handmade parade

a philosophy of sewing



Or, why I took a break from sewing, and why I'm back at it.

I worked myself raw in the years after Lachlan's birth and first two heart surgeries. I filmed my Craftsy course, came out with a ton of new patterns, and attended my first Quilt Market. Sew Liberated was our primary source of income while Patrick was in grad school, and since we had such high medical bills, it needed to grow. Sewing became work - something that took me away from my little family. But Sew Liberated wasn't cutting it. We made the decision for Patrick to teach himself programming so he could jump off the history PhD ship that was sailing to oblivion. We needed to be able to stay near Duke for Lachlan's cardiology needs, and we needed a more stable income. When he landed a programming job, I became a full-time mom, and no longer had the time to work on Sew Liberated, even if I had wanted to.

We hired Danica to run the show, and I took a deep breath. Lachlan's third open heart surgery was on the horizon, and I did a ton of mental work to prepare myself for that sickening moment when I handed my baby off to scrubbed and masked strangers. I meditated. I did yoga.  I tried to get us out into nature as much as possible. Tried to create a nurturing cocoon of a home. Tried to do anything in my power to equip my little ones with love, attention, and good memories. I birthed a sweet baby girl. I felt my ability to focus on anything other than my family slipping away into a pleasant, homey blur. My family became my creative outlet. Months went by, and I didn't touch my sewing machine. Then a year passed. I didn't miss it. It was work. I didn't want anything to do with it.


I didn't miss that rushed feeling of trying to sew "just one more seam" before the baby awoke. I didn't miss feeling frustrated when I didn't finish a project in the allotted time frame. I didn't miss the constant stream of project ideas that would hound my thoughts when I could have been enjoying the present moment with my kids. I didn't miss the creative to-do list. I didn't miss the stacks of yet-to-be-used fabric, beckoning me from the shelf. They used to cast a shadow of resentment over my children for their incessant needs that took me away from being a more productive creative person. 

The surgery day dawned. If I hadn't focused on Sew Liberated since before Sadie was born, now I didn't even give it one thought. Facing the tender, fleeting, mortal nature of being human gives you tunnel vision. This little boy of mine had his heart mended and fit by a tailor far more skilled than I. His surgeon's skilled hands touched Lachlan's heart, stitching pieces of previously-used human cloth onto my baby's own fresh tissue. Weaving gortex with muscle, he re-designed a circulatory system that would, for the first time, provide Lachlan with near-normal blood oxygenation levels and the energy of a typical three year-old. Lachlan's heart is re-purposed. Fully functional, yet beautifully flawed, like sashiko mending. 


Nearly six weeks later, after battling with accumulating fluid on his lungs and the subsequent dehydration of his treatment, Lachlan's little mended heart slowed and stopped. I was at home, nursing a stuffy-nosed baby and five year-old. Patrick was with him as they rushed him to the pediatric cardiac ICU, soon starting chest compressions. When I got the call, I was eating a veggie quesadilla, which I spit out while I screamed and fell to the floor. I thought he was dead. I guess, in a way, he was. Had he been at home, 30 minutes from the hospital, he wouldn't have survived. (Hence our eventual move downtown. Covering bases, you know.) 

Lachlan recovered. But what does it mean to recover? To cover again. To mend. The mending is visible. Like his heart, life for our family would never be quite the same. There is a patch that covers our physical and psychological wounds. There is stitching that holds it together. Sometimes the stitching is pristine, in other places it is knotted with fear and anger. But we are functional. And achingly, imperfectly beautiful. 

We are still mending. A well-rubbed piece of cloth will, eventually, break down. When it does, we take up a needle and thread and piece it together any way we can. In my family, the cloth is often made threadbare by sibling bickering, hidden scary medical memories, and parental stress. But it can always be mended. Re-covered. Made functional. Unique.


