November 18, 2014

'Twas the Night/ Blogathon Canada

Yay! It's blog hop time again! Welcome all hoppers, especially those who are visiting my blog for the first time! This post is doing double duty as today is my day for two different blog hops.
Sew Sisters Blog

Blogathon Canada is a fun hop organized by Sew Sisters Quilt Shop as a way for Canadian quilting bloggers to get to know each other a little better and introduce ourselves to new friends. There are giveaways on the Sew Sisters blog every day this week, so be sure to pop over, check it out and find the list of all the participating blogs.
And I'm so excited to finally get to share my projects for the 'Twas the Night hop hosted by Mme. Samm of Sew We Quilt, with Marlene of Stitchin By the Lake as our cheerleader/head elf. Mme. Samm's blog hops are always fun and inspiring, but this one has an extra special element. Since the theme of the hop is last minute gifts, we were all asked to make a little something for the person after us in the schedule. It was a lot of fun to plan out what I would send (mine went to Bente, of I Like to QuiltBlog in Germany), and then I couldn't wait for my package from Carolyn, of Sew. Darn. Quilt, to arrive.

What wonderful goodies she sent me! Even the packaging was fun since she had little notes written on each of the parcels. And mmmmmm, Werther's!
The pincushion is fantastic, and has been getting a lot of use already. I'm using the notebook to keep track of my daily to-do list and you can never have too many measuring tapes, right? I've never had a scissors fob before, but it sure is pretty.
 As for this cross-stitched Christmas tree! Absolutely beautiful, and personalized too!
 Thank you so much, Carolyn! I love it all!

As soon as I signed up for this hop, I knew I wanted to make ornaments. I love to give ornaments to lots of the people on my list, so it was fun trying to come up with something I could sew quickly. Except the process was anything but quick! My first attempt didn't work out at all.

I used batting, but I found that made it too stiff. I had an opening left from turning the ornament right side out and I stitched it closed by machine, but I didn't like that the red thread showed on the white fabric. I also found the stitching made the whole ornament look really messy. The fact that I caught the ribbon in the stitching only made it worse.

So, on to attempts number two and three. I was pleased with both of those, so I sent them to Bente. She is sharing them on her blog today.

After that I kept playing around with different ornament ideas, since I knew I wouldn't be sharing the ones I sent to Bente. That's when I found these fantastic free-motion Christmas trees. After a little more trial and error, these are my ornaments.
There's no batting, and because the front is all one colour, the thread I used for the topstitching doesn't stand out and take attention away from the trees. I turned the ornaments and stitched the opening closed by machine, then quilted the trees. The one on the far right distorted a little because of all the stitching, so when I make more I'll try adding a thin stabilizer of some sort. My favourite design is the pebble tree.

My next idea came to me when I was trying to think of what to make for the kids I babysit this year. Eventually, I settled on a bean bag toss game. The bean bags are made of scrap fabric, while the targets and the pouch are made of recycled denim. I have a couple of shelves stuffed full of old jeans that I've been keeping for 'someday' and this seemed like a good project to actually use some of it.
I made four sets of the game, including one for a family with three kids. Rather than make three sets of everything, I made each of them their own bean bags and then one set of targets and one pouch to hold it all.
If you have kids who would enjoy the game, my Bean Bag Toss tutorial will show you how to make your own. I'm working on a separate tutorial for the Denim Pouch because one tutorial for all of it would have been too long, but I ran out of time to get it finished before today. I'll get it finished up and posted in the next couple of days, then I'll add the link here and to the Bean Bag Toss tutorial.

If you're finding yourself really short on time this year, I will be making some ornaments and some bean bag toss games available in my Etsy shop.

Don't forget to go to the Sew Sisters blog so you can see the list of Canadian bloggers, and here is the list of today's 'Twas the Night participants:

Thanks for hopping by!

How to Make a Bean Bag Toss Game

Bean bag toss games are always fun, and bean bags are amazingly simple to sew up, so these little games make great gifts for kids. You can customize them by using fabrics in the recipient's favourite colours, or you can do like I did and assembly line a whole bunch of them at once.

Make the Bean Bags


You will need:
* 4 1/2" squares of fabric. You need two squares for each bean bag. I included 3 bean bags in each game, so I used 6 squares.
* Dried beans
*Thread to match the fabric

Pin two fabric squares right sides together. After accidentally sewing all the way around things in the past, I like to use two pins to remind myself to leave a gap for turning the bean bag right side out. On this one, I started sewing at the single pin on the top right and stopped at the two pins on the top left.
 Stitch around the squares using a 1/4" seam and leaving a gap for turning. Clip the corners.

