lifestyle

Sewing a Zero Waste Pouf (And Using Up Fabric Scraps!)

zero waste pouf made out of a recycled white quilt with vintage books sitting on top of it

The sewing project I’m sharing with you today has taken me years to complete…literally, and there were two things that sparked the idea for this project. One, I read a news report several years ago, right when the Canada Goose winter coats were super popular, about a company making counterfeit coats filled with factory floor textile sweepings instead of goose down. Aside from the fact that they were scamming people, I thought that using up fabric scraps as insulation was actually a pretty ingenious idea. Then, right about that same time, I saw a blog post by Brittany of Untitled Thoughts (I can’t find the specific post) about a pieced scrap pouf which had been filled with cotton quilting fabric to use as a means of storage in your sewing room. So, I melded the two ideas and now several years, and a LOT of scraps, later I have finally finished my (almost completely) zero waste pouf!

What exactly is a pouf and what makes it different than an ottoman or a footstool? Well, an ottoman or a footstool has legs or is made of a frame with a padded top, whereas a pouf is just like a giant pillow, without any kind of base structure. So are you interested in making your own? Here’s how I did it!

a giant pile more than a metre long of textile scraps

First, you will need to start saving scraps, and this is the longest part of the project. I saved everything including synthetic fibre clothing such as t-shirts, hoodies, jeans and pantyhose which couldn’t be used for rags. I also saved the seams out of the garments that we did cut up for rags. And, of course, I saved sewing scraps of all sizes, like I mentioned in my post last week. I saved these textile scraps in a giant black garbage bag and though I initially thought I had way too many scraps, I actually ended up using all of them plus more. In the image above, that is a metre stick for reference.

Once you’ve gathered about 1.5 times the amount of scraps you think you’ll need, it is time to start readying your pouf lining!

drawing of the dimensions of the fabric for the lining

Figure out the dimensions of your pouf. I made mine 20″ across, so the circumference was approximately 63″ around. I mapped out my pattern pieces on a grid paper determining what size of pieces with seam allowances would fit exactly into the fabric I was going to use. Also note, depending on which kind of fabric you’re going to use, you might want to make the bottom out of a more durable (and affordable!) fabric like canvas since it won’t be seen anyway. Originally I was going to make my pouf out of mustard velvet, and pleat the top into the centre like a vintage round pillow, but once the fabric arrived (from Etsy)…it was not the right colour of yellow, so I ended up changing my plan.

Cut out 2 circles, with seam allowances, to use as the top and bottom and then either one piece or 2 pieces for the sides.

lining fabric cut and ready to sew

I used cotton canvas as the fabric for my lining bag, and I did a double layer with an old worn out mattress cover to prevent any lumps from the stuffing from showing through. You could use fleece, a wool blanket or towel as an interlining. If you are using a thick upholstery fabric, I don’t know if this step will be as important, but if you are using a thinner outer fabric, then I would definitely add that second layer. Sew the two layers together and then work them as one piece.

Sew the side piece together at the ends. Then measure the bottom circle and side piece into 4 even quadrants and pin together at those points and sew together. Do not sew the top circle on, because it will be added later.

unstuffed canvas lining bag sewn with top not attached yet

Now it is time to stuff the lining bag! You don’t want to just wad the fabric in, otherwise it will get very lumpy and misshapen. Here is the method I used to avoid as much lumpiness as possible.

textile scraps cut into tiny pieces

First, sort your scraps into piles of soft materials like fleece etc. that you will use to smooth out lumps, bulky and heavy or large pieces of fabric, and any tiny scraps. This step of sorting through and cutting the scraps will definitely make you feel like you are one of the children in the pawn shop in the 1951 movie “A Christmas Carol”. Take your small scraps and cut into 1″ or smaller pieces. I did this over several days to avoid my hand cramping.

textile scraps cut into tiny pieces and layered several inches in the bottom of the lining

Once you have a large batch of shredded pieces, place a layer several inches thick across the bottom of the bag.

folding and stacking larger textile pieces in the centre of the lining

Then, take your larger scraps and fold them. Lay them flat in the centre of the pouf and keep stacking until you have a layer several inches thick. Take more of the small shredded scraps and sprinkle them in between the centre folded “pillar” and the lining bag to create a bit of soft insulation. (Folding the pieces into the centre means that they won’t compress too much over time, so you won’t end up with a lopsided or deflated pouf.) Keep folding pieces into the bag and adding the small scraps around the outside. Once you’ve reached the top of the lining bag, it is time to attach the top.

hand sewing the top of the lining to the sides

Again, make sure to pin on four equal quadrants like you did for the bottom and pin the top circle to the side piece. Hand stitch the pieces together. You can use any colour of thread for this since it won’t be seen; I used up a bunch of old spools of red thread that had only tiny amounts left on them not enough for a larger projects.

