Saturday, 30 July 2011

making honey while the sun shines

Yesterday was spent 'Gleaning'. We cut aprons from the garden tent and sat around a table and sewed. Some soup was drunk, some hilarity with people not following the working order instructions.
I decided to hand sew my apron (I know, I know) but I actually enjoyed doing it this way more I think, gives me an appreciation for pre-sewing machine days- and post sewing machine invention and how very excited that must have made people.
The fabric was digitally printed with photos Tan took in her garden last summer and my apron had a giant bee perched on clover printed on it. Gorgeous!

Workshop Day tomorrow!
I still have a lot of cleaning, sorting and baking to do tonight. I will of course probably over cater (have had people overing to drop in on Monday to scoff what ever is left- cheeky buggers). I'm hoping today is a busy shop day otherwise I will probably be all twitchy over all the things I need to sort out- probably just jinxed myself there.
And YES that damn last place still hasn't sold!! 
If you would like to take it up please call or drop into the shop today as I am going to put the 'sold out' sign up on the Queens of Craft site just so no confusion happens, just in case some one buys it and I can't get on to the computer to change the settings.
I do have plans for the Queens of Craft on-line shop so stay tuned.
Anyway I better scoot, emails to send, floors to vacuum.

Friday, 29 July 2011


The next few days are going to be a bit frantic I feel.
I'm off this afternoon to help out at Tania's 'Summer Gleaning' project. This is part of the State of Design Festival and is in at the GPO and part of Tania's PhD work.
I'm still snuffling and coughing and I have managed to put a whole handful of tissues through the washing machine with a batch of laundry, nothing more annoying on the washing front than mushed up tissuage.
I have a lot of cooking and cleaning to do over the next 48 hours. The fun bit is going to be decorating the shop with Nikki's pompoms! I might even do that tonight which I am sure will completely bamboozle people coming into the shop tomorrow. We still have the pesky last place left for the afternoon workshop..... really it is getting quite hilarious.... please someone snap it up!

In Jethro news, he has finally caught the mouse he has been stalking for the last month. The downside of this is he has been playing with it in the bedroom since about 6 this morning. He loses it every now and then. Whilst a certain Bird I know is horrified, I feel that this is nature and I don't have the heart to confiscate it just quite yet. All the mice I have seen here are a lovely mink brown in colour, back in Brunswick Street days they were all mouse grey, I wonder about it, mouse tribe genetics.

Thursday, 28 July 2011

last chocolate in the box

It's amusing us no end that the finally place in the Knitting Workshops still hasn't been grabbed up.
The last chocolate in the box, biscuit in the pack, apple in the bowl.
I dropped into see Nik at Harvest yesterday on the way back from the quilter's. I was lovely to see the tent up again (Sydney Powerhouse Museum last August) and Nik must have driven herself crazy feverishly making pompoms! The lights are from Lightly and are are a joint project between Nikki and Cindy Lee. We are hopefully stealing a few of Nik's props for Sunday, not the tent though- the whole of the Cottage could fit in there! We will be quite tightly packed on Sunday (blame it on the cushions and stock) but I think it will be quite cosy and there is no better way to meet people than by sticking them in the ribs with your elbow whilst knitting. If t here ends up being any knitting needle duels though you will have to take it out the front of the shop- en garde!
So people would someone please book the last place so we can hang a shingle on the door saying 'Fully Booked'? Thanks!

Wednesday, 27 July 2011

stitched up

No nightmares last night (yay).
Knitted like a thing possessed yesterday, over 8,500 stitches knitted, which seems like a crazy amount but it comes up the same every time I punch it into the calculator so either I am doing something wrong repeatedly or it is correct. My hands are definitely stained blue for the indigo in the yarn and I look like I have had a fight with a sheet of carbon paper.
I'm taking all the patched fabric off to the quilter's this morning and dropping in to see Nikki at Harvest Textiles so hopefully I'll have some photos to show you.
Then it will be back here to dye gloves and get a bit more knitting done in between coughing and dribbling nose.
It 's a lovely blue sky winter's day out there so I'll be  wearing my sunglasses and squinting at a sparkly world.

