Saturday, 30 June 2012

When to spend money

And what to spend it on....

A beginners guide to quilting.

I am an admitted cheapskate, if I don't have to buy things from department stores I won't. If I don't have to spend money on something that I can make from what I have on hand, I won't do that either. Even better is hitting second hand shops and yard sales and finding what you need at a steal there, saving yourself time as well as money and reducing waste, why not re-purpose at a fraction of the cost of new? 
All ranting aside, I've learned a few things in the last few months about what a person like me should spend money on and where to cut corners. First is machine needles, do not scrimp on your machine needles! Buying the cheaper variety needles may work for light weight projects but they will not work very well for quilting, as a matter of fact you will end up spending more money on the cheaper needles since you have to replace them so often. I buy the titanium type, they last longer and are stronger than general needles. I tend to yank and reef more than I should, I broke 3 general quilting needles in a row because I bent them while moving my quilt around the sewing machine. The titanium ones give a little but don't bend and will snap back into shape if you pull a little harder than you should, they also won't break if you have a particularly bad seam join like an average needle will. 

Secondly is thread, I personally will scrimp on the thread when I can but I always make sure it is a quality, strong thread made for quilting. I do not recommend anyone who is unfamiliar with thread to try and save money by buying a cheaper spools, especially cheap wal-mart or dollar store thread. Those threads are not made for quality and will break, ravel, knot, fray and bleed. When in doubt... buy quality and recognizable name brands and speak to a person whom you know is experienced with sewing or quilting, or ask at a quilt shop attendant (they may try to upsell you though, I would try the experienced seamstress first). 
The different types of thread are confusing too, my general rule of thumb is if you are hand sewing use cottons or silks (silk is difficult to use in a sewing machine, if it is not label for machine use, don't try it), if you are machine sewing use polyester or poly blends. Cottons, even cottons specifically made for machine quilting will break frequently unless they are top quality, even then they still break more often than a polyester thread.  Polyester threads are strong and durable, colorfast and have a nice sheen to them, the only time I have ever had poly threads break on a sewing machine is when I used really cheap brands for quick garb piecing and I didn't care if the garb fell apart after a few washing's. 

Also know the weight of your thread, if it's too heavy it will pull your fabric, and not sit well on your piece, lighter thread is better. The higher the weight the lighter the thread, 30weight, 40weight and 50 weight .. etc, also too are the ply's some threads are 2 ply and some are 3 ply, so a 50/2 will be lighter than a 50/3.
Determining what weight and type of thread you are going to use will ultimately be a personal choice, so try out a few different types and see what works best for you, I use only poly threads in a heavier weight than most quilters will use but it works for me. 
Oh and before I forget to mention it: Do NOT buy second hand thread unless you are positive it is coming from a reliable and trusted source. 2nd hand threads may be very old or dyed improperly and you really don't want the hassle of the lint build up in your sewing machine or having the thread break after a couple of washing's.

Third on my list is rulers and rotary cutters, I put these together because usually if you have one, you'll have the other. Kind of like a peanut butter and jam sandwich, you can have one or the other but it just isn't the same without them together. You can scrimp on rulers, buy them secondhand or at a yard sale as long as they are in decent condition and have good markings on them (preferably black lines or black and yellow), orange or red rulers are good too but require really good lighting to use and they can blend in with your fabric so black or black and yellow is preferable. I also recommend trying to buy a large 12" square and long ruler of the same brand if possible, because different brands mark their rulers differently you can end up with a slight wobble when trying to square up a quilt until you are more experienced with rotary cutting. Using youtube is a good way to educate yourself on how to properly square up and cut your fabric & quilt. The specialty rulers and shapes don't have to be the same brands at all since you will be using them individually to make the particular shape, do purchase ones in good condition with no breaks apparent secondhand if you can find them.

