Oh God, Where Are You Now? (In Pickeral Lake? Pigeon? Marquette? Mackinaw?)

Feb words

I am the very worst kind of woman, the type of woman I’ve worked hard not to be. A woman who makes promises. But for all my good intentions.

I was going to write about pencil skirts and bow-tie blouses and pleated dirndl skirts.

Instead, I wrote my novel. I really wrote it.

To the point that something I secretly thought I would never ever finish, I can now see the end of. Look, just down there, maybe 60 pages away. There it is, the finish line.

I have also been listening to Sufjan Stevens. He’s as bonkers as all giddy-up, but hells bells can the man write a song. ‘Michigan’, in particular.  ‘Seven Swans’ is just sublime, and rarely gets packed away. But ‘Michigan’ is one of those lovely surprises, one I always knew was there, but had never paid any real attention to. And it’s funny, how when you finally see something that was always there, and it winds it’s way, you kick yourself for not seeing it sooner. Because it’s perfect.  Like falling in love with a friend, I suppose.

“There is a design, to what I did and said.”


Wanted – Help

Baby Rocket

I don’t normally do this sort of thing. I reckon there’s enough bloggers out there recommending things, things you may or may not need. Who am I to suggest where you should spend your hard earned cash? But there’s a bloke, down Melbourne way, who has the courage of his convictions, and is changing things, one vegie patch at a time. And he needs a bit of a hand.

For better or worse, I live in Sydney. Which means I can’t put my money down, and get one of Rohan’s organic fruit and veg boxes. One of these days I’ll come to my senses, pack everything, and Hamish and I will move to Melbourne, where I’ll flirt with gorgeous men, have the most extraordinary adventures, and get organic F&V delivered every Saturday.

If you live in Melbourne, and are not already aware of Whole Larder Love, please pop by. Rohan’s photographs alone are worth a visit. And if you do give a shit about good food, or are tired of our farmers getting screwed by the big grocery chains, maybe you could sign up for a box? And if none of that is possible, if like me you don’t live in the delivery area, then maybe you could tell your friends?

Pass it on, peeps.


ImageI woke this morning to a sky of grey, and an autumn chill. In next door’s tree, a maggie warbled, and welcomed the day. I couldn’t help but smile. It’s the best sound in the world.

I paddled about in my nightie for a while. I wiped down the stove, rinsed my coffee cup, filled the Otto with water and the jug with milk. I pressed coffee into the basket, twisted it into place, and waited. As the machine burbled and steamed, I made a mental list of the things I wanted to do with the day. I love lists, and have a tendency to put too much on them, but of late I’ve been keeping them to around five things. Five things crossed off a list is pretty satisfying, don’t you think? Especially when ‘nana nap’ is on the list of things to do.


A day of good intentions, that fell quickly by the wayside. A day of doing things I had no idea I needed to do, instead of doing the things I ought.

A day of ditch stitch on a pencil skirt that I’m just not happy with. Of taking the broom to the balcony and chatting to my neighbour as he fixed the back fence. An afternoon spent poking teeny tiny seeds into seedling mix, and misting gently. A day of soaking my collection of vases, of washing walls and skirting boards with hot water, and being revolted at the colour the water turned. Yuk!


A day of contemplating art, and wondering if I really do have the time to tackle another project. A day of moving armchairs and coffee tables, of considering space and how it’s moved through. Coffee and bagels for breakfast, a banana sandwich for lunch. Yum!

A day that I planned to amble through, but a day that turned out to be incredibly productive. My back aches, my legs and feet are sore, and I’m quite happy to slip quietly into bed and read. But, there’s a dozen rows of knitting to be done, and an Ivan Sen movie on the box, so I think it’s time to put my feet up, snuggle up with the kit-cat and feel content with all that I’ve managed to do.

Sunday. Hope yours was glorious.

ImageListening to Sufjan Stevens, To Be Alone With You


7575 front cover

And so, to the book.

It took me a year to buy the book, primarily because I have been sewing for more years than I care to admit to. While I’ve consulted Gertie’s blog on occasion, for technique, I thought the book was better suited for women who were new to sewing. And while I still believe there is some truth to that, so far, this is not a book I would recommend to someone who had never made clothes before – not unless she has someone to guide her through the trickier bits.

But I’m getting ahead of myself.

7590 Pink dress with Hat

On first reading, this is a beautiful book. If you are a fan of Gertie’s style and aesthetic, then my suspicion is that you will adore this book.  The design, the mix of photographs and illustrations, Gertie’s writing, and the garment styling all combine to make a really lovely book. Sun Young Park’s illustrations are worth a blog post on their own.

The book is divided into two parts: Part One – Skills, Part Two – Wardrobe. Part One is similar to Gertie’s blog; she talks about vintage style in a contemporary setting, vintage patterns versus modern patterns, and vintage sizing. There is a chapter on tools and fabric, which the seasoned seamstress will probably skip (although I loved the dictionary of fabric).

