Thursday, 29 April 2010

a day in the country

Yesterday was long roads and 'empty' vistas.

I love the way op shop purchases seem to sometimes be colour coordinated. Pink and green this time.

Wednesday, 28 April 2010


Our darling friends Andrea and Dell are going to be launching 'Triangle' at Craft Vic tomorrow night! We are all going to be there with bells on!

Tuesday, 27 April 2010


Foxes are being lauded as the new Fashion Vermin but I wouldn't like to meet up with this one in a dark alley. He's angry- probably because there is a huge nail stuck in his forehead- who wouldn't be??

I managed to get up early, get a couple of dye-pots on, write a pile of emails (that chore not finished yet), run out and get photocopying done, scoot over to Williamstown to look for something (no luck), got home , put two more dye-pots on, run out of bottled gas, go get more gas, dismantle window display, install hooks, set up new display, hate it, take it down, fight Jethro for the ladder, get the paint out, fix up display, unpack cupboard, find box with newspaper shopping bags, take Jethro out of the box, re-pack cupboard, get next batch of gloves into the washing machine, munch on some Ines Rosales tortas (new addiction), work out what else needs to be done tonight......

I'm sort of taking tomorrow off, well not totally  but sort of. I'm heading up country to run errands but I'm also going to catch up with Lisa in Kyneton (or Kin-et-ton as we like to call it). Roadtripping and lunch. 

Monday, 26 April 2010

bring on the cold weather

17ºC tomorrow.
Glove weather is (slowly) coming.
I've spent all afternoon dyeing and will probably end up spending all tomorrow doing it as well.
And there is the washing and clipping and pressing and the tagging and getting the orders ready to go out.
It is how I pretty much spend all of Autumn and Winter. Then we get to Spring and Summer
which involves ordering yarn and getting the knitting ball rolling.
There are gloves everywhere through the house. Boxes and fluff and sample cards. Even toys made of gloves.
Gloves, gloves, gloves.

Sunday, 25 April 2010

avenue of honour

Over the last few years I've written a post to honour Anzac Day, one post was about sweetheart brooches, another about Villers-Bretonneux. This year I was hoping to post some photos of a country town War Memorial but my run up country this morning just wasn't successful. So I thought I might write about the Avenues of Honour that dot country Victoria.
There are seven of them, the biggest and oldest in Ballarat, 22 kilometers long and 3,912 trees. Each tree marks a soldier who fought or died in war who came from the town and surrounds in which the Avenue was planted. Often you will see a plaque at the base of the tree with a soldiers name. There are also Avenues at Booroopki, Lysterfield, Lakes Entrance, Buchan South and my two favourites at Bacchus Marsh and Woodend. As you sweep into both these towns beautiful trees arch over the road and seem to welcome you in. At Woodend there has been a concerted effort to clean up and maintain the Avenue but sadly the Avenue of Honour at Bacchus Marsh is under serious threat from road widening and bureaucratic stupidity.
The beauty of the Avenues of Honour is that they are living memorials. In one way they are finite just as we are, they live and grow and die, but they also outlive generations, they cycle through the seasons and are symbols of renewal and regrowrth.

'They shall not grow old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.

At the going down of the sun and in the morning,
We will remember them.'

Saturday, 24 April 2010


When I consulted to Country Road we used to have to come up with colour names. Romantic, evocative labels to differentiate one shade from another. Sometimes we'd egg each other on to come up with the worst moniker just for a laugh.
Yesterday when I was working on cushions and purses in these beautiful fabrics all I could think about was 'bile' and I split my sides chuckling. I don't mean 'bile' in a bad way, just in an honest 'it's the colour of bile' way. I could call it the nice polite 'chartreuse' but after a nasty incident with a bottle of Galliano a few years ago 'bile' is more accurate.
Don't let me put you off though, the fabric is lovely, birds and branches and duck egg blue. I've put a gorgeous fabric on the back of the cushions that is a hazy smoke lavender with (sort of) white ranunculus. And there are granny purses too.
In fact I should stop typing and go finish them. An hour 'til shop time.

