work and life

Crafter's block

I've been suffering from crafter's block.  All year really.  I don't know where my sewing mojo has gone. Maybe it's been sucked into the Pinterest abyss. Too much time spent looking at other people's creative output, leaving less time for my own creating.  I'm not sure what it is - the pressure to create something equally pretty; too many pretty things to choose from it's hard to know what project to choose.

When I look back at my industriousness of previous years I'm quite impressed. This year's mosaic won't be quite so large.  

Linen Yarn

Meanwhile, look at this pretty yarn.  It's a linen yarn from Quince and Co. It's quite dreamy to look at. I've been flicking through my Japanese crochet books for a little inspiration.

Crochet blanket

I came across this image.  Isn't this granny square blanket fabulous? I think it's the red that makes it so striking - a nice change from the white bordered ones.  I love the bobbly edging on it too.  It's from this book. Not sure how it helps me with my little ball of linen yarn though.  See, there I go, dithering. What to do, what to do?


Rearranging the studio

This week I had a giant clearance sale in my studio for my local customers.  It was one of those "at these prices I must grab 4" type sales.  It was so rewarding to see bulging bags of stock getting carried out of my house by happy customers.

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Look - lovely empty baskets.  At the start of the sale these were bulging with Twirl Skirts and Boy's Shirts.

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And these trays were overflowing with a mix of tees, summer dresses and Liberty tops.

You know how good it feels when you clean out your child's cupboard and send their old clothes to the thrift shop?  This sale felt good in that kind of way, but multiplied.  I moved about 300 units of stock.  Yippee.

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I now have empty drawers and more space to put things away. I've moved my quilt rack to the window.  Previously there were boxes of fabric and bags and bags of winter pyjamas there.

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I now have some speakers and my iPod in the studio so I've got favourite music on rotation to keep me company.

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But probably the most exciting thing in this space now is my new sewing cabinet.  Yes, it's extremely unattractive, but not quite as bad as the table that houses my industrial sewing machine (on the right).

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I haven't had a chance to play with it yet, as I've been busy organising stock for my sale.  So I can't wait for a quiet moment to sew at my new work space.  We are now at the start of three weeks of school holidays so I know I will have to be patient for that quiet time.

Maybe I should have titled this post "rearranging the house" because we've just been out and bought a new dining table with the earnings from my sale.  You can see our existing dining table here (I wish our house was that neat today).  The table and chairs are getting trashed by the children in their heavy school shoes. The surface of the table is uneven and makes doing homework on a bit tricky. Upholstered chairs are very impractical for little people who are so good at spilling their food. So we have bought this table, which is getting delivered tomorrow. To go with it we have found some very cheap versions of the classic Eames chair.  These chairs look good in so many different contexts.  I'm hoping they will look good in our dining space.

Now that I have sold much of the stock that was taking up space in the storage area off our garage we can store our good dining table and chairs there.  When we come to sell our house they will be brought out again and used to present my studio as the formal dining room.

Until then though, I'm enjoying my clutter free studio. (Oh, and the sale prices are now on the website for those further afield who want to grab some bargains.)


Real Estate Dreaming

We will be house hunting in earnest next year. We are 6 people living in a 3 bedroom house. I still love our house.  It's my dream house and I'd be happy to never leave.  But the reality is, it is getting a little tight.

I'm not really looking forward to the looking.  Our current house took us three years to find.  Will and I were at odds about what we wanted.  He didn't like our house on first viewing.  It took a lot of persuading to get him over the line.  

Towers Rd

If you don't put an upper price limit on your online real estate searching, houses like the one above pop up in the results. Isn't it picture perfect? And that's just the back of the house. Many would argue that it is the best house in Melbourne. It really is exceptionally pretty. Just a modest shack that will only set you back around $28 million. Go take a peak.

Kinkora Rd

But if I could have my pick of all the houses currently for sale in Melbourne, it would be this one. It's pretty, classic, understated.  It's in a great street, close to the tramline that takes the boys to school and a short walk to shops.  To me it's a no-brainer, a sensible and realistic move. I'd enlist the help of this clever woman, the mother of Max's school friend, to give the house a classic contemporary update. Do you think I can get Will remotely interested?  Nup, naddah, not a whiff of interest.

2012 will be an interesting year.


Kyoto, beautiful Kyoto

We've been back from Japan for a while now.  There's never a dull moment round here.  Life has been busy - too busy to blog.

