Thursday, 31 December 2009

the wailing wall

Let's just say the Donkey Grey was neither donkey nor grey. It's more the colour of Plaster of Paris and in reality nowhere near the colour of the upstairs render. Hmmmm. The walls out the back also catch the light in strange ways and no colour I have tried out there looks quite right, so there was a bit of a temper tantrum yesterday and plans to have the paint re-tinted but this morning I got up, looked at the colour and thought 'oh well'. It's not right but then it isn't wrong either. Cover it in a bit of Boston Ivy and Jasminum Azoricum and I'll never notice.

It's been blisteringly hot today and I've been laid low with a bung hip, so I'm feeling a bit shattered today. That will teach me to do too much in the Xmas lull. The hip has decided to play up due to a bit too much spinning and there I was feeling good that I was getting a yarn stockpile started. Oh well.

So tonight I am lying very low, keeping cool and quiet. I can sort of see the fireworks and their reflections in the glass of the city from my front window upstairs so that is where I think I'll stay. I'm half way through making some Marscapone Ice Cream (chilling sugar syrup in the freezer at the moment) and I have some berries to nibble so I'm set. I always find NYE a bit stressful so a bit of quiet reflection, a bit of looking forward and perhaps reading this by the School of Life is in order I think. 
And I have a date with Shaun Micallef, as he celebrates the New Year in his own surrealist way, and a bit of texting. 
How boring am I??
Bring on the thunderstorms and rain I say. The old year needs to be washed away.

Happy New Year to all you out there! 
I hope you have a lovely evening, celebrated however you like and hope 2010 brings good and happy things for all! 

pen and jethro 

Tuesday, 29 December 2009

swatch it

The laundry door is now working once again.
The sink tap has stopped dripping (for now).
The kitchen benches have been made ready for a coat of oil.
And a colour has been chosen for the 'backyard' walls. Although I may change my mind of course because I haven't really chosen, just kind of made a stab at it. I really want Indian pink, the pink you see oxidised on the walls in Delhi and Jaipur but the swatches never look right and with the narrowness of the 'backyard' a long pink passage may not be the way to go.....
So 'Donkey Grey' it is. 
It's the same shade as the rendering on the walls if you hang out the upstairs window and it looks great with the old bricks. Then I need to work out a way to do the splash back in the kitchen and the decking that will even up the concrete in the outside area. All the jobs that I planned to do a year ago.
Sometimes I wonder if being handy is all too hard, I've decided it's a sure way to stay single.... I know a lot of women who like to appear helpless to make the men in their lives feel wanted! Every boyfriend in my past life would squirm when they saw me come out with the tool kit, their hands would twitch, their jaws clench and they would come close to exploding to see me more than capable of finishing a job- often better than they could do! Really being handy-capable is simply solving a problem and getting it done and I would much rather that than sitting around helpless. 
Every girl should have a toolkit. There's a motto for 2010!

Monday, 28 December 2009


I certainly feel a little crusty- definitely not of the unwashed variety- just a bit crunchy on the outside and a bit fluffy on the inside. It's just the time of the year. I'm quite relaxed and enjoying the peace and long stretches of nothing-to-do-days. I haven't really talked to anyone and I'm enjoying that too.
I ventured out late this afternoon to go and pick up stuff from Bunnings to fix the laundry door and a run to the supermarket for butter to go with the bread (see above picture). I think that's me done for the day.

Sunday, 27 December 2009

horizon line

Actually more just 'horizontal'.
Lots of sleeping, reading and maybe a chore a day.
And lots of quiet (except for the Gertrude Street Irregulars having a fight out the front).
Yesterday's chore was a bit of vacuuming, today's was a spot of washing and a bit of bread making (ok that's two but one was edible so it doesn't count).
I think Jethro is enjoying having me around. He's taken to stealing cherries, by the stalk same as the beans, cucumber and chilli, and yesterday he had a case of Boxing Day Madness which involved tearing around the house like a mad thing and jumping on me. 
All in all a lovely way to while away a couple of days.

Thursday, 24 December 2009

holiday wishes

We here at the Cottage would like to wish everyone all the best for the holiday season.
Take care, drive safely, avoid the off prawn and we hope you have a lovely day tomorrow.

The shop will be open again on the 2nd of January.

rain on hot concrete and mangos

They were the smells of the morning.

As tradition dictates I went off to the Vic Market for the Xmas Eve shop. I get up really early and never really buy anything that would make a complete meal. Except for the cherries- they are a meal in themselves. Huge, almost black, meaty cherries. It's the summer fruits that make a southern hemisphere Xmas. There were boxes and boxes of Bowen mangos and trays of (sadly unripe) peaches. And berries. And the heat and the orchardy smells were intoxicating. I could barely speak and I wandered in a humid haze.

