Mafe Maria: Personal stories by autism parent mentor, Maria Stultz

What do you think, abuelita?

As many of you may have noticed, production of playground entries on this site has slowed down considerably since Joaquin was born. While for several months the presence of a newborn was definitely a reason not to create artwork, I can’t blame it all on the poor bollito. Truth is, Joaquin’s birth brought my old passion for sewing back to life, and that is really where most of my creativity has been pouring over the last several months. It’s too bad that abuelita Luz isn’t here to see everything I’ve made. I know she would’ve loved it, and I would’ve loved to see her pride and joy inspecting every single detail on every item.

So as an homage to my teacher and grandmother, I’d like to share with you a few recent things I’ve made that I would have loved to show her.

Nacho and Pepe

Nacho and Pepe by Maria Stultz

This shirt is 100% handmade (by me), but the artwork is based on illustrations included on the free font “Win Pets”, created by Samuel Marcius, © 1998. Because Joaquin already has enough shirts to take him through the rest of this winter and spring, I contacted Mr. Marcius to request permission to sell the shirt. He graciously granted it.

Biggest fish in the pond

Biggest Fish in the Pond by Maria Stultz

The title of this piece is based on Joaquin’s attitude while modeling this shirt for the photo shoot. This one is also completely handmade, and the artwork is based on illustrations included on the free font “Fun Fish”, created by Denise Clendenin, © 1999. Ms. Clendenin was also super nice granting me permission to sell this shirt on my Etsy shop.


Lia by Maria StultzHandprinted fabric for Lia

Lía is 100% my creation. My sister in law, Petie, challenged me to make something cute as a baby shower present for one her friends who’s expecting a little girl. Forgetting that February only has 28 days, I actually had to pull some late nights to finish this one on time. For starters I didn’t have a single piece of baby girl clothing from which to draft a pattern; I had to make my own. I didn’t have any fabric in girlie colors either; had to go out shopping. And then, I couldn’t resist hand printing the yellow jersey fabric to give Petie a floral pattern inside the bird.

Don’t worry, Petie!… I LOVED making it.

What’s next?

After finishing these three, plus other few different pieces that use the reverse appliqué technique I like so much, I’m really itching to do some hand printing again. Last Sunday was my big chance since Joey was taking care of Joaquin and I had planned everything to start working early in the morning, free to do as much mess as I wanted. But oh, sad day, I didn’t have an illustration ready, and after the minor stress from delivering the previous project, my creative muse was not in a very giving mood. I couldn’t come up with anything, and the full day went to waste!

Later in bed, after uploading an overdue batch of photos for Joaquin’s fans, I managed to produce several sketches that gave me some direction for next weekend. I’m thinking of making cloth napkins (thanks Petie!) or coasters, though I prefer napkins (more printing, less sewing), with different designs along the lines of (not necessarily this, or with these colors)…

B&W sketch

I don’t think abuelita Luz would be very into this one. He! he!


  1. On , Petie wrote:

    Sorry about the late nights! I am happy you met the challenge with flying colors. I love your boy stuff, but my life is dominated by girls! :) I do think the girl mommies spend more $$ on clothing, so maybe you could try to put a few more girlie items out on etsy?

  2. On , Maria wrote:

    Yes! That’s exactly what I’ve been thinking lately. I also may add clothing items for women. Have to think that one more, though… With adults, I’d need to provide different sizes, so 100% handmade would be difficult, unless I have all the patterns.

  3. On , Vivienne wrote:

    hola Mafe! Love these. So great to see fun designs for boys that don’t involve numbers, sports, or logos!

