LAST CALL for a 2016 Sewing Buddy!

sewing buddy button slider image 2016

I am deep in the trenches of hand-matching our Sewing Buddies for 2016!!  If you haven’t signed up yet but would like to join us, TODAY is the very last day to do so–get in under the wire and find yourself a sewing pen pal for the year!

If you ARE registered, please be certain to complete the survey, which you can find on the main Buddy page.  The survey results are what I use to match you with your Buddy, so if you don’t complete it, you won’t get a Buddy!

I am beyond excited to see so many familiar faces back this year, and just as many brand-new folks looking to make a sewing friend.  I have some really fun monthly posts ready to go for you all, and can hardly wait to see what all of you will accomplish this year!

The Only Reason The Internet Works


I was watching an old Hepburn & Tracy movie over the holidays, Desk Set, all about replacing a crack reference librarian with a computer, back in the 50s.  And it occurred to me: she was right to worry for her job.  Because the computer couldn’t do her job, but the internet certainly does.  Need to know all Santa’s reindeer?  Google!  Need to learn the tune to a song?  YouTube!  Need to reserve a book at the library?  There’s an app for that!

fabric mousepad how joyful

But then I thought: hey, wait a minute, she was wrong, too!  Because the internet DOES work, but it only works for one reason: people.  Every bit and byte on the web was put there by an individual, on purpose, because he or she had a question and wanted it answered.  My writing and my videos exist solely because I love sewing and I meet people daily who want to learn sewing, and there is a question that needs an answer.  And so: a blog post! a glossary entry! a video!

murder mystery quilt logo

Yesterday as I was leaving church, I was stopped in the lobby by a woman I’d never met before (hi, Laurie!!), and she introduced herself as one of the quilters who is making the Murder Mystery Quilt this year.  And I said, jokingly, that I’m always surprised when I meet someone I know from the internet in person at my local church–but it’s a large congregation, so really, I shouldn’t be surprised at all, right?  Except: in the midst of that large congregation, surrounded by people who all presumably share similar values, I might never have met this woman and her husband–if it hadn’t been for the internet.  It’s like a little bit of glue that brings people together, like a lasso that reaches out into the world and draws people into circles of shared interests.

sewing needles and thread for hemming

The internet wouldn’t work without people.  People asking, and people answering.  It is a social medium, even the parts of it that don’t seem social.  It doesn’t take the place of seeing a person and looking them in the eye and learning to read body language.  But it enhances it, in the way that reading a great novel or learning a great poem feeds our relationships and makes them deeper.  For those of us who sew, and who so often labor in a room apart, the internet gives us a medium through which to connect with others, to make a friend, to feel understood, and to share our skills in places where they are most needed–all in a manner we may never have discovered otherwise.

As Spencer Tracy’s character points out at the end of Desk Set to Kathryn Hepburn, the computer (or in our case, the internet) “can only repeat information that’s been fed into it by the human element.”  It’s the HUMAN part that makes it work.  It is the heart we put in, the voices of our own hearts, that make it matter.

The Rope Basket Craze

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So, not too long ago, I made my very first rope bowl.  One minute, the words “rope bowl” were some vague 70s-era shady memory and POOF! the next minute, it seemed like all the cool kids were making them.

This one is made from a hank of clothesline purchased on Amazon, plus the thread of every bobbin I have in the house, all used one after another as each ran out.  I already like the look of the rope bowl, but layering on getting rid of old bobbin thread?  Yes, please.

And now, like so many others, I find that I am mildly obsessed with this very simple, easy, mindless sewing project.  It takes about 26% of your concentration to make one, just enough focus to keep everything going in a straight line that you’re able to shut out the whispers of a long day and get the meditative, rejuvenative effects of really Zen sewing.  The one I made measures about 15″ across and 12″ tall, and took one whole hank of clothesline plus two episodes of Friends on Netflix.

Learning to make them takes about 30 seconds, which may help to fuel the obsession going around the internet.  I like Florence’s tutorial on her blog very much, since it covers all the basics and gave me great insight into how to begin the shaping of the bowl.

