Sunday, 30 May 2010

sundry bloody sundry

A nice quiet Sunday to round off a week of stress and strain and sundry other brain frying activities. The washing and the vacuuming and cleaning hasn't been touched but 275 pages of Bill Bryson's new book 'At Home' has been devoured along with buckets of tea. Jethro has had a spak-attack involving jumping on the bed, *running around the bed, leaping off the bed, running through the house, jumping on the bed, repeated from * until too exhausted and he fell asleep on bed. 
I haven't managed to keep up with emails and orders this week and will have to spend all tomorrow juggling dyeing of gloves and getting caught up. I would have liked today to about three times longer than it was, with more sleep, more reading and more cups of tea but I'll take whatever I can get.

Saturday, 29 May 2010

autumn berry harvest

It's the last autumn weekend of the year. The leaves are almost off the magnolia and one sharp winter wind should pluck off those still clinging on. 
I long for real winter this year. Between prolonged daylight savings and strange warm 20ºC days for weeks on end summer seemed to house guest you can't get rid of. I've pulled out my new knitted black wool dress and even put on wool leggings (which I bought too big, bugger, as the rest of me seems to have ballooned) in the hope that this will bring on more rain and a chill in the air. I was made for cold weather.
I spent yesterday, after I got back from a mad country dash in the morning, finishing off tea-towel cushions and working to the sound of the knitting machine buzzing back and forth. We had completely run out of the angora Mobius loop/scarf/shrug/thingies and I really wanted to get some more finished for today. I needed to knit them, link them, hand finish them, wash them and dry them. I did it! And I'm in love! I made up some more cream angora ones but we now also have some natural possum ones (that's the soft fawn colour) and the most stunning crushed berry colourway also in the possum lambswool yarn. It's like crushed blackberry flummery. I'm such a sucker for purples and pinks and I can't understand why people are scared to wear them. Go on! Be brave- wear blackberry!

Friday, 28 May 2010


I did have plans to do all sorts of things this evening.
Clocks, purses, darning in the ends of scarves. Instead I pulled out the box of old cards and started the new gift tags. So pretty. Puppies and kittens and flowers and a huge pile of rubbish on the floor. And lots of cups of tea.
Not a bad night but I will be glad to get through the rest of this week. It hasn't been the best week in the history of Miss Pen Pen- but then it also hasn't been the worst, just very very weird and emotional.
Jethro is playing in the mountain of waste paper and waiting for me to call it a night.


Thursday, 27 May 2010

brimful of asha

I'm still not settled and the tears are still leaking out of my eyes occasionally but I am trying to start new work. It feels like so long since I used clothes making fabrics rather than things like tea-towels, stable woven cottons and army blankets. I started work on a new dress yesterday and, really, my hands felt like they had lost their mojo and drafting patterns was like a foreign language. I hate the feeling of not being the mistress of my skills. 
I turned the knitting machine and wool winder off for a while in the afternoon as I thought maybe a bit of peace and quiet would help. Suddenly up through the floorboards resounded extraordinarily bad techno. Then I realised it was Hindi filmi techno. Luckily the Indian students who work down in the greengrocer's warehouse under my studio then put on a bit Asha et al and I turned my music off and just embraced the Bollywood. If I thought it was loud in my studio then I was comppletely taken aback when I went out in the hallway! Booming. 
I'm just hoping they don't do it every afternoon.....
Now today's issue is which errands to run and what work to concentrate on. I am befuddled and bemused as to where to start. 

Tuesday, 25 May 2010


I seem to have got myself in an emotional pickle. 
Seems to be the result of a slight case of exhaustion.
Like a over-tired and over-stimulated toddler I started crying yesterday for no apparent reason. No temper tantrums thank goodness but a severe case of leaking eyes. Obviously that little valve on the top of the pressure cooker has blown. The drive last week, some bad sleep and full on dreams and a minor sore throat seem to be the culprits. Cause and effect.... who knows. 
The shop has been busy and the workload is actually cranking up with winter sneaking in. 
I'm feeling fine though, so now I need to work out just what needs to be done.
Our lovely wool sweaters are in and look superb hanging up- a rainbow of very pretty colours.
The kitchen looks like a chinese laundry (which 67 Gertrude Street once was) with crisp white regimental shirts drying and more sitting in the washing machine with a dose of Napisan. You'll have to wait for these! They are stunners.
And I need to get more gloves dyed......