Once you’ve stitched the “lid” halfway around the circumference, knot your thread because it’s time to start stuffing again!

stuffing the top section of the pouf with more soft stuffing

This is the time to use any fleece, batting or other soft materials, so you’ll get a nice smooth top to your pouf. Fill in any gaps with more shredded pieces. Keep pushing scraps into the bag; it will take more than you think you need. Once you’ve got the one half pretty well full, then sew another quarter of the top closed and with that final small section, push as many scraps as you can into the bag. Then finally stitch the last section closed.

lining all stuffed with textile scraps

You are not quite ready to cover your pouf, though. It is time to sit on it and squish it down and punch it into shape and let the pieces settle for a while. It will be pretty solid, but after while of use, it will slightly deflate and then you can add more scraps to the top. I left mine for a couple of months (because I was trying figure out how I wanted to cover it once the velvet didn’t work out) but it actually worked out perfectly that way, because it really gave time for the scraps to squish down. I would recommend leaving it for a few weeks, making sure to sit on it every once in a while to press it down.

Once the scraps have settled as much as they are going to, open up a quarter of the seam in the top and add more scraps! Use more tiny shredded scraps to fill in the top and then once it is stuffed to overflowing, stitch the top back together. You will now have a very solid (and heavy) pouf form ready to be covered.

There are lots of ways you can make a pouf (like a Morrocan style or gathering the top like I mentioned earlier) but I ended up doing a simple 3 piece top, side and bottom since I chose to cover mine with a quilt!

white mattelasse quilt with frayed edge

This was the quilt that I had on my bed for about 14 years, and it has started to show it’s age. Now that I have a new quilt, it was time to retire this one. At first I was debating dyeing it, but then I realized that white would actually be the perfect colour for my very light and bright bedroom. Maybe if I eventually get the sofa of my dreams (vintage yellow and cream floral) I will recover the pouf in yellow velvet and put it with my sofa, but in the meantime it works quite nicely in my bedroom beside my closet. And since I’m not actually putting my feet up on it, like if it was in front of my sofa, the fact that it’s white should be all right. (I hope!)

cover pieces cut out of white quilt and ready to be sewn

My quilt had a border pattern which I utilized as the side piece- I cut one long strip 15″ wide the full length of the quilt. Then I cut the top and bottom circles out of the middle diamond quilted section. (PS. There was just enough fabric to use the end pieces of that strip to make a square cushion cover too!)

sewing outer fabric pieces together

Cut your outer pieces the same dimensions as the lining. Sew the top and side pieces together, again pinning in even quadrants and easing it all the way around.

Once I placed my cover on the pouf, I realized that the fabric had stretched out quite a bit and the top edge was hollow, so I brought it back to the sewing machine and sewed a 1″ seam allowance all the way around, instead of a 5/8″. Make sure to test the fit of your outer fabric, just to make sure that it fits well.

machine sewing 1" seam guide around the edge

Next stitch a seam guide along the edge of the bottom circle and the side pieces (in the same colour of thread as your fabric) so when you hand stitch them together, you will have a guide to follow. I stitched a 1″ seam allowance guide from the edge.

NOTE: This time we are sewing the top and side pieces by machine, not the bottom and side pieces as we did with the lining, because we are going to hand stitch the bottom this time, not the top. If you are using a fabric other than your upholstery fabric for the bottom, then that is the piece you will be hand sewing later.

measuring and fitting outer fabric onto pouf form

Again, measure your 4 quadrants on your bottom circle and side pieces and mark with pins or chalk. Place your cover onto your pouf and then flip it upside down. Now, line up your 4 points and pin together. Then work your way around between the 4 points and pin together, easing as you go.

