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Posts tagged ‘sewing’

Jane: Sewing Bee

On a recent rain-filled weekend weekend, we did something completely out of character: nothing. No agenda. Just bits and pieces of things, and lots of laziness. Well, mostly. Both of the kids adore their teachers, and since both of those teachers are expecting their first babies we thought homemade baby blankets would be the perfect end-of-the-year gift. We picked out fabric last week, including a cotton quilting fabric for one side and a fuzzy minkee for the other. We used this simple snuggly baby blanket tutorial. Both kids helped out, little Miss A with cutting, pinning, and sewing, and all-boy Z testing his leaping skills across the width of the blanket. I think he sewed with me for at least 45 seconds, too.

and the other one:

I love this simple pattern and wish I had discovered it seven years ago!

[Cross-posted from Cultivate: Within & Without]

Brittany: Early Work

The other day I was going through some old boxes, when I found these:

britttany

I have no idea how old I was when I made these, but it was probably during elementary school. I would guess second or third grade. During that time, my great-grandmother babysat me in the afternoons after school. She spent her afternoons sewing, and often I joined her. I always loved dollmaking, and Mama (pronounced mamaw) gave me full reign over her fabric scraps, yarns, buttons, etc.

Sometimes, I would make the doll pattern, cut out the fabric, and sew the doll together myself. Other times, she helped. I’m sure she embroidered the face on the pink doll, and probably helped me make her long-lost clothes as well. I’m pretty certain I made the sock Pickaninny on my own, probably inspired by the episodes of Our Gang I watched with my grandmother. I made dozens and dozens of dolls with my great-grandmother.  I can still hear her voice in my head right now. “Honey, you just use whatever… You do whatever you want.”

It was around this time that I started writing, too. I’ve enjoyed books my entire life, and in second grade it dawned on me that I could write books for myself. I remember cutting out pictures from a magazine, pasting them to construction paper, and then writing a simple story (having to do with Mary’s little lamb) to fit the pictures. In third grade, a reporter from the Asheville Citizen Times came to speak to my class about being a journalist and writing for a living. I thought to myself, “You can get paid for this stuff???” and remember knowing, with complete certainty, that writing was what I’d been born to do.

When I was eight or nine, it seemed like the grown-up thing to do to know my own mind. But now that I’m an adult, I marvel at my elementary-aged self, and my ability to zero in so early on two of the three creative pursuits that would bring me most joy.  (At eighteen, I discovered embroidery.)

I look at my boys in wonder as their interests begin to unravel. John is extremely tactile and loves to manipulate small objects. Sam loves nature–waterfalls, rain, trees, animals, insects. He loves trains. He loves music and dancing. He has plenty of time to discover his passion in life, but I try to encourage him whenever he finds a new love. I know how important a little encouragement was to me and how it has sustained me all my life. I hope I can do the same for my children.

Update: Crafty Mamas

Last week I posted that my friend Jane found sewing inspiration in a Mothering Magazine article on creative mothers. Bored with store-bought offerings, Jane and her daughter spent a rainy Sunday sewing this dress together — and Jane’s daughter hasn’t taken it off since.

jane1

jane2

Mommy time AND a new dress? That is one fashion-satisfied little girl, wouldn’t you say?

Mothering Magazine: Crafty Mamas

Thanks to my friend Jane for pointing out the cover article “Five Crafty Mamas” in the May-June 2009 issue of Mothering Magazine. The article was written by Jean Van’t Hul, featured on this blog in a previous Breakfast interview. In the article, Jean features five creative mothers you may already be familiar with:

Read more online, or pick up the magazine for hands-on enjoyment.

Jane, bored with the children’s clothing she finds in stores, was inspired to make a dress for her young daughter for the first time. Go, Jane!

3/25 Weekly creativity contest winner

“Spring equinox” seems like a fitting contest prompt, seeing as we’ll be taking a little hiatus from the weekly contest: change and renewal. Beautiful entries this week — enjoy!

