So one morning a few months back I woke up, grabbed my phone, opened my emails and started screaming (husband promptly woke up). Pat Sloan had written to me asking if I would like to be on her podcast show. Ummmmm… Once I’d stopped squealing (and explained to my husband who Pat Sloan is and how she is my new quilty BFF) I wrote back and said of course I’d love to be on the American Patchwork and Quilting Network. Because, you know, Pat and I are like total besties now
So, I would LOVE it if you could tune in and cheer me on while Pat and I chat this week. For those in Australia it’s nice and early on Tuesday morning (about 6.30am Canberra time) but for those of you in the US it’s at the much more civilized time of 4pm Eastern on Monday 4 May. We’re going to be talking about my trip to the US, free motion quilting and how I’ve found my voice through quilting. Let’s hope I make some sense as I will have downed a couple of coffees to get me started!!
You can find all the details about the American Patchwork and Quilting Show here on Pat’s site, All People Quilt and you can listen here or in your itunes podcast thingy (very technical!)
And just because I can’t post without throwing in some quilty goodness, here is a quilt that I FINALLY bound today! I think this is my favourite ever quilt <3
Improv wall quilt by me :)
It’s my birthday! Yay me! I’ve had a migraine for three days and only figured out last night it was because my birthday was looming… Don’t get me wrong, I’m not scared of aging, I just find these things a bit stressful and I’ve been wanting to hide in a cave. So I thought I would write about some of my strategies for finding balance. Balance is my top priority for 2015!
I’ve mentioned before that I have an autoimmune disease, hashimoto’s thyroiditis. It’s pretty blurk to be honest. A lot of the time I am fine, but it does cause me regular bouts of fatigue and leaves me prone to illness. For example, I’ve had a cold for five weeks. My husband had it for 2 days. But I just can’t kick it. And that’s fine, that’s the hand I’ve been dealt. But I find the longer I’m sick the harder it is to focus and face the world.
It means that I suffer brain fog. Which you would probably describe as vagueness and it might annoy you that I can’t answer clearly or I forget what I’m talking about. I’ve been dazed and confused for a long time so I usually don’t worry about it, but it can be really frustrating for people trying to have a conversation with me.
The hardest part about my thyroid being uncooperative is that I often feel at the end of my tether. For example, I’ll take the kids on an outing and I come home and need to sit quietly for up to three hours to recover. It means that finding balance is extra hard. I have to write up a schedule for each day and accept that I may or may not get it done. And that schedule includes simple things like dropping the kids at school and answering phone calls.
Some key strategies that I try to stick to are not over-committing myself, listening to my instinct/body and dealing with challenges immediately.
Keeping commitments manageable means that I don’t disappoint myself or others. Once I start to fail to meet my commitments it all builds up and I get further and further behind. If I keep my commitments realistic from the beginning then I get that feeling of satisfaction and achievement which energises me. Once I start to fall behind I find it harder and harder to open my emails and interact online. Which is something I love doing. But I can’t face that feeling of failure.
It’s taken me a long time but I’ve realised that listening to my instinct is the key to me staying healthy and happy. When I have that niggling doubt about taking on a job or accepting an invitation, I listen to it. There are still lots of opportunities to say yes, but saying no at the right time means that I enjoy the activities that I do commit to.
I used to bury my head in the sand a lot. But the more you do it, the more you do it. These days if I have something that I don’t really want to do, I face it as soon as possible. If I stick my head in the sand the anticipation of the looming disaster makes it worse than it actually is. I know that sounds really simple, but it has made a huge difference to me. I literally take a deep breath and open my email and do what I need to do rather than putting it off. This means that I am more productive as I’m not wasting time wallowing in dread.
Accepting my health issues and letting others know about them is also really important. My disease is an invisible one but it has a huge impact on my ability to function. Letting other people know helps them understand why I often miss social events, why I work part-time (working from home means that I can rest regularly) and why I can appear generally vague and slightly confused.
And you know that photo of me up at the top of this page? I felt a wreck when we took it this afternoon, so incredibly tired that I was having difficulty explaining myself. Which is why I’m writing this post. My top priority these days is finding balance so that I can continue to be a good Mum and a nice person AND have energy left over to quilt. Looks can be deceiving.
