Calling mum

Today would be, IS, my mother’s birthday. She died nearly 20 years ago, six weeks after my father – it was an unimaginable tragedy. They were so young, late fifties and early sixties, when they both succumbed to terminal illnesses. My sadness, all our sadnesses were endless for their lost lives, their incompleted lives and it then seemed, this bottomless sadness was never ever going to end. But everybody who has lived through grief knows that humans get through tragedy somehow, receiving scars and bumps and burns. It becomes part of us, makes us who we are, it doesn’t go away.

Grief is an ever changing process. For so many years now, my grief is really all about me, my loss, my children’s loss, our family’s loss. All the love we have missed out on! All the moments of sharing successes or losses, when “you have to ring to tell mum/ granny”. My parents never lived to find out I had two more children…img_9280

Today is also a day of celebration, indeed a day I would desperately want to share with my parents and make that phone call!

It is exactly a year ago that I returned to my first career as theatrical tailor. Last January I made my first tailored coat in nearly 20 years, it was for the character of Jean Valjean for the Manila production of Les Miserables. Today I have finished the same coat, for the same character (different performer), but the Brazil production. This coincidence, finishing this coat on my personal ‘coat making coming out of hiatus anniversary’ and my mother’s birthday so makes me want to ring her and share one of the biggest mysteries of life: you win some, you lose some – we never know what happens next, you just don’t know how things will turn out. Be in the moment, spot opportunities, grab them with both hands, be always guides by your heart.

Happy Birthday, mum.


A Pouffe

Sadly, I don’t have the reference photo at hand, of the pouffe that inspired me to take up crochet. I saw it at Vicky’s holiday house at the South Coast a few weekends ago. She also had millions of granny square blankets, which inspired me to dig out a book of granny squares from my craft library. They are easy enough to make!!!

So I started on a few granny squares and found them very addictive to make and could not stop. Then I found a crochet mandala tutorial on the web… And instead of making a pouffe with a plain side and a seperate granny square blanket, I put the two ideas together: a pouffe with granny square sides!image

Two nights ago, I made a big cushion from calico. Stuffing the cushion with the beans from an old bean bag seemed to take longer than crocheting the cover, LOL! Last night I hand sewed the bottom of the side to the bottom of the cushion, and VOILA! A fabulous pouffe for our lounge room!

i have been working at Sydney Theatre Company for a few weeks. This is my view! Just stunning.imageimage

Proudly Presenting TD #2

Well, TD refers to “top down” and TD #2 indicates that it’s the second cardigan version of a pattern I originally designed last year (and knitted up), and that there are more versions of this to come. BECAUSE I LOVE IT and it fits so well…image

This second version of the pattern is simply a little shorter and the front lace has got an extra vertical row of a small pattern. It’s probably not that noticeable to the uninitiated eye… Or is it? Here is a shot of TD#1 in comparison.image

I think this is going to be my standard pattern for ‘a little knitted cardigan’ – it is so very light (380 gr) and comfortable, both relaxed and smart… and by now I have the pattern fairly well internalized, so it’s not hard to make another one.

I used Barbara Walker’s method of top down sweater knitting as outlined in her book Knitting from the Top. I refined her method by knitting short rows on the top sleeve to create a perfectly fitting sleeve cap.image

So, both cardigans are knitted in the round and then I steeked the centre front and added the button band. TD#2 is knitted on slightly smaller needles to keep the shape better!

For all edges I used a rib that features purl stitches and the lace knit that occurs in the lace pattern.image

And with this accomplishment under my belt, I sought out something small and quick for my next project. I have always intended to whip up this lovely little Henley.image

When I knitted up a sample for the waffle knit, the pattern was very unimpressive and I had saved something more bold on Pinterest which seemed to work really well!image

And look at the reverse side, it’s very pretty, too!image

Have I mentioned that I have started a 6 month contract on the costume’s for Disney’s Aladdin? The designs are amazing and I am thrilled to be on Australia’s A team of costume manufacturing to realize them. The hours are long, the production scope is epic, the organization/ coordination of a all the making, beading, hand painting and other embellishment is EPIC, but it’s so much fun! :).


Mixed Bag of Feelings

The last week at work has been weird and wonderful. I finally cut and made that coat and the process was an extraordinary emotional journey in more than one way.

So here are a few snapshots of the work in progress and the final product.image image

Finishing a work like this fills me with relief as well as a sense of loss. Relief, because I stare at areas of imperfection and time does not permit to alter or re-work those areas. Sense of loss, because over the course of making an item I become so familiar with it’s core and insides- it’s like developing a very intimate relationship with an item that ceases to be a mere ‘object’. So it’s like Impatiently waiting to see the back of it and not wanting to let it go…

Another weird sensation during the process of making the coat was that so very many things I just did without knowing why or questioning whether this was the best method. This sense of ‘autopilot’ after a 18 year hiatus surprised me. Yet other aspects of making this coat had vanished from my memory and I had to consult various books or other resources (many of them giving contradicting advice) or simply use common sense.

