Monday, August 11, 2014

Taking Shape

 
 Despite masses of pumpkin vines all over the garden last summer, I only harvested 3 edible pumpkins.  This was my favourite.
 

 
Wedged beneath a fallen bough, it struggled on to maturity and formed a shape all of its own.  It was both delicious and a little bit poetic.   

 
As much as you can relate to a vegetable, I felt something for this one.  (A kindred spirit?)  I've been doing a fair bit of growing in unexpected ways lately, too.  Changing, being affected by change, working around things, working at things....
 
Some days I despair at being out of my comfort zone, off-kilter, tossed around on life's stormy seas (the pumpkin made me feel poetic, remember...?), and other days I delight in the new shapes and directions that I'm making and travelling, as I work my way through the tail-end of what has been a very transitional, transformational few years. I can see maturity at the end of it all... even if it's not quite the shape I imagined when I started.
 
And then I step into a fab new fabric store to teach a purse frame class, and everything is as it ought to be again.  Home.
 
I taught at Cotton Factory in Ballarat a few weeks ago.  What a lovely shop!!  They focus on classes and have an amazing schedule.  If you're within coo-ee of Ballarat, I'd recommend following them on every available social media stream, or simply popping in to see what's happening next.  I'll be teaching there again in November

These are the results of the purse frame class.
 
This weekend I'll be at Patch 'n Quilt in Gisborne, and there are classes coming up at Handmaker's Factory (Purse Frames, Customised Bags and Pattern-free Garments) and the CAE in Melbourne.  I'm looking forward to all of them.


I'm also working in my new job, and it's inspiring me in many ways.... including ideas for a new book, possible online classes or blog tutorials... although it's also keeping me so busy that there has been no time to flesh out any of those ideas.  Stay tuned.
 
In between, I've been doing a fair bit of this...
 
I hope that things are in good shape in your world.
 

Monday, June 16, 2014

When you're having fun...

I must be having an awful lot of fun lately, because the year is whizzing by.  Blink and another month has passed.  This time, I've barely taken a photo (so here's some I took while I was writing The Better Bag Maker... ahem... 18 months ago...).

I have had every intention of keeping my dear blog-readers up to date with upcoming classes and blog tour dates (and I'm yet to update the website with the class schedule for the next few months).  It seems that I get as far as Facebook and Twitter and somehow think that everyone has been informed.... .  Apparently, I have adapted a bit too well to the gnat's-attention-spanned world of social media.

So... The Blog tour for THE BETTER BAG MAKER....
We've had Pattern Review, Blogless Anna, Sew Mama Sew and Creative Bug so far. Check them out for some different views and reviews of my book.


The next blog to watch for the tour will be The Littlest Thistle (and of course, I'll pop notification up on Facebook and Twitter when the post is up and running).  It will give you another chance to win a copy of The Better Bag Maker (hard copy in the USA, digital elsewhere).

I also have to mention that Carmel wrote a lovely post about her pattern-testing for the most advanced bag in the book, the Toronto Convertible Backpack/Tote.  She isn't part of the official blog tour, but her beautiful work really ought to be seen by as many people as possible! While you're there, check out her modification of my Chunky Purse pattern.  She's a bit of a clever-clogs, that Carmel.

Fiona has also written a nice little review of her first bag project from the book.  Thanks Fiona! Glad you like it.


I've been happy to see that my book was briefly an Amazon #1 Bestseller!   ...ahem.. in the FASHION CRAFT SECTION. 

It's now sitting at #8 in the Fashion Craft Section.  Yes, that small niche section of the Amazon book market is narrowing down the field a tad in my favour.  The book is currently lurking around the lower end of the top 10,000 bestsellers of general books.  Let's be realistic.... but still, the #1 thing looked a bit nice there for a second or two!

Exaggerated self-congratulatory declarations aside, I've been truly touched and heartened by the lovely reviews on Amazon and the emails I've received from people around the world, who have bought and loved the book.  It takes time and effort to give positive feedback to someone you don't know (me), and I truly appreciate it when people go out of their way like this.  The book took more effort to write than most people can imagine (insert several background real-life stories here) and it's good to know that it was worth all the pain.  It's also heartening to know (after all these years of writing and teaching bag-making) that yes, I do know a thing or two about making bags.


