Thursday, February 22, 2018

Travel Interlude: FrankenWhiggish Rose, Resurrected and Resumed

Hello and happy Friday!  I've been out of town and away from my sewing machine, but air travel gave me a great opportunity to catch up on my neglected hand stitched applique project, the FrankenWhiggish Rose blocks that have been sitting untouched since last September.  The day before I left for New Jersey, I spent hours prepping my reverse applique tulips (freezer paper and starch pressed edges, glue basted to the block) as well as the little rosebuds that go around the center of the block (using Jeanne Sullivan's Patch Back product with fabric glue stick to turn the edges).

Prepared Edge Tulips Get Glue Basted In Place for Stitching on the Plane
While I was doing this, my husband was making incredulous comments like "When are you planning to pack your clothes?" and "Do you know how early we need to leave in the morning to get you to the airport?!"

I had previously needle-turned the reverse applique centers of these tulips off-block, but I made double-layer freezer paper templates to preturn the outer edges with starch before glue basting them to the block background so I wouldn't have to fuss with those deep V-curves on the plane.  I was able to pop the spotted reverse applique fabric through the diamond shaped hole in the center of each freezer paper template to hold the fabric in place while I pressed the seam allowances over the edges of the freezer paper.  

Using My iPad As a Light Box
Then for those tiny rosebuds, I downloaded a new Light Box app for my iPad and traced the rosebuds onto Patch Back (similar to Floriani Stitch 'N' Wash), cut a tiny turning allowance all the way around, and turned those edges with fabric glue stick before glue basting the buds to my block.  Now I had four tulips and four little rose buds to stitch down on my way to New Jersey.

Travel Interlude

Here are the highlights from my trip:

My Canine Nephew and My Sister, and My Dresden Plate Quilt
Meet Cooper, the most lovable pit bull mix on earth.  This is a dog who snuggles and cuddles, climbs up in your lap and licks your face, brings toys to tug and fetch, and has the softest, silkiest fur you can imagine.  If I thought I could have smuggled him onto the plane, I would have tried to bring him home with me (over my sister's dead body!).  

Princess Petunia In the Theatre, Following the Show
The main purpose of this trip was to drive into NYC with my sister and my soon-to-be-ten-year-old niece to see Sara Bareilles starring in the musical Waitress on Broadway.  We did a girls' day out in the city, starting out at the Metropolitan Museum of Art (where Petunia was scandalized by the naked statues with "man bits" right at her eye level!), ate hot pretzels from a street vendor, and then stood in line for an hour to get into the Stardust Diner for dinner, where the wait staff consists of aspiring Broadway stars who serenade you while you eat very expensive hamburgers.

Giant Sara Bareilles, Aunt Becca (Moi), and Princess Petunia
It was FREEZING COLD in the city, but we had a great time anyway.  I even managed to push my niece through the crowd gathered at the stage door after the performance, so Petunia got to meet Sara Bareilles and got her autograph.  I swear her smile was bigger than her whole face!

Back to my stitchery:

By the time I was ready to fly back to Charlotte, I had already stitched down all of the applique pieces that I had prepped before the trip.  Fortunately, though, I'd had the foresight to pack the green fabric, leaf template, and chalk pencils for my leaves.  I traced my templates onto my fabric with regular pencil this time, hoping it would smudge less during finger pressing than the chalk pencils do, but it ended up being really difficult to see so I won't be doing that again on this fabric.

My Pencil Lines Are Too Hard to See
There may be an impending Fabric Crisis with this project, by the way.  I bought this green fabric back in 2012(?!) when I first started this project, and I only bought a quarter of a yard of it.  I know, right?  Since there are sixteen leaves on each block and I have seven more blocks to make after this one, that means I need to get 112 more leaves out of that piece of fabric.  I highly doubt I can find any more of this fabric and I don't even remember where I bought it.

