Sunday, July 30, 2023

All I Want


I'm back. Anyone miss me?

So what have I been up to the past few months? Well, mainly I was trying to stay alive. More on that later. In between trying to keep myself sane, I did a tiny bit of textile art for my ongoing "Use every dem fabric scrap" project. The stitching is done free motion style. Can you tell the second piece is done on a painted calico? I have thousands and thousands of scrap calico from garment making and I just can't bear to throw them away. So I spent more money on fabric paint to disguise the plain calico colour. I only applied one coating of paint. Not bad right?

This is the fabric paint I used. I chose this brand because it was the only fabric paint I could find at Art Friend. I discovered that you can't leave the leftover paint on a palette overnight and expect to use it again the next day. The paint dries up to a plastic thing, like a skin and it becomes unpaintable.

Here's another one I did. Your typical cups applique. With this piece, I wanted to use more scrap fabric. 

Birds on a wire. And maybe something about cliques and being outsiders... Anyway, I was trying to be clever here. I did one on paper - water colour and micron pen and one on painted calico. Did not use up much scrap fabric!

Okay, I think here's a good time tell you what I've been through the past few months. I wanted to show you something pretty first before I tell you the ugly stuff. To be honest, I'm a bit embarrassed that I have ailments after ailments to write about on my posts.

Here goes. Remember there was a time when all I suffered from was just gastric issues? Bloating, pain, headaches, reflux, more pain. Ah, those were the good old days. In early April, I finally got scheduled for a oesophago-gastro-duodenoscopy(OGD) aka endoscopy. I was hoping the test could shed light on why I have chronic gastrics. I also had a CT Scan scheduled but that was in early May. The test went well. Sort of. The doctor did forget to wait until I was completely asleep before she started inserting the tube into my throat. And mind you, I had gotten her to promise me she would not do it while I was awake. She did it anyway. It was impossible for me to indicate to the staff that I was still awake. My body and arms were restrained and I had stuff in my throat. I tried telepathy but it didn't work. Desperate, I used my throat to make some gurgling stressed noises. Thankfully someone noticed and started patting me on my shoulder but the doctor continued inserting the tube. Finally the anesthesia kicked in...

A few days later my problems started. Probably not related to the endoscopy. All I know was one day I was fine, the next I woke up with hives on my upper leg and sides of my body. I'm calling these Hives No. 1. At that time, Singapore was going through a heatwave so I thought that had something to do with my hives. I wasn't too concerned thinking the hives would run its course with anti-histamine to relieve the itch. But the itch got worse and worse and it was no ordinary itch. The itch ran very deep and nothing could relieve it. My body also felt super hot without any fever. I constantly felt I could burst into flame any moment. 

I went to see a GP who declared I had acute hives. I was prescribed steroid for one week and anti-histamine for day and  night. After taking the day anti-histamine prescribed by the GP, I found myself with more hives - these were whole body hives and the itch would run around from head to toe. I'm calling these All Over Hives. Apart from the additional hives, I had other symptoms so I suspected my body did not like the day anti-histamine which was a new to me brand. I switched to another brand of day anti-histamine which I had taken before and All Over Hives disappeared together with the other symptoms. Problem solved? Not really. Hives No. 1 continued to be my main concern but now and then All Over Hives would still get triggered and last for 3 days. 

Our air conditioning was not working well so we bought a new one except it would only get installed in early June. I think everyone else in Singapore was getting new air conditioning. It was that hot. 

Meanwhile Hives No. 1 was making me nuts. I only had welts on my upper legs and sides of my body but boy, I wanted to scream every minute. The itch was crazy. At night it was worse. The day and night anti-histamine only reduced the itch a little bit. Thank goodness I could sleep a little as the night drug caused drowsiness. I had acupuncture twice and honestly I don't know if it worked. I surfed the net searching for solutions and read somewhere acute hives could last for 6 weeks! Believe it or not. Exactly after 6 weeks, Hives No. 1 completely disappeared. I was so relieved. I continued with the anti-histamine as the doctor had told me to continue even when the hives were gone. 

