How sewing helped me love my body
By Tina Bury
I used to wear baggy t-shirts and ill-fitted blue jeans. All the time...unless I was wearing hiking pants. I generally felt frumpy and uncomfortable and I did NOT think it was my clothes fault.
I was constantly yanking up the waistband on my pants and trying to pull them over the muffin top that ill-fitting pants give you regardless of your size. (This was well before high waisted jeans made a comeback!)
One day, more than a dozen years ago, I stood by the mailbox gaping at a catalog I'd received, unsolicited, in the mail. It had models that looked like me, more like my body, and they were beautiful! They wore clothes that fit their bodies and were stylish and confident....playful even.
It was one of those life-changing moments...and in the small, simple moments of my day, no less!
Thus began my journey. A journey of knowing that what you wear impacts how you feel. Really. There is deep truth to the saying that "the clothes make the (wo)man".
Do you have a go-to outfit for when you need to impress? That outfit you reach for when you're putting yourself out there...for a job interview or an exciting date.
Or maybe you have an outfit that you wear when you want to feel soft and romantic?
I bet you do.
See, I think we know. I think we know, intuitively, what lights us up. We have an emotional reaction to it that is easily explained away or ignored...but it's there.
And choosing what lights us up is not a frivolous thing.
It's what allows us to be our best selves. And it's a powerful way to approach living.
I have found this to be true time and time again in my life. Let me give you an example.
8 years ago I became gluten intolerant. I got really, really sick and cutting all gluten out of my diet healed me. Years, yup years, before that when I needed to show up for something (like a job interview) with my strongest, sharpest brain and attention, I intuitively knew to stay away from grains.
I did not make those choices consciously, it was only well after the fact that I became aware of what I was doing. It was my intuition (my inner wisdom, if you will) trying to set me up for my best experience. It has become my daily intention to hear and heed my intuition. To live fully awake.
My intuition (and yours) does the same with the clothes I wear and how I want to show up in the world. If you feel frumpy or blah or incapable...change what you're wearing and watch the magic unfold. I'll bet you begin to feel more confident, or more playful or you stand taller. You deserve to feel lit up by what you wear and how you present yourself to the world.
To that end, I started to buy clothes that fit my body (as best I could) and that added sparkle to my eye. And, guess what...I began to love my body, exactly as it was, a bit more.
I walked down the street differently. People constantly asked me if I lost weight. I hadn't, but I was wearing clothes that excited me. And confidence and sparkling eyes are powerfully attractive.
When you clothe the body you have in a loving way...you can't help but love that body a bit more. But finding clothes that I loved that also fit me well wasn't always easy.
It was that frustration that led me to garment sewing. And my closet opened up. And I love my body even more. Sewing garments help you see how arbitrary those numbers on your clothes are and it helps you see how nearly everyone feels that their body is wrong.
And that's eye-opening. Because you KNOW those other folks are crazy. Their bodies are perfect. So, maybe, just maybe, your body is perfect too!
Article and photo by Donna Iverson
If you are the average gardener, like me, when the seed catalogs arrive in January, it is like the first day of spring. Images of tomato plants start dancing in my head.
Garden catalogs are full of photos and descriptions of the latest seed offerings, garden stories, and even recipes. Normally, I would begin filling in the order form with my favorite seed picks along with one or two new varieties to try.
But this year, seed selection got a lot more complicated. Master gardeners are urging us to buy seeds that are organic, non-GMO, open-pollinated, native, heritage, heirloom and locally-grown. And while the major seed companies are starting to offer seeds that fall into these categories, mostly you have to search for them online.
Quite unexpectedly, the local grocery store where I shopped had a Burpee seed rack, and in one section of the rack there were organic seeds. Big seed companies are starting to respond to the demand for organic seeds, and making them more easily available to the gardener. While organic seeds are more expensive than chemically treated seeds, you do save money buying this way as you don't pay any shipping fees.
But still why buy organic seeds? It is a way to support organic farmers for one thing. The seeds are not grown with synthetic fertilizers or pesticides, which is important for the environment. Organic seeds are also non-GMO. Non organic seeds are chemically treated to resist fungus and other pathogens.
If you decide to buy organic seeds, it should be noted that they can be more difficult to propagate. They demand optimal conditions and need special care. They are possibly best planted in growing pots, providing water and sunshine in the recommended amount.
This summer I plan to experiment. I bought organic arugula and regular arugula seed packets and plan to grow the two varieties side by side in my community garden bed. And then compare results.