And from there, it’s just a matter of where your imagination can take you!  Check out this cat bowl from BrooklynCrafty:

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How great is that, right??  And this one, from Sew, Mama, Sew‘s Kristen, where she’s wrapped segments of the rope in Liberty of London fabrics as she sewed:

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Generally, I give in to my prideful nature when I resist the trending pattern-of-the-moment, in the very “I’m too cool to jump on that bandwagon” sense, but in this case…resistance was futile.  I even added rope baskets to the curriculum of my Intro to Sewing class that I teach here in Atlanta, because I see it as a great way to practice maintaining a straight stitching line, working with a zigzag stitch, learning to become comfortable with adjusting your speed as you sew, and it gives an immediate means to begin to unpack how the overall look of a piece will dramatically change based on thread selection and the little details.

How about you?  What was the last trending project that lured you in until you couldn’t say no??  Fess up so the rest of us can try it on for size!


Button Sorting

button sorting to build brain skills

The other day I walked into our kitchen and found this on the counter.  The children had taken the giant trifle bowl filled with random buttons that I keep in my sewing room, and were sorting them by type.

sorting activity for kids

It’s like when you give your kids a gift and they want to play with the box: sometimes I wonder why we strive so much to provide “valuable” activities for our children when they are clearly so capable of engaging in work that feeds their brains with minimal guidance from us.  I didn’t suggest that they sort buttons.  I didn’t even set these out for them to discover–they saw the bowl on the counter, and organizing the buttons was their natural inclination.

There is a ton of research to support sorting activities as brain-builders for kids.  So while I do find myself wondering why I kill myself and tie my brain into knots thinking I’m not doing ENOUGH to make sure my children are exposed to chances to work their little grey cells, I think there’s a huge value to creating opportunities for them to stumble upon an activity that will enlarge their abilities.  Our children (all but the youngest, poor thing) have all gone to Montessori school for their primary (preschool) years, and that’s a core part of the Montessori philosophy: children have total freedom of choice WITHIN A STRUCTURE of very carefully curated selections.  This allows two things: the kids get to feel the freedom of choosing, but their trajectory is guided by an adult who coaches primarily from the side.  Structure is in place to move children past easy tasks and on to more challenging activities, but it is still the child who is make each selection and moving into new territory willingly.  Open-handed control from the adults to the children, allowing them to follow their natural curiosity while still monitoring the basic human tendency to hunker down with the tasks we know we can easily complete.

button sorting for children

That’s what this felt like.  If I HAD orchestrated the whole button-sorting scenario, I would fully be patting myself on the back right now.  I didn’t, but it’s a good reminder that children love to organize, categorize and assess.  My two youngest–five and seven–were HYPNOTIZED by these buttons.  BUTTONS!!  And what individual who sews doesn’t have a zillion buttons that don’t match, just lying around, that we don’t particularly feel attached to?  I was NOT concerned if one or more of these were misplaced (although I adore those orange flower ones), and when I discovered the kids playing with them, it was easy to let it roll.  Sorting activities have been proven to increase children’s concentration and focus.  They’re also great for small-motor control and can serve to sooth children with sensory-motor issues through the simple repetition and chaos-reduction that’s inherent in the activity.  Many Montessori supply stores carry special sorting products, and button sorting is a long-standing primary-level activity in Montessori classrooms, but you can clearly stumble upon the same activity by happy accident.


When was the last time you sat down and sorted some buttons?  I’m thinking, as we recover from the chaos of the holiday season, that some of us could benefit from the soothing focus that sorting buttons brings.  Good way to get going in the New Year, yes?

Now OPEN for Registration: The Murder Mystery Quilt & the League of Adventurous Dressmakers!

Now open for registration!  Both the Murder Mystery Quilt AND the League of Adventurous Dressmakers are now ready for you to join!

league of dressmakers logo stripes

The League of Adventurous Dressmakers is a monthly subscription club that focuses on in-depth technique lessons for better garment sewing.  As more and more of us seek to sew our own clothes, we want to be sure that we make clothes that are beautiful and well-constructed.  With the League of Adventurous Dressmakers by your side, you’ll do it in superhero style!  In this warm, communal environment, explore key garment-making techniques to making your hand-sewn clothing the best it can be, and get inspired by other dressmakers while you do!  Learn more about the League here!

murder mystery quilt logo

The Murder Mystery Quilt is a monthly subscription club that reads along together and stitches up a quilt to find clues and solve the murder mystery contained in the story.   This is a mystery quilt in the traditional sense–you sew a block each month and the overall design of the quilt isn’t revealed until all the blocks are sewn–but it’s also a MYSTERY quilt: each month, along with the block pattern and design, you receive a chapter of a mystery story.  Each chapter reveals clues as the plot unfolds, and it’s your job to seek out whodunit!  Read background on this project here.

