Friday, 13 June 2014

Dear Myself as a First Time Mum,

It's Tully's 6th birthday today. Your 6th anniversary as a mother. And I've had this letter in mind ever since our third baby was born. Because birthdays and new babies always bring up some of those memories of what you expected of yourself, and how things have turned out so differently than you hoped, but still, in a lot of good ways. I wanted to encourage you, to let you know you've done a good job. To tell you that some things will get easier and some harder. That some things will need to be let go. I wanted to write a list of everything I wish you could have known back then, but really can only be learned through experience.

You need to resign from your job as people pleaser.
And apply for the new job of finding what works for you. Parenting is demanding and boring. And lots of other things too. You will agonise over whether sewing is a waste of time and if you should be getting out more, visiting family more, hosting more. You'll think people who do the grocery shopping with 3 kids, who manage to fit playgroup, swimming and music lessons, and the daily school run, and work part time, are both insane and amazing. And they will look at you and ask you how you possibly do your life, with your sewing and homeschooling and church commitments. Deciding not to do it their way is not rejecting them, or telling them they're wrong, or even failing, it's just part of the process of figuring how to do your life. That's the gift you've been given, and it's also your new job.

You still hate baking.
Let me tell you, Jodi, that it has gotten easier baking with children as they've gotten older. So don't feel like you've failed as a mother when it all goes pear-shaped when Tully's 18 months old. There is so much time to give them all the experiences you want them to have as children. There are also some that you find easier than others. Gardening with kids drives you crazy, sewing is fun. Painting gets easier when they get older, but is completely frustrating when they're little and have short attention spans. If something fails, please don't take it personally. Enjoying life together means doing things you enjoy together. Besides, Tim likes to bake, ride bikes and take the kids to the beach, so let him do it.

There are no easy answers to the TV issue.
Or the discipline one, the education one, how many kids you should have, breastfeeding, cloth nappies, working mothers or anything else you thought you had figured out in your childless 20s. You'll decide which ones are non-negotiable (hardly any), and which ones need to be negotiated (most of them) in each season. It's ok to make decisions to make life easier (like using disposables and the tv in the morning and daycare) and also the ones that bring challenges, but fit your values, like homeschooling. And making those decisions doesn't mean they're made forever. You'll keep reassessing your values, challenging yourself, going easy on yourself. Using modern conveniences even though your parents survived without them doesn't make you soft, it probably makes you smart, and fortunate. Living according to your values, even though they differ from the mainstream doesn't make you hardcore. I think I'm learning that values that you truely hold for yourself are the ones that are motivating, whereas one you adhere to because you've borrowed them from others feel more like a whip.

They will sleep.
If I knew telling you to 'put those baby sleep books down' would work, I would beg you to, but right now, they are the only thing making you feel like you have any hope of regaining control of your life. But please know, you will get better at living without control. And it will get easier to build a routine. Eventually you'll replace the books with your own experience and confidence, and it will feel wonderful. Keep going. Its going to be ok.

Some days are a write off.
You will have days like today, where the visitors have left, Tim's taken the day off and the kids are full up on new toys and attention. And you make plans. Plans to write and to sew and to cross some things off that list. And suddenly the kids start fighting and wake the baby up and it all turns to poo. Sometimes it will just last the morning, sometimes all day, or all week. You will have months at a time that are spent contrary to your personality and desires. It happens and it sucks. Turn the TV on. Eat cake. Go outside. Call for help. Order home delivery. Live out of washing baskets for the next week. (actually, you'll do that even when things are good - who sorts washing when you can be sewing?) Lock yourself in the bathroom for 10 minutes. You're going to be ok. You're not doing permanent damage to your children, or yourself.

People who say enjoy it while it lasts are lying, and telling the truth.
As are the people who tell you it only gets harder. Nostalgia is fun for those that have the luxury of having everything you're experiencing now in their past. Each stage brings its own challenges and joys, but perhaps the biggest challenge is to be completely in each moment. There is beauty when they are snuggling asleep in your arms and when they learn to sleep on their own. When they ask a million questions and when they just want to figure it out on their own. When they want to spend time with you, and when they lose themselves for hours playing in their room. It can feel like you are doing everything poorly because everything you do is interrupted, and so everything still buzzes around in your head, waiting to be resolved. But somehow, if you can just put your list and your phone down (you'll be surprised at how much technology has crept into every crevice of your day) and pour your whole self into right now, you might not enjoy it all, but you might find more to enjoy.

