Making with Meaning


I’ve been thinking a lot lately about making with meaning. I’ve been reading The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, wherein the hyper-focused author suggests that we rid our homes of everything that doesn’t “spark joy.” As difficult as some of her ideas are for a cynic like me, it has helped me reflect on the tangible objects in our house that make me happy — many of them handmade or passed down from family. It’s the objects that evoke memory, pride, or love — not the things with monetary value.

I watched last week as my daughter took a sewing class from the fabulous teacher Reign at Fabricate Studios. Every day that I came to pick her up, she and the other two girls were beaming with pride about what they had made and I wanted to know why. I think it’s a few things: the feeling of success — accomplishing something within a prescribed set of technical rules, then the idea of creating — choosing fabrics and making something unique, and finally the need for utility — all of the things they made are functional. There’s something dramatically different about making art for your wall and creating an object to be used every day.

This all got me thinking about when I started this blog in 2007 and felt so inspired by making. I called this “a blog about handcrafted goods in an age of mass production.” With our cluttered homes and our consuming lives, we tend to get overwhelmed and forget that almost nothing we own was made by us from beginning to end.

Here’s my sewing room before and after. I had to re-organize several rooms to get all of our craft supplies in order and in one place. The kids always end up in here with me making things, so now all of their supplies and mine are here together. Above you can see bolts of linen from my next collection for Kokka, Monochrome. I’m working on making samples for Quilt Market in May and the fabric should be shipping this summer. More photos soon.


3 Replies to “Making with Meaning”

  1. Ellen,

    Everything about this post warms my heart! I’ve been organizing this week myself. Your space is beautiful!! Thank you for entrusting me with your baby…. she’s such an awesome person… but you know that :-). I feel blessed to have a front row seat to watch and guide these young minds in finding their little “sparks”. Welcome to the “Fabricate Family”…. May we all endeavor to live a life “sparked by joy”. See you again soon and great write… thanks for sharing, and I’ll have to check out that book. #FabricateAtlanta

  2. Ellen
    You post aligns with my thoughts. My word for the year is “simplify” and I have been posting my updates about decluttering. On the weekend I was thinking that everything in my home “should earn its keep” either by being useful and functional or by being beautiful so the idea of a spark of joy made me smile. I haven’t read the book but I will check it out. Your studio made me envious! 🙂

  3. I hear you and feel similarly. It is so easy to get bogged down with stuff. This is my year of letting it all go, using what I have and making things that inspire me to make more. Really, it’s playing for a crafty adult! And that is seems to be what brings joy into my life more and more these days.

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