I’ve been recently catching myself thinking about what our mornings will look like in five years from now as we gather around our breakfast table, the bright morning light creeping in and spilling onto jammies covered in sail boats and race cars. Hopefully Alfie’s wont have to be backwards and chopped of at the bottom by then, yet, a strange part of me will deeply miss this quirk about his desperate need to take off his diaper during naps and bedtime. Call me crazy but I will. Because when that stage fades away so too will his gooey thighs and his need to say “mama” a thousand times a day.
Sometimes my mind drifts to ten years from now, and if I’m really sensitive that particular minute, I’ll linger on to twenty years from now when our babies are off setting tables and making families and breakfasts of their own. I’ll think about the big picture and the shape our family will be molded into when my boys are too big to be carried up the stairs on my hip and when Stella’s friends become cooler than her mom. S i g h. Those big moments hit me just as heavy as do the details as our family builds a life together. I suppose I am both a trees and forest person. On mornings like this, little things like spilled porridge, crinkled linens, heaping (and often times unnecessary) piles of brown sugar, and sharing of spoons get mixed in with the emotions surrounding the brevity of life and overwhelming chaos of it all.
Motherhood is both seeing and feeling the weight of the big and the small all at once because the hours are long and the years are short. And usually, it’s only when I step outside of the current and into the tide pool that I am able to view each and every one of those details, both big and small, as a gift and blessing from above. Let’s face it, it can be hard to see sticky maple syrup fingers as a blessing when you’re having to wipe them off before they grab the dog, but something I am learning as I walk this journey is that the stages that challenge us the most, just might be the ones we miss the most in the end, backwards jammies and all. Maybe not the tears or the test, but the way it made us turn inward and cling to the stuff that fills the marrow of our bones. The stuff that makes us realize that time is anything but stagnant.
These photos of my three eating breakfast last Friday morning make me smile so so big. I am happy to share them alongside Tara’s interview with today’s HAND + MADE series. And truth be told, had an entirely different set of photos to share with her beautiful interview all ready to toss into this post. But Stella set the table for our meal, our cloth linens and all, and seeing them being used as we made our morning breakfast mess seemed so much more appropriate. I truly enjoy filling our home with things that are both beautiful and practical, our organic linens and handcrafted wooden spoon being great examples of this. It’s my great pleasure to share with you a lovely maker and mother of four from Washington, Tara from 112 James Street.
Introducing: 112 James Street + Tara
- Tell us a little about you and your business. Where are you located and when did you start 112 James Street?
The idea of starting 112 James rolled around in my head for several years. Like a pinball tossed to and fro. It wasn’t until I turned 40 and gave birth to my fourth child, that the idea took shape and came into focus. There was so much unnecessary noise and clutter in my life. Chaos was my norm. 112 James was born out of an effort to clear out some of that and live a more intentional life. I didn’t want to wake up in 10 years and realize that my dream had passed me by. That can happen when you are deep in the trenches of child raising. You can forget who you are. So here I was, ready to try, to begin.
I am a mother of four. I want to see beauty in life’s everyday ordinary moments. I want to live an authentic life. I’m passionate about working with my hands, sewing, analog photography, reading, gardening, family meals shared, and being in the great outdoors. With four little kids, I spend so much time in the kitchen, washing and drying dishes, cleaning up, cooking, and repeat. I thought, hey, there can be beauty found in these ordinary everyday acts. It was only natural that this would be my starting point. 112 James was my simple dream of making beautiful organic kitchen linens. The kind of stuff my grandmother grew up with and used daily. Organic linens, good for us and the environment, made to last.
All the items in my shop are centered around this love of cooking and meals shared together. I make cloth napkins, aprons, kitchen towels, table runners and such in my home studio in Bellingham, Washington. We recently relocated our family of six from Tucson, Arizona to Bellingham. Talk about a contrast. My children have only known the desert life of cactus and bone dry washes. It’s been fun watching them explore this new world of water and forests. My husband is a Seattle native, so this is coming home. I grew up in a small town in Mississippi. I adore the South. I learned so much about art, hospitality, and community growing up there.
In the Winter of 2015, I called my dad in Mississippi. He is this incredible artist and maker. I told him to make some of his wood spatulas and salt boxes that I love so much and send them to me ASAP. I was starting a business. His handcrafted wood items would pair perfectly with my organic kitchen linens. And that was it. 112 James was born. Shortly after, I do remember really doubting myself and my idea, thinking this idea seemed kind of crazy. Would anyone take me seriously? But I just kept going, doing what came natural to me because I enjoy it so much.
The name 112 James came from the address of my childhood home, a simple 1950s bungalow. I have so many wonderful childhood memories from this tiny home. It was the place that my dad started experimenting and cooking these gourmet meals. It was the 80s and he was obsessed with The Frugal Gourmet. We were his test kitchen, tasting whatever he decided to cook up. It was simple family meals shared together on our back porch. Many years later, I had the opportunity to buy my childhood home from the owners my parents sold it to. 112 James Street had come full circle. The address is now just a sweet memory. When I got married, I sold the home. I thought it was the perfect name for my organic homewares business.
- How did your passion for crafting by hand come about? Any fun stories to share about the process?
I come from a long line of makers. It is definitely something innate in me to want to make things by hand. My dad is a printer, my mom loves to bake and write. My grandmother, a sewer and painter. My grandfather a floral designer. My great grandmother a painter and leather artist, and on and on. Everyone was some kind of maker. I’m sure if anyone looks back in their own family history, they would find something very similar.
