"The ordinary acts we practice every day at home are of more importance to the soul than their simplicity might suggest."

Thomas Moore

Sunday, December 10, 2017

When it's all too much...

This past month I've become increasingly tense in my shoulders and neck. 

A to-do list for Christmas gifts and the day to day demands of my business seemed to increase rather than decrease...and the housework? Well, let's just say it's stagnant at the moment while I try to climb over the mound of things that have a deadline. 

I've kept up with the washing, meals and the dishes, but not much else. Fortunately my husband understands and even took on a few tasks that have been neglected this month like sweeping, vacuuming, watering the plants and daily maintenance of Sophie's cat litter tray for which I am most grateful. But there are things he can't do, like cook, design, stitch, sew gifts, and manage Elefantz. 

As we approach a new year I'm seriously pondering my balance of faith, family, home and business and bringing it all before God in prayer because I know my lack of balance this past year has brought about a prolonged season of fatigue, sickness and even self-doubt. 

In each area of those areas - faith, family, home and business - I have the best intentions, but not the balance needed to walk each day with an attitude of peace in heart and mind. Basically my personality is introvert and I crave a peaceful quiet life, however I also have an overly creative mind which comes up with new ideas on an hour by hour rotation. 

Now, that in itself is not bad, but the problem arises when I try to achieve more than my life can allow, when I push myself to do that 'one more thing' or fit more than is needful into a short space of time, and this becomes most evident every December.

I think this frenzy to achieve hits it's peek this time of year for many of us. There's a personal expectation that because we know how to sew or bake or knit or crochet or paper craft we'd be wasting money if we opted to buy gifts. After all we have the skills to make them from what's already in our craft room but are we in fact adding a burden upon ourselves when we do this? 

Are we rushing to make and not resting in the joy and wonder of the Christmas season? 
Is the frantic nature of giving 'things' overtaking the giving of time and hugs and relationship to those we care about?

That's where I've found myself this year. 

It hit me square between the eyes the other day as I stood in the sewing room and looked down at the list of things which still needed to be made, wrapped and posted away in time for a pre-Christmas delivery. Overwhelmed, I closed the door and walked into our bedroom where I laid down on the bed and promptly fell asleep because my mind could take no more.

When I woke, there was a strong sense of Jesus with me, so I lay there a while longer thinking about Him, about His promise of peace, and I prayed to receive it.

I should not have been surprised, but I was when the answers came so quickly, when my crowded thinking cleared and peace fell over my thoughts, my heart and even my body. I knew what I needed to do and though it wasn't what I'd planned it was the right path for me to take this year.

The next day lovely and useful gifts had been purchased and delivery to various households organised, my burden was lifted and I had some wonderful long distance conversations with loved ones who agreed the gifts didn't matter, that it was the love we shared which mattered most.  
(and there may have been some relief from the teenagers who really don't want handmade by Nana at this time of their lives but aren't sure how to tell her)

This may not have been what I wanted initially, but sometimes what we want isn't what's best. Sometimes a season of change is needed and we must let go of our high expectations of self and simply, humbly, do what is possible. 

I'm no superwoman and never wanted to be, but it seems my life began to run that course anyhow by believing I could do it all. Silly me. 

Thank you Jesus for always having an answer, a right way to take, and a blessed place to rest in You.

Next year I'm going to pace myself by making gifts through the year, even buying some along the way when they're on sale, returning to the rhythm of homemaking that I love and which is most natural to me, and I shall step back from the frenzy of doing more than I need in the business. 

My heart is home-shaped and Jesus made it that way, but I got carried away this year with what I 'could' do when I should have been diligent to follow only what I 'should' do.

Sorry if I've rambled today...so many thoughts and lessons flowing into words, but a lot of hope trickling through my heart as well. 

I pray you too find this beautiful season of the year to be one of grace, peace and relationship, and not a time of exhaustion, over-commitment or unrealistic expectations. 
After all, we are celebrating the birth of the Prince of Peace, Jesus. 


Friday, December 8, 2017

Five new projects...

