Tuesday, 29 June 2010

A Sunday Outing

On Sunday, my cousin Alice and I went on an adventure to Castlemaine, a town to the north of Melbourne. We went on the train, and I made cupcakes with lemon icing for us to snack on. Castlemaine was established in the gold rush of 1851, and it is a very pretty town, with a wide, leafy streets and several rather nice Art Deco buildings, such as the Art Gallery and the Theatre Royale.

We found a great shop called Habadash, which is full of fantastic vintage buttons (such as the bakelite ones above), ribbons, lace and linen. It's not cheap, but everything is beautifully displayed, and there is a lot of things that would be difficult to find anywhere else. I bought a sweet diamante heart brooch, a couple of glass buttons in the shape of strawberries, and some very fine lace for trimming doll's underwear.

The reason we went to Castlemaine was to see Buda, a historic home that was lived in by the Leviny family from 1863 to 1981. Edward Leviny was a silversmith from Hungary, and he and his new bride Bertha moved into the house in 1864. The Levinys had ten children, four sons (Louis, Alfred, Ernest and Francis), and six daughters (Mary, Ilma, Kate, Gertrude, Dorothy and Hilda). Alfred and Francis died as young children, Louis moved to South Africa, and Ernest worked as a surveyor in Western Australia, returning home to live for a while after the death of his wife.

Of the six girls, only Ilma married, and lived with her husband in Castlemaine. The other five daughters lived at home with their parents. Encouraged no doubt by their father, who was a gifted jeweller and silversmith, the girls each developed a particular artistic passion. Mary made the family's clothing, sewing, smocking and embroidering, Kate specialised in photography, Gertrude in woodcarving, Dorothy in metal and enamel work, and Hilda also in embroidery. The Art Deco lady with flowers is an example of Hilda's work. I would love to embroider a copy of it.

All the furniture in the house (with the exception of the piano) originally belonged to the family, and each room contains examples of the girls' work in the form of rag rugs, fire-screens, embroidered pictures, carved picture frames and painted decorations. The stained glass-like butterflies are from a lamp in the kitchen, which was actually made by Dorothy out of a metal plate, using a special enameling technique which mimics stained glass.

Aparently, each girl had their own particular set of patterned china which they were served their food on. I particularly liked this rather unusual set, with a pattern that looks like red coral.

There are often exhibitions of clothing or textiles in the rooms of the house, this time of decorated vintage clothing. It was quite dim in the rooms, so I apologise for the hopeless photo, but I thought this outfit from the 1930s was just stunning. The gold parts are painted kid leather, which has been padded and appliqued.

The house is situated on 1.2 hectares of gardens, with little paths and paved areas, arbours, lawns, and a park area with huge trees. We sat out near the ornamental pond and ate sandwiches. I tried out a new hairstyle for the day, it's my Mormon halo look, which I quite like. All in all, a lovely day out in the country!

I'm a Little Teapot

A friend from work mentioned that his wife was looking for a tea cosy, so I offered to knit one. Searching on Ravelry for a suitable pattern, I came across this wonderful one for an Anna Karenina Tea Cosy! I am enchanted by the details, such as the fuzzy white muff which can be removed, and the fact that you can slip her little hood off, and underneath she has Tymoshenko-style braided hair.

The pattern is from HandMadeAwards, which is run by three women from their home in Spain. The patterns are designed Monica, knitted by her mother Loly, and translated into PDFs by her sister Christina! There are several other very cute ones, including a nun and Little Red Riding Hood.

Unfortunately, I couldn't persuade my friend to let me knit Anna Karenina for his wife, so instead I'm going to knit this 1940s Inspired Tea Cosy, which is a free pattern. I think I might just have to knit Anna for myself...

Thursday, 24 June 2010

Fairy Ilona

Pootling around on the net the other day, I came across these photos on Flickr of some ceramic sculptures by a Hungarian artist called Judit Józsa. They seem to be from an exhibition at the Gyermek és Ifjúsági Központ (it means something like the Youth Centre) in Sopron.

