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January 2010

December 2009

winter quiet :: 1

I'm feeling the need to pare down a bit in this space for the next few weeks. Life has a way of letting you know when you're going too fast, taking too much on.  Enter a baby who relapsed into sickness and complete lack of sleep and, well ... I need to step back. Take a breath. Work at a slower pace. Regain a sense of healthy rhythm after a busy holiday. Drink some hot cider. Take a warm bath. Go for a slow walk. Stop typing and take a nap.

I'll be quiet around here, communicating via pictures rather than words. A bit of a break - a rejuvenating winter quiet. From now until mid-January, be well, my friends.

the 26th

More Christmas photos here

designer to designer :: and interview with rashida coleman-hale

Whoopsie - the penultimate stop of the blog tour was delayed by inclement (yet joyous) holiday hubbub! What a whirlwind it has been these last few days. 

I'm so honored to be hosting Rashida Coleman-Hale, author of I Love Patchwork: 21 Irresistible Zakka Projects to Sew and the blog I Heart Linen, for a little designer-to-designer interview. You can see the companion interview in which Rashida interviews me over on her blog.

Rashida is a creative force that really brightens the blogosphere. Her incredibly cheerful projects have been published in a number of sewing magazines and her first book, I Love Patchwork , is a bookshelf must-have! I've already added the button calendar and the watercolor dish pincushion to my to-make list for 2010. The projects in the book are clearly presented and accessible to all levels of sewists - what I particularly love about it is that the projects are so elegant in their simplicity and are great for using up small scraps of lovely prints - perfect projects to make on a budget!


Meg : Could you give us a glimpse of a typical day in your household? How do you fit in your "work" amidst the busyness of mothering two little ones?

Rashida : Our days haven't been so typical since the move to Atlanta from NYC!  Most of our days have been spent unpacking and just trying to help the little ones feel comfortable in our new home.  My husband has also been a huge help. Mel is usually up first in the morning and he's awesome with the children.  He gets them breakfast and entertains them for me so that I can sleep in a little later.  It's been great since I toss and turn most nights because I've my growing tummy!  We sometimes even pull all nighters together!  He's an Art Director so there's always a project that needs to be done by a deadline.   I do my best work when the kids are asleep.  It's just too difficult for me to get anything done creatively when they are awake.  It was much easier when they were babies and weren't really getting into things. 

Buttoncalendar Meg : Since we're in the midst of the holidays, can you share a recipe for a dish that was on your table this year?

Rashida : I made a lovely Cream of Onion soup for Christmas.  The recipe is from one of my favorite cookbooks, "Best Ever Three and Four Ingredient Cookbook".  

Simple Cream of Onion Soup

1 kg/ 2 1/4 lb yellow onions, sliced

1 litre/ 1 3/4 pints/ 4 cups chicken or vegetable stock

150ml/ 1/4 pint/ 2/3 cup double(heavy) cream

115g/ 4 oz/ 1/2 cup unsalted butter

salt and ground black pepper

Melt 75g/3oz/6 tbsp of the unsalted butter in a large, heavy pan.  Set about 200g/7 oz of the onions aside and add the rest to the pan.  Stir to coat in the butter, then cover and cook very gently for about 30 minutes.  The onions should be very soft and tender, but not browned.

Add the chicken or vegetable stock, 5ml/1tsp salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste.  Bring to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer for 5 minutes, then remove from the heat. 

Leave the soup to cool, then process it in a blender or food processor.  Return the soup to the rinsed pan.

Meanwhile, melt the remaining onions over a low heat, covered, until soft but not browned.  Uncover and continue to cook the onions gently until they turn golden yellow. 

Add the cream to the soup and reheat it gently until hot, but do not allow it to boil.  Taste and adjust the seasoning.  Add the buttery onions and stir for 1-2 minutes, then ladle the soup into bowls.  Serve the soup immediately.  

Meg : What will be your first sewing project of the New Year? Do you have fabric picked out yet?

