There are two activities that, when I’m feeling down, usually help me feel a whole lot better: cleaning and sewing. Last week ranked among one of the most difficult weeks for me to date, and while giving the experience its due course of grief and processing is certainly in order (and happening), so is burying myself in something wonderful. I decided cleaning the toilets didn’t sound all that therapeutic, so instead, I opted for “cleaning out” my fabric stash.
I know I’m not alone when I say, the last thing in the world I need is more fabric. It’s quiet literally climbing the walls of my little studio and about to bust through the ceiling. Not needing fabric is not exactly a reason we sewists don’t buy any more — these two are not mutually exclusive and yet, I could see it was time for a little housecleaning — a thinning out, if you will.
So, I selected 20 cheerful prints and made a new stash of double sided napkins. The old ones I made several years ago were starting to feel a little thin — grubby hands all over them daily (we won’t mention any names). Something fresh for the dinner table sounded like just the thing to clean house, brighten our meals, and lift my spirits all at once.
I did it the easiest way — measured roughly around an old napkin and added an inch for seam allowance. Then, sewed them inside out, leaving a hole to turn each napkin right-side out, and then topstitched all the way around again. They are thick, fluffy, and gorgeous. I’m sure Orlis will love wiping oatmeal all over them for years to come.
And, I couldn’t help myself with the scraps — using some pinking shears to adorn my little cherry jam jars.
I’ve long desired to hold this phrase in my vernacular: “what’s in your sewing basket these days?” I’d like to say it often to my friends, and also to myself. The idea of having all of my half-finished sewing projects neatly piled into a basket in plain view was something of a fantasy until a few weeks ago when I finally, for the first time ever, unpacked the boxes of my very own office and studio. And sure enough, I found a delicious array of old flea market finds, half-worked projects, and makings in the making. I spent late-night hours organizing the beginnings of quilts in every stage, fabrics washed, cut, and set aside for a toddler-sized painter’s smock, and several quilt pieces procured from midwestern flea markets half-sewed together to make handbags. Oh, the joy!
I delighted in organizing these items — taking the time to notice their details again after a long messy hibernation. The feeling was something like Christmas morning, but with no one around to move me along more quickly. And so, I didn’t move quickly at all — I stopped to savor the old treasures that caught my eye years ago, likely tucked away at an under-priced market stand. They still catch my eye, and somehow, my heart too. Of course, I love the history in the old pieces, but I love the new fabrics too. It’s obvious that the fabric makers among us today have a foot in the past — you can see it in the detail.
I identified a healthy 7-or-so half-finished projects and piled them neatly into an old basket my mother used to keep her sundry sewing items in. Seven projects should keep me busy for awhile, and who is to say I can’t begin a few more and add them to the pile? After all, now I’m organized. And there’s nothing like seeing all of your supplies in one sweet place to make you want to start gifting.
I apparently had a tote bag in mind several years ago when I sewed these two quilt squares together and added a lining. All she needed was a little finishing, a set of handles, and a recipient. Easy.
I consulted Lotta Jansdotter’s Simple Sewing to remind myself how to make and attach the handles, and an hour later, I had a bag to fill with something and send off. One of my wonderful NY friends was especially generous to me during our difficult week there. I think I’ll stuff this bag with some homemade cherry jam but from there, I think she can figure out what to put in this sweet little tote. She’s smart that way.