October 06, 2015

Tiny Little Distractions

I've been a little distracted lately by some little projects.
I tried to resist the Mini Mini Quilt Swap on Instagram. Really, I did. But the cuteness of the little tiny quilts I kept seeing was just too much to resist for long. This is a low-key swap where you just offer to swap with someone and then you both make mini mini quilts that finish in the vicinity of 4". Like I said, tiny quilts!

My very first thought was to make a tiny hexie flower and applique it to a background square. Ever since I saw the quilts made with the Flowers for Eleni, I've wanted to make something similar. It was fun to finally do it, but making this little quilt only makes me want to make a bigger version! The hexies for this flower were 1/2" on a side. This one has been sent to Erin, @lemonadefish on IG.
Then I wanted to try a Disappearing 4-patch, but I found the effect was a little lost at this small size. The quilting was fun though...teeny tiny feathers and some organic switchbacks finished it off quite nicely. This one is still available to swap, if anyone is interested.
I had seen a few whole cloth mini minis, so I wanted to give one of those a try too. I thought it would be fun to make a pinwheel using two different colours of thread, and two different quilting patterns. I don't usually use thread that contrasts so much, but I really liked the effect for this little project. And I found that even though each individual pebble isn't perfect, the overall effect is nice. I really liked how the pink thread pops against the dark grey fabric I used for the backing. I have sent this one to Jayne, @twiggyandopal on IG.
The really fun part was that I quilted all three of these mini minis in one evening! I've never completely quilted three quilts in one evening before!!

The next mini mini quilt started with a scrap of the rocket fabric from the Friendship Galaxy baby quilt. This quilt is for Yvonne, who blogs at Quilting Jet Girl, and her blog logo looks so much like the rockets on this fabric that I knew I wanted to use it for her. Yvonne said that she prefers cool colours, though she also loves orange. It seemed only right to use the orange rocket. Yvonne and I mailed our mini mini quilts on the same day, so it will be interesting to see which way the mail moves faster.
My last mini mini is this flower one. I started with the scrap of yellow floral fabric and just went from there. Even the quilting design was inspired by the fabric. This one is still available for swapping too.
If you're on Instagram, have you been caught up in the Mini Mini swapping too? It's so fun and satisfying to make a complete quilt so quickly!

Now, that I've indulged in that bit of fun, I better get back to the things I'm supposed to be doing, though!

October 05, 2015

Stuck in My Head

Devotion for the Week...

I have a new little guy that I'm babysitting this school year and he's having a tough time adjusting to being away from his mom. Thankfully, the past few days have been better, but for awhile the early part of the morning was really rough. The first couple of mornings I tried distracting him by playing videos of Sesame Street song on my laptop. It worked a little, but wasn't great, so we gave it up after a few mornings.

Nathan, though, really enjoyed those little videos while he was eating his breakfast. He even picked a favourite song pretty quickly. It was the Raise Your Hand song, which is all about the importance of raising your hand when you have something to say at school. I have to admit, it was one of my favourites too! After only a couple of mornings listening to it, I'd hear Nathan going around the house in the afternoon singing, "Raise it up, raise it up, raise it up."

Isn't it funny how quickly songs can get stuck in your head? Sometimes it's fun, like when you're able to spend your day 'hearing' your new favourite song even when there's no music around. Other times it's less fun, like when it's a song you really hate, but it's stuck in your head anyway. Kids' songs, because they tend to be especially upbeat and repetitive, can really get stuck in my head quickly.

Psalm 119:11 says, "I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you." That's like saying to God, "Your word is stuck in my head, I hear it all the time, so I won't do the wrong thing." The best example of this is Jesus, who resisted temptation from Satan using the words, "It is written," (Matthew 4:4,7,10) followed by verses of Scripture. Jesus knew the Scriptures and could easily bring to mind ones that would help Him with specific temptations. 

