We've been working hard on a new collection of LINEN TEA TOWELS which I've been developing all year! I love printing tea towels and wanted to upgrade to a really excellent quality textile, 100% made in Maine. I needed to have more control of the supply and stitching process and the quality of construction, and of course to work with local makers. I started by ordering samples and we stitched up a variety of different samples, tested them by printing them with different designs, and then put them to work in the kitchen! With two small kids and a whole lot of messy projects and constant hand-washing, I had plenty of opportunities to use them and see how they wash and wear.
The results of our in-home research were wonderful. I love how the linen gets a gorgeous rumpled texture and gets softer with every washing. These towels can dry some dishes but they really excel as a sustainable, all-purpose kitchen cloth. We love them for drying hands because they dry so quickly! We use them at mealtime to keep fresh-baked rolls warm at the table or to wipe up little spills or just to substitute for napkins. The oatmeal-colored linen was our favorite because it doesn't collect stains the way white linens do. The stitching quality is excellent and holds up beautifully through heavy use and many washes.
You can take a look at the full collection here, and stay tuned as we plan to add more designs within the next few weeks.
What will happen with the cotton tea towels? I am not printing them anymore, though I do have some lovely designs remaining on the shelves, so this is a great opportunity to grab some while they are still available. They are slowly selling out and being replaced with the linen towels. I will keep most of the designs and will be printing them on linen instead of cotton. A few of the cotton designs will be retired as we switch over and add some fun new prints for the new linen towels!
I spent most of this crazy year dreaming about this new scarf collection and working away in odd moments and snippets of time while the kids were busy for a few minutes... it's taken a lot of determination to actually complete any projects, haha! When I finally got some nice long days in the studio over the summer time, it was incredibly gratifying to take these sketches and ideas and make them into something real and beautiful.
Here's a peek at one of my sketches... My idea for this project was to continue my tradition of turning odd bits of my hand-printed fabrics into sustainable, eco-friendly infinity scarves. I also wanted to mix in some gorgeous organic cotton from Alabama Chanin, which is sustainably grown and milled in the USA! The new collection of scarves would mix these two fabrics and would give me an opportunity to be playful with creatively mixing colors and patterns. My color palette and pattern designs are inspired by the colors and textures of nature, both abstract and realistic... though the color-block style feels modern and equally well-suited to city streets or zoom meetings as breezy mountaintops or mossy woods. Most of all, I wanted these scarves to be incredibly soft, comfortable and easy to wear, and fun to style. The bamboo jersey fabric makes them luxuriously soft against the skin, and the loop style infinity scarf makes them effortless to throw on as you're heading out the door.
So, with my self-created design brief in mind, I started rummaging through my fabric supply, pulling swatches and digging for scraps and pieces that need to be used, and thinking about color combinations and pattern combinations. It was a REALLY fun process!
Once I picked out my colors, I did a lot of cutting. Each piece had to be cut down to about 20"x20" so that I could print on them. Cutting fabric can take a LOT OF TIME and then some more time.
Once I had a rough idea of some fabric choices and color combos, I started printing some of the first patterns. It was a wonderful opportunity to sift through my collection of screens, some of them have been with me for 10 or 20 years as I've moved from one studio to another! These are all my own patterns and designs that I have turned into silkscreen stencils.
This Watercolor Floral design is one of my favorite patterns, and one that seems to work well in combination with many of my other designs. One of my favorite parts of this scarf concept was to play with combining different colors and patterns, so this versatile watercolor pattern seemed like a great place to start.
As I printed more and more patterns and colors, my plans kept evolving as I discovered new and delightful combinations, and found that some of my planned combinations didn't end up looking the way I had imagined them. I had to add a handful of new scarf designs to the collection, to squeeze in some of the beautiful accidents that happened through experimentation and play.
Post-it-note explosion! My brain isn't the most orderly place.
Here is my charming, 5-year-old studio assistant helping me with some smaller pieces.
