Make Thrift Mend: My Fashion Fast


Have you heard about Me Made May? It's a social media movement that connects folks who make their own clothing by using the hashtags #memademay #mmm15 and #mmmay15 over on Instagram or Twitter. It's pretty great! I'm having a bunch of fun posting my garments this month and finding other folks who do the same.

It's open to anybody and you could even still make something before June and join the fun or share something you made a few years ago. Even an accessory counts. Participants just post a self-portrait wearing their handmade garment and then other crafty folks can network by searching the hashtags. The idea is to bring awareness to our wardrobes, to encourage creatives to make their own clothing, and to take pride in what we've made.

But there's something else that's really great about Me Made May and that is the community. Isn't that when social networks are the most fulfilling? Not when we fall down the hole of endless scrolling or comparing our selves to other folks (especially folks who use social media as their full-time profession and have models, stylists, and pro photographers and then we just feel so much worse) but when it's actually creating a community, a network, a meeting ground. Win, win.

It's been almost two years since I started my Make Thrift Mend project and began my fast fashion fast. I had no idea how this project would change my work, my wardrobe, or my shopping habits. What started as a yearlong commitment to making, mending, and buying used clothing has turned into an overhaul of how I purchase garments and how I think of fashion. It's also turned into a love affair with mending, natural dyes, and the slow fashion community.

As my studio time is still very limited while I care for my newborn son I have given myself the challenge of finishing this one dress for Me Made May. I had the torso sewn before my son was born but it still needed French seams, binding, pockets, and a hem. I'm now just pockets and a hem away from being able to wear it. It started with the Have Company Dress Along using my dear friend, Sonya Philip's very dressmaker-friendly pattern Dress #1 from her brilliant project, 100 Acts of Sewing.

I'm realizing that as I round out the second year of this project I'm upping my stakes. I don't just want to get better at reading dress patterns, acquire new mending skills, or commit to supporting secondhand clothing shops. I also want to make beautiful clothes that I love to wear. And so refining what I think is beautiful, why I think it's beautiful, and studying what I actually want to wear are now coming into the foreground.

That might be the biggest lesson I've learned yet--it really isn't about fashion trends or what's hot in the sale section this week but it's really about discovering what I love to wear. And then building the skills to make clothing that I not only feel proud of for the technical skill but that I feel excited about wearing. And that become part of my everyday wardrobe. And that celebrate the handmade life I'm seeking. This thinking feels more sustainable than any runway trend that might come and go next season.



Sashiko Mending Workshops in CA and NY


I'm so excited to share upcoming workshop dates for summer 2015! I'll be keeping my summer schedule lighter than usual while I continue to care for our newborn son and better understand the rhythm of parenting two small children. If you're hoping to join a mending workshop be sure to sign-up soon as they tend to fill quickly and I'm not certain I'll be adding much more to my calendar before fall. If only I had four arms: Two for my children and two for my work. What parent wouldn't agree, right?

Dates for Upcoming Workshops:

Sunday, June 7: Sashiko Mending workshop at Handcraft Studio School in Emeryville, CA from 1:30-5:30pm. (This workshop typically fills quickly, so be sure to reserve your spot if you'd like to join us. It's such a beautiful workshop space.)

Monday, June 15: Grantwriting Beyond the Basics workshop with the San Francisco Friends of Chamber Music from 6:30-9pm. (Open to members of the SFFCM only but if you're a musician in the Bay Area you should check out this organization--they are wonderful.)

Sunday, August 9: Sashiko Mending workshop at the new Drop, Forge & Tool space in Hudson, NY from 2-4:30pm. (I have a long-standing love affair with the Hudson Valley and I'm thrilled to offer this workshop at the new space for "Maker Workshops & Creative Residencies".)

Sunday, September 20: Sashiko Mending workshop at the Castro Valley Library in Castro Valley, CA from 3-4:30pm. (Hooray for public libraries! This is my second public library workshop, just a quick mending tutorial but happy to support the public libraries whenever possible. Registration is not yet available on their workshop so consider this a save-the-date.)

