Meg: Anna Maria, you've clearly poured so
much of yourself into the pages of Handmade Beginnings, and this
makes it one of the best sewing books I've had in my hands in a long
while! My copy is dog-eared with project plans, and I just love that
you've shared your home and family within its pages – your
beautiful handiwork is in not only the patterns, but the eye-catching
photography and fabric selections as well. Hats off to you! Oh –
and I'm really sure that I've never owned a sewing book that makes me
want to have five more children. Ahem. The Center of Attention Quilt
about that baby crazy thing that I seem to inspire. The more the
Meg: Within the pages of Handmade Beginnings
you'll find projects for not only new arrivals, but for pregnant and
nursing mamas, big siblings, and even a cool diaper bag for dads.
Many of the projects stand out as items you could make not only for a
baby's room, but that would make beautiful additions to any home.
Another example of the versatility of many of the projects is the
Mariposa Dress & Blouse, which can be made to fit pregnant mamas,
but also shines as a super-cute nursing top or even a
not-nursing-at-all top! So, sewists who don't have little babes yet
(or perhaps their babies are all grown up) will also love your book,
and find much inspiration in its pages. But for the purposes of this
interview, and since we seem to share not only a love for sewing, but
also little boys who were both born a year ago in May, I thought I'd
focus on the mama/sewing realm, if that's ok with you!
Anna: Perfect !
Meg: The first is a hypothetical question.
If you had all the time in the world and wanted to put together an
amazing gift for a dear friend who was about to have her first baby,
which three projects from your book would you include, and why? What
else might the package contain? A favorite children's book? An
indispensable baby item? Something special to help the new mommy take
care of herself? A coffee machine, for example? Anything's game …
Anna: Hmmm, good question! I would make her
the Sixth Time's the Charm Crib Quilt~ I would make her the Quick Change
Trousers (one in every size- does that still count as one item?)~ and I
would make her hhmumumumum.... the Four Corners Blouse~
of sewn items, my favorite gift to bring to a new mom is what I call
the grocery store baby gift. I run down the baby aisle and get all the
not-so-exciting necessities, like diapers, wipes, shampoo, lotion, rash
ointment, powder, thermometer, Onesies, etc. And I often also include
some favorite (non-baby) magazines and movie candy for mom and dad.
It's all practical and useful and I
thinking that I've saved new parents a few trips to the grocery store
in those days after baby has come home.
Meg: The next is a very, very practical
question. I couldn't help but notice that your adorable little Roman hangs out with you in
your studio. Am I correct in understanding that he's with you the
entire day while you go about your work?
Anna: You are
Meg: If so, you are, hands down,
the most amazing person I've ever “met!” I can only sew when
Patrick is watching Finn. My studio isn't a very toddler-friendly
place at the moment. Can you give us new mamas some practical
suggestions for creating a sewing space that is also child-friendly?
don't think that I have a handle on any secrets over here, mostly just
common sense stuff and years of experience with babies at my feet. I
obviously keep all dangerous stuff
like needles, pins, scissors up
out if the way. I would like to hire a security guard for the iron and
ironing board because there is no practical way that I have found to keep that
safe, but I just try to make the corner of the room where I keep it
very uninteresting to a baby. Before he could really respond to my
verbal warnings and was crawling everywhere, I just put the ironing
board in an adjacent bathroom and shut the door. It was a lot of
marching to and fro from the machine, but no doubt saved a few
I also keep several of his favorite things in a
simple bin under my drafting table on a soft cushy rug and I throw a
few pillows down there. I think that making one corner for him that is
cozier than the rest of the room helps keep him in that spot. And I try
to sit there with him for a minute a few times a day and get him
interested in a book or toy.
baby is different, all of mine have been. For instance I have a glass
cabinet that houses all my personal fabric stacks, and throughout my
pregnancy I wondered how on earth I would be able to keep that think
organized once the baby is crawling around. But
even at one year old, Roman is way more interested in just opening and
closing the doors to it, than he is knocking out all the stacks of
fabric. It simply hasn't occurred to him. Which I think is so funny.
And when he does dump out my other bins of fabric scraps I remind myself
that its very entertaining for him and he is learning something. Is it
annoying some days? YES! But its also cheaper than daycare and I get
to watch him enjoy my mess.
other little thing that I think I've learned more with him than any of
the kids: Very often I pick him up for a cuddle before he has the chance
to whine for one. It makes him so happy, he just glows and you can
tell he feels fulfilled. I have found that this prevents fussiness, the
days go smoother, and it
only takes a little bit of time to completely stop what I'm doing to
have a moment together. And it earns me lots of moments where we are
each completely absorbed in our own tasks. In short, a few minutes of
full attention are more beneficial for both of us than all day of
halfway doing something. And of course there are days that all these
suggestions don't have a prayer. That's what the baby jogger and
vacation days are for!
Meg: **Sidenote - after reading this I was totally inspired to make my studio welcoming for Finn. More about that sometime soon!** How
is it that you've welcomed your children into your creative work
and encouraged their own expressions of creativity? You definitely
model a creative life, and it seems that your eldest daughter,
Juliana, has been bitten by the same artsy bug as you!
Anna: Well Juliana grew up in a very similar
environment! And keep in mind that all my other children are in school
so the advice I've laid out above works well when you have one at home.
Juliana (who just graduated from HS!) was the only one at home (and in
my store back then) for 6 years. The middle 4 kids were one right after
the other about every 18 months, so that was definitely more of a
challenge. I often employed the help of local mother's day out programs
a few days a week, but in general I just worked less.
as their creativity goes, kids naturally gravitate towards making. And
having every available medium for
them to mess around with in a casual unstructured way has been a huge
benefit. I am so grateful that I've been able to share what I do with
Meg: Finally, your designs for children
aren't limited to those in your book - I remember, way back when,
that you made the most stunning patchwork jackets for your little
girls. As designers and mamas, we're undoubtedly inspired by the
little people who surround us. As a mother of a little boy with no
girls to sew for (yet, anyway) I've been perusing the 'net for
inspiration for home-sewn clothes for boys. There's definitely less
out there, but I was excited to see that several of the designs in
your book (the Reversible Hooded Jacket and the Pants) are modeled by
boys! You even give tips for choosing fabrics for boys. Are there any
boy-pattern goldmines out there that you are aware of?
haven't bought a sewing pattern since I was about 15, so I am sorry I
can't help you there! But I think Ottobre magazine seems to offer one
of the best selections of boy patterns that there is.
Meg: I'll have to check out Ottobre! What are some favorite "boy" projects you have sewn over the years?
Anna: I'll be honest with you here- I of
course, have made much less for my boys than I have for my girls. The
trade off between buying or making for boys is so different. You tend
to want more basic items for boys than girls with fewer details and
colors. So I think that a simple t-shirt pattern paired loads of
favorite striped cotton jerseys, and a simple pant/short pattern paired
with loads of favorite cotton wovens will get you through the first few
years just fine! I LOVED making striped tees and corduroy
pull on pants for my boys when they where young. But I was much too busy
(or impatient) for boy items that had lots of buttons or details.
If I'd had the Baby-in-the-hood
though, I would have made them that for sure, as I have for Roman!
Meg: Thank you so much for taking the time
for our little chat, and congratulations on your wonderful
Anna: Thank you Meg and happy to be sharing so much in common these days
in life and work!