Join my Sewing Knits Without the Serger Master Class on BurdaStyle!

sewing knits square

I have a new online class available!  I’ve teamed up with BurdaStyle to offer my Sewing Knits without the Serger course as a four-week, interactive online class in their Master Class series.  This course has ALL NEW content, including seven new video segments that were shot specifically for BurdaStyle.  I’m seriously excited to share it all with you!

whipstitch yellow long sleeve tee

If you’ve ever wanted to make your own tee shirts or lounge pants or yoga wear, but have avoided it because knit fabrics intimidate you or you thought you needed a serger in order to get the job done, this course is for you!  With three original patterns to sew up, you’ll practice your new skills by working through projects you already want to make.  And with printable lists of patterns to try once the course is over, this class is an excellent starting point for a love affair with stretch sewing!

heather grey jersey tee with bow

We’ll cover how to work with knits on the cutting table and under the needle, how to understand sizing and fit, and then assemble a series of mini-projects that gets you accustomed to the seam finishes you might want to use when sewing knits.  After that, we’ll sew up a sweet little tank top (camisole) with elastic straps, a fold-over waistband skirt, a pair of lounge (pajama) pants that will be the softest you’ve ever worn, and finally work on a tee shirt so you can learn to make professional finishes.  Each project has a printable instruction guide and downloadable pattern pieces, and I’m so excited to show you all the updates to this class!

 

Registration is open NOW.  Join the class here, and I’ll see you on January 30!

15 Quick Gifts You Can Totally Pull Off Today

This post was originally planned for before Christmas.  I was doing so much of my own sewing at Christmas, though, that I didn’t want to stop long enough to write a post about YOUR sewing.  Luckily!  Valentine’s Day is on the way!  And it’s never too late to make something sweetly handmade for someone you love.  (And remember: it doesn’t just have to be your sweetie!  When was the last time you sent your mom a valentine? your sister? your neighbor? your best friend from high school? Everyone loves being remembered once in a while!)

Every one of the projects listed below is something I have sewn up myself and blogged.  I can say with total conviction that they all get loved, used and Pinned often–so they’re surefire bets for making something your Valentine will delight over!  (And you can always come back for more ideas for birthdays, bat mitzvahs, anniversaries, and Just Because gifts!)

15 things to sew now Whipstitch

15 Gifts You Can Sew In 2 Hours or Less:

  1. Get Up and Go Skirt: my latest pattern is the first in the Learn As You Sew Series.  Sews up in under an hour, and the elastic back waist makes it an easy fit!  Best part?  If you don’t want to sew it as a gift, you can GIVE it as a gift.  The pattern, which is tablet-friendly and complete with embedded video for every step in the construction, is an awesome first garment project for your loved one who’d like to learn to sew or begin sewing their own wardrobe.Get Up and Go Skirt with nautical style
  2. Snack Bandolier: one of the most popular projects I’ve made, this is such a darling way for boys to carry their snacks (or cars or action figures or dinosaurs) wherever they go.  You can follow the tutorial or download the PDF to print at home!IMG_8709
  3. Reversible Quilted Placemats: I really need a new, matching set of placemats.  These might be the last ones I made for myself–and they were a fluke!  I needed a placemat to send to Montessori with my child, and made six more the same day, just for kicks.  So, see?  I KNOW you can totally make these in a snap.  Multiple options for quilting, and they’re NOT bound at the edges, which makes them a quick sew and a quick finish.reversible placemat beauty
  4. Kindle Cover: This was a tutorial that I pondered and daydreamed for weeks and weeks before sewing up a sample.  I LOVE it when a design comes together on the first try!  Be sure to read the comments if you have a different Kindle or e-reader–lots of kind readers have left the dimensions for their model and the modifications they made to the measurements to apply the tutorial to their particular version.  I still use my Kindle and Kindle cover EVERY day and it’s holding up great!kindle cover 18
  5. Nested Fabric Buckets: This was another project I put together through whim and need, which always leads to the best finished pieces, as far as I’m concerned.  I use these (and use them, and use them, and use them) and could honestly find places to put a few more.  The largest size fits in between the front seats of a minivan, and the smaller sizes nest inside the biggest to make them great organizers for hand sewing and English paper piecing.  I use mine to organize my scraps!IMG_9179
  6. Toddler Fitted Flat Sheet Set: We don’t have toddlers (or a toddler bed) at our house any longer, but we still have toddler sheets.  These were so, so great to have as the kids were growing up, and the fabric in them still looks fresh and new–so I’m saving it to re-use and harvest for future projects!  The fitted top sheet keeps little ones from getting tangled up in their sheets overnight, and keeps the bed looking tidy.  A great gift for kids AND moms!thomas toddler sheets
  7. Vintage-Style Teddy Bear: This is a re-creation of one of my favorite projects my mom ever made when I was growing up.  The new version takes only a fat quarter of fabric and my kids love the way their little legs wiggle and how durable they are!  Simple and quick first doll project if you’re looking to get into sewing stuffed toys.teddy-bear-besties
  8. 20-Minute Skirt: It really is a 20-minute skirt.  Truly.  Quick and simple and uses just a half yard or so of fabric–making it great for the novelty prints she loves!  This tutorial covers sewing with or without a serger to finish your seams.d2
  9. Travel Power Cord Roll-Up: This project was a Valentine’s gift based on reader suggestions from a few years ago.  He STILL uses it every single day, and we both love that it’s super manly.  Update it with some plaid or softly colored fabric and a bow to make it for her!travel power cord roll up
  10. Cloth Napkins with Mitered Corners: Man, I love me a cloth napkin.  We don’t use anything else at our house–although it wouldn’t kill me to sort them out so we can use a pretty, matching set every night for dinner.  These sew up super fast, and you can make a set of 8 with under 2 yards of fabric.  Another great use for those novelty prints, or make a set with simple solids for a classic table setting!folded thanksgiving napkins
  11. Linen Baby Bonnet & Travel Pouch: I made this bonnet and travel pouch when we took our youngest with us on a trip to Hawaii, and I never, ever went back to using a diaper bag.  The pouch is zippered and just the right size to fit into your handbag (but carries diapers, food, spoons, and snacks) and the bonnet is an adorable shape that can be made in any fabric you like (including fleece or flannel, for winter).  Great gift for babies or new mommies!bonnetd
  12. Mens’ Bow Tie: Oh, for him!  Takes just a smidge of fabric, sews up super fast, and looks crazy hot on him.  Makes for a super special Valentine’s Date Night!micromod sew along bow tie tree
  13. Flannel Hand Warmers: You can sew these so quickly that you could make a HUGE pile in a single afternoon.  How about teacher gifts (since you forgot to make Christmas presents for the teachers this year–d’oh!) or a pile for all the kids in your child’s classroom?  How about a pair for each member in the family?  They stay warm for ages, look cute, and keep those fingers cozy in this brutal winter weather.fall handwarmers for the microwave
  14. Nesting Birds: This project is so darling that it’s practically famous.  Spool released this free pattern ages ago, and it has become a favorite baby shower gift to give–plus one of my favorite bits of decor in the girls’ room.  Another quick stuffed doll to sew up!birds 1
  15. Quilt with Family Hand Prints: This might not be a quick project, but it’s a quick addition to a project you might already have done or be finishing up.  Or maybe you make a mini quilt with this as the featured center block?  Adding handprints is an ideal way to share your children’s growth and the special bitty years when giving a gift to grandparents, aunts, uncles, and treasured care-givers.IMG_0674

