Cataract Surgery: Second Eye Done

It is now two days after my second cataract surgery was performed. Now that things have begun to settle with my second eye I am happy with the results. Above you can see me stitching with an arrangement I devised. No, you are not seeing double. I am wearing two sets of glasses, and channeling my inner Ben Franklin. The bottom glasses are a set of drug store reading glasses that my husband bought a while back. He does not remember the strength of these glasses. Though I am holding the work at a distance for the sake of the photo, I actually stitch with my work about six inches from my eyes. The reading glasses allow me to thread a needle, and to do fine hand stitches because I can bring the work close enough to see detail. Unfortunately, my corrected near vision focuses much farther away than my preferred sewing distance. It is a distance appropriate for reading, but not sewing.

The fact that I am going to need glasses for stitching made me initially question my choice to correct for near vision. I’m going to need to have a pair of progressive glasses made with a strong reading prescription along with my distance prescription just so I can stitch and watch TV. If I had corrected for far vision I could simply look over a standard set of drugstore readers while stitching and watching TV.

I do, however, really enjoy being able to read and use my iPad without glasses, so I guess I will just work around the stitching problem. It is important for me to be thankful for the good things that came out of my surgery. My color perception is improved. I can read comfortably. I have more light coming into enlarged pupils of both eyes. My whole world is brighter. While I had little interest in seeing at a blurry distance I now put my glasses on more often because they help me see even though they are not really the right prescription yet.

Reading glasses are helping for now with stitching. However, even with the reading glasses threading a needle requires real effort, and is a bit hit or miss. It takes me three or four times as long to thread a needle now than when I had cataracts in both eyes because then both eyes were focusing very close to my eyes. My needle threading skill might improve as my left eye catches up with my right eye, however. I certainly hope so.

I am considering purchasing a special set of glasses from Craft Optics. I observed a friend using a set of these telescopic glasses at a quilt retreat, but she was using them for machine sewing. These glasses are like those worn by surgeons. If you have watched Grey’s Anatomy you’ve seen them used, especially by the brain surgeons. I wonder if my doctor was using them during my cataract surgery.

I’ll do a follow up post in a couple months after I have all of my sewing solutions in place.

Cutting Into My Last Twelve Panels

I have twelve panels remaining from my Embracing Horses collection of fabric created by Laurel Burch. I decided that I needed to cut into these last twelve panels to create more large hexagons for my Blue Star Quilt. Notice how nicely the individual panels were packaged by PM Quilting. I bought every panel that they had, and have been hoarding them for a long time.

I pressed my panels on my work table, then cut them into sections. I made two layer stacks of the large horse section of the panel. I then cut into those panels to extract the birds from the design. I used the three inch hexagon template for this extraction process.

Below is a viewpoint that makes it clear that I was able to obtain twelve of each bird. These pieces are already glue basted to paper pieces. The pieces will be joined to make three inch hexagons. I had created blocks previously using these cuts, so they are not new designs. I will end up with four hexagons using each bird. Three of them will be combined into a single Large Hexagon using three other complementary blocks. The remaining three diverse bird hexagons will be combined into another Large Hexagon. This strategy is in keeping with the way I have occasionally used three matching hexagons along with three other complementary hexagons.

Here are all the little birdies.



Cataract Surgery: Halfway Done

I noticed a couple weeks ago that I had not posted in two solid months. That’s not like me, but I attribute my lapse to one thing. I’d been quite consumed with worry about my upcoming cataract surgery. Now that one eye is finished, and the second eye is a week away from being done, I’m ready to write about this adventure.

This topic is definitely quilt related because there is nothing more important to a quilter, especially a hand stitcher, than her vision. My vision has been severely compromised for a few years; more so than I would care to admit even to myself. So if you have been admiring the glory of my hand sewn Glorious Hexagons, you can be even more in awe of my work than you already were.