Do NOT scrimp on your rotary cutter blades! I would buy a rotary cutter secondhand as long as it is universal and takes all different brands of blades, but the blades themselves are the key to a smooth and even cut and they do wear out quite quickly, I did invest in a rotary blade sharpener which helps prolong the life of the blade but even then I still change out frequently. Now to qualify not scrimping on the blades, I don't mean to buy the most expensive brand possible, I mean buy them often and change them often. If your blade isn't cutting through your fabric properly then it is time to change or sharpen the blade. Sometimes you can get blades still packaged in second hand and charity stores or at yard sales, check the package for tampering and the blade for wear before buying.
While we are speaking of rotary cutters and blades, lets not forget the mat. You don't have to buy the most expensive self healing mat on the market and some are pretty pricey, I do however recommend that you buy the largest one you can afford and lets be clear it MUST be self healing, if it is not you'll end up with your blades dulling twice as fast and you'll have little scrapes, cut lines and holes that can ruin your cut and more than likely will catch on the back of your fabric, possibly ruining it. Yes you can buy self healing mats secondhand, but be sure to test the surface by running your hand over it and make sure it is smooth. If there are gouges or cut lines, its "life" has been used up. A good use for a mat that is no longer good to cut on is as a sewing machine mat, just put it under your sewing machine, it will lessen vibrations and prevent your machine from sliding on a table surface, very handy if you plan on using your machine to quilt quilts and don't have the drop down sewing tables.

My fourth bit of advice is about batting, now I would match the purpose of your quilt to the style of batting. The cheap brands can be very.. very.. bad, one of the worst I had seen pulled apart like cotton balls. Definitely not what you want to put in a quilt! If you are going to make a quilt for your kid who is going to drag it into God knows what and treat it like it's a mountain, super cape, railroad tracks, or whatever else a kids imagination is going to come up with. I would not bother with a expensive batting at all, chances are it will get abused just as badly. If anything I would buy an inexpensive but decent polyester batting from Wal-mart and use that or if you have flannelette sheets kicking about that are not being used, you can use 2 layers of flannelette and get a nice weight to the quilt, one layer if you want a summer weight. I would recommend pinning and thread basting or ditch stitching before you fold this up, flannelette will slide until it's moored well.

On the other hand, if your project is for a baby or a show quilt, or a quilt for your own bed, I prefer cotton or bamboo batting against polyester, it is obviously more expensive but a much nicer quality and if you want a good winter weight you should double up the batt since neither cotton or bamboo are good insulators. I haven't had access to wool batting personally but the grapevine at my guild says it is good to work with. 
You can also zigzag together batting out of your left overs, it is not optimal for important projects but it will do in a pinch and does work rather well for heavy fabrics since the seam will not show up.
Last but not least, something I am very passionate about... Fabric! Even before I started quilting I was an avid collector of fabric, quilting has just given me the excuse to acquire even more! This is where scavenging, hitting sales, yard sales, barter and trading will save you loads of money. On average (in Canada at any rate) a metre of good quality cotton is about $15 per, now you think that you are buying a minimum of 4 metres of fabric per quilt (always good to have extra) that's 60$ per quilt.. OUCH!!! When you get into buying precuts like fat quarters, charm squares and the like the price will increase. If you are like me with a large family and on a budgeted income, that is not something you can afford. 
So... here is where recycling, repurposing and remaking all play their large roles, if the fabric is good enough quality and the right type it doesn't matter if it is originally a shirt, blanket, dress, jeans, or whatever. You can make some amazing things just from scraps. If you want new fabric, hit the sale racks FIRST also ask if the store has a bargain bin and bolt ends to look through. This does take a bit of time since there is usually quite a bit of unwanted bits in there, however getting the deal plus extra fabric for less than what it would have cost you to buy a few metres directly off the rack is worth it.
One of my favorite places to hit are charity stores and donation stores, I've bought thousands of dollars worth of fabric for less than $200 that way. Our local charity shop sorts fabrics by colors, fills a large bag with them and sells the lot for 10$. Just the other day I ended up with  $50 worth of good quality cottons from one bag plus scrap bits I can use for a crazy quilt or an awesome 9 patch. Keep your eyes open and ears to the ground, the more people who know what you are doing means the more fabric you will end up with for free!

