Wednesday, September 5, 2012

One for the Collection

 Hello, Mr Lobster.  Come home with me.  Meet some of your mates.  They live on my kitchen dresser.  You know you want to.
OK.  Don't mind if I do.  I always believed that there is a place for everyone ... you just have to wait.  Exhale.

Monday, August 27, 2012


Today I had a moment.  One of those 'I'm going to cry' moments.  Sure I could tell you it was over an issue of world peace or grave illness; famine or drug related crime ... but it wasn't any of that.  It was over this building.  A beautiful heritage listed Launceston building.  Built in the 1920s.  This morning I felt so sad because the 'developer' has now replaced those beautiful wooden windows and doors on the upper levels.  Replaced them with ugly modern aluminium frames.  Apparent improvements?!?

So today I had another moment. I checked the heritage register ... clear as a bell ... 143-149 St John Street- permanently registered. So for the first time ever I took action. I rang the council and logged a complaint. I spoke with Heritage Tasmania.  They were wonderful. Because you know what ... it's a crime against Heritage Architecture ... and I feel so sad people thinking they can get around it by applying for planning permission 'retrospectively' and hoping it will slip through.  Other complaints had already been received.  The more they get, the more pressure there will be for this to rectified, I guess. They had already spoken with him.  Now I hope that he is made to replace those frames (that may not happen).

So that was my moment.
Just had to get it out... because I'm really pissed off.  I care about this stuff. This is our local history. That aesthetics are part of what gives our community its unique flavour.  We've got enough aluminium in the rest of our commercial buildings ... leave these ones alone! This property was purchased knowing it was part of the heritage register.  That comes with responsibilities.  If that's not your thing ... then don't buy it.

Soap box away.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Urban Archaeology

Today Tassie turned on the glorious.  A bright, warm, sunny winter's day lifted out of the morning fog - the perfect canvas for brunch with dear friends in our newly paved ' sun trap'.  When they left, it was too nice to go inside, so we stayed. With one of the lads opting to snooze, the wee girl and her wee brother filled the splash pool and donned the bathers.  Yes it is winter.  They were happy.  The girl even told me she won an Olympic Gold in diving.  We sang the national anthem.  I thought happy thoughts to keep me off those ones about pneumonia.... and I pottered.  Dunc welded - mending our soon-to-be-painted 50s outdoor setting (this has taken 4 years - see how motivating winter sun is?)... and I started doing a spot of archaeology.
 When we first moved into our house the back yard was entirely gravel ... it turned out on further investigation (ie when we decided we would put in garden beds) that under the gravel was a foot of compacted road base over black plastic ... low maintenance gardening, eat your heart out. A weekend of a hired 'dingo' digger and we broke through and freed the soil beneath ... but a really lovely discovery lay beneath ... our house is over 130 years old and at some stage someone had added fill ... whilst this fill contained shards of glass ... the bulk is made up of old ceramics.  So whenever we dig, or garden or even just go outside after heavy rain we find treasure.  This treasure gets placed along our fence , along with the old bottles and other interesting finds our soil turns up.  The ceramics, judging by their patterns and thickness vary greatly in age. Some is stoneware,  some porcelain.
Today, after much thought, and a whole lot more pottering around in the sunshine ,
I decided I might actually do something with these little treasures.  This post will have to act as a gentle kick up the derriere so that it is not waiting the same amount of time as the outdoor setting! We shall see!

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

For my Aunt

A couple of months ago I took myself off to an embroidery workshop run by Mae Findlayson at Milkbar. It was such a gentle and relaxing way to spend an afternoon, sipping tea and learning some basic embroidery stitches.  It was an eye opener; a door opener really which prised apart a long held belief that there was something tricky about this.  Mae encouraged us to approach it almost like colouring in and I was at once lost in it.  And in that place I remembered. I had once been taught, long ago to embroider.  Young fingers aged about 8.  Squares of hessian and needles threaded with brightly coloured wool.  Lazy daisies, chain stitch, running stitch, back stitch.  I remember filling my hessian canvas with those woollen flowers, one after the other, each becoming more uniform and dainty than the last.  My Aunt taught me those stitches.  My mother's only sibling.  Every other year she would visit us and stay, usually alone. Some years we would make the trip to country South Australia. Her skills in sewing, both machine and hand were beautiful. Each Christmas she would make my sisters and I a Christmas Dress.  Usually the same style but different fabrics and we would wear them and pose in front of the decorated tree or out in the garden, blinking in the bright West Australian sunshine.  One year, after completing a short course, she made us the most exquisite petticoats with matching knickers.  For me I just grew up thinking not much of these skills, taking for granted they were just there, easily accessible and run of the mill.  My mother and Aunt just could.