Monday, 24 May 2010

sweater weather

The sweaters are finally in. 
Pretty colours for the cold weather we have finally slunk into.
Pink, rust, lavender, green, black and a dash of taupe-y brown.
It's all about the woolly knits at the moment around here.
I need to get back on the knitting machine. The scarves, like the gloves, have been growing legs and walking out the door!

I splashed out today and bought new hangers for the shop. The hangers I wanted to use 2 years ago when I opened the shop. Of course I didn't buy enough, I'll have to get more tomorrow. And of course I now have a pile of perfectly good but not right hangers to do something with. My bad bit of consumerism!

Sunday, 23 May 2010

a day of (semi) rest

I was completely exhausted from all the driving and excitement of the Wodonga trip. On top of which we've had a crazy week in the shop and yesterday was just completely full on. By about three I was starting to lose my voice (part of the stupid sore throat I've been plagued with all week) and beginning to freak out at the amount of work I need to finish this week. I don't have a business where I just ring through an order and wait for it to arrive. I have a business that when we run out I have to head to the studio and put the sewing machine pedal-to-the-metal and start making, making, making.
But today I promised myself a little rest.
A bit of hanging with Jethro, who is slightly disgruntled to my having left him alone for a night, lying about reading and drinking cups of tea. With Doctor Who, Foyle's War and 30Rock for afters. 
Sadly it also means trying to do a bit of cleaning, some vacuuming, changing the bed and putting the washing on. I can not procrastinate over this for another week..... it would be just too shameful.
But Jethro is asleep in the sun in the bedroom and I don't have the heart to wake him....

Saturday, 22 May 2010

swiss army defeat

So this is one of the reasons I went to Wodonga. Bill was getting me in something special.
You know how the Swiss Army blankets have 'gone to god' (or rather India) and I can't get the Italian or Czech ones anymore because of the scouts buying them all because of losing theirs in the bushfires. 
But I've got my hands on these beauties!
They are incredibly nice to the touch and a beautiful dark khaki with 'government property' (actually 'federation property') emblazoned across them in a soft dove grey.
They are absolute corkers and I lurve them!

German Army pouffés- every army needs one or two!

Friday, 21 May 2010

homeward bound

With the car loaded I started back for Melbourne.
Via Yackandandah.
Mainly because Charlotte said she had seen two massive persimmon trees just outside the town. I thought as I drove along that I must have missed them but then as I went over a rise there they were! Glowing orbs of beauty!
The farmer was picking them so I stopped and scored a bucket of fruit. Apparently the property was an orchard until after the Second World War when it was turned over to diary cows. The trees were ripped out except for these two beauties.

Yackandandah is a lovely little valley town. The school there has a fabulous vegetable  garden growing. Then on to Beechworth, I haven't been there in an age and really need to go again when I have far more time. I quickly caught up with a friend and picked up some fabulous linen fabrics. By this stage I don't think I could have fitted another thing in my car! Loaded to the gunwales!

more bunkerage

Here is Charlotte doing her best impersonation of a French Resistance fighter from 'Allo 'Allo!

the destination part 2- the bunker

Bill lead us in convoy to the Bunker.
The big doors slid open and like 'Charlie and the Chocolate Factory' Charlotte and I stood in awe.

Bill spent about an hour giving us a guided tour of shelves and shelves of stock. 
Everything had a story, a history, a purpose. 
First World War, Second World War, Korean War, Vietnam War, Desert Storm 1 and 2........

As Bill said 'all this ingenuity to kill people'. 
I've often found people who deal with this sort of stock to be a little.... well.... creepy but Bill is one of the loveliest people I have met. With three daughters and a wife, who Bill describes as 'a good scout', he has his feet firmly planted in a happy life.

And like any collector he just can't help himself. 
Perhaps you are in need of a street lamp?
Here's one!

the destination part 1

This was the first part of the adventure.
After a dreadful Thai meal and a disturbed night's sleep in Albury I met up with Charlotte at Bill's store in Wodonga. Billy the Toole is closing up his shop and we had arranged something special. 

