Archive | My stitching life

Crafting “slow” in the modern world

Hello Beautiful Stitchers! I am going to be completely honest today. I am struggling with a healthy dose of overwhelm. This has absolutely nothing to do with my embroidery and everything to do with all the other stuff that goes along with running a creative business in the 21st century.

Over the last couple of years I have researched all the things I should be doing in order to run a thriving creative business. I have taken classes to find out how to be a better blogger, how to put more of myself into my business, and how to use social media effectively. I have bought, borrowed and read countless books and magazines. And I have worked hard to implement what I am learning.

Learning to be a good web citizen!

Learning to be a good web citizen!

But I have a problem. Social media and modern technology just eat time – my very precious time that could be spent embroidering my latest design or writing up workshop notes. And sometimes that just doesn’t feel right.

Now don’t get me wrong – I have come to adore Instagram after only two months of using it. I am connecting with fabulous embroiderers and craftspeople from around the world, and I love seeing all the amazing things which they create. But in order to build a following, I am told that I need to post every day and spend time interacting with others by leaving thoughtful comments. I should also make sure that my posts have a look about them which is recognisably “Beautiful Stitches”. So I need to put time and effort into taking good quality photos that help to build the story of who I am and what makes my embroidery unique. And then I am told that I even need to think about what time of the day it is best for me to post, to maximise my visibility (heaven help me if that happens to clash with the school run, or making dinner, or getting a sick child to the doctor!).

Instagram Page

Facebook is also a must. I should be posting daily there too and building likes. And the branding between my website, Facebook, and Instagram should all be cohesive.

Facebook Page

Pinterest is the perfect place for creatives – I should be pinning regularly so that my followers are constantly updated on what is inspiring me this week.

Pinterest Page

And I am told that I really should be blogging once a week or once a fortnight – a target which you, my dear readers, know that I rarely manage to hit.

There are a host of other social media platforms that I could be using but I am choosing to ignore. To be perfectly frank I am having trouble keeping up with those where I already have a regular, albeit small, presence.

AARGH – stop the social media train, just for a day. It’s Easter Sunday and I want to get off!

So why does all this social media and online activity sometimes feel so overwhelming? Well, I think the answer might actually be very simple.

The kind of stitching I do is “slow stitching”.

It takes time for me to create and develop a new design – and by time I mean weeks or months, not just a few hours or days. I do a lot of rhythmic, repetitive stitching and this process is not easily captured in daily updates. I would completely understand if I showed you the same piece of work two days in a row, and you couldn’t see much of a difference. So social media is a constant challenge for me. A challenge to come up with something new or different or exciting for my feed. A challenge not to flood my feed with exactly the same colours for two months.

My latest design has taken two months to develop.

My latest design has taken two months to develop. I posted updates to Instagram just 7 times.

And you see I love “slow”. I love the feeling of continuity as a design gradually develops beneath my fingers. My design becomes a friend as we patiently work together towards a completed piece. I love thinking about an idea deeply – sometimes for days or weeks until it transforms into something new and interesting in my brain. I even love slow food. My favourite Christmas cake for example is Nigella Lawson’s Black Cake. You soak approximately 1kg of dried fruit for a minimum of two weeks in half a bottle of Madeira and half a bottle of rum. And let me tell you there is something indescribably luscious about the result. Nigella even recommends that you eat the cake in “a slow, meditative way”.

Thus, the modern media culture for daily updates and quick snapshots isn’t really a natural fit for me. I find myself almost weighed down by the obligation to sort through everyone else’s posts whilst also trying to make sure that I put out good quality content of my own. Some days, like today, it feels like more noise than I want to hear and I don’t feel like I am being a very good online citizen. And yet I know that if I don’t play by the rules, my faint voice will be completely drowned out by all the others who are playing the game a lot better than I am!

