On the mend...

My companion last week....

My companion last week....

What a difference being healthy can make....  A week in bed can really warp your world view.  March in Maine is a pretty hard time to begin with, grey and brown, cold, interminable.  And the one time of the year I come down with colds....  I had the good company of our terrier mutt Lark, but even she got bored with me. Look at that face. Doesn't she look annoyed? (actually she just doesn't love the camera....)

The aforementioned cold laid me pretty low for a week. I appear to have germinated it in Savannah while I was attending the annual Modern Quilt Guild extravaganza, QuiltCon. If you are unfamiliar with this event I encourage you to search the hashtag in whichever social media you traffic. Instagram will yield the most visuals, but even a simple Google search will open a colorful gift box of inspiration. I have attended for three years now and have greatly enjoyed each trip. I had great good plans to post here about the visuals I absorbed, to share some inspiration I felt deeply in my bones upon entering the convention hall. And perhaps I still will, but I got sucked under the tide of this beastly cold and lost a full ten days in a feverish stupor. As I resurface I find all sorts of posts and images circulating, and feel a bit behind the curve. Now that feeling may subside, and I may find myself entranced all over again by the amazing quilting I saw produced by this community, and need to share it. I reserve that right. That first Thursday morning in Savannah at the beginning of Quiltcon, just over two weeks ago, feels like an eternity ago. Probably because that damn cold felt like it took away one of my proverbial nine lives, and I lost some distinct time to my fevered fugue state. While I was laying there, sweating and trying hard not to cough up a lung, various thoughts occurred to me. Well, actually honestly I think they popped into my head when I was able to rouse myself to standing, and grind up the old brain gears again. That rousing coincided nicely with the opening of the registration for my 2017 retreats- Slow Stitching and Slow Fashion. 



Watching you lovely people sign up to join myself and Cal Patch, Katrina Rodabaugh, Jessica Lewis Stevens, Chawne Kimber, Heather Jones and Kim Eichler-Messmer explore the world of Slow textile pursuit was incredibly gratifying.  It was the silver lining in my grey storm clouds that truly kept me going for a couple of days. Thank you to everyone who has signed up, and to those who are still to come, I look forward to meeting you all this Summer.... At this writing there is still plenty of room to join us for Slow Fashion.  Slow Stitching is down to two remaining spots.


I cannot lie, the actions being perpetrated in our name by elected officials lately has been extremely discouraging to me. Being sick only magnified my isolation, and feelings of helplessness in the worst way. So when I started to see the response to my call to Slow Stitch activity flood in, well, it did my heart much good! That's right, it mended my wounded heart, and gave me the hope and faith to dig myself out of that cold....!

Laying there half lucid, I allowed myself to do some wallowing. I mean, that's what you do when you're sick right? You see the worst in situations, you feel powerless and lost and cut off, alone in your disabled state. Alone with Lark, but still alone.  So I had my own little pity party. What am I doing with my life? Where am I going, with these Slow Stitching ideas? What does this really mean to me, or to anyone else....?  Laying there in a forced Slow state, I had to physically live through these admonitions I share with people. I had to slow down, I had no choice, I couldn't do much but hydrate and sleep. I was Sloooooow....  Now I won't lie, I am not good at just being. I need a purpose, a direction, a plan, a vision, somewhere to go, damnit! This meant I had to fight my inner nature to just lay there, and heal. But you know, once I gave in to it, it became truly cathartic. I have begun to see on a very elemental level, how much I need this slowing down, and how good it is for me as a human being. A switch was flicked.

The Park blocks from Carolyn Friedlander, that are keeping me moving forward....

The Park blocks from Carolyn Friedlander, that are keeping me moving forward....

I do feel like I have been pretty much running non-stop for the past thirty years. And I'm tired.  It's not that I don't feel like I have anything to show for all that forward motion, but I do feel like there is something else that I would rather be doing right about now. I don't want to sound like a broken record with all the Slow, but I do want you to know that this is a journey I am embarking on, and I do not know the way, so I am feeling my way along. As is my wont, I will be sharing this with you, and I hope some take sustenance from my ramblings. Once I felt good enough to get out of bed I had some moments of anxiety about how to get started on this path, but then I pulled out some stitching, and it felt right. These Park blocks you see here? They brought me out of my funk. Just the simple act of stitching, using some needle turned applique to attach colorful shapes to Essex Linen squares, grounded me, reminded me of the things I consider important. Making. Using your hands, your skill, your experience, your enthusiasm to create something. Stopping and noticing what is going on right now, right under your nose, while you're thinking you should be 'doing' something..... It was instinctual to be doing, but the doing, the Making, was so quiet and considered, so simple and tactile, and analog, I was soothed. Just about anything is better when you're Making.....


I am creeping out of this ten-day cold, reaching for some clarity, some action, and a path out of illness... I am on the mend, so why not do some mending?

One of my Named patterns Inari Tee dresses needed some reinforcement at the split hem seams. I've had this roll of Twill tape forever, it is so handy, I don't know what I will do when it finally runs out. Two small pieces cut, edges pressed under, glue-sticked into place and then stitched down. My dress is whole again.....


When the weather finally warms up, which we all know it will, my dress will be back in rotation. This is probably my fourth Inari, this one made from some Khadi cloth I bought at AVFKW three years ago that I was nervous to cut into until I had just the right pattern.

