Thursday, December 31, 2015

Happy New Year!

Hello lovelies. I had a lovely night showing in the New Year sewing sequins onto a costume while half watching Firefly with friends, drinking cups of strong tea and eating watermelon. It was peaceful, fun, affinity was high and I love spending time with friends in that way. The most relaxed I have felt outside my own home in forever.
I have nothing else to share really - I am having a bit of a social media rethink -  my soul is tired of broadcast and declaration, and craves communication, and the difference between the two is becoming more and more unbearable to me. Before I get so fed up I can't bear another minute of it all, I am working on how to be a better communicator myself, and how to tune this thing so I hear the kind of stuff I want to listen. Less memes, less cats, less melodrama, more human to human engagement.

And so on that rather surreal note, Happy New Year. May 2016 bring new pastures, plans and projects. xo

Friday, December 25, 2015

Merry Christmas

 Hello everyone!!! We're at home after a wonderful day with family. As pretty much every year since I started blogging, we got the use of the big lounge where my parents live. We were alas down the whole side of the family that came with my lovely step dad, but mine were out in full force.
I really wanted to get a photo of the table setting, which changes every year, but by the time I escaped from the kitchen, there were a few bodies already eating.
 Another view of the tale. Instead of lining up one long line of trestles, we doubled the width, so it was more communal.
 Mum made a gorgeous centre piece out of a mini bird cage, lilies, greenery, and some incredibly pretty reindeer decorations. Chris and Paul made the christmas crackers before dinner.

 A wee group of Xmas trees and baubles. Mum made the trees as shop samples a few years ago.
 The napkins had a stylised peacock feather design. I have to be honest and say that I prefer red, gold and green Christmas decor and always will. But the Mother quite likes to mix it up and this blue and white look so who am I to argue?
 A snap of the buffet. MrC tucking into some chicken. It all looks pretty messy in the photo but it was pretty delicious. as always, everyone contributes and I get into the kitchen and make it all happen on the day.
 Speaking of MrC, here he is in his gorgeous new shirt. Can you see the pocket his glasses case is poking out of? Or the button placket? I am teaching a promising sewist how to pattern match and this was her first make. She is the real deal, right?
It's pretty subtle, but this shirt has both the positive and negative prints in it - the white on indigo is across the yoke, on the cuffs and lining the collar. We LOVE this shirt, almost as much as the one currently being made!
After dinner we opened gifts, had a wee concert with my nieces singing and me showing off Constance's new songs.
Something I learned today - my new favourite topping for pavlova is rhubarb and strawberry compote, and passion-fruit pulp. Delicious!

Merry Cristmas to you all, wherever you are and however you spend it xoxo

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Inside my hendbeg

My hendbeg. I did not realise when I bought it earlier this year that it was a knock off Cath Kidston. Sorry Cath, but not having your name in a big ugly label centre front upsets me not one bit.

A rather strange but compelling trend is arising for showing the contents of one's handbag. Or hendbeg, as we say here in New Zealand. I cannot demur from this, as I am a shocking handbag hoarder, and naming and shaming is a part of the cure. Not of the accent - that is beyond help - hilp?
Apparently. I'll believe anything.
Many of these items may be a mystery to the general public. So, starting from the bottom left corner and moving clockwise I will try and explain them all:
My reading glasses, in their case. Case by The Embroidenator. Three pens, my keys with a big white hand attached in a futile attempt to make them easier to find among all this stuff. Under that a 2016 diary. Yes, I always carry a hard copy diary, No I never write anything in it. Voltaren pills and inhaler. The old sim card from my old phone. My new phone is at home somewhere so is not featured. A tin in the shape of a cassette tape in which I keep my Constance Craving business cards. My sunglasses in their case. That black brick in the corner is actually my wallet. It contains cards, nothing but cards. A sign of our times. In front of my sunnies is a sheet of panadol tablets, my glasses cleaning kit and a bumpit - which I use to make my hair boofy. To its right is a pile of USB sticks. I love storage! Right again to an amusing tape measure - it is Pinocchio and you pull his nose to draw out the tape. A bag of rhinestones - I just got a whole lot delivered and this one missed being removed last night.
Moving down again, a compact mirror with a handsome moustachioed lass on the front. An ivory board, five 24 hour stay lipsticks, a mascara (green tube), many bobby pins and random pile of business cards. And a band aid. :)
I took this photo on my desk so glimpses of the year planner I keep there. Items in far corners not mentioned were already on my desk. My desk is not tidy. Anyone surprised? ;-)

