Thursday, January 19, 2017


Happy new year, friends!
(three weeks late)

Be ye warned: I'm about to do a year-end roundup, in arrears.

I have to say that I'd never understood why bloggers do year-end roundups. I mean, it's exhausting to unearth one year's worth of photos and cram them all into a collage and then concoct new Nice Things to say about stuff I'd made myself and already bragged about months earlier. In the past, especially when the kids were very little, my reaction after looking back over the 12 months of any particular year is usually along the lines of "Oh, my word, I feel utterly wiped out just remembering how busy I was. Did I even sleep? Can a person feel sleep-deprived just thinking about how sleep-deprived they were?"

Then: 2016.

I think of 2016 as a bit of an off-year for me. There were a lot of transitions and growing up (some done by the kids and some by me) and coming to terms with being older and watching my parents get older and everyone navigate new things in their respective golden eras. Some of those things were silly e.g. I apparently reached some kind of storage ceiling with my blog photos on Googlesomething and had to find a new way to upload photos to Blogger without incurring even more storage deficits, but that resulted in doubling the number of steps and suddenly blogging became a pain so I ran away from it, shrieking. And then when our big camera was in the shop for weeks, I found that I didn't even miss it. Um - a blogger not missing her camera? Red flag! And immediately I was trapped in a cesspool of existential rumination: is it just the photos or is it blogging in general? And why do I blog, really? How much of my life is this blog? What does it mean if I don't want to talk about cardboard any more? Or take a photo of cardboard? Is it the photo, or the cardboard? 

At some point, fortunately, it crossed over into the ridiculous and there was much derisive self-mockery, which restored the peace and perspective, so it was all good.

But some of those things were less silly, like wanting to write more than wanting to sew. Or realizing my kids were old enough now that I could actually get an outside-the-house full-time job if I wanted to (whether I actually wanted to or not was not the issue; the point was that I could). Or feeling, for the first time, that I might need to be someone other than so-and-so's mother. Just the other day, for instance, I called the neighbor's house and introduced myself as my kid's mom. When the neighbors had known us for years already. 

I know, right? Somehow I was subconsciously stuck at that point in the past when I toted around car seats and diaper bags and introduced myself as "LiErAndIHaveThreeKids". I might as well have joined a MOMS group and written all four of our names on my name tag during the icebreaker sessions. 

After I was done parodying myself, however, I reflected that it was more likely than anything else my immigration status sneaking up with a swift kick to the behind. See, I came to stay in the US with a one-year-old and all my other identities in remission for the next eleven years as I figured out how to be responsible for a tiny human being in a country I barely knew. I needed to be Mother. I threw myself into being Mother. Now those other identities are coming out of hibernation and giving Mother a good run for her money. It's a hoot - I love rediscovering Old Me but reinvention takes time and energy and sometimes between the dinner prep and the swim team drop-offs and pick-ups, it just doesn't happen. And on particularly manic days, I torture myself further by feeling guilty about it. 

I sure wish I had more hours in a day (and a therapist to invite to the circus)! Is this just me or are there other slightly schizophrenic recovering One-Dimensional Mothers out there? If so, yoo hoo! Don't be shy. Bring your own nutella and join the party! 

But back to the year-end roundup: I know now why bloggers do it. Because sometimes an entire year goes by that isn't just crafting and sewalongs - there are sick kids and huge family changes and bad news and moving to new cities and we ask ourselves at the end of it, "Have I actually accomplished anything or was that just 365 days of fire-fighting and trying to find new normals?" And here's another weird thing: sometimes a year isn't bad per se. Sometimes no one dies and no one loses a job or lands themselves in prison. Sometimes a year is just full of little things that we didn't foresee, or little ways in which we forgot to take care of ourselves, or little choices we made by default because other things were more urgent or important on any particular day, week, month.

And right after the hubbub of Christmas is that small valley in our energy landscape in which we exhale and realize the year is almost over, and the kids are 12 whole months older, and What Just Happened?

Yeah. That was kind of my year.

So I looked back over my 2016 blog archives (thank the stars for my blog because without it, I wouldn't remember what I actually made) to see if I'd actually sewn anything this year, because I suspected that I might not have.

