Friday, January 31, 2014

The Highlight of my Holiday to New Zealand

My family and I had a wonderful time in the north island of New Zealand, but instead of giving you a full round-up, I thought I'd just show you my absolute highlight of the trip.  Since it has a vintage bent and will (hopefully) give some direction to my blog later in the year, I figured you'd all be interested!

My highlight was Napier.

Napier, circa1900

Napier was your typical town of mostly wooden and some brick buildings, but on the 3rd of February 1931 it was hit by an earthquake that leveled the town.  What didn't fall down was burnt down by the ensuing fire.  The earthquake raised the land 2-3 metres in some places, turning previously marshy ground into habitable land.  The town was rebuilt in 22 months with all buildings done in the Art Deco style.  Its these buildings that make the town the international destination it is today.

For me, Art Deco is the ultimate design style, closely followed by Art Nouveau.  What makes Napier unique is the density of these gorgeous buildings in the town centre.  Sadly, some were torn down before the value of such things were appreciated.

We stayed in the best hotel - The Masonic.  The Masonic has been in operation on the same site since 1861 (you can actually see the original building in the photo above, on the left).  It was destroyed in the 1931 earthquake mostly by fire and rebuilt in its current art deco glory.  The owners have been doing wonderful work renovating the place over the last few year, and its magnificent!

Our room was gorgeous - a corner room over looking the town.  I spent part of our first evening sitting on the jarvie lounge suite with the windows open, drinking a lovely glass of local chardonnay and reading a history book on the buildings of Napier.  It was a pretty divine moment!

My husband is a golfing tragic, and one of the worlds top courses is 20 minutes from Napier, so we spent most of the next day there while Steve and Olivia played a round of (very expensive!) golf.  But that afternoon we grabbed an ice cream and sat under the colonnades that surround the sound shell on the beach.

Sadly, I didn't take many photos of the buildings in the town.  To be honest, I was really trying to take it all in to my memory rather than focusing on taking photographs.

The following morning, our last in Napier, we booked a tour in a 1939 Packard with a very knowledgeable driver named David.  He drove us around, teaching us about the history and introducing us to some of the more famous buildings.

My favourite building was the National Tobacco Company building which is unusual amongst the buildings in Napier, because it is a blend of Art Deco and Art Nouveau.

 The classic arch in a square over the door, complete with sun ray lines - all art deco features - are finished off with art nouveau touches of flowers and fruit.  Even the classic art deco speed lines got a makeover to become straight vines with leaves.

These lights are solid brass and are very heavy apparently.  It takes two strong men to lift them.  They are exceptionally beautiful!

Our tour finished before we knew it (how quickly an hour and a half can pass when you are having a great time!!!) and we were back in town.  Our lovely driver was more than happy for me to pose for this photo:

Shame the lighting is so harsh, but you do what you can when opportunities like this arise!

Sadly, our time in Napier was over and we had to move on.  But I'm planning on going back!  Each year in February the Art Deco Trust hold the Art Deco Weekend where they have amazing themed events and everyone gets dressed up and wanders around the town.  How much fun does that sound!?!

So I'm going - or at least I hope to be going.  When we checked out from The Masonic I put my name on the list to get a room there for the 2015 weekend.  Its the kind of event where people book for the following year when they check out, so I'm not guaranteed a room yet.  I'll find out in March, but I have my fingers crossed!

If I do get the nod I will be aiming my wardrobe at the mid 1930s, and mixing vintage with outfits I make from vintage patterns - I'll make most of my day wear and maybe one amazing silk satin gown.  I'm hoping this will be interesting for you all AND provide me with a challenge.  I love a good challenge!

Do any of you go to the Art Deco Weekend?  Is it anyone else's idea of heaven?


Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Pretty in Pink at My High Tea

With the dress finished I came up with the crazy idea to have my own high tea!  Just because I couldn't be at the Jane McGrath High Tea doesn't mean I couldn't get dressed up and eat cake!

But first of all I had to bake the cakes, which is a lot more complex since they've started to work out why I've been sick.  I had to bake cakes that were gluten free, dairy free, egg free, and easy to make.  I didn't want to spend all morning in the kitchen for something that might taste.... yucky.  Thankfully there are a few gluten free cake mixes available, and with the help of vegan butter and egg replacer, I was able to make something I could eat.

It has a cherry on top!

I also purchased some flowers, though I couldn't get roses...but at least they were pink!

And I sat down with my Mum and Dad (my girlfriends live too far away for this kind of impromptu gathering) and had High Tea!

Pink cupcakes!!!!

But I suppose what you really want to see is what the dress I made looks like on.

Oh damn it!  I just realised I forgot to have the bag with me!  The bag that encouraged me to sew this dress in the first place... sigh!

But anyway....

This dress is wonderfully comfortable!  I think its to do with the loose fit of the bodice.  And I really love the piping detail on the bodice and the pocket flaps.  I can see me 'stash busting' and making a couple more from fabric I impulse purchased and have done nothing with.  I can't be the only person who does that....


