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Slow Fashion on my Mind & 2017 Slow Stitching Retreat Reflections

I’ve replaced my old laptop and I’m excited to have an opportunity to share once again in this space. With so many post ideas and projects underway, I’ll do my best to share my highlights from the past few weeks! Thank you for your patience as I find my blogging stride once again. xoxo

slow fashion on my mind garment sewing
Fabrics shown are a selection by Sharon Holland for Art Gallery Fabrics, and a print by Carolyn Friedlander paired with a Kona solid, all by Robert Kaufman Fabrics.

Slow Fashion has been on my mind for the past few months, or more accurately, at least the past year. I even bought a simple tank top pattern that was suggested for first time garment sewists, and have the fabric I need to make at least three. But the apprehension that stands in my way is still strong. While making 20 minutes of quilting or embroidery progress seems reasonable, 20 minutes doesn’t feel like sufficient time to let my brain wrap around the concept of garment sewing enough to dive in.

alabama chanin stitch bookMy dear dear friend Stephanie from Late Night Quilter even surprised me with an Alabama Chanin stitching book about a month ago! It’s meant to be, truly.

When I heard that Sam from A Gathering of Stitches was organizing a Slow Fashion Retreat as well as a Slow Stitching Retreat this year, I knew this was my chance. I arranged childcare thanks to the team efforts of my parents and in-laws, registered, happily agreed to teach yoga during the retreat once again, and here we are only a couple short weeks away from retreat time! I’m hoping to have a wonderfully blissfully relaxing week, knock my fear of garment sewing out of the park, mend some of my holey jeans, and play with natural dyeing! All this on the coast of Maine amidst some of the best company there is. Yes, can you tell I’m excited? If you’re feeling spontaneous, a little bird tells me there are still a few spaces available for the retreat–join me if you so desire!

In reflecting on my experience at last year’s Slow Stitching retreat and getting excited about this year’s retreat, I realized that I never did post my reflection on last year. I wrote nearly all of it, but was waiting to get it *just perfect* before posting, as well as possibly waiting to finish a couple of the projects I began on the retreat, and well… neither of those things happened. In the spirit of retreat reflections, I thought I’d share my reactions now, nearly a year later. Stitching retreats are an experience unlike any other, and rereading my reflections transports me back to the blissfully sun-filled porch, rocking and stitching and enjoying the company of like-minded makers.

*Note: the following was written a year ago, shortly upon returning from the Slow Stitching Retreat at Medomak in August of 2016*


slow stitching retreat a gathering of stitches medomak maineThere’s something amazing about the retreat format, where a group of likeminded strangers gathers in a quiet and often intimate setting, spending hours upon hours together in the spirit of learning, relaxing, and reconnecting with self and spirit. The people and the deep and kindred bond I feel with them at the end of such a relatively short time is always what strikes me most upon returning home from a retreat. Here was this group of nearly complete strangers four short days prior, yet tears flow and hugs abound when it’s time to part ways again and head back into our own individual corners of the game called life. It’s a tiny peek at the innate goodness, compassion, and human connection we all share, yet that is often hidden by the bustle and drama of life during our normal day to day existence. That fiber of human connection is truly beautiful, and I’m grateful to have been a part of it.

slow stitching retreat a gathering of stitches maineSo many things stand out to me about the Slow Stitching Retreat that quietly happened at Medomak Retreat Center in the woods of Washington, Maine, a couple weeks ago. Yes, the people. The new friends, the realization that even the most talented, well-known and revered makers are real people, just like you and me. And that they can be wicked silly and fun to hang out with! The surprising connections and moments of clear understanding that happen in spontaneous conversations over stitching or wine. We came from all over the country, and reflected all sorts of characters. Some quiet, some not so quiet. Some names widely known, some not. All creative. All open. All building and creating and supporting each other. All of us, human. I’m so grateful to Sam for bringing us all together.

