Sunday, 21 December 2008

My Bloggerversary

It's been one year since I started blogging, I can't believe it's gone so quickly! I've had a great time and just want to thank anyone who's read my blog, and especially those who commented.

I was sad to hear that 50's pin-up icon Bettie Page died last week, aged 85. She didn't have a particularly happy life, but she really enjoyed posing for both her cheesecake and bondage-style photos, and you can see it in her face. Even when she is trying to look stern or sexy, there's a mischievous twinkle in her eye! Her trademark look has has such a huge influence on popular culture, that she will be remembered for a very long time.

Speaking of burlesque, here my finished costume for the Belly Burlesque class. It took so long to make, and ended up costing me about $200 for the whole lot (including silver sparkly peep-toe tango shoes which you can't see), but I think it was worth it.

As you can see, the other girls in the class also put a huge amount of time and effort into their costumes, and the result is gorgous! You can see me at the back in the middle. It felt so decadent with all the rhinestones and feathers, and the dance went really well. The whole night was such fun, I think it was probably the best Bazaar we have had so far.

Here is a look at the bra and belt, the belt was made from scratch, and I bought a white padded bra and covered it. The neck strap looks funny because it is a sequin casing for elastic, so it stretches out when you put it on. I ended up cheating and hot-glue gunning the flowers on the bra, and I also used hot glue for the sequin trim, but everything else was sewn on by hand. I had a callous on my middle fingertip from pushing the needle through!

Thursday, 4 December 2008

Fifties Fever

Every couple of months, I am gripped by a new and exciting obsession. All I want to do is rush to the nearest library and borrow every book about the particular topic, and then buy a whole bunch of books too, and scour the internet for relevant sites. If I ignore the obsession, or I'm busy with something else, it just gets more and more pressing, until I submit. Earlier this year the obsession was Tudor England, before that it was knitting, and now (as you could probably tell from my last post) it is 1950s clothing.

The culprit, this time, is a book my cousin Alice sent to me, called Vintage Knitwear for Modern Knitters by Lise-Lotte Lystrup (who's parents were obviously big fans of aliteration).
The book contains knitting patterns from the 1920s - 1950s which have been re-written for modern knitters. What I like about it is that they show you a modern photo of jumper or cardigan or whatever, but also the original vintage photo (which often looks better). Damn, those ladies sure knew how to make a belted short-sleeved sweater look classy!

Anyway, I thought I would share a few sites that I have found that pertain to vintage or retro sewing, clothing or fashion.

Fashion Era - Fifties page
Lots of info on this site including pages on underwear, fashion photographs, beachwear, etc. The whole site is actually worth a look, as it covers other periods too.
Fantastic site with full texts of a myriad of sewing and dressmaking books from pre-1900 to 1950s. Includes pictures. I particularly like the 1952 book on how to make gloves.

How to Make and Trim Your Own Hats
This is a scan of a 1944 book about millinery, with lots of charming illustrations. Oh god, now I want to make hats too!

Australian Home Journal

Scans of selected Australian Home Journal magazines from 1949-1952. Choose 'flip book' and you can actually flip through them on-screen like a real magazine! This magazine was a bit like Australian Women's Weekly, and contains recipes, knitting patterns, fiction, etc. You can read the text if you squint a bit, but I mostly like it for the drawings of patterns you could purchase through the magazine. Worth a look.

A Dress a Day
Gorgeous blog about dresses, sewing, vintage patterns, etc. Make sure you have a look at the Secret Lives of Dresses, (scroll down, on the right side).

The blog of Trista, who makes divine 1950s inspired clothing for herself, very classy. Good tutorial for making a ruffled very full 50s petticoat.

Saturday, 29 November 2008

This little piggy went to eBay...

This little piggy got a bit carried away and bid on 12 Australian Home Journal magazines! They arrived yesterday and I haven't even had time to look at them yet. Most of them are from 1952 for some reason, but there are some from '53, '54 and '56. The delicious thing is, that each one comes with patterns for the clothing shown on the front cover, mostly dresses but sometimes ladies' suits or children's clothing too. Of course they are also full of wonderful old advertisments and knitting patterns and weird 50s recipes. I know what I'll be doing all weekend...

