A truly beautiful Minxy mix of charm, inspiration, practical advice, and pretty projects to simplify and beautify your life and home. - Jane Brocket, The Gentle Art of Domesticity
Last week we had a small shindig (at home, of course) to celebrate the launch of the new book. This was really so I could thank everyone involved for all their hard work and for being so supportive.
It was truly special working with the team we had on The Crafty Minx at Home. Here’s some of my favourite images – more to follow soon.
Last night I hosted a workshop on upcycling called Treading Lightly. I spent days and days sourcing materials people could use, sewing tools and various other bits and bobs I thought guests might have fun with, so I was feeling prepared.
But halfway into the demonstration I lost my confidence; it quickly became apparent several women had far greater sewing skills and were seriously accomplished dressmakers (whereas I’ve made exactly two clothing patterns from scratch in my life; a kimomo and a puff-sleeved top sometime around the mid-90s, and didn’t do a particularly good job with either). And here I was telling them to fancy up old items with repairs, jewel-toned dyes, easy alterations like snipping off hemlines and sleeves, or adding a fun embellishment or two with embroidery thread, sequins & beading, tassels, pompoms or handmade fabric yoyos… all the simple projects I’ve talked about in my books. I thought they couldn’t be getting much out of the talk.
By the end of the evening I realised those with the greatest skills seemed to be having the best time of all. They were really going for it, chopping into secondhand clothes I’d brought along with gusto and experimenting with all sorts of techniques I hadn’t thought to mention. As always with my workshops, I left feeling inspired. Then I woke up at crazy o’clock from a Marge Simpson Monorail dream (remember that episode? I call the big one Bitey) trying to make sense of my sudden panic attack.
I think the point is that all this stuff feeds off itself, and by stuff I mean creativity in general. Often when I finish a book I’ll go through a short phase of non-craftiness, where I can’t sit down to my sewing machine for a spell, or even lift up a needle to fix a tear. I feel really guilty about this, but it’s the danger of turning your passion into a job. In truth I’m just worn out. I tend to turn to writing during this time instead, or attend a class to learn new skills before my craft brain’s replenished and starts whirring again.
So my suggestion is, be kind to yourself and keep at it. Creativity doesn’t go away, you just need a break sometimes. And interaction with other like-minded souls to keep you feeling inspired. Craft should feel like fun – not a test!
I’m hosting another upcycling workshop next Thursday 18 April at Ashfield Library (fully booked but there is a waitlist) however, here’s something else for vintage lovers: Eleanor Keene, Historic Fashion and Textiles Specialist is teaching an 8-week course at North Sydney Community Centre on Tuesday evenings, starting 30 April.
Eleanor lived in the UK for 9 years where she studied a Masters in History of Fashion & Textiles, then went on to run the Costume & Textile auctions for Bonhams over there. She now lives and works in Sydney. Eleanor will be bringing along items to see and feel in the classes, and sharing stories from her years of working in the industry. This looks fab to me.
Only another six weeks or so until the new book is published here in Australia, and I’m anxiously awaiting my first advance copy. It should be arriving next week. In the interim, I’ve another fashion upcycling event to keep me busy and the challenging work of writing my first novel. Some days I’m buoyed by the pace at which it’s coming along, others I feel desperate it’ll never be finished. But through it all I keep writing… it’s all I can do, really.
Here’s the details of the Upcycle your Threads event I’ll be hosting soon for the City of Sydney and Green Villages, an excellent initiative to help people live in more environmentally-conscious ways. Hope to see you there.
Ms. Dash here came along to one of my pre-xmas upcycling workshops. She snapped up a crochet tablecloth I’d brought in with a pile of other vintage fabrics and clothing for people to play with, and we had a chat about options for transforming it. This poncho is the result. I admired it so much, Alacoque won a copy of A Life in Frocks to keep for creating my favourite project of the day.
I’ll be hosting another of these free workshops with the City of Sydney in May. Stay tuned for dates and more events news to follow soon, and check out the pics below to see how it’s done. Alternatively, visit Alocoque’s blog for step-by-steps. Very seventies, non?
