A month or more ago, the lovely Gemma of the Wellington Sewing Bloggers Network had the cunning idea that we should all show off our sewing spaces ‘as they really are’, to show people how we sew and organise (or don’t ).
I though: Fabulous idea! Of course I’ll be in!
And then I realised my spot on the tour would cooincide with absolute madness in my life: hosting a party with dozens of people through the house, teaching in the day at uni and every night of the week sewing classes. Plus working on a massive sewing project. Not to mention that my sewing space has never actually been turned into a ‘space’ since we moved in – it’s just had stuff shoved in it. So you REALLY are seeing my sewing space in the raw! It gets a LOT tidier than this (I can be obsessively neat at times), and will be getting much better organised, and more thought out as I figure out the space.
So there is my caveat! Now for the tour…
My sewing space(s)
Technically, my sewing space is the sunroom off the lounge:
It’s got my sewing desk on one end (with near-permanent cat in residence):
And a cupboard full of all the daily-use notions, with boxes of patterns piled on top, hoopskirts hooked behind, and boxes of fabric stacked in front of it at the other end:
The top shelf of the cupboard is threads in shoeboxes on one side (yes, I have a whole shoebox full of greens, and one of yellows, oranges, and orange-reds, one of black, one of white, one of purple, pinks & purple reds, two blues by shades…), and bias tapes in shoeboxes on the other.
The next shelf down is buttons, hooks and other fasteners, sorted by size, number of buttons, and look.
The third shelf is miscellaneous stuff: dyes, curtain tapes, lacings, interfacings…you name it.
And the bottom shelf is printed-out patterns, and some of my drafted patterns.
All along the front wall are cupboards and boxes full of fabric & PHDs. It’s particularly messy and disastrous at the moment because, in addition to uni teaching and night teaching, I’ve got a the big Katherine Mansfield event coming up.
Of all the spaces in the house, it’s the one that is least organised and as-it-should-be. When we moved in it just got used as a dumping space for all the extra bits, and I haven’t had the time to really figure out what furniture it needs to be ‘right’, and get it sorted.
It’s a lovely cozy, bright space in autumn, winter and spring, but I suspect that in summer it will get a bit hot and glare-y. So far though, it’s just warm enough to make it Felicity’s favourite hang-out spot (and the constantly changing array of fabrics to lie on, and occasional interest of me on the machine, just make it all the more desirable).
When I’m really working on something big I also tend to spread out all over the dining room table, and the living room floor (and then Felicity tends to spread out all over wherever I have spread out).
My main sewing machine is a Janome Sewist 521 (I also have a 1970s Janome, Nana’s 1930s electric Singer (the first electric machine available in NZ), and a 1903 Standard. Because I’m a historical seamstress, I really prefer mechanical machines to computerised machines, and the Sewist 521, although it isn’t expensive or fancy, is by far the best non-computerised new machine available in NZ at the moment.
I also have two overlockers: one that was a gift, and the other that I found at an op shop.
What I’m working on:
I’ve just finished another Henrietta Maria dress, but haven’t photographed it properly or blogged about it.
Right now it’s all about finishing the final bits for my upcoming talk: Clothing the World of Katherine Mansfield, so I’m ankle deep in wool serge for the turn-of-the-century bathing suit I started for the HSF ‘Great Outdoors’ challenge, and blue faille for an 1890s walking dress.
There are also various class samples, HSF challenge items, and sundry other bits on the go, as there are at any given time!
Next project in line
Even more Katherine Mansfield stuff! I would really, really like to make the Wearing History 1910s jacket and skirt for the talk, but don’t know if I have enough time.
Show off your stash
Like, all of it? How much time do I have? This may turn out to be an experiment in ‘how long will WordPress allow a blog post to be?!?”
There is the bins of blue wool, silk & rayon fabrics, and a box of blue cottons, and a bin of brown fabric, and a bin of knit fabric in my sunroom sewing room.
There is the chest of black fabrics in the lounge (currently being protected by Felicity).
