Friday, 28 June 2013

{inside my head}

  • Recently I've taken to making blocks and listening to TED talks. I'm in the mood for little details. Quick finishes. Small scale. The other day I was listening to this talk by Alisa Vitti, who, among other things, talks about how our (female) cycle and the different hormones at work each week affect the way we approach life and what our strengths are. I have noticed, since making more quilts, how at one part of the month I have more ideas than I know what to do with, and I start them all, because I just want to dip my toes in all of them. Then later, the rush of inspiration has vanished and I just feel like pumping fabric through my machine. I actually would have guessed that my rhythms are opposite to Vitti's, but I'm going to keep a journal anyway, just to find out. Could mean I might embrace starting 10 things at once, trusting I'll finish them all by the end of the month. I'll keep experimenting and let you know.
  •  My current block bonanza included this sweet Ohio Star. A dear quilting friend leant me an old book with traditional American quilts in it. Beautiful. It makes me want to a) make more traditional blocks (though it could just be the time of month! ;)) and b) discover more of Australia's quilting history. I love history. I majored in Modern U.S. history at Uni. I could happily dive into American quilt history and swim contentedly. I buy American fabric, I read American blogs (albeit with an Australian accent!), but there's a little spark of interest growing for my own creative heritage. 
  • It rains in Newcastle for about 130% of the winter months. And it's not just constant rain, it's the kind that comes in the early afternoon, after you've rushed to get your washing on the line because the sun's been out all morning. I started a conversation with Tim about getting a dryer, but it's always been one of his environmental stands. He thinks we'll end up getting lazy and using it more than we need to. I understand this view of humanity. I was brought up with it. But since my grief earlier in the year, and my long, hard road trying to go easier on myself, I've discovered I'm not actually a lazy person. I've stopped beating myself into motivation and I haven't spent my days sitting on the back deck drinking cider, or even browsing Facebook. Go figure! 
  • So I'm spending a lot more time than I would choose hanging out and trying to dry our washing. Earlier this week while I was grumbling about this, and trying my hardest to pray and breathe my way into a more contented place, Tully came into me and exclaimed, "Mum, I love you more than all this washing!" There you go. It's not about how efficiently I can get things done (and despite having toddlers, I still struggle with this!), but about having my eyes and ears open to joy and peace in each moment.

  • Well, I was going write more about this next quilt, but maybe that's enough of the inside of my head right now? I'll wait till the sun comes out again and I can show you the whole quilt and give it the single post it deserves. For now, I'll just tell you that I used Maureen's quilt as you go tutorial, and I'm hooked. I have SO much scrap batting. I mean wadding. I can't even remember which word we use, and which one you do. But I don't mind. I like the reasons why.
So what's been on your mind lately?

Monday, 24 June 2013

Practical Processes: Scrappy Squares

I got some really excellent questions about piecing together my Problem Prints quilt, thank you! So often my emphasis is on the emotional process, rather than the practical, because I quilt for expression and therapy. :) And I forget to write how I put it all together.
For this quilt, and the next one I'm working on, I did actually think a lot about piecing it together, so thanks for the prompt to think through the process and write it down!

The two quilts I talk about here, use squares. The Problem Prints Quilt is made up of 2.5" squares, all from my multicoloured stash. The next quilt will be from 5" charms from all over the world, donated for my friends who lost their home and everything in it (Thank you!!). There is a huge mix of colour and style, but I'm using the same 'rules of thumb' so I'll share them here:

  •  I don't lay the quilt out at any time. I chain piece from a big splattering of squares next to my machine. But I do make sure each pair of squares matches. And by matches, I usually mean in value, colour, print size. So that my Problem Prints Quilt wasn't too busy, I matched like prints. I like to create little pockets of colour and value (light and dark) rather than spread them evenly.  I wanted it to look more like water than a chequerboard.  

  • I sewed together 2 squares, then sewed those rectangles together to make another square, then those to make a bigger rectangle, and so on till I had 9 big squares. And each time I sewed a seam, I tried to put together pieces that looked good together. This means that even though you have wildly different prints in the same quilt, and even prints you don't like, they each sit nicely in their little part of the whole.
  • Someone asked about browns/grey. Part of my leaving out grey was that all my greys (and I don't have many) are very useful! And this was a mix of my 'useless' prints. And my browns were also very multicoloured (as you can see in the picture above.) and I always find them hard to use. The other reason is that my problem prints were mostly colourful vines, which included browns. So while it's a scrappy quilt, I guess there was still pretty strict colour rules.