Thursday, 27 November 2008

Stitch Magazine

Interweave Press (who publish Interweave Knits, Spin Off, and other nice magazines) have just put out a new sewing magazine called Stitch. I picked up a copy yesterday at Artisan Books, and was pleasantly suprised (ok, not that suprised, I was expecting it to be good). There are four main patterns for skirts, of which I think I would only make the one shown on the cover, with the horizontal buttoned pleats. However, there are lots of other simple patterns, including a laptop bag, kimono-style baby jacket, pincushion, needle books, and a gorgeous sort-of log cabin quilt in really bright colours, with an almost African vibe.

The whole feel of the magazine is very modern and has that Scandinavian/zakka feel that I'm not particularly mad about (you know, lots of dull green and natural beige, screen prints of leaves, minimalistic, quirky design), but which is so popular at the moment. Nevertheless, the projects are simple but useful, and there is quite a variety of things to make.

Wednesday, 26 November 2008

Turkish Delight

My delightful friend John kindly gave me these slippers the other day, they are just the tiniest bit too small for me, but I think I am going to hang them on the wall as they are so bright and exotic. Why don't all shoes have hot pink pompoms on the front?

Here is the bra for my belly dancing costume, it's only half finished though. I covered a plain white bra with stretch glitter-dot fabric, and added some trim and sequins. The beaded fringing is from Egypt, I bought it on eBay along with some longer fringing for the belt. So far so good, but there is a lot of work left to do!

Sunday, 9 November 2008

Black Hearts

These rings were meant to be our six year anniversary presents to each other (mine's the small one, the Wolf has the big one with the diamond in the end), but it took us this long to get the cash together, so they are six months late! They are by the lovely and talented William Llewellyn Griffiths, and they both have black CZ stones. Very romantic.

In other news, Underbelly, the belly dancing school I attend, is having their annual end-of-year performance on Thursday 11 December. Thus I am slaving over a hot sewing machine making my costume for the Belly Burlesque class. It's going to be very demure 50s style 'Arabian' number with much swirling of chiffon circle skirts and fluttering of feather fans.

I have to make two circle skirts, one white and one black, and a white and silver cabaret bra and belt set, which is mildly terrifying me at the moment. Have you ever looked at those things before? They are encrusted with seqins and beads, take hours and hours to make, and weigh about a ton. I started cutting out the belt today, and I have some amazing silver beaded fringing from Egypt which I ordered a couple of weeks ago, which will have to be hand stitched to the hem of the belt. It's actually fun, and a real challenge, but I need to step on it if I want to get it finished by the end of the month. I'll post some pictures of my work in progress when I have them.

Wednesday, 5 November 2008

This is Halloween

A little late, but here are a couple of photos of my Halloween costume, scary huh! The ghost with me is my friend Vera, who wanted something cheap and easy to dress up in, hence the classic sheet-ghost, which I've never actually seen anyone dress up as in real life. Full marks to her for keeping it on all night, and even managing to drink and smoke and dance in it!

Note to self: do not try and buy white facepaint during your lunchbreak on Halloween, you will end up in the middle of an enormous queue in Bernard's Magic Shop, grinding your teeth in frustration while office workers stock up on fake blood and vampire teeth and devil horns. Not much fun.

Sunday, 26 October 2008

Feathery Goodness

Still in progress, but this is going to be part of my Halloween costume. I love dressing up (I once worked in a fancy dress shop) and this year I've been invited to a Halloween party. A Halloween Costume Party. God, I am so excited!

I've decided on a Voodoo sort of a vibe, and after seeing a wonderful feather headdress on Etsy, I decided to have a go at making my own. The base is a wide black Alice band with chunks of polystyrene painted black and hot glue gunned to it. Then I cannibalised a masquerade mask for the feathers and added a few peacock feathers (they might need to be trimmed down a bit). There will be something covering the polystyrene, probably black card with some sort of decoration, and the roses may stay or not, I'm not sure yet.

The whole thing is very in-authentic and not really anything to do with real Voodoo at all, but I think every good costume has something enormous on your head. I may go with skull makeup, or just some OTT eyemakeup, but whichever I choose, I'm sure looking forward to answering the door to trick-or-treaters in this outfit!

