Jen Spilly Designs
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Handmade for Woman and Home
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Instagram Best Nine 2016

Instagram Best Nine 2016

It's been a while. Checking in to share my Instagram Best Nine of 2016, the posts that received the most likes over the past year. It turns out that these images are some of my favorites too. It seems the moments and achievements that touch us most deeply are the things that speak to others about ourselves the most deeply too. Over the past year I started doing some block printing and hand dying, I had a couple of awesome vacations with beautiful vistas and tasty cocktails, I took a stab or two at building daily creative habits, my kids grew (and I have the pics to prove it!). And two things will forever be so: 1) I am a sucker for pics of my kids from our annual Christmas Tree Trek (especially with silly faces and Santa hats) and 2) my husband sure knows how to light a tree... he's always the most popular guy on the block this time of year.

For anyone reading, I wish you a Happy New Year and leave you with a list of thoughts on where I am in my life right now, Taking Stock inspired by Pip of Meet Me At Mike's. Make your own list, it's fun and harder than you'd think...

Making : lists
Cooking : Enchiladas
Drinking : coffee and wine, what else is there?
Reading: In The Company of Women by Grace Bonney
Trawling: Hot for Food Blog and Lauren Toyota... I'm not vegan, but she's inspirational.
Wanting: a new couch
Looking: forward
Deciding: on my "one little word" 
Wishing: people find peace
Enjoying: twinkly lights
Waiting: to speak
Liking: fresh flowers
Wondering: how to get it all done
Loving: my old dog
Pondering: a cleanse and a better fitness plan
Listening: to old vinyl with N
Considering: classes and workshops... for me!
Buying: groceries... really, it never seems to end
Watching: family movies with the kids
Hoping: it all works out
Marvelling: at the freedom of birds
Cringing: when I think ahead to January 20
Needing: nothing
Questioning: my direction
Smelling: geranium
Wearing: my Blundstones almost every day!
Noticing: friends who seem to have it together
Knowing: that they probably really don't
Thinking: about classes and workshops
Admiring: creative people
Getting: rid of extra stuff, making room for the Holiday haul
Bookmarking: One Little Word
Disliking: the tween years
Opening: Holiday cards
Closing: the year
Feeling: a little stuck
Hearing: my own voice
Celebrating: new beginnings
Pretending: that I am not a procrastinator
Embracing: my babies who aren't babies anymore

Just a Little Something I Whipped Up...

My current Tuesday and Wednesday classes are made up of girls who've been sewing with me for the better part of a year. By now, they are all pretty confident sewers. So, when trying to decide what project we should do next, I had a few goals in mind:

  • It would be useful;
  • It would include interfacing;
  • It would involve multiple pieces (this is good practice in organization, sewing mechanics and patience);
  • It would involve turning corners (oddly, one of my favorite skills to teach young minds!);
  • It would require very little ironing AND could be measured out almost completely by the students themselves!
  • AND... Whatever we decided, it would NOT be American Girl Doll clothes! Though I love all sewing, trying to make tiny little seams with a bunch of tiny little hands was starting to drive me a little nuts!

With young sewers I am finding that it is very easy to have them continue to sew simple, straight lines over and over churning out stacks of useless items. It is important to me, however, to get them adding skills and techniques  to their repertoires so they can eventually begin working on projects at home. So, in order to hold their interest, I encourage my students to make things that they can use and that look impressive to the non-sewer.

What I decided on was an idea I have had in my head for a while - a notebook cover. A fabric cover with a flap to hold a Moleskine Notebook, size 5 x 8.25 (or something similar), and a facing pocket to hold a pen or pencil and other odds and ends. Now here is the sad part... the picture of the one I made... I only had an hour to whip up a sample before picking the kids up at school today...


Notebook cover 1

To those who don't sew, it probably doesn't look that sad. But, the rest of you, you see it! Yup, the darn thing is too small. :( I know it's not that big of a deal. Good thing I made the sample up so I can add an extra half-inch onto the pattern for the kids. Regardless, it's very cute. Two of the girls started theirs today and they seem pretty excited. Here's the inside...

Notebook cover 2

It looks a little better opened up. Not so obvious that it's too small! The little bonuses are the covered metal button on the front (the girls LOVED making these) and using the hair elastic as the button loop (they think this is genius!). Tomorrow I'll have five more students starting these - wish me luck!