If you're anything like me, you have snippets of lots of different verses in your head, and you can call them to mind fairly readily. The question is, do we listen to those verses when they run through our minds? When we have a bit of gossip we want to share, do we listen to the little voice in our head that says, "Without wood a fire goes out; without a gossip a quarrel dies down" (Proverbs 26:20)? Or, when we have to do a task we really don't want to do, and we're tempted to do just enough work to get by, do we listen to ourselves thinking, "Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving" (Colossians 3:23,24)?

Knowing Bible verses is great, but it's not all the useful unless we also act on what we know. Jesus said to Satan, "It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’" (Matthew 4:4). That statement was His refusal to turn rocks into bread to prove that He was the Son of God. If Jesus had thought about the Scripture, then turned the rocks into bread anyway, it really wouldn't have helped Him much to know the verse, would it? Likewise, it really doesn't help us when we know a verse, but then go against it anyway.

It's a wonderful practice to memorize Bible verses. Having them stuck in your head, or hidden in your heart, as the psalmist put it, is the first step. But then, in order to live according to God's word, you have to actually use what you know.

September 29, 2015

Finished Friendship Galaxy Baby Quilt

It seems like it has been forever since I finished a quilt! It's good to finally check something off my Finish-a-long Quarter 3 list...yes, this is my first finish for the quarter that is ending in a couple of days. In my defense, I have made a skirt and a dress that weren't on the list, but it's still pretty sad that my list had three projects on it and I'm still only going to have one of them finished. At least it's a good one!
My aim with the quilting was to keep it simple and not quilt it too much both for time and so the quilt would stay nice and soft. I quilted between the stars with a stipple with random wonky stars thrown in.
I also outlined each star, and stippled around the smaller stars in the double friendship star blocks. I did all of the outlining with my free motion foot, which is much faster than with the walking foot, but it means the lines aren't perfectly straight. I'm okay with that, and I figure that the more I do it, the straighter they'll get. The quilting really shows up on the light blue star fabric I used for the backing.
I learned something about myself with this quilt. Apparently I can't quilt something lightly. It took a lot of concentration to keep those stippling lines from becoming gradually closer together, and it was hard to convince myself that I didn't need to quilt something inside every one of the stars. I won that battle mostly because little Judah, who will be this quilt's owner, was born last week. Sometimes a quilt finished and gifted is better than a quilt still in progress!
I wasn't really certain about the binding fabric at first. It seemed like the green was maybe a little overpowering, but I've decided that I quite like the way it frames the quilt. Plus, there's actually quite a lot of green in the stars and the rockets.

This was my first time using a striped fabric for the binding and I really love the extra pizzazz it gives the edge of the quilt. I may have to start stocking up on stripes.
The pattern for this quilt, and three variations, is out with testers now. I'm looking forward to seeing what they make of it!

September 28, 2015

Clean Clothes

Devotion for the Week...

After 10 years of service, our washer died last week.

As the main laundry do-er for a family of 5, I can tell you, this is a big deal. I do more loads of laundry a week than I care to count, and I'm ever so grateful that the washer actually does most of the work for me. I can't imagine living back in the days when the women had to scrub each article of clothing along the washboard to get it clean. To me, throwing the clothes in the washer and turning the knob to make it start is work enough!

I knew the washer was having problems when I emptied a load of towels one day and found the dishcloths still twisted up like they are after I wring them out. That made me think the washer wasn't agitating, so when I put in another load I went down to check. Sure enough, it wasn't moving at all. Not good. See, the motion of the clothes in the washer is what gets them clean, just as the women used to rub the clothes along the washboard. It takes effort to get the clothes clean - either my own effort, or the washer's effort. Having the clothes just sit in the water wasn't going to get them clean.

Thankfully, my friend Dawn has let me use her washer a few times while we've waited for our new one to be delivered (tomorrow!), so I haven't had to track down an old fashioned washboard to keep us in clean clothes.

