The Joy of Needlework

You know how there’s The Joy of Painting, with Bob Ross? And it’s genius and soothing and hilarious and entertaining and just down right rad? All of those good feels are the same things I feel about needlework. Probably because I don’t paint.

When I say needlework, I guess that’s kind of an ambiguous term. For me, it means cross stitching, embroidery, or anything else I do by hand with a needle and thread. Except not mending. because I actually hate that. Everyone hates that, so don’t ever ask a person who sews if they’d like to do your mending. They might say yes, to be polite, but truthfully, ain’t nobody got time for that. But yes, cross stitching and embroidery are good for what ails ya.

I first learned to cross stitch as a wee lass. It’s probably actually one of the very first crafts I learned. My mama taught me because she always worked on cross stitch kits and I asked her if I could make one. I’m pretty sure I never finished it, but I remember thinking it was fun and enjoyable. Flash forward to my adult life, when I wanted to make a giant cross stitch for my second baby’s nursery.

Moose Cross Stitch
I designed my own pattern for this moose and poked holes into a canvas so I could cross stitch it on there. It was kind of tedious actually, but it reminded me of how much I loved doing needlework. Ever since then (that was three years ago!) I’ve always had at least one needlework project going at at time. They are perfect for traveling, long waits at the doctor’s office, or when I sit and visit with family and friends. My husband teases me because I always have to bring my needlework.

I wanted to share a couple recent projects that I’ve finished. It tends to take me awhile to finish needlework projects, not because they take a long time necessarily, but just because I only pick them up here and there. This first one I started when I was pregnant with my baby, and I finished a few months ago when I finally put his nursery together.

David Bowie Embroidery

If you can’t read my handwriting (or hand stitching, as it were), these are the lyrics from one of my favorite David Bowie songs, Golden Years:

I’ll stick with you baby for a thousand years

nothing’s gonna touch you in these golden years.

I have always loved David Bowie, and he passed away when I was just a few weeks away from having my baby boy. I love this song and I thought this lyric was particularly meaningful and descriptive of how I feel as a mother. I want them to have golden childhoods and protect them with all that I am. Anyway, lest I get too carried away and start weeping uncontrollably, as I often do when I think about mothering my babes, let’s get back to the needlework, shall we?

I asked my talented sister Chloe to draw me a scallop pattern, which I transfered onto my fabric, which is a Cirrus Solid by Cloud9 Fabrics (I’m absolutely bonkers for these solids. I don’t actually choose solid fabrics very often, but when I do, it’s almost always one of these. The colors are just so rich and beautiful.) Then I transferred the lettering, which I just typed into the computer in a font I liked and then traced it on my fabric. I was an idiot and used a fine point Sharpie, which bled onto my fabric, and I was so upset I almost scrapped the whole thing, but I just stitched more thickly over it. There are much better ways to do this, like using a frixion pen or freezer paper, which can transfer things you print directly onto your fabric. You live and you learn, eh?

I finished it off with little French knots, which are so much fun to do. I painted a wooden embroidery hoop black and mounted it to hang right in the hoop. I love the way it looks in the nursery and the sentiment it holds. We had family photos at my house a couple months ago (you’ve seen some before, and you’ll see them again, because I’m obsessed with them.), and our mind-blowingly brilliant photographer Meg took this photo of it without my even knowing. I was so glad she did, because she did a much better job than I could ever do.

Speaking of family portraits, here’s my other latest needlework project:

Cross Stitch Family Portrait
Here we are! I have wanted to do one of these for literally years! I started with this post as my inspiration. Oh Martha. The Patron Saint of a Handmade Life. Anyway, I drew individual patterns out for each family member. I did this when my baby was a newborn, and originally my figure held him in my arms. It was so cute, I kind of wish I’d still stitched it that way, but I didn’t get around to actually stitching it until about a month ago, and now he’s one, so it seemed more accurate to stitch him this way. I also had to add two little gray Russian Blue kitties, our Remy and Pippa, because we recently adopted those rascals into our family.

