Small Changes

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Today a cool change came through our town, and it’s made me feel like good things are possible! The kids have played outside, the sky has been blue instead of smokey grey, we got a couple of boxes packed, and I listened to a podcast about rest that’s clearing my view for the next year. Today is what I had in mind for our holidays when we finished up our school year a month or so ago, but it’s taken us a while to find our stride.

I started writing an Instagram post, but then felt like I needed more words, to be more meandering. I started this whole creative journey through blogging. Because I loved to write, and I know my thoughts, know myself, when I write. Maybe this year will have more writing. I don’t know. I’ll see how things pan out.

A few things have started to take shape this week that are making my year feel like less of a limbo-like mystery. We got a moving week the other day! Hurray! Our house will be ready for us in the last week of February. 6 weeks! In six weeks we’ll be in our new, first home. OUR home! Lucy finishes up on the 21st, so we’ll keep cutting until then, and close up to move. I still have no idea, ok, some small ideas are forming, about what a post-Lucy shop will look like. Lucy’s been working with me for 2 years! And before that, another friend, and before that, I had help in our last town from our supportive community. This is the first time we’ll on our own. On my own, when Tim’s at work. This is a strong mix of terrifying and exciting for me. Mostly because I’m hoping that for the first time, I’ll be able to pay myself a regular wage, rather than get the last, occasional dregs. But I also don’t want to increase my already full-time workload. I’m trusting, though, that the way is opening up before us. Time is moving on, and as it does, we’re continuing to gather information that is helping us give shape to the future.

When we started the business 4 years ago, we took the approach (with the help of financial backing) that if we had people working with us from the beginning, we could get more done, and then grow faster to pay for all of us. Maybe some businesses work like that, but ours did not. I’ve spent a lot of time over the last few years (especially during the times when I get well meaning business advice from folks listening to my struggles) wishing I was more driven, more extroverted, less afraid, more organised, better at collaborations, at networking, at traveling around the country (or the world) meeting strangers, thinking that these things could have changed everything for us. Part of the grief, I think, it that I was many of these things before I had kids. (Never organised, but definitely more extroverted.) But kids can change the way a mother’s heart and brain work, and I have been more attuned to risk, to uncertainty, to my need for stability and security, since their wonderful, noisy invasion. So while one of my biggest longings for the business was to support others by being able to give them work, or to travel, or to connect with quilt groups around the country, the financial burden caused by this not just coming together like magic, has weighed heavy on me.

I’m really grateful that a few months ago, a friend of mine recommended the book “Profit First” by Michael Michalowicz. In it, he outlines a different business model which pays owners first, and then sees what’s left. And by seeing what’s left, he doesn’t mean shortchanging customers or wracking up debts, but carefully budgeting, being thrifty, doing things well, and growing as income allows, rather than growing first and scrambling. It really struck a chord with Tim and I. One of those “how did he know our story so well?!” kind of moments.

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So in just 6 weeks, we’ll move the business to our new home and stop paying rent, we’ll move our existing shop over to our blog platform (we’ve been running 2 sites), we’ll say a teary goodbye to Lucy, and we’ll look over the landscape of our new future and wonder what comes next. At the moment, I think it will include simplifying the shop, cutting a bunch of products in advance and in bulk (to reduce delays and stress when the laser cutter is down for maintenance, or severe weather, like we’ve had this summer), and I like the idea of remaking some old favourites, rather than always planning the next launch. But this probably has more to do with my wonderings about some kind of creative headspace sabbatical rather than cutting down workload or costs. It’s about giving my head some space and time to be empty for a while, rather than always on a deadline.

One thing I am looking forward to launching, though, are my “Small Change Quilts”, a collection of three 1” hexie quilts that use traditional blocks, appliquéd onto squares or rectangles, and then machine sewn. I’ve named them Florin, Tuppence, and Haypenny for the old imperial coins, and I love that they can be made from small scraps, and whichever way it suits you to use hexie papers, whether bought or made at home. I wasn’t sure if I’d get them done before the move, but then my lovely mum sent me this photo today. She had taken some home with her last week and finished these already! And did I want her to make some more? What a star! This and the cool change made me decide to jump in. I’ve been stitching the flowers at the top of this post to background squares today between bouts of packing up the kids room. These quilts will be available as a single PDF in about a month. But I’ll be sewing them together at a steady pace. No lost sleep, no entire weekends without leaving the house. They’ll share my time, like all good work should, with fresh air, good food, conversation, (and packing and cleaning a house). Phew! Ok, maybe there’ll be less good food than usual! ;) Or maybe there’ll just be quilt tops rather than finished quilts. We’ll see how things pan out.

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In my recent research about rest and “Sabbath”, I came across the Bible Project’s podcast series on the ancient Hebrew stories around the Sabbath. I learned here that the Hebrew Shabbat means “to cease, or to stop.” The Hebrew people had a weekly practice of stopping (and still do in some parts of the world) as a way of reminding their bodies and brains that they were cared for, that they could cease their work and things would not fall apart, that everything did not hinge on them. Whatever changes are made this year, big or small, this is the idea on which I want everything else to hang. I want it to shape the way we set up our life, our money, our time, our work, and our rest.

Small Changes