Quilting with physical challenges?

michigooseSeptember 21, 2011

OK guys...this summer I was trying to quilt while suffering from extremely blurred vision and numb hands caused by 9 courses of chemo (Abraxane). I was in a minor panic that I would be this way permanently. While my hands are still numb, I'm glad to say that my vision is back.

While working with this, someone said to me that having a physical challenge might just change my work, "inform" it...like Henri Matisse did when he switched to paper cut outs when He could no longer paint.

I got to thinking this might be a good topic for an article which hopefully would give people who were recently struggling with a disability hope.

Do you know a quilter or are you a quilter who quilts despite physical challenges? If so, how has your work changed? What suggestions do you have? How do your work around it?

Love to hear from you, either here or privately. Thanks so much! Lisa

Here is a link that might be useful: My quilting blog

Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I have diabetic neuropathy in my fingers. Sometimes it is difficult to even feel a needle in my fingers, but I find the more I use my fingers the easier it gets. I never have any feeling in the tips of my fingers, but can almost visualize it now instead of feeling it. Thank goodness that my joints all work correctly. Even typing now, I do not feel the keys in the tips of my fingers, but I feel it in the joints as I type. I had to learn how to feel with the whole finger not just the tips, if that makes any sense. :)


    Bookmark   September 21, 2011 at 7:29PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Thanks, Jackie, it sounds like mine....although I have trouble with fine motor skills because of it. :) Lisa

    Bookmark   September 21, 2011 at 7:35PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

When I had blurry vision, I could sew squares together using a straight seam by feel but I couldn't put blocks together if they had points as I couldn't see that fine. As most of you know, I'm blind in one eye (right) and I do have to compensate as to where I line up fabric when sewing. It's just something I do and don't think anything about it as it's routine. The next time you're at your machine, close your right eye and that's what I see. @;)


    Bookmark   September 21, 2011 at 8:52PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Have you seen this story about the blind quilter? I'm certain she's not the only known blind quilter, as the story presents her, but it is a great story of doing something you love despite a disability.

I work with several people who have a variety of disabilities. For the most part they continue to do the things they loved doing before their disabilities advanced. Or at least they do them as long as they possibly can. Each stage brings an adjustment but creative people find ways. As my arthritis gets worse in my hands, I look at patterns using larger pieces and I use a bigger table to support the fabric when I get to the quilting.


Here is a link that might be useful: blind quilter

    Bookmark   September 21, 2011 at 9:28PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I have Myasthenia Gravis - an auto immune disease that stops messages getting from the brain to the muscles. This causes me to lose strength in my arms, blurred vision at times, affected by loud noise & bright lights. Contracting this disease was the reason I was medically retired from teaching, but also how I came to patchwork and quilting! However, I couldn't carry my machine to class, so I decided to do everything by hand. The teacher was OK with this and though slower than the others initially, I caught up during each week at home. My health varies from time to time, so when I'm not so well, I revert to hand sewing, applique an hand quilting and still get there in the end! It's really peaceful and fantastic use of time when sitting in a doctor's surgery, doing some applique.


    Bookmark   September 21, 2011 at 10:04PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Sharon, I'm glad you are coping well with your vision loss.

My disability doesn't affect my quilting too much. I have severe hearing loss. It's more of a nuisance than anything else. I can't hear the voices when I watch sewing/quilting videos but the pictures are usually all I need. I used to love listening to music while quilting but now it's just unwelcome noise. I miss the sound of birds and I especially miss the sound of falling rain.

I would like to join a guild but can't understand conversation well enough to take part. The internet is my life-saver......don't know how I would cope without it. I am a member of a few quilting forums and quilters are generous with their time and experience.

    Bookmark   September 22, 2011 at 10:11AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Welcome, Josie! Hope you hang around as we're pretty much a quild here, too, and it looks like it's just what will work for you. You can't physically hear us, but you know what we're saying. @:)

As quilters with various 'challenges,' it looks like we're all crafty enough to do what we have to do to keep quilting as long as we can find a way. Good for us!!!!


    Bookmark   September 22, 2011 at 12:04PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Like Lisa,i also suffered the side effects of chemo.For almost 2 years,during chemo and after my eyes teared something terribly,i couldn't see thru the tears to do much of anything,which really got to me at times as i was also an avid cross stitcher,and you just can't see those little holes in the fabric with tears streaming down your face.

