Stitched by my hand: corset tank top #1

img_7056I have been struggling a bit lately with what to write about in this space. I enjoy the process of writing and telling a story, but to any of you who know me personally, it probably comes as no surprise that I put myself under (unrealistic) pressure for what I post to be perfect. Perfect photos, topics that are relevant, writing that is without grammatical flaws – these things hold me back from sharing what is going on in my daily life. There are people in my life who encourage me by telling me that the most important thing is the sharing aspect of this space. Deep down, I know they are right and so I am trying to let go of my need for each post to be perfect and instead I would like to focus on the connection with others that a blog provides. I mean, what is the point of having a blog to share your thoughts/projects/interests when you don’t actually share them?

I have long been a big fan of Alabama Chanin for many reasons. I am inspired by their commitment to ethical fashion, the preservation of the hand stitched traditions, the celebration of local food and artisans and their open-source business model. I love their aesthetics, but am unable to afford their price-point. Their book series allows me to create my own garments inspired by their construction practices at a price I can afford. Over the past several years I have created many garments both from the Alabama Chanin patterns and from other sources, including my own designs.

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I started with the Alabama Stitch Book, the original pattern book, and created the corset top in a cotton/polyester jersey blend that I bought at the Albert Cuyp market. Pure cotton jersey was difficult to obtain back then and while I’m happy with the top, despite all the wonky hand stiches, the blend has not worn very well, pilling over time. I also found the original pattern to provide more exposure at the neckline than I am comfortable with, so I modified it after the fact by adding a piece before I sewed on the binding.

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Modesty panel added (not very expertly as you can see)

Not to make that same “mistake” again, in the years since I made this piece, I’ve modified the neckline before stitching it. This had yielded another couple of very comfortable tops which I will hopefully share on here someday.

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“We had fun making the garlands”

In an ideal world, I would spend time every afternoon playing creatively with my kids after school. We would paint, draw, stamp, punch, make collages, have lessons in knitting, sewing and cooking and spend time exploring the woods in the nearby park. Unfortunately, even though an afternoon may start in this way, reality often manages to get in the way of this perfect playtime. Every now and then, however, an afternoon proceeds as hoped and intended and the kids and I manage to spend an enjoyable hour or two making something great as a family. We recently had one of those afternoons and it was glorious.

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Though we have plenty of art supplies in our home, I really like the idea of being resourceful, using what we have on hand. I find it difficult to convince the kids to use the backs of “used” paper for their drawings and art. I guess there is something about a truly blank canvas and I respect their wishes and don’t push the issue. However, when I read about the recently published book The Paper Playhouse by Katrina Rodabaugh, it sounded like it would provide a better approach (you can buy it here, here or here). I pre-ordered it as a Christmas gift for the kids and when it arrived last week, my daughter was so excited that she didn’t want to go to sleep without doing a project right away. While we eventually got her to drift off, head full of creative promise, we couldn’t wait long to get started. Although her first love was the lemonade stand, I convinced her that something more simple might be a better way to start. We picked the first project, the Pretty Paper Garlands.

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Amsterdam has a pretty good recycling program, but it’s always cool to recycle something in a more immediate way…especially one that is pretty! We fished out a few papers from our recycling bin, but mostly we used paper from a pile of magazines I had kept for a project just like this one (though I didn’t know it at the time). Armed with a punch from my studio as well as some kitchen twine and a glue stick, we went to work. The kids enjoyed selecting paper, using the punch (and relearning how to take turns), coloring on the papers with markers and applying glue liberally. The project was simple enough that both kids could participate to their abilities, we all enjoyed the time we spent together and we made a lovely little garland. The trifecta! When I told my daughter that I planned to write something about our afternoon on my blog, she wanted to contribute and did her best to find the letters on the keyboard to type: “We had fun making the garlands!” Great stuff we will definitely be repeating soon!

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Positivity, Patience, Light and Happiness for 2015

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I hope that you all had warm and wonderful holidays, filled with love, laughter and plenty of delicious food. We enjoyed visiting family in Ireland and having a few opportunities to walk on the beach. I think one my favorite moments was when my two-year old looked at the ocean waves crashing into the rocky outcrops and said full of incredulity, “Mommy, look at all of that water!” So beautiful to witness one of his “firsts” and actually recognize and savor it. (These moments can sometimes get lost in all the distractions when there are siblings, can’t they?)

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I’ve been struggling with what to write about the New Year and my resolutions for 2015. While I want to stop and think about what I’d like to accomplish in the coming year, I feel that the idea of a resolution doesn’t quite fit. I’d prefer something a bit more gentle, maybe I’ll call it a guideline, though I like Soulemama’s term intention, too.

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Here are my guidelines for 2015:

  • “go with the flow” when it comes to practical tasks, not letting them get me stressed or overwhelmed, but just doing them (albeit more mindfully)
  • “create more balance in my life” by tweaking my daily routine to include regular creative time with my children, more time outside, a regular yoga practice (daily would be lovely, though I’d be happy with consistent), and planned quality time with my husband
  • “move towards increased health” by incorporating a regular detox into my seasonal rhythm (inspired by my yoga instructor who does a detox for a month every spring/fall and a week every winter/summer), by including more raw and fermented food in our diet, by making some more natural body care products and by getting more sleep

My hope is that by embracing gentle guidelines instead of rigid resolutions, I will be mindful of and more focused on the benefits of my positive behaviors, encouraging more positivity and bringing more patience, light and happiness to my year.

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