After posting my list of gadget tutorials on Friday I was a bit inspired, and finally made a cover for my iPad! I have owned it for about 6 months, without any cover on it, so this was very overdue.
And then because the pattern that I designed worked well, I made a few more!
These ones have all been delivered to the Shop Handmade where I stock my products, but I plan to make more this week that will then be stocked in my Etsy shop. I made some to fit the iPad Air, and some to fit the iPad mini, so my next task is making some to fit the other iPads. I love technology but why do they have to change the size slightly every time they release a new model? Then again – it does give designers a chance to make new products each time, so perhaps I shouldn’t complain!
It felt good to be back sewing again. Before I could get back to work I had to clean up the room. It had become a dumping ground for anything extra in the lead up to our trip, so required some cleaning out, and tidying up. I should have taken some before shots so that you can appreciate how amazing the after shots are!
In the process I decided that it was time to be a little ruthless with my scrap boxes. I suspect it was the result of my childhood training but I find it hard to throw away scraps of fabric – they can always be used in some sort of project, and so many of my scraps are from just delicious prints. However 4 boxes of scraps was getting a bit ridiculous, particularly when I have so many larger pieces of fabric these days. I was feeing resolute but guilty, and posted on Facebook about my decision. And voilà – problem solved. A friend who makes beads will take my scraps and make fabric beads from them! Much better than throwing them away!
Cleaning up my room also meant that I had room to put away all the new fabric I bought in Hawaii, plus some more that arrived from Spoonflower too. And that meant I could finally sit and catch up on custom orders. The first was a library bag for a young woman in Grade 4. She enjoyed picking her own fabrics and I am thrilled with the way her combination turned out.
Over the weekend I also made up a custom order for a nappy (diaper) bag. I am very happy with the way it turned out. The fabric was chosen by the customer from Spoonflower, so is different from what I might have chosen myself, but it came together really well and completely suited her style. I have a couple more custom orders to complete, and then can get back to designing.
It is definitely time for some new bags – all that gorgeous fabric is sitting there tempting me! I also need to update my Etsy shop – I have a couple of boxes of bags at home that are not listed there yet! Time to get organised!
I hope that your week has started well, and that you have found time to do things that you enjoy!
I think that this has been my longest time between posts. Ironic really that it happened at a time when I was busy due in large part to the very fact that I am a blogger. But in fact all the social media, events, and trying to move into self-employed mode meant that I was overwhelmed with obligations, short on time, and juggling furiously. And the blog got dropped (along with folding and sorting clean laundry, baking, grocery shopping and leg shaving).
And while I was off running around like a mad woman with hairy legs and rumpled clothes I realised that the chicks and I all needed a break, not from blogging, but from the busy times, from the cold, from the stress of school, doctor’s appointments, moving between houses, and adjusting to new parameters in life. So I did something quite spontaneous, a little bit radical, and slightly financially reckless, and booked a trip to Hawaii.
The view from our balcony each day!
One week later the chicks and I were in the sun, with sand between our toes, and with crystal clear waters to swim in on Waikiki beach. We had a week there and have returned feeling refreshed, recharged and all those other ‘re-‘ words.
Swimming at the Kuhio Park end of Waikiki Beach in the clear water.
It was wonderful! We swam at the beach and in the pool most days, went snorkelling together at Hanauma Bay (where I was able to surprise my children with the fact that I have a lot of experience snorkelling thanks to growing up in PNG), explored fabric shops and did a bit of clothes shopping. We had no plan and just went with what we felt like each day. It was just what we needed. The TV did not get turned on, we ate fairly simply during the day and found mainly suitable restaurants that served gluten free food for the girls at night, and all unwound. We returned home with an extra suitcase to accommodate all the fabric, freezer paper and Lego that was bought. (Yep, we have our crafty and nerdy priorities right!)
Freezer paper supplies purchased!
It was hard to have to sit by the pool, sipping a cocktail and watching the children swim. (do you believe me?)
A poolside cocktail? Yes thank you!
Hanauma Bay, Oahu. It is a bay formed from an ancient volcano crater with a beautiful reef teaming with tropical fish.
The beach at Hanauma Bay, Oahu
So many things happened that made me stop and reflect, and tickled that part of me that is used to writing things down, and I realised that it was time to pick up the blog again. And to take it back to the things that are important to me – sewing, family, and growing a business to sustain both of those passions!
Playing in the sand on Waikiki beach.
Snorkelling fun at Waikiki.
