Saturday, May 16, 2015

All Things Need a Makeover Every Now and Then

So the stool that came with my new Singer sewing cabinet no longer had the original upholstery. Someone at some point had recovered it with a weird plastic the same consistency of those things you put under a rug to keep them from slipping. Practical perhaps though not my style. 

So I dug into my stash and pulled out this beautiful paisley fabric I had bought as a remnant several years ago thinking I'd make a carpet bag out of it. I ended up buying a carpet bag so I never used the fabric. I like it better on the stool. 

In fact, I liked it so much I decided to finally recover the world's ugliest ottoman with it. I picked this little gem up for a few bucks several years ago with the best intentions of recovering it immediately. Then my life derailed and here it sat. So I decided I'd try to find a similar fabric to what I used on the stool. 

It's hard to believe but I was able to find the exact same fabric four or five years later. AND it was 50% off. What are the odds? I have enough now to make a valance and recover a decorative pillow. I've decided to add a trim so I'll wait until I pick that up to start that project. 

Ethel has inspected it and is quite pleased that I splurged for new 2" foam. The old metal springs popping up were hard on her bones (not to mention my feet.)

Sunday, May 10, 2015

The Bigger, Better Sheville City

We decided to move for many reasons: to be closer to family, to live someplace quieter, to have master bedroom on the main floor near the laundry, and I'd be lying if I didn't admit the basement of our new house combined with the screened porch sold the place. 

I'll start by giving you a tour of the basement - the bigger, better Sheville City. (Mike says it's a city now that I've annexed multiple rooms.) We'll start in the sewing room. The previous owner was also a sewer so she had all the lighting set up and ready to go. I just had the whole house painted in neutral colors and moved in. The laminate flooring makes for super easy cleanup. The color is correct in this first photo. All the different lighting caused my camera to freak out in the other rooms. 

One of my Mother's Day gifts was this beautiful vintage Singer cabinet to house my Singer 201-2.  I love it! I plan to change the fabric on the stool but other than that it's in great shape. 

They sure don't build them like this anymore. The knee lever to substitute for the foot pedal is very cool. It is a shame that to get anything of quality now days you have to shop on Craigslist.

I desperately needed the huge closets in this room. I had no closet space at all in our last house. And I do mean huge. It's a walk-in at least 4 feet deep with deep shelving to hold lots of fabric. The previous owner and I differed on decorating taste but it seems we both understood what was a priority.

I still have two long shelves that will be hung above my sewing table that I haven't moved from the other house yet. Other than that I'm calling this room done. 

Just outside of the sewing room is a large multi-purpose room. I have my looms and all my weaving supplies here, a sitting area to watch TV, my spinning wheels, my antique quilting frame and even my old treadle sewing machine. 

I tried using it yesterday and the belt was slipping. I need to figure out how to adjust that. 

There are more enormous closets in this room where I store my coned yarns, warping boards, etc.  

I even manage to do my yoga in this room since this room has carpet. The door on the right side of the next photo leads to a large storage room and the mechanicals. Isn't that a weird color? The previous owner tried to do a faux woodgrain finish and missed it by a mile. I can't decide what to do about it.

It's a really big room which helps to give me plenty of elbow room around the looms.

The log cabin quilt I bought in an antique store at Cambridge City, Indiana right after we signed the offer for this place. I knew I would have lots of wall space to fill.

Just off of the multi-purpose room is my office space. There's also a refrigerator and freezer behind the bifold doors and the other door leads to another storage space that I use for food storage soon to be /wine cellar. There is a full bath on the left as well as the stairs leading up to the main floor. It's hard to believe I had all this crammed into about a third of the space at the last house.

If I need a break from working I can just step outside to the patio and swing awhile or enjoy a cup of tea.

The view from the back of the house is of a ravine overlooking a creek. You can't see the creek from here. You can, however, see all the wildlife that use the backyard as a superhighway. There is always something back there. 

In celebration of Mother's Day this gal had her babies on our grilling porch. It seemed like a strange place until I thought about it. 

She was up there on the second level deck in the following photo. It does kind of seem like a tree house. I'm happy to report she has moved on. She was tearing up the cedar siding. Labor pains must have been intense?

Monday, May 4, 2015

I've Got a Screw Loose

Not everything survived the move unskathed. I had tied a warp for a series of hand towels just before we got the wild idea to move to our new home. Then, after moving in I was busy with quilting projects so I didn't bother with dressing the loom until recently. I managed to get half way through the first towel when I realized there was something seriously wrong with the loom. Shaft 8 wasn't going up and down like it should. So I fiddled some and kept on weaving the best I could.  By the second towel I started noticing little metal parts laying on the ground behind the loom every time I removed a warp stick. Hmm…that's not supposed to happen. 

Further investigation by towel number three revealed one of the chains that attach to the lams was broken. There is no way to fix this until the all the warp was woven off the loom. I had nine yards of warp. NINE yards of fiddling to get the shed to open enough to get the shuttle to pass. So these towels are not perfect. Not by a long shot. But I managed to get them done and they served their purpose of testing different twill and crepe patterns so I could decide which would make the best baby blankets. I've decided I really like the pattern on the left of photo number two for a solid color blanket. 

