Monday, 29 November 2010

for the christmas

Some days things just don't happen the way you hoped. Like the electricity in the studio flickering on and off all day and then finally dying. Of course the first thought was 'have I paid the bill?', then I went out  into the hallway and Michael stuck his head around the corner from his studio looking a bit worried and then mighty relieved when I asked 'no electricity?'. I gave up then, turned everything off and went to Officeworks to do some photocopying.
I spied this sign on the way out to get lunch. To start with I thought that 'fruit mint' must be some sort of new flavour and yuck sprang to mind. I'm definitely a bit slow at the moment.

Sunday, 28 November 2010

chain of evidence

Why does everything take me so long at the moment?
Xmas has only just slightly hit the Cottage, I've managed to get the paper chains up and the C,H,R,I,S,T,M,A,S letters hung but really that's pretty much it. Now I need to do a bit of stock juggling to find space to put out decorations and paraphernalia.
I'll get there I know but what a slow slog it is now.

Saturday, 27 November 2010

the score so far

The score currently stands The Lurgy 4- Miss Pen Pen 0.
My energy levels are rock bottom and I swear my brain is a shriveled prune. Don't tell me to drink more fluids or take gastrolyte (both of which I am doing) as I may a. burst out crying or b. tell you to bugger off in a snarling tone of voice.
I've been to the paint shop to get supplies for a new project this morning only to get the wrong colour, goes to show that a good cup of tea should be ingested before selecting paint, so will have to go back down before I open the shop.
Sorry for being grumpy this morning but I am blaming it half on The L and half on the humidity. I've decided that I should hibernate in a dark cool cave throughout the warmer months- it would be more pleasant for all if I did!
I've eaten an apricot danish from Fatto (first non-toast food since Wednesday) and am working my way to the bottom of my tea 'bucket' and am feeling a little more whole and a little calmer. I awoke this morning panicking about not having Xmas in the shop finally organised, this time of the year is just so overwhelming on both sides of the counter.
Better get moving, vacuuming to do, paint to buy, shop to open.

Friday, 26 November 2010

better late

Today's plan for being a good little studio worker bee didn't come to fruition today. I got there, I had a plan, plan went splat, I went home.  This bug is being really inconvenient- and it seems to have hitched a ride with Dell. I don't think the two of us could have worked our way out of a paperbag today!
I did get a few home jobs sorted, we got to put out new cream Frida dresses, for grown ups and for little ones (we have them in girls sizes 2-12, perfect for Xmas dresses) and I've finally finished making up a new batch of the Vintage Haberdashery boxes.....

.... and look they are in today's issue of The Age (melbourne) mag's spread of 100 presents under $100....

.... along with Nikki's Construction Pattern and ebony needles. 

Now I just need to get the Xmas decoration up and our Xmas stock out. How did I go from everything on track to I'm running late, late, late? 

Thursday, 25 November 2010

alas crewel world!

The heart wall is full again. I've been waiting all week for the herbs and spices to arrive and finally this afternoon I got stuffing! There is one lone black heart left- 4D or #19 if you prefer. In this batch are some beautiful crewel worked hearts (that is wool embroidery for the uninitiated, see #10 and 11) and some very lovely cross stitch ones (#1, 3, 15 and 18), even a few gold embroidered ones for a glitzy Xmas (#14).
We've also got a new batch of vintage lamp bases in, all rewired and ready to go, and Zara has sent down a new batch of the lovely short sleeved Sophie blouses in white.
I'm still feeling crappy (damn this lurgy)  but I'm heading to the studio tomorrow to get some things happening- not sure what yet but I'm sure I can find a project or five to get stuck into. I could always just spend the day cleaning and sorting, although I was saving that as a January treat.... sadly Xmas is barely a month away now......
Which brings us to the shop opening hours for this joyous festive season. We will be opening on Mondays as of next week, so that's the next four Mondays 11am until 6pm. We'll have some Sundays coming up too but not for a couple of weeks- I need a little bit of peace and quiet!


A nasty little hot weather bug has taken up residency in my gut. Yesterday was reduced to sleeping during the day under the whirring of the fan. It's a funny one (details of which I will not go into here I promise!).
I'm off to do a few things this morning but I've decided that if I'm still NQR by midday I can come home again. Mind you there are a thousand things I can do at home, some of them maybe even sitting in bed. Times like this I wish I had the TV in the bedroom like at the old place!