I promised my Stitchery Club members this month that we'd not only have the five new patterns to embroider but I'd include five lovely projects as well. 
And this is what has kept me extra busy the past few weeks.

But you know, I enjoyed every minute. 

I design embroideries for a living, and that's pretty time consuming because each one is a long process starting with a vague idea and a sketch pad. 
One design can take between an hour or a week to fine tune on paper, then I need to choose background fabric, feature fabric and thread colours. 
Next, the hand drawn design is scanned, cropped and cleaned before being printed out to check the size and quality for preparing later as a PDF pattern. Then I trace it onto fabric, applique pieces may be added and stabiliser is fused behind the block in preparation for hand embroidery. 
Finally the the stitching begins. 
Depending on the size and intricacy of the design, and also how much free time I have during the daylight hours, this can take two days or a week. A large design I'm working on at the moment has already taken a week and needs another before it will be ready. 
When the design is completed I press it, check for errors or missed stitches, and set up the photographs.
I can take 50-70 photos in different settings per project and from there I choose about three or four I like which will then be formatted and made ready for the webpage. 
Final step is to bring my notes together with the stitchery, write the pattern and format everything into a PDF file ready for customers to download. 

Adding in five projects this month kept me on my toes more than usual, but I truly enjoyed creating each one because most of my stitcheries live in large containers waiting for a one-day project to house them...my intention to do so is real, but the time rarely eventuates. 

Anyhow, let me show you what I've been making from the December stitcheries. I'll take you through each stitchery design and show you how it's come to life as a project...

"Sweet Dreams" became a lavender sachet.
I love the idea of this hanging by a ribbon over the bed head, the scent of lavender wafting around my head as I drift off to sleep...

"Dream House" was bordered to create the house effect and then bound in lace as a mini quilt before being sewn to the front of a simply made cushion.
This will be wrapped and waiting for Cully May under the Christmas tree...

"Buttons" is such a cute design when displayed as a wrapper for a large jar of, you guessed it, buttons...

"Hope" is a beautiful quote by Lady Bird Johnson and needed only a lovely ornate frame...

"Flourish" transformed into one of my most useful projects for the next year. I think many of us have unfinished projects so you may find this notebook cover with a reminder message stitched along the spine just what you need too...

Which one was your favourite design or project?

All of these stitchery patterns PLUS the project patterns will be inside the December 17 issue of The Stitchery Club.

And there's more.

If you join before the 16th I'll send you one of my older issues from November 2015 (which has 7 Christmas patterns inside) within 12 hours of receiving your membership notification.

Well, I'd best be off from here and attend to the lasagne I'm making for dinner tonight. 

Mr E loves his pasta, especially ravioli and lasagne! Today was his final day of the 2017 school year and we're celebrating him having the next six weeks of summer break so a special dinner was most important. 
There's a bit more work for him to do on the Jeep but it won't prevent us from heading off on a few overnight trips here and there...which means I need to prepare some new stitcheries to work on in the car so back to the sketch pad for me. 

God bless you all, and may the weekend ahead bring you laughter, peace and rest. 


Thursday, December 7, 2017

Some encouragement and a festive tutorial...

My plans to rest up haven't followed the path I'd hoped. I suppose this time of year has a way of calling you off in different directions and though you want/need to rest, the opportunities aren't always as forthcoming as you'd like. But I do feel a little better, which is wonderful, so thank you sincerely for your prayers. I actually sat here this morning and thought about that very thing.

Have you just stopped what you're doing and thought about who is praying for you?

What a beautiful, humbling, grateful experience I had as I did this. It made me want to hug each and every one of you who have lifted my name before Jesus. You bless me beyond words. xx

Between the various tasks these early December days bring into our lives I think we each look for a parcel of hours in which to create, a morning or afternoon here or there when we can disappear into the craft room or clear a space on the dining table 'just to make'.

Some of my friends create with paper, others with wool, and some like me use fabric or thread.
Last week you saw the simple ribbony buttony lacy card I made for a friend, and this week I'll show you a different simple gift for another friend.