Tuesday, 26 July 2011

focus focus focus

A night of nightmares and fevered dreams. I have a week to finish my piece for the Denim exhibition and I have to unravel it and start again. I don't know why Dell trusts me to participate. Mind you this time (fingers crossed) it should all come together much easier.
This lurgy is still playing havoc with me so I am going to try and get some quilt piecing work finished at the studio and then come home and sit in front of the heater and get this damn denim headache underway again. I have a hell of a lot to sort out this week. 

Monday, 25 July 2011

a right toad in the hole

So it seems that I have finally succumbed to the dreaded winter lurgy that everyone else has already had. Bear with a sore head. Yesterday was comfort food, an eggy Toad in the Hole (not the sausage variety), a small amount of cleaning and then sitting on the couch knitting (and unravelling about 6" of work at about midnight). Being awake from about 4am I finally fell back asleep about the time I should have been getting up and now I am running late.
It's raining outside and would be a perfect day to lie under the blankets and snooze. One day I will have a two day weekend with nothing to do. I'll have the newspapers delivered and have no excuse to get out of my pyjamas. I am a girl of simple pleasures.

Only one place left at Nikki's workshops here at the Cottage! So stop dawdling and book!

Saturday, 23 July 2011

bursting forth

It is the time when Miss Magnolia bursts her buds and puts on a show of extreme beauty. It means we still have a bit of winter to go but Spring isn't far off. There will be rain and grey skies still to come but it will be tempered with blouse-y blooms. It's hard to see the flowers when you look up but when I look out my upstairs window I am up amidst the very highest tips that are bursting  and so very close to popping open. You can almost hear the buds straining under the pressure and the petals unfurling with a soft 'flup' and a sigh.

Shop day today and then I intend to crash and the couch and start furiously knitting, hands stained with indigo.
In shop news Nikki's Construction pattern #3 has arrived and we only have a few places left in the afternoon workshop so if you have been procrastinating about signing up be quick! (You can still enter the competition to win a place at the afternoon workshop if you pop over here.) The 'Op Shop Guide' is back in the shop and we have our big safety pins back in store as well. We have new colours arriving next week of the butcher's twine and I have a put the Agricultural Show cushions out on display. Always something new happening around here.......

Thursday, 21 July 2011

warm and fuzzy

We had a lovely celebration this evening.
Our dear friend Dell had her bike stolen a couple of weeks ago so while she was away last week we all got together and raised the money to buy her a new bike and to replace all the bits-and-bobs that disappeared with it.
We took the bike to the pub and waited for her to arrive. We think she may have been quite pleased.
We had chips and beer and talked and laughed. Then we waved her off as she cycled her way home.

Walking down Gertrude Street we also got a sneak peak of the Projection Festival. It starts tomorrow night at 6pm and really it is well worth venturing out in the cold and the wet (in fact that adds to the joy of it!).  Everyone strolls up and down the street and the lights on the building really make things look totally different, magical even.
It's free. It's a great excuse for warming drinks at bars and pubs and cafes.
And if you are really lucky Jethro may perform in the window at the Cottage- he thinks everyone has come down to see him.

Wednesday, 20 July 2011

officially a middle aged geek

I really am turning middle aged.....
I spent this evening attending a cook book launch.
Well, it was the launch (with food) for Matthew Evans's new book 'Winter on the Farm' so I suppose it was mainly just me being a bit of a geek. The photo is of Jen chewing Mr Evans's ear off. I didn't bring my copy so I didn't get it signed and being shy I just stood back and watched.
I was sprung attending by a waiter I knew and a shop-friend or two. I really must remember that sometimes people read this blog and note my declaration of a crush. Heehee, giggle, blush, heehee.
I forgot to take my good camera so the photo is from my phone. See, such a stalker.
Nibbles were from the book and were yum. We may have harassed the waiters. Potato and bacon soup, ragu on semolina, cheese puffs, coconut-ty slice and choc brownies.
You should have been there.