Hang in there my dear friend. While it sometimes will feel like your kids are an interruption, an alien invasion, being at home with them also gives you the opportunity to shape your days and pursue interests you didn't have time for while single, albeit in an interrupted fashion! You will make new friends, feel terrible for abandoning others, sit out in the sun at lunch time, and watch movies under home-made quilts on rainy days. Practice thankfulness. And patience. And keep some chocolate hidden in your underwear drawer.

Love, You. xx

Saturday, 31 May 2014


I got this quilt top finished today while Tim was out with the kids. Another long-lingering resident of my WIP box, it only needed these final borders sewn on to be done! I'm amazed at how many things in that box are just short of the finish line. My machine is in desperate need for a service so I was extra motivated to get it finished so that I can be hand-quilting it while the beast is holidays.

The pattern is Rachel of Stitched in Color's Modern Medallion, which was part of a hand-stiched course I took a couple of years ago. I found making a medallion quilt challenging with my old machine. My 1/4" seams weren't accurate and each border didn't quite fit. I found the motivation to stitch the final decorative border when I heard my cousin was having a difficult pregnancy and, lo and behold, it fit perfectly! And then I must have got distracted. Finishing off Christmas presents and custom orders and being pregnant myself.
I kind of cheated with the finish. I didn't attempt the beautiful mitred corners that Rachel put in hers. And I used the leftover strips from my bed quilt rather than try to keep with the colour theme. All Anna Maria Horner prints go together, right?

Fin woke up while I was taking photos so I lay her on my pillow and kept snapping, hoping she'd forgive me for being distracted when I should be feeding her. Then she started giggling at the camera! You know that kind of breathing-in noise that escapes just before the stage where they can actually giggle?

So of course, I moved her to a much prettier backdrop where she completely stole the show.

People keep asking me how I get so much done with a baby in the house. I'm not quite sure myself!

Thursday, 29 May 2014


When I lived in the country, there was a paddock by the river near our home that I would walk around for quiet and exercise. Each morning, I would walk off the road and through the gate and a hundred grasshoppers would bound up in welcome and hop out of the way. It was my morning fanfare. Is it silly? It made me feel celebrated.

When I saw the Umbrella Prints Trimmings Challenge, the colours of the Floating World pack reminded me of those mornings. I'm sure you can imagine, seven years later, I don't quite get welcomed to the new day like that any more. I thought I would make myself a quilt to try and imbue that feeling. And butterflies were a far simpler and fun insect to stitch than grasshoppers!

I cut the the larger squares into rectangles, and then cut each print into half-rectangle triangles. which I sewed into the corners of 5" squares. I made each pair of triangles into a butterfly in a 9.5" block.

Then I laid them out randomly and filled the spaces between with a couple of low volume prints. I quilted it with wavy vertical lines reminiscent of the long grass in the paddock, and then bound it in Denyse Schmidt's Jagged Stripe. White was tempting, but I do love a strong border, don't you?

Then we took it to the beach for an afternoon walk and photos. The light on the water was amazing. Even the kids were transfixed (and transfixing). The clouds, the light on the yellow grass. And butterflies (!) fluttering over the shrubs in the sand dunes. It was that exact same feeling. A deep breath. A welcome. A fanfare. And this time I had these little people (and my faithful quilt holder) to share it with. These little darlings who greet me in the morning with dirty nappies and and hungry tummies.

And then that warm familiar voice reminded me. Even though I gave up those mornings for them. It's not their job to replace them. It's mine to introduce them to the same welcome.
We walked towards the sunset back to the car, and Evie said, "Do you know why God make the sunset pretty?"
"No, why?"
"Because he knows I like purple."

Yes he does, my sweet girl.

I'm entering my quilt in the Umbrella Prints Trimmings Challenge. All entrants will be pinned to the Challenge Pin Board where you can vote by pinning the photos from tomorrow afternoon (Friday, Aussie time). Judging by my blog feed, the collection will be amazing!

Tuesday, 27 May 2014

The WIP box.

Last year felt like a year of letting go. I lost a baby, I shut up my shop in town, I had even denied myself the blissful escape of fabric shopping for the year. When I fell pregnant again, it was a joyful, terrifying, intimate experience. But it also felt like a final breath. I was having my third child. This is where I would bid farewell to my time and inspiration. Good bye Jodi. I'll see you in 20 years.

Perhaps it sounds melodramatic, but I couldn't actually fathom ever feeling inspired again. It was like all my creative energy was going into making an alien life form. I stopped selling at markets, I sold all my stock on sale, I put the rest in this box. I had no idea if you were ever going to see me again.

