Sunday, January 31, 2010

Tea Cosy, specimen 10

Here is the tea cosy I made for my sister-in-law A for her birthday last year, photographed in her kitchen amongst some of her adorable knick-knacks.  She has their house full of beautiful things, so wherever you look is yet another beautiful vignette of lovely objects arranged just so.  I think if she chose she could have been an interior designer, or a photographic stylist as she really has the "eye".  I chose these warm earthy colours for her cosy as they are very indicative of her warm, earthy personality; she has a big heart and a caring, friendly demeanour that impels people to warm to her immediately.  The pattern is a Roly Poly, from the book "Wild Tea Cosies" by Loani Prior.
The little blue milk jug at the back is also made by a family member, but I'm not sure now which one.  My father, my aunt and my brother have all made beautiful pottery pieces, which are treasured by all of us, so it is the work of one of them, must make it my mission to find out.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Inspired by nature; gold and aqua

At this time of year the sky is this intense ultramarine blue and the grasses are dryly yellowing until they are crackling underfoot, as always the landscape is everlastingly fascinating.  Nature has a perfection in her colour palette that is daily an inspiration, those of us drawn to colour and its myriad changing faces in the shifting path of the sun are compelled to express themselves somehow, for some it is in the medium of paint on canvas, for me in my insatiable love of clothes, I choose to do this through my apparel.
These garments I've worn before in other combinations, but when I put on this intense lime top with my golden silk skirt and my newly made silk chiffon scarf; this bright yet somehow relaxed palette made me wonder why on earth I hadn't thought of it before...
When I first made this top, on a whim, I felt a little intimidated by its brightness, and only wore it sparingly and with safe neutrals such as white, lately I'm feeling more adventurous and wanting to pull it out more and more.
This magnificent gum tree must have seen a fire in its day, with its old battle scars of charred bark still visible; my daughter and I ventured into the bush to take these photos and when I minded her to look out for snakes she took two photos then turned and marched straight out....  Perhaps she's the sensible one and I've got too much my head in the clouds contemplating the beauty of nature....  but I didn't see any snakes!

Top; NewLook 6252, green linen
Skirt Davida, second hand shop
Scarf, turquoise silk chiffon, made by me
Sandals; la soffitadi Gilda
Bag; Gucci

Friday, January 29, 2010

Wardrobe Refashion, project 4

When I saw this skirt in an op shop I think I just saw "white" and "kind of lacy" and grabbed it thinking yeah!  But on getting it home I had second thoughts about the applique-y pattern on the net overlay; it was too geometric and ordered, or something, anyhow just not pleasing to my eye.  I love white and lacy, but I think I like an element of deconstruction, too.  I decided I could get a skirt and a top out of it, as it was quite a long skirt, with godets sewn in all round.  It also had a nice white voile underlay, soft and worn-in from washings over the years and I planned to make use of this too.
The waistband of my new skirt is the original waistband, with the original zip and button closure, but I re-arranged it so the voile underlay was the outside layer and the original net top part of the skirt was now a petticoat.  I also added an extra overskirt of some of the voile, which is wrapped over the front and has its own button closure on the opposite side.
From the lower part of the net overskirt I cut the front and back and two sleeves of the top and fitted them to Bessie, aiming for a kind of loose "stand-uppy" neckline, which I edged with bias tape made from some more of the leftover voile underskirt.
I also, and this was fun, attacked the applique, snipping portions of the sewn-on fabric to try to break up the geometry of the original print and introduce a bit more randomness and unpredictability to the design.  I think the applique is now much improved!
The sleeves, hmmm, the sleeves were an entire disaster story on their own; I planned to remove the applique entirely from the net for the sleeves.  I proceeded to unpick all the stitching and applique from the sleeve pieces.  It. Took. Hours.  When I finally finished, a few Top Gears, Man vs Wilds, Wallanders and various foreign films later, I sewed up the sleeves and the top, and was finished?  Threw it on for a look in the mirror..... well, dear reader, my hard-labour sleeves actually looked awful.  Because I had cut them from the bottom of the skirt, where all the godets were, and of course, what do godets have, yes, seams.  The new de-appliqued sleeves had overlocked seams running across and through, and, whilst I like randomness in fashion design, embrace it even, this time it just didn't cut it.  The sleeves let the whole thing down and had to go.  But I had my heart set on sleeves now!  So I turned to my stack of leftovers and found a little bit of net from a previous project of which I managed to get out some new sleeves; final result, much cleaner and a better foil to the raggedy randomness which is already there in the main body of the top.  Much better.
Apart from the sleeves, it's all from the old skirt, this pleases my sad passion for minimal wastage.  I'm pretty happy with the final look of my new outfit too, of course I do have a real weakness for white garments!!  But, can you ever have too many white clothes?  (pleading pathetically)  Reassuring myself, of course not, there's always the dye-bath if I feel the need of a change...  But I like it just how it is for now.