I think differently now.  As I stumble through those stitches I am remembering.  I am remembering my Aunt.  My Aunt who in the late 1950s was the first person (let alone woman!) in her whole extended family (and her community) to go onto tertiary study.  From waterside workers and butchers and tanners and barmaids came my Aunt who not only went on to Year 12 but then on to teacher's college. There are proud photos of the all the Aunts and Uncles and cousins, smiling faces, surrounding her in her achievements. As a young teacher she took herself off to the incredibly remote Aboriginal community of Warburton at a time when nomadic families were walking in from the desert during a time of extreme drought and seeing white fellas for the first time.  Her sense of adventure then took her even further from her home town of Fremantle ... on a boat to Canada to work and marriage and a child ... before she came back to Australia.  My Aunt was always the accomplished figure to me.  She was a deputy principal and she always had games and work sheets and a way of speaking to us that was always a little instructive. I guess, looking back, I was a little in awe of this woman so similar and yet so different from my own mother ... but when we were all together there was always adventures and laughter and a togetherness that we took for granted.  In my twenties .. after a stint of living in Victoria, I collected my Aunt from the South Australian Riverland and together we drove my 1965 Holden across the Nullabor back for Christmas in the West.  We got to talk, just us.  I now wish I had of talked even more because so much of what I want to ask my Aunt is lost.  After a succession of tragic twists and turns my Aunt has dementia.  She no longer remembers her youth, her mother, her father.  She speaks in regret and anger.  My babies are confused as my mother's.  My Aunt's experiences and skills and stories are buried beneath a blanket of fog.  Until that afternoon embroidery class I had not really really given myself time to think about my Aunt.  Distance and babies and a mother who picks up and soldiers on had provided a sort of buffer that let me look on from a distance, intellectualising not feeling.  But that afternoon I wished that I was sitting with my Aunt again. That between back stitches I had got the chance to tell her that I thought she was extraordinary, knowing that despite her amazing experiences and achievements and adventures she sadly thought very little of herself.
This weekend I picked up my embroidery again.  In the stillness of stitching I thought of her.  And when my wee girl wanted to help me, I instead hooped up her own favourite coloured fabric and taught her running stitch. She took to it immediately and without guidance, she fittingly stitched a freestyle heart. I guess as I get older I realise that it is by sharing and teaching and doing together that you really keep things close and warm and alive.  And whilst my daughter can never know my Aunt, without knowing it she is part of my story of her.  Who knows, she may even find herself in adulthood remembering the Sunday we sat in our jammies and she learnt to embroider.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Delivering a Design Brief

The wee girl got invited to a birthday party.  Theme: Dress Up.  A week out I casually mentioned that we should look through the dress up box and put together an outfit.  That suggestion was countered by a, "No.  It's OK.  I already know what I would like to wear".  A flurry of footsteps and a rustling upstairs followed before I was excitedly presented with this:
Ah ... The Enid Blyton Book of Fairies. I was then given my design brief.  "I want to look like the Queen of the Fairies".  When I tried for the sneaky "Should we just add to something we already have", it was rejected on the same level as if it was some really stinky French cheese.  Alright ... so the client is always right, right? It could have been worse ... she might have wanted to look just like that magic mushroom carrying frog, non? (The rabbit and mouse clearly are keen to get them some of that action, true?)
So here is the close up... after some thought, I decided the easiest approach would be to make a simple elasticated skirt and then a separate top.  The skirt was easy- 60cm of dance satin - sewed it up at the selvedges and popped the elastic in the waist.  I deliberated on the top ... then had a brainwave (rare round these parts) and used the bodice from New Look 6694 - View D or E.  I cut the back panel as one (removing the zip), added a little extra width, just incase it wouldn't go over her head - and put press stud closures at the shoulders.  A few stars and flowers cut out of felt (the majority machine stitched on), et voila!
One happy Fairy Queen a la Enid Blyton.  (Wings, Wand and Crown Model's Own)  The top is a different shade of pink because I didn't buy enough fabric.  I returned to buy more, without the skirt for comparision, feeling confident I could easily remember the shade.  Clearly the confidence I place in my cerebral abilities is misplaced ... but the Client was happy with the error.  She felt it was an improvement.  Cool.  I mean ... yes ... that is exactly the look I was going for.
 I took a little artistic license on the flowers ... I sewed on some vintage glass buttons for extra sparkle.  This met with the cient's approval.
And me?  I loved it.  I like doing this kind of stuff. I like a little challenge ... and the trance producing whirring of a sewing machine is my kind of yoga, swami.  Stoked smiles from smalls, payment enough.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Recover: Or How Upholstery Changes Lives

