Just moments.

I spend a lot of time thinking about where I'm headed. Where I fit in the world. What my purpose is. I'm so drawn to the idea of having a creative identity. I make this, and when I do, people know it's me. But it seems that when I pin something down, when I say, "I'm going to make reversible clothes and sell them in town!" or "I'm going to make patterns!" or "I'm going to make drawstring quilts!" that I start to feel stuck. That settled feeling of finding a niche is an elusive one for me.

So it probably shouldn't have surprised me that after announcing absolutely and unequivocally a few weeks ago that I Am a Quilter, I started to feel at sea. Trapped. Like the very act of mapping out my path stole it's beauty, it's adventure. Like it was supposed to be a secret thing, left unspoken and mysterious.

I have a nearly four year old who's a lot like me. Suggest a plan for the afternoon and she runs the other way. But leave her to her own devices and she'll flit (mostly) happily from one thing to the next. If I'd offered to make this pinafore for her, she would have politely, but firmly declined. But today she had in mind that she wanted a purple dress. And because life doesn't always allow you to drop everything and make at a little girl's whim, but today seemed one of those days, I agreed. I gave her the option of the pinny or a wrap dress, and she chose the print.

As I started ironing, then pinning, then cutting this all too familiar pattern, I felt the kind of peace that comes when you get lost in something. I've made more than one hundred of these, but the last was over a year ago. Still, I didn't stop once to double check the next steps.
"I'm enjoying this!" I thought. And then, "Maybe I could make more to sell before Christmas!" And then along those all too familiar tracks, my thoughts meandered. Price. time. feelings. How am I feeling? Would I want to make another after this? Would I hate myself in a couple of weeks when I have 20 cut out pinnies staring me down?

"Mum? Mum. MUUUUMMMM!"

This is why it's good to sew with a nearly 4 year old every now and then. Because you can't think with a little girl's constant stream of questions and stories. And when you can't think, you realise that the good you were enjoying was not the making, but the moment. The opportunity to say yes to Evie. The knowing it was quick and familiar. The feel of her hand on mine so she could help me sew, but "not get needled". This wasn't about finding an identity, this was about being. A mother with a skill and passion that could be shared just like this, right now, because Tim was outside with Tully and the baby was asleep.

And so we sewed. And dressed up. Brushed her hair and photographed her dancing. It occurred to me, just quietly, that it was impossible to get her to model last time, that maybe we could do more now. But I stilled that voice quickly.
No plans. Not right now.
Just moments.

Olive & Co.

After my Slowly, Slowly post last week, I kept plugging away slowly at these pinafores to take into the new Olive & Co. in my old space in the Hunter St Mall.
It took a week longer than I was hoping, but at a pace where I just did it in little bits, in between other quilting and mess-making (cutting) projects. That post, though sounding a bit frustrated and resigned, actually really helped me think through what I wanted for the next steps, in light of the fact that I was, a) human, and b) a mother.

I readjusted my goals to a more "I'd like to work on these things next" type posture, rather than "this is what I will get done this month." It moved the focus from results to process, which is much more fun, and realistic when there's children (and my own mortality) involved!

Anyway, I just wanted to share those little thoughts as the context for actually showing you Olive & Co., a beautiful collection of home-made wares from Newcastle's Olive Tree Markets, carefully curated by Justine Gaudry.

Isn't it all so incredible! I feel so proud to be in a city that supports local artists in this way. These spaces, which were otherwise empty, are opened rent-free for creative businesses by Renew Newcastle. It creates an environment so different from urban shopping malls and brings people back into the city centre.

Olive & Co. are now stocking a selection of my pinafores and quilts. If you're local, go check out the new artists that have set up shop in the mall. It's a treat!

Shop Talk

Well, I've been in my shop for two weeks now! It seems so unreal that I still have 8 to go. I'm really enjoying the experience of a short term lease that is still much, much longer than a market morning. I have busy days and slow days, and both are a gift because they balance each other out. I love not needing it to be busy all the time to make it worth it. I love not packing up at the end of each day and coming in the next morning and it's all set up still. I thought I'd use this time to reflect on some more things about my first two weeks.

The Customers:
I'm really enjoying the local, in-person element to selling my wares. It's really different to selling online. I watch people walk in, enjoy the colours and the set up, look through the clothes racks, ask questions, give compliments and then decide to purchase. I meet their little girl or hear about their grandchildren. I've sent my clothes all over the world before, but hearing about my clothes being bought for family in London, America and Russia because they were made locally is a different thing altogether. People here want this to succeed because I'm part of them here in Newcastle. I really enjoy belonging to the online crafty community, and now I'm enjoying being part of something local and personal. And considering I'm so terrible at replying emails, it's also nice having the whole conversation there in person!