I have really enjoyed the scheduled events of the Human Brochure experience, but now that the official discovery events are over I am looking forward to continuing my role in the process at my own pace and in my own way. One of the lovely benefits that has come from the experience is that I am far more aware of what is available to enjoy in my own town, and have a lovely network of new friends to enjoy it with. I am going to keep my detailed recording of it for the official blog though and keep this blog for me!
If you are a regular reader you will know that I love to write, and write and write. So you might be worried that I am going to give you a blow by blow of the last three weeks…..but you don’t need to worry. Highlights of the trip are about as detailed as it will get!
Things that fascinated me in Hawaii:
– the fact that so many shop keepers wanted to know where my husband was. One lady said ‘oh is he at home working to pay for the trip?’. I just smiled and said, he is at home working, and left it at that, because the children were there and I didn’t want to start the whole ‘I’m a single mother’ thing. But I haven’t been asked that in Australia more than twice that I can remember.
– my lack of TV watching worked against me when the TV show Hawaii 5-0 was being filmed in and around our hotel and I had no idea who the famous actors were and who were the staff!
– my kids weren’t interested in watching ‘American TV’ or wanting to try out ‘American candy’ like my siblings and I were when we had our first trip to America 30 years ago. Then I realised that they already see the shows that interest them, and can buy all the ‘American candy’ in our local store at home. The glamorous foreignness of the USA has diminished dramatically over the last 30 years with globalisation making such things commonplace.
– reading on-line reviews is just as misleading there as it can be here! I was trying to work out which were the best fabric stores for me to visit on our trip, as I knew that the kids were not going to be able to cope with more than one or two, so I turned to the internet and found all sorts of reviews on various sites.
One of the shops, Fabric Mart, had a long series of reviews talking about how rude the staff were, and how bad the shop was, etc, but it still seemed to be one worth visiting. Another was said to have good staff but too expensive stock. I discussed this with the chicks in deciding which one to go to, catching a taxi, and decided to try Fabric Mart, and just deal with any rudeness of the staff.
More tropical prints at Fabric Mart
Of course the staff were not at all rude, and were in fact very helpful on many levels. Which was lovely until my boy said, just as I was finishing my transactions “There is very good service here. I don’t know why people said that there was bad service here. These people are very nice and are going a really good job” and a bit more to the effect that the bad reviews were unjustified. As I tried to shush him the ladies behind the counter laughed and chuckled and I realised that they had the right attitude. They knew that their store was there to serve a particular part of the market (seriously – if you need any tropical print fabric they are the people to see) and weren’t bothered by the small mindedness of the reviewers. And I learnt a lesson about sharing such comments with my children!
Tropical prints at Fabric Mart
What now? I have returned with arm-loads of fabric, lots of ideas, and some vague, half thought out designs for new bags. I am trying to balance working on my contract work of admin and advertising, being available for the family, and leaving myself time to create. I have some ideas about how I am going to manage it all, so will share the progress as I go!
My fabric shopping!
In the meantime, it is nice to be back – both at home, and here on the blog. I hope that you have been well!
This weekend just past was a long weekend in Australia, in celebration of the Queens’s birthday. (Which is amusing really as her birthday is actually in April.) Anyway, it means a three day weekend, and who am I to argue the semantics of whether we should or shouldn’t be having a day off in June? It also means that winter has started, and, more importantly for me, that the Handmade Markets have been held.
I know that I have written about these markets before, and that I am a bit biased as a stall holder at the markets, but they really are quite fabulous. The standard of handmade, Australian made, goods that are available is very high, and the diversity is wide. (and to show that it isn’t just me that thinks so here are some links to media coverage of the markets! ABC news coverage, Canberra Times article)
I have been working flat out over the last weeks to ensure that I had enough stock to take to the markets, and that it was of a sufficiently high quality. (Which explains my relative quiet here on the blog – I have been busy sewing!) It definitely paid off. I was very happy with the presentation of my stall this time (learning and refining each time I do a market) and with the bags and bibs that I had on offer.
Making bibs for the markets
I had planned to make pencil rolls to take to the Market as well, and had left them as my last bit of sewing to do on Friday. Until the mailman delivered a parcel from Spoonflower (that I had ordered 5 weeks earlier) and I was compelled to wash, cut and sew the fabric into bibs – it was too cute for words! Needless to say – no pencil rolls.
Very cute fabric from Spoonflower
Then, to top off an already exciting day, I had a mid-afternoon mail delivery of a magazine called ‘Love Sewing Australia’ which is a new publication released by Practical Publishing, an Australian publishing group. Why was it so exciting? Because a pattern that I wrote was published in the magazine!! I was approached to submit a project back in January/February and prepared a tutorial for making an Oma tote (named after my grandmother, Oma) and a yarn bag – a pouch with holes for yarn to feed through so that you can knit or crochet on the go. And there it is, in radiant colour! The magazine is available in Coles supermarkets and newsagencies here in Australia. I might have to go and buy a couple of spare copies!
