Friday, December 23, 2011

Giveaway 50+ followers: Apron happiness and distraction

I promised myself to do a giveaway when I got 50 followers and I've just topped it. Thank you so much to you all for tuning in to my erratic outpourings.
So, time for a giveaway!! Remember this apron:
It is now finished with an assortment of mismatched gold and pearl vintage buttons and looks very pretty! And I will post it to anyone, anywhere in the world. I love the idea of my handiwork being worn in a place I've never been. Not that this means I'd discount my lovely local followers!
Open to followers, if blogger is not your friend and you have to post anonymously anyway just let me know that, and extra entries for sharing on Facebook, linking to your blog or joining up a friend (all of which you'll need to let me know about, too)
I'm away from the internet until 1 Jan so I will leave it open until then.
Merry Christmas everyone! xo

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Lonely Hearts preview

While I've been away and sewing, the cast have been rehearsing like crazy. Today they released this little snippet. I love this number, it's a cynical homage to traditional musicals and rock and roll. Three fantastic voices too! And you can spot the talent behind the songs at the piano, Michael Nicholas Williams. Married to Emma, the second voice in the song. :)
I don't know how to make it show up in my post, sorry! :)

Oh Christmas Tree!

Our tree is finally up. It makes me very happy! I'd like to share with you some of my favourite tree ornaments,starting with the Ladies
Our fairy on top, miraculously held in place with a chopstick and duct tape!
The gloriously Edwardian circus splendour that is Mermaid Mama.
This year's addition to the Tree Ladies, Florabelle. I love her heart shaped bodice and her graceully extended arm.
Lion looks happy and smug, like he is King of the Tree. But he has competition!
Blake the Tiger burning bright around the other side thinks HE is too. Best to keep them out of eye contact with one another.
I have five left of these cardboard christmas trees. The children and I made them when they were about 5 and 7 (they are now 12 and 14!) and they are the most precious of all the ornaments on our tree.
And all together! Yes, the window lights really do loop around it, as a safety precaution thought up by MrC.
Wishing you all a Happy and Merry Christmas, or whatever version you celebrate, from my heart. xo

