Thursday, November 19, 2015

Farmers' Wives Speak

Here are the latest blocks I've completed for the Farmer's Wife 1930's sew along, and some thoughts from the letters in the book.

 Addie: This wife traded her electric washer for two cows when they moved to the country to build a homestead. I found myself really frustrated this past week over silly things compared to her circumstances. Who took all the rechargeable batteries, because my computer mouse is dead. My dishwasher is suddenly running inefficiently. My vacuum needed a new belt. Our power went out for 30 hours, and we were a little chilly. All those things add up in my mind, until I take a step back and put myself in her place! Thank you God for everything, especially the inconveniences that remind me that I need You.

 Aimee: "And go to bed with backward looks, At my dear land of Storybooks."  This school year I am trying to spend more time reading stories to my children. It is really the best time of the day. We are all together, all listening to the same thing, committing poems and Scripture to memory, learning to love what is true and beautiful. These will be the times we fondly remember years down the road.

 Margaret: Ahhh, this letter rings so true with me! Our house is often full of this same happy chaos, sometimes so much so that I can't be heard. The dinner table is the busiest, loudest, happiest place in our home. I am learning to love it because it won't be like this forever. They will grow wings and fly away soon. Not too soon, please. "Outside there was rain, wind, darkness, but indoors there was warmth, light, food, shelter, Home, and Love." Let this be said of my home.

Nancy:  "As a lasting investment there is nothing to compare with even a small library." This wife writes about what a treasure books are in the home, even if there are just a few. I heartily agree with her. I find warm delight in a child snuggled up in a chair immersed in a good book. Teaching a small child to read. Unhurriedly reading and re-reading favorite picture books to the toddlers. Our house is full of books. Too full? No. No house is too full of friends, and there will always be room for more.

This is my favorite letter of them all. She writes about "blind flying" in our lives, "flying by faith." Faith in what? In God's sovereignty and sufficiency, and in His unchangeable Word. Our ability to pray to Him as His children and know that He hears us. Our world is in confusion everywhere we look. But God does not change. What peace we have if He is our Father and we His faithful children.

Sunday, November 1, 2015


Here is my rendition of Block 45, Jenny. I constructed it using the "stitch and flip" method. I made two flying geese, one quarter square triangle, and four rectangle/square units. Pretty simple to put together, and again I was able to avoid cutting and stitching on the bias. If you are not familiar with "stitch and flip," Lori Holt's books are excellent. I have sewed through most of her books Quilty Fun and Farm Girl Vintage. I am using those same techniques to get me through Farmer's Wife. Whatever scraps I have left I try to save for mini-blocks, so I don't feel guilty wasting precious bits.

For my friends not familiar with The Farmer's Wife 1930's Sampler Quilt, it is a gem. The first half of the book consists of letters from farmers' wives of the 1930's, published in the periodical The Farmer's Wife in a column called "Letters From our Farm Women." Each letter in this book is paired with a quilt block, and the second half of the book provides diagrams and instructions for piecing each block. The CD included has all the templates as well as instructions for different methods of piecing.

I hope to be posting my blocks consistently as I sew along this year with Angie at GnomeAngel and all the other thousands of quilters participating. As it is the school year, I am busy homeschooling and caring for my family, so these blocks are perfect to give me a little sewing time each week without overdoing it.

A word or two about Jenny: this letter is about spending time with your kids. I used to count changing diapers and feeding them as quality time, but I was probably mistaken. As they have gotten older, I have learned how enjoyable it is to sit down and really give them my attention, whether it's working together cleaning the house or sitting down for our daily read-aloud time. It doesn't have to be playtime. Jenny reminds me that I should think of my children as my partners, my brothers and sisters in the body of Christ. We work together for a common goal. A good reminder!

Saturday, October 31, 2015


Here she is, as perfect as she will be. This is block 41 in The Farmer's Wife 1930's Sampler Quilt. I love the challenge of figuring out how to make each block. Sometimes I will just sit and study the diagrams to try to figure out the best way to cut (avoiding bias at all costs!). If nothing else, these blocks are sharpening my quilt math, which seems quite dull sometimes. I used the "flip and stitch" method on this block and preserved the scraps to make mini blocks, because we have to keep in the 30's spirit and not waste! They are so cute! Granny was pretty simple to put together, though matching those points was just too much to ask at the late hour I was sewing this. So Granny will remain, maybe a little blemished on the outside, but full of spirit and seasoned character.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Old and New

