Slow Stitch Workshops and Wonderful Maker Products

I tried something new recently- hosting 2-day workshops in November and early December. This proved quite different from my typical one-day workshops or evening classes. Hosting a longer, two-day event made it more practical for guests to travel from farther away than the San Francisco Bay Area and consider hotel or Airbnb lodging to enjoy two full creative days. It was a fantastic turnout of very talented ladies! The projects included collaged and hand-stitched textile samplers. Lunch was catered both days and my husband Jeff cooked us a delicious Friday night dinner for each event. There were 8 attendees at each workshop. Everyone seemed to really enjoy collecting fabrics, ribbons, lace, vintage embroidery pieces and other textiles from around the studio, compose their designs,  the basting and stitching, and getting to know one another. We all spent creative, mindful time together as well as alone.I had some generous sponsors for the workshops who shared products to not only elevate our projects but also enhance the overall two-day experience.I began day one by reading an excerpt or two from Mindful Thoughts for Makers, a lovingly-crafted little book that celebrates the meditative beauty and nature of making by Ellie Beck who shares why creating with our hands is uplifting, rewarding and soothing for the mind, body, and soul. Everyone received their own copy from Quarto Knows as a morning surprise on day 2.

iStencils sponsored two of my favorite stencils– 12-inch and 6-inch designs from my collection as well as a stencil brush. You can purchase any of the 48 different designs in both sizes at iStencils.comCathe Holden’s Inspired Barn stencils are excellent for adding texture layers in stitching projects, mixed media, transforming furniture and home accessories, and embellishing apparel. They are great for cardmaking and collage, and even for food-crafting like dusting cakes and breads! Each stencil is laser cut for precision from 7.5 mil mylar and can be used between dozens to times to hundreds of times. Use these stencils with paint, ink, bleach, embossing powder, markers, glass etching cream, gold leaf, glitter, texture paste, fabric dye, gel medium, and food powders (ie. sugar, flour).

Fiskars sent many fantastic workshop tools, including this pair of Seamstress Scissors featuring ergonomically designed handles for cutting performance, control and comfort. They are now my main, everyday fabric cutting tool.Attendees were able to use these fantastic Amplify® RazorEdge™ Fabric Shears that sense blade separation and force the blades back together to cut cleanly through heavy materials. I can cut through multiple layers of cotton with precision, then right after cut through one layer just the same.We also enjoyed using the Fiskars Classic Stick Rotary Cutter providing comfortable use and control for both right- or left-handed users! We used one with a straight blade and one with a pinking blade. The tools everyone got to take home, and possibly the one we used the most, were the Fiskars Ultrasharp Thread Snips. They easily cut fabric, ribbon, floss, yarn and threads with their razor-sharp, premium-grade stainless steel blades, and have pointed tips for trimming in tight spaces. They have a built-in blade guard can be extended when not in use during storage and travel. They also have a spring-action design with Softgrip® touchpoints to make cutting comfortable and easy.My friends at Moda Fabrics provided lovely, colorful Sherri & Chelsi Walkabout Zipper Pouches for carrying needles, snips, thimbles and more for our projects on the go.Beacon Adhesives Fabri-Tac has been my go-to adhesive for years. We used it for basting our fabric collages with tiny dots prior to stitching. I’ve used it for covering lampshades with fabric, hemming jeans in a pinch, and a multitude of other things around the studio and home. Everyone received their own 2-ounce starter bottle!What’s mindful stitching without tea?! Thankfully The Republic of Tea is just down the highway from Petaluma and generously provided each attendee with delicious Beautifying Botanicals teas: Daily Beauty & Beauty Sleep to sip, refresh and nourish the skin from the inside out. Daily Beauty is an herbal infusion of juicy blueberry and calming lavender to hydrate and help promote callogen growth. Beauty Sleep contains chamomile which helps promote a restful, relaxing sleep, and both are caffeine-free.Stampington & Company gifted each attendee a set of mixed media postcards tied up in a bow, and a discount coupon for shopping their online store! Who doesn’t LOVE Stampington?! Have you ever shopped their craft supplies?Clover sponsored the needles for the workshops. Their Gold Eye Tapestry and Chenille needles are nice for embroidery projects, but their Sashico needles were used most for the kantha/boro-style stitching we did.

Also provided were their Flexible Rubber Thimbles. These help me so much to pull the needle through heavy or multiple layered sections of my stitching. I wear one on my thumb religiously now when hand-sewing.On day one of the November workshop, we took a little break from our tables for an afternoon field trip on foot to tour the gardens of Susan Kelly of Marion Moss Floral Design, one of Wine Country’s top wedding and venue florists (who happens to live next door!). Susan finished our tour with a wonderful lesson in basic floral design. We all came away glowing from the experience.