Sunday, 19 October 2008

Leafy Biscornu

I had to make a Halloween themed biscornu for a swap, but I wasn't sure what to do. Eventually I settled on this pattern, which is a combination of a leaf pattern I found here, and skull and crossbones from a knitting pattern. The skulls are done in glow-in-the-dark thread for added spookiness!

Yesterday I had a stall at the Rose Street Artist Market with my friend Georgia. She was selling her dichromic glass jewellery, and I was selling my magnetic dolls, some cards, zippered purses and some needle felted earrings and pins. It was incredibly hot, we were inside but it got up to about 32 degrees according to my phone (which is totally nerdy and has a themometer on it, as well as a compass and other useful things). It was a bit slow, I sold two magnetic doll sets, two cards, and a pair of little mushroom earrings. I suppose it will get better closer to Christmas.

Thursday, 9 October 2008

Let Them Eat Cake

I'm fairly sure that Marie Antoinette never said that, but it was too tempting add a little cupcake to this picture! I used a dip pen with black Quink ink to go over a pencil sketch, and then coloured it with a combination of watercolour and coloured pencil. I haven't done a coloured-in ink drawing for years, so it was a bit challenging, but turned out rather nicely I think. It may become a card in my Etsy shop.

Below is my new ring, a present from my uncle Peter who used to make jewellery in the 60s. My three cousins all have one too, and I've wanted one for years. It was too big for one finger and too small for the other, but the Wolf resized it (it took three goes to get it small enough, he kept saying 'your finger can't be that skinny!') and now it's perfect. There's something sort of Art Nouveau-ish about it I think.

It was my birthday a couple of days ago, I can't believe I'm 27. Good god, where did all the time go? The Wolf gave me an iPod Nano, one of the new purple ones, and I'm delighted. My old one weighs a ton and has a battery life of about 3 hours, so I hardly ever use it.

Sunday, 5 October 2008

Piroska is on Etsy!

I now have an Etsy shop, as you can see on the right hand side. How exciting! At the moment it is only little zippered purses, but I'm planning on putting some of my needle-felted eyeball earrings on there, my magnetic paper dolls, and some Blythe clothing very soon (ie. as soon as I can take some decent photos of them). Cards, drawings, and other sundries will follow shortly.

Thursday, 2 October 2008

I Am Satan

Who would have thought that I could live there for 18 years and not know that I Am Satan is an anagram for Tasmania?! I just went down for a visit last week to see my parents, which was lovely. The weather was awful the whole time, lashing rain and howling winds, but on my last day it was quite pleasant and I managed to take this photo of a bird's nest, I think it was a blackbird or a starling. It was only about half a meter off the ground, and tipped at a rakish angle, so it looked as if the eggs were about to fall out! Perhaps a first time nest builder?

While I was there I went to visit my sister Zsuzsa is Hobart. She has a wonderful corner room as her studio, and this is the painting she was working on at the time. I love the red walls and the Virgin Mary statue in the corner.

I couldn't help but be crafty with parents like mine, they are always making things. My father's passion is weapons, he has a whole army of minature, working brass cannons, a few crossbows, and a small mortar, all made from scratch. This is a rather wonderful flintlock pistol that he has just finished, I didn't get a chance to fire it, but it is incredibly heavy, and rather elegant.

It's quite a complicated firing mechanism, and it strikes off sparks when you fire it, even if there is no bullet or powder in it at the time.

And last, but by no means least, the Wolf had his birthday yesterday! Happy Birthday! You can see the rather splendid Where the Wild Things Are card my mother sent him, and also my present, The Skull. Apparently a man can never have too many skulls and skeletons, and this one is a rather nice German medical reproduction with a cranium that opens. The eyeballs are my added touch, they are the same felt ones as on our Christmas tree last year, and they make me giggle because the skull looks so excited!

Wednesday, 10 September 2008

Biscornu Swap

I'd never heard of a biscornu until a few weeks ago, but apparently they are little eight sided embroidered pillows, usually used as pin cushions. There is a good tutorial here, although it is all in French, it's quite easy to work out what to do. I'm always up for trying something new, so I joined a Halloween biscornu swap on Swap-Bot, but I'm still figuring mine out. However, here is the one that arrived from my swap partner, Spuraway from Canada. I love the little spiders on it, and she also sent some cute buttons and some thread, check out the little ghost buttons.

