Tag Archives: create

Expressly Ourselves From Creation to Donation

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I could count on one hand all the things I’ve ever created that have no purpose other than to just be. Because of this, I’ve felt less like an artist and more like a crafter, my thinking being that functional things were mostly created by crafters, and ‘things of beauty’ by artists. That thought probably says more about my urbanity than my ability as a maker, a direct reflection of my rural roots.

While admiring my star wreath and thinking how it was one of the few things I’ve made that has no practical function, the thought occurred to me that maybe functional objects that also communicate individual ideas are the very definition of arts & crafts/artist & crafter. As a well-paired couple, maybe it’s a case of them working hand in hand, not one or the other.

It’s not called ‘arts or crafts.’ Continue reading

Our Children’s Chores

Several years back I read a couple great books by Robert Kiyosaki.   In one there was a quote about not giving children an allowance because it teaches them to work for money rather than learning to create money.  It made a bit of immediate sense and was worthy of more deliberate consideration.  In the end, Johnny and I decided to do both, give allowance earning opportunities as well as instruct in ways to create money for themselves.

We have five children aged six to twelve years, two girls and three boys.  Most of their chore doing is for no other reason than because we’re a family.  There’s no list of what they earn for which job so the lines are blurred between doing for the family and doing for allowance. They know we give them money in order to teach them how to manage and understand it.  It’s nominal, between 1€ and 2€ each per week.  We also give them €5 per week for depositing into their savings accounts and the majority of gifted money goes in there also.

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Learning To Love Sewing


A colourful selection of make and paint your own totebags.

I fell in love with sewing at age seven and the passion has never waned.  Taught at my grandmother’s knee, I went on to learn about industrial sewing and design at my first professional position and then tailoring at the next.  I was blessed to have not only one teacher but three phenomenal women to mentor me, all who spent a good portion of their lives behind the machine developing their sewing skills.  Sure, there were periods of my life that demanded the time I would’ve otherwise spent on sewing, but I knew that someday I’d go on to teach others too.  After spending my lifetime learning the craft (and still so much I’ve yet to know) I’ve chosen to devote the little teaching time I have to children.  In some ways it’s like some of me lives on through their creations and, more importantly, the dying art of sewing might live on through their hands, their hearts, and their imaginations.

needle, thread, concentration

fabric, scissors, imagination

a bit of time, a new creation 

a well-deserved jubilation


This year’s sewing summer camp was as much fun as it was busy.  I added three new projects to last years four and they were mastered by all.  I purchased and borrowed a couple of extra machines and the class sizes were nearly doubled.  At moments it seemed as hectic as bartending on a Saturday night with everyone calling my name to give them attention, but thankfully I wasn’t going it alone as Margaret Maeve and Johnny were there to assist me.

I didn’t get as many pictures of the finished projects as I would’ve liked but I think the ones below express the atmosphere very well– the various fabrics and tools used, the children’s focused concentration, the pride in their accomplishments, as well as the workload we undertook.  It’s truly the kind of work that has rewards much greater than a paycheck could ever furnish and I’m already planning the new projects for next year.

Click on any picture to start a slide show…

I appreciate the children and parents who support my summer camps and also those of you that take the time to visit and read what I share.

Thanks!  Melissa Xx

Spring Willow Project


Hanging on the front of our house, about four foot by four foot in size.


Have you ever entered an Irish home and wondered what the handmade cross hanging above the door represents?  Or perhaps you’ve seen a charm or pendant bearing the symbol that shares pride of place right aside shamrocks, harps, and claddagh rings.


St. Brigid’s Blessing20160211_160309

May Brigid bless the house wherein you dwell

Bless every fireside, every wall and floor;

Bless every heart that beats beneath its roof;

And every tongue and mind for evermore;

Bless every hand that toils to bring joy

And every foot that walks its portals through.

This is my wish today, my constant prayer

May Brigid bless the house that shelters you.


I made a small cross for the inside of our house and using the above willow, I made a giant St. Brigid’s cross for the outside–my welcome to spring offering, traditionally placed near doorways to ward off evil, fire, and hunger from homes.

Here is a photo step-by-step tutorial of how I made the giant cross.  Scroll over any picture to read the details of each step or click on any picture to start a slideshow.

Below is a tutorial of how the cross is woven.  It’s the normal size and uses the rushes that are typically used.  My friend Bernie shared how to make them with me and a group of friends this past Feb 1st when we gathered to celebrate St. Brigid’s Eve together.
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Deliberate Trailblazing 🔀

I started stitching this ‘crazy quilt’ years ago.  All the fabrics are recycled from working as a seamstress back in the States.  Most are scraps I collected from my client’s clothing and home decorating projects.  There’s a pair of my own repurposed jeans in there too.  It was set aside in the busyness of starting a family, though, ironically, it was inspired by those same events as a tribute to the life Johnny and I had started together. 

stars and hearts stitched to

honour children and true love

on their special days

When the idea was conceived, I imagined it like a map of our family with significant moments plotted out in embroidered calendar dates, with plentiful zig-zags and curves, stops and starts, flowers, fireworks, hearts, and stars that represent the highlights and unexpected twists and turns of travelling through life.  Our wedding anniversary, the children’s birthdays, our trans-Atlantic crossing, moving into our home– they’re intentionally not being placed on the quilt in chronological order.  While it is our history, I don’t want it to read like a timeline.  It’s just not the reality of travelling through life.  Or reading a map.  Rarely does one travel in a straight line for very long.  And, honestly, it seemed a bit boring to do it that way.  Since taking it out of storage, I’ve added it to my list of 16 things to do in 2016— that is, to embroider more of the patches. Continue reading

Autumn Wreath for the Birds

This tutorial was picked up by HomeFarmer Magazine by way of twitter and printed in their online publication.

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How to say it all in a few words


My world, mainly Inis Mor, is not as small as it may seem and neither are the events which are experienced here. Trying to succinctly express feelings derived from events, relationships, and interactions can be challenging at times.

Some moments are just too grand to capture briefly; often when done so, it is divine timing or serendipity or one’s exceptional gifts that has guided the achievement.  Many of the best poets are admired for this talent–their eloquence in conveying what most others are unable to find the words to accurately describe. Continue reading

Sewing Summer Camp for Children

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Sewing is very much like engineering: you’re building something. You have to plan ahead, visualize the finish project, and understand how each step creates the foundation for the next one.

It’s also good for children’s fine motor skills and hand-eye coordination, but the mental exercises are just as valuable.  Problem solving, perseverance, and patience can all be learned from sewing. Following instructions and organizing abilities are also gained. Continue reading

How To Make A Lined Zipper Pouch–Beginner Sewing Project 4

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A side view shows the base that helps it to sit upright and a view of the inside gives a peak at the coordinating lining.

Welcome to lesson four of my five beginner sewing project tutorials.  This project repeats most of the skills acquired in the first three lessons and introduces inserting a zipper and a lining.  Neither are too difficult, and both are invaluable basic skills that open up many future project possibilities.  This project looks time intensive, but like the others before, it’s easily taught within the four-hour class time, allowing for warm-up exercises and a twenty-minute break.  I should add here that I have the fabrics pre-cut for students and they choose the combination of elements–zip, ribbon, lining and main fabric. I’ve put in lots more pictures because they can sometimes speak clearer to you than the written instructions.  Don’t ever hesitate to ask me for help with anything. Continue reading

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