our newest mom in the mommyhood is author jenny wilding cardon. this fun loving, sweet, funny and uber talented sewing & quilting maven is the author of two books and also a busy wife and momma to 2 gorgeous boys. her warm personality, talents and kind heartedness shines through in both her books and in her blog. never one to pass up a creative opportunity she shares her thrifting and refashioning/repurposing skills in her newest book resew. since i love sewing, thrifting and refashioning i thought what better person to kick off the moms in the mommyhood for 2011 then jenny? i could have asked her triple the amount of questions that are shown in the post below and believe me when i say i had the hardest time narrowing them down. she's just one of those people that you want to find out more about and get to know :)
so let's do that....let's get to know jenny together and welcome her to the mommyhood. grab a yummy coffee/tea, curl up in your fave spot, put the kidlets down for a nap, take a breather and let's chat!
1. Ok, Jenny I have to ask this first...what is your favorite item to repurpose/refashion?
I’ll use anything that will let me transform it into something I like! Jeans, corduroys, sheets, curtains, sweatshirts, and sweaters are always great basics to start up a new project. But more unusual items can be inspiring too. Items like bed comforters, vinyl tablecloths, rugs, belts, and men’s suit coats are plentiful at the thrift store… but what to do with them? Hmm. It gets me thinking. I love the challenge.
2. What is one project you've always wanted to make but haven't had the chance yet?
For months now, I’ve had an idea for a copycat LuvSac made out of thrifted comforters. But those “sacs” are huge; I guess I’m feeling intimidated by the size. Plus, I haven’t figured out how to inexpensively stuff it. I’m hoping an idea will come to me soon… if I wait long enough, an idea usually surfaces.
3. How on earth did you balance writing two books while being a busy mom to Jack (6) and Charlie (2) and a wife to your husband, Brett?
I don’t know. :)
Honestly, I think most moms struggle with balance. You adore your family and you want to give them your attention and care and love. And at the same time, you want those things for yourself. Writing a book is a monumental commitment, time-wise. And deadlines loom heavy. It took me about eight months to put ReSew together, from first to last page. What worked for me was budgeting my time, keeping my family in the know, and asking (and letting) other family members help. My sister and my mother-in-law took my boys a couple of times a week for a few hours at a time during that period so I could work on the book. Mommy guilt played its part, but it turned out to be a win-win for everyone—my boys got to spend more time with their Aunt Nini and grandma, and I got to FOCUS. When my boys came home I felt like I had accomplished something, so I could turn my focus back to them. The pace was still hectic, but my entire family—including my boys’ “go-get-‘em, mom!” attitude, made it work.
And then there’s my husband. Ever heard of a rock? That’s him. A really cute rock.
4. What tips do you have for others looking to find items at secondhand stores?
I’ve got a whole list of tips for thrifting in ReSew, but here’s my favorite, and it’s twofold. When you think about something you want or need—whether it’s a skirt to refashion, or a crock pot, or a bookcase, or whatever—write it down on a thrifting list. I keep mine on the side of my fridge. Bring the list along on your thrift store stops. (I thrift at least weekly—there’s a high turnaround for items, and there’s usually only one of anything you see.) I once had a water-bath canning pot on my list. It spent nine months on the list, but I finally got one in great condition for $8. Victory!
The second part of the process? When you’re done looking for the things on your list, ditch it. Go walk the aisles and just see what you see. You never, never know what you might find. A few weeks ago I was at the thrift store with my two-year old, looking through rounders of sweaters. I spotted something strange under a rack of dresses and bent down to take a look. It was an adult-size Stormtrooper helmet. Clean, sturdy, buttons still working (“I think we’ve run into some trouble, sir!”). For $3, it’s been entertaining my two boys—and my husband—ever since.
In conclusion: Use the list faithfully. Ditch the list faithfully. At the thrift store, it is imperative that you be responsible and spontaneous at the same time.
And finally, if you’re a mom, don’t fear—bring your kids along! I tell my boys if they stay close to me and follow my rules for being at the store, we’ll spend 10 minutes in the toy aisle when I’m done looking. Sometimes we leave with a small toy for each; sometimes we find one jackpot item to take home (latest example—a real-wood, kid-size acoustic guitar); and sometimes we leave with nothing. I want Jack and Charlie to understand that just because you walk into a store doesn’t mean you have to buy. That’s imperative to remember at the thrift store: sometimes you go, and then come back home with only the experience. And with some of the hilariously weird, wacky, and unbelievably strange things I’ve seen while thrifting, the experience alone can be its own reward!
5. We all have our fave thrifting haunts and I want to know where your favorite places are to find items to repurpose?
I’m lucky enough to live in an area where thrifting is big. The central offices of a church are located here in Utah—it’s kind of what our state is known for—and they run a chain of thrift stores where the items are wonderfully organized and reasonably priced. There are four or five stores within a 20-mile radius of my home, so I frequent those a lot. I also love Savers/Value Village, which is a chain in the U.S. and Canada, and I also love ThriftTown, which is national. But don’t forget those independent thrift shops that dot the retail landscape! You can search for independent stores in Canada and the U.S. here.