Our winner is Rebecca Coll. Rebecca writes: “As soon as saw what the prompt was for this week, I knew exactly what I was going to do… a dos-à-dos binding. This is a particular bookbinding technique that binds two books together with a shared ‘back’ cover. The two books are therefore both individual and half of a greater whole, much the same as the equinox: equal night. Half night, half day. Following are photos of my equinox-inspired dos-à-dos journal. Two books, each with six signatures (sections) to represent the six months from equinox to equinox, bound together to make one year-long diary. Each signature has 32 pages, which is approximately one page per day (you have to have multiples of 4 when bookbinding, so I couldn’t get the math to work out perfectly). Both ‘books’ are bound in leather with bookcloth onlays and the spines sewn in a button-hole technique using both green and brown cord — for spring and fall. The vernal equinox book is in blue leather with a colorful graphic depicting spring. The autumnal equinox book is bound in black suede (leather glued on backwards with the ‘soft’ side showing). The cover of this book shows a tree having lost it’s leaves. Together with both books one can record a year’s worth of memories: equinox to equinox.” Wow, is all I can say, Rebecca! An absolutely brilliant interpretation of the prompt. Your $10 amazon.com gift certificate has been issued.

dos-a-dos

darkside

blueside

 

From Cathy Coley:

Spring Equinox

The camellias are a winter bloom,
usually December, but this year
they bloomed in March. The ground
didn’t freeze until then,
and one shot of snow
moved the blooms to the Equinox.
The two red bushes dominate
and make the white one blush
as daffodils struggle,
and crocus never awoke.

The season of waking,
My daughter begins to walk
while first blooms of burgeoning
mingle my teen son’s drawing away
and drawing toward
the streets and halls filled
with cucumber perfumed
tresses and new curves
unsweatered,
scent of new skin.
3192009spring-015

 

From Karen Winters: “Malibu Creek Afternoon Hike,” 12 x 16 oil on canvas. Karen writes:

“This new landscape oil painting celebrates the arrival of spring in the Santa Monica Mountains in Malibu Creek State Park, one of my favorite local inspirations. The hills will only stay this beautiful green color for a short while but it’s glorious while it lasts. Soon, the greens will dry to a golden brown, and the desert look will be revealed. I learned something interesting about Southern California’s desert nature while watching a show on geology a little while ago. Before the Sierra Nevada range formed due to compression of the North American and Pacific tectonic plates, California received abundant summer rainfall, just like the rest of what is now the United States. When the mountain range rose, this changed weather patterns and So. Cal became a desert. To get the rain back we’ll have to wait quite some time for the mountains to age. But since the plates continue to compress and mountains continue to rise, that’s not going to happen anytime soon. Perhaps one day we’ll have Californian Alps or Himalayan-size peaks. I won’t be around to paint them, but I can imagine that they’ll look wonderful in springtime.”

malibu-creek-painting-b

 

dsc05371From Jen Johnson: “As I was thinking about this week’s prompt, I found myself reflecting on hibernation, awaking to sunshine. This week I’m also in the thick of preparations for my son’s fourth birthday (his party is Saturday and his actual birthday is March 31st). My little boy loves all things serpentine — two of his most significant attachment objects are rubber snakes that he has named ‘Stuxey’ and ‘The Other Stuxey.’ I knew I wanted to make my son something special for his birthday, and so all these things combined to inspire this morning’s project: ‘Spring’ the snake. ‘Spring’ is made from fleece, which is a fairly new material for me; I find it is very forgiving and I’m enjoying working with it! dsc05370She is the second stuffy that I’ve made from my own pattern. The stripes were the most fun! I brought her outside to take advantage of the sunshine for the picture, and happily our overgrown oxalis provided a suitable backdrop. (Wouldn’t be spring out here without the oxalis explosion!) And for a more literary –- and literal — approach to this week’s prompt, you can check out my blog post on the Equinox itself: an old poem that I found in the files. It’s posted here.”

 

This weekly contest has been a real pleasure, everyone. Please keep those creative juices flowing, and don’t feel shy about sending your creative endeavors in for posting. We love random acts of creativity!

In case you missed any of the prompts we’ve had during the past 47 weeks, here’s the list, ordered from most recent to oldest:

1.    Spring equinox
2.    Map
3.    Dance
4.    Light
5.    Eyes
6.    Box
7.    Cookies
8.    Clock
9.    Hope
10.   Wool
11.    Snow
12.    Stars
13.    Noel
14.    Gift
15.    Waiting
16.    Fire
17.    Thanksgiving
18.    Silver
19.    Quilt
20.    Self-portrait
21.    Hands
22.    Dream
23.    Apples
24.    Tears
25.    Autumn
26.    The notebook
27.    Dinnertime
28.    The guitar
29.    My favorite shoes
30.    Sunflowers
31.    The wedding
32.    Chocolate
33.    Circles
34.    Vacation
35.    Beauty
36.    Chinese restaurant
37.    My mother’s house
38.    Independence Day
39.    Wings
40.    At 3:00 am
41.    Margaritas
42.    The crows
43.    The ocean
44.    The last time you kissed me
45.    Little black dress
46.    A cup of coffee
47.    View from the window


