Wintry Making

I’ve been in all sorts lately thinking about my craft practice, and how to prioritise what to make first (I can hear everyone laughing). I’ve been working through a few things in my mind and my problem has begun to emerge: I began making and creating things when Nell was born, nine years ago. I was inspired to begin by a combination of things, mainly a deep desire to be creative and carve myself out from within the daily confines of motherhood, and secondly a growing unease around the amount of “stuff” brought into our lives with the introduction of a baby. I knew I was having an impact on the environment, I knew the decisions I made and the purchases I invested in made a difference to our footprint. I knew that my daily decisions around clothing and food (however tiny) made an impact on real people, many of whom are being exploited and underpaid just so I can have my kid wearing a pink unicorn cardigan. Watch this documentary on fast fashion and I’ll step down from my soapbox. I wanted to make some of Nell’s clothes to avoid having to purchase things that were made unethically, and to try to utilise materials that were no longer being used (I first started sewing with secondhand sheets). I quickly learned that craft was not only improving our home lives and increasing the ethical choices we could make on a daily basis, it was also enormously beneficial to my mental health. It was (and still is) my meditation.

Fast forward a year or so and suddenly I could sew and crochet and I was selling my handmade items. That was nearly a decade ago now! Looking back I can’t believe I once lived a life where I outsourced everything – food, clothing, gifts – and I didn’t know how to make a single thing.

I have reached a crossroads though, where I am still making on the daily, but the balance has shifted and my family aren’t always benefiting from these skills I have acquired. For example, if I have plenty of custom orders, and I usually have enough to keep me busy in the small amount of time I have to pursue such projects, then these orders take priority over say, mending, or making new school leggings for the girls. I have been caught out a number of times and have had to purchase something that I have the skills to make, because I am lacking in time.

On one hand being able to make and sell things has created a lovely little channel of pocket money which helps to support my family and for which I am very grateful. I’m also promoting the environmental benefits of purchasing handmade and allowing other families an opportunity to purchase locally and ethically made items. On the other, I am not always able to make the choices that I promote, and that first drew me to learn these skills, if my time is being taken up making things to sell to other people.

Add to this jumble part time work, writing projects, and general life and craft seems like a real luxury.

So. I’m setting myself a few priorities and getting my craft organised. Number one on the list is fairly obvious… When I fold the washing I see holes in the knees of 90% of the leggings we own. So this pattern is a must for me this winter (and I just noticed it is currently on sale). They are so fast to whip up, and when you really examine it, I dare say it would be faster for me to stay home and cut and sew three pairs of these than it would be to get in my car, go to the shops, search and be distracted and blinded by the white lights, purchase and come home again. I should time it and see.

Secondly, in May I had every intention of making myself this dress to wear to my cousin’s wedding which has now been and gone. I bought the pattern and this material (swoon!) and it is still sitting in my mending basket of all places. So by Spring I’d like to see this dress hanging in my wardrobe, please. I also have this coat pattern ready and waiting, but realistically this might be one to make over January 2020 so it’s ready for Autumn next year.

Other than that, I have this pattern sitting in my studio, along with a few metres of this luxurious linen. I promised to make these pants for my Mum in January 2018. I reckon I should work on getting these ready for her birthday: December 2019… (sorry Mum).

Then there are gifts. I had a sweet period where all my gifts were handmade (amazing how many kids’ parties you need to buy gifts for when you have three kids!), and going back to work along with other stuff sent this little rhythm to the bottom of the basket (I know I don’t have to explain all this, you guys get it!). I spoke to my aunty on the phone yesterday who also loves making all her Christmas presents and said we should get together to plan our our Christmas makes (don’t kill me for mentioning Christmas) so that we can make it a reality to give handmade gifts this year. I’ve also got a few friends who have just had babies and have managed to make a couple of things for those new babes. Being ahead of the game is surely the way to go here.

