A Few Firsts: Podcast, Workshops, and a Residency


I'm over-the-moon honored to be a featured artist on Meighan O'Toole's podcast series, What's Your Story?. It's a wonderful podcast focused on various creatives in an intimate interview with the creator, Meighan, to share their inspiration, background, motivation, and anything else that finds its way into the conversation. She's interviewed some of my favorite artists and friends like Courtney Cerruti, Jen Hewett, Lisa Solomon, Sonya Philip, Lisa Congdon and so many more. You can listen to my interview right here. It's my very first podcast interview but thankfully Meighan was a great host.

We discuss my current mending work, inspiration for my fashion fast, and some of the complications of my Make Thrift Mend project before talking about my first book, The Paper Playhouse, and the collaborative artist residency project Range Studio I co-direct with my husband. It was a pleasure to talk with Meighan about my work and I'm honored to have this opportunity share my process in such an intimate conversation. Thank you, Meighan!

Also, I want to share a few highlights about July and August because it's already the end of June. I'll be the featured artist-in-resident in our Studio 1 tiny portable house on Market Street at 1st Street the week of July 13-17. I'm so excited about this residency! I'll have several textile artists joining me for lunch time demonstrations and discussions between 12noon and 2pm every day that week. Details on the Range Studio website. This is the first time I've been an artist-in-residence in our tiny studio. Next week I'll post the scheduling details of my week on Market Street--save the dates.

Lastly, I'm offering my first natural dye workshop in person! I've fallen head-over-heels with natural dyes since launching my Make Thrift Mend project and I included some natural dye basics in my online class, Slow Fashion Style. Now I'm partnering with my favorite host at Handcraft Studio School to offer my first in-person natural dye workshop on Sunday, August 23 from 2-5pm. I'm so excited to teach this workshop it's like it's my 8-year-old birthday party all over again.

This will be an introductory level workshop complete with various natural dyes, numerous sample fabrics, yarns and papers for testing, and instructional information on harvesting, preparing, soaking, and working with natural dyes. I'm thrilled! I'm also offering another Sashiko Mending workshop with Handcraft Studio on Sunday, August 16--be sure to sign-up for this workshop soon as it typically sells out quickly.

Phew. So many firsts. Excited about all this opportunity swirling around my summer. Thank you, friends.



Visible Mending and the Metaphor of Repair

I keep thinking about the symbolic meaning of repairing our clothing through mending. I keep returning to the dictionary and thesaurus and thinking of the various synonyms for the word "mend".

: to make (something broken or damaged) usable again : to repair (something broken or damaged)
: to heal or cure (a broken bone, a sad feeling, etc.)

Mostly, I think about the symbolic repair of fast fashion, the sustainable repair to our garments and the planet, and the activist's repair to a system that needs fixing.  It's amazing to think that something that was once so typical in our grandparent's homes has almost entirely been erased by modernization. I've been researching darning eggs and darning needles. Amazing to think that these were common household items not so long ago. Now, we hardly know what to do with them let alone how to find them.

I recently mended my favorite house slippers. A deep hole in the side of the slipper meant my little toe was cold every time I wore them. So I finally sat down with a scrap of denim and some thread and made a Boro inspired repair. Within half an hour my beloved slippers kept all ten toes cozy again. And it's just that simple. In no time at all our favorite garments are restored and their longevity preserved. An old favorite pair of jeans are next on my mending pile--filled with various gashes and tears that will need several fixes.

Visible mending lets us embrace the natural wear and tear of our garments through an aesthetic that is less perfect and more personal. We step off the fashion treadmill and look at our garments for their inherent strengths and weakness. We embrace the decay and also the ability to patch, darn, mend, and stitch our way into a more sustainable future. I recently revisited my Mendfulness article in Taproot magazine and this concept is much longer than an article for me. It's the workshops I'm teaching, my Make Thrift Mend fast, but I'm also considering it in a larger creative context.

For now, I just keep mending and repairing and mending again. And noticing how this act relates to so many aspects of our lives--big and small and tender and tenacious and simple and spectacular too. Mendfulness. 



Our Tiny Art Studio: Studio 1 Summer Residencies

I'm very excited to announce that our tiny portable art studio, Studio 1, will be very busy this summer at various locations along Market Street, one of San Francisco's main downtown corridors. Studio 1 will be presented through a commission for my husband, David Szlasa, in partnership with the San Francisco Arts Commission, the Mayor's Office of Civic Innovation, and the Living Innovation Zone. We are so exited!

Studio 1 will be stationed on Market Street for six weeks featuring six resident artists. Each of the six artists have been scheduled for a specific week including one week for yours truly. I'm thrilled to be the resident artist the week of July 13-17 and will be hosting one additional textile artist each day as part of my Make Thrift Mend project. The other resident artists include: Andrea Bergen, Sheldon Smith, Sara Shelton Mann, Jesse Hewitt, Jose Navarrete and a special performance by Shinichi Iova-Koga/ inkBoat. Read the details about the six-week schedule here.

