Wednesday, 31 August 2011

...and After!

What happened to Tuesday?? One minute it was Monday and we were moving up a storm, then next thing I know it's Wednesday already and those last little bits of cleaning, (you know, the ones where you have little piles everywhere of things you don't have a place for and don't want to think about?) were still scattered through my lovely, sunny dining room/studio.
Crafty Tuesday, a little group of friends who come over, eat cake and drink coffee and create together is what happened to Tuesday. I was so immersed in finishing off the final touches to some of my dresses and taking photos of them ready for my grande shop opening tomorrow (woohoo!) that cleaning didn't make it anywhere near my agenda.
So this morning, baby asleep, I made my way through those piles with great motivation. And look!

 In this yummy corner, where Tim's desk used to be, I have my fabric shelf and ironing board. The shelves we discovered on Monday on my neighbour's junk pile and asked if we could take it! Isn't it great?!

 This sad box is my scrap box, waiting to be sorted. My entire fabric collection used to fit in here. Hmmm.

 These are my bibs and dresses in a nice neat pile, waiting for new homes!

 And ditto for my quilts and drawstring playmats!

 I just love sewing next to the window! I love natural light.

 Look how much room I have! I feel so spoilt! And to top it off, the kids have been sleeping great in their newly shared room. (Although I did just have to go in and see what Eve was fussing about. Tully, trying to cheer her up, had thrown a teddy, a rocket and a hippo in her cot for a sleep-over.)

 And here's Tim, back in his cave (or sauna!), feeling like he's come home.

Don't forget! Tomorrow's the big day! Tickle & Hide: Clothing with Alter Ego is opening on Etsy! There'll be cake and balloons and a big giveaway! If you're actually, physically here in Newcastle, come on round for some fun. Otherwise, check by the blog to share in the celebrations over the ether!

Monday, 29 August 2011


Ahhh.. Spring! For me, it marks the end of a yummy, cozy Winter. I love spending the day in ugg-boots and drinking too much coffee and fitting 15 people in my lounge room for dinner without us all fanning ourselves desperately. I love sitting on the oil heater with a cup of tea held close and being about to bake peanut butter cookies and enjoy the warm rush of hot air as I take them out of the oven. And I love, love being able to sit and hand-quilt in the evening. Sigh. I love this time of year with it's warm, sunny days and cool-enough-to-still-have-flannel-sheets-on nights. I am desperately willing it to go slowly, drinking in every last minute.
Tim, on the other hand, grew up on the Sunshine Coast, Queensland, which, apart from raining on the weekends, otherwise lives up to its optimistic name. Today, as we opened the windows for the first time in months and let the spring cleaning bug take hold, Tim also sighed, but his was in anticipation. "Oh, the humidity!" He exclaimed nostalgically, "It reminds me of home and surfing and Christmas." 'Humidity' has never, ever been a word I have used fondly. I would much rather think of snow when I thought of Christmas.
Anyway, worlds-apart differences aside, today we both rejoiced in the sunshine and let it fill us with enough energy to rearrange our house again. Not a complete overhaul, but definitely a new-chapter type change. We moved 9 month old Eve Lily into Tully's room and gave Tim back his office. That little office-once-bedroom is a lovely sunroom surrounded by windows which becomes an oven in Summer, just perfect for my Sunshine Coast man.
Like Summer, the change is both exciting and daunting.
Tully and Eve sharing a room: daunting.
Tim moving into to office and giving me the studio/dining room all to myself: exciting.
So far, with minimal fuss, both kids are asleep! Let's hope it stays that way till at least 6am.
Here are some photos of us working hard today:

Tully was very quick to discover the possibilities of a cot pulled to pieces!

This included making sure he was able to help out.

 While taking this photo, he said to me, "Mum. You need to stop taking photos now cos I'm trying (he says 'frying'!) to concenfrate."

 Evie spent the morning finding all the hidy-holes.

 And I tidied up the biggest mass of fabric and dresses from the dining room table. But you will have to wait till tomorrow's exciting episode for "...and After" because there are still a few finishing touches to go before the place is camera-worthy. :)

Ooh! And speaking of dresses, Tickle and Hide: Clothing with Alter Ego opens on on Thursday to celebrate the first day of spring! There's going to be a garden fiesta! With flowers and prizes and giveaways, BYO cupcakes, wine and internet connection! Can't wait!

Thursday, 25 August 2011

My undoing.

This week, the most wonderful thing that can happen on a daycare day did happen. I heard a knock at the door, looked through the coloured glass and there, in her fluro yellow coat was Postman Pat! (Yes, Postman Pat is a lady in these parts.) I let out a shriek, opened the door to a smiling lady who must have heard my excitement, and thanked her enthusiastically for what I knew was my first arrival of birthday fabric!
Remember in my last post I was awaiting said fabric to finish this little project? Well after it arrived, I was so excited and too impatient to wait for the fabric to go through the wash before I could cut it up and use it, that in a flash of inspiration, I ended up finding the perfect fabric for the drawstring from my stash. Silly me!
So, to the satisfying swish, swish, swish of the new pretty colours in my washing machine, I sewed up a drawstring and quickly threaded it around the drawstring mat.

