Wednesday, March 23, 2011

The Hidden Hope Chest

Preparing a hope chest is all about skill. It is learning to be skillful at those things that will make a comfortable home. In our present society, few people seem to recognize the work that goes into making a home. It seems that even fewer embrace that work as something they would willingly do for others. Many see the various tasks of homemaking merely as chores, to be hurried through in the corners of their spare time. But I think people still long for a home that is something more than just sufficient, adequate or acceptable. I think if people were really honest, they would rather their home be snug, contented, relaxed, cozy or even, --well, homey.

So, if a hope chest is more than a collection of linens and tableware, how can I train Miss Abigail in the art of making a home? Well, first of all I have to make our home, her home, more than just sufficient so that she recognizes what a home is all about. She needs to have homemaking skills modeled for her. That task has always been mine. (Sigh) There is still so much room for my own improvement and I often fear that I am not that great of a model. But, I have a strong desire, a passion, actually, and, I think that one can identify some basic skills and then set out to learn them.

It is baffling to me that many of these traditional, home-building skills are simply left to chance, as if they can be easily learned later, if ever they might be needed. Many young women of my acquaintance seem to think that, when the time comes, they can just consult the high-end home magazines and watch the so-called home divas sprinkle glitter on birthday banners. As long as they sign up for the wedding registry at the Pottery Barn, they will enjoy the comforts of home. But they don’t know what to do for dinner beyond reaching inside the freezer case at the grocery store or telephoning for pizza delivery. Clothing is given away because of a stain or a ripped hem. I want to help Miss Abigail recognize basic skills, learn and practice them.

I also want to help Miss Abigail develop attitudes that will enable her to be a willing homemaker. Somehow, I have to help guide and train her heart. There is no one-size fits all circumstances way to make and keep a home, but keeping house is part of that long tradition that recognizes the important needs of people to be well-fed, well-clothed, sheltered comfortably, and even to be nurtured. Someone needs to accept that task and it needs to be a deliberate choice. I accept that we don’t always have a choice about the amount of time we devote to it, but, I do believe that the desires of our heart are manifest in the fruit of our hands.

Our Heavenly Father takes these needs very seriously and much scripture is devoted to images and types of our Father as the provider of these homely needs. One of my favorite images in scripture is of a little bird who finds the perfect home in the house of God.

“How amiable are thy tabernacles, O LORD of hosts! My soul longeth, yea, even fainteth for the courts of the LORD: My heart and my flesh crieth out for the living God. Yea, the sparrow hath found an house, and the swallow a nest for herself, where she may lay her young, even thine altars, O LORD of hosts, my King, and my God. Blessed are they that dwell in thy house: they will be still praising thee.” (Psalm 84:1-4)

This kind of homey comfort, such a refuge where a mother might lay her young, does not happen with slap-dash effort on the part of the householder. Beside capable hands, a willing heart is a most critical component of the hope chest.

So, some of what you see in this blog will be about learning and modeling skills. I hope you won’t mind a little of this, in addition to embroidery patterns and sewing projects. I think of it as the hidden hope chest.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Quilted Potholders - a Link

This beautiful photo belongs to Miss Susannah at Seven Sisters

And speaking of hotpads, or potholders, in this case, I regularly check up on the Seven Sisters blog. Miss Susannah, has recently posted a great tutorial showing how to make quilted potholders. She often writes a guest post for the Feelin Feminine blog and you can find her tutorial here. Susannah shows three different kinds of pieced quilt blocks, a Morning Star (or Ohio Star), a Pinwheel, and a simple Nine Patch. You will need some sewing skill to accomplish the star and pinwheel blocks, but even beginners can attempt the nine patch.

These potholders are an easy introduction to quilting, at least the piecing part, and are quickly finished. I can attest that finishing a project is important to beginners! If you like to sew, take a quick look at this lovely tutorial.

And speaking of the Feelin Feminine blog, "A Chest of Hopes" is a weekly topic on the blog. You'll want to take a few minutes to look at the previous articles posted under this topic. Here is a link to the topics page.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Stenciling Tutorial - Ladybug Hot Pads

In case you want to make a set of cute stenciled hot pads, this is how to do it.

1. Gather supplies.  You will need a set of blank hotpads, fabric paint, a stencil, a stencil brush, a plate and a paper towel.

2. Decide on the design. I decided to have one lady bug come up from one corner and one ladybug going down from one corner.

3. Place the stencil on the fabric. You can use tape to keep it in place, or in some places you can buy an adhesive stencil which sticks down on its own. I’m using an adhesive stencil because it makes the edges so sharp. Push down in all the corners and edges.

