Thankful for You, Mom

There are so many things we take for granted. The sun in the sky, the air we breathe, the seasons. Our breath, our health, the people we love. But if there is one thing this year has taught me, it is this: We can’t–and shouldn’t–take anything for granted. Not clean air, not the reliability of seasons, not good health, and certainly not those we care about. We must stop for a moment, notice–and appreciate–every little thing we have. Because we are so lucky to have it, and because it’s not guaranteed to last. Noticing and appreciating. The little things. The present, the moment. The people. This is what life is about.

Today, with Thanksgiving approaching, I want to pause and truly GIVE THANKS. Because although this has been a challenging year, there is still so much to be grateful for. 

We take a lot for granted, things and people. But there’s no one we take for granted more than our mothers. Like the sun and the moon, and the way the world just is, our mothers are always there.

I am grateful for many things today, but want to give some extra special thanks to the one person who gave me life, and from then on always had my back: my Mom.

**********

Ima,

Thank you for caring for me all those years. Thanks for the sacrifices you made, for the tea parties, synonym games, and all the dreams you composed. Thanks for the countless meals you cooked, when you felt like it and when you didn’t. I took them for granted then, but now, when I have to feed my own children, I see them for what they truly were: repeated expressions of love. Thanks for coming to school bringing the sandwiches I forgot, for your help with homework, for your solid support. Thank you for always dressing my physical wounds and hurt feelings. You spent hundreds of hours typing my high school thesis, all 130 pages of it (not including the bibliography), on a typewriter, in those dark, bygone days before computers. No one else would have done that for me. 

You helped as much as you could in every way you could when time came for me to fly out of the nest, even though my flight eventually took me further than either of us had ever expected, and even though it must have been so, so painful. I am grateful you went out of your comfort zone to come backpacking with me in China. And thankful also that you travelled thousands of miles, over and over, to be present at all the important events of my life. Thanks, too, for loving my children, deeply and passionately, and for being such a wonderful grandma.

You are the smartest, wisest, most empathetic person I know. Beautiful inside and out. Thank you for teaching me what it means to stand up for what is right, and for what you believe in. Thanks for being my best friend. Thanks for showing me, though a personal example, what a strong woman looks like. What it means to be a good human being and a good mother. Because of you, when my kids arrived, no instructions or manuals attached, I knew what to do, sort of. I’ve been trying to be as good a mother to them as you are to me. Thanks for being there for all the important milestones, for all the big and small moments. I am grateful for all the adventures we had together, and for all those we will still have.

Throughout the storms of my life, you were a rock and a lighthouse. You always show me the way to what is right.

Love you to the end of the universe and back,

Zwia.

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Who are you thankful for today? If you haven’t done so yet, perhaps you should reach out to tell them. The last few months have been challenging for everyone, so I’m sure they will appreciate your gesture.

If this makes it a bit easier for you, I made a downloadable version of the card I made for my mom that you can personalize. Clicking on the link below will download the image directly into your “Downloads” file:

Download here

Once you download it, you can personalize it:

1) By inserting a picture of your own on the blank rectangle electronically, using your favorite picture-editing program, and then printing it out.

Or:

2) Simply print it out and physically glue your own picture on top.  

Then give or mail it to whoever you want, and pass the love on 🙂

Happy Thanksgiving!

Artsy Zipper Pouches Galore

Who would have thought that a week of jury-duty waiting would turn out to be the beginning of a month-long creative adventure?

At the end of last year I was called for jury duty. I checked my status online twice a day, knowing I could be called to court at any moment. I couldn’t make any plans, but had to keep my mind and hands busy. So I started working on small, non-committal stitch meditations. I made three, and on Friday, the very last day, was ready to start the fourth. But then something strange happened.

I looked over the small piles of scraps I had arranged by color on my cutting table. I tried to decide which color pallet to choose for the next textile sketch. My eyes kept going to the fuchsia/purple pile (you might know by now that purple is my favorite color).

When I started selecting pieces, though, I realized that I had a little rebellion on my hands. The magenta scraps simply didn’t want to become a 5-inch-square textile collage. Instead, they insisted on becoming an artsy zippered pouch.

There really wasn’t much I could do.