And in shop news.... we have a new batch of pianola shades in and over the next week we have more spotty knitting needles arriving, Nikki is sending over a batch of yarn, patterns and needles and there will new/old lampbases ready. Time to snuggle up!


If you have been reading this blog for awhile or have been into the Cottage in the past you'll know we love Swiss Army blankets and have a penchant for turning them into pouffés and cushions. Sadly the availability of these blankets has completely dried up (they were post Second World War and the bond stores in Europe, where army supplies are disposed of, have been cleaned out of them). Occasionally  you might see one for sale at a chic homewares store in the US of A for some exorbitant price but they are gone, gone, gone.

So I was a bit surprised yesterday to stumble on this one. The colour was about right, although the red was a little off and the twill weave was a little too obvious. But the cross was wrong, normally it is embroidered in cream wool and felted into the blanket but this one was shiny white thread. 

And then I had a look at the packaging.
A very close look.

I just had to buy it!
Someone has realised how popular they are and decided to have them copied in India!

I know that there are a few people making stuff from 'Swiss Army' blankets at the moment.... if you see them and they have crosses like this on them have a good old snicker.
If I'd decided to have them copied I would have made sure they did the crosses right!
Indian Swiss Army Blankets- made my week, haven't laughed so hard in ages!

*not quite right

Wednesday, 21 April 2010

badge scouting

Colour Blind Badge

Scout Badge Identification Badge
Burn Ant Burn Badge

Kidney Transplant Badge

Blow Your Own Trumpet Badge

Intermediate Vivisection Badge

'I ended up at the St John Ambulance Tent at the Rave' Badge

Run Like You Stole Something Badge

scout troop

I've finally finished the batch of scout cushions. Here's Mr B posing in the studio yesterday with one of them. Young Ben knows how to pose for a picture and he knows how to use my iPhone- especially cat piano and he likes the black button at the bottom because it actually does a click when you press it unlike the mock buttons on the screen, clever boy!

He also helped me sort the scout badges and we have included some here with their descriptions.

Advanced Drug Mule Badge

Ebony and Ivory Badge

Bi-polar Badge

Invasion Badge

Crime Scene Investigation Badge
Advanced Body Disposal Badge
Alas Poor Yorick Badge

John Wayne Gacy Serial Killer Badge

Paparazzi Badge

Establish Your Own Meth Lab Badge

Tuesday, 20 April 2010

make your own manhood

I always need a project on Shopgirl Saturday. Idle hands and all that.
So this was last Saturday's- knitting the man helmet from HML's Craftbusters zine.
Of course I had the wrong yarn and had to opt for whatever was at hand, a weird wool mohair blend from the bargain room at Bendigo Woollen Mills, so its a bit odd in shape and size. I pretty much got it finished except for two  rows and casting off by the end of Saturday (and that was with the shop busy as well).

I finally got around to darning the ends in and blocking it last night and I apologise for the shonky Hipstamatic pictures taken at 11pm, with me looking tired and worn down. 

The whole time I was knitting it I kept thinking about this old joke......

'My mother made me a man...' 
'Really?! If I gave her the yarn would she make me one too?!'

(I reduced the number of stitches specified around the face hole but it's still a bit loose in this yarn. I might even get the correct yarn and make another one!)

Sunday, 18 April 2010

cat weather

Today has been lazy and snoozy. Apart from the early morning run to Camberwell Market, I never go late to Camberwell it's got to 7am or not at all, and a stop at the supermarket and a quick hunt for feijoas (none). Home for a cup of tea and the newspapers in bed and a morning nap. That nap was sheer delight, deep and snuggly with Jethro lying at my feet. This autumn weather is perfect for catnaps. We both woke slowly and tousled with bed hair. Then I fell down the stairs.
Yep. I am nothing if not a complete and utter klutz. Oh yes I had managed to leave a ruler on the stairs yesterday which I stood on and my feet shot out from under me.  I hung on to my second unbroken mug as I clutched for a hold and ended up landing with a thud and a slip on my upper buttock. Wrenched my bung right shoulder and the left base of my neck, bruised my elbow and have a large lump in my bum. Stupid and funny and sore and such a huge prat. As they say 'the bigger they are the harder they fall'...... and I'm 6'1" in my bare feet....

