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I love seeing how others deal with fabric scraps!

What does the fashion industry do with their TONS of scraps?


Five things to know if you want to learn to sew …

UggjqRsn3MRl-1See this dress? Does it look easy to sew/make?

Every day in the shop a few people walk in and ask about sewing lessons. We get phone calls every day asking the same. I always like to get to know them, what their goals are, whether or not they have a sewing machine and we talk about their experience with mother, grandmother or aunts who may have sewn. Most students enjoy the conversation and can’t wait to dive into sewing. They realize that learning to sew is a process that takes time.

About once or twice a month someone walks in and asks to learn to sew because they have one thing they want to make. And they want to make it by next week. And all they have is a photo on their cell phone.  This ambitious project is usually (but not always) something made from lycra and lace and very stretchy. Definitely not something a beginner will tackle in their first lesson.

When I tell these ambitious potential students about the learning curve involved in sewing, that they must learn how a sewing machine operates, how to thread it, and how to sew a straight line before they make their first item – a simple project like a pillow or tote bag – some decide they do not have the patience for all that. Some become intrigued and decide to undertake a series of classes regardless of the time it takes to learn. Sewing is not for everyone.

Five Things You Need to Know if You Want to Learn to Sew:
1. Take sewing classes. Sewing may or may not be something you enjoy. Start simple, and if you enjoy the process think about buying a machine.
2. Do not rush to buy a machine. I know several people who decided they were going to learn to sew and bought a machine that just sits in their closet. They did not enjoy sewing as much as they had hoped. Before you purchase a sewing machine, ask your friends that sew what type machine they use. Test out different brands of machines when you take lessons. Choose a machine that you are comfortable using. Never order a machine online unless you are familiar with the brand name and model and have some experience with that type machine. You may luck out and find one for sale on Craigslist or an estate sale. The more you know about how a machine operates and how to use it the more qualified you are to purchase your machine.
3. Gather the proper and necessary tools and have a box or tote to store them all in. Basic supplies can be purchased at reasonable prices. What do you need? Good shears in two or three sizes; thread in various colors; seam ripper; measuring tape; seam gauge or small ruler; iron and ironing board; straight pins; disappearing or erasable fabric marking pen/pencils; safety pins; sewing clips; thimble; hand-sewing needles; pincushion. There are many other supplies to consider later on.
4. Learn to do basic hand-sewing. Sewing on buttons, hemming a skirt, mending a pair of pants – all this will build your hand-sewing skills. All machine sewing involves hand-sewing in the finish work. YouTube has wonderful tutorials in just about any area of sewing.
5. Go easy on yourself. Take your time in learning to read and understand a pattern. Choose patterns for beginners or purchase a beginner sewing book that includes patterns.

CLASS6Sewing is mostly a solitary process, but it doesn’t have to be. To really enjoy sewing, find a sewing community where you can learn tips and tricks of long-time sewists and quilters. Sewists love to gather and share projects and ideas. Sew social!

Call our shop if you’re ready!







Cooking Clothes



My mama “cooked our clothes” on a stove much like this one. There was always an empty coffee can on the stove for bacon grease.


Growing up we were a family of 10 living in the same household. My mother, father, 6 children, grandmother and uncle. We had no automatic washer so my mother and grandmother boiled all our soiled clothing, including sheets, towels and such in a tall, large pot on the stove.

Quilts and blankets were usually washed once a year in the bathtub.

A strenuous job any time, and especially in the summers in Mississippi. (No A/C of course) There was a long wooden spoon that my mother used to lift up the sheets from the pot and poke them back down and stir around.

She carried this heavy pot to the bathtub and poured the pot of clothes into the tub where she rinsed and wrung them out. This pot of wrung out clothes she then carried outside to the clothesline and she hung up each piece carefully, securing with wooden clothespins. Her hands sometimes bled from the caustic soaps.

As a small child witnessing this ordeal, I remember asking her why she cooked our clothes.

