Tuesday, October 8, 2013

A handy hint for belts and dancing to Star Wars!

What a weekend I’ve just had!

Saturday was the culmination of months of work by my wonderful dance students. They finally got to show their friends and family what they had been working on for the past 9 Tuesday nights.

Balpit Star Wars performance, 2013 Performance Ball

I’ve always loved Star Wars, ever since I was a kid and my Dad and two brothers would freak out over the movies and associated paraphernalia. I even had my own Yoda doll.

So when it was casually mentioned one night that the Cantina Band song would make a great song to dance balboa too, my brain lit up… “Yes! We have to do that for this year’s routine!”

And so the germ of an idea progressed to the above.

I’m so proud of all of the students – particularly those that haven’t been dancing for very long and those who haven’t performed like this before. A couple of hundred people watching you can be very intimidating!

Heck, it can be very intimidating when you HAVE been dancing for a while and have done it all before!

I thought my nerves would have been lessened this year as I wasn’t performing but I turned out to be just as nervous for the group to do well and be happy with their performance! The video I took is actually a bit shaky as I couldn’t hold the camera still, so the above video is someone else’s.

Anyway, I was originally intending to write about a handy little tip that I have for your belt, but I seem to have veered off topic. I put it down to the fact that I’m in the death grip of a cold and it’s the second day which is proving worse than the first.

So, ever had a problem with your belt sticking out at weird angles or flopping about like a mad thing, particularly when your clothing – or indeed your belt itself - has zero in the way of belt loops?


A quick and easy fix is to make yourself a five second belt loop, and all you need is a hair tie/elastic in the same colour as your belt. Loop it around a couple of times, depending on your hair tie and the width of the belt, then slide it up towards the buckle. Belt up, slip the end through the loop et voila!


Of course you could sew up a permanent belt loop, but when its this easy… well, I think I’ve just discovered where all my hair ties have gone. Pretty sure they are on my loopless belts.

I think the Vicks Vapourub and nasal sprays are getting to me, so I’m going to leave this right here for you.

Enjoy your day!



Tuesday, September 10, 2013

The Science Of Women’s Clothing Sizes

Well that has to be a contender for most meaningless headline of the year… and in an election year, that’s a big call! Science… ha! There isn’t any when it comes to clothing sizes.

The reason for today’s post is that I finally reached my fed-up point with the sizing system for women’s clothing… and by ‘system’ I mean lack thereof.

The numbers just don’t mean anything and the small, medium, large nomenclature is just as bad.

So, I’ve decided to do away with the numbers and names and change all ‘sizes’ into letters and from now on you’ll find A Size, B Size, C size on the Crimson Gardenia website.

A Small from one manufacturer is a completely different set of numbers to a Size 8 from another – so why should I label them both as Small? Or even both as 8?

I did debate renaming them as red, blue, yellow but that brings in confusion when a different colourway is available. Gemstones – ruby, emerald, sapphire – also raised a similar problem, even though I really liked that idea.

I also thought of animal names – butterfly, dolphin – but that was getting a bit hippie and had the potential to cause offence if someone didn’t like being labelled a unicorn.

My whole idea of doing this was to get women to identify with their own set of numbers and that’s it… it is my small attempt to take away the sting that some labels – particularly the extra smalls and the extra larges – can  have.

We are all different. We all have different numbers. We all have different bums, boobs, waists and legs.

Size A tells you nothing about a size. It’s only the numbers that make it up which count and they are as individual as we are.

I’m sorry if this makes shopping a little trickier than before but I believe in the long run that if we know and own our numbers we can make better choices in our clothing sizes.

Rather than always ordering a medium, if you know your numbers you can compare them with the item on offer and then make a choice – do I want to go on the tighter side or do I go to a dressmaker and have them alter the item for me for the perfect fit.

I would love to have all A Size items corresponding with each other, but that just isn’t possible when stock comes from different manufacturers. As I said earlier, they all have their own sizing systems so to gather together the items with the same numbers under one umbrella isn’t doable. This one will have a smaller waist than that one, whilst this other one will have more room in the chest.