This list is enough to keep me busy until the end of the year, along with custom orders and life. What are you making this Winter? Do you have lists that you write for each season or do you just make whatever it is that takes your fancy?

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We Are All Made of Stars

I dreamt there was a woman standing in the corner of my bedroom. There were other anonymous people crowded in there, all quietly encouraging my husband to shoot her. I stood nearby and as he aimed the gun I held my hands up  too, clasping them into an imaginary pistol. I squeezed my left eye shut and aimed over the length of my fingertips. Like a child playing, I said: pow. And he shot. And she crumpled to the floor; a pile of nothingness in the corner. I got into bed and went to sleep with my husband’s arms wrapped around me, a dead woman curled up on the floor next to me.

This is the type of dream I have when there’s a lot going on in my life. When I’m feeling flaky, when I’m tired, when I’m worried. It was just a dream, but the mornings following a dream like this are always tainted with eeriness, with the shadow of imagined violence that swept through my mind like a passing ghost in the night.

Nevertheless, the sun shone today (so warmly) and I brushed the girls’ hair and did their plaits and wiped down the bench and went to work and sent emails and ate my lunch. I patted the dog and ate a biscuit (two). The world continues to turn despite my melancholic night life.

This moving house business is so much more than I ever thought it would be. I’m finding it reminiscent of having a baby; no one can ever tell you how tired or amazed or in love or overwhelmed you will be, you have to figure it out for yourself when the time comes (mind you, selling your house is a little heavy on the ‘tired’ and ‘overwhelmed’ as opposed to the ‘in love’ and ‘amazed’ bit that a baby brings). My sister went through this process earlier this year and while I knew she was busy, I had no real concept of the work involved in preparing a house for sale (when you have three children) (when you’ve lived there for ten years) (when you probably could have cleaned (the oven) a bit more than you did).

I’ve been working my way through each room, and backwards and around. Packing things, sorting things, rehoming things. A little while ago I started to notice I had a lot of wool deposited around the house. In a basket here, on a shelf there. Before I knew it I had a (very) large bag full of balls of wool. As in, one of those (very) large tartan storage bags with the zip at the top. You know the ones? The balls of wool are of all sizes, many not big enough to make a full pixie hat or kotori cardi or other garment out of. I have many plans to make some block coloured kotoris, however now is not the time (my mother-in-law keeps reminding me that it is, indeed, not the time for new projects, thanks Net xx). All these small balls of wool + my night time escapades + my annoyance at waste got me thinking. I have wanted to make a blanket for a long time. Just a small one.

So each night, I stitch. Sometimes just a row or two, sometimes three or more. Sometimes slowly and with many pauses, sometimes frantically and determined. As my hands move, my thoughts fall softly around me. I’m lost in a quiet calmness, my mind tethered carefully with the gentle concentration required of the task. I’m still going to sleep fairly late, later than I would like (later than KB). But this new routine is a nice one, amongst the boxes, the physical work and the nostalgia that most days bring. The stitch is a simple one: dc / tr, alternating (thanks to Helen for the pattern and the inspiration). I had been dreaming of making some beautiful neutral coloured blankets, but funnily enough this one is a good representation of my mind and our life at the moment: very colourful and a bit messy. I’ll name the blanket Moving House.

I read something the other day that suggested nostalgia is a wasted emotion, that it results in nothing positive. I like to think, however, that nostalgia is not just for the fragile-hearted, rather, it is part of a process of remembering and subsequently letting go. That moving through memories and feelings of goodwill about this house will leave me more prepared to move on when the time comes. One can live in hope about such matters.

I revisited this album this week on my trips to and from work and once again fell in love with the lyrics, because I absolutely love the notion (scientific theory?) that we are all made of stars. It adds a little sparkle to the day, don’t you think?

And on that note, off we go. Another week, a bit of razzle-dazzle and we’re one step closer to… wherever we are going.

