Being a quilter has been really hard for me over the past few months. I have been (kind of) sewing, trying to keep up with bee blocks (sometimes more successfully than others) has helped – but for the most part I have lost my sewjo and I am not sure if I want to find it, well not for the kind of quilting I was doing.
There are different “themes” in the quilt world, and I have found being something of a more traditional quilter in a modern world can be a bit of a challenge. For me, quilting isn’t about the fads and trends in fabrics – I have long held the view that if I like a fabric I will buy it and if I don’t I won’t, an approach which has lead to years (yes years) where I have been pottering and sewing and just not buying. During these years my focus has generally been on skill building and trying out new things.
In 2017 I managed to keep up and complete the Down the Rabbit Hole quilt (by Sarah Fielke), I have signed up for the 2018 quilt, and have tried to start it, but I am just not feeling it. But the hand quilting has finally started and I am enjoying playing with the bright colours of the Aurifil 12wt.
Next weekend is the Canberra Quilters Exhibition, and while I don’t have anything in the show this year (working on something for next year), I am looking forward to spending a bit of time with my people and having a bit of a squiz at what is happening. But I am not sure what it is that I am looking for from it.
Perhaps it is time for me to go back to the beginning and do some of the work which I actually really enjoy doing, because somewhere along the way I think I lost what it was that I enjoy about quilting.
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.
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 😉
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.
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 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 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).
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.
Something I have been trying to do for the past month or two, is to create something every day. Now there have only been a couple of times that I have been a little creative as to what “within the day” looks like…
Picture if you will me on the couch at about 1.30am knitting and listening to the sound of rain on my phone…
Mother… why aren’t you in bed asleep?
Well child (who for the record is 22), I am trying to make sure that I am creating something everyday.
But Mother, I need your help with my uni assessment tomorrow and I want you in peak shape for that.
You get the picture.
So starting in April (the 4th – yesterday in my timezone) I am going to be doing The 100 Day Project. Now if you click on the embedded link that was just back there, it will take you to the Instagram tag for the project. People from all across the world are doing all sorts of habits, creative things and generally focusing on something for 100 days. I am going to be interested to see how productive this makes my creating.
I am working on a few different things at the moment, having finished a quilt I feel that it is my responsibility to start at least another two new ones. Between these and participating in my first ever quilting bee, I actually have things that I am interested in doing and finishing.
What I would really like to get out of this, is proof to myself that if I prioritise something, it actually does happen and it doesn’t have to happen at the cost of my other great companion – my PhD.
Well, hopefully I can get to blogging about something else before May, but the guilt I have over not writing in this space as much as I would like is something I am just going to have to deal with – or write more – my choice.
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…
To do something specifically to enter in a show, and
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 you have been following along on Instagram you may have realised that things are a bit fragile this time of year for me. There has been the good (my birthday) and the not so good (significant anniversaries). So I am going to try and focus on the good.
So the anniversary of my birth historically has been a low key affair. Having my mother die the day after it the year I turned 14 (meaning the last time I saw my mother alive was on my birthday), kind of led to the family not really knowing what to do with the date or how to handle the situation. Dad tried (he really did), but having my grandmother cry at me for the week didn’t really give me anything really to celebrate. Then I got married. A number of years later I got divorced (the less said the better).
Since then I have been surrounded by people who celebrate birthdays – they are “a thing” – and I have been trying to change my overall attitude toward my own birthday.
And now I am 43.
For my birthday my extended family network (the friends who are like family) decided to get me a Bellini Intelli Kitchen Thingy – or the middle of the range Thremo Cooker thing. Now up until this point my only real exposure to the cooking demon were the friends who had one and constantly go on about it on Facebook and the girls from the Katering Show (video below, comes with a language warning… but I find it quite funny. If you like that one then look for the one where they quit sugar…).
I may now be able live out my dream of being a sarcastic food blogger as well. For the record the first thing I did with it was boil water, and the second was cook rice.
September is a busy month within the Family Stronghold (right up there with March), birthdays and other significant anniversaries mean that it can be a bit up and down, but experience tells me that we get through and October comes. For those of us in this part of the world it also means the beginning of spring and all of the sneezes that brings.
This is the month of my birthday – making it to 40 was a huge achievement (my mother died when she was 39), so 43 should be okay. My Eldest is 22 and has actually requested something for his birthday… the local cinema does special things on Monday nights and just following his birthday The Princess Bride is showing as part of their “Quote Along” series (no shusshing allowed) and he has requested that we go to that as a family – who am I to argue with that.
It is also the last month of the quarter for the FAL – and I haven’t really managed to get anything achieved for the month. Progress yes, finished no. May have to have a big push on the shawl to get it done (and before it is too hot to use it).
One of the perks (?) of the day job is apparently travel. One of the downsides of travel is frustration when you just miss something you would like to see by a matter of days. Today (August 20 2016) had the potential to be one of the most frustrating challenges this was likely to bring – I was spending the day literally across the road from an exhibition of antique Australian quilts at the NGV (National Gallery of Victoria). Titled making the Australian Quilt, the exhibit opened in July and is running through to November, and it is highly recommended.
Would I have liked to have spent more that 45 mins in there – you bet – but being asked if I could amuse myself for a little while at about lunchtime, I kindly offered to “go for a little walk” and grab myself some lunch while I was out. Very accommodating of me really. Across the road I went and into the gallery.
The quilts are amazing – being able to see Auntie Green’s Coverlet in real life was awesome, and makes me want to get back to my own applique; I adored the Miniature Hexagons Quilt (pictured above); and my mind is buzzing with ideas and inspiration.
If only I wasn’t stuck at the airport waiting for my flight home – sans sewing.
If you have the opportunity go and see the exhibition, it is well worth your while.