Thus, my earlier message – know your numbers, own your numbers, order by your numbers.

I still think it would be easier if there was an internationally recognised sizing system for clothing and shoes, but I also understand that is never going to happen. There are too many vested interests and sizing agendas for that to change.

A well fitted garment should be the aim, not fitting into a particular size.

The most amazingly dressed woman I know has almost all of her clothes altered to fit her perfectly. Frankly, that sounds exhausting to me but it is important to her – and it really does pay off as she looks fabulous in everything I’ve ever seen her wear.

For a long time I thought she was just ‘lucky’ with her size and that things that just fit her but then I learned her secret. Clever. Our grandmothers probably did the same thing – a little tuck here and dart there. I’ve seen it in a lot of vintage clothes.

Perhaps its become a bit of a lost art but there are professionals out there that can help us – and there’s always that font of knowledge, YouTube, if you want to give it a go yourself. With clothes becoming cheaper and less well-made, alterations have certainly fallen out of favour – but let’s not forget that we do still have alternatives.

Seamus toy

Seamus prefers no clothes…


Except in winter, of course.


Wednesday, April 10, 2013

More loveliness!

I love it when the delivery guy arrives!! Yes, even when it’s early and gets me out of bed, hair everywhere, in my PJs, nothing on my feet, forgot to put my glasses on and cannot string a coherent sentence together… BUT, I did manage to scrawl a signature so that box is MINE!

So what was in it?

The Red Roses Patio dress…

Red Roses Patio dress

Besides the lovely fabric print – who doesn’t love a red rose?! – the thing that pushed this into a “YES! I must order this for the store!” was the beautiful bodice detailing… in particular the red piping and the cut-outs.

It is a lovely dress and is fully lined in the same soft cotton voile – and what I particularly like is the skirt underlining is not sewn into the hem, so it’s like an entire second skirt for a bit of extra flounce!

Enough for now – more soon though as there was another new style nestled in the box.



Monday, March 25, 2013

Update on the store

Hi folks,

I thought it was well overdue that I write about what has been happening with the store.

I had a great leap forward in mid-February when my local newspaper interviewed me and took some photographs for a story on my business.

Very exciting!

Heidelberg Leader story wc 18 feb

I’m not in love with the photograph – I have a bit of a weird look on my face – and it certainly wasn’t my favourite one that the photographer took, but hey… it’s a photo!!

And a story!!

I’ve introduced a couple of new styles over the last few months… Pictures? Why sure!

Honey Baby Roses front

The Honey Baby Roses dress

Frenchie & Rose

The Rose dress and the Frenchie dress

I do love these dresses. They are well made, well designed and, importantly, the material is lovely… such a vital part of a garment… if the material is crap, you are going to have a crappy item of clothing.

It won’t hang properly, it may end up with twisted seamlines, it could wrinkle as soon as you look at it, it could be scratchy, it may shed, it may pill… 1001 things that can go wrong with the basic material.

It is one of the reasons why I only ever order a small quantity on initial orders. If something comes in and the material is not great, then I don’t want to sell it in my store.

Of course, that can also turn around and bite me when the material is fabulous but it was only manufactured in small quantities… but I’d rather only have a couple to sell than have many copies of a sub-quality item.

Having bought vintage clothing online, I know how frustrating it is when something arrives and it isn’t as described – be that wrong sizing information, faults not in the description, or photos that don’t give you a realistic view of what you are getting – so I am super careful to try and give my customers as much information as they need to make an informed purchasing decision… but one thing they can’t do online is check the material… so that is my job, and I take it seriously.

Well, it’s been a long day so just a short one from me today.

Enjoy your day, your week, your month, your year!



Friday, February 1, 2013


So I finally checked out my Google Reader for the first time since cocky was an egg… and oh dear, only 500+ blog posts to read.