Sixteen Leaves Pinned for Needle Turned Stitching

Having stitched the prepared edge applique on my flight up to New Jersey and switching back to needle turned applique on my flight home, I must say that I really prefer the prepared edge stitching.  Yes, it's a pain in the butt to do all that prep work, but it's easier to place the pieces on the background accurately when the edges are already turned, and I like not having those little pins to keep track of when I'm stitching on the go.  I don't like my thread snagging on the pins, either!  

I'm out of practice and my first two needle turned leaves came out kind of lumpy.  I'm not even going to show them to you, so there!  Seriously -- I know that each one will get better.  I didn't finish stitching all of these leaves on the plane, so I'll be working on them while watching television with my husband in the evenings.  And I'm seriously considering switching to prepared edge applique for all of the remaining blocks.

But in the meantime -- I'm HOME AT LAST, and my sewing machines have MISSED me!  I have two different solos to prepare for this Sunday, so for the next few days I'll be alternating between working on music and piecing my Tabby Mountain quilt top.  Finishing that quilt was my goal for February, and here it is the 22nd already and it's only halfway pieced!  Perhaps I was overambitious in thinking I could piece AND quilt it in one month, but I'd like to at least finish the top and get it loaded onto my quilting frame before the end of the month.

So if you don't hear from me, I'm either busy SINGING or SEWING!

I'm linking up with:

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Loving Lent: An Annual Detox For My Soul

Me and My Friend Karen, Ash Wednesday Selfie 2015
Yesterday was Ash Wednesday, the official kickoff for the Christian season of Lent.  The silly Ash Wednesday selfie above is from a few years ago, before I chopped off my long hair.  (I'm the goofball on the left).  

Now, I love me some Christmas and Easter, don't get me wrong -- but Easter makes no sense to me without Lent in the same way that Christmas makes no sense to me without Advent.  And I wanted to talk about that today because there are so many misconceptions out there about Lent and what it means to Christians today.  In case anyone's interested, here's what Lent means to me.

On Ash Wednesday and throughout the forty days of Lent, we as Christians are called to take a long, hard look at ourselves in a ruthless magnifying mirror.  But instead of examining our faces for wrinkles, sun spots and blemishes, we're examining our hearts and our souls and taking stock of the many ways in which we have fallen short spiritually.  

"The Picture of Dorian Gray," oil on canvas, by Alvin Albright (1944), Art Institute of Chicago
Remember Oscar Wilde's 1891 novel, The Picture of Dorian Gray?  It was about a handsome but morally depraved, evil man whose true character was reflected in a portrait like the one above (painted by Alvin Albright for the 1945 film).  The Bible tells us that we are ALL hideously disfigured by sin, just like Dorian Gray, and no amount of Botox,  cosmetics or Photoshopping could ever hide the ugliness of our sins from God.

Romans 3:10-12 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)

10 as it is written:
“There is no one who is righteous, not even one;
11     there is no one who has understanding,
        there is no one who seeks God.
12 All have turned aside, together they have become worthless;
    there is no one who shows kindness,
        there is not even one.”
Lent is when sin gets really personal, when we acknowledge our own brokenness, admit to ourselves and to God that we personally have an addiction to sin that we cannot overcome on our own, ask for His forgiveness and surrender to the gift of His grace and mercy. I am in bondage to sin and cannot free myselfI am the one who has sinned against God in my thoughts, in my words, and in my actions -- by the things I have done, as well as the things I should have done but left undone.  I have not loved God with my whole heart, and I have certainly not loved my neighbors and my enemies as much as I love myself.  

So on Ash Wednesday, the greasy ashes on our foreheads are a visible reminder of the brevity of our time here on Earth.  The ashes symbolize our repentance for our sin and our desire to be freed from our earthly desires and fit for eternal life in Christ.

Sounds like a bummer, doesn't it?  No trumpet fanfares, no "Joy To the World," no pretty poinsettias or fragrant lilies for Lent!  But there's still beautiful music, like the anthem "Create In Me" by Terre Johnson that our choir sang last night, based on Psalm 51.