  • As you can see in my next quilt, there are no colour rules! But I'm still following similar guidelines where I can. My friend Jodi came over last Thursday to sew them up with me and we did end up laying these pieced squares out on my bed. I think she was a little scared it was going to be a mess! :) In the end we decided that a gradual shift from light to dark, from one corner diagonally across to the opposite, would be really effective. I do like the eye to know where to move or focus.
  • In this process, I decided, 'If in doubt, add Denyse." There's such a mix here of upcycled vintage fabric, more traditional prints, and modern, that Denyse Schmidt's modern take on traditional styles has turned out to be a real glue between all these different patterns. I can match her small, regular prints with almost everything! I have tried to match same values together, but in this case, I'm prioritising colour.

In the end, quilts like this are one big experiment. And that's definitely how I faced the first quilt. And for me attitude makes up the experience just as much as technique. I'm learning more this year to approach making with a 'let's see how this works!' frame of mind. It's helping me to have more fun and be more adventurous.
I don't think there's a greater compliment than questions about how a project came together, thank you! Always feel free to ask more, and to add here how you make yours work too.
Happy sewing,
Jodi. x

Friday, 21 June 2013

Fabric Fast Experiment #1: The Problem Prints Quilt.

I am having serious.fabricshopping.withdrawals. I am now very close to half way through my year long {new} fabric fast, and I'm wishing I allowed myself a little break at the 6 month mark. Sigh.

So last week I set myself 3 challenges. I want to make a serious dent in:
  • The 'too hard to sort' scrap bucket (multicoloured scraps)
  • The pink bucket (I never, ever bought pink fabric before making girls clothes. Now it's my most copious scrap.)
  • The overflowing cupboard of scrap batting/wadding.  
And somewhere along the line I was going to stop and write about them and show you my processes, but instead I've been on a wild, quilting, hormone induced frenzy. (Not the fun nesting kind, but the disappointing 'that time of month' kind.)

So here instead, I present to you a quilt I'm beside myself excited about. This is my collection (or about a quarter! It takes a lot of quilts to empty a scrap bucket!) of my 'too hard to sort' scraps. They have big prints, lots of colours, and some of them are loud and clashy. I do like loud and clashy, I just always seem to put them aside these days for flatter alternatives.

For this quilt I basically only set one colour limit - no grey. And I made sure I included my brown background prints to create some variation in value (and because I never use those either.) I chose 2.5" squares because I wanted to see the prints all broken up, and I thought bigger or more irregular pieces would look too much like mud. And then there's the reason that all my scraps are left over from necks and armholes. Much easier to cut little squares than charms! I also used the opportunity to throw in a stack of scraps won in giveaways which aren't really my style, but fit in well here.

And Hurray! It works, don't you think? While I still feel like scrolling through a screen of new fabrics, it does make me feel like I really can use anything in my stash, even if I regret buying it now, or I thought it would only work for clothing. And look at those apples on the back. Aren't they perfect?! Here I was trying to use them for pinafores and not really liking it, but it's been waiting all this time for a quilt like this.

Driving into the city to this park today, I was reminded of all the beautiful places in this city for taking photos. So that's my other challenge for the year: no more next door neighbour's grey house! It is SO convenient, but not nearly as interesting.

I used zig-zag stitch-in-the-ditch to sew on my binding again. A kind of mix between Rachel's and more traditional machine binding. I'm sold!

Well, I have to say, I'm not completely cured of my addiction. I do love the whole process of making a quilt, including the fabric buying. But I'm trusting like anything it will come and go. And I'm leaving ample hints for Tim for my birthday coming up in August. (That's not included, right?!)

This quilt is now available here

Sunday, 16 June 2013

Olive & Co.

After my Slowly, Slowly post last week, I kept plugging away slowly at these pinafores to take into the new Olive & Co. in my old space in the Hunter St Mall.
It took a week longer than I was hoping, but at a pace where I just did it in little bits, in between other quilting and mess-making (cutting) projects. That post, though sounding a bit frustrated and resigned, actually really helped me think through what I wanted for the next steps, in light of the fact that I was, a) human, and b) a mother.