I think sometimes I avoid visiting the ol’ Reader because I know it’s at a point where it would take two days of solid reading to catch up on all the posts… and some of them I simply HAVE to figure out how many posts of a particular blog I’ve missed then find the first one and start reading them backwards… I have to read them in the right order, not the most recent first. Argh!

It’s kind of like my Inbox at this point, a metric bazillion tonne of emails in there and whilst I might clean out 40 in a really good, concentrated sweep, I never really seem to get totally on top of them.

I know some people who never have anything in their Inbox – freaks – but I just don’t know how they do it. I guess these days with seemingly unlimited storage it doesn’t matter that much… but I’m certainly old enough to remember having IT people constantly yelling at me to clean out my Inbox because it was slowing my computer down. Yeah. All 25 emails (vs. my now 600 plus in the Inbox).

Don’t get me wrong. I would LOVE to be one of those super-organised people who files and/or deletes everything but I equally recognise that I’m not one of them. :0)

Anyway, what’s the point of this post?

I’ve been inspired! Inspired by all the wonderful sewing blogs out there and I definitely want to do more sewing this year.

Not a resolution as such, but a definite goal for the year. What’s the diff? Semantics, of course.

Happily, I have already made one thing this year – a slightly skewiff pocket square for my darling partner, Justin. Sure, even the name of it gives some hint as to what its shape should be, but I was running out of time the day before the wedding we were going to and so hems weren’t as carefully measured (measured?! Ha!) as they could have been and so the ‘square’ ended up being more of a slight ‘rectangle’.

This did mean that the lovely triple-fold that I found on the internet was a bit wonk, but happily the wonk was pretty much all hidden in the pocket. Yay for pockets!

Speaking of…

Green skirt quote

A little something I made today (the photoshoppery, not the skirt! The skirt is for sale on my website, and yes, it does have pockets!).

I really do love pockets in dresses and skirts. My only problem is that I’m not used to them yet so I find myself juggling five things and THEN remembering the saving pockets. Especially brilliant when hanging out the washing… no more bending down like a caveman (eh?) to the ground to get the pegs anymore!


So I’m not very far through my Google Reader backlog clear out, but I send big thanks to the following blogs for reigniting the flame:

Molly's Sewing And Garage Sale Adventures

A Dress A Day

My Happy Sewing Place

Three very creative and entertaining ladies and three inspiring sewing types!

Roll on 2013, you beast.

Hopefully I’ll even finish my ‘four plus years in the making’ Vogue reissue. I can’t remember its number but it has a beautiful drape that hangs from the shoulder and down the back. It is completely finished except for the hand-sewing required for the hem… it’s been this way for at least two years. What can I say… when I’m not in the mood, I really am not in the mood.

Ok, it’s now February so here we go… this thing will be hemmed by the end of the month. Yeah, that’s a long time for one hem, but a girl needs a little wiggle room!


Friday, November 30, 2012

A Visit To The Shirt Factory That Time Forgot

This week I was lucky enough to enjoy a tour of the Phillips Shirts factory in Melbourne. As a thank you to their volunteers, the tour was run by Melbourne Open House.

The Phillips Shirts business was started in the 1950s by friends Philip Phillips (!) and Alex Peterfreund, two Czechoslovakian immigrants who worked full time by day and made shirts by night.

Cutting out and sewing the shirts at their home – bachelor Philip lived with Alex and his wife and child throughout most of his life – their first big break came when a store in Tasmania placed an order for 800 shirts.

Apparently this caused some consternation for the duo – can you imagine an order of that size coming into your home-based business? Freak out… :0)

Luckily the store was so impressed by the style and quality of the shirts that they were prepared to accept part delivery and have more sent as they were made.

Thus, the business really began in earnest.

That one big order helped them to establish their first business premises at Little Bourke Street… many shirts and seven years of 18 hour days later and they moved to their current premises at 274 Lonsdale Street in the city.

Our tour started with a trip up the very funky, old-school red and black stairs to a small foyer where several old machines sit in pride of place along with some sterling examples of some ruffled, embroidered glories from, I’d guess, the 1970s.


