Thursday, 31 July 2008

the wisdom of worldly women

I think sometimes in our inner city  craftiness we think that we have invented the wheel.
I'd like to tell you a story.

Our very talented friend Katherine Bowman has been hosting a series of weekly classes at the Banksia Gardens Community Centre in Broadmeadows. It is attended by a group of Turkish women who are part of the Turkish Social Women's Group, which was started as a means of re-connecting isolated women with their local community. They are meeting each Tuesday from February through to October to talk, eat and produce craft.

Katherine chose this quote by Trinh T. Minh-Ha as a starting point, '"May my story be beautiful and unwind like a long thread...." she recites as she begins her story. A story that stays inexhaustible within its own limits.'
In her project summary Katherine wrote "I put forward three proposals to the women and they chose the first, which was to make a long panel of multiple parts. This project involved the women drawing for the first three weeks. I think that it is very hard to be asked to draw something without a prop in front of you, but it is a very interesting thing to do, as you can see very quickly what is important to a person in quite a direct and honest way. A lot of the women said that they had never drawn before and were quite apprehensive, but they all did it. I think that it is important to go through this process, and then to accept the outcome."   

Each week the women began to bring in handmade pieces, shawls, doilies, towels, and each piece was decorated with flowers and leaves, the same images that had been appearing in their drawings. So it was decided that each person would do two panels, one floral and one taken from their drawings.

The intention is to join these panels together to be displayed, along with a professional portrait of each woman and a 'life story'. 

And this bit is the really important part.
This Tuesday one of the women told Katherine that before this project they would meet and spend the time complaining about what was wrong with them, their aches and pains but now they sit and share their memories and the events in their lives and are getting to know one another. 
Katherine wrote to me that 'one of the greatest things about textile work is that it involves time, and the experience of doing is as important as the thing made'.
And this is the wisdom of worldly women.

Tuesday, 29 July 2008

bribery and corruption

In the last 10 days I've made three batches of brownies. One batch of giant brownies, for Beck's baby shower, studded with plastic pink babies, one batch of little brownies (and homemade iced vovos) for Leah's 'Circuit' opening at Milly Sleeping and tonight I whipped up two boxes of choc delights for my students at RMIT. This batch is half bribery and half apology for stuffing up when I was teaching last Thursday. Got suckered there!
So I went and got a 1kg block of Valrhona 61% and pulled out the good vanilla. I love Bourbon Vanilla (I really love the vanilla bean paste but they were out of it). I had to get a personal loan to buy this bottle but it's worth every cent. Mmmmmm.

Thought I'd just make give you a visual sugar rush.
mmmmm.......... chocolate.........

pitter patch

I've been prepping some old patchwork panels to make cushions.
I love the back, it's all rough stitches and frayed edges.
The hexagons are the size of 50 cents pieces.
'Other people's craft' is just crazy.

Sunday, 27 July 2008

sinking sorrows in sunday spending

One of my closest friends has really pissed me off in the last couple of weeks and the result today was a bit of (can't afford) retail splurging. Luckily most of the splurge is going towards making new stuff to sell but I also came home with the little roofed display cupboard pictured above. I haven't decided whether it's going to stay upstairs or go on the wall in the shop. The shop option appears fraught with problems at the moment..... people keep wanting to buy the props and the display cases. It's actually annoying  me a bit, I want to yell at people that they should go and find their own stuff instead of letting someone else do their hunting for them. 
So what else did I buy today?
A pile of (op)pressed glass plates, those plates with the pattern created on the reverse side with little pimples of glass. I fell in love with some new ones a while a go and then realised they were cheap as chips in all the op-shops. Why buy one new one when you can get a dozen for the same price? I had originally intended getting the new ones to sell in the shop but I don't know whether I like that idea now. Hunting is so much more fun. 

The naughty rabbit, above, who appears to have taken residence in the new cabinet, is a fabulous Jenny Bartholomew piece from her exhibition at Craft Vic last year. She's made from an old work glove. I'll photograph her properly one day. She's a hoot.

