June 27, 2013

And Sew On...May Block

Okay, so I'm a little behind with these blocks. Good thing no one is keeping score!

I finally finished the May block. These are designed by Kristy at Quiet Play. This one scared me a little, which is probably why I put off making it for so long. Some of those pieces are tiny! And there are a lot of them!

In order to keep everything straight, I had to label my paper pieces before I started sewing. That made it much easier to put all the right fabrics in the right places. This small section has 12 pieces, many of which are much, much smaller than the seam allowances.
As usually happens with paper piecing, it actually came together very easily. I think I only picked out two seams, both times because the pieces I used were too small for the space they were supposed to cover (neither of which were those tiny, tiny spaces).

When I finished the block, I put it next to the April block, only to discover a minor error.  It doesn't show up well in the picture, but the muslin I used for the background of the May block is not the same as the muslin I used for the background of the April block. It's a little rougher looking and a little darker. Oops.
At least this quilt is only for me. I'll have to make a point of using both in other blocks so that one doesn't stand out as different  from all the others.

The July block will be released in only 4 days, and I still have the June block to tackle...I don't know if that will happen before we leave for our trip. I have at least one pair of hole-in-the-knee pants that need to become shorts before we pull out and I'd like to baste one more batch of blue hexagons. We'll see what happens over the next few days.






I'm linking up again today: Needle and Thread Thursday and Random Thursday.
Also TGIFF.
Can I get a Whoop Whoop
Paper Piecing Party
Finish it Friday




June 24, 2013

Pleased by What I See

A couple of years ago, a friend's daughter needed a badge sewn onto her Sea Cadets uniform, so my friend asked me to do it. Before I could sew the new badge onto the shoulder, I had to remove the previous year's badge. I sat down with my seam ripper in hand and looked for a stitch I could rip first, but found the stitches were so small I couldn't find one right away. I was quite impressed with the workmanship of whoever had sewn that badge into place. I got the old one off after another moment of searching, then started stitching the new one.

It was awkward holding the badge in place on the shoulder and as I maneuvered my hands into position up the sleeve, I laughed at myself. The awkwardness felt familiar.

 I had sewn the old badge too!

I had completely forgotten. I kept stitching, amused to know I liked my own work when I encountered it unaware.

Somehow these Beaver and Cub badges never got sewn onto anything.
Being happy with my own work was a wonderful experience. Can I say I'm also happy with how I've lived my life? Not the circumstances of my life, but with how I've reacted to and used those circumstances. Can I look back over my personal history and say I'm pleased with what I find?

The apostle Paul could. In 2 Timothy 4:7 he wrote, "I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith." Does that mean Paul thought he had lived a perfect life? Not at all. He also wrote, "I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do...For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do - this I keep on doing." (Romans 7:15, 19) Go back and read that slowly. It helps! Even Paul struggled with temptation and being frustrated with himself for not doing what he knew he should do.

Not only that, but Paul had a past that wasn't anything to be proud of. As a Pharisee, Paul had "persecuted the church of God"(1 Corinthians 15:9) until his dramatic encounter with the risen Jesus on the road to Damascus. Paul describes himself as the worst of sinners (1 Timothy 1:15, 16). So how can he also say he fought the good fight, finished the race and kept the faith?

The answer is found in 1 Timothy 1:13: "Even though I was once a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent man, I was shown mercy because I acted in ignorance and unbelief." Because of God's mercy and grace, Paul's actions before his belief in Jesus had no bearing on who he became after his conversion. After being convinced of the truth of Jesus' life, death and resurrection, Paul stayed focused on Jesus, on trying to be more like Him, and on telling others about Him. Paul wasn't perfect, but he was aiming for the right target, so he could be confident that he was going the way he should be. 

As for those times when Paul was disappointed in his own actions, I believe he didn't let his imperfections keep him from following Jesus. Whenever he did something wrong, he confessed it and moved on. He accepted God's gracious forgiveness, and then forgave himself. All too often, we dwell on every wrong we've ever done, refusing to forgive ourselves. That gets us nowhere. Once confessed, Go doesn't hold our sins against us, so why do we?

Paul wasn't perfect. Neither are we. We won't be until Jesus comes again. But we can hold firm to our faith and try our best, day-by-day, to be like Jesus. Then we'll be pleased with our own work as we look back over our lives.

June 21, 2013

Schoooool's Out for Summer!






Bonus points if you 'heard' that title in Alice Cooper's voice!

My two big boys are finished another school year. Goodbye grades 5 and 3, hello summer!

Even better, in our house, the last day of school is really the start of everyone's summer vacation. My husband is a high school teacher and I've been babysitting two kids whose mothers are teachers, so we're both now on holidays too. Aaah, life is good.






