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Crafty and creative Down Under

Monica Beyer is a mom of four and has been writing professionally since 2000, when her first book, Baby Talk, was published. Her main area of interest is attachment parenting and all that goes with it, including breastfeeding, co-sleepin...

Craftiness runs through her genes

Melissa lives in Australia and creates some of the most unique and creative items you’ve ever laid eyes on. With three kids underfoot, you’ll wonder how she possibly has the time — but she does, and her items are to die for.

Melissa and her family

Melissa lives in Australia with her husband, Chris, and three kids — Daisy, Felix and Poppy. Melissa has a beautiful talent for crafting — sewing, knitting, crocheting and just about anything else you can imagine. Homemade is made from the heart, and her children enjoy being part of the process while she works around them.

Melissa’s roots

Melissa comes from a long line of crafting women. Born in Brisbane, Australia, her family moved around a lot as her mother was in the army and was required to switch bases on a regular basis. Her earliest childhood memories surround sewing and creativity, and her grandmother always had a project in hand or nearby.

“We didn’t have a lot of money, as my parents divorced when I was just a baby, so I have clear memories of wearing handmade clothes and playing with handmade toys made by not just my Mum but by other family members too,” she shared.

One of her favorite childhood memories was when she realized a tree that frightened her was actually pretty awesome, and even this memory speaks of her crafty roots. “We had a massive willow tree in our yard, and when the wind ran through it, it made scary noises (like it was haunted!) and I hated it,” she explained. “Then one day one of Mum’s friends came over and knotted the branches together (kind of like macrame) and made them into a swing! We couldn’t afford play equipment, so I was thrilled, and I still knot together willow branches if I get the chance.”

When it all began

She doesn’t remember a specific time or place when her own crafting education began, but her mother didn’t hesitate to start her on the process when she was young. Since her own clothes were handmade, there was always a scrap pile to go through, and she would pester her mother to make clothes for her dolls out of them. This sparked her own interest in sewing, and her mom led the way.

“First just by cutting out simple shapes, then with needle and thread, and finally when I was about five, she stuck me in front of the sewing machine and that was it,” she explained.

Melissa would spend time with her grandmother when her mom was away on army exercises and this was when she learned to knit and crochet. “I’d sit with Grandma and she’d show me how to knit or crochet and I’d work on my little projects until it was time to go back with Mum again,” she shared. She got into the habit of learning a new skill or technique each time she visited her grandma, and as she grew, she kept it up — so she’s still learning something new as often as she can.

The crafty mom

Mellissa's crafts

You might imagine that it can be hard to even think about starting a project when you have small children at home who want to help, run away with your measuring tape or pluck your pins out of your pincushion. Melissa asserts that motherhood has both helped and hindered her crafting success. They give her inspiration, and they all really enjoy the things she creates for them, but finding and managing time is a challenge. “I adapted as well as I could — I am very good at crocheting whilst breastfeeding a wiggly baby for instance — and just learnt to manage my time better,” she explained.

Creativity doesn’t always go hand in hand with a tired mind, either. Melissa said that her ability to think up new patterns vanishes when she’s exhausted, and the number of mistakes she makes goes up quite a bit as well. But the payoff is well worth it, she explained. “The time I spend creating things actually boosts my mood (it’s like ‘me time’ I guess) so I just try to push through those uninspired periods,” she said.

All about the crafting

Melissa's work space

Melissa has a sewing table set up in her bedroom, which gives her space to create in her own area, and also allows her to work without disturbing the kids when they’re in bed. When asked what crafting supplies are her favorite, Melissa replied, “Wow, that’s like asking which of my children is my favorite! Honestly, when we move house, my craft crates are the last to be packed and the first to be opened. My sewing stuff and my knitting supplies are always close at hand and I couldn’t choose between them.”

Handmade costumes

Her favorite things to make are clothes for her children, as they are easy to whip up and don’t use a lot of fabric. Her children love to have input on their clothes — they will help pick out fabric, for example, or choose a pattern for her to try out. She is also starting to show her oldest daughter the ropes. “My eldest daughter is now at an age where I can give her simple tasks like tracing off pattern pieces and cutting out simple shapes, although I do all the pinning for her still,” she told us.

Fabric shopping, while it always sounds like fun, doesn’t always live up to her dreams. Melissa says that there aren’t many fabric stores where she lives (Adelaide, Australia). “I usually go out with a firm idea of what I want and then end up compromising or even worse, getting frustrated and leaving with nothing,” she lamented. She does most of her shopping online for fabric and hardware, some of which is cheaper than buying in her local stores, even with shipping factored in.

Wanna get crafty?

If you’re not crafty, yet you yearn to be, Melissa has a little advice for moms just starting out: “Start small and prepare to fail a lot.” She said that even with a lifetime of experience, she still has to rein in her expectations when she starts learning a new skill — even skilled seamstresses goof up every now and then, and that’s OK.

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