I can’t wait to share this year with all of you, and be part of two big projects I’ve been dreaming up for a very long time.  Use the links above to register, or visit my shop.  You’ll receive a welcome letter automatically when registration is complete, and your first month’s pattern within a week!

Let’s Get Sewing, everyone!!

The Murder Mystery Quilt: Sew It to Solve It

In the first grade, when I was six years old, my class did a unit on Ancient Egypt.  I was, as most children are, completely mesmerized.  The story of Howard Carter and his tenacious pursuit of discovery was–and remains, nearly 100 years later–absolutely captivating.  I adored hearing my teacher read, quietly and with appropriate pauses, of those moments when Carter at last, decades after beginning his search, approached the entrance to what he believed to be the greatest tomb in the Egyptian Valley of the Kings.  I held my breath as Carter and his workmen punched a small hole in the plaster to open up a tomb that had been sealed for millennia.  And I gasped when Carter’s financial sponsor for his quest asked if he could see anything by the light of the candle he thrust through that opening, and Carter replied, “Yes, wonderful things!”

quilted sewing machine cover

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The League of Adventurous Dressmakers: Superheroes Who Make Clothes

When I was in college, I was required by the School of Theatre to do a semester in the costume shop.  Most of the other kids groaned and whined and did whatever they could to get around the requirement.  My reaction was more along the lines of, “Don’t throw me in that there briar patch!”  It was magical, and it changed everything about how I sew.


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New Clubs for 2016: The League of Adventurous Dressmakers and the Murder Mystery Quilt

Hooray, hooray!!  A whole bunch of you have already registered for the 2016 Sewing Buddy Project.  I am beyond delighted to welcome back some familiar faces and to greet some new ones–yippee for Sewing Buddies!!  The Sewing Buddy Project is a year-long pen pal program, and for just $10 you get a personalized pen pal match, monthly emails, sewing prompts and project ideas, plus access to a private Facebook group and lots of support from the community!  I think this year is going to be the best one yet, and at such a small price point and low level of commitment (nothing to send, no deadlines to meet, just a promise to communicate with one another), it’s an excellent way to connect with others and give your sewing a boost.  We can all use a new friend!

In addition to the Sewing Buddies, I am both elated and a little terrified to unveil the other TWO clubs I’ve been busily building for 2016.  These are my babies, and a lot of the courage I found to launch them came when you all confirmed through your survey responses that I’m not crazy for thinking these are really fun, needed ideas.  They combine all my most favorite parts about what I do at Whipstitch: designing curriculum, shooting video, writing, creating patterns, and building community.  These groups, along with the Sewing Buddies, are my primary focus for 2016–if I do nothing else this year than these clubs, I will rest easy and feel fulfilled.  I’ve invested hours and hours, and am nervous and giddy headed into the Big Reveal.  Do you want to hear more about them??

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Sewing Buddy Project Now OPEN for 2016!


The Sewing Buddy Project is BACK!!

Registration is open NOW through January 30, 2016.  All Buddy pair matches will be emailed out no later than February 1, 2016.

The Sewing Buddy Project is a pen pal program.  People from all over the world register, and are matched with a personal pen pal who will communicate with them via email.  You won’t know who your Buddy is or where they’re from until you’re matched, and then the rest is up to you!  This is a year-long commitment to communicate with another person who loves to sew, as simple as that.  For the price of a couple of cups of coffee, you get to meet a new friend and sew together, as much or as little as you like!

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Posts of Christmases Past

Today, on a whim, I searched my own blog to see what I’d posted in past years during Christmas time.  If you had asked me, I would have told you there were two or three posts, four max.  But I’ve been writing for a long time, and it turns out there are a TON of posts about how we do Christmas at our house, what we make, where we go, and what matters to me most at this time of year.  Below, a selection of the best of them, for inspiration and as a snapshot of how our family has grown and how it has stayed the same over the years.

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