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!

Edited to say, the pattern is now available through my Etsy and Payhip shops. 

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?

September 15, 2015

Noodles in Fat Quarterly Magazine

I can finally share this quilt with you! This is Noodles and it's in the current issue of Fat Quarterly magazine.
 
Back sometime around the beginning of the year, I was sent a bundle of fat-eighths of Reel Time by Zen Chic for Moda to use to create a project for the magazine. The only requirement was that the project would feature curves, since that was the theme of the issue. I took on the project with no plan, and without actually being comfortable with sewing curves. Nothing like just leaping in, right?

While waiting for the fabric to arrive, I made circles for Kim's Round Trip Quilt, to give myself some feel for sewing curves, and to see if it would jumpstart some ideas for what I'd design for the magazine. It worked (whew) and I had a plan once the fabric arrived.

Cutting into the fabric was terrifying (which seems to be something I'm saying a lot lately) because I had just enough for what I wanted to do, and the fabric wasn't even available in stores yet, so if I made a mistake there was no chance of getting more. Thankfully there were no mistakes and the mini quilt, which finishes at 24" square, came together nicely. I added the solid yellow accent fabric from my stash.

I took pictures and wrote the pattern, but then it just sat for days because I couldn't come up with a name for it! Zilch, nada, nothing! I sent a picture to my friend Michelle, who immediately sent back a message saying it reminded her of macaroni, so she suggested Noodles. Finally the poor quilt had a name!
I sent off the pictures and pattern to Fat Quarterly around the middle of March, and then the wait began. Because of the new EU VAT tax on digital products, Fat Quarterly temporarily suspended publication until they could sort out how they would be proceeding, so I had no idea when the Curves issue would be published. In the meantime, I made more quilts, and thoroughly enjoyed having Noodles displayed on the antique Singer treadle machine in our entryway, though I felt strangely guilty for not posting about it :)

One day last week I saw that the issue had been published a few weeks ago, so I am happy to finally be able to show it to you.

As you can see, I kept the quilting fairly simple. I used my walking foot to echo the curve in thread that matched the fabric. As always, I love the way the quilting shows up on the back.
There, that feels better! No more secret quilt hiding around here...well, unless you count the one I just bought fabric for, which I won't be able to share until January. There will be sneak peeks, though, I promise!

If you want to get your own copy of the Curves issue of Fat Quarterly (and the pattern for Noodles) it is available here.


September 14, 2015

Sing Joyfully

Devotion for the Week...

Our church has quite a few members who are good singers, particularly our two pastors who both have phenomenal voices. I do not. I always say I'm good at a lot of things, but music certainly isn't one of them. I do love to sing, but I try to do it in such a way that no one else has to hear me - except maybe the person in the seat ahead of me (and I feel sorry for them!). I am usually mindful of the general volume of the music and I try to sing quietly enough to never draw attention to myself.

We all have different spiritual gifts, enabling us to do different things (see 1 Corinthians 12:4-11 and Romans 12:6-8). When everyone uses their spiritual gifts, God's church functions the way it's supposed to (1 Corinthians 12:12-30). Singing is definitely a talent I don't have, but singing in worship is never listed as one of the spiritual gifts. In fact, singing in worship is something we are told to do, regardless of our talent (or lack thereof). Psalm 100 says, "Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth. Worship the Lord with gladness; come before him with joyful songs" (vv. 1,2). Notice it doesn't say, 'all of you with beautiful voices' or 'everyone who can carry a tune.' Nope. It says, "all the earth." That includes those of us who would go hungry if forced to sing for our suppers.

There is a man who attends our church who has a slight mental delay. I often hear him clapping along enthusiastically, though not always on the right beat. He sings enthusiastically too, often starting a line just a beat or two before it's supposed to start, and I smile when I hear him because he couldn't care less that he's not quite in sync with everyone else. He doesn't get embarrassed because everyone heard him singing, or because he made a mistake. He isn't concerned about the quality of his voice or about what anyone else thinks. He just sings. That's what it means to "worship the Lord with gladness; come before him with joyful songs."

It's hard to really worship when I'm worried about whether or not people can hear me. I'm thinking about not embarrassing myself, and that's not worship, because thinking about myself means I'm not really focused on God. I need to be more like that man in our church, not caring what others think and just sing.

