Thursday, December 11, 2008


My daughter and I loved the comedy show 'Will and Grace'; in one episode Jack was attending a spelling bee and got the word 'doily' to spell...which stumped him, but then he had the bright idea 'Oh, I know! Like: "he walked doily down the street!"' and did a mincy little pose to illustrate. We all fell about.

That phrase has stayed with us ever since, especially because I do actually have a thing for doilies, (I collect them in fact, along with vintage tablecloths) so when I recently made a natural linen wedding dress - decorated with antique doilies and with the bodice made from a vintage 50s-60s barkcloth tablecloth - I just had to dub it "She Walked Doily Down the Aisle'. If you've seen the episode, you'll appreciate the joke! It's a strapless, pull-on dress, boned for support and elasticated both at the waist and across the top back edge. The skirt is very tapered with a luxuriously swishy fishtail.

Antique hand-tatted trim and tablecloth applique roses

Huge over-sized chintz roses in gorgeous shades of coral, peach, pink, yellow and cream are dotted here and there:

Don't forget you need to have an impressive back view as well when you walk down the aisle - this beautiful, upcycled vintage 60s silk scarf tie certainly does the trick! I cut it to make the most of the design and the delicious fall of the silk. The colors perfectly match the roses in the barkcloth tablecloth bodice:

For me, the piece de resistance is the wonderful antique lace adorning the cummerbund, which is very special: it dates back to the civil war period. Please click on the pic in order to zoom in and see more detail. The 3D butterfly, which I made from a very old doily (!) is a perfect finish to this very feminine, vintage look:

You'll find this one of a kind dress in my etsy store (please click on the etsy store pics to the left). I'm keen to make more of these so if you wish to discuss an original, custom-made dress in a particular colorway or materials, don't hesitate to contact me:

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Tag - I'm it

PetaPledger - gorgeous girl and clever seamstress and designer ( - tagged me so here goes....
Here are the rules:
* Mention the rules on your blog.
* Tell six quirky yet boring, unspectacular details about yourself.
* Tag six others
* Go to each person’s blog and leave a comment that lets them know they are tagged.

Six Things About Me

1. I've twiddled my hair since I was a little girl (usually my fringe)

2. I have an unhealthy relationship with WillyWonka's Neon Nerds and am not allowed to have them anymore because I compulsively eat them until i make myself ill and my teeth ache

3. I speak Spanish with a Uruguayan accent, having originally learned it from a Uruguayan family (a bit like learning English with a Welsh accent or something)

4. I collect old editions of Dickens novels, teapots, and more recently, vintage Bambi and fawn figurines.

5. If I were a car, I'd be an E-type Jaguar:

6. Top Fave songs are Makes me Wanna Holler (Inner City Blues) by Marvin Gaye, A Tisket A Tasket by Ella Fitzgerald, My Funny Valentine by Elvis Costello. I'm also obsessed with Burt Bacharach.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

The Academy of Gentle Arts

What a gorgeous shop name! It conjures up so many wonderful images, doesn't it? Old-fashioned, charming, delicate creations spring to mind, made by fragile-boned ladies who most likely wear bonnets when they are out of doors, to protect their delicate complexions! The first lovely thing I came across in this sweet etsy shop was this charming, evocative mobile:

It's called the Homing Pigeon Mobile, and is completely hand-cut by Madeleine, the store owner. In her etsy store you will find babies' rattles, children's clothes and rag dolls, and paper mobiles.

I was so taken by Madeleine's style that I asked her to write a quick version of the etsy interview used on the front page for featured sellers, and here it is, in her own words:

My name is Madeleine, I live and work in Melbourne.

I mostly just create things. for a day job I work as a model and prop maker in the film industry, I also am an animator and sometimes director and art director. I also do lots of gardening and cooking and making quince jelly when its the season.

I have always made things I guess I just like using my hands, I became focused on having a creative career once I decided 10 years as a waitress was enough and quit vowing never to return. I never did, thank goodness. Sometimes I do get what I call "secretary envy" where I wish for a stable job where I know what is going to happen but it soon passes.

I have a studio in my home its also our storage room so sometimes I fight for space with a drum kit. I tend to end up getting things out of the studio and working all over the house no matter how much I try not to. I do a lot of thinking and sketch down ideas when they come to make at a later date. I tend to want to do everything all at once and start with cutting things from paper and the next minute the sewing machine is out, and then I am thinking of doing some woodwork and then glass etching and suddenly I have to bring it all back to just the idea in front of me and get that finished.