(And if you don’t want to sew, why not a copy of Stitch by Stitch or Stitch Savvy for your Valentine?  Or for your Valentine to give YOU?  Hey, you can learn anything from a book!)

Kwik Sew 1672: Men’s Boxer Shorts

nativity boxer shorts 1

I made my husband underwear.  Yep.  UNDERWEAR.  And as one of my sweet IG friends asked, “Do you always make your husband’s underwear?”, no, I never have before.  But I uncovered Kwik Sew 1672 when I was digging through the (alarming number of) accumulated pajama patterns in my sewing area, looking for just the right ones for this year’s Christmas Eve jammies (more on that later), and it was asking to be made.  Begging, really.  Begging non-chalantly whiel leaning up against a wall.  An invisible wall.  Would YOU have been able to resist?

Screen Shot 2015-01-08 at 5.19.40 PM

This has been sitting in a basket waiting to be sewn up for about a zillion years, and I don’t know why I waited so long.  It was a fun, simple sew with just enough details to keep me interested.  The fit is pretty great (sorry, ladies, hubs was NOT down with modeling for you–which is a shame, because you’re missing out #sorrynotsorry), and the design is very much in line with store-bought boxers.  It doesn’t take a ton of yardage, and let’s be very clear here: is an EXCELLENT use for those novelty prints that you just can’t resist but neeeeeeeed to buy.

Hence the ridiculous nativity boxers seen above.  Holla!

nativity boxer shorts waistband

This print makes me laugh.  I found it at a 75% off big box fabric store sale a few years ago, and bought just a little over a yard-ish.  Plenty to make these boxers.  And I thought it was funny?  Maybe a little irreverent, but not ill-intended?  They’re Christmas pants!  Anyway, my husband is amused by them.

nativity boxer shorts no rear seam

One of the features I was most intrigued by in this design is that it lacks a center back seam–just cut on the fold for a nice, smooth behind.  I’ve seen lots of the boxers we’ve bought him have a gusset in the back, and some have just a simple center back seam (like the ones we got at Banana not too long ago), so to see a pair with neither was interesting.  I wasn’t totally sure they’d be comfortable or not ride up, but he reports back that he didn’t really notice until I mentioned it, which tells me it’s pretty good!

nativity boxer shorts sewn fly

The fly construction takes up the majority of the sewing for these, since the rest is simple seams.  The instructions are nicely written, and give good stitching diagrams to get a polished, professional finish on the fly with NO RAW EDGES.  That last is really important to me, since I want anything up close to my skin to feel as completed as possible.  The width of the waistband and (ahem) sizing of the opening seem to be in line with most off-the-rack men’s underpants.

grinch boxer shorts kwik sew 1672

The nativity boxers were rolled up and tied with a ribbon, then put in my husband’s stocking for Christmas morning.  Being me, I went ahead and cut two pair while I was at it, but didn’t quite get the second completed when I was sewing.  Those I gave him just last week (For the 11th Day of Christmas, my true love gave to meeee….):  Grinch boxers.

grinch boxer shorts fly

You can see on this pair how there’s a nice box sewn at the upper waistband, along the elastic, and a trapezoid at the lower end of the fly, to catch the raw edges of the fly facings and hold them in place on the interior.  Both the right and left fly are finished cleanly with stitches away from the opening, so there isn’t a lot of bulk.  It looks clean and professional in person.

grinch boxer shorts interior fly

On the interior, you can see the point at the lower end of the fly–the lower squared raw edges are tucked up at a diagonal and the trapezoid is stitched from the right side to keep it all pretty.