Your stitched seam guide will help here because now you’ll know how much to fold under for your seam allowance. If, once you’ve pinned the pieces together, it looks like it’s going to be too loose then you can fold it more as needed. It’s OK if your bottom circle is a bit smaller than the top, because then the seam will tuck underneath the pouf and be hidden.

hand stitching bottom of outer fabric to side pieces

Now it’s time to start hand sewing again. This is best done while listening to an audiobook or podcast (I listened to A Tale of Two Cities)! When stitching, don’t start at one point and work your way all the way around, but instead start at one point, sew about an 8″ section, then rotate the pouf 180 degrees and sew a section directly across. Again, sew a section and then turn 90 degrees and sew a section and so on, until all of the sections meet. This way you can ease your fabric pieces together without ending up with bubbles, and, if needed, you can make adjustments- pulling the fabric in tighter etc.

Once you’ve knotted your last thread and turned the pouf right side up…then you are done. Congratulations, you have managed to save a huge amount of textile waste from the landfill and turn it into something both useful and beautiful!

finished pouf made from a worn out white quilt and fabric scraps sitting in my bedroom

recycled pouf made out of a white quilt sitting in front of the closet

I love how this project turned out and I had a lot of fun making it. It fits perfectly into my bedroom, and I am very pleased that I was able to use mostly salvaged materials; it was the perfect way of using up fabric scraps! The worst part about finishing this project is that I already have a bunch of new textile scraps…what on earth am I going to use them for?

Do you think you’ll make a project like this? What fabric would you use to cover it with? Do you have any other ideas for ways of using up fabric scraps?

vintage blue books sitting on top of the white quilted top of the pouf

zero waste salvaged pouf made out of a white mattelasse quilt with vintage blue books sitting on top of it

A Vintage Cottage Inspired Bedroom Tour

a bouquet of dried baby's breath in an amber bottle in front of a gallery wall of frames and pictures

It has been few months since I moved into my new bedroom… but I’ve finally finished decorating it! I might change some things in the future, as I do like to redecorate occasionally, but for now it’s pretty much finished, and I love how it turned out. This room really feels like “me” in a way that I don’t think I’ve had since I was 8 and had a pink and purple room with Barbie wallpaper. I’ve had a lot of different bedrooms over the years, but somehow none of them ever felt just perfect…and this one does. The only thing that would make it better is if I had vintage wooden floors instead of vinyl (haha).

When I was planning to move into this room, I took some time thinking about what I wanted it to look and feel like, what colour I wanted it to be, and after moving in, to take my time deciding where to hang pictures etc.  I’m glad I did, because I love its eclectic vintage cottage inspired feeling. A few years ago I read something about defining your decorating style and I came up with “a fashion designer moves into her granny’s kitschy English cottage”. There usually isn’t much of a rhyme or reason to my decorating- I just decorate with things that I like. And the things that I like are usually fashion related, English cottage, antique, natural, a hit of 1970’s kitsch, and I always like to add in a least a few ugly or funny things to keep it from being too serious!

view of the room from the doorway facing the window

First, when you enter the room, you see the opposite wall with the window. Because this is a North facing room, I chose to paint the walls a warm, ivory white. The colour is “Acadia White” by Benjamin Moore. I got paint chips and debated getting a sample to test the colour first, but just decided to jump in headfirst with it, and it was a great choice. It has a slight undertone of ivory/yellow in it, but it’s not too saturated. In a South facing room I think it would definitely pick up those yellow tones, and perhaps lean a bit towards buttery yellow, but the cool light in this room tones it down to a perfect cream. I found in the past that crisp whites can turn grey in the shadows, so this was a perfect choice of colour and the room is always warm and bright even on cloudy days.

another angle of the gallery wall

If you turn to the left wall, you will see one of my favourite two things about this room: my gallery wall! I have been wanting a full gallery wall like this forever, and have been collecting frames and artwork for years. Now I was finally able to put them all together like this on one wall…and I love how it turned out. I didn’t start out planning for a gold, black and cream colour theme, but as I started gathering the artwork and frames together, I noticed the colour scheme emerging and decided to continue with it. I left some of my more colourful art pieces out of this arrangement and will hang them elsewhere.

framed botanical

To hang this gallery wall, I took a photo of each piece, and a photo of the wall, and then moved them around in Photoshop until it looked like a good arrangement. (Making sure there weren’t too many black frames or wooden frames beside each other etc.) Then I traced each frame onto wrapping paper I had saved from Christmas and taped the pieces onto the wall. Once I was sure of the placement, I measured where the nail needed to go, and then hammered it right through the paper. It worked like a charm! I didn’t have to mark up the walls at all, and every single frame was exactly where it needed to be without gaps or spaces. If you are planning on hanging a gallery wall, definitely do it with paper. It was my first time with that method and I am never going back.

