Previous month:
September 2007
Next month:
November 2007

October 2007

Happy All-Hallows Eve


If it weren't for the blogs I read, Halloween would probably have passed me by.  With all the talk and lovely inspiraton for Halloween celebrations we've decided to join in.  The boys are very excited.  Last night I had a play around with some pumpkins.  Tonight we will be ready to go.  We have a bowl of treats ready to hand out and we will have some orange balloons on our gate to let neighbours know that we are receiving ghouls and witches. 

Halloween is not big in Australia so it's slim pickings for those children who want to go trick or treating.  In our little corner of Melbourne those houses taking part mark their gate post with a Halloween decoration to draw the children.

Our middle son has a sugar intolerance so any treats he collects will quickly be confiscated - poor Tom.  So I think the giving out of treats at our door will be the fun part for the boys.

The dog ate my homework

My Melbourne manufacturer would be amusing if he wasn't so frustrating.  His way of dealing with clients when he hasn't met a deadline is to ignore all phone and text messages.  I'm sure he would have rattled out the above excuse at school a million times.

One of the things I did on the way to the aiport back in mid September was to drop patterns and fabric at his factory.  I was promised a three week turnaround.  When I started calling and texting a fortnight ago (in increasing frequency as the days went on) I got zero response.  So in my travels last week I dropped in on his factory.  He was standing out the front taking a call.  I felt like jumping out of the car and yelling, "Sprung bad!" or "Gotcha" or something equally immature to match his childish customer service approach.  He promised me they'd be ready tomorrow.  Yeah right!

It took me several years to realise that little hiccups like this are the norm, not the exception, when running a business.  Whether it's a manufacturer with a tardy approach to deadlines, or one who loses my patterns, I have to learn to deal with it.  At least I amply warned all my customers who had this item on pre-order that it could take a lot longer than anticipated.


After that little vent I think we need something pretty to look at.  This is from Amy Butler's new book, " Midwest Modern" which I picked up this morning.  I love this quilt - the mustard yellow is really fabulous.  Another project to add to the "To Do" list.

Inspired by clever crafters


Megan left a comment the other day that a photo she'd seen just made her want to go and sew something, then and there.  I can very much relate to what she says.  Blogs inspire me to do the same all the time.

When I saw Sally's post the other day I felt similarly inspired.  I wanted to get out my rotary cutter and make lovely squares of pieced colour as she so cleverly does.

I'm not that confident when it comes to putting multiple patterns and colours together.  It's something I really struggle with.  So my quilts tend to be largely white with nothing too bold in the way of patterned fabric.  I really admire the clever crafters who can pull amazing fabric combinations together.  (Teacher Trish Harper at Amitie is a great talent when it comes to this.)


I have a lot of fabric left over from garment production.  Most of it is Liberty.  For some reason, after this summer's production I got lots of cut strips back from my manufacturer.  So I've trimmed it into even narrower strips (of 1/2") and have made it into binding for the Twirl Skirts.  I've sorted the fabrics into Bright (pictured), Pastel (with mostly pinks) and Cool (with greens and blues).  When the binding is so narrow it's more about the colour than the print anyway, so I figured I'd save my customers the confusion of too many individual options and limit it to those 3. 

43 Cartons

Yikes!  Will's shipping manager has just informed me that I have 43 cartons of stock arriving from China.  That's nearly 500 kgs of garments.  I'm hyperventilating.

Until now I'd never thought about it but, yes, I guess what I ordered would add up to a lot of cartons.  Just as well Will's office has a large basement, as the little storage space I rent is not going to cope. 

These garments are long awaited.  I thought I'd have them by about May.  But I've realised that patience and perserverance is required when manufacturing off-shore - especially in China.  My first order from China was for girl's t-shirts about 3 or 4 years ago.  I first met with the import agent in October and it was about June before the garments were delivered to my door.  These new garments are about 10 months in the pipeline.

I'd better have a little sale; partly to clear some space for more boxes, and partly to pay for the shipping bill which I'm guessing will hurt.

Oh, and here's what I've been having fun with today. 


