Wednesday, 31 July 2013


We had our first ever family holiday in the Snowy Mountains National Park a couple of weeks ago. We normally spend our holidays visiting friends, going to birthday parties or weddings, at family Christmasses. It's taken me seven and a half years to convince my extroverted Tim this is important too. Though, I'm not sure if I convinced him it was fun. :)
We experienced the rugged, dry beauty of the national park for a couple of days before the clouds generously gifted us with snow. I've only spent time in the snow a few times in my life, while living in Eastern Europe, but they hold precious memories for me. I think I came here to the mountains as a kid, but didn't remember the exquisite, unique beauty of our mountains and eucalyptus trees dressed in white. The views, the cold, brisk air and the playfulness it brought out in us, gave me an energy I don't think I've felt since I was 19, living in Poland! I was so, so thankful.

We travelled down to Melbourne to meet Tim's family for a week after this precious time alone. Melbourne is Australia's treasured European city, and I have many friends who've chosen to live there over the years, so I was excited and curious to see it. We stayed in beautiful apartments right in the centre of the city and it was wonderful to see the way my kids connected with Tim's family and to go to the craft fair with my mother in law. I did have fun, and all my photos from that leg of the trip are in my Instagram feed, but the lack of sky or land did make me feel walled in. While all the things we saw were interesting, it wasn't energising in the same way.

Tim and I listened to lots of podcasts during our 2500km of driving. One was on the topic of beauty. It told the story of a school set up somewhere in the States for kids who had fallen out of the mainstream system. The focus of the school was arts. They painted it beautiful colours, always had fresh flowers and gardens, taught music and dance and their students have an 80% college entrance rate! It got us talking about all the things we've thought of doing to our home but have put off. I want to create that kind of energy and light in our house and garden.
Now, if only I could get it to snow here!

Monday, 15 July 2013

Pussy Cat, Pussy Cat, Where have you been?

Two words: Custom Orders.

It's not that I don't like making custom orders. I enjoyed seeing these colours come together again. It's just that when I make these, I have nothing to say. Do you ever feel like that?

When I am creating something new, words spring out of me so that I can't help but write and share my feelings and processes. But when I make something over, something I've put into a pattern, so I don't want to share too much to respect my customers and my work....I am mute. I get into bed at the end of the day and realise I haven't blogged again. Not that I'm on a schedule or anything. I just find it interesting.

I finished off four drawstring quilts this week. I was happy to do this order because I do my colour wheels in batches of 6. I made the coloured quilt tops almost entirely from scraps, even unpicking leftovers from previous colour wheels. I was pretty proud of myself with that. My customer asked for Joel Dewberry's Herringbone for the back of two of the quilts so I decided to quilt along the white lines in white. I'm SO happy with that result.

And then yesterday afternoon, Tim and I sat on our back verandah and snipped sticky-outy threads because our generous neighbours let our kids come over and throw the ball for their dog. It was probably win win. :)

Monday, 8 July 2013

The Purple Windmill

These are a few snaps from my day at The Olive Tree Market on Saturday. The market is a monthly affair filled with the city's finest artisans, and is such a great way to spend a sunny Winter day. Strolling around the different stalls I felt honoured to be invited to be part of it.

I didn't sell much and it made me glad for my new deal I made with myself before I signed up. If I was going to start selling at a monthly art market, I needed to make what I loved and just turn up with what I had. Boy, did that pay off! It meant I didn't spend the week before abandoning my kids or my home, and then on the day, I could just enjoy the sun and the time out of the house and the interactions with different people. It seemed like the most valuable reason to be there was to connect locally again. New friends dropped in who had been following my blog and knew my story this year and wanted to meet me and see my quilts in person. I really enjoyed that. 

(By the way, that beautiful, hand printed work next to my stall is by Billie the Kid. I want her to print panels or FQs so I can buy, ahem, someone can buy them for me, to quilt with. If you agree, head over and let her know!)

Anyway, the main reason for this post is to actually show you this new quilt. I wrote about how I made the block here. I've found it so interesting to follow my last quilt, which disappointed me, with this one, just purple and grey, and simple and regular, yet I love it. I mentioned in my last post that I started with scraps, as I am now in the habit of doing, but along the way, I changed tact and started pulling out my favourite pinky purples from Denyse Schmidt and Anna Maria Horner. There was something about this change that gave me the feeling I get from a really nice red wine. (It is a red wine kind of quilt, don't you think?)

So the windmills are made out of some prints I love, and other ones I was just trying to use up, and then there's that floral Garden Party print with the olive green and red flowers, that I've never really liked, but I loved what it did here. A slightly different shade and the right amount of clash, which as a whole print doesn't really do it for me, but cut up in something like this, perfect! How does she do it?

It's tempting for me now, in light of my recent musings about creativity and satisfaction, to say, "Yes, what I really love is blocks," or "I just need to avoid primary colours," or "I just need to pay attention to those feelings of doubt when they come." But sometimes pushing through them pays off, and sometimes experimenting without keeping tight reins on the project does too. And if there's anything I really need to take from this, it's that art is a bit of a game. Sometimes you win and other times, you don't. But certainty is not the thing to aim for here. I'm aiming for beauty, self expression, integrity and humility. And these are qualities that are uncertain, intangible, but I hope, slowly, they are starting to show through in my work.

Friday, 5 July 2013

This is making me happy {a Windmill Block tutorial}

Thank you to those who joined in my discussion about my latest quilt earlier this week.  Your thoughts, which were coming in at the same time I was making these blocks, made for some great food for thought.
I started cutting these purple strips because at some point in the making of my Basket Weave quilt, I thought maybe purple would help. I changed my mind and started to think up other ways to use them.
A few evenings ago I was flipping through one of my quilt block books, trying to imagine them in less brown-and-forest-green prints. The Windmill Block struck me as an easy way to use these strips without cutting them into hundreds of triangles. My book comes with templates, but I prefer my ruler and making it up as I go. Here's what I did:

I cut 5" squares from this Essex Linen in Grey, and then cut them in half to make triangles.