Outlandish Outlander

Anyone out there a fan of Diane Gabaldon's Outlander books? I've hear and seen plenty written about them, mostly about the TV series based upon them. Given my corner of the interwebs is primarily devoted to historical costuming, much of the talk has been about the costumes.
 Claire's controversial wedding dress, based upon a robe de cour
Lots of greys, browns and plaids. Scotland in 1743
Well, when in a frenzy of buying TV series on DVD the other weekend, I chucked in Season one. My expectations of historical accuracy having been managed down to about a 3/10 by the conversations online, I figured it would be interesting.
OH DEAR. After watching several episodes, bits of which I left the room for while waiting for the action to get past the latest overly graphic violent bit, I'm putting it into the freezer.
The overwhelming sense of violence, pain and fear left me feeling really unwell. A sadistic, nasty anti hero who enjoys flogging and humiliating people, and we get to see it over and over again. Lots of sex where we see Claire's everything and Jamie's almost nothing speaks far more strongly of a male audience than the female one it is written for and targetted at.
It made me angry, disappointed and left with that hopeless feeling of, "Really? Is this only how far we have come?" and I abandoned it mid episode just before yet another sadistically violent bit.
I'm amazed that in all the stuff I've read about this series, it's all been about the frocks. Really,  the frocks were not enough to distract me from the sadism. Is it really just me? Is it OK to use the word really so often in a paragraph????
I am sure I am missing the point somewhere as the people I know who have read the books enjoy them. But that is the impression it left me with and I want no more of it.
Instead I have been enjoying Season One of Hustle. 
A delightfully intelligent programme about a group of London based "Long Consters."  The way it is put together i.e. use of freeze frame, out takes, stylised actions, not overdone, very much set the tone for programmes to come including Sherlock. A truly stylish piece of telly. I just wish the team wasn't so laddish, with token woman for distraction and playing the mole. Still that was 2004, we've had ten years to grow up since then. Haven't we?

Nothing to do with Christmas. I am slightly overloaded with it and just wanted a bit of time out ;-)

Friday, December 18, 2015

Getting Ready for Christmas

Counting down peoples!!!! Only seven more sleeps!! EEEP!
So far I can check off my (very long) list:
  • First batch of Christmas cards (I ran out, hence two batches)
  • Christmas cakes baked and mostly distributed
  • Christmas puddings boiled and getting to grips with the cointreau being fed to them
  • Three out of eight gifts finalised and wrapped
  • Cheeses purchased, hazelnuts purchased for oatcake baking on Sunday
  • Menu for the day finalised with the "committee" (Mum, my sis and me)
  • All shows done except the after dinner impromptu concert on the day itself.
Then there's work!
  • Customer Christmas night done and dusted. I love that!
  • Mucho Christmas stock sold. MUCHO.
  • Suppliers closing up for the break so I just can't order things in for people. I am secretly thrilled as while I am happy to place orders for people it takes so much time.
  • Random lampshade order fulfilled finally.
 And so I leave you with a couple of photos from my last show of 2015 in Napier, a 5 hour each way drive north, and a truly gorgeous place with gorgeous people like the fab Cherry Boomb, my partner in crime! I love this collage she made, but as per I am not in it cos I spend more time on stage than most.
 Pretty clear it's super hot - I am all shiny and not just from the glitter!