And this piece of stunning fabric broke the bank. 50s bark cloth, an Italianate garden, gorgeous. Bound for cushions and bags I think.

I've been in a quandary for sometime trying to design and decide about Xmas stock. Should I buy stock in, do the gift fairs, go commercial? I just can't go down that path. I just can't stock stuff that everyone else has, it goes against what I want to do with the shop. I've also had people suggesting I send designs out to be done in places like Bali and I find myself getting really upset when I think about that. I have to remind myself how pleased everyone who comes into the shop is when they find out that everything is made here in Melbourne. There are a couple of things I do want to stock in the shop that are handmade by people overseas but I comfort myself with the knowledge that no-one here is doing this type of product and that makes me feel better. Oh, the joys of retail.

Friday, 25 July 2008

'hey, i got outta bed- what more do you want?!'*

This pretty much sums up my life at the moment. Bed is where I want to be. 
I'm getting more- and uninterrupted- sleep than I have had for the last 16 years but somehow I still feel like in bed, asleep, is where I need to be. Getting out of bed is just so very, very hard in the mornings. 

Someone this week, ripped one of the doilies off the magnolia tree. I got back early enough this afternoon to patch the damaged section. Quite a silly bit of vandalism. And strangely weird too. The Prettiest Magnolia is back to her lovely self. The number of people who have taken her  photo is quite astounding. 

This weeks lack of posts has mainly be due to too much on. School started again this week and I've gone back to squeezing in 3 days, if I'm luck, in the studio. I have managed to get new stock in store this week though. We have cashmere/wool 'Dora' pants in black and moss, some 'Ava' wool tops and lots of new tea-towel skirts (I had an intense skirt making blitz to get them all finished) and some new cushions. These are made from patchworked vintage Obis backed with waxed linen- very glam. (I am such a sucker for natural linen and can't understand why people don't find it as gorgeous as I do, in fact I find people's reaction to linen generally quite weird. Just a warning but I am using linen for summer stock so if you hate it you better steer clear of the Cottage when the weather hots up.) There is a lot to do though, I had lots of stock and back-ups in the store cupboard and was really surprised when I checked and all the back-ups were gone. The list is growing.

Really the main reason for lack of posts has been that this is POST #200 and I have spent the week agonising over whether I would do a give away to celebrate. The problem with competitions and give-aways is that they always feel to me like they are a bribe to make people join in. I feel like I shouldn't have to bribe you to visit. If you find me boring or I don't interest you then you are quite welcome to not visit, that is the joy of the free blog world. Don't think that I don't like giving things away- I do! (probably too much for ever be a hard-arsed successful retailer)- and I thought it might be really nice to do it one day with a really special piece, not something pulled out  of the shop but something created especially for the occasion. 
So anyway this is Blog Post #200- normally programming will return with the next post.

*thanks to Lily Tait (aged 12) and Banksy for the above quote

Monday, 21 July 2008

slow, slow, quick, quick, slow

Well the Prettiest Little Magnolia Tree in Town has had herself mentioned again (let's not discuss how jealous all the other magnolias are), this time in the Slow Guides
If you haven't heard about the Slow Guides to Melbourne and Sydney then you've obviously been shooting along in the fast lane. It's all about stopping and smelling the roses, taking time to enjoy the little things, as their motto says 'live more, fret less'. And really craft fits very well into this, like the Slow Food movement, it's all about an investment in time and creativity paying off in the final product and the joy it brings not only to the 'consumer' but also the maker.
The Toy Society was also mentioned and I'm looking forward to seeing the outcome of more of Bianca's  toy drops!
Watch out for more Guerilla Craft events! I believe there is a knifitti event planned for the near future. When you least expect it, expect it!

Sunday, 20 July 2008


'Circuit' is up and running for 'Strength in Numbers'. Except 'up and running' may not be the best way to describe a window display exhibition thingy! Maybe 'up and stationary' might be better. (Although with the window at Cottage 'up and turning gently in the breeze' might be the way to go.)
Sweetheart Leah from Milly Sleeping has organised a little shindig, hootananny, soiree, get-together for Wednesday night. If you would like to drop in we would love to see you! It's going to be at Milly Sleeping at 157 Elgin St in Carlton on Wednesday 23rd of July from 6 until 8pm.
RSVP (just so we know how many of you to expect!).
Don't be scared to come along but do rug up, looks like it's going to cold!