Page 22 of “Love Sewing Australia”
The markets were busy. I was on my feet all day of each weekend, with few exceptions, and talking to the most amazing customers. I think that attending markets and interacting with customers is the icing on the cake for me. There are so many wonderful people who want to talk about products and learn about them, and who are interested in what I can provide them, that it is really energising. They were also so busy that I had to do a bit of sewing on Saturday night to re-stock in time for Sunday! (Luckily common sense kicked in so I only made a few bibs, then went to bed – I was bone weary!)
There were two big differences in my experience of the markets this time. The first was that I didn’t need to call on my friends to help out with last minute prep, or set up. However I did utilise my children. The artist in residence spent time on Wednesday night attaching stickers to bags and cutting out care instructions. Then on Friday night the eldest chick rode her bike to my house straight from school (while the other two were still at their father’s house) and helped all afternoon, and into the evening, with packaging, counting, cutting, labelling, etc. Then she attended the markets all day Saturday and helped with the set up, and served customers. She interacted with them, told them about the products, made small talk, and made a few good sales!
The morning sun made for warmth on a cold morning, but not for great photos!
The artist-in-residence attended on Sunday morning but was a little shy and didn’t feel comfortable talking to customers on her own. That, of course, was okay too. She did join in a conversation with a lovely couple who overcame her shyness by talking to her about things she was interested in, and she was able to tell them that she is having a painting submitted for an exhibition shortly. They were suitably impressed and asked for her name so that they could say they had met the famous artist when she was a child – and that made her day! (They also bought a bag, so that made mine!!)
The second difference was that customers knew me from the last market, and came looking for me specifically! That was a real buzz! I had a great position on the side of the market hall, which meant that there was room in front of the stall for people to chat without blocking the stall, and they could browse without feeling they were holding other people up. I was also interviewed for a TV show by the delightful Kitty von Tastique whose hair colours put mine to shame! This is definitely not my best angle, or shot, but a selfie was required!
The interesting thing that I am finding about the markets and my products is that I am constantly growing. I am developing my ideas, my style and my approach, and feeling more comfortable in my skin every day. Being able to say, quite honestly, “This is my full time job” felt good.
I also had my very first experience of someone being openly shocked at my prices. Of course it happened when another designer I know, who has attended one of my mentoring sessions, and who also makes fabric bags, was at my stall. I had just been giving her a pep-talk about how her prices were too low when a lady came and admired my bags, decided that she liked one, and then asked the price and recoiled in horror, thrust the bag back at me and said ‘Oh no, I won’t pay that” and walked away! I didn’t mind personally but thought that the timing was more than a little ironic!
For now, though, I am back in the sewing room, making new stock for my Etsy shop, for the Handmade Shop, and filling custom orders. I also need to catch up on my posts about my experiences in the Human Brochure – they have been amazing!
Today marks a ginormous step in my life. Three weeks short of 22 years as a public servant, from today I am, by choice, self-employed. (Well I did hint at changes that were coming!)
The last couple of years have been particularly challenging at work and at home. One challenge on its own would have been fine, but being challenged on both fronts left little room for respite – which is how I came to be in the state I was at the end of last year. With amazing support from my employer I have been able to take leave for the first half of this year, to rest, recover, and think about how I want to live my life. Having green fields in front of me has been an uplifting experience – I have sorted through so many different possibilities in my mind (sea-change, tree-change, runaway-from-it-all-change) and am very happy that I have settled on the right path for the chicks and I. I am going to spend my time focussed on my family, on building my creative business, on supporting other creative people to reach their potential, and on living life in a meaningful way.
And that, my friends, is why I died my hair blue! That outward expression of claiming my life as my own was a small step towards looking at how I want to live, who I want to be, and how I want to grow. The sense of freedom is immense! My biggest fear is I will get into a habit of slacking off and playing instead of working – but I suspect that my bank account will motivate me to get over any tendencies in that area!
The first step is getting past this weekend successfully. It is the second Handmade Market for the year, and I am working very hard to prepare new stock so that I can have some wonderful selections on offer. The new sewing machine has been in overdrive! It arrived last week, and after a bit of learning, tinkering, adjusting, etc I am getting the hang of it! I will write more next week to give you all the details and do it justice, but for now – some shots of the arrival and set up!
Two very big and very heavy boxes!
I did it! (All by myself!)
