Q & A

I love to get comments; please be aware, however that I have an irreverent sense of humour and any offence caused is completely intentional. Please do not leave comments if you want to preach at me, judge me, condemn me or bitch at me. I already have a mother. Also if you are one of THOSE muslims who think it is their mission in life to take the plank out of everyone's eyes and feel very pious by doing so, please note:  there is adab to dawah, the first of which is that it is given privately - email me. I am sorry to spoil your fun of denying you an audience to your piety. Thankyou. Oh and instead of arguing the toss, if you don't like what you see here would just like to draw your attention to that little red X in the corner; click it - problem solved.

Debbie Qalballah

Who are you?
My name is Debbie, {Qalballah}; creator, designer, maker, writer, print-maker, artist, blogger, mama, daughter, sister, wife, educator, cook, cleaner, buttwiper, dogsbody, pazi of Biblical proportions for all family dysfunction and writer of this blog. I am also the Editor of the magazine TEND.

Educated to post-graduate level I have attended the University of Leeds, thereafter the University of Cambridge, and hold a degree in Philosophy and Sociology with a minor in Theology. I am a fully qualified secondary school teacher, children's book author, as well as holding qualifications in counselling. As well as crafting, I am passionate about literature and theatre, and harbour (not-so) secret desires to be a smallholder (farmer).

Currently I am serving time as a full-time homeschooling, work-at-home Mama to two forces of nature known as boys (aged 5 and 8 in this year 2010, who are refered to as 'Eldest' and 'Midget') and most days are spent juggling the various brain-draining, soul-destroying, unthanked, unseen, monotonous, boring tasks ensuring other people remain alive and uninfected. I hail from the Lake District, but have since escaped to live a life of relative normality elsewhere in the UK.

I live in the heart of a UK city in a modest 2 bedroom house with a long, narrow garden. I dream of living in a farm smallholding with enough land for free play, tree climbing, goats, chucks, geese, bees and ducks and all that jazz. To make up for lack of farm reality we instead have an allotment in which to grow some food.

I am married. To a man. He's there. Just wavering around the periphery of this blog not really mentioned nor intentionally ignored.

I might have lied about the intentionally ignored bit.

Yes, we homeschool and yes I craft and yes we homestead.

What is homesteading?
"Broadly defined, homesteading is a lifestyle of simple self-sufficiency." Or so says Wikipedia. We try to do as much as we can with what we have, reducing our reliance on consumption from other sources. We consider the environment with all our choices and try to tread on the earth gently. We admire people who walk that walk. We use less, make more, reuse what we can, recycle, compost and grow and make our own. We live in a city, so we are limited in our scope, but the intention is to be one day self sufficient.

How Long Have you Been Crafting?
I have been in the land of Craft for many years now. It started off as a way to keep my brain from oozing out of my earholes from utter boredom, and is now my life. It has always been my sanity saver, my return to centre, my way of connecting to the Divine in beauty and creation, and I can honestly say that crafting has enriched my life in such meaningful ways that I am now happier, content and more satisfied than I have ever been.

Can I email you?
Sure. I can be contacted at qalballah AT gmail DOT com

What Sewing Machine do you Currently use?
A Bernina Artista 165

What Camera do you use?
I currently use a Nikon D5100 although in the past I have used Nikon D3000 digital SLR with various lenses. Often I use the 18-55mm VR lens which came with the body and in low light I tend to stick with Nikon AF-S DX 35mm f1.8G. Any cropping or editing the images is done with the editing suite on Flickr.

I love your photos - but tell me honestly, are they staged?
No! What you see is what you get, I promise you! Unless I am photographing products for sale all the pictures here are absolutely un-staged. I do, however, selectively frame my pictures - I will not purposely take photographs of my laundry pile, for instance, or the dirty dishes or the crunchy nature of my carpet. Sometimes I will crop a picture to bring the composition together (but honestly, I'm so lazy I hardly ever do this), and very rarely I add an effect, such as Vignette, 1960s, cross process or black and white. But pinky promise nothing is staged!

Why do you homeschool?
This post from my homeschool blog is a FAQ of homeschooling. Scroll down to find the answer to why I homeschool.

Are you a Muslim?

Why did you convert to Islam?
This document gives some idea Why I Converted to Islam.

I'm sorry, I don't know much about your religion. Could you tell me a little about it? Thanks.
Lots of good books have been written about Islam.
Unveiling Islam is an excellent book, and written by a non-Muslim for objectivity.
Islam and the Destiny of Man is also a good book.

