Friday, November 27, 2009

And then there were seven ....

.... markets left to go in the next three weeks, that is.

How on earth did that happen?? I think it's because I book them so far in advance, and then fail to remember what I've booked. I go Okay, I'll do the Kris Kringle markets because they're close to home and I love them. That's four.

And I booked for the Made N Thornbury market in February, because it has such a lovely friendly vibe, and I thought, Oh, it's only one in December, that'll be fine. That's five.

And I booked for the Northside Makers Market because it is filled with so many wonderful friends and amazing crafters, and how could I NOT be part of that? Plus it is even closer to home than the Kris Kringle market. That's six.

And I booked for the extra Christmas Shirt and Skirt Market - seven - and the December Shirt and Skirt as well - that's eight.

EIGHT!  One down, seven to go.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

It's a market marathon!!

Roll up, roll up - for the greatest show on earth! Three markets in four days, can she do it?? Thursday, Saturday, Sunday - what a spectacular performance!

Watch as Flickettysplits goes mad with pressure! Behold the whirlygig explosions as her brain crumbles under the stress!

Stand well back, this isn't for the faint-hearted. Ladies, clutch your smelling salts close to you. Gentlemen, be on hand to catch the girls if they swoon, goodness knows the sight of her alone will be enough to make them short of breath. Loosen those corset laces! Unbutton those stays! Give her air, men, give her AIR!!!!!!!!!

Bring sweets and treats, feed her cupcakes, pull up a pew and keep her company as she struggles valiantly on. Light a candle to her poor unfortunate departed soul, and say a prayer for her state of mind.

(Yes, I appear to have gone slightly mad. Too much sewing and not enough sleeping. Please, come along to my markets this week and make it all worth my while!)
  • Thursday 26 November 530-10pm,  Northcote Town Hall
  • Saturday 28 November 1030-330pm, Northcote Uniting Church
  • Sunday 29 November 10-4pm, Abbotsford Convent

Monday, November 23, 2009

The I Loathe Lincraft slightly less now Society

So, last week I posted a bit of a rant about Lincraft doubling the price of my favourite cushion inserts, seemingly overnight and for no obvious reason.

And I must say that a reply was the last thing I expected to receive, but receive it I did - from the Managing Director himself, Brian Swersky. I reproduce it here in full:

Hi, my name is Brian Swersky and I am the MD of Lincraft. I follow these posts as we are concerned about what our customers think and generally like to keep up with the "chatter" in the categories of interest to you.

I take on board the comments made and will follow up accordingly. The cushion inserts in question have been a major concern for us as our Australian supplier has ceased production and now only make synthetic product.

We of course desire to offer a local product at good quality wherever possible. We have had to source the feather insert overseas and unfortunately that is the best price we can land it for. The cost is high mainly because of the freight component of this type of product which takes up a disproportionate amount of container space to its cost. We will continue to source a local supplier and review our costings.

So I have to say: kudos to Lincraft and to Brian in particular for listening to his customers (though I did get a bit of a start when I realised the Boss-of-Lincraft had read my snarky post). However, because he took the time to investigate this, now I understand why the price of my inserts have gone up, which is far better than simply being met with the blank stare of the customer representative I asked in the store.

I wanted to reply to Brian, so I googled him, found him on Facebook, joined up to Facebook myself, and sent him a reply thanking him for taking the time to reply to my piddling little post. I also cheekily offered him some further unsolicited feedback about the kids who work in the store and how a sewing supplier isn't like a supermarket and wouldn't it be wonderful if they actually knew some stuff about the products they sell, etc etc.

To his credit, he kept the line of communication open and sent a very gracious reply about the commercial imperative and how it can be difficult to invest in staff when they leave so regularly but that he appreciated the feedback.

How's that for the speed of social media? Pretty cool, I've got to say. I'm still not Lincraft's biggest fan, but I have to commend this man's efforts to actually listen to his customers, which is more than I can say for most of his employees.

And then on the weekend I went to IKEA and spent up big on feather cushion inserts. Thanks to everyone who suggested some good alternatives to me, I really appreciate it! More cushions will be sewn up forthwith.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

In which I moan a bit about irksome little bothers

They're really very small, in the scheme of things. In the scheme of things, they don't really count for much. But they are irksome, oh yes they are . And they are bothering me.