There are lots of little deaths in motherhood. There is the death that comes with loss and dashed hopes, and the death that comes with hopes granted and the consequent lack of sleep. There's the death of one's agenda, personal space, confidence, drinking tea while still hot. I expected those again. What I didn't expect is a kind of resurrection. I didn't expect energy. Motivation. Enjoying my craft again. Maybe it's hormonal, maybe it's that sweet certainty (and fingers crossed - we've had surprises before) that this is the last. This is us now. We are in the next phase. The phase of moving on, and not always starting again, not always in limbo - will we, won't we... And maybe it is as many of my friends have said, that with the third, you feel like you finally have permission just to enjoy them. And enjoy them at home. Because that's where you all feel safe and ordered and creative. And any parts left of you from years gone that said you should be out, doing things that are REAL and IMPORTANT are more easily silenced.

And so, for the first time in over a year, my WIP box is not glaring down at me from the top shelf. It's down, on my sewing room floor, lid open. (actually, I think the lid has been stolen to be used as a shield) And I have ideas. Lots. Enough to make it feel like a little death when I recognise my limitations. But I am thankful for the death that's chosen and not the one that feels like a loss of identity, that is just too tired.

So this year, with a million, beautiful interruptions, my goal is to empty this box. Perhaps it's unrealistic, probably it will be put to one side when Finlay starts to teethe, to move, to eat lego. But right now, I'm enjoying having a goal that is not just to take each day at a time (though I want to do that too).

I'm sure there was something else I wanted to say but the baby has awoken. So I'll show off my first WIP box finish (and our beautiful coast) and chat more next time.

Jodi. xx

Wednesday, 14 May 2014

A new finish.

The kids are cleaning their teeth. The baby is awake but happy on my bed. Her crusty hour begins around now. So I'm taking this 2 second window to pop over, show off my CARE Circle Spinning Stars quilt before I put the big kids to bed and settle into an evening of breast feeding and old TV reruns.

I asked the CARE circle girls if they could make me a single Spinning Stars block with a green and aqua centre, white/low volume ring, and alternating yellow and orange corners. I arranged them to get the most contrast I could between the blocks. It was fun making this quilt again but in completely different colours. The main challenge? Anna Maria Horner doesn't have an inch square for scaling purposes on her template. We ended up struggling with block sizes a bit.

Oop. There goes the baby. I miss this space! But I do find Facebook and Instagram easier to update. Follow me there (@jotickle)!

Over and out. xx

Tuesday, 1 April 2014

The Fire Quilt Finish

It feels very surprising to finish a quilt with an almost 2 week old in the house. And something in me feels cautious sharing it here. Like we're breaking all the rules of chaotic life with a newborn. Like I'd be communicating that we're breezing through and I'm a total pro at this mother-of-three thing.

A few weeks ago, I was telling Tim that I felt like I was living as if I had 2 weeks left to live. That everything would end (and also begin) when the baby came. Life as we knew it, my self as I knew her. But in reality, I'm getting just as much sleep as when I was heavily pregnant, I'm thriving in the cooler Autumn temperatures, and my mum, sensing that I was getting twitchy after my fairly sedentary caesar recovery, has been pushing me back to the sewing machine.
"Sew! I'm only here this week! Make the most of it! Here, let me take the kids for a walk." Isn't she wonderful?

So while she's looked after the washing and the kids, I have spent the last few days feeding, snuggling, and stitching. I'm not sure what I'm going to do next week. But it's been a lovely reminder that life has not ended. It has in fact, continued, and I am still me, still needing to make space for colour and solitude when I can, in order to breathe.

 I've had this quilt-as-you-go quilt top sewn up for a while, made from squares generously sent to me from all over, when I put out the request about a year ago after my friends' house burned down. My friend Jodi and I sewed the squares together in bigger squares of four, basted them to scrap wadding, quilted them, trimmed them and arranged them into this light-to-dark composition. It took forever. But it was a great way to have 2 people make a quilt. And Jodi is a great person to make a quilt with.

 This week I asked another friend to come around and help me baste it, and then I spent the next couple of evenings tying it together with grey wool. I used an Ikea single doona cover, opened out, to back it, and yesterday managed to bind it, wash it and dry it, ready for our first family venture out of the house with a newborn. I figured Tim and Caitlin wouldn't mind us christening it as well as taking photos. A queen size quilt makes a great size picnic blanket!

