April 28, 2023

My First Quilt with Michelle Cain

Today I'm excited to share another My First Quilt interview with you! It's so much fun reading about how our fellow quilters got started as quilters 😊
My First Quilt with Michelle Cain | DevotedQuilter.com
I don't remember when I first met Michelle Cain online, but I've been following her blog, From Bolt to Beauty, and following her on IG, for a long time. Michelle is a prolific quilter and quilt pattern designer. I love her Irish Twist and Set to Spin patterns!

You can connect with Michelle on her blog and on IG.

And now, here's Michelle's first quilt!
My First Quilt with Michelle Cain | DevotedQuilter.com

What year did you make your first quilt? What prompted you to make it?

The road to my first quilt was a long one. I grew up outside of Lancaster County, Pennsylvania -- known, in part, as a destination for quilters -- and my mom started quilting sometime after I graduated from high school and had moved out of the house. I had little interest in quilting, however -- probably because I had such a limited idea of what a quilt was "supposed" to look like.

That changed in 2002, when a chance encounter with Denyse Schmidt's What a Bunch of Squares note cards blew up my preconceived notions about quilting. I loved the graphic look of the stationery, which featured pictures of Denyse's original quilts, and quickly became fascinated with the designer and what she was doing in the quilting world. I bought her first book, "Denyse Schmidt Quilts: 30 Colorful Quilt and Patchwork Projects," and purchased yardage of the original Flea Market Fancy collection. I even had a near run-in with Denyse herself at a Crate & Barrel. (I was gawking over a new line of quilts she had designed for the store. A sales associate approached me and said, "Oh, honey. You just missed her. She was here 15 minutes ago." My near brush with quilting greatness!)

Through all of this, however, I was not quilting. I was sewing, but those projects were limited to bags and pillows and curtains. Finally, in 2013, it was time to make the leap!

The part of the quilt-making process that prevented me from starting sooner was the quilting itself. I didn't know there was such a thing as a longarm. I thought I *had* to quilt my projects myself, and although I had multiple book resources and quilt blogs as references, getting a huge quilt sandwich through my tiny sewing machine seemed impossible.

So I started with a simply pieced throw quilt of 8-inch squares, just to dip my toe in the water and to see whether I could get it quilted. (By this point, I had been sewing regularly for over a decade, so assembling the top was easy.) And although guiding the quilt sandwich through my machine was awkward, I managed to quilt it with an allover crosshatch.

Who taught you to make the quilt?

Me! And the quilt blogs and books I had at my disposal. At this point in my sewing career, I especially liked Rachel Hauser's Stitched in Color blog, and the first quilting books in my library were Denyse's first book and "Last-Minute Patchwork and Quilted Gifts" by Joelle Hoverson (the founder of Purl Soho). I still have both of those titles in my collection.

Are the colours you chose for your first quilt ones you would still choose today?

Yes! The quilt was made from one of Denyse's collections for chain stores. The only change I would recommend my past self would be to invest in quality fabric from a quilt shop.

Did you fall in love with quilting right away? Or was there a gap between making the first quilt and the next one?

Making this quilt quickly snowballed into a full-fledged quilting obsession. In my first year of quilting, I completed seven quilts, started to blog about quilting, and joined a guild!

Where is the quilt now?

I wasn't sure about giving away such a humble first quilt, but I did, and to the perfect recipient. A friend of mine wasn't expecting a birthday gift from me, and she was touched that I took the time to make her something. (I billed the quilt as one for her and her daughters to picnic on. She teared up, explaining that no one had ever made her anything before.) I saw her everywhere around town that first summer, quilt in tow—at the farmer's market, at the playground. She bragged about me and the quilt to just about everyone she encountered. 

Thanks for sharing your first quilt with us, Michelle! I love that your friend was so thrilled with her quilt and bragged about your work so much ❤ That's a friend who gets it!

April 24, 2023

The Days In Between

Devotion for the Week...

Thanks to the wonders of technology, we've been listening to The Joy FM, out of Florida, for more than a decade. The last couple of years they've done a beautiful job of retelling the story of Easter in a series of pre-recorded narrative messages, and this year one line really stood out to me. They were talking about the disciples on the day between Good Friday and Easter Sunday and said, "They didn't know Sunday was coming." I'm sure you've heard the phrase, right? It's said in reference to Jesus' death on the cross and His burial; after describing all of that, the person talking will often say, "But Sunday was coming!" It's a reminder that His death and burial were not the end of the story, and that the best part hasn't been talked about yet. It's a reminder that God won in the end, even if it didn't look like it on the day of the crucifixion.