Now I'm home with the paper and a cuppa and I get to sit up in bed for an hour or so before I open up the shop for the day. 
10am until 5pm (or so) today if you are in the 'hood.

Tuesday, 22 December 2009

a total prat (fall)

I finished the last bit of studio work early this afternoon, turned the fridge off to de-frost, chucked the milk out, forgot to wash the mugs and came home/shop. I still have bits and pieces to finish but we are pretty much down to the wire now, the last two days before Xmas.
Cleaning up and a bit of baking are now on the agenda around the house, and working in the shop.
Tonight was garbage eve and I managed to stand on a piece of wood with inch long staples sticking out of it, straight into the ball of my big toe. The same big toe that got wrenched yesterday when I slipped on a wet patch at the Fitzroy Coles supermarket. Slipping and sliding across the floor I managed to twist my left ankle, strain my toe, send the basket of lightbulbs I was carrying flying and knock down a biscuit display trying to grab something to stay upright. Quite funny in hindsight. Actually quite funny at the time. 
I'm not sure that I am a total klutz but I seem to prat fall on a regular basis! And when I do it I tend to do it extremely well as evidenced by my list of broken bones! Of course it's often from being over tired, preoccupied, stressed. So I am looking forward to a week of rest, reading and afternoon naps. Bliss.


Go and check out the Rob Ryan Xmas animation
Lovely and clever and sweet and..... just, well, lovely!

I tell you I am still 'drunk' on last night's food. 
Strange dreams.
I could taste violets all night long.

Monday, 21 December 2009

staff dinner

Tonight was the Cottage staff dinner.
I think the Cutler & Co violet crumble desert may have taken the cake. 
Really mind and taste bud blowing. 
Violet infused ice-cream, chocolate ganache, an almond thingy, cherry puree, strange 'dust', clove meringue....... and this just doesn't do it justice. I am still tasting the violets....... mmmmmm. OMG.
And I thought their chocolate ice-cream sandwich with salty caramel was good.
I think Dell was in roast lamb heaven and Anna was stuck on the horseradish 'snow'.

Sunday, 20 December 2009

ginger hearted

How Jethro knows it is Sunday I will never know.
He slept in (after an exhausting night chasing moths and waiting for a mouse to appear around the water heater) whilst I got up early to get some baking done and get ready to open the shop for Sunday Xmas trading.
I've managed to get half the first batch of gingerbread baked in preparation for some friends dropping by the shop today. Back in the old days on Brunswick Street when I had, what seems in hindsight, a huge kitchen with the big old wooden table, I got to cook and work at the same time, I've always been a good multi-tasker. So these days people don't get the 5 jams and piles of biscuits they used to, my kitchen is just too small. 
Mind you between now and Xmas Eve I know that I will probably end up making at least three batches of these favourites. It's my own recipe and is laden with brown sugar, honey, treacle, golden syrup and fresh ginger. I've seen kids scoff whole bags of these and every Xmas I give Dad a couple of extra large sacks of them and it is guaranteed that he'll be found at some stage of the day munching his way through them. 
Well it's almost time to put my retailer face on and lock Jethro up. 

Saturday, 19 December 2009

the sugar plum fairy's pincushion

Funny how a project starts. 
A bit of excess fleece lying around, a Sunday evening, an idea and next thing you know a new product for the shop!
Sugar plum pincushions!
The photo doesn't do them justice- I am rather fond of them. The purple ones are the colour of Damsons and then there are lovely prunus domestica dark coral ones. They are most fine. I am quite pleased with them as you can tell. Chuffed really.

And I've got new purses done too. The bigger roundy bottom ones in linens and cottons and the the smaller box bottomed type in a mixture of very beautiful 1950s Japanese and  a scattering of chintzes and bark cloths.
Well I better hop to it, things to sort before I open the shop and remember that we are open everyday until Xmas. Check the times at the right of the screen or if you would like to make an appointment then please give us a call on 9419 2430.
And remember we can Express Post to you too.

Friday, 18 December 2009

auction action

Lovely Leah from Milly Sleeping has organised an Xmas auction.
She had this great idea about taking a few old pieces, those forlorn 'last ofs', and handing them out to a few maker/designers to turn them into something else/re-gig them/have a play. I was asked (that's my piggy back purse above), Elle Mücke, S!x, MaterialbyProduct, Maiike and Milly Sleeping (whose hat appears below- I love it!).
So what you do is go here or drop into the shop to check the pieces out and then place a bid.
At the end (if you've won) you get the warm-and-fuzzies of donating to charity and getting to take something home with you. 
Nice huh?
Milly likes to spread the cheer.

