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February 2008

Craft inspired

Since receiving one of these beautiful pendant necklaces from Will at Christmas Necklace_3 time I have been an admirer of the artist Yuri Fujiyama.

She takes her inspiration from sashiko embroidery.  No wonder I like it so much.

When it comes to choosing presents Will is very clever.  I love this gift and have worn it nearly every day since Christmas.

A sign

Back in the time I had a corporate job doing business development for a law firm (yes it was as dull as it sounds)
I remember sitting in a cafe in Little Collins Street willing my lunch break to stretch a little longer.  I looked up and through the window of a first floor workroom opposite I spotted a man threading a sewing machine.


I remember at the time thinking how lucky he was to spend his day doing that.  Even though I hate threading sewing machines and find it about one of the most mundane aspects of sewing (although threading a 4 thread overlocker is worse) at the time it appealed to me more than the job I was doing.


To borrow one of Oprah's expressions, it was a "lightbulb moment"; one of a few I had that helped me follow a new direction  - working with textiles, not lawyers. 


Now that I get to spend my days surrounded by thread and fabric and patterns I am very happy that I followed the signs that life was sending me.

French curves

It sounds like a rather saucy title, but French curves are simply indispensible patternmaking tools that allow you to draft the perfect armhole, collar or (in the case of the larger one in the background) hip seam.  They really make the patternmaker's job that much easier.


These are my treasured patternmaking tools - various french curves, a straight ruler for applying a 1cm seam allowance, tracing wheel from my grandmother's supplies, dressmaker's awl (the spike used for marking drill holes) and a notch marker (that marks darts or seam lines on patterns).


It's that time of year where I put all fabric aside and drag out my patternmaking card and set to work creating new patterns from tried and true pattern blocks.

If you've never worked with patterns on card before, it's like stepping into the light after working with tissue patterns.  You can get an amazing degree of accuracy that I never seemed to get with store bought patterns.


Today I'm taking a box pleat skirt pattern and changing it a bit for my next range. 


Will has a distant great aunt with a pretty garden.  As a child he spent his summers visiting the garden and playing there with his third cousins.  Visiting it now as an adult he comments on how it seemed so much bigger back then.


Today we were back there, as the garden was open to the public to raise money for a children's charity.  Townmouse had a stall there and the boys came too.


We enjoyed exploring its many pathways together.  It really is a wonderland.  One of my favourite parts is the beautiful stone stable.  No longer used to house horses, it is now cleared out and in immaculate condition.  This is the door between horse stalls.  I love this detail.


Master craftswoman

This afternoon I dropped into the Australasian Quilt Convention in Melbourne.


I always love seeing beautiful quilts on display.  This was possibly one of the best selections I've seen at any quilt show in Australia.  Particularly, I fell in love with all the quilts by one very talented quilter, Judy Day.


This is the sort of quilting I really admire (and aspire to).  The stitching is perfect and very small.  The applique and choice of fabrics is so very clever.


They are all prize winning quilts, some at an international level.


I've posted some more photos on flickr.

Fabric sleuthing

Yesterday I spent an enjoyable couple of hours fossicking around some of Melbourne's interior furnishing and fabric stores in the company of a very talented decorator.  It's all part of the sitting room project - to have it furnished and ready for use by winter (only 4 years after moving into our house!!).  We unearthed some treasures in the form of utterly sublime fabrics from my favourite Italian brand, Loro Piana.


The marle look fabric is a cashmere, silk, linen blend for curtains.  I've never been more excited about a fabric.  Then the windowpane check might go on an ottoman.  The silvery card is a wallpaper sample.  I will be ensuring that any leftover fabric scraps come back to me for my stash.

The combination is all rather subtle.  Some interesting textures and accents will be needed to lift it.  Right now I've got a lot of junk in there to find a new home for before some rugs arrive on Friday for a little try.

The view from my workstation

Each year for the last 5 I have had the Townmouse range photographed on children by a professional photographer.  The shoots are all very low key with minimal lighting or props; we just make do with the surrounds.