On a sewing note, I decided Wednesday to make myself a skirt. I don't usually do clothes as I find the patterns too complicated most of the time, but I looked online and found this tutorial - 20 Minute Simple Skirt. Simple...I like simple. So, as soon as the supper dishes were cleared away, I started in. It took me about 90 minutes, partly because I kept running down to the family room to check the tutorial on the computer and partly because I did Nathan's whole bedtime routine in the middle of sewing the skirt.

 




It is simple to make, but I had one problem with the instructions. She doesn't give much guidance when it comes to how much fabric to use, so the first time I put it on it was waaaay too full and gathered. It looked really weird, so I took apart one seam and cut some off, then put it back together.

I added the ribbon around the bottom after seeing a similar skirt in another tutorial that had a contrasting band of fabric around the hem. The ribbon was faster.

It is crazy comfortable to wear. I can certainly see myself making more, especially using the layered look shown in one picture in the tutorial. I'm also considering using this tutorial for a circle skirt that looks amazing. And easy, which is a must.

 
My strawberry plants are blooming now. It looks like it will be an even better harvest than last year. We won't be here when the berries are ripe, though, so the neighbors who are looking after them for me will get lots of yummy rewards for their efforts!

I'm linking up today with Happy Hour Projects and Find a Friend Friday and TGIFF and Needle and Thread Thursday amd Can I Get a Whoop Whoop

June 19, 2013

A Day in Nicaragua

Have you been following the posts by the Compassion Bloggers on their trip to Nicaragua? What amazing experiences they have had so far. Two have even had the chance to meet their sponsored children! I can only imagine what that would feel like.

Here are links to their posts so you can read them for yourself. Traci's post, Edie's post, Kelly's post, Shaun's post and Christy's post. They are well worth the few minutes it takes to read them.


 Want to learn more about Compassion International, or would you like to sponsor a child yourself? Just click here.

June 17, 2013

Compassion Bloggers Trip to Nicaragua

Compassion International is a child sponsorship organization. Their slogan is 'Releasing Children from Poverty in Jesus' Name.'

I have signed on to be a Compassion Blogger, which means I will write posts based on assignments we are given once or twice a month. I am not being paid in any way to do this. I just believe it is a wonderful organization and want to promote it for those of you who do not yet sponsor children but would maybe like to do so.

This week a group of Compassion Bloggers are in Nicaragua. They will be sharing their experiences through blog posts all week long. You can follow the trip using the button on the right. I am sure it will be amazing to experience it all through them.

Perfect

Devotion for the Week...

My quilts are not perfect. Though you have to look closely to notice, some seams don't match up exactly. When pieced, my blocks may not be exact square and I often have to ease in excess fabric on one side as I join blocks together to assemble the quilt top. Maybe this is why I don't do carpentry - it would be much harder to fudge it if my materials were rigid and incapable of being eased in.

I would love for my quilts to be perfect. I always try my best, but I'm content with what I call 'good enough.' Though the seams at the center of a pinwheel block may not be perfect, they are close enough that I don't feel the need to take it apart and fix it. It's good enough for me.


I will also admit I feel a certain satisfaction when I come across a published photo of  a quilt where I can spot an imperfection. Not because I enjoy picking out mistakes, but because I feel a certain kinship with this other quilter who is also content with 'good enough.'

I think many quilters embrace the 'good enough.' quilt. Unfortunately, 'good enough' isn't good enough for any of us to be accepted into Heaven.

Jesus said, "Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect." (Matthew 5:48) Yikes! I can't even make perfect quilts, let alone make my entire life perfect. I'm sure you struggle too. After all, the apostle Paul wrote, "for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God." (Romans 3:23) We recognize this, of course. People often say, 'I'm not perfect.' We accept this as the normal state of all people - not perfect. We don't even have to work at remembering it because people say or do things that hurt us, our kids have moments of selfishness or rebellion, and we ourselves say or do things we regret. The evidence of our imperfection is all around us.

So what do we do? As a quilter I can pin more to help my seams match up. I can check measurements a second time before cutting, I can check my seams to be sure they're accurate before moving on to another seam. All of these things will improve my piecing. Gradually, with practice and diligence, my quilts will get closer to perfect.