With Hives No. 1 gone, I'd thought I could live like a human being again. But All Over Hives kept showing up. Each itch cycle was 3 days. I would get a break from the itch for a few days before another itch cycle started. Unlike Hives No. 1, the itch was all over my freaking body. The itch ran up and down, up and down causing me to lose my mind. All Over Hives was waaay worse because I could not sleep well. On the itchy nights I had at most 2 hours of sleep. I found myself becoming mentally unstable. Fortunately I found 2 ways to cope. If I kept very still, the itch was less intense. Also, if I am eating, I couldn't feel the itch. So I snacked a lot. Don't ask me how much weight I put on! The nights were the worse because I was so sleepy but I couldn't lie down on the bed. Lying down made the itch really bad. I would pass the night sitting very still in front of my computer watching mindless youtube videos. By June, our new air conditioner was installed but the cold air did not make sleeping easier. It did make life a lot saner. I felt less irritable.

Finally, I was so desperate I went back for 2 more rounds of acupuncture. On my last visit, the doctor hurt my belly hitting a vein. I ended up with a painful hematoma. The bruise lasted 1 week. And the acupuncture didn't fix my itch so I ended my relationship with the quacks. Money down the drain.

I went back to the GP who suggested that I get 2 injections. He said many patients benefited from the injections and of course I was so in. At first I felt like finally I had found my solution. My itch felt reduced. Several hours after the jabs, my skin turned super red and hot. My All Over Hives? Increased in intensity by 1000 times. I also lost the ability to taste anything except sweet. OMG. I wanted to kill my GP. I wanted to kill myself. This time, the itch cycle lasted 5 days. For 5 days, I had 1 or 2 hours of sleep per night. And I lost my appetite. Previously, despite the super itch from Hives No. 1, I had a fantastic appetite and eating kept me going. Now that I've lost my sense of taste, eating was a torture. I only ate sweet stuff because that was the only thing I could taste. Don't ask me how much weight I gained.  

I went back to the GP and he was so disappointed to see me. He had told me I would feel great for 2 weeks. Much to my disappointment, the GP said he could do nothing more for me. He referred me to a skin specialist but it would be months before I get to see the specialist's face. What was I supposed to do in the meantime? His reply: I don't know how to help you. And I HAD to pay him his usual fee for zero help.

This GP has been my doctor for many years. I've trusted him with my health care, my life even. He made my condition worse. And then no apology, just I can't help you? He gave up? What kind of doctor does that? 

After realizing I was truly on my own, I felt so hopeless. I kept going through my food diary to see if I had eaten anything that might have triggered the hives. By then I had pretty much eliminated dairy, gluten and nuts from my diet so I was sure it wasn't caused by food. Suddenly I had an idea. Since I reacted badly to the injections, maybe that's the key? I looked at the medication the GP had given me via injections and one was steroid and the other was the same night anti-histamine that I had been taking on and off since my itch started. What if the medication was causing All Over Hives? Although the idea that a medication that is supposed to stop the itch could cause itch is unthinkable. I decided to stop taking any anti-histamines, both day and night. And it was hard because my itch level was X1000. I wanted to tough it out to see if it made any difference. Much to my relief, All Over Hives completely disappeared. Within a week, my skin colour lost much of its redness. My sense of taste also slowly returned but until today, my sense of saltiness is still off. I can taste it but it's reduced.

So, happy ending? Well, yes and no. Hives No. 1 came back. What? Now and then. No kidding. But the good news is it's not as bad as before. As long as I don't take any anti-histamine, the itch cycle is short and not as itchy. It's a mere fraction of what it was like before. In fact it's bearable. And I can sleep. Yay. And I can lead a normal life. I also think I've figured out what caused Hives No. 1. I believe it's triggered by pollen. I have tested positive for pollen allergy before but I've never had hives like these past few months.

I try not to go outdoors often and when I do, I wear long pants. I wash my nasal passages when I reach home. When Hives No. 1 come back for a visit, I try not to freak out because I know now that it'll eventually go away. I haven't totally avoided going out to exercise. I've gone out to run 4 times and only one time I had a bad itch and had to run home. It seems cloudy days are not good for me to go outdoors. The other 3 times when I ran outdoors successfully without itch, it was sunny. My new exercise outfit is long sleeves and long pants. I also stopped wearing short skirts. One time I was outdoors for a very short period of time in short skirt and it was windy. Just like that, Hives No. 1 was triggered on my legs. The hives went away within a day so I didn't cry over it. But skirts are a no-no for now.

So that's the long story of what happened to me. Honestly I could have given you the shortened version but you know me. 

I hope that one day my body will be able to deal better with pollen. Meanwhile, I drink ginger tea a few times a week because I read somewhere it helps. I mean what have I got to lose? 

