Sunday, December 4, 2016

Gentle Domesticity BOM - the final block...

One of the greatest personal lessons I have taken on board this year has been to listen more and talk less.
I guess it kind of runs contrary to this social media driven society we find ourselves enmeshed in these days, and that's why it's more important than ever before that we switch off our mouth and turn the dial down on our over active thoughts and 'listen' to what those around us are actually saying.

I remember when I was 21 with a three year old and a new baby and had moved to the other side of the country, far away from my beloved Nana and Pop. We would write letters back and forth each week or so and Nana would question me about what she was 'reading between the lines'. 
She knew my personality very well from the many years of conversations and shared stories as I grew up and that gave her genuine insight into what was truth and what was not when it came to our written correspondence. 
I found it impossible to hide my troubled life behind a 'happy' letter when it was being sent to someone who had given of her time to listen, given attention to look into my eyes as I spoke, invested of herself to care for me, about me, and to love me unconditionally even when it was inconvenient, exhausting and financially beyond her ability.

So making time to listen to my own loved ones is becoming more important than it has before, because I want to be like Nana, I want to be able to 'read between the lines' the way she did and I can only do that if I take time to listen, look into their eyes, and truly know the person I'm spending time with. 

This year of twelve Gentle Domesticity designs has been dedicated to my Nana and the lessons I've learned from her, lessons I'm still learning. 

When I was young I didn't appreciate the wealth of womanhood I'd been gifted with by her example, but now I do, and I hope I remember more things even though I'm getting older and my memory is fading. Writing them down in this blog and making designs that honour some of those lessons help me focus on the good things from the past I can carry into tomorrow.

Nana's life makes me think of kindness, courtesy, making do, laughter, cleanliness, simple delicious meals, washing flapping in the breeze, gingham, aprons, making jam and pickles, jam tarts baked on saucers, Sunday night scones with pots of tea, flowers growing at the front door, polished taps, the radio, cooked breakfasts, scraps given to the dog, darned socks, starched tablecloths, shelling peas on the back step after school, the best and cuddliest hugs in the whole wide world. 

But mostly, her life always makes me think of love.

I hope you've enjoyed this year of Gentle Domesticity too. 
Thanks for joining me on this very special journey.

Want a peek at my 2017 BOM?

Next year I've decided to keep the home fires burning with another domestic based BOM to share with you. It will begin on February 1st and is called "The Love of Home".
Here's a peek at block 1...

Have a wonderful week everyone!

Saturday, December 3, 2016

It's that time of year when...

...our minds are scattered, we have much to do, the Christmas to-do list lengthens and the budget needs some serious attention. The radio, television and advertising flyers in our mailboxes 'scream'  for us to spend, spend, spend so we can have a 'happy' festive season and that hype drives too many into mental and financial meltdown.
December truly has become a retailer's heaven, but a consumer's nightmare. 

The birth of our Saviour, though in truth not even close to December 25th, was once a day to stop and consider the glorious wonder of God made flesh among us. It was a day revered and honoured, not for people or food or presents, but for Jesus and He alone. 
The gift giving side of Christmas was small in comparison to now, most children receiving one or two gifts and it was unheard of for families to go into debt for them. 
It saddens me that a generation have now grown up without the simple beauty and wonder of the Christmas from my own childhood, and I wonder at the next generation and what Christmas will become to them in another decade?

Last night as my husband and I drove through the city we commented on how busy it was. Traffic was congested, shops, restaurants, hotels...all were overflowing with people coming and going. The busyness was not usual, it was the December busyness and it will become more so over the next few weeks. 

This was heavy on my heart as I opened God's Word this morning, this seasonal busyness that once had the 'appearance' of being about the birth of Jesus, in reality has not much to do with Him at all. If anything it's robbing hearts and minds from spending time with Him because it's filling hours with the rushing and the planning and the buying and the list writing and the wrapping and the reveling that's associated with this season. There's a lot of 'doing for' Christmas, but not much of being with the Christ of Christmas.

And one very big thing hit me as I began to pray for my own heart to be drawn closer to Jesus this December. 
Self examination, confession and repentance.
How easy to forget this when life is too full?