A final word about the gadgets and fun toys out there for quilters today, just because it looks like a good idea, doesn't mean it is a good idea for you. Some of the things I am thinking of that have tossed around by everyone who quilts and their dogs are things like pinmoors (really great idea but holy moley expensive!), machingers which are nylon gloves with grippy bits on them to help with gripping your quilt, not as pricey as the pinmoors but they could be out of budget range. Other things include binding clips, special needle threaders, needles painted with all sorts of different alloys to make them "better" etc.. etc.. etc... Just because it's shiny and new doesn't mean it's for you! (that makes me laugh hah!) 
You can substitute other things around your home or from a dollar store that will do the same thing that many of these products claim to do, for example: Pinmoors can be replaced with any type of condensed sponge that "self heals", look for a substitute in your local hardware store or dollar store. (I am using foam water noodles squished into vinyl tubing, keeps the foam packed and encourages "gripping" of the pin). 

For machingers go to your dollar store or gardening center and buy a pair of nylon gloves coated with nitrile, they will look like the palms of the glove and fingers were dipped in a plasticky looking paint, once you've brought them home to use, wear them on the wrong hands, the nitrile should be on top of your hands. The reason for wearing them on the opposite hand is the nitrile is very grippy, the whole hand will actually hinder your quilting process and there is just enough on the finger ends to give you the proper amount of grip. Of course it will feel weird at first, that's why I specified nylon. It will take a few wears for the gloves to conform to your hands but they will and it's not nearly as uncomfortable as trying to wear a cotton glove on the wrong hand, the nylon will flex with your hand, the stretching period is for the nitrile.

For the binding clips, try using hair clips, the ones that flex and snap. All the binding clips do is keep your binding straight and anchored to your quilt which is very handy but not necessary to spend that much money on something that looks like a clothespin (which will also work but they slip a bit). 

As for needles and needle threaders your answer to that lies in self-threading needles, I got my stash at the dollar store for a buck for 20 of various sizes. I do recommend having special quilting needles, the short, very sharp ones, you'll need them if you plan on hand sewing your bindings or doing hand piecing or hand applique, just don't fall for all the marketing nonsense. If they are cared for properly one set of the regular plain jane good quality ones will last for quite a few years. 

Hope this read helps you manage your quilting budget a bit:)

Passion in Creation.

Friday, 29 June 2012

Boxcar Suzie

Thinking Inside the Box?

This is my current project, I call her, (yes her ) Boxcar Suzie.  I came up with the name in a fit of inspiration... or insanity if you prefer... one day while listening to a conversation going on between my fellow guild ladies about naming their quilts and patterns. 
It never really occurred to me to name my quilts but I saw the logic behind it, it's similar to having raised your own cat from kittenhood (or dog.. I have cats lol), you simply can't spend that much time nurturing something without developing some sort of attachment, of course anything we are attached to gets a name right? Right.  
I ended up with some convoluted logic in the naming of the quilt, as it is pieced together in squares I was thinking squares .. squares within squares... stacked... boxes... boxes in boxes.. boxes making roads.. tracks... boxes making tracks, railroads, unwanted and hidden fabric.. train jumpers, hobos, Boxcar Willie.. Boxcar Suzie! I still don't quite get how my mind ended up at that conclusion but it works.
I did design this quilt pattern myself, I wanted simple, yet unique and I could have done simple sashing strips for each of the lines but I wanted it to have that pieced together look and feel, the picture doesn't quite capture the seam lines other than where the different shades join but each strip is pieced, it adds a kind of illusionary quality to the overall quilt I think. I found the fabric hidden in the "donation" piles at the guild, passed over many times by other people who missed the potential all three of these patterns had together, it was the fabric which inspired the design.

Bottom Border
I wanted to show what the border pattern looked like at the bottom and top of the quilt, there are 2 strips of border there as opposed to the single strip on either side.  I was very surprised at the effect having that extra strip created, it added depth and dimension to the center squares and seemed to make the quilt complete.  I am sure that it is a matter of perception but many of my guild ladies told me not to extend a square quilt with extra border on either end because it will look unbalanced. I nearly heeded their advice, I am sure glad the rebel in me broke out, forcing me to put the extra strips on ;).  Admittedly I have to add that I am not a huge fan of square quilts, personal preference, ---> why put a square on a rectangle?! It doesn't look right! Hah! Oh the irony of it all.....

