Sunday, 29 November 2009


I can't say how much I have loved the rain we have been having, especially at night when I am holed up snug and dry in my little eerie. I always remember November as being rainy and after so long with little or no precipitation I am really enjoying it.
I think I have spent just about the whole day on the computer sorting out the Jumble Sale details and making a 'white box' to photograph products and slacking off and gas-bagging with sweet Andrea and eating the chocolate cupcakes she delivered straight from the oven.
It was a busy day yesterday so I have a lot to get done this week. A list as long as my arm!

it's time to rumble!

So to the first announcement of the week!
We are having a Studio Sale!
Check out the new Rumble in the Jumble Sale blog with all the details. We will be updating it in the lead up to the big day.

Saturday, 28 November 2009

i am shopgirl, hear me roar

So yesterday I was shopgirl and today I am shopgirl and tomorrow I will talk to no-one!
I got a fair way into all the hand sewing I needed to catch up on and must remember to write a note on the wall saying 'owlettes aren't a pain to do', sometimes I get it stuck in my head that something takes longer and is more annoying to do than it really is. It's the procrastinator in me.
Take for instance needing to take a photo of the striped dress for Charlotte to see or letting her know that yes we do have the Dora pants in black linen (although not in all sizes). Bad shopgirl bad.

So I potted in the shop and did a 'dell' and took photos of stuff. Like the box of the crocheted Xmas decorations.

And the pouffés. 
And I put out new afghans.

And made a stand for the new bark cloth bags out of an old lampbase I haven't had re-wired and a couple of butcher's hooks from Ikea. Works rather well if I say so myself.
Today I will serve customers and meditate on what needs to get done in the next week or two. 
In other words a hell of a lot.
And stay tuned because we will be announcing something special in a few days. 
Actually there are a couple of announcements coming!
One being that I must stop procrastinating immediately!

lashings of butter

I know my replacement jeans are a little tight and I know I have to cut back on the ginger beer but tearing off chunks of fresh hot Babka baguette and eating with lashings of cold salty butter is, well, really hard to resist.

Thursday, 26 November 2009

the blue rose of curio

Blue roses always make me laugh. They are just so not right. I don't care if they are breeding roses with the blue gene*. I think a glow-in-the-dark rose** would be fun in a night garden!

I've raided the shelves and pulled out piles of bark cloth to make a new style bag. A summer tote, bark cloth on the outside, vintage cotton on the inside and handles reinforced with cotton herringbone tape. The fabrics are 1950s through to 1970s, lots of strange and wonderful prints.
The bags are really reversible if you so desire.

I've spent this evening trying to move things around in the shop, putting out new stock and find somewhere to store the boxes of shop bags that arrived today. There is so little storage space in this building, I've ended up with a clothes mannequin on the landing.
I've also been checking what stock we have and, more importantly, haven't got. I'm shopgirl for the next two days and have reached the point of mild but trembling panic. I must keep my hands busy tomorrow. I'm not feeling like we are in the throws of Xmas yet, I can't decide whether this is good or bad. Do we have enough stock? Do we have interesting stock? Will people buy it? If we open the doors will they come? I have the 'birthday party jitters'. Ridiculous! It's about time to start burning the candle at both ends and in the middle.

*I was half asleep when I wrote this last night and I was thinking about the legendary black tulips and everything got mixed up in my head.... yes there are blue roses and delphiniums and sweetpeas..... they are just never quite as blue as all the roses depicted in my 1950s floral fabrics! That would really be creepy!
** And apparently you can buy glow-in-the-dark roses, so this post is really defunct and should be completely scrapped, although the bit about new bags made from vintage fabrics and the fact that I am panicking are both correct. 50% isn't too bad I suppose.


Tuesday, 24 November 2009


Whilst I am still not in the 'zone' I am trying to get things done. Today was finishing off some more pouffés that I started last week.
The new ones are made from some fabulous blankets that I scored last week. Three of the rugs are handwoven overshot, each one is made from three pieces handstitched together. I grew up weaving these designs on my 4 shaft floor loom and I am quite nostalgic about them. (I know I am such a nerd!)

