Chemo Quilt

new fabric!

How to make a quilt in 10 days while working a full-time job, and doing a girls’ cabin weekend in the middle of it all (a.k.a. quick ‘n dirty style):

Day 1: Decide, upon hearing that your dear auntie who was recently diagnosed with ovarian cancer will be starting chemo in 10 days, that you MUST make her a care package, complete with handmade lap quilt. Make plans to hit the fabric store after your New Year’s Day date with your husband. Curse the universe when you realize that the fabric store closes too early for you to get there.


Day 2: In a 20 minute between-appointments break at work, run into your favorite local fabric store. Grab several bolts of your favorite Anna Maria Horner fabric, thank your lucky stars that there isn’t a line at the cutting table, and walk out with about 1/2 yard each of 6 quilting cottons and 1 yard each of voile. On the drive home, wrestle with the eternal question: to prewash or not to prewash?? Opt to prewash.


Day 3: Decide that you don’t have time to use an elaborate pattern. Start laying out the fabric on your living room floor, keeping the pieces as large as possible. Time is of the essence… planning and piecing eats time. Misplace your scissors. Burst into tears a few times. Ponder the thought of losing yet another family member so soon… Start ripping fabric. Discover that your plan for the backing won’t work. Dig through stash, find more fabric. Assemble the top and the back. Cry yourself to sleep.


Day 4: Make your quilt sandwich, using organic cotton batting and basting spray to hold everything together. Try not to spray your dog, because he keeps trying to “help.” Gather quilting needles, thread, curse yourself for failing (again) to buy a thimble.


Day 5: Go out of town with your girlfriends. Take a day off from working on the quilt. Say a silent “thank you” to the universe for blessing you with such great friends.


Day 6: Everyone knows that girls’ weekends are filled with wine, chatting, more wine, more chatting, and other sedentary activities (except that one time when there was snow – we went snowshoeing!). Use this opportunity to start the hand quilting. Work on the stitching whenever sitting down, which ends up being about 10 hours over the whole day.


Day 7: Continue stitching on the drive home, and for the rest of the evening. It helps if your husband is sleeping on the couch.

Day 8: Stitch stitch stitch!

Day 9: Yes, more stitching! Finish! Stand back and realize – whoah. Those colors are, um. Bold. Loud. Not exactly subtle. Then again, there’s nothing subtle about cancer.


Day 10: Trim the edges. Realize that the failure to measure anything while assembling results in less-than-square corners. Decide you don’t care. Make double-fold bias binding. Machine-stitch to the quilt. Wash and dry!

My sister and I delivered the care package to my aunt last weekend, right after she finished the first treatment. She loves it, and refuses to bring it with her to her treatments.  That’s alright. It can stay at home.

In case you find yourself in this situation and are looking for chemo care package ideas, here is what we came up with:

Large tote bag
Slim expanding file folder
Business card folder
Fun pens
iTunes gift card
Extension cord (for her iPad)
Hard candies (sugar-free Jolly Ranchers, Werther’s, mints, honey-lemon lozenges)
Water flavorings (Crystal Lite packets, Mio water flavor drops)
Various teas (Smooth Move, Ginger, Peppermint)
Crystalized ginger
Assorted hand lotions
Lip balm
A tea kettle & pretty mug
Cozy lounge pants, t-shirts, and zip-front hoodies

I feel like there was more in there… I can’t remember what else though. We made a pot of vegetable soup and a pan of veggie lasagna and froze those in single servings. We also cooked some frozen fruit, then re-froze it in ice cube trays. We thought those might come in handy if her white blood cell counts go low, and she wants to keep doing smoothies.

Now we just need to say our prayers and call in our favors and hope that she comes through this as strong as ever.


2 thoughts on “Chemo Quilt

  1. I ended up here after looking at voile pics on flickr. Love your quilt and your lovely story. Hope your dear Aunt is doing well. Best wishes to you.

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