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Celebrating Imagination and the Wonderful, Wild Ride that is Life

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Tutorial: Equilateral Triangle Blocks for the White Star Quilt

Hi friends!

I promised that I would post a tutorial on how I made my White Star Quilt. (I am still searching for a better name, so all suggestions are welcome!) You may have seen it in my Instagram feed, or this may be your first sighting. Either way, as an attempt to thank everyone who liked and commented on my quilt, I decided to share my tricks for this very fun, easy, and adaptable technique.

This quilt was a true labor of love for me over the past few years. It is the first quilt that I completely designed myself, going with my instincts, and making changes as I went. This has turned out to be the way I do things a lot of the time. I do a lot of thinking and planning when I am designing a quilt, but I like to leave some room for spontaneity and change as I go on. Who knows what idea is lurking in the doorway just waiting to add the spark I've been looking for!

This tutorial will show you how to make the colorful pieced background for your own version of this quilt. My quilt is quite large, but you don't need to super size yours! Someone suggested a version made with Christmas fabrics would be neat, and I wholeheartedly agree! You can definitely make it your own depending on the fabrics you use. This is definitely a "let loose and have fun" technique. So don't sweat it!

The reason I am not giving you the plans to make the entire quilt can be seen in the following photos. It was darn hard. I decided that I wanted my star made entirely out of equilateral triangles, just like the background. That, coupled with the fact that it is supersized, is a bit more than a simple tutorial can handle.

So, my advice is as follows: if you want to give this a go and maybe make a cool wall hanging, throw quilt, or even go for the big kahuna, plan on using the pattern for a simple nine patch star of your choice as your white star and skip the piecing of those parts. The excitement really lies in that background...which really turns it into the foreground, don't ya think? There's nothing negative about that negative space!

Essentially this technique results in made fabric. The very first step is determining the size of the pieces of made fabric you will need for each background section of your quilt. For example, if you are using a nine patch star pattern similar to the one below, and you wish your finished quilt to be 60 inches square, then each section of made fabric should be at least 21" square for the four corners. (I would add even more than that for trimming purposes.) Additionally you will need sections of made fabric that are at least 21" along the top edge and through the center of the triangle point backgrounds. **TIP: I find it easiest to make a paper template for these sections to ensure you make them the correct size.**

Each made fabric section will be comprised of triangle units, or log cabin triangles. You will be making strip sets of triangles which when sewn together will be the size needed for each of your star background sections. This is where the fun begins!

To use this technique I purchased a 60 degree ruler (also known as an equilateral triangle ruler). The one I highly recommend is the one pictured below from Creative Grids. It has the non slip qualities that all their rulers do, plenty of measurement lines, and a clipped top point for making aligning your pieces nice and easy.

Alternatively, if your strip cutting ruler has one, you can utilize the 60 degree line on that. This especially makes sense if you aren't going to spend too much time with this technique, or if you're making a small quilt.

This is a wonderful technique for using up scraps! Whether you choose to use scraps or yardage, your first step is to cut a variety of strip widths from each fabric. I cut strips ranging from 1 1/2" to 4 1/2". If you are not making a large quilt you may want to keep your strips on the smaller side for scale. But remember: the skinnier the strips you use, the more piecing that will need to be done! I cut strips as I went along, starting out with one in each width from each fabric. This way I avoided wasting any fabric.

The technique is very simple. In many ways you are creating a log cabin triangle. Your first step is to cut a starting triangle out of one of your wider strips. I find it best to vary the size of your starting triangles for an overall scrappier and complex look. Here are examples of triangles being cut with both style of ruler.

The next step is to add a strip to one side. I don't measure. Just eyeball it, making sure that there is enough fabric overhang for trimming later. If you come up short, Trim the edge off and add another triangle to that end. It will look even better!

Stitch the pieces together with a quarter inch seam. Press the seam toward the newly added strip. Throughout this process it is very important that you press your fabric without stretching it. Since you are working with triangles there are a lot of bias edges and a tendency to stretch more than usual.

After pressing, use your ruler to trim the triangle so all of the edges are even. This is where the Creative Grids ruler or a similar one with markings can be very helpful. Instead of "squaring up", you're "triangle-ing up"!

Continue adding strips to the triangle unit. Don't think too hard about width of strip or which fabric you choose. The overall effect works best when things look pretty random. It's also best if you don't go around and around the triangle in a true log cabin style. Just piece whichever strip on whichever side that makes you happy with the result. It can even be fun to piece smaller scraps together to make a strip here and there, just to add to the randomness.

I highly recommend chain piecing triangle units. The job moves much faster, and you will add to the scrappiness by using a different fabric with each triangle.

Once you have created a few triangles, you can start joining them together. Lay them next to each other in the way they will be joined, and determine if you want to trim them to the same size or add strips as needed. You can see that my two triangles are not the same size. Instead of trimming the larger triangle, I opted to add a strip to the other triangle.

Sew the triangle units together and press. Continue to add triangle units until you have reached the width needed for your made fabric section.

Continue creating triangle units and sewing them into rows. Sew these rows together to create a piece of made fabric the correct size for your star backing section. Cut the made fabric and set aside. When all of your sections are complete, sew together your star just as you would normally.

