Jen Spilly Designs
handmade for woman and home

spillymade blog

Handmade for Woman and Home
Posts in sewing
No excuses...

I can’t even begin to make reasonable excuses for why I haven’t posted a single entry to my blog in over a year. What I can say is that a lot has been happening! Between finding myself doing a full-time job volunteering at school and being a mom, I have found myself with little time to do the other things I should be doing like sewing, teaching, writing and concentrating on my business. Truth be told, the business has now transformed itself into something of a sewing school. I found a way to squeeze in about 6 hours of teaching a week plus prep time through all of fall, winter and spring of last school year, as well as getting in a couple of easy summer camps. I am now starting up my second session of the current school year and things are definitely ramping up again as my volunteer obligations seem to be ramping down.


girls with totes


I am teaching an almost full roster of kids Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday afternoons. I have a range of experienced and beginner kids to work with including a group of fourth grade boys who are as excited as any girl I have ever taught. I have to admit, I was not prepared for the enthusiasm of boys wanting to sew to touch me in the way it has. I love it!

As the classes flourish, The Mr. and I are brought again to the idea of me moving my studio out of the house and into a local office/studio space. It really is difficult and draining to have to set up and take down five sewing machines, supplies, a cutting table and ironing board three days a week, all the while feeling like what I really want is to be able to add more classes and workshops for adults without further inconveniencing my family. The kids really do need their own rooms and I need to spread out and feel independent of being “at home.” There are a couple of possibilities in town so I am hoping anyone who reads this will cross their fingers for me!

For now, I am spinning with possibilities and ideas for what could be if I had the space, time and wherewithal to make it happen. I feel a change is on the horizon…a good one! Part of my list of goals and possibilities is that I will continue to return to this space to update anyone interested on what is happening. If you are one of those people, thank you, and please keep checking back. These things have a way of either happening quickly or not happening at all. Let’s hope for the former!

sewing, sewing schoolJennifer
Plum Pillows and a Green Smoothie

Well, they are complete! My three plum pillow covers have taken over and the others have been officially retired (yay!). As I mentioned before, I don't really think this is THE fabric for my living room so I made these super simple. I did, however, add a zipper this time because I was so tired of seeing the white pillow forms peeking out of the overlap closure every time one of the old ones got flipped around. Here they are snuggling together in our cozy big chair...three plum pillows (2)

and here is one doing a little afternoon sunbathing on the front porch... plum pillow on the porch (2)

So nice to have completed something!


And in other news, I posted this photo on Facebook yesterday...


There were enough questions that I figured it would be a good idea to post here and include the recipe source for those who are interested. One of my favorite blogs is Beauty That Moves. Heather, the blog's creator, has often posted about her green smoothie habit and her recipes. Check out this post for the recipe I used for the smoothie in the picture. I made a couple of minor changes: I used rice milk instead of almond (because that's what I had on hand) and I used brown rice syrup as the sweetener. For my fruit I included one small apple, frozen mango and frozen pineapple.

Not sure where I am headed yet with these smoothies or how often I plan to make them, but I must say that the repair of our long-busted Vitamix coinciding with the New Year could be a sign of things to come.

in the kitchen, sewingJennifer
Wednesday's Project

Just a quick post to show off some in progress camera straps that will soon be in my shop. They are sewn from a jelly roll of fabric strips in Liesl Gibson's Oliver+S Modern Workshop line. I just have to finish off the ends and add the hardware...Woot! Camera Straps in progress

my shop, sewingJennifer
Pillows, Pouches & A Little Happy New Year

Currently on my work table are a few new pillow covers for our living room. I must say I have searched high and low for pillow inspiration, but nothing is really grabbing me. Since we lack a decent fabric store here in Marin, there is really nowhere I can go to lay out bolts of options and hope for one of those great Aha! moments. After many days procrastinating a drive to Berkeley, I gave up and decided to go local to a little shop in Mill Valley that has a decent but small selection of quality cottons. There I found this lovely plum floral print from Art Gallery Fabrics' Paradise Collection. pillows in progress 2

