Something I love about Melbourne

That red line that dropped from 23C down to 15C in fifteen minutes. Then dropped another two degrees in the following half hour.

This is a how a real cold change behaves in Melbourne!


Vintage show and tell

I haven’t blogged properly the results of our trip to The Way We Wear fair because the natural light in our house sucks. So I took along my finds to my mum’s house where it has lots of windows so people can see during the day without turning the lights on. Freaky, I know.

First up is this utterly beautiful spool of silk thread.

It is barely enough for a neckline edging but even if I never use it, it will still look beautiful sitting quietly on a studio shelf.

I found two of Madame Weigel’s patterns. I’m fascinated by such a strong reminder of the roaring rag trade in Melbourne (well, it roared until the 1950s). A brief bio of Johanne Weigel and her family appears here, courtesy of Shirley Joy and the Brighton Cemetorians (thanks to a post by Shula for the tip off).

I particularly love this next one because it may be very nearly my size. The design of the bust shaping is so sleek – shoulder pleats to fullness, nipped back in with three little darts on each side.

Next, two editions of ‘Marion’ a quarterly (?) pattern catalogue from a Dutch patternmaker. The first is 1968 and the second 1970, giving a really good sense of the fashion shift from the 1960s to the 1970s. Each edition carried a few free patterns and these are still with the catalogues. I think you’ll see why I’d prefer to draft my own pattern and it has nothing to do with not knowing Dutch.

Finally, Stitchcraft No. 242 (maybe the late 1950s) with a hint of batwing, berets and bonnets. There is also a stocking cap with contrasting bobbles but I didn’t want to scare people.


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.

Redesdale Sunset

We arrived at the Redesdale Community Hall for a bushdance fundraiser in time for the last of the sunset.

Redesdale sunset

The bushdancing didn’t begin until we were leaving – about 10pm – and after the auctioneer’s vocal cords had a good working out. One of the items auctioned was an amount of olive oil donated by a local producer whose estate had been completely burnt out by the fires that were the cause of the fundraiser.

It was a fairly quiet night. There was plenty of talking, some music in the background, and kids running around like mad things. But still quiet because the subejct matter was sombre, we’d driven between some blacked out paddocks, past one or two ruined properties, and noticed the defence lines around some houses and the unpredictable and few patches of green. The lad was shocked to see the destruction and the lass wept quietly for the sorrow of those who’d lost so much.

We genuinely meant it though when we agreed with the local who’d parked next to us, that it was a top night.

How the light changes

It’s been a slow and careful week. It rose from numbed shock to hectic doing, or trying, or thinking, or shielding and swept to stillness. Sunday was so quiet, light and sound muffled.

I’m not quite ready to be still; I was busy all day Saturday, on my feet, walking through the house, up and down to the studio, doing things, planning, thinking, turning over. There’s a hall cupboard that’s still recovering from my thorough attack (and the thought creeps through, I have a cupboard). A broom rests against a bookcase in the studio, possum crap swept and tossed, boxes lifted and shifted, a laptop blinking on the shelf (and the thought tosses itself through the open door, I have stock to count).

Sunday seemed normal. Cupcakes to plan and bake and ice and decorate; a keen footballer to sign up. We arrive at the club, a little before lunch, knowing that it’s unconstitutional for a footy club not to have a sausage sizzle on sign up day. Proceeds, the sign simply stated, to the family of an under 18s player whose house was lost at St Andrews. We queue in casual lines, and I wonder how many keen footballers aren’t signing up today, here and there.

The decorating of the cupcakes is negotiated, prepared and finally, done. The lass concentrates carefully but she is confident of her skill and knowledge and instructs me on what I ought not to do. It’s a comfort of the everyday, the mixing and talking and smiles and little frustrations. It almost stills me but the thoughts return, others have lost the comfort of everyday.

The light changes so much in a week.

Black Saturday morning. 41C at 11.30am.

Black Saturday morning. 41C at 11.30am.

Smoke haze sunset as the wind stills

Smoke haze sunset as the wind stills

"A terrible beauty is born..."

"A terrible beauty is born..."

Bushfire relief – update

Volunteering and local councils

I’ve been told that the Shire of Nillumbik is no longer taking volunteer registrations. If you still wish to help out, please register at Go Volunteer. I backed up my shire registration with this and received a callback confirming my details within 24 hours. It may take a few days or a week or more to hear from a relief agency but at least I know that I can be contacted.