In an effort to manage my social media presence I am going to compromise my need for “slow” with the modern world’s demand for “fast”. My number one priority is to deliver you genuinely good quality content rather than to meet the social media rules for quantity. And yes it is a compromise, but I truly believe that I will be more authentically me if I bend the rules just a little bit. So here is the plan:

  1. Instagram is my daily port of call. In other words, I will post something nearly every day on my Instagram page. Mostly it will be related to Beautiful Stitches activity, but occasionally you will get a glimpse into other parts of my world.
  2. The Beautiful Stitches Facebook page will have posts a few times a week. Typically, the Facebook posts and the Instagram posts will be different because it drives me crazy when I am following somebody in both places and I get identical content in both feeds (perhaps this is just a personal quirk on my part, but nevertheless that is the way I tick).
  3. Pinterest is typically a weekend activity for me – a lazy half hour on a Sunday morning is my idea of creative bliss. So my Pinterest page will typically only have new content once a week.
  4. Finally, this blog is a place to share the longer stories and drill deeper into how I work. That will happen once or twice a month – more like a magazine that you purchase once a month than the daily newspaper.
  5. And most importantly, this plan will help to ensure that I have plenty of time to design, stitch and teach. After all, that is what this entire creative journey is all about.

To keep in touch with all my activities, please choose the online space or spaces that suit you best. I will be most happy if you feel that you are getting just enough information from me, rather than too much. And I would love to hear what you think? Do you also struggle with social media overwhelm? Or is that purely the domain of this 40-something woman who would much rather sit down and chat to you over a cup of tea?

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Is the creative life fundamentally selfish?

I have a new favourite blog – The Textile Blog by John Hopper. I only had to read one post and I knew that I would find the kind of material that I love to read. The reason I like it is because it does more than leave me with a “That’s nice” or “Huh, interesting” kind of feeling. Instead it leaves me thinking – really thinking – about this creative life I have chosen to pursue.

And the question I found myself pondering today was, “Is the creative life fundamentally selfish?”. Now there’s a question for you. Does my choice to live a creative life mean that I am selfish or self-absorbed?

The obvious answer to that is,”I hope not!”. “So why pose the question?”, I hear you ask.

Well, it was triggered by this article entitled “Creative Art as the Sharing of Personal Insight”. It opens with the idea that being involved in the creative arts is sometimes judged as being a form of selfishness, or hedonism, or self-absorption. This really struck a chord with me because I sometimes find it hard to explain to people why I chose this fork in the road. Why am I not the career scientist everyone thought I would be when I was younger? Why have I chosen instead to pick up fabric, needle and thread? And indeed isn’t this latter path somehow “a bit frivolous”, and perhaps even “worthless” when compared to a scientific career? And the natural outcome of all those questions is that sometimes I do feel a bit selfish as a gleefully follow my passion every day and have the joy of absolutely loving what I do.

Thankfully, John provided me with the perfect antidote to these doubts. He explains that “creative art…is about the cycle of absorption and exhalation”. This is the idea that all creatives absorb inspiration from a myriad of sources (both conciously and unconciously), pass it through the lens of their own unique experience, personality and skills, and then exhale something new. And why is this a good thing?

“You are making available to the human condition, the journey that you took from inspirational wonder, through the flow of absorption in work, to the resulting piece, which is to be experienced and enjoyed by others….Creative artists are the practitioners of endless possibilities, guides to the wonder of the world around us, and revealers of the complexity of the human condition”. John Hopper, The Textile Blog

In my humble little corner of the creative world I will gladly take on this philosophy.

But I think it goes a little further than that…. at least for me.

In my weekly patchwork group we have built a very strong community of women who came together originally because of a shared passion for quilting and patchwork. But the ties are now much more than that. We take care of each other when life throws up problems and obstacles; we share joy and excitement in new achievements or milestones; we share the fruits of our labours with family and friends; and we have developed a strong community culture of giving back. Our main community project is to make quilts for foster children. Twice a year we deliver upwards of 30 quilts for children in foster care. The idea is to make sure that each child has a special quilt which is just for them to keep. It is not going to solve the big underlying problems that have put them into foster care, but it hopefully brings a little bit of love and comfort to otherwise pretty tough times for them.

A simple quilt made for foster children from donated squares of fabric.

A simple quilt made for foster children from donated squares of fabric.