Monday, December 7, 2015

A quicke reference guide to my Head piece

My darling international audience, I am taking you for granted. I speak of pohutukawa and jandals like you would know what I mean, when even the red squiggly line of SpellCheck does not recognise them.
So, here we go
Pohutukawa is a native coastal tree that blossoms in summer with red flowers:
Below is a close up of the flower. It has petals like bristles with yellow ends. And it smells divine.

The Jandal is the NZ term for a flip flop or thong:
I bought an ornament which is quite big, of a pair. These are similar:
And thusly, I combined my jandal ornament, a sprig of pohutukawa flower, fake and glittery, with some organza flowers to make the Great Kiwi Head Piece:
Ngahuia our fantastic photographer sent me a super hi res version of this pic so I could zoom right in. You can now not only see the head piece and hopefully make sense of it, but you can now see my second chin ;-)

Here endeth the lesson xoxo

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Proof it happened!!

Well, I got to don sequins and feathers again on Saturday night for Caburlesque's Happy Hannukah show. Eschewing any actual Christmas music on account of the Hannukah theme, I opted for a kiwi lyrics version of Summertime, which it is for us at this time of year, and a singalong of Ten Guitars, which is compulsory whenever a guitar and a fire on the beach are found together. ;-)
 We have a new head piece. In spite of the hours of work Santa's chimney just wasn't doing it for me, so I nipped into the Kirk's Christmas shop and got a jandal ornament and some fake pohutukawa from their small but perfectly formed NZ Summer Christmas offerings. Some flowers tucked in behind and there you have it!
 6 metres of feather boa went into this garment.
 I have toyed with losing the skirt and getting my legs out when I wear it, but time is not my friend in December and it won't happen before my next show on Thursday. Next year perhaps.

Happy Holidays!

Thursday, December 3, 2015

If there's no photos it didn't happen

Curse the internet unwritten rules about photos! I simply either have a life, or I have a camera. I cannot seem to have both at once.
Here's me, as Constance, at a gig in Christchurch last Saturday, 28 November. Like good detectives, let us work from this evidence to put together a story of times and fun.
1. Also in the photo are, from left, Ross, Terry and Aunty Christine. She is not our Aunty, but that's fine. She's Sophie's and that's all you need to know. Ross is wearing a waistcoat covered in silk applique sunflowers I made him over 20 years ago. Terry is wearing a shirt I made him about a year ago. T and R actually live in Wellington but got it into their heads to come to a show in Chch instead, and bring Aunty Christine.
2. So, how did I end up in Chrstchurch on the evening of the 28th November? Wearing the red sequinned costume with fluffy feather boa all around the edge? It all started at 12.45 at a Christmas lunch, with my darling quilters at Capital Quilters. I hung out, entertained them with some songs, then drove back home. 20 minutes to finish packing and off to the airport, complete with sequins and feathers! No time to change and anyway no room in my suitcase!
3. On the plane, sat beside a lovely man from Merivale, applying all my charms to him so he relaxes and copes with sitting beside all of that! I rewarded him by plastering his neat black slacks with cream feathers. He took a photo of me in my plane seat because we reckoned his wife would never believe him!
My gorgeous friend Jacinta picked me up and dropped me at the venue. Years of living in Christchurch meant a bed for the night and lots of mates to come to the show was the easy bit! The evening comprised two shows, the first emceed by a local comedian Dan Bain. I hung out backstage and got bio info off the performers. And when it turned out they were a performer down, I went out and sang! As you do!
My show went fine - so lovely that so many Christchurch friends came - many of whom had never been to a burlesque show and never would have otherwise. All had a laugh so that's what counts.
Jacinta and I got to bed about 2am after peanut butter sandwiches and tea - I had eaten nearly nothing all day. We made up for it at a yummy brunch with Adele and Wendy on Sunday. The four of us were the Musketeerettes of Christchurch 10 years ago! So nice to hang out again.
All this fun led to me getting to the airport a teeny bit late for checking in my suitcase, so it went off to be sent on later, it turns out.
And when I finally got in my front door with MrC the gorgeous hunk, it was after 4pm and the house smelled of roasting turkey. By 6pm we had a crowd of mostly American friends, all bearing delicious dishes, for a slap up Thanksgiving feast.
Thanksgiving as I've said every year, is not a Kiwi thing. But I love the idea of having a holiday just to give thanks. I have so much to give thanks for - and this past amazing weekend is only one of my many blessings.
Much love,
MrsC xo
PS. Do you like my head piece? Santa poking out of the my chimney on a little tiled roof!

