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May 2010

teach in mexico

I recently received an email from my dear friend in Mexico, letting me know that the Montessori school where I taught for three years is in the precarious predicament of being without a teacher for the upcoming school year. It really is an amazing, one-room school - a school unlike any I've ever visited in the US (much better, in other words!). If you have a passion for Montessori education, are interested in working with children of humble backgrounds, and would be interested in living and working in Mexico for the next few years, please be in contact with Adriana as soon as possible! Also, please forward this announcement to anyone you think might be interested in a truly genuine, truly beautiful Montessori experience. Here's the job posting I wrote back when I was there, and we were searching for my replacement:


We invite an AMI-trained primary guide to teach in the mountains of rural northern Mexico. Interested candidates must have a passion for Montessori philosophy. The position provides the opportunity to work with children of few economic resources and with the indigenous population. Some knowledge of Spanish, or a willingness to learn, is necessary. Interested guides should email their resumes and a letter introducing themselves to Adriana de la Vega at [email protected].

The school's blog can be found here:

Here are just a few of my favorite photos from my time in Mexico - enjoy!

picking corn

feb2008 085

first sandpaper letter presentation

observing a huge caterpillar


countdown to goodbye day 3

making apple juice 080

countdown to goodbye day 3

love my 18-135 lens

day 21

dia de campo 12-07

mixing motherhood and sewing: a chat with Anna Maria Horner


photo from Anna Maria

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 calls!

Anna: Sorry about that baby crazy thing that I seem to inspire.  The more the merrier!

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~

Outside 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 like 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 correct!!

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?

Anna: I 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 accidents. 

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.

Every 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. 

One 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 far 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 them!

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?

Anna: I 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 jacket pattern, 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 new book!

Anna: Thank you Meg and happy to be sharing so much in common these days in life and work! 

lucky winners!

Congratulations to the following randomly picked peeps, each of whom won a copy of Handmade Beginnings: 24 Sewing Projects to Welcome Baby !


Rachel Wolf :

Most rockin'. Can't wait to stitch up that hoodie!


Mandy White :

Here's my day 2 comment. I really, really want to win!


mountain girl :

Great trousers! Love 'em.


nancymoo :

Ooooh! Love those pants!! Thanks for hosting this giveaway! :D


Carrie @ Oh Baby O :

Reversible too!? :-) I've been trying my hand at making clothes for my lil' guy lately. What fun! (Crossing my fingers extra tight to win the give-away!)

Thanks for all of your fun comments!

quick change trousers for the cloth-diapered bum

quick change trousers5

The adorable (and reversible!) Quick Change Trousers from Handmade Beginnings passed the battery of very stringent toddler tests!

quick change trousers6

Comfortable and cute while walking tentatively - check.

quick change trousers3

Comfortable and cute while marching with stick in hand - check.

quick change trousers4

Comfortable and cute while poking stick into grass that's nearly as tall as you - check.

quick change trousers1

Comfortable and cute while climbing a hill of dirt - check.

quick change trousers2

Comfortable and cute while squishing mulberries between fingers - check.

I made a slightly modified version of the trousers to fit over Finn's ample, cloth-diapered rear. First, I made one size up (size 18 months is shown). Then, I modified the pattern piece "C - Back Leg" by lowering and extending the back seat rise by about 1 cm (the adjustments are shown as dotted lines).


After making this adjustment in the rise, you'll need to adjust for the loss of inseam length by extending the inseam by 1 cm below the cuff. Make your new lines as perpendicular as possible! Cut out your new "C" pattern piece and you're good to go - follow the instructions as written, except you'll probably want to use a 1/4" - 3/8" seam allowance when sewing the outer side seams in step 10, just to give a bit more wiggle room around that bulky diaper.

I'll definitely be making more of these, both for Finn and for gifts. Stop by on Friday for my chat with Anna Maria about mamahood and sewing, and for her tips on sewing with a little one around!

***Keep you comments coming! (One per day, please!) I'll be drawing the winners of the four Handmade Beginnings books on Friday!***

handmade beginnings :: 24 sewing projects to welcome baby & giveaway

handmade beginnings front

Anna Maria did it. She wrote a sewing book that is both beautiful and practical, and one that makes you want to have more babies. It's the first of its kind. I predict a baby boom among the sewist crowd after Handmade Beginnings is published. Watch out, Finn - there are at least five more siblings in your future now that I have this book in my hands!

