Dreaming of Spring and Love

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This past week February arrived in a flurry of ice and snow. While I appreciated the snow days the blizzard brought, I have reached the point in winter where I start dreaming wistfully of spring and looking for ways to add some bright colors (yellow in particular) to the house.

Valentine’s Day is also coming up this week. While I understand that some people really hate Valentine’s Day, complaining that it was created by Hallmark for the sake of consumerism, or that it highlights some people’s loneliness in painful ways, or that it tries to cram romance into a single day rather than spreading it out throughout the year like good relationships should, I have always loved the idea of taking a day to intentionally celebrate those you love (including friends and family as much as significant others). Every year I try to find little ways to celebrate the day, whether with special treats in the morning or handmade cards for friends and family.

So last night, wrapped in a sweater with snow piled high outside, I made this simple, cheerful heart garland to hang above our front window.

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I began by cutting a whole stack of hearts out of old magazine pages, specifically choosing pages that featured warm yellows, oranges, and pinks, as well as bright florals. I interspersed these with hearts cut from the old hymnal I bought at the thrift store two Christmases ago, arranging them in a long line on the table to alternate the colors and patterns the way I wanted.

Then I sewed them all together, adding hearts from the stack as I went along.

It was so easy! Once the hearts were cut out, the sewing part took less than ten minutes. I foresee more sewn garlands coming up in my future…

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(P.S. It looks pretty great with my homemade curtains — which I still love)

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Sewing Curtains (the Easy Way)

Over the past two and a half months since we moved, I have been slowly rearranging, replacing, and adding touches to the house to make it feel more welcoming, more like home. Sewing new curtains for the living room/dining room was near the top of my list of projects when we moved in. When we agreed to move into the house, Maggie had already hired a friend to sew fabric blinds for all the windows. After she finished the upstairs blinds, though, I asked if I could sew my own curtains for the first floor to let in more light and better match my vision for the space.

After searching for curtain ideas and feeling dissatisfied with the heavy fabrics of most curtains, I stumbled across this photo on Pinterest:

Curtain Inspiration

The bright light and colorful yellow edging caught my attention and became the inspiration for making curtains. I knew I needed something that offered some privacy (more than sheer curtains), but still let in plenty of light (an essential for me in a home space).

After some searching, I found a good deal on mini pom pom fringe in bulk from this site and ordered two spools. I bought five flat twin sheets from Wal-Mart, all in plain white. I cut open the ends of the hem to allow a curtain rod to pass through and re-sewed the edge to make it neater, which ended up being the most complicated part of the project (with the last two curtains I finally realized that I could just fold over that top part and not have to rip open any seems, which was so much easier). Then I measured and hemmed the bottom so it reached just to the floor. Finally I sewed the trim along the sides (if I had more of the trim I would have added a row of the trip along the top seem as well, but I only had enough for the sides). After pinning (and re-pinning) the trip to the first several curtains, I finally discovered that it was a lot easier to sew on and actually stayed smoother when I didn’t pin it.

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The stitching on the first couple curtains turned out pretty rough as I figured out the rhythm our housemate’s sewing machine (I’m not even going to post a picture of the horrible stitching on the back of those first curtains, even after tearing it out a few times), but by the time I finished the final curtains, things became a lot smoother and straighter.

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In the end, uneven stitching and all, I felt pretty proud of how they turned out. The white and yellow brightened up the room considerably, giving it a clean, peaceful feel, and the curtains drew together the two rooms.

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A Little Winter Craftiness

Today is snow day #9 in the past month (with school already canceled tomorrow as well). The limited days of work are still stretching my faith in uncomfortable ways (but we were able to pay rent yesterday, have bus passes to get to school and work, and should be able to pay utilities in a couple days — God is providing).

But that said, I’ve been using some of my ample free time to do some sewing and other crafty sort of stuff. Here’s a sampling of what I’ve been working on:

1) Flower Necklace

I actually made this on New Years Eve (before all the snow days hit), but was finally able to take pictures of it just recently. I’d seen all sorts of fabric flower necklaces online for a while and had been wanting to try making one. A New Year’s Eve dinner seemed like a good excuse to try, so I pulled out my stash of freecycle fabric, which includes several different colors of sheer, silky materials that work really well for this type of stuff. I loosely followed this tutorial from Jolie, making smaller circles and only two layers for each flower. After I cut and melted all the petals, I sewed them to a piece of thicker red fabric (also from the freecycle stash), adding the beads as I sewed. I sewed three metal loops on the back for the chain (which I found on the ground walking to work one day – ha!) to go through, but it still needed more stiffness for it to lay right so I added a line of wire along the top to help it hold it’s shape. I ended up making a hair flower to match, too, but don’t have a picture of that.

2) Recycled Mittens

This has been another project I planned to do for a while, mainly for practical reasons: I consistently lose at least one mitten a winter, sometimes more. This winter I’ve been wearing one brown glove and one rainbow glove, because I’d already lost the matching mates to both in previous winters and my entire pair of mittens last winter. I knew that when really cold weather hit I’d need something warmer than the thin knit gloves. One of the girls from the Boiler Room makes these lovely, creative mittens out of old sweaters and when I saw them, I thought I’d try to make a pair, too. I did some research and found this simple pattern and instructions online. My first attempt (made with a hand-me-down sweater that I’d never worn) didn’t fit right, though, and was shedding black lint everywhere. So I set it aside, meaning to alter the pattern and try again.

