Saturday, July 11, 2015

Say No to Made in China Challenge...

Hello again. just a little pre-warning that this is going to be one of my ranty posts. If you don't like ranty posts, look away. If you do, strap yourself in as its going to be a wild ride.

A few years ago I started my research for a project for my professional practice in communication. It centered around mass produced goods and their effect on how we consume and communicate. Needless to say, after a a month or so of putting the project together - 'Buy one Less', it effectively did my head in. The more I researched about the effects of cheap mass produced goods coming out of China the more scared it made me, but the more conscious it made me as well.

There are so many factors and angles to take into account with the act of purchasing a cheap mass produced product from China. Environmental, Human Rights, Political, Ethical and the list goes on.

I will try to tackle a few points here, but it is essentially only a summary.

At the moment here in Australia a news story has emerged. Our government tried to keep it under the radar, but the fact that its has been approved for a Chinese owned Coal mine the size of greater Sydney to be dug in one of our most productive food farming regions is criminal. The track record for Chinese owned enterprises is not a good one. Look at all the destruction in their own country, what they are doing in regions of South America and now they are being given a green light to do it here. Now, before you think, oh, it will be ok, they need to abide by our laws and regulations, think again. They don't. It will be a closed unit Chinese owned and run enterprise with very little involvement from Australia or our governing body. You know that 'free trade agreement' Tony Abbot signed, we have essentially signed away our rights on this one for cheap $2 t-shirts. Be afraid, be very afraid.

Currently we are facing a very scary prospect. The more allowed so called 'investment' from China is putting us in a very precarious position as we are a small country population wise but we are rich resources wise. But with that, they are resources that are damaging to the environment in the wrong hands. Mining coal and the subsequent burning of it for energy is not a long term viable energy option. We all know why, so I don't need to outline it here.

We are also a country that can produce good clean food. We should not be selling that off shore and importing cheap tainted food from other countries in return. I can not get my head around why we are shipping in tonnes of Chinese grown frozen veg to sell here when we are shipping tonnes of our own stuff over there....its 'cheap' If I hear 'Cheap Cheap' one more time I swear I will punch something.
I do not want to eat food that has come from environments with lesser checks, balances and safety standards that the ones here. I just can't see how its allowed. I do not want to eat food with high levels of heavy metals that is grown in contaminated ground water. I don't want to eat food that will give me scary illnesses like Hepatitis. So why is all of this allowed.

I can rant like this for ages and scratch my head and feel helpless and confused, but I'm not.
A while ago I started to check where things were coming from. One time when I was in the USA a few years back there was a movement in towns to get rid of all the Chinese made product in the residents homes. The USA has been pushing back on China for a few years now, Hillary Clinton said it well last week in one of her addresses - “Make no mistake – they know they’re in a competition, and they’re going to do everything they can to win it...”.As I have ranted about before, how you can now get Made In The USA products easily now that are affordable.

So, I started to look at where things were coming from in my home and how I could minimise giving my hard earned money to companies that manufacture on the cheap in China and to stop giving support to Chinese enterprises and to do a better job of buying local. I did a bit of an audit and realized that we were already doing pretty well. All our furniture is either vintage or made here in Australia by small businesses. Our stove, range hood, dishwasher, washing machine and vac are European made, all bought on sale. Where we fall down is the TV, Computer, Microwave and coffee machine. So, our plan is to use them til they die. We have no need to upgrade, they work and do their job.
Our heating and cooling is Australia made, we have a wood fired combustion heater that heats our whole house and our air con unit that came with the house when we bought it is made here.

So the big things in our home are pretty much sorted. The smaller things have been looked at too. Linens is a big one where you can get caught out. My towels were given to me on my 21st birthday by my mum and they are the good old Sheridan ones made in Australia. And because she gave me so many I still have and use them today, and they are great. I also have some Turkish made cotton towels that are lovely too, again bought on sale. Sheets etc, all the Chinese made stuff has been given to the op-shop. I now only have European or Indian made cotton bedding or vintage, love my op shop found Actil Aussie cotton sheets. Our doona is an Australian made wool one. We use cotton blankets from Turkey in summer. Turkish made linen is great. They are specialists in manchester production and supply most of Europe.  Our mattress is from a local factory that makes here. Pillows are from them too. Made locally, but can't be sure where the materials are made.

So after going through the linen press and bathroom, there is the kitchen. I emptied a load of stuff out that had accumulated over the years from living in many places. We now have what we need. Some is made in China, but it is used everyday. When it breaks, I will replace it with something that is a better choice.

Clothes. This was a bit easier than I thought. I don't own a lot of clothes. I am such a one trick pony when it comes to dressing. I wear what suits and i'm not really that into whats in fashion. I wear what I like. And when you break it down I have a load of striped t-shirts, denim shirts, jeans and nice tailoring. I also make a lot of my own clothes and buy when I travel. I don't go shopping anymore. It has been a long time since I went to a shopping center.
I wear one brand of jeans and have done for years as they fit. I'm short so finding jeans I can buy off the shelf in the right length are a godsend. They manufacture in Italy and India. Tick, no China. They are considered a bit pricey and have been criticized at times for wearing expensive jeans but I buy one pair every 2 years or so as they wear really well and are very good quality. My $200 pair of jeans will out last 4 pairs of cheaper ones. So in the end, I am ahead. I also pick up second hand ones too. My other trick is to dye my faded dark denim jeans black then I have my black jeans.

I have a few tailored jackets and nice coats that I have saved up for and 'invested' in. I know, investment clothing is a bit of a misnomer, but if you buy the right things they serve you really well. Origin, Italy and the USA. I remember my first big clothes purchase, It was when I was at uni and I waited tables for survival. I bought a Katherine Hamnett denim jacket. It was a great fit and cut and I always felt a million dollars when I wore it. It was a dark dyed navy blue with a short back and long front. I said to myself at the time I bought it, If I give myself a dollar every time I wear this I'll pay myself back in no-time. And it did. That amazing smart jacket took me every where. And I stupidly left it behind at a cafe in Paris and it was lost forever.

