Our summer, in numbers

I think this summer might be trying to swallow me up, whole. Trying to describe it feels too big, words fail me.

Here is our summer so far, in numbers. In no particular order.

(3) pools
(6) lakes
(1) sprinkler park
(2) camping weekends
(2) camping weekends with rain
(1) trip to Mackinaw island
(8) miles biked around Mackinaw
(1) house painted
(1) new car (traded in our 12-year old car!)
(7) nights for Elliot and Clementine at sleepaway camp
(3) nights in Traverse City with Mr Rae
(3) “Grandma Camps”
(10) years old (happy birthday, Clementine!)
(2) board game nights with family friends
(1) West coast road trip planned, yet to come
(?) cousins played with (too many to count)

a few more:

(3) fevers
(1) Lyme Disease scare
(1) case of Pertussis
(1) case of pneumonia
(7) prescriptions for antibiotics
(1) chipped tooth
(5) missed days of sleepaway camp, b/c sickness

Ah, this full life. It certainly feels like too much sometimes. Amidst all of it, though, I feel so, so grateful.

And also I’d kinda like a medal.

Posted in at home

On turning 40

This past weekend I turned 40 (if you didn’t catch the sweet and hilarious Happy Birthday post from Elli and Jess on Saturday, do) and in a little over a week this blog will turn 10. That means that for the entirety of my thirties, I have been writing more or less regularly on this blog. For a quarter of my life — longer than I was a teacher — I have been sharing things I have made in this space. For a whole decade, I have been connected to the online sewing community. I’ve gotten to watch it grow and change, just as I myself was growing and changing in real life: having children, moving, starting a business, renting a studio, and so on. As readers, you have shared this decade with me, which is — let’s be honest — a little strange, but also really amazing and cool! Nothin wrong with strange.

I love being forty, and I’m definitely not ashamed of my age or growing older. I always joke that maintaining an online presence as long as I have requires a certain amount of inherent narcissism anyway, so the idea that I would feel badly about being forty is ridiculous. Forty is great! I made it this far, WOW, high five, me! And now it seems that having made it, I should be able to share helpful and uplifting thoughts that reveal how truly old and wise I am, right? Ummm. If anything, I’m even more hesitant to unleash any nuggets of wisdom than ever. The experience of approaching forty seems to be characterized by an increasing (and somewhat disturbing) knowledge that I know just about nothing at all.

What I know now that I’m forty = a lot less than I thought I knew at 30 = a crap ton less than I thought I knew at 20.

Side note: I thought I remembered reading a wise quote about what you know at 40 versus 30 versus 20 etc, and when I looked it up, it turns out what I was remembering was a line by JLo from InStyle magazine last year:

“In your 20s you think you know everything. In your 30s you realize you know nothing. And in your 40s you realize you’re not perfect and that’s OK.” – Jennifer Lopez, InStyle Magazine, Feb 2016

Admitting that I read InStyle (occasionally) feels like a step backward. Or not? You decide. Even saying that can be taken the wrong way, like I don’t think JLo can possess wisdom (not true) or that InStyle is elevated reading material or a good use of my time (pretty sure no tho?). There, I added the that (occasionally) to make myself look better. Is it better? I don’t know. See, I really just don’t think I know anything anymore.

(by the way, I like this TedTalk: Why 30 is not the new 20 about why we shouldn’t write off our 20’s)

Now that I know I know just about nothing, I feel like I’m in a pretty good position to focus on the small handful of things that I do know, like: BE  KIND. Or how about SHUT UP AND LISTEN MORE? These things seem even more important now than ever. This has been a weird year to turn 40; disturbing and heartbreaking and disheartening, for many reasons. I’m not sticking my head in the sand. But I’m not going to act like I know everything, either. I have a lot to learn, but I do know something. And I have a lot of hope.

It’ll be fun to check back on this when I’m 50.


Posted in at home

Why can’t I stop watching the Gilmore Girls?

This is going to reveal how tragically unhip I am (and this has absolutely nothing to do with sewing, so if you’re only here for that, you can stop reading now), but I need to come clean, even though it is terribly embarrassing. Dear friends, I can’t stop watching the Gilmore Girls. A quick check of my Netflix history reveals I’ve been watching it since September of last year…SEPTEMBER. And nothing else since then.

