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

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...

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!

Slowly, Slowly.

I sat out on our back verandah last week and opened up a blank page. Finally. I'd checked off the boxes I wanted to for May. I was excited about this moment. With no custom orders, no real agenda to make for money, I had a BLANK PAGE!
And then I started to feel lost. I could make that quilt I'd been dreaming up. No. Not in the mood for that one. I could start a blog series Don't want to commit myself to a blog series. Maybe I could...Nah.
Argh. I started to feel antsy.

Then last Saturday, the lovely Janet, who had been stocking my work in her shop, closed up to travel overseas. On the way to collecting my things, I stopped of at the Olive Tree Markets, one of our city's most beautiful collections of local wares held under a massive fig tree. I'd been asked a couple of times if I would have a stall there, and then more recently, if I could sell my wares in their new shop, Olive & Co (which is in my old space!) but it's never really been the right time. It was just beautiful walking around, chatting to makers I'd met through having my shop. Could I/should I do it?
I brought my mass of pinnies and quilts home, hung them in my, now very tight, sunroom, where they have been pushing me ever since to make a decision about them.

So on Thursday, when I had a bit of time to myself, I decided to finish up the pinafores and some vests I'd put up and out of the way for later. They just needed top-stitching and pressing and tagging and then I could take the whole lot into the new shop before I picked up the kids from pre-school. But of course, my hopes were too big for my time frame, and I only got a fraction of the work done. Was this quick Thursday morning job going to take the rest of the month? Did I want to give my blank page to finishing off things that no longer inspired me?

I've been thinking (out loud, to Tim), the last couple of weeks about how long life takes. How sloooww it is. How I try to escape it but it seems to be the way things are made to be. If we want to finish something, we actually have to make it. If we want to read a book, we actually have to read it. (Yeah, I know, duh. But you know, instead of downloading it into our memory via bluetooth.) This parenting gig is the longest job I've ever had, full time or otherwise. And my kids aren't even school-aged. It takes long, slow, interrupted time to grow children and relationships and a garden and a peaceful home and a handful of quilts and pinafores to sell in town. The important things can't be fast-tracked or downloaded at high speed. They can't be crammed the night before like I spent my years of university doing. (And it worked for me back then!)

So I haven't really settled on June, at least, not what I want to make, with fabric. But I do want to take it at walking pace, to accept that sometimes choosing one thing means missing out on another (rather than clawing for them both). Something about the mantra of living in the moment has made me feel like this moment counts more than any other, like a toddler who falls apart because it's not going to plan right now. But maybe what counts in the moment is holding it lightly?

This morning Evie took herself outside and fell asleep in the pram. Sweet, I know, but totally throwing out my order for the day.
Slowly, slowly, I said to myself again. There's always tomorrow.

{new} Fabric Fast: The First 4 months

When I first decided not to buy new fabric for the whole of this year, I expected to give you at least monthly updates about the state of my stash, what I've made, and how/if fasting from fabric shopping has affected or changed me. I hoped that it would be a great business decision, connecting me with more people and drawing interest to my blog and making.
But life has a way of throwing us curve balls. I never expected that by the end of April I would have closed up my shop and come back home without any clear long term vision or direction, except to make what I feel like and have more time for my family. And while the game has been uncomfortable, I'm slowly learning to lean into it rather than fight against it. And the growing freedom to just be without any ridiculous expectations on myself, is bringing a great peace.

What has surprised me:
My decision not to buy fabric has been far more personal than I expected. Taking out that whole portion of my life: the looking, adding things to favourites or online carts, imagining possible projects, culling back the list, buying, waiting for the mail, washing, folding, and putting away. It's all so FUN! But it not only took a considerable amount of the time I would give to sewing, it took my mind away from the things I already had. Treating my stash like a 'complete collection' has meant I've had to accept it for what it is (and it is wonderful!). I can make with what it can give me, and what I can't can wait for another day. This resting acceptance, I think, has given me more creativity and freedom to try new things, and this has been more fun for me than having the whole internet available for my choosing. It's also got me thinking about accepting my tiny house (and creating ways to make it more family friendly), my time (there's only so much you can do with 16 hours and a mother's energy!) and myself.

Saying goodbye.
That said, if I was buying fabric, I would buy bolts and bolts of Little Folks! I've so enjoyed using this Pastry Line (above) for binding, and it's all too quickly slipping away. In the top photo, I made a stack of hand-stitched voile and flannel quilts from this line and Anna Maria Horner's other flannels. I used a yard of each print and put them together into a quilt. They are soft and amazing, and they've sold really well, but it's a sure fire way to move through fabric quickly! Maybe there'll still be some left next year?

I have actually bought some fabric. I would have loved to have got the end of the year without a single purchase, but I still feel ok about the reasons I bought. When I was sick and away from the shop last month, I bought a couple of jelly rolls to play with while at home because my whole stash was in town and I didn't want to go in. I made the decision to buy something small and pre-cut so I could make something complete, to buy from an Australian seller, and to go on with the fast after that. Being able to keep with the 'spirit' of the Fast has helped me to feel good about doing it till the end of the year. I think if I hadn't given myself that freedom, I would have felt tempted to throw it in.

Then last week, I dropped into a local fabric store that was closing down and had 50% off everything. I was thinking I'd buy some seam rippers and thread. When I walked in the shop, it was so empty and depressing, and the store owner was talking to a friend, sounding so bitter and sad. The white thread and other things I had in mind were already gone, and suddenly I felt stuck. If I bought something, I felt like a vulture, if I didn't, I felt like I carried responsibility for not buying my fabric locally all this time. In the end I remembered people deliberating over my own closing down sale and decided to buy some fabric remnants that were near the counter and left. Once I walked out, I felt like I hadn't made the best decision, that I couldn't carry the weight of her loss (or poor business decisions). But it's done now, and I'll choose to enjoy using these new colours. :)

What I've made:
I think the thing that hasn't surprised me is that even 4 months in, I've hardly made a dent in my scrap stash. It's pretty amazing how far those little things will go! I have mostly spent the time making things that I had in mind when I first bought the fabric, like the quilts up the top. It's been a bit like fulfilling a promise, which has been a really wonderful experience. Soon though, I'll set myself free of that list and just start making my new ideas.
I've really only had the motivation to make quilts. I thought my Pinny fetish would return after the hundreds I made and sold in the shop around Christmas, but no. Not one little inkling to make clothes of any kind. And I'm enjoying the change.

I want to say that I don't have anything against buying fabric, or selling it. And there are some things I'm certainly looking forward to buying when the time comes. Quilt Home has a sale this week on Shelburne Falls and Anna Maria's new Linen line! Argh! But overall I'm very glad for my decision and would recommend it, even just for a month. And I'm hoping the the things I'm learning from it will stay with me beyond this year.

Jodi. xx