Sunday, October 9, 2016

Torrid Times

I've been absent from the blogosphere for a while with bad health and then the near loss of dear little Shoestring Cottage to fire.  The house next door to Shoestring caught fire and was destroyed; luckily nobody was hurt though, and all occupants were able to escape before the worst damage was done. The wonderful volunteer fire fighters who turned out from towns all around did an amazing job and saved Shoestring, though it was too late to be able to save the house next door.  When I put my crystal sculptures in the garden I thought I might one day lose them to wind but it never occurred to me that fire would be the culprit.  The repair of the cottage and garden will take a while but if we take things one step at a time we will get there.  Melted spouting and blistered paint are small problems when we think what might have been. 

Life goes on though and at the markets this weekend we were pleased to find this painting to go on the walls already collapsing under the weight of our collection of priceless art works. This is so evocative of the Waikato, and when you can see it in "real life" you get a sense of the sun going down at the end of a winter day, with the last light glowing on the distant hills and illuminating the leafless trees.  Of course it doesn't fit the "theme" of any of the collections of paintings and so it might just be the start of a new one.  

At the markets I almost crowed with delight when Mr Shoestring found me three more glasses to add to the 1953 royal visit collection, it really is becoming quite substantial now and we're even getting some matchy matchy pieces; in time we could be able to host a royalist party and provide our guests with plates and glassware, though the plates seem more difficult to find.  

A long time ago I had a few beautiful old handkerchiefs with embroidery so fine and detailed that I always stopped to admire them when I came across them in my sewing cupboard.  Though they served no practical purpose I thought it might be pretty to sew them all onto a sheer voile curtain to display them better and this week I found some beauties.  Actually I think I have more than enough now for the curtain but the thrill of the chase makes me pick them up when I see them.  I must remember to take some to art deco weekend next year, because a lady would never be without a hanky in those times, though some of them are so tiny and fragile that it's hard to imagine them being practical when pressed into service.

The top one is cream silk and the embroidery is very subtle and pretty.   

Another find was an embroidered picture of a cosy cottage complete with water wheel, worked in minute detail using cottons.  The person who worked this took so much time and care, it would be a shame for it to be neglected and unappreciated.  

Another thing which has given me a lot of pleasure lately is searching for plates like these, as a joke Christmas present for my dear mama.  The three with poems on them all have the same poem, very sentimental.  

To one who bears the sweetest name
And adds a lustre to the same
Who shares my joys
Who cheers when sad
The greatest friend I ever had
Long life to her for there's no other
Can take the place of my Dear Mother

I was hoping that when I gave her the collection she would think I gave them seriously, have to pretend to be pleased and vow to treasure them forever.  I know though that she will instantly realise they are a joke, and insist on giving them back to me so I can smash them up for mosaics.  It's worth a try though.  

We recently salvaged an old light fitting from The Firstborn when she and her husband were renovating their first home.  Of course they thought it was horribly ugly and we couldn't let it be discarded, so we dragged it to Shoestring and Mr Shoestring very cleverly used some solar garden lights and converted it to be an outdoor chandelier.  The weather has been horrible; it's been the wettest spring we can remember and we despair of ever having outdoor evening meals but if the weather ever does oblige us with some sunshine and warmth we will happily sit under our solar powered outdoor chandelier.  The lights stay strong for a long time after sundown, the birds who spend their nights in the garden may have been a bit perplexed to begin with but it doesn't seem to have scared them away.  They have been enjoying splashing about in the birdbath, which is odd as there is so much water in the puddles and all around the district.

Roll on summer is all I can say, warm days  and nights spent outdoors.  I've found a few old straw hats which I'd like to decorate for Art Deco Weekend in Napier next February and want to experiment with the best way to colour them to match deco costumes, but it's proving a bit scary; after all it would be a shame to ruin them.  One day soon I'll just have to bite the bullet and take to one of them with either water colours (but imagine if it rained, which it always seems to be doing, and the colour ran all over a person's hair and face and clothing) or maybe watered down acrylic paint.  It will be a challenge, at any rate.  Some lengths of op shop silk are there, ready for making evening wear. it's just a question of getting started instead of leaving things until the week before, which is my usual approach.