For the past three or more years my world has been getting increasingly smaller. I have depended more and more on my close vision in recent years because I felt that I could at least see things within three feet of my face. Distance vision was another thing altogether. I could see about as well without my glasses as with my glasses, which was not very good at all. My cataracts had gotten bad enough that adjustments in my prescription did nothing to improve my vision. My last new set of glasses was purchased over a decade ago. I stopped wearing my glasses except to see my computer screen or to drive, which I had little business doing. Around the house I mostly didn’t bother with glasses at all. I read on my iPad without my glasses. I never turned on the TV. Instead I watched all my video on my iPad. Needle threading and sewing took place about six inches away from my face. That’s where things were almost sharp.

I continued to drive because although I could not read road signs I could see well enough to get around locally during the day. I knew where I was going. I had given up on driving at night altogether. The cataracts prevented it, but it was made even more impossible because my irises were stuck in the shape of tiny little pin holes. My pupils could no longer dilate because they had been glued to the lenses of my eyes as a result of over 20 years of severe inflammation caused by a condition called iritis.

I think most people are a little afraid of cataract surgery, but I was absolutely terrified. It is bad enough to know that your eyes will be cut into when you are awake and aware, but I had the added burden of knowing that my irises were going to have to be scraped from my lenses before they could be removed.

In May I ended up choosing dates for my surgery. I chose August 1st and August 22nd. I wanted to give myself time to prepare myself mentally for the ordeal, and I also wanted time to make the decision of whether to focus my new lenses for near vision or far vision. I had to chose because I was not a candidate for lenses that could change focus, nor could I chose one eye near and one eye far because my surgeon would only do that for someone who had proven their ability to adjust by wearing contact lenses.

My first instinct was to choose near vision because I am a hand stitcher. My surgeon told me that people who have been nearsighted from an early age, such as myself, sometimes choose to maintain the status quo and focus for near vision while accepting the fact that they will need glasses for driving, TV viewing, and far vision in general. I ended up second guessing myself, however. I asked the opinion of members of the Glorious Hexagons group on Facebook if any of them had chosen near vision and were happy with their choice. I wanted to hear that it was a good choice. After getting a great deal of conflicting input I decided to go with my first impression for the simple reason that no one who corrected for near vision reported being sorry for doing so, while some who corrected for far vision wished that they had not done so.

Here are the glasses that were doing me very little good while I still had cataracts obstructing my view. After my first surgery, on my right eye, I find myself using them more often because even with only one eye corrected I am getting some use out of them. I can read road signs again at least.

Here are the eye drops that I am required to use. I had to start them in the right eye a week before the first surgery, and I will taper off the last drop through November. I have to use it for a lot longer than most people would due to my propensity for inflammation.

Ted had gotten a calendar from a gas station that he takes our vehicles to. Neither of us had used it, but it proved to be the perfect size for me to document the use of my eyedrops. Today it is especially useful because it is the first day that I have had to use drops in both eyes.

These are the sunglasses I was required to wear outdoors for the first week following my first surgery. They fit over my regular glasses.

This angle makes it more clear that the glasses can fit over regular glasses. I will probably continue to use them even after I don’t need to.

This lovely piece of plastic gets taped over my eye for the first week after surgery any time I take a nap or go to bed at night. This prevents me from rubbing my eye in my sleep. It is hard enough to keep from rubbing my eye while I am awake.

I am at a bit of an awkward stage right now with my close vision. My left eye is focusing about six inches from my face, and my right eye is focusing about twelve inches from my face. This is about as annoying as you might imagine. I can barely thread a needle. My best eye is my right eye, but holding my work that far away from my face while doing hand stitching feels awkward. The interference from the left eye is annoying, and if I close it I have no depth perception. I am hoping that the addition of depth perception from the second eye will help with needle threading, and close stitching, once the second eye has been corrected.

In the mean time a good friend from my local quilt guild has sent me a special pair of glasses on loan, the sides of which can be focused independently. I tried them briefly, but don’t think they are going to help much with the needle threading or stitching, though I certainly did appreciate the gesture.

In a little over a week I should have a better idea of what kind of special lenses I might need for stitching. If I am lucky I’ll get used to holding my work farther away and I won’t need any special corrective lenses for close work.

