Tuesday, 29 September 2009

the quilt cat

The patched and pieced lengths came back from the quilters today and I spent the day chopping and trimming and binding and finishing. Dell dropped in to finish her special quilts and I let her use the Beast (the walking foot binder, noisy and tough and the best machine I think I ever bought- just don't tell my other machines, they'll get jealous). Handling 15 meter lengths of quilted tablecloths and tea-towels can be exhausting.
Then it was home to spend most of the evening re-arranging the shop and hanging some of the new quilts. I had a little helper, much to the amusement of passersby. 
So we have Summer quilts ready, some made from vintage tablecloths as we have been doing for the last few years,  and new new new style quilts made from vintage linen glass cloths, embroidered bits-and-pieces and odds-and-sods of tablecloths and printed tea-towels. The new quilts are rather lovely, all stripey and wonderfully pretty. Rather like Jethro.

Monday, 28 September 2009

style mapping

At last the NYT link has come through!
Check it out here!

We may be kitsch but at least we do it tongue in cheek!

Sunday, 27 September 2009

crumpeting sunday

I've been intending to make a batch of crumpets for a while now and then this morning Ramona posed a question on-line as to how many crumpets were too many and I took it as a sign.
Today would be Crumpeting Sunday.
Crumpets aren't something you whip up in 15 minutes and a rainy lazy Sunday is a perfect day to do them. They are all yeasty and need to be left in a warm spot rise and then rise some more and according to my favourite crumpet recipe if you want to achieve lots of bubble holes in your crumpet you need to 'beat the mix vivaciously'. Seriously, not vigorously, 'vivaciously'.
My crumpet recipe is a work in progress, a few more changes and I think it will be just perfect.
Sadly the stunt crumpets used in the photographs died. A happy, honeyed death. Mmmmm.
The rest are cooling, getting ready to be frozen for easy future crumpet joy.
All I need now is an English country house, a couple of snoozing labradors, an afternoon tea-tray, a log fire full of glowing coals and a toasting fork.

Friday, 25 September 2009


I got home tonight to find the postie had been and my copy of 'Yarnbombing: The Art of Crochet and Knit Graffiti" had arrived!

I've got to say (and this isn't because Shula's beautiful photos of our Magnolia Collective doilism are in it) that if you are going to go out and buy a 'how-to' book then this is the one you should get. It is fabulous and Leanne and Mandy have done an amazing job on it. It's packed with interviews and discussions about the whole yarnbombing-taking-craft-to-the-streets movement and patterns- yes patterns! Patterns to make graffiti and patterns to make things to wear whilst you are out doing your kniffiti! (Including a Tagging Toolkit Cuff.)
I hear that Dan at Artisan Books on Gertrude Street here in Fitzroy has a pile of them so head in and pick one up!
It can take a lot to impress me and I have to say very loudly-

Thursday, 24 September 2009

spring rain

Took the quilt lengths off to be quilted this morning, did a bit of vacuuming, a smidge of cleaning and now getting ready to head off to teach for the afternoon. 

On the shop front, if you are interested, we've marked some winter clothing stock down about 20%, so come in and grab it while you can! Have you checked the weather forecast for the next few days? You definitely need a lovely wool jacket to get you through the last of this chilly weather and if you pack it away with some lavender bags you'll be all ready for when the cold comes back next autumn....... what do you think of my sales pitch?? And there is still a lovely range of colours in the angora fingerless gloves (sadly not on sale- sorry), perfect for when it's too hot for a coat but still chilly.
Whilst everyone else seems to complain about the weather we are have I have to say I'm all for it. Bring on the drenching rain. I always remember studying for exams and getting ready for end of year assessments with the rain bucketing down on the purple irises in the backyard. Being in Tasmania with its wet wet winter made me remember how lovely rain is and how much I miss it. Although I'm not a footy aficionado (and with the Grand Final coming up this Saturday) I have to say I hope those footballers will be scrabbling in the mud like in the olden days. To me Aussie Rules was always about seeing mud slathered men slipping about in the rain and being amazed that they didn't just tell their coach 'I'm not going out in that weather- I'm staying here where it's nice and warm' as they huddled under a check car rug and opened a thermos of steaming tea.

Tuesday, 22 September 2009

she who dies with the most fabric wins

This has been amended to 'she who inherits the stash wins'.