I hold a new life in my arms these warm end-of-summer days. He came in the night half a month ago, a perfect squirmy bundle of boy, soft and pink and lovely. He came 100 years and one day after his great-grandfather. Consider the chasm stretching across all those years. Yet how much in common infancy and old age are. The wisdom of a century has faded into child-like speechlessness.  Each knows little else than utter dependence on another's ability to clothe, wash, and feed. The end of life is as near to one as the beginning is to the other. Old limbs have succumbed to age. Legs bear no more weight, and the weight and care of life has diminished. Money, possessions--meaningless to the old man and the baby. Helplessness has set in on the gray head, eyes strain with longing. Old eyes are weary with years. The infant's are startled by the sudden light and can see no further than his mother's face. Both have little but the basic desire to be loved unconditionally. The old man fades. Death is knocking at the door. Death, be not proud! Where is your sting? Thanks be to God who gives us the victory, who has crushed old Death under His foot. While death knocks at that man's door, the baby begins to thrive. Cheeks plump. Limbs submit to his tender will. Eyes brighten, and his face breaks into waves of willful smiles. Death knocks at that old man's door, but joy indeed comes in the morning, and joy has come to our house again. Our beloved old Grandfather has entered Glory now, full of years. But we hold this new life, and our spirits shine with joy and hope because we know that we will all meet again on the Other Side, whole and glorified.

Rest in peace, Grandpa! We will miss you here, until we meet again. And welcome to our home, baby Simon!

Monday, August 17, 2015

Nothing Gold

This is a mini wall hanging I worked on last week for a musician friend who is moving across the country. The kind of friend who gives way more than you could ever repay. The kind of friend who is at your doorstep with boxes of food and diapers the morning after your car accident. The kind whom your baby reaches for in a crowd of people. This little project was the least I could do for someone who has given my family so much. I will miss you (you know who you are!), and this is just a little piece of my soul to go with you to your new home. I hope we can come visit you!

Among my thrifty finds of late, here are two new-to-me quilt books in my collection. The first attracted my attention since I have been curious about quilt history lately. This book has about 50 introductory pages about the history of American patchwork quiltmaking, and the rest of the book is photographs and descriptions of antique patchwork quilts in the author's collection. The most unusual thing about the book is that it is a history written in 1935. What a lot of water has flowed under the quilting bridge since then! There is not much text in the book, and the photos are black and white, which leaves plenty of room in the imagination for different color combinations. I am always fascinated by looking at the work others have done with much less than we have today.

The second book I recently found is already one of my favorites, the next thing on my to-do list. The book was still shrink-wrapped, so I wasn't sure what I was getting (looked a little outdated at first), but it just sang itself right off that shelf and into my cart! I shy away from 90's era froofy styles, but this book's timeless sort of contents is delightful. The author highlights 40 antique doll or crib quilts, and she also gives patterns for each one. I have a yen to get into more hand-quilting, and this book is perfect for that. I also like how "imperfect" those antique quilts look. The corners aren't always perfectly square, and the block arrangements are sometimes pleasantly askew. I find that very charming and authentic, filled with whimsy and child-like playfulness.

Speaking of child-like simplicity, I had heard of the Gee's Bend Quilters before, but I wasn't exactly sure what they were all about until I watched this short documentary. 15 minutes of soul! It really struck a chord with me, especially in light of this "slow-sewing" movement that has piqued my interest lately. The segment that highlights the Gee's Bend ladies' quilting bee made my own soul sing along with them. They sit around the quilt and quietly sing their songs, mournful, reflective, heavenly songs. Their friendship, simplicity, and earthy community lacks any pretense or competitive desire. It's not just about the quilt. It's about slow living, community, memories, and friends, not necessarily perfection.

All this brings me to question a few things about myself and the culture around me. How much should we and do we hold perfection up as our ultimate trophy of success? Have our modern machines and desire for "quick and easy" stolen a bit of soul out of our work? Can we walk away from mistakes? I see the thirst for perfection glaring at me in my own attitude. As one of my friends recently said, "Perfection is really hard work." Now there are surely times where perfection is the goal--obedience, for one. Our musical offerings. Our love for God and others. Those are things that will stay and grow forever, and we should strive for perfection there. But when it comes to things that won't stay--our clean houses, new clothes, shiny cars, making sure every stitch is in the perfectly right spot--maybe we should just slow down and enjoy the imperfections. Swim in forgiveness for things that need to be perfected, and enjoy the work of our hands, however flawed it may be.

Nature’s first green is gold, 
Her hardest hue to hold. 
Her early leaf’s a flower; 
But only so an hour. 
Then leaf subsides to leaf. 
So Eden sank to grief, 
So dawn goes down to day. 
Nothing gold can stay.
--Robert Frost 

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Farmer's Wife 1930's, Sewing Along, and Slow Sewing

 Product Details  Product Details  I splurged a little yesterday and bought the recently published Farmer's Wife 1930's Sampler Quilt to add to my shelf. Then this morning one of the first things I saw on Instagram was a new sew along to go with the book! I will say that sew alongs keep me going. They provide such inspiration and connection with the sewing community, as well as the drive I need to keep sewing a little at a time. I also own the previous book Farmer's Wife 1920's Sampler Quilt and have had fun with it, especially reading the letters that these farmers' wives wrote about what it is like to be married to such men. What a different life they lived compared to ours with all our fast-paced modern-day demands. They had demands too, and I admire their creativity and use of what they had to work with.