So I pulled up my chair and prepared for a long time of self-examination with the Holy Spirit because one thing I know for sure - it's not easy to see my own sin. Just like I can see cream on my husband's cheek when he's been eating cake but cannot see it on my own unless he points it out to me, I need the Holy Spirit's help to point out the sin in my life that I am blind to see. 

This isn't a 5-minute fix, either. It takes time, it means letting go of my to-do list and my 'would rather be doing right now' list, and putting God first. It means realising that if I am going to walk in a right attitude with God and man, I need to have my heart corrected by the only One who can do it perfectly because He loves me perfectly.

More than ever, we need a time of self-examination, repentance, confession and FORGIVENESS when life is pulling us in too many directions and keeping us so busy that we forget to be like Mary and sit at the feet of Jesus.

This is my encouragement for you today.
Close the door, close your eyes, look at Jesus. 
Get right with Him because when you've done that, He'll get you through everything else.

be blessed,

Thursday, December 1, 2016

The final postcard...

It's December 1st, and the very last month of our "Postcards From Heaven" BOM.
What a beautiful journey Allie and I have shared this year, taking turns each month to share a Scripture based stitchery with you, one that meant something personal to us and hopefully one that spoke into your heart as well.

This final free postcard pattern is from Allie and you can head over HERE to her blog to download it. She has embroidered all our Postcard blocks in redwork and will be piecing them into a quilt which I can't wait to see...

As I was stitching Allie's design I reflected on just how precious a gift it was when Jesus knocked on the door of my heart and asked to enter. It was just over 25 years ago and my life has never been the same. 
I have climbed mountain tops and trekked valleys...I have rejoiced and I have wept...I have seen prayers answered miraculously, and others answered in ways that broke my heart. Yet, I trust my Lord and all HIS WAYS, that they are the BEST ways for His purposes to be fulfilled. 
Never has He left me, nor forsaken me. Never have I doubted His love nor His perfect plan for my life.

Stitching this verse carried me back in time to a night that changed my life...

...a night when a life altering choice was mine alone to make...

...a night when I stood before the door and made a decision to answer that knock, to let the King of Glory come in and rule over my heart, mind and life forever.

Lift up your heads, O you gates!
And be lifted up, you everlasting doors!
And the King of Glory shall come in.
(Psalm 24:7)

My last postcard has been finished as a cushion...

...with an envelope back and fabric ties.

Last month's postcard was finished as pincushion and another month I made a wall hanging. Our postcards can become lovely gifts, and Christmas is the perfect time of the year for sharing God's word and promises in such a special hand-made display.
Have you considered making them for friends and family, or for neighbours and shut-ins??

All twelve of our Postcard patterns will remain free.
You will find the links for each of Allie and my blog posts here, as well as the links for downloading the patterns. 

Be blessed always, and if you hear Jesus knocking but haven't yet opened the door, maybe it's time dear friend...maybe it's time.


Wednesday, November 30, 2016

The pink and green idea...

I think it may have been about a year ago that I went through all my pink and green fabric scraps and cut 100, 5" squares to make a simple quilt. 
At the time my plan was to have it made within a few weeks, perhaps a month - after all it was just a case of sewing together the squares and adding two borders - but life stepped in and the little tub of pastel squares was stowed away under work projects and completely forgotten until last month when they were re-discovered.
As well as the one hundred 5" squares I had also put aside a piece of floral yardage and a half yard of green tonal fabric for borders and binding plus a few 5" wide lengths of extra prints 'just in case' I needed more squares. 

Such pretty colours and fabrics, I thought they deserved a little more care after waiting so long for their moment to shine so when I was choosing the thread colours for December's Stitchery Club designs they were inspired by these fabrics. 
I had the idea that perhaps I could scatter some embroidered blocks through the quilt when I eventually make it?

Now the only thread you won't find inspired from my pink and green quilt fabrics is the blue and that's because I needed a contrast colour that would allow the stitchery blocks to stand out from the quilt.

