Sunday, August 29, 2010

Wishing Talent was Contagious

Ever wish you could just stand next to someone full of talent and it rub off on you? That somehow what they possess would be contagious and you'd get a fatal case of it?

Those thoughts have certainly crossed my mind these past few weeks as I've surrounded myself with talented quilters, both on a local and national level.

Recently Cactus Quilts in Texas City hosted a workshop with Cynthia England, best known for her pieced landscapes which are highly published and have won numerous awards. Cynthia is a "home-town girl" residing in an adjacent community and has been an entertaining guild speaker at a couple of my local guilds. Her work is amazing with so many small pieces. When I discovered she would be teaching a workshop locally in a small intimate setting I jumped at the opportunity!

Pictured above is Carla, owner of Cactus Quilts, myself holding my class project, and Cynthia...okay, true confessions - that's HER class sample (sigh) and mine is only a work in progress...

This is how my project looked at the end of the workshop. Cynthia is an encouraging teacher and I can say that the entire class enjoyed our process of learning her technique. It's time consuming, but the end result will be rewarding! Ah, but another true confession, I was really wishing I could just take home the class sample - it would go so well in my beachie bathroom...

My pastor at Calvary Houston has been teaching on the Ten Commandments and wouldn't you know it, the day following my workshop the topic was "Desire to Acquire" ....

Exodus 20:17 (NIV)

"You shall not covet your neighbor's house. You shall not covet your neighbor's wife, or his manservant or maidservant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor."

How did he know that just the day before I was desiring Cynthia's talent and wishing I could acquire her little quilt (grin)...

Okay, as Pastor Ron explained, God is NOT saying that we can't have goals, dreams, desires (I want to grow up to be a talented quilter). In reality, He wants us to be the best person we can possibly be with the talents and abilities that He has given us. What He is warning us about is being obsessed with someone else's possessions (or as in my case, the talents of others). The word covet means to lust for what is not yours.

It's easy to fall into the "If I Only Had" syndrome. Y'know, if I only had a bigger paycheck I'd be happy, if I only had a nicer home, if I only had a better car, if only I had the right clothes or the right look, if only I had the right spouse/kids/family, OR translating it to my life as a quilter, if only I had the right tools (and there's an abundance of notions and machines out there), if only I had the right fabric, if only I had the talent and imagination of so-n-sew, if only....I had all these things THEN I'd be happy.

Luke 12:15 (NKJV)

15 And He said to them, “Take heed and beware of covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of the things he possesses.”

It's been said that multi-millionaire JD Rockefeller was once asked "How much money would be enough? and his answer, "Just one more dollar."

Truth of the matter, we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain that we carry nothing out. And so having food and clothing, with these we shall be content (I Tim 6:7-8)

Okay, so how does that translate to my life, specifically to my life as a quilter...I'll share as I share more quilting photos!

The very next weekend was our quarterly gathering of the Bayshore Longarm Quilters. My favorite part is show and tell!

Debra is sharing one of her quilts quilted on her A1 Quilting Machine that she's only had a few short months. I love our group - not only do we appreciate the color/design of the piecing but we KNOW to look at the quilting too! And we celebrate together the success of others.

Grace is sharing her success of this beautiful Texas quilt, one of her first "big ones" and "one of her own" done on her new A1 Longarm Quilting Machine. Grace unselfishly quilts a lot of charity quilts for the Mainland Morning Guild in Texas City. We all marveled at her creativity in her design elements, especially the hearts which she carried on to the backing fabric (deep in the HEART of Texas).

Lisa pieced this beautiful black and white quilt for her son and his wife, and since her longarm frame isn't as large as mine I was given the opportunity to quilt it for her (it's a King). She saw the completed quilt for the first time during our show and tell. It was fun to share a little of the lime-light with Lisa. I had posted on facebook that this was one of those quilts that I'd like to say "oh, I don't know what happened to it, it must be lost" (grin) and then keep it for myself... oh my, I'm coveting again! Even jokingly.

Pastor Ron shared the application of the 10th commandment...(1) learn to be content (2) enjoy what God has already given you (3) cultivate a gratitude attitude (4) hold lightly to the things of this world - as previously mentioned, we can't take it with us! Or as Job put it "the Lord gives and the Lord takes away, blessed be the name of the Lord" and (5) be a giver - share and bless others.

That's what I hope to achieve in my quilting life (my personal life too, but this is suppose to be about quilting). I want to hold on lightly to the things of this world. I enjoy my quilting "things", I get pleasure in making my quilts, but they won't go with desire is that they be inherited by my family, and the abundance shared with others (and there is an abundance, how many blankets can one person use here in hot humid Houston area). In the meantime I want to be grateful for the possessions I have, to be wise as I acquire, to be appreciative of others who will share their talent with me, who can teach me, guide me, inspire me...

