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Love at First Sight

Have you ever walked into a vintage store, or thrift store, or yard sale, and had something demand that you take it home? I had a lovely afternoon of shopping this past Friday with my two girls, my granddaughter and my oldest daughter’s best friend. There’s this amazing little downtown area not too far from here where all of the shops are locally-owned small businesses, and there is a huge array of things to browse through . . . lots of it handmade!  It’s one of my favorite places to spend an afternoon.
Late in the day, it started to rain, so we ducked into a little strip of stores that all open into a shared indoor breezeway and wandered into Anchors and Acorns. The owner, Karen, was friendly and welcoming, and the whole shop is full of beautiful and whimsical vintage items. I happened to glance down as I walked around a table in the center of the room, and instantly fell in love. This sweet old girl looked like she was sitting there just waiting for me.

Yes, she is quite tattered. She’s got plenty of wear and tear and some random age spots. It even looks as if someone has cut pieces from her and ripped her binding off completely. One day in the past, though, she was fresh and new and loved by someone. Maybe I was a little affected by something that the kids and I had read in our history lesson earlier in the week. “Katherine of Aragon is forty-four years old. The freshness has faded from her cheeks.” I’m only a few years shy of that! I like to think that the freshness is far from fading from my cheeks, but the truth is, we all get a little “tattered” with age. That doesn’t change the fact that there’s beauty in all of us, though.
Can you just imagine the stories that she could tell of the hands that created her, of the fabrics used to piece her together, perhaps of little ones that she covered and comforted through sickness or scary dreams, maybe stories of picnics in meadows and days at the beach on the sand?
She’s long past her prime now (another wash or two might be the end of her), but she’ll do a beautiful job of decorating my sewing studio, and I hope that she’ll remind me on a regular basis that beauty is about far more than appearance. There’s an unmatched beauty that emerges with age and experience. You just have to look past what you see with your eyes.

Celebrating Papa

This past weekend, we spent a beautiful Saturday afternoon celebrating the life of my step-dad who passed away unexpectedly several weeks ago. Ralph was “Papa” to my kids and my sister’s kids. He was a rough and tough outdoors-man with an enviable cache of hunting rifles and a beautiful garden full of corn and field peas. He was the kind of person that you never forget meeting. He had the crazy ability to annoy the heck out of you and make you love him to death at the same time. He held a wealth of knowledge about almost every topic under the sun and some pretty strong opinions, too. He was a man that showed his love for you through actions far more often than words.
Ralph loved to load all the kids on the back of his “tractor” and take them for drives around the acreage or turn on the garden sprinklers when he spotted the kids playing near the crops. (Kids need watering, too.) He relaxed every afternoon on the screened porch that he built with his own hands to watch the deer, turkey and other wildlife wander across the property. I don’t think I ever knew him to be afraid of anything, except maybe for that tunnel that goes under the Mobile River. (He was not going through that thing for anything!)Ralph made a huge mark on my life, and I’m very grateful to have known him. He will be missed far more than words can say.

Little Boys Shorts at Hopeful Threads and The Free Mud Puddle Splashers PDF Pattern

If you’ve hung around here for very long, you already know how much I love Kristy and the work that is done through her charity blog, Hopeful Threads. I was so excited a few months ago when she mentioned her plan to ask all of you to sew little boys’ shorts for the families who are supported by Children in Families in Cambodia! I am so blessed to live in a household full of boys, and I loved the idea of being able to give some handmade love to little guys on the other side of the world. I knew that I wanted to be involved in a special way, so I asked if I could design a shorts pattern specifically for this project. (To read more about July’s Little Boys Shorts Sewing project, please click over to Hopeful Threads, and then come back here for the pattern!)

I set out to design a simple shorts pattern with a few little extras. First an elastic waist, because that’s the easiest for little guys to handle all alone. (Charlie’s favorite phrase lately is, “No, Me!”)

Next, it simply had to have pockets! Have you ever known a little boy to not collect things throughout the day? My boys can’t stand pants without pockets. (These side seam pockets are really easy to sew, so don’t worry at all if you haven’t sewn pockets before!)

An optional folding cuffed hem adds more wearing time. All moms know that kids tend to grow up faster than they grow out. Those extra inches when coupled with the elastic waist mean that these shorts could maybe last a little boy for two seasons, instead of just one. (The pattern does include a traditional hem, too, and I’d recommend the traditional hem if you choose to sew the pattern with knit fabric.)

I added an optional faux fly just to give that perfect finishing touch.

A comfortable, easy fit has already made these a favorite with my own little boys.

Finally, the option to sew these with woven fabrics (cotton quilting fabrics, seersucker, lightweight denim, corduroy, twill) or with knit fabrics (cotton interlock or cotton jersey) means that anyone with a fabric stash will be able to grab something and start sewing!