Oliso provided the studio with their Oliso Mini Project Iron™, three in fact for workshop use, and they are perfect for small fabric cuts and projects! I also own their full-size pressing iron, but these little gems are so great for small pressing tasks. Each comes with a solemate™, a silicone trivet that hugs the mini iron for travel and storage and functions as a safe place for the soleplate to rest while ironing. Each has 1000 watts of power and an 8-foot pivot cord. It has a diamond coated ceramic soleplate with precision tip, has multiple heat options and yes- STEAM!On a non-sponsored note, I made everyone little beeswax thread conditioners by melting beeswax in a little electric crock and dripping it into a silicone candy mold. If you haven’t used beeswax to run along your thread prior to handstitching, it’s time you tried. It’s a game changer. The wax keeps your length of thread free of tangling as you pull it through the fabric, and it helps the thread glide through your sewing project so smoothly!And finally, two sweet guests brought gifts for the others. Kristi of Dutch Home Creating gave everyone her hand-poured Harvest Kitchen cinnamon and apple scented candles in vintage-style canning jars. Rori brought each of December’s guests a hand-stitched drink coaster crafted from a well-loved vintage quilt. So thoughtful!What I’ve discovered about Collect and Collage stitch workshops is that the experience and pleasure of getting away to a creatively-rich environment to craft, share and enjoy one another’s company seems to far outweigh the crafty project results. That being said, the finished projects were AMAZING!!

A big THANK YOU to all the sponsors and guests who made these two events SO special. And thank you to all the beautiful, and lovely women who graced my favorite creative space.


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Collect and Collage: Sampler Stitching

Treasure-hunting and collecting beautiful bits of textiles to collage, then melding them together with basic running stitches has become my new favorite pastime. There are names of handwork similar to mine such as boro stitching, slow stitching, kantha, and visual mending. A quick search of any of those terms will bring up loads of inspiration. I’m not sure my personal stitch-style follows all rules for the techniques mentioned above, and I’m totally ok with that. I’m especially enjoying the hunt for and organizing of vintage, thrifted and otherwise found textiles, and composing delightful collages, melding the entirety together with hand-sewn running stitches. One of my favorite things about stitching samplers is letting go of perfectionism with poorly-spaced, rarely-straight rows of inconsistent stitches and how that creates a very handmade, whimsical vibe. I also love how portable the projects are once they are assembled and ready to stitch. I take them on the go when traveling, camping, and watching Netflix at night.

Here are some of my collect & collage sampler stitch process pics and finished projects: EXCITING NEWS!

I’m hosting a two-day Collect and Collage Sampler Stitching Workshop October 18 & 19 and November 8 & 9 at my studio, Inspired Barn, in Petaluma, California. For more information and to register, head over to the EVENTS page.Remember to follow me on Instagram for all things current in my ever changing creative world.

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Retirement Speech for My Firefighter Husband and Rolo Cigar Favors

As the day drew near to the retirement dinner for my husband Jeff hosted by the Petaluma Fire Department, I gave a lot of thought to what I would like to say to him at the event and for others to hear. It’s one of those chances you don’t get too often to give honor and accolades publicly to a loved one. In usual Cathe fashion, I procrastinated writing my speech to just a day or two before the dinner since I seem to work best under deadline pressure. I thought googling “retirement speech husband”, “retirement party speech firefighter”, etc. might yield some good content but was surprised there wasn’t much if anything out there to source from for an outline or help with context. I was pretty much on my own. (Which is why I’m sharing my speech on my blog, should someone in the future need a little inspiration with theirs. That, and it gives me another chance to share how proud I am of this man.) Here is the speech I wrote. Completely unable to memorize, I read it to Jeff, family, and dinner guests last month.

When I met Jeff in 1987, he’d been a paid firefighter with Valley of the Moon Fire Department for just over one year. We became instant best friends, then about 5-6 months later, started dating. When we were engaged to be married, he applied and tested with Petaluma Fire Department. He was accepted and given a start date of July 9, 1990.

 Our wedding was scheduled for July 6.

 Jeff was so excited for our wedding………… be over so he could report to duty at Petaluma. (Needless to say, our honeymoon was postponed 18 months.)

I learned early in our marriage that missing him on his days away worked in our favor as it kept our relationship exciting when we were together.

After five years we were ready to start a family and were ultimately blessed with four beautiful souls, Grace, Bennett, Jamie, and Sarah.

When our first child, Grace, was stillborn, I truly felt what being a part of a supportive fire family meant. So many in the department, and their families reached out to support us, offering anything we needed to get though such a tragic and very sad time. We saw an equal amount of outpouring of kindness and support upon the adoption of our youngest daughter, Sarah, after the sudden death of her mother, my sister, Shelly.

While raising little ones, missing Jeff wasn’t as exciting as it had been. Thankfully, Jeff supported me in my desire to quit work full-time to become a stay-at-home mom. In response, he took on multiple part-time gigs over the years to compensate– from tree trimming and propane tank painting, to hazmat inspections for the County of Sonoma. He also worked as an EMT at refineries in Richmond and at the Sears Point Raceway.

Before Jeff ever rose above the rank of firefighter, I knew he was an excellent leader as witnessed over the many years he coached our kids’ baseball teams. Not only did he lead, teach, and encourage, but his number one goal was to instill in all the kids, even on the opposing team, a love for the game.