I’ve been immersed in book revisions lately, so looking forward to my two workshops this weekend: Saturday at Warringah Mall Library, Dee Why and Sunday at the gorgeous Sydney Antique Centre in Surry Hills. We’re fully booked but if you’re coming along, you’ll be excited to hear about the pieces I’ve collected from Rozelle Markets and Coco Repose for us to chop and embellish and jzoosh to our heart’s content… there’s a stack of girly frou to make your heart sing, I promise, along with feathers and sequins and buttons and lace and more more more in my box of tricks.
Yes, it’s going to be an upcycling extravaganza, ladies.
What else? I’ve been in excruciating pain after Tough Mudder. Idiot me. No running, no boxing, no bootcamp… boo. Only light walking(!), and swimming (I hate swimming).
The novel continues apace. Veeery slowly. But I’m learning so much with Emily Maguire in the Faber Academy course I’m doing. It’s such a practical, no-nonsense look at the technical side of things, I’m loving it. Quite sad we finish up in a few weeks, but then I’m off to the Blue Mountains with a couple of girlfriends. We’ve fashioned our very own writer’s retreat, holing up in Wentworth Falls for four whole days to write and write and write some more, sans family. Can’t. Wait. (did that sound too eager? Sorry J & O, you know I’ll miss you).
A first draft by xmas – we can do it!
I had lunch with Calico & Ivy‘s Sarah Wheatley at Fratelli Fresh the other day, and it was just so gorgeous chatting about her recent trip to France to do this course with mixed textile artist Julie Arkell, and her crafty tour of London, Paris and the Dordogne. I wish I’d stowed away in her suitcase, and am currently investigating courses I can do over the next year to expand my world, which gets a bit small and cosy at times. I’m thinking sock knitting at Calico & Ivy Balmain in late August, so I can make handmade socks for friends this Christmas (or next, more likely), a writing workshop and learning the trapeze, believe it or not. As much as I push myself to sign up, I always enjoy it when I do. The sense of new community and creativity is never not inspiring or rewarding.
I tried not banging on too much about the photo shoot we’re preparing for next week because truly, I’m starting to bore myself. I’ve signed up with HarperCollins for book five, out next year, and am simultaneously thrilled to bits and keeping all fingers and toes firmly crossed that we’re ready in time and the book is beautiful. Thankfully we’re on track for the same publication date I had with Murdoch. Moving publishers is serious work, when all the conversations one has over 18 months need to be condensed and had again in a period of a few weeks. It’s been beyond busy, but I’m hoping it makes the book simply better and am honoured to be part of the HarperCollins list and one of the first books published by my friend, new HarperCollins publisher Catherine Milne.
Anyway, it’s likely I’ll be posting sporadically until the book is safely handed in, and I have a few workshops of my own to host over the next few months (promise to update the events page soon!), but will be thinking of new favourite fabrics, materials and crafty projects to share with you, once I get through this shoot in one piece.
Wish me luck,
Have you heard about this huge annual sustainability event, organised by the clever people at City of Sydney and local councils across Australia?
This Saturday 5 May’s Garage Sale Trail is looking to be massive, with ambassadors Marnie Skillings and Liane Rossler (Dinosaur Designs) on board, and sales all over the city at Cloth Fabric, The Society Inc. etc. Let’s hope the gorgeous weather holds out for some enthusiastic bargain-hunting. For some excellent guerilla garage sale shopping tips, click here.
I’ll be doing a workshop at the Sydney Antique Centre from 2-4pm this Saturday on how to upcycle vintage & secondhand clothes. There’s a few spots left if you’re keen to sign up, and I’ll be posting some images here on the blog soon so you can see some of the transformations we made to tired & damaged pieces.
Esther Han interviewed me for this piece in the Sydney Morning Herald today.
Apparently dressmaking courses are seeing a huge surge in popularity, with much of the buzz about recreating all the vintage-style frocks we’re going in for of late. Lovely news (or at least nicer than the other headlines I read this morning) because not everyone can find a true vintage frock to fit, much as they’d like to.
I’ve been dying to make a vintage frock from scratch for aeons. Inner Westies should try the Summer Hill Sewing Emporium if you can’t get to Beverley’s classes in Penshurst, or any of the squillion on offer at TAFE.
Convinced? For inspiration, see Cara Mia Vintage for some lustworthy original designer pieces from the likes of Balenciaga, Chanel, Dior, Gucci, Pucci, Moschino, Vivienne Westwood and Ungaro. Cara Weinstock’s pieces had me positively drooling at the last Love Vintage.