Saturday, 17 April 2010


I know by now you are all rolling your eyes and saying 'enough with the denim already' but it was/is a big project and I have to see it through to its completion. 
Yesterday I managed to actually make one of the proposed jackets. I used the old tea-towel jacket pattern but I restored the old tight fitting sleeve version (I changed it for a run of tea-towel jacket but I prefer the close fit, the three quarter sleeve sits nicer when tighter). It's only in size 1 at the moment but next week I'll get a few more done. They are going to be very limited in number. I think if you were to buy one then when you aren't wearing it it should hang on the wall- not saying that it's ART but rather that sometimes clothing is really nice to look at, like the vintage French linen chemises we had, they look beautiful just hanging around on an old wooden hanger.
I also made up half of the new batch of stripy linen cloth quilts and there are some absolute stunners in this batch. I patched together glass cloths and damask tablecloths and embroidered bits and pieces and they look superb. They are also different colours to the last batch, amazing sherbety yellows and greens and pretty pinks and blues and milk chocolate brown. I think of them a bit as summer quilts but really that's silly. I love the whole idea of layering one's bed with blankets and quilts and throws. I have patchwork quilts, a crocheted bedspread, Afghans, my old Indian quilt (that the stuffing is oozing out of), an Italian Marcella quilt and my beloved Welsh blanket- a United Nations of bedlinen!

Sometimes I shock myself at what a scavenger I am.
I thought I'd treat myself to a mini opp shop run yesterday morning. The outer suburbs were beginning their autumn blaze of colour and I really must remember to go for a drive in another week or so to see the burgundy and russets and golds in all their glory (limited though it is).
When I got to the shop of opps I spied this pile of chopped up pine tree, well actually there was two. Huge foot square chunks of resinous wood. I went over and looked at them. I pulled a few pieces out. Walked around the pile. Hummed and hahhed. Then I went and got the car and chucked 3 big chunks and a couple of smaller pieces in the boot. I'm thinking doilies, I'm thinking..... something.... Just some other clutter in my life!

Maybe I was just inspired by the light through the trees, the smell of the fresh cut pine and the steam rising from the mulch.

Thursday, 15 April 2010


I don't know what has been wrong with me this week. I seem unable to settle to anything and the things I need to do I keep forgetting to do. Waiting for the quilting to come back has just thrown me out but I finally got the call early afternoon to say it was ready and I hot-footed out to pick it up. 
There was quilting for Dell (wood print of course) and quilting for Jen (for her 'Texture and Words' project) and there was a roll of patched glass cloth and damask for quilts and then there was the denim. Unrolling and lugging the denim about the studio was just exhausting and I kept tripping over it as I moved around the cutting table. 
I've been around so many sick people of late I am beginning to wonder whether I'm fighting a lurgy and that is why I am so lackadaisical of late. I managed this afternoon to forget where I parked the car.....

So there are a few denim quilts in the shop. Jethro helped/hindered the hanging of these two. After I'd pegged the first one up and had climbed down the ladder but was standing on the counter putting up the next one, Jethro got on top of the ladder and actually pulled the first quilt down. I am not sure whether to take this as approval or disapproval.

