It has been a while since I wrote here. I tend to spend a lot of time on Facebook and Instagram and forget to write here – but I still like having this space to store things, so I haven’t forgotten about it!
As everyone knows, the world is in a very different place at the moment, with the COVID-19 pandemic changing the way we live, do business, connect, and build community. More people are now aware of Zoom than they were just 6 weeks ago, and internet usage is up all over the planet, while fuel usage is down, pollution levels have dropped, unemployment has risen, and whole industries have been decimated through the shut down of public gatherings. On the upside people around the world are spending time with their family in ways they never have before, neighbours are reaching out and arranging street dance alongs, photos of people dressing up to take their bins out have gone viral, and creative minds are coming up with new ways to share.
The Handmade Market is one business that has been creative. Having to cancel their March market a week before it was due to go ahead, with thousands of dollars and hours already invested, both by the organisers, and the makers, they decided to create a virtual market so that the designers and producers still had an audience. Following the success and lessons from that market they have arranged another virtual market for next Sunday, 26 April 2020, and I am part of it! How does a virtual market work? Well, you go to the website www.handmadecanberra.com.au and go to the gallery, and as you click on each designer or producer you get to see the market offer they have (mine is free domestic standard shipping) and the code to use, and the link to their shop! Easy!
I have been busy making, and photographing and updating in preparation, so hope to have something for everyone! And of course, the market is set up for Mother’s Day shopping, but there are always gifts for everyone!!
I am sitting at home with a large cup of tea reflecting on the weekend that was – the Handmade Market. It was a big weekend – loads of customers, lots of sales and lots of lovely discussions about wool, tea, teabags, the environment, and everything in between! I sold out of reusable tea bags, have very low levels of stock to list in my online shop, and generally need to get back to work to restock – not a bad position to be in! First of all though I need to clean my house – the last week of intense preparation means that once again my housework was at the bottom of the list of priorities – oops!
A few highlights of the weekend in pictoral form – including a photo of me that a customer took and sent to me!
What next? Possibly a market in August, otherwise focusing on rebuilding stock and filling custom order will be my priority over the next week or so! (After I sleep, clean, and catch up on all my messages!!)
Just popping in quickly to let you know that I am still alive and very busy being creative! This weekend I have my return to the Handmade Markets in Canberra after a 4 year absence! Well – I wasn’t really absent, I was working for Handmade Canberra, but this is my return as a designer, so it is a bit exciting! I have been flat out making and designing and getting carried away with ideas, so here are a few of the products I will have on sale and on display at the markets this weekend!
All that colour!! I will be back soon to fill you in with more detail of what has been happening in the nest, what other projects I have on the go and, of course, how the markets go, so stay tuned!
This morning, for something completely different, the chicks and I took part in filming a promotion for Canberra that focussed on the Shop Handmade. Normally for such a big deal I would stress about what to wear, my hair, makeup etc. what the chicks were wearing, how their hair was, etc…. However this morning was so cold I abandoned all fashion selections and went for warmth instead, in my own slightly different style. (Seriously, when you have turquoise coloured hair you don’t look traditionally fashionable anyway).
My eldest chick decided, quite adamantly, that she didn’t want to participate, but the younger two loved it! I heard the middle chick telling the director that she just wanted to ‘be a star’. The joy of being 10 years old and confident! Even better my boy, my beautiful boy who faces so many challenges, held it together and had fun all morning.
As it turns out, the success of the morning had to be paid for. Tonight involved meltdowns of the proportion we haven’t seen for a while. A reminder that I can never take the good stuff for granted. I had started to get complacent and plan social activities for us as a family. One of those lessons that I, apparently, need to learn again.
However it did confirm something else I had already worked out. Having my parents living ‘next door’ meant that the girls could go there for respite while I handled the drama. And we ended the night calmly. Which meant I sat on the couch and finally watched the movie ‘Pitch Perfect ‘. (A friend had threatened to de-friend me if I didn’t watch it!! And we have tickets to a preview of the sequel as a fundraiser for breast cancer research, so I gave in to the emotional blackmail.) As someone who normally doesn’t sit and watch TV, it was just the break I needed! Even better, the copy I have includes the singalong lyrics! Danger, danger!!
Tomorrow is a new day. The weather forecast is still dire, but the school holidays mean that we will find friends to keep everyone busy, and I will try to remind everyone to be kind – including to themselves. (And will do my best to apply that advice to myself!)
Hello! Today my Handmade Project – How to make an appliqued cushion cover is being used to launch the new series of Handmade Projects on the Handmade Canberra website! I designed this project thinking that it would be a great Mother’s Day present. But as my Mum is a reader of this blog, I might need to go back to the drawing board!
If you make any cushions using the pattern I would love it if you tagged me if you post them on Instagram – #alittlebirdmademe, so that I can enjoy your efforts!
