I have been stopped in my tracks this week. The details of how and why aren’t important (because they involve someone else’s story) but the impact has been a bit devastating. (Not complete and total devastation obviously because I am still here writing, so you can all breathe out!)
The impact has surprised me. I have had what can only be described as a rough couple of years with work and home, but have managed to remain strong and resilient and to keep putting one foot in front of the other. I have looked after my chicks, focussed on things to provide time for myself (well – that is my excuse for my fabric addiction and I am sticking to it!) and kept it together mentally, more or less! (Some may argue less, but that is the story of my life, not these last couple of years!). I have been conscious that it has been getting harder and harder to bounce back, but I was still bouncing back. Finding new strategies, putting yet another plan into place. Not this time. Something unpredictable happened (that normally I would have taken in my stride) and my bounce went on holiday. Boy – talk about your body telling you that it is time to stop. A sign of how bad things have been? No sewing! And I watched a DVD yesterday. Oh my goodness – things must be bad! (I normally don’t sit still long enough to watch anything on TV, let alone a whole movie!)
Of course, things aren’t really that bad. I have spoken to the experts and know that all will return to normal quite soon, blah, blah, blah. I am just quite amazed at how my mind and body decided to tell me that I had to stop. I didn’t get a choice – I just slept for the best part of 24 hours. Now I am on a strict diet of exercise, rest, healthy food, and – praise be – instructions to cruise craft forums and sites. (I love a bit of sensible advice!) Because – focussing on things that I love and that make me happy, is the best medicine! (And the chicks have gone away to attend the celebration of their great-grandmother’s 100th birthday so those things that I love and that make me happy are out of town!).
Now I already follow a lovely range of crafting, sewing, creative blogs and sites – but who am I to argue with doctor’s orders? I am off to find some more – after a walk with the dog and my mum of course! So if you have any suggestions of sites that you want to share – please do!!
In the meantime I share with you my one piece of crafting for the week. Three granny squares made as my contribution to the charity blanket I posted about last week. (Well – even with the wind knocked out of my sails I couldn’t just sit and watch a movie – I had to do something!) I might even manage a few more before popping them in the mail to Sweden!
So – share your ideas for great craft sites – purely for medicinal purposes of course!!
When I was young I lived close to my very large extended family. I was the first born grandchild for both sets of grandparents, and with 14 aunts and uncles (not including the spouses of those who were married at the time) I was well and truly loved. I have a cousin 2 months younger than me, and then every year or so another cousin or sibling appeared, in a slow trickle for the first few years. Our aunts and uncles were young, knew us and were part of our life. They attended birthday celebrations, Christmas gatherings, and family camping trips. My mother’s siblings were friends with my father’s siblings. Then more cousins came along, we moved overseas and on our visits home many of the aunts and uncles would comment that there were so many cousins that they lost track of them and who was who. Of course that wasn’t true, but we were certainly a large family.
I haven’t lived ‘at home’ in my country of birth, for 35 years. But family is family. Always there, a given. The names all run together so you always include the aunt and the uncle as if they are one entity. During the course of organising a trip home last year for a large family gathering a family Facebook group was set up. We started ‘following’ each other. We have had a small window into each other’s lives – that very superficial glimpse that social media brings, but more than we have had for years.
Last week we had word that one of my aunts, one half of one of those uncle and aunt entities, was very sick. We knew that she had been diagnosed with cancer weeks earlier and had updates passed by email to the ‘brothers and sisters’ who then passed the news on to us, the next generation. Over the course of a day or two it became clear that she was in fact very sick and within hours she was gone.
I have been reflecting on family ever since. I am so lucky that I have had this large blanket of family there in the background for all my life, that I have reconnected with so many through social media at least. And I am at a loss to imagine my uncle without his other half – the other piece of his puzzle, the other part of his name. Today would have been their 41st wedding anniversary. Tomorrow, in the church that they were married in, our family will gather to say goodbye and celebrate her life. She is part of my childhood memories – a teenager on the beach when I was a toddler (yes that is me on the beach and she is the gorgeous young woman in the background with her then boyfriend), the glamorous aunt who always worked in an office when so many of our aunts and mothers didn’t work at all, the one who always had time to listen at family gatherings, who always remembered and understood what we were doing with our careers. Maybe it is time to stop taking the background blanket of family for granted and understand their place in my life a bit more, appreciating how they have contributed to the person I am today while I can still discuss it with them now, and not wait until they are gone to scramble for those precious memories, and understand how they fit together.