Thursday, January 23, 2014

Pretty in Pink : The Dress is Finished!!!

When I first saw this pattern there were two design details I was really attracted to - the piping on the bodice, and the pocket flaps - a not so elegant sounding name for the pocket details on the skirt.

They were so simple to make, but they really make the skirt!

The skirt was as straightforward to put together as the bodice with similar pleats at the waistband.  I sewed the skirt to the bodice, and bound the seam in some of the bias that I'd made.  With the piping in the seam there really wasn't any other way to keep it from fraying.  While I was at it I bound the hem in bias too (you know how much I love to do that!), and then I put in the size zipper by hand and sewed on some buttons.

Quick note on the zipper - its the first zipper I've put in that is along side a pocket - I'm pretty happy with how it came out!

Oh yeah, and the pockets are made out of the same fabric as the piping and bias!

And it was finished!

That is, I thought it was finished...

When I stood back and looked, I just didn't like the vintage buttons that I used.  Sigh!  Time for plan B.

I headed to Spotlight in search of the perfect buttons (and buttons I could self cover if it came to it), and I came back with these:

As much as I love the vintage buttons, this just wasn't the right project for them.  The Plan B buttons are muuuuuuuch better!  I sewed them on and THEN the dress was finished.

 I always think its amazing just how much difference the right (and the wrong) buttons can make to a finished garment.  I really is worth taking the time to get them just right!


Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Pretty in Pink!

Some time ago now I was given the most delightful surprise present by a friend of mine - Miss Lucy Topp.  She gave me this amazing bag with a delightful parisienne scene on the side!

I just loved it, and knew I had to make the perfect outfit to show it off as much as possible!  I found some fun polkadot fabric which I thought would be perfect -  you can see in the above photo under the bag.

Now, every year at the start of the year I attend the cricket at the Sydney Cricket Ground.  Day Three of the test match is always the pink day to raise funds for the McGrath Foundation (a charity that provides breast care nurses around Australia to women who have been diagnosed with breast cancer).  On this day, the life of Jane McGrath (the wife of a now retired cricketer who died from breast cancer) is honoured, and everyone wears pink and donates to the charity.  Each year I attend the High Tea with my mother-in-law, and of course we wear pink.  Here are some photos from last year:

Roses and cakes!

I really wanted to steal this teacup... but I thought I shouldn't...

My and my mother-in-law Pam
Gee my hair has really changed in 12 months! 

My outfit for the day was this gorgeous vintage 1950s hostess set and a pair of Vivienne Westwood for Melissa shoes which matched PERFECTLY!  And here is a secret for you... I purchased this outfit about 6 months before I actually wore it to this event, and in that time I put on a fair bit of weight (I started getting sick in October 2012) and when I left the hotel and got in the taxi, I ripped my pants down the crutch seam, from the back down.  Thank goodness for the cheongsam overcoat thingy!

Last year the test match series was against Pakistan, and I have no idea who these guys are (I think they might have been TV presenters) but they were wearing pink, so I had my photo taken with them!

For this year's McGrath Foundation High Tea, I thought that a pink polkadot dress and the bag that Lucy gave me would be the PERFECT outfit, but sadly my health is just too unreliable, so I'm unable to attend.

Sad face.

But I decided to make the outfit anyway.  I will be there in spirit!

This is the pattern I purchased:

I've been trying to buy size 18 patterns recently, because they need less work to make them fit.  This one for instance is for a 36" bust which is pretty close to my 39" bust.  I don't tend to make a muslin unless the fabric is REALLY expensive, instead, I measure the pattern pieces to see how big the finished item will be.  When I measured this one, the bust was 40" (hooray!) and the waist was 32", which would be a bit big on my 29" waist.  But thats an easy fix!  I'll just take in a bit more in the pleats at the waistline in both the skirt and the bodice!!

I've had this fabric for a little while, and I used it to make pockets for this skirt (which I made two of - one for a friend of mine) but I was pretty sure I'd still have enough fabric.  Well, I almost didn't...

This is what is left of the fabric after I've cut out the bodice pieces, and I've laid it on the carpet so I can see if there is enough fabric to cut out the skirt.  You have no idea how relieved I was when I realised it would juuuuuuust fit!

But I wanted to be organised this time, so as well as just cutting out the fabric pieces, I also made bias and piping with a darker pink fabric the same as the polka dots on my fashion fabric!

Ready to go!

The bodice went together ridiculously easily!  Even putting the piping and the facings on was simple!  And the thing I loved most of all was the pleats on the front and back of the bodice, and not only because that meant I didn't have to waistline darts!  Its just a really nice design detail.

I didn't get frustrated until I had to put in the sleeves.  I've done a lot of set in sleeves recently thanks to all those winter coats I made last year, but wool is a much more forgiving fabric to ease in than cotton.  Thankfully there wasn't a lot of extra ease so it worked ok.  They aren't perfect, but its only me that will notice.

After a few hours I had the bodice all made:

I'm really enjoying making this dress up, even though the colour isn't one that I wear very often.  It will clash with my hair but I'm pretty sure it will look fabulous anyway!