Remember -Wednesday evening!
(Also if you get a chance, hunt out Leah's lovely postcards for the event, her drawings are just gorgeous! We have some at the Cottage.)

Saturday, 19 July 2008

i blame the full moon

I had the worst night last night, full of crazy worried nightmares. 
I spent most of today feeling like I used to after a hard night on the turps. 
Those nightmares were full of strange scenarios involving friends I am worried about. OK I might have been 'processing' things but it just made me feel shattered today. Sorry to anyone if I didn't actually string a coherent sentence together.
That damn moon has a lot to answer for.

Friday, 18 July 2008


(This one is for Elsie.)
On the way back I stopped at Harcourt to buy apples for Beck. It was raining and cold. The rain though has greened things up nicely and glowing through the mist were apple trees still with fruit. Like jewels on the boughs.
I bought Beck a bag of Pink Ladies and grabbed a bag of Fujis as well. 
I should explain that I am a very fussy apple eater. They have never been my favourite fruit, kind of too...... um....... apple-y. (Stop laughing! I mean this!) Sometime the flavour is just too much and texture too can be a bit too floury/soft/mealy for me. So every year for the short apple-peak season I might glut on Firm Golds or Fujis. The last good Fuji I had was months ago- that is until today. 
An unwaxed russet Fuji. 
That's it. If I'm going to eat an apple, then every year come autumn and winter, it will involve a trip to Harcourt.
(I might have to get a pair of Elsie's knickers and go apple scrumping!)

spur of the moment

Reading handmadelife over toast and tea this morning I realised that if I didn't go today I would totally miss the Victorian exhibition at the Bendigo Art Gallery. So I put my day on hold and hit the road. 

Apart from a couple of very strangely wrong descriptions, it was a pearl of a show. This collection is amazing and what was on show is a mere drop in the ocean, tip of the iceberg, seed bead on a wedding dress, of what the collection contains.  

Wedding dresses so tiny they would barely fit a child today. Beautiful fabrics. Beaded shoes. Handmade lace. Dead black mourning clothes. A child's cape of violet velvet. A whole different world.

But probably my favourite piece was a plain chocolate silk Quaker maternity dress with handmade buttons.

Bendigo Art Gallery is seriously kickin' arse with its exhibitions.
Small and perfectly formed.

Wednesday, 16 July 2008


I'm batting on both teams this year.
Whilst the Strength in Numbers window is under the aegis of Melbourne International Design Festival, I'm also doing work under State of Design as well. Justin and Dhiren smooth talked Mr Porcelain and I into helping out on Before and After, a recycling project using objects from the Brotherhood of St Lawrence. These products are then going to be used for EatGreenDesign.
This part of the project is a temporary restaurant serving sustainable and organic food and drink.
The boys came up with the idea of re-vamping old Featherston designed office chairs. Having helped out on three, Jus convinced me to do one of my own, The Little Knitted Chair. It is handknitted from tubular knitted wool yarn. Kind of a chair sweater.

Tuesday, 15 July 2008

strength in numbers- circuit

Leah from the gorgeous Milly Sleeping roped me in to her plans for inner-suburban-window-displays. She came up with a plan to have loosely linked displays at Milly Sleeping (Carlton), Since Grey (Fitzroy) and Cottage Industry (also Fitzroy) for the Melbourne International Design Festival. 
Leah chose 'Circuit' as our theme. She even came up with a Platonian quote (true) to work from "'....the Muses gave us art not for mindless pleasure' but 'as an aid to bringing our soul-circuit.....into order and harmony with itself.' Here he attributed the will to design, not to external influences, but to the need for internal balance." She has let us free rein to how we interpreted this, but the essence was looking at circularity, symmetry and interdependence.

OK I'm a little doily obsessed at the moment. And they are circular and a circuit (lots of little bits linked together to make a whole. And they link to the tree.