I have also been able to use my new teether bits as a result of the new machine. I am very happy with the way they look, feel, and handle – so will be launching them at the markets this weekend! I had a bit of a production line (manned by my staff of one – me) yesterday so have a good range of colours and patterns to showcase the new bits!
It also sews leather and denim beautifully so I am working on executing some of the ideas that I have been carrying around for a very long time in my head!
This bag is made from supersoft leather, with the fabric detailed flap. Sewing the leather was a dream with the new machine!
Other exciting news in this very brief summary of an amazing week, is that the launch of the Human Brochure that I spoke about last week was extremely successful. Since then we have attended a number of delightfully wonderful discovery events and started to get to know each other – and really I cannot imagine a nicer bunch of people to be hanging out with! I will write more in the next week about the events so far as I want to do them justice. At the moment I can happily report that I have a huge crush on a part of Canberra called New Acton, have had my eyes opened to so many, many, many wonderful things in my own town, and am learning on a daily basis! If you are interested in seeing what we have been up to have a look at the Human Brochure website where you will see so many beautiful photos from my fellow humans you will want to visit here straight away!
Phew – this might be the shortest summary of the most exciting week I will ever write – but the sewing room is calling me, and the Market countdown is on….so stay tuned for more updates! (and if you are on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter, following @alittlebirdmademe is a great way to see quick snapshots of what is happening during this exciting time!!)
I hope that you have had a great week, and that you are also finding little bits in your life to give you joy and excitement. Just remember – today is the first day of the rest of your life too. Get out there and embrace it.
Are you your own worst critic? I know I am. I can immediately list all the things that I have done wrong, could have done better, should have done better, should have known better, but I have to stop and think before I can list what has gone well. You may have noticed in my posts that I try to talk about the good things that have happened. This is my personal training ground to focus on the good and put the not-so-good into perspective.
With that in mind let me share what I have achieved in the last few days! I sat down on Saturday and made 5 and 3/4 handbags (the last quarter had to wait until the next day when I realised, late at night, that I had made a small error that required a lot of unpicking to rectify). And I am proud of them!
One of them sold that night, so I made a another one from the same fabric the next day, and finished off the one that I hadn’t completed on Saturday. So in one weekend I made 7 handbags.
Then I sewed up 14 bibs, without their snaps and chews. I was kicking goals for those two days! I even managed to do a load of laundry, undertake yet another (futile) search for missing items of clothing for the chicks, take the dog for a walk over to drop some things off to the chicks at their father’s house, and to talk to my Mum for over an hour on the phone.
On Monday morning I zipped around cleaning the house in readiness for a mentoring workshop. (I will come back to that in a minute). Over the noise of the vacuum cleaner I heard the dog going berserk and opened the door to find a courier delivering a large box from China. My teething chews arrived!
The colours are delightful and just as I ordered them, the quality is great and the sight of them had me dancing around the house (which meant that it wasn’t particularly pristine for my mentoring session but it wasn’t the end of the world!)
The mentoring session was fantastic. (Yes, yes I will get to that in a minute.) I felt inspired, energised and ready to tackle my own business when we finished. And then….I tried sewing my new teething pieces onto my bibs. Slump. Big time. The improved quality and flexibility means that, even after a lot of research and tension, needle and thread adjustment, my domestic machine can’t cope with them. (The samples were okay to sew but I increased the thickness in order to provide a better quality…….without realising that this would impact the ability of my machine to sew through them. Obvious now of course.) Determined not to feel like a complete failure I drove across town to collect my good old workhorse Bernina that has been in for a long overdue service. And discovered that the shop that was servicing it sells Industrial machines. I have been researching them online for a while so took the opportunity to pick the brain of the shopkeeper. Then I went back this morning with samples of leather, denim, bamboo, the silicone teethers, etc and tested them out. What a difference!!!!! The stitches through the teether looked perfect – and doubling over my thickest leather wasn’t a problem for the machine. I am hooked! But this particular shop has only just started stocking industrial machines, hasn’t built or set them up properly, doesn’t have a lot of options or choices, and they are quite expensive. So…. back to the computer, more research, phone calls, searching, tagging, searching……. My head hurts! I finished off the new bibs with some of the original stock of teethers, and will have to hold off on launching the new teethers until I acquire an appropriate machine. I have a solution, but it has exhausted me in the process!
The mentoring? I told you I would get back to it! As part of my reflection on what I have to offer, what strengths I have, and what excites me, while assessing how I want to live my life, and find that balance with the needs of my chicks, I realised that all the growth I have experienced over the last couple of years with starting and building my business, and researching every step of the way to the nth degree means that I have a large body of knowledge to share! And I get really animated and excited when I get to share it with other people! (My years of being a lawyer, manager, leader, etc don’t hurt either!)
