January 24, 2018

Hearts and things...


Long time no blog! I'm not even sure if blogs are as popular as they used to be when I first started in 2007. The online landscape has changed so much with Instagram, Pinterest etc. But it is something I need to get back to. The prolonged absence has been for a few reasons, work, life and health just about covers it.

Health for me has been the trickiest issue. Firstly there was a knee thing. I call it a thing as it turned out to be quite bizarre once the scary side was out of the equation. In a nutshell, my knee swelled up one day a couple of years ago. A year after that, I noticed a hard lump inside the swelling. The hard lump grew so my GP sent me to see an Orthopedic Oncologist, suspecting it could be a cancerous growth. This meant I had 3 months of investigations, MRI scan, biopsy etc, to test to see if it was sarcoma. All very scary at the time, and a huge relief when I finally got a diagnosis of pigmented villonodular synovitis (PVNS), which is basically a joint disease that grows benign tumours. After another 3 months on the surgery waiting list, the tumour came out. I won't go into detail but it was very painful and took a while to recover from, and can regrow in the future, but for now, I'm having more physio to realign my kneecap, and so far so good.

Then last November, something happened that I was least expecting, I had a heart attack. 

Out of the blue, no prior symptoms, I'm not unhealthy (at least I don't think so!), had been doing pilates once a week since my knee surgery, low cholesterol, barely drink, don't smoke, and yet, one morning, the 2nd November 2017 to be precise, at 8.10am, I could barely breathe. It felt like my lungs and chest were being crushed, followed by a sharp pain in my heart. What followed is a bit of a blur, GP surgery, ECG, ambulance and hospital. At 3.30pm, the blood test results came back, and all of a sudden I was surrounded by nurses. There was troponin in my blood, which confirmed, I'd had a heart attack. I went into shock, trying to take in what was going on around me, to me. Nurses, doctors, heart monitors, blood being taken again, injections, tablets, my head was spinning.

I was admitted into the coronary care unit, and the next day moved again, by ambulance to a different hospital, for a procedure called an angiogram. At this point, I knew I'd had a heart attack, but the missing piece of the puzzle was why. An angiogram is not a very pleasant experience, and there were complications afterwards with excessive bleeding. It is done via an artery, which should seal up once its over, however, the first course of action with heart attack patients is what they call dual anti-platelet therapy, ie blood thinners. I didn't stop bleeding and spent the night with my arms elevated, in pressure straps and ice packs. The good news was the cardiologist found the issue. From my angiogram report...

"The main body of the right coronary artery was normal, however, there was an abrupt step down in calibre of both the posterolateral branch and the posterior descending artery with an appearance suggestive of spontaneous coronary artery dissection"

So there you have it, I had something called a spontaneous coronary artery dissection or SCAD. Quite rare, affects mainly women, and happens spontaneously. It cannot be predicted and cannot be prevented. In short, part of an artery either bruised or split, causing the blood supply to my heart to be compromised, which in turn caused an acute non-stemi myocardial infarction. I came home from hospital massively bruised and on a lot of medication. It's taken a couple of months to feel anywhere near normal, it's not normal though, its a new normal really.

Next steps are, I'm waiting to see a cardiologist in March and also have an assessment appointment early February with cardiac rehab. I've had an echocardiogram since it happened, so far, it looks like there hasn't been any permanent muscle damage to my heart, beyond that, the other important factor is the dissected artery healing, which I've been told can take anywhere from 6 weeks to 6 months. Long term there's a good chance of a full recovery, in time the medication may reduce, the lasting factors will be the memories of it all and the medic alert bracelet I now wear.

Just before all this happened, I'd begun work on another book, and in fact have ideas for 3 new books. Now I'm starting to feel better, am itching to get back to work so am going to keep going. One of the first projects I'm currently working on is a fundraising pattern, a softie that can be personalised for survivors of trauma, proceeds will go to a heart research charity initially. A cause close to my own heart right now!

*Edited to add - this post really only just skims the surface of what happened, I will write about it in more detail soon for the Beat Scad website. 

December 17, 2016

Carrots and sprouts are not just for Christmas...!

I have a couple of new free patterns, but have decided to go about putting these online in a slightly different way.  I have been an absent blogger this year, a few reasons, work, real life and health have had other plans.  More on that another time, but for now, better late than never, but as the title says, carrots and sprouts are not just for Christmas!

If you fancy squeezing in making some new Christmas tree ornaments in between online shopping and wrapping presents, these are very quick and easy and will look rather cute on the tree (and also hanging in the kitchen till next Christmas!)


The free PDF patterns for these are available via a website called Craftsy.  The reason I've uploaded them this way is to conduct a little market research, as I can access information as to how many times each pattern has been downloaded. 


The Carrot is available here, you will have to register or sign in to Craftsy, to gain full access but both patterns are totally free to download.


The Brussel Sprouts are available here.


As with all my sewing and craft patterns, these are small projects that only need a small amount of materials, everything I used for my Carrots was up-cycled.

I've not used Craftsy before, so this is a bit of an experiment, any problems with the downloads, leave a comment or email, and I'll help all I can.




December 8, 2016

Christmas pudding bauble,

As my part of the 'Sew a Softie for Christmas' campaign, here is my pattern to make a really simple Christmas pudding tree decoration.


You will need...

a circle of brown fabric, can be patterned or plain, 15cm (5 3/4") in diameter
white felt 12cm x 12cm (5" x 5")
green felt 8cm x 8cm (3" x 3")
2 or 3 red buttons
white embroidery thread (I used pearl cotton 8)
brown embroidery thread 
brown sewing thread
toy stuffing

plus the usual needle, pins, scissors etc...