Reading will be a dream, and using my iPad will be fantastic.

We have an old tube type TV that is probably about 22 inches in size. I turned it on for the first time in years, and exclaimed to my husband, “Honey, I can see the TV!”

Alternate Blue Star Quilt Arrangement

I had been planning to arrange the large hexagons of the blue star quilt with chocolate triangles to set off the shapes. I think I am leaning more now towards a more compressed setting of just the large hexagons next to each other.

I laid out the large hexagons with blue stars that I currently have finished on my front porch. Below I show a few views of this random configuration.

After seeing how nice this configuration looked I decided to lay out what I have so far on my queen sized bed.

The final configuration is going to yield areas along all four sides that will need to be dealt with in terms of design.

Along the left and right sides I will have a zig zag shape that will need to be filled. I might throw in a hexagon and then edge the area with chocolate or a subtle brown print.

Here is a close up of that idea. I’d be inclined to add chocolate triangles on both sides of the added hexagon to finish things off before adding the border.

The border of the top and bottom is actually more troublesome and will take more thought.

I don’t really have a well formed idea of how I will deal with this space yet.

I am inclined to piece something subtle with brown solids in the area down until the halfway point of the bottom two hexagons. Then I’d add a border fabric.

It is a long time before I will need to make this final decision. In the mean time I intend to make a few more large hexagons with blue star centers so I have many to choose from in creating the final configuration. I’m at a very awkward stage now with my vision, however, since I am halfway through cataract surgery. I have one eye finished and one eye yet to be done. This makes stitching very difficult, so I will be setting it aside for a couple of weeks.

Happy Birthday from Pennington Quilt Works

I used my 20% off Birthday coupon at Pennington Quilt Works last week. Here is my haul.

When I got home I showed my relatively small bag to my husband “bragging” that I had spent a little more than $100.00 for my haul. He asked incredulously, “Is that all you got?” I said, “Yep.” In all fairness, the large Tula Pink shears retailed for $39.00.

I really wanted to give him an understanding of the fact that this hobby isn’t cheap. I spend my own money on my habit so he can’t complain.

While I was at the store I decided to look for a gray thread for handquilting to complement my Glorious Hexagons work.

I found a great color that appeared to be designed specifically for my needs.

The creation of large hexagons is coming along very well. I now have 50 of them and it is just about time to start putting them together.

As an aside to those interested in blogging, I created this post in the WordPress app on my iPad. This is the first time I have created a post on the iPad. I did it because my desktop is located upstairs and I hate to turn on the air conditioning in my studio just so I can use the computer. I have a workflow for processing blog images that involves Aperture on my desktop, so I’ve not been blogging recently given that I don’t want to use the desktop, and that is where Aperture lives. The use of Aperture is definitely slowing me down, and I’m thinking of finally starting to use Photos so I can access all of my images on all of my devices.

I have a laptop and you might ask why I didn’t do the post on the laptop. The reason is that doing so would have required me to email the photos from the iPad to the laptop, so I chose to work on the iPad instead. I did reopen the post on the laptop after publishing to polish the text. That’s what I’m doing now.

I guess it is about time to ditch Aperture. Yet, as a compromise, I wanted to try editing in the iPad from my photo stream and then composing a post on the iPad. It seems to be working even though the WordPress App does not appear to be very feature rich.

I realize that this is the first blog post in over two months moving forward I hope to do better.

Glorious Hexagons: Preview of Blue Star Quilt

Here is a preview of how the blue star quilt will look. I lied out all of the large hexagons I had with blue stars and interspersed as many brown joining triangles as I had made so far.

Above you can see spaces where more brown stars will be intersperses. I envision this with very dense quilting on the brown stars, less dense quilting on the blue stars, and even less dense quilting in the remaining areas. There will likely be a brown border of at least four inches with dense quilting.

Glorious Hexagons: Am I Blue?

The blue in the title of this blog post refers to the mottled blue fabric in the Embracing Horses collection that I have used as the center of a few of my Large Hexagons such as this one.

And this one.

