In the Studio


And all over a sudden, almost overnight, I went from escaping here for the air-conditioning, to escaping here for the sunshine. From cursing its hot beams radiating through our thin tin roof, to welcoming them through the northern window that fills most of the wall next to my sewing machine.

Perhaps it was the change in the weather, or the finishing up and shipping off three more quilts for Free Spirit. Or maybe even the big fuss over on Instagram about the impending changes to my feed, but I woke this morning with the desire to write. To think about words and the state of things, without limiting it to the space before the ... or how to caption a picture so that you don't just flick away.


English Paper Piecing has become more than just a summer fling. And something about my Free Spirit Quilts becoming my 'day job' has made me feel completely justified in working on more than one EPP quilt at a time. Afterall, it's my relaxing-in-the-evening sewing. I'm allowed to follow my whims, right? And even before this Pinwheel Posy quilt is all stitched up, I have another in mind that's ready to explode out of me if I don't hurry up and give it form. And hey, it's the weekend. Maybe I'll just succumb.


A completely new and exciting adventure for me is Scraps In Tubs. I know. Not new or exciting really, but all the happy feelings come mostly from me actually diving in and doing it. About a month ago, my mum came and helped me sort through my monster of a scrap stash. It was like a virus, making its way into all corners of the house (mostly with the help of our oh-so-helpful two year old.) My mother never passed on her organising genes to me, so I asked her to give them to me in a weekend, and we had a lovely time together wrapping yardage around comic book boards, and reorganising my scraps into these spider-proof, toddler-proof tubs. We threw out anything ridiculously un-useful, and then added my fat quarters and big scraps in the mix too. Now I only have two places for fabric storage, rather than five or six. Oh, it's so good!


I've been slowly going through the boxes and putting all kinds of favourites and not-so-favourites alike through the 2.5" square die with my Accuquilt, for the aforementioned next-in-line hexie quilt. If only I could hand-stitch as quickly as I can cut 2.5" squares!

The big tidy up revealed a longish forgotten scrap project, which this week has been brought out into the sunshine to hopefully be all sewn up. It's made completely with the scrap triangles from a second mountain campfire quilt I've sewn up and was also put on the 'waiting pile.' Fin wanted to be in the photo, but didn't want to be in the photo. She turns two today. And she lives most of her life this way, wanting to join in, and wanting to be in control. I'm like that too so I understand. And liking her despite the infuriating bits helps me like myself more.


I started this blog 5 years ago next month! Back in the very epicenter of baby-rearing chaos. It feels a little strange, a little too good to be true that today we say goodbye to the baby days. All those hundreds of times that I wrote, and said, and prayed, "This too shall pass", and it actually did! Who would have thought?

Some mothers are absolutely, wonderfully themselves with little ones underfoot. But me, I'm enjoying me right here in my Autumn sunshine and my tubs with lids.

Bigger


Every so often, you have a sudden realisation that your kids are growing up. This week has been one of those moments. It's never anything earth shattering, maybe just overhearing their conversation about their day while in the bath, or that they get through their morning chores without cajoling, or they can start to help out with quilt photos, rather that me needing to work creatively around them. But somewhere in there you look at them and think, "Listen to you! Look at you! You're bigger!"


I'm not the kind of person to mourn this change. I love grown up conversation, help with the washing, wee in the toilet. This is the stage I've been waiting for. The one where we know we are done having more, and we just sit back (in a figurative sense) and enjoy the ride. No more cesareans, no more morning sickness, no more stopping every 2 hours in car trips to pull over and breastfeed.
I have friends with teenagers and I know there's still some stuff ahead of me, but right now, I have a big boy that I can still beat in a wrestle, and a little girl who I can still beat trying to escape under the front gate, and one in between who doesn't like to wrestle or escape (yet). Right now it's nice.


This quilt was pulled from my Works in Progress box already sewn into quarter-square triangles. I cut those up diagonally and sewed them back together without too much thought or design. I think it's good to do that with WIPs sometimes. I thought a little about how to make it bigger, or add some white or grey for interest, and in the end, I had two spare blocks, and could have cut some more to make an extra row, but I just kept making that decision to keep it simple. I sewed the finished blocks together, spray basted, quilted and bound it in a long afternoon. I have other quilts I want to throw my creativity and thoughtfulness at. I could just let this one be a happy, scrappy gift for a friend.


I started this blog almost 5 years ago because things weren't all that nice. Because I wanted to take photos and tell stories that processed what was hard, but mostly recognised what was good. Today, taking photos of these sweet kids, and a quilt I didn't have to fight to finish, it felt good to stop and say, "Hey, look where we are! How good is this?" Life is chaotic and interrupted and full and it's easy to find things I want to change, to think, I can't wait till we're nappy-free or till Tim finishes his Masters, or the kids are old enough to leave for an evening. But right now, in this moment, I am surrounded by beauty. I have much to be thankful for.

Buzzsaw - Red Sky at Night Quilt.


My Dad was a carpenter when I was a little girl. And I have such strong memories of the smell of freshly cut timber. Watching him make homes and furniture was like watching someone with super powers. He knew what to put with what, and how. And then what to do next, and then next. Anyone who's had a five year old, knows they already know everything. But I can still, so accutely, feel that feeling I experienced back then. I do not know that. And I wanted to know.
I remember feeling the same learning to read, or being surrounded by a foreign language in Poland, watching someone play the piano. It still feels special to me that my earliest memory of that longing starts with my Dad.
I never did learn to work with timber. My school, as many schools do, spent a lot of time prioritizing integers and quotients, which I can't for the life of me remember what they do, nor do I care, than working with my hands. It's a pity, because I'd love to be able to just whip up a set of drawers for my scraps! But it was that same feeling that drove me to keep learning to quilt, to sew things together and see what happens. For my first two quilts, I just made up the binding! And then slowly, as I became more excited and motivated, I started looking up tutorials, even though I much prefer to have someone tell me how to make something, rather than read it.
And it's pretty wonderful having a skill that I can slowly teach my kids. Something I'm really good at, that they don't know yet. My own super power.

BUZZSAW 12" BLOCK TUTORIAL:
You will need:

Red: Four 6.5" x 2.5" rectangles, four 4.5" x 2.5" rectangles.

White: Four 6.5" x 2.5" rectangles, four 4.5" x 2.5" rectangles.


1. Take the 4.5" strips and place the white one over the red one and sew diagonally across the corner. (see next picture for example)


2. Trim the corner off and press open.

3. Lay out the 6.5" red and white strips on either side of the combined strip as below. Sew them together. Press open.


4. Repeat with all four quadrants of the block and lay out as below. All blocks are exactly reversible, so you can make the white on the outside, or the red.


5. Sew the top two squares together, and the bottom two. Press and sew the final seam.


This block repeats beautifully if made into a whole quilt, because the white border becomes its own repeating buzzsaw shape. Scrappy boy colours are being added my my make list!


Mountain Campfire Quilt


There is something so satisfying about finishing a quilt that's been a long time coming. Even more satisfying to snap and edit the photos, to stand back and admire your work, to see in the flesh, the realisation of the idea you had several months ago.



This is Mountain Campfire. Named because the prints, Wild and Free, designed by Maureen Cracknell, and the design remind me of first moving from the city to 100 acres off the Mid North Coast of NSW when I was 12. My parents bought a farm, complete with horses, caravans and an old beat up Land Drover that had been abandoned by a couple going through a divorce. They left everything. Old song sheets and guitars, garden sheds full of blankets and mattresses, tin cups and tinned food. There was no electricity or septic system. No running water. I thought my parents were the coolest people who ever lived. It was quite the adventure!


These beautiful, warm prints arrived just as I moved back to the country, albeit to a different part of Australia, and working with them has felt like home.
I cut most of the pieces using my Accuquilt cutter, and made the quilt queen size to get enough repeat of the design. And then, feeling terrified of quilting something so big and special to me, I sent it off to Jeannette Bruce of Gone Aussie Quilting who quilted the perfect, all-over, boxy design on it. I'm so glad I took this option! I'll definitely be using it again, especially for queen size quilts!


I intended from the beginning to take my time with this quilt. I wanted to enjoy it, and not feel pressure to get it done. And while I'm glad I took that route, I never expected it to take six months! When I thought of savouring this quilt, I thought of sewing it when I felt like it. But often it sat waiting patiently in it's box, while I got other quilts finished with more certain deadlines, even though I wanted to be working on it! It's made me realise it's not just enough to intend to be slow, but to clear out the space for it also.

Now, thankfully, the intended recipients of this quilt are travelling the world on their honeymoon. And I'm just a little glad it gets to stay in my home for a few extra months before I have to hand it over! In the end, it's probably the best way to enjoy my work!



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