Saturday, July 30, 2011

Sharing the cupcake love...

You know, I make no secret of the fact that I LOVE to make cupcakes, decorate cupcakes and feed them to others, although I rarely get to taste one of my own creations. They do taste good, I am told, and at work, at our annual craft market and at the odd event where I reliably turn up with a few dozen, they are anticipated by many.
It was neverthless a delight when someone suggested I teach others how to make and decorate them. But the idea appealed - after all, I have let hoards of children driven indoors by rain loose on the decorating materials at summer camp and survived to tell the tale. A small group of adults is a pushover by comparison. And it's a chance to earn a little bit of return on investment while also donating a chunk of the proceeds to my favourite cause, Wellington's Downtown Community Ministry.
And so, dear readers, this week I am teaching my very first class. Attendees will wear a cake infested apron made with my own fair hands, and be let loose on six cupcakes with a few of my decorating tips to guide them. It's going to be fun, not to mention interesting! And it had better work, as I have another scheduled a fortnight later!
If you had a chance to learn something about cupcakes, what would it be? I get asked all kinds of questions from technical ones I don't know the answer to, to ones that I am amazed aren't self apparent (which is the trouble with experience, you forget that once upon a time you didn't have it). It will help me to get prepared for thinking on my feet while making icing, melting chocolate (always perilous) and talking and fielding questions, all at the same time! Wish me luck xo

Sunday, July 24, 2011

UK Revisited 1: Cirencester

When we were in the UK I fell, hard, for Cirencester. It is a largish cathedral town in the Cotswolds and is oozing with charm and history. It is also still prosperous, with only a few empty shops in tucked away corners. In some towns we visited, up to a third of shops were empty. So sad.
Cirencester has an amazing cathedral, amazing shops, and predictably, no discernible decent coffee.
A shop that really captured my imagination was Cirencester Cupcakes. the lady who owns it set it up with her redundancy payout about three years ago - initially working from home. It was what she really wanted to do, and that was inspiring! She introduced me to the Giant Cupcake concept, which I intend to exploit further, and she was so happy! Clearly she works like a trooper, running a business by herself that covers so many points of sale, products etc. But she was happy.
I didn't get a photo of her or a decent one of the shop alas - we went off to have a (blah) coffee nearby and when I went back, she had nipped out. I am sure we will meet again :)

Tucked away in Swans Lane, you still cannot miss the hot pink fabulousness!
Where it all happens - a simple set up not unlike a domestic kitchen, but it works well.

My other favourite shop in Cirencester is Plum Boutique. Like a one off TCD, really, it stocks sizes 14-32, really gorgeous stuff from all over Europe (apparently Germany and Scandinavia make lovely larger size designs) where I bought a fab shirt and earrings. The owner was SO friendly and the prices, by our standards, pretty reasonable. The shirt I bought for 85GBP, but a shirt like it, had I been able to get one here anyway, would easily have been 400NZD, which is over twice the price. Hmm, maybe I ought to be importing such things into NZ!
Anyway, I love Cirencester. So much more to it than these two titbits. I have since found out that my unerring ability to spot the most expensive thing in a given space is still working - the area is among the dearest real estate in the UK. Weel, it's a decent-sized town, it has history and is gorgeous, it is in the Cotswolds - not surprising really!

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Why Rockabilly petticoats need to be a half circle.

This is a little bit of a random thought, but as I have started down the road to full petticoat "last word" ness, it has its place. :)
Joy asked me the other day if we should make the white version of the full petticoat as described in this tutorial as a full circle and not a half. After all, these petts go under full circle skirts.
There are several technical reasons why, and also why we don't gather the petticoat heavily at the waist either.
If you look at the way a full circle skirt falls, part of its charm is all of the folds that gracefully fall along its length.
See all those lovely rippling folds at the hemline? They are GOOD! And they look so lovely sitting out on the support of a full pett.
Now imagine if all those folds had frills sewn to them. The frills would also fold in and out and in and out, and these folds would be all ridgy and uneven. Lovely on the skirt, but lumpy when underneath.
So, a half circle, slightly gathered at the waist, is ideal. It will give you a nice cone of fullness to support your skirt. Too much gathering at the waist and we're back to the folds problem again.
Now FULL, gathered skirts, they are a different story, and one I am not telling here :)
Full gathered skirts have slightly different petticoat rules. :)

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

What's up?