You may notice that my original quilt has a border added to make the star "float" within the background. In order to do this, I first measured the top as I would for any border. Then I created a made fabric strip out of triangle units that was larger than the length and double the border width that I needed. I trimmed the made fabric to the correct length and cut it lengthwise into two pieces. Each of these pieces served as the top or bottom border. I followed the same procedure to make the left and right border strips. Below is what the strips look like before attaching them to the quilt.

I hope you enjoy this technique. If you have any questions, go ahead and ask! All I ask is that you tag me @alanedaviscreates in your makes. I truly enjoy seeing what everyone else is making. It's so inspiring!

Thursday, November 8, 2018

Thoughts on Creativity and How I Quit Running from My Inner Artist

When I am in the studio I listen to music. My tastes are varied from Pokey LaFarge to Stevie Rae Vaughan, Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong, and beyond. Give me some folk, some funk, some blues, some country, some hard rock, some punk, some disco and soul, and please pepper it heavily with all of the classics. If it has a beat, or a beautiful lyric, or just sets my toes a-tapping (or better yet brings on some serious moves on what turns into a dance floor despite the cat's side eye), bring it ON! It is ALL good. It is good for my soul! And it is art, every last note of it.

For the last few days I've been doing some boring type sewing things...cutting a bunch of fabric, sewing quilt backings, and a lot of the ho-hum stuff related to finishing up a bunch of projects. Don't get me wrong...finishing up is fantastic, but sometimes it's hard because it's not filled with the sparks of energy that come from working on a new's the last bits you need to do to claim your prize. I liken it to packing for a vacation. You are so excited to head on an adventure, but there's this chore you have to do. Womp womp.

Because my mind wanders when I'm bored (I can hear you laughing...okay it wanders ALL the time!) but because it was wandering this time, I started to think about the age old question of "What is Art?" Notice that I capitalized the word art to give it gravitas.

It has taken me my whole life to finally feel comfortable calling myself an artist. (I'm still working on capitalizing that A.) It wasn't until a couple years ago that I wrote my Manifesto to the Universe declaring to myself that I was going to unapologetically dive into my creative self and be who I am. Why did I do it? Because I have never believed in myself. Which, when I look back on all the years that came before, I think how ridiculous it was to be embarrassed about the one skill I was truly born with: creativity. I wasn't born doing math or giving speeches, creating presentations, or even being a Mother. I've done all of those things and more. I have plenty of skills. I can write a grant proposal. I can use Microsoft Excel. I can balance two babies on my hips and still do a week's worth of laundry. I can change the flat tires on your bicycle. I can organize a fundraiser like no other. I can cook a fantastic spaghetti and meatballs and follow it up with pie. But none of these skills are ones I was born with; they are all skills I learned.

To be fair, I wasn't the only one who doubted me. We all know our society isn't particularly supportive of the arts. (Insert eye roll here.) And over the years, especially when I was young and I was craving reassurance, I was told "You're not that good." I even had a professor tell me "If you have to ask, then you probably don't" (belong in this creative field). Ouch. I know I am not saying anything that every other creative person out there would say about themselves. Well, except for the self-promoting narcissistic asses out there: You know who you are!!! I kid, I kid.

I should mention at this point that I grew up with an Artist... the kind with a big "A". My Grandfather was a painter whose paintings are in the collections of many museums. He and my Grandmother lived right down the road from us, and we all lived in his artist's world. His studio, his art collections, everything. It was magic, it was real, it was home. And he was a wonderful Grampa or "Pepop" as I called him. As you might expect, his was the golden ring of what it meant to be an artist. In my mind, in all our minds, he was IT. And in many ways in my family, he still is IT to this day. He is our claim to fame. He is the beacon, the lighthouse of artistic endeavors. His was the career on which we all measure our value not only as successful people, but especially creative people. Here's one of my favorite photos of my Pepop, Louis Bosa, captured while he was working on a self portrait.

So what did I, the young person who had never had any support or encouragement in my creative endeavors do when it came to college choices? Well, truth be told, I let fear lead me and I caved on my dreams and went to the University of Michigan to major in Creative Writing. I lasted one year. But then, without telling anyone I did what I wanted... I applied to Art School. And not just any art school. The Cleveland Institute of Art...where my Grandfather had been the Painting Professor for years. Yep, I took all my insecurity and went into the belly of the beast. And guess what happened? I realized I had been taught very few of the skills that many of the other creatives had. I was starting at Ground Zero. And my mind was plagued with the idea that the only reason I was accepted wasn't my portfolio of work, but because everyone knew who my Grandfather was. Ouch.

