crafts, crumbs, sewing, thrifted!

hoping for bags and bags of … bags.

I was recently invited to become a committee member for a humanitarian group. Their goal this year? To help people locally. By sewing stuff. Invitation accepted!

Several years ago I spent some time volunteering locally at a domestic violence shelter. So when we were brainstorming at our first committee meeting, the shelter immediately came to mind. We came up with the idea of “welcome bags” for children who enter the shelter. When a family first enters the shelter, Mom has lots of paperwork to fill out and lots of talking to do with the shelter staff. It can take a long time. Kids who enter the shelter will receive a welcome bag as soon as they walk in the door, filled with items to occupy their time while Mom sorts out the details of their stay.

Since this group has no budget to speak of, we came up with an idea for making the bags for free (aside from the cost of time and thread). We are sewing bags out of people’s donated jeans (or other pants made from sturdy fabric, such as canvas or corduroy). I designed two bags—one for girls, one for boys—made entirely out of denim for the project.

Girlbag

The girl bag uses the bottom half of each pant leg, the back pockets, and the waistband from one pair of jeans.

Boybag
The boy bag uses the bottom half of each pant leg, back pockets (or side cargo pockets—the committee chair’s cool idea), and strips of denim for the bag tie and back strap.

Boybagback

Here’s the simple two-layered back strap for the boy bag.

I wanted to make these bags as simple as possible to sew so even beginners could join in. And really, who doesn’t have a pair of jeans that have been hanging unworn in their closet for six, eight, or twelve months (or, for us clothes hoarders, two years)?

The bags will be filled with items that are age and gender specific. We’ll have bags for 2-4 year-old boys, bags for 12-14 year-old girls, and for everyone in between. Still in the planning stage, we’re not quite sure what will go in the bags just yet. Cheap, clever ideas are welcome.

Our goal is to sew and gather contents for the bags over the summer, and then present as many bags as we can to the shelter in the fall. Interested in joining in the fun? If you are, you could participate in a number of ways:

  • Sew bags (instructions available)
  • Donate denim or other sturdy fabric pants
  • Make toys to fill bags (we need toy makers and ideas for making small, inexpensive/free toys)
  • Gather supplies to fill bags (coloring books, crayons, pencils/pens, and journals to start)
  • Donate toward the purchase of items to fill the bags

I am so excited to be a part of this project. When I volunteered at the shelter, I remember the faces of children walking through the front door for the first time. It was heartbreaking. It didn’t matter their age—innocent preschooler or tough teenager—you could see it plain as day. They were scared. I believe these bags will help, even if just a little, with the first few moments of what could become a huge time of transition in their lives.

Really, these bags are just a little something. But to a kid who has just fled his or her home with nothing, for children who just left everything they used to call theirs behind, these bags will be something they can immediately call their own. I hope it helps. Even if just a little.

If you want to help—even if just a little—please let me know.

crumbs, ReSew

And the TWO winners of ReSew are…

I couldn't help it. I had an idea for a weird way to choose a random winner for this past weekend's giveaway of ReSew–which, by the way, was the most fun I've ever had with this little blog, thanks to Dana and Rae's Celebrate the BOY month. Thank you for all the encouraging and kind comments! I giggled all weekend.

Anyway, back to the weird way to choose a random winner. I had an idea, but it needed to include both my boys, Jack and Charlie, to really make it fair. (If you have more than one child, you know what I'm talking about.) So, here's what we did:

1. I printed out nine sheets full of numbers.

CTBgiveaway1

 2. I cut the sheets into 431 squares. One for each totally awesome giveaway participant.

CTBgiveaway2

 3. Then I put the bowl of paper numbers on the floor and let the madness ensue.

CTBgiveaway3
CTBgiveaway4
CTBgiveaway5

Random indeed!

Jack chose comment #187.

CTBgiveaway6
Comment #187 comes from Beth, who said…

"I have 3 boys of my own and finding time to slow down is sometimes
hard but definitely necessary. LOVE the hat, mittens & scarf 🙂 Thanks!"

Three of 'em, huh? A toast to you! And a free book too.

Charlie chose comment #59.

CTBgiveaway7

 Comment #59 comes from Casey, who said…

"What a great book! Thanks for a chance to win!"

Your welcome, Casey–you won!