Because I am working on quelling that inner critic it took me a while to form a firm plan, but the plan is taking shape, the inner voice is being told to pipe down, and I have started to offer my services as a mentor for other creative people in business. I have held a couple of group sessions that have gone really well, and have more planned. I have come away feeling energised just from the community that exists in a group of craftspeople and artists. I am excited to see where each of these women will grow their business to, as their ideas and talents are inspiring. At this stage I have only offered the sessions to a small group of people I know, while I assess structures, venues, approaches etc, but over the next few weeks I hope to launch this as a service that can be utilized by people in my local area, but also people anywhere in the world, through the wonders of Skype! My feedback so far has been positive, and useful, but I am taking my time and not rushing in to oversell what I have to offer, and not undersell the value that I can add! Another exercise in taming the inner critic is underway!
Other lessons so far this week include that taking a fresh look at branding and marketing my business is useful. A reminder from the lovely ladies at Shop Handmade (where I sell my bibs and bags here in Canberra) about packaging saw me re-evaluating what I like in a product and looking at my products from that perspective. Today I spent some time designing a new package for the bibs. They will now be packaged in a clear bag (that can be resealed if customers want to open it to feel the fabric) with a sticker on the front telling them who made it, and an insert inside with the care details and the story of the bib (you know – where it was made, what music was playing, etc!) I am not sure if this is the final design for the packaging, because everything is evolving, but for now I am happy to put them on display in the Shop!
After a few days of highs, and then lows, I think that tomorrow is a day for even-ness. Hmmmm…. lets see how that plan goes!
It feels like a long time between drinks posts. I have written several in my head in the last week, so was quite surprised when I logged on to see how long it had been outside my head, in the real world, since I posted! There you go – time flies when you are having fun!
I have been playing with all sort of things in the last couple of weeks. New fabric. New ideas. Old ideas revamped. Housekeeping. Forgetting to clean the house. The usual circus that happens here in the nest! My May newsletter did get out on time (have you subscribed yet? They are full of a wide variety of things, so sign up – its free!)
In celebration of Star Wars day I have made two new bags – which will be listed on Etsy in my shop later today when I have the ‘good’ photos finished. I enjoyed making these – I learnt a bit from using my repurposed denim bag while I was away over Easter, so took a different approach to cutting and joining pieces, taking note of the stretch in different fabrics, and think that the product is much better as a result.
The first bag is a tote so not too much to tinker with there – although I did take a different approach to the base with some extra stitching, while the satchel is where I had a bit more fun. I used the small front pocket from the jeans I was attacking cutting up to complete a bag panel alongside a back pocket piece, so this bag now has a pen pocket and a full sized pocket under the flap, as well as the usual pocket on the back, and slip pockets inside. I like the new ideas that come from fitting together pieces that have already been used in another form!
I also made the eldest chick a pair of pj pants from left over flannel – she loves them and I have had to peel them off her to wash them as she changes into them when she gets home from school! I bought some new flannel on sale last week, so will be making another pair for her, one for the boy, and one for myself. (The middle chick has about 10 pairs of pjs so doesn’t need more!)
I went on a re-stocking buying trip last week (where I scored the flannel) and stocked up on some printed duck-cloth, and other bits and pieces, and bought this gorgeous fabric at the same time. A friend/customer has requested two bags for her to take as thank you gifts when she travels overseas later in the year. She wanted an Australian flavour. These fabrics (although unfortunately printed off-shore) bear the designs of Indigenous artists from Maningrida, a remote community in the Northern Territory where I have previously spent a little time. I love them! My bag making got stalled when I succumbed to a bug from one of the children, but I intend to finish them in the next day or so, and show you the end results!
I also got a bit adventurous and bought some leather pieces. I have been looking for leather to repurpose for a while, but in the absence of any success there, some pieces from a wholesaler are a good place to start (especially as they were a very reasonable price.) I haven’t cut into them yet but hope to start playing with some new ideas this week, so stand by for photos!
In thinking about my market display I put out a call on Freecycle to see if I could get some boxes to help with my display. Look at the history in these! A beautiful woman passed them on to me – some were ones that her grandfather had acquired through his work, one had been used as a nesting box for chickens – they are all boxes that have had a life, and a lot of history. We shared a bit of our lives with each other which made the meeting even more special. I am so lucky! A bit of cleaning and repairing and I will take some proper photos to share.
