Wednesday, February 24, 2016

The True Cost and the Clothing Epidemic

Have you guys seen The True Cost? It focuses on the clothing industry and its impacts on the worldboth on humans and the environment. I watched it on Netflix in December and it has haunted me ever since. Pair it with all of Jenelle Montilone's work and Shirley Kurata's "Being a Socially Responsible Shopper" article in yesterday's Lenny Letter and I'm convinced: we as a society need to change our shopping habits. (If you aren't receiving the twice-weekly Lenny Letter, get over there and subscribe right now!) Trust me, all of the above are informative and moving without being overly depressing.

One of the awesome things about knowing how to sew means that I have the capability to change my spending habits when it comes to clothes. We vote with our dollars and my dollars are no longer going to support clothing manufacturers who exploit their workers and pollute our environment.

In recent years I've been a little more focused when it comes to clothing purchases. A couple of years ago I started purging my closet and getting rid of anything that I didn't wear for one year. You probably won't be surprised by how much you have in your closet that you simply don't wear. I've also been more mindful about the clothing that I purchase, although I haven't been super strict and a few items have slipped into my closet that I haven't worn nearly as much as I thought I would.

It's easy to have a knee-jerk reaction to movies like The True Cost and declare "no more mindless shopping!," then come to realize that it's a little harder to execute in real life. Sure, I can make the grand plan of only making my clothes going forward, but that takes time and sometimes you need to fill gaps in your wardrobe a little faster than your free time allows.

Enter The True Cost's "Five Tips for Shopping Smarter." The first tip is so easy to remember and would hands-down put a dent in the damage clothing manufacturers are doing if everyone who is able commits to it: ask yourself if you are going to wear that item at least 30 times. Thirty is a far cry from the average 7 wears that an item usually gets. 7! Contrary to what advertisers want you to believe, you do not need to change out your wardrobe with the four seasons (or even more often). You also don't need to worry about wearing the same outfits week after week. If you love it and it's still in good condition, who cares if you wear it every week?

Looking back, my maternity wardrobe was my most environmentally conscious, not because I made everything, but because I limited it to the bare essentials: 6-7 dresses for work, 2 pairs of leggings, 1 pair of jeans, 2 tshirts, a casual sweater, a bathing suit, and probably one or two other items. That was pretty much all I wore for my entire pregnancy (save for the first month or so when I could still fit into my regular clothesI got a belly quickly!). I wore those items over and over and over again, mostly because I couldn't justify spending more money on clothes that had a limited cycle of use (also why I couldn't justify making any of my maternity clothesmy limited free time is too precious).

I haven't bought any clothes since I saw The True Cost in December (I know, such a sacrifice to not buy clothes for almost three whole months). I have been devising a plan for when my current items get worn out or I need to add an item to spice up the life of my wardrobe. Then, serendipitously, Sewaholic ran a sale on their patterns and my plan was solidified. I snatched up all of the patterns that I've been coveting and drafted a wardrobe plan that I'll slowly build over time.

A photo posted by Lindsay (@lindsaypindsay33) on

I'll steadily chip away at my list so when the time comes for an item to get donated or thrown out, I won't have any gaps to prompt a quick online shopping fix (because let's be honest, I can't remember the last time I went shopping in a store). I've already made a couple of these patterns, but I know that those I haven't made yet will work based on previous sewing missteps. Which is another great benefit to sewing your own clothes: you know what does and doesn't work with your body shape so you can focus your time on clothes that you love and don't mind wearing over and over again!

In case you're wondering, here is my list. The blazers that I have should last me a couple of years until I finally find a blazer pattern that I love. Once my cardigans wear out, I plan to create rub offs of them because they fit me perfectly. Yes, the list is very heavy on Sewaholic patterns. What can I say, this pear-shaped girl loves them!

Work Wardrobe

Casual/Workout Wardrobe
Even if you're not ready to do an overhaul like me, small changes like shopping secondhand and trading clothes with friends can make a difference. Have you thought about your clothing spending habits and their impact on the world? 

Friday, February 19, 2016

Elizabeth Hartman Sewing Circle Tote

You guys, it's finished! And only over a month late for my mom's birthday!