How do you achieve balance? I’d really love to hear any tips that you have. It’s my top priority this year and I know that it is something that most of us struggle with. And just in case you wanted to see a little more of that quilt…
Me with the first quilt I really had fun with on the longarm. Still having trouble making the decision to sell it!
It’s Thursday and I’ve been sick for weeks and I’m sorry but I just haven’t had the energy to carefully craft a post and edit photos. I Quilt will be back next week and I encourage you to link up, but this week I wanted to touch on something that I have been thinking about all day.
This morning I read a message from the Modern Quilt Guild, from the fabulous Jacquie Gerring that touched on interpersonal relationships. Jacquie’s key message was to assume that others have good intent. I love this. It means that instead of jumping to conclusions, instead of thinking that someone is excluding you or is against you, you should assume that they have good intent and that there is a good reason that they are or aren’t doing something. Maybe they have a hardship in their life that they are struggling with and just can’t give you the time or friendship that you need or expect.
I completely agree with this. However, I also fervently believe that we should surround ourselves with friends that make us feel good about ourselves. That’s what I tell my kids, “If your friend makes you feel bad then maybe you need to find another friend.” I think we all get to a point where we have to look after ourselves. If you keep putting yourself out there but getting nothing in return, or worse, getting hurt, then maybe it is time to just roll around in some pretty fabric, listen to a podcast and quilt your blues away.
And I think that’s one reason why quilting is so good for the soul. When the world gets a bit much, when your friend can’t celebrate your successes with you, then quilting is a safe and relaxing outlet. It’s a way that we can connect with others regardless of age, political sway or gender. And this is why guilds can be so great. It is the ideal setting to leave exclusive in-groups (does it matter who is a founding member?), income (does it matter if it’s 80’s florals?) and gender (does it matter who got the deal as long as they worked hardest?).
As much as I love my stash and my studio and my longarm (how I love that machine!), it’s the genuine friendships that I’ve made through quilting that matter most. The friends that I’ve chatted with online for years and never met, the ones that I finally met after years of online chatting, the ones that I met and immediately hit it off with. It’s the friends that take you as an equal, as a fellow quilter, not as competition, not as a source of wholesale thread and wadding. They’re the ones that make quilting special and that make guilds wonderful.
The first few days wandering around QuiltCon I felt like I was part of something. All of these people had travelled from all over the world, all passionate about the same thing, with hearts and arms open. It was such a special thing to be part of. And it made me realise that I want to be part of that kind of guild.
So, I agree with Jacquie, definitely assume good intent. But I would add to that; surround yourself with friends who make you feel good about yourself (and reciprocate!).
Now I’m going to roll around in some pretty fabric!
I quilt linky will be back next week when I am over this ever-lasting headcold!
Welcome to I Quilt at Pretty Bobbins! This week I thought I would talk a little about edge to edge quilting, also known as ‘panto’, pantograph, all over or E2E. Edge to edge quilting is essentially a quilting design that is repeated all over a quilt regardless of what piecing may feature on the quilt. It is the most affordable option of longarm quilting and therefore quite popular. There is both machine/computer guided and hand guided edge to edge quilting. It’s something that I do a lot of and I thought I would give you a bit of a tour of this quilting style
Fresh off the frame! An edge to edge quilt <3
Edge to Edge quilting is popular not only because it is cheaper than custom quilting, but also because it is quick and you know what you’re getting. You can find a pantograph online or see one in your longarm quilter’s studio and ask to have it done on your quilt. When you are coming up with a custom design it is much harder to imagine what it will look like on your quilt. You’re relying on your longarmer’s talent and ability to sketch and explain the design to you. Computer guided E2E quilting can also be scaled up or down easily which is great. It means that your repeat quilting design can be tailored to your quilt top so that the repeat doesn’t exactly line up with your rows. And before you ask. Computer systems are very expensive. I love mine and I wouldn’t run my business without it, but it did cost about the same amount of money as our seven seater family car…
Intelliquilter at work (computer guided edge to edge quilting in action)
Whilst I have be known to claim that even a blind monkey could be trained to quilt an edge to edge, that isn’t quite true. Firstly, you still need to know how to load a quilt, which wadding to use, how to straighten it all and not get puckers. If you hand guide your pantos then you need to stand at the back of the machine and follow a paper pattern with a laser light. You cannot see what your quilting, you have to have a good feel for your machine and be conscious of where your stitching is in relation to the pattern (maybe you always veer to the left of a tight swirl) so that you don’t accidentally stitch over your own quilting.
