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

DSC_0016 (2)

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!)

DSC_0072 (1)

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. 


holiday sewing sale


Unrelated picture, but I love it, so there you go. Photo by Finn, who is definitely getting his very own camera in his stocking this year!

We're having little sale over at the pattern shop - 30% off all patterns. This should give you plenty of time to sew up some handmade gifts for the holidays! The Gathering Apron, Clara Dress, Esme Top and Skinny Jeans are among the discounted designs.

Hopefully, with your help (wink, wink) we'll get rid of some of our inventory so we can have a more manageable warehouse once our three new patterns go up for sale in about a month. 

Also, now seems like a great time to mention that I will be permanently stepping back from the day-to-day operations at Sew Liberated, as my wonderfully talented intern, Danica, has stepping into our first full-time position! Danica will be working on the business side of things, coming up with new designs as well as shipping your orders with care and attention. If you have a question regarding your order, it's likely that you'll be talking with Danica. If you have a sewing-related question, you'll be hearing from Kim, who has worked with us for years now, writing copy for pattern instructions and answering all of your queries about sewing up our patterns. I'm so grateful to have such a wonderful team to work with, and am grateful that their help makes it possible for me to focus on having babies and lounging around the house ... because that's what all mamas of little ones do, right? ;) Hehe. 

The sale will last for one week, until 9 p.m. EST on Tuesday, October 8. Enjoy your handmade holiday shopping!


maternity sewing


Things are getting bigger around here. I've never been one of those twiggy-preggy ladies, despite my petite build, but I'm at peace with it this third time around. More fat to put in that supermilk, right? 

What I'm NOT at peace with, this third time around, is maternity clothes. Is yuckblah a word? Because I don't want much of anything to do with an actual maternity wardrobe. Oh, yes - the first pregnancy was so exciting. Jeans with a big, stretchy waistband! Shirts with ruching on the sides! Now, though? I don't want to be bothered by packing away my normal clothes and wading through the attic to find that bag of winter maternity stuff that must be up there somewhere. Give me a bella band and my already-in-rotation knit wardrobe from my Craftsy class. Add in a few cute tops that will be equally wearable post-partum and beyond. 


Enter my Schoolhouse Tunics, slightly modified. I took my regular size 6, dropped the bodice by 1 inch to easily accommodate the extra "umph" up top (as well as to make it even easier as a nursing top) and took the size 10 skirt and fit it into the size 6 bodice by making the darts deeper. More room, but not so much that I won't wear this after I'm back to an actual size 6.


And good thing, because I love these fabrics. Both are Nani Iro double gauze. The white is called "Little Letter," and I can't find the name of the blue fabric, but they are from the same collection. I'm afraid you'll be seeing a lot of these fabrics, because I have plenty left over to make clothes for my little one!


And finally a picture of me that I really like, blur and all, taken by Finn. 

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. :)

luminaries + huge sale

luminaries quilt

Since I couldn't find the perfect quilt pattern for my bedroom, I designed one. Then I had my talented friend and coworker, Kim, work up the templates and make this one. Because, let's face it, it would have probably taken me three years to sew this king-sized beauty myself.

Kim, on the other hand, has boys who are adults rather than toddlers. So, thank you, Kim!

I provided the bed and the little boys for jumping on said bed.

luminaries quilt

luminaries quilt

luminaries quilt

You can make the Luminaries pattern in any size you'd like. I think it would be darling as baby bedding - and perfect for a lap throw to give the living room sofa a splash of color. Quilted pillows is another idea. Or - work up the star pattern in the required yardage to make the most amazing skirt for yourself! It's a pattern that's friendly for quilting beginners.

luminaries quilt

luminaries quilt

luminaries quilt

luminaries quilt

 This quilt was made up in scraps of fabric by two of my favorite designers: Gennine Zlatkis and Anna Maria Horner.

And wait - good news - I'm having a whopping pattern sale right now! 40% off ALL patterns. I have four new patterns coming out on January 1st, so I need your help to make space in my teeny warehouse. Please! This is a once-in-a-blue-moon kind of a sale, so stock up now for your own sewing pursuits or for gifts for your creative friends or partners. The sale will run until Wednesday, December 5th, whenever I feel like going to bed that night!

