Saturday, September 1, 2012

Sew Happy at last!

My mother was an excellent, creative seamstress, and I grew up familiar with sewing machines, specifically the heavy-duty Singer that Dad gave her as a wedding present in 1956.

This machine still works beautifully, and at the age of 80 she still uses it to do small repair jobs and to alter clothing to fit. Very recently she had it lovingly serviced by Henderson's at Chermside in Brisbane, and she feels it's working better than ever. 

Mum used to make her own clothes before she was married, whipping up dresses for dances with a wing and a prayer, literally, as she had no time for patterns or conventions. And yet she understood all about cutting on the bias and how to drape fabrics. A genuine creative.

I learned to sew on this machine, but believe me when I say that I was an absolute disaster at it - to the extent that my mother's heart was always in her mouth when I went to work, wondering if her precious machine would survive. Not one of life's naturals, by any stretch of the imagination! Which just goes to show that where there's life there's hope, and it IS possible to teach a more mature dog new tricks, so to speak. Unlike my mum, I used patterns, which I didn't always understand, nor have the patience to follow when I did, and my frustration with the results lead to vigorous arguments with Sally Singer. Finally, leaving a trail of threads and scraps all over Dad's study where the sewing machine lived in those days, I was banned...a relief to me, Mum, and the sewing machine no doubt!

Which didn't stop me feeling a need to sew. When my boys were born I made tentative steps back into the sewing world with a little basic Janome, a pile of Top Kids magazines, and the strangely sparse retail fabric world of Queensland in the 1980's. 

My sons got to wear some interesting dressing gowns and jackets as toddlers: the best attempt I could make at the cool world of German children's fashion meets Saved by the Bell.

The need was definitely there; I just hadn't found the skills (or, it has to be said, the resources) at that stage to meet my aspirations.

Fast forward to 2007, when my sister gave me a new sewing machine for my [mumble]-th birthday.

In fact, a sewing machine is the last thing that she would have thought to give me, but as she lives in London she gave me cash and I chose to buy a new sewing machine...traded in the rackety old Janome which I couldn't even remember how to thread, and replaced it with a shiny new Janome complete with instruction book, tool kit, and a determination on my part to finally master my demons!

This is actually the second machine of the modern era, a step-up after I began to feel confident that my skill set was up to the mark and my present-day sewing interest was a lasting phenomena. There is a crafters' bumper sticker that reads "my other car is a sewing machine", which is very apt, as my new car fund went towards the more recent purchase (although that wasn't generally known en famille until some time later).

After many decades of struggling I came out of the shade and into the light with my sister's gift 5 years ago and began to master the art of sewing. Number one reason for that I think is that I am a much more patient person that I was at 15 or 25...I will pull out a seam and re-do when I mess it up these days; I will make something and then do it all again, better, in the interests of mastering a skill; I will devote a day and a half, or as long as it takes, to finishing something properly.

Number two reason though is that this century we actually have the most wonderful array of fabrics and notions available to us, here in Australia, and on-line as well, so that creativity is never stunted by a void of resources. And that makes it worth getting the nitty-gritty sorted, big time!

These days I love fabric, I love clever patterns, I love opportunities to improvise and be creative, and I love my sewing machine...never thought that I'd ever say that!

I have just delivered some goodies to Rosemont Collectables in Lismore, NSW, where I have rented Candace's shop window for the month of September. These little dresses are hopefully testament to my present day ability with Dear Machine, and the cushions illustrate an even more recently acquired (if not yet mastered) skill in crochet.

Until next time, have great weeks...
Steph xx

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

To market, to market...

This Friday night I am setting up shop at the BrisStyle indie Twilight Market. This will be my first 'real' market all year and here it is almost the end of August.

Markets are rather special, especially when it's BrisStyle, which is hand-made only and the primary retail out-let for this not-for-profit collective of craftspeople. These twilight markets can be hugely successful, especially running up to Christmas, but it's also an opportunity to catch up with members of long standing and meet some of the newer recruits.

I've got some new work in the pipeline for Friday night, the nature of which has been in part dictated by physical limitations after surgery in July - my beloved sewing machine hates my back at the moment. So lots of crochet and some paper and glue and embroidery have been my most comfortable options.

I have crochet bags:

...fabric and crochet cushions....    

clothing for chickadees...

and some pixie houses that are actually pin cushions in disguise...