How many pieces of fabric do we all have like that?  Why are we doing that to ourselves...?  What are we waiting for? The way I see it, if we are thoughtful, mindful, and slow about our projects, we will do all this beautiful cloth the honor it is due.  Dontcha think....?

More thoughts on Slow clothing are percolating. Stay tuned.



Very soon after moving my studio into the new space I made sure I was able to do some sewing, even if I was still surrounded by boxes...

Very soon after moving my studio into the new space I made sure I was able to do some sewing, even if I was still surrounded by boxes...

Well, that was a long pause.... Forgive me for being so absent this last while. Breaking down, divesting, and packing up the studio took all my bandwidth, and then some. Now firmly ensconced in my Biddeford studio, many (but not all) boxes unpacked, I am able to sit down and take stock of what has happened to A Gathering of Stitches. More pleasingly, I am able to see the path forward, and put plans in place to make a lovely future for Makers. More will come as I adjust to the political landscape and the chaos it is causing.

A Gathering of Stitches was my lovechild, and an expression of a very specific character trait I have come to recognize in myself. When I see a task that needs doing, an opportunity unrealized, a void, I step up.  I am not one to wait for someone else to tackle 'that' idea.  There is a quote from Goethe that resonates for me. "Whatever you can do or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it."  I am all about the bold. But as my Father's Doctor says, ‘as we age....’, as I have matured, and come to recognize patterns in my actions, I see that some choices, some bold directions, may have been a bit misguided. Please do not hear defeat, or self-degradation in this statement.  This is more a recognition of my evergreen human ability to learn from my mistakes.  And perhaps in the future, use some of that understanding to color my boldness....

Taking down the sign at 54 Cove Street was the final act of disassembling that space. Bittersweet.....

Taking down the sign at 54 Cove Street was the final act of disassembling that space. Bittersweet.....



Four months ago, at the conclusion of the Slow Stitching retreat of 2016, I had a flash of insight that laid out a new path forward for AGOS.  I love those retreats. I know I’ve said this before (see my previous post), and the reason I conjure up those sentiments right now, is because much has changed in our landscape since August. It is hard for most of us to see our new political administration with anything less than anxiety, and often with sheer panic. I am quite scared, and shaken by this turn of events. Not because I didn’t see it coming, but because of the deep divide these results expose. I do not have a huge desire to politicize this forum, but I honestly see no way to keep those events from intruding on our collective Making.  Makers are by nature problem solvers, creative thinkers, forgers of new paths. There is no way to look at our current political landscape and not want to fix it, no matter how disenfranchised we may feel.

At the moment my studio is a chaotic mess, but it is my safe haven, and a place to work through my anxiety.....

At the moment my studio is a chaotic mess, but it is my safe haven, and a place to work through my anxiety.....





Perhaps we will all become much more prolific, channeling our fear and pain into our creative output.  I would certainly like to hope so. For some it may have the exact opposite effect, paralyzing them with dread and dire possibility. I have found that Making is the only thing right now that calms my agitated psyche. I have not yet figured out what form my activism will take. I have tried volunteer work, and at the moment it is only magnifying my anxiety and panic. I am hoping that that feeling will change over time. But right now, other than contributing what we can to both Planned Parenthood and the ACLU, and calling my MoC's regularly, my actions have to remain within my private sphere. That may sound passive, but for me at this moment, unfortunately it is what I can handle.  As Meryl Streep so eloquently said recently, quoting Carrie Fisher, ‘Take your broken heart, make it into art.’



This week when I realized that my activism needs to take a different form I blissfully stumbled upon a website that led me to all sorts of actions (some quiet, others not) that work with my introverted nature. I share these resources with you here, because I know some of you are probably feeling similarly. There are others out there who are much better at outspoken activism than I am, and I am truly grateful to them for their enthusiasm and boldness. I found most of the below links through Eleanor C. Whitney (Killerfemme) who is a fierce and creative soul, Maine born, Brooklyn based. Check out her website for a shot of hope and possibility, or at least some movement in that direction. Other websites that I foundthat speak to my need to be involved on my own terms are here:

How to Call Your Reps when You Have Social Anxiety


The Delve Action Guide for Artists + Creatives


Wall of Us

5 Ways to be a Silent Trump Protestor

We’re His Problem Now Calling Sheet

I urge you to find some action within these options (or others that you have found on your own) and take them!  If you have others to share, please leave them in comments. Let us be bold in our forward thinking actions, and good to one another in these difficult times.


