elsie marley // creativity: lipstick and cowboy boots

I’m so glad you guys enjoyed my last post about creativity. Now we know you and everyone around you is  creative, whether or not you define yourself by your creativity. But how do you access it? How do you turn it on? The absolutely best way to kill all creativity is say, “Be Creative!” Arg! I think I even did that in my last post, sorry. It’s so easy to do, because if you are telling someone else to be creative then you probably aren’t the one doing the actual creative work.

And being creative is work. Like work it is really hard to get started and it totally sucks sometimes. Other times it’s so awesome you can’t even stand it. The part of creative work I want to talk about today is the getting started part. Before you have an idea, before you even try to have an idea about an idea, you have to get up.  You have to literally get your ass up and get to work.

red lipstick on elsie marley

After college I lived in Chicago and decided I wanted to learn ballet. Well I had wanted to for years, but my insecurities held me back. Luckily, I lived close to a small, super fantastic ballet school, Hyde Park School of Dance. I was the lone 20-something in a room full of 14 year olds, but I quickly got addicted and was going to class 2 or 3 hours everyday. The school was run by two sisters who were both kind and strict. All of their students were attentive and hard-working and doing their best. And they were teenagers! The sisters inspired something in these girls (and me). I remember both of them talking about showing up–not actually showing up to class, they’re parents  drove them there–showing up and being ready, mentally, for the work. Each of the sisters had a trick they used. The older sister August would put on bright red lipstick when she needed to be on, even if she didn’t want to be. And the younger sister, Aimee told a story about being nervous for an audition and wearing a white leotard. In a sea of black leotard clad dancers, she felt bold and different and of course got the part.

This was a revelation to me. I didn’t know that grown ups had to do this (I was 20, remember), or that people I considered throughly creative had to do this. And had to do it all the time.

cowboy boots and creativity on elsie marley

Often just starting (sitting in front of your sewing machine, opening your sketchbook, taking out the mixer) will let loose your creativity. But there are times when getting started seems overwhelming and devastatingly difficult. That’s when you need a trick. When I need to get myself up, get serious, get moving, get something, I put my cowboy boots on. As you can see by the boots, I have to do this often.

When I need a little bit more motivation, I use August’s red lipstick trick. My favorite is Red Revival by Maybelline. [Quick disclaimer: I know next to nothing about makeup and all of mine comes from the drugstore. Also, these are affiliate links] And two new favorites are Revlon’s Just Bitten in Gothic and Cover Girl’s Smoochies in #textme. Yes, I’m 36 and I wear lipstick called Smoochies (the i is dotted with a heart, of course). But it works!

lipstick and creativity on elsie marley

There is little motivation for doing creative work when you aren’t getting paid, no one is demanding it of you, and really “Why am I making this painting, cake, shirt, blog, headboard, raised bed garden, [insert creative endeavor here] anyway?” We can get caught up in the why, when really creativity is often about saying, “Screw why!” Stop thinking about why, really just stop thinking. Put on your boots or your lipstick and start.

Do you have to trick yourself to get started Do you have your own trick that works?


creative assignment: egg

April 17th, 2014

creative assignment: egg

So on Monday, I gave out an assignment. I admit it was a little silly, but sometimes silly things can be good. I wasn’t sure if anyone would do it. But you did! And it was awesome:

elsie marley // creative assignment: egg

1. sewn eggs by telforswife 2. doodle egg by tartarouchos 3. graphic egg (+ inspiration pic) by suchwildlove 4. free motion quilting egg by houseonhillroad 5. octagonal egg by feathersflights 6. quilted egg by jessica 

Super cool, right? All so totally different. Mine is completely different too. I follow Ida Frosk on instagram and am always taken with her funny little food scenes. Brock Davis also does fantastic and inspiring things with food. So I though I’d use a real egg. So I took my inspiration photo (by Eva Maria) ….

carnival outfit by eva maria

…hard-boiled some eggs and grabbed some green things out of my fridge:

elsie marley // creative assignment: egg

…and combined them to make My Little Green Egg Man:

elsie marley // creative assignment: egg

What do you think? I thought he was delicious with a little salt.

elsie marley // creative assignment: egg


What did you think about the creative assignment? Want more? Every week might be too much. Every other? Once a month? Should they be super quick 2-days-and-they’re-due or do you need a whole week? I really don’t know what I’m doing here, but I am having fun!



calling all kids on elsie marley

I’m posting as a part of this awesome series hosted by Alida, Calling All Kids. It’s geared toward making unconventional clothes for your little ones who don’t fit the trucks for boys, princesses for girls stereotype.

calling all kids

This is a topic quite dear to my heart because I was never one for princesses, but then I wasn’t really a tomboy either. I was just myself. It took many years of weird-ass outfits to figure out what I wanted to wear. And in the end, my clothes are not girly, but not boy-y either. I JUST WEAR WHAT I LIKE!

