Inspiring pastimes for you and your family

By Gill South

Gill South yearns for time to let her creativity have an outlet at least one day a week.

Making plum jam is one of Catherine Perich's weekend pastimes. Photo / Doug Sherring
Making plum jam is one of Catherine Perich's weekend pastimes. Photo / Doug Sherring

Many of us spend our weeks multitasking, sometimes with limited success. Once we get to Sunday, wouldn't it be sheer luxury to devote yourself to just one creative task to give your mind some replenishment and space?

There is a real need out there. Witness this recent exchange:

Rachel, a mother of five: "If the mortgage ever, ever, gets paid off I will give up accounting and take up colouring-in - the grown-ups kind, a sort of medieval calligraphy. There is nothing in my life, NOTHING, like colouring in. It's relaxing, there are no decisions to make except for which colour to use next."

My reply: "All I want to do is arrange flowers and go for gentle walks."

We realise we sound like a couple of Jane Austen heroines - born out of our time really, but there are many out there like us who think what a treat it would be to just do one creative task well at the weekend, with no deadlines. Some are actively making space in their schedules and their homes to pursue the pastime they love most, for one day every week.

Flower arranging

Having the skill to put together a beautiful flower arrangement to dress your home for the week ahead would be a joy for many of us, particularly those who also work from home. I always find it fascinating watching a florist putting together a bouquet. It's a work of art in the making.

Davina Prankerd, owner of Vida Flores in Newmarket, the floral design studio, says her floral design school is targeted at those amateurs who enjoy flowers and want to be more adept at arranging them at home.

"In the classes, we teach people how to buy flowers, what to look for, what days to buy on, the sorts of vases that work," explains Davina. In the classes, everybody gets a bucket of flowers to arrange in a vase or to hand tie.

"They love that couple of hours time out, thinking about beautiful things and feeding the soul," says Davina. "We've got women coming back again and again to the same class."

The florist says there are some people who struggle more than others, but they still enjoy themselves.

"In the last class before Christmas, there was a great group of women. It was such a funny night, everybody got so into it."

As the workshops focus on techniques, Davina enjoys watching the light bulb go on. "If I'd known that 20 years ago!" people say. The students also learn about what's going to make their flowers last longer. "Flowers are a luxury, you want them to last as long as possible," says the florist.

Quilting, knitting and sewing

Newbie quilter and experienced knitter, Shelly Pathak, says both her pastimes are as much about the process as the result. "And that's so different to what we normally do in the modern world," she says.

"In today's world of deadlines, multitasking and output, crafting gives an opportunity to use our hands, feel different textiles, get creative, even if it is in the smallest of ways."

Shelly, a former educational government researcher, never thought of herself as a creative person. "But it turns out that I may be. My career never afforded that opportunity to me, but I am learning how to be, and to spend time with myself through my crafting."

Shelly started knitting when she was pregnant with her second child, as a way to soothe herself in the evenings. Her focus was about enjoying something for the process, rather than just the finished item.

"It has taught me many skills, mostly patience. When I started I just wanted to race to the finish, now I will unravel rows to get it looking how I want to. This might sound like I want it to be perfect. No, it's actually about slowing down, embracing a mistake and starting again. Savouring doing it again, putting love into it. Again, I think this is quite different to how we operate in the modern world."

Shelly bought herself a how-to-knit book and is often on YouTube, googling the latest stitch she needs to learn. There is also a social networking site called Ravelry.com where people load up patterns and projects and there are numerous forums for help.

Quilting also attracts a vast number of blogs and Pathak goes to her favourites for new ideas and inspiration. "I pin them onto pininterest.com for inspiration. I like how we can mix these traditional handcrafts with modern technology."

There is more to quilting than you think. "There are several elements to it - choosing fabric, choosing the design, cutting, piecing, sewing, and then the actual quilting. I'm learning to enjoy each part of the process, rather than hurrying through them to get to the end."

Shelly has tried other crafts, such as cross-stitching, but quilting is her latest interest and she recently completed a six-week quilting class. "I love fabric and colours and wanted a legitimate way of putting these together."

The Westmere mum has found a local small craft shop in Pt Chevalier, called The Little Craft Store, and it is a fabulous treasure trove of modern fabrics, wool and other crafting materials, she says.