trial by committee

Just a generic shop photo today (taken yesterday as I had requests for photos for publicity). I have been very uninspired camera-wise lately, caused by a mixture of things. I'm off to the studio to wait for the cushion delivery man, to put zips in tea towel cushions, to prep more quilts, to attempt to not find excuses to skulk off. I've bought the zips and a new cap for my iron steambox so really apart from getting the newspaper and the milk I have no reason not to buckle under and work.
Last night I managed to get the garbage out (I hate Garbage Eve- except for the fact that it makes me collect up all the newspapers that litter the house), top dye two pots of gloves, ply up a hank of hand spun wool and start re-working my piece for Denim. I got a fair way into it and then had to undo half of it and start again. I wasn't really concentrating as I was sitting watching Murdoch Senior and Junior being quizzed, I found it strangely hypnotic and I felt weirdly sorry for Rupert (I kept wondering if Dame Elisabeth had called him to tell him how ashamed she was of the whole debacle). I had to prise myself away from the TV and go to bed otherwise I may have sat there all night like a modern day Madame Defarge.

Monday, 18 July 2011

silly cow

I finally managed to get some studio work done today.
I was going to hold off showing you what I've been working on (the inserts won't arrive until Wednesday) but I'm rather pleased with the new cushions. The new batch is made from old Agricultural Show prize ribbons, patched together with felt I picked up at l'Uccello and backed with our lovely Swedish raw linen fabric. I find them amusing.
I also made some new Welsh blanket cushions and ironed and prepped a huge pile of tea towels ready to make into cushions. It feels good to be making as we are so low on some stock and that is always a slightly scary feeling. As I've said before, prepping and making is a great way to clean up the studio! I've got to try and keep myself chained to the sewing machine for the next couple of days so that I can take Thursday off to dash into Design Made Trade. I seem to have a lot of extra stuff on this week. I'll let you in on them later. I need to decide on the menu for Nikki's Workshop Teas as well. So many things on.
I'm off to zap my wheat bag hottie and read the last few stories in my book so I can mail it back to Library Girl. I'm sure I've forgotten to go something tonight. Oh well, it can't have been important.

Saturday, 16 July 2011


Turn, turn.
I didn't get to the studio yesterday, it was a mix of errands to run and know it was quite possibly a really bad place to be in the mood I was in. I screamed at TNT for an hour and half on Thursday afternoon about four parcels they did not pick up and deliver, they collected one of the five going out. I know it's not good form to get angry with some telephone jockey but sometimes it can be quite good sport (I know, you are ashamed of me) and quite cathartic when after accusing you of not booking the pick-up properly, they finally admit that they have made a very big boo-boo and they are the ones at fault. Snigger, snort, ha!
The kitchen is still piled high with blankets being washed and dried and the washing machine is full of doilies that need to be hung out. Many years ago this building was a Chinese Laundry and sometimes I feel like the spirit of the place is still taking in washing. If the weather stays OK for the next few days I might get it all sorted and loaded into the car to go to the studio. Then I might actually be able to clean the kitchen and think about what delights I will cook for the Workshop snacks on the 31st.
I was meant to have all the fabrics ready to go to the quilters by the time Dell got back from accompanying Mr Cruickshank to Brisbane. Of course I am only part way there. I hope she won't be angry with me. Mind you I have a huge bag of old jeans out the back that also need to be washed before I unpick them and start patching them together to make some new vintage denim quilts -well that's the plan. It is of course the worst time of the year to be trying to dry mountains of heavy fabrics.
As usual it's got to that time of the morning where I need to get myself together for shopgirl duty.

Friday, 15 July 2011

look at this!

Nikki has been mighty busy!
If you wanted to see what Construction #3 is all about then sit down and watch this little film.  
Nikki has really pushed the boat out on this pattern and its fabulous!
Remember we have some places left for the afternoon Workshop and if this doesn't inspire you I don't what will.

After refusing to get out of bed this morning I was glad I did just so I could tell you about this!
Nik you are a star!

