Rhapsody in Blue

The liturgical color for Dormition is blue.  Can I talk about how much I just love the blue?

Our parish is always draped in a ton of fabric.  Fabric on the iconstasis.  Fabric under the icons.  Fabric everywhere.  It gives a depth and richness to the prayer space.  Whenever the liturgical season changes, it’s obvious through the abundance of the visual cues.  The priest’s vestments and the fabric everywhere right now are a soothing, powder blue.

I often turn to the Theotokos for her example of gentleness and tranquility.  Just to look at her face in icons brings a sense of peace.  A deep breath in and a cleansing exhalation of worry and trouble.  Blue is the perfect color for this time honoring her.

I’ve been busy crafting other things, so I didn’t have time to make a cloth for our icon corner table.  It’s not homemade, but I did find a tablecloth in the perfect, peaceful blue.

I’ve been experimenting with embroidery.  I developed a pattern for a Greek-style cross…in blue of course!

And on the flip side it has the colors in reverse:

I think I’m going to hang this in either the car or a window.  A nice remembrance of peace.

Joyfully, we’re able to go to church everyday during the Dormition Fast, since our parish is having Paraclesis services daily.  What a blessing it is to go to church every day!  It would be nice if we had that option all year.  You have to hand it to the Catholics…their example of daily Mass and Eucharistic Adoration is admirable.  Our Orthodox married priests couldn’t serve Liturgy everyday, so I would never expect that, but the option of Matins or Vespers or to just be able to leave the church open for the faithful to come and pray…that would indeed be nice.  A good reminder to appreciate the services that are available and an admonition to not blame lack of services for lack of prayer.  Reader’s services can be done at home any day!

The heat of summer is unrelenting lately, but today it is cloudy and a bit rainy.  The dim light and smell of the plants soaking up the rain further sets the mood for peace.  Everywhere today is a rhapsody in blue…a poem of peaceful, prayerful simplicity.  All I have to do is slow down and let the Theotokos lead the way.

“I beseech you, O Virgin, to dispel far from me

all of the distress of despair and turbulence in my soul;

for you, O Bride of God,

have given birth to the Lord Christ,

Who is the Prince of Peace, O you only All blameless One.”

Ode 3, The Service of the Small Paraclesis

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Go and Make Disciples Felt Board

We’re almost ready for our readings to begin, as we journey with the Apostles during this special time of prayer and fasting.

I designed the study to include a symbol for each day’s reading.  We will put each of those symbols on a display.  This will track our progress, serve as a visible reminder of each lesson, and count down to the conclusion of the Apostles’ Fast on the feast of Ss. Peter and Paul.

I decided to make a felt board to display our symbols.  I chuckle a bit at some of the pictures I took.  I get all crafty and inspired late at night for some reason, and while my creative juices were flowing, my photography left a lot to be desired!

I started with a piece of 1/4″ thick foam core mounting board that we had left over from other projects.  It measured about 20″ by 30″.  I cut a piece of felt that was several inches larger than the board on all sides, and then I laid the board in the center of the felt.

Next, I stapled the felt to the board.  I didn’t need a staple gun for this, since it’s just a thin material.  I used a regular desk stapler.  As you’ll learn from me, I’m not a perfectionist about the details that don’t show.  If you make this and want the back to look pretty…take more care than I did!  Also, you could just glue a piece of felt or fabric over the back at the end.

Then, it was time to add the water.  I put another piece of darker blue felt on top and cut the top edge to be in a gentle, rolling wave.  I stapled it to the back in the same manner as the first piece.

The boat came next.  I cut a boat shape out of brown felt free hand.  Now, see how the left side is a little wonky.  That’s O.K.  It will be covered up by the net.  People often get discouraged in crafting when something goes wrong.  Don’t be!  Just take the lead of the mistake and roll with it.

I cut some thin strips of a darker brown and applied them to the boat for contrast.  I used a thin layer of tacky glue for this part.  Don’t go overboard with the glue.  It will seep through the felt and show.

I crocheted a fishing net, but you could make one by tying bits of string or twine.  You could also use netting from produce bags or a nylon dishwashing scrubbie stretched out.  Crocheting the net is a simple pattern that would be good for a child just learning to crochet.

To crochet the net, use worsted weight cotton yarn and a fairly large hook (I,J or K).  Make a chain the desired length of the net.  Sc into the seventh chain from the hook.  Ch 4, skip 2 ch, sc in the next chain.  Repeat until the end of the row.  Ch 4 and turn.  Sc in next ch 4 space.  Ch 4, sc in next ch 4 space until the end of the row.  Continue in additional rows until the desired size is reached.

I cut out white felt in the shape of clouds.  Then, I printed out the text in a font that I liked and a size that fit the clouds.  I attached everything with tacky glue.  For the net, I put dots of glue in strategic places here and there around the edges and a few in the middle to hold it in place.

And there’s our felt board!  The symbols will come next.  They will be placed on these fish and added after each reading is completed.

I’m excited now!  Hilary is intrigued by the board and asking lots of questions about what on the earth the Apostles’ Fast is about.  She doesn’t remember it from years past.

Lord, prepare us to enter into this time of prayer and fasting.  May it be a time of learning and blessing for all!

Many Years

My baby is five.  Ouch!  Such a sting in the heart to say that!

I wanted to make something crafty for her birthday.  I had been admiring sewn banners like this one and this one that say “Happy Birthday!”.  A generous friend from church gave me a large collection of fabric scraps, and this seemed like a good way to use some of them.

The banner appealed to me, because I liked the idea of making something that could be used for every member of the family for years to come.  I also have hung far too much crepe paper in my time.  Something more lasting and that didn’t require fighting with tape while precariously standing on a chair sounded just my style.