detail of my artwork story of a dress in my gallery wall

There are definitely no secrets about what my hobbies and interests are in this room. Almost all of the artwork is fashion, floral or vintage themed! (Or portraits of people we have no clue who they are). My wall is a mix of postcards and greeting cards, calendar pages I saved, one of my own artworks, book pages, some photos of my family and friends, and some art pieces I’ve picked up along the way. (Two pieces that are, sort of, still available are the black framed diamond print of The Five Solas that I got online here. And I have a print that is similar to that “Story of A Dress”, of a dress, but without the text, available in my Society 6 Shop here. ) Many of the frames are second hand or thrifted, some are IKEA frames, and a few were picked up at Michael’s craft store or Walmart years ago.

vases and candle on top of a bookshelf

Also along this wall I placed a short bookshelf, which gives me a spot to put flowers and seasonal decor and other knick-knacks. I wallpapered the back of the shelf, but unfortunately the glue just didn’t want to stick, so you can see the seam. Maybe some day I’ll get around to redoing it.

small bookshelf with vintage books, baskets and boxes and shoes on it

As you saw in my closet tour, I keep shoes on the shelf, as well as clothing/shoe care items in the basket. Gloves and sunglasses are in the round box, stationery is in the shoebox, a couple of clutches are on display and then all of my vintage books are on the top shelf.

shelves with vintage books and boxes on them

gallery wall

I love lace curtains and I hung these with curtain rings to add some interest.

vintage lamp turned on and casting shadows across the wall

Turning to the right there is a small pathway as wide as the nightstand alongside the bed. I like to have my bed out from the wall, if possible; it’s so much nicer to make the bed when you can access both sides! On my nightstand is the ever present stack of books to be read.

lamp casting shadows on textured beadboard wallpaper

And here you can see my other favourite thing about this room: the bead board wallpaper. I turned on the lamp so you can see the shadows picking up the texture of the wall. Up close it doesn’t fool anyone, but from a distance it really does look like bead board. I love how it gives such a cottage look to the room, as well as being a subtle focal point.

beadboard feature wall in a cottage inspired bedroom

I was originally planning on hanging a row of three botanical prints above the bed, but after living with the room for a while, I realized that I liked having this wall left bare. It gives a bit of negative space, while not being completely boring. And this way I can have all the artwork on the opposite wall without overwhelming the room. (And I love being able to sit in bed and look at the artwork).

battenburg lace pillow shams

My bed is covered with my favourite Battenburg lace pillows and the quilt and pillowcases made from vintage sheets. I used to have a lot more decorative pillows on my bed, but I got tired of having to remove the mountain of them every night.

vintage wooden dresser with a mirror above it

To the other side of the bed is my vintage dresser. I inherited this piece from my parents. I didn’t ever officially inherit it, I just had it in my room for a long time, and so I kind of absorbed it into my belongings. It was originally my great-grandmother’s and she refinished it with Danish oil which gives it this lovely patina. And it has such a pretty mirror, doesn’t it?

view of the closet and dresser and chair

Continuing full circle in the room, we at last come to the least pretty part of the room (because there’s no way to hide my very plastic air purifier!) I’ve already shared a more thorough look at my closet in this post here, so I won’t share it again today. That chair is just there temporarily, because I have plans for another project to take it’s place…if all goes well I will be able to share that on the blog sometime in the future.

a hatstand and tray on top of the vintage dresser

Finally, here is the top of the dresser. A hat stand, featuring a seasonally appropriate hat, and a tray with perfume and jewelry on it. And, on the right side you can see the handle of my vintage mirror and brush. I don’t use the brush, but I do use the hand mirror all the time!

Well, there is my vintage, English cottage inspired bedroom! I’m so happy with how this room turned out, and I enjoy spending time in here. I’m going to be sharing another post about decorating either next week or the week after, so stay tuned for that.

