stop herself. We just have to take one day at a time and hope that each of those days will be sunny.

Fantasy Life

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I got a Nintendo Switch… my kids have always had Nintendos and they have always loved playing Animal Crossing which is a cute game where the player builds a fantasy island and does a bit of weeding. I am pretty hopeless at the action-packed Mario games but I enjoy wandering around my island picking up bits of wood and catching fish. I can even visit with Freya and Nella by taking a flight to their islands. It has been a welcome distraction during a difficult week in which Nella quibbles every mouthful of food. She is being allowed to stay home for the time being as long we check into Aberdeen CAHMS twice a week.

It took me a while but I completed the Hexie quilt. I stitched around all of the outer hexagons with invisible thread to hold them all down. Some of them had very scant seams and had started to unravel. The customer opted to have me attach the binding by machine as it was such a big quilt at 101” x 110”. I sewed it down with a machine blanket stitch and got it almost completely in the ditch on the reverse:)

 

The next quilt for a customer that I have started is a Lynette Anderson Christmas appliqué. I was asked just to do some simple meandering in the background. However, the first thing that needed to be done was to stitch around all of the appliqués very carefully with invisible thread since the appliqués would end up looking baggy if I did not. The outer border is a type of “homespun” check which frays and stretches so I think I will cross-hatch it. I decided to beak up some of the background with stars and snowballs then will freehand in what space is left. 

Other than that, I have no inclination for any other projects, including the quilted coat that I plan to make. For a start, I have very little time available and can only just keep on track with the few customer quilts that I have. I have hardly posted anything on social media and am trying not to feel that everyone else in the quilting world is forging ahead. I should look for some virtual quilt shows and enter the Rainbow Warliors into a competition. 

I really should heed my own advice to my anorexic daughter – take one day at a time and forget about reality by immersing myself in the alternative world of Animal Crossing.

Frozen!

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There can’t be many people who have never seen the Disney film, “Frozen” – my children are too old to have watched it on repeat as youngsters. It is one of the activities that Nella and I did whilst snowed in this week. Admittedly, I fell asleep halfway through as I am not used to getting up just after 6.00am every day. We also struggled through a 1000 piece jigsaw, went for sub-Arctic dog walks, binge-watched a couple of teen-dramas on Netflix and I kept up with my German language learning apps. 

 

Nella was due to have returned to hospital last Sunday evening and we did set out but soon realised that the driving conditions were dangerous. Even the main road was white, there were blizzards and I turned back before I reached Stonehaven. Snow kept falling during the week and travel remained a foolish idea. It was decided that Nella could stay on at home for the time being. Our days are rigidly timetabled around meals and those meagre meals are slow going. I have to prompt her to pick up her fork for every mouthful. She simply does not want to eat at all but knows she has to comply if she is to be allowed to stay on.

I had a Zoom lesson on designing lettering with the computerised Qmatic longarm system. It is something I really want to experiment with but since I have no CAD expertise, I find it tricky. The idea is to get the words to stitch out with as few stops and jump stitches as possible. After a two hour lesson I was not much more proficient! It would still be quicker for me to freehand a monogram than to work out how to do it by computer;)

 

We had one of the coldest nights for years this week, probably around -12C here. My workshop is not heated overnight as it only has free-standing electric heaters. I had a bit of a panic when the quilt computer would not open up. The manual stated that it should not be used below +5C. Fortunately, after some scanning and chuntering, it did come back to life and I was able to get started on a gargantuan hexie quilt. The customer wanted to keep the outer hexagons complete but had not appliquéd them onto a border so I basted them down onto an additional sheet on top of the usual wadding and backing and intend to sew them down with invisible thread. I would like to sew around them all by blanket stitch on my domestic machine but it will be a mammoth task. The quilt is 101” wide and the backing is only 104” so it is all rather close for comfort. The customer has opted to get me to do the binding so it will be a while before this one is ready to return. My week ahead will involve that, keeping Nella going and practising my German, so pretty much exactly the same as the one we just had, except hopefully without snow and ice.