So that takes care of the political activism. But what about what you came here for, the Making? That too will be imbued with new meaning going forward. This is not a radical shift, by any means. If you have been following along with me here, you know that I believe that making your own clothing is inherently a political act. Taking control of how you clothe yourself is a rebuke to big business and social norms. Perhaps I have not spelled it out previously, but now it seems so much more pertinent. If you have not yet watched The True Cost, please take the time to do so. It is available to stream on Netflix. This post is already getting long, so I will save a list of resources for the future. I will begin to populate this site with resources. My intention in 2017 is to change this format to a blog. If you like what I have to say, you will get more of it. If not, I will still have all the necessary info about my retreats here. You remember that flash of insight after the Slow Stitching retreat? It had a lot to do with the future of AGOS no longer being tied to a physical location, hence the move out of the Portland studios. But it also had to do with a recognition of my interests, my leanings, my skills, and my temperament. Inspired by Karen Templar’s Herculean effort at provoking conversation and information around Slow Fashion with her month of prompts labeled #slowfashionoctober (search the hashtag!), I seek to create a static location to house some of these resources. I will compile as many businesses, brands, stories, and links around the mindful, responsible consumption of fashion in one place as I am able. This undertaking will be monumental and slow (appropriately) and I will welcome any input and discovery you, as the community this site will serve, are able to offer up. This is the political action I feel most suited to. To offer an alternative to the mainstream, big business, environmentally destructive practices of the ‘fashion’ industry (for lack of a better inclusive term) that encourages consumption simply for the act. That is my goal. Wherever possible I will encourage you to find an alternative to mass-produced clothing, either by making it yourself, or for those without those skills, to seek out responsible producers. This will be my little F-you to the business world that cares not for the ramifications and consequences of their actions. Small, and barely political, but still, to me, important.  In the same way that Slow Food (the movement from which Slow Fashion has borrowed a title) seeks to rescue, sustain, and celebrate heritage foods and foodways, I believe that Slow Fashion can help save the traditions and culture of a way of life that celebrates craft, sustainability, respect for the natural world, and expertise gained through history, technique, and the traditions of our ancestors.

My current preferred seat....

My current preferred seat....


This process, compiling all this information, will take time. Please do not expect a fully formed site to pop from my head.  You should start to see changes around the time the retreats are announced. And anyone who wants to share resources they value will be greatly appreciated. But right now I feel the need to state my goals, to explain my shift, and to offer up another way of looking at where we are as a community.  Last year I produced ten retreats, while running the studios in Portland. Oh my, that was thrilling, exciting, expansive….. and utterly exhausting. I loved all the people I met, all the experiences I had, and helped to create, and the making I was privileged to nurture. I saw so many beautiful things made under my nose. It was thoroughly inspiring, and set me on this path. I do believe that Making, using your two hands and skills that have been passed down, and along, through generations, is at once a creative soulful act, and a political one. Taking back how you look in clothes you have made, or how you and your loved ones live through quilts from your hands, is empowering, while being incredibly satisfying for the soul and the psyche. So much is better when we make. We have empathy for those around us, patience for ourselves and for others. We have the satisfaction, however labored it might be, of completing a task, and making a tangible and useful item. Bringing something fully formed into the world, from raw materials, with skills you have learned. How can that not be a good thing? 



Further to that end, in 2017 I will produce two retreats both with the theme of slowing ourselves down and focusing on gaining or expanding knowledge that feeds our souls. I will continue the Slow Stitching week, which focuses on celebrating the quilting arts and traditions. This year I will add a Slow Fashion event that will offer similar attention to the garment arts, to the AGOS line-up. I promise I am not trying to tease you with this announcement in this form.  The full explanation of these retreats is coming within the month. I fully intend to share with you all of the whys and wherefores, and all the pertinent details about teachers, scheduling, locations, and costs, soon. I am still nailing down some niggling details and want to be sure what you see is fully actionable when it becomes public. It is coming, please bear with me.  I can tell you that the Slow Stitching retreat will continue at the same location, Medomak Retreat Center, and in the same month, August. The Slow Fashion addition will take place in July, and at a new location on the beach in Southern Maine. I am holding such peace and joy, and hope, within these two retreats, I am eager to share them with you. Soon….. In the meantime, click through on some of those links above?  Call your MoC's, and keep Making, it will help keep us all sane.



Oh, that word. Change. It can strike cold terror into the hearts of some. For others it is excitement, adventure, exploration. Having been born on the cusp between Virgo and Libra, I seem constitutionally accustomed to change.  Notice I didn't say comfortable, just accustomed. I have had six different careers. Some might call it mercurial, I call it searching. Once again, change is at hand.  This change however is not a dramatic shift as when I left photo-editing at a magazine for baking in a bakery. No, this change is more of a shift than a exact change.  AGOS is hitting the road. As of the end of the calendar year A Gathering of Stitches will become a traveling show. I am leaving the studios here at Cove Street in the East Bayside neighborhood of Portland, ME. AGOS has morphed, organically, into a business that creates experiences for the fiber obsessed to explore their practice. These experiences have, to date, all happened here in Maine, and that will not change.  At least not right now. Who knows, perhaps we will head out further down the road in the future. For right now, however, I will continue to explore the rustic, expansive, and inspiring background of Maine as the setting for future retreats in the world of stitching. There is really no reason to be tied to one location when Maine offers up so many gorgeous vistas, so much natural beauty and inspiration for those of us who make with our hands.

