Stones and diamonds

Dress details- a design by worth...

Dress details- a design by Worth…

I can’t remember exactly when I fell in love with sewing, but like many moments of love I am sure that the “moment” exists for all of us bitten by the bug. To be honest, it was probably more falling in love with vintage fashion to which sewing and knitting for myself provided a doorway. It took sewing from a “craft” that people to do on a weekend to an amazing world in which so much knowledge could be acquired.


Whenever that moment happened, my thirst for more knowledge followed. This included the acquisition of many rare and hard to find texts on fashion history and dressmaking over years (and knitting, another passion) that now occupies an entire wall in my (cubby hole) “studio” and a cabinet in our dining room. They come from a variety of sources… estates, online auctions like ebay, church sales, fellow dressmakers and seamstresses that have onsold their own collections… every pamphlet and book holds such pleasure, lost fashions, a doorway into a world that once existed.


It was a matter of time before I opened my own etsy shop. I remember sitting in mothers group with another mum who liked to knit marvelling at what was available. And to think I could share some of the out of copyright gems in my collection that way too? It seemed an obvious step.


Fast forward four years later, I am now full time stay at home mum and part time shop owner… these days it has become a great way to meet and interact with so many other great people in the global crafting/ knitting/ dressmaking community. I am so so so awed by the talent that exists out there, by the people who quietly achieve great beauty by making art works that are not destined to be seen by scores in museums, but are bestowed as gifts to their family or friends or become cherished garments for themselves. And my heart fills with a feeling I find it hard to name when they contact me sometimes years later to show me their finished work. Maybe that feeling is joy. Maybe it is pride. But I do know I feel happy that a pattern that was deteriorating with the sands of time in my sewing table drawer or bookshelf is living a life and being enjoyed by someone whether its in Australia or the US or Scandinavia or the UK…


Unfortunately, there has been a down side. When you have a store on the internet your name and offerings are out there. What this means is that someone who has never met you, doesn’t know you, has never bought from you, has no intention of buying from you who may just dislike the fact you are in the reproductions business can find fault with what you have to offer.


I’m not going to bother getting into are “reproductions of out of copyright work is evil argument”, because if they were, Pride and Prejudice would have died at least a century ago. And lets face it, anyone who has been victim to the dark and smouldering looks of Mr Darcy knows that would be a travesty!


But I have one particular product which has proved very contentious because quite separate to any reproduction available in my store, there are apparently others available for a lower price as part of subscriptions and memberships or for “free”. These are someone else’s product, reproductions of the same original out of copyright book.


What this means is that someone can say, completely ignorant of the time or work you’ve put into your product “she should be offering that cheaper or for free,”… because (I assume) the original material is in the public domain and someone else has tried to offer the original content in a different way. Forget the fact that you spent forever agonizing over what software would be best to make the reproduction, did the legal copyright legwork, that you refused to shrink file sizes to trade off easy instant downloads with high resolution, easy to view imagery, that you traded off time with your kids to spend weeks touching up the document page… by …page. And my poor husband, he is the real sucker, I reeled him in to help me with the technology when it wasn’t doing what it was doing and his time was totally unpaid. (Okay… Its nice to be loved).


Seriously, I can’t compete with “other” versions of this book, because mine is a different product and its been created by me with a view to making it as user friendly as possible. I don’t imagine that everyone expects that every copy of Pride and Prejudice is going to be the same quality in digital or original format.And frankly when you are talking pattern schematics, I think quality is all the more crucial. I personally don’t want to waste my valuable sewing time and thats what I’ve had in mind when I undertook a reproduction.


Which product? It actually doesn’t matter. The fact that there is someone out there willing to write up on a public forum to one of my customers- all of whom I value endlessly- that it “sucks” that you sell your product at all because someone else is offering another version… well, it really does turn that great joy to sadness. It was like someone saying “I have no value for your time or what you have to offer and no’one else should either.” My car broke down today (the last day before a long weekend with tons of traffic) with a six month old baby and an active three year old to entertain, this felt so much worse. It was both random and personal.


But you know, it doesn’t matter what business you are in and how much you love it, there is always going to be someone that will push and shove to be the first to throw stones. In that sense my etsy shop hasn’t just been about pursuing a passion or meeting other great people, its actually been a fabulous exercise in business- learning about what distinguishes one product from another – and what is worth my time in selling.