And they make beautiful shadows on the wall.

Please come pass and have a gander if you are in the neighbourhood. I've tried to get good photos but they just don't do the window justice.

Milly Sleeping 157 Elgin St Carlton
Since Grey 122 Gertrude St Fitzroy
Cottage Industry 67 Gertrude St Fitzroy

And there is going to be a party at Milly Sleeping next week- will post invite in a couple of days!

Sunday, 13 July 2008

magnolia pretty too!

Almost time.

oh look! pretty!

I will admit it. I am the world's worse procrastinator. Un-frickin-believable. All day to do nothing. "Oh look isn't the light outside pretty! Let's hang out the window and take photos of the sky!" (Tripping over the washing and the vacuum cleaner on the way.)
Well it was impressive.
And pretty.
And a good 5 minutes wasted.
Pen the Procrastinator.

Saturday, 12 July 2008

pleats please

I'll be sitting in the shop this morning sewing buttons on the new pleated and patched wool skirts.
They are wool/poly (so that the pleats hold there needs to be a bit of thermoplastic fibre in the mix- you will be tested on this later in the year so remember to take notes for revision! Just messing with you!) with patches of shibori fabrics stitched on. The patches are stiffer than the wool and create this really cool swing to the skirt. I will be doing variations on this theme for a while to come- I have ideas.............
They are a limited run at the moment and each one is different around the same theme. I like them!

Friday, 11 July 2008

trumpet blowing

About a month ago I met the charming Lucy Feagins who has a fantastic design site called The Design Files. And- blush stutter-she asked to interview me for the Files. She works as a stylist and props buyer for film and TV and writes great articles and interviews about design. You should definitely pop the link into your favourites!  So back to blowing that trumpet.... there's an interview with me and photos that Lucy has taken and the Magnolia Project. 
Toot toot.

Thursday, 10 July 2008


When I woke up this morning it was so grey and cold outside I couldn't help staying in bed for a little longer.
I had an overwhelming desire to get in the car and visit some snowy locale like Trentham. 
But I had appointments today so no go. I think I might need to find a day very soon for a country jaunt. To go somewhere really brisk. You know, you get out of the car and smell woodfires and your toes tingle with the cold. I don't think I have warm enough clothes though. I've dug out my over-the-knee wool socks, which are making life a bit warmer in the studio but I think I need a warm wooly jumper....... or a woolen wrap, a nice big shawl...... something to cuddle up in.
Definitely cuddling weather.

Tuesday, 8 July 2008

it's not me, it's you

Having reached the big 10,000 visitors to this blog since I put the stat counter on 6 months ago (and only a few thousand of those are me checking to see if anyone has left a comment!) I thought it was time to for me to say 'hello and thankyou for visiting'.
I have to say I'm blown away by all you people. I checked  the stat counter the other day, the one with the pins in the map to show where people are visiting from and it was totally amazing! USA, China, Estonia, Brazil, some little island in the Pacific, Spain, all those other European countries, UK, NZ,! (And apologies if I missed anyone else.) And the little pins that I know are friends. Old friends like Andrea and Cam and the Peanut in Vancouver, Dell and Adam in Berlin/Rotterdam and new friends like the lovelies Elvis and Elsie. 
Closer to home I've got to meet so many new people (whose faces I don't always remember- forgive me Paula, I was distracted by the Spotlight salesperson wearing the nun's habit) and people who have become fast-and-furious-friends (yay for Shula!) and re-connected with old friends. Too many to mention. 
And wonderful things like finding there is a mother and daughter in deepest America who love Top Gear as much as me! All good!
So once again thankyou for visiting, no matter how close or how far away you are. 
I don't often respond directly to you if you leave a comment, I like to think we are all in the conversation together and I tend to reply in the comments box, a bit of a chat. What I'm trying to say is that although I can tell you've visited, don't be shy about leaving a message, we all want to hear what you have to say, what your up to.
I'm all embarrassed now for being really sucky so I'm going to go now and scoff a hot apricot pudding. 