Our little group of longarm quilters was blessed by the sharing of one of our talented and inspiring members, another "local" celebrity, Tom Russell who lives just north of us in a neighboring community. Many quilters recognize Tom from his Simply Quilts TV sessions with Alex Anderson or his nationally award winning quilts that have been featured at quilt shows (including the International Quilt Festival held annually in Houston) and in magazines. I've had the privilege of hearing Tom speak at area guilds a couple of times already and I have to tell you he weaves a spell-binding story that has you intermittently laughing at his stories of a man entering a quilt guild and everyone thinking he's in the wrong room and then being totally awed by his creations as he shares them one by one.

The Bayshore Longarm Quilters meet quarterly in my studio - I can honestly say that this gathering had the most positive responses concerning being inspired to explore and develop our individual talents. Tom, thank you again, I hope you know how much we appreciated your willingness to share with us!

Yes, I still wish that talent was contagious. I think in a good way, it is. Not if you envy or covet what someone else has or does, but when you celebrate their successes and when in turn they inspire you to do your best. Being content with what you have and still reaching for your dreams, sharing your dreams along the way so that others can help you and encourage you. I just love my quilting friends!

Okay, for the record, Tom got to enjoy all of five minutes in my favorite chair on the deck under the tiki hut (grin).

Then I whisked him and Kathy away to my favorite "vacation destination" - our local escape, La Brisa for a wonderful lunch and time to visit..

Still mulling over the thoughts of being content and being grateful for what I have... the next afternoon I pulled out a UFO to work was actually cut out in early 2008 from left over fabrics to test out a version of a pattern called Jack's Chain only this version is called Ferris Wheel from the Vol. 6 book on hexagons by Marti Michell whose template I used to cut the pieces.

This was all I had completed in 2008, besides all the cutting and planning that is! By the end of "my day off" last Sunday I had pieced all the little circles and partial blocks and have the quilt laid out on my "design floor" in the studio.

Were it still is a week later! Lots of set in seams with this, but I'm working through it and enjoying the process. I've having to ignore that the colors aren't turning out like I envisioned (sigh) and it looks more like someone threw little squares of color on a busy piece of fabric...oh well, not everything is a perfect plan. But I'm grateful to have the opportunity to "practice" and perhaps I'll actually take the plunge and do the original version of Jack's Chain with 9 patch squares and SOLID hexagons (grin). In the meantime, I'm holding on to this loosely knowing that I can't take it with me!

I'll end with a few critters from my backyard this week....just another reminder of God's creativity in His creation and how He provides for "the lest of these"

Knowing that He will provide for you and me too!


Tuesday, August 10, 2010

The Little Quilt That Grew

I find it interesting that some days aren't according to the "to do list" - you know what I have certain things planned and think you have it all figured out and it's anything but!

That's not always a bad thing. Unless you are some what of a control freak (grin).

Take this past weekend for example. One thing that went according to plan were my plans to attend a women's conference at my church, Calvary Houston, Friday night and all day Saturday with the theme Abounding. What didn't go as planned was this quilt...mainly because there wasn't a plan!

Well, that's not the absolute truth, there was a goal at least...a goal to try to use some left-over parts and fabric from a previous project(s). Ya'see, several years ago I decided to re-do my living room moving from blue to these colors. I don't even know what color family to call this because it's so foreign to my color pallet of brights and more brights...but it fits my living room nicely. I'd made curtains, pieced a borders quilt wallhanging from a class sometime back in 2008 (it's still waiting to be quilted) and even covered one of two rocking chairs (the other is a UFO)...and oh me oh my, there's still fabric from this beautiful collection! What to do, what to do?

Therefore my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord.
I Corinthians 15:58

Abounding. Means overflow, over doing it, abundance. Yep, I had an abundance of fabric that for sure, so Sunday afternoon while mulling over some of the topics from the conference I decided to work on turning my parts and pieces into something useful.

I wish I'd of thought to take pictures of the process, but didn't think of it until the little parts had grown....

I started out with the diamond in the center that has the rose, added the flying geese next to it and then just went about playing on the design wall - The diamonds in the rectangles were previously pieced as were the flying geese and the half square triangles and tri-triangles used for the pinwheels. The interesting part was piecing them all together.

One of the Abounding themes was Abounding in Service with the key verse the one quoted above. Our speaker was Kym Hindt, pastor's wife from Calvary Houston and founder of our women's ministry. She shared that what we are doing will matter now and in eternity, that we should work hard doing things God's way and not just being busy and burdened. That we should live our Christian life with future vision, to see needs and move to meet those needs. She also stated that to have vision for the future you must be strategizing during the present, preparing and planning...