For things that were badly soiled, like my four brothers’ jeans, Mama had a scrub board she put in the bathtub and she rubbed the soiled items with a cake of lye soap. She also had “soap flakes” she put in the big pot – I assume these were flakes of lye soap. Years later, when we finally moved to a modern house and we had a washer and we ran out of Tide, she would still write “soap flakes” on her grocery list.

When I was about twelve or thirteen a laundromat opened 2 blocks away and every Friday night I would take a book with me and spend a couple of hours there washing our family’s clothes. I was the girl, after all.

We were not as concerned about having cute clothes, the latest styles, or even whether or not we liked what we wore. Having clean clothing was the luxury, with all my mother went through for us to have this. As usually is the case, I did not appreciate what she did at the time as much as I do now.

What do you remember that your mother did when you were little that you appreciate greatly now?


Tell me about that revolution …..

mammau's quilt

Mammau’s Quilt

This is one of my paternal grandmother’s quilts, and it is over 100 years old. My Mammau. She was from Bayou La Fourche, Des Allmandes and Jacoby, Louisiana. I have no idea what happened to her other quilts but I am very pleased that this one was put in my care, moved from house to house, lovingly packed each time. The colors are still lovely, vivid and clear. The fabrics appear to be clothing remnants, flour sacks and such. The star patterns are not all the same design.

mammau's quilt2

The faded, rough backing

The backing is also interesting – I have not been able to identify what the textiles are. Loosely woven work clothing perhaps, faded whites and blues, and the batting layer is still intact and very thick. The entire quilt is quite heavy, large and of course it’s all hand-stitched. My Mammau taught me to sew on her 1918 Singer treadle machine.

I would love to try and duplicate her patterns in this quilt but the thought of all those little pieces gives me a headache. Ok, I love to quilt – just not with pieces this small. So how do I reconcile my love of quilts and quilting and my aversion to tiny piecing? Because I know how quilting and sewing can enhance a life, and even change one’s emotional perspective. It’s all about creativity and community.

Therefore, I want to join with Scott Fortunoff of Blank Quilting Company in starting the “Sewing Revolution of 2018”. In his most recent blog, he said the following:

  • I am going to continue to urge people to teach others how to sew and quilt.
  • I am going to try to convince people to get a new machine and give away their old one to someone that can’t afford one.
  • I am going to keep selling more fabric, of course.
  • I am going to continue to donate fabric to those who can’t afford it.

If you say it more and more, people will believe it and they may venture to jump in.  And in Scott’s words: “We cannot allow this great art to wither away and become a lost art” when it is so easy to embrace.  “What is going to be your contribution to the Sewing Revolution?”  Let’s do this and let’s have fun doing it.

Sew………. are you with me?

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Everything Grows


Lemons still on our tree

The best thing about New Orleans is that everything grows. The worst thing about New Orleans is that everything grows. Given time, a tiny cat’s claw vine will take over anything in it’s way. It will even invade an attic if there is a crack in a window. It will grow underneath siding and emerge through a hundred-year-old wooden shutter, clinging to rusty hinges and reaching towards the sunlight.

Every year Robert makes preserved (salted) lemons. He squeezes the lemons, cuts them up, adds Kosher salt and seals this up in jars. After about ten days or so, the lemon juice becomes syrupy and the lemons become soft enough to mash. The juice has a distinctive rich lemony taste that adds deep flavor to anything – guacamole, soup, salads. We have several citrus trees in our yard. Our semi-tropical climate is conducive to thousands of plant species. Many we don’t want. Many we do.  Our grapefruit tree has its first 3 fruits that we are waiting to pick, as soon as the green disappears.


Grapefruit, almost ready

There is an old storage shed in our backyard made from the original slabs of bargeboard in the walls of our house. Beside the shed grow invasive elephant ears and Mexican petunias. We dig them up month after month and they keep coming back. On the walls of this shed, the cat’s claw vine creeps up. At one time it covered the roof but we hired someone to pull it all down and dispose of it. But it comes back. Always. In dry climates I hear that the plant is propagated because it is drought tolerant and has pretty yellow flowers. Well, yes, it does. But it grows maybe a half-foot per day here in NOLA.