Sea Oats

Anyway, moving along... I am pretty sure I've mentioned that I am learning how to Free Motion Quilt from Leah Day's blog.
The center square is a pattern called sea oats created by Leah Day that really inspired me, it's perfect for a center square and very natural, which I love. If you would like to look at the other patterns she's created follow the link under the picture.

I am sure you noticed that there are 2 different colors of thread, that is a purposeful accident. I didn't find the articles and blogs about how much thread FMQ'ing can use up until AFTER I ran out of thread, not that it was a bad thing that I did! I found the articles and blogs about using thread colors that matched your fabric too closely after nearly making myself blind trying to quilt the light pink fabric with a light pink thread which was of course, a near perfect match.  The only pink threads I have left in my stash are glaringly gaudy, burn your irises out fucshia's, hot pinks and purple pinks. In the right place those threads will be beautiful however the pinks in this fabric are very muted and delicate definitely not the place for a vibrant color. I dug out every box, sewing kit, junk container I had in order to find something that would work. I could have bought more thread to match certainly, I really didn't want to when I have so many spools that need to be used up, not to mention I really did not want to go blind by continuing with that pink color!

I finally found a beautiful peachy orange that was muted enough, I was a little shy about using it since it was so much different from the pink, surprisingly it worked really well.
Eventually I came to the conclusion that if I was going to change thread colors mid-quilting that I should change again and add a third color so the colors are even through the quilt. 3 boxes were quilted with the pink, 3 will get quilted with the peach and I will quilt the remaining with a 3rd color.  To pull it all together and too keep it from being unbalanced, I thought I would add some of the peach thread to the center square, my stitch ripper was ready just in case I hated the result....
I really do like the effect (yay!), having that peach color made the center square pop, I can't wait to see what it will look like with the 3rd color.

Sea Oats inspired quilting design, done in peach thread
Here is a close up of the pattern I am using to quilt with, I kept with the sea oats and added my own flair and dramatics. Leaves, spirals and little flower buds all weave their way through each set of boxes. I decided to quilt each strip individually, I am still not sure why, it seemed to make sense at the time. I am positive that I've made another leap of faith, trusted my convoluted logic again and made a relatively simple project that much more difficult just because that's how I roll.

Yes.. I am positive about that.

I am hoping to be done quilting within the next few days, I am about half way done with a total time of 12 hours logged in just quilting on my machine. I tell you though there is no place I would rather be. 

Passion in Creation.

Saturday, 23 June 2012

Laundry Etiquette?

I am sure everyone knows that when you buy fabric, especially new fabric, to wash it before you use it. Doing so does a few things, it shrinks the fabric, washes out extra dyes and chemicals and makes it easier to work with but... have you considered what you are washing your fabric with?

Fabric softener should be considered a big no-no, not just with pieces of fabric but with your daily laundry as well. Softeners are chemical based compounds to fool you into thinking that your clothing and linens are softer than they would be without. This is a lie you do not need fabric softener at all, for anything, no not even to remove static cling (toss out your dryer sheets too!).
There are a multitude of reasons why you should not use softeners in your wash:

  1. They are absolutely unnecessary, baking soda and vinegar with your wash works better at softening than a cap full of liquid softener
  2. Softeners use chemicals that coat your fabrics, and that coat stays there and builds up over time
  3. They make your clothing and fabric MORE flammable, a simple burn test will prove this. (If you choose to do a burn test, you are responsible for any accidents that occur, I will not be held liable.) 
  4. Softeners will rot your fabrics and can grow black mold inside the fibres of your clothing if they are not dried properly.
  5. The chemicals build up in dryers and on lint traps causing your dryer to become a major fire hazard. Have you heard of the lint trap test? Take your lint trap and run water on top of it, if the water does not run freely through you have build up of grease & chemicals which are of course highly flammable, wash your lint trap immediately and vacuum out your dryer duct. I check mine at least once a year, I haven't had to wash it since I went softener free ;). Vacuum the duct regularly.
  6. The chemicals contained in your softener and dryer sheets do not break down easily and they contaminate local waste water & ground water resources. (Try purifying the run off from your washing machine with a liquid softener, I don't recommend drinking the result.)
  7. Scents & perfumes used in softeners irritate skin, lungs and sinuses and are harmful chemicals in their own right. From the Canadian Lung association 
Chemicals used to add scents to products can cause serious health problems for some people, especially for people with lung diseases such as asthma or COPD. Being near a scented product can make some people sick.
Scents enter our bodies through our skin and our lungs. The chemicals in scents can cause many different reactions. Even products containing natural plant extracts can cause allergic reactions in some people.
 I could continue on with various reasons but I am sure the general gist is apparent, sure they smell great but at what cost to yourself?

