Thursday, 12 December 2013

Fabric Fast 2013 - Any Questions?

Only NINETEEN days left of my year long {new} fabric fast! Am I counting down? Absolutely!

I saw recently that my friends from The Elven Garden and Making Rebecca Lynne are both embarking on their own fast next year and invited other people to join them. If you're considering fasting from buying fabric next year, I recommend joining them! I thought I'd write this post about tips and things I learned for those who are interested. Then, if you have any other questions, feel free to ask them below. I'll write another post in a few days with other answers if needed.

I started the year with a shop in the main street of Newcastle, selling my clothes and quilts. A family tragedy had us bring my shop home to rest. I went from 3 days a week, my sewing machine in my shop, pumping out pinafores to keep up with demand, to making what I felt like, (which was mostly quilts) as I had time with little kids in tow. I have no idea what my fabric stash would have looked like if I'd stayed in my shop, but considering how much I still have left, I imagine I would have been fine. I just would have had to tweak my making habits a little.

The first thing I did was sort my six pillowcases of scraps, mostly leftovers from my clothes making. I used a cube bookshelf my neighbours were throwing away, and 10 buckets that I got from Bunnings for about $3 each.
Then I set about making all the specific projects I bought fabric for! It was so rewarding getting those done! And the time I wasn't spending online or planning new projects seemed to free up a whole lot more time for ticking boxes. About half way into the year, I found the list was no longer interesting me, and I scrapped it to enjoy more designing and improvisation.

So what did I learn? What would I do differently? What am I thankful for?

Scraps go a long way.
The quilt above was made entirely from my bucket of 'Too hard to sort' scraps. Scraps that were hard to use because of their big prints and many colours. It used about a quarter of that bucket. The quilt below was just from my light scraps. That bucket is still busting at the seams.
Yardage however does not. While my fabric shelves don't look like I've made anything this year, I've run out of significant yardage in order to make pinafores. If I'd still been set on making pinnies this year, I would have had to make scrappy ones.

I choose blue.
Or more accurately, aqua. Of all the colours I'm really struggling to make do, it's my unisex, basic, small print aqua. I use it all.the.time. Before I started my fast, I asked people what they thought I should buy. Everyone said white, grey, low volume. I wish I'd bought up on blue the same way I bought up on white. For some reason I've noticed that the blue based prints I bought had a lot of colourful, floral prints, making them beautiful for dresses, and not so helpful for quilts or binding. If you are considering a fabric fast next year, I'd recommend thinking about what your 'white' is. I rarely use white. I use blue.

Give yourself an out
When I was off on sick leave in March, my shop remained open (thanks to a very generous group of volunteer friends) for a month, with my stash there in town. I let myself buy a couple of jelly rolls to play with at home. I liked that the fabric choices were made for me, and the cutting done. I could just sit and sew. When I started my fast in my shop, I knew I might need a mid year restock. I didn't end up using it, but I did find that mid-year slump the hardest! Thankfully my birthday falls around then and my mum gave me a shopping voucher.
Sometimes an out isn't helpful, if you're not really motivated anyway, but sometimes it's just the thing to help you be brave enough to dive in. 

I think one of the most significant things I've learnt is that a lot of my ideas aren't necessarily to my taste. They're influenced by things I've seen in blogs and books. I'd start with an idea and a colour palette, but then as I was making, I didn't really like it. As I've moved into quilting from clothes making, it's taken about a year to discover that I love rich, clashy, bright. Actually, I always have, I came to quilting through Anna Maria Horner's work. But this year I felt the need to break away from her style to create my own. I thought that meant making things that were more subdued, more primary colours. After a year of trial and error, letting myself make things I don't love, I feel like I'm getting to know again what I do, and what makes me love to make. And I didn't need to spend any more on fabric to figure it out!

And the biggest stash-buster is...
You probably guessed it - backing and binding. The one thing I didn't think about much (because I was thinking about having enough for pinnies, and assumed I would just used scraps for quilts), was backing and binding. If I ever embark on this again, (I'm thinking every 7 years, like the Jews do Jubilee?) I'll be investing in some stripes, dots, basics in different colours for binding, and some great simple, big prints with lots of white for backing. That's my taste anyway. And that's only what I've discovered from having so little of it this year!