How would you describe your decor style? What is your favourite thing about your home or bedroom? Have you ever moved into a “blank slate” and, if so, did you take your time or did you know right away how you wanted to decorate it?

baby's breath bouquet in front of a gallery wall

A New Year & New Closet Organization

closet organization for the new year

While I’ve actually been living in my new bedroom for a couple of months now, I figured that the New Year was a good time to share how I have finally settled my new closet organization. I love to organize, but I also like to make my closets and storage areas “aesthetically pleasing”, so here is how I have done that in my new room, in case you are also thinking of conducting a closet refresh for the new year!

rows of wooden hangers with shirts hanging on them

The closet in my old room (here) was designed with shelves across most of the area, in order to hold sewing fabric and supplies, with a small rod on the side to hold the UFO’s (UnFinished Objects) and Projects-In-Progress. So, when I moved into the room, as a bedroom, I had to change the way I sorted things, because of the small rod area. Now I have moved into a new bedroom which has a standard closet with a full rod, though there are small shelves on the left side of the closet, so I again have had to change the way I organize my clothes.

stacks of cream coloured hatboxes

Starting with the top shelf, all of my out-of-season hats are stored in hatboxes. While I do love to display my hats, they can get dusty, so I have opted to only leave out a few hats for the season. These cream hatboxes are ones I recovered with a map printed wallpaper and I’ve got labels taped on, so I know which hats are inside without having to pull everything down.

large blue storage box, a white fabric bag and a metal cake carrier

I also have hats stored in this large blue box. The cloth bag holds my petticoat, which I don’t wear all that often, and it takes up less space in a bag than hanging.

rose metal cake carrier

And no, I don’t have cake stored in my closet (I wish!)- guess what’s under that cake carrier?

hat inside a cake carrier

Yep, another hat! It was my mom’s idea to keep a hat in there, since I didn’t have anywhere to store the carrier- and then that way I can enjoy looking at the cool vintage cake carrier!

stack of shoeboxes

On the far right of the top shelf, I have a tall stack of shoeboxes. I keep all of my neutral coloured shoeboxes (not the neon orange Miz Mooz ones!) to store my shoes in when they are out of season. Since I don’t need to access them regularly, the stack is all the way to ceiling! Closets with headers are annoying, so I always like to keep infrequently used items up there. I also have these boxes labeled with what is inside.

In front, I have a spray bottle of vodka. Despite the fact that my closet is starting to resemble a pantry, it’s not actually for sneaking a drink; it’s for spraying clothes in between washes. Spraying clothes with alcohol is an old theatre trick to keep costumes free of odours in between shows. I use it for delicate and dry clean items or for things that aren’t dirty, but for which I want to extend the time between washes.

wool and fur coats

Now moving down to the rod, on the right I have all of my fancy evening dresses under garment bags in the very back of the closet. Then in front of them I keep my dressy winter coats. I keep these coats in this closet because I like to select them alongside my outfits, whereas I keep my everyday winter coat in the front closet.

hanging scarves and belts

Next I have my scarves, organized in the iconic IKEA Komplement organizer. I didn’t have enough scarves to fill it, so I folded it in half. I don’t love having the scarves in my closet like this, since it makes browsing a bit more difficult, but I don’t have a better place to hang them, so it works for now. In front of the scarf organizer I have a hoop shaped hanger to hold my belts. Again, not the best spot, but it’s what I have for now.

hanging bottoms and tops

After the belts comes bottoms on wooden hangers with clips. I have organized my items by type and each type of garment has a different kind of hanger.

For my tops, I have these vintage wooden hangers I got off of Poshmark. They were originally from a fur storage vault in Toronto. Since I’ve kind of got a capsule wardrobe right now (from getting rid of so many clothes in 2020-2021) I’ve switched from using slim velvet hangers to using these. They definitely take up a lot more horizontal space, and I might not use them forever if I add to my wardrobe in the future, but right now I am quite enjoying seeing these lovely vintage hangers in the morning when I get dressed!

hanging knitwear

After the tops, come the knits. I KNOW you’re not supposed to hang sweaters and knitwear, but I really can’t be bothered to iron or steam creases out every time before wearing them… and so I keep my most commonly worn knits hung up. I use vintage satin padded hangers, which, again, do use a lot of horizontal space, but they are so pretty that it’s worth it! Knits that I don’t wear as often are stored on a shelf, but for these, I’d rather hang them up than be wrinkly.

extra hangers

And at the end of the clothing rod, I keep my extra few hangers from items that are in the laundry.

organized and pretty storage shelves in the closet

Now moving on to the shelves along the left, which hold a lot of my accessories and knitwear. I use the top shelf as a bit of display area; here’s where the aesthetics perhaps take precedence over the economical use of the space.

top display shelf in the closet

I don’t like having all of my jewelry on my dresser, so I store my special occasion pieces here in the closet, and everyday pieces on the dresser. I also like to keep a few hats out on display, so I’ve got one sitting here and one on my dresser. I also put this little miniature tea set here just for fun.

