550 flowers.

240 women from four continents made this quilt. I've been wondering if that's actually a world first. It's possible don't you think?

Early in March, I read with shock and tears, that Rachel's long awaited baby girl, Eleni, had been born with complications. When I put the call out for flowers on my blog and Instagram for Rachel and her family, I didn't expect this.

I didn't expect people to jump to their needle and thread immediately, or offer to stitch them to squares. I didn't expect the offers to help, the gifts of thread and fabric or money towards postage costs. I didn't expect the unbelievably beautiful outpouring of people's own stories. Of both grief and hope. Loss, infertility, longing, waiting. You had been here before. You were so thankful for this way to participate. You took up paper piecing for the first time, you chose colours that were meaningful to you, you were not held back by international postage or time constraints.

I never anticipated the depth of meaning this would have for the online quilting community, or for me. How wonderful this has been to watch grow to overflowing (see #flowersforeleni on Instagram), to see what we're like as a group. Lately I've read blog posts about stolen work or undervaluing ourselves. But look! We are generous and creative! We pull together and come through for people. We feel each others' losses and joys.


I certainly didn't expect to receive 550 flowers. It created quite the creative challenge. I realise now, sitting and looking back over the experience, that I really expected to use all of them. If I had my time over, I think I'd give myself permission to use one flower from each person to make a special quilt for the Hausers, and ask for help to make donation quilts from the rest. But instead, I organised them into piles by colour, then pulled out a group of well matching ones, mostly pink and aqua because they far outnumbered the others, for a single bed quilt. I figured the most useful size, long term, would be a single bed size. Perhaps for Eleni herself.


Then I set some aside in a rainbow for the back, and wrote the names of all the contributors on this fabric by Anna Maria Horner. I made the quilt top in my typical scrappy fashion of having all my squares by the machine, and sewing two that looked good together, and then sewing those two into bigger squares, and so forth, till I had 16 really big squares that I laid out on my lounge room floor to check it looked good. And I don't know if it was just late or bad lighting, or the quiet voice reminding me that I was making a quilt representing 240 women to a quilting legend, but I wasn't happy with it. I left it for a day, laid it out again, unpicked some of the squares that were bothering me, replaced them, and then felt much better about it. It's tricky with a quilt you look at in great detail. It's so hard to know if those same ill-fitting bits will stand out to someone else or not. Tim said I should have done the front in a rainbow too. He's so helpful!


I was so thankful for Heidi's, from Buttons and Butterflies, immediate and generous donation of batting, thread and quilting, so that I could ship it to her in the States a little lighter, and then it would be closer to its final home. I can't wait to see what she'll do with this giant.

I can never express how thankful I am for how you all jumped on board with this project. I really think it's one of the most significant things I've ever done. It has been a great source of hope and comfort to me over the last eight weeks, reflecting on the deep and generous beauty in people. I hope it does the same for Rachel and her family as they realign their expectations and routine, and their sense of normal. My friend Jem, who has triplets with muscular dystrophy, says grief in this kind of parenting isn't something you work through and then move on. It comes in waves, with each reminder of difference and loss. And there are great joys too. A different, beautiful view of success, an openness to help and generousity. I'm glad we've given Rachel a quilt (or two!), as a long lasting, beautiful, practical expression of our prayers and support, our cheering them on, and weeping with them. It's a gift for the waves.



Linking up with Fabric Tuesday and Wip Wednesday

Value


I started blogging about three and a half years ago, inspired by a pretty intense envy for Anna Maria Horner, one of the few bloggers I followed at the time. It sounds malicious, but it wasn't. I'd just finished my History degree, a lifestyle (part time mum, part time student) and identity which had suited me perfectly. I'd had a second baby. I spent a lot of time breastfeeding, while reading Anna Maria's exciting tales of setting up a new studio above her house. I felt trapped and lost. So instead of continuing to moan about it, I decided to take positive steps towards creativity, productivity and thankfulness. I started to write.