Charging for Handmade Items

I’m writing this on the cusp of my own dilemmas on this very topic. I’ve been chatting lately with other friends who make and sell handmade things, about how we come to pick the price we are happy to make and sell for. You’d think it would be relatively straightforward, but I think for many creative people this is a real clincher – especially when you are not making and selling purely as a hobby, but the money you make actually helps to feed your family!

Last night I was sent a message on instagram asking for a custom order item I don’t make very often. I was caught between these two thoughts, one: feeling super excited that someone wanted to order something from me, so I had better not charge too much otherwise I might miss out on a sale, and two: gently reminding myself of the cost of materials, along with time to make the item. How would I decide what to quote? What if it was too much?

When I am pricing an item, there are a number of things to consider. While I know I’ll never get paid an award hourly rate, I do need to be paid enough for it to be worth my time and energy. As much as I absolutely love creating and making things, I don’t have the time or inclination to do it for free. If that were the case, I have plenty of children and family members I could make for to satisfy my urges. What I am paid needs to compensate for the time away from my family and the cost of the materials, in a way that I am comfortable with and don’t end up with a deficit.

I think sometimes the fear of missing a sale or the fear that our handmade items aren’t worth it, or won’t be valued, can easily fall into the trap of undercharging. The problem with this is it is rarely sustainable and sooner or later leads to burn out. I used to fall into this trap often by undercharging, finding myself up at all hours of the night, neglecting my other responsibilities stitching or crafting away at something begrudgingly. The joy was suddenly sapped out of what was usually an enjoyable process for me. There were even times when I ended up losing money in the beginning as much as I am embarrassed to admit it.

People who don’t know or care much about what it takes to make a handmade item, will never value the price of a handmade item. If they want something cheap and made in a hurry, they can go to any big chain store. In saying that, though, it often surprises me that people are willing to throw $40 at a stock standard, made overseas hat from a big name brand at a shopping centre, but will scoff at the idea of paying that for an individual, high quality, locally made hat. This makes absolutely no sense to me.

Here are just a couple of links that can help you to  both understand the value of handmade items, along with some guides to charging for your handmade items.

:: The True Cost – a documentary about the exploitation of both people and the environment in the fashion industry. A must watch if you want to know where your clothes really come from, and what you are personally supporting with every dollar you spend.

:: Tips for pricing your handmade goods – an article by Ashely Martineau

:: A simple formula for pricing your work – by Danielle Maveal on the etsy website

There are so many other things you could research to find out more on this topic – the benefits of a local and capsule wardrobe, the benefits of wearing organic clothing, the benefits of supporting local businesses — all of these things will help you to either price your own items or understand why handmade and locally created items and crafts should be celebrated.

I’d love to hear your feedback and thoughts in the comments.

Craft As Medicine

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I went to visit my Gran today. She taught me how to knit… again. She taught me years ago and I did knit a few things (read: anything you can make based on a knit/purl square or rectangle, so… a scarf and a headband and a pair of fingerless gloves I think are the three things I can add to my knitting CV…ha!). A while back I thought to myself, damnit I’ve knitted before and I will bloody knit again. I watched a video on youtube, attempted a cast on, ended up in a pile of loosely tangled wool and two sticks. I threw the whole thing to the other side of the room in a tantrum and admitted to myself that that day was not going to be the day I reinvented myself as Lucy Who Knits.

Today was much better, I practised casting on with my Gran who, very patiently, let me do it over and over again in front of her for about ten minutes while she nodded and said Yes Dear when I exclaimed loudly that I could do it I could do it I could do it! Meanwhile she was knitting a square – she told me she had tried to convince the other ladies in her retirement village to all knit a square in order to make a communal blanket which they could then raffle off (to raise funds for what, I didn’t ask). She said no one was into her idea so if no one was keen by the time she finished her singular square she would give it to me to use as a face washer instead. Last time she knitted squares she and some friends yarn bombed the local library.

So this week I am determined to knit a square, I’m seeing her again in a couple of weeks and promised I would come back with something to show for her efforts with me today!

