Why do medical syringe pump bags have to be so … ugly?

Well, they are ugly. When I worked at a hospice, working with especially with female patients, young and old, I used to think it all the time. Some people have to have a continuous infusion of either painkiller or anti-sickness medication or somesuch in order to stay comfortable. Whilst it’s one thing when people are in bed and sleeping, many many people walk around with this, live with it as a permanent fixture in their lives. And yet, the bags they are given for them are practical but ugly dark blue canvas small bags with straps and stuff, wires sticking out, and go round their necks (which can be painful), the overall effect screaming “I am extremely medical and weird, please look at me with that uncomfortable mixture of sympathy and fear”. Or are a bumbag. A BUMBAG I tell you! Chav circa 1987. Women are not impressed, particularly those who are trying hard to make an effort to look nice, and they used to complain often or really fight against having a drug which will make them feel better – because it’s so visible. So when I got asked to make this:

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… I jumped at the chance.

The lady, whose lovely daughter commissioned the bag as a present, has to have a syringe pump dispensing chemotherapy for a week every few weeks. Not only does this remind her of her illness, but she feels it draws attention to her illness from other people. She’s a smart, trim lady who likes to look nice, and HATED the bumbag she was given – not only was it ugly and something she would never wear, it was very uncomfortable for her. She asked for a cross-body, lightweight bag which could comfortably fit her pump in the base, have a gap at the top for the wires to come out – and most of all would look like a bag she had chosen to wear! Look at the the typical bag I’m used to seeing on patients, compared to a custom one:

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So we set to work looking at colours and fabrics. It’s always harder when I can’t see someone, to get a measure of their tastes. She must be about my mother’s age (this was all done over the phone so I had thought maybe classic floral? Some lovely gentle colours…? Wrong, wrong. She wanted bright. Loves cerise pink. Loves bold patterns. I sent some pictures of fabrics based on that, and she chose this – Michael Miller’s Flock in navy. Lovely. My own cosmetics bag is made from this – not sure I would have chosen a bag for myself in it, but everyone’s tastes are different and valid! And once I made it I had several friends telling me they would buy it if she didn’t want it, so she has good taste 🙂

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It’s interfaced but soft and lightweight as requested; because I wasn’t sure of her size I made the strap adjustable; anyway the hardwear always gives a bag a more professional look. I didn’t put any kind of grid in the bottom as I wanted to make it washable (it’s going to be in the hospital a fair bit) – the pump is a sausage-shape with a diameter of 3″ so I made the base 3″ deep. Fingers crossed it fits ok! It’s about 10″ wide by 8-9″ tall… I think! I really should have measured it… enough room for a purse, lipstick etc. Zip closure with enough gap to let out the wires. And long cross-body adjustable strap so it looks like a real bag – that has got to be good for a woman, right?

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I had meant to line it with this, love and Joy by Dena Fishbein, as she likes cerise pink: 10699216_10203944494404633_720094229_n

And honestly can’t remember why I didn’t (it was a few months ago). Perhaps it was a cost thing because I wanted to keep the price down and this fabric is full price. From the pictures I went with this instead, Medallions from the Quilted Fish from Madhuri collection by Riley Blake, which I got in a sale:

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Anyway, apparently she loves it, which makes me very happy; I really wish her all the best; she’s going through a tough time. Hopefully when her treatment is over she will be able to give it to her granddaughter or something. It’s kind of hard to do commissions like this; I don’t take on that many commissions really as it’s a hobby, but for something like this obviously you want to help. But you also want to do it for free. You can’t always afford to use fabrics and time to do things for charity but you sometimes feel you want to. In this case, she would have been offended; I don’t think she would have liked to think of herself as charity, and had she been a personal friend (rather than mother of an old school friend) it would have been different, a gift.

This “sewing pays for itself” malarkey can be a bit fraught; I know I under-price, I know I shouldn’t. I find it hard to value my own work, even though I know it’s excellent quality and a lot of time and thought goes into it. I’m getting better at it. I would definitely try not to undercut folk if I was on Etsy or Folksy – I buy on Etsy loads, wonderful place, never had an issue with service ever, and it’s not fair to expect someone to create something beautiful and not get paid for their time, and when you undercut people by not getting paid, you create an expectation, whereas especially in the UK, fabric and supplies are very expensive! It has made me think I might make some (cheaper) syringe driver bags for the hospice or chemo pump bags for the hospital here as a charity thing though; stories like this are sobering, and make you remember how much people are going through in their lives. Perhaps if I can help a tiny bit, I don’t mean medically, but by making them feel less of a “patient” and more of a “person” again, perhaps these small thing all help.

Anyway, perhaps a bit sobering for a Friday night! Hope you make the most of your today, stories like this make me more determined to do that! Till the next time,

Poppy xx

Bartholomeow’s Reef Bermuda Baby Boy Quilt

Oh my gosh I love this quilt. There are really not that many options for baby boy quilt collections which will grow with a child, but by bingo, this one checks all the boxes. I have never said “by bingo” in all my days before now – it must be special.

