I wanted to make this "thankful" banner before Thanksgiving but the crafty stars just did not align. Ho hum. In early November, I trolled Pinterest and Etsy for a handmade version I might buy to hang on the wall by our kitchen table but I couldn't find exactly what I wanted. And oftentimes it's just better to wait. I kept thinking about acorns and pine cones and feathers strewn from hemp twine--and maybe I'll get to that for next autumn--but I really wanted a banner.
A banner with text. A banner that said something about giving thanks or being thankful. And, truth be told, I wanted it to be a banner I might be able to leave hanging from the time Halloween decorations came down until the Christmas decorations went up. Why not? I finally decided I'd make one of my very own, but my deadlines were stacked straight through Thanksgiving day. It couldn't happen. But this morning I sat down with the scissors and finished this "thankful" banner instead.
This paper banner was so easy to make. I didn't even print or sketch the letters I just cut them out as I went along. It consists only of one magazine cover and one machine stitched thread. That's all! The only other materials were scissors for cutting, washi tape for hanging, and a paper punch for making those tiny scalloped circles. You could even tape or glue the letters to yarn and forgo the machine stitching altogether. Easy peesy.
I feel so thankful for so many things this holiday season that I think my messy heart might certainly burst. You know those moments when you feel like your life is so full that you can't possibly add one more thing to the list and then you add one more thing to the list and you just have to pause and look out the window and breathe deeper? It's not that I have too much on my plate it's just that I have to look up every once in awhile and take it all in. Let it digest. Let it settle. Let it soak.
I have some very exciting projects on my studio table and I feel so grateful these opportunities have come my way. And I feel so incredibly grateful for my kind husband and thriving toddler and for just a few moments I try to gaze over the stack of art materials on my desk, past the pile of toys on the living room floor, and even past the deadlines and into the expanse of gratitude. Sigh. It makes all the other concerns melt away for just a few minutes and that feels important. I feel full. I feel thankful. I feel so much gratefulness.
My yoga teacher always says, "I am enough. This is enough." And this season it just feels so full. Full of enough. But still just very, very full. And I have to keep reminding myself that I have everything I need to make these projects happen, to actually enjoy this holiday season, to make space and time for my busy bustling toddler, and to actually digest this big messy life just one day at a time. To be thankful.
Happy December, dear friends. I hope you are able to give thanks for all the big and little things in your own full and messy life. And then breathe that thankfulness all the way to the center of your big messy beautiful heart and let it circulate back out into the world again. That's right, like a filter. Spreading light and love and possibility and thankfulness as you go. Yes, yes, yes.
I'm only doing one holiday craft fair this year and it's just two weeks away. That's right--just one. Last year I did six fairs and that was just too many. So this year I am really pairing down and focusing on just one local, lovely, little fair. I'll be a vendor at the Holiday Artisan Fair in Temescal Alley in Oakland, CA. The alley is so close to my house I could probably throw a stone if I was a stronger pitcher. Okay, a much stronger pitcher but it's close. The fair is in the alley from 11-4 on Sunday, Dec 8. (The entrance to the alley is at 486- 49th Street, just 1/2 a block from Telegraph Ave.)
I love the shops in Temescal Alley. I love the spirit of Temescal Alley. I love Interface Art Gallery in Temescal Alley. And I love the curator at Interface Gallery in Temescal Alley and she's one of the coordinators. This makes it a win-win. And, did I mention that I can walk there? That's a huge bonus in the craft fair world when sometimes I've traveled across several miles or even several states for a fair. This time? My own beloved Oakland.
I'm looking around my studio taking note of what items will get packaged up for the fair, what items will come along as they are, and what items will be made new just for the occasion. As some of you know, I used to be a teaching assistant in a letterpress studio so I had unlimited access to beautiful presses and type. My life has taken several turns since then and I no longer print as much as I'd like. But I will have a handful of letterpress prints at the fair. And, mostly, I'll have a smattering of one-of-a-kind objects that take many moons and many songs to make. But I make them because they are my favorites.