The last month has seen me in a lot of classrooms



 
I've been teaching for private sewing groups, the Colac Quilters, CAE, Crumbz Crafts and my own YOU SEW GIRL gigs at GJ's.   There are more dates coming up at Handmaker's Factory, Patch 'n Quilt in Gisborne and Cotton Factory in Ballarat.
 

 

There have been bags and zips and purses and pattern-free garments...
 
 
 I've also been teaching in my new job as a Fashion Degree lecturer, and having lots of flashbacks to my own time as a fashion student

It's been a hectic few weeks of adapting to a new schedule: juggling school pick-ups and drop-offs and dinner-cooking and wholesale-business routines, reacquainting myself with my bicycle (the most efficient mode of peak-hour transport) and getting my head around what I need to teach (and how) to fit in with Fashion Degree assessment requirements.  It has been challenging, exhausting, inspiring and rewarding, all in one go. 

 
In between, as always, I'm squeezing in bits of real life simplicity and relaxation - hanging out with my girleen, harvesting and planting and weeding in the garden, knitting, dyeing yarn (my new thing!) and occasionally catching up with friends.
 
Below is what happens when blokey mates shrink their favourite jumper in the wash.... Felted, embroidered stubbie-holders made while-you-wait (or while-you-design-stuff-on-AutoCAD).  There are now 2 stubbie holders finished, with more jumper left for a couple more... or beer mats... or something.  I'll have to visit again.


 
 And I have plans for lots of knitting....
 

 
...before too much more time passes.
 

Monday, May 26, 2014

Hot tips for sewing like a professional ...and another giveaway (and a little bit about life and work, too).

I'm over at Sew Mama Sew at the moment, giving a few tips on the things that help create a professional finish in your sewing projects.  I'm also giving away a copy of my new book over there. And best of all, in the comments section, people are sharing their favourite sewing tips, too.  What a bonanza of a blog post it is... get over there NOW!

...and here we have another detail of one of the bags made while writing the book.  This is a version of the Melbourne Weekender, in denim and a hand-printed Pippiejoe fabric.
 
Meanwhile, behind the scenes of You Sew Girl....
 
Lately, the weeks seem to be flying past in a blur of workshop preparation and teaching, wound around parenting and house-keeping and general business-running.  I haven't had much time to look up or out. 
 
 
The biggest news in these parts is that I've been offered a new job... a real job (my Dad will be happy), and I've decided to take it on.  I'll be teaching in a Fashion College part-time. I can't help feeling like it was some sort of godsend. 
 
As the dust has been settling after the big move last year, I've been feeling absolutely ready to make more changes in the way that I do things, but not knowing exactly what form those changes might take.  I've been struggling with the fact that I love teaching and want to continue it, but that my product-development mojo appears to have gone walkies... so how do I keep YOU SEW GIRL going into the future?  
 
The new job offers a new direction that inspires and excites me, and I'll be able to continue my own classes and wholesaling the products that I already have. I might regain pattern-writing mojo or maybe I'll just write the occasional book... who knows?  But for now, I have something challenging and inspiring to sink my teeth into (and it will keep paying the bills!). It feels like the beginning of the next phase.  Exciting times, indeed!
 
While preparing lesson-plans and resources, I was surprised to see just how many geeky sewing and fashion technology books I own (this collection was just tidied up on the table one day... there's a 2-metre high bookshelf in the corner, with the rest of the collection bulging out). 
 
 
I've also been busy prepping for my own workshops and for the gigs booked around the traps with other businesses, guilds and sewing groups. There will one day be more photos of pattern-free clothing to show... I've been making, but not poncing about with the camera. 
 
On the home-front, we're fighting colds and can't seem to shake them, so have just been working around them.
 
The girleen has been using her time away from school to brush up her drawings of My Little Pony characters. (As impressed as I am with the likenesses, I'm lamenting the absence of her fantastic imagination in the artwork.... ).
 
In between bouts of cold, we managed a day out to ACMI, with the wee girl and her friend. 
 
