A curated wardrobe – aka the ‘Collection’

IMG_3869This could just be the most fun I’ve ever had……….putting together what affectionately became known (in a sibling rivalry kind of way), as the Collection. I thoroughly enjoyed every minute of this project that  started when my daughter asked me if I would make her a skirt. She’s away in the country at uni and as usual, when the weather changed, she became pretty desperate for clothes.

I was more than happy to make her a skirt …….especially when she described what she wanted….it was so simple. So I suggested  a couple of tee shirts to go with the skirt wouldn’t be problem either.

The brief

Here’s the thing. It wasn’t really any sort of brief at all it was more like….

ME- So what would you like?
DAUGHTER- I don’t really mind Mum. Anything really. I need going out clothes and I sort of like grey and white. I don’t know Mum. You choose. You know.         ME- Can you point me in the direction of some websites? To give me an idea?DAUGHTER- Sure Mum. I’ll send you some links.

And that was it! I was licking my chops! Carte blanche……….just the way I like it…..total control!!!!  It was like she was a toddler again. I could do whatever I liked!

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I kicked off by indulging myself in all sorts of possibilities………..whether I was in the hairdresser’s or on the train or doing the grocery shopping, I was mentally putting the wardrobe together  (like, doesn’t the metal freezer door tone in beautifully with the white on the frozen peas packet…….mental note to self….a touch of something shiny and metallic to lift the grey/white combo……Seriously, my creativity was SO in overdrive. I was a bit hyper and sometimes  even had trouble getting to sleep. I’d nod off and then half dream about an  old piece of something I had stashed away  that would be perfect for the “collection”. IMG_3654
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lots of playing around, trying on and getting a sense of fit and style

Getting the fabric together

Well of course, getting the fabric was one of the best parts!!! But bear in mind I wanted this to be an economical exercise. I mean anyone can ‘put it together’ if money is no object but the challenge for me was to do it all on a budget. Mentally, I decided on a cap of $100.

When I bought the fabric I didn’t have a plan. At this stage I was looking for inspiration only, so headed to Remnant Warehouse where I was like a kid in a lolly shop. This is what I bought:IMG_3584

EBBA4FE9-3BCA-4758-BAE1-126D12BF1DEFFrom Lincraft I scored a slate grey stretch fabric for $2 per meter and from Darn Cheap Fabrics I bought the most beautiful soft stripe below.

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Pattern inspiration

I didn’t actually work according to a plan. I had a few ideas in my head and looked to tried and tested patterns to bring the concept to life.

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This could be one of the most loyal patterns in my stash. This elastic waist skirt has seen me through every weight fluctuation imaginable.

 

 

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This one actually gave me lots of inspiration. It’s an easy pattern and the finished product is stunning….didnt make it to this collection but it certainly won’t go to waste.

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The Mandy Boat Tee featured very prominently….offering inspiration, utility, fit and style.

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Another oldie but goodie…..a great basic shape for a long cardigan/jacket.

These 2 patterns combined, and mashed with the Mandy Boat tee were the basis of all the tops (in one form or another).

The finished products  aka the Collection

All up I made 2 skirts, 4 tops and 2 jackets. I bought 2 scarves. (the second skirt didn’t make it to the shoot). This is the Collection.

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And that’s the Collection! I hope you enjoyed reading about it because I loved doing it and I can’t wait to do the next one! Have a good week.

Jane xx

From Australia to London to buy fabric? Seriously?

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Well…..yes and no. Sort of, but not really. This was our fabric tour of London and Shanghai….a tour all about fabric, haberdashery and sewing- not exactly a trip to  buy fabric….even though the two got a bit mixed up at times.

How did this come about?

Good question. Well, my friend Wendy and I sew…all the time…..and buy fabric……often….and talk sewing and dressmaking and patterns and Threads magazine and read blogs about sewing and follow other sewers on Instagram and meet for morning teas and lunches at fabric stores all over Sydney and go to craft fairs and compare notes on the episodes of The Great British Sewing Bee.

You get the picture.

Now Wendy is a seasoned traveller. Anyway, after her last trip to Asia, she said to me in passing (actually I think it was by text) , was thinking,  wouldn’t it be great to do a fabric crawl of London? Well. I had never even contemplated anything nearly as fun as this …………..ever! It was like Christmas when you are a kid sort of excitement. I wasn’t even sure Wendy really meant it. But I was there. Done. And before I could even text back YES YES YES, Wendy had the flights sorted!