Did I fit in? Absolutely not. There were your typical ART students who wore the same clothes for weeks, had mohawks, and peed on their paintings. I was the nerdy chick who excelled in Art History and Literature (the brainiac stuff which I still love to this day) and who tried to make things that I felt were beautiful. But I learned. I got great at drawing. I loved working with a live model. At the same time, I confounded my painting teacher (a man who told me upon meeting me that my Grandfather was his painting teacher. Oy. Pressure anyone?) But I confounded him because when it came to seeing color, I didn't just see a handful of colors in a tree, in addition to greens and browns I saw cool blues and purples, sometimes even magenta...he struggled to get me to mix the specific colors we were supposed to mix, and I was always pulled away by my own peculiar sense of color. And I absolutely tanked in my graphic design class. I was certain that the Professor hated me until the cool Art kids helped me create a project that had absolutely no idea or thought behind it. And it was a hit.At the time I was so confused. I hadn't worked on it! And now I know that was a major part of the lesson. The cool kids gave me a hint to success: to quit trying quite so hard, and start doing.

Eventually I found a group of friends: some who had mohawks and quirky clothes, and others who dressed in flannel and jeans. I met people who, like me, had pursued other avenues of interest before finally jumping into a creative life. And we started to talk. It was an ever present, on going conversation happening not just in our classes, but amongst ourselves. What IS Art? We were required to determine that everyday. Not just in our own work, but in critiquing the work of others as well. That was a regular event with every project in every class...the ruthless critique where everyone, all your classmates, and your instructors would tell you the unvarnished truth. And frankly, if people went too easy on you, the Professor was there to fill in the gaps. Those times were some of the most merciless things I've ever experienced. I spent a number of days in full snotty tears, I can tell you. Developing a critical eye was important, of course, but trial by fire is not pleasant by any means. But it really kept me delving into What IS Art?

It became a real struggle for me, and I engaged in numerous conversations with my peers...many believed that true Art needed to be provocative, shocking, innovative and modern. But those Art History lessons and trips to the nearby museum kept me wondering...what about those porcelain pieces from the Ming Dynasty? Or the bucolic scenes painted in the 18th century? Or the Native American pine needle baskets? Didn't we consider those art? Wasn't my Grandfather's work Art? I mean he could be a little provocative in his paintings with scenes of scenes of nuns ice skating or ladies at cocktail parties with their nipples showing, but he wasn't hanging urinals as art installations. And as far as being unique, or "new" what were all those Art History classes for, anyway? What, really, did it all mean?

As I focused my interests into Fiber Arts and Pottery these questions became even more important. After all what I was doing was thought of as craft by many of the students. But I kept asking: couldn't a thing of beauty also be art? I had a close friend who was a glass blower. He was (and I'm sure still is) amazing. He created fish out of melted sand, and made beautiful, mesmerizing, interesting sculptures. If his work wasn't art, then I definitely didn't know what I was doing.

The years went by and I believed that because my interests weren't in fine ART (painting) and weren't shocking or limit stretching, I was not an artist.

So I graduated, got married, had kids, worked jobs. Of course I kept up creative pursuits like quilting, but I was never an artist.

Until I got much older. And I hated my job. Even though I was extremely good at it, it was in no way connected to who I am. I was doing things I'm good at. Really, really good at, in fact. But that is not the same thing as living your truest life. The change started when I had both of my knees replaced at the same time (separate story...but yes, OUCH!) So I found myself stuck at home. I couldn't really walk and I wasn't able to sit for extended periods of time. But I could stand. So I bought some paint and canvases and I started to do something I'm not great at...I painted. I started painting things that I wanted to hang on my own walls. And it was fun. And some of it was actually pretty good, even if I had lost all my drawing muscles. But the best part about it was, I was playing with color. MY color. The world of color that I wanted to live in. And it was wonderful.

About two or three years later, I was still painting and I was back quilting. But I was about to turn 49. And even though just writing it was hard, I wrote my Manifesto to the Universe. And it changed everything.

I started to really work with intention and take myself seriously. I got bored with painting, but even more excited about my quilting. I started to allow myself to create my own designs. I threw out the rulebook. I wanted to create what meant something to me. I wanted to create what I felt. I wanted to create my feelings in fabric.

Unfortunately after I wrote my Manifesto, I found out I have Stage IV breast cancer. So, I quit my job. And I regretted all those days I spent running from my inner artist. I thought about all the time I had spent telling myself I wasn't any good when I could have just been creating. For me.

So...What is Art?

To me, it is what moves the soul. Whether you are the creator, or the viewer. Art gives you a window into a culture, a way of life, a mind. It makes you understand. It makes you feel. It makes you weep. It makes you dream. Sometimes it makes you smile.

Trying to define it is what limits it. Letting go of rules and definitions, getting rid of words, especially those with capital letters, and setting your creative heart free...that moment, the true expression of yourself, your thoughts, your experiences, your world. That is art. ART.

Go make some. It's well past time!

Friday, June 22, 2018

Get ready for a little horn tooting!!!! And WIN THIS QUILT!!!!!!

I have posted before about my guild’s Quilt “Lake Superior Sunrise” that I designed and we produced as part of the Modern Quilt Guild’s Charity Quilt Challenge for QuiltCon 2018.

Here is the completed top in all it's glory:

The digital pattern is for sale on my online store , wildonionstudio and a portion of the proceeds of each pattern sold go to my local guild. So you can sew your very own sunrise!!!!