Top and skirt; refashioned from old skirt, own design
Grey camisole; Country Road
Belt; op shop
Shoes; Marco Santini, from Marie Claire

Thursday, January 28, 2010

To dryclean or not to dryclean, that is the question

On the weekend I wore this to a wedding reception...
(sorry, didn't get a picture with my hair up and my make-up all done, this is the old photo from when I blogged about it previously and I did look more glamourous on the night!)
and my husband and I danced up a storm on the dance-floor afterwards.  When I got home I laid the dress aside in the laundry, thinking without thinking (if that makes any sense at all) I would drop it in at the dry-cleaners the next day.
But then I recalled a conversation I had a few months ago with a friend who, along with her husband, used to run a dry-cleaning business.  She was telling me how dry-cleaners charged a fortune for evening dresses because of the difficulty involved and the high risk of ruining them, how the chemical process was actually damaging to delicates such as silk and actually shortened their life, and how you are far better off washing them yourselves at home.   Hmmm.  Food for thought.
After all, garments have survived for centuries without dry-cleaning, the magnificent silken and bejewelled gowns of Elizabethan times were, yes, tended and handwashed without the use of chemicals, just good old-fashioned soap, water, air-drying and a hot iron...  That's when they were washed at all, possibly once or twice in their lifetime! or so I've read!  Even so... centuries later why have we complicated our laundering process, and is it really necessary?
The cleaning instructions provided with most clothing, and how manufacturers often put "Dry Clean Only" on their care labels, are (I think) a kind of fall-back, fail-safe, laundry-guide-for-dummies, kind of attitude.  Some labels are quite mystifying.  I have a skirt, bought in quite an expensive boutique many years ago, which has on its label, hilariously, "Do Not Wash" and "Not Suitable for Dry Cleaning"!  What the.....?!  (For interest, I have always just tossed it in the washing machine on a cold cycle, with no dire outcomes)
So, I looked at my evening dress, and decided to wash it myself.  This was easy; light swirling in a laundry bucket, thorough rinsing, blah blah, hung out to dry on its hanger with pegs on the straps so I wouldn't come out later and see it adorning a neighbour's tree... The difficult part, obviously, was going to be in the ironing of it.  I didn't include a picture of it before ironing, you're just going to have to take my work for it that it was veeeeery crinkled....  I consider myself a reasonable iron-ess (whatever), but this dress has a multitude of  swirly bits, and an awkward gathered/folded bodice on a formfitting underlining...tricky stuff in the ironing department.  However, I recently bought a ham from Spotlight for the purpose of making my life much easier in shirtmaking for my husband.  And should come in handy pressing my own jackets and my trenchcoat (if it ever cools down enough for me to wear it); the pressing of the sleeves once set in is always a hideous challenge when you're working with a standard garden variety ironing board...  On a side note I just love its cheery tartan cover!

Although it took some time I was pretty happy at how easy it was to iron the bodice of this dress using my new ham, I simply couldn't have done it without it.
And after, good as new, and ready for that next glamourous soiree...

Would I hesitate to wash garments myself next time?  No!!
What do others do with their evening wear?

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Glossy wooden beads

Got heaps of office work to do today, so may not enter the laundry (where my sewing machine is situated, taunting me) until it's all done... I also had a few errands to run, so took time out to sneak down to the foreshore for today's pictures.
This necklace that I made last winter was, unlike my Chanel style chain belt, one of those serendipitous projects that just flew out of my imagination and took all of about 20 minutes to make.  Just a few packets of glossy brown beads and a packet of silver charms, strung along some shoestring, knotted periodically, added a catch at the ends, et voila!
Tres chic, non?
Today is my parents' wedding anniversary, so congrats, Mum and Dad!
I'm currently working on my next next Wardrobe Re-fashion, I've already got this week's in-the-bag and ready for Friday but my next one is a little more complex and is occupying my mind, I'm itching to get in the laundry and work on it some more, but I've procrastinated long enough and sadly have to go and do some real work now...