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So we made a plan to meet every six weeks, at a fabric store somewhere (naturally) and nut out the details. I think we actually gave the Sydney fabric market a huge boost while we were planning the trip…….so that’s good for the economy!

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What did we actually want to do there?

I’ll tell you. We were on a mission.  We were going to London to completely immerse ourselves in our craft. Fabric, patterns, haberdashery and everything else that is sewing related. We were unapologetic. This was an indulgence and we were hell bent on indulging ourselves every step of the way.

So to the itinerary. We pretty much left no stone unturned and made a list that included every sewing related place, thing or person we could think of. Lets’s see, there was Sew Over it London, the man outside Sainsbury’s (from Did you make That), Liberty of London, Goldhawk Rd, Savile Row, Walthamstow Markets, Greenwich Markets, MacCulloch and Wallis, the Button Queen etc etc etc.  If we’d heard of it, it was on the list!

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The man outside Sainsbury’s

 

Then there was the other kind of fun. We knew we’d need some R and R after all that fabric shopping so we punctuated our ‘research’ days with more run of the mill entertainment like……………..

 

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and

 

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And then?  More ……IMG_1748hard…….

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work!!IMG_1751IMG_1746

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So did we enjoy it?

I’m going to go out on a limb here and speak for Wendy too. The answer is of course a resounding YES! We had a ball. We absolutely loved it. But what surprised me was that I loved it for reasons that I hadn’t really anticipated.

London

I absolutely loved London…..with a passion I didn’t know I had.  I mean, I’ve been there before but somehow this time it was different. Reflecting on what it was I loved,  I’d have to say it was the overall look and feel…..greyness (yes..the greyness), the tube, the colour of the Thames, the architecture, the traffic, the crowds, the mix, the fashion the busyness……the big city-ness of London. I just loved it. It was everything I had remembered but in such a compelling way. I somehow couldn’t get enough of it….and in a crazy sort of way it felt like home…….in a ‘where I belong’ sort of way.img_1687

Talking shop and learning

Do you have any idea how much fun it is to go for 2 whole weeks talking about everything ‘sewing and fabric’ and not have to wonder if you are getting boring? Can you imagine how liberating that is? OMG! We didn’t stop. we completely immersed ourselves in sewing heaven. Went for broke. We dined out every meal, (3 meals a day) had umpteen coffees and  drinks, walked thousands of kilometres and talked shop the whole time. Our enthusiasm didn’t wane for a second. And on the rare days that fatigue did get the better of us, we’d retire to our respective rooms for even more fun! Wendy would do her appliqué and I had my knitting! In my book, that’s pure indulgence.

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Inspiration

I won’t lie, I came home with plenty of fabric. But I came home with even more inspiration…..truckloads. I couldn’t begin to explain the fuel that that trip poured into my soul.  Surrendering to one’s craft so completely is a rejuvenating and gratifying experience and I benefitted enormously from it. I am full of plans, ideas, and sketches. From a creative perspective, I feel light years ahead of where I was when I boarded the plane. I’m not sure what the plans actually are but I know there is a lot more scope for me to develop as a sewer. Technically, seeing, talking and reading have inspired me to focus more on process. I aspire to improving my technique.

Can you get fabric in London that you can’t get in Australia?

I am very loyal to my fabric shops. The range of fabrics and the service I receive from Tessuti, the Fabric Store, Remnant Warehouse and Pitt Trading  is way beyond what I will ever need to satisfy my creative sewing urges.

But London was different….for obvious reasons, namely the climate and population and perhaps even proximity to European suppliers. You can get everything you need in Australia or online. But the range of fabrics in London was mind boggling! Breathtaking even, particularly the Winter fabrics. I have never seen the likes of the ranges of wools, wool crepes and silks that I saw in London. It was staggering- truly a sight to behold. And then of course there was Liberty! It was an experience just standing in Liberty of London and drinking in the wall to wall shelves of Liberty prints.

what about Shanghai?

That is such another whole big story that I will deal with that separately

Would we do it again?