I think I have that type of wardrobe that editors tout, the 12 things every wardrobe needs. I have my black tailored smart jacket, a leather jacket, a trench coat, a few nice shirts, jeans that fit well in dark denim, striped tees, a hat, a pair of black stillettoes, cobbled boots and a go to black dress.  I think I could easily do the 30/30 challenge. Only 30 items of clothing for 30 days.

I have passed on all my clothing company freebies and samples to the op shop and things that no longer fit. I listed on e-bay all the other things and sold them. What I have now is a great functional array of clothes that I like, they fit and except for one or two things I have gotten rid of made in China out of my wardrobe. And those things are worn and used and are of good quality. And I saved money too. Why, I don't buy things unless I actually need them. And you really don't need much. I also say to myself, can I make it, and that is usually a yes.

The hounds. Their beds are from a cut up queen size futon that was made in Melbourne in the 90s that we used as a spare bed. I made their blankies from left over yarn I had. I make their coats. Snacks and food are from Aussie made and owned companies. Black Hawk and Savour Life. Leads, made in Australia. They are sorted.

General items, shampoo, soaps, cleaning products, laundry products, again, locally made and Australian owned. And not expensive either.

I have gotten to the point now where I check labels. If its not Aussie or from a supply chain outside of China it does not get bought unless its my only option. It is really easy to do now. And, its saved us money. So when people say oh its more expensive etc in the end its not. Better quality things last longer so you are not replacing them as often. More quality and costly things your look after them better as you have a different connection to them. If its cheap you tend to shrug your shoulders and go, oh well it was cheap. If you actually consiously buy something thats more expensive you will have it for longer and you will look after it more, or make and effort to sell it when you no longer have a need for it.

Clothing companies that sell the cheap stuff bank on this mentality that you won't return a cheap item if its faulty or losses shape etc after one wash as the average consumer will just go, who cares it was cheap. So they engineer into their product a 3 wash use by on the garments. So when it is saggy you go and buy another $15 dollar garment that you will wear a few times then chuck. Don't get suckered in.
So in that time of say 4 cheap $15 t-shirts you could have had one really nice one that lasts made from a nicer fabric with a better cut and fit for $60. Less resources, less waste. Lasts longer, washes and keeps color and shape for longer. I just hope we can educate our next generation that cheap is not good. Because cheap has hidden catches. And one of them is a future that is loaded with environmental destruction, carcionegenic chemicals in food and clothing and untenable deals with countries that are globally irresponsible.

So, i've become that annoying consumer that will ask - do you have anything that's not made in China? when I have to go to one of the Mass Mega warehouse type places as I feel I have been not given any other option these days. And the answer is usually no. So I walk and I try to find some other alternative. Or I will try and find an independent retailer, it doesn't hurt as much to give them my money. But it sucks. Even buying something simple like sticky tape is a challenge. So I ask, can you please find me a product that's not made in China? If we don't ask or don't try for change its never going to happen.

We need to send a message to the companies that manufacture in China that we no longer want this stuff and can you offer alternatives, we need to say, hey Australian government, we don't want Chinese investment and Chinese government owned enterprises operating in our back yard. We also don't think the Free Trade Agreement was really in our best interests for the long term as it will strip even more industries from our market place as competition against even cheaper product will kill off any or all small enterprises and give even less choice, and the only choices being from large corporations.

So, can you do the 'Say No to Made in China Challenge'?
Can you swap, sell, gumtree the things you on longer want or need. Can you divert decisions to buy things to better options?

Need any tips to get started? Got a tip to share?

Lets all have a crack.
Lets discuss.


I'm not saying don't buy it, but if you do, make sure you use it. If its clothing go for a quality option. There are plenty of things made in China that are of good quality, just avoid the cheap cheap stuff. If its the options available go for the best you can. Check the seams, are they stitched well, is the fabric a good weight is it a quality fabric. If you go for the better option that will last longer, it will slow down consumption. If you are going to buy, make sure you use it and wear it. And wear and use it more than once. Buy good quality basics, they might be a few dollars more each, but they will last longer and you will use them. 'Buy one less' ask your self do you need it? Will I wear it? Will I use it? Can I dispose of it in a way that's environmentally friendly? I have a made in China feather puffer vest. I wear it in winter nearly every day. Its my goto on a cold day and when walking the dogs. I could not find one that was not made in China so I bought the best one I could find, purchased on sale from a store that is Australian business and I will wear it till it dies. Its good quality and should last me many years of solid wear.

Crap is crap.
You don't need crap in your life.

Supply. At times if you can get around direct supply thats a good thing. What do I mean by direct and indirect supply. Direct supply is where an order is placed and goods are made and shipped out, a request for manufacturing. Indirect is where there are goods left over or remainders. If you can purchase from remainder you are not adding to another order for goods to be made and shipped as you are purchasing from left overs or surplus over orders. It slows down things a bit as no new stock is made. Try builders surplus yards, overstock centers, auctions, Job lotters, Second hand goods etc.

Supply Chain...have a look where things go, come from etc. Often if might be made here, but does the money stay here? It could be an Australian made item but is it an Australian company? Look for Australian made and owned if possible first. A lot of household products/grocery items are made here but are not Australian owned companies but large multinationals. Try IGA supermarkets for a wider selection of Australian made and owned options, Local grocers and local markets.

Is the product assembled here from imported items or just packaged here from imported items. This occurs with a lot of frozen goods. Check your labels. Imported frozen veg is usually from China.

Made in Australia clothing can still be made from Chinese fabrics. Companies that make here ethically can be found via Ethical Clothing Australia

Or better yet, make it yourself. Plenty of amazing patterns available these days for home sewing. Try for a list of pattern companies for mens, womens and kids patterns.

Fabrics - go to job lotters - These are the fabric stores that sell the left over fabrics or surplus from manufacturing. They are not placing orders to manufacture so it's a slightly better option. There are many very good independent fabric stores that sell top quality fabrics that are not from China. Try online for independent designers and printers. Buy vintage from businesses like mine, or get lucky at a market or auction or via de-stash sites. Only buy what you need, use what you buy. Gift and trade. Fabric is amazing how it has so many lives. There is plenty out there that you don't need to feed the manufacturing machine in China. If you are after new, opt for Japanese, Korean or American made craft and quilt fabrics. They are better quality too and use less nasty chemicals as their industries are regulated.