The learning and stitching was also really fabulous, so before I get too deep into a philosophical reflection on the human condition and how hand stitching and quilting helps build positive connections, I’ll jump into the more physical aspects of the retreat–slow stitching!

alison glass slow stitching retreat a gathering of stitchesOn the first day, I immersed myself in the reverse applique techniques taught by Alison Glass. It was my first time working with knits, my first reverse applique, and my first time transferring a pattern to fabric by *gasp* writing on the fabric! I used a micron pen, since it was a cut line and would not be visible anyway, and amazingly, not only did it transfer the pattern beautifully, no fabric died in the process!

alison glass slow stitching retreat a gathering of stitches reverse appliqueI decided to create a design based upon the geometry of a chapel ceiling captured by my brother-in-law in Oakland, California, so in light of the whole discussion around “derivatives” in quilting that sparked a heated discussion days before I embarked on the retreat, I spent the week being 100% derivative. And liking it.

alison glass slow stitching retreat a gathering of stitchesThe process of sketching out the design, transferring it to the fabric using the tips shared by Alison on how to create a repeated design, finagling the knit fabrics to do what I wanted (sort of) and finally, slowly stitching and cutting, watching the design come to life before my eyes, was extremely enjoyable.

slow stitching lake side reverse appliqueNot to mention making slow stitching progress lakeside after a refreshing swim!

This is most certainly not the last reverse applique I’ll do. The one hesitation I have with it is its durability with washing. Having three young kids who love to have pillow fights, make pillow forts, and sneak food into the living room, I would most likely create reverse applique items and then hide them away for now. Either way, LOVE!

chawne kimber slow stitching retreat 2016 a gathering of stitches maineThe second day of the retreat, I spent the day giggling uncontrollably while tiny stitching with Chawne Kimber in the amazing barn. Having witnessed this technique the year prior with Chawne, I had a little preview of the fun. There’s something about the mantra “sew smaller; no, even SMALLER” that takes quilting to a whole new level.

chawne kimber sew smaller hand stitched
Hand pieced! Chawne Kimber is amazing, and seeing these works in person was so inspiring!

chawne kimber sew smallerChawne’s work is epically awesome on many levels, and it was fabulous to get to see many of her creations once again. They never cease to amaze me, and hearing her talk about her process is always inspiring. (Chawne will be returning for this year’s Slow Stitching Retreat, so you have a chance to stitch with her, too, if you want! I highly recommend it!)

I went into the retreat with a vague design idea, though without a full plan of how to execute it, but also the desire to keep an open mind and take advice as it was presented. At the advice of both Chawne and Sam, rather than jump into trying to execute my idea with my desired fabrics, I played around with some scraps to see if it would translate into reality the way I envisioned.

sew smaller with chawne kimberI’m very glad I did, since it did not really translate the way I had wanted, BUT I do love what I created and had a ton of fun just going wild and sewing whatever wherever, as long as it was smallllllll. Tiny stitching plus improv curves equals loads of fun!

Here are some other scenes from the retreat:

Weeks Dye works floss care of Alison Glass

stitching on the porch

katherine doing her garment sewing thing


I’m looking forward to seeing some old friends and creating some more slow stitching retreat memories, this time hopefully with a bonus souvenir of a hand-made garment and the knowledge and confidence to dive more deeply into the world of Slow Fashion. As one who does not like to shop, who feels a strong stewardship toward the earth, and who loves to stitch, I’m excited to embark into this new world!  Now that I have a fully functioning laptop, I will be sure to share my experiences with you. This time, I will try to post my reflections a bit sooner than a year later!