I just happened to have a long strip of very thin, white cotton fabric that I didn’t know what to do with. Hannah gave it to me when I volunteered at FabMo several weeks before. I took it out and cut a piece, then divided it in two and started playing.

I selected a perfect zipper from my collection.

And found a matching, luxurious-feeling lining in my stacks:

It took a few hours, but by the end of the work day I had a wonderful little clutch:

I loved everything about it! A tactile bonanza, it combined lots of different textures in beautifully-matching colors. It was fun to touch and to hold, and so I adopted it for myself.

Once it was complete, I couldn’t help but see those scraps on my table in an entirely new light! Soon, that little pouch became the beginning of a new series, followed by more textile collages:

I sewed each with three different colors of thread, to blend the color of the different pieces together and add some visual interest:

I matched them with the most beautiful linings I could find, some cotton brocades, some silk:

When I finished them, I made custom zipper pulls out of my selection of wooden beads. These added even more color and zest:

Over the following month, I made twenty eight scrap collages, which turned into fourteen artsy zipper pouches.

They were the ultimate autumn sewing.

They were delightful.

And they made perfect holiday gifts for some of the special women in my life!

Want to make your own artsy pouch? I have a detailed tutorial in my Etsy shop! Don’t feel like matching fabrics yourself? I’ve got you covered with a ready-to-sew Textile Collage Zipper Kit!

When you sew your own, make sure to show me pictures 🙂

Calendar Quilt Series: My Autumn Mini Quilts

Earlier this week I finished the September mini quilt. This quilt sealed not only the sub-group of my autumn mini quilts, which I started last year, but also the entire twelve-months Calendar Quilt Series. Finishing this quilt was a bitter-sweet moment. I was happy to complete this year-long project, and was also proud of myself for sticking with it despite life’s hurdles. But, on the other hand, I was also sad to see it over–as you might know, this past year was personally challenging. At times, the Calendar Quilts were the only creative thing I was able to do, and they were a much-needed outlet. Now that they are complete, I feel a little lost…

My Autumn Mini Quilts: Influenced by the Colors and Flavors of Fall

“Change,” My September Quilt

There is a large maple tree right outside my sewing room window. It keeps me company while I work, alone and in silence. The changes it foregoes throughout the year remind me of what season it is, and helps shape my moods and my work. A few years ago it prompted me to make one of my earliest art quilts, “Falling Leaves.” It keeps inspiring on an ongoing basis.

The tree was bright and green throughout spring and summer. Now, with the nights turning cold, it is starting to change. Patches of red and yellow are creeping into the green, hinting at the change in the air, and of future changes to come.

I fashioned my September quilt after this tree, and called it “Change.” Life in general changes in September, together with the temperature: the summer ends, school begins, routines change course…

“Fall,” My October Quilt

Fall is probably my favorite season. I love the cooler days, the cozy cocooning, the warm colors all around. I love turning trees, pumpkin patches and squash soups. Autumn is also the only season when I can shut myself in my sewing room mostly uninterrupted.

No wonder I started this series with October, and called that quilt “Fall.”

“Spices,” My November Quilt

Many years ago I came to the US as a graduate student. Over my first Thanksgiving here, when most of my colleagues went home, I stayed in a mostly-empty dorm on campus. My graduate adviser, one of the kindest professors I have ever met, invited me and a few of the other foreign grad student to celebrate Thanksgiving at his house. I didn’t know much about Thanksgiving then, but it immediately became associated in my mind with a warm home, nice company and FOOD. Since then, Thanksgiving has become one of my favorite holidays. It’s a time to pause, be grateful for everything we usually take for granted, enjoy the company of family and friends, and yes, feast on on lots of comforting food!

My family loves Thanksgiving and the traditions we built around it. We love the special group of friends that comes year after year, the festive table set up, sitting together around the fireplace. The kids also love the food. And every year, come Thanksgiving, I’m thinking of my professor and remembering his long-ago kindness.

My November quilt is therefore composed of the colors and flavors of Thanksgiving foods. I called it “Spices.” I hope it also conveys the warmth of a cozy house on a cold day, of good friends spending time together, and of grateful people gathering around a fireplace.

Sadly, I completed this quilt a few short weeks before my graduate adviser passed away, a few short months before my own father did the same…

Twelve quilts, one short year, yet a completely different world, my life transformed. I think “Change” is an appropriate name for the last quilt in this series, for more reasons than one.