I'll have some new fabric bead necklaces--completely hand-stitched using fabric scraps including fabrics that were hand-dyed with plants. I'll have a small selection of monsters and new handmade soft toys. And I'll have a very limited selection of new cloud mobiles--also completely hand-stitched using Lotta Jansdotter fabric scraps. Her designs are so gorgeous. And I'll also have a handful of paper garlands that double as whimsical decor throughout the year and Christmas tree garland for the holidays. Some hand-printed notebooks, a few cards, you get my drift.
Some of this work is currently available in my Etsy shop. And if any of the one-of-a-kinds do not sell at the craft fair then I'll make them available in my shop soon after. I'll let you know if that's the case. Depending on the crowds, sometimes they go fast. And, lastly, I simply cannot believe this week is Thanksgiving.
A very Happy Thanksgiving to my friends in the states! May your apple pie be warm and your company delightful.
I think this time in my life is about learning how to really say, "Stop". Even if that stop is just about stopping for 10 minutes so I can sit quietly or even silently at my kitchen table with a day-old pastry and a cup of hot tea. And even if that pastry is slightly stale and the tea is slightly too hot and none of that really matters because what matters is that I have the house entirely to myself for a few minutes of total silence and I can walk away from my studio and desk and stacking deadlines and just sit there with my tea and watch the steam curl up for the leaves of the fresh flowers on the kitchen table.
Yes. I think this is my lesson right now. Along with accepting the messy parts and the misaligned and, as I declared in my recent Motherhood Manifesto, that there is no balance out there looming on the horizon so we need to embrace our messy, heaving, lopsided lives right this very moment. So I am trying to practice what I preach. Leaning in with my own messy, heaving, lopsided life.
And sometimes I can say that and nod my head and then turn right around and do the opposite. Plan too many dates. Accept too many work offers. Stay up too late and wake up still feeling depleted. Even if that staying up too late was to watch a movie with my sweet husband and even if the movie was actually a really good movie in a finally quiet house after the little one was finally asleep.
Even if. Because, you see, the thing is that even if the work in my studio is very exciting work (and even if it's torture that I can't tell you anything about it quite yet) and even if I adore my friends and feel endless gratitude for their place in my life and even if my sweet husband is the absolute partner I want by my side--I still need to hit "stop". And be completely alone. With my thoughts. With my thinking. With my steaming slightly too hot tea. And yesterday's pastry.
And so today I had planned on telling you about the amazing art opening of my dear friend, Lisa Solomon, and her new gallery show Sen that opened on Friday night in San Francisco. And I had planned to tell you about all the amazing people who were there and all the powerful conversations that ensued. And then I wanted to tell you about the wonderful new craft fair West Coast Craft that happened in San Francisco this weekend and how inspired I was by the talented makers. And even show you the few goods that I couldn't leave without. Or tell you that I finally saw the documentary The Artist is Present about Marina Abramovic and her show at the MOMA and I can't stop thinking about it.
But the thing is--I took an extra 10 minutes and sat staring at the steam rising from my tea mug before plunging into my deadlines. And then I took photographs of that tea and stale pastry and of this weekend's farmer's market flowers bursting off in all directions with white, yellow, and then green. And I decided this was the most important thing to share with you about my week. This need to not just slow down because sometimes we can't slow down but sometimes, for just a few minutes, we need to actually stop. I needed to stop. And sit. Still. Maybe, just because it feels right.
So, happy Monday, you beautiful humans. I hope you can take a few minutes to actually and completely stop. And I'll see you here next week.
Thank you SO much for your encouragement on last week's post. I'm so excited to have the Make Thrift Mend project launched into the world and to see how this process-based project unfolds. It feels like I'm positioned directly in the center of the messy interiors of any creative endeavor--where the details are still developing, but the overall concepts are in place, and I have to relinquish some of my research-oriented mind to the discovery of imagination and intuition.