Because we go into Lent looking inward and discovering that our hearts look like this:

My Heart At the Beginning of Lent
...and then, after forty days of reflection and prayer, we come out of Lent on Easter Sunday with a deeper understanding of why we need a savior so badly in the first place.  God loves us so much that, when we repent and seek His forgiveness and guidance in our lives, He takes our bruised, broken and battered hearts and mends them with His mercy and love.  

My Heart on Easter Sunday
Without Lent, Easter Sunday is just an excuse for new dresses, pastel marshmallow bunnies and hunting for painted eggs.  Meaningfully observing the season of Lent is a necessary catharsis that humbles us and enables us to begin to comprehend the magnitude of God's love for us.  The enormity of Christ's sacrifice, taking on the sin of the world, accepting the punishment for OUR sin, yours and mine, is awesome in the original sense of that word: Stunning!  Breathtaking!  Mind-blowing!  Overwhelming!  The gift of Lent, a time set aside for reflection and repentance, allows us to rejoice in the paradox that only by surrendering to God's will can we ever truly be free.

So...  How will I meaningfully observe Lent this year?  Am I giving up wine and chocolate?  No meat on Fridays until after Easter?

Well, if I really felt like wine, chocolate and meat were distracting me spiritually, I might give them up for Lent.  You don't have to necessarily give ANYTHING up for Lent to be a "good Christian," by the way -- a lot of Christians I know like to ADD something to their lives for Lent, like daily Lenten devotions, attending additional worship services, 40 acts of kindness of charity...  Anything that makes them feel closer to God and more spiritually focused.  

"Cypresses," oil on canvas, by Vincent van Gogh (1889), The Metropolitan Museum of Art
I really like the Biola University Lent Project daily devotions.  I signed up to get them emailed to me every day throughout Lent, and each devotion has accompanying visual art, music, and poetry incorporating a broad range of styles.  The art and music really help me to connect spiritually and emotionally with the scripture and the devotional text.  Today's devotion was a reflection on Jeremiah 17:5-10, contrasting the bush withering in the desert (he whose heart has turned away from the Lord) to the tree with leaves of green, planted near the water (the man who trusts in the Lord).  The multimedia devotion included van Gogh's Cypresses painting (above), a poem by M. Vasalis, and a contemplative piano composition entitled "Methuselah Tree," by contemporary post-classical minimalist Keith Kenniff.  

So I'm adding these daily Lenten devotions, but not as an end unto themselves.  I'm using the devotions to help me stay focused on the season of Lent amid all of the shiny distractions and earthy mirages that lure us away from what is real, what is true, and what really matters.  One "golden calf" I know I'm guilty of worshipping is materialism.

I'm not talking about diamonds and furs and judging people by how much money they have...  I'm talking about my weakness for buying specialty quilting tools, patterns, books, magazines, baking gadgets, and ACTUAL material -- FABRIC!!  Now, baking, quilting and reading are not activities that threaten my relationship with God in and of themselves, but I'm thinking about how enmeshed these activities have become with our consumer culture and how much (or how little) of this stuff I actually need.  And I'm mindful of the warning in the parable of the rich man in Luke 12:16-21.  How close am I to tearing down my own barns  kitchen and studio and building bigger ones to hold all of my posessions?  So I'm going to try really hard to give up consumerism for Lent this year.  I'll still shop for groceries, but I'll be trying hard not to buy anything that we don't really need, at least for the next eight weeks.  No new baking pans, no new fabric, no new specialty rulers...  and no new shoes!  It will be interesting to see how that plays out and, by the time Easter rolls around, I should have a much better idea of whether and to what extent my relationship with instant gratification shopping has been spiritually compromising.  Let's all be clear -- I am not giving up shopping FOREVER!  In fact, in order to make it through eight weeks without "retail therapy," I will be including these food staples on my list of Lenten grocery necessities:

Wine and Chocolate: What I'm NOT Giving Up For Lent!
So, what about you?  Are you giving up anything for Lent this year?  If you are of a different faith that has a similar holiday or festival focusing on repentance and renewal, I'd love to hear about those traditions, too.  Happy Lent, everyone!

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