Ethical Elegance: Summer Stitch Fest 2016

Jul 28

image-1Ever since Sonya announced it, I’ve been looking forward to Summer Stitch Fest! All summer long I’ve been working on my sewing skills, and now I have an entire (mostly) weekend booked just for stitching. Here are my (ambitious) plans, in a few different categories:


  1. Sew Dress No. 1. I’m making a double-layered version, which I have cut and ready to sew.
  2. Cut and sew a Myrtle dress.
  3. Cut and sew a pair of Pants No. 1. I’m not sure the fabric I have picked is what I want to use, but I want to at least get a muslin made.


  1. Finish sewing my blue Beverly dress. See how I’ve named the self-drafted dress I made with Cal earlier this year? This will be my third one in a blue seersucker-ish fabric. I’m adding red details–red bias binding, red C pockets, a little red embroidery.
  2. Sew the bias binding on a blue Sorbetto. Yup, it’s been waiting to be finished since June. Ahem.
  3. Finish the waistband on my Alabama Chanin swing skirt. It’s basted on and I need to stop being chicken about the stretch stitching!
  4. Finish my Alabama Chanin wrap skirt. I am so close to being done with this single-layer skirt. I think I’ll be wearing the heck out of it year round.


  1. Knit my Joan Fuller sleeve No. 2. It is actually sleeve No. 3, but I messed up sleeve No. 1 by forgetting to switch to larger needles. #rookiemistake
  2. Rip back the yoke on my Stopover and re-knit it. I stitched merrily along before realizing it was all sorts of not right. May as well get it right, right?

I’ll report back next week and let you know how I make out. How about you? Do you have Summer Stitch Fest plans? Tell me about them!

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Ten on Tuesday: Holiday Weekend Edition

May 31

waterThe long weekend seemed longer than usual! Carole asked about weekend fun, so here’s my list:

  1. Visited Shakespeare’s First Folio at Amherst College. Yup, Folger Library created a project that sends First Folios all around the country. You can see when it is visiting a space near you on their tour list. I sorta want a concert shirt for this one.
  2. Got hissed at by an opossum while hiking with Oskar and Coco. (I hate that this one is being laughed at, but I wanted you to understand the experience. So let’s pretend it isn’t in a cage and that both human and dogs are walking away with Great Respect.)
  3. Reached day 150 of daily (at home) yoga practice. I am so glad Sarah told me about Yoga with Adriene. I really love Adriene’s practices and sense of humor.
  4. Cut out a Sorbetto tank. The pattern is well written and free! It’s great for any level, and cool variations abound.
  5. Made the yummy Smitten Kitchen broccoli slaw. Even though I did not win a prize with it at my recent family reunion, it is a prize-worthy dish!
  6. Napped.
  7. Picked out my yarn for the Through the Loops Mystery Shawl 2016–I’ll share my pick in another post. Are you joining in on this annual delight?
  8. Sipped cold beverages on the porch. I did not, though, have my first G&T of the season. Maybe next weekend. Honestly, it was so hot so quickly that all I wanted was water!
  9. Visited…a working visit with my MotherShould? co-editor, an impromptu visit with my friend Leah during which we talked about poetry (I’m still writing it–nearly done with my second round of Rananim workshops with Sawnie Morris), an informative visit with my folks–my aunt has created a beautiful family history album, and she sent dad a chunk of it that includes some great pictures, and a fun visit with my mother-in-law, who loves to laugh, just like her son does!
  10. Picked out the dress I’m going to make for my brother’s wedding in September. Let’s just say Alabama Chanin had a sale, and I snapped up supplies! It’s a good thing Vicki had her color cards at the ready to help me figure out what I wanted!

How about you? What fun did you have this weekend?

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Ethical Elegance: Drafting Patterns

May 26

shift dressJust about this time last year, I took a pattern drafting class with Cal Patch. While I learned a lot from the class, when I made my muslin at home, I didn’t quite know how to make adjustments to the muslin or pattern. Cal had explained it, but I longed for some hands-on guidance. So when I saw that she was teaching a two-day version of the class at Drop Forge and Tool, I jumped on it. On the first day of class, we drafted our patterns and made muslins. On day two, Cal helped us each adjust the muslin and pattern, and then we sewed beautiful shift dresses! I had to leave for home before I could finish mine, and with the end-of-semester crunch followed by a week-long road trip, it took until this week before I did finish.

I learned so much from this class, and as is often the case for me, going through the pattern drafting part of it a second time really helped me understand the process. I’m a slow learner, and luckily, Cal is a patient teacher!

Tomorrow I’ll wear my new dress for the first time as part of #MeMadeMay and, you know, as part of my habit of wearing new clothes I’ve made. I’m looking forward to adding more garments I love to my closet and transitioning the worn RTW garments out of it.

Interested in drafting your own patterns? Peruse Cal’s website–she’s got an awesome book, links to her terrific Creativebug classes (I refer to them all the time!), and details about her upcoming week-long Handmade Wardrobe workshop at A Gathering of Stitches.

As I gear up for my summer sewing frenzy, tell me about your stitching projects. What are you planning to make?

