Thursday, January 22, 2015

Catching Up - BERNINA, Tardis Quilts and Sizzix fun

Hello? Is there anyone still out there? Ha! Yeah, it's been a while. I got kinda a bad taste in my mouth after the last post. So I took a break. I have been busy though and it has been good. 

Both of my boys are in culinary school. My oldest is studying beverage management at Kendall College and my younger son is studying at The Culinary Institute of America. It has been a big transition but exciting to see my boys enjoying what they are studying. When they have a restaurant together, I have already requested my own table so I never have to cook unless I want to. :)

I have had some health ups and downs. I ended up being too sick to go to Fall Quilt Market which was quite depressing, but the right decision. I really was way too sick. And it is fine, there will be another Market in a few months.

As for quilting, in November, I became a BERNINA Ambassador. I needed an embroidery machine loan to use for the March issue of the GenQ and I thought I would just borrow it and give it back, but they gave me a year long contract. Wheeee! I got the BERNINA 780 and it really is magical. It has seriously amped up my sewing and helped me regain some precision that I was struggling with since my diagnosis.  

My first quilt of 2015 was made for my son for Christmas. He is a big Dr. Who fan so it had to be a Tardis quilt. Yeah, it was supposed to be done for Christmas, but was done during the first week of the year. But that's okay! I can mark it off as the first quilt of what is sure to be a prolific year for me.

Quilt pattern is Relatively Dimensional by my friend Sam Hunter

I have never done any serious amount of free motion quilting on any quilt I have made. I mean, sure, I have done a few loops here and there, but I never really felt confident enough to do much more than that. 

Well, going to the BERNINA reunion in December changed all that. Sitting in a classroom full of award winning quilters, quilting book authors and world renowned teachers - PRETTY INTIMIDATING. 

I had a choice. Be afraid or be fearless. I chose the latter. 

When we had to try out the BERNINA Stitch Regulator, I had a moment of panic and then I just decided to go for it. I mean, stressing wasn't going to make my stitches better... 

We were given some silk flower petals, a circle of tulle and some cording to try out using the red bobbin holder for bobbin work. The example shown was of a cool-sort-of-asian-inspired-flowerpot. I looked at what I was given and decided to go in a different direction. 

I also got to try out several machines, including the new long arm. OMG! What a machine! It was crazy. 

I know you can't see it because the print is so busy, but this was the first time I ever tried a long arm and actually had good results. 

It started me thinking about how sometimes you need the right tools for you. So many great sewing machine brands out there (and I love several) but it seriously is not one size fits all. You gotta go out there and try different brands before you invest in a good machine. Try 'em all if you can! Find the one that fits you just right.

Another favorite product that ups my game is my Sizzix Big Shot Pro and my Fabi. I just got to play with some new dies by the fabulous Victoria Findlay Wolfe. You can read all about it over on the GenQ blog.

I talk a bit about how Sizzix has helped my cutting. When My hands hurt from a Sjogren's flare, I can still easily cut fabric. It's great! I also like that I can cut with Accuquilt dies on my Sizzix Big Shot Pro (you can't do it the other way around, Sizzix dies are too thick, unless you have the Studio cutter).

In the blog post over on GenQ, I talk about two articles that are in the Jan/Feb issue - Sewing Forth and/or 25 Tools and Strategies for Adaptive Sewing. Both articles discuss products and strategies for continuing to sew when you have physical challenges, such as autoimmune disorders, vision problems, etc. So check it out!

That was a lot I know. Thanks for making it all the way to the end! I hope to write here a bit more frequently this year, so stay tuned!


Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Sexism and Quilting

I have been thinking a lot about this really well written article by Deanna McCool over the past few days. I used to make a snarky remark about men who quilt being famous - and this was mainly my way of making a point about sexism. My point being that men have a tendency to do something, make their presence known, be an expert. We women, sit back, ask permission. I am over-simplifying, but do you get my point? It is two different mentalities. 

Something about this article was making me feel uneasy and I finally put my finger on it. As long as I have been quilting, we have had what used to be called "the quilt police" and what we at GenQ call "Q-bullies" which are those people who need to drag you down, point out your flaws, tell you that you are doing it wrong or essentially don't belong. This behavior is getting the spotlight lately and I hope the behavior will change quickly.

