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!

Tula Pink’s Bumble: Peached Poplin for the Whole Gang

bumble riffled overmost

I already shared how awesome I think Tula Pink’s mini-collection, Bumble, is.  It’s PEACHED POPLIN, you guys.  It is this incredibly super-soft cotton base cloth that feels not-quite-fuzzy to the touch.  Imagine the softest sheets in the nicest hotel you’ve ever stayed in, put them on steroids and multiply by five.  And that’s what peached poplin feels like. SO soft. SO, SO soft.

at play in tula pink bumble peached poplin

It’s also just a tiny bit lighter than most quilting cottons–slightly less thick, and that makes it FLOATY.  It drapes and hangs so much more like an apparel fabric, and makes the most lovely pleats and gathers.  Gah!  I just love sewing with this stuff so much.

Which is why I have MORE projects to show you!  Go, Bumble, go!  Not just for babies and nurseries–for the whole flock of kids!

boys playground pants in tula pink bumble

We’ll start with my boy, the (very) reluctant model.  I could tell he had ZERO interest in letting me take these photographs when he told me it would be illegal for him to change into these shorts in the backyard.  ILLEGAL.  And then, once he’d changed, he arrives with the muddiest, muddiest feet you have ever seen outside the canine realm.  Sigh.  But the shorts!  Look fabulous!

bumble boys shorts

Or they would, if they weren’t backward.  You can hardly tell in these photos, but those are slash pockets on the back.  Except they belong on the front.  Whatevs, he was happy enough.  (Turns out the shirt was backward, too.  Silent protest?)  This is my same go-to self-drafted shorts pattern that I listed with my Back To School for boys post.  They’re just so quick to sew up, and once you have the pattern in one size, you can really whip them off the machine in about an hour.  Plus, he likes the way they fit, and will willingly dress himself in them for school each day.  Just, you know, not when Crazy Mommy wants photos (again).

bumble hexies skirt

For our older girl, I made a simple 20-minute skirt.  This fabric is so lovely to work with, and easy to draw up into a casing, but even so I reduced the panels from the two suggested in the printable to 1.5, instead.  I think it makes the volume a little more manageable.  Not only did THIS child put the skirt on willingly, she asked if she could LEAVE it on when we were done, citing it’s “ooooh….soft!”ness and that it would be awesome to climb the slide in.  Love.

20 minute skirt close up hexies

I mean, seriously.  How many skirts let you RUN in them, but also feel fabulously soft when you do it??  And this little knit tee from Target happened to coordinate so well with it.  So now, she’s decided what she wants to wear to school tomorrow, too.  If we can keep her brother’s muddy feet away from her, at least.

tula pink bumble collection overmosts with ruffle

For the littlest, who is not only willing to have pictures taken but who actively poses for the camera (I actually had to ask her to STOP posing), I made up a pair of Overmosts.  Gah!  How much do I love this pattern?  I mean, I have literally NEVER made a pair that I didn’t love.  I added a ruffle to this one, and I confess to a certain amount of back-patting.

peached poplin ruffle on tula pink overmosts

See how beautifully the peached poplin ruffles up?  The “peached” part doesn’t refer to the color–it refers to the texture, where it’s slightly “buffed” and has a little peach fuzz on the surface (get it?).  And when you cut that on the bias and fold it in half, then make a ruffle?  Good grief, it’s so sweet.  This mini-collection has been marketed as a nursery collection, but with our kids, I have totally found that older kids appreciate that softness and texture, too.

overmost back view

The lightness of the fabric was also a really great match for the elastic at the back of the waist on the Overmost, too.  I think I might want to add a small loop on one strap to pass the other strap through, so they don’t slip around, though.  Something to consider as I polish off the Overmost re-boot!

pink bumblebee overmosts with ruffle

Obviously, this is the short version–the OverMOST version, if you will.  The pattern has a long version, too, an OverALL, but I stuck with shorts for us.  We are still having 70-degree days this time of year, so she’s playing in these in the afternoon sun as we speak!

20 minute skirt in tula pink bumble hexies

Man, that is the MAGIC of sewing.  You combine fabric and pattern, and you end up making memories and sharing an emotion.  Because even though our boy wasn’t thrilled to model, he was still feeling the rock-and-roll:

rock and roll shorts in tula pink bumble

Bumble is OUT!  It is available at the links above and most independent fabric shops.  If your local shop doesn’t carry it, let them know you’re looking!  There are only a handful of prints in this collection, and it’s not too late to order it from the manufacturer.

Have fun sewing, y’all!

