14 August 2011

The Dirt

Finally something to post! It has been a long cold rainy winter. No veggie gardening and no sewing to speak of, so nothing to blog about for a while. I usually post pretty gardening pics but today it's just the dirt.  While the sun was shining I weeded, added blood and bone and sowed a very late (but not too late) green manure crop of mustard seed. So here's my blank canvas for next season, with the asparagus coming up in the narrow patch under the clothesline!
Weeded, mostly cleared, levelled and mustard seed sown .I left some leeks in the front, Marigolds in the back and Salad Burnett and garlic on the edges.

Asparagus coming up in the front, Artichoke behind it, some Strawberries and a rogue Spinach towards the back. Otherwise lovely dirt! This is a really unattractive back yard this time of year as you can tell from my neighbor's bins and carport to the left,  Hills Hoist to the right. I pulled out the last of the broccoli in this patch and am having that for dinner tonight - yum!

27 June 2011

How Not To Act Old

I saw this poem by Pamela Redmond Satran recently and thought I would share it. It is very apt for much of what is happening in my life right now!

enough money within her control to move out
and rent a place of her own,
even if she never wants to or needs to...
something perfect to wear if the employer,
or date of her dreams wants to see her in an hour...

a youth she's content to leave behind....
a past juicy enough that she's looking forward to
retelling it in her old age....
a set of screwdrivers, a cordless drill, and a black lace bra...
one friend who always makes her laugh... and one who lets her cry...

a good piece of furniture not previously owned by anyone else in her family...
eight matching plates, wine glasses with stems,
and a recipe for a meal,
that will make her guests feel honoured...

a feeling of control over her destiny...
how to fall in love without losing herself..

how to quit a job,
break up with a lover,
and confront a friend without;
ruining the friendship...

when to try harder... and WHEN TO WALK AWAY...

that she can't change the length of her calves,
the width of her hips, or the nature of her parents..
that her childhood may not have been perfect...but it's over...

what she would and wouldn't do for love or more...
how to live alone... even if she doesn't like it...

whom she can trust,
whom she can't,
and why she shouldn't take it personally...

where to go...
be it to her best friend's kitchen table..
or a charming Inn in the woods...
when her soul needs soothing...

What she can and can't accomplish in a day...
a month...and a year...

The poem's author, Pamela Redmond Satran, also has a great blog called How Not To Act Old. One of my favorite posts is #68 Mooch Off Your Parents... 'Catherine Finn, who is a bona fide futurist with a Washington firm called Social Technologies, advises those who don’t want to act old: “Be over-dependent on your parents. Have them lend you money or buy you something you really don’t need. Go a step further and move in with your parents. Then complain about how terrible it is to live with your parents." Hehehe

Strangely enough, the above poem is often mis-credited to Maya Angelou.

21 June 2011

Olive Mellor 'Grow Your Own'

Here are a few pages from a Herald Sun publication by Olive Mellor. There's no date, but I would say it's probably 1950's. I can't find any information about this publication in the National Library catalogue or anywhere else online. Olive Mellor taught horticulture for many years at Burnley and wrote for the Australian Home Beautiful. She also designed more than 500 gardens and was one of the first full-time female students at Burnley Horticultural College (for which she had to receive special permission from the Minister for Agriculture). She was a lecturer when Edna Walling attended Burnley and one of her contemporaries.  I feel honored to have taught my Burnley students (when I was lecturing) in the same plots down in the Burnley Field Station.

Here's a calendar for growing vegetables in the home garden in Melbourne, complete with when to spray your D.D.T.! Nothing organic in those days - it was all about using the new wonder chemicals to maximise yield and feed the masses post WWII.  Chemicals were all about increasing food production and minimising the waste caused by pests and plant diseases.

Scroll down for a table of what to plant when to feed a family of four for the year including how much seed and how many seedlings are required and how much space is needed

Calendar - January and February (click on image for larger version)

Calendar - March to July (click on image for larger version)

 Calendar - August to December (click on image for larger version)

What to plant to keep the family in veggies all year!  (click on image for larger version)

 Advert for snail killer on the back cover. Metaldehyde is still a main ingredient used in snail pellets today. It is highly toxic and often deadly to pets and small children. Note the happy couple with knee-high lettuces but no children or animals to be seen - clever marketing! I love the bright colors in this ad and the sense of easy instant action implied by the numbers "Better in 3 ways" and the highlighted words "Change", "New", "Better than ever", "WORLD'S BEST", "SUPERCHARGED"

Remember, these were the days when D.D.T. was sprayed liberally by the truckload into the air in residential neighborhoods to cut down on mosquitos in the spring and summer - both in the U.S. and Australia. We still get sprayed with insecticides before we get off the plane from any international flight arriving in Australia, so some things really haven't changed! Personally though, I find a jar with with a little beer half-buried in the veggie-patch works just fine to kill the slugs and snails and doesn't hurt anyone.  They crawl in and die a happy death. I just have to hold my nose when I'm setting it out because I can't stand the smell of beer!

