Tag Archives: designing

The 2017 Wrap Up

It is only fitting that the last day of the year is the time when I finally sit down to reflect on the year that was.   I decided a few years ago to stop saying that the old year was horrible and the New Year would be awesome because there is no magic in turning the page of the calendar.  Life is what it is, and if I am always looking forward to the day when it gets better, I will miss the good that is happening right now.  With that being said, there is no harm is looking back, reflecting, and planning for different outcomes in the future, so it is with that spirit that I am writing this post.

On the family front 2017 can be summarised as the year of school changes!  My middle chick started high school, but after struggling with anxiety issues that interfered with her attendance, changed schools in the second half of the year.  Her attendance didn’t improve but her anxiety has, so there are plans in place to support her attendance this year.    My boy started the year at one primary school, then shifted to another, across the border, where he was placed in a support class which was much more successful than mainstream classes without the right supports.   His attendance was still limited to two hours a day, and then reduced to one hour a day, so in the last few weeks of the school year we transitioned to a combination of school attendance and Distance Education.  This is the plan for 2018, so I will be his teacher at home to cover the time when he is not at school.   And finally my eldest chick stayed at the same school all year, and made some great progress in her participation in class, and tried out new subjects like Engineering with much joy.   At the end of the year, following some health issues, I decided she should go and live with her father for a while so she bid farewell to her school and friends, only for the decision to be reversed after some professional advice about the wisdom of her move.   At the moment she is in limbo about which school she will attend in 2018, with several options open to her, including a return to her previous school.

We had our final family stay in hospital in Sydney as part of the ongoing support for managing my boy’s behaviour, and I am proud to say that the staff there couldn’t stop praising us for the major changes that we have made and how well we are doing as a family.  The skills that I learned there will stay with me for life and I often find myself thinking ‘What would Tamar (the senior psychologist on our team) say”  when faced with a new behavioural challenge.   How blessed we are that this service is provided under our Public Health system and didn’t cost me a cent but made such a change to our life.

Supporting three kids with mental health issues, one of whom also has disabilities, is tough work.  There are times when, as another one falls apart just when I think everything is going well, I wonder where I went wrong.  Luckily there are lots of great people around me who are good at calmly pointing out that I am not the cause of the various issues, and that sometimes life just sucks.   I have had some moments of falling apart during the year under the weight of trying to keep everyone’s heads above water, but am happy to be ending the year in a good frame of mind, with solid plans for supporting each child, and continuing the endless search for time for myself!

New teapot earrings made to my own design!

On the farm front we grew our flock by adding a new ram, Gordon Ram-say, who ensured his future with the production of 11 lambs in October, from 7 ewes.  Four of our previous lambs went to the butcher at around the same time, and we have since sold two ewes with lambs to our neighbours, so we are currently sitting at 16 head.   We renewed our chicken flock and currently have a standing delivery of 4 dozen eggs a week to friends in town, plus plenty for our own consumption, so it is going well – bar the current mite infestation that has me cleaning and spraying the coops every few days, and constantly feeling that I have tiny bugs crawling on me!   The realities of farm life!

Shadow

We acquired a new dog, with Shadow the Belgian Shepherd joining us in August, and then sadly lost our beloved Dottie in the week before Christmas.    Our house is a lot quieter without her and we miss her daily.

Dottie

The biggest change for me was the return to designing and making.   After a long period of stagnating, and being uninspired, the return to making started with a desire for a tea cosy for my glass teapot.   Then it grew!  Between researching and designing reusable teabags, collecting and re-purposing teacups by making candles, and planters, and then making tea themed jewellery, a whole new business has grown up under my existing brand.   With that growth I have found a new burst of energy, inspiration and joy.    I have attended three markets, and have plans for more in 2018.

Mesh tea infusers with removable charms are one of my new products going into 2018

I also have plans for products that are repeatable (instead of requiring a new design for each product as I have so often in the past) with ideas about selling some through shops as well as online.   Whether this all comes to pass or not my brain is happy to be back in use!

