I Don't Like the Math, But...

Margaret has been very faithful about sending me cards and notes. Yesterday's note reminded me that it takes one week of recuperation for every day of being in the hospital. I don't like the math, but one does not get to be Margaret's age without acquiring a certain amount of wisdom. I know she's right. I will try not to push it. 

And there is progress. We have a friend on the fire department who is a CNA whom the husband has hired to come and be with me during the day while he works and even she said I looked better yesterday than Friday. Neighbors have provided plenty of nourshing food. 

The girls are coming home this weekend for a visit. Things are as normal as they can be at the moment. Typing is still hard, but I work at it.


Searching for My Superpowers...

This is just a quick blog post to let you all know that two weeks ago, I ended up in the ICU on ventilator due to complications from the flu. The husband has promised to fill in some details—I was sedated for much of that first week. I had a lovely ICU nurse, though, who warned me that some of this recovery is akin to PTSD, and she was right. I can't even type well right now (let's not even talk about playing the piano). 

I am forcing myself to do a bit each day, though. I won't get better if I don't try. Posts may be fewer and further between, but I will try to get back to a regular schedule. 


Plague House

You haven't heard from me for the past several days because I was down with the flu. It started Saturday night. I felt perfectly fine all day, cooked a big dinner, but then, when I went up to work on the messenger bag, I just could not get things to make sense. I cut lining pieces the wrong size (several times), the fusible fleece wouldn't stick, etc. And then I started to get chills and a fever so I called it a night and went to bed.

By Sunday morning, I had it all: headache, fever, chills, muscle aches, cough. I didn't feel bad enough to stay in bed. (I very rarely am sick enough to stay in bed; the last time was due to a bout of really awful food poisoning.) I parked myself on the couch and spent the day watching sewing videos on YouTube.

Not surprisingly—because we live together and share all our germs—the husband was also sick when he woke up Monday morning. We spent the next three days hunkered down here, tag-teaming nursing duties. He slept in his recliner while I crashed on the couch. We watched YouTube videos and the Olympics. The dogs were thrilled. Three days of the whole pack sleeping together in the living room was more than they could have asked for. 

My supervisor was very good about making me take the time off. I know they have backup transcriptionists for just these situations, but I still felt bad about taking three days off. She told me not to worry, that I needed to rest. 

And now, because I know someone is going to ask or comment: No, we did not get flu shots. This is only the third time in the past 20 years that I have had the flu. I am not anti-vaccine by any stretch of the imagination, but I've also reached the point in my life where I have had enough interactions with the medical system—some of which clearly violated the "do no harm" rule—that I am way beyond just blindly following every recommendation that comes down the pike. I work from home and my interactions with people are pretty minimal (which may account for the fact that I have only had the flu three times in 20 years). If this year's shot had been more effective that it was reported to be, I might have gone ahead and gotten one. 

And no, we did not get tested to make sure it was the flu. You have to understand that we live 17 miles from town. That's a half-hour car trip in the summer when the roads are clear. In the winter, it takes a lot longer. We also had a big windstorm up here on Sunday. The thought of two sick people driving themselves to town just to have someone tell us what we already knew was not appealing. 

Same thing with Tamiflu. If I didn't think that the process of getting Tamiflu would take upwards of several hours—and with both of us sick by then—we might have tried to get ourselves some. Honestly, though, we both just wanted to sleep and rest. 

And we managed. Ali checked to see if we needed anything from the grocery store. Anna brought us OJ and french toast casserole and candied bacon. My mother called several times to check on us. 

We are still moving a bit slowly. I may not work a full day today, but I'll work some. It's going to be a few days before we're back to firing on all cylinders, though. 


Baby Blankets and Messenger Bags

Teri asked about the minky/flannel baby blankets. I am not sure I ever did a blog post on them, and even if I did, it has been a while, so I'll give the details again.

Google "mitered baby blankets" or "self-binding baby blankets" and you'll be rewarded with links to all sorts of tutorials and instructions on the net. (Missouri Star Quilt Company has a great YouTube video.) I actually used a pattern purchased at my quilt store, which was helpful because it had all sorts of lovely diagrams and extra hints and tips. You can make a very simple receiving blanket out of two pieces of flannel, which is a good place to start if you've never done one before or you've never worked with minky before. 