Sewing Circle Tote Front

As I mentioned on Instagram, I'm in the middle of preparing for my first craft fair in March, but I sneaked in little bits of time here and there over the last month to make my mom an Elizabeth Hartman Sewing Circle tote for her birthday (sorry, the pattern is out of print). I used the same Elizabeth Olwen and essex linen fabrics that I used for the Perfect Tote and it came out beautifully! I love love love it.

Sewing Circle Tote Inside 

I still love the quilt-as-you-go process.

Sewing Circle Tote Side B

Sewing Circle Tote Back

Sewing Circle Tote Side A 

And I love all of the pockets on this thing. There are four on the outside and then the inside is packed with pockets: two small zipper pockets with elastic pockets underneath, one large zipper pocket with an elastic pocket underneath, and two elastic pockets on the sides. That's twelve pockets! TWELVE!

Sewing Circle Tote Small Zip Pockets

Sewing Circle Tote Large Zip Pocket 

What I didn't love was cutting out roughly 5 million pattern pieces. Or maybe it felt like 5 million because I was cutting out an identical one for myself at the same time? Mine will have to wait until after March 6, but watch out, we'll be sporting mommy-and-me matching Sewing Circle totes when it's finished! I'm going to leave the smaller handles off of mine so we can tell the difference.

I was initially a little disappointed with how floppy the tote ended up, but then I realized if I added any sturdier material the tote would have been heavier and then really heavy once it's stuffed full of sewing supplies. It is the perfect size to cram in all sorts of rulers, cutting mats, an iron, fabric, and pretty much anything else you would need to bring with you to a class or a sewing date. My mom immediately started filling it up with all of her quilting class goodies to see how everything would fit. There is PLENTY of room. There's even enough room to bring along your laptop and embroidery module if you have a fancy machine like that (my mom does, I don't).

I didn't get the nice detailed pictures that I would have liked because I admittedly forgot to take pictures until we were walking out the door to go to my parents' house. I'll take lots of pics when I finish my own!

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Elizabeth Hartman Perfect Quilted Tote

Last fall I joined the Central Jersey Modern Quilt Guild after spending the day with them at Lizzy House’s Meadow Quilt workshop. No, I don't live in Jersey, but the drive to them is much closer than the Philly guild. They are so much fun and it’s exciting to have found a group of people who love sewing and quilting. Each year they host a Secret Quilter gift swap around Christmas. It’s completely optional and those who want to participate fill out a questionnaire that overviews preferences for style, color, and item (something small like a mini quilt, tote, potholder, pincushion, etc.), as well as social media handles so the partner can dig around and figure out what to make. It’s like investigative sewing!

My partner loves pretty much all Cloud9 fabrics, so I finally had the chance to pick up some of Elizabeth Olwen’s Morning Song. My initial plan was to make a tote bag out of quilt blocks, but I got behind on my other Christmas sewing and decided to make Elizabeth Hartman’s Perfect Quilted Tote instead (sadly it's no longer available for purchase). I am so glad I changed my plan!

Elizabeth Hartman Perfect Quilted Tote 

The tote features quilt-as-you-go sides. Ooooh you guys, quilt-as-you-go is SO MUCH FUN. And easy. And satisfying, because when you’re finished building the panel, you are finished quilting it too! (Duh.) The exterior pieces are quilted onto cotton duck, which makes the bag so sturdy that it stands up by itself without anything in it. I need to make myself one of these!

Elizabeth Hartman Perfect Quilted Tote 

The inside is so roomy and has a zippered pocket and a deep open pocket. I love the contrast of the purple lining to the cooler tones on the outside of the tote. (Forgive this picture. It rained all but a half hour on the one day that I had a chance to take pictures in daylight.)

Elizabeth Hartman Perfect Quilted Tote

I was off the week of Christmas and by some miracle my daughter was taking 4-hour naps each day (and still sleeping 12 hours at night—she is a champion sleeper, don’t hate me), so I was able to bust this out in a few days and finished mere seconds before the new episode of Sherlock premiered on New Year’s Day. Hurrah to my first finish of 2016 on the first day of the year!

It was so hard to part with this beauty but I quickly got over it when I received this beautiful quilted pillow from my partner. She used April Rhodes fabrics as a tribute to my April Rhodes Adventure Swap banner and it turned out perfectly! This was my favorite gift out of the whole bunch and it’s mine, all mine! And it matches my couch perfectly. And it’s beautiful. Did I mention that? Now I want to fill up the couch with April Rhodes/Essex linen pillows!

