Monday, September 14, 2015

The Colours of Spring

Intense blue and acid yellow always suggest spring to me 

I suspect that gardeners are destined to be disappointed in their attempts to control nature - she will always have the last word no matter how much we struggle and think we know better.  I was very happy to see these shy fragrant mauve double Parma violets flowering in the garden, but when I went for a walk around the wetlands there were sheets of violets blooming their hearts out, releasing their perfume and scenting the afternoon air.  So many of them that in a couple of minutes I picked the bunch below and you couldn't even see where I had been.

 So maybe that's why instead of being destined to be perpetually disappointed by our scruffy blossoms such as this slightly insect-chewed tulip, a sturdy rebloomer from last year,

we prefer to immortalise our favourites in stitching.  I was very pleased when I finally finished this canvas in the weekend and immediately selected another blank (bargain, op shop) one to go on my frame.  

And I have all the materials put to one side so I can make a cushion of my perfect tulips, more long lasting and sturdy than the one in the garden and not given serrated edges by greedy slugs and snails

The weekend was a brilliant success on the stitching front, because apart from finishing that pesky tulip canvas I allowed myself to start this swallow (soon to be) quilt using an old cream blanket and some blue wool scraps.  

I can't claim the credit for the design because it uses the templates from this wonderful project

from a publication which never fails to inspire me.

It is another one of those projects which will use up (hopefully) a whole swathe of leftovers because I have cut the large woolen piece so that it can be framed in the manner of a medallion quilt and will put all my leftover blues around it in the form of hexagons.  (I know, who would have thought it?  I hardly ever use them.)  

And one great thing about being a gardener is that even though we are always destined for disappointment and things not looking quite as we had planned, we do get the odd reward in the form of seasonal changes and plants and flowers which thrive and make us feel it has all been worthwhile - and that next season it will be even better.  

No reports regarding the activities of Mr Shoestring this week, he caught me yet again in my sewing room cutting up more fabric for my Lucy Boston quilt and he called me "incorrigible"!  How unsympathetic that man can be.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

The Marvels Of Melbourne

(Please forgive the inordinate number of pictures here, I couldn't contain myself!)  

 Such magnificent tiling, which we don't see much of in our part of the world.  And it's a bit like a patchwork in some ways.

 So many art deco touches still to be seen on the exteriors of department stores

Such frankly bizarre ornamentation and lack of restraint - this is an old picture theatre and how great that it's still standing, if a bit the worse for wear and somewhat flakey in the paint department.  

Since I last wrote Mr Shoestring and I had the chance to go to Melbourne.  I love Melbourne, I think it is a very vibrant and interesting city (naturally with a lot of deco delights to offer) and I haven’t been there for about nine years or so, which made it all the more enticing.  The weather was pretty good, all things considered (Melbourne is the city the song Four Seasons In One Day was written for) and we had one day of beautiful sunshine which coincided with the day we went out to Rippon Lea on the tram, to see the costumes from the television series Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries. The first time I visited Rippon Lea years ago I was unaware that my grandfather had worked there as a gardener when he left England and travelled to Australia, before eventually moving on to New Zealand.  Each time I go there I am fascinated to think of him having been there all those decades ago, in fact almost a hundred years ago now.  I look at the working kitchen and know that would have been closer to his experience of the house
and maybe he saw the fitting which displays which room's occupants had rung for service

But he definitely would not have been able to enter through the front door and admire the imposing facade 

or enjoy my favourite room, one of the wonderfully deco bathrooms which still has its pink and green tiles and fittings

This one is pretty wonderful too, but I think the pink and green one is more atmospheric somehow
and of course it has the silk nightgown hanging there for that extra touch of authenticity

Having read some of the books on which the series was based makes Melbourne even more interesting because the specific laneways and locales are mentioned and you can imagine them being the setting for some of the lurid tales from the books.  

Before we set off I was a bit dubious about the costumes, suspecting that they might be more “made for TV”, a bit too colourful and garish and using a lot of modern synthetic fabrics.  But how wrong I was!  The attention to detail was mind boggling.  Marion Boyce used some fabrics from her extensive collection of original materials and even overdyed fabric which wasn’t the right shade, to achieve just the colour she wanted.  The hats were marvels of ingenuity including one which had been remade from an inside out 1950s straw hat in order to get the desired effect.  Having them all displayed at Rippon Lea was just the extra cherry on the top, because it was used as the setting for some scenes in the series and added that certain something to set off the costumes perfectly.  There were even cases holding Miss Fisher’s pearl handled pistol and a large assortment of beaded evening purses and authentic jewellery.

 Authentic clasps and buttons were used wherever possible, this one is particularly beautiful
 The yellow jacket is made from an original 1920s garment
 Original kid tennis shoes

The fabric in this dress was overdyed to achieve the desired shades, and look at the beautiful collar and buttons

Imagine sitting for breakfast in bed wearing this concoction - I suspect I would end up getting bits of boiled egg into the maribou feathers and being unable to remove them, somehow such a garment would be wasted on me.  The pyjamas were made from an old tablecloth!

 But I definitely could be trusted to take good care of these embroidered house slippers
 The attention to detail was superb, the covered buttons and tiny seam detailing on this garment is just one example.

I was in heaven and Mr Shoestring was very well behaved and gave every appearance of enjoying himself also, which was most obliging of him.  (On the same day we also packed in the David Bowie exhibition, Catherine The Great’s Treasures From The Hermitage and the Orry Kelly costume design exhibit, so by the end of it all we were all cultured out and had to revive ourselves with a delicious cocktail from The Gin Palace, where they stock no less than 250 kinds of gin and know how to make the most of each one, what a pleasant end to a busy day.  Mr Shoestring would have happily stayed there all evening.) 

We couldn’t go to Melbourne and not travel out to St Kilda and look at the amusement park, the old Palais Theatre (which seems to be under renovation) and is still in use

and the traditional cake stores.

On that same trip we went to the St Kilda Botannical Gardens which Mr Shoestring happened to spy coincidentally, and they were well worth a visit.  The trees were festooned with fabulous (and to our eye very exotic) sulfur crested cockatoos, some of them hanging upside down and putting on a great display.  

On our way back to the tram stop I thought I saw another one, even closer to town, and marvelled at the way it was so agile and moving about so quickly in the trees.  I was very disappointed to discover it was a white plastic bag which must have been blown up there, and now Mr Shoestring delights in teasing me whenever he sees a plastic bag.  “Oh look, a bird!”  If it happens to be a grey plastic bag he tells me it may be a gallah, but I take it in my stride because he was so patient and long suffering where costumes were concerned.  And also his memory is not what it once was, and he will soon forget to tease.