Branching out

Playing with screen printing has meant seeing new sources of inspiration everywhere.  From wallpaper in an interiors mag to scrapbooking paper, I'm on the lookout.

Since returning from Japan I have a head full of design ideas.  It's a bit of a sifting process - letting the ideas settle.  Hopefully they find their way out and manifest in a style that is Townmouse.   

Red_tree1_2 I get inspired by an original image that, by the time it's been played with, bears little resemblance to the finished design.  I liked the lonely apple swinging from the branch of this embroidery pattern.  I've also been drawn to images of birds, so I wanted a little feathered friend in there.


And then that emergency haberdashery dash I referred to yesterday?  That was to get one of these.  I love the apple green in this Liberty fabric, and just couldn't resist trimming this twirl skirt with it.


Snip snip

This morning I raced up to Spotlight (which fortunately is a 2 minute walk from home) to get some emergency haberdashery supplies.  As I was leaving a gentleman with a toolbox was also leaving the store.  "Are you the scissorman?", I asked.  He was.  I then asked him if he was willing to drop into my studio to attend to a much used collection of scissors.  He obilged.


I now have about 8 pair of razor sharp scissors, from thread cutters to this lovely pair. 

I only found out a few years ago that my paternal great-grandfather was a cloth merchant.  He sold lovely English tweeds and wool flannels to tailors around Melbourne.  These are his shears.  I've blogged recently about my seamstress grandmother.  My other grandmother (daughter of the cloth merchant) is also a handy dressmaker.  She has slim legs and at 94 still makes her own cigarette pants which she wears with twin sets or home-made blouses.

I also blogged a while back about the cutting shears passed down from one master tailor to another on Saville Row.  Well, I don't have any allusions about being a master at my trade, but I do love these little mementos from the past, and you can probably understand why that story struck a chord with me.  I like to think somehow that I'm getting a little crafty energy from my forebears when I slip my hand into the well-worn handle of those beautifully balanced scissors.

Oh, and while we're on the subject of scissors.  I've always remarked at how I love, love, love the sound of my grandmother's scissors (another favourite pair now in my keeping) cutting fabric on a wooden table.  It makes this wonderful crunching sound that gets to me like a favourite song.  And then, when I was pregnant with Max at uni and leaning against the cutting table using those same scissors, it dawned on me why I love that sound so much.  I have been hearing it since before I was born!  Mum has talked about how the nesting bug struck her in a crafty way when she was expecting me.  She spent many hours making cot sheets, edged towels, bibs and the like (with those same scissors) just before I was born.  So that sound has been a familiar part of my life from the womb to the present day.  Weird, no?

Dream house

This morning I went to the dentist.  I spent the better part of the day doing my quarterly tax statement, whilst trying to drink tea without dribbling from a numb mouth.  Not a great day.  I would rather be here:


This humble beach shack is currently for sale in the seaside town of Flinders.  Will and I went to the "open for inspection" out of curiosity.  One day we'd like to build a beach house on the Mornington Peninsula so we went along to be inspired.  That we were.

Today after several hours of filing, opening mail, paying bills and satisfying the tax man I can now see this again:


It's a letter tray I picked up in Venice.  It's from one of the oldest bookbinding shops in the city.  The hardest part was choosing the paper from the hundreds of options. 

RugI thought this one would work well with the rug in the entrance hall.  Our entrance hall is white walls and chocolate floors and furniture.  The letter tray sits on the oak dresser.  The orange brightens up the space.

A parcel at my door

I arrived home the other morning to find a parcel from France.  It was the stationery I ordered in the rue du Bac.


Anyone who reads this blog has probably realised that I have a thing for letters.  It pops up in various guises in the Townmouse range, as well as in the handcrafts I collect and make.

I've always loved the written word. 

Apparently, so Mum tells me, one day at kinder when we were doing a painting session and all the other children were drawing people (the heads on legs variety) I painted the alphabet.  Call it what you will (my mother calls it genius).  I'd call it unsociability; you see, other people terrified me at age 4.  I'm the introverted, thinking type if you like to follow the Myers Briggs stuff.  Introverts tend to like the written word over the spoken word.  And I don't really like talking on the telephone either.