I'm very lucky in that I have some beautiful photos of our three boys as a result.  I am able to capture their changing faces from year to year (in clothes I like to see them dressed in).  Recently I had my 3 favourite photos enlarged and put onto canvas.


Yesterday we finally got round to drilling some holes in the wall and banging some nails in.  For a while we wondered what to do with this white wall above the comptoir in my studio.  We tried a lovely piece of aboriginal art there, but the earthy, desert tones just didn't look right sitting next to rolls of delicate pink floral fabrics.


These canvases I think are appropriate given the use of the room.  They seem a little large to me right now.  Interior design leaves me rather flumoxed.  I'm better at things on a small scale - hence the attraction to children's wear.  I never know how high to hang a picture and what the right size is.  But I love these photos.  I'll never tire of them. I'm enjoying sitting here staring at them right now as I type. 

Unexpectedly perfect

We have just had a perfect weekend - unexpectedly so.  Will had management training with 4 members of his team on Friday at a conference retreat called Stonelea.  It's 2 hours north east of Melbourne.  Families were invited to join them for dinner and stay overnight.

I had fogotten what a beautiful part of the country this area is.  It is so green and lush, with beautiful big trees everywhere.


I picked the boys up from school and drove straight there.  We arrived in time for a pre dinner swim, before a BBQ on the lawn.  Here's Henri heading out for a pre-dinner stroll.


The next morning Max and I went horseriding (Max's first time and he loved it).  Then we spent a lazy afternoon around a beautiful pool.

We left late Saturday afternoon and decided to stop for dinner with another family on the way back.  We stumbled upon a fantastic wine bar/cafe called Innocent Bystander in Healesville.


It was big and noisy - a great place to take 8 children.  A sign above the bar read, "Unattended children will be given double espresso and made wild promises about what Santa is bringing them." 


We had a great meal and then adjourned across the road to a lovely park.  It was the perfect February evening - warm and dry - the sort of weather that makes you want to stay out all night.  Families were enjoying picnic dinners under the trees.  It was perfect.



As a little girl I had two favourite books.  One was called My Donkey Benjamin. 


It was a story book with lovely black and white photographs about a little girl who lives on a Greek island.  She finds a donkey she names Benjamin.  Later they get lost together and then he leads her home.


The book intrigued me because the landscape and the girl's home were so different to anything I'd ever experienced.


As a result I've always been rather fond of donkeys and I had several soft toy donkeys growing up. 

So when I bought the Softies book a few months ago it was the donkey that I wanted to make first.


This is Benji. I didn't have the black and white felt to give him proper eyes.  First I tried tortoise shell buttons but he looked a bit manic.  I got lazy and just did crosses for eyes.  Not perfect but at least he doesn't look scary any more.

The perfect breakfast

I love breakfast.  It's my favourite meal of the day.  Strong Russian Caravan tea and toast.  The best thing about breakfast today is no Playschool in the background, no little voices asking for food - I have the house to myself.


I'm happy as can be catching up on some favourite blogs at the kitchen bench before I head into the studio.  It's great to be back to school term time and have some balance back to life - some me time/crafting time during the day to keep me sane.


Tom turns 6 today.  He happily went to school juggling a big box of chocolate crackles (formerly known as fwoklat fwackles) to share with his classmates.



When Tom was younger his attempts at saying giraffe came out as fwarf

Giraffe2_5His teacher last year suggested he have some speech therapy so he could conquer the consonant "L" (Lego was still weggo, etc).  I must confess I rather enjoyed his funny pronunciations and, as I expected, he all too soon grew out of it.

These adorable giraffe illustrations are from a Japanese stationery set that a friend gave me a few years ago.

I've been playing around with fabric scraps and new applique motifs.  Inspired by these cute fwarfs, I think I'll add some leggy creatures to the selection.  Mine are not nearly as cute as the illustrations, but they are a good gift option for girls and boys alike.