Reentry

I’m back after a wonderfully relaxing, rejuvenating, and surprisingly silly fun week at the Slow Stitching Retreat in Washington, Maine. My reentry into real life was rather abrupt, since I only had a 15 minute drive upon leaving the blissful retreat until I was resubmerged in the thick of parenting, with my 4 year old sneaking a melty chocolate and dripping it all over the inside of my packed car, one big drip falling a literal inch from my stitching project I had peacefully sewn all week, while my 1 year old simultaneously hightailed it down the hill toward the lake. Ahhh, life! I’m now just starting to feel like I might be getting back into the swing of things, and will share much more of my experience here in the coming weeks.

slow stitching retreat a gathering of stitches maineWhile I had every intention of taking lots of photos, I also made a conscious effort to distance myself from social media and technology as much as I could, so that I could aim to slow down body, mind, and spirit. Lo, I took hardly any photos at all. But I can tell you this: the retreat was everything I imagined and more and I would jump back there in a heartbeat. I’ve already begun saving pennies for next year. There was a whole lot of relaxing, chatting, stitching, laughing, learning, making new friends, swimming, yoga, relaxing some more, stitching some more, eating, drinking, and so much more.

weeks dye works perle cotton alison glass collectionAnd of course color. Lots and lots of color. This is just a tiny peek at the Weeks Dye Works perle cotton collection Alison Glass brought along for all of us to try, and only a tiny sneak peek at all of the gorgeous color that permeated the week.

Once it all has time to permeate, percolate, settle in, process, and all of those other things a rare and beautiful experience must do before becoming coherent, I’ll write a reflection post with a few more peeks and highlights of the week. Until then, you can read my friend Karin’s account of the week, rich with photos galore (at least someone took lots of photos!) on her blog Leigh Laurel Studios, here. In the meantime, while my reflection on the experience has time to process, I’ll jump back into sharing my projects, inspiration, and tips, picking up where I left off two short weeks ago.

I hope you had a week full of little wonders and surprise moments of bliss! I’ve missed you and look forward to getting back into the swing of the online quilting world.

Monday Giveaway & Off to Slow Stitching

Ahhh Mondays! Mondays often have that heavy feel, transitioning from a relaxing or adventuresome weekend of family fun back into the daily grind of work and household duties. Not this week! I’m home on a quick packing layover, gathering my supplies for the Slow Stitching Retreat at Medomak Retreat Center in Washington, Maine!! I dropped in on this retreat for one blissful day last year, but this year I’m attending the entire week! I’m so excited to relax with Sam from A Gathering of Stitches (the mastermind behind these retreats), Alison Glass, Chawne Kimber, my friend Karin Jordan from Leigh Laurel Studios who is also attending the retreat, and all of the other slow stitchers!

slow stitching retreat a gathering of stitches maine alison glass chawne kimberMy parents have graciously come up from New Jersey and rented a house on a lake only 15 minutes away from the retreat center, so during the day they will be playing with all three kids, and every evening someone will drive Finn to me where he will join me for sleep, to be (hopefully) joyfully picked up each morning. He’s still a nursing babe at 14 months, so I’m looking forward to the nightly mama reconnection time, too.

medomak retreat center maineI originally aimed to schedule some blog posts for while I was away, but life has been very full these days, so this week will be quiet. I will be stitching away in this big, beautiful building and its neighboring barn, and will join you upon my return. Keep your eye on Instagram, since I will post a few updates to help share the blissful relaxation of the week! I have a fun color inspiration post pretty much ready for the week I return, and will get back into the swing of sharing my creative process and projects with you next week. And of course, of course, I will share a reflection of my time slow stitching.

fresh adventures amy sinibaldi art gallery fabric fat quarter shopTo hold you over for the week, I do have a fun giveaway sponsored by the Fat Quarter Shop! One lucky reader will win this Fresh Adventures Playground Fat Quarter Bundle by Amy Sinibaldi for Art Gallery Fabrics, which includes 10 fat quarters.

To enter the giveaway today, tell me what type of adventures you like to go on. I’m a big fan of exploring new places, so my ideal day consists of traveling to a new ocean beach, walking along the coast line, hiking through the neighboring woods, and picnicking on the beach. I’d love to hear about what you do for an adventure! Leave a comment and make sure I’m able to get ahold of you if you win.  For an additional entry, click HERE and sign up for my Night Quilter email list (or let me know you’re signed up). Tell me how you follow Fat Quarter Shop (facebook,twitter, Instagramtheir blog Jolly Jabber, etc.) in a third comment for a third entry.

fresh adventures amy sinibaldi art gallery fabric fat quarter shopThis giveaway is open to US and international participants.  The giveaway will be open until Sunday August 14th at 8pm EST when I’ll select the winner randomly with random.org. Good luck, and enjoy your week! This giveaway is now closed! Congratulations One Creative Family!

