"summer"

5 Ways to Find Your Sewjo

Sewjo Cutting Table

Have you lost your sewjo?

So many people I know are feeling little to no desire to sew, let alone create. Whether it is personal circumstances (kids, parents, sickness, bills!), politics, drama, or simply the heat, sewing machines are sitting idle this summer. It is all totally normal. Yet I find so many folks feel the need to apologize for it, or worse, give up on sewing all together!

Remember people, this is a hobby. (Unless, of course you are an industry professional.) We are completely free to create or not create on our own time. Despite what our mothers or partners or kids might say, it isn't wasted space or time or even money if we don't sew for a little while. This isn't a gym membership where money is going down the drain when we don't go. The money's already been spent, so there is that. 

Maybe you go in an pet fabric? Or you scroll through Instagram, liking pictures of pretty quilts? Or you don't think about quilts at all as you lick that summer ice cream cone and wet your feet in a lake? It's all good.

Seriously, it doesn't matter. Sew or don't sew. You have your reasons.

Now all that being said, the last thing I want is people to give up on their creativity. If you are missing your sewjo and want to cultivate it or at least try and locate it, here are some helpful tips.

1. Turn off the phone and the news

Whether it is the state of the world or the feeling of inadequacy from social media, all they are doing is making you feel bad. It's totally okay to walk away from it for a bit. The world will keep spinning, posts will be posted, and the news isn't likely to change. Give yourself a break to create.

2. Create in response

Channel your feelings (anger, despair, or whatever) into a creation. It's okay to make an angry quilt. Embrace the process of doing so even more than the final project. Make a statement with your work, whatever that statement might be. (Great ideas here.)

3. Make something different

Try a different kind of creating. Whether that is pottery, painting, brush lettering, woodworking, garment making, or anything. Learning something new will get your neurons firing and your hands moving. 

4. Clean your sewing space

Or, at the very least, sort your scraps. Sometimes our spaces and the clutter overwhelms us. Usually the thought of cleaning is overwhelming too. Sorting your scraps  - I recommend the tips in Sunday Morning Quilts - does wonders for freeing up mental space. It can be very inspiring. Whether that inspiration takes you to your sewing machine or helps you find it remains to be seen.

5. Establish a habit of creative action

You know me, I love my Morning Make. Frankly, if I didn't have this habit - one I still consciously make - I wouldn't be sewing at all. Most days it is 15-20 minutes, some days I can get a whole hour. For me it is about committing to the dedicated time before anyone else demands my attention, like the kids or our business. It might be before bed for you, or at lunch, or post dog walk. Whatever works. The key to it is that creativity begets creativity. The creative act invites creativity. So if you are struggling, just get your butt in the seat and sew. Pick up an old project or sew scraps together mindlessly. You may not be interested in running a marathon right now, but it will be a lot easier to get back into training if you at least walk every day. 

Sorting Scraps Sewjo

Summer Play - Improvisational Piecing With Solids

Improv Piecing Solid Fabrics Cirrus Solids Robert Kaufman

A little bit of this, a little bit of that. We sew when we can.

The Improv triangle work started as a class sample. Then I liked it so much I kept playing. Still, I play. I set some parameters for the play. This is always a good thing to do, especially if you find Improv Piecing overwhelming. These are mine:

  • Two colour blocks, high contrast in value.
  • Only solids.
  • Fundamental construction revolves around the techniques I share in my Improv Triangles class.

I've invested in some more solids because my stash is minimal in that department. These are all a combination of Cloud 9 organic Cirrus Solids (so seriously dreamy) and Kona cottons. I work only 2 colours/1 block at a time. No rhyme or reason to my choices other than I think those two fabrics look fun together. 

Kids started summer vacation over the weekend. And we were going hard with activities until that Friday night. We are all totally pooped. The sum total of the sewing I've done (minus the quarter circles that got me on a tangent) in the last month is right there on my design wall. Hand sewing my Euroa quilt while still on pool decks and soccer pitches, and little Morning Make triangle bits slowly, ever so slowly adding up. Whether it is after dinner frisbee tossing or sewing triangles together, I'm having fun with this summer playtime.

Corn and Swiss Chard


There was a stirfry contest between myself, an elderly neighbour, and my three year old Evil Genius. I was losing. Taken down even in my dreams.

My stir fry was watery and being taken over by corn and swiss chard. A watery stir fry is unforgivable, but I won't apologize for the corn and swiss chard. It is a tremendous late summer/early fall confetti combination. Even if it meant that my kid beat me in a cooking contest.

The first time I made this it was with the first corn of the season because I wasn't sure the kids would be up to tackling corn on the cob. I've since been proven wrong, but this is also such a popular dish in the house that we've been having it at least once a week since the corn arrived. Technically, I've been having it twice because any leftovers serve as an excellent bed for poached eggs in the morning.