My next bone to pick is with major brands of laundry detergent, I am sure you are familiar with your standard laundry detergent display at Wal-Mart or local grocery chain, the majority of the brands you see there are crap. They are as bad as fabric softeners! As a matter of fact quite a few of those brands have been treated so they require you to use fabric softeners, I took a well known brand and tried it without fabric softeners, the result was shocking, literally :D Static cling on cottons is not something I am used to, wools, rayons, silks, yes... cottons, not so much.
Oh! Oh! Get this.. This also applies to softeners, do you remember the great big boxes and bottles of detergents back in the 80's & 90's? Then as the Eco movement got underway all of a sudden detergents and softeners are 2x concentrated or 3x concentrated, in smaller packaging? Well, do you realize that you, the consumer, are paying for the privilege of not having water and fillers added to your soap? That's right! The major brands removed water and fillers, shrunk the packages and charged you at least twice as much if not 3 times as much for the same amount of soap and called it "concentrated". I don't know about you but that fact made me think twice about what I was purchasing.
All the reasons I listed for not using softeners also apply to laundry detergents, the chemical that has been found prevalent in major brands of laundry detergents is 1,4 dioxane, which doesn't break down and has been found in water sources and drinking water across North America. An article:

When cleaning products and detergents are processed using ethoxylation, a cheap technique that lessens the severity of the harsher ingredients, 1,4-dioxane is created. Since it is considered a byproduct of ethylene oxide reacting with other ingredients, 1,4-dioxane is technically considered a contaminant and thus does not have to be included on product labeling. As a result, consumers are largely unaware of its presence in majorhousehold products.

Don't just take my word for it, do test this out yourself, research it for your own knowledge so you know what is and is not present in your home. I also recommend you research your cleaning supplies for they too have adverse side effects. For quilting enthusiasts I recommend you check the contents of your spray bastes, starches and other favorite treatments. I read an article about how spray bastes actually damage your fabric and at 15$ a can, I think I will do without :D Nothing wrong with a little time spent on pin basting.

So to conclude, it is well worth your time to check out just what is exactly in your home, I believe many illnesses and disease can be prevented just by living a less toxic life. It's also worth it to you to check these things out from a financial perspective, if you spend an average of $5 a bottle on fabric softener twice a month you can save yourself $120 a year on not buying it, you can also save more money by switching brands of laundry detergents, I buy ECOS from Canadian Tire at $15 a bottle I get on average 150-180 loads from 1 large bottle in my HE washing machine. If I were buying my old brand, Purex, I would get about 35 loads per average bottle at 6$ each, I would have to spend $24-$30 to get the same amount of loads done. Buying the big caddies doesn't make it cheaper either, even though they claim to have 96 loads per caddy for 11$ I found that I got about 80 loads, so I would still have to buy another bottle or caddy to make up the difference.  Yes I really did count, when you are a 1 income large family, $5 is a major difference ;).

Wednesday, 13 June 2012

The Drive to Excel


verb (used without object)
to surpass others or be superior in some respect or area; do extremely well: to excel in math.
verb (used with object)
to surpass; be superior to; outdo: He excels all other poets of his day.