Image result for farm girl vintage  I have also been sewing through Lori Holt's (Bee In My BonnetFarm Girl Vintage, a series of easier blocks than Farmer's Wife, all based on the stitch-and-flip method. Some argue that there is more waste with this technique, but because I make extra blocks out of the unused but useable pieces, there hasn't been a whole lot relegated to the scrap jar. I am so happy with the blocks, and I am almost done sewing through the patterns. My color scheme is different than what is in the book: pastels and linen. Who says chicks can't be pink? Here are some of the recent blocks I have finished:

 Spring Star and Summer Star

 Simple Star

 Scrappy Maple Leaf

 Pie Cherries


My jumping off fabrics were Lulu Roses by Tanya Whelan, with linen as my background. I love that I can then use white tone on tones as part of my color scheme! I added other pieces from my scrap collection, some thrifted and some purchased new. The linen is a bit shifty to work with, but not too bad. It is actually pretty forgiving.

I recently came across some articles on the Slow Sewing movement. Here's a blog: The Slow Stitching Movement. There are actual books and lecture tours on this phenomenon, I believe. It is intriguing me. I love the idea of just sitting down a few minutes a day and stitching something, maybe by machine, maybe by hand, but with no deadline in mind. Ahhh, I like that! So sew along to get motivated, sit and stitch with no deadline--two ways to do it. Both good!


Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Breath of Fresh Air

We have had a great summer so far! No, we haven’t been to any exotic faraway vacation spots, we haven’t done any roller coasters or even water parks. In fact, most of the time we have just spent at home playing with the garden hose and riding bikes (the kids, that is). And it has been delightful!

We have been thinking a bit recently about the difference between true delight and momentary laughter. Both are good. But one lasts longer than the other. I like to give the kids one “laugh a day,” some funny video I’ve found or a really corny joke; and those little snippets come up over and over again around the table, part of our “family album of stupid things no one else will understand.” I love that. But the delightful moments are different. These require a little more thought and sacrifice. The payback is better though. Hopefully these are things they will be talking about 20 years from now, “Hey, remember that time when Papa played freeze tag with us on the playground?” Truly delightful plans may mean your to-do list gets laid by the wayside. The house may be a mess. That Richard Scarry book plopped in my lap…again? That ice cream treat may be a little out of the budget. But if you count the cost…you will most likely miss out on huge reward!

One of our recent delightful ventures was a little weekend trip to Oregon to visit with a friend and meet the rest of her family and church. One of our kids was so excited that he “had now visited two countries—Canada AND Oregon!”. How do you correct such a naive and excited mistake? The kids relished every moment of our little trip, from sleeping in a tent to picking endless buckets of berries, to pancakes with whipped cream (the spray kind!), and S’mores in 95+degree weather. We adults were refreshed with warm hospitality as well: late evenings chatting in the cool outdoor air, a lazy schedule, wisdom gained from veteran parents whose childrearing days are over, live fiddle music by a couple of our kids, and too many more blessings to count.

It is daunting to pack up the kids and go, even for a couple nights. You’re not sure it’s worth the effort. You are tired and think it might be easier to just stay home and take a nap. Travel time is three times longer than it should be (yay for Friday afternoons!). And one of the kids will drink too much water too soon into the trip with nowhere to stop. BUT you bite the bullet and go for it, and what gets stamped on the face of time is priceless. Delighted kids. Friendships kindled. Renewed vigor for the arduous journey of parenting before you. You can’t put a price on it all. But you can relive the memories and revel in that breath, no, gulp of fresh air.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Ruffled Baby Bib--Finished!

This is a little project I just finished from a new book called Sweetly Stitched Handmades by Amy Sinibaldi at NanaCompany, one of my favorite blogs in the whole world! I am so glad she finally wrote a book, and word has it that there is another one in the works. Yay!

I really had a hard time getting started on this! I couldn't decide which fabrics to pull together or what embellishments to use. As always, you just have to choose something and go with it. My jumping off point was this little berry cross stitch pattern I found on Pinterest. Cross stitching on linen really tests your eyesight! I liked how it turned out though.

I adore ticking fabric, especially paired with linen. Then I found this eyelet ruffle in my stash. Originally the ruffle and beaded trim were attached, but I took them apart to place them separately. I also used some of that leftover linen from the cross stitch (that linen was actually a pillow sham at one time), and appliqued it as that narrow strip under the beading. It's nice to have the guidelines of the ticking to keep things straight.

