Thursday, 27 December 2012

A New Resolve

There's nothing like a packing disaster to bring out the creative juices at Christmas! As designated Table Decorator, it was with great disappointment that I realised once I left the shop Saturday afternoon that I had forgotten to bring home my Christmas fabric which would be turned into napkins and bunting. So during our little unplanned stop over in Glen Innes, I went a-fabric-hunting, hoping for some inspiration for sewing machine-free decorations.

I ended up picking 6 colourful prints and getting 30cm (1/3yd) cuts of each. Then, while in the car, I cut roughly 1.5" wide strips, cut them again about 5" long, folded them in half length-ways and tied them together. I hadn't yet planned what I would use it for, and in the end it became a wreath around the candle in the centre of the table.

Then I cut roughly 5" strips from each of the colours, and then cut those into triangles.  I then employed Tim's brother Jesse to help me hand sew two triangles to each side of a ribbon to make this bunting.

I then started to sew fabric flowers together from strips like the one peaking out of the bunch below. Jesse, thinking he was copying me, grabbed the left over triangles and started sewing them into a posy. Thinking he was failing, he quickly whipped up over a dozen flowers in the time I made four! And don't they look great?

This experience of making something with little, of things not going to plan, but still working out beautifully, has confirmed an idea I've had in mind for sometime and finally decided to put it into action for next year.

The picture below is an example of my scrap stash. I have 5 other pillow cases-full like this one. It's inaccessible and uninspiring (though I have to say, I do like the photo!).

I don't know about you but I buy fabric when there's a sale, when there's something new, when I see something I could make, when I'm hormonal, when I'm angry at Tim, when I feel like treating myself, when I run out of a particular print, when I have a custom order... and the list goes on. I love it, and there are some amazing stores out there. But lately I've started to feel like I'm becoming more of a manufacturer than an artist, especially since opening my little shop.

A few months ago, I had the idea of having a 'new fabric fast'. I loved the idea of challenging myself to get through my scraps and use my stash, but I just let it sit for a while so I didn't jump in then regret it. When I was given the shop in town, I was glad I hadn't jumped in yet, but the idea has still been calling. You see, I'm longing for creative expression again. I'm longing to stretch myself. Added to this, I feel like my approach to fabric shopping hasn't actually fit in with my ideals of simplicity and kindness to the earth and others. And I'd like to use a period of time to think those through in light of my vocation.
So... (can I actually say it? Argh! It will make it so official! Do I really want this? Yes. Ok.) I'm officially announcing 2013 as the year of the {new} Fabric Fast! I'm not going to buy any new fabric for a whole year!
So what can I buy? I'm going to allow myself to buy wadding/batting, thread, thrifted (second hand) fabrics/clothes, and other notions. 

I'm hoping to think through things like cotton and the environment, sustainability and creativity, getting through my works-in-progress, and more personal things like what drives me to make, what it means to express who I am, and where I want to take it from here.
I'm still planning to make clothes, but with a more scrappy, colourful bent. And perhaps with more linen and denim? And I really want to give time to more quilts. I especially think my little space in this old high-end department store lends itself more unique, more colourful and more time-intensive projects.

So what do think? Feel free to join me! You could join in for as little or long as you like. And what do you think I should get before I start?? What would you buy if you knew you were going without new fabric for a year? Lots of little bits or a whole stack of white? And what are your tips for organising your scraps so that you're inspired to use them? Especially funny-shaped scraps leftover from clothes. Would you cut it all into patchwork-able pieces? or just sort them into colour and cut as you need? Ooh! I can't wait to start!

Happy New Year!
Jodi. xx

Tuesday, 25 December 2012

Christmas Adventures

 It was only last Christmas that I was reflecting that the Nativity story was one of things not going to plan (or at least, not our plan). An unexpected pregnancy, unexpected travel plans, unexpected accommodation. It gave me hope amidst Tim's unemployment.
I'm writing this post from Glen Innes, a lovely little town in northern country NSW. We 'should' be setting the table at Tim's parents' place, another 6 hours drive north, or drinking cider or making decorations. Instead, we had an unexpected stop over after two flat tyres, the second on a Sunday afternoon after everything was closed.