Happy sewing, friends!

P.S. Thanks to Jessi for the beautiful photos of my boys - I mean, the quilt!

projects in progress






:: Second Milo on the needles :: Snow Pixie hats on the cutting table ::

:: Other project-themed books ::

These handful of days have been off-kilter. Following an unprecedented string of good days, in which everything seemed to flow, the boys (and myself, no doubt) trudged through the last two days with low energy, sapped patience, and a general grumpy malaise. 

This time, though, I have a peace about it. I've come to expect these days, just as I expect the perfect ones. It even feels, dare I say ... comforting. I feel grateful to pass through very human situations together as a family; grateful to learn about each other and let each other experience a full spectrum of feelings. 

It also feels good to hop into a project in the creative space that opens up after a patch of ho-humness. There's plenty to do in the studio between now and Christmas, and the gift-making is kicking into gear. I'm also really liking my circular saw, and have my eyes on some of the projects in this book once the chicken coop is done.

And - I can't recommend highly enough Project-Based Homeschooling: Mentoring Self-Directed Learners by Lori Pickert. It speaks to me right where I am as parent just starting off on the homeshooling journey, which can be totally daunting if you see all the ideas that can be done out there on the internet and all of the facts that can be passed on to a child. Here's an exceprt:

"Try to avoid pulling attention away from your child's project (his deepest interest) with random, one-off activities. Save casual field trips and similar activities for times between projects. The less you distract your child with random activities and interruptions, the more engaged and focused he'll be. You're giving him the opportunity to stay longer with what he cares about most; you're giving him the chance to build something really meaningful." 


Back to my projects. Have a wonderful weekend!

a chat with fat quarter shop & hurricane relief

Thanks to Chelsey at the Fat Quarter Shop for stopping by to chat about my booth! The other first place booth winners are interviewed, too - and the Sew Liberated segment starts at 3:10.

And ...

I wanted to share with you that Mariah of Playful Learning is donating 100% of the proceeds from the sales of any of her (wonderful) e-courses to hurricane relief between now and November 20. Learn more here. How generous is that?!

Another opportunity to provide for those in the storm's path - donate quilts or blankets to keep folks warm - details on the Fat Quarter Shop's blog.

back in the saddle

First things first - I can't start writing before I send out a heartfelt thank-you to my dear friend Charlotte, who kept my blog filled with beautiful pictures and thoughtful words while I was getting ready for Quilt Market. The Beatles were right - you can get by with a little (or a lot - in my case!) help from your friends.

And thank you to you, dear readers, for understanding my need to be absent from this space in order to spend any "extra" time I had focused on my boys. It's all a juggling act, and, for me at least, I just have to cross things off of my list and not look back. These boys are only little once.

Quilt Market Fall 2012

But the sewing gig? Not too bad. My Quilt Market right-of-passage complete, I can now reflect on the logistical nightmare of it with a touch of comedic hindsight. Oh my, I do hate logistics and  event planning. This I now know about myself. The late shipment of my booth? The "missing" 1x4 studs on one section of my booth wall? Golly, man. Once again, though, my "at-least-we're-not-in-the-hospital" mantra got me through just fine. Lack of logistical finesse in type B personalities is always made up for by a "whatever, it will all work out" attitude to snags in the road.

Enough of the getting there and back part, though. You probably want to know about what happened once the Sew Liberated booth was set up, right? Here it is!

Quilt Market Fall 2012

This was the fun part - the decorating! You can also see four of my five new patterns on display - the blue dress, the colorful quilt, the white apron, and the yellow top. I assure you that they do have more creative names than color descriptions! They're due out by January 1st. I'll certainly let you know more once we're closer to the release date. And check out my logo poster, c/o my neighbors at Spoonflower - did you know they now do custom printed wallpaper? This stuff is great, let me tell you. It worked superbly for my "kraft paper" logo, although I'll likely choose another design for a wall in my house ...