On that day in between, though, the disciples didn't know anything remarkable was going to happen the next morning. They didn't know God was going to win in the end. In fact, it felt to them like they were already past the end and evil had most definitely won. The greed and selfishness and self-preservation of the religious leaders had won, and the disciples had lost the Person they thought would change their world. They were hurting so much because of His death. They were lost and confused and didn't know what to do next, so they huddled together and grieved. They had no hope that things would change. How could they? Jesus was dead.

We never have to sit in that despair with them, because we do know about the Resurrection. We do know that Sunday was coming. Most importantly, we know that Jesus' death was not a victory for evil, but was instead victory over evil.

That doesn't mean we never sit in despair, though, or feel like evil in winning in some situation in our own lives. 
God is working to create something good in our lives, even on the days in between | DevotedQuilter.com
Like the disciples on that day in between, though, we don't yet know the full story of our lives. We don't know if maybe tomorrow morning will bring some remarkable change to the story, or if it will come ten years from now. Paul tells us that, "God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them" (Romans 8:28). We may not be able to imagine how, and we may not know when, but God is working to create something good in our lives, even on the days in between.

April 20, 2023

We Learn By Doing {Lessons From Quilting}

Welcome to another Lessons From Quilting post! So many of the things I've learned in my 20+ years of quilting can be applied to life away from the sewing machine, too.
Lessons from quilting | DevotedQuilter.com
I love to read about how to do different things. Some I'm interested in doing, like vegetable gardening, and others I will probably never try, like blacksmithing, but reading about how is still fascinating. I'm really good at dreaming about what it would be like to be good at _______ 😅 

I've read a lot about quilting, too, of course! More than that, I've made a lot of quilts, and along the way I've learned how to do a lot of different techniques. In my early quilting days, learning a new technique meant finding a book or magazine article about it, whereas now I look for tutorials on blogs or Youtube. No matter what source I'm using to learn, the most important step is when I pull out some fabric and actually try to do what I read or watched. Sometimes it works well the first try, but more often than not it takes a couple of tries before I really feel like I know what I'm doing. Either way, it's the doing that allows me to learn the skill.

My first attempt at binding was a bit of a mess. I bought double-fold bias tape, pinned it to the edge of the quilt and tried to stitch both sides at the same time. In the process, I missed it on the back in a lot of places. Not knowing any better, I just went back over those spots another time or two, until that binding was stitched down all the way around the quilt. Eventually I learned to stitch the binding on one side at a time, but getting the miters in the corners took a few more quilts after that. I remember it was one of Carol Doak's books that had the illustrations that finally made it click for me as I followed her instructions to fold the binding up away from the corner and then fold it back down. I just kept binding more quilts, picking up a tip here and trying something different there, until finally I could finish off my quilts as neatly as I wanted.

Reading or watching alone can't make us proficient at any new skill, no matter how many books, blog posts, or videos we consume. For all my reading (and the occasional tomato or pepper plant), I still don't know how to plan and maintain a vegetable garden. I can bind a quilt, though!

Sometimes we avoid doing something new because we think it's going to be too hard. Have you done that? I certainly have, more times than I care to admit. In fact, I'm kind of doing it now. I've done a lot of raw edge applique, by hand and by machine, but I've always been a bit intimidated by the needle turn technique. I've read a few blog posts and watched a few videos, so I kind of know how it's supposed to go, but I haven't tried it yet, even though I want to. 
We learn by doing | DevotedQuilter.com
So many times I can't wrap my mind around how to do some new technique until I have fabric in hand and I'm actually following the instructions step-by-step. I'm sure that will be the case for needle turn applique, as well. The same is true for so many other things. I learned how to cut up a pineapple by reading the instructions and then trying it for myself. As a kid learning to bake, I learned how to separate an egg by watching my mother tip the yolk back and forth between the halves of the egg shell, and then doing it myself. Aiden learned how to play drums and then guitar by watching videos and spending hours playing. My mom learned photography by reading about it, taking classes, and taking thousands of pictures.

