Monday, August 19, 2019

Scars...not wounds.

Lately, I've been contemplating those heady days of the mid 00's, when I found myself in a vibrant and connected community of like-minded and crafty souls. Since then, many of those blogging buddies have become real-life friends, staying in touch across other digital platforms and real-life meetings instead of through blog posts, comments and late-night email conversations. The bonds that we formed over chats about knitting needles and ironing board covers remain solid.

In those early days, this blog was a mix of business, personal life and crafty hobbies. Sometimes I drew threads of connection between those. Other times, I would have a bit of a rant, promote a new product or event, or simply share a moment of joy.

Blogging gave me the habit of regularly reflecting on life, as I was living it. It served as an archive for photos of the things that my then-wee-girl and I were making and doing, as much as it connected my business to the world. It gave me the space to write - to craft sentences and play with words - and I loved it.

In the last few years, I've rarely had the ability to blog like I used to, and I've felt that loss acutely.

Times change.... Life has changed.

The social media landscape is completely different.

The "wee girl" is a teenager.

I've scaled YOU SEW GIRL right back - to mostly an Etsy store and a few teaching gigs.

Teaching in higher education has led me in exciting new directions (...fancy a lesson in Design Thinking, anyone...?).

The original You Sew Girl feels like a lifetime ago and I wonder how relevant blogging under this banner might be.  And yet, I still want to write here - in the old way... to pull the threads of life together - for myself, if for no other reason. Old habits, I suppose.

For the last few years, it's been difficult to find the time... but more than that - it's often been a struggle to find the words and pictures.

The other day, I heard the phrase "share from your scars, not your open wounds"  and it resonated. The conversation was about allowing for time and perspective before we can channel our experiences into something creative, so that other people can connect to them.  I realised that - unconsciously - this is indeed what I have been doing here (if perhaps not in real life!).

Life events in the last few years have often been such, that photographing and writing about my knitting, sewing or teaching has felt irrelevant and trite, but without the lens of pretty purses and crochet to help me talk about things, I felt that I would bleed all over the page if I tried to write.  I was stifled and stuck between these two hard places, awkwardly trying to work out what... and how... to share... when there was so much going on that I was trying to process.

Since starting my #chemostyle project, I'm more able to share the life/work journey.

I'm excited by the way that this project is taking shape, and value the experiences and connections that it is creating.  Soon, it will get a proper name and a social media space of its own.  I'm working on it!

And who knows? Maybe one day I'll start blogging here again, about my knitting and everyday life.

Or I might share a bit more about my machine embroidery.

By the way, if you'd like to join in on a #chemostyle hat-making workshop, the next one is 24th Aug.
Bookings here.

Sunday, July 14, 2019

Winter hats workshop (and a bit about life)

Winter is well and truly upon us here in Melbourne. Thankfully this year, I have a bit more hair on my head than I did last year.  It makes for tricky modelling of chemo hats, but here I am, doing my best to show off one of the newer styles we've been making in the last couple of  #chemostyle workshops. It's all about the tucks.

A few weeks ago, a lovely group of Australian Sewing Guild gals got together and whipped up a goodly pile of winter hats.

These have mostly already been distributed to Warringal Wig library, the Olivia Newton John Centre and a few individuals. There are a few other regional centres who are also in need of more hats, and we need to pump up the range of colours and styles that we have left here....

So I've organised this...

If you can use a sewing machine or overlocker, or are a dab hand with a rotary cutter, and want to do something to help people going through a really rough time, this might be for you (book here). 

If you need hats for yourself or someone you know, you're more than welcome to come along and make whatever you need. If you'd like to help add to the supply of hats going out to individual people, wig libraries, hospitals and other cancer support centres, please do come along.  

Please note that this isn't a "learn to sew" workshop. I really need you to already know how to use your machine and overlocker.

In other news, I've taught some fun workshops at My Sewing Supplies in Sydney ...

and the Horsham "Art Is " Festival in the last month or so.

 I haven't had time to share any of the details here because I've also been juggling a new teaching job around a few demanding real-life issues.

...Which is also why there is still no separate blog or sewing pattern download for these hats. I'm a one-woman show, so please be patient (no need to email for updates - I'll let you know when the patterns are ready!). I'm chipping away at things where I can, but it's slow-going.

If you can help me out by joining a hat workshop, that would be great!

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

Winter Hat Sewing Workshop

A quick heads-up that there'll be another #chemostyle workshop at GJ's Discount Fabrics on 27th April. You can book in here (it's free, but I need to know numbers).

If you would like to make hats for yourself or for someone you love, or if you'd like to contribute to the pool of hats for donation to cancer centres or people having treatment that causes hair loss, please come along. Details of what to bring etc are on the booking page.