Monday, July 6, 2015

Trunk Show Sydney

I'm pleased to announce the first Sydney Trunk Show.

Running from the 20th to the 25th of July 2015.

Its in a great location in a fantastic warehouse studio in Annandale. Nice and central and close to public transport.

Trading from 11 til 4 each day.

Monday, May 25, 2015

Why do I bother....

I have been asked many times since I started my business 'why I bother'.

I find this a very hard question to hear for many reasons. I also find it a very complex question to answer.

I love what I do. It also challenges me on many levels. I get to indulge in something that I love but also I hope I create a small amount of change or to provide an option to mass produced fabrics. To foster and interest in the history of fabric and its design and to find beautiful and unique fabrics for people to love and create with.

First and foremost I love textiles. They have been a part of my life consciously since I was 13. I remember buying my first piece of fabric, a deep burgundy 70s style paisley. Then through my teens op-shopping and finding amazing fabrics and clothes that were to me unique.

I followed my love of design and fabrics into the fashion industry. It was a great time to be there, many Australian companies manufacturing locally. It was great to go visit your makers. Then slowly but surely the influence of China changed the way the industry operated. All of a sudden it became more about how cheap things could be rather than making a quality product. No more visiting your maker or overseeing a print job at the local screen printer. Slowly but surely these businesses disappeared and now I can count on one hand how any are left.

I too have become redundant in this world of fast fashion. My last full time job was outsourced to China. I am on the scrap heap of the destruction of the juggernaught of consumerism and throw away clothing. It's cheaper and easier to send a swatch to have copied in a factory in China than it is to design something. My 20 years of experience down the gurgler, now I fight to get what little work is available but there is another problem out there, junior 'designers' offering to do the work for next to nothing or companies getting 'interns' to do the work for close to free for experience. There is not a lot of work left and at times, I don't have it in me to fight anymore. It's soul destroying; almost offensive.

(There are also major issues with copyright all bundled up in here as well. From the organised counterfeiting operations to the manufacturers copying product on behalf of companies here to ones who copy product from images online and sell via trade fairs into western markets.)

So back to the 'why do I bother' question. This is a really achingly hard one to answer as it has so many facets both political, environmental, humanitarian and personal aspects to it.

I bother because I don't want to add to the problem of mass production of textiles.

These problems include environmental issues from water use to grow cotton to the pesticides used to 'push farm' cotton for greater yield. Then there are the issues of cotton harvesting, from children being forcibly removed from schools in Uzbekistan to supply cotton to the maw of Chinas manufacturing system to spit out cheap goods for 1st world countries.

Other factors are environmental. Chinas ground water is contaminated by heavy metals from dye run off from textile production and automotive industry/component manufacturing.  Now, think about those cheap groceries our large supermarket chains are selling that are grown in China. Grown in this contaminated ground water full of carcinogens. Then, think about all the food China purchases from us and other countries because it's not….. Just mull on that for a little while. (Or the farming land China is buying up here to produce food)

Have we become so obsessed by 'cheap' that we no longer care where it comes from or what it actually is or what it could be doing to us in the long run?

And if you have children or grandchildren, what about the dyes used to make those cheap cheerful clothes you don't pay much for, yep, they cause cancer and because our clothing companies don't do adequate checks, the factories in China wanting to cut corners use dyes that are illegal and cheap to make that cheap product that you think is a bargain.

This is a dual problem. The clothing companies push so hard for cheaper prices every year. The Walmart model, each year must be a % cheaper. So over time the factories cut more corners. The buyers here push harder for cheaper prices so they can get their sales bonuses and what we get is shitty toxic product that we wear a few times before it sags, fades, splits or goes out of fashion and ends up as a rag at the op-shop that they can't sell and have to find ways of disposing of it.

Oh, and that lovely little bit of text on the clothing care tag…Wash before wearing…
Thats because most product imported to here from China is laced with formaldehyde, also a carcinogen. And often when you open shipping containers full of product there are often a few dead rats in there too. They came over for the ride.

I laughed at that news story a few weeks ago that they shut down an illegal condom making operation in China that was making condoms out of materials that were toxic.

But as China changes we are seeing more countries emerge as manufacturers who are offering even cheaper production like Bangladesh, Cambodia and Indonesia. They are also happier to take on smaller orders making it even easier for businesses here to take advantage of cheap production.

Cheap is not cheap.

There have been a few docos made on the issue of fast fashion and clothing production in emerging economies over the past few years and another is about to be released on the 29th of this month - The True Cost.

After the destruction of Rana Plaza there was a flurry of conscious activity but again the noise has died down. There have been some positives come from that shocking industrial disaster - to put into context, Rana Plaza was the greatest industrial accident, even worse than any that occurred during the Industrial Revolution. But the dialogue needs to continue.

It needs to continue for many reasons. Not just global ones that are around environment, human rights and economic factors. We also need to think how this effects us here in Australia.
We have lost our manufacturing industry and we are also losing skills. We are losing jobs to China and they are in turn infiltrating our economy in a way that is making us far too reliant on them. Under the guise of 'free trade' that has in fact been very costly.

I find it very interesting and heartening that the USA is bringing manufacturing back. They know that they need jobs and to not be reliant on other countries for their goods. Yes they have a larger population but it does not mean that we can't look at them as a model to make some changes here. I love it that when I goto the USA I can buy Made in USA goods that are affordable and good quality. Undies, socks, tee shirts and quality outerwear. I stock up when I go. I wish I could do the same here like before.

I have a few pairs left of the older Bonds undies that were made in Australia. They are still going strong. I have pairs of the newer made in China ones and the elastic has gone and the fabric got holes in it after a few wears. And to add insult to injury, they off-shored manufacturing to make economic gains but put their prices up and lowered the quality.