I readjusted my goals to a more "I'd like to work on these things next" type posture, rather than "this is what I will get done this month." It moved the focus from results to process, which is much more fun, and realistic when there's children (and my own mortality) involved!

Anyway, I just wanted to share those little thoughts as the context for actually showing you Olive & Co., a beautiful collection of home-made wares from Newcastle's Olive Tree Markets, carefully curated by Justine Gaudry.

Isn't it all so incredible! I feel so proud to be in a city that supports local artists in this way. These spaces, which were otherwise empty, are opened rent-free for creative businesses by Renew Newcastle. It creates an environment so different from urban shopping malls and brings people back into the city centre.

Olive & Co. are now stocking a selection of my pinafores and quilts. If you're local, go check out the new artists that have set up shop in the mall. It's a treat!

Friday, 14 June 2013

five years

It was five years yesterday since I became a mum. We spent the day yesterday celebrating Tully's birthday, but today I've been reflecting on the anniversary. I don't think of it often, because it makes me uncomfortable, the way that supposed-to-be-precious day went from the photo above to the one below.
They say those first moments make all that came before it fade away. Instead, I looked at this little alien and wondered where the heck he came from. 

The alien and I got to know and love each other slowly, rather than experiencing any fierce, instinctive wave of emotion. And if there's one thing I'm thankful for, it's that I decided just to ride it out, be with it, rather than fear that something was wrong.
And the more he's grown up and I've grown up, the more we like ourselves and each other. 
A few weeks ago, Tully exclaimed in a sighing kind of way, "Oh, I just love our family!"
And I realised that I did too. That they didn't feel like aliens to me any more, but part of myself. And I realised that deep down, that's what we all long to feel. That we love the unit we belong to. And that my role was to enjoy him and help him discover all the good parts of himself.

I've been trying to think up a poem for Tully over the last few weeks, but nothing has really been coming to me. Then one of our friends gave Tully "Oh the Places You'll Go!" by Dr. Seuss. Have you read it? We did last night before bed, and it expressed exactly everything I'd love Tully to know and feel about the world.

Here are some snippets:

You have brains in your head.
You have feet in your shoes.
You can steer yourself
any direction you choose...

And when things start to happen,
don't worry. Don't stew.
Just go right long.
You'll start happening too...

You'll be on your way up!
You'll be seeing great sights!
You'll join the high fliers
who soar to high heights...

Except when you don't
Because sometimes you won't.
I'm sorry to say so
but, sadly, it's true
that Bang-ups
and Hang-ups
can happen to you...

Somehow you'll escape 
all that waiting and staying. 
You'll find the bright places
 where boom bands are playing...

Fame! You'll be famous as famous can be,
with the whole wide world watching you
win on TV...

Except when they don't.
Because, sometimes, they won't.
I'm afraid that sometimes
you'll play lonely games too
Games you can't win
'cause you'll play against you...

But on you will go
though the weather be fowl...

And on it goes, with just the right tone of realistic optimism, communicating that it's good and right to hope, especially when your expectations are dashed. That the ups and downs are all part of the adventure of life. 

It's great isn't it? And God help me equip him to face life like this. Because sometimes there are unplanned pregnancies, and unplanned caesareans that change life forever. And some surprises will bring unfathomed grief, and others, an adventure you can only enjoy if you dive in, shoes and all. 


Tuesday, 11 June 2013

Beauty from a Tangled Mess.

This lovely, bright quilt, sitting so softly under my sunroom window, had such a tumultuous beginning. I bought the fabric as a jelly roll (Spring House by Stephanie Ryan) while taking time off earlier this year. When it arrived, after umming and ahh-ing for a little while, I decided to pre-wash the fabric strips in a lingerie bag, well because I pre-wash everything, and I knew I'd be mixing this (and the one I bought for Evie's bed) with my stash. 

BIG MISTAKE! You can imagine my devastation when I opened the wash machine door to find the fabric that I had bought for some therapuetic sewing, vomitted out of a tear in the bag and sitting in a sluggy, tangled mess!
The photo above was taken after I pulled it all out, painstakingly cut it all apart and hung it over the airer to dry. It was one of those moments where you have to work really hard not to beat yourself up. You're not stupid. You couldn't have known. It's ok, it will still be beautiful. You can make something wonderful out of this, Jodi...was the mantra I tried to stick to instead.