When I started blogging, I started reading other blogs, meeting new friends, people like me, sewing more, becoming part of a community. I discovered that some bloggers actually managed to make money from their craft, and I was struck by how great it would be to contribute to the family income that way. It would certainly justify the time I was spending writing about myself. When I wasn't feeling so optimistic, I wrestled with the extravagance of it all. I've written here before about my young-adult intentions to live and work with orphans and homeless children in Eastern Europe. It all seemed so bizarre, trying to find my place in the world through sewing, on my own, hoping to God the babies slept just a little longer, while much of the world wrestled with more urgent issues like war and food and shelter.



Over the last few years, there's been a lot of discussion on blogs I read about value. Valuing ourselves as creative workers, putting the right price on our work, whether it be physical or intellectual. As I've gotten to know creative folk in my city through my pop-up shop, or market stalls, I've loved the open and honest conversations I've had about how people price their wares, how business is going, what they love most about it. My own efforts to make money, selling clothes and quilts, developing a pattern, happily ticked over enough cash into my Paypal account to pay for fabric and support creative friends in their businesses too. It was part fun and exciting and part (mostly) monotonous, and never helped put food on the table. And, well, it didn't really feel like it was achieving anything or solving world problems.


When I had Finlay, earlier this year, I said goodbye to craft markets, started turning away custom orders, and decided to spend any time I happened to get sewing (a lot more than I expected!), making quilts for friends who had graduated from university and moved on. The experience has been so much more than I could have imagined. It's stretched my creativity, helped me discover more of what I love in quilts, and it's touched my friends deeply. This is the sixth, and final quilt I aimed to make this year, and I think it's my favourite.


I love that I got away with not using white or low volume prints. I love that it's scrappy, but still within a pattern. I love the mix of Anna Maria's saturated prints with the other lighter, brighter ones from my stash. I love that it includes a blessing, written by Tim, for the recipient, quilted into some of the church dash blocks. I love, LOVE the feeling of making something really work, after being worried from the beginning that it might not.


I was talking to an artist friend of mine a few weeks ago about this experience of making for gifts rather than making for sale, about how it's settled much of the angst in me about value, about needing to justify the time I spend sewing and thinking and writing about quilting. I've enjoyed seeing the changes in me (as an artist and a person) as well as the way it's touched other people.
She looked at me and said, "You know that even if you hadn't made those quilts as gifts, it's still a valuable thing to do, right?"
Yes, I did. I mean kind of. Actually maybe not. But it's been something I've been mulling over ever since, until yesterday when I read yet another blog post about valuing ourselves as bloggers/makers/business women, and I had that feeling again that maybe because I wasn't attracting blog sponsorship, that I wasn't really valuing my words here.

And that's when the light went on.

I absolutely support women working in a way that suits them and their families. I am for women who put themselves out there find ways to monetize their gifts and skills. I support paying them for their work, valuing it financially.

But I think I've had it around the wrong way. For me, at least.

My blogging, my making, are not valuable because I put a price on them. They are valuable because in the beginning there was colour and creativity, stories and relationships, way before money entered the scene. And they were good. In and of themselves. And when I make, when I write, when I pour my girl a drink of water, I make this place a little bit more like the author's original intention.

And that has great value.


May God grant you an adventure big enough to inspire awe in your indomitable spirit.
May all who share fellowship at your meal table be blessed by the sacrament of communion.
May God bless you with the harmony of work and passion that blossoms into a vocation.
May God make his face to shine on you, and yours in turn to shine in your world.
And until we meet again may God carry with you, all those you love in the palm of his hand
-Tim Godfrey

a gift


I love handstitching. I love the time for thinking, processing, praying. I love it when Tim chooses scary movies and I have something to focus on apart from the film. I love it when visitors come, or when I have a meeting. When I want to be sewing but also need to listen to Evie's long and convoluted story about the princess and the power ranger. I'm sure I listen better when my hands are busy. :)

I started this quilt two years ago when my lovely friend was struggling to conceive. After a conversation where she had confessed that she couldn't wait till I could make something lovely for a future baby of hers, I thought it would be nice to make something sooner, something that would remind me, while stitching, to pray for health and peace and patience, and a new little one for them.