Monday, December 12, 2011

My latest project - costuming a show

Been a looong time since I did a show, and this one is a doozy.
Lonely Heart opens at BATS theatre on 17th January 2012
Eighteen years in the making, this musical is the work of Michael N Williams, a very old friend of mine. (As in long standing, not ancient!) We first met when I was 17 and auditioning for Fiddler on the Roof, and he was the Musical Director at about 20. While that was my first and last appearance onstage in a musical, Michael has gone on to become a fabulous and sought after MD.
The story is based on the real life Lonely Heart killers, Martha Beck and Ray Fernandez. It's a grim story set in late 1940's America,  about swindling rich widows out of their money, and occasionally their lives. I love it, even though I generally prefer happy stories. It is a beautifully told tale with stunning music and Michael has done us proud.
Anyway, I am the costume fairy. And I thought it was a good opportunity to look at the difference between costuming a show and making costumes for reenactment, or for pleasure, as so many of us do. Theatre costuming is my background and it took a year or so to get used to unthinking the constraints of stagework, now I have to put them back on!
Costumes for stage have a number of requirements - lighting, scale of texture and detail, changeability, usability, relationship and mood.
Theatre relies on lighting a lot to create effects, set moods, change scenes. Stage light is always coloured - "neutral" light on stage is usually salmon or straw coloured.
See how golden this scene is - the camera picks up the colour far more than the eye does, which responds to the light in a subliminal way.
Because of the use of coloured lights, costume colour and texture is important. This production is to have a film noire, grim feeling, and so will be quite monochromatic, but black is boring on stage (a message I wish most of the performers in the world would finally hear!) and doesn't reflect light well, and is also surprisingly cheerful when partnered with white on stage. I blame years of tophat and tails Fred Astaire numbers. So, I'm going for steel blues/greys. From deepest midnight through steels to palest blues. Drab to sinister, will work well with the light.
Martha and Ray. Like so many of the images from the time, it has a blue caste. We want to capture that without it being visually boring.
Scale of texture and detail
 Real things don't look real on stage, they look diminished. It's to do with the light and the distance. Delicate beading and embroidery are wasted; a hot glue gun line sprayed with gold paint looks better than a piece of cording. When choosing fabrics and trims for stage, I look at them from at least 20 feet away to see if their detail travels over distance. This is why theatre costumes often seem tawdry to non theatre costumiers, because they have to be! And I suspect that early film costumes suffered from the costume dept not realising they needed to rein it back a bit, as film and TV are more like real life.
One of the key costumes in this show is based on a dress Beck was photographed in several times. I will be exaggerating the details in order to have them work on stage.
Quick changes are almost unique to stage work. Plays are sometimes written to bear in mind the need to change costumes very fast, but not always. So fastenings and entrance/exit points are essential and a costumier needs to know about these things before embarking on a make. Quick changes need rehearsing also - one show I did at dress rehearsal a change took 5 minutes, when there was only 30 seconds. Three run throughs however and we had it "down pat". In this show I am using a couple of unconcealed conversions to change costume - where the actor themselves makes a change to the costume, usually off to the side but within plain view of the audience. This is a tricky theatrical device and one that you need to stick to throughout, but it can be very powerful. Changing from a prisoner to a nurse who hates her job and feels like she is trapped in it, for example.
Carrying on from changeability. You make a costume, you go to rehearsal and find that a character is rehearsing pulling a plot essential handkerchief out of a pocket that you didn't know the costume needed to have, therefore doesn't. The character is thrown to the ground and wrestled with, and they're to wear a vintage dress you've borrowed and promised to return in the same condition. Noone thinks to tell the wardrobe unless you've made it clear, keep asking, and go to rehearsals. Costumes need to perform :)
Costumes help enormously to help the audience understand who is on the up, on the down, how they see themselves in relation to other characters, and vice versa. Colour is often used, and texture and drape. Stiff costumes for suppressed characters, that kind of thing. Easier to play in this space when staging a period piece than modern dress, as there is more costume to play with and it is 'out of time' for the audience.
Zeffirelli's Romeo and Juliet, while a film, is an excellent example of using colour to establish relationship, and also, let's face it, to help the audience keep track of who is who! The Montagues in blue, the Capulets in red. Even in this shot, Romeo stands out among the reds as being 'not people like us'.

One of the tricky bits of this play is that the leading lady is a plain frump whose anger at 'her lot in life' has built up to a point where it fuels criminal behaviour. She is also poor. So, no fabulous vintage gear for her - her costumes need to fit badly. This is hard! I want the audience to get this about the character, not think I am a lousy costumier. It's not an issue most costumiers face, we all want to look gorgeous, don't we? So, I am probably going to make the clothes fit but use other ways to convey that they are not good quality, and this is helped by Bryony being such a wonderful actress; she doesn't need me to achieve this mood for her, only to not contradict it. Also in one scene we want her to look transcended and beautiful, as she sees herself, and so I need to maker her look worse the rest of the time, to heighten the contrast. Should be fun!

So in summary, theatre costuming is about doing shouty design things to help the audience catch nuances of mood, relationship and plot. They have little time to ingest a concept - with movies and TV we can watch a DVD over and over but live theatre is in the moment, so you have to grab people and take them on the journey with you. This is all achieved by a harmony of acting, moving, light, set, costumes and sound. Each one needs to work with the others. It is tremendous fun. Oh, and on a shoestring budget too!
More on this as it unfolds...

Saturday, December 3, 2011

More Apron Happiness!