    Any quick tutorials for reverse applique out on the Web? I have a slipcover that I want to make for a baby carrier, even though I haven’t used my machine in four years!! :D

  4. On , Maria wrote:

    I know!… Cute stuff for boys is so scarce. As you say: We only have an option between sport themes, numbers, and of course the cheesy “I love my mommy” or “chick magnet” stuff. Ugh!… Thank you for noticing that I’m trying to provide alternatives :)

    The reverse appliqué technique I learned by browsing the Alabama Stitch Book at Barnes & Noble. It’s a beautiful book and I was tempted to buy it, but in the end decided it was enough with having learned the idea. In the book she sews the appliqués with hand stitches, which is what I did in my first projects. But hand stitching takes forever, and then doesn’t feel to me as sturdy as machine stitches for washability and the abuse that clothing will take from our very active boys. So I moved these kinds of projects to the machine. Can’t imagine having stitched the whole fish design by hand.

    I haven’t looked for any tutorials online. But if you’re interested, next time I do a project like this I can document it and put together a post explaining my process. I do have a few pictures of in-process reverse applique pieces I’ve made. Maybe I’ll see if they would work for a tutorial.

    Your project sounds fun. Do you already have any ideas for the design you want to do? I want to see your creation whenever you make it :)

  5. On , Vivienne wrote:

    Well, I just bought a new baby carrier, but it’s pretty plain, so I wanted to do a slipcover for it:

    Calyx with covers

    The maker does have a free pattern, though I think I want to add a hood. I have this fabric and I thought it would be cute to have one of the scooters as an accent on the hood. I only have a fat quarter (a quarter-yard, 18″ x 22″) of the fabric, so I either need to use it solely for the hood, or make the hood out of another fabric. I suppose I could buy some more of the fabric, but I want to just use what I already have at hand! I have some natural-colored cotton duck fabric that I can use as the backing and hood material.

    And that’s where the applique idea comes in. Like this (centered), or this (multiples), or this (off-center). The scooter is fairly small though – 3 .5″ w by 2″ h -, so for this particular project I don’t know that reverse applique makes sense. (But I would love to make some shirts for A or L with that technique, so bring on the tutorial! :D)

  6. On , Vivienne wrote:

    (whoops – looks like I messed up the HTML on that comment, hopefully you will be able to decipher it! Sorry to mess up your blog, Mafe!) :)

  7. On , Maria wrote:

    He he! All fixed!

    I had no clue that you were this crafty! I love it!!!… The three options you showed me look beautiful, and the scooter is so much fun.

    The thing with reverse appliqués is that they really work if the top fabric is jersey, (I prefer interlock), or something that will not fray because you’re cutting the material and leaving it like that. The underlying fabric could be anything. So, for your project I probably would not use the reverse appliqué technique, or you still can if you want the three-dimensional look, but I would zigzag the outlines of the cutout fabric… Not sure if you follow me… Perhaps these two photos may help clarify it: step 1, step 2

    But yeah! Now I’m itching to write a tutorial, just for you…

  8. On , Vivienne wrote:

    The truth is that I am not really that crafty! :D The last machine sewing I did was a slipcover for an ottoman, four years ago! (So I think my pace is about one project per child, so far…) But as with cooking, I am unable to follow a pattern without trying to modify it in some way, thereby complicating my own life. Hee hee. Fortunately this pattern looks pretty simple, mostly straight lines. I can do that, right?!?

    Ah – good to know about the jersey and the fraying. I think that may be my next project! (right after I finish the four beginner knitting projects I have sitting in a bag! – oh yes, I just learned how to knit, but have been too scatterbrained to finish a single thing so far..)

  9. On , Vivienne wrote:

    Whee! I found a pattern with a hood, which I should be able to modify! Now to see if I can actually finish this project before L graduates from college! :D

  10. On , Maria wrote:

    Ohhh.. I love the finished product on that last post you linked to. Her tutorial also looks very thorough, so if I had to bet I would say that you definitely can do it.

    Knitting???… That’s so funny… I love sewing and hate knitting. My mom used to knit, and hates sewing. I assumed they were mutually exclusive… At least with me, mistakes frustrate me way more on a knit piece. If I had four knitting projects to finish before getting to the baby carrier, baby definitely would’ve outgrown it by the time I finished.

    Again: I want to see photos of all the stuff you do. And, YES. This conversation definitely qualifies you as a crafty nerd. Sorry ;)