So why do I bother, I bother to try and make a small difference, even if its just a drop in the ocean. Maybe that drop might create a small ripple. And maybe that ripple might make even just one person opt to not buy another cheap t-shirt or some more cheap fabric that was milled in China out of short staple cotton grown in Uzbekistan and harvested by children and dyed in a factory where the dye run off was tipped into the local water way.

There are other options out there that are better quality and are less resource intensive and are manufactured in a better supply chain.

One small change or action is a start. It all adds up.

I'll get off my shipping container full of soap now.

Monday, March 2, 2015

Sparkly New Blog...

Hi everyone, I have decided to put all my blogging and online activity in the one place from now on, over on my website.
Its just easier for me to manage everything all in the one spot.
It will still work the same, and I will still sprout stuff sporadically and, really the only thing that will change is the location. I will keep all this here too, but anything new will be in the new spot.

Hope to see you all over yonder.. Jen

A Piece of Cloth Blog

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Strip Tease - Quilt Top Re-work

I have a thing for buying up old quilt tops that are a bit....well...kinda on the ugly side.
Because in amongst the overall ugly there is a whole lot of good stuff just waiting to be cracked out and used.
It's a bit like those scenes in corny movies where the girl receptionist with the hair bun and thick glasses does her little undoing and flick of the long flowing hair and takes her glasses off to reveal shes a Vogue worthy model.
Thats what an ugly quilt top is for me. Its a beauty just waiting to be discovered.

So with that movie scene in mind and with these two finds, i'm calling this quilt top re-work the 'strip tease'.
I found these two tops the last time I was in the USA on a buying trip. They were made by the same person but judging from the fabrics about 5 years apart. They were both hand sewn (and she was a backstitcher....makes things slower to unpick as you can't just yank the threads out) with these great strips of scrappy blocks but had been inset with flannelette.
Now don't get me wrong, flannelette can be great for a quilt, but I don't like it when its mixed with cottons. I make quilts for babies and little tackers in flanny when I'm being the cool Aunty. But I don't like it when its shoved in and gets all ikky alongside nice crisp cotton.

Top 1 - Yellow and grey flanny
Top 2 -Blue floral flanny
Fritz - who can't stop parking his arse on everything
So I unpicked the strips and removed the flanny and I was left with 17 x 2 mt long strips of fantastic prints. Late 40s and early 50s. There are some great ones in this lot.

I decided to take about 20 cm off the end of each strip to make up a few more to get the top a bit more square in shape than rectangular

After this, all I had to do was stitch the strips together and now, no more ugly ducklings. As two tops become one, I like how this has panned out. Nice and easy too.
Stitching the strips

Trimming the ends

Strippy Strippy
I have now found this reclaimed quilt back of the same era. It was taken from a tied quilt that I restored the top to. That top has since gone to a new home. But the new owner didn't want this back. It really didn't match the top which is why I took it off in the first place, it was added on at a much later date to a late 1800s top. I love a bit of wacky, but this just wasn't right.

So, I might finish this one off and put it on the spare bed in the back room. We haven't had the spare room for a few years as it was my office for ages but now the office is in the studio.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Put a Pom Pom On It….

I kinda went a bit pom pom crazy the other day.
I bought some pom pom makers for my friends little girl to come and have craft'a'noon's in the studio. So I dug about in the stash and found this bag of wool crewel embroidery skeins that I bought at a country church fete about 20 years ago. You know one of those purchases that you make thinking….yeah, i'm gonna do something awesome with this stuff…..and it gets shoved to the back of the storage area and forgotten about for the next 2 decades.
So out it came, piles of colours, but many in the landscape vein, so lots of browns and greens.
I thought, well I better make me one of these suckers before she comes over so I know how to show her. So I wound up some balls in random colours and tied the ends together and started winding onto the pom pom maker.  It was a stinking hot day too, and I was sitting under the awning on the out door couch with a beer or 2 and I just kept making….they are weirdly addictive. (perhaps I was a little tipsy too)
A few days later I was looking at the pile of pom poms thinking what can I do with these…i've kinda gone a bit cray cray making them…
So I made a wreath. The pom poms sitting on the table were sorta in a circle and my neighbours have put a holly wreath on their front door and I put one and two together and well, this is the wacky result.
It's kinda out there for me, but its kooky and kinda fun and I think pom poms are the new birds. So put a pom pom on it I say!

So, what you need…
A pom pom maker or 2, I used 3 different sizes I bought in a kit from a craft store.
Scrap yarn. You need a fair bit.
A crochet hook
And a few other tools if you need them. I found a scalpel and a box cutter handy. It was easier to slice the yarn when it came time to cutting than using scissors to snip. Do not do this short cut if you are doing this with kids….I'm an adult and I cut myself. (possibly beer related…do not drink and craft??)

Make a pile of pom poms…trust me, one is not enough. When you have a nice amount together to form a squishy circle, start this bit.

Using wire, the wire I used was some twistable wire a bit thicker than florist wire that I already had. If you need to buy wire, I recommend getting one a bit heavier and then you won't need to do this step twice.
1. Snip the end of the wire with your pliers and thread the pom poms on. Repeat this step if you are using thinner wire that doesn't hold its shape so well like I did. If you need to do it twice, twist your wire between the pom poms to make it stronger.
2. Take the ends and twist together to hold all your pom poms on. Make sure you do this tightly and push your pom poms together to form a nice firm circle.
3. With your left over wire ends, make a loop - for hanging - and twist the wire down into the top pom pom so you don't see the join. Snip off any excess.
4. With some yarn, cover the wire loop, I bound mine like doing blanket stitch, where you loop the yarn through to cover over the wire.
5. Take another length of yarn and do a single crochet chain. This is what I did to hang my dangly pom poms.
6. Cut your chain into lengths and thread pom poms on and tie off.
7. Tie the chains around the gap between the bottom 2 pom poms on the wreath.
8. Dangle as many poms as you want. Go on I dare you.