I'm thrilled to have several Sashiko Mending workshops scheduled for the next few months and to offer my first mending workshop in my native Upstate NY. Okay, just a quick info-packed post today as my newborn rests quietly on my chest and my three-year-old is away at preschool. These quiet, productive moments are priceless these days. I'll be back here in two weeks, but be sure to join me on Instagram, Facebook, or Pinterest for more regular interaction. Thank you, friends!



Welcome, Baby Jude: Thoughts on Mothering a Newborn

Our little one has arrived! Jude Cedar is five-weeks-old and we are making our way through these first weeks of becoming a family of four. Our newborn boy is amazing. Filled with all the beautiful things that only newborns can emulate. The raw beauty that radiates from their primal being. The intense fragility. The vulnerability. The tenderness. And also the sheer will to survive. It's humbling. And heartwarming. And rocks my mothering center on a daily, if not hourly, basis. Suffice to say I am in love with this tiny boy. In love with mothering new life again.

But this epic time of transformation does not come without its challenges. As any parent knows the first few weeks of life are also relentless on the caregivers. Newborns need to be fed, diapered, coddled, comforted, and tended 24 hours a day. They typically sleep and feed on a two-hour schedule, maybe a three-hour stretch, if we're lucky. This pace is something I've forgotten. A sort of common amnesia of parents that I'm convinced is programmed to protect the evolution and procreation of our species. No, really. It's true! We have to forget the physical demands of pregnancy, labor, and newborn care in order to have subsequent children. My labor was a dream compared to my labor with our older son, but that's another blog post.

Of course, I feel much more confident mothering a newborn the second time around. I have my systems and my preferences and my familiar bag of tricks. I know that I can feed, diaper, coddle, comfort and tend to my newborn with a good shot at satisfying his needs about 80% of the time. The other 20% of the time is anybody's guess. But now I don't take it personally when he's fussy or when I've cycled through my list of usual newborn needs--nursing, diapering, burping, sleeping--and he's still unsatisfied. I just do what I can and wait for the moment to pass. And this time I know that it will.

But tending to a newborn and simultaneously tending to a three-year-old is something that is not yet in my bag of tricks. Suddenly my preschooler is so old, so communicative, so independent, and also so complicated. Mothering a newborn is somehow basic. It's exhausting and relentless, of course, but it's also parenting his basic needs. And the bursts of exhilaration and amazement and reveling in new beautiful life are enough to power onwards. But mothering a preschooler who talks, walks, jumps, runs, and has his own preferences about food, sleep, socializing, entertainment, communication, and asserting his independence on the world is much more complicated. Of course, mothering a teenager is something that I know nothing about but that must feel more complicated than anything I can imagine.

But this time around I know that time is precious. Sleep is precious. And working from home is also precious. I know to have projects lined up in my studio so when I get 10-30 minute breaks I can pick up my work and put it back down again without having to plan. I know that if I've been up with Jude every two hours all night long then when it's finally time for my three-year-old to nap I can rest on the couch with my newborn babe while my older son sleeps. I know that if my husband offers to take the baby out to the living room at 5am I should let him because that means two more hours of sleep until my older son is awake and standing by my bedside. And I know that two hours is enough to make a difference the next day.

I also know that this will all pass. For better and for worse. For better, as we will sometime sleep through the night and manage the insurmountable piles of laundry and learn to parent two boys at once. For better, as I will return to part-time childcare and part-time studio work and my work/ family balance will appear more like a functioning working mother and less like a sleep-deprived, non-stop tending, one-sided sloping mama scale. For better, because we will gain confidence and grow accustom to this new family structure and we will be better for adjusting and growing and allowing all this raw love in.

But for worse, because these newborn days are really so precious. So tender. So magical. So intimate. And so very new. And the thought of losing them to the complicated needs of an older child makes my heart sink a bit. A preschooler is full of joy, don't get me wrong. But babies really are pure magic. And for worse, because the moments of this tiny human wanting nothing more than to be held, fed, diapered, coddled, comforted, and tended in very basic ways will also pass. And I will miss them. And while my mothering center will continue to be rocked and swayed and pushed and pulled on a daily basis it will not have the same power, the same presence, the same life-altering sensibility that it has when parenting a newborn. So I try to practice mindfulness and be present as much as a sleep-deprived mama possibly can.