*Please note that comment moderation is on, so if you do not see your comment right after posting, do not be alarmed! I will be disconnecting from social media for most of each day on the retreat, but will be checking in each evening to approve new comments. xoxo

Slow Stitching for Summertime

Ahh! Summer is upon us! My daughter has mere days left of school before summer break is officially here! That means all three kids home all day, every day, which in turn means time to take lots of day trip adventures! Summer also means lots more opportunity for slow stitching, and a need to have some hand stitching available at all times. We all know that the day I forget my handwork will be the day all three kids somehow fall asleep in the car on the way to some adventure!

hand stitching epp preparation carolyn friedlander modern hexiesMy portable hand stitching kit this summer consists primarily of English Paper Piecing (EPP) hexies and some experimental embroidery-quilting projects.

After a lull in my Carolyn Friedlander modern hexies project progress, I’m ready to pick it up again and baste more hexies! While 2 1/2″ squares work just fine for EPP hexagons, I really enjoy the neatness that starting with a hexagon of fabric provides.

sizzix fabi die cutting hexagons for epp
Nine (9) charm squares lined up on top of the Sizzix 1 1/2″ hexagon die. Pass it through….
sizzix fabi die cutting hexagons for epp
Viola – 18 hexagons ready for basting

This is another time when the Sizzix die cutting machine comes in handy. It doesn’t take long to cut a whole bunch of fabric and cardstock hexagons for slow stitching on the go. I use the BigZ Hexagons with 1 1/2″ sides die to cut fabric and BigZ Hexagons with 1″ sides die to cut cardstock hexies and I’m ready to roll.

sizzix fabi die cutting hexagons for eppA lovely stack of fabric hexagons ready to baste. I need to cut a few more cardstock templates, but this will do for now!

embroidery quiltingI am also continuing to add embroidery quilting to my Rainbow Hex Star mini, as well planning a couple small embroidery quilting experimental projects. My goal is to find a way to get the back to look as neat as the front. Practice, right?

slow stitching retreat a gathering of stitches maine alison glass chawne kimberSlow stitching on the go is not the only slow stitching I’m looking forward to this summer! I’m also officially registered for the Slow Stitching Retreat hosted by Sam at A Gathering of Stitches this August. I can’t wait to slow down and sew with Sam, Chawne Kimber, and Alison Glass. I’m doubly excited since I will also be leading yoga on the retreat! Just imagine… slowing down, breathing deeply, stretching out, learning from amazingly talented and inspirational quilters, and slowly stitching in the sun, rocking on the rocking chairs out on the porch in the calm, cool woods of Maine. You can read about my experience dropping in on a day of this retreat last summer HERE. I am very much looking forward to spending the full four days rejuvenating my soul with some slow stitching in inspired creative company. Are you coming!? I sure hope so!

What are your summer stitching plans?

Slow Stitching Retreat: A Day of Bliss

Imagine you’re sitting in a rocking chair on a sunny porch, sunbeams playing at your feet, a cool breeze blowing your hair, fabric in your hands, slowly stitching your way through the day alongside new quilting friends all doing the same, seeing your handwork grow at your fingertips. Bliss, right? Now add amazing quilters Carolyn Friedlander, Chawne Kimber, and Samantha Lindgren as teachers, mentors, and fellow slow stitching friends and there you have the Slow Stitching Retreat at Medomak Retreat Center in Washington, Maine. Last week, I was so blessed to be able to join the retreat for a day, with baby Finn in tow.

medomak retreat center maineThe retreat was the brainchild of Sam from A Gathering of Stitches, and was just as blissfully amazing as the name Slow Stitching Retreat suggests. I attended on Thursday, and joined the group learning the Park needle turn applique quilt block from Carolyn Friedlander. Those of you who know me know that Carolyn is one of my all time favorite fabric and quilt designers. I love her architectural influence, highly textured fabric designs, and simple geometric pattern style. It was all I could do not to jump up and down and squeal like a little fangirl when I first met her at QuiltCon. To spend the day learning from her and relaxing with a room full of equally enthusiastic and experienced sewists was such a rejuvenating and inspiring way to spend a day. It certainly helped that Carolyn is super easy going and we all had a great time chatting and stitching the day away.