In a way, that's how I approached this little quilt. Trying not to make it a burden by just being busy working in the fabrics, instead envisioning something useful. As each part was added I'd plan for the next...hum, if I add squares to the pinwheels that should be about the same width as the diamonds and flying geese...gee, I think it needs a little something to separate the design elements and that stripe will work nicely...oh and then why not add the scrappy collection of what about a long strip on the side to give your eyes a place to rest before adding the diamonds...and so the process went as I reflected....

Kym went on to share that abounding in service also included a sense of flexibility, being willing to shift our plans to His plans, in other words, live with the attitude of "if the Lord permits" or "God's will" and recognize that living in Him means to give Him permission to change my plans, and then exercising the choice to be flexible, to just keep moving - allowing God to lead, accepting His opening or closing of doors as He sees fit. When He says move, be flexible and move.

Abounding in service also means doing a job to the best of your ability until its done, commitment to follow through to completeness as well as being faithful in the present. In other words don't quit what you are doing now or become discontent because you look at everything as a stepping stone to what you want to do in the future. Just be faithful in the little things. Keep working.

As my Sunday afternoon of sewing and thinking was coming to an end I reflected on my work... I'd added the half square triangles top and bottom, figured the math for the floating strips to be able to add the drunkard's path blocks (quarter circles for my non-quilting audience) and was ready to pronounce it good. I'd managed to use up a lot of fabric. Loved using the Go cutter for the drunkard's path blocks, the accuracy in the cut made sewing the "pie" to the "L" so much easier. Yep. I'd used up a lot of scraps, actually running out of the green/yellow combo and having to improvise with the pinks to complete the border. Yes, there was still fabric left over, but there's always scraps, right? time to call it quits.

Kym admonished us to not waste time mourning over closed doors (the what if's of life) but instead recognize God as authority - when God closes a door you are at a crossroad - the choice is to go towards the open door or sit and fret over the closed door (which is truly just a waste of time). We should learn to look for the open door with eagerness, not ignoring it - because it may not always be open. What opportunities await? What you do today in service is preparing you for the service of the future, preparing for good work... so be committed to the present and seeing things through to completion.

An opportunity arose today, a window of time was provided....I chose to walk through this open door and embraced the challenge of working towards completing the work I'd begun....

Still reflecting on things gleaned from Kym's session on Abounding in Service...we should have forbearance with people patiently allowing God's spirit to work in their lives - this reminded me of song lyrics "I'm not who I was" - we all grow at different rates, learning things at different times, being patient with others as they too are working through things...and how we should have fruitful fellowship by being a team player, serving together, a co-laborer not trying to do everything in isolation....serving together, getting along...profound simple truths to pattern our lives after. As we all know, life is not always a picnic in the park.. but that facing opposition with challenge is not a reason for retreat. That adventure in ministry (life) is to get in the battle and face it with courage. The greater the challenge, the greater the victory!

Part of my challenge with growing this little quilt was what to do next... and then realizing that there wasn't enough fabric for my final border!...the solution to this challenge was a green corner stone (grin)...and you just thought I did that on purpose!

I certainly have enjoyed the process of this quilt. I had absolutely no idea what I would end up with as I began with parts, scraps, and a little knowledge of how to do a borders quilt. It was a challenge to think of the next part, to "do the math" to make it all fit. But I kept moving forward, committed to finish what I'd begun. Just like we sometimes encounter difficult people in our paths I encountered a few difficult blocks that weren't perfectly square or didn't want to lay flat (grin), but I knew the quilt needed those parts to be successful so we worked it out. All about growth isn't it? Either personal, spiritual, or yes, even functional as in quilting...

The Little Quilt That Grew....may it be a reminder of the need for growth in my own life...

There is so much more to ponder concerning the Abounding Women's conference... Abounding in Faith, Abounding in Hope, Abounding in Love, and Abounding in Grace...if you are interested you may want to visit the Pillar's of the Word website - CD's of the conference are available.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Focusing ...

Ever feel like things are a little fuzzy? out of focus? not sure of direction? discouraged? confused?out of control? anxious? fearful?

Fear. It's a funny little thing. Creeps up sometimes out of no where. I'm not talking about the good fear - the fight or flight fear that gets the adrenaline flowing that can possibly save your life, I'm thinking more about the fear that cripples your action.

Remember as a kid how you were sometimes afraid of the dark? The twilight hours are breathtaking but the fear of the approaching night would take your breath away in a negative way. Most of us have out grown that fear, unless you are caught out in the dark in a dangerous place, but then the good fear kicks in and you realize you need to get out of that situation.

No, I'm talking about the fear that sneaks in camouflaged and catches you unaware. Say for example the fear of failure, thoughts that can leave you afraid to try something new because you don't know if it will be successful or not - what will others think if you goof? Or on the flip side, the fear of success and that causes you subconsciously to sabotage yourself perhaps by not trying, not giving it your best, or just procrastinating long enough that the opportunity pasts because the potential resulting change scares you.