And then there are the GREAT customers, the ones that send those fabulous photos, that make you smile, that get in touch and share their own amazing abilities. One such customer named Letha has just started her own etsy shop Knitting and Donkeys including a product made from one of my patterns… a gorgeous little shrug. Well done Letha! Great job! And thank you.


Life is full of stones and diamonds. Chin, chin… Here is to the diamonds.

letha shrug



The Holiday – A trip to Hobart and surrounds (with a toddler)

At the Botanic Gardens in Hobart

At the Botanic Gardens in Hobart

Having finished work in March after a decision to stay home with our toddler (Little Prince) and our soon-to-be new baby (due in September) I have to tell you I was looking forward to our family trip to Hobart. Hobart- for those of you who aren’t familiar with Australia’s geography- is that little triangle at the bottom of the country. My own family on my father’s side settled there from the earliest days of colonisation from England and Ireland. I think its romantic that one couple travelled on the boat together (accompanied) and married some time after their arrival.

So where do you go in Hobart with young children? What is there to do? This post is really a summary of what we got up to, with some recommendations…

Retrospectively these were my top 7 highlights for anyone with a young family planning a visit to the Apple Isle (in random order):

(1) MONA ( a museum of modern art, which in my experience was world class). That said there were a few exhibits which I tried to shield my toddler from that caught me off guard lest I scare him for life. But really, it was fabulous with some great installation art and a subterranean ascent that gives one a sense that they are going on a journey as they move from one exhibit to the next.

(2) Salamanca markets– this is great spot to pick up some souvenirs such a mugs, wooden crafts, alpaca and mohair blankets- all made in the area… enjoy apple turnovers made with organic apples with steaming coffee (much appreciated given the blustery weather on the day that we went) or go antiquing. There’s a large bakery close by called Banjos if you want to get a quieter cuppa in more informal surrounds.

(3) The Country Womens Association (CWA) Gift Shop– yes, truly, this was on my top 5. As a crafty person myself, I love seeing the handiwork of others and being pregnant it was wonderful to peruse the gorgeous selection of reasonably priced knitted baby garments. A full layette was $100. The women who volunteer there are also extremely helpful and friendly and I honestly love the idea that my money is also working to support a good cause.

This gorgeous tea cosy was bought from the CWA shop in Hobart

This gorgeous tea cosy was bought from the CWA shop in Hobart- one of my own knitting projects is in the foreground.

(4) Mako at the wharf (near Salamanca market)- This looks like a take away, you can take away but you can also climb the stairs and sit in the sparsely furnished dine in area with full view of the kitchen. It is small. If it weren’t on the water I would call it a hole in the wall. You have to go here at least once on your visit- terrific if you want fish and chips without the frilly price tag. I had the grilled blue eye cod with sparkling ASHBOLT elderflower to wash it down. I can honestly say it was some of the best fish I could recall eating- prepared so simply it was nothing short of excellent. I will not quickly forget that delicious fish! And the ASHBOLT elderflower lead to me to hunt out a fe bottles before I left (but I was long ago converted to the subtle taste of elderflower in the UK).

(5) The Cat and the Fiddle Arcade. I can’t believe I am putting a shopping plaza on my top things to do list but seeing the delight on my toddler’s face, I have to note it for the mums and dads out there who are trying to keep their little ones happy and amused, for at least some part of the day. Every hour , on the hour for about a minute, a wall hung cat plays the fiddle, the cow jumps over the moon and the dish runs away with the spoon. We took Little Prince back a few times and I can promise it will probably be his one lasting memory of Tassie… he clearly sings out with excitement “cat and the fiddle!” So really, I had to put it down, a child’s delight is a mother’s delight!

(6) The Royal Botanic Gardens, Hobart– Plenty of room to run for kids, gorgeous landscaping and a great day to be had in short proximity of the city centre- providing it isn’t raining.

(7) My husband took our son to the Heritage trout Hatchery in New Norfolk called The Salmon Ponds– this was a delight and probably one of the holiday highlights for our little one. Kids can feed the fish special fish pellets than can be bought for $2 a punnet, there is a museum and a picturesque vantage of the ponds. Note: there is a restaurant and barbecue area nearby.

