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July 2007
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September 2007

August 2007

Creative minds

The other day one of the customers who dropped into my Open Studio morning was a costume designer for film and television (now that sounds like a great job).  She came with her little son, who Henri entertained by trying to hear his heartbeat with a makeshift stethoscope.  (Actually the poor little chap was too young to crawl away so had to submit to Henri's ministrations whether he wanted to or not.)

I can always spot a fellow seamstress because she did what I do when looking at clothes - inspected the construction of the garments.  I always like to see how a hem has been turned out, or how a certain finish has been achieved.  It's all part of the creative process for me - gathering inspiration for future creations.


She told me about her work and we seemed to share similar taste in clothes.  She is working on a new children's television series over the next few months.  Her role involves making clothes as well as pulling the look for the different characters together from existing clothing brands.  We discussed the possibility of Townmouse custom making some clothes for the series from my huge stash of fabrics and patterns.  Now that would be fun!  I'd really enjoy that.

I love it when chance encounters bring about interesting opportunities.  You never know what life will present you with next.

Grand Designs

Is anyone else hooked on this show?  Grand Designs airs in Australia every Thursday evening at 6pm on ABC.  It's the worst possible time of night to take in any television, but I love this show.  I look forward to it all week.  I usually try and have one child in the bath at that time which at least diminishes the noise level in our house somewhat.


If you haven't seen it, check it out.  Each week they track the life of a house build or renovation.  There's usually something interesting about the site or the owners or the design that makes each episode completely different.  Makes we want to take on another renovating project.

Range day

I'm having a little range day here at home next week.  About twice a year I get a couple of other small businesses involved and invite my customers to shop.  This time around there are two other product ranges on show.  One is a new brand of children's shoes called Walnut, and the other is my favourite brand of women's tees - Juicy Bear Tees.  I keep asking the Juicy Bear girls back because I love their range so much.  I wear their tees 9 days out of 10 so it's a good chance for me to re-stock my own supply.


It means things will be very busy around here before we go away.  Before next Wednesday I'll be pollishing the silver, washing windows, sweeping paths and generally tidying like crazy so the house is presentable for a steady flow of local mums.  The nice thing about having a home showing is that I don't have to pack the car with stock and trestle table like I will be doing for the Red Hill market this Saturday.

No rest for the wicked.

Pantry essentials

Henri and I went to the Prahran Market this morning to stock up on some essential ingredients.  This shop is a mecca for foodies.  It sells so much great cooking equipment - the shop always inspires me to want to cook more.

I go there for bulk quantities of good extra virgin olive oil and Lindt Bittersweet chocolate.


Yes, that's right.  I consider cooking-chocolate one of those staple ingredients that should always be in the pantry; as important as rice, flour, sugar - you know - all the basics.

I have a sweet tooth and I love a good pudd.  And this recipe I have found to be a really good pudd.


Can you see the chocolate running out onto the plate - it is liquid in the middle.  Yumm.


150g Lindt bittersweet chocolate
150g unsalted butter, chopped
3 eggs
3 egg yolks
90g castor sugar
75g plain flour

Melt chocolate and butter, stirring occasionally, in the top of a double saucepan or in a heatproof bowl over simmering water until melted and glossy.  Remove from heat.

Beat eggs, egg yolks and sugar until thick and pale, fold in sifted flour, then stir in chocolate mixture and mix gently.  Pour mixture into eight 125ml greased dariole moulds, cover with plastic wrap and freeze until solid.

When ready to serve, place frozen moulds on an oven tray and bake at 220c for 10 - 15 minutes or until puddings are firm around edge.  Carefully run a knife around edge of each mould and turn puddings out onto plates.  Sprinkle with icing sugar.  Enjoy!

Monogram embroidery

Years ago when I was still working in the corporate world in marketing I used to moonlight as a teacher of monogram embroidery and trapunto at a Melbourne patchwork shop.  I love the extreme accuracy that is required for the monogram work.  It's incredibly time consuming so I haven't done any for years (three children and a business put a stop to that).