And isn't it beautiful? Such a vast array of prints, styles, colours. All brought together so wonderfully (if we do say so!). I'm so thankful for a generous international community that is quick to jump in and participate. Thank you. I was truly humbled.

The venture was much more what you'd expect of an outing with a newborn. Fussy baby, excited children, local fish and chip shop closed much earlier than we got there. See? Not winning at everything. But we are having fun, mostly. And the colourful quilt and sunset over the city make up for the rest.

Wednesday, 26 March 2014

a quiet welcome

A caesarean is a very clinical, impersonal way to bring a baby into the world. We sat in a surgical waiting room, stripped down and dressed in hospital gowns, lined up in beds waiting for various operations. The man next to me had travelled a long way for his surgery. His wife came and wished me all the best and he was wheeled away. The man across from me had his cancelled due to high blood pressure. I prayed my blood pressure was normal.
Soon, we were moved to the 'little room of needles' just outside the operating theatre. It's my least favourite place, though the staff were so fun and friendly. We joked about middle names. Tim asked questions about needles. I asked him to stop. I sang a song to Tim about a spider and a fly so that I didn't faint while they put the spinal block in. I sang it quietly so that I didn't distract the anaesthetist. And by the time he was done and I was lying back on the bed, my legs were warm and heavy. It's the strangest feeling.

Tim had been checking in with me throughout the day about The Name. We had narrowed it down to two.
"Feelings on the name?"
"Yep, I think I'm settled, you?"
"Yep. Me too."
The conversation went like that every time. It's fun to have little moments like that, fun and intimate and understanding, that make you realise how much you love a person, that give you a side to your relationship you don't see often, maybe just a few times in a lifetime.

I was wheeled into theatre. Vomited. They gave me something for my blood pressure. I started to feel normal again. Well, as normal as you can knowing you're about to undergo surgery awake. I did feel excited. And terrified. I did enjoy the solid knowing, "Today I am going to meet you!" I did remember the awful recovery last time. I was incredibly thankful my mum had offered to take the big kids home with her so I could come home from hospital to a quiet house. And that Tim's mum had spent the week with us cooking and cleaning and letting me rest, letting me finish her quilt. (!)

Our baby was born around 12:30. She came out with a small cry and went back to sleep. And they lay her on the table, wiggling her purple body, giving her oxygen so she would take a deeper breath and expand her lungs. It would have been terrifying if it wasn't for the constant reassurance of the midwife: "This is really normal! She has a very strong heartbeat! She's just gone into shock and we need her to have a big cry!"

Cry Baby!
Her bird-like squawk filled the room and finally she was brought to my chest where I held her awkardly. I couldn't lift her with all the wires attached to me, to see her face, but I was so glad for the hospital policy which allows her to rest on me, skin to skin, after she's born. She lay there quietly and I spoke to her softly.

After miscarrying this time last year, I felt like I'd been pregnant for 15 months. I can't describe how good it felt to have this girl in my arms. And how that relief and thankfulness and affection has grown more as the wires were removed and the morphine wore off.

We named her Finlay Lucy Florence. Finlay meaning 'fair warrior', Lucy after my dear, creative, generous, tenacious friend, and also meaning 'bright'. And Florence? Well that was some colourful decoration just for me. A name I'd loved since reading about Florence Nightingale years ago. Florence means 'flourishing'. Naming a third child is challenging! And in the end I had to let go of all my concerns about style (it's so different to Eve!) and gender (it's traditionally a boy's name!) and just go with our favourite.

After 2 days in hospital, we came home to a beautifully empty house. And in the quiet, I think I just spent 3 days looking at her. And talking to her, singing, nursing, falling asleep on the sofa with her on my chest. I have never taken my babies in like I have taken her in. It has been deeply warm and calm and intimate. And today, when the noise returned, wonderful and homely though it is, I hardly said hello to her. It was all I could do to remember when she last fed. And when she squawked from the bedroom today during the kids' rest time, I thought, 'Oh, that's right, you're here now! And you're awake!"

And all through the day I have reflected, that though a planned date and a cut belly seem so far removed from the design of childbirth, the opposite of intimacy, this time it allowed me to organise what I needed - family who live away to help at the right time - to make it a truly intimate experience.

And her quilt? Finished just in time, 506 hand-stitched voile hexies, backed in Anna Maria's Loulouthi Flannel, and hand-quilted. I'm so glad I did this. It took several times longer than I expected and I would never have pushed through for any other reason. I feel like I have now been initiated into my craft - my first baby since becoming a sewist. My first completely hand-stitched quilt. Our own family heirloom.