Some parts of my life have stalled of late.  That is another story. But for a moment there it seemed like momentum was back on the menu; a little list ticking and forward motion and lights at end of tunnels and future plans and such. We plugged up the 'third door' in the lounge room.  We had a wall ... and no longer any need for the draught flapping curtain that had covered the gap since we moved in four years ago...(as much as I miss the theatrical way you could enter the room and all...). The gap, so my neighbour tells me was created with a chain saw.  That was the way the DIY rolled round here before we moved in.

So with a new wall, we could move the furniture around.  We could rejiggle.  So after spending the last 5 years thinking I really should have a stab at reupholstering the couch, I just did it.  I'd bought the fabric a while back - Outside Oslo by Jessica Jones.  I really wanted the 'Dawn' colourway but decided that with three smalls under 5 maybe 'Dusk' would do the trick better.
Sure ... the couch which we bought for 50 smackers when a lovely neighbour moved out across the hall in Sydney almost a decade ago ... sure it is not the midcentury model shape the fabric perhaps leans toward ... but it was jolly and an improvement on the stained and faded green it had become in its long and well-sat on life. You can glimpse it here ... in its previous life.  So I unpicked the cushions, used them as templates to cut from.  Saved the industrial plastic piping cord, googled piping and taught myself how to make it and insert it (this alone changed my life ... so easy ...who would have thought?)  But I wasn't a piping purest - I didn't cut the fabric strips on the bias (to save on fabric) and just did a bit of fiddling to make it sit down around the corners.

Then we kind of did the same for the body of the couch ... Duncan helped me here.  Kind of just started taking it apart and working out what order to do the panels in.  Then I just laid over the fabric and chopped it and then stapled gunned it into oblivion.  My remit ... it just has to hold together and look jolly.  We didn't take off the old fabric ... it had a worn pile which just added some more padding ... we didn't replace foam... we repaired the fabric bracing under the cushions.  

Spurred on by the upholstery success, one morning I woke with a spot of the stylist possession frenzy.  A transient condition where some woman appears to have taken hold of your senses - in the fashion of The Exorcist - and you start throwing around, willy nilly, terms like 'pops of colour' and 'draw together' and 'vignette' and 'on trend'  and 'that wow factor' like you actually mean it. When you just want one room that you can sit without thinking 'I really must get round to ...'  Maybe those of you in a constant state of reno (or rental) can relate?  Looking at 'House Porn' is my not-so-secret pleasure. Applying it to my own space makes me feel good.
So I gathered up my collection of mirrors that had been scattered throughout the house (Most of which have been bought from the wonderful Cathy, some dating back to our first months on the island... check out that butterfly one!).  We repositioned the priceless art collection and rearranged the ancestral artefacts. (Read: a life time of gifted and thrifted treasures - each one with their own special stories and memories). Then, on completion fell on the newly upholstered couch and felt like we should have blindfolded each other and had a big 60 Minute Makeover style reveal including mutual back slapping.
Sure ... I'm no Sibella Court...but the list on my fridge that reads 'to do' has a couple of lines through it.  And this stands a testament that I (albeit briefly) got some mojo back.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Getting Going (again)

It has been a while since I blogged.  A couple of posts sit waiting in draft, hardly formed, unfinished. I have the sensation of wanting to say something but being quite unsure what exactly it is.  It presses on the back of my throat.  It comes fleetingly in images and small sentences. I have made things.  I have redecorated.  I have renovated.  I have repaved and rejigged.  I have gone off the island and come back.  I have had adventures and taken photos. I have gone to load them up, to just get on with the show and tell.  But it just doesn't come.  A heavy heart on the brink of change does that to me.  I lose my ability to find where to begin.  I forget where it started ... like trying to unravel a knotted ball of wool, you just have to have the patience (and time) to work backwards before you can get going again.