The piece above is called Tündér Ilona és a hétfejű sárkány, which translates as Fairy Ilona and the Seven-Headed Dragon. Although Tündér translates from Hungarian as fairy, they are more like female spirits then the little fairies of Western tales. They are human-sized, and usually appear as beautiful young women, either dressed in white or naked, with long blonde hair. Tündérek live in groups in the forests, or in the water, and they like to dance at night. They don't have wings, although they can sometimes fly, or change themselves into animals such as swans. Theodora Goss has written an interesting article on Hungarian fairies.

Dragons in Hungarian folktales usually have three or seven or even twelve heads, and like to steal princesses and maidens and marry them, so they have to be rescued by princes or young brave men. I don't think they are always bad though, just crafty.

Wednesday, 23 June 2010

Club Rakkasah

On Sunday I went to Club Rakkasah, which is a big belly dancing night held a couple of times a year. This time it was in the Thornbury Theatre, which is huge, and has a parquet dance floor and walls and ceiling which are all molded and painted in gold and white. One can imagine girls in big tulle dresses with sequinned bodices and corsages, slow dancing with boys in tuxes at a 1950s prom. However, this night it was filled with gorgeous belly dancers instead. The theme was Out of Africa, hence all the leopard print. I didn't manage to take very many photos, because my silly camera was running out of batteries, but here are a few.

The guest dancer was Belynda Azhaar, who is originally from Australia, though she lives in Korea now. She did a couple of dances, and held two free workshops before the performance. Apparently her costumes are of the type that is very fashionable in Egypt at the moment, but they weren't really to my taste.

Andea Makris from Underbelly danced with one of her classes, and then again solo. She is such fantastic performer, fun and sexy without being sleazy, and she uses a lot of folkloric moves in her choreography. I loved her outfit too!

And of course the lovely Prue Welsh, who always looks fantastic. Prue studied ballet for years, so she has a very graceful style which is very feminine, but her interest in burlesque and fifties style gives it a playful, cheeky edge. I might be a bit biased, because I take classes with her, but I think she is an excellent teacher. She's very warm and friendly, but she's not afraid to correct you, which I think is important. Prue also just passed her exams for her Clinical Pilates certificate, and she is passionate about how pilates can improve dancers' posture and movement, so she incorporates pilates exercises into her lessons.

There were lots of other performers, including Melusina, Dark Djinn, Pamela's Harem, and even a male belly dancer who's name escapes me at this moment. There was even a fashion parade of belly dance costumes, I particularly liked this Japanese inspired one above, and those cool silk fans. It's a fun night, with a DJ and lots of dancing between the performances, and it's nice to catch up with old teachers and people from the belly dance world.

Thursday, 17 June 2010

My Crafty Secret

Cross-stitch is actually the craft I've been doing for the longest. I would while away hours in my early teens, sitting on the sofa and stitching, listening to Diskworld audiobooks on my Walkman. The reason I spent so much time cross-stitching is illustrated above. The Angel of Autumn was my choice of pattern when I was twelve, and having completed a few clumsy little kits, my mother took me into Launceston to choose a more challenging one. There wasn't a great range of patterns, and being the early nineties, they tended towards the twee, so I chose what I thought was the best, and off I went.

I'm astounded now at how ambitious I was, as this piece took me SIX YEARS to finish! It was enormous and very complicated, and if I ever have to sew that much cream embroidery again, I think I will go mad. By the time I had finished it, I wasn't so keen on the pattern, so it has sat in the bottom of my workbox ever since. The Wolf was impressed with the sheer amount of work which had gone into it, and often wanted me to dig it out to show people, much to my embaressment!

I've done some bits and pieces of cross-stitch since then, the most recent being this one for my friend Mike. He's a karate instructor and writes both books and articles for martial arts magazines (he's also my old karate sensei). At his house he has a lovely little study, full of photographs of various Okinawan karate people and lots of Japanese bits and pieces. A couple of years ago I made this embroidered cushion for him. The pattern is from A Cross Stitcher's Oriental Odyssey by Joan Elliott, and is one of a set of four. This one means "wisdom". I haven't quite finished it yet, but hopefully will soon!

It's quite easy to stitch, and the chart is in colour, so it makes a nice change from my ongoing project, which is from Mystic Stitch, and is based on a painting by Maxine Gadd called "Bewitched". I find most of Maxine Gadd's paintings technically impressive but incredibly kitsch - they tend to be mermaids, beautiful vampires, elves, that kind of stuff. For some reason, I rather like this one. Yeah, it's cheesy, but I can live with that.