kwik sew 1672 interior boxer shorts finish

I opted to serge most of these seam allowances, rather than making French seams, partly because I didn’t want to invest the time in French seams and come to learn that the boxers didn’t fit well.  The only exception is here, the very first curved crotch seam below the fly, which is where all the assembly begins.  Because it intersects with the fly facings, and is a tiiiight curve, you can’t really get the serger in there (or, at least, I can’t), so I chose to overcast the edges and then topstitch them in place before moving on to the rest of the construction.  I serged the side seams, and then sewed the inseam (at the bottom of the image here) and serged it BEFORE adding the elastic, even though the instructions have you sew the inseam last before the hems.  This was so I could topstitch all those seams–side and inseam–to one side, so there isn’t any friction along thighs on either side.  I like a smooth finish.

kwik sew 1672 interior waistband

The waistband finish is nice in that it doesn’t involve a casing–you fold and press the upper raw edge to the wrong side, then place the underwear elastic over it and stitch in place.  Just like they do in the factories, y’all.  The raw ends of the elastic tuck under the fly facings at the center front.

grinch boxer shorts hem

The hem is just a simple double-turned hem.  My husband pointed out that these boxers are shorter than most of the ones we buy at the store, but that he thought it was a good thing, since that makes for less bulk to fit into snugger pants (like jeans, as opposed to suit pants or khakis).  When sewing these up, I made the medium, and when it comes to bulk, they seemed HUUUUGE.  But once the elastic was on, they seemed right in line with every other pair of boxers I’ve seen.  So I guess dudes just like ‘em roomier?

underwear elastic shrink after washing

One final note: I did purchase the “underwear or swimsuit” elastic for these, from Hancock.  These two pair are laid on top of one another at the left side seam, and you can see how the nativity pair (which have been laundered since sewing) are narrower than the Grinch pair (where the fabric was prewashed but the elastic hasn’t been laundered).  Just FYI that, while I may have had some margin in the cutting of the elastic, for sure it shrinks up a little in the wash.  Also: I was forced to press the nativity pair for these photos, a task I never thought I’d do and quite honestly would have assiduously avoided ten years ago.  WHO AM I??

Anyone else ever sew boxers?  I can smell a new trend in sewing women’s underwear coming on, and have seen a few pair of boys’ boxer briefs, but don’t see men’s underpants very often.  Is that because we don’t sew a lot of underpants?  Or is that because when sewing we tend to neglect the men in our lives?  Something to keep in mind with Valentine’s Day just around the corner…

 

One Little Word 2014 Wrap-Up: MARGIN

Well, now that it’s 2015, it’s time to wrap up my One Little Word project from 2014! Last year, I invited in the word MARGIN. (Or it invited itself. Whatever.) It was a long year of saying NO and learning that you have to nest before you can lay an egg. Which is not to say that I’m ready to lay an egg, but it is to point out that I learned a lot and let go of a lot in the 12 months I thought about how to give myself space to grow and expand.

2015 Sewing Bucket List: 17 Projects to Tackle This Year

sewing bucket list 2015

OK, I won’t bore you with too many of the background details, but this list came from an amalgamation of factors: my desire to sew as much as I can ONLY from my stash of on-hand fabrics in the coming months; the inspiration provided by Erin with her “26BOOKS” list for the coming year; my deep and abiding love for lists of any kind; and my on-going cogitation over how to re-format the Sewing Buddy Project (entering its SIXTH year!) so that it works better for all the Buddies involved, rather than scrapping it altogether.  That last one has been a pretty strong motivator, obviously, and this list seems to be tickling me that it’ll fold it’s way into the Sewing Buddies one way or another.

It’s a New Year, and I think a lot of us are looking for a means to help keep us motivated and moving forward as we sew, but also to move away from the comfortable and the familiar in small ways.  I’ve spent some time talking to folks over the years about their sewing goals, and I wanted to assemble a list that ANYONE could use to guide their sewing, at any level.  You’re a beginner?  Then #8 is all about using double-gauze or knits for you.  You’ve been sewing for 40 years? Then #8 is all about leather or burlap or fused fallen leaves for you.  Options are limitless, and so is inspiration–and no matter how much sewing you’ve done, there’s always something left to discover and to which to aspire.  I’m beyond any doubt that it is THIS which keeps me coming back to my machine again and again: the endless options, like entering a library and realizing you could read them ALL.

Will you play along with me?  There are 17 items in this list.  That averages out to one project every three weeks, which seems pretty manageable.  It also allows for some lulls and some catch-ups and some life to happen, without any damage.  Plus, there are lots of these that could, conceivably, be combined into a single project, if you’re into that kind of thing (like making your something borrowed be the same as your something blue).

I plan to do these in order, and realistically, won’t combine any.  I like to do things the hard way like that.

I’ll be using hashtag #2015SewingList over on Instagram to share images, and I’d love to see you do the same.  How fun would it be to see all the ideas and projects rolling out over the coming year?  I’ve got some mental lists, too, of great links and patterns and tutorials and Pin boards to share, and some ideas for how this list could inspire the 2015 Sewing Buddies.  I hope you’ll tag your images and join the fun!

Bring it on, 2015.  I’m ready.

How To Finish Your Christmas Shopping Before Thanksgiving (or: How We Keep It Christmas)

writing Christmas cards

About seven years ago, we had an AMAZING Christmas.  Amazing in the sense that there were a LOT of presents.  Like, SO many.  It was an embarrassment of riches.  And I couldn’t quite explain it, but it really did feel like…an embarrassment.  There was something about the sheer VOLUME of gifts that made me feel overwhelmed and spendthrifty and gluttonous.  After all the gift wrap drifted to the floor following the frenzy of ripping and tearing, I realized that I didn’t feel happier, not the way I wanted to.  I didn’t feel more fulfilled.  I just felt let down.  Like a balloon that slowly loses air and is all wrinkled and tragic at the end.