The dictionary definition of excel seems to relate specifically to competing against another person in order to become the best. That is supposed to be the be all and end all, achievement & recognition of your superiority. I personally believe this is one of the greatest follies in life, why? Simply because no matter how much one achieves, there will ALWAYS be someone whom you consider or others consider better than you. 
That sort of drive to best others can and will eventually break your spirit and determination whether it's through self-negativity or outside influence. I wholeheartedly believe that the only person we should be try to best is ourselves, we are our own worst critics and our best cheerleaders in everything and anything we do. 
I remember for years, teachers, self help gurus and a myriad of other self important wannabes touting the rule of 5 goals in life, you must have 5 goals that you want to achieve by such and such an age in order to succeed. How do you measure success? Is it the corporate rat race? How many figures you have in the bank? How big your house is? How much stuff you have crammed in it? Perhaps these days it how much body sculpting you've had done or if your are a star in your own reality show *gag*.  
Personally I find the 5 goal rule to be stifling and restrictive, there is no room for experimentation or growth and most importantly it stifles the imagination. Not to mention if you create 5 goals in your life at age 16, by 18-20 years you've got a completely different ideal and method of thinking which changes again sometime after the age of 25. So in fact you've wasted the best years of your life trying to fit the mold of what others think is the ideal of success and not really spent anytime experimenting with what you consider success.

 The Challenge: 

I Challenge anyone who reads this to try 5 new things which are completely different from anything that you have done or normally do. It doesn't have to be major life changing events, it could be something as simple as trying out a different genre of music, taking in a musical or being in a musical, learning how to cook or learning a different method cooking. Not wearing make-up and wearing a sloppy t-shirt and jogging pants instead or the reverse for us housewives :D. ANYTHING! Kick start your imagination! Do some guerilla gardening! (Google it, it's awesome!) Try crochet or knitting! Go canoeing! Be proactive with yourself, who knows what sort of passion you might find.

My personal efforts ended up in me discovering quilting and learning how to make a fantastic loaf of french bread (Seriously, we DO NOT buy grocery store bread anymore), I can do minor electrical work around my home and grow amazing raspberries and blueberries in a Northern Canadian region. My future endevors include raising my own urban chickens, learning how to make my own batik fabrics, wood working (more like repair lol) and hedge sculpture .. that last one should be worth a few giggles! 
Experimentation related to quilting will also be in the works, I know that people having been making quilts for hundreds of years and things have to be done just so, I call bull cocky to that.  I agree that there are somethings that shouldn't be messed with like the basics of piecing, 1/4 in seam and all that. But there has to be more that just squares and triangles lined up just so.
I've looked at quite a few magazines and seen some quilt shows alot of the work is reproductions or what someone else has done, don't get me wrong though, those quilts are AMAZING pieces of art and some women are phenomenally talented in that respect. BUT the issue still remains that they are fundamentally the same patterns used for generations 
recycled over and over. I, myself want to be a creator of patterns! I laugh because here I am with my imagination running away with me and I've only done 2 quilts and a hot pad, the second quilt technically is not complete, I could just bind it and be done with it since it is loosely quilted but I want to add some flourish with free motion quilting, which I am learning from Leah Day, who can be found here: .

There is my passion, the want and the drive to outstrip and outdo myself and not be stuck in the box that someone else has created. I am not competing or trying to outdo anyone else, I am however challenging myself to explore different options no matter what anyone says and to improve my own skills and techniques or perhaps create my own techniques ;)

Thursday, 7 June 2012

In the beginning...

Welcome to passion quilting, my blog is about my journeys in learning this craft. I consider myself an absolute beginner with enough passion to compensate for the lack of experience, if I can visualize it I will try it! 

I started out sewing many years ago, in a Home EC. class I enjoyed it but it wasn't something that was done in our house and I wasn't allowed to use the sewing machine at home unless it was for homework, so sewing fell by the way side. Then many years later I got involved with the SCA (Society of Creative Anachronism) and began creating medieval garb in the most simple way, thus began my scavenging skills, I never used patterns, I learned how to eyeball a design and work it out in my own way. I mean really who wants to pay $20 or more for a pattern that you are only going to use a piece or two out of? I also bought very little fabric from fabric stores (which I feel are over priced) and started trading, going to yard sales, estate sales and 2nd hand stores to find "treasures". The only time I ever bought fabric was for a specific purpose and I couldn't find what I needed anywhere, you know when you need just one piece to pull everything together?