Now I just need Mr. FixIt to take the loom apart and repair the chain. Hopefully while he does that we'll figure out where that loose screw goes. I feel it might be important.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

A Bench Basket

Every once in a while I have a good idea. Like this one. I wanted to hang a basket on the side of my bench to hold my weaving supplies but it had to be just the right size in order to attach it to the bench. So when I found this bicycle basket last fall I knew it was just right. Only I needed a way to secure it around the handle of the bench. I figured I'd just weave something on the tape loom only I never seemed to get around to it. Finally the other day I was fussing around while weaving, looking rather discombobulated, and wishing I had that basket attached. I announced, "If only it was attached all my problems would be solved." My hubby took one look at it walked into his workshop and came back with the cherry dowel you see here. "Oh, yeah that will work." He's a problem solver which makes him a keeper.  If I ever get this weaving project finished I'll throw some stain on that dowel and pretend like it was my idea all along.

Friday, April 17, 2015

Calling 9-1-1

"9-1-1 What is your emergency?"

"Yeah, I'd like to report a peeping Tom."

Monday, March 30, 2015

Lupus Cerebritis - One Year In

One year ago this week I had a brain fart. No, I didn't just make a mistake, my brain actually felt as if it farted. I realize now that it was caused by the inflammation in my brain shoving the bones of my skull apart.

So much about my life makes sense now. It all started when I was a teenager and came down with a case of Mono.  Shortly thereafter I started having intense joint pain and seemed to be allergic to the sun. I was referred to a rheumatologist who tested me for juvenile arthritis. I was told I was just having growing pains, which at the time sounded wonderful considering I was only 5'1". Growing pains must mean I'm growing! Sadly I never grew another inch. I spent years with intermittent pain and would break out with sun poisoning if I stayed in the sun for any length of time.

At some point in my twenties I was referred to a neurologist for my pain and fatigue. Only to be told they thought I had fibromyalgia. Both my general practitioner and I agreed right away that wasn't the case.

When I was in my early thirties I was dealing with a lot of stress at work and the pain had gotten so severe over-the-counter pain relievers didn't help at all. I once again was referred to a rheumatologist. He tested me for Lupus and arthritis. The tests didn't show anything definitive so he was pretty much an asshole and basically accused me of wasting his time and being a drug seeker. He prescribed Celebrex. It worked like a charm but shortly after starting it the FDA pulled it off the market because of some potential side effects. I was back to just dealing with the pain.

It was all fine and dandy until one day while making the bed my arm fell off. I mean it completely detached at the joint and was dangling with only the skin and a few tendons holding it together. My labrum, the rubber band like tissue that holds your arm in place, had stretched out and was unable to heal itself. Scar tissue from years of inflammation was removed during the surgery and my labrum was resized to hold my arm on again. It took a full year to recover.

So fast forward a few years and I'm on the farm with my animals living the dream, spending a lot of time outside in the sun.  Only the joint pain is back, I am fatigued to the max, and I keep breaking out with a rash on various parts of my body. I'm popping ibuprofen like candy and trying every skin cream my general practitioner comes up with. Next thing you know I have an ulcer, not surprisingly since I'd taken the maximum daily dose for about twenty years. Then one day at work I'm cleaning out the chicken coop and that shoulder of mine starts to burn like it's on fire. A few weeks, or it might have been months, later while I was bent over the sink brushing my teeth my arm fell off again.

It freaks a person out when you look in a mirror and see your limb just dangling like that, so off to see the orthopedic surgeon I went. Only this time the MRI showed significant arthritis damage in the joint. So much that the surgeon refused to operate and referred me to yet another rheumatologist. I ran down the list of symptoms, she performed the tests, and I fully expected to hear the same thing I've always been told. Instead she said that five percent of people with Lupus never have a positive ANA test. She wasn't sure it was Lupus but she started me on Prednisone to determine if it was an auto immune issue or not. I started eating everything in sight but sure enough the pain and rash went away so we knew it was an autoimmune disease. Eventually I was diagnosed with both Rheumatoid Arthritis and Lupus. My body was attacking itself. The thing is with an autoimmune disease any little illness or injury can set off an immune system response. Your arm falling off definitely sets off a response. I was in a full-blown flare.

Finally knowing what I was up against I spent six months trying different combinations of low-dose steroids, antimalarials and chemotherapy and then the brain fart happened. I can remember that I was driving home from the grocery store. At first it was just a headache, it burned like a sinus headache. Then it started to feel like the top left quarter of my brain had been sliced out and replaced with a brain that weighed twice as much. All the connective tissue in my head was inflamed, you could actually see the inflammation in my eyes. I was prescribed an antibiotic and the burning went away for a while but the pain was still there. We jacked up my Prednisone dose to forty milligrams. I think I gained twenty pounds in a week.

