Jen Spilly Designs
handmade for woman and home

spillymade blog

Handmade for Woman and Home
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
Not too shabby...

as my mom would say. 20120803-105810.jpg My mother is my crochet idol. She does it pretty darn quick and left-handed at that. My entire life I've watched her as she is periodically inspired to pick up the hook and as a child I watched my grandmother before her. Both of them just always seemed to fall back into it no matter how long of a break they took.

20120803-110213.jpg Me, not so much... Sewing, no problem! Knitting, no problem! But up until a month or so ago I was convinced I would never get crochet. Really convinced. No matter how many times I watched my mom or others and no matter how many book diagrams and descriptions I read, I just couldn't get it. But I was determined and finally found a few videos online. I watched over and over, doing the hand movements in my head, starting and unraveling granny square after granny square and, finally, I think I've got it. Seven completed and somewhat attractive squares later, I am feeling pretty darn proud of myself. I have great plans for the granny square and me!


Things with YarnJennifer
Just Peachy :)

For those who might be curious, I am still here! The blog is alive and well if slightly dormant. Like a bear hibernating for the winter, this blog o' mine has taken a hiatus of an unexpected duration. Although I tried to pop my head in back in March, much like our February friend Punxsutawney Phil, I saw my shadow and turned right around again. Decided I would have to hold out until summer! And, let's face it - I haven't exactly established myself as a consistent blogger up to now anyway. But, here we are and the truth is I just haven't been all that productive. Somehow sewing and crafting of any sort got pushed by the wayside over the past couple of seasons and replaced by days of school volunteerism, kid's sports and just plain old getting everyday stuff done. Ideas percolate, conversations happen and lists get made and yet I still find my creative self stuck in a bit of a rut. However, I am here now to attempt recovery!

I took a few pictures of my studio a couple of weeks back to document the state of things...

Studio June 2012 (2)

The inspiration board in transition. The piles of fabric in a horrible state of disarray. Unfinished projects on the work table waiting for my attention.

Studio June 2012 (3)

The sewing table looking suspiciously clean save for the to-go cup fittingly noting my recently increased caffeine intake.

Studio June 2012 (5)

Truly though, there are some very interesting things happening around here. For instance, I was recently asked to display some of my bags at Sunny Day Salvage in Fairfax. As part of my sales agreement with Sunny Day's creatively fabulous Michele, I will also be working at the shop a few days a month. My plan is to Facebook and Tweet those dates a day or so ahead of time so local folks can stop by and say hello. In fact, I am looking forward to being there this Saturday from 12 noon to 5 p.m. If all goes well, I will also be leading a couple of evening workshops at Sunny Day each month teaching some fun craft and sewing projects to interested students.

Things are also moving ahead nicely with Marin Handmade. The amazing Heather has created a top notch website for us, the focus group has been meeting regularly and a few events are being planned for the summer and fall months. I'll be sure to post all that information here as it gets finalized.

Last but not least, I am (FINALLY!) ready to start teaching sewing to children and adults. My plan is to take on small groups of four, aged 7-12, for beginning machine sewing, as well as individual private lessons for older children and adults or Mom & Me classes for moms and kids who want to learn together. Look for class descriptions and pricing to be posted soon on my website. If you are local, interested and just can't wait for me to post the info, email me and we can hash out the details.

My first newsletter will be arriving soon too! If you would like to subscribe click here and enter your info.

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.

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...

Finally Starting To Feel Like Home...

Well, good morning! Let me just start the day by saying, I did it! I finally did it! I closed my Typepad account and the old version of my blog will no longer be available there. I feel a sense of relief. Why did I hang on so long? I don’t know. All I can say is that this process has been frustrating and complicated and annoying. Pulling everything together for the new blog in this new space took some time. I couldn’t get the banners to show up right, they were the wrong size, other things got in the way of me sitting down and just getting it done, and overall I procrastinated (as I am known to do) an awful lot. In fact, I spent so many days trying to get it all right that when I reached a point where I thought I would never figure it out, I just shut down. I couldn’t log in to Wordpress for fear I might just cry. I considered stopping this thing altogether. I even considered dumping all of this work and just sticking with the old blog, but then my frustration made it so I couldn’t log in there either.

But, here I am and I am feeling pretty good about it. A weight has been lifted. I have the feeling I get when I finally drop off that load of clothes at Goodwill that’s been taking up space in the back of my car for a month. You know what I’m talking about – those bags you take out and put back in each day so you can make room for the dog and yet you just can’t seem to drive those extra few blocks to drop them off. It’s a genuine freedom I can feel deep down in my bones!

The banners now are not only the right size but they appear, somewhat magically, on the right pages!! I nearly peed my pants when I got that to work. Really! I let out a whoop and the kids came running like I might have fallen and broken my leg or something. That alone is worth celebrating!

The funny thing is I can’t even really tell you how I did it except to say it’s how I always do things. I worked on it until I was about to throw my computer through the window and then I took a long, long break. Then, one day I opened it up, spent about an hour poking around and, Voila! (as they say in France) here it is.

Now don’t get me wrong. I know there are still glitches here and there, things I can add and fine tune, pages missing and photos with bad lighting, not to mention days and days worth of posts that should have been written and my shop that should have been updated long ago. But, it’s a start and a darn good one if you ask me.

So, I invite you to poke around here. Let me know what you think. Let me know what might not be working. Make suggestions right in the comments section and tell me what you’d like to see here in this space. If you see something here you think might appeal to someone you know, send them the link. That’s what this is all about after all – sharing ideas and thoughts.

Thanks for stopping by and taking the time to check it out too. I really appreciate the feedback and knowing that you stopped in to see what I am up to.

creative spaceJennifer