Win the NEW Overmost and Pinafore Patterns OR Any Whipstitch Online Class with Kids Clothes Week!

tula pink bumble preschooler pinafore

In the wake of all the fun of sharing the new Learn As You Sew series and introducing the Get Up & Go Skirt with you, I have even more exciting stuff to share!  The Overmost and Pinafore, my very first two patterns that I ever released in PDF form to the general public, are getting a MAKE-OVER.

overmost 4t

The Overmost is one of my favorite styles to sew, and one of my most popular patterns ever.  As I was developing the Learn As You Sew series, it was only natural for me to think about how this pattern might look in that format!  I originally created the Overmost pattern way back in 2009, and PDF patterns have come a long, long (LONG) way since then–I would really like everything I do to continue to be to the very highest standard I am capable of producing, and for me that means giving this much-loved pattern an overhaul.

The Pinafore

Like the Overmost, the Pinafore is a really classic style that has sold well over the years–but since this pattern was created around the same time, it could use some sprucing up, too.  Which is exciting, because I love that these two designs have been so popular and continue to have something to offer to folks sewing for their children.  I want to always, always create designs that will stand the test of time, that have a unique and appealing look but that can also be adapted to your own needs easily, and be used to sew for the widest range of circumstances.

overmost 12m

One of the things that makes the (kinda giant) amount of work necessary to re-format these patterns worth it is that the Overmost is so unisex, and works great for boys and girls–there are a zillion amazing girl patterns out there, but so few that are awesome for boys that go beyond tees and pants, and I am truly honored that I can offer something that will enter into the realm of boys patterns to fill a gap.  So being able to re-format this pattern is a project that has been near and dear to me, that I’m super excited to offer.

girls dress bodice buttons buttonholesAnd I won’t say TOO much, but there’s a THIRD pattern for girls that will be available at the same time the Overmost and Pinafore re-release.  It’s another really classic, adaptable style that I think you’ll love and get a ton of use from.  Plus, it’s got a great twist to the pattern pieces that I’ve never seen in another pattern that I’m pretty tickled to show off to all of you.

What this means for YOU:

In the short term, what this means is that the Overmost and the Pinafore will NOT be available temporarily.  I’ve pulled the PayPal buttons from the pattern detail pages (but have left the pages live for you to view).  I know that means that some of you will be inconvenienced because you want the pattern NOW, but I’d rather not continue to sell the current format when the new format is being completed.

BUT!!

The good news is that TODAY, over on the Kids Clothes Week blog, you can WIN ALL THREE of these patterns!  You’ll get all three designs sent to you BEFORE they’re available to the general public in a few weeks, in their new, fancy, spruced-up format.  Whoo hoo!!  PLUS, there are TWO winners, and also up for grabs is free registration in ANY Whipstitch e-course–so if you’re not quite sure you’re up to sewing these patterns yet, you can take the Essential Sewing course; or if you want to work on your stretch fabric skills, you can hit the Sewing Knits course; or if you are thinking you want to start up your own crafty business, take the Crafty Business Basics course!  Lots of fun stuff over on their blog as we head into Kids Clothes Week–go HERE to read today’s post and enter the giveaway!  Each of the two winners can choose either the pattern pack OR the e-course–so much to pick from!

overmost 2t

Thanks for the excited response and support for these Learn As You Sew patterns, everyone.  I’m feeling really grateful and so excited to unveil them to all of you–and couldn’t be more happy that they’re being so well-received!  Here’s to what’s coming next!!

Rainy Fall Get Up & Go Skirt

green plaid jean jacket

Seems like in most of the US today, it’s rainy and windy and a little bit cold.  Starting to feel like fall!  And while those of us in the Deep South don’t believe for a second that it’ll stick–we regularly find ourselves in short sleeves on Halloween–it’s nice to start to look at our autumn closets and see a whole new range of possibilities.  Scarves!  Jackets!  Sweaters!  SWEATER VESTS!!  That’s right.

get up and go fall plaid 2

This was one of the first skirts I sewed from the Get Up & Go pattern, because my on-going obsession with All Things Plaid demanded it.  I’ve had this yarn-dyed cotton in my stash for AT LEAST six years, and was thrilled to find the perfect project to pair it with.  When I realized that it ALSO matches my sweater vest and boots flawlessly, well…magic, people.  This is how magic happens.

in seam pocket go skirt gr plaid

Although it’s not included in the pattern, I did add an in-seam pocket to this skirt.  I love the versatility, and it’s so simple to add to any pattern–there’s a template and instructions in the Pockets E-Book that will apply directly to this skirt.  I like to place my pockets high enough that the upper edge can be trapped beneath the waistband in the front, so they don’t flop around and get lumpy.