If you like any of these quilts and want to add some warmth to your own adobe, prints are available in my store.

News from My Sewing Room: Getting Ready for Holiday Fair Season

I noticed that since I shared my Dare! quilt several weeks ago, I haven’t written anything about my work. Truth be told, I haven’t been as productive as I would have liked. The Market and Renaissance Totes I cut out in the spring are still patiently waiting to be sewn. We had a rough summer, and somehow I found getting back into routine a little harder than usual. In addition, I’ve been suffering from bouts of back pain that really pulled me down for several weeks. When I did get myself into the sewing room, I had so many ideas all at once, that I often didn’t know where to start. I spent a lot of time staring at fabrics. When I finally began one thing, I often left it unfinished, and then, the next day, started something new. As you might imagine, it didn’t take long for my sewing room to get messy again, with piles of unfinished projects all over…

Somehow time flew by, and, sooner than I expected, Holiday Fair Season is upon us. My first fair for the season is only a little over a week away. So in the past couple of weeks I forced myself to sit down and finish some of those unfinished projects. Here is a peek at some of the the things I managed to complete:

Butterflies

If you read the post about my above-mentioned moths quilt, you might remember that it took a few tries to perfect the butterfly. Those practice butterflies weren’t exactly what I needed for the actual quilt, but they turned out quite nice nonetheless. I wanted to use then for something, and eventually decided to frame them. Here is one:

After the Dare! quilt was finished, I remained a little obsessed with butterflies. I found them fun to make, and wanted to try some in happy colors. And so, I sewed a few more in blues and purples, and added some colorful wooden beads to brighten them up. I had a little pile of them sitting around, and couldn’t quite decide what to do with them. This week I bought a few barrette pins, and glued them to their back. The result: bright and cheery textile hair pins!

Necklaces

Last year I made a textile necklace for myself. So many people asked me about it, that I decided to make a few more. I made three a few months ago, but over the last few weeks played with several more. I’ve been experimenting with different combinations of fabrics and beads, and created several statement pieces.

So far, I’ve been working on two kinds of necklaces. Here are some of my tassel ones:

And here is an example of a pedant necklace, which is a miniature collages/quilt:

Handbags

The butterflies and necklaces got me into fabric-and-bead-combining mode. I thought it’ll be fun to try doing this with purses as well. So over the last few weeks I’ve been playing with fabric collages that incorporate some beads as well. These resulted in several asymmetrical, funky small cross body bags, that I like very much:

Fall Inspired

Finally, the cooling days and the turning trees inspired me to make some textile fall leaves. I made these of a combination of smooth silk and rough upholstery textiles, with a few glass beads for an extra pop. I think they, too, will end up as statement barrettes:

If you’re in the Bay Area, come see everything in person at the FabMo Textile Art Boutique on October 29!

Falling Leaves Art Quilt

Over the last few weeks I’ve spent every free moment in my sewing room, laboring over my Renaissance Totes. I really wanted to get them finished in time for the German Holiday Market (tomorrow!), and did my utmost to make that happen. However, I couldn’t help but start another project on the side. I never thought I’ll manage to complete that, as well, but miraculously I did!

ANY Texture Falling Leaves art quilt

This all started when, around Thanksgiving, my workroom started to feel like a golden cathedral. The culprit was our maple tree, which remained persistently green until a day or two before Turkey Day, whence upon it metamorphosed seemingly overnight to its most glamorous state.

Being right outside my studio’s window, the tree overwhelmed the room, filling its windows and door with breath-taking reds and yellows, and shining golden light onto everything. My quiet sewing moments thus turned into a truly spiritual, almost meditative experience. In the presence of this awe-inspiring natural beauty I felt like the most lucky person on earth.