There are countless groups, just like ours, all around the world. They serve a very important purpose beyond the obvious one of providing a venue for a creative craft to be practiced and shared. These groups become communities where participants (generally speaking) take care of each other. It might just be a warm hug on a down day or the offer of real assistance when illness or family crisis strikes. And in many groups, that caring is soon extended to some sort of charitable endeavour. Just imagine how much poorer our world be without the contributions of this everyday creative work.

So do I really feel selfish as I pursue this creative life? No. Rather I feel lucky and privileged to be a small part of a worldwide movement that does a whole lot more than just “play” with craft. Sometimes, it is all about the pure wonder and inspiration that John Hopper describes in the creative process. At other times, it is just about sharing some love and compassion with a little generous creativity in an otherwise busy world.

Sharing a little piece of everyday creativity - an A5 journal cover embroidered for a friend.

Sharing a little piece of everyday creativity – an A5 journal cover embroidered for a friend.

 

0

The creative process – from a scientist’s point of view

Where does the time go? I have been busily travelling over the last few weeks and have so much to share with you all. First, at the end of September I headed to Adelaide for the Beating Around the Bush embroidery convention. I will write more about this in future posts, but for now it is sufficient to say that I had a wonderful time and learnt so much.

And then almost as soon as I was home from BATB, we were on the road to beautiful Denmark in the southwest of Western Australia for a wonderful week of relaxation with family and friends. I talked embroidery a lot with my Mum (as we always do) but barely put a stitch in anything for a week. Instead, I kayaked, hiked, biked and swam until my muscles ached. It was great to take a complete break from my sewing and creativity, and to give my brain a rest from thinking so much!

Beautiful beach near Denmark, Western Australia.

Beautiful beach near Denmark, Western Australia.

Now that I am well and truly back on deck I am working on tidying up my workspace (again – why does this job never seem to go away πŸ™‚ ). And I have come back from BATB with a new and exciting perspective on the best way forward for Beautiful Stitches. I’ll write more about that in a special post next week, but in the meantime it got me thinking about the creative process again and I wanted to share the following little bit of insight with you all…..

Recently, my meanderings through the internet led me to stumble across this gem…

If you haven’t seen this video, then do yourself a favour and make time to watch it. It is absolutely superb. As the TED blurb says, “It’s a message that will resonate, no matter what your field.”

Uri recounts that whilst studying for his PhD, his research became stuck – he simply couldn’t see a way forward, and in the scientific world this felt like failure. And the more he asked around, the more he realised that fellow students were experiencing the same thing. Scientists report their findings as a direct line from question to answer; a completely objective pursuit with no room for subjectivity and emotion. The absolutely key point is that they only report results – not process – and thus if your research is stuck and not producing results, then you feel like you are failing.

And yet, of course science is not like this at all. In common with many other fields of endeavour it encounters false starts, road blocks, hiccups, and diversions. But if you are lucky, what started off as a journey from Question A to Answer B, may actually lead to a completely new and unknown Answer C.

Uri now counsels his students to expect the process of research to be messy (think Austin Kleon here too – “Process is messy!”) and he has two key tools to help them. First, when they get stuck he describes it as being in “the cloud”. This is not a scary or bad place to be, even if it is frustrating and sometimes depressing. Rather it is an opportunity to try something new, different, creative, playful, etc to find a way out of the cloud. Second, you need someone to keep you company in “the cloud” – one or more supportive collaborators. And these people have a very important job to do – they need to say “Yes… and” (a technique Uri learned from taking part in improvisational theatre classes) – never “No”.

“Yes… and” encourages people to keep exploring and being creative, whereas “No” simply makes you stop and feel defeated.

I love the fact that Uri’s video reminds me that I don’t need to be scared of the “messiness” of the creative process. As someone who comes from a very traditional scientific background in physics and maths, it can sometimes feel like I am jumping around in a very haphazard way as I flit from idea to idea, trying one thing and then moving on to something different. But you do sometimes need to do this – to go exploring in “the cloud” until you find that thing that goes “Aha! – this is where I wanted to be”.