Rashida : My first sewing for 2010 will be some projects for Stitch.  Classified. :P  I also have some quilt blocks and a quilt to finish for the Block Party Quilting Bee book.  Super excited about those projects.  I've already chosen fabric for all of those projects.   But I think my next favorite project is going to be some clothes for my baby boy who's due the end of February.  I picked up a lovely Japanese craft book titled, "Organic Cotton Wear for Babies" with some oh so sweet patterns.  I have a white cotton lawn that I purchased from India some time ago that I've been saving for the perfect project.  I think I'll make some of the baby wrap shirts from the book with it.  I also plan to make the baby sling from your book, but I'm not sure what fabric I want to use or that just yet.


Meg : This has certainly been a busy year for you - designing projects for Stitch, getting ready to welcome your third child, and writing a book! What's next for you in your designing career? What do you see yourself doing at the end of 2010?

Rashida : Does resting count?  I'd LOVE to do some of that, but I don't see that happening anytime soon!  

There are so many things that I'd like to do next.  I'd love to write another book, continue designing for magazines and making more interesting things for my shop.  I'd really like to find out about designing a line of fabric (linen in particular) or having patterns made, teach a class or two or three.  The book has opened many doors for me and there are so many possibilities for my career right now.  I hope to explore each of them and see where it takes me.  

At the end of 2010 I see myself getting geared up for another great career move and reflecting on what a wonderful year it was with my family and friends.  I hope to have more fun and awesome project notches on my belt, and hopefully I'll have managed to make more things for my wee ones than I did in 2009.  I also hope to work on my knitting and crocheting and expand my crafty mind a bit.  

Thank you so much, Rashida! I wish you much success with your book and your creative exploits, and - most of all - a peaceful birth for you and you little babe and some time to relax in the meantime!

festive fog

the night shift

Peeking my head out from the fog for a moment to say hello, Happy Solstice, Merry Christmas ... may your holidays be full of family and joy!

Why fog, you ask? See that cup of strong black tea there? I've was working the night (and day) shifts around here for a few days as Finn had his first illness. Sweet boy had to be held just so, by Mama only, all night long, in order to keep his little lungs cough-free. I've never been so tired in my life, yet so in love. I feel like I've been baptized in the pure waters of Motherhood - those late night comfortings really bring out the best in mamas. Patience? I wasn't aware that I had it in me for several nights in a row, but yes ... it is there, only for this little boy who I love so dearly.

He is much better now, but cutting two teeth - his front teeth. Theme song, anyone? "All I Want For Christmas Is My Two Front Teeth?" Superb timing! I'm sure I'll have a toothy grin to post before the New Year!

reading with mima

Mima visited, hats were knitted, gifts were made, cookies were baked, tamales were prepared, lasagnas assembled, chocolate raspberry truffle cake whipped up, and the grocery store was tackled. All of this was accomplished with the help of a very loving husband, and many cups of the aforementioned VERY black tea.

more janes

My in-laws and Patrick's younger siblings arrive today. The guest beds are made, the meal plan written, and the fingers are crossed as I prepare to host my first ever Christmas. Nine people for five days, almost all meals here. Most of the meals are already in the freezer, and if all else fails, there's enough cheese and crackers in this house to feed a small town.

Also, be sure to catch the following blog tour interviews (and thank you to all the lovely women with whom I had the pleasure of chatting!) ::

:: about fabric on True Up

:: about aprons on Apronicity

:: about time management, Nature, and green crafting at Living Life as Art

:: about everything on the CraftSanity podcast

:: Tomorrow at maya*made about motherhood and balance (Check out Maya's beautiful bird blossom blouse!)