Irksome bother No.1: I am doing boot camp three mornings a week at the moment. Now, despite what you would be perfectly justified in thinking, this is not, in itself, the irksome bother. (That's a separate post altogether.) Monday, Wednesday and Friday I haul myself out of bed at five-thirty, so that I can catch the 6.08am train, and make it to boot camp near work at 645. This means that every night before boot camp, I put together my bag of tricks for the next day - work outfit, work handbag, knickers, shoes, accessories etc - so that I can just grab it and go, without fussing about trying to find matching earrings.

The irksome bother is that somehow, as I was putting everything together last night, I forgot to put my phone in my handbag. I don't know how this happened, as my phone is practically surgically attached to me. And when did I realise I didn't have my phone this morning? Not as I was closing the front door, not as I was walking down to the train station, not as I was waiting for the train, but just as I'd stepped onto it and the doors closed gently behind me .....

Irksome bother No.2: In putting together my bag of tricks for this morning, I included a pair of high-heeled blue shoes which tone perfectly with my Kinki Gerlinki steel-blue silk dress. However, I haven't worn these shoes in months, and today the delicate skin on the side of my arch knows All About The Shoes. Ouch.

Irksome bother No. 3: Noodles for lunch were the perfect solution after this morning's boot camp session. Carbs yes, red meat yes, some isolated vegetables - yes, yes and yes. I opened up the box carefully. I smoothed down the napkin over my lap. I dug around with my chopsticks to mix in the dry seaweed roll - and splashed teriyaki sauce all over me. ALL over me. All over ALL of me. I'm drenched in the bloody stuff; some of it landed on my wrist as well and it was so hot that now I've got a blister where it landed. And of course I'm wearing my lovely silk dress and I have no idea whether drycleaning will be able to get the stains out. In which case I may have to consign a favourite and absolutely lovely outfit to the rag bag.

That is the most irksome thing of all. And it bothers me.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Damn you and your pricey prices, Lincraft

Yawn, stretch ...I am so tired today!Yesterday's market totally rocked and I am exhaustipated as a consequence. And ok, I admit it might also have something to do with the extreeeeeeemely late night on Saturday night, and the extreeeeeeemely early wake-up this morning, which has resulted in me losing almost a complete 8-hour night of sleep over the past three days. Sigh.

Happily though, I sold all my amazing retro food label cushions at the market - that has NEVER happened before, selling out of a complete product line - and so this evening I must dedicate myself to making another pile as I have a market on Wednesday night in Kew and no cushions left to take to it.

So off I toddled to Lincraft (I hate Lincraft!) at lunchtime today to buy some more cushion inserts. And guess what? The feather ones I like - they don't go flat like polyfil and they plump up satisfyingly - have doubled in price and are now $18 a pop. Doubled. $18 a pop. Eighteen dollars for a cushion insert!

I hate you Lincraft. I loathe you. I am starting up a Lincraft Loathers Society, and I declare myself chairperson.

[Although .... maybe this recent price hike is some kind of twisted karmic payback "gotcha" for me hating on Lincraft so often and so publicly. And I know I do it a lot, even though I actually have to shop there reasonably often through necessity, and therefore shouldn't be so churlish about it. (Isn't that a great word, churlish?). Hm. It's something to think about, though I resent giving them any of my hard-earned money at all.]

Regardless of karma, I just can't justify paying $18 for a cushion insert when I price my cushions at $39 and have to also cost in the fabric, zip, thread and time to make them. There's just no margin in that, and as much as this is a hobby, I'm quite keen to not LOSE money either. Well, not too much at any rate. Should I price the cushions higher and stick with the feather inserts, aiming to keep the hallmark of quality for which I'd like to be known? Would anyone in the world pay $50 for a 50cm square cushion, do you think?

Unwilling to test this theory out on the unsuspecting public just yet, in the end I stamped my foot a bit and then gave in and bought the inferior polyfil inserts after all, because I need something to use for the time being (ahem, Wednesday market anyone?) until I can find a cheaper supplier of feather inserts.

Any suggestions you have, ladies, will be greatly appreciated.

Oh and by the way, have I told you recently how much I hate Lincraft? There's a society for it you know, and it's looking for new members.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

A blast from my sewing past

Tomorrow marks the first of my markets in November - I have five of them in the next three weeks!