In other news, I am starting to think about Christmas. I cannot believe it is almost here AGAIN!! Maybe this will be the year I make new stockings for us all and truly deck us out in some Handmade Holiday Hoopla. We. Shall. See.

holidays, sewing schoolJennifer
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.

Tis' the Season ...

Hello folks! Well, December is upon us. I must say I am ill prepared for this Holiday Season. Many plans are made and moving forward, but no matter what I do to stay ahead, it seems I cannot get to that point where I can sit back and take a full breath of air. I have simply resigned myself to the idea that I will not be able to relax until January 4 when the kids return to school after the break. Until then it’s all making, selling, cleaning, decorating, feeding, eating and shopping. The purpose of this post then is to make my list and check it twice (lucky you, you get to help!). The list of what’s happened, what’s happening and a few items that are likely to not happen at all (but it’s nice to dream).

What Has Happened?

  • Marin Handmade had its inaugural event way back in October. What a fun event that was! Heather and I are so proud of how it turned out and we are already talking about what and when the next event might be along with our co-organizers Robin Stelling and Creek Van Houten.
  • Halloween went off without a hitch. One Kitty Cat and one Werewolf semi-homemade as requested.

Halloween 2011

  • New items are posted in my shop for the first time in a long time. Seriously, I hit a wall sometime back and have had the hardest time getting to the other side, but I am finally making some progress in sewing, photographing and posting. Whew!
  • Gianna turned 5!!
  • Thanksgiving was lovely if a bit less festive as we were missing part of our usual family party. The food all turned out perfect and we spent the rest of the weekend hanging out with Grandma, Grandpa and Aunt Stacey.

with Grandpa & Aunt Stacey

  •  For quite some time now I have been hiking with Bear 3 or 4 mornings a week. I am loving it!
  • Gerald, our elf, has returned for the season. He is carefully watching over the kids and is already being used as a threat (lovely!)… “You should stop fighting. Gerald is watching.” Such great parenting skills we have.
  • The Advent Calendar is up and ready for action.
  • The boxes of decorations are down from the attic and awaiting the arrival of the tree this Sunday. Always a fun time meeting our friends in Freestone, picking a fresh tree at Santa’s Christmas Tree Farm and refueling with lunch at the Union Hotel. The rest of the day is spent untangling lights, rearranging the mantle and making sure the kids put the ornaments where I want them.
  • The Mr., usually wonderful man that he is, has adorned our massive maple tree on the front lawn with lights, lots of lights. Funny, he was a total scrooge before we had kids and now I have to beg him to stop decorating. It looks beautiful though - in a haphazard, Dr. Seuss-y sort of way. Gotta love a guy who can make you and the kids smile from time to time!

What is Going to Happen (or should have happened already...)?

  • This Saturday I will be at the Petaluma Craft Mafia’s Holiday Ho Ho Ho Down selling my bags. I’ve never done this show before, but I am imagining the crowd will be pretty fun.
  • Next Saturday I will be at the Fairfax Holiday Craft Fair. I did this fair last year and had a great time. So happy to be asked back again!
  • I’ve decided to make some quilted camera straps. I know there are lots of people on Etsy and other places doing this, but I love them and it’s something I’ve wanted to do for a while so I decided to just go for it.
  • I am adding a few other bits and bobs to my line up as well. Stay tuned…
  • Still thinking about starting up a program to teach sewing to kids and adults. I think there is a lot of interest in my area. It’s just a matter of me getting off my butt and doing it.
  • I still owe my mother a Christmas list for my kids. Sorry Ma!
  • I still don’t have a real Christmas list for myself of what to give the kids or anyone else.
  • I would love to get my house really, really clean AND get a new living room rug ASAP…

And the online housekeeping… It seems that I spoke too soon in my last post. I was so excited that I got my banners to work and all, that I just went ahead and deleted my old blog. Well, in my excitement I forgot I had one more step to take. The second I hit “delete” all the links to my old photos were gone because apparently they were still living in my old blog. So, if you go back into an old post here you might find there is no picture where there once was one. I am working on that, but I have to manually go back and find each photo in my files and upload it new into each post. Fun! Anyway, bear with me please. I am clearly not technologically inclined but I am doing my best. Happy Holidays! More to come...

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.