When You Don’t Feel Like Sewing

One of the hardest things about this year has been transitioning into quilting as my only job. When I started in 2016, it was an accidental business that was subsidized by the part-time job that I started at the same time. After 20 months of doing both things part-time, I felt that I wasn’t doing either thing to my fullest ability, so I had to make a choice. I chose this one — the one that was more creatively fulfilling, the one that worked better with the structure of my family life. But it was also the one without a consistent paycheck, the one that left me constantly questioning whether I was good enough.

Watercolour teacups, prompted by a CreativeBug class with Lisa Congdon.

After the Our Song, Your Reflection crowdfunding campaign was over, I was pretty exhausted and in need of a break. I didn’t sew for a long time, nor felt the desire to do so. I needed to reclaim my evenings. I needed a new hobby because my hobby had turned into my job.

Foliage with gouache paint in the style of Matisse, prompted by a CreativeBug class with Lisa Congdon.

Luckily, an email landed in my inbox earlier this month – a three-month CreativeBug subscription for $1. And there was a wealth of stuff there that I was happy to binge watch classes by Arounna Khounnoraj of BookhouJen Hewett, and Lisa Congdon.

And while I didn’t find my “sewjo” there, I was happy to explore new-to-me and re-discover ways of creating that weren’t directly related to my day job. I have always been a serial creative dabbler, I had most of the supplies already for creating my own rubber stamps and screenprinting ink, watercolour paints and paper, brushes, etc. It’s been energizing and exciting.

Carved rubber stamp, applied to a H&M dress for our neighbour’s 7th birthday.

Another thing that was also fun was inviting my kids into my creative world. Up till this point, I had it guarded from them — it was my little sanctuary that was away from the everyday. But now that there old enough to be somewhat reasonable about the materials and techniques, watching them derive joy from what also gives me joy is priceless. So much of their world is digital that they were so mesmerized by the mechanical nature of the sewing machine.

They were happy to paint cards for our family birthdays. And happy to stamp a favourite animal on a “fast-fashion” dress for their friend. Having them create something on a regular basis is something I need to work into our lives.

Watercolour geodes, from a class with Emma Whitte of Black Chalk Co.
The two kids’ versions to the right.

This week, I got a glimpse of my sewjo. I tried my hand at needle-turn applique and I think I’m hooked. Although I have a ton of other sewing work to do, I want to bring this exploration into a full quilt.

If you’re missing your sewjo, I encourage you to not worry about it and do something else. Explore some other creative endeavour, read a book (I would do this, but I don’t like reading!), spend some time outdoors, veg out for awhile. Cheryl Arkison has some fabulous tips to offer when your sewjo is gone (spoiler: #1 is to turn off your phone and the news), so go check out her post. And dabble away at where your creativity takes you.

English Paper Piecing & Watercolour on Fabric

I took a intro English Paper Piecing (EPP) workshop with Jenn of Quarter Inch from the Edge earlier this summer and found it to be a very satisfying process. Since then, I pondered what project would be good to explore EPP. I dabbled in fussy cutting, more linear rather than radial arrangements, solid colours — but nothing felt quite “me” untiI I listened to an interview with Ashley Nickels on the Crafty Planner podcast. I have been since following her Instagram feed closely and got a flash of inspiration late one night, a few days before my family vacation to California. I “needed” a travel project (right?), so I embarked to English paper piece some watercolour fabric.

First EPP attempt. I thought that the painted fabric would be a good background for it, but the intensity of the solids was too much for the airy watercolours.

Before I started working with fabric, watercolour was my favourite medium. It is quick and portable. The best part of it is the edge – where the colour meets the toothy, water-absorbent, weighty watercolour paper. That’s where some serious magic happens. As I was gawking at Ashley’s watercolour quilts that fateful night, I went down some Instagram rabbit hole and stumbled upon an image of some watercoloured paper hexagons featuring this very beautiful edge phenomenon. When I woke up the next day, I could not for the life of me find that image again. I searched for days and came up with nothing. Maybe it was a dream.

Ashley’s original technique uses fabric dyes to achieve vibrant and intense colours (check out her Creativebug class). I prefer low-stakes experiments when I’m starting out, so not spending a lot of money on paint and fabric helped me jump right into this process rather than having to figure out “proper” or best way to do things. I found this tutorial by Cami Graham of Tidbits and loosely followed it. I used some very old watercolour tube paints and Martha Stewart fabric medium, which turns any paint into fabric paint. For fabric, I used an old white pillowcase that was very much past its prime.

The painting process was quick and dirty.  I modified Cami’s process a bit to make sure that I got those edges that I seeking. It took me very little time, maybe half an hour or so. After air-drying the fabric, I machine-washed and dried it. It ended up losing some colour, but still retained those important edges.

I randomly cut the fabric into squares, then prepared the hexies for my very long three-leg journey from the East Coast of Canada to SoCal. I brought baby nail clippers to cut thread in place of scissors, in hopes that security would not confiscate them at the airport (and they didn’t!). After entertaining my boys for a bit of first plane ride, I pulled out the hexies. Some had the “edge” and some were all painted. I played with them like a puzzle, trying to line up the edge from hexagon to hexagon. And then…A coastline appeared. That’s what I was looking for; I just didn’t know it.

See the tiny islands in the sea to the left?

Inspiration comes from lots of places. This time it came from other artists, rabbit holes, and playing around. What will become of this piece? I have no idea. Will it become a series? I would like that. Will I return to it? I hope so. But for now, it will have to sit on the backburner.