January 2018 – New Year

Welcome to 2018… it is a bit late, but that in-between Christmas and New Year period where you don’t know what day it is or what you are meant to be  doing with your life stayed with me for something of an extended period of time. The fog seems to be lifting and I know know it is Sunday, and I really should be writing.

2018 ended up being a bit of a strange year. I seemed to have a bit going on, but I also didn’t. I have managed to keep up with some of the quilting things I had going on (this afternoon I plan to do the last of my Bee Block commitments for 2017); I have also almost finished the top for Sarah Fielke’s Down the Rabbit Hole block of the month (coming soon to a post near you). I have a couple of other things in the works as well, but for the most part – that is it.

I had one last finish for 2017, a large pillow cover for a 12 year old Star Wars/Soccer fanatic in my life, I did some “forced improv” after accidentally putting a hole in it. Post coming soon.

Back in January 2017, I made some goals and assigned a word (nurture); this has had some mixed success…

I decided that this year I was going to have something of a focus on my health. In the middle of the year I was diagnosed as Celiac – which has helped me enormously. I am feeling better in many ways and have sorted out many of the physical challenges I had been having (I was also flu free though winter which was something of a minor miracle). The latter stages of the year have also seen me taper off and stop taking my anti-anxiety and depression medication (completely with doctor support; don’t ever do that on your own).  My brain is finally settling down, and other than a bit of a challenge trying to rein in my emotions from time to time (who knew advertisements could be so emotionally charged) I am doing okay.

My PhD continues, and I suspect that this year it is going to have to take more of a front seat in my world. I delivered my introductory seminar in September, and am currently trying to get my head in the theory game. I won’t bore you with this here – but it is progressing and I am still enjoying the topic (International Education).

Quilting happened. I have set myself a two year cycle for quilting goals (mostly due to my inability to make anything small). I am at the half way point and am on track. My quilting focus for 2018 is to make some utility quilts – you know, ones which aren’t covered in intricate appliqué that you panic about the cat throwing up on. I would also like to lift my free motion quilting game. The two goals are linked.

I haven’t decided on a 2018 word or focus yet – but I have given myself until Chinese New Year to sort that one out 😉

Broken Dishes

I had a teacup.

A few years ago I bought the same style of cup, but in different colours, for a close group of friends. We had been through some ups and downs together – nutty parents, relationship breakdowns, work stresses. But I thought that we would always have tea (or whatever beverage happened to find its way into the cups – gin… vodka… champagne…) and be together, regardless of where we physically were. And then mine made a noise that is quite distinctive, fine bone china hitting a hard floor, a kind of pop and then scatter as the parts of it all went over the sewing space floor. I had moved some border fabric and knocked it off the cutting table. Fortunately at that moment it was empty so there wasn’t also the mess of liquid to deal with.

In the aftermath of this I have been on the search for a new cup. I thought I found the perfect one on the weekend in Sydney, but that cup turned out to be the perfect cup for someone else, not for me. It was a William Morris Strawberry Thief print in red, the perfect cup for my favourite Bear. So I will keep looking for a cup of my own.

What I suppose this lengthy narrative about the cup and the search for its replacement is all about is how we sometimes need to be patient for the right thing to come along for us. I am not getting all mumbo jumbo about ‘putting the request out to the universe and waiting for the response’ (not that kind of girl), but rather not just grabbing the first thing that comes along to replace what it was that I have lost. I do have a gap in my life for an appropriate teacup (very meta),  but it is one which will need to take me though hours of reading and writing, planning and drawing, designing and building.

Or it could just be a broken teacup that I need to replace.

Putting this into the context of my theme of the year (nurture), I am finding that I am being a bit more deliberate with what I am doing. I am heading back to planning my week, identifying what needs to be done now and what I have coming up. I am planning my holidays, I am planning to take about six weeks off from the paid job, but then spend some time doing things for the paid job. Such is the life of an academic. Fortunately I am coming to really enjoy the research component of my job, I always seem to be learning something new.

Quilting is also something of a priority. The shop is almost ready to launch (yay!) and I am feeling more confident that I am going to be able to fit all the different elements of my world together in such a way that it isn’t going to kill me/burn me out. I almost need the different elements of my world (quilting, research, writing, planning and creating) as they have something of a symbiotic relationship with each other.

Until next time.

Down the Rabbit Hole – Chased by the Cat

We all have those precious fabrics which we aren’t sure we should ever cut into. For me the holiest of the holy fabrics has been my very small collection of Hello Kitty Liberty of London prints. Collected from an Etsy shop in South Korea, I went in search of them after the death of my bestest of friends died. She loved Hello Kitty, absolutely adored her (I am reliably informed that she had a Christmas tree which was completely Hello Kitty themed). When I travelled overseas and came across a Hello Kitty shop in Hawaii – I think I finally understood the fascination she had with the small and happy Kitty.

