Thursday, 30 January 2014

First Day

The last two days my Facebook news feed has been full of adorable little uniform - clad five year olds starting school for the first time. It happens every year, but this time has felt particularly poignant because Tully is not one of them. After two years of thinking, talking, reading, weighing up, here we are, officially not sending our five year old to school.
And this post is absolutely not a comment about those other five year olds and their families. They, many of them my close friends, know what's best for their families. But today, especially, with its absence of uniform and lunch box and out-the-door-by-nine, I am particularly peaceful and thankful for our decision.

Tully and Eve wake up and play well together most of the time while I sleep in. It's taken me most of this pregnancy to be ok with not trying to get up before them, but I'm at the uncomfortable stage where I eventually, fitfully fall asleep around 2am. Tully gets them both a little yoghurt and piece of fruit, first breakfast, and then when Tim or I get up, we make a big batch of porridge. I'm so thankful I can get the rest I need.

After breakfast, it's tidy up time. Last year, when I had pre-school and daycare, I wondered how the heck I was going to cope without my child free days. Surprisingly, I'm actually finding it easier without them! Not having 3 or 4 days a week where we have to be out of the house early means we've developed a new routine of tidying the house every day, all of us together. I have never been so underwhelmed by housework. I'm hoping this routine will hold us in good stead when the baby comes in just 7 weeks (!) and I'll be asking them to do some of it without me.

While we tidied, the post lady rode by. The person who lived here before us (nearly 5 years ago) was a travel agent and never changed her address with certain travel magazines.  The kids are convinced these come for them (which works in my favour with all the packages that arrive for us!). Tim and Tully had a flick through over morning tea, chatting about different destinations around the world, while I went to an antenatal appointment. I'm so thankful Tim's PhD has him choosing his own hours. He does usually 'go to work' at the uni, but he can stay at home and be with the kids when I need him, and study in the evenings.

Then, at 11, we started some sit-down work. We read a Beatrix Potter book together on the couch, then some phonics. I wasn't going to use work books for Kindergarten, but Tully felt so left out when everyone was talking about going to big school at the end of last year, that I bought them for him to make it feel official and real. He absolutely loves them, partly because they're right at his level, and partly because I sit down with him.

The post lady's delivery brought up a discussion about where the mail comes from and how the post system works, so after lunch and a rest, we made cards for each other, so we could post them in the red box down the road, and have them arrive back in our letterbox.

My number one goal this year is to nurture a peaceful home. I never thought that could be synonymous with newborn, caesarean, PhD, homeschool. And believe me, the heat and discomfort has me failing often! But today, as we came and went as we needed, as we worked at things that interested us, as we paid no attention to the clock, as we organised our day around our needs, and not those of a big institution, it confirmed what I hoped for as we weighed up this big decision. This is peace for us.

Sunday, 26 January 2014

Teach a Boy to Quilt

Happy Australia Day! Such perfect weather to head into the city for the Maritime Festival to watch the old planes do tricks and take photos of quilts. There was even tug boat ballet!

Late last year my 5 yr old Tully asked if I could teach him to sew his very own bed quilt.
"Even the cutting, ok, Mum?" Ok!
I let him raid my stash and scraps and he straight away chose many of my Sarah Jane prints, and other blue, teal and green prints, with a healthy splattering of red, orange and yellow. It was so wonderful and amazing to see him drawn to the different prints and colours, not just the 'boy' ones, and grow a colour selection that was really cohesive.

Sewing a single bed quilt with a child is a big assignment, but we made it manageable and enjoyable by giving him a taste of each stage. When he got bored, he'd tell me he'd had enough and ask me to keep going. And so I did. It kept each step coming at a pace he enjoyed and stopped his interest from waning. After not insisting on him completing it all, it's a joy to hear him tell people that he made his quilt!

After sewing all our 5" squares together in blocks of four, I decided on Maureen's Quilt as You Go method because it keeps the quilt in smaller pieces for longer. I started with a fun zig-zag free motion quilting design before I realised that was going to take me till the rest of the year! This simple diagonal line was much faster and still effective when matched with the quilting we did 1/4" on either side of the seams once the whole quilt was together.
We decided on this Ikea Britten Nummer print for the back. A new favourite of mine!