In other crafty news I’ve been making a fair few things lately. Craft is so infinitely good for my soul and every time I pick up my crochet hook or material or sewing machine (not that I pick it up, as such, but we all hear my meaning yes? Too late and too tired to delete that sentence and try again) I get into the zone. You know, the craft zone? Craft is the only thing that stops me from thinking, stressing, over analysing things. Keeping my hands busy with making is my medicine, it saves me in those moments when my head is going to burst with overwhelm, when my to-to list is off the planet or just at any time really. I cannot believe that I nearly failed Year 8 Textiles because I was too busy writing on my pencil case in whiteout and staring at pictures of Jimi Hendrix. I didn’t click with my teacher and after a bad experience with a patchwork cushion I didn’t even attempt anything remotely close to making something again until I had a baby. All those years wasted!

I digress. It’s so late and I’m ridiculously sleep deprived but now I’m here you’ll have to put up with me! Righto. Where was I? Oh yes, in the first picture above you can see a kimono I made last week. I haven’t finished any of the seams or anything like that; given it was for me I gave myself a break. Plus I wanted to wear it pronto so I used every short cut I could. Not many were needed though as this is SUCH a simple project. Google DIY kimono and you’ll find heaps of different tutorials showing you how to make it. Easy peasy!

The next picture shows a cardigan I just finished crocheting for the bebe, the pattern is this sweet yoke baby cardigan which is fairly simple to whip up as well. I’m thinking of making a few more of these for winter and for a few friends, they would make a very sweet little present. The wool I used was 8 ply but it was rather on the thin side so the 6-12mo size I have made is almost too small. I made one with a thicker 8ply when Pixie was a baby and it ended up being too thick, so I’ll have to test it again on the 12mo size and see how it comes up. It’s very cute though and I honestly can’t get enough of the veggie buttons. So glad I finally found something to use them on as I’ve been carrying them around for a while now.

Next on the make list:

+ knit a square

+ finish blanket before 2020

+ more sweet yoke cardis

+ a few skirts for upcoming kid birthdays

And with that, goodnight to you all, and to all, a good night.

Starting a Rock Collection With Children

Starting a rock collection // gift idea for children

As a child I absolutely loved collecting rocks. I now have a nice rock collection, and still enjoy reading about, using and displaying crystals in my home. My childhood collection is still housed in an old wooden cutlery box along with a small leather suitcase. It contains mainly just your average amethysts, quartz, and so on, but also has a number of well labelled Australian rocks and a few fossils. I can’t for the life of me remember starting it or who gave it to me to begin with, I’m assuming it was my aunty who took me to a few gem and lapidary shows as a child and who also shares my love of gems and minerals.

These days most of my tumbled stones are kept in a heart-shaped wooden bowl in our lounge room. Bird and the Pixie love to play with the stones, it can keep them entertained for quite some time! There are so many things to do with a rock collection when you’re small (or big!):

+ Arrange the stones into a rainbow or colour groups

+ Try to identify the stones in a crystal guidebook

+ Look at the stones through a magnifying glass

+ Draw them

+ Arrange them into mandalas or shapes

+ Or, a favourite of the girls’: turn the stones into mums and dads and sisters and use them for role playing! Yes! This happens a lot here!

Starting a rock collection // gift idea for childrenBird is turning SIX next week (omg!) and for her birthday she has asked for some gemstones. So today I set to work setting her up with her very first collection. It’s a great and creative gift for any child, and in this world where children seem to have everything under the sun it can be a fairly inexpensive way to give a gift that will stand out from the crowd.

To get Bird started I have bought her:

+ A craft box with small open compartments (pictured)

+ A small selection of crystals

All up it cost around $40, but you could make this much cheaper by buying tumbled stones (the small, smooth stones you will often see in rows of boxes at a market stall or gem shop, usually for a dollar or two). All you have to do is arrange the crystals in the box, add a label for each crystal on a piece of cardboard and you’re done. Depending on the age of the child you could also add some information about the properties of each for them to read (from a reputable source, I like Judy Hall). I am laying Bird’s stones on some cottonwool as you can see, but this is optional. Also, don’t feel like you have to fill each compartment, I personally think it’s better to leave room for the child to add more themselves. It’s not really a collection if you don’t do any collecting… right?