Tuesday, 23 November 2010

sleigh of hand

Well Xmas is really on it's way..... this arrived today!
I grew up on 't'was the night before Christmas and all through the house....' so I couldn't help but get this in. This is a modern version of the old classic written by Poet Laureate Carol Ann Duffy and illustrated by Mr Rob- yes, that Mr Rob, Rob Ryan! I thought you might like it. It's little and sweet.
So here's a special deal. For $15 (the price of the book) we'll mail a copy to anywhere in Australia. If it's a present we'll pop a tag in with a message when we wrap it. You can either ring the shop, talk to a Cottager or leave a message on the answering machine, send an email (and pay by credit card or paypal) or go here to order it at our Big Cartel  site. (We have limited stock so we hope we won't disappoint you if we run out.)

Monday, 22 November 2010

time to decorate

After being stuck in the stinking non-aircon car, getting home to the fan was rather nice. I've spent the afternoon drinking far too many bottles of mango lassi (I love going to the Indian shops in Dandenong!) and making Xmas decorations. I'm about halfway there. Let's just say this years theme is.... calendar tea-towels! I know! Such a surprise! Ha ha.
I quite like it.
Very primary school. I used to love that time of year when the teachers had finally given up and the kinder squares and pots of Clag came out- time to make paper chains! There really is something about the lo-fi Xmas decoration, I'm a sucker for a bit of OTT tinsel but I sometimes think in bright Australian sunlight it could blind you at twenty paces.
I stopped in at the Xmas decoration shop on Johnston Street on the way back and had to laugh. They have Xmas trees with a description tag reading  'Brown Needle Pine Trees'. Let's just say they look exactly like all those pine trees that sprout up in inner city back laneways just after New Year! For $500 you can purchase a 'dead' Xmas tree! Whose bright idea was that?! Made me chuckle.

party time

I have to admit I am a bit blown away by the reception of the 'gingerbread' hearts! We only have eight left on the wall (and that is even after I restocked the wall repeatedly on Saturday)! I'll be making more and you never know what I might find in the studio to make them out of. Sadly I think that is it for the black ones, there are five left, but I have managed to find a piece of heavy embroidered green linen in a washing basket in the bedroom. Doilies appear in the most unlikely places around here.

I also scored 32 kilos of tea-towels and fabric on Friday and there are some great finds in this batch. I always feel a sense of relief when I get a fresh stash in, I may have thousands of the damn things but the fact that we get so few repeat designs means it's always exciting when I unpack and shake them all out. I have two of these 'party time' tea-towels, un-hemmed as they used to come so you could finish them as you liked. It amazes me that these have been sitting in someone's linen closet for so and they are in perfect condition. I love that the little black kitten gets to join in the party too with a bowl of milk, although with Mother wearing those heels and carrying trays around I suggest kitty keeps a safe distance.

Saturday, 20 November 2010

king of hearts

This week has been all about hearts.

Not just the 'gingerbread' hearts but more importantly the beating heart of a dear friend of mine.

I got the phone call early one morning to say this friend had had a heart attack and had just come through triple bypass surgery. It shook me to say the least. This was the crazy friend who would sneak into my hospital room late in the evening to talk to me quietly in the dark, who even ten years later calls me to check how I'm coping with the chronic pain left over from the accident and who, two days after I came out of intensive care, sent me a huge bunch of funeral lilies. A man who is naughty in so many way but who has the most generous and passionate heart of anyone I know.

Ich liebe dich.

Thursday, 18 November 2010

ich liebe dich

Many years ago, in another life, I got to spend a Christmas in Germany, in a little town just north of Munich. There really is nothing quite like a northern hemisphere Xmas. There was even a particularly spicy  smell, all lebküchen and pfeffernüsse. And the Christmas markets were just magical, glowing in the dark winter afternoons.

I bought a beautiful traditional wax decoration, heart shaped (but I managed to break it),  and saw the stalls hung in gingerbread hearts. So in memory of a wintry white Christmas long ago I've made a range of heart shaped decorations.

They are all made from my collection of heavily embroidered fabrics, backed with the same Swedish linen I've used on the stocking and stuffed with my special spicy pot pourri mix. Cinnamon and clove and orange peel and a pile of other smelly delights.