I cannot tell you how it thrilled me to make this. Each figure I finished brought a little squeal from my heart. My littles love it too; they got so excited when they saw themselves and kept saying “Look Daddy! It’s me! Look Daddy, it’s Remy! It’s you!”

These are obviously caricatures, so there are some inaccuracies, and you can’t capture everything about everyone, but there are some little nuances that I love. My little red Saltwater Sandals (I wear salties pretty much every day from March until October. I have many pairs.) My boy’s little turquoise glasses. My husband’s plaid shirt. He’s supposed to be much taller (he’s almost a foot taller than I am) but I didn’t realize it until after and no way was I redoing that plaid shirt. I was too proud of it and it took me a million years.

I love this so much, my only problem now is figuring out where to hang it. I want it somewhere I can always see it because it brings me so much joy. I’m excited to make another one a few years down the road when the kids are bigger (and when we have one more little one, if I can convince my husband first!). It was such a sweet project to work on and I’ll always treasure it.

In conclusion, if you’ve never tried needlework, you totally should. It’s so relaxing, helps me feel more justified in my Nextflix binge watching because at least I’m doing something while I watch, and it really is just a lovely art form. Just like Bob Ross, man.

Guess Who Teaches Sewing Lessons?

It’s me, I teach sewing lessons! I’ve been wanting to do this for a long time, but I’ve been too nervous to do it and afraid that no one would really be interested in me sharing my knowledge. I teach the 16 and 17 year-old girls at my church and in December we were talking about sharing our knowledge and talents with others. One of my dear girls sent me a text message the next day and asked me if I’d ever be interested in teaching sewing lessons because her little sister wanted to learn so badly and their mom didn’t know where to take her. It was just the push I needed to get my act together and get started.

My first class began in January. I have a small group of cute little ladies ages 10-12 and we have been having so much fun working on sewing projects. We meet twice a month and I’ve put together a little syllabus of projects and it’s been a great learning experience for me as well. There have definitely been some things I’ve needed to work on as a teacher (like determining how long it will realistically take to complete certain sewing projects. I’m really bad at that.), and it’s helped me figure out how to go about teaching others to sew.

Sewing Lessons

Here we are working on our little half aprons. We do our sewing lessons in my house and it can be kind of crazy sometimes (three little kids and two cats offer up lots of distraction for excitable girlies) but we make it work. So far we have made drawstring bags using this great tutorial, little Gingermelon dollies, pillowcases (this is the easiest way to make pillowcases!), and aprons I just taught without a pattern or tutorial. Down the road we’ll be doing zipper pouches, skirts, headbands, clothing, and whatever else I can come up with that they want to make. I’m hoping to take on more students in the future as well. It’s really just so fun to see the fabrics they choose, and to indoctrinate young people with the joys of fabric hoarding, bwahahaha!

Sewing Lessons

We have our cutting and pressing station and then a table for our sewing machines. Figuring out everyone’s different machines was scary for me at first, but luckily we haven’t had too many issues. We like to listen to music (mainly the Trolls soundtrack, haha!) and have entertaining preteen conversations. Mostly about my cats, future sewing projects, and sometimes American Girl dolls, about which I know nothing, so that’s educational.

Sewing Lessons

My own little lady (who is only five) absolutely loves sewing lessons. She always wants to do exactly what the big girls are doing and she tries really hard to impress them. They are sweet with her and I try hard to be patient and teach her along with them. These little sewing lessons are making me really excited for when I can fully teach her to sew in a couple years.

My little students are adorable. They always come and tell me what they’ve been working on at home and it just makes my heart swell with sewing pride and gladness, I tell you. Teaching a new generation of sewing enthusiasts is a dream come true, really.  Teaching people to sew is something I’ve wanted to do for a long time, so it’s exciting to finally be doing it! We have a lot of fun at our sewing lessons, and I feel like it’s helping me be an even better seamstress myself.

Sew Your Own Clothes

Exciting news! I’m teaching apparel sewing classes! I get asked about this often and it’s been in the works for a few months so I’m really excited to announce that registration is open for my first class. I’ve linked here to the registration page, but I wanted to talk a little more about it. The class is called Sew Your Own Clothes and it’s the perfect intro into the lovely world of apparel sewing.

