Monday, 9 March 2015

Red Sky at Night - Peace and Plenty

This week my car broke down. And my washing machine died. If you're a mum, you'll understand which is more devastating. Last weekend, I sat and sewed with a friend whose life hasn't taken the normal path of marriage and a family. I had coffee with a mother of three children in wheelchairs, talking about her longing for a custom built house. And this week I've written probably 200 emails to people who have asked for my address so they can send a flower to Rachel and her family. I've wondered many, many times, what I can say about the block "Peace and Plenty"?

The other night I had a dream that I put my kids in school. I homeschool my 6 year old, and my four year old will be school aged next year. In my dream, I breathed this great sigh of relief and sewed and sewed and sewed. (The baby must have been asleep or something!) I often think, if I could have a whole day to sew, I would catch up on this crazy list, and have a clean slate. I'd be at peace. And then I get a whole day, and I think, "If I could just have a weekend..." But I've had those before too. I've had three days a week in a shop in town before...

The phrase "Peace and Plenty", as far as I can gather, was first used by the Scottish Clan of Cavanaugh in the 12th century as their motto. It's been used since to name artworks, plays, pubs, and books about financial success in middle age.

The phrase, long used as a kind of ideal or blessing, was first given as the name for this block by designers at Farm Journal, the predecessor for The Farmers Wife publication in the early 1900s. And I especially love this block made into a whole quilt. The way the large and small triangles play with each other is much more interesting, a bit more messy, that an ordinary half-square-triangle, or pinwheel quilt. 

The little bit of trivia that has stuck with me this week about the term "Peace and Plenty" is a quote from Shakespeare's play Cymbeline, and this week especially, it seems to fit more with my experience of life. 

Trust Shakespeare to play with the words, to twist it. But I still like it, don't you? I have such a strong idea of what Peace and Plenty would look like in my life. But even when I get it, it doesn't evoke gratitude or courage. It's challenged me this week to keep saying the phrase, "Right now..." 
"Right now, I get to sew. Right now, my children are happy. Right now, 200 women around the world are stitching flowers for a grieving, desperately hoping mother." 
There's a big part of me that still wishes I could step into an alternate universe where machine's don't break and children aren't born with disabilities. But wiling away my time daydreaming about that seems cowardly compared to facing up to this universe with hope in the moment.


For the next two weeks, we're going to sew three blocks, made completely of 3.5" half square triangles. It gives us a chance to get ahead a little, so we can complete the blocks by the end of the year. I also think it's fun seeing the myriad of ways triangles can create different designs. So start cutting/pressing/trimming those triangles! If you want, you can triple this week's cutting instructions and use the leftovers for next week.

You will need:

Red: Eight 4" squares cut in half to make triangles.

White: Eight 4"  squares cut in half to make triangles.

1. Sew all your red triangles to your white triangles and trim to 3.5"

2. I'll show you the layout in steps through pictures. First the border:

 3. Then lay out a pinwheel in the middle.

4. Next, we're going to chain piece. (sew all the squares together in one sitting.) If that worries you, feel free to sew pair by pair, or rows at a time.
Lay your first square from your second column over your first square. Work like this down the two rows.

5. Now, keeping note of white side your seams are on (the right hand side - I always do this bit with my left hand so that the seam is facing out), put your first pile on the one below, all the way down, and then on top of the next row of squares.

 6. Place the pile next to you at the machine and sew them together, on pair after the other.

7. Snip the blocks apart, press the seams open and lay out again.

7. Sew together in squares, press and sew those squares together. Press and sew the final seam.

I don't own my own home, have superanuation, or even a quiet three hours to write this blog post. (Finlay's pulled herself up to my chair and is screeching at me as I write.) But I'm learning that Peace and Plenty come with gratitude, not the other way around. 

Jodi. xx


  1. I love reading these posts regarding the history of the blocks and such. Thank you and I'm sorry things are rough right now

  2. peace and plenty sounds to me like it is all about contentment. 'I have learned to be content.... in all circumstances' - and it is most often through the trials and the pain that this learning happens. As we learn to give thanks to the one who carries us through it all. Prayers for you, and for Rachel, for strength and courage to look beyond the moment and to cling to the certain hope we have xx

  3. Thank you so much for writing this beautiful post amidst the chaos and everything that you are doing.

  4. Loving this series of blocks! Thanks so much for taking the time to make the tutorials and hoping you find some contentment.

  5. I know that you live in a religious community and that Rachel is also religious. I wonder how you reconcile this with your belief in religion.
    Also, the flowers for Rachel is a lovely idea--but I wonder if cold, hard cash wouldn't also be a help. I know it's crude to talk of $--but it may be practical. Rachel's story is heartbreaking and shows the randomness of tragedy-- underserved.

    1. Thanks for your questions Sandra! I agree it seems completely meaningless.

      There is an auction happening on Instagram @auctionforeleni which came up before my quilt, so I felt comfortable making a quilt for them, knowing that practical needs were hopefully being met (or at least starting to). If you would like to donate money, I'm happy to chase up that avenue for you if you're not on Instagram.

      For your question about faith, I don't have it completely reconciled, but I'm not sure what religion (or non religious belief) does. I would never ever claim that 'things happen for a reason' or 'God has a plan'. I don't know how things work on that side of things. Although I know my friend with triplets with muscular dystrophy says that her suffering has little meaning unless God chose her for it, and she can rely on him to do her job well, and trust that he's using it for good. For me it's not that clear cut and I wrestle with it still.
      But here's what I believe:
      We suffer because of things people have chosen (for ill, or just because we are weak and make mistakes/are impatient..) or because we are frail and prone to injury and imperfections. But God hasn't even shielded himself from suffering, by becoming one of us, dying on the cross, and that he enters into our pain with us, rather than standing afar (even though sometimes, that's how it must feel.) And I believe this life isn't the only one. That the next one is eternal and we'll be complete.

      Jodi. xx

    2. What if life isn't about peace or plenty? What if it's not about comfortableness or even contentment? What if life is just about love? What if learning to love fully and deeply is more important than any hardship we could imagine? Then we might see our suffering differently.

      Just a snippet of my current journey. X

  6. Also, please send me your address. I have hexies.

  7. pray things get better , love your block

  8. Hate when everything breaks down at once. Our dishwasher has died, so my kids are now washing and drying dishes each night, just like I used too as a child. Glad you found some time to do a little sewing for you.

  9. I'm in the middle of working on a couple of projects but I've started following you on instagram to remind me that I want to start making blocks and hopefully I'll be able to catch up on blocks towards the end of the month.

  10. Terrific heartfelt post - thank you! I love how the blogging community has gathered around Rachel with love and support. Peace and Plenty. Oh yes, contentment. In all circumstances.


I so love your comments! I read all of them and reply when I can. If you don't hear back, I'm lost under a mound of scraps or outside jumping on the trampoline with the kids. Jodi. xx