Secret Quilter Gift

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Christmas-Themed Seamwork Denali Vest

You guys have heard of Seamwork Magazine, right? It's a monthly online sewing magazine that also includes two patterns that take three hours or less to complete. Access to the articles is free and the patterns are $7 each, or you can subscribe and get them both for $6.

The October issue featured menswear and included two unisex patterns: a sweatshirt and a vest. I knew immediately that I wanted to make the Denali vest! My least favorite thing about these patterns is that they are PDF and you have to print and tape them all together. It seems like a waste of my precious free time. But I didn't really have a choice since these patterns are only offered as PDFs.

My original plan was to make an autumn themed vest that was burgundy and plaid, but that never happened. Then when I was in Joann at the end of October I happened upon this awesome fleece-backed knit Christmas print and snatched some up. I'm glad I did, because the next time I went back there wasn't any left. I also found pre-quilted navy fabric at Joann, which was a super time saver.

The weekend before Christmas I had a pocket of free time before a dinner date with friends so I cut out all of the pattern pieces and started sewing. This thing goes together quickly! Definitely under three hours from start to finish, as long as you don't have major issues installing the snaps.

Am I the only one who struggles with getting snaps to clasp together correctly without ruining them? It took FOREVER to get these eight snaps on and my husband and I ruined at least 10 snaps in the process. I think part of the issue was that the vest is thicker than recommended for the Dritz snaps, but the cheap installation tool is also partly to blame. It was such a relief when that last one attached!

And then it was 70 degrees on Christmas (in SE Pennsylvania!) so I wore it to my in-laws' house and promptly took it off. I wore it home from my parents' house later that night, but I didn't really need it. I felt like I needed to get some wear out of it for my efforts! It was finally the perfect temperature to wear today on a day date with my husband to Distrito. If you haven't been there, I highly recommend. It's my favorite restaurant and we appropriately pigged out. And then browsed for books while we tried to digest. It was the perfect setting for a dreary day photo shoot!

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In retrospect, I would have only used one layer of the knit fabric for the pockets so the edges don't turn out so bulky. The pockets are actually lined up on the vest, I think I'm just standing kind of weird here. There were so many people around and it was hard to get a good shot in without looking like a total nut!

I took extra care to line up the fabric straight when cutting out the pattern pieces, but the placement of the red row at the seam was a very happy accident! I was focusing on getting the snowflakes and reindeer in (they are under my hair), but the red row is the perfect framing for the back yolk.

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 I also really love the inside. The facings with the lining make it nice and clean inside and out.

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All in all, the pattern is a little boxy, but it was quick and easy for a Christmas-themed article of clothing!

Monday, December 28, 2015

The Year I Made 105 Handmade Christmas Gifts

I know that title seems insane, but I actually did make 105 handmade gifts for Christmas this year! OK, some of them were batch gifts, but when divided, they came out to 105 items. Am I nuts? Perhaps, but there is a reason to my madness. My husband’s family decided to forego a Pollyanna for the adults and just get something small for everyone’s stocking. The kids, of course, can receive gifts from everyone, but since it’s been getting harder and harder to find gifts for the adults, we all welcomed this change. I also knew that we’d have a few extra guests this year with my brother in law’s family joining us from Honduras, so I wanted to make our stocking gifts extra special. This simple idea turned into my most prolific handmade Christmas to date. Or probably ever. Maybe.

My initial plan for the stockings was to make about 12 different gifts, have the adults draw numbers, and then select their gift in that order. Then I decided to expand the stocking gifts to my family too. Then I had so much fun making the gifts that I decided to expand the game: the adults get to select one gift from each of three categories of gifts. The categories are: rope bowls, concoctions, and comfort. Here we go, but forgive my pictures. I was managed to get everything done on time but I didn’t have time to get good pictures of everything. Forgive my late-night, bad lighting photos!

