embroidery and applique


waxing the play kitchen

Sometimes, in my bag of parenting tricks that I've gathered from here and there, I tend to forget things. It's a big bag of a lot of randomness, with some Montessori thrown in, a dose of Waldorf for good measure, and a good amount of attachment parenting. And yes, some may find the bits of granola dispersed through this parenting bag a bit messy ... even funny. But it works, and that's how we learn to be parents - by throwing past experiences and good ideas into that bag, hoping that we can a.) find the bag when we need to pull something out, and b.) rifle through it to find that particular idea among a sea of others.

waxing the play kitchen

Lately I've been thinking to myself that I need to clean out this disorganized mess. I'll be the first to admit that I'm addicted to parenting books. I need to break that. There's just too much information coming in. 

waxing the play kitchen

All of this is a long-winded way of saying that I'm rediscovering the value of Montessori's Practical Life exercises in my home, after nearly forgetting about them. I gave up the idea of being a Saint-in-Residence a while back, ;) a character trait that some believe Montessori and Waldorf parenting necessitates. Yet, even though I got rid of those unrealistic ideas from my parenting bag, that didn't mean that I threw out some simple tools - dare I say the backbone (at least a supporting leg?) - of the philosophies themselves. 

waxing the play kitchen

I've written about Montessori Practical Life before while I was teaching, and here's something I happened upon recently from a Waldorf perspective.

And you know what? Even if neither of these two philosophies truly resonate with you, the idea of giving young children meaningful work to do in the home is an amazing parenting tool. It calms nerves. It centers children. It gives them confidence. It develops their capacity to concentrate. Out of it will come content for creative play. It allows you, the parent, to get a few things done while they work. Setting up activities for your child makes you feel like a capable parent (when I often feel like I'm floundering in the murky waters of sibling messes.) I love me some Practical Life.

waxing the play kitchen

I thought I'd share with you some of what we're doing around here in terms of meaninful "work" for Finn.

Today, I had some pictures of this recent beeswax-fest on my camera. You will need some polishing cloths (I made mine from Little Folks flannel), a very small spoon for applying the wax to the cloth, and some yummy beeswax/jojoba oil blend from my go-to practical life resource, Montessori Services.

waxing the play kitchen

Wax anything that's unfinished wood - from the play kitchen to toys to tables. It helps to have a smaller container of beeswax so there's a limited amount and it is used more judiciously. You see the whole jar here because I forgot my own advice. Next time, next time. Now our kitchen is super-waxed! 

Best of all? Thirty minutes of contented work. For all of us.

Oh! P.S. The apron pattern (including the template for all of the embroidery work) can be found here!

child's apron revisited

baking apron

This humble little apron means more to me than you would think it warrants. It's a simple design, really - so easy to make, and so gratifying to give to a young child. It represents joyful, messy times together with children, both in my classroom and now in my own home, baking and making art with my little one.

But it's more to me than that, even. It was the first sewing pattern that I mustered up the courage to share with others. I remember drafting the pattern while I was still living and teaching in Mexico, hoping that it would be of use to other Montessori teachers and parents as they made materials for their own classrooms and homes. I was nervous putting it out into the world. The basic apron has been a downloadable tutorial on my blog ever since.

Yet, it doesn't stop there, my appreciation for this little apron. It soon became apparent that others really enjoyed the pattern, both for its sewing ease, its design that promotes a young child's independence, and for its practical use in the home. The feedback I received from the first users of the pattern was positive, and it gave me the confidence I needed to start writing up patterns for my other designs (like the Emmeline Apron - the apron I wore daily in my classroom!)

Before I knew it, I was designing patterns as well as teaching. Now, I'm mothering and designing patterns whenever I can find a moment. (Most moments courtesy of my dear husband, who is Super Dad.) Occasionally, enough of those moments come together and allow me to write a book.

Growing Up Sew Liberated is about to be released (official launch date is June 6) and I couldn't be more excited. It is written for those exact same people I drafted the apron pattern for - but there's oh so much more inside its pages. It was such a joy to write, and I hope that you love it as much as you loved the humble little apron.

So, with a nod to my roots as a designer, I'm really pleased that Interweave, my publisher, wanted to re-release the child's apron with a few more bells and whistles.

laundry apron

laundry apron detail

plant care apron

You can read Tricia's write-up about Growing Up Sew Liberated on Sew Daily, where you can also download the new-and-improved Child's Apron pattern. The new pattern features two size ranges (3-5 years and 6-8 years,) as well as instructions on making two new versions of the apron: a waterproof, whimsically embroidered Laundry Day Apron, and the playfull and practical Plant Care Apron.