Plus plenty more.
If you are local, drop by King George Square from 5 p.m., browse the stalls, bop to the band, and grab a bite to eat at The Groove Train...look forward to seeing you and being back in the thick of a market once more!

Sunday, July 29, 2012

August August

Love August!

My birthday comes along at this time of year and I still harbour that little-girl anticipation of celebrations, not to mention gift-getting, even though, if asked, I don't actually feel I need or want a lot of frivel...much prefer sourcing out the perfect present for other people in reality.

In Brisbane, August (also) = Exhibition: the mighty Ekka, the annual horticultural show, the RNA, a rose by any name...more echoes of childhood! A sun-shiny week when the Westerlies blow icy, all sorts of nasty flus abound, as the first summer fashion forces itself out on brave (very) young things.

For the young the Ekka was - still may be, although somehow I doubt it - a bit of a rite of passage: eventually you were deemed old enough to go alone and unsupervised in the company of friends to spend a day and an evening riding the big dipper and the octopus, feasting on dagwood dogs and get-your-cheerios, and collecting trophies from the sample bag pavilion. Young girls and young fellows strutted their stuff - too young perhaps for boyfriends and girlfriends, but old enough to be aware of display.

Pre-Dreamworld days, we loved the Ekka, with its animals for the kiddies, floral dioramas for the Mums, spivvy cars for the Dads, handicrafts for the Nannas, and traditional pit-stops like the wood-chop and the silhouette cutter's stand that were as predictable as night following day in a world otherwise full of flux and change.

August this year involves a number of wimcee ventures: a workshop, an exhibition entry, a market - more of these shortly or visit me on facebook to be kept up-to-date.

Have great weeks!


Thursday, June 28, 2012

Almost as good as sacs...!

My nanna taught me to knit with fat pink needles and bright red wool, but no-one ever taught me how to crochet.

There's crochet and there's crochet - whole articles are written on what NOT to crochet.

But knitting is not the craft of choice for anyone who's not looking for a way to fill in an awful lot of time. I used to knit when I operated a switchboard in a little nook, shut away from the rest of the world. I used to knit when I was waiting for my babies to arrive. I still knit in doctors' and dentists' waiting rooms. But overall knitting is way too slow. Too slow, too unforgiving.

So for a number of years I have been determined to learn to crochet. I want to make granny squares too! I want to do clever things with the yokes of cotton dresses! I want to make lovely wool flower embellishments and amigurumi like all the other clever crafters! I want to be retro and play with colour and get all free-form.

Finally I mastered the hook - a combination of Brown Owls, Pip Lincoln on-line tutorials, and how-to books got me over the line. I made my very first squares, my first cushion cover, my second cushion cover, and now ...*drum rolls* ... The Boho Bag!

My inspiration for the bag, 'un sac, du crochet, du Liberty, de la dentelle et quelques fleurs' was made by Cecile Balladino and came from here: eclectic gypsy land

It looks like this:

Sac beautiful!!

Cecile took her inspiration from Lucy Laine's 'Les Sacs Me Font Perdre La Boule!!' which is shown  here:


Also beautiful!

And now there's my own version:

If I take the rectangular cushion out it's much the same shape as Lucy's. And like her I've used some special vintage lace in homage if for no other reason.

Inside is some lovely Japanese print from the girls at Voodoo Rabbit.

So pleased with this, partly because I had to make it up as I went along, and pull it apart and try again here and there, so another tick against new skills learned, and a big tick also for perseverance. 

Thanks so much to Cecile and Lucy for their inspiration - go the on-line collaborative effort!!

Have great weeks!

Monday, June 25, 2012

Peeves and petulances

An interesting post from apartment therapy recently, design pet peeves   about the karate chop cushion, elicited an avalanche of gripes from readers covering everything from colour-coded book display to matchy-matchy furniture.

(Image: Bliss Studio)

Do you have pet design peeves?

I have loathed the keep-calm-and-carry-on trend since it first raised its dull and repetitious head several years ago...ok, I guess, if you are English AND living in England AND preferably lived through a war, but in Australia it just smacks (to me) of a total absence of original thought married to a lurking cultural cringe-i-ness.

Ditto union jack cushions and all things bull dog. Love that those folk on that island over there have a lot of fun with their own love of country - good for them, and they do it with a lovely touch of humour - but it's not something we can pick up and run with and why on earth would we want to?

