Lately I’ve been trying to summon more Pippi into my life: her strength and irreverence, her mismatched socks and gravity-defying braids. If you know and love Astrid Lindgren’s creation, you know what I mean. If you don’t, you’ll have to get yourself a copy of the classic (preferably the one with Lauren Childs’s paper-cut illustrations). On a recent night, my friend gathered a bunch of us and invited us to make something that would inspire us in the months to come. I decidedly to embroider–sloppily, unevenly, in Pippi fashion–one of my favorite quotations from the book: “I have never tried that before so I should definitely be able to do that.” Here’s to that!
This book. I’m not sure which is more beautiful: the words or the pictures. Cloth Lullaby: The Woven Life of Louise Bourgeois (written by Amy Novesky; illustrated by Isabelle Arsenault) was published a couple of years ago, but my appreciation for its cross-hatched reds and blues hasn’t abated, nor has my admiration for its quiet telling about an emerging artist.
For me, the illustration’s delicate inky stitches brought to mind sashiko, a Japanese form of embroidery that I’ve been spotting online a lot lately.
Sashiko is usually a running stitch; the word sashiko translates to “little stabs.” My attempt at sashiko was my own improvised version. I used fabric scraps I had on hand, denim pieces from old jeans and worn cotton patches I rescued a while back from a disintegrating quilt. I grabbed embroidery floss for thread and the sharpest needle I could find.
I didn’t make anything in particular. I’m not sure I will. But I found the stitching meditative and love the way the stitches & patches look: imperfect, wobbly, delicate, salvaged. I think the simplicity and improvisation would appeal to kids, too (although I’d probably use thinner cotton so that the “little stabs” are easier to make). I’m going to try it out in my school library after reading Cloth Lullaby aloud–I’ll let you know how it goes . . .
I’ve been in the mood to make but not sure exactly what. Maybe I could sew something small and messy? Something upcycled so to avoid spending time and money at the fabric store? I rummaged in my drawer of scraps and found . . . velvet 3.5″ square swatches from a furniture company (for an armchair we never ordered) and corduroys worn thin and frayed.
I enjoyed matching the dark corduroy–it’s a brownish purple–with cheerful pink corduroy and the deep velvety squares. I trimmed and sewed as straight as I could, but the goal was small and messy after all. Now that I have a patched 14″ square, it seems I’ll have to make a pillow. Any ideas about what kind of fabric I should use for backing–velvet, corduroy, dyed linen, cotton?
Fresh notebooks, long pencils with sharpened tips, uncreased shoes on polished floors–I love the possibility implied by the start of a school year.
And what evokes school in its pressed, preppy essence more than the ribbon belt?
I made these for myself, and was surprised when the white-and-blue belt was nabbed by my teenage son. So, make enough for everyone!
grosgrain ribbon (your waist measurement plus about 10 inches)
webbing (to match and back your ribbon)
thread to match
Step one: Pin the ribbon to the webbing, making sure to fold 6-8″ of ribbon over the back of the belt. (This bit will be visible when the belt is looped through the D-ring.)
Step two: Sew in place.
Step three: At the other end of your belt, add the D-ring and fold over once. (The webbing was too thick for me to fold over twice).
Step three: Sew the D-ring in place. And . . . wear!
This runner was crazy easy to make–a fabric sandwich edged with bias tape. Sadly, I couldn’t be bothered with photographing each step because as I was sewing, I was binge-listening to all 12 of the Serial podcasts. (Which further illustrates just how beautifully mindless this project is: you can devote your whole brain to murder courtroom drama while you work).
Materials: 1 yard cotton canvas (this print is from the Outside Oslo Collection by Jessica Jones), 2 packages of extra wide, double fold bias tape (3 yards in each package), matching thread.
1. Cut two rectangles to desired length (mine were 55″ long, the width of the canvas).
2. Sandwich the two pieces, bad sides together and sew a 1/4″ seam allowance along each side.
3. Sew on bias tape. As a self-taught seamstress, I didn’t go to bias tape school so I followed these helpful directions from oliver + s.
That’s it. As I mentioned, it’s so simple, you can annex your mind toward more worthy goals, like gobbling up whodunit podcasts.