kids

Stowe Bag - for my Ballet Boy

Stowe Bag Grainline Studios

There is a Ballet Boy in my house. I often describe the same boy as awake or asleep. He’s never had grumpy, only happy or miserable. And he is almost never quiet if he is awake. A natural extrovert he loves to entertain and relishes a spotlight. He is almost perfect, but more than a little exhausting some days. So I was pleasantly surprised (and full of Mama pride) when my girls said they wanted to make him a bag for his ballet stuff as a Christmas present.

I picked the pattern - easy enough for them to sew but practical. The Stowe Bag from Grainline Studios is technically designed as a project bag, more for knitters. But it is just the right size for my Ballet Boy. And seemed to be an easy sew for the girls - with my supervision. They picked the fabrics. It was hard, I will admit, to let go of the green Marimekko but fabric has more value in use than on a shelf.

Granline Studios Stowe Bag

We made the bag in two sessions. I cut the fabric and they got everything prepped and the basics sewn. Then we finished off with the bias tape the next day. It was miraculously done in time for Christmas morning.

As expected the appreciation of the bag was lost on Christmas morning in the face of a Connor McDavid jersey and new Lego. But it’s been in steady use ever since. He takes it to each practice, it carrried his uniform to a gala event where he had a major solo, and it remains perfect in every way. Just like him.

The Blue Gala
Hattori Williamson Ballet

An aside: I could not recommend his ballet school any more highly. He is getting amazing opportunities, the families are wonderful, and his teachers - all former professionals - are incredible and kind.

Pattern notes:

We made the small size.

Pockets ended up being pointless. We did change the seaming to make more sense for things like holding his glasses case and slippers, but they just flop open. Would skip those next time.

We skipped steps 13 and 14 of the pattern because I mistakenly thought that was the bottom gusset creation which we determined we didn’t need. I might go back and do those steps.

Our bias tape is bigger than the pattern specifies. We were on a deadline and this one was in the stash, already made.

What My Son Taught Me About Letting Go and Quiltmaking

Quilting With Kids

Here lies a very proud boy.

At some point last year my son asked me to teach him how to hand sew. We started with a basic running stitch and scraps in his favourite colour. Moments at a time - the attention span of a normal 4 year old boy - we stitched some triangles on squares and sewed them together. Then they sat. And sat. Then one day in the winter he asked to sew more. 

What ended up happening is he placed his one block on the design wall and started pulling scraps. He played and played and played. I loved watching it come to life one piece of fabric at a time. The next day it would change and again the day after that. In all honesty I thought it would stop there.

Boy, was I wrong.

Tips for Sewing With Kids

Soon he started pushing for us to turn those scraps on the wall into a quilt. Hmm... now how exactly was I going to do that? He was quite adamant that it literally be what he laid out. I thought about doing some planned improv - using his fabric and sizes but puzzling it together to make it a solid piece, a quilt top. Well, that, and some applique.

He shot me down. The boy knows nothing about quilting other than watching me but he knew exactly what he wanted. So we picked a background fabric and carefully, with his sisters' help, he transferred the design to the background fabric. Then he glued each piece down. Just so.

This is where I had to take some deep breaths. But, but, but... He picked a busy background fabric and it could be seen through some pieces... He didn't cut selvages off... All those raw edges... those unicorns are upside down...

You see, when I am teaching a new person - child or adult - I am a firm believer in basic, solid technique. Good 1/4'' seam allowances, pressing, colour work, squaring up. It's what I've done with teaching my own kids all along. Know the basics then riff all you want. But here was this boy completely making up his own process, his own rules. 

I thought about the articles you read where kids remember being told they aren't creative and they stop making art. About adults coming back to art after feeling shunned due to rule breaking. I thought about those things and didn't want to do that to my boy. I had to let go of constrictions and rules and supposed-to-dos. I had to embrace the way he saw the quilt and the process.

So I followed his instructions to the letter, even when they made me cringe a little as a quilter. Better to make a 'not proper' quilt than kill the spirit of a child. That made me feel better as a mother. When it came to finishing he made all the decisions - backing, thread colour, even the quilting pattern, and binding. He has the label even designed, but that's waiting for a picture with him and Daddy and the dog. 

Tag Fabric and Sewing With Kids, Quilts

We will make no mention of the fact that the quilt is effectively a baby sized quilt. He thinks it is perfect for Daddy. And so it is, son, so it is.