I have come to realize, as we go through each of these interviews, that I know exactly which post first introduced me to each person joining us. For Larissa, of Stitches in Play, it was her post on March 20th, 2009 that led me to her amazing work. A Spring belt, and a head scarf I had been dying to try were her topics for that day, and I was so impressed with her construction that I immediately went to the sewing machine to make both.
Ever since, I have loved visiting Larissa daily, not only to learn from her unbelievable knowledge of quilting, knitting, and sewing, but to enjoy snippets of the life that she creates with her husband and three children.
Larissa joins us today to share a bit of herself, her amazing family and her passions for hand crafting. She also has prepared a little surprise at the end for all of us to enjoy.
The circle opens. Welcome Larissa
My kiddos like to say we are a family of five people and five pets. My husband and I and our three kiddos Ezra(10), David(8) and Abigail(5) plus two doggies, one kitty, and two guinea pigs live in a small house on five acres in rural Virginia. My husband works long hours and many weekends so the kiddos and I spend a lot of time creating and exploring and cooking and driving to taekwondo class. I also try to find some time each day to sew or knit but I must admit that there are many days when I only find the time to think about sewing and knitting and making.
We do nearly everything as a family – I think I’ve hired a sitter ten times in the past ten years – but our favorites are definitely singing along to CD’s of Broadway musicals. The kiddos choreograph and perform dance routines and then teach them to my husband and me. At the end we all fall down laughing. Currently, our favorite musicals are The Music Man, The Sound of Music, Grease, and Annie. My children also spend a lot of time writing play scripts to act out. They write the lines on index cards for other family members to recite. We all gather in the family room to act out
the play and one of the boys usually video tapes the whole thing. We also spend a lot of time hiking through the many trails in the woods outside our home. We often bring flashlights, chalk to mark the path, and cameras to hotograph any curiosities. Our family also plays lots of board games ogether. Our favorites are Apples to Apples, Connect Four, Gobblet obblers, and Qwirkle. All three of our kiddos love reading cookbooks, planning meals, and helping to cook. We all cram into our tiny kitchen and measure, chop and stir nearly every night.
The most important aspect of crafting for me is the peace and sense of accomplishment that making brings me. I spend most of my days going and doing for others and running to complete chores and errands. But when I sit down to sew or knit I find peace in keeping my hands busy. Working with my hands allows my mind to slow down and think creative thoughts and I can feel my body relax. Crafting also provides me the opportunity to see a project through to completion, sometimes in as little as one day, and have something I can use or gift. My family truly appreciates all the time and effort that is required to create handmade things. Crafting also helps my children understand process – I often overhear them listing all the steps that are involved in making a quilt or writing a play script.
Thank you. I am often inspired by images I see in magazines or on blogs and I try to figure out how I can make the things I see. I don’t own many sewing or quilting books but I do have the Gee’s Bend quilt books and many art books for inspiration. I must admit that sometimes I find myself reinventing the wheel but I don’t mind because I learn so much through trial and error. I really enjoy the process of making. I’m also inspired to create a pattern when I want something I can’t find elsewhere. I recently created and shared a pattern for an apron with no exposed seams because I dislike the way the backs of my aprons looked when I took them out of the wash. I’m also inspired to create ways to simplify quilting patterns. Many
quilting patterns involve measuring and cutting small pieces of fabric and then sewing them together precisely. I quilt for fun and to relax and precise measuring and matching points isn’t very relaxing to me so I try to convert designs I like to methods that include strip piecing or chain piecing or both so that I can sit at my machine and feed in one piece of fabric after another and listen to the soothing hum of the machine.
My children enjoy crafts that they can do independently without a lot of help or direction from me. (go figure!) We usually just set out art supplies on the kitchen table and they go at it. My children enjoy drawing, often with an Ed Emberley book by their side, and painting with watercolors. They love outdoor chalk and manage to draw on every single surface including outdoor furniture, my car, and the siding of our house. They also enjoy building complex structures out of popsicle sticks, cardboard from cereal boxes and lots of glue. None of my children is interested in knitting but the boys did spend hours this holiday season finger knitting entire balls of yarn into garlands. I find that my kiddos become frustrated if a craft has
too many parts or steps that need to be followed. I always tell them they “don’t have to make anything (in particular) so long as they just make something.”
All three speak to my heart, but in different ways. Knitting is special to me because my mom taught me to knit when I was a child, but more importantly she taught me that I could create my own patterns and knit anything I wanted. My mom knit every sweater that my sisters and I wore and she never used a pattern. I remember going to the store and picking out sweaters that we liked and as soon as we got home my mom would swatch and write up patterns for our sweaters. I didn’t begin creating my own patterns for many years but her example has definitely stayed with me.
Sewing speaks to my heart because it reminds me of my maternal grandfather who spent most of his life creating men’s suits and clothing in Russia. He had a wonderful eye for proportion and construction. Growing up I spent a lot of time at my grandparent’s home where he could be found sitting at his sewing machine altering fancy designer clothes. Although my grandfather did this job because my grandparents needed the extra money I could tell he really enjoyed it because he would stop often to show me how the clothing was constructed and how to alter the fit of clothing without affecting its design. When I was a teenager he liked to go shopping with me and would always give me good advice. My grandfather passed five years ago and I feel
closer to him every time I hear the steady hum of my own sewing machine.
