The Art of Letting Go

When it comes to stitchery, I am a very literal person.  I like to do cross-stitch because the stitches and colors are so precise.  I rarely design my own projects, and lord help me if I have to pick my own colors.  Since joining a guild, I have been trying to open myself up to new stitching styles and to new challenges.  My newest project is forcing me to let go.

I have to let go of the need to know which stitch goes where, and what color to use in each space.  My latest project, a button brooch from Gary Clarke Designs, is a project with a picture for “inspiration” but little to no instructions.  I can use whatever stitches in want, in any direction, and in any color.  To add to that, the piece is tiny, so the stitches are as well.  This piece is so small that I have to use a quilting between needle!

In terms of the stitch layout, I’m sticking fairly close to the inspiration picture.  This is making it slightly easier, but it is still unnerving to place my stitches willy nilly!  For the colors, I am using a palette of colors that I had gathered for another project.  They are quite different from the inspiration picture, but I think that they are working quite well.

I was able to stitch for almost two hours tonight, and I’m pretty close to being finished.  I need to finish one of the birds, do some outlining, and add in the little details before putting the fabric into the button frame!

Guild Project

Two little birdies sittin’ in a tree…


My thumb for perspective on how tiny the stitches are.

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Greetings From Beyond Grad School

Well, I finally finished my biggest project!  I completed my 56 page thesis and will be marching in the graduation ceremony this May!  It feels amazing to have completed this labor of love, and to slowly reenter the life I had to somewhat set aside.

What does reentry look like?  For starters, I have been able to read for pleasure again, and have completed 5 books since the end of grad school!  I also joined the Marin Golden Threads and have been exploring new skills and projects in embroidery and other needle arts.

My work life has been keeping me busy as well.  I currently wrangle a wonderful class of fourth graders at a fantastic public school in Marin County.  Life as a first year teacher has been full of work, but it has been very joyful work indeed!

This is the year of “finishing.”  Finishing books, finishing projects, and finishing my reentry into “normal” life!

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Project Journal: Hexagons!

What: 35-99 Sets of 6 EPP Hexagons for the 10th Hexagon Swap

Theme: Fall Colors (I’m not posting the fabric until the sets are done)

Date Started: Monday, May 5

Estimated Time Needed to Complete: 15 Hours

Expected Finish Date: Monday, May 26

Expenses: $36- Fabric, $6- pins

Thoughts as I Start:  I’m very excited to start this project.  Part of that excitement is knowing that my work will be included in another person’s finished project!  I’m also excited to see what fabric I get in return.

5/5- 1 Hour- Prepped and cut 3 fabrics for the swap.  I need to go to the store and get at least 2-3 more fabrics.

5/6- 1 Hour- Prepped the remaining 6 fabrics.  Pinned the first set and began trimming the hexies for basting.

Thoughts After I Finish: Coming Soon!

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Simplicity Learn to Sew Patterns- Not So Easy!!

One of my former theater peeps, has embarked a new venture- a quality hair salon for kids.  Thus was born Purple Monkey Hair: A Salon for Kids and Kids at Heart!  Since she has an ADORABLE toddler, she asked me to make him a purple monkey costume for the grand opening celebration.  I found a Simplicity Learn to Sew pattern that looked pretty quick and easy, and got to work.

Oh Simplicity, how you let me down!  The instructions were so hard to follow that I can’t believe the pattern is being marketed at “learn to sew.”  I muddled through, but it was REALLY challenging!

Yesterday was the grand opening at the salon, and I  must say that the Purple Monkey was pretty darn adorable!

Purple Monkey

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Whew- Time Flies!!

I can’t believe it is already November!! I haven’t posted in a while because I have been in a whirlwind of school observations, classes, homework and work! I have been sewing and crafting, though mostly classroom related things, and just taught my first class to a new student this morning! I was also commissioned to make a costume for an adorable toddler, so he could represent his mother’s new business!

I haven’t been able to do much personal sewing, and I do miss it. I’m looking forward to the Thanksgiving Break, and the luxury of three whole days in row with no responsibilities!!!

I will be posting another update soon, but bye for now!!

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Teacher Hacks: Making Cool Math Things for School

I am currently in my observation phase of my teaching credential program.  This means that I am placed at the school where I will be student teaching in January, and I am expected to start teaching lessons in about a month.  Well, since I am an experienced teacher (6 years of Pre-K) I am actually starting tomorrow!  I will be leading a month long project on playwriting and producing for the 1st grade portion of the K/1 class I am working with, and a lesson on graphs for the whole class.  My professor suggested that I go ahead and write up full lesson plans for the first playwriting lesson and the math lesson, even though she will not be observing them.  So, I spent the day writing up the lesson plans.

For the graphing lesson, we are going to eat two different kinds of apples, and chart which one the class likes the best.  I decided to make a reusable foam core chart with contact paper and painters tape.  This way, I can use dry erase markers on the chart, and the tape is repositionable if I want to add more categories.  For the little guys, I am writing their name on star shaped Post-It notes so they can mark their choices.

Here is the chart:

Graphing Chart

I’m so excited to do my lesson on Wednesday and try this out!