The Agrarian Experience

The Agrarian Experience

Whilst in Tassie I did also spend a day at a property in the Lachlan Valley doing a cooking course called the Agrarian Experience. The host was hospitable, my husband was offered coffee when he dropped me off and the owner is passionate but in terms of my expectations and what I was looking for, it probably wasn’t the best value for money. I should caveat that with a note I have only done a few cooking classes but I was put on preparing vegetables with another couple and beyond reading the recipe I really didn’t feel I got the same benefits had I been working on another dish which I had never tried.

The class was stopped a couple of times to point out some techniques but I would have preferred a more structured series of demonstrations- it seemed we all just dived in hell for leather for several hours of cooking… Admittedly I was also disappointed that I had called and advised I was pregnant and there were certain things I couldn’t eat, was told they totally understood and one of the main dishes we prepared was smoked salmon on potato hash browns (essentially) with bernaise sauce. Smoked salmon is a well known pregnancy no-no. Well, no substitute was offered, I just had to eat what essentially a fried up potato with sauce. Other recipes required salad dressings with raw egg. Whilst I didn’t complain and essentially lumped it, I did feel it would have been better to tell me my dietary requirements would’t or couldn’t be fully accommodated when I called to book. I love smoked salmon and it left me feeling very disappointed as I listened to my companions praising how great it tasted. Probably the real plus side of the experience was making wood fired bread from scratch. The owner also gave us a tour of his garden and we got to nibble and smell different herbs. I haven’t eaten lovage since I lived in England and it was great to see someone had claimed it as a herb garden essential.

Vegetable being prepared to roast- uses a fairly straightforward skill

Vegetable being prepared to roast- uses a fairly straightforward skill

Would I recommend the Agrarian Experience? Depends on your expectations. I already have a herb garden and some fruit trees, however humble. I love the idea of eating from my garden and of the Slow Food moment (Alice Waters cook books are my favs) but the novelty factor of what the Agrarian Experience offered isn’t perhaps as high for me as it might be for someone else who had less opportunity to already do some of these things. I guess for just shy of $400 for the day, I was looking for a bit more…

As one of my passions is knitting (though somewhat superseded by sewing for a while) I must mention The Stash Cupboard in Hobart. It is so wonderful to find a shop- tastefully decorated and full of friendly, knowledgable service- when you are looking around for yarn. Most such shops have long since gone from my own city (Canberra) leaving those with crafty inclinations to instead sift through the highly diverse and not often very interesting offerings of SPOTLIGHT and LINCRAFT. Here you can buy your copy of The Knitter or Mollie Makes, stock up on some delicious gem coloured lovelies and confidently embark on a new project. The cold weather definitely had me in the mood for knitting, as did the spare time without my sewing machine and the ever imminent birth of our second child.

Where did we stay? Best choice ever was the Gables in New Town, an inner city Hobart suburb. It was the perfect base, especially with a toddler. The apartments (one of two) were tastefully decorated with an art deco feel, thoughtfully prepared with a few basic essentials like bread and  very convenient with a little kitchen to prepare basic meals. It wasn’t our plan to eat out every meal on holiday and we got away with eating most breakfasts there before we went out. The owners graciously also leant us a pram and left out some toys- lifesavers… you don’t get that at a hotel or serviced apartment!

If you don’t want to have breakfast at the apartment go to Jackman and McRoss a few minutes drive away (or a short walk) on the main road. The lamingtons here are a must try with your coffee (maybe for morning tea) and for $4 they are nothing short of enormous… delicious, delicious, delicious.

One other thing to add for parents- we really enjoyed the playground at the Battery Point foreshore (not far from Salamanca market)- very picturesque and a little drive through the narrow streets gives you a great taste for the area.

Heading to Hobart? Enjoy! Great city for a family vacation.

Quaint cafe flowers at one of Hobart's bustling cafes

Quaint cafe flowers at one of Hobart’s bustling cafes


The Vintage Kitchen… add a little cinnamon, sugar, lucite and bakelite

The last few weeks have flown by with my return to work. Whist my hours are part time I am finding it hard to “switch off” once I leave the office. I think this practice is actually an art form. That said, some nights I am so exhausted, I really don’t have much more energy than is required to cuddle, feed and bath our little munchkin. If leagues of other women have managed this juggling act (says she, valiantly) so can I!

