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« inspired by ada mae | Main | yes. »

finding my way to here.


When I began sewing again (after my twenty-year break), I was very enamored with all the new, retro-inspired fabrics out there (of course I still am). My first trip to Fabric Depot with Kelly found me knee-deep in Amy Butler fabrics and Anna Maria Horner fabrics and I was officially swooning over the moon in love with sewing. I began to create bags and aprons and other fun things.

Around this same time, I was also beginning to collect stuff that was filling all the nooks in my little room. My first ArtFest experience in 2006 had inspired me to begin to seek the stories found in old things, so trips to antique stores and thrift shops became part of my routine. I remember the day I discovered pink vintage buttons that looked like flowers. I stood there in that thrift shop with my eyes wide. I think I was basically overcome by the cuteness of this simple color and all those happy flower shapes.

Somewhere along the way, I began to realize that this collecting and story seeking was actually a piece of my grieving process and part of what I was doing was filling in my heart’s cracks. (I wrote about this idea again recently.) As I wrote stories for the bags, prayer flags, and other things I was creating, I was beginning to tell the stories of the women who came before me while also bringing in my own story and perhaps your story too. My idea journals became filled with different ways to tell these stories.

In 2008, I took part in my first big show. I immediately had plans to debut several new lines of creations. I was overflowing with ideas and the excitement of all the people I would meet who would "get" my obsession with vintage sewing stuff. However, as the show got closer and closer, many of the ideas I had jotted down gave way to creating bags and pillows that I “thought would sell,” and I became pretty consumed with sewing in an assembly line.

While talking to a friend during this time, I shared one of these ideas that was still on paper: prayer flags made from vintage sewing bits and vintage handkerchiefs. She so sweetly commissioned four sets from me pronto! to give as gifts during her upcoming travels at the time. I stopped my assembly line work for a few days in order to create those flags. My heart was so happy brainstorming and creating those sets with the little bits of hand sewing and vintage paper and stories. I thought I would immediately create more for the Farm Chicks Show. But the assembly line sewing (and gathering and packaging other cute vintage sewing items to sell) began again. The ideas that deeply inspired me settled back into the idea journal. Because I do have a day job too, I was in this place of learning how a person can truly only do so much.

One of the lines I did create was skirts in the Ada Mae line (you can see a few here). I used vintage quilt pieces and vintage fabric yo yos and other things to create these fun flowers that I appliquéd onto thrifted skirts. And even though I loved this look so much and thought it was so very Farm Chicks (and had so many other ideas sketched out for bags and aprons and oh how the list goes on, some of which are actually partly made but still in pieces somewhere in the piles in the little room), the show was a different kind of learning experience than I expected. Lots of people came into my booth and loved it (photos of the booth here), but the phrase we heard over and over that weekend was, “Oh I LOVE this idea! I am going to go home and make something just like this.” One woman came back to the booth three times to try to figure out one of my patterns. People were stopping by the booth and jotting down ideas right in front of me.

Even though I had a lovely time (it is an incredible show and the ladies and vendors there are beyond amazing [no joke people] and I really wish I would have been able to go back to the show to at least shop since then), I came home a bit disheartened and pretty burned out from all the assembly line sewing. And after listening to so many people talk about how they were going to create things just like I created, I started guarding my sewing ideas so close to my chest that many of them never made there way out of the idea journals. And then I would see other etsy sellers and bloggers who were also inspired in similar ways (not by me...as my ideas were still tucked inside moleskines but rather we were clearly all finding inspiration in creating with vintage fabric and doilies and quilt pieces and other things) and I didn't want to seem like I was "jumping on a bandwagon" of sorts. Oh how the swirling of the mind can push us away from what we want to do.

Still, my collection of vintage sewing bits and handkerchiefs and thread and lace and buttons and how the list goes on continued to grow. And, the idea of the Ada Mae line plus creating more prayer flags has been on my mind for months now. Some days when I walk into the little room, it is as though this vintage ephemera is whispering stories that must be told…

But life has been so full; 2009, the year of manifesting, was full. I had a book to write and retreats to plan and suddenly found myself sick each day for the last several weeks of the year. And finding time to sew just wasn’t on the to do list for a bit.