Breakfast with Nina

So glad that you stopped by for our latest Breakfast installment! And you’re going to be glad too: Meet Nina Johnson, clothing designer, blogger, and single mom of two. Nina’s commitment to her creative life — and her ability to make it happen — are a huge inspiration. So whip up a fruit smoothie and enjoy!

nj1CC: Please give us an intro to who you are, what you do, and your family headcount.
NJ:
Let’s see…some know me by NeoSewMama. My given name is Sha’Nina — although most everyone calls me Nina. I’m a 29-year-old funky, vegan, urban hippie, rockin’ a nose ring and a curly red ‘fro, who designs clothing, sings way too much, and spends most of my time making the lives of those around me lovely. I’m currently living in my hometown of Portland, Oregon, which just so happens to be the metropolis of everything funky, vegan, indie, and Earth conscious…therefore I fit right in!

nj2I am a single SAHM to two beautiful and full-of-life little people — Jade, 6, and Myles, 3. I also have a special guy in my life who we call Buckets, that I spend as much time with as his busy college football coaching job allows (long-distance relationships aren’t for the faint of heart).

My journey as a SAHM began when we learned shortly after birth that Jade had a rare condition called VACTERL Association. She spent 3 1/2 months in the NICU, had countless surgeries (open-heart, diaphragmatic hernia repair, TEF repair…just to name a few) and once home, required my around the clock TLC. nj3Although she has long-lasting medical issues, Jade has made remarkable strides from where she once was.

A few years ago (after becoming a single mom and having Myles), I began providing in-home daycare so that I could bring in some extra income and remain at home with my children. About 10 months ago I realized that the long hours and stress was putting too much of a strain on our little family, so I quit and decided to pursue my clothing designing on a more full-time basis.

CC: Tell us about your creative work and what’s on the offing in your Etsy shop.
NJ:
Although my true love creatively is clothing construction, baking and crafting with my children come in a close second and third.nj4 I can and will make just about anything. Lately I have been focusing a lot of time on learning (and mastering) dyeing, printmaking, crocheting, knitting, and weaving. I used to think it was bad that I was so all over the place with my creative interests. I now know that it’s great because it expands the possibilities of what I can create.

My goal is to incorporate all of these various mediums into my clothing creations as embellishments. My dream is to build a complete line of clothing and accessories and to successfully maintain a boutique of my own. Right now, my etsy shop consists of a few hand-dyed items and a handful of my favorite vintage finds. Over the next month or so I plan to introduce many new designs…mostly one-of-a-kind pieces for spring and summer.

nj5CC: What prompted you to start a blog? What keeps you going?
NJ:
I originally decided to start a blog as a project of sorts with my best friend and sister, Ki. We are inseparable (even though we live thousands of miles away and didn’t grow up with each other) and are ALWAYS finding things that we can do together. We thought blogging would be a good way to document all the things happening in our lives and provide a visual scrapbook not only for the two of us to share, but also something that we could show our children someday. Gradually it grew into much more than that as I found it becoming a part of me…my voice. As a single, stay-at-home mom with very little family and few friends, I spend all of my time with my children. There is only so much that I can share with them…meaning there is not a lot of deep, intellectual conversation being had here. So a lot of my thoughts and ideas where being stifled. I have found that blogging is just a new form of the journaling that I have used as an outlet throughout my life. I’ve also met so many wonderful people blogging. I feel blessed to have made many lifelong connections through the blogging community.

