Sunday, December 26, 2010

Monday, November 15, 2010

The Cat's Pyjamas

I've just noticed that the pyjamas I am wearing still have the tacking thread in them.  They are donkeys years old and have been worn thousands of times - nearly on their 'last legs' and still I havent gotten around to removing the tacking. What is that they say about the mechanic's car, the plumber's drains, the teacher's kids..... and the clothier's pyjamas!
At least the tacking thread matches - it doesnt always.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

going where angels fear to tread....

I've seen two episodes now of the BBC production The Choir: Boys Dont Sing that is being aired on ABC1 at 6pm on Tuesday nights. I believe this is the middle series of three which follows choirmaster Gareth Malone as he takes on seemingly huge challenges.  I believe it is a repeat so you might have already seen the whole series. In the one I have been watching, Gareth goes into an all boys school where they havent had singing since the 70's with the intention of starting a choir. Here, the belief that "boys dont sing" prevails. I am so inspired by the ways he overcomes resistance - really challenges and begins to change a whole culture. I love his gung ho belief in his ability to do this - even though all the evidence seems to be to the contrary. In tonight's episode he decides to form a staff choir so as to provide some positive role modeling for the boys.  After much persistence he finally gets one of the really popular male teachers to join.  A bloke who said he hated singing - a waste of time - would rather be playing rugby  but after the staff choir performs at Sports day -  this teacher discovers he is actually quite good at singing - and that he enjoys it.  I found the episode I watched tonight very moving as well.  The changes in the boys,  seeing them express parts of themselves that previously they kept hidden is really inspiring.  Gareth says of the 15 year old who sings a solo piece in the performance "he might never have sung another note after leaving primary school except for in the privacy of his own bedroom".  I'm also hugely inspired by the way Gareth tackles it all head on.  He has 170 boys volunteer to be in the choir. 50 auditon to sing solo. Only two of the boys have had any choral experience. But there is no nursing them along - no gently, gently.  He commits to a public performance that is just weeks away - a goal, something to work for is what is needed to build the confidence.  My experience would attest to this yet it seems counter intuitive.  It would be easy to think that confidence comes through practice then you do the hard thing but no, confidence is developed in doing  the hard thing.  I hope I can remember that and push myself to do more hard things.  What might I do this week, tomorrow, to get out of my comfort zone?

Saturday, October 23, 2010

happiness is.....

I've used a whole pencil writing in figures in preparation for my tax return. What a drag.  Each time I sharpened my pencil the shavings looked like wistful butterflies longing to be else where. Easy to get bogged down. luckily i could see the fabrics of hope out waving in the spring breeze - a promise of better and more fun things to come. Yah!

Friday, October 8, 2010

Getting Red-dy

or going dotty!  Here are the skirts I finished today - ready for tomorrow's Blackbird Market

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Vintage Heaven

Quite by accident, walking a different route to catch a tram, I came across a vintage market place:  Lost and Found Market on Smith Street, Collingwood.  Just popping in for a brief gander, I found wonderful things.  Some lovely 70's fabrics, a scarf that is just the shade of red I've been looking for and some cute vintage handbags.

The best find of all was a pattern for a dress that I remember my mum making for me when I was a teeny bopper in the seventies.  She made a denim one that I wore as a pinafore and as a sundress and another cotton one in a novelty print that I wore as a sundress.  I wore them to death.  Particularly the denim one.  It was a favourite for as many years as it fitted me.  Funny thing is, I'd been thinking about some of the dresses my mum had made me and wishing those patterns had been kept as I would love to re-use them.  I was also thinking about the very pretty cotton fabrics, some seersucker, that she used.  Havent seen anything like them for years. The pattern I found has never been used.  I cant wait to make it up. Not for me, of course coz I remember the rule about vintage: if you wore it the first time round then it's not for you, second time round. Besides, it wouldnt fit me. It is such a comfortable, flattering style I hope someone else will see it on my market stalls and love it as much as I did (do).  I think the first one I make will be in a soft hemp organic cotton denim that I have.  Meanwhile, I'll keep my eyes open for a small 70ish floral print.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Thursday, September 2, 2010

I bought this remnant recently purely and simply because it reminded me of Bright Star, the Jane Campion film about the doomed romance between poet John Keats and his stylish young neighbour, Fanny Brawne.  I won tickets to see the film when it was released last December and I went knowing nothing more than that it was about Keats, whose poetry I had studied at school. When the opening scene began with a close up of a needle pulling thread through linen and a soundtrack of ethereal singing, I was puzzled.  The connection soon became clear.  Fanny, the "well stitched Miss Brawne"; the first person in "Hampstead and Woolwich to have a triple-pleated mushroom collar"; Fanny, who boasts that she only wears what she has sewn and designed herself, is "Bright Star" to Keats and to us.
Her wit, innovative fashion sense, her healthy disrespect for social conventions suggest she is a young woman ahead of her time. It is Fanny's luminous life force that keeps the ailing Keats alive.
I have never seen a film that so promotes the beauty and creativity of fabric, sewing and style. Jane Campion embroiders and sews herself and tends to make films that champion the female gaze so it is not surprising that she intended the film to be "a poem of praise for the creative process".  There are so many scenes that are visually breathtaking - and many of them involve fabric.  Fabric conveys mood in the film from a light airy fine lawn curtain blowing in the breeze, to the romance of purple taffeta and blue velvet;  the joyousness of picnicking in pink cambric to the heavy black linen of winter mourning.  I'm sure it is no coincidence that sewing, embroidery and dressmaking are juxtaposed with the high art of poetry, both are crafted and we see that both are forms of creativity that require skill and imagination. And that both can result in something of beauty.  That which is crafted by hand and eye, as well as heart and mind matters, especially when it takes days to stitch or write.

