A Work in Design

March 30, 2010

I have no idea what to say about your incredible words from yesterday’s post. I learned so much, and felt a real connection to how seriously so many families are effected by food issues. Thank you for all that you have said, and how open you were to telling your story as well. To keep the dialogue going, I want to answer the comments in a public way, so I will do so later this evening once my little ones are asleep for the night.


I think that somewhere in the past few weeks I must have mentioned my design books on this blog. I have been getting a lot of emails asking me what they look like, what I use them for, and how they help.

Since as far back as I can remember, I have carried a small journal of some kind to record thoughts or ideas that popped into my head. Last year, my friend Stacy had a journal made for me, and it has refillable notebooks that just slip inside the side pockets.

For the past year, that journal has never left me. I have it in my purse, my backpack, my hands, something, always. Ideas for posts, for articles, for projects, are scribbled everywhere, and while I think that it would be impossible for anyone to figure out what I am actually saying in it, it still feels like one of the only things that truly shows who I am creatively.


Inside of the journal, I carry a blank Moleskin sketch book that serves as the place where all of my sewing and other craft designs are dreamed up and played with. I do rough sketches of anything that pops into my head, and just let the pencil run free to see where it takes me. I find inspiration in just about everything, and it is amazing how seeing a puzzle, or a bird, or a a piece of fabric can bring a whole variety of ideas to mind.

Someone recently asked me what my background in sewing was, and it is just about as basic as can be. I learned to sew a while back, hated it, but loved knitting and crocheting. I really only came back to sewing about 5 years ago, when I realized that all of a sudden, there were some amazing fabrics out there to enjoy, and there was an endless possibility of things to use them for.


I love to sew, and it occupies a pretty large piece of my daily creativity, but I have to say that I love the play in design just as much. I am terrible at math, at drafting, etc, but yet I feel much more competent when I have my book in hand.

I remember asking my father, when I was pretty young, how he got so smart, and he told me he read. That was really as simple as he answered me. He just read and learned, and he enjoyed every moment of it. That is kind of how I feel about sewing, knitting, etc. I played with sewing until I figured it out, and it was fun. I carry my books around with me, because I love to be inspired, and I love to have fun figuring out what new things I can come up with and enjoy. I also, however, believe that sewing, and most other crafts as well, are completely accessible to everyone, which I think is one reason that we all feel bonded together by seeing what each other creates. Being creative is something that we all can accomplish, we just have to find what we love doing, that we feel inspiration from.

If there is one thing that I am figuring out, it is that you can be good at a lot of things, but if you don’t enjoy doing them, then success never really comes. I love dying yarn so much, seeing the colors come together, and playing every day with the way that they blend to achieve an endless possibility of fun, but oh my goodness, I despise running a business. I can freely admit that I was just not that great at doing much more than the creative side of yarn dying, and that I came close to complete failure when I tried to reach beyond my limits. Funny how I thought that something that I enjoyed doing, meant that I could do it under any circumstances.


Journaling, writing, drawing and sketching have helped me to really figure out what I love and get from the crafting that I do, and where I want to take it. When I look back on my words from the last year, I can see that my heart lies foremost, at this point in my life, with my sewing machine, and that for some reason, my knitting is not as strong in my life as it used to be. I find that to be fascinating, because I have that never really been a conscious thought, but I can see it clearly when I looks at my own words.

Having a space to let your mind find it’s own design style is great fun, and my kids have recently taken to carrying their own design books with them as well. I love the idea that they are learning that anything that they can see, hear, touch, taste or smell can awaken their creative imagination. I hope that it is a lesson that they never forget.

{ 19 comments… read them below or add one }

jessica March 30, 2010 at 11:04 am

It sounds like our journey to creating is so similar. I've found that when a new craft, etc is needed most I fall into it–just like I fell into knitting, hated it, and then at a time when I needed quiet and reflection knitting came right to my lap (literally!). I loved getting a small peek into your sketch pad and journal. I'm feeling drawn to journaling lately and think that carrying around a journal would be just right.

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ering March 30, 2010 at 11:12 am

"If there is one thing that I am figuring out, it is that you can be good at a lot of things, but if you don't enjoy doing them, then success never really comes."

thank you for this reminder. i needed to read this today.

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AdirondackMama March 30, 2010 at 11:17 am

Well, I needed this today.
Motivation and I have been on the outs lately.
I will have to give this a go, I write everything else in my life down, why not my creativity?!

Thanks Heather.

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Nancy March 30, 2010 at 11:35 am

You've read my mind–it's time a turned my little ugly paper notebooks where I keep track of projects into something more special. Yours is beautiful!