After we got lots and lots of pieces printed, then I had to do a bit more trimming and cutting and a lot of organizing and mixing and matching and re-organizing.
Finally! Once I got it all organized, I handed it off to the inspiring and talented Natasha of Mama Hen, who stitched them into finished scarves. She has a special seam technique that we kind of figured out together to make the seams lie flat and look beautiful!
Collaborating with other local craftspeople and talented artists is one of my favorite parts of handmade business and I am continually inspired by the brilliant community of Maine craftspeople that surrounds me!
This is where the magic happens! Handmade business is generally a lot more WORK than I ever imagined, haha! But it’s worth it for these moments when it’s just the pure tactile joy and satisfaction of *making* something.
Here's a video of the printing process, you can see me working on my-printed owl fabric. This is some American-grown organic cotton from Alabama Chanin, hand-silkscreened in Maine by me! using non-toxic, water-based inks.
This owl fabric turned into one of my new super-soft and comfy infinity scarves - https://www.morrisessex.com/collections/hand-printed-scarves/products/hand-printed-infinity-scarf-errol-scarf-handmade-in-maine!
This summer was a strange one, of course - that's how everyone is feeling at the moment, right? We've been lucky to make our way through this unusual season with relative ease. We spent most of the summer in Maine, staying with my parents in their old farmhouse, playing outside in the grass and the woods and the sand box and the river. We missed going to summer camps and socializing, but we mostly entertained ourselves! We built a swing-set and picked a lot of flowers and blueberries, fed the chickens and gathered eggs and made lots of Duplo castles. I was able to spend some good hours in the studio while my girls stayed at home with their Nana and Grandpa. It always feels like the studio time flies by in a brief moment and there's always soooo much more to do, but I did get to finish some really awesome projects that I'm excited to share:
Hand-Printed Infinity Scarves! I spent a good bit of the summer sketching and planning and swatching and dreaming and printing and stitching on this collection for at least half of this crazy year... it’s pretty exciting to finally have something FINISHED to show for all that dreaming and making!
These color-block infinity scarves are made from fun combinations of gorgeous solids and hand-printed patterns. They're made from are eco-conscious, suuuuper soft bamboo fabric and Alabama Chanin's very special organic cotton, 100% sustainably grown and milled in the USA! Stitched by my amazing and talented friend at Mama Hen and hand-printed in my Maine studio, with non-toxic, water-based inks.
I made a really gorgeous variety of different color / pattern combos, but only a few of each scarf, so they are SUPER special and limited-edition. I'm really excited to finally have them all done, neatly sorted, photographed and listed in my shop. Take a look and enjoy browsing the new collection!
I've also been working away on another project for at least a year: High-quality LINEN tea towels, custom stitched (and hand-printed) in Maine! I love doing tea towels but wasn't always 100% happy with the quality of the cotton towels I was working with. After ordering linen fabric samples from a dozen different sources, we stitched and printed some sample towels and have been living with them for almost a year now, testing them out in the kitchen and around the house with great results.
One of my favorite things about linen towels is how well they wash and how fast they dry. We've been doing SO MUCH hand-washing (family of 4, two small kids, viral pandemic, wash, wash, wash, repeat!) and sometimes our cotton terry towels ended up soggy by lunchtime because they just don't dry fast enough. Linen towels work nicely and they dry in just a few minutes. I've taken to throwing our hand-drying-towels in the laundry at least once a day, and the linen holds up well with lots of washing and drying!
I have a handful of really fun new designs for this year, but I haven't quiiiite finished photographing and listing all the linen towels, but I hope to have them all completed soon! Take a look here to see what I've listed so far, and stay tuned to see more new designs coming soon.
Here's a fun peek at my printing process - a time-lapse video of me working on the new linen mushroom towels in the studio over the summer.