But I still felt uneasy and had to dig a little further and it finally occurred to me. The sexism that these men refer to? Well, we women have experienced it our whole lives. As long as I remember, someone has told me what I can and cannot do because I am a girl.

 "Be ladylike", "Sit down", "Lower your voice", "Be polite", "Don't act up" - am I right ladies?

Often, it was men that I didn't even know telling me what to do or how to behave. I was exposed to cat-calls on the street even as a young girl not much older than my daughter. Or later asked to "Smile. It's not that bad" as I walked down the street. Really?!? What is that about? Why do I need to make your world more beautiful if mine isn't so bright today?

Remember the Virginia slogan "VA is for Lovers" that was everywhere back in the early 80's? I was wearing that t-shirt in NY while shopping when a guy came up and asked me "Is it?" as he ogled my breasts. I was 12 or 13.

It doesn't feel very good to be told what to do, does it? It doesn’t feel good to be judged solely by your sex. It certainly doesn’t feel good to be told that you don’t belong here just because you are a _________ [fill in the blank]. If you don't like it, imagine how we feel.

Women have dealt with this kind of "you don't belong here" mentality for centuries and honestly, I don't think you guys will have to deal with it for very long because we know too well how it feels. 

My wish is that if you are a man in this industry, or anywhere really, that you might think about what I am saying and help to alleviate what we women go through. If you are complaining about the sexism that you experience, perhaps you can think about any sexism that you have imposed on women or that you see other men imposing and either speak up about or stop that behavior. This is a great conversation to have and I hope the dialog continues because it will create change.  

I can't wait to hear what you have to say. So leave me a comment and let's talk about it! 

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Stitch 'N Swap Blog Party and Giveaway!

Well, it certainly has been a very busy year for me. I have had a lot going on and not all of it was very good. But I gotta say that one great thing that happened was being a part of this!

 I nearly wasn't a part of this great new book that Jake Finch put together with the rest of the Gen Q team. I was just diagnosed with Sjogren's and I was having one giant flare after another. I had so much going on simply at home that I remember crying to my husband one day because I always wanted to be a part of writing a book and here was a small chance to be a part of one and I couldn't do it! Luckily both he and Jake were so very supportive and kicked my ass to get it done. So I did!

The wonderful thing about this book is that it is made up completely of small projects - 25 to be exact! We are talking things that can be made on a rainy afternoon. The idea is that they are small items that can be made and swapped with a bee or in your guild. They also are perfect items to make and give as gifts! Each project is made by someone

Here are a few of my personal faves:

Vicki's Hot Drink Cozy
 Melissa's Casserole Carrier

 Emily Herrick's Tote Bag

And finally...

My contributions were two doll quilts for American Girl Dolls. Clearly I made these quilts for my daughters AG bunk beds and not the bed in the photo - but I gave instructions to measure and make it for your dolls bed so it will fit just right! There is also an adorable pillow with pillowcase!

I have a lot of fun using the mini-prints from Timeless Treasures for these quilts. I think it looks super cute to use small scale prints on the things you make for dolls.  

And now on the the fun part! 

About the book: Stitch ‘n Swap releases May 19, 2014. It has 112 pages filled with 25 projects from amazing designers and get this–it’s only $17.95. Please go to your local quilt shop and ask them to save you a copy of this wonderful book (and I am not saying that because I am in it!) when it releases on May 19th. After May 1st head over to GenQ to buy a copy. We are an independent magazine, so when you buy from us we really are a small biz - it helps keep us writing! You can also pre-order a copy now directly from C&T
But you can win a copy!!!
About the giveaway: GenQ is giving away three copies of the book to winners drawn randomly from commenting on THIS post. If you live in the U.S., you’ll win a hard copy of the book. If you live outside the U.S., you’ll get a digital version. A winner will be chosen on May 8 "noonish New York time".

About the party list: Join the festivities! Over the next 3 weeks, our fellow contributors will be sharing their favorite bits of the book, tips on hosting a Stitch ‘n Swap or other glimmers about their design process. 

Blog Party week 1: Jeni Baker, Anne Deister, Emily Herrick, Sam Hunter, Lynn Kraus
So head on over to GenQ and Enter the contest and visit the rest of the Stitch 'N Swap Amazing Contributors!