Since I love sewing it is hardly surprising that i would be cheered by such a film as this.  I also came away with a deeper appreciation for fabric - particularly those that i think of as French fabrics - those cottons and linens that define the finished product.  I also came away with a desire to learn to crochet.  Those Sophie Digard creations that Fanny and her little sister wear are to die for.  No doubt crochet like that take years of practice to perfect.  Still, no harm in aiming high :)

Thursday, July 29, 2010

July Craft Challenge - Nature

This is my submission for July for Adele's  '12 Month Craft the World Challenge'. The theme for this month is 'nature'.  I've chosen a certified organic cotton* to make this wrap around dress.  The print is called "Garden Poppy Scrolls", designed for Mod Green Pod by Nancy Mims and is part of the "Free To Grow" collection.  In my mind it looks like a field of wildflowers, so to this backdrop I have appliqued some trees, using other organic cottons,  then added some happy dogs frolicking in the flowers and put some singing birds in the trees.

Here is the back view:

This is the detail of the applique on the front of the dress. Shows the detail of the fabric print as well.

You can see what others have come up with using the theme of nature in the month of July by following the links over on the page Adele has on her website (here)

*Certified: 100% certified organic  through Global Organic Textile Standards (GOTS by IMO) to requirements of Organic Exchange 100 Standard.
Inks and/or Dyes: Low impact, approved for use by GOTS. No substances banned by GOTS were used in production.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Turning the Table(cloth)s

What fun I have had this week.  It started with a visit to my favourite op-shop where I found three tablecloths just begging for a chance to do something different with their lives.  The first had a beautiful hand crocheted edge, so needed to be something simple to make the most of this.  It was also quite a small cloth and turned out to be just enough for this top:

The pattern was Style I 

which comes from the Japanese Pattern book Sewing Lesson:

The other two cloths I made into skirts.

front view

side view

front view

side view

For the first skirt  I used New Look pattern 6637  to make the short version of the wrap skirt 

The pattern for the second skirt was Style 16 

from another Japanese Pattern book:  One Day Sewing No. 746 

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

June Craft Challenge Top

The theme for June for Adele's '12 Month Craft the World Challenge' is Black and White.  Here is my entry.  The fabric is a beautiful soft broderie anglaise voile.  I've embellished it by cutting up and appliqueing a vintage crocheted doiley.  The pattern is Style F from the "Simple Tunic and One Piece" Pattern Book


which, in the book was also made in black and white:

Detail of shoulders and doiley trim:

Monday, May 17, 2010

the chill air

It might be sunny but there is a distinct nip in the air.  My dad would say, "It's too cold to rain." Makes me feel like sitting next to the window where the sun is coming through and knitting. Doesn't that sound like bliss?  Wont happen today.  I've got non-crafting work to do today. Perhaps tonight I can get on with the scarf I am knitting.  I'm wanting to wear it so I cant wait until it is long enough The yarn is an alpaca/mohair/wool blend, so it feels soft and warm but with some structure.  The pattern is simple - I'm not good at following a pattern, particularly not a lacey one but I am managing this one with ease - long as I knit 7 rows at a time.  That is because there are 7 rows to make the pattern and if I always complete a pattern I don't have to try to work out where I am up to.  (That is how bad I am at knitting!) A woman in a shop gave me these photocopied instructions so I dont know where the pattern really comes from.

Here's how simple it is:
Using size 10 (6mm) needles cast on 16 stitches
Row 1: (Right side) K1, *yarn over, knit one repeat from * until the last stitch, K1
Row 2: K1, purl to last stitch, K1
Row 3: K1, *knit 2 together. repeat from * until last stitch, K1
Row 4: K1,  *Yarn over, knit two together, repeat from * until last stitch, K1
Row 5: same as row 4
Row 6: knit
Row 7 knit

Repeat the following 7 rows until the scarf is the length you want.  Cast off and work in loose ends

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

today I'm making .... biscuits

Going to have dinner with friends tonight so decided to bake some bickies to take.  It's just a basic biscuit recipe to which I have added ginger and almonds ...'cause that makes them a bit more grown up.
Here is the recipe:
100g Buderim Naked Ginger (uncrystalized sweet ginger)
120g slivered almonds
process together or chop finely

125g butter
1/2 cup sugar (I used 1/3 cup Smart Sugar*)
1 egg
1 1/4 cup plain flour (I used organic wholemeal flour), sifted
1 teaspoon baking powder

Preheat oven to 180 degrees celsius.  Beat butter and sugar with electric mixer until mixture is light and creamy. Add the egg and mix until combined. Fold through the flour, baking powder  and chopped ginger and almonds.
Shape teaspoons full into rounds. press down with a fork. Place on silicone sheet  (or non stick paper) on baking tray. Bake for 10 - 12 minutes, until golden. Cool on wire rack.  Makes about 30 biscuits - depending on size.

*Smart Sugar is made by CSR and is natural sugar with Stevia and contains half the calories of ordinary sugar.  The stevia plant is native to South America, sweetness is extracted from the leaves and it can be up to 300 times sweeter than sugar - so not as much is required to get the same sweetness

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Japanese Pattern Books

I'm in love with these books!  The patterns are simple but classy.  I've been using this skirt pattern

from this book

to make this

and this

and the pockets on this skirt

from this book

inspired these pockets

on this skirt