The Bible refers to our spiritual clothing too, and to the effort it takes to make that clean. In Isaiah 64:6 the prophet wrote, "All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags." All our righteous acts...all the good we think we're doing...all the effort we put into making ourselves good enough for God...it's just as if we're walking around wearing filthy rags. The truth is, no matter how good we think we are, we'll never be perfect, and only perfect is good enough to be acceptable to God.

It sounds hopeless, doesn't it? No matter how hard we try, we can never make our clothes any cleaner than 'filthy'. Our own effort is not nearly good enough.

Aren't you glad we haven't been left to get those clothes clean through our own effort?

In Revelation, John recounts a vision he saw of heaven, where there was "a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands" (Revelation 7:9). Verse 14 says of the multitude, "they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb."

Our own effort will only ever produce filthy rags, but Jesus' death on the cross gave us the means to wash our spiritual clothes and make them white - perfect and acceptable in the sight of God! 

September 21, 2015

Using What You Know

Devotion for the Week...

Beginning writers are often told "write what you know." That doesn't mean that everything I write must have actually happened, but if I'm going to write a story, I probably shouldn't set it in the American West, since I've never been there. I'd be pretty much guaranteed to get a lot of details wrong, unless I'm willing to do mountains of research to get it right. Writers certainly do use their imaginations, and they do research, but it's easier to get the story right if they know at least some of what they're writing about.

I think that when it comes to serving God, we should also start with what we know. For example, my sister-in law, Nancy, loves to feed crowds of people. It's nothing for her (and her husband) to prepare a turkey dinner for 20 people, complete with placecards and fancy table settings. A few years ago tragedy struck a family Nancy knew, and it did not at all surprise me to hear that she invited the extended family in for a proper meal. Feeding people well is one of the many things Nancy knows, and she uses it to serve God by serving the people around her.

There's a brief story in Acts 9 about a woman named Tabitha, or Dorcas in Greek, who had died. The people were mourning for her, very upset to have lost this woman who "was always doing good and helping the poor" (Acts 9: 36). Her friends heard that Peter was nearby, and that he had the power to heal, so they sent two men to him, asking him to come at once. When Peter arrived, "all the widows stood around him, crying and showing him the robes and other clothing that Dorcas had made while she was still with them" (v.39). 

The story really doesn't tell us much about Tabitha. We don't know if she was young or old. We don't know anything about her family situation or her upbringing. We know that she was a disciple (v. 36), that she helped the poor and that she sewed clothes. That's it. 

But did you see what the widows did when Peter came in? They showed him the clothes Tabitha had made. Those clothes were significant because she made them to give to the poor. Widows were often the poorest of the community, so were they maybe wearing the clothes they showed Peter? Was it a case of these women saying, "She made this robe for me when I had nothing"? 

Making clothes was what Tabitha knew, and she used that skill to serve God by serving the people around her.

"There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work. Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good" (1 Corinthians 12:4-7). 'To each one' means to everyone, with no one left out. That means that every believer has some gift meant to be used 'for the common good.' What is yours? What is it that you know, and that you could use to serve others? It will be different for each of us, but each of us will have something. 

Your skill may not seem like much to you. It may seem like something anyone could do, but the truth is that not everyone is comfortable preparing meals for large crowds. I can cook a turkey dinner, but I would never even consider doing it for 20 people. Likewise, not everyone knows how to sew. Though it seems simple and not very special to you, the thing you know how to do well will be of huge benefit to someone who needs your skill.

The next question is simple to ask, but harder to answer: Are you using what you know for the common good? There are people in need all around us and we can help them if we are willing to use what we know. First, are we able to recognize the needs, and then, are we willing to help meet them?

As for Tabitha, Peter went into the room where she lay dead, sent everyone one else "out of the room; then he got down on his knees and prayed. Turning toward the dead woman, he said, “Tabitha, get up.” She opened her eyes, and seeing Peter she sat up. He took her by the hand and helped her to her feet. Then he called for the believers, especially the widows, and presented her to them alive" (vv. 40,41). 

I wonder how long it was before she got back to her sewing?
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