It doesn't have to be a year.
I had one friend ask what I recommend for being ready for Christmas next year. It was so forward thinking! And the reality is for me, I'm making less than I might usually (but trying to buy handmade). Scraps do take a lot more work, and wouldn't necessarily be loved by my 5 yr old nephew. I'm struggling with the right quilt back for one quilt, because it's not my style, it's my recipients. But as I started noticing all the sales turn up in my Facebook newsfeed after American Thanksgiving, I wondered if it would be much more doable for some, if you just went to Thanksgiving, or allowed yourself that 'out' - a little shopping spree just for gifts. 
And on another note, the big sales here in Australia are always after Christmas and into January. So last year I held off my last big shop till then, only to notice my favourite US quilt shops were awfully quiet! It was probably a good thing - I was much more sensible that I might have been if influenced by sale frenzy!

I have blogged over the year about much more I've learned, from more of a 'spiritual' nature, about living simply. It has been a deep experience for me, not just a practical one. If you search "Fabric Fast" in my search bar, those posts will come up. 

Anything Else?
Any other questions? I've found this whole experience to be less scary and risky than I imagined. I found it most difficult when I'd had a long day and just felt like sitting at my laptop with a cuppa and browsing through fabric. I have run out of things I loved, and I missed getting Hand Drawn Garden when it first came out. But I am terribly, terribly proud of myself. And I think now (remind me ok?!) I will be much better at buying what I need, and not for that ever growing 'to do one day' list!
Thank you so much to the dear friends I've gotten to know through here, that have shared the journey with me and cheared me on. 
Jodi. xx

Monday, 9 December 2013

Pocket Pillow Tutorial!

I got the idea for a pocket pillow a while ago, before Tully started pre-school. I thought it would make a great 'rest time' pack to take to kindy or daycare, with room to store a little sheet and teddy. Of course, The end of the school year has arrived for us, and I'm only just making what I had in mind for him! I just needed the perfect motivation like Ms Midge's Cushion for Christmas Blog Hop to get me into gear!

For my patchwork top, I cut 2.5" squares from some 5" squares I had leftover from a quilt. I wanted to make a 16" cushion cover. For this size you'll need 64 little squares sewn together in blocks as shown above. 3 rows of eight for the top, and 5 rows of eight for the bottom half. You can adjust the size depending on your insert.

Then create a quilt sandwich for each block. I did this by spray basting the top to some scrap wadding, then spray basting the back (I just used a solid yellow that I was given by a friend.)
Quilt the sandwiches (I just used straight lines) and trim them both to the size of the patchwork. 

Next, lay the bottom piece over some cotton that will become lining of the pocket and trim it about an inch around the quilted block. This step is just to get the right size (I'm afraid I'm appalling at pre-planning and measurements!)
You now need to sew that lining to the bottom of the top piece, right sides together.

Fold the lining down flat, away from the quilted block, and top-stitch.

Next, make some binding to bind the top of the pocket.
Cut a 2.25" strip x 18". Press the strip in half lengthways.
Sew the binding to the top of the bottom block, rough edge up.

Fold the folded edge over to the back of the block. Sew in the ditch, on the front of the block. Sewing this way keeps the front tidy, but should still affix the binding to the back.

Next prepare the back of the cushion.
(I had on hand a long strip of scrap fabric leftover from a quilt back. so I just made it by sight)
You'll need two pieces for the back, both around 18" x 16". They should overlap around 5".
Turn over the edges that sit in the middle of the pillow twice and top stitch.

Lay the bottom block over the lining of the pillow and line up to sit right up against the patchworked top piece.
Trim the lining to the size of the bottom block.Pin the two pieces together.
Now lay the cushion back facing down with the overlap, lay the cushion front over the back, facing up, and trim it to size also.

Pin the two sides together and stitch around the edge to hold it for the binding stage.
Make around 70" of binding with the above method. Starting in the middle of on side, and around 5" in from the edge of the binding, sew around the outside of the cushion, 1/4" from the edge.