As I said, it's not me, it's thankyou.


I had to laugh.

They were too, too funny.

I should explain.
I had to go to Preston this afternoon and I saw two young lads with the most hilarious David Bowie pageboy haircuts. The funny thing is they probably don't know who Ziggy/Aladdin is/was.
A friend of mine (male) thinks boys/teenagers/young men just can't do 'fashion'. That they just try way too hard and are so self-conscious about it that they can't carry it off, unlike girls who gang up and play with it all. 
I think it's also the rash of pimples that cracked me up.
Can't wait for my 5 nephews to get to an age when I can roll around the floor in hysterics at their latest 'looks'!

Monday, 7 July 2008


Leaving the studio earlier this evening, I came out into icy weather. Snow in the air. Brrrr.
I've got the uggs and the heaters on, and Spot has taken to her basket in front of the fake 'coal' fire.
I thought I'd use the photo above for today's icy post. It's a piece of vintage organdie I re-found in one of the boxes in the studio storeroom last week. Was looking for something else and stumbled across it. It's a beautiful piece, original I had about 1/2 a metre of it, full width, but I gave half away to L** to copy (bugger). Regrets I have many. The date on it is hard to work out. It has that sort of Dufy styling of the early C20th but could easily also be 20s, 30s or 50s. All periods where cotton organdie was popular. And the flowers in the design are carnations! I always hated carnies until someone gave me a bunch of miniature carnations- they were gorgeous- now I have a soft spot for them, they are so daggy! The background colour is an icy aqua blue with the flowers in white. I do love organdie.

Saturday, 5 July 2008


I've watched the magnolia buds, over the last few weeks,  swelling and turning a velvety green.
This morning I looked down on the tree from the upstairs front window. 
Overnight those buds have swelled a little more and today we have magnolia blooms. Tiny unfurling flowers. Only two so far. 
But do you know what is really amazing? 
Only our doily tree is flowering, none of the other Gertrude Street magnolias are there yet.

Thursday, 3 July 2008

tales from outer suburbia

I've loved Shaun Tan's books for quite awhile now.
'The Red Tree' is a very moving story about sadness and depression in children (and indeed in everyone) with a beautiful ending, a little red leaf of hope.
Last night I walked up to Carlton (walking in the freezing cold to ease my back) and ended up coming home with 'Tales from the Outer Suburbia', Shaun Tan's latest. It's a fantastical mix of stories and pictures. You have to get it if only to read 'Eric'. Actually all the stories are great. In their own whimsical surrealist way they could all be real stories from the suburbs........... we all know those suburbs are way out there, weird beyond belief.


I went to the gorgeous exhibition of Marian Hosking's work at Craft Victoria tonight. 
Sadly after her artist's talk I had to go home. My back has gone into spasm and I was finding standing upright unbearable. 
I hate this. It hasn't been this bad in ages.
I think lugging the 25 metre roll of quilted fabric around the other day has twisted things up.
Panadeine forte and valium here I go.

Anyway pop into Craft Vic to see the exhibition, it's a lovely mix of found objects, natural detritus and spirit of place. Very contemplative and poetic.

Wednesday, 2 July 2008


Well the quilts are ready and in the Cottage. Lots of different colours and amazing florals. They are all approximately 145 x 180cm, backed with calico and bound with cotton herringbone tape. The wadding inside is polyester so that the quilts can be easily machine-washed (I love the practical).

If you are far away and would like to, perhaps, buy a quilt, let me know and we will photograph a selection for you to have a look at. Either leave a message or email me, and let me know the colours you are interested in.

the art of madame du barry

Our beloved Madame du Barry is currently being creative in many more ways than one. As well as gestating a Mini Mona, she has been putting paint brush to canvas to create a new series for her exhibition that opens on Saturday. 

(I want to call this painting 'Major Tom' (heehee).)
So we are all crossing the river in the afternoon for the grand opening. 2pm at Imp Gallery, upstairs above Greville St Books in (of course Greville St) Prahran. I heard rumours of there might be some cupcakery happening...... homemade not those commercial monstosities.