I also had a lot of nerve pain and discomfort in my right arm from all the lymphnodes they removed during the mastectomy.

Chemo also threw me back into menopause,which was worse the second time around,ad i have neuropathy in my feet from the chemo drugs as well.

I can't do every thing i used to do,but i still try,in fact i pulled out a cross stitch chart(small one) to see if i can do it yet.I'm also back to doing a little sewing now and then,as long as it's not very dark colors.

All in all i do what i can and i keep on plugging away at things,doing what i can.

My gardens have been my salvation thru all this,and i'm very thankful for the things i can do.Each day is a blessing.

    Bookmark   September 22, 2011 at 4:20PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Thanks so much for your responses. This is the kind of info I was looking for and I hope that we hear from others. If you know of others who quilt and work to overcome challenges (and we don't mean just matching seams or learning about value and color), I'd love to hear from them.

Kathi, I wish I could say the same about my gardens...my inability to work in them, my current state of low stamina and weakness (I'm not in shape for not having worked outside in almost a year), make me very sad...and I've almost fallen into the goldfish pond twice. This spring, when my daughter was graduating and wanted her party in our garden I was at hone point flattered and on the other hand in agony and If it weren't for the help of some of my quilty friends, I would have had a coronary...they came nad helped clean, spread mulch and prep it.


    Bookmark   September 22, 2011 at 7:35PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Bless us all lol!!! I have pain in my hip so I can't sit long. My routine is cut a little, sew a little, press a little, and stay moving as much as I can. My knees are starting to hurt when I garden, and there is no way I can baste on the floor.

I love to hand quilt but that also causes my hands to get stiff. And my allergies make me listless.

The hot tub makes me feel better but can't do it in the summer. I feel much better after exercising at the gym.

The menopause caused me more emotional pain than physical.

I used to feel pressure to hurry and make gifts even if it was a last minute request. NO MORE!! That made my hobby feel like a job.

I do find quilting relaxing.

    Bookmark   September 24, 2011 at 1:42PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I've just finished chemo and I'm tired a lot. Now I sew for shorter periods of time. My vision is a little blurry and teary but this too shall pass. I keep tissues nearby. I've added more lighting to my sewing room. I will be starting radiation soon and I intend to continue to sew. Keep a positive attitude and do what you can when you can.
Fight like a girl :)

    Bookmark   September 24, 2011 at 3:59PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I can no longer get on my knees in the garden or anywhere else for that matter.My little Ames ride on garden cart helps me tremendously in the garden,as does my Hula hoe.Don't know how i ever lived without them.

I plan to do some sewing today,just hemming pants for my DS.

I still try to do as much as i can,when i can and think i do pretty good for my age and health.

I still have tearing in my left eye only,and it just bugs me,but i don't let it get me down.I just roll with the punches.As Byrdseay says,keep a positive attitude.

These message boards help a lot as well,as you folks are always there to lend an ear on a down day for any of us,and keep our spirits up.

PS byrd,i wish you well with your radiation treatments,i didn't have to do those.Peace,hugs and strength to you and all who are going thru this now.Just take one day at a time.Prayers being said for all of us.

    Bookmark   September 24, 2011 at 5:14PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I feel blessed when I read everyones responces. I have few physcal challenges which aren't related to "old age". It makes me proud to know how successfully everyone adapts to their limitations and the knowledge that should I find myself in their shoes I must not loose hope. Bless you all for sharing.

    Bookmark   September 24, 2011 at 6:01PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Birdseay, radiation sometimes makes people tired. It didn't me, but I was younger when I had it (34 when I got it to the chest area, 38 when I got it to the hip). I think that having to be there every day for 7 weeks takes a toll, but your body is also processing dead cells and trying to rejuvinate the other areas. If you start to get "sunburned skin" tell your radiation tecs, there are several oinments and lotions which help, and if they don't know, then ask around some more.

I finished this round July 1, and am still easily fatigued. My eyesight took about a month to return, but mine was pretty severe. I couldn't see well enough to read.

Adapting to limitations is the name of the game and my whole point in gathering this information is to write and share. When you are first stepping into this area, it is so scary when you think you're going to have to give up things you love. I do mostly art quilts now, but I do love traditional quilts and I adore hand piecing. I find it so therapeutic to run that needle in and out of the fabric...and you don't have to pull so hard as when you quilt by hand.