The Archer workshop with Jen Beeman

The Archer workshop with Jen Beeman



If you have been to an AGOS event in the past two years you know the extent to which I will go to bring inspiring and generous talent together in small groups with comfortable, and well-equipped locations, and tasty food.  This is my path, this is the direction I am heading, this is my mission.  I fully believe in the impact we can make, each and every one of us Makers, when we are given the tools and the support to practice this regular meditation on creating. When we can take a moment to slow down and focus on making instead of consuming. This political season has been pretty soul crushing, no matter how you slice it. It is hard not to be discouraged. I have found myself turning again and again, back to the room with the makers and the teacher and the fabric and the irons and the color and the buzz of creative excitement that is any number of the retreats I produced this past year. It is a balm for my soul. It is a ray of wholesome sunlight in a murky dusk of bile. I'm not gonna go all grateful on you, don't worry, but I know that in my many years of slogging up the hill towards some mysterious Valhalla, the moments I have had with fabric and community are the ones I keep coming back to. I know deep down in my gut that this is my work, and my happy place, making these oases.

Design and Make Your Own Clothes with Cal Patch
The Jeans workshop with Heather Lewenza

The Jeans workshop with Heather Lewenza


When I first conceived of A Gathering of Stitches four years ago, it had a form that I thought was very exciting and needed to be brought to life. I was consumed by fleshing out this idea I had. As with so many ideas, some parts of it were easy to coax into action, others not so much. That is the nature of building something new, unlike with a sewing pattern, you don't necessarily know how it's going to go together. So, to continue the sewing metaphor, you often need to do some adjustments, some alterations, take a seam in there, let a hem down here, to make it work. This latest wrinkle is just that, an adjustment. I am very proud of this studio I built, and running it for the past three years has taught me all sorts of things. Some of them are for public consumption, some need to be shared privately over a glass of wine. But the thing that is clear, and true, and real, is that I love (LOVE!) creating creative experiences for the fiber inclined to play, to explore, to practice, to further their expression.  My big realization this Summer was that while I love the studios, they weren't necessary for me to continue to produce these events. In fact the studio was distracting some of my creative energy from the things I really love doing.  Once I had that insight, then I knew I needed to move forward with a divestiture. A Gathering of Stitches is hitting the road.  It's going to become a light, nimble, creative business that uses the beauty of Maine to support the furthering of the Making movement. I will continue to bring world class Makers here to share their skills, their knowledge, their creativity with you. I will continue to create nurturing environments for small groups to explore their practice in a comfortable space, and with good food. I will continue to provide a respite from the fast-paced technological world of our daily lives, to slow down, and dedicate your attention to tangible activities that you can take home with you. I have been feeling like I am trying to move too fast. I can imagine I am not the only one. Let's all take a collective breath and remember how much Making feeds our souls.


Going forward my emphasis will be on Slow. Slow fashion, slow stitching, slow making. We all need a bit more time for these practices that feed our souls. More time for stitching, for sewing garments, for sewing quilts, for using our hands and our hearts to bring new life to raw materials. I seek to create experiences for us to pause, to step back from the fray of Modern life, and connect with others who share our passions for fiber. To use making as a bridge to connect us, to keep us as a community, to allow us to see all our similarities instead of pushing us apart with our differences. While I would love to work towards world peace, I think we can just start with some quiet stitching on the porch.  Will you join me?

Slow Stitching with Chawne Kimber and Alison Glass

Pragmatically speaking, A Gathering of Stitches will pack up it's bags and move all the sewing tools to a private location by the end of December. I will continue to send out monthly newsletters, fill my social media feed with making, and pop up at various locations like QuiltCon and Rhinebeck. As with the past two years, I will announce the retreat offerings for 2017 at the beginning of the new year, with some time between the announcement and the opening of registration for people to make arrangements before committing. There will be a small sale in the next month or so of some pieces of equipment that are not coming with me, as well as some books and materials. If you are local, watch the newsletter for that date, and come help me lighten the load for the move. Change is at hand, but with change comes growth, with growth comes growing pains. I appreciate all the support I have received over the past three years and look forward to what A Gathering of Stitches is growing into!

Slow Fashion thoughts week one.....

As a maker, my process is constantly evolving, and recently an issue has arisen that has given me pause.  It has been five years now since I took my sewing back up, after about a ten-year lapse. I sewed clothes for myself as a pre-teen, and then again just out of college, and yet again in my late thirties. But for most of my forties my making was dedicated to knitting. Late in that period I developed a pretty bad case of Epicondylitis, also known as Tennis Elbow, that forced me to stop knitting, entirely, for about nine months. This was the time when I became aware of the Modern Quilting fabric movement. Pretty sure it was Amy Butler’s Midwest Modern line that drew me in. I unearthed my Singer sewing machine, took it to be serviced, and starting sewing pieces of fabric together again. It took a little while to remember my skills, but, as the saying goes, it’s like riding a bicycle. You remember. Partially ergonomic memory, partially instinct, voices of early teachers, words from books, mistakes made, and fixed, it all comes flooding back.

A pile of some current garment 'scraps'....

A pile of some current garment 'scraps'....

