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August 2007
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October 2007

September 2007

Beautiful linen

Will's uncle's apartment in Venice has the most beautiful collection of linen.  The hand towels in the bathroom, the napkins used for breakfast and dinner, the tablecloth on the dining table, the scatter cushions on the sofa - it is all the best I've ever seen.

It all came from a local Venetian friend of Will's aunt.  She has a little shop in Venice that, alas, was closed the weekend we were there.  Will's aunt is developing a line of bedlinen with her and is currently sourcing fabric, collecting samples, and working through the ways and means.  This is a subject close to my heart so we chatted quite a bit about it.  And when I was in Japan I was on the lookout for books with applicable images and ideas for her.

Cifre4

I've just spent a couple of hours scanning in some of my favourite images from my collection of books I've gathered over the last 15 years or so.  I have an Italian book in particular that has the most incredible examples of embroidery I've ever seen (like this one).  The book is written in Italian and is long out of print. 

On Monday I'll be back to the post office to send a little parcel to Venice that contains a Japanese craft book, a disk of images and a list of ISBN numbers.  The sort of mail I'd be happy to receive.


New knits

It's school holidays.  This morning I headed out with the boys to the local shops for sushi and to stock up on stamps at the post office.  I seem to be forever at the post office.

Tom_cardiganIt's a cold day so the three boys each wore their beautiful new European knitwear.  Their new attire is all a bit oversized because I bought it to fit next winter (ie, June - August '08).  But I couldn't resist seeing them in it.   My favourite is this one I bought for Tom - pure cashmere and oh so soft.  It looks very cute with a Townmouse shirt under it and the top button open.

One of the many projects Will has on the go at the moment (that was the subject of a few meetings in Italy and France) is a men's knitwear range made in Italy.  His uncle (the one who lives in Venice) brought the samples to Paris.  I flipped over them.   The colours, the styles, the quality - it was all mind blowing.  The Italians certainly nail it when it comes to style.  I put it right up there with John Smedley.

I immediately expressed interest in the possibility of getting some children's sizes.  Although the contact Will is sourcing from doesn't do children's wear, they have connections who do, and those details are going to be passed on to me.  And with my sample buying in Paris, I have a few lovely inspiration points for styles already.


Pretty and demure

While in Japan I was most interested in the dress style of Japanese women.  For the overwhelming majority I think they dress in a more feminine and pretty way than women in other countries I've travelled to.  I saw lots of pretty dresses and skirts, worn with demure tops in lovely fabrics.

Trade_sketches10Many of the details on their garments are well suited to children's wear.  So I enjoyed making mental notes and little garment sketches whilst sitting on the train or resting my weary legs in a cafe.

Simple things like the trim on a neckline, the way a sleeve is finished - all are great inspiration.

And all the Japanese women are so slim and petite - they wear their clothes well.  I felt positively large (I'm a size 10 or US 8).  Anything I tried on had to be in the largest size and was usually inches too short.  I did manage to pick up one sweet dress that only just fits me.  I like the design details of the gathered front, collar and sleeves.  I may well adapt it for Townmouse down the line.

Ebisu_dress_2

   


Tokyo flat-out

On our last day in Tokyo I raced from one side of the city to the other, following bloggers tips on where to go.  While Will worked in the hotel room I jumped on trains and went to Shinzi Katoh in Ikebukuro. 

Shinzi_katoh1

Thank you to Moving Hands for this great tip.  It was a bit of a hike to get there (two trains and about 40 minutes travelling from Roppongi) but well worth the visit.  I went a bit crazy with the bags.  I couldn't decide which one I liked so I bought about 6.  I'm not sure that my non-crafty friends will appreciate them as much as I do so they may not make the grade as Christmas/birthday presents.  I might have to offer them for sale on the blog once I've taken in their lovely designs.  I also got the boys a cute drink bottle each.

Stack1Then I jumped back on the train to Shinjuku where I went to the Okadaya department store that Corrie said was one of her favourites.  Their book section on the 10th floor was fantastic and I picked up another 6 or so books.

For some reason I couldn't find the softie books amongst the craft section.  They were either sold out or indexed separately.  I was running so late to meet Will that I had no time to ask.

Will and I went to the rather upmarket shopping complex that our hotel was part of for a quick bite to eat.  We had simple Vietnamese soup in the food hall that was so fresh, quick and good.  That's how all fast food should be.  Every meal we ate in Japan was outstanding.