Seed companies offering organic seeds include: johnnyseeds.com, parksseed.com, rareseeds.com, burpee.com, seedsofchange.com, and vermontbean.com.
In future weeks, we will unpack the meaning of heritage, heirloom, open-pollinated, and the importance of locally grown seeds, and even how to collect your own seeds.
Garden tip: order some garden catalogs. They make for great winter reading, and you can learn a lot. Catalogs are free and can be ordered by going to the above URL addresses, clicking on catalog, and entering your name and address. And just a heads up, seed companies are doing more and more of their sales online, and in the not too distant future, these catalogs may very well become obsolete.
By Tina Bury
Tina Bury called the Newaygo area home before tramping off to the snowy north where she found herself a mama and a sewing teacher. She hosts sewing retreats and workshops in Michigan for garment sewists who crave connection and finally want to wear and sew clothes they love. She also has an online course where you can get mindful and intentional about what you wear and how you show up in the world and give yourself more joy in your craft. She shares her musing on making in her weekly e-letter and on her blog. Kinshiphandwork.com
Four years ago, my husband and I took 3 1/2 months and traveled out west, camping in a tent for 100 nights straight. I did a lot of journaling and mindfully, working my way through Christiane Northrup’s “Women’s Bodies, Women’s Wisdom”. Mostly though we hiked, explored small towns, surfed and rode bikes; we also backpacked for 7 days in the North Cascade Mountains and canoed for 11 days on the Green River.
It was something we had both dreamed of for many years and was a sort of big hurrah before trying to have a baby. We came home with just that, a pregnancy. I’m a maker. So I immediately ordered this sweet organic jersey fabric, blue with deer on it, to make our wee one something. Days before telling our family the news, we miscarried at 11 weeks…for the second time that year. It was heavy and sad and shortly after, my fabric arrived in the mail.
We tried again and it wasn’t long before Ellis arrived.
This past weekend, I finally unearthed that fabric and decided it was time to make something out of it for this wee boy. It brought up all kinds of sweetness and sorrow in me. Curiously, he loves his pee-jammies (as he calls them) which I made from Meg of Sew Liberated’s book “Growing Up Sew Liberated”. I mean like, has worn them for four days straight- loves them. I’ve made him other clothes…but he’s bonded to this one. Perhaps it’s his age, 2 1/2, or perhaps he can sense the deep, deep emotion imbued in this fabric. Either way, it’s a balm to my heart.
Miscarriages aren’t something I heard much about before trying to get pregnant at 36. Turns out they’re common. I wish more people talked about that. I wish ours was a culture that healed out loud rather than secretly, tucked in ourselves. I’m grateful for the mindful, self-care that I get from making with my own two hands. I’m grateful for the peace that comes when I’m in the “flow” and my ability to create something of meaning.
Article and photo by Donna Iverson
When some people look at bushes, they see geometric shapes, or animals or even humans. It makes them want to get out the hedge shears and transform the bush into the character of their imagination.
Topiary artist Georgia Donovan of Rockford is just such a person. She combines her love of art with her vocation of gardening, creating the most difficult form of topiary, animals and human beings. The human beings she calls her cedar sapiens or "tree people."
Free-form topiary like Donovan's is where you basically use your artistic eye to create a whimsical animal or other fantasy shape. A second type of topiary is when you use a wire frame and allow the plant to grow over it to form the shape. Somehow to me, the free form topiary is most intriguing as no two shapes are alike. They are living sculptures.
The tools you need for this garden craft are hand-held shears or pruners. One could also resort to electric or gas-powered clippers, although they pose a greater danger to the gardener. ..i.e. be very careful and wear heavy gloves.
If you are going the free-form route, topiary experts recommend you start at the top of the bush and work your way down. The bushes most amenable to holding their ornamental shape are boxwood, yew, privet, cedar, and arbor vitae.
If you want to use a wire frame, they are available at most garden centers, varying in size from small to large. Potted topiary, created using a wire frame, are great for patios and decks and even to dress up a front step. Small topiary make great house plants, and are often shaped in geometrical forms like circles, squares and spirals. Herbs make great scented topiary and possibilities include rosemary, lavender, mint, sage, thyme, bay and savory. Information on how to create an herbal topiary can be found at michigangardener.com
Digging back into history, topiary was popular in Elizabethan England, where English gardeners tried to recreate the ancient Roman gardens. But historians believe that topiary is even older than that, originating in Persia during the time of Alexander the Great. Of course, the Japanese have a long history of pruning bushes and trees into shapes, creating their graceful and peaceful Japanese gardens and diminutive bonsai.
