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. 


a reintroduction



Hello, friends. It's been a long time. You know the fluttery nerves you feel when meeting face to face with an old high school friend after ten years of mere commenting on each other's Facebook posts? I wonder - will you notice that my stomach looks like a well-lived-in baby house? Will you sense, through my strained wit, that my sleep was disturbed at least four times last night by one or another of my sweet babies? Will you notice the rivulets of years of sorrow and immense joy etched onto the landscape of my forehead and cheeks?

That's how I feel now, writing something more substantial than a short Instagram blurb for the first time in nearly two years. I feel exposed. Raw. Real. Imperfect. Vulnerable. And that feels remarkably good.



For a long time, I was waiting for the perfect moment to return to blogging. I was waiting for my life to align to my values. I was waiting to heal. I was waiting until the sibling squabbles were few and far between, until I'd implemented the most nourishing self-care regimen. Until I started waking up at five in the morning to write in silence, before the baby needed to nurse. No wonder it has been so long since I'd visited this space. The perfect, of course, never arrives.

A beautiful thing is never perfect.



Perfectionism. I have an intimate rapport with it; from my own (often disappointing!) quest to be the perfect parent, to my embarrassingly self-centered drive to have my home looking well put-together when hosting guests. And then there's the obvious run-in with perfection – this whole blogging thing. I feel like I've intuitively avoided this space in the past few years because of it's link to my own perfection problem. The beautiful pictures, the brilliant and flawless kids' activity. The expectation that I have mastered this parenting thing. Let it be on the record: I have most definitely NOT mastered this parenting thing.

Despite my years of Montessori training, despite my experience in the classroom, despite surviving and sometimes thriving during Lachlan's three-month hospital stay a while back, despite practicing mindfulness both formally and informally, despite having learned innumerable “lessons,” I still wake up every morning and face what I used to call “imperfection.” Imperfection in my own will power, imperfection in my circumstances, and imperfection in my kids.


Here's the difference between then and now – I no longer call it imperfection. I call it Reality. Now I try, to the best of my ability, (which highly depends upon how much uninterrupted sleep I got the night before!) to see the moment and my reaction to it with new eyes – eyes which gaze upon it with compassion and humor, knowing that, when next they blink, the moment will have already changed.

The moment has changed. I am no longer just a sewing pattern designer. I am no longer an early childhood expert. I am simply a mother, a woman, on a life-long spiritual journey. I make things - sewn things, mostly - as a form of self-care. I take projects one seam at a time, and am always interrupted. I consider each interruption an invitation to be present with my children. Spurred on by my three beautifully imperfect kids, I am learning the art of mothering myself so I can mother them. I am finding out how to love myself unconditionally so I can pass on that love to them. It's time for a fresh start, so here I am, in a new space, honoring where I am now. If you feel called to journey along with me as friends, fellow mothers, and creative beings, I welcome you with all my heart.  

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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!


looking back on squam


It was so good it was almost surreal, like a sweet dream gently nudged into wakefulness by the rooster's crow. The dream was fluid, the conversations were lucid and uninterrupted by the needs of the small people, unencumbered by The List that always barks at me from the sidelines like an over-zealous basketball coach.

In the dream, I was surrounded by my people. Friends who understood my passions, my ideals, and my reality. The food - oh, the divine food - which was summoned forth with nothing less than a magic wand at each and every meal, and dishes which were spiffied up by the dish faeries that don't seem to live near my house - it was certainly a dream, wasn't it?

Yes. A dream for which I am very grateful to have experienced. I am so thankful that I have a partner who fully supported me in this time of creative renewal, and who, along with my parents, surrounded my boys with love and much fun during my absence. Patrick had even done all the laundry while I was gone. Some sort of superdad, right? Mind you, it did take me a day to clean up after all of their fun, but at least we all had clean clothes!


 I didn't realize until I returned home how very few photos I took while there. I was just enjoying myself and didn't think about documenting it. You can get a sense of the surroundings from Amanda. Here are just a few of the things that I made  - a spray that now resides in my herbal first aid kit, made under the tutelage of the gentle Holly Bellebuono, and Mama Acorn and Baby Sapling, made during my class with the spunky Phoebe Wahl


How I love Phoebe's work! I've saved all of her illustrations that have appeared in Taproot - you can see some in our studio in this photo. I purchased her kitchen print at the Squam Art Fair and promptly put it up in a frame in our kitchen when I returned home. Finn said to me that very evening,"Mama, I love looking at that picture. I love how the little girl is playing while her Mama is making her cookies."  To me, that means two things: first, Phoebe has succeeded in creating a piece of art that is warm and inviting for all ages, and second, that Finn wishes that I'd make more cookies for him. Noted.