In most respects though, on self-examination, I find I'm otherwise surprisingly non-judgmental and tolerant about interior design. Like anything in life, so long as it's not too contrived, it's legit in my book. Home is - it really is - where the heart is, and if there's affection afoot that's as design excellence as you can get.

When I was growing up, my Dad revealed a fetish for light fittings which he indulged via ceramic chandeliers (complete with little gilded cherubim) and ornate metal flower-and-leaf illuminations. As young teens we died of embarrassment over these non-early-seventies baroque-esque style statements that couldn't help but dominate otherwise ordinary family room and bed-rooms. Yet my sister and I have admitted to each other in recent years how strangely drawn we are to excessive light fittings ourselves now...

So people in glass houses, or houses resplendent with coloured glass lanterns and faux art deco frosted wall sconces, obviously have no right to throw stones of any hue.

Go the personal predilection  - if you can't feel free to have fun at home, where else could you possibly let your hair down and be self indulgent?

Just don't, please, k. c. & c. o.

If in doubt, remember: Australian = laconic...something worth celebrating.

Have a giggle!

Monday, June 4, 2012

Retro campers and kitschy kitchenesque

The little red caravan that could!

BrisStyle's craft caravan took the damp Brissy CBD by storm last Friday, with yarn-bombing, make-and-take, a Brown Owls meet-up, talks and demos all day, and BrisStylettes of all ages and shapes selling their hand-made goodness from cosy and colourful stalls. 

The caravan is a marvel - Helen, BrisStyle eventista extraordinaire, and beautiful Bel have done magic with their collection of retro lounges, beach brollies, and charming flamingoes!

Photo: Brisstyle Craft Caravan event has begun! Market stalls, demonstrations, yarn bombing - come on down to King George Square from 10 - 4pm to learn how to knit or crochet, make a timber vintage van brooch, or check out textile and fibre demos (there's even colouring in for the kids). And there's us!!! All stocked up with the brand spanking new issue 14. See you down there!

I was also really tickled to see my own UFO's put to such good use at last by the Owls in their craftactive activities!

And I had a great time sharing a tent with the talented Anita from Mum's Cupboard (as in, what's in Mum's cupboard) for wimcee's first market outing for 2012.

Anita's Dr Mid-nite and Charlie the Owl glass stud earrings from her etsy shop

I've gone kitchenesque for the time being, which has been fun, in an effort to build up my stocks again after the hiatus. Had such a lovely time making five new aprons to take to market only to sell four of them before opening time...very happy for them to find good homes so quickly, but it threw my theme for the day just a little.

some new retro style aprons available from:

All we need now is some old-fasioned Brisbane winter sunshine to smile on the market season in full swing. Here's to blue skies, with no early Westerlies!

great snap of the yarn-bombed BrisStyle flamingo from Little Chrissy at

Sunday, May 20, 2012


We have lift-off!

The BrisStyle Craft Caravan has hit the road!

With support from the Brisbane City Council, BrisStyle - our collective of crafters, artists and artisans - has this year been tasked with spreading itself about a little more liberally. The brief is to share skills and experience with the wider community, and, more importantly bring creative heads together to support each other.

OK, so we've had a bit of fun too, fitting out the vehicular manifestation of this initiative.

The call went out: daggy old banana lounges, girls! Bright beach umbrellas!

This is vintage kitsch, banana-bender style...kitsch as nobody else can quite do it (or might wish to), from the land of the choko vine and saos with cheese and tomato.



On Friday 1st of June, the Caravan will park itself in King George Square, in central Brisbane, for a day-long event featuring craft demonstrations, craftstalls, and a crafters' drop-in-zone. This has been augmented with various info sessions and get-togethers in the suburbs already, and will kick-off a week-end of similar activities at Zillmere Festival on Saturday, and at Hamilton on Sunday, where the Craft Caravan will be part of the fabulous, annual Racecourse Road Carnival.

Speaking as a marketeer of a number of years' standing, winter has to be the magic season for Brisbane markets and festivals! Even if it's cool, the sun is usually shining and the sky is almost always cloudless and blue. So, no better way to kick off the winter markets season than a craft festival in the CBD for the first day of June! Check it out!

Have great weeks!

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Hey Green Tamborine...

So what do garter-belts, wooden clogs, caravan-shaped tea-pots and sub-tropical rhubarb have in common?