I hated it.
Oh! (whingy voice)
I didn't like how it sat awkwardly, how it pulled on my hand-stitching, how it looked like a birthday party hat when turned the other way round. I sat down at the computer, as I always do when I'm disappointed with something I've made. I went looking up blogs I follow to distance myself from it for a while.
I found Jennifer at Ellison Lane Quilts who was writing about her holiday in the mountains. Just looking at the photos made me breathe a little deeper. Then, without much fanfare or fuss, she mentioned she wasn't happy with her blocks for a quilt she was making, so she'd taken out the seam ripper to pull them apart and start again. Just like that.
Isn't it great how reading other people's stories can connect with us so strongly and help us feel ok about our story. I think that's why I'm so motivated to share mine. I hope the things I'm thinking through and learning can encourage you.
Anyway, I realised I thought the drawstring mat was a finished deal. I would have to do it different next time. I'll have to throw this one in the cupboard. I don't even know why I thought that way. It sounds so silly writing it 'out loud'. Having Jennifer so simply remind me of the seam ripper reminded me that creativity is a process and that process involves mistakes, changed minds, pulling apart and starting again.

So, I took to that beautiful hexagon with the seam ripper. And it's still sitting there in pieces on my sewing table. But, I did finish this one and I'm so happy with it!

Thanks Jennifer!

Saturday, 20 August 2011

Dear Mrs Walsh.

Dear Mrs Walsh,
I am just writing to apologise for my lack of attention in Year 10 Maths. You responded to us hiding the dusters, building a bunker out of the chairs and desks, and locking you out when you were late with such humour and grace. And now, I'm afraid, it's all I remember about Year 10 Maths.
The other day I was trying to make a hexagon shaped quilt and I had to get my nerdy, engineering husband to tell me I needed equilateral triangles to achieve this. I also couldn't remember that they all needed to be cut at 60 degrees. (Thankfully my cutting ruler anticipated this and I didn't have to work out how to do it!)

Then, when I worked out I wanted my quilts to be 90cm wide at the widest point, it was with great humility that had to ask Tim how big I needed the triangles, which he proceeded to work out in his notebook. It looked like Russian. Actually, I would have had a chance with Russian because I paid attention at University. (Thank goodness I didn't marry an artist!)
If only we had known that at the ripe young age of 31, I would be needing the trigonometry I learned half a lifetime ago, maybe you could have convinced me to do my homework.

Please feel free to tell your current year 10 students that I now regret thinking Maths was irrelevant.
Your's sincerely,

Ok. Now I have that off my chest, I can show you the (nearly) finished product!
 This is another drawstring play mat, this time made from lots of strips sewn together then cut into many equilateral triangles.

 Cute, funky fabric for baby to play on,

Mature, funky fabric for the outside when it becomes a bag to hold the toys and throw in the car, ready for when you're going to a place (like mine) where you know they don't vacuum nearly enough. I'm just waiting on my very exciting birthday purchase for the fabric for the drawstring.
And then I'm taking them to market! Yes! My friend Anna and I got into the Newcastle Handmade Market. Woo! Come see us near Charlestown Square (google it for more details) on September 10 to say hello and run your hands over my neat piles of colour. I can't wait!

Tuesday, 16 August 2011

Rare Diamonds.

I have a terrible habit of laying out all the fabric I might use for little dresses or quilts, putting all those beautiful colours together, and then reaching for the ones I like least first to cut into. I can't help it. I always balk at taking my scissors to my very favourites. Some are rare and out of print, and others I just can't bare to let go. And some I have used and just have a little bit left and have not yet come across a project deserving enough for its use.

A few weeks ago I was watching an episode of "Collectors" as I stitched happily away. Each week it features strange and interesting people and the many varied things they hoard. This one episode showed the most beautiful collection of old umbrellas. And maybe I'm strange, but beautiful fabric makes me feel something, much like good food or music. Those colours and textures. Different patterns placed next to each other to contrast or complement. And sitting there that night, looking at those umbrellas, I felt that warm, beautiful feeling. I want a collection just like that.
And, you know it's strange, but the moment I thought it, I knew it wasn't actually true. It was one of those moments of clarity where you see a bit further than you have before.