You now have a super pom pom covered door decoration.
And if you are like me, busted a pile of stuff gathering dust in the stash.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Starting the Discussion

Over the past few days I have started having the discussion with people about 'copying'.
I am comforted about how passionate people in small business and creative fields are about this subject. Some of the statements and thought threads that have come out of these discussions...

"Knowing that (insert business name here) are watching me shits me to tears, why can they not just go get a life and get their own ideas."

"People and big businesses who copy are bullies."

"Copy cats are just ugly human beings."

"I feel sorry for people who have to copy, especially when they tout that they are 'creative' but all they are doing is plucking ideas of the internet..."

"The copying thing is rampant. I can't stand it when (insert creative business) copies another (insert creative business) and thinks they can get away with it, you can do a google search and similar images pop up from (insert creative business)....

Out of all of the discussions and responses not one was positive from the first group I spoke to that were all currently working or had walked away from the creative industries and had come from a trained background. By trained I mean they have all been through higher education in their fields. Degree, Masters, Phd's etc.
An education in your creative field gives you the understanding of idea creation and the importance of idea protection. You are also trained to seek out original solutions and work to your own creative responses. You are also taught about the importance of copyright.

I had a similar discussion with people working in creative or crafting fields who had not had a formal art/design education and the some of the views were surprising. Many responses were like the first group but about a third were interesting.

"I can do what ever I want I paid for that pattern"

"I saw it and liked it and thought why not"

"I only sell at markets and a few stores here and there, no one will notice"

 "Changing the colors makes it different"

"Oh yeah its crap, but what can you do about it, nothing so you might as well join them"

Are these comments from a lack of understanding of copyright and how it works? Or are they from the fact that it's rampant and we are just so used to it?
Or is it that we no longer partake in critical discussion about this issue as aspects of social media have made it very difficult to tackle without it turning into an online social media war.

Yes, we can argue the point of view that nothing is new, or that trends and themes are re-hashed and updated and renewed in times of change and progress. We can also refer to 'collective conscious' where if you are presented with similar materials and have a similar skill set you can derive from that a similar out come.
But you cannot take the view that it's ok to mimic other businesses/designers/works for financial gain as your business model. Cause, ya know, its not all unicorns farting rainbows out there, some of us need to pay our mortgage and make a living and if you have a bigger bully copying your work and selling it for cheaper to the masses you don't stand a chance.

So how do we start to fix this known problem? How do we start to do this without it getting 'ugly'.
How do we start the discussion?


Thursday, November 20, 2014

Copy Rats…and the next big thing...

There has been an awful lot of 'copying' going on in this little world of ours. I know that personally I have been a victim of it and still are, but so have my fellow peers. It's really sad to see.
I guess as a designer you get used to the big guys (large chain and department stores) swooping in on a product at a market or trade show. You feel powerless to do anything about it. Or an image swiped off your website. The silly thing is these companies name their IP addresses so you can see who and when the image was downloaded or what pages they viewed. You maybe used to it, but it still makes you angry especially when you see one of your designs end up in a chain store that mass manufactures in China and sells it for next to nothing. 
Why so cheap? Well for starters they are not employing designers and they are sending all work off shore.
I know when I had my studio open to the public I had a few unwelcome visitors with their phones out sapping images of my fabrics. When approached they ran the hell out of there. I do know who you work for.
But fighting the big guys is practically impossible, unless you have loads of cash and lots of time to spend in long drawn out deliberations.
I know when I have spoken to my solicitor about such matters In the past I had to weigh up the financial cost. I don't have a spare $$$ to get the ball rolling, so you put it down to experience and move on.

However, there is a more gloomy side to this post. My heart breaks when I see one small business copying another small business. Or when one independent designer copies another. The world is too small now for these things to go unnoticed. 
And if the victim speaks up about it the ensuing social media war is torrid. I have read through many a she said he said social media stream only to be left exhausted.
But the thing to remember here is breaching copyright is breaking the law. Taking another persons product, concept or idea and passing it off as your own is theft. Worse when its done for financial gain. You might as well just walk up to the originator of the design and take a $50 out of their wallet.
Little things like distributing a pattern that is sold to you is another breach. Again, take that $14.95 out of the designers wallet. Every time that pattern is shared or put up on a group forum that designer is losing out.

Copyright is there for a reason. It protects us. It protects the designer or originator but it also protects you as a consumer. If you like to have a choice in the things you enjoy then opt for a world without copyright theft. Why…if companies continually copy each other we no longer have choices, it all starts to look the same. The more small independents get ripped off the less likely they will continue to create interesting products for you to enjoy. The smaller makers will not be able to continue to produce product as they will not be able to compete with the big guys and mass market production. The flow on effect, less jobs, less skills, less opportunities.

It's time to have a few more conversations that are constructive about copyright issues, especially in design based small business that don't turn into heated arguments. It's time to educate students about the implications of copyright and to get them to understand what is right and wrong when entering the work force. Just because a buyer tells you to copy another product does not make it right, it is very wrong. Or if you are given a brief and you are told to copy the image that was stripped from the internet. There are so many bad practices out there that we are too scared to speak about so they are shied away from and therefore the thief gets away with it and the victim suffers a loss. We need to be conversing about these issues in a positive way to change and educate and to police ourselves in our own practices.

So if you have been wondering what I will do next since I gave up commercial design work, this is it.
I am going back to Uni to study Law. Yep, long hard dry Law. Why, because I want to become an IP specialist and work with creatives to protect them from the people who copy them. To protect the little guy from the people who steal ideas and concepts, who stalk other businesses web sites and steal content, all those things that copy rats seem to think are ok….well, it's not. 

I'm going to embark on a journey of creative advocacy….I'll be hitting the books in a big way, but I will still be running my studio as normal.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014


There was a big event yesterday. The twin nephews were born. Everyone is healthy and well.

But the thing that makes this stranger is they were born on my birthday.

