Archive of ‘gift’ category

love stories in minnesota

we just got back from a visit with my family in Minnesota for a week.  it wasn’t exactly spontaneous as we knew we were going to go there at some point this spring or summer.

duluth boysthe timing for our visit got a little bit more urgent a few weeks ago, though, when a doctor delivered some difficult news.  my wonderful, funny, supportive grandmother (who is  91 and whip-smart) is in danger of some serious heart complications.  it made me really want to sit and be with her.  so, off we went.

my grandmother is not like anyone else I know.  she is serious when she needs to be but has a great sense of fun, too.  one of my fondest childhood memories is of watching her dance the chicken while wearing a pair of those fake eyeglasses with a big nose.  she grew up the oldest of five and has always worked hard and worked with her hands.  her mother, my great-grandmother, was a seamstress for the Pendleton wool company and my grandmother insists her mother is the magic seamstress behind the Pendleton Turnabout: the reversible wool skirt.  I have no doubt this is true.  especially given my grandmother’s own immense sewing talent, making jackets and wool dresses for her whole family for years.

me and irene

when she moved from her house to an apartment recently, she handed down loads of Pendleton wool and other fabric to me.  I most definitely get my desire to make things by hand from her. she is definitely my biggest (in quantity of support not physical stature obviously) and loudest cheerleader for all my sewing endeavors.

she doesn’t sew much these days but that is just about the only thing she doesn’t do.  she is so full of life and wit and love.  one evening, over her modest brandy and 7, after watching my sister struggle to unscrew a wine cork, she quipped “you just don’t know how to screw, do you?” in her gentle, mischievous, angel voice.  the woman is 91! (sorry grandma, I had to share…it was too good!)  she’s funnier than most and more loving and beautiful, too.  and, hasn’t slowed down one bit.  it did my heart much good to see her.  I’m really hoping that I will grow up to be a 91 year old just like her.

we saw the whole family while we were there…grandparents, aunt, uncle, second cousins and visited one really important place, Lake Superior.

the boys and the lake

something about this lake and this beach.  for me, lake superior brings an immediate peace.  it’s true that Minnesota is chock full of lakes but this one is so majestic and yet welcoming.  too many of my younger days (years?) were spent in front of this lake trying to fruitlessly figure out the details of the future.  gotta love those angst-y teen years, huh?   these days nothing is better than watching my boys fall in love with this lake. I like knowing they know it.  if you have never visited the beach at Park Point in Duluth, MN you should do that.  and soon…possibly right now.

me in the canal

being with family also gave me a chance to pass on some belated Mother’s day/birthday gifts.  I’ve been playing around with a new bag pattern and made a bag for both my mother and my grandmother in some new fabrics.

for my grandmother I used oilcloth in an amy butler pattern.  on the front good-sized pockets I added a strip of bias tape and the handles are made using d-rings.  paired with a matching little wallet (just like these) I’m hoping she can use it for little shopping trips.

grandmas shopper

the base of the bag is made with a kind of oval shape that gives the bag a bit of structure.

for my mother, I used a thick wool I got at a yard sale and added medium weight interfacing and made the same bag.  using fabric scraps I made her a little wallet, too.

wool shopperfor the bag lining I used some liberty of london fabric that I scored in the sew mama sew sale.  this is the very first time I have cut into liberty of london.  it is just like everyone says…butter soft, easy to work with…it’s basically a dream.  it was hard to cut it but I’m glad I did.  there is not point in just having fabric, it exists to be used!!

peek! there is liberty inside.mmm…so pretty.

there is more to report from our little sojourn to the midwest but I’m saving that for later.  best to keep it to one big emotional story per post, don’t you think?

little linen wallets

on a whim, during a recent trip to the always-inspiring rock paper scissors I picked up the cutest pattern for a little wallet.  it’s from valori wells and the whole pattern fits on a little card called a ‘sewing card‘.  it’s a clever design and a simple project and it has completely sucked me in.  I had no real plans for making little wallets but now I can’t stop. 
detail snap on linen walletthese are the first three I made and, trust me, I have made more…I just don’t have pictures of them yet.  these three are made with the lovely hand-printed linen I received in the handprinted fabric swap at maze and vale.  these are made with fabric scraps that lamina from do a bit sent along WITH her fat quarter of handprinted fabric.  the prints are so beautiful and have a lovely quiet but lively style.   the best part is I still have an entire fat quarter of her amazing fabric left to work with!  lucky me.