Your longarm quilter will baste your quilt top on the frame. The basting stitches (in this case brown thread) will be within the .25″ seam allowance
In both hand guided and computer guided E2E quilting you need to realign the quilt as you advance. With computer guided quilting you also need to adjust the design so that you don’t end up quilting off into space when you reach the edge of your quilt. Most longarm quilters will ask that your quilt back is 8″ longer and 8″ wider than your quilt top. This is especially important for an edge to edge design as you need a little bit of extra backing to attach clamps to (if you use them) and to give yourself a little wriggle room to start and end the quilting. Case in point, I nearly quilted over my clamps on this quilt!
This is why you need your quilt back to be 8″ wider and 8″ taller than your quilt top when sending it to your longarmer…
In addition to the skill and know-how of quilting a panto, your quilter also needs to be confident with thread and quilting design selection. Your longarm quilter will have to purchase their pantograph designs. These aren’t cheap so they may request that you select a design from their existing catalogue, they may ask you to pay for the purchase of a new pantograph or they may only have one or two from which you can choose. I tend to purchase my pantographs from http://www.intelligentquilting.com and I will give clients about six designs to choose from as it can be completely overwhelming to go through hundreds of designs. I incorporate the cost of pantographs into my business unless a client requests something I think I will never use again, such as puppies playing fiddles with octopus dancing on spaceships. In that case I ask they pay for the pattern as part of the quilting service. Of course you may go to your quilter because you’ve seen them use a design that you want on your quilt so you know they already have the pattern.
Edge to edge quilting can give great texture to a quilt without overpowering the patchwork design. Here I have used a pale pink 50wt Aurifil thread to do just that.
Once we have selected a pantograph I then guide the client in terms of thread selection. I currently only use two brands of thread; Aurifil and KingTut which is by Superior Threads. I stick to these because A) they are the best quality and B) they are the best colours. You should ask your quilter whether they use the same colour thread in the bobbin and the spool (I do). I’ve heard a nightmare story of an example where this wasn’t discussed and the quilting had to be unpicked and redone because the client assumed the quilter would use white bobbin thread because the back was white and the longarmer assumed that the client would be happy with her using the same thread in bobbin and spool. You also need to discuss thread weight (thickness of the thread) and wadding.
Some quilters will ask you to purchase the wadding from them, others will happily use your wadding as long it is clean. Clean means both free of pet hair and cotton husks, little bits of dirt or stones and preferably well enough processed that it does not smell strongly of lanolin. There are a number of reasons for this that are important for both you and your quilter. Any hard stones or cotton husks in the wadding risk putting out the machine’s timing. Cotton husks or a strong lanolin smell risk oil stains on your quilt as it is washed and used over time. Pet hair in a quilting studio is never a good idea. Whilst I have two cats I keep them well away from client quilts and out of the studio – nobody wants to suffer allergies from somebody else’s pet.
The funny thing about edge to edge quilting is that I have a real love/hate relationship with it. Custom quilting is what I love. It is an art form and it keeps me sane. I could not run a quilting business without edge to edge quilting, not only is it more affordable for clients but it is where the (tiny!) profit margin is. It also makes selling quilts that I have made more feasible. On top of those practical reasons it also gives a great finish. I’ve never completed a panto that I wasn’t happy with.
So there you go! Something a little different from me for I Quilt this week, but I hope that you found it informative.
Please link up your quilty process below and don’t forget to visit the other linkers <3
Bob bag <3
Today is my day on the Bob-A-Long. A blog hop hosted by the ever fabulous Angie of Gnome Angel featuring the Bob Bag, a cute pattern by the lovely Quilt Jane.
When Angie asked me to be part of this hop I had to weigh up my commitments. For all of about 2 seconds. I mean, who could resist this super cute bag!?!