And you really need to find those supportive friends to keep you company along the way. When I was in Adelaide I caught up with wonderful friends, some whom I hadn’t seen for over twenty years – since we were all at University together. It sounds scary but actually it was fantastic! Most only knew me as the science student I was in my late teens and at first glance my switch to a creative career in textiles might have seemed rather odd. But these friends were wonderful – there were “Yes…and” conversations going all week to the point where my head was so full of ideas I simply couldn’t hold any more (hence the need for all that kayaking and hiking).

So, I have learnt a really wonderful lesson in the last few weeks. Be open about what you do – share it with everyone and don’t be afraid to let people know when you are stuck in your “cloud” or going round and round in circles. And then listen out for the “Yes… and” conversations – you might be surprised by just how many there are and the odd sources that they come from.

Messy workroom

And now I really NEED to sort out my workroom – again πŸ™‚

 

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Why handmade?

HandmadeI first drafted this blog post a few weeks ago, and as I quickly re-read it today, I thought the first sentence read “I have been thinking with my hands for as long as I can remember..”. It actually read “..making things with my hands…” but it struck me that “thinking with my hands” was actually a much apter description of what I do! And that is a pretty big part of the story, but perhaps I should start at the beginning…

I have been making things (thinking πŸ™‚ ) with my hands for as long as I can remember. My childhood was punctuated with a succession of craft activities. My Mum introduced my sister and I to huck stitching, crochet, knitting, cross stitch, embroidery, making candles, macrame, making clothes (first for our dolls and then for ourselves), painting plaster moulds, making stuffed toys, collage and more. And these are just the ones I remember – there were almost certainly more!

I simply can’t imagine my world without making something with my hands. It was such an absolutely fundamental part of my childhood. So, why was it so important then?

Well, we moved a lot when I was a child. My Dad worked in the mining industry and thirty years ago there was no such thing as fly-in/fly-out. When Dad changed mines, we all went with him. In retrospect this was an amazing experience. But at the time every new move meant farewell to one group of friends and all the hard work of carving out our niche in a new home. Making things with my family provided a continuous thread through all these changes (did you notice my unintended pun there?). No matter what happened, there was always the excitement of pursuing a new handmade activity. And the satisfaction of creating something with our own hands. Our moves took us a long way from family, but every year our relations were treated to a new range of Christmas gifts from our home workshop. I’m not sure what they thought – but we loved it :). Every piece we made was imbued with an extra sense of purpose when it was destined for a treasured grandparent.

As an adult, wife and mother, my life has continued to be punctuated by a series of moves around Australia and the world. Wherever I am living, making things with my hands (especially sewing as it turned out), brings exactly the same sense of satisfaction that I had as a child. I feel that same joy of disappearing into my own creative world for a few hours.

So, why is handmade so important to me now? I think it is because I know that wherever I am, I can find a measure of peace and security when I sit down to create. And then when a project is completed, I experience such a wonderful sense of satisfaction and joy. It really doesn’t matter whether anyone else likes my creation, because the process has already brought so much pleasure into my life.

But perhaps more importantly, I have come to realise that I do a lot of thinking when I am creating. Working with my hands is such a peaceful and secure place for me, so I relax and think more clearly. And as much as I love modern technology – playing games on my iPad; catching up with friends on Facebook; browsing on Pinterest; or learning from TED – it is not a place where I can free my mind to think clearly. My creative time provides a real sanctuary in which to relax, think, and emerge refreshed.

So go ahead and make some creative time for yourself. It might be something you have been doing for years or a brand new hobby that you have only just discovered. I guarantee that making time to “think with your hands” will bring an extra measure of pleasure to your life.

 

0

The joy of teaching

I had an “Aha!” moment yesterday – one of those days when you say to yourself, “Yes! I know exactly why I am doing this”. I was teaching my patchwork group how to stitch the selvage strips I showed you in my last post. From a teaching point of view, this is not a technically difficult project to teach. The skills needed are pretty simple and it really is all about having fun.

I always try to make my students feel like there is “no right or wrong way” to do something. Sure, there may well be an easier or more efficient way to do something. And of course, there is often a traditional way to do something. But no single method is “right” or “wrong”. If it enables you, the crafter, to produce an item which gives you pleasure then whatever method you chose was “fit for purpose”.