We went to the DreamWorks exhibition, which was fantastic ... until the last bit (when they were hungry and tired).  The kids were made to wait about 10 minutes for their turn to use the much-anticipated animation software, and were then only given about 5 minutes (with a stress-inducing countdown of time-nearly-up) to get to understand the software and develop an animation.  They left feeling grumpy and frustrated and teary, because they barely had the background drawn when time was up.  It was beginning to look like a disastrous day (with nearly-nine-year-olds and their fragile emotions...).
 
As a cheer-up measure, we went out for sushi, regrouped and then hit the permanent exhibition at ACMI.  The kid's section there is full of excellent interactive activities, and they had a ball.


And then we hit the playground on a gorgeous Autumn day.... so all ended well.  Phew. 


And in between all of this, I've been knitting (and going to the dentist... which is where this photo was taken).
 
 
 
 
And so, life whizzes by... 
 
So before it passes... get over to that book giveaway and share your sewing tips! :)

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Launched and now on tour... with giveaways!

 What a lovely night we had last night... launching The Better Bag Maker
 
 
Fabulous local Craft Book retailers CAN DO BOOKS were there with copies of the book, especially flown-in for the launch.
 
 
My 80-something Dad even made the trip in from out of town, along with several sisters and cousins and a niece. I felt a bit special. 


There were superstars of the textile world chewing the fat...



And crafty blogging chicks enjoying a catch-up in the non-virtual world.


All in all, I think that everyone enjoyed a good chat, a glass or two of something (or in my case, three attempts at a glass of something, but actually only about a sip out of each before they were lost somewhere). 

I had lots of 30-second conversations and scribbled jibberish inside book covers.  By the end of the evening, I could barely string a sentence together.... but had a lovely time.  And today, a little 15-minute powernap turned into 3 hours of deep, deep sleep.  I think I was a tad exhausted.

 
So, now that it's out there, THE BETTER BAG MAKER is having a little tour.  You'll be able to read reviews or profiles or interviews about me and the book (and I'll be guest-posting for Sew Mama Sew), and at each stop on the blog tour, there are opportunities to win a copy of the book.  (The book will be digital copy, except in the USA, where hard copy is able to be posted to the winners).
 
If you pop over to Blogless Anna's blog right now, you'll see how she fared with her first attempts at making bags (and she deserves a medal for working from an enormous pile of unedited manuscript notes and separate digital files of images).  If you leave a comment on Anna's blog post, you'll be in the running to win a copy of the book. 
 
From there, you can follow the trail -
 2nd June – Creativebug
9th June – The Littlist Thistle
23rd May - Sew Mama Sew
23rd June – Curly Pops
30th June – Lola Nova
8th July – Ink & Spindle
15th July – Kicki G Just Nu (in Swedish.. but you can translate it online)
 
 
 

Continuing my show-and-tell of the bags that I made while I was developing the designs.... above is the first (button-less) sample of the Galapagos Boho.  I have been intending to put a button on it for over a year now, because I think I'd quite like to use this one.  
 
 

Above, is the back detail of the Seoul handbag.  It was the only one where I changed NOTHING from the first to the last sample.  It worked exactly as I wanted it to, first pop. 
 
This Avignon Traveller is the one that is in the book - with a stunning hand screen-printed panel by Ink and Spindle.  I have the original version of this as my overnight travel bag, but I keep forgetting to photograph it.
 
 
This is the original Lahti Flight Bag, in a Heather Bailey print that I'd had in the stash for years. 
 
 
The second version of the same bag is the one that I use for a carry-on luggage when I fly.  You can see it in action here at the boarding gate in Portland, Oregon (this time last year).... along with a bunch of other bags, a purse and a kid, all made by me. 

 
Good luck with the giveaways, and happy bag-making!

Thursday, May 1, 2014

The Better Bag Maker - Reviews and giveaways (and generally being out there in the world).

I set up a window display in Melbourne today.
 
It took hours.... and while I was lost in a  tangle of fishing line and climbing up and down a ladder, I watched as passers-by stopped and looked at my work (nobody seemed to notice me, which was lucky, because I was doing things like getting tangled in fishing line and dropping the scissors all the time). 