This is the part that I've completed so far. Look carefully at the picture above, and you'll see that it's the top left hand corner.

This is the whole thing! It's going to take me a couple of years I figure. You can't really see that well, but I had to divide the cloth into rectangles with a red running thread. Each rectangle is one page of the pattern, which is all in black and white. I have to colour in each tiny square with a grey-lead pencil when I've sewn it, otherwise I would get hopelessly lost.

There are 100 different colours, some so close that until you look at them in daylight you can hardly tell the difference! It's a bit like paint by numbers, because it's impossible to tell what each part is going to be like until you stitch it. The colours are much brighter and richer than in the finished picture.

Thursday, 10 June 2010

Kim Hargreaves

I'm having a knitting renaissance at the moment (my enthusiasm tends to wax and wane), which is probably due to the colder weather, and the fact that all I want to do is snuggle up to the heater. On the hunt for inspiration, I discovered Kim Hargreaves and her lovely, feminine knitting patterns. They are quite wearable without being dull, and have interesting textures and nice fitted waists. The photography in her books is also in the Rowan kind of vein (gorgeous girls with long hair, lovely locations, everything beautifully styled), so it's a bit of eye candy too. Here are some of my favourites.

This is Bloom, from the Amber Collection. Okay, so maybe I wouldn't have been drawn to this quite so much if it wasn't shown in my all-time favourite colour, but I do adore square necks.

From the same collection, Ginny. I've always been fond of bishop sleeves, and I like the waist detailing and the moss stitch bottom third.

Oh look! Bishop sleeves and a square neck! Hooray for Still. The ribbing in pink does make it look a bit marshmallowy, so perhaps another colour?

Lately I've been dreaming about sewing a fitted jacket with a peplum. I think it might be a bit beyond my current abilities, but then I saw Beatrix, and realised that perhaps I could just knit one instead!

I really like the texture of moss stitch (although it is a bit of a pain to knit) and the shape looks like it would flatter curves beautifully. It's shown here knitted in Rowan Felted Tweed, which also comes in a grey called, deliciously, Dragon.

The latest collection is called Misty. I do like this pattern, Petal, which is a little bit like a short-sleeved version of Bloom, with texture instead of beads. It's knitted in Rowan Fine Milk Cotton, so I'm dubious about whether it would hold it's clinging shape for very long, but it looks like a sweet summery knit.

Wednesday, 9 June 2010

La Dolce Bambola

Even dollies are going pinup! I saw this gorgeous one, La Dolce Bambola by Jung Hee Park, in Haute Doll magazine. She is a 29cm high, ball-jointed doll, and comes with three complete outfits - a striped corset with stockings, a casual outfit of a checked shirt and denim shorts, and a pink satin evening dress with black gloves and tiny pink high heels.

Her accessories include 50s cats-eye sunglasses with hinged arms, a white leatherette handbag which really opens, a metal hand mirror, and two scarves.

She also has two resin wigs, one in a Bettie Page style with a fringe, the other with curls at the front. The details of her jewellery are amazing, look at her little pearl drop earrings and tiny brooch!

Here is a closeup of how the little shoes are made by hand. She comes with a pink pair with a gold stud at the front, and a red pair too. See Bambola World on Flickr for more pictures.

Unfortunately, she is a little outside my price range, so I can only dream!

Tuesday, 1 June 2010

100 Years of Australian Fashion

If you are in Melbourne, do pop up to the second floor of the Ian Potter Centre at Federation Square to see the exhibition Australian Made: 100 Years of Fashion. It's quite small, but there are some lovely pieces, and best of all, it's free!

My personal favourite is this beautiful 50's cocktail dress. It was made by a local dressmaker from fabric brought from overseas, which is embroidered all over in a lily-of-the-valley design in wool.

The clothing dates from the Victorian era to the 1960s (all women's wear, sorry gentlemen), and there are some accessories too, including hats, shoes and gloves.

These shoes really have to be seen to be believed, they are so incredibly narrow. I can't even visualise the foot that would fit into them.