Archive of ‘inspiration’ category

the jar jammies

I have recently fallen in love with the mason jar as an all-purpose drink carrier.  it can handle hot or cold drinks, has a nice wide mouth for drinking.  plus,  screw on the lid and I can take my drink with me.  the best part, however, and really the essential part for me is that things taste good in a mason jar.  ice cold water tastes like ice cold water, coffee tastes like good, creamy coffee without the lingering hint of metal that accompanies some of the portable stainless steel containers out there.  this makes a huge difference for me because I just can’t get excited about drinking things that don’t taste good.  I mean, really? what is the point?  so, I’m really excited about the newest thing I’ve sewn together…pajamas for a jar or jar jammies!

using some scraps of pretty fabric and sticky foot fabric (the stuff used for the feet of pajamas) paired with thin elastic and pretty, vintage buttons and there you have it…your hands are guarded from the elements, at least those hot and cold ones tempting you from within a jar.

here are a few pictures of the details.

I made so many because I’m bringing them to the CLITfest on July 14th where I will have my own table! I’m very excited because it’s a festival put on by young feminists and I’m honored to get to be in their company and be exposed to some fantastic punk music.  it’s one of those experiences that never would have come along if I hadn’t decided to venture into sewing/teaching/pattern making in a more serious way.  so, yay for me! I’m a teeny bit nervous about being the ‘old lady who sews things’ in the crowd of awesome young women.  I might have to make myself something to wear.  but, if you are in the area COME, I will bring a big, warm smile for you.

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!

inspiration :: new jersey graffiti

I’m making an effort to dig deeper and document the things around me that are inspiring. to find inspiration in the extraordinary and the everyday.  truth is the gritty, honest, upfront attitude of new jersey can give way to some beautiful and unexpected things.  in this case I found it in graffiti.

and there is color!

the heavy boots

it turned out to be a long week last week.  I was home with the boys, which was fun except I was killing myself to give each day a theme…like ‘art day’, ‘word day’, ‘race day’  and then we would have an afternoon activity related to the theme. (I promise to share more on this later.)  the boys loved that the day had a clear agenda even if they had to wait until the afternoon but I grew exhausted by the planning and clean-up.   I’m trying to minimize meltdowns especially given the hot temperatures around here.  not to speak of roughhousing…there is so much roughhousing and I don’t have a good idea of how much is too much. anyone? but, I’m not convinced that structured activities is exactly the right answer.

we also learned that our neighbor, whom the boys both adored, passed away.  he lived alone and his sister has needed some help here and there going through his house as well as someone to talk to.  then, a surprising flood hit my hometown, Duluth, MN.  it’s a town made of hills and really should not ever flood but it did and it left neighborhoods flooded, zoo animals displaced and some of the precious natural places of my childhood underwater.  thankfully there don’t seem to be any human deaths.  but, it was shocking and I realized that as much as I love new experiences and change within my present life I really want my childhood places to stay locked in time. not very realistic but it’s true.  all in all, I had what my husband calls heavy boots.

there were great bright spots, of course, including tons of wonderful moments with the boys including quite a few classic games of go fish.  they have lots of questions and ideas about death right now and it has been good to have a chance to explore that, too.

there was, of course, my fantastic sewing class.

and, I was lucky enough to steal away to the inaugural meeting of the North Jersey Modern Quilting Guild. it was wonderful to be so inspired and with so many accomplished sewers.  everyone was excited and friendly and nearly giddy with enthusiasm. I felt very at home.

and, in the cleaning out of items our neighbor’s sister gave us a stackful of wonderful books, mostly kids books and cookbooks, as well as some furniture most of which needs a bit of refinishing that I’m excited to undertake. I will be sure to share that later, too.  both of the boys are as in love with books as my husband and I and I was heartened to see them devour the big stack of kids books.  they aren’t reading yet but sat next to each other and looked at pictures and made up stories. I even got to put my feet up and peruse the cookbooks.

the boys are in summer camp now for a few days a week and it’s giving me a chance to get some work done, prepare for an upcoming festival, and hopefully get enough time to shake off the heavy boots.


heading off

we are off…on a much needed vacation.  hoping to get our fill of wet toes and sandy swim trunks.

seems a good time to share one of my favorite newly-discovered tunes, perfect for a hammock or a stroll down the boardwalk, don’t you think?



be back in a week!

the great pillow sham

I went to this strange warehouse sale a few years ago…in a classic New Jersey style of strange…a warehouse down the road a bit was going out of business and selling all manner of sheets and other fabric items.  I went in determined to find Great! Fantastic! Cheap! things to repurpose for quilts and other things.  well it was mostly a bust and in my desperation to have the sale be everything I wanted it to be I purchased two really not-cute pillow shams.  they only seemed cute because I had on my ‘desperation blinders’ and they were surrounded by so many unappealing items.  well, sadly, we have been using them ever since.

but no more!  desperation blinders are off! I finally made replacements and I have to say I don’t know what took me so long.  I used the lotta jansdotter choma fabric from her current line (she has another amazing group of fabrics coming out soon, bella.  they look like they are going to be great.)