I did commission pieces for customers, coming up with the design to their specification.  The above photo is of a commission piece of two pure linen pillowcases embroidered with a customer's initials.  The customer and I share a love of monogrammed bedlinen.  She told me she dreams other people's dreams when she sleeps under antique linen that once belonged to someone else.  Maybe that's why she wanted her own new pillowcases.


This is the detail of an antique sheet that I purchased in Paris 8 years ago in rue Jacob (a lovely street in the 6th arrondissement).  The shop was full of beautiful vintage quilts, sheets, and other textiles.  It was heaven as far as I was concerned.

Last night Will and I booked our hotel in Paris.  It's in a fabulous location - not far from all my favourite little streets.  I will definitely be heading back to the shop in rue Jacob to see if it's still there and what treasures may be found.  We have 4 days in Paris - 2 of which will probably be spent at Premiere Vision (I've been warned to prepare for sensory overload).  So in the other two days there will be a lot of ground to cover.

One shop I'll definitely drop in on is Des Fils et Une Aiguille near the Palais Royale.  I discovered it when Will brought home an article from an Air France magazine many years ago that listed all the craft shops in Paris.  I've been to the shop a couple of times and bought lovely braids and other bits and pieces.  They stock the Floche a Broder thread that is perfect for monogram embroidery (a low twist thread).

There's room in my linen press for some new finds.


Kl_monogram The top shelf holds sets of table napkins.  Some were collected at the Cligancourt Antique Market on my last trip to Paris.  Others are my own creations.  The monogram I used is from this book.  I then made a set of white linen napkins.  Starting with a few metres of shirting linen I drew the threads for the border detail and mitred Table_napkins_2the corners.  Then I applied the monogram.  It was painstaking work and I ran out of steam after only 4.  I mix them in with a store bought set of plain white linen napkins with the same drawn thread border.  One day I'll get around to completing a set of 10.

I've created a little set on flickr of some of my favourite monogram embroidery images that I've collected from magazines and other sources over the years.

The perfect dress

When in New York last year I bought the perfect dress.  Well it was perfect for my odd shape anyway - it focussed on my good bits and minimised my bad bits.  I wasn't overly fond of the fabric of the dress but bought it anyway as I hoped there was every chance I'd be able to put my rudimentary patternmaking skills to work and make another in new fabric.

One of the things I loved about the patternmaking course I did (in 2000) was that we spent quite a bit of time making basic blocks to our own measurements.  Now when I make something using those as the foundation to my design, there's a better chance the finished garment will fit properly than a store bought pattern would allow.


Here's the paper pattern of the New York Dress, with a couple of metres of plain black cotton.  While in Sydney on the weekend I treated myself to a little bit of excess in the form of a pleated scarf in black and grey.  The perfect accessory to finish off a little black dress.  I'll let you know how the dressmaking goes.

If I had a few hours to spare....

Jacket_sketchMy brother's girlfriend was wearing the most fabulous coat/jacket the other weekend.  Her work took her to China a few months ago.  One of her stops was a tailor in a fabric market where she went to get something tailor made.  The result was a cropped coat that was something like this, although my garment sketch doesn't come close to showing you how lovely it was.  In fact, she was so happy with it, she got one in chocolate cashmere, and one in winter white (for $100 a pop no less).

Of course I inspected the jacket inside and out, admiring the fabric and the way it had been made.  If I had a few more hours in every day I'd be tempted to dust off my patternmaking knowledge and try designing and making something myself.


All this inspiration got me flicking through a book I picked up a few years ago.  I bought it for the great little garment sketches scattered throughout.  The book is many decades old and the sketches are from an era in fashion that I particularly like.  The book is very technical - how to adjust basic pattern blocks to create any design imaginable - so to date all I have done is admire the pictures.  One day...

A step back in time

Our weekend in Sydney was soooo wonderful.  The best part was two nights off from the daily routine of cooking for and bathing of three little ones.  And after a two day break I'm enjoying the boys all the more now that I'm back.

