Celebrating Valentine’s Day

Valentine’s Day is right around the corner! As I make arrangements to celebrate the ones I love, I think about years past when Valentine’s Day was less than ideal.

My husband travelled for work during the Valentine’s holiday several years running. Anytime he’s away, we set a “do over” date, where we celebrate the whole day as if it were Valentine’s! We also celebrate in these extenuating circumstance by finding a special trinket for each other, or even by using Skype or Facetime to communicate. If you’re looking, there are ways to celebrate without a candlelight dinner, which isn’t always possible! The “do over” is great for holidays when one family member isn’t feeling well, too.

Some years we’ve had less to spend than others. On the lean years, we’ve found alternative ways to say “I love you”. We’ve made gifts and cards for one another out of unusual things. One year our plumbing was overhauled at a hefty price tag, so we had an “in house” date. We prepared a special dinner, decorated the dining room with the prettiest dishes we had, and put the children in bed early. We wrote each other long letters or poems when money was tight. We’ve also included the children instead of paying a sitter, choosing family time over traditional Valentine’s dates. Maybe family game night is better than eating at a restaurant anyway!

Celebrating the ones you love isn’t about fancy gifts, candlelit dinners, or outrageous spending. It’s a matter of making the effort to vocalize your love and appreciation for your family members! As the holiday is fast approaching, I encourage you to show your affection for your family. Choose to use whatever talent God has given you to bless your family. It’s such fun to plan surprises for each person!

Use what you have, whether it’s paper or fabric or limited funds for a gift. Make an effort, maybe making a meal or special treat. Set your table pretty, and tidy up the dining area. Use your pretty dishes, a candle, or silk flowers. Take a picture of yourself and put it in an inexpensive frame for your spouse. Write him a poem, or a letter, expressing your love and gratitude. Aren’t those items the ones we treasure?

Little Dresses

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Seven little dresses, all in a row!

As per this post, a friend is headed to a tropical country this summer. We’ll be sending her with some “little dresses”. Here are the ones I’ve made so far. I’ll probably make more, because they are just that cute and fun to sew!

This is a good time to mention that your quality quilting fabric and sewing skills can be used for good causes, Little Dresses for Africa is a great cause, as is Quilts of Valor, and local guild projects. Check with your guild to see if they are making quilts for Habitat for Humanity, as well!

I’ll be working soon to declutter my sewing closet. I can’t think of a better way to use those languishing scraps than to repurpose them for charity work! Happy Sewing! =}

Tidying Clothing

I’m a declutterer. My autocorrect tells me that isn’t a word! But I am, and it is a thing.

I think it comes with the territory of being a mom. Even from tiny, children have you swapping out clothing, letting go of that teeny tiny dress or suit long before you want to give it up! When they get a little older, you have to break the news that they must get rid of that pair of jeans before the whole leg rips off!

So, I declutter. I’ve done several major overhauls of my entire house, especially when life is stressful and I need a calm home. I think my record hangs around forty bag of donations at once. The problem is that these marathon decluttering sessions don’t last forever. It has to be redone, and thus begets endless clutter-busting. Unless of course, I have a laid back year or so where I just let it go, singing the song from Frozen loudly and slightly off key.

All that brings me to today’s topic. Have you heard of Marie Kondo? She wrote a little book called “The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up”. I do love a good decluttering book, so I picked it up a few days ago. As it seems, I am seriously behind the times about this little gem! Apparently, people all over the world are using her book to tidy their homes and lives, presumably forever. (I’m still skeptical on that point.)

I read the book quickly, as the writing is straightforward and not technologically deep. I’ve committed to working through all my own belonging in hopes that I can create spaces in my home for me to work and relax. Before I proceed, I must say here that I don’t give inanimate objects a personification, as Kondo suggests. I also don’t thank the item itself for my blessings and for its purpose. I did pray before I began that I would have discernment, and I spent the entire first session thankful to God (and my husband) for Provision. A morning of thankfulness and gratitude? I’ll take it!

The first session is all about clothing. I have never in my life gathered all my clothing into one place. Coats have always been housed in a separate place, and shoes often left in odd places around the house. I’d even spent time segregating out “off season” clothing into a different area of the closet. Gathering all my tops, the very first chore, was daunting. I found them all and started trying to determine what “sparked joy”, which is Kondo’s term for whether or not this item is your very favorite and you love it.