I can’t remember exactly why I started watching it, but I think the marketing campaign around their reunion show “Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life” probably had something to do with it. I never watched the show when it was on TV, but it always had a vague whiff of “Felicity” about it that kept me away. And now, after nearly half a year of alternating between falling asleep each evening halfway through an episode only to have to rewatch it the next night and binge-watching it until 1 AM in the morning, I’m still not finished with it (so please, no spoilers in comments!!!).

I’m not sure why I continue to watch it, except that I think maybe now it has become a kind of personal challenge. I’m also fascinated slash puzzled by why I (and other people) like the show so much, so I keep tuning in, hoping for clues. But the main reason I keep watching is that I actually do like it. The characters are lovable and the show is wholesome and idyllic and square-sauce-vanilla, so it serves as a sort of balm for me from the toxic political atmosphere of late.

I was delighted yesterday when I discovered that one of the podcasts I’ve been listening to, The Simple Show, had dedicated an entire episode last fall to discussing the show (warning: the podcast does have some broad plot spoilers, though I didn’t mind it too much), so I’d recommend it if you’re a Gilmore Girls fan: I loved how they covered their least favorite characters and what they really disliked about the show in addition to what they love. Listening to that podcast yesterday, I started to get it. Also: I have the podcast to thank for discovering this awesome video of all of Kirk’s jobs.

I dislike the show for a number of reasons. The deliberate placement of minority extras in the background of scenes to make up for the lack of diversity in the main cast makes me cringe, and the theme song is pretty terrible. Sometimes the acting is downright awful. The last season (which I’m currently about 3/4 of the way through) is not great, as the show’s main creator had left by that time, and Karen informed me the other day that she didn’t love the reunion show, but I am bound and determined to watch this through to the bitter end, EVEN IF IT KILLS ME.

So tell me, have you watched Gilmore Girls? If so, do you love it? Hate it? Why do people love this show so much?

PS. I’m Team Kirk, in case you couldn’t tell.

Posted in at home

Merry Christmas!

Christmas with mom and dad

Just popping in to wish you all a Merry Christmas!!! My parents are here in Michigan from Seattle and the kids are soaking up all of the extra attention from both sets of grandparents. Lots of good food, champagne cocktails, games, cookies and movies so far (the French film “Blind Date” is cute and fun and on Netflix, if you don’t mind subtitles). No box wine yet. Hugo’s cough is getting better. They all woke up at 6:30 this morning. We are hanging out in West Michigan for a few days and then home for the New Year. May your holidays be merry and bright!


PS. Happy Hanukkah, too!

My kids’ Halloween costumes from years past

I try not to have to sew Halloween costumes. I already have so many things on my to-sew list that the possibility of putting time and effort into something that might only get worn once or twice puts me off costume sewing, though there have been a handful of exceptions. It’s not that I don’t understand the appeal of making Halloween costumes, and sometimes I really enjoy it, it’s just that I usually try to get away with as little effort as possible. This year, as I attempt once again to cajole my children into wearing last year’s costume, a hand-me-down costume, or come up with a relatively easy idea, I thought I’d take a walk down memory lane and show you photos from Halloween in past years, starting with last year, 2015:


Elliot was a mad scientist, Clementine was Elsa, and Hugo was a cow. Elliot’s costume was SO easy; we ordered the kid-sized lab coat and goggles online and bought kitchen gloves and hair gel from the pharmacy. Yes, that is his real hair.


Clementine’s Elsa dress was nearly a year old; I had made it for her for Christmas 2013 (blogged here), and I think we’ve gotten more mileage out of that costume than any other costume I’ve made. The cow costume you will see again, keep reading…


Halloween 2014: Lobster, Tinkerbell, and Green Video Game Character I can’t remember the name of. Zoltan? Does that sound right? I didn’t manage to get all of them in costume in one photo at the same time that year.


The two things that were handmade in 2014 were Elliot’s head-gear and Clementine’s tights, both from the same bright green knit fabric. So that was convenient.

Halloween 2013: Harry Potter and Princess.

Halloween 2013

I was pregnant with Hugo in 2013 so I remember putting even less than the usual amount of effort into Halloween. I think that was the year Elliot wanted to be an Ent, so I purchased a ridiculous amount of brown and green felt only to give up and let my mother in law pull Elliot’s costume together at the last minute. The princess dress was ordered online. That costume has held up really well, by the way, if you’re looking for quality princess-wear.