Thursday, 14 July 2011

midnight toil

It's always good to know when you are burning the midnight oil that someone else is also out there working. I'm just not sure I appreciated the jackhammering! My sympathies go out to the folks up on High Street Northcote who have had to deal with road and tram works for the last week. I think I would have shut up shop and gone on vacation.
I spent last night dyeing gloves and getting orders boxed up and ready to go out. Of course when I finally crashed into bed I couldn't get to sleep. I'm yawn enough this morning to end up with a flip top head. Sadly I'm not happy in the light of day with some of the gloves colours so they will have to go back in the dyepot for a re-jig tonight. Three nights straight dyeing is not my idea of a bit of relaxation after a hard day at the studio!

UPDATE Nikki Gabriel Workshops!

Workshop #1 has completely sold out!
Workshop #2 has limited spaces available so please if you are interested in attending please get in touch.

We are very excited about the response to Nikki's workshops! Thanks!

Wednesday, 13 July 2011

quando, quando, quandary

Sorry if I have been a bit lax in posting lately but the headspace has been a bit muddled and there has been a lack of photos. Last week was all a bit mixed up and I feel like I have a 'hangover' from that. With one thing and another I'm not getting enough time in the studio and it's effecting me, making me feel antsy and angst-y and annoyed. I'm probably needing my yearly break two months earlier than normal this year.
After having very stupid issues yesterday when working on the blanket quilt panels (sewing too many rows on and not feeling like there was enough variety in checks and colours) I went out dumpster diving today and filled the back of the car up with woollen blankets. Home now smells like a wet sheep with the rugs drying on every door and banister. I've been doing a bit of late night glove dyeing trying to catch up on some orders that need to go out. There are still mountains of blankets piled in the kitchen and I have dyepots ready to be heated up in the morning. I am attempting to plan my day tomorrow. The overwhelming need to be in the studio versus the overwhelming need to dye gloves- quandary.
Saturday was a curiously busy day punctuated with visits from a lot of friends I haven't seen in ages. It was also a day of strange occurrences at the end of a week of ups and downs. I've been trying to work out how to deal with a situation that happens quite often in the shop, I view it as being about 'shop etiquette' and especially about shop etiquette when the shop is designer/craftsperson/maker owned and run. Last week I was forwarded a press release about someone in Sydney obviously using my blanket quilts as 'inspiration' for their new range and this particular person likes to come into the Cottage when she is down in Melbourne. Then on Saturday I had a woman in who came to the counter to buy a tea towel shopping bag, as I wrapped it she said 'my mother has lots of these tea-towels' (nothing wrong there, we get that often and expect it with the materials we use) then she went on to say ' I'm going to copy this bag when I get home- but don't worry I come from Queensland'. I have to say I was lost for words and had that brain freeze moment of being totally unsure of what I could say that would let her know how wrong and impolite this comment was. Some friends have suggested that I should have asked her to leave the shop but I find that in these blogging days it is very hard for someone to get away with righteous indignation when it would end up being portrayed as 'how dare that bitch throw me out of her shop?!'.
I think owner/makers have a great deal to put up with dealing with a generation or two used to mall and chainstore shopping. I know I am going to be copied (we have had some doozy happenings in the shop with people blatantly  on the prowl and, yes, we can pick them without a word being spoken- in fact that is one way the radar goes off, when they won't talk to us or look us in the eye), I accept it but really I don't want to know about it. If you are intending to copy something then please have the decency to not discuss it whilst in my shop. Whenever I have commented on the issue of copying or plagarism I have received rather nasty emails from total strangers having a go at me that my work is not original and suggesting that I either trawl the internet for ideas or that I don't look at the web enough to realise I am not unique. The whole point of Cottage Industry is about using reinterpreting traditional products and skills but I still work on creating these products from start to finish, I design and sample, I draft the patterns and search out the skills and techniques I need to utilise to make the finished product. I don't have time to sit in front of my computer 'researching' as some people seem to do, I'm too busy trying to find the time to get everything I need to do done.
So this is the 'background interference' that I have had to work with lately. I'll probably get some snarky email come through that I will 'write' a long and witty reply to in my head and then end up feeling empty and drained and won't bother actually typing and sending.
At least it will keep me amused whilst I sit at my sewing machine.