You see, my favourite thing about sewing is stitching two pieces of fabric together, making a new seam and hiding away those frayed edges. This is my art. And suddenly it seemed absurd to hide away my favourite designs, to be forever relegated to the shelf. They should be shown off, displayed for people to enjoy, not just brought out to admire when the kids slept or for show and tell with my fellow fabric collectors.
I decided I would no longer be a collector. And instead I made a promise to myself to be a creator.
And to mark the occasion, I made a quilt of all my favourite fabrics, some of which I'd been hoarding since I started collecting about 5 years ago.  

I used a mix of rare, out of print fabrics which were bright and bold, with some more recent and monochromatic prints, which I thought set them off nicely. 

I wanted to use triangles because I love the way they create movement and play on light and colour. I was so excited as I saw it come together, tucking those frayed edges away, ironing it all flat and neat, watching those pretty colours be what they were made for!

On the back, I used mostly white to show off the prints in a different way and to display the quilting, lovingly hand-stitched over many evenings (watching Collectors and the like!).

 Here it is, finally finished and hanging over a chair in my sewing room. And after all that thought and work and heart, I feel compelled to give it to a special friend of mine. I have to let someone else enjoy its vibrancy and joy.

 "No one lights a lamp and then puts it under a basket. Instead, a lamp is placed on a stand, where it gives light to everyone in the house." - Jesus of Nazareth.

Sunday, 14 August 2011

I'm not a bother.

I wasn't raised to be an artist. I was raised to be kind and responsible and helpful and to love God. And to not be a bother. My mum was raised the same. Probably my dad also. I remember someone playing the guitar at Grandma's house one time and hearing her call out from the kitchen, "WHAT is that noise?"
You don't express yourself. You don't disagree. You don't ask too much, (and you always preface a request with, "no pressure" or "feel free to say no") and you don't put yourself out there or say what you want, you wait to be asked. And I did. I was asked to run youth groups and kids clubs and be a secretary and babysitter and teacher. I've become a professional volunteer. And there's nothing wrong with volunteering. It's just when you want to start creating and selling, it feels wrong to ask people for money. And there are many voices around willing to tell you how much your stuff is worth. One person told me I should sell my quilts for $50. My brother in law (God bless him) thought $800 to be more appropriate.
How do you put a value on something you've made? Do you say to yourself, "Oh, it's just a hobby," and just try to recover your costs? Do you charge by the hour? Those hours stitching in front of the TV after the kids have gone to bed or sitting on the couch with Tully under one end of the quilt with a sore toe watching me work on the other? Those hours laying out pretty colours and sewing the 'puzzle' together, as Tully calls it. Do you charge for the times that have become precious memories or important lessons learnt, how you would do it differently next time?
And then there's advertising. How does someone trained not to bother anyone market themselves successfully? It's a challenge enough for me to link this to my Facebook page each time I write. I thought I could have fun giveaways and competitions and heard little voices in my head saying, "Oh isn't that cute! Jodi's trying to run a business!"
This morning I was a reading a blog I follow by Jennifer who has started to feature her followers, their blogs and their creations. She said that people interested in being featured should email her. After a few minutes of caution, I clicked on her email link. I told her I thought it was a great idea, a great way of finding other blogs, meeting new people, getting ideas...then came the moment to ask if I could have a turn. I stalled. I didn't know what to say. How to phrase it in a way that didn't look like I was after attention. Wait a minute. I was after attention. Was that such a bad thing? After all, if her new little feature was going to be successful, wouldn't this lady want people to email her, asking about it? And if I want more people to see my stuff, don't I need to seek out opportunities like this?
Tully's latest phrase at the moment is, "I'm not Super Tully, I'm just pretending to be Super Tully." I like it. I'm just putting on this cape for a little while. I'm still me so go easy. But I'm just going to have a bit of fun pretending I'm limitless. And maybe, the more he (and I) pretends, the more he'll discover things he can be in real life. And the more he'll find he's allowed to be Super Tully. That we won't just roll our eyes. And he's not a bother.

Wednesday, 10 August 2011

Pretty Diamonds.

Ahhh. Kids in bed. Dinner cooked for a friend. Quilt finished. It's been a good day.
And while I didn't take photos of weary, grumpy children or lentil soup, I did get some pictures of my new quilt, which was, I have to say, the most photogenic of the three!
So sit back and let me show you...
Pretty Diamonds.
 A few months ago, a lovely, crafty friend of mine gave me a Kaffe Fassett quilt book because she had two. I got to work on this one straight away. And although I love the effect, it will be a long time before I make a quilt from 3" squares again! It's such a soft, light quilt! Filled with bamboo batting, it's completely breathable.

 Can you see the line of blue diamonds in the picture above? I used blue and yellow diamonds horizontally and light and dark pink in alternate vertical rows. I think it's really subtle and pretty. Don't you?

Then I hand-quilted around half the squares, following the little designs in the fabric.

This quilt will be for sale in Tickle & Hide on in just a few short weeks (fingers crossed!) when I launch my new online store!