My favourite bit of scavenging was to use flat bed sheets that you can get in any second hand store or garage sale for a dollar or two, I used them to create under-dresses, gypsy pants or skirts, pants for the guys or tunic tops, whatever I could think of got made with them. Why? If you consider it, a flat twin size bed sheet is around 2m's of fabric with a great width, and you can get high quality cottons as well as a range of colours or delicate patterns and buying them second hand means you pay less than 1 or 2% of what it would cost you to buy it off the shelf in a department store or get equal length and width from a fabric store. What a steal!  Not to mention you don't have to worry about shrinkage or even colour fastness because they have already been washed repeatedly.

Some Background:

Eventually we moved out of the SCA and that circle of friends mainly because my husband and I were the only ones with small children and we couldn't continue spending our time that way, my (now) middle child whom I will refer to as my Chickie had some vision issues and we ended up having to spend our time and moneys in that direction obviously. Unfortunately her vision problems were just the tip of the iceberg, at a year old I noticed she wasn't quite herself and I started keeping my eye on her, I discovered I was pregnant with my 3rd one just shortly after this realization and so I have to split my focus between her, my eldest young lady and the soon to be baby and lets not forget hubby either!  I think I was a bit overwhelmed at this point... ;)  Anyway, I was due with my 3rd youngling, March 4th 2006 and as the months passed my little Chickie gradually started getting worse, at the end of January 2006 she developed an odd rash which disappeared for a week after topical treatment and then in February came back with a vengeance all over her right side, I took her into Doctor after doctor and they all said, just keep an eye on it, it should go away. Needless to say it didn't and I was coming closer and closer to my due date. It was decided by my team of Doctor's to schedule my c-section on February 20th which for me personally is a necessity but that is a whole other story in of itself. Why so early? I can't recall the reasons now but I do remember it was important that it happen then instead of later, and it turned out to be a blessing from God that it did happen then. 

After I had my little one, Dad brought the other 2 to the hospital to visit me the following morning, I looked at my little Chickie and just knew as only a mother can know that there was something WRONG. It needed to be looked after NOW. The rash she had? Well it now had red lines following her veins with it, if you have never seen anything like that I hope you don't ever see it. It's more than a little terrifying. 

I was up and out of my bed within the hour (Just over 24 hours after having major surgery, yes) and on my way home with my family, why my Doctor released me? I don't know, I don't ask questions, I just have faith. Anyway, within 4 days little Chickie had a battery of tests which had odd results, the Wednesday following we went into see the doctor who was really concerned because her belly had started swelling and she was scheduled for a ultrasound on Friday. We went in for the test, got a call Saturday morning to come in for full spectrum blood tests, I won't get into the details but it was bad, it took a half hour to get the sample. The attending Doctor told us to go home and wait for the results, we figured it would take a couple of hours so we decided to go for a quick bite before we headed home. Half an hour later we get home, there is a message on the phone telling us to get our rear ends back to the hospital RIGHT NOW. 