The other pieces are woven as single pieces and include a foliade design, a pagoda and this superb mermaid surrounded by seagulls. She really is a sailor's sweetheart! And yes she is brown. A brown mermaid. Curious!

And finally a tapestry pouffé. I think this might be the last one for a while as I have completely run out of tapestries. There will be more of the rug pouffés though in various colours and designs. 

Monday, 23 November 2009


You know where we'll all be!
We all love Dell and Adam's December shows. Yes-sir-re-dee-di-de-do!

working hard for the man

The kitchen table is.... well..... a bit crowded at the moment.
It's known at the 'kitchen table' but really it's more an outpost of the studio, and whilst it has hosted innumerable family dinners when I was a little tacker and debauched dinner parties when I was all growed up, it is mainly used to make stuff these days. I've so got out of the habit of having dinner parties that I don't know whether I could bring myself to have one anymore. How pathetic is that?!
So the boy curled up in the middle of it all yesterday for a bit of a catnap. A catnap that lasted a couple of hours.
What a life.
I came home this afternoon to find Jethro had brought all his toys downstairs to the shop (including some shrivelled up green beans). Yesterday I found all his missing bouncy balls piled up behind the storage box under the stainless steel bench in the kitchen. I'd wondered where they had all gone. 

I got an early(ish) start at the studio this morning but I must remember to never start Monday morning with a project that needs my brain to be working. I should ease into the week rather than attempt to make garments with 12 meter hems. I should have 'warm-up' projects. Nice simple brainless jobs. Kind of like stretching exercises.

Then this afternoon was back to the shop to field phone calls and organise parcels and answer emails. It never ends. Tonight I have a pile of things to do. Oh the joys of being self employed during the Xmas season!

Saturday, 21 November 2009

saturday morning coming down

Here finally is a gratuitous watermelon granita picture. (Don't tell Dell, I had one on Friday without her.)

It's still muggy here in Old Melbourne Town even though the 'cool change' has come through. The birds are singing. All yesterday evening and this morning it has been like they have let out all their pent up songs, that it was too hot for them to do their singing and now they are letting rip.

This week has been physically draining with both the heat and the amount of sewing I have been trying to catch up on. Lugging rolls of fabric and mountains of stuff around, cutting and drafting, hunched over the sewing machine. My whole body feels achy and breaky and bone weary, and sadly this is only the start of it. Wholesale has fired up and poor Thursday girl Anna had to put up with my venting with annoyance because of it. People just don't realise that a very large (VERY large) percentage of our stock is made by me, physically and emotionally by ME. I don't have a team of minions, lackeys and the only person in the sweat-shop is me. (OK sorry as you may have guessed I am a little stressed and tired- apologies.) 
Someone I know always pesters me that I should have everything made  in Bali, as she does, but I really can't bring myself to go down this line. To me that defeats the whole ethos of what I am trying to do. If I did then I would be simply making another mass (even in limited quantities) produced, disposable, high mileage consumable. Products where I would be paying the lowest possible price and selling it at a killing. I would like to have money in the bank, a hammock of safety but really paying the bills and creating something I am proud of far outweighs all this. 
This time of the year is a bit like going into training for a marathon. At the moment I'm all unfit but the stamina will come and I'll be able to do those long, long days soon enough. It'll be head down and I'll be in the making zone.
And then comes Xmas Day and I will sleep for a week. 

kiss here

I waited here but nothing happened.

Wednesday, 18 November 2009

addiction (variation)

Watermelon granita topped up with Bunda-beer.
(Photos to come.)
(OK- no photos today..... we slurped it all up! Maybe tomorrow.)

Tuesday, 17 November 2009

carole king (4 and 5) comeback

I managed to get these two finished yesterday- which may explain my aching back and difficulty moving. They are quite tiring to stitch together (especially when you are tired anyway). You have to sort of wrestle with them. But they are done and now I have to start hunting tapestries again. And yes the one at the top of the photo does include yesterday's tapestry porn, it now has a seam running down through the middle of the couple so it looks a little less..... ummmm..... wrong, now they look like they are kissing....