Organic cotton resusable tea bags

Heading into 2018 seems a little more full of portent that other years because 2018 is the year I turn 50.    I don’t think that there is a lot of magic in turning 50, or that life will suddenly change, but I have decided that there are various things that I can let go of now that I can no longer deny that I am a grown up.   Many of my habits have changed over the last few years anyway, so I no longer go shopping for new clothes, no longer worry about what is the latest trend/restaurant/bar/cocktail/book, and no longer worry that I am not worried!   Over the last decade I have been practising saying ‘No’, and I plan to continue this for as long as I am around.   I am working on identifying when the issue is mine, and when it truly belongs to someone else and therefore shouldn’t worry me.   And I am not investing time in people who don’t deserve the small amounts of free time that I have.  While my 20’s were about having adventures and learning to fit into my own skin, my 30’s were about building a family and my 40’s were about raising my children as a single parent and restructuring my life to achieve this, my aim for my 50’s is about being kind to myself, my kids and our planet.  Anything extra is a bonus!

Wishing you all a kind and peaceful New Year.

New beginnings – sort of

A few weeks ago I found myself lying in bed thinking about this website and wondering whether I should just delete it and accept that I wasn’t going to be in business anymore.  It was a hard conversation to have with myself, but I couldn’t see anyway to move forward.   Fast forward to this week and I have just reopened my Etsy shop (you can get there by clicking the link at the top of the page) for the first time in over two and a half years.    Wow!

What happened to change things?  I had a couple of lightbulb moments.    I just couldn’t get excited about making any of the things I used to make, wasn’t inspired to design anything from those lines, and had pretty much abandoned my studio as the household dumping room for anything that didn’t have a home.   Then we had a two week school holiday break for the children where we made no plans – no trips, no big outings, and no commitments.  After a few days of mooching around while the kids did their own thing in their own parts of the house I decided that it was time to tackle the sewing room.  Which took about 6 hours less than I thought it would, and was not stressful.   The light was beginning to shine through the gloom that had been sitting over my creative self.

Then I decided that I needed a tea cosy for my glass teapot to keep it warm when friends dropped in and we drank multiple cups of tea in one sitting.   I did a bit of looking around on line and ended up making my own pattern and whipping this up one evening.

That was the first light bulb moment!   I found myself wanting to create!   I kept making tea cosies, even though I didn’t have a person in mind to give them to.   Then I found myself looking at all things tea related online and had my second light bulb moment. By starting to make again, but not sticking to just one method of making (sewing) and not just one type of product (accessories) I could delve into making but instead focus on a common theme.  Tea!   From there I started down the road of making resusable tea bags.   I drink a lot of tea and always put any tea bags in the compost or the worm farm.  Recently we emptied the worm farm and dug over the compost and all the tea bags appeared amongst the lovely dirt – not at all broken down.  I have since discovered that tea bags are manufactured using plastic!  While I often use an infuser I have found that the hinged ones break, and the cup ones aren’t always the right shape for the cup I want to use. The sewing machine came out, the fabric scrap bin was opened and the experimenting began.

 

After a lot of research I decided that using GOTS certified organic cotton was the safest option, and that using a tighter weave rather than the traditional loose weave muslin would ensure that the bags lasted longer.   Then I drank lots of tea (oh the hardship) using various shapes and sizes of the tea bags, decided on the best combination and sat down and began making them.  Making them involves cutting, sewing, threading, sewing, turning, ironing each little bag, so they aren’t particularly cheap to make, but I believe that they are a good investment in reducing the amount of plastic we are pouring into the earth.

This morning I got up bright and early and photographed, staged, took more photos, wrote descriptions, edited, wrote different words and finally, after a very long time, pushed the ‘publish’ button to list items for sale in my shop again.   It felt good!     I have a lot of ideas but have learnt a lot over the years about what works for me, what success looks like for me, and what causes me to become overwhelmed and freeze.   This means that I am not putting pressure on myself, and will make and list items when I can.  I am a bit proud of these first listings though!  Check out my tea cosy collection!

Yes that is eggs and bacon

And even better, yes that is avocado on toast!