It really has been a busy couple of weeks – there is so much more I could share, but I need to leave you with some time for your own life so won’t go on with every detail! One thing I will share though is that my boy had a bad start with the return to school and was struggling again, with acute anxiety episodes, and the behaviour that flows from those. Until I took him to the chiropractor we see, who also offers Neuro Emotional Technique. If you google this practise you get all sorts of criticism of the lack of scientific evidence, blah, blah, blah, but to be honest, after the last couple of years I tend to look at the results for my kids, rather than the reviews. I talked to her about his anxiety and other issues and she offered to check his ‘reflexes’. She did, and then adjusted his “fear paralysis reflex” (some mild clicks in a couple of spots). Wow! He was calmer straight away, went to sleep without needing me to lie down with him that night, (and the next!), and the next day had an amazing day of staying in class and coping with everything! The rest of the week continued well too. Now this is not a ‘cure’ but whatever hocus pocus it is, it has given my beautiful boy, and his very supportive teachers, a break, some respite, and a chance for him to succeed again. Hopefully the effect will last a while. If not, even these few days of calm for him have been a gift.
I am sure some of you are missing my weather updates (Uh-huh). It is cold. Really cold. Snow on the surrounding mountains sort of cold. And the kids started their winter sports season yesterday, in the cold, and the rain. (Luckily they are with their father this weekend so I was tucked up home in bed recovering from a virus while they were suffering.) The middle-chick didn’t cope so well (her father diagnosed frost bite – massive eye roll from me) but the eldest chick, in her first season of hockey on a full pitch, scored a goal, and the boy, in his first season of being allowed to tackle in rugby (and for the Americans reading – this does not involve any padding like your grid iron players wear – they just do full body tackles) and enjoyed it and wasn’t injured. Phew!
My plans this week include working on some business planning, SEWING, and finishing this zpagetti rug I started yesterday while lying on the couch feeling sorry for myself. I hope that you have a great week!
I am writing this sitting in the shade of my tent, listening to some guitarists in another tent and contemplating whether to go and pick up a fresh bag of ice, or lie in my hammock. Tough choices!
For the third year in a row I have travelled to Byron Bay to attend Bluesfest. This year I nearly didn’t come. The thought of the drive (about 13 hours before you factor in breaks), travelling on my own and attending a large music festival on my own was starting to overwhelm me. But…. here I am and I am glad I came.
I decided to stagger my trip so I wouldn’t be exhausted before I arrived, but I didn’t plan it at all! Just before I left home late on Tuesday afternoon I decided that I would drive to a spot just north of Sydney called Umina that I had heard good things about. When I rang the campground the receptionist talked me out of camping because of the late hour I would be arriving at – which was an absolute blessing when I arrived during a torrential downpour that was blooding streets and tents. Sleeping in a cabin was the best decision!
The next night I stopped at Coffs Harbour and stayed at the same campground I stayed at last year, set up my little tent and was asleep before 8!
A cup of tea the next morning set me up for a great start and I arrived with 20 minutes to spare before meeting my camping neighbours from last year so we could camp together again. The ridiculously luxurious trailer is set up, and our neighbours thus year include a family of guitarists who seem to be attracting other guitarists to them so we are being serenaded.
Why am I giving you a blow by blow account of my trip? Because three days on my own has not been scary nor overwhelming. Last night I attended the festival on my own and had fun. I could wander where I wanted, to my own agenda. I saw great musicians – Steve Earle, Charlie Musselwhite, Dyson, Stringer and Cloher, and Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros. I was exhausted by the time it got to Edward Sharpe and had retreated to a chair, thinking that there was no shame in sitting to listen…… and then they started playing and I was propelled from my seat forward to dance, confirming once more that music cures all ills!
My observations so far this year are quite irreverent – lots of young men with long hair and beards being escorted by girls with flowers in their hair, flowing skirts and bare feet – they look like they are reliving their grand- or great- grandparents youth at Woodstock – but with a lot more cash. There are also a high proportion of grey haired men who look like they have been sitting behind desks their whole lives wandering around in packs looking happy. You can pick the northerners – they are wearing jumpers in the chill of the 18 degree evening (scoffs the southerner who is loving the warmth!)
No post would be complete without a sewing report – I decided it was time to sew for myself so whipped up a Tova tunic using my birthday fabric from last year, and a bag and coing purse for myself (using the jeans I wore here last year!)
No kids, no agenda, and nothing to worry about. Just what I needed, and the reason I bought my tickets a year ago.
I hope that your Easter weekend is all things good for you.
Although the first day of April is traditionally a day for pranks and tricks, today was actually a day for celebrating some steps in my life, with no pranks in sight! My bags are on sale through the Shop Handmade here in Canberra from today, and I received my first month’s sales statement from the Shop for my bibs (and can report that there were in fact sales – phew!).
