At long last, I’ve added some new products to my Etsy store! First up are jar sweaters, perfect for the hipster tea-or-coffee-drinker in your life, or even just yourself if you want to have a portable drink but not burn your hands. There are three different kinds, all tthe same price but minor variations in fabric and style. They are all customizable so no one can steal your drink (unless they have the same initials as you and are super cocky). They come in a mix of linen and cotton fabric (your choice of fabric for two of the options) and I’m really happy with how they turned out. I made about twenty of them as prototypes and every time I sewed a new one there were tiny little adjustments made to improve on them.

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I’ve also added some personalized dog bandanas (have yet to think of a clever name, any suggestions?). As you can see, Luka is super into them:

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Or wait, maybe not:

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Silly dog. These come in two different sizes, just depending on how big your dog is and how thick their collar is. Again, there’s a choice of fabrics and also stamp fonts, and they are a linen/cotton combination as well.

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I have many, many, MANY new product ideas up my sleeve for 2014, and want to get as many as I can into the shop before baby makes her appearance. Self-promotion is very hard for me and makes me super uncomfortable, but I also need to be able to afford economy-sized jars of Nutella, so I’m sucking it up and putting it out there. In a not-filthy way. Please go check out my store and feel free to comment/email with any suggestions or questions!

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I started sewing about four years ago, when my lovely mother-in-law gifted me with her old Husqvarna. I loved that machine and still do. She gave me a few lessons showing me the basics, eternally patient when I had to ask her to re-show me things over and over again. I am not a quick learner. I get a little panicky sometimes, thinking about taking a class in something I don’t understand, because I need things demonstrated so many times before I begin to take them in.

I sewed on that machine for four years, mostly straight line projects for around the house. I made my first quilt with that Husqvarna (did you know they also make chainsaws? I kind of love that), binding it with the help of this video, which I have probably viewed at least 30 times. I am still an extremely novice quilter. I can do straight lines, but not free-motion quilting yet, though I’m working on it. I like simple patchwork quilts, nothing too fussy and I don’t like applique. I like squares, log cabin blocks, and not much else. Perhaps I am a little picky.

I finally bought my first sewing machine about four months ago. In typical Pia fashion, I did very little research on it and made a pretty quick decision. Luckily, this usually works out well for me. I bought a Janome this time, and it sews like a dream. I love my studio/office so much that sometimes I go in there and just stand around, gazing at my fabric and my cutting table. I sound like a total idiot right now, but man, do I loooooove that room. It’s just for me. It has terrible lighting, but one day I’ll try to take better pictures of it.

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This is a baby quilt for a dear friend’s little boy. I made it with almost all fabrics I picked up in Japan last year — cute mushrooms and flowers and polka dots. I have a lot of very “girly” fabric, so I was a little flummoxed as to how to put together something less feminine, but I think it worked. Of course gender is a social construct, etc. (hey, I remember something from my anthropology degree!) and I totally don’t think girls have to have pink and boys blue, but I wanted to make something bright and not too gender-specific. I feel like I’m digging myself into a hole right now. I’ll stop typing.

And a little something for her five-year-old twin daughters, as well — I made these from this tutorial, just changing a few of the details. Super quick and fun to stitch up! I stuck a toonie in each of the pockets.

I also whipped up this small quilt. It’s basically one giant log cabin block, which means that it came together in about an hour. I used handprinted fabrics from India, and just hoped that the overall effect wouldn’t be too busy. I think it’s okay, though. Hopefully someday soon there’ll be a brown-skinned, red-haired baby crawling on this quilt.

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Speaking of babies, look at this huge suck. He crawled into Mark’s lap while Mark was working the other day and refused to budge. Also, we have now succumbed to him getting on the bed with us. We are pathetic. BUT LOOK AT THIS FACE!

These days: more quilting, blackberry buttermilk muffins, irises, a stack of beautiful craft magazines from the UK (courtesy of a very sweet cousin). Life is happening. What a gift.

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Last week was a blur of Game of Thrones and Etsy research and a midweek stomach flu that absolutely flattened me. Mark was feeling rough as well, and we spent most of Tuesday lying in bed with the dog between us, all three of us dozing on and off. In between naps, I succumbed to my usual sick mode of wailing to Mark about how I had absolutely no energy and what if that’s not because I was sick, because what if I actually wasn’t sick (this is in between bouts of vomiting) but just a normal thing and how will we ever have the energy for children, etc., etc. He very kindly humoured me and reassured me that I was in fact sick and that all would be fine tomorrow. And it was. I know there’s a stereotype that men are huge babies when they’re sick, but I am, in fact, the absolute worst. I’m also a huge hypochondriac (this is, incidentally, not a great trait to have when you also do medical transcription) but I think I was maybe legit sick that day.

Anyway, I recovered from that and on Thursday, uploaded my first listings to Etsy. I waited a full 24 hours before telling anyone about it, just in case I decided that this whole thing was ridiculous and wanted to take it down. That did happen several times, but Mark convinced me to ignore those impulses.

Here is my store. I believe that the pieces I make are simple but classic, and what I really want is for them become keepsakes, things that are passed down. My mother-in-law has a cross-stitched piece on her kitchen wall that her mother made in 1931, and every Sunday when we go over for dinner I admire it and imagine her stitching it, 80+ years ago. I really, really, really hate self-promotion but I am trying very hard to push through my discomfort and be proud of what I’m making.

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I’ve been quilting up a storm lately — back soon with photographic proof.

(Luka says hi).