This is a real old school disposal store- the type I loved as a kid. I still have memories of a fabulous one in Box Hill where I fell in love with enamel ware and still regret not getting a WW1 pair of wool jodhpurs with lace up cuffs.

Bill buys and trades in all sorts of 'disposal' stock including these cupboards from Ansett planes. I had fantasies about fitting out a kitchen like the one onboard 'Firefly'!

on the road again

A couple of weeks ago the lovely Charlotte told me about a special place at Wodonga that she thought I might like and so we planned a little road trip.
Up the Hume, all the way to the border. Of course this also meant an excuse for a spot of op shopping along the way and visiting places I haven't been for an age. 
My folks had a block up in the Strathbogie Ranges near Euroa and we spent many a winter's day burning off bracken on the property, I still love the smell of wood smoke, steaming tea and icy chilled mornings.

Wednesday was a beautiful autumn day with vapour trails arching across the clear blue sky . The leaves are turning and if you have a chance in the next week or two, before the winter winds come up, it is worth a drive. Little towns like Avenel are just lovely.

And the op shops are of the real country variety. I didn't buy this kitty tapestry as the glowing silver eyes freaked me out a little (it looks much better as a photo!).

I've spent so much time over the last few years in Central Victoria that I had forgotten how amazing the views and landscape is up towards the north east. The way the Great Dividing range sweeps down into Victoria, the plains and foothills running up to their edge. The poplar trees all golden, the liquid amber and ash flaring dark red. Impressive.

Tuesday, 18 May 2010

lavender mist and indigo kitten

Back in the studio with the power back on, I've managed to start knitting a new run of cardis. Fingers crossed that I actually like them when I put all the pieces together! I'm not sure if the mohair batch is winter or spring but I know if I put them aside for later I will never finish them. Typical of me! I always need to get the momentum up and race for the finishing line otherwise I begin to slow down and start dawdling until I come to a grinding halt.

I also had a visitor to the studio today. Little Miss Indi. She's a Rex and what fluff she has is as curly as a lamb. She also miaows like the devil! Apparently the studio knackered her out and she has spent the evening asleep.

Sunday, 16 May 2010

sunday morning coming down

I seem to have missed a whole fashion trend.
Perhaps these are rare night birds. 
I spied these two heading home after a big night and thank you iPhone for letting me take sneaky photos.
The flat shoes, the skin-tight floral dresses, the hair- all so fabulous.
I love finding different 'tribes'. We've been watching the fixie bike boys that flock to St Cloud down the road and checking out their styling. And the women heading back from the Quilt Show a couple of weekends ago, all polar fleece vests, natural waist jeans and sensible shoes. Of course 'tribes' are all generalisations and you only really notice them when they congregate but they so bring a smile to my dial.

Definitely not enough sleep this Sunday. A busy day with people coming and going and the day whizzing passed. Sometimes I would like to set the Sunday clock again.

Saturday, 15 May 2010

open door policy

Saturday. Again.
Yesterday was a very frustrating day and today has been full throttle since I (reluctantly) got out of bed.
I could write a list of all the things I've done in the last hour and a half but really it would be pretty boring, just saturday morning chores.

But there is shop news!
We will be opening on Tuesdays starting this coming week! So no longer will we be the slack-arses on the street- we will actually be open five days straight!! So you better come visit!
(See it's important news- as you can tell by the exclamation marks.)

Not much got achieved this week sadly. It was one of those weeks of appointments and hiccups (the power outage being one) but I did get to make some more 'hottie' wheat bags. People have been feeling the cold and we had a little run on them. I love my 'hottie' and last night I was on one side of it and Jethro was curled around the other. 

Well I better scoot, I've still got gloves to press and I need to decide what project I'll work on in the shop today- and there is still the vacuuming to do.

Friday, 14 May 2010


I was all excited about a new project. The knitting machine was whirring (or clunking rather), the music was playing, the linker was spinning, I was thinking about putting the kettle on for a cuppa. 
And then everything went silent and dark. 

No freakin' electricity! 