However, for today, I will hold my little people close, love them fiercely and tell them stories about their great-aunt Dianne, and how she fits into the jigsaw that is their family.
Vale Dianne Rose van Gessel. You are loved and will be missed.
This week seems to be flying past quite quickly, yet at the same time a lot is happening. I am still off work so have been trying to focus on resting and recharging so that I can return to work on Monday. Of course this would not be possible without the support of my delightful mother. Part of recharging involves remembering to focus on just one thing at a time, especially while the chicks are at school. Would you like to hazard a guess what I chose as my one thing????
As a result a few new bags have been produced, and the cross body bag featured in my recent tutorial has been produced in all sorts of different styles and fabrics.
I also discovered a lovely piece of burnt orange linen in a pile of fabrics I had been given, which inspired a new style of bag that I am enjoying playing with. Canvas and linen makes such a lovely combination!
I had a mild panic on Monday, wondering if I am completely mad to think that I can have a stall at the Christmas markets, whether I will have enough stock, etc, etc, etc. Instead of making a rash decision to quit, I decided to lay out all my stock to see what I had. And guess what? I have quite a bit! It also helped to see that the things I am passionate about, and that hang together best as a collection, are my bags. All the other ideas – pencil rolls, pillowcases, t-shirt, etc, are fun, but I don’t have the same passion for them. Which was the first of several lightbulb moments I have had this week. I also addressed my dilemma of stockpiling rather than selling – I will stockpile until the markets then list the remaining stock online for sale. And I will take custom orders in the meantime too. Phew!
This also prompted me to get organised and accept that if I want to take this whole making and selling thing seriously, I need to act seriously. So I now have registered business, and a registered business name!! Oh my! I have also had the next light bulb moment in where I want to take this all next year, so stand by for announcements, developments, etc after Christmas when I will be completing my business plan.
Then, to celebrate all of this in style, I received my copy of the latest issue of *bespoke* magazine which includes a feature on handmade holiday escapes – and features overnight bag, in the lovely fabric by Sally Roydhouse, aka Peppermint Patty from Spoonflower!
I have also realised that I need to draw a distinction between sewing for sale, and sewing for family and friends. That way I don’t miss out on the fun stuff like making quilts or clothes, that doesn’t have anything to do with making money! On that note I am off to make the boy a sun hat with Star Wars fabric as it is his birthday on Saturday.
I hope that your week is going well, and that you are having your own light bulb moments!
I have been sitting on this gorgeous fabric designed by Sara Berrensen that I bought from Spoonflower for too long. It is called ‘Vintage Book Nerd’ and is just delightful. I wanted to wait until I had the right project in mind before I cut into it. (Which is ridiculous given that I have three pieces of it – one large pattern on cotton, one small pattern on cotton and one small pattern on linen-cotton canvas!)
I have been making cross-body bags from my tutorial for the last few days, and decided this was the perfect pattern to start using this fabric on. I used a slate grey cotton duck for the body, a vibrant mottled teal for the lining and the canvas for the flap, strap and back pocket. Now I need to make other bags with this fabric as I love the finished product!
I haven’t listed any of my bags in my shop this week, while I build up stock for my stall next month but I might need to list this one to gauge interest!
It is a dilemma! List now and make sales versus hold stock so I don’t have an empty stall. I think I just need to keep sewing so that I can cover both bases!! I am interested to hear how others tackle this, and would appreciate some input from experienced craft sellers!
With all of the seasonal promotion happening on and off the web it occurred to me that I really do need to get my own act together. Last year I made all the gifts for my family and friends. This year I am being realistic that I won’t be able to achieve that, given that I have committed to having a stall at the Christmas markets so am sewing for that, along with working, caring for my children, etc! I will still be able to make a few things, but need to think about other ideas. I have already started on a few things – and have been sharing them with any unwitting soul who I come across, so thought that I would share with you too!
The ideas below include some suggested Etsy shops, some online craft kits and ideas, and some ideas for unique gifts made for very reasonable prices. If you have any other suggestions to add – please feel free to add them in the comments below!
My first approach has been to take advantage of my vastly increased knowledge of other Etsy sellers. Over the year, through being part of teams on Etsy who promote other artists work, I have been able to see some beautiful pieces. Now I have decided that it is time to buy some of them. I can’t show you all I have bought so far, as some of the recipients are readers of the blog, but I can share some of my suggestions and some great stores!