Oh, that balance of head and heart. Thank you for supporting the project and thank you to so many of you who signed up to follow the project too--I'm humbled. And excited. And eager.
This is my latest handmade garment--the bird tunic. I found the printed gray fabric at a beautiful quilt shop in downtown Ithaca, NY when I was visiting in September. I fell in love with the print instantly and quickly imagined the entire top would be made from this bird fabric . Of course, when I got home and started designing the tunic I realized I did not buy enough of that pretty print. And now it was some 3,000 miles away. Ho hum.
One of my grad school professors used to say that the magic happened in the accidents. She said they were not just accidents they were "happy accidents". Opportunities. Challenges. Chances to stretch our creative thinking. So, enter the gray solid Kona cotton band around the bottom. Then I decided to use the solid fabric for the binding tape too. And the pockets. And all the trim. And I like how it adds a bit of color blocking without being too fussy. I was lucky to find a solid gray that matched the print exactly--thank you Kona.
But as the cooler temperatures approach I am keeping my fingers crossed for a wool/ cashmere blend, over-sized, cardigan sweater at one of my favorite thriftstore haunts. Perhaps, if I ask nicely, I'll find one soon. And then my bird tunic will remain seasonally warm again when paired with that new-to-me trusty cardigan. Fingers crossed.
Happy Monday, friends! I hope you are enjoying the depths of November--the lure of the holidays still ahead.
I'm excited to announce a new project I've had in the works since August. The project is called, Make Thrift Mend, and it's an art project focused on sustainable fashion, social practice, “art as action”, and reclaiming traditional garment-making skills. This project is also a “fast-fashion” fast that will be active from August 1, 2013- August 1, 2014. That's right, as of August 1, 2013 I have not purchased a single garment of clothing that does not fit the project guidelines.
Sadly, this means no denim from the Gap, no bohemian dresses from Anthropologie, and no trendy accessories from Target. I've been shopping in thrift stores and dappling in garment making for years--but this is a much bigger commitment. And it's already changing my life. For the better.
So why did I begin? I was outraged by the factory collapse in Bangladesh in spring 2013 killing more than 1,000 workers; inspired by the NPR interview with Elizabeth Cline author of, Overdressed: The Shockingly High Cost of Cheap Fashion; and prompted by Natalie Chanin’s blog post regarding slow design–I needed something to change.
As many of you remember, I started concentrating on making my own clothing this summer and attended a few textile-focused workshops. That's when I decided to take the plunge. I used this information to inspire a process-based art project that would allow me to engage with slow fashion, stage a personal artist’s protest, and delve deeper into the intersection of art, fashion, and sustainability. It also allows me to continue with other studio work while growing this project over the course of the year.
From August 1, 2013- Augst 1, 2014 I’ve committed to a fast-fashion fast. As part of my journey to resist the fast-fashion industry– and it’s unethical labor and ecological practices– I will focus on making my own clothing, shopping for thrifted, vintage, and/ or used clothing, and learning the disappearing crafts of mending, darning, preserving and making garments.
I will take this investigation one step further by aiming to buy used clothing that is made of natural materials (cotton, linen, wool, hemp, silk, etc) to reduce the petrochemicals in my closet. So far, this last part has been trickier than I imagined--I never realized that so many contemporary garments are made with synthetics. It's certainly insisted I utilize "slow fashion" when shopping the thrift stores. I will also research "ethical" fashion brands and only buy any new clothing--and very limited at that--from these sustainable sources.
Throughout the year I will offer DIY tutorials, create an extensive resource list, share my process, and document my garment making. Upon completing the project it’s my intention to organize an interactive exhibition complete with objects and artifacts gathered throughout the year. I have several ideas for this exhibition/ installation but I'll wait until I'm much further along before I commit. I also hope to offer classes and workshops that relate to the project--online and in-person. All the information will be documented on my new website: Make Thrift Mend.
