Sunday, April 22, 2012

It's a start...

Hi - I'm an academic biostatistician and this is my first blog. I like reading other blogs, especially about my hobby, quilting, and thought I would give it a go. I like posts that have a point, and don't constantly apologize for not posting, or otherwise self-recriminate. Not that any of us is perfect, but I think we all do that enough to ourselves. My paper journal is particularly boring in that regard. If, God forbid, anyone else, say 25 or 50 years from now, were to read it, they would surely think that I had a terrible life. Full of self-doubt, paralyzed with insecurity, overwhelmed with work-a-holism (well that's sort of true), and generally bleak. In fact, in general, I have a pretty wonderful life -- fantastic loving husband, rewarding job, wonderful colleagues and friends, challenging but appreciative students, and many other good things. I think writing in my diary is sort of therapy, and I only go for therapy when I really need it, so the diary is a pretty biased sample (aah, had to get a statistics reference in there) of my life. I will try to do better here.

Ethan's Dinosaurs
What about quilting? Well, I started quilting back in 1980, as mechanism of escape from stress and an outlet for self-expression. I took a little hiatus during the 90's, and started up again in about 2001. The re-boot was motivated by wanting to do something nice for a colleague whose son was diagnosed with leukemia (son now fine -- modern pediatric oncology is pretty fantastic). A friend and I designed a quilt themed on the son's favorite thing -- dinosaurs -- so that anyone in the research group who wanted to could make a block. For this we used a dinosaur coloring book to get the simple outline drawings, and permanent fabric markers that each volunteer used to trace and color their block. We sashed and corner-stoned with a nice batik multi-color (now, many quilts later, I would assemble a bit differently, but still love the colors and contrast), and bordered and backed with a really cute lizard fabric. We had so many volunteers and blocks that we ended up expanding the quilt and then had to make pillow cases with the left-overs. I did the machine, free-motion quilting. Boy did I learn a lot! Mostly, what not to do. This was my very first machine quilting effort, and having very little knowledge, I made a lot of mistakes -- none particularly fatal or crippling. There is something astoundingly liberating about working on a project like this. You want it to be really good, but this is not going to hang in the Louvre. There is more at stake than a throw-away practice piece, but it is "safe" to fall a bit short of the mark. In the end, they will love it because of the love that everyone put into it. 

The quilt, and the entire group process, were a big hit. When another significant life event came along for one of the staff members, the group wanted to do it again. Over the years we have made about 12 or 14 of these group quilts. Most of the participants don't sew, so designing something different and specific to the recipient that involves limited or no sewing by the volunteers has been an interesting challenge. As you might guess, fusing has figured prominently. More about some of those in the future.