My birthday has always been a day that makes me feel anxious and out of sorts. Why I don't really celebrate it in any big way.
Its a day that reminds me of the fact that I exist in some sort of cross ways point between one family, another and one that I know nothing about.
That also my existence is a problem for many. I am a secret, shame, something best left buried. By even asking a question I cause issues.
Lately there have been many programs and articles on the subject of 'identity', also more coverage on adoption. I have at times struggled in my life with 'identity'. I grew up in one family but I was a produced in another environment under not so great conditions. I have a biological mother and somewhere out there a biological father that no one will talk about.
A photo was posted onto Facebook this morning and it popped up in my feed through one of these strange connections an adoptee has. It was a family photo. There was my half biological sister and brother. My biological mother standing behind them with her husband. The photo also has 2 other families. The children linked to me by this connection. I could have been in that photo. Sitting there in the group shot taken possibly on christmas day. Are they my cousins? I am the oldest sister. The oldest of all the kids in that photo and I am not there. I was having a christmas day with my family.
I don't have any images of my biological mother. I enlarged the photo and had a good look, trying to find links. Trying to see a likeness. I can see the likeness in my bother of his father. The twig didn't fall far from the tree.
I look at her sharp face, the only one in that photo not smiling, standing back from the group. It tells me a lot about her in a way. But I am only assuming, but something about that photo answers some questions for me. It's a pattern, people don't want anything to do with her. My aunt doesn't and my brother doesn't either. But because of this, some people want nothing to do with me as I am a product of this. I am part of the problem.
As an adoptee you grow up with so many questions. You wonder where you fit. I never felt like I fitted in with my adoptive family. I was too creative, out spoken, head strong. Things my parents never really got the hang of. I was never close to my adoptive brother so I felt pretty much alone in the whole thing. At the time, I didn't know that much of my tense feelings about it all was anxiety, but anxiety is common amongst adoptees. I have battled with anxiety most of my life. I have learned to cope with it now but I still have my bad days. The days when you take a deep breath and pluck up the courage to take another step into this crazy world that I have been thrust into. That by asking a question you never know what level of hurt or trouble you are going to cause while all you want to do it find out about who you are. So I don't fit in one, i'm absent from the other but I do have my own 'family' the one I have created. My wonderful friends, my amazing husband and his lovely close knit family, I am a part of this one and I don't have to ask any questions to find out where I fit as I just know that I fit and I am accepted for who I am, the good and the bad bits. No one is trying to hide me or silence me from speaking. No one is telling me I ruined their life. No one is wishing I never existed.

So now, we have 2 new little lives born on this day. They are born into a new family, one that my brother has created with his partner. One that they are creating without our biological mother.
My birthday has taken on a new dimension, it it now a day that is happy because it is celebrating these 2 little guys.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Simple Bold Babies Blanket + Pattern

I am really excited about the arrival of the new twins. Not just because new arrivals are exciting in themselves but these 2 new little boys when they arrive are my first new blood relatives and I will be their half aunty. I don't feel I can say full auntie as I am the half long lost sister of my biological brother. Yeah all this adoption stuff is confusing.
Anyhoo... I was going to make a quilt from my stash of vintage seersucker when I first found out my brothers partner was pregnant.
But then they let everyone know it was twins...ok so 2 quilts thats cool....but then it was 2 boys.
Ok, that threw a bit of a spanner in the works as my seersucker was a decidedly girly stash of fabrics.
I ummed and ahhed about a few other ideas and rummaged in my stash. Played with some stuff but just wasn't feeling it. Even whipped together a pile of 1960s 4 patch blocks into 2 cot quilt sized tops but again, it just wasn't working for me, also just because I like vintage doesn't mean everyone else does. Sometimes you need to take into account the recipients decor etc. I opted to go for something a bit more modern so I went back into the store room, rummaged in boxes of yarn and came up with these blankets.
The design has been dictated by what colours and quantity of yarn I had on hand. I am trying to only use what I have I my stash for everything over the next year as I HAVE WAY TOO MUCH STUFF.

This is the pattern. I made 2 blankets in the same pattern but with different colours and shared the contrast across the 2 blankets. Its for twins so one can be green the other yellow but they have the same tie in. Both approx 42 x 54 inches each.

The yarn I used was a chunky/bulky weight cotton/acrylic in 100 gram balls from Katia but this yarn is from a long time ago over 15 years. I think I got it originally to make a blanket when I was living up north and it was warm at night. Not sure what is around these days, but a cotton acrylic blend chunky weight yarn is great for kids stuff as its machine washable and light even though its thick yarn.
You could also use 2 strands of DK/8ply together and there are plenty of cotton blends on the market in that weight in good colours.

Colour Way 1
2 1/2 Mid Blue
2 Balls Aqua
2 Balls Green
1/2 Ball Navy
1/2 Ball Ecru

Colour Way 2
2 1/2 Balls Mid Blue
2 Balls Aqua
2 Balls Yellow
1/2 Ball Navy
1/2 Ball Ecru

Abbreviations I use:
K -Knit
P - Purl
YO - Yarn Over
R2D2 - This is what I call my ridged stitch. Slip 2 stitches Together Knit wise. Knit one, pass the 2 slipped stitches over and this makes the Ridge.
ES - Edge Stitch. I slip one stitch Purl wise at the start of a Knit row and Slip one stitch Knit wise at the start of a Purl row.
SSK, Slip, Slip, Knit
K2T - Knit 2 together

7mm Needles - I used a long circular needle.
Tension isn't really an issue with this pattern, just knit it then wet block it to a good size for a cot.

Cast on in Colour 1 - 99 Stitches using the long tail method cast on.
I prefer this cast on as it gives a really nice edge.
Good Tutorial here on this method.

Set up your pattern:
ES 1, SSK, K 10, (YO, K 1, YO, K 10, R2D2, K10) to last 14 stitches, YO, K1, YO, Knit 10, K2T, K1.
Row 2 - ES 1, PURL all stitches taking care to purl all your YO's into the front of the loop on the needle.
These 2 rows make up your pattern. Repeat.