Eep! Now, it's official. I've declared it from this little virtual mountain.
The biggest thing I learned in working with costume designers? If you can buy it then you don't need to make it! But if you can't buy it, you can't find it, or you know you can make one that's better than what you can buy--then you should totally make it yourself. That's definitely been my approach to working as a designer with any performance--make it if you must but assemble it if you can manage. And, of course, thrift stores and Craigslist are your very best friends.
So I stayed true to my own rules on this Halloween costume. I fell in love with the idea of a toddler's garden gnome costume and started scouring the internet for images of gnome statues. I decided on the essential costume elements and then went through my little one's existing wardrobe. I found the pants, the shirt, and then decided we needed the new boots. I sketched the basics of the hat, beard, and suspenders and then made the pattern up as I went along. I purchased 1/2 yard of red wool felt, 1/3 yard of red cotton for the hat lining, and 1/2 yard of white cotton flannel.
If I had several spare hours on my hands I might just make toddler bags in the shapes of various vegetation--a carrot might be next or maybe a bonsai tree. But for now, I'm pretty happy I finished just one toddler bag and I'll leave it at that.
I'm so excited to take the little one Trick-or-Treating in his new garb. He had to be convinced to say "Trick or Treat" at the neighborhood Halloween parade on Sunday, so I'm curious to see how he'll react when we gather with a few other kids to go door-to-door on Halloween. Although, of course, this year I think his place is truly in the garden.
My little boy turned two. I can hardly believe this information even as I type it. Two? Two! That puts him firmly in the midst of the toddler years, officially beyond the infant and baby years, and quickly approaching the preschool years. On the one hand, I feel like I've been a mother forever. Or more so, motherhood has been the biggest transition in my adult life since leaving for college when I was 18. So two years into this transition it's hard to imagine my life before having a child.
Everything has changed. The way I eat, sleep, dress, work, play, socialize, travel, arrange my work week, plan my weekend, and even how long I talk to my mother on the phone. Yes, everything has changed. On the other hand, I feel like two years is just the beginning. When I think of my own mother starting her mothering journey with my sister more than four decades ago--I know I have only skimmed the surface of this enormously deep and flooding well. And then I think, "Somebody toss me a snorkel and a life jacket! Quick!" Oh, the journey still ahead.
This year we hosted our first kid-centric party complete with our very sophisticated menu of cupcakes, macaroni and cheese, and fruit salad. We invited a handful of children and parents and a few close friends and we gathered for a picnic at the edge of the woods followed by a ride on the steam train. Five kids, eight adults, nine balloons, twelve cupcakes, and two hours in the park. It was much like the other parties and gatherings I've thrown for adults but with more joyous squealing, more nervous squirming, and considerably more bubbles and toy whistles.
I think the thing that strikes me most about being the mother of a two-year-old little boy is that I am such a beginner. Ironically, in "new mom" worlds I am almost a graduate at the ripe old age of two. But I am just beginning. I remember looking at mothers with toddlers when I had a newborn and thinking, "They totally have this figured out". Of course, they didn't. But what they had was a confidence or grace or acceptance of their roles that I was just beginning.
There is nothing graceful about a first-time mama no matter who she is. It's an entire lifestyle overhaul to become a new mama. I mean, it's so much more than lifestyle, but in hindsight that's how I summarize the biggest change of my adult life. It changed my lifestyle. And that made me a beginner again. And at each stage of his life we'll be there learning together. This is very tender. And also very clumsy. And mostly, very full of moving, changing, evolving life. Yes, it is.
And I think another thing that has struck me is my relationship to family. And to friends. And how I'd bought into this idea that it was important to advance my career, fulfill personal adventures, and complete an education at all costs. And by all costs, I mean at any geographical location. In my case, this meant 3,000 miles away from my family and my hometown. And this is all very important until it's not the only thing that's important anymore.