The first thought, of course, was 'have I paid my bill?'. Then I went and stood in the hall, where the lights were still on and waited for someone else to stick their head out of their studio to see if it was just them sitting  in darkness. The building runs off two wires and that means that invariably only half of us get a blackout at any one time. And not just our building- our whole block on Brunswick Street was alternating blacked-out and lit-up shops. 
We all had a chuckle that we should go and sit out on the street and drink tea and coffee- except of course we needed electricity to make it- and wait for the lights to come back on.

I'm back home, bored and annoyed. I had things I wanted to finish today! That's always the way.

This is the offending power pole- can you see the dangling wires? That's what exploded and stopped the magic of electrickery from happening.

Tuesday, 11 May 2010


Jethro and I have been sitting in front of the heater. I've finished off a bundle of mini-scarves and the kitten has been murmuring in pleasure to the Heater God . I'm happy we have a week of under 20ºC weather forecast. I'm looking forward to possum wool socks, a coat and perhaps even angora gloves. 
I didn't get much done today but we have scarves and gloves ready to go. I need to make some more 'hottie' wheat bags and dye still more gloves..... And we have wool cardis and crew neck twin-set style jumpers in store- even though I haven't got the winter clothes really started- so everything is about wooliness at the moment. 

Cold and I like it.

Monday, 10 May 2010

shady and contrary

I've had a busy old day today.  
Some dyeing to start with. Friends dropping in. Wholesale customer from Sydney. Designing the new shop postcard and getting it  off to the printers. A run to Orificework. Picking up the new batch of vintage lampbases that have just been re-wired. Trying to re-arrange the shop. Packing boxes to be posted. Vacuuming. Roasting vegies and haloumi for dinner. 
So you see this is really a list, and you know how I don't like lists, but I came to a realisation today whilst I was listening to Ramona and Beck doing their spot on the radio this morning. 
I don't like 'to-do-lists', I have issues with the unfinished things, I don't see the point of moving them to a new list and starting all over again but I really like lists of things I have completed. Of course the downside being that that list needs to feel 'full' otherwise, of course, I just feel annoyed with it. Ramona was right today when she called me contrary!

Lovely lamps. 
Glowing shades.
Perfect for wintery evenings.

Saturday, 8 May 2010

hedge-pig courtship

If you know me you know I'm not big on the cute and fluffy. I prefer my fluffy with teeth and claws. 
I hate Holly Hobby, I want to know what she's got hidden under that bonnet- probably a clown mask, I'm positive she's a serial killer. 
And Dolly Varden? Definitely a few issues with substance abuse there, just look at the psychotropic flowers in her cottage garden. 
Perhaps they are both in a doily witness protection programme.....

This tea-towel, though its cute and whimsical, makes me chuckle. A hedge-pig courtship- including the wedding night in a big four poster bed. Having read up on Erinaceinae I know how they do it with all those prickly quills!

Now in store- one only- a too cute cushion!

Friday, 7 May 2010

swishing rain and heaters

It's lovely sitting here listening to rain fall outside. The Collins Place Towers fade in and out of the clouds and the rain. I love my view of the east end of the city.

It's been a strange old week, frustrating and exhausting, fulfilling and surprising all at once- and there is more of that to come. I also got in 'trouble' today for leaving people out of my Mother's Day suggestions of this morning..... you could buy one of Emma's lovely belts (she's a bit of a star at the moment juggling baby Hazel and getting her belts in the Sunday Age magazine) and the delightful Miss Claude will have her very lovely shop open on Sunday for last minute gift purchases (Claude the Bird has moved to a new nest and is sharing it with House of Orange and their fabulous furniture, they maybe south of the river but we forgive them for that!).

I got to meet Allison and Paul the weekend before last and they were as lovely as I expected! And on the same Saturday was the first visit from the Hidden Secrets Vintage Outing. I'm pretty chuffed that Danielle and Lyn asked me to be on their itinerary and that leads to this bit of news...... remember when the film crew dropped in? Well the shop was being included in a segment about the vintage outings for Coxy's Big Break on Channel 7 and I believe it's on tomorrow afternoon at 5.30pm. Don't know whether we've made the cutting room floor or not..... I find things like this all a bit, well, overwhelming. As you know I'm more of a Backroom Johnny- and also I'm the least photogenic person around so anything like this just freaks me out totally.