There are so many things to learn, in quilting and in life. For all of them, the best way to learn is to get in there are start doing it! What would you like to learn next?

April 17, 2023


Devotion for the Week...

When we were first married, Paul and I spent 6 years living in Igloolik, a small community in Canada’s high arctic. Because we were above the Arctic Circle, the sun would set at the end of November and not rise again until mid-January. It wasn’t as hard to live with as it sounds…in fact, we found the 24 hour daylight in the summer much harder! How do you settle down for bed when it looks like noon all night long?? 

When the sun did come back up in January, it just barely blipped over the horizon for a few minutes at noon, then went back down. Each day after, it would rise a few minutes earlier and set a few minutes later, so the days got gradually longer. I can remember walking mid-morning in February one year and feeling like the morning was just glorious, then realizing it was because the sun was finally up early enough that my morning walk was in the sunshine.

That glorious walk in the sunshine is what I think of when I read Colossians 1:12-14: “He has enabled you to share in the inheritance that belongs to his people, who live in the light. For he has rescued us from the kingdom of darkness and transferred us into the Kingdom of his dear Son, who purchased our freedom and forgave our sins.” What a great visual that is!
Because of our faith in Jesus, God has moved us into the bright sunlight of His kingdom | DevotedQuilter.com
We’ve all been in pitch dark before and we’ve all stood in bright sunlight. We know what that contrast feels like in the physical realm. Now picture it in a spiritual context. We had been in the pitch dark spiritually, with no light at all. But now, because of our faith in Jesus, God has moved us into the bright sunlight of His kingdom and it is glorious!

April 14, 2023

100 Day Project Progress

We are just past the halfway point of the 100 Day Project and I'm having so much fun with my 100 Days of Scrappy Sewing! I only set one rule for myself for this project - at least 15 minutes a day working on any of my scrappy projects, old or new - and that has made it incredibly easy to stick with it.

My Hexie Rainbow was the first project I worked on, and it has been getting a fair bit of attention. 
100 days of scrappy sewing | DevotedQuilter.com
I have hundreds of black hexies to add to create the frame around the rainbow, so I'm joining them into short rows, then I lay everything out and arrange the short rows into the long rows I need (hopefully without repeating fabrics too close together), stitch them together, and then stitch them to the rainbow. I find a chunk three rows wide is a manageable size for adding to the rainbow.
100 days of scrappy sewing | DevotedQuilter.com
I stitched up a lot of these striped units. They're one of two new things I've started during Project.
100 days of scrappy sewing | DevotedQuilter.com
They've now been stitched into a top, but I'm not quite ready to share the whole thing yet. Here's a little sneak peek, though.
100 days of scrappy sewing | DevotedQuilter.com
I've gotten the childcare littles involved a couple of times, too. Once we used the Accuquilt Go cutter to cut some squares.
100 days of scrappy sewing | DevotedQuilter.com
And once I took them up to the sewing room to stick stars on the 'magic wall' after they had been fighting over toys for most of the morning. They thought it was amazing!
100 days of scrappy sewing | DevotedQuilter.com
Those stars are an old project that I'm really enjoying now that I've pulled it out again. The stars are all stitched, they just need to be appliqued to their backgrounds, which I'm doing by hand with a ladder stitch. Getting the littles to put them all on the wall was a great distraction, but also served a purpose, since I wanted to see what I had. Apparently I've stitched a lot of black and grey stars. Now that I know that, I'm making a point of using the bright stars. The squares are 6 ½", which means that so far I have almost enough for a baby quilt, but I want to make it a throw, so I'll happily keep stitching stars to backgrounds.
100 days of scrappy sewing | DevotedQuilter.com
My Scrappy Triangles blocks have been growing, too. I use them as leaders/enders while working on other things, so it's slow progress. I have 8 quadrants finished so far. Can you spot the oops in this picture? 
100 days of scrappy sewing | DevotedQuilter.com
I need another 8 quadrants before I sew the blocks together, to give me a better chance of reducing fabric repeats in each block. I've sewn the units for those quadrants into pairs, and now I'm sewing the pairs together into rows.
100 days of scrappy sewing | DevotedQuilter.com
Last, but certainly not least, I've sewn a bunch of scrappy 4 patches in fun, bright colours. Hmmm, there's another peek at the striped blocks from earlier 😄
100 days of scrappy sewing | DevotedQuilter.com
This isn't the final layout for these blocks, but it does show them off nicely.
100 days of scrappy sewing | DevotedQuilter.com
We've made a few additions to my sewing room, including a design wall (or as I told the littles, a magic wall). It's the first time I've ever had a design wall and I love it! I was only half joking when I told the littles it was a magic wall as there is something magical about being able to stick the blocks on the wall to look at them, rather than on the floor. Even Nathan is amazed by it and likes to stick things up. I have one more addition to make to the room, hopefully soon, and then I'll share some new pictures.