And the stack of suitcases with kimono fabrics, and laces, and ribbons, and linens in the lounge.
And the coffin boxes (yes, that is the technical name for that exact size of box)of green, white, and red fabrics under our bed.
And the stack of suitcases with finished historical garments and gold and yellow fabrics in the guest bedroom.
Hmmm…looks like the other bloggers just showed off their favourite pieces.
Some of my favourite fabrics are featured in the shot below.
On the left is an heavy Indian silk/rayon with gold and silver brocading (sometimes called an Imperial brocade). It’s going to be turned into an early 18th century jacket. The brocatelle is to cover a cushion, the golden orange damask is in the (long, slow) process of becoming an entirely hand-sewn 1720s robe de coer based on a portrait of Mariana Victoria, the chartreuse brocaded silk is fabulous and delicious and is also designated for the 18th century.
Both it and the green damask at the end were inherited from Nana, though I don’t know what I’m going to do with the damask.For now I just pet it and coo at it. That’s a valid use for fabric, right?
Left to right: Imperial brocade, tapestry/brocatelle, damask, brocade, damask
All of these fabrics featured in my post on the difference between brocades, jacquards & damasks. Clearly I lean toward elaborate, mad historical fabrics as favourite pieces! And yellow and green!
And obviously I own a LOT of fabric. And I’m OK with that. My work is all about sewing and textiles. I have to own a lot of fabric to do it effectively.
It’s not just a static stash though. Everything I own gets used at least once a year, because even if I’m not sewing with a fabric, I use it for shop displays at Made on Marion, and for teaching classes on fabric history and fabric identification. For the last two years I have made myself sew and de-stash more than I accumulate, and so the stash is actually a bit smaller than it has been.
Favourite thing I’ve made
The 1660s Ninon dress. No contest. It’s golden yellow and silk and almost entirely handsewn, and just thinking about it makes me happy.
I hope you enjoyed the tour!
Be sure to have a look at the other WSBN’s sewing spaces for inspiration, or just to feel better about how much better organised your space is
Gillian of Sewing Down Under posted yesterday (and you can follow her link to the one from the day before, and that one to the previous, ad infinitum (OK, not quite, but there are now a lot of sewing bloggers in Wellington!), and Teresa will be posting tomorrow (and maybe mentioning the exciting cardigan she is working on!)
Last week I showed you a Regency era fashion plate that featured a decidedly interesting evening dress. Opinions on the dress were decidedly divided: you either thought it was fabulous (with small caveats about the peplum and bodice trim), or hated it. And you either thought it would be even more fabulous on a body, or far less fabulous! So most scores were either well below 5, or well above 5, resulting in a rating of 7.4 out of 10. Wackiness and all, I guess more of you liked it than not!
This week’s Rate the Dress in a little toned down compared to last week, but it does carry on the peplum theme.
This striped walking ensemble features a fitted bodice, a bustled skirt, and a separate belt with false peplum.
The dressmaker has made full use of the stripes: arranging them vertically, horizontally, and on the bias. But the striped usage isn’t always what we’d expect: note how the bias chevrons down the front don’t form further ‘V’ shapes, but crook at angles across the point. And the peplum stripes run parallel to the front edge, rather than angling away and enhancing the effect of the skirt flare away from the waist.
What do you think? Would a lady strolling down the sidewalk in this ensemble present a picture of scintillating interest as the stripes shifted and moved? Is the potentially overpowering pattern and trim balanced by the subtle colours (in a generally unsubtle era)?
Rate the Dress on a Scale of 1 to 10.
After my rather sombre previous post about Vanuatu, I thought it was time to show you something fun, and something that Vanuatu is doing SO RIGHT.
Or at least, fun for someone. I’ll confess up front that I’m writing this post because I know my parents will enjoy it! And if you happen to enjoy it too too, well, that’s an added bonus!