6. Where do you sew in your home and are you a late night, morning or all day sewer?
I am lucky to have a room in the basement of our home where I sew. It is always a holy mess. But I have a little basket of basic supplies that I can take upstairs to the kitchen table if I want or need to sew there. That’s where I typically sew if I’m watching over my little ones at the same time. It’s nice to be mobile quickly! As far as when I sew, I’ll take time whenever I can get it. I’m not an all-day sewing kind of person; I like to create in little bits, and then walk away from a project. It gives me time to think about construction, or design, or finishing details while I’m busy with the mundane tasks of laundry folding, dish drying, and the like.
One half of the holy mess. (I just can’t bear to take a photo of the other half.)
7. I love to crank the tunes while I'm sewing - do you like to listen to music while sewing and if so what are your top 3 songs?
Oh YES YES YES. I love music. It helps boost my creativity and gets me excited about making stuff, no doubt about it! I couldn’t begin to narrow my favorites down to three songs, but I can mention three favorite artists that I’m listening to now: the soulful, make me dance and cry Erykah Badu; the band coined as “The Most Rock ‘n Roll Rock ‘n Roll Band in the World,” The Black Crowes; and pre-1980’s Elton John. A weird mix, but good go-tos for my many, many moods.
8. When did you know you wanted to write a book & how did you take the steps to make it happen?
My first book—which is actually a box—is called The Little Box of Baby Quilts, and it was inspired by the birth of my first son, Jack. At the time, I had so many ideas for baby quilts that I started sketching them out so I wouldn’t forget them. It was my husband who encouraged me to submit my ideas for possible publication with the world’s largest quilt-book publisher, Martingale & Company. I had also worked for them as a copywriter, but I had left the company to stay at home with Jack. I put together my hand-drawn illustrations of baby quilts along with samples of fabrics, quilt blocks, and quilts, and I sent them off to the publisher. And then I waited. And waited. And then, I got the word—the project was a go! I was elated. (And quite terrified, as I recall.)
Martingale gave me nine months to design, sew, and write directions for all 20 quilts in the “little box.” Jack was instrumental in the process, helping me choose fabrics and giving his opinions of quilts I had made in his own little two-year-old way. I remember when I finished one of the quilts, called “Inch by Inch,” I spread it out on the floor to show Jack. He lay down on the quilt, scooted up to a caterpillar face, and gave it a big kiss. What a stamp of approval for a baby quilt!
I was approached by the same publisher to write my second book, ReSew. The fantastically cool managing editor there, Tina Cook, had been following my blog and liked the refashioned projects I had shared there. It took me about three seconds to decide to repeat the book-making process all over again. It is an exciting, exhausting, maddening, scary, crazy, and rewarding experience. If given the chance, I would do it yet again, after a little more time to recover from ReSew. I still haven’t completely cleaned up from that yet.
9. Can we see what the first quilt you ever made looks like? Do you have good or bad memories on the process?
Oh, all good memories! The first quilt I made was from a book called Celebrating the Quilt. It was a tiny wall quilt from the design team known as Little Quilts. I didn’t have a sewing machine, so I hand pieced and hand appliquéd the whole thing. The colors clashed, the stitches were wonky, and the construction was shaky at best. I loved every minute of putting that little quilt together. That was back in 1997. I’ve been quilting ever since. Although I’m happy to say I got smart to the wonders of sewing machines.
10. Is there any craft you just don't like?
I’ve never tried a craft I haven’t enjoyed, but I have tried a craft that I just can’t seem to do right. Crocheting. I knit fairly well but crocheting and me really struggle together! A few people have tried to teach me, and it just doesn’t stick. The last time I tried I was shooting for a square shape, and instead I ended up with a half moon! How does that even happen? I won’t give up, though. I want to try amigurumi someday.
11. I think most of us have all at least had one dreaded failed project. Do you have a failed project? What do you do when a project just isn't working?
I’ve had dozens of failed projects. Dozens! To me, that’s just part of the creative process. I think to come up with something unique, you have to be able to experiment—and sometimes, that means screwing things up. You just have to know when to throw in the towel, walk away, and start fresh another time.
I do try and salvage what I can from failed projects, though. Last year I tried to make a funky monster stuffie from two thrifted sweaters. This was the result:
To me? A failure. But when I sewed button eyes onto the little guy and sat his sad little body on the couch in defeat, my two-year old, Charlie, picked him up, gave him a hug, and said, “I yike dis monster!” So, even failures can be fun!
12. What do you find the most rewarding about refashioning and repurposing?
Well, I love the obvious—saving money, playing a part in helping the strain on the environment, and going on the treasure hunt. But my favorite thing about repurposing is simply seeing the beauty in the broken. Spotting something that someone has tossed aside and thinking, that has life in it yet. Taking it home, and taking the time to make it into something that’s cool and unique and fun.