This year has seen me embark on a new block of the month program with Sarah Fielke, her Down the Rabbit Hole quilt. Those following along on Instagram would have seen my progress. The goal for this quilt has been to use all of the whimsical fabrics I have collected over the years – the Heather Ross, the Cinderberries, the Hello Kitty Liberty – and make something that is bright and welcoming. It will eventually have its place on my bed, but I am also thinking that it will be the first quilt I may enter in a show. We will have to see how it all ends up.

Travelling along with this quilt has been my struggle to stay happy and positive. I am physically better than I have been in a long while (thanks to the diagnosis of Celiac Disease and the resulting dietary change), and I have managed to – so far – avoid the flu which has been doing the rounds this year, something which I consider a minor miracle to be honest. While on the surface things seem to be going well, underneath I am kind of struggling. But I will be okay. As ever the rabbit is being chased, this time by the cat.

Using the bright and sunshine colours has been going along with this quilt, but I have also made the conscious effort to include some of the grey and dark along with it – when the whole things is revealed it will be a mixture of things. The light, the dark, and the grey. Because the world is this mixture. We can’t have light all the time, you need something to show its highlight; to contrast. The trick is having the right balance of colours to make the quilt work as a whole.

Midwinter

It is midwinter in my little corner of the world, and this coming weekend we are taking the younglings to the snow.

Being in Australia doesn’t make you immune from the popular imagery of different times of the year, and how things should be. Take winter for example. The youngest of the younglings wants to make a snowman this weekend – so we need a carrot and some stones. It is, finally, the time of year that some of the Christmas carols make sense (or they would if it were Christmas – don’t think we are doing Christmas in July this year). Although I really could get behind snow and cold during our Christmas celebrations which happen in the middle of the Australian summer (not fun for me). There is a part of me which wonders what it would be like to have snow on the ground, and be snowed in and not be able to go anywhere… we had a day like that once. A “black snow” day where we had to stay home because there had been a fire at a chemical plant and there was toxic smoke near where I worked and the kids went to school. But it wasn’t really the same to be honest.

Now this is a (sometimes) quilting blog, and sometimes I really do quilt. Like the past few days I have been actually sewing, keeping up with the bee blocks, working on the Steam Punk quilt and a few other things… actually I think it may be time for a bit of a “what am I working on now” roundup and posting.

You may have noticed that I have given up putting the month in the title of the post – I am doing this for strategic and I don’t want to feel guilty about it reasons. I had managed to keep things going for the start of the month post, recapping on what had happened in the month previously. But when I didn’t meet this goal, I felt like I was something like a failure – and honestly there are other things I can be feeling like I am a failure about which would be more productive than that. So I am giving myself a break.

The year long mission to look after myself a bit better is stumbling along. I mentioned in the post about the Sydney quilt show (thanks to those who reached out after that, I too was glad – yet disappointed – that I wasn’t the only one who felt that way)… I mentioned that I had been diagnosed as Celiac (hello to my sister who I forgot to call and tell who read it on my blog… sorry), well I have been “clean” for about two weeks now and there are some changes. It is actually a bit easier to be gluten free when you just can’t have it. It isn’t a lifestyle choice or a preference, it is my reality. I just hope that I can continue to have milk as well because it may actually kill me to give up milk and cheese.

Having said that – I am not a fan of GF bread. Not. At. All.

A trip to the show, and something to say

A bright and sunny morning in Sydney

This morning I returned from what has become the annual pilgrimage to Sydney to the NSW Quilt Show. This year held back in the middle of Sydney at the newly reopened International Convention Centre. My feeling about the show are mixed. While I mostly enjoyed the day, there were a few things which I really didn’t like, and one thing in particular which has left me with a bit of an odd feeling about it all.

The Good

The quilts. Awesome work from the quilters, the best in show was a favourite (and for the first time ever I saw them before the judging and liked the best in show before knowing it was). I have to note that I didn’t get a chance to look around them all and take photos of the ones I wanted to see again and up close (more on that in a moment).

The range of make and take classes, particularly for beginners. While I have to admit to not partaking in them this year – half of the party I was with did. Both beginners in the overall scheme of things, there was a range of things which were really well suited to them and they both enjoyed having the opportunity to participate in something that they wouldn’t always have the opportunity to do.

The friends. It was a great day out with those near and quilty. Many laughs were had, and we are – even though there is bad and ugly – planning on making the trip again next year.