Thanks to all of you who dropped by the wildcards this weekend! And if you didn't win this time, there are still 11 more chances to win your own copy of ReSew during the INCREDIBLE RESEW BLOG TOUR, which you can learn more about here.

CTBgiveaway8
Thanks for playing with us. We had a ball! Remember, there's still two weeks worth of Celebrate the BOY to be had. Cheers to continuing the celebration!

crumbs, quilting, thrifted!

Maw Jones and the Deep Scrap Bag

A few weeks ago, an assisted-living center down the street from our home hosted a big yard sale. I noticed it on the drive home from grocery shopping, which had been preceded by a hectic morning of breakfast making, kitchen cleaning, floor mopping, living-room straightening, toy-putting-awaying, and Diet-Coke drive-thruing. I still had more than a day's worth of tasks to complete, with only a half day to complete them. But I parked the car, grabbed the boys, and made the trek down the block for some treasure hunting.

The boys found a spread of toys on a blanket. I spotted a cardboard box full of folded fabrics. I bent down and started rummaging through them. At the bottom of the box, underneath some flats of solid-colored yardage, I found this:

Mawjones1
A summer quilt (only two layers). Some machine stitching, some hand stitching. Lots of shirting fabrics. A few imperfections, but not many. It looked vintage. It looked pristine. It looked fantastic.

I looked for a price tag. Nothing. I looked around. I expected someone to lock eyes with me and shout, "Hey! I didn't mean to put that in there! Give it back!" But no one did. I tucked the quilt under my arm and continued browsing.

When the three of us were done with our search, we had treasured up a toy car for Jack, a Tickle Me Elmo for Charlie, and a big baggie full of vintage buttons for me. And the quilt.

I assumed things weren't going to go smoothly at the cash box. The quilt didn't have a price tag. It was probably put in that cardboard box by mistake. Wasn't it? Had to be, I thought as I walked toward a rickety card table to pay. The original owner will want to keep this, I thought. No one would give this up at a yard sale on purpose. Yes, back to the owner. That would be best.

I approached the table and lay our items down. "We'll take these… and there was this quilt, from a box over there," I said to the woman at the table. She picked up the folded quilt. A voice from behind her said, "Oh, I didn't know that was out there." I looked over the woman's shoulder to see a small, elderly woman in a wheelchair, parked on the grass. She smiled. "That's from Maw Jones."

I walked around the card table toward the elderly woman. "It's just wonderful," I told her. "I can't imagine you would want to sell it."

"Do you like quilts?" she asked me.

"Oh my gosh, yes. I've made quite a few myself."

"That's wonderful," she said. "I have two daughters who just don't like that kind of thing–sewing and such. If I gave them that old quilt, they wouldn't know what to do with it. So, yes. You just take it."

"What? Oh, I don't…"

"Yes, now, you just take it. I can't put a price on it and I don't have anyone I know that would appreciate it like you would."

I didn't know what to say. But I did know that I didn't want to say no.

"Well, can you tell me about it? Do you know when it was made?"

This wonderful little woman told me everything she knew about the quilt; I kept her going with question after question. She thought the quilt had been made in the 1920s (gasp!) by her grandmother, who the family called Maw Jones. She said the quilt was made in Pennsylvania, then it moved to Arizona, then here to Utah. At some point she inherited it from her grandmother, a smart, sassy woman with seven children and no husband.

"Wow. How'd she find the time to make quilts?" I asked her.

"It took her a long time," the woman said.

After some conversation about the neighborhood we share, I stumbled over a series of heartfelt but awkward thank-you's, and then I gave her a hug. I told her I would take good care of Maw Jones's quilt, and that I would write down the details of her story, and that I wouldn't let my boys touch it until they were older (she had just met my lively little ones, you know). I told her I would care for it like it had been made in my own family.

I brought Maw Jones's quilt home. I smoothed out the quilt and examined each block. I daydreamed about Maw Jones and her stitches, and her seven children. Then, out of curiousity, I emailed my friend Valerie (of Cookie's Creations fame), a licensed quilt appraiser, and asked her if she would take a look at it.

After close inspection, Valerie told me a few things about Maw Jones's quilt.

Mawjones2Some of these shirting fabrics are certainly from the 1920s;
others, as they might contain polyester, may be from as late as the 1950s.

Mawjones3For a quilt from this era, it really is in great condition.