Here's the blocks being laid out:

But, GREAT NEWS! The quilt itself is currently being raffled for charity! Yes, YOU CAN WIN THIS QUILT!!!!! It is possible to purchase tickets even if you don’t live locally by contacting our guild’s treasurer, Claudia at or visit the Lake Superior Modern Quilt Guild website to get all the details by clicking here! The proceeds go to an area women's shelter, and to our Guild's education fund. We are so happy to have chosen the Safe Haven shelter as the recipient of the monies collected, as well as the recipients of our year long effort called Project Pouch! The drawing to win the quilt will be held at our guild meeting on August 9th. Good luck!

Here's the quilt finally coming together in my studio!

I’m so excited to share that the quilt is featured on the Modern Quilt Guild’s QuiltCon website at this link where you can read all about its inspiration and construction. Click that link and check it out!!!

Enjoy! Toot TOOOOOOT!!!!!!! There goes that horn! LOL!

We had such a great time making this quilt that we are all ready to start producing our Charity Quilt entry for QuiltCon 2019! Just look at this color palette!

We are so excited to get started TODAY! I've already created a new design and our guild is hosting a Sew-In tonight to start working on it. It is so much fun. If you have a local guild, I highly recommend joining. It's a great source of inspiration, camraderie, and support from people who love the same things you do. There's a list of Modern Guilds on the MQG website, but I'm sure you could ask at your trusty local quilt store too. And if there isn't one, consider starting it! You have nothing to lose, and a lot to gain! Check it out, you won't be sorry!


Friday, June 15, 2018

The Hardest Thing I've Ever Done

I never admit defeat.

But I need to be honest...I'm struggling.

I am struggling with who I am. Who I am NOW.

I've lived almost 20 years as a breast cancer patient, survivor, and activist. I have thrived on my own inherent belief that cancer didn't know who it was dealing with. I fought hard. And not only did it seem like I had succeeded, but I made sure I exceeded even my expectations.

I'm just going to say it here. I'm going to KEEP. IT. REAL. Being a young person going through this experience is an entirely different deal. Your life is ahead of you. Your dreams are unattained. You've really only been test driving life at this point. You are still making mistakes. Real life, long life, is something in the future. And you sure as hell don't fully know who you are.

I have reinvented myself many times in my life. For many, it's the reinvention of getting married, starting a career, and becoming a parent. And all of those experiences are definitely ones I cherished. They each had times of difficulty in their own way...becoming a parent is freaking hard. And it changes you in so many ways. And in my case it changed me in every way that is good.

But because of cancer I have reinvented myself more times than I could count.

There's being the cancer patient....newly diagnosed, with a very scary diagnosis at that, and seeing yourself through the eyes of others like the caregivers who see you as a challenge, the strangers and even family and friends who see you as a reminder of what they are most afraid of, and then there are your loved ones who see you as someone suffering, someone delivered a tragedy that seems imperceptable, unfair, and one with terrifying consequences. You're bald. You're sick. You're tired. And frankly, people stare at you. Or, in my case, actually say things like "You are my worst nightmare."

So that was my first invention. Call it Cancer Girl 1.0. I ignored the stares. I took the stupid and hurtful comments and used them as fuel. I didn't take to my bed. I kept working. I kept exercising. I made jokes. I always make jokes. I kept everything as light as possible. I had young children, so I shielded them from being scared as much as I could. I took my medicine and said, "Thank you, and may I please have another?" I remember a very telling conversation with one of my sisters after I was first diagnosed. I had just finished a chemo treatment and we were out walking. Speed walking. And my sister said, "I'm not worried, Lanie. Because I know you will fight. You are a Campbell girl." (Campbell is my maiden name.) I knew she was right. I let the Campbell girl come out and take the hits and keep on fighting. Don't get me wrong. I was happy to have that fight in me. I was thrilled that when I took up running again I visualized squashing cancer cells with each step I took. Somewhere in that time my sweet husband made an animated character of me called "SuperPea" (he calls me SweetPea)..I was a bald superhero with a cape and a take no prisoners attitude. I loved it.

And it all worked! I went through all of the physical torment and treatments and radiation and I survived! In fact, I thrived. I became a different person somehow. One who would speak her mind. And I became someone who was determined to stop what had happened to me from happening to anyone else.

Until it happened again. Just three years after all my kicking ass and taking names, my cancer came back. This time it hadn't spread anywhere distant in my body, but it had shown that it WAS. NOT. GONE. I did't receive aymore chemo or radiation, but I did have a total hysterectomy at 34. And let me tell you, life without hormones is not as fun as it's cracked up to be, not to mention that any thoughts of more kids were gone. Goodbye sex life! Hello menopause! Hello Cancer Girl 2.0!

I admit this was a blow. I had a hard time accepting that my prior Superpea efforts had not crushed the cancer like I'd hoped. So this time I doubled down on all my efforts. I buried the fear, relished in the realization that "other than cancer you're incredibly healthy", turned up my positivity dial to 11, brushed off my SuperPea outfit and started kicking cancer's ass like a goddamn Campbell Girl! It was then that I upped my running game, and exercise in general. Many days I would run nine miles and go to my Fit Ball class from hell and work on building muscle. On the same day! I dropped so much weight that I looked like a little kid. Eventually my body started revolting. My knees and ankles protested to the point that I couldn't walk afterwards. But I kept at it. Because I was fighting my body and I was not going to let it win. I know now that what I was doing was showing my body who is boss. I was done with it trying to kill me. I was taking control the only way I knew how.