Now that the summer's past and we're settling in to fall routines, I'm getting back to mask production and I hope to have more masks listed in the shop very, very soon. I try to keep a consistent supply available, but they always seem to sell faster than I can make them! Over the past month, I took a break from sewing as we packed up and moved the family back to Pennsylvania for the start of the school year, and then I got pretty sick with Lyme disease(!) for a couple of weeks, so that's put a kink in my sewing schedule. But I'm feeling better, taking my antibiotics (and probiotics!) and getting my sewing table all set up to get back to stitching as soon as possible. I expect to have a new batch of hand-printed cotton masks listed in my shop by 9/30, if not sooner!
We're organizing a virtual craft fair featuring talented Maine makers. Friday, December 6th starting at 10 am we'll be sharing our handmade work, as well as some special discounts, peeks inside of our workspaces, and creative processes. We are a group of 22 different artists and artisans representing a wide range of handmade products and processes and different areas of Maine's creative community.
What's a Virtual Handmade Fair?
It's a group of artists and makers getting together to share their work - just like a regular craft fair. Instead of meeting up in person, we're meeting up online and inviting you to join us on Friday, December 6th, starting at 10 AM to say hello, see our handmade work, and find some special discounts on handmade holiday gifts. We think it'll be a fun way to see new work, meet new makers, support and create connections within this creative community.
|@Sperrygeneralstore||Cards, shirts, dresses, onesies|
|@beedandy_shop||Bath & body products|
|@earthangelarts||hand stitched ornaments and pillows, paintings, printed products|
|@Morrisandessex||Hand-printed textiles and letterpress cards|
|@sehallfurnituredesign||Woodworking and Furniture|
|@gdixon03||Jewelry for men and women|
|@creationlabshop||Water-Based, Hand Printed Apparel & Accessories|
|@mermaidmeadow||Illustrative artwork on barnwood, fabric and paper.|
|@annealexandersculptor||nature-inspired sculpture, mostly in ceramics|
|@thinkgreene||Textile Designer and Screen Printer|
|@APCuriosities||Ceramics (animal bowls, travel cups, etc) and jewelry|
|@DMGDesignsMaine||Jewelry & metal wares|
|@lanaplantae||Naturally Dyed Yarns|
|@Jamiepeaks||Art prints & Children’s books|
|@McFlyandCo||Dog Collar Accessories|
Please join us tomorrow morning, RIGHT HERE on Instagram, starting at 10 am we'll be sharing our handmade work together, as well as some special discounts, peeks at our studio and creative process, maybe some live video greetings, we'll see - each artist gets to choose what they want to share, so it'll be a bit of a surprise, and I think it'll be fun! Can't wait to see you there.
We've been enjoying a gorgeous fall in West Philly, missing Maine a bit, starting to plan for our next transition. Mike is in year 3 of his veterinary medicine degree at UPenn, and we just celebrated his White Coat Ceremony, which marks the 3rd year students' completion of the classroom portion of their studies, and transition to the clinical portion of the degree program. Starting in January, he'll be working and studying at UPenn's large-animal hospital in Kennett Square, PA. It's about an hour outside of Philly, in a beautiful area full of working farms - lots of cows, horses, cornfields, and mushroom farms. We had planned to stay in the city until Hattie finishes her year at preschool, but for a variety of reasons we decided to move out to Kennett Square sooner, and it looks like we'll be out of the city by January 1st! I've fallen madly in love with West Philly and I am going to miss it very much, but we're also super excited to start exploring our new home soon.
These days, my creative work continues to be a balancing act, always striving to find time for making, amidst the busy days and nights of small kids and grad student life and moving homes and traveling and being far away from my studio space (which is still in Cornish, Maine!) for most of the school year. This complicated situation has definitely led me to explore more portable aspects of my design work, from hand-embroidering scarves to painting with gouache and working to build up my surface design portfolio. I'm sure if life were simpler I'd probably be bored, but I definitely feel that life is very full and complicated these days. I've been trying to dedicate some time every day to yoga and meditation, to create a bit of a calm amidst it all. I'm grateful for the summer days that I was able to spend in the studio, printing fabric and building up inventory which I hope will find a home during this holiday season. I'm also incredibly grateful to my amazing studio-mate and helper, Sabrina, who helps me with printing, packing and shipping orders while I'm out of town. And grateful for everyone who chooses to support handmade and small businesses during the busy holiday season! Thank you!!