In the meantime, I'll be doing lots more scrappy sewing and enjoying every minute of it!

April 10, 2023

Doubting With Thomas

Devotion for the Week...

I hope you had a wonderful Easter! Ours was quiet, but we like quiet, so it was good 😊

I've been thinking a lot about Thomas as we got closer to Easter. I was thinking specifically about how Jesus didn't condemn him for saying, "I won’t believe it unless I see the nail wounds in his hands, put my fingers into them, and place my hand into the wound in his side" (John 20:25). This, of course, was after the Resurrection, and after Jesus had appeared to the disciples. Thomas hadn't been there that night and when the others told him that Jesus came to visit them, he couldn't believe it.

We often give Thomas a hard time, giving him the nickname Doubting Thomas, and making it seem like he was crazy to not believe the others. But think about it for a minute; if someone you loved died, and then a few days later people told you they saw that person alive, would you believe it? Of course not! Thomas was being perfectly reasonable.

Sure, Jesus was no ordinary person and He had told the disciples, "The Son of Man is going to be betrayed into the hands of his enemies. He will be killed, but three days later he will rise from the dead" (Mark 9:31), but none of them understood. None of them were sitting around on what we call Resurrection Sunday, waiting with joyful anticipation to hear about Jesus rising again. They were all deep in mourning, scared of the Jewish leaders and completely confused about what to do next. Just like we would have been in their place.

When Thomas heard from the others that Jesus had appeared to them, he was probably hopeful. He probably desperately wanted it to be true, but he couldn't just believe something that sounded so crazy, no matter how much he wanted it.

And then, eight days later, he was there in the room when Jesus appeared again. Jesus didn't chastise him for not believing the others and He didn't say He was disappointed by Thomas' lack of faith. He just held out His hands and said, "Put your finger here, and look at my hands. Put your hand into the wound in my side" (John 20:27). Instead of condemnation or disappointment, Jesus gave Thomas reassurance and proof that He was real.

In fact, if we back up a few verses to when He first appeared to the disciples, the night Thomas wasn't there, Jesus offered them the same proof! "As he spoke, he showed them the wounds in his hands and his side" (v. 20). Jesus knew this story of Him being alive again would be hard to believe. He knew people would doubt the disciples were telling the truth. He knew even those who saw Him with their own eyes would be confused and maybe tempted to think it was a trick. So He showed them the best proof He had - His scars.
We never need to hide our doubts | DevotedQuilter.com
God isn't frustrated or disappointed in us when we doubt. He knows we'll have trouble believing sometimes. He knows the hard times in our lives will make us doubt His love and that waiting a long time for an answer to prayer will make us doubt that He's listening. We never need to hide our doubts or cover them over by pretending a faith we don't feel. He will always meet us where we are.

April 06, 2023

TGIFF - Bicycle Embroidery

Welcome to Thank Goodness It's Finally Finished! In my case, the project itself didn't take all that long to make, but it has taken me awhile to get it posted 😊

Sometime shortly before Christmas, I was scrolling Pinterest looking for I can't remember what, when I stumbled on a free pattern for a cute little Christmas bicycle embroidery. My brother and sister-in-law are avid bikers, so my first thought was that this would be perfect for them. My second thought was that there was no way I'd get it finished in time for Christmas, so I pinned it for later.

