Tag Archives: collaboration

The Creative Retreat :: A Wrap Up

I’ve sat down more than ten times now to draft a post about The Creative Retreats – the very first ones held this past couple of weeks and I’ve been so overcome with the responses and the experiences that I’ve not had the words, they just won’t come. So I asked an attendee,the gorgeous and uber talented Jessica Wheelahan, to help me out. Here, she describes the Retreat as she experienced it:

The Creative Retreat promised a three day getaway where our time would be devoted to our own creative pursuits, we’d have nothing to do but relax and explore and build on our creativity.

What was delivered went far and away above and beyond. I wanted for nothing. I literally felt buoyed up, cushioned and supported by a marshmallow cloud of care.  My three days away were nothing short of bliss.

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Arriving, I found an idyllic country setting.  It was chilly but the sky was high and blue and the sun beamed down.  The beautiful Southern Highlands – Rolling hills, picture perfect cows and horses, bird calls and a flash of a darting parrot here and there.

On entering the retreat guesthouse I found a buzzing hive of activity, everyone hushed and concentrating.  I was late and an activity had been set.  The central room was warmed by a roaring fire, fellow retreat goers had machines set up and stashes were spilling out of cases in a spacious layout of tables in the centre of the bright room.  Around the perimeter of the hall were the bedrooms, design walls already set up like blank canvases begging for that first mark to be made… this was going to be perfect.  DSC_0191

We’d arrived with supplies and the beginning of an idea.  These were discussed as a group and we were helped with deciding on a project.  Individual ideas ranged from experiences of travel to something skill based, an inspiring photo, or artist to the deeply emotional and visceral.

Mine was an idea which had been percolating for a while.  One which had already been a ‘false start’ so I knew that I would need a long stretch of uninterrupted sewing time to develop my idea.  I tend to ‘snatch’ sewing time at home – 10 mins here and there as a low order priority around the other tasks that a busy working mother must see to.  That’s why The Creative Retreat and its promise of three days of stitching appealed to me.

A found vintage block had inspired a vision.  A bright quilt in solids alone with improv crosses and arrows following my style – a ‘Go your own way’ quilt (Fleetwood mac were playing!) I had also packed my stash of vintage fabrics, a riot of colour and pattern.  I thought if my primary idea didn’t work out I might find some encouragement to cut where I previously had not been able to!


It didn’t matter what our individual goals were, Cheryl was skilled enough to guide us on the path.  She was gentle, she listened and allowed us the space to develop our own ideas into something special.  These were our quilts and regardless of skill or experience Cheryl supported us and we were encouraged to achieve.

It is at this point that I need to describe the way that The Creative Retreat in Jules and her team ‘had our backs’.  Ample provisions of the very best from T2 tea and fresh roasted coffee with homemade treats ranging from Afghan biscuits to syrupy gluten free cakes and fruit always on offer, perfection right down to the final detail.  Meals were generous and designed to suit every taste.  Each meticulously planned and prepared by Jules, they were nourishing and flavoursome.


Nothing was too much trouble.  At one point in my design process I was creating blocks to flow on from the ones I already had on my design wall… behind me… I pondered out loud that it would be much better if I was looking straight ahead at my blocks and as though I had waved a magic wand with the instruction ‘make it so’ a new design wall materialised in front of my eyes!  -Thankyou Cheryl!

As the time wore on and we became comfortable in our little community the sew–along turned into a sing–along and contentedly we stitched the days away, sharing, laughing, bonding.


Each morning I woke at around 9am having sat up late sewing,chatting and laughing.  What a guilty pleasure – not setting an alarm.  I found my ‘Batteries’ were recharging and my mind was relaxing as my creative spark was coming to fruition and that sense of frustration with not having enough hours in the day to achieve all my creative goals was replaced with a deep sense of satisfaction of having achieved what I had set out to do.  For a creative person held back by the pressures of life this feeling is like nothing else in the world!


By The last few hours of the retreat on Monday my quilt top was taking shape.  I wasn’t alone, looking around the room there were projects nearing completion on every available design wall.  We were proud of our efforts and so were Cheryl and Jules, sincerely so.

The Creative Retreat is a new venture for Jules McMahon and in my mind it hits the spot, bullseye, bingo, Eureka, Cowabunga!  I can’t recommend it highly enough and hope to be involved next time Jules and her carnival of creative energy and encouragement roll my way.  A big smoochy thankyou to Jules, her team and Cheryl Arkison the superstar.

Faraway Fields :: A Finished Quilt


So I had a finish! Some of you will have seen this quilt on Instagram and Facebook – I’ve been rather slow to getting it here!

This quilt feels like one giant material representation of my online experience, a place I’ve made incredible connections to inspiring, funny, kind and generous people. I am in love with it for its symbolic nature as much as for its beauty.