When you come to a corner, stop sewing 1/4" from the end of the cushion.
Fold the binding up so that it's in line with the next edge.
Fold it down to create a square top, and so the binding is now in line with the next edge. Sew down that edge and repeat till you get near the begining of your stitching. Leave another few inches and mark the meeting place by folding the two binding edges away from each other and press.

Open out the binding and sew along the crease.
Complete the stitching down the last edge.
Fold the binding over to the back and sew on the front, in the ditch, as above. (Or you can use your prefered binding method.)

Miter the corners on the back before you near the edge and go around the corners. You can see my stitching is wiggly, moving away from the corner, even with a walking foot. Any tips for perfect binding corners?

Now you've completed you pocket pillow! The perfect Christmas gift for a little one starting pre-school or kindy this year. Or you can use it for travelling, to store a book and a snack. And of course, my 5 yr old has already discovered stretching the pocket over his head! :)

This is one of the stop overs for Ms Midge's Cushion for Christmas Blog Hop! Be sure to check out the other blogs for great tutorials you can whip up in an afternoon. There's also a linky party and prizes to be won!

Sunday 1st December - Ms Midge
Monday 2nd December - Gemma at Pretty Bobbins
Tuesday 3rd December - Kristy at Quiet Play
& Ms Midge
Wednesday 4th December - Joshua at Molli Sparkles
Thursday 5th December -Rachel at Little White Dove 
Friday 6th December - Fiona at Finding Fifth
Saturday 7th December - Abby at Things For Boys
Sunday 8th December - Lauren at Molly & Mama Makes
Monday 9th December - Jodi at Tickle & Hide
Tuesday 10th December - Adrianne at On The Windy Side 
& Ms Midge
Wednesday 11th December - Alyce at Blossom Heart Quilts
Thursday 12th December - Gina at Party of Eight
Friday 13th December - Jane at Quilt Jane
Saturday 14th December - Round up of Blog Hop and link up YOUR projects!
Wednesday 18th December - Winners Announced! 

Ms Midge

Thursday, 28 November 2013

Choose your own adventure.

So, you have big pile of 4 1/2" squares left over from a long distant project and you realise these would be great utilised for a Christmas gift. Afterall, the colour choosing and cutting is already done for you!

Do you:
a) make a simple square patchwork which you could probably knock over in an afternoon, quickly crossing off one gift from your Christmas making list or...

b) let yourself dream a little too long about that hourglass block you've always wanted to play with and dive into chain piecing (all four sides),...


...pressing, piecing, pressing...


...and sewing, thereby adding an extra seven or so steps to your process and rendering your blocks even smaller than the original squares?

Well, of course I chose B! Though now I am wondering if I'm completely ridiculous. They are very cute blocks, though, don't you think?
What about you? a or b?

Wednesday, 13 November 2013

Catching up.

Time goes fast and slow when you're having a baby. That funny mix of, "Has it really been that long since I blogged/sewed/ate/saw another adult??" and, "How am I only 21 weeks? Wasn't I 20 weeks a month ago?" It feels like I blogged yesterday, and March, my due date, is ten years away.

My friends' 'Fire Quilt'
Blogging and sewing is such a great way of documenting productivity, don't you think? They are two things (maybe especially in a mother's life?) that when you're done, you have something to show for it. And you have people comment on how clever you are. I have had to start having conversations with myself like this:
Me: I didn't make it to the machine or computer again today.
Me: Yes, but you helped the kids tidy their disaster of a room, baked banana bread, and did a bit of homeschooling. You are amazing.

Apart from the last week of sick kids, I have actually been quite productive, and not just in the 'keeping my kids alive and growing a baby' sense. I had my last stint at The Olive Tree Market for this year, and somehow, amazingly finished up these three quilts in the three days leading up to it. Most of my quilt making experiences involve a moment where I say, "Oh. This is going to take heaps longer than I expected." Somehow, with these three, I was finished before I could get close to having that thought.

 (this photo melts my heart every time!)

Then I came home and photographed and listed everything in my Etsy shop. Hoping to clear it all out before baby, folks! There's a big rack of girls clothes right where I want the cradle to go.

