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I’m baffled. I’m confused. I’m almost stunned. General Jac is taking so long to make.

It’s only a four block quilt. Granted it’s a slightly complicated four block quilt but it is only a four block quilt with a vine border, a simple vine border in essentially two colours and a bit of fancy satin stitch. The fancy satin stitch is only on the rose centres, true there are a few of them but not that many.

General Jac has taken two months to get this far. This week I stabilised the entire quilt, outlined all the appliqué on the quilt top but not the borders and echoed all the appliqué except the borders. I have decided on the design of the quilting in the blocks (after some extensive research! Meaning I spent a day getting lost in Pinterest!), perfecting the design and then almost finishing a complete block.

Experimental quilting designs for General Jac

Experimental quilting designs for General Jac


Final quilting design for quilting blocks of General Jac

Final quilting design for quilting blocks of General Jac

That is ridiculously slow work for me. At my most productive I was producing a complicated appliqué quilt in two or three weeks … including the quilting and hand binding. What is the hold up, why am I working at one third the speed I normally work at?

I was so baffled by this I checked back at what happened two months ago.

At the beginning of August I had a check up with my cardiologist. I’ve been seeing him since my series of heart attacks in 2009, the first one brought on by the record breaking heat wave in February 2009.

On the Monday after Black Saturday I went to work and my office was still 45 degrees, opening windows made precious little difference and I had spent the weekend completely heat exhausted and distressed at the dreadful bush fires that claimed nearly 200 lives.

At 3.30 on that Monday with the office still ridiculously hot and it not much cooler outside I suffered a major heart attack and was rushed to hospital. Not something that you expect to happen at 48 except that in hindsight it was probably partially genetic in that my father had a series of heart attacks at 50. You don’t think of those things when you are lying on the floor bathed in sweat and an elephant standing on your chest or that’s what it felt like.

In the follow up consultation with the cardiologist he said that it was a serious situation and that anytime in the next five years I could expect to have a catastrophic heart attack on the right hand side to match the one I’d had on the left hand side of my heart. Being on the right it was much more serious as that is the side that pumps the blood to the rest of the body. Compromising the heart on that side would probably be debilitating if not fatal.

Since starting quilting I have felt the need to get all the designs of my quilts out of my head and made up. Some times just designing them on paper was enough but most of the time I had to make them up in fabric and quilt them too. My head was full of designs that I felt I was compelled to make. I worked like a machine. Quilts raced off my sewing machine at an astonishing rate. The proof of this hangs in my store room of the studio even now.

In early August my cardiologist some five and half years after my first heart attack and after three angiograms and five stents finally admitted that I had successfully managed to avoid heart by pass surgery and that he couldn’t see any reason why at current conditions we wouldn’t be having regular consultations and follow ups in 30 years time.

I nearly fell off my chair. It was a very emotional moment for me.

For the previous five and a bit years I’d been expecting every day to possibly be my last. When you are driven as I am that meant that I had to finish everything I meant to finish and in my quilting passion that meant that I had to finish the quilt series that I was working on. I was bursting with ideas and plans and they literally burned to get out.

On hearing that there wasn’t the time restriction that there was, or what I had been lead to believe there was, I could now take my time with quilt making.

I could savour the design process and take time to make changes. I could spend the time making choices about fabrics and threads. I also could listen to what my body was telling me, if I was sore and tired, I could lie down and take a nap.

I rediscovered reading. I was a veracious reader a few years ago and we have bookcases in almost every room, now its electronic and I read on a Kindle. But I have returned to reading and loving it. I will take only two days to read a 250 page book – thankfully electronic books are so much cheaper than paper books or I’d not be able to buy fabric! But I spend as much time reading as I do quilting, that’s why its taken me so long to finish General Jac.

Every quilt was possibly my last, General Jac for the first time in five years is not going to be or doesn’t feel like it will be my last quilt. That’s why I’ve taken so long to make it.

I have to say it’s a lovely feeling being able to take time to do something you love doing. The pressure is off and I can enjoy making the decisions, if I make a mistake I don’t have to continue regardless, I have the time to unpick it.

I’m sorry if my progress is slow and my entries on my WIP blog show so little growth but I’m getting there and I’m enjoying the getting there.

A big change from the feeling that I had to get there or else …