Diana Nesbitt

Always Go Deeper

Tag: dresses

The Frances Project: A Legacy of Service

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On July 23, 2014, one of the strongest, spunkiest women to ever grace the planet was gathered home to her Savior’s bosom. Frances Catherine Fisher, my grandmother, was a member of the greatest generation. She survived the influenza epidemic of 1918, two world wars, the Great Depression, the early death of her true love, and the uncountable ups and downs of 5 children and 99 years of life. Although she only completed school through the eighth grade, she was not lacking in intelligence or talent, and creativity, practicality, and hard work were a few of the characteristics that marked her life. She was self-taught on the mandolin and played alto completely by ear in a Ukrainian orchestra in school. Thanks to her Ukrainian heritage, she was bilingual and retained her ability to speak fluent Ukrainian all of her life.  She worked in restaurants and a drug rehabilitation center as a cook, and in her free time she embroidered pictures that looked like they were painted with thread.

And she served people.

The Servant’s Servant

I learned something new about my grandmother as I listened to different people -mostly her children- speak at the memorial service held at her longtime church in New York. I had never really heard much about her church life, how faithful and involved she was in her church family, nor of all the ways she had helped people. I listened as my aunt told of being a pastor’s wife and how Grandma helped her prepare meals when guests came for dinner, and how she cut out flannel graph figures for Sunday school lessons- something she also did for my own mother. I’ve heard from my mom how before coming to visit Grandma would say “Save your mending, it’ll give me something to do while I’m there.” As I listened to all these ways she helped people, I came up with a title for my grandmother: a facilitator of other people’s service. Her ministry was to help other people minister. To put it yet another way, she was a servant’s servant. I can’t think of a more Christlike way to live.
Grandma lived, worked hard for her family, and died. The world at large would not hail her life a stunning success, but I know Someone who would. Someone who defines success, not as achievements and accolades, but giving your life for the benefit of others.
That’s exactly what Grandma did. And she’s still doing it. Grandma was never wealthy, but what she had she was always sharing with others, always sending checks in the mail with a card (usually with a funny face scrawled in it somewhere), to her children and grandchildren at birthdays and Christmas. Somehow, through her hard work and serious thrift, she still saved enough to give something more to her children after she went home to heaven-as if they could want anything more than the treasure of a life with her.

The Frances Project

With a portion of what she received from Grandma, my mom bought a sewing machine – a larger one than she had so that she would be able to machine quilt on it. She prayed hard and researched her decision, and finally settled on one. Not too long after her purchase, I saw an article on Facebook about a 99 year old woman who makes a dress every single day for little girls in Africa. I shared the article and tagged my mom in it, saying “Here’s something you can do when you’re 90!” Mom looked at it and said “Forget 90! I can do it now!” And so was born the Frances Project.

Mom began sewing, using fabric from cotton tablecloths that we had long ago stopped using. The first dress was simply darling – blue and white gingham with little flutter sleeves. DSC09263DSC07190 DSC07193 DSC07199

The Puzzle Only God Could Piece

Meanwhile, a coworker of mine was going through racks and racks of clothing that her mother no longer wore and was trying to find useful homes for it all. Knowing that I sew, she offered me some clothing in case I could make anything out of it. I didn’t think that I’d be able to make anything for myself from the garments, but I thought it might be just perfect for what Mom was doing. I mentioned it to my coworker and she was delighted at the thought of her mom’s clothing being used in that way. She brought a large bag of the clothing to work and I took it home with me, and Mom started sewing. The first dress she made was from a denim jacket. The pattern fit just perfectly on the jacket, allowing small pockets and embroidered leaves to be perfectly placed on the front of the dress. The end result was adorable, and after my mom finished it she brought it to work to show my coworker. She was so pleased and touched with the way it came out, and asked to show it to her father, whom she said just loves to help little children in need.

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It was the perfect situation for both parties- my mom had fabric to use for her little dresses and shorts, and my coworker had a good use for her mother’s clothing. It was a puzzle whose pieces only God could have put together. Grandma, my mom, my coworker, and her parents – all pieces in the God-ordained puzzle, blessed to be able to share in the gift of giving to others.

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The puzzle isn’t quite complete yet, though. These dresses and shorts still need to find the little children who need them. We’re not exactly sure where they are going to go just yet, but we have a few ideas. If you have any suggestions for where we could send them, feel free to share in the comments!

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If you have a desire to serve the Lord by helping those in need, ask Him to show you what your part is in that. There’s a piece of His puzzle that needs to be filled by you! If you are interested in doing something similar to this, check out this website for patterns and guidelines.These clothing items and other small items could also be made for Operation Christmas Child.

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What you can do: we would so love it if you would join us in praying that these dresses and shorts will make their way to just the children who need them, and that they will be a tool for letting the children know how much Jesus loves them and cares about them.

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As my grandmother’s life so aptly shows, service doesn’t need to be flashy to be effective. It only needs to be done out of love.

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“This is My command: love one another as I have loved you.” John 15:12

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The Creative Urge

I close my eyes and try to pray, but the images of dresses dancing before my mind’s eye refuse to be subdued. Trying to focus, I close my eyes again, but the skirt of a ball gown swirls in my vision, as clearly as if I were watching it on a Technicolor film. The fleeting image begs to be remembered, and I reach for a notebook and pencil, hoping that if I sketch it, I’ll be able to concentrate and not worry about forgetting this rare inspiration. Soon a rough image of what appeared in my mind takes form on the paper  – a full, floor-length skirt, off-white, peeks out below deep v’s of lacy color – what color I am uncertain – something dark; plum maybe? – that fade gradually away into shimmering specks on the filmy off-white underskirt. The top of the dress is unseen by my mind’s eye, but quickly takes shape  on the paper as a mirror image of the skirt – two v’s of the colored lace pointing upwards, fading to sparkling dots on sheer fabric, with a high rounded neckline and bracelet length sleeves.