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Rope Bowls
I’ve been seeing these pop up all over Instagram for the past year and finally decided to get over my fear and try it already. They are SO MUCH FUN. I used the Rope Baskets article by Maya Donenfeld in the FOLK issue of Taproot and Amanda Soule’s rope basket post on Soule Mama as references. But honestly, making them is really a practice of trial and error. The width/length of the zig zag stitch, the size of the base, the angle that you hold the base while sewing the sides, and the color thread that you use make the bowl completely unique every time. It’s exciting to see how tiny variations make such different bowls. I’ve never used a pottery wheel, but I imagine the process of seeing the bowl take shape as you sew is very similarly gratifying to seeing clay take shape on a wheel. And the entire process is so mindless you could use this as a nice buffer between intense sewing projects or just when you need a mental break.

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I added an extra element of adventure by dyeing the rope with natural ingredients. My first attempt was a mish mosh of things that I found in the kitchen. I started with a small amount of frozen blueberries. When that didn’t really do much, I added dried peppers, chili powder, and cayenne pepper, but the rope still didn’t change colors that much. Then I turned to curry and that whole combination resulted in a yellowish green, almost citron color. For the second batch I returned to blueberries but used a whole frozen package, which worked great! The last two batches were made with turmeric and about two weeks’ worth of used coffee grinds. I felt like a mad scientist playing with all of the elements! And the one positive to the unseasonably warm weather we’ve been having is that I was able to hose down the coffee-dyed rope outside without freezing. I like the blueberry and turmeric dyes the best.

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I’m toying with the idea of selling these at local craft fairs because I can’t get enough of the dyeing and making them. I used a cotton/poly clothesline that I found online for the Christmas gifts, but afterward I decided to go all-natural and I found 100% cotton rope from a company based in Ohio. I’m sure you’ll hear more about this in the coming months.

Concoctions
I’ve been making homemade cleaning supplies for a few years now and since I started I’ve been meaning to try out more handmade pampering products. Making them for others is the perfect time to try it! It wouldn’t be Christmas in our house unless I was burning something on the stove/oven. Usually it’s butter dripping from my cheesecake pans—this time it was mullein leaves and olive oil. I have no idea what happened, but the end result was me sequestering the burning pot in the backyard and scrapping the homemade vapor rub. I ended up making lemon/grapefruit/orange sugar scrub and bug balm. They both smell so yummy! I used Amy Karol’s recipes for both. She has a great homemade apothecary class on Creativebug, btw. I’m also making myself a batch of vapor rub, but making the mullein oil the slow way by steeping mullein leaves in olive oil for two weeks. We’ll see how it turns out!

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Comfort
Infinity scarf: Earlier this year I won an infinity scarf kit and the fabric wasn’t my style, so I decided to make the scarf and offer it up as stocking stuffer. The pattern is free from Free Spirit. It came out cute, but the pleats were kinda a pain and the whole project took way too long for the end result. I doubt I’d make this again.

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Coasters: After seeing the adorable modern quilted coasters from Very Shannon on Sew Mama Sew’s Handmade Holidays, I decided to whip up a few sets of these very simple coasters from a charm pack of Anna Maria Horner’s Honor Roll that I bought to pad my cart so I wouldn’t have to pay for shipping from Fabric.com. Of course mine are much more simple than the tutorial, but I’m totally fine with that!

Eye Pillows: I’ve had the free Amy Butler Eye Pillow pattern in my files for years and finally found the time to make it! And I was able to use scraps to make them (Amy Butler Midwest Modern and Nicey Jane by Heather Bailey).

Head/Neck Heating Pad: Another great scrap buster pattern! I saw this one on Sew Mama Sew Handmade Holidays from Sew Can She. They were the most popular item during the game.

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It was fun to see the anticipation while our family members selected their items. There were some tense moments when one person thought the other was going to select the item that they wanted! It all turned out great in the end and everyone had fun and enjoyed what they picked out. It was a success!

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And then I didn’t stop with the stocking stuffer game.

Exfoliating Peppermint Soap
For a couple of Christmases in the past, I made exfoliating peppermint soap for my co-workers and it was a big hit. Last year I was out on leave during Christmas so I didn’t make any soap and I think I skipped the year before, so I decided it was time to bring back the soap. You would not believe how much people love this stuff. Someone mentions it to me every few months throughout the year without fail. And it’s so easy to make! As long as you remember to make it far enough in advance so it has enough time to cure before wrapping. I was way ahead of the game this year and made the soap on Halloween weekend. Thanks to the delicious peppermint smell permeating our house, I have been in the Christmas spirit for about two months now. I used the Good Morning Soap recipe from Raleigh Briggs’ How to Make Soap Without Burning Your Face Off. Such a great resource and such a brilliant title!