I have a couple purses leaning in the back, but I might replace them in the future with a picture. I have a small print of this piece by Marc Johns, and I’d like to put it in here once it’s framed, even if it’s something that only I will see, because it will bring a smile every time I look at it!

knits and berets on a shelf

The next shelf down also holds knits- the ones I don’t wear as often. I put in this wooden half shelf (which fits perfectly!) so I could double the amount of space and put my berets here too.

row of purses on a shelf

The next two shelves hold my purses and bags. My small vintage clutches and travel shoe bags etc. are stored inside the cream overnight bag and the large wicker bag.

row of purses and luggage on a shelf

And finally, on the floor at the bottom is a basket I use to hold my work clothes… the old ones I wear to refinish furniture or other messy tasks like that, but don’t need access to all the time.

vintage metal laundry hamper

To the right, under the shorter hanging garments, sits my vintage laundry hamper. I will always be indebted to my brother for this hamper, because I found it at the thrift store for $2….and their debit machine wasn’t working. I didn’t have any cash, so he lent me the money (forfeiting whatever he had found) so I could buy it! Since then I have seen people selling these for MUCH more- sometimes for up to $50, so I am so happy that I got it when I did. Oh, and yes, I always carry cash now, just in case!

jewelry oval frame organizer

Now moving out of the closet and to the left, on the wall beside my dresser I have my jewelry frame. I made this probably 14 years ago, and it has proven to be one of my most useful projects. I did a terrible job attaching the fabric with hot glue, but even so, after 14 years it’s still holding up! And it works so well to organize long necklaces, brooches and dangly earrings. I am a person that needs to see what I have or I will forget to wear it, so this works perfectly for me.

drawer full of fur collars

In my dresser I store my “unmentionables”, socks and tights in the top two drawers. And then in the bottom drawer…fur collars! A bit unconventional, but I decided to put them here to keep the dust off them… it works.

rows of shoes on a bookshelf

Lastly, to the right of the closet sits my bookshelf. I use the bottom two shelves to store shoes and boots; I keep my everyday winter boots in the front closet, but all the other shoes stay here. I keep them here so I can match them to my outfits easily, but also to keep them from getting battered in the communal closet! In the basket, are all of my shoe and clothing care items.

So that’s pretty much how I organize my closet! It always varies a bit from season to season, but I think this will be how it stays for a while. This is only my in-season clothing too, by the way. The rest of my summer clothes are stored in two plastic bins under the bed. I don’t like keeping everything in my closet year round because it overwhelms and clutters the space, and I think it is good to give my pieces a rest from hanging if they aren’t being regularly worn.

(Oh and, not pictured, I keep my fabric tote bag and everyday purse hanging on the back of my door, along with my bathrobe and shawl, for easy access.)

How do you set up your closet? Do you like to do a closet organization refresh in the New Year? Do you prefer to put an emphasis on the practicality or the aesthetics when you are organizing?

hat and jewelry box on display

Social Saturday | It’s 2022!

candle on a windowsill

“Happy New Year” Dear Readers! Does it feel like it should already be 2022 to you?

I’ve had an enjoyable and productive last few weeks of 2021, how about you? Above, I received this lovely pottery dimensional candle holder for Christmas, and it’s so nice to have it sitting on my windowsill reflecting the light in the evenings. 

star new year wreath

I like to change out my wreath depending on the season, so I put gold stars on it for New Years, just for fun!

beautifl sunrise

I don’t often get up before dawn, but the last time I did I was met with this beautiful sight. I haven’t gotten up that early since, though, I guess it wasn’t enough of an enticement to leave my cosy warm bed. 

mystery orange plant bloom

One of my mom’s succulents is blooming. I have no idea what this plant is- it didn’t have a tag. Do you know what it is? We call it the “alien plant” since it has long stems with round leaves and spines that look like antennae. 

zippered pouch with a house embroidered on the front

As for projects lately, I’ve been enjoying some more embroidery. This time a little pouch for my sister. I’m really enjoying making these, and I’ve been contemplating adding some to my Poshmark Shop.

two little baby sundresses and bonnets

I’ve really been wanting to make things with my hands lately- embroidery, sewing etc. However, I haven’t felt like sewing anything for myself because fitting patterns is the worst part of sewing, so instead I’ve started making other things- like baby clothes. Not because I’m having a baby anytime soon, but because kid’s clothes are so fun to make! I plan on creating a bit of a stockpile of them to gift to families in my church who have little ones on the way, as well as bringing some pieces to the pregnancy care centre. 

baby felt boots and hairbows

These little felted boots are so adorable, aren’t they? And little hair bows are a quick and easy (and cute!) project to whip up in an afternoon. I’m having so much fun making these, that I may have been dedicating just a bit too much time to them lately…. well, it’s the New Year now so time for a fresh start! 