I've been a bit lacklustre of late and reluctant to get out of bed in the morning. I've had feelings of doom and gloom and then I realised it was just a bout of hayfever. Sneezing and all that but mainly just that feeling of NQR. I managed to get through winter without succumbing to the Great Lurgies of 2009 so I feel getting slugged with the body-lethargy of Spring allergies is a pay-off.
Most of Friday and Monday was taken up with patching together fabric for the new batch of Summer quilts. We have a lot on order so I thought I needed to get them happening. These quilts involve pulling out piles and piles of tablecloths and tea-towels and sewing and chopping and sewing until you reach the point of tying yourself in knots and tripping over a 20 metre length of fabric. Then it all needs to be laid out and rolled up. 
The state of the studio of course didn't help with the fabric wrangling. Today, though, Darling Dell came in and folded and stacked and piled and sorted all the fabric that had spewed onto the floor and over the table and tumbled out of boxes.
I should explain that the fabric on the shelves is just the tip of the iceberg. There is another set of shelves to the right, a storeroom to the left and behind is the whole of the rest of the studio.......... and boxes and boxes and rolls and rolls of fabric stacked and stashed. And then there is the boxes of buttons and braids and other fripperies. 

Saturday, 19 September 2009

rising incidents of 'penelope-istis'

All my life I've had to lug around the name 'Penelope'. 
When I was growing up there was Lady Penelope from the Thunderbirds, posh girls from hoighty-toighty British novels/films/TV serials, and the general feeling that I was in trouble if I got called by my full name ('Penelope go to your room!'). 
I am a child of the 60s and 70s so I was surrounded by Janes and Susans and Kathy/Cathys and Debra/Deborahs*. Every class I was in seemed to have at least two, if not more, of all these names. Funny how these supposably radical times bred a whole pile of really mainstream monikers and I always had the weird feeling of both my name being unusual for its time and proud that I didn't have a name that everyone else had. Of course at home my family-name, if I wasn't in trouble, was always Nel or Nellie (even more unusual and old-fashioned) and it wasn't until I changed schools at about the age of 7 that some 'bright' teacher decided to shorten my name without even asking to 'Penny'. I hated the spelling and, anyway, my mother's nickname amongst family and old friends was 'Penny' (her maiden name was Penn, which incidentally is not why I have been given this name, I was named after a childhood friend of my mother's whom she admired) so it was just not something I have ever felt I owned in any way. 
A few years after getting the 'Penny' label a Greek friend suggested 'Pene' and it kinda stuck. And I have that great Australian habit of shortened names to a single syllable so 'Pen' it became.
So I tootled on through life with a name that wasn't very common. 
Once upon a time no one had trouble pronouncing it. 
I avoided getting it 'out' as much as possible, tried to keep it short and sweet.
Had an annoying boyfriend who insisted on calling me by it (I should have put two and two together there!).
And if people asked about it I told them it was my stage name.

Then I opened a shop and suddenly every Penelope around has come out of the woodwork!
It's quite funny really.
We compare notes. 
And very weirdly (thanks Google!) there is another person out there with exactly the same name as me. First name and surname! For someone who has gone through life with a slightly 'different' name than is the fashion and a rather uncommon surname, you can not believe how weirdly confronting that is. Never really having had to share a name and then this! 
As they say- names define us.

'It's giving girls names like that', said Buggins, 'that nine times out of ten makes 'em go wrong.' It unsettles 'em. If ever I was to have a girl, if ever I was to have a dozen girls, I'd call 'em all Jane.' 
H.G. Wells. (Referring to the name 'Euphemia', Kipps Bk 1, Ch  4)

(and thanks to Elise for sending me this 1932 knitting and fashion magazine she found in France...... thanks lovely!)

*I also forgot Lisas and Jennys and Louises

Thursday, 17 September 2009

storm tossed

I'm feeling a little skew-wiff at the moment. Perhaps it's post-break blues (it was only Tasmania though, not like some far-flung adventure) or back at RMIT doldrums or just the tumbled and pillaged state of home and studio that is sending me a little off.
We have started to get people coming in doing the 'oh I'll be back at Xmas' line.... end of Winter and not quite totally Spring (that is I haven't done a complete change over of clothing stock..... because  I'm only just at the beginning of making it all) and the fact that Xmas is just peaking over the horizon makes for one jumpy little shop keeper. 
I'm trying to work out how to cram about 3 weeks of work into a three day timeframe and it isn't looking like the time/space continuum is going to stretch like I need it to. Typical. Not like I'm asking for much. Ha!

I do have to say that being away was especially great in one huge way. 
The lack of computer and internet access was great.
I, purposely, don't have a computer etc at the studio so that I can avoid the trap of 'just checking my emails' and the senseless trawling of the internet that then follows. I've never been able to understand people who spend hours and hours on the 'interweb thingy' in search of ideas when they should in fact turn away from the screen and  let their imaginations run riot. Sadly the computer has become in some aspects a 'time-wasting machine', gobbling up hours of productive time. It's funny how the web may have enlarged our 'contacts', united like minded people, put in many ways it has narrowed a lot of our vision as well. We all begin to fish in the same little sea...........