The instructions are pretty basic (sorry I don't have any pretty pictures):

  1. Cut a square of material for the front of the blanket. 
  2. Cut a second square of material for the back/binding of the blanket, making it 3" larger on each side. This will give you approximately a 1-1/2" wide binding on the front. 
  3. Pin the two pieces together with wrong sides facing. Here's the kicker: The sides of the squares are different lengths, so you will pin the front to the back starting 3" from the side of the back piece and end your pinning 3" from the opposite side. A lot of instructions will have you start pinning in the middle, working your way out to each side, but I found that this resulted in problems when mitering the corners. It's much more accurate to pin making sure you start exactly 3" from each side of the larger piece of fabric. You can ease any difference in while sewing the seam. (You did square your fabric by measuring the diagonals, didn't you?) 
  4. Sew with a quarter-inch seam starting a quarter of an inch from the beginning and ending a quarter of an inch from the end. Make sure you leave that quarter of an inch at the beginning and end. 
  5. Repeat for sides 2 and 3. The blanket is going to start looking pretty funny with some rabbit ears sticking out at each side. 
  6. On the fourth side, leave a 6" opening for turning. Don't turn yet. 
  7. You'll probably want to find a picture for this next part unless you have mad spatial skills and no trouble visualizing what is happening. You want to pinch one corner so that the rabbit ears make a triangle with a fold at the bottom. You should be able to see where your side seam started. You want to sew from the top edge down to the folded edge, and you want to sew such that this new seam is perpendicular to and right next to the side seam. This creates the miter on this corner. 
  8. Trim the excess, leaving a quarter-inch seam allowance.  (I always like to turn that corner out, first, and check to make sure I did it correctly before I trim.)
  9. Repeat for all four corners. Turn inside out. 

Adjust the binding so that it is even on all four sides and pin or clip in place. Use a zig-zag stitch to topstitch the seam where the binding meets the front fabric. This secures it in place. It should look something like this:

This is one project where I prefer to use my Janome 6600P over my vintage machines. Minky can be tricky to sew. It's technically a knit fabric. You're sewing a knit to a woven, so what is the appropriate needle? I've tried both microtex and ball point. I split the difference with a universal needle, which is blunter than a microtex but sharper than a ball point. I sew with the flannel next to the feed dogs; the minky tends to get hung up otherwise. I also use the Accu-Feed (walking) foot on this machine to make sure those layers stay together. When I topstitch, I use a stretch zig-zag (the minky will have to be against the feed dogs at that point, but it's okay.) 

The two pieces of fabric don't have to be squares—I have done this with rectangles, too, especially when I find minky remnants at Jo-Anns. Just make sure that the minky piece is larger than the flannel piece by 3" on each side. 

These seem to be well-received as baby gifts. I made one for our minister's daughter when she had her first baby about four years ago. She and her husband recently had their second girl, and posted a picture on Facebook with her wrapped in the same blanket I had made for her sister. They are soft and cuddly and easy to wash. (I always pre-wash all my fabrics, too, to account for any shrinkage.) 

And finally, when you are all done, CLEAN YOUR MACHINE. You would not believe the amount of lint that these fabrics produce. 


The messenger bag exterior pieces are cut out and labelled:

I think it's a good thing that I spend so much time reading over and familiarizing myself with a pattern before I make the first cut of fabric. I was reading this pattern and noticed that the instructions called for 1-1/2 yards of 60" fabric. That seemed like an awful lot to me. I buy my waxed canvas in one-yard cuts and didn't want to have to buy another piece, so I got out the calculator and started adding up measurements. I said to the husband that I was pretty sure a yard and a half was a gross overestimation of the amount of fabric required. By my calculations, I should have been able to cut this out from about 3/4 of a yard of fabric. Half of the pieces were cut using measurements ("cut a piece 8" x 17" for the front, etc.) and the other half were cut using templates. I wasn't overly picky about lining the template pieces up on the grainline; I don't think it matters that much in waxed canvas and I have never seen grainline markings on pattern pieces in other bags calling for waxed canvas. (Obviously, I didn't cut them on the bias.) I also cut two of each template and taped them together, because most of them called for cutting on the fold. I don't like to do that with waxed canvas. I get better results if I cut my template pieces from one layer. As it turns out, I was able to get every piece for the exterior of the bag cut from about 2/3 of a yard of 54" wide waxed canvas with just a handful of small pieces left over. I didn't cut the handles from waxed canvas because I am going to use webbing, but I still would have had plenty left for handles if I had wanted them. 