13. What is your funniest/most embarrassing crafting moment?
My sister and I were making a wedding quilt for my brother and his soon-to-be wife. It was our first try at paper piecing. If you’ve tried it, you know that it’s kind of a backwards way of sewing. It was tricky, but we were getting the hang of it and feeling proud of ourselves. We were at my kitchen table, cutting and sewing away. Suddenly, I accidentally dropped my rotary cutter. It carved into my leg on the way to the floor, creating a three-inch long cut. Ouch. I quickly attended to the wound and sat back at the sewing machine. The wedding wasn’t far away—we were on a deadline! Then, not two minutes later, my sister literally sliced the tip of her finger off with her rotary cutter. OUCH. After that, we decided to take a very much needed break.
My brother and his wife have been married now for 10 years, and have two beautiful daughters. Despite our gory fiasco, it was certainly not a sign of bad luck!
14. Spill the beans...what kind of sewing machine/serger do you use?
I have an old Kenmore that I use as my main machine. I also have a Pfaff that I picked up at a school rummage sale, but I haven’t sat down to learn how to use it yet (need to do that!). Two years ago, my husband bought me a Singer serger. After my neighbor taught me how to thread it properly one year later (yes, the machine sat in its box for a year), I really started enjoying it.
15. Do you have a sewing tip that you can't live without that you'd be willing to share?
I used to work with a wonderfully loud and gregarious woman named Rhoda Reynolds. She worked in sales, which was perfect for her—she could turn a “no” into a “yes!” with the wave of her hand. One day I was complaining to her about a half-made quilt that had been on my sewing table for months. I just couldn’t decide how to finish it. She said, “Just get it done.”
OH, I thought. Yeah.
I went home and finished that quilt over the weekend. I got it done. Rhoda’s simple answer has been one of the best pieces of advice about sewing that I’ve ever received. What you make doesn’t have to be perfect, or flawless, or immaculate. It doesn’t have to be something that you have to agonize over. In fact, I feel like what we make with our own hands should be somewhat imperfect—that is, in part, what makes what we create unique. What we create isn’t made by machines, isn’t made by the thousands, isn’t made to be put on display with 20 other items that look exactly the same. It’s one thing. It’s one special, thoughtful, soulful thing, from me to you. (Or from me to me, if you are treating yourself!) We may give what we’ve made to someone and say, “Oh, it’s just a little something I made.” But secretly, we know the truth. It’s handcrafted and heartfelt, imperfections and all. It was a one-of-a-kind experience to make it. And now, it’s done.
Sadly, my friend Rhoda passed away a few years ago from cancer. I miss her thunderous laugh, and her practical, no-nonsense approach to life. Thanks for the advice, Rhoda.
16. Time for the question I'm dying to hear the answer to. Being someone whose dream is to have her own book one day what advice do you have for those who would one day like to write their own sewing book?
If you have ideas, write them down. Sketch them out. Do whatever you need to so you can remember each idea you have. Then watch for an overarching theme. When you find it, build on it. Make that the topic of your book. Develop a vision for it. Pattern publishers want one wonderful project; book publishers want a cohesive collection.
by jenny wilding cardon
Don’t be afraid to contact publishers about how to submit a proposal; in fact, I suggest contacting them before you even get started. Different publishers will have different guidelines for you to follow; their guidelines are in place to help you hone your ideas. Many publishers even have information about proposals online. There’s no need to be timid about reaching out to get the information you need to get started; it will demystify the process and help you take the steps you need to take to make your dream a reality. If you’ve got a great idea for a sewing book, publishers want to hear from you. Be brave, believe in yourself, and take that first step! Who knows? In the future you could be up in the middle of the night, trying to keep your eyes open as you write the final step-by-step instructions for your last project so you can honor the deadline for your manuscript. Ah, sweet, sweet memories.
Shannon, thank you so very much for the opportunity to share a little bit of my life and my book with your readers. I’ve always loved your blog, but ever since we “met” by email I’ve been moved by your sincerity, your encouraging words, and your attention to the little things. You are a wonderful woman with an awesome outlook on life. Thanks, and thanks again, for letting me visit the mommyhood.
awwww, THANK YOU jenny! thank you for kind, thoughtful emails & posts that i have proudly printed out to keep in a special blog memory book. you truly touched me and i'm so thankful to have "met" you too. thanks for being part of the mommyhood and for inspiring all of us with your creativity and your spirit. your book has a proud spot on my bookshelf and i will treasure it always. congratulations my dear - let's celebrate!
you can all find jenny's new book resew: turn thrift store finds into fabulous designs here, her blog here and her previous book the little box of baby quilts here. make sure to enter to win a copy of your very own book in our resew giveaway too - click here to enter. have a happy weekend!
do you have questions for jenny? what's your fave thing about refashioning/repurposing? are you addicted to thrill of thrifting too?