We need some heavier knit fabrics for this, so if you have any offcuts of fleece, loop-back, ponte etc, please bring them along or drop them into GJ's beforehand and let me know.

Real life is a bit crazy here at the moment and I still haven't developed the patterns into anything digitally downloadable. Please be patient (don't email me for updates) - I absolutely do plan to do this, but I'm afraid that it will be over a longer timeframe than I'd prefer.  The workshops are a way of testing designs, patterns and workshop/distribution methods, and a way getting hats made for at least some of the people who need them.

If you know of a cancer centre in Australia that is in need of hats, please let me know.

Wednesday, March 6, 2019

Hat workshop #3

Thank you to everyone who has been generous and supportive of my little "free hats" initiative.  Hats have gone out to people through the Olivia Newton John Cancer and Wellness Centre, and I'm packaging up others to go to a few regional centres that people have flagged as "in need".

I've also done a couple of personal sessions (where people get to choose hats for themselves and I help with styling tips). I'd love to do more of these personal sessions, so if you know anyone around the Melbourne area who would like that, please put them in touch with me (chemostylehats at gmail dot com).

Work on patterns, websites and all the other background tasks for this project have been mostly on hold here the last few weeks, as I've been prepping and teaching classes full-time again in my day job, but I'm gearing up for our next workshop date at GJ's Discount Fabrics.

Our last workshop was a lovely day, where wonderful volunteers had great conversations, made meaningful connections and PUMPED OUT HATS like nobody's business!

If you'd like to come along to make hats for yourself, someone that you know, or simply to contribute to the pool of hats that are available for people who need them, please register here. (It's free, but we need to know numbers.)


Monday, January 28, 2019

The Chemo Hat Project - cont'd

I've organised another hat-making day for people who are experiencing hair loss through medical treatment. If you want to make hats for yourself, for someone you love or simply to add to the pool of hats available for donation to cancer centres, please do come along! It's on the 9th February at GJ's Discount Fabrics.

  You can sign up here (it's free, but I need to know numbers).

I'm still prototyping and tweaking both patterns and workshop methods, and gathering information and ideas that will help me to make a sustainable social enterprise that meets the needs of people going through the trauma of hair loss. 

Thank you to the wonderful group of women who came to my first workshop on the 15th December last year. 

Conversations and feedback forms at the last workshop have been incredibly helpful, and I have a survey here for anyone who has been through chemo or is a friend or relative of someone who has. All feedback is invaluable at this stage. 

For those of you further afield, I'm working on writing instructions and making patterns that can be downloaded. I'm yet to start on the web-based platforms needed to market and deliver them.

As much as I'd love for this to get off the ground immediately, I've had to accept that as a one-woman-show, building a sustainable, human-centred social enterprise is going to take time. I have to fit it in around work (to earn the sole income in the household), my own health needs (I'm still in treatment) and trying to give this kid a sense that life can be balanced and good. 

I will keep you posted on developments with patterns, and in the meantime, I welcome ideas and input.  I'd also love to hear your thoughts on branding/business name, and would love to hear of contacts* or information that might help me to get the social enterprise going faster and more effectively. 

If you or anyone you know would like to be a 'guinea pig' for a styling session with headwear, please contact me directly at chemostylehats [at] gmail dot com. This is a service that the survey is showing a need for, and I need to prototype and develop it.

*I'm already in conversations with Think Pink, Counterpart, The Cancer Council, Peter Mac and the Austin/ONJ Centre, and am volunteering with Look Good Feel Better. Plans to contact BCNA are afoot. If you have any other contacts for support organisations, cancer centres or social enterprise, please let me know

Over the New Year, I took my girl for a 2-day road trip to the North of the state, to show her where I grew up.  Here I am, standing in the Murray River, a year out from starting treatment, thinking how far I've travelled (in every sense) in the last year, and how many journeys there have been since I left this region at 16. I'm thankful that this year, I'm looking forward to getting on with life instead of just getting through. 

While we were in Strathmerton, I showed my girl the place where my life as a creative businessperson began. This is the site of what was once a the Community Craft Shop - run by a cooperative of locals who made and sold handmade goods - in the 70's and 80's. 

My Mum worked a day per month in the shop, and we kids could sell our sewing, drawing, macrame and other crafty works, with a mere 10% commission going to the shop. From the age of 7 to 14, this was how I earned my pocket money (which was mostly spent on fabric and plants.... not much has changed there!).

From little things, big things grow. 

Happy 2019, all.