The Sales:
For the shop I've finally branched out and made something other than pinafores! I've made adult wrap skirts, girls' wrap dresses, scarves, quilts, and my friends from Corduroy Corner have made hats, little bags, fishing games, and lots of things for boys. I think it's a really great mix. So it's surprised me that my little pinnies have by far been the most popular product. I hadn't sold any online for a long time before opening up shop and I'd started to wonder if I'd overdone it! But people have loved them in a whole range of prints. Another interesting factor is that people keep commenting on how reasonably priced everything is. In fact, to keep up with demand, I'm wondering if I need to put prices up! I'm so used to people really underselling themselves on Facebook, Etsy and craft markets. But now I'm in the old David Jones (a high end department store) building, patronised by mostly local older people who used to shop there, and tourists who come in on the cruise ships. It's been really encouraging to see that I can sell my clothes at a price I'm happy with.
I've also sold four drawstring quilts in 6 days! It's been great to see that even more expensive items are selling in person.

Tully dressing up for Opening Night!

The Role Reversal:
This, by far, has been the hardest part of the whole adventure. Tim and I have had to negotiate roles and adjust routines since we've been married. We've been students, parents and students, parents and unemployed and now both working and volunteering in ever-changing roles. And it's never been something we've found easy. And sometimes I wonder if we'll ever get better at it! It can be heartbreaking when you're already tired, to discover what you were expecting but hadn't communicated, and what they were expecting but hadn't communicated, are really different things! It's hard when you're both tired and busy to make sacrifices for the other. It has made me glad that as a rule, we've made choices not to make life too full (neither of us work full time), so that we have space for opportunities like this, and so that the busy times are just seasons, not not the new normal.  

The Volunteers:
This has been the part that has blown me away the most. I've had volunteer painters, ironers, sewers, balloon sculptors, baby sitters, techy people, window dressers and shoppers. I've had friends bring me coffee, lunch, flowers and extra clothes racks. I've had a friend put button holes in skirts for me with her 2 week old baby wrapped to her chest! And what's more, everyone has offered. I've seen, and been part of, volunteers enlisted for important social or environmental causes, but my little business? The way in which my friends and family have owned this with me has been the most beautiful expression of community and generousity.

My wonderful, generous, creative designer friend, Anneliese.
 Well! I think that's all for now. I have made some new things which I would love to show you, but they will have to wait till I have a moment, and the weather, for photos. For now, know that I am beyond touched that you're sharing in this adventure with me!

Jodi. xx

Ready for Business!

Well, it's been a while since I've blogged, but I really wanted to share these photos on here because some of my bloggy friends aren't on Facebook and wouldn't have seen my 'in process' photos. I've got myself a shop! And I'm so nearly ready to open tomorrow at 10am.

My friend Anneliese and I have worked non stop since we found out we got the space a couple of weeks ago, and I am beyond excited at how it's turned out!

My shelves are just that little bit empty, waiting for me to finish a couple more quilts. I'm so glad this is a 10 week stint and not a weekend. It can be an evolving space, depending on time and fancy to make new things. And no, not all the kids in the above photo are mine. We just quickly became the local crèche because of all the awesome toys loaned to us for the summer.

There you go! It's official! And I have the sign to prove it!

Improvised Piecing Reversible Wrap Skirt!

I had a lot of fun getting my scraps out last month and throwing them together, inspired by Jennifer from Ellison Lane Quilts and her improvised piecing tutorial last month. I could have kept going, I found it so fun and quick, the fabric growing before my eyes, but, I had a plan: to make a reversible wrap skirt for my sister in law for Christmas, and I thought that having big blocks of different patterns over the whole skirt might be too much.

And then the block just sat there, co-ordinating fabrics chosen, while I quickly got everyone else's ready. I think I was a little worried it wasn't going to turn out like I had envisaged and kept putting it off. (Do you have projects like that?) I missed the Christmas deadline, and today finally made the risky cuts into my fabric.

I used Make it Perfect's pattern, "The Versatile Wrap" for the pattern pieces (because I'm a bit of a chicken when it comes to doing these things from scratch!), made two skirt bases according to her instructions and then bound them together. Here's how:

I trimmed the improv block to the right length, then added some of Anna Maria Horner's Loulouthi to the side and cut it to the right shape.

Then I added the other skirt panels to it and made the second skirt.

I sewed the binding strips to the bottom of the first skirt, right sides facing.

Then sewed the other edge of the biding to the bottom of the second skirt.

I then did the same to the top, this time with extra long strips to make the ties aswell. I left a gap at both ends to bring the skirt the right way around and to let the ties through easily.

I then turned the skirt the right way around, folded and pressed the binding top and bottom. I pinned the skirt together at the top (basting probably would have worked even better but I was on the home stretch and Evie was due to wake soon!), checking the seams sat together on both sides, and top stitched the binding and ties, closing the holes up as I went.

And here it is! I love how different the sides are! I love the loud, clashing lines and prints of the first side, and the beautiful soft "Secret Garden" print for the reverse by Sandy Henderson. Pretty good for a nap-time's work, wouldn't you say? (Even if it is a bit late!) Happy Christmas Emily! I hope you like it!