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Ten on Tuesday: Dessert Edition

May 24

pieNothing to get me back in the blogging groove like an invitation to talk dessert! Carole asked for Ten Favorite Desserts, and I figured with summer on the verge–which means Open Porch Wednesday on the verge–which means a weekly excuse to make lovely desserts–I’m bound to find some great new ideas by reading everyone’s posts today!  Here are my faves (for summer, natch):

  1. Smitten Kitchen’s Blueberry Cornmeal Butter Cake (it’s from her cookbook, but the link is to the recipe). Once local blueberries ripen, this cake is my go-to. It’s super easy to make and, if there should be leftovers, is amazing the next day!
  2. Cherry Clafoutis. I use Julia Child’s recipe. I pit the cherries, though friends who grew up in France claim they ought not to be pitted. Adding almond extract replaces the flavor the pits render.
  3. Homemade ice cream. I splurged on the ice cream maker attachment for my KitchenAid a few years back and have never regretted it. I usually make vanilla (with my homemade vanilla extract) and add fresh fruit toppings. Sometimes I get fancy and make sugar cookie cups to serve it in!
  4. Sour Cream Lemon Pie. I cut out the recipe from my paper years ago–if you want it, let me know and I’ll send you a copy. It requires turning on the oven, but only long enough to set the pie. It is so refreshing on a hot evening!
  5. Fresh berries. Really, isn’t that what summer is about? Just pick, wash, cut as needed, and eat!
  6. Watermelon, Lime and Mint salad. I rough chop the melon, cut a bunch of mint from my garden, and squeeze a lime or two over it all.
  7. Green Smoothie. I know, it sounds too healthy to be dessert. I make a basic one: 2 cups water, 2 cups baby spinach, 1 large ripe banana, 1 cup mango, 1 cup pineapple, lots of powdered ginger. Super delicious and satisfying.
  8. Homemade Popsicles. This cucumber mint recipe looks like one to try this summer!
  9. Lemon Bundt Cake. I like this with raspberries or blueberries and a touch of fresh whipped cream!
  10. Cherry Pie. I don’t have the pie making chops Carole does, but I’m working on it! In the summer, cherry is my fave. I’ll be making rhubarb pie (no strawbs) for my dad soon, and if my oldest brother is coming over, I’ll bake blueberry. Pie with fresh fruit in it always rocks!

How about you? What are your favorite (summer) desserts?

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Ten on Tuesday: Favorite Things Edition

Feb 23

bookI do love lists of favorite things–both writing my own and reading yours–so when Carole sent out this week’s Ten on Tuesday prompt, excitement abounded!

  1. Yoga with Adriene. After too many years away from a regular home yoga practice, my friend Sarah suggested I might like these videos. Adriene is generous with free videos and does a really good job explaining poses in a way that means I often don’t have to look at the video. She’s funny, too.
  2. UNM’s Rananim online writing workshop. I’m taking poetry with Sawnie Morris. My original intention was to develop poetry skills to write better prose (the poets always write the prettiest sentences, don’t they?), but here’s what I learned: I love writing poetry! If you’ve been wanting to take an online writing workshop, I recommend Rananim. The next semester starts in April. Join me?
  3. Better Call Saul. Did you love Breaking Bad as much as I did? My vet recommended Better Call Saul, and we tore through it during the deep freeze weekend recently.
  4. Alabama Chanin Host a Party. I’ve gathered together a group of awesome stitchers who are going to sew swing skirts with me. The lovely folks at Alabama Chanin answered about a zillion questions from me and made organizing the party a breeze. I can’t wait for us to start stitching!
  5. Wurm hats in Stonehedge Fiber Mill Crazy. Last week I met up with Gale at Knit New Haven, saw a few Wurms (New Haven’s au courant knitting project) in Crazy and succumbed. You should probably call and order a skein.
  6. Strommen Bruk Hamar sewing box. I bought a small one–probably for a child–on ebay last year. It traveled down from Maine and was in rough shape. Earlier this month Neal made restoring it his project. I nearly swoon every time I open it!
  7. A Trail Through Leaves by Hannah Hinchman. Even if you’re not into drawing and nature journaling, the book is filled with beautifully written observations and excellent illustrations. My pal Jan recommended it to me, and I am so grateful. Hinchman’s nature journals reflect what I hope to create.
  8. Warmer air. Sure, it has been a mild winter, but it ain’t over yet. We had that snow and deep freeze last week followed by a warmer weekend. Every minute I get to sit on the stoop or porch–no matter how bundled up I am–is a favorite minute!
  9. Craftwork Somerville. I’m taking the Folk Dress workshop with dear, talented Cal, and I can’t wait. It isn’t just the awesome selection of classes, though. Amy Lou’s newsletter is chock full of cool info. You should probably sign up for it.
  10. Textillia. I joined right away as soon as the site launched and am slowly learning my way around it. Picture our beloved Ravelry for the sewing crowd.

How about you? Tell me about your favorite things!

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2016 Year of Creative Habits: The Quotidian Bones Project

Jan 18

Quotidian BonesBoy, oh, boy, do I love a project, especially when I figure out a smart name for it. Late last fall, I signed up for Crystal Moody’s Year of Creative Habits class. Crystal became an important mentor and model to me over the last few years (go look at her work, sign up for her newsletter–you won’t regret it), and I welcomed the chance to continue the momentum I built from the #2015postcardproject.