Jeni Baker Carrie Bloomston Karen Cunagin Anne Deister Jake Finch Victoria Findlay Wolf Michelle Freedman Linda Hansen Scott Hansen Emily Herrick Rose Hughes Sam Hunter Heather Jones Kevin Kosbab Lynn Kraus
Melissa Peda Vicki Tymczyszyn Elaine Wong Haselhuhn
And me of course! This was really fun to be a part of this amazing book. It makes me feel like I am somebody in the quilting world! ;)

Thursday, August 8, 2013

The Next Generation of Quilters and Sewist

What is the world coming to when your nine year old daughter is getting solicitations from fabric stores???

What the what?? Well, happy Friday everyone!

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

How I started quilting

Years ago, when I first got married, I wished I was one of those friends that remembered birthdays and sent cards. And then Facebook came along. It is my special place where I keep in touch with my friends from all over the country and I can be that friend that remembers birthdays.

So when my friend Cheryl Sleboda posted on Facebook and asked if anyone wanted to participate in a blog hop that shared how we started quilting, I raised my hand.

It all started when I was four. My mom loved to sew and she had a nice fabric stash. One day, she asked me if I would like to make a quilt. I nodded. She took two squares of flannel and folded them on the diagonal and had me whip stitch the edge. After I did a few, I remember asking her when we would finish the quilt. We never did. She totally doesn't remember this event, so perhaps she was simply trying to keep a four year old busy. But for me, it stuck. I always wanted to make a quilt.

Fast forward to 1991. I was pregnant with my oldest son and I wanted to make him a quilt. I found myself on bed rest at 4 months and my family did their best to bring me some fabric and supplies, but I really had no idea how to make a quilt and I didn't have a sewing machine.

Shortly after Z was born, we moved to a new apartment that was conveniently located two blocks from the library and two blocks from a fabric store that had a very modest supply of calicos or quilting cottons. It was back in the day when you had to be careful that you didn't buy quilting cotton that was actually a cotton poly blend. :P Yuck!

I read every quilting book that was in that library. Fabric was $5 or $6 per yard, so even when I was on a tight budget I could usually buy half a yard. I also watched every episode of Penny McMorris's Great American Quilt on PBS.

So I messed around a bit with the fabric and made sampler blocks, all with cardboard templates and hand sewing. Then, my dad announced he was getting married and I decided I would make him a quilt. He is an architect, so it needed to be graphic...

When I chose the pattern, I chose a "simple" one block pattern.

The hardest part was finding the gradient fabrics. I made the entire top and never quite figured out how to line up the triangles properly before sewing. Simple, my a#*! LOL

However, he still has the quilt hanging in his home and that makes me happy. Luckily it is up really high, so you can't see where the points don't meet.

So Now is the time when I am supposed to show you something recent I made. And darn it! All of the really cool stuff I made recently is totally off limits to sharing on my blog. I have two adorable doll quilts that will be in a book. Some great projects that are coming out in the next two issues of Generation Q. And seriously, everything else you have seen! LOL

So maybe I will show you a few cool things that are not my most recent...

My second quilt was one for Z. It was completely hand appliqued and hand quilted. 

Next came things like this...

And more recently, scrapbooking in fabric...

 Needle felting...

And Pikachu for E...

Now I do more of this...

So there you have it! Leave me a comment and let me know what your first project was and what you think of mine.

Thanks for visiting! Why don't you go check out some of the other people who have participated in the blog hop too?

Aug 1. Cyndi Zacheis Souder
Aug 2. Becky Glasby
Aug 3. Cheryl Sleboda
Aug 4. Barb Forrister
Aug 5. Jackie White
Aug 6. Me!
Aug 7. Lisa Chin
Aug 8. Laura Krasinski
Aug 9. Catherine Redford
Aug 10. Sylvia Lewis

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Living with Sjogren's Syndrome, Pt. 2

I was a little afraid to write a blog post about having Sjogren's, but boy it was only a matter of minutes before I started to feel all of the virtual hugs! Amazing just doesn't even cut it as a word to describe what happened after I hit publish. So thank you to all of my dear friends that commented here or on my personal FB page. I love you all.