I feel like I have forgotten to do something tonight.... I wonder what it is......

I've made some clocks, finished more quilts, made new tea-towel cushions and crochet cushions, made brooches and earrings, lavender bags, I've got purses prepped and needle books ready to stitch will being shopgirl tomorrow, there is some knitting to hand sew together.....

Perhaps I ready....


Morning all.
I'm showered, dressed, have a cuppa within easy reach, a kitten being silly at my feet and a new day to start.
I've been looking at all the posts and posters about Mother's Day and all I can do is think what a slack little retailer I am. I'm personally not big on the whole 'consumer holidays' (except maybe Easter.....yummm) so I find things like Mother's and Father's Day a bit alien. But hell if you are into celebrating them and you don't have time/inclination/skills to hand make your own present then I think locally designed and made is the complete way to go! 
If you want a fabulous cross section of the professional craft community you can't go passed Craft Vic in Flinders Lane. I was eyeing off some ceramics the other day.... but really with my crockeraholic tendencies I have to be very careful....
And of course the Cottage has lots of things! 
If you want just a little something (sometimes simple just makes your heart go flip-flop) then we have Ramona's gorgeous handmade fabric flowers. She's made them in tea-towels especially for us! You could go for one twisted up in our beautiful glassine paper or a whole handful.
And if Mother is a little crafty herself there are handmade Tasmanian oak knitting needles from Art Viva and Nikki's beautiful ebony ones. And I've finally got the first batch of the Cottage's own hand-dyed, hand-spun yarns out. And there are a few Sugar Plum pincushions still and the lovely needle cases made from vintage fabrics.
And there are  the HookTurn coffee cups for a caffeinated Mother. 
And gloves, gloves, gloves that will remind her every time she wears them of how fluffy, warm and snuggly her love for you was when you were a tiny baby (before the tantrums, the door slamming, the first tattoo, the inappropriate boyfriend/girlfriend, that incident at the family Xmas, etc.......).

Thursday, 6 May 2010


I haven't been in a posting frame of mind this week. No specific reason except that time and energy haven't been on my side. And no interesting photo subjects either. 
See, now I've come to write a post, I feel empty of thought.... it's probably just a symptom of being tired and a little overwhelmed at the moment. Oh and all the stupid things that have gone wrong this week. Wholesalers closing, photocopiers breaking down (which has resulted in me having to buy a new printer that will take heavy card), stuff-ups in work I've sent out to be done, people making appointment times and then forgetting what they had arranged, all those little creeping, annoying things that plague life. Just all in one week.
The house is a ridiculous mess with half finished projects everywhere and boxes and bags of stock and supplies tumbling all over the place. I'm finding that mildly amusing- and infuriating at the same time- hence the overwhelmed feeling I think. I did manage to sort a section of the studio (which is looking as messy as home) the other afternoon, a part that has been a complete eyesore every since the Rumble in the Jumble Sale last December. I never have the time to clean up after one project before I start the next, or perhaps it's because I usually have half a dozen things on the go at any one time.
I'm having fantasies about running away for a little holiday but realising at the same time that that is most definitely impossible at the moment. How much work can a girl do before her motor breaks down.....? 
Hell! It's only May and I feel like it's the end of winter with the months of winter work I've been focused on! Perhaps a new project or two might revitalise me......
I do love the new clock image, she's so ready to take off on an adventure. Perhaps what I need is a Mackintosh and a red hat set at a jaunty angle, it's all in the attitude.

Tuesday, 4 May 2010


Dyeing is very much 'like water for chocolate', a dyepot seems to be able to pick up on moods. Some days batches can come out quickly and perfectly and other days the shades get mixed up or things go blotchy or dyebaths take forever to exhaust- or all three at once. Sometimes temperatures are too high and the stirring rates are wrong and you just want  to scream. Indeed somedays one just shouldn't even go near a dyepot. Even though the success rate was high today there were three colours, that have been trouble-free until now, that just decided they weren't going to behave. 
And as I steadily slaved away I had to put up with Jethro lolling in the window (see above). He really likes to put on a show for the passers-by. 
It's after 11.30pm now and I am, like a dyepot, totally exhausted. I've been lugging and hefting and sorting and re-arranging and I'm ready for bed. Thank goodness the crazy warm spell of weather has ended- I hope. I want cold and drizzly and grey- with maybe a few more beautiful Melbourne autumn days as long as they are blue skies and chill. 
I want to rug up and hunker down. 

