Friday, 7 August 2015

Nana McIntyre - Quilt in Progress

I remember having a conversation with a friend when I was twenty about what I was going to do with my life. I wanted to travel again. I wanted to volunteer with young people or refugees or orphans. I wanted to give my life to something worthwhile and important. And I probably should go to university if I could squeeze it in. Afterall, I was smart. I shouldn't waste that. I just didn't know how I..
"What do you mean, 'squeeze it in?' How much time do you think you have?" My friend interrupted.
I laughed as I realised the answer. Five years.

By the age of twenty five, I needed to have succeeded in all the areas of life that were important to me so that I could be ready for my life to end. Not with death. With marriage, kids, bills, responsibilities.
It's funny to think that that conversation was fifteen years ago, and that tomorrow I'll be 35. And life hasn't ended. By coincidence, I did marry at 25, the year I finally started my degree. Two years later that was interrupted by the Wonderful Choas, a baby that came earlier than we'd planned. Though I did work hard to finish university before the next one came along. And in a way, life did end then. The old life. The portable, spontaneous one. The one where you plan to be in Europe for Christmas (not because we're wealthy, but because we love to travel). The one where you use your holidays for road trips, and stay with friends on their sofa. The one where you can move everything you own in the boot of your car, and decide year to year what you want to do with your life.

But I believe in resurrection, and when that old life died, something new and beautiful grew in its place. Any artist knows that limitations foster creativity and I think Tim and I have used those limits well to carve out who we want to be and what's important to us.
But I've still spent this week yearning for the old life. Tim's been in Newcastle for the week, working on his Post Grad degree. And I've been longing for a long stretch of time to work on this quilt. I've been impatient with the kids for making mess and resenting me for having to tidy it up, for needing to eat THREE MEALS A DAY, for being loud and waking the baby, for asking things that don't matter to me while I'm trying to concentrate. So I've been putting them to bed in the evening and stay up late to suck out as many hours as I can from the day on my own. Which, of course, just makes me more cranky the next morning. Should I send them to school? Were we silly having a third? Should I demand a week to myself to work, like Tim gets once a month? 

The reason I love to study history is that it reminds me that we didn't always have this expectation that life was ours to do with what we pleased. In fact, for most of human history, most people have had their life carved out for them, shaped by poverty or status or family expectations. I am part of a very short series of generations in a relatively small part of the world that have been told we can do whatever the hell we like with our lives. Which has really only led to the consequence that whatever we choose leads to dissatisfaction.
People who have been reading here a while would know we've been reading the Little House series as a family this year. I can't tell you how much I recommend it to all families. The books are written by Laura Ingalls Wilder, and are the story of her life growing up in a pioneering family. And you get such a strong sense reading them, that they really believed life was about gratitude, acceptance, doing the task before you with integrity. Not about having options and freedom and fulfillment. Those things were nice when they came, but they weren't the goal.

Laura's story was set at the same time that Betty McIntyre's grandparents were making this quilt somewhere in Australia. It's made from soldier's uniforms. And I love the idea of making something so beautiful from something that has seen so much tragedy. To me, soldier's uniforms speak of a complete lack of freedom, of a career spent following orders, of discomfort and death. It makes me love this old quilt all the more. And it makes me sad that I've spent the week fighting to get more done on mine, rather than learning its lessons.

People have been asking me if, like the original, I've been using recycled fabrics that have their own story. That would have been fun. But instead I've been using this curated bundle here. The colours are inspired by those around me. The brown and gold fields waiting to be planted. The green and purple lucerne, the red and orange carpet on my front lawn. So in that way, they still tell my story. Never in my adult life have I been so surrounded by colour. Never in my quilting life have I felt such a need to put those colours in my work. It's a process that's giving such joy, going by feel with each round, deciding what would work next, what gives me the same feeling as those green and gold hills. If you feels inspired by it too, Beth from Stash Fabrics is offering a 10% discount on all purchases during her Kona Blog Hop with the code WOW303.

Tomorrow I'll be 35. And because I like round numbers, if feels like the kind of milestone you sit and think about your goals for the next five years. And gosh, I long to have gratitude as a habit. To hold my life with an open hand. To welcome my kids rather than resent the interruption. To count my blessings rather than the years till we can travel again, or the hours left in the day. Is it possible I could be all those things by 40? I guess I have to want them more than I want to finish this quilt!

Stash Fabrics not only has a range of specially curated bundles, but now has every Kona colour in stock, and a new Kona club starting in September. For someone who's always loved bright clashy colours, and been a little afraid of solids, this has been a great experiment to see I can still create a look I love, movement and interest with plain colours. In fact, somehow it feels even more me, like the work is truly my own. You can click on the links below to see what others have done with the same challenge. The results are beautiful.