And today we came to the Newcastle Foreshore to take photos and enjoy the Australia Day celebrations. Tully stood so proudly next to his creation. You can see from these photos that we added an Out to Sea Map near the top right and a little signature "T" in the bottom left corner, just for fun.

After sewing the last stitch on the binding, Tully grabbed it, wrapped it around him and ran through the yard in a kind of victory lap. Hurray! I'm so thankful for opportunities such as these!

Tuesday, 14 January 2014

Little Windows Quilt.

I'm excited to share a quilt finish with you, my first for the year! I think partly because it represents finishing off a run of custom orders, partly because there was a break in the heat last week which shot up my energy levels, and partly because I'm feeling more in a groove in general. I'm enjoying a little season of spare time (due to summer holidays) and sleep ins (thanks Tim!) before the baby comes in just two months!

Sometime last year, my cousin sent me a scrap pack of leftovers from this Monaluna Havana fat quarter pack. She had used the line to cover some canvas frames to decorate her daughters' room. I started to cut into it straight away, deciding one evening on the Impromptu pattern, and sewing up the blocks using white from my scraps.

Well, I learned that night that you don't try to match whites in the evening. The fluorescent light in my sewing room severely limited my ability to see shades of white (or any colour for that matter) and when I woke up in the morning the distinct cream with the crisp white of the Monaluna prints nearly made me cry!

Well, I have to tell you I was pretty tempted to forge ahead, but if there was one thing I'd been learning, it was to go with my gut, and to make something I was really happy with, rather than push for a finish. Over the next few months, I unpicked every block, cut strips of a much better white match, and sewed them back together again. I'm so glad I did.

I free-motion quilted with this chrysanthemum design. Oh my this is fun! And fast! And I love that the vast amount of white brings it out even more.

Backing was my biggest challenge. I actually want to give this back to my cousin, and with 2 little girls under 3, I didn't want to make it completely impossible for them to enjoy by adding even more white to the back. I decided on this Dear Stella print which I stashed for pinnies before my fabric fast. It's one of those prints in my "very favourite but very hard to use" category. There are times when I think it adds too many other colours to this simple quilt, and other times when I think it's perfect. I binded it with a mix of coral scraps because I didn't have enough of any one print. I have to say I was particularly happy with how these matched each other so perfectly.

I was so cranky with myself for forgetting to take this into the city when we were in there for dinner. A quilt with cars and scooters seems ill-suited to my messy garden and falling down fence. But even with a rise in energy, it appears I still have my pregnant brain. Oh well. Next time!

Friday, 10 January 2014

Retail Therapy

I bought FABRIC! And quite a bit of it actually. It's a little bit surprising how quickly it builds up. With the amount that I've restocked, it feels like I could do the fast again. But I won't. But I do think I'll need help living up to its values as a new lifestyle. Remind me, ok?

So, how did I go about my first shop in 12 months? I had a pretty significant amount saved up in my Paypal account from pattern and shop sales last year, which I had kept there just for this occassion (dipping into also for batting, etc). So I didn't have a strict budget. First, I went through my stash. I wrote what I needed (basics, binding fabric, backing/drawstring quilt bag fabric) and then had a bit of a look around online. I settled on Quilt Home and Hawthorne Threads because of their range, sales and lower postage. I also appreciate with both sites that it's easy to calculate how many yards you can ship for what price. In a year of no buying, USPS Shipping prices have doubled and the Australian dollar has dropped 15 cents! Basically that means instead of shipping being basically covered by the exchange rate, there was a massive (at least, I think so!) increase of $3/yd to my previous costs! Ouch!

