A New Year in My Studio: Trying to Finish Partially-sewn Projects

I’m not quite done writing about my trip to Peru, but I thought I’ll take a break from that to tell you a little about what I’ve been up to in my sewing room.

Transitions are always hard for me. It usually takes me a while to get back into a routine after going on a trip. Especially a trip as exciting as the one I took this winter. So after coming home from the Andes in early January, I warmed up my sewing muscles by making a few new toiletry bags. Zip pouches are relatively simple to make, and are a quicker sew than my more complicated bags. They were a great project for getting my creative juices flowing!

This time I decided to experiment with using foamed-filled fabrics for some of the bottoms. I love the result, as the foam gives the bags a nice shape in addition to fun textures!

Since valentine’s Day is approaching, I then went on to make new original fabric heart-cards. These are always fun to create. This year I made them in three different colors: red, blue, and my favorite purple!

Here are the red ones:

The fabrics I used for the cards inspired me to make a wall hanging, too:

When this fun part was over, I was ready to tackle some less-pleasant tasks. Over the past couple of years, you see, I accumulated big piles of partly-finished projects. These are now taking up a lot of space in my small, messy sewing room. They make moving around hard, and concentrating even harder.

I began working on these projects at various times, and didn’t finish them either because guests arrived before I got to it (my sewing room is also our guest room), or because we went on vacation, and I never got back to them upon return. I usually have so many ideas for new things I want to make, that unless I finish something right away, I never do…

But a new year just started, and I thought that this was a good reason to try and finish these partially-finished things. In the past, I started the year by cleaning up my sewing room, but this time I can’t do that unless I move the unfinished piles into the finished-work bins…

I started with a couple of messenger bags and a tote. The bag on the upper left is my very own long-awaited-for summer purse:

I still have a few more messenger bags to finish, as well as market totes and my absolute-favorite Renaissance Totes. There is also an eclipse-inspired art quilt that I started last year, and a twin-size bed quilt for my daughter that has been waiting, sandwiched and ready to quilt, for at least four years (!!!).

I guess I have my work cut out for me for the next few months… It’s hard to keep disciplined, because a million-and-one new ideas are calling. But I will do my best to keep on course. Wish me luck!

 

Getting Into Spring Mode: A Visit to Filoli Gardens

I love to travel near and far to explore beautiful places. Every now and then, however, I am surprised to discover new gems right in my back yard. This happened last week, when a friend took me to one of her favorite places: Filoli Gardens in Woodside. I lived around here nearly half my life, yet did not even know about this place. Once there, I couldn’t believe I had never visited before.

Filoli Gardens

Filoli was the country estate of a wealthy San Francisco gold-mine owner. He purchased the land shortly after the big 1906 earthquake, when many rich people chose to leave the city. The construction of his mansion began in 1915, but the development of its gardens took a few more decades. A subsequent owner continued expanding the gardens, bringing them to what they are today. That second owner donated the estate to the public in the 1970’s. Consequently, it is now open for all to enjoy. Telling by the crowds, it seems that a lot of people do, indeed, enjoy it.

When I visited last week, the gardens were full of tulips in all colors and shapes, giving it the feel of a spring wonderland:

Percy, the vain resident peacock, was an added bonus:

Peacock at Filoli Gardens

The combined effect of colorful gardens, grand house and peacock was truly breathtaking. Admittedly, seeing these meticulous gardens made me feel somewhat self-conscious about my own garden. I had to remind myself that this site is maintained by a large paid team of gardeners together with hundreds of volunteers, whereas I try to fight the weeds all on my own…

My friend and I spent a lovely morning in Filoli. We marveled at the various gardens (in addition to the tulips there are also a camillia garden, a rose garden and a fruit-tree garden). We enjoyed the beautiful weather, had lunch at the cafe, and checked out the gift shop.

Me at Filoli Gardens

All that fresh air, combined with the lively blossoms, put me in spring mode. Energized, I wanted to run right back to my sewing room. Hence, the resulting greeting cards are probably  just the beginning of my spring sewing:

ANYTexture purple tulips card, fabric greeting card ANYTexture pink flower card, fabric greeting card

If you’d like to see the estate and enjoy its flowers, too, you can start planning your visit here.

The Scrap Project: Greeting Cards

I’m sure you are all familiar with one of my favorite children’s stories, the one about Joseph’s overcoat. Versions of this story, based on an old folk tale, have been written into many books, such as Phoebe Gilman’s Something from Nothing, or Simms Tabak’s Joseph Had a Little Overcoat. The story is about an item (a coat, a blanket or something else, depending on the version) that Joseph’s grandfather, a tailor, sewes for him. The boy outgrows/tears it, and so the grandfather keeps transforming it into smaller and smaller objects. In the end, the last one is lost and a story is written in its stead, hence the making of “something out of nothing.”