I get it—I used to write knitting patterns and trying to extrapolate the amount of yarn needed from one size up and down to all the other sizes is a guesstimate at best. I tended to err on the side of too much yarn. Nothing is worse than having a knitter call you up and start yelling because they bought the recommended amount of yarn and ran out halfway on the second sleeve and now that yarn isn't manufactured anymore. Of course, you also get the knitters who call you up and say that they don't know what to do with three extra balls of yarn and couldn't you have been more accurate about how much yarn was required because now they have all this yarn left over and they don't know what to do with it.


I need to run to town this morning, so I'll stop in at Jo-Anns and find something suitable for the lining for this bag. This is going to be a long-term project. There are lots of moving parts and I want to proceed slowly and deliberately. 


O Sewist, Thou Art Fickle

I went up to my cutting room last night and couldn't decide what to work on first. Analysis paralysis from too many choices is almost as bad as losing one's sewjo. I decided that I would rather not start cutting the messenger bag until I have the lining fabric and a good idea of which direction I am heading. I went downstairs and ordered and downloaded the Noodlehead Range Backpack pattern. I went back upstairs and inventoried my waxed canvas again. I have a yard each—54" wide—of red, black, navy, sage green, smoke blue, gray and hot pink. (That hot pink is going to end up in a very special bag for me at some point because it is my favorite color.) I had a little bit left of the teal, enough to make one more Wool + Wax Tote, so that's what I cut out:

The lining is another remnant and again, I had just enough. It's a directional print, though, so I couldn't just cut the 17" x 34" piece called for in the pattern across the width of the fabric. Instead, I cut two 17" x 17" pieces and will seam them together at the bottom. That should give me a lining that fits a bit more snugly in the bag. I am not wedded to that red for the front pocket lining. It picks up some red in the print, but it might clash too much with the teal. The front pocket lining isn't very visible, though, so it might be okay. I'll have to think on that a bit. 

Part of the other reason that I wanted to use up the teal waxed canvas was to get an idea of exactly how many and which kind of bags I can get out of a yard, just in case I decide to start selling some. (There are licensing agreements included in most of these patterns.) I need to be able to calculate material costs. I have a piece left that is about 17" x 10". I think I'll be able to use that as an accent piece in another bag. I want as few scraps of waxed canvas left as possible. 

[I bought a pattern yesterday—the Waterlily Tote from Blue Calla—and I notice that she specifies to zig-zag over the edges of the waxed canvas pattern pieces to keep them from fraying. I haven't run into that before and I have quite a few patterns designed for waxed canvas. Nor have I run into a problem with the waxed canvas fraying. The wax helps the fabric to keep its integrity, I think. She may be getting her waxed canvas from a different supplier. In any case, I would probably serge over those edges if I thought they needed it.]

This will be another easy sew. I won't get to Jo-Anns anytime soon; we are being treated to freezing rain right now to be followed by a snowstorm this afternoon. And I have hospital list tomorrow. The husband and I are supposed to attend a fire department dinner tonight—a thank-you from the trustees—but Murphy's Law dictates that any fire department gathering for fun and relaxation will be interrupted by either a house fire or some major motor vehicle incident, particularly if the weather is lousy. I hope not. I am looking forward to seeing some people I haven't seen in a while.

One of the other items that has moved further up the sewing to-do list is making more minky and flannel baby blankets. We've had a rash of new babies recently and my stock is getting low. I like to keep half a dozen or so on hand. One of them is going to a new baby born to some friends of ours on the fire department, which is how I know that I need to make more.