Today I have felt a change.  Today I feel like I can get going again.  Today I went to a bloggers meet up.  Tanya gently directed our discussion.  Interesting thoughts were aired, points raised, ideas crystallised.  I thought about why I blogged.  I thought about what I get from it.  It is indeed a record of what I make, of how my family are growing, of where I go, and what I find at op shops... and I love that part of it... the reporting part.  I love looking back through old posts and seeing where I have trodden. But I think what I have inadvertently found in blogland is more than a show and tell.  It is a sense of connection.  That the world is both vast and tiny.  That for all our differences we are so similar.  I like feeling connected to people; that I am, in small ways, sharing small parts of their everyday experience and likes. I don't necessary outpour all the contents of my life in every blog post.  I don't necessary disclose the struggles.  But I shy away from posting when it feels to me like sugar coating or skimming over or hiding something. Not that every absence can be explained by me visiting struggletown ... sometimes its just the computer on the blink or preferring the couch at night after a day of kiddy wrangling.  But I guess what I am saying is I like that blogging makes me reflect ... even if those reflections are never to meet the publish button. I like that blogging has the power to do that even when I'm not actually blogging. Does that make me authentic?  Truthful?  An honest representer?  Don't know really.  I think it just documents points where I have arrived at some clarity, the beginning of the ball of wool and that I'm ready to get going again.

For me sharing in this space makes me remember I am so small amidst a beautiful bigger picture...That is when I usually draw breath and tell myself to get on with it because noone is watching and the ones looking on are with you.

So here is what I made last week.  It is a present and the first shirred dress I have made in  a very long time.  It made me happy from the pink rosette down to the vintage lace that found a home at last.

PS. Thank you Tanya for organising the meet up ... it was lovely to meet everyone outside of cyberland

Thursday, May 24, 2012


Happy Birthday to you my wee girl. It seems like an age since we found out you were coming.  A world away, literally... It was my birthday and we were visiting the Shetland Islands.  Your Dad knew there was something amiss when I turned down a seafood dinner out to instead go to sleep, stating "that would be the best birthday present he could give me".  That's when we knew you were there.  Even before you arrived you were the daughter who made us change our paths.  Before you arrived we lived overseas.  Before you came we worked to travel. You were in my belly when we travelled to Thailand.  We went for a wedding and an adventure but on day three jaw dropping morning sickness kicked in and all I could eat was pomello and salty potato chips.  A bus ride saw me holding a plastic bag of my vomit, goldfish-like for two hours before we could get out. We cut our holiday short and returned to England intent on having you there, but through a few twists and turns we ended up homeless and jobless in an increasingly strange land- and on more buses - lonely double decker rides staring out at endless cold grey streets, you made me long for the light and warmth and familiarity of home and the love of those familiar.
I remember the strong smell of eucalypt on the humid air the night we stepped back into Australia.  Still homeless and jobless and penniless but somewhere where we knew. I remember the fear dissolving that night...heralded in by morning magpie's song there was no need for worry, we were on the right path. Despite more moves and shuffles and house hunting and job hunting the one constant was that you were coming.  We traded the sound of magpies for the soothing rumbling of trams and settled into the suburbia of california bungalows and walks along Merri creeks.  
Then one cold night in May you arrived.  You took your time. We didn't mind. It took endless pacing, hand in hand and eventually your Dad making analogies to laps in swimming pools... 'We are approaching the wall.  Turn.  Kick off. We are swimming again'. But then you were there. You chose to arrive posterior ... the difficult way but looking up at the world.  You arrived eyes wide open. Ready. I can still feel the weight of you on my chest that night at midnight.  I carry you there even now that you are five.
 There has been more change and moves since.  We have crossed the water to live on a small Island.  Those rumbling trams we travelled on are now the things of holidays and visits to Aunties and Uncles. It is here in a wonky old house that you have arrived at five.  My beautiful wee girl.  My creative girl.  My girl who climbs trees in dresses.  My girl who composes musical numbers and sings her words when her happiness spills over.  My girl who is the wordsmith.  My girl who never stops.  My girl who is still keen to send her brothers back. My girl who challenges me - so great are our differences and so familiar our similarities. My girl who started this mother caper; who arrived without instruction manual.
My girl who is already planning her next birthday party.
My girl who is five. 