I’m going to warn you up front that this project does require a bit of hand stitching and because the bag is small it is a little fiddly. However, it is completely worth it. The pattern pieces and measurements are very precise so you will end up with a snug box that has a lovely shape. I suggest that you follow the instructions in order, usually I give instructions a quick glance and then wing it. Not so in this case. The only alteration I made was to use a super stiff pellon rather than cardboard (to give the box structure) and I used normal wadding rather than iron on.
Cutest sewing fabric on the inside!
I love my little Bob Bag and I plan to make another. With a four year old in the house who loves all things cute I don’t think I’ll be able to keep this one all to myself!
Bob bag made by me
If you’d like to make your very own Bob Bag you can buy the pattern here.
Don’t forget to link up your Bob Bag over at Gnome Angel on 10 April for a chance to win prizes! You can visit all of the other fabulous hoppers here:
Monday 23rd March — Angie @ Gnome Angel
Wednesday 25th March — Jane @ Quilt Jane
Friday 27th March — Peta @ SheQuiltsAlot
Monday 30th March — Anita @ Daydreams of Quilts
Wednesday 1st April – Jess @ Elven Garden Quilts
Friday 3rd April — Melissa @ Ms Midge
Monday 6th April – Cat @ Cat & Vee
Wednesday 8th April — Gemma @ Pretty Bobbins (that’s me!)
Friday 10th April — Angie @ Gnome Angel (link up and prizes!!!)
It’s Thursday (somewhere in the world) and it’s time to link up your quilty process! I’m well and truly settled back in at home but not all things are the same. This week I thought I’d talk about that label a little; Modern Quilter.
I love Modern Quilting and I’ve spent a fair amount of time labeling myself as a modern quilter. QuiltCon could be described as THE event for modern quilters. But I’ve come home feeling less like a modern quilter than ever.
I spoke last week about the trend of straight line quilting that was evident at QuiltCon. And you know how much I LOVE free motion quilting. There was also a noticeable trend in using solids. And many quilts that could be classed as “modern traditionalist” or at the very least a modern take on structured patchwork.
I personally tend to use tone on tone prints, mix free motion and straight line quilting and improvisational piecing. I love what I do and I don’t feel a need to change my style to fit with what I saw at QuiltCon. I still think my work falls somewhere in the realm of modern but I’m far less clear on what is modern quilting. Aside from the modern quilt guild changing its definition a few times, I’m just not certain that the things that I value most dear in quilting are what others see as modern.
I enjoy challenging myself. When I first started to get really into quilting I wanted to do improv work but I didn’t really know how to do it. There wasn’t a lot of guidance online (google a tutorial for most techniques and you’ll find step by step guides) and so I guess I just started to make quilts that didn’t follow a pattern. Right from the beginning I would lay out or sketch up my design and I wouldn’t compromise. I took on the challenge of working out how to piece what I’d come up with. Those early improv quilts have a look to them. There is a definite structure to the design. They have promise, but they’re not groundbreaking.
Rainbow I Spy quilt
In fact I love those quilts and I learnt a lot making them. I made them because I wanted to do my own thing, I wanted to learn and I didn’t have anyone nearby to teach me or talk through how I might go about piecing my design together.
Making quilt after quilt that challenged my skill set helped me to grow. All that practice made improvisation possible, enjoyable and satisfying. I worked really hard and put in a lot of time to become an accomplished improvisational quilter and piecer. And I guess we value the things that we’re good at and work hard for (and I guess I’m a little vain) because I really do value originality in quilts.
‘Fractured’ an improv wall quilt
In actual fact I like going my own thing. I wear hot pink tights to work in a work environment that most people wear dark suits. I make my own clothes and I enjoy wearing them because they’re me. So I guess its not surprising that I don’t feel like I need a label to define my quilting.
Turns out I wear quilter’s camo I unintentionally made a dress to match my quilt and then amused my students by blending into the background!
Having said all of that, I am also very much wanting to help people get started with modern quilting. I don’t really see the point in exclusivity in quilting. I want people to feel welcomed to modern quilting. I think we need to acknowledge that just labeling something modern doesn’t make it modern (no matter how much you want to be modern). But we need to be welcoming and open and generous with our knowledge and skills. Sharing the process behind a quilt is so much better than just sharing a finished piece.