For most people, patchwork and embroidery are leisure pastimes that should be a fun and creative outlet. To my mind, weighing down the process with notions of “Am I doing this right?” tends to kill creativity rather than enlivening it. So, I try very hard in my classes to say, “This is how I do it, but by all means give your method a try if you think it will work better for you.”

Teaching selvages is great for this because the process is naturally so free. Choose a bunch of selvage strips – all one colour family (all reds maybe?), or coordinate a set of colours (reds and greens with a dash of yellow perhaps) or just grab a selection and see what happens (the rainbow or scrappy effect). Overlay the strips onto a backing fabric and wadding sandwich, and stitch down such that the selvage edge of one strip encloses the raw edge of the next strip. Continue for as many strips as you need to cover your block. Stitching not quite straight?Β  No problem. You will still end up with a beautifully interesting block ready to be used in a myriad of different ways.

So yesterday was always going to be fun because I love teaching projects where I can really encourage my students to relax and just enjoy the process. The “Aha!” happened when one of my students quietly took everything off in her own direction. She was overlaying the strips on her wadding/backing fabric sandwich just as I had suggested, but instead of using a simple straight stitch to sew down the selvage strips, she decided to use a variety of decorative machine stitches. The effect was superb! Sort of crazy machine patchwork meets selvages. I absolutely loved it.

But I loved even more that it just completely reinforced that teaching is always a two-way street. Every time I teach, I learn something from my students. It is humbling and rewarding at the same time. So much effort goes into preparing notes, sourcing materials, packing everything up and then setting up at the venue….but this is all so worthwhile when you have the privilege of witnessing someone else’s joy in learning something new, or their own creativity getting to work and taking your ideas in a completely new direction.

Image sourced from http://www/edudemic.com

Image sourced from http://www.edudemic.com

So this is why I do what I do… for the sheer joy of teaching and sharing my passion.

0

My daughter has learnt to knit!

I love school holidays. There is nothing quite like the joy of not having to make school lunches; not having to get in the car and drive everywhere; not needing to be at a particular place and a particular time. There is a lovely sense of freedom and relaxation that descends on our house during the holidays and we all love it.

Add to that the fun of doing craft together and you almost have the perfect day (to be really perfect it also requires pancakes, hot chocolate, fruit smoothies, laughter, music, story tapes and someone else to cook dinner – am I painting you a clear enough picture here?).

The big news this holidays is that my daughter, aged 10, has learnt to knit. She is so happy and has spent several days happily ensconced in various cosy corners around the house patiently working her needles. The funny thing about this is that I have introduced her to knitting on several occasions previously and it never really took. She wasn’t comfortable, couldn’t see any progress, got VERY frustrated with dropped stitches – each attempt was categorically a fail in her eyes. On every occasion I would simply pack away the knitting supplies and think to myself, “Not the right time yet – we’ll try again in a few months”. And sure enough, this holidays turned out to be the right time.

She has already completed a wrist warmer and this neck warmer in the space of just a few days.

My daughter's completed neck warmer.

My daughter’s completed neck warmer.

The neck warmer with button worn to the side.

The neck warmer with button worn to the side πŸ™‚

But even better, as we were preparing to photograph it, inspiration hit. This lovely piece of pink warmth was also the perfect fashion accessory for my daugher’s favourite doll, Louise.

The great thing about knitting is that it is endlessly forgiving. It can be stretched and moved in so many different ways. Here a simple rectangle with a pretty button and buttonhole has not only been the perfect beginner’s piece of knitting but is also proving extremely versatile and thus adding to the sense of acheivement.

2014-04-21

Louise modelling a versatile cape, bonnet and skirt!

And it all goes to prove one of my strongest philosophies about children. Children will get to things when they are ready. My daughter has tried to knit several times over the last few years and each time it has just felt like an ordeal for her and for me. I was always very quick to follow her lead. If it wasn’t fun for her, I didn’t want to force her to continue and have knitting turn into something that she hated.

This time it just felt right. She was ready to learn and felt comfortable holding the needles. It has been such a joy to see her face light up with the knowledge that “I can do this!”. Knitting may not be her thing in the long term, but I am pretty sure that experiences like this will ensure that she will always find pleasure in making things for herself. And from my point of view that is one of the greatest gifts we can give to our children.

