Thursday, 15 August 2013

Bee Catcher

Apparently I'm in a bit of a blogging and making slump at the moment. I blame it on the weather. Spring seems to have hit early this year. And my kids. For the first time ever, while preparing a vege garden, they have not systematically come behind me to destroy it. We've been shopping for hay, we've been planting blueberry bushes, we've been enjoying the new buds on the pomegranate tree. My camera and phone all the while, have laid abandoned inside. I usually have a running commentary in my head as I go through my day, all of life potential fodder for my blog, but I've felt compelled lately just to experience the moment and let it flitter away, never to be recorded.

I've felt a bit guilty, which is strange, because I haven't promised a regular update to anyone, except perhaps, to myself. I seem to be the kind of person who baulks at commitment. I'm highly driven to complete things sprung from internal motivation, but as soon as I commit to someone else's project, or push past the motivation of my own, something in me falls asleep. Is this common? Is it left over from school and uni days, dragged from one deadline to the next? I used to think I was motivated by deadlines, but now I think I was just trained to push myself to meet them. Is anyone else out there like this?

I've felt the same with my online quilting bee, Scrappy? Sew Bee it! Thankfully, I've had a very gracious and relaxed group of new friends to initiate me into the world of monthly quilt block making. I really enjoy only making one or two blocks, having a quick project over in an hour or two, but somehow, earlier this year, I found myself seven or eight months behind! I'm embarrassed to even share it here, but the reason I am, is because when, in May, I decided I would try to catch up before my month in June, I discovered some important things about the way I work and why I couldn't achieve something as small as a block a month. I thought I'd share it with you in case you can relate.

I think the biggest single difference for me with my usual sewing habit, and making a block for someone, is the way I make a start. I rarely use patterns or shop or make sure I have the right materials before I start. My most comfortable way of making is to turn on my iron and machine and sit down. Sometimes I have bursts where I do a ton of cutting, but mostly I have a couple of things on the go so that at any time I can just walk into my sewing room and sit. Sitting is my default.

But with block making, the beginning steps are very different. It starts with turning on my computer, checking Flickr, downloading or clicking the link to a pattern, sometimes printing (my least favourite, because my printer hates me). This long list of prerequisites was not at all clear in my mind when I would finally sit down to make a block and, drawing a blank, end up picking something else to work on. It sounds obvious, but I really had to train myself to go to my laptop first rather than my sewing room. I had to remind myself to read all the instructions rather than look at a picture for inspiration and just make up the measurements and colours.

It's been an important learning curve for me to understand that I wasn't behind because I was lazy or disorganised. I just needed to teach myself some practical skills that went against my natural inclinations. I just needed to break it down into tiny steps. What about you? Got any extra tips for getting bee blocks in on time?
Now, I just have one more block to do today, and then I'm heading back outside to enjoy the sunshine.

Thursday, 8 August 2013

ten years

I want to tell a story from before the days of digital photography. Can I keep your attention without pictures? It was before the days of mobile phones and Facebook, and sharing photos of what you ate for lunch. (Sorry, I still don't get that!) Back when we soaked up every moment, ever present, rather than seeing it through the lens of our camera phone.

Ten years ago today, my not-yet-husband surprised me for my birthday, turning up at my door step in a tiny rural town where I was a youth worker at the local high school. We were just friends back then, good ones. And there'd always been a bit of something more, maybe, since I'd met him 3 years earlier. But he was over three years younger than me. And he'd just moved back home with his folks to start a band with his brother. And neither of those things struck me as someone who was going somewhere.

We filled the weekend with exploring the local area and introducing him to the local people and staying up really late drinking tea and doing jigsaw puzzles. And maybe I wasn't very good at keeping my feelings at bay. Maybe I flirted, just a little. At at the end of the weekend, he asked me if I wanted to pursue things further. 
I kind of did. But I said I didn't.
"Not ever? Or just not now?"
I felt like saying not now was still committing myself. So I said not ever. 
I lied to him, "I'm sorry if I've given you the wrong impression. Please don't read into my actions as anything more than friendship."
He left early the next morning.

The following year, his musical hopes dashed, he moved out of home again to go to uni. He was enrolled in a Bachelor of Micro-Electronic Engineering. I remember discovering that it was about speakers and audio and amplifiers and things, and thinking that he was really from another planet. I had made the right choice, really. I was after someone who was interested in saving the world like me.

I moved to Dubbo, a bigger town, not far from where I was, to study further with Cornerstone Community, the organisation we work with now here in Newcastle. That year was the very tiny beginning of learning to listen to my heart and longings, rather than the strict list of rules and plans I had written for myself as a teenager, I think as a reaction against the pain and chaos of those years. I started to take Tim's calls, and return them. I started to listen to his stories and share my own. I started to give myself permission to fall for him, and not yet think about where it might lead.

But I also knew I was slightly stuck. I had made myself clear. No matter how much I talked or giggled or batted my eyes at him. He was under strict instructions not to read into anything. As much as I loved the idea of him coming to sweep me away, I'd told him not to. I'd told him to stay away. The ball was in my court.