Quilting is special to me because most of the quilts I make are for my family and friends to cuddle up in, sleep under, and be warmed by. I love seeing my kiddos snuggling in or sleeping under a mama made quilt.
The best part about my workspace is that I don’t have to spend time setting up before beginning to make. I have a table with my sewing machine set up on it, a cutting table topped with a self healing mat, and an ironing board set up all the time. My cutting table is the white laminate folding table from Joann’s – it’s very sturdy, the perfect height for cutting, and quite inexpensive if you use the 40% off coupon. I also love having a radio so that I can listen to NPR – it’s the first thing I do when I enter my work space.
How do you take time for yourself to find your creative spirit?
I go to the small gym by our house and I take many five minute breaks for chai tea. I started going to the gym when my kiddos were little so that I could get exercise while taking advantage of the one hour of free daycare. I usually head to the gym three mornings a week where I run or do the elliptical while listening to music and thinking of ways to improve the project I’m working on. During the day, especially when my kiddos are playing chase or arguing over who takes a picture of whom first, I pour myself a cup of chai tea, breathe deeply, and think creative thoughts.
Oh, where to begin? I am so inspired by the gorgeous photography, the colors, and images of families that I see. I will often fall in love with a color combination or shape pattern I see in a photograph and then go rummaging through my fabrics trying to recreate it. I could be reading a decorating blog and spot a pillow on a sofa that I must design and sew. I’ve learned so much about baking from reading blogs. For instance, I never thought to substitute whole wheat flour in recipes and now I use it for all my baking. I also get many ideas for projects to do with my kiddos. And this community has changed the way we eat dinner. For years I would plate our meals in the kitchen, arranging the meat, veggies and pasta just so, only to watch my kiddos refuse to eat half the meal. Through blogs I realized that families actually brought the pots and pans to the table and let the kiddos serve themselves -sounds silly but I just never thought of it. We started doing this several months ago and my children love filling their own plates so much that they try new foods and often clear their plates.
I am often asked if what I do is difficult and my answer is always, “of course not, I wouldn’t do this if it was hard – I do it because it’s fun.” I spend a lot of time trying to figure out the simplest and fastest way to create something that is attractive and useful and I want to share my methods with others. My favorite aspect of sharing is to show that there is more than one way to achieve the same result and that it’s okay to choose the simpler method. I also enjoy sharing the basic steps of construction because most projects have only a few basic steps that can modified or
embellished to create a multitude of goodness.
Larissa’s construction, and her projects, have been such a joy to create that I asked if she might share a small tutorial with us. Here is a wonderful gift for the coming Valentine’s Day holiday, or for any day of the year that we just need to tell someone that they are loved. Thank you so much Larissa for sharing this with all of us
Buckwheat Message-in-a-Heart Pillow
You will need:
2 – 12” x 16” pieces of fabric for buckwheat pillow lining
2 – 12” x 16” pieces of fabric for pillow cover (front + back flap)
1 – 12” x 8” piece of fabric for smaller back flap (red fabric)
2 – 5” x 5” squares for the heart pocket
First sew the two pieces of pillow lining fabric together, right sides facing. Leave a 4” opening at one end for turning and stuffing. I used buckwheat hulls and a handful of dried lavender to fill the pillow but you can use any stuffing material you wish. Sew the opening shut.
Finish off the edges of both the large (aqua) and small (red) flaps of the envelope back of the pillow cover by pressing in 1” on the twelve inch side, then press in 1” again. Sew along the folds to secure. (see photo)
To make the heart pocket: Place the two 5” squares right sides together, fold the square in half and cut out a heart shape. Carefully sew along the perimeter of the heart shape with a 1/8” seam allowance. Leave a small opening on a side edge for turning. Turn heart right side out and press flat, pressing in the seam allowance of the opening. Position the heart pocket on the front of the pillow cover. (12” x 16” aqua fabric). Using a 1/8” seam allowance, secure the heart pocket to the pillow front by sewing along the bottom 2/3 of the heart – leaving the top open to create a pocket. This seam will also enclose the opening used for turning. (see photo of stitching outline on the back)
Layer the front of the pillow cover (with heart pocket) along with the small and large back flaps, right side together – see photo. Pin on all four sides. Sew around the perimeter on all four sides.
Turn pillow cover right side out. Stuff with buckwheat filled pillow.
Place a secret love note in the heart pocket. Give pillow to someone special!
Thank you to Larissa for being here and sharing with us today, and for the very special tutorial that I know I will be creating for a Valentine’s Day morning surprise for my family. To learn more about Larissa, and to see her complete list of amazing tutorials, please visit her at Stitches in Play
I can not say enough to each of you for lending your voice to yesterdays post. As we are sitting here talking about our circle, it really brings it home to see what everyone had to share. I will be putting all of our words together, and posting it on Monday. What an awesome community we have.
I wish you all a very happy weekend. See you for Sunday Serenity.