The night before - our last night in Tokyo - we had the most wonderful Tempura meal in the hotel restaurant (on the 45th floor with views over the city).  Our waitress, when she realised we were Australian, told us how much she loved her year studying English in Sydney (and that she put on 7 kilos after discovering Tim Tams).  I sought her advice on where to go in Tokyo to find smaller independent shops.  We'd had enough of Louis Vuitton and designer brands and wanted to find things unique to Japan.  She recommended a couple of areas.

Isbn_4391621924_coverOne of the books that I picked up that morning had some pictures of cute shops - the sort I was trying to find.  I asked the girl at Concierge if she could tell me where to go to find that sort of thing and she directed me to Daikanyama and Ebisu, which is near to one of the areas our waitress had recommended.

So that's where I headed in my last two hours in Tokyo while Will had a meeting with his 'man in Japan'.  Ebisu is just two stops from Rappongi on the Hibiya line and the cute shops start just near the station.  I've posted a map on Flickr for anyone wanting to find their way there.

By the time we got to the airport at 8pm I felt like I'd run the marathon.  I jumped in the shower at the JAL lounge so when I got on the plane I felt human again.  And with a mountain of craft books in my carry-on luggage I had lots of reading material for the trip home!


Home again

It's good to be home.  This is what greeted us at the airport this morning - times three.

Happy_max_2Three big smiles on happy boys.  Ooh it was good to cuddle my babies again.  Will and I were counting down the hours on the plane.  I don't know how he goes away all the time.

Both my shoulders are nearly dislocated from carrying all the extra baggage through three airports (Tokyo, Sydney, Melbourne).  I have brought home so much Japanese cuteness so I have lots to blog about in the weeks ahead.  Will just raised his eyebrows each time I returned to the hotel with another pile of books.  I'm feeling so inspired with many new projects running through my brain.


Tokyo

This place is so good I could just squeal with delight.

Palace_gardens6

After the rudeness of Parisian waiters we are loving the politeness of the Japanese.  The hotel staff are so helpful it makes me giggle.  The Japanese are such a civilised society.  There is no graffiti anywhere, no tooting of car horns.  The streets and gutters are spotless.  It amazes me at every turn.  (The heated toilet seat in our hotel bathroom is also a source of great curiosity.  If you press a button it seconds as a bidet - but I have not been game to try it.)

Today is the first day of our trip I have had Will all to myself.  We will head out for a meal together tonight as a couple.  This will be a nice change after dining with Italians, French, Germans, Japanese and sitting through conversations about yarn, textiles, wool combing, garment factories, etc.  Not that I have minded - it has all been very interesting.

This morning and yesterday afternoon we braved the Tokyo subway.  I found my way to some shops recommended by other craft bloggers.  Thanks to Corrie I found Tokyu Hands and Kinokuniya.  Will left me at Kinokuniya yesterday afternoon and I came home with this little stash of books.  There are quite a few in this pile that I haven't seen mentioned on blogs so I'll look forward to scanning in some pages and sharing them with you when I return home.

Books

This afternoon we went to Ginza.  We enjoyed wandering through the 7 floors of the Hermes store.  I think it's bigger than the Paris store.  We couldn't get over how busy it was.  The Japanese certainly love their designer labels.  They probably thought I was a street urchin with my homemade bag.

Again, Will left me at Ito-ya when I said I wanted to spend at least an hour there.  I bought so many cute little notepads and other stationery nick-nacks.  It's all so divine and great inspiration for appliques. 

Notecards

Expect to see squirrells, snails, dogs, rabbits and cats on Townmouse t-shirts soon.


Aurora

I saw the Northern Lights.

While travelling between London and Tokyo last night I was about to lie down and go to sleep when I saw a really strange light out my window.  I asked the stewardess if it was the Northern Lights and she confirmed it was.  No-one else was awake in my cabin so she and I shared the moment.

It was amazing.  I was so excited.  We flew right through it and it lasted for at least an hour.  I had to keep checking that it was really happening.  I never expected to see such a fascinating sight.  It looked like beautifully lit icicles hanging in the sky in big snaking patterns.

We are now in Tokyo in a beautiful hotel.  We're jetlagged but I'm so excited to be here I couldn't sleep if I tried.  We're about to go out exploring.  There is a very helpful concierge desk here so I've already got directions to Tokyu Hands and Kinokuniya.