I have been reflecting over the last week on what it is that I am doing with my time! When I worked full time I seemed to have more time to sew, to blog, etc. Now that I am self-employed I seem to be running in circles all the time. I am not sitting idle, and am not spending hours surfing the internet, yet I seem to not get to the things that I want to do. This was frustrating me for quite a while, until I realised that the things that I have added in to my days are the very reasons that I am no longer working full time.
Over the last few years I have had to shift my priorities. I have had to change my parenting style. I have re-invented our day to day life. (Not just once!). The reason that I have less time available to sew, or blog, or return phone calls, or pay bills (oops!) is because I am more present in my children’s lives. I am still not engaged at the level that I could be, and am certainly not a saint (heaven forbid) but I have come to realise that by spending more time putting the children first our life is better. Now when my boy is starting to get angry and lash out I can normally pin point the cause within a few minutes. I can usually remember the strategies that will help him to calm down without escalation. (Usually. Definitely not always.) When my artist-in-residence is collapsing in a ball of spiky frustration I can see where it has come from and help her to unravel and calm down. (Sometimes). And when my eldest chick is having completely out of character episodes of appalling behaviour I have no idea. Until I empty her rubbish bin and realise that she has been sneaking her little brother’s snacks – full of gluten – and her body is attacking itself.
Much easier to be kind to myself when I think about what we have dealt with each day and how we have resolved it!
I have had a couple of great moments this week that I wanted to share. I was fortunate enough to be invited to see Mary Poppins, the musical, being produced by the Free Rain Theatre Company at the Canberra Theatre. (One of the amazing up-sides of the Human Brochure experience has been invitations to so many wonderful events!) I took the artist-in-residence and we absolutely loved it! It was, to quote Mary herself, ‘practically perfect, in every way’. We even had a chance to have our photos taken with some of the cast afterwards!
The artist-in-residence having a night at the theatre.
This weekend just past was also very special. The Handmade Markets were on, in a new location here in Canberra. I am still not at the point where I am ready to return to having my own stall, but I love my role in the background of the markets, which allows me to interact with all the market designers on an individual level. The exposure to so many talented people is a true delight. Even better, I was able to take the children with me and when we stopped to talk to different stallholders the children had the chance to interact with them too. They got to taste beautifully handcrafted chocolate (thanks Cicada chocolate!), to receive hugs and rainbow roses from GG’s flowers (special hug thanks to Gayana), and the artist-in-residence was able to talk to different artists about their work and her own art. Mick from Leafy Sea Dragon presented her with one of his cards depicting one of his own artworks as an encouragement to another artist. She was thrilled!
The eldest chick and her two friends ran their own business throughout the markets, providing stall holder support. They were exhausted but very happy and very proud at the end of the weekend. This band of 12-year-old young women are learning about money management, customer service, hard work, planning, and innovation at a young age and I could not be prouder of them!!
I also managed to sneak myself a treat on Friday night. I had an hour to fill between finishing helping with the market set up, and when I was to collect the children from their father’s house. I thought about ringing friends etc but decided to take myself into town for a meal on my own. We have an area here called ‘The Hamlet’ which is where the gourmet food vans park, and various funky shops are tucked away. I went to the Mr Papa van – Peruvian Street Food. Oh my goodness.
The burger made with slow cooked pork belly, sweet potato, and a very tasty sauce and salsa combo is heavenly! I then followed it up with a little trip to the Frugii Dessert Laboratory where the ice-cream alchemist creates beautiful ice-creams, and desserts! (The owners are also delightful people!)
I had the choux pastry with hazelnut cream, and blood orange syrup. And even better – I had time to sit and enjoy and just have time to myself. Talk about bliss!
A custom order set for a baby overseas
After all this inspiration my plan was to sew, design, and create all week. Hmmmm…… the best laid plans! Between routine medical appointments, school meetings, housework, and general family commitments, I have managed only a very small amount of sewing.
An ipad case, coin purse and key fob for a birthday girl in Melbourne.
The good news though is that I have created some new pattern templates, which is speeding up my process a lot. (Instead of measuring and cutting each piece I am now using a template to cut each piece – such a simple thing but one I just hadn’t done!!) I also finally made a key ring fob – something on my ‘to do’ list for a long time. I like it! Maybe I should make some more….. where is that ‘to-do’ list again?
Wandering on the farm is a delightful pastime
The dam is the source of much entertainment – and home to some venomous snakes!
I love the skies out here!
I did spend time with my boy down at our dam finding rocks, sticks and long grasses to try and create ‘survival tools’ like spears and knives. We haven’t been particularly successful yet but we have had a lot of fun trying!
And I indulged in some fabric shopping – with no particular project in mind! It is just so lush! The new range from Skinny la Minx, via Hawthorne Threads. Drool.
Now to decide what to do with it! Choices, choices, choices!
I hope that you have been able to find time for yourself in your week too.
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!
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!