I've made a pretty three-tiered shabby chic style Christmas tree pincushion in soft pastels, but once you see the basic steps you'll realise it can be made to any size and have as many tiers as you want.

I began by sewing three circles of differing sizes and stuffing them.

Before you make the circles stack your fabrics on top of each other and mix them around until you have them layered in such a way that it makes your heart flutter. 

Using Perle thread or three strands of embroidery thread (I used Perle 12) criss-cross back and forth, always bringing the needle back to the centre, until you have eight sections in your circle. Pull the thread gently as you sew each section until it puffs a little.
Secure the thread in the centre of the bottom side when you're done.

I used pink Perle thread for the bottom and middle pincushions... 

...and white for the small top one.

As this is a Christmas themed project the addition of some bling on top was important to the overall finish so I found the perfect button in my stash and sewed it in place.

Nice, huh?

Assemble the round pincushions one on top of the other and using a very long beading needle sew them together through the centre. 

My bling button had a shank so I gently pushed it to one side and was able to get the needle through the middle of the little pincushion and down through the other two without my trouble.

An alternative is to use a hot glue gun to secure each pincushion on top of each other, especially if you intend sewing 5 or 6 tiers.

The final touch was a piece of crinkly ribbon wound between the large and middle pincushions and tied in a bow. 

I told you it was simple. 

Simply beautiful actually, and I'm sure my friend will love it. 

The fabrics used in this pincushion are from the "Meadow" collection by Camelot Design Studio. 

I've had them saved and uncut for a little while now, but I do believe they were just right for this project. In fact, I may have to make another for myself...as soon as December passes by. 

Will you make one, or two?

There's much in my heart that over time I shall begin to share with you, things pertaining to living a life of gentle domesticity, but today I will leave you with just one thing, something I shared with members of our Gentle Domesticity facebook group yesterday...

Too often I tend to drift past life's daily rituals without truly observing their significance; without stopping to be grateful. But the things I attend to within my home are a privilege because within these walls I get to care for people I love and people who love me.

I am free to create an environment which family and friends assure me is welcoming and homely; an environment that tangibly wraps itself around them and says, "stay awhile, I love having you here".

Just as apple pie or fruit buns straight from the oven fill a house with the aroma of home-baked love, so too the fragrance of our attitude can carry itself through every room and each heart, the effects lasting well beyond that afternoon tea.

Have you pondered the attitude of your homemaker heart recently?
Like me, you may need to do this every once in while.

I think it's almost like checking the chocolate cake with a skewer to see if it's baked through and finding it sticky. No-one wants to eat raw or under-cooked cake so we return it to the oven until it's fully baked through and delicious to eat.

In a similar way, we must take time to check our attitude regularly. No-one wants to stay long in a home that causes them to feel unwelcome or in the way, so like that cake we should examine our heart attitude to see if it's right, and if it's not we must be honest with ourselves about why and begin to make changes that will bring about a gentle and gracious spirit. 

At the core of every gentle domestic homemaker is a heart willing to make her home a sanctuary with an atmosphere of beauty and rest, a dwelling place that exudes love and welcome. 
If we do this there is no shortage of JOY to share and no lack of JOY to receive.

I am still learning how to do this, how to be that gentle homemaker, but truly my heart is willing to grow and change for the better and that's really all we need do. Just be willing. 
If we are, then what a bounty of goodness lies before us...

Much love dear ones,

Saturday, December 2, 2017

Lacy buttony ribbon trees...

Do you spend time on Pinterest?
Maybe once or twice a week I settle down with my iPad and a nice cup of tea about an hour before bedtime and have a look-see at pretty and inspiring ideas like new recipes, decorating on a budget, tutorials for things I'd like to learn, gifts, or lovely quotes. 
At the moment my eyes seem to fall more often upon 'seasonal' projects which may (or may not) be made in time for December 25. 
I think it's nice to make something new for the home each year, and even though I have a number of my own Christmas designs to display there are many more ideas out there which make me smile and inspire a different kind of creativity to surface. 

This year it's lacy, button-y ribbon trees.