We would like to run tours!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Knitting with rags- London inspiration

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I have so much to say about our London/Shanghai fabric crawl……..too much, really ..not sure where to start. So I’ll start with this…knitting with rags. Well, not exactly rags, but the guts  is certainly fabric that is torn into rag strips.

This is so much fun because it is a creative exercise where the sky is the limit. Anything goes!

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I started with a collection of white/cream braids and cottons. I think you can probably use anything really, as long as you can knit with it. I also bought 3 meters of light cotton fabric and tore it into rags one night in my hotel room (good time girl that I am…now you see why I had to travel with a fellow fabric diva…….normal people just don’t get it). I tied the rags together and rolled them into balls.

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I bought size 10 mm needles, cast on about 40 stitches in rag and the rest is history! Seriously, I couldn’t wait to get back to my room each night to do a few more rows! It’s just fabulous……it looks fantastic. I think it will be a top……..just a shapeless boxy top that will look a million bucks.

Thats the plan anyway but I may need to do a bit of shaping further down the track. I’ll see.IMG_1665The only hitch that I can see is convincing the airline to let me take the needles on board the plane……..I think I could finish it between London and Sydney.

36 hours later

Well I’m home and the top’s not finished. The airline wasn’t thrilled about needles on the plane ….even though they are more like broomsticks than weapons. Never mind.

Anyway I’ll keep going and if it doesn’t work out, there is one family member who was very happy to see me, and may just be able to find a use for the balls of rags when she’s finished with the cotton. I just love her gall…casually lifted the treasure  out of my suitcase and took it for a chew!

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Fabric tour- London and Shanghai

IMG_1386.JPGWell we’ve started. And our days are so busy I don’t really have time to blog. Or more precisely, I’m too tired to blog. 25000 plus steps on the Fitbit everyday and by the end of it, I’m fit for nothing other than sleep.  Above is the silk I bought in Shanghai. With Liberty of London next on the list, I picked up a couple of very pretty classics.

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IMG_1452.JPGToday was Sew Over It, Clapham. This was up there with our ‘must visit’s and aside from the fact that we didn’t get to meet Lisa, it didn’t disappoint.

IMG_1446.JPGFrom the perspective of gaining inspiration, the Dover Street Markets were a find.

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I will have to think long and hard before I put pen to paper on this one but suffice to say, the couture pieces were something else….well worth a look.

IMG_1425.JPGAnd speaking of inspiration, the Suzie Turner Couture fashion parade at the Savoy, over delivered.

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The midnight blue silk formal gown

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This is the silk formal gown that I made for my daughter.

IMG_1202 (1).jpgIt was a little bit of an eleventh hour job….only because I had to wait until she was home, so I could fit her. I knew what she wanted and I knew the colour so I was all ready.

I bought the silk from Studio Fabrics here in Sydney  and I have included the link because this shop is a ‘must visit’. I  hadn’t actually realised it was there but I’m so glad I found it because it is just beautiful. The fabrics were to die for and displayed so………..well, luxuriously. It was an  indulgent way to spend the lunch hour….spend being the operative word!

But the most impressive thing about this shop was the service. Now, I went in looking for ‘navy’ that was almost black. That was my mandate. It had to be dark dark navy or if I couldn’t get that, charcoal. But when I showed the girls in the shop a picture of the dress, and told them my daughter’s age, they insisted that I go for a lighter shade of navy….this is what they’re doing in Europe they said.  Well, I’m a ‘heart’ person. I never go with my head. I always know exactly what I want. So I had my doubts. I wanted dark navy. But the girls were emphatic. No, they said. Dark navy is so yesterday for a young person. It’s been done to death by mothers of the bride. Hmm. What to do. I always trust myself. But this wasn’t actually for me. So I did something very unusual. I trusted them.

And they were right!

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IMG_9835.jpgThe most challenging part of this dress was cutting it out.It was impossible to stabilise the silk sufficiently to cut around the cardboard pattern. A rotary cutter would have done the trick but alas…….no cutting board big enough. In the end I outlined the pattern in chalk and then cut it out….a much better idea.

IMG_1194.jpgBut even drawing in chalk on the silk was challenging….it slipped all over the place and I did wonder how well I was actually following the grain.