So how do we co-exist with things that grow and are valued elsewhere, but are hated here in our own back yard? I think of the cat’s claw vine like I do my husband’s cancer cells.


Cat’s claw vine trying to take over our backyard shed

We tolerate them, but we try to live as if they are not there. We try to do what we can to eliminate them, and we hope what we do is good for us and for the “good” plants (and “good” cells). All we can do is try to keep these things under control so they do not smother out the good things in life.

We enjoy our fruits, and keep planting good things – like more orange trees, more herbs and veggies – the “good stuff”. Maybe the good stuff will outgrow the bad. We can only do what we can. We can only hope.

That’s what this Christmas season brings to me. Hope. Hope in the future. Hope in good health, good energy, good friends and


Cat’s claw vine growing through our neighbor’s historic shutters. There’s no apparent origin – unless the vine is growing under the siding.

good fruits.


Sneaking up on me.

stitching housesEvery year this happens. We celebrate a nice Thanksgiving with family; I think how close to the end of the year we are again, and our neighbors put up their Christmas decorations. About two weeks later I look up and realize Christmas is only 2 weeks away.

I should remember that after Thanksgiving it’s a downhill slide to Christmas. Every year, Emma. Every year. Our house is not decked out for the holidays. No tree. No lights. We look like grinches. When you have a retail store, that’s where the excitement happens: Christmas handmades, classes, cheerful customers, bright and happy children. I’m busy making things to sell and to give. Too suddenly time passes and all this busy-ness will slow.

One thing Robert and I love to do in the days before Christmas is attend the concerts at St. Louis Cathedral. This year we have several such events on our calendar. As long as the temps are not bitter cold and there’s no rain we intend to go. The Luna Fete is another draw for us. Gotta see those lights, just in driving down St. Charles.

And if we have the time and assistance we may be able to retrieve our holiday decorations from the attic. And we may even put them up before Christmas. This may be the year. This may be the year! I’ll keep you posted.

How do you find time to decorate and make?

How I Learned to Think Diagonally and Sew with My Soul the Gee’s Bend Way

Mary Ann Pettway

Mary Ann Pettway

The long leaf pines swayed in the mountain breeze. The atmosphere inside electric with color, song and humming sewing machines. This past week I attended a 4-day Gee’s Bend Quilting retreat in the beautiful rolling hills of northern Alabama. We were in the midst of two inspiring Gee’s Bend quilters: Mary Ann Pettway and China Pettway.

The Pettways have an interesting way of teaching. Demonstrating, then observing. Showing, then praising. They loved us through the process until we “got it”. The quilting itself was not the Big Thing. The Big Thing was the small voice inside that spoke through our hands as we worked. From time to time the Pettways would break into song – sounds of praise so deep, the voices of the two women reverberated in that room so that anyone would have thought there was a choir of twenty.


Basil ready to slice his strips into angles

There were fifteen quilters. Basil, the only male quilter there, is an art quilter from St. Louis. Arleen brought her Gee’s Bend Quilts book for the ladies to sign. She worked quietly in the corner and produced gorgeous angles in her blocks – obvious that she had studied the style prior to the workshop. Others struggled to let go of all they had learned about quilting to learn a new way of sewing tiny pieces of fabrics together.

“Yes, you’ve got it! You’re quilting the Gee’s Bend way.”

When one of us heard that, we knew we finally understood that we were slicing and dicing our way into a new way of quilting. On the 2nd day, I finally got it. Allow the Spirit to take over in your sewing! Sew with your soul instead of what the world says you should do.  Forget about straight lines. Forget about patterns. Forget about bringing a preconceived notion of what you will make. Let the quilt develop into what it wants to be.


“You’ve got it.”

“That’s where the art is,” China Pettway says.

What have you learned to do in a new way? When have you realized that they way you have always done something may not the only way, the best way?

pettwaysI’m sending out a huge Thank You to the Gee’s Bend Quilters and the Alabama Folk School at Camp McDowell!

almost finished


gees bend quilts

a few quilts the Pettways brought with them