Monday 27 December 2010

Just call me Auntie (social)

Ah the Festive Season...  One time of the year my Narcolepsy doesn't stand out quite so much as everyone over 25 feels knackered and falls asleep in front of the telly after eating!  Just maybe not quite so often as I do... And most people probably manage to leave the dinner table first..
Apologies for not blogging last week, I was way too tired, I tried a few times but just kept on falling asleep in front of the laptop.  Always interesting when I wake up and check web history...  When the hell did I look at penis enlargement?  Lesson, don't try to check your junk box on email when you are sleepy...  Not always bad though, managed to click my way into entering a competition last summer, and I won!  That is to say I got an email saying I'd won something and I had to do a bit of research and history checking, and found I had indeed entered a competition in my sleep.  Now my man is constantly reminding me to go to national lottery page whenever I feel sleepy...

Anyway...  Just as a wee catch up here are the last of the pressies I got done before Christmas day.

Cushion covers - my first go at machine embroidery...  Great fun! 

Cushion covers part two

Another pleaty bag, this time with pocket and keys clip.

I also managed two purses and a notebook cover, but, dopey mare, forgot to take photos before packaging them up for posting...

At the moment I'm way too tired to even go into the sewing cupboard, so I'm just day dreaming about all the gorgeous fabric I have, all the gorgeous fabric I want, and all the gorgeous things I could attempt to replicate soon...  No particular project in mind to do first, though my handmade Christmas recipients have all insisted I do something just for me first!  Which would be kinda nice.  In the meantime I just have to ride out this tiredness which seems to be coming in big waves every half an hour or so...  One minute I'm thinking I'll go and do something, and I don't even get as far as standing up before all the energy has evaporated out of my arms and legs.  And by the time I get over it, it will be New Year... 

I have to admit, I don't like New Year.  Everything about it makes me feel so, I don't know, inadequate.  I cant do "going out".  I get invitations, and I feel horrible turning them down.  But I am just not up to it - I cant stay awake for hours, meeting and talking to people is exhausting, and of course I'm terribly shy so even without the Narcolepsy meeting and talking to people freaks me out.  So add on the Narcolepsy and the fact that stress and worry makes it worse...  Then the paranoia creeps in - I get tired very suddenly and that often comes across to a stranger as disinterest or boredom or rudeness.  I've been told before that I can come across as stuck up.  Knowing this doesn't help!  On the rare occasions I'm actually managing to talk to people I can zone out for a few seconds, which doesn't sound bad but it means I miss a few seconds of conversation, so I'm quietly struggling to follow whats being said.  Again, this looks like I'm bored and not paying attention... 
And as if all this wasn't crappy enough, I have cataplexy in the back of my mind.  When it actually happens I'm usually okay with it and don't care too much what observers may think.  For instance my mans dad told me something last week and it was so funny I collapsed in a heap on the floor of the local mini-market!  He picked me up, I started laughing again and fell over.  He picked me up and held on to me til I stopped laughing.  I don't know exactly how many people saw it, and I didn't stop to look round.  I didn't care really, it didn't bother me.  But being in a social situation where people are all having a good time it hangs in the back of my mind and I cant relax and enjoy myself because I don't want it to happen. 

Then there's the drinking.  I'm turning into such an old fart its unbelievable!  I don't have anything against drinking.  I'm not tee-total.  But as much as I cant stand being the only one not drinking, I know that there's a 60% chance a drink will completely knock me out asleep, and lately a 30% chance that a drink will give me a hangover within 30 mins of consumption (weird I know, but seems to happen a fair bit) so I don't want to risk drinking when I'm not at home. 
So.  Rather than being the sour faced cow in the corner wishing she was elsewhere, I'm staying at home.  Me and Ellie cat will be sitting by the fire toasting a happy new year to one and all, hope you all have a great night!

P.S.  I think I've managed to put 3 slide shows of this years sewing cupboard makes on my blog, have a nosey if you like!

Monday 13 December 2010

Frank Lee Bag

Another present done!  Fortunately this one was quick and easy thanks to a lovely pattern & tutorial from Lisa Lam  my favourite bag designer. 

One evening spent cutting and folding fabric

One evening spent assembling bag and sewing on handles.

One rather nice, if I do say so myself, tote bag. 

I do love the fabric though, Gone with the Wind from Fabric Angels

Its been so nice to do a wee project again, just taking my time and not worrying too much about deadlines!  Last week was tough, every aspect of Narcolepsy in just a few days...  Constantly dozing off, sleep paralysis (that's when you know you are actually awake and you can hear everything, but your brain has paralysed your body thinking you were asleep, really nasty) hallucinations (fire seems to be a favourite of my subconscious, woke up and saw flames leaping up the walls in front of me)  cataplexy (sudden loss of muscle control usually brought on by rapid change in emotions - my fault, I watched the first few episodes of Miranda on i-player)  to name but a few... 