I watched those skills and traits translate into the fire service when he began to promote into leadership positions with his dedication to the department, his service to the community, and his commitment to encourage and raise morale among all firefighters.

Jeff has always had a great respect for both tradition and innovation in the fire service. His life-long drive to learn kept him avidly enrolled in fire training, and skills and leadership classes. I think if he saw any email come through his in-box about a class or training- he enrolled. It meant more time away from family, but more support for his career that would ultimately benefit us all.

A bit of a side-note– As the wife of a first responder, and now the mother of two, I never take lightly the importance of decompressing and processing the tragedies they witness and experience on the job. Broken bodies, cries of pain, odors of trauma. For years. Recently, when asked by an Argus Courier newspaper reporter about his career and any particular calls that have stuck with him, Jeff recalled, with tears, a particular one that has impacted him deeply. A father was driving his young son to school and turned around to see that the boy, with a history of asthma, had turned blue and was not breathing. The father immediately drove straight to the Valley of the Moon firehouse where, Jeff, a young firefighter, attempted to revive the boy with CPR on the floor of the apparatus room. But he did not survive. When Jeff stood to console the father, the man reached out his hand to shake Jeff’s and thank him for trying. —- It’s experiences like this that likely every current and past first responder in the room has faced, or will face. Often there’s no forgetting those experiences, there’s only managing to live with them, one way or another. Thankfully, Jeff has found healthy ways to diffuse those traumatic events in his mind through talking it out, yoga, meditation, raising sheep, long walks with the dogs, hunting and fishing, and his faith.

We’ve been married almost exactly as long as he has been with Petaluma and I’ve watched him rise through the ranks, which was no cake walk. Through exceptional perseverance and diligence he ultimately made Captain after 5 testing attempts. Once promoted, Jeff was a natural in his role as Captain. I think those were his most favorite career years. So much so that the pull to become a Battalion Chief was difficult as he knew it was a completely different bird than the job he loved. However, his call to duty overrode any desire for status quo, and he stepped into that roll proud to serve– even though he’d been warned, “the higher you rank, the less people come to your retirement party.”

After 9/11 he traveled to Iowa to team with the New York Says Thank You Foundation and his cousin, Chaplain Steve Holden of Decatur, Illinois, to rebuild parts of a devastated Boy Scout camp and a erect a memorial chapel on the site where a tornado took the lives of four boys in 2008.   Jeff has served on the board of the Sonoma County Fish and Wildlife commission for over ten years. He spent a year learning more about his community in Leadership Petaluma, and has volunteered at multiple events throughout the county and will continue to do so. Jeff is truly a man of service.

Jeff’s strong work ethic goes back to his childhood- instilled by his school-teacher mother and by working side-by-side with his father as a veterinarian’s assistant. He had many other jobs during high school, went on to work full-time as a firefighter, with additional part-time jobs, all while studying for his bachelor’s degree- at times cramming in 20 credits a semester. Even in retirement he will continue to work in the capacity of Strike Team Leader for the state during fire season, and work with me to create a better creative business.

I’m so proud to see our children have been inspired by their father’s career and have inherited much of Jeff’s strong work ethic. Each of our kids have been employed since around the age of 15, and all gone on to college. Our son Bennett, is a volunteer for Gold Ridge, and currently has 5 years under his belt as a seasonal firefighter for CALFIRE. Our daughter Jamie is a student and recent graduate of the EMT Academy. And our daughter Sarah (who couldn’t be with us tonight) graduates in May at the University of Portland with a degree in Psychology, Spanish, and Chemistry. I know they are as proud of their dad as he is of them.

I’m incredibly thankful that Jeff has reached the natural end of his career– retiring healthy and injury-free, and on his own terms. I have loved being alongside him on this journey and could not be prouder to have played the role of his partner, sounding-board, copy-editor, “I forgot my wallet and glasses” errand-runner, prayer warrior, friend, and confidant. In retrospect, Jeff has been the most attentive, supportive, faithful, and loving husband a wife could wish for. An amazing and dedicated father to our children. And a true blessing to our community.

Thank you Jeff, for all that you are.

Congratulations, and well done.

I love you more than ever, and I’m excited for what the future brings.

As party favors for the dinner guests I crafted faux cigars from Rolo candy rolls. I removed the original label and rewrapped with paper I designed to resemble tobacco leaves that was printed to basic office printer paper, trimmed to size and affixed with glue stick adhesive. I designed cigar bands with his years of service, printed them to glossy brochure paper and cut out each individually by hand to adhere over the tobacco paper. I embellished an old, red wooden box (from my assemblage art stash) with cigar box edging strips I designed with his name, printed to plain paper and decoupaged to the edges. A fake tobacco tax strip was added and all edges of the box were lightly sanded. I digitally modified an old cigar box label with a firefighting illustration with custom lettering and text, printed to photo paper then glued it inside the lid of the box. The box of cigar favors sat among the displayed mementos of Jeff’s career at the head of the room.

Until I decide to get into the Rolo-cigar-label-making-business, you can find a seller or two on Etsy that will create custom labels for your next gathering.

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