This has been an excellent dish to take advantage of our CSA chard, garlic, and herbs. When I combine it with some Noble Meadows goat feta and use Mighty Trio Organics Flax Oil instead of Olive Oil it makes a completely Alberta dish.

Corn, Swiss Chard, Feta, and Mint
Serves 4 as a side dish

3 cobs fresh corn (0r 1 cup frozen niblets)
1 bunch swiss chard
1/3 cup water
1 tbsp olive oil
1-2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 cup feta cheese
1 tbsp chopped fresh mint

Shuck the corn, being careful to remove the silks. Standing the corn straight up on a cutting board, slice off the kernels. Set aside.

Remove the center rib from the swiss chard. If they are thin or you chop them small, you can use them here. Otherwise, discard or set aside for another use. Roughly chop the leaves.

In a large frying pan with a lid toss the swiss chard with a generous pinch of salt and the water. Cook over medium heat for 5 minutes, covered. Uncover and add the corn. Toss well. Keep uncovered and cook for another 3-5 minutes until any remaining water is evaporated. Stir frequently. Add the oil and garlic and cook for 30 seconds.

Place in a serving dish and top with the feta and mint.

One Year

I can usually hear the footsteps the second the feet hit the ground. A tiny body sliding out of her giant bed, stepping around the dog sleeping on the floor, blankets and Tiger in hand. She sometimes opens the blinds, the creak of the roller a dead giveaway, just to make sure it's morning. Then she stomps down the hall. It sounds like stomping, even though she barely weighs 30 pounds. Her hand grasps the knob on the door to my room. A short turn and she peeks in. If she sees me awake she quickly pops in the room, slams the door behind her, props her crap on the bed, and climbs in.


She usually doesn't say a word. Not until she is settled and snuggled beside me. Her face is glowing with a morning smile and she practically purrs with delight. We lay like that for a what is probably only seconds. Then she pops her head up.


"Mama, can we bake today?"




*******


One year ago I marked my first day as a stay at home parent. My husband left for work, to return more or less almost 4 months later. I was thrust into the role of full-time parent with no regular paycheque. It was an initiation, almost hazing, that no college student would ever survive. 24 hours a day, alone, with my kids.


Being home with my kids was never a reality I imagined. I was going to either save the world or make a lot of money working hard. For a while I thought I could combine the two. Then these little creatures emerged, growing with me, and encouraging a sense of self I never knew was there. Our family changed and the needs of the whole outweighed my desire to save the world. Instead I needed to work on just saving us.


So, here I am. A year in. Much calmer now - most days - and still working on keeping us all sane. I've had to revise my own expectations about what can be achieved by the family and by me, in our time. I've also blown apart my own thoughts about the pleasure this would bring me and the peace it gives my husband. I still wonder what the hell I'm doing and I don't love it every day. But I like it. A lot.


In this past year I've developed a whole new relationship with the girls, worked to define this new thing with my husband, and searched for a balance to my own desires and goals. It's been HARD. And that's not counting the disappointments, struggles, grief, and disorder that the last year also brought.


And I wouldn't change a thing. As hard as this life is, it is better. Much, much better.


*******


Peach pie, lemon cupcakes, muffins, scones, cookies, bread... We're baking it all. Practically something new every day.


The Monster isn't as thrilled with being in the kitchen as she used to be. If there is the prospect of chocolate she will join us. Otherwise, The Evil Genius pulls up her bright orange chair, rifles through the cupboard for her apron, and says to me, "So, what should we bake today, Chef?"


With the Monster starting Kindergarten this morning I see even more baking in my future. That kid will have the best snacks in her heart covered backpack. Full of love and most likely chocolate.






Nectarine, White Chocolate and Cardamom Scones
(adapted from the basic English Cream Scone recipe in the original Five Roses Flour cookbook)
Makes 16-18 kid-size scones


1 nectarine, chopped into 1/2'' chunks
3 ounces white chocolate, roughly chopped
2 cups flour (you can mix whole wheat with regular, but don't go 100% whole wheat)
1 tbsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground cardamom
1/4 cup cold butter
2 eggs
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 tbsp sugar


Preheat oven to 450 degrees F. Line a cookie sheet with parchment or a silicon mat.


Make sure your nectarine and white chocolate are chopped. Set aside.


Combine the flour, baking powder, salt, and cardamom in a large bowl. Cut the butter into the flour. Frankly, we use our hands. 3 years olds are very, very good at this. You could also use a pastry cutter. Stir in the nectarine and white chocolate


Reserve 1 tbsp of egg whites in a small bowl, then beat the eggs with the cream. Add to the dry ingredients and mix well. The dough will be wet and sticky. Drop by heaping spoonfuls onto your prepared baking sheet. Leave 1'' between scones.


Brush the tops with reserved egg white and sprinkle with the sugar. Bake for 10-13 minutes until lightly golden.