So here I am back in my studio, taking on board what I learnt and saw at QuiltCon and thinking about where I fit (or don’t). The main thing is that I want to have fun. And I am fitting in time to make fun pieces. But I also want to find the time for collaborations. To find that sweet spot where my enthusiasm and energy match up with my peers and we meld into some freaky quilter of awesomeness.
Since returning home I’ve given three talks about my work and the impact QuiltCon has had on me. I’m also about to run a series of modern patchwork classes because I want to gently guide people into this thing called modern quilting (even if I’m not sure that is me!).
I want to give people the skills to create their own unique pieces rather than having to follow a pattern. Ironically I’m starting this by following a pattern (above) I want people to be able to be involved in the modern quilting movement (if that’s what they desire) but it can be awful scary to jump in the deep end and almost impossible to go from ‘traditional’ to improvisation in one bound.I want to give students some of the groundwork that goes with modern quilting. But mostly, to encourage people to try something new and to practice. Because at the end of the day it takes hard work and practice to make something awesome.
One of my mantras this year is, “scratch that itch”. If you’ve got five minutes or half an hour, jump in and play with some scraps or make a cushion. Not every project has to be a quilt. Table runners, placemats, cushions and oven mits are all achievable projects that are great ways to develop colour selection skills, piecing and try something new like improv.
QAYG cushion in progress. A fun and satisfying project that doesn’t take a long time.
Quilters of Awesomeness unite. Let’s scratch that itch and try new skills and not worry about finishing a whole quilt and definitely not worry about whether we fit with the current definition of modern. Just get making and creating and have fun xxx
Please link up your quilty process below xxx
Last year in all the excitement of QuiltCon quilt entries, some of the Australian contingent decided to put together an Aussie QuiltCon quilt. In fact it may have been the highly organised Alys Gagnon who motivated and organised us. Unfortunately the quilt wasn’t selected to hang at QuiltCon but that doesn’t mean that it isn’t awesome! For your viewing pleasure…
I had a lot of fun quilting this mostly improv quilt. I tried to keep the quilting kind of flowing and wind-like to really push the piecing to the front and have it shine.
Aussie quilt on a hillshoist
Photographing this quilt on my true-blue Aussie clothesline (known as a ‘hillshoist’) felt quite appropriate. It seemed fitting to include this Aussie icon in at least one photo
Parliament House block by Alys Gagnon
Parliament House is one of my favourite buildings (for many reasons!) and I love that Alys made this block. I tried to quilt some of the building’s design into it.
The blocks included piecing, paper piecing, improv piecing and applique. Whilst I didn’t make a block I did really enjoy tailoring my quilting to each block and did things like added feathers to the birds, waves to the beach and quilted state and territory lines on the map.
Map of Australia with state and territory boundaries quilted in.
I just love the birds. How cocky is this Cocky?!
Cockatoo by Bronwyn Hooper
The parrot has such detail and again, I loved adding the feathers!
Parrot by Lorena Uriarte
If you are heading to the Australasian Quilting Convention in Melbourne this month you will be able to see this quilt hanging for the first time in the Modern Quilting exhibition.
The following talented peeps contributed to the making of this quilt:
Alys Gagnon, Bronwyn Hooper, Lorena Uriarte, Crystal McGann, Julie McMahon, Danielle Aeuckens, Catherine Demack, Louise Luscombe, Mandy Wain, Coral Brady, Monica Raven, Carolyn Goonrey, Maryjane Morris, Lara Loyd, Liz Hoyland, Peta Peace and Cathie Trotter.
So yesterday I talked a little about my QuiltCon experience. Today I’m back to finally start up the I Quilt linky party again and share how the quilting influences at QuiltCon have impacted on me.