The pattern is Rachel's Modern Medallion, from Stitched in Color's Handstitched Class and each round of the medallion includes a different handstitching technique. I highly recommend Rachel's classes!


Well the more I stitched, the less I was convinced that it was my friend's style. Isn't it challenging making for others, without completely second guessing yourself? I replaced the centre with something different to my original choice, I chose brighter colours than the earlier rounds of Loulouthi which are very 'autumn'. Still, I was unsure. And then, miracle of all miracles, she fell pregnant! And slowly but surely, the quilt became neglected while I dreamed up fun and sweet baby gifts.


She had stayed in my "I don't know what to do with you" box for about a year, when I found out my cousin, another quilter and Anna Maria Horner appreciator (I like to think I introduced her), found out at her 20 week pregnancy scan that her baby was high risk, his organs weren't forming properly, and she needed to prepare for the worst. At the beginning of my own pregnancy with Finlay, I was devastated for her. I decided the best thing I could do was bring out the quilt again and keep praying.
Following surgery immediately after birth, Naomi's baby stayed in hospital for 2 months before, miraculously, wonderfully, she was able to take him home. You can read her honest and beautiful story here.


I've told a couple of people while showing them this quilt, that I was making this for my cousin.
"She must be a pretty special cousin!" has been the common reply.
And she is special, and I do like her a lot, but I don't think the recipient of a quilt can be valued by the time put into it. Sometimes it feels more like a gift to the quilter, wouldn't you agree? Thousands of kilometres away, little old me with my 3 kids and small house, can do this one thing that's extra special. I used to be the person wishing I knew how I could help, wishing I could do something. Now I can do this. Something that can hopefully, humbly, be a physical expression of all those hopes and prayers and tears, given for that precious little boy. And the much longed for little boy born to my friends last year. And for other dear friends and their wishes for babies and partners and other things that haven't come along as easily as they hoped.

Yes, I do love handstitching.


Dear Myself as a First Time Mum,

It's Tully's 6th birthday today. Your 6th anniversary as a mother. And I've had this letter in mind ever since our third baby was born. Because birthdays and new babies always bring up some of those memories of what you expected of yourself, and how things have turned out so differently than you hoped, but still, in a lot of good ways. I wanted to encourage you, to let you know you've done a good job. To tell you that some things will get easier and some harder. That some things will need to be let go. I wanted to write a list of everything I wish you could have known back then, but really can only be learned through experience.



You need to resign from your job as people pleaser.
And apply for the new job of finding what works for you. Parenting is demanding and boring. And lots of other things too. You will agonise over whether sewing is a waste of time and if you should be getting out more, visiting family more, hosting more. You'll think people who do the grocery shopping with 3 kids, who manage to fit playgroup, swimming and music lessons, and the daily school run, and work part time, are both insane and amazing. And they will look at you and ask you how you possibly do your life, with your sewing and homeschooling and church commitments. Deciding not to do it their way is not rejecting them, or telling them they're wrong, or even failing, it's just part of the process of figuring how to do your life. That's the gift you've been given, and it's also your new job.


You still hate baking.
Let me tell you, Jodi, that it has gotten easier baking with children as they've gotten older. So don't feel like you've failed as a mother when it all goes pear-shaped when Tully's 18 months old. There is so much time to give them all the experiences you want them to have as children. There are also some that you find easier than others. Gardening with kids drives you crazy, sewing is fun. Painting gets easier when they get older, but is completely frustrating when they're little and have short attention spans. If something fails, please don't take it personally. Enjoying life together means doing things you enjoy together. Besides, Tim likes to bake, ride bikes and take the kids to the beach, so let him do it.


There are no easy answers to the TV issue.
Or the discipline one, the education one, how many kids you should have, breastfeeding, cloth nappies, working mothers or anything else you thought you had figured out in your childless 20s. You'll decide which ones are non-negotiable (hardly any), and which ones need to be negotiated (most of them) in each season. It's ok to make decisions to make life easier (like using disposables and the tv in the morning and daycare) and also the ones that bring challenges, but fit your values, like homeschooling. And making those decisions doesn't mean they're made forever. You'll keep reassessing your values, challenging yourself, going easy on yourself. Using modern conveniences even though your parents survived without them doesn't make you soft, it probably makes you smart, and fortunate. Living according to your values, even though they differ from the mainstream doesn't make you hardcore. I think I'm learning that values that you truely hold for yourself are the ones that are motivating, whereas one you adhere to because you've borrowed them from others feel more like a whip.