The Bad

The lighting in the quilt show. Really, for something that is so visual there needed to be more done to improve the lighting on the quilts. This was particularly obvious as the lighting at last year’s venue on Glebe Island was so good and allowed for better viewing of the quilts. I do understand that this isn’t always as easily said than done, but I wasn’t the only one commenting about this, and it is something that is actually able to be fixed.

The overall feel of the venue. This is a hard one to explain. The shopping side of things seemed to be very cramped. I was there on Thursday, and I hate to think what it was like on the weekend.

The food options… I was diagnosed as celiac on Wednesday morning (it has been quite a week), so I was taking close notice of these things. There were an extremely limited number of options for me (well for future me, tomorrow is the big day).

The Ugly

When it comes to this bit, this is what has left me feeling a little odd about the quilt fair. I have not really engaged with the whole gender in quilting debate – not because I don’t have an opinion, but more because me getting all ranty about the role of men in quilting or the “place” of men in quilting isn’t really something I have ever wanted to do. I have always been more interested in the tension within the quilting movement about the “modern” v “traditional” quilters (having decided I don’t really belong in either and prefer to label myself a quilter). Gender bias in quilting has raised its sometimes ugly head and I never thought I would see the day where I would see the need to say what I am about to say. But apparently I now have something to say about it. I have tried to be fair about the behaviour and have asked another who was there to read the below to make sure I was fair in my description, but I have been around some quilters to be a bit more cranky about what happened than he was.

Attending this show, his first, was my partner. He decided to do a class, to learn something new and start on his own creative path – I think the end goal is to create clothing and costumes for cosplay. He wasn’t expecting there to be other men, he was very prepared for that and didn’t see it as an issue.

So if perchance you are one of the women who were, I hope, trying to be welcoming to him by going into the class area and patting him on the shoulder saying “well done you”; or one of the ladies very loudly pointing to him and saying “look, it’s a man”… your (I hope) well meaning commentary and support didn’t really help. You have all been beginners before, and those breaks in concentration did not help at all (particularly as he had also forgotten his glasses).

I also hope that the “it’s a man” commentary isn’t the same sentiment as I have heard in quilt shops when a man enters and the women ask him to leave. Because that is not okay and I think we are a bit beyond that now. As someone who is in the beginning stages of opening my own quilt store, I really hope that this sentiment is something that doesn’t make an appearance – because that is an attitude that needs to be relegated to the past.

I am waiting for my squirrel – Welcome to May

The offending Acorn

Kids are funny little creatures… take the Youngling, a small red-headed child who loves tomatoes and strawberries. We went on an adventure so that he could climb into a helicopter and pretend to be flying through the jungle (something he really seemed to enjoy), and along the way I picked up an acorn. I was assured by the Youngling that I needed to be careful, because if I had an acorn then it would attract squirrels, and that was something to be avoided.

It didn’t seem to matter that we don’t have squirrels here in Australia, well not in the same way that he has seen them on television, because he was sure that if I bought the acorn home we would be overrun with the little creatures. Of course the cat would love that for slightly different reasons. I am pretty sure that he has decided that I am not a human and just terrible at being a cat.

The last month I have continued to do my 100 days of crafting, although I am not posting it on Instagram as much as I possibly should. I don’t think I have sewn this much in a long time – not just quilts (I am working on a new one for me) – but also my own designs, something I have been wanting to do for a very long time.

It seems like everything is coming together in a way that I have been working for it to. Funny how that happens.

Meanwhile, I shall wait for my squirrel.

March – the busiest of months

Somewhere between the my baby turning 21, teaching ramping up for the semester and life, I have been managing to do lots of sewing and knitting. I have finished a quilt which is big enough to snuggle under (post to come) and embarked on two new quilts. Isn’t that the way it goes – finish one and start two? I have also knitted a beanie… for me.

My goal of sticking to nurture has taken a bit of a beating these past few weeks, and with two weeks(ish) to go in the month perhaps it is time to try and turn that around a little.

Shall report back in a bit and let you know how that is going.

 

February, feeling the heat

The month isn’t as young as it was, but I have been busy.

I brought in the new month in Eden on the south coast of New South Wales (known as the Sapphire Coast), looking at the Killer Whale Museum, and traveling down a very long and dusty road to check out one of the local lighthouses (and we all know I love lighthouses). Leaving Canberra in the middle of a summer heatwave (it was 42 degrees Celsius = 106 Fahrenheit), dropping to about half that for the time we were on the coast. It was “cold” and it felt so good.

Taking the time off from work was something that needed to happen. In theory this was supposed to be the gap between finishing one job and starting the next, but that isn’t quite the way things happened (for the last week I have been doing almost three jobs, this week I am going to be scaling back to two). I am in transition, and it is going to take time.