The fact is, God made my voice. He knows I can't sing well, and He doesn't care. He just wants to hear me sing. He wants to hear you too, whether or not He gifted you with a beautiful voice. He wants us to forget about how we sound, to forget about the people around us and just sing our hearts out in worship to Him.

September 09, 2015

I Made a Dress!

I am so excited about this finish!
I'm not really fond of modeling my creations...
This is my Megan dress, from Love at First Stitch by Tilly Walnes. I learned so many new things with this pattern. First up, Tilly recommends using cotton poplin, among other options. I had never heard of poplin, so I had no idea what it would feel like, though I could find some pretty ones at L'Oiseau. While I was still debating whether or not to order a fabric I may not like to touch, someone on Instagram posted a picture of a new poplin she was about to cut into and I immediately commented on her picture and explained my dilemma. She responded with a nice description (if I remember correctly, she described it as being softer than quilting cotton but crisp enough to hold its shape), and I went ahead and ordered my fabric. I love the feel of it, and I'll certainly use it again for other projects. As a bonus, poplin doesn't need to be ironed. I folded (or balled) this dress up many times to put it aside while I was working on it and it doesn't wrinkle at all!

Next came fitting. This was my first time ever making anything to wear on my top half, and it was an adventure! I'm so glad I started by making a version out of an old bedsheet to figure out the sizing. The first one I made was too big across the shoulders, but the front of the arm hole was pulling forwards. A little research online and I decided I needed to make a smaller size, but with a Full Bust Adjustment. Oh boy, that sounded complicated! Thankfully, it was simpler than I thought, and the second bedsheet version I made fit nicely, though getting the darts repositioned took a few tries.

Once again, I was nervous cutting into the fabric, but it felt good to finally get started on the real dress. Thanks to the bedsheet testing, the dress came together pretty well. The invisible zipper only took one try, though I did make a mistake. The pattern says to put the zipper top at the neckline seam, but I misunderstood and put the top of the zipper tape at the neckline seam, which means the zipper itself starts lower than it should. I had sewn a few other steps before realizing my mistake, so I left it. A hook-and-eye closure works to keep the top closed. I do find the back of the dress gapes right at the neckline, though I don't know why. I'm hoping that when I see my seamstress sister-in-law this weekend she can give me some insight as to how I can fix this, or at least prevent it on my next version.
Too bad my hair is just a little too short to hide the gaping!
As I was working on the dress, I kept saying I really liked the sleeveless look, but I planned to make this one with the sleeves. That is, until I actually put the first sleeve in. I knew from the picture of the dress in the book that it had a puffy sleeve, and I wasn't really sure I would like that, but I figured I'd make it at least once. When I looked in the mirror, though, I felt like I was wearing a little girl's princess costume! It was waaaaaay too puffy for my taste.
 
So, the next morning I went online again to figure out how to finish the arm holes, since I didn't have enough fabric to make bias binding. I found a tutorial for doing a baby hem, and that's what I went with.

The dress is really comfy too, so I'm thinking I'll get lots of wear out of it. Add a cardigan and some tights and I'll be good to go for the fall and winter.

And now that I've made a (somewhat imperfect) dress, I feel like I can learn to conquer any garment out there.

September 07, 2015

In Focus

Devotion for the Week...

I am not much of a photographer, though I've been trying to learn a little more about it since starting this blog. I do know the most basic principle, though, which is that the pictures I take should be in focus. A blurry picture really doesn't capture anyone's attention, no matter what the subject. A picture of my boys is a great thing to have for when they're older, unless they're so blurry you can't make out the silly faces they're making. A picture of my latest quilt is a necessity when I want to post about it here, but it's no good if readers can't make out the detail I've worked so hard on. Sharing my latest fmq work with blurry pictures wouldn't help anyone see what I've been doing, would it? So I have learned to look carefully at my pictures on the camera, checking to see that things are in focus and to take more pictures if I need to.