Two more dream gowns make their way into my notebook before I can focus enough to pull something out of my regretfully unfocused prayer time, but the feeling of jittery excitement remains with me – the pent-up feeling beneath my breastbone, the tensed stomach muscles, my whole being strung like a violin string, waiting to be released in a creative endeavor. I yearn for the chance to sit at my sewing machine or at the piano, or to hold a pencil in my hand and draw, or to crochet, or design a room, anything that involves color and creation or music. It’s the urge to create.

For me, like many other people, creativity is therapeutic. When I guide fabric through my sewing machine, press my fingers to the keys of the piano, or watch a picture form and change beneath the point of my pencil, I thrill at the creative process, and there is a sense of belonging and a kind of satisfaction – but always with that longing for more, an imperfect enjoyment, because complete satisfaction will only be found in that sweet moment when I am in Heaven with my Savior.

Why this deep-seated need to create? I think of not just myself, but all the other people who have this need and have it much more strongly than I. The answer is not hard to find. We were created by God, in His image. The creative urge is something God-given; it is a glimmer of His attribute as Creator that He has tucked inside of us. He is the Master Craftsman, and anything that we humans can attempt compared to the incredible artistry of His handiwork is like a child’s crayon drawing compared to the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. But just as a mother delights in her child’s crayon drawing more than if the Sistine Chapel were handed to her, so our Creator-God delights in our creative attempts, if we use them properly (and don’t get distracted from spending time with Him in pursuit of them 🙂 ) – to bring Him glory.

The Easter Outfit Quest

Making a new outfit for Easter has been a tradition for me ever since I was little. My mom would make a beautiful, frilly dress (that poofed when I twirled, of course), often from a Daisy Kingdom pattern, like the ones below (the pictures don’t do them justice, but you get the idea of the poofy skirts and puffed sleeves 😉 ) :

Once I began sewing for myself the Easter dress tradition continued, with only a couple of years where I wasn’t able to make a new outfit for myself. I’ve been looking at some Threads magazine back issues that I got for Christmas, and they’ve been inspiring me to get a little more adventurous and try adding some design variations to the garments I want to sew. I began thinking about an Easter outfit. My initial thought was to make something that would be a little warmer than a summery dress- maybe with 3/4 sleeves. Then I considered my sizable wardrobe of dresses and decided that a suit instead of dress would be a good idea. I made a black blouse earlier this winter and it completed a three piece outfit (skirt, vest, blouse) that I was finally able to wear, and it was fun to have a put-together outfit that isn’t a dress. Now, don’t get me wrong here: I LOVE LOVE LOVE dresses. I have ever since I was little – I used to wear dresses all the time when I was a tot and I still love them. I usually prefer making them to skirts and blouses anyway because it’s less work and you have a complete outfit. However, I do like the look of jackets and skirts, and I have been feeling like branching out in my sewing lately. Thus, my intentions are to make an Easter suit for myself.

BUT…..what shall this Easter suit look like? I have been envisioning different things in my mind, trying to come up with a little design variation from one of my Threads magazines that I might be able to add in without getting in too far over my head. I was thinking something with a straight-ish skirt and adding a godet variation in the back instead of a slit, and a feminine, vintage-feeling jacket, tailored with either 3/4 or short sleeves (Easter is not always very warm in New England!). I was thinking of something in a light plum purple or lavender – or maybe one with accents of the other. This morning I went on the Simplicity website to hunt for a suit pattern since none of the ones I have are what I’ve been picturing (which is quite sinful, since I have a plethora of sewing patterns. But I continue to buy them unashamedly when they go on sale, because you never know what the styles are going to do in the future). Long story shorter, I found these two patterns (one of which was haunting my memory, influencing my thoughts) on Simplicity. They are Threads patterns so they already have delicious details built in, and if I were to attempt to add something in I think it would be on the skirt. Here are the two patterns:

  

I love the silhouettes of both patterns – the cute springy skirt of the top one (I’ll call it the “pink pattern”) the straighter skirt of the bottom (the “blue pattern”). They fit with the individual styles of the jackets so well. I love the pleats on the front of the blue pattern (and there are pleats on the back of the jacket as well, which was one thing I was envisioning- some kind of back detail) and the shape of the collar, but I also love the rounded short sleeves of the pink pattern and the shawl-type collar, as well as the seams that add definition at the waist (you can’t see them in the front picture but you can see them in the line drawings below) 

I’m not sure which one I’ll do yet (or which one I’ll start with 😉 ) but I thought it would be fun to document the process of coming up with an Easter outfit this year. I feel like I’m leaning towards the pink pattern, but I do love the other one too. My next step is to find out when the patterns are on sale at Joann’s and see what I find for fabric. I want to give myself plenty of time to get this done. I might base my decision on what I can find for fabric and buttons to go with either pattern. Orr, maybe I’ll just start looking at vintage patterns on eBay and see what I fall in love with on there. 😀 Any thoughts? I’d love to hear them!

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