Anyway, that’s a story for another day, me re-finding my love of sewing. What is timely is where I am right now, five years into a dedicated sewing practice, making predominantly garments. I have a stash. I have excess. The photos that accompany this post are of that stash.  At times it feels like wretched excess.  I have piles of scrap fabric. (no, I'm not showing you that....) I have taken up quilting, and it does address some of this overflow. But honestly I am not quilting with my rayon scraps…. So there are small cuts of fabric piling up. On the other end of the process, I have accumulated a sizable stash of completed garments that for one reason or another, I no longer wear. This category includes styles that no longer appeal to me, items I no longer fit (sigh), wearable muslins in colors and patterns that don’t really work for me, and items that just never really worked for me. I am pretty much 95% handmade garments in my daily wear at this point. So I have a lot of clothes to wear. Which means items that don’t sing to me, don’t get worn. I am starting to run out of closet space. More importantly my psyche is feeling burdened by these pieces of perfectly wearable clothing that are not being worn. I feel guilty.  This is a guilt of my own making, and not one I want to project on anyone else. But it feels real to me.....  I know that there is a glut of second hand clothing in the universe. No matter how virtuous giving to charitable organizations might make you feel in the short term, the reality is much of what you donate ends up in the third world, as scrap, or worse, in landfills. If you pay attention to Fast Fashion news, you know that there are millions of shoddy Tee shirts that are discarded a few weeks after their purchase, that end up in this system. That whole construct horrifies me. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, I highly recommend you watch The True Cost (film), it’s available on Netflix. There is also an article circulating in slow fashion circles about the problem with second-hand clothing.  You can read it here.

Having this knowledge has recently caused a schism in my Making construct. Well, that, and my overflowing closet. I have too many clothes. And unlike many people in this situation, my clothing is not disintegrating fast fashion. It’s handmade garments that will probably last a good long while. But I’m not going to wear most of this overflow. So what do I do with it? With the current conversation started, and generously guided, by Karen Templer for Slow Fashion October, I feel it is time for me to address this issue.

A little background and context. My mother was born at the end of the Depression and was raised during the Second World War. She was never homeless, and always had enough food, but the issue of shortage was ever present in her young years. My Mother does not waste anything. She has always washed out tin foil and plastic bags and re-used them. She shops on the sale rack, always. She is constitutionally unable to buy anything at the regular price. Being her first born, even though my childhood was pretty comfortable, I absorbed these habits. I look for bargains. When I was younger, Loehmann’s was a store in New York City that sold actual high-end Designer clothing (the real stuff, not the current secondary market junk) for affordable prices. My Mother and I shopped Loehmann’s hard. Because even though she looked for good prices, my Mother still had a dynamic sense of style and recognized quality, workmanship, and good design. I remember one blouse we bought for me that was not dissimilar to the Wiksten Tova, in a lovely off-white cotton. We referred to that blouse as “the world’s most beautiful blouse’. And it was legendary for years. We gauged other garments based on their similarity to, or lack of, the “world’s most beautiful blouse”.

Some of the garments I have made that I no longer wear.....

Some of the garments I have made that I no longer wear.....

I was instilled with this awareness of style and value at a very young age.  The Vogue September issue was a regular read for decades. To my mind, there is little surprise that I like to sew my own clothes. My Mother also taught me to sew, so she gave me many tools with which to indulge in my love of clothing. For the last little while I have been blithely sewing away, looking for my signature look, looking for flattering garments that make me feel good, searching for the perfect pattern. Style is an ineffable quality. We all have some version of it. Some of us obsess over it, others have it effortlessly, some disdain its pursuit. Wherever you fall on this spectrum, you are aware of it. At the ripe old age of 54, having cruised past Menopause, I am feeling increasingly comfortable in my skin, and aware of what my ‘style’ is. This has led to some pivoting in my wardrobe, and some insights about my earlier choices. So you see, we are back at that pile of handmade clothing. Most of it is perfectly lovely, well made, and fashionable. But it is not for me. So what do I do with it? I have certainly thought I could beat the system and find a charity that would actually use it. The article referenced above has squashed that belief. At points I have thought about holding a clothing swap….but I am an Introvert. The thought of spreading my clothing life out for others to paw through, to choose, or discard, in real time, has given me extreme pause. I have thought about perhaps selling it (at reasonable prices) as one would sell one’s stash.  I do not know what to do about it all.

As the conversation about Slow Fashion blossoms during this month of October I am hoping some clarity will present itself. Perhaps someone else out there is wrestling with this issue. Are you?  Do you have any ideas about what to do?

Piece Keeping

Amy Butler has a new book out titled Piece Keeping and she has invited me to be part of her blog tour to support the book. I was honored to be asked, and excited to get my hands on a copy of the book.  I first met Amy two+ years ago at Quilt Market when I walked up and introduced myself to her. She could not have been warmer or friendlier to this total stranger and I was instantly impressed with her grace and generosity.  Amy's Midwest Modern was the first line of Modern quilting fabric I became aware of, so to be talking with her in the flesh was a bit of a fangirl moment. As I have gotten to know her over the past two years (she came to Maine July '15 and taught a workshop with Heather Jones- another favorite of mine) my admiration for her talent, her creativity, her business, her friendship, but most of all her heart, have grown steadily.  In an ever growing industry, Amy has stood as a shining light, a fabulous role model, a tireless advocate for creativity, and just a lovely human being.

When Chronicle Books sent me a copy of the book and asked if I'd write a blog post there was no time between the question and my resounding yes! When the book arrived I will admit to a pause in my daily work to page slowly through it, ignoring emails and other business at hand.  The photographs, by Amy's husband and partner in creativity, David Butler, are colorful and inviting, and the directions are all well spelled out and diagrammed. But what totally drew me in, full disclosure, was the section in the back of the book where Amy talks about feeding the creative fires.

