Blog giveaway

Cos I love youse all.*

Though really because I was given a subscription to Creative Knitting magazine from my former workplace and it’s not quite my thing. So rather than toss each edition or have it pile and gather dust, I thought somebody might make use of it. It’s an eighteen month subscription and it’s issued quarterly.  I have three issues already that I will send to you and I will arrange a change of address to anywhere in Australia, effective from the next issue. It seems to be targeted at beginner/intermediate knitters and had patterns mostly for women and kids, with a couple of men’s patterns thrown in the last issue.

If you would like it, please leave a comment by 9.00am AEST Saturday and I’ll do a random number draw (um, hopefully I will need to do a random number draw….)

*quote from Jeff Fenech, champion Australian boxer and noted raconteur.



I’ve had a good couple of weeks with craft and design. Last weekend I spent a few hours at the Stitches and Craft Show; this weekend the lass and I drove up to Bendigo for the Golden Age of Couture exhibition.

I haven’t been to a Stitches and Craft show before, despite best intentions, and this year’s show was a major revamp of previous shows. It had a definite ‘yoof’ edge to it. Which means it appealed to people under the age of 45. I think this is attributable to the involvement of Living Creatively, an online magazine. They got the indie designers and the bloggers (usually one and the same) and put them together in an area that just felt vibrant and enthusiastic. This part of the main exhibition was noticeably lively, with lots of chatter between exhibitors and visitors. That part of the crowd covered a good age range – 25 to 45 – and that will no doubt warm the cockles of the hearts of the organisers. What is really fabulous about this incubator concept is that there’ll be regional variation between the Melbourne, Brisbane and Sydney shows. I know that some indie designers are going to two or three shows but there will be a spot for the local designers that have built their own customer base and will be able to meet those customers.

Among the main displays, I really enjoyed Kelani Fabric and Amitie. Kelani had brought in their gorgeous range of Japanese cottons and linens as well as sharing space with Aunty Cookie. We could have a good look at the beautiful, hard-to-find, usually order on-line fabrics and Shannon Lamden had brought new designs to the show. That stall just rocked the whole time I was there.

Amitie had some of its most popular fabric available on bolts but had decided to go for kits and small pieces of fabric. It was a great idea that worked really well. They were selling 30cm x 110cm strips of fabric, arranged by colour, for $6.50. Some of the designer pieces were $8 and you may recall the flap bag I made for the lass – that was a piece I bought at Amitie. I wasn’t the only one enjoying the range of colours and prints – the stall was buzzing and the poor staff had barely any time to scratch themselves.

But what I enjoyed most of all was the two hours I spent as a volunteer in the Wardrobe Refashion area. Nichola Prested (Wardrobe Refashion and BurdaStyle) had set up a reconstruction zone with sewing machines, overlockers, cutting area and tables full of op shop clothes, as well as thread, trims and buttons. It was free to wander in, choose your garments and then let your creative juices flow. During my stint there were two women who had never touched a sewing machine before. One produced a bag out of an old pair of trousers and the other sewed an apron and a baby sheet with applique. There were quite a few mother/daughter combos, one guy and a couple of sets of friends. The average age of the refashionistas would have been 20. I had a ball!

They also had craft bars in the main display area, where you could sit at a bar stool, select your craft cocktail of choice and be served by experienced crafters. There was one each for embroidery, knitting and crochet. These seemed to have a regular turnover of under-30s trying their hand, especially at the embroidery bar where they were serving up Sublime Stitching patterns. I really liked the idea of a craft cocktail bar but I’d suggest a cozier setting next time. It was all white and stark and maybe I’m showing my Melbourne bias but I was thinking of baroque, smoky, hidden in a laneway and up the rickety stairs kind of look.

The Golden Age of Couture finished on the weekend so we made a dash for it on Saturday (after my plans for me and the lass wagging a day on Friday came unstuck). Although I had forgotten to buy my tickets online and therefore condemned us to an hour long wait at the gallery, I had looked up the details of the exhibition at the Victoria and Albert Museum’s website. This meant I’d read all the stuff beforehand and didn’t have the hassle of trying to read labels in a very crowded space.

