New Day, New Year.

Today is the first day.

Tim's at the dining table reading about earthquakes with the kids. And I have escaped to my air conditioned cave to sew and write a blog post.
When we were at university, Tim and I used to joke about how his degree (in engineering) would get him a job, and mine (in history and Russian) was great for dinner parties. But when suddenly, a little over a year ago, the north wind blew, and two souls, feeling dry and a little lonely in suburbia, got a call about a house in the country, it didn't take much, if any, convincing for us to pack up our house and move to the land of the deep breath.

We've been living in Canowindra, NSW for 13 months and it's golden hills and deep silence (except for this time of year, when the cicadas are celebrating their yearly riot) have affected us deeply. Here there is no academia, no race, no big shopping malls or beeping horns. I have enjoyed a year off comparing myself to that model on that billboard, or that family in that big house. There is hard work, there is a connection with the seasons, there's an optimism, and a kind of submission to the whims of the weather. If you've read the Little House books, you'll know what I mean. "Surely this year, it will rain. Surely this year, our hard work will pay off."

I like living here with these people, and these hills. Every so often there'll be a remark about having to go back to 'real life'. But I wonder if we've stumbled upon it here, where we know our neighbours and work with our hands.
This time last year I changed my blog name to reflect these other changes. Tales of Cloth became what I was hoping for, a place of stories and connection, of colour and learning. I didn't have as much time for it as my dreams needed to be fully realised. But I had time to sew and to read. When Red Sky at Night came to a close, my year did too. And suddenly my mind was blank. I had nothing to write about. So I let it sleep for a while.

Sometime during the second half of last year, I was approached by Free Spirit to design some quilts for Anna Maria Horner's upcoming lines. Yes! I made up some 'virtual quilts' and submitted them. They liked my work, and asked me to design with some other lines. And then that work led to more, until finally, last month, I was asked to make a huge quilt inspired by the Free Spirit Logo for QuiltCon 2016! Having spent the whole year in the history books, and working a lot with red and white, working in this way has felt like an absolute gift. It's interesting and challenging and fast. And I'm soaking up every bit of it.

One of my submissions for the QuiltCon 2016 quilts that wasn't chosen.

Around the same time, Tim and I started to reflect on this new 'real' life we'd stumbled upon. His Masters was drawing to a close (though even now drags on beligerantly), and our work here with Cornerstone was rich and fullfilling, but low student numbers were taking its toll on the community finances. Surely there was some way we could make the most of my connections with the quilting community, that could provide some unskilled labour for the young adults who stay here with us, work to pay their way, and study the Bible. We think we've come up a corker of an idea. But I won't share it now. All that just to say that we've caught that kind of farmer's optimism, "The harder I work, the luckier I get", and like ducks, we're paddling away behind the scenes to bring something new and colourful to the quilting community.

And that's why I am here! And Tim is out there learning about earthquakes. It's why, when I finish writing, I'll start sewing, instead of cutting up apple. 2016 will be a year of working together, of trying new things, of argueing, I'm sure, whose turn it is to do bath time or cook dinner. But nothing new is ever smooth, and I feel hopeful for a year of working at something that is meaningful and interesting to both of us.

Home in a Log Cabin

Tonight we had a fire. We took the kids down to the gully in their pyjamas and they climbed trees and old feeders while we talked about our plans for the year, reminisced about travelling days and swapped funny memories.
In two weeks, 10-15 students will join our little community. They'll study a diploma in Biblical Studies, they'll work on surrounding farms to cover their tuition and board, and they'll have time and space to think, ask questions, grow up.
In the meantime, we're working at establishing a good homeschool routine, getting used to living a whole lot more than 30 seconds from the local supermarket, and spending my spare minutes sewing. I think perhaps it was that count down, and all the thinking and planning, that gave me the extra push to cross another old quilt off my WIP list, and an easy one at that, with just the hand-quilting left to finish.

This quilt has been in progress for about 18 months! I made a whole heap of quarter log cabins, inspired by the book Sunday Morning Quilts. And then I laid them on my bed and become overwhelmed by all that movement and colour. I kept just 16 blocks for this quilt, added this wide sashing, and the rest, I made into a lap quilt.
I backed the quilt with a mix of Drawing Room prints, which are home decor weight, and makes the quilt slightly heavier, which I like. I gave it a light machine quilting about a year ago, bound it, and planned to hand-quilt it slowly while still using it on our bed. Well, slowly is the word for it. It takes a long time to hand-quilt a queen size quilt! But oh, I love the effect.

When I lived on my farm as a kid, we lived in 5 caravans, with the plan that my dad, a builder, would build our house on the hill, in parts as we could afford it. The house never eventuated, but Dad built a log cabin annex off the main caravan we used a kitchen, with trees from the property. It was in that log cabin, that we first learned about simplicity, resourcefulness, creativity, gratitude. My dad was a skilled craftsman, and I'll always think of that place as a home, rather than an in-between, make-shift arrangement. I enjoyed thinking back on those days, with renewed appreciation for my dad's work, while I stitched my own log cabins, now in my own farm house.