CC: Do you find that your blog keeps you “honest” creatively? Meaning that you have a place to state your intentions — and that you need to keep producing work in order to have something creative to blog about?
NJ:
I do believe that it keeps me honest creatively…just not necessarily so that I have something to blog about. I mean I do believe that mentioning my works in progress helps keep me motivated somewhat. I’m a firm believer in the idea that we speak things into being. So once I state it there…and can visually see it, I am much more determined to see it completed. As much as I am blogging to share my creations with others, I am also doing it to encourage myself.

nj6CC: Where do you do your creative work?
NJ:
I do most of my creating in our living room/dining room. I began working in a small space I set up so that I could work while watching the kids play. My work has now spilled over to the dining room table (it has a larger cutting surface area). I have also created a dye “studio” in my basement in which I spend quite a bit of time as well. I want to move my work elsewhere so I can feel better about leaving things messy, but that will have to wait…more than likely until we move into a bigger place.

nj7CC: Do you have a schedule for your creative work?
NJ:
I have a schedule. I even went as far as setting alarms into my BlackBerry to stay on track. It worked for a while but as of late we have had a lot of distractions and illnesses that have really curtailed things on the creative end. Since I’m at my best in the morning, I try and spend the first two hours back home after dropping Jade off at school blogging, e-mailing, picture taking, packaging, fabric cutting and/or sewing. From noon til 8:30 it’s pretty much mommy duty. After the kids are in bed I try to fit in as much sewing and dyeing as I can before I pass out (which lately has been well before 10 p.m.).

nj10CC: How has motherhood changed you creatively?
NJ:
My journey through motherhood has pushed me to pursue my creative endeavors with much more passion. I was originally planning to go to college for fashion design right after high school. But for whatever reason I thought it was impractical, so I put my interest in clothing design aside and focused on becoming a teacher instead. I packed away my sewing machine and let it sit collecting dust. After many, many years of always putting everyone else’s needs first and going out of my way to make sure everyone else was happy, I made the choice that it was time to do something for me. I rediscovered my first love…sewing.

nj9CC: What do you struggle with most?
NJ: My biggest challenges are time management and staying productive. There is hardly enough time in the day to do all the things that I need to do, even less to do all that I should do and NEVER enough to do all that I want to do. I have tried many tactics — some that have worked better than others (lists and prioritizing), but it continues to be a struggle. I want so badly to be able to become more productive as far as my shop is concerned. I have very small blocks of time to work within, so a dress that I should be able to finish in day usually takes me days (sometime a week) to complete. I know there is a solution…I just haven’t discovered it yet.

nj11CC: Where do you find inspiration?
NJ:
I find inspiration everywhere…literally. Playing outside with kids. The colors in ads or product packaging, old movies, African and Japanese culture, magazines, people on the street, blogs, the way my daughter puts her clothing together, vintage fabric, my imagination…the list goes on. I sketch out ideas as I get them…sometimes in my sketchbook other times on napkins, receipts, bills, or on whatever I have near me at the moment.

CC: What are your top 5 favorite blogs?
NJ:
Just five? Hmmmm…this is hard. I’ll have to do the first five that come to mind…

  1. Quejimenez — my sis
  2. Fly
  3. Heart Handmade
  4. Jubella
  5. Puhti

nj12CC: What is your greatest indulgence?
NJ:
Indulgences…another hard question. It used to be fabric and magazines but I have cut both my fabric and magazine buying drastically in the last year or so. I’d have to say that drinking tea or coffee in the morning before the kids wake up…and again at night after “cuddle time” is over is something I like doing just for me. The occasional pint of Ciao Bella Blood Orange Sorbet or a movie via Netflix (when I can stay awake) is always a lovely treat. With all that said, my most favorite thing — hands down — is spending time being silly with my children. Our singing/dance parties are much more lively than any nightclub could ever be.

CC: What are you reading right now?
NJ:
I’m always reading something. There are stacks of books all over my house to prove it. Never been much of a novel person. I was always that kid reading biographies and home improvement/how-to manuals…which is probably why I can figure out how to make just about anything. The books I’m currently dragging from room to room are: Donald Trump’s Think Big and Kick Buttocks (I don’t use the real word), The Unschooling Handbook, The God of Small Things, Ralph S. Mouse (with the kids), Fast Knits Fat Needles and a constant source of reference is Eckhart Tolle’s A New Earth.

nj13CC: What advice would you offer to other mothers struggling to find the time and means to be more creative?
NJ:
I know it sounds like the obvious, but be creative when and wherever you can be. As a single mama with very little help, I’m almost never alone. If I waited for free time to create it would never happen. I find things to do that are portable and take them with me to Jade’s doctor’s visits, to the park or anywhere else we go. It may take me a bit longer to finish things, but at least I’m continually creative.