Imagine my surprise at what I'd found!

Apparently, I started and finished the Zip A Bag Tutorial Series. Booyah!

And sewed costumes!

And added to the Menagerie zoo!

And engineered parties!
Emily's Harry Potter Party - posts to come

And launched a sewing pattern!

And stocked the shop!

And made things with the kids!

Emoji pillows made by (L to R): Kate, Emily and Jenna

Cardboard Castle by Emily
Donuts by Kate
Mini Cardboard Oven by Kate
Cardboard Barbie Bunk Bed by Jenna

Patchwork Balls by Emily

And did the Kids' Craft Fair!

Slightly incredulous at what actually got done when I honestly felt like I'd been slacking off. The optimist in me said, "Wow. Way to go, girl!"

The pessimist in me said, "Now imagine how much more sleep-deprived you'd have been if you'd actually not been slacking off."

Shut up, pessimist. You are not welcome here.

I've also been writing. That isn't here on the blog because it isn't sewing-writing. Or cardboard-writing. Or any writing that is related to teaching or motherhood or crafting. I started this blog when the kids were small and I needed a creative outlet that included them in my world since, you know, that world invariably seemed to revolve around them anyway. Almost a decade later, that creative world has expanded to corners that are my own, and it's been a truckload of fun to make something -even if it's text on a page - just for me. It isn't ready to be shared with the world at large, but I am learning so much about the writing process that it's fun in and of itself. And I'm finally using all the stuff I learned in grad school and the hours of counseling (have you ever psychoanalyzed a fictional character? It's absolutely delicious.) Someday, if I publish a (non-craft) book, you guys can say you heard about it here first.

But what of 2017? Will I still sew? Will I still be here waxing lunatic about sewing and fabric and children and teaching you to do the same? 

Pffft. Of course! I might loathe editing photos and such, but I still love the making. 

And now, onward! January has run away with me in the form of major house projects but I have been assiduously working through the hundreds of Harry Potter Party photos (there are about 20 posts!!!!) and I will be ready to share them soon. Also I have a sudden craving to draft shorts, make small rabbits and sew duffle bags. So bring it, 2017, and be our new happy place. 


  1. I have had an unsettling year. We sold our farm and business. I quit my job after 27 years. We purchased a Rv to travel the west to find our new home. We found it along the coast in Oregon, and I start a new job next week! I am ready for lots of mundane 8 to 5 activity. We are ready to find a house and become a part of our community. Oh, I am ready to sew my own clothes again too :) Happy New Year!

    1. Dk's Wife: Congratulations on finding a new place to call home! I wish you all the best with settling in and settling back down. Happy clothes sewing!

  2. Wow, I would be so chuffed if I'd done half the stuff you have! Or any of it to that quality.

    What's the uniform style costume? It's familiar but I can't place it- very annoying.

    1. Harr.iet: it's the Beauxbaton uniform from Harry Potter.

  3. Happy 2017, I admire you Lier I wish I could make 1/4 of the fabulous things you make, thank you for sharing them with us!

    1. Thank you Myrto! I am so glad for this blog where I can document what I've made and share them with you!

  4. Thank you so much for this blog post. I haven't had time to read all your posts and tutorials so I really appreciate the recap.
    I WANTED to be normal this last year but we moved house and my husband working a lot of overtime so things went by the wayside. I want to read the zipper tutorial front to back and I actually want to make some cardboard things with my son.
    I really like your blog. I first found it because I was researching sleeve caps and how I can fit them better to my large shoulders/biceps, it was the toilet roll tutorial. and I got well and truly drawn in --Well done.
    thank you. Sarah G.

  5. A cheer escaped as soon as I saw your post! Your blog always makes me smile and I'm so glad you are here. Congratulations on the transition to Whatever Is Coming Next and enjoy your writing for you.

  6. Your post just made me smile, and tear up and smile again. Your reflections on life, motherhood and being creative are just so spot on. Cheers to a wonderful 2017 to you!

  7. Oh my goodness that was a fun stroll, seeing all of your wonderful creations!

  8. I have appreciated the glimpses you have given us into your story, and appreciate the "Hi, I'm SoandSo's and SoandWhats Mom, SJ!" It's a great job that doesn't show up on my social security work history, but I'm grateful for it.