I found some beautiful photos on Pinterest and wanted to start on a framed version for our home straight away but it's been a very busy fortnight here with family, car, health and business matters so I've had to breathe and pace myself until such a time as I could 'play'. 

Yesterday was that time, but first I chose to make a hanging card and leave the larger framed tree for another day.

I thought the aqua stripe fabric would make a nice background and from there it was simply a matter of preparing a piece of thin cardboard, cutting lengths of lace, ribbon and braid, and gathering some buttons and a tiny bit of bling. 

Mr E came home to find me busy at work with my lacy tree and to be honest I was so caught up in what was before me that I hadn't noticed the sewing room was dark so what a surprise when he switched on the light and everything became clear! 
He assures me I do this a lot, and I assured him that any crafter worth her salt probably does exactly the same thing. We get in the 'zone' and away we go on our project, oblivious to whether the sun or the moon is setting or rising. Right?

Anyhow, with a nice organic chicken roasting away in the oven with an abundance of vegetables nestled around it and a large lemon stuffed inside, I continued on.

This will be an ornament card for a friend and I'm really pleased with how it turned out!

Not sure what colours to use in a large framed tree in this style because the red wall in our living room robs me of all desire to use red elsewhere...and pink would just clash.
Perhaps green and silver...I don't know right now, but it will also depend on what's in my stash as I'm not buying any extras.

If this sort of project appeals to you here are a few of the lacy, button-y ribbon trees I found on Pinterest in very different styles.

You can see more HERE on my Christmas Ideas pinterest board  and when you click on any of the the photos from that board it will take you to the original web pages for the photos shown below...

Blossom has left her baby & toddlers clothing business as her hands are full with Cully May, a new baby due in 13 weeks, moving house early next year and Christmas, but she hasn't stopped sewing.

Years ago when I taught myself to do patchwork I would teach her as I went along and she made some beautiful projects including her first quilt at age 11. But then she progressed to embroidery, beading, crochet, scrapbooking, writing...and patchwork fell by the wayside.

Now she has a hankering to patchwork again. Zippered pouches to be exact.
And guess who was the recipient of her first two practice pouches?
Me, and I love them!

She even made them from my all time favourite fabrics (which I'd given her months ago) - Flower Sugar and vintage Tilda from a decade ago...

The smaller pouch is for my migraine medication, lip balm and other essentials that need to stay in my handbag, and the larger pouch is for carrying a stitchery, threads, scissors and needles in the car so I can embroider as Mr E drives us across the state. 

Our little dumpling has recently taken up colouring with crayons and it was lovely to watch her and Blossom drawing pictures together in the early morning light when they stayed with us recently. 

I'm taking a few days break in order to rest up and get on top of a health issue (not my migraines). It's nothing serious, but it's not getting any better and Mr E thinks I should rest up a bit so my body has a chance to heal.
He's such a wise and loving husband, I'm very blessed to be Mrs Reynolds.

Until next time (and always), may the Lord bless you and keep you, make His face to shine upon you and give you peace,


Thursday, November 30, 2017

The Gentle Domestic Life and a BOM in 2018...

I first began my earnest journey towards gentle domestic living around the middle of 2014 after a few years of being unsettled within myself, feeling I’d somehow lost part of my identity when the children grew up and left home.

In 2015 I shared the idea of following ‘a year of gentle domesticity’ on my blog, suggesting others might like to revive the gentle and oft-forgotten arts of embracing home-life and all this entails. A loud cry was heard from all corners of the globe, women everywhere were hungry to have their home-centred-hearts refreshed and validated. I was stunned at the response for I had imagined this was perhaps my own crisis, a journey for one. Yet, beautiful notes and comments flowed forth about a similar longing.

It seemed that for too long the simple and precious delight of being a homemaker had been made to appear trite and lowly, yet I believed the woman who loves her home and family and finds joy in the everyday living of a domestic life had value far beyond measure.

Walking this path over the last few years I have come to appreciate that you never quite ‘get there’. Intentionally living a gentle domestic life is a morning by morning choice and the fruit of our labours may not be evident for weeks, months or perhaps years – but it’s always worth the effort.