Let me tell you – this is hard!

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I’m glad that I have set myself the challenge of learning German. It keeps my brain occupied and gives me a daily focus. I have barely progressed beyond the beginner stages in a year but I want to keep on learning. I FaceTimed my German friend, Regina and used a few phrases that I had jotted down but mostly lacked confidence, worrying about all of the grammatical cases. I could really do with a trip to Germany to try and put some of my vocabulary to the test.

Nella had a 3-night pass home which she enjoyed. The eating is a totally different issue. She will not eat everything from her hospital meal plan at home. Every bite she takes, her hands shake, she looks like she is being poisoned and she wants to refuse to finish the small portions that she has argued about with me. It is so frustrating keeping my cool and not yelling in frustration. At the hospital there is a team of people who go home at the end of the day. Here, I am the ONE person who cooks, cleans, gives moral support, supervision, deals with pets, laundry, trying to keep my business open, yet must seem calm and happy to play board games or watch TV during the day.

Somehow, I managed to get 2 simple customer quilts done and made a drawstring bag that will be a birthday present. I still have not completed my FOQ sample but I fully intend to do it …soon;)

Nessie is a Year Old!

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I had no idea on January 31st 2020 that a litter of Scottie puppies would be born and we would end up getting one in what feels like the longest year ever! The decision was made to encourage Nella to get better but Covid Times and Anorexia hijacked her recovery. It was still a good decision since Nessie brought fun and structure to our lives. She is very good, despite not attending puppy classes or doing any socialising and I have to keep her on the lead all the time in case she decides to do laps of the field or wander down to the road. She barks at deliveries and chases cats but she is the best companion and loves to snuggle up on my lap at all times. I took her to visit Nella this week and she behaved herself in one of the visitor rooms, thankfully being very polite and not peeing on the carpet.

Nella earned a 2 night pass home this weekend but she finds eating so difficult. She refuses quite a lot of her meal plan and what she does manage is done in slow motion, tiny bites at a time, followed by guilt and self-loathing. I find it incredibly difficult not to get frustrated with her and have to remember that she has made some progress. She is still a long way from engaging with the recovery process. Her sole motivation is to get released from hospital, partly to escape from the other patients who scream but also to be able to restrict food more easily at home. I just have to hope that she is not released with this mindset because it is all too common for anorexics to be released from hospital then get readmitted soon afterwards.

I have not stitched much this week… I had a useful Zoom revision lesson on Qmatic this week on importing digital quilt designs, some of which I had found needed to be reconfigured. I also “discovered” that I can do lettering which I think could be very interesting. I did actually stitch out some rough ideas for my FOQ project class but I need to knuckle down and get the sample done. Despite not having to go anywhere and having no specific deadlines, I feel as though I have less time to get things done. My excuses include dark mornings, a cold workshop, hospital visiting, cooking for the freezer, practising German, dog walking… In the grand scheme of things nothing is really that important so if I feel like sitting down with a book, so be it:)

There’s Always Carrot Cake

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It was my birthday this week, definitely different to last year’s. The world news about the Coronavirus Pandemic remains grim. In the UK the plan is to vaccinate the elderly and clinically vulnerable before the rest of the population but the latest hoo-ha is that in order to reach as many people as possible, the boosters will not be administered within the recommended time so the fear is that people will still get infected and that the virus could mutate. Honestly, this is like a real-life Apocalypse TV drama! I should stop reading the news except that it was refreshing to see a new leadership sworn into the USA. 

Fergus used a recipe that I found for a Passion Carrot cake which I thought looked close to the John Lewis cafe cake that I would always order years ago on shopping trips for school uniform in Norwich. The recipe includes crushed pineapple for extra moisture. It came up very close to the cake that I remembered but the cream cheese icing is not quite right – I like it quite tart. With a little tweaking it might be written (in my best handwriting) into my spotty-notebook of classic recipes!


