Thursday, April 19, 2012

Madame Weigel's Journal of Fashion

Now just between you and me, I have a birthday coming up soon and imagine the thrill when I got home from work tonight to find this gorgeous present in the mail from the Queen Of The South!  (The wonderful postal service, we must make more use of it.)  This publication dates from December 1, 1932 and included its original free pattern to make the blouse pictured on the cover.

Here is a detail of the wonderful quality of the printing on the free tissue paper pattern for making the blouse

Both the journal and the pattern are in wonderful condition, I can't imagine where it has been for the last (almost) 80 years but somebody has obviously taken great care of them.  Madame Weigel's Journal of Fashion (A Delightful Home Journal) was published monthly in Australia, and as well as the free pattern there were patterns included for crocheted doyleys, a "London Letter" explaining the movements of the English Court (none of the walls were papered apparently at the Royal Lodge ad Windsor, they all were painted in a dull surfaced English made paint), a knitted pinafore, a knitted dressing jacket and so on.  There were instructions for a knitted shawl and a doll tea cosy, a novelty work basket, a smart jumper knitted in diagonal stitch and also wide filet crochet border for decorating the edges of linen with a "bleeding heart" pattern.  Bleeding heart is the popular name for the dicentra and I can see what a truthful depiction this crochet pattern is.

 As well as the free dressmaking pattern included there were illustrated and advertised patterns for 13 other wonderful garments which could be sent off for; I was only sad I couldn't obtain any of them because they were most fetching.  

The little jacket over the dress is called a "coatee".  My nana used to talk about "coatees" of her youth and I always wondered what they were - now I know.

I was particularly sad that I could not lay my hands on a lifetime's supply of "Formettes", the little tablets which promised me I could stop starving myself and overtaxing my heart with strenuous exercises, weakening myself with ineffective reducing treatments.  Apparently if I had these Formettes I could "get rid of that excess fat once and for all - reduce easily, safely and permanently"!  They were also "invaluable for palpitation of the heart, shortness of breath, indigestion, dyspepsia, sick headache, heartburn, etc".

 Also there was the A.M.S. Digestive and Liver Tonic which would cure just about any ailment known to humankind, and all at the cost of 3/-, which seemed very reasonable for such wonderful results.  I don't know if I would bother with Madame B Eugene's Freckle Soap, but the finger waves of the lady in the illustration were something to behold - I would very much like to be able to reproduce them.

The bottling set looked ferociously demanding.  I remember bottling from when I was a child, and what a hot and sticky process it was - always in the height of summer and it used to attract wasps.  On the other hand, before freezing was widely used in the domestic situation it must have been a wonderful way of ensuring a supply of fruit and out of season vegetables later in the year.

You can see the little lady in the upper left hand corner with her magic wand, "Mrs B. Thrifty", exhorting readers to cut their food bills in half, and that must have been the main reason for people to want to spend all that time and effort on such a pursuit!

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Deco Debrief

On Saturday Lord and Lady Raglan hosted a magnificent deco debriefing.  Also in attendance were El Valentinos, other deco devotees (and expert swing dancers) who had enjoyed the experience with us.  Really this amounted to an excuse for us all to share our photos and spend a happy evening oohing and aahing at them all.  The fact that we had three sets of very similar shots mattered not one jot because we were happy to gaze repeatedly at them and relive our former triumphs in Napier in February.  We also sallied forth to the local club where there was a band playing, and attempted to swing dance to the not entirely suitable music, which gave the locals something to wonder about.  Poor Lady Raglan will be having to explain for weeks now what we were up to, I hope her good name is not damaged forever. 

What a beautiful day Raglan turned on for us.  We went for a walk round the town,

out to the harbour and then to the wharf and played that ever-popular game along the way where we would each select which house we would have for our very own (should we ever unexpectedly come into a large fortune and be able to afford such a luxury).  Ruthless criticism of anything not coming up to our high standards meant that we were able to narrow down the field very quickly but there were still enough desirable residences to go round. 
My all time favourite - a deco house and what a beautiful position

But this one would be hard to fault in the cuteness department
Then it was out to the surf beach where the surfers were putting on a brilliant display for our delectation.  How skilful and daring they were!  

