Previous month:
May 2008
Next month:
July 2008

June 2008

Three words together that cause a stir

Well I'm not sure what to expect this Thursday morning.  I've invited a reasonably large number of girls on my mailing list to an open studio morning where I will have the Townmouse winter range on sale as well as some lovely Italian cashmere at wholesale prices.  And those three words together - Italian + cashmere + wholesale - seem to create quite a stir.

Malagrida1 Through Will's Italian contacts his office was distributing this brand in Australia.  There is a small amount left which I am offering to my customers.  I'm rather excited about it, as it's really lovely stuff - the menswear particularly.  In my probably biased opinion the Italians do knitwear like no-one else can.  This brand is very classic and the colours are great.

Right now I have teetering towers of boxed knitwear in our front room.  My brother dropped in yesterday and picked up 5 pieces, my mother and father a couple each.  Will has been wearing one over the weekend.  My neighbours have also dropped in to raid the stash. 

Malagrida It's not that easy to prepare for a large number of customers during school holidays.  I've got a little bit of help on Wednesday in the shape of a nanny to entertain the boys and a visit from my clever housekeeper to do what I don't do well - keep house. 

We shall see what Thursday brings.

Winter solstice

Ten years ago today I was here.  (Photos from here and here.)

Margutta I remember it so clearly.  As Will and I enjoyed the longest day of the year sitting outside this little restaurant in Rome, back home in Melbourne it was the winter solstice.  We were heading home in a couple of days so I said to Will, "Savour this moment, because in a few days we'll be back at work and back to a Melbourne winter."

We ate the best risotto we'd ever had, taken with a glass of wine and the gentle northern hemisphere sunshine.  It definitely was a moment to remember.

Osteria margutta Via Margutta is a wonderful little spot in Rome.  Famous artists have had their studios here.  The cobbled street is dotted with artists studios today - sculptors, furniture restorers.  It really is very charming.  From memory I believe it was also the location of Gregory Peck's character's apartment in Roman Holiday.  Put it on your itinerary if you're lucky to be in Rome sometime.

Speaking of the winter solstice - Happy Birthday Jen.  I've always thought it curious that your birthday is in the dead of winter, when you're such a beach babe and lover of all things summery.  But on your birthday we are no longer heading away from last summer, we are heading towards next summer, which I know is a good thing.

Laundry bags

Earlier this week I had a call from a stylist that I have provided stock to in the past.  She wanted either a creche bag or laundry bag to photograph for a magazine article.

The laundry bag has been in my range for many years now.  I confess to finding it a very handy thing to have.  Mine lives in one of our overnight bags, so I never forget to take it away on weekends.  I love coming home from a weekend with the clean and dirty clothes already separated - it makes for a much better Monday.  I am rather tired of the denim however.

Linen laundry bag detail1

So when I received the product request it was all the motivation I needed to whip one up in some linen scraps.  It was a bit of a rush job though.  I even forgot to sew the pegs on!

Linen laundry bag detail  

I don't love it though.  The 'clothes line' is too heavy. I think I'll have a play around with either a gocco printed clothesline, or a fine chocolate wool embroidered chain-stitch.

Sewing for summer

Today I pulled out an old pattern from the Townmouse summer 2006/07 range and made a custom garment.

Flutter sleeve top

This little top in pretty Liberty is now winging its way to Europe with a few other goodies for a little girl currently enjoying a northern hemisphere summer.

Flutter sleeve top detail

This pattern gave me a lot of grief at the time I developed it.  The perfectionist in me demands that the flutter sleeves are just so.  If there's too much gather or stiffness in the sleeves they stick straight out and dominate the garment.  So Liberty is perfect to achieve a soft and flattering sleeve, but then Liberty is perfect for so many things. 

Summer07_home_main Here is how the pattern appeared in the summer range two years ago.  I love this little grey spot.  It worked well with the linen skirt.  Most of my little customers went for the top in the pink colourways (which is no surprise), but the grey was my favourite.

Open studio morning

Wednesday is open studio morning.  Customers arriving at the studio spy this basket of Frill Jeans which sits in the window.

Frill jeans

To keep me company between visitors I'm listening to the new Coldplay album.  You can preview it here.  I was enjoying it so much last night I stayed up until 2am.  It was quite a productive night.  Hopefully by the end of today I'll have some new creche bag options on the website.

At the kitchen bench

A lot of our family life takes place around the kitchen bench. 


Most nights we eat dinner together around the bench. 

Cupcakes Lately there have been many games of Uno there (the latest craze in our house).  Yesterday afternoon the boys looked on as I made cupcakes for school lunches - in the hope of licking the bowl. 


It's a nice big space to spread out on.  Today I've been catching up on some screenprinted tee and bodysuit orders.  So I've pulled out all the inks and screens and made a nice big mess in the kitchen.

Snowtree This tree is a new one I've tried for the first time this morning.  The image is traced from this book.

This little crane I wasn't sure about.  So I took two along to the Walnut sale the other week and they were some of the first to go.  On that basis I'll add them to the website.


All the gocco mess will be packed away before tonight as my brother is coming for dinner. 

Villarica Volcano He returned last week from a cycling trip around the Italian Alps with about 15 friends from Melbourne. He seems to like holidaying at altitude, having followed the Tour de France on a previous holiday, climbed a mountain in Italy last year, and done several climbs in South America a few years back.  He tells me the trip was pretty special so I'm looking forward to hearing more about it.  (He does my share of the exercise too!)