Do you make New Year’s resolutions? I make a list of 3-4 goals for the year, whether personal, creative etc. Last year I planned to finish organizing my hard drive and compiling a photo album of all of my Instagram photos…but I didn’t get to it…so, it’s back on the list for this year. Other than that, I haven’t thought of any other goals, but I’m sure I’ll come up with some in the next few days.

I hope your 2022 is off to a great start! Happy New Year!

A Year of Reading | My Favourite Books of 2021

a plate of tarts and a teacup in front of an open book

Here we are at the end of 2021… already? It seemed like a busy year for me with so many projects going on, but I still managed to get in a fair amount of reading too. How about you? Since I started this blog series, last year, I thought I would carry it on by sharing my favourite books I read this year. In no particular order, here they are!

Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand

This was maybe my favourite book of this year, recommended to me by my friend Meghan, who also has a YouTube “booktube” channel, in case you are interested. (I get so many great book recommendations from her!)

This is the biography of Louis Zamperini, which follows his life from his beginnings as an Olympic runner in the 1936 Berlin games, then to his time during WWII as a fighter pilot and after that as a POW in a Japanese camp. I wouldn’t recommend this one if you don’t like reading about war, especially the Pacific theatre, as it is quite brutal at times. He went through, and suffered, a lot during the war, but thankfully the book doesn’t end there. It chronicles his path afterwards, finally ending in a very powerful and beautiful redemption.

Miss Fortune by Sara Mills

This is a fun spy/espionage novel set in the 1940’s just after WWII. It is written in the style of film noir, about New York’s only female private eye, the “P.I. Princess” Allie Fortune. Unfortunately the author intended to write three books, but was only able to finish two of them. This is the first one, which does set up the beginnings of a secondary storyline which isn’t completed, but the main storyline is good and is resolved by the end. (I wouldn’t recommend the second book in the series, though, because she never wrote the third one, and there was too much of a cliffhanger at the end.)

Target Africa by Obianuju Ekeocha

Africa has a long history of colonial influence from the West. In this book, Obianuju Ekeocha, who is a biomedical scientist and founder of Culture of Life Africa, talks about how the West is still trying to influence African countries with what she calls “Ideological Neocolonialism”. She talks about how much of the “foreign aid” from wealthy donor nations comes with strings attached; including the population control abortion agenda, sexualization of children and radical feminism, which many African nations, including her own country of Nigeria, are not interested in. It was an eye opening look into how much of the foreign aid money sent from Western nations, including my own country of Canada, is being used ineffectually and is siphoned off into corrupt organizations, instead of being used to help poor third world nations with their immediate needs, and to actually help them flourish.

Dear Mrs. Bird by AJ Pearce

This is another quick and enjoyable novel, this time set during WWII about a young woman who moves to London in hopes of becoming a war correspondent. Instead, she accidentally ends up getting hired as an assistant to a women’s magazine advice columnist! I read this one in a couple of days, and thoroughly enjoyed it. There are a couple of more intense scenes, because it is set during the London Blitz, but it’s overall an entertaining, heartwarming and funny story.

the covers of the three Madame Chic books

Lessons from Madame Chic, At Home with Madame Chic and Polish Your Poise with Madame Chic by Jennifer L. Scott

This is a three-for-one, because this is actually a series of books that I read this summer. Jennifer is the blogger and YouTuber of “The Daily Connoisseur”, and in these books, like her blog, she speaks about how to add elegance and “chic” to your everyday life. When she moved to Paris as an exchange student, she was so inspired by how the French live, that she adopted many of their habits. She shares these stories and lessons that she learned from her host family about how to add elegance and poise to your own everyday.

My favourite one was definitely the first in the series, Lessons from Madame Chic, since I found there was a bit too much overlap with the other two books. It felt a bit like I was re-reading the same advice for several chapters- perhaps if I had read them farther apart I wouldn’t have noticed it so much.