I found out he was going to be in Sydney for his cousin's wedding. My parents lived in Sydney, so I travelled the six hour bus ride east to meet him there. I managed to pry him away from his family and we ate the most terrible, greasy fish and chips under the Harbour Bridge. After dinner, I took a deep breath, mustered up all my courage and said,
"So, I was wondering if your earlier offer was still open?"
He looked at me, teasing, "Offer for what?"
Oh, you bugger. You want to make this hard for me, don't you?
"Umm. For a relationship?" I felt like such an idiot.
He smiled. "Jo, I want you to know that whatever happens, I think you're a really cool chic."
What! What does that even MEAN?
"Yeah, I think it could work well. Come on, let's go get ice-cream."
Work well?? Ice-cream?? I rolled my eyes at him. And we went and got ice-cream.

A year later, we were hiking through the Blue Mountains together, and having reached one of those quintessential mountain cliff views, Tim turned suddenly, dropped to one knee and proposed.
I paused. I so wanted to get him back for that night under the Harbour Bridge. But he started to look worried and I chickened out. I said Yes.
Suddenly, he turned and climbed up this massive boulder. He said,
"So, a year ago, under the bridge, I was pretty restrained because I wanted to allow things to grow slowly, but this is what I wanted to say..."
He threw his arms in the air and yelled out across the valley,
That's better, I smiled.

Well, I'm 33 today, and Tim has less hair and I have more lines on my face. And I've never managed to shed that baby weight, but I like myself a whole lot more than I did back then. And the more I've learnt to like myself, the more I've filled my life with things I like. Like studying history at Uni just because I wanted to, and having kids and sewing and deciding not to work or have a mortgage. There is less sleep in the 30s. Less emotional highs and lows. Less poetry and friendships and feeling like you're achieving something. And there's a whole lot more washing. Settledness is something that terrified me in my twenties. But now I bathe in it. I like it's solidness, the space it gives to master things, to finish a quilt, to try another, to plant fruit trees, and know (as much as one can) that we'll be here to eat the fruit. 
Yes, I'm going to enjoy 33, Tim. And I think it's mostly because you're here to shape it with me.

Friday, 2 August 2013

Fabric Fast Month 8 ~ Happy Mail

Well, I'm past the half way mark of my year long fabric fast, my challenge to myself to not buy any fabric for a year and to sort and use my scraps. I wrote a little while ago of my weariness of this challenge, especially with lots of delicious new fabric lines coming out, but my recent influx of happy mail has well and truely quenched my thirst for opening packages and any lacking I felt about my stash.

I was given the opportunity to write a tutorial for Lily's Quilts using two fat quarter bundles from Abakhan Fabrics. They arrived a couple of days ago and I immediately jumped in and started my fabric book. I'm really enjoying the flat solids and stripes compared to my usual scrappy look.

My next exciting bundle to arrive was a charm pack by Dear Stella, of their Spring 2013 lines. 125 squares of fabric that I don't already own. I have a friend who always buys a fat quarter or charm pack of lines she likes so she can see them in person, whereas I've always bought lots of a few prints. Since quilting more, longing for more variety in my stash, and being surprised by the kinds of prints I end up using all the time, I'm pretty sure my buying habits will be siginficantly different once I start shopping again (thought hopefully not increased!) In this load of prints, I've found plenty that I know I wouldn't have chosen online, but would end up using a lot.

While I was on holidays I found out I won this Collage 10" layer cake from Fabric Bubb! It's so fun! And it gives me my very first newspaper prints. One challenge with my fabric fast is the growing use of low volume and text prints replacing white in my sewing bee. I made sure I stocked up on white before embarking on my fast! But I didn't even think about the others. A year is a long time in the quilting world!

My wall of leaves is growing rapidly following my turn as queen bee in June for Scrappy? Sew Bee it! I love that this is going to be a quilt I could never make on my own. The range of prints and colours is so vast, it's going to have a character all of its own. I love it.

And then finally, a very special one. This half yard bundle of Briar Rose by Heather Ross, arrived a couple of days ago, my birthday gift from my mum. Thank you Mum! It was fun posting a photo on my Facebook page asking whether people would open it immediately or wait a week, till my birthday. I was surprised that most people couldn't have waited, those that would have loved the idea of opening it on the special day, loved the suspense, the ritual. Not being from a very gifty family (we all love that Mum gives us a set amount each year, in our bank account), and being terrible at gift giving myself (at least, the being organised and creative part), those things weren't as important to me as the fun of ripping into the envelope the moment I'd posted the photo, so I could see all these beautiful, happy prints. I will wait to cut into them, but only because I plan to use them for the Penny Sampler!

I do feel so very thankful for these additions to my sunny sewing room. It does feel a little bit like cheating! But I also know it's the encouragement I needed to get to the end of the year. It also feels like a reminder of why I chose this. I definitely love the choosing, the waiting, the receiving, just as much as the making. And I'm sure you can relate that it's much easier to put colours together on a computer screen with a glass of wine after the kids have gone to bed, than to sleepily make my way to my machine! But here I am nearly 8 months later and my buckets of scraps or shelves of fabric don't look significantly depleted. If I feel like I am lacking, it's because of changing trends, not because I'm running out. I am looking forward to that first shop in January 2014, but I hope this has set me on a more sustainable path.