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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the CD and the atlas: lessons learned in the lead up to Christmas

My Grandpa lives by the sea. We went to visit yesterday and spent a few hours with him, eating sandwiches and drinking coffee brewed on his camp stove in the afternoon sun.

He’s in the process of moving house and let me choose some of his books to take home. One is an old atlas with the inscription: “To Mary with love from Graeme Xmas 1960.” A message from my Grandpa to my Grandmother.

We have been looking through its softly worn pages today. In the lead up to Christmas while my heart is  beating faster and faster with increasing overwhelm, I can’t help but reflect on this little gift with wonderment. Imagine, opening up a present from your partner on Christmas morning to find a lovely book with a short message in the front. I like to think it was wrapped brown paper, and perhaps tied with white string. It is this kind of simplicity and thoughtfulness that I yearn for in my every day life. We are overcome with monstrous loud flashy messages and it is easy forget that we don’t need to buy each other and our children bigger and better things in order for them to be happy and healthy and cherished and loved.

At birthdays and Christmas I stick to this motto from Jodi Wilson:

something I want, something I need

something to wear, something to read

Even still it is easy to get distracted and carried away and panicky and compare-y. We have to stop doing this.

Gramps also offered me some CDs of classical music. “Ok,” I said, “but can I have one that isn’t frantic. One that I could listen to on a Sunday afternoon. Something calming. No violins?”

“Hmm. Well that isn’t how I approach music at all.” he replied.

“What do you mean?”

“Well, I walk over to my CDs. I think of one I’d like to listen to. I put it on, then I sit down on the couch and I listen to it. That is how to engage with a piece of music. If it’s on in the background it might as well be anything.”

“Ok. But what if you’re me and you’ve got three screaming children and you have to cook dinner and fold the washing and feed the dog and it’s 1pm and you want to put your pyjamas on and you’re not really thinking about developing a relationship with a piece of music but you would like something to listen to… in the background?”

He stared at me for a moment, laughed, then a few minutes later handed me this, and we listened to it in the car on the way home.

The CD and the atlas. I’ve been thinking about them both since yesterday. The purity and the restraint and the slow and the time. I am so rushed. Even when I try to slow down, there are so many external things wanting my attention. Children, animals, schedules imposed on me and so many rules. Rules! So many!

It’s been a timely and gentle reminder. Now when I look at my Christmas list, I am not looking at things to add, but places I can pare down, things that I can make, things that I can replicate to create a bit of flow, areas that I was perhaps getting a little carried away (do the girls really need another story CD? What will really make them happy on Christmas morning?) I think it’s important to remember that the presents we buy and/or make for our kids are just the beginning for most families on Christmas Day. For many, including us, there will be a number of shared meals that day, and many thoughtful gifts and presents to open. To keep it simple and quiet in the morning at home, we are actually doing our children a favour and allowing them to enjoy the excitement ahead.

Will you be keeping things slow and quiet this Christmas morning?

a thought, a reminder

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I was reminded of something the other day: something simple, something sweet. I read this post over at simplicity comes from within, a new-to-me blog. Earlier that evening, as I was swatting at my floor with the broom, and furiously washing dishes, tut-tutting at yet another toy left on the floor, tripping over dirty little knickers and wet towels left in doorways, I felt angry. I just wanted to sit down and have An Evening. One that involved a bit of crochet, some telly watching or a book. I was annoyed at myself for not letting the holiday-vibe last even one day at home and ra, ra, ra. You can imagine the internal dialogue.

Then I read Maria’s post and it was as though the words were written for me. About finding beauty in the everyday.

I will be sweeping my floor more gently tonight.