It was nice to see people being interested.  Nobody laughed and pointed.  Nobody mocked.  Phew! It's always a bit scary putting something out into the world, for anyone to judge.

And in the end, it all came together (sort of... I still want to tweak...). 

If you're in the city, you can see the display at the CAE info shop*, on the corner of Flinders Lane and Degraves St

*I'll be teaching a few classes at CAE over the next wee while.

 
There is a blog tour (with giveaways!) being organised as we speak, but while the finishing touches are being done to the schedule, we have a few early-starters for you. 
 
 
If you're not a PatternReview member... why are you not?  It's a fantastic resource for all things sewing, and basic membership is absolutely free ("Friends of PR" membership has extra benefits and is only about $30 a year).

 
 
I'm getting a little tired of showing the same old photos from the book, so here's a bit of 'behind the scenes' for you...

For every finished bag you see in the book, there were a few fully-developed samples made.  I like to refine and tweak each design, and know each project thoroughly before I start writing instructions. Then I make it again to test that my instructions make sense...and after that, I send the instructions to a pattern-tester to check it again.

This is the Toronto Convertible Tote/Backpack in Saffron Craig fabric and denim.
 


 
 And this is the Barcelona Satchel in a blue colour-way of Yardage Design's "Fans".
 

 
In the book, the Melbourne Weekender is in a Pippiejoe fabric, and here it is in another of Caitlin's gorgeous hand-printed fabrics. 
 
(Did you know that Caitlin has joined Ink&Spindle? What a wonderful one-stop-shop that is!) 
 
 
This Marrakesh Overnighter is actually the bag on the cover of the book, but I'm posting this photo here because (yes... again...) it was stolen from the Stash Books stand at the London Book Show.  
 
 
It's in very distinctive Kristen Doran fabric, and is a one-of-a-kind... so if you see it on the streets of your town, you know where it came from!
 
I'll be back with more news of the Blog Tour, but I can let you know that the first stop is one of my fabulous pattern-testers, and you'll be able to see other versions of the bags that are in the book.  Check out Blogless Anna.  She'll be posting her blog tour contribution next week!
 
You can see more of the bags on the Flickr group I created for the book.  Feel free to share your creations made from the designs in the book there.
 

 

Monday, April 28, 2014

Living and crafting and ... ahem... blogging.

It appears that I need a few extra hours in each day if I'm to return to the routine of regular blogging. Lately, it seems that thematically coherent posts (with occasional deep ponderings) remain in my head.  By the time I get around to blogging, it's all lightning tours and photo overloads, covering a month's worth of everything-in-my-life-but-not-much-detail. 
 
I do hope to remedy this soon, because I'm very glad to have the resource of my blog as a record of not just my work, but the life that goes on around it.  I don't want to lose that.
 
 
...but for now, here's the latest overview and photo-overload.  There is no coherent theme.
 
Please meet the new addition to the family (above).  Dolly, as she's fondly known, continues to scare the livin' bejaysus out of me as I catch her in my peripheral vision, lurking in my studio.  I think we may eventually get used to each other.
 

As much as I love my little half-scale dummy, it's nice to work on projects that don't need scaling up. 
 
 
The ongoing couch re-upholstering project continues (and looks a little more advanced in the photo below than it actually is), but that's a coherent, single-themed blog post for another day.
 
Today's story is about a fleeting spot of impromptu late-night quilting and cushion-making, which were a part of an Easter-weekend lounge-room craft binge.  Along with major upholstery works, the rag rug came out again and saw a bit of action, too.  The cushions were an afterthought.  I think I was eating too much chocolate.
 
Like the quilt, the quilted cushion covers are all made with Australian-designed fabrics.
 
 
Having recently finished a long-haul knitting project (a garment currently being blocked and yet to be photographed), I felt the need for a quick-fix.  I crocheted a Boteh Scarf for my sister in chunky cotton yarn... ahem*... over the Easter weekend.   
 
*Definitely too much chocolate.

