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

Nine Patch Dash


I've hit an interesting little snag in my quilt making, where the style of quilts I've become deeply inspired by don't really fit my natural work flow. Does this ever happen to you? There are a few areas in my life where I am a stickler for detail. I love making a corner or shelf in my house tidy and beautiful. I arrange picture frames just so. But the way I make quilts is with a pile of cut fabric next to my machine, which I then churn everything through in one sitting, then press, then church, press, churn, until I have a quilt top. No design wall, no coloured grid, not too much of a plan, just a kind of idea. That's how I find my zone. It's the way I find easiest to stay motivated, and work in small chunks if I need to.



But lately I've become more and more taken with traditional blocks, especially those that make secondary patterns once put together. After stealing many small moments on Pinterest and Googling images, I was inspired by this one for my next Graduation Quilt, but I was intrigued to see if I could make it scrappy, with a focus on Anna Maria Horner Prints, because I knew my recipient liked them. I played around with a grid and some markers, trying a few different variations before settling on the original, with aqua basics in the negative space. I wanted something more saturated than you can get with white or low volume prints, and more vibrant than grey.



As you can see, the quilt won't end up with the same clear pattern as it does on paper. It does have a shimmery, colourful sea kind of feel that's helping me to keep going, but it's definitely been one of those learning experiences where I spend much of my time thinking, "Oh, if I'd done it this way..." or "I think next time I'll use that colour instead." Add to that the fact that I'm laying out each block before I sew it together rather than picking out random squares next to my machine, and it makes for a whole lot more thinking than I tend to find relaxing! Such is the way with experiments. While it's less fun than complete confidence, there is a kind of satisfaction in growth.

So with my turn coming up as designer for do. Good Stitches' Care Circle, I thought I'd let my bee mates put the work into the complete opposite interpretation of this design, so we can compare the results. I thought I'd share the tutorial here in case anyone else wants to contribute to the experiment? I've been labelling relevant pictures on Instagram with the hashtag #9patchdash if you decide to make one!

I've made my blocks from a 3.5" base, which makes a 9.5" unfinished block.

To make the two-colour cross version, cut one strip of each colour 4" wide, by width of fabric.
From each strip, first cut two 4" squares. My preference for sewing half-square triangles is to cut these in half diagonally, and then sew and trim to 3.5".
(If you are making the traditional churn dash block, you can now cut two pieces from each colour that are 4"x3.5" wide. Cut these in half to get four 2"x 3.5" rectangles in each colour. Sew the different colours together to make four 3.5" squares.)


From the remaining strip, cut:

- One coloured 9.5" x 3.5" rectangle
- Three coloured 3.5" squares
- Eight white 3.5" squares.

(for the alternative block layout, you'll need instead, 6 white squares and 4 coloured squares)


I sewed mine together in strips of three squares and then sewed those lines together into the blocks. And, I found it so enjoyable that I made two lots. So maybe it's the constant learning, arranging, thinking and reassessing that slows me down, and not the old nine patch afterall?

I'm asking the Care Circle girls to make one block (or more if you'd like!) of each in really plain mustard/yellow. I've put some other basics in the picture above so if have those, you can use them, or refer to the colours as a guide. I think it would look great with solids too! I'm looking forward to seeing this contrast between this sunny/flat look and the other rich, turbulent one. Which is more your style?

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.

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





Quilts and their Stories




When blogging about a finished quilt, one has to decide between telling the story behind the quilt (this one is the first of a series of graduation quilts, for lovely friends in our home church, which has mostly uni students. I made this one for someone who loves the beach, because these colours remind me of the seaside), or the making of the quilt (this one was inspired by the one in Sunday Morning Quilts), or the photography adventure that follows.

I made a deal with a lovely new friend of mine that I would help her baste the quilt I've been teaching her to make, then I could drive her home, if on the way, we could photograph some long-finished quilts, child-free!. But then the baby refused to go to sleep before we left, so we decided to bring her along for the ride, assuming she'd just fall asleep in the car. WRONG!
We got the pram out, hoping she'd either doze off or enjoy the last of the daylight, and BROKE the pram as we got it out of the car. Checking that it could still hold her safely, we put her down in it and went for a walk. We got these two photos above (rescued by heavy editing) before deciding that the very unimpressed baby and the dark were clear signs that it just.wasn't.working...


 

Thank goodness for my neighbour's trusty grey house! I snagged Tim just before he left for work, but it turns out this quilt is slightly bigger that the baby quilts I usually make and I struggled to get the whole quilt in the shot, without the presence of weeds, or baby, or aerials or gas fixtures. And there's really only so much a poor husband can hold up a big quilt while his creatively fussy wife orders, "Put your left hand up a bit, no, your other left. Face me a bit more. Higher!" before, his arms nearly fall off...



...and he walks away, taking the baby inside out of the cold. Isn't he good to me?


 So, I'm not sure when we're going to master the art of either taking the whole family out when everyone's happy AND the lighting is good, or getting away on my own when everyone's happy and the lighting is good, but at least I'm getting time to sew, right?


 So what story do you tell when you finish a quilt? And which one do you like to hear?