Monday, 16 November 2009

in the worst possible taste

Oh really!
Who would have thought that this design would have been created as a tapestry?
Who would have thought anyone would have bought it?
Who would have thought someone would have actually sat down and embroidered this?
It's kind of like tapestry porn.
And really really bad.
I mean what is he doing with his hands?!

Sunday, 15 November 2009


I've been meaning to change the window display for weeks. 
I was hoping to hold out for at least another week before we went all Xmas-y but there seemed no reason to do a new window then change it all again in another week. So welcome to Xmas.

Jethro of course needed to oversee the whole set up.
(Much to the amusement of passers-by.)

That was exhausting (and perhaps boring) so after trying to get me to move the piled up quilts that were on the top of the tea-towel shoppers, his preferred sleeping position, by knocking half of them on the floor, he retired to a basket of gloves.

Then there was the exciting opening up of the boxes of vintage Xmas decorations. And sitting in a nest of shredded paper and running through bubble wrap.

So Xmas has sort of arrived at the Cottage. The shop looked/looks like the Mongol Hordes have come through on a shopping bus tour but things should be sorted by Wednesday. The window is doilied trees and crocheted snowflakes. I like the whole northern hemisphere Xmas thing, all dark and cold and glittery and smelling of spices- it all makes much more sense than sunshine, heat and blowflies.

Saturday, 14 November 2009

best laid plans... something about mice and men.....

Here was I thinking that I had a handle on my Saturday morning. All it takes is running into a chatty friend on the way to pick up raspberry danishes at Babka and there goes my plans!
Well that's my excuse for the somewhat dodgy photos today. And not getting to the post office.

The 'Lisette' dress at the top is really very, very pretty and the 'Daisy' drawstring lightweight denim pants are a stronger, more seventies, blue than the grey colour they look like in the pic.
I had washed the pants up last night and needed to run them up to the studio to use the master-blaster-iron. The problem with steam box irons is waiting around for them to get a head of steam up. Bit like me really. (That sounds really wrong somehow...)

Thursday, 12 November 2009


Made my day. David Rawlings new CD. How I love his flatpicking guitar style. If I'm going to have to put up with a boiling hot studio then I need the right music to work to! 
Three straight days on the sewing machine has turned my back into a whole world of hurt. But new dresses are ready, so on to the next project. I need to make sure now that I have five days a week in the studio that I balance it out with other things. Tomorrow morning I think a bit of errand running is in order.

Wednesday, 11 November 2009


bottom of the tops

The window was replaced at 8 this morning. Thank goodness.
Poor Dell had a deadly quiet day in the shop today. Damn sweltering weather.
The 'Meralise' tops are done! New dress in store tomorrow evening (hopefully), it's the dress version of this top and I think it is very cute- there is one in the window at the moment, size 2 but more to come. 
The studio is really quite putrid at the moment and it won't cool down again until next winter now. Thinking of rigging up a harness so the fan moves around the room with me. 
Jethro had a huge complaining attack last night. He lay at the top of the stairs and grizzled and meowed about the heat- very funny and cute. 
I have spent the evening sitting on the couch, in front of the fan, making bracelets. I've got to get the 'memory' back in my fingers. Every day I have to make, make, make. 

Tuesday, 10 November 2009


On a lighter note- I am addicted to this.....

Seriously I've tried every g-beer and Bunda-beer is the best. I grew up with home-made ginger beer. There are the family stories of the exploding bottles (when one goes, they all blow) and the batches that went alcoholic. My brother was quite good at brewing it. I don't drink alcohol anymore so ginger beer and lemon-lime-bitters are my tipples of choice. Did you hear there is a Angostura bitter shortage? OMG! What am I to do?!
And if you check the Bundaberg site they even have recipes and other products that I have never seen in shops down here (like 'Burgundee') and they have these.....

Bundaberg Cap Bikes! Hilarious!
The downside to my addiction is the burping. Let 'er rip sister!

not happy jan, not happy

Well the window is still not fixed. 