I started writing this this morning before being 'kidnapped' for tea and a chat with Beckarooney, then it was off to teach. Coming home this evening was all about getting drenched in the rain and thinking how funny it is that yesterday I was stressing about Summer ranges. Now we are all soaked and wondering why we dropped the coat into the dry-cleaners so soon (well that's what I'm wondering, I don't know about you!).
Rain makes me peaceful. De-stresses me.
I should qualify that- it de-stresses me slightly. I still have a pile of things to sort and organise and do, the stress is still there but it's just listening to the calming watery swish of the cars going by outside.

Tuesday, 15 September 2009

one swallow does not make a summer

Or a couple of linen dresses...... but at least I've started to get things finished! 
So much to do, so little time.
I know, I'm always complaining about it but sometimes it all seems so overwhelming.
Chip, chip, chip, drip, drip, drip, slowly it all gets done.

Saturday, 12 September 2009

peg bags

And I've finally had an opportunity to get some peg bags done.
With the north wind we have been having it would be a perfect time to get all those winter things washed and dried and ready to pack away with some lavender bags.
Hint hint.

Of course you don't have to just uses these for pegs, they are great for garlic and onions in the kitchen, sock and undies in the bedroom , sewing things in the workroom and odds-and-sods in the bathroom. All those annoying little things that just pile up, then get lost and can't be found when you need them.

new security measures

You may remember we had a few theft issues a while ago with the kitten burglar stealing a Coconut Lu earring out of the cabinet. We have instigated new security measures and have new staff on the job.

Jethro, aka The Kitten Burglar, is here being frisked in a quack down on possible shoplifting.

Scaring off thieves.

(Jethro actually attempted to abscond with an earring whilst I was changing the display over. He very gently picked one up in his kitten lips, while I watched. Brazen! And cute!)

Thursday, 10 September 2009


Go away for a week and suddenly there is new stock in the shop!
Must have a break more often!
First up- the girls of handmadelife dropped some 'i make stuff ' books off...... and we only have one left! You better be quick in to get the last of these hot potatoes! (Although I am hoping the girls will be able to spare some more copies- hint hint.)

And then these beauties arrived in the mail yesterday ............ the Faux-taches are back- with a vengeance! We have the ever popular 'Barber' and 'Barman' and the new-new-new mini 'Cad', excellent size for pets and children. Check out Shauna and Stephen's Somethings Hiding in Here blog for some fabulous photos of the amazing uses these faux-taches can be put to...... heehee.

And finally just in from the Michael the Framer, a new selection of framed buttons and doilies. The lace doily really needs to be seen close up to be believed- it is needle made lace of a farmgirl with sickle and cornucopia. Brilliant. And the hilarious 'Romance' couple at the top are marvellous too!

Oh and did I let you know we have new tea cosies in as well? Well we do.

Wednesday, 9 September 2009

the story of the box part 2

Hessian off, the layers peel back.

An apron in salmon-y pink cotton with the cutest little print  'collar'.

Silk crepe dress #1 with cream silk collar.

Silk crepe dress #2 with pleated ruffle detailing on collar and sleeves.

A cotton shirt, only sleeves and collar remaining.

Striped silk faille dress, with large burnt areas .

And the following:-
1x woman's navy wool cardi
1x child's flecked brown handknitted vest
1x woolen skivvy
1x cotton undervest
1x men's navy wool pants, cut into three pieces, legs  and waist/pockets
1x navy silk faille shirt waister with short sleeves, elasticized waist, collar with neck tie, tuck detail at yoke
2 pairs men's woolen socks
1x dismembered pair of wool long johns
1x scrap furnishing fabric
1x scrap red wool fabric
1x dismembered wool cardi with 3 safety pins attached

All from the thirties.
The silk dresses were all made with French seams. The dresses and the shirt waister were beautifully detailed.
What is so lovely about this little time capsule?
Up until the last 20 years or so, every household had a rag bag. (I can remember Mum keeping Dad's Bonds undershirt until they were mere scraps as they made such soft cleaning cloths.) Nothing would be thrown away. In this case these garments were pulled out to pad the seat on the trunk. 
And we think we are so smart with all out recycling! Ha!

the story of the box part 1

I scored this wooden trunk from the Lilydale Anglicare op-shop a couple of years ago.
It is old, it is made with handmade nails and is lined with handblocked wallpaper (floral and faux bois- that's fake wood to you and me). The lid had been padded at some stage to make a seat, hessian tacked to the top and stuffed with something lumpy and bumpy.