You’re ready to start sewing, aren’t you? Can I just share a little story first? It’s a quick one about how the pattern got its name. As I was wrapping things up early last week and mulling over a name for this pattern, “mud puddles” kept coming to mind. That evening, I popped over to the Children in Families blog and read this blog post: The Beauty of Family. In that post, one of the similarities that Heather mentions in children growing up here in the US and those growing up in Cambodia is the simple things that they love to do, things like splashing in mud puddles. And, with that, the pattern name was finalized.

I finished up the pattern last week, had my amazing group of testers check it out for me, and prepared it to give it to you. One little question remained, though. Were these shorts really good for mud puddle splashing? I couldn’t really give you the pattern without checking, could I? With that in mind, after dinner last night I asked my youngest two boys if they wanted to go jump in a mud puddle. They, of course, were happy to oblige! It turns out that these shorts are perfect for mud puddle splashing!

Doesn’t that look like fun?! Okay, finally, the pattern download! I’m providing this pattern download free of charge. I just ask that you respect the spirit in which it’s given. If you download the pattern, please sew at least one pair of shorts to give to July’s Little Boys Shorts Sewing project at Hopeful Threads or to another charity of your choice. Once you’ve done that, please feel free to use the pattern to sew for your own children! (I do ask that you refrain from sewing this pattern for profit, and the pattern itself is copyrighted, of course.) This free pattern will only be available for download through the end of July. Just click the icon below. (Be sure to read through the pattern preparation instructions before printing!)

High School Graduation, First Meetings, Surprise Parties & Lawn Work

Last weekend was packed full from beginning to end with work, fun, surprises, achievements and beautiful memories. Morgan and Katie drove in from west Texas on Thursday evening, and Ray flew back in from a few weeks in Florida on Friday morning. The weekend started with several hours of chopping and cutting to remove the damaged parts of our walnut tree.I’m happy to report that we only lost about a third of the tree, and while the view out into my backyard has definitely changed, it’s not a bad change. We cleaned house and readied things for a house-showing on Saturday morning and the arrival of my mom and step-dad on Saturday afternoon. Nana thoroughly enjoyed meeting and cuddling with her first great-grandchild.
We ate out nearly every meal and enjoyed every minute of it!
On Sunday afternoon, we’d planned a surprise 11-month birthday party for Katie. Morgan and Chad have moved to west Texas because of a job change, and we’ll soon be off to Florida meaning we won’t actually be able to celebrate her first birthday with her. I managed to send Morgan off to pick up coffee at Starbucks so we could toss up some quick decorations and be ready when she came back. A phone call for another house showing threw those plans totally off, though. I had no choice but to call Morgan, tell her about the party and ask her to come back and help pick up for the showing! A few more phone calls, however, gave us the perfect quiet spot for our little celebration while our house was being viewed by potential buyers. (A huge Thank-you! to the folks at our local Target for letting us use the back of their Starbucks coffee shop!)
We had a lovely time celebrating with Katie. She seemed to like the owl stuffy that I made for her (more about it next week in my next 52 Family Projects post). She definitely enjoyed playing the “drop and pick-up” game with it! Morgan loved the knitted flowers that Samantha made for Katie. (She’s really become quite the accomplished knitter!) Katie’s wearing one of the two flowers in this picture.
We wrapped up the party just in time to head home and get ready for Sean’s graduation! A few hours later we were settling into our seats to watch and listen.

There were a little more than 400 in Sean’s graduating class.
Our little ones were very well-behaved, thanks to a bag full of lollipops, some virtual coloring pages and plenty of cuddling.
Before we knew it, it was time for Sean to walk across the stage and receive his diploma.
Then the school song was sung, hats were thrown in the air and Sean was an official graduate!
It seems like just yesterday that I held this baby boy for the first time.
Now he’s grown up and ready to head out into the world!
Congratulations, Sean! I’m so excited to see what God has in store for you in the years ahead!

Hopeful Threads: Giving Back & a Giveaway

Have you heard about the wonderful things happening over at Hopeful Threads? Kristy has such a heart for people in need, especially children, and she is doing a fabulous job of encouraging those of us who love sewing and are blessed with much to take a few minutes each month to give back. On the first of every month, Kristy posts a new charity sewing project on the Hopeful Threads blog. Participants from around the world join together in contributing their time, talents and fabric to help those who need what we can give.

Last month, I set aside a day to sew up a dozen bloomers for the January project. Annabelle’s Wish had a special request for bloomers to go with the many dresses that are donated during the summer months to the little girls in China’s orphanages. One day of sewing time and a few yards of fabric was an easy thing for me to give even on a tight budget. This month, Kristy is encouraging you to find a fundraising project that you can contribute to, whether it’s by creating a handmade project to be auctioned off, bidding on an auction or by skipping that latte and giving the dollars instead. (That last suggestion was not really from Kristy. It was all me, and really for me.)