I guess the handmade possession I most cherish is my home, I know that is a rather large object. It is so cosy and nice and its where I get so much done. I used to travel a lot and never feel settled and now I do and I really like it.

My favourite books are anything by Ian McEwan, especially Saturday
Most things by Murakami except Norwegian woods which annoyed me.
Annie Proulx books.
An Atlas
My book from 1835 called The Sunday Companion which is a compilation of weekly newsletters full of bizarre tips and information.

I love a lot of different music at the moment i'm loving
Andrew Bird
Oliver Mann
Listening to RRR public radio

websites I check regularly are
Small magazine
The Lort Smith lost dogs home (we are thinking of getting a dog)
a blog called mint

In ten years I'd like to have some chooks and some children and a full and busy house and to be using my hands to make things I love.

Friday, August 22, 2008

From Doily to Babydoll

New from Old - from Table to Wardrobe
I LOVE old linen, tablecloths, doilies (or d'Oyley, as one traditional spelling has it), dresser cloths and teatowels. I have a great fondness for the kitsch, over-blown rose print tablecloths from the 50s and 60s. I adore hand-tatted edgings, cross-stitch motifs - especially on gingham - and cutwork. It goes without saying that vintage Irish linen cloth, adorned or unadorned, is a vintage treasure I'm always on the look-out for.
When I come across these beauties while hunting through the op shops, I always snap them up to take home to add to my ever-growing stash, not with the intent of dressing my table with them; no, I think they'd be much more beautiful worn on the body.

I've made a number of clothes from vintage table linen. My first experiment was this sweet A-line tablecloth over-skirt with batiste petticoat:

I'm quite a stickler for detail and accuracy, so I like to ensure accuracy of cutting and piecing in order to make the most of the features of the found linen. And as most tablecloths are very symmetrical in their embroidery design, my arrangement of the embroidery is always accurately symmetrical as well.

Another favourite garment, or rather the garment made from my favourite, snow-white Irish linen tablecloth which featured cut-work and a 5" deep hand-tatted edging, is this flapper inspired tea-gown:

It's very drop-waisted, with the skirt coming off the top of the thighs, and very deeply-scooped in the back. Because the tablecloth was square, the shape of the skirt emerged as a delightful hanky-hem shape (I could not bare to part with one inch of the gorgeous linen!):

I peppered the front of the dress with handmade cotton doilies, cutting out the fabric behind them so only the sheer layer of fine batiste covered the skin beneath.

Here's a cute pin-up style dress I made from a 1960s circular breakfast cloth:

Very old, hand-embroidered doilies from the art deco era inspired this babydoll top, which I made from vintage, unused headcloth:

I made two other babydoll dresses by converting pretty skirts into dresses and adorning them with vintage crochet doilies and whatnot:

This wrap dress is made from a 1960s-70s seersucker tablecloth:

I hadn't realized just how many garments I'd made from vintage table linen! I'll save the rest for another post, and finish off here with one more: a lovely dress I made from both a sheet AND a tablecloth, lol:

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Tuxedo Dress, V2

I'd just finished a tuxedo dress that was to be worn by a maid of honour at a wedding, and while I'm usually all tuxedoed out after making a deadline, due to the amount of delicate and tiny hand-sewing involved, this time I was feeling as if I were on a roll and ready to get straight back to the machine and make another! Normally I offer the Tuxedo Dress as a custom service, but there's nothing like making a pretty dress just because you feel like it! So I did. I cut it out on Sunday while the family was away and worked on it for two days straight. It was very satisfying and I'm happy with the result:

I originally dubbed this one 'Sabrina', for Audrey Hepburn in the movie, Sabrina, but then it occurred to me it really was very Grace Kelly in style, too: cool, prim, pretty, with a sort of 'slow burn' effect imparted by the pretty, but pretty sexy, sheerness of the bodice. I started browsing Grace Kelly photos as I had a hankering to see once again the wonderful black and white swimsuit with matching wrap skirt and huge black straw hat she wore walking through the hotel foyer in To Catch a Thief. If you've seen the film you'll know the ensemble I mean, it's spectacular. I couldn't find a photo of that costume, but I DID find this pic:

Now don't tell me you can't see an uncanny resemblance between Grace Kelly here, and Nicole Kidman?? I suppose the similarity has been mentioned before, but it had never occurred to me. They both have that cool, restrained type of beauty, and finely drawn, elegant features. Not to mention perfect physiques for high fashion (I almost wish Nicole Kidman had chosen modeling as a profession)! Perhaps Ms Kidman seems less severe and aloof than Grace Kelly often seemed (or was cast) in her roles, but both share an elusive quality on-screen, and great femininity of style.