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I adore simple patchwork quilts – but particularly for heirloom quilts. My sister-in-law’s friend saw the one I made for my nephew Rufus here :

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and apparently has been desperate throughout her pregnancy for one herself. I don’t know her as they live in Bermuda (!), but I can never refuse my gorgeous sis-in-law anything, and once the baby was born and duly named Matthew and not Rosie, I knew what collection I wanted to use. Especially in the sun – check out the colours even in the Scottish sun:

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My sister-in-law takes her quilts everywhere as a clean surface for the beach, grass or home for the kids and I guess her friend wanted to do the same. Now that she has received it, I can finally wax lyrical about this gorgeous collection.

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It is called Bartholomeow’s Reef by Tim & Beck for Moda, and features sweet but not too babyish little sea-life illustrations – waves, anchors, stars and a cute print with some characters on it – walruses and whales and such cuteness – all amongst bright geometric prints so that the overall effect will suit a 10 year old as much as a baby or toddler.

I backed it in this lovely monkey print by Dear Stella. It’s so sweet and the colours suit the front whilst giving an alternative theme on the reverse:

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They just look so much like my skinny active cheerful 4 year old boy! No mother of a small boy could look at this print and not grin with something akin to fondness. Watching my boy climb up the stair bannister, just because it’s there, leaves me in no doubt how related we are to our ape cousins!

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I used 100% cotton batting – Quilter’s Dream of course – with no scrims, binders or chemicals I just adore it and feel it’s the safest most natural choice for children. That or Dream Orient, but I didn’t think they needed the extra warmth in Bermuda!

So… the quilting. In the last few months, I was showing my friend how to free motion quilt and demonstrating some of the patterns she could use. At which point I realised that, despite my new year’s resolution, I had been putting off using a non-stipple on my quilts for fear of not doing a good enough job – but actually my quilting looked OK. So since then I have done a few. The first was the Jewel Box Quilt of a couple of posts back with loop-de-loop quilting here:

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 (https://cuckooblue.co.uk/post/97092626787/jewel-box-quilt-in-tapestry-fabrics-from-2-charm)  – where the quilting really showed up because I used a wool batt which has a higher loft.

I decided to try a loop and star pattern for the Bartholomeow’s Reef quilt – I think this picture shows it best:

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It was fairly enjoyable to do – I had to concentrate harder than for stippling – whether that’s because I have done about 50 stippled quilts (when on earth did that happen?!)or because it’s more difficult, I don’t honestly know. And it took tons more thread – but it wasn’t as difficult as you would think. My problem was that once I had finished, I really struggled with the non-regularity of it compared to a stipple. I really worried that she wouldn’t like it. I had to literally show it to everyone that would look, who all said it looked great, suited a child’s quilt, and added another dimension to the quilt that I relaxed. I think I wasn’t used to looking at non-stippled quilts! We don’t get much free-motion quilting in the UK although straight-line quilted quilts are starting to take off here. Really it was when my boy saw it and pounced on all the quilted stars fascinated, folowing the lines with his wee finger to the next one that I really did relax! Now I’m so glad I did it – and the recipient loves it!

This is a quick paper sketch of how it’s done, quite straightforward, some loop-de-loops and then a 5-lined star followed by more loop de loops. Start with loop-de-loop of different sized loops:

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Do an extra long line:

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make another line as if you were going to do a triangle:

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but don’t close the triangle, continue the star like this:

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Finally return to the beginning and continue some loop de loops. FIll the page, I mean area of fabric, with more of the same putting stars at intervals.

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It pays to practice this one on paper I found, although I usually don’t have the patience for a lot of practice, I figure I can practice on the job! And again I did more practice on a couple of quilt sandwiches on the machine before doing it on my quilt as there is something which my brain found visio-spatially weird whilst doing the stars. I had to think less about it by the end of the quilt. It’s a sweet look for kids, but it definitely makes a statement I thought. The hubster said “well, it’s a very SUBTLE statement…” Which makes me think that only quilters really see all these details lit up in neon like the aisle lighting in an aeroplane…

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I bound the quilt in this lovely stripe from Pirates by Riley Blake, which I really love. The colours were perfect for this collection and you can’t really beat a stripey binding. I used the navy wave pattern to cut the letters, steam-a-seam 2 to attach and sewed round by hand to secure. You apparently don’t need to with steam-a-seam, but I would hate the letters to come off. The steam-a-seam prevents fraying though, or at least prevents a lots of fraying. I have seen the results of much washing and it does work 🙂

The delighted mum sent me a gorgeous picture of her baby son gurgling away looking very happy and handsome on his quilt, and much as I’m dying to show it to you, the programmer Hubster who has banned any photos of Kiddo on our blogs (he blogs about creative programming solutions, it’s all symbols and looks like a zillion lines of a massive expletive to me) – well he would have a FIT. But I can assure you that this quilt is in good hands.

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So perfectly little boy!

Now, whether I can stop myself making Kiddo a larger version of this quilt I’m not sure. Meanwhile, I’ll look at its rolled up-sunshiney, stripey bound picture and smile. Or maybe that’s because of the Liberty behind it. Ahhhhh, Liberty.

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Until the next time, lovely creative peeps, have a fun time whatever you’re up to,

Poppy xx