The Shallows by Nicolas Carr

This is the other book that ties for #1 with Unbroken in my list. (Though they are totally different subjects, so maybe they can both place #1 in their respective categories!)

The most striking thing about this book is that it was written in 2010- more than ten years ago now- and it so accurately predicted the trajectory of internet; our usage and habits, and how it has continued to affect us as a society. He talks about how the internet is quite literally changing our brains, which is in turn making us more distracted and less capable of critical thinking. Interestingly, social media was in it’s infancy in 2010, (Instagram wasn’t even around at the time of writing) but already he saw the negative impact it was having on people. Reading this book and then taking a look around at the culture in which we are living in now was more than a little eery. Of course, here I am writing about the evils of the internet…on the internet! He doesn’t condemn it entirely, but instead demonstrates how we should be aware that the internet is making us “shallow”, and how we should take the time to put limits on it; relegating it once again to just a tool.

My favourite quote which I didn’t copy down, but recall from memory, goes something like “the internet is so helpful and good a servant, that it would be a little churlish to note that it also seems to be our master.” I definitely recommend checking this book out, if you’ve ever thought about your internet habits and wondered whether they are entirely all that healthy.

The Hiding Place by Corrie Ten Boom

This is one of my favourite books of all time and I like to re-read it every few years when I need some encouragement.

The Ten Boom family was a Dutch Christian family who hid Jews in a secret room in their house in defiance to the Nazi’s during WWII. The story follows the family pre-war, how they got involved in the Dutch Resistance and then how Corrie and her sister were eventually sent to Ravensbruck concentration camp. The book doesn’t end with the war; she focuses the final section, most importantly, on forgiveness, her faith in God and how there is “no pit so deep that God’s love is not deeper still”.

Forgiveness by Mark Sakamoto

In a similar vein, here is another book about WWII (I sure read a lot from that era this year) and this time from a Canadian perspective. The author shares about his grandparents’ experiences during WWII, and how their stories weave into each others lives and into his life. His maternal grandfather fought for the Canadian army in the Pacific theatre against the Japanese army, and his paternal grandparents were Japanese immigrants to Canada who lost everything they owned in BC and were sent to forced labour in Alberta.

He writes poignantly about his own struggles towards key figures and events in his life and how he was able to learn forgiveness from his grandparents and how they were able to forgive the “other side” and build a new life together after the war- one that wouldn’t even have been possible without that forgiveness.

If Walls Could Talk by Lucy Worsley

Lucy Worsley is a British historian and curator at Historic Royal Palaces, so she is definitely qualified to write a book about the history of the home. However, maybe even more importantly, she is also a great presenter who is quite funny, in a cheeky way, and so her books (and TV programs) are engaging as well as informative.

I had already watched the BBC program that this book is based on, but I still enjoyed reading about the evolution of the way we live in our homes. She talks about the practical and social reasons changes occurred, from the medieval times of the Great Hall, to the more intimate and private Victorian Parlour, all the way to the current Living Room (which is remarkably similar to that medieval model). If you don’t feel like reading it, I would recommend watching the four part BBC program!

Unplanned by Abby Johnson

I had listened to Abby Johnson’s testimony before, but I still wanted to read her book: and then I received it for Christmas and was able to read it just in time to add to this list! In this book, Abby shares her story of how she started volunteering at Planned Parenthood in her college days, which eventually led to her working full time as a clinic director. She wanted to be able to help and counsel women in crisis, but God used a series of events to lead her to leave the clinic and, to her surprise, join the pro-life movement instead.

Educated by Tara Westover

The last book in my list is another excellent one. I had heard about this memoir last year and then when one of my favourite bloggers listed it among their favourite books, I knew that I had to pick it up the next time I was at the library.

The author chronicles her life growing up in a dysfunctional family in a rural area. Although it wasn’t that remote of an area, they didn’t mix with other people, and she only attended school sporadically. The story is quite intense and frightening at times as it follows the author’s life as she grows up and decides to eventually leave her family’s home and go to university. This book is a rare glimpse into what life in an isolating and abusive environment can be like, and how it can affect even the strongest person.

Tara Westover truly has a gift for words and engaging storytelling; I was hooked from the moment I read the introduction.

Well, that’s my list of favourite books from this year. I read 50 books in total this year, so these are just the highlights. I’ve already got a stack on my nightstand…so here’s to reading more good books in 2022!

What was your favourite book you read this year? Do you have any recommendations?