Thursday, 17 December 2009


Guess who forgot to order the EFTPOS rolls?
Guess who only just realised, a week before Xmas?

add nausea

I've been passed out in bed for the last 12 hours. I don't know whether it was yesterday's heat (although the studio wasn't too bad so I don't think that can be blamed) or a nasty little bug but I've been feeling quite shocking since last night. I hate that feeling of 'not now I've got  things to do!'. Perhaps it's just slightly stressed induced as we are still waiting for Xmas to arrive around here. I'm feeling like I have done something wrong and am taking it all personally- that's the bug talking, all shaky and pathetic. Jethro was passed out on the bed too but he was just trying for a bit of the fan breeze.
Yesterday was turned over to getting a new batch of tea-towel skirts ready and there are some lovely tea-towels in this run. We've had lots of people requesting then lately and I think they would be funny to wear on Xmas Day...... 'let me do the dishes......'. Hee hee.
We've also got in store the new Cottage Industry 'bit and pieces' range of stocking fillers. As the label says 'made from vintage bits and pieces in the back streets of Fitzroy'. There are brooches made from cross-stitch tablecloths and beautiful sequined motifs from the late 50s/early 60s (once these are gone that's it, I've been carrying these around for a long time waiting to use them) and earrings made from the vintage button stash. 

And finally I've managed to pick up the cords I had made. These let you create a lamp out of one of our shades (or one of your own). When I got the first batch of pianola shades I had one upstairs on the cupboard trying it out with one of the display leads we use in the shop and I thought they looked great just sitting on a table or bench or stool without an actual lampbase. So finally they are done. They are made of the same bound flex  and brass fittings we use when our vintage bases are re-wired, with an on/off switch. You could also loop them up so they are hanging. All up to your imagination and decorating skills! You could even do a version of the Mason jar light we have hanging in the front window at the moment.

Monday, 14 December 2009

jacaranda and agapanthus

I got to have a wander into the city today, run some errands, visit mum in hospital, pick up stuff I needed, have a lie down for a little while and get a few things made.
I am still bone weary though. I'll probably won't even get to make a dint in that until after Xmas. But I have started building the stack of books for the post-Xmas read.
You may remember the stories of 'Jethro and the Bean' and I may have forgotten to tell you of 'Jethro and the Cucumber' (same as the bean story just a bit wetter when you stand on it). You can now add 'Jethro, the Red Chilli and the Green Chilli'. I went downstairs to put out some new stock tonight to find the fur-boy had stolen the two chillis that had been on the kitchen bench and had been playing with them in the shop. I am totally dumb-founded! A serious hot little red chilli and bigger milder green one with the end chewed off. He really is a very strange cat.

Sunday, 13 December 2009

something to amuse

I thought this might amuse you all. 
One of the 'work stations' at home is the couch. At the moment there is a tiny section for sitting on with work in progress piled at one end and all along the arms and back. The extra big ottoman is laden with tins and boxes and tools.
Really my whole house is pretty much like this and it probably explains 5 days of cleaning at the studio too. 
The conundrum is do I live alone because of this or is this because I live alone...........
Or just that I am really, really busy......... 
Which is the answer to both the mess and the alone bits!


A sleep in until 12.45pm, cups of tea and a book in bed, a crawl to the milkbar for newspapers, a walk, a bit of book shopping and back for an intense relationship with a packet of Rosedale's Ginger Kisses.

(This label had me in fits.)

The rumble is done and dusted. Thanks to everyone who came!
I think it has all caught up with me. I woke up guesstimating it was 11am but I must have really needed downtime. I'm going to hold off going to the studio tomorrow, I have to visit mum in hospital, run some errands in the city and get some homework done (all those little things we sell that I do at home rather than at the studio). 
I have been really shocked by the number of shops having pre-Xmas sales. Sales have been down this year but these seem to reek of desperation. If Xmas is going to be on the quiet side then I need to not take it personally! Ah- the joys of retail!
On a retail note the Cottage will be open from this Tuesday everyday right through to Xmas eve. I'll post our times etc as the week progresses and some feature present ideas. After I've had a bit of TV and another nap or three.

Friday, 11 December 2009

here we go!

I am one tired little kitty. This week has battered me around and I am covered with bruises and aches and pains. But apart sorting a few cushions and things out tomorrow morning I think I am ready for our Rumble in the Jumble Sale! And the studio is cleaner than it has been in the last two years! I gave up on the last little bit and kind of just pushed some stuff around on the cutting table, rather like sweeping things under the rug! 
A whole five days of cleaning and sorting is not my favourite way to spend my time. Come Sunday, though, you'll find me getting close and personal with my bed!