So if your glazier's motto was 'same day repairs' would you be thinking, like, you know, that the freakin' window would be repaired, like, same day as you organised it?
Or that maybe they would ring you to let you know that they couldn't make it?
Am I being unrealistic?
So at 5.45pm I was doing the 'not happy' line over the phone to the boss glazier, the 'you better be here at 8am tomorrow, blah, blah, blah.......'. I always hate getting all mem-sahib but really the damn motto said 'same day'!

Looking at the racks in the shop at the moment is a little depressing. So little summer clothing.
I am panicking! I'm working on a batch of cotton voile tops, edged in vintage blue broderie anglais. They are very pretty but I am feeling nervous about everything I'm working on currently. Perhaps it's just the heat. Hopefully it's just the heat.

Monday, 9 November 2009

would you like ice with that?

It's November. 
We should not be sweltering like this.
I don't think I am going to be able to stand another 5 months plus of this.
I will end up like Little Black Sambo's tigers- a pool of melted butter (or rather- fat).

Note to self- do not leave an open jug of water in the fridge along with a lump of rancid brie, that ice cold water will not be refreshing in the least.

I spent this morning running around like a lunatic organising the last part of the proposal I needed to get in and with no air-con in the car at the moment things were not nice. By midday I was exhausted and ended up heading home with the intention of getting some 'homework' done. Sadly no work done. I did wash the couch cover and a quilt, perfect weather for it, the only thing this weather is good for!

So the studio will be sweaty tomorrow but I really need to get on to all those summer clothes I've been promising everyone. My own little 'sweat shop'.

9.45pm update The other reason I hate hot weather is that everyone on Gertrude St goes a little crazed when the evenings are hot. Some idiot has just smashed one of the panes in the front window, scared the shit out of Jethro who was sleeping on the big table in the middle of the shop and I've had to spend the last 3/4 an hour cleaning up and patching the window. I will now have to organise a glazier in the morning and there goes a couple of hours out of the studio tomorrow. Why? Why? Why? Stupid senseless destruction. Grrrrrrrr.
You'd think I would be used to living in the inner city after all these years.

Sunday, 8 November 2009

sun day

As you may know I hate this weather.
I'm as far from being a summery type person as is possible. Especially hot and humid. Around here it equals red and sweaty. Mind you when it's hot and dry I am actually quite sparky and pleasant to be around.
This morning I scooted down to Sophia Mundi for the fete, a bit quiet this year with lots of hats and sun-screen out. I always forget how busy it is down at the Convent these days. There was even a wedding being set up in one courtyard. It feels like a corner of France and I always feel a little disorientated when I leave. 

I got to check out Coco's class room and her amazing assignment on snow leopards. Each child chose an animal and put together a book on their subject, made a clay sculpture and a needle felt critter. Sorry for the bad photo, her mum's hand was shaking too much!

Cleaning got put on hold (again) as I had to get a proposal written this afternoon. Well and truly procrastinated on that one and now I'll have to run around tomorrow to get the last stuff together and get it delivered. Oooops. Think it's ok. Oh well. Typical.

Definitely need a nap now.
And some way to get the house clean whilst I nap. I seem to have mislaid the 'self-clean' button. Damn.

Saturday, 7 November 2009

the devil's cloth

Ahhh Saturday morning, here again.
How the weeks fly by.
I've spent my morning running around, sending  off parcels, picking stuff up at the studio, getting the papers and making Jethro wear his kitten harness (he escaped yesterday and poor Dell had to chase him down the street, so back to shop training, although he's so headstrong I don't think it is going to work, at the moment he's lying on the shop floor having a tantrum).

Now school is over for the year (bar a bit of marking entering) I'm trying to get in the zone. The zone where I am head down, making, making, making. This week's new stock includes new tea-towel cushions (if they grew legs they couldn't leave the shop faster!), more tea-towel shoppers and, making a return appearance after many years, quilted tea-towel jackets. Tea-towel theme happening there!
For something different we also have sleeveless dresses in black and latte stripes, hence the 'devil's cloth' title. 'Devil's cloth?' I hear you ask..... wish I could find my copy of Michel Patoureau's book to give you the full lowdown but basically stripes were always worn by the near-do-wells, gypsies, tramps and thieves, harlots and heretics. So if you want to live life on the wild side we have a lovely frock for you to wear.