As the months pass by the softness of a grateful and gracious heart begins to shine and others will notice. A new depth of appreciation for the people in our lives and what we’ve been blessed to have will richly increase our capacity for kindness, compassion, love and generosity.

We discover new skills, return to old ones, and along the way find more women who share a desire to ‘feather their nests’ and create a wonderful home sanctuary where crossing the doorstep is always accompanied by a sense of belonging, hospitality and welcome.

Living the gentle domestic life is not solely for the woman who spends each day at home, it’s for all women who embrace homemaking, whether they work at outside employment, are caregivers for relatives, volunteer a few days a week, work beside their husband on the farm, or like me are working from a home office.
The heart of a homemaker is ‘for’ her family and home, no matter her circumstances.

One example - for the busy working mother a simple act of throwing a fresh tablecloth over the dinner table and popping a few flowers from the garden into a glass jar between the salt and pepper shaker suddenly causes her heart to swell with satisfaction and the meal of BBQ chicken and salad from the supermarket suddenly doesn’t seem so bad because she’s changed the atmosphere of the meal and made the place where it’s going to be eaten one of warmth and care where the family can laugh and share about their day.
It’s really about doing what you can in the time you have with a gentle homemaker spirit.

Next year we shall once again celebrate this wonderful vocation of gentle domesticity through my blog and in the Gentle Domesticity Facebook group.
Join me in 2018 for a year of discovering what our homes reflect about our hearts and how to nourish the atmosphere in ways that will bring blessing and joy and comfort to any who pass over its threshold and also to our own lives.

Personally I shall be confronting the hangover of over-consumption within our home, budget and personal purchases by choosing to live on less, using what we have first and learning new skills which I hope will be useful now and into the future. I have no high expectations to put upon my efforts, just a willing heart to embrace the small things that matter and remove the things that don’t.

I was raised by my Nana and Pop in a tiny one bedroom walk-through with outside bathroom and flower strewn front garden barely the size of a bathtub, so I’ll be drawing much of my own inspiration from the memories of that time, years where love was generously given, gentleness, laughter and gratitude were normal, hard work was accepted as everybody’s responsibility in life and housewives took pride in their homes whether modest or grand.

 I remember there wasn’t much money but my grandparents provided well through the industry of their combined creative skills, but many of those skills I never bothered to learn or have long forgotten...for now. After all, it’s never too late to learn and life really can be an adventure.

Shall we journey this gentle domestic year together?

My friend Fee will join us in 2018 and share some wonderful homemaker ideas on her blog, so between us we hope to cover many different aspects of the gentle domestic life to encourage you and to encourage each other.

Through the month of December I'm offering the original Gentle Domesticity pattern as a free gift which you can download here from my shop.

It would be perfect as the cover of a homemaker's binder, stitched onto a vintage linen or framed as I did with the blue version...

In 2018 I will also be offering a free Block of the Month.

The twelve designs were originally offered through my Stitchery Club a couple of years ago and by the end of next year you'll be able to piece them together as a quilt.

"A Year in the Garden" will kick off January 1st and I can't wait! 

So there you have it, 2018 will be all about home, family and the garden.
I do hope you'll join in the fun!


Monday, November 27, 2017

Monday rhythms and a free Christmas project...

With only two weeks left before the end of another school year in Queensland, I'm excited because this means Mr E will soon start his summer break and be home with me for about five weeks.
(if you could see the smile on my face!) 

We're looking forward to relaxed mornings with no timetable for being out the door, lessons to plan or reports to mark, just wonderful opportunities to hop in the Jeep at whim and head off on outback and rainforest adventures. This coming break is definitely needed for physical and mental refreshment, a boost before buckling down to another school year for him and designing year for me in 2018.

At the moment I'm working harder than usual to get the December and January issues of the Stitchery Club completed by Mr E's last day of school, so there's a fair bit of designing, stitching and writing happening. If I can manage to do this I'll only need about an hour each day to keep the business side of things running smoothly while he's on summer break. 

