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Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Thoughts on Love and Valentine's Day

Today is a beautiful day.

It is the type of winter day we are occasionally treated to here in northern Minnesota...and the type of day that makes me love winter. The sun is shining, the snow is sparkling, and the sky is a hopeful shade of blue.

But my heart is heavy.

Today is Valentine's Day. Normally I exchange cards with my husband but that's about it. It is one of those made up holidays, after all. And truthfully I always feel melancholy on Valentine's Day. It makes me think of loves lost, non-reciprocal love, and makes me feel sad for those who don't or haven't known love.

This year is different.

It's only been about seven weeks that I learned that I have metastatic breast cancer, also known as Stage IV breast cancer. Simply, I learned right before Christmas that the cancer I had "beat" in 1999 and again in 2003 had returned...this time taking up primary residence in my lung with some vacation homes in my pelvis, femur, and spine.

There will be other times to rant and rave about what it is like to have cancer back in my life 17 years after my primary diagnosis when I was so close to that magic 20-year mark. There will be other times to post about what this new life of mine is, and means, and how it will end.

But back to my reason for posting: Valentine's Day. Sigh.

I have never needed a reason to 'remember" those I love. I have never needed a wake up call to my own good fortune. I don't need to be reminded to "live every day" or "love like there's no tomorrow".

Ugh. All of that garbage makes me want to scream!

The truth is I knew the second I met my husband that I had won the lottery. He loved me fully and unconditionally then and that has never changed. And I get to luxuriate in the power of that love every day. He has ridden this roller coaster with me for almost 27 years, and he's always making sure I have the best ride of anyone!

I have never doubted the love of my beautiful daughter. I distinctly remember the moment when as a toddler she took me by the hand and my heart fluttered...because in that touch was the trust and promise and bond of a love that can never be lost. Even though she is miles away I can feel it as powerfully as if she were sitting next to me right now.

I am so lucky to bask in the sunshine of my son's love every day. Because he lives with us, I am treated to his honest, unapologetic displays of affection: the same way he has showed me love ever since he mastered the workings of his own body, especially his ability to smile. I am treated to his love like a waterfall that never stops. It is his nature and I am the lucky recipient.

I know I am loved.

I don't need flowers, or chocolates or cards, to know it.

I know that I am incredibly lucky. I am cared for. I am supported. I am entirely who I am because of these three.

The part that I am struggling with, the part that I dislike so much about Valentine's Day is: how on earth do I let them know how deeply, how tenderly, how furiously I love them? The love in my heart overwhelms me. It is actually painful. My heart physically hurts. I cannot breathe when I think of it. There is no poetry, no perfect sunrise (or sunset for that matter), no music, no beauty that I could hold out to them and say...this, this is how I feel.

And, honestly, it is the way I have always felt. But the desire to tell them is now more incessant and immediate.

Simply put, they have made my life a LIFE.

They have given me everything I have ever wanted or could ever need.

Somehow one day I will find a way to tell them. I will keep trying.

I will keep accepting their love.

and I will keep loving them.

The bravery to love despite the pain that comes from it, is the truest meaning of love I can imagine. It is amazing that we humans continue to do it, knowing that we risk heartbreak.

I will continue to love until my heart bursts into flames with its intensity. I will never, never stop.

Saturday, February 4, 2017

Vintage Scraps Under Control! (A Lesson in Patience and Hard Work)

Well I realize that title does not make this seem like it's going to be a fun post, but believe me the pay off is BIG!

Years ago I purchased a bag of fabric scraps that included feedback remnants and other fun prints. I had all kinds of ideas of using them up in something fun, but the state they were in kept me from doing anything with them. They were a complete knotted mess of small pieces bound together with frayed ends. UGH! So I threw them in a drawer which I would occasionally open, look side eyed at and quickly shut.

Now I've moved into a new house with a studio that provides little to no storage space. Unwanted things must go! The scraps had been lovingly packaged into a box (dumped) and moved into our basement. This week I decided it was time I forced myself to deal with them.

The first thing I did was free each piece from the mess and press the heck out of them (years of wrinkles are miraculously stubborn!) As I pressed each piece I finally got a chance to really see what I had. There were some awesome prints like these two which are some of my favorites:


Almost all of the pieces were the discarded cuts from someone cutting out clothing patterns. If you've ever seen what's left after cutting out patterns you know they are weird shapes with very little useable fabric. Some of them were even partially made clothing or the remnants of clothing that had been torn up like this piece which was a shirt collar:


But that didn't stop me!
I pressed on (ha!) and sorted as I went. Happily I did discover some larger pieces of fabric including a complete feedsack (yahoo!). Sadly most of the pieces were tiny and some prints were only found on the tiniest of scraps. Still, nothing was thrown away!

Once everything was pressed and sorted I had a decision to make. Was I going to just box them all back up? The problem with that idea was that I realized I'd be taking up a lot of precious storage space with completely unusable bits of fabric. After some online searching coupled with soul searching I decided to start cutting. Even saying that still makes me feel squeamish even though I know it was the right decision. As my husband said, "Now I can turn someone else's trash into treasure!" For real!

I decided on the following plan:
1. I would save any truly large pieces (fat quarter or larger...okay I broke this with a couple of my favorite prints which I want to savor). These pieces needed to be basically square. All strange cling on pieces were removed and cut into smaller bits.
2. When it came to cutting I started with the largest pieces first.
3. At all times I took into account the size of the scrap and determined how to get the most out of it...I really tested my math skills on this one...and now you know why it took a whole week to finish!
4. After setting aside the largest piece that would remained uncut (and there weren't that many) I decided on the following sizes of cuts: 5" square, 2 1/2" squares, 1 1/2" squares, 2 1/2" strips, and 1 1/2" strips. I chose these sizes because they can be used together and are common precut sizes often found in jelly rolls and charm packs.
5. I only kept 1 1/2" and 2 1/2" strips if they were close to or over 12" in length.
This method meant I did A LOT of cutting. But it also meant I had very little discarded fabric.
The project was slow, seemed endless, and required me to be very persnickety. It was unlike cutting yardage because each cut was unique to each piece!

Here's an example of some scraps before and after I cut them to give you an idea of the process:

  

 I was pretty excited when I was able to actually fussy cut some of the pieces :)


As I mentioned there were some really tiny scraps. Some were only large enough to get a 2 1/2" square or two. Sadly, this is the only piece I have of this particular fabric, and I love it! :


Finally after five days I have everything cut! The photo doesn't quite capture the amount of time I put into this!


But these pictures of my vintage stash make me so happy!

Larger pieces and 2 1/2" strips
1 1/2" strips, 1 1/2" squares, 5" squares & 2 1/2" squares

I now have an organized stash of vintage fabrics from big cuts or specialty fabric pieces that went uncut like this barkcloth:


Here's the lot of larger pieces I have left. The full feedsack is in the upper right corner. Isn't that print great? Someday I may have the courage to cut it...but not today! :


Of course I also didn't have the heart to cut into my favorite print. I just love what it says in the selvedge: "Fascination" A Regulated Cotton "Never Misbehaves"!


I don't know what's in store, but I am resting easy knowing I finally kept the promise I made to myself all those years ago when I bought that bag! I know that now that these fabrics are ready I can jump right in to designing a great quilt!

Hooray for patience and hard work!

This piece was cut by the original owner!


Evidence of a Life