Sunday, 2 May 2010

slowly sunday

I had good intentions. 
Intentions of cleaning and making order from chaos. I may have started out well but things didn't quite go as planned. Of course when you get an invite to go to the park to play with young Ben and feed the ducks there is not a lot of arm twisting that is needed to drop the vacuum and skip out of the house. 
I did manage this morning to harvest some more lilly pillies- and get sprung by the home renter! She thought they were cherries (!) and I had to explain what they were and I promised to drop in a jar of jam. So there is a bag of jelly hanging ready to be boiled up and a pan of fruit that needs to measured and made into jam. 
Tomorrow is another run up country for more gloves and then I have to spend the rest of the week juggling dyeing at home and making at the studio. I seem to have lost the juggling knack at the moment. I feel guilty if I work at home (not 'real' work- go figure!) and jumpy and unfocused at the studio. Hmmm, I need to sort this out. 
The little bit of cleaning I did manage unearthed Evans' book on the table, The Real Food Companion. It really is quite fabulous. Beautiful photography and the writing is full and funny at the same time. Try the recipe for 'The world's best hot chocolate'.

'This hot chocolate is best enjoyed in front of a fire, on a sheepskin rug, in your ugg boots and after you have popped the hot water bottle in the bed. You could put less cream, less chocolate or less alcohol in this recipe, but you could also put your tongue on an ice cube to see if it sticks. I don't recommend you do any of that.....'

So you want the recipe???

150ml full cream milk
100ml whipping cream (35%)
100gm good quality dark chocolate (60-70% cocoa)
1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa ppowder
1-2 tablespoons brandy, cognac, kirsch or whisky
sugar (optional)

Put the milk and cream in a small saucepan over high heat. Cook until it's warm, then whisk in the chocolate and cocoa until the chocolate is melted. Bring to nearly boiling point, then remove from heat and whisk in the alcohol. The chocolate will add a little sweetness, but you can add more sugar to taste if you like.
Pour evenly into two mugs and serve hot.

I love the evenly bit!

Saturday, 1 May 2010


I spent Thursday and yesterday furiously trying to finish things. There were the denim patch jackets to do and the Harvest smock too. We some how managed to sell more smocks than we actually had.... I have three of these things, one white, a mid denim and a dark denim, and they are incredibly comfy. I'm worried that winter expansion might happen and I might balloon out to fill it like Homer Simpson or that people might start commenting that I am always wearing one. 
Dell has one and she looks so cute you could pinch her cheeks with joy! They are one of those garments that everyone looks fabulous in and I love the way the smocks take on the personality of the wearer, not the other way around. And that they only come in one size. And that you can bung it in the wash and never iron it. A smock indeed. An autumn harvest smock for when you are out Urban Harvesting. 

recycle, re-use, renovate

Oh how I love Bendigo's Eaglehawk Recycling Centre!
I managed to get 30 minutes free on Wednesday to go explore. It's always a chuckle-worthy trip. I have fantasies about building a house out of bits and pieces found here. I've had my eye on the lavender bath for a while, it's the best colour in real life.

And I thought I'd mix the bathroom up with a duck egg blue loo. 
And they have the best pedestal basin collection in a huge range of colours. Of course I'll have to choose the tiles carefully to tie it altogether.

There was even a homemade fussball game- I was tempted but there was some players missing.

And trophies galore.

Wheels to suit anything.

Bedsprings from back in the days before the inner sprung and the futon.

I hear golf is big these days.

And you wondered what happened to all those glass microwave turntables.

Even the kitchen sink.
There was a gas cooker I would have liked to grab for my dream home but really there was no room in the back of the car.
Next time.

And I spent a grand total of $15 to fill the back of the car up.