I've got a few more wee things to do for postage on Friday, but I might not blog them cos I'm keeping them a surprise... 

Saturday 11 December 2010

Deadlinezzz zzzzzzzzzz.... zzzzzzzz.....

Four days to make a lap quilt for my brother and sister-in-law...  What a disaster!  Narcolepsy and deadlines DON'T mix. 

I thought I was well prepared having picked a lovely quilt pattern and cut up all my fabric accordingly.

I got off to a great start and put all the blocks together. If only I hadn't been so set on making a deadline i might have noticed before I'd actually sewn together every single block, but things did not look good!  The overall look wasn't Beatles/peace/psychedelia it was more like a full volume bad trip! 

The fabrics I'd chosen were all great, and they had their common theme like i wanted.  But they didn't go together tonally at all.  I'd like to think I knew that at the beginning but i think I was just so hooked on the theme I wanted that I hadn't really thought it all out enough.  Monkey and Rocket boy were two piles of fabric in my stash that I spent months and months waiting for the right fabric to tie in with them.  Ahhh the blissful hours trawling fabric shops online...  I'd also spent months going through quilt patterns looking for something that I could picture with them. 
Not that I just threw this one together or anything, I had been planning the theme and choosing fabrics for it since October.   But still, more time would have helped me see things a bit better.

I loved the plain patches, a 4" patterned square framed in 2" white border.  So, with 3 days to go I decided to unpick all the four square patches and replace the fussy wee squares with a plain white square.  However after such a productive day on Monday, I was pretty wiped out on Tuesday.  I guessed the unpicking would take a couple of hours, but what with falling asleep every hour or so it ended up being 10 am to 4 pm.  Fortunately I had a really good nap at the end of it, and was able to put in 2 hours in the evening doing the patches with the white squares. 

Wednesday was such a totally crap day for many reasons I wont bore you with. However, after many naps I eventually had a nap that actually felt like it did some good so I went back to the quilt.  I put the top together in no time at all.  At this point I realised that in using white squares I'd basically "disappeared" the entire quilt pattern...  Doh!  Well, I had one evening and one whole day left.  I decided then and there that how ever imperfect I felt the quilt had become, it didn't look bad, and I wanted to give my brother and sister-in-law a handmade present so much.  So, a few coffees and some of my medication and I got 70% of the quilting done. 

A word about the "medication".  Does it help?  50% of the time it helps me concentrate better, but it doesn't stop me falling asleep or feeling tired, and 50% of the time it does no good at all.  100% of the time it leaves me extremely tense, and the following day (or days) I'm worse than ever.  Needless to say I only take it once in a blue moon.  But I am allowed to keep some to take when I feel it is necessary.  Its basically an amphetamine that a normal person would take a version of (illegally) to be super hyped up and out of their box.  Even at the highest dose it still barely has an effect on me!!  And like all the medications available for Narcolepsy, it doesn't cure it, it doesn't stop it, it simply masks some of it a little, and delays it for a little while...  Which is why on a normal day to day basis there is no medication that works for me.  All Narcoleptics are different though, and for some it helps a great deal.  Just not for me... 

A word about the quilting...  I picked some super soft cuddly fleece for the back.  This is a lap quilt for two to snuggle up together under and watch movies!  I'd never used fleece before so I had done a couple of wee 6" trials, one with batting, one without.  I preferred the one with.  Quilting the trial piece had been a dream, it slipped through the machine no problems, and it stayed in position with very little basting.  Sodding typical that the actual quilt was another story all together!  Oh man it was a nightmare.  It slipped, it stuck, it wouldn't go through the machine one minute and flew through the next, and it puckered, badly...  The one thing fluffy fleece had going for it was that the puckers aren't as noticeable as on cotton, and the stitching on the back is relatively hidden.  With one day left it was a case of "I've started so I'll finish"...

Thursday was fun.  Okay, so that's a bit of a fib.  I finished the quilting and made the binding all by 3pm with naps,  so I was pretty pleased with myself.  All I had to do was stitch the binding, but the fact that I couldn't stay awake for more than an hour really really took its toll.  You see when I'm having a bad day, its one thing doing a task that involves lots of little different jobs, but when it comes to doing one thing for ages its nigh on impossible.  Though on a good day a big job is a pleasure and lots of little different jobs exhausts me!

I got it finished eventually, but I wont tell you what time in the morning it was... 

Overall quilt pattern, where are you?!

So.  Its done.  Its wrapped up and posted in time, but with a little note promising them another, better, puck-up free quilt at a later date next year, but with NO DEADLINES!!!