I have new doorstops ready to go, I've whipped up new pencil rolls, new Hoots abound, I've made new cushions - and just as well, because I have to leave the house RIGHT NOW to go out, and I won't be back until late tonight, so that is all the sewing I can do!

My favourite items today are the lovely cushions here, which I've made out of a fantastic fabric I first found when I was in Year 7 at high school. For those of you who are wondering how long ago, let me just say that it's a looooooong time ago. Long time. Very long time. Over 20 years.

So this is pretty special to me. It's the first fabric I ever made something out of. I remember going to the Lincraft with my mum to buy the material I needed for my first Year 7 Home Economics project, which was an apron - and we found this, which we both thought would be perfect.

I took it into school with me and I was so proud of it. I knew I had something really cool, and all the other girls were envious (and this made me feel pretty good, as the girls at school were not often envious of me, let me tell you).

I laid it out on the pattern. I followed the instructions and I cut it out carefully. I held it up to the light .... and realised I'd cut out the pattern upside down.

I was devastated. I'd ruined my beautiful material and I'd stuffed up my present for mum, even before I'd really started it. And of course we had only bought enough fabric to make the one apron, so I had to keep going. The girls didn't envy me any more after I wrecked it, that's for sure.

I just couldn't believe I'd done something so stupid. And I think it was probably part of the reason I didn't take Home Ec as an elective after that first compulsory term, because I was absolutely humiliated and it was my own stupid fault. Of course, now I wish I'd kept on with it, because no doubt I'd be a far better seamstress than I am today if I'd had 20 years more practice. To this day I still freak out about cutting out fabric, and I still make the same silly error - last year I cut a blouse out of fabric with text printed on it - and did exactly the same thing.

Back in Year 7 though, I finished the apron and duly gave it to my mother. To her credit she continues to use it to this day.

I never saw the fabric again - until a month ago, when I spotted some and snapped up the lot of it. Because twenty years may have passed, but I still love it. It's vintage now of course, and rare as hen's teeth. I couldn't believe my luck when I saw it!

And of course I knew exactly what I was going to do with it. I'm going to make another apron - right side up this time - and give it to my mum as the present she should have had twenty years ago.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Stupidest. Label. Ever.

I ask you, is this the stupidest food label ever?

I just had to take a photo to show you. Look closely now. What's wrong with this picture?

Honestly. I'm gobsmacked.

(For the record, they were REALLY tasty though.)

Thursday, November 12, 2009

The walk-away dress

Recently, Gertie's New Blog for Better Sewing did a great post on the Butterick Walk-away dress.

The pattern was first released by Butterick in 1952, and recently re-released as part of their vintage line. You can get it online here, if you'd like a copy, or of course you can pick it up from your local sewing shop without any troubles - it's number B4790, and I managed to get my copy in a Lincraft, and I can confidently say that if even my local rubbish Lincraft stocks it then I'm sure your local store has it too.

Just like Lincraft, this pattern seems to divide people - you either love it, or you hate it. And the proportions are about 50-50 in each camp, so at least it's consistent. (And if you're interested and couldn't already tell, when it comes to Lincraft I fall mostly into the "hate" camp, though I'm certainly not above shopping there in a pinch.)

Me, I love the pattern. While some people think it looks like a hospital gown - and I never saw the similarity myself until someone pointed it out on Gertie's blog (maybe it's that dinky little cap she's wearing that does it??) - I think it looks like a great way to accentuate a small waist and hide a troublesome hip. Of course, if you wear the kind of foundation garments women wore at the time, that will accentuate your waist even more. Granted, you may not be able to take a full breath, but you will have a tiny waist.

I actually made the walkaway dress last year in a trial run, using a stretchy black and white cotton remnant. Here's a picture. You will see I am not wearing foundation garments and therefore I have a normal sized waist.

I can understand why some people don't like the finished item.There's some odd bunchiness up around the bustline. The arms are cut too wide. And there's something a bit strange that goes on with the way the underskirt fastens at the small of your back. I find that when I walk, the friction between the two skirts makes them both ride up in different ways (uck) and I spend most of my time trying to tug everything down while remaining decent. That is NOT a good look when what you actually want is casual vintage elegance.

So I've decided I'm going to remake it, and this time I plan to alter the pattern so that the underskirt doesn't go all the way round the back. I'm going to cut the skirt narrower, and fasten it to the outer skirt with press studs or contrast buttons or something. I'm hoping it will have the effect of creating one skirt that moves as a single item, rather than two skirts that move independently.

