Tuesday, 21 August 2012
show & tell - suzy small
I have a bunch of clever online friends who are sweet enough to help me out when I'm faced with tricky sewing or knitting questions, Suzy Small, for her sins, has been one of that crafty brains trust for a few years now. She is unfailingly generous with this advice, and luckily, because she's a Sydneysider, an Inner Westie in fact, its even location specific. Case in point I'd never made apricot jam until Suzy blogged about making jam from apricots on sale at the local greengrocer. A week later when I found myself walking past the display I had to stop and buy a bag.
Suzy was also one of the main inspirations for me finally trying clothes sewing for myself. I was always inspired by the beautiful outfits she blogged, she has a great eye for a good pattern and interesting, elegant fabric to match. The same goes for knitting, she has a knack of finding the best patterns and knitting them up in the perfect yarn and colour. It was because of this I read with great surprise her rocky path to knitting success in today's interview!
Suzy started writing the lovely Floating World blog way back in 2004 when she was living and working in Japan, so she is really one of the pioneers of Australian craft blogging. For interest's sake I went back and read her very first post, which describes finding a wonderful craft shop in Tokyo during her time living there. What a great achievement to still be blogging about making eight years later.
When Suzy and I finally met up in person she was as lovely as I imagined and so were her sweet kids. I was lucky enough to see that beautiful recovered chair in person and after five minutes we'd found some funny connections, I'm friends with her cousin and our kids went to the same preschool, we have the same sunglasses... we like jam ;-)
So I'm delighted to feature Suzy today, not only is her blog always interesting and one I never miss, but I always learn great stuff from her. I think if you've never visited you too will be inspired like me and become a fan as well. Thanks again Suzy for being part of Show & Tell today.
1. Can you give us a short description of your blog/style/work
I just like to create things, it makes me happy. I sew and knit, and I like to make things out of paper and print things sometimes too. My style is fairly minimal, with pops of colour. My blog has changed over time, but at the moment it mostly documents the things I make.
2. Why blog? How did you start?
I started a blog in 2004. I was living in Japan, teaching English, and had quite a bit of free time. I absolutely loved living in Tokyo, and the quirks and details of the city, and wanted a place to document them. I didn't really know about craft blogs, but I stumbled on a blog called Pinku (which sadly is no more) that another Australian ex-pat in Tokyo kept, and she was a keen knitter, and through the links there I found all these other craft blogs like Wee Wonderfuls and Angry Chicken and Soulemama.
I'd recently bought myself a crabby old Toyota sewing machine (with no foot pedal!) from a flea market, and had re-taught myself to knit, so it was so exciting to find other people who also liked to make things and had a similar aesthetic. And I felt so lucky, because at the time Japanese craft books and fabrics were really popular with crafters in other countries, and I had all this on my doorstep.
Gradually it turned more from a "Life in Japan" blog into a craft blog, and then when I moved back to Australia in 2007 I kept it up as a way to keep track of the things I was making. When I first started my blog I didn't really know anyone else my age who sewed or knitted, so a wonderful bonus of the blog has been meeting a group of talented, stylish and wonderful women who are interested in the same things.
3. Family taught/Self-taught/Trained?
When I was 13 I did a dressmaking class at Grace Brothers, back in the days when department stores had fabric departments, and I studied "Textiles and Design" (fancy name for sewing) in years 9 and 10 at school. I don't think I ever wore anything I made in either class, but it taught me to read a commercial pattern. The most useful thing I learned in the textiles class at school was about different fibres, how they're made and how to wash them.
My Nanna, my maternal grandmother, was a fantastic knitter and taught me to knit as a child. I was terrible at it though, and not very patient, so it never really stuck. When I was in Tokyo I found a copy of the original Debbie Stoller Stitch and Bitch book on sale in an English Language bookshop, and I bought a pair of needles and some yarn and knitted myself a scarf. Even though I hadn't knitted for so long it felt like my hands remembered what to do, like some kind of muscle memory. I wanted to try other things, but none of the yarns specified in the book were available in Japan and I was worried about substituting different ones, so I didn't really go any futher with it.