There are times, especially when I'm working on a tutorial, when I want to be sure one part of the picture in particular is in focus. For example, in this picture (from my Stained Glass Star tutorial last week) I really wanted the presser foot and the line directly in front of it to be in focus. It took a bit of maneuvering to get the camera positioned so the arm of my machine wasn't in the picture, the presser foot was in the middle, and the camera wasn't trying to focus on the paper right at the front of the machine. It certainly helped that I can change the setting on my camera so that it only focuses where I tell it to, rather than on whatever is closest to the camera!
When the entire picture isn't in focus, we tend to look mostly at the part that is in focus, don't we? We interpret that as being the most important part of the picture. In this example, the numbers on the paper are part of the picture, but they're not the most important element, so I didn't want the camera to focus there and make them seem more important than they are. I wanted this picture to show that this step of the tutorial involved sewing directly on the line, so the paper passing under the presser foot is the most important element of the picture.

When it comes to reading the Bible, sometimes we get things a little out of focus. We humans are a rather self-centered group, and we like things to be about us. Sometimes, though, a particular passage of Scripture may mention us, but not actually be about us. In other words, though we may be in the passage, we are not meant to be the focus.

Ephesians 3:21,22 is a famous passage, one which you have probably heard often if you have spent much time in church. We are often reminded that God is able to do "immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine," and encouraged to trust in His power to accomplish amazing things in our lives.

However, what He can do in our lives is not really the focus of the passage.

The full passage says, "Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever!"

God's power and the glory due Him are the focus of the passage. You can even take us out of it altogether and the sentence still makes sense, without changing its meaning whatsoever: 'Now to him who is able, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus through all generations, for ever and ever!'

It is absolutely true that our minds could never possibly conceive of all that God's power could do. It is also absolutely true that He uses that power for our good, and that His power works within us. But none of those things are the focus of this passage.

So why are we mentioned in the passage at all? I think it's to give us a greater sense of God's power. Saying God's power is immense, while true, is rather abstract. Saying God's power is so incredible that we can't even imagine all that He could do gives us a stronger picture of that power. We still can't truly grasp the magnitude of His power, but we have a better frame of reference for its immensity.

We are not the focus of these verses. They are not a call for us to remember what God can do for us. They are a call for us to remember that his power is immeasurable and that all glory belongs to Him.

September 03, 2015

Friendship Galaxy Baby Quilt Top

I have finished the Friendship Galaxy baby quilt top!
I love the abundance of stars!
I made the stars with a mix of solids, prints and batiks, all in colours to coordinate with the rocket ships in the background fabric from Connecting Threads.

I've already started quilting with stippling and stars (more stars!), and I hope to have it finished quickly. The baby is due in about 2 weeks, after all!

The pattern is also finished and just needs a final read-through before I send it to the quilters who have so generously offered to test it for me. I can't wait to see their versions of Friendship Galaxy!

September 02, 2015

Fabri-Quilt New Block Blog Hop - Stained Glass Star

As a follow-up to this year's New Blogger Blog Hop, Yvonne (of Quilting Jet Girl) organized a second blog hop featuring new 12" blocks designed by participants. Those who had participated in previous New Blogger hops were invited as well, and I'm so excited to be a part of this huge group. There are over 60 quilters participating, so there are sure to be plenty of amazing designs. Thanks, Yvonne, for organizing this hop, and for inviting me to participate!

Fabri-Quilt gave each blogger a fat-eighth bundle of these beautiful solids to use to make our blocks. From left to right, these are Chartreuse, White, Aqua, Coral, Turquoise and Lapis Blue. Our finished blocks will be made into charity quilts, which I think is such a great idea.

Allow me to introduce Stained Glass Star.
Stained Glass Star Free 12" Quilt Block | DevotedQuilter.blogspot.com

This block features traditional piecing and paper piecing, and creates a fun secondary design.
I love stars and pinwheels!

It would be fun if you moved the colours around too, like this...
or this...
or this...

Before I start the instructions for making the block, I wanted to mention that this block uses the stitch-and-flip method of construction, which tends to waste fabric. To keep the waste to a minimum, I used Bonnie Hunter's Triangle Buddies to make bonus HST units as I made my block. I'm slowly filling a bag with these bonus HSTs, all of which will eventually find their way into one big, scrappy quilt.

Now, let's make a 12" Stained Glass Star!

A printable version of these instructions is available as a free download in my Payhip pattern shop.