I really like this fabric and sometimes when I really like a  fabric it makes me reluctant to use it, which sounds contradictory.  it’s just that I get kind of tangled up in the feeling that whatever I make needs to be amazing and perfect because the fabric is so awesome.  and that kind of pressure is too much so I back off and use a fabric I don’t like as much instead.  it’s a good thing I just wrote that down because it’s helping me realizing how super stupid this approach is!

{man, I am battling demons all over the place with this project.}

to make these pillow shams I sandwiched quilt batting in between this fabric and a backing fabric.  then, I sewed simple straight lines, with white thread in-between the yellow and grey tones.  for the back I made an envelope closure and sewed the two pieces together.

the fabric is so dramatic (that is another reason I had a hard time figuring what to do with it) but it’s drama is a great accent to our duvet.  they have honestly brightened up the whole room. even my husband who is normally VERY against the whole extra-pillows-on-the-bed thing was impressed with how nicely they bring the bedroom together.

now my goal is to spend more than six hours a day resting next to them.

dear spouse…it is almost mother’s day

mother’s day is coming up!  you’ve got your sights on some nice looking flowers and have planned a special family adventure but do you need a little help getting a nice gift for a sewing-obsessed mama?

it’s hard to buy for a sewer.  fabric preferences are so specific and you never know what the next big thing might be…one week it is elastic thread, the next it is bias tape. it’s baffling.  well, no worries.  here are a few last-minute ideas:

1) a gift card to Hawthorne Threads.  this online shop has got the most luscious and indulgent fabrics out there and they email gift cards so you can order it and receive it on the same day.

2) slip a little note into her card and send her off (without any kids) for a morning of fabric shopping with friends followed by a relaxed lunch.   if you live near me, you could consider suggesting rock, paper, scissors or purl soho.

3) want to really knock some socks off? splurge on a gift card to spoonflower.  spoonflower is more than a fabric shop (though it does sell truly one-of-a-kind artist-designed fabric in a variety of fabrics) but it also offers anyone the opportunity to design and upload their own fabric design…and then have it printed!

4) make her summer and send her off to the heather ross sewing workshop in the wilds of Vermont. it is a one-of-a-kind weekend of sewing, eating, and learning from the leading sewists out there.

5) and don’t forget you can always purchase *a happy stitch* gift cards for classes or sewing salons just send me an email (ahappystitch[at]gmail[dot]com)

good luck!




making space monday :: organizing and beautify-ing a la *rock, paper, scissors*

if you have ever visited rock, paper, scissors in montclair, nj then you already know…the store is beautiful, inspiring and peaceful.  the kind of environment that makes you want to sew and make your own beautiful things but also gives you the feeling you can do it, seamlessly and with ease.  the owner, Beth, is obviously an expert in organizing but there is also something more…it’s as if she knows how to breathe fresh air, creativity and serenity into space.  so, I really wanted to get a peek into her studio on this–the final monday of *making space mondays*.

but, Beth insists that her studio is a ‘mess’ (not sure she has seen my studio!).  so she oh-so-kindly volunteered to discuss how she works her magic in the shop.  and, did she ever!  Beth is chock-full of wonderful ideas and has taken gorgeous photos.  she told me “I may have gotten carried away!” and lucky for us, she did.  she calls it organizing but it is really so much more and I’m hoping that some of it will rub off on me. (really, this woman throws around terms like haberdashery and antique egg basket…with seductive language like that she could control my brain if she wanted to!) here is Beth:


Hi, my name is Beth and I own Rock Paper Scissors, a little neighborhood craft store in Montclair, NJ.  We carry supplies for jewelry making (the Rock), card making, scrapbooking and the paper crafts (the Paper), and fabric and other supplies for sewing and embroidery (you guessed it … the Scissors).  We have a little bit of lots of things (and lots of fabulous fabric), as well as classes, groups and other fun stuff.

I am really flattered that Melissa asked me to share some thoughts on organizing crafting and sewing stuff.   She actually asked me to share my studio space and I had to say no.  See, my home studio space is really a disaster –  scary, messy, piled too high, behind a locked door kind of disaster.  So, Melissa graciously let me write about some storage ideas and I took the photos in our lovely shop instead of my disastrous studio at home.  So, thank you, Melissa, for letting me keep the inside of my studio a secret!

I have a few simple rules for organizing my stuff.