In Theory

PantsI had heard and read about the clothing brand Theory, specifically that they make pants in the perfect cut.  So when I happened upon their Paris store, curiosity got the better of me.  I had to find out for myself if the pants were really that good.

Well I'm happy to say they are.  I usually hate myself in pants and wear them infrequently.  But I tried on a charcoal wool pair in a cut the shop assistant thought would suit me and I loved them.

She pinned them where they needed taking in and I came back the next evening to pick up my altered pants.

When I showed Will he knew all about the brand and where they source their fabric (Zegna).  It's a little strange when your husband knows more about fashion than you do. 


If I ...

If I were to ever have a shop for Townmouse I would want it to look something like this:

Shop_front

I saw this shop to rent in a rather nondescript street in Paris.  I think it would be perfect for displaying children's clothes.  Even the colour - a pretty duck egg blue - is perfect.  A retail shop is not in my plans, but when I see a little shop like this I can't help but imagine.

Last night we had dinner with a Melbourne fabric designer who now lives in London.  She is consulting to Will's business and also works closely with Nino Cerruti, working with him in putting the Cerruti fabric collection together.  Before she began work with Cerruti she worked with a fashion forecasting firm in Paris for several years.  Now that sounds like an interesting career path.  She is fascinating to talk to and has a great insider knowledge of the fashion industry.  I got a few tips from her today on what to look at when scouting around Premiere Vision.

SwatchesThe fabric fair was completely overwhelming.  Talk about being spoiled for choice.  Some of my favourites were the Italian and Scottish firms that make beautiful wool and cashmere fabrics in heavenly colours.  They had some interesting ways of displaying the ranges too.

It's a little hard to tell in a photograph, but these dresses and jacket are actually in fifth scale - tiny little garments hanging on small hangers as a way of displaying the fabric.  Inside the booth of this supplier there was a whole clothing rack of miniature garments.  They looked charming.

Fifth_scale


Parfait

I have very much enjoyed reaquainting myself with Paris.  The French do so many things to perfection.  I strolled back to the hotel this evening through the Jardin du Luxembourg, taking in the beauty of that wonderful garden.  Even the garden chairs are the perfect shade of green.

Jardin_du_luxembourg1

I have walked many miles in the last two days.  The boys have benefitted from my "sample buying".  I am taking home several lovely cashmere jumpers in small sizes.

And staying true to form I couldn't help making a few stationery purchases.  I have stocked up on the lovely G.Lalo notecards and also ordered some engraved monogrammed stationery in the rue du Bac.  My initials in the perfect shade of blue-grey on crisp white velum.  In 15 days they will be on their way to Australie.

Alphabet_animaux

In rue Jacob - one of my favourite streets - I spotted this curious window display of an antique book seller.

Bicycle

Paris has recently installed these public bicycles.  All over the city are parking bays with public bicycles attached.  Your put in your credit card and release the bicycle.  You then peddle to wherever you want to go and leave it at your destination.  I've seen many people riding these distinctive modes of transport around town.  This parking bay was just outside the Diane von Furstenberg shop on rue des Saints Peres where I couldn't resist a tafetta party dress.  It's not something that was on my shopping list, but when something fits as though it were made for you how do you say no?


The softest softies

Yesterday, after a night in Milan, we headed to Biella where Will has an office.  While he had lunch with his office team, I passed a very pleasant hour visiting the factory stores of some of my favourite brands.  Specifically, I had a divine time trying on heavenly clothes at Loro Piana.  This brand uses fabrics of unbelievable quality and softness.  To a fabric junky like me this shop is a very calming place indeed.

Loro_piana

As well as a huge area dedicated to finished garments, they had this section of cut fabrics.  I thought of all the clever bloggers who make softies.  Oh how you would love to see and touch these fabrics.  Little monkeys, cats and bears out of these would be sublime.  The photo just doesn't do the fabrics justice.


An extraordinary weekend

As far as travel experiences go, they don't get much better than the weekend we've just had.  This is the view we woke up to.

Early_morning_3

After breakfast Will and I took a little put-put boat out with Will's uncle.  We toured around the little back canals and got a different perspective on the city.

View_from_the_water

We were all invited for a drink before lunch at the home of a Venitian man whose family has lived in the city for many generations.  His terrace has arguably the best view in the whole city.  You can see the Rialto bridge in the background.

View_from_the_terrace2

Our host is passionate about his beloved city.  Understandably he is concered about climate change.  He now spends much of his time delivering Al Gore's message on global warming.