Halloween 2012: Rainbow Cloud and Sonic (blogged here)
rainbow cloud and sonic

That rainbow represents many hours of loving toil, and then she almost didn’t wear it. I’d rather not talk about it. Much love to my dear friend Karen who came through with the handmade (and decade-old) Sonic costume for E. He loved it.

Halloween 2011: Spiderman and Cow (Clementine’s cow costume blogged here, and here.)
Halloween 2011

Halloween 2010: Spiderman and Cow (That’s right, two years in a row, same costumes. *High fives the sky*)
Halloween 2010

Halloween 2009: Fish costume and Fireman. And me as lobster. That is an odd theme (Firefighting Under the Sea?).

The fireman costume was convenient because it was his raincoat that year. So had only to cajole him into putting on the hat and his yellow rainboots (not pictured). This was Clementine’s first Halloween. Don’t worry, you’ll see the Fish Costume again.

Halloween 2008: Toad (and Mario and Luigi)


I made Mario and Luigi outfits for myself and Mr Rae, and a little mushroom hat and white pants so Elliot could be Toad for a Halloween party. This was before Elliot could comprehend Trick-or-Treating. No Clementine this year. That may perhaps explain the lack of alcohol in our hands.


Halloween Toad 2008

Halloween 2007: Fish.

Elliot is a fish

2007 Halloween

Halloween 2007

And just for kicks, here’s Hugo wearing the fish costume, too. Sadly, he didn’t fit into at Halloween, so we mailed it to his cousin Penelopeanut instead.

not Halloween 2014

Did you enjoy that walk down (Halloween) Memory Lane? I certainly did. So tell me, what do you have planned for Halloween costumes this year? I always like getting good costume ideas. Do you like to make costumes for Halloween or do you prefer to buy them instead?

CRAFT-ish podcast guest

Hi hi!! Happy Friday! I just wanted to let you know that I’m a guest today on Vickie Howell’s CRAFT-ish podcast. Vickie has had a successful career as an author, teacher, and blogger (among other things) in the DIY and knitting world, and her podcast explores many aspects of the creative industry with guests who are artists, entertainers, and authors, so I was honored when she asked me to be a guest. Our conversation focused on my journey from physics teacher to blogger and pattern designer, with topics such as the role of feminism in my career choices, working with a team, and how the internet is still the “Wild West” when it comes to sewing patterns, free stuff, and etiquette. I had so much fun talking with Vickie that we kept talking after the show was finished recording — she just had so many interesting questions and issues that she kept bringing up! Like many of you (and me), Vickie has been working as a creative entrepreneur online for a long time, and it’s so interesting to reflect on how things have changed over the years in the online craft space. I hope you’ll listen to the episode and let me know if you have any additional thoughts or questions. Thanks for having me, Vickie!


It’s also my birthday today, woot woot big thirty NIIIINE! Usually Mr Rae and I go out for dinner on my birthday and this year I want Elliot and Clementine to come along too. I’ve always enjoyed my kids, but now that they’re getting older, it’s fun that they’re getting old enough to hang out and talk, so I think it will be fun; we don’t normally take them to nice restaurants. Steak and Shake is their favorite place on earth, so an elevated gastronomic experience is usually not worth it. Hugo is staying home with a babysitter (he’s kindof a nightmare at restaurants right now), but someday I’m sure he’ll be invited along too!

Have a great weekend!!

At the lake

Lake Michigan, July 2016

Lake Michigan, July 2016

Lake Michigan, July 2016

Lake Michigan, July 2016

Lake Michigan, July 2016

Lake Michigan, July 2016

Lake Michigan, July 2016

My sisters and I are at a cottage on Lake Michigan this week with our families. It’s turned out to be a lovely week, weather-wise, which in Michigan can be a bit of a gamble, so the kids have been down at the beach every day, sometimes multiple times. Our cottage is not fantastic, but it’s not horrible if you think of it more like camping than staying in a beach house. It’s rustic. It’s not a huge surprise we end up with something less than perfect, though, as we usually wait too long to book our rentals. This year we have a dishwasher that doesn’t work, a tub that won’t drain, and two ticks found in one baby’s bedroom. Maybe one of these years we’ll get lucky and find the Perfect Beach Rental that we want to keep coming back to year after year. Right?

Anyway, the weather is good, so we are spending quite a bit of time reading outside or down at the beach. Marvelous, beautiful Lake Michigan. It amazes me how instantly entertained my children are with the beach. I’m biased since I grew up near this lake, but you really can’t beat it: fresh water, clean sand, cool breezes, waves, and gorgeous sunsets. It’s a good place to get away.