Both women are renowned for inspiring high-fashion designers with their femininity and grace.
Please pop in to my etsy store:
to see more photos of this dress!

Sunday, August 10, 2008

A Wonderful Bird

I got up this morning at 6.30 and was trundling about the kitchen making my daughter's lunch, when she suddenly exclaimed 'Mum, look at that bird!". We ran to the large glass sliding door and looked out: a medium sized bird was flitting about the greenery around the chicken coop. It had THE most amazing colouring I've ever seen: deep glossy black body and tail, and neon egg-yolk yellow head and wings. It was an amazing sight when it opened its wings to fly, as while many birds have colour underneath the wings which may only be glimpsed in flashes, this bird's wings were solid, bright yellow, both front and back. We were very excited to see another bird with the same colouring join the first - we immediately thought it must be two males, rather than a mated pair (in the brightly coloured species, usually the females have the drab colouring). Juveniles, perhaps? Could there be a nesting family nearby? Then my dog barked - and they flitted off into the trees, and, despite their spectacular colouring, were lost to sight. Here's a pic of the chicken coop where he was flitting about, and you can see the forest reserve in the background, which is teeming with life:

We raced to the computer to google 'black and yellow Australian birds', as we had NO idea what they might be. We tossed some possibilities around, like rifle bird, honey-eater of some kind, and John suggested bower bird: he was right. It turned out they were two male Regent Bowerbirds. We're so excited! We do have a lot of bird-life here, being on 2.5 acres with a lush pasture with a lot of water in the soil (as all the run-off from the house gets fed onto the site), so we often have a yard full of wading birds, like grey or white herons, ducks, egrets, ibis, and so on; along with the usual Australian suspects such as galahs and cockatoos (which congregate in huge numbers here), the shyer rosellas, plus various blow-ins like swifts and honey-eaters, along with a large extended family of kookaburras - but in the 14 months we've been here, we've never seen a Bower bird! What a treat!

Thursday, July 3, 2008

ROSEBUD - vintage styled swimsuit

Here it is, I'm thrilled with the result, it's worthy of any of the Hollywood beauties we often saw on-screen in bathing suits - Marilyn, Doris Day, Mitzi Gaynor, Brigitte Bardot, and especially Dorothy Lamour, who spent a lot of her film career in a swimsuit and sarong:

The little shaped wrap 'modesty' skirt buttons on over the swimsuit, but is meant to look an integral part of the suit when worn. This one piece is made for swimming, being fully-lined and with proper elastic, and has sort of trunk/bloomer legs, as they had in the 1940s-1950s. It can also be worn as a playsuit. Here it is sans sarong:

The demure back view:

...and close-up of pleated, shelf-bust style bodice, topped with ruched vintage trim and little celluloid rose button:

I love this one, if I do say so myself!!

Sunday, June 29, 2008

VINTAGE SWIMSUITS, an obsession...

I finished my first Maisy Brown Repro Vintage swimsuit last week (see previous entry) and have now officially descended into OCD mode over vintage swimsuits in general! I've been surfing the net looking for inspiration, to get my ideas focused, and have found some gorgeous things; just look at this wonderful vintage pattern for a drop waist, skirted or bloomer-type one piece:

Isn't it wonderful!! Love how it cinches and shapes the figure. And check out this wonderful old advertisement for Catalina swimsuits (just as fabulous as Jantzen, in my opinion):

Then there's this very smart swing-era (1940s) swimsuit with square-shouldered cover-up, which is basically a very cute bra and Wonder-woman style trunks, with ruching up the sides. It would be easily made in woven fabric and no doubt very flattering:

So, fired up and all excited about my first success, I've almost finished my second vintage-inspired swimsuit: a one piece with sweet-heart shaped, pleated shelf-bust, made from authentic 1950s cotton polka-dot fabric with scattered rosebuds, which is simply gorgeous! Here it is in various stages of construction:

The photos (both with and without flash) don't do it justice at all! I'm hoping to get it finished today. I intend to make a short wrap skirt to go over the top of it as a cover-up, in either a flared or close-fitting sarong style. It's a one-of-a-kind fully-lined suit made with genuine vintage fabric and trims, approximately a US size 6, so if anyone is interested in getting first dibs, do email me at, as once it's gone, it's gone! I'll be listing it in my etsy store ( in the next day or two.
Then I might be able to get around to finishing this cute 70s style terry-towelling bikini: