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

Tree Change


After a long weekend of hours driving, sitting in meetings, broken sleep, I don't usually drag the whole family out for a photo shoot. But today was cloudy. And on cloudy days, you can organise photo shoots around the baby's sleep time, rather than where the sun is. So we all hopped back in the car and drove over to the Fernleigh Track. An old rail corridor come bike path, I've been wanting to take quilt photos here for a while. It's a beautiful, interesting spot, but I'd forgotten how huge that tunnel is, and how the wind funnels through it, making for a dramatic photo shoot!


We spent the weekend in Dubbo, discussing with our friends and family, our big move to Canowindra, NSW next year! I've mentioned before that Tim and I work with Cornerstone Community, a Christian organisation that focuses on community living, mentoring, and simplicity. We'll be moving to one of our training campuses, where students come to study the Bible, Ethics, History; work on the local farms to pay their way, and are mentored one on one.
It's a really exciting move for us for lots of reasons. We'll be living in a big old house with lots of room to create, spread out and invite guests. (Come visit!) My brother and his wife, and their homeschooling family will work there too, and I can't wait for our kids to learn and play together more. Tim and I will both teach. My brain has been waiting for a chance to get back into learning and thinking again! And finally, having grown up on a farm, and now living in a city suburb, my soul loves space and fresh air. While I'll know I'll miss ducking out to the shops at 10pm for milk for tomorrow's coffee, I look forward to living 20 minutes from town, with real quiet and bright stars. I can just borrow milk from my neighbours! Or buy a cow.
So as you can probably tell, I've come home excited and all motivated to make the most of our beautiful city landmarks for quilt photos while we're still here!


This is my Fancy Fox quilt, pattern by Elizabeth Hartman, another 'Graduation Quilt' for a good friend of mine. I knew she liked Denyse Schmidt. Simple, graphic, not too floral. (I love making for people who've hung out in my sewing room a lot!) Foxes are a feral pest here, so I hesitated somewhat, but in the end, those faces that reminded me of computer games from the 90s, won me over. I backed the quilt with Anna Maria Horner's Mary Thistle Voile in Tangerine, and then free-motion-quilted with a long, wavy grass pattern. Free motion quilting is fast becoming one of my favourite things, and I especially love the effect here.


After the photo shoot, we spent time climbing the tunnel, racing through it, singing at the top of our lungs. It felt good to feel like 'us' again, after a weekend in a big group, with lots of babysitters. I often feel guilty for having to drag the whole family out if I don't want photos in my yard. But I think I'll start to pitch them as an important family adventure. For myself and for them.

Rising Balloons Quilt



A quilt commission, a new fabric line, a birthday present. I'm excited about this quilt because it would never have been without the convergence of these three occurrences.
A dear friend of mine asked if I could make her a quilt for a mutual friend and her family. They've been living in Australia for almost a decade, originally from England, and are returning home at the end of the year. I immediately thought of Emma Jean Jansen's recent lines Terra Australis I and II. They are bright and modern, they have a great selection of beautiful and fun basics (kangaroos!), and it's distinctly Australian without looking like a cheap souvenir shop or retro tea-towels.
Our friends have been living in Canowindra, home of an annual Hot Air Balloon festival, so Jewels asked, if possible, for hot air balloons, but ultimately trusted me with the design.



Soon afterwards, my amazing Tim gave me an Accuquilt Go fabric cutter for my birthday! He actually walked into my local quilt shop, bought it, and a hexie die to go with it, and arranged for it to be delivered because he was on his bicycle! I asked my mum if she'd buy the large Drunkard's Path die for my birthday to go with it. I'd avoided curves so far in my quilting. I'd sewn in plenty of sleeves in my time, so I knew I could do it, it was just the cutting that kept me away. With my fat quarter bundles of both lines in hand, I cut a 9" strip from each prints that I wanted to use (all the basics plus a few extras). Cutting 6 layers at a time with the Go cutter, I had the entire quilt cut in about 45 minutes!



I arranged the quilt in overlapping circles, hoping that it would look a little like hot air balloons rising up en masse. I free motion quilted around the circles in a swirly design, to represent the wind. This mix of colour, design, and quilting is so different to what I usually make and I love it! I found the whole process really satisfying and inspiring. The biggest challenge? Trying to get photos on our weekend in the country in full sun with a strong breeze! Thank goodness this old brick shed we found. Not quite the wheat field pictures I had in mind, but lovely (and protected!) just the same.



In the centre of the circles, I almost quilted lines that would look like hot air balloons, but I was too afraid they'd just look like basketballs! So I went with this simple flower so that the circles would still POP! but would have a special feature to draw the eye.
I backed the quilt with a couple of the feature prints from the lines, mixed with other prints from my stash.


Usually custom orders make me feel limited, more like a manufacturer, rather than an artist, and I've really enjoyed the break I've given myself this year to make for friends and ideas. I haven't missed the constant evaluation of time and price, which usually led to less experimentation and a safer mix of colour. In this instance, I offered my work for free, which enabled me to play, without worrying about keeping my hourly rate above sweat-shop level.
For me it throws into question what I want my sewing to be for me (a successful business? A means of creative expression and sanity in the baby years? A hobby that pays for itself?) but I'm enjoying the things I'm learning, both personally and creatively, while I let the question float a while...

Surprise!



I was just relaxing in my yard, drinking tea with a friend, hanging out the last of my washing, when suddenly, a lovely bunch of friends arrived with flowers and a birthday cake! What a lovely surprise when it happens that Tim's away skiing for the weekend, and I'd just started to grow bored of playing Hungry Hippos!
We sat around and sipped from delightful little teacups, and ate yummy fruit and cheese, and told stories about disastrous holidays. And then I remembered that this quilt needed photos! And while I don't have the loveliest yard at the moment, having 2 adults on quilt holding duty, one on baby holding duty, and the others listening to the big kids' constant chatter, made the shoot more than successful!


This lovely group of women are part of an intentional, urban community, that Tim and I have lead for almost 6 years. Half way through our degrees, we decided that university held the opportunity to be a rich time of community, discussion, creativity and thinking through our faith together. We set up a kind of 'home church' as part of Cornerstone Community here in Newcastle, with other student friends.


Six years is a long time in a family's life. Long enough for the first baby to be school aged, and for 2 sisters to come along. Long enough for routines and priorities to change. Long enough to see friends start and finish their degrees and move to new places. We are less involved these days than we used to be, less available for barbecues and concerts and craft afternoons. So it's a precious gift when a pre-prepared party arrives at our door, when these adults jump on the trampoline and hide in the cubby house, cuddle a baby, boil the kettle, hold a quilt. It's why I've started making these Graduation Quilts, for these friends that have moved on, or will finish up at the end of the year. I wanted to thank them for their generous gifts of time and friendship, washing the dishes, watching the kids so Tim and I can go out for dinner, bringing flowers and a meal when a new baby arrived, or when one was lost.


This 'Scrappy Trip' quilt is for Mandie, a sweet, happy girl, who moved last year to start teaching. I used small scale, fresh, and sometime novelty prints, strawberries, bikes, horses and butterflies because they remind me of her innocent and adventurous spirit. Until now, the Scrappy Trip around the World quilts hadn't really drawn me in, but I settled on the pattern while looking for ways to make an Irish Chain quilt. I was fussy about colour placement, had lots of fun making the blocks, and like the way the diagonal repetition draws attention to the little characters in the squares, compared to a randomly placed 'postage stamp' quilt. It was one of those few quilting experiences where I made the quilt bigger than intended, rather than running out of puff early and settling on a baby quilt!

Phew! Another quilt cut, sewn and photographed! I can't wait to post it off to you Mandie! xx