Since my diagnosis, more often than not I feel lucky. You see, I was about to schedule back surgery. I had been living with debilitating lower back pain that limited my activities so much, I had convinced my doctor to give me a handicap sticker for my car just for the month of December so I could get my holiday shopping done. I couldn't do my grocery shopping and make it back to the car without limping and hanging on to the cart for dear life. I couldn't exercise, walk, even sit for too long or I would be in pain for days afterward. I was miserable.

My rheumatologist set me up with samples of Celebrex while we waited for the blood work to come back. Within days my back pain disappeared. Within two weeks I began going to the gym. I hadn't been able to exercise with any regularity in 4 years! Too bad I was having terrible side-effects. Within a few weeks, I had to stop taking Celebrex and changed to Mobic. I still am able to go to the gym and am more active than before, but it isn't quite as pain free as with the Celebrex. 

I still feel like I lost four years that I wish I could get back, but I try not to dwell on things I can't change. I try to focus on the positive things in my life rather than the negative.

And then this happened...

The Bloggess, Jenny Lawson came to my town. I already had her book, but I bought it again. I love that book - probably the funniest book I have ever read. (Note the crocheted Dalek that someone made her that looks like Hamlet Von Schnitzel from the book cover. )

So I get my moment to talk to her and what did I say? I know that she suffers from multiple autoimmune disorders, including Rheumatoid Arthritis, so I asked her if she had any advice. She said:

"You don't have to be in pain. Keep trying medications until you find one that works." ~ Jenny Lawson

Best. Advice. Ever.

(And then she blogged about me. Seriously. I have proof. )

The challenge for me or anyone with this type of autoimmune disorder is that I don't look sick.  Some days I feel like I have sand in my eyes. Some days no matter what I do, my mouth feels like I haven't had a drink in days. Worst of all, some days I wake up and I feel like my blood has been replaced with lead. For me, the fatigue is probably the most challenging of all of the symptoms.

I am still trying to figure out how my body is reacting to Sjogren's. Venus Williams described it as getting into a car for a long journey and the car has a broken gas gauge. You don't know how far you can go. Sometimes the simplest thing will just exhaust me. Going to Market in Portland gave me a full-blown flare. I began getting mouth sores. I was dragging. My jaw hurt. I felt miserable. And I couldn't stop - Market is only a few days and I had a lot of ground to cover and products to find. I ended up laying in bed for days afterward.

Yet still, I am lucky that I was diagnosed. I also am so lucky that I was diagnosed early on in the course of the disease and I can try to manage the symptoms I have and be aware of the potential future issues that may come. If I can stave them off, all the better!

So I promise this will not become a blog devoted to Sjogren's, but I will mention occasionally what I am going through. And I think I will discuss products I find that help me manage my symptoms and sew better. 

If you get nothing else from reading my story, I hope that all of you reading this really understand this:  

Do not ignore symptoms

Fingers swelling, joint pain, feeling like you are coming down with something repeatedly and never getting a cold or flu, repeated mouth sores, dry eyes, yeast infections or any other odd symptom is not normal. Don't wait it out, go to your doctor. It is important. YOU are important. Listen to what your body is trying to tell you. Put yourself first.

<3 Tracy

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Coming Out - World Sjogren's Day pt. 1

2013 has been a challenging year so far. I am not sure how many of you noticed that I fell off the face of the blogosphere in late February. At the time I hit crisis mode and I just couldn't share what I was going through here. I usually don't even share my health issues of Facebook with my close friends. Finally things are settling down in my life and I decided that I would "come out" so to speak. 

So here goes...I apologize in advance for the length and the lack of quilty pictures.

In early January one morning I woke up and my fingers were swollen like sausages. I couldn't get my wedding band off. My fingers couldn't bend. The swelling didn't go down until about lunchtime. The next day when the same thing happened, I started to worry. I have a friend I have known since high school and she was diagnosed with Psoriatic Arthritis just months before and thankfully she is very open about her health issues on Facebook. She mentioned that her fingers were like "sausages" in the morning and she ignored it for nearly a year. Because of her openness, I knew it was not a good thing to postpone diagnosis, so I immediately called my doctor and made an appointment. (Thank you H!) That day the swelling in my fingers didn't go down until nearly 3pm. I was beginning to panic by the third day when it was more of the same. It was now interfering with my ability to work and turn assignments in on time. Not good!