It's Monday here and after baking a loaf of sour dough, doing a load of washing and a general tidy of the house I sat down with Sophie and a hot cup of tea to watch a few documentaries and begin stitching the main design for January.

 New habit, I do an egg wash over the bread before I bake it. 
SO good.

Since becoming (not voluntarily) an indoor-only cat Princess Sophie is almost always nearby, sitting close to Mr E when he is home and beside me when he's not.

I've neglected our health the past few months so last week resumed my personal studies on nutrition, making good use of our FMTV subscription for documentaries on sustainability, organic farming and natural health alternatives.

I can sit and stitch while I watch, learning new things (or being reminded of old things) and expanding my ideas for eating, cooking and shopping sustainably.

Decaf tea or coffee in pretty cups are important too, and I drink quite a few.

Applique, hexies and embroidery...is there anything better to keep fingers nimble?

The new designs for next year will be slightly different, softer even, and each month one stitchery will be a large one that we'll finish as a complete project. 

Before lunch I took time out to refresh the water in last week's bunch of flowers and am surprised they are still bright and not at all droopy. 

Note to self, "choose long lasting carnations and baby's breath through summer."

Oh, and while I was taking this photo I remembered wanting to tell you about my Peace Lily.
A few months ago when we were living in the other house, I wrote of my despair at not having white flowers on my Peace Lily anymore, just green flowers all the time. I'd read that this is caused by the plant having too much light so the pot was quickly moved to a shaded part of the room, however soon afterwards we packed up house and moved here.

 In this home's dining room there's a darkened corner where the curtains almost hide the pot and I've kept it there for the two months we've been here, watering regularly because it's hot and very windy at the moment and both those conditions dry the soil easily. 

Success at last! A white lily and I actually shed a tear of joy.

The first white flower in over two years...

My husband thought I'd gone a bit overboard with such happiness from the appearance of a white lily but you know, when you tend something carefully for so long and try all you know to 'fix' the problem, experiencing the fruit of your labour is rather wonderful indeed.

I soon told my friend Anorina who shared the same excitement over her peace lily, as well as her carefully drought-tended gardenias which recently burst into bloom, so we had a mutual understanding of each other's floral happiness. 
Sometimes you really need to share your joy with another woman who understands. LOL!

Before sitting down to write this blog post I made lunch, using what we had on hand and focusing on making it as healthy as possible. The other day I cooked up a batch of brown rice for salads this week, but it's also great for a very simple version of fried rice.

Brown rice and vegetables, tamari, garlic, ginger, chicken bone broth...

...sauteed in a little sesame oil and finished with some egg. 

When I did the egg wash over my sour dough loaf earlier in the day there was still most of the whisked egg left in the bowl so I cooked it on one side of the pan just before serving and sliced it to scatter over my lunch.

Lunch was delicious and so satisfying I couldn't finish it all. 
Note to self, "Next time make less."

I'll bring the washing in off the line next, make some Chia Pudding for dessert tonight and start the chicken for Mr E's favourite Chicken Pot Pie, before brewing a decaf coffee while I do a little more stitching in the natural afternoon light. Mr E will be a little late home as he's working on Blossom's car after school so I have an extra hour or two to fill.

A good day by my accounts.
A blessed and relaxed day, actually, so let me bless you as well.

Last year I shared this design for Christmas and I was going to share it again on December 1st, but a comment asking about it last week made me think "why wait?".
So I won't.

I love the declaration in this pattern, and the joy which swells in my heart when I say those words lifts my spirit every time.

"Glory to God in the Highest" is a free download here in my shop.

Enjoy making it for your home or a gift!

I can't sign off today without saying "thank you".
I have cherished every comment left on my last post, hugged each of you in my heart and praised God for such a beautiful gathering of precious women who care. 

I felt your prayers...I felt encouragement, love, respect, care and concern. 
The gratitude I express today goes far beyond a blog post, it comes from my heart to yours with great sincerity.

May the Lord our God be a fount of blessing upon your precious life, every day in every way.