Just spent a weekend on a quilting retreat, but the closest thing to quilting I did was make these little Christmas stockings, because they have a bit of batting in them:
Dupion silk and Christmas fabric offcuts, all kinds of pretty sparkly trims, brought together to make these cuties. They now have choccies in them and are all bagged up for market!
No childish giggling please about this photo! It is Lesley (female) making her very own stocking. The stocking bug spread around our table, and quite a few more went home than arrived!
And there was a hat and some bags in a bag, but the best fun I had (besides the wonderful company!) was making two Christmas "posh pinnies." I can't stop myself, so many aprons in my soul that need to be made real.  
My beautiful soul sister* Sandra modelling #1: olive green and dark red cotton with a red/green shot organza frill, contrast fabric top cadged from Lesley (who has the most amazing array of Christmas fabrics I've ever seen!!) and an organza rose corsage.
Sandra having a look at the bottom of apron #2. Red/gold cotton with a gorgeous sleigh motif border fabric, cadged from Sandra, with organza trim, and a holly corsage.
The corsages have brooch pins on the back so they can come off for laundering, although because of this clever touch on the one the Embroidenator made me a few years back, I lost it! But she lost the one off hers too so we are even.
They need a bit of work - sewing the red jewel buttons on properly, putting brooch backs on labels etc.
*Sandra and I are constantly discovering how much we have in common. Our stashes are about 60% the same with a strong red bias, and this weekend we both like rieslings and gewurtztraminers over sauv blanc. I am convinced she is really my (slightly) older sister who was swapped at birth and am going to have to speak firmly to the Embroidenator about this... 

Friday, November 25, 2011

I voted!

I live next door to a polling station and so didn't plan a particular time, so when the radio announced there was only an hour to go, I hopped to it!
I am so proud to be a New Zealand woman on election day. In November 1893, New Zealand women were granted the right to vote. Not the first country, but right up there. This on top of women who owned property and paid rates having been voting in local government election in some area of the South Island, since 1867.
Thanks to good women like Kate Sheppard, the head of the franchise and legislation department of the Women's Christian Temperance Union, who was the most prominent leader of the suffrage campaign. Her portrait appears on our $10 note.
The site of the first polling station where women voted, at Tahakopa. It was a very dignified day with none of the predicted violence or hysteria.
Then in 1919, women got the right to stand for parliament. A right already available in some countries but a full YEAR before women in the USA were even allowed to vote.  
 Elizabeth McCoombs, Labour MP for Lyttleton, the first woman to win a seat in parliament, in 1933. So the idea took a while to catch on.
A proud piece of history for a town that has felt the bite of the earthquake big time.
Also I think she bears an uncanny resemblance to Helen Clark, New Zealand's 10th Labour Prime Minister, and second woman to hold the role in a row (Jenny Shipley preceded her as National PM). Also, Clark is the one of NZ's longest standing PMs, at nine years.
So that is why I am proud to be able to pop next door and do my minute bit for democracy in this country. Women far braver than I achieved unheard of victories at unimaginable cost to themselves so that I could take it for granted.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Countdown to Christmas

In a week it is the opening of the White Room Christmas shop. In two weeks it is the annual DCM fundraiser Christmas market. And then there's the Big Day Itself.
I have to date prepared:
9 Christmas cakes - ranging in size from 4 inches to 10 inches round.
5 full sized Christmas puddings and 43 miniatures. About 3 large and another 8 dozen littlies to go
2 bags in a bag - I have a pile cut out and need to get my head down.
10 Christmas stockings
6 dozen non slip hangers - over half of which are already sold!
All kinds of other stuff.
And I haven't solved the what to mount the "fabulous but really quite worthless from a collector's point of view" 1970's Christmas postage stamps on so they can become earrings. I don't fancy noxious epxoy resin fumes and things. Anyone got any ideas?
This is my favourite time of year - making stuff that is just plain fun, making a bit of pocket money to spend on more stuff to make stuff out of, helping to raise a bit of money for a good cause, looking forward to the break.
I love it. Do you?

Friday, November 18, 2011

I'm totally and utterly Fabricated!