Saturday night, darling husband gave me some time to sew and I worked on a vintage inspired apron that I have been hoping to finish before Christmas. This was of course between researching appropriate finger foods for the little one and investing hours into baking tray upon tray of gingerbread for the coming week, (thank goodness for Annabel Karmel).  Am I the only one to feel like I spend the majority of my free time in the kitchen? Reality check, I do!

bakelite cakeToday however was Sunday and imagine how thrilled I was to find a few beautiful retro kitchen items at a local market. The cake canister was in amazing condition and a little net research confirmed that this little beauty manufactured by a company called “Eon” (circa 1950s) was indeed Bakelite. I bought the coasters from the same person. The “Crystalware” stickers were still on the back stating that they were manufactured in Australia and were a glass-like resin. It would appear that these are actually lucite with bakelite inlay. I LOVE LOVE them, not just because of their vintage value but because of their pretty, sunny quality. All of it so very Mad Men. And I am always on the hunt for a sunburst clock to travel through time with us, on this wonderful journey called life.


Separately, the other week I picked up a Birko. If you don’t know what they are, truthfully I wouldn’t either, except my mother always fondly tells me about when I was newborn, my Father rushed out and bought one as a bottle warmer, despite the cost. He apparently presented it and said “You’ll need this for the baby” In those days these were quite a coveted kitchen appliance, and quite expensive. And now I have my very own (wink).

 A parting thought, I have to mention a book I came across recently and LOVE for all the vintage fashionistas and crafters out there. Its called “Vintage Crochet for your Home” (Coats and Clark) with patterns adapted from the 1920s to late 1950s. I have never crocheted an afghan, dish cloth, doily or place mat… I have always been a knitter with a desire to crochet… this book is full of great ideas and big on inspiration!

Merry Christmas, world.

A rose by any other name… Saturday musings

Its Saturday. Delight took the form of two hot air balloons that sailed silently over our house this morning as I hung out laundry. I raced up the backsteps to make sure my husband and son didn’t miss the unusual sight and we admired them together from the rear balcony of the house. Little Prince tried to say “balloon” but not successfully…Image

The other delight was discovering that the roses I planted a few months ago were happily blooming by the rear of the house. I cut a few of them and have displayed them in an old 1930s-1940s tea pot I recently found. The design of the pot was “the silver bough” by Grindley of England. The lid was long gone and the underside of the spout had a small chip but all the same, I saw the potential for a wonderfully “shabby chic” vase. Where is a Dutch painter when you need one?

That is life to me- its all about mundane prettiness and art in the everyday, don’t you think?


I absolutely must comment on the doily also photographed. I found this handmade treasure languishing in a thrift shop and was struck by its beauty and the obvious amount of time that someone had spent crafting such a gorgeous piece. I have a small linen and doily collection, and this is certainly one of my favourites! This was someone else’s piece of everyday art.Image

I have never made a doily, but this one might inspire me to start! (I can almost hear my husband groaning… its not a passion he is inclined towards)! Ha.

Last night I did some work on the McCardell dress… its coming along and I have loved the learning process. Last night when all others were slumbering, I was waxing thread and understitching facings with backstitch… I can’t wait till its finished… maybe tonight… and hubby can take some photographs.

The weekend beckons… enjoy yours!

Two tone ice cream colours! Yes, please!

Little Prince turned one over the weekend… where has the year gone? though since he has started crawling, my life has gone into a vacuum! My spare minutes however are still spent swooning over lovely vintage fashion… I just listed this pretty knitted lingerie shop at my etsy store:

Yummy vintage design!

More vintage style with this baby shawl or baby blanket

Today’s pattern is a rare 1930s baby shawl or baby blanket pattern from my collection. Designed in the 1930s by then-famous Evelyn Bellamy, the blanket is not only pretty but the design has started to show the trend toward geometric preferences and midcentury deisgn. This would (and is) suitable for boys and girls. Yes, the pattern was unearthed by me and is now available at my etsy shop (Vanessa Loves Vintage). 