1

A beautiful day for stitching

It simply could not be a more beautiful day in Perth. We are all longing for the cooler weather arrive and real drenching, soaking rain is desperately needed. But despite all that, you can’t help feeling that it is just absolutely magnificent here today. Not too hot, beautiful light outside and my garden is looking green and welcoming.

We have spent the morning cleaning the house. So, now we have the luxury of enjoying an afternoon of simple pleasures. I have set up my sewing on the table outside my craft room. The afternoon light is perfect, I have a new Georgette Heyer story to listen to on Audible, and a brand new canvaswork design to develop.

This is my definition of pure bliss….

All set to work my outside table.

All set to work my outside table.

I love working outside - the light is beautiful, even in the dappled shade.

I love working outside – the light is beautiful, even in the dappled shade.

My view of the garden.

My view of the garden.

Footnote: My children have been enjoying the beautiful day as well. They decided to see if they could split an apple in half using rubber bands (apparently they had seen it done on a watermelon online). I know it sounds mad but they have spent a happy half hour, sitting in the shade and carefully applying rubber bands to said apple.

Apple wearing a rubber band cummerband.

Apple wearing a rubber band cummerband.

I confess that I was sceptical, but with just a little bit of percussive assistance, their experiment seems to have worked! As I said, an afternoon of simple pleasures…

A split apple and a ball of knotted, sticky rubber bands.

A split apple and a ball of knotted, sticky rubber bands.

 

0

What makes you happy?

I recently bought Issue #3 of “New Philosopher”, a relatively new magazine in the Australian market (click here to visit their website). This quarterly magazine is Australian made, advertising free, and full of fantastic, well-written, thought provoking articles. Issue #3 is focussed on the question, “Are we happy yet?” and it makes for fascinating reading.

New Philosopher MagazineI love this kind of writing: ideas that are simply and clearly presented leading to a pleasurable few hours where you turn the thoughts over in your mind. But this writing has really got inside my head – for days now. Why?

Reading the magazine follows hard on the heels of studying a book called “The Desire Map” by Danielle LaPorte with my women’s group. I confess that I haven’t enjoyed the latter at all. For whatever reason, answering a series of questions about things that I want, crave, need etc makes me very uncomfortable. I have everything I could possibly want and so much more in my life. How self-centred it seems to ask for more when I already have a wonderful family, good health, safety, security and much more material comfort than I will ever need.

So, what makes me happy? Well it turns out that the writers in “New Philosopher” magazine have put it rather well. For me, it is all about something called “flow”.Β  Damon Young discusses this in his article, “Happiness is hard to find”.

A more helpful idea from Aristotle’s eudaimonia is that of so-called autotelic activity: things we do for their own sake, and not for the sake of something else….we are measurably happier when we are involved in skilful, challenging pursuits….the experience is what we seek.

And then further along in the same article…

If happiness is an activity, and often an autotelic one, then it is developed by doing. Anxiously stopping to ask ‘Am I happy yet?’ is a fine way to stop the flow.

Another contributor, Antonia Case, discusses a similar idea in “3 Ways to Happiness”.

Meaningful work involves doing something that you personally enjoy, where you can exercise and develop your skills and capabilities, and where the end result of your toil is to produce something useful and worthwhile (regardless of what others may think). One person’s meaningful work is not another’s, and with good reason – we can’t all be nurses and teachers.

I don’t need a Desire Map to identify my “meaningful work” – I know already – I love to sew. I loved it when I was a little girl, a teenager, a young woman backpacking around the world, a professional woman, a wife and a mother. And now I am so privileged because I am able to pursue my passion full-time. Rare is the day when I don’t experience a little bit of “flow”, even if it is only thinking about sewing whilst I wash up or drive Mum’s taxi.

So please excuse me – I have had enough of writing about “flow” and I am off to experience it – to spend a blissful afternoon with fabric, needle and thread πŸ™‚

Sewing (the artist's wife) by Hans Heysen, 1913. This painting captures beautifully how I will be feeling this afternoon.