My parents are permaculture farmers in Hawaii. They grow every tropic fruit you’ve ever heard of, and probably some you haven’t. There are vegetables too: anything that grows well in the tropics without chemicals and fertilizers. I grew up planting lettuce and picking mangoes and washing bok choi. I love tropical fruits and vegetables: I love eating them, and I enjoy growing them (well, at least for a couple of months at a time when I’m home visiting).
So when I discovered the fruit and vege market in Port Vila, I just about died of happiness. Held in a huge open air pavilion on the waterfront, the market runs 24 hours a day from Monday morning to mid-day Saturday, and is table after table of tropical fruit and vegetables. Visiting the market was my favourite activity in Vanuatu.
I loved it so much that we went to it almost every day we were there, sometimes multiple times. We’d get off a bus in front of the market, I’d wander around it smiling from ear to ear, in a haze of delight, and then we’d go off and do whatever we were doing in town, and then come back through the market before catching a bus home. There was shade, and space to wander and inspect, and wonderful smells and colours, and not a single stallholder ‘hawking’ their wares.
I think it would be impossible not to love the market. At the front are the flower sellers, with buckets and buckets of ginger and heleconia, parrot beaks and parakeet flowers, marigolds and cockscomb. And this was the middle of winter in Vanuatu, when tropical flowers are at their scarcest! I can’t imagine what it would be like in summer!
And then, in the pavilion itself, a wonderland of fruit and vegetables. And, as far as I could determine, almost everything in the market was organic!
There were at least half a dozen different kinds of banana: ladyfingers and at least two kinds of cooking bananas, plantains and apple bananas, as well as more standard Williams-type varieties.
I bought a hand of tiny ladyfinger bananas: delicate and sweet. I like bananas, but only in small doses, so ladyfingers are perfect Leimomi sized bananas.
I also bought a single small pamelo (pamplemouse), and looked longingly at the huge piles of pamelo on some of the tables.
If you are wondering about prices, 100 vatu is worth almost exactly US$1, or NZ$1.25, so a 100 vatu hand of bananas would be US$1, or NZ$1.25.
There were bags and bags of tomatoes, from small cherry tomatoes, to bigger sandwich tomatoes. Equally popular were peppers: big bell pepper capsicums, small sweet peppers, and small hot peppers.
One of only two things I didn’t recognise in the market is shown in the photo above: it’s the bundles of round greenish fruit on stick stems (and the bag of the same fruit). A lady at one stall gave me one to try, but I’m afraid I thought it was horrible: like a blandly citrus flavoured Brazil nut. I met a tourist from Thailand who was also familiar with lots of tropical fruit, and didn’t know what it was either. (but more than likely, the next time I talk to Mum she’ll say “Oh, those are x, they are a relative of x”!)
The other thing I didn’t recogise were some sort of nuts strung on to coconut stems. I wanted to buy some and try them, but Mr D was too worried about germs, so I passed.
Most things though, I did recognise. I know and love the soursop (guanabana) in the photo above. In Hawaii I make it into the most delicious, delicate tropical ice cream.
There were punnets of what I would call thimbleberries or ola’a, but the Vanuatuans called rasberrys (no, I’m not spelling that wrong). I was amazed at how pristine they were, in their little tubs. Thimbleberries are incredibly fragile, and it’s almost impossible to pick them without smashing them. I’ve since looked them up, and it turns out they are what is called West Indian Raspberries – not the thing North Americans call thimbleberries.
There were bundles of herbs: basil parsley, and mint, cilantro (coriander), chives and lemon basil…
There were beautiful lettuces: romaine and cos, as well as softer leafy varieties. I thought the ‘packaging’ for the lettuce was so clever: a dozen heads strung onto two bits of coconut frond centre, and crossed through the stem of one head at the end, to make a bundle that would be easy to pick up and carry. I didn’t ask, but I’m sure the price must be per head, not for a whole bundle.
I also was fascinated and impressed by how they store and transport the lettuce and other leafy greens in the tropical heat: in baskets of woven coconut fronts, lined with leaves to keep them cool and fresh, and covered with more leaves.