The projects in this book are all darling, and inspiring, and the photos will make you want to dive in.  Amy gives a long paragraph in the beginning of the book to each theme and technique used in the book. If you are more of an improvisational maker (as I am) this section will offer much spark for your creative engine. I have been daydreaming about the flying geese block for the past month or two, without yet putting fabric to task. But reading through this first chapter of Amy's books got me doing this.... 



These blocks are made from linen held in my stash from lord knows where, cut with scissors, and stitched by hand.  Yes, by hand. One hot Summer day, under the tent on our patio while trying to escape the heat. And it is this small project for which I am grateful to Amy Butler for writing this fabulous book. With her voice in my head, a rumbling of an idea about flying geese, and some materials at hand, I started a project that may take me months(?) to finish, but that totally turns me on. What a distinct pleasure to find that type of inspiration in a book.

Remember that final chapter I mentioned above?  Well, for me, that is my favorite part of the book. Amy calls it Creative Communion, and it is an issue all creative people struggle with. Especially those who make their creativity their business.  How do you stay engaged, excited, and productive with your muse? Amy offers up tips and resources for keeping that mojo flowing! She has ideas for crafty weekends with friends, places to find inspiration, both virtual and analog. And she encourages you to carve out creative 'me time' which is SO important. Those geese you see to the left were channeled during some me time I had to force myself to take. But oh the results!

The project that I selected from Piece Keeping is the Embellished Infinity Cowl, and below is the image from the book.  I am planning these geese on the left to be an Embellished cowl of my variation, but we will see what it eventually becomes...  I think this cowl is a beautiful project, ripe for personal touches from your own stash, and a lovely way to wear your creativity around your neck. The instructions are clear and detailed as you can see below, allowing the newer sewist the opportunity to follow a project to completion, and the more experienced to use it as a starting point. My finished cowl will look differently, but will be forever inspired by Amy.


I have been told I can share the full instructions for the project here with you, so you can try it and see what your cowl looks like!  The instructions are at the bottom of this post.

I am also giving away a prize package of a copy of the book, a stack of fat quarters of Amy's latest line from FreeSpirit, and some of her ribbons from Renaissance Ribbons. Much fuel for your creative fire! I will pick a winner at random from my comments on Thursday July 28th. Tell me about an aha! moment of your creativity.  Make sure to include your email so I can contact you.

You can check in on all the other creative folks on Amy's Blog Tour from the list below.

July 11 - Chronicle Books

July 12 - The Root Connection

July 13 - Suzy Quilts

July 14 - Rock Paper Scissors

July 15 - 100 Billion Stars

July 16 - Carrie Bloomston

July 17 - Late Night Quilter

July 18 - Crimson Tate

July 19 - A Gathering of Stitches

July 20 - Heather Jones Studio

July 21 - Make It In Design



Embellished Infinity Scarf From Amy's Butler's book Piece Keeping, 20 Stylish Projects That Celebrate Patchwork from Chronicle Books

Finished size: 11" (27.9 cm) wide x 72" (182.9 cm) circumference (37" [94 cm] flat)

Handwork mixes with fresh patchwork for this fanciful scarf.

Wrap yourself in handmade beauty!


All seams are 1/4" (0.6 cm) unless otherwise stated. The seam

allowance is included in all measurements and templates.

Press all seam allowances to one side as you sew.


Flying Geese


Paper Piecing
Hand Embroidery



Use Figure 1 as a guide for selecting the fabrics
From 44" (112 cm) wide light- to mid-weight fabric (unless otherwise noted)

1/4 yard (0.23 m) each of 9 coordinating prints and solids for Patchwork Stripes (Optional: Choose one floral print for hand embroidery)

1/4 yard (0.23 m) each of 2 coordinating prints or solids for the first stripe of Flying Geese Patchwork

1/4 yard (0.23 m) each of 2 coordinating prints or solids for the second stripe of Flying Geese Patchwork

21/8 yards (1.9 m) of 45" (114 cm) or 60" (152 cm) wide fabric for Scarf (Note: Choose a fabric that is reversible; the Patchwork Panels will only be on one side, but the scarf is not self-lined.)

1/4 yard (0.23 m) of coordinating print or solid for Scarf Binding

1/2 yard (0.46 m) of cotton muslin for Patchwork Backing


1 spool of coordinating all-purpose thread (Coats)

Up to 9 different colors of coordinating all-purpose thread for machine quilting on patchwork strips (Coats)

1 skein of embroidery floss to coordinate with the fabric for one Flying Geese triangle (Anchor by Coats)

2 or 3 skeins of embroidery floss to coordinate with fabric for the hand embroidery (Anchor by Coats)

7" (17.8 cm) embroidery hoop (Clover Embroidery Stitching Tool Hoop)

1 spool of transparent thread

4 beads (4 mm) for embellishment

28 to 30 coordinating seed beads for embellishment


4 sheets of foundation paper, 9" x 12" (22.9 x 30.5 cm) (Carol Doak’s)

Ruler that works with rotary cutter and has 1/4" (0.6 cm) markings (such as an Add-A-Quarter Ruler)

1 hand-embroidery needle (Prym-Dritz)

1 short hand-beading needle (Prym-Dritz)