And of course these aren't just for Xmas- you can hang them in your closet or in the pantry once the festivities are over. A useful decoration!

glitter punk

Morning all!
Sorry I've been in a non-chatty mood this week- no reason really, just extraordinarily tired by the end of the day. Getting to studio just before 9am is a killer, it makes the day very long!
I don't know whether I have achieved that much however*. I do seem to be spending money to buy all those bits and pieces I need to finish projects though. Don't fret sequins aren't part of those supplies! I just spied them hanging down at Jimmy Buttons the other day- that place makes my studio and home feel  amazingly minimalist!
A new batch of birds arrived on Tuesday and I managed to get them all out last night. We started, with the first delivery, having them on top of the display cabinet at the end of the big table, then I unpacked more of them and we had to move them to the side table under the clocks. Now I have ended up having to move everything around and filling half of the big table just with bowls of birds.
Freakin' hell- they're taking over!!
Somehow I need to find room to put out other Xmas decorations and new stock.... please come and adopt a bowl full of birds to make my life easier!
Errands to run this morning, then into the studio.

* new tapestry pouffé and a full size range of Agatha blouses in store

Monday, 15 November 2010

not (flag) waving, drowning

I had so much I needed to do today.
Stuff to pick up, stuff to order, stuff to do around the house.
I started with all the close errands, ticked them off on the mental list, but somehow the errands managed to get further and further out of Melbourne and suddenly I was 50 kms away from home and wondering for how long I can procrastinate. The whole thought of Xmas this year turns me into a quivering mound of jelly rocking in the corner, I just feel so unprepared. That was one of the to-do things today- pull out the Xmas decorations but I ran away instead. This is the problem when you are making most of your own stock, Xmas just becomes the most exhausting time of the year.

I did manage to get these cushions done last week. To carry on the 'theme' of last week these cushions are made from First World War recruitment bunting. The flags are made from waxy cotton and are quite delicate and papery- not exactly the type of cushion for lolling on but very beautiful. A 'collectors cushion' shall we say? The flag panels are backed in cotton and the reverse of the cushion is the lovely Swedish linen I have been using for the Xmas stockings and other small bits and pieces like pin cushions.
So tomorrow I must wave procrastination begone and buckle down to the long hard slog that is Xmas in Retail Land.

Sunday, 14 November 2010

sunday surprise

I knew there was going to Cottage products in today's Sunday Age. I might be totally sick of the whole granny chic line but being a Kevin McCloud's 'Grand Designs' groupie I rather like the title of this week's shoot.

Then I got surprised by the M-ie Awards article- Gertrude Street got the Best Shopping Precinct gong and look the Cottage is mentioned! Almost spilt my tea.

Saturday, 13 November 2010


(I meant to write this post on Thursday but I was just ridiculously tired and misplaced the camera, poor excuses I know.) 

A couple of weeks ago I scored a collection of First World War embroidered silk postcards. These were made in France to be sent home by the troops, silk embroidery on silk organza, many with the panels at the front forming a little envelope for a letter or a keepsake card. This batch were sent either by R Fullingham of the 15th Welsh Regiment or by Tom. Tom's cards were addressed to a Miss Loveless, Station House, Leatherhead, Surrey and always with love- I hope he managed to return to Miss Loveless but the cads were mainly sent in 1916 and feel that the chances were probably, sadly, quite low. 
I'll be framing some of them up to put in the shop, there are birthday and Xmas cards and one that is a stunning 'Souvenir de France' (sent to Miss Lovelace). I don't find these type of things depressing, a little melancholy perhaps, but I delight in the fact that they have been kept and cherished for almost a hundred years and when we take them into our homes we keep their spirit alive, we remember and celebrate their lives and their losses. In Remembrance.