Suffice to say, I am humbled to be the mother of these two beautiful little boys. I am honored to shepherd them through their days and to muster the courage to keep making meaning of my own days too. I am filled with love and awe and confidence and questioning and gratitude and generosity that only new life can bring. More simply, Jude Cedar, welcome to this world my little star. You are already one-month-old. Sigh.


PS--I will be posting here every two weeks through the end of May. In June, I plan to return to my weekly Monday schedule but for the next six weeks I still need to take it slow in my work rhythm. Thank you for joining me here and for being flexible while I figure my way into the parenting of two young boys. I have some fun workshops, events, and projects lined up for summer and fall so I will return to studio posts soon enough. Thank you, friends.


Baby Break: Let's Stay Connected


I am going to take a brief maternity leave while I wait (as patiently as humanly possibly) for my second son to arrive. Today we are just days from his due date and I am trying to spend this time focused on my sweet family, my full studio, and any remaining moments in appreciation of the quiet I can still find for myself. Such anticipation. Such excitement. Such a very full heart.

I'm going to take a brief break from this beloved blog and plan to return here on Monday, April 20. Something tells me I'll have thoughts and inspirations and probably a stash of newborn baby photos to share. Don't be surprised if I pop in between now and then to tell you the sweet babe has finally arrived. Oh my. I have some fun workshops and book events lined up for late May and early June so I'll be sure to share the details when they're confirmed.

In the meantime, let's stay connected. You can join me here to receive big announcements, special offers, and seasonal updates of my studio happenings directly in your email inbox. I'll also keep posting intermittently on my new Facebook business page, Instagram, Pinterest, and Twitter as the inspiration strikes and my need to connect with the world takes over. 

As always, thank you for joining me in this space. I'll see you soon with a new babe in my arms. Wish me luck, friends!



Modern Quilts: Bold and Unconventional Patchwork

I'm endlessly inspired by modern quilt designers and their simultaneous deviation from, and reference to, traditional quilt patterns. I'm making a baby quilt for this soon-to-be baby boy of mine. I'm using a mix of new and upcycled fabrics, mostly though not exclusively Lotta Jansdotter fabric designs, and I'm keeping the palette very simple: Blue, white, and gray.

All the fabrics use a two-tone design of either bright blue and white or dark gray and white. Simple. But I'm looking to several sources for my design inspiration. Choosing the fabrics is always the fun part: The moment when the design starts to come to fruition but the possibilities are still endless. And texture, color, and composition abound!

Then I let the fabrics dictate the quilt design this time. I reviewed my quilt boards on Pinterest, I took a longer look at the quilt I made for my first son just three years ago, I swooned over the Quilts of Gee's Bend once more, and then I came across this gorgeous book, Unconventional and Unexpected: American Quilts Below the Radar 1950- 2000.

I can't say enough good things about this book. It's SO good. It's filled with inspiring, unconventional quilt designs and wonderful interviews with leading textile artists and designers like Natalie Chanin. I keep going back to it again and again for added inspiration.

I've also been swooning over the latest interior design book by Mark & Sally Bailey, Imperfect Home. It speaks so clearly to my ongoing slow fashion project, Make Thrift Mend, and gives a boost of confidence to apply this slow design thinking to my home.

I have several of the Baileys' books, I love their sustainable and inspired approach to interior design, but this latest book is my absolute favorite. It embraces a wabi-sabi, handmade, imperfect approach to interior design and the results are bold and stunning. Their work is a constant inspiration for me in my studio.

So after spending some time with these two books I decided I wanted my quilt top to be bold, modern, and unconventional. I wanted it to somehow be in conversation with the quilt I made for my first son as they might someday share a room. But given my time constraints with my due date just two weeks away, I wanted it to be simple enough to finish soon. I also looked to Namoo Quilts and Carolyn Friedlander's quilts for modern inspiration.

Then I set some parameters: Same size as my first son's quilt (roughly 54" x 34"), complimentary colors to my son's, and like the first quilt I'd rely on a mostly horizontal composition of quilt strips. Then I let intuition take over and patched the fabrics together. I've sewn the quilt top together, selected the batting and backing, basted with pins, and now I'm deciding between machine quilting and hand stitching.The binding is always my favorite part: The final details before the quilt comes together and moves from my studio table to its rightful place in our home.