Needle-nose pliers

1 hand-sewing needle

1/4" (0.6 cm) piecing foot for your sewing machine

1.     Cut Out the Template Piece

a.     From the pattern sheet included with this book, cut out: Flying Geese Template

2.     Cut Out the Fabric Pieces
Use your rotary cutter, mat, and ruler to cut the following fabrics:

a.     Flying Geese Stripe 1 (for both Patchwork Panels)

                                               i.     Fabric 1:

                                             ii.     Cut 4 squares for Triangles: 4" (10 cm) square

                                            iii.     Cut 8 squares for Background: 4" (10 cm) square

b.     Fabric 2:

                                               i.     Cut 4 squares for Triangles: 4" (10 cm) square

                                             ii.     Cut 8 squares for Background: 4" (10 cm) square

c.     Flying Geese Stripe 2 (for both Patchwork Panels)

                                               i.     Fabric 3:

                                             ii.     Cut 4 squares for Triangles: 4" (10 cm) square

                                            iii.     Cut 8 squares for Background: 4" (10 cm) square

d.     Fabric 4:

                                               i.     Cut 4 squares for Triangles: 4" (10 cm) square

                                             ii.     Cut 8 squares for Background: 4" (10 cm) square

e.     Patchwork Strip Fabrics

                                               i.     Cut 2 strips from each of the 9 Patchwork Strip fabrics:

                                             ii.     Fabric 1: 11/4" x 111/4" (3.2 x 28.6 cm)

                                            iii.     Fabric 2: 1" x 111/4" (2.5 x 28.6 cm)

                                            iv.     Fabric 3: 11/4" x 111/4" (3.2 x 28.6 cm)

                                              v.     Fabric 4: 7/8" x 111/4" (2.2 x 28.6 cm)

                                            vi.     Fabric 5: 17/8" x 111/4" (4.8 x 28.6 cm)

                                           vii.     Fabric 6: 21/8" x 111/4" (5.4 x 28.6 cm)

                                         viii.     Fabric 7: 13/8" x 111/4" (3.5 x 28.6 cm)

                                            ix.     Fabric 8: 11/2" x 111/4" (3.8 x 28.6 cm)

                                              x.     Fabric 9: 17/8" x 111/4" (4.8 x 28.6 cm)

f.      Scarf Fabric

                                               i.     Cut 1 piece: 74" x 111/4" (188 x 28.6 cm)

g.     Binding Fabric

                                               i.     Cut 4 strips: 2" (5 cm) x width of fabric* (wof)

h.     Muslin

                                               i.     Cut 2 pieces: 18" (45.7 cm) square

3.     Make Flying Geese Strips Using Paper Piecing
Note: Each Patchwork Panel has two Flying Geese Strips. The fabrics in the two strips are reversed on the two panels. (See Figure 2.)

a.     Trace the Flying Geese Template once onto each piece of foundation paper, making sure your lines are straight, as you will be following these lines when you are stitching. Transfer the numbers of each section onto the tracing.

b.     Start with Flying Geese Strip 1 on the first Patchwork Panel. Place one Flying Geese Triangles square under Section 1 with the wrong side against the wrong side of the paper. The fabric piece needs to extend 1/4" (0.6 cm) past all sides of Section 1. Then, take one Background square and match it with the triangle fabric right sides together. Pin these two layers together through the paper with the paper on top. Make sure all sides of the fabric pieces extend 1/4" (0.6 cm) past the section outlines. (See Figure 3.)

c.     Reduce the stitch length on your sewing machine to 1.5 (12 to 14 stitches/inch/2.5 cm). With the paper side up, stitch along the drawn line between Sections 1 and 2, stitching slightly past the beginning and extending through the seam allowance at the end of the line.

d.     Fold the paper back along this stitched line. Use your ruler, rotary cutter, and mat to trim the seam allowance* to 1/4" (0.6 cm). (See Figure 4.)

e.     Turn the paper over and press the fabric open with the seam allowances toward Section 2. The background fabric will now be under Section 2. The excess will be cut off later. (See Figure 5.)

f.      Repeat with another square of the background fabric for Section 3 on the other side. (See Figures 6 and 7.)

g.     Place the second Flying Geese Triangle fabric square right sides together against this first block you just made. Pin through the layers to hold. With the paper side facing up, stitch along the line at the bottom of Section 4.

h.     Fold the paper back along this stitched line. Trim the seam allowance to 1/4" (0.6 cm). Turn the paper over and press the fabric open with the seam allowance going toward Section 4.

i.      Repeat Steps 3b to 3f to sew the background fabrics for Sections 5 and 6 to both sides of the Flying Geese Section 4. Then complete the remaining two Flying Geese sections in this strip.

j.      Trim along the outside edges of the template and gently remove the paper.

k.     Repeat Steps 3b to 3j to complete Flying Geese Strip 1 for Patchwork Panel 2, alternating the fabrics for the Flying Geese Triangles and the Background. Then make two Flying Geese Strip 2 pieces, alternating the fabrics.

4.     Make the Patchwork Panels

a.     Divide the Patchwork and Flying Geese Strips into two groups for the Patchwork Panels.

b.     Start with the first panel and follow the layout in Figure 1 to lay the strips in order.

c.     Working from the left to the right, pin the long edges of the first two strips right sides together. Sew the strips together and press the seam allowances in one direction.

d.     Pin the next strip, right sides together, onto the previous strip and stitch. Continue pinning and sewing in the same manner to complete the panel.

e.     Repeat Steps 4b to 4d to make the second Patchwork Panel.