While I was at a recent quilt retreat in Lancaster I decided that it was my desire to create a quilt using nothing but Large Hexagons with blue central stars. In order to achieve that goal I attempted to purchase five yards of the mottled blue fabric. I had found some online and was very happy to obtain it. Unfortunately the database of the website was not correct, and the site had only one yard to send me.

In the meantime, however, I had cut up what little I had left of my mottled blue fabric and combined the pieces into eleven small hexagons.

After I discovered I would not be receiving a sufficient amount of mottled blue fabric to achieve my dream of a quilt with nothing but blue stars I thought that I was going to have to give up on the idea.  It was then that I came upon an untouched layer stack of blue mane fabric from the collection. The photo below shows the mane fabric above the mottled blue fabric.

I did not regard the mane fabric as a particularly good choice for creating hexagons, and it had consequently been neglected. It was the right color, and I really needed a solution to the problem of being unable to obtain more of the mottled fabric, so I decided to come up with a way to make it work. I decided that the way to get the most out of this fabric was to keep the pieces as large as possible and let the curves of the design do their work. The way to do that was to use a three inch diamond shape and to forgo the creation of a central hexagon altogether. I would go straight for a star shape instead using six diamonds to create that shape.

The resulting star made optimal use of the linear quality of the mane fabric. It was the linear quality of the fabric that had made it unsuited to the creation of hexagons from small pieces in my opinion. Yet that same quality made it uniquely suited to the creation of stars when used on a large scale.

There was one negative to the use of the star shape. This method of construction resulted in the need for inset seams. The following four photos illustrate the construction process.

I start by sewing three of the small hexagons to the central star using inset seams. The small hexagons are placed equally distant from each other leaving three blank spaces also equally distant from each other.

Once the first three small hexagons are in place the remaining three hexagons have triangles added to them creating diamond shapes to be sewn into the remaining three areas. These diamonds are added with inset seams.

In the photo above you can see that the first diamond shape is being added to the Large Hexagon.

Here is the completed large hexagon shown in the process photos above.

Following are some more of the Large Hexagons I have made with blue mane fabric in the center. Notice how the movement in each star is different depending on the cut of the fabric used.

I estimate that I have enough of the mane fabric to create at least six more central stars.


Lambertville Ladies Meet in Lancaster

It is almost exactly two years since the first (and only) Slow Stitching Movement Retreat in Lambertville with Mark Lipinski. Some of the women who had attended that wonderful retreat decided that they wanted to get together again. We’d stayed in touch in the virtual realm because shortly after returning from the 2015 retreat one of the ladies decided to start a private Facebook Group. it was titled Lambertville Ladies. And so, without realizing it, we had been a virtual guild for two years.

Another of the ladies organized our get together for this April in Lancaster. She did an incredible amount of work planning with the hotel, making wonderful additions to our goodie bags, recruiting vendors to add more goodies to our bags and to contribute door prizes. Timing wasn’t quite right for everyone this year, and we were working with a tight schedule by workshop standards, so it is understandable that many could not attend. More people wanted to come than could manage it, but we assembled a total of ten ladies to come out to Lancaster for a fantastic time.

I had planned as early as November of last year to attend Mid Atlantic Mod in Lancaster about a week the Lambertville Ladies retreat. I was reluctant to sign up for that reason, but I just could not allow this to happen without me. As a result, I ended up making someone on the Mid Atlantic Mod waiting list very happy.

I prepared for this event by creating some new layer stacks for my Embracing Horses Glorious Hexagons project, and cutting and basting quite a few packages of hexagons to take with me to sew. Above you see my Martelli Workstation loaded with papers and fabric during my prep stage. I needed to travel light because I was going by train to Lancaster, so I would have no sewing machine this time. I also did not want to drag papers and layer stacks along. I just wanted to travel with bags of basted pieces to sew together. Not having a machine would be fine because I knew I had plenty of work to keep my busy with my EPP packets. I had over prepared.