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But overall we were pleased with it. I’ve made the dress before but for this version, i replaced the spaghetti straps with a very fine satin covered cording. I used 8 meters in all so it could be wrapped around the waist and under the bust, to stabilise and embellish the dress. I made loops on the sides and waist through which the cording passed.IMG_9799.jpg

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The ball was thoroughly enjoyable, I am told and the dress worked a treat!

Sandra Betzina and Deepak Chopra on the train

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What do Deepak Chopra and Sandra Betzina have in common? A lot more than you’d think.

I realised this on the train.

You see, I’m trying to wean myself off technology. Not because I hate it. I don’t. I love it. But I hate that I love it because I think it steals me away from life. Sure. It connects me to the world. And I love that. I am inspired and stimulated. But too much stimulation is exhausting and sometimes I feel like I am living my life on speed.

So I’ve decided to ration my  phone time. The deal is, I can go for broke while I’m waiting for the bus, but it’s all over red rover once the bus arrives. I have promised myself that for  the whole of the bus and train trip, I will read………from something that is written on paper. ZERO PHONE for the whole trip!  Even if I don’t get a seat, I cannot use my phone……..(not even as a torch  should the lights go out in the tunnel)

And I feel  like a new woman! I really do! 

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I’ve been reading Threads- the magazine – that’s my ‘something written on paper’. I am lucky enough to have scored a whole set of mags that span several years and I am just loving them.

Back to Deepak and Sandra.

On day 1 of the weaning myself off technology challenge, I got to the bus stop, pulled out my phone (hoping the bus would be late) and lo and behold if there wasn’t a Deepak Chopra article staring me in the face. What a stroke of luck!  And  you wouldn’t believe it,  the article was How to escape inner turmoil- you can read it here . Perfect timing

The general gist of the article is that mental calm and balance is our essential state and that the agitated mind naturally seeks to return to the calm state. We just have to help it along and  according to Chopra, one way to do this is to,

Limit your exposure to the 24-7 news cycle on TV and the Internet. There is no need to keep fueling the stress response.

 

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Right.

So I’m on to something.

Good bye phone.

That simple.

Bring on the bus, the train and the  Threads magazine.

And then I read it! By Sandra Betzina and so beautifully said…………

Stop rushing, enjoy the process, use sewing for relaxation, rather than something you have to do.

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And I was completely taken aback. This really resonated with me. Here I was sitting on the train, exhausted, trying to relax but struggling to even hold the magazine because my hands were so sore from the previous week’s sew-athon! And it struck me that I do not take the time to enjoy the process. I rush from garment to garment, multi tasking between machining, fitting, mending, darning, cutting out, hand sewing  etc etc etc etc etc…………the list is endless. And most of the time I’m doing it with a piece of technology at the ready so I can mentally start on the next project! It makes me tired just thinking about it. I totally over commit and sewing has become a chore.

To be fair, it has been an unusually  big sewing week . They’re not all like that. But I think there is a lot to be said for practising mindfulness while sewing and I am going to give it a shot. And I’m excited by the prospect of slowing it all down, taking more care and banishing deadlines.  I am going to treat sewing with more respect and focus on each step in the process as it unfolds. I will endeavour to enjoy the experience as much as the garment…..

………..after I’ve finished the 2 dresses, 3 jackets and 2 tops that I am making to take away with me in a couple of  weeks!!

The black Ponte dress – there’s a story

 

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Fundamentally I’m pleased with this dress…sort of. But I have a few gripes-  mainly with the fabric. But there’s a story…….  starting with the pattern.

IMG_1049You see, this pattern promises the world but doesn’t really deliver. It did eventually but by a very backdoor route.  I’ve  made this dress before (long sleeved version) in a very light rayon and although it looked good, I was never really happy with the fit…..around the shoulder/sleeve region. There was something not right about it but I couldn’t work out what (that always happens to me). But because the pattern on the fabric was so bold, it looked ok and the sleeve/shoulder region wasn’t a focus.

Anyway, I wanted a little black dress (LBD). I’ve always wanted one. So this time, I made the long sleeved version in a black Ponte and was unrelenting in my efforts to get the fit right so I’d look like the model in the picture. I  unpicked and re did and unpicked again and was eventually pretty happy with the look.