I’ll be back next week to introduce you to my new favorite sewing pattern!

Posted in at home

Birthday Week

Hugo's 1st birthday

We have two birthdays in our family this week. Hugo turns TWO tomorrow (I know, whuuuuut.) and Elliot will be NINE on Friday *silently sobs.* In addition, the past two weekends in a row we’ve attended at least two birthday parties for classmates of Elliot and/or Clementine, and next weekend looks to be the same. Lately it seems like every weekend is a string of never ending birthday parties for classmates, which means I am constantly at Toys’RUs, buying gifts and cringing at the “girl” aisle (Clementine: “How about this makeup set, mom?” Me: “That is not an appropriate gift for a six-year-old, please put it back.”).

I’m conflicted about whether or not it’s wise to let my kids go to all of the parties they get invited to, so usually I end up just saying yes. On the one hand, I think it’s awesome that other parents throw amazing birthday parties for their kids, and it gives us something fun to do on the weekend. I never seem to find the time to plan a well-designed and organized at-home party, and I lack the pre-planning prowess (or desire to spend $$$) to book a bounce/trampoline/laser tag venue, so I’m also always a bit awe-struck when I bring my kids to these types of parties. When did her mom (or dad, but it’s almost always the mom) find the time to pull it all together? Where on earth did they find matching streamers/plates/cake toppers/pin-the-tail-on-the-fill-in-the-blank to coordinate? I also don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings if they really hoped my kid would come (which happened once with one of Clementine’s friends), although typing this now I realize that’s not a really great reason.

On the other hand all of these birthday celebrations, when added up, seem excessive. Again, I want to be clear: it’s not any ONE party in particular, but collectively, when every weekend you are transporting kids to yet another party, that it starts to feel like too much. I can remember a handful of birthday parties from my own childhood, but I know for sure it was not this many, or this frequent. And when I know full well I have absolutely no intention of doing anything similar for my own kids when their birthday rolls around, it also seems a bit cruel to subject my kids to a taste of the Party They Will Never Have (“See that bounce castle Johnny’s dad rented for his party? Don’t get your hopes up, Elliot!”).

Anyway…we’ll be celebrating this week with cake from a box, maybe some balloons, and as many birthday streamers as I can manage to get to stick to the wall (stupid Low-VOC eggshell paint!!). We had a birthday party with family members last weekend, so it’s going to be pretty low key. I think the important thing is that my kids feel loved and celebrated, even if I don’t (can’t? won’t?) throw a big shindig or shebang. I would love to hear your favorite ways to celebrate a kids’ birthday (especially if it’s quick and easy)! I also would love to hear from those of you who don’t have children, because I remember attending birthday parties for kids before I had children and thinking they were utterly hilarious.

P.S. Photo at the top of post is Hugo, totally hopped up on cupcakes last year when he turned one. Don’t you love it?

Posted in at home

Hugo’s Nursery

hugo nursery 1

I made new curtains for Hugo’s nursery recently using the clementine print from my baby wale cord line for Cloud9, Small World. This gives me an excuse to show you Hugo’s room before I go and totally change it up. I’m itching to get him out of that crib, and the plan is to bring Clementine into that room now that he’s no longer waking up during the night. Well, he does, but he usually just fusses a bit and goes right back to sleep. Both Elliot and Clementine were already out of their cribs by his age (22 months).

Plus, dare I say it? I want to start potty training as soon as possible. Clementine had basically potty-trained herself by this age and Elliot was trained when he was 2 1/2. I’m not one of those Pullups parents. I made it through two children without ever purchasing a single Pullup. So we’ll see how this goes. Pulling my hair out in a year, most likely. Some of you are already thinking oh dear she has no idea how much harder it will be with that third child. Or will it be easier? I have no idea. At any rate, the potty is ready and waiting (not pictured).

Here’s a bunch of pics!
hugo nursery 2

hugo nursery 3

hugo nursery 4

hugo nursery 5

hugo nursery 6

hugo nursery 7

I’m already excited about making this room into a boy/girl shared room, I think it will be cute, even if Clementine insists on taking all of her Frozen posters with her. Stay tuned.

Details: Rug from Dwell Studio / Wall Prints from the Kid Who (they’re Ingela Arrhenius) / Side table from IKEA / Rocking chair from Sprout / Hugo’s outfit blogged here.