I'm planning on using some navy and white polka-dotted polished cotton I bought ages ago for about five dollars a metre. That way, if I stuff it up, at least I won't have spent a fortune on it. And I'm going to edge it with bright red bias binding for a nice contrast trim.

Now, the big question. Do I stick to the same material overall for a uniform look, using the tiny polka dot material alone, as per the photo here?

Or do I use the big polka dot material on the "black contrast" section of the dress and the tiny polka dot material on the "white inner" section? Which version will make me look thinner?

Decisions, decisions ......

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

My friend the mail fairy

Mail Fairy, I hope you understand how special you are. I am always happy to see you. My heart flutters at the thought of your arrival.

Mail Fairy, I love the wonderful things you bring me - things like this marvellous prize here, which I won on The Fabric Shopper blog. Rosie at the Fabric Shopper has a daily email I subscribe to, which arrives around 6am Melbourne time and showcases different fabric finds every day, not to mention wonderful giveaways and competitions.

Isn't it fantastic? I don't win things very often, so it's quite exciting to receive an unexpected surprise like this. I intend to give it a go at some point in the next few weeks .... perhaps after my crowded clutch of end-of-November markets are over.

Mail Fairy, I confess I do sometimes load the dice by ordering lovely things online so that you have a reason to make a visit. Things like fabric (of course) and lately, some Christmas presents via Etsy and other excellent sites. Did you know that Barnes and Noble in the US ship things to Australia for a flat rate of $10? With the exchange rate as good as it currently is, you could pick up quite a few recent seasons of Project Runway on dvd for less than half what they would cost in Australia - if anywhere in Australia stocked them, of course. Project Runway on dvd! I have a plan in mind.

It's true to say, Mail Fairy, that you rarely disappoint me. It's part of the reason I like you so much. Admittedly, I am not very fond of your distant cousin, the Bringer of Bills, but I don't let that get in the way of our friendship.

Mail Fairy, please come back to visit me soon.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Where are all the good patterns hiding?

So this new book arrived in the mail today. Thank you, Mail Fairy, I'm looking forward to trying it out.

I'm hoping it will help me bridge the gap between the patterns I can buy - the same old vanilla selection offered by Vogue, Simplicity, Butterick and McCalls (I don't really use Burda because I find their instructions inadequate and confounding. But I digress) - and the patterns I actually want to make.

I understand that pattern companies need to appeal to a wide range of clients, and that they are businesses who must turn a profit. Therefore, they design patterns that will appeal, suit and fit the broadest category of people. And you know what that means? That means most - and I say most, not all, because they've certainly lifted their game in recent years, I remember the empty prairies of the 80s pattern books - of their patterns are like the sewing equivalent of Muzak.

You know what I mean. No real highs, no real lows, no really interesting details .... just the basic stuff. No edge. No surprises. Not a whole lot of modern.

Now, I love an A-line dress and a fitted suit and a pair of capri pants as much as the next girl. Actually, that's a lie - I don't love capri pants, they cut me off at the calf and make me look even shorter than I already am, which is certainly some kind of mighty achievement that deserves an award.

But what I'm looking for as my sewing develops, is patterns that can help me learn techniques to express who I am, through the cut of my clothes and not just the fabric I choose to make them in, which is where I find myself at the moment.

Dresses like this here, for example. Why can't I buy patterns for dresses like this? I am in love with it.

It was designed by the lovely person behind the Grosgrain blog, for a competition run by the Shabby Apple (lovely, lovely dresses - do take a look). So a pattern company didn't come up with it, but it doesn't take a huge leap of intellect to make the connection that there is a demand for this kind of gorgeous creation.

If Grosgrain Fabulous can design things like this just off the top of her lovely head, why isn't there a pattern company out there jumping on this niche opportunity?? Gah!

I must make friends with a patternmaker, I think, so they can translate the things in my head into things on the page. Sigh. Anyone know a patternmaker?

The biggest hair ball ever

Spring has sprung.... with a vengeance!

It seems only right and proper that after the interminable weeks of winter, which I despaired would ever end, spring has finally sprung in Melbourne.Saturday was 32 degrees, Sunday was 34, and I'm told today is going to nudge into 35. I have only two words for that. At last!