wallet ducks in a row

while making these I was truly contemplating different ways to become a millionaire so that I could work exclusively with lamina’s prints.  her style is bang on…organic prints with a geometric leaning in a stunning repeat.  her color choices pop out at you but not too much and they maintain a wonderful sophistication due to being printed on linen.  it is luxurious.  I’m so happy I got exposure to her work through the fabric swap.  lamina has a great feel for color and she uses bright colors but somehow manages to keep the overall looks so soothing.  It also inspire me to keep hand printing.  nothing beats the look of hand printing, I tell you. open linen wallet

as for these wallets, they are lined with regular linen and fastened with a cowgirl snaps I got on etsy ages ago (sorry I can’t remember where.).  I kept the grey and pink kitty one for myself and gave the other two as gifts.  linen wallet

they make great gifts…one of those nice little somethings.  I’m thinking that some of the others I made are going to be great teacher’s gifts at the end of the school year.  probably with a bit of cash inside, teachers deserve a bit of extra cash, ya know.

as an aside, thanks to everyone that entered the sew mama sew giveaway.  you are all so sweet and witty.  it took great willpower to avoid replying to everyone’s comments.  I usually like to do that but I didn’t want to mess with the random number generator by throwing in my own comments.  but, I appreciated each and every comment and was warmed by how many of you thought of others!  then again, that is crafters for you, isn’t it.  we are a good crowd.

covert robin :: winner time!

it’s winner time!  wahoo! yippee! it’s exciting to be announcing the prize winners the covert robin! it was so much fun looking through all of the great projects that were linked up!  everyone made such amazing things for their partners!

the covert robin button
without further ado, the lucky winners are…

winner of my creativity pack  is: Nissa of Nissa Made.  Congratulations Nissa!  Rachael will be in touch with you about claiming the prize, I am looking forward to sending it out to you!

covert robin prize from a happy stitch

the winners of the other co-host prizes are:

winner of a vintage sheet fat quarter pack from Cassie (elegantitus) is: Shannon of Sweet Puddles

winner of a gift certificate from Clara (Clover & Violet) is: Ruth of ruth plus two

winner of a lotta scrap bag from Courtney (mon petit lyons) is: Bobbie of From This to That

winner of a handmade market tote from Jane (buzzmills) is: Wendi of Sew Cat Sew Creations

winner of a fat quarter bundle from Jill (Made with Moxie) is: Samantha of At Home with Mrs. H.

winner of pdf patterns from Karen (Sew Well Maide) is: Melissa of a happy stitch

winner of a gift certificate from Kelley (casa crafty) is: Lilly of Lilly Hillage Urban Textile Art

winner of a creativity pack from Melissa (a happy stitch) is: Nissa of Nissa Made

winner of an embroidery kit from Rachael (imagine gnats) is: Lisa of In The Boon Docks

winner of organic zippers from Stephanie (The Crafty Kitty) is: Kelley of Casa Crafty


a huge thank you to everyone who took part in the exchange. I can get a little sappy about these things but I really, really love how it feels to exchange handmade goods. there are so many things out there trying make us cynical and worried and afraid of each other. I like to think that exchanging something you made with your time, your heart and your hand is a little spark of good in the midst of all that. and, just like that we are all winners!

special thanks to the amazing Rachael of imagine gnats for being the bestest hostess! she is just the cleverest.


the valentines tic tac toe sack

the tic tac toe sackthe boys valentine gifts are done!  I made them both a felt tic tac toe game in it’s own little heart sack.  I was inspired by this one from 1st lady of the house, which is so super pretty.  I went with a bit of a more masculine look and managed to use all scraps to do it (woot!)  including a bunch of felted wool that I’ve been hanging on to ever since this project.
sack for tick tack toe

I made a little sack because we our family really enjoys eating breakfast out at a diner.  I mean, we do live in Jersey, we are practically required to take advantage of the culinary fascination that is ‘the diner’.  but, restaurant eating of any kind can get a little hairy with my wild boys, so we often play games (this is our all-time favorite).  this travel sack will allow us to bring our tic tac toe along for the wait between coffee and pancakes!  the bag itself is a simple drawstring sack made of some scrap pieces of wool and ribbon.  DSCN6020

I made the tic tac toe board very simply; just cut squares out of the wool felt, marked and stitched lines to make a grid that created nine spaces.  to make the x’s and o’s I drew with chalk onto the pretty scraps of felted wool, then I stitched along the lines I had drawn through two pieces of felted wool (just to give the game piecesa a bit of heft) and cut them out around my stitches.  since the wool doesn’t fray, I didn’t have to worry about having raw edges.  it was a relatively quick project and as you can see I didn’t get very perfectionist about the shape of my x’s and o’s. I just had fun with it.  DSCN6021here is hoping that the 3.5 and 5.5 is the right age for tic tac toe and if so, that we don’t end up with x’s and o’s in the syrup!