First of all, I used a gift voucher that the very generous Michelle from Factotum of Arts gave me earlier this year, to buy myself a necklace that I have been admiring for a long time. It is beautiful, so I can recommend the craftsmanship of Yulia from Petals Design.
I also worked on a custom order with Deepa from Tunic Botik to have a glass-carrying brooch made for my Mum as a thank you for helping us out. The detail in it is exquisite and working with her to pick colours etc was so easy. Mum is using it daily and loves it. Deepa has beautiful pieces in her shop – so do consider her as a source of Christmas gifts!
I have also bought some brooches from Lovely Sparrow and Co that are just delightful, and am having some Christmas ornaments made by Candy of Candykins Crafts, in this style, but with the words of my choice!
A purchase from Gillian at Eclectic Moi has also arrived and is beautifully made and packaged!
There are so many other beautiful Australian Etsy artists – I will be buying more and will share my finds as I go!
In addition to buying handmade I have decided that gifts that enable handmade are also good! No sponsorship here – but I did some buying in the moving sale at Craft Schmaft – beautiful kits for making sock softies and hot air balloon mobiles. Another Australian artist, so more support of local, and for the art of handmade! (I think her sale ends this weekend, so get in quick!)
My other big tip for this year (and again this is not sponsored!) is to use the services of ARTSCOW – a service that prints your photos or images onto a huge range of items. They have a great range of discount codes on their ‘special offers’ page which means that you get free international postage and good prices. I have received memo pads from them, with my ‘little bird’ logo on them and they are beautiful quality – the paper is a nice weight. I also had a photo of our camping sunset printed up on a memo pad for Miss N as a souvenir before she departed. For Christmas I have ordered more memo pads printed, using drawings by the artist-in-residence, and some other images and photos, and personalised them for each recipient with their name. A great stocking filler! The chicks also designed images to be printed onto a present for their Dad (who I am pretty sure doesn’t read this blog, but just in case, I will just give you the clues that he is addicted to hitting little white balls around with sticks and walking a long way, and this gift will keep him dry if it rains while he is doing that!). They do small fold up umbrellas – I have visions of having some made up as presents for grandmothers, with kids drawings on them, or playing cards with the kids artwork on them. So many different options! Let me know if you do order anything – I am keen to hear about the quality of other products so I can keep them in mind for future gifts!
My other tip for this season? Make gifts using your own fabric designs, printed at Spoonflower! And if you don’t think you are up to designing your own – you can always buy fabric designed by an independent designer – such as my own artist-in-residence! Her samples arrived yesterday and we are very happy with them, so they are now available for sale at Spoonflower!
For now I am back to the sewing machine. I have produced a few new things this week, in between the usual round of appointments, children, etc. Some of them are even Christmas presents! Photos will follow later on the weekend!
Don’t forget – if you have great tips for presents to share, leave a comment so that we can share the love!
A lovely way to contribute some crafting to a blanket that will go to a charity in Sweden for someone’s Christmas (because that is where the crafter who is coordinating it is living!). So if you want to make a few squares and pop them in the mail – join in!
My beautiful mother got me started on basting the quilt today. Apart from a quick trip into town to buy more safety pins half way through, discovering a patch that bubbles up no matter what we do, and my completely imprecise piecing resulting in seams not matching, it went well!! Tomorrow, in between more appointments we will try to start sewing. (At this point you need to imagine me holding my breath and crossing fingers, toes, etc!!)
Thank goodness she is completely non-judgemental and supportive, and the quilt is for the boy who will love it whether it is perfect or not, simply because I have made it for him!
Your calendar is not wrong. Today is not Friday. However….my submission to the Handmade Holiday series on Sew Mama Sew – Eco-friendly Gifts– is on their site today, so I thought it would be useful to have a complementary list to celebrate this event!
Looking after the environment, reducing waste, re-purposing and re-cycling, being aware of our eco-system and, as my boy says, looking after nature, are all things that are important in this nest. In fact, for most of my friends and family, these things are automatic these days, and form part of our everyday life. We have a water-tank, raise chickens, compost, grow vegies (with variable success), recycle, etc. Being able to make gifts that incorporate these principles is great – both from an ethical point of view, but also from a budgetary one! In my search for eco-friendly gift ideas for my submission to Sew Mama Sew I found wonderful ideas. Not all of them could be published on their site, so today I provide you with the supplementary list of ideas – and hopefully some inspiration for other ways of making eco-friendly gifts, decorations and having a cleaner, greener Christmas!
