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!

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

"Life is what happens when you are busy making other plans" - John Lennon

One of my favorite quotes to describe where I have been for the past few months. Certainly, I have been uber busy and I am just not quite sure where the time has gone.

Thank you Lisa Sipes for making me get back here to update my blog! If you are coming here from her post, here are the photos taken during her amazing class.

Me and the amazing Lisa Sipes

Victoria Findley- Wolfe, Lisa Sipes and little old me

Lisa showing some of her amazing quilting work

Close-up of Lisa's quilting

 Then came Portland Quilt Market... First stop, Voodoo Doughnuts.

 It was totally an accident that it was my first stop, however I was so excited to have finally arrived at a place with VEGAN doughnuts! Yay!
The Voodoo doll is on top - probably my new favorite doughnut!
 Then The Red and Black Cafe. Here are a few things on their walls that cracked me up.

And then I got to see my first cover story in print!

 It was my birthday, so I got to celebrate with Jake, Bev and Scott (from Gen Q of course!) along with Patty Young of Mod Kid Boutique (it was her birthday too!) Rob Appell and the crew from Michael Miller Fabrics. Somehow, this is the only shot I got of that evening. How did that happen?

I love this lady!

I saw lots of cool things... like Amy Butler holding up David's new pattern that just happened to be sewn by my friend Scott.

Art Gallery

Mo Bedell

The Gen Q Gang in Michael Miller's Booth

Busy Bee Quilt designs

I just loved their booth
 By now, I was getting tired...

Me in the Sizzix booth

 But Linda Nitzen at Sizzix assured me that I looked fine and needed to get a shot in front of this quilt.

Luke Haynes and Tula Pink
I was surprised at how much good vegetarian food I was able to find at any restaurant we happened to visit.

My vegan Bibimbap! So good!
Curry soup was Delish! (Bev again!)

The Voodoo Tex-Ass doughnut I had to buy for Bev 'cause she's a Texan!

So, that was a bit of what I have been up to for the past few months. I probably have enough photos to do at least three more blog posts just like this one! 


Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Crazy for a Jellybean-a-thon!

A short time after Fall Market in Houston, I got an email from the incredibly talented Thomas Knauer asking if I would like to design something using only his jelly bean prints from Andover Fabrics. Well, of course I was incredibly flattered, but honestly... I can't design something! Yikes, I am AWFUL at it! Plus, I just am so busy with home life, my writing job and of course working on Gen Q! I just can't possibly...

And then I saw the list of people he had invited! Ugh! They are all, like pattern designers and book authors! No, I can't possibly! It would be awful! These are people that I follow on Instagram and stuff. People I don't know would be comparing my work to people who have won ribbons and stuff. Yikes!

And then I woke up the next day. One of my first thoughts was "Boy, I sure am protesting a lot!" Hmmm...

So, before I could lose my nerve, I emailed Thomas and said yes. I explained that I really am not a designer and my mind is saying no and that is exactly why I should do it.

Luckily, he didn't think that was at all crazy. He completely agreed with me. The fabric arrived just around Christmas and it took a while for me to have the time to even look at the fabric. I laid it on my sewing table and would pet it occasionally as I walked by.

Then about a month ago, I had an idea. What if I crazy pieced rectangles and made a quilt called "Crazy for Jellybeans"?

It was enough to get me started. So each morning, before I sat down at the computer, I would spend 15 minutes and play. I was really liking what was happening and I was having fun. I figured it would be lap sized, I would use white as a background and I would practice my machine quilting on it. It would be great!

And then I realized, I did not like white. And I did not like gray. I liked NOTHING that was in my stash (my husband says what else is new?!)So, I packed up my junior editor and headed to my local quilt shop. We honestly had bolts of fabric laying all over the floor with blocks lying on them. It was comical. We narrowed it down to a violet and an olive green, when I spotted magenta. It was perfect.

Then I got home and thought "the scale is all wrong! This needs to be a bed quilt!" It was really funny, this whole experience. I worked completely outside of my box. This is not my color scheme - it's was unlike anything I have ever done before. It was fun!

Without further ado, here is "Crazy for Jellybeans"...

The blocks will lay across the foot of the bed. It sort of reminds me of Doppelganger, which just won an award at QuiltCon and was on the cover of the winter issue of Gen Q.

I have been wanting to take photos for DAYS, but the weather has not been cooperating. I finally had to give in and take photos in the blizzard we were having today. Kudos to my eldest son for braving the storm and helping a mom out! (I kind of liked the snow covered brush in front of the quilt...)

It is just a top at this point because I decided that it needs EPIC quilting. And EPIC QUILTING can only be done by the amazing Lisa Sipes. So as soon as she can fit this baby in, I will upload photos... that's as long as I am still blogging at that point - she has quite a LONG wait. But it will be SO worth it!

Here is the rest of the tour! Tomorrow, the Jellybean-a-thon continues it's tour of Chicago by visiting the talented Sara at Sew Sweetness! Don't miss popping by and taking a look - she is great!

Feb 25: Thomas Knauer
Feb 27: Me!
Feb 28: Sara Lawson
March 4: Audrie Bidwell
March 5: Kim Niedzwiecki

Thank you so much Thomas for having the faith in me to play with your fabrics, especially when we had only just met! You are incredibly talented and add an amazing voice to the world of Modern Quilting.

Thanks everyone for stopping by! Have fun on the rest of the tour!


Thursday, January 24, 2013

Thursday Thoughts...

So much for blogging regularly... (that doesn't count as my promise not to ever apologize. I didn't say "sorry"). My poor little helper in the sewing room has had back to back illnesses this winter. We are on cold number three since the beginning or December. Poor thing! The doctor prescribed rest, lots of fluids and plenty of vitamin C. It is so hard when the little ones are sick. I know that you Mom's completely understand.

In the meantime, I have been doing a little bit of stitching on my project for the Jellybeanpalooza with Thomas! Want a sneak peek of what I have been doing?

My photography skills make me sad... 

These are just a few block that I was playing with. I am not sure if I will continue with this pattern, add in another block or change the size of this one. I think it is a bit small. Though it might make a super cute bag... hmmm....

Still thinking and playing!

I also have had two new video ideas and I want your feedback. I was thinking of doing a video about how I taught my daughter to use the sewing machine and some fun ideas that I use with her just for a little "sewing time". I have some interesting techniques that I think will inspire.

My second idea is about Sizzix and Accuquilt. I did a ton of research when I bought my machine and I wonder if it might be useful for quilters to hear? I have been using diecuts a lot lately and it is safe to say that I will be using them more and more. Cutting has always been my least favorite quilting activity and this is life changing! Special thanks to Ebony Love for helping me through my initial bumps! It really has been "quilting life-changing". I actually use both Accuquilt and Sizzix dies in one machine.

What do you think? Don't make me sad and not let me know what you are thinking. :(

And just for fun...

You know that you are spending too much time at home when you not only recognize the squirrels, but notice when they come back after a year.

This is Peanut. Peanut used to come for breakfast every morning and take nuts right out of our hand. We got worried when he stopped showing up. But he stopped by to visit this morning. Silly, I know. 

And this was the sky this morning. "Red skies in the morning, sailors warning", no? This was just before 7am. 

So, not much sewing time, but a lot of snuggles with the little one and squirrel visits. Not a bad week, I think. :D


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