I knew, right then I knew she had cancer. I didn't need the doctor to tell me, he looked at me and said "You know don't you?" I nodded and asked "What type?" Leukemia, ALL to be exact was his reply. 2 hours later we are on a plane to the Children's Stollery in Edmonton AB. The date? March 4, 2006
I realize that you are wondering why I am telling you all this, the last 10 years of my life with my family has been Epic.. I don't know how else to explain it and it all relates to how I began quilting. I could fill an entire novel with stories just from this era of my life and still not have told everything.
Continuing on with how I began quilting I am going to skip over 5 years and go to January 2011 (it's ok to breathe a sigh of relief lol) my little Chickie has completed her chemo (4 years worth) and had her eye surgery that she needed and now I get to focus on house and home a little, all my girls are in school and I find myself with time on my hands. What a new fangled thing that is... Time... on my hands.. I don't know what to do with myself. A friend of my parents whom was instrumental in helping us out during our first year of chemo life, again another story for another time, contacted me and started bugging me to join her in her quilting guild. I refused at that time but she persisted, it got to the point where it was a running joke every time we ran into each other. "You going to come to the guild now?" ... "Umm no, not this week... I have to wash my hair and trim the lawn... " . 
For months she bugged me.. and I mean MONTHS, so come December 2011 I shocked her.. I said YES. She didn't know quite what to do at that point!  I go to the meeting to discover that 80% of the women there are all women I have known at various points in my life, now whose shocked and floored? ME! 
I don't exactly recall why I picked the fabrics that I did for my first quilt, I just started off with a bed sheet, I had this beautiful, retro, 1970's fitted sheet with the little girl 
In her bonnet on the green or yellow gingham background and then some pale yellow seersucker which I thought matched nicely, it is my first attempt so I wasn't going to run out an buy a whole bunch of new material for something I may not enjoy. Makes sense right? Little did I know I was about to delve into a project that would allow me to express myself and my emotions in a way that I despaired of ever finding. 
So I attended my first meeting in December and funnily enough I didn't take to it right away, I don't know if it was the timing or if the planets weren't aligned correctly or perhaps that fact that I had the brain freeze that us Northern living women deal with when the temperature drops to -40 degrees for weeks on end.
I had gotten the basics of how to cut, what to cut and when to cut it from my soon to be Quilting mentor, Suzie (One and the same with the persistent harassing lady.), she taught me how to piece the blocks together and I had a good time but I wasn't sure it was for me so I let it go for a few weeks, come January I was HOOKED. Once I started to piece the strips together I realized how relaxed I was, I nearly bawled in relief I haven't relaxed like that since... I don't know when!
I ended up buying the paisley squares at Wal-mart because of course "Only buy what you can't find" the rest of the material came out of my treasure hoard. 

The Embellishment

The little girls in this picture have a story of their own, as soon as I saw them I knew the quilt was for Chickie! Have you ever heard of Flat Stanley? If you haven't the general story is, a little boy gets flattened one day and he is so flat he can be folded up and put in an envelope then he gets mailed everywhere. Well my little Chickie's teacher makes Flat Stanley's for us to mail all over the world and the person receiving the Stanley is supposed to take him around and show him the sites of their town or countryside perhaps include a photo or a souvenir. It's quite the thing and the people whom we send these out to just absolutely love it, these little girls came back from Nova Scotia with Flat Stanley so he could have company! 
Obviously I couldn't just set them aside or throw them away, they are too precious and hold an exciting memory for Chickie. So I stumbled upon the idea of making a memory quilt quite by accident and satin stitched these little ladies in the middle of her quilt, they have been stitched on after the quilting was done so the satin stitch shows up on the wrong side but they look funny all alone on this big quilt...

So I found these lovely little blue threaded butterflies at the local dollar store, laugh all you want but they actually aren't too bad of quality, I just have to be careful how I dry the quilt in the dryer which isn't a problem since I usually hang my quilts on the clothes line.  I put these particular ones swirling up the right side of the quilt, if you looked at the first picture at the top of the blog you can see what I did, and they to are satin stitched through all layers on the back, the reason why I've done that is because it's a memory quilt, I can now add other bits to it and have the effect on the back and the front.  Once I find my camera again I'll take a picture of the back and post it. 
The only problem was the quilt now seems to be imbalanced since the left side is bare, so off to the dollar store I went yet again! And I found these:

Wonderful pink butterflies! I thought they made a great contrast to the blue not only in colour but in shape and texture, and they are oh so girlie! These also washed well, this quilt is well loved already and it's barely 3 months old! I used a rayon embroidery thread for the antennae so they would show up and shimmer a bit, as you can see from the photo it worked quite well. Of course rayon embroidery thread is difficult to work with on a sewing machine and I made the mistake of putting it in the bobbin as well... Do not do that! Use a good poly thread for the bobbin it will make your life so much simpler.


I realized that once I had finished and bound this quilt, just how much of the stress I'd had in the last few years was worked out through it, this Chickie quilt will never win any awards, I mixed up my strips so there is no rhyme or reason to the pattern, my binding is less than impressive but in the end it doesn't matter because I created it, and it yells everything that my daughter is to me personally and I doubt any show piece will ever be as loved and treasured as this quilt is by her. That is what matters, and there is my passion.

Thank you for taking the time to read my rather large ramble, I didn't know how to squish such a large story into a few sentences hopefully my following blogs won't be as large but to be honest I doubt it ;)

Passion, in creation.