calling all kids on elsie marley

And it should be that way for my kids too. I  think it’s really stupid that Target gets to decide what my 4-year-old boy wants to wear. He doesn’t want to wear dark depressing colors with angry things on them. He’s 4! He pretty much wants all cheetah all the time. So I made him a whole cheetah ensemble.

calling all kids on elsie marley

He is a finicky kid, not just when it comes to what is on his clothes, but how they fit is super important to him too. The ubiquitous board shorts that most boys wear drive him nuts! He’s constantly fussing with them and can’t stand how they feel. I mean it’s like wearing your pants in the bathtub–not the most comfortable thing in the world.

calling all kids on elsie marley

I knew he would love these swim trunks because 1. they are cheetah and 2. they are comfortable when you swim! Amazing.

calling all kids on elsie marley

I used the Euro Trunks sewing pattern by Running with Scissors and it was great! I thought it would be all zip zip and done–the pattern is comically small! But swimsuit material is slippy and slidey and arg! It took more concentration than a normal pair of shorts, but I wanted these swim trunks to hold up all summer too. I’m super happy with how they turned out.

I even had enough fabric to eek out a matching rash guard (flashback tee, natch). My kids have never actually worn rash guards before, but it was that or put some perfectly good fabric back on the shelf forever. I mean do you have any projects for a fat quarter’s worth of  blue cheetah spandex?

calling all kids on elsie marley

He is going to own the pool this summer.  I cannot wait.

Check out the whole Calling All Kids series on Aldia Makes. While you are there, enter the ginormous giveaway (at the bottom of this post)!


bunny at the door!

April 15th, 2014

bunny at the door! a tutorial by elsie marley


We don’t have many easter decorations: a few eggs, some bunnies here and there, maybe some flowers, but that’s it really. We needed something easter-y…and fast, because easter is this weekend! I came up with this giant easter bunny peaking in your front door. It’s like Kilroy Was Here got together with Donnie Darko and made an adorable bunny.  You can make one too–in the next 10 minutes even!



  • white poster board
  • crayons or markers
  • tape


1. Sketch out a bunny shape lightly, trying to use the whole sheet of poster board.

bunny at the door! a tutorial by elsie marley

2. Color in the nose, eyes, and the middle of the ears.

bunny at the door! a tutorial by elsie marley

3. Flip it over and color the other side (if you plan to put it in a window)

4. Cut out little paws from the poster board scraps and color them in.

bunny at the door! a tutorial by elsie marley


5. Tape it to the door and your done!

bunny at the door! a tutorial by elsie marley

My daughter said, “Look  Mama, the easter bunny has jazz hands!” Who doesn’t want a dancing bunny at their front door? Now, go on, make one!

creativity and an assignment

April 14th, 2014


I’ve been thinking of writing more about creativity on the blog. I’m not quite sure how to start. Even though (god help me) I have a degree in philosophy, I feel rather silly saying, “And now we will discuss the nature of creativity!” But at the same time, that is what I need–someone telling me what to do, a place to start. There is so much to talk about and creativity is so hard to pin down.

People think creativity is a thing you have or your don’t have, like blue eyes or curly hair. There is even this trend to say you are part of the creative class or that you are “a creative.” Oh barf. I think simply being a human being means you have to be creative: to stay alive, to raise your kids, to like your job, to get dinner on the table every night. But recognizing your creativity, understanding how it works, and accessing it is difficult. It’s like a muscle and muscles get weak when we don’t use them. 

creative assignment: egg

So I might wax poetic (ha!) about creativity in a few posts, but I’d also like to hand out creative assignments, to get your creative muscles working. Think of me as your creative trainer. We’re not going to do the equivalent of some hard-core, sweaty workout. We’re just going to remind ourselves we still have the [creative] muscles. Ok enough of the gym metaphor, it’s making me feeling guilty for not working out.


The assignment is pretty simple: we are going to turn a picture into an egg. Go to your pinterest page and click on your pins (if you don’t have an account you can use mine). You shouldn’t be on a specific board, just the place where all your most recent pins are. Mine is pictured below. Now go to the 12th pin.

creative assignment: egg

It’s not super clear what order the photos are in but it doesn’t matter, just count to 12 however and stop. My 12th pin was this one:

carnival outfit by eva maria

An awesome carnival outfit made by Eva Maria. Now take the photo you got and decorate an egg inspired by it. You can decorate an actual egg or drawn one or sew one or… Whatever! Be creative! Now this is an assignment, so it has to have a due date. Let’s say Thursday (April 17th). Let’s give it a hashtag too:


Post a picture of your egg on Instagram, on the Elsie Marley Facebook page, on your Facebook page, your blog. Whatever. The point of these exercises is to do a little something and then  put it out there.  Got it? Okay, go!