At some point, perhaps when that subtle shift occurred and my toddler started to spend long stretches playing with her dollhouse, a few minutes opened up in my days. I wanted to make her clothes as a gift of love. I cut into some soft cloth. She sat on my lap and removed the pins as I sewed. It was slow. But it brought me so much joy. I didn't take pictures of it. I didn't have to market the design. It was just that, a physical manifestation of love. An expression of my creativity and a happy investment of my time. I never want to sew for any other reasons.

Sewing has an important place in my life again, along with writing. But I have a personal manifesto that I now follow.

  1. Begin each project with the intention of expressing love and gratitude for the intended recipient, be it my own body or the vibrant bodies of my children.  
  2. Breathe deeply while cutting. Breathe deeply while sewing. Sewing is slow, and the act of slowing down is a gift of mindfulness. Accept any interruption in the process as a gift to be present. Find joy in the process, and appreciation for the amount of time it takes.
  3. Buy less. Make what you need, but not more.  When clothing wears down, mend it. Bring a mindset of minimalism to the fiber arts.
  4. Sewing is an act of self-care. It is not selfish. It is practice of mindfulness mendfulness. I sew because it helps me on my journey to be a more aware, loving mother and creative person. 

If I returned to my old way of sewing - the resentment, the oppressive to-make list, the feeling of being squeezed for creative time, I would need to stop and reassess. My time with these three little children is too short. With this healthier creative mindset, I hope to mend together my creative nature with parenthood.  


I made these Rainbow Shorts for Lachlan using the Basic Pocket Pants pattern in my book, using Kaffe Fasset's Exotic Stripe in the Earth colorway.  It took me two weeks to sew them - a seam here, a seam there. He helped me. So did Sadie. He is clothed with love. 

poetry and the class picnic blouse



Sadie took me for a walk the other day.  Fortunately, we didn't have a disagreement about the destination - a newly-opened donut shop. Before we left, we picked out poetry books for our weekly Poetry Tea Donut Time and packed them in the stroller. I must have a good excuse to head to a donut shop. This one was mildly homeschoolish. The smaller crew gathered up all of the Shel Silverstein they could find, while I brought my favorite

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I didn't need to provide directions. Sadie and her brothers knew just how to get there. They have hound's noses for donuts, my kids. Which is good, because it freed me up to take pictures of this dang cute blouse. 

It's the Class Picnic Blouse from Oliver and S that I made for Sadie about six months ago. I loved this one so much that I cut out three more. I should know myself better. Whenever I cut out several garments at once, the first one is a delight to sew. The subsequent projects start to feel like an obligation, which drains the joy out of sewing for me. I granted myself permission to relegate the un-sewn pieces to the scrap collection, a decision helped along by a growing toddler, who was quickly sizing out of the original cuts.  Ahhhh. Creative freedom! 

You've seen the fabric before, both on the Clara Dress pattern front, me, and - if you have visited my home - on a handful of curtains. I purchased an entire bolt of this Nani Iro double gauze a handful of years ago. (The crazy things you get to do when you're a sewing pattern designer!)

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Sadie is pushing along her galimoto. The galimoto is imbued with a kind of magic that can make a toddler walk for miles without complaint.  Twelve dollars well-spent, plus it's lasted through all three of my kids. 



Destination reached. Poetry was read, and pages were made sticky with donut detritus. Bodies were moved, urban wildlife was noticed, and real-life math discussions were had. I'd call that a successful day of homeschooling.

Below is what happens when you ask her to smile! Spunky, this one. Super spunky. 


the newest patterns are finally here!

new sewing patterns

new patterns

new sewing patterns

new patterns

new patterns

new patterns

new sewing patterns

new sewing patterns

new sewing patterns

new sewing patterns

new sewing patterns

new sewing patterns

new patterns

new sewing patterns

new sewing patterns

The Clara Dress, Gathering Apron, Esme Top, and Simple Skinny Jeans patterns are in my hands, ready to package up and send to you! 

There's a big "first" with this spring collection - all four patterns include a full-length video tutorial along with the standard written instructions. Thanks to my darling intern, Danica, who stars in the videos and walks you through the construction of each. 