Mawjones4There's only one spot where the quilt has been mended,
along a hand-stitched seam that had probably unraveled over time.

Mawjones5

This type of doubled dimensional border is unusual, and really super cool.
(Well, the super-cool part is just me sayin'…)

Mawjones6We can't be sure who wrote this on the back in permanent marker; Maw Jones
or someone who simply wanted to remember that Maw Jones made it. 

Mawjones7

Valerie was miffed by this strange little stamp on the back. She thought
it might be feedsack material but later decided that it wasn't,
because of the length and width of the fabric on the back.

Valerie described the quilt as possibly being a "deep scrap bag" quilt. The maker had saved fabrics for years and years. When she finally decided to put a quilt together, she had a stash that spanned decades.

Ah. Seven children. No husband. A deep scrap bag. Makes sense to me.

What an experience. I am still shocked that the quilt is mine. I'm wondering where the quilt should stay in our home. I want her safely on display. Her blue and cream hues bring calm to our at-times chaotic days. The pinstripes in her sashing and borders are sassy and smart, like I imagine Maw Jones was. But mostly, the story behind the quilt whispers to me. It says to be mindful. In time, all things get done. It reminds me of a quote I've always loved, from Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu:

"Nature does not hurry, yet everything is accomplished."

I guess what I'm trying to say, I'm saying to myself. Stop rushing about, Jenny. In time, everything will get done.

Mawjones8

crumbs, Jackdo

simply inspired

Awhile back, a friend of mine wrote down her email address for me on this funny little monkey sticky note.

Jungle1

After seeing the note on the kitchen table, Jack called for paper,
crayons, and scissors. I obliged.

Jungle3

He created his own funny little monkey.
And then began creating an entire jungle.

Jungle4

He drew lions and tigers and bears. (I know. Oh my.)

Jungle8

And elephants and dolphins and bats.

Jungle6

And giraffes and red-faced blue-horned flower-toed, um, creatures.

Jungle7

And … um. Okay. I don't know what this is.

Jungle2

But, you know. WOW. Instantly, simply inspired. From a funny little monkey sticky note.

The lesson; there's something to inspire you. Right now. Right in front of your face. Right now. Look around.

crumbs, sewing

The hiatus.

I like blogging. I just can't seem to find the time to do it lately. Incredible messes made by two little boys have gone unphotographed. Little slice-of-life stories have gone unwritten. A number of Jackspeaks have gone undocumented. (Now that last one's a pity, I say.) But I've been busy. Busy with things like

sewing. (unpicking.) resewing. cutting. pinning. (poking. bleeding.) writing. rewriting. inventing. (trying.) drawing. (trying.) doodling. imagining. dreaming. (and lately, nightmaring.)

and otherwise totally freaking OUT.

Why the freak out? Because. I'm writing another book. Except this time, it's a book. Not a box. It has pages. That you can turn and everything. So very cool.

(Although I did–and still–love that box. And this wonderful publisher, who I'm working with again.)

If you've ever wondered how a book is made–a book about sewing, in particular–here's a very rough retrospective of my experience up to this point. In pictures.

Sewing1
There's a lot of pinning involved.

Sewing5
And much sewing.

Sewing4
And did I mention pinning?

Sewing10
And a lot of trying to get things…

Sewing13
just right.

Sewing15
With little ones underfoot, you learn to ignore the daily messes
so you can get things done.

Sewing11
Alternatively, you can actually let them make messes so you can get things done. (Charlie gets to play in Niko's cat food. I get to finish ironing my binding. I got it done. See, it works!)

Sewing9
Of course, there are some messes you simply cannot ignore. So, because you are eating and sleeping and dreaming BOOK, you make a to-do list. Of just one thing.

Sewing14
And sometimes, you just let the kids join in the fun. (Like when you are trying to take a half-decent picture of something to send to the office.)

Sewing12
Or when you are trying to draw your illustrations quickly but accurately, and your five-year-old does something like this. Which makes you cry. Happy tears, you know.

I hope to share more details about the book soon.

The deadline is approaching fast (I counted, it's 22 days). After the deadline passes, I hope to get back to funnier, more lighthearted stuff here.

Hmm. Funnier, more lighthearted stuff. That's actually what I'm actually hoping this book will be. Sounds like I need an attitude adjustment for these last 22 days. Could use some encouragement, I think.