What stressed me out considerably was the fact that I had no idea  which stage of the work process would induce the above mentioned States of  autopilot or lack of memory!

And finally, I was surprised that doing something I did in a different time and place with an entirely different group of people took me back… I thought of so many people I had worked with, it took some time to remember so many of the names, and I wonder what they are all doing now… I also remembered why I was pleased to get out of this line of work – despite all the glamour and glory, it is a stressful job which is not really that well paid. One is either drowning in work or there is none… And there is just no job security, one is as good as one’s last job and reputation. So in many ways, one’s personality and relationships are just as important as one’s skill set…image

Settling into the Future

So far have enjoyed every minute in my new job and I envisage this to stay like this most days. There will be stressful days when I will have to perform miracles and boring days filled with monotonous activity. But the people I work with are creative, kind, genuine and generous in every way, so it’s a joy to step into “the office” in the morning, even after an hour commute in the rain.image

The workshop is in St Peters, it’s a very groovy and funky part of town, unlike tidy suburbia, where we live. Well, tidy suburbia is not bad, it’s very comfortable, despite missing the edge…image image image image

I have had the luxury of time on my side with this particular job. The fabric has been sent from England and has not arrived yet. So we had to fit a toile (mock up made from calico). Making a toile is a bit of a detour, since it takes extra time to cut and make the entire outfit from calico, but the great thing about a toile is that you can mark any changes with a big fat black pen directly on the fabric and even the most radical changes can be accommodated in the actual garment.image image

Apart for spending a good deal of time revising the pattern after the fitting and getting heaps of amazing advice from the amazing Leonie Grace, I have also had time to make samples for the details featuring in the outfit, eg fall fronts on the trousers and a very neat way of sewing the facing of a waistcoat shawl collar.image

imageNext week I have to bite the bullet and cut the cloth and canvas and just get on with it, YIKES!

Jean Valjean’s new coat

I didn’t realise that it’s been that long since I posted something…

Let’s get the big news out: I have got a 6 months contract to work on the costumes for Disney’s Aladdin, which opens in Sydney next August. I have known for a bit, but it has not sunk in yet. And what’s more – as of Monday I will be making a new outfit for the male lead in Les Miserables. I am really besides myself.

Whilst my family went bush for a few days, I recovered from the Christmas/ birthday marathon. I never seem to manage to pace myself over the festive season – there is so much on, so many friends and family to catch up with, I enjoy all aspects of it entirely… But then I flake out.

So, I had real fun making the patterns for the outfit.image

imageimageAnd I made a fancy folder for the patterns.image

And this was my lunch when I paused from my very hard work.image

Getting my work stuff ready felt almost like a ceremony. I would have never thought I’d work again in this mad profession, I certainly wasn’t going to look for work, because usually it’s all word by mouth (you can look as hard as you like and just never come across the right people) you have to work your way up for years before getting on a decent show, etc. I wasn’t prepared to do that again here in Sydney after taking years establishing myself in London.image

So since I had a bit of peace and quiet on my hands, I decided to cover my pressing horse. This is mainly used to shape the chest canvas in jackets. You have to apply a fair amount of steam to work the canvas, a lot gets absorbed into the untreated wood, but more gets absorbed (and there is less a chance you burn yourself on the hot steam), if the horse is covered with wool.

I made the wool cover from 4 layers of an old woolen blanket. Three layers are cut to size for the top. They are densely stitched together on the industrial sewing machine to form a very firm layer. Doesn’t it look like a beetle upside down???image

The 4th layer is wider and hemmed, so a cord is threaded through the hem. When pulled tight, The cover fits snugly and the surface is smooth.image

I also made a cover from linen – it’s easier to wash.imageimage

Before Christmas, we had a wonderful week on the South Coast. We packed up kids & dogs on the last day of term. There was lots of sunshine, walks, surf to play in and beach babes to admire.image

There was also some successful hunting and gathering.imageimage

And I turned 50! Yay. image

Best wishes for the New Year to you all! May it be filled with much love, good health, fun and sense of purpose.

The Awesome

A midweek post – because I am busting to share the Awesome with you!

Canal Rd Film Centre, well, here is the canal


Here is shed 1, where I spent the days having fun!image

Here is all the stuff that is everywhere, so fun to look at.image

Here are some red frills, I am making meters and meters and MILES of the stuff.image

Here is me pretending to be house model. I do love any opportunity to dress up! We are making 7 of these dancer outfits, the sequinned frills are for the sleeves.image

It seems that I have met just about anybody who is anybody in the Australian costume making industry over the last few days. Everybody is super friendly, helpful, fun. I have even met the resident dogs… It’s great to be surrounded by eccentric people. I feel very much at home and in my element.