Lacy at Every Day is a New Day has a tutorial for making Resuable-washable paper towel. I love this concept. One step past having a pile of cloths to use for spills – making a roll that is convenient to ‘tear off’ and use instead of paper towel is a great gift for the eco-friendly domestic goddess in your life!
Vicky Meyers has a blog full of wonderful ideas about how to make recycled bags, however it was the idea of a Recycled denim Foot Muff that caught my attention. A great gift for the hipster in your life!
Of course denim can be used to make many wonderful re-purposed gifts. This denim bag from Art Bar is another great idea.
Fabrics from favourite clothes, or sheets can also be re-purposed into pillow covers. The Creative Place has a great tutorial for making a Repurposed Clothes College Pillow.
The tutorial from Happy Hour Projects – Resuable lined snack baggies is a great present for children and parents alike. It shows you how to use plastic shopping bags to make a plastic liner for a snack bag, so it is doubly eco in my books – reducing plastic bag waste in landfill, and providing an alternative to using more plastic bags and wrap! Gifting it with some homemade treats inside would be a great eco-gift!!
Another way of using up plastic shopping bags is to re-purpose them into ‘plarn’ – plastic yarn – and then crochet something new from them! At Sustainable Baby Steps there is a great tutorial on how to do this!
The number of tutorials for re-using old woollen jumpers (sweaters) is large. Here is one with a bit of a difference – just great for an eco-baby – Felt Block Rattle – My Poppet
On the same site there is a great tutorial for making your own Dress Up Girl.
Excess CD’s can be used to make very pretty coasters, using this tutorial from Crafts by Amanda
Other gift ideas that are eco-friendly, are a bit like the non-paper paper towel at the top of this list. Making things that replace disposable objects is always good for the environment. One of my favourite things to make for use around the home is crocheted dish cloths. I use bamboo yarn as it is super absorbant. When you have used a cloth for the day, its just goes in the wash and comes up fresh again. One of my wise friends has 7 in 7 different colours – one for each day of the week. A gift like that would be a beautiful thing to make for an eco-conscious friend or family member. I have used this tutorial from Bubblegirl – dishcloth pattern with great success but there are a plethora of patterns out there to use (maybe I will put my collection into another list one day!).
In addition to the market bag tutorial linked on my Sew Mama Sew post, there are, of course, a list of tutorials for market bags here on this site that I prepared a few months ago! Where I live the shops charge you for providing a shopping bag, so we carry our own fabric bags instead. It has reduced landfill and makes us all think twice about using plastic bags. They make great presents!
When it comes to wrapping gifts, the possibilities for being eco-friendly are endless! I was reminded recently of different ways of wrapping presents that I had employed for gifts about 20 years ago. The fact that one of the recipients still remembered and treasured the effort I had gone to in making her gifts so special gave me great joy. Some of the ideas I used included brown paper with hand drawn and painted decorations, calico fabric parcels tied with string, handpainted or stamped paper, etc. If I had access to these links back then, who knows what else I would have done!
Anxiety comes in many different forms. I have spent time speaking with medical professionals over the last week and was asked to describe how each of my children, and I, are similar or different in terms of anxiety. One takes the form of catastrophising everything – natural disasters are a particular favourite that will take hold and be obsessed about. Another worries about situations in the family, but understands reason and logic and can rationalise the fear. The third doesn’t appear to an outsider to worry or fear anything, but in fact has quite extreme reactions if feeling vulnerable or embarrassed. I tend to get a bit overwhelmed by all the noise in my head – my ‘to-do’ lists, my own expectations of myself, etc. I think that we all think of an anxious person as the hand wringing worrier – when in fact anxiety takes so many different forms.
In thinking about all of this I have realised that on a more superficial level, I also have some sewing anxiety. It sounds a bit funny coming from someone who blogs about sewing, sells things she sews and purports to share tips about sewing with other people, but it is true. I am not a confident garment sewer – but that isn’t an anxiety, that is an understanding that I am not good at fitting things for myself (I have short torso) because I don’t know how. One day I will work out the science of it and all will be fine. Which leaves the question -what is my anxiety?
It is quilting.