Miraculously, our spare tyre blew out in the middle of no-where where we happened to have full phone reception.
Miraculously, we had been forced to updated our roadside assistance membership last time Tim travelled and had car troubles. (Miraculously, I had decided to stay home from that trip, our yearly trek to Dubbo to see friends and family, and my folks had agreed to come up and watch the kids while I was in the shop. So we weren't all stuck on the side of the road for hours. Poor Tim though!)

Miraculously, our roadside assistance offered to pay our accommodation for the night, even though they usually don't for our level of membership or for flat tyres.
And last night, I had the best night sleep I've had in weeks.

Tully and Evie thought it was the best Christmas ever, to ride in a big truck and stay in a motel with a TV in their room!
 Before our little adventure in Glen Innes, I was thinking and journalling about my Christmas blog post. Tully lately has been trying so hard to figure out what's real, what exists. He's so sure the Octonauts (an animated TV show about animal marine biologists) really do live under sea, and that one day he will too. But he's not so convinced about snakes. Or dragons. Or The Wiggles. And I've been slow tell him what's 'real' and what's not. Afterall, what four year old doesn't want to believe there are dragons to fight, or ride, or a place waiting for him in a submarine? And while I can tell him about the things I know are real, I'm also so aware that there could be a whole world of unseen things I know only vaguely about. After all, it's been said that at the first Christmas, a bunch of of terrified shepherds witnessed a whole choir of carolling angels.

A few Christmases ago, I wrote a song about a retelling of the Christmas story, hidden at the very end of the Bible. I love it because it reminds me of something Tolkien may have written. Complete with dragons, a mother decorated with the moon and stars, and a great rescue.

Here's my version of it:

Hey woman, clothed in the sun
How do you feel now the battle's begun
The Dragon is angry, flung stars from the sky
Now waits to devour your babe as you cry

Sleep now, Sun Woman,
Sleep now.
Rest now Sun Woman
The desert awaits you
Woman clothed in the Sun

Hey woman, moon at your feet
fly away now out of his reach
the river rises to take you away
mouth open wide, earth swallows its prey

Sleep now, Sun Woman,
Sleep now.
Rest now Sun Woman
The desert awaits you
Woman clothed in the Sun

Hey woman, stars in your hair
What will you do with the child in your care
let him be taken to his throne in the sky
where his blood will hurl the dragon from light

Sleep now, Sun Woman,
Sleep now.
Rest now Sun Woman
The desert awaits you
Woman clothed in the Sun

Wishing you a Christmas, not free from adventures, but safe from dragons and full of miracles,
Jodi. xxx

Edited Christmas Day: We made it last night! Just in time for family festivities!

Sunday, 2 December 2012

Shop Talk

Well, I've been in my shop for two weeks now! It seems so unreal that I still have 8 to go. I'm really enjoying the experience of a short term lease that is still much, much longer than a market morning. I have busy days and slow days, and both are a gift because they balance each other out. I love not needing it to be busy all the time to make it worth it. I love not packing up at the end of each day and coming in the next morning and it's all set up still. I thought I'd use this time to reflect on some more things about my first two weeks.

The Customers:
I'm really enjoying the local, in-person element to selling my wares. It's really different to selling online. I watch people walk in, enjoy the colours and the set up, look through the clothes racks, ask questions, give compliments and then decide to purchase. I meet their little girl or hear about their grandchildren. I've sent my clothes all over the world before, but hearing about my clothes being bought for family in London, America and Russia because they were made locally is a different thing altogether. People here want this to succeed because I'm part of them here in Newcastle. I really enjoy belonging to the online crafty community, and now I'm enjoying being part of something local and personal. And considering I'm so terrible at replying emails, it's also nice having the whole conversation there in person!

The Sales:
For the shop I've finally branched out and made something other than pinafores! I've made adult wrap skirts, girls' wrap dresses, scarves, quilts, and my friends from Corduroy Corner have made hats, little bags, fishing games, and lots of things for boys. I think it's a really great mix. So it's surprised me that my little pinnies have by far been the most popular product. I hadn't sold any online for a long time before opening up shop and I'd started to wonder if I'd overdone it! But people have loved them in a whole range of prints. Another interesting factor is that people keep commenting on how reasonably priced everything is. In fact, to keep up with demand, I'm wondering if I need to put prices up! I'm so used to people really underselling themselves on Facebook, Etsy and craft markets. But now I'm in the old David Jones (a high end department store) building, patronised by mostly local older people who used to shop there, and tourists who come in on the cruise ships. It's been really encouraging to see that I can sell my clothes at a price I'm happy with.
I've also sold four drawstring quilts in 6 days! It's been great to see that even more expensive items are selling in person.

