Wednesday, July 29, 2015

pineapple party

It's a party with my multicolored scraps today!  These babies don't get out much because their multicolored personalities tend to be larger than life.  They don't always play well with others.  But, today, they are out in force partnering with quiet types to make pineapple blocks!

pineapple party

First I separated my multicolored scraps into saturated (left), low volume (right) and too-middle-of-the-road-to-use (above).  I also grabbed my basket of white/cream scraps.

pineapple party

This is my first time making pineapple blocks.  I'm following Amanda Jean's tutorial, but using triangle scraps, rather than squares cut in half, to get started. 

pineapple party

After the first few steps, they look like square-in-square blocks...

pineapple party

But more layers and trimmings bring out the pineapple.  Yay!

Folks, these blocks are Time Consuming.  But I like it.  And the scraps are happy.


Monday, July 27, 2015

Plus, Plus:: a finished quilt

plus, plus (a scrappy Kona quilt)

My dad loves that maxim, "How do you eat an elephant?  One bite at a time."  With so much to do pulling me in all sorts of different directions (and I know you feel that way too), there are times when I wonder how anything will ever get done.  Truly done.  All the way, completely resolved, fully done.

I was about to start this post with "one thing at a time" and then I remembered, ironically, that while I attached the binding to this quilt I was also on the phone with a longtime friend, planning a trip to California this December for ABM lessons...  So, perhaps, my new motto is:  At least two things at a time!  Ha.

plus, plus (a scrappy Kona quilt)

Quilts can be finished.  And this one is.  Ahhhhh.  I'll enjoy it.

plus, plus (a scrappy Kona quilt)

Making this simple plus quilt was just what I needed.  I challenged myself to work within a limited color scheme, as all included solids are from Kona Cotton's 2014 color release.  At the same time, I comforted myself with a relaxed use of scraps for those "plus" centers.   And you know what?  The quilt turned out rather better than I imagined!  I think the dark plusses and black/white prints are key to my feelings about the finished work.  It has a bright, funky vibe for sure!

plus, plus (a scrappy Kona quilt)

For the back I used a large piece of Denyse Schmidt Florence, one of Anna Maria's Folk Song florals and a leftover plus block framed in Kona Malibu.

plus, plus (a scrappy Kona quilt)

The quilting is all over free motioned loops.  I do my loops in rows across the quilt, which is easier on my brain than nesting them together like a stipple design.  Loopy rows are a great first free motion pattern, by the way.  Do try!

plus, plus (a scrappy Kona quilt)

Kona cottons used:  Grasshopper, Pickle, Niagra, Malibu, Gumdrop, Nectarine, Sangria, Goldfish, Grellow, Titanium, Limestone and Latte.  You can find these colors at Canton Village Quilt Works!

Binding:  100% scrappy binding leftovers

Finished size:  56" x 64"

Make your own with my tutorial!

Plus, Plus is now listed in my Etsy shop



Friday, July 24, 2015

Rainbow Bricks mini quilt

Ok, I thought that might happen!  Many of you couldn't help sharing what you would change about my mini quilt in progress.  Good thing I'm a good sport (wink).  There were so many different opinions that I'm glad I didn't read those comments until after "fixing" my quilt top.  Best not to get too conflicted!  And, really, there were as many right answers as opinions shared.  I could see merit in each train of thought.

As it turns out, there were several who said I shouldn't change a thing.  Like comment #21: "There's nothing I love more than having something not belong in a piece of sewing. Otherwise I often think things are too predictable. I like it. lots."   So keep this in mind next time you struggle with the little details.  We're all our worse critics!

this little mini

That said, I went ahead and changed the darker tan square at the upper edge of the mini quilt, which you can see in the above original photo.  When I had selected that piece, the lighting made it appear paler than it is.  Once finished, it stuck out to me, centered as it was (by accident) over the rainbow bricks.  I hope that replacing that area with a lower volume fabric helps the viewer's eyes settle on the focal point a bit easier.

Rainbow Bricks mini

Today I quilted her up!  This is free hand, straight-ish quilting completed free motion with the feed dogs down.  I believe this is how Carolyn Friedlander machine quilted Aerial Grove, my inspiration for this mini.  Free motion saves a lot of time when you'd be otherwise rotating the quilt.  Even so, it took over 3 hours to quilt this 19" x 21" piece!

Rainbow Bricks mini

I pushed myself to experiment with different patterns, trying to create a variety of textures.  My favorite element may be the matchstick diagonal lines over the tiny polka dot strip.  Or maybe the big crosshatch section on Kona Oyster?  Though the quilting was quite laborious, I'm tempted to try this style again on a larger work with larger scale quilting.  It does add so much interest to the low volume portions!