Tuesday, 13 April 2010


Now there is a fabulous textile word that has slipped into language. Tenterhooks, to be on.
That's kind of the way I felt today. Uneasy and anxious. And really for no good reason, except maybe that I am waiting for the quilting to come back, but then there was a thousand other things I could have done in the studio today. 
Instead I ran errands and then came home. I made the urban harvest into jams. Even these aren't all quite right. I remembered why it's a good idea to make feijoa jelly not feijoa jam (the jam is gritty and I've made it before so I should have remembered that little bit  of information)- damn. The fig and ginger hasn't set totally but, really, is that a huge problem...?
But the lilly pilly was a huge revelation. I've never had a chance to try it, although I grew up with Mum talking about lilly pilly jam and jelly. Raw lilly pillies are sort of cellular and crunchy the way an apple is, the books say it is like a granny smith and that is pretty accurate. They have a single seed in the centre about the size of a small pea. If you are going to make jelly you can just chuck them in the pot whole but I decided to make jam with the flesh so that meant cutting them in half and de-seeding. It's rather nice prepping lilly pillies, their colour is just so lovely, mind you once you get them in the pot and on the stove it's a shock when the colour drains out of them. Add the sugar and suddenly the colour seems to reappear. And the taste? Lilly pilly jam is like the love child of raspberry, strawberry and rose-petal jams. Quite amazing. It whispers scones and clotted cream and light-as-air sponge cakes.
I didn't just stay home to make jam, I had a new project I wanted to start. Well I started it but I'm not convinced the first part has succeeded. It took about six hours for a key bit of information to click in my brain- I have never been so slow to formulate solutions as I am at the moment. I am finding it frustrating and annoying. Hence the tenterhooks perhaps.

Monday, 12 April 2010

urban harvesting

It has been harvest time around here over the last week. 
First Dell discovered a huge feijoa stash, then Birdie arrived yesterday with figs from Papa's garden at Point Lonsdale and then today I discovered the lilly pilly bushes around the corner.
I believe Chief Chutnee Dell is sending around a Chutney Ordinance saying all fruit must be harvested by the chutney-maker for the next Chutney Club meeting. 
This urban harvesting is seriously fun! Plants like lilly pilly and feijoas were often planted as screening along fences and there is something so old fashioned about them. And often they are  the type of bushes you might just wander passed and never really 'see'- like today's lilly pilly sighting, two huge bushes right on Brunswick Street and I only really noticed them because I looked down and they were squashed all over the footpath. Then of course I looked up and how could I have missed them?! Beautiful magenta pink clusters under shiny green leaves. I'm sure when I went back with a bucket, and the fruit literally jumped in, that the people wandering down the street thought I was a crazy loon. What could be more fabulous than fruit picking a mere kilometer from the city?

it's cold

I thought I'd amuse you all with grotty studio shots.
In fact I purposely made it look worse than it is as I took the pictures for a guest lecture I'm doing at RMIT today. On running a craft based business. Thought I'd show the students how glamorous the design world is!

I was up early this morning to race the patched fabrics off to the quilters but managed to arrive 10 minutes after Peter had changed the pattern on the machine from 1" diamond (the one I use) to 2" diamond. If I'd made it in time it would have gone straight on the machine and I would have had it by early this afternoon but it pays to get on well with your tradey types and he's hopefully going to switch it back for me before he moves onto the rest of the other job. This point is always a little nerve wracking as you don't quite know how things are going to work out and the anticipation is a killer!

The weather has finally slipped into Autumn and we are having grey skies and people walking to work have dug out their coats to wear. This really is when the Cottage starts to buzz- gloves and wooly scarves and................. I really have a lot of work to do!

Saturday, 10 April 2010

singing the same old tune

By Thursday I was getting a little over the patching, although I admit a big part of me was enjoying it. This 'enjoying' issue was a bit of a problem too, 'you're not meant to enjoy work', but the pieces as they came together were just looking so satisfying that it was all a bit addictive. Physically though it was exhausting, the sheer weight of the fabric as it grew and lugging it about can really tire you out.

I pulled a plug on it late in the afternoon and was going to leave the rolling up of it until Friday morning but I decided I really needed to get it all packed away and ready to go to the quilters on Monday morning. So I cleared the cutting table, got the biggest cardboard roll out I had and off I went. In some ways I love the reverse side as much as the front and then I realised in many ways I haven't moved on from what I was doing mumble mumble 20+years ago.

I don't keep many pieces of old work but for some reason this old piece from my graduate collection has been knocking around and never managed to get thrown out.
I was ahead of my time! In mumble mumble 1986 as part of my BA in Textile Design I did a story all based on distressed/deconstructed/reconstructed denim. I'd certainly lose the colour palette and the procion dyeing (very 80s) but the bones are still there.... just keep it all shades of indigo or monochromatic and I'd be quite happy with it. As Jen was saying the other night, we all seem to have about ten 'tunes' and the rest of our creative lives are spent riffing on them.