Postman Pat (That's what we call our package lady) arrived a few days ago and Hurray! (I think she's the most loved lady in Newcastle!) I quickly set about washing, hanging, bringing in, folding. Tim did comment that I never show so much motivation when it comes our own laundry. I nearly said, well if he bought me clothes that were blog worthy...and then rethought it. I'd prefer to spend the money on quilting. ;) And really, we all know it's got way more to do with a finite chore with pretty colours and a wonderful reward once we're done (sewing!), compared with the cruel reality of a task that never ever gets crossed off the list and is repeated over and over. Tim, they are not even remotely the same thing!

I just can't wait to sew with these! It's a VERY different experience for me, buying for my stash rather than buying for pinafores and using the scraps for quilts. I still want to call on my scraps first but I'm going to enjoy the variety these bring. I would also habitually buy specifically for quilting projects and I avoided that too. I'm not sure either way is better, but for me, when I saw Nursery Versery on sale at Quilt Home, I was tempted to buy the whole line for a special quilt, even though I know that my favourite work (of my own) doesn't stick to one line and is much more vibrant in colour. And if there's anything I learned this past year, it's that my ideas and correlated spending outweighed my available time about three:one. So I held back, even though I think the prints are beautiful. We'll see how this works for me. 

I have now officially filled up my shelf space, so no more buying for me for a while. (Ok, Jodi?) In any case, my New Years, pre-baby goals include finishing off a whole pile of started projects. More on that next time...

Saturday, 4 January 2014


I think after nearly eight years of marriage, Tim and I have struck upon a way to holiday as a family that we both enjoy. We just got home from ten days wonderful days away with loved ones in Dubbo, about 6 hrs north west from Sydney. Dubbo is a town where we happen to have lots of friends and family living, so we organised to house sit for our holiday, a very comfortable, and completely free way to stay just walking distance from my brother and his family, and to enjoy the summer (I don't usually enjoy it) with a swimming pool and air-cooling. Extroverted Tim got to spend his days searching out activity and people, and I could rest on my own, spend time with family, stitch. And the kids! We stayed out of town, close to little cousins. I hardly saw them, except when Tully and I worked on his new quilt together. It was perfect.

Before we left, I managed to finish one handmade gift. I probably would have attempted more if it wasn't for my sewing room feeling like it was almost as hot as the 40 deg C outside! I made a table runner for my mum and dad with Insul Bright for the wadding so that it could hold hot dishes too. These tiny hourglass blocks were so effective and bright. Like confetti. I'd definitely love to make something like this again, but maybe in winter, when there's not so much pressing tiny seams!

The trip through the bush was beautiful as always, helped by the lovely gift my friend Lucy gave me! This Anna Maria Horner tapestry was sent to her as a mistake, instead of the one she ordered - a score for me! I'm loving the hand-stitching for a different outcome and effect. The perfect holiday project for me!

I also made lots and lots of little 1" hexies. I took a little pencil case of hexagons and voile I'd already cut everywhere I went. I sat a stitched when people came to visit, when we watched movies, when I was just enjoying the air cooler while the kids slept.

I spent time with my brand new nephew and his first-time mum. This ended up being such a precious gift for me. My sister in law had a pretty similar, rough experience to my birth with Tully, and we spent time talking, baby snuggling, reflecting on our expectations and reality. Watching again just how demanding the newborn stage is, made me think about giving up our life for another. It seems this is the way it was intended. And accepting and embracing it now rather that feeling it forced upon me in just a few short feels like that first dive into a cold pool on a hot day. :)

I feel SOOO rested. I feel newly inspired. I feel ready for a new year of change, a new baby, homeschooling, fabric shopping! I came home to these beautiful colours waiting for me - Anna Maria Horner's Dowry - my Christmas present from Tim that didn't quite make it before we left. Isn't he good?

Well, I was going to write about what's up next, but that seems enough for now. How about you? How was your Christmas?

Jodi xx

Except for one last thing! Before Christmas, Tim and I, with a group of friends made this video for Cornerstone Community. In the video, we think through Jesus' words in John, "As the Father sent me, so I send you" in a modern, urban life. I share my story of, travelling, study, surprise pregnancy, sewing. It's a little different to what I normally share here, but I thought some of you might enjoy it. :)