It was time for me to go on an Alaskan cruise, something we had planned for over a year. After getting off the plane in Seattle I starting having issues with vertigo. I wasn't sure if it was the disease or if I just needed to find my sea legs. Either way I didn't let it interfere with my eating. I gained another ten pounds on the boat. Once I returned home it was obvious it wasn't motion sickness. I had vertigo every day for four months. I couldn't think straight and I had involuntary muscle movements. It was difficult to get up and down the stairs or even walk across the room at times. I saw specialist after specialist who ran test after test. At one point they thought it might be MS. I had more tests. It was decided it wasn't MS it was Lupus Cerebritis or CNS Lupus.

What is Lupus Cerebritis? It is a symptom of lupus in which brain tissue becomes inflamed. The inflammation causes swelling of the brain which starts mucking up the central nervous system. Scary stuff and there is no cure, only treatments to lesson the symptoms. The low-dose treatments I had been on were no longer an option. If I didn't do something I was bound to have a stroke or develop dementia. Massive amounts of steroids and other serious drugs were necessary to combat this.  It was time for a full out war on this disease. 

During all of this I happened to tell my Rheumatologist about how my friend with a completely different autoimmune disease started taking the antibiotic, Bactrim, and all of a sudden his autoimmune symptoms were under control. She said at one time it had been used as a treatment for rheumatoid arthritis so if I wanted to try it she didn't think it would hurt. It was a Hail Mary pass. You know what? It worked! Shortly after starting it the burning and the vertigo went away. We don't know why it helped but it did so I've continued to take it at a lower maintenance dose. It was not a cure all. I still had issues with overwhelming joint pain, fatigue and headaches so I started taking Orencia infusions. It immediately helped with the brain fog and I started noticing the joint pain lessen and finally the headaches started to disappear for the most part. We are still trying to find the right medication to prevent further RA damage to my joints, so far the ones I've tried have caused me severe nausea and dizziness, helping me lose those extra pounds. I now believe we are on the right path. I recently discovered flying is still an issue that causes headaches and motion sickness so I will address that at my next doctor visit. 

I have learned to accept that I will never feel 100% again. I understand that the fatigue will always be part of my life now. I get it that my shoulder will never be fixed because of the lupus complications. That doesn't mean I like it. I went from being a highly active person with an obsession with to-do lists to being completely exhausted after just taking a shower. It has changed every aspect of my life. To make things easier we have moved to a one story ranch home with a walkout basement. The stairs we do have are deep enough that I usually feel safe using them. The days I don't I just don't go downstairs. I am not able to work as much as I would like but I am hopeful that continuing my yoga and treatments I will eventually regain some of my strength. 

I spoke to a friend recently who said, "I just hate it that you had to give up so many of your dreams." I hated it too at first. But lately I've started to realize that this has forced me to slow down and appreciate things differently. I've already lived a varied and interesting life. Slowing down now to smell the roses isn't all bad. 

So I guess the moral of this story is if you know of a teenager having joint pain, it's not growing pains. In fact there is no such thing. Normal growth does not cause pain. Keep going to different doctors until you find one that helps. Don't wait in pain for twenty-five years until you are properly diagnosed. And if you are facing a diagnosis of Lupus Cerebritis don't be afraid to throw that Hail Mary pass. You might be pleasantly surprised. 

Monday, October 6, 2014

Coverlet College

I had the opportunity recently to visit The National Museum of the American Coverlet to view the Kaleidoscope - Simmermaker exhibition and participate in their Coverlet College.

John Simmermaker, a fellow Hoosier, is an avid coverlet collector and many of the coverlets in his collection were made by Indiana weavers. My personal favorite was by D. I. Griggs, the featured weaver of the year. This one makes my heart go pitter patter.

The geometric design of the center combined with the fancy border makes me think of a quilt with an appliqué border. The dark indigo looks almost black.

But what I really love is that he carried the red plaid through the border and placed the birds and the separating leaf in just the perfect spot - everything about this coverlet is symmetrical. I am a huge fan of symmetry. Okay, okay, I'm anal about symmetry. I might even be close to OCD about symmetry.

I fell in love with D. I. Griggs as I viewed his collection because we clearly shared that passion.

Oh, what I would give to sit next to him while he sat in his weaving chair to pick his brain. Notice the same bird border in another one of his coverlets behind it.

The two day course consisted of a combination of lecture and close study of actual coverlets.

I learned a great deal more than I ever anticipated. We covered everything from weave structures and loom mechanics to fancy fringes. There were so many lightbulbs going on in my head you probably could have landed a plane by them.

I was even able to finally learn what my 10th great grandfather meant when he willed his "loom and half the gyrs" to one son and "the other half of the gyrs" to the other son. Seems he owned and worked a draw loom and the extra shafts, connecting ropes and reeds for a particular damask pattern would have been stashed on the wall and collectively would have been referred to as "the gear" for that pattern.

Of course, now that I know that I want a draw loom. Then I could make a replica of the D. I. Griggs coverlet.