Tomorrow afternoon, I have my Teaching Math in Elementary School class.  For my assignment I had to play 5 math games with friends, family or kids.  We were all given a list of a bunch of different games and asked to write down our observations about the games for class tomorrow.  I recruited three of the high school students at work, and the daughter of one of the other dorm parents to come and play with me.  We had so much fun playing games last night!  I didn’t have all of the materials that I needed to play all of the games, so I looked through the game descriptions to see what I could repurpose.  Two different colored decks of playing cards became a game board, the metal-edged plastic discs from my magnet box became counters, and graph paper became a Multiplication Tic-Tac-Toe board and “button” game boards.

"Button" game boards on the top, and the Multiplication Tic-Tac-Toe Board is on the bottom!

“Button” game boards on the top, and the Multiplication Tic-Tac-Toe Board is on the bottom!

I used the rest of the contact paper to “laminate” the paper, so now I have more durable game boards to add to teacher toolkit!

My growing folder of math games!

My growing folder of math games!

If you want more detailed instructions on the chart, or the math games (I have a whole stack of good ones!) please send me an email, and I’ll be happy to fill you in!


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Making a Pouch for the Breaking of the Glass Ceremony

Aug. 17, 2013

My best friend’s sister is getting married, and is in need of a pouch to hold the wineglass that her new husband will smash at the end of the ceremony (for information on this tradition, click here).  She supplied me with the one for my wedding, so I am happy to return the favor!

I spent the morning thinking about what I wanted to to look like, and decided to do a deep blue satin, covered with a silver gauzy fabric.  I am going to join the fabric with embroidery.  The embroidery will be the couple’s name, the date, and a Star of David.  The pouch will be a drawstring one with a matching silver, gauze ribbon.  This will be my first time using the waste fabric method to add the embroidery and cross-stitching, so I am very excited!!!  This is also my first opportunity to use my new Janome Sew Mini Sewing Machine!

Aug. 24, 2013

So here’s what happened, and a tutorial for how to use (and what not to do) waste fabric for embroidery!



The gauze over the satin- so pretty!

The gauze over the satin- so pretty!

Waste Fabric

Waste Fabric

I used my wineglass to measure the fabric.  I bought a quarter yard of each fabric, and it needed only a little bit of cutting.  Once the fabric was cut, I rolled the side edges and pinned it so the interior edges would be clean.

rolled edge for interior of bag

rolled edge for interior of bag

I used a zig zag stitch for the interior side seams:

zig zag

After stitching, I positioned the waste fabric on the gauze and satin and secured it with a hoop.  It was very hard to use the hoop with the waste fabric (it probably would have been better to follow the directions and tack the fabric down with a basting stitch, but I didn’t want to put unnecessary holes in the delicate fabric) but I finally figured it out and started to cross stitch!  The waste fabric came with a really nice scripted style alphabet that I used to write the names of the bride and groom:

sample stitching

Three hours later:

3 hours later

Once I finished the lettering, I needed to trim the waste fabric to make it easier to remove the threads:


This was when disaster struck!  I had been working on this project for about 5 hours by this point, and accidentally cut a tiny hole in the gauze when  I was trimming the waste fabric.  ARGH!!!!  I decided that I would take a very deep breath, finish the project, get a good night’s sleep and fix it in the morning.

So, the next step would normally be to delicately unweave the waste fabric thread by thread, but I was worried about not finishing the bag before it was time to leave for the wedding the next morning, so I moved on to finishing the bag.  I knew that I would be able to pull the threads the next day during the 2 hour car ride.

The next step was to sew up the sides of the folded fabric to make a bag:

side seam

Then make a casing for the matching gauze ribbon:


By this time, I HAD to know what the final bag would look like, so I started to remove the threads (don’t make the mistake that I made and just use your fingers, tweezers are necessary for this part!) one, by one:


Very tedious!

slow reveal!

slow reveal!



The pictures don’t really do the fabric/thread combination justice.  It was really, really lovely!

So, I got my good night’s sleep and woke up the next morning and reached into my bag of tricks.  Luckily the cut was very small, and I had some small, Star of David beads in my kit.  Originally, I wanted to cross-stitch the Star above their names, but the pattern I had was very complicated, and I was running out of time.  The bead helped fix the tear, and bring the Star back in!



So, it’s not perfect, but the couple loved it, and that is really all that matters!

Here are my tips if you plan to use waste fabric:

  1. if possible tack the fabric down with basting stitches,  a hoop is really challenging
  2. sketch out your pattern on the fabric giving you a template to work with
  3. be VERY careful when trimming the fabric
  4. use tweezers to remove the threads of the waste fabric




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Homebound Stitching- Updated- Erica Wilson Cross-Stitch Grande Dame

I hurt my back on Monday.  It was a pretty serious ouch, so I have been home-bound and on Percocet for the last few days.  Since the warning label on the meds says not to operate heavy machinery, sewing on the machine was out.  I can’t just sit still, I needed something to work on.  Luckily I had cleaned out a drawer a few weeks ago, and unearthed an in-progress, counted cross-stitch project.

