Saturday, April 15, 2017

Seasonal Change

Well, now that I've knitted myself a new scarf - from hand-spun, hand-dyed silk-alpaca, bought-at-a-local-craft-market yarn - I'm ready for winter. (I improvised a bias-knit in alternating rows of garter and stockinette stitch, and it's super-snuggly.)

There has been so much colour from my garden, I feel ready for grey skies and warm clothes and time spent indoors. To everything, there is a season, and all that.

And I'm just back from the awe-inspiring colour-fest that is Grampians Texture, where I was lucky enough to be a tutor for a week.

Bryant Holsenbeck's workshops produced the most delightful critters made of recycled textiles.

Jan Clark's group made all manner of colourful marks on textiles...

Nicola Henley had them all printing up a riot of colour and texture. 

...and I had my group making patterns and toiles (muslins) in very boring colours, indeed... but they learned a lot about garment construction and alterations to patterns... 

If they wanted colour, they only needed to step into the Market Hall.

Or step outside the classroom. 
These fellas knew what time lunch was served. 

This was the foggy morning scene that greeted me before class one morning. It felt autumnal. (And full of kangaroos.)

And so, the seasons roll on, and I seem to have been busier than ever lately.... although there is little to show for it. But I feel that a cog has shifted, and it's time to move forward again....assess where I've been and where I'm going.

I've been working on uploading my paper pattern range as pdf downloads on my website lately. There's a way to go with the back catalogue, but I've started with the garment patterns. It's a long and tedious process, but I think it's worth doing.

I've been working on edits for the new book, which is due out at the end of this year. It was written throughout a difficult, grief-filled 2016, and I hope that finishing it will feel like the closing of some sort of door, and maybe even feel like some sort of triumph. It's also a shift in direction for me, and I hope that it will hit the mark with the sewing community. This is the anxious too-late-to-turn-back-now stage of book-writing, that always fills me with self-doubt. But yeah... the book is on the way.

I've developed new teaching resources that are all about garments and have been thinking about new workshops.

I've opened a new Instagram account, which is more about sewing and textiles (and less about my home and garden, as my personal account is), which will be a new focus.

And I've started planning some new patterns... For the first time in too many years. I think it's time.

May the turn of the seasons bring wonderful things your way.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Gearing up

Ahhh... A lovely clean studio and a picturesque display of the beginnings of a leisurely craft project...

Yes, well, that didn't last long. 

That photo was from the week after Christmas, when my studio was still empty, having been cleared for our family Christmas lunch, and I was embarking on my holiday quilting project.

For the last month or so, it's been looking pretty much like this...

I've been making garments and step by-step-samples of garment techniques, in preparation for my classes at Grampians Texture this year.

This year, my 2-day and 4-day classes are both about garment sewing. 

The 4-day class - The Endless Wardrobe - is about making the most of the garment patterns by changing around or adding details like pockets, button and zipper openings, collars, cuffs, pleats and gathers. A single pattern can be used as a foundation for endless designs, if you know a few clever patternmaking and garment sewing techniques. We'll be exploring a lot of those.

There have been a couple of late cancellations in the 4-day workshop, which means that there is still room in the class for late enrollments. If you feel like spontaneously treating yourself to a textiles retreat (18th-23rd March), here's your opportunity! :)

I'm looking forward to the lovely bubble of textile goodness and gorgeous Grampians landscape that Grampians Texture is. 

I'm looking forward to friendly kangaroos on my classroom doorstep.

If you want a single day of this sort of thing, I'm teaching at Cutting Cloth in Fairfield again this year.  Apart from March (when I'll be in the Grampians), I'll be there on the 3rd Sunday of each month. You can work on your own projects, and I can help with things like fitting and tweaking and lots of tricks for a faster, easier or better finish. 

And yes - the holiday quilting project was finished.  It was a quilt for my girl's bed. No guessing what she asked the design to be.

The fabric is mostly Jodie Carleton's range "The Cat's Pajamas".  I made up the cat as I went along, and the quilt blocks in the background are from Tula Pink's Modern Quilt Blocks book.  I quilted the whole thing with cat-head shapes.

This is the back of the quilt.

In other news, I have book edits coming in soon for the new book (due out in November) and I'm back at my regular fashion school job.  

It's all go. No more tidy studio.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Bag Design and Pattern-Making Work-Along

Many years ago, I used to run weekly classes in bag design and patternmaking. It was popular with the locals, but people living interstate and overseas were always asking me to put it online, so that they could attend, too. 

AT LAST - Creativebug have done just that. These classes are the first stages of learning to design and make your own bag patterns, and will set you up to make a very broad range of designs..  

Even better, Creativebug are currently running a special (until 28 Nov 2016), where you can sign up for a 3 month subscription for $1! (after that, it's $4.95 USD per month). That's just in time for some serious holiday crafting. Alternatively, you can now buy individual classes.

The first class is all about learning the basic processes and terminology for patternmaking. It's about beginning to draft simple shapes, making basic patterns, and understanding the relationship between the 3-dimensional bag and the 2-d pattern.. The same processes are used as the designs become more complicated in Parts 2 and 3.