7756 Fabric rolls

There are a couple of chapters on technique, which is worth book price alone. Gertie talks about grain, stitches and when to use them, seam finishes, zips, buttonholes and buttons. Tailoring techniques, interfacing and stabilizers, underlining, boning. Everything the Seasoned Seamstress – who might want to slow down a little, might want to return to the couture techniques, the reasons why you can still buy and wear, garments made in the 1940s and 1950s – will want to have in her sewing repertoire.

7764 Stabilizers

There’s a chapter on basic pattern making, which shows you how to alter necklines, move darts, add and remove fullness, as well as how to draft, from scratch, a dirndl and circle skirt.

Dirndl and Circle

And then Gertie talks about the F-word – Fitting – and the various methods of fitting before you take your scissors to fabric.

But if all this was not enough, there are patterns. And oh, what patterns they are!

There are ten patterns in all, which expands to about 22, with pattern alterations, that Gertie steps you through. The patterns are stored in a lovely envelope, and need to be hand traced – this is not like buying a commercial pattern, where you can cut them out. Although I have to say, as someone who has cut commercial patterns out for years, in the last twelve months I have stopped, and take a tissue tracing of every garment I sew. But we’ll talk more about that later.

7768 Orange fitting

Having only sewn a couple of garments from this book so far, the patterns are worth the book price alone. I’ve already said that, I know.  Of course, the big disclaimer here is that you have to love the 50s silhouette, and be able to wear it. This really is a book for the Hourglass Woman, so if you aren’t working T&A, if you are more athletic in stature, you might want to reconsider buying this book.

7582 Green scissors

Now there has been some criticism of this book, and without going into it in any great detail, I have to say it’s warranted. While I love this book, and am thrilled that Gertie has had success with it (I love it when women succeed, don’t you?), I was a little taken aback at the appearance of some of the garments. But these are minor things, things that the seasoned seamstress will pick, and will fix in her own garment making. They are tiny nit-picks, and do not in any way take away from this book, which is gorgeous.

There’s one final thing. If you are going to buy this book – and I’d recommend any seamstress serious about technique, vintage tailoring & styling consider adding it to her library – I’d really love it if you bought the book from a bookstore, and not the sodding internet. Retail is in the brown stuff Lovelies, and while a lot of that is due to poor customer service, I’d still encourage you to venture out, and up to your local bricks and mortar bookstore, particularly if it’s an independent. Books, bookstores and the brave souls who own them are essential to our well-being, and we must support them. Go spend an afternoon browsing in your favourite bookstore. Buy books. Buy this one. You won’t regret it.

7772 Cat Mask

(Listening to Cheerleader, Grizzly Bear, Vekatimest)

(Methods of Getting Rid of) Hiccups

It is a woman’s lot, to be capable of turning her hand to just about anything. And so it was in the house I grew up in. An absence, in one way or another, of men, meant my mother stepped up to the plate every single day. It’s something women don’t get recognition for; the hours they put into the home – which is doubly insulting when you consider most women now spend substantial amounts of time in the work place. My mum worked full time, out of necessity, and then came home to her second job; raising my sister and I. She would spend hours at the sewing machine – a Singer Blue Magic – and produce school uniforms, or Sunday best dresses. My sister and I, despite my father’s efforts, or lack of, had enough, because my Mum worked non-stop to provide it. There was always something on the go, a project of some description, primarily for my sister, or me.

So I suppose it’s no great surprise that I’ve grown up to be a similar sort of woman. A woman of her own means, who has one eye on the rear vision mirror, and the other firmly on the road ahead. Which is to say, rather clumsily, that when I sit down at the sewing machine, or pick up the bamboo circulars, I am conscious of the women who have gone before me. Somedays I can see them, standing behind me, the continuum of women, as I partake in the domestic rituals. They are there in every stitch, in every knit one, purl one; my Mother (who is still here, just a little bit further away), my grandmother Freda Grace, who taught me to knit when I was five. But also the women along the way; Mrs Hanlon and Mrs Shaw, who taught sewing at high school. And lately there have been other women, women I know, others I don’t, who have contributed to my education, or who inspire me to learn new crafts or to master techniques, or who simply inspire me to just do it. An army of women, each toiling away quietly, without noise, without fanfare, at the thing she loves.

And although I have been making my own clothes for most of my life, with varying degrees of success, lately I’ve become incredibly disillusioned with it. Things came to a head a couple of months ago. I had spent the weekend meticulously sewing Butterick 5708.


I spent hours making a tissue tracing of the pattern, then of tissue fitting. I cut each piece with precision, I matched pattern as best I could, I hand tacked and pressed, and tacked again. I unpicked the first attempt at the invisible zip. I fitted as I went, hardly able to contain myself at how fabulous a dress this was going to be. I could feel myself sashaying around Sydney peeps, the men falling in a faint at my feet, overcome by such a fabulous frock.

And then with the finish line in sight, I tried the dress on again. And I hated it. Why? It didn’t fit properly. The armholes were tight and constricting, the bodice flattened my bust, the shoulders didn’t sit right, even the waistline felt tight at the back. I was so angry, so frustrated, so irritated. All that time and effort, and I couldn’t bloody wear it. A new F word came into my vocabulary. Fit. Fing fit.