‘Peer to peer’ donations and kids

Our two kids are keen to help out and Rainbow Comfort Packs (previously mentioned) may be a good way to get them involved. Going about it as a peer to peer effort may help children feel they are contributing without being overwhelmed. I’m putting out feelers in the lass’ classroom to see whether they might want to adopt this as their particular contribution. I had a conversation with a counsellor from a girls’ secondary school who told me that they were working on ‘pamper packs’ for teenage girls (cleanser, moisturisers, a little makeup, etc).

Specific items for donations and the longer term

As local readers may be aware, the relief agencies have indicated that they have enough in the way of clothes and general items. Some agencies in specific areas will continue to put out calls for items of particular need (such as deodorants, batteries etc) so keep an ear out for those.

Keep in mind that we need to provide support in the medium to long term. Handmade Help has a number of ideas and contacts about making items such as quilts, afghans and household linen that can be distributed in a few months’ time.

The community’s response has been amazing. It all helps.

Other ways to help – craft and kids

Monica over at Beyond Pink and Blue online store has started up a drive for comfort bags for kids. The idea is for crafters all over to make a library bag (an A4 size tote) which she can fill with donated new and near-new goods. These will be light, easy to carry bags filled with little books, pencils and paper, a little stuffed toy, puzzles etc. Nicole from You SEW Girl is having a sew along this coming Saturday in Brunswick. There are more details at each blog. These will be distributed after the first wave, intensive relief effort.

The lad came home yesterday with some evacuation stories from class mates. In one family, they left early enough that each child was able to choose something very special to take with them. This classmate chose his PlayStation 3. He later opined to his mother that they left so early they would’ve had time to call in the movers.

We suspect his mother would not have appreciated that comment.

Another way to help: contact innercitygardener if you have stockfeed that can be donated. Her dad has trucks that can transport feed to where it’s needed.

Local readers can also check out the ABC Melbourne site for ways to help.

Handmade Help

Handmade Help has started as a long term support for Victorian families who will be rebuilding their lives, their communities and their houses as a consequence of the bushfires. Pip from Meet Me At Mike’s explains it as well.

In addition to monetary donations in the first instance, please consider auctioning a handmade item, with proceeds to the Red Cross. You may wish to bid on an item yourself – there’s some good stuff already up for auction. Over the longer term, several business are drop off points for handmade goods (scarves, hats, blankets, household items etc) that will be distributed at appropriate times. As Pip has stressed, Handmade Help will be liaising with the Red Cross and the Foundation for Rural and Regional Renewal to ensure that items go to those in need.

Volunteers in Nillumbik:

If you wish to volunteer at the Diamond Creek emergency relief centre, please call the Shire Offices on 94333111 and provide your details and availability. A volunteer roster is being drawn up and you will be contacted and offered shifts.


The fire activity has decreased generally overnight though the Healesville Complex is still of concern for us. The weather forecast is heartening: cool, low temperatures and no northerlies. Neither is there any rain but we’ll take what we can get at this stage.

There was a grassfire a kilometre or two from us last night. Given the lack of lightening strike, nearby fires or any fire spotting, the only reasonable conclusion is that some idiot(s) lit it deliberately. It was worrisome – we leapt onto the CFA incident page immediately. They were onto it quickly with four appliances so it was taken care of.

It frightened the lass because we heard sirens for the first time and it coincided with the fly over of Elvis the supercrane, an air ambulance and police chopper.

I woke up this morning to a death toll of 173, with a toll in excess of 200 expected after the police and army have finished checking burnt out cars and homes.

We have a deliberate policy during events like this that we don’t put the television on until after the children in bed. We noticed during the September 11 attacks, when the lad was only 2 and a half, that he became distressed by the images even after a little exposure. Since then we’ve relied on the radio and internet during disaster and attacks – the Bali bombings, tsunami, and bushfires.

Please don’t underestimate the ability of children to absorb information nor overestimate their ability to assess what it means. Shield them from raw information but let them know simply what is happening. Answer questions in their language, simply and honestly. If you and they are safe, let them know that. Talk about what is being done to help the people affected and let them join in any fundraising or assistance. If you know a child who was involved in the fires the our school principal passed on the following advice from counsellors: ask them only two questions (what did you see? how do you feel about that?) and listen. Respond to what they say but don’t lead them.

And lots of hugs help, too.

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