Showing posts with label sewing and crafting. Show all posts
Showing posts with label sewing and crafting. Show all posts

Sunday, June 13, 2021

Happy National Sewing Machine Day!

I am busy altering clothing I bought online for half price.  So far 4 large Columbia women's shirts that were available for less than half price (super clearance older stock Amazon) have been taken in on all side seams to create mediums.

Once upon a time I was an extra small. Now I cheer when I'm a medium!
I've spent my entire life from age 12 on altering hand-me-downs or super bargains from every size there was to every size I or others were.

Now I'm just glad when I can remember how to do it and grateful to be any size at all after this pandemic.

But oh the conversations my sewing machine and I are having!

Of interest: 


Each year on June 13th, National Sewing Machine Day honors an invention that has kept us in stitches for over 150 years.

 Before the sewing machine, tailors and sewists created clothing by hand, stitch by single stitch. The invention of the sewing machine brought about revolutionary change. Not only did it boost an entire industry, but it also changed the way we viewed the garments we wore. However, the development of the sewing machine took time. 

Skilled cabinet-maker and English inventor, Thomas Saint, received the first patent for a design of a sewing machine in 1790. He intended his design to sew on leather and canvas. However, he never advertised it and no evidence of the design, other than his drawings, could be found. In 1874, William Newton Wilson found Saint’s drawings in the London Patent Office. With some minor adjustments, Wilson built a working model. The London Science Museum currently owns Wilson’s model. 

Michele Bilyeu Creates With Heart and Hands as she shares her imaginative, magical, and healing journey from Alaska to Oregon. Creating, designing, sewing, quilting, and wildcrafting... from my heart and with my hands

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Peace and Healing

As I think back to the horrible roots of this day...September 11, 2001...I think back to the horrors, the loss, the grief and the mourning of a nation.

But I also remember, the goodness of those lives we lost, the heroes from that incredible day of tragedy.....those amazing and courageous people who rose above and beyond themselves to help others..... the patriotism, and the amazing sense of unity that manifested so much caring, and so much good in the world. Goodness in direction of helping and giving.

It was this coming together with love and patriotism that spread a healing balm for such deep pain. The pain of loss, of separation, of the polarization of so much ill will and so much fear and hatred contrasted by so much intense emotions of love over hate, helping others over fear and anger.

So, I look at myself, as we all need to do, and take note of how and why quilting is a healing art in my own life. And all of these days of record and note, I do what I usually do...I quilt for a cause. 9-11 has become a day of remembrance of community, and patriotism in the deepest unifying sense of the word.

So, while I might not always be working on a patriotic quilt for donation to wounded soldiers, I am working on community quilting..whether by myself, or in a group...and whatever I am making gets donated within that community of purpose.

When I first began blogging in the fall of 2006, my quilting life centered around community quilting. I sewed with a local band of quilters that was formed after a two day marathon of sewing quilts for the survivors of Hurricane Katrina.

200 quilts banded together with donated fabrics, patterns, threads and the most patriotic sense of community support that I have ever experienced. We made 200 quilts in those two days and we sewed on our bindings and labels and boxed them off for shipment in donated shipping trucks for transport to Louisiana, Georgia, and other hurricane ravaged states.

It was so uplifting, so inspirational, that we found a local church that gave us the use of a huge quilting space and began to meet every Monday for 12 hours. I would stay there from 9 am until 7 pm and literally sewed every minute making a quilt a week for continued donation.

When Hurricane Rita quickly followed Katrina, we just kept sewing. And when the weather calmed down,we sewed for Inter-faith charities, for babies in hospitals, for families in need, for Habitat for Humanity etc. etc.

By the following year, I was also sewing for 5 or 6 hours on Tuesdays, too. And I did that for another 6 months until we decided Mondays were enough and we could just sew at home for the other 6 days of the week.

9-11 hit all of us with a blast that changed a lot of us forever. I began my Patriotic sewing period where I literally made dozens and dozens of quilts and bags to give away to various causes.

My community spirit grew with all of this nurturing and feeding and so, I also joined my local quilt guild. There we have leftover and donated fabrics also available and between all of us, we donate probably 50-100 quilts a month to various groups, as well as hundreds of pillowcases for children in foster care, and lots and lots and lots of potholders to raise funds for our charitable causes.

So, what arose from that terrible day for me?


Community pride, community giving, community quilting.

It brings all of the layers of ourselves and our lives together, softens our spirits with caring and reaching out to others, and it binds us all together as one. And that goodness of humanity, can only grow and grow and grow....until it almost seems to sprout goodness out of nowhere and everywhere!

shown above;
my beloved little Keira and the 'morsbags' (part of a big international  group started in the UK) I used to make to give away. I spontaneously would make a dozen and hand tnem out to friends, and to people I've never met who just seem to need an environmentally friendly cloth bag. I made dozens and dozens and dozens.