Meanwhile, I'll prick up my ears for a good Jackspeak in the coming weeks. I'm guessing he won't disappoint.

crumbs, family, holidays

What a crappy Christmas.

Yes, please let me explain the title of this particular post. You see, each year, the day after Thanksgiving, you won't see the WildCards out amongst the deal shoppers. But you'll see us up just about as early. Because, after a 364-day wait, it's finally here:

Christmas Decorating Day!

Boxes upon boxes and bins upon bins and even more bags are carried, shuffled, and tossed into the kitchen from the depths of dusty and dangerously high garage shelves. As we unpack the abundance of sparkly and twinkly things, we find holiday treasures from years past. The Rastafari-type ornament we bought in Jamaica–our honeymoon destination. The bright-red yarn garland made by my mom while she was in college (now in several long and short pieces). The collection of Santas–oh, so many wonderful Santas!–given to us by my generous mother-in-law. A stunning traditional Christmas quilt, given to me by prolific quilter and fantastic all-around woman, Nancy J. Martin, to commemorate my 10th year of working for her company. All Christmas heirlooms I cherish.

And then, to Brett and Jack's delight, we unearth it. The Christmas decoration that has been in our family for at least a decade. Each year we carefully unwrap it from the tissue we pack it in. Then we carry it joyfully to the place where it graces our holiday home each year.

And where does this mysterious decoration spend its holiday, you ask?

On top of the toilet tank. Tucked inside the Kleenex box.

Mister Hankey

Mister Hankey
Yes. It's Mister Hankey. The Christmas Poo.

(Thought I'd share the first photo, just as Jack had left Mister Hankey one morning on the bathroom counter. And as you can tell from this month's blog banner, when Jack isn't costuming himself, he is costuming anything that will let him.)

Jack was so excited to see Mister Hankey after one long year of waiting. He immediately shared the delights of Mister Hankey with Charlie. Then, Jack began teaching Charlie how to say Mister Hankey's proper name.

I caught one of their 18-second rehearsals in an audio file.

Mister Hankey

(If clicking on "Mister Hankey" above doesn't work for you, try right-clicking and choosing "Open link in new window.")

Jack has been very persistent with his lessons. Charlie, a willing student, has practiced a lot. I'm proud of their team effort. And Brett? Well, he says I'm the coolest mom on the block. "I'll bet no other family on the block has a stuffed piece of poo in their bathroom during Christmas." I think he's right.

Funny how family traditions are established. How they evolve and flourish. I wasn't expecting a tradition of this sort for our little family. But it's a tradition nonetheless, born unique and strange and funny. Like any other family's traditions. It's ours. I'll take it.

Although we'll pack Mister Hankey away come New Year's Day, he'll always be a part of our holidays. He's found a place in our hearts. He's found a home in our bathroom. But luckily, not in our noses. Mister Hankey smells just like any other plush toy that has been well-loved.

Thank goodness that's part of the tradition, too.

crumbs, family

Summer 2009. Gone.

New schools. New jobs. New projects. New responsibilities. New budget. New outlook. New season.

Autumn, I was looking forward to your cool. Why'd you go and get so dang busy? NOT cool.

I'm still remembering our summertime fun. Fondly.

Jack preschool

From the last day of preschool…

Jack kindergarten
to the first day of kindergarten. (Holding self-portrait. Cape included.)

Gardening
From planting a blueberry bush…

Apricots
to harvesting and preserving (for the first time!) fruit from an apricot tree.

Charlie 2
From turning my baby boy into a little girl… (For just one day. Okay, two.)

Jack AI
to turning my big boy into a concert-lover (his first, American Idol–you Lambert fans know what the blue means!).

Jack soccer
From first soccer games…

Charlie grapes
to first grape-picking.

Jack costume 1
From costumes…

Jack costume 2
and costumes…

Jack costume 3
and costumes…

Jack costume 4
and costumes…

Jack costume 5
and costumes…

Jack and Charlie 2
to teaching Charlie about costumes.

Brett and Charlie
And to this… which may just be the cutest picture of our summer.

Our lives have changed dramatically this past month or two, with hopes for an even better future (although we are blessed to have an incredible, awesome NOW.) But what a wonderful, relaxing, fun summer it was. I'm so glad we took the time to be there for it.