I have a new crafting obsession - creating soft, posable figures around wire armatures. This doll is totally hand sewn and utterly spontaneous in her formation. She kind of emerged from my hands as her own little self, inspiring the kind of quizzical awe that mothers feel after birthing their child. "Oh, it's you who has been in there this whole time - I made you, but I didn't have a hand in any of these details. You turned out pretty darn cool regardless." 

I'm now equipped to make little animal soft sculptures, too. (Fingers crossed.) I'm thinking a mobile for baby girl might be nice. Finn has already put in his request for a dinosaur.


Here I am at home again. Awake, and enjoying it. Squam was a rejuvenating and inspirational dream come true.

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. 

february 18

February 16 Snow

February 16 Snow

February 16 Snow

February 16 Snow

February 16 Snow

The two boys from North Carolina got a full day of snowfall, enjoying it greatly in their throw-on-whatever-looks-warm-and-perhaps-waterproof, decidedly NOT New England snow outfits. Hot cocoa was imbibed. The wood stove was fired up for the first time this winter. Lots of board games were played, and I swear that my knees are scuffed from "playing cars" with Lachlan, pushing them all over the house. 

Today, some thanks, thoughts, and a few sew-y links:

  • I wanted to thank you for the toasty warm reception that you've given the new patterns. I'm so glad you love them! 
  • I'm so excited that Natalie Chanin is teaching a class with Craftsy: Hand-Embellishing Knit Fabric. I hesitated about .3 nanoseconds before signing up. Love her aesthetic, and sewing by hand is something I can do in between pushing matchbox cars around the floor.
  • Speaking of aesthetics, I loved Sarai's post about the spiritual practice of sewing
  • Amy Butler put together a little fashion show which showcases her newest line of fashion fabrics and my Mariposa Tee is featured starting at 3:45. Fun! 

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!

wrapping finn's book of words + ruby star wrapping

Ruby Star Wrapping

Though I don't think I've purchased a roll of wrapping paper (ever) in my adult life, it's not like I've made up for that by presenting gifts in beautifully-made, recycled wrapping. Until this very day, I have not been motivated (or had the time, last-minute gift-crafter that I am) to put any creative energy into gift presentation. Wrap gifts in the boys' silks? Yes. Use a old gift bag? Sure.

But I have had the intention to make my own set of fabric gift bags for a long time. Me + fabric + sewing are a good combo! Ruby Star Wrapping, by fabric-design maven Melody Miller and Allison Tannery and my friend April from Sew to Speak came together to make that happen. Sew to Speak is hosting a book tour for Ruby Star Wrapping, so be sure to enter the book/fabric/notions giveaway by leaving a comment on the Sew to Speak blog!

Ruby Star Wrapping

I am doing my very, very best to get a head start on the gift crafting this time around. I made this little book out of a recycled cracker box and some paper and crafted this right under Finn's nose - he has no idea that this little apple book is destined for his little hands (it's tiny - about four inches tall and 3 inches wide.) It will be his Book of Words - a place for me to write down random words that he'd like to know how to read.

Ruby Star Wrapping

Ruby Star Wrapping

Ruby Star Wrapping

The book was the perfect gift for the Little Snack Sack tutorial in Ruby Star Wrapping. Simple to sew up, and totally reusable as a sandwich or snack sack. I did make sure all my edges were properly finished so that this little sack will withstand the transition from gift wrapping to lunch basket gear, with all the washing cycles that go along with that.

Ruby Star Wrapping

Enter to win your own copy of Ruby Star Wrapping over at the Sew to Speak blog, and follow along with other tour participants below:

Monday, Nov. 26 - Sew To Speak blog. 
Tues, Nov. 27 - Mary Dugan of Molly Flanders
Wed. Nov. 28 - Meg McElwee of Sew Liberated
Thurs. Nov. 29 - Kara of Me and Elna
Fri. Nov. 30 - We will announce the first winner on the Sew To Speak blog
Sat. Dec. 1st - Amanda of Sasikirana Handmade
Sunday Dec. 2nd - April Rhodes 
Monday Dec. 3rd - Sew To Speak 
Tues. Dec. 4th - Made by Rae
Wed. Dec 5 - Ericka of Low Beam Studios

Thurs. Dec. 6 - Emily of The Boy Trifecta

Friday  Dec. 7 - and finally the second winner announced on Sew To Speak blog!