Studio 1 is the first portable art studio that's part of a larger art project, collaboration, and experimental artist residency program known as Range Studio created by my husband, fellow artist/ designer/ and performer, David Szlasa and me in August 2014. For nearly a decade we've dreamed of managing an artist-owned residency center and last summer we decided to turn his beautiful tiny studio into our experimental art program on wheels. You can read about the studio here.

The Market Street programming launches today! Yes, today. And it continues for six consecutive weeks through Saturday, July 25. I'll write more about my plans for the week I'm in residence but save the date for lunchtimes the week of July 13-17 as I'll be inviting AMAZING textile artists to join me for demonstrations/ discussions/ and public interventions from 12noon- 2pm that entire week.

Did I mention I'm excited?



Future Workshops, Your Input, and a Giveaway


I'd love your input. I'm scheduling additional workshops for this summer and fall and I'm also considering the next online workshop and I'd love to hear from you. What textile or paper craft techniques are you currently loving that you might want me to teach? If you could virtually visit my studio through an online workshop where would you first like to look around? If you're visiting here as a new reader check out the links on the sidebar and see what interests you in my website portfolio, my slow fashion project, or Etsy shop and leave your thoughts in the comments.

Teaching is becoming more and more central to my studio practice. I just taught a Sashiko Mending workshop this weekend and I was instantly reminded of just how much I love this work. It is such a gift to teach mending techniques and to pass on my passion for repairing and fixing clothing. And to pass on some of my sustainable fashion research from the past two years of my Make Thrift Mend project.

I'm going to teach my first in-person natural dye workshop in August. I'm thrilled. It will be a basic introductory to working with kitchen scraps to make beautiful plant-based dyes. By and by the various parts of my online Slow Fashion Style class are becoming prominent elements of my workshop offerings and current writing. I was thrilled to publish the article on Mendfulness in the Mend issue of Taproot magazine and I'm currently working on another article about the healing power of natural dyes and urban foraging.  

I hope that my writing and creative workshops will encourage other artists and hobbyists to expand their own work and venture to try new techniques. I think it's important that we stay open to learning new content in our creative work as artists and hobbyists so that the work might continue to grow. But, of course, the only way our work ever gets better is if we really push it to be our own. To look like ours. To have the residue of our one particular life. To grow as we do. So I'm considering this as I create new offerings online too. How best to share a technique in a way that allows the participant to insert her own aesthetic so the work really looks like hers?

I'd love to hear from you what you'd most like to learn from my workshops. If you could virtually enter my studio what would you like me to share? Mending? Dyeing? My favorite sustainable fashion artists and resources? How to create your own fast fashion fast? Or more generally, what paper or craft techniques are you currently loving?

Or maybe you have another idea about using upcycled paper or boxes like the content of my book, The Paper Playhouse? Projects for children and adults to share together? Leave a comment about what you'd like to learn and I'll pick one comment at random to receive a free copy of my book. Because I really want to hear from you. And because teaching is becoming a very important part of my studio work so I want to give it the time that it needs to develop and grow.

Thank you, friends.


PS--I'll select a winner from the comments section next Monday, June 15 so be sure to check back to see if you've won. The winning address must be in the continental US for shipping purposes but, of course, you can keep the giveaway copy for yourself or have me mail it to a friend. Good luck!


Wabi-Sabi, Mending, and a Slow Fashion Philosophy

Lately I've been seeing more and more new denim that is already distressed and noticing an increase in the interest of mending. But not just learning how to mend but also faux mending or new jeans that look mended straight off the rack. It's forcing me to dig deeper in my mending work and to examine my motivations and influences. Wabi-sabi has been a big influence on my fast fashion fast, Make Thrift Mend, and specifically on my mending. Embracing imperfection and finding the beauty in natural wear and tear has helped to shift my mindset away from the fashion world's ever-changing trends to a more personal and meaningful wardrobe.

I've written before about Leonard Koren's book, Wabi-Sabi for Artists, Designers, Poets & Philosophers but I just read his follow-up book Wabi-Sabi Further Thoughts. In the second book he writes about the digital age and concepts surrounding design and digital mediums as it relates to wabi-sabi. But he also writes about replication. That's what interests me most. Can slow fashion and visible mending be replicated by fast fashion manufacturers? Can it be reduced to a fashion trend? Or is it really the beginning of a new way of considering the ethical and environmental impact of the fashion industry and shifting our habits towards slow fashion?