And I had my 20 week scan, which was the most perfect scan experience one could hope for (apart from some cheeky crossed legs!). The sonographer kept finding clearer views of everything so I could have another look. She was so kind and thorough. These are my favourites.

In the end, she tried yet another look at the 'bits', got a quick peak and said, "Ooh, I think...yeah I'd go '____'. She seemed about 70% sure, so we're keeping it a secret. (Tim didn't want anyone to know anyway, but I was going to talk him around!) I didn't realise I'd set my heart on one or the other till I heard her say those words. And my first reaction was disappointment, then surprise at my reaction, then guilt. I had one of each! What did I have to be disappointed about?! Thank goodness for good friends who help me be gentle with myself, who talked about their own experiences. Truth be told, I think I would have felt that sinking feeling no matter what news I received. We're planning this to be our last, so there's that, "Oh! No more little girls/boys..." sadness. And both my kids were wonderful and challenging in their own way. And so many of my memories are wrapped up in their gender. So there was the "Oh, I don't want another difficult sleeper/big feeder/insert other common baby challenge here!" But I am making a whole new person. And once I let myself think it all through, I became very excited. Can anyone else relate?

 And now... Do I make pink/blue/neutral? Or do I wait? What would you do? xx

Monday, 14 October 2013

Fabric Fast - The Home Stretch.

I did a little fabric swap with a friend of mine recently. She needed 4 yds of my solid bone fabric, and offered in return, a little fabric shopping online where she was putting in an order. Fabric shopping you say? I didn't look twice at my solid cotton in bone.

I have let myself look online a few times this year. I've even let myself put some things in a cart. And then I've closed my laptop. There's been times where all I felt like was some online shopping therapy, some seeing what's out there. And I'm glad to say I haven't folded. It's always actually renewed my resolved to keep my year long fast.

I opened up the fabric store site and started clicking things into my cart. I always use my cart as a wishlist first, and then start to cull. I started with the sale section and was glad to see Shelbourne Falls by Denyse Schmidt and some Sarah Jane and even some Hand Drawn Garden by Anna Maria. Note to self: if you wait, it will always go on special. I went looking for some text prints, some other basics...and soon I had about 20 yards in my cart. Well that was fun! Now to narrow it down to four.

I started with the easy ones. The "I'm only buying this because it's $5/yd" prints. Now I had about 15yds. Starting with the reminder that the end of the year would come around quick enough, I asked myself what I actually really like. I could have asked myself, "What will I use?" which also would have been a helpful way of narrowing it down. A simple dot print is one I usually pass up for something more elaborate, but always end up finishing first. But hey. I was shopping for fabric for the first time in months. What would I like? Here's what I chose:

The blue egg print for a quilt back I have planned and the rest just for fun. The text prints got shelved, along with the dots. There's always next year for those.
And what did I learn? (because there's always a lesson in experiences like this!)

- The whole psychology of sales totally works on me. It takes a bit of convincing to let go of something for $5 that I would never buy for 10.
- Because of this, I don't always take the time to really look at prints to decide if I like them or not. I am influenced by value, popularity, scarcity.
- Designs that I couldn't believe I was missing out on when they first came out this year, have faded in their desirability.
- When I have to choose only one or two prints, rather than get a whole bundle of a line, I become much more critical/aware of what I actually like. 


I've kind of been imagining this massive shopping spree in the new year. To have that delicious feeling again of ordering, waiting, arriving, washing, folding, putting away. The expense justified by all that money I've saved. But this little tiny shopping experience showed me that if I started the year that way, well, I haven't really learned anything from this fast. I just took a break, without actually changing my shopping habits. I did want them to change, for the sake of simplicity, but also to learn what I really loved and used. I will still enjoy that new year shopping spree (only 11 weeks away!!), but hopefully with eyes open to what's really me.

And these other fabric photos? They are my current stash. I was hoping I would get to October and I'd have to pull out some serious creativity to keep making with what's left of my meagre collection. But no. This could keep me going another year. And I'm not saying that out of shame for how much I have, but surprise at how far it goes! Turns out a small bookshelf of yardage and about 200 dresses worth of scraps can make a heck of a lot of quilts.