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When I was a little girl, I thought that you were born with all the children you would have already in your body (which, in a way, you kind of are). I thought it was all predetermined for you from birth and you just sort of popped them out as needed. I was also convinced that people looked so terribly different on their wedding days that I might not even recognize the person I was supposed to marry — like I might mistake his best man or one of his groomsmen for him and accidentally marry them instead. I remember remembering that as I walked down the aisle towards Mark, one of the only coherent thoughts I had amidst all of my sheer terror of being in front of people. I went through a phase where I was OBSESSED with the colours my house would be when I was grown. I remember lying in bed one night, freaking out about it and unable to sleep. Eventually I decided on blue with white trim and I could relax (our house is green). Also: we had these orange-yellow light fixtures hanging from the ceiling over the entrance landing in our house, and when I was three years old, my mother told me we would be visiting India and I was convinced that we would get there by climbing into the glass orbs and somehow climbing out in my grandparents’ house.

I thought I was going somewhere with this, but I guess I’m not, not really. I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how all-consuming things seem when you’re young — how when you’re watching a movie or hanging out with friends you’re just so in it. At least, that’s how I used to be, and then I lost that for a long time and I’m trying to find my way back to it. Maybe it’s different for kids now, because of cell phones and iPods and Twitter. I am so eternally grateful that Facebook didn’t exist when I was in junior high, that I (just barely) missed the major heyday of social media and cell phones. I had a hard enough adolescence without the constant presence of wall updates and Instagram photos of people’s amazing lives.

I think this sounds bitter; I don’t mean it to be. I am as guilty of technology addiction as anyone else. There are days when I check my email more than ten times. I also think there’s a lot of value in being able to reach out to someone across the globe. There have been many times when I’ve felt less alone because of a blog post from someone in California or England. Like anything else, the problem isn’t the source of the addiction, it’s your own interaction with it. Does that sound smart? I think it does.

ANYWAY. This has been on my mind because I’ve been feeling a lot of pressure to document my life lately, both because of the blog and also because it can feel really good to receive positive feedback from people about things you’re showing them. There’s nothing inherently wrong with this, but I need to be careful not to let that need for documentation to overwhelm my actual experience of something. I want to be more like my sweet friend Julie, who, more than anyone I know, is so completely involved in whatever she’s doing. We still write and mail letters to each other, something we’ve done for more than ten years. She can be a terrible e-mailer, but that’s okay! I totally understand why, and I wouldn’t change that about her. It would never, ever, ever occur to her to pull her phone out of her bag and place it on the table at a restaurant. I love this about her. When she’s listening to you, she is completely present, and so empathetic that it’s completely obvious why she’s a nurse. What a gift that is — the feeling of truly being listened to, and not judged, just heard. I want to be more like Julie. I want to be able to watch a movie and not have my mind racing, thinking about cleaning the sink or free-motion quilting, or what I might have for dinner the next night. I want to take Luka for a walk and think only about my immediate experience of that event — the damp air, how stupidly happy he looks racing towards me when I call him back. This is a lofty goal and I know I’ll spend my whole life trying to attain it. I need to remind myself of it every single day.

Some photos from last week. I fell back in love with quilting and whipped up this giant log cabin-style baby quilt in two days. I’m finishing the hand binding right now but will be back with more pictures of it soon.

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Mark helped me turn this terribly average photo…

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…into my Etsy store banner!

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I love him for so many reasons, but chief among them this week has been¬† the fact that he’s held my hand through this entire process. Also, have I ever mentioned that he makes my coffee for me every single morning?

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Mark’s brother and his girlfriend gave us this beautiful plant last week and this is the first houseplant I’ve ever owned (except for my windowsill herbs, which are usually outside). I don’t know why I’ve never bought one before — this is actually making washing dishes tolerable.

Back soon with more thoughtful ruminations pictures of Tim Riggins!

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Well, “soon” is a relative term, yes? I think I’ve been avoiding it here because I’m scared to talk about the process of opening the Etsy shop. Perhaps that’s because I have little to no idea what I’m actually doing. However! I do have a secret weapon in the form of my sweet, red-bearded husband who actually knows things about photography and marketing and who patiently walks me through pretty much each and every step of this process. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I married the nicest boy on earth.

Last week we gathered up all the samples I’d embroidered and staged a little photoshoot. I had spent a lot of time on Etsy browsing the photography of various sellers, and also looking at what kinds of things they tend to feature on the home page. A lot of sellers have their products set against stark white backgrounds, which can be very effective when it comes to certain types of products — a bag or pottery, for example, but I felt that I needed to place my embroidery in some sort of context so that potential buyers could imagine it in their own homes.

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I mean, let’s be honest — these aren’t going to win any photography awards, but at least there’s a bit of framework there.

Then we took some closeups to highlight the details.

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There is little-to-no editing done to these, as they needed to be a true representation of the pieces. Just a bit of cropping and the occasional lightening up to show the colours more accurately.

There are about 50 more pictures, but I’ll spare you having to look at them. Instead, take a look at this amazing cleaning schedule I made up! I got all twitchy last week about the state of our house and decided that we needed a very detailed and precise list of when to do which things in the house. If we adhere to this even 50% of the time, I’ll be pleasantly surprised.

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And a few more snapshots of last week — embroidery, knitting, DOG DOG DOG DOG.

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Last night as I was lying in bed, drifting off and in a half-awake state, I just kept thinking, “I love the dog. I love the dog. I love the dog”, and then I fell asleep.

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