It came to me, though, that I could take the banner a step further and include other special celebrations like namesdays.  To do so, I would need to change the wording to “God grant you many years”.  As Orthodox, we enjoy a chorus of “Happy Birthday” as much as anyone, but when we remember our loved ones on their birthdays and namesdays, that is not the song we turn to first.  Instead, we wish that God will grant the person many years.  Many years of health.  Many years of life.  Many years of drawing closer to God.  It’s not just about one happy day.  It’s about a lifetime of joy in Christ.

So, I made this banner that will hang in our home for every birthday, namesday, and other milestone that comes our way.  If you want to make one, I encourage you to look at the tutorials in the links above.

I am not a seamstress, so I made the simple and low maintenance version.  First, I cut out 6 inch squares of the fabrics.  Then, I sewed them all wrong sides together, so I wouldn’t have to deal with turning them.  I finished the edges with pinking shears.

I ironed Heat ‘n Bond to the fabric I wanted to use for the letters.  After that, I played around in Word until I found a font I liked.  This one is Bookman Old Style, 350 pt., bold.  My loving husband who actually enjoys mindless, precision jobs cut out all the paper letters and then used the pattern to cut the letters out from the fabric.  I peeled off the Heat ‘n Bond and made another pass with the iron, and the squares were done.

Lastly, I stitched the squares to 7/8″ bias tape.  Ta-da!  I admit that this was much more labor intensive than I originally thought it would be.  It was worth it, though.

We went to Chuck E. Cheese for Hilary’s birthday.  Definitely not my first choice, but when you tell a five year old she can pick anywhere she wants to go, be prepared!  I’m not a fan of the loud, bright, frenetic pace at those type of places, but it was a pleasure to watch her grin from ear to ear.

I just can’t believe she’s five.  This birthday hits hard, because as she leaves baby and toddlerhood, we are reminded that we will never see those times again.  As the youngest, all her developmental stages are bittersweet.  I remember when my firstborn, Lonna, was little, I actually encouraged her to do things like walk and talk.  With Hilary, I lamented the day she did so.  Partly because I knew then that when they walk, the next day they run!  Partly because it was the end of an era in our family.

How thankful I am to God for these times with my children.  Sometimes I’m tempted to wish we could just hurry a difficult age or time of transition along, but then I stop myself.  To parent with Christ is to soak up each day.  To be present in this moment with the God who is everywhere at all times in all places.  The tough times and challenging phases are not something to be borne, but rather to be embraced.  When I let go and enter into those moments, I find spiritual lessons that are not to be missed.  I wonder what God will show us next!

God grant you many years, Hilary!  Many years of health.  Many years of life.  Many years of drawing nearer to Christ in all you say and do.  Many years, my precious!  Many, many, many years!

Pentecost Home Altar Cloth

Our main icon corner is my favorite place in our home.  It has a prominent location in the middle of the main living area and serves as a calming anchor to our day.  In front of the icons is a drop leaf table that my dear Pap-Paw made for me when I was first out on my own.

At Pascha, I was drawn to put a white tablecloth on the table of our home altar.  We are not tablecloth people, so this tablecloth was the only one we owned.  It is normally reserved for when Father comes to do the home blessing at Theophany.  The cloth lit up the icon corner.  It gave a new richness and depth to the space.

I began to think that this is something I want to continue throughout the year.  We can change the color of the cloth with the seasons, following the pattern of the church.  I already change my candles with the colors, and the cloth brings even more to the beauty.  Now, the kids can see the color at church and again at home.  More of that wonderful tool of layering.

I just couldn’t find a ready-made tablecloth that I liked.  All the greens seemed too drab.  My parish uses a vibrant, bright green this time of year, and it glows against the honey-colored wood of the iconstasis and the icon stands.  I grew up completely unfamiliar with the concept of churches being draped in different colors.  In many Protestant churches I attended, you didn’t even have a cross on the wall, much less a rotating procession of white, green, blue, gold, purple, and red.  The first service I attended at an Orthodox church was on a June day, and I just loved the green.  I was so surprised when it changed for the next season!  Now, whenever Pentecost comes and we change to green, my heart glows with memories of those first new days in the Faith.  Drab green just won’t do.  We need bright!

A bit discouraged by the lack of tablecloths available in the stores, I started thinking about making my own.  I went exploring and discovered green place mats on clearance at Pier One.  Perfect!  The color is the exact brightness I wanted, and they have a swirly motif that mimics the rich brocades used in church.  I sewed five of the place mats together to make our home altar cloth.

For embellishment, I decided to crochet an edging and motif for the long sides that hang down the ends of the table.  I experimented with yarns of all types, but I just couldn’t get the desired texture.  I wanted it to have the texture of the ribbon on the priest’s vestments.  It came to me that the way to get it to look like ribbon was to actually crochet with…ribbon!  I used 1/8″ gold craft ribbon.  My craft store sells 10 yard spools 3/$1.00.  I think I used about eight spools.

The motif is #40 from Beyond the Square Crochet Motifs. The edging is just a standard shell.  Let’s see if I can remember…

I chained a length to fit the cloth and then did one row of single crochet.  Then, I did 1 sc in the first stitch.  Skip 1 stitch.  Five dc in the next stitch.  Skip 1 stitch.  Repeat.  The next row is ch 3 and dc five times in the third dc of the shell on the previous row.  Dc in next sc.  Repeat.  I did that for three rows to represent the Trinity.

I love the texture and look of our Pentecost home altar cloth.  It  completely fits in with my mission to fill our home with handmade treasures.  Now, time to think about what to do for blue at Dormition!