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Red Riding Hood Cape and Tutu from Little Things to Sew
My niece just turned 3 so it was the perfect time to break out the Oliver + S book Little Things to Sew and make her an adorable red riding hood cape. She is super girly and I knew a red cape was a must, so finding the Lizzy House pearl bracelets on sale at Pennington Quilt Works was a bonus. I’m so glad I finally got to make this cape since it was one of two projects that convinced me to buy the book. I made the other, the Explorer Vest, for my nephew in 2011. I can’t believe it’s been that long!

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Shortly after I decided to make the red riding hood cape, I decided that now was the perfect time to also make my niece the tutu from Little Things to Sew. This book is filled with relatively quick and easy projects that turn out so wonderfully and hold up to years of abuse. I made the tutu and the cape in one afternoon. I’m glad to report that my niece loved them and put the tutu on right away.

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Kids Coasters
The long-running joke that kids will play with anything but the toys you get them is so long running because it’s true. My daughter is constantly picking up and carrying around the coasters in our living room (and everyone else’s living room for that matter), so I made her a few when I was making the stocking stuffer coaster sets. She loved the new ones so much that I made coaster sets for a few of the little ones in our family.

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Teacher Clutches
The teachers at my daughter’s day care are so wonderful and they love our little one so much that I knew I wanted to make them something extra special for Christmas. I started out making them gathered clutches by Anna at Noodlehead, but my OCDness couldn’t deal with the un-uniformity of the gathers, so I ended up making them ungathered clutches. I love how the Cotton + Steel prints mix and match.

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Knit Baby Blanket
Almost 10 months ago, my beautiful niece was born and in the flurry that was life having a 3-month old, I never got around to making her a baby blanket. I had the yarn, but it just never happened. I figured now was the time to finally make her a baby blanket before she completely outgrew it. If she doesn’t get much wear out of it now, she can always use it to play with her dolls. Or when she’s older, to cover hot leather car seats in the summer like my family does with our baby blankets. My point: I’m not worried, this thing will get used even though she’s not receiving it as a newborn.

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Stackable Ring Toy
Every time I make this toy I vow to never make it again because it always ends up taking way longer than I thought to make it. I finally have the perfect method to making them: I somehow convinced my sewing teacher to assembly line these things with me. She does all of the annoying pinning and then hands them to me to sew and then I hand them back to her for snipping and pinning the next step. It’s perfect! For me, anyway. She doesn’t seem to mind though! Don’t worry, I’m thanking her for her sweat shop contributions by giving her a rope basket and some soap.
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The final tallies are:
56 bars of peppermint soap 
16 rope bowls
1 infinity scarf
4 shoulder heating pads
4 eye pillows
3 sets of coasters
6 lemon sugar scrubs
4 bug balms
4 zipper clutches
1 red riding hood cape
1 tutu
3 kids coaster sets
1 knit baby blanket
1 stackable rings toy

It was a busy Christmas season! I think the key to not getting overwhelmed was starting early and using my nights and weekends wisely. I actually didn’t spend every weekend sewing and we were still able to do some fun Christmasy activities. If I hadn’t gotten sick for an entire week in the middle of December, I would have been on track for finishing everything before Christmas Eve.

I still have my mom’s birthday present and my secret quilter gift for Central Jersey to make, so I’m not entirely out of the gift making woods yet. But almost!

I did manage to sneak in some selfish sewing last weekend and made myself a vest that I intended to wear on Christmas. Unfortunately this weird warm weather we’ve been having had a mind of its own and it was too hot to wear it. Stay tuned for pics!

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

April Rhodes Banner Adventure Swap

I participated in the April Rhodes Banner Adventure Swap run by Kid Giddy and The Tattooed Quilter. The challenge was to create a banner no larger than 8x16" using only April Rhodes fabric. This was my first swap so I was nervous to participate because I have never sewn something like this that wasn't from a pattern, but I figured I could come up with something good in the two months that we were allotted.