Park in progress
Getting started: basting my Park block
carolyn friedlander slow stitching retreat
Carolyn walked around helping and answering questions as we dove into needle-turn applique, some for the first time.

slow stitching on the porchAfter we all had basted our Park patterns, we headed out to the sunny porch to slowly stitch in bliss. It was a truly fabulous experience, and one I think everyone should enjoy!

finn stitching helperFinn was there with me, of course, and he was absolutely perfect. Honestly, he happily rocked and watched all of us sew, joined in on conversations with his smily baby babble, and was happy all day long. I think he will be a slow stitcher when he’s a bit older, too!

sam a gathering of stitches
Sam joined us for some slow stitching on the sunny porch. Such a gorgeous day!
carolyn friedlander slow stitching maine
Carolyn Friedlander doing some slow stitching of her own.

Since I was only able to attend for a day, I wasn’t able to take Chawne Kimber‘s class on tiny stitching. I did sneak over to their workspace to gawk at her amazing creations and talk a bit about her sewing process, though.

barn slow stitching

chawne kimber cauchy complete tiny stitchingtiny stitching chawne kimberchawne kimber cauchy complete tiny stitchingThese teeny, tiny bits stitch together into such gorgeous, substantial quilt blocks, it blew my mind. Chawne had a thick stack of many different quilt block samples, all tinier than the tiniest block I’ve ever sewn and all absolutely stunning. They begged to be touched, and then once I touched them, there was no denying: I had to sew a teeny tiny block, even if it was soooo slow that it took me a year to complete. Chawne was also so easy to talk to, and such an inspiration. I wish I could have stayed all weekend and chatted away for hours.

meeting chawne kimber
A blurry picture, but meeting Chawne is worth documenting even if it’s blurred!

After returning home, I finished stitching the outside edge of my needle-turn appliqued Park block, and I spent two #sewtake20 sewing breaks to get started on a Chawne-inspired tiny quilt block. I’m stretching far out of my comfort zone by going wonky AND tiny!

tiny stitching inspired by chawne kimberHere’s my 40-minute, not quite 4″ square quilt block start. I am loving it, and being able to use the scraps of fabric from my “too small to save” bin feels good.

This day spent slowly stitching flew by, but solidified my feeling that quilting retreats should be a part of every sewist’s life. I am very much looking forward to being able to attend a full retreat in a couple of years when my mama milk bar is not in full use, and I plan to start saving pennies now. I’m so grateful that Sam is bringing quilt retreats to Maine with A Gathering of Stitches, and I look forward to seeing what rejuvenating, peacefully refreshing quilt retreats she organizes in the future. Thank you to Sam, Carolyn, Chawne, and all of the other retreat attendees for the lovely day and burst of inspiration.

I’m linking up my tiny quilt block beginning with Design Wall, since all quilt blocks matter, no matter how small.

 

Dropping in on A Quilter’s Color Weekend

Last weekend I had the pleasure of taking an entire day for quilty crafty inspiration. I didn’t even touch a sewing machine, yet I spent the day immersed in color inspiration of one kind or another. With five week old Finn snug in my Ergo and the big kids excited about a Daddy day, I began the day at Fiddlehead Artisan Supply, my gorgeous local quilt shop, where Amy Butler, Heather Jones, Samantha Lindgren from A Gathering of Stitches, and the rest of the Quilter’s Color Weekend retreaters were having a visit.

heather jones and amy butler at fiddlehead artisan supply belfast maine
Heather Jones and Amy Butler browse the gorgeous displays at Fiddlehead Artisan Supply.