These moments of crafting and artmaking move my work forward. It doesn't matter if the work is for exhibition, publication, or for personal use in my home. It's the same. It's the moments when I'm able to look at the lineage of my craftsmanship; look for the deviations in concept or design; find a few modern mentors that inspire me to take new risks; but mostly I have to stay true to my original vision and while making the work get closer to what I had in mind.

I also ask a series of questions as I'm working: Does this feel right? Is this what I had in mind when I started? Can I make it simpler? Does it need all the parts? Am I gaining clarity? Does it look like me?

Of course, now I want to make a bigger quilt for our bed. I want to finish a vintage quilt top I found years ago and have stashed in my blanket chest. And someday, I'd like to dye my own fabric and make a Flying Geese quilt too. It's my favorite traditional quilt design. But for now, I'm just hoping to finish sewing this baby quilt before our tiny human arrives. Time is the main concern these days. Did I mention, I'm due in less than two weeks?!?



Our Home Tour and Feathering the Nest

At 36 weeks pregnant I have now officially started nesting. That's right: The urge to move furniture, wash baby clothes, and stack diapers is now fully upon me. This weekend I finished my last public events before my due date and something instantly triggered my brain to begin feathering the nest.

And this is a very good thing because I was starting to worry if this instinct was going to kick in at all with this second baby. With my first son I was dreaming up nursery colors as soon as I knew I was pregnant. Okay, maybe I was even dreaming about his baby quilt before I was pregnant. I confess.

With this second baby, I am just glad to have a few boxes of hand-me-down baby clothes, a co-sleeper at the ready, and a car seat on top of the dryer waiting to be installed. (I could already write a novel about the differences in approaching the birth of my first child versus my second--but I will spare you the details and just talk about the pretty parts like feathering the proverbial urban nest.)

A few months ago I was asked to send photos of my home to a book editor and so I spent an afternoon tidying the house and snapping some images. As I start to organize one corner of our small bedroom for the nursery area I am happy to have these images of our tidy apartment because I know the newborn baby storm is about to hit our beloved homestead in just a few weeks.

You know: The impossible piles of laundry, stacks of dishes, and random necessary baby goods all misplaced in a sleep deprived haze while the happy hormones of new parent love coat all the chaos in a rosy gaze of "who cares" until we start to put the pieces back together again. Oh, the piles. Oh, the swirl of exhaustion and wonderment. Oh, the anticipation of it all.

But for now I get to organize baby clothes, dream up a baby quilt, and still tuck my three-year-old's toys neatly back onto the tiny toy shelf while some order remains. People are often shocked that I share a 1.5 bedroom apartment with my family of three, soon-to-be four. Having lived in Brooklyn and now Oakland for more than a decade it's not that uncommon to raise a family in a very small space (particularly if that space is rent controlled and in a lovely neighborhood) but that's not to say it isn't also a challenge.

What's my secret? Determination. Like anything else, I find that my determination to stay in this apartment is what makes it work. We don't accrue large unnecessary toys, we keep our shared living space as orderly as parently possible while trying to maintain a sense of humor, and we regularly sell, trade, and donate household goods as we outgrow them.

Don't be fooled: I still dream of a farmhouse and a barn converted into art studios someday but for now? Our 650 square feet of urban bliss is just fine. The tiny house movement also adds inspiration to my small apartment on a regular basis.

I've reorganized my Pinterest boards and I'm seeking inspiration for what I've learned is called a "corner nursery". That's right, a corner nursery is a nice way of saying that the parents' bedroom will double as a nursery until the little one is ready for a room of his own.

I'm also finding so much inspiration that I'm pinning on Nursery Decor, Kids Rooms, and my Quilt boards as I design a quilt for this tiny human. It's funny, now somehow my son's bedroom (our converted walk-in closet) seems like a huge space for a nursery as I move our bedroom furniture around in a puzzle to make the co-sleeper and another dresser fit inside. Oh, perspective.

I still can't believe that I'll have another child in just about four weeks but at least now my nesting instincts have kicked in and it actually looks like a baby will join our home in the very near future. This is not yet an organized or pretty prediction of the human that is yet to come but at least the basics can be located in a moment's notice. Well, except for the diapers.