I'm not in a sewing or creating mood. I just made a velvet top that I will photograph and post about soon, and I just put all of my spare crafty stock into a shop as it's more sense than having it sit on a shelf, but otherwise life is about work. Work, work, work.
And house guests! I love having friends to stay, it's an ideal chance to catch up and reconnect with friends from out of town. But none of this is conducive to sewing or blogging.
So, too ra loo to you all, I hope you are creating up a storm and having a great time! I'll be back with photos and something more sensible soon. Promise! :)
A photo of Stonehenge, which as sensible goes is probably not very. Although I'm sure it made sense at the time...

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Warehouse chic - For So Zo! :)

The most fabulous Zoe of So Zo, what do you know? once posted about how much she would love to live and work in a warehouse. As I kind of do, I promised to post some pics that actually SHOW this about my living space. The ones I've posted before say more about my OTT tastes and penchant for red and gold furnishings (I think I missed an illustrious career doing interiors for Chinese restaurants and bordellos!) than the provenance of this wonderful space.
It was originally the Empire Spice Factory, and after a short and famous career as student living, was converted in around 1997 to eight flats, and we have the one in the front top.
This is an old photo as the decor visible through the windows isn't ours, nor is it that of the previous owner! I nicked it off a real estate website.
I am told by a friend who quite coincidentally flatted there "23 years ago when it was a studenty dump" (his words) that in certain weather you could smell the spices in the floor. I was so hoping this would happen still but alas no!
Anyway, I think our place falls well short of Zoe's fabulously evocative description:  "a sanitised, pre-converted trendy warehouse pad with its token ‘original’ exposed brick work wall and fancy lampshades installations" but it's not her ideal either: "a big industrial or ex-industrial space, all brick and concrete, with lots of light and air in which to spread out to live and create. Big areas [...] in which we would work and generate ideas and hang out and relax."
Zoe I love how you put words together! :)
In spite of not being an enormous industrial feeling space (requiring a LOT of heating, she thought practically) it does however achieve being a place in which I and other creative types hang out and create :) Several such sessions are in previous posts, but there are heaps more.
 But first some crazy ceiling shots to show how interesting this space is still. This one shows the skylight over the stairs and a glimpse of my costumes rack (shrouded in a white sheet to protect it from fading)
 Same view, different angle. I think our ceiling at its highest would be 6m.

 This is where the ceiling drops to accommodate the upstairs space.
 The stairway to (sewists') heaven!
BAAAD photo! This space is 6m by 4m at least, but with the DH lurking around on the computer in his dressing gown, and the place being a tip right now, I can't get a good all encompassing shot. But I have 4 tall cupboards for stash, lots of shelves for, umm, more stash, lots of bookshelves, and two big sewing tables so at least three of us can set up machines. A quilter's envy; design wall big enough to take a queen size quilt, the "big computer" and its desk (where I am now) and windows on three sides with views over the rooftops of one of the funkiest parts of town!
So, it is pretty darn fabulous. And I fought for it! :)
Like Zoe, a part of me yearns for the big industrial space to live, work and create in. But for now, I am chuffed as ever to finally have a home that works for us on almost every level, at a price we could afford. And I wish the same for you, Zoe, and every other creative soul working away on the dining table or in a dark nook somewhere :)

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Taking the plunge, at last...

I know I am meant to be getting on with my velvet frock coat, but I tried last night and even with company, I just couldn't summon my muse. So, instead I made something we have needed for ages. Cold second cups of coffee, no more! I have at last made a coffee plunger cosy for us!
 Isn't she magnifique! I've never made a crazy patch one before. It took AGES. Bits of trim, buttons and several gold and beige fabrics later, here it is. Umm, except I haven't sewn any velcro onto it yet. hence the blue pins.
From the other angle. I LOVE the pewter frogging trim on this side. I have acres of it - it was pretty expensive for a stash rehash, but the quality is amazing and it just keeps on giving. Here it is making excellent Regency hairstyling. And here is the black velvet trim with the diamond criss crosses gracing the edges of the famous Laurel gown.
And here she is with her bestie, the tea cosy. I made the teacosy for last year's Christmas fair, and it didn't sell so I commandeered it, as it was just so much nicer than the one fabric one I originally made for us.
The thing is, I don't often make something for my home - I take the things that don't sell, the leftovers. Now as I rarely make something I don't LOVE, this is not a big deal, but it was nice to start a project like this knowing it was going to be for us from the beginning. Especially one with so many nice memories of projects shared with friends :)