It really is pretty, especially paired with the solid linen/rayon blend I picked up from Joann's that is a miraculously perfect match. However, I have to say I am still not satisfied and I already know I will continue to be on the lookout for the perfect fabric and inspiration for the next batch of pillows. I really just couldn't live with the previous pillows for a minute longer. I had hoped to finish these before our little New Year's Eve party and when I didn't get it done, I seriously considered hiding the old ones in the closet. Far too dingy to bother showing a picture of here, they have truly worn out their welcome in the Spilly household. As I continue my search for the perfect pillow, these will have to do. Photos of the completed pillows will follow...

pillows in progress

In other news, I whipped up some cute little zipper pouches for the special ladies in my life for our family Christmas Eve gift exchange.

Christmas zip pouches

They came out really nicely. I made them slightly bigger than the ones currently in my shop. I realized a while back that the ones I have had for sale up until now weren't quite the perfect size for carrying makeup which usually is the purpose of this sort of bag. They are just a bit longer taking into account the length of the average makeup brush, mascara, or lip & eye liner pencil. That said, "the ladies" loved them and future pieces for the shop will be updated accordingly to maximize their functionality.

Christmas zip pouches 3

Finally, for whoever might be reading this, I want to wish you a Happy New Year! The Holidays whirled through my life this year like a tornado taking with them my ability to think straight and, most certainly, my ability to write down or take note of a single thing. I am not one to make long lists of resolutions, but if you check back here you might just find a list of things I hope to accomplish over time and a list of things I am proud to have accomplished in 2011. For now, however, I wish everyone a year of peace, health and comfort  in 2012.

How's this for an overdue post? (Advent Calendar)

I had great hopes way back in November to write a post about our Advent Calendar (and actually post it sometime around December 1st).  My original inspiration was this one from Kathy Mack at Pink Chalk Studio which she completed back in January of 2007 - right about when I started my own.  I remember pouring over her photos and having one of those "I should do that" moments.  So, I cut the tree shape and assembled the quilt top that same January (on the heals of putting away my decorations from the Christmas before, but planning ahead).

That was a big holiday season for me.  That fall I discovered the world of craft blogs and was finding inspiration left and right.  Little G. was born in November and she was such a good baby, I was left with lots of time for quiet activities like poking around on the internet and fumbling around with my sewing machine.  Pink Chalk Studio quickly became one of my favorite places to visit everyday and it is still so obvious why - tons of wonderful sewing tips and inspiration coupled with great writing.  What more could a wanna be crafty girl who loved reading ask for?

That was the same year I made my first tote to give as a gift.  I made what I now refer to as "The Simple Tote" for my mom, along with a matching crochet hook roll. I am pretty sure she is still using both regularly for her crochet projects.  I remember discovering Rainbow Fabrics in Fairfax - a funny little fabric store - and buying the fabric for my mom's tote and then going back the next day for more to make the Advent calendar.  I remember having G. in the Bjorn when I bought the fat quarter of green fabric I used to make that perfect tree shape and digging around for scraps in the bin of leftovers for the pockets.  Looking back, I remember that many little sewing projects were started that year, and so many little windows into the crafty life were discovered online - it really was the beginning of so much for me.

So back to this Advent calendar ... The buttons are all vintage and random finds from a box of thousands at Rainbow.  So much fun to sift through!  Of course I had never quilted anything in my life so I totally winged it.  I pulled out the walking foot and went to town!  I knew nothing at the time about making my own seam binding, so I just bought a package of red at JoAnn's, wrapped it around the edge and zigzagged.  I imagine this is a total amateur move, but it worked at the time and I display it proudly.  Sadly, all these steps, the quilting, the buttons, the zigzagging, the binding, took me something like two years and the thing is (in my mind) still a work in progress.  Someday (maybe next year) I plan to make some handmade ornaments to adorn this quilted tree.  Until then, my little store bought Santa's and candy canes will have to do.