Sunday, November 8, 2015

A Sequin Free Sewing Post!

Don’t we just love old jeans! All that fading and distressing; it seems such a waste to turf them out just because they’ve worn through on the knees or thighs. This tutorial shows you how to make a gorgeous summer skirt using the bit that never seems to fall apart – the “body”. (You could make this for a child too, you just need a lot less fabric and narrower tiers).
I own a few of these skirts but this one is far too teeny for me.

To make this skirt I used:
  • an old pair of jeans
  • three summer cotton fabrics, 2.3m in total (0.4m for the top, 0.7m for the second and 1.2 for the bottom)
  • ric-rac trim and buttons
  • thread
I cut the legs right off the jeans (saving the useable bits for patching other projects), making sure you don’t cut the front pocket bags! If possible save the back pockets. If not, just cut the bottom of them off like I did. (you’ll have to take my word for that!)
Now fold your jeans sideways so the fly is at one end and the centre back at the other. Line up the two layers of waist band and pin evenly.
jeans pair 1 
Work out how deep you want the denim basque of your new skirt to be – I made ours 22cm deep. Measure from the waist band to that line and pin every 5cm or so. Then you can cut off any excess carefully along the pinned line through both layers, making sure you don’t cut the front pocket bags again! I did this with pinking shears.
When that’s all done, unpick the curved seam at the front below the fly.  jeans pair 2 
Lap the original outside over the other side flat, then top stitch through all the layers over the original stitching lines.
Work out what order you want your fabrics to go in – I liked the yellow Amy Butler print breaking up the more blue based other ones. I cut my tiers: 2 widths x 18cm for the top, 3 widths x 23cm for the middle and 4 widths x 28cm for the bottom one. Increasing the tiers towards the bottom like this makes the skirt balance better visually.
Now the trick to sewing the three tiers together is to not “over-gather” the fabric or the skirt grows enormous! To get around this, and to avoid the unspeakable horror of the whole gathering stitches, pulling up and pinning, this is what I do:
Join the strips for each layer together, pressing the seams open, so each is a continuous flat strip. Don’t sew the ends of this strip together. The top tier doesn’t want to be two whole widths around, so cut about 55cm off the end for a size 10-16, less for larger sizes.
Starting with the top and middle tiers, I put them right sides together both at the beginning of the strips with the middle (yellow) tier on the top, and I pleat it straight in under the machine foot. In the photo above I pinned the next pleat to show you how deep I make them but in reality I just form the pleat with my fingers and feed it under the foot. Not too deep and not too close together, that’s the trick. Remember you’re just pleating the fabric on top, not the one underneath.
Just keep pleating until you get to the end of the underneath strip. As you can see in the photo, I ran out of top tier just after a seam in the middle tier, but it doesn’t matter, no one notices. Just trim the middle tier so it is “flush” with the top tier.

Here’s a pic of the right side showing these two tiers sewn together
 Use the same process to join the last tier to the middle tier. Remember not to pleat too close together or too deeply. Cut any overhang at the end of the final tier.
To make the skirt,  bring the two edges of the skirt together, right sides together, line up the tier seams, pin and sew straight through.
 Press the seam open. You may notice that I haven’t neatened any of my raw edges with an overlocker or zig zag. That’s because these kinds of cottons really don’t fray much so there’s no real need to, unless you wish to. To each their own!

