Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Alice's Book is a Wonderland!

If you haven't heard of Alice Cantrell's amazing book then you need to go find out about it.

Go on and click. I'll wait!

Doesn't it look fabulous? Now listen, you don't have to be a sewing mom, a crafty mom or even a mom to enjoy this book. I would have loved a basic book for beginners like this when I was in college. That was when I first learned how to use patterns and needle and thread to create things (mostly costumes) and I am sure this gentle guide would have made the learning process less painful. Well, that and steel gloves!

Sewing With Saint Anne is the perfect book for teaching your daughter how to sew or for learning how to sew yourself. It was the inspiration for one of Sunshine's birthday presents this year. Her very first sewing kit.
Alice includes a handy list of items that no sewing basket should be without and while you don't have to rush out and buy everything on the list, I decided to use Sunshine's birthday as an excuse to put together a basket for her and also fill in some holes I discovered in mine! Needle threaders... so cheap and yet soooo easy on the eyes.

Since we do take a break from our more formal schooling during the summer days, I chose this month to start Sunshine with some of the first lessons. From "threading the needle" we headed straight to the running stitch at which point she was beaming to finally be doing "real sewing"!!
After seeing pictures of another little girl's lovely needlebook, the running stitch didn't satisfy her for long... Mommy, please can I make something? Pleeeeeease?
We chose the needlebook project since it allowed Sunshine the chance to use her new skill, but eagerly look forward to making our own napkins, scrunchies and baby blankets. I am looking forward to using up all the scraps I have been saving these many years.

If you are already a "sewing mama" then the extras in this book make it worth having on the shelf as a resource or just an interesting read. History, ideas, patterns, poems, tidbits of fascinating information, thoughtful advice, a glossary and of course... beautiful reminders to pray! You need to see this book! (And I need to see about a newer edition so that I can peruse that beautiful new cover close up! I bought mine when Sunshine was maybe 3 or 4 years old... you don't think I was a little excited about having daughters do you?)

I think what I love most about this book is what you won't find printed in black and white. The spirit of Alice's book inspires so much within the hearts of little girls and those of us who remember being little girls long, long ago.

There is a very natural desire in the hearts of most people to create even though that creative endeavor can take many different forms. Some methods of expression require more discipline or technical skill and for those, a guide is an invaluable help. My very first guide and inspiration was my grandmother. She introduced me to her domestic arts and carefully passed on the knowledge she had...for that I will be eternally grateful. This book acts as a guide too. It can guide a young girl through the basic steps of learning to sew completely on her own with detailed illustrations and very well written instructions. It inspired us to spend some time looking, listening and loving, as well.

We read together. We sewed together. We created together!

She asked me about the crafts I learned when I was a girl. I told her about my grandmother and the simple things she taught me. Simple embroidery, simple crocheting... simply wonderful time spent together! What started with a running stitch ended with hours of sharing bound together not just with thread, but with love.

When Sunshine discovered that you could create pictures with needle and thread, she sat down and decorated this handkerchief for Husband's upcoming birthday. He usually carries one in his pocket, but I think this one will be saved for a special day in the future when only the tears shed after "giving her away" will be worthy enough.


  1. Matilda, that is so sweet of you to say. :-) You have no idea how much good it does me to hear of little girls (and big ones!) enjoying and using this book. My own daughter does not have much use for it as she prefers to sew with no patterns or instructions... just like her mom when she was that age, actually. ;-)

  2. Oh, Matilda, this was SUCH a beautiful post! You have no idea how long I have been stealing longing glances at that book every time I'm browsing through my CHC catalog! And actually, as my oldest daughter is only three years old, I've been thinking that I really want it for MYSELF, for NOW, in the hopes of one day being able to teach her and her little sister the fine art of sewing! You have completely convinced me. I need this book! And, one more thing...that caption below the photo of your daughter's lovingly stitched handkerchief? Totally made me cry. You are such an incredible wife and mom. Your family is truly blessed!

  3. Matilda,
    does it teach using the regular sewing machine? I want to teach my daughters but can't even get it right myself (like with button holes grrr).

    I LOVE the embroidery!!! I would also love to learn needlepoint, does the book show how to do that?

    I am so glad that people are continuing this *art form* which of course is what it is...

  4. The book primarily focuses on hand sewing since it would be impossible to explain every feature of every sewing machine. Once the child understands the basics of sewing then she moves onto cutting patterns and creating things like lap quilts, baby bibs, aprons, napkins, etc... I think it would make an excellent and very necessary first stop in learning how to sew and more importantly understanding the concepts behind sewing.

    I think if you are learning how to use a machine, you might do better to take a class. Some junior colleges offer them and fabric stores too. In fact, the place I bought my new machine at spent about an hour teaching me how to use it.

  5. I forgot... she does mention embroidery on one page and tells you to think of it as "drawing with thread". That was what my daughter got giddy about! She shows you a couple of basic stitches but there is no needlepoint that I recall. I am not really sure I know what it is. My mom use to do it, but she never shared it with me.

    I share your "grrr" for button holes! I actually would rather do a zipper instead of button holes!

  6. I think I am going to go get a Kleenex. How lovely! I have been eyeing that book forever! I will definitely have to get it. I am a quilter and so look forward to teaching my Nicole who is four. The handkerchif was absolutely wonderful!

  7. How wonderful! I still remember getting my first sewing kit. I treasured it for so long, and I know that it inspired my life-long interest in sewing, as my mother barely sewed a button on! Good job mama!

  8. Beautiful - I love your last paragraph...

  9. That handkerchief is beautiful! And I do love that last paragraph too :)

  10. So sweet. Her handkerchief is beautiful.


Thank you for sharing your thoughts and yourself!