Skirt; Rodney Clark?, Louis?, op shop
Camisole; Country Road
Cardigan; Vertice, mid 70's
Necklace; self-made
Sandals; Neo, from Nine West (I think)
Bag; made by my mother

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Australia Day

Today is Australia Day, and everyone here has their own personal ideal way to spend this day, depending on their age and general level of wildness.  
How am I celebrating Australia Day?  Well, first thing this morning my husband and I went out for a paddle on the river.  It was just divinely peaceful; river almost deserted and flat like a millpond with the sun sparkling on the surface, pelicans and black swans gliding by majestically.  We pulled in at a tiny deserted beach and had strawberries and a thermos of tea while watching the waves lapping at our feet.  We didn't see any dolphins this time, but often we do.  Then we paddled home to another swim and a late breakfast of more tea and Vegemite on toast; yes, like lots of Aussies I am hopelessly addicted to Vegemite on toast and can't imagine a more tasty breakfast ...  Later on we will fire up the barbecue for some lamb chops, and at nightfall walk down to watch the fireworks over the river; all in all a very leisurely Australia Day.
Our children, on the other hand, will be whooping it up around their friend's pools and generally creating lots of noise and mess; I'm just thankful it won't be our pool that cops it this year...
I'm still feeling pretty hot after our paddle so I'm dressed very casually and for maximum coolness.

Below is a picture I took of another true blue Aussie I found outside, this little darling has a body as big as my fingernail!

Top; NewLook 6252, white seersucker
Shorts; Burda 7723, white linen
Hat; Country Road

Monday, January 25, 2010

Chanel style belt

From Chanel, Spring/Summer 2010 RTW
How cool are these gold chain belts by Chanel this season?  Often a designer piece inspires me to have a go at reproducing the "look" myself.  It's not that I'm setting out to reproduce a designer item exactly, but ....  well if I could afford Chanel this would be a completely different story but the real deal is sadly not within my reach.  Realistically.  So my only option is to scrabble together something myself.
Here is what I started with, 1.5m each of thick, medium and thin chain, a packet of jump rings and a packet of gold charms.  I didn't really know in my head how ornate I wanted my end result to be, so I overbought a bit...  I also took the large lobster catch off one of my own necklaces (it didn't need it as the necklace could be just slipped over my head)

Started out by just draping the large chain loosely around my waist, to sit at just mid hip/waist height, and attached the lobster catch (modelled on Bessie, here, but I did the fittings on myself)

Then I started looping and attaching the medium chain across the front, joining with jump rings.  After a few of these they started to drive me mad.  Jump rings just cannot cope well with the thickness of the links in chains, besides being really difficult to get on they also become very distorted.  I got some of this 32 gauge jewellery wire I already had, and started "sewing" the chains in place instead with lots and lots of "stitches" (at least 10 per joint, for strength).  This worked heaps better.

I draped and stitched all the medium chain and left just the end hanging loose.

Then I started with the skinniest chain, and ...hmmm.  Breakage after breakage later and me getting increasingly frustrated ... at this point I considered abandoning the whole project.  Jewellery making is not my this point if there had been a Chanel shop around the corner I might have just stormed in and maxed out the credit card out of sheer bloodyminded-ness....  However venting one's rage using the family finances is rarely productive, and anyhow there is not a Chanel shop around the corner.... sensibly, instead I decided that was that and the belt was finished.  I'll find something else to do with the remains of the skinny chain.
I selected one charm to attach to the end of the chain.  I used a "thongs" (or flipflops) charm, just for an Australian touch.

And voila...  After sleeping on it, I'm actually quite happy with the end result.  I can see it over a pair of tight pants, in fact I'm fantasising right now about customising a pair of bootlegs Chanel style as well....

Final verdict?
Well, if you can afford to buy a real Chanel belt, then what are you waiting for.  The real Chanel belt is probably a beautiful piece of real jewellery, and will be far far superior, for sure.  
You need patience and perseverance to work with these fiddly jewellery components, give me sewing anytime...   However, all said and done, I'm happy.  My version will look nice for a season or two, as long as I take care of it and don't tie it into knots in the meantime.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Tea Cosy, specimen 9

Here is the tea cosy I made for my mother-in-law for her birthday last year.  She loves the beach and spends a lot of time walking and swimming on the beach, so I took the soft blues and browns of the seaside for inspiration. This tea cosy is my own design, just cast on what seemed like a good number of stitches and started knitting, winging the design.  I love the bobbly yarn I found for the top-knot, it reminds me of that coastal grass that we call "pussy-tails" in WA because the flowers look tiny miniature fluffy cat-tails.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

My husband gave me flowers...