They will sleep.
If I knew telling you to 'put those baby sleep books down' would work, I would beg you to, but right now, they are the only thing making you feel like you have any hope of regaining control of your life. But please know, you will get better at living without control. And it will get easier to build a routine. Eventually you'll replace the books with your own experience and confidence, and it will feel wonderful. Keep going. Its going to be ok.

Some days are a write off.
You will have days like today, where the visitors have left, Tim's taken the day off and the kids are full up on new toys and attention. And you make plans. Plans to write and to sew and to cross some things off that list. And suddenly the kids start fighting and wake the baby up and it all turns to poo. Sometimes it will just last the morning, sometimes all day, or all week. You will have months at a time that are spent contrary to your personality and desires. It happens and it sucks. Turn the TV on. Eat cake. Go outside. Call for help. Order home delivery. Live out of washing baskets for the next week. (actually, you'll do that even when things are good - who sorts washing when you can be sewing?) Lock yourself in the bathroom for 10 minutes. You're going to be ok. You're not doing permanent damage to your children, or yourself.


People who say enjoy it while it lasts are lying, and telling the truth.
As are the people who tell you it only gets harder. Nostalgia is fun for those that have the luxury of having everything you're experiencing now in their past. Each stage brings its own challenges and joys, but perhaps the biggest challenge is to be completely in each moment. There is beauty when they are snuggling asleep in your arms and when they learn to sleep on their own. When they ask a million questions and when they just want to figure it out on their own. When they want to spend time with you, and when they lose themselves for hours playing in their room. It can feel like you are doing everything poorly because everything you do is interrupted, and so everything still buzzes around in your head, waiting to be resolved. But somehow, if you can just put your list and your phone down (you'll be surprised at how much technology has crept into every crevice of your day) and pour your whole self into right now, you might not enjoy it all, but you might find more to enjoy.



Hang in there my dear friend. While it sometimes will feel like your kids are an interruption, an alien invasion, being at home with them also gives you the opportunity to shape your days and pursue interests you didn't have time for while single, albeit in an interrupted fashion! You will make new friends, feel terrible for abandoning others, sit out in the sun at lunch time, and watch movies under home-made quilts on rainy days. Practice thankfulness. And patience. And keep some chocolate hidden in your underwear drawer.

Love, You. xx

Distracted.


I got this quilt top finished today while Tim was out with the kids. Another long-lingering resident of my WIP box, it only needed these final borders sewn on to be done! I'm amazed at how many things in that box are just short of the finish line. My machine is in desperate need for a service so I was extra motivated to get it finished so that I can be hand-quilting it while the beast is holidays.


The pattern is Rachel of Stitched in Color's Modern Medallion, which was part of a hand-stiched course I took a couple of years ago. I found making a medallion quilt challenging with my old machine. My 1/4" seams weren't accurate and each border didn't quite fit. I found the motivation to stitch the final decorative border when I heard my cousin was having a difficult pregnancy and, lo and behold, it fit perfectly! And then I must have got distracted. Finishing off Christmas presents and custom orders and being pregnant myself.
I kind of cheated with the finish. I didn't attempt the beautiful mitred corners that Rachel put in hers. And I used the leftover strips from my bed quilt rather than try to keep with the colour theme. All Anna Maria Horner prints go together, right?


Fin woke up while I was taking photos so I lay her on my pillow and kept snapping, hoping she'd forgive me for being distracted when I should be feeding her. Then she started giggling at the camera! You know that kind of breathing-in noise that escapes just before the stage where they can actually giggle?


So of course, I moved her to a much prettier backdrop where she completely stole the show.


People keep asking me how I get so much done with a baby in the house. I'm not quite sure myself!