Also, this month, I’m joining in as a Hopeful Threads supporter! (Kristy and I are working on a really exciting plan for a project that we’re hoping will happen in a few months, too, but it’s a secret for now. Shhhh . . . ) In addition to asking you to skip over to Hopeful Threads and start using your sewing talents to give back, I’m giving something to you: three chances to win two of my patterns! You have to go read Kristy’s post to find out how to enter: FD Giveaway.

Every man shall give as he is able, according to the blessing of the LORD your God that He has given you. Deuteronomy 16:17, ESV

New Year Thoughts

NewYearNewProject on 365 Project

I’m having quiet, reflective day today, and I’m not feeling very talkative.  Do you have those days?  I feel like I should write down some resolutions.  It’s what we’re supposed to do today, right? Instead, I pulled out my new quilting journal and planned out a new quilt.  Honestly? I couldn’t have possibly imagined a year ago today everything that would have come to pass in a year’s time.  It was a year full of blessing and amazement and uncertainty and faith.  Definitely faith!  I did a whole lot of stepping out in faith.  I have a list of decisions to make over the next few weeks . . . business decisions, family decisions, little and big decisions.  Today, I’m feeling a little overwhelmed with not knowing what’s ahead.  It would be nice if we could know how today’s decisions will affect tomorrow, wouldn’t it?

One of my Christmas gifts from my sweet husband was this book, which I’ve wanted for years:

I’ve been enjoying flipping through and reading while sipping my morning coffee. This quote seems perfectly appropriate for the end of a old year and the beginning of a new one:

Humanity does not pass through phases as a train passes through stations: being alive, it has the privilege of always moving yet never leaving anything behind. Whatever we have been, in some sort we are still.
C. S. Lewis from The Allegory of Love

It is true, isn’t it, that everything we are today is a result of the decisions that we’ve made, the experiences that we’ve had and the people that we’ve interacted with? I’m excited to see who I am, where I am, what I’ll be doing this time next year!

Sewing Machines for Christmas

This picture warms my heart so much . . . from the shiny new sewing machine to the the happy babies worn close to their mamas to the joy on the faces of the whole family. This family received this sewing machine through Gospel for Asia’s Christmas Gift Catalog. This simple $85 treadle-operated sewing machine can make a huge difference in this family’s ability to make a decent living. Within no time there’s money to purchase food for the children and to send them to school—with new clothes to boot! And, the giver has the joy of knowing that they’ve shared the real meaning of Christmas with a family on the other side of the world.


Happy Thanksgiving! Do you have exciting plans today? We’re enjoying Thanksgiving dinner this evening with our whole family and a few dear friends. The morning and afternoon will be spent cooking and preparing and munching! I’m starting the day with my morning coffee and a piece of Chocolate Pecan Pie shared with my sweet almost-2-year-old. The rest of the house is quiet still.

The quilt block above is one that I pieced last week to join others in a quilt for a grieving mother. My online friend, S, lost her unborn baby boy last month just a few weeks before his due date. My 12-year-old, Allen, prayed on Tuesday night, “Lord, help us to all be thankful, especially for those things that we don’t think matter very much.” That was a simple, beautiful reminder to me to be thankful for my husband’s smile in greeting from across a room, my oldest daughter dropping by with her little one just to hang out, my oldest son wrestling in the family room with his little brothers, my youngest daughter cuddling up and reading a story to my youngest son, my middle son pouring out praise in a song sung as loud as he can sing, my preschool son’s cuddles in the mornings and goodnight kisses every night, and my little guy’s “Side? Me? Pease?” when he wants to nurse. It’s the little things that we sometimes miss everyday that I want to be sure to be thankful for today. I should be more careful to be thankful for them everyday.

I pray that each of you has a beautiful Thanksgiving Day today, shared with those you love and filled with the joy of being thankful for the little things that we don’t think matter very much!

Watered with Love: A Layette for Create Hope Designs

Have you been over to the Create Hope Designs Store yet? The Create Hope designers have created a selection of lovely pdf sewing patterns that are available for only $5 each. All of the profits made go directly to China Little Flower Orphanage to assist in the wonderful things that they do day in and day out.

My contribution to Create Hope is The Watered with Love Layette Set. This new layette is designed for simple, comfortable dressing in those early newborn days. Included in this pattern are a cotton knit snap-shoulder raglan gown and top in both short and long-sleeves. The long-sleeve version has those great fold-up cuffs that keep baby from scratching himself. (They’re really easy to do! Once you sew one, you just might find yourself adding them to all of your newborn sewing!) The pattern also includes a simple knotted hat. All patterns are sized from newborn through 6-9 months.

The name of this pattern has a really special meaning. I really wanted the name to reflect the selfless way that the caregivers at China Little Flower give to the orphans entrusted to their care. They pour an unbelievable amount of love into those tiny souls. Like beautiful fields of wildflowers are watered with spring showers, these little flowers are watered with their love.

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