Knowing that even those with far more significant issues is a help...knowing how people have adapted how they approach doing things they love is a Godsend.

Thanks all...and I still am collecting and thinking. :)


    Bookmark   September 24, 2011 at 7:15PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I like that phrase- 'medically retired'. That's me as well, with neurologic damage from a B12 deficiency. I have low stamina, weakness in my arms and hands, and spasticity. I gardened happily enough, but I could no longer crochet. My mom helped get me started piecing and quilting and I'd do that little bits at a time.

I have to wear strong reader type glasses since I can't focus my own eyes, and I have to have a sturdy PVC type frame I can really rest my arms on since I can't hold them up.

I think the years of quilting and piecing helped me build up a little strength--I still can't crochet but I found I could knit. It's like that joke "But doctor, will I be able to play the piano after?" I could never knit before, one dropped stitch and I was over the whole project. I was keen to get back to yarn though, and when I tried a little easy project I found my hands physically could do it. That's where I've been since last Christmas-- learning to knit, read my knitting, and fix my knitting mistakes. I've left my notorious apple core charm quilt up on the frame the *whole time* and used it as a table to hold my knitting needles and yarn in front of my comfy chair. If any of you are on R- av- el- ry I'm auntvalley there, and that quilt shows up in my pictures there, always in the same position in the frame. I've got my sock knitting pretty much learned, and just lately the knitting is straining my elbow so I wear a tennis elbow strap need to knit less, so...

Tonight, I cleared off my "table" and put in my first needle full of thread into the quilt in over 9 months. It feels good.

    Bookmark   September 25, 2011 at 10:48PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Good heavens, haven't we all learned to adapt! I have severe fibromyalgia and arthritis, as well as vitamin deficiencies that cause neuropathy in my fingers and feet, and had cataracts until last year. Part of my "coping" was to change from local doctors to making the 2 hour trek to Hershey Medical Center for specialized care. It's made a world of difference. Mega-doses of Vitamin D and B12 have my hands almost fully functional.. only the nodes on my knuckles remain from that. That means that crochet is out, knitting is limited (especially in cold weather or for long periods, and applique has to be fitted into days that my hands can tolerate using a needle. And a trigger point injection is helping me cope with the pain in my neck that has limited sitting at the machine. So far, nothing helps the back pain (had surgery 10 years ago, and symptoms are returning).

I've found that the most important things to keep me functioning are having a variety of chairs & tables for different tasks. Whenever I try to do anything, the least "misalignment" can wreak havoc for days. It's always been tempting to just keep plugging along at either the sewing machine or the cutting table. Now I know I HAVE to alternate tasks, and do whatever I can from a recliner with my legs up, so I'm doing more applique.

I also buy more notions/tools with ergonomic handles.. especially my seam ripper (for when I couldn't see very well!). And I'm using the knee lift on my presser foot more than I used to, now that the weather is cooling off and my hands are starting to hurt again.

Another must have is a collection of warmers. I have a neck buddy and a set of footies that can be heated in the microwave. Then when the pain sets in, the heat can help keep me going.

Next must is outstanding lighting. I didn't realize how tired I was when my vision was poor. And speaking of fatigue, changing tasks includes lying down at least once during the day, like it or not.

I, too, cannot go to guilds because #1..Can't handle taking my machine, and #2.. they meet at night, and I don't do evening activities at all. So this site IS my guild!

So far, NOTHING has stopped me from getting to the quilt/fabric shops to add to my stash! In fact, I think that my physical limitations have made me feel that I MUST keep adding fabric and patterns... saving up for the day when I can no longer do this without assistance (hoarding?).

What a great topic! Prayers to everyone trying to live with these severe health challenges and kudos for finding ways to do it!


    Bookmark   September 28, 2011 at 9:48AM
Sign Up to comment
More Discussions
2015 Block Lotto At a Glance
This is going to be a long post, so apologies in advance...
Wahoo and Thank You
Thank you so much to all that submitted blocks from...
MARCH 2015 Lotto Block
MARCH Friendship Star 12-1/2" - Black and white...
Are you quilting this weekend? Feb. 28-March 1
What are you working on this week? My DD and I are...
March 2015 Quilting/Sewing Goals
Our March came in like a lamb. How about where you...
People viewed this after searching for:
© 2015 Houzz Inc. Houzz® The new way to design your home™