Although creating for self is great, I believe making time to create on a daily basis with your children is just as important. Teaching kids to be creative at an early age helps open them up to self-discovery and gives them methods in which to express themselves. It puts the power to dream in their fingertips.

nj8It’s never too late to learn a new craft or skill. I’ve always wanted to learn to crochet or knit but could never quite get the hang of it. I had come to the conclusion that maybe it just wasn’t for me. But after Jade learned to knit from a kit she got last Christmas, I was determined to pick up a pair of needles myself. I’m happy to report that since then I have not only taught myself to knit, but I have also figured out crocheting and we have made a weaving loom as well. I guess I’m trying to master all the fiber arts.

Last but not least, NEVER let anything or anyone keep you from expressing yourself creatively. There have been many setbacks and detours in my life that at times had me questioning whether or not I should pursue my creative endeavors. But to suppress that desire would be to deny all that is within me. And what good are you to anyone — yourself, your family, or society — if you aren’t your authentic self? I have known from a very young age who I was meant to be and what I wanted to do with my life. I am not settling for anything less than living this dream. Don’t stop until you have become the you that you see in your dreams!

CC: Love, love your advice and perspective, Nina. Thank you so much!

Brittany: A New Focus

Once upon a time I made dolls. It started when I was little, maybe even before elementary school. My great-grandmother, a seamstress, often babysat me and her house was a treasure trove of fabric scraps, spare yarn, and mismatched buttons. One day I asked her if I could make a doll. She showed me how to make a pattern, supervised as I hand-sewed the body, and basically left to my disposal her arsenal of craft supplies.

I made dozens of dolls after that. Long before I was able to write, I used dollmaking as a kinetic activity to tap into my creativity. As I got older, writing supplanted dollmaking as creative hobby #1, but I still made dolls whenever I needed a jumpstart. I have made a number of different types of dolls over the years, but my favorites are made of cloth, with faces sculpted with the needle. I was working on my face-sculpting technique when life intervened. I graduated from college, found a job, had two boys who cared little for needlecraft and even less for dolls, and before I knew it, it had been years since I’d attempted a new project. I kept saying I wanted to make dolls again, but always put it off.  There were only so many hours in the day and if I was going to indulge in a hobby, writing always won out.

But lately, I haven’t had much interest in writing. The final push to finish my novel, combined with my months-long recovery from whooping cough and pneumonia have left me stripped and bare and uninspired. John is also becoming more curious and isn’t happy to sit idly by anymore while I type page after page. I’ve been through this before with Sam, but this time, instead of trying to fight it, I just put the writing aside. It’s no longer an all-consuming fire for me. I’m still writing, never fear, but only in a piddling manner, writing in fits and starts, and only when the mood strikes me.  My life is chaotic right now, and to force yet another to-do on myself would be counter-productive.

Which brings me to Saturday…

It was Valentine’s, and aside from the usual card exchange with Tom, was an ordinary day in every regard. We got up early to take Sam to his gym class, ran a few errands before lunchtime, came home, put the boys down for naps, Tom got to work finishing the last of the tile in the powder room and entryway, I went to my novelist’s critique group. It was a good time, we all laughed, I got excellent feedback, drove home. And yet I found myself totally overwhelmed with angst. There was no reason for it, but nonetheless, it was there — this undeniable feeling of anxiety and dread.

In the meantime, my brother-in-law got engaged, and posted the news on Facebook for all to see. I got online as soon as I got home, hoping I would be comforted by the familiarity of my laptop, and saw his change in status. I couldn’t be happier for them. But I also felt like it was about time he proposed to her.

An image popped into my head of Cupid, wearing oversized boxing gloves, hitting slowpoke boyfriends upside the head on Valentine’s Day. My fingers began itching to sew him. I went upstairs and found the perfect fabrics in my long-neglected stash of craft supplies. I got to work on him right away, and slowly the anxiety began to fade.

He was a quick project as far as dolls go. I finished him Sunday afternoon. Unlike a novel, where train of thought matters, I could pick him up and put him down as needed. Sam sat beside me while I sewed, entranced with his train videos, and I was able to escape a bit more deeply into my sewing than I ever could have with my writing. I’ve needed that — the ability to shut out the rest of the world like that — and having that time in my own head was just what I needed to shrug off the funk I was in.

Since then, I have felt a bit of my spirit revive. I am a little bit happier now that I have reclaimed a bit of my former self. My writing life is still on the horizon, but for now, my new focus is on the dolls.

[Editor’s note: Brittany’s cupid doll won this week’s creativity contest!]

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