Cut

Lapis Blue (star) - 5 squares 4 1/2" x 4 1/2"
Turquoise (background) - 4 squares 3 1/2" x 3 1/2"
                                       - 8 rectangles 5 1/4" x 2 1/2" *
White (corner stripes) - 4 squares 4 1/2" x 4 1/2"
Coral (corner triangle) - 2 squares 5" x 5"
Aqua (corner triangle)- 2 squares 5" x 5"

*Note*  A fat-eighth was not quite enough for the 12 pieces I needed to cut out of the Turquoise for my block. I ended up stitching two scraps together to make a piece large enough for one of the rectangles. If you're buying fabric to make one Stained Glass Star, you'll need a fat quarter of that fabric and fat eighths for all the others.  

 Make the Corner Units

Draw a diagonal line from corner to corner on each of the Aqua 5" squares. Pair each Aqua square with a Coral 5" square, pinning to keep the squares from shifting. Stitch 1/4" away on each side of the line, then cut apart on the line. Press open and trim each HST unit to 4 1/2".

On the wrong side of the HST units, draw a diagonal line that crosses the seam. Pair each HST unit with a White 4 1/2" square, pinning to keep the squares from shifting. Stitch on the line. (Actually, I stitched exactly on the line and my corner units came out a smidge smaller than they should have. You want to stitch almost on the line, so your needle just barely touches the line. This gives you a little extra for folding the corner open.) Cut 1/4" away from the line and press the unit open.
My second picture here shows the extra line drawn to make the bonus HST unit.
Draw a diagonal line from corner to corner on each of the Turquoise 3 1/2" squares. Position a Turquoise square on the White portion of the corner unit, making sure the line does not touch the corner. Pin in place and stitch to the right of the line so that your needle just touches the line. Cut 1/4" away from the line and press the unit open.
Again, the second picture shows the extra line drawn to make the bonus HST unit.

Paper Piece the Point Units

Print out 4 copies of the Paper Piecing Template (available as a free download from my Payhip shop). Before you go any farther, make sure the square measures exactly 4 1/2". If it doesn't, change your printer settings to print at "Actual Size" or "No Scaling".

Roughly cut out the template just outside the dotted line. Position one Lapis Blue 4 1/2" square on the back of the template, so that it cover the whole template. Pin in place. Fold the template back on the line separating section A1 from section A2. Trim 1/4" away from the folded paper. Position a Turquoise 5 1/4" x 2 1/2" rectangle along the trimmed edge so that it extends a little above and below the edge.
Sew exactly on the line. I chain pieced all 4 of these units. Paper piecing is accurate, but slow, and chain piecing makes it go a little faster! Press open and make sure the Turquoise rectangle completely covers section A2.

Fold on the line between A1 and A3, trim and stitch on a second Turquoise rectangle. Press open, then trim around the units on the dotted line. Gently remove the papers.

Assemble the Block

Lay out the corner units, point units and the remaining Lapis Blue 4 1/2" square as shown. Be careful to make sure your corners and your points are all turned the right way!
 Stitch the units into 3 rows.
 Stitch the rows together.



Voila! Your very own Stained Glass Star!


If you make a Stained Glass Star, I'd love to see it! You can leave a comment on this post with a link to a blog post, email me a picture at piecefullydevoted at gmail dot com, or tag me on Instagram (I'm @devotedquilter).


Fabri-Quilt is generously donating two 1/2 yard bundles of these beautiful fabrics each day of the hop, one on the blog hop host's blog and the other on the Inspired by Fabric blog. 

Today's blog hop host is Stephanie, at Late Night Quilter, and here are the links to everyone else sharing their blocks today:



Host – Stephanie @Late Night Quilter
Hannah @Modern Magnolia Studio
Cindy @Stitchin At Home
Abby @Hashtag Quilt
Lisa @Sunlight in Winter Quilts
Carrie @Chopping Block Quilts
Brianna @The Iron and Needle
Tish @Tish’s Adventures in Wonderland
Jan @The Colorful Fabriholic
Sarah @Smiles Too Loudly
Beth @Cooking Up Quilts
Leanne @Devoted Quilter
Liz @LizzyClips Design
Kim @Leland Ave Studios

There are a lot of talented quilters in that list, so be sure to check out the blocks they designed!

Thanks, again, to Yvonne, Stephanie, Terri Ann and Cheryl for organizing and hosting this hop. Thanks also to Fabri-Quilt for donating the fabrics for the blocks. I can't wait to see the finished quilts!
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