16 June 2011

Vintage Storage Solutions

With only one teeny-tiny closet in my abode I have had to come up with with some creative and attractive storage solutions.  I started collecting old interesting suitcases a while ago and purchase more when needed.  These are two that I got recently on Ebay for about $15 each.

The smaller 'Sky-Chief' fibreboard case holds trims sorted by colour in zip-lock bags. I love the patterns inside and out on this one and the burgundy-coloured plastic (maybe bakelite?) handle.

This is the 'sewing corner' of my bedroom. The Singer sewing table is just to the left. I keep my fabric stash in the blue and green cases (from the Salvos and Chapel St Bazaar). Current-ish project fabric goes in the pink 'Miso Pretty' shopping bag so I can get to it easily (or forget about it completely as the case is with what's in there now!). My old blue-beast 'Automatic Zig-zag' machine is in the blue case on the right.

Decoupaged boxes for patterns. Everyone else seems to like the photocopied vintage pattern box the best. I like the black, white and brown one more! It's made from pages of an old genetics textbook (there's a big double-helix under the chicken on the bottom of the pic) and a craft book I found at the Salvos. It sort of sums up my interests and I like the texture and quality of the old book pages.

My linen storage. A cane suitcase purchased on Ebay and an old laundry basket that a neighbor was tossing out.

Are there any treaty-treats in there?

The woman who sold this to me said this was the case her parents used when they migrated to Australia from England. It had been in storage since then and still had the original ID tag. I love the history behind this one! Next to it is a linen sachet in an antique flower-packet fabric from l'ucello. She sells these at Klein's perfumery if you can't get into her lovely shop on the city and they are divine! I bought a bunch of them for gifts and had to keep some for myself...that seems to happen with most things I buy from l'ucello!

The original P&O Orient Lines sticker on the outside of the case.

I remember when I was very young my mother used to hang big brightly-coloured department store shopping bags on the wall of my room to store toys. Everything got swept up at the end of the day and tossed into the bags on the walls. We lived in Greenwich, Connecticut and there was something very special when I was a kid about having bags from 'The City' (New York) on display all the time. It reminded me of train rides into New York and grown-up lunches at Bloomingdale's by the big Bjorn Wiinblad ceramic fountain (although I think the fountain might have been in the Stamford, CT Bloomingdale's- it was still very grown up).  

What are your storage solutions? I would love to hear!

09 June 2011

Retro Butterick Robe

Retro Butterick 5152
Materials: midnight-blue crushed velvet, dark-grey cord for frog closures, shoulder pads
Tools: overlocker, sewing-machine (before I bought my walking foot - aaargh!), hand-basting, Clover Asian Knot templates

Front waistline detail
The waist was very low and I took out about 7cm when I overlocked the inside seams
Robe Back
Frog closure at wrist
Clover Asian Knot templates
Image from Retro Butterick B5152 pattern envelope cover

26 May 2011

Boroondara Sustainability Award

Thank you to the City of Boroondara! I just found out that I received a special commendation in the 2010 Sustainability Awards, Sustainable Gardens category 'For showing how tenants can improve common areas and fostering a sense of community through productive gardening.' This also goes to my partner John who built the raised beds and helps out with seed every year, Alan next door who looks after the compost heap and my landlord who has let me do what I want with the backyard.  It's mostly my baby, but I do share a backyard with two neighbors and wouldn't be able to do it if they weren't in favour of having it there.

These are the photos from my submission last December:

Building the raised patch from old sleepers
There was an old asbestos shed in this spot that had to be removed. The landlord was completely agreeable to a veggie patch being built on the site.  The old clothes-washing copper from the shed now has plants in it (lower right). 
Climbers by the carport
Heritage varieties of green beans, eggplant, asparagus, peppers and basil.  You can get creative with where to grow food when you have limited space.
 Potatoes in Autumn 2010
 ‘Listada di gandia’ heritage variety eggplant
Spring onions, heritage lettuce varieties, nasturtium, broccoli, beetroot leaves
Green Manure crop grown in Winter 2010
This was dug into the garden to add nitrogen and improve the soil texture
A local visitor
We always have interesting birds and bugs in the garden!

19 May 2011

Spicy Goodness

Mmmm....Tabasco! Full of Spicy Goodness. I put on almost everything except my cereal.  I love the taste, I love the colour, the shape and size of the bottle and I love the branding. It's an iconic item that I can't live without.  To me, the Tabasco bottle is to the USA what the Vegemite jar is to Australia.  So what better to do than embroider it?! I started this months ago and just finished it. It began on a piece of gold velvet corduroy that was leftover from making a dog cushion for Mai-li. I didn't know what the final product would become and it turned out to be just the right size and thickness for a sunglasses case.