But what about my life? Paul wrote to the Galatians, "So I say, live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature." (Galatians 5:16) He also wrote, "Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit." (Galatians 5:24, 25)

Live by the Spirit? Keep in step with the Spirit? It sounds beautiful, but how do we do it? Unfortunately, it's not easy. It requires a day-by-day, moment-by-moment decision to choose God's will over my own will. That doesn't come naturally. My will tries to assert itself quite often - when I've heard a good story about someone and really want to pass it on, even though I know it's just gossip. Or when I'm tired and tempted to respond to my boys with impatience and anger over little things when I know they deserve grace and patience. I know God's will for me in those moments - to keep the gossip, the impatience or the anger to myself - but I don't always manage to do that.

Sometimes I do and in those moments there is a sweet feeling of peace. I'm not fighting the Spirit. I'm keeping in step with the Spirit and for a moment I feel my life is one teeny-tiny step closer to perfect.

Have you ever worked on a block you just couldn't get right? Over and over you sewed it, only to rip the stitches right back out? I certainly have, and before long I wanted to toss it aside. What truly amazes me is that, no matter how many times I react to something in a way that isn't in step with the Spirit, God has no desire to toss me aside or leave me as I am. Because God is perfect and because He is faithful, He can and will make me perfect.

"May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body by kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. The one who calls you is faithful and he will do it." (1 Thessalonians 5:23, 24)

What an amazing hope to cling to. One of these days, when Jesus returns, we who trust in Him will be made eternally, completely perfect, just as He is.

June 14, 2013

A Friday Finish!

It's finished!
Blast Off! Designed by Debby Kratovil
As you can see, the quilting is nothing fancy, mostly lots of loopy, squiggly lines. I attempted straight lines to echo the star shape...they're almost straight, but not perfect. It's meant to be a child's quilt though, so I don't think he'll be sizing up those lines too closely.
This was my first flannel quilt and some of those star points are really bulky. Where the corners of two stars meet I had to press the seams open rather than to one side. It just wouldn't work otherwise. Lesson learned...don't use flannel for blocks that have so many fabrics meeting in one place.

I'm linking up today with Finish It Up Friday at Crazy Mom Quilts , Paper Piecing Party at Quiet Play and to TGIFF at Quilt Matters. Also linking with Let's Get Acquainted.




June 13, 2013

June Sugar Block Club Block

Last night I stitched my June Sugar Block Club block from Amy of Stitchery Dickory Dock. Amy calls this one Home Sweet Home after the four houses in the corners. To me, it looked like Amy's houses were upside down. If I were to draw houses around a road, I would draw the roofs pointing away from the road. I tried laying out the block that way...but it seemed like the block lost something when the houses were turned around.
So, upside down is the way to go.
June's block - Home Sweet Home
I used a different fabric for each of the houses, since real houses wouldn't all be identical. The blue square in the middle reminds me of water, so maybe these are cabins around a lake?

I still love the blue and cream combination, though my cream options are running low. I guess that means I need to buy a little new fabric. Oh darn!

I am linking up today with Needle and Thread Thursday at My Quilt Infatuation and Building Blocks Tuesday at Quilter in the Closet. 
Also linking with Really Random Thursday at Live a Colorful Life.

June 10, 2013

Whatever

Devotion for the Week...

I love quilting. I love trying new techniques and seeing my skills improve. I love seeing patterns emerge as I assemble bits of this colour and that colour. I love paying attention to details, though I don't stress too much over imperfections. I would love it if I could spend all day working on quilts, but I can't. You probably can't either. There is real work to be done. Though I say I work on quilts, it is more like I play on quilts, or I relax on quilts. Quilts eventually get completed, but it rarely feels like work.
Detail of Tulips and Spools, designed by Carol Doak

My real work takes the form of caring for children, both my own and the ones I babysit during the day. My work also includes meals, laundry and house cleaning. I am the janitor for our church, so once a week I go and clean there too.

In a passage addressed to the slaves of his day, Paul wrote, "Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, 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) I've seen this passage applied to modern day employees, but what about all the work we do that isn't part of a paying job? The 'whatever you do' part feels like it should apply to...well, whatever. After all, whatever work we do, we are serving Jesus, even is it is not part of our 'job' per se.

So, what does it mean to work with all you heart? It can't mean we like every task we have to do. That's not possible. There is no way I can talk myself into liking cleaning my bathroom. Nor does it mean we only do the jobs we like doing. No matter how long I have ignored it, the laundry has never yet folded itself. As we often remind our boys, work needs to be done, whether we like it or not.

I think working with all your heart means two things. First of all, we work to the best of our ability. That doesn't mean it has to be perfect. Every now and then, my 5 year old makes his bed and it isn't perfect, but he sure is proud because he did the best he could. Doing something as well as we can means no half-hearted work, no just doing the bare minimum to scrape by. That's not always easy, especially with jobs we'd really rather not be doing.