Monday 6 December 2010

Holy Moley!

So my man took me to the post office on Friday and we got Monkey Quilt safely off to its destination, but whilst we were out I received some awful news...  Postage deadline for Rocket Boy is on Monday morning, and if that wasn't bad enough, postage deadline for Beatles/Peace/psychedelia as yet un-named quilt is Friday morning.  FRIDAY MORNING.  Bugger.  Can I get Rocket Boy done in a weekend?  Can I get as-yet-un-named done in FOUR DAYS? 
Well, as I've said before, my mantra is "sod it, I'll give it a go"...
However as I've also said before, I'm crap and crash after doing anything.  The trip to the post office and to Tescos (other supermarkets are available.. well actually there's only one other supermarket available up here..)  was enough to wipe me out for the rest of Friday. 

Thankfully I had gotten Rocket Boy basted on Wednesday - nightmare triangles strike again.  What is my problem with a seemly harmless shape?  I explained to my man, "if you had a grid made of metal and you cut it across the diagonal what happens to the grid of metal?"  You've weakened the structure.  "So when you then try to use the grid and put pressure on the edges what happens?"  Well its weakened so it will move and wont be as stable.  Ohhhh...    Yup.  Triangles stretch all over the shop.  Basting wasn't easy.  Normally I pull everything tight to try and make sure all the layers are flat and there wont be any shifting about whilst I man-handle the whole bundle time and time again through a tiny gap in the sewing machine...  This time I had to be super careful not to pull it tight or the whole kit and caboodle would distort. 

On Thursday I did the quilting.  Amazingly, joyously, the whole thing quilted with no puck-ups at all!  I couldn't believe it!  I stuck to nice and simple straight lines going across the opposite diagonal to the bulk of the triangles.  I was going to do a lot more of them, but I decided that if I made the gaps between the lines any smaller I would seriously risk pushing my luck with the no puck-ups status.  So, I did a few lines in the ditches.  Which wasn't necessarily the brightest of ideas as it really brought home just how mis-matched my triangles had turned out...  But I'd started so I finished... 

I'd decided that I'd follow peoples advice and try using different coloured threads, top to match top, bobbin to match backing.  I think that perhaps others had advised never using different coloured threads as you could end up with the wrong colour showing up on the wrong side.  Which I did.  I tried adjusting the machine tension, but no matter what setting I used the top thread always poked through to the back.  Maybe if I was a skilled seamstress and experienced quilter who knew what they were doing that might not have been acceptable.  But I'm neither and you know what?  I kind of like it!

I left the embroidered square free of quilting.  Does anyone quilt over embroidery?  I've not seen it done...  So I didn't.  Looking at it now I wish I had stuffed the square with a lot more, it seems a bit bare to me. 

After being utterly useless the rest of Friday and Saturday morning, I finally felt awake enough to get on with things.  The binding went swimmingly.  Sorry mum, I know you don't like gingham, but I think it adds to the retro theme!  I can hardly believe it myself, but I actually managed to do the binding all in one go.  Machine stitched onto front, hand stitched onto back.  My hand stitching averaged out at 55 mins a side...  Which seems like forever written out like that, but I had crappy Christmas films on the box and my lovely auntie for company and fetching me cups of tea, so it honestly flew by. 

Woohoo!  One down, one to go.  In four days.  Aaaaaaaarrrrrgh!!!!!

Wednesday 1 December 2010

It's alive!

I've had a few good days in a row, and I've got a lot done for a change!  My man agreed to swap our meals over in the hope that I might get a bit more awake time and it seems to be paying off.  Normally I'd be useless all morning, have lunch and sleep for an hour or so after eating, then have an hour or so before I needed to think about what to make for tea, cook and eat tea, be utterly useless or fast asleep for another hour or more after eating, maybe have a couple of hours before bedtime.  Now we've swapped lunch for tea.  Now I'm still pretty useless all morning, but I am managing to have the main meal of the day ready by 2pm, so by 4pm I'm set for doing some sewing.  What's more, with the main meal so early neither of us are all that hungry at tea time so I'm not having to make anything else!  Also, Gran Turismo 5 was finally released so my man is now only too happy 

for me to bugger off and amuse myself elsewhere.  Its all working out pretty good for squeezing in more sewing time! 

Unfortunately I've also had almost a weeks worth of really crappy nights...  Productive days and crappy nights always equals CRASH... 

It hasny happened yet, but its in the post. 