One of my favorite writers to quote is Amy Dacyzyn, and she has written about this phenomenon.  Based on her writings, we’ve come to call this the Ice Cream Sundae Principle.  She says, basically, that when most folks take their kids out for ice cream, over time, the kids want more and bigger ice cream treats.  It starts out with a cake cone and a scoop of vanilla, but pretty soon, that’s old hat, so their parents get them TWO scoops, but that’s not enough after a while, so it’s a sundae, but then that’s familiar (and so contemptible), and they have to have a banana split…  You see how this goes.  It’s the same idea behind eating any sweets: your taste buds get numb to the flavor, so the fifth bite really isn’t as sweet or as satisfying as the first.

Dacyzyn’s argument is that when the thrill wears off on a treat or a pleasure, the answer isn’t MORE, it’s LESS.  She points out that most folks assume they have to keep cranking it up a notch, but for her family, they simply do it less often in order to allow time to bring back the original thrill.  So when a cake cone with a scoop of vanilla isn’t satisfying or exciting for her kids, they just go to the ice cream parlor less often, until a scoop is AWESOME again.  It’s not a punishment–it’s about pacing our lives and our desires in a way that prevents a good thing from becoming a bad thing, prevents a wholesome desire from becoming a greedy obsession.

Christmas packages

This is the single most influential concept I have read or heard as a parent, seriously.  In terms of how we handle basic, day-to-day navigation of a world where we can have so much for so cheaply, this one idea–that sometimes what we need is LESS of a good thing or it becomes a bad thing–has changed how we address a multitude of lifetime events for our marriage and our children.

So, then: Christmas.  One year after the Christmas I described above, we decided to make a change.  I had an idea.  I had a wonderful, awful idea: what if we did FEWER gifts for our children?  Like, JUST TWO?  I know, I know: that’s insanity.  But it has led to some of the most fulfilling Christmas memories we have.

Here’s how we do it:

  • One gift for each child is from Santa.  We monitor their ideas and requests super closely, and try to visit Santa as soon after Thanksgiving as we can.  That way, whatever they’ve asked him for, we’re more likely to be able to get.  We do emphasize, like this year, that Santa doesn’t always give exactly what you ask for, to give us some margin, but with just one exception so far, we’ve always been able to make sure that Santa delivers on Christmas morning.
  • One gift for each child is from Mommy and Daddy.  We do our best to get them what they most want, but tend to fold in here what we think they NEED, too.  If one child always gets building toys, we might give an art-based toy.  If one child always gets dolls, we might give an architecture toy.  Because there are only TWO gifts, we can (1) give bigger gifts and meet more exciting requests, because we can spread our entire per-child budget over two really great gifts than over a lot of smaller ones; (2) invest in quality gifts that really last, and so build a library of things for our kids to do all year long, meaning that Christmas gifts really get used over an extended period and passed from one kid to the next; and (3) our kids don’t have that Law of Diminishing Returns on Christmas morning, where the 12th gift is just less exciting than the 1st.
  • Stockings are INTENSE.  There are always small things that kids need (socks, for example) that are a part of Christmas.  We also maintain a tradition that kids are allowed to get up before adults on Christmas morning, but they can’t open any gifts–they CAN open their stockings, so I like to make them super fun (while the adults get their coffee and settle in for the Main Event).  And I’m not super-human, so there are always little goodies I like to give that don’t fit into our only-two-presents rule.  So we do not-too-large wrapped gifts inside the stockings–a boxed domino game, or a small locking diary, or a piggy bank–that the kids can get first thing.  It gives me both a steam valve (to allow me to spring for a small gift that I’m having trouble resisting) but also a boundary line (I know we don’t give more than two gifts under the tree, but some things just won’t fit inside a stocking, so it helps me control any last-minute impulse spending on things that, let’s be honest, we just don’t need and they won’t really appreciate).
  • We give Christmas pajamas on Christmas Eve.  Christmas socks are included in stockings.  Christmas-themed outfits are sewn some years (but not others) for holiday services, Santa photos, or family events.  These are given during the weeks leading up to Christmas, and are not wrapped.  No other clothing is included in Christmas gifts.  That eliminates a LOT of the “filler” gifts under the tree, let’s be honest.
  • I enlist the help of family members.  When grandparents and aunts or uncles ask what the kids want for Christmas, I generally tell them what WE’RE getting them, and then make themed suggestions for gifts that might be in line with that.  One year, my eldest got a digital camera, so her grandmother got her a Spielberg-style leather jacket.  One year, our other daughter got a lovely handmade wooden doll house, so my mom gave a selection of doll house furniture.  When our boy got a train set, my in-laws sent the roundhouse for them to “sleep” in.  The extended family are giving a gift they know will be appreciated, but the children feel less overwhelmed by the number of gifts since they all “go” together.

dress 2

We–the internet culture–spent a lot of time the past couple of years talking about FIRST WORLD PROBLEMS.  Well, here’s a FWP for you: it’s Christmas morning, and you’re surrounded by presents and torn paper and ribbons and bows, and you feel empty inside.  Like, you’re glad it’s Christmas and the tearing and excitement was awesome, but now that it’s all over, you feel a little let down and dissatisfied.  It’s not that you want MORE, not really, it’s just that you’re not sure that’s all there is–or that it’s all there’s SUPPOSED to be.  It’s a weird longing, a just-out-of-reach ache, when you realize you’re not super enthused about ANY of the gifts you’ve received and think maybe you’re just ready to head back to your regular life.  Let’s turn on the TV.  Christmas is over.

Have you ever had that feeling?  How tragic is that?  And let’s be honest: how pathetic?  Right?