These are wonderful little needle holders made by hand in Australia out of recycled Redwood fence posts! My aunt bought them for me from the Hawthorn Craft Market. They are so beatifully painted and detailed, and they come in many different styles. The pirate and black mama are needle holders, and the girl with the flowers is a very sharp stitch ripper.

Sunday, 7 September 2008

Dolly Customising Afternoon Tea

Yesterday I went to a Blythe customising afternoon at Sue's house, which was great fun. I did my first bit of customising, changing Ivy's orange eyechips to pale lilac (with a lot of help from Natalie from Pixeldollies), and it was a success! There were lots more extreme surgeries going on, scalps being ripped off and replaced, heads being opened, etc.

This is Chuck, one of Sue's customised dolls, isn't she wonderfully creepy, like a little ghost!

And here is Ivy with her new lilac chips, much nicer I think. She's wearing a new dress I bought for her yesterday as well, and standing in front of my glorious irises, which have all come out at the same time.

Also, the Wolf and I went to see Opeth, an amazing Swedish heavy metal band, on Friday night at the Metro. They were just fantastic, really friendly and polite, played for ages, and performed flawlessly, so it was a great evening.

Monday, 11 August 2008

Illustration Friday - 'Sail'

I've been interested in the Illustration Friday site since I stumbled across it a few months ago, and I've finally got my act together join in. The word for the week is 'Sail', so what better excuse to draw a pirate! I haven't drawn anything finished for ages, and I know the boat is all wrong, but despite its flaws I kind of like it! Click on the picture to see a full page view.

Sunday, 3 August 2008

My Third Book

When the teacher brought out the leather for our final book, there was black, navy blue, red...and rose-gold metallic leather! How could I resist! The book is hollow backed and half-bound in leather with three raised bands on the spine (two at the head and one at the foot). The rest of the case is covered in emerald green buckram. As you can see below, it has sewn in endpapers of some nice hand marbled paper.

It was a bit of a nightmare to bind, the leather was very resistant to being folded, and you have to work fairly quickly to get it all tucked in and rubbed down before the paste dries. I thought it was a disaster, but once I put the buckram on, it looked much neater and more finished. The leather is not really pulled tightly enough over the spine, but with the metallic leather it actually doesn't look too bad. Even though it's so difficult, it's addictive when you see the finished product. I'm looking forward to my next leather bound book...

Wednesday, 23 July 2008

Swedish Skull and Crossbones Mittens

My brother is going to Sweden on an exchange, and asked me to knit him this pair of skull and crossbones mittens. I was really pleased because I've been wanting an excuse to make them, but it's definitely not cold enough in Melbourne for mittens. The pattern is from Hello Yarn and best of all, it's free! This is my first try for fair isle, and it's pretty tricky, I'm struggling a bit striking the balance between pulling too tight and leaving things a bit bumpy and loose. Oh well, I have a whole second mitten to perfect it on.

Monday, 21 July 2008

Apron Swap

The second swap I am in is a Blythe apron swap, and here you can see the little apron I made (check out the teeny tiny rickrack) and some other goodies. These include a Caramelo Koala (an Australian delicacy), origami paper and some little buttons and buckles for making doll clothes with. Strangely, my swap partner for this is the same as the last swap, so I hope she likes my style!

Also today I received an amazing parcel from my lovely cousin Alice and her friend Amanda, who in return for two pairs of matching monogrammed mittens, sent me a whole swag of makeup. It was like Christmas, I got (among other things) a YSL lipstick, some navy blue metallic Chanel nail polish, MAC eyeliner, lipstick and eye paint, Clinique blusher, and a Calvin Klein liquid eyeliner. I feel pretty, oh so pretty....