How do we use it?  Well, in each of the 25 pockets there is a little strip of paper and an ornament. The strips of paper have events, treats and special gifts printed on them.  Some days the kids get stickers or other small gifts or a special dessert, other days they are treated to a special event like going to The Nutcracker or watching a Holiday movie.  Each day, from December 1st through Christmas we pull an ornament and hang it from a button on the tree and enjoy that day's treat or gift. By Christmas we have a fully decorated "tree" and twenty-five days of fun to remember.

this weekend...

Little Purses

Come and see me at the "Spirit of the Season Craft & Gift Show" presented by I.D.E.S.I. of Novato.  I'll have a table with a selection of totes, purses and other accessories.  The perfect opportunity to get a jump on your Holiday shopping.

I.D.E.S.I. Hall

901 Sweetser Avenue, Novato

Friday 11/19 & Saturday 11/20

10:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m.

my shop, sewingJennifer
halloween 2010

Indy & Dorothy

A Happy Halloween!!  As my Mom said, "Indiana Jones traveled to Oz to save Dorothy from the Wicked Witch."  A new twist on an old story.  The Dorothy costume and Indy's bag are handmade by Mama and the rest of Indy came out of a plastic wrapper from Party City.

Pumpkin 1 & Pirate Guy

I think these guys all speak for themselves...

Pumpkin 2 & Skull

family, sewingJennifer
Someone Call The Tooth Fairy!

You see, all through the second half of Kindergarten this boy asked each day, sometimes more than once, "When am I gonna lose a tooth?"  That question was usually followed by, "What will the Tooth Fairy give me when it happens?" or "How does the Tooth Fairy know when it's my turn?"  I kept telling him it would all happen in good time and not to worry about the girls in his class, some of whom had already lost at least 4 teeth (darn precocious girls!).

So, you can imagine his excitement when a tooth finally got the slightest bit loose.  He pushed and prodded it constantly, hoping it would fall out before the end of the school year.  But, nope!  That sucker must have been rooted in there good because it has stayed in for a good two months just teasing us ever so gently.  That's all over now!

Look at that tiny little thing!  Hard to believe teeth that tiny can chew steak or efficiently scrape the kernals off of a corn cob.  By the end, the thing was dangling by a slight thread of skin and I had to reach in and quickly yank it out because I was afraid he would end up swallowing it.  He was so excited, he jumped in the air.  He ran outside to show Daddy, still jumping and then I was afraid he would drop it into the lawn.  He held on though and proceeded to tuck it into this puppy that I finished whipping up just in time...

This cutey is based on the pattern over here at "mmmcrafts".  He came out so cute (if I do say so myself)!  Rather than making the mouth into a pocket like the original pattern, I decided to just add a pocket to the front of one "leg".  That same space fabric used for the pocket (picked up at JoAnn's ages ago) makes up the whole back of the tooth.  He hangs perfectly on the bed post so the Tooth Fairy can quickly get the tooth out and money in without waking up the sleeping boy.  Perfect!

at home, family, sewingJennifer
Pillowcase Dresses

My girl, who is a good four months away from turning four, seems to be outgrowing all of her size 4T hand-me-down sundresses faster than I can put them on her.  And, although our summer has been anything but typical in terms of weather, there is still need for a sundress here and there.  So, in a desperate attempt to keep everyone happy and get us through the end of summer, I whipped up a couple of pillowcase dresses.

I think G. really loves them.  As things seem to go I don't sew that much stuff for my kids, so when I do, it's a pretty big deal.  I made this red one which I absolutely love, as well as a blue floral that I will post if I ever get around to photographing it...  The fabric is a little on the stiff side, a heavier quilting cotton, so they really are a bit tent-like but nice and long.  Perfect for a few super-hot days!  I wish I could wear something like this, but I believe on adults these are called muu muus and not super attractive on out-of-shape 40-year-olds living in the Burbs and driving the kids back and forth to school.

I purchased the fabrics at least a year ago with some other little girl dresses in mind.  I kept kicking myself for never making anything out of them, but now of course I am thankful for my tendency toward procrastination.