Author Archives: jennifer

My Heart, Today: practicing mindfulness in my quilting

This quilt top took longer to finish than I anticipated.  I think it was supposed to be that way.  I’m calling it “My Heart, Today” as I was practicing mindfulness in my quilting as I made it.  The whole world has plunged into an experience we won’t soon forget.  I’ve learned in my personal life that there can be a lot to process during and after these transforming experiences.

As I mentioned recently, me and my family lived a life-changing year in 2019.  And it’s funny, because I prayed that 2020 could be a year of recovery for us.  We were battle weary and exhausted, and yet here we are, along with you, in another life-changing experience.  I’m not complaining, because I learned last year that if we let them, times like these can develop a laser-like focus on what matters, and we grow at faster rates.  I expect that is what will happen to all of us in 2020, if we embrace it.  But along that path of growth, there is still the weariness of living in crisis/survival mode for extended lengths of time.

After the holidays I found I had a lot of conflicting feelings that I needed to work through.  I felt anxious, edgy, frustrated, emotional, but also motivated and hopeful.  On a very hard day, I decided to find a way to “sew my way through it.”  I found a few fabrics that represented how I felt.  I pieced a small block, then fussy cut another print.  Slowly I added bits and pieces to the growing blob.

On anxious days I added sharp, pointy blocks and dark fabrics.  I thought about what I could and couldn’t change about those days.  I noticed that once the fabric was on the design wall, feelings recorded, I felt better.  On good days I added florals and birds to represent the hope that stayed perched inside me.  Many days I added something to represent the high and the low of that day.   I used improv piecing, foundation paper piecing, a bit of applique.  There are bits of prints I was sewing with on other projects during that time, and pieces of fabrics to represent people I met and places I went.  Some fabrics and blocks represent different children I was worried about.  Some pieces represent answers to prayer.  As I practiced mindfulness in my quilting, my state of mind improved and I felt peace about the ups and the downs.

Eventually I decided to make a heart out of all these pieces of my heart.  Piecing it together was more tedious than I anticipated.  There are A LOT of partial seams in this quilt top!

I hadn’t yet finished the background when the pandemic began changing my life.  I added a square to represent Italy, because my heart aches for all the suffering around the world, along with some teardrops, and a tree because spring is coming and we have to hope for renewal after all of this.  We have to.

I love this quilt top.  It’s a journal in textiles, a record of the good, bad, hard, and happy in my life during the winter of 2019-20.  It really does represent “my heart, today.”  Having all these pieces together in something beautiful reminds me that I am all of it:  my heartaches and fears and hopes and accomplishments.  All of it matters.  It matters that I feel sad, that I feel hopeful.  It makes me who I am, primes me for growth, and spurs me toward the future.  This has been one of the most therapeutic, healing, and calming sewing experiences I’ve ever had.

How’s your heart, today?  Maybe you should find some bits of fabric to capture it….


Be Not Troubled

All I did was type the title of this post, and my heart started burning in my chest.  I’m nervous about writing it, because it touches a still-raw nerve from a recent challenge.  It’s more personal than my usual sewing posts, but I feel like I should share it.  So, as I type, I’m whispering aloud “be not troubled.”

Last year we faced a totally unexpected challenge that threatened to completely change our family for many years, it not forever.   For the first time in my life I felt afraid to leave my house, afraid to talk to people, afraid that l would never be OK again.  It was a desperate time.

About a week into that challenge I was scheduled to lead a discussion in our women’s meeting at Church.  My assigned topic was a message titled Be Not Troubled.  I am a Christian.  All my life I have found comfort in the words of Jesus Christ.  I feel in my bones that they are true.  But how could I stand up in front of forty women and say it with conviction while inside I was a complete mess?  I was troubled and I had to get it out of my system in some healthy way.

I got a posterboard and black sharpie and started writing.  The words came slowly at first.  It started with a scripture, then a thought, and another.  Soon my hand couldn’t keep up with all the promises of hope, reassurance, and deliverance.  I wrote and doodled and wrote some more.  Late that night I stood back, the posterboard full and my heart full of light.  I felt light and peace and confidence in God.  The exercise gave me strength to show up at Church to speak with power and conviction.  More importantly, it was my first taste of hope in a long dark storm.  What a gift!

Life as we know it appears to be falling apart around us right now.  The future is uncertain for all.  We’re wading through it here, just like you are.  Something I’m realizing, though, is that God gave me a lot of practice for this in 2019.  He blessed me with a personal storm that changed me.  One thing I learned is that when the storms howl more loudly, I have to be louder about my faith.  I have to speak it more often, hang onto it more tightly, give myself more reminders and give God all the praise.  I learned to praise Him when it was hard to find something praiseworthy.

A year later when life felt bearable again, I still couldn’t part with my poster.  The memory is too powerful and the promises still apply.  I found an inexpensive frame and put it in my living room because I still need the reminder to “be not troubled.”

It’s a great message for right now.  Chaos is everywhere.  Choose faith!  We can remember all the times God has helped us before and trust Him to help us again.  We can remember all the hard things we’ve overcome in the past.  My poster isn’t art, not by a long stretch.  But it was great therapy.  It got my mind off the awfulness of my situation long enough to open a window of hope.

If you need a diversion from all the negative, try writing down positive messages from sources that bring you hope and faith!  Write them large, so they’re big enough to drown out the fear.  Write them boldly so they’re strong enough to fight back the darkness.  And write them on your heart.  That’s where we need them the most.

Hang in there, we’ve got this!

Irish Chain Quilt Top

First and foremost, HOW ARE YOU?  Are you holding things together in your little corner of the world?  I’m hanging on here, in spite of all the change that has come to our family of ten.  With all the craziness in our world, sometimes I need to sew without paying much attention to what I’m doing.  I have projects I’m passionate about that I want to work on, but the truth is my brain couldn’t handle one more puzzle piece.  So I picked up my Irish chain quilt blocks and started sewing.  Now I have a finished Irish Chain Quilt top!

I followed the quilt along directions from Amber at Gigi’s Thimble, which were clear and easy to follow.  Now that the sew along has ended, she’s also made free printable instructions that are available here.  My Irish Chain Quilt top is queen sized, measuring 90″ square, which is the larger of two sizes included in the instructions.  I’m so glad I participated in this sew along, even if I didn’t manage to sew along at the scheduled pace.

I made my Irish Chain quilt top with voile and lawn fabrics.  It’s super drapey and lightweight and perfect for summer.  Finishing the quilt top now is an act of faith that summer will be happy, no matter what’s going on in the world.

This traditional pattern is refreshing in it’s simplicity and symmetry.  I have always wanted to make one.  I’ve decided to use lawn for the backing and bamboo batting when I quilt it.  It will be the most lightweight, breathable quilt I’ve ever made.  That’s something I’ve wanted to do for a long time.

Now the question is, how should I quilt it?  Again, I want it to be lightweight and drapey so I can’t over-quilt it.  But it would also be fun to do something cool in the larger white spaces.  Any suggestions for me?  Have you ever made an Irish chain quilt, and if so, how did you quilt it?  I’m already dreaming of sleeping under this one come summer….

One more question for you:  what kind of project are you sewing right now, as the world changes almost hourly before our eyes?  One that takes focus, to distract you, or one that takes minimal thinking so your mind can sort other things?  I’m sure I’ll do some of both in coming weeks!

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