4. Put some paint on a washable plate. Dab the brush into the paint and then dab some off on the paper towel.

5. Pounce the brush up and down all over the stencil.  Make sure to get the paint in all the corners and curves. Be careful not to use to much paint because then the paint goes under the edge of the stencil.

Sometimes you can do a gentle swirling motion in a kind of circle to get in the corners. But be careful not to get the paint under the edges.

6. It is a good idea to use tape on the outside edges so that the paint doesn’t go off the edge of the stencil. Mom says this is called masking. You can mask off any part of the design that you don’t want paint to go.

7. Carefully peel off the stencil. Repeat with the other hot pad.

8. Set the hotpads in a safe place to dry. The instructions on the paint will tell you how long to let them dry.

9. Because the red and black colors looked kind of flat, my mom suggested that I give it a little more pizazz by adding white highlights. I used a tiny paint brush and just a bit of white fabric paint. You can see how much more it pops. It is nice to have to some white on these hotpads because then it will match later in a set if there is white in the towels and dishcloths.

Now the question is how to trim the hotpads. Shall I use black rick-rack with white thread or white lace with a black chain stitch? I could use white rick-rack and black embroidery or even a flower applique. What do you think?

Respectfully submitted by Miss Abigail.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Stenciled Hot Pads

I made these hot pads to match the dishcloth I wrote about. They are made with a stenciled design. A stencil is a sheet of plastic or paper or metal with a cut-out picture. It is used with ink, paint, or dye to transfer the picture onto another surface. You can stencil on almost anything! You can stencil on walls, tables, clothing, furniture, boxes - even paper like greeting cards, notebooks and stationery. A stencil can be used more than once to repeat the design.

I made my hot pads for a 4-H project. Stenciling was one of the techniques included in the project. My mom helped me learn how to do it. At first it was hard because if you use too much paint, it gets goopy and leaks under the edges of the stencil. But now that I have some skill, it is easier. Taping the stencil helps keep it from sliding all over. Holding the stencil tightly down on the surface or using an adhesive stencil is another good trick because this keeps the paint from going under the edge and sharp edges are very important in stenciling.

I also stenciled on this tote bag.

and I stenciled puppy paw prints on these pants. ;o)

Stenciling is a very handy skill in making things for a future home. You can stencil on hot pads, pillow cases, couch pillows, curtains, towels, place mats - even your clothes. It is quick, easy and fun!

The stenciled hot pads, together with my crocheted dishcloth, will make a nice set for my hope chest.

Respectfully submitted by Miss Abigail.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Link for a Great Hand-Sewing Project

This beautiful photo belongs to

I sometimes lurk on a great blog called Raising Homemakers. Several women contribute to this blog, dedicated to helping moms "teach and prepare daughters in the art of homemaking." Believe me, I can use their help. Recently, a post appeared with a darling hand-sewing project called Little Bag Sewing Tutorial. I am always looking for simple (meaning do-able) projects that will help me teach Miss Abigail and give her a way to practice her skills at needlework. I think she will enjoy making one of these useful, pretty little bags. We can always use another way to organize her stuff, even beyond the practice with hand-sewing.

Using a needle can be surprisingly difficult for those who do not have long years of experience! Making small, even stitches can be a challenge. As I have worked with Miss Abigail, I have discovered that she is more willing to try when her efforts produce a practical result. She doesn't like to just sit and practice with nothing to show for it but a line of stitching on fabric. Who would, really? I have had her stitch on a dishtowel, since that produces a useful item for the kitchen. I also have the most beautiful flannel dust cloths! This project will be different and easily do-able. Did you notice the fancy ribbon ties? I would never have thought to add that extra ribbon. So cute.

I'll give Miss Abigail the opportunity to dream up her own design and follow the directions given in the tutorial. I wonder what she will come up with. Thanks to Robin at for this wonderful tutorial.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

A Treasure from My Hope Chest

I feel so blessed to live in an age when the daily work required to keep house is easier. The amount and difficulty of the work in past ages was staggering. My grandmothers labored endlessly in ordinary household tasks that take me mere minutes in comparable time.  In spite of the difficulty of keeping up with ordinary tasks, homemakers have always found time to work on special projects. These projects often involved adding beauty to a functional object used in the home, but sometimes a woman might create a truly unique item, one that would make some room in her home lovely and bring special pleasure to herself and others.

I can only assume that was the case when my grandmother made this little crocheted teacup. There is no other use than to bring a bit of beauty to a shelf and a certain satisfaction to her soul. Grandma Clements was an expert in thread crochet. She made many, many crocheted items, including these teacups, which she often gave as gifts. This one came to me several years before I was married. I enjoyed seeing it on my bedroom desk and later put it with other items in my hope chest. It now sits on a shelf in my sewing room, where it continually reminds me that I, too, can create beautiful things.

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