If you are looking for topiary inspiration or just an interesting excursion, topiary gardens can be found in many states including Ohio, Massachusetts, Florida, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Maryland and Rhode Island. The closest topiary garden is in Columbus, Ohio, and has been featured in the Smithsonian magazine as the only known topiary park to mimic an impressionist painting. There is one section dedicated to ghosts.
In Michigan, the best place to see topiary and buy supplies are garden centers. If you are interested in your own cedar sapiens like the ones featured here, contact Georgia Donovan on Facebook. Cost estimates are between $100 and $200 and that includes the tree.
Planning ahead: The Grand Garden Show on Mackinac Island this summer is scheduled to open August 30. Tickets are available at the following site: https://grandgardenshow.com. Book early if interested.
Article and photos by Donna Iverson
When the world loses its color in winter, it's often the berries that stand out .....Winterberry, Bittersweet and Holly to name a few.
As winter sets in, I often snip holly branches to bring inside as it it one of the few bright, red, long-lasting accents provided by nature this time of year.
I find these holly bushes growing as hedges along sidewalks or individual bushes tucked into gardens, like the one pictured here in the Shakespeare Garden on the grounds of the Hackley Public Library.
Plants in a Shakespeare garden are the ones mentioned in the playwrights work, with holly earning its place based on a "Song of the Holly." Part of that song includes the words "Heigh-ho Sing...unto the green holly...this life is most jolly." It is the only time the bard mentions this plant.
The most popular holly is the English Holly, Ilex aquifolium, native to Western Europe, north Africa, and southwest Asia. It needs yearly pruning to hold its shape and grows to about 6 feet tall if left unpruned. It prefers a sunny location and well drained soil. New plants grow best if planted in the spring or fall. It is an evergreen and its berries are poisonous if not deadly. It doesn't need watering except during periods of drought.
Although toxic to humans and pets, birds and squirrels can safely eat the berries in late winter, when nothing else if available. Although they prefer the sweeter berries like Winterberry. Birds will also take refuge in holly bushes during severe winter conditions.
Out west, the English holly is considered an "invasive obnoxious weed," where it is spreading into forest habitat in California and Washington state. Not so our native Michigan holly, namely Winterberry, Ilex opaca. Winterberry is similar to English holly in that it has red berries, but the berries line the stems of the plant. Unlike its cousin, Winterberry prefers wet soil, and can be found along stream banks. Almost 50 species of birds will feed on its berries, as will rabbits, moose and deer. A deciduous shrub, it grows 3 to 15 feet tall.
Near Flint, the town of Holly is named after this plant, according to the Michigan Historical Society, which states on its website that the "red berries of the Michigan holly" are thought to have inspired the town's name.
Going back in time, the holly was a sacred plant of the Druids in ancient England, symbolizing fertility and magic. It was believed that cutting down a holly would bring bad luck, and bringing holly branches inside would bring good luck. Later, Christians adopted the holly bush to reflect their beliefs, and it became associated with Christmas.
Holly remains popular, and you can check out the Holly Society of America, Great Rivers Region, which includes Michigan, for information on annual conferences...last year in Columbus, Ohio.
Photos and article by Donna Iverson
I have a cat's nature. I like to prowl around and sniff things out...at art museums, flea markets, antique shops, used book stores and especially farmers markets.
This summer it was succulents that caught my eye. Vendors were displaying succulents in artistic arrangements in pots and dishes, large and small. They were begging to be purchased and brought home.
Next, I noticed them appearing as decorative elements at my favorite coffee shops, at the yoga studio, and displayed in store windows like cheese shops. I even found one planted in my community garden along the roadside.... namely a Yucca, native to the Southwest.
The interest in succulents is one of the top gardening trends in the last few years, with a 50 percent increase in sales, according to Bloomberg News. Reasons for this uptick in interest are many including:
1. Succulents are tiny, cute, inexpensive and easy to care for. They can be left for weeks, even months without watering.
2. They can provide a visually attractive accent to the spare modern design of many urban settings including small apartments. They come in a large variety of sizes and shapes and can be grouped together
3. Millennials are reportedly driving sales, making collections of these succulents and even thinking of them as pets ..pets that you don't have to walk or feed.
4. Marketers have discovered that you can ship large numbers of succulents at low cost, simply packing them in large plastic bags, where they can travel long distances without damage.
