Not bad for a fat girl

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I’ve Discovered Rulers!

Quilting rulers, that is. Some people call them templates, but for my purposes I’m going with the term rulers. Anyway, last weekend I took a long-arm quilting class to help me develop my skills as a quilter. After all, I figured, if I’m going to devote an entire room of my house to this machine and frame, as well as considerable resources (read time and money), I should probably get at least passably good at it.

It was not my first long-arm class. The others focused on free motion quilting. I love the look of it, but it’s not as easy as those amazingly skilled YouTubers make it seem. Still, I did okay on the long-arms in the classroom. I had considerably more trouble on my own machine at home. I know there are some huge differences between the types of machines. I pretty much have the Yugo of quilt machines (the manufacturer calls them entry-level), and I was practicing on the luxury sedans during my classes. They’re heavier and their carriages move more smoothly. Those aren’t excuses, they’re facts. However, I have what I have, and I want to get good at it, so I need to practice, practice, practice. Even a Yugo can get a person from place to place.

I was looking forward to the ruler class. I hadn’t tried it at home yet, and I was eager to see what it was all about. First off, you need some essential equipment to do this type of work. There’s a ruler base for the machine, which I chose as my “upgrade” from my dealer when I got my machine. Smart choice. Then there’s a special foot, and lastly special rulers. I had two of those already from my attempts to use them on my regular sewing machine (that’s a whole different story, and a contributing factor to me buying the long-arm, but I digress).

In the class we learned techniques, then we practiced. We used large rulers, we used small rulers. We quilted grids, curves, circles, and stars. We tried clamshells and waves, and all sorts of fun things. We marked guide lines and quilted with them and without them. We combined rulerwork with free motion quilting. It was fun. It was satisfying. It looked pretty good (for the most part). I could do this!

With the purchase of a couple more basic rulers I set off for home and my own darling machine. The week got away from me, and it wasn’t until yesterday that I finally got a quilt on the frame. It was one I whipped up quickly using OLD material. It features a fun, brightly colored patterned stripe, and it worked up quickly. I figured it would be a good one to practice new techniques on. So far it has been. I’ve pulled out my rulers and begun to quilt it, and you know what? My machine does curves just fine! Using the rulers has given me a greater degree of accuracy and confidence. I know I have a long way to go to improve my skills, but by golly I’m going to get there. I’m so glad I finally tried out the rulers. Now back to the long-arm, I have a quilt to finish up.


What a Check Up

It’s been a long time since I actually looked forward to going to the doctor to discuss my lab work, but today that changed. You see I’ve been working on improving my nutrition and increasing my activity level, and it’s paying off.

The whole reason I started this blog way back when was to hold myself accountable for improving my health, but it didn’t really pan out that way. Over the years I’ve had ups and downs, and ups again when it came to the numbers on my bathroom scale. I’ve always known that I need to lose weight, mostly for my health, but also for my looks and my state of mind. I don’t want to be lugging around a body that struggles to do the simplest tasks. I want good health, energy, and a cute wardrobe that I feel good wearing. I’m on my way to achieving all three of those goals.

You see, a few months back I started noticing a few new issues with my body, issues that concerned me. I started to imagine a quick decline leading to all sorts of unpleasant consequences, and for what? Pizza? Chocolate? Cheeseburgers?

I know, I’ve been down this health kick path before, but for some reason I’ve been able to keep on keeping on for almost six months, with the most noticeable result that I’ve lost nearly 50 pounds. Yes, I’ve lost weight before, and it felt good, but it didn’t last. I’ve been thinking about that a lot recently.

In the back of my mind I’m a little nervous that soon I’ll hit a point where the subconscious voice in my head says, “Ok hotshot, you’ve gone far enough, now it’s time to stop this nonsense and scarf down some donuts with a milkshake chaser.” Do I want that? No. But I am a little worried that old patterns will manage to reestablish themselves. HOWEVER… I have some tools this time around that I didn’t have previously.

