Circle of Stones: Interview with Larissa of Stitches in Play

February 5, 2010

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


Give us a sense of your family and home life.

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.


What are your five favorite things to do as a family?

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.


What do you consider the most important aspect of crafting for your family, and for yourself?

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.


You create a lot of amazing tutorials. What inspires you to create your
own work?

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.


What crafts/handwork do your children enjoy? how do you encourage them to be involved?

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.”


You quilt, sew, and knit. Any one that speaks to your heart?

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.


What is most important to you about the work space that you create in?

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.


What kind of inspiration do you pull from the online community?

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.


What is your favorite aspect of sharing your own creative world online?

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.


Next make the removable pillow cover:

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)


To complete envelope back pillow cover:

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.

{ 28 comments… read them below or add one }

perches February 5, 2010 at 1:05 pm

Such a great tutorial! I will try this next week (a good Valentine's present for the family, something for love notes). Thanks to both of you for a wonderful interview.

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Meg Evans February 5, 2010 at 1:29 pm

Great tutorial, and wonderful interview! Thanks for letting us get to know Larissa a little better!

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solstice letters February 5, 2010 at 1:54 pm

Larissa's work is so beautiful. Thank you, ladies, for this inspiring interview. Swooning over that gorgeous brown knit.

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Nancy February 5, 2010 at 2:53 pm

Thank you so much for this interview, Heather! I find Larissa's blog, tutorials, and photographs so inspiring and I enjoy following her on flickr, too.

I can also tell you the first post that drew me to her blog; it was the one dated March 28 with a pattern for Jane's Head Scarf (from Heather Ross's weekend sewing), modified to fit a child's head. http://stitchesinplay.typepad.com/stitches_in_pla

I can credit that post with getting me to dive more fully into sewing after years of merely dabbling.

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AdirondackMama February 5, 2010 at 2:54 pm

"of course not, I wouldn't do this if it was hard – I do it because it's fun." I feel the same way Larissa.

What an insightful interview. I really love Larissa's blog since I found it (I think through you Heather.) and I have always marveled at the beautiful things that she creates.

PS. How much would I love that fabric stash?!?!?! A LOT!

Happy weekend Girlies! See you on Sunday.

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Beth Curtin February 5, 2010 at 3:09 pm

Thank you for this wonderful posting. I'm off to see her blog! love, Beth

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Shivayamama February 5, 2010 at 3:22 pm

Larissa, do you have a pattern for that amazing brown cardigan? It is so gorgeous

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AG Ambroult February 5, 2010 at 3:46 pm

that pattern is so cute. And perfect to gift to my girls for V-day–thanks!
I have such admiration for those who quilt and make up their own knitting patterns. I just cen't seem to wrap my hear around the technical part of knitting like that. I LOVE that Larissa's grandfather would go shopping with her when she was a teen!

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larissa February 5, 2010 at 4:45 pm

Thank you! The brown cardi is the cavern cardi pattern written by cosmicpluto knits. You can find it here: http://www.cosmicpluto.com/blog/cavern-the-patter

I modified the pattern a bit and made it longer – you can find my mods on my blog here: http://stitchesinplay.typepad.com/stitches_in_pla

Thanks again for your kind words. Have a wonderful weekend, Larissa

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larissa February 5, 2010 at 4:54 pm

Yes, the brown cardi is the cavern cardi pattern written by cosmicpluto knits. You can find it here: http://www.cosmicpluto.com/blog/cavern-the-patter

I modified the pattern a bit and made it longer. You can find my mods here: http://stitchesinplay.typepad.com/stitches_in_pla

Thanks so much. Have a wonderful weekend, Larissa

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Jodi February 5, 2010 at 5:57 pm

Great interview….And Larissa's tutorials are the best around. She clearly spells out the directions and visually provides pictures that put the whole thing together. Love them. And her blog is one of my daily must-reads! Heather — this was a great interview.

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Audra February 5, 2010 at 8:42 pm

Thank you so much for this wonderful and inspiring interview! I'm addicted to finding new crafting blogs and am always impressed with mamas cultivating their creativity. Thank you, thank you!

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Kelly February 5, 2010 at 8:55 pm

What a fantastic interview and tutorial – thank you!!

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Lisa Q February 6, 2010 at 12:20 am

I love following Larissa's blog…I know she's inspired me so much! this was a great interview…thank you so much for sharing…and I LOVE that buckwheat pillow…so cute.

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Ivy February 6, 2010 at 2:31 am

Great interview and that pattern is adorable. Thank you.

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sara February 6, 2010 at 6:53 am

Hi Heather,
Thanks for visiting me tonight and for leaving your sweet words. I haven't visited here in a while….we've been so busy with a remodel project…sigh. What a wonderful interview, and what a talented crafts person Larissa is! Thank you for sharing! I hope you have a nice weekend with your family Heather!
love, sara

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Tonya February 6, 2010 at 1:45 pm

Oh, Larissa is such a sweet, sweet woman. She is so generous sharing her patterns and supporting others mamas that sell their handmade goods. a wonderful interview

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Stephanie February 6, 2010 at 2:34 pm

I love Larissa's blog, and this was a great interview. So many new things that we got to learn about her. Thanks Heather, see you tomorrow

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Suzanne February 6, 2010 at 3:13 pm

I love her name, it is my second daughter's middle name:-) Thanks for highlighting her, she shares amazing tutorials! How generous.

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Imene February 6, 2010 at 10:25 pm

How funny I can remember exactly how I found each of my favorite blogs too ;o) I followed a link to Larissa's after she won a giveaway from Jennifer Casa another uber-talented mama.
Thank you for these series! I think we share some stones in this circle ;o)

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kristyn February 6, 2010 at 11:39 pm

What a lovely interview with one talented mom! Larissa is so generous with her time and talents. Her tutorials inspire me to try new projects. Just today I used my phone to link to her blog to find fabric quantities! Thanks for sharing more of her with us, Heather.

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Stephanie February 7, 2010 at 1:11 am

What a great interview~ and tutorial! I've been following Larissa's blog recently, but it's nice to get o know her a bit more through these questions. :)

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larissa February 7, 2010 at 3:04 am

Heather, thank you so much for including me in your amazing circle of stones series. I truly enjoyed answering your thought provoking questions – in fact i think i learned some things about myself. But the best part was definitely 'meeting' so many awesome new-to-me mamas. You are the best for bringing this community closer by providing yet another forum where we can come together and meet one another. Have a wonderful weekend!

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Jennifer February 7, 2010 at 7:06 pm

Oh, how Larissa sounds so very like me! Thanks so much for sharing this! I don't know that anything warms my heart more than seeing my kids cuddled under a mama made quilt!

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quirkygranolagirl February 7, 2010 at 9:52 pm

Thank you, Heather, for connecting me to another great blog. If you keep having such awesome people here on your blog, I'll never get to craft my own stuff because I'll be reading other cool blogs all day.

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Sachi February 9, 2010 at 1:57 am

Thanks for introducing us! What a woman!

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Shivayamama February 9, 2010 at 8:05 am

Nancy, I remember that post really well! I have made a few of those head scarves for my nieces, and I would have been lost without her pattern for them :)

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eliz~ so wabi sabi February 12, 2010 at 6:55 pm

Heather, thanks you for introducing me to Larissa. I have been a fan of her work since you posted the scarf you made from her tutorial. She is inspiring! This pillow case tutorial is just what I needed to get me moving on a project I've had in mind for quite a while.

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