Basically we believe in One God who is the God of Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses, Jesus and Muhammad (peace be upon them). 'Allah' means 'The Deity' in Arabic and even Arab Christians will call God Allah. We believe that Jesus was the son of Mary but that he is a prophet and not god or son of god. We do not accept that the crucifixion took place as we do not believe God would dishonour His messenger in such a manner. The religion taught by all prophets was 'submission to God's will' which in arabic is the word 'islam' - submission. 'Islam' also means 'peace' because when you have surrendered yourself to God you find peace. In this way all the prophets were 'Muslim' as they obeyed God and continued the same message of monotheism.

Muslims do not drink alcohol, do not take intoxicants. We are forbidden to eat or even touch pork. We pray five times a day, we fast during the month of Ramadan, a portion of our disposable income goes towards the poor and we make pilgrimage to Makkah during the Hajj season if we are able. These are known as the pillars of religion.

Why Did You Call Your Blog 'My So Called Life and Other Lies'??
I've written a post here to explain partly why I blog. Basically I use this space as a meditation, a little place to escape and to see the beauty of our days. It is not a complete picture of my life - it is not a journal or a documentary. I prefer visual means of expressing myself and this blog is intentionally image intensive. This blog is also a meditation and what you see here is the polished, dressed up version of how I'd like my life to be. I suppose this blog is where I go to preserve my sanity, my sense of perspective and to aim higher, for beauty and for beautiful living. Take it with a pinch of salt, and remember behind every photo is a pile of laundry.

Hi I want to learn to sew and knit - do you have any advice?
I learned to sew by simply getting a sewing machine and DOING it - I wasn't at all successful to begin with and gave up for about year before I had another go, and that time I was hooked.

Books are useful resources, but there is no substitute for practice; once you have muddled through your own mistakes the book references will make so much more sense to you, so my advice is just start simple - start sewing in cotton (only!) make a cushion cover, make a tote bag, start simple and take it from there.

I recommend The Sewing Book By Alison Smith for absolutely everyone who sews. This article by Manda over on Treefall Design is also great for understanding machine needle usage.

When you have the skills and want to progress to other fabrics then this Sew Any Fabric book gives you detailed information on needle type and pressure foot guage.

For Quilting, again, I recommend the 'jump in and swim' method, but have recently acquired the book 'Practical Guide to Patchwork'
which I think is a brilliant introduction to patchwork and quilting and is visually very, very pleasing. So I heartily recommend that book.

Knitting is a totally different ball-game. It takes a will to learn, because you cannot learn by trial and error since if you do all you end up with is error. You NEED tutoring.

My mother taught me the basic of knit and purl when I was four, but everything else was a mystery to me - the WILL to knit came when friends of mine fell pregnant and a sudden urge to knit overwhelmed me.

I started out with Baby Knits For Beginners By Debbie Bliss (errata for this book can be found here), and it wasn't plain sailing - I started the first pattern over twenty times before it 'clicked' - I am not joking. Over twenty times I ripped it all out and started again, and had I not just bought some pricey yarn and needles I would have thrown the damn thing out. Perseverance is essential!

I then progressed Knitting for Baby: 30 Heirloom Projects with Complete How-To-Knit Instructions By Melanie Falick, Kristin Nicholas for other baby things before joining Ravelry and finding a host of (free!) patterns over there too.

For online help I have found Knitting Help invaluable, since it contains videos too to help with certain stitches. Great if you are a visual learner.

So my advice for knitting is - start on baby things - they knit up quickly and are great for a sense of achievement. I have a few more knit book recommendations over in my bookstore and Soulemama has a post up 'On Knitting' for advice for the novice too.

I also reviewed an excellent 'learn to knit' book here which is well worth a look.

To help beginners start knitting you will find in my tutorials page a couple of easy knits to get you started. This two-needle hat pattern is so easy, and I have been approached by a few beginner knit classes to use the pattern for their groups - with great success. So have a go at that and warm your babes up!

How do you do it all?
Because I'm perfect and superwoman and chew nails to spit out bullets.
No, actually it's because I neglect all domestic responsibility and make my children live on Cheerios and take-out.

How do you buy fabric from abroad?
Buying funky fabric in the UK is stupidly expensive. Before the Pound Sterling commited suicide it was (and still is) much cheaper to buy fabric from the US. That can be a dauting prospect and I recommend that you read this blog post before you go for it. This post gave me the confidence to go for it, and I haven't looked back since: Fabric How To

Can I link to you?
Of course! Thankyou!

Where else can I find you on the web?