Get Up and Go Skirt a Learn As You Sew pattern

And just to remind everyone that it is virtually impossible for me to go more than 7.3 minutes without making a ridiculous face:

Whipstitch Get Up and Go Skirt for fall

The design of the Get Up & Go Pattern makes it easy to match stripes and plaids, with a simple side notch that can be placed on your pattern repeat to get your fabric design to line up.  Read more about using notches in this post, and on sewing with plaids in this post, and remember that the Get Up & Go is a Learn As You Sew pattern–which means there’s a video embedded in the PDF that specifically walks you through how to use and cut notches to make them work for you as you sew!

I really love that the format of this pattern makes it SO clean and efficient to learn new skills, right when you need them.  I had such a great time shooting each segment, and putting them all together to make a really cohesive sewing journey for this pattern.  You can get your own copy right HERE, and get sewing right away!!

jump for joy for the Get Up and Go Skirt

The Get Up & Go Skirt Pattern is HERE!

Get Up and Go Skirt sewing pattern from Whipstitch

I am so excited today to introduce you to the very first Learn As You Sew pattern: the Get Up & Go Skirt!  This is Series 1, Pattern 1 in the Learn As You Sew Pattern Series, and it’s a great place to start sewing garments–or to find a great, classic style no matter how much sewing experience you have!

green plaid jean jacket

Learn As You Sew Series 1 focuses on FOUNDATIONAL SKILLS, so this pattern is designed to emphasize core sewing techniques like finishing seams, making straight hems, and working with waistbands.  At the same time, it’s a really fun pattern that’s easy to style and easy to wear, so no matter how much clothing you’ve sewn in the past, it’ll make an awesome addition to your wardrobe!

Get Up and Go Skirt in Lotta Jansdotter blue

This skirt has my dream construction: a flat front waistband with an elastic back that’s SUPER comfortable.  It’s also finished on the inside with a fun, clean technique that means that this unlined skirt has very few exposed seams, which keeps it soft and irritation-free on your skin.  Since it has an elastic back, it also has NO closures to worry about–no zippers or buttonholes to install!  That makes it super fast to sew up, and you’ll find yourself making way more versions than you might’ve guessed.  I have made this design up in so many great fabrics: lots and lots of quilting cottons, linen, chambray, flannel, seersucker, you name it!  And I’ve got so many variations to share with you in the next couple of weeks.

black german heel kick b

Besides being a super easy style to wear, this skirt is a great place to showcase fabrics you love or trims you’ve been hoarding.  I busted out some treasured embroidered ribbon for this black number (which is just black Kona, but it looks so great!) and love, love, love swishing around and getting to enjoy it now.  So much better than leaving your fabulous trims and treasures in a drawer!

go skirt chambray patch pocket

The Get Up & Go Skirt is also a great place to play with POCKETS!  Because the skirt is largely a flat-front blank canvas, it’s easy to add pockets of all shapes and sizes (you can find instructions for seven really awesome ones in the Pockets E-Book).  Perfect way to showcase your treasured buttons that are gathering dust!

skirt landscape anna maria

With over a dozen of this skirt in my own wardrobe (no exaggeration), I’ve also found it to be super easy to dress up or dress down.  I have versions I’ve worn to nice dinners out with my husband’s business associates, and others that I’ve worn to the Farmer’s Market on Saturday morning when I didn’t bother to wash my hair.  I’ve styled some with lots of accessories, and thrown on others over my swimsuit to head to the beach.  It’s a truly seasonless design that lends itself to so many different looks!

Get Up and Go Skirt for fall

I really hope you’ll love this skirt as much as I do.  I’ve worked hard to make the instructions as versatile and clear as possible–with options to work through the PDF as an e-course, as a pattern with video guidance, or as a quick-start pattern for those who are more experienced (learn more about the format of the pattern in this introductory video).

Get Up and Go Skirt with nautical style

More than anything else, I want you to HAVE FUN sewing!  This pattern is intended to be a big part of that, no matter HOW much sewing you’ve done or how many garments you’ve made.  I want to lead you through the construction with joy and maybe some laughs, and have you come out the other end with a pattern that you’ll love to sew and to wear, again and again and again.

Get Up and Go Skirt for spring

The Get Up and Go Skirt is available NOW!  It comes in sizes XXS to XXL, and requires very little yardage to sew up.  If you can sew in a straight line (more or less), you can make this skirt, and I really, really hope you do.  You can share you finished skirt on Facebook, Flickr or discuss it with other folks in the brand-new Get Up & Go Skirt forum!  You can buy the pattern TODAY through my online shop, where you’ll also find all the videos for the pattern and a whole lot more.

Hooray, hooray!!  It’s Get Up and Go Day!!

Special thanks to Nicole Stadler for taking many of these photos!  Join me at the next Atlanta Sewcial to meet Nicole and see examples of her long-arm quilting.