And as soon as I make the curtains and some matching cushions, I'll show you it's new home on our bed! For now though, you can enjoy it in our beautiful gully.

Little Boys Chevron Quilt.

I'm loving the time being in my shop is giving me to make quilts! Especially now that the Christmas rush has died down. Here's one I actually finished a while ago, but today all the planets have aligned and I had the right computer cords and gadgets to connect to the internet and blog while in here!

I made this quilt from a mix of greys, yellow, oranges and greens. I used a mix of novelty prints, all subtle and sweet. I sewed strips together in groups of four, then cut these shapes using the 60 deg line on my ruler. (Cutting the opposite direction for half of them!)

Then I sewed them together, one above the other into long, parallel lines, and sewed these ones together.

The result, I think, is a subtle, yet warm and fun baby quilt.

I backed it with these beautiful prints from Saffron Craig and Aneela Hooey and hand quilted every other row of zigzag. Come visit me in Hunter St to wrap it around you, or it's also available here.
Hope you're well! xx

P.S. What do you think of my new blog look? 

Beautiful Cushions

A cushion for Christmas is a lovely thing, don't you agree? Especially one to grace such a beautiful chaise lounge. For me, the perfect gift is an unnecessary one, a decorative one. I like beauty for Christmas.

I made these cushions and little fabric art for Tim's mum for our family Secret Santa. (She chose the recipients, do you think it was rigged? ;)) They were made to match the wall art above, a gift a few Christmases ago. I used a mix of scraps from my stash and leftovers from the wall hanging.

Ooh! Looking at these photos again makes me want to pull my scraps out! I've really appreciated everyone's encouragement with my {new} fabric fast this year. I'm up to day 5 (only 360 to go!) and have only had about 10 or 12 major doubting episodes! I feel like a scared caterpillar ready to leave the cocoon. Too daggy a metaphor? I hope not! It's helping me to embrace the challenge and anticipate the outcome.
A Colourful New Year to you!
Jodi. xx

Christmas Adventures

 It was only last Christmas that I was reflecting that the Nativity story was one of things not going to plan (or at least, not our plan). An unexpected pregnancy, unexpected travel plans, unexpected accommodation. It gave me hope amidst Tim's unemployment.
I'm writing this post from Glen Innes, a lovely little town in northern country NSW. We 'should' be setting the table at Tim's parents' place, another 6 hours drive north, or drinking cider or making decorations. Instead, we had an unexpected stop over after two flat tyres, the second on a Sunday afternoon after everything was closed.

Miraculously, our spare tyre blew out in the middle of no-where where we happened to have full phone reception.
Miraculously, we had been forced to updated our roadside assistance membership last time Tim travelled and had car troubles. (Miraculously, I had decided to stay home from that trip, our yearly trek to Dubbo to see friends and family, and my folks had agreed to come up and watch the kids while I was in the shop. So we weren't all stuck on the side of the road for hours. Poor Tim though!)

Miraculously, our roadside assistance offered to pay our accommodation for the night, even though they usually don't for our level of membership or for flat tyres.
And last night, I had the best night sleep I've had in weeks.

Tully and Evie thought it was the best Christmas ever, to ride in a big truck and stay in a motel with a TV in their room!
 Before our little adventure in Glen Innes, I was thinking and journalling about my Christmas blog post. Tully lately has been trying so hard to figure out what's real, what exists. He's so sure the Octonauts (an animated TV show about animal marine biologists) really do live under sea, and that one day he will too. But he's not so convinced about snakes. Or dragons. Or The Wiggles. And I've been slow tell him what's 'real' and what's not. Afterall, what four year old doesn't want to believe there are dragons to fight, or ride, or a place waiting for him in a submarine? And while I can tell him about the things I know are real, I'm also so aware that there could be a whole world of unseen things I know only vaguely about. After all, it's been said that at the first Christmas, a bunch of of terrified shepherds witnessed a whole choir of carolling angels.

A few Christmases ago, I wrote a song about a retelling of the Christmas story, hidden at the very end of the Bible. I love it because it reminds me of something Tolkien may have written. Complete with dragons, a mother decorated with the moon and stars, and a great rescue.

Here's my version of it:

Hey woman, clothed in the sun
How do you feel now the battle's begun
The Dragon is angry, flung stars from the sky
Now waits to devour your babe as you cry

Sleep now, Sun Woman,
Sleep now.
Rest now Sun Woman
The desert awaits you
Woman clothed in the Sun

Hey woman, moon at your feet
fly away now out of his reach
the river rises to take you away
mouth open wide, earth swallows its prey

Sleep now, Sun Woman,
Sleep now.
Rest now Sun Woman
The desert awaits you
Woman clothed in the Sun

Hey woman, stars in your hair
What will you do with the child in your care
let him be taken to his throne in the sky
where his blood will hurl the dragon from light

Sleep now, Sun Woman,
Sleep now.
Rest now Sun Woman
The desert awaits you
Woman clothed in the Sun

Wishing you a Christmas, not free from adventures, but safe from dragons and full of miracles,
Jodi. xxx

Edited Christmas Day: We made it last night! Just in time for family festivities!