When I spoke with my husband, he raised several concerns pointing out several things that had been going on for more than a month:
  1. Since early December I kept feeling like I was "coming down with something". Our daughter had been fighting a stream of colds and I just assumed I was fighting her germs. I never got sick. 
  2. Two weeks earlier, I couldn't get out of bed on Saturday. Again I thought I was fighting something. When hubby got home from his morning run, he said my lips were blue. He said it scared him, but he didn't say anything. 
  3. My joints had been more achy than usual. I have had arthritis for many years and had controlled it for 5 years simply by becoming vegetarian. Suddenly, I was fighting joint pain again. I thought it was due to the weather. 
  4. I was thirsty. No, I mean, couldn't get enough fluid during the day. I had taken to drinking herbal tea all day long just because I was getting tired of water. I was drinking at least 80 ounces per day and was still thirsty.  
  5. Slight discoloration in hands and feet at times that looked a bit blue.
  6. I had four bouts with major canker sores in the previous 8 months. I would get one canker sore and then within a few days I wouldn't be able to eat. The most recent bout, I had 20 canker sores at the same time.
I was really grateful that my hubby was able to help point out these syptoms. I wasn't noticing that anything was wrong or not normal. I was just being a busy mom during the holidays. He helped me piece together what I thought was unrelated and made me realize that this was not normal.

I visited my doctor and she was quiet while she listened to me read off the list that I promised my husband I would show her. She said she would order blood work. Normally, she sort of works out what she is thinking aloud. This time,she was quiet.  It made me nervous that she wasn't her usual chatty self. When I called her on it, she simply said that it sounded like something "autoimmune"was happening and we would wait for the blood work. 

The blood work came back and I got an email with the results (I have an online account that saves all of my appointments and tests). I had a positive ANA and elevated SSA and RNP. I had no idea what that meant. Later that day, I got a call from a nurse at the office that I needed to make an appointment with a rheumatologist. I had a few elevated results. 

The doctors that I was given numbers to call wouldn't be able to see me before mid April. It was early February. There was no way in hell I was going to wait months not understanding what my blood work meant and having my hands swollen every day. I would lose my freelance writing gig. I went into panic mode which resulted in becoming the google doctor.

Finally, I decided to tell my editors at GenQ, Jake and Melissa what was going on. They were more than supportive. Jake gave me a firm talking to about trying to find another doctor - she even offered to do the research for me. I kept googling and calling until I found a doctor that is in the same office building as our pediatrician and he could see me the following week! Convenient and nearby!

My appointment was on February 25th. My hubby came with me to the appointment. By now, I had realized that it was narrowed down to only a few autoimmune disorders. Rheumatoid arthritis, Lupus, Psoriatic arthritis, Sjogren's Syndrome, or Mixed Connective Tissue Disease. Shit.

My doctor was very kind. He is a bit chatty and seemed to want to talk cars with my husband. He looked at the blood work and ordered more. He said we needed to get a better look at what was going on. He asked if my mouth was dry? Yes. What about my eyes? A little bit maybe...

Sjogren's Syndrome (pronounced SHOW-grins) is the most common autoimmune disorder affecting 4 million Americans. Nine out of ten people diagnosed are women. It affects your moisture producing glands causing dryness in the eyes, nose and mouth.  It causes joint pain and extreme fatigue. It can affect other organs of the body and there is a higher risk for developing lymphoma. The average length of time it takes to diagnose Sjogren's is 4.7 years. This is because most doctors aren't very well versed in the symptoms. This is the disease Venus Williams was diagnosed with when she was forced to drop out of the U.S. Open. There is no cure. 

I will post a part two to let you know a bit more about the disease and what it does. It makes no sense to me that this is the most common autoimmune disorder and no one has heard of it. July 23rd is World Sjogren's Day and I write this post in the hopes to raise awareness. Visit the Sjogren's Syndrome Foundation for more information.

All right, I think I have tortured you all with such a long post and no photos. I feel bad... Maybe I should just add some photos to make up for it...

A pillow I made for Cyd in Lisa Sipes' class at the Sewing and Quilting Expo
Cyd and I taking a class with Cheryl Sleboda of

 See? Life goes on and smiles still happen. It's not the end of the world. Life is still good and I have a wonderful family. :)

 Thanks to all of you who actually made it to the end of this LONG post. Luv ya!

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