Totally and UTTERLY. What a huge day. Today was the culmination of 11 months' planning. Nearly 800sqm (8000sqft) of textile arts and crafts activity - exhibitions, vendors, clubs, demonstrations, classes, and a really top notch cafe. 36 stalls in all plus the extra things. We set up the tables, frames etc last night, and started again at 7am this morning, helping vendors and other clubs to unpack their cars and get set up so everything was ready by 10am. (To be perfectly honest and in a spirit of complete disclosure, I was useless and got sent home early the night before, as this coldy fluey thing is exhausting and I was just in the way!)
At 10am, there was a queue at the door! People poured in and it was like that most of the day. I taught classes in how to make a yoyo brooch (will do a blog on this, it's fun!) and there was felt bead making, needle felting, making a scarf using washaway, demos of every kind from embroidery, lacemaking, helping to put a quilt together, spinning, various knitting techniques, antique and vintage textiles; and supplies for every textile art and craft imaginable for sale. Except dressmaking stuff, not so much of that.
It was a busy, fun, amazing celebration of textile love. And we are already plotting how to make it bigger and better next time! And did I remember to take the camera? ARGH!!! So you will just have to believe me and hopefully someone else had more common sense :)
Update: Turns out of course lots of other people did! Including Jenny of Romany quilting.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011


What do the first eleven Doctors have in common? Apart from being interesting, smart, eccentric, clever, intrepid and English? They are all BLOKES.
Wouldn't it be nice if #12 was a woman. And not a skinny, pouty, collagen lipped Plastic, please. A real woman. Miriam Margoles, Zoe Wanamaker, Miranda Hart? That would be funny!
A few months ago, a few of us went out to take photos of The Dreamstress' creations; of Aline's dress and the Pink extravaganza, under the amazing lens of "Diane Villiers," aka Sarah. Usually I stick to hair and makeup but Madame O convinced me not to be such a sap and get dressed up too.
Wanting to show off my purple frock coat and my new top hat and goggles, I thought I'd have a go at creating a lady Doctor. 
 Sonic fan maybe? Screwdrivers are Soooo 28thC!
 Nothing says "spin!" like a frock coat!
 The all important reveal shot of all those Hong Kong bound seams. A huge job but I love the effect. And so nice to use a beautiful cotton print from my stash.
 On the lookout for alien space ships maybe?
 To the Tardis!! Purple frock coat made from heavy cotton knit (rugby knit?) machine appliqued with ribbon rose fabric.
Meh, life in Space is tough. Sometimes a girl just wants to hang out with her pals and a parasol.
A lovely afternoon was had by all!

Friday, November 4, 2011


What a morning! Today was the biannual Fabric-a-brac, Wellington's own stash rehash market. Sewists of all kinds take a table and onsell their bits and bobs - patterns, fabric, wool, trims, beads, haberdashery, leather, the lot. I reckon it is my fifth Fabric-a-brac, and the first time since my very first where I was only selling my own stuff. Even I cannot generate a whole table of unwanted stash by myself in six months!
My stall at 9am, before the public were let in. I'd already bought and sold fabric by then! Note the Elvis Christmas stocking draped on the piano behind my stall. More about Elvis later.
My stall at 12. I've let my neighbour encroach because I didn't have enough stuff left to even cover the table! and Elvis has left the building!
Elvis was a huge hit. My neighbour and friend Sue, bought him, but word had got out and someone turned up at my table to ask if she could buy him. I explained that I'd sold him to Sue, and we got him out to show her. The lady ended up convincing Sue to onsell him!
Anyway, I indulged myself just a little bit:
Gorgeous quality trims and wee rosettes from famous and fabulous Wellington designer Alison Blain whose table is my first port of call every time! The piece of poppy canvas was from my non-Elvis fancying side neighbour's stand. Enough to make a nice bag.
For the Embroidenator, a pile of dupion scraps in native NZ bird greens. She is making exquisite free motion machine embroidered birds for Christmas tree decorations. Not shown is a length of red/green shot organza and a whole roll of waistband lining tape for a mere $4!
Other highlights? I saw a young (early 20's) lass wearing a skirt in a fabric I remember buying in the early 90's, a strong and vibrant red and purple fabric reminiscent of Kaffe Fassett and Phillip Jacobs. It was very exciting to see it and it turned out that she had made it from a piece of fabric in her mother's stash. THEN, when I saw her with her sister and realised that her mother was a long lost friend I had bequeathed a huge pile of fabric to when I left Wellington, we realised it really WAS made from the same piece of fabric! Now isn't that just a little bit hilarious?!
A great morning was had by many - fabrics and bits found new homes and no doubt some will turn up again at future Fabric-a-bracs - such is the way of these things. As for me, as well as my small crop of treasures bought, I have a nice nest egg of funds to reinvest in long arm quilting, must haves and haberdashery needs, so I can keep to my zero budget :)