I sewed one of my strips (which were 8.5" because of my original plans, but you're probably only need 7") to one of the short edges of the triangle, pressed open and trimmed, using the 45 degree line as a guide.

When you repeat this step for the other triangles, make sure you sew them all the same way! I always made sure I had my strip facing down over my triangle. (and when I didn't, I decided to make a couple of blocks going the other way!;))

I sewed two lots of triangles together into two bigger triangles, then sewed the final seam to get my block.

About the time I was running out of scrappy purple strips, I wrote my last post about colour and creating. So instead of going back to my purple scrap bucket for more, I pulled out some of my favourite purple prints by Denyse and Anna Maria. I love the variations in tone these fabrics bring to the quilt. And as I was cutting them up and sewing them together, I felt different. It made me happy. The goal moved from plowing through my scraps to creating quilts I loved. I gave more attention to colour and tone. I brought in just the amount of clash I love in a quilt. (and it turns out there can be plenty in purple!)

And I realised that recently, I've been quilting from an idea in my head, like using up my problem prints or scrap wadding, rather than thinking much about colour design. And sometimes that works, like I think it did here, and sometimes it doesn't. And in my windmill quilt, I love that it has the beginnings of a scrappy quilt, with more intentional prints brought in to give it some grounding. If I'd started with my freshly cut stash, I wouldn't have made these pieced windmill arms, and if I'd used only scraps, you wouldn't see any of that burst orange or pinky tones. And I love what both bring to this quilt.

So now I am madly trying to quilt it before I hold my first stall at The Olive Tree Markets tomorrow. I would love to photograph it there for you. So many amazing creations and colours!
My lines are a bit more wiggly that I would like, and I've been feeling a bit flat about it, but this photo gives me hope that it's not so obvious from further back?
Now. Any ideas for tiny triangles? I'm collecting a few!

Tuesday, 2 July 2013

Fabric Fast Challenge #2: scrap wadding and other existential questions.

How do you sew "yourself"? I've had this question ruminating in my head for sometime, partly sparked by this post, (in which it was just talked about in passing), and partly by my latest quilt. This quilt is number 2 on my Fabric Fast challenges that are distracting me from my burning desire to go fabric shopping. I loved the look of Maureen's Quilt as You Go quilt and followed her tutorial to use up my masses of scrap wadding. Using scrap wadding is SO satisfying because you can SEE that mountain shrink dramatically as you use it. Unlike my scrap buckets which are just as full as they were 6 months ago, just with much smaller scraps.

I cut my strips 2.5" wide, split them into 'warm' and 'cool', sewed them end to end, then cut them 8.5" long. Then I  made these little squares and spray glued them to my wadding.

Then I quilted them really finely (about a 1/4" apart), trimmed them and sewed them together. (check out Maureen's tutorial for more pics and details)
As I was sewing them together, I wasn't convinced I liked the colours together like this. I started to think of ways I could attach sashing (I thought my ideas were pretty clever!) but in the end decided to stick to my original plan so the quilt didn't become huge or take forever, and because maybe like my last scrappy quilt, it would look great, despite the odds. Now I'm not so sure of my decision.

I mean, I don't think it's ugly, or a disaster. I even think it's pretty. And my friend Jo who was holding it for me when we went to the park today (hurray, sun!), said it was her favourite. I just don't look at it and think, "Yes!" or "That's so me!"

I backed the quilt with these flannels and I love the weight and texture. I do think it would make a really fun, robust baby quilt. I used this Seaside print for the binding. It's my favourite binding stripe so I always love when it goes perfectly. This is the first quilt I've bound, unpicked completely and tried again. Ugh! I attached the binding too far away from the edge so whenever it came to the think quilted seams, I couldn't stretch it over. It's still not perfect but it's sturdy! And I did have to put it down for a week just to see if I could find the imperfections a week later. I couldn't find as many! :)

So back to my musings...I feel like I've done a great job using my scraps this year, and other parts of my stash that I bought for specific projects. But now I feel like I'm on the hunt for some kind of self expression, not just emptying those buckets or ticking off lists. I know I've made some quilts like that this year. My Quilt for Moving On is a favourite. And my last scrappy quilt. And both of those used such different formulas. So I'm keeping in mind it's a journey. Some of my very favourites are really early ones, before I read blogs or bought celebrity fabrics lines. I didn't even know what scrappy was, but I just used what I had and loved it how bright and rich and sometimes clashy it was, like my first drawstring quilt here. (I would never use that rare AMH Centerpiece for binding now but I loved it, and still do!)

I'm always glad for good authors like C.S Lewis when I'm stewing about these things. In a quote I happen to have next to my bathroom mirror, he says about individuality and personality,

"The very first step is to try to forget about the self altogether. Your real self will not come as long as you are looking for it..."
                                                                             - Mere Christianity.

He says the same thing in other books about creativity and joy. The secret to finding myself is to give myself. So I will keep making, taking risks, trying new things, enjoying others' creativity, and my own. And when I'm buying fabric again, I want to think less about celebrity and fabric lines and what's on special, and more about prints and colours I like, and others I've learned I use a lot.

What about you? Do you feel like you've hit a groove and make 'yourself'. Do you know what you like and how to achieve it? Do you even care? (I know not everyone would think this very important.) And do you feel like there's a particular journey you take to get there? And how do you know you don't just like it because it's what everyone's making or selling?

 And look how short I am compared to my friend Jo! ;)