It was a great deal of fun. The lass thoroughly enjoyed it and I found it more enjoyable because she was there. We zigzagged across the rooms going from one display to another, pointing out the fabulous and the ridiculous and marveling at the intricacy of some creations. The lass pointed out a number of suits I could wear to work and we tried to pick our favourite dresses. It seems we both like minimalist lines in our frocks but the lass likes more bling on her shoes than I do. I suspect that she was slightly disappointed at the lack of pink but the pale blue cape made up for that loss a little. The choice of colours was interesting – all these dresses had been made for clients, so they reflected the client’s colour preferences. Beige was popular, a few greens, a couple of yellows, and a few dramatic reds. Beading and embroidery were popular and dark blue made a good showing. It seems that I like Dior (the original) quite a lot, followed by Givenchy. In terms of design I thought the suits were the most interesting since it was these that embodied the ‘New Look’. I particularly liked the use of diagonal lines in construction, often in the form of an overlapping collar piece or in the line of the jacket’s front placket.

If you missed the exhibition, tootle around the V&A’s website. It has all the info and a great deal of the costumes.

Edited to add: if you pop over here, scroll down a little until Nikki starts writing about the Stitches and Craft Show. The very happy lady showing off an apron is one and the same lady I’m talking about! And if you hop over to Nikki’s flickr set, you’ll on the second row the apron and bag ladies (!) and on the third row you’ll see the back of me (shoulder length brown hair wearing the yellow safety jacket).

Further edited to add: I’m here!

Buttons galore

A few weeks back, I came across an announcement for a by-the-kilo button sale at Buttonmania. I nipped down to the Nicholas Building in Swanston St, a beautiful European warren of artist’s studios and indie retailers. On sale? A roomful of Brazilian, depression-era buttons. I swooned.

But recovered quickly so I didn’t miss out on choice picks.


I bought in sets – between four and twelve – depending on size and gorgeousness. There are two sets I haven’t photographed yet but they were special enough to be separately packaged. There were four tables’ worth of buttons in trays and a large dish dedicated to the special ones. All up, it cost me $14.

And completely unrelated, this is the finished Asymmetry:


It’s so comfortable and the linen is already softening with wear. It drapes as easily as I hoped and it’s perfect for hot day with a cotton cami underneath. I’m wearing a brown wool cami because it wasn’t hot last evening and you can see the detail better against a dark background. Thanks to the lad for his fashion photography.

It’s a flap bag

If there’s one thing my lass can be relied upon, it’s for an age-appropriate obsession with accessories. At least in her case they tend to bags for her books, or the sketch pads and pencils she takes everywhere. This wasn’t what I was thinking when I showed her the narrow strip of fabric I acquired at the Stitches and Craft Show. 30cm x 110cm doesn’t give you a lot of wriggle room so I wasn’t sure what she might want out of it.

The fabric had barely uncurled its last thread when the lass announced, ‘It can be a flap bag’. Uh? My hearing isn’t always great so I wasn’t sure if I’d misheard or not. I had no idea what she was talking about. ‘Like my other one, with…’ and the lengthy description followed. Her favourite bag at the moment is a narrow but deep Kinki Gerlinki bag with a long strap she hoists over her shoulder. Messenger style, it has an overlapping flap secured by velcro.

So (ha! a pun!), a simple matter of folding up one edge to the desired depth and away we go. I went for french seams for added strength and a neat finish. Extra excitement was added when a pair of her old jeans were canabalised for the strip of embroidered butterflies running down each leg. And I needed both legs to get the strap length…The lass wasn’t interested in anything that would close the flap since it’s a lot easier to accommodate a bit of bulk if you don’t feel morally obliged to secure a flap to its piece of velcro or button.

It’s already been to school which I think is the ultimate nod of approval.

Gathered Materials



Well, that was a longer break than I intended. I had marvellously good intentions during my bout of sewing last weekend. Then the camera needed it’s batteries recharged, and by the time that happened it was evening, and then…stuff happened. The Bloke wanted to know if I’d gone walkabout and I said I couldn’t blog without photos and I didn’t have any and I’d do some on the weekend and

last night I defied the styling gods of the blogosphere.

I took photos at night. Inside. With flourescent lighting.

And found out why you shouldn’t really do that.


It’s enough to see a little bit of what I’ve been up to. Some refashioning of a skirt I made a little while ago. It’s a gorgeous wool/silk tweed that I’m fairly sure I got from Tesutti’s in Sydney for a song. A simple long straight skirt that’s perfect for autmn and spring, and will do nicely in winter with stockings underneath. Sometimes, gorgeous-to-me fabric isn’t enough and the skirt doesn’t have quite enough striding along room so a godet needs to be inserted:

greengodetWell intentioned – not a bad idea – but really not working for me. And there was the small matter of not fitting it properly and covering the gap with a crocheted medallion. Note to self: next time, look up the sewing reference books first.