Thursday, 10 July 2008

I mentioned in my last post that I was taking part in a couple of swaps through Swap-Bot, and this is something for one of them. Let me just say now that I will never, EVER sew anything out of synthetic satin brocade again. It is the most hellish fabric to work with, it slithers around and frays as soon as you look at it, and it doesn't help that I'm making a tiny, fitted bodice that is about two inches long. In the end I had to melt the edges with a candle flame to seal them and prevent it from just disintegrating.
The reason I chose this awful fabric was that my swap partner wanted a historical outfit, and since I have been reading a lot of books (fiction and non-fiction) about Tudor England and the intricacies of Tudor clothing, I thought I might make a 1530s style gown with a French hood to match. It needed to be brocade, and my swap partner's favourite colours are pink, green, yellow and orange. But could I find brocade anywhere? It was becoming a rather fruitless hunt, and in the end this was the only brocade I could find that looked vaguely Renaissance-ish.
The bodice is attached to a quilted velvet front-part with seed pearls sewn on, and a white cotton petticoat trimmed in broiderie englaise. The overskirt (strangely enough) goes over this and ties at the front. In the end I decided on a modified French hood with no veil, it was all becoming a bit complicated. Considering I had to draft a pattern from scratch and spent about 10 hours sewing and fiddling around with this outfit, I'm just glad it's over and done with, and I hope the receiver can forgive the (many) little imperfections in it!
On Sunday I went to a Melbourne meet of the Addicted to Plastic and We Play with Dolls, two Blythe and BJD forums. It was great meeting so many people who understand the addiction of Blythe, and to put faces to names. Unfortunately I forgot my camera, because there were so many dolls there, and so many wonderful outfits. I was especially enamoured of Natalie/Pixelkitty's customised Blythe with tiny fangs and a wonderful mass of crimped white hair that shaded into red.

Above is the outfit I made for Ivy for the event, from Dolly Dolly Pattern book 2, which included a tiny fitted shirt which really tested my patience. The Wolf even made me a tiny silver buckle for the skirt strap!

Saturday, 28 June 2008

Crisis Averted

I am becoming mighty sick of knitting my Minimalist Cardigan, mainly because it's been on my needles for months and months. Wanting to finish it while the weather was still cold, I started knitting like a demon, and was half way up the first sleeve when I realised I only had one ball of wool left! I'm sure I bought 9 balls of exactly the same yardage as is said in the pattern, but something has gone very, very wrong along the way. I made an emergency phone call to my mother (my excuse: the shop where I bought this yarn from is a 4 hour round trip from my house on public transport) and she managed to find two extra balls. Apparently the colour has been discontinued, so I was lucky. Now to finish this bloody cardigan!

This is a card I made for my father's birthday next week. I'm actually organised for the first time in ages, and managed to post card and present off in time! It's a Hungarian girl in traditional Matyo dress, from the town of Mezðkövesd, which I visited last year. They have the most beautiful outfits, and yes, those are supposed to be giant woolen pompoms on her head, like the woman on the right in the picture below. That's what married women used to wear! Matyo outfits are totally different from all the other folk costumes in Hungary, and I think they are the most elegant and beautiful.

Sunday, 22 June 2008

More Dresses

Went to GJ's Discount Fabrics yesterday, which is probably my favourite fabric shop. The quilting room upstairs has some great prints, and I bought a whole lot of fat quarters from Japan, with tiny florals and miniscule gingham (possibly to make a shirt with). I also bought the paisley one above, from which I made Ivy a new sundress. The pattern I used was the Party Dress from Puchi Collective, and it was very easy to use and turned out nicely. Below is the A-line Dress, pattern from the same site. It's a bit more shapeless than I would really like it to be, but quite cute.

I've joined a couple of Blythe swaps over at Swap-bot, and I got my first swap partner today. It's an apron swap, and I think one of the fabrics I bought it going to be perfect for this particular person! Now I'm off to look at vintage apron patterns...

Thursday, 19 June 2008


Here is Ivy's lovely new dress from Academy Bedlam on Etsy. Can you see the deer and turquoise mushrooms on it? How could I resist! Around her is all the cool little things that came along with it, I especially like the pineapple hair clip she is wearing. It's so dark here in the mornings before work, and then it's dark by the time I get home, so when the days get longer, I'll take some better pictures outside.

I had a stall at the Camberwell Market with my cousins on the weekend, just selling old clothes. While I was there, I picked up these two lovely patterns for $6! The blue polka dots one is from 1953, and as far as I can see has never been used. The wiggle dress is from 1957, and while it has been used I think all the pieces are there. I wish women still went out in gloves and a cunning little hat with a net veil!

