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National Sewing Month #4 – In a Bind

September 8, 2012

I was a little delayed in posting this – because. . . well I was in a bind – literally and figuratively.

Probably about 10 years ago – our neighbors across the alley had a little girl. They visited us for dinner and she was such a cute toddler – I decided to make her an apron. (I think we had talked about cooking that night.)

Handmade Teddy Bear Cobbler Apron

“Miles and miles” (I exaggerate a little) of narrow binding adorns this festive teddy bear cobbler apron.

With best of intentions a yard or so of patriotic teddy bear fabric was cut to make a charming cobbler style apron complete with what seems now like miles of bias binding – very narrow bias binding as directed by the designer/pattern company. Then I got busy and the project was shelved – other projects came and went. Some completed, some not. My daughter was born, kept me busy and grew. She outgrew the prospect for the apron ages ago (even though I tried to see if she could model it for this post.)

As part of my September National Sewing Month Challenge – I “dusted” off the apron and began. . . and so did the headache. The pattern called for binding around just about every seam – and because the apron is a toddler size 3 – the 1/4 inch seam allowance seems tiny.

Flashback to an American Sewing Guild Neighborhood Group Meeting two years ago at Sewtropolis in south Minneapolis. The owner, Nikol, had invited a representative from one of the sewing machine dealers in to share ideas with the group. We all got to try a number of things. Two standouts for me were sewing flat (or sew through) buttons on by machine (I did that on another project very soon after!) and a binding foot. It was the slickest thing to slip the bias binding into the sewing machine foot and simply stitch. (OK – it took some practice – but it was pretty cool how the design of the foot did most of the hard work!) Wishing I would have had one of those binding feet this week – it would have gotten me out of the bind I was in!

I have to admit – that’s one of the benefits of membership in the American Sewing Guild’s local chapter. I’ve learned to take some “risks” in my sewing – trying things I might have been reluctant to do before (like twin needle). Of course I love the discount with sewing retailers – that’s paid for my annual membership each year! The Guild does educational programs throughout the year – I’m kind of hoping I get keep some time clear to attend Bold Over Batiks this fall. And I have some projects to finish for the Fall Fashion Show (which I am also responsible for coordinating – I have a great committee, so they make it easy!)

Now. . . what to do with this little size 3 cobbler apron?

Disclaimer – I am a member of the American Sewing Guild and have also worked as a sewing instructor at Sewtropolis.


National Sewing Month #3 – A Penny for Your Thoughts

September 4, 2012

Ever since I made a grey wool blazer to accompany a pink, taupe and grey plaid wool A-line skirt, I have loved wool. The drape of it, the texture – there’s just nothing like it.

A few years ago I saw a penny rug. I must have seen them before – but this time “cha-ching” it really registered with me (pun intended). Perhaps it was the reflection of the colors in the living room – taupe, golden brown, maroon, plum. Maybe it was the blanket stitches around the edge – the ability to be imperfect, rustic. And so the vision of the penny rug floated around in my imagination until this summer.

19 Cents Penny Rug

The 19 Cents Penny Rug joins the eclectic collection of photos and memorabilia on the end table in our living room.

Penny rugs – not really rugs at all- are mats or wall hangings typically made of circular pieces of wool layered together with a blanket stitch. Circular because typically the thrifty pioneer women used a coin as a template as they made use of every bit of scrap fabric.

This summer, while spending a very hot and all to brief vacation at the cottage in central Wisconsin, we ventured a different direction than our usual day trips. We headed north 30-45 minutes or so to Ripon where on Main Street was a delightful shop filled with primitives, felted items and wool called Holly and Ivy – heaven! While I could have easily selected one of almost everything – the budget demanded restraint. Coincidentally I wound up with 19 Cents -A Scrappy Penny Mat kit from Primitive Gatherings. While I started the tracing and cutting back in July and dig a great deal of blanket stitching while watching the Olympics, the final assembly didn’t begin until Labor Day weekend.

Now complete 19 Cents rests atop the coffee table in the living room providing a warm and wooly memory of summer vacation. And I wonder. . . could somewhere in an old trunk back at the farmhouse I grew up in, could their be a scrap of that plaid wool for the next penny project?