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Zero budget for the Crazy hoarding lady

Last week after some number crunchin', soul searchin' type stuff, I was confronted with the enormity of the amount I spend on fabric. It is a lot. Two and a half times more than the figure I had generously guestimated.
So, before I turn into a crazy hoarding lady (yes well, some may say it is too late), I have gone zero budget. This means that I can only invest money I have earned from the supplies I buy into more supplies. So, income from crafting, stash rehashing and dressmaking is reinvestable. Income from real job is not.
I am cheating ever so slightly. Income from cupcakes is included, although cost of making cupcakes and buying cupcake supplies also has to come from the income.
It's been a week so far - an unusually profitable week as it turns out, and I am $90 up. Woohoo! And with Fabricabrac on Saturday, I should be even more in the black.
This is how I have justified buying three x one metre lengths of craft cotton and one x three metre length of silk chiffon today. Ahem. :)
Has anyone else ever tried any of this? I feel a little like I am abseiling here and some war stories would be comforting!

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Apron happiness

Aprons make me happy. I love how they keep my clothes from being covered in flour and icing sugar when I am baking. I love how I can make them pretty and clever and creative while still being really practical. I love the big pocket that I can use to put change in at a fair. I love how when I put one on, I am 'in uniform' without being in uniform. They are the ultimate working garment.
I've made a few lately, and thought it time I shared them here:
I made this one as a commission for a lass who works in a cafe, and needs to wear black. She wanted a retro vibe, pretty apron and this is what I came up with. I love the shape so much, I made another similar style one in some retro style fabrics I've accumulated. Just because I could:
It's probably easier to see the style in this one. I love the sweetheart neckline. It needs bows and buttons. More more more!!!
And this one is for me. I need a new apron, one that is pretty and eye catching for when I am working a fair stall, but practical and easy to wash too. This one perfectly fulfils all the design specs. And it is nice to finally find a use for the poppy buttons I bought years ago!
Are you an apron wearer too? I would love to hear about your favourite, and/or what you like in an apron. Pretty, practical, or both, the ultimate combination?

Monday, October 17, 2011

Teacosy giveaway :)

Well, remember how Adele won the teacosy in my giveaway a few weeks back? Well, here it is. I had enough Horrid's (you know who I mean - Knightsbridge, posh etc) teatowel left to make a pair of potmits:
I couldn't resist these teatowels and bought a few. Adele LOVES teatowels, and so it seemed like the perfect material to use.
But when you are 4, like Angus, a teacosy means one thing only! It even comes with shields! ;-)