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Helping out

Hair loss is traumatic at any time, but summer can be tricky for those who feel more comfortable covering up and/or accessorising. Knitted or lined hats can be too warm. and not everyone wants to wear a headscarf.

As I mentioned last week, at the beginning of this year, I had chemo through the stinking hot months of an Australian summer, and I found that what suited me best was unlined knit fabric hats (natural fibres, sometimes with spandex, sometimes not). I free-formed a heap of them for myself and had fun matching them to outfits and other accessories. I was determined to beat that poison with style!

As a part of my research into my potential new NFP/social enterprise, I've checked the supplies of suitable summer hats in a few "free hats" boxes in local cancer hospitals/support centres. There are certainly gaps in the "summer range", so I've organised a day where fabulously generous people can get together and sew some more, to help out. It's filling up fast, but if you want to be a part of it, you can still book in here.

We'll be testing a few patterns that I'm developing, and I'll be happy to hear people's stories and opinions on how/where they think my ideas would have the most "impact for good".

If you are suffering from hair loss and want to make hats for yourself - do come! If you have a cancer centre near you that could benefit - do come! If you have a friend who is going through treatment - come along! If you want to help make hats for me to distribute around Melbourne, you'd be more than welcome. All are more than welcome!

If you have any knit fabric offcuts that you would like to donate to the cause, they can be left at GJ's Discount Fabrics, or you can contact me directly (info at nicolemdesign dot com dot au).

We'll start with knit hats - so only knit fabrics are needed for this workshop. I'll consider peaked caps and brimmed hats (in woven fabrics) when I see how this workshop goes.

And if you missed last week's post, there is a survey HERE that I'd love to be filled out by anyone who has either lost hair through medical treatment or knows someone who has. It will help me to assess the needs of the people I'm trying to help.

And yes - I'll be moving this over to a new blog/website when I get it off the ground, and we can go back to normal YOU SEW GIRL business here.

Thursday, November 8, 2018

Life, Lemons and Sharing Stories.

Scrolling through old blog posts recently, I realised how much I miss the "behind the scenes" life and family news that I used to record here. Instagram gets more attention, but I miss this space for recording the details and my more considered thoughts.

My wee girl is about to become a teenager, and I've missed recording a huge chunk of her life. I've made LOTS of things that I haven't had the time or inclination to photograph. I've had a fabulous overseas holiday that I haven't mentioned here.

That's my girl in the orange. :) 

Real life has been a priority. Just living it....sometimes just surviving it... and everything worked around the constants of keeping home, family and work together. The last three years have been full of it. Great Big Real Life. All the good, bad, ugly and difficult, a lot of mundane and a few magic moments.

Exactly a year ago, I received the advance copies of my book, The Savvy Seamstress.

It was the same day that I received confirmation that the small lump that had been mammogrammed, ultrasounded and biopsied in the preceding weeks, was indeed cancer. I was one of the (approximately) 49 women in Australia to be diagnosed with breast cancer that day, and one of the "1 in 8" women who will be diagnosed with it in her lifetime.

I wasn't very interested in the box of books on my doorstep. Things quickly spiralled in a different direction.

I've been quite open about it on Instagram and Twitter - sharing images throughout chemo, and I'm still posting images of my ongoing art therapy journey. But for some reason, the slower, more considered reflection hasn't happened here on the blog.  And still, I don't even know where to start, except to say "check your boobs, girls!".

My early diagnosis was just a little too late to avoid chemotherapy (and a higher likelihood of recurrence) than had I checked a few months earlier, when it had crossed my mind but I didn't get around to it.

Check your boobs. Often.

I did a Look Good Feel Better workshop, and wholeheartedly agree that looking as good as I could made me feel as well as I could, under the circumstances. 

Years of making hats and sewing knit fabrics came together quickly for me, and I whipped up an endless supply of hats for every occasion and outfit. My treatment was through the hottest of summer months, so I didn't want knitted or crocheted yarn hats.

Dressing up made me feel better. Hats made me feel better.

Recently, I've been playing around with hat patterns and thinking about how I might make some sort of "impact for good" with them. At the moment, I'm assessing the needs of people who are going through chemo to see what might work best. If you or someone you know is going (or has been) through treatment, and can help me with a small 2-minute survey, please do so here.

Or maybe just share your stories. I'm interested. Email me at info at nicolemdesign dot com dot au. 

When I feel that my stitchy art therapy work is taking a more cohesive shape, I might write a post about it. In the meantime, you can see it on Insta and let me know what you think.

And yes - I'm much better now, thanks. I even have hair and eyelashes, and my prognosis is good.

Wishing you all health and happiness.
And reminding you to check your boobs.
xx Nikki