Today also marks the first day of my long service leave, and the end (hopefully for a while) of being on personal leave (which is the modern public service name for good old fashioned sick leave!). Although there is no real difference in terms of the freedom that I have, I have found that since I made the decision to take time off to look at what my options are for the future it is like a load has lifted off my shoulders. I feel lighter. I have been joking with the chicks. We rode our bikes to and from school today because I wasn’t worrying about what time we would get there, etc. I am breathing out.
The world of possibilities that this time off work opens up is huge! I have already come up with a long string of outrageous travel plans that bear no resemblance to my bank balance – just to enjoy the dreaming possibilities! I am thinking about all the creative opportunities that I have, and starting to map out how to fit them in. And I am enjoying feeling that there are no rules, and that I can do what I want with this time (within reason and the law of course!)
The first big adventure is one that was planned a year ago, before life got so complex – the 25th Annual Bluesfest at Byron Bay, over the Easter weekend. For the last few weeks I have been umming and ah-ing about whether I should go, on my own, and whether I would cope, etc. But a funny thing happened as I wrote a message to a friend offering my ticket for sale to any of her friends….. I realised that the only person putting pressure on myself is me. I sent a follow up email asking her to ignore the first one – and instead we agreed to catch up over a drink or two in the campground instead! The line-up for this year has a few acts that I really want to see – Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros, Jack Johnson, Elvis Costello, Steve Earle, Suzanne Vega, John Butler Trio, plus a few that I will catch because I don’t really know their stuff, and others I will go to see because I have never heard of them! A good start to a period of freedom! (And some trips to the beach for a swim in the ocean might figure in that plan too!) It all kicks off in 16 days, so my road trip will start two weeks from now! Yippee!
Other smaller adventures over the next few months might include some trips to see friends, a lot of sewing, drawing up further and better particulars on some business plans (see – you can’t take the lawyer out of the girl even when she is on holiday!), and seeing what opportunities come along!
I have tackled my sewing room and sorted it out after weeks of chaos – jumbled piles of fabric, interfacing, threads, half finished projects, scraps, etc. It is back to being a calm oasis of creativity and just what is required! Sorting and folding fabric is such a beautiful way to spend time – it reminds me of all the beautiful possibilities that lie in those piles!
Half way through making piles, with the sun streaming in to help.
I also finished the last of my custom ordered bags from the markets two weeks ago. The young woman who ordered this one deliberated over a wide range of fabric choices before selecting this one for me to order in. And her deliberations were worth it. The fabric matched perfectly with the beige duck cloth she had selected and has resulted in a sophisticated, understated, elegant and practical bag for her overseas adventure. I even managed to get 2 zips in it without crying!
With the desk clear, my load lighter, and a head full of ideas, tomorrow is looking good for a day of sewing and creating. Which is a good way to mark the 5 year anniversary of the day that my marriage ended. This is not a path I chose, and is not the plan I had for my life, or the life of my children. However I am proud of the new life and the new path that I have been able to build, and of the values that I am teaching my children. Although they still wish that we lived with their father again, they acknowledge that their life is better than so many others, and that they are very lucky to have three parents who love them. I continue to be thankful that their step-mother is so incredibly decent and has made an effort from day one to make it easy for me to have a positive relationship with her. (I also continue to be thankful that he waited until the 2nd to leave – imagine having your husband leave on April Fools Day – you would never be really sure if he meant to do it or not!)
Now I am off to brew another cup of tea and to go and admire my neat sewing room and plan my first project for tomorrow! I hope that your week is going well!
This week I have been spontaneously stopping at different moments throughout the day and just enjoying being happy. Not because of big momentous things, but just through the joy of little things. I have had a visit to the post office each day this week, with a little pile of parcels wrapped in brown paper to send off to customers. I get such a thrill from wrapping them and carrying them into the counter. Getting to do it every day is so cool. It makes me happy!
I also got to hand deliver three other sales. Which meant having lovely chats with the people I am selling to. Joy! It is such a privilege to make things for other people that they want and love.
A lap top sleeve for an English student – she chose such appropriate fabric!
I have started and finished three custom orders in the last two days. With no hiccups! Again – happy! I have cooked a lovely (she says modestly) meal for a friend, spoken on the phone with another, and had lunch with yet another. All moments that give joy. I have sat and watched the rain soaking my garden, and while I am sure that my joy cannot begin to match the joy of local farmers who have needed this so much, it has still given me joy.