Yarn Over, Knit One, Yarn Over (YO, K1, YO)


Pattern Colour Rows:
I knit 24 rows each colour as that is what I got out of each ball. Knit til your ball runs out?
Colour 1 - 24 rows pattern
Colour 2 - 24 rows pattern
Colour 3 - 24 rows pattern
Repeat one more time

Contrast 4 Knit 2 rows pattern
Contrast 5 Knit 2 rows pattern
Repeat 5 times
Contrast 4 Knit 2 rows pattern

Colour 1 Knit 4 Rows Pattern
Cast off loosely.

Stitch all your ends in.
Wet Block with blocking wires giving the blanket a good stretch across to approx 40 to 42 inches wide.

Colour Suggestions for girls:
Red, Orange, Pink with Purple and Ecru Contrast
Yellow, Aqua, Pink with Blue and White Contrast

Saturday, September 13, 2014

The Urge to Purge...

Since moving my business to a new studio I have had loads of stuff to sort out. (kind of an embarrassing amount of stuff)
My original studio was also a building we used for storage before it was opened up so we had boxes of things stored there as well as we traveled so often.
We have been renovating and trying to sort things out for the house and I have been sorting stock piles of things out of the studio.
My thought process on this all was if I couldn't re-use it, re-work it, find a new home or good use for it, it had to go.

I have given away a good two thirds of my clothes. And it was funny as the ones I said goodbye to were all the freebies and samples I had from working in the clothing industry. They were not the best quality and many had after a few washes become a bit saggy, faded or just looked tired. A really sad state of the quality of clothing made for the Australian market. So off they went to the op shop or I sold the better overseas samples on ebay. The clothes I have kept are ones I have bought or made myself that are good fabrics and fits that are for my style of dressing quite timeless. Mind you I do live in jeans and t-shirts but they are good jeans and good quality t-shirts.
I have jeans from a European brand that I have worn consistently for 3 years that still look great compared to ones from here that died in a few months...thats another blog post....

So I have been re-thinking so much of my 'stuff'.

All my piles of little scraps went into my postage stamp quilt. That emptied 3 archive boxes.

I re-purposed some cutter quilts for our new arrival of Fritz the rescue greyhound. A quilt coat and doggy bedding. I also cut up a queen size futon we used to have for the back of our old Defender 4 WD that we took camping into some dog bed loungers.

Emptying box after box of quilts, tops and other odds and ends I have stock piled away for a rainy day I had to start making some decisions. Keep, fix or let go.
I have consolidated down sets of blocks I said I would stitch together and finish off but have listed them for sale for someone else to enjoy. My old timber fruit boxes have been turned into display boxes for all my pre-cuts. If unpack something and if its to stay it needs to have a purpose.
I've even found ways of reworking shoes.
I did a chop on a pair of boots that were the wrong length for me into ankle boots and a pair of sandals with ties made out of left over scrappy binding I had made into a ball of braid for gift wrap ties.

I have aired the quilts, mended patches and worked out what to do with some around the house. I have made 2 doona covers and pillow cases out of antique linen damask table cloths - THESE ARE DIVINE to sleep in. So gave everything else but the Sheridan to the opshop.
But my favorite solution was to make a slip cover for our timber bed head from a vintage quilt. It was easy and I didn't cut the quilt so if I don't like it anymore I just take out the hand stitches I made into the binding I turned int to place.
I have been knitting like a crazy person getting through piles of yarn. Fritz got a coat and a snood. I have a few jumpers and scarves and I am knitting some blankets for my new twin nephews. So I am on a bit of a rampage. All this from 'stuff' I had on hand in my stash. I have been designing with what there is to make the best use of it. It's a good challenge for the brain.

I am feeling lighter that I don't have so much stuff weighing me down. We have cleared out so much in the house that you hear a slight echo through the floor boards. There is even a 'spare' room again. I am feeling a sense of achievement that I have been able to get on top of all this. It's weird when I was working all the time I didn't have the time to do all this. Now that I have taken a step back from commercial design work I have the mental space to clear out all this clutter that was piling up as I was too busy to think about it....also too busy to make better choices about things.

I feel good, happy and some of my creative mojo is returning after feeling quite burnt out by commercial work. Also that I have been able to do so much with the 'stuff' and others have scored in the process. I have also looked at out consumption of 'stuff' and we have curbed and rethought so many things. We were always quality over quantity people but now we are thinking even more carefully about everything that is brought into our home. It's amazing how often I have said in the past few months - we don't need this. I don't need this. It's good to let go.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Trying Something New...Accuracy...

I'm not the most 'accurate' of quilters. I'm a bit of a bang it together kinda girl.
But there are some designs that call for accuracy or you are going to be tearing your hair out.

On Saturday I spent the day at the new studio of Jo Lawrence. Made Studio Textiles in Cheltenham.
An absolutely amazing place. If you are down that way you really should pop in the next time there is an open studio or workshop.

Jo is a killer quilter especially in the 'accuracy' department. And with all the winner rosettes pinned on her quilts, this is a lady you can learn a lot from.  But the whole thing about 'Made' is Jo is sharing her skills, tips and tools to making really tidy quilts and doing them in less time. Now for me, this is a whole new ball game.

A while back Jo gave me some of her new paper piecing templates. They were hexies. I cut out a pile out of Liberty but just never got around to starting it off. I knew what I was going to do, (heh heh, more on that later) but just never took the first step to putting it together so I never used the papers. Every time I ran into Jo, she asked me how I was going... it wasn't. I have always had a bit of a mental block with hexies ever since my horror year 9 textiles class.

As i've been sorting things out in the studio I came across another one of my 'boxes', yes I have 'boxes' that have future projects in them or half started ones that I need to keep adding to to get the right amount of stuff together. This box had a pile of cut diamonds from the 1940s from a stash I picked up a few years back. I always thought i'd make a scrappy star out of them, but I was dreading trimming, marking and hand sewing them together. Box goes back on shelf...keep going...

But, the light bulb moment hit me on Saturday, I can use these nifty new no sew paper templates!! So I gave it a go. I must say, if I can do it and get really neat results anyone can do it and it was quick.

The packs have really good instructions in them and plenty of tips on how to use the templates for the best results. And they are reusable too. In about 20mins I had 100 little diamonds ready to go. Please keep in mind with these photos that I was using diamonds that I had found that were from the 1940s so the shapes are a little different. But I got an acrylic template as well if I need to cut some more later down the track.