 Part 2 is all about the KEY to patternmaking - moving seamlines. This is how you change the design lines of the bag, create colour blocking, linings, pockets and facings.

And here I am, looking like an old lady peering over her glasses. (I hadn't realised how wrong the prescription was with these glasses until I couldn't see the cameraman - over or through the frames - with my middle-aged eyes...). There is some squinting to camera, but also lots of patternmaking and construction techniques for making the bags.

Part 3 is all the bells and whistles that jazz up the bag - pleats, gathers, etc.

When I taught Patternmaking for Bags in my studio, I ran it as two sets of four sessions - Beginners and Advanced - 8 weeks in total.  There is a lot more that you can learn, but these three sessions will set you up to make all the shapes that appear in my Beginners, Basic and most of the Intermediate range of patterns, as well as those in The Better Bag Maker, and many more besides.

The Creativebug work-along includes the sewing techniques for the overall shape construction, but if you want tips and tricks for things like using interfacings and hardware, inserting zips and pockets and getting a fine finish on your bag, check out my other classes on Creativebug and/or read my book The Better Bag Maker

Who knows, maybe we might follow up with another online work-along one day.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Teaching and Writing and Living and Dying

Yes - I'm still here...occasionally peeping out from behind the curtain of real life and the Facebook and Instagram rabbit hole. This year, I've been pretty well occupied and away from this slower, more considered form of communication.

When I received notification of my Weekender Bag project being a Top 10 hit over at Creativebug, it occurred to me that I hadn't actually mentioned that class in this space before.

It appears that since I was burgled recently, the new owners of my old computer now have all the images I had of this bag, so here's a screen capture of me in action... talking to a finished bag.

I use my original version of the bag for hauling student folios to and from my regular teaching job.

I do a lot of hauling of folios, and marking of folios, these days... and a lot of kid-free Friday nights look like this.

One looked like this... :(

I've also been teaching a Garment Construction class regularly at Kellie Wulfsohn's fabulous fabric shop Cutting Cloth in Fairfiled (Melbourne).

The classes are on the 3rd Sunday of every month and you can come and go month by month, doing pretty much as you please (although I start you off on an A-Line Skirt if you're a newbie) with lots of help and tips and tricks from me.

The rest of my time this year has been all about juggling the joys and sorrows (and Mum's taxi service) of family life, wholesale biz and working on a new book. Much of the last few months has looked like this...

And the crazy-wild-kid-free Friday night version looks a bit like this...

As I near the completion of the book project, there's a sort of freeing-up of mental bandwidth, and ideas are flowing again. I'm tying up loose ends, ticking off long-overdue to-do lists... and thinking about the way ahead from here.

I have plans... Stay tuned. 

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Purse Frame Class and Bag of the Month

Over at CreativeBug, they're having a Bag of The Month year, with new bag classes every month. February sees my "Snap Clasp Purse" class ready to go.
I'm a bit concerned that the official image only gives a top-down view, when the purse is actually a bit more triangular than that.


These are a few snaps I took when I finished one of the samples. You can see that it has purse feet, magnetic snaps and d-rings in the straps. All that and a purse frame too means that there are LOADS of skills to learn in this one, along with all my tips and tricks for creating structure and a fine finish.

And if I ever get around to it, I'm going to make one with the straps on both sides. I think that would have a really natty 1940's utilitarian-glamour look...especially in a light wool or something like that. (I can never leave well-enough alone, me...)
This is the first sample I made while developing the pattern.  I think it looks cute in denim. I put an adjustable strap on it, so that I can use it hands-free. This was an easy modification, using snap hooks on the end of a long strap instead of joining the strap to the rings.
I've been watching all the classes coming up in the CreativeBug Facebook feed, and feel very inspired to make EVERYTHING. There are many free classes and for US$4.95 per month, you have access to 600+ more classes.  The free trial includes lifelong access to one class. 
In other great website news.  The lovely Ms Peppermint Penguin - a long-time follower and commenter on this little blog of mine, finally finished her website.  She's knitting and sewing and selling her wares. Go you, Ms Pengiun!!

Friday, January 15, 2016

Fostering the creative spirit

People often ask me how I had the confidence to put my creative work in the public sphere. Even more often, I hear how amazed they are by my girl's confidence in her own creative ability.

Here she is (below), in her first finished wearable knitting project - a knitted-in-the-round beanie. It was school holiday pj-wearing-and-watching-tv-craft. She is dead proud of it and a bit amazed that it only took about three days to make. She's also wearing the dress she designed for me to make for her recent 10th birthday....and she's looking at books on Japanese animation at ACMI. Her interests are many and varied.

 Last week, with great excitement, she published her first ebook "The Silver Star" through Amazon Kindle, and there's  a limited edition print version (being on-the-spot printed and foisted upon anyone who looks vaguely interested). She's also working on a website and has animated a part of the story on Scratch. As always, I am enormously proud of my girl.

Lately, I've been thinking that this creative fearlessness is less about talent or drive and more about never having to think "I can't". It's simply following through the ideas that come to us... to the natural finish line, as we see it. A friend recently commented that my daughter is learning from my example of following through the creative process to publishing books, patterns and online classes (and this little blog), but I think it runs deeper than that.