Walking into a quilt shop as gorgeous as Fiddlehead is inspiring in and of itself; walking into a quilt shop as gorgeous as Fiddlehead and packed with fabric, color, quilt-loving women made my heart happy and my inspiration cup runneth over. It was fun to see Heather again (we first met at QuiltCon), and meet Amy. I also got to meet Kerry Goulder from Kid Giddy, another Maine sewist with whom I’ve communicated via Instagram but had never met in person. There were snacks, book signings, chatting, and of course fabric buying!

Kerry of KidGiddy and Amy Butler sign their books at Fiddlehead Artisan Supply Belfast Maine
Kerry of Kid Giddy and Amy Butler signing their books at Fiddlehead.

After all of the retreaters swarmed back onto their bus to head back to their retreat haven, I spent some time catching up with Abby from Fiddlehead and selecting a new fabric bundle (stay tuned–you’ll hopefully see it later this week!). Of course, snuggling, nursing, and changing Finn peppered the day.

Next, we stopped in for a visit at the Quilter’s Color Weekend Retreat at Point Lookout in coastal Northport, Maine, only another 15 minutes from Fiddlehead. The weekend quilting retreat was one of the first of its kind in Maine, organized by Sam at A Gathering of Stitches, and it happened practically in my backyard (sooo exciting)! The location was stunning, and situated on the top of a mountain, it was peaceful as well as having amazing views. I have never been to a quilt retreat before, but even spending an hour in that room with a bunch of happily sewing, newly inspired, and eagerly learning women was enough to convince me that quilting retreats are where it’s at. I definitely absorb positive energy by being around excited, inspired, colorful quilters, and living in rural Maine, my chances at surrounding myself with such people are rare. This day was a treat for sure!

color stories inspiration
Color stories created by one of the retreat-goers.
finn snuggling at the retreat
Kerry snuggled Finn for a while so that I could walk around to see the inspiring creating taking place.
sewing retreat a gathering of stitches
Sewing and chatting and laughing and creating and soaking it in.
quilt retreat maine
Heather Jones and Sam Lindgren, sharing their wisdom.
amy butler
Amy Butler and a retreat-goer talk quilting.
baby quilt
Even Finn had a good time! (Kerry shows off her progress while Finn happily wiggles).
point lookout maine quilt retreat
The gorgeous view from the dining room at the retreat. Bliss!

After getting my quiltspiration fill for the day, Finn and I headed home and met the rest of our family in Belfast for a quilt photo shoot (you’ll have to wait until September to see those photos, though!). It was a busy but inspiring and refreshing quilt-fabric-color-filled day!

After stopping in at the Quilter’s Color Weekend Retreat, I’m even more excited about the next AGOS retreat in a few weeks: Slow Stitching Retreat at Medomak Retreat Center in Washington, Maine with Carolyn Friedlander, Chawne Kimber, and of course Sam. As she so eloquently states, Sam envisions this retreat as a “long weekend full of the lush, yet cool, woods of Maine as the backdrop for an enthusiastic group of stitchers sharing their knowledge, their ideas, and their practice.” You can read more of her reflections on Slow Stitching HERE, as well as more about this idyllic four day retreat.

With a little babe and an extended family visit overlap, I sadly cannot attend the entire retreat, as much as I would LOVE to. I am hoping to find a way to go for at least a day, though. This summer, especially with a newborn, I’ve been very much embracing the slow stitching idea, learning embroidery, playing with EPP, and taking the time to do hand quilting. It’s no secret how much I love Carolyn Friedlander’s work, and to get the chance to explore, learn, and share techniques and ideas not only with her, but also Chawne and Sam sounds amazing. I can only imagine how blissfully serene it would be to spend four unplugged days stitching, relaxing, and enjoying the Maine woods in the best of company. If you go, will you send some of your slow stitching bliss my way!? Thank you!