Tully dressing up for Opening Night!

The Role Reversal:
This, by far, has been the hardest part of the whole adventure. Tim and I have had to negotiate roles and adjust routines since we've been married. We've been students, parents and students, parents and unemployed and now both working and volunteering in ever-changing roles. And it's never been something we've found easy. And sometimes I wonder if we'll ever get better at it! It can be heartbreaking when you're already tired, to discover what you were expecting but hadn't communicated, and what they were expecting but hadn't communicated, are really different things! It's hard when you're both tired and busy to make sacrifices for the other. It has made me glad that as a rule, we've made choices not to make life too full (neither of us work full time), so that we have space for opportunities like this, and so that the busy times are just seasons, not not the new normal.  

The Volunteers:
This has been the part that has blown me away the most. I've had volunteer painters, ironers, sewers, balloon sculptors, baby sitters, techy people, window dressers and shoppers. I've had friends bring me coffee, lunch, flowers and extra clothes racks. I've had a friend put button holes in skirts for me with her 2 week old baby wrapped to her chest! And what's more, everyone has offered. I've seen, and been part of, volunteers enlisted for important social or environmental causes, but my little business? The way in which my friends and family have owned this with me has been the most beautiful expression of community and generousity.

My wonderful, generous, creative designer friend, Anneliese.
 Well! I think that's all for now. I have made some new things which I would love to show you, but they will have to wait till I have a moment, and the weather, for photos. For now, know that I am beyond touched that you're sharing in this adventure with me!

Jodi. xx

Wednesday, 21 November 2012

Ready for Business!

Well, it's been a while since I've blogged, but I really wanted to share these photos on here because some of my bloggy friends aren't on Facebook and wouldn't have seen my 'in process' photos. I've got myself a shop! And I'm so nearly ready to open tomorrow at 10am.

My friend Anneliese and I have worked non stop since we found out we got the space a couple of weeks ago, and I am beyond excited at how it's turned out!

My shelves are just that little bit empty, waiting for me to finish a couple more quilts. I'm so glad this is a 10 week stint and not a weekend. It can be an evolving space, depending on time and fancy to make new things. And no, not all the kids in the above photo are mine. We just quickly became the local crèche because of all the awesome toys loaned to us for the summer.

There you go! It's official! And I have the sign to prove it!

Thursday, 25 October 2012

An Exciting Opportunity.

I received an email on Monday. The contents of which have led to a buzzing insomnia, a flurry of messages and an endless pinning of ideas on Pinterest. I was going to tell you the other day but I didn't know where to start so I asked you how to make a quilt that had been in my head a while now. And now I've been sitting here for 20 minutes, dumb with excitement, tapping my fingers on the keyboard, hoping they will do the thinking for me!

 The email was from Renew Newcastle, a local organisation that was established to find short term leases for artists and creatives in disused buildings in the CBD. And I've been approached to submit a proposal for a shop space in the old David Jones (department store) building on the main street of Newcastle over the summer!

 At first I was terrified. And giddy. Setting up shop has been a long dream of mine. But I always assumed it would happen when the kids got older and we moved to some country town on a highway somewhere so I could sell things to tourists with cheap rent.
So I chatted to my designer friend Anneliese, who has been doing my illustration and design work for me since I started up. Would she like to draw on walls? Could we set up a space with a cool, illustrated Super Hero/Alter Ego theme? She was beyond excited.
Then I chatted to some other making friends of mine. Could I sell their reversible clothes in the space too? The answer was, 'Of course!'
And I chatted to Tim.

You see, what is so unique and amazing about this opportunity is that it's 3 days a week, just for the summer (over Christmas here). It's a tiny $35/week, electricity and insurance included! And Tim works as a casual academic, which means his busy, family unfriendly, lecturing schedule is about to finish (next week! Woo!) and he has research assistant work lined up for the summer, in which he sets his own hours, and can work from home!
And he was excited too. Oh man, he's amazing!