Hi! Happy Summer!!
I haven’t written in a while. I do have lots of exciting new ideas and works in progress, but nothing finished yet, so... I just wanted to say hello, and share a peek at what’s going on behind the scenes.
The past few years have been a major time of flux for my family and my work. It’s been a huge time of shifting ideas, locations, homes, family size, priorities. We had our second kid in 2017. My husband quit his job and went back to school full-time (he is doing a 4-year program to become a large animal veterinarian, with a focus on food animals)! So, we had to move and then move again. I’ve worked hard to maintain a sense of family stability for the kids throughout all these changes (also TBH I’ve worked hard some days just to keep them alive and to keep myself from yelling at everyone), and found myself thinking deeply about how to be a better parent, and then how to be a better human in this world.
I think all of these big changes gave me the opportunity to stop and ask myself big questions. What is my meaning in the world, what do I have to offer? What’s really important to me, and why am I doing the things I do, how do I create a deeper connection between my personal values and my creative work? All this moving and questioning has left me with some complicated feelings about needing to make changes, and also some really exciting ideas about how I want to move forward, new ways I’d like to work. So I’m in a pretty experimental stage of exploring new ideas right now, which is actually kind of awesome and exciting! And maybe a little bit scary.
I’m not making any drastic changes to my business at the moment, but I’m definitely thinking about making some gentle transitions into new ways of working. I’m feeling out new ways to create, that feel more mindful and less hurried. To be honest, I’m hoping to move towards a model where I create less, and sell less, but do so with more care and more depth of spirit, if that makes any sense.
This is all a work in progress, but the most exciting new project is creating a new line of scarves with recycled materials. This means that the creative process is much slower, as each piece is different and each one needs to be made in its own way, depending on the material, colors, patterns, etc. I’ve started collecting old t-shirts, cutting them up and printing some of my favorite pattern designs on the reclaimed fabric, then stitching them together by hand, using traditional Japanese sashiko stitches and cotton threads.
I will have the first pieces finished within a few days or weeks, and hope to have nicer pictures to share when they are done. I’m hoping to have a collection of these new recycled / reclaimed scarves finished in time to bring them to Common Ground Fair in the fall. But for now, I’m still in the experimenting and playing stage, which is pretty fun. I am hoping that this project will always have room for playing and experimenting a bit, since by nature each piece will be unique.
If you’ve made it this far, thank you for reading. I’m used to sharing finished products or more polished, photogenic parts of my process, but I hope there’s some value in sharing the messy and unfinished parts of the process too. I promise to follow up with some updates on the new work when it’s finished!
Until then, you can always find some little glimpses of my world on instagram, facebook, and you can find my work online, www.morrisessex.com
Thank you so much for your time and your support!!
Hattie keeps asking me if we can bake cupcakes again. I've learned that this mostly means she will do some stirring and a whole lot of eating cupcakes and frosting. I'm not opposed to letting my kids eat sugar, but I thought it'd be reasonable (and yummy) to temper it with a few other ingredients, so we made these carrot-apple "cupcakes." (It's just a slightly modified version of this recipe from Williams Sonoma.)
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 1 cup whole-wheat flour
- 2 tsp. baking powder
- 1/2 tsp. baking soda
- 1/4 tsp. salt
- 1 tsp. ground cinnamon
- 1/4 tsp ground cardamom
- 2 eggs
- 2/3 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
- 1/2 cup greek yogurt
- 1/2 cup grated apples
- 6 Tbs. (3/4 stick) unsalted butter, melted
- 2 large carrots, peeled and finely shredded (1 1/2 cups)
- 1/2 cup raisins, dried currants or golden raisins (optional)
- 1/2 cup chopped nuts - I used almonds, pumpkin seeds, and pecans, a bit of each.