    You realize, of course, that you are a paywall away from making your back catalog a paying gig.

  9. We've had so many not-as-planned years lately that my end of year posts really are a matter of figuring out what actually happened over the previous twelve months. It usually turns out that I've accomplished more than I remembered.

  10. You get an amazing amount done in a year. I hope to read your fiction book someday.

    And I hope those Harry Potter posts get done in time for me to steal a few ideas for Emma's party, but I'll enjoy them either way.

  11. Gracias por todo lo que publicó en 2016, especialmente por la serie de bolsas con cierre. Fue muy generosa al compartir gratuitamente cada paso a paso. Feliz Año Nuevo!!!

  12. Loved the post. Thanks! Amazing! Is there a pattern for the cute bunny in the green hat/blue skirt? adorable!

    1. Rebekah - unfortunately, there isn't. I've been begging the youngest child to let me release the pattern (it's her bunny) but she is very resistant to the idea of other people in the world having a bunny like hers. I will keep working on wearing her down, however.

  13. Dear LiEr
    Thanks for sharing all of this! I myself can strongly relate to the feeling of becoming yet again myself after being "just" my kids mom for over 10 years. Its nice to read that its the same for someone else... you (and I) are not only our kids mom but a person of yourself and wonderful to be so! Happy new discovery of your life :)
    with greetings from Switzerland,

  14. Hi! I'm going to throw my hat in with those excited for the HP party posts. I used several of your party posts last year as inspiration (everything turned out fab) and just clicked back today to see if you had anything magic/HP. I'm already stockpiling cardboard.
    Your menagerie is adorable and might be the push I need to learn how to sew.
    Although since I'm pretty sure I just goofed up commenting, maybe sewing should wait. Hopefully this time it's on the post I intended.
    - a different Lisa

  15. If you had done nothing other than the zipper bag tutorials (which are awesome by the way), I'd be impressed. Seriously impressed, as I know it takes much more work than many realize to get the photos, write the instructions and make it all understandable to a wide audience. And the menagerie additions is another big project.

    Immigration status sneaking up? Swift kick in the behind? I hope all is OK for you on that front.

    1. JustGail: Thank you for your kind words, and for understanding the behind-the-scenes work a tutorial involves. It IS laborious and begs procrastinating on, but it feels so good to accomplish it, and be told it helped people. Hurrah.

      And thank you also for asking: no, immigration status is fine, and I apologize for the confusion. I meant that when I came to the US, I was so focused on finding new normals and new roles that everything else that defined me fell by the wayside. Until recently, as the kids got older and I have more mental and emotional space to process identity and such, and it made me all far more introspective than usual!

  16. Yay! I look forward to the next year with you and your blog!

  17. "all my other identities in remission" >oh, I hear you! I came to Germany pregnant with our first, newly married (no health insurance otherwise!) and newly unemployed after a period of workaholism, and not speaking the language. At least you had the language! Then recently I realized with shocking clarity that my youngest has only one full year left in kindergarten - as in, on the cusp on not a little little anymore - and I am president of the PTA and not much else that can count as CV-worthy. Your remission phase was far more productive than mine.
    "but reinvention takes time and energy and sometimes just doesn't happen. And on particularly manic days, I torture myself further by feeling guilty about it." >bless you, it's not just me! I have been focused (when there was time) first on redefinition before I can consider reinvention: what of my old self do I want back? How have my values changed as a result of this chapter of life? And lemme tell you, integrating value of slow living I have experienced in the last decade with the value of hard work and societal contribution that I grew up internalizing is doing my head in. Not helped by the fact that being interrupted twelve thousand times a day by kids and smartphones and schedules and other binging, whirring things is less than conducive to serious introspection.
    You're right: a year-in-review exercise is valuable, both for the Self and (as SJ points out) potentially for your bottom line, too. Make that "non-work" work for you!

  18. I'm eagerly looking forward to your book - when it comes out. Have fun writing!


Thank you for talking to me! If you have a question, I might reply to it here in the comments or in an email.