A little history on my fascination with cross-stitch, and this project:I first discovered counted cross-stitch when I was about 10 years old.  There was this great needlework store in Sausalito, and I used to save up my allowance for weeks buy needlepoint and cross-stitch kits.  I didn’t have anyone to teach or coach me through these projects, and frequently found myself frustrated by the counting aspect of cross-stitch.  As a result, I stuck to needlepoint.

Flash forward a dozen or so years and I decided to give it another shot.  I stuck mostly to very small, ornament sized kits.  They were nice, but not very challenging.  And while I enjoyed needlepoint, I preferred the look of cross-stitch.  Someone suggested that I try Stamped cross-stitch, but I didn’t like the fact that the lines can peek through.

A few years ago, I discovered the plethora of crafting supplies on ebay, and began buying up a storm.  I bought quilt kits, needlepoint kits, and cross-stitch kits.  I was drawn to this fun sampler that used very 1970’s colors, and started on it.  Soon quilting projects took over, and the sampler went back into the drawer, forgotten until last week.

Since rediscovering this project, I have been on a cross-stitch bender!  I bought some new books, a bunch of floss, and subscribed to a great magazine from England devoted to cross-stitch!

Since I really like the design of this project, I did a little search on the designer, to see if she had more projects available.  What I found was the “grande dame” of the resurgence of needle arts- Erica Wilson.  Thanks to Ms. Wilson, America (and the world) rediscovered the art of needlecraft.  I also found out that the sampler is based off of a more complex crewel embroidery design.  Here is the complex pattern:

cntrylfcrewl_lgLooking at it, I can see how the design was translated.  I don’t do crewel embroidery, but there is a cross-stitch available for this pattern, and I’d LOVE to get that to really challenge myself.

I have been working like a fiend on this project and have made significant progress.  I have had to pick out a few of the stitches due to some miscounts, but all in all, this has been a great project to work on while recovering.

I got a couch organizer for needlecrafts:

Arm Chair Organizer

Arm Chair Organizer

This little “over the arm” organizer by DMC is fantastic!   I use the pockets to store the thread snips and the pieces I am currently using.  The larger pocket holds my thread card, and the little button holds the scissors while I am working.  Even better, it folds up into a small-ish square and fits into the project bag.

I had to pick out and re-do this flower about three times before I got it right:


Here is the “big picture”

progress!I  love the bright colors and the kitschy feel to it.  I’m not sure what I am going to do with it when I am done, but luckily, there is a needlework store near me that can help me decide!

With my renewed interest in embroidery and cross-stitch, I have added many new books to my collection.  I promise to update my bookshelf page soon!

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Student Made Samples

I had a lovely day sewing with my students today.  My first student made his own stuffy by drawing out a picture then tracing it onto the muslin (a project from Sewing School).  He decided to make a stuffy of a Minecraft character named Steve.

Introducing Steve

Introducing Steve

My second student is focusing on decorative stitching, so she is creating a letter sampler.  This is not a traditional sampler.  She is just learning how to sew, so we started with lacing cards, then moved onto posterboard lacing cards with holes punched in them.  I taught her the Straight, Chain and Split Stitches.  We decided that the Chain Stitch was a little too hard, so we settled on the Straight and Split Stitches for her project.  The next step was to use 1 inch alphabet stamps to stamp the letters onto posterboard and muslin.  I punched holes around the stamped letters using a tiny, confetti hole punch so that she could practice her stitches on a smaller scale.  Once she had mastered the stitches on the posterboard, it was time to work with the fabric.  She did a great job!

Split Stitch

Split Stitch

My last student of the day got a lot done!  She finished her Sewing Machine Cozy, used freezer paper to trace and cut out the eHold pattern, and started on her Secret Message Pillow (Thank you Sewing School 2!)

Sewing Machine Cozy

Sewing Machine Cozy

I am looking forward to next week to see where we go next!!!

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These Are The Things Teachers Live For!

At class yesterday, one of my students proudly displayed the thread pouch he made.  I looked at it, and could see that he had taken all of the skills that he had been taught- making knots, whip-stitch, and finishing knots- and even added a new one- adapting a pattern- to make it.  As a teacher, this is what I live for!  I love it when a student takes what you teach them and does their own thing.  This little boy has been making things each week (outside of class) and is continually refining what he makes.  He tries things and figures out what doesn’t work before he makes the next thing.  I look forward to seeing what he has created each week!

Here is his thread pouch:

A Velcro top Thread Pouch

A Velcro top Thread Pouch

The whole family is fantastic, and I love teaching all of the kids!  I started teaching the youngest this last week, and she is a quick learner!  We made lacing cards out of posterboard for her to practice a straight stitch, chain stitch and split stitch.  Chain stitch is tricky, but she is getting it!

The oldest daughter is almost finished with her sewing machine cover, and has already scoured the book for patterns that she wants.  She wants to make a lunch bag for school, and is planning on making the eHold bag.  I can’t wait to get started on that with her!

It was also quite lovely to leave with this:

Yummy chocolate cake!!

Yummy chocolate cake!!

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