I mean it IS important but family is also really, really important. And becoming a mother makes me feel overwhelmed with the love and tenderness and connection to my own family. We are far from perfect but we are representative of many generations, many lifelines, many celebrations, and challenges, and loves, and losses and there is a depth or complexity or simply multi-generational existence that feels missing in raising my son so far away from his extended family. I missed my family before he was born but I never could have predicted this feeling of longing for them. He pushes our lifelines into the future with a tension that also connects us to our ancestors. To our families.
And my friendships and my relationship to friendship has changed. I never thought of friendship as something that ebbed and flowed but I am realizing that the social life of a mama, particularly a mama with a little one, is full of change. Some friends have overwhelmed me with their generosity, acceptance, and insistence that they can certainly adapt to my new messy role as a mom. (Thank you, generous, accepting, insistent friends.)
And some have simply drifted away or even turned a cold shoulder to my new messiness when I expected my little one could be included in their lives too. Not always the case. And mostly, I am amazed that people really do have their own connections to little ones. Some people bond with him instantly while others take much longer to warm up. It's a continuum of human connection and that's so palpable with a little one.
And then the joy. Of course, the joy. The overwhelming joy and playfulness and silliness of parenting a toddler. He loves to laugh. And he loves to make me laugh. And that is a constant reminder to get up and play.
And the depth of seeing into my own messy and tangled heart. Yes, the seeing. And how that seeing is clearer and sharper and more focused when reflected by my own child.
And the constant time crunch. The never-enough-time. The balancing act that looks less like a balancing act and more like a comedy show. But even out of this comedy show has come meaning. I had no idea I actually needed to start saying no. I heard people say this but I didn't really understand. Not until my own schedule was actually unmanageable, I mean totally not going to happen, did I realize I had to start prioritizing. Lately, I've been asking myself these two questions, "Do I need it? Do I love it?" and the answer has to fall squarely into one of these two categories or it simply isn't a priority and I can't do it right now. Maybe later. But not right now.
And the way I love my washing machine is real and true and profound. I am not kidding! I am thankful every single day for that trusty energy efficient machine that came with our apartment. Thank the laundry goodwill above.
And peanut butter and jelly. Or almond butter and jelly. And that it can be made in less than 5 minutes. And burritos for dinner too. That they can also be made in about 10 minutes and everyone will eat them with gusto.
And I'm grateful to all the mamas around me. My own mother. Oh, my own mother. And my grandmothers, may they rest in peace. And my aunts. And my sister. And my brother's girlfriend. And my mother-in-law. And my sister-in-law. And my friends. And my colleagues. And the future mothers around me who are not yet officially mothers but who somehow understand mothering in a way that is true and messy and complete. And any other mother in my life. They have sustained me and made me trust that I could actually sustain myself. Amen to the mothers. And the fathers too. Their new image of fathering as something that is also tender and vulnerable and complex. Amen to the fathers too.
And yoga. And my yoga teacher. Oh, my yoga teacher. And the many shared metaphors between practicing yoga and mothering.
But the most important thing? If I had to boil all this thinking and feeling down into just one thing that I think the second year of motherhood means for me? I think it means letting go of the idea of balance. I think it means letting go of the ideal of balance too. I don't think it actually exists. I think that idea of balance as this beautiful light-filled existence out there on the horizon with a lovely match of work, life, personal experiences all weighted evenly on some fictional scale--I think it's a mirage. And I actually think it's damaging.
I think our lives actually happen right here in the imbalance. In the mess. In the failures and in the opportunities and in the magic and the misery all at once. In the heap of it. That's right. In the heaping beautiful mess of our very own hearts. And I think that motherhood has led me closer to this truth than I ever imagined. Because it's messy. Because it's hard. Because it doesn't always balance out over the course of the day or the week or the month.