40s vintage “knitteds” and a little adventure

ImageThis is another 40s knitting pattern I really like… so forward and modern for the times! This one was also published in Australia during World War II. Love the flattering ribbed waists in a lot of these designs.

This morning I am packing hubbie and bub into the car and we are going shopping for bargains on a country town about an hour away… with brunch along the way. A mini adventure so to speak! If only I would find more pretty patterns….

Heeeeeeeeeeeeelloooooooooo weekend!

Mad mad mad for 40s fashion… with a cherry on top

There has been a great interest of late in 50s and 60s fashions with the airing of MAD MEN, but I must admit, I also adore some of the designs which were fashionable in the 1940s. As such todays pattern is a 1940s knitting pattern produced in Australia. Oh, two patterns, why not!  If your  ever read my blog, you’ll be aware I love both sewing and knitting (though I have been putting myself through a few courses online of late to learn couture sewing).

But back in the day, knitting was an equally important skill, trade for cheap machine made knitted garments isn’t what it is today. I generally only sell 40s and 50s designs at my etsy store (VanessaLovesVintage) because of Australian copyright laws. If you see someone selling Australian reproduction sewing or digital knitting patterns post 1955, I’d say be careful, they may knowingly or unknowingly be in breach of Aussie copyright law.

Anyhooo… here are two patterns today… shameless plug, they are both available in epattern format at my etsy store! “Cherry on top” is one of my favourites… as soon as Little Prince is a bit older I plan to get this one on the needles… well, I hope so anyway! 😉 I like the buttons on the shoulder on the second design… I think the feature at the neckline is nice too, doesn’t make it toooooo much lace and provides a bit of a focal point…. What do you think?!?



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STYLE with Patons and Baldwins and Vintage finds this weekend

Antique Knitting Gauge from Redditch, England c1920-1930

Todays post is to show off some of my fun vintage finds from this last weekend. The pattern of the day has been in my collections a while, a gorgeous sweater illustrated here in Patons and Baldwins STYLE knitting magazine…. So lovely! The vintage pink knitting needles are “new” though!

vintage crochet cotton… pretty colours!

Love these buttons… possibly bakelite?

A dress for one’s dreams… (Lanvin of course)

Hello weekend

I think it was one of the prettiest dresses I’d ever seen. Forget that there was no regal occasion, the listing on eBay filled me with pattern lust. It was Lanvin. It was rare. it was beautiful. Why wouldn’t I want it? Well, apparently everyone else who saw THE DRESS felt the same way. A remarkable dress pattern sale on eBay, Vogue Paris Original Model 1337 by Jacques Heim went for an astronomical AUD/USD $469.00 or 304 British pounds… okay, so I am rounding to the nearest dollar… Not bad at all for a cut pattern with a missing envelope flap.  Its dress of the day today, a wishlist (or in-my-dreams list) pattern. The same pattern I believe surfaced in the last couple of years and went for a more humble USD$225… (I am drawing on memory but I am sure the figure is accurate). Wow. Double wow! But it is a beautiful, beautiful dress.

In online auction land there were some other interesting but less astronomical sales of late:

Vogue Paris Original Model 1355 (Griffe) went for USD $138.50 (cut but complete)

Vogue Paris Original Model 1104 (Lanvin) went for USD $227.50 (cut but complete)

Vogue Paris Original Model 1242 (Griffe) went for USD $152.50 (cut but complete).

It seems I am not alone in the world on pattern love! There are others out there (queue haunting X Files music…)!

The dahlias... and the dress-in-progess on the dressform in the background... invisible zipper almost fully installed...

This weekend is our anniversary weekend so we are planning a special Sunday lunch at home… we bought everything we needed at the market this morning… fresh pasta, chorizo…yummy! And I have filled the living room with the most glorious flowers (the dahlias pictured, which I have a soft spot for).

For a little eye candy I have included a picture from a Columbia Minerva pattern booklet cover which I thought was very interesting. Published in 1953 it says “to make while you watch your favourite tv show”. TV would have been the latest and greatest thing (it came to Australia, I am told, in 1956)… I just thought it was interesting the way it was used to market the booklet. The cover model looks pretty fabulous too, must be one of my 50s favourite knitting pattern books, in terms of imagery…. happy weekend everyone!