But then in 2007 when I moved back to Australia and was pregnant with my first child I had the burning urge to make baby things, and my sewing machine and all my fabric were in storage so I decided to give knitting another try. And by then Ravelry had come along and it made it so much easier to find patterns and work out what yarn to use. So I started making things for my son, and just kept going from there.
Being mostly self-taught has its hazards - after I made a few things I realised that I was knitting all my stitches through the back loop, which actually looked quite nice but gave the knitting a different texture. And so I learned how to do the knit stitches properly, and kept knitting away but I could never work out why when I made something that had some sections in the round and some knitted back and forth they always looked really different. Anyway, eventually (and this is after I'd been knitting for a few years and had made HEAPS of things) I realised I was doing the purl stitch completely wrong, wrapping the yarn around the needle the wrong way. So I am finally knitting "properly", although it took me quite a while to get used to it, after doing it the wrong way for so long.
My mum sews a bit and was always very encouraging and let me use her machine (a gorgeous Elna Lotus that she got for her 21st that still runs beautifully), but I think she has been more of an influence with her approach to cooking. She's a very good cook but doesn't get too hung up on following recipes to the letter, and is always happy to improvise, and that's kind of how I sew.
4. Workspace - studio or kitchen table?
We've just moved house. In the old house I used to have a little dedicated study, but at the moment I'm working on the kitchen table. I hope that I'll eventually be able to carve out a corner of the spare room, but at the moment it's full of boxes.
5. Blog/Shop name, where does it come from?
I registered the domain name floatingworldviews.com on a whim before I moved to Japan, thinking I might use it for some kind of life-in-Japan blog. I had no idea how long I'd be using it for.
6. Favourite media to work in?
Fabric, in all different ways. I love making things for the house, and quilts, and I'm getting more and more interested in making clothes for myself and the children. And I like to print and dye it, too. Natural fibres are my favourites, cotton and wool.
7. Ambitions/future directions/future projects/medium you'd like to try?
I have a habit of bringing home stray and orphaned chairs, so I'd really like to learn more about furniture restoration and upholstery. And I want to do more fabric dyeing and printing.
8. Are you neat and organised or, ahem, creatively messy?
I like to be able to spread out what I'm working on so it may LOOK messy, but as I explain to my husband, it is actually very organized.
9. Favourite handmade, handcrafted item you own not made by you.
There's a beautiful chair that used to belong to my grandmother. I had upholstered in handprinted fabric from Ink & Spindle, and I love the combination of old chair and new, hand printed fabric.
10. Favourite food/recipe?
11. Favourite colour?
13. Favourite place, landscape (not necessarily Australian)?
I really love Tokyo. The city has so much energy and I love the Japanese design aesthetic.
14. Any tricks for juggling life/work/family with creative pursuits?
I try to keep what I'm working on handy, use small blocks of time, and try not to worry about having an immaculate house. Knitting has been great for me since having children, because it's easy to keep nearby in a bag and take along to swimming lessons etc., and I can knit for five minutes and then put it away again. When I sew or print I like to spread everything out and get on with it, so it's better to have a big chunk of time and lots of space for that, and not so compatible with small children.
15. Favourite artists, artisans, crafters etc?
This is hard - I have so many favourites. I tend to be drawn to work that uses colour and texture, and often textiles. Some of my favourites are Yayoi Kusama, Yoshitomo Nara, Paul Smith, Louise Weaver, Eley Kishimoto. I've met a wonderful group of local crafters in Sydney and they are a constant source of inspiration.
16. Your favourite thing you've made.
I made a quilt for my nephew at the start of this year, and I was really happy with how that turned out. I'm still at the stage with quilting where I learn something every quilt I make.
And the quilts I made for each of my children before they were born are so special to me, because they remind me of that time when I was pregnant and getting ready for them to arrive, and because I remember them lying on the quilts when they were tiny.
18. What do you like to do besides creating?
I like to cook, play with my children, walk around the city and read. I drink a lot of coffee.