I've been meaning to getting around to investigating what the seat was padded with. It was too hard for it to be coir or horsehair and I had a feeling it might be rags. So yesterday afternoon I started to take the top apart. Under two layers of hessian this appeared.......


due to unprecedented demand

I've had a huge number of people over the last year asking if I had any afghan rugs for sale.
I've always said 'hmmmm maybe....'.

You see I have a rather large collection of them (it fluctuates depending on friends giving birth!) but I have been reluctant to sell them. ('The collector gene is strong in this one.') 
Really I have limited space between here and the studio and things are getting a little bit out of control of late!
I had hoped to get them instore before I went away but I just ran out of time and I also had to do some work to the box I wanted to display them in (the story of that box will be my next post!).
But I've finally managed to get it all sorted and they are sitting piled in the window. There are lots of sizes and styles. There are even two quite large ones made in fabulous browns, creams and oranges, they are same-same-but-different, if you know what I mean. There is also two that are lighter and lacier and would be lovely to wear as shawls, made from a mix of wool and mohair.
They are all labelled with the Unsung Queen of Craft swing tag.


Dear Kelly
(see comment for this post)
I'm sorry if I upset you with my comments about Queenstown.
If anything, my feelings about Queenstown are coloured by arriving at 5pm on a dark grey afternoon and my memories of last time I was in there, many eons ago, on a family trip around Tasmania. (You have to admit it is a slightly eerie place.)
I have always, even as a child, been slightly spooked but that time of the day. It goes back, once again to being a kid, out on family drives (which in my memory seemed to happen every weekend with full thermos and home made biscuits) and coming home late in the afternoon and just wanting to be safe and warm and tucked up tight in a glowing house. Bacchus Marsh was especially one of those places that for a long time just made me get home quick smart. I can not explain it. It took me years of going to BM on sunny shiny days to lose that sense of dread. We always seemed to drive through Bacchus Marsh when it dreary and drippy and getting dark. It's funny how we carrying those irrational things and feelings from childhood with us all our lives.
I like that to you Queenstown is safe and warm and loving. And that part of those memories is about 70s craft. As we moved into the eighties unselfconscious craft somehow died in a way. Consumerism took hold. I have no desire to go back in time, be a fifties housewife hitting the Bex, a thirties woman stirring the washing in the copper, but I do wish we could embrace the fact that 'making stuff' was just what people did, it was a way of life not something fashionable and 'oh so po-po-mo' (post-post-modern!).
I do bet that Queenstown was one of those places you had to make your own fun and that, as is so often, 'Isolation can be the Mother of Invention', craft isn't always about running off to the supply shop to buy the latest kit.

All the best


Monday, 7 September 2009

birthday shmirthday

If you have been reading this blog for a while you'll know that I always run away at this time of the year. It's partly that it is mid-semester break (and after teaching first year students for three quarters of a school year a break is desperately needed), the downhill slide into Xmas is about to start and ....... it all coincides with my birthday. Being the freaky little Virgo that I am I just can't deal with the stress of birthdays (do they ever live up to expectations?..... sometimes, often with disastrous- and sometimes hilarious- results! all that attention...... eeeekkk!) so over the last few years I've instigated an escape plan. 
I get to have a break, I get to remain quiet for a day, I receive lots of lovely phonecalls, text messages, etc and I don't have to deal with other peoples expectations of how I should spend that day. Perfect really.
So on the 2nd of September (day before birthday) I pushed through from Hobart to Queenstown. A long winding drive through farm land that gave way to amazing World Heritage Areas. Stopped at Lake St Clair, drove across the bridge at the Franklin River, saw snowtopped Frenchman's Cap in the distance and wound through the denuded hills down into Queenstown. 
It was late in the afternoon when I got there and being in a valley it was already getting dark...... and very depressing. Queenstown is one of those places where you can feel the isolation of a hundred years pressing in on you and I felt surrounded by 'bad juju'. I couldn't stay and decided to make it to Strahan in the last of the light from a beautiful setting sun.

And Strahan was a good place to have a birthday. All dripping rain, big fat globules of pure Roaring Forties water, soaking and thunderstormy giving way to beautiful washed clean light. 