The maple tree outside my studio window

My maple tree in full glory

Beautiful fall leaves

Despite being engrossed with my new tote series, I felt compelled to do something with those leaves. And so, encouraged by my “Give a Hand” quilt, I started working on a smaller, “Falling Leaves” wall hanging. Since it required many relatively-short steps, I was able to work on it on the days the kids were on vacation, and in the short intervals in-between cooking and house chores. I also pulled a few late nights this past week, with the crafts fair looming near…

First, I started by selecting an array of fall-colored fabrics, onto which backs I ironed applique double-sided interfacing. I then drew leaves on the paper side, including some maple leaves but also interesting-looking leaves from other kinds of trees:

Getting ready to cut a leaf for applique

Then I cut them all out:

Cut red maple leaf

I deliberately chose different-textured fabrics, as that is the most exciting aspect, for me, of working with upholstery fabrics versus the more traditional quilting cottons. By incorporating this golden silk, for example, I think I managed to convey some of the radiant light that illuminates from real fall leaves:

Cut maple leaf on gold fabric

I arranged the composition, and ironed the leaves onto the background, fusing the pieces together:

Fusing fall leaves onto quilt

Now the piece was ready for the labor-intensive hand-stitching stage. I started with appliqueing around the leaves. When I worked on my Hand Quilt I used only a blanket stitch. This time I decided to use several kinds of stitches, to make the work a bit more interesting. I still used blanket stitch on some of the leaves:

Appliqueing fall leaves onto quilt

But I also incorporated other stitches, such as this chain stitch:

Appliqueing fall leaves onto quilt

You will notice that I learned a lesson from my previous experience, and used thimbles right from the start on this one! Upholstery fabrics are really hard to stitch through… Despite my precautions, however, I still got a blister on my thumb…

When all the leaves were appliqued to the background, I went on to embroider their veins:

Appliqueing fall leaves onto quilt

Then, as in any quilt, I sandwiched the three layers together: top, batting and back.

Falling Leaves art quilt sandwiched for quilting

And went on to quilt them all together, using big, noticeable stitches, Japanese boro style:

Quilting my Falling Leaves art quilt

I played with the colors of the thread as well as with the direction of the stitches to give the piece added interest. Here is a detail:

Falling Leaves art quilt details

And the whole piece quilted:

Finished Falling Leaves art quilt

The big stitches gave the background a crinkly look that I really like. It somehow reminds me of the bark of a tree, or of a forest floor.

Autumn Sewing: My New Fall Handbag Collection

The official beginning of fall came and went amidst mid-summer temperatures. True, some shifts were already in the air, like the subtle yellowing of light or the gradual lengthening of shadows. But the weather still called for shorts and tank tops, and the large majority of trees remained stubbornly green.

To me, fall begins on the day in which I find myself looking for my slippers–a furry, chunky pair in light pink, which I would never have picked for myself (light pink being among my least-favorite colors). I inherited them from my younger daughter a year ago, after we realized that–YIKES!!–her feet had outgrown mine. Color notwithstanding, my slippers are pure softness and warmness and feet-happiness, the best possible companions for cold winter days. I found myself desperately looking for them (and for a jacket!) earlier this week, when early-morning temperatures suddenly plummeted. Fall, it seems, has finally arrived in California.

It is true that whimsical temperatures keep the trees confused. While the mornings and evenings are getting noticeably cold, mid-day temperatures fluctuate drastically. The forecast for today, for example, is 85 degrees, with tomorrow being even warmer. Only a handful of leaves on my backyard Maple tree show early signs of turning. All the other trees are still clinging to their summer attire.

But I already went into full-blown autumn-mode, complete with pumpkin-pie cravings, gourd decorating, and–how not?–fall-color sewing! Earlier this week I happily dug into my fabric piles, picking autumn-feeling pieces and drowning myself in a jumble of deep maroons, wine-reds, mustard yellows and browns, all in rich, delicious textures. I spent a couple of fun days matching different pieces together, and playing around with various combinations. Finally, I settled on the following six, my upcoming fall collection:

Warm, autumn-colored textiles

Autumn-colored textiles

Warm, autumn-colored fabrics

Fall-colored upholstery fabrics

More autumn-colored textiles

Fall-colored fabrics

I proceeded to cut the fabrics for all six fall purses, linings and pockets included. My hope is to complete all six by the end of next week, in time for my October 22 crafts fair. Yesterday, after looking at my planner and realizing how little time I have left, I decided to skip exercise and spent the entire day sewing instead. The result: my first two autumn bags, still awaiting their straps (which I plan to attach after all six are sewn):

Any Texture Fall collection handbags. upholstery textile purses