Actually he gave these to me a few days ago and they've been sitting on our kitchen bench looking fresh, optimistic and cheerful and brightening up my days with that particularly intense clarity of simple colour, that gerberas are so treasured for and for which we forgive them their very short lifespan.
Today they're starting to look a little droopy, but have still inspired me to go for a sharp shot of mad colour.  Normally I wouldn't wear these two colours together for fear of looking a bit.... well, fast-food...... there, I've said it now, and the impression is out there and probably lasting, more fool me for having put it there.  I'll bet kindergarteners would love my ensemble.  I'm sticking with it.
This dress, my own variation based on a halter neck top pattern, is light and floaty enough for hot days, but is perhaps a tad revealing up top if one is heading off shopping in a department store for a wedding gift, which is what we are doing today...  Don't want to be eyed at in a pitying way by any salesladies so my cardigan covers up demurely.
Please note my lovely hair-do, sadly not of my doing.  My hairdresser is a genius and I wish I had him around to do my hair every morning, I think my husband might have objections to that, er...
Off we go to look at crystal-wear....

Dress; my own variation on McCalls 4453, red sparkly polyester chiffon
Cardigan; Country Road, secondhand and over-dyed
Belt; Country Road, had since I was a teenager
Sandals; akiel, from an op shop

Friday, January 22, 2010

Wardrobe Refashion, project 3

Not a terribly exciting re-fashion this week, but I'm still pretty happy with the result.  Before; an old work shirt of my husband's that he was tossing out.  Pro's; it's made of sturdy thick cotton knit with a lovely blue-marle denim-y colour that has a lived-in comfortable feel about it, and it has a nice button up front with attractive metallic-look buttons.  Problem areas, it was HUGE, it had a kind of daggy "sporty" collar and two too many logos.  I hate logos.  I don't really want to walk around looking like a billboard for somebody else's business, thankyou very much.
It may not look like a dramatic difference, but this shirt has been re-constructed completely, apart from the button up front which I kept untouched and the bottom hemline is also the original.  The collar was removed.  As the logos were embroidered onto the fabric they couldn't be unpicked without leaving an unholy mess behind (or should I say, a very hole-y mess!), so the sleeves were shortened, removing one logo, and I added a small self fabric pocket, covering up the other logo.  The shirt pieces were rejoined to become a much slimmer, more feminine shape.
I think the new streamlined look of the T-shirt is now quite attractive and will be a useful new resident in my wardrobe.
I made my skirt also, about four or five years ago and I posted about it previously here.

Shirt; refashioned from my husband's old work shirt
Skirt; my own design, various cottons and cheesecloths
Sandals; Vicenza, from Soletta shoes

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Olive green corduroy skirt, 6 different ways

My olive green corduroy skirt out of Vogue 7303 has been incredibly useful in my wardrobe and is something I grab without thinking on a regular basis, secure in knowing it will go with just about anything else I own.  With one small exception, it can go anywhere and do anything.  The exception, natch, is for dressy wear.  It's a corduroy skirt.  Corduroy spells casual, no getting away from that.
Could you make a ball-gown out of corduroy, I wonder, and carry it off?  Perhaps it could give the same look as velvet, in the right design, maybe? That's food for thought...
Anyhoo, getting off track, as per usual...
This skirt is a fantastic skirt in that it has worked for me in all seasons; hot weather all the way through to cold weather, and the olive green colour is so handy in that it goes with every other colour (yes, Virginia, olive green is a fabulous neutral).  I mean obviously it goes with the usual creams, white, black and brown.  But for today I have tried to style it with all the colours of the rainbow to show just how great a colour it is.

Being a mini(-ish) it can be worn in hot weather; here it is casual, and then a little more smart, say for shopping...

Then, the corduroy texture still looks appropriate if the weather is a little cooler...

Finally in the winter it scrubs up pretty good with tights and looks kind of mod (OK, the sun is blazing brightly in these photos, you just have to use your imagination and conjure up a bit of rain and cold wind to get the winter vibe in these pictures...)

Just for interest, I am wearing the purple version for today...