I have also used this new found creative surge as an excuse to hit the charity shops in search of teapots to use for sizing the cosies and tea cups to use in making ‘things’, like a pincushion.

And then because I like having a new pincushion for my pins I made another one for my needles, using a pattern from the Lion Brand website.

So there you have it.  My creative urge is back and I am back in business, but with a new twist. Let’s see how it goes!    There has been a lot happening apart from the creative explosion, but I will save that for another time as there is a pile of crochet calling my name, and some Netflix series to binge watch.

 

Filling your head

One of the benefits of the two youngest chicks moving to a new school that is also our local public school is that I am catching up with all sorts of people I know from all sorts of places.  A chance conversation with two women after I had dropped the children off yesterday morning saw me learning that one (who I knew as the mother of fellow junior hockey players) is actually an artisan who makes porcelain jewellery, while the other (who I knew as a fellow pre-school mother 6 years ago) is a talented sewist.  In the course of excitedly discussing all things creative (as you do when you find fellow creative souls) one of the women commented that when she has her creative mojo happening she doesn’t watch TV, and doesn’t even read books anymore.  What a relief!  I am always happy to tell people that I don’t watch TV at all, but am a little less forthcoming with my guilty secret that I don’t read anymore.

I love books.  I have always read.  I am one of those people who will stay up all night reading a gripping novel, even though I have to go to work the next day.  But for the last year or two three I have not been reading.  Well – of course I have been reading, but instead of reading a book or two a week I have been lucky to average a book every three months.  I have been feeling guilty, as if I am somehow lesser for my abandonment of books.  However in our conversation we discussed that where books provided an escape and a way for our imaginations to be exercised, when we are actively creating we have the escape, and the stretch to our imaginations, so there is not as much need or room for books.  Explained that way I feel much less guilty!!

When I am creating my mind wanders to all sorts of subjects.  I write wonderful posts for this blog in my mind, draft emails to friends I haven’t caught up with for ages, think about ways to stretch a dollar, find some extra time for something important, to solve a problem.  Having had these very satisfying conversations in my head, I regularly forget that these things haven’t happened in real life, and then don’t email those friends, write those posts, or apply those solutions.  I am beginning to understand why people describe artists as vague.  It is not because artists don’t care about things, it is because their head is full, and they, like me, may think that they have already dealt with something because they have thought about it while creating, so in their mind it is completed.   Something to ponder.

My creating this week has taken a different turn, and I have been busy drawing.  I love to draw, so the chance to combine drawing with designing and sewing is the perfect collection of creativity for me!  Now that I have my fabulous machine that can cut out my appliques for me I decided that I need some new designs, in addition to my much loved bicycle template.  After scouring the internet for suitable templates and not finding ones that suited my purpose I decided to make my own.  Hence the drawing!  With some I found photos and drew, traced, stylised, while with others I found other templates and took the ideas and modified them to my own needs.  The results so far are a scooter and a camera, and a police-box that needs a bit of tweaking!  Put that way it doesn’t seem to justify many hours, but I can assure you that a huge amount of work went into creating these simple-ish lines and shapes!  I have started to applique them.  The next step is to attach the appliques to bags!

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At the time of writing I have only appliqued one of the cameras, and am having a debate with myself about whether to go with the zig zag of the first one, or the straight stitch of the scooters.  (When I use straight stitch I also use ‘fray stopper’ to seal the edges so it doesn’t get too tatty too quickly!)   I might just need to keep experimenting until I find the perfect combination.

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I am also experimenting with whether patterned fabric works as well as solids, and complex patterns versus simple patterns.  My brain really has been quite full!

I thought I was going to avoid writing about the weather tonight but while I have been sitting here preparing this post we have had a huge downpour of rain.  The middle chick and I took a photo, through the window, of our water tank overflowing with the torrential rain.  Then 12 minutes later, this was the view from the same window!  As a result – the weather gets a mention.

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I hope that if you head is full this week it is full of creative and wonderful thoughts.  What are you creating, reading, watching or doing this week that is keeping you entertained and providing an escape and a stretch of another part of your brain?