5. And social media cranks up the interest as hobbyists, gardeners, collectors, nurseries, and gardeners all post photos and comments about their latest succulent acquisition.
6. In the north country, it is a way to have green growing things inside when it is too cold to plant outside.
Personally, I have never been interested in succulents until this last summer when the yucca caught my eye. Then I noticed a number of farmers market vendors were displaying succulents for sale in interesting pots and dishes with artistic arrangements that were hard to ignore. I caved and bought an aloe. I figured, if nothing else, it would come in handy as a natural remedy for burns and scratches.
Care instructions included infrequent watering, a sunny spot in a windowsill and a porous not glazed pot. This I could manage and so far, the Aloe vera seems pleased with its new home. Of course, next I wanted to know where it came from, was it native to the Americas? In general, most succulents come from the deserts and rainforests of South America and Africa. But it turns out that the aloe comes from the Arabian Peninsula where it grows wild.
Succulents also grow wild in California, and their increased popularity has attracted poachers. In 2018, three men were charged with trying to export $600,000 worth of wild succulents they had poached from the state parks in Northern California. Succulents have become big business.
The succulent family is a large one and includes orchids, cacti, pineapples, poinsettia, jade, and agave, from which tequila is made.
And if fiber art, rather than indoor gardening, is your thing, embroidery art featuring succulents may spark your creative spirit like this piece pictured below, created by Sam Hopkins of Muskegon, Michigan.
By Terry Grabill
Photo by Andrea Grabill
I’ve been asked by many folks, “how does someone get started in birding?” The simple answer is to have an interest in birds and notice which ones are around. But, like most interests, there are some things that can make beginning more enjoyable and comfortable. When I started birding, oh, so many years ago, there was no internet to search for information about my interests. There was me, a little book with some bird pictures, and, of course, the birds. Fortunately, we live in a time where contacts are easier to make.
As I mentioned earlier, the first and most important requirement is an interest in birds. That interest will soon have you noticing things you’ve seen for years but never paid any attention to. Those birds that fly away when you open the front door will begin to look different from one another. Rather than seeing only a bunch of birds on a wire, you’ll notice they are shaped differently. I’m a middle school science teacher. On fine spring days, I’ll often take my kids outside and ask them to make some observations of the birds we see. Most of the kids are in awe when they get a good view of even the most common birds because they’ve never taken the time to notice anything besides an animal that flies away when they approach.
Now that you’re noticing that birds are not all alike, you’ll be curious as to what it is you’re seeing. Birds differ in shape, size, color and habitat. You’ll begin to notice patterns in these differences, and you’ll want a tool to help put a name to that creature. This is where a field guide becomes important. Today, there are many options to choose from. Organized birding trips are usually led by an experienced birder that can help identify birds quickly by sight and by ear. I would think that most looking to get started in birding won’t be hiring a personal guide. Instead, consider a pocket-sized personal guide. Many publishers offer print field guides, and which one is best is really a matter of personal preference. I use the National Geographic Field Guide to the Birds of North America. Some friends prefer others. Nat Geo is the one I learned with. They all have their strengths and weaknesses. I would recommend NOT getting one that is of a local area as most of these are limited to just the most common birds and many you’ll see won’t be represented in the book! Another pocket-sized guide is an app for your smartphone. There are lots of offerings here that you can install that will give handy, up-to-date information available anywhere…as long as you have signal! Merlin is a free download that does a nice job helping with bird identification.
Another tool that can make observation easier is a pair of good binoculars. Now, I’m not an optics snob but looking though discount store binoculars often makes birding more frustrating than looking without binoculars. Find the best binoculars you can fit into your budget. If you’re not convinced, look through some quality optics as a store and you’ll see the difference! Look for ones that have seven to eight power magnification. (the binoculars will have numbers printed on them, like 7x40 or 8x35. The first number is the magnification) Higher magnification limits the field of view, will get VERY heavy and will be hard to hold steady.
The best way to learn birds is to spend time looking for birds and noticing what you find! There are local nature clubs (such as Audubon) that hold bird walks. These are a great place for a beginner to learn from more experienced birders. The internet is full of information as well, but remember, this information is posted by anyone…and not everyone is posting correct info. Look for Facebook groups for birders. One of my favorites is Birding Michigan where you’ll find photos and tips by people that really know birding. Bird feeders are also excellent windows to local birds and their behavior.
So, there you have my starter pack for birding; interest, a field guide, quality binoculars, and time spent looking for and at birds.
For Birdgoober.com, I’m Terry Grabill.