Then a brilliant idea. I really like the colour and feel of crochet cotton and the medallion caught the lustre of the thread beautifully. So this pattern book comes in handy again because it has a triangular medallion.


A few of those sewn together, one godet artfully inserted, and Roberta’s your transsexual avuncular figure.

This cotton blouse was for the chop since it was just too long. 12cm cut off sleeves and body, a neat little hem and I have something to replace a favourite white cotton top that’s on it’s last legs. Or arms.


This is only phase 1 of the refashion. I’m planning to go a little steampunk on this one and attach black crocheted lace cuffs and collar. Project Gutenburg is a wonderful thing, particularly when it provides you with 19th century lace patterns.

This last sewing effort is being displayed for rather different reasons. It’s a straightforward pair of trousers from a pattern so familiar I don’t need the instructions. But look at the legs! These are for a 6 and a half year old – and I know I should get over how tall my kids are – but that is quite astonishing. These kids get out of bed and appear in the kitchen for breakfast and you look them up and down and think (or say out loud), you grew, you are taller than you were yesterday. I am reasonably absolutely confident that in another 5 months time, the lass will have outgrown these completely and I’ll be cutting them down for shorts.


And these are the long legs in question, setting up the boat races we had the other evening.


(almost) Singing in the Rain

It rained last night. For more than a few minutes. And get this – the ground was still wet this morning.

It started raining before I went to bed which was very nice because I had my best night’s sleep in over three weeks. And as much as our kids are Melbourne born and bred, and should be used to weather with a W, the sound of rain freaked them out. They probably think the Four Horseman of the Apocalypse are Fire, Flood, Wind and No TV.

I was over living in Melbourne yesterday. I’d had enough and I think just about every other Melbournian had, too. It was, as a friend put it over lunch, like everyone in the whole city had PMS. And there was swearing in the crafty blogosphere. Real grown up swearing.

I think this is the safest we’ve all felt for nearly a month (touch wood).

High alert

I’ve just posted a four paragraph response at a multi-author blog which I think is a sign from my subconscious that I should actually write about it. It was in response to the rebuilding of towns after the bushfires. The post itself was quite innocuous, phrased rather to get the commentors going on the historical, legal and psychological issues of redesigning towns in response to extreme local fire risk. As expected there was one comment along the lines of, they built suburbia in eucalypt forests so there you go.

There’s been a little bit of that around – perhaps more than I’ve heard, perhaps not. I heard the conversation at work and it’s been hinted in one or two letters to the editor. It’s this: they chose to live there. And this is what I wrote:

Clearing land around houses is not going to be the answer. I’m in that outer north east that really is vulnerable. It’s an established area, small lots (certainly not 1/4 acre) and heavily treed. If you want to go the land clearing route, you’d be leveling the place and doing unbelievable environmental damage. You know, the kind that makes it unlivable for humans as well destroying ecosystems?

So, do we go with building codes? Well, we rent and the thought of having to defend our place makes me very ill. I can’t imagine our landlord paying for the mods necessary to make it defensible. New houses are built in our area, but rarely. More often it’s the medium density units on a suburban sized block. So higher population density and still only three roads out.

I don’t mind if the communities of Kinglake, Marysville, Narbethong, Strathewan, Flowerdale, Kinglake West, St Andrews and so on want to rebuild their communities, their lives and their houses. I really mind if government and other interest groups don’t have a conversation about what it means to live in a changing, Australian environment and striking the balance between human habitation and the ecology within which it sits.

I’m over conversations about ‘they chose to live there’. We all make that choice: federal, state and local governments, investors and developers, individuals. How about we recognise a collective responsibility to get the mix right? Otherwise, X is right. We should never have settled Australia at all.

As a community, I believe we have an obligation to ensure that we do not unnecessarily endanger others. At that will probably mean changing building codes, looking at the design of towns, houses and community buildings. It may increase the cost of housing or town planning or establishing towns. But the response is not to say, it’s their fault they chose to live there. It’s not to say, don’t rebuild because it’s unsafe. It’s not say, clear the land. It’s to say, do we understand our environment? It’s to say, how do we live in our environment? And to think hard and creatively about answering those questions.