stuff it

On Tuesday Anna had to deal with a woman who came into the shop carrying a dog. She didn't ask whether it was alright for her to bring the dog in but she spent 10 minutes berating Anna because we let Jethro sleep on the tapestry pouffés. She said we shouldn't let a cat lie on stock that is 'so expensive'.
I wish I had been there. I think for once I would have pulled out the 'my shop, my pouffé, my cat' line and quite happily pointed out whilst we are dog-friendly and have many canine visitors, most polite people ask if it's ok before entering. (Big hello to Milly, Teddy, Mavis and Bella- and all your nameless friends!)
So yesterday I finished a new pouffé and once I'd finished stuffing it last night I made sure Jethro had a good product test of it. Jethro works hard coaxing people in by looking cute lolling in the front window as his job description includes 'product tester' and 'bait'. We have told every person who has bought a tapestry pouffé that they have been sat on by a cat and not one person has complained.
By the way the new pouffé looks fabulous and if I can get a photo without Jethro you'll be able to see the top is covered with cottages, the sides with flowers, ducks and village scenes. There is another one at the studio that I managed to piece together and cut out before I had had enough of working the sweat shop. It's covered in even more flowers, garden scenes and one panel is a winter wonderland with a deer- not a small lap dog to be seen.

Friday, 12 November 2010


Great. It's going to be 32º today..... the studio has been quite nice, holding the cooler temperatures from the last few weeks, but give it a few warm days and it turns into a hotbox. And I have hayfever too. Grump grump.
The warm weather though means our cotton voile dresses and blouses are just perfect (which means I better get my arse into gear and get to the studio to finish more) and the Douglas sandals are more than perfect! Every person who tried them on on saturday wore them out of the shop- I think that is pretty amazing- so while we have stock at the moment if you want a pair I'd hotfoot it to the shop. They make them for us so there is a couple of weeks lag until more stock arrives. Also I am getting the next order to send through to New Zealand so if you have a size/colour request please let us know. At the moment we have up to size 6 (euro 40-41) and are thinking we might order some 7s (42) if people are interested. (We can of course order them in bigger sizes if you have Hobbit feet.)
OK, I've finished with the shop bulletin, I'm off to the studio.
Now where did I put those hayfever tablets?

Wednesday, 10 November 2010

pretty flowers

I've been playing at being 'focused'.
I worked today on the size 1 and 2 Agatha dresses in the sweet misty blue but haven't even got the 3s and 4s cut out yet. After lunch I pulled out the Agatha blouse pattern to fix up the hem dimensions (it was a bit tight, stupid mistake using a hipless fit model!) and made one up to check it in the lovely new floral I've got in. So pretty. I'm going to make more up in the blue and I have it in a lovely grey/white/yellow colourway as well. Agatha is a really pretty style and although I wasn't going to do it again this year we have had so many requests I decided to pop her back on the rack.
I'm in love with floral cottons at the moment and I have more coming in soon.... trying to decide what to do with them....

Sadly by three thirty this afternoon I was totally out of it. Drowsy and lethargic. I tried tea and Smarties but that only made it worse. Focus gone, everything blurry. Damn.

Tuesday, 9 November 2010

please note(books)

Today I have managed to make some Agatha dresses and finally finish off the new notebooks. I feel better when I am making stuff. Tired but better.
The notebooks are totally handmade by me, crocodile covers in grey, assorted papers inside, bookbinder's tape in either black or white down the spine, a label on the front and vintage library pocket and cards on the inside. The cards are great for making notes, for appointments, birthdays, bills to pay, perhaps even your Xmas present list . Hint hint.

Monday, 8 November 2010

imitation bluebells

I wish these were pictures of drifts of bluebells but sadly they are just paddocks of Patterson's curse.
I suppose you could view them in a glass half full/empty way, pretty even if they are an introduced plant.
Today's a bit the same, half empty, half full. I've managed to get the washing done, a pile of emails answered but really not much more than that. Mondays are a strange thing at the moment, I've been staying at the Cottage to get things done but feeling naughty for not making it to the studio. Having Sunday as my one at-home-day isn't enough, between the occasional sleep in and running around doing things and seeing people I never seem to catch up. The stairs that got vacuumed last week are dusty again, the kitchen looks even more messy (which is a very strange thing as I have been cleaning and moving stuff around) and I am feeling like an afternoon nap. If I could find one job to settle to I might get a bit of focus to my day but I can't even find where I've put the sticky tape and I seem to have misplaced the glitter.......

Sunday, 7 November 2010

my life is complete

Ok- a slight exaggeration, my life is far from complete, but it is amazing how happy a pegboard can make me. Pathetic really. And amazingly satisfying. I wandered the house looking for things to hang on my sparkly new pegboard. Those little pegboard hooks make my brain fuzzy but oh what a delight!
Pegboard! Pegboard! Pegboard! You are a thing of joy!