Friday, 6 November 2009


I bought myself a Lomo camera last Xmas. So far I have managed to fire off one and a half rolls. Pathetic really. It even took me months to get the first roll developed and this week I finally got a few images printed up. That was a problem in itself. Gone are the days of enlargers and choice, now it's all automated, scanners and limited possibilities. 
Sometimes technology does not free us.
Especially when you go lo-fi on the camera.
But I kinda like the images, although they looked better as transparencies.
The ghost boy is Felix.
We are related.
He is one of my five nephews.

Sometimes I just forget how nice it is to just do something creative for the fun of it, not to make a living. So much of my creative life is tied in with my everyday professional job and sadly there is often little time or energy left over to just play.

I've got piles of film I should really use.......

Thursday, 5 November 2009

beware the scare-penguin

The interweb thingy has been severely playing up this week. 
Annoying beyond belief.
I'm thinking of setting this scare-penguin on my internet provider. He guards a fabulous wog garden down the road. 
So my apologies to all those people whose emails I haven't had a chance to reply to. I will get there sometime soon.
Fingers crossed.

Sic 'em Rex!

Wednesday, 4 November 2009


The Sophia Mundi Spring Fair is on this weekend- and it's back on a Sunday so I can go this year! 
They always have the best sausage sizzle and the craft tent is always good for a Steineresque felt doodad. The' kid's tent' has my friend Suzie and I wanting to mug the younger set for their purchases (adults aren't allowed in, children get to peruse and buy the most beautiful and whimsical  handmade objects). And of course it's down at Abbotsford Convent, where you feel like you're in the country but only five minutes from the city. While you are there you can go to C3 gallery and see Simon McEwan's exhibition, take a drink at Handsome Steve's and pick up a loaf of bread at the bakery. So glad that we managed to save them from turning the Convent into another ghetto of apartments and townhouses.
And there is the Children's Farm too for that whole country feel.
Too much fresh air!

Tuesday, 3 November 2009

how to make the people at the post office smile

Yesterday I got a home to find an Australia Post reminder to come pick up a parcel. 
So I tootled down to the post office, stood in the queue, handed over the card and waited while the man went out the back to find the parcel. He came back to confab with the post-lady saying he couldn't find it. After reading the card a huge grin spread over her face, she laughed and turned to check out the person who had come to pick up the parcel addressed as follows......

I never get mail like this!
How lovely!
Dear Fran the Seamstress sent me the loveliest letter and two (!) gorgeous and very beautifully made vintage tie brooches. I do have to say I love an 'old skool' letter and Miss Alison knows how to write a damn fine one. 
I've been thinking a lot about letters lately, Bright Star is all about letters and there was the article in the weekend papers a couple of weeks ago about Amish teenagers courting each other with love letters. Just as we are all getting back into making things and giving the handmade, isn't a personal letter, on paper, handwritten or typed with care, one of the highest forms of craft? It takes time, it takes heart and it communicates and connects so deeply.

Thank you Miss Alison. You have made me feel very special.

Oh -and I'll be wearing the spotty one on Thursday.

Monday, 2 November 2009

more milk and sugar

Normal service has been resumed (sort of).
It was a studio day today, although a bit slow going as I probably shouldn't have had that cup of tea at 10.30 last night. I never thought I would get this old and decrepit and need to limit my tea intake after 8pm! At least I am hoping that was the reason and not being a bit stressed and hyped.
I seem to have so many tea-towel products on the go at the moment that I feel like I could close my eyes and see souvenir designs swimming across the inside of my eyelids. I'm frantically (well, today, kind of slow-mo frantically) getting new t-towel shoppers made and bunting and tea-towel jackets. We haven't done the jackets for quite a few years but people have been coming in asking after them and I have some fabric prepped so..... we have tea-towel jackets coming!
And we have a couple of 'milk and sugar' (seersucker) jackets in store too. See photo above.
They are loose with a drawstring at the back to cinch the shape in and have a giant press stud at the front to 'button' the jacket closed.
So many things to work on......... and it's already November!