I only managed to get 2 customer quilts done this week. I seem to be working very slowly and it is rather cold in my workshop. I had hoped to work on my FOQ class project but have still not got much beyond the planning stage. The trouble with a saturation of social media in the quilting/textiles world is that I just can’t see classes offered by me being any more attractive than all of the many others on offer. I need to get over this and remember how excited I used to get when I had the opportunity to take classes with my quilting heroes in person.

 

Nella had a challenging week – having tried very hard to manage her reduced meal plan in order to earn a pass home for a night, the medics increased it without warning so that she immediately started refusing food again. I phoned to rail against this short sighted decision and was relieved when it was cut back slightly. They do not understand why she will continue to refuse hot puddings and custard after lunch and thought it was weird that as a family we eat very few desserts. The next day, her weight was typed onto a report that she saw even though I had specified that it was critical that she should not be told. Obviously, this freaked her out and I felt obliged to point out the incompetency of sending out an unchecked report. Although, some of the nursing staff work incredibly hard, I find that further up the chain of command, any criticisms or suggestions are met defensively and that drives me mad. Despite these setbacks, she did get a pass over the weekend to remind herself how peaceful and comfortable home-life can be. She did not manage to eat everything and every bite was a struggle but she proved to herself that she can eat here and must continue trying so she can earn longer passes home in the future.

Butter Definitely Would Not Melt

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It was a freezing cold week here and our central heating was on the blink. This meant that my workshop heaters got commandeered for the house so the workshop was probably colder than the temperature outside! 

I quilted Nella’s floral quilt with a traditional orange peel design and the computer was doing such a great job that I went off to get a hot Ribena. When I returned the foot had shattered, the belts of the automated system released themselves and stitched a solid, dense horizontal line of stitches. These were impossible to pick out and I considered hiding them with rickrack or lace but Nella declared it was not a problem so I just left it. I sewed the binding on by machine and tarted it up a bit by using the blanket stitch in a variegated thread. Nella and Freya have both decided that this very old-fashioned, simple quilt is one of their favourites out of all of my many creations. 

My other job for the week was to complete 3 more memory cushions using pieces of a man’s T-shirt’s and fleece jackets as requested by his widow. The T-shirt material was very stretchy and there were only a few fabrics to choose from in a similar colour range so it was quite a challenge. Fortunately, quilting stabilised everything and the customer was delighted.

One particularly cold afternoon, despite having various tasks to do, I found myself rather bored and started looking at second-hand pianos online for Freya in Glasgow. It is easy to acquire an old piano – free to a good home, but then you have to figure out how to transport it and heft it up 4 storeys, after which it will need to be tuned in a student flat, not known for ambient temperatures. A couple of hours later, I had read many reviews for digital pianos, similar to the one we have at home so I decided to buy one and get it delivered to Glasgow as an early birthday present for Freya. I figured that she might as well make use of one in the depths of winter during lockdown while she has very little else to do rather than wait until Spring.

Nella has realised that she hates being in hospital – she can’t bear the screaming and emergency alarms. Although she still does not want to let go of Anorexia, she has been prepared to eat and try to earn an overnight pass home. She has admitted that once home she might not be able to eat and could be readmitted but for now it is at least a shift in her thoughts so we will just have to see what happens.

The other day I left Nessie alone while I went into the shower and when I came downstairs I found her innocently sitting on the back of the sofa not bothering the cats. It was incredible that both cats let her sit there with them as she relishes in tormenting them. After breakfast she was back to normal, chasing them until they took refuge on the window sill,  upon which she does not dare cross.

2021 Not so Great So Far

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It has been very cold here this week with ice, snow showers, melting ice re-freezing! It has made walking or driving down our track treacherous. Freya has returned to Glasgow as she does not want to be paying rent on a flat that she is not living in. We both enjoyed each other’s company for 3 weeks over Christmas but she has her Masters degree and life as a grown-up to get on with. Nessie will just have get used to a more boring life with me again. At least she is getting used to going in the car and can come with me when I visit Nella. 