And the coat rack on the backdoor is pretty fine too.

Saturday, 6 November 2010

dream kooka

The thought of going to studio yesterday was very unappealing and I had an order that needed to be delivered so after a frantic hour sorting stuff I packed the car and headed off. Everything is so green at the moment, the hawthorns are in flower, the rhododendrons look like showgirl costumes and lilacs and dogwoods and irises and every drought battered flowering plant is giving it a blossomy try. There are paddocks of Salvation Jane (or Patterson's Curse depending on your mood for the day) turning whole hillsides purple and as you round the bend the bright yellow of canolas flowering.
It was a nice day for a drive even if I felt a little shellshocked and out of it. At the start of the day I got to catch up with Caz, in the middle with Allison and at the end with Sonia.

In my travels I spotted this- the most beautiful Kooka stove. I have always loved the Kooka/kookaburra/cooker play on words. I am in total fantasy land lust, I want to build my dream  home around this. Please someone buy it for me for Xmas- I promise I will make cakes for you forever! See the handle sticking out from under the stove part? I have one of those grill pans- I just need the rest of the stove to go with it........ Honestly if I had a spare bit of money I would buy the damn thing and put it in storage.

Thursday, 4 November 2010

sock it to 'em

I couldn't decide what to work on- so I started something new.
Probably not the cleverest way to get all that outstanding work done but sometimes, when the brain is  not functioning and there is no focus, having a play can be the only way to go.
I'm so stuck at the moment, flat and frustrated, annoyed and snarly...... and a little worried because Xmas is only a blink away.


I'm having those 'too many things to do, what to start first?' issues again.
'Same old, same old' I hear you say.
Perhaps it's just this week is one of those disjointed and messed about public holiday weeks, where suddenly it's thursday and nothing feels like it's been achieved. I knew when I bragged about finishing unfinished projects that things would go pear shaped.
I'm off this morning to pick up supplies. I started cutting yesterday and I don't have everything I need for a couple of new products so that needs to be addressed before I go any further. I'm thinking maybe a full day of prep and cutting might be a way to go, then tomorrow can be a day sitting at the sewing machine.

Tuesday, 2 November 2010


The damn hardware shop wasn't open.
It's always the problem when I start doing a bit of maintenance/home improvement, I need to go to the hardware store at least three times.
I started the pegboard for the bathroom/laundry and ran out of the right screws and then decided to use the corner braces that were left over from another job but only had two and needed four. It's almost done but of course I can go no further....
Then I got out the coat-rack-board-thingy that's going to be attached to the backdoor. I had marked where the holes needed to be drilled so I drilled those out, gave it all a lick of paint, started screwing the hooks on to find the screws supplied were about as dodgy as.... well, something extremely dodgy....
So that has sadly had to be propped in the corner with the pegboard. Damn, damn, damn and blast.
The reverse of yesterday's concept of 'finishing projects is a great way to clean up' now seems to be in play- crap everywhere and nothing achieved!

Monday, 1 November 2010

drip by drip

Saturday went from busy to dead thanks to the weather. I couldn't help myself, I shut the shop and headed out to walk in the teaming rain. My jeans got soaked but half of me was dry and snug in my raincoat. I hate umbrellas (the devil's stick, I've almost lost an eye too many times to count thanks to short people and their umbrellas) and never use them, water just runs down your sleeve and your arm gets tired. 
As much as this weather is putting a crimp in our spring/summer sales I am loving that the dams are getting topped up more than they have been in years, that the trees and bushes and grass are all green and seem to be sighing in pleasure as they suck up the moisture. Now if we can find the balance between a good soaking and saturated......

Cup Day tomorrow- the Cottage is closed by the way- and I'm thinking of doing a few things around the house/shop. Perhaps a bit of woodwork and painting. I've managed to almost finish the new notebooks, waiting on some things to arrive to finish them off, rivet the new tote bags and almost finish a batch of shibori/ikat purses. Funny how finishing off jobs means the house looks a little cleaner, the half a dozen components are suddenly reduced to a one piece and chaos is beaten back. And I finished the (damn) owlettes finally so the stairs are no longer littered with baskets of unfinished work. Jethro has even helped me change the sheets on the bed, crazy kitten!