Koren writes, "Wabi-sabi is a beauty of things imperfect, impermanent, and incomplete; a beauty of things modest and humble; a beauty of things unconventional...". This is the language I keep in the forefront of my thinking when I'm mending. I'm looking to create something that is beautiful or pleasing but not pretty and certainly not perfect. He goes on to write, "Material qualities (of wabi-sabi): the suggestion of natural process; irregular; intimate; unpretentious; earthy; murky; simple." I'd wager that most folks interested in visible mending find some resonance with this list of adjectives. We feel drawn to these descriptions. We want to embody this aesthetic on some level--maybe on many levels--but certainly in our worn clothing. Or in our mending. Or both.

I keep thinking about Sashiko and Boro and how it's intrinsically tied to the time, place, politics, and people that created these beautiful, unique garments. How Sashiko started as a utilitarian stitch to mend and fix garments and then through time, place, politics, and people it evolved into a decorative art form more like embroidery. My Sashiko Mending is a blending of the two and yet it's also a bastardization-- I hesitate to use the word "Sashiko" in my mending workshops yet it also deserves recognition as my inspiration but I admit that I don't follow the strict rules about knots, stitch length, pivots, designs, etc found in modern Sashiko. It is a precise and beautiful art form and I don't claim to have mastery.

Two years ago I found Sashiko through my yearlong fashion fast, Make Thrift Mend. I had a practical problem that needed solving: My torn jeans needed mending and I couldn't buy a new pair because of my self-imposed moratorium on purchasing new clothing. My project is/ was an act of resistance and an ongoing art project fusing sustainable fashion and my studio work with social practice. Of course, how this relates to the Japanese forms of Boro and Sashiko deserves more exploration but let me get back to my thoughts on replication.

Currently, Sashiko is everywhere. Mending is fashionable. Hard to believe, but I've seen Boro inspired designs on the recent fashion runway. This shift has happened quickly even in the last two years since I first started my project. In August 2013 I could only find a handful of mending resources and many of them were outdated. Sharing mending skills was one of my primary goals in starting my fashion fast so I'm very excited folks are interested in mending--I want to share this passionate work and I want to help people learn the skills to mend their favorite garments.

But seeing factory distressed denim and faux Sashiko mending on factory made clothing is making me cringe. Yes, maybe it's fashionable. And maybe that's okay. But the point of slow fashion is to slow down our buying habits not to jump on the next fashion trend and purchase a certain aesthetic straight off the runway. So the point is not to replicate handmade stitches through a factory made garment but to embrace the natural wear and tear and take the time to mend. But wabi-sabi makes this even more interesting: Can we replicate a philosophy or an essence anyway?

In Wabi-Sabi Further Thoughts author, Koren, touches on the idea of replication. He writes about the rise in the trend of a wabi-sabi aesthetic. Or for brevity's sake and to reduce a very complicated aesthetic philosophy into a bite-sized phrase let's call it "that worn look". (Of course, wabi-sabi is much more complicated than "that worn look" but I want to use a bite-sized phrase that we can all understand regardless of our familiarity with wabi-sabi. If you're a wabi-sabi scholar, just let me explain.) I think about replication frequently in my Sashiko Mending. As the rise in distressed denim seems to be everywhere right now and every time I see a pair of new jeans that are already distressed I cringe. Why do I cringe?

I cringe because slow fashion is the opposite of new ripped jeans. Slow fashion would advocate to buy quality jeans new and then make time to mend those quality jeans once they start to fray. As Vivienne Westwood famously said, "Buy less, buy better". No matter how high quality the jeans are to begin with they will inevitably fray if they are worn with any consistency. After all, they are made of cotton and they are ultimately going to breakdown and even biodegrade, if we are lucky. They will not last forever but through mending we can extend their usefulness for much longer than if we don't mend at all. In buying secondhand jeans I even employ this thinking--I buy better quality used jeans that are still affordable but better quality and destined to last longer.

But I had to take a moment to really try to understand why someone would be drawn to distressed jeans straight off the rack. Why buy jeans that are already distressed? It's for "that worn look" right? Back to wabi-sabi. But I think this actually touches back to Koren's idea of replication. We can't fabricate wabi-sabi and we can't reduce it to one bite-sized notion or "that worn look" either. If we could replicate it, then it's just a look. Just a trend. Just something that's been replicated to look like the way something else makes us feel and wabi-sabi is more complicated. Perhaps, the essence of what we're after can't actually be purchased.

Buyers want to purchase "that worn look" because maybe it also indicates comfort, casualness, maybe edginess, counterculture, or maybe even authenticity or an idea that the wearer has had these distressed jeans for many fashion cycles, they hold faux memories, they hold faux meaning, and the appearance of time or the result of time wearing away the outer fibers of our clothing suggests legacy in some way. Or maybe they want to buy faux mended jeans for that handmade look. I would argue "that worn look" is usually inspired by wabi-sabi. What the buyer wants is the essence of wabi-sabi that simply cannot be purchased or replicated. Even if the jeans can be purchased to look like wabi-sabi they somehow miss the essence or experience of decay.