Keep it handy, keep it visible, and keep it beautiful.

  • I think most people can figure out the handy part.  No one likes looking for a tool in the middle of a project!
  • Keeping everything visible does two things.  One, it simply makes everything easier to find.  Two, it helps to inspire creativity.  Who doesn’t love gazing at their fabric or button or paper stash, imagining all the possibilities.
  • Keeping it beautiful?  That is all about making your space yours, in whatever way makes you happy and makes you want to be in that space.  It matters not the size or location of your studio.  It only matters that YOU love being in that space!

In the organization of our space, both in the store and the workshop,   I follow my little rules above as best I can.  I love walking through antique stores and yard sales and such to find little treasures for storage.  What follows here are some ideas but mostly inspiration to make your space all your own.

Let’s start with the big stuff  ….

I was lucky enough to find this fabulous old haberdashery cabinet from a local antiques store, Little Cricket, here in Montclair.  It is not in perfect condition but who cares when it is full of gorgeous fabric!

One of my favorite things for storage are cubbies!  They store everything oh, so perfectly, from books to fabric and yarn.  You can get doors and baskets and all sorts of things to keep you nice and organized.

Now these drawers happened to be an antique piece from the Naval Observatory that we bought years ago but you can still get old card files from libraries as they get taken over by computer systems.  Fit cardstock on the bottom and you have the perfect storage for fat quarters and zippers and adhesives and all sorts of stuff!

These drawers that house all of our embroidery supplies are the best!  From Ikea (who doesn’t love Ikea for inexpensive storage stuff), they run about $120 each (2 are pictured here) and are sturdy as heck.  Stick labels on them and you have some fantastic storage in the graduated drawers.  They also have a smaller and wider version with flat drawers that are great for paper projects.

Don’t forget to look up!  Utilize your wall space!  This craft shelf happened to be donated to us by a wonderful customer but you can make a storage system out of any combo of shelves that suit you.

And don’t just go to the “home storage” section of a store.  These great wall rails were designed for a kitchen (from Ikea also).  The movable hooks can hold tons of different things.  From scissors and hoops to strands of beads, they are super fabulous!  Install one on the side of your cutting table and they become a great rack for cut pattern pieces, freshly pressed fabric, or partially finished projects.

Buckets, buckets, buckets!  Need I say more?  These little pails from the dollar store hold all of my little tools for marking, tracing, writing notes on my patterns, etc.  I love the color and can move it directly on to my work table when I need it.

We run lots and lots of classes here so we have a gazillion crafting tools and supplies.  These galvanized flower pots  came from the gardening section of Ikea.   We use them for workshop tools, as seen here, as well as in lots of display throughout the store.  They are super handy and come in lots of different sizes!

Pattern control has always been one of my downfalls.  Here’s a few ideas … place them in labeled and sorted plastic containers.  Photo boxes also work well.  Finding your favorite pattern gets easier if it is labeled!  Can’t get it back in the envelope?  Slip it into a clear Ziploc and strop struggling!  We also have a clear bin of all of our templates that we use for the many, many crafty projects we do here!

Since I trace all of my patterns, I use baskets to store them, all rolled and labeled with pattern name and size.  When you are done cutting, reroll and store all pieces together right away.

A trick I teach all of my new sewers …. Wind a bobbin all the way up.  Then store it in little plastic bags with the spool of thread.  These all reside in the “thread box” (another clear plastic bin).  Always have a bobbin wound, no more hunting for the thread-to-bobbin match, and no messy threads at the bottom of a basket.

Here are additional ideas:

  • Little spice jars, canning jars, any jars at all become cute little holders for buttons sorted by color.  Keep the jars small and sorted for the best results! No more hunting for button matches through piles of buttons.  And could they look any prettier?
  • Think outside the box (or basket) … an old cheese box turned vintage tool box becomes a seam binding holder.
  • An antique egg basket holds ric rac.
  • Beautiful old coated wire baskets hold small pieces of fabric or rolled wool felt.


For my embroidery friends out there, here’s my last hint of the day.  I buy my most commonly used colors of perle and other threads by the spool.  I store them in little metal cans that I have punched holes in.  Thread comes out cleanly, without knots, every time.  Who can ask for more?

Thanks again to Melissa for giving me the chance to write and get to “chat” with all of you through her blog!  If you are ever in the area, we hope you stop by to see us at Rock Paper Scissors!


and, there you have it.  our month of peeking at sewing studios is done (waahh!).  I hope you are as inspired as me to spruce up your sewing space or even set aside a little room for the creative work you do.   I have had such fun exploring the spaces and places where making reigns.  I happen to think highly of studios…they not only make it easier to answer when inspiration comes calling but they also assert that there is indeed a place for the fun of invention and creation.  enjoy!

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