Friday, March 14, 2014

What's Knot to Love?

'Macramé decor' is a slim treasurehouse of highly questionable 1977 creativity.  One glance at the cover is all it takes to know that this is something special - alongside the 'Classic Lantern Lamp' and 'Bolster' is 'Desert Dunes', a woven landscape wall hanging betokening the publication's roots in Phoenix, Arizona.

Macramé Decor opens up undreamed of possibilities by introducing macramé into every room of the home, and having it serve previously unimagined purposes.

'Guest Closet' provides a groovy and functional focal point for the spare room.  It seems to have a horizontal mirror doing duty as a shelf for toiletries.  Presumably the guest is tall enough to crane over the mirror with their neck bent at a 90 degree angle, or isn't bothered by tipping their things on to the floor every time they want to check their appearance.  I find it endearing that the designer envisaged a visiting male:

         a) figuring out what this is for 

         b) utilising it

'Daisy Seat Cover' and 'Scarf' - I'm sorry, I must have misread that.  A scarf?  As in, accessorise to match your toilet seat cover?  But perhaps they mean a coy little cover for the top of the cistern.  Or a tiny mat that goes up to the base of the bowl?

'Rya Towel Bar', 'Rya Tissue Box'.  All items are primarily white, of course - because if you're of a mind to create macramé pieces for the bathroom you're going to want them to show every trace of...oh, never mind.

'Daisy Mirror' and 'Mock Tiffany Lamp'.

That's not just mockery, that's blatant ridicule.

'Smile Calendar' - because Smirk Calendar With Impenetrable Gaze didn't sound so marketable.

'Clowning Around Your Switchplate' - see Justifiable Coulrophobia.


'Victorian Lace Lamp', 'Magazine Rack'.

There's nothing left to say.

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Mama's Little Man

The hand-knitted motif on a little boy's jumper provides an adorable launching point for his imagination. 

"What's that, darling, a choo-choo train?"  Instantly he is an engine driver, chugging around the living room, so proud of his responsibilities.

Perhaps the motif echoes, or inspires, what he thinks he wants to be when he grows up.

But what happens when he has grown up . . . and loving hands continue to produce aspirational motif knitwear?

Frankly, it becomes a little embarrassing. 


Even disadvantageous.  While his smirk tells us that he believes himself implicitly to be the high-flier his mother's knitting needles proclaim him to be . . . others remain unconvinced.

Ninepence well spent - this one is too lovely and my particular favourite, perhaps because the props point to a lifetime of knitted motorcycle motifs having achieved the status of self-fulfilling prophecy.

Sir, not with those sleeves.  In fact probably not at all.

The decoration on the upper right was not part of the original knitting pattern.  It's what happened when he wore this down to his local on darts night.

Twins are guaranteed at least one source of empathy and support.

Some poor fellows never work up the courage to tell their mothers that enough is enough.  Said mothers are renowned for their long life expectancies.

447 is actually his prison number.  But his mother doesn't see a gangster beneath the brim of that hat . . . he's her little dancing cowboy, and always will be.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Knit One, Purloin One

Today it's my pleasure to share some images from a Villawool Hand Knits booklet from the mid-60s (don't you love the "knitted" Villawool logo?).  There are some pleasingly odd pictures and delectable vintage woollens herein, but what initially struck me was the face of the model on the cover, who appears to be stealthily tip-toeing out of a waiting room, clutching a purloined magazine.  Does she remind you of anyone?

Seems that her accomplice is left pondering how to slink past the receptionist without attracting attention to the massive modern painting she's lifted from the wall.  Don't worry honey, just a little more swagger and the hypnotically swaying red fringe of your stunning jumper will be all she notices.  Why not take the cherub wall plaque while you're at it?

Having a decoy dressed nearly identically is always useful when it comes time for the police identity line-up.  

"The woman I saw stealing the book was a blonde in a sweater.  Yes, I'm certain of it.  But... just a moment... she could have been a red-head... or was it a cardigan she was wearing?  I'm sure it was some sort of Aran style knit. Yes, no, I'm almost certain of that. Officer, I can't think... could I have a glass of water?"

It's Nerida's first day on decoy duty and after forty minutes of attracting every eye to the very window she was doing her best to shield, she wonders whether she should have asked the girls what "unobtrusive" actually meant....

We find Jocelyn standing guard at the back door, wrapped in an oversized orange marle sweater with dauntingly massive pom-pom trimmed collar, and impenetrable dreams of revenge. 