Handmade Beginnings: 24 Sewing Projects to Welcome Baby is such a special book because Anna Maria has shared so much of herself throughout its pages. Her sixth pregnancy, her newborn, her children, her home - as you flip through its pages, you feel as though you're hanging out with a friend. A friend who also happens to be an experienced mama and seamstress. (I figure that, after the sixth baby, you've reached a certain level of expertise that was completely lacking for number one. I remember that first night we had Finn at home alone. Patrick and I just stared at that messy diaper like "What the heck are we supposed to do with that?" The diaper fairy never came. We managed. At any rate, it's so nice to have the friendships of experienced mamas to get you through those challenging "firsts!"

mariposa nursing tunic

So, I found myself trusting Anna like one of those mama-friends. Anna wrote, in the introduction to the Mariposa Dress and Tunic project, "The transformation that you and your body will experience during and after pregnancy is nothing short of a gorgeous wonder. Ignore any thought that has you feeling otherwise." Yes! It has been an adjustment to come to view my life-creating and life-giving body, with it's extra belly skin and hard-earned stretch marks, as the "gorgeous wonder" that Anna Maria talks about. But you know what? It is. And the Mariposa Tunic, which you can make in either a maternity version or a post-baby, nursing version, really flatters the mama body.

mariposa nursing tunic 2

I made mine in a lightweight cotton lawn, using the vertical lines of the fabric to create a lengthening effect along the torso. I love the styling - the gathering at the shoulders and the lower bodice works well for fuller-busted, nursing mamas, and it's very comfortable to boot. My sleeveless version started out as a dress, but like many of my would-be dress projects, it morphed into a tunic.

mariposa nursing tunic back

The pattern itself is extremely well written, with very clear diagrams. It was fun to sew, and I worked it up in about five hours or so. A few pattern notes - because I made the sleeveless version, I ended up bringing in the side seams underneath the arms. I don't have a very broad back, but I suppose that, had I made the version with sleeves, I wouldn't have had to make this adjustment, as sleeves do require some extra space for arm maneuverability. The only bummer about this pattern (and the other maternity/nursing patterns in the book) is that the sizes are limited to Small, Medium, and Large. I wear a Small/Medium in the tunic, so I can imagine that the sizing is a limiting factor to many women. It's the nature of patterns-in-a-book, though - you can only fit so much on those little paper inserts.

mariposa nursing tunic ready for baby!

The brilliant modesty panel makes for super-easy nursing access. I tried it out for lunch on the town, and sure enough, nursing discreetly was a cinch. Finn approves.

mariposa nursing tunic tied in front

It's also versatile! Quickly tie it in the front after nursing for a sweet look.

four corners blouse

I'm not done yet! I'm off to find some fabric to whip up the Four Corners Blouse, and I've already cut the fabric to make Finn a pair of Quick Change Trousers with a modification for his large, cloth diapered bum.

quick change trousers

And how can I resist the Baby in the Hood Jacket? The fabric is all lined up for this one, too. To see more of the book, check out this preview.

baby in the hood jacket

The nice folks at Wiley Publishing have sent me not one, but four books to give away to Sew Liberated readers! Here's how the giveaways will work: each day this week (Monday through Thursday) leave a comment. I'll draw a winner for each day and announce the winners on Friday, when I might be hosting Anna Maria for a little Q & A. (I say might because I've procrastinated in getting my questions to her, and she's a busy lady! Cross your fingers, though!)

Check out the other book tour stops when you get the chance!

May 3~ Craft
May 4~ Indie Fixx
May 5~ Sew Mama Sew
May 6~ Pink Chalk Studio
May 10~ Wise Craft
May 14~ House on Hill Road
May 16~ Purl Bee
May 18~ All Buttoned Up
May 19~ Alabama Chanin Journal
May 20~ Homemade by Jill
May 21~ True Up
May 22~ Oh, Fransson!
May 23~ Prudent Baby
May 24~ Sew Liberated
May 25~ Handmade by Alissa
May 26~ Hazelnuts
May 27~ Petite Purls

and she asks herself, "can you do the can-can?"

canning 1

Did I really just write that title? I did. And that's about the extent of my sense of humor, friends. Thank you for the polite chuckle.

Despite growing up amidst blackberry brambles with my own mother making jam like a factory, I had never made my own jam. Of course, I have picked a gazillion berries and have eaten truckloads of jam, but somehow I avoided the actual making of the jam - until now. With my new can-do attitude (groan, eye-roll) and my Mother's Day gift, I was prepared to preserve.

canning 2

My gift consisted of my choice of kitchen "gadget." I briefly considered a crock pot, toyed with the idea of a bread machine, and fantasized about a stand mixer, but I ultimately went for something supremely practical and sure to be used quite a bit: two books, a jar lifter, and some more mason jars. I also went ahead and bought a pressure cooker/canner because I know we'll be wanting to preserve low-acid foods such as pinto beans and soups of all kinds. You don't need a pressure cooker if you're only making high-acid preserves such as jams, pickles, condiments, or tomato sauces. A bit ol' pot will work just fine.

canning 6

Old-fashioned jams looked right up my alley. Only two ingredients. Mashed fruit and sugar. How could I mess that one up on my first try?

canning 5

My biggest surprise in this whole process was the mountain of sugar that homemade jams require. Mind you, it's a lot better than high fructose what-not and who-knows-what-else they add to commercial jams, but my goodness. I think I'll be having my toast and jam for dessert from now on!

canning 4

With the Bob Marley's classic playing in my head, I stirred. And stirred. Stirred some more, then finally poured the aromatic goop into the jars, placed the jars in the pot for ten minutes at a rolling boil, removed the hot jars using the jar lifter, and set them on my counter for 24 hours to set.

canning 3

The result?