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Filled With Enthusiasm

Yet another couple of weeks passed before we were able to get back to Shoestring and it might be these periods of absence, but for whatever reason everything at Shoestring Cottage seemed particularly enjoyable and relaxing this weekend.  Last weekend I went to see Giselle with my dear mama and two of my girls and what a magnificent production that was!  I was so inspired that I decided not to give up my ballet lessons after all, but to persevere, and fully expect in the fullness of time to be hailed as one of the leading lights of the ballet world.  I even cut out one of the picture from my programme to put with the two little old swan lake scenes I once got at an op shop.

This weekend was the weekend for the monthly Matamata markets by a happy coincidence, and what a lot of wonderful treasures we found there.  It might be just that we have had an enforced break away from op shopping but I was very excited to find a little plate to add to my Royal Visit Collection, which now is officially a collection as it has three pieces.  

The other souvenir piece I found was this little vase celebrating the "new" Auckland Town Hall, which was opened on 14 December 1911 and apparently looks a lot like the Brixton Town Hall.  It was designed to fit its wedge shaped plot and even now is used by Aucklanders, and is very much beloved by us.  

The vase has that pearly, shell-like quality which so much New Zealand souvenir ware is made with and it's going to live with the Te Aroha souvenir ware unless I find other Auckland commemorative pieces for it to cuddle up to, all in good time though.  

Another great find was this special raffia hat.  I am beginning to hope that Esme may not be perennially displeased, but that rather she is just awaiting the perfect hat and I fancy I may be getting a bit closer here because I think she looks slightly less annoyed than she usually does, though still a bit sad and down in the dumps.  The beauty of this hat is that the brim is not symmetrical, it is smaller at the back giving a kind of halo effect.  We are planning a day at the races for summer time, when all the attendees will bring a car boot picnic complete with the correct type of picnic foods (bacon and egg pie, lamingtons, asparagus rolls and so on) and we all will get dressed up in our race day finery, and I think this hat may be the starting point for my costume.  Often it's good to start with the hat and work the rest of the costume around it, or you end up with a nice outfit but no hat to match, which is indeed wrong on so many levels.  Being cream this hat looks summery and it shouldn't be difficult to find gloves to go with it either.  

These wonderful publications will give me a lot to think about, the Summer Fashions 1946 1947 is by the Australian Home Journal and has a good selection of dresses and clothes for children and teenagers as well as women.  

But the one about millinery was fascinating too.  It was published by the Woman's Institute of Domestic Arts and Sciences of Scranton, Pa (I think that must be Pennsylvania) in 1921 and was full of information about the various hats a well dressed woman might need for special occasions including 

the sailor hat


and this mysterious creation, which apparently is an Oriental headdress for a fancy-dress, concert or tableau.  

Even the breakfast caps were inspired though I must admit I began to feel as though a person could spend a lot of time changing their hat if they were to take this booklet too seriously.  It did give me a lot to think over as far as trimming hats for art deco weekend goes though.

It wasn't all flea marketing this weekend though, in between times I finally managed to make the tulip needlepoint up into a cushion and I'm very pleased with the result, despite the fact that I lost the pale yellow remnant of velvet I had intended to use for the background, and also lost the edge trimming and had to purchase it all over again.  No doubt now that the cushion is finally complete they will both resurface and I will feel duty bound to find some other purpose to put them to. 

I was very pleased to find these old buttons which I will reuse on an art deco costume or four.  In inspecting the back of the card with the white buttons still attached I was rather alarmed to see that the buttons were made from "the finest urea" (who knew that urea came in different degrees of quality?) amongst other things.  They were guaranteed to be "boilproof, ironproof, fadeproof and unaffected by dry cleaning",  so that good quality urea obviously made a big difference to the finished product.  