healing arts

recently a friend got sick.  and sadly, it was not the easy kind of sick.  it was the cancer kind of sick.  the uckiest, scariest, most I-feel-helpless kind of sick.  and in my next breath, I am happy to report that it was caught early and all signs post-surgery are incredibly optimistic.  for all intents and purposes, her system is free of the big c.  but, before the good news came there was much hand-wringing and so I did what I do….I sent her some hand sewn items (as well as this highly-recomended book, in case you are wondering).

one of the hand sewn things I was most excited about was this pillow with eight pockets filled with eight clothespins.  sounds a bit odd but let me explain.

she and I have been friends since college and we have maintained a friendship with a circle of eight women.  as a group of women, we have been through a lot.  a whole lot more than I ever expected when we left college behind.  and, it has brought us close emotionally but we all live pretty far apart and we see each other quite rarely.  so, we like to say that we are ‘in each others pockets’….heading into a big interview or, say, into the operating room.  we are just there, in the pocket.  so, the eight pockets in this pillow make up a spot for each of us as she heads into her recovery.

on each clothespin I wrote a word, chosen by each person, and slipped them in the pockets.   the words are meant to be a wish for her future and for her recovery.  one clothespin had no word, it was for her to write what she wanted on it.

they sit so nicely, our little dreams, waiting to help her through.

along the same lines…harnessing the power of a word….I made a banner for her home with the word heal.  I got this idea from a friend here in Jersey whose mother-in-law battled cancer as well.

it’s amazing to me the power of words, sometimes.  when you feel vulnerable it can be something to hang onto and believe in.  right now, I believe our messages of healing, serenity and renewal will help her recovery.   she will get through this and we, as a group of friends, will get through this.  it will just be another thing we all did while in each others pockets.  take that cancer.

postal love

this may be the week that I make good on my vow to one day hug the mail carrier. a whole box of goodies arrived from my amazing seamstress/upholsterer grandmother. I always love receiving things from her because I am certain they carry along with them her great expertise.

I am so thrilled that she thought of me to receive these wonderful pieces of her past.  this is just a sampling, the box was chock full of vintage items like this. she and my grandfather made furniture and ran a custom furniture-making shop out of a house next door to their own.  in addition, my grandmother made much of the family’s clothes.  who knows what great things were imagined for all of these things.

and as if that wasn’t enough a wonderful package arrived from a friend [check out her wonderful knitting focused blog] filled with bag patterns and even a few of her handmade goodies.  she was having one of those honest I -am-not-really-going-to-make-this moments and I was the lucky recipient of her de-clutter.

she tossed in one of her wonderful knit sweater ornaments (aren’t they amazing?!) and a hot drink cozy.  uh-hmm, I am a lucky lady.  and, it all comes at a great time as I am busy sewing away in preparation for an exciting festival in a week and half.  this feels like a little whisper in the studio….go! make!

lucky day

 as a fabric lover and sewing teacher there is always a small part of me that is oh-so-tempted to design my own fabric. to get it just right, ya know?

so when I saw this book from the people behind one of my favorite textile blogs True Up, I knew I wanted it.  but, I played it a little too cool and it wasn’t in my stocking on Christmas morning…darn that Santa! so, you can only imagine how excited I was to find out that I won it from Christina at A Few Scraps.  and, it is just as fabulous as I imagined it was going to be. it includes great coverage on different fabric types in general and thorough, thorough discussion on the different ways to make your own fabric from stamp-making to screen printing to digital printing.  it’s very inspiring.


and, because Christina is just plain awesome she even threw in a fat quarter of the first fabric she designed.  it’s called ‘selvedge on steroids’, she made it on spoonflower, which is one of the digital fabric printing studios.  (one warning: it is incredible and if you click on the link and head over the spoonflower, I cannot be responsible for the many lost, happy hours that may result.)  isn’t the fabric perfect!! especially given how much time I spend discussing selvedge! now…the find the perfect thing to make with it!

the aprons

a close friend of mine asked me to make match-y aprons for four of her dear, far-flung friends and I jumped at the chance.  the great thing about taking on a commission like this is that I got to hear all about the challenges and joys these women have had in the past year and carried all those stories in my mind as I was sewing away.



my friend chose ty pennington’s block print style fabric for the aprons, which is so homey but at the same time still looks fresh.  I got it here.  the apron is a pattern I made by mixing the bottom of an Anna Maria Horner apron pattern and the top part of one from Lotta Jansdotter….and a few other personal alterations and tweaks.  I just love an elegant neckline and prominent waistline with a full apron bottom so I threw them together.



each apron got it’s own drawstring bag…in case they ever get together for some serious baking.  I love aprons because there is hardly a milestone in this life that doesn’t involve food in some way.  may these aprons be the hardworking splatter-catchers for a whole host of future joys and challenges!

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