Amanda Blake Soule makes me want to run to my sewing basket and pull out needle and thread.
She writes: "When I sit to sew, I am fully aware of the sound of the needle coming in and out through my linen, and that quickly becomes the background — the heartbeat — to the other sounds in my life, the sounds of my children playing, the music of our days."
Soule, creator of the well-followed blog, Soule Mama (soulemama.com), and author of "Handmade Home: Simple Ways to Repurpose Old Materials Into New Family Treasures" (Trumpeter, $21.95), has much to teach a world starting to rediscover the wonder of slowing down and making do.
And teach she does.
"None of us has to look very far back in our families to find people who out of necessity were able to make new things from old," says Soule, 33, who lives and writes and sews in Portland, Maine, with her four children, ages 10 months to 8, and her husband, Steve, a civil engineer. "We all have that in our roots."
These are ripe times for repurposing, Soule says, and notes that the point is not to whip off some "stellar sewing masterpiece" but rather to stitch layers of history and heart into the everyday.
Rather than a home and a day filled with disposables, Soule marks her day washing dishes with a repurposed cloth, making beds with quilts stitched from swatches of old clothes, or marking a page in a book with one of her children's embroidered-over artworks that makes for a fine bookmark.
Soule hopes that her projects "will encourage us all to be a little more mindful of the fleeting and beautiful moments of family life; and that all of us — and our earth — may flourish with just a little more soul in our hearts and our homes."
Amen to that.
Ready to repurpose?
Three best places to snoop around the house:
1. Grandma's attic: "Best place in the world, for sure." Be brave; cut old things to bits. "That's what I think it's made for," says Soule, of vintage finds. "It's giving it more respect by finding a new purpose for it than keeping it stashed in the attic."
2. The linen closet: Sheeting is your all-purpose friend. Use it to back a quilt or line a handbag. "We all have one random sheet, and that's a lot of yardage."
3. Bedroom closet: "When you're purging, before you give it to Salvation Army, stop and think, 'How could I use this?'"
Repurpose project: The family heart
Adapted from "Handmade Home: Simple Ways to Repurpose Old Materials Into New Family Treasures," by Amanda Blake Soule
Whenever anyone in your home is going through bumpy times, or headed away for a few nights, this homemade heart is perfect to tuck under a pillow or into a suitcase. You can stuff love notes or drawings into the wee pocket.
Use what you have: Vintage quilt pieces are wonderful for this project, but any fabric will do; soft and comfortable are the most important criteria. For the pocket, wool sweater scraps are perfect, but any similarly weighted fabric will work just as well.
Approximately 1/4 yard of fabric, as follows:
Fabric 1: Two 9-by-9-inch pieces for the heart
Fabric 2: One 2 1/2-by-2 1/2-inch piece for the pocket
Stuffing, see note
Pattern piece, rough-sketch an 8-inch-wide heart
1 tablespoon dried lavender
Gather all materials and cut all fabrics to the measurements above. Cut two hearts from the 9-by-9-inch fabric.
1. Attach pocket: Place the pocket square in the center of the front heart piece. Pin square in place. Using zigzag stitch, stitch around three sides, leaving top open for the pocket.
2. Sew heart: Align the front and back heart pieces, right sides together. Pin the two pieces in place. Beginning on one side of the heart, stitch around the entire heart, stopping 2 inches before your starting point. Trim the point of the heart with scissors, being careful to avoid cutting the stitches. At the top V of the heart, trim the seam close to stitching. Place notches around the curves, stopping the cuts just before stitching. Turn the heart right side out, and use a chopstick or pencil to gently push out points and curves. Press.
3. Finish heart: Through the 2-inch opening, stuff the heart lightly with the filling of your choice. Distribute the dried lavender inside as you go. Hand-stitch the opening with a simple backstitch.
Note: Instead of craft polyester fiberfill, which use chemicals, dyes or bleach in their production, raw wool (cleaned and carded) is a wonderful option. Other nontoxic stuffing alternatives include loose organic cotton fiber. See organiccottonplus.com
Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.