Wabi-sabi is a Japanese term that has been detached from its cultural context and reapplied as an aesthetic term that can be explored by several of the adjectives Koren uses: Imperfect, impermanent, incomplete, modest, humble, unconventional, irregular, intimate, unpretentious, earthy, murky, simple. Beautiful descriptions, of course. But to achieve wabi-sabi perhaps we should imagine we have to use all of those words in one object, not just pick and choose. And maybe we can't achieve wabi-sabi anyway because of our time, place, politics, and people. But we can be inspired by it, of course.

I think it'd be too trite if we didn't acknowledge wabi-sabi's meaning is much deeper than the list of adjectives or certainly than my own reductive "that worn look". Though I've only been studying wabi-sabi for a few years I shudder at the thought of it being reduced to simply superficial terms. It's also a philosophy. Koren writes, "I also asserted that wabi-sabi was one of the defining aesthetic sensibilities of Japanese civilization". Obviously, this needs more exploration than my singular blog post but again we should not divorce language from the time, place, politics, and people where it evolved.

Koren writes, "If we adopt the Japanese linguistic custom to describe how wabi-sabi comes to be, it would be more accurate to simply say that wabi-sabi 'occurs'...". Ah ha! I think this gets to the heart of the matter. New denim that is distressed in a factory did not "occur". It was fabricated to look like it occurred. On some level, then, this did not "occur" at all. It was contrived. Forced. Manipulated. Designed. And perhaps this is the depth we are looking for in adopting slow fashion as a mindset, as a lifestyle, as a philosophy and not just as an aesthetic. Particularly in mending as we must respond to the unique tear, rip, fray, or decay at hand so in some ways it more naturally lends itself to wabi-sabi. Tears occur. They happen. Decay is inevitable but can be staved off with mending.

I'm not going to pretend that I can fully embody the depth of the philosophy of wabi-sabi as an American artist in Oakland, CA in 2015 working on a personal art project. Or that I can simply apply it to my visible mending and claim ownership because I cannot. But I bring it up here because it's been very influential on my work and more so in my approach to visible mending and making my own clothing. More so, it helps me better understand why faux mending and distressed denim make me cringe. Because slow fashion isn't just an aesthetic. It's actually a mindset. Though I still maintain that language cannot be divorced from the time, place, politics, and people where it evolved, wabi-sabi is key to my mending.

My mending isn't just meant to be fashionable. It's meant to reference my hiatus from fast fashion and a shift in mindset, wardrobe, and fashion consumption that grew from my work and former study as an environmentalist. It's also meant to advocate for slow fashion. Make Thrift Mend started as a personal protest to the mistreatment of people and the planet. It was intended to create a dramatic shift in my habits--which I already considered "mostly environmentally friendly"--to stop buying new clothing altogether and to focus on making, mending, and buying used. It's also meant to share this work with a larger community.

But this trend in distressed denim and faux mended garments (or garments that look "embellished with mending" right off the rack) makes me cringe. For me, it's missing the point. The point is not to buy new clothing that looks worn. Or to simply wear garments that appear mended or loved. The point is to be able to repair our clothing when it tears so that we might wear it for longer. So that we might step off the fashion treadmill for long enough to even witness the natural decay of our clothing. And so that we might relearn the skills we need to mend our clothing and extend its usefulness.

So, here we are at this juncture in fashion. This moment when two years ago the Rana Plaza factory collapse in Bangladesh drew the world's attention to an escalating issue in the fashion industry--people's lives are literally at stake. The founding of Who Made Your Clothes and Fashion Revolution and folks like Tom of Holland and his beautiful Visible Mending project are the advocates we need. And organizers and writers like Kate Fletcher and Elizabeth Cline and so many more that deserve mention.

After reading Leonard Koren's second book I was so inspired by his ideas of replication that something came into focus: What we need is a shift in mindset and that philosophy cannot be replicated through aesthetics alone; we don't need another fast fashion trend disguised as slow fashion. Saying my mending work is wabi-sabi is also complicated but denying that wabi-sabi has had a major impact on my mending work would not be accurate either.

Hopefully we can help to redirect the compass of fast fashion by embracing a slower mindset, by adapting "mendfulness", and by mending our own jeans instead of buying jeans that are already distressed or designed to look mended. Hopefully this trend in slow fashion is here to stay. That it's more of a shifting of the compass than the latest trend to be purchased off the rack. Certainly, that is not the point at all. Certainly, a shift in philosophy is my hope.

I'd love to know your thoughts about any of this if you're willing to share in the comments section. Thank you for reading this very long post.




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?!?