So, it’s a bit of wordy story but I’ll try my best to stay on track. I began making this quilt in a Denyse Schmidt class at QuiltCon in February 2013. The same class in which I met dear Charlotte. We were volunteering and it being the last day of QuiltCon, some participants left early to catch flights home. Fortunately for us, we were able to make a few quick blocks. I left thinking I might have just enough to make a lap quilt if I was careful about how I joined them. I was clearly overly optimistic about how much I’d done that day!
Procrasticraft_Improv_DSWhen I got home and tried to piece the blocks together, I discovered a mini-quilt, maybe a baby size, was all I would get if I was to make a top from blocks alone. Given that’s all I had, I popped the blocks on the design wall and pondered the placement. For many months, I fiddled around with it almost every time I went into my sewing room but I just could not commit to stitching it up, something was missing. As we were about to move house, I posted a picture of my (lack of) progress on Instagram:


A photo posted by Jules McMahon (@procrasticraft) on

That proved to be a fortuitous move on my part. The ever inspiring Cheryl Arkison (have you seen her gorgeous book, A Month of Sundays) saw that photo. Cheryl is one of the lovely friends I have made online who I met in person at QuiltCon. She was also in the DS class and had grabbed a couple of orphan blocks at the end of the day and she was willing to share her leftovers! They arrived along with the most generous parcel and sweet words I think I’ve ever received. When I opened the box, I was super thrilled to see that Cheryl had made some of the blocks into inset circles (check out her Craftsy class to see how to do these, it’s pretty clever). So, those circle blocks up there came to me via Calgary.

As soon as I had those extra pieces, I knew exactly how to make the quilt. I pulled out my Essex linen, laid out a king size piece on the deck and literally threw the blocks and fabric scraps into the air to see where on the quilt they landed. Of course, some landed on top of each other and some were either too far apart or not far enough so I played around with placement just a little and then stitched them up.

The impetus to finish was the Modern Quilt Show held on 3 & 4 May. Thankfully, another gorgeous friend I’ve made online (who I also now see regularly in person) is an AMAZING long-armer and she agreed to getting this one done in record time for me. Heidi has done the most incredible job with the quilting on this. My photos simply can not do it justice, it is spectacular

In the end, I have a king size quilt for our bed in our new home. It is spectacularly large, the biggest quilt I’ve ever made and I’m so damn proud of it!


The Quilt
Blocks :: Scraps provided by Denyse Schmidt and Free Spirit, made by Julie McMahon with blocks contributed by Cheryl Arkison.
Background :: Essex Linen (purchased at QuiltCon from the lovely Tammy of Marmalade Fabrics who supplied me with a whole bolt to bring back to Oz)
Quilting :: quilted by the uber talented Heidi (Jeanette)
Binding :: Shot Cotton (from Addicted to Fabric)
The Name :: Started in Austin with fabrics from a studio in Connecticut (USA) and sewing time with a friend from London (England), blocks from Calgary (Canada), made in Canberra (Australia), quilted in Bombala (Australia) :: truly an effort from Faraway Fields.


** I do not accept payment for any promotions in my posts, all opinions and recommendations are my own and are genuine. I am however an affiliate of both Amazon and Craftsy and I work for Addicted to Fabric **


Weaving a basket…

…I imagine, must take a whole lot of time. And patience. Neither of which I have in great abundance. However, I recently had cause and inspiration to weave a basket of the quilty kind.

With the middle small by my side snipping the threads between the chain piecing, and by roping in anyone who happened to call by the house, this quilt came together in a flurry of activity and with very little thought or effort in a relatively short amount of time. I did modify the pattern from the book and in my typical fashion, I messed up the measurements for my version. With a little help from a maths minded friend, I was able to improvise my way out of what could have been an enormous waste of fabric!

As the quilt was destined to be a family picnic rug, I used repurposed fabrics including scraps leftover from previous projects and some pieces from my growing stash of second hand fabrics found on trips to op shops {thrift stores}. This project contains an assortment of remnants of seersucker tablecloths, silk taffeta, linen from a skirt, a bag and my maternity pants (won’t be needing those ever again!), cotton drill kitchen curtains and a wild 1970’s paisley poly/cotton blend which was used as the backing. It was great fun to throw together an odd bunch of texture, quality and colour and come out with something fun and practical.

My favourite part of making a quilt, always, is seeing it put to use. I am not precious about the quilts I make for home. We have picnicked, slept and snuggled on and under this and I love that my family can wrap themselves in Mumma love and comfort on a chilly afternoon.

NOTE: This quilt came to be as occasionally I am privileged to be able to review books for Whip up. My most recent review was of Denyse Schmidt: Modern Quilts, Traditional Inspiration. When I opened the pages and saw the Basketweave quilt, I quietly desired immediately HAD to have a version of it.