In between gallery hopping, Will and I went to the Powerhouse Museum to see the "From Fleece to Fashion" exhibit.   Will's family business is celebrating 150 years in the wool industry this year so he is the fifth generation with strong ties to wool.  He was curious to see the exhibit and so was I.

I particularly loved the exhibit on women's work in the home which included lots of sewing related displays.  The work in this little girl's dress is just lovely.


Here is a miniature shirt made by a young girl for sewing practice .  I think I would have lived very happily in that time.


And another exhbit was titled, "What's in Store".  Here's a little display of what one would have purchased in the local haberdashery or general store.  We have to search far and wide for this sort of bounty in shops today.


The sounds of domesticity

The drier is going swoosh, swoosh and the washing machine is going tink, tink.  I love the sounds of ordered domesticity.  I'm sitting here in my studio surrounded by Vlisofix backing.  I go through about 20 metres of that stuff a month these days, so I'm just a tad sick of it.  But I'm getting through my backlog of orders which is good.

Will and I are off to Sydney for the weekend.  I'm heading up early tomorrow so I'll have the day to myself before he arrives in the evening.  I'm going to treat myself to a bit of shopping and a mooch around some art galleries on my list.  We'll have dinner with Sydney friends one night and dinner for two the next.  It will be a well deserved break.


This photo has nothing to do with the post, but a bit of colour is always a good thing.  Have a good weekend everyone.

Dreaming of faraway places

This is my laptop's desktop image.  I love this photo and find it very soothing to look at.


Our upcoming trip to Paris is looking definite.  I'm getting very excited and my mind has been wandering to Europe in anticipation.  This photo is from one of my favourite places in the world - the beautiful hill town of Asolo in the Veneto.  You can make out the northern Italian haze in the background.  These are the entrance gates to a Palladian Villa near the town. 

Everywhere you look in Asolo there are incredible vistas.  This is the view from the garden of the hotel we stayed in:


Asolo is a tiny town with only very few shops.  One of those shops is perhaps the best stationery shop I've ever been into.  That's what really sold me on the town.  I bought so much stationery, the shop assistant thought I was stocking my own shop back in Australia and gave me a discount.


Stationery is one of my vices.  Here's a glimpse of just part of my stash.  The botanic cards you can see are what remains of that Asolo purchase.  The box with the "R" on it is from the very old stationery house in Milan called Raimondi.  It contains letterpress carte da visita. There is a little brass plate with our name on it sitting in that shop for when we might want to reorder.  Entering the shop is like stepping back in time.  Getting the cards printed was a struggle and involved the help of an Italian friend as they did not ship overseas, would only take cash and took two weeks to make up the plate and then print the cards.  But the cards are divine and I love sending notes on them.

And there are some airmail envelopes from the French brand G. Lalo.  There's every chance I will be seeking out that brand in Paris.

The lights are on, but there's nobody home

When I was at school my good friend Jen nicknamed me Kambrook.  At the time there was an ad on television for a Kambrook appliance that would switch your lights on at a certain time when you were out, the aim being to deter burglars.  I was known to be a bit vague you see.  Apparently the tag-line in the ad (see title of post) was deemed to suit me very well.

I tend to think I'm a bit better these days but today I proved myself wrong.  I dropped my boys off at school this morning, only to wonder why the street was so quiet and the school gates were locked.  I hate it when they spring a mid-term break on you!  I thought it was next week.  (Yes, go ahead and laugh Jen.)  So Max and Tom are now eating out of their lunch-boxes in the living room in their school uniforms.

On another note, here is my first attempt at a softie.  I made this little chap on the weekend out of a heavenly pure cashmere in a lovely marle blue/grey/oatmeal colour.  He's a rather wintery looking bear so I put a scarf on him.


And while I was at it, I made another hot water bottle cover.


I might have to put these into the range next winter.  I do love this little bear.  I also can't get enough of the lovely natural linen which sneaks into the Townmouse range here and there.


I rather like the fine stripe I found in my stash to trim the opening.