Tag Archives: sewing

Make Do & Mend

Our couch cushions were feeling a bit deflated. A sad case really because our couch and matching love seat are otherwise in exceptionally fine fettle. Purchased when Margaret Maeve was first born, the set has withstood the better part of the last thirteen years under the same roof with five children and there’s not even a hint of rickety in their joints.

Johnny had the great idea to wedge several throw pillows in a single layer between the couch frame and the seat cushions, and it gave a perfect lift to the seats and a uniform look across the front. The wedged pillows go unnoticed because we tuck quilts over the couches.

With five throw pillows used to renew the two couches, they were quickly missed when we lounged around, so this week I made seven new ones. They photographed best outside in the natural light.

A great way to spruce up a room, the new pillows have definitely added a lift for very little dosh. I priced custom cushion replacements and a few hundred euro would make the couches new again. For 1/10 the cost, I already owned the fabric and pillow inserts. While this might be more of an inexpensive alternative than an actual make do and mend job, it’s making due for less, no less.

The Wonderful Warmth of Winter

No more children sitting on their feet and no more cold bottoms because I finally made padded covers for the metal stools that surround the island in our kitchen. It seems noteworthy to tell you that we’ve nicknamed this seating area Inis Meáin, which translates tothe middle island’, and is the same name as our island neighbor here in the Aran Islands.

Most meals are eaten here in the kitchen. The dining room table is a hub for crafting, game playing, Lego and sorting clean laundry. As the chalkboard sign in the upper left corner so well documents, it was our 163rd monthiversary, ♥ 163 months married ♥, it was the 24th of November. Continue reading

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

Children’s Sewing Day Camps on Inis Mor


Sewing is very much like engineering: you’re building something. You have to plan ahead, visualize the finished 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.

Each day camp teaches beginner sewing skills to children and is suitable for ages 6 years and up, boys and girls.

They’ll be taught to operate a basic sewing machine and use sewing tools as they complete a project each day.

Camps are held July 25-28, August 1-4. Each single day camp is from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

A single day is €30 and any additional days are €25 each.  Children bring a bag lunch and everything else is provided.

There are 7 projects in total with loads of boys & girls fabric choices for each.

20150806_140431July 25– Pillow with two front pockets— Great for first time sewists, the pillow has one clear vinyl photo pocket over a second felt pocket.

July 26– Lunch bag with waterproof, washable, breathable, and mildew proof lining.  Features fold top with velcro closure. Has a clear vinyl window to personalize.

July 27– Waterproof drawstring backpack with inside pocket.  Great for swim lessons.

20150805_145524 (4)July 28– Reversible A5 book cover with pen holder and bookmark.  Book and pen included.

Aug 1– Sew then colour your own tote bag.  Includes a set of ten colourful permanent markers.  Strap colours include pink, orange, yellow, red, blue, and black.

Aug 2– Set of three fabric nesting storage boxes. A great beginner project

Aug 3– Half-fold wallet with zipper closure for coins and bills, three 20150727_140340card pockets, clear vinyl photo holder, and velcro tabs to keep securely closed.

Aug 4– Waterproof drawstring backpack with inside pocket.

To register, check for availability, or to get more information, contact me here, call or text me at 087 315 2279, or send me an email at aranislandgirl@yahoo.com.    Cheers, Melissa

click on any photo to start a slide show…

Homefarm Happenings

I returned from my r & r holiday last evening feeling another r & r, refreshed and ready to go.  With unbelievable amounts of time spent sleeping, I also managed a couple sea swims, pool swims, spa time, late night chats, and a meeting or three over tea and/or food with girlfriends.  Feeling completely rejuvenated I am!

Today was a happy busy first day back home for me– happy to be busy doing some of my favourite things that support our desires to be creatively self-sustaining.

Instead of devoting an entire post to individual projects I’m going to summarize the latest going-ons here with a few pics.

We went clamming today at noon as there was a super low tide.  Johnny gathered razor clams while I got more mosaic treasure…can picture the mosaic in my mind’s eye now.  Afterwards, we both foraged for mussels.  We just finished a delicious dinner of our catch of the day sauteed with wild garlic leaves, mushrooms, and onions.

Before leaving on my trip, I had a sewing class for one of my daughters and two other young island girls to make Irish dancing skirts for a feis this coming weekend.  Running short on time during the class, I finished pressing the pleats of one of the skirts today before delivering it back to the little seamstress.  I’ll get a picture of the three wearing their entire outfits this weekend. I’m feeling very proud of the girls and am sure they’ll have much fun and success wearing them.

While I was away, Johnny surprised me by starting making our much needed larger window boxes as well as placing the tiles over the Stanley range heater in our dining room.  The children helped with the tiling.


Five new baby goats have arrived in the last week.  I posted the first few to be born on my fb page on Mother’s Day (in March here).  These two are the newest set of twins who arrived a couple days ago.  Such cutie-cutesters and as cuddly to us as we want to be with them…like all animals, goats have their own personalities and aren’t always that fond of people’s attention and affection.IMG_20160309_184830

And with that, I wish a happy weekend to one and all, Melissa Xx

Speaking of Textiles

craft collage

Most of my spring, summer, and autumn days are spent in welly boots and earth-stained blue jeans.  Even when I don a sundress, eventually duty calls for a quick change and my denim clad knees are once again in garden dirt. Of course, I love our homefarming life and wouldn’t change a thing about it.  And as the seasons change, the oft-dreaded start of winter weather arrives offering many good reasons to feel appreciation, a break from the laborious garden being the most obvious one.  Another less obvious reason being clean, comfy, and cozy fabrics to wear.

One of my most favourite things about this time of year is the wardrobe that’s in season– wool, corduroy, leather, and velvet, worn with ribbed cotton turtlenecks, cable knit sweater dresses, and knee-high suede boots worn over thick woolly tights. But this isn’t meant to be a commentary on fashion.  What I’m really talking about here are textiles.  I love fabrics, adore the scent and ‘hand’ of different fibres, and if it’s going to be against my skin then I prefer natural materials over man-made synthetics.

Continue reading

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

20150705_165730 (2)

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

Writing 201– Poetry Day 2: Combine ‘Journey, Limerick, Alliteration’ & Other Works In Progress

limerick poem

Writing 201 — Poetry Day 2: Combine ‘Journey, Limerick, Alliteration’

I’m really enjoying this week of poetry.  This limerick came easy for me…maybe the Irish influence 🙂

My fourth sewing tutorial is in edit and nearly ready to be published along with another recipe and my 52 weeks of photos/RonovanWrites combo post.

So many things are composing themselves in my always busy brain.  With my change of plans, we have refocused on this years garden and have just ordered some great seeds to grow veg and flowers for ourselves and for selling.  Regarding the animals, we are due a couple of our first spring kids any time in the next week or two.  The chickens are loving the extra daylight and celebrating so by giving us more eggs.

I am bouncing around in joy today after receiving a text last evening that my favorite swim pal in the world is coming to the island for the next three days with her four gorgeous children.  Got to love spring break…now bring on the sunshine.  But rain or shine, we’ll be taking a dip or two–she’s tough as nails and a great motivator!

May you all enjoy this Happy Pancake Day/Shrove Tuesday/Mardi Gras wherever you are.  We’ll be having sweet potato pancakes for dinner, hopeful to be served aside some fresh fish.  Johnny and I are off to go fishing now, so with luck on our side, we will have something for the table and freezer upon return.  Take care, Melissa Xx

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