The second meaning is one of attitude. What am I thinking and feeling as I do the work that needs to be done? I confess there is sometimes silent grumbling or even whining going on. Of course, though it isn't noticeable to those around me, God hears every grumble and whine. I doubt He feels I am serving Him well in those moments. In an effort to stop my childish reaction, I try to remind myself to thank Him for the blessings associated with the work I'm doing. For each family member as I fold an article of his clothes. For the home we live in that needs regular cleaning. For the good food we have just eaten as I start the dishes. When I can remember to frame my thoughts this way, my mood improves and the whining stops.

Years ago, my husband and I were walking outside a strip mall when we passed a window washer who had paused in his work to speak to another man. I can't remember the window washer's exact words, but the gist of it was, "This is my job and man, these windows are going to shine!" We both agreed this was a man who took pride in his work, in a task that would be to many a meaningless and menial job. I think he is the perfect example of a person working with all his heart.

It would do us all well to follow his example.

June 05, 2013

WIP Wednesday - UFO no longer!

When I pulled this abandoned project out last week I was amazed to discover how close it was to being finished. I can't remember exactly why I set it aside, but I only needed to finish one block and then assemble the whole thing. Done and done!
The pattern is Blast Off! by Debby Kratovil
The border fabrics aren't actually graduated, they just look that way in the light coming through the living room window.

I've even started quilting it. So far I have done a little SID around the blocks and big, loopy FMQ in the green bug blocks.
I had the backing fabric in my stash already. I'm sure some little boy will love all those cars, trucks and buses.

I've also made progress on my hexie flower quilt. All 56 flowers are now cut and basted, so I've started cutting the blue pieces that will go between the flowers. As I'm sure you can understand, I couldn't resist laying out a couple of flowers with the blue pieces once I had a few basted.

I really like how the bright flowers pop against the dark blues. Last time I posted about this quilt I said I needed 300+ blue hexagons. As I was laying these ones out I realized that was a mistake. Out came the calculator and I discovered I actually need 672! And that's only to make a ring around each block...I may need more to create a border of some sort once I get to that point. I think I figured it out correctly before I bought the blue fabric, but we'll see as I keep going. I now have 60ish blue hexagons basted, so I'm 1/10 of the way...leaving me with 600 or so to go!

The Say it with Flowers blog hop is over...what a lot of fabulous projects were featured this time around. You can see them all here. The winners of my two extra thread catchers are Scrapbook-ChickADoodle and Bonnie58. Emails have been sent to both. Congratulations ladies!

I'm linking up again today with Lee at Freshly Pieced. There are always lots of amazing projects on the go.

June 03, 2013

Slow?

Devotion for the Week...

I often take a long time to finish a quilt. Partly it's because I can't sew as much as I'd like because life's many duties call.

Where does it all come from?
Partly it's because I like intricate projects with lots of pieces.
Arrant Red Birds, from Jinny Beyer's Golden Album Quilt
Partly it's because I'm usually working on more than one project at a time. I go from one to another, back and forth, working on whichever strikes my fancy at a given time. Little by little they get finished, but the end can seem slow in coming.

My current works-in-progress. There are 5 projects here.

In 2 Peter chapter 3, Peter writes about another end than can seem slow in coming. Speaking of the last days, he says, "Scoffers will come, scoffing and following their own evil desires. They will say, 'Where is this 'coming' he promised? Ever since our fathers died, everything goes on as it has since the beginning of creation." (2 Peter 3:3,4) In other words, people will make fun of those who believe Jesus is coming back. They'll say nothing has changed, that if He hasn't come back yet, He's not coming back at all.

Then comes one of my favourite passages of Scripture. "But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance." (2 Peter 3:8,9)

Many believers talk about how anxious they are for Jesus to come back and take us all to Heaven. I may be the only one, but I always feel a little panicky during those conversations. Don't get me wrong - I want to be in Heaven. I'm looking forward to it, but I'm in no hurry yet. You see, there are too many people I care about who wouldn't be joining me there if Jesus were to come back today.

As we looked at in a previous devotion, Jesus explained to Nicodemus, "I tell you the truth, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit." (John 3:5,6) Each and every person must believe for themselves and accept the gift of salvation through faith in Jesus before they can be accepted into Heaven. 2 Peter 3:8,9 say to me, "There's still time." God wants everyone to believe. He wants everyone to have eternal life with Him. He is not slow in sending Jesus to return. He is being patient, allowing everyone time to hear that Jesus died for them, and to believe.

I am so grateful for God's patience. I am grateful He waited long enough for me to understand and accept salvation, on the same day my husband turned back to God. I'm grateful He waited long enough for all three of my boys to accept Jesus too. And I'm grateful He's patient still.
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