By most standards I was traveling light. Yet I needed to bring my breakfast with me because I was going to try to stay as compliant as possible to my Whole Foods Plant Based No Oil way of eating as prescribed by the Engine Two Rescue book. I also brought 8 ounce shelf stable boxes of almond milk because I wanted to hedge my bets even though I expected to be able to obtain soy milk at the retreat. I was also bringing with me every single Large Hexagon I had ever made so I could share them at Show and Tell. I ended up with quite a large suitcase because I had to be able to lay the large hexagons flat. It was partially empty, but that helped with the return trip because I acquired a few things in Lancaster.

After a couple weeks of preparation for the event I ended up with seven packets to construct large hexagons. I had also put together over 20 packets to construct small hexagons. Before leaving I assembled the following five small hexagons:

I will admit to being way behind on posting small hexagons here. It is my plan to remedy that soon. At that time these hexagons will be named and numbered. For now just enjoy their radially symmetrical beauty.

While I was in Lancaster I finished one large hexagon per day. Here they are. These will also be numbered at some time in the near future after I catch up with the fifteen or so I have not yet displayed. I am so behind.

After completing the third large hexagon I knew I would not have time to complete another, so I started putting together small hexagons and managed to complete two of them.

It was my plan to complete more small hexagons while waiting for the train back home. It was scheduled to leave at about 4:00 PM from Lancaster. That gave me over six hours to stitch, but since everyone else was already on their way home, or hopping from shop to shop, the prospect of sitting and stitching started to feel more depressing than fun. Instead of catching that late train I decided to head out to the train station and see if I could catch an earlier one. I managed to get one with a connection in Philadelphia so I got home four hours earlier than expected.

I really over prepared the creation of kits to take with me to Lancaster, but I’ll know better for the future. Now that I am home I have a collection of EPP kits that will keep me busy for a long time. I estimate about 50 hours of stitching pleasure for these packets:

Above are four Large Hexagon packets.
Each contains seven hexagons and twelve triangles.

Above are 17 small hexagon packets.
Each contains pieces to make a three inch hexagon.

They are ready for the road.

Above are a good number of my Large Hexagons arranged without joining triangles on the rug in our meeting room at the Amish View Inn. There will be one quilt made using this layout.

Photo Credit: Jodi Liebman Wolff

Here I am above during our Show and Tell eventing. I am explaining how I will be doing a queen sized quilt that will join the Large Hexagons with Chocolate triangles that will create Chocolate stars that will play against the central stars of the Large Hexagons. I am pointing to the point of a space that will contain one of those nine inch triangles. Each triangle will be composed of a three inch hexagon with three triangles attached. Someone asked why I didn’t just use a nine inch triangle. I explained that such a shape would be too large to comfortably paper piece, and that I was also looking to replicate the layout of the central stars. Having the hexagon will help to do that. Aside from that I also have a load of three inch hexagons I have not used because I did not create any three inch hexagons for my quilt.

I don’t think I can do justice to describing how much fun we had in Lancaster, but I will mention a few things. First the food. We had dinner at Plain and Fancy one night, and Millers another night. Both experiences were good. I chose to go slightly off my eating program for those dinners, but I was really proud of myself for sticking fairly well with my program for breakfast and lunch each day. We had an evening meal at an Asian place across from the train station in Lancaster. I had the best vegetable Pad Thai there, which was not compliant with my eating program, but was a reasonable compromise. Lunches at the Amish View Inn allowed me to remain compliant with the addition of a can of chickpeas that I spread out over both planned lunches. The breakfast buffet was the nicest I had ever seen, but I didn’t dare touch it. Actually, I did “touch” the cinnamon buns. Who am I kidding? I did more than touch, and they were terrific!

One of our participants prepared packets for us and taught us how to paper piecing by machine. I observed, and will give this a try at home.

Every member of the group had something great to share with the others during our Show and Tell night. I was thrilled that one of our ladies is working on Kim’s Glorious Garden. It was so wonderful to see it up close. I am so excited to get to work on that project soon.

One day a few of us took a trip to The Old Country Store. I was overcome with shelves and shelves of Kaffe fabric there. I took photos, but will save those for a later post. This post is already getting quite long. At the store I bought an add-a-quarter ruler for the paper piecing. I also bought a Laurel Burch coloring book, and two pairs of colorful socks.