Helen Trigg, the owner, has drop-in groups. There is a knitting group on a Wednesday morning, needlework on Tuesday afternoons and she also runs classes in sewing, quilting, felt, needlepoint and embroidery.

"Last year I taught around 30 people to sew," says Helen, an experienced designer who has regularly made textile gifts for shops like The Garden Party and Texan Art Schools.

With her two young boys and husband out of the house on a Sunday afternoon, Helen, who learned to sew when she was 4, will curl up with a cup of tea and some of the latest knitting and sewing books.

"There's been a huge influx of crafting books, it seems to have trebled," she says.

"I'm really into quilting and knitting. I'm obsessed with textiles. It's a great way to escape from all the work side of things, to have that time to myself."

Scrapbooking

For hairdresser Chantelle Maber scrapbooking and "journalling" are her favourite creative activities on the weekend. And it doesn't necessarily need to take her away from the kids. She involves them in her hobby.

Chantelle has done a scrapbook for each of her three children highlighting important moments in their lives. She will write things in them as will her children.

"I don't change anything they have written. Those are their words in their handwriting at that stage in their life," says Chantelle.

If she's by herself she'll put on some nice music and "zone out".

"Sorting through your photos brings back all these memories which makes me feel more grateful for my family," she says.

Chantelle relishes the fact that she is not restricted by what someone else wants, as is usually the case with hairdressing. "This way it's my project, my paper, if I want to put flowers or lace in, I can."

She visits the NZ Scrapbook shop in Wairau or to local charity shops for her materials, which might include old fashioned lace, old buttons, sequins and lettering.

"Most people like doing art but can't actually paint," says Linda Simpson, a co-owner of NZ Scrapbook. "Scrapbooking is a nice way to do art - using family photos and nice paper with embellishments."

What people used to refer to as scrapbooking isn't what it is today, she says. Scrapbooking used to involve people cutting out newspaper clippings.

"This is a work of art, you are creating something yourself." So many people are keeping all their photos on a computer which can end in tears, she says.

Linda and her daughter Kathleen Green run scrapbooking classes for beginners. These attract a range of people, from women doing it with their children, to those taking it up as a hobby after retirement. And a few men do it too, she says.

Preserving and cooking

Felicity and Michael O'Driscoll, owners of Cook the Books bookshop in Grey Lynn, say their customers like to spend time in the kitchen at weekends, doing anything from preserving and pickling to breadmaking and slow cooking.

Their specialist bookshop offers various workshops to keep the passionate types motivated. "Our customers love doing them, love trying new things," says Michael.

"There is a great tradition of making preserves in New Zealand, it's in the same basket as breadmaking," he says. "And you can do it with more than one person, so it becomes a social activity too."

Catherine Perich, an Oratia mother of four and church youth pastor, says making plum jam is one of her weekend pastimes. Years ago when she stopped work to have children she jokingly told fellow teachers she would have a row of jars of preserved fruit on the shelf. "And I've realised that's what I've done!" she says.

"I think one of my motivating things is that I hate waste, and now living next to an abandoned orchard, using its leftover fruit is like a compulsion," says Catherine. "The rational side of me thinks I'm far too busy, just let the fruit rot on the ground, it's much cheaper to go and buy jam, but I just can't."

It is a family affair, the kids collect the plums while Catherine sorts them, sugars them and cooks the fruit. She'll often be making something else at the same time, perhaps putting something in the crockpot. Perich warns pickling and jam-making are processes which can go into the night - she will sometimes find herself finishing off at midnight.

But it's not a chore for her. Cooking is something that relaxes her, and is simply part of who she is. She even found time to make feta cheese on Christmas day. "It only takes three days to become cheese," she says.

Catherine is famous for her tomato kasundi, a tomato chutney, and her grandmother's tomato relish is popular too. Her favourite? "Pickled pears are divine, very nice on pizza with blue cheese."

Be inspired

* Cook the Books, 139 Richmond Rd, Grey Lynn, ph 09 360 6513

* The Little Craft Store, 201 Pt Chev Road, ph 09 849 3295

* The Embroiderer, 140 Hinemoa Street, Birkenhead, ph
09 419 0900

* New Zealand Scrapbook Mega Store, Unit D, 6 Link Drive, Wairau Park, North Shore, ph 09 912 0665

* Vida Flores, 12 McColl Street, Newmarket, ph 09 523 5454,
www.vidaflores.co.nz

- Herald on Sunday

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