For those of you not interested in the sale the shop is still open and Andrea will be manning the counter. Please be gentle on her and don't give her a hard time!
We have new brooches made from cross stitch linens and from beautiful vintage sequin and bead motifs from the late 50s/early 60s. And we have the full colour range of Chimney House Shoes in, they are really lovely and would make fab Xmas presents.
Things will be back to normal next week.
Thank heavens!

Thursday, 10 December 2009


At Day Four of the Great Clean and Sort I am devoid of an energy and am definitely having a 'will anyone come to the sale?' and 'will they like what we have to sell?'. I think it is just the bone-wearies talking. I have less 'product' but lots of 'stuff'- and there is some gold in amongst it all I think.
I am sitting here watching the sky glow over the city, a moonstone luminance, with the rain coming. I got soaked running out this afternoon to get rubber bands and Dell turned up at the studio soaked. Lovely lovely rain.
Dell dropped me off a treat, which I have just opened (after struggling to fix the laundry sliding door which is now totally rooted and I will fix next week when I have the energy). 

Oh my god! 
A nutty shortbready rolly-thingy, a doughnut and the most amazing jellies I have ever had! 
From the D.Chirico pop-up shop in Crossley Street.

So my day ended up going from the ridiculous to the sublime.

Wednesday, 9 December 2009

it looks worse than it really is

Day Three of the Great Clean up of 2009 started with me sitting tiredly in the car outside the studio. I was dreading another day of dust and piles of crap but slowly it is getting there. This picture may not look it but order of some sort is rising out of the chaos. I'm probably seeing more of the floor than I have seen since the last sale! 
I even decided I needed to move the sewing machines around- which is why this picture looks like a schmozzle. I'm not sure they are in their optimum configuration but I'll see how it goes (and maybe change it back to the way it was!). 
I really feel a need to start back making things so tomorrow I might use part of the day cutting fabrics up, that I found in the sorting, as a means of cleaning- does this make sense? I have piles of calico and ticking off-cuts that need to be chopped into required shapes so instead of packing them away in a box I'll scissor them up and lay them in their correct production trays all ready to go. It's also is a means to clearing the cutting table! 
Whilst this clean up is totally necessary and should have been done months ago, I feel like I'm eating in to my time for making and creating. Where are the studio elves when you need them? They are meant to finish the work you fell asleep over, the orders you didn't have the heart to turn down (clothes for the orphans, etc)............. Damn those elves! Ever since they were unionised it's never been the same.

Tuesday, 8 December 2009

getting there (slowly)

I got drenched to the bone this morning. As I came around the corner on Victoria Street it was like a wall of water, I had to take refuge in the shoe store.
After I dried myself off Day Two of the Great Studio Sort of 2009 went a bit better than Day One. The end is nigh. I can see a lot of the floor and there has been a great deal of vacuuming and moving stuff around. And bagging and pricing and sorting. One more day and hopefully I'll be back making stuff.

oh my!

I got up this morning (even though I really wanted to stay in bed, although not for the same reason as yesterday, it was just so nice listening to the rain trickle down the drainpipe) to find an email from a friend saying she'd seen the Carole Kings on The Design Files! Thanks Lucy you are the bestest! She is kickin' butt as our very own design guru and I really don't know how she juggles everything, working, profiling, writing, thinking, planning and just being a genuinely nice person. And she has a lovely mum too- have you seen the coffee cups that she's produced? If you are a Melbournite you have to love a business called 'HookTurn Industries'!

Monday, 7 December 2009

throwing a right sookie-la-la

This is where I would have liked to stay this morning.
By the time I got to the studio I was ready to throw a tantrum, go foetal, be a right sookie-la-la. I decided if I started crying then I would never stop and I would never get anything done. That I needed to sort the studio was suddenly so very, very overwhelming but I sucked it up and started to make the world's biggest mess in order to create some order. 
I worked solidly all day (except for when I ventured out to get lunch and drop studio sale fliers off) and whilst chaos still reigns I feel a little more upbeat about it all. I was covered in dust by the end of the day and had to come home and shower before going to a meeting. Old warehouses (ours is a Moran and Cato tea warehouse) are just the biggest dust bowls, you vacuum ten minutes later there is a layer of dust. I'm thinking an early night, a few errands in the morning and then back to the grind of studio-mess-wrangling. If I can get a handle on this then I might be able to get back on the machines at the end of the week and get some shop stock done.
I am intending to collapse on Saturday night.