(the 'blue' decision was made after a jolly good chat, large coffee and generous slice of cake with my friend Heather one Friday)

Have a look at the blocks below.
See how the little pops of blue prevent the embroidery from getting lost in the fabric. If the stitcheries were all pinks and greens, even with that tiny touch of lemon at the centre of the flower, they would lose quite a bit of impact...

I do hope the picture in my mind for what may become a lovely lap quilt actually eventuates.

One of the six designs is long and not very high, making it perfect as a border for the bird block if I stitch it four times and add small fabric squares in each corner...
...which would then make the centre of the quilt a 'medallion' and I quite like that idea.

This project will not be a quick one but hopefully it won't languish on the shelf for another year either. 
As I play around I'll take some photos and you can watch my progress and perhaps you can cheer me on from the sidelines? 

If you'd like to be stitching these blocks too, you'll find the Club info over here.

Tomorrow Allie will be sharing the final block in our combined 2016 BOM, "Postcards From Heaven". Hasn't this been a wonderful year of free Scriptural stitcheries?
You will love the December postcard!
Here's a sneak peek at my version of Allie's design...

In my next blog post I'll show you the finished block and also the project I made using the completed Postcard stitchery.

If you've missed any of mine or Allie's free "Postcards From Heaven" patterns this year they are listed here.

It's never too late to start! These would be lovely as a holiday project and then stitched into a wall hanging  or quilt. 
And what about as a gift? You could trace them all on fabric, purchase threads, pack them in pretty paper and gift them to a friend who loves to embroider. Sounds simple, but they are often the most appreciated gifts to receive...

be blessed,

Monday, November 28, 2016

Everyone has a story...

Those of you who've read my blog over a period of years know most of the time my life runs at a fairly energetic pace. Not that I'm out and about a lot, because that's not the kind of person God made me to be. My nature is grounded in the home, and I truly do bloom within my own domestic sanctuary. 
It's actually my mind that travels at the speed of light, the next new idea tapping at the heel of the one before and always just minutes or if I'm lucky maybe an hour apart, and this happens even in my sleep. I've never had the fortune to find that elusive 'off' switch beside my brain that would allow me to zone out and simply shut down all ideas and plans. My mind literally clicks over and over and over, day in and day out, and it gets exhausting.

This past year has been a new learning curve of daily sifting those ideas as quickly as I can into a 'discard' or 'keep' mental bucket. The more time I've had to practice this, the easier it has become to let go of more than I hold on to. 

However, something else happened this year which has also helped in the strangest way. At first I thought I was losing my mind, then I thought I was becoming a hypochondriac and began freaking out about the conclusions I was making about my mental health. 
After a pretty bad fall last year I found physical fatigue to be a regular companion. I mentioned it to my husband, Blossom and Aisha - mostly because I couldn't hide it - but didn't tell them just how bad it really was. I also told two close friends, but again, didn't expand as much as I could have.
A few more symptoms came in to play this year and I started toying with the idea I had chronic fatigue. The downside of this was that apart from the actual fatigue I didn't have the other symptoms of that condition.
In June I went downhill fast and was diagnosed with pnuemonia. Fair enough. I didn't bounce back the way my doctor had hoped and the fatigue just got worse than ever. More symptoms came into play. 
I began a new migraine preventative drug in early October (45 years of chronic migraines and this drug is for epileptics so is the last resort for me) and a few side effects mimicked things I had been experiencing for over a year, but now they just got a little worse. A few weeks went by and I came clean with my doctor and told her the full extent of what I'd been experiencing for about 18 months. She sent me for an MRI.

Now you might wonder why I'd not told the doctor everything from the beginning, why I never even told her about that bad fall last year either. 

After 45 years of migraine, after my father living with migraines all his life and dying of a brain tumour at age 59, after my Uncle Brian dying of a brain tumour at age 57 (I am now 57)...well, I just didn't want to go looking for a tumour.
It took me months to get to a place in my mind and in my heart with God, where I could lay aside fear and walk with confidence into that magnetised machine and find out what was going on inside my brain.

The results?
I do not have a brain tumour.

But I do have a brain trauma injury which is causing the symptoms that made me think I was going a bit nuts, the symptoms I've attempted to hide or downplay for about 18 months. 
The injury is permanent and will not improve. Some things will not get any worse, and some will.

