Little One-Yard Wonders contributor Kathy Beymer discusses how practicality and play come together in everything she makes.
Kathy Beymer’s (merrimentdesign.com) projects span sewing, printables, paper making, painting, sewing, and baking — she does it all! She’s a mother of two, and her useful, simple, and clever projects make perfect additions to Little One-Yard Wonders. — Rebecca Yaker and Patricia Hoskins, co-authors
Tell us about the inspiration behind your projects in Little One-Yard Wonders.
I like making things that are useful and usable with a simple or clever twist. Most of my ideas come from need and have a functional purpose but of course I like my projects to have some personality and whimsy, too.
The Secret Pocket Pillowcase was inspired by my daughter Elise’s bedtime routine. She likes sleeping with her flashlight and action figures but they’d fall out of her bed during the night. By adding an inset pocket in her pillowcase hem, Elise can have her nighttime treasures nearby and also sleep comfortably on her pillow. And during Chicago winters, we can use the secret pocket to stash tissues and lip balm.
I made the No-Toy-Left-Behind Travel Blanket for our first plane flight with Elise when she was 9 months old. We were going to Maine and I was nervous about flight logistics with a baby. My friend Macki had attached toys to the middle of one of her baby blankets for her own kids, which I thought was genius. I saw some VELCRO® Brand Snag-Free fastener tape that sticks to itself without snagging clothing, so I bought it and put strips on the blanket perimeter and added pockets for her tiny books in the middle. It worked like a charm!
The Keep-It-Clean messy mat started out as Elise’s Play-Doh play mat. The pattern is simple and versatile — use it on the floor at mealtime and on the table for play time. Elise is four now and we still use our messy mat for painting projects, Play-Doh, and glue.
How did you learn to sew? What’s your earliest sewing memory?
My mom was a home ec teacher and I used to play around with her sewing machine when I was little. Both of my sisters and I were in 4-H, too. I remember pulling summer all-nighters together to finish up our 4-H projects to take to the fair. My favorite project was an old-school Banana Republic-inspired army green safari-esque jacket. It was really cool.
I was about 8 years old when I had my first vivid sewing fail. I wanted to make a dress for my Barbie doll so I pulled some white fabric with sparkles on it out of my mom’s fabric drawer. I began to iron my cut-out pieces and the fabric totally stuck all over the iron with stringy strands of melted glue! That was my first experience with iron-on interfacing.
What’s your favorite thing about sewing for children? How do you engage them in the process?
Sentimentally, I like making keepsakes and memories. I think someday when the kids are grown, I’ll look at photos of them with my handmade projects and remember and reminisce. I kind of already do that with Elise’s baby sun hats.
Now that Elise is 4 years old, I like sewing for her even more than when she was a baby because she has the greatest reactions. I made her a Frozen dress-up outfit last month and she flipped. For her, that dress turns her into Elsa.
My kids and I craft a lot together although it can be tricky to engage them in sewing projects. I like to have Elise help me pick out fabrics and colors, and we talk about how fabric is just made up of lots of threads, which she thinks is cool. We talk about measurements and I try to help her begin to visualize inches and half inches. She used to sit on my lap as I sewed but now that Liam is here I do most of my actual sewing at night.
I think fostering creativity in kids is super important for building confidence and problem-solving skills. I like teaching my kids that they can figure out how to make anything they want.
There are so many amazing fabrics available. Which are must-haves for your own personal stash and why?
I collect vintage linen calendars because they’re pretty and remind me of my grandmother. I like to use them for design inspiration — illustration styles, patterns, color combinations — and I also cut up my duplicates as fabric for handbags and other small sewing projects.
I love shopping for new cotton fabric. I could spend hours just looking at patterns and colors online. I especially love cute whimsical patterns and sweet scenes for kids.
What projects (sewing or otherwise) will be keeping you busy this summer?
I’m working on adding new printables to my Etsy store, where I sell customizable PDFs for summertime canning, birthday parties, and other occasions.
And I’m trying to psych myself up to make a twin-sized quilt for Elise using fabric from her nursery. It’s intimidating but I figure that if I can just take it one block at a time, I might just finish it for the fall.
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