5.     Quilt and Embellish the Patchwork Panel

a.     Center the wrong side of the first Patchwork Panel on one muslin piece. The muslin will be larger than the panel. Smooth out any wrinkles and pin in place.

b.     For the sashiko stitching on the Flying Geese:

                                               i.     Place the panel and muslin in the quilting hoop, centering it on the first triangle, making sure there is at least 1" (2.5 cm) of fabric outside of the hoop at all times.

                                             ii.     Thread your hand-embroidery needle with two or three strands of embroidery floss. Tie a knot at one end.

                                            iii.     With your chalk pencil and ruler, mark the sashiko lines on the triangle following the image in Figure 8.

                                            iv.     Bring the needle up, from the wrong side to the right, at one of the marked stitches. Make a single straight stitch about 1/8" to 3/16" (0.3 to 0.4 cm) long, following the drawn lines. Space your stitches evenly and the rows of stitches 1/16" to 1/8" (0.1 to 0.3 cm) apart. Make a knot on the wrong side of the fabric with the last stitch.

                                              v.     Repeat to stitch the remaining three Flying Geese triangles in this Strip, moving the hoop as necessary.

c.     For the hand embroidery (use Figure 9 as a guide):

                                               i.     You will use a satin stitch* to fill in patterns on one of the print fabrics. I chose a floral print. Choose small elements of the print that you would like to highlight. Re-hoop the panel and muslin over the portion of the strip you wish to embroider, making sure there is at least 1" (2.5 cm) of fabric outside of the hoop at all times.

                                             ii.     Thread your hand-embroidery needle with three strands of embroidery floss. Tie a knot at one end.

                                            iii.     Start in the center of the pattern. Bring the needle up from the wrong side of the fabric on the outside edge of the pattern. Reinsert your needle into the fabric directly across from where you brought it up through the fabric, spanning the pattern. Pull the thread taut, but don’t make the fabric pucker.

                                            iv.     Bring the needle up next to the original stitch and make a second stitch parallel to the first with very little gap between the two. Continue sewing in this manner to cover the entire motif. Tie a knot on the back of fabric when you are finished.

                                              v.     Re-thread your needle and continue satin stitching any other areas of the patchwork strip you wish to fill in on both panels.

d.     For the beadwork (use Figure 9 as a guide):

                                               i.     Select design details on a floral print or other fabric to embellish with bead clusters. Note: The beadwork does not have to be done inside the embroidery hoop.

                                             ii.     Thread your beading needle with a double strand of transparent thread and tie a knot at the end. Tip: Kink the thread with a pair of needle-nose pliers where you want the knot to go. When you tie the knot at this kink, it will be less likely to shift. Use the pliers to help pull the knot tight.

                                            iii.     Stitch a large bead in the middle of a chosen design. Then, stitch six or seven small beads around central large bead.

                                            iv.     Repeat for a second bead cluster on the first panel. Repeat to make two bead clusters on the second panel.

e.     For the machine quilting (use Figure 10 as a guide):

                                               i.     Thread your machine with the appropriate thread for each Patchwork Panel and Flying Geese Strip as you work.

                                             ii.     Attach your 1/4" (0.6 cm) piecing foot and set your stitch length slightly longer than normal.

                                            iii.     Start with the Patchwork Strips by sewing lines 1/4" (0.6 cm) apart down each strip. Go back and stitch between each row of stitching so the rows end up being 1/8" (0.3 cm) apart and the panel has a flat feel. Note: For the strips with the hand embroidery, stitch in the areas that are not embroidered, working around the embroidered areas.

                                            iv.     Follow the stitching guide in Figure 10 for the Flying Geese Strips, keeping the stitches 1/8" (0.3 cm) apart on the background fabric and 1/4" (0.6 cm) apart inside the Flying Geese Triangles.

6.     Construct the Scarf

a.     Match the short ends of the Scarf fabric, wrong sides together, and stitch. Press the seam allowance open.

b.     Place the wrong side of the first Patchwork Panel onto the Scarf so that one short end completely covers the seam and seam allowance. Pin the Panel onto the Scarf.

c.     Place the second Patchwork Panel 28" (71.1 cm) to the right of the first Panel. Pin the Panel to the Scarf. Try on the Scarf, looping for two layers, and adjust the placement of both panels to your liking. Carefully remove the Scarf.

d.     With your chalk pencil, mark the placement of both Patchwork Panels and then unpin them from the Scarf. Press each short end under ¼" (0.6 cm) to the wrong side on both panels. Repin the panels to the Scarf where marked.

e.     Use a hand-sewing needle and thread to slipstitch* the Panels to the Scarf along all short ends on both Patchwork Panels, hiding your stitches.

7.     Sew the Binding* to the Scarf

a.     Sew the Binding strips together along the short ends and then trim to make two long strips that are 2" (5.1 cm) wide x 74" (188.0 cm) long.

b.     Follow the steps for French Straight Binding* in the Glossary and Techniques section (page 166) to finish the Scarf.

c.     Wash the scarf when you are finished to soften the fabrics.