I then joined the skirt to the denim basque. In this case, I did use two rows of gathering, and eased it in a little so it just fit, with the one seam down the centre back. Instead of sewing right sides together, I lapped the raw edge of the top of the skirt under the bottom of the basque and sewed them through in two rows. This leaves the raw pinked denim edge on the top layer, which will fluff up with washing like the bottom of cut off jeans.

Cost of project: jeans $5 from an op shop, fabrics $36.80 from the shop's $16m range. Ric-rac was $2m and I used 1m. Buttons were $5, total: $44.80. Not bad!

Friday, November 6, 2015

Building a Christmas Tree Dress

I saw a few of these online and had to make one for the shop. Like Dior made Christmas his own!
So, last Sunday MrC and I purchased a 210cm tall artificial tree, some new lights and baubles, and on Thursday I got stuck in. The mannequin is a new one that is technically for sale in the shop and I felt its black and cream dramatic patterning lent itself to the concept.
I am really uncomfortable with heights even little ones, and working on the 3 foot high display dais was pretty freaky for me. Because taking pics meant getting down and up off it, I didn't capture every stage in the process but here's how I did.
 The mannequin before.
 I tied the small, fluffy branches around the leg to create a petticoat. Tied on with cotton tape.
 The next stage involved gun stapling another layer of longer branches to the underside of the mannequin. Then a layer of the longest branches hooked through a cotton tape around the waist. 
At this stage the weight of the branches caused the base of the mannequin to bust. So, we took the three little feet off and just propped it on a angle into the corner! The skirt is only around the front so it needed an angle to stop it toppling forward.
 Lights! Pink organza around the waist to hide the workings.
 I changed the organza sash to be deeper with no bow, made a necklace out of baubles and hung the baubles, of course.
 The almost completed display  - fake presents and Mel's clever Wall tree made from decreasing rolled up strips of wrapping paper.
A close up of the adorable dress ornaments I bought in Greytown. The six of them cost more than all the baubles but they had to be bought, right? 

I am in love with this display, no other way to put it!

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

The Spring Wedding Show

A few months ago I had a sudden urge to do a wedding show, as you do. We sell and hire lots of the kinds of stuff used at weddings - cake tins and stands, bunting, ribbons, cake decorating stuff - and hessian, or burlap as it is known in N.A. Plenty of couples want to D.I.Y. some aspects of their wedding and so often when they do come in they remark that if only they had known we had all the stuff that we have, they would have come to us for it. So why not get out there and show them.
The show was on Sunday 18th October, at Macs Function Centre which is a converted dockside warehouse and quite funky.
 Cupcakes - wrapped in hessian ribbon, lace or both. Fruit leather daisies make a lovely topper for a rustic look.
 Of course I had to show off my butterflies too. The cupcakes are there to show off the tiered stand that we have for hire, and also to promote private workshops in decorating them.
 Cake toppers - I was chuffed to find one with two guys. None with two women seem to be available...
 more stuff
 The whole muddle.
I HAD to get these wicker hampers - they are so great for displaying stuff. Back at the shop it is filled with rolls of Christmas wrap. Here, it is showing off all the things out of which you can make table runners.

It was a pretty quiet show really, but we had some lovely chats with lovely people, and got to know some of the venue people and hire people etc so we can all help point people to each other. 
At some level I find it odd that people would pay $18 to get into a show like this and then act like the people with stalls are trying to ensnare them. Most of the attendees were relaxed, happy types interested to find out what we had to show them, but about 1 in 5 groups didn't even bother to come over and see what we were about. So stupid - how do they think they can tell what it is we are offering by a quick glance at our stand. And us. It's these types that really put me off getting in too deep with wedding related stuff. To me it is such a sacred act, so much more important than the colour of the serviettes, and I find all this superficial nonsense really disheartening.
Oh well. That's what happens when you go to the people instead of waiting for them to find you, I guess.