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Give it a try

"It's impossible" said pride

"It's risky" said experience

"It's pointless" said reason

"Give it a try" whispered the heart - unknown


I first laid eyes on the 'Glorious Hexagons' quilt by Kim Maclean & Liza Roos Lucy in 2014, & at that time we were readying ourselves for a long planned family holiday to the US. I had never seen a quilt like it. Made out of a saturated palette of Kaffe Fassett Collective fabrics, it spoke to my heart. My first thought was "wow!", & my second was "I could never make a quilt like that".


Our departure time came around & we were soon on our way, first stop Los Angeles. While waiting for our flight I was scrolling through my Instagram feed & another picture of Kim's quilt popped up. Wowza. It was stunning & amazing. I found myself thinking about that quilt throughout the long flight. It was entirely paper pieced. I had never even tried paper piecing. I knew nothing about paper piecing. "Maybe" I thought. "It's impossible" said pride. "It's too hard. It's too complex. It's too challenging. It's well beyond your ability. You're not a good enough quilter."


As we made our way from LA to Chicago, then to New York City I was haunted by thoughts of the quilt. It was constantly popping up not only on my Instagram feed, but also in my thoughts. The bold, beautiful quilt had made an indelible impression on me, & I was finding it hard to shake off. It was an ongoing tussle. "Maybe I could" I thought. "It's risky" said experience. "I could fail. It would be embarrassing to try & fail. What a waste of fabric. What a waste of time. What a waste of money. Remember that Apple Core quilt kit that you bought & jiggered up? That was shameful. You're not a good enough quilter."


From NYC we headed to Washington & into a new year, & the quilt was still on my mind. I had begun to think about home & what the new year would bring, & what new stitching project I would dive into. 'Glorious Hexagons' was still in my brain's in-tray. "Maybe?" "It's pointless" said reason. "What's the point of even starting? It will be just another attempted, but failed project. There's no point even trying. No point even starting. No point even thinking about it. You're not a good enough quilter."


Our next stop was Las Vegas, & during it I had a quiet, unplanned morning to myself. It was lovely to take a pause from a busy schedule of sightseeing. I settled myself in out hotel room window overlooking the Strip, with my laptop, to take a closer look at the quilt & it's details. Book. Pattern. Templates. Paper Pieces. I looked for Youtube videos & blog posts about paper piecing, trying to understand how the quilt was made. It was a whole new world. Glue basting. Needle sizes. Which thread to use. How to join the pieces together. "Paper piecing... huh, interesting... " A slight feeling of excited possibility had begun to bubble inside me. "Maybe I can. I think I might try it." "Give it a try" whispered the heart...


Unhelpful thinking


Throughout the last nine years I been doing a lot of somewhat enforced, but very necessary self learning. I have had to tackle a lifetime of unhelpful thinking, including a chunk of self criticism, self doubt, perfectionism & self shame - all of which are big stumbling blocks to my creativity. I had all but denied my creative spirit due to my negative inner dialogue, particularly the "I'm not good enough" inner voice. It stopped me choosing more art classes in high school; it taught me to be embarrassed of what I drew/made; it had me zero in on the tiniest 'not quite right' thing in my creation, overlooking all of the thousands of 'well done' bits; it berated me rather than encouraged me; it was more demanding than the most scathing art critic or quilt show judge; it drained me & robbed me of any glimpse of creative joy. I still struggle with it. I will always struggle with it. However, I refuse to give into it. I will continue to work on it & learn from it, so when there is a peep of "Give it a try" I will do my best to run with it, to dive in & see what there is to experience.


Maybe I can


"A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step."

- Lao Tzu


As I sat in that Las Vegas hotel room I had a realisation - I was in the USA. I live in Australia. A long way from the USA. The pattern, templates & papers that I would need to order had to be shipped from the USA. If I moved quickly, perhaps I could order what I needed & have it shipped to our last stop in Hawaii, & save myself a lot of shipping. It was the nudge that I needed. A single step that moved me from "Maybe I can" towards "Okay, I will". I may or may not have also ordered some Kaffe fabric to be delivered with that order, but there can never be enough fabric, right? It worked a treat. During our last few days in Hawaii my parcel was delivered safely & I during the flight home I scoured through the book & pattern, daydreaming about my new project.


The noisy voices of self doubt were still there, but they were balanced out with anticipation & excitement, & also the empowerment that comes about at the end of an overseas holiday that has gone well. Knowing that have been literally a world away from home, managing currency conversions & passports, public transport, navigating new streets, meeting itinerary deadlines, not losing luggage, finding food, seeing things that you've only ever dreamed of, troubleshooting problems, working as a team, relying on strangers... However in managing all of that you've seen new things, had new experiences, learnt new ideas, & truly broadened your horizons. Travel is so much more than passport stamps & bragging rights. It changes you.


Once we had settled back at home I tentatively began. I rewatched paper piecing Youtube tutorials & reread blog posts. I started with one simple block first. Slowly, slowly. It was fun. It wasn't perfect, but it was enough. Then a second block. Who knew that fussy cutting could be so fun?! It's surely the closest thing to painting with fabric. My stitches improved. Another block. My piece joining improved. And so it continued. Before I knew it I wasn't travelling anywhere without some prepped paper piecing, ready to stitch (in the car, in waiting rooms, on the plane... ). It hooked me in entirely.


My quilt was a long term make - it took 18 months altogether. Paper piecing is not for those of you who like a quick project. However, it is the quilt that I am most proud of. It is bold, bright & noisy, & it features so many of the Kaffe Fassett Collective prints that I love most. Every piece was hand stitched, & I think that is pretty amazing.


I am a little obsessed with paper piecing. It is cathartic, mindful, fun, satisfying & truly, rather easy. It is what I look forward to at the end of a busy day - cosy on the couch with my loved ones, something great to watch on tv & my paper piecing ready to go. I may well have missed my paper piecing journey, & now I can't really imagine life without it. My overthinking nearly had me pass up the opportunity to discover something that I love. The lesson for me was to challenge the noisy inner critic & the deflating self doubt, & instead channel the empowered overseas traveller, be brave & step out of my creative comfort zone.


"It's impossible" said pride

"It's risky" said experience

"It's pointless" said reason

"Give it a try" whispered the heart - unknown


From These Clever Hands, to Yours...

Jo xo



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