Category Archives: Personal

The Hidden Superpower

This is Edna Mode:  

She makes costumes for all the superheros of Disney’s The Incredibles. 

She knows each person’s skills, personality, and she creates a costume to compliment both. 

Edna is strongly supportive of her clients and opinionated about functionality. 

In preparation of Halloween, many of you have wielded needle and glue gun for children, grandchildren, even yourself. You used your superpowers to help someone become another, an outfit to last through dark tromps, rain, and sugar highs. 

As you put final touches on capes, makeup, glitter, and headgear, remember this: you may not wear a mask; many will be unaware of your work. But everytime you see a smile run past you, fringe stay put, and gemstones shine, remember that someone helped put it there. 

And when anyone asks what you are for Halloween, just say you’re Edna Mode. 

The Kindness of Strangers

The heart of my heart. Even if you’ve never heard me say that, it only takes a few minutes to realize how important my cat, Maggie, is to me. For nearly 11 years, she has been my joy, my frustration, my solace.

Maggie and Me

She is as great a part of my online presence as she is my real life. So, when I realized she was missing a week ago, it was to social media that I turned. And I learned…

My friends are amazing, beautiful, compassionate people. I don’t know the full reach of posts, but here are some things I do know:

  • Two Facebook/Twitter posts were shared more than 200 times, often by people I’ve never met.
  • She was posted to at least four Birmingham area neighborhood and animal rescue groups.
  • Her HomeAgain email alert was forwarded to my entire neighborhood association email by a complete stranger.
  • My veterinary technician saw Maggie’s poster in a hairdresser’s in Homewood.
  • Untold number of good wishes, prayers, offers of support.

Maggie's Wanted Poster

In the end, Maggie sought her own help this Friday, quite literally knocking on the window of a man who lives just a block away. This Good Samaritan, John, lacking any pets of his own, opened his door, invited her in, let her wander all over his home, sleep where she wanted, and called me immediately. Even though I was in between flights home from Canada, he said she could stay as long as needed until I arrived home. After almost two weeks outside, she is completely uninjured, unfazed, not even a little dirty.

Home Again

In the process of looking for my troublemaker, I discovered something else. While many of us were looking for Maggie, there are countless animals with no one loving them, looking for them. A visit to Animal Care and Control, a division of the Greater Birmingham Humane Society, drove this lesson home. As I toured the rooms of cages, I saw newly born and world-weary cats, without collars or microchips, ragged, scared, alone. The people that run this service are kind, compassionate, patient. They take pictures of every animal (not in an animal abuse case) and post descriptions to a searchable website. They provide medical care, food and protection. If not claimed, these pets are transferred to the Humane Society’s primary location for adoption evaluation.

Maggie found protection. But not all animals are so fortunate. A donation has been made to Animal Care and Control in honor of John, whose open heart helped bring the heart of mine home. At this moment, Maggie is licking my arm and purring. All because of the kindness of friends and strangers.

This Face

Why I Sew and Other Contemplations

Contemplation is defined as “a concentration on spiritual things as a form of private devotion” or “an act of considering with attention” by Merriam-Webster Dictionary. Many forms of contemplative practice encourage mindfulness as a form of devotion or meditation. This simply means paying complete attention to your action at that moment, without judgement or distraction. You focus each second on deliberate movements, on feeling your muscles respond, on completing the task at hand. Should your mind wander to something else, you catch yourself and return, without any feelings of guilt or distress.

You may have come across this concept in yoga or tai chi. But really, any action can be done mindfully, from ironing a blouse to walking a Labyrinth. While meditations are often associated with Buddhism, Zen, and other Eastern philosophies, it isn’t inherently religious. Prayer is a type of mindfulness, done with single purpose and dedication.

For me, it is sewing. That might sound odd, as sewing can be a pretty complex undertaking. But that’s exactly why I love it.

You can’t really multitask. Trust me. Try cutting fabric while watching the news? I’ll show you the scar. Thinking about what you do next? Reset that sleeve twice because it was inside out the first time. And Heaven help you redoing a French seam or lace.

