2015 Tea Towel Calendars

I have a bit of a love-hate relationship with my Etsy shop during the month of December.

The frenzied holiday shopping brings a lot of activity and opportunities, but it also creates a great deal of stress during an already-busy time.  (I mean, really I should have been preparing for this back in July, obviously, but that didn't happen. Sigh. Maybe next year.)  

And it's so hard to turn down opportunities, but sometimes you just have to say no and go bake cookies and watch Mistle-Tones.

This year I did end up putting these calendars up in my shop, but consciously put a cap on how many I'll make. (Designing them is fun; sitting at my sewing machine and churning them out is less fun.)  So once they're gone, they're gone, and I'm not going to worry about it too much.

Anyway, here are a bunch of new calendars I designed this year! Tea towel calendars are this weird, old-fashioned thing, but they appeal to me somehow—they're inherently practical and you reuse them when they're done, so they don't go to waste, or sit around taking up space.

You can find them here.

They're also available in my Spoonflower shop as raw fabric, if you'd like to sew them yourself!

(And here's to getting an early start on 2016 calendars next year...)




In which I went to Ireland and took a million photos. We enjoyed uncharacteristically good weather and it was a spectacular trip, filled with lots of exploring and unexpected vistas and history and nature and a great deal of livestock.

You can find a million more photos here.


A sketch for a new project.


Untitled Untitled

A few new designs that betray my longtime obsession with skulls. I've never really felt that they were morbid, as some people have suggested. They just seemed like fascinating, organic, unexpected shapes (although I get the morbid thing.)

When I'm designing fabrics I like to keep in mind their final destinations. They're destined to be chopped up into smaller pieces, becoming a facet of something larger. They have to work in bits and pieces as well as in broad stretches. When I first started designing fabric I added detail on top of detail; it seemed like part of the challenge to see how much you could squeeze in to each design, like a carefully organized puzzle. Then I started asking myself what kinds of designs I was drawn to, personally, and I found that I actually preferred a much sparser and simpler approach.  Now I try to pare it down to as little as possible, to the barest necessities. Both are challenging approaches, in different ways; it takes restraint to hold back sometimes, and maybe a little humility, too.

I had an art teacher once who made us spend an hour on a drawing, and then he startled everyone by making us grab an eraser and erase everything we'd so painstakingly spent the last hour working on. The point was you can't get too attached to anything; if some small, precious detail is not contributing to the larger whole--well, it has to go. In a way it was also a lesson about humility; you can't become too proud of your work, you always have to be willing to get rid of what isn't working. You can't cling to something that is holding you back, no matter how precious.  In any case, it resonated with me, and I still think about that lesson often. You always have to be willing to pick up the eraser.


I just came back from a quick trip to Texas (which was, unfortunately, mostly kind of cold and gray. Sigh.) More photos here.


New things.

It's been a long time since I designed any new patterns. I was in a bit of a rut, frankly, but you never know when inspiration will strike. Oddly, these guys (as you can probably see) were inspired by meadows and the woods and creepy crawlies and tiny growing things—I'm kind of an indoor girl, so I'm not sure where the bugs came from, but I do really like how these all work together. Perhaps it's some sort of subconscious yearning for spring and green and growth; it's still decidedly wintry here in Boston.

Available for sale in my Spoonflower shop.


We live in an apartment in a building that is about 100 years old. It is kind of like the servants' quarters on Downton Abbey. Very few light switches--mostly pull-chains that you have to wave around your hands and grope for when you arrive home after dark. The locks are made of ancient tarnished metal that you lock with a skeleton key and have a little keyhole you can peep through.

(One time I took a "Which Downton Abbey character are you??" quiz online and I was Mr. Bates, which was a vaguely satisfying and probably very appropriate result.)


On Fabric

I am in the process of making some changes with regards to how I sell fabric online and I wanted to write a little about it here. I've been selling fabric on Etsy for a few years now, and it has really taken off in ways I never could have imagined when I started out. As things have gotten busier, however, it's become harder to keep up with; consequently, this year I decided to start transitioning fabric sales to my Spoonflower store. I think this will be good; and in case you are curious, here are a few of the reasons.

I became interested in fabric design during a bit of a sewing renaissance I had a few years ago. I'd been sewing since I was a kid, but hadn't really done anything complicated and I mostly didn't know what I was doing. I bought a quilt pattern and I was determined to complete it, so I cut up hundreds of squares of fabric on my bedroom floor and I borrowed my mother's loud, old sewing machine and it clacked and wheezed its way through a giant patchwork quilt(I still cringe a little when I see pictures of it—so many misaligned corners! And fabric choices I probably would not make now. It recently made its photographic debut in this book, however, which was kind of a neat surprise, and I've become rather fond of it, in spite of its imperfections.)

Once I'd gotten the hang of it I was on to the next quilt, and the next. I bought a ton of fabric. In the midst of this frantic coveting and collecting of textiles, I found I still wanted something else that I couldn't quite put my finger on, something that I wasn't seeing in fabric stores or online. I wasn't always able to find fabric that totally suited my taste—something simple, practical, useful, but still beautiful, patterns and colors I'd want to be living with on a daily basis—so I ended up designing my own. I can't remember how I stumbled upon Spoonflower but it was kind of mind-blowing. Creating repeating patterns out of illustrations was like this really fun artistic puzzle, and I LOVED it. Suddenly I could produce all of those patterns I'd never quite been able to find.

My first designs were not great, but I was obsessive about making them. I was inspired by everything—books, movies, food, things I passed on the street. This tutorial by Julia Rothman (one of my creative heroes) was totally invaluable. Eventually I found I enjoyed designing patterns more than the actual sewing part (which was always a bit of a challenge in my tiny apartment with my very loud, old sewing machine and limited storage space.) I decided to start selling my fabric designs on Etsy.

Sales started out very slow, but they quietly grew (and I wish I knew what the secret formula was—all I can say is that it took a lot of time and patience, and probably luck, too.) Soon they were coming in daily, and I was spending a few hours most nights cutting, packing, and shipping, and a good percentage of my lunch breaks and Saturday mornings waiting in line at the post office. And then I just couldn't keep up with it anymore; that's when I acquired an “assistant” (ahem, my little brother) who took over all the post office grunt work. There was still a lot of work for me to keep up with, however, and I knew I'd have to find a better solution if I wanted to keep doing this in addition to designing and illustrating. Which brings me to this year.

I'm excited about selling through Spoonflower and I think it is going to be a great solution. It means a lot less cutting, packing, and managing physical inventory for me, which will hopefully translate into more time for designing and creating. It also means a lot more options for all of the nice people who buy my stuff (Wallpaper! Giftwrap!) They are an awesome company located in North Carolina, and their fabrics are created with water-based, eco-friendly inks. I really think they are the best. I wish I lived closer, I'd totally go visit them all the time.

I'm so, so grateful to all of the people who've bought my fabric and shared all of the wonderful projects they've made with it—it's really one of the coolest things I've ever experienced to get to see all of the amazing, beautiful things my fabric becomes and how these things become a part of other people's lives. It's exactly what I'd hoped to do when I'd started out with this whole crazy project—to create designs I was inspired by and share them with others and see what they did with them. I feel really lucky to have accomplished this.


For the past year or so I've been obsessively making drawings of old daguerreotype photographs. It's fun. There's a clarity and immediacy to many of these photos that modern photography can't really replicate. I enjoy taking in details like clothing and hairstyles. And then of course there's the mystery of who these people were, what they were like, what they thought about and where they ended up. You inevitably end up wondering these things when you spend as much time with them as it takes to create these little images.




A belated Haloween doodle.