What about the fear of being hurt? for example earlier this week my shoulder and arm started hurting very similar to several years ago when it froze up on me... I became fearful of the potential pain to the point of not wanting to exercise for fear I would make it worst and lose my ability to use my arm in my chosen profession of quilting, I allowed my negative thinking of being hurt physically to keep me from a workout that potentially would strengthen this area ... or the fear of being hurt emotionally - relationships are risky business, but if you guard your heart to the point of not letting anyone in then you miss out on some of the beautiful moments in life...Fear can be so isolating.

Fears of growing older, fears of being alone, fears of losing a job or other material possessions. Fear of not being able to "make it" or pay the bills. That's usually when fear turns to worry. Fear has lots of second cousins like worry, stress, giving up, being defeated, downcast, depressed...

In pondering these thoughts I turned to my Bible for my comfort . "The Lord is my light and my salvation; Whom shall I fear? The Lord is the strength of my life. Of whom shall I be afraid" Psalm 27:1 The verse could have just as easily said "of WHAT shall I be afraid" - fear is a lack of focus. Focusing on God to work things out in His timing.

I was also reminded of something my dad always said "Can't never could, I'll try always would"

So why not try something new? Why not risk a little? If you fall, then just get up again. What's the worst thing that can happen? They can't take your birthday away from you!

Speaking of birthday... (grin)...Don't you just love my birthday cake? My youngest son's girlfriend spent literally days making this, and it tasted ever'bit as good as it looks!

Okay, so I decided that I wasn't going to be afraid to try something different in my quilting. I've always loved bright bold colors and I dearly love scrap quilts...yet sometimes they seem to flop. I'm trying to get over that fear of 'what if I make an ugly quilt' Well, I've made some! I'm sure we all have at one point or another if we're honest. But it's only fabric right? and the quilt police can talk all they want but they can't take my birthday away!!

So I played in my stash. I pulled out my new AccuQuilt Go! cutter and started cutting out parts and pieces. I was inspired by two fabulous books, Collaborative Quilting by Freddie Moran & Gwen Marston and Adventures with Leaders & Enders by Bonnie Hunter. The first one helped me overcome some fear of color combining and the second one showed me how to maximize my time and sneak in a little piecing of my own personal quilts while working on customer quilts.

Here's the result of my fearless attempts - I call it Bodacious Birthday Kaboodle

And the fun thing, I quilted it ON my birthday! In fact, if you double click on the photo below to make it larger you can see some of my doodles in the quilting to document this. July 23 in the sunrise fabric, 50 in the fireworks fabric, and in the binding it says "today is the first day of the rest of my life"
I had complete freedom in the piecing, didn't matter to me what fabrics were next to the others, I figured they'd lived together long enough in my stash that they knew how to play nice (grin)

So I took that same freedom in my quilting. Butterfly logo here and there, feather puffs, swirls, whatevers

and little hearts to represent loved ones and the joy in my heart that today was my birthday!

Birthday's are a time of family celebration. And this was the big one! I celebrated with a backyard cookout! I've always thought that we had these birthday celebrations backwards, we should be giving gifts to our mothers for actually birthing us as well as all their love and sacrifice in raising us...

That's my side of the family above and hubby's side of the family below (with the nephews and niece missing - 3 out of 4 were either out of state or out of country)

And here's our sons with their lovely ladies. And Pixxie (grin)

Yep, family is a good thing to focus on. I John 4:18 says There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear.

Below is one of the quilts I was working on as I practiced the Leaders and Enders technique for the pieces of my birthday quilt - this t-shirt quilt is for one of my nephews, it's a belated graduation gift. I made another one for a customer in the past weeks also - so between the two of them I had all my parts and pieces for my bodaciously bold creation (grin)

I've worked on a few other personal projects recently. I've always liked the hunter star pattern and found a ruler to assist with the process, Rapid Fire Hunter's Star On a Sunday afternoon I whipped out this little quilt, it's really easy the ruler and pattern - but Pixxie has convinced me that it's just not big enough. I have enough fabric to make it larger so it's going in the UFO pile until I can get a round to it. Hard to tell but those are purple butterflies in the darker fabric...

I've also finally added the bottom row and border treatment to the lone stars class project I started this past it's waiting to be quilted! I think I'm overcoming my fears of color (grin)

Yep, I've done a lot of thinkin' as I've been quiltin' And I think my focus has gotten a little better concerning not letting fear cripple matter what this life will throw at'cha, whether it be things out of your control like illness, loss of a job or things in your thinking - the solution is to realize that God is the one in control ...

Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, and whose hope is the Lord. For he shall be like a tree planted by the waters, which spreads out its roots by the river, and will not fear when heat comes but its leaf will be green, and will not be anxious in the year of drought, nor will cease from yielding fruit. Jeremiah 17:7-8

Looks a little better focused doesn't it? Living surely is an adventure! Embrace the journey my friend!