Friday, May 1, 2015

Poncho Poser!

All this poncho desire and talk of making ponchos and I had to admit to myself - I DO HAVE A PONCHO! I found this vintage poncho in the kids section of an op shop recently. Sorry kids! This one's for me.
I'm wearing it with high necked lace blouse, vintage trousers, flower head band and my new blue suede shoes. Yep. Blue suede shoes.

It was quite tricky to get a shot of the whole outfit which is why I'm down here on the floor. The things I do for you blog readers....

Here's a shot of the shoes. They are, believe it or not, comfy to walk in.  Really. Although I did find they were almost impossible to ride a bike in. (I did manage...just.)
Hmm. I spy a rogue block in the shot. Where is the stylist? Who left that toddler toy there? I haven't had a toddler in years! Has it been there all that time? Where's the butler?

Thursday, April 30, 2015

How to Sew a Simple Poncho

Some Poncho sewing instructions from the
trusty old Golden Hands Craft books:

"The fitted poncho has two seams, shoulder darts and applied fringing. It has a set outline which will keep its shape if made in a firm woven fabric and for extra warmth and firmness you can line it.
You could adapt the poncho by trimming with fur or braid instead of the fringe; by pattern darning a border; by making a 'poncho suit' with skirt or trousers; or by using an exciting furnishing fabric, or casual towelling for the beach."

Hmmm. "poncho suit". Not a phrase you see every day. What do you think? Faster than knitting or crochet. I'm on the look out out "exciting furnishing fabric"!
Thank you, yet again, Golden Hands.

Monday, April 27, 2015

70's Poncho Patterns

This is one of my favourite pattern books.

I just love the styling of this shoot - lazing about and crafting in the adobe hacienda with your long hair free and flowing. Although they do look a bit like they are imprisoned and waiting for the magnificent seven to rescue them*. A poncho sweatshop?

Looking at the patterns I realise that the old poncho is a very decadent item of clothing. Some of them have 7 balls of wool - just in the fringing!!!
Was wool really that much cheaper in the past?

Oh and I love that the poncho can also be a skirt. Ah the seventies. All long hair, boots and swathes of wool fringing.

*I would happily be rescued by the magnificent seven myself - especially Yul Brynner in that black shirt. Come and Save me Yul! Who-hoo!

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Poncho Dilemma

Help! I have a poncho dilemma!

I am planning to crochet this poncho.
I've even bought the wool and all - Cleckheaton Country 8 Ply in Dijon mustard.

So why haven't I started?

Well I'm not sure about the colour. And then Lincraft had Cleckheaton Country 8 ply on sale so I bought some in different colours that I thought looked good with the mustard.

Now my dilemma: Do I make it in one colour ...

....or multi coloured stripes?

I do love colour. And like to wear lots of colour. Perhaps without the pink??? I don't know! Help!

Friday, April 24, 2015

"Dior and I" film review

As a teenager the photo below was on my bedroom wall. Oh that jacket! That form! That full skirt! That silhouette! I thought the look was the epitome of style. It’s Christian Dior’s now classic ”New Look” from 1947. And yes, it’s iconic.

1947 New Look by Dior
Now imagine being Raf Simons. In 2012, as the new creative director at the House of Dior, he has the weight of the brand, the man and history on his shoulders - and he knows it. In eight weeks he must design and present the haute couture range that will silence critics and cement his place within the world of Christian Dior. Raf is shy, but knows his own mind. He is inspired. But there are ghosts and whispers from the past haunting him – will he get lost in the fog of expectation?
Raf Simons looking at an original Dior gown

The documentary “Dior and I”, written, directed and produced by Federic Tcheng, cleverly juxtaposes extracts of Christian Dior’s memoirs (in the form of voice over) and old footage of the designer himself, with Raf Simons, the new artistic director struggling to come to terms with the future of the House of Dior and to create a show in half the usual time frame. The effect is mesmerising. At times, the film is a feel good story and at other times it is almost a thriller. And yes, it’s about frocks but the stakes are high.
Christian Dior 1957 cover of Time Magazine

The doubts that plague Simons seem to make him at times closer to Dior than he realises. Simon’s general reserve make any emotional reaction climactic and moving. As an audience we are with him for the ride and the film maker very much helps us understand the ambition inherent in this designer, the huge machine that is the House of Dior, the challenges of putting on a fashion show and the weight of history and importance of Christian Dior to the world of fashion.

But it’s more than that. Like Dorothy in the wizard in Oz, we get to pull back the curtain and see some of the levers and pulleys that create the magic of fashion – and these are the ateliers, the men and women who construct the garments. We see them as ordinary people, workers, craftspeople of admirable skill and work ethic, who bring the dream to reality. We see the relationship they have to their work place, to the brand, to each other, to the hierarchy and to Christian Dior himself, with some of the ateliers having worked there for decades.