Click here to download the new pattern.

Happy sewing!


spring outfit

new spring outfit

After all of my daydreaming about how to kick-off my newfound sewing freedom, I forgot that my son was still wearing fleece-lined pants and long-sleeved shirts in late April, which is totally inappropriate for the climate here in North Carolina. Sure, the fleece-lined pants are cute, but it's time to bite the bullet and pack them away for future siblings. Yet another sentimental moment in motherhood - there are so, so many, aren't there? 

So yesterday, I made Finn some soft denim knickers - a shortened and unlined version of my bubble pants pattern, and a simple appliquéd envelope tee made from a recycled men's t-shirt. (Both the pants and this envelope shirt pattern will be in my next book, by the way!) Many more warm-weather little boy outfits are in the works - a full wardrobe using only patterns and stash fabric that I have on hand, to save some money.

new spring outfit

I made this t-shirt pretty long, so that it fits him for a good while (sparing me the sad twinge that comes with packing away baby clothes). The appliquéd patch on the front is from a precious piece of Japanese cotton/linen blend that I used to make this Oliver & S Playsuit for Finn to wear as a newborn. It fit for all of five weeks before the little butterball grew out of it.

new spring outfit

But boy, is it difficult to get a nice photo of the front of his outfit when he's always standing right in front of something, or crawling to the next thing to stand in front of. It's not difficult to get a cute picture of his smooch-able face, mind you, but I'm talking pure, utilitarian, finished-object sewing photos. Oh well - soon enough, he'll be motoring around on his own two feet without support, and I'll be wistful for the crawling days!

new spring outfit

new spring outfit


on the needles

on the needles

Things are humming along in the creative realm. Lots of book designing and sewing going on behind the scenes, but also a good share of "because-if-I-didn't-make-it-I'd-go-bonkers" projects. I love these projects - the ones that maintain my sanity amidst looming deadlines. They're projects that I can pick up and take with me, and they're perfectly suited for busying my hands while sitting on the floor and making sure that Finn doesn't grab the big, lazy cat and quickly stuff him in his mouth.

on the needles

:: for the book (although this counts - it's just too fun)

on the needles

:: for my right foot

on the needles

:: for my left foot

on the needles

:: for a little boy on Valentine's Day.

We're hunkering down here for a real winter storm this weekend. Thank goodness, because I felt really sorry for the kids I saw riding their sleds down a steep, grassy incline at the park the other day. Seriously. We need some white stuff.

finn's forest

finn's forest

Finn's Forest, by Melissa Crowe at Little Pink House ... perhaps my favorite bit of handmade in the baby's room. The hoop has yet to find a permanent home on a wall because I love putting it in front of Finn while he plays on his tummy. He will stare at it for quite a long time.

Notice the two cats? Those are wool felt versions of our Amelie and Timoun

Gotta love that Melissa. The other forest friends are equally endearing - and I can't get over that fawn, with her wagging ear ...

finn's forest

If you would like to give wool felt applique a go, check out Melissa's sachet tutorial.

Thank you, my dear, for making us a cherished heirloom.


Who said the weather outside is frightful? I just marvel at the little wonders one can find while walking slowly through snow-touched woods.

snow crystals while snowshoeing 1

snow crystals while snowshoeing 2
We made it to my parents' home in the mountains of northern California, past the airport debacles of Chicago and Las Vegas, to be greeted by the sweet smell of my childhood home - pine needles and crisp air. A tour of the property on snowshoes was the only item on the day's itenerary, the highlight of which was refreshing ourselves with handfuls of mountain-purified water directly from the bubbling natural spring.

the calico kitty

Oh - and this little kitty. You see, I knew this year would not find me making by hand all of my Christmas gifts. Time was in desperately short supply - I relied on Etsy for almost all of our gift-giving. But this kitty doll idea kept popping into my head ... I knew my two and four-year old nieces would go bonkers over these. I kitty-fied the Wee Wonderfuls Kit, Chloe and Louise doll pattern, found a hand built doll bunk bed and double doll chair on Etsy, and then proceeded to go all out. I just couldn't stop myself. Two woolen kitties, two doll quilts and bedding sets, three outfits for each, and two felt "pet fish" in a tiny beta fish bowl later, these girls are going to have one heck of a Christmas morning.

More photos later when I have everything set up under the tree!