Shortly after Cancer Girl 2.0 took over, she was replaced by Cancer Girl 3.0. In addition to throwing myself into controlling my body, I became a breast cancer advocate working for a non-profit focused on young women with breast cancer. I started as a volunteer, but I knew from the get go that the work that needed to be done was something that propelled me. I eventually made it my full time job. I lterally dove deep into cancer. I surrounded myself with it. I used to joke that cancer and I shared an office. I spoke daily with newly diagnosed young women. I ran support groups. I created educational programs. I raised money. I provided resources. And many times while talking to other young women, I would be struck by the realization that I was the one with the worst prognosis in the room. But still, I watched my friends, young women who were every bit as tough and kick ass as me, die. And it propelled me to keep fighting. Until I was working on average 70 hours per week....

Until I wasn't. Because the company decided to reorganize and jobs like mine were not in the final plan. Over what felt like was a matter of days or weeks all the years of work that I had put in was gone. Of course they offered me a job on the national level, but I had been helping women on the ground in the throes of their fight. And I couldn't see that work disappear while I went on to work that to me seemed too distant and futile to effect real change.

The wheels came off Cancer Girl 3.0 for some time. I mourned my job, my work, my efforts, and I obsessed over all the women who were no longer recieving the support that we had been providing. I had panic attacks. With that job, I had built a purpose for my cancer, a reason, a tool to use it for someone else's good. That time was very dark for me. That's when Sad Cancer Girl 4.0 took over.

Because my knees could no longer handle the pummeling I was dishing out, I discovered cycling. It truly is one of the best things that ever happened to me. I found joy on the bike. I found emotional and spiritual release. And my body felt good. I wasn't punishing it any longer and I felt stronger than I ever had in my life. Cycling gave me faith in my body. I started to see it as what it always had been.. my partner throughout this cancer ordeal. I learned to honor it and cherish it and thank it for all it had taken on my behalf. Cancer Girl 4.0 was born!

And then...I started to have some troubles. I was diagnosed with Psoriatic Arthritis, an auto-immune disease similar to Rheumatoid Arthritis. I started having some significant joint problems, particularly in my hands and feet. My knees were destroyed from running. So I had them replaced...both at the same time...because I'm a Campbell girl, right? After a long recovery I was back on the bike. And in many ways I was better than ever...

Until I fell on the bike and shattered my kneecap... and broke the other one almost exactly a year later. But I came back, I recovered as well as I could and I was back on the bike. I was in pain since I had a knee cap that would never heal, but I kept pedaling. And despite my frustrations I still managed to find euphoria when I rode, even if it was more fleeting than ever.

Finally I developed a searing pain in my butt and leg. It turned out to be a severely crunched sciatic nerve. But during a routine chest X-Ray they found metastatic breast cancer in my lung. Further testing showed it in my bones as well.

So Cancer Girl 4.0 became Metastatic Cancer Girl 1.0.

Survival is no longer an option. The goal now if the LONGEST SURVIVAL POSSIBLE. And that is still my goal: to be the longest living patient with metastatic breast cancer. Because I NEVER. ADMIT. DEFEAT.

I adjusted as much as possible to being Metastatic Cancer Girl 1.0 . I got used to my medication regimen and the side effects were not keeping me down too much. But I did have that persistent sciatic pain to deal with. Two surgeries later, including a spinal fusion, I'm thrilled to say that I am almost 100% pain free.

But it took its toll. I couldn't ride a bike anymore. Or exercise much at all, other than gentle, short walks.

I quit my job that was not making me happy. And on a positive note, I allowed myself to live the creative life I always wanted.

Then came the recent discovery that I had new metastatic lesions in my liver.

So I am now Metastatic Cancer Girl 2.0. I hve a new medication. With side effects that limit me. And I am trying to find out WHO. I. AM.

I am mourning the loss of the physical kick ass I used to be. There was comfort in that. There was a high in living physically aggressively, challenging my body physically, and finding courage to keep pushing.

But there's no more pushing anymore. Acceptance is on the menu. And while most days I feel I'm doing pretty well, I still get seduced by the dreams of the old me.

I am not giving up by any means. But trying to define myself in this new body, in these new, unalterable circumstances is hard.

I know that now there is no reinvention. Now I have my greatest challenge: to face this as 100% real, distilled, authentic me. Everything about that should feel good. But I'm struggling to make it feel natural.

So I work. I work creatively. I express myself with my hands and my art. I am quiet. I feel. I remove distraction. I just am. I don't run. I don't hide. I don't focus my energies elsewhere. I am as I once wished for, being 100% authentically, apologetically me.

And it is the hardest thing I've ever done.