Terrific Trev fancied some R&R over the Labour Day long week-end, so off we went to the fabulous Escarpment Retreat, which is next but one to St Bernard's Hotel on "Mount" Tamborine.

"Mount" because it's not really a mountain in the strictest sense, more of a small plateau-hillside settlement. But the vistas are extraordinary due to the plummeting cliffs of the Scenic Rim, and the flora is pure Gondwanise:- massive figs, thick tarzanesque strangler vines, ancient cycads, dappled sunlight, leaf canopy and all...beautiful! About 90 minutes from Brisbane, it's the perfect week-end get-away.

St Bernard's is a scene-stealer itself. This grand old hotel has been a local land-mark since 1898. In it's accommodation-based hay-day in the 20's it boasted a tennis court, a large swimming pool fed by a creek, walks to visit the five local waterfalls, and extensive gardens on the edge of the escarpment - all perched right on the cliffs with a view north-east to the Gold Coast and islands of Moreton Bay.

I remember family day trips up to Tamborine when I was a child, with St Bernard's the destination for lunch: a choice of roasts, with vanilla ice-cream and caramel sauce to follow... such were the heights of culinary sophistication in Queensland in the early 60's. But served up by maids in uniform on fine china, silver cutlery and starched white tablecloths.

Picture of Caravan TeapotThe Gallery Walk on the Long Road is an eclectic mix of dress shops, galleries, craft and nick-nacks, with a variety of eateries, brewery, wine cellar, a cheese factory, and a couple of hum-dinger ethnicentric pit-stops including the (German) Cuckoo Clock Nest and the Dutch Bite Cafe and Clog Place. I love a genuine Black Forrest cuckoo clock and a bit deft china along with the best of them...Tamborine is a bit like that; all oblique if not downright obvious references to a vague Continental heritage. The Tamborine Mountain Teapot Shop features some pretty wild creations imported from England; the Polish Place serves up food, drink and objects d'art in the Polish tradition. When I was a student we used to drive up to savour coffee in a brass kettle and a potato and bacon hash at the long-gone Swedish Cafe, with it's blue and yellow flag painted roof, when IKEA was just a twinkle in someone's flat-packing eye.
Good Times Images

We also shared out retreat in a general rather than specific sense with this year's garter-belt and gasoline convention - a colossal coming together of hot-rods through the ages, most in pristine nick, with rockabillia excelsis thrown in for good measure! Bands, balls, a massive show-ground festival - ladies of all ages done up from top-to-toe in 40's/50's fashions, and greased-back locks and sharp shoes for the blokes. Spectacular! Time for a quick visit to The Shop Time Forgot and Kitty's Vintage Kitsch, the mountain's retro mega mecca.

We wined, dined and did some gentle trekking to make up for it all - the non-leech-infested Sky Walk for one (someone mentioned the 'L' word to TT), and the Curtis Falls track for another, the latter setting off from one of the prettiest picnic grounds in s-e  Queensland.

All in all, a fabulous retreat...and just slightly la-la land enough to be great fun!

Have great weeks!

Saturday, April 21, 2012


If I need a push-along with a project, inspiration is so easily accessed...there are wonderful books, magazines and a whole universe of on-line material in which to immerse oneself. It's immersion therapy - one wallows in a collection of colours and patterns and images, in the ways that others have collected and remixed, and after basking in this extraordinary collage, I find I can't wait to get back to my own work and let my own creative energy go crazy on whatever it is I'm doing.

Pinterest is full of visual feats - I can revisit my own pin boards or have a look at others or get a bit of pinning action...

State of Craft

And there are all the fabulous blogs out there to be read as well: like blissful Pink Friday; the chic carnets parisiens and the quirky All the luck in the world just for starters.

The library of crafting books out there is growing daily. State of Craft by Victoria Woodcock is a recent fact anything that is a like a visual/literary craft compilation I find to be fascinating: Craft Activism by Joan Tapper and Gayl Zucker; and Handmade Nation by Faythe Devine and Courtney Heimerl.

And there are some lovely mags for sale as well...I really find the new-ish 
Mollie Makes from England super-inspirational, the ads as much as the stories 
at times, and it reflects the sans-frontiers cachet that stalks craft.

Sunday is the perfect day for a bit of craft-immersion! 
Enjoy your days, and weeks ahead!