Rainbow Bricks mini

My Rainbow Bricks mini quilt is bound in a Carolyn Friedlander Doe fabric and backed with triangles at the corners for easy hanging with a dowel rod.   As always, I favor my zigzag binding method for a quick, secure finish.

Rainbow Bricks mini

Ok, this one is off in the mail!  Now I'm crossing fingers that the recipient finds this "organic" quilting charming, not sloppy...


Wednesday, July 22, 2015

One of these things doesn't belong here...

Each little brick of color,

this little mini

Finds its place in a rainbow of gratitude,

this little mini

Swimming in improv, low volume scraps.

this little mini

Up close all flash and color and smiles,

this little mini

But a little distance makes clear one piece must change.

this little mini

I wonder if our eyes see the same?  But don't tell us here which piece bugs you!  I'll quilt and share the finish soon.  Then we'll find out how many of us fixated on the same thing.

I always liked that game:  One of these things doesn't belong here...

Monday, July 20, 2015

quilting Mojo

Staying at Stephanie's gave my quilting mojo a giant pick-me-up.  I think it was her awesome fabric stash combined with her considerable works-in-progress.  I'm not one that likes to have a lot of things going at once, but it's quite fun to take a tour in someone else's progress!



Now, if you're like me, when your quilting mojo is flowing you look around and see possibilities everywhere.  I want to make that and that and that AND that!  You start to dream about fabrics and colors.  Soon your mental "next up" list is a mile long, but you're so in love with every project you can't imagine eliminating, let along forgetting, any one of them.

And then life.

Sometimes when I finish a current project and am ready to start something new, I can't actually remember what I wanted to make!  Or, I have this vague idea, "herringbone quilt," but I don't remember what I loved about it.  Was it the colors?  The fabrics?  Was there someone special I had in mind?

Right now I'm away for a short series of ABM lessons with baby.  When I get back it's going to be time to baste and quilt "Plus, Plus" and finish up a mini quilt in progress.  After all that, I really should knock out a camper gift or two and then.... then I could start a new quilt.  So let's preserve the mojo, shall we?

1.  Scrappy Bourbon


I came across this photo originally from The Lettered Cottage blog.  She reports it's a vintage quilt.  Connecting Threads has the paper pieced pattern available for instant download.  It's called Bourbon Street.  I really love the red in this version, so I'm tempted to pretty much copy it.  Happy scrappy.

2.  Herringbone Throw

 Love in Herringbones with do. Good Stitches

Stephanie is binding a beautiful herringbone quilt made of mostly Anna Maria Horner fabrics.  I've long wanted to make a throw-sized version of the above quilt, which I made with Love circle through do. Good Stitches.  And I could update my herringbone block tutorial while I'm at it.  Right now I'm waiting to be struck with the right inspiration fabric to set my color scheme.

3.  Facing East


Last year when Megan was hosting the Facing East quilt along I so wanted to participate, but couldn't because I was busy producing Angled class.  It's not that I have a ton more time now (hahahahaha!).  Still, this quilt has lingered in my mind.  I think I know who I'd gift it to now, if I made it, which creates a new sort of motivation.  Maybe a few blocks at a time...

Ok, well I can come back to this now when I'm all clear for new quilts.  Thanks for humoring me.  I bet if your mojo is working you have quite a wish list of next makes too.  Do share!  Wonder how many of your ideas I'll have to add to my list?

 

Friday, July 17, 2015

plus, plus Progress

plus, plus Progress

Ooooooh, I needed that!  Sewing at home.  In a quiet house.  Seams and stitches cooperating so nicely to yield quick, measurable progress.

plus, plus Progress

You know what, folks?  Sewing is simple.  Hooray for simple, colorful, happy quilting!!

plus, plus Progress

I've just finished joining together my plus blocks (tutorial here).  Sew how I staggered the layout?  To make that happen, I sewed half-blocks on every other row.  To create half blocks, first I sewed some extra-wide plus blocks and then chopped them down center.  I like how the staggered layout seems to help the colors mingle even more.

plus, plus Progress

Remember how I was nervous about my colors?  Well, that infusion of neutrals totally did the trick.  At the end of the day I'm loving the bright vibe of this quilt and the very, very scrappy use of fabric in the "plus" shapes.  I made sure to include lots of stripes, some fun big prints and text too.  Fun stuff!

Alrighty then, I should get back to work.  Lots to do!

xo,

Rachel

p.s.  I wish I had time to write each one of you who commented on yesterday's "all about Eleni" post. My heartfelt thanks!   I saved those comments to enjoy while eating my lunch (and pumping!) today.  Such a treat.  And thanks also for your generous support of Breathe, Move, Eat, See {for baby Eleni}.  I posted an update today at the fundraiser with details about how we plan to use the funds over the coming months, for those of you who like numbers.  Much Love!

