Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Where to Find Fashion Inspiration

There are many ways we find inspiration in how to dress: social media, magazines, movies, and people on the street but often there is one person who is somehow a guiding influence over many years and despite fashion trends. For me, that person was, and remains despite her passing, my maternal grandmother: July 31, 2016 would have been my Nanan's one hundredth birthday!
Here she is on the left of this photo with her older sister. When this photo was taken, her father still owned several textile factories in Peterborough and Leicester UK. Her mother was trained as a concert pianist but was mostly at home caring for her family which also included my Nanan's brother. My Nanan was bookish and quiet as a child but did well in school, loved sport especially horseback riding and cycling, loved poetry and beautiful clothing, and was an excellent dancer. She wanted to attend university but like many young woman of the time, was discouraged from doing so. By the time she was a young woman, her father had sold his factories to own a pub and become a publican in his 'retirement'. It was working behind the bar that she met my grandfather who was a young RAF officer and they married one week after the start of the war.

From her hairstyle, I am sure this photo was taken during the war when she was a young mother. Despite wartime shortages and rationing, she was soon known for her skill at entertaining and dressing herself and her young family. After the war, the family moved to Dublin, Ireland where my grandfather opened a business. As a child, I remember my mother telling me of how her mother had stylishly decorated the houses they had lived in with paint and slipcovering of outdated furniture. Her outfits were always noticed. Even when she stepped off the airplane that brought her home from her mother's funeral in 1948, her picture was taken and published by the Irish Times. It upset her that a photo was taken of her deep in grief but she was pleased that even grief did not detract from her style. She loved clean lines without fussiness, interesting but wearable shoes, and simple but dashing hats. She knew exactly what suited her and, more importantly, what did not. She never wore much make-up but enough to always look well-groomed. Lauren Bacall was the only Hollywood star that I remember her admiring.

When I was a young child living on what was then the Queen Charlotte Islands and is now known as Haida Gwaii, my grandparents also moved to the islands. My Nanan opened a woman's dress shop in a fairly modest and slightly rustic building they had purchased. She stocked it with mostly Canadian made garments. Canada had a thriving garment industry at the time although most of the names have been lost to history. I do remember that she would buy some of her stock at Marjorie Hamilton's showroom in Vancouver. The photo above shows the detail of a necklace in my collection and one of my Kay Silver dresses. I am not sure that she stocked the Canadian designer Kay Silver but this garment is very much in the spirit of what I remember being in the store.

Here is a full length shot of the dress. The fabric is a beautiful cotton with an embossed piqué effect. As the daughter of a master jacquard weaver and textile mill owner, I know that she loved great fabrics. I remember walking by Fluevog and Fox shoes in Gastown with her on a shopping trip in Vancouver when she no longer had the clothing store. I am fairly sure that she would have loved my Fluevog sandals as they are beautiful and well crafted with a slight eccentric flair which was also found in her shoe collection. She also loved great leather work: this Fossil handbag that I found at the thrift store has the equestrian details and tan colour that would have appealed to her.

My Nanan did not have a large jewelry collection. At a fairly early point in her life she realized that she had a nickel allergy so that even a gold wedding band was unwearable. When I was a teenager, she gave me her Majorca pearls which were very good quality man-made strings. After closing her dress shop, she opened up a bookkeeping service and government agency where fishing licenses could be purchased and provincial auto insurance renewed. She also made space for a few imported items like teas, soap, and baskets as well as local artists' work. Most of this artwork was Haida but she also featured some other islander's work. This cuff style bracelet was hers and she was able to wear it as it is lined in copper. I find that it is a piece that works with almost anything I would want to wear it with.

My Nanan also loved a good hat! This hat is made by the Canadian company Parkhusrt out of paper straw which works very well for this simple shape. The company also has a knitwear division and she likely carried some things made by this company. I have memories of her hats but I don't remember which hats she had in the store but I do remember that she carried Vera scarves. I have some of the scarves that she gave to my Mum.

Whether inherited or nurtured, I am so thankful to have had her style inspire and guide me.