When the snow hit and we planned our sledding outing, I decided that now was the time to try again. This time I cut apart a fleece sweatshirt that I’d worn for awhile but that never fit right. I lengthened the finger area to give some more room this time and left a bigger seam allowance.

For the lining I used….the sleeves from my work shirts! (I’d cut off the long sleeves of two of my shirts this summer when I first got my sewing machine, because there was no way I was going to wear long sleeves in the heat of a Missouri July). It’s not as soft as the fleece that the pattern suggested, but it’s kept me pretty warm so far.

All the pieces cut out and ready to sew together:

And here they are finished! I’ve since embroidered a flower on each one, too, and plan to add some leaves eventually. Maybe tomorrow with another snow day….

3) Nursery Curtains

A long-time friend of mine (who happens to live near Kansas City now, too) is expecting her first baby this spring and e-mailed me a couple weeks ago to see if If she could hire me to make curtains for the nursery. Her request definitely blessed us (wasn’t I just praying for provision?) and I was excited to sew something for someone else.

She brought over the fabric last weekend and I spent about four days working on the curtains, a little bit each day. Because I was sewing for someone else, I took the time to measure, iron, and pin (details that I sometimes bypass out of laziness, to be honest).

I was pretty pleased with how they turned out, though, and how (relatively) easy they were. It almost makes me want to make curtains for our house now (you know, like I’ve been planning to since before I made my 101 in 1001 list….)

I also sewed some curtain ties to go with them, basically simple tubes of fabric, ironed flat, with brown ribbon (left from our wedding) instead of plastic rings on the ends.

(P.S. Now that I have a camera again, you may be seeing more sewing and food posts again, because really, talking about food and projects is a lot more fun when you can include pictures :-D)

Sewing to Save My Sanity

….or something like that.

But really, my first several weeks back at work felt like they devoured so much of my life. If I wasn’t actually at work, I was planning for work, or talking about work,  or thinking about work, or worrying about work. So this week I’ve been trying to settle back into some more balance, taking time to read and write, clean and cook, talk to friends and take walks, and even do some sewing.

One of my projects this week was sewing an apron. It has been on my list of projects for a while, partly because of its practicality (I have yet another shirt in the wash right now, trying to get cooking stains out) and partly because it seemed like a relatively easy sewing project to start with.

I began with a thrifted pillow case, bought several months ago specifically to make an apron.

I picked apart the seams, then used an apron we had already to cut out the basic shape.

I cut a piece of the edging to sew on the top so it would match the bottom.

….And then I spent a couple days pinning and sewing bias tape along the edges (I thought that would be the easiest and quickest way to finish the edges…heh….)

Here it is, a bit rough around the edges (or maybe more than a bit, to be honest) but finished. And it’s made to get food on it anyways, right?

Some Simple Sewing

I’ve been working on a few little projects for our new place recently (I still haven’t started the curtains for our bedroom and bathroom, but hopefully soon). One project on the list was making a curtain to cover the trash area in our kitchen, because this is so classy looking:

I had planned on looking for an old sheet at the thrift store at some point to make it, but today Lindsey brought home this fun piece of cloth that she found at a little shop for 60 cents. We’d decided that we wanted something with some sort of print, so this was perfect. It took about ten minutes to hem it up. Much better:

Recycled Roses

A few weeks ago I received a bag of assorted fabric remnants from a lady from freecycle. I had hoped to use them to practice sewing, but several of them were sheer sort of fabrics. I came across this tutorial for making lovely fabric roses and, would you know, my sheer remnants were exactly the kind of fabric that works best. So yesterday I spent the afternoon experimenting with them. My first one was a bit sloppy, but they got better after that. I made one into a necklace for  a friend of mine who’s in a season of roses and I think I may wear one to a tea party tomorrow (that’s right, I’m going to a tea party tomorrow!). Here are a few of them (I made a yellow one, too, but didn’t take a picture of it):

Hemming

In my stack of hanging clothes (because we don’t have a closet and never did get around to buying a wardrobe) I had two ankle-length skirts that someone gave to me a couple years ago.  I’d worn each of them once, maybe, but they were never favorites (long, flowing skirts can be lovely, but the pencil-straight ankle-length version are….well, not my favorite). The Missouri heat has given me a new appreciation for skirts, though, so when I got my sewing machine, shortening these skirts was at the top of my project list (it seemed like a pretty easy project to start with).

So here they are. I just finished the second one yesterday. They’re both pretty plain still, but definitely more wearable in this heat (I’ve already worn the green one a lot):

P.S. The skirts aren’t the only thing that’s been shortened. I definitely cut my hair a couple weeks ago.