So I've been reflecting back on our very restful few days in Japan. This trip included an overnight stay in Kyoto, as Will had a meeting in Osaka (that involved him unwillingly belting out "I did it my way" in a karaoke bar in front of the senior executives of his client firm.  Unfortunately I didn't get to witness this miraculous event.)

Kyoto

Through the hotel we hired bicycles.  We love exploring cities by bike.  It's the best way to cover a lot of ground, and yet you can stop when you want to, to pop inside a shop or whip out your camera.

Kyoto combi

Just for fun, here's another mobile food van.  Have you ever seen a cuter Mr Whippy?  Kyoto was a perfect mix of lovely gardens and temples, and interesting streets full of intriguing little shops.  Will post more about the shops over on Japan Craft Journal.


Mid life crisis or just very, very tired

I confess to feeling a bit out of sorts these last few months; just a bit and sometimes a lot meh, blah, unenthused. It's been a bit of a confusing time, trying to put my finger on just what it is that was making me feel this way. And you know what they say: "happy wife, happy life". Because I was feeling stressed and grumpy it rubbed off on the children and the whole thing just felt dysfunctional. My snappiness meant they were all tetchy. And Will, poor Will wasn't sure what was going on. His normally capable wife was losing the plot.

To cut a long story short, I waved the white flag and admitted I needed to do something. It wasn't just a holiday I needed. On the recommendation of a good girlfriend I booked myself into Gwinganna, an amazing health retreat in Queensland, where I did a week of detox.

Muesli

I got back last night and I feel fantastic. It's quite incredible what a week of organic food can do for one's mood, skin and overall vitality. It was a revelation. I met some gorgeous girls. We laughed and cried together. There were some amazing experiences and it was, as they say, lifechanging.

I have returned with a focus on staying healthy and getting my little family healthy.  The pantry is getting an overhaul and we're going organic.  By a fortunate stroke of serendipity, one of the first blog posts I read after returning to civilisation was Jane's.  She had a muesli recipe.  This morning I made my first ever batch of organic muesli.  I followed Jane's recipe, but added puffed quinoa.  It's delicious and the children love it.

Liberty

So there you go.  That's a little more than I would normally reveal on this little ol' blog. You probably weren't expecting that.

Now that I feel I've returned to my normal state of vim and vigour I have itchy fingers to get creative and productive again. With the lovely spring weather I can't wait to cut into some favourite Liberty.  A cute sundress for Adelaide is on the ToDo list.

Have you ever felt a bit blah?  What worked for you?


Big decisions

Two weeks ago I sent the following email to my mailing list:

Dear friends and customers,

After almost 10 years I have made the decision to wind up Townmouse. This little business has been a labour of love for me - something I've nurtured and watched grow alongside my children.

Though with 4 children now, life is extremely busy and I have decided to give my full attnetion to family for the time being. I want to find the time to sew for my own daughter before she's old enough to say, "Yuk Mummy, I'm not wearing THAT!" Which I'm sure is coming all too soon.

I will take away from Townmouse some wonderful friendships and fabulous experiences. It's been lovely to get to know customers over the years and now count many of you as dear friends.

There are still lots of classic Townmouse pieces in stock. But once they're gone, they're gone for good. So if there's a favourite piece you like, please go to the website and grab it.

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This was a decision I made over a year ago, and one that brewed for a while before that. So things have been winding down since then, as I've sold through my last ranges.

I originally started Townmouse because I loved making pretty dresses. So I sold them, in order to make them, if that makes sense. With the arrival of Adelaide though, a large part of my motivation for the business was satisfied at home. And last winter, while trying to get my summer range off to the manufacturers in the middle of school holidays I suddenly realised that things were all back to front.  

I was too busy creating clothes for other people's children to make the things I wanted to make for my own. I could see that I would kick myself in years to come having spent too much time in my sewing studio and not enough time enjoying my young children.

Winter04_contact_mainSo there you have it. Big news I guess. It's a decision I'm content with. When life is this busy you have to really love something to find the time for it. And I'd started to love it a little less.

I've been asked if I'm going to sell the business. No, I'm not. It was never about the money, and I'm too wedded to this little brand I have created. I don't want it to become someone else's, and for it to change into something I wouldn't be proud of. 

And besides, there's this little blog.  I will continue to blog - yes, definitely.  