First, I traced the full-size image onto water-soluble stabiliser from an embroidery shop, with a water-soluble pen. This is the box from the big 12oz/355ml bottles I get at Costco (these last me about 6 months. The litle bottles only last a few weeks in my house!).

I used a couple of different colours of red and green, split stitch and stem stitch for most of it, and satin stitch to fill in the bigger letters. I free-handed the shadowing stitches on the bottle and label rather than tracing them.

My initial concern about loose stitches on the thick textured fabric was justified. You'll notice that the stitches in the diamond-shaped border came loose when I turned the fabric right-side-out after sewing the case together. I'll fix up those stitches at some point.  I was also using beeswax on the floss in the beginning and then switched to Thread Heaven.  The thread with beeswax (ie; the word 'TABASCO') is a bit dulled.  All in all, it was an experiment that I'm pretty happy with

01 May 2011

MadMen Mel

I think this little avatar-maker has been around for a while, but this is the first time I've seen it!  You can MadMenYourself and choose your body, hair, face, clothes, accessories, props and settings! Tehehehe! Very fun.  I have to admit that I am probably one of the few vintage-junkies who doesn't watch this show. I find it to basically be Desperate Housewives re-set in the 50's and 60's.  I love the clothes, and am a bit disturbed by the sets which look like they time-travelled to my early youth in Greenwich, Connecticut. I watched about half of the first season and can't stand any of the characters.  I really don't remember EVERYONE being that misogynistic in my early youth (granted that was 60's and 70's). Oh well. It's pretty with the sound off and it has created a resurgence of interest in vintage! Have fun making your own avatar! ;-) Mel

22 April 2011

Garden Friends

A dragonfly

One of a pair of Rainbow Lorikeets who have been singing to me the past few weeks. I throw snails and wormy tomatoes on the carport roof for them.

A grasshopper on the wheelie bin.

A very tidy Golden Orb-Weaving Spider. Scary but harmless and helpful! I saw it consuming a wasp in its web a few weeks ago. It is about the size of the palm of my hand.

15 April 2011

Pretty in Pink

I haven't blogged for a while - there hasn't been much to blog about! I just finished a couple of jersey dresses for an upcoming warm-weather holiday.  Pink isn't a colour I usually wear, but I was inspired by Pantone's colour of the year: Honeysuckle:
 I took my time with this dress after sewing the wrong sides together on the first bits I sewed.  It's definately easier sewing fabric with obvious right and wrong sides. This one was okay too once I paid a bit more attention. I did one section at a time over a few weeks and sometimes just let it sit for 4 or 5 days.  It's one of the first things I've made that actually looks like the pattern envelope (below)!

Here's the back:
And a close up of the bow with bead finish (saved from an old pair of gym pants):
I also made a quick beach cover-up jersey dress from McCalls Easy 'stich n'save' pattern 6264:
A close up of the bow trim:
The fabric for both dresses was from Dancing Queen in Fitzroy.  She's in a great new space and getting more classes started! I just signed up for a pattern-making course that will start soon.  It's best to drop in or ring Lisa if you're interested in classes since they're not on the web site.  She's more industry-oriented and full of great advice, tips and tricks geared toward professional sewistas!  I find the finish on my garment is ever-so-much better when I get a little helping hand.

14 March 2011

Second Colette Spring Challenge Skirt

Here's my second skirt for the Colette Spring Palette Challenge. This has been sitting in my UFO pile for a few years. In fact - this skirt was the reason I started sewing a few years ago.  I had two damaged but salvageable vintage dresses from the 1950's. One was too big and one was too small and I wanted something JUST RIGHT.  It's a beautiful shiny floral rayon with hand-painted looking green, gold and brown flowers. I emailed a seamstress I saw on an ABC show in Sydney who remakes vintage clothes and then I realised that was ridiculous. I needed to learn to sew.  After I took some lessons, I took the dress apart that this came from (it felt a bit like grave-robbing but it needed to be done - it wasn't wearable) and then made a mess of a covered elastic hem (like - I forgot to stretch it as I went and I couldn't get it over my knees). It then sat hidden in my fabric pile forgotten until this challenge. I'm very happy with the results! It's a gathered elastic-waist skirt because that's what I like to wear. If I have enough fabric left, I'm going to cover my favorite old scuffed shoes (below) for part of the challenge (aargh - only 2 weeks left...I think).
Here's a close up of them hem with braided trim I hand-sewed on last night.  I like that you can see the crease mark from the original hem (it was a tiny dress) and a few little moth holes. It gives it some history. I think it may need a petticoat to give it a bit more oomph - what do you think?

I made the hat last winter. It's Vogue V8405, view B made from wool fake-suede. I think it looks like an Akubra mated with a fedora!