Saturday, 9 July 2011

shop face

This week has been an absolute bugger. A week of ups and downs and frustrations all round.
Perfect conditions to make me a bear with a sore head. I am looking forward to a quiet day tomorrow, shutting the door on everyone and pottering about. Perhaps even making some sense in the kitchen and picking up all the clothes that carpet the bedroom floor. Collecting together all the tapestries that are stashed everywhere might also be a grand plan.
I have a thousand things that need to get started/finished next week and I really hope that I can get some things done. It might make me feel less 'grrrrrrr' if I can see some progress happening. I need to open all the windows and doors and air the house out, literally and metaphorically.
I also need to move or unpack all the cardboard boxes that are stacked in the shop, stuffed under the cushion bunk, under the table, stacked in the store cupboard, piled in the hallway. Dell said yesterday when I commented on the boxes that at least the 'Op Shop Guide' box was almost empty. She was making with the funnies there, it is the smallest box of all, barely 25cm square. Ha ha and yes we will have to order more of those soon too.
In shop news we have a selection of 18" pianola shades back in, a whole baby bath full of Hookturn cups (including the red ones) and of course all the fabulous Northern Queens of Craft stock.
Anyway it's time to vacuum and get my 'shop face' on.

Friday, 8 July 2011

mobius return

Our angora yarn isn't like the stuff you buy off the shelf in wool shops. It's thin, it looks kind of coarse and boring, the colour is a bit wrong and it smells but then the magic happens. You knit it up and wash it and it turns into a cloud of creamy fluffy goodness. That is alchemy, lead into gold, sow's ear into a silk purse.
Which brings me to the point of this post, the Mobius Loop Shrugs are back in store!
I love how soft the angora lambswool yarn knits up. It drapes and falls in gentle folds and straight from the dryer last night (they are processed by being washed in hot water then tumble dried to fluff them up) I could have snuggled under the pile of angora-y goodness.

I'm off to the studio now to finish a cardigan sample that, if it works, might just be in the shop tomorrow. At the moment the knit panels look a lot like a cross between a berber carpet and a Starsky jacket in colour. The washing is the thing that will pull it all together I think (I hope).

Thursday, 7 July 2011

crazy crochet critter cause chaos at cottage!*

I had one of those mornings that sunk into a black hole. I was waiting for our lampshade maker to come but she got stuck in traffic for 3/4 of an hour and whilst I should have used the time to perhaps write a post, eat breakfast, answer emails, I instead sat on an ottoman in the shop and played tickling games with Jethro.
I did spend the rest of the day at the knitting division of PenCorp (the bit of the studio that all the knitting machines and wool are piled in) and managed to get some knitting done. Yay for me! Huh.

If you pop over to The Thousands you can be in the draw to win a place at Nikki's Workshop #1 here at the Cottage. Got to be in it to win it! And I know you all love a freebie!

I love the close up photos of Ann's tea cosies, they look like weird triffid-y underwater monsters*.
And I love a bit of bad alliteration.
And were you watching the ABC news last Friday night? First report of the night about the bribery scandal at Securrency? Bribery spelt 'bribary' emblazoned behind newsreader..... good one national broadcaster! Standards really are slipping, probably outsourced the captioning to save money, my suggestion is for them to go with IMT.

Wednesday, 6 July 2011

workshop update! change of date! more big wooli balls have arrived!

I've just had word from Nikki that we need to change the date of the workshops here at the Cottage. Hope this doesn't stuff people around!
So instead of the workshops happening on the 24th of July they are now going to be on the 31st of July. Everything else is the same, times, place, cake, etc.
The Queens of Craft has been updated and I will be sending out an email as soon as a get a moment.
I also picked up the shipment of 200gm Wooli balls that Nikki has sent through so we have all the colours back in stock again. We sold out of the last batch pretty quickly but we have a nice big basket of them sitting out now.
Of course this now gives you a few more days to sort out your diary and make a booking to attend!