The incredible physical fatigue that hits hard out of the blue and takes me days to recover from will be my lifelong companion, and I can't do anything quickly anymore. Life seems like it's going in slow motion for me, but really, it's normal pace for most people and I'm okay about that.

I've been forced to slow down, and now I can see the view.

The insatiable thirst that never slackens is mine forever because that part of my brain is damaged, and it's also the part that tells me I always need to pee. That really makes me laugh! LOL!!! Truly, I do get a lot of laughter from this because there's some weird stuff my brain does now. 
Just having conversations makes me really exhausted - dialogue wearies me, you know? Who would have thought that?
My close-up eyesight has been on a downward slope for 18 months, yet it used to be perfect. It was my distance sight that has been a problem all my life. Now I can see in the distance, but need glasses to read the computer screen. 

There's other things, but they are my things...stuff for me to know, my family to know.

So what now? I'm simplifying my life, little by little.

Even my threads. They were such a mess. I have five boxes like this to 'make nice'...

Because I hand embroider it seems wasteful to have much fabric so I gave most of it to Blossom and she will be selling it to buy what she needs for their little family.
This is all I have now, a few little piles on my sewing room shelves, and it feels peaceful in my heart...

I did keep a bundle of one hundred 5" pink & green squares and a little yardage for a quilt I'll be making with the designs from December's Stitchery Club patterns...
I'm still designing.
It's what I do, it's what God gifted me to do.

I won't do as many tutorials, but I will keep blogging to encourage you in your God given roles as incredible women who have stories of your own, stories that make you who you are, stories that you can share to encourage others.

I'm not telling you about me today because I want you to feel sorry for me, or because I want any kind of sympathy or a pat on the back - goodness me, no!

I'm really happy this happened to me. It has made me appreciate LIFE, the gift of who I have, what I have, and where I am.
It's not life threatening and compared to so many of you, I have got it easy.

There are other areas of my life that I'd rather not have experienced, things way worse than a manageable brain injury, but that is the point I am making.

We all have a story.

We each have a good story, a sad one, a brave one, a hard one, a generous one, a compassionate one, a still-in-process one, a yet-to-be-lived one, a miraculous one...every person you meet has a story to tell, so be kind to them, and pray that your seeds of kindness will reap a harvest of kindness back into your life when you need it most.

In our Gentle Domesticity Facebook Group last week, a dear member, Jan, lost her husband rather suddenly. She's a woman who posts quite regularly in the group, a lovely lady, an encourager.
In that message, sharing the news of her beloved's passing she again encouraged us with these words, 

Love each other, hug each other because you never know.

The response from our group members, wrapping their arms around Jan through their comments brought tears to many eyes I'm sure...and that's what mattered most. Her story matters to us, her sorrow and loss and knowing we can't be there in person but we can listen, we can pray, and we can let her know we truly do care.

I gave our group members this stitchery over the weekend because I think we all, at some time, need to be reminded that kindness is a free gift, and something every person has need of.
If you'd like to join the group and access the free pattern from our files you are most welcome. 

I think that's certainly enough from me today, don't you?

God be with you always, and may you be blessed in abundant measure with every good thing, especially kindness.

love and hugs

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Quiet times...

I'm just taking a little break from blogging to give myself some overdue care and attention.

Perhaps you need that too?
Don't ever believe you're so indispensable that you can't walk away for a while and refuel.
Even God rested from His work.


Tuesday, November 15, 2016

TUTORIAL - pincushion with a secret...

I said I'd share four pincushion tutorials this month, and I really do try to keep my word. 
The first three styles came easy to me because I designed them before I made them, but this fourth pincushion pattern wasn't quite as accommodating.
It wasn't due to lack of an idea, but rather because I had three and could only use one.

So this morning I stood silent in my sewing room with fabric, stitchery, buttons and a blank stare for the longest of times, hesitating to pick up my scissors or the rotary cutter for fear of making the wrong decision and regretting it soon after.

I like the quilter's rule, "measure twice, cut once", because it makes you sure in your mind before you embark on a journey of no return with regards to slicing and dicing a perfectly good piece of fabric, but try as I may this rule would not work with my 'which pincushion should I make?' quandry.