Ah the joys of Narcolepsy...  Its not just "that thing where you fall asleep a lot", the kick in the teeth is that we cant bloody stay asleep!  When I try to explain it to people they often sympathise and well meaningly tell me about the last time they weren't sleeping all that well at night.  So as not to sound like a complete cow I bite my tongue and am as nice as possible, but evil me is saying "you WUSS, I haven't slept through the night in 20 years!"   I honestly no longer have any memory of what it felt like to wake up in the morning and NOT feel exhausted.    

A-n-y-w-a-y...  I have got a lot done so when the CRASH comes I wont feel too bad about it.  I quilted Monkey Quilt! 

Okay so I chickened out of free motion quilting, but I can try that out later when I'm not in a rush to get things done. 

Also probably should have thought things through a bit better.  I thought I was being really clever changing the white back for a darker more forgiving green back since it will probably be used as a play mat.  But I forgot this would also highlight my dodgy stitches... 

Still, only one pucker (I'm christening them "puck-up"s) and one annoying little bottom thread knot.  Not bad for me! 

I love my teeny tiny iron...

I got the binding cut, sewn and folded in one day.
I got the binding hand stitched in two evenings in front of some rubbish telly.  And job done, Monkey Quilt ready to go!

I also got Rocket Boy embroidered and basted.  (Did I mention how much I hate triangles?) 

I'm dreading quilting it, I anticipate quite a few puck-ups...

And, AND I got all the pieces cut for the third and final Christmas present quilt! 

Haven't thought of a name for it yet. 

Its a Beatles/60's/Peace/psychedelia theme...  Its a lap quilt just big enough for two to snuggle under watching telly. 
I should probably take a day off sewing to do some housework.  Ellie cat spewed up thread this morning, and my man has now worn everything in his wardrobe as the ironing pile is only a foot off reaching the ceiling... 

Thursday 25 November 2010

Rocket boy, or how I learned to loathe triangles...

Pob Doll was posted at the weekend, and I hate to say it but I almost shed a tear.  Well, it was meant to be a representation of my brother after all, and he only emigrated in March...  And I do miss him a lot.  

In the mean time I've been busy piecing together the second of the mini quilts I'm making for Christmas.  Okay so I haven't actually quilted the first one, Monkey Quilt, yet but I did get round to basting it today...  With a little help from my man pulling it taut for me.  I tried out the basting spray, which I'm not at all convinced with so I tried out the basting gun as well!  (almost half price on Cotton Patch right now, I couldn't resist..)  I'll see how it all pans out tomorrow when I finally get round to some machine quilting. 

Anyway. Rocket Boy Quilt.  I used a layout of HST (half square triangles), lots of big triangles to make the most of the fabby retro rocket boy fabric (Michael Miller fabric, which I love...).  In amongst these I'm putting a few triangles made of smaller triangles, using some stars fabric, and a little of Michael Miller "Dick & Jane" fabric range.  Its my first time doing triangles, all my previous attempts at quilting have been square based.  Time to be a bit more adventurous...

The large triangles went swimmingly well, got them all done in one evening.  The smaller triangles however... 
I spent an evening cutting out all the smallest triangles I needed.  Then pieced the first group.

Waaaaaaaay to small.  Sod it.  There must be a formula for working with triangles that I don't know about.  It clearly isn't the same as squares...  Of course when I saw it all together I realised that of course I'd cut them far too small, and of course you would lose a lot more fabric in the seams than with squares.  But I clearly didn't put enough thought into it before cutting.  Oh well.  Mistake made, lesson learned.

Or so I thought.  Either my narcolepsy was kicking in and my concentration and short term memory were shot, or I was just particularly stupid, but I did exactly the same thing the following evening.   I think it was narcolepsy...  Not that I don't think I'm capable of utter stupidity.  But that particular days sewing had started with me sitting down at the machine and waking up face down on the table 20 minutes later.  Then doing it again.  This time with drool.  So, might not really have been in the right frame of mind to cut more triangles.  
After a day off spent sleeping every time I sat down, I went back to it and finally got it right. 

Et voila.  Rocket Boy Quilt top 99% done.

CONFESSION:  I did not come up with this design off the top of my head, it was inspired by (or copied from, but not intentionally) a beautiful quilt by a wonderful quilt designer Red Pepper Quilts .   I hope I dont get into trouble as I really did think I'd thought of it but I was browsing Red Pepper Quilts the other night and I saw her "urban circus" quilt and thought..."bugger. might have known it was something I'd seen before, it was way too cool for me..."  However its not for sale its a gift, and I promise I wont do it again...
Actually I should also point out that Monkey Quilt is based on Red Pepper Quilts "bricks and stones" but I did pay for that pattern!

The 99% is due to this little square which I'm going to embroider.

I also set up another project for doing in front of the telly...  From denim mini (no not mine, my ass hasn't been that small in decades) to shoulder bag.  With a bit of embroidery on it of course. 

Here's one I made earlier...