How agile and fit they must be to control their boards in that way, we were very much entertained and only dragged ourselves away when we remembered our delicious picnic, which we devoured high up on a hillside by the sea so we could still watch the surf rolling in and see the sea birds wheeling in the air.  
This garden fascinated us.  The assortment of objects hanging in the tree and around the garden is astonishing

But I have to say that a personal highlight for me was when Lady Raglan bestowed the great honour upon us of taking us to the local dump, where there was a fabulous shop.  What an excellent idea this is, I think all councils should have a dump shop because there were some wonderful things there which would otherwise just have been destroyed and not reused.  About 35 years ago I read The Good Companions by J B Priestley and have always wanted my own copy to see if it is as good as I remembered, and here I found a lovely edition for $1.  The original owner’s name was in the front (1953 was the year she obtained her copy) and this made me value it all the more.  Also there was a knitting pamphlet with six (yes, six!) art deco twin sets and instructions on how to knit them.  Each twinset had a name ("Headliner", "Tourist", "Wayfarer", "Mosaic" "Preview" and "Talisman" ) and I am captivated by them.

Lady Raglan pointed out to me that even if I had the twin sets I do not possess the pointy bosoms of the ladies modelling them, but I am sure that is not a major setback.  Going to the bother of trying to reproduce 1930s lingerie is above and beyond the call of deco duty, even for a devotee such as myself I fear. 

 Magnificent Max the Wonder Dog demonstrating his "noble" expression beside a statuette

My obsession with all things avian continues.  I was very jealous of this beautiful bird's nest Lady Raglan had in her garden.  The construction of this nest is so skilful - it really can't be compared with the couple of twigs the pigeons deposit on the bridge near Shoestring and use as a nest!

And here is this week's "frugal challenge".  These botanical images were found in a bargain bookshop years ago and clever Mr Shoestring has cunningly used them to create a headboard at the apartment where we formerly only had a blank wall; we will get a lot more pleasure from them displayed in this way every day.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Weekend Pleasures

The biggest local monthly market was on again thisSaturday and what a lot of pleasure was to be had for a very little financial expenditure.  There was this Queen Elizabeth II silver jubilee brooch (1977), plus a diamante flower to dress up a winter hat and some interesting beads which may be used on another project. 

I have been making a few brooches with old beads and buttons for friends, these could come in very handy on some of those.  Then there was a pink silk scarf for the next crazy quilt with a “second hand rose” theme, and a fondue set for our son who has been muttering away about wanting us to make fondues.  (I suspect that he favours the chocolate sort, rather than the savoury variety.)  Also another piece of pink glass for the collection – really the line must be drawn now and no more pieces added, but this one was so reasonably priced that it cried out to be taken home and put with some sympathetic friends. 

Mr Shoestring found very little to catch his eye but he is still fondling his new Bakelite tape measure so was not despondent. 
In the garden we planted the new michelia (port wine magnolia), and what a wonderful addition it promises to be.  It only had one blossom on it, but the perfume was so strong that I feel sure eventually the whole garden will be flooded with the smell of wine gums when it is in bloom. 
Being on a frugality drive it was time to look around for some plants which could be divided or for self sown seedlings, and there were quite a few.  The most surprising was a lot of tiny cyclamens which had come up very close to this parent plant, so close that there was definitely not going to be room for them all to thrive together.  I wasn’t sure whether they would transplant well but they seem to have survived and be happy in their new homes. The tiny seeds look like small translucent pearls, they are very fragile looking but obviously much tougher than they appear.  Also lots of baby’s tears and a heuchera or two were divided, plus some new geranium cuttings popped in and lots of mystery viola seedlings.  (I always hope they will be my favourite “antique” shades but the basic “Johnny Jump Up” colours seem to be dominant.) 

Then it was time to speed off to Lady Raglan’s for a debriefing following art deco weekend.  More about that soon, I must away to prepare a chocolate fondue.  We have been loving the apple pies made with the "foraged" apples, I will put up a copy of our favourite recipe which we have been perfecting for the last 30 years or so.    

Monday, April 9, 2012

The Foragers

I was having a cosy chat with Monsieur La Poste this weekend and describing to him the tree at the wetlands where the chestnuts could be found for roasting, which Mr Shoestring was keen to try.  When I mentioned the tree at the side of the rail trail where we scavenge for apples Monsieur La Poste corrected me on my description of the activity (in the nicest possible way, of course).