After freewriting in response to her prompts, I had the “Eureka!” moment–you know how it feels when idea hits and you realize it is a good idea, right? That happened.

See, back in late November, I was catching up on The Moth. I can’t find the podcast episode to link for you, but one of the storytellers talked about his method for finding his stories: at the end of every day, he opened up a spreadsheet and wrote one sentence that would serve as a prompt for the story he might want to tell from that day.

Did that rock my world? You better believe it. Then I got all mournful about missing making visual art every day. I know myself well enough to know the #2015postcardproject habit would slip away if I didn’t give visual art a new project. And I thought about a few ideas for illustrated stories for adults I have. And: Pop! Bang! Bingo! Hot Dog!

I had it. I would build from the postcard project. I wrote about whatever came to mind for that, and the text was not always a story, nor always related to the image. This new project would connect the two.

Here’s the plan:

At the end of each day (typically before I fix dinner), I will decide what story I can pull from the day. I’ll make an illustration and write a sentence (ok, I’ve already got entries with short paragraphs) to remind me of the story. Once a week, I will develop one of the stories either as a narrative poem or a flash prose piece and make a bigger illustration for it.

I checked in with a few people to see what questions they had about the project…here they are, with my answers:

  1. What’s the deal with that notebook you’re using? It’s a Hobonichi Techno planner. I bought it thinking it would replace my moleskine bullet journal, but I can’t quit my grid. The Hobonichi’s paper is Tomoe River paper, which is super thin yet stands up to a lot–so far, my crow quill pen and india ink, walnut ink, and watercolor.
  2. What do you hope to get out of a daily project, beyond the product? Maintaining the habit of making visual art every day is important to me as is developing the skills and “visual voice” to create the illustrated stories I have in mind. I have a little piece hanging next to my desk that reads “Great Creator, I’ll take care of the quantity, you take care of the quality.” I made it when I worked through The Artist’s Way back in 2001. The project is one way I’m committing to taking care of the quantity.
  3. Do you have the idea when you wake up in the morning? Nope. I let the day unfold and see what might make a good piece for the day. Since much of my life is routine (by my choice!), I have to be more observant than usual some days to find a story.
  4. What’s with that name? On New Year’s Day, after our hike and the after-party were done, I asked Neal to help me brainstorm ideas for what to call the project. I wanted “daily” something, but I didn’t want to use “daily”. I thought the word quotidian, which not only means daily (but fancier! With a “q”–my favorite letter after “z”!) (yes, I have favorite letters, don’t you?) but also “ordinary or everyday, especially when mundane“. Since my daily life is generally (by my choice!) a bit on the mundane side, this seemed perfect. We talked about the purpose of the project, how I planned for it to work, what I hoped to get from it. “Skeletons,” Neal said. “You’re building skeletons of stories.” I loved that, but didn’t like the mouthful of “Quotidian Skeletons.” A little more brainstorming, and we hit on “bones.”

I’d love for you to follow along with not only my project, but the super cool projects of my peers–follow hashtag #yoch2016 on Instagram to see the work we’re all doing. Daily.

Let me know if you have any questions about the Quotidian Bones Project or tell me about your own habit building projects for 2016!

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#2015PostcardProject: a review of daily creative habits

Jan 15

Screen Shot 2016-01-12 at 3.34.12 PM

The Final Card

I’ve had a little time to reflect on my #2015PostcardProject, and here’s what I have to say about it:

  1. I did it! I made and mailed 366 postcards–I messed up the numbering at some point, so I made two on the last day.
  2. I experimented with a lot of techniques and media, from watercolors to acrylic ink to bic pens. My favorite technique is an ink drawing with watercolor details added.
  3. I developed a style. What started as a need for a model who would always be available when I was ready to draw (many a selfie card went out into the world), along with facing my fear of drawing faces, grew into a love of making my illustration people.
  4. I forgave myself. A few times, I missed a day and made it up later. The first time it happened, I almost quit the project. And then I didn’t quit. A few times, I made a card so lame that I was embarrassed to send it, but I sent it. And then I tried to make a less lame card the next day.
  5. I like working in series. I had a calligraphy series, a doodle series, a very lengthy famous faces series…whenever I had a series going on, I felt a little more excited about sitting down to make my card.
  6. I made some folks happy. People like mail! I sent to total strangers who later wrote beautiful notes about how much getting a piece of friendly mail meant on that day. Perhaps most exciting, my mom–known for being no-nonsense about clutter–framed the card I sent her. And I even got a few postcards back in return!
  7. I did not dig documenting the project. Originally I intended to post a gallery at the end of each month like I did in January. I did take a picture of all the cards, and a lot of them are posted on Instagram.
  8. I fulfilled my goal of not dropping out of drawing (or painting) once my semesters got busy.
  9. I had fun. I enjoyed trying out new skills as well as imagining my cards wending their way around the world.

If you have any questions about the project, leave a comment. I am happy to share whatever information might be helpful to you!

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