Even before the retreat was over we started talking about making this a yearly event. Now that we have been home for a few days we already have tentative dates selected for the next two years.

We do love The Amish View Inn.

My Martelli Workstation: More Than a Cutting Table That Goes Up and Down

When I bought my Martelli Workstation at QuiltCon I wanted to take a picture of it to show my husband what I had just bought. When I composed the picture Christine started to move away. I guess she assumed I wanted the table all by itself. However, I asked her to remain in the picture because I wanted my husband to see the pretty lady who sold me the table. At that point I was still thinking of it as a table that had the added benefit of going up and down. I didn’t even realize that I had bought myself a complete cutting system. Christine was nice enough to pose for me. She had a nice big smile on her face. I’d be smiling too if I had just made a nearly $3.000.00 sale. That is expensive for a table, but these units are much more expensive on the website, and they don’t come standard with so many accessories on the website either. The event price was $2,500.00, plus it came with many accessories. In addition to that I was allowed to order things from the catalogue at 50% off at the time of purchase, so naturally I did add a few things to my purchase. Georgia got sales tax, ouch, so that brought the price up too.

Once I got home from QuiltCon I visited the Martelli web site and watched videos about the cutting system and the table. After that I had an idea of what I had gotten myself into. I knew I was in for a learning curve on the cutting system, but I resolved the get up to speed once my table was assembled. I didn’t need to wait too long for the table to arrive. Delivery was supposed to take place within four to six weeks, but my table was in the house within two weeks, and waiting to be assembled. It, and I, patiently waited a few more days for my husband to be ready to work with me to put it together.

Here are the boxes hanging out just inside our living room door.

The first thing my husband wanted to do was to look at the directions. I found him a video that describes how the table is assembled. In the video someone points to various parts of the table and describs what needs to be done to achieve assembly. It is a short video, but it gives you an idea of what needs to be done. There were a number of boxes to cart upstairs and open, so we decided that we should try to figure out what box had the directions inside. We ended up calling Martelli for that information, and they were able to tell us which box to open first.

We took our sweet time with assembly and cleaned up after ourselves as we went. We took three days because we are old and weak, but a young whipersnaper could probably put that table together in a couple hours if they stayed on task. I think I could put together another table with confidence having done it once already.

I wish I had taken photos of the steps, but I didn’t.

Here you can see my Martelli Workstation fully assembled and at its lowest position. I placed it next to one of my Ikea tables. The Ikea table is about a full inch lower than the Martelli table. I was hoping I would be able to get them at the same level, but the Martelli does not go that low. I don’t think it is a major issue for my purposes though. I’ve placed my sewing machine on the end of the Ikea table and will be using the Martelli to support the bulk of a quilt as I free motion quilt it. I’m planning to buy an acrylic table to extend the bed of the sewing machine and will then raise the Martelli to the same height. I’m going to have to be careful that I purchase an extension table that will not extend beyond the Ikea table though, which is 22 inches wide.

I’m looking at the Sew Steady tables. I am buying a queen sized Supreme Slider so I am going to need an extension table to accommodate it. In the mean time I broke down and ordered the small Supreme Slider for use on regular machine sewing bed.

I tried moving the sewing machine to the edge of the table and raising the Martelli to meet the height of the bed of the machine. This is okay, but I would really like the have the bed extended back farther behind the machine.

I did some quilting and was very happy with the way the Martelli table supported my work even at its lowest level.

Initially I thought that I was going to locate the table in front of the window with the air conditioner. The photo above shows the table raised up to a comfortable level for sewing on my Janome while standing.

I have a mat which prevents the sewing machine from sliding when the table is angled. You can achieve a more comfortable viewing angle by lowering the side with the sewing machine. The table is level in the photo above. You can also see the Supreme Slider in place on the machine bed. I have since trimmed it to get rid of the spillover on the left and top sides.

I have a lot more work to do to get this room whipped into shape as a studio, but I feel as if I am well on my way, probably more than halfway done.