Friday, July 1, 2016

Begin (Again) as you Intend to Continue

A birthday is often a fresh start and as it is Canada's 'birthday', it is a perfect day for me to resume sharing my life and love of vintage. These Centennial glasses are almost 50 years old and are part of the many things produced to celebrate Canada's first hundred

Many public buildings, like the Museum of Vancouver shown here, were built to celebrate the Centennial and can be identified by the presence of the distinctive maple leaf composed of ten triangles that was the symbol of the Centennial. Canadians were encouraged to travel across the country and to create their own 'Centennial Projects'. I was my parents' 'Centennial Project'!. This year I hope to visit many more of these buildings and see a lot more of Canada. I first visited the Vancouver Museum when I was 12 years old and they had an exhibition called "The Look of Music". It was one of the experiences that, when considered collectively, influenced my desire to study music. A few years later, my first experience playing "real" chamber music was with the son of the man who created the exhibit. This young cellist was also the person who reintroduce me to my future husband. When I revisited the Museum in March of this year, I discovered that the architect George Hamilton had based the design of the building on an Haida woven hat. Most of my first five years were spent living on Haida Gwaii where my father was a bush pilot. I was fortunate to fly with him into logging and mining camps as well as Ninstints and other Haida sites. I am continually thankful for my early exposure to this rich culture.

Last year on Canada Day I was at the Canadian Embassy in Washington D.C. with the Ottawa Cathedral Choir of Men and Boys as my youngest son's chaperone. Bill Reid's striking sculpture was the perfect place for an outfit photo featuring my 'made in Canada' Ophelie Hat which really stood out in a sea of white stetsons.

Below are possible vintage outfit choices for today. From back to front: a Diane von Furstenberg print knit dress made by my late mother in the mid-1970s, a cotton blend 'secretary style shirt dress also from the 1970s, and a silk Jasper Conran dress from the early 1980s. I still need to find a 1967 Centennial dress...

Happy Canada Day!

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Blogtoberfest Day 5: New Pyrex

In the six years that I have been collecting Pyrex, the swelling popularity of this beautiful glassware has become clearly evident in sites such as the Pyrex Collective and the PyrexLove Flickr stream.

The downside of its popularity is its increasing scarcity. I have not seen much in good condition in the thrift stores lately, so I was thrilled to find three mixing bowls in Snowflake Blue in mint condition on my latest thrifting excursion.

I did not intend to collect this pattern but have grown to really like its cheerfulness. Expanding my collection of a variety of Pyrex patterns has created challenges of easily accessible storage. I had already made room for these two casseroles.

A little shuffling solved the problem. I think that I will have enough room to fit the larger 404 bowl when I find it. Although pieces have tended to present themselves, my Pyrex search has just become re-energized.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Blogtoberfest Day 4: A New Style Pie

Yesterday's dinner was an exercise in creatively using what was in the house, in this case, a particularly large portion of feta cheese. While my sons will eat feta, they do not really like it! I thought that a "cheese pie" might be the answer. My mother grew up in England and Ireland where a pie is usually a deep dish savoury melange with a pastry crust or some other type of edible lid. These were made in a pie dish rather that a pie plate.
Recently I found most of a set of pie dishes at the thrift store. Online sources on backstamp information date these pie dishes to the late 1970's or 1980's, so they are not that old, but still considered vintage. These are very old design made by a company that is more known today for another traditional pottery, Cornish Ware.
In this case, I chose to make something completely untraditional for this sort of dish and came up with a crustless, vegetarian pie. Whether or not it can be called a pie is open to discussion. Worldwide, the idea of a pie covers many variations. This book by Janet Clarkson might suggest that it could be called a pie.

Spanikopita Pie
1 Tbsp. olive oil
1 onion, chopped
3 cloves of garlic, minced
2 tsp. dried dill
300 g frozen spinach, defrosted and drained
1/2 c. quinoa, well rinsed
1 c. water
1 1/2 c. to 2 c. feta
1 block of silken tofu, mashed

Preheat the oven to 350 or 325 in a convection oven.
Butter or oil the pie dish.
In a medium saucepan, saute the onions adding the garlic when the onions become translucent. Stir in the dill and remove from saucepan and set aside. Use the sauce pan to bring the water to a boil and add the quinoa. Simmer for about 10 minutes. When the quinoa is cooked, fluff with a fork and then add the defrosted and drained spinach along with the onion, garlic and dill mixture. Crumble in chunks of feta. Mash the tofu and fold into mixture. Transfer into the buttered pie dish and place in the oven for around an hour, uncovered.