Happy birthday to you, gorgeous girl.  The, "This was the best party ever.  It was just ... magnificent", made this Mumma's day xxx

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

La petite couture

We have a little tradition the wee girl and I.  Each year, come birthday time, I sew a new dress.  A birthday dress.  A dress for the party. This year was no different ... Except this year it wasn't a surprise dress, this year the girl got to choose all by herself.  This year she sat on the floor of the back room and got to go through the box of patterns.  This year she ummed and aahed, perused and pondered, and decided all by herself.  She picked out Style 4060, circa 1973 - my, my, the girl has an eye.  A beautiful pannelled dress with collar. She then plundered the stash cupboard and we pulled out a few fabrics - but she settled on this one - a 100% Cotton Pique that I have lovingly stroked for a while now - waiting for the moment that it would get its chance.  I had the perfect pink cotton for the pockets and collar tucked away.
 That was weeks ago.  It sat cut out but unsewed until a couple of days before her party. She had no idea I had been sewing at night to get it finished. So she still got her surprise.  Her party was on Sunday and the look on her face when I revealed the new dress complete with matching skivvy and tights was ACE... and I did have that little moment where I revelled in her joy ... because one day a dress sewn by your Mama may not illicit quite the same reaction. She even proclaimed after the party that it needed to be hung up so she could where it on her actual birthday (which is tomorrow). But for now it is still the number one reason why I get so much pleasure out of sewing ... it's the giving away of something you have made with love and having it received like you are the Christian Lacroix of Tasmania.  Viva la petite couture, non?

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Ruche Fabrics Launceston

Image via Tessuti

I'm up far too early.  I woke up thinking about sewing.  Then I was thinking about fabric.  Then I was thinking about our slim pickings here in fair Launceston.  Then I was thinking about how I just need to see it in the flesh to choose. Then I headed to Tessuti to do some virtual fabric fondling.  And then I was stopped in my tracks by this post.  Launceston is getting it's very own fine fabric shop ...Ruche Fabrics ... and it's opening today!! And their fabrics are sourced through Tessuti... and I'm really excited. And (as if I needed another 'and') they are having this cheeky wee giveaway.  Today I will be at 108 George Street, Launceston somewhere between 10am and 5pm. Nice one.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

 Procrastination move aside.  I be ticking off a list.  #1 Post parcel complete with gifts that have been blinking up at me in my sewing room saying 'Please complete me'.  Why!  Happy to oblige, because I be ticking off my list.  A little artistic licence on the blue bee hive and all, but I like it.
This is a flannel wrap/ blanket which I concede does look rather garish in this shot - but I tell you - the contrast orange stitching looked quite jolly in real life.  Now to attack a few little girl's birthday party presents ... I am using them as carrot dangling fodder so that I can get at the real sewing adventure ... A couple of dresses for myself.  That is after I convince two wee lads that they must take turns pushing the pink dolly's pram.  Anyone else support my research that a pink dolly's pram is the toy voted most likely to kick of a blood bath in the play room?  I can see now why parents were comfortable with allowing their children to go on the children's crusade.  They had one pink dolly's pram, and on that one fact alone, felt confident that given an opponent their size, their fighting skills would cut it.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Suzy Patterns

Suzy patterns has just released her gorgeous Antoinette Dress pattern! I just love this version of it ... I am a sucker for blue and red! But the most amazing thing is it is FREE!  You can go here to download it.  Just thought I would give a little bloggy heads up ... since I'm getting right into this sewing for myself caper.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Mount Gnomon Farm

On Sunday we went loaded the tribe in the car for a driving adventure. Our travels took us to Penguin and 'Rare Day Out' - an open day at Mount Gnomon Farm.  We have been buying their wonderful products from Harvest Market and were keen as mustard (or bacon) for a look see and to pat a piglet or two (or ten if you are my daughter).  The farm is nestled at the base of Mount Gnomon and Mount Duncan and just a short drive out of Penguin - we never need much of an excuse to head to the coast to suck in some ocean air - but a day on a farm was icing.