Now go forth and give the kids some rocks, it’ll be a hit I promise!

If your little person already has a collection, or if you’re looking for some more resources I recommend:

+ The Crystal Bible* by Judy Hall

+ Contacting your local Gem and Lapidary Club and going along to a local show

+ Visiting your local gemstone shop (there is bound to be one!)

+ Finding out if your local library has any useful crystal books

Starting a rock collection // gift idea for children * This is an affiliate link which means I will earn a small commission if you purchase via this link. This does not influence my opinion of this book, it is one I own and refer to myself!

Perpetually Undecided

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I’m sitting here eating cold toast and luke warm tea. KB has taken the two big girls to their swimming lesson and after forty-five minutes of a jiggling/breastfeeding combo I managed to get the baby to sleep. The general plan was that she would go straight to sleep when he left and then I would tidy our house, but of course, not everything in life goes to plan, right?

We were talking about this concept last weekend as we drove home from South Gippsland. The two of us, KB and I, are absolutely horrendous at making plans and sticking to decisions. Like, the very worst combination of two people put together that you could possibly imagine in the decision stakes, both of us awesomely bad at being able to decide… let’s face it, absolutely anything. We patted each other on the back in commiseration as we talked about our friends, who we have watched do grown up things like sell and move houses, get their homes painted and do their gardening, embark on study and career changes and so on.

We can’t even decide which coffee beans we like best, or where we should place a pot plant in the house (have you seen how many times they move in my instagram photos!?).

We’ve sat down so many times to try to make Life Plans, like we assume other adults do. (Do you?) Then we get so overwhelmed by all the variables we just shrug our shoulders and do nothing. We’ve had grand plans to sell our house, move to a rural area. We both have dreams of going back to study. We both have interests and hopes and wishes and things we’d like to do.

But we never rarely act.

Yes, we are severely lacking in time and resources, sure. But still, we do dream of a plan, of decisions being made. A few years ago we made our word of the year “Decision”. This is the Year Of The Decision! we would declare loudly, whenever we felt stumped. It didn’t last very long. We tried though.

So onwards and upwards we go. I hereby declare this year another Year Of The Decision. I will shout it loudly in my kitchen and can only hope it gives us courage. Maybe. Hopefully. It might?

These are the decisions that are currently doing our heads in:

+ Should we move the girls into the back room and sacrifice our back living area? (Actually we really have no choice on this one unless we want the baby in our room until she is 17 years old. So the answer is YES.)

+ If we do that, should we store our super comfy couch or should we just get rid of it? (Great couch, inherited it for free, love it, but no space to store it…)

+ Should we move house locally or should we move to the beach? (Gawd only knows.)

+ Should we paint our house white or grey? (I say white, he says grey.)

+ Should we go back to study and if so how and when? (Yes we both want to but what and how and when and who first and so on.)

+ Referring to what you thought was a completely unrelated photo above: was given this amazing collection of vintage wallpaper from the Pixie’s kindergarten teacher… only problem is, now I have to decide what to make with it all. YAWN!

There’s more but I won’t bore you with the details, just normal life stuff you know. First World Problems as many would say…

Do you deliberate or decide? Do you act or do you sit around biting your fingernails like us?

craft as meditation

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In most other tasks I am easy to distract. My mind is a wandering beast, untamed and largely unmanageable.

But absorbed in craft, it softens. It counts: slowly, rhythmically, soothingly. It imagines and creates, it thrills in possibility.