To have a world of presents dumped on you and STILL NOT BE HAPPY.  It’s the root of what we’re fighting as parents, this sense of emptiness when given so many riches.  And I’m trying so hard to fight that as I raise my kids.  In part, I want them to learn to be grateful when they receive something they didn’t want or don’t necessarily like–my oldest is an ACE at this.  She has gotten some, let’s be honest, totally CRAP gifts over the years from extended family who didn’t know quite what to get her but wanted to give her SOMETHING.  And man, that kid can look beyond the object and to the giver and truly be thankful to have been thought of and remembered.  She amazes me that way.  I want all my children to learn that deep level of gratitude.

At the same time, I want to recognize that I have the power to limit the number of items they receive, and cultivate both that gratitude AND their appreciation for how it feels to experience true joy and rapture when opening that Perfect Gift.  I remain convinced, just like that ice cream sundae, that FEWER gifts will allow them the room inside their hearts to deeply love what they DO receive.  I don’t know where I read it, but there was a story a couple years ago about a kid who loved, loved, loved his two toy cars, so his grandmother bought him TEN new toy cars.  And then she saw that he didn’t play with ANY of them anymore.  She asked him why and he said, “Gramma, I can’t love TEN.”  Something about having too MANY made it hard for him to love ANY.  How’s that for a snapshot of what’s happening to our children in this culture of constant want and immediate gratification?

IMG_5452

Here are the benefits from limiting our gift-giving to only two gifts (plus an abundant stocking):

  • We have fewer things coming into our home, and the ones we do generally are able to fit into categories that make them easier to store (all the trains go together; the doll furniture goes in the doll house; etc).  This extends the usefulness and shelf-life of gifts at our house–no more “disposable” presents or gifts that get tossed aside the day after Christmas.
  • Our children can focus on a smaller number of gifts, which means they can really love, love, love the ones they get.  Toys get played with more, and interestingly, the kids are more likely to share their toys with one another when they have fewer than when they have more–it’s fun to see the TWO treasures your brother got, rather than hoarding the zillion tiny treasures YOU got while nursing a confusing sense that you’re not super excited about any of them.  (Have you ever read Morris’ Disappearing Bag?  It’s like that–fun to share your thrilling gift with others, because your excitement bubbles over.)  I am convinced this is building a sense in our children that Christmas morning is about appreciating what you have versus accumulating.  No one wants a Cousin Dudley, counting gifts this year compared to last year, right?
  • I am better able to control my own greed and spending, which I am realizing is an issue for me.  I want so badly to give my children the world, and it’s hard to avoid over-buying.  The two-gift rule helps me to reign it in, and reminds me very actively that I want to give my children EXPERIENCES more than THINGS.
  • I am better able to resist last-minute impulse shopping, to which we are all susceptible.  The first year we did Christmas this way was a bit of an experiment–I didn’t know anyone who’d done this, and I wasn’t totally sure it would work.  I was in Target (gah!!) the day before Christmas, and realized I was anxious–what if it bombs? what if I’m wrong? do I need to GO BUY MORE PRESENTS RIGHT NOW?!?  I talked myself down, convincing myself that if it all went to the crapper, big deal.  Lesson learned.  And it didn’t–the kids were actually more thrilled with their smaller haul.
  • Our children learn to prioritize their desires.  This one is huge.  They know they’re only getting TWO gifts.  So when they make their “lists,” they are forced to be very, very clear (with us and with themselves) about what they want MOST.  Our 8 year old, bless her, told us two years in a row that she wants Santa to surprise her.  Seriously?!?  Yes.  She doesn’t even ask for something specific–she loves that she wakes up Christmas morning and something is under the tree that’s JUST RIGHT for her, without her even asking.  That kind of trusting love is impossible to fake, and if this practice at our house has had even a small hand in cultivating that in our children, then it’s all worth it.
  • The grandparents go (a little) less crazy.  Because WE have limited the giving, and because we encourage the grandparents to give “companion” gifts, there has been an unexpected side effect where we have fewer gifts overall coming into our home.  The idea that it’s better to spend a little more on a quality, lasting gift and have ONE than to have LOTS of less expensive but lower quality things has rubbed off and rippled through our extended family, too.  My grandfather was right (of course): buy the best that you can afford, or else you’ll end up buying it again and spend twice as much as if you’d just bought the good one to start with.  He was talking about tools at the time, but he always understood: invest rather than spend.
  • We are encouraged to purge before Christmas.  Because we know we’re getting fewer gifts but that they tend to be more special, we are encouraged to purge old toys and games between Thanksgiving and Christmas to make room for the ones coming in.  This has its own ripple effect–we have to have conversations with our children about how they use the toys they’ve received over time, and why they use some but not others; our kids have to evaluate what toys they truly love and what toys they won’t realistically use any longer; the children occasionally discover things they’ve forgotten they had, and either fall back in love with them or give them one last good play time before saying goodbye; we get to hear from our children more about what it is they look for in a toy, which helps as we select new things to bring into the house (including narrowing down the areas where they have strengths and the activities to which they’re most attracted); and we pass along to the thrift shop good-condition toys for another family who are themselves shopping for gifts, which gives us a chance to talk about money and charity and greed and giving with our kids while the rest of the world is busy losing their minds with shopping frenzy.
  • Our kids have learned that “new” doesn’t equal “better.”  Because we look to give our children just the right gift, we can’t always get it from Amazon or Target.  Some things are handmade, by me or someone else.  Others are vintage, found on eBay.  Others are discovered at a thrift store.  It doesn’t have to be brand-new or expensive to meet their desire, and I think it’s valuable to communicate that to children when they’re young.
  • Our children have begun to voluntarily express concern for others.  Very simply, because we only do two gifts and our kids have consistently received the things they most hoped for, they are growing up with the sense that their needs will be met.  The result (again, unexpectedly on my part) is that they are free to think of OTHERS in this season, and show desire to meet THEIR needs.  Never saw that one coming, but it’s a good reminder that when each of us feels safe and loved, we are better able to love others openly.  Shouldn’t Christmas teach that?
  • I am better able to offer our kids handmade gifts each year.  Because we don’t do a LOT of gifts, I have the time to really invest in a GREAT handmade present–either by me or by a cottage maker.  Our eight-year-old is getting multiple American Girl doll outfits with matching dresses for her this year, which is exactly what she most wants.  Because I have the time, since that’s her only big gift this year, I can add details and trims and make them really special for her–I’m not busy spreading myself over a ton of shopping for a large list of gifts.  Two years ago, we bought her a whole collection of granny-made Barbie clothes from eBay–not made by me, but made by hand, and carefully selected and accumulated, and which she treasures.
  • I spend less time overall shopping for Christmas gifts.  While I’m more inclined to really think about and focus on each gift, on the whole, the month of November is the ONLY month during which I do Christmas shopping.  If I did it too early, they might outgrow their request or change their minds, so accumulating over the course of the year isn’t the best practice for our kids.  I had the time to search and search eBay for those Barbie clothes because all the other Christmas gifts were taken care of, but I did all of it in the space of about two weeks.  Fewer gifts equals more time to devote to making each one special, but it doesn’t mean I’m a slave to the shopping.