OK, I’m literally screwing up my eyes posting this next pic, but here is the sampler I made in Angela Walter’s class. She is an awesome teacher but I can tell you that I did not love spending a day at a sit down mid-arm machine. I hate to sound ungrateful, but there is a huge difference between moving the fabric and moving the machine and I LOVE working on a longarm. I also simply don’t have the time to maintain my quilting skills on both a domestic sewing machine (DSM) and longarm so I just go with the one that cost me more than my car.
my sample from Angela Walters class
This sample reflects how rusty my DSM free motion quilting (FMQ) skills are. Seriously, I was sooo frustrated. I’m a better quilter than this. But I did really enjoy Angela’s class and I did get some new ideas from it and there is no way I was throwing this sampler away. One thing that Angela said that really stuck with me was something along the lines of, “I quilt the heck out of everything and that’s OK.” Dammit, if amazing Angela can do it, then I will do and I’ll stop thinking about what judges might say about density and stitch length (that’s a lie – I think about stitch length ALL.THE.TIME). She also said that she doesn’t enter her work in shows. OK, I’m gonna say right here that I have an ego and I like to see my work hanging in shows, but it is also a great learning experience for me and a way to really connect with others so I will keep entering my work in shows (and try not to get to hung up on it).
One thing I noticed at QuiltCon was how much straight line quilting (SLQ) there was in the quilts on display. I heard others discussing this and even heard people say it’s a “trend”. I’ve also heard people say that feathers and excessive FMQ are not “modern”. Buy me a drink and I’ll be happy to chat about that for an hour or ten. I personally wonder if it just comes down to the fact that SLQ A) suits a lot of the quilts that were on display and B) is generally easier than FMQ. I would love to hear your thoughts on this.
For Tanya by Emily Coffey “This quilt was made in memory of my best friend who lost her battle to cancer. The inspiration came from her love of sunrises over the ocean.”
Tuning Fork #13 by Heather Pregger
Lite Brite by Maria Shell
When I say that SLQ suits a lot of the quilts that were on display at QuiltCon, there were lots of very geometric quilts using solids. Here are some of my favourites. Coincidentally the improv section was probably my favourite.
“Lucky Day” by Cynthia Frenette
Shades of Grey by Terry Aske
Score for Strings: City by Sherri Lynn Wood
Funnily enough, the two quilting classes that I took at QuiltCon focused on FMQ rather than SLQ and both teachers (Angela Walters and Krista Withers) told us that they love quilting the death out of quilts, both also turn off (or do not have) a stitch regulator. In fact, Krista told us to turn off our stitch regulators and give it a try if we normally used one. Now, if you pay thousands of dollars to travel around the world to be influenced, inspired and taught by some of your quilting heroes then you better damn well try what they say. So I did.
Diving Geese, quilted by Krista Withers, pieced by Katie Pedeson – won Best Machine Quilting, QuiltCon 2015
The above sampler was what I made in Krista’s class. It ain’t perfect but I learnt some really great things AND I turned off my stitch regulator. And it hasn’t come back on since. And I’ve stopped using rulers for most of my work. LIBERATING. If you quilt with a stitch regulator I implore you to turn that baby off and get out a practice piece and feel the difference.
After my class with Krista she asked if I would like one of her class samples (above). Would I?! I offered to fight Kathleen for it but she kindly let me have it (she did get a permanent marker-tattoo from Krista later that evening so it all evened up in the end!).
Since returning from my big trip to America and QuiltCon I have been trying to find balance in my life. It’s hard. But I’m doing better at it than I did last year. Between paying customer quilts I’m throwing a practice piece on the frame and pushing myself to just quilt to learn and improve my skills. My first piece post-QuiltCon clearly takes the lessons I learnt in Krista’s class.
My first practice piece post-QuiltCon
I look at this piece and I see more Krista in it than me. But I think that happens with quilting. You are influenced so heavily by what you’ve just been focusing on.
My first practice piece post-QuiltCon
My second piece post-QuiltCon I tried to be more me but taking on board my new skills and ideas. I LOVE it. It’s destined to live in our lounge room but I’m considering making it my entry to the Canberra Quilter’s Exhibition this year.
Second practise piece post-QuiltCon
I used a ruler for the diagonal lines but the rest was free-hand. I’m finding that by turning off the stitch regulator I have far more control. I’m still not marking my quilts which does lead so some imperfections but I love this quilt.
Quilting detail, second practice piece post-QuiltCon.
I used Essex linen in natural and did a heap of improv piecing. I used two layers of wadding for extra texture, 100% wool and 100% bamboo, both Matilda’s Own brand. Threads are Aurifil (2000, 2810 and 2535).