Sunday, October 9, 2011

UK Revisited: a Twist of Lyme

I LOVE Lyme Regis. Famous for its Jurassic fossils, and for its role in "The French Lieutenant's Woman" by John Fowles, Jane Austen's "Persuasion" and Tracy Chevalier's "Remarkable Creatures," it has well and truly enough character to sustain such interest.
We found a small and beautiful town packed with history, interesting shops and really, really friendly people. Way more than most other places we went. There is a thriving creative community, including artists, craftspeople and fab food.
Looking back down the famous Cobb - a breakwater of stone that was built in the 13th C but has been enhanced and rebuilt many times, with the nice flat bit I am standing on dating back about 150 years. The top of the Cobb itself is flat but slopes at a rather drunken angle and so I left it to MrC the Mountain Goat.
Looking out to sea from the walkable part of the Cobb. The wee plaque you can see on the right says NO CLIMBING ON THE ROCKS. Like I would!
I think these are the steps from which Louisa Musgrove tries to jump into Captain Wentworth's arms in the 1996 film of Persuasion. However, these steps were built well after that date. The steps to which Austen referred were probably these ones:
Terrifying! Seeing these gave me a whole new appreciation of the accident waiting to happen!
Lyme as seen from the end of the Cobb. SO pretty! And such a nice place!
In the window of a hat shop full of fabulous things. Amazing dress. The lady who makes these creations has a studio in Lyme and the hat shop owner sent us off to find her but we couldn't. The place is a rabbit warren!
One of the nicest places is a shop called Eco-logical-you. I spent ages in this eclectic shop that is a hub of ecological, ethical and fair-trade products from dishwash liquid to felt bags. Bought a fair bit of stuff too, while chatting to the very nice and friendly owner.
The gorgeous Umbrella House, featured in a previous blog about Black and White houses, is on the hill above Lyme.
Lyme is SubLyme. Can't wait to get back :)

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Impressionist impressions...

Yesterday we had an afternoon tea for Madame Ornata's birthday. I took a couple of photos as in my mind's eye my beautiful friends kept arranging themselves as if Renoir was about to pop out and paint them. Wonderful.
I tried in Photoshop to capture the impressionist view - it got a bit pop arty but I still think it is fun:
The Birthday girl in peony silk polonaise, Elisabeth in strapless boho and Sarah looking very, very Renoir with some Toulouse-Lautrec thrown in for good measure! It was a beautiful, fun day. Happy birthday Madame O! xoxo

Thursday, September 1, 2011

And the winner is..!

Nine unique comments left, in numeric order. And the winner is...

Which is Adele in Christchurch! Who also wrote a whimsical poem.
Adele, I hope that a nice soft cosy will protect your teapot, should it get knocked over again. Hope not though xoxoxo.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Red to black -jamming a quilt

Last weekend I failed to go on a quilting shop hop, and so I decided to dedicate most of my weekend to making a quilt. I really wanted to do something creative and not entirely preordained, but this is really tricky in quilt making, which is ultimately an exercise in repetitive geometry, and accuracy is important.
I realised that I simply HAD to overcome the limitations of this in order to satisfy my need to "jam" with my stash. Jamming in the musical sense, where one uses only techniques and experience to make things up as you go along. This and the need to make a throw for the couch, and use up some of that darn trophy wife quilting stash.
So, I auditioned a range of fabrics from reds to black,(second and third shelves) with a warmly brown and olive oriented back story, and cut some strips off each, ranging in width from 1 inch to 2.5 inches.
 The line up. A few more got subbed in at the last minute too
I arranged them into groups that would equal about 10 inches wide when sewn together, from the lightest red to the darkest dark. When the first one was sewn up and pressed, I finally thought, hmm, what to do with you now?  
 So, I cut it into four "on point blocks", 7.5 inches across, which was the biggest I could make.
 Cutting the top...
 Reversing the ruler and cutting the bottom... 
The resulting blocks. Squee, so pretty!
This left a bunch of half square triangles, either all red or all dark. What to do with you lot, I thought to myself. I know, I'll add a triangle plus a bit to each one of a whole print from the range of fabrics used. Done.

 Darks with darks
 reds with reds
Repeat four more times. Result is an amazing effect of movement, nothing like I could have planned. I love how the reds seem to bleed through - not yukky blood bleeding but paint on wet paper bleeding. The darks create points that intervene almost like mountains in a Japanese landscape. Phew! Who knew! LOL!
The blocks so far.
I WAS going to sash the whole thing with a 3/4 inch wide sash in the same almost black sprig I used on the edge bits of the colourwash quilt. (Which I just realised I never blogged about as a finished quilt and must do so as it is gorgeous!) but because I had used it on that project, I now don't have enough. And I cannot find anything like it. So it may come together without sashing.
More jamming.
More later...