Pay-it-forward

Not long after deciding to do 52 projects, I came across a friend’s post on facebook promising the first five respondents a hand-made item if they posted the same on their wall… thus joining a ‘Pay-it-forward’ movement of sorts. Since I was going to do a project each week, I thought I might as well give it a go and have five people to give some of my creations to. Responses tumbled in quicker than I expected!

I contacted my first five respondents and asked them to email me snaps of their favourite things: accessories, ornaments, home decor, clothing, hand-me-downs, artwork, fabric, jewelry etc. – anything really! I wanted to get a feel for their taste.  I also asked them to tell me about their favourite colour-schemes and if there were any colours, materials, etc that they particularly hate (eg. I hate anything animal print. I have a friend who hates pictures of butterflies).

Over the past year, these are the gifts I created as part of the Pay-It-Forward movement:

1. Mama A described her taste as classic, yet modern … “Audrey Hepburn” … The images she sent were of chandeliers, pearls and big shiny beads around a lamp-base. Since this woman always looks absolutely gorgeous, I decided to make her a piece of Carrie Bradshaw-inspired jewelry.

Of all the crafts and creative projects I attempted during my 52 Creative Projects, this was by far the hardest project I attempted. Little did I realise that merely enjoying wearing jewelry did not make me a jeweler! Making jewelry is so fiddely! It was a good thing I had mum-in-law on hand to help me with this mission!

2. Mama G likes pastel colours, yellow, lace, vintage. Easy! Me too! Since I knew this friend has her hands and heart full with a toddler and a bub, I decided to hand-bind a journal for her – with a vintage dress pattern on the cover – to pour her thoughts, dreams, fears and joys into.

3. Mama N said she like modern things with bright colours. Her house is extremely stylish and classy and I wanted to make something that would go well in her place. I took a while on this one, as our styles are quite different. Then recently I went to a curtain off-cut shop with mum and found the most lovely lush woven fabrics in black, beige and gold and decided to make her a tablecloth for their big diningroom table that features in all their big Jewish celebrations… A perfect house-warming present for her new home!

4. Mama L (yes another mama!) was going through a pretty hectic time after a recent break-up so I decided to spoil her with some home-made soup and a set of stitched stationary to brighten her day.

Unfortunately I never heard back from number 5 as she was busy saving lives (literally!)… One day I’d like to make her something special.

I quite enjoyed doing this pay-it-forward project inside my 52 Creative Projects… I wish I knew what other creative gifts were passed along through this lovely initiative! [If you have been part of a similar movement I’d love to hear your story too!]

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No princess throne in my house!

My last project brought up a few questions about my motives and philosophies around parenting. I had won an old princess-themed kids chair from a Recycled Kris-Kringle game, intending to re-upholstering it to match our lounge. In the mean time Belle started using the chair – and loved it!

One night, when she had gone to bed I set to work taking it apart to make it new. But I felt a tad guilty for changing it to my taste and style. Would it break her heart to find the chair changed? Did she love it for its size or its pink-princess look? (She is only 17 months – surely she does not have very clearly defined princess-prejudices?!) So I turned my dilemma to my facebook friends, and got some interesting replies:

A few design and interior-decorating type friends urged me to cover it asap. A few recommended I use the original cover to make something for her dolls – like a little cushion or quilt cover, but cover the chair with something nicer.

An interesting comment which really got me thinking was: “don’t get me started on Disney princesses and the socialisation of little girls…this way, Belle will have a beautiful, stylish “grown-up” chair, which makes her part of the company!” I agree. While I want my little girl to always feel loved, respected and beautiful, I guess it is also important for her to know that in this life she won’t be able to always have everything her way.

Belle did a double take the next day when she saw her chair (without any covering at that stage), but kept going. Later in the day she came and enquired after it in her toddler-way, and I let her play on it. She tried it out and was happy. Phew!

When princess Belle woke from her beauty sleep a few days later, she found a newly covered little couch instead of a throne… She tried it out and seemed pretty happy with it. Her and the cat now have constant battles over whose chair it is, and I don’t hate the thing for spoiling my lounge decor.

