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.

http://www.amazon.com.au/dp/B01A9NHC3A

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.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Life As We Know It... and Another Online Class and Another Pattern

Hurrah! My next class at CreativeBug was released this week. 
It's a super-simple back-pack, that focuses on finishing techniques and strap-making that will improve all your general bag-making. You can see a little promo video of it here, with the other October Releases.



As promised, there are more of my classes to come on CreativeBug.  Watch this space and I'll keep you informed. 

In other bag-making news, my publishers have released a pattern for the Berlin Slouch, which was originally written as part of The Better Bag Maker, but was lost in The Great Word Count Disaster (ahem...along with 5 others). If you're in Australia, I know that it's available through Fishpond and Book Depository.


And yes... I know that it has been too long since I was in the blogosphere, and here I am, popping up and advertising classes and patterns.  There have been goings-on and craftiness of all kinds, and I haven't blogged any of it. The blog police (mostly one of the parents* at kiddie-yoga who reminds me each week) have certainly noticed that I don't update my blog or website much these days. (*Hello Shane, if you're reading this!).

The truth is, I miss it.  I miss the time I had before for considered diary posts on a regular basis.  I miss chronicling the creative development of both my work and that of my gorgeous girleen. I miss the connection with people who read and enjoy this little corner of my world.

The other day, the girleen and I scrolled through the blog archive I have of her early years.  We laughed and were surprised by the things I'd forgotten and the things she actually remembered.

Life goes on.  The girleen continues to amaze me...


And we still have crafty school holiday playdates...


There are other projects in the pipeline... 


 And a new spanner thrown into the works...


 I'm loving my teaching job.  Being back in the world of Fashion and garment making is inspiring and challenging in all the right proportions (and I get to hang out with these photogenic beauties all day).


But the juggle of life - parenting, work, business, writing projects, household management, garden maintenance and other commitments - means that it's easier for me to share on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.  This is a shame, but it's the reality of how much one small person can manage and still have time for the people and things she enjoys.   

Lately, I've given up trying to live up to other people's expectations and am focusing on what's important to me - my girl, my home, my family and friends.  And in between, I work on things that I love. And occasionally, I even write a blog post!

I think I'm happier this way.







Saturday, June 20, 2015

Online Classes are GO!

If you've ever wanted to come to one of my classes, but lived too far away or never quite got around to it, here's your chance.  Over the next few months, bag-making classes with me will be popping up on Creativebug.  The first one launched this week - The Hobo bag.   

http://www.creativebug.com/classseries/single/sew-a-hobo-bag
 
I'm taking a break from teaching workshops until some time next year, so if you want to learn from me, this is where you'll find all my best tips and tricks and some new designs.
 
Right now, you can sign up for a 14 day free trial of Creativebug Premium membership (which is only US$4.95 per month if you choose to continue it) to do this and/or lots of other inspiring classes with instructors like me, Amy Butler, Anna Maria Horner, Kathy Doughty, Kaffe Fascett, Joel Dewberry, Leisl Gibson, Gretchen Hirsch, ... the list goes on.  (I am in VERY fine company, indeed!).
 
 
This Hobo is made in microfibre suede, but you could make it in denim or duckcloth or any medium-weight fabric. It has a pop of (Kaffe Fascett) colour on the inside of the flap and on the lining, and it has a fancy-schmantzy twist lock closure.
 
 
 Along with all my sewing tips, the Hobo class includes techniques for working with tricky fabrics like microsuede, using interfacing and hardware, making a neat adjustable strap and inserting a fully-lined exposed zipper pocket.
 
 
An added bonus is that you also get to feel very superior about how young and smooth and well-cared-for your hands look, when you see lots of close-ups of these old weather-beaten work tools of mine... (and no, that is not my young and smooth hand in the photo above), or else you can know that if you have "Old Crafter's" and/or gardener's hands, you are not alone.
 

You can watch a little video of me talking about this class, and have a look around the Creativebug site while you're there.  I'm sure you'll be as impressed as I am with it.  There are classes in everything creative - cooking, paper-crafts, drawing, knitting, crochet and all disciplines of sewing, just to name a few. There are lots of free classes that you can try there, too. 
 
And remember to stay tuned to Creativebug (also on Facebook and Twitter) and You Sew Girl for notification of my classes as they appear.  

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

San Fantastic

 
 
In case you missed the bombardment of imagery I posted on Twitter, Instagram or Facebook and had no idea where I was for two fabulous weeks recently, I'm sharing a little bit of my time in San Francisco here.
 
I was over there to film classes with Creativebug.   I had a fantastic time.
 
 
My classes are all focused on bag-making, and the first one begins this month.  You can see the promo (and a little bit of me) here....
 

 
I loved working with this gorgeous (if a little sleepy before morning coffee) crew. 
 

 
And Charlie kept us all company in the studio.  He's the perfect crafty dog on a bed of pretty fabric scraps, and possibly the most cuddled and kissed member of the crew.
 

 
The city itself is a place I loved and I definitely want to return to see more of it. 

 
I only had a weekend to really see it, but it was great to be able to do that with my US-residing sister and local San Francisco-living nephew.
 
 
 
Precious time with family is always a good thing, and is even better when it's in relaxed holiday mode. 
 
 
And yeah... school night dinners are always like this for me... (not).