Also, more happy news. Both my endoscopy and CT scan came back normal. I do have multiple polyps which is likely caused by my long term use of gastric medication. But not cancerous. In fact, I am healthy as can be. The doctor did give me a suggestion on how to deal with my gastric issue and I'm so glad I took her advice. I finally have an answer! But it's too much to write about in this post so I'll dedicate another post to it. It's mind blowing. 

In the early days of my itch, I kept my mind occupied by making some beaded jewellery. Then one day I had to stop because it got too hard to focus. 

During my endless watching of youtube videos, I came across a Angela Walters free motion challenge and I became interested. Although I know some free motion doodling, I did it in a haphazard way. Angela Walters' free motion quilting had regular length and there's a method to the madness. I became hooked and joined her first free motion quilting challenge. (here) I followed everything including the piecing of the blocks which took me a month because you know, the itchiness. I finally got to the part where I could do the free motioning and then I realised how HARD free motion quilting is. My quilt was large and you know I'm not used to working on large pieces of fabric. It was also heavy and I didn't have the luxury of space so it was a disaster. My stitching was awful and let's forget about regular stitch length. If I manage to complete free motioning on one block, it was considered a success. Then it occurred to me that I need not do free motion quilting on such a big piece of quilt. I could do it on smaller pieces and still complete the challenge. And that's what I did.

These are all my practice stitching and I used up so much of my scrap fabric! I thought it was a waste to throw them away after all the hard work so I bound the edges and now I'll never run out of coasters or table mats.

I want to thank free motion quilting for saving me. I needed to keep my mind occupied during the times when I felt sad and hopeless and it was the one single thing that kept me going and going. Like every day I wanted to conquer another new pattern. After so much practice, I'm still not that consistent in my stitching. It's definitely harder than learning to ride a bike. When I'm stitching, my mind and my foot sometimes become 2 separate entities. That's why now and then my stitches are tiny or super big. 

I decided to continue with the quilt from the Angela Walter's challenge and even though the result is quite crappy I finished it.

All the fabric used on the quilt were scraps from other projects. I'm going to continue with more free motion challenges from Angela Walters' blog but I'm definitely not doing big quilts anymore. 

My last free motion project. I used Zig fabric pen to colour the "drawings". For free motion doodling, it's hard to keep the stitches regular. Maybe there's a way but I can't do it. I focus more on the shape. I wasn't trying to "save" any fabric scrap. But I did end up using a very wide piece of calico. Win, win.

I almost didn't want to tell you about the second leather bag class I attended in March. It was to make a hobo bag. This is the bag. Isn't it horrible? I couldn't get a good photo of it as it is too floppy and the shape is funny. The leather is chrome leather and somewhat soft. I regretted attending the class. The teacher was awful. She was very bad at teaching. Whenever she did a demo, she would make mistakes and tell us not to follow her example. She taught us an ugly way to sew the pockets with visible raw edges. When asked why she doesn't teach the method where the raw edges are encased, she said she's teaching us the handmade way. The method where all raw edges are hidden is only done at factories. She's so much bullshit. I only learned 2 new things in the class - using rivets and sewing on a cylindrical bed machine (see image above). It's not a difficult machine to use but it's very slow like one stitch at a time because the teacher had set the speed to tortoise and it is set via the motor so you can't modify it. The teacher also kept asking me to work slowly because I was too fast. It was torturous is all I can say. I'm so done with leather.

See you in my next post.

Wednesday, February 1, 2023

New Things


Slowly, I found myself disappearing from my blog. Hardly anyone reads my blog nowadays so there was no motivation or urgency to write any new posts. But I guess habits are hard to break so here I am tapping out a new post. 

End of last year I did 1 thing that the normal me would never do. I felt myself suffocating and needed a huge distraction so desperately that I signed up for a leather bag making class.

I've never had any interest in leather, not that I'm anti-leather. Plus I have sensitive skin so working with glue and leather is probably not the best thing for me. But I wanted something totally different from what I'm usually attracted to. Before the 6 day Tote bag class, I was a bit afraid I may not be able to tolerate the smell of leather or be unable to complete the bag. Too much overthinking. Working with leather turned out to be so freaking fun. There is so much to learn. The process of making the bag totally by hand was so enjoyable. We used saddle stitch, done using 2 needles and it sounds easy but you need to pull the thread in the correct direction to achieve the slanted thread look. Most importantly, all the hammering was extremely therapeutic. Bang, bang, bang, bang. I wish I had discovered leather earlier. Now with my commitment to so many hobbies, I don't think I can spare the time or money to explore it further. I'll probably attend workshops in future when I want to make anymore leather stuff. That way I need not invest in the leather making tools which, I kid you not, aren't cheap. What's best about the class is everything is provided so there's no need to pay for supplies. Plus the cost of the class was funded by grants and my education fund, so I didn't even pay a single cent. 