I don’t mind telling you, I was ready to turn my back on 30 years of sewing. I was done with making my own clothes, I really was. I sulked for a week, and then went to Dymocks and bought this.


Because if anyone could save me, it was Gertie, Gertie who taught me about High Bust, and it’s importance in obtaining a proper fit. If Gertie could teach me about High Bust, what else could she shed light on?

Well Peeps, that’s what I’m here to discover.

I am going to sew my way through Gertie’s New Book for Better Sewing.

Feel free to cut out and sew with me Peeps.

Happy New Year, Lovelies!


There’s no such place

I feel that I ought to have an opinion about Gillian Meagher, and the way her life was taken from her.

Like so many people, I cried when I learned that Jill had not been found alive.

I cried for the journalist, her colleague whose job it was to report the news that night, who possibly knew more than he was allowed to report, and probably more than he wanted to know.

I cried for the colleague who had been with her that night, who had offered to walk her home, and who will spend the rest of his life haunted by that tiny decision to accept her refusal.

I cried for her friends and her colleagues.

I cried for her family; her mother and father, who had lost so much; a daughter, grandchildren and all the milestones parents are entitled to, and I cried for her brother.

I cried for her poor, broken Tom.

And now that the man who stole her life has been sentenced, and the media are free to report all the terrible details, and her husband has spoken publicly, and victim impact statements have been released, and we all try to come to terms with such an unspeakable act, I feel I ought to have an opinion.

But I just don’t know what to say.

Because while I ought to have an enraged opinion, all I have is a profound sadness, and so many questions. Why was that man back on the streets? What were the parole board thinking? Why isn’t someone from the parole board being held accountable? Why wasn’t that man given the maximum penalty for rape? How do her parents, her family and her husband not allow this man to destroy their lives? How do we get the legal system to treat rape victims seriously, and sensitively? Why isn’t rape a hate crime? Why don’t we hang serial sex offenders? Will that man get solitary confinement? How do we stop rape? Why aren’t women enraged by the crimes against them? Where is the feminist lobby group, where are the women of influence and power and why are they not screaming in the streets? And most important of all, how do we take this terrible crime and make something good of it? How do we honour Gillian Meagher? How do we restore her dignity and remember her for all the things those that loved her for, instead of the way her life ended?

In all of the commentary, in all of the reporting and opinions expressed on social media, in all of the chatter and conversation (including my own) about this heartbreaking story, the one voice I’ve never heard is Gillian’s. And now, because the legal system doesn’t appear to value women, I never will.

I didn’t know Gillian Meagher, but she was my Sister. And ultimately, that’s what every tear I’ve shed has been for, the assault and horrific death of another Woman. How many Sisters are we going to lose before we say it stops now and it stops today.


We need to talk about Kevin

Dear Mr Rudd

Like most people in this country, and no doubt quite a few around the world, I watched with utter disbelief on Thursday afternoon. I held my breath when you fronted the media and said you would not take another run at the ALP leadership. At least I think that’s what you said, you really have quite the round-about-way of speaking. I felt sick to the stomach watching yet another leadership spill, but nothing will describe how I felt watching you back down. The Prime Minister had had a magnificent day in Parliament, had shown the country the calibre of leader she is, but it all fell away to nothing, and once again, you were at the centre of it.

I am a proud Left winger. I am a progressive, feminist, reformist small l liberal, who believes the ALP are the only party with any vision for this country as a whole (and not just big business). The night you were elected, I sat in a pub in country NSW, and bawled with joy and disbelief. I couldn’t believe Howard had gone. I wandered around in what felt like a leftie dream in the first year of your Prime Ministership; I honestly had to pinch myself because I felt like I was dreaming. My vote is the most important thing I have; women died for my right to vote, and it’s something I do not take, nor give, lightly. I voted for you, Mr Rudd, because I thought you were a decent man, who was connected to something bigger than himself, who would restore this country and fix the damage of the Howard years. I was wrong, Kevin, and I want my vote back.

I don’t know why your colleagues dumped you; I wasn’t there, so perhaps will never know the truth. It was a terrible thing, and I can’t imagine how it felt. But in the years since, any compassion I had for you, has vanished simply because of the way you have behaved since. I have had the incredible fortune to work with journalists, which means I’ve been privy to things the general public have not. Your inability to go gracefully and your blatant unwillingness to be a team player, has made me see you for who you are; a man not fit for office, and a man not fit to be part of the ALP. A man who does not have what it takes to lead.

This week Simon Crean did one of the most extraordinary things; he put his own personal feelings, desires and relationships aside, and acted for the good of the party. I’m sad to see a man punished for an honourable, courageous and commendable act. But it’s a leaf from a book I think you need to take. For the good of the party, and for the good of the country, please resign. You are not a team player, so step away from the team. You appear to be a man driven solely by self-interest, and you only need to look to the current ICAC investigation to see where that leads. For the good of the party Kevin, resign. For the good of the Country Kevin, resign. I beg you.

Yours sincerely,

Francine Alison