So there you go. QuiltCon has had a huge impact on my quilting mindset and influenced my style. I LOVED the two quilting classes I did and my enthusiasm and passion for quilting has soared out of sight. I’d love you to link up your quilting process this week, what you’ve been working on, your quilting process or a project that you’ve just finished!
This happens right. You discover instagram and your blog loses the love. Jet-lag is a bit of a killer too. But right now I have a moment to tell you about my trip to America last month and my experience at QuiltCon!!
QuiltCon was a really raw, emotional experience for me. I was INCREDIBLY anxious before I left. The last school pick up before I left I was literally hyperventilating in the car. I’m a seasoned traveller. I’ve travelled alone, as a child, with a newborn, pregnant with a toddler, I’ve done it all. But I haven’t put myself out there as a grown up, spent a heap of money and journed to the other side of the world to meet some of my quilting idols. The irrational part of my brain kept throwing in teasers about the plane crashing and never seeing my children again… Funnily enough once the journey started (with me high as a kite on car sickness tablets) and we had cancelled flights and lost baggage I totally found my cool. Practical problems are something I can solve.
I was lucky enough to travel and room with Jess, someone whose quilting I have long admired and now call a close friend. Jess and I had a few session volunteering together and a couple of classes – a highlight being the hug I got from Jacqui Gerring during setup despite warning her that I’d been in the same clothes for three days!
My first class at QuiltCon was “Join the Wave” with Angela Walters. I had originally signed up for a different class and this was an alternative offered when the original teacher was unable to attend. To be totally honest I did consider cancelling as the description was not really at my level and it was a sitdown midarm. However, Angela has an amazing reputation as a quilter AND she was my first quilting hero. The class was great. Angela IS an amazing teacher – I learn a lot from her about interacting with students. I also LOVE that she has personalised chocolate!!! I did find working at a sitdown machine frustrating, but I think that someone used to a DSM would find a day class on a longarm frustrating in the same way. You know what you should be able to do, but your hands and brain just aren’t connecting in the right way.
Angela Walter’s STUNNING samples in her class
During Angela’s class we shared machines and I had a fair amount of time to think. In fact, I had a bit of an epiphany (which was hilarious because when I met Christa that night the first thing she asked me was, “so what’s the world according to Gemma now?”)
Angela’s work is wholly recognisable. From the outside looking in, she has not compromised her style. Sitting in her class I realised that in the past twelve months I had compromised my quilting to the point that I just wasn’t making anything just for fun, just to improve my skills, just doing exactly what I wanted. I had put paying customers and my business before my creative needs, before my family, before everything. So I decided then and there to reduce the number of quilts I take in during 2015 to allow more time for my family and more time for me to develop my quilting skills.
Fast forward to the last day of QuiltCon and my last class which was with the one teacher that I was desperate to have a class with, Krista Withers. I was lucky enough to end up on a longarm by myself and in class with Jess, Kathleen and her Mum along with a heap of other talented quilters. It turns out that Krista is not only incredibly, mind-blowingly talented, she is also super cool and invited me out for dinner which I in turn extended to Jess and Kathleen and we were then joined by Lindsay and Dani. Eating at a place with “wine dive” in the name that makes gluten free fried chicken is a pretty good guarantee of fun, but we did in fact have an awesome evening. Being a group of women who all have creative businesses in one form or another, talk turned to valuing our work. And you know what? Kathleen blew my mind. Read her post here and then come back.
Krista Withers and I
So yeah. Kathleen has the smarts and essentially charges what she is worth whereas I have no business head on my shoulders, charge half of what I’m worth and spend time quilting quilts rather than with my children.
So you know what?
I went to QuiltCon and I realised that I am worth twice what I thought and that if I can actually find the courage to charge what I’m worth then I will have time to spend with my children.
And I know that it shouldn’t have taken a trip to America to realise that, because I have always thought that valuing what we do is important, but sitting around a table with a truckload of talent and hearing everyone’s thoughts and rates gave me the courage to really value my skills. Because they’re fecking awesome. And we are worth it. And if no one can afford me then I just get to quilt for fun and spend time with my family. Win-win.