National Sewing Month #2 – Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose

September 3, 2012

Last weekend I had the great fun of making a presentation about mending and clothing restyling for the Eco-Experience at the Minnesota State Fair. I’ve sewn on my share of buttons, busted a few heavy duty jeans needles patching my husband’s and my jeans. The jeans beyond repair have in some cases been converted into tote bags.

A contrast collar and addition to the bottom of the shirt helped make it a more presentable fit for school and play.

One project I’ve meant to take on almost all summer has been restyling several of Justine’s tee shirts that had torn cuffs, small holes and scruffy necklines.  I cut, stitched, ripped out, ironed, redid and finally needed to declare a truce. And so day 2 of National Sewing Month concluded in frustration.

Not to be beaten – I woke up early this morning and restyled another of her teeshirts. It was one I made for her earlier this year. It seemed to to too short and I wasn’t happy with the twin needle stitching. So I inserted a contrast collar and extended the length and then finished off the hems with a lettuce edge finish.

Those other two tee shirts are still calling me. So I may tackle them later this month.

National Sewing Month #1 – It’s a tie

September 2, 2012

Why “Hello September! How did you sneak up on me so fast?”

Rose made from a necktie

Project #1 for National Sewing Month – A rose made from a necktie!

I’m looking forward to more temperate days and Sunday afternoons with football. And with the announcement of National Sewing Month – the challenge and opportunity to create something everyday! We’ll see if I can extend my record from the 30 Days of Creativity exercise on the web in June. I managed to last all of a week. Believe me – the intention was there, the ability to record and report it was not.

The past two weeks have been devoted to a degree to mending and reuse/recycling. Mostly because I had the great opportunity to do a speaking gig at the Eco-Experience at the MN State Fair last weekend about sewing as part of my involvement with the Minneapolis-St. Paul Chapter of the American Sewing Guild (ASG).  As I was in “follow-up mode” from the ASG time at the fair – I came across an interesting post – creating roses from men’s neckties.

So – or should it be sew- I started off my 30 days of sewing in September by raiding my husband’s stash of neckties (with his permission) to create the beauty shown here. It took a little practice – but now that I’ve done it, I may start raiding garage sales to see what fun fabrics I can find inexpensively to make a few more of these.

And now – off the the sewing room to see what I can work on for Day 2. UFO’s beware. . .

Be Still & Know

January 26, 2012

Cottontail bunny hides in a lilac thicket.

Calmly the cottontail bunny sits still waiting for the threat of a human and a dog to pass by.

When was the last time you were still – really still? It’s difficult in today’s world. We have places to be, traffic to navigate, drop offs and pick ups to complete. Is homework done? Oops – there goes my dumb smartphone meaning someone somewhere must need something. We bound through the minutes that make up a day solving problems, completing tasks and fending off disasters – personal and professional.

Imagine my surprise one winter morning walking the dog to observe a bunny huddled neatly camouflaged in a lilac thicket with his tail end pressed tightly against a wooden privacy fence. There was – at best – 24 inches between him (or her) and me and my dog on the sidewalk. From previous experience I know there is a dog that lives in the yard behind the fence – a big, ferocious barking dog that tears up and down the length of the fence if we go by when he is out. It’s a tough spot for a bunny to be in and yet he sits still.

How often do we as humans find ourselves in tough spots? And what’s our typical response? Perhaps we fret and fuss? Maybe we push and persevere? There’s always the option to whine and wallow.

It seems that bunny knows there could be a threat, but realizes that to do anything but be still would put him in greater danger, under more stress. I’d like to believe that bunny “gets it” and that by sitting still he (as a creature of God) secures a dose of calm from on high. I’d bet God actually put bunny there to teach me a thing or two about trying to do it on my own, in stubborn, independent, self confident way. God used a little cottontail rabbit to get my attention and draw me closer to him.

Bunny, my dog and I now have a regular appointment each morning. Dog and I wander past – dog on a tight leash, but seemingly oblivious. I peer through the brown branches to observe the huddle of fur and the shiny brown eyes knowing the God has given me a special gift because I took the time to be still and know Him.