*Check out the rumble blog over the next few days for more pics and stuff!

Sunday, 6 December 2009

sunday in the park with amory

What a beautiful day it was today. Sunny and blue sky and a cooling breeze. My type of weather. And I got to go to the park with Amory (his dad and mum came along too, just to carry the rug and the grapes and the cake) and we sat on green grass under sparkly green leaves. It's amazing what a bit of rain will do.
After I closed the shop yesterday I lay on my bed and finished off the book I'd been reading, an hour and a half later I woke disorientated from a nanna nap. Today was a bit like that too. Fresh air at the park and an afternoon nap. I think I am trying to stockpile some energy for what is looking like a big week. I have a lot of prep to do for the studio and sale, cleaning and sorting and pricing. And there is a family issue looming over my head this week, it is a worry but as it is out of my control I am just having to get on with everything else in life.
Amory and Jethro had a lovely little exchange this afternoon. J is a very child friendly kitty and he and Amory were spied by people passing the shop, lolling on the pouffé in the window. There was patting and giggling and a bit of drooling with excitement (Amory not Jethro). Two little girls in pink dresses laughing at the pussy and the baby and a lovely little ranga boy who came back to kiss Amory goodbye through the window. I'm thinking of making these two to sit in the window everyday and lure people in with their cuteness. 
I'm not totally sure Xmas has really started for us and get butterflies that no one will come into the shop to buy. Then I get all scared no one will come to the sale. Having a shop is like having perpetual party jitters, I know- ridiculous! And I am always so shocked by people's compliments on how lovely the shop is. Yesterday a couple came in who said they always walk their dogs passed when we are closed and they were so excited about everything that I was both chuffed and embarrassed. I'm feeling so disorganised and behind with everything that I am finding it difficult to feel positive. Perhaps it is just the lead up to Xmas and the pressure that this is the big time of our retail year.
But what a lovely day it was today.

Friday, 4 December 2009

compare the pair

I know you are all sick to death of Jethro photos and roll your eyes when you log on but he is a big part of this home/shop. He has friends who drop in. People spend time talking to him through the window. The Gertrude Street Irregulars love him.
And today is a year since he was adopted.

From this to this.
There is no way he would fit in that tin now.
He is still wearing the same collar though.

Here he is channelling his inner geography teacher.

So there are new tea-towel cushions, tea-towel shoppers, wheat 'hot water bottle' bags and lavender bags, all made in the last few days. Tea-towel skirts are half done, owlettes are ready to be stuffed (if I had remembered to bring the stuffing home)and I have new 'stuff' that I need to make cards for before I put them in store. And I need to print flyers for the sale. And prep some clocks. And finish more bracelets. Perhaps I won't go to bed tonight.

Wednesday, 2 December 2009

map and stuff

I picked up the map from the framers. The British Isles. Michael's done a beautiful job as always, simple blackwood frame and it's big and really quite super.
I've also got Africa and Europe but I think it will be a while until I can afford to get them done.
Unless someone especially wants to buy them and then I'll get a quote in and start the ball rolling.....
I had a little helper, as happens every time the ladder comes out, he just can't help himself. I had to move him down to the little shelf on the back of the ladder as he wouldn't get down and really wanted to be in on the action.
Today wasn't as hugely productive as I would have liked but I had a morning of errands and the when back in the studio I had to finish a project that is going off to Milly Sleeping- see below.
I'll let you know all about this soon. 

Tuesday, 1 December 2009

marché rouge

This Thursday is looking extremely busy.
There is the Fresh! opening at Craft Vic, friends are launching their new showrooms, there is the Xmas fundraiser at Westspace and then there is Marché Rouge. At least this last one is on over 3 days! Kim Hurley is opening up her studio in the Nicholas Building for a fabulous sale of all things vintage and haberdashery. She's a collector of beautiful things and if you hang around in Fitzroy you'll know her window displays at Klein's Perfumery on Brunswick St. Click on the flyer to check out the details or do a search on Facebook.

with summer comes the snow owlettes

The snow owlettes have finally arrived. In time for Xmas.
Normally we like to separate the snowies from the bright owlettes as they have a tendency towards fighting and sledging. They may be pretty but they can take your hand off in the blink of an eye. I've had to put them all together so we are expecting trouble. Please come and adopt them before things get nasty.
I decided today that I would try and post about new stock every day. That doesn't necessarily mean new designs but that I have managed through my working day to get something finished and ready to go in store. Today was new grain sack cushion ( how I love this fabric, heavy oatmeal linen striped in faded black, red and blue) and peg bags. Tomorrow will be errands and then back to studio for a whole day of cutting and sewing.