My theme for the year (nurture) has been in my mind, as I grapple with how to manage this. So January ended up being about gathering the data, ready to make the changes which will need to happen. I am a bit of a pincushion to be honest. I have also been reading books (well a book) which has nothing to do with my research… hard to do when I feel guilty for not reading for the thesis. And don’t get me started  on writing.

January, how lovely to see you

2016 is now behind us all. It is time for new eyes and a bit of a (dare I say it) fresh approach.

2017 – at this early stage – holds promise. New job, new outlook and the beginning of something approaching normality. My PhD is progressing (slowly), I am back to designing some blocks for English Paper Piecing and applique, and I have something of a renewed interest in getting healthy.

I have finally realised that if I want to be able to do “all the things” then I am going to need to be a bit more selective in my approach to food and exercise. A few years ago I was diagnosed with the early stages of Hashimotos Disease, so my thyroid has gone on strike indefinitely. I have had some success with a gluten free approach, but I find it so hard to maintain – even though I do feel so much better when I don’t have it. But now I am faced with a choice. I can’t continue to do all the things I want to do, and continue down the path I am on. Things have to change, it is as simple as that.

I need to remember that trying to do your PhD with a foggy brain isn’t fun. Forgetting things isn’t charming all the time, it is annoying and frustrating. Not being able to walk properly because your hips are sore (something that happens if I eat gluten), only gets in the way of being able to get up and move about. If I want to be able to enjoy my life in the longer term, then there needs to be some changes, and they need to happen now.

Which brings me to my theme for the year.

In the past I have looked at different foci for the year – the year of less drama and the year of getting shit done were highlights. Last year was all about taking back some sense of control for myself – which I think I largely accomplished. This year is all about looking after myself.

I thought about different words or themes which would assist with this…

Deliberate in terms of being more thoughtful in my approach to things and thinking before acting – particularly with the little things – which then led me to mindful, which I then promptly abandoned because of reasons.

In the end I have decided on nurture – because really, that is what I need to do for myself. I need to nurture my health, my creativity, my research, my family and my community.

I think the signs for this have been there for a while. My garden has been cleared up and things have been planted (some of them have even survived the snails). I am being more thoughtful in my quilting, I am not longer signing up for things on a whim and then being cranky at myself for not keeping up, participating or adding to the whole.

My quilting goals are now being set for a two year period…

  1. To do something specifically to enter in a show, and
  2. To make a quilt which is challenging, yet “fun”, and completely for me.

I have other quilting goals, but for the moment this will do.

Welcome 2017, it is time to nurture.

2016 – How did we do?

Back at the beginning of the year (for the record I am talking about 2016), I reflected on my 2015 year and set myself the challenge of working toward something new. Each year for the past few I haven’t so much had a word in mind, and a theme – 2016 was this part of Invictus.

This year has been a challenge, while there have been a lot of things going on globally which have been really hard to understand (Brexit and the US election), personally there have been some good and some downright ugly parts to the year.

The good:

I have finished this year with a renewed sense of who it is that I am, I am working towards goals which I am really happy with and I feel that I have a real sense of control over. My day job is getting bigger, but it is also aligning more with who I am, rather than just being the mechanism to pay the bills and pay for the fabric. This wouldn’t have happened without some struggle, and I don’t think that I would believe or trust the changes unless they did. I am a firm believer that, for me, I need to work for things, they don’t just happen and fall into my lap.

The bad:

This has been a year of saying goodbye. I lost two of my best friends, one through choice, the other through death. I have written about Niki and the complete devastating loss that came from that, Christmas was something she loved, possibly more that anyone I know and I smiled when I put the decoration she made for me a few years ago on the tree this year. I haven’t quite worked out what I am going to do without her yet, but I suppose I will have to.

As for the other, sometimes people aren’t who you think they are. That is their choice, and it is mine to walk away.

Quilting:

This year I managed to finish mini-quilts and some other smaller things, nothing large in size however, I am so close on my Modern Medallion quilt I have chosen out the binding I want to use and calculated how much of it I will need. Should be finished by the end of January (assuming I can get enough time to finish hand quilting the thing in this stupid heat of summer). I tried some new things this year, but I am thinking a different focus for next year will see some changes in approach to quilting.

As I write this (December 31, 2016), I haven’t decided on a new theme for next year, but long time followers to my decision to choose a theme know that I give myself until the Chinese New Year to officially decide it – which is at the end of January this year, so I still have time.

I hope that 2016 was okay for you, or at the very least you can find some personal joy among the overall suckiness of the year.

If 2016 was a movie…