As someone interested in garment construction and craft it was enthralling to see this process. It’s also interesting to see the reality behind this fashion icon. To see the work room, the dress dummies, the sewing machines. It’s the House of Dior but I noticed an ugly plastic tablecloth in the tea room. It made them all seem so much more likeable somehow and more within the realms of the world I inhabit!

Fashion is pretty facile I know. Fashion is about marketing. Fashion can be about exploitation. And I don’t shy away from this.  But fashion can also be art. This film shows the creative process and teamwork in haute couture and as such, it is very inspirational. It is an intimate film about great ambition and as such, was riveting to watch. What Raf Simons and his team set out to achieve is huge.

Christian Dior measuring a hem line - creepy!

These days I have a problem with Dior’s New look. The look was a reaction to the freedom women had experienced in the war, where, due to fabric rations and practicality, the dresses were shorter and where women worked and drove war trucks and made ammunition. This look was positively retrospective and drove women back to the 19th century – corsets and crinolines for goodness sake! Long dresses are not practical for factory work and driving trucks. As a feminist, I bristle.

The documentary “Dior and I” was fascinating and gorgeous and is as well pieced together and constructed as one of Dior’s evening frocks. It’s really about the people behind the frocks. About emotion. About relationships. About striving for excellence. Go and see the film if you have any interest in fashion and sewing. but more, go and see it  if you have an interest in people. Oh. And go and see it for the flowers. Oh my gosh! The flowers!



Wednesday, April 22, 2015

My idea

My idea is to get out of the house. My idea is to go somewhere else. My idea is to be free of housework. My idea is to be free of the obligation of housework, the looming mountain of housework. My idea is to be free of the very idea of housework’s existence. My idea is to be free. My idea is to be free to write.

So. First. I get rid of the kids, dropping them at school. Then I make the fatal mistake in my bid for freedom.  You see, I go home. I put key in the lock, I turn the key, I open the front door and I’m instantly pulled into the vortex of housework doom, a maelstrom of debris from children and ubiquitous family gunginess that  swirls around me and I know I have to do something about it or we will all be consumed into an eternal black hole inhabited with stray loom bands and abandoned orange peel.

I sweep, wipe, stack dishes, unstack dishes. I empty the dustpan into the bin and can't help but notice it is undeniably overflowing with slimy paper and meat packaging and I know what I have to do. I have to empty the bin. With a longing glance at the clock, I lift the bag from the bin. As I walk out the door the bag splits and the putrid insides spill on the door step like Satan’s spew. I sweep it up. I have to. I then know what I have to do.

I have to mop the floors. Then, because if I’m going to wash the floors I may as well wipe over the bathroom sink and mirror, I do that. Again I glance at the clock. Now I’m hungry. The morning is starting to feel like a bad acid trip and I somehow know the next time I look up at the clock it will be time to pick up the kids and my day will be over and I will emerge tense and ruffled with a nervous tick and having achieved nothing I set out to do.

Which is when I snap.  I flee. I grab the laptop which was given to me in order to get out of the house and write but which has in fact has sat on the kitchen bench like a glorified appliance and been used by all and sundry to play games, check emails, look up recipes, put on footy tips and to do the guardian online cross word. I push that lid down and get out of there before the grime from the kitchen cupboards begins screaming at me to put them out of their misery with a warm cloth, before the dirt on the rug begins to take shape and crawl before my eyes. Before the washing machine finishes and I would have to hang out another load of smalls.

My journey into town is long and convoluted. It takes a strange turn when I hitch a lift with a friend before being dropped at a tram stop, waiting then catching a tram, and finally I seem to be heading in the direction I desire. The surrounding mass of people make me feel part of something and strangely inconspicuous as only a city can do. There is an onslaught of smells and faces unfamiliar which instantly get my brain whirring.
Then I panic and get off at the wrong stop. I wander around streets overhanging with machines full of cranes and steel but seemingly  absent of humans. Wind whips through streets that are overshadowed with high rises and again I wonder if I have made a mistake. Then I see the sign  “Library ahead”. A sense of comfort suffuses me.

On entering it is at once familiar but strange. Intimidating in the newness and innovation but comforting in that it is full of books. I’ve come here to write but the place is full of books. Books about history, craft, art, hairstyles and tattoos. But I’ve come here to write. But there’s books about everything you can in fact imagine. I start to wonder if the world needs any more books ever and why it would need one by me.