Patting piglets
pointing at piggies
enjoying spaces
meeting the rare heritage breed: Wessex Saddleback pigs
exploring the farm
enjoying our tour and seeing the sow with her litter
For our wee family, nothing beats the chance to get out and away for the day.  Having such a wonderful destination, with a chance to learn more about where our food comes from is really special. Sipping a coffee in a paddock with the smalls happily patting piglets, a little bit farm fancy, no? Thankfully the electric fences were off ... as the lads were keen to check for themselves (insert fierce intake of breath from bystanders). Many thanks to Guy and Eliza for a lovely Day Out. Their passion for their beautiful farm and for producing ethically raised meat was really inspiring; their enthusiasm so wonderfully infectious. Follow Mount Gnomon on Facebook here ... then you'll not miss their next open day... or head to Harvest Farmer's Market this Saturday and sample the love yourself.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

A Pink Peony

 Presenting my latest adventure in Couture Pour Moi ... Colette Patterns' Peony.  This is my wearable muslin.  Despite being between a few sizes ... I ran it up in the Size 8 ... I am really happy with the fit ... Next dress (oh I've already got the fabric out, ready to be cut!) I think I will add a little in the length - I feel I am feeling a little bit breezy when I bend to pick up smalls, if you know what I mean ...
 The fabric is a linen look fabric I picked up from the op shop last week.  I dare say it has some poly in there - hell it might all be poly - but it was perfect for my first go.  I don't own anything pink.  But I am actually pretty happy with how it looks.
 The bateau neck is so lovely and just a little bit classy, methinks.  It's important to be a little bit classy.  Rise above your station, I say.  Like having a cheeky vino with your chips and gravy.  I may have made the darts a little pert (if you know what I mean) but I only think you would notice if you where staring at my chest ... and really I don't think there is any danger there.
I omitted the pockets this time - only because I was impatient to get the dress finished so I could see if it had worked. The only change I made was that I put in a conventional zip in lieu of an invisible - I haven't been able to get my hands on an invisible zipper foot for my machine - although it has turned out OK - an invisible zip would definately be a much nicer finish.

Oh and I didn't make the belt ... I'm not good with belts!

This is an awesome dress.  I have a feeling I'm going to be whipping up a few of these as my go to dress!  Colette Patterns are available at Milkbar if you live on the Apple Isle x

Monday, March 26, 2012

Ideas Man

I used to be the world's best present buyer.  OK.  So that is not exactly quantifiable, but let's just say I used to get a large amount of joy and satisfaction out of searching for and acquiring the choice present.  Fast forward a few years ... and I suck.  Some people are easy to buy for, but most are just plain impossible to think up a good gift for. I just hate buying something that I know is not going to hit the mark.  I know people apprecriate the thought and all that ... but they don't appreciate having to display/wear/ serve on/ hang up/ use a crap present only when you come over.  I know people.  Most hate to offend.

Without a doubt the men in my life are the hardest. My brother-in-laws are the top of the list of dreaded birthdays.  I try to get my Man to do the choosing - but even he struggles. So since I love making gifts, I've gone all out.  This year the brother-in-law is getting this.  It's so belated, I almost kept it for Xmas.  But what is it? Well, it's a hard covered lecture pad, and I made the cover from vinyl.  He may hate it.... but I am appealing to his sense of humour.  He will get the reference.  Plus he's doing his MBA, so it's not like he doesn't need something to take notes in ... who doesn't need a little humour injection in some of those lectures?

I made one just like it at Xmas time for another dear man.  His may be hidden at the back of a drawer as we speak... but I have to get points for trying, non? And I made a different version way back when for my man's birthday.  He still uses it.  He's OK with it.  SO I've decided.  This is this year's pressie.  Done.  No more said.