So even thought I'd just invested money in precision cut 2.5" strips, I needed to choose a quilt design that didn't need the seems to meet! I settled on a zig-zag pattern and sewed together groups of four strips, then cut across them on a 45 degree angle. I added some Soul Blossoms by Amy Butler and some white because jelly rolls always sit a bit flat for me. And then I kept cutting and adding and unpicking and re-sewing until I had the size I wanted.

I decided on a close zig-zaggy quilting style. After finishing a few quilts lately with straight stitching, this seemed to take FOREVER! But in the end, I'm so glad I didn't short-cut it. I love that it works with the patchwork rather than cutting across it. It's like it creates movement and harmony all in one.

I finished the binding with a zig-zag stitch, inspired by Rachel's tutorial here. (Though, I only read the tutorial after and realised mine was different!) I sewed the binding on the front, folded it around the back and then stitched with a small zig-zag on the front, like you would with straight stitching. It was fast and effective (I didn't miss any binding on the back!) and I'll definitely be using it again. Sorry I don't have more photos to show what I mean!

And then it has sat in my studio for weeks waiting for the right mix of weather and help! And when it finally came, Evie wanted to join in too. :)

I think it's becoming a bit of a theme this year that through quilting, I'm learning more and more to be kind to myself and to roll with the punches. To let disaster lead to creativity. To be hopeful, patient and trusting. I did have to breathe deeply through some of it! But the end result is a pretty quilt, that can actually be used and enjoyed, rather than still some idea I abandoned months ago when it was a soggy mess. Another beauty out of tragedy!

This quilt is for sale in my new online shop, which you can now access through the 'shop' tab below my header.

Friday, 7 June 2013

Slowly, Slowly.

I sat out on our back verandah last week and opened up a blank page. Finally. I'd checked off the boxes I wanted to for May. I was excited about this moment. With no custom orders, no real agenda to make for money, I had a BLANK PAGE!
And then I started to feel lost. I could make that quilt I'd been dreaming up. No. Not in the mood for that one. I could start a blog series Don't want to commit myself to a blog series. Maybe I could...Nah.
Argh. I started to feel antsy.

Then last Saturday, the lovely Janet, who had been stocking my work in her shop, closed up to travel overseas. On the way to collecting my things, I stopped of at the Olive Tree Markets, one of our city's most beautiful collections of local wares held under a massive fig tree. I'd been asked a couple of times if I would have a stall there, and then more recently, if I could sell my wares in their new shop, Olive & Co (which is in my old space!) but it's never really been the right time. It was just beautiful walking around, chatting to makers I'd met through having my shop. Could I/should I do it?
I brought my mass of pinnies and quilts home, hung them in my, now very tight, sunroom, where they have been pushing me ever since to make a decision about them.

So on Thursday, when I had a bit of time to myself, I decided to finish up the pinafores and some vests I'd put up and out of the way for later. They just needed top-stitching and pressing and tagging and then I could take the whole lot into the new shop before I picked up the kids from pre-school. But of course, my hopes were too big for my time frame, and I only got a fraction of the work done. Was this quick Thursday morning job going to take the rest of the month? Did I want to give my blank page to finishing off things that no longer inspired me?

I've been thinking (out loud, to Tim), the last couple of weeks about how long life takes. How sloooww it is. How I try to escape it but it seems to be the way things are made to be. If we want to finish something, we actually have to make it. If we want to read a book, we actually have to read it. (Yeah, I know, duh. But you know, instead of downloading it into our memory via bluetooth.) This parenting gig is the longest job I've ever had, full time or otherwise. And my kids aren't even school-aged. It takes long, slow, interrupted time to grow children and relationships and a garden and a peaceful home and a handful of quilts and pinafores to sell in town. The important things can't be fast-tracked or downloaded at high speed. They can't be crammed the night before like I spent my years of university doing. (And it worked for me back then!)

So I haven't really settled on June, at least, not what I want to make, with fabric. But I do want to take it at walking pace, to accept that sometimes choosing one thing means missing out on another (rather than clawing for them both). Something about the mantra of living in the moment has made me feel like this moment counts more than any other, like a toddler who falls apart because it's not going to plan right now. But maybe what counts in the moment is holding it lightly?

This morning Evie took herself outside and fell asleep in the pram. Sweet, I know, but totally throwing out my order for the day.
Slowly, slowly, I said to myself again. There's always tomorrow.