Mix dry indgredients in one bowl and wet ingredients in another bowl; fold together just until they're mixed completely. We used mini muffin tins, so they baked for about 15 minutes at 425. And we made cream cheese frosting, which is basically just softened cream cheese mixed with confectioners sugar and a few drops of milk until it looks like frosting.
Hattie picked the bright purple and turquoise blue food coloring! We had a bag of sliced almonds so we used those to make the flower petals, and a tiny chocolate candy for the middle of the flowers.
I wanted to share a little peek into the inspiration for my new Unicorn Valentine greeting card.
In my first year of art school, my art history professor sent us to visit The Cloisters, an amazing piece of medieval history tucked away in a very far corner of Manhattan, overlooking the Hudson river, which felt about 2000 miles away from our cramped Greenwich Village classroom with its humming slide projector and fidgety art students. At The Cloisters, inside a dark hall, I was amazed to find The Unicorn Tapestry. It's a familiar image - when I was little, I remember helping my cousins do a jigsaw puzzle of the same picture. Here it was, larger than life, nearly five hundred years old. It's displayed as part of a full series of seven tapestries, woven in dark wool with gilded threads. I spent a few minutes there in the quiet dark, a little overwhelmed by the huge set of huge tapestries. The quirky, botanically detailed wildflowers that fill the meadow were wonderful to see up-close. You can visit The Met Museum's "Unicorn in Captivity" page to see it and learn more about the love and fertility symbolism in this imagery, and the history behind these beloved tapestries.
EDIT: Giveaway drawing is closed, although the survey will remain open - I'd still love to hear your opinion anytime!
I have some questions for you! If you are a reader, a fan or a customer, or even just a random human passing by, then I'd like to know what you think. I LOVE to get feedback from my people - your opinions are golden to me. Hearing from you helps me to figure out what's working well and what I can do better, how my work is holding up over time, what you're responding to and what's exciting for you! So, I'm doing a survey to learn more about your interests, ideas, and your experiences with Morris & Essex handmade goods. Here is a link to the survey:
As a thank-you for taking the time to share your thoughts (it will take about 3 minutes), everyone who completes the quick survey before November 1
will be entered WAS entered in a drawing to win this beautiful blue gift package. (or, if you don't love blue, you can pick out some different colors!) Every completed survey will be entered WAS entered in the drawing. Be sure to enter your email address at the end of the survey so I can contact you if you are the winner, and also you can sign up for my newsletter to stay up-to-date with new products and designs, giveaways, craft fairs and events, and other Morris & Essex goings-on.
The giveaway package includes one glossy and gorgeous enamel mug, one hand-printed scarf made from eco-friendly bamboo fabric, and one hand-printed canvas zipper pouch.
The survey will remain open through November 1st. Everyone who enters the survey will get one entry to the giveaway. A winner will be chosen by random drawing on Friday, November 2nd and the prize package will be mailed out by Tuesday, November 6th.
It's hard to get time off when you have your own business, and I always feel guilty when I think about stepping away for a minute or a weekend or whatever. But I also believe that one aspect of sustainable business is self-care. Working relentlessly without a break is the road to madness and burn-out, so the next few weeks are set aside for family time, outdoor time in the beautiful fall weather, creative time with a sketchbook and pens, and ok, maybe a little bit of catching up on book-keeping and unfinished projects.
My website is on hiatus, we won’t be shipping any orders until November 1st. But you can still visit and take a look around, http://www.morrisessex.com 🌟
#morrisandessexdesign #selfcare #fallweather #natureinspiration #smallbusiness #handmadeinmaine #madeinmaine #octoberbreak #sustainablebusiness #mainedesign #familybusiness #coloringtherapy #crayola #morrisandessex