The News during the second week of the year has been gloomy. The Capitol building in he USA was stormed by protesters who did not accept the results of the presidential election. The rest of the world observed what appeared to be a breakdown of democracy. Depolarising the nation will be a huge challenge for the new regime.

Covid deaths in the UK have now reached 80 000 with infections still rising. Schools have closed at least until mid February and we are back into lockdown. Nella has been in hospital with anorexia for 4 months and shows no signs of improvement. I had to write another letter of suggestions to try and move her treatment plan forward. 

All in all, so far 2021 is not going terribly well…

   

I immersed myself in piecing Nella’s new quilt, trying not to muddle up the patches in the long, diagonal rows. I ordered a floral duvet cover from La Redoute to use as the backing and decided to keep things traditional with an orange peel-ish quilting design. 

In the week ahead I will ease myself back into customer quilting and deal with some admin that I have been postponing. I need to get back to my self-taught German lessons. I should also come up with a new quilting project to turn to when real life gets too much!

2021 is Underway

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We are now 3 days into 2021 and still at the height of a global pandemic, Nella is still not making any progress and I have not been struck by any exciting, creative ideas. The World has high hopes for this new year but I could have said the same in January 2020 before Covid took over all of our lives. When the big picture is too gloomy and overwhelming it is a good idea to be glad about the more everyday stuff.

Freya revealed her clever, secret surprise Christmas present to me which was a brazier made from a defunct washing machine drum. At night the fire shines through the holes and the BBQ grill / lid can sit on top if I want to cook baked potatoes. I have always wanted a street brazier, like protestors or strikers. I can now make placards and stage my own sit-in protests any time I like. 

We have had some wintry showers and bright sun so Freya and I have taken advantage of this to take Nessie on walks in our beautiful, local area. We went to Clune Wood in Durris where my kids all did Forest School years ago and visited the standing stones, not meeting anyone along the way. 

I am not ready to start customer quilts yet but I wanted to work on a mindless sewing project so I started a new quilt for Nella’s hospital room using the Rose & Hubble prints that I ordered from Doughtys. She wanted something traditional that the girls in “Little Women” might have had so I opted for 4-patches and squares on point. It is actually really nice to work on something easy and it is turning out even prettier than I had thought. The most complicated step will be not muddling up the pieces as they get joined together in diagonal rows!

Christmas 2020 is Done!

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Christmas 2020 has been a different experience for everyone around the world who writes letters to Santa. Nella was not here in the build up to Christmas so Freya and I did quite a lot of advance preparation so we would not need to spend much time in the kitchen when she was home. We made sure to watch a few trashy films with happy endings and reindeers. Nessie “wrote” her Christmas letter and we posted it to the North Pole via the fire. 

I left home early while it was still dark and snowing on Christmas Eve to collect Nella and we were back in time for morning coffee. I had hoped that she would attempt to eat some of the home cooked food I had made for her but as there were no nurses waiting to administer nasal-gastric feeds she did not eat or drink anything, apart from water, for 3 days. 

 

Despite the difficulties around food, she had a lovely family Christmas. Even Fergus emerged from his shed at a sensible time of day. Everyone enjoyed their presents – Nessie got most of what she had asked for, Nella got a sock knitting machine and Freya made me an outdoor brazier from a repurposed washing machine drum! We watched TV, did a quiz, read books and simply enjoyed being together.

Nella was sad to return to the hospital on Boxing Day evening and genuinely does not see why she needs to be there so the focus for next year has to be to figure out how to get her to engage with recovery. 

I plan on doing very little for the next week, apart from visiting Nella, lighting fires and deciding on which traditional quilt to make for Nella using Rose & Hubble prints (her request). Nessie is disappointed that she has run out of tasty parcels to unwrap and we have to finish re-watching “War and Peace”:)

Christmas Countdown

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It feels like I have had a hectic week but probably not by pre-Covid standards. There is nobody at school here anymore and of course, there have been no concerts, parties, Christmas craft fairs, trips to the cinema or in-person shopping. Just about all of my purchases were done online and I have now got everything wrapped. In order to put any parcels under the tree I will have to protect them within sturdy apple crates so Nessie does not attempt to unwrap them. 