I’ll close by openly saying that this practice does NOT (so far) seem to save us any money.  We set a budget for each child and work to stay within it.  I am not concerned with spending an equal amount on each kid, only on meeting that child’s hopes as best as I am able within the set amount we’re willing to spend.  We nearly always go over budget on one of them, but come wildly under budget on another–our four-year-old this year stated emphatically before Thanksgiving that all she really wanted from Santa was an Anna doll to play with her Elsa doll.  It’s a $25 doll, and we were delighted to order it for her.  She came in well under budget this year, but will be elated with her gift.

What it DOES save us is our sanity and, I think, our integrity.  I can’t feel good about spending 364.25 days a year writing and talking about loving handmade and teaching our children the value of good quality–and then buying up a zillion cheap gifts on Christmas.  I sincerely believe that by limiting what we put under the tree, we’re communicating to our children in the most powerful way that we mean what we say: it isn’t THINGS that matter, it’s people.  It isn’t STUFF that makes life special, it’s experiences.  And that the Christmas memories–the FAMILY memories–we most want them to have are about loving each other and being together.

I don’t know how helpful this is to others to hear that we do Christmas this way, and I freely admit that it’s an on-going process through which I learn more about myself and my children every year (did I mention that I’m discovering I have issues with greed and hoarding?).  I feel deeply convicted that this is a step in the right direction to building a family culture of generosity and thoughtfulness and gratitude and contentment, and one of my dearest wishes is that my children will grow up and carry that into the world with them where it will spread like ripples in the water.  Here’s hoping it does the same for you and yours!

Overmost Workshop this Sunday at Fancy Tiger Crafts!

pink bumblebee overmosts with ruffle

Sunday at 1 pm, I’ll be at Fancy Tiger Crafts in Denver to teach a workshop, sewing up the Overmost!  I may also be suffering from extreme hypothermia, since it is FREEZING in Denver right now.  Good thing the Overmost is fully lined–babywale corduroy! fleece! flannel!  It’s perfect for cold weather.  I just wish it came in my size.

overmost 4t

It’s called the OverMOST because it’s not OverALL, but it seemed silly not to make a pattern that could be both long AND short.  I still call the long version the Overmost, though.  It’s funner to say.

overmost linen full

Gah!!  Look at that belly!  These can also be made fully reversible, using two quilt-weight cottons or other lightweight fabrics.  I rarely flip them all the way over, but have been known to do it when there’s a spill that needs covering up and I don’t have an extra set of clothing around.  The version above is in a herringbone linen, way back when our boy was a bitty bit.  Sigh.  Chubby cheeks!!

peached poplin ruffle on tula pink overmosts

We’ll also be talking about adding rick rack or trim or ruffles while we’re in the workshop, a detail that wasn’t available in the original version of the pattern but WILL be part of the re-boot.  Woot!

overmost 12m

The updated version of the pattern will be available when I get back from teaching this workshop–register now for one of the handful of remaining spots available, or get the newsletter to get an email when the new pattern is released!

Also: send me warming energy this weekend, y’all.  I don’t even have the right clothes for sub-zero temperatures.  And I suffer from seasonal dry skin.  Whimper.

I Thought It Might Be Instagram, but Looks Like It’s Your Phone’s Fault

 

So, I asked the question about Google Reader killing blog comments, and not intending to do an experiment, also posted a quick screen shot of the blog post title on Instagram:

instagram conversation

Really I was posting on IG because I wanted to alert people that I had blogged–I suspect because, deep down, I figured no one would know otherwise?  Like, I assumed that people didn’t read their feeds now that Reader is gone, and they only found out about posts from social media?  Which is more or less what the comments on IG told me, but that was only part of the story.

Over on Instagram, I got a boatload of comments fairly quickly: a total of 33 over the course of about two hours.  In the same space of time, how many comments do you think I got here on the blog?  THREE.  Seriously.  So, there it was, I thought: the conversation has left blogs and moved to social media, and thinking that blogging still has a place in the universe of the online sewing community is just naive.  Boo, sniff.  Right?

