One of my favorite books added to our home library in the past year is Jerusalem Jackson Greer's A Homemade Year. In it, Jerusalem brings the history and rhythms of the Church calendar to life with poignant essays and thoughtful handmade projects. I am over the moon to have her join us at the table today to share some powerful thoughts on Lent as well as a delightful project to stitch and carry through the season:
I didn’t grow up experiencing the season of Lent, and over the years my practice of these sacred days has been informed by what I have read in books, by conversations with those who were raised practicing this tradition, by the Scriptures that inspired the formation of this season, and what I have observed, up close and at a distance. To me Lent is always about the desert. It is about Christ choosing to walk into the desert, setting up camp there, and then choosing to deny each temptation that was brought to him. Lent is also about the Israelites. I think of them choosing to leave Egypt, how they marched into the desert by choice. It was not the picture of freedom and glory they had imagined; they didn’t expect forty years of eating manna and wandering in circles. These were not the images comforting them in those many years of captivity and not the dreams lulling them to sleep for eons of slavery. Even though they were in the desert for longer than they expected, God gave them the choice—the choice to adjust their attitudes, the choice to trust, to obey, to follow, to pitch their tents in the land of hope instead of the land of complaints and bitterness. (A Homemade Year)
This year for Lent, as I enter the desert, the wild wilderness of unknowing and relinquishment, and I am reflecting on the ancient spiritual practice of Stillness and it’s first cousin, Waiting. A portion of my reflection will be centered on practicing physical stillness, and another portion will be centered on internal stillness. Under normal circumstances, practicing Stillness and Waiting would be hard for someone as chronically overcommitted as me, someone who has been to known to use multiple electronic devices at once, someone who has a hard time not being productive at all times. But this particularly Lent, as I am entering a season of Stillness and Waiting there are big decisions ahead for my little family of four. Decisions that cannot be made quickly. Decisions that ironically will not be made until the week of Easter. And so, a new, deeper, admittedly more annoyingly relevant, component has been added to the mix. Which means these are exactly the practices I should be reflecting on, as once again, I will have to come to the end of myself before I can move forward. I am confident that practicing Stillness and Waiting will accomplish this with a raw fierceness that will undo me as only God’s great grace can do.
But in order for me to be able to truly embrace a new spiritual practice there must be a practical application - some sort of tactile expression - for me to work it out. Otherwise the practice just becomes a lovely theory that gets shoved into the drawer with all my other half-started projects. Practicing Stillness internally runs just this sort of risk. How does one even begin to put into practice such an ethereal concept? The answer for me can be found in my sewing basket. This Lenten season, I will be tackling handwork stitching projects that require intense attention to detail as I learn how to focus on one task instead of many, letting go of my tendencies to multi-task every inch of my life until I am stretched thin so thin that I fall apart. My stitching will be done for the sake of stitching and stillness alone. Not while I watch television, or sit through a meeting, or listen to an audio book. Because let’s be honest, that is not stillness. That is still multitasking.
My hope is that by entering into the position of Stillness in my physical, spiritual, and mental being, that I will be able to slough off those things that crowd out the moving of the Holy Spirit in my life, those things that stretch me so thin. Those things that create the constant, droning, low hum of static, separating me from hearing and seeing all that God and his beautiful creation have to teach me. This year during Lent, not only do I want to pitch my tent in the land of hope, but I want also want to settle there, in the posture of Stillness, opening my hands and heart to all that Christ has for me, one stitch at a time..
Lenten Sampler Tote
Since the fifteenth century, sewing samplers have been used as a way to record, teach, and learn. Initially developed as a way for someone to record “a sample” of an interesting stitch, samplers were refined over time, and in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries they were used to teach young women basic sewing techniques. Because of the attention required to sew a sampler, these domestic chores also served to teach young girls their numbers and the alphabet, as well as Bible verses, recipes, and other bits of household wisdom.