Of course it was essential to make a start again on the garden now that hopefully the spring is really here and we won't be getting any late frosts.  I am very pleased to say that Mr Shoestring has helped me out in my plans for the most decorated garden in the country because he went along with my fanciful idea of putting solar lights into an old light fitting which we were given, and now that he has finished it and hung it in the garden I am thrilled with the result and expect that there will be a lot of light pollution in the night sky around Shoestring Cottage in the future.  It looks so pretty and I'm sure we will spend many a happy evening under the lights once the summer comes.  Next weekend when it is twilight I will take a photo so you can see the effect, which is sure to be very pretty.  

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Almost Feels Like Spring

I haven't been near Shoestring Cottage for the past few weeks, having been struck down by a horrible ailment and needing to stay on my sick bed to try to recover.  So it was doubly good to be back there this weekend and to find that the garden and in fact the whole place had survived remarkably well without me there to oversee things - almost a bit of a slap in the face, really!  It was feeling as if spring might be on its way and in the garden the bees were working furiously, with their pollen bags full to bursting on their legs.  They were so intent on what they were doing that they were almost oblivious to my presence and seemed unconcerned about my close proximity.

Even the old berries on the melia tree looked beautiful silhouetted against the blue sky and the magnolias and michelias are full to bursting with buds.  I'm sure that in the next few days the blossoms will be bursting from the buds and we will be in for a beautiful show. 

Seedling primulas have been coming up in the cracks in the paths and everything feels as though it's going to be putting on a bumper show for the spring season.  

The first year I was at Shoestring Cottage I planted a borage plant, wanting to reap the benefits they were supposed to provide, but it grew so enormous that it took over the entire front garden and suffocated all the other seedlings and plants nearby so I eventually had to take it out.  I was rather concerned to notice this weekend that it has come back again, whether from a seed or a piece of root left in place I'm not sure, but it looked so fluffily full of promise with its first flower buds forming that I have given it the benefit of the doubt and left it there ... for now.  But once it begins again on its campaign for world domination we will have a difference of opinion, I know. 

As I've been so badly under the weather I allowed myself a weekend off the blue swallows quilt and took out my old favourite, the Lucy Boston Patchwork of the Crosses.  This is a lot more of a complicated undertaking than it first appears, as I tend to work in a frenzy of enthusiasm and excitement, cutting up numerous patches which then all somehow become jumbled up together and entangled, so that when you need four, or eight, or twelve pieces all identical you can only ever find three, five or seven of them.  I spread them all out over the floor and tried to impose some order out of chaos.  Mr and Mrs Peaceable Kingdom probably thought I spent a serene weekend just happily sitting by the fire when they called around, but this is only because I had advance warning of their planned arrival and scooped up all the half way matched up pieces, tossed them into a bag and put them out of sight.  Mission half accomplished and I feel sure I will be much more easily able to lay my hands on the pieces I need now that they are at least put into ziplock plastic bags with some kind of colour code imposed on them, and some are even pinned together.

It will be great fun deciding what colour to use for the piecing squares but that's a long way off yet, no need to start thinking about that for quite some time, possibly years.

After putting some flowers from the garden in a makeshift container for the bathroom I realised I have the makings of yet another collection coming on.  

I found the Valium Roche pot in a second hand shop somewhere and liked it for its rich colours of lettering and decoration.  It's sitting with a blue eye wash thingy and a little medicine measurer from an old pharmacy, also a couple of Victorian shaving mugs in pretty blue shades.  Kind of a pharmaceutical theme under way perhaps?  Something to think about, anyway.  Possibly something to avoid also!

Sunday, July 31, 2016

Mr Shoestring - Paragon of Virtue

Now just before I get started, let me say that Mr Shoestring is an all round excellent person and a shining example to us all.  I say this because he found in the space of half a day my lost camera (the loss of which had prevented me from writing blogs about Shoestring Cottage for quite a long time now) and also my best Little Black Dress, the one I go to automatically on Monday mornings when I have an early start at work and which is a life saver in the wardrobe department.  So, well done Mr Shoestring and long may you continue in this manner.