The Clara Dress

Oh my. I think I've succeeded in designing "The Meg Dress," as my mom would call it. It's super comfortable with its elastic waist, plus it has pockets to hold all of Finn and Lachlan's treasures. I have my spring dresses in the line up already here in North Carolina with the help of tights and a cardigan. The sample shown is made in a Japanese double guaze cotton. I'm loving the possibility of it in this fabric, with my mustard tights and cowboy boots.

The Gathering Apron

Totally made with the feathered ladies in mind. Also while daydreaming about all the produce I'll be able to gather this summer and fall from my garden. Did you like the Emmeline Apron? The Gathering Apron wins, hands down. It has a HUGE front pocket (the entire skirt is one big pocket) and the adjustable bust details make it super flattering and really accommodating of all sizes. Looks amazing in all of Kaffe Fassett's Shot Cottons.

The Esme Top

A sweet, go-to top that will surely rival the Schoolhouse Tunic. It's easy to make and easy to wear, and goes great with the Simple Skinny Jeans. My favorite versions are made in the new rayon challis substrate that Westminster Fibers has - particularly Valori Well's Novella. This fabric is so soft and hangs so beautifully. Novella's understated prints work perfectly for highlighting the simple details of the Esme.

Simple Skinny Jeans

Really. They are SO simple to make. Think leggings, but with jean-like back pocket detail. These were modeled after my favorite pair of maternity transition pants, which had a wide elastic waistband, giving them a comfortable fit all the time. I'd suggest making them in a stretch denim or stretch chambray. Lura's Fabric shop has a great selection of stretch denim, plus you can order swatches to make sure you get the color you're looking for. I've also had luck finding good stretch denim at my local Hancock Fabrics. Stretch denims aren't knits, they're wovens, but they have some spandex/Lycra content which makes them movey and groovy - exactly what you want in a pair of skinny jeans.

Thank you to Jessi for the wonderful photography!

And now I flop on the couch with half a bar of dark chocolate and sleep until the boys return from their afteroon at Mima and Papa's house. I'm so very grateful for your support of this sewing pattern thing of mine. :)

handmade parade :: the ashland dress sewing pattern

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Dress: handmade with my Ashland Dress pattern. Fabric: cotton voile, NYC garment district

Shoes: c/o my mom's closet

Jewelry: none, c/o my grabby toddler

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A lot of love went into designing this, Sew Liberated's first dress pattern, so that it would be a beautiful and functional dress for all. Here are the deets:

  • sizes 2-20, and bust sizes A-D. Eeee! That's right - the pattern includes separate bodice patterns to go with your cup size, so most sewists won't have to bother with bust adjustments!
  • three sleeve variations make it an all-season pattern: elbow (shown above) sleeveless (shown below) and 3/4 sleeves.
  • two pocket options
  • nursing-friendly
  • shorten the skirt to make a tunic/shirt version.

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If you liked the Schoolhouse Tunic pattern, I really think you'll like the Ashland. Soon, I'll be posting video tutorials on how to insert an invisible zipper, like the one used in the Ashland, as well posting links to great buttonhole how-tos, so that you can take your sewing skills to the next level without any hair pulling!

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Ashland Sundress: fabric - French milled, cotton poplin, found locally at Mulberry Silks in Carrboro, NC.

Shoes: Lotta From Stockholm

Gardening hat: Imagine Childhood

Okay, friends. I need your help now. I'm a rather busy bee nowadays, preparing for a VERY EXCITING online course I'll be filming in Denver in a few short weeks. (Any guesses? :) I haven't had time to source fabrics yet for Ashland fabric kits. How about this ... leave a comment with your favorite Ashland-worthy fabric (a link to the exact fabric in the comments would be helpful) and, if I pick YOUR fabric for inclusion in a kit, I'll send you a free Ashland Dress pattern! (Or give you a refund if you want to go ahead and get one now.) Cool? Cool. High fives all around.

P.S. The patterns should be ready to ship by the end of the week, so expect yours to leave the North Carolina countryside by Friday, June 22nd or Monday, June 25th.