This is My Brain; This is My Brain on Drugs

My name is Lennea, I have a quilters brain, and my brain is on drugs.

We sometimes talk about how our physical ailments impact our sewing and quilting and discuss workarounds and adaptations.

But what happens, as it so often does, when the drugs that improve our mechanical shortcomings change our brain? Let’s face it, our hands and feet do the physical work of quilting, but our brain is ultimately in charge of the work crew. Muscle memory helps, but it can’t do the job on its own.

I am a “see it/sew it” quilter. I get a picture in my brain and then I sew it. But now my brain is on drugs and the old “sew it/sew it” system has ghosts and gremlins in the translation.

Some of the “brain” side effects of my drug (steroids) are: mood swings, depression, forgetfulness, restlessness, blurry vision, confusion, personality changes, dizziness and tiredness. Related side effects that interfere with quilting are sweating (can you sew while dripping on your fabric and with salt water in our eyes?) and muscle weakness.

This translates into a decline in my FMQ capability. What the heck? I worked for years to up my FMQ game and now those tiny little pills have thrown those hard earned skills into decline. I also had 3 months when I could sew, but not quilt at all.

So, I guess “more practice” is in order. It is what I would tell someone else in this situation, but I have to tell you, it is a real challenge to have to backtrack and re-train my fuzzy, forgetful, and confused brain. I do okay quilting small sections, but apparently envisioning larger spaces requires too much of my poor drug-infused brain. I can see them in my mind, but when I try to put it into action, I can feel my brain struggling and tripping over itself.

There are questions…will my brain return to normal and miraculously my FMQ skills at some point? Impossible to know. And depressing to consider, so I don’t think about it much.

In the meantime, I am limited to shorter quilting sessions than previously. Think one hour instead of three. I have no staying power for any tasks. And nothing too “new”. I tried quilting a motif that I rarely used in the past and my brain and hands were just not in sync. My hands knew what they wanted to do, but the brain was on walkabout.

My small scale feathers improved, however. Very strange.

I am piecing together a new strategy for quilting. (Quilting pun! Apparently that part of my brain still works!)

  1. Reduce the speed on my machine. My brain is slower, so I will quilt slower.
  2. Avoid large motifs. My brain is happier with envisioning and translating smaller sections, so I will let it be happy.
  3. Use motifs that my hands and brain agree are “doable”.
  4. Quilt more often, for shorter periods.
  5. Map out my FMQ in more detail on my quilt top.
  6. Hubby has put a chalk board up on my sewing studio wall, so I can write down measurements and notes to myself on my current project. This brain can forget things like a number in approximately one second!
  7. Lower my expectations. (Ouch!) Sew, enjoy, repeat.
My little chalk board! Using batting scraps to erase.

I know quilters who faced limitations. And stopped. Who faced great personal loss. And stopped. But this just isn’t an option for me. I understand that for others it is a necessary change. But for me, sewing is part and parcel of my identity, my one constant through an ever changing life. And the thing that allows me to find joy and creativty when grieving or ill. The only option for me is to keep on keeping on. When I lost a spouse, I decided to make quilts and learn FMQ. When I had cataract surgery, I took 2 days off and then did applique with a pair of drug store readers on top my eyeglasses!

The “purple tree” at our Zoolights display. We went with my daughter and two teen grandkids just before Christmas. It has been a family tradition for 30 years and this is my favorite display. It always inspires me.

Here is to an inspired and creative new year!



  1. Thanks for letting me read how to not give up Lennea. I’m Still struggling but will now carry on just doing what I can in small steps, and that’s sashiko quilting or big stitch quilting!? Cheers Glenda

    Liked by 1 person

  2. So sorry to hear about your drug problem (tiny inappropriate joke). Having been through some physical alterations, I found I needed to work smarter according to my new limitations, but to keep doing what I was able. Please don’t give up, use your creativity to continue to see beauty and make what you can. Like your slowing the speed and smaller motifs ( I switched to smaller shovel and gardening tools. ). Take joy in what you can do and keep a sense of humor.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Yes, it seems the older I get, the less time I am able to do the thing that makes me happy and fulfilled (quilting). So, like you, and others here, I have adapted. Gone are the long days and evenings sitting at my machine or cutting out a whole quilt at once. But I still do it. Work through the pain, change how I do things. Just keep on keeping on😉

    Liked by 1 person

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