This is exactly the kind of shirt my Dad wore to weddings in the ‘70s… except his frill was detachable :0)

From there it was onto the cutting desk – enough to make any sewist drool – where some fabric was laid out, ready for cutting… again the cutting tools and weights… drool…


The “everyday” cutter



The super-duper cut-through-a-foot-of-fabric cutter

As well as the table, the cutters, the weights and the WALL of stock…


…there was also some lovely moments that felt like eavesdropping and time-travelling at the same time.



And then we came to the rolls of fabric… or should I say rooms of rolls of fabric… or should I say rooms and halls of rolls of fabric…? Crazy!


Enough of that…


I said enough!


I loved this hidden shirt – traffic lights!

The place is amazing… it has such a sense of history about it – and the fact that it is still a working clothing factory in the heart of Melbourne city – BRILLIANT! There is so much… stuff!… crammed into this space that your imagination starts to get carried away with what could be in the boxes… we did hear a tale of a bunch of velour 1970s jackets in one section. Hipsters, take note!

I think I’m going to let the pictures do most of the talking.


Kitchen / tearoom


The goods lift

Actually, one thing I will explain – this next picture was taken upside down and in the dark so I had to flip it and lighten it. It was on the inside of the goods lift door and the reason it tickled me was that my Dad and Uncle used to work at Lysaghts in the 1960s/’70s.




A selfie with Marybeth in the tearoom

For a while the third floor was sublet to a company called Bambury. Although their stock is gone, there are some small clues they were here…



Outside, the city is still there… inside, it’s 50 years ago

Then it is on to the retail shop on the second floor…



For when your shirt sleeves just have to match the drapes…




This tour was a great treat – for people who sew and those who just appreciate a good shirt or a family business.

The retail shop is open from Wednesday to Saturday, from 10:30am to 3:30pm or by appointment.

I loved it and will be back with some spendable cash in my pocket soon. :0)


Friday, October 12, 2012

Diamond Dragonflies and Art Deco Insects

A couple of years ago - long before I embarked on this ‘I’m going to run my own business and be perpetually poor’ adventure ;0) and could actually spend money on myself - I was wandering around the awesome alleys and laneways of Melbourne when I came across an amazing store – Sine Qua Non.

Unfortunately they don’t seem to have a website, but if you are near the corner of Flinders Lane and Degraves, you will find them, and what you will find inside is a gorgeous Aladdin's cave of jewellery.

I have had the pleasure of visiting – and buying – from this store several times.

My first purchase was a beautiful pair of earrings that I just could not resist!

Speaking with the store owner, he told me that the woman who makes them, Catherine Popesco, got hold of a whole bunch of original 1800s jewellery moulds in Paris and now makes earrings, bracelets, necklaces and brooches with those same moulds.

A piece of very wearable history.


My second purchase came about because I had to show a friend “this amazing store that is full of things I love”and… well, I found another thing that I couldn’t resist!


I’ve been calling this my art deco dragonfly but I’ve just realised that it is definitely more art nouveau than deco.

This one isn’t a Catherine Popesco, but it sure does make me think of 1800s Paris.

But you know what’s even prettier?!

The real thing…


Photographer David Chambon has captured a series of macro shots of insects covered in morning dew… stunning as any diamond jewellery!


You can find more at his website.

Here is a quick tip to keep your much-loved jewellery looking it’s best… it’s actually something that I already knew but have never actually put into practice… bad Denise!

Make sure that jewellery is the LAST thing that you put on when you are getting ready to go out.

Hairspray and perfume both leave their marks on your jewellery, which was made abundantly clear to me when I grabbed my earrings to take a photo… ick!! Luckily, mine were easy enough to clean as the beautiful Austrian crystals are embedded in a clear resin, but if it was a more intricate design then it would be a much harder job to get the gunk out.

Take my bad behaviour as an example and save your jewellery! :0)

Have a lovely weekend!

Denise xx