Sewing brings me incredible joy. To see that this blob of fabric that can be turned into something beautiful and useful. That’s so cool to me. I didn’t get serious about sewing until after the birth of my second child. I had a dear friend who wanted to become a better sewer too. We embarked on the learning journey together. Many late nights sewing on my dining room table. The first thing we made was a baby kimono for our new babies. Well, mine ended in a total disaster and could never be worn. But I kept trying, you know, to figure out what went wrong and how to fix it. That’s how I approach these projects. And since then, I have made best friends with my seam ripper. Ha!
My grandmother was a big influence on my life. She died 2 weeks before her 101st birthday. She just embodied hospitality. Her kitchen was always a place of love. She went through the Great Depression as a young woman and had such an appreciation for the simple things in life. A lot of my ideas come from her and the time I spent with her. She was a maker. She sewed her entire life. It was her profession. My first memories of sewing came from her. I made a tooth fairy pillow. She had this big box of scrap fabric and she would just let me go wild making whatever. She wasn’t the best teacher though. As I got older and wanted to learn more about sewing, I would ask her to help me make something and she would just make it. Many years later, I happily inherited her 1950 Singer Centennial sewing machine and funny enough, had to learn to use it without her help.
I love the idea of slow made and handmade. I am sick of the throw away society that we have become, cheap labor and cheap products. Not caring where our “stuff” comes from, that really bothers me. I want to live with more intention and purpose. I want the products I make in my shop and the things I buy to emulate this idea. I want my children to see this way of life lived out. I still have a long way to go…but I care passionately about this. I wish more people cared. It would be so great if our society returned to the ideas of caring how things are made, who makes them, and where they come. Local economies would boom again.
- What three words would you use to describe your products?
- How does working with your hands impact the quality of your work?
I get a tremendous amount of satisfaction every single time I fulfill an order, package it up and send it on it’s way. My hand touches all of it and it makes my heart happy. The materials I choose and where they are sourced is very important to me. I love getting to see the whole picture. To be able to trace every step. This is the beauty of handmade to me. I have a deep appreciation of how things are made and the time it takes to make them. Working with sustainably sourced textiles, like hemp, organic cotton, and organic linen, is a top priority to me. I love curating the fabrics. After that, I get a little obsessed at making sure every stitch is right and the seams are strong. I have linen towels I inherited from my grandmother. I love them so much and I use them daily. This is how I want the things I make to be used and remembered.
When I sit down to sew, I say a little prayer that goes something like “ Tara, Whatever your hand finds to do, Verily, do it with all your might”. It is my hope that these handmade linens would bless the people that use them for many meals and years to come. Whether you are cooking, drying dishes, eating dinner, wrapping a loaf of bread or cheese, or wiping down the counter. May these linens bring some sunshine to your ordinary kitchen moments and may they never go out of style.
- What are three of your favorite handmade items in your home?
It’s hard to narrow it down. But I will try. My pottery coffee mugs. Especially the ones from Zenith Way Pottery and Sauk Mt. Pottery. Two really incredible potters. These mugs bring so much joy to my morning cup of very necessary coffee. A wooden spoon made by my great uncle Lyn Rutledge who I never met. I inherited it from my Grandmother Georgia’s kitchen. We use this spoon all the time. I am sure it’s well over 50 years old. A colorful quilt made by my great grandmother, Margaret Emiline Susana Texana James Rutledge. Yep, that was one person. She was named after all the women who helped her mother give birth to her. The quilt is beautifully hand stitched. It’s made from her old dresses. I often think of what kind of ordinary motherhood moments she did in those dresses. She had nine children. I love this quilt so much and nearly died when my three year old had the stomach flu and almost vomited all over it. She missed it by only a few feet. Needless to say, I have since moved it to a more secure location.
- Why is handmade beautiful to you?
I love that there is a story in everything handmade and that story is able to live on and be retold over and over again. I love that often times the handmade item gets passed on to another generation. I love that handmade tells us to slow down. I love that handmade inspires the maker in us all.
Thank you so much for taking us all into your handmade life and sharing your story Tara. Your linens are a part of our mess and for that I am thankful. They wipe up tiny mouths and make our dining room feel so loved. And to the makers of the world, keep making! You’re doing important work; the details absolutely matter. If you are still looking for more simple Mother’s Day ideas, I think items from her shop would be so lovely to give your mother, or another mother in your life you appreciate. PS. our morning porridge recipe coming soon!
Stef - Lovely! just. lovely. have you tried cooks illustrated steel cut oatmeal recipe? we love.
admin - Stef, I haven’t! What issue is it from? I make a big batch on Mondays and we have it throughout the week. It cuts down on cook time and makes for a hearty breakfast! x Amanda
Stef - what a genius idea, I have never thought to make a bunch for the week! Reminds me of the peas porridge mother goose rhyme 😉 I dug through my gigantic stack of both CI and cook’s country to find the issue and I mis-remembered; it is actually from cooks country, Jan 2016. happy to share- their trick is to start the oats toasting in butter before adding water and boiling! the ratios are 1 T butter to 1 C oats to 4 C water, bring to boil then reduce to simmer for 20 min before adding salt and other add-ins. oh I am thankful for this recipe because it is the only way I have ever liked oatmeal!
Amy - Hello,
I just wanted to thank you for such an inspiring post. I am a maker but I feel that life is too hectic just now for me to sit down and make anything, it has been this way for a long time. It really frustrates me knowing I don’t have time to be myself and do the things I enjoy the most. This conversation has reminded me to prioritise making and to continue to do it even if it’s only ever for me and the people who will love it after me.
Really enjoying your spring playlist
Have a nice day!
Amy (from Glasgow, Scotland)
liz - Great interview full of strong women! <3
Courtney - Hey girl,
Might be a basic question but how do you make your porridge? I never had it when i was a kid and my boys are always eating toast so i want to change it up a bit.