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

On Jobs and Joblessness

A lot has happened with us over these past couple weeks and I know I’m overdue for an update on life.

As I wrote before, Derek was unexpectedly laid off from his job the same day my job ended at the school. We were a bit stunned, but felt like God must be doing something in this sudden rerouting of our lives, though we didn’t have a clue what that might be. To be honest, even now, two weeks later, I don’t feel like I have a much better grasp on what God’s up to with us in this season, but still feel confident that He is working and whatever He is doing will be good.

In the following week we jumped back into job searching (didn’t we just do this?). Derek discovered that the Roasterie (a local coffee roasting company, whose café is just a ten minute walk from our house) was hiring. Interestingly, they had posted the job opening the very same day he was laid off. He applied and went in for an interview a couple days later. He described it as the smoothest interview he’d ever had and came home pretty confident that he had the job. Sure enough, a couple days later they called and offered him the job. So exactly a week after losing his job at the nursery, he was employed again. Talk about God’s provision!

We’re excited about this job, not just because it’s a job (though that in itself is plenty exciting), but because 1) it’s in a coffee shop (pretty much a dream job for my coffee-loving husband), 2) it’s a local company, which fits with some of the lifestyle values we’ve been pursuing lately in trying to buy more locally produced things, 3) it’s within walking distance (and also along the main bus line so it will be easy to get to, even when/if we move), and 4) it has the potential of being a long-term, career sort of job, which has been something we’ve been praying about for quite a while now. The job description stated that they were looking for “a permanent figure that desires to make a career for him/herself in the coffee industry.” Seeing that Derek had previous management experience, the manager interviewing him asked if he’d ever consider moving up to management in the company. Hmm….

Oh, and did I mention that we get a free bag of coffee each week? Yes!

As for me, I’ve been diligently job searching, perusing craigslist, sending out resumes, and taking the bus all over the city to apply places in person. I feel like I don’t have any clear direction from the Lord for this season, so I’m trying to listen carefully for His voice in each step.

This new job has also brought up a lot of discussion about our future. We are still unsure about a lot of details of our future, or even what we want that future to look like. We have ideas, pieces of dreams, but still so many questions. We know we want to like incarnationally among the poor. We know we want to live in community. We know we want to build a foundation of prayer. We know we want to built natural, organic relationships with people. Lately we’ve been talking about things we want to develop in our lives that have the potential of helping us connect with people (particularly people who don’t know Jesus). For me, this includes my sewing, gardening, cooking, and love of children. I want to develop avenues to open our lives and hearts to the people around us.

Which has brought me to consider going back to school to earn a certificate in child growth and development (I only need eight more classes so I could finish the certificate in two semesters and decide then if I want to go on and finish the associates degree). I’m mulling over the idea of running a daycare out of our house in the future (because we do hope to one day have a house of our own). It could help support us in our ministry, even after we have kids of our own, and could potentially provide a way to build relationship with the families in the neighborhood. But going back to school….overwhelms me a bit. It’s a decent time commitment and I’ve never been a student without school being the central focus of my life. It feels like it would be a delicate balancing act between priorities this time around.

In the meantime, I’m trying to make use of this open season. I like to be busy, to feel like I’m working towards something, so the abundance of free time is hard for me sometimes. I feel like God worked a lot in my heart during those six months at home after we got married, though, and I feel more at peace with the openness of this season. I’m actually excited about having time to pursue some of the things that have been on my heart.

In an effort to avoid wasting time this season (the more time I have, the easier it seems to let it slip by), I made a list of things I want to explore and do this summer. A lot of those have to do with gardening, sewing, and other do-it-yourself sort of projects, as well as general sharing-life-with-other-people sort of activities.

Currently, that list includes:

– Work on our garden
– Research community gardens (I’m really hoping to start one next summer, which means starting planning this year)
– Visit a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) farm in Kansas City (there’s one in particular I want to visit that employs local youth)
– Go to the Brookside Farmers Market (it’s about a ten minute walk from us but I haven’t been there yet)
– Go berry picking (I’ve been trying to find a good place to do this)
– Go corn picking (Derek knows of a place where you pick corn and get to keep half of what you pick for free)
– Learn to sew (or continue learning to sew, I guess. I’ve sewn in the past, but it’s been a while and my skills are pretty basic)
– Sew something from a pattern (I’ve actually never done this)
– Make a baby blanket for a friend who is pregnant
– Learn about sewing machine maintenance (especially with an older machine, this seems practical)
– Put together a sewing basket (I have aspirations of finding a fun basket for this at a garage sale/thrift store)
– Find an air popcorn popper and roast our own coffee
– Make homemade ice cream
– Blog regularly
– Start writing down thoughts for a book (I almost didn’t include this one, because the thought of me writing a book sounds ridiculously far-fetched, but I have some ideas so here it is)
– Go camping (I can’t even remember when the last time I went camping, so I’d really like to get a group of people to go this summer)
– Have people visit us (this one is happening for sure…yay!)
– Invite people over for dinner and other fellowship things
– Work on building friendships, especially within the Boiler Room
– Decide about school this fall
– Finish at least some of the books that I’ve started, including:
Abba’s Child
– Brennan Manning
Stranger to Self-Hatred
– Brennan Manning
Celebration of Discipline
– Richard Foster
Resse Howells Intercessor
– Norman Percy Grubb
Punk Monk
– Andy Freeman (I’ve read this before but want to read it again)
– Move? (we’ve been talking about the possibility of moving east of Troost, hopefully to live in community…)

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….