In January I wanted a quick, little something to work on, so this seemed like the perfect choice. When I printed the pattern, it had two images - a small one intended as the pattern and a larger one with arrows indicating which colour to use where. I don't have a small hoop that would fit the smaller size, so I traced the larger image as my pattern and it fit perfectly in a 6" hoop.
Embroidered Christmas bicycle | DevotedQuilter.com
I used DMC embroidery floss for everything. I wanted a little extra sparkle for the present, though, so along with the floss, I used Kreinik blending filament 041, leftover from when I used to cross stitch regularly. I find the Kreinik metallic threads twist and tangle easily, so I'm not a fan of working with them, but they sure do add sparkle.
Embroidered Christmas bicycle | DevotedQuilter.com
Once the embroidery was finished, I gave it a quick wash with some Dawn dish soap and while it was still damp I stretched it back in the embroidery hoop to block it. I've never had an issue with DMC floss not being colourfast before, but the red did bleed a little bit, unfortunately.

After the embroidered piece dried, I took it out of the hoop and added a piece of batting behind it. Tutorials explaining how to finish the back of a hoop all use felt, which I didn't have, so instead I traced the hoop onto freezer paper, then ironed that to a piece of the same fabric I used for the front and gathered the edge around it. It's not perfect, by any stretch, but it did give me a circle with no raw edge.
Finishing the back of a hoop with fabric | DevotedQuilter.com
I removed the freezer paper, then stitched the circle to the fabric at the back of the hoop.
Finishing the back of a hoop with fabric | DevotedQuilter.com
I also added one of my labels. I wish I thought to add the label before stitching the circle to the back of the hoop, but I didn't, so I had to be really careful not to distort the fabric as I stitched.
Finishing the back of a hoop with fabric | DevotedQuilter.com
Stitching the label on did dent the back in a little, but not too bad.
Finishing the back of a hoop with fabric | DevotedQuilter.com
I'm so pleased with how this little project turned out! It looks pretty cute here with the wood spirit my Dad carved, don't you think? It's now with my brother and sister-in-law, all ready for next year's Christmas decorating.
Embroidered bicycle | DevotedQuilter.com

Now it's your turn! What have you finished recently? Link it up below, then go visit some of the other links to celebrate their finishes!

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April 03, 2023

Not indispensable

Devotion for the Week...

Have you ever thought something along the lines of, "If I don't do it, it won't get done?" I know I have, and usually I was feeling pretty resentful when I did! When I was reading the book of Esther a while back in preparation for writing the Women of Wisdom devotions, I was struck by something Esther's uncle, Mordecai, said to her.

King Xerxes had issued a decree that all the Jews in the land could be killed on a specific day and Mordecai "tore his clothes, put on burlap and ashes, and went out into the city, crying with a loud and bitter wail" (Esther 4:1). When Esther heard this, she summoned Hathach, one of her attendants, and "ordered him to go to Mordecai and find out what was troubling him and why he was in mourning" (v. 5). Mordecai explained the whole situation and "asked Hathach to direct her to go to the king to beg for mercy and plead for her people."

I'm sure Esther was a little taken aback by this request, because Mordecai had to know that no one was allowed to go to the king without being summoned. Her message back to Mordecai has more than a hint of 'Are you crazy?' about it: "All the king’s officials and even the people in the provinces know that anyone who appears before the king in his inner court without being invited is doomed to die unless the king holds out his gold scepter" (v. 11).

Mordecai's response contains one of the most well-known phrases in the Bible. "Don’t think for a moment that because you’re in the palace you will escape when all other Jews are killed. If you keep quiet at a time like this, deliverance and relief for the Jews will arise from some other place, but you and your relatives will die. Who knows if perhaps you were made queen for just such a time as this?" (vv. 13-14). 

It wasn't his 'such a time as this' line that caught my attention this time through, though. Instead I kept thinking about the idea that deliverance and relief would come from somewhere, even if Esther kept quiet. Mordecai was convinced that Esther could do something to rescue their people, but he also believed that if she chose to do nothing, God would rescue their people another way. Even as he pointed out that perhaps God had put her in position specifically to do this work, he also told her she wasn't the only one who could do it.

I'm fascinated by this idea that God has work He wants us to accomplish, but that He also has plans for that work to be accomplished in other ways if we don't do it. That He has work for us to do is clear: "For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago" (Ephesians 2:10). And yet, if Mordecai is right, we aren't indispensable to God's plan. He will see the work gets done, regardless of whether or not we are the ones who do it.
He is in control, not me | DevotedQuilter.com
Of course, that's exactly how it should be. He is in control, not me, so my actions (or lack thereof) shouldn't be able to derail His plans.