Naturally though, the pussins all thought the weather was unbearable and they lay around inside stretched out on the wooden floors trying to cool down. At one point the Amateur Actress went into the bathroom and shrieked involuntarily - because there was the great furry Grimth curled up in the sink, happily snoozing in the cool porcelain. Now that's what I call a proper fur ball!

I quite like the hot weather, and you know what I love the most about it? I'm a bit embarrassed to say. It's tragic, it really is. It shows what a sewing loser I am.

Okay, here it is. I love that it's great weather for drying fabric. I know, I know - isn't that terribly domestically boring? You know you're truly growing older when you wake up in the heat and think My, what a fantastic drying day this is!

It's true though. All winter long (which seems to have lasted about ten years) I've been collecting lengths of fabric that I haven't been able to use, because I haven't been able to wash or - more importantly - dry it. You know I never buy less than 5 metre lengths if I can help it, and that adds up to a lot of material to hang about the place. I'm anti-tumbledryer because I can't bear the thought of how much energy that uses up when the sun is free. It's just a matter of waiting for the sun to appear so that I can shamelessly exploit it.

So over the weekend I made up for lost time, I can tell you. Here is what I washed:
  • black, turquoise and white voile
  • navy and orange floral cotton
  • navy and white polka dots
  • red, aubergine, navy and green broadcloth
  • purple corduroy
  • Moda Sweetwater "Authentic" quilting cotton
  • Aunt Grace Ties One On - scotty dogs in red and white stripes
  • The Kitty Chronicle linen blend
  • The Name Of the Black Cat is Lola by Trefle
  • Gothic Rose by Amy Butler
  • Temple Garland in Lotus, by Amy Butler
  • Moda Wonderland butterflies in tomato
  • Moda Wonderland butterflies in mustard
Of course I put all the water from the washing machine onto the garden as well, which means that the plants are very well watered despite the heat and the water restrictions. Waste not, want not ....

Thursday, November 5, 2009

My Creative Space

..... I'm a little bit late joining in with My Creative Space today - there are about a hundred people ahead of me who all got their acts into gear much quicker than I did.

But seeing as how I haven't joined in for weeks now (weeks! maybe months!) I'm forging ahead anyway.

To your left, Exhibit A: a whole pile of embryonic Hoots.

I'm taking the "production line" tactic at the moment, as I don't have any markets for a fortnight and then in the space of seven days, I have three. Three! The Shirt and Skirt market on Sunday 22 November, then a kindergarten market in Kew on Wednesday 25 November, then the Kris Kringle Market at Northcote Town Hall on Thursday 26 November, then the wondrous Northside Makers Market on Saturday 28 November.

Holy mother of god, that's four, isn't it? Four markets instead of three. Four - in a week!!

What am I doing here blogging, I've got to get back to work!

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

A twinset of the future - from the past

Here is a picture of my new twinset. Isn't it marvellous?

What do you mean, that doesn't look like a twinset? Well, if you're going to be so particular about it .... okay, it's not technically my actual twinset just yet. It is my embryonic twinset. My twinset in mind rather than in actuality. It is a twinset of the future.

My mother is an amazing knitter - she made me this basketweave top for my birthday earlier this year. And now she's going to make me a twinset out of this lot of merino.

I adore the salmony colour, this is certainly the colour du jour, and it's been one of my favourites for some time now. And wouldn't you know it, my mother just happens to have a big bag full of it! She dug it out of her stash while I was visiting over the weekend .... my mother has a stash of wool in her woolroom that is absolutely impressive. I definitely inherited my crafty gene, and my sense of colour, from my mother.

So this is a twinset of the future, but I'm going to choose a pattern from the past. I love vintage twinset patterns, and mum has a massive collection of them, so over Christmas I'll pore through the treasure trove and see what I can find. 

Maybe something like this pale blue number here?  It's very Grace Kelly. The delicacy of the neckline is lovely, and I think the bracelet sleeves would be perfect.

But perhaps I'd prefer something like this purple beauty instead? I even have lavender pearls I could match it with.

First though, mum has to spin it up into wool. She'll do that after I've chosen a pattern, between Christmas and March most likely, turning that big bag of merino wool into deliciously light four ply - perfect for layering in Melbourne weather.

Then she'll start knitting, and less than a month later, in April, I'll have my new twinset - and already I can't wait. I love my mum!