But because it's palpable. And full of opportunity. And full of challenge--the really hard part that only resonates because you haven't embraced that part of you quite yet. And also the deep, deep flooding well of love. I've loved my husband deeply and fiercely for fifteen years. I've loved my best friend deeply and fiercely for thirty years. I've loved my mother deeply and fiercely my entire life. I would say my love for any of them is unwavering. Unconditional. Unsentimental. Unreal.
But I have never loved anyone or anything with the clarity and conviction that I love my son. I love him completely. In any state. Under any circumstance. Under any condition. I love him for who he is just the way he is at any moment of any given day. No matter what. And I don't even expect him to love me with the same clarity or conviction in return. That's what makes it unconditional. There is no boundary. There is no guideline. There is nothing that could change how I love him. It's fierce.
And that fierceness is something that has changed me. That fierceness is not something I could have expected or predicted or even imagined. But that fierceness is also palpable. I now truly understand why I should never approach a wild animal on a hike--particularly if that wild animal is a mother with her offspring. Evolution will demand that she turn to that fierce love with all her might. Of course, rational thinking will hopefully come to aid also in the humans. But still, fierce.
So... Happy Birthday to my beautiful son!
I'm cheering for you. And for your big bouquet of balloons. And I'm cheering for us. I'm cheering for little boys and little girls and for their mamas and their papas everywhere across this big wide world. I am cheering for your amazingly messy and joyous and imbalanced and palpable and very fierce love. Happy Two, my sweet son.
As promised, I have posted two new tutorials to the blog. The first offers step-by-step instruction to make your own bias tape (or bias binding) from fabric scraps. This is the technique I use on my quilts and on the necklines and armholes of the newest dresses and tank tops. It's so satisfying to make your own custom bias tape and once you get the hang of it you'll never want to buy the ready made bias tape ever again. That's my prediction.
Also, I've turned an old post about making elbow patches into a new tutorial. This one is simple, straight-forward, and doesn't even require a sewing machine. It does, however, require you get a second opinion about the placement of your elbow patches before you stitch them into place. So be prepared to ask a loved one for a second glance before you thread your needle. Trust me, I've learned this the hard way.
I hope you enjoy the new tutorials complete with new icons and a simpler design. They are also accompanied by an older tutorial on paper garland, a second on Christmas stockings from wool skirts ('tis the almost-season), and a third to make fingerless gloves from sweater sleeves (also without a sewing machine). I love bringing you tutorials and DIYs from time-to-time so I hope you'll put them to good use.
Happy Autumn! It is getting chillier here in the evenings and has finally resulted in beloved cardigans, over-sized scarves, and thick socks when rising in the early hours with my little one. The afternoons are still warm and sultry, but every morning I thank my stars for cardigans and black tea. Yes, I do.
I am working on a new handmade shirt. I'm not sure what to call it as it's longer than a top but shorter than a dress. I think this makes it a tunic. But I think a tunic conjures up a specific image and I'm not sure this fits that specific image. But, alas, I am making a new top. And I am loving these gray fabrics very much.
And I am also creating a binding bias tutorial to add to the tutorial section of this blog. Because a few of you have asked about making binding bias (or binding tape) and once a few of you have asked the same question then I know it's time to make that question into a post or a tutorial or something of the sort. So that is coming soon. Pinky swear.
And I am thinking about this quote I saw over on Pinterest. It said, "Enjoy it. Because it's happening." And I keep thinking about how this quote is really a metaphor for my own life. How we (I) get so busy in the daily grind of work, art, parenting, marriage, friends, domesticity, fill-in-the-blank, that we (I) forget to really take a step back and acknowledge the wonderful moments when they actualize. And that's not really the point of all our hard work now, is it? I don't think so.
It's a lifelong practice to really be present in the very moment when something is happening. I think, particularly, when something really wonderful is happening. Or something really dreadful is happening. So that's my own work for this week--to enjoy what is happening as it is happening and particularly the wonderful things.
And, well, to make this binding tutorial too.