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The Neglected Art of Self Love: Remember to Take Care of Yourself!

It’s that time of year again, with Valentine’s Day just around the corner. If you are like me, and I think many of us in today’s fast-paced world are, you are probably overwhelmingly busy, running around all day long doing things for other people. Amidst the craziness of tending to others’ needs, we often forget to take care of ourselves.

To make things worse, nowadays, in addition to the everyday stress many of us normally live with, there are the added tensions brought about by a precarious world. My anxiety level shoots up when I open the newspaper in the morning, and every time I listen to the news. Judging by the increasing number of newspaper articles about self-soothing and relaxation, I’ll make a wild bet that I’m not the only one who feels this way.

So, with the Holiday of Love upon us, I wanted to re-state the obvious and remind everyone that loving others has to start with loving oneself. Safety regulations on airplanes stress that you should put an oxygen mask on yourself before tending to other people. The same goes for Tikkun O’lam, Hebrew for “Fixing the World.” There is great want all about us, as well as much that requires mending in the world. But in order to meet those needs and do the fixing, we all must practice the art of self love first.

There are as many methods of self-caring as there are individuals, but here I will note only the most basic, obvious ones, which also happen to be the things that work for me. You might be practicing some or all already, which is great. But if not, perhaps you’d like to consider trying some. Who knows, these might help you, too:

  1. Get enough sleep. I know too many people who don’t have time to sleep and who are constantly sleep-deprived. These people might get more done in the short run, but in the long run they will end up paying a heavy toll. We need sleep, and when we don’t get enough of it we simply don’t function well. Sleep enough and you will be a lot more efficient when awake. You will also see improvements in your mood, health, and general well-being.

  1. Eat well. We keep hearing this over and over, to the point of rolling our eyes when hearing it once more. Yet, I have intelligent, educated friends who still skip meals to save time. Healthy eating, just like sleep, is a basic human need. You all know the drill: food should be nutritious, fresh, colorful, balanced, minimally-processed and organic when possible. You might save a few minutes by skipping a meal, but the long-term damages will be a lot costlier.
  1. Exercise. That’s a hard one, I admit, for it requires a lot of self discipline, at least for some of us. It’s easy to forgo exercise, but study after study proves just how important it is to keep moving. Exercise improves everything from mood to weight to health to life span. Make sure to find time to move, at least a few times a week. And if you have time constraints, research shows that even a one-minute-a-day intense workout can improve fitness.
  1. Pause. Take a few moments each day to stop running about and just be with yourself and relax. Sip a cup of coffee. Stare out the window. Breath. Clear your mind for a few still moments.
  1. Be mindful. David Gelles wrote an entire series of mindfulness articles in the New York Times lately. What he is trying to say, I think, is that we should all take the time to be present in the here and now, concentrate on what we are doing (rather than on what we did, what we should have done, what we will do next, or what we should be doing next), and simply, genuinely live the moment. If you think about it, the present is all we really have, and is the only thing we can actually control. The past is over, and despite our constant, long and elaborate plans for the future, no one really knows what the day will bring.
  1. Spend time with people you care about. Humans evolved to be social creatures. Spending time with others does wonders to our well-being, improves health and even makes us live longer. Find time to hang out with your family. Make a conscious effort to meet a friend. This, after all, is what life is all about.
  1. Hug. Yes, you read that right. Give and get a hug every day, the more the better! There is clear data that proves that touching other people is good for you. Necessary even. And if you can’t find anyone to hug, cuddling with a pet is the next best thing.

Hope handmade fabric card

  1. Smile. The simple act of smiling, it turns out, has many benefits. It reduces stress, improves mood and makes you more productive, to name some. It is, in fact, so beneficial, that even fake smiling helps! And if you smile at a stranger, you get the added bonus of bringing a ray of sunshine into someone else’s day. If that’s not a small step towards fixing the world, what is?
  1. Spend time in nature. Being outdoors, exposed to the sun and around plants has numerous gains. It definitely soothes the soul, so carve a piece of your day to be outside. This includes gardening, walking, hiking, or any other outdoors activity. Even just sitting outside exposes you to sunlight, which will do wonders to your mood.

And finally, if things get really bad,

  1. Disconnect! It’s OK to take time off from news or social media if that is what will save your sanity. Turn off the TV. Put the newspaper away. Don’t browse social media. Give yourself the permission and time to heal and recuperate.

Always remember that self care is important! And whatever you do, never lose hope! There is much goodness in you, in the people around you and in the world. So when things get overwhelming, think positive and keep on hoping! Happy Valentine’s Day, everyone!

Hope handmade textile card