Easily distracted

While I should be sewing buttons on newly made coats I'm getting distracted by various things in my studio.

Vogue dress

This is one of many vintage patterns a friend gave me a few years ago.  This is my favourite.  I love this era of fashion, and I particularly love the colours and accessories in this little sketch.  I wouldn't mind stepping out in either pair of the shoes.

Like meditation

I have enjoyed a rare morning with my sewing machine today.  In the early days of my business I made everything myself and spent an endless number of hours in the company of my sewing machine.  It's what I love.  So I do enjoy getting back to it.  It's like meditation to me - while my hands are active my mind relaxes and I think things through.


I've been making up some summer samples.  This is the ruffle for a girl's frilled bikini.  I can't tell you how cute the little aqua-eyed model looked in this Liberty fabric when we photographed her back in April.  I won't be able to show you those images until Spring when I launch the summer collection.

Rolled hem foot When the bikini goes into production with my manufacturer in Melbourne the ruffle edges will be finished with a babylock stitch.  I do like the more subtle finish of the rolled hem my domestic machine achieves with this special purpose designed foot. 

Collar roll

There's a bit of patternmaking going on here -I am finalising a few summer styles.  While my mind is on patternmaking I wanted to share some thoughts on collars.

The collar is an important part of a garment, as it frames the face.  Just as you wouldn't hang beautiful art in a bad frame, you wouldn't want a top, dress or jacket finished with a poorly designed or constructed collar.  And as it is the piece of the garment closest to the face, it is the part of the garment people will look closely at.  To me, one thing that determines whether a collar works or not is the amount of roll in it.

A_coat_blue1 I'll try to explain by showing you this example.  See how the outer edge of the collar sits flat against the coat.  There is no flaring or scalloping around the outer edge; and yet there is a curve or roll to the collar piece from inner seam to outer seam that causes it to sit up from the garment.

Does that make sense?  Rather than a straight line from the inner seam to the outer seam of the collar, there is a gentle rolling curve.  There is probably a cm or two of air between the collar and the coat.

G_shirt_frill1 Here is another example (from my range about 5 years ago).  This collar to me is showing just a little too much roll.  It's sitting up a little too high around the neck, and would benefit from less roll.

To me it looks a little restricting and too uptight (if a collar can be uptight).

Collar example Here are a couple of examples of shirts from a lovely overseas brand.  I do like this brand, but I'd love to have my way with the collars.  They are just a bit flat or clown-like (ooh, that's harsh I know, I debated typing that, but it's what they remind me of).  There is a lot of fabric in them and they get a fluted or wavy finish to them, or the outer edge sits up from the shirt (as in the top example).  I guess it's a matter of personal preference and many people will prefer them this way.

Adjusting the collar pattern piece is easy.  You can change the amount of roll in the finished product.  If you want more roll you reduce the length of the collar's outer edge.  If you want less roll you increase the length of the collar's outer edge.  And here is how you do it.  (Click on the images to enlarge.)

Collar1 Trace your collar piece on to patternmaking paper (baking paper will do).  Make sure you mark the neck seam as you do not want the length of this to change because then it won't match the neck seam on your other pattern pieces.

Collar2 Make several cuts at right angels to the seams right up to the neck seam.  I made 6 in this case.  Make corresponding cuts in the seam allowance of the neck seam so you will be able to manipulate the paper more easily.

Collar3 To increase collar roll, overlap the segments of the collar at the outer seam.  Tape them into place.  I have overlapped them by only 1mm (times 6).  Use sticky tape to hold the segments in the new position.

Collar4 Trace the new shape onto a fresh piece of patternpaper.  Test the new collar piece in inexpensive fabric and drape it on a dressmaker's stand or real model to see if you like the look of it.  Continue the process until you get the desired effect.

Conversely, to decrease the amount of roll, fan out the segments so there is space between each one.   Hold in place with sticky tape and retrace it. 

Perfect points

Here's a very handy sewing tip I picked up at fashion school when we did a semester on coat construction.  This is a fail-safe way to get perfect corners or points on collars or any other part of a garment.  And now that I think of it, it would also be handy for getting the perfect point on a softie's nose or other extremity.

Points1 Pretend this triangle of fabric is a collar front and back.  Have some thread in a contrasting colour at the ready.  A heavier weight thread is probably better, or ordinary sewing thread doubled or doubled again (because you will be gently pulling on it later and wouldn't want it to break).

Points2 When you reach the corner of your collar, leave the needle in the down position, lift the machine foot and separate the layers of fabric.

Points3 Insert the contrasting thread between the two layers and push it up against the needle (which is in the down position).  Take one more stitch. When you take your next stitch you will catch the thread in your stitching.

Points4 Raise the machine foot once again, with the needle in the down position.  Take the length of thread on the right and bring it around in front of the needle and put it inside the collar piece.  Essentially the contrasting thread is now hooked around the machine's needle. 

Pull the thread away to the left so it is out of the way of your stitching.  Swing your work around to turn the corner and sew the other side of your collar piece.

Points5 You now have a loop of thread that is on the inside of  your (inside-out) collar piece.

Points6 Trim away the seam allowance for a sharper point.  Turn your work right side out.

Points7 Now you have a loop of thread at the point of your collar that you can tug on, to pull it right out to a perfect point.

Points8 Press the fabric pieces for a nice, sharp finish.  Trim one side of the contrasting thread and pull the other side through to detach the thread from your perfect collar point.  Nifty, no?

Have I explained this clearly?  Let me know if it doesn't make sense.