When I sent the email above I didn't quite anticipate the response it would generate. I have been completely overwhelmed with orders.  The boys and I have been filling the post box near our house to the brim every night, and then taking the overflow of parcels down the road to the next post box.  It's been a little stressful but I'm getting there.  So until I clear the backlog of orders there won't be much happening here.  

In future expect to see more one-off creations. Looking back over my archives though, there are a few items there I'd like to make again.  

As always, lots to do, so little time.


A breather

Since the boys went back to school at the beginning of February I feel I haven't had a moment to spare.  I don't think I have sat still for more than 30 minutes.

Coat

So it was an absolute delight today to get on the plane, headed for Paris.  I'm now in transit in Singapore.  It was heaven to sit in one place - where I promptly watched three films in a row.  Hereafter: enjoyable; Love and Other Drugs: not so; The King's Speech: Outstanding.  For the next leg of the trip I'll catch Black Swan.

Coat profile

I'm looking forward to real cold, so I can wear my new coat.  When I spotted this coat in a Sydney store in November I wanted to squeal with delight, I loved it so.  Always a sucker for a beautiful natural fibre, this coat had me swooning.  And look at those diagonal seam details - heaven.

Having such a bright coat makes the rest of my packing very simple.  I'm sticking to black and grey and I've packed light.  Ballet flats and boots, a pair of boots for the snow and I'm all set.

Packing for Paris

I've even put a block from my current applique project in my luggage.  A little apres-ski hand sewing will be just the ticket.


Island inhabitants

Being on Three Hummock Island is all about being immersed in nature.  The wildlife comes to the back door - literally.

Roos

These kangaroos are very relaxed around us, as they've never had any reason to fear the few humans who visit the island.  It means we wander within a few metres of them.

Tandem grazing

How cute is this: tandem grazing.  See the joey in the pouch?  This was taken through the homestead living room window.

A short boat ride found us amongst the dolphins.

Dolphins

At one point 4 or 5 of them were jumping out of the water just under the bow of the boat.

Dolphin spotting

This place is paradise for young boys.


Perfect island getaway

Tomorrow is the day our whole family has been eagerly anticipating.  We are heading down to Three Hummock Island off the coast of Tasmania.

This year we are staying there for 10 days - our longest visit yet.  We have been looking forward to this since we were last there over Easter.

Golden Beach

I have been very busy organising travel itineraries for friends who will join us.  We have four groups of friends who will fly in for a few days each to stay with us.  By coordinating flights we can fly from Melbourne to the island at much the same price as a discount airline fare to Tasmania.

Every three days or so a plane will come in with one group, and depart with another.  Meanwhile we'll be busy in the homestead changing bedlinen and catering for our guests.

One friend has just sent a text to say she's thinking of organising an island 'Survivor style' treasure hunt with hidden immunity idols, clues and physical challenges for the adults and children to participate in.  Sounds like fun.  The boys will absolutely love that.

In preparation, today was a cooking marathon.  I have made:

  • mayonnaise
  • béarnaise
  • tuna dip
  • bolognese
  • Jamie Oliver's meatballs
  • ANZAC slice
  • chocolate brownie
  • meringues (or 'remangs' as Henri calls them)
  • a topping for fruit crumble
  • several marinades and sauces

I don't think we'll starve.

Bread

And a first for me - I've baked a few loaves of bread this year.  This is a Tuscan style breadmix that has a wonderful crunchy crust.  As soon as it was out of the oven I had that end piece covered in lashings of butter.  Yumm.  The boys have been devouring it hot from the oven after morning sessions at Little Nippers.


The best mail

I arrived home this morning to find this:

Good mail

See that.  Yes, on top of the letterbox.  The very best kind of mail.  We have a night in tonight, so I'll be on the sofa absorbing some lovely images from a few new Japanese craft books.  When I find some time I'll scan some images to share with you.

Wreath

For now I'm madly packing orders.  While looking for stock in our storage room I spotted our Christmas wreath tucked away.  Now it is on our front door, reminding me that I only have a few weeks left of madness on the work front.


Mathilda's Market Melbourne

Townmouse will be at Mathilda's Market in Melbourne this Sunday.

Mathildas 
There are over 120 stalls at this, their biggest market to date.

I am looking forward to this market.  I have roped in a friend to help me, as last time I was a little swamped.  She's not too happy about the 7.30am start, but on the bright side she will get to peruse the stalls bright and early!

This market is going to be a busy one, and with all the lovely goodies on offer, I can see why.

Townmouse will be on sale tomorrow, while stock lasts.