Thursday, November 28, 2013

Making a Mark

It is time.

Remember all that math I was doing a couple of months ago?  It's time to put it to use.

Sometimes I get pieces given to me -- whether all-of-a-piece or in sections, they "come to me" from (in my faith-view) the Holy Spirit.  Tomorrow I'll begin the main stitching on such a piece.

It "arrived" in my mind in September after reading one of Judy Martin's posts.  Fittingly, today, as I opened the Blogger Dashboard to begin this introduction, there was another one of her posts.  I got to thinking about November which, in Canada, is also "National Diabetes Awareness Month" -- with a major focus on Type 1 Diabetes.  November was chosen because it's the birth month of the principle discoverer of insulin, Dr. Frederick Banting.

It's also my late husband's birth month, and tomorrow marks the 61st anniversary of his birth.

I got to thinking about the impact of insulin injections on the body, and did some math to see if I could figure out how many injections he would have taken from diagnosis at age 7 -- using his birthday, November 29 -- to the day he died.  In other words, November 29, 1959 (turned 7) to August 9, 2006.  For many years, he took only one injection per day, but for at least the last 10 years of his life, he took two.  Thus  at minimum he would have poked his body with a very fine needle 24,326 times over that period (I estimated the number of leap years and added those in too).

Then there would have been the pin pricks to test his blood sugar -- at least once a day for all that time, or an estimated minimum of 17,021 more needle pokes.  That's a total of 41,347 "routine" needle marks, not counting extra ones in hospital stays etc.  Each one made a mark on the body, barely visible to the eye, building up a type of scarring on the skin and deep into the tissues, even when the injections were carefully monitored.  And those blood sugar tests? Marks on the finger tips.

By yet another "co-incidence", this year's introduction to National Diabetes month is all about the numbers.

I wanted to express the impact of T1D in stitch, and so have prepared a foundation piece.  I'm using a very lightly patterned batik in a Caucasian flesh tone simply because my husband was Caucasian.  It's sandwiched with very thin batting and backed with a light white-striped synthetic drapery remnant.

It occurred to me that I needed some sort of shape or reference in which to place the stitched marks.  For this, I enlisted the help of my children, who at my request -- and without really knowing why -- created a paper pattern  Yes, it's life-sized -- and as my son is the same height (or so) as my husband, perhaps the most accurate part of this project!

Paper Pattern
I traced the pattern onto sheets of recycled laminate plastic, which I'd taped together, and given the size of fabric I had to work with (I'd bought the end of a bolt and that's all there is), I decided to trace only neck, torso and part of the legs.  These would be include all the sites used for injection and blood tests with one exception.  This tracing is two-dimensional, so there's no back -- no buttocks, which are also injection sites.
The stitches will go through to the back of the piece, so that will have to do!

Plastic pattern

I used the plastic template to transfer the image onto my fabric.  Then I sandwiched the fabric with thin batting and backed it as described above.  Then I stitched around the image with white thread -- white on white to keep it subtle.  I want the focus to be on the stitched marks, not on the outline of the body.

None of this happened without sampling, using some of the same batting and backing but a different cotton, and trying out silk and polyester threads for fineness and colour.  During the sampling, another "aha!" -- I could prepare the piece for the marks and better show the scarring if I distressed the piece in the areas most injected with insulin.  Enter my embellisher (needle-punch machine).

Sample -- stitches and distressing on cotton sandwich

I was very pleased with the results, so after assembling the sandwich, stitching down the image, stay stitching the edges (1/4" from each) and trimming the excess batting and backing, I went to work.  Below is just part of the distressing -- showing abdomen and upper thigh.

What of the hand stitches and all that math?  Back to the dates I mentioned above.  My husband was born November 29, 1952 and diagnosed with T1D at seven (assumed date: his birthday, 1959).  This means there were seven years "Before Diabetes" -- and I've decided to include one mark per day for each of them -- 2,556 days/marks.

The "BD" marks will be in blue silk thread, for that care-free, peaceful time in his life.
The insulin injections will be marked with pale peach silk thread.
And the blood tests will be marked with a deep red polyester thread (fine weight).

There are 984 days between tomorrow and the tenth anniversary of my husband's death on August 9, 2016.
There are 43,903 marks to be made -- or about 44 per day between those dates -- 6% (3 marks per day) in blue, 39% (17 marks per day) in red, and 55% (24 marks per day) in peach.

Type 1 Diabetes leaves its Mark on the Body; hence, the title of my piece.  Its intended as a commemoration -- an honouring of my husband's life, and a recognition of the mark this disease makes on the lives of those who cope with it, day in and day out, from diagnosis to death.

For the most part, T1D's mark is invisible -- even with the impact on the skin and underlying tissue.  There are marks no one sees except on autopsy -- the internal damage to the body done by the disease, not by the insulin per se.  And then there are the marks it makes on the hearts, minds and souls of those who have it, and on their loved ones -- especially their parents, spouses and children.

T1D is a quiet disease.  It doesn't shout for funding.   But despite a plethora of research -- some of the best in the world done right here in Alberta, in Edmonton -- there is no cure.

T1D made its mark on my husband's life, on my life, and on the lives of my children.  Every day more children and young people are affected.   I have no idea what will happen to this piece once it is finished; I only know that I've been inspired to make it, and tomorrow, I begin.

It is time.

The Blanks - circa 1985*

*Editted to add: See the blanket on my lap in the photo?  That's the very first quilt I ever made -- a Log Cabin crib quilt for my son (the baby on said lap).  :-)


Diane said...

This is powerful! My son is living with a combo of type 1 and 2 -hence a real struggle to balance the insulin requirement. Hugs for your memorial journey!

arlee said...

o. m. g.

elle said...

O. M. G. is right. What a project and what a vicious disease. My mum had adult onset diabetes and went legally blind. Certainly a worthwhile project, Margaret.

rtquilter said...

Awesome post, Margaret. I am a T2 D girl and sympathize soo much with the t1 folks. What a lovely memorial for your husband.

els said...

How beautiful. What a tribute to your husband. It is so emotional.

California Fiber artist and composer said...

Many diseases show little from the outside yet so much happens on the inside invisible to those who do not choose to connect emotionally to the sufferer. With diabetes it is often not the disease itself, but the steps required to manage it, and the other problems which go along with it such as eye issues, neuropathy, infections etc. And yes we often do have to wait for the spirit to move us or the flash of inspiration to hit us over the head.

Martha Ginn said...

What an ambitious project, Margaret. But with something so filled with meaning, it doesn't matter the length of time taken. We quilters have a unique method of expressing ourselves. Good luck and happy stitching!
Martha Ginn