Sewing forces me to take a breath, not get mad (okay, there are some curse words), and concentrate on continuing/fixing/altering my plans. This is true for sewing on the machine and hand embroidery.  Many a row of smocking has been ripped out because I didn’t continue the pattern properly. While focusing on the physical task, my brain releases anxiety and worry, takes a break from obsessing about things I can’t do anything about.

Other thoughts creep into the silence. To give thanks for some blessing, to lift up another person, or even to ask patience in my current task. To appreciate the weather and my often-present cat, Maggie. To remember something discussed at church that Sunday. To not get annoyed with this person or that delay in an airport (another reason to always travel with an embroidery project).

Now, I am not diligent about sewing. But the more I remember how good it feels to create and have the mental space, I need to really schedule it into the week. When I am at peace with myself, I am a better person to be around others. And the plus side is, I have the satisfaction of a gorgeous garment for some sweet baby (or for myself)!

In celebration of Independent Presbyterian Church’s 100 year anniversary, members are making new needlepoint paraments (pew markers, kneelers, and the like). I got to meet some of the women committing their time and resources to this project this morning, as well as get a crash course in needlepoint. It’s not too different from smocking, so this should be a really fun endeavor.

St. Augustine said, “He who sings, prays twice.” By offering this devotion to God not just with your mind, but also with your physical talents, you are praising Him twice-over. I think the same whenever I make something for a religious purpose, such as a christening gown. As I begin the needlework for my church’s paraments, I intend to do so mindfully. Not just to ensure it is done correctly, but also to pray with my hands as well as mind.

Resting on my Laurel

What happens when life influences art?

So, I have a developing obsession with comfortable yet professional items of clothing. This leads to Laurel, a long-admired design from the always-wonderful Colette Patterns. Semi-fitting, all-season, easily modified, it would be quick to sew and a great canvas for experimenting with style and pattern.

Caribbean Laurel

I’m also currently in a mood for bright colors and borders prints. Imagine my delight when I found this print on sale at Hancock Fabrics. Despite a snobbery against anything synthetic, I couldn’t resist.

A border print!

I could immediately see my dream dress, even if it is a little summery for September. But, this is The South, and it’s not like I’d be wearing white shoes after Labor Day. While a version of the pattern included an interlining (backing for lace, for instance), I wanted a true lining. Thankfully, the softer lining happened to be on the clearance table and marked down to $.88/yard. Hard to pass that up!

There were some slight alterations to assembly to accommodate the lining. For instance, I only lined the bodice, not the sleeves. Rather than add more bulk with a French seam or bias binding, I opted to sew a reinforced seam and finish with pinking shears.

Lined bodice

On the positive side, the lining allowed me to cleanly finish the neckline instead of messing with facings. After sewing the neck with the lining and shell right sides together, I pressed and topstitched it to lay flat.


A zipper is always a great opportunity for accent! A shock of pink, perhaps? But no, this lace-edged design perfectly coordinated with the scrollwork of the print. Of course, it means modifying the pattern to accommodate a top-stitched zipper. In order to keep continuity of the large print, I sewed the zipper in place from the right side of the fabric, then cut and folded back the fabric underneath. Wash-away basting tape made this a breeze.

Applying the zipper

After securing the cut away fabric with another pass along the zipper teeth, I hand stitched the lining in place.

Finishing the Zipper

All that was left was the hem! Both the print and lining were a slippery polyester, but I decided to give the narrow hem foot a try, rather than press up anything bulkier. To my relief, it performed beautifully.

Hemming the lining.

And that’s it! The pattern, true to Colette standards, was super straightforward with excellent directions. If that weren’t enough, Sarai Mitnick has created entire booklets for download on ways to modify Laurel. I’m looking forward to many more of these comfortable yet appropriate dresses joining the closet. Perhaps with a touch of smocking or an inverted box pleat at the center back?

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