Scout Tee in Cotton and Steel Tiger Fabric

When: April 4th or April 8th. We wanted to give everyone the option of a weeknight or a Saturday. It’s a three hour class.

Where: Thimbles and Threads in Draper, UT. If you’ve never shopped for fabric here, you are seriously missing out. It’s an incredible place with a huge selection!

What: We’ll be making the Scout Tee, which is a fabulous pattern by Grainline Studio. It’s one of my favorite patterns ever because it looks good on everyone and it’s easy to sew but still teaches some fundamental garment making techniques that look really professional. There’s no complicated fitting, no closures, nothing that typically scares beginners away. And it can be made from quilting cotton (or any light-to-medium-weight woven fabric) and the selection at Thimbles and Threads is fantastic.

Who: Me. And hopefully you! And my mom and my sister, because I told them they have to come.

Scout Tee with Flutter Sleeves in Lizzy House Double Gauze

We’ll also be chatting about how you can customize patterns, choose fabrics, measure yourself, how to care for handmade clothing, and any other questions you have for me about how to sew your own clothes. If these two classes are successful and well attended, there will possibly be more and I may be able to teach future topics and different types of patterns and clothes, so I’m hopeful and excited about this new teaching thing. Sewing one’s own clothing is freeing, empowering, and beyond rewarding, and I’m really looking forward to sharing that with other people.

Pattern Review: The Agnes Top by Tilly and the Buttons

I’ve made a goal to sew lots of new patterns this year and this was the first one I tried. I’ve been wanting to sew a Tilly and the Buttons pattern for ages; I first saw Tilly on The Great British Sewing Bee (the greatest reality show in the history of ever) and she is adorable and her sewing story is similar to mine. I purchased the Agnes Top pattern back in November and wanted to make it for my outfit for our family pictures we had taken in January. Here is my pattern review of the Agnes Top!

I made a wearable muslin/toile from a striped double brushed poly fabric I ordered from So Sew English Fabrics. I made a size 5 according to the measurement chart and while it fits fine and is totally wearable, it’s a little loose, especially in the shoulders and arms (my most common issue when fitting patterns), so I sized down to a 3 in the sleeves, shoulders, and arm scye and graded to a 4 in the rest of the bodice. I made the muslin with the ruched sleeves because they’re beyond adorable, but ended up deciding to go with the plain sleeves for my picture shirt, because sometimes less is more. For me, usually more is more, but for family pictures I decided to simplify.

Agnes Top Pattern Review

I made my photo shirt the long, plain sleeve version in this gorgeous red floral double brushed poly, also from So Sew English Fabrics. The fit was absolutely perfect and I loved it for my family photos. I can never find long sleeved tops in stores that look very good on me or that come in cute prints (basically the story of why I started sewing clothes in the first place) so I was really excited that this pattern turned out so well.

Agnes Top Pattern Review

Pattern Review of the Agnes Top

I recently made this other version because I needed more puffed sleeves in my life. This is sewn up with a Liverpool knit fabric that was a designer remnant from a local fabric shop. Liverpool is a bit thicker knit (a great beginner knit because it doesn’t shift or roll!) and I thought that the added structure would make for puffed sleeves that Anne would be proud of. I was not wrong.

Pattern Review of the Agnes Top

I love this top. It’s flirty and feminine, and the waist shaping and sleeves are super flattering. There is another neckline option that is also super cute, but I’m a little busty these days thanks to a nursing babe, so maybe I’ll try that one down. I also want to make a dress version of this baby, because I love the fit of it so much.

Pattern Review of the Agnes Top

As for the pattern details, I’ve seldom sewn a pattern with more helpful instructions or bonus tips. This is seriously a lot of bang for your buck, considering there are several variations so you can fill your wardrobe with these. There are tips for sewing with knits, how to print out and assemble your pattern, and gorgeous full color photos of each step of the process along with the written instructions. So that’s my pattern review of the Agnes Top; it’s a dream to sew and a favorite in my pattern arsenal.