 
I've also been playing a bit more with some new Pattern-free garment ideas
 
My late-night attempt to take a selfie with the iPad (with rag-rug-in-progress in the background) tells me that I need to set up a tripod and camera one bright sunshiney day, and take some photos that can show neckline draping and shoulder detail. 
 
Behold, a good photo of my boots....
  
 
There is a segue here, relating to pattern-free and photos, but it is completely unintentional and I don't want to use it as a literary (blogary?) device.  It's just another example of how everything lately brings me back to the recent passing of one of the very special people in my life. 
 
Denise Nestor, who's photographic work graces the cover of many Australian music albums and CD's, made my work rock in my book YOU SEW GIRL. Since then she became a much-loved friend and a shining light of positivity.  
 
 
My grieving process has included much contemplation of all Denise taught me. What keeps coming back is that even when we're faced with what might seem insurmountable, there are still things to make us feel happy and still reasons to hope.  Above all that, I've been thinking of the effect that we have on the lives of other people.... that we never know how far-reaching the effects of our words or actions might be, so it's best if we stick to spreading the good stuff.  Denise spread the good stuff, and I will miss our long chats over hot chocolates or pots of tea.
 
So, I guess if there's a theme to be had here, its that these are the things that have brought small joys or had some meaning to me over the last month.  These snapshots show the little moments... an overview of the good bits.  I hope that in sharing them, I'm spreading a bit of crafty goodness.
 
And I'll be back (at some point) with more on the teaching work I've been doing lately, and possibly a bit of other news.

Monday, March 31, 2014

..and then this book arrived....

There have been many different things going on here lately, all of which I've failed to adequately photograph or document for blogging purposes.  Amidst it all, I took this photo (below) the day the advance copy of my new book arrived, for Facebooking purposes. (I'm afraid the ease of speedy updates means that I spend more time there, these days). 
 
If you follow me on Facebook, you've probably already seen these sneaky-peeks into the bag designs that are in THE BETTER BAG-MAKER, but here are a few more words to accompany the images. 
 
 
The book is all about sewing bags with finesse, no matter if you're a beginner or a confident, experienced sewing whizz. 
 
The first part of the book is filled with information, tips and techniques that apply across the board with bag-making - interfacings, reducing bulk, neat topstitching and methods of constructing basic straps, pockets and bases. I also show you how to change the proportions of the one basic pattern to make bags of different shape, size and purpose.
 
Then there is a basic bag, to walk you through the processes of making the basic shape ...and you make a rather nice shopping tote (below, in fabric by Ink&Spindle). 

 
Then, using the same pattern, I start introducing new techniques for details on bags, beginning with simple drawstrings and bag rings... (like this happy little number in Curlypops fabric, below).
 
 
Then the details get a little more detailed as the skill-level increases.  This is designed to walk you through at a pace where you can gain confidence and expand your repertoire, but it also means that confident bag-makers can jump in anywhere and have a crack at learning something new, like fancy (and very well-finished) gusseted patch pockets.....

 
These are just some of the photos I snapped before the bags were sent to the publishers.  You can see a few of the real pics from the book (and more of the bag designs) on their Flickr page here.
 
 
You can see more of my photos and some of my pattern-tester's photos on a group I've started on Flickr here.  Feel free to join the group if you are interested.  You'll be able to share your own photos of bags made from the book, if you so desire.


I hope that some of my pattern-testers are more on the blogging ball than I am, lately, because they are now allowed to share the details of what they made while sifting through unedited piles of notes and separate files of images.  The all deserve medals for working with that unwieldy format. 
 
 
 
There were 6 projects cut from the book in the first edit (it was a page-count issue), and I'd like to thank the fabulous pattern testers who put in so much effort on these ones, but don't get to show them off.  Believe me, I know how you feel.  I'm trying to work around ways of using these designs and all this work in another format.
 
 
Stay tuned over the next few months.  I'm sure there will be more sneak-peeks, reviews and giveaways in the blogosphere, and I'll keep you posted on that.
 
In the meantime, I'm teaching a lot, around the traps, and must get back to organising a few things.  If you're interested in coming to a class, keep your eye on this page, (as well as on Facebook...).