Hand quilting is kind of new to me, but this needed a touch of handwork. So I stitched the diamond grid by hand. I also attached the cross stitch patch with hand stitching.

The back is barely peeking through, but it is a soft and absorbent fuzzy chenille. It gives extra body to the bib, as well as a nice cozy feel.

The binding is a stripe that I have used for multiple projects. It was thrifted a long time ago, and I love it, especially cut on the bias. I never measure binding right. This one I would cut narrower next time as it was really hard to fit around the small curve. Usually I cut binding too small, and you can't fix that.

Also, I would enlarge the pattern even more. This bib is for a very small baby, which is OK, just not what I expected. I was just not sure how to get the exact size right on my printer, nor did I want to spend time messing with it at that moment. I vote for downloadable patterns, or a CD, so we don't have to mess with copying and resizing on the printer.

I will get around to reviewing the whole book and posting other completed projects as I continue sewing through the book.  I am doing these as part of a Sweetly Stitched Handmades sew along on Instagram. I love sewing with a virtual community!

On a different note, this song has been running through my mind today. One of my favorites to sing during this laid back time of year. And it evokes good memories of the South where I grew up.

Summertime, and the livin' is easy
Fish are jumpin' and the cotton is high
Oh, your daddy's rich and your ma is good-lookin'
So hush little baby, Don't you cry
One of these mornings you're gonna rise up singing
And you'll spread your wings and you'll take to the sky
But 'til that morning, there ain't nothin' can harm you
With Daddy and Mammy standin' by
Summertime, and the livin' is easy
Fish are jumpin' and the cotton is high
Oh, your daddy's rich and your ma is good-lookin'
So hush little baby, Don't you cry
One of these mornings you're gonna rise up singing
And you'll spread your wings and you'll take to the sky
But 'til that morning, there ain't nothin can harm you
With Daddy and Mammy standin' by

Friday, July 24, 2015

Adventures in English Paper Piecing

What has 6 sides and such an addictive draw that they will cause you to sit for hours cutting, pasting, basting, and stitching them by the score? No, it’s not the mending pile! These little cuties can travel with you wherever you go, take up very little space in your purse, and require only a few supplies to keep you stitching them by the hundreds. And when you put them all together, they make a most beautiful pieces of handwork. I speak of English Paper Pieced Hexagons. A little research on the web reveals that these little shapes have enticed quilters for hundreds of years. One of the most popular quilt blocks made from the beloved “Hexie” is called Grandmother’s Flower Garden, concentric rounds of pieced hexes made into individual “flowers.” I have two such quilts in my own house, one an antique, the other made a few years ago as a gift from Grandma to my daughter. The second one I mention is made from pieces of dresses my mom sewed for me when I was a child. Hexies look great scrappy! No real color theory needs to be involved if that’s not your thing. And they are a great stash-buster. If you don’t want to do a huge project, they are equally adorable appliquéd onto small projects like pouches or handbags, maybe a bookmark or baby bib. Just the right amount of cute.

I love a good story. If any quilt could tell a story, which I believe they all do, the EPP Hexie quilts are full of all kinds of tales simply because they can travel to so many places from beginning to end. I can’t really say that about projects made sitting at my machine with my back hunched over, snipping and clipping in the same position hour after hour. I love that too, just in a different way.

Let me see…if I rifle through my stash of EPP hexagons, I could tell lots of stories. They have traveled so many places: from car to train to plane, from native U.S. soil to Eastern Europe, from countless music lessons to a 3-hour glucose screening (I passed). They even made it through a car crash (so did I, but with more scrapes and bruises then they did). My husband teases me about what I could possibly be doing with the hundreds (in his estimation) of pieces I have cut and basted. I don’t know, but I have surely enjoyed every minute.

I have carried around an EPP kit in my purse for years now. In my little pouch I have a few simple supplies: paper templates (printed off at home), needles, spool of thread, washable glue stick, small scissors, and small scraps of fabric. That’s it! It fits perfectly in my purse so that wherever I go, I have something to keep my hands busy.

I love the slowness of such handwork. No deadline. No stress or rush. Very little picking out mistakes! Just quiet repetitive motion. Calm. Stories woven into cloth in the gentlest of ways. Memories rekindled. Prayers for those we know and love.

Life is hectic and fast-paced. That is not something we can always change. We live in a time when you can even make “quick quilts” if you want to. That is perfect when lack of time calls for such a thing. But here we are in the lazy days of summer. I have relished the slowness summer brings. Time to sit back and enjoy the calm, the last few days before this baby in my belly makes his or her grand entrance into our home. Dreaming about who this person is, holding a newborn again, what kind of gift this new child will be to our family. I think God puts this need to slow down inside every woman at this particular time for a very good reason. We need time to reflect and prepare for this impending life changing event.

That’s what I’ve been doing!