I began meditating (again) a few weeks ago, and while I haven’t been in any way regular, I have noticed correlations between my quiet meditative mind, and my crafting mind. While during meditation I attempt to harness my mind as it pulls and strains at invisible reigns, during craft it is forced to halt. It is absorbed by the act of quiet concentration.

And so in the last ten days since finishing work (!), and while attempting to distract my monster mind from the relentless (and seemingly impossible) task of flipping my baby before this coming Tuesday’s ECV, I have immersed myself in craft.

Stitch by stitch by little stitch I have soothed my mind and spirit. I have counted, stitch by stitch by little stitch. I have twisted my hook around wool, stitch by stitch by little stitch. In combination with all the other body and mind work I am doing this pregnancy, it has kept me in good stead.

And here I am, four beanies, pom poms, a pixie bonnet, a kotori jacket and half a lady sized beanie later, mind relatively at ease. Upcoming ECV on Tuesday not causing (much) [out of proportion] angst.

What about you? What do you reach for to calm a busy mind?

doilies

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We had a birthday party this morning for a friend of Birdie’s. I’m always searching for new things to make and sew for small people – post toddlerhood, pre school years. This skirt has been a bit of a go-to pattern over the last six months. This time I sewed on some doilies of my Nana’s my Aunty was – shock, horror – about to throw in the bin. I gratefully snaffled up an entire garbage bag of these gems and they have found a place in my overflowing sewing cupboard. How could she! Now aged in her seventies she was both bewildered and bamboozled that I wanted anything to do with a doily, and still can’t really understand what I wanted with them.

Well, here is one reason why I wanted them. A good reason, no? I also use them to wrap presents, to give faces and wings to my felted chooks, to put hot cups of tea on, to put vases on, to throw around the place and let them rain down around me… no, not really.

I do like a good doily. Do you?

it’s that time again…

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I always promise myself that I will be organised at Christmas time, that I won’t be scrambling around in a mad rush and I won’t be forced into buying things that compromise my values because I’ve run out of time! Alas, I am rather behind schedule and my list of things to make is gigantic… we are half way through November and shit is getting real in my sewing room.

I am quite the overachiever and apparently love nothing more than a late night sew-fest and the pressure of doing things at the last minute. As much as I hate it, I can’t seem to shake my ways. Oh well.

I’ve talked so many times before about buying nothing new at Christmas and supporting handmade and so on and so on. Apart from the fact that a Christmas-crazed shopping centre is my absolute worst nightmare, I love the feeling of really thinking about presents and putting the effort into cutting and sewing and making and giving something genuinely unique. I’m not sure if the people on the receiving end of my gifts feel this way… but it’s the thought that counts, right? This year I am going about Christmas in my usual fashion, however we are buying a couple of things for the girls – a wooden kitchen, a bike for Birdie and maybe a scooter for the Pixie. Unfortunately I can’t make these things. I did try to purchase the wooden kitchen secondhand but have had trouble finding what I am looking for. Two years ago we gave the girls a beautiful waldorf style doll’s house and I was lucky enough to find this on my local buy swap and sell site! So if you keep an eye out – you do find.

This year I’ve been making star garlands, pictured above, little shorts, and crocheted tiaras mainly. Most of the little folk in our circles will be receiving variations of these this Christmas. I’m also planning on making a dress each for Birdie and Pix, and something else… I haven’t fleshed out the list properly yet. I make all my family granola every year so will also be continuing with that tradition.

This is also my first year to make teacher gifts now that Birdie is at kinder! I am yet to decide what to do for our teacher folk, I’m thinking granola or a star garland. Any tips?

What are you making? Are you a mad shopper at Christmas? Do you write lists? How do you keep the madness at bay?

 

 

oh to make

Screenshot 2014-08-14 13.26.20With all the craziness of starting a new job, finding our feet, and creating a new rhythm in our lives, to be able to continue with some making here and there truly is a blessing. The ability to be able to move my hands this way and that, twist the wool and feel it sliding through my fingers. Oh! Immediate stress buster. Therapy at its best. 

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