Well, except for the sleeves. But overall, if I squinted, I could kid myself this was the quintessential  LBD Id been pining for……..until I caught a glimpse of  myself  in a bus window.  I reminded myself of someone from my past. Reality hit hard. This was no LBD

 

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But I didn’t give up. I wore it 3 more times with different accessories each time. Still no go. Time to bin…..not a feel good dress.

But before I threw it out, I cut the sleeves off. And miraculously, the dress was transformed! A whole different ball game.IMG_1139

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I loved it because it’s comfortable, easy wear and perfect  for work. I could grab it from the wardrobe in the morning when its still dark and make it work. But here’s the rub (no pun intended). The Ponte has rubbed and pilled  badly. I am furious ….mostly with myself for not buying better quality fabric. I bought this fabric from Spotlight and I really thought it would be ok. But its not. After all that work, the dress just looks shabby.

At least I have a template. That’s some consolation because the dress is nigh unwearable. Now I’ll go and buy some decent Ponte. Interestingly, I buy a lot of linen from Spotlight and I have nothing but praise for it. But this Ponte is very poor quality.

Onwards and upwards…….another lesson learned in my ‘sewing’ life. Have  a good weekend.

StyleArc Hedy dress and Estelle Ponte jacket

IMG_1040.jpgI love Ponte. But I have to say my hands felt a little worse for wear after making the Estelle jacket and then a black ponte dress (not here…to follow). So I’ve come to the conclusion that it makes up beautifully, sews beautifully and  presses well because it has so much body …..which also makes it quite heavy …which is tricky for someone who is prone to aching hands.

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But I am absolutely thrilled with my Ponte jacket. I really wanted a cream waterfall jacket….even though I thought it was probably a ridiculous colour for a jacket….very impractical……and it is. But I love it! It is a Winter White Ponte that I purchased from the Remnant Warehouse. Mind you, there’s not a whole lot of ‘winter’ left in the white because before I’d finished making the jacket I smudged a bit of lipstick on the front. Stupidly (I can’t believe I actually did this) I Napisan- ed the front pieces and low and behold, when the jacket was completed I had a radiant white front and Winter white (cream) back and sleeves!!!!! So I had to Napisan the whole thing……now its all a bit too radiant.

But I still love it. It’s warm and comfortable and was so quick and easy to make. And it gives me a lift….and I wash it in the machine and put it in the dryer if I have to ……and it’s my rule breaker…….my mother would never have agreed to a white jacket for winter!

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This is my cream StyleArcHedy dress that I wear under the Estelle Ponte jacket. This is made from  an interlock that I bought from Remnant Warehouse. This dress was super easy to make and is very easy to wear.

IMG_1006.jpgI love that it has pockets.

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This dress is full of possibilities for a ton of different fabrics. I suspect this pattern will become a favourite.

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The Emery dress and an op shop find

IMG_0790.jpgTo say I am thrilled with my Emery would be a gross understatement. It’s still on the dummy in the living room so I can keep looking at it. I just love it…..for several reasons.

The main reason I love it is because of the fit. I would have to say that this is the first time in my sewing history that I have fitted a ‘fitted’ dress as accurately as this. It is just the way I want it to fit and for me, this was no mean feat. But I was determined- a dog at a bone. I spent hours on the darts, all 8 of them and ended up doing some very unconventional things. This is unlike me. I am a ‘rules’ girl. But I’ve had a breakthrough!!!!

A little while back I attended the Australian Sewing Guild’s industry day at McCalls here. Although I  thoroughly enjoyed the day, I was more impressed by what I learnt from the speakers- in particular, Rita Showell. Rita’s store in Armidale (regional NSW) has been in operation for over  30 years and what Rita couldn’t tell you about fabric isn’t worth knowing. As a speaker she was engaging and very generous with invaluable tips. This one I will never forget…..There are no right and wrong techniques. If a technique works, it is right. Those words have removed my sewing shackles forever!!! I am finally liberated! So I went for broke with the Emery. Get this…….I didn’t insert a zipper ….even though the instructions said ‘insert zipper’. You see the dress fits over my head so I don’t need a zipper. But I felt so bad. I have never  ever disobeyed a pattern in my life. I fully expected to be struck down after it. And I won’t tell you what I did with the darts in the back. I’m not sure even Rita would agree with that.