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

all about Eleni

My heart is so full.  Eleni and I have just finished a Skype appointment with a highly esteemed functional eye doctor in Belgium.  I can hardly believe the places this journey is taking us.  So much going on!  Let's begin at the beginning... or at least where I left off.

about her Therapy

In Eleni's 3 month update, I shared some background information about how Eleni's brain damage effects her ability to learn to move.  She has cerebral palsy, which means her brain struggles to communicate with her muscles.  Since late May we've been bringing her to ABM (Anat Baniel Method) lessons.  At these lessons, the practitioner gently moves Eleni's bones in ways that invite her participation.  They also guide her through a huge variety of tiny motions intended to replicate the kind of random movements that baby's typically enjoy and from which intentional movement can develop.  Basically this method helps the brain to map more of the body, creating potential for movement.



When we learn something, be it quilting or moving, our learning must start right were we're at.  We attempt things just at the boundaries of our comfort zone.  If you're trying to free motion quilt for the first time, it's not nearly as useful to tackle a highly complicated free motion quilting pattern as it is to just make loops.  Making mistakes and trying different things along the way gives the brain an opportunity to really grow and understand.  During a lesson, an ABM practitioner will touch and feel where movement is available in the body and encourage that movement whatever it is.  It's not really about learning one specific way of rolling over (or one free motion quilting pattern); it's about learning how to move so that one's possibilities expand infinitely.

As Anat Baniel shared in her article "A new approach to helping children with Cerebral Palsy and other brain related disorders." published in Cerebral Palsy Magazine, June 2003:

The gentleness with which the guiding movements are done and the insistence on having the child move in ways that feel easy and are not beyond the child’s true ability, creates a sense of safety for the child. This allows the child to feel him/herself and become aware of what he/she is doing and what is being done to them. As a result they become active, intelligent and happy learners just the way healthy children are. In fact, healthy children move –albeit spontaneously- in a great variety of ways that are easy and available to them. Portions from these movements get integrated by the brain into a useful action – for example crawling. Once a child accomplishes a milestone, it continues to generate a great variety of small and large movements from which the next milestone will be carved.
For more info on how ABM works, visit AnatBanielMethod.com or Normon Doidge's book "The Brain's Way of Healing."

about her Progress in June

So, Eleni.

One of the first things we noticed when tentatively approaching our baby girl that first day in the NICU was her breathing.  She sucked in air in great gasping, desperate motions, her chest heaving and her stomach contracting with tremendous effort.  The respiratory therapists ensured us that she didn't need to try nearly that hard to breathe.  With oxygen assistance her body was oxygenating just fine.  It took us awhile to realize that wasn't the good news it seemed.  Clearly our baby's traumatized brain was battling something with each breath.  It turned out she was battling herself, but that's the end of the story.

Fast forward three months.  In June Eleni faced her second hospitalization for respiratory distress due to a cold.  This time we were discharged with a collection of medications to be used "as needed".  Holy cow!  As needed?  My first instinct was not to use them.  I hate to medicate my child with side effects like dry mouth, blurry vision and racing pulse.  But when her breathing became increasingly labored as days past, I realized that she needed the medications.  I used them.



We went to our third series of ABM lesson about a week after her hospital discharge.  The practitioner agreed - on medication Eleni was breathing with more ease than ever.  Things weren't quite right, but her breathing was easy enough that Lara was finally able to work on Eleni's arms and legs, hands and feet.  Previously her work had been focused on Eleni's breathing, because when one is struggling to breathe, it's hard to learn much else.

We saw some improvements in Eleni from ABM lessons in June, but her week-long hospital stay definitely created a regression.  She started having scary muscle fits (not seizures, but similar), completely stopped using her eyes and her body was rigid most all the time.  Fortunately, after her complete recovery and that late June ABM intensive Eleni began gaining ground again.  Baby's legs became looser, she moved her legs and feet significantly more, made daily eye contact and used midline at least half of the time!  Even though these improvements felt small, I was glad that she was able to recover what she had learned before the trauma of her week-long hospital stay.  I think that bodes well for her.

about her Progress in Chicago

Just last night I returned from a week-long trip to Chicago where Eleni had ABM lessons with a wonderfully experienced and skillful practitioner, Marcy Lindheimer.  This was Eleni's longest series of lessons and also the most eventful.



First, breathing.  Marcy is a breathing expert with special training aside from ABM.  She observed that Eleni was using her diaphragm in opposition to her breath. So, she would bring her diaphragm upwards while drawing in a breath.  Then, she would push her diaphragm down while exhaling, which created "retraction" around her chest.  This dysfunctional movement worked against her and resulted in a lot of visible effort.  By her second lesson with Marcy, Eleni was sometimes breathing properly.  On day two she was often breathing properly.  Now she is regularly using her diaphragm correctly, except when making noise.  Marcy says she is on the right track now and should improve as she continues practicing her voice.