Introducing: Learn As You Sew Patterns

learn as you sew on green ellen baker background

Eeeeep!!  I’m am excited and nervous to share with you a project I have been working on for close to a year: my new pattern series.  I’d like to introduce you to Learn As You Sew Patterns!

plaid flannel landscape

I’ve been designing sewing patterns for close to ten years.  I started out making them for myself when I couldn’t find what I wanted in the pattern catalogs.  Then, I made them to manufacture for my children’s clothing boutique company.  It wasn’t until I started teaching sewing that I began to think about what sewing patterns looked like to new sewers, folks who had never used them previously.  And it changed the way I looked at the patterns on the market.

pattern-tracing

The last five years has seen a HUGE explosion in PDF patterns.  I released my very first PDF pattern, The Overmost, in 2009 and the difference between what a sewing pattern on the indie market could look like then and what they look like now is astronomical.  I began to think about re-designing the Overmost–not the garment, but the actual PDF.  What would it look like?  What features would I want to include?  What would benefit a new or beginning sewer the MOST in a pattern that they download and sew from the internet?

learn as you sew video iconOne of the biggest things I find that has benefitted my students is the use of video.  I love, love, love to make video for sewing, and over and over hear back from students online that it is such a great, adaptable, versatile means of learning nearly anything–and that used well, it can make the difference between someone loving sewing and someone walking away from their machine once and for all.  Not everyone has a local shop where they can learn in person, and for some of us, even if we do have a local shop our schedules don’t line up with the class schedule–we’d be much more likely to take a class at our convenience, when the kids are in bed.

That was the major motivation for launching my e-courses in 2010, and building a new e-course site last year.  I love teaching e-courses and have met some truly amazing people through them!  But not everyone will take an e-course–some are concerned that they won’t complete the content, others are concerned that they won’t like the format, and some just don’t really “get” the idea of an online class.

I wanted to develop a format that would reach THOSE people, the ones who didn’t feel comfortable taking an online class, but who still want to learn to love to sew.

Along the way, those two goals converged.  I have a feeling it was while I was driving along the interstate, since I seem to do even more brain-leaping there that I do in the shower.  What if….what if there was a PATTERN that included VIDEO?  Not an online class, really, but a pattern that allowed you to move BACK AND FORTH between the instructions and videos to guide you?

That’s how the Learn As You Sew Pattern Series was born.

skirt landscape anna maria

These patterns are TABLET-FRIENDLY, which means they’re meant to be a true digital pattern.  Rather than printing the entire file and following along the written instructions, you’re invited to print just the pattern pieces and then view the pattern instructions on your tablet (or computer).  There are embedded videos throughout the PDF that guide you through every step of the construction process.  Just click on any step where you need some extra help, and you’ll be whisked away to video of that specific step, where you can see up close and at the machine exactly what happens next.  I think it’s an amazing way to sew through a pattern, one that gives you a familiar interface with friendly video, and makes every pattern feel like personalized instruction.

black german heel kick b

The first pattern, the Get Up and Go Skirt, is part of Series One: Foundational Skills.  Each grouping of Learn As You Sew Patterns is a Series, and each Series includes three patterns that build on one another to drill down on a specific set of concepts.  The patterns in each series can be used alone, if you really only love the one design, but work best when all sewn in order, so that you’ll firm up your technique and try new sewing tricks you’ve never tried before!

These first three patterns walk sewers through basic sewing skills, allowing you to really drill down and cement those techniques before moving on to more challenging garments.  We’re sewing straight lines and working with elastic and making casings and finish off seams and sewing clean hemlines.  Other patterns in this series of three focus on French seams, bust and waist darts, making drawstrings, making and applying bias tape, and so much more.  I wanted to build a catalog of wearable, classic shapes that really TEACH as you sew them.

in seam pocket go skirt gr plaid

These patterns aren’t just for new sewers, though!  They’re intended for ANYONE who wants to make a great, chic garment that they’ll really wear, again and again.  Because how much fun is it to sew and then hang it in the closet? No fun at all.  So these patterns also include a Quick Start guide that allows more experienced sewers print a list of instructions to check off and get going.

The video below walks you through more of the features of these patterns.  It’s one of the introductory videos included in the Get Up and Go Skirt, which will launch TOMORROW here on the blog.  I hope you love what you see, can’t wait to hear what you think, and am excited to share this new sewing journey with you!


Tomorrow, I’m excited to release the Get Up and Go Skirt pattern and share more details with you about the first pattern in this series!

The green fabric featured behind the Learn As You Sew logo is from Ellen Luckett Baker’s Framework collection, and is available here!