Quilt Market Fall 2012

Yep! It's true! Sew Liberated is taking sewing patterns into the next generation with free video tutorials for our newest garment patterns. You'll get to watch my amazing intern, Danica, sew up everthing from the first to the last step!

Quilt Market Fall 2012

Just after the booth prize committe showed up an awarded us with a 1st prize in the single booth category, I posed with the giganticus ribbon and the nifty plaque (that would find a home next to my trophy for the free throw tournament I won in 6th grade, if I still had it ...) But wow, I totally wasn't expecting this! There were so many other booths there that were utterly beautiful and I'm sure they deserve this prize more than I do.

Quilt Market Fall 2012

I can't go on, though, without mentioning Kim. Kim Ventura has been working at Sew Liberated for several years now, and I can most certainly say that, without her help, Quilt Market wouldn't have been possible. (And a lot of other things wouldn't have been possible either - see that quilt there? She's the genius behind the quilt.) Kim stepped up and, though we'd worked together for years, we'd never met in person. (She's in Ohio and has helped out with sample sewing and techical writing since she tested the Schoolhouse Tunic back in the day!) She got on a plane and flew to Houston, helped set up the booth, introduce Sew Liberated to fabric shop owners who we hadn't met before, and just kept me in such good spirits throughout the five days we were in Houston. Such a kind, thoughtful, creative person! (I'm bummed this picture didn't turn out great, but it makes me happy just looking at it - thank you, Kim!)

Quilt Market Fall 2012

Here I am with Christine Haynes, the easy going and fun sewing teacher, fellow Craftsy instructor and pattern designer! Christine works at Sew L.A. - a great sewing studio in Los Angeles.

Quilt Market Fall 2012

I met lots of very lovely people at Market, including mother-and-daughter team April and Anita, who own Sew To Speak in Columbus, OH. We had dinner with Rae, hobnobbed with fabric companies, and got to know many other amazing designers. I only with I had had more time to take more pictures of other booths! It's a real visual explosion, this Quilt Market thing. You leave with way more things on your "to-make" list than you had when you arrived.

I'm pleased to say that everything is now unpacked, my studio has been spiffed up for some actual sewing, and things are back to normal once again.

Well, if you count bringing home six baby chicks on Thursday as normal, that is!

my craftsy course is live!

surplice dress long

Surplice Empire Waist Dress, maxi variation, from Sewing with Knits

I love the juxtaposition here of maxi dress and curled hair next to unmatched boy stuffing sticks in his pocket!

You should feel comfortable in your clothing. It should make you proud of the full range of movement of your body, and it should make you feel beautiful. 

You can sew your own clothes that fit. You can sew your own stylishly understated clothes that make you feel confident. You can sew them easily and quickly. Like, two naptimes quick. It's empowering to be able to sew with those oh-so-comfortable knits. And I can teach you how!

All that to say that my Craftsy course, Sewing with Knits: Five Wardrobe Essentials is available now! If you purchase the class through the links on my site, you get 50% off. That's six patterns (there's a bonus skirt pattern thrown in for fun) and six hours of instruction for twenty dollars. Each pattern has a ton of variations, so you can seriously remake your casual wardrobe for the price of a little more than a typical indie pattern.

Plus, I designed the class for YOU. Yep. I thought of no one but my loyal blog readers when writing the outline and designing patterns. You've had lots questions about knits, and I hope I have addressed them in this course. It's almost like hanging out with me for six hours. Except that I do all the talking, which is not something I would normally do! The great thing is that you can take this class whenever you want, and your access to it never expires. Also, the Craftsy platform is wonderfully interactive, and you can send me your questions or comments and I'll respond within a day. You can also "meet" and interact with your fellow students, as well as share pictures of your finished knitwear!

Conquer your fear of knits and make some seriously stylish, wonderfully wearable clothes! Can't wait to see you over at my course!

P.S. Everything at my shop is 15% off through the end of the week! Enter code AugustNews2012 at checkout. That includes patterns, kits, and supplies. (I have a bunch of supplies, including the best baby jersey knit with spandex that I recommend in Sewing with Knits, available now.)