Stationery1I've also always loved to write.  My primary school friend, Alex, and I were the first two girls in our junior school class to graduate to fountain pen because we had the neatest handwriting.

So my new stationery is just my thing.  I love the raised texture of the letters too - it just gives it that extra something.

Wool animals

Here's a craft book I picked up in Tokyo. 


I saw this one in most of the bookshops so I'm guessing it's a fairly recent release.  I bought the book for these two pages alone - my favourites:


And this one.  The expressions on their faces are just divine:


I'm not even going to pretend I'll ever get around to making these.  They're not stuffed animals, they're just wool tops wrapped around wire.  I'm most impressed but also a little overwhelmed by this technique.  The pictures are wonderfully inspiring though.

One of the early stages of wool processing is to turn the raw wool into tops which are these beautiful, soft, loose skeins of washed wool that you just want to put your hands in to.  This is what this material seems to be.  Will has bags of the stuff kicking around his office (he exports wool among other things) - perhaps I should get him to bring it home so I can turn it into baby seals.

I've put more images on flickr in a Japanese Craft Book set.

The wee small hours

I'm a night owl.  I love the wee small hours of the night when the house is quiet and I can potter in my studio.  Will can't understand why I stay up so late, get myself all tired and then struggle out of bed in the morning.  I find the night is the only time when I have an unlimited number of hours ahead of me.  I'm not limited by a child waking from a nap, school pick-ups.  When you take your "me time" in grabs of 10 minutes during the day, all those night hours are a luxury.


The other reason I love to work at night is because that's when I'm at my most creative.  That's when I find the zone and the ideas start coming.   

I've been experimenting with screen printing.  That embroidery bent I've been on of late has kind of filtered through to this medium.  The above design is inspired by my grandmother's sketches for embroidery.  I just had to see this through at midnight the other night.  So there I was, mixing paint in the middle of the night.  If I don't get it out of my systen then I just can't sleep.  I went to sleep quite happily after producing this.  Now I just have to figure out what to make out of it.

The tipping point

Bags_2I'm trying to find that elusive price point that turns my stream of creche bag orders into a trickle.  Inflation has been rife for this product.  Since mid last year the price has gone from $79 to $109, when most of my products have barely changed price at all or by no more than 10%.

But as my business grows I find I can't keep up with the custom-made items like I used to.  I do have a seamstress to help with the bag construction, but I'm too much the perfectionist to outsource the whole process.  And because they are not a garment as such, I have found experienced seamstresses don't really enjoy making them.

I'm feeling relieved to be on top of this week's orders.  They're now hanging from the doorknob waiting to be packed and shipped.

I've got some much more exciting stuff in development that I'm keen to share.  I've also got invitations to proof, events to organise, mailing lists to collate.  Alas, not a party - just more work related stuff.

Horses go moo, mouses miaow

On the weekend we were at a property on the Mornington Peninsula.  There were a couple of horses in the paddock there.  While we were chatting to the owner Henri yelled out, "Mummy I want to pat the cow."

Whilst it was awfully cute and made me giggle I immediately felt the pangs of guilt.  I obviously haven't spent enough time reading picture books to Henri and saying, "What's that animal?  What sound does it make?"

About a year ago a friend and I started a networking group that we refer to as the Women Entrepreneurs Group (or WEGs).  There are 5 of us - all working mums - and we get together for dinner every couple of months to workshop various business topics.  Proudly we boast one member who is current Young Entrepreneur of the Year for the states of Victoria and Tasmania, and hence is in the running for the national award. (Of course she couldn't have got there without us!)


We 5 all own our own businesses and love what we do.  As well as the camaraderie and friendship, we get a lot out of discussing issues that are common to all our varied businesses.  One particular discussion that kept us talking well into the night was "the work/life balance".  It's certainly not a new topic and is definitely one that has no easy solutions.  But it's the little reminders from your children that keep you striving for that elusive balance.

Oh, and Henri also refers to cats as mouses.  Said with a lisp it is ever so cute - I'm reluctant to correct him.