Now get thee to merry making!



baby bubble pants

bubble baby pants

Hey Finn, what do you think of your pants?

bubble baby pants

Squeeee! (Translation: I like them a lot, Mama ... thanks!)

bubble baby pants

Leave it to me to decide on a whim that I needed to make pants for Finn right now, in between a blog tour, family visiting, Patrick's paper writing, and my second book writing. Really, truly, the boy couldn't wait.

bubble baby pants

You see, he has a rather large bum due to his cloth diapers. And those of you who have had babies in cloth diapers know that store bought pants are NOT made to cover a cloth diapered bum! No siree ... poor little dude was constricted in his movements in store bought pants, even knit pants. Oh! Did I not mention that I have a crawling baby now? Oh yes, I sure do ... he's been at it for a few weeks now. The cats are exhausted, and he is ecstatic.

bubble baby pants

So, the pants. They are cozy, comfy, warm, reversible, quick and easy to sew, and are designed to grow with Finn (The cuffs can be unrolled as the baby grows and the elastic can be let out.) I made four pairs with organic cotton fleece lining and Japanese print exteriors. Two of the pairs are made from cotton interlock knits - these are lighter weight pants. They're pretty versatile - they can be made with wovens or knits and the fact that they're fully lined means that there are no uncomfortable seams next to baby's skin.

bubble baby pants

Want the really good news? The pattern will be in my second book! See, I was really getting work done while clothing my son. Baddabing, baddaboom ... yay! Now to tackle the Christmas cookies with my Mom, cookie baker extraordinaire.

sponsor feature and discount :: mamma 4 earth


A bit of a holiday discount for your last minute gift shopping ... Mamma4Earth is a charming Etsy store run by Linda. Read on to learn about Mamma4Earth's lovely collection of knitted toys! Also, Linda is offering a 7.5% discount to Sew Liberated readers. If you would like to purchase a toy, send Linda a conversation via Etsy and she will make a custom listing for you reflecting the discount. Without further ado, here's Linda:

My mom taught me to knit when I was five years old and I have always loved knitting since then. It was years later when I had my four children, that I realized I wanted to knit and make their toys for them from natural materials. I decided to start knitting toys from beautiful natural wool and yarn. This is how my shop, Mamma4earth, came into being. I love creating natural and eco friendly toys for children from pure wool and other wonderful natural fibers that are sustainable and will not clog up a land fill one day.



Depending on the toy, I will either spin and dye the yarn myself or I will knit it up from the softest Merino or Alpaca, or Camel Silk etc.. All my knitted treasures are filled with pure Merino fleece, making them incredibly soft and warm to the touch when held. In my shop at Mamma4earth, you will find the most delightful Waldorf-inspired handknitted treasures, farm animals, toys and gnomes. I also love to work on custom orders for customers and I have started to introduce organic hand knitted toys to my shop as well.


Thank you, Linda! Do visit Linda's blog when you have a moment - it's chock full of inspiration!

blog tour in search of groupies

blog tour

I'm taking this show on the road without having to change out of my pajamas - care to join me? Interweave Press has organized a fabulous blog tour to launch Sew Liberated: 20 Stylish Projects for the Modern Sewist! What's more, I won't be alone on this journey - I'm so excited to be touring with the super-awesome and amazingly talented Rashida Coleman-Hale, author of I Love Patchwork. The press release is below - read on to find out how you can win a copy of my book and host the final tour stop on your blog!

The Sew Liberated and I Love Patchwork Double-the-Fun Blog Tour:  2 Fabulous Sewing Authors, 2 New Books, 2 Weeks ‘til Christmas!

Interweave is thrilled to announce the publication of two new contemporary sewing books: Rashida Coleman-Hale’s I LOVE PATCHWORK: 21 IRRESISTABLE ZAKKA PROJECTS TO SEW and Meg McElwee’s SEW LIBERATED: 20 STYLISH PROJECTS FOR THE MODERN SEWIST. To celebrate in style, Meg and Rashida are hitting the Internet highway on a double-author blog tour. Follow the schedule and see gorgeous pictures from their books, learn more about their design personalities, gain a chance to win free copies, and more!  During the tour they’ll also be giving us a glimpse of their home studios and creative environment on the Studios blog, and at the end they’ll wrap it up with a designer-to-designer conversation with each other on their personal blogs, and If you’re not already following their blogs, bookmark them now and visit often. We can’t wait for you to get to know them better.