Meanwhile, Delores having finished the last few rows of her suit has used her crochet hook to pick the lock of the liquor cabinet.  No icon of sobriety came up with those daringly chic half-concealed buttons.

Back at headquarters, religious door-knockers are easily deterred if you greet them clutching a mock-up coven manual and invite them in for tea and sacrificial goats.  

Australia in the 1960s was a lovely place, so very far from the rest of the world that a major pattern company could describe a suit as "Chanel Style" without fear of litigation.  Looking at these trompe l'oeil pockets it's safe to assume that the worst Chanel's lawyers might have done was to spray their colleagues with café au lait as they spluttered with incredulous laughter.  Not even the models could contain their mirth at the optimistic description.

Okay, any takers on a look-alike for Suspect Number One?

I thought she could easily masquerade as The Thunderbirds' Lady Penelope.  Perhaps it's not the facial resemblance so much as her disquieting air of being not - absolutely - human.

(Note: if any of these designs totally grab you, drop me a line and I'll be 
glad to email you a scan of the pattern.  Have your llama wool ready!)

Friday, September 28, 2012

Once Apron A Time

I was in Murwillumbah yesterday, which is a treat in itself.  Ornate Victorian, Edwardian and unspoiled Art Deco shopfronts stand shoulder to shoulder with later, stranger, examples of architecture like kids in a school photo taken on mufti day. My dear husband came out of the St Vincent de Paul Society op-shop, telling me that there were no cricket bats to be found there that day (and therefore, implicitly, it was barely worthwhile going in).  Somehow he had walked right by the front window and managed to avoid being struck motionless with awe.  

The entire, massive window was garlanded with vintage aprons.  It was a sunshiny morning so please excuse the reflections, but you get the idea - winsome florals with complementary or contrasting plain pockets and ties, gingham decorated with embroidery and threadwork, unapologetically psychedelic prints and - the one which held me transfixed - a mid-century apron printed with sailboats.

Now, the sad fact with which I had to come to terms, is that the aprons weren't for sale that day - but they would be available for sale in a couple of weeks time.  To someone else :(   

So I took some photos to remember them by, and gave more thought to aprons than I ever have before, pondering the hypothesis that, like dreams, aprons may sometimes work by contraries.

When I left the beachside village where I grew up, friends sent me gifts of kitchen textiles printed with shells and lighthouses which seemed to bring subtle breaths of sea air to the humid hinterland galley where I hung them.  So I wondered about the women who had worn these aprons when they were new - did the hands which worked these butterflies in green thread have the chance to tend a flower garden and watch the butterflies drift through it, or was keeping moths away from the cabbages as close as they came?

And my soul sister, whoever you were, keeping this beauty immaculately for so many decades - did you wake confused from dreams of the water, only to find yourself interminably becalmed in an inland life?  Was this apron the antidote to years of drought and a landscape without where ripples of blue never relieved the endless dusty brown or cloying claustrophobia of green?

I hope of course that I'm quite wrong, and that their lives were as colourful, charming and fascinating as their aprons.  I also hope that whoever is fortunate enough to be in town when these are offered for sale will appreciate them just as they are, and for what they are - which is, perfectly lovely.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Justifiable Coulrophobia

Rarely do I stumble across a vintage textile so hauntingly wrong that it begs to be shared. There are plenty of hideous prints out there - meh, glimpsed for a moment, easily forgotten. But, dear children, I have discovered the tea-towel which haunted your dreams, excused your terror of marching bands and explained your dread of clogs.

I can take or leave clowns, myself. I've been privileged to see some wonderful, genuinely hilarious clowns. But these . . . I think these are clowns. They have painted mouths, silly hair and oversized red noses. They have slipped into innocuous smocks and journeyed into a country far beyond sociopathia - they are bizarre, horrifying, inhuman, the toothy smiles pasted on to their faces are the smile the bully gives even as he snatches the beloved toy away.

Their nostrils are rimmed with the red of rage, their noses too frightening to bear deep contemplation. Their eyes look up to nowhere, listening to the voices. The front figure taps on a levitating marching drum, the straps of which dangle uselessly below it. The second figure is about to pipe others of their ilk out of their hiding places to join in some unthinkable clown junta.