Well, yes and no.  Over the following week–where, again, I wasn’t intentionally doing an experiment, just so busy with other projects (actually sewing!!) that I neglected to do a follow-up post–I watched the comments on the blog increase.  And increase.  And increase.  Even today, as I’m writing this post, I have seen two more come in.  Total of 39 comments to date, and the vast majority of them are extensive and thoughtful and considered and substantive.

Comments on IG were also occasionally extensive–impressively so, for a bunch of folks typing with their thumbs–but many were quick nods acknowledging my title/thesis without much more detail.  Many were left based on the title ALONE, without having read my post.  Which made me think that there really are two totally SEPARATE audiences: there’s a blog audience, and there’s an Instagram/social media audience.  (Again, since I had zero intention of doing a legit experiment, all my data are accidental, so I can’t compare any of this with, say, Facebook, but I suspect the results would be largely similar if not identical.)  From the comments I received just on this one off-the-cuff post, folks who respond via social media do so there almost exclusively, and some of them indicate that they really have stopped reading blogs altogether, in favor of the quick interactions of Instagram.

Part of me gets that.  I really, really do.  I love me some Instagram–LOOOOOOVE me some Instagram.  I am there, like, a LOT.  I don’t like the Facebook interface, and have reduced my FB “friends” to a list almost exclusively of blood relatives or friends so close that we consider them family, so I rarely do more than skim through FB to “like” their posts or leave a quippy pop-culture reference.  I do not have Facebook on my phone.  I DO have IG on my phone, and I get push notifications when folks like or comment a photo I post, so I spend a ton of time (probably too much, let’s be honest) updating my feed.  I leave lots of hearts for my friends–usually because I like their image or am impressed with their project or because it’s a pretty picture, but sometimes because I like THEM, and want to acknowledge that.  When I host Virtual Sewcials on IG, I ensure that as the host, I personally visit every photo that makes it to the pool, and leave a comment.  These hearts and quick notes between IGers might not always be a deep interaction, but that doesn’t make it meaningless–I think it’s akin to a wave and a smile in the middle school hallway, as you pass in opposite directions between classes.  It isn’t a long conversation, but it gives a nice glow until you get to fourth period.

My blog, on the other hand, I consider an intimate space.  And I think the reason I feel hurt and confused and disappointed about the reduced number of comments I receive these days–and as embarrassing as it seems to admit it, yes, I do feel all those things when I go to the trouble of working on a post and make it live and hear crickets in the comments–is because this is where I’ve formed real relationships with people.  Some of the bloggy folks I’ve known longest are people I met right here from writing–I wouldn’t know Dana or Rae if it hadn’t been for us commenting on one another’s blogs, and I feel super grateful for having met both of them in real life and growing a friendship apart from a digital interaction.  There are folks who have commented on this blog for YEARS, whose names and handles and avatars I recognize when they come through, and whom I am excited to hear from when they comment again.  THOSE folks are the reason, a few years ago, I started working to really reply to as many comments as I reasonably could (more so that even my email, to be honest), because I wanted them to know how much I looked forward to their voice and thoughts as I post on my blog, and how much I value that interaction.

So, if we take out of the equation those folks who really don’t love the blog interaction–for whom, in the sewing realm, the high five in the hallway carries the satisfaction they’re looking for, rather than something longer or more involved, like a blog post–then there’s still a reduction in blog comments.  (To be clear: I have no issue whatsoever with folks preferring one medium over another; I love my IG interactions deeply and value those greatly, and have friends I’ve met THERE with whom I feel a deep kinship and whom I care about a great deal.  I’m pointing out, rather, that many folks on IG are NOT the folks who have stopped commenting on blogs, because they weren’t anyway, since they have found an avenue of interaction elsewhere.)  Which left me with the question: if there are still substantively fewer comments on sewing blogs now, and we know that Reader was part of it but not all of it, what’s the deal, yo?  WHERE MY COMMENTERS AT, Y’ALL?

Reading through what all of you had to say–and THANK YOU to the many of you who took the time to share detail and thought processes and insight into how you read and why you read and what you read and what drives you to leave comments–it looks like part of the issue is YOUR PHONE.  More specifically, it’s that you’re reading blogs in a mobile format that makes it more challenging and time-consuming to comment.  I guess, back in the good ol’ days of 2008, we were all reading on our laptops?  So when you had a thought, you could hit that keyboard and make it sing.  Now, with phones and iPads and Kindle Fire, it’s just not as easy.  I’m still a laptop-based reader, so that was complete news to me, totally not what I was expecting to hear.  I guess the comments interface is way down at the bottom of the post?  And the keyboard isn’t as accessible?  And it’s hard to type with your thumbs?  So there are fewer comments.

But then, why do IG readers all comment so much and so frequently?  I mean, are they all using talk-to-text to write these paragraphs?  I’m not.  I’m just super fast with my thumbs, dog.  And if we’re all so good with our thumbs, then why is it so hard to comment on blogs these days?

I think there is still a viable, thriving, fertile place for sewing blogs.  I think there is some content that really must be shared in a blog format (remember the tragic rise and fall of the short-lived IG tutorial?).  I am seeing new and exciting ways of sharing content–like Colette’s new magazine, Seamwork, which I think will be amazing, or Dana’s webseries, MADE Everyday–but they don’t have the built-in ability to create community and introduce folks to one another and means of hearing multiple sides of an issue.  I love that blogs carry that, and miss the level of intimate–in the sense of getting-to-know-you-more-deeply-ness–connection it carried with it.