Turn it right side out, gently poking out the corners. Press.
Fold the seam allowance in along the gap and press that as well.

Pour in dried beans. You don't want to fill the bag, but put in enough to give it a nice heft. Pin the opening closed.

Using thread to match the fabric, stitch close to the edge all the way around the bean bag.
And there you have it! Three bean bags ready to go.

Make the Targets


You will need:

* 6" squares of fabric, two per target. I included 3 targets, so I used 6 squares. I used denim for my targets, but it would work equally well with quilting cotton.
* Contrasting fabric for the numbers. I used the same fabric as for my bean bags.
* Paper-backed fusible web
* Threads to match both the fabric for the targets and for the numbers.

Pin two squares right sides together. Again, I use two pins to remind myself to stop so that I leave a gap for turning it right side out.
Stitch around the squares using a 1/4" seam and leaving a gap for turning. Clip the corners.
Turn it right side out, gently poking out the corners. Press. Fold the seam allowance in along the gap and press that as well.

Using thread to match the fabric, stitch close to the edge all the way around the target. Because I was using denim I found it helped to use my walking foot for this step. It dealt with the extra bulk at the corners much better than my regular foot.

I drew my numbers freehand, but you could print them out if you prefer. Don't forget to reverse them for fusible applique. I used my high-tech lightbox to reverse mine.
Following the manufacturer's instructions, fuse one number to the middle of each target.
Using thread to match, machine stitch around the edge of each number. I used the basic running stitch, but you could use a decorative stitch if you prefer.

And the targets are finished!
I meant to have the tutorial for the Denim Pouch with Flap Closure ready to post along with this one, but I ran out of time. I'll have it finished in the next couple of days, and then I'll add the link here.

November 17, 2014

What's She Really Like?

Devotion for the Week...

Have you ever met someone new and then gone to someone who knows that person well and asked "Is she really that nice all the time?" Or asked something similar, just to see if your first impression of the person was accurate? I do it sometimes with teenagers I don't know well. I'll ask my husband, who is a high school teacher and so sees them on a regular basis, if so-and-so is as good a kid as she (or he) seems.

We all form opinions of others based on what we know of them, what we have heard about them and what we expect them to be. We form opinions about ourselves too. With ourselves, though, we tend to focus on our failures, our fears and our shortcomings. We remember negative things people have said about us and take them on as part of our identity, while having trouble believing praise from other people. Because of that, many people have a distorted image of themselves as being less capable, less likeable and just generally less than they really are.

God's view of us is never distorted, though. I've said before that Romans is my favourite book of the Bible, and I've been reading it lately in The Message paraphrase whenever I'm waiting to pick up one of the boys. Last week this verse jumped out at me: "God pays no attention to what others say (or what you think) about you. He makes up his own mind" (Romans 2:11) It was the 'or what you think' part that really got my attention. How many people have trouble believing God loves them because they think they're unworthy of His love? How many can't believe He wants to use them because they don't think they're good at anything? Of course, The Message is a paraphrase, not a direct translation, so I checked out some translations to see how they translated this verse. 

First, though, a little context. In this chapter of his letter to the Romans, Paul was writing about those who judge others as sinful, while they themselves are also sinning. He then goes on to say:

"But because of your stubbornness and your unrepentant heart, you are storing up wrath against yourself for the day of God’s wrath, when his righteous judgment will be revealed. God “will repay each person according to what they have done." To those who by persistence in doing good seek glory, honor and immortality, he will give eternal life. But for those who are self-seeking and who reject the truth and follow evil, there will be wrath and anger. There will be trouble and distress for every human being who does evil: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile; but glory, honor and peace for everyone who does good: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile. For God does not show favoritism" (vv. 5-11 in the NIV translation).

'First for the Jew, then for the Gentile' means that God's judgement is impartial, with no distinction made based on race, nationality or anything else. Each person will receive 'trouble and distress' or 'glory, honor and peace' based on God's righteous judgement of their life.

Other translations render verse 11 as "For there is no partiality with God" (NKJV), "For there is no preferential treatment with God" (Phillips) and "for there is no respect of persons with God" (ASV), all of which agree with the NIV 'God does not show favoritism.'

At first glance, it may seem that Eugene Peterson has gone astray with his paraphrase, since "God does not show favoritism" doesn't seem to mean the same thing as "God pays no attention to what others say (or what you think) about you. He makes up his own mind." But the more I think about it, in this context, the more I think Peterson got it right.