Saturday, 14 June 2008

For the Love of Ivy

My Blythe arrived a couple of days ago, and I've been in agonies ever since trying to choose a name for her. I can't even imagine what people go through trying to name babies! I wanted something a bit old fashioned, and eventually the Wolf came up with Ivy, which is perfect. Here she is in our luxuriously overgrown garden in her wet weather gear.

I must confess that I have a bit of an obsession with small things. I once saw a tiny cheesegrater at the supermarket, just like those big four sided ones with the plastic handle at the top, but REALLY SMALL! I got so excited, and the Wolf was standing there, totally bemused, saying "but it's just small". I still love cocktail umbrellas and those little bottles of alcohol you get in hotel refrigerators (just like the real ones but tiny), and things like that. I think it stems from having a dolls house when I was a child.

Sunday, 8 June 2008

I think I'm in love...

Oh dear, I seem to have caught the Blythe Disease! For anyone who isn't familiar with Blythe, she's a 12" doll with an enormous head and huge eyes which change colour when you pull a string on the back of her head. She looks a bit like Christina Ricci. The original Blythe dolls were made in 1972, but didn't take off with little girls (too creepy looking?). However, they became popular again in the late 90s and now a Japanese company makes new versions of them, with over 100 different ones to date.

So, I've finally plucked up the courage (and the cash) and bought a Rainy Day Parade Blythe on eBay, she should be arriving in about 10 days from Kansas. That's a picture of her above. I'm really excited, and I've found all these great forums and amazing patterns around the web, and I decided to make some clothes for her so she'll have something else to wear when she arrives (told you I'm crazy!). Of course I decided to try something really difficult, and chose a pattern for a ruffled dress, kindly scanned in by Murusaki on the Australian Blythe Forum. Not only did it involve bust darts, set in sleeves and tons of gathering (my least favourite thing in the world) but all the instructions were in Japanese! Why do I make things so difficult for myself?

As you can see, after a lot of cursing and unpicking, it actually turned out rather well. The original one was black and white gingham, but I had the pink stuff already. Also, there was a weird little ruffly thing that went down the front, but I couldn't really see properly how it went on, so I left it off, and made the collar black instead, and added a little black velvet belt. There was a pattern for the socks too so I made stripey ones, and the shoes I bought at Robio in Fitzroy.

Wednesday, 4 June 2008

Half a Book

I have been having a difficult time settling down to anything at the moment. I'll do a bit of knitting, and then flit away and sew something, and then go onto something else, which is all very well, but not very conducive to getting anything finished.

So here is my third book, or the beginnings of it anyway. I brought it home to sew the sections but I reached this point and ran out of thread, so I'll have to do the rest tonight in class. It has sewn on endpapers, I chose a pale chocolate, and also a marbled paper which you can see at the front of the photo. It's actually wrapping paper, and while it is quite thick and good quality, it curled up terribly when I put glue on it, and was a real bother to stick down.

Sunday, 25 May 2008

My Second Book

I finished this one last Wednesday night. It is A4 sized, which is not my favourite, I prefer a smaller, fatter book generally, but we all had to do the same. However, I love the colour, and I rolled some gold lines at the top and bottom of the spine (you can hardly see them in the photo). It was a little more complicated than the last one, below you can see the hollow spine that we did. Tucking the cover material in down the spine was quite difficult and scary as you have to do it quickly before the glue dries. It has chocolate coloured double endpapers too.

For our final book we are allowed to chose the format and materials. I've gone for something a little wider than A5, with 16 signatures, and I'm going to look for some interesting patterned or marbled paper for the endpapers. They are going to be half bound with leather, and it's a toss-up between red crocodile (just embossed with the print, not real crocodile!) or metallic bronze! The bronze stuff is amazing, I think people donate all sorts of weird stuff to the department, but it might turn out looking like Liberace's diary, so perhaps I'll stick with the red.

And this is my Minimalist cardigan, the back and right front done. The band of stockinette has rolled rather dramatically, so I hope it will smooth out when I block it. I really need to hurry up and finish it, so I can actually wear it sometime this winter!