Not the patchworking of a quilt top. Not the sewing on of binding. The actual process of quilting – putting together the layers of quilt top, batting/wadding, and the backing, and stitching through it to make a quilt. I have never done it. I have read tutorials, tips and hints. I have spoken knowledgably to people about it. But I have always been worried about doing it myself. A friend of mine who is very crafty told me that my machine didn’t have a big enough throat, so it would be too hard. She also told me that I need a walking foot. She recommended outsourcing it to a long arm quilter. I took her advice, not because she was the authority on all things quilting, but because it suited me not to confront that fear of failure!
But – no more. My mother is still with us, keeping the chicks and I feeling loved and supported. She is a long time patchworker and quilter. She has never had someone else quilt her quilts for her. And she doesn’t own a fancy long arm quilting machine. In fact for many years she didn’t have a walking foot. And those quilts from 20+ years ago are still going strong and being used daily by many members of the family. So this afternoon I asked her whether she thought we could quilt the quilt I made for the boy ourselves. (Yes – the quilt top that I so proudly showed you back in (ahem) April is still sitting in a drawer). I rang the long arm quilter this week, as I have also finished (finally) the memory quilt that I started for my housekeeper back in (ahem) August, and she said that she might be able to get one quilt done before Christmas. After talking to Mum (who said ‘yes of course we can – your machine is fine’!!) we have decided to quilt the boy’s quilt ourselves, and take the queen size memory quilt to the quilter. I am going to overcome that fear, and exile it by learning from my mother – just the way it should be!!
In news not related to any fears, the artist-in-residence’s fabric samples are on their way to us for proofing. She is very excited, and creating more designs. I have managed a little sewing, have cleaned out the chook house (so glamorous), caught up with friends for a cup of tea and crafting (I sat and cut out appliques of bicycles!), ferried children around to various social engagements, and have been supported by my mum. I am excited about seeing my contribution to the Sew Mama Sew Handmade Holiday series in the morning. (Although it appears on the 10th of November, with time differences being what they are, it won’t be published until about 1am on the 11th November on Australian time!) And I need to see my accountant, so will be filing, sorting and trying to remember my movements of the last financial year – sure to balance out any excitement!
I hope that your weekend has been lovely, and that you are able to recognise and face any anxiety that may befall you this week – large or small.
While I was reading the Gifts for Geeks list of Handmade Holiday gifts posted at Sew Mama Sew I realised that the chicks and I like a lot of geeky things! Which prompted me to pull together the following list of ideas that I have collected for gifts to make for the people in your life who love geeky things! Our geekdom stretches beyond Dr Who, Star Wars, and Lego but I have stuck to our favourites!
Dr Who Being a woman-of-a-certain-age I remember watching Dr Who in my teens, when it was a BBC production, when Tom Baker was the Doctor and when, having a choice of only 2 television channels at the time (it was North Queensland in the early 80’s) we regularly were in trouble with the nuns for being late for dinner, as Dr Who finished a few minutes after the dinner bell went. Now my eldest chick watches it and it is slick and shiny and has a much bigger budget, but the basics are still there! Time Lords, TARDIS time machines, travelling companions, and the occasional Dalek. Luckily the resurgence of it’s popularity means that there are piles of tutorials on how to make things for fans!
Although I haven’t had any luck finding ‘licensed’ Dr Who fabric, there are quite a few “police box’ designs available through Spoonflower that can be used to make great gifts, like the messenger bag I made!
Once again my age is an advantage in understanding Star Wars. I remember going to the cinema to see the first movie. We went into the city, and it was very exciting. When the next two movies came out we were living on an island in the Pacific that didn’t have a cinema with proper movie releases (although there seemed to be an abundance of Kung Fu movies available to watch in a shed near the beach!). When the next three were released I was busy with babies and didn’t see them. Despite that I have developed a great knowledge of all the movies as my son is quite taken with them, and all things related to them!
If none of thesetutorials grab your fancy, there is a great range of Star Wars fabric available and you can use it to make bags, hats, skirts, pillowcases, etc!
Lego was an important part of my childhood. My grandmother would always bring some back from any trips to the Netherlands (there were only a few grandchildren at that stage – now it would break her bank!). My mother still has all of our Lego and it has been used by all the grandchildren too. Now my children love Lego. They have the themed sets – Star Wars, Chima, Harry Potter, City, Ninjago, Pirates of the Carribean, the Hobbit (not ALL of them obviously) but they also have just general bricks and it is rare for them to use the patterns – they build using their imagination. The tutorials below include ideas to store Lego bricks, ways to use bricks to make things, or making other items that look like Lego bricks.