I agree STRONGLY with the folks who lament the paid content/self-promotion/list of to-do posts that we’re seeing so frequently these days.  I think, if we’ve all been paying attention, that we saw that coming: be honest, you’ve known that there was a critical mass of sewing blogs the past few years, when it seemed EVERYONE had a blog and ALL of them were doing tutorials, and that ultimately there would be a large proportion that would fall prey to the Law of Diminishing Returns.  At some point, there have to be too many spread too thin doing too much the same thing.  And that’s natural selection at its finest: when the cream rises to the top.  I can’t even tell you how much it meant to me to read several of you comment that you have stopped reading a lot of blogs, but continue to read mine–I mean, for reals, like tears and stuff over here, more than one tissue, seriously.  Years ago, a dear commenter whose words always hit home left a note that said she suspected that I would be remembered more for my writing than for anything else, and it struck a chord with me.  The comments last week that echoed her thought reminded me of that, and reminded me that there’s still a place for writing about sewing in a blog format, still a place for folks who’d like to get a little ping, a little email, that tells them a friend has written them a note and had the kid in the back row pass it up during Geometry.  So you don’t have to wait until the bell rings to get a little high five.

And that leads me to my final question on this topic:  What would it TAKE?  For you to comment more regularly, for you to comment specifically from your mobile device.  What would it take?  Is it a formatting issue?  Is it an accessibility issue?  Is it just a giant lack of good content?  Is it that you don’t feel responded to, don’t feel heard on the other end, and so are discouraged from taking the time?  What would it take for you to comment more and more regularly?  I miss the two-way street, y’all.  I’d love to know if we can make it a vibrant downtown again, with busy sidewalks, rather than a vacant dead mall at the edge of the suburbs.

Did Losing Google Reader Kill Sewing Blogs?

via AuthorText

Remember Google Reader?  Remember how much we all loved it?  This was totally the way I organized my sewing blogs.  This was how I kept up with friends.  And when Reader went away, I had a tough time getting back on the horse.

There are some blogs I know and love and type the URL into my browser to go straight there.  Others, though, I found through links or Pinterest or tips from someone else, and I saved them–to my Reader.  When Reader went away, we all had the chance to export our lists, and could transfer our blogs over to another reader.  Problem was, like so many folks, my Reader had gotten a little bloated, and I just had WAY too many blogs to move over.  I wanted to start fresh.

We never know how great we have it until we don’t have it any more, right?  I thought I was so smart!  Dumping all my old list and starting from scratch!  But I lost a lot of great links in the process, and I feel like I don’t see some of the really amazing things going on around the sewing blog internet now.  So much of my interaction with other sewing folks has moved to Instagram, which I do adore–it’s true micro-blogging, and gives us all a chance to share a SINGLE image (no more laborious tutorials!) and get instant gratification (no more waiting for comments to appear!).  But I miss the DEPTH of content I found on all those blogs, you know?  The more thoughtful posts.

They’re still out there, but as someone who still writes semi-regularly, I find I have vastly fewer interactions on individual posts than I used to.  I hate blogs that have turned into a zillion giveaways and product promotions, and I’ve worked hard not to have mine become that–and still, fewer people come by and leave a comment or interact than they used to.  Traffic hasn’t gone down all that much–folks are still coming and LOOKING–but comments are way down, and that’s such a bummer.

There have been piles of articles written about this phenomenon, but I wonder about sewing blogs specifically.  Do you think that sewing blogs are losing steam?  Or are outdated?  Are sewing blogs a thing of the past, and people really just want to skip from place to place and find resources without really interacting?

I’d love to hear what you think.  How do you view and interact with sewing blogs these days–regularly, or as a periodic resource?  And for the very few blogs that you wait longingly to see a new post on, WHAT IS IT that makes you mentally bookmark that blog, no Reader necessary, and head back again and again?

image via Authormedia

Get Up & Go Skirt for Oktoberfest

black german heel kick b

OK, so this wasn’t REALLY made for Oktoberfest, but it’s that time of year, right?  Sorta?  And doesn’t this skirt totally make you think of the Black Forest?  It’s obviously the vintage trim that makes it feel so German…

black Kona cotton Get Up and Go Skirt

To a certain degree, this particular version of the Get Up & Go Skirt was a design challenge.  I wanted to see if, with the simplest of fabrics, I could still make this pattern look fabulous.  And jubilee!!  It does!!

solid black Get Up and Go Skirt from Whipstitch

This is an absurdly simple skirt of Kona cotton in black (the best-selling fabric of all time, I’m told).  This stuff sells for something like $6 a yard almost everywhere, and you can always use a coupon.  Which would take the total cost for this skirt down to around $5 if you bought your fabric on sale.  (Heck, even full price plus thread it would only be around $10!)

black skirt and white blouse a classic Get Up and Go Skirt look

Pairing it with a simple white cotton blouse was pretty much a no-brainer.  Doesn’t get more classic than that.  And this felt breezy and chic to me, but not forced.  I am so not about looks that try too hard.  I’d much rather feel urbane and pretty in something that’s ALSO easy to wear.  Hello, elastic waist!

red vintage trim on black Get Up and Go Skirt

Now, I won’t argue with you that it’s the trim that makes the skirt.  This was something I bought from a sales stall years ago, with no idea how I would use it, just the feeling that it reminded me of my super-early childhood living in Germany (we moved to the States when I was 4) and that I desperately NEEDED to have two yards of it.  Which, clearly, I DID, because now it is the perfect thing to complete this skirt.  It’s topstitched around the hem, with the raw ends tucked under at a seam to disguise them.  So simple!

Makes me want to DANCE!

dancing black Get Up and Go Skirt

You can get a copy of the Get Up & Go Skirt, a Learn As You Sew pattern with embedded video in a tablet-friendly PDF pattern, right HERE!