(Templates, drag and drop the image onto your desktop and print)

STEP 1
Hand sew a running stitch, using the brown sewing thread, 0.5cm (1/4") in from the edge, all the way round the brown circle of fabric.  Gently pull the thread to begin gathering and stuff the inside with the toy stuffing.  Once you are happy with the shape of the pudding, pull the thread tight to continue gathering, and secure closed with a few stitches. 

STEP 2
Cut the icing shape from the white felt, either pin or hold in place, over the top of the pudding, hiding the gathering, and sew in place using running stitch around the edge using the white embroidery thread.

STEP 3
Cut out three holly leaves from the green felt and attach in place to the top of the pudding by adding some leaf veins in straight stitches using the white embroidery thread.  Add holly berries by sewing the red buttons in the centre of the leaves.  Finish off by adding a long loop of brown embroidery thread to the top of the pudding so it can hang from your Christmas tree.


Make as many as you want, I used scraps of fabric from old clothing, even the buttons are up cycled. 

The pudding baubles are quick, simple and cheap to make.


The idea of the 'Sew a Softie Day' is to get more people sewing, and Softies are so easy to make.  Check out the 'Sew a Softie Day' blog for more information and other sewing patterns you could sew.  Join the Facebook group and you'll find a 'stocking' full of additional patterns too.

As with all of my free patterns, refer to the images if there's anything you're stuck with, sometimes seeing it makes it easier to understand than reading it, if there's anything you're stuck on, send me an email or leave a comment and I will help.

Don't forget about my other Christmas tutorials, you can find the Christmas Tree Softie via this link.


November 18, 2016

Ladybird,

Many moons ago, I had a free pattern posted on a craft and sewing blog called Whip Up.  Sadly, Whip Up is no longer live, which, after double checking some of the links on my blog, also means the pattern for the ladybird is also no longer live. 

There's been a long absence for me from blogging, reasons for which I'll go into in my next post, but for now, I'm going to add the ladybird pattern here, it was a popular pattern and is also one I've used myself a few times when I've done teaching sessions, its small, simple, quick to do, doesn't require a huge amount of materials and can all the sewing can be done by hand.

pattern skill rating : easy

You will need...

2 pieces of fabric 3” x 4” (7.5 x 10cm) for the body
1 piece of craft felt 3” x 4” (7.5 x 10cm) for the wings
1 piece of craft felt 1” x 2” (2.5 x 5cm) for the eyes
2 small buttons
sewing thread
stuffing
small pebble to weight the ladybird

plus the usual needle, pins, scissors etc

Begin by printing out the template image below


STEP 1 : making the body
1.  Cut a body shape using the template, from each of the fabric pieces, place them both right sides together and pin.
2.  Sew round the edge leaving the turning gap open.
3.  Turn the body right side round, stuff with a little of the stuffing, then pop in the pebble to give the ladybird a little weight to it.  Continue to stuff until it is almost full then fold in the raw edges of the turning gap and sew it closed.

STEP 2 : adding the eyes and wings
1.  Cut 2 eye circles from the smallest piece of craft felt.  Hold one in position on the body (the opposite end to where the turning gap was), and anchor in place by attaching it on with one of the small buttons.
2.  Repeat for the other eye.
3.  Cut 2 wings from the other piece of craft felt and attach one to the body using small random straight stitches along the short straight edge.  Flip the other wing and attach in the same way so both wings line up as indicated on the template.

STEP 3 : embroidery embellishment
1.  Add some french knots dotted around each of the wings.  To do this, anchor your embroidery thread to the ladybird’s body with a knot underneath one of the wings.  Bring the thread up through the wing, wrap it round the needle 3 times and then take the thread back down through the body, coming up where you want the next stitch to appear, pulling the previous french knot tight as you go.
2.  Add some antennae by passing a short length of embroidery thread through the head from one side to the other, just above each eye.  Remove the needle and tie a knot in each end of the thread trimming each end if needs be.


And there you go, to finish off, here's a batch of ladybirds made in a class I taught at my daughter's high school.


November 17, 2015

Edward's Menagerie,

During the summer, I was invited to attend a book launch for the latest title to join Edward's Menagerie...


The launch took place at the Toft Alpaca Farm near Rugby, which is well worth a visit for the wool shop, cafe and a tour of the Alpaca fields.  

 
During the day I was there, Kerry herself gave a number of workshops taking us through the process of making one of the birds from start to finish including stuffing, sewing up, joining limbs and also adding the eyes.


There were other members of staff on hand to instruct crochet for those who were either a beginner or (like me!) had not done any crochet for a very long time.  Everyone there was lovely and very welcoming.

 

Also included, was a tour of the farm and the chance to meet the Alpacas up close.


They are adorable!


While I was there, I bought some Alpaca fleece to do some wet felting with.


As far as the book itself is concerned, the first Edward's Menagerie book was hugely popular so following that with birds is a natural step.  The birds are cute, comical, colourful and bursting with character.   Design wise, they all follow a similar pattern, as in body, legs, head, and wings, the idea being once you have made one, it becomes easier and easier to make more.  The crochet side is well explained and the patterns are graded for difficulty so anyone from beginner to advanced will find a project to suit them.  You can easily alter the scale of your bird by using thicker wool and a larger hook too. 

There are over 40 patterns in the book, making it good value for money, and unlike sewing books where the pattern may need to be traced from the book, these instructions are all in written form, so it is only a matter of preference over print copy or digital.  Although, for me, I prefer to buy in print.  In our house, music and movies are all pretty much digital nowadays, but for books, nothing beats an actual book!.