Saturday, April 14, 2018

It's All About the Good Stuff

It's April 14th and it's a ridiculously cold and windy day here in Northern Minnesota. Snow is in the forecast for tonight. Winter is not done with us yet. It is also our 28th wedding anniversary which we are celebrating quietly. Brad is currently doing his very painful PT exercises for his new knee (it's only three days old!). He's working the slow, arduous road to recovery. Time stands still for no one.
It is all progress. Progress. In the vernacular, progress is always a good thing. It's working to attain something, it's a step in the right direction, it's setting goals and meeting guideposts. To me, progress is always a very good thing. But when I decided to search for the actual definition, this popped up:
Progress (noun): "forward or onward movement toward a destination."
There is definitely a tone to this definition that I don't take a shine to. And here's why:
Progression. This is something that a metastatic cancer patient tries very hard to avoid. And desperately doesn't want to hear about.
The poop scoop is that, you guessed it...I heard that word: "progression". My metastatic breast cancer, which has been being kept in check in my lung, pleura, and bones for the last 15 months decided to grab onto that next rung on the ladder and make its move. The sneaky little devil has made me the reluctant owner of liver metastases.
To clarify, for those of you who may not understand what I mean, a metastasis is when cancer that develops in one organ or part of the body (in my case the breast) travels to a distant location in the body such as the brain, liver, lungs, bones, etc.
Metastatic breast cancer is also called Stage IV breast cancer. Metastatic = Stage IV. They are one and the same.
There is no cure for Metastatic/Stage IV breast cancer. There is only treatment to halt progression. So, inevitably there will be progression. And new treatments, new progression, new treatments, and so on. But the best scenario would be years and years between progression, or even better, regression!!!!! I'll let you look up the definition of that one for yourselves! But still, the reality is that eventually metastatic breast cancer will reappear and progress. That is the truth about living with the disease.
Treatment for metastatic breast cancer is targeted. Meaning, instead of taking hard core chemo that will cause all kinds of hellish symptoms, I am taking medications with the least troublesome side effects. To keep me healthy of course, but to allow me to live life and thoroughly enjoy it rather than be in bed too sick to move. The good news is: I have no symptoms from these liver mets. Hooray! No pain, no changes in my blood workups. All of that is very, very good. I have switched to a new medication (Xeloda aka Capecitabine for those inquiring minds)...and thankfully the side effects so far are minimal. Granted, I'm only on day 4 of the medication, but so far, so good. There is no reason to expect anything different.
So now, I want to straight up answer some questions that I'm sure many of you may be asking:
1. Am I dying? Emphatically, NO!!!!
2. Am I horribly ill? No, again. My chronic constipation is more of a problem for me than cancer at this point. Not. Joking.
3. Do I need any help? I mean, I have boxes of crap in my basement that need to be taken to Goodwill or the dump, but that's not because of cancer...that's because of hoarding, laziness, and avoidance. Many people who know me have suggested many times that I could probably benefit from some time with a mental health professional. They usually just say, "You're crazy!!!" But again, not cancer related. That's 100% distilled Alane at work right there.
4. What do you need to do to beat this? Nothing. I will never beat it. But I am sure as hell not going anywhere, and I am going to give cancer such a ride it will wish it had picked on someone else. For shizzle.
5. How are you doing? Taking it one day at a time, baby. I'm not going to lie...I'm angry, I'm sad, I'm depressed, I'm scared, etc. But thankfully I just let myself cry it out for a few minutes and then I get back to LIVING MY LIFE. I have a dog and cats to feed, a house to clean, quilts to make, and FUN to be had!
6. What can we do for you? Laugh. Smile. Be nice to each other. Vote democrat... the more liberal, the better.
But seriously, If I could have one wish (other than to not have had cancer in the first place) it would be kind. Slow down. Be kind. Be kind to yourself and to those you meet. Love deeply. It's the only thing worth doing. And finally, never, ever give up on your dreams. Be who you are, live your dreams, dive deeply into love where you can get it, hold on tightly to it, and laugh as much as possible. I assume you are here reading this because you are someone I love, a dear friend, someone who cares, or maybe someone who is in the same boat. Whatever the reason, life has brought us together because we click. You get me in all my "Live Out Loud" weirdness and I am pretty sure I see something weird, unique, and wonderful in you, too. So if I may add another small wish...please don't let this change anything. I'm still as ribald and inappropriate as ever. Don't baby me. Don't feel sorry for me. Those are wasted emotions. Make me laugh. Make me smile. Or just send me a goofy message. I appreciate every one of you in my clown posse. More than I could ever say. Let's have fun and tear the hell out of this joint while we're in it. Life really is all about the good stuff. With that, here are some funny and adorable photos for you to enjoy!

Monday, February 26, 2018

QuiltCon 2018 and Some Inspiration

I am so exhausted, overwhelmed, and inspired by everything I saw on my trip to Pasadena for the Modern Quilt Guild’s big show and conference, QuiltCon!  I arrived home late last night and I am hanging on by barely a thread, but I couldn’t wait to share at least a little of the excitement!

My jaw actually dropped and hit the floor when I saw that  the QuiltCon volunteers had hung my guild’s Charity Quilt entry, Lake Superior Sunrise, in a beautiful location with lots of light. It was right in front of the entry! I can’t describe how exciting and fulfilling it was to see the quilt that all my friends worked so hard on get such prominent placement. If you’re on social media you might have seen a lot of it because it was serving as a backdrop for many people’s photos! I am still so touched by all of the kind comments and words of support I received from so many people. 