Sewing (the artist’s wife) by Hans Heysen, 1913. This painting captures beautifully how I will be feeling this afternoon.

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Fabric Covered Boxes

I have a bit of a thing for boxes. I love sorting stuff into them and stacking them up on shelves. I love the way they make a room seem tidier somehow (no matter the multitude of sins that may hide inside them). I keep all sorts of boxes because they “may come in handy one day”, so there are piles of clean, empty boxes stashed all over the house.

You can never have too many useful boxes!

You can never have too many useful boxes!

If you are a fan of Winnie-the-Pooh by AA Milne then you will remember the story of Eeyore’s birthday. Piglet was going to give Eeyore a beautiful balloon, but it burst and so Eeyore was left with just a sad bit of colourful rubber. Pooh was going to give Eeyore a jar of honey, but he ate all the honey and was left with only the empty pot. Oh but how well this turned out…

“It’s a Useful Pot,” said Pooh. “Here it is. And it’s got ‘A Very Happy Birthday with love from Pooh’ written on it. That’s what all that writing is. And it’s for putting things in. There!”
When Eeyore saw the pot, he became quite excited.
“Why!” he said. “I believe my Balloon will just go into that Pot!”
“Oh, no, Eeyore,” said Pooh. “Balloons are much too big to go into Pots. What you do with a balloon is, you hold the balloon”.
“Not mine,” said Eeyore proudly. “Look, Piglet!” And as Piglet looked sorrowfully round, Eeyore picked the balloon up with his teeth, and placed it carefully in the pot; picked it out and put it on the ground; and then picked it up again and put it carefully back.
“So it does!” said Pooh. “It goes in!”
“So it does!” said Piglet. “And it comes out!”
“Doesn’t it?” said Eeyore. “It goes in and out like anything.”

I’m a bit like Eeyore – I love putting things in and out of boxes. So it is not surprising really that I love making boxes. Next week I am teaching a class on making fabric covered boxes atΒ the Embroiderer’s Guild of Western Australia. For many years, this class has been taught by a wonderful lady, Rene Sinclair. Rene recently moved to Hawaii. I was very honoured when she asked me to take over running the class.

I haven’t made any boxes since before Christmas, so I wanted to refresh my memory before next week. Do you remember the small pieces of canvaswork I was playing with a few weeks ago? Oh happy serendipity – a small piece of canvaswork is perfect for mounting on a box lid.

Fabric covered box topped with geometric canvaswork design. Completed size - 14cm x 14cm.

Fabric covered box topped with geometric canvaswork design. Completed size – 14cm x 14cm.

Just to make sure that the techniques are completely refreshed and clear in my mind, I also made this slightly larger box.

Fabric covered box. Completed size - 19cm x 16.5cm.

Fabric covered box. Completed size – 19cm x 16.5cm.

And you can never have too many boxes – especially beautiful ones πŸ™‚

Two useful (and beautiful) boxes.

Two useful (and beautiful) boxes.

2

A quilt top in a week

I have had such a fun week. On Monday we had a class at my patchwork group to make a spools quilt. We were led by the lovely Noell Stawarz who always seems to iron out all my little problems so that points meet where they should – well almost!

The idea was that everyone brought along a few pieces of fabric for a swap. We all cut 1 inch strips from the full width of our fabric and then shared our strips so that everyone had a pile of approximately 30 different strips. We pieced the strips in groups of eight and then from these cut 3.5″ x 4.5″ blocks to be the centre of the spool.

A completed spool block.

A completed spool block.

I was completely hooked. It was really fun to see groups of colours coming together and then to see the completed blocks evolve depending on the colours I chose for the top and bottom of the spool.

It must have been fun because I have sat up late working at my sewing machine for two nights in a row. And here is the completed quilt top…in only five days πŸ™‚

A completed quilt top - in less than a week!

A completed quilt top – in less than a week!

The fabric for the L-shaped border comes from a beautiful piece I have had in my stash for a while. I have a weakness for sewing themed fabrics and the old-fashioned style of this piece seemed to suit my spools perfectly.

In fact, all the fabrics for this quilt are from my stash – I haven’t bought a single piece. My halo will choke me!

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