P.P.S. I apologize for the awkward pictures. Taking pictures of your full body is somewhat awkward, even with a camera timer :-P. But you get the idea at least

A Blessed Sewing Machine

After thinking about it for several months, I finally got a sewing machine on Thursday.

When I first brought up the idea to Derek a few weeks ago, he asked what I’d do with a sewing machine. “Um…sew things?” I then listed off a few projects I had in mind (shortening the sleeves on a couple of my work shirts, making some shorts for the summer, etc.). But I guess there’s more to it than just a list of potential projects.

Shortly before we moved, I came across a site called wardrobe refashion that challenges people to refrain from buying new clothes for a certain length of time, instead making their own clothes or altering used clothes (whether from the thrift store or your own closet). I’ve been reading a lot about this idea since then and really want to try it. Admittedly, some of the appeal is in the amazingly beautiful and creative clothes that some of these women make. But I’m drawn to the values behind this process as well.

For one, I like how thrifty it is. It makes use of free or very inexpensive clothes. But at the same time, there seems to be a richness about it. It’s far removed from a spirit of poverty that simply gets by with whatever is cheap. These women make lovely clothes that fit their bodies and personalities. It feels like a joyful embracing of having limited resources. Some woman have even taken it a step further and sell some of the things they make to help support their families.

In a lot of ways, these women remind me of the hard-working Proverbs 31 woman, who creatively and compassionately cares for her family and those in need.

I’m also drawn to the idea of taking something old and cast-off and making it new again. It reminds me of how God takes our messy brokenness and redeems and restores us. It’s the same reason why I’m attracted to renovated old houses, refurbished furniture, recycled art, and anything else that mirrors the spiritual process of restoration.

I love the creativeness of it as well. I admire those who can look at something and see potential for something else very different in it. Some of the before and after pictures I’ve seen amaze me.

And I like the idea being part of the process. In our industrial, commercialized culture, we miss out on the process behind most of the things we use and consume. We have virtually no connection to the process of producing the food we eat until we take it off the grocery store shelves. We have just as little connection with the process of making the clothes we wear, furniture we sit on, etc. Most of the things we use on a day to day basis are manufactured in a factory somewhere, many of them overseas. We have little knowledge of the process – or ethics – behind them. I feel like things like going to farmers markets, growing a garden, restoring houses, and making some of our clothes helps move us towards restoring that appreciation of the process and with that a greater appreciation for what we have.

So on Thursday, after several weeks of searching for a machine, I finally got one – appropriately through Kansas City Freecycle (a yahoo group where people can post items they’re looking for or items they want to give away – all for free).

It’s a Fleetwood machine, all metal, made in Japan in the late sixties, and mounted in a wooden cabinet. It came with a box of thread and bobbins and another box with six or seven spare feet. It needs a new bobbin cover and possibly a tune up (the tension is off, though I plan to try to adjust it myself first before I take it in – the internet has a wealth of information on how to do this, so I thought it would be worth a try), but it still runs and is in great shape. In short, it’s exactly the kind of machine I was looking for.

But the best part is the story of how I got it.

I posted a request for a working sewing machine on freecycle after trekking to North Kansas City to check out a machine that, in the end, didn’t even work. Almost immediately, a woman responded offering me one that she no longer used. I asked her a few questions about it and it soon it became clear that God had set this up. The woman wrote:

I’d thought of selling this.  Just this morning I felt the Lord tell me to let go of certain things freely.  Then I opened my email and your request from “the lord’s housekeeper” was right at the top.  Kinda seems like a no-brainer to me.

When I went to her house, she showed me how the sewing machine worked and told me a little bit about it. She had received it from her parents when she was in eighth grade (nearly 45 years ago) and used to make clothes and household things for her family for many years. She hadn’t used it in seven or eight years, though, and periodically thought of selling it, but every time the Lord stopped her. When she read my e-mail, she said she felt like God told her, “This is what you’ve been saving it for.” She said she hoped it blessed me and my family as much as it had blessed them.

Before I left, I asked if I could pray for her, just to bless her. She said yes and then started crying. Apparently she’s unemployed right now and is going through a rough time. So we prayed together, blessing and interceding for each other. Then we just sat and talked for nearly an hour about faith and church, God’s word and community, and a hunger for the deeper things of God. Eventually her sister joined us as well.

It was beautiful. My time there was so infused with the presence of God and I was overwhelmed with the rightness of it, with an awareness that this is how it’s supposed to be. We’re meant to trust in God to provide and His Spirit to lead us, even in these little things. We’re meant to open our hands and freely give away what we no longer need. As the body of Christ we’re meant to care for and bless one another. As we’re blessed, we’re meant to pass on that blessing to others. Somehow this little quest for a sewing machine confirmed all that in an remarkable way for me.

And now I’m dreaming of what I can do with this sewing machine, of how it can bless my family and hopefully others as well.

Wardrobe Refashion

I came this site today.  It challenges people to pledge to not buy any new clothes for 2, 4, or 6 months and instead buy used or make or alter their own clothes, blogging about the process. I’m a big fan of thrift store shopping anyway, but I love seeing the creative things people do with what they find. It makes me wish I had a sewing machine….