So I'm brimming with ideas, simple and white, with a touch of timber from my workspace and coat hangers, and maybe a cot to display my quilts. I'd love to take this work space in. (Just the benches and cupboards below, to sew and serve from.) A couple of white bookshelves for fabric so that people can choose custom orders in the shop. I can see clothing rails sticking out from the walls (rather than running along the wall) with Anneliese's amazing illustrations behind it. And a big drawstring quilt on the floor by the window, with timber puzzles and toys to play with. And then an explosion of colourful fabric, in the form of dresses and shorts and quilts.

Thankfully, with all my sewing for markets, I have enough stock already. So I'll have plenty of time for the fun bits like design and shopping, making tags, etc.
Oh my! I so hope I get in! Applications close in 4 days, then the spaces will be open on the 5th November to begin set-up. And then they'll be open from the 22nd!
Cross your fingers for me! I'll keep you posted!
Jodi. xx

Tuesday, 23 October 2012

I have a quilt in my head...

...and this is a shady, not-to-scale representation of it. It's been in my head a while now. To make for my very own bed. Yes, that's right. It's a quilter's search, don't you think? To find a style, a fabric line, a design they could live with long term. (Perhaps not too much unlike looking for a partner?)

I think it was first seeing Anna Maria's Feather Bed Quilt (the pattern of which you can download here) that inspired me. I loved the way her Field Study looked all scrappy cut up like that in little strips. But I wanted less white, more colour and movement.
But I can't figure out the best way to put it together. How would you do it? I thought I could (a) paper piece or quilt-as-you-go big square blocks made of half square triangles. Or (b) sew stips together like I have here...

...but instead of having the lines go along the zigzag, I line them up straight. Then I could cut parallelograms of white to sew below?

Or I could make square blocks of stripey colour and cut them on the diagonal much like option (a). Or perhaps there are ways I haven't considered? Can you help? I'm not really choosing yet between ease and effect. If long term is on the cards, I'll probably lean towards super amazing finish, but then, I actually need to make it...

Wednesday, 17 October 2012

In the Making: Following Patterns

Do you follow patterns? Or are you more of a 'make it up as you go' kinda gal (or guy)? I think I sit on the fence between the two. There are times when it's most liberating and fun just to wing it, but I have to say, I'm learning that if I want to sew to relax, without the constant wondering how it's going to look when it's all done, I love following a pattern.

I'm on the home-stretch with these handstitched jewels for my Modern Medallion quilt. I once read, about reading to children, that if you take a book slowly, in little chapters, they soak it in more, re-create it in their imaginations, and start to live and breathe the characters. That's what this quilt has been for me. I've purposefully not pushed myself with this one, so that I could keep enjoying the process, stitching it during our Monday night gathering with friends, the occasional film, on Thursday nights when I go sewing with the girls. I've soaked it in, enjoying the process without the planning (though I know that part is fun too!). I've felt completely safe and rested in Rachel's thought and creativity she'd added to each consecutive border.

I've also started this quilt with Laura Gunn's fabrics from her Cosmos and Garden Wall lines. You can download it free here. It's a slightly different pattern following process for me, because I'm not even choosing colours or prints. But the wide strips, appliqued to each other have made it quick! And I have in mind someone who would love it for Christmas, and who doesn't love a quilt which gets crossed off the handmade Christmas list early?

In contrast, here's my laptop case I made for Tim this week, from my precious Heather Ross guitars. Heavy weight linen, cotton wadding and flannel make it a pretty cosy and safe hidey-hole for our laptop. And though there are lots of great tutorials out there, I wasn't really in the mood for looking back at the computer all the time (especially when I was using it for measurements!). And how hard can a rectangular sleeve with flap be? Well, you'll notice there's no flap. It got cut off half way through, because I'd sewn too far when I realised it wasn't going to just flip inside out for me. So I thought I'd just add it after. Then, I made it a little too cosy. Our laptop had an extra large battery sticking out the back, so while this would be perfect for a normal 14" laptop, ours needs to lose a little weight.

So while it's all part of the learning, I did think next time, when I was cutting into my expensive linen, I might slow down and read some instructions. Or write down the process myself from my head, thinking through how it would work well. Meanwhile, I've been thinking about getting a new laptop for myself. Maybe I'll limit my purchase to a 14" with a small bottom?