Tuesday, 5 July 2011


Those Northern Queens of Craft have been hard at it again and just in time for this freezing winter weather that has just blown in. We have new handknitted beanies and some crocheted berets, a few more pairs of handknitted kid's mittens and we've got more of Maree's fabulous alpaca grown up hats and baby bonnets and booties. Marnie has been hard at work knitting mice of various species and the really gorgeous Miss Mousie is back in stock after selling out (that's her and her and her and her and her in the top photo). Kerry's hedgepigs are back again, along with her mice and ladybirds, these all make the cutest pocket toys for little ones (and cats and grown ups).

Ann and her daughters Paula and Tanya have excelled themselves again and we have a bumper batch of crochet afghan throws in. As Ann pulled them out of the car to show me I was going 'ooohhh!' and 'aaahhh!'. I've put a stunning bright yellows and black one in the window, don't even think 'hmmm Richmond football colours', it is beautiful and glows warmly on such a cold day! Ann's also made us some more tea cosies and I'll be putting them out into the shop as the day progresses. She made a batch of the fabulous 'coral' tea cosy, the pattern is from the 1930s and she inherited it from her mum, it's made up of rows of scalloping crochet and has twisted tassels on the top (I will photograph one soon).
Well, I'm off to run errands and unpack more stock.
Oh! And remember the Cottage loves winter so there is lots of snuggly hats, gloves, scarves and blankets here to warm the cockles of your heart.

over hill and dale

You may not have noticed but I've been off up country for the last couple of day. We went north to collect handmade work created by the Northern Queens of Craft (more on that later). It was cold, mild, sunny, cloudy, dry, rainy and full of amazing views.

As well as seeing the NQoC we also dropped in to see Miss Charlotte, to deliver some bits and pieces and to do a small bit of doily-ism on a lichen-y tree outside the country hall she will be celebrating her wedding reception in. The views across the valley were just spectacular and it is going to be a very fine shindig. I would have liked to do more doilies on the tree but time was running out and my fingers started to freeze, I couldn't feel the needle so dexterity was down to about zero. Perhaps more will appear between now and the wedding day.

Sadly op shopping was a wash out, too late, wrong day, nothing worth buying. It can be like that sometimes.

Saturday, 2 July 2011

of notes to self, living in a village in a city and being amused by a cat

Sometimes I need to leave notes for myself. Especially if I am not in the studio for a few days and as the first thing I do when I get to the studio is to turn the iron on, so I left this note to self on the ironing board for next week.
Going up to the bakery this morning I went by the park, you can tell it is mid-winter because you can see right through the trees all the way to the farthest edge. The light was long and low and the sun glowing through lazy foggy wraiths. I'm back home with bombolino and tea and feeling dozy and half-arsed. It's one of those mornings were everything is quiet and echo-y and I am astounded that I live barely a kilometre from the city, a country town couldn't be quieter.
I'm still getting used to the new sewing machine but I did manage to make a big batch of lavender bags (accompanied by much sneezing as I filled them) this week and I have finished more of the quilted 'Clementine' patchwork skirts. We only had one left from the last small batch. I sat on the couch last night and hand stitched the hems.
I really need to get the vacuum cleaner upstairs, the floor is a mess of wood dust, bits of tape, wool and thread. Jethro tried to eat a pile of wood dust the other evening, when he realised the taste was dreadful he then spent the rest of the evening playing with it, pushing little piles about with his paws and swishing his tail through it. Ever since he was a kitten he has loved fetching glove offcuts from when I make the owlette toys. He's even been known for breaking into bags to steal bits of angora gloves. He's upped the ante now by fetching whole gloves. Not good ones from out of the baskets in the shop but sad lost blotchy dyed ones. It is pretty funny to see him carrying a long glove in his mouth, mewing as he goes and tripping over it. I woke up this morning to this.......

And before I forget we have a new very lovely vintage lampbase in store. I love it. 1920-30s, dark wood, quite tall, simple but very stylish, would fit in anywhere..... sounds like my dream man......