God doesn't look at the external markers of who we are. If you were to write the bare facts of my identity, you would say I am female, Canadian, a wife and mother, a quilter, a writer and a blogger. All of which is true, but none of which makes any difference to how God will judge me at the end of my life. If we were each to write out a list about ourselves, we would add characteristics like shy or outgoing, along with things maybe no one else knows about us, like private struggles we share with no one but that affect our perception of who we are. But again, none of that affects how God will judge us. 

God knows the truth about us, without needing to check in with others to see if His impression is right. He doesn't need to ask us if we're worthy, or hear reports about our behavior from the town gossips. He knows us. He knows whether our hearts are turned towards Him, or whether we reject Him even while we pretend to be one of His own. 

However others may define you, or whatever they (or you) may say about you, God will judge you by your heart.

November 10, 2014

Giving an Account

Devotion for the Week...

Occasionally, Paul will speak to me when he thinks I've been too hard on one of the boys, or I'll speak to him when I think he has. Usually we've been harsh not because what the child did was so awful, but because we're tired or frustrated and taking it out on an undeserving target. 

Other times I catch myself being critical or judgmental about someone and sharing thoughts that would be better dismissed completely. James wrote, "All kinds of animals, birds, reptiles and sea creatures are being tamed and have been tamed by mankind, but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison" (James 3:7,8). How very true! Our tongues often seem to have a mind of their own, don't they, spewing out words before the mind takes the time to think.

Matthew records a warning Jesus gave to the Pharisees, the religious leaders of His day, "But I tell you that everyone will have to give account on the day of judgment for every empty word they have spoken. For by your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned" (Matthew 12:36,37). The Message paraphrase renders it as "Let me tell you something: Every one of these careless words is going to come back to haunt you. There will be a time of Reckoning. Words are powerful; take them seriously. Words can be your salvation. Words can also be your damnation."

Those are sobering words, aren't they? Would we be more careful with our words if we remembered that someday we will stand before God and hear all of our words again?

Often, when I think of being more careful about what I say, I'm thinking about what I say to the people in my life, like being careful to choose words that will not hurt the feelings of the person I'm speaking to, or reminding myself to be extra patient when I know I'm tired. This week, though, I've been thinking more about the things we say about other people. I've been thinking especially about when we're talking about politicians. If we disagree with their decisions or their actions, we tend to speak very negatively, using disrespectful language. We say things like 'stupid' or 'idiot,' words we tell young children not to use. But Ephesians 4:29 tells us "Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen." Though the politicians will never hear the words spoken in my home, do they benefit those who are hearing them? Though it is impossible to always agree with everyone, it is possible to speak respectfully of those whose opinions are different from ours? And I think those words will be easier to account for when we stand before God.

I've also been thinking about how our tone can impact what we say. Though our words by themselves may be okay, the tone we use sometimes changes their meaning. "You are so smart" can be said seriously, in which case it is a wonderful thing to say, or it can be said sarcastically, which is not so wonderful. I would guess that when God asks us to give an account of our words, the tone we used will be a part of the discussion.

As Christians, we are called to be different. Does that difference show in the way we speak?

November 07, 2014

Still Sewing

I am still sewing, even if I haven't been blogging about it much lately. I've been quiet here partly because I've been doing a lot of experimenting to come up with projects for the 'Twas the Night blog hop that starts next week and partly because I've been working on the tractor commission quilt. I'm really pleased with how that's turning out, but it's not much to post about yet.

However, I do have some things I can share. I have finished embroidering the words for another Psalm 19 mini. Now to add the flower applique details, embroider them and then sew on some borders.
Maybe I should have ironed it before taking the picture?
I haven't actually sewn anything onto this next project yet, but it's just so pretty I had to share it. This belongs to Liz, of Green Cheese Quilting. The star in the middle is her Round Trip Quilts starting piece, onto which Jennifer, of Never Just Jennifer, added all those beautiful HSTs. I've had it out, just lying around, for a couple of days as I ponder what I want to add as my contribution. I haven't fully decided yet, but I think I want to pull out the navy that features in some of those prints, especially the Cotton + Steel lions that are peeking out from some of Jennifer's HSTs.
We have a four day weekend starting now, so I'm hoping to get a lot of sewing done during the break. Unfortunately, most of what I'm hoping to get done is for the blog hop, so I won't be able to share much until then. My day to post for that is the 18th, and I'm hoping to have a tutorial ready to go along with my one of my projects. The hop itself starts on Tuesday, the 11th, and everyone is sharing quick and simple gift ideas so there should be plenty of inspiration for just about everyone on your Christmas list. It should be fun!

Have a great quilty weekend!
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