We still don't have one newborn diaper in our midst but I think I can remedy that in four weeks time. Let's be honest, first I want to design the quilt and then I'll tend to the diapers. Priorities, right?



Goodie Bags, Celebrations, and Past Lives

I think I was one of Santa's workshop elves in a past life. That's feasible, right? Whether I'm preparing for a craft fair, wrapping holiday gifts, or making goodie bags I'm pretty sure that at some point in a past life I probably wore a striped shirt, red knickers, and shiny suspenders. Probably that pointy hat and those adorable felt shoes too. Maybe I should add another tag to my bio: Artist, writer, crafter, former elf. Hmm... okay, maybe not.

I am making goodie bags for this weekend's book events! Two different bags for two different events. At the book signing on Saturday at Bella Vita from 3-5pm I'll be offering free goodie bags to the first ten people to buy a book. These bags will contain most of the materials needed to make the Pretty Paper Garland project from my book, The Paper Playhouse.

The paper garlands are a good place for adults or kids to begin when making the projects in the book. And they only require a handful of materials and, well, most of the materials are rather pretty so I made these pretty packages for the first ten buyers on Saturday afternoon. Plus, it was fun to assemble!

The second set of gift bags are for The Paper Playhouse Craft Party at Handcraft Studio School on Sunday afternoon. I'm so excited for this event! This set includes an assortment of upcycled pretty papers, postcards, washi tape, pink felt hearts, felt balls, and other paper flotsam and jetsam. I think of this one more like an inspiration packet--meant to fuel the imagination when making any of the projects in the book.

Plus, again, it was just plain fun to assemble these bags with the book in mind. Folks who attend the craft party also receive a free copy of the book so I like to think they walk away with the whole kit and caboodle. Caboodle, is that a real word? I digress.

Oh, friends. I am so excited to share these book events with my local Oakland community. I hope you'll join me on Saturday or Sunday for a signed book, goodie bag, special snack, and some papery inspiration. This Sunday is my last public event before my due date in early March. That doesn't seem possible but, somehow, it's true.

Have a great week.


PS--Thank you to those of you who have purchased my book through my Etsy shop. I've finally restocked the shelves and will also have extra copies with me this weekend. Thank you!


Fun News: Book Signing & A Craft Party!


I'm so excited to announce that I've scheduled two upcoming book events in the East Bay for my new book, The Paper Playhouse. On Saturday, February 7 from 3-5pm I'll be signing books at the adorable women & children's boutique, Bella Vita, at their new location at 5511 College Avenue in Oakland--less than one block from the Rockridge BART.

This is one of my absolute favorite independent shops in Oakland and I'm thrilled to co-host this event in their beautiful space. I'll have books to buy, you can bring your books for me to sign, and I'll also have goodie bags for the first ten books sold. I'll bring a few original projects from the books too so folks can see the projects in-person. Drop by just to say hello if you're in the neighborhood--I'd love to see you.

I'll also be co-hosting a craft party on Sunday, February 8 from 2-4:30pm at the wonderful and welcoming Handcraft Studio School in Emeryville. I'm SO excited about this craft party. We'll make two projects from the book, we'll talk about sourcing and using up-cycled paper materials to make art, I'll answer any questions about the book, and each registered participant will also receive one signed copy of the book and a goodie bag filled with creative inspiration. This feels like such a wonderful way to celebrate the launch of my book and I'm thrilled that Handcraft Studio offered to host. This craft party is open to adults and kids over age 8. More details on the Handcraft website.

Oh my goodness--book launches and craft parties? Is this really happening now? It's been so wonderful to see some images of my book in fellow artists and parents houses and hands. Such a dream come true to watch the book make its way through the world and to hear feedback on how creative families are using the projects to make crafts. One mother even emailed to tell me that she couldn't get her little girl to bed the night the book arrived because she was so excited to make the projects the next morning. That might just be my favorite email ever. Of all time.

But it's a special level of excitement to host events that share the book with my local San Francisco Bay Area community. These are the only two book events currently scheduled until after May when I resurface from a brief maternity leave. So please join me if you can, my friends, I would be so honored to share these afternoons with you and my new book.