Stash Fabrics Kona Blog Hop Schedule

July 17 – Darcy @ Modern Cozy
July 23 – Jacey  @ Jacey Craft
July 30 - Kelly @ Kelby Sews
August 3 – Nancy @ Owen’s Olivia
August 6 – Jodi @ Tales of Cloth
August 10 – Megan @ City Stitches
August 12 – Rita @ Red Pepper Quilts
August 17 – Elizabeth @ Andpins Handmade
August 19 – Tara @ Rad and Happy
August 21 – Sharon @ Color Girl Quilts
August 24 – Allison @ Allison Sews
August 27 – Kristi @ Schnitzel and Boo
August 31 - Jessee @ Art School Dropout


  1. Wow! This is just incredible! It gets better every single time I see it. My mom read most of the Laura Ingalls Wilder series throughout the winter months when I was young. It took her a couple years to get through them, but we LOVED hearing her read to us and those were probably our favorite out of everything she read. I think parenting is all about unselfishness for the greater good--the health and wellbeing of our children. It isn't always easy, but the reward is well worth the irritations along the way.:)

  2. Jodi, this was exactly -- exactly -- what I needed to read today. It's so hard to have perspective in life sometimes, to accept the limitations that come with change and maturity and responsibility. I wouldn't have my life any other way, but it's hard sometimes. I too want to live with a more open heart, being grateful for the joys and not resenting the irritations. Thank you for a beautiful lesson, my friend.

  3. Gosh Jodi this just made me cry. I have read so many blog posts recently about 'if you set your mind to it you can make it happen and make your dreams a reality'. I am surrounded by people for whom this is just not true. They fight to find enough money each day to survive. It doesn't mean that they don't have dreams, but for most of them, these will just not become a reality. And you are right, in the end our dreams will fail to fulfill. We don't live for ourselves, we live to love others and to love God, each in our own situations. Such a beautiful reminder from you - thank you xx Oh and your quilt is beautiful :-)

  4. Happy Birthday! you have more wisdom at 35 than many people have at 70. Life is all about perspective and balance and realizing you don't have to have it all or by a certain deadline. And kiddies grow up too quickly. But that said, it's OK for a mother of young children to have space for herself. Don't be shy about asking for that. there's no perspective to be had when you're tired, overwhelmed and cranky!

  5. Happy Birthday Jodi. You sound as though you have lived more in your 35 years, than some people do in their lifetime. I am sure if there are things you still want to achieve you will do it too.
    Anyhoo, your quilt is looking fabulous, it doesn't hurt the kids to eat cereal for breakfast and lunch on the same day, and cleaning up the house, while making us feel better - is definitely overrated. Putting yourself in time out is good for 15-20 minutes too, with a book or your piecing - I did that sometimes when my two were little.

  6. I love your writing so very much. Happy birthday!

  7. Wow it looks amazing! can't wait to see it finished Don't worry if the kids take your time. I am 10 years & a bit ;-) (actually 13yrs older) than you and my kids are at an awesome self sufficient age now! Life is good! Hats of to you home schooling! I threw a party when my fifth went off to school lol! I grew up watching Little house on the Prairie. I'm going to lookup the books. Thanks

  8. Oh gosh i missed your bday... happy birthday lovely. And yes you should take a week off and come to Newcastle and stay in our new old terraced house rental by the sea, next door to a fish and chip shop ;)
    The quilt is looking AMAZING! And oh my I also need to learn those lessons xxx

  9. And now you've inspired me to pick up the Little House books again - which I read as a child. Your quilt is beautiful, your writing is lovely. And you should ABSOLUTELY demand dedicated time for your work. Time away from my little guy always allows me to accomplish so much and appreciate him so much more.

  10. This is a gorgeous quilt! Are you following a pattern, or are you calculating it yourself? I am making a hexagon quilt now, and it is certainly a labor of love.
    I love your philosophy. At 20, I too had made plans for what I would do by the time I turned 25. I think it is a good idea to make goals like these so that you can make sure you can live life to the fullest the way you want. You will have to change them, as situations arise, but without plans, you would wonder where all your time went at the end of the five years and wish that you had done something different.

  11. Oh wow this is beautiful -- is there a specific pattern for this quilt? I love your blog - you make such beautiful things AND I love to read your thoughts. This post was so well timed for me and I am so appreciative that you share both your quilts and your life!


I so love your comments! I read all of them and reply when I can. If you don't hear back, I'm lost under a mound of scraps or outside jumping on the trampoline with the kids. Jodi. xx