Be still and know that I am God – Psalm 46:10

What about you? What time to you take to be still and know that God is with you?

Father God –
Thank you for the blessing of your presence in our every day lives – even if we seem to forget that you are there each and every second. Bless our labor and our leisure and help us rest confidently in the knowledge that you work all things for good. Amen

Hold Christmas in Your Heart

December 28, 2011

Heart Shaped Christmas OrnamentThere is such a build up to the Christmas season. We rail while retailers begin the Christmas rush at Halloween and if you listen carefully Christmas carols seem to get interspersed with other music on the radio as soon as Veteran’s Day. The flurry builds as December 25 approaches – the tree, the presents, the cookies, the meals. And then it seems as quickly as it has come – it is over. I’m always saddened that on December 26 the radio stations return to “normal programming” and the stately Christmas trees that shone like beacons from front room picture windows have been disrobed of their shiny finery and discarded in the alleys for compost pick up.

Coming from an old German tradition – the Christmas tree at my childhood home was “delivered” by Santa Claus on Christmas Eve. My parents had the advantage that we lived in in a rural area – so Christmas trees in front windows weren’t as obvious as they are in town. We experienced the luxury of lingering in the holidays – leaving the (artificial) tree up until mid-January (or until my father teased my mother that the Easter bunny may hid eggs in the branches). My mother especially made a practice of simply enjoying the lights on cold evenings – holding on to the glow that shone so brightly, with so much promise on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.

Each year, as the tree at our house is taken down (about Epiphany), I pledge to try to hold on to the celebration of Christmas through the year – to sing praises each and every day, to give to those in need, to show love, to be filled with hopeful anticipation for the mysterious mission that God has planned for me as one of his children.


All is not lost. . .

November 27, 2011

Advent candleAdvent is here again – sneaking stealthily behind the praise and prayer of Thanksgiving and retail riot of Black Friday.  Advent – preparing for the coming of the Lord – provides a blessed opportunity for introspection.  Time in the silent dusky darkness of an early December evening with the simple glow of the candle stills the mind and re-inspires a connection to God that fell away following Easter and the lengthening Spring evenings.

Despite the many spiritual benefits of celebrating Advent, the quick “arrival” catches me off guard. I rummage through the storage room in my basement looking for the simple black wrought iron candleholder packed away last January with all the Christmas trimmings.

If I’m fortunate enough to find it quickly – do I have the candles? They have to be new each year, you know. Are they the right color? Three purple, one rose – or is it the other way around? A sense of frustration grows. I might as well forget the whole thing if I can’t start on the first day and do it perfectly right. Tears of frustration stream down my face.

And then I stop. . . with the awesome realization that God doesn’t expect me to be perfect. That’s why he sent Jesus. How silly am I to think that God will judge the color of the candles, if I got them out the first night of Advent or the second. It’s the matter of spending the time in reflection and in prayer that God is inviting me. The opportunity to celebrate the many good things should not be overshadowed by the human tendency to “get it perfect.”

It’s a lot like Mary and Martha in Luke 10. Martha is fussing and fretting to the point of being overwhelmed to host a meal for Jesus, while Mary sits at the Lord’s feet and learns. Sure, I suppose Mary could have helped to set the table, but more importantly Martha might have relaxed and allowed herself to be imperfect to invest some precious time with Jesus.

And so – all is not lost this Advent season. All is not lost if the candles are not purple (or royal blue – depending on your faith tradition). All is not lost if the Advent wreath is not “unearthed” from storage. All is not lost if you don’t have the perfect decorations, if you don’t follow the family tradition perfectly. The potential for what is gained – self-forgiveness of imperfection and a closer walk with the Christ is priceless.

Father God – Help me to focus on what is right for the world and how my works reflect you. While I realize the importance of being a “good workman”, I also realize that you do not demand perfection from me, only that I strive to do what is right in your eyes. Forgive me for hiding behind the trappings of perfection as an excuse to not practice my faith as fully as I should. Help me this Advent season to deepen my relationship with you and serve, as you would have me serve in your divine plan. Amen

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