When the first draft of my book was in and I began to feel better, I took out my idea journal and started flipping through some pages and I let go of the need to listen to the naysaying inner voice. I found myself gathering lace and doilies and ribbon and linen and buttons and paper. I brought baskets and boxes to the kitchen table along with my sewing machine and turned on the music and I began to sew the stories together again in the form of prayer flags…


And I am having so much fun.

Thanks for reading all of this. I just wanted to share part of the process of it all...how my journey brings me here...how listening to what inspires you is sometimes hard but yet something we should give ourselves permission to do more often...how it is okay to be inspired by the same things others are inspired by as you stay true to your own "take" on that inspiration...how sometimes it is okay to admit things didn't go as planned...how it all part of the path...

The photos in this post are a sneak peek. I will share more photos and the stories behind the Ada Mae line and the prayer flags I create tomorrow.

Reader Comments (12)

i just wantt o reach out and touch these. i love your creative mind and
how each one of your creations takes me back to some special place.
that is a gift.

March 16, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterkelly

oh dear Liz ~ Thank you so much for sharing a piece of your process with us. Your story is incredible. I felt like I was right there with you. I adore your prayer flags. They are stunning. I have actually been dreaming of prayer flags lately and how I really would like some to hang in my apartment. Yours are so stunning. They made me smile from the inside. I hope to one day have the opportunity to hang your lovely prayer flags on my wall. My apartment would shine with a radiant light.

Sending you love!

March 16, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJennifer

why did this post make me cry?
that was TOTALLY unexpected.
i am in total awe and love of the idea of your prayer flags and when you have time (anytime in the next five years)...i would love to commission you to do a prayer flag for me.
yes! i think. no, i know....i need a prayer flag in honor of my mom.
i love you and your soul!
thank you for sharing it with the world.

March 16, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterchrissy

I'm glad you're returning to the project again. I can hear how much you enjoy it in your post.

I love Amy Butler fabrics. They make me wish I wanted to learn to sew.

March 16, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterelizabeth

I so love this story, your process, the ins and outs of all these years but then going back to those stuck away pages to bring to life what really wanted to get out and feed you. and now you are feeding us with these amazing pieces of art. love them so much! thank you for sharing your creations, your love, your art.


March 16, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterstef

these are so gorgeous my friend...and i'm so glad you are making them and putting them out into the world...and i'm so glad that i have one of your original prayer flags...and i treasure it...

March 17, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMichelle Ensminger

ohhhhhhhhhhh my goodness, i am SO GRATEFUL that you took the time to write out this post, to explain your processes, your excitements, your fears, your disappointments, your realizations, your exctiement again. now, it is time for me to order some more of these flags!!!!!
enjoy your pre-baby time. enjoy the doting, the loving, the belly patting, the giving. enjoy being in the center of all of that. i wish i could be there to love on you. xo

March 17, 2010 | Unregistered Commenternina

simply good.
that's you.

i love this post and i absolutely love these prayer flags and what they represent.

"Oh how the swirling of the mind can push us away from what we want to do." i cannot tell you enough how much i relate to this simple but heavy statement.

thank you liz.
once again, you have helped me. you have inspired me. you have me pulling out my old journals and my trusty "3 ring" binder that holds so many ideas....i think it may be time for me to go back to the start!!

love you so...

March 17, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterkolleen

thank your for sharing your "beginning" with us here - you certainly found your niche in the art world. i love your prayer flags, so very you.

March 17, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterkatie

I sooo hear you on the ideas and tucking them away. A couple years ago I had an idea then as I worked on it someone else came out with a book with exactly the same idea. This was of course in no way connected to me but I still felt crushed and then I abbandoned all the work and the idea itself. Now I realize how silly this was. People will come up or use the same materials as me but they will never have exactly my way of doing it. Your prayer flags shine with originality! Keep it up! Follow and honor your ideas.

March 24, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterkt

I sometimes get afraid of too much inspiration, thinking that I'll only be able to copy. But one of Claudine Hellmuth's books makes a good point that if you're trusting your own eye and your own artist spirit, something new is guaranteed to come out.

April 7, 2010 | Unregistered Commentermjb

It's so comforting to know that we all start somewhere. Makes my word of the year less intimidating: BEGIN

April 10, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterKate

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