The difference is visible.  In fact, I am already backing off on some of her meds (remember, "as needed") because she's breathing with such ease.  Marcy says her breathing is "perfect" at rest.  What a relief to us all, especially Eleni!

Now, she does still have apnea, which is unrelated to her diaphragm usage, but at least her every breath is no longer a battle.  Her apnea has improved since we've began working with a homeopath.



Second, arms and hands.  Eleni has one wrist that usually cannot be straightened and one hand she keeps fisted closed.  When she's in a deep sleep and as relaxed as possible, I try to bring them through normal range of motion to prevent long term problems.  Marcy worked the most with Eleni's arms and hands.  Towards the end of our time in Chicago, we noticed we could open her hand so much easier.   On the day we traveled home we saw her bringing her wrist practically straight.  So, not only can we straighten her wrist, she can.  That's huge!  She's been doing it today too.

Third, rolling.  Yes, rolling!  Now Eleni is not rolling by herself.  Gosh, if she was doing that I would be throwing a party (literally).  With cerebral palsy, rolling by one year of age is considered a good indicator for independent mobility someday.   So, she is not rolling all the way over by herself.  But, she is definitely trying.  A lot!  Marcy helped Eleni learn how to get on her side intentionally and how to be comfortable rolling to her stomach.  She still needs help to do it, but she initiates it all the time and seems to know what is coming. Sometimes she will move her hips herself, other times her arm or her legs.  Once on her stomach she will even try to lift her head.

This is the first time she is consistently comfortable being flat on her stomach for tummy time (not reclined on my chest) and consistently engaging her head in that position.  I'm convinced it's because she has initiated, understood and is participating in this movement.  It's entirely different than going to traditional physical therapy where they jump right to tummy time on the floor without respecting the emotional state of the child as regards to getting to and being in that position.



I'm really thrilled with our trip to Chicago.  It was soooooo worth it.  But not just because of Marcy...

about her Vision

After making plans to go to Chicago I remembered that I'd heard of a optometrist in Chicago who specializes in vision recovery after brain injury.  Dr. Zelinksy made time to see Eleni during our stay.  At first, our sleeping beauty refused to be roused for her testing, but after a half hour snooze she woke up and "looked" around.

Only she didn't.  Because she doesn't.

I knew there was something seriously wrong with her vision.  Dr. Zelinksy confirmed that Eleni did not show any conscious or even subconscious vision at the appointment.  The doctor feels that Eleni's nervous system is incredibly fragile.  Because she cannot make sense of her environment, she retreats from it.   This could explain why she sleeps more than a typical baby.



The doctor has a huge wall of diagnostic tools.  With a playful spirit she tested Eleni with apparatus after apparatus looking for a reaction.  Fortunately we did see some reactions, which all supported a single conclusion.  Eleni can see in a limited range like a "vision tunnel" on her left side.  She is not actively using this sight, but it's there and can be demonstrated to effect her body.  Her awareness is at the subcortical or "bodily" level, not a mental level.  This explains why she responds to ABM therapy (very body-oriented), yet does not react to toys or sounds or people very often.

Without getting too technical the good news is that there are some simple things we can do at home to try to "wake up" her brain.  We must be gentle, so as not to overstimulate her.  She can only engage in short, safe bits.  I'm so glad there is something we can do and that I sought it out.  Because her vision problems are brain-based, not eye-based, we can hope that her vision can be significantly restored with proper stimulation and time!

Remember that Skype appointment?  Eleni was "seen" by an expert functional optometrist in Belgium today who showed me how to use light and color (Kona cotton, baby!) to stimulate healing in Eleni's brain.  I know that sounds crazy, but just look up "syntonic light therapy."  Dr. Zelinsky put us in touch, and he his helping Eleni out of his generous heart.  Can you imagine?  The world is truly conspiring to bless this child.

And you all are part of that conspiracy!  Thank you for your support of our YouCaring fundraiser.  We are more than halfway to our goal!  Those funds are being set aside for continued ABM lessons, maybe even another trip this year to see Marcy in Chicago.  She expressed her wish to work around and in Eleni's mouth, given the opportunity.  That would be great since baby is still eating exclusively via g-tube and aspirating her saliva due to her poor swallow.

We'd really love to see growth in that area (suck and swallow) and in her head control in the coming months.  But the truth is we don't get to pick and choose.  Ultimately we are grateful for any and all progress that is made.  She has a long, long ways to go.

Today she is determined to roll.  And that is something I love to see her trying!
 


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