The next pic is of me!! I'm showing off my awesome range backpack from Noodlehead designs and createwd for me by my dear friend Susan!

Of course a great deal of the appeal of the Quilt was the gorgeous fabrics by Alison Glass that we used to create it. It is largely made with her Chroma line of fabrics, with some sprinkling of her Sunprint lines as well as Insignia. The deeply saturated colors of her fabric were just perfect for this quilt! I would be remiss if I did not thank Janet Anelli, owner of Hannah Johnson Fabrics, for her generous donation. We couldn't have done it without you, Janet!!!

I am also indebted to my guild mates who constructed the foundation pieced blocks, our guild President Ruthann Grace @dlthgrl who made a fantastic scrap pieced binding and Scott Lunt @starfireduluth for quilting it with the perfect ruler work pattern. It was a real community project and many people said they could feel the spirit when they looked at it. Isn’t that awesome?

I also am grateful to Karen McTavish at McTavish Quilting Studio for her donation of batting and thread as well as quilting and general motivational support. You truly ROCK, Karen!

In my last post I announced that I am selling the pattern as a digital download. I got to hand out a lot of buttons and business cards and talk to people when I wasn’t shopping, staring in awe, or taking a class. I am excited to say that I sold quite a few patterns!!!

I need to thank my dear friends who served as my pattern testers. Their help was invaluable and their work was amazing! Here are some screenshots of their work on Instagram. If you’re on there, follow these peeps! Their work is amazing!!!!

This first one was created by Melissa @mtweedel. She really played with the layout of the blocks! Just look at the other options she had!

How fun and inspiring are all those layouts?

The one above was made by Susan @sushi.farmer.  She made a glorious mini sunset by shrinking the pattern by 50% when she printed it.  She ended up with an 18 x 18” mini that I am totally in love with. Just look at those gorgeous colors!!!

This last one was made by Stephanie @sewbespokeandco She was a real overachiever and not only shrank the four outer blocks but the two center blocks are even tinier!!!! Her color placement and block arrangement is so unique and awesome! She managed to make a Supernova!!!! 

Honestly it is SO much fun to see what everyone else comes up with. The creativity does NOT end at my pattern. This exactly what I was trying to create. A pattern that was adaptable and allowed each creator to let loose and make what is in their heart! These three definitely did that and more!

So please, if you buy the pattern or have already purchased it, please use the hashtag #lakesuperiorsunrise so I can see what amazing thing you come up with!!! Or post on Wild Onion Studio on Facebook!!!!

Have fun sewing the sunrise!!!!


Tuesday, February 20, 2018

So what have I been up to?

Pattern making, pattern testing, learning software programs for said pattern making, pattern publishing, researching platforms for selling said pattern, making sure things are hunky-dorey with the state tax authorities (goodness I hope I got it right...don't panic, don't panic!!!!!!!), building a shiny and exciting (okay I picked the simplest template out there) Shopify site, fine tuning it, fine tuning it some more, fine tuning it until I can't tell if I'm making it better or worse, refreshing this here blog (well, okay...I made a new banner with photos...big deal), and getting ready to announce it to the WORLD!!!!!!

So here it Lake Superior Sunrise Quilt Pattern is now available as a digital download. My baby is all ready to head out into the world! You can buy it on my new Shopify storefront , OR you can click on that neato shopping button right up there on the top right! Crazy, right? I am donating $1 from the price of every pattern purchased to my local guild, the Lake Superior Modern Quilt Guild because they have been such a huge support to me this year. I have thoroughly enjoyed their creative inspiration and their friendship. Plus, many members helped create sew the Lake Superior Sunrise Quilt. I owe them so much! And I really hope I sell enough patterns to keep their programs going for a long time! If you are on Instagram, be sure and check out the hashtag #lakesuperiorsunrise to keep up with what my amazing pattern testers have done with the block. They are amazing!!!!

Other than all of that, I have been doing a bit of sewing, of course!

I finished sending off my wonky stars for the swap I participated in on Instagram. It was a blast and SUCH a fun block to let go and have fun with! I will need to do a little post about my approach to making them...I like them REALLY wonky! I still have a few more to make, so a tutorial should be very easy. Stay tuned!

These guys aren't really that wonky but I adored fussy cutting the dog fabric!

Speaking of sew-a-longs, I am also sewing houses for the #sewingavillage Sew-a-Long that is being hosted by Stitch Supply Co. All the details as well as the pattern and a really great downloadable progress tracker can be found at this link. Seriously, this is so much FUN! All you need is the pattern, some charm packs or a bunch of your favorite fabrics! I am working really hard to sew my stash right now, so I am making all of my houses with Cotton and Steel fabrics, the roofs are using Gingiber's Thicket and Catnip collections for Moda, and for the background I am using Kona Cotton in Wasabi. I just love how sunny it is!

You should definitely check out the Sew-A-Long...Stitch Supply Co. even has a little template available so you can fussy cut each one of your doors. How fun is that?