This Lenten Sampler follows that same purpose; it is a way to remember, to celebrate. This is one of those projects that may never be finished, or perhaps will take you several Lenten seasons to finish, as you create a visual and tactile record of the trials, the deserts, and the redemptive story of your own life. Here, you can record the joy, the tears, and the growth that have come as a result of those experiences.
For the Sampler
1 embroidery hoop
1 piece of soft fabric—a nice linen, heavy cotton, or a vintage piece such as I used (you will need approximately 2 yards of 36-inch wide fabric)
Embroidery thread in a variety of colors (I typically use DMC cotton 6-strand embroidery floss)
Embroidery or crewel needle
Variety of bits and pieces (buttons, charms, ribbon, and fabric)
Computer scanner or printer
Computer transfer paper for embroidery purposes
Template (click here)
Choose your base fabric. You will need approximately 2
Wash, dry, and iron your fabric.
Cut your fabric in half. Now you should have 2 individual 1-square-yard pieces.
Using your computer transfer paper, transfer the two Lenten templates onto your paper.
Then, following the directions on your transfer paper package, iron the two templates onto your fabric, centering one design in the middle of each square of fabric.
Now you are ready to embroider.
Choose your threads. I used a variety of cotton new and vintage embroidery floss in yellow, cherry red, aqua, and lime green for this project.
Next, follow the stitch guidelines as indicated on the pattern in the template.
For the Tote
My mother, my sister Jemimah, and my good friend Jeanetta are master seamstresses and helped me with every sewing project in this book. The one thing I have learned from them is this: when you are sewing, press, press, press. The iron, that is. The more you iron between steps, the better off you will be and the fewer mistakes you will have to rip out.
3 tea towels (my towels were 19 x 25½ inches)
Thread (the color of your tea towels and the color of the sampler)
Wash, dry, and iron tea towels. This will prevent shrinkage and puckering in the future.
For the handles, cut one towel in half, lengthwise, so that you end up with two long rectangular pieces.
Fold each rectangular piece over 3 times resulting in 4 equal layers lengthwise, and press.
Topstitch along all 4 sides ½-inch from edge of each rectangle.
These are your straps. Set straps aside.
Next, cut out your samplers, leaving a 2-inch edge around all sides of each sampler. Set aside.
Lay out the next towel and fold in half widthwise, then press the folded edge with an iron to create a crease.
Lay this towel down, with creased fold on the left.
Center (from right to left) one sampler to each side of this towel and press, making sure to leave more room above it than below (so we can fold the top over later).
Pin bottom and right side of tea towel together.
Turn inside out, press, and stitch together along bottom and open side ½-inch from edge
You have now made Bag A. Set aside.
Take your last tea towel and fold in half widthwise, wrong sides together.
Stitch along the bottom and open side (right) ½-inchfrom edge.
You have now made Bag B.
Turn Bag A right side out and insert Bag B into Bag A, pushing the the corners of B into the corners of A and making sure that the fold of Bag B rests against the sewn edge of Bag A and vice versa.
Stitch A and B together around the top pre-hemmed edges (these will not match up perfectly).
Fold down top of lined bag to a desirable cuff length and press.
To attach your straps, pin and topstitch each end of 1 strap to the folded cuff about 1 inch from the edge. Repeat for second strap.
"Juggling songs of praise with cries for help. Her words and works inspire.." - Publishers Weekly
Jerusalem Jackson Greer is a writer, speaker, retreat leader, former pastor, nest-fluffer, urban farm-gal, and author of A Homemade Year: The Blessings of Cooking, Crafting and Coming Together. Jerusalem lives with her husband and two sons in a 1940s cottage in Central Arkansas at the crossroads of beauty and mess with an ever-changing rotation of pets, including a hen house full of chickens and a Hungarian Sheep Dog mutt. As a family, they are attempting to live a slower version of modern life. She blogs about all of this and more at http://jerusalemgreer.com
Opening excerpt and project excerpted from A Homemade Year:The Blessings of Cooking, Crafting, and Coming Together by Jerusalem Jackson Greer
©2013 by Jerusalem Jackson Greer, images by Judea Jackson
Used by permission of Paraclete Press, www.paracletepress.com
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