This is a very quick rundown on just one of the methods you can do with these templates. And there is a huge range that you can get and mix and match to do very complicated designs too. Jo is adding ones to the range all the time and you can order it all online. So if you want to try something new, Jo will be at the Eastern Quilt Show as well in September and she will be doing demonstrations of some of these techniques. If you want more in-depth info check her website and see when the next workshop is. Trust me there is so much more you can do and the machine shortcuts are cool. I'll give that a crack once i've got through this lot. So at this stage i'm whip stitching my little heart out.

The Made Studio Textiles Templates 
My bundle of found 1940s diamonds
Position template shiny side up

And carefully iron the edges over
Lookie Lookie, its done!
100 in no time

My first neat and ACCURATE diamond....

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Trunk Show Saturday 16th August @ Made Studio Textiles

The next Trunk Show is on this Saturday the 16th of August. 10am til 4pm.

It's at Made Studio Textiles in Cheltenham.

"Studio is located directly behind the ‘Kids on Tulip St’ Childcare Centre. Turn into the driveway next to the childcare centre and then take the first driveway on the right, we are located at the end."

Tel: +61 3 9585 1723
Studio: 19/109 Tulip St, Cheltenham 3192

There is also plenty of parking on the street too.

Some tid bits to get you yardages in long lengths, vintage quilts, tops and other goodies.
This will be the last Melbourne Trunk show til my next buying trip. This is the last of the finds from the trip I did earlier this year.

From the Outside Looking In....

The past few days have been interesting to say the least.
Perhaps this is the continuing of my story.
As an adult adoptee I am trying to make connections with my birth family. Early on in this search things were not good, but lets just move on from that.

I met my little sister. She is 16. She has her smarts about her and I am so glad for that.
She wants to goto Uni and study to be a Psychologist. I am really happy for her.
Ever since I briefly met her 6 years ago I have been wondering how she is and how she is going. She was a little brown haired girl playing on a scooter caught up in a family melodrama. I kept tabs on her through our brother. But for other disjointed reasons he was not always in the picture in her home life.  Things were really confusing for her then. She was too young to understand what was going on and things were not openly explained to her. She didn't even know my real name.

I had 16 years of her life to catch up with, she had 40 something years of mine.
Here I am, her oldest long lost sister. I am old enough to be her mother and then some. Looking across from her at the table I kept trying to work out if there were any similarities. From looking I couldn't see, but later when we took 'selfies' of our meeting I could then see it. I never thought I looked like our birth mother, but she thinks I do. I don't even really know how I look, from all the looking there is not much seeing.

It was really, really strange trying to describe who I was to her.
How do we perceive ourselves? I thought about it, how would I describe myself? I haven't had to do this before. I can relay the physical things but what about the other things. From the outside looking in, who am I?

I remember a letter my best friend gave me when I got married. She wrote a speech just incase. But I have never been a fan of speeches so she slipped it to me a few days later when we caught up for coffee.
She said I was loyal.
Other people say I am generous.
Many say creative.
Lately people thank me and tell me how inspirational I am. This is something I am adjusting to. I have never seen myself in this way. I just do what I do. I don't follow anyone but my own nose and see where it takes me. I am lucky that way, I have been called a leader because of that.
Other words have been 'strong' and 'brave', again, this is from the outside in.
I am adjusting to the fact that others see things I don't.

She knows bits of my life via our brother. He had this knack of always ringing me when I was overseas. 'Sorry dude, can't chat i'm in LA, this call will cost us a fortune'.
She asked me where I had travelled and what was the best place I have been. I run my own business and I love it, I made it up from this idea I had and followed it through and it grew. I felt pompous telling her these things. It's not until you are asked that you sometimes struggle to come up with the answers. I didn't want to sound like some sort of arrogant twat. But gee, its hard to slot 5 descriptives of yourself in, try it, not easy.

But here are some other things that are easier... I have a temper and I don't tolerate fools well. I will give you three goes then you are out. If you are stupid enough to cross me you are dead to me for life. I can rant and rave and be very black and white on some issues then just as irritating can be very grey. I am reclusive and a tad antisocial. I can argue points to the death and don't let up. I have darkness that sometimes out weighs the light. I can be a real complicated shit sometimes.  My mum reminds me about my bad points quite often but has said I have 'calmed down' in recent years.
So why is it that we can describe the not so good things about ourselves but we struggle to come up with the good things?

So I am still trying to join the dots of my life, of who I am and my identity. So far none of the birth family on my biological mothers side I have met I can relate major parallels to. There is no one in there that has the same creative drive that I do. So the splinter keeps gnawing at me. That it could be my father. Are there other brothers and sisters? Who knows.

One of the things my sister said which I thought was very profound about this whole situation is that everyone would be far better off if our mother just told the truth about everything. No more lies and no more secrets. I agree. It would be easier and a relief for all of us. But that is for her to work out and come to terms with...As I do exist. I'm not an accident to be brushed under the carpet and forgotten about.

But the longer this goes on the less chance I have of finding things out. We have just recently found out that our biological grandmother has been admitted to a nursing home with dementia. She is the only other person who knows who my father is. She falsified my birth records and holds much of the puzzle pieces but will not talk. Now she might not even remember. And if she does, he might not still be alive.

I view all of this situation like a house top strippy quilt. There is the centre square of me and there are all these strips of fabric going around and around creating this bigger and bigger square of this fabric of life. Some are dark, some are light. Some pieces are found others are given to me. Its all joined but it can be equally as disjointed. On polar opposites of the same piece. As we grow we add to this fabric like the rings of a tree. I tend to view many situations like a quilt. A life that is layers sandwiched together. One of stitches holding fragile things together. Saving and finishing. Salvaging and creating a new purpose. Life keeps exponentially growing outwards from the centre and each experience, cut, scar, hurt, joy or happiness is a new patch.

House Top Quilt with Multiple Borders Alabama, 1940s Cotton 86 x 67 in. Collection of Corrine Riley