Gather… Nourish… Build

Pasta with roasted tomatoes in pottery bowl

Fresh out of college, living on my own in Chicago, my routine was working, volunteering, and hanging out with friends. We’d check out restaurants featured in “Cheap Eats,” a column in the Chicago Tribune, or go to a neighborhood restaurant. Most of us were new to living in the city and there was lots to discover.

My favorite kind of day – impromptu dinners and weekend brunches at someone’s cramped apartment where everyone contributed something, distractions were limited to street noise or an occasional land line ringing (cell phones weren’t yet in the picture), and we talked for several hours. Conversations ran the gamut – movies, music, concerts, dating life, work life, and world issues. We covered it all, not always agreeing, but definitely listening, talking, and occasionally debating, hoping to swing someone over to our point of view.

At the end of the get together, we said our goodbyes and thank you’s, hugged and left, fully satisfied on many levels: good food, good conversation, and often, much to think about.

Those impromptu get togethers seemed to vanish as lives got busier, kids came along, and a mindset took hold that all had to be perfect – clean house, perfect yard, gourmet meal…

Fast forward to 2020, with sheltering in place during the current pandemic and the unrest that has followed in the wake of yet another senseless killing of a black person, and I am hungering for gatherings and conversations that bring people together and build community, hungering for more knowledge and understanding, and hungering for change that creates a world that is fair and accessible for all, a world that does not leave people behind, a world that recognizes what happens in one community can impact the one 5 miles away and around the globe.

There is much work to be done in the coming months, beginning at home and the communities in which we all live. One small but meaningful step, gather for a meal, with social distancing in place: Invite old friends, new neighbors, the elderly couple down the block, someone you’ve been wanting to get to know better. Share stories, listen, and, yes, discuss the topics in the news with the caveat that you are not there to rehash the headlines, but instead to discuss ideas and solutions that lead to a more welcoming community, a better world.

Check out On Being’s Civil Conversations Project resources, including the “Better Conversations: A Starter Guide.”

Make beauty. Do good.

Wear in Good Health Face Mask

Completed Face Mask, Keys and Sunglasses on Table

Over the last few weeks, like many others, I’ve been busy sewing face masks. I’ve also spent a lot of time looking at and sewing different designs, then playing with the design to make the most of fabric yardage, streamline the construction, allow for a filter to be inserted, and produce a mask that fits comfortably and snug over the nose and mouth. The end result is the DIY Wear in Good Health Face Mask.

As I made these masks for friends, family and others in the community, the phrase “Wear in Good Health” kept coming to mind. It is a separate tag sewn into several vintage sweaters and other clothing items I’ve owned over the years, and it has always given me pause when slipping into those garments. In our 21st century world, it seemed like a good name for a mask pattern.

As the essentials we grab before running out the door expands from keys, wallet, glasses to also include a mask, if you don’t have one already, check out the free Wear in Good Health pattern here.

And, just a note: The science behind what materials make the best DIY masks, the best filters is evolving as scientists learn more about the virus and the effectiveness of these materials. Before making any mask, check with Centers for Disease Control website page for DIY mask coverings for the latest developments and guidelines.

Take care and be well ~

Connected Hearts, Connected Communities

Connected Hearts Mini Quilt with Envelope and Pen

The world as we knew it several short months ago has been turned on end with COVID-19. This new era is one marked by overwhelming changes on multiple levels, uncertainty about the future, and a new vocabulary that includes words like “social distancing.”

We are also acutely aware of how our connections with others have been affected: Walking down the street, we keep our distance from people we encounter, even those we know. Getting together with family or friends living near or far has been replaced with Zoom dinners and phone calls. Community events and volunteer activities that bring people together and make communities stronger have been put on hold.

As we go about our daily lives, staying connected and acting with kindness will help us navigate this new landscape: Even a smile or “hello” to the person you pass on the other side of the street can go a long way in maintaining the bonds of a community.

The crisis has highlighted how precarious life can be for many in our communities, especially for those living paycheck to paycheck (even before the pandemic). This includes people working multiple jobs and long hours, the young person just starting out in the workforce with a mountain of student debt, a person just getting back on their feet after a health crisis.

If you are in a position to help, consider a donation to a local food pantry or restaurant that is donating meals to those in need. If you are looking for a quilting project, consider purchasing the Connected Hearts Mini Quilt – available as a paper pattern that will be mailed to you, a digital download pattern, or a kit – $5 from each purchase will be donated to the Greater Chicago Food Depository.

In the coming days and weeks stay safe, be well, stay connected, be kind.

Connected Hearts Mini Quilt displayed in Easel

Some ideas for the Connected Hearts Mini Quilt when you have finished quilting it: Mail it to someone you know to let them know you are thinking about them… Hang it up by making a small loop on the back with needle and thread… Display it someplace where you can enjoy by simply cutting a piece of cardboard slightly smaller than the quilt to stabilize it, then prop both on a small easel.

Connected Hearts, a Slow Craft Quilting Class

Change up your morning routine… Reconnect with your creative self and other makers in the community!

Join us on Tuesday, April 9th, 2019, from 9:30 to 12 noon for “Connected Hearts”, a slow craft quilting project for all skill levels.

The class will meet Upstairs@St. Andrews – St. Andrews Episcopal Church in downtown Downers Grove, Illinois, a space that is flooded with natural light and a creative vibe!

Registration is required. Class fee of $68 includes all supplies needed to make this wall hanging. A sewing machine is useful but not required to complete this project.

Learn more and register at

Reconnect with Your Creative Self – Understory Embroidery Class

Most days: We rush, moving through our task lists like we’re in a 5k, eating meals on the fly, sending too many texts to count…

Now imagine… What if you stepped out of the fast lane, just for the morning?

Join us Saturday, April 6, 2019, from 9 to 11:30 am to reconnect with your creative self and recharge.

Understory, a slow craft embroidery project for all skill levels, will meet at The TreeHouse, a shared creative space in Downers Grove, Illinois. The class fee of $48 includes all supplies needed for this project. The project is offered in two colorways: linen white and oatmeal linen.

Registration is required. Learn more and register here.

Connect and Make – August Sunburst Quilt

It’s February and it’s Chicago. It seems like everyone I talk to is either just back from someplace warm and sunny or getting ready to go. It is with this in mind that I began thinking about the warmth of a hot August sun and what that might look like in a quilted piece. The result, August Sunburst, a 10″ square quilt suitable for hanging or placing anywhere you need a slice of summer!

Join us to connect with other makers and stitch the August Sunburst quilt on Saturday, February 2, 2019, from 9 to 11 am at The TreeHouse, a shared Creative Space in Downers Grove, Illinois. This class is suitable for all skill levels from the beginning to the experienced quilter.

The class fee of $48 includes all supplies needed to complete this hand-stitched project. Learn more and register here.