The grey wet day through my window when I stopped to refill my bobbin!
I think that knowing that I have time to plan for my future and my family’s future is giving me the time to appreciate the little things again. And it feels good! It also gives me time to come up with all sorts of ideas – which, upon closer inspection, turn out to be a mix of brilliance and complete rubbish!
On the handmade front I am, and will keep being, busy. I have further custom orders to complete, stock to make for the Handmade Shop, stock that I want to make for my Etsy shop, a business plan or two to write, some research to do, and some articles to write. All of that means that I am expecting a fair few more of the little moments of joy!
One of the projects that I want to put some time into is preparing some online resources that share some of the lessons that I have learnt over the last couple of years about building a creative business, becoming a stall holder, planning, selling online, and taking the steps to translate a hobby into a business. If there is something in particular that you would like to know, please let me know – either in the comments, or by email (Theresa@alittlebirdmademe.com) so that I can be sure to include some answers for you in the materials that I prepare – or get one of my many friends with expertise to help me answer your question!!
For now – back to little moments of joy. I have just one chick in the nest tonight, so she gets extra cuddles and stories for bedtime and that is where I am headed.
What moments of joy have you been able to find this week? I would love to hear about them – big or small!
I was going to start this post with a lovely poetic piece about the rain. But while I was writing it I had a phone call from the boy’s school. Again. His father is handling the situation, but the very fact of the call is enough to make me change my direction. For the post, and for my/our life.
I have been on leave from work for some months now for a combination of reasons. Trying to support a child with special needs, getting more and more worn down myself from constantly keeping all the balls in the air – working full time at a high level, being a full time single parent, the boy’s need for extra everything, the fact that the girls miss out on so much when the boy needs so much, keeping everyone fed, clothed, alive…… It all got too much at the end of last year and I fell apart. So my leave (thank goodness I have worked as a public servant for so long) was needed to get me back to ‘normal’ (whatever that is) so that I could go back to juggling the balls again.
Except that I have realised that, as a wise woman I know says, ‘If nothing changes, then nothing changes.’ If I go back to juggling, I will fall again. And next time I might not get back up. Something needs to change. The boy and his sisters won’t change. They will always be my top priority. Whether we live in this house or another, the same basic level of housework, maintenance, and general ‘home-ness’ will not change. Although my ex-husband is back living in the same country, so I am not a full time single parent anymore, that change is not enough to balance it all out. That leaves work – my paid employment and my creative business. I am not yet sure what the answer is about which of these will need to change the most in order to build a new direction for me/us but it is obvious that one or both will need to.
I have applied for some further leave (of the long service type – again – so glad that I have worked for so many years!) so that I can work this question out. Because life as a parent of a child with a disability can’t follow the plan that I previously had. We have to find a new path, and a new approach, and a new plan. This plan has to put my health near the top of the list of priorities, to allow flexibility so that the boy can have the support he needs when he needs it, to produce enough income to pay for the necessities in life, and to be manageable. Expect to see a lot of idea bubbles floating around above my head, growing or popping as I work through all of them, weighing up, assessing and looking at how to build a new life for the chicks and I. Although it is daunting, it is also exciting. The possibilities are endless!
Meanwhile, back in the sewing studio (sounds posh doesn’t it?!) in between periods of intense chaos, some goods have been produced! I have completed some custom orders, delivered a pile of bibs to restock the Handmade Shop (the first lot almost all sold out in under a month!!), and am ticking things off the list I made on the weekend. This custom order was delivered today, in time for the birthday of a girl who loves Dr Who, and who loves the willow pattern. I can’t wait to hear how she reacts to it on her birthday!
And, after all my protests about bibs not being ‘in scope’ they are selling well, I like making them, and I have some plans to expand my ‘range’ for older children and teens. Stand by for that development (once my new fabric order arrives!!). In the meantime how gorgeous are these fabrics?
Another thing that I ticked off my list this week was listing my new stock in my Etsy shop. I was so busy making things in the lead up to the Markets at the beginning of the month that I didn’t stop and photograph many of them – a good lesson for the future! Here is a small selection of the newly listed bags.
And finally, my big news of the day is that I have been accepted to sell my bags through Shop Handmade! This was part of the plan that I created last year, so I am proud that I have followed my plan, and that I have been accepted to sell in such a wonderful shop. The biggest danger is that each time I deliver stock I will have to be careful not to leave with just as many pieces of other people’s work!
This week’s plan is to finish more custom orders, sew up some new designs, and get some planning happening! I hope that your week goes well (and that you get the rain that is so badly needed if you are in Australia!)
For now I am off to think about new directions over a cup of tea.
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