Sunday, September 7, 2014

Cardiac DNA

Earlier this summer my brother had to have heart surgery and since he lives by himself, he needed someone to come help while he was in the hospital and to get him back on his feet. Quilters are always talking about taking along hand projects to do while at the doctor, or waiting for kids at soccer practice. I don't have kids and I don't have that many doctors appointments and even when I do, I don't spend much time waiting, so this never seemed like a very good way to get a project done.

However, the brother's impending heart surgery put a whole new slant on this, and I decided that having something to do with my hands while waiting for the surgery to be completed or in ICU or in cardiac care would be a good thing. Hexagons are certainly popular, so I thought I'd see what all the fuss is about. I didn't want to do anything too big -- I needed to be able to finish the hand work during the surgery and convalescence, and I wanted something a little different than the usual flower motif.
EQ7 Mock-up of a DNA Molecule
I used EQ7 to make a plan. This quilty representation of a short segment of DNA, complete with major and minor groove, seemed like a good size (13x24 inch). Hexagons are 3/4 inch on a side and thus nicely fit in a square cut from a 2 1/2 inch jelly roll strip.

I've been following Micky Depre and watched her Pieced Hexies Craftsy class. Even though I did not venture into more complex pieced hexagons, her introduction was very helpful for getting the basics of basting the little hexagons, and sewing the hexagons together. Using her 'hold things flat and sew from the back' assembly method, even my relatively poor hand work looks good.

The day of surgery we arrived at the hospital at 5:30 AM, I left him heading towards the OR at about 7:30AM, and I was allowed into ICU as my brother was waking up at about 3 PM. In between, I prepped all the pieces. In the evening, I laid everything out and took a picture on my iPad so I could refer to it later.
Individual pieces laid out -- top of mock-up is left in picture
Then I started assembling the 'molecule' in sections. It is amazing how perfectly everything fit together. This process definitely has potential for other irregular shaped piecing.
DNA partially assembled. Whipstitching is done from the back and does not show at all on the front.
During my Florence Nightingale stint, I got the entire molecule was assembled. Once home, I appliqued the DNA onto a background by machine using a very narrow zigzag and thin Invisifil thread. Finally, the papers were removed by clipping and pulling out the basting threads, and cutting away the background behind the motif, leaving about a 1/4 inch 'seam allowance', and then popping the papers out from the back.
Auditioning backgrounds and placement
Now, how to quilt? This is always a slow, step-wise decision process for me. I usually see how some parts should be done but not other parts. Quilting around the outside of the DNA and down the orange and blue backbones with twisting strands seemed appropriate but the rest took longer.
Tracing paper mock-up of quilting of the DNA

Quilting around the DNA and on top done
I often use a large sheet of tracing paper to sketch and audition different quilting plans.
Tracing paper used to sketch in swooping lines to delineate sections of quilting

Once the plan is decided, I need a few 'guidelines' to delineate the segments. I use a domestic machine and it is very hard (well, for me, impossible) to see the 'big picture' well enough to get smooth sweeping lines that go where I want without having drawn lines to follow. Once the major sections are defined, then free motion designs within a section are easier.
Lines transferred to quilt top
I used big sheets of Transdoodle Chalk paper layered under the drawing and a tracing wheel to transfer the design.
Lines were transferred using Transdoodle Chalk paper
Now I'm working on laying in the section lines and quilting up each section.

Will keep you posted.


PS Surgery went fine. It was done minimal invasively, and it was amazing. It was still major surgery, but no big chest incision, less than 2 days in ICU and only 4 days in the hospital. A week after the surgery he was driving, walking several miles, and well on the way to better than new.