Want to be a part of the tour? Here’s a fun giveaway open to all bloggers! Leave a comment ON THIS POST with your blog address on Rashida’s blog or Meg’s blog on Friday, Dec.11.  On Monday, Dec. 14 at Noon EST each author will randomly draw one person from the comments to receive a complimentary copy of their book, which Interweave will air mail out. The winners will then have the opportunity to interview Rashida or Meg and post their interviews on January 4, 2010 as the capstone post of the tour.


Follow The Sew Liberated and I Love Patchwork Double-the-Fun Blog Tour at:


Friday, Dec. 11:                 Meg on (interview)

Saturday, Dec. 12:            Rashida on “In the Studio with Cate” (studio tour)

Sunday, Dec. 13:               Meg on “In the Studio with Cate” (studio tour)

Monday, Dec. 14:             Rashida on (interview)

Tuesday, Dec. 15:             Meg on (interview)

Wednesday, Dec. 16:     Rashida on Fabric Shop Network blog (interview)

Thursday, Dec. 17:           Meg on Grosgrain Fabulous (book review and giveaway)

Friday, Dec. 18:                 Rashida Twitter event – Noon EST on Twitter with @iheartlinen

Friday, Dec. 18                   Meg on Living Life as Art (interview, review, and project)

Saturday, Dec. 19:           Meg on  (book review)

Sunday, Dec. 20:               Rashida on Zakka Life (book review)

Monday, Dec. 21:            Meg on Craftsanity (podcast interview)

Monday, Dec. 21:             Rashida on Craft Critique (interview and book review)

Tuesday, Dec. 22:             Rashida on all buttoned up (interview)

Wednesday, Dec. 23:     Meg on maya*made (interview)

Thursday, Dec. 24:          Designer-to-Designer: Rashida and Meg interview each other on and

Monday, Jan. 4, 2010:    Blog Tour Winners’ Posts - to be announced


That's all for today! My Mom (Finn's Mima) and my Aunt Pat arrive this evening to kick off a week of merry making, cookie baking, Christmas music listening, and last minute gift knitting and sewing! Throughout the blog tour I'll still be posting here regularly. Now? I had this crazy urge, in the midst of the book launch, to make a whole slew of pants for Finn.  My serger is still reeling. More on that on Monday. Here's wishing you a jolly weekend!

sew liberated :: 20 stylish projects for the modern sewist


After nearly two years of work, from the nights I spent in my adobe room in Mexico, wide awake with ideas for projects, to this past summer spent working on final edits while nursing a newborn, my book, Sew Liberated: 20 Stylish Projects for the Modern Sewist, is finally out in the world!

My shop (signed copies available immediately, ship Priority Mail)

Amazon (will start shipping next week, most likely)

Interweave Press (ships immediately)

Your local independent bookstore


Signing copies while drinking egg nog - the "kids" variety, don't worry - your autographs should be legible!

What a mix of emotions. Excited and incredulous, relieved and anxious. So much of my time, mental energy, and creative expression is wrapped up in those pages. This project challenged me in so many ways, stretching my sewing skills and my capabilities as a designer. I remember being 7 months pregnant, on the floor, on my hands and knees, laying out the Silken Circles Lap Quilt. The whole book, for me, represents my passage from young adulthood to motherhood. The last late nights unbroken by quiet nursing sessions (for a while, at least). The last single-minded, uninterrupted periods of intense work, the likes of which have not been seen around here since Finn was born. Baby cheeks beckon to be kissed, baby arms reach up to be held, and baby squeals of delight now bring about constant, and welcome, interruptions in my work day. 


A festive congratulatory bouquet from my Mom and Dad

Mostly, I feel so much gratitude for you, my readers and friends, who have made this all possible! Thank you for your encouragement, your wit, your support, and for being here. I thought of you all while designing, sewing, and writing. In some ways, I feel like this book is a gift to you, twenty patterns for the price of less than two, and I hope that it provides you with many days of gratifying creative time with your sewing machine!

Stay tuned for details of the blog tour celebrating the release of Sew Liberated.


Any orders for signed books from my store will ship within two business days via USPS priority mail - plenty of time for holiday gifting & making! If you've already ordered your book, it shipped out today.

P.S. Remember that Holiday Traditions Exchange packages need to be mailed by tomorrow!