Well. I suppose this means I'll never again buy jam from a store. The other result is that my kitchen is a mess. Not only did we make jam, but we made strawberry syrup for pancakes and waffles. Suddenly, we went from never having canned before to wanting to can everything in sight. Is that something edible? Quick! Can it! Our crazed gazes twitch from side to side, waiting for the next box from our CSA to arrive on Tuesday ...

Actually, I have other things in the works - fabric things! I'll be hosting Anna Maria Horner's book tour tomorrow (actually, I'll be gushing about her work and showing off projects all week long) so be sure to stop by!

strawberry fields

strawberry fields 1

A few days back, we headed out to a local farm for some U-pick strawberry fun with friends. Friends with a cute two year-old, who happens to be wearing a mama-knit vest. The only way you can possibly make a two year-old any cuter is by plopping a mama-knit vest on her, and then setting her loose in a field of strawberries. The result? Squooshy mud between-the-toes and berry-stained fingers. And load of strawberries.

self serve strawberries

strawberry basket

strawberry fingers

Our bounty has already been made into two types of jam and a syrup for pancakes. As I write this, the deep red jars are cooling on the kitchen counter - my first attempt at preserving the harvest. More on that experience tomorrow!

our healing basket

healing basket 4

One of the many things that I love about my friend Amanda is her ingenuity when it comes to creating cozy traditions for her family. Traditions that are simple, ever-so-practical, and good for the earth. In Handmade Home, she shares a bit about her family's Healing Basket, and I knew I would be putting one of our own together sometime in the future.

healing basket 3

At first, I was all gung-ho about it; I even found the perfect old picnic basket for less than a dollar this past Winter. Then, like so many of my projects, it just ended up collecting dust bunnies under the dresser. (I'm SO good at starting projects. NOT so good at finishing them in a timely manner. I have one half-knitted sock that's been waiting patiently for me for me to finish it for over five years. I know. I'm pretty bad.)

healing basket 2

Nothing like necessity to give you a swift kick in the posterior! With one boy running a fever, both of my boys tossing their cookies, and a few bumps and bruises to boot, I finally started to put together our Healing Basket.

Now, mine barely resembles Amanda's version, mostly because it's currently for mama, not for the little guy - it's more of a first-aid kit than a basket of comforts. I'm trying to amass my own stash of mama-remedies in case of need - to have everything that could be useful in one place. In the future, I'd love to have a separate basket for Finn and his future siblings with a book of meditations for children, a bit of "Magic Spray" (essentially water with some lavender and calendula essential oils), and other comforting measures that can be called upon when a little one feels yucky. Here's what's currently in our basket:

healing basket 1

I'm still in the process of stocking up. What are your some of your couldn't-do-without items in your family first aid kit/healing basket?

Here's to a healthy weekend!

a laundry list of firsts

first visit to the ocean

first visit to the ocean 2

first visit to the ocean 3

The first birthday, the first steps, and the first trip to the ocean. Lots of firsts in this past week, I tell you! I can barely keep up. He's also started using sign language in the past few weeks- just really blossomed in his ability to communicate, which blows my mind. Our attitude toward teaching Finn sign language has been very lackadaisical. We signed to him occasionally, but more often than not I was confounded as to how to go about signing when I always had either a baby in hand or something else (probably food.) No matter, he picked up on it anyway. The day he figured out the sign for "more," he was off and gesticulating like crazy.  We use this book, and also make use of an online ASL dictionary.

His signs to date include: more, music, all done, hungry/food, water, outside, mama's milk, open, potty, book, squirrel, and I think I saw him try "bird" this morning. The amazing thing? These pretty much sum up his interests at this point in life. And really, if all we could say was "outside", "music", and "more", wouldn't we live a fantastic existence? I think so! His spoken words include cat, the occasional "mama", he woofs whenever he hears or sees a dog, and I swear I heard him say "bubble" yesterday (another favorite activity, thanks to his Mima, Bubble Blower Extraordinaire.) He's also become quite the comedian. His stand up routine currently includes faking a sneeze, much to his delight (and the delight of those around him, of course!) I wonder where he gets that funny gene:

I have this sense of the days whirling past me. Things have been busy here with family visiting and a few deadlines for some other fun projects. It's like I want to yell "stop!" and freeze things for a while, take the time to absorb all of these changes in my little boy. I love watching him master new skills and become excited by the marvelous world around him, but I think a slow week is needed. A week where we can toss out the ridiculous to-do lists in our adult heads and watch a baby become a toddler. Much more important than to-do lists, don't you think?

snuggle with mama

What is encouraging you to throw out your to-do lists this week?

my baby is one

finn's 1 year mosaic

I'm at a loss for words. I love this little person - this constantly evolving, constantly growing testament to the goodness of life. A precious presence, he is. A person who, like his father, helps me to be a better person. A giggler. A goofy ham. A person with intensity and vivacity. A person who I can't wait to get to know, over and over again, for the rest of my life.

Happy birthday, dearest Finn. You are so loved.