My partner didn't request anything specific and left pretty much all of the design details up to me, other than mentioning that the Bound fabric line was her favorite of April's. After digging through her Instagram account, I found out that she is a huge fan of essential oils. I knew I wanted to incorporate essential oils into her banner, and I went through a bunch of ideas before I settled on the final design. Initially I thought about piecing together essential oil bottles, but then it came to me: create a personal totem pole for her using essential oil ingredients. I also wanted to incorporate feathers without using actual feathers, so I shrunk the wonderful Feather Bed pattern by Anna Maria Horner to 33% of its original size. I used the Kid Giddy Paper Pieced Totem Pole pattern for reference and also added some teeny tiny flying geese. I had most of the elements ready to sketch when my IG friend t_jaye posted the most awesome fabric weaving tutorial. Perfect for the top of my banner! It looks super complicated but was actually pretty easy to execute.

Here's the final result:

April Rhodes Banner Adventure Swap

I am in love with it. My fingers have never felt so huge working with the tiny tiny pieces. Perhaps I would have had an easier time paper piecing some of the elements, but I have no experience with paper piecing. Now for some gratuitous detail shots.

April Rhodes Banner Adventure Swap

I hand embroidered the essential oil ingredients on the totem pole and the face, except for the beakthat's a small piece of fabric. I like how it adds a little depth to the face.

April Rhodes Banner Adventure Swap

Oh those flying geese! Each triangle is 1" wide by 1/2" tall. Never. Again. 

April Rhodes Banner Adventure Swap

Early on in the swap I was playing around with weaving. I liked the result but I didn't want to include it on the front of the banner because it was too big and not as precise as I'd like. But it's fun hidden element on the back of the banner. The Weaving for Beginners course by Annabel Wrigley on Creativebug was super helpful. I ended up making my loom out of a Cheerios box and it worked out great!

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So concludes my first swap. I really enjoyed the design process. It wasn't nearly as difficult as I had made it out to be in my mind. I hope my partner loves the banner as much as I do!

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Back In Action

Hi folks! It's been a long and unplanned hiatus, but sometimes life does that to you. Since I was last here I made a couple of quilts and blankets, but the big news is that I birthed a 9 lb 8 oz baby girl! Seriously. Here I am seven full days before she finally came out. I'm disappointed I didn't take a picture the day of. There's only one baby in there! I spent 10 days after my due date walking around our neighborhood (hence my outfit) hoping to put myself into labor. Didn't happen.


On November 3rd we helped her out and named her Ellie Anne. We like to joke that she was so big because she was born a week and a half old. She is healthy and joyful and wonderful and hilarious and basically the light of our lives. And about to start crawling at just under 7 months. We're in for it!

Silly me was thinking I would be able to churn out a few projects while on maternity leave. It's hilarious that I'm even using that term since we don't have maternity leave here in the US, but my employer has pretty decent vacation and sick policies so I was able to bank up enough time to take 12 weeks off after her birth. Surely in 12 weeks I could easily fit some sewing in, right?

As those of you with babes of your own might have guessed, every minute of my leave was spent feeding, changing, and loving our little girl and I didn't do any sewing. It was awesome though! But I got the sewing bug again and decided to try to get back in action and do some sewing, even if it's just for 15 minutes here and there. Have you heard of The Fringe Hours? I haven't read the book, but I heard an interview with the author on a podcast and the concept is totally up my alley. Basically, you consciously find pockets of time in your day to do things for you. This week that has been roughly 9:15-10:00 after we put the littles to bed and before I put myself to bed (my 5:00 alarm to exercise before work is non-negotiable). And it's worked out great! Last night I only managed to sew from 9:40-10:00, but I was able to add sashing to two rows of a quilt that I'm working on. The old childless me would have been frustrated by such a short period of time and such little accomplished, but the new mom me is considering it awesome that I was able to find any time to sew. It's all about perspective.

I doubt I'll be posting many finished projects at this pace, so follow me on Instagram at lindsaypindsay33 to check out my progress. Right now I'm working on the City Green quilt from Cherri House's City Quilts. Flick was very excited to see it back on my living room floor.


Full disclosure: this quilt is about 5 years in the making. I bought the quilt kit when the book was released in 2010 and it sat in my stash until last spring when I finally pulled it out and began working on it. Then I got too pregnant to be comfortable sitting at my machine, so away it went until earlier this week. I am determined to finish it this year!

I have a few projects that I finished since I last posted (almost 2 years ago, wow!), so once I dig up those pictures I'll share them.

It's good to be back!