Speaking of fun, I am headed to Pasadena tomorrow to attend the Modern Quilt Guild's big show, QuiltCon! I will be taking classes, viewing all of the amazing quilts, and of course shopping! If you are going, please say "hi"! I would love to make more quilt loving friends. Plus, I have buttons to give away!

I'm sure I will have lots of stuff to post about! I may faint from all the excitement :) Stay tuned!


Thursday, February 1, 2018

Celebrating the Bitter and the Sweet

Beauty is Everywhere
Well, hello there!

Yes, it's been a while. Yes, I know I've let the cobwebs collect on this blog...again! But despite all of that, I thought I'd pop in and say that yes, I'm still here! Yes, it's been over a year since my diagnosis of Metastatic Breast Cancer. Yes, it's been months since my Spinal Fusion Surgery. But I'm back. I'm here. And I have plenty to celebrate.

Granted I have had quite a long, painful recovery from my surgery. It wasn't the quick fix I was hoping for. Instead it actually made the nerve pain far, far worse. And I have slowly crawled out of that deep hole of chronic pain. My sincerest sympathies are for those who live with unrelenting chronic pain. It is a nightmare. I have never dealt with anything worse. (And if you know me that is saying something!) Honestly, many times I begged to just be able to focus on having Stage IV cancer rather than the pain!

Now I am happy to report that although the nerve pain is not completely gone, I have been able to manage it with ibuprofen and neurontin. I have even been able to start exercising. Of course, this fires up the nerve pain a bit, but it is worth it to try to regain some strength and balance after a year of suffering. I'm still on lifting restrictions (which will probably be for the rest of my life) but I'm doing as much as I can and being careful. (Yes, you read that right...ME! Careful! It's 100% true!) I've turned a corner and I couldn't be happier!

As far as life in CancerLand goes, I am doing quite well. I have been on the same treatment for 13 cycles and everything is going great. The chemo makes me tired, especially at the end of the cycle since it's wiping out my white cells faster than you can say "whoops, there gone!" but so far I've done really well. I had a cold that took a long time to fight off, but despite my compromised immune system I have stayed healthy. I've gotten fat thanks to the treatment and my inactivity (whee....) but I'm not complaining...the treatment has very little side effects and it's working. So far the CT scans I get every 3 months have been showing either regression in the tumors in my lung or stability, meaning nothing is growing. And I get PET scans to make sure nothing is growing elsewhere too. So, YAY ME! Actually, YAY SCIENCE!!!! YAY BIG PHARMA!!! YAY RESEARCH!!!! YAY MODERN MEDICINE!!!! ( Just as an aside, here's a fun fact: my one chemo med costs $2,000 a month. Can you imagine? That means to date my bill for just one pill has been $26,000!!!) So YAY INSURANCE too!!!!!

Not only have I been recovering and fighting cancer but I've been doing some LIVING!!! Mostly, I have been doing A LOT of creating. Those of you who follow me on social media may have blocked me by now due to all of the pictures of quilts, and I am sorry. But I am so in touch with my creative side, more than I have ever been. And it is now my LIFE. I don't know what I would do without the ability to express myself, the need to express myself. And the ideas just keep coming.

QuiltCon Charity Quilt Color Palette

I am working on SO many things, but what I really love is creating my own designs. I am deep in the thicket of creating a pattern for sale. It is of a quilt I designed as our Guild's entry into the national Modern Quilt Guild's Show as part of the exhibit of Charity Quilts. We were given a color palette to stick to, a size, and the theme "Modern Traditionalism". I am so grateful that when I expressed interest, the wonderful leaders of my local guild let go of the reins. I designed the quilt Lake Superior Sunrise. I was inspired by the challenge colors which immediately evoked a sunrise in me. I chose the concept of Crazy Quilts to meet the Modern Traditional requirement, and it all blossomed. I am so proud of the work everyone in the Lake Superior Modern Quilt Guild did. From cutting all the fabrics, piecing the blocks, quilting the finished top, and creating a stunning binding. But most of all I am so proud and grateful that they trusted me and my vision. That is an incredible gift. I will write a whole post on the process of making this quilt, I promise!

I have never belonged to a guild before. I have not had any friends who like to quilt (except one or two that I taught for a short while). I started quilting when I was 15 years old. And even though there have been hiatuses, I have never really stopped. Joining this guild has been so wonderful. Meeting and getting to know others who share my interest and passion has been exhilarating.

The same goes for the Instagram quilting community. For me, it is a daily source of inspiration, support, and creative drive that I never imagined possible from a social media platform. I have made friends with people all over the world, and I can truly say they are friends...some of them now some of my closest friends. They have supported me, encouraged me, and laughed with me. What a gift!

In truth, this has been a ridiculously difficult year. It has been a shitty year. But it's also been fantastic! Life works that way, I guess, and in particular, my life. But I do make the most of it. I celebrate it all: the bitter and the sweet. Of course, I would rather have way more sweetness....we'll see what 2018 has in store.

Until next time, enjoy life. ENJOY LIFE!!!!! Love yourself, and embrace the full catastrophe :)


Lake Superior Sunrise

Evidence of a Life