 
 I thought about how nice it was to only have ONE THING to do at any time - whether it was working on the online classes or enjoying a walk or a meal.  The madness of the everyday juggling act was on hold for two weeks.  It was the best holiday I've had in ages. 
 
The only real disappointment was that the day that my sister and I went to visit Britex Fabrics, it was closed.
 

 
I had my own apartment for the time I was there, and it was amazing how much it instantly felt like home.
 

 
...and how quickly it came to look like home, too.
 
 
And then there were things that made me conscious of being very, very far from home.  I loved the quirkiness of American food weirdness (but I didn't buy the bacon chocolate).

 
I'll be back with more news about the classes, as they're released.  In the meantime, you can find me (more frequently) on all the other social media platforms mentioned above.

Friday, February 27, 2015

Projects and classes and other goings-on

How is it nearly the end of February? The weeks are whizzing by and news that I have a project in Australian Homespun Magazine's February edition is starting to sound a bit late....  But here you have it.  It's a Toddler Trilby - made to fit a headsize of 50-53cm.
 
 
I made this one in pinwale corduroy, but it would work equally well in denim or any décor weight cotton and would also work in wool flannel. 
 
It's a bit like my Fedora pattern (remarkably like it, if I'm completely honest), but with a shallower crown, wider top and an obvious headsize difference.
 
The holidays passed and we all went back to work and school. 
 
On the way to my first day back at work (with my bike panniers and basket completely loaded with books, fabric and resources) this is what happened.... 
 
 
I tried not to think of bad omens (and then I started looking for a tram).
 
No bad omen.  All that preparation I'd done for teaching the new (to me) theory subjects didn't go to waste.  So far, all is going well.  I've realised how much of this stuff I haven't forgotten and how much of it has become habit and intuition over the years. 



Being a complete textiles nerd helps, too. (For starters, all these books just happen to be from my own personal bookshelf.  There is no end of resources to share with my students).
 
I have also begun teaching classes on weekends in various places.  A few weeks ago, I had the pleasure of teaching in Kimono House's new space.  And when I say "space", I mean it - it really is spacious and light and wonderful.
 
I always love working with Kimono House.  Not only am I surrounded by drool-worthy fabrics and Japanese design, but I get to work in the Nicholas Building.  I love coming in to work through this entrance! 

 
If you haven't visited Kimono House or the Nicholas Building, I think you should put it on your "Things to do in Melbourne" list. Another of my favourite shops in the city is on the same floor - the completely lush L'Uccello.
 
Another reason that I love teaching in Kimono House is that I get to meet up with lovely people I have taught before, and see what they've been up to.  I was absolutely thrilled to see that one of the "beginners" I taught in the 3-day Masterclass last year had been working her way through my book.  She is now making quite advanced bags (like this well-worn-and-loved Seoul Handbag) and confidently modifying them with all the interchangeable techniques that she's learned. 
 
If you're interested in getting started with bag-making, or simply want a fun day where you can sew in an uninterrupted fashion, there's a "Bag in a Day" class scheduled for 13th June at Kimono House.  Watch this space for its listing, or simply contact the gals at Kimono House to book in.
 
--------------
 
There have been many reasons to be cheerful lately, and lots of much-needed validation of all the work I've put in over the years. Chickens are coming home to roost, and they have been of the friendly and exciting variety.
 
Even on the day that began with that bicycle puncture, there was a little reminder that what I put out in the world, continues.
 

Having had a hectic first day at work, a public-transport-trip too many, a rushed and stress-filled car pick-up and school pick-up, and then the contemplation of driving back through peak-hour traffic to pick up the injured bike (that was tethered in a street where parking is a problem), we stopped in to the local pub to have an early dinner. 
 
Time out to regroup and recharge.   Ahhh..... 
 
And at the bar, a woman stood with a HAUL bag that was made from a pattern that I made back in 2003-4.  Things like that mean a lot some days.

Hopefully I'll be able to talk a bit more about those exciting developments soon.  But right now, I have to get back to work!
 

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

New Year, New Class Schedule

 
Well, it appears that 2015 has begun!  Wholesale orders are being processed and classes are being scheduled.  If you've been thinking of doing a purse or garment sewing class, we have a few dates already in the calendar -
 
Kimono House (Melb city) - Framed Purses 7th Feb 2015
CAE (Melb city) - Fabulous Framed Purses 28th Feb 2015
Kimono House (Melb city) - A-Line Skirt 7th March 2015
CAE (Melb city) - Creating Pattern Free Garments 28th March 2015
 
 
This bag (above) was made in the class at Cotton Factory in Ballarat, by a lovely gal who was only just learning to use her first sewing machine. 
  
If you listen to my girleen (overheard telling a friend on a sewing-playdate), you'll know,
"You should really listen to my Mum.  She knows a thing or two about sewing!"
 
(And I know I Facebooked and Instagrammed "She knows a lot about sewing" but the girleen corrected me - it was, in fact, "a thing or two".)
 
This is spoken by a girl who REFUSES any help with her own sewing, but she obviously absorbs her environment without any help.  When I picked her up from her father's house recently, she'd been designing costumes on the computer... including all the pattern pieces for each design.


 Keep an eye out for more classes as they are confirmed - here on Facebook and Twitter and on the YOU SEW GIRL website.
 
 And Happy New Year!