I've been thinking a lot about parenting in recent weeks: the bigger, long-term picture. I have spoken about it before, but I can't stop thinking about my mother's genius, patience and encouragement in bringing up her own eight children.

Yes. Eight. (I know.)

I'm number 7, and certainly not a stand-out talent.  We're a family of artists, sculptors, storytellers, designers, gardeners and general free-formers. As kids, we were encouraged to create and make and grow things. We were provided with materials and space and allowed to make the necessary mess to paint, draw, sew, knit, woodwork or electrical circuit* our ideas into reality. And - what I think is key here -  in a time before the internet gave everyone a platform to show and tell to the world, Mum made us feel that our work was worth putting into public space.

 *(for the science-obsessed brother...Creativity isn't always about art.)

My first published work, aged 6.

Our little house was far from winning any interior design award (especially after that unfortunate accident with the purple candle-making wax on the dining room carpet), but it was busting at the seams with our drawings, carvings, textile crafts, paintings, (... ahem... candles,) and all manner of other creative achievements, all proudly displayed. And the house was always full of people - neighbours, family friends and extended family - talking, drinking tea and telling stories. Our art and craft work was always pointed out, acknowledged and admired. We were all shy kids - and not encouraged to be shouty "show-offs" - but faith in our creative ability was constantly reinforced in everyday life.

Early sewing example by me, aged about 5 or 6.

When a little local community-run craft shop opened, my mother did all the membership duties for those of us who wanted to sell our handmade wares there (and starting at the age of 7, that's how I made my pocket money).  When we wanted to sell at craft markets, she'd do all the purchasing of materials, paying of fees and management of transport. We'd look sweet, sell a few things, feck off to play somewhere (leaving her to mind the stall) and then keep all the takings at the end of the day. (That sounds a bit familiar, actually...).
Whenever there was an opportunity for an exhibition or art prize, we were encouraged to enter. Local newspaper clippings were saved when we won or were acknowledged in any way and our efforts were always praised, regardless of the outcome....

...Or the fashion crimes involved, apparently.... I have an embarrassingly large collection of photos of clothes that I made, that from the age of 12, my mother let me wear in public .

Aged 16, in front of the garment mountain I had sewn.

My mum took us seriously. She showed us that if we had an idea, it was possible to see the creative process through as far as we wanted to take it, even if we were only children. She showed us that achievement takes effort and follows a process, nothing happens if you don't give it a go, and that you have nothing to lose by trying. In doing that, she also showed us how to foster creativity and individuality in our own children.

My girleen holds my hand as I work on the computer (with her in a sling) during the first few weeks of her life.

We have no way of knowing if Mum is aware of anything that any of us have done in the last 8 years or so, or if it would have any meaning to her now. Before that - in the first few years of this devastating illness -  despite difficulties with language, she made sure that each of us knew she loved and was proud of the adult that we had become.

My Mum with my newborn girleen. 
She had lost most of her language by then, but still had her gift for communicating with children.

We are all enormously proud of our mother and miss her every day.

And every single day, I am thankful for what she has given to me and to my super-creatively-confident kid.

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Happy Holidays 2016

However you celebrate this time of year, I wish you lots of joy and special time with the people you love.

My girl and I have been over-indulging in Christmas movies and looking at houses with lots of twinkly lights.  We've enjoyed hearing carols and ... well, SHE enjoyed the buzz in the city centre (I wanted to run, screaming towards the train home)... She particularly liked that I let her have chocolate pancakes for lunch at The Pancake Parlour (highlight of the year!).  And since we set up our portable swimming pool, we've had an endless stream of friends for play-dates and outdoor dinners. 

Basically, we've been hanging out, enjoying the Summer holidays and the magic that Christmas inspires in a sweet 10-year-old's imagination. 

I have been feeling grateful for a year that has brought lots of opportunities and (for the first time in ages) no major upheaval.  I have been grateful for health and a roof over my head, and for the peace that we enjoy in this country.  I have been grateful for good friends, family and being able to make a living from the work I love doing.

I have been grateful for cheap Korean restaurants on end-of-year school nights when I can't be bothered cooking dinner (we did this twice).

We are very lucky people, indeed.

Teacher gifts were no surprise, really... The latest inkjet printed pencil case design is very Manga-inspired.  (The two in the background are my own pencil cases, made using her 3 and 4 year old drawings. They make me smile every day.)

Holiday activities have also included the transfer of a board game she drew in pencil into a fully packaged, laser-printed affair. I'm very impressed with the clear instructions and the level of complexity she developed in the game.  All done without a scrap of help from me.

You might have noticed that I've dropped the diminutive "een" from the end of my "girl".  In the last wee while, she appears to have grown nearly as tall as I am (which isn't actually that tall) and on that  train trip to the city the other day, I realised that her (kids size) boots are the same size as (adult size) mine.

And so, the summer holidays stretch before us.  I will have a kid-free week in which to catch up on some book-writing, and then it'll be back to juggling work around holiday fun.  

We will probably have more dinners on the trampoline.

Wishing you all the best for the happiest of days over the holiday period and a wonderful 2016.