Since a pie can be one of the thriftiest dishes in the kitchen and vintage, traditional pie dishes are a thrift store treasure, I am linking this post to Apron Thrift Girl's Thrift Share Monday

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Blogtoberfest Day 3: My Creative Space

I have an amazing sewing studio but, at this time of year, some of my creative work needs to be accomplished in closer proximity to the rest of the family. This has been the case for generations of home-makers whether they were needing to catch up on mending or enjoying more creative pursuits.
Having a sewing or work box in the living room, family room or den had long been the norm. This sewing box on legs appears to be about fifty years old and definitely due for a make-over. It is sturdy and has good bones, but the brown wood-grain vinyl and the torn tufting on the top, while evocative of another time, is not my idea of beauty .
Here, the top is removed and the hinges unscrewed; where the vinyl had been stapled to the lid was attached a heavy piece of pale, peachy-pink cardboard. I carefully removed the staples with the intent to reuse the cardboard. When that was done, I removed the many staples holding the vinyl to the lid.
Here the piece is completely stripped. I carefully stored all the hardware and decorative elements and started the recovering process. The original tufts for the lid were created with large plastic button tacks. Over the years, some of these had gone missing so I decided to replace them with covered buttons using the fabric used to recover the lid.
This photo shows the completed work box with a focus on the lid's tufting. The original button tacks did not extend all the way through the wood of the lid so I made holes in the lid where I wanted the tufting and then used heavy, waxed button thread to thread through the wood and the shank of the button, then stapled it to the underside of the lid to create enough tension to make defined tufts.
Once I had stapled the cardboard to the underside of the lid, I realized that the staple width did not match the original staples and it generally looked messy. I decided to use some of my small stash of vintage wallpaper to cover the cardboard and finish off the look of the inside of the lid.
The fabric that I used on the sides was very slippery on the fibreboard sides of the work box, so I decided to use some fabric glue to prevent it from sagging. I made a big mistake by not checking if the glue would stain the fabric. The bottle stated that it would not stain most fabrics; the moral here is to always perform a spot test.
Fortunately, with the light inside my family room, the glue staining is barely noticeable. The ideal location of this sewing box is in the family room, between my favourite chair and the sofa, in front of a vintage sewing machine cabinet that we use as an end table.
Here is the work basket, fully stocked with vintage and modern sewing notions and ready to go. Under the removable plastic tray I can store whatever I am working on and close everything up until I return. This functional furniture piece is very sturdy and can be used as a stool, or a great location for a tray and a cup of tea. Even one of our cats has claimed it as a favourite rest... ahem, work site! Along with Blogtoberfest, I am linking this post to My Creative Space which is hosted by Kirsty. So many ideas by creative people...

Blogtoberfest Day 2: Transitional Wardrobe

Early Fall and late Spring present some equally challenging issues when planning a wardrobe for the day. Often, first thing in the morning is quite chilly and the middle of the day can be positively hot. Fashion, or maybe just boredom with what we have be doing and excitement of something new, seems to suggest we push the season and wear what we will be wearing in the coming months. Here is an outfit that I wore in the Spring and again just recently. I have mixed new pieces with vintage, and warm season with cool, in a way that I think spans the seasons and stretches the character of each item while creating a cohesive look. I started with a new Summer Liberty shift dress and the jacket of a navy blue suit. The jacket is a great fit on me but the skirt probably requires the kind of undergarments that I do not own. The purse is thrifted and made by Fossil. I have two thrifted bags from the company and one new one. One of their tag lines is "Long Live Vintage" which is obviously marketing to people like me. Marketing aside, I like how well the bags seem to be on the inside which I consider very important.
Here, I am wearing a pill box hat which is likely from the early 1960's. Cloth hats are perfect for transitional seasons as it is not too early nor too late for straw or felt. Traditionally, this style of hat would have been worn with a more structured, shorter hairstyle. With my hair down, I think that it gives a fresh, modern take on a vintage look.
I love the way the crown of the hat is formed. Self-fabric bows are always a favourite feature. While fabric hats such as this do have structural features such as heavy-weight buckram, they are the kind of hat that would be relatively easy for the non-professional milliner to recreate.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Blogtoberfest Day #1: Last Garage Sale of the Season

Well, Blogtoberfest is here again and I am using this opportunity to get back in the blog saddle. I was fairly successful posting somewhat regularly last year and hope to do the same this year. To my loyal followers, I will keep my apologies simple and just say that my general health was rather rough last Winter and Spring. As time past, it didn't get easier to re-start blogging, but here goes.
A couple of weeks ago, I went to what may very well have been the last garage sale of the season. It is my favourite community sale that has turned up some fabulous treasures for me in past years. This time I was able purchase a new old rug for the living room along with these treasures. I make no apologies for my love of pretty tins and these ones are especially lovely. The wire caddy for glasses has a shabby chic touch, popular among reproduction items, but the previous owner did buy it at an antique market.
While I do not really require more haberdashery or china, I found the trim and the mug were too irresistible. The metal napkin holder was free and although I use my stacks of cloth napkins, I do occasionally use paper for parties.
Another view of the tins along with a little more detail of a new-to-me vintage bed tray. This one is for my husband to use while I enjoy this one. I am very excited to be participating in this festival hosted by Kat @ I Saw You Dancing.