Let me just say, the clothing task was hard for me, and will probably prove to be more difficult than other catagories to declutter. As a younger sibling, I had many things handed down to me. Also, my husband buys me things he likes. And, I wear the color black often. It matches everything. I love its simplicity and sophistication, but that’s a topic for another post. I could wax on forever about it! Here, though, it matters because people tease me about wearing too much black, or worry about me, or just plain think I’m weird. In the past, with other criteria for decluttering, I’ve been known to finish my closet, and rehang only black clothing. It’s just what I wear the most.

You don’t have to hang around this blog long to know that I LOOOOVE color. I love color in my quilts and in my home. I decorate with both subtle and bold colors, and I have definite opinions on favorite colors! I’ve studied color theory, and I really just love color. But somehow that’s never translated to clothing I could love and wear long term.

This tidying session was different. First, as I already mentioned, I spent the morning in thankfulness to the Lord for each individual item. As I chose what to keep and toss, the choice was made using this question of joy. While it’s semantics, my understanding of joy is much deeper than a feeling created by a thing. {It is hope in an eternal Savior.} So, I had to rephrase Kondo’s question a little. I had to choose my absolute favorites from the pile. I had to decide whether an item was “meh” or whether it was awesome to me. Who wouldn’t want to live with only their favorite things? When I finished, I had a small pile of clothing that wasn’t all black!! Kondo gave me permission to wear the things I like best, not necessarily the things I wear most often. To be truthful, I kept several black tops, but the items that were left to pair with them were very colorful! This morning as I chose clothing from my favorites, I chose a different combination of colors than normal, and found that to be refreshing and, yes, even a little joyful! My closet is neat as a pin, and I enjoyed the process, which used to be stressful!

My reflection on this tidying session is that we must choose. In life, there is a finite amount of space, time, things, money, etc. We need to spend time editing, in order to focus on the important aspects of life, people. In many ways, my things had taken over. Not necessarily the places they are stored, but the maintenance they require. I don’t want to be 80 and have spent my life as a keeper of nice things. I want to be 80 and reflecting on all the lovely people that God brought into my life!

Thanks for sticking with me on this very long post! To warn you, I will probably share more as I go through this tidying journey, but I promise pretty pictures of sewn things next time! =}

Sewing Machine Care

Take a moment to consider

all the joy and fun brought into your life by your sewing machine.

Isn’t that worth a little maintenance session?

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As many of you know, my fancy new machine needs yearly maintenance which means a trip to the technician. While it’s away, I pull out a beautiful 1951 Singer Featherweight. I worked on this pretty little machine yesterday and now it purrs!

Here’s a list of things you can do to make sure your machine is in good working order!

*Check the manual. This seems like a simple step, but every machine is different. I had my Singer bobbin threaded wrong, and the needle in backwards! If you’re looking for the Singer Featherweight manual, here’s a digital copy you can bookmark or print for yourself! That brings me to a very good point. MOST machines have a manual available for free online. If you’ve looked up your specific model and not found one, you may find a copy on Etsy or Ebay.

*Start with a clean slate. Unthread your machine. Take out the bobbin. Take out the needle. Start fresh!

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*Assemble some tools. The next time you go to your local big box store, look for a child’s paintbrush set, some tweezers, a small screwdriver, and sewing machine oil. You probably already own paper towels and mild cleaners for the surfaces of your machine!

*Clean. One of the most important things you can do for your lovely sewing machine is keep it free of dust. The Singer manual tells me to clean every day of use. Most experts say every 8 hours. I’ve even heard techs say that you should clean with every bobbin change. Remember the paintbrush? It’s perfect for cleaning under the bobbin, around pointy feed dogs, and anywhere delicate! Tweezers are handy for pulling out threads that may have become lodged under the bobbin case.