If you don't hear from me for a bit, assume that we are enjoying the incoming snow storm and are most likely without electricity. The perfect combination, if you ask me. Sigh. Winter is so wonderful.

i'm baking big time

15 weeks
15 weeks

Most of you already know about this bun in the oven.  What you might not know is that I have two other buns baking as well!

That's right ... with the contracts signed and everything official, I can finally spill the beans about what I've had up my sleeves these past few months.  I've signed a two book deal with Interweave Press! Here's a sneak peek:

book project peek

The first book, tentatively titled Sew Liberated: Creative Sewing with Applique, will feature 30 sewing projects embellished with applique. An entire section with photo tutorials will help you master all sorts of applique techniques, from an easy rough edge to more complex three dimensional appliques. It's due out in Fall 2009.

The second book, which doesn't yet have a title, will be a true melding of my passions - early childhood development and sewing. My plan is to offer clothing patterns for babies and young children that are designed with the child's developmental needs in mind: comfort, movement, and growing independence.

So now you know - if I have been slow in responding to emails and otherwise distracted, it's not necessarily because I have pregnancy brain ... I've been very busy behind the scenes! My first deadline is the second week of December, so I'm entering that CRAZY time. (At least the morning sickness is a thing of the past!)

Mostly, I'm still in shock that I'm going to be an author. Part of me feels so unworthy of the job. It really did fall into my lap through the kindness of others. I also feel incredibly lucky - and so fortunate - to have this opportunity. Not only is it a fulfillment of a personal dream, it will allow me to be a stay-at-home mama - my biggest wish of all. Life seems pretty charmed at the moment, what with baby, books, and my Bernina.

Thank you all for being such a warm and supportive community. I would never be writing these books if it weren't for you. Really. Thank you.


flower blossom applique

Much gratitude for your warm welcome to Typepad! It was a big move, and I feel that I can finally wipe that bead of sweat from my forehead (phew!), knowing that so many of you have followed me over here. Thanks for that. 

While the surroundings here in Mexico are slow to 'green up,' I'm finally starting to see some signs of new life. A few blossoms here, a happy bee there. One of my students ran inside today and, almost shocked, told me that there was a bee gathering pollen on the first blossoms outside. I followed her outside and we sat there and just watched in silence for several minutes. In this silent sitting state, it's amazing how many more signs of Spring one can notice. Birdsong, an occasional hummingbird, the bee's buzz, a green blade of grass poking through.

Today I learned that you notice many more things that fly when you are sitting still.

Wishing you all a peaceful weekend!

love me some linen

embroidered patch from berlin's whimsy

Look what arrived in my Mexican P.O. box today! Amber and I did a bit of an exchange - a few sewing patterns for some of her knock-em-dead handwork. I'm hoping that having this lovely piece of Amber's in my home will help filter some of her embroidery mojo my way! You never know.

At the moment, I'm pleasantly paralyzed (creatively) due to the 10 yards of beautiful linen that I can finally call my own. I've waited literally years to find affordable linen. Now that I have it, I'm overwhelmed. There are SO many ideas floating about in my head, but I can't seem to lasso any idea in particular. Part of me is fighting the perfectionist that lurks beneath my more nonchalant surface ... why would I feel like I need to create a masterpiece as soon as the needle hits this wonder-fabric? Silly. So I decided to start with a pattern - a pleasant warm-up of sorts.

quilting bee stichette in progress

You already know how much I admire Hillary's work, and this "Quilting Bee" stitchette is just another testament to all that is wonderful about Wee Wonderfuls. I can already see the finished embroidery hanging on the wall of my new studio once we move to North Carolina!

I'm confident that once I'm done with the Quilting Bee I will be able to skip intrepidly into a future filled with original designs. Do you ever get this perfectionist-induced creativity block?


the wonders of metamorphism, the cute way

Remember my eyewitness account of metamorphism last summer? Here's a more snuggly version from the wee wonderfuls pattern:




chrysalis - faux suede 6" x 6" blanket with bias binding


y with detachable wings (velcro)

 Yet another lovely pattern by Hillary.  I made just a few modifications which make it, quite possibly, the coolest science softie ever! Hand sewing is so liberating - I mean - who could imagine hiking down to the hot springs at the bottom of a canyon, and while sitting down there, granite walls soaring upwards on either side of you ... being able to create something so lovely with your hands. That's the best of both worlds. It's about time that the inside hobby breaks out of it's dimly-lit mold and into fresh air. I must make a note to myself to put more hiking and hand sewing on the calendar.