IMG_0787.jpgBut I do love the dress and I think much of that is because I love  the fabric. Castle Hill Spotlight! Purpose Built, it is massive. This store had a greater range of linens than I’ve seen in any other Spotlight and on the day I was there, they were 40% off!!! I loved this colour from the moment I laid eyes on it and it sewed beautifully, of course.

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Incidentally, this dress actually looks better on me than  the dummy. But it’s just too hard to line up my photographer. Speaking of  my 15 year old photographer, she and I did the op shops yesterday. I only mention her because this is the second time I’ve seen this bag and the second time she’s begged me not to buy it because she thinks it is the most hideous thing she’s ever seen! But this time, (feeling so empowered by leaving the zipper out of the Emery!) I held the line. And I love it!

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It’s leather and I just love the colour (not meant to go with the Emery). And I’m so glad I bought it……another thing for me to look at.

And I’ve also broadened my ‘cushions’ horizon….

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Did you notice my new hand made Pillow Parlance tags? My daughter and I made them when she was home for the holidays. I am very pleased with them.

And finally, it is ANZAC Day in Australia and we celebrated it with a walk along North Head which has a beautiful paved memorial to those who have fought in the wars.

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Have a good week.

 

 

 

 

Kissing daylight saving goodbye in Sydney

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IMG_0613.jpgIMG_0610.jpgThis is Clarke’s Park in Sydney- host to a final ‘evening walk ‘ before daylight saving ends tonight. Will I miss daylight saving? Well probably not as much as most and I will certainly not miss Summer. It has been an extremely humid few months and I welcome the Autumn which is just beautiful. That said, I do get a kick out of watching Frankie run through the park of an evening and I will miss that.

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Today has been a very busy day, starting with the flower markets at Flemington. I love the flower markets- they are good for the soul…the flowers are magnificent and there is something earthy and primal about the transacting. I mean, you use  real money (as distinct from EFTPOS) and the stall holders put the takings into the pockets of their aprons. You can actually hear the coins jingle! Remember that sound? And there’s hustle and bustle and excitement and trolleys overflowing with flowers. It’s a happy place. Flowers usually mean  good times- like weddings and parties.

Anyway, I naturally contributed to the jingle. Don’t be fooled. This is only the tip of the iceberg! IMG_0619.jpgIMG_0623.jpg

After the flower markets I headed off to another market that I read about on Etsy…… The Maker and Shakers Market at Marrickville www.themakersandshakersmarket.com.au

This was a seriously mind boggling experience! The quality of the craft at this stall was something out of the box. I am beginning to think I have been away from the market scene for too long because the calibre of these stalls was something else. Of note  was a fellow Etsian who deserves this accolade (even though she is a competitor !!) because her cushions were beautiful i.e. Little Crow Design  – littlecrowdesign.com.au.

A little bit further on I saw a lovely girl feverishly knitting, beside her stall, which was packed to the rafters with the most fabulous hand knitted pieces. As I was thinking to myself  now there is one seriously hard worker…. typical of a crafter, she looked up and low and behold if I didn’t know her!!!! Kitty Choy and I worked together a few years back and it is so funny because we would have had so much in common had we ever discussed our shared love of handmade. But it never came up in conversation. Kitty’s business is called  Marikit and she too has an Etsy shop . She can be contacted on marikit_kitty@hotmail.com or  here 

After all of that, I took my daughter to Spotlight to buy some fabric paint. She is doing some very creative work on a white T shirt and I am full of encouragement.  I would love my children to enjoy a love of craft like I do. I mean, surely countless trips to Spotlight when they were babies in prams must have rubbed off on them? Maybe it had the opposite effect. My other daughter would positively bellow from the pram every time the lift door opened at Spotlight. I began to think she hated the smell of fabric, or was allergic to it! What an affliction!

And now it’s the end of the day and the best is still to come! The Emery dress!!!!!

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You cannot begin to imagine how excited I am about starting this dress. I have waited 2 weeks for the pattern to arrive from the States. Just in case you haven’t heard of it, have a look at it here and to see images of the Emery dress made many times around the globe, google the Emery dress. Its lovely and definitely worth a look.

IMG_0712.jpgThis is my fabric.

Well it’s now 11.30 and normally it would be too late to sew but tonight we get an extra hour’s sleep and……….IMG_0627.jpgI deserve it!!!!!!!!!

 

Enjoy the rest of the weekend.

 

Jane