Sunday, 1 November 2009

rough and smooth

It's been a weird couple of days. A bit of a roller coaster really.

Hot and muggy weather that made me feel like a grumpy ol' fart, still a bit crook and having to deal with the issues of living in the inner city (drugs and alcohol can make uncomfortable neighbours).
And then amazingly wonderful things like Lucy of The Design Files including the Cottage in her guest Design*Sponge postings
I didn't have internet connection for a day so I feel like there has been so much happening that I haven't reported on. 
Friday evening we had the RMIT First Year parade. It's a huge 'coming of age' for them and it's amazing to see how far they have all come in 24 weeks of study (2 x 12 weeks= academic year at RMIT- crazy!).  The first year is incredibly stressful and hard and we spend all the time pushing them and cramming them full to bursting with information. The best part is when you run into them in 2nd and 3rd year and you see how much they have blossomed and bloomed. That's when you know the stress has been worth it. 

Some people may feel that the next part of this story perhaps shouldn't be posted but if you have been reading my ramblings for any amount of time, you will know that I  believe in blogs describing both the dark and light sides of life. Blogs that only cover the bright-jolly-hockey-sticks-pollyanna side of life make my skin crawl, they seem to reek of prozac in the morning and tears after dark. The shadows of life are there to make us appreciate the good times.

The downside of this week has been dealing with of used syringes in the back laneway where we park. On Friday I pulled up to find piles of the goddamn things. I understand that not everyone has a safe environment in which to deal with their addiction but I can not forgive the total disregard someone can show for others by not disposing of such dangerous things in a proper manner. On top of this we have the regular dumping of household rubbish out the back of our shops and the the sad part of this being that I know who does it and they should actually be ashamed of doing this. 
By Saturday morning I was disgruntled beyond belief and that was when the alcohol part occurred. By 10 am there was a couple sitting outside the shop drinking Stone's Ginger Wine and I knew I would have to ask them to move when I opened the shop. I always feel so upset doing this - it's a mixture of annoyance and fear and anger 
and immense sadness. After years of living in Fitzroy I have learnt that a quiet and gentle approach mostly works best with 'other side of the tracks' locals (screaming and ranting works with the dreadful outer suburban tourist yobs, they are often under 18 and if you act like a very angry teacher you can sometimes get through to them). When I opened the shop She was sitting alone under the magnolia tree as He was off getting his methadone over the road. She had the loveliest hair, one tooth and an understanding nature. We chatted, about the tree, about drinking on the street, how it scared the customers and we sorted out the situation in no time. All good- except for my feelings of how some people just fall through the cracks, how opportunity teeters on a fine line.
Gertrude Street is like that. Gentrification sitting, for the most part, knee to knee with rooming houses and addiction and borderline poverty. And how wrong it is for me to feel judgemental sadness for someone who is perhaps happy in their own different-to-mine-life.

Not long after friends dropped in with their 3 cute as button hippy children to let me know that someone we know had died of liver failure that morning. The result of years of drink and 'soft' drugs. My feelings of waste just piled up higher and higher.

But the final straw happened this morning.
Two men, aged in their late 40s, sitting in their car out the back, under my bedroom window for hours and then, finally getting ready to inject heroin. I probably would have buried my head over it but one of them carelessly tossed a syringe out the car window and I saw red. When I lived on Brunswick Street I developed a bit of a reputation, against police advice, for bailing up miscreants in the laneway behind my house in the middle of the night but this time in broad daylight I chose to phone 000 and report it to the police. Within a minute, a single minute, the police had arrived and spent 3/4 of an hour stripping the car looking for drugs. Bet their drug buzz came crashing down as soon as the divvy van rocked up.

Too many memories of lost friends and wasted lives have buzzed around my head this weekend. Talented beautiful friends who couldn't shake Charlie Horse, booze and dope addled boyfriends, normally gentle people arguing like maniacs on alcohol fuelled binges. I have been as guilty as the next person in my past but I find myself with so little patience left for all of this. Please not on my doorstep. 
It simply makes me sad.