And this is a tea towel! If I hung this in my kitchen overnight the milk would curdle, houseplants wither, the crystals along the window sill would shatter and my children would thrash and shriek in the grip of night terrors. Any dishes coming into contact with this textile of terror would slowly craze, and food served on them would leave an aftertaste of gall. Cutlery polished by this would curl slowly into supplicatory shapes. Yet someone at the Lehner company, back in the 70s or so, cast about in their repository of mental anguish and came up with this design as being suitable to drape over domestic rails - a dagger through the heart of the home.

And if the clowns themselves weren't quite unsettling enough, the spectral old lady in the background suggests a whole other dimension of sinister creepiness, unusual even for clown-related merchandise.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Captain (Crochet) Hook

I just came across this crocheted square on Pinterest and was bedazzled by the pure simple genius and impact of the design:

Okay it's not vintage, but crochet being one of the flagship uniforms of hippiedom I'm sure vintage lovers can relate. I'm so overwhelmed by the juxtaposition of the ultimate homely, comforting craft with the stark intimidation of the Skull & Crossbones design that I hardly know what to think, except that there's no more avoiding it - I'm going to have to learn to crochet.

(You can find more designs in a similar theme over at Repeat Crafter Me, the blog of the creative soul responsible for this brilliant little pirate yarn.)

Friday, August 10, 2012

Lobster dressing, ma'am?

"Lobster" - such a pleasingly absurd word, it's worthy of Rowan Atkinson. At various times throughout the 20th Century the lobster motif has waved its printed claws in boutique windows from main street to salon - its dual evocations of the ocean (as native habitat) and luxury (ending its life as fine cuisine) appealing both to the consumer's inner child clamouring for a trip to the seaside, and her adult princess's innate sense of entitlement to privilege.

On the street today you'll see lobster prints surfacing again. The lobster is a graphically munificent creature - generally rendered in head-turning bright orange or red, it lends itself to being represented either straight or gracefully curved, beautiful in intricate detail but immediately recognisable even at its most stylized. ModCloth offers this nice contemporary example:

As a vintage Lobster maven, finding vast oceans to trawl, you may wish to cast your own nets. Or you may prefer to employ the help of a stylist who appears naturally equipped to share your vision:

But don't send all your friends to the same guy. How embarrassing to find, when you head out
feeling entirely unique to meet up with the girls at the pier, that everyone else has been given the same style advice. Plus your Dad insists on coming along as chaperon.

When it comes to vintage Lobster dressing, my considered advice is to take it slowly, ease into it. Accessories are a painless place to start - how about beginning with a wonderful Art Deco Lucite lobster brooch or Bakelite belt buckle?

Alternate these for a week or two - grow comfortable in Lobster. You'll soon be ready to introduce the initial area of textile . . . perhaps an apron?

Following this, the real fun begins. By now your friends, family and co-workers should have run out of breathtakingly witty crustacean allusions, leaving you free to burst forth in dazzling Lobster glory. Take it to the pool party and keep your eyes open . . . if you see a cutie whose Catalina trunks match your 1940s Sweethearts in Swimsuits 2-piece, he might be "the one"!

Don't forget to take a nifty little appliqued
cover-up to pop on after your swim . . .

. . . or a plain blouse with this wonderful 1940s Horrockses skirt would work just as well.

Now you're ready to conquer the world in head-to-toe arthropod style! Whether your preference be for a single, striking lobster as on this mid-century sun dress by Ann Jeffres of Miami Beach (love love love the colourful ribbons forming both decoration and single shoulder strap) . . .

. . . or a repeating pattern which may have the odd picnicker mistaking you for a tablecloth . . .

. . . you honestly can't go wrong. Lobster dresses are fabulous. They are of royal lineage. Below is the proto-lobster-dress . . . a 1937 collaboration between the visionary couturier Elsa Schiaparelli and surrealist superman Salvador Dali.

Interestingly, this original fashion plate sketch envisaged more of a sun dress, ideal for sauntering romantically along the tide line and stepping daintily on octopi.

A scenario which appealed to Wallis Simpson, pictured wearing the dress in this Cecil Beaton photograph, waiting patiently by a clump of seaweed for the tide to come back in as she rather fancies some braised octopus.

This post is respectfully dedicated to the beloved littlebig sister of Archimedes, celebrated and occasionally misunderstood down the ages for her proclamation "give me a piece of string long enough and a sausage around which to tie it, and I will move the yabbies* of the world".

*it's a little Australian freshwater lobstery creature :)