The venerable apple tree, perhaps grown from an old core thrown from the train

He described our activities as foraging, rather than scavenging, and I am only too happy to concur.  Don't you think that scavenging sounds like something a pack rat might engage in, while foraging has an altogether more attractive sound - picturesque and almost romantic, a much more alluring pastime!
Anyway, we roasted the chestnuts and forced Lord and Lady Raglan to try some when they visited us over the Easter break.  Gentleman and gentlewoman to the end, they were very polite and endured several mouthfuls after Mr Shoestring had smoked the chestnuts over wood chips, but probably a little drop of wine helped wash the chestnuts down and made them more palatable.  We strolled up the road for a delicious meal at the local Indian restaurant, then gently wobbled home groaning softly as we contemplated just how many dishes we had sampled and how delicious they all were.
Lord and Lady Raglan had been to an art deco sale and regaled us with tales of the magnificent new top hat Lord Raglan plans to wear to art deco weekend next year (winning the prize for best dressed art deco golfing gentleman has increased his ambitions in the direction of male sartorial elegance), but Lord Raglan had also made the ultimate sacrifice and bought a magnificent bakelite tape measure which he presented to Mr Shoestring!  Mr Shoestring admires everything about Lord Raglan and I believe this gift was the final confirmation that Lord Raglan is the ultimate in all things Lordly.  We were very surprised upon close inspection to see that the tape measure was made in China!  Even in those distant days China was obviously exporting her goods around the world.

I told Lady Raglan about the day of bulb planting I had spent, enjoyable apart from the fact that my trowel seemed to have an unerring instinct for where the bulbs I had planted last year were located, and constantly plunged itself into them, probably destroying them forever.  It got to the point where I despaired of any new blossoms in the spring time as I was only replacing the bulbs I ruined with the trowel.  Lady Raglan came up with the interesting theory that I was a bulb diviner, rather than a water diviner.  A gift perhaps, but not one welcomed by spring bulb planters!

The "frugal challenge" for this week was an enormous selection of tapestry wools which had been donated to me after Bobby had completed a huge wall hanging.

These are only some of the "left overs", what a sumptuous collection of shades

There are a lot of skeins, but not much of any one shade, so I was looking for a project which used many tones but none of them in a large amount.  Across the road at the library I found this wonderful chart for a bowl of pansies (yes, my favourite flower!) which could be adapted for the multitude of shades available.

It is spread across two pages of the book, hence the break you see in the design 

This chart should be suitable for the random selection of multi coloured wools.  I can't wait to get started, my fingers are itching.  Here is a photo of the finished cushion, from the book which is called Glorious Interiors, by that icon of modern knitting, patchwork and canvas work, Kaffe Fassett.

We went for a very long ride on the rail trail to celebrate the wonderful summery weather.  Congratulating myself on my ability to cycle over the narrow (or at least they seem narrow to me) bridges, I managed to hurtle myself and my cycle down a steep hill at the side of the trail when remounting after a cattle stop, and ended up under the bike with nasty thorns poking into me.  Grimly I continued on and decided this cycle trail will not defeat me - if it takes the rest of the year I am going to master it.  We had already got off to a shaky start because daughters number two and three accompanied us, and rapidly sped off into the distance and became dots on the horizon.  The whole endeavour seemed much more difficult and onerous than it had been formerly.  I was peddling twice as fast as everybody else but only making half as much progress.  Why?  Why?  I knew my stumpy little legs (or leglets as they would more properly be called) were new to this game, but they were certainly working very hard.  Was it the selection of Easter delicacies I had partaken of?  Why did it seem so much harder?  It wasn't until we had to dismount to cross a road that I realised the front wheel wasn't turning freely - after some investigation it appeared that the newly installed mudguard was stopping the wheel from turning properly, thank goodness I wasn't imagining the whole thing.  Once that problem was overcome the whole ride was a lot more enjoyable and pleasant.  But I still needed to lie down on the grass and gaze up at the sky once we eventually returned home.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

The Joys of Mail

Early on in our days at Shoestring Cottage we were at a garage sale where we picked up a “new” letterbox.  The man who sold it to us enthusiastically explained that it was a classic New Zealand design and demonstrated the remarkable “Tripsava” function, whereby you can tell whether the postie has delivered mail and thus save yourself an unnecessary journey to the letterbox.  As it is about three steps from our front door to the letterbox this is perhaps not essential, but we couldn’t resist the sturdy old fashioned letterbox nevertheless (and of course it was a bargain). 

Mr Shoestring has been meaning to renovate that letterbox ever since, but because of his recent “resting” status since his redundancy he has finally had the time to complete its refurbishment.  (He only did the preparation actually, the painting was done by his long suffering lifelong their pane lbeating workshop)  What a magnificent job they did.  It is possibly a bit too grand for the cottage, but nothing wrong with a few new accessories for an old girl like Shoestring, she certainly deserves some pampering.  Though the letterbox has such delusions of grandeur, it is nearly as large as the cottage.  