This is the leather bag I made. Originally I wanted to add a lining but I was quite slow and the tiny amount of time available to sew the lining at home was squandered so my bag is unlined. But I did burnish the edges so despite the lack of lining, it turned out alright. I use the bag all the time now. 

Since last year I've been trying out watercolour at home. I only painted in primary and secondary school using poster colours in art classes taught by teachers who knew nothing about art so as a result, I literally know nothing about painting. During my late teens to early 20's, I was obsessed with drawing but I used caran d'ache colour pencils. So no painting since secondary school if you don't count the "painting" I did on fabric. Hardcore painting with actual techniques has never been on my radar. Just mention blending and my eyes would go all glassy. 

But... I felt I needed a new hobby, one that I have no talent for so I'll be so occupied with figuring it out that I won't have any space left in my head for stress. (this is how my brain works) Anyhoos, I didn't choose watercolour. Watercolour chose me. Initially when I was looking for an in-person painting class, I searched for poster colour painting. But the classes were for kids. So embarrassing to join a kid's class so I widened my search. (I once attended a very basic bookbinding class and I was the only adult!) My next choice was acrylic but the location was not ideal. Eventually I signed up for watercolour because the cost, timing and place was perfect. It was once a week on a Saturday over 2 months. Thanks to a huge subsidy because I'm an old person, I only paid $56. I could have used my education fund to pay the $56 but I've wiped out my fund. All supplies are provided - a set of watercolour paint, one brush and a few sheets of watercolour paper. So, $56 is not a bad deal.

Watercolour sounds easy but believe it or not, mastering watercolour is extremely difficult as I have come to discover. You have to be the master of water to be able to control your result. And watercolour can be unpredictable when you are unable to Be Like Water. Me? I suck at watercolour. The students in my class are amazing. I heard some of them attend painting classes everyday so that might explain why their work is way better. Despite my lack of talent in watercolour painting, I discovered I really enjoy painting. And most importantly, when I sit at my table painting away, my mind is free of stress. 

I felt the teacher isn't very good. He's a bit impatient and doesn't try very hard. If he tries to explain something and he sees blank faces, he'll say, never mind if you don't understand. His attempt to explain temperature of colour(which I thought was important) was feeble. I wonder if anyone understood. The best part was he declared he will no longer paint in watercolour. So much for being an inspiration. To be honest, I was thinking of continuing with intermediate watercolour class to see if I'll improve. Now there aren't any follow-up classes so I guess I'll just do it on my own. 

These are the exercises I did in class. I dislike still life and realism style. I can't for the life of me do it well.

I've been practicing painting a lot and in the end, I realise I kinda like the ink and wash technique the most because it requires less skill and precision. The pic above - first I put some washes of colours for the cats, plants and birds. Then I use micron pen to draw the details. My teacher taught us to draw in ink first and colour later but I prefer to do the reverse. Doesn't the painting look like it was done by a kindergarten student? 

Last year I set myself a goal of 24 scrap fabric project. I ended up with only 10 because my interest fizzled and there was no inspiration.

These 2 were the last projects I completed last year. I've worn the fabric cuff many times and I love it so much I want to make a few more in other colourways. The duck quilt is something I tried using a different technique from my norm. I used fusible web to glue all the fabric down followed by sewing decorative stitches all over the seamlines.

This year, I'm going to continue using my scrap fabric, putting them in little fabric collages. I mean if I don't use my scraps, I'll have to throw them away, right? I think realistically, I can manage 10 so that's my target.

I sewed a blouse for myself using leftover fabric. Hubs says it's sexy so I'm going to make another one but I'll make it a dress with pockets.

Remember last year I had to go for a bone density scan? I waited 6 nervous months for the scan. Guess what? The results show I do NOT have osteoporosis! Wow, I was expecting bad news and when the doctor told me the result, I almost cried. I feel the Universe has given me a second chance so I'm making sure I take calcium supplement every day. And exercise too. No more messing around. 
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