First, I have the extreme motivation of being truly concerned for my own well-being. Hip pain, nerve damage, pain in my feet, and an increased risk of developing any number of illnesses is a pretty strong driving force. The little phrase, “Is it worth it?” has been doing an excellent job of helping me keep any cravings I might have in check.

Speaking of cravings, I haven’t really had too much of an issue with them. I’m eating wholesome food, and I’m rarely hungry. When I do crave something, I can usually find a snack that doesn’t damage my efforts. Applesauce, carrots with hummus, and grapes are a few favorites. I also enjoy a cup of coffee with flavored creamer. Yes, it’s a little splurge, but I’m striving for improvement and balance, not instant results and perfection. Learning what works for me and how to fuel my body without depriving myself has been a game changer.

In the past I’ve done Weight Watchers (a few times) and Jenny Craig. I’ve tried the Pritikin Plan and given the South Beach Diet a go. I even briefly attempted to “eat right for my blood type.” The issues I had with all of these approaches are A) I never really completely bought into any of them (they all seem too lockstep and sort of cult-like to me), and B) I was always thinking about food. Seriously. Always. What could I eat? When could I eat? How much could I eat? It was constant, and the more time I spent thinking about food, the more I wanted to chuck whatever plan I was attempting and just EAT, which made losing weight an extremely frustrating exercise in self deprivation and self pity (poor me, I’ve been working so hard so I deserve this ice cream), leading to self sabotage.

For the first time I can remember, I’m enjoying eating healthy foods, and I’m not constantly thinking about my next meal. I eat real food, but I track it all. I don’t count calories, but my little app does, and it provides me with a visual snapshot of where I am with my daily intake. Again, I don’t obsess over it. I do get on the scale every morning, which is new for me. I’m okay with it wiggling up and down a little, because I can see that the overall trend is downward, even if there are a few days when my weight increases. Of course the graph tracking my daily weigh-ins is motivating too.

Besides losing weight some of my non-scale victories include:

  • smaller (and cuter) clothes
  • no extender on the airplane (seriously, this is a huge victory)
  • excellent lab results and a happy doctor (whom I really like and respect)
  • increased energy
  • a mom who is delighted that I’m taking control of my health
  • a son who has also decided to make healthier food and movement choices
  • a more positive outlook on my health and future

I can’t guarantee this change is permanent, but I hope it is. I know several people who have made significant improvements to their health that have stuck, and many of them have been my age or older. I know it can be done, and I’m confident that I can get through the upcoming eating season without too much damage. Every day is a new opportunity to begin again, so slip ups aren’t forever. I’m just going to keep at it one day at a time.

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Six Quilts Done, Forty-four to Go

To break even on my long-arm quilt machine, that is. Except that five of the six are baby quilts, so they probably shouldn’t really count, but I’m counting them anyway. Of course there will never be a real break even point, because there are always things you have to keep getting, like threads and machine feet and batting and rulers. Breaking even isn’t the point anyway. The point is I can finish my quilts on my own. I find that idea satisfying, even if I’m not entirely satisfied with my skill level yet.

Learning new skills takes time, and this one is no different. I liken it to riding a bike. At first you worry about balance. But then there’s steering and pedaling and if you ignore any of those you won’t have much success. There’s a fair amount to pay attention to with the long-arm also. Correct loading, tension on the frame, thread tension, speed, and smoothness all come to mind. I need practice with it all.

I just finished quilting number six. It’s another baby quilt, but they’re good for practice, and to use up some of the fabric that’s been hanging around my sewing room for years. I bought the fabrics for this one when my son was in preschool, with this pattern in mind. It would have been a fun one for him when he was little, but at 24 he’s definitely outgrown it. I don’t mind though, some little *kid somewhere will enjoy it ( *I almost said boy, but girls can like vintage race cars too).

Now I need to bind the quilt, and another project will be officially finished. I love the sense of accomplishment I get from completing quilts on the long-arm. I may not be great at it yet, but I keep getting better, so I’m satisfied. Practice may not make perfect, but it definitely makes progress.

Isn’t this great fabric? I used a checkerboard flag fabric with it for a simple but striking quilt.