I decided to gather yesterday's washing off the clothesline, put the breakfast dishes away, and decide on a menu for tonight's dinner - clearing my mind of what perplexed it most. And you know what? It worked!
I didn't have to choose between those three pincushion ideas after all because I came up with a completely new pattern instead!!

There really is wisdom in walking away and doing something completely different to rest your little grey cells. I think Hercule Poirot would approve of that?

Shall we begin?

The stitchery on the front of the pincushion (Sew & Sew) is one my Stitchery Club members will receive in their November patterns on Thursday. 
If you are not a Stitchery Club member you can purchase the November issue from my shop on that day. 

BUT what about using a stitchery you already have or fussy cutting a piece of pretty fabric instead!?

To make a pincushion the same size as mine trim your stitchery to 3 1/2" x 7 1/2".

You will also need -

A fat quarter of feature fabric from which you will cut -
one, 3 1/2" x 7 1/2" piece
two, 5 1/2" x 9 1/2" pieces

Two, 5 1/2" x 9 1/2" pieces of fusible Parlan or thin fusible Pellon
One button
Crushed walnut shells or polyester stuffing

Let's Sew!

Place the stitchery right side down on the 3 1/2" x 7 1/2" piece of fabric  and pin all the way around.
(note: I have cut my fabric larger so that it's easier for you to see in the tutorial)
Sew the two pieces together with a 1/4" seam leaving a 2" opening along one narrow end.

Turn right side out, and blind stitch or ladder stitch the opening closed.

Fuse the Parlan (or thin Pellon) behind the two pieces of 5 1/2" x 9 1/2" fabric.

Centre your stitchery on one of the pieces of fabric and pin in place. 

Secure the stitchery 'pocket' to the fabric by sewing a line of running stitch with 2 strands of embroidery thread across the top, left side, and bottom of the 'pocket', about a 1/4" inside the edge. Leave the right side open.
I used a cream thread to blend with my stitchery background fabric.

Sew a button in position about 1" from the top right edge of the stitchery 'pocket'. 

Lay the remaining piece of fabric right side down over the front of your pincushion and pin the two pieces together. Sew around all four sides with a 1/4" seam. leaving a 3" opening along the narrow end opposite the button end. 

Turn right side out, gently pushing the corners out with a large rounded tool such as a big wooden knitting needle or a chopstick.

I chose crushed walnut shells for this pincushion because I am using the pocket to hide my scissors therefore I need the pincushion to sit flatter than a polyester stuffed one would normally be inclined to do.
(If you use polyester stuffing, don't over fill this pincushion.)

The easiest way to fill a pincushion with crushed walnut shells is with a kitchen funnel.

Fill the pincushion about 2/3 of the way but no more.
Slip stitch or ladder stitch the opening closed, keeping your stitches very close together.

The final step was to make a little twisted tie for my scissors from six strands of embroidery thread and then I could hide them inside the pocket of this pretty new pincushion!

Now you've seen this made, I'm pretty sure you can figure out how to make the same kind of pincushion using stitcheries of different sizes. In fact, you could omit the hidden pocket too, if you like. 
We've all got some UFO stitcheries, cross-stitches, mini quilt blocks...perhaps you could give them a home as pincushions and get a head start on 2017's birthday or swap gifts?

Whatever you do, be sure to have fun!

Would you like to see my smallest pincushion?
When Blossom was a wee little thing, long before I taught myself to hand embroider, she would sit and sew tiny bits and pieces for her dolls and sometimes she'd come out with precious things for me.
I could make simple dresses for her or her sisters, and I could hem curtains and do some rather nice cross-stitch by following a pattern, but that was the extent of my sewing skills pre-2005.
One day, whilst I was relaxing with a newly purchased cross-stitch design, she drew close to my side and gave me this precious little pincushion as somewhere to keep my needle when not in use.
It's only a inch long and tightly packed with scraps of thread. She was just a small child when she made it and completely self taught with needle and thread...

I think you can appreciate why I treasure it so.

What small things in life do you hold dear?