Winter art deco weekend in Napier has rolled around again and it was a great success.  This year we initiated Mr and Mrs Canuck into the mysteries of this heavenly festival and they proved to be easily up to the task.  For one thing, Mrs Canuck made herself the most creative costumes including a spectator coat and matching hat, and she decked the uncomplaining Mr Canuck out in wonderfully colourful art deco raiment.  Also they were both excellent travelling companions, by which I mean that they never balked at the prospect of stopping at every op shop along the road and even returning to them again on the return journey.  When it comes to op shops I'm a bit like a dog who remembers once finding a bone at a certain spot and will always return to the scene of past op shopping triumphs in the confident expectation of a repeat performance.  Once when we left Napier I found a beautiful landscape painting to add to my ever growing collection of masterpieces, but my little car was so full that even when I opened the top I couldn't fit the painting in, so sadly had to leave it behind. You can see that she is only a diminutive thing and once she had all the furs, hats, costumes and accessories two decophiles needed for a weekend of fun and frolics loaded into her she was loaded up to the roof and I had to try to slip the painting in by opening up the roof, but even that wasn't going to work.

When we revisited the shop after winter deco I told Mrs Canuck about this sad near-miss and had a look through the paintings but could find nothing to take my fancy.  Lo and behold, Mrs Canuck found this wonderful treasure for me and made me very happy.  (Luckily she is not interested in priceless artworks, concentrating more on items for her budding art deco wardrobe.)

My new landscape fits in with the theme of these ones, but it can't be hung with them as there is no wall space left so it has to go nearby.  Still looks pretty damned fabulous all the same though!

Every time we return from art deco weekend I'm fired up with enthusiasm for making better costumes for next time.  This time the gauntlet was well and truly thrown down by Mrs Canuck (and her a novice too!) and rather than run out of steam as I usually do I resolved to get started before the enthusiometer started to run down.  I have one hat which I adore and which has no costume to go with it, the poor thing.  Esme agreed to model it for me, but you can see that she wasn't happy about it.

I think the fruits and the net are so cheerful and optimistic and I love the way the crown and brim are different colours too.  

This weekend I cast about in the overstuffed art deco costumes wardrobe and came up with this dress which I think has the same cheerful optimistic outlook as the hat.

  I think I will change the buttons and take off the plain black ones, and perhaps use these old glass ones, keeping to the theme of the more colour, the better.  

Another great find which Esme reluctantly agreed to model for me was this boater.  (It is a bit large for her, that might explain her less than enthusiastic expression.) 

 It has a school crest on the front and it's beautifully woven, a bit the worse for wear but I was really interested to find an old newspaper inside the crown.  It must have been a tad large for its original wearer also.

When I visited The Duchess of Ringloes while we were at winter deco she gave me this most wonderful old cardboard box.  You can only imagine how I wished my bosom pointed skywards in the manner of this fortunate young woman.  I'm using it (the box, not the bosom), to store all the hexagons for my swallows quilt (which is growing at a woefully slow rate, and of which I am becoming heartily tired).  I hope that having this beautiful container will imbue me with a new sense of purpose and that I will race through the finishing stages of the swallows quilt, but somehow I suspect I will continue on in the same ramshackle and lackadaisical fashion.  I have a terrible craving to get back to some more crazy quilting and do some cross stitch and make the Lucy Boston quilt but I have imposed this restriction upon myself that first things first, finish what you have started, no more projects until then, blah blah blah, very boring but virtuous.  Sigh.

And The Dancing Queen also gave me a beautiful gift, the green depression glass box on the left which I think I will store my old glass buttons in.  I have never seen one like this before, I love the unusual shape and all the ridges on its lid and underneath as well.  More of an incentive to keep the sewing room tidy - a place for everything and everything in its place.  Or close to its place.  Or within reach.  Or at least knowing where the thing you want is, that's always a good thing.

Happy days, happy days, and we only have one more month of winter to go now before spring is well and truly with us.