Michele Bilyeu Creates With Heart and Hands as she shares her imaginative, magical, and healing journey from Alaska to Oregon. Creating, designing, sewing, quilting, and wildcrafting... from my heart and with my hands.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Midsummer's Eve: Combining the Olde With the New

The celebration of Midsummer's Eve was from the most ancient of times a festival of the summer solstice. A time of vivid transitions and often cataclysmic transformation and change. A time of celebration and rejoicing and the joining together of many folklore beliefs and  traditions. Weaving them all together as I have here, with re-purposed cloth into many new energies and the ever growing fabric of my own busy and often challenging life.

In ancient times, bonfires were lit to protect this world from the evil spirits who were believed to roam and cross over the transparent veil between their world and ours when the earths spin allowed the worlds to cross and a gate to open.

Commencing at midnight or at dawn, the fires are lit, the dancing under the moonlight begins, and celebrations with food and beverages are shared. Here, my Alaskan cousins and all of our family and friends created a July bonfire from bits and pieces collected all year long. And yes, that is a Christmas tree on the top. Combining of time, of space, and of all of the elements of earth, wind, fire and air.

Each person added to the pile of wood whether it was from the beach, the forest, or cast off bits of rickety furniture. All became one as my own son climbed up to the top to place the last bits of bonfire finery. The torch is carried and the torch is lit and all erupted into one cataclysmic surge of the power and energy of man and natural energies combine.

Pagan influences with modern day interpretations of a very different rejoicing of  the gathering of family and friends in the joining of a summer celebration.

As Christianity entered pagan areas, midsummer celebrations came to be often borrowed and transferred into new Christian holidays, often resulting in celebrations that mixed Christian traditions with traditions derived from pagan Midsummer festivities. Midsummer's Eve became St. John's Eve and celebrations honored St. John the Baptist.

The 13th-century monk of Winchcomb, Gloucestershire, who compiled a book of sermons for the feast days, recorded how St. John's Eve was celebrated in his time:

"Let us speak of the revels which are accustomed to be made on St. John's Eve, of which there are three kinds. On St. John's Eve in certain regions the boys collect bones and certain other rubbish, and burn them, and therefrom a smoke is produced on the air. They also make brands and go about the fields with the brands. Thirdly, the wheel which they roll."

The fires, explained the monk of Winchcombe, were to drive away dragons, which were abroad on St. John's Eve, poisoning springs and wells. I don't know about the validity of all of this. But I do know that none of my own family reporting the viewing of any dragons anywhere. Unless perhaps, under the influence of spirits of another kind!

In Finland, where my pioneer Alaskan family finds its roots, the summer solstice is called Ukon juhla ("Ukko's celebration") after the Finnish god Ukko. In Karelian tradition, many bonfires were burned side by side, the biggest of which was called Ukko-kokko (the "Old Man Bonfire"; the prefix ukko- is used in Finnish to denote notable or particularly large objects or entities). After the celebrations were Christianized, the holiday became known as juhannus after John the Baptist (Finnish: Johannes Kastaja).

In the Finnish midsummer celebration, bonfires (Finnish "kokko") are very common and are burned at lakesides and by the sea. Often branches from birch trees (koivu) are placed on both side of the front door to welcome visitors. And of course there are maypoles from neighboring Swedish traditions in the Swedish speaking regions of Finland where my grandmother Elli Tiitto was born.
Our family's own transition from our grandparents transition from their own first world to their second one and immigration to the wild territory of pioneer Alaska.

Myth and magic, folklore and tradition. I love them all. I love the heat and the intensity of the summer solstice and the wispy transparency of change as my energies move from one place, one world, into another.

Inside, in the relative coolness of home, I gather up my own bits and bundles, my collected bits of fabric from many years gone by. Thin and dated, but still vivid with the strong frequencies of color.....the energies of this season of great heat combined with the cooling energies of the evening breeze.


I join these small squares of old fabrics together as I connect the energies of my past...the colors, the fabrics, the people, and yes, my own now healed and transitioned bones into the new and colorful energies combined with peace and calm in the spaces between. One world merges with another. The old times and places with my hopes for the future.

A simple quilt top, backed, then birthed into a new creation. A colorful table cloth to be used at picnics, where the heat of their brightness seems appropriate when cooled by the energies of woodland or waterways, ocean sand or stones of a riverbank.  

I go outside, whether in the hot heat of the day, or the cooler dark spaces in the night. It is I, and the wild things. I gather the bits and pieces of nature that are part of the deepest recesses of my heart. and I rejoice in the small night time sounds as my presence sends all but the cats scurrying. Instead, little glowing ovals watch me from the depths and join me in my rejoicing under the moon and the stars.

Michele Bilyeu blogs With Heart and Hands as she shares her creative and healing  journey from Alaska to Oregon. Wildcrafting and the textiles arts... sewing, quilting, and creating prayer flags. Join me as I add my healing energies to changing our little project, one gift of sharing from my heart, at a time.