Sunday, 6 September 2009

just couldn't help myself

I had plans for a bit of doily graffiti whilst I was away.
Then I got to Devonport and realised I'd left the bag of doilies sitting next to the back door at home. A quick scour of a few oppies and I had the materials I needed. Luckily I had remembered the needle and thread.
I had visions of moss covered tree trunks cloaked in white doilies but when the crunch come I found that very greenery off putting. How could I sully its such intense beauty with something so very man-made? I began to realise that so much of yarn graffiti is tied in with an urban environment. I may clothe a tree in lace in the city but its primary purpose is really to draw attention to the tree. Does that make sense? I don't need to 'beautify' something as amazing as the forests of Tasmania- they are already stunning. 

But maybe a rock from Mersey Bluff Beach in Devonport, carted up to Cradle Mountain, stitched in a doily and then popped under running water is different.

Or perhaps a magnolia tree in a Hobart park.


(I got sprung doing this one but it was by a trio of visiting artists so it was ok....)

how about hobart?

You have to love a 'city' that has its CWA shop smack bang in the middle of town.
Well the address maybe North Hobart but that just means it's 20 metres up the road from Hobart central. 
Chock full of handknits and jams and preserves and eggs and -BEST OF ALL- cakes made fresh every day and delivered by members in the morning.
Hence the photo of the slightly squashed, and about to be scoffed, jelly cakes! Light as a feather and filled with fresh cream. Dreams are made of this.


You also have to love a place that has its 'tip shop' really in the midst of town!
Thanks to Jo, ex-Hobartian who I work with at RMIT,  for putting me on to this. "Collectables' is the recycling arm of the Hobart tip and they have a shop in town that is a hodge-podge of their more 'collectable' donations. Let's say there was a slight breathlessness and bingeing here. Things every girl needs.... a set of antlers, a map of Great Britain, a leather satchel, the cutest miniature of a wooden 50s sideboard, an annual, an old handmade metal tin (label says 'olde worlde tinne'- you gotta love a sense of humour like that!)......... and some other stuff.
The down side to the whole 'Collectables' experience was that I had picked up a flyer about them when I was at the shop and didn't read it until I got to Strahan the next day...... to discover they have another store at the actual tip in South Hobart. I was retching in frustration and nearly jumped back in the car to hot-foot it back to Hobart. 

and then there was evandale

Sunday was set aside especially for Evandale.
Not far from Launceston, Evandale is a lovely Georgian village, beautiful buildings tight up against the road.
And the sweetest Sunday market ever.
Set around an old hall, people set up tables and sell stuff. Like Camberwell Market minus everything I hate about that place. And a tenth of its size. 
It was a quiet Sunday (everyone was commenting) but it was an absolutely glorious sunny morning and how exciting when the couple walking in the gate ahead of you is Adrian from The Collectors and his wife. But that's Tasmania for you. (The woman who took my order for a cuppa in the hall was the woman who served me at the bookshop in Launceston on Monday morning.)
I so wanted to buy a whole tray of crocuses, so very beautiful in the early sun, vibrantly purple.

Still being half asleep I decided I really wanted the ceramic koalas-on-a-tree-trunk too late but I shouldn't complain, I had to make a couple of trips to the car as the morning progressed.

Ah, Evandale Market, this morning as I lay in bed, I longed to be tootling off to sample your wares!

the isle of thrift

Eight days in Tasmania.
What did I do?
I decided to forsake culture and history and opt for the op.
I've decided that this is the way to actually get to know a place.
'By my op-shops, you will know me.'

Tasmania is a strange ol' place. So informed by its landscape and isolation (a lot like New Zealand so I've heard!), it's bountiful and wildly extreme at the same time. It feels as if you open your backdoor and the wildness is right there. There are lots of people 'tree-changing' and involved with the tourism industry and, at the other end, there are lots of people on welfare. For a place of 500,000 people there is more op-shops per head of population than I think I have ever experienced. Even the smallest town will have a Salvo's (red sign) and a Vinnie's (blue sign) and, perhaps, a Lifeline or City Mission. 

Saturday, 5 September 2009

the isle of fecundity

You might have noticed a lack of posts for the last week or so. (Or maybe you haven't!)
I've been away. On holiday. Having a break. Driving like a manic around the Isle of Fecundity.
Also known as Tasmania.
The state that has announced its drought is over. I haven't seen that much rain in a very long time. And they reckon it's going to keep on raining right through October as well. Amazing.

So straight off the ferry this morning. Home to shower, put the washing on and then run out to get Jethro from the vet/cattery. 
The photos have been downloaded, the car half unpacked and I have to open the shop at 11am.
My apologies if you come in and I speak gibberish at you but I've been a fairly quiet soul for the last 8 days, soaking in the landscape as it wizzed by and hanging out in op-shops........ but that's a story for another post!