The upholstery might not be perfect, but I figure: My lounge – my style. One day she can decorate her lounge in her style (which I am sure won’t be princess-themed anyway as I am trying to teach her to have her own unique style and taste – not the commercial rubbish that gets thrown our way in the media!

All dressed up – in a tablecloth.

Spending time in Melbourne over summer meant frequenting craft markets with my brother and his wife: Warrandyte market on Saturday, and both Williamstown Craft market and Abbotsford Shirt & Skirt market on Sunday. I’d say that is a pretty good effort for one weekend!

As we strolled around I kept wondering what it was that drew us into some stalls – totally enchanted, why we perused others from a distance with a soft ‘hhmmm’, and others still were left completely ignored…

About half of the stalls sold baby goods: mostly little dresses, cute bibs, pantaloons, headbands, hairclips and accessories for little girls, as well as blankets and knitted toys. Had I not recently attempted my very first little girls’ dress and frilly pantaloons from a 1970’s pattern and polkadot fabric my grandma had sent all the way from South Africa, and found it a simple and quick task, I would have indulged and bought an insubordinate number of little frocks to doll up my daughter! Instead, I was keen to get back and get sewing on my latest project! (okay, and maybe find out where these stall holders sourced their gorgeous fabrics from!)

Earlier in the week – before embarking on the market spree – I had been given a vintage hand-sewn table-cloth. It had beautiful embroidered detail in the corners and stains in the middle. I realised that with a bit of tweaking I could probably turn it into a lovely pinafore for my little girl… I grabbed an old tea towel (which was headed for the bin) and cut that up as a mini test run to work out the pattern. Still not satisfied, I grabbed a very old pillowcase (which was headed for the bin too), and had another go with mum’s help, and some advice from my sis-in-law [I love how sewing projects tends to become a group effort!]. We worked out a plan and I started chopping up the table-cloth into four quarters: Three for the skirt and the fourth for the bodice.

I added some vintage gingham that I found in mum’s fabric stash from a distant aunt, which I used to tie the top and skirt together and for the straps. I then added some buttons and just like that project 53 was done (in the nick of time)!

50, 51…52 Creative Projects in 52 weeks!

I entered this year creating…. and set out to do so for 52 weeks. Sometimes I lagged behind, and sometimes I ran ahead of schedule. It is the last day of 2012 and I am 95% percent done with my last project (not wanting to wake bub by sewing the last bit!) I can’t believe I did 52 creative projects in 52 weeks! (probably one of very few – if not the only – new years resolution I have ever successfully kept!)

I learnt so many things along the way – about myself, about being a mum, about creative process, and about various crafts:

  • I couldn’t be too precious about my work: a week is a very short time. I had to get started and just keep going. There was no time to be a perfectionist.
  • I found inspiration in the most unexpected places: an old stained tablecloth, a moth-eaten map, a piece of lace, looking at the mist on Cockatoo Island, or cruising down the river in Chicago.
  • It is important to keep filling my creative tank by attending workshops, courses, markets, galleries and op-shops.
  • I love writing! (maybe that Journalism degree wasn’t a complete waste of money after all!)
  • If I don’t contemplate the complexities of a project too much, I forget to tell myself how difficult the projects will be, or that it requires a specialized skill… and so I just do it! (like re-upholstering a kids chair, baking a very fancy-looking cake and writing poetry!)
  • When I work consistently on creative pursuits I am more energetic, enthusiastic and motivated in other areas of life, than when I don’t.
  • I really enjoy stitching things together – especially paper, and fabric.
  • Just because I am a mum doesn’t mean I have to only do macaroni-on-a-paper-plate type art and craft!
  • Doing creative stuff on a regular basis helps me stay happy and healthy and intentional as a mum!
  • It helps to have a hubby who gets how important creative time and space is for my sanity.

Where to from here? Will I do it again? Doing creative projects have become a way of life for me now. I will keep doing it, but maybe take a slightly different angle this time (because I get bored pretty quickly when things get too predictable…)

2013 will see new challenges and projects… I hope to study Graphic Design, and I hope to grow Kettlestitchmama to become a community-space for moms who value their creative process. For more detail about the slant my creative projects will take next year, watch this space…