*Oil. You must clean your machine before you oil! Use your manual and a quality sewing machine oil (nothing else) to oil every point the manual says. Then do it again next week. =}

*Suit up. Rethread both top and bobbin according to your manual, and put in a fresh needle. (You should be changing your needle with every new project. Yes, that’s a lot!) Using a scrap or junk fabric, sew a few straight lines. It helps to use a dark colored fabric with light colored thread, or vice versa. By sewing a few lines, you’ll allow excess oil to be sewn into your scrap, NOT your project!

*Adjust your tension. Sewing machine tension is a lengthy subject. I won’t take time to teach you all the basics of tension here, but it’s worth your time to figure out how to help your machine make pretty, neat little stitches.

After you’ve done these maintenance chores, your machine should run well. So smoothly, in fact, that I’m hoping you have a project ready to start. You’ll want to sew the day away with a hassle free machine!

A Service Project

A friend’s daughter is taking a trip to a tropical country this summer. A group of crafty ladies are sewing up pillowcase dresses for her to take with her! We sorted and picked up fabric this week, along with elastic, bias tape, and printed patterns. It was so fun to mix and match colors and prints! I was inspired, so today I sewed up a little dress.

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I’ve seen these dresses many times, but thought they were far more complicated than they are! I think from start to finish the dress took about an hour! With pretty trims and contrasting hems and pockets, they might take a little longer.

While this one has a little bit of frill, I plan on working on a few more that will be very pretty and girly. My imagination is captured, so I doubt I’ll be able to stop at the three I have cut out!

Are you working on any service projects this winter?

Are you interested in sharing the charities to which you normally donate?

Farmer’s Wife 1930’s

Y’all know I’ve been sort of quilting along with the Farmer’s Wife 1930’s Quilt Along? Well….I’m either ahead or behind, I can’t quite figure which!

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The king size quilt called for 126 blocks, and there are only 99 blocks in the book. I finally faced the fact that even if I do each block in Quilt Along order, I will still need more blocks! I’m going to need to find, design, or repeat some blocks! Sometimes I like a challenge, so I jumped at the chance to create extra blocks this weekend. Here’s my game plan.

*Repurpose orphan blocks. I had a few of the right size blocks floating around my studio. They matched, so they’re in!

*Repeat blocks. I chose a few favorites, changed the color schemes completely, and voila, new blocks!

*Simplify the block patterns. By taking out triangles here, or making two pieces into one, I changed the look of the block, which gives me new patterns to spread around this large quilt!

*Make it up. I decided to design few blocks. Be forewarned, this requires quilt math!

*Outsource. There are a ton of books on the market with the same size block. As long as I stay in my color scheme, they’ll match pretty well! There is a “Farmer’s Wife 1920’s” book that is just right for extra blocks, along with Tula Pink’s “100 Modern Blocks”, “Farm Girl Vintage” by Lori Holt, and “Victory Quilts” by Eleanor Burns. With this many sources, I’m sure there will be plenty of blocks to go around!

If you’re Quilting Along, I hope you’re having fun and this helps! If not, maybe you can use the ideas here to add to your next creation!

Finishing Quilts

Good Weekend, Lovelies!

I’ll admit, I haven’t been blogging much. I have, however, been sewing! In fact, I’ve been on a personal mission to finish as much as possible this New Year!

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On New Year’s Eve, 2016, I found myself with 13 UFO’s. That’s too many for me! I set my mind to finishing quilts this year. Here are six complete baby/lap size quilts!

You’ll be interested to note that two of my vintage tops were moved from my unfinished closet to vintage quilt storage. When I need a hand project, I’ll pull them out and hand quilt them. Until then, I’m moving forward fast with machine quilting. That brings my project pile down to five quilts to finish. When more batting arrives in a few weeks, I’ll renew my efforts!

I hope you’re having a lovely start to 2016!

Are you working to finish things, too?

Reflections and Resolutions

2015 wasn’t a terrible year!

My machine was in the shop for three months,

so I wasn’t able to finish all the things like I wanted.

But all in all, it was good!

I finished 22 quilts in 2015!

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One of the quilts I started in 2015 is the Farmer’s Wife quilt.

I’m 15 blocks in, quite behind the Quilt Along.

I will be aiming to finish this top in 2016.

I’ll also be aiming to finish all my unfinished projects!

Happy New Year!

Anyone else aiming to finish some things in the coming year?

Are you finishing anything that’s been sitting a while?