I’ve made a mistake. Wrong shoes. They are too loud on the highly polished wooden floor. I clomp around and each step reverberates that I am an outsider. That I don’t belong here. I am an interloper escaping another world. I find an empty place at a bench and extract my laptop from my huge bag like a magician taking a rabbit from a hat. I place it on the pristine pale wooden bench that looks like it’s straight from a Danish design catalogue. Or perhaps. less romantically, from Ikea. I open my lap top and almost guffaw as stray grains of rice and general household fluff springs from it, highly visible in the sun filled space. The keyboard is covered in grease, hair from every inhabitant in my house and mysterious grit - as through the housework has snuck into my bag and followed me here, niggling at me even now.
But I’ve had an idea. My idea is to leave the house. My idea is to leave the house and be free. My idea is to leave the house and be free to write. And write, I have.
This is a photo of the view from sitting at the bench at the Library at the Dock.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Book Review: Drawing Projects For Children by Paula Briggs

“Drawing Projects For Kids” by Paula Briggs.
Black Dog Publishing.
How would you like a drawing book that encourages risk taking in art? A book that emphasises process over product? A book that encourages experimentation within guidance? A book that is full of messy-get-your-hands-dirty drawing projects? In short, a book with smudgy fingerprints all over it? Well if these things tick your boxes like they tick mine, “Drawing Projects for Kids” is the art book for you.
Paula Briggs has  not only created a beautiful object with this book. She has created a welcome antidote to a world (wide web) full of outcome based children’s activities that seem to be all about the photo opportunity to display on whatever platform - blog/insta/facebook/twitter – a parent chooses. She says in the section aimed at the facilitator:
“For children to get the most out of drawing, they need to be encouraged to push beyond what they consider ‘safe’ (‘safe’ drawings are those in which we know what the outcome is going to be before we have even started making them) and to take risks. By doing so they will widen their concept of what drawing is and
what they are capable of achieving.”
This is very much a gorgeous(smudgy) hands on book, divided into two sections - warm up drawing exercises and more in depth projects. So the only real way to review this book was to try it out. First up – to rustle some children (fortunately not a challenge for me). Here are two I prepared earlier. Pepper and Wanda are active creative 7-almost-8-year-olds.
The book is firmly aimed at children but without any dumbing down of language or “fun speak” or the sort of cutesy Dr Suess sort of language you often find with this target audience. For example:
“All of the projects in this book also use a huge range of drawing materials from inks and watercolours to graphite and pastels. Remember, great drawing experiences are not always about the outcome, but often about the things you learn when you experiment. So get ready to try out some new techniques, and make some wonderful creations!”
This tone generates respect for the child artist, for the materials being used and for the activity being undertaken. I read sections aloud to the kids first and we discussed some of the concepts – risk taking, process, not worrying about “mistakes”, no rubbing out etc. These are hugely neglected concepts in the world of a 7-almost-8-year old art practice. They are at an age where they lose the earlier wildness of creativity and have been firmly indoctrinated into school ideas of right and wrong and drawing like the person next to you, with a seemingly strong preoccupation on getting eyes and noses especially “right”!

While Paula Briggs suggests this book is aimed to be used independently by children, I found it does benefit from focused facilitating. And for kids this age?  Fairly strong facilitation is required. Fortunately I had a background in art and understood the materials and requirements of the tasks, but it is written with point by point instructions, a colour coded idea of levels of intensity and a material list like a recipe and is therefore very accessible. For preparation we made a trip to the local art shop with a list in hand – lots of newsprint paper, various pencils, charcoals and pastels and some ink – and we were ready.We began with some warm ups which were wonderfully fun and challenging. Just look at the concentration on these faces.

This “continuous line drawing” warm up was a terrific way to display process over outcome. Pens, paper, still life and go. The kids had look at the object and draw it while not lifting their pen from the page. They were happy to keep trying this for ages!
Our second warm up was “backwards-forwards sketching”. This was a good way to focus on looking and observing while slowing down the hand and creating texture.
My kids are very physical and these drawing ideas are also very physical – hand-eye coordination, large gestural mark making and sustained concentration. We interspersed the activities with kicking the footy in the back yard to freshen up.
We enjoyed perusing all the projects in the book and the kids have ear marked many they want to try asap. But the obvious “project” to undertake right away was the “Autumn Floor Drawing”. We ran around the house and street collecting leaves, seed husks, plants and all things Autumnal.
I found myself joining in and rediscovering the joys of charcoal and of delicate lines and shading in a way I hadn’t indulged in years. It was so relaxing, for me and for the kids, to play with the materials without any pressure on the result.
“Drawing Projects For Kids”, while not completely independently accessible to younger children, actually benefits from involving a facilitator as well as the child. I found that Paula Briggs language and ideas generate an inspirational and stimulating practical art experience. Through warm ups and projects she extends children’s idea of mark making and drawing into a new realm. It challenges children (and teachers and parents) to explore, take artistic risks and to discover the fun inherent in drawing when there is no pressure for the outcome. It is a book we will return to and from just one day of experimenting it has already inspired these two kids to observe things a little differently and to think more about how to represent their world through art.
“Drawing Projects for Kids” is highly recommended for those who love messy art. For those who want to encourage careful observation, thoughtful mark making and inspire artistic processes. For those who understand that experimentation and sustained exploration of a medium is more important than a quick simple art activity that results in a picture perfect photo opportunity. Go get the book, some supplies, some kids and get your fingers dirty.
This review was first posted on whipup