Tomorrow for I Quilt (because I’m back baby!!) I’m going to share with you what I’ve been working on post quiltcon. Seriously inspired and stretching my skills. EXCITING!!!! I’ll also have a few more posts about QuiltCon because it just can’t be captured in one post!
It’s quite a while since my last post. The end of the year kind of did me in. All that crazy Christmas sewing and last minute customer quilts. I hope you didn’t miss me too much. Thank you to those who sent me an email to say hi! Today is Australia Day and I’m sharing my thoughts on being an Aussie Quilter.
Me in my studio
I’ve spent more of the past decade overseas than living in Australia. My children have spent more of their lives outside of their country and two of them are Australian’s by decent. I can tell you roughly what time it is in the US and UK thanks to my IG addiction and many of my bestest friends live overseas. I even became a quilter whilst living outside of Australia.
I hate vegimite (I don’t even know how to spell it!), can’t eat TimTams, have never eaten baked beans and even before I was gluten free I didn’t like toast or sandwiches. Thank goodness I love a good barbie (BBQ) or I’d barely qualify for citizenship!
My Aussie credentials are so poor at times that I question whether I am qualified to write a post on being an Aussie Quilter.
I grew up in a small town in the Aussie bush. Not the outback, not the city or the beach. A stunning area of subtropical rainforest, mountains and valleys. Our road was unsealed, the neighbours kept cattle and peacocks. Kangaroos, echidneas, wombats and possums all visited our 2 acres of land.
My Grandfather, who was born in a tent during the Depression, was a wool classer, for years he fed his family on rabbits caught by ferrets with his sons.
One of my most vivid childhood memories is the day our town burnt during the 1983 Ash Wednesday bushfires. I remember the helicopter urging us to evacuate. Driving out of town, through a valley and turning a corner into burnt forest.
As a teenager I swam in muddy lakes, camped in the bush, learnt to drive in the Queensland heat in a bright yellow toyota that was falling to pieces.
I’ve lived in houses built by my parents, in old Queensland houses raised on stilts, and in brick homes with mission brown wood paneling.
I’ve traveled through Asia seeking adventure, had two babies overseas, learnt three languages, cooked pavlovas, been on cultural exchange and finally settled in the nation’s capital. ‘The Bush Capital’ as it is affectionately known.
9 months pregnant at the 2008 Beijing Olympics
The more I travel the more I realise how essentially Australian I am. There is no place I would rather live than here and no time I would rather be in than now.
But I think quilters are cross-cultural beasts. I’ve been told that Australian quilts have a look to them, that they’re identifiable. I find this puzzling. Maybe we do have a sense of our history and culture in our quilts. For me, it is the palette of my surroundings that influences my quilts rather than the country in which I live or the nationality that I claim.
As much as I am grateful to no longer live in Noumea, I yearn for the palette of the Pacific. The aquas of the lagoon, the pinks of the dresses, the rich skin tones, the energy that pierces the air.
Canberra is very much subdued. I often traveled here as a child and I actually found the palette sickening. The deadening yellows of dry summer grasses, the threat and fear of fire that raised. The big sky and lack of rain clouds. Even the birds and insects sounded hot, tired and desperate. All of this no doubt heightened by the sticky car seats and lack of air conditioning and the hideous regional television stations.
Now that I am committed to this life in Canberra. Now that I have found the joy in it. I have realised that the colour, texture and inspiration is there. The smell of eucalyptus after rain. The detail of the tree bark. The rocky bush walks around my suburb. The absolute thrill of living in suburbia but having a view that puts me in mind of camping in the bush.
Next month I travel to America for the first time to attend QuiltCon. I suspect I may come back with a better understanding of what an Aussie Quilter is. But right now I feel like it is my personal history and my current surroundings that shape the quilter (and person) that I am. Especially as I introduce my children to life in Australia, to camping and spiders and stomping your feet to keep away snakes.
Camping near Canberra, Australia
Life is good.
Check out Angie’s Australia Day post to check out who else is talking about being an Aussie Quilter. Angie (below) is one of the many awesome Aussie quilters that I’ve met in the year since I’ve returned to Australia permanently.
Angie and I on our big quilty day out!