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Lisa/Rosamund March 30, 2010 at 12:54 pm

Hi Heather,

I have been away for a while and am just catching up with my blog reading. Thank you for this post. I, too, am a constant "jotter downer of ideas". I have so many note/sketchbooks that are filled. Sometimes I feel a bit freakish about it, although I don't know why. Imagine how thrilled I was to recently receive a gorgeous sketchbook (Anthropologie) from a dear friend for my birthday! My heart leapt! Like you, I always carry a journal around and I also love to look back to see what I was focusing on in the past. Since I have never known anyone else who does this, it is so nice to know you do. Hooray! :)

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Mary--YDP March 30, 2010 at 12:58 pm

I carry around a journal/idea book too. All the time. Some of my best 'work' is in miniature form in my journal.

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Ivy March 30, 2010 at 1:11 pm

I love that journal/sketch book. It's lovely and personal. Someday…..I really do need to make myself something like this and give myself permission to just jot down anything. And yes, I did say permission. 😉

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Andrea March 30, 2010 at 4:10 pm

What a beautiful book…I like the idea of one blank notebook and one lined…sometimes you just need one and not the other! And it is fascinating to watch our own interests and skills evolve over time…I love that a blog is a place to record all of the minute steps along the way.

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Kelly March 30, 2010 at 4:59 pm

What a great lesson to be teaching them, and a great way to make time and space for yourself. I carry a notebook but it's usually more to-do and grocery lists. I like the idea of making it more on the creative side of things.

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eliz~ so wabi sabi March 30, 2010 at 6:06 pm

journaling has been really important to me too. and it is so interesting to go back and read where you were and see how dreams and ideas finally manifest. I just use a spiral notebook though. I noticed something a while back. I have a lot of journals. And a lot of them never got used. It seems if something is too pretty, for some reason, I won't use it. Crazy…

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Nicola March 30, 2010 at 7:24 pm

I, too, carry a notebook with me. It would make sense to no one, but it is a freeing, motivating piece of myself.
What a sweet journal yours is. Lovely gift.
Nicola

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becky March 31, 2010 at 12:34 am

I have a friend who was diagnosed as an adult with ADD. She saw a very helpful therapist who gave her ideas to improve her focus (Nancy was a nurse) and she carried her journal/calendar everywhere with her. We had a mutual young friend who was struggling with her own diagnosis and difficulties with ADD and Nancy offered to meet with her and give her a boost. I remember Nancy describing her journal as her mind – saying she'd be utterly lost without it.
I love how you've dressed your journal up – a way to honor the process.

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Danielle March 30, 2010 at 7:21 pm

I'm the same way!!

When I took an art course in grad school, the teacher had us create most of our works on reused crappy paper – old newspaper sheets, recycled pizza boxes, etc. He believed that too many people were intimidated by the prospect of "ruining" perfectly good, clean, fresh paper. I know that is the case with me

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heirloomseasons March 31, 2010 at 4:00 am

I feel I am a seamstress at heart too. I was thinking the other day, feeling like my mind will not work as well when trying to develop my knitting skills, and then I thought of you, as proof that you can be talented at both :)
I love that I have my sewing notes from so many years past collected in my small notebooks…

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NicoleFrontierDreams March 31, 2010 at 6:39 am

Thats exactly how I feel!!

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AG Ambroult March 31, 2010 at 12:48 pm

I have a little notebook as well, and I find it fascinating to go back and look through it from time to time. Is really IS reflective of patterns and trends that may not have been obvious to me. I love your notebook cover, and that is it refillable. And I am impressed at how clean it is! My notebooks, by the time they are filled, look like they've been dragged behind my car.

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Valarie March 31, 2010 at 1:44 pm

About 4 years ago I started journaling. Like you I carry an idea book around with me to write down all of those important thoughts and inspirations. What did we do before Moleskine came to America? I just love moleskines and their light- weightedness. Here's to inspired creating. Take care.

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robin (woowoo mama) April 1, 2010 at 6:37 pm

as one of the people who asked for more information on your inspiration book i want to thank you for posting about it! this did answer a few of my questions…and now i want a notebook cover just like the one you have. do you know where you friend had it made??

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quirkygranolagirl April 8, 2010 at 2:01 am

i really enjoyed this post about your journal. i have a lot of notes spread in a layer all over the house and occasionally they get into one pile and sorted. one book seems like a good idea, but then i feel bad if it doesn't look pretty all of the time. i want final sketches to come out all at once. maybe i need a really ugly sketch book so i don't feel intimidated by the blank pages.

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