Rear view - no mail - trip saved!
Rear view - mail has been delivered
 When you have mail delivered the "flip up" flap goes down - go and collect it
 Letterbox seen from the front
This week it was announced that the price of a postage stamp was going to be increased (yet again) in our fair land, the reason being that fewer people were sending mail; to make it cost efficient to handle the post, the price had to go up.  I felt this was a pity.  I have received all kinds of wonderful unexpected things in the mail over the years and it seems to be a sign of the times that people are keeping in touch with tweets, emails, and even blogs (quelle horreur!) and that we have lost the desire or ability to communicate longer and possibly more coherent and articulate messages. 

Just this month my mother in law was saddened to receive news that her penfriend of 62 years, whom she had never met, had passed away.  They originally contacted each other through an advertisement in a magazine where people sought penfriends.  Her penfriend’s son had discovered the letters in his mother’s personal effects and felt compelled to send a letter to the sender.  He was touched to find out that his mum had maintained a relationship with a friend on the other side of the world for so many decades and wanted to let the friend know of his mum’s passing.  He said that obviously the correspondence with another woman on the other side of the world had been very important to his mother. 

So, having turned all these interconnected things over in my mind I resolved that from now on I will try to send mail to my friends – the contents may not be of great import, but it will be a pleasure to give somebody that  surprise of getting something other than a bill or a speeding ticket in the post.  (Of course in time I am expecting a veritable flood of return communications.)  My girlfriends and I went through a phase a few years ago of sending funny cards to each other and it is about time we picked up where we left off.  Watch out ladies, you are next on my list!

Strangely enough I was talking this over with my friend M at a party on Saturday night and she must have been thinking along similar lines, because she coincidentally had a card for me.  Things are starting to come together in the campaign for more mail.  I am hoping for a little blip in the postal service statistics, or if everything goes really well a steady rise.  Here is the card M gave me, very retro New Zealand kitchen, perfect.  It even has a set of scales and some mixing bowls, not to mention the kitchen utensils which make Mr Shoestring's heart sing.   

At the risk of becoming a ranter I couldn't resist showing you a photo of that thuggish plant I was telling you about last week.  Sure enough, as feared this week a zillion (perhaps that is a slight exaggeration) more of these wretched lilies had germinated and some of them had even bored their way through inoffensive and harmless leaves of their neighbours in their quest to cover the entire garden.  Can you see where this one has speared its way right through the leaf which stood in its way?  Tsk tsk, I can see desperate measures are called for - I just haven't figured out what they are yet.  

There was an even more gruesome discovery on Sunday morning.  Mr Shoestring gave a little gasp of surprise as he surveyed his domain, then went dashing outside to see what the ghastly yellow blobs were in the front garden.  One of them had completely covered some of the plants and we couldn't imagine what they might be.  A search on the internet revealed them to be "witches' butter", a sort of fungus which grows when the conditions are just right.  Apparently the fungus originates in bark and we hastily scooped up the repulsive fungi and hope no more will appear.  According to our sources the fungus is edible but when I told Mr Shoestring this news he said he had nearly been sick just scooping up the horrible stuff and wasn't about to try eating any.  

Isn't it repulsive?  It looks almost white here but was really a buttery yellow colour

I recently showed you a picture of my brugmansia, of which I was very proud.  Imagine how jealous I was when I visited my mum and saw her plant this week - smothered in blooms and the scent was intoxicating too.  I can see I am going to have to do better, perhaps if I plant it out in the garden instead of in a pot, and give it lots of shelter and good food I will be able to achieve similar results.  

Last week I dried a lot of prunings from lemon verbena.  This week it was ready to be mixed in with the lavender I had already dried, hopefully over the Easter break there will be time to make some sachets to fill with the mixture.  

A year ago our number two daughter Tessa gave us a nasty fright when she collapsed during a 100 kilometre charity walk she had entered to raise money for Oxfam.  We were very relieved this weekend when she completed this year's event, in a team called "Unfinished Business".  Her feet were covered in blisters and strapped with tape, but she was very happy and planning a roast dinner with her team mates to celebrate. 

We kept up the cycling this weekend and I am very pleased to report that I have no new cuts or abrasions, perhaps in the fullness of time I will master the art of bicycling after all.  I did almost crash into a poor man coming the other way because I had been daydreaming and not seen him approach, but a miss is as good as a mile and he wasn't unduly concerned.  Happy days, happy days!  The blackberries were ripe at last and also there were lots of apples on a roadside tree, so we have harvested some for a pie tonight.