Freya is home for a few weeks so we have been busy cooking, dog walking and watching Christmas movies. She made a super wreath all using foliage from the garden. 

I have made preparations for Nella coming home over Christmas so there will be minimal cooking to do while she is here. I have got stuff prepared for her in the freezer which I hope she will eat but there is every possibility that she will refuse it all. A strict lockdown in Scotland has been announced from Boxing Day so we will have to wait and see whether that will curtail my visits to her. 

I feel like I still have a lot to do, although my list says otherwise and I even got my paperwork up to date. Somehow, I don’t think actual Christmas will be very relaxing this year but I dare say many people would also say the same. I think I probably just need to watch more TV and make a good effort at polishing off my bottle of sherry;)

My Christmas Grotto

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I had a busy week finishing up customer quilts before I decide that I am “on holiday” for the Christmas season. First I finished the patchwork stocking for Fergus’ girlfriend. It is a slightly odd shape but I decided that it had to have a practical amount of space in the foot part to stuff in gifts. 

I had 4 customer quilts to do using the computerised quilt machine and while they were running I used a ruler to finish a log cabin quilt in the ditch that a customer had started and struggled with on her domestic machine. 

Fergus celebrated his 19th birthday at home with a large, sticky chocolate cake that had a landslide due to the outrageous amount of butter-icing in between the layers. 

After slogging away at learning German on Duolingo for 10 months I have completed every single exercise. I am definitely nowhere near fluent and could not hold a sensible conversation but I could definitely understand a menu and navigate train station announcements. I have now downloaded an app called Babbel which seems more driven by conversation so I intend to keep practising.

I wrote a letter to Nella’s treatment team trying to get them to understand that she will not make any progress on the meal plan that she has been given. The quality of the hospital food is poor and they keep challenging her with fear foods that she will not attempt. As, usual, their reply to me seemed defensive and they do not intend to make any changes since they are the so-called experts. I will be writing another letter this week to complain that I had to ring the doorbell on my last minute for 20 minutes and that Nella was late for my visit by 45 minutes which she found very upsetting. Considering that parents recently received an email informing them that the unit was not short staffed, I was disappointed that no-one could be bothered to answer the door or pick up the phone!

This week I intend to deal with Christmas cards, wrapping, make space in the freezer and will probably decide to sew up some last minute gifts. There have been no Christmas festivities here this year, I have not had anyone to watch festive TV with and it seems to have been raining every day forever. I need to conjure up some seasonal cheer – maybe a bottle of sherry would help;)

Rather Chilly

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It has been a woolly scarf and vintage Norwegian cardigan week, totally the wrong weather for Nessie to have a close shave. I took her to the dog groomer for a festive bath and trim but she came back almost bald. She was so cold and miserable that she had to wear a jumper! The Christmas elf jumper is cute but not warm and Bumble’s old fleeces are too big so I made her put on her pink dog onesie. We actually had wet snow overnight on Thursday which melted quickly. I was relieved because I would rather not have snow until Freya comes home for Christmas and even then, preferably not on the days when I need to visit Nella in Dundee. 

 

I took on a commission that I was not particularly enthused about – making patchwork cushions for a widow out of her husband’s polo shirts and fleece jackets. The fabrics were not easy to deal with as they were so stretchy but I managed to get two out of six cushions completed. She will get those 2 cushions before Christmas and the others afterwards as I have several other quilts to fit in before I finish for the holidays. 

I wanted to make Fergus’ girlfriend a patchwork Christmas stocking from my scrap stash. I have made 2 L-shaped quilted pieces that I have to cut into stocking outlines. I have found all sorts of things to trim it with including bells, pom-poms and prairie points. My own children may be jealous as theirs are nothing as elaborate but they are attached to them out of nostalgia.

 

Chicken Quilt – Check!

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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.

Poof – Another Week Gone!

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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!