There were chayote, or choko, as they call them in NZ. The resort we stayed at served a gorgeous steamed vegetable dish with chayote and carrots and string beans. It’s such a good vegetable for the tropics, with a very light, refreshing taste.
And beautiful daikon (Japanese radishes) with the greens intact. One of my complaints about NZ is that they don’t sell daikon with the greens on, and I love daikon greens.
There were enormous cabbages, and lovely bok choi.
And huge, beautiful carrots, with wonderful flavour: really some of the best carrots I’ve ever tasted.
There were bunches of watercress, and piles of ginger and tumeric root:
There were bundles of young fern greens, wrapped in banana leaves to keep them clean and fresh.
There were peanuts, both washed and bagged (and possibly roasted), and raw, still attached the plant, in bundles (yep, that’s how peanuts grow! That’s why they are sometimes called groundnuts).
Peanuts seemed to be a very popular snack, based on the number of people we saw walking around with the bundles of plants with roots, and the empty bundles discarded all around the market (rubbish bins were few and far between, and it showed).
The peanuts were snack food, but the market also sold the main starches of the Ni Vanuatuan diet, yams (yes, those are real yams, not the orange sweet potato that Americans persist in calling yams, or the oxalis roots that Kiwis have dubbed yams) and manioc(tapioca) roots, and taro (which I neglected to photograph).
And orange and red kumara (sweet potato), which they called kumala
And thick-skinned pumpkins:
And, fascinatingly, bundles and bundles of what I realised were sprouting coconuts, stripped of most of their husk and sold 8 or 10 at a time (shown behind me in the photo above(. It turns out sprouting coconut sponge is a traditional food in Vanuatu (clever them – imagine moist, coconut flavoured slightly sweet candy floss. What I can’t understand is why it isn’t more popular in Hawaii!)
There were other staples for cooking with: bags of charcoal (invariable in chicken feed sacks):
And faggots of wood:
My favourite thing though, as I could buy at least two a day, were green drinking coconuts with the husk cut away, for less than $1 each!
You could take them home whole, or ask the ladies sitting on the fringes of the market, busily husking more coconuts to cut the top off for you, so that you could drink them then and there (to make Mr D happy I bought straws to drink them with so he didn’t freak out about germs and tropical diseases).
You may be wondering why a city as small as Port Vila (under 50,000) has a 24 hour a day fruit and vege market. It’s actually because Port Vila is so small and poor. It’s cheaper and less work for market holders to set up for the week, and sleep behind their stalls, than it is for them to pack up and transport their goods back around the island home and then back again for the next market. And I imagine few people had fridges or ways to store the vegetables, so they had to be sold shortly after picking, and bought shortly before consuming.
As far as I could tell the stalls were collaborative village/family affairs, with multiple women (they were almost all women) watching each stalls, and trading off napping on lauhala mats behind the stalls, eating their own meals and selling goods. Periodically trucks would arrived, packed to the brim with new produce: bundles of coconuts and baskets of greens, which would be unloaded to replenish a stall. Come midday Saturday all the trucks showed up, packed up whatever remained, and take it away, with new lots brought back Sunday night (hopefully with new women to run the stall for the week, and last weeks women having a break!).
While it was popular with the tourists for its colours and the whole exotic factor, the market clearly existed primarily for the locals, which made me like it all the more. I liked knowing that any money I spent there went straight to a local family, and I liked the opportunity it gave me to interact, just a bit, with ordinary people.
My one huge regret about the market is that, staying at a resort, there was no opportunity for me to cook, and so little I could actually buy at the market. I bought as many pieces of fruit and as many coconuts as I could safely eat in a day, but could only wish that I could buy the lettuces and daikon, the green beans and manioc (OK, manioc isn’t that nice, but once every 5 years its a fun novelty). Maybe not the bitter melon though.
Mr D and I agreed that if we went back to Vanuatu we’d like to stay in accommodation with cooking facilities, so that we could really take advantage of the market.