Love, Desire and Riches at Rippon Lea House & Gardens

I spent a day volunteering at Rippon Lea House and Gardens in Melbourne recently, taking tickets, providing directions and chatting to visitors at the Love Desire and Riches exhibition.

The display of 50 famous and rarely seen wedding gowns and accessories was a popular one, with almost only women coming along. The house itself is magnificent, with beautiful polychrome brickwork and stunning stained glass. I love the way the veils appeared to float in the stairwell.


One room was dedicated to wedding gown design and construction. That was a disappointment with very few items on display and those seeming quite randomly selected, and a mixture of old and new. wedding gown at Rippon Lea House There’s an interesting story to be told about wedding gown construction and the many steps along the way but this room failed to tell it. That was particularly disappointing when you consider that one of Melbourne’s leading wedding couturiers was a major sponsor of the exhibition.

Of greatest interest to me was a mauve toned dress that is part of the Trust’s Costume Collection. I don’t have a photo unfortunately but it was a beautifully made Victorian gown and I learned that mauve, as the colour of mourning was often worn by a bride marrying a widower, though this did not apply to the bride in this particular case. Maybe she just liked mauve.

There was also a couture gown worn by Princess Marie Chantal of Greece on display. Apparently it’s a popular item because it was worn by a ‘real princess.’

The School of Hard Knocks

The flexibility of fibre is one of the things I enjoy about sewing and weaving. While you do have to get it right, there is a degree of forgiveness in fibre-based craft, with the possibility of blocking, wet-finishing, steaming, pressing and so on, to iron out minor imperfections. Metal and wood are less forgiving. I know that from a short time spent learning the techniques of fine jewellery under the tutelage of a professional jeweller.

I learned a great deal in the couple of years I studied jewellery techniques. I learned to appreciate the mastery required to work on a tiny scale and I learned to distinguish between rubbish and well-made pieces. Mostly I learned how much practice and effort are required to achieve a professional standard.

When working with metal, two pieces fit together or they don’t. There’s no concept of bias to allow you to fit a curved edge to a straight one. Maybe it’s down to laziness, but my inclination is to stay with fibre and move away from metal. Besides, wood and metal are more my beloved’s domain.

However when I read glowing reviews in Trip Advisor about Royal Selangor’s School of Hard Knocks I immediately looked into how I could make a booking to participate. The idea of being able to bash at some pewter and bring home a hand-made souvenir was so appealing.

Molds and mallets at the Singapore School of Hard Knocks

Ready to make our pewter bowls

We both loved the experience. We were very surprised that the instruction was given by one of the delightful shop assistants rather than a metal-worker but the School of Hard Knocks is so well set up that all you do is get to work. They give you a circular pewter blank to work with, you stamp it with your name and date and then you use two different molds and a mallet to fashion your own bowl. The process gives the metal a beautiful worked finish.


Royal Selangor Visitor Centre
3A River Valley Rd #01-01
Clarke Quay

You can book for the School of Hard Knocks in advance via email. There’s no hard sell and no requirement to do a tour or watch a video or anything like that. You pay your money (S$40 per person if I remember rightly) and you make your bowl. It’s excellent fun.

Buying Craft Supplies in Singapore

Every holiday needs a quest, some kind of special challenge to make it even more interesting. One of my work buddies has just gone to Europe on a religious pilgrimage. I have set him the quest of bringing me back the tackiest fridge magnet he can find, and I can’t wait to see what he comes up with.

Since I’ve been writing this blog, the quests are easy to set. Seek out a craft or textile-related destination, visit it, take some photos and write a review. Buying is permitted but optional.

Our most recent holiday was to the tiny city-state of Singapore, a place that’s easy to reach from Australia, that has good infrastructure and enough sights to keep you entertained for up to a week.

The Entrance to the Golden Dragon Store in Sinpaore

The Entrance to the Golden Dragon Store

I did my research before we left and saw that the Golden Dragon Store was the most frequently recommended retailer to buy quilting and craft supplies. It’s located on level 2 of the People’s Park Centre in Chinatown, near the overhead bridge to Chinatown Point, which is another shopping centre. If using the excellent MTR underground rail system, use Chinatown Exit D.

Clover Fabric Clips

Clover Fabric Clips

When we visited there was a knitting workshop in progress so there was a bit of a buzz about the place. They had a good range of Clover products, yarn, Japanese crafting patterns, handbag handles, a small range of quilting fabrics (including Japanese fabrics) and lots of ribbons and laces.

My purchase was a set of Clover fabric clips or so-called wonder clips. They’re like small clothes pegs and look like they will be handy for attaching quilt bindings or bias binding. I try not to be too entranced by sewing notions as it’s very easy to collect a bunch of notions that seem appealing initially but that end up taking up storage space without being terribly useful. These clips look like they might help hold bias binding in place over curved edges and if I’m right about that I won’t regret the S$8.20 purchase price.

Store Details:

Golden Dragon Store
Centre for Handicraft and Needlework
101, Upper Cross St #02-51

Open Mon- Sat 10:00am – 8:30pm, Sunday and Public Holidays 12:30pm – 8:00pm

Making Time

egg timerJust a short post today, almost a ‘proof of life’ post.

Last weekend I finally managed to get some sewing done, something I hadn’t been able to do for several weeks. I’m working on another friendship braid quilt, using a Moda jelly roll. I spent two weekends cutting the pieces, aiming for accuracy rather than speed. Now that I’ve started sewing, the tempo is picking up, with two braids done and two more well on the way. In fact it’s coming along so well that I’ve already had a look through my stash for border and backing fabric.

I wish I had more time for craft, but right now I don’t. So I’ll just keep doing what I can, when I can, keeping in mind that this particular quilt is intended as a gift for a birthday in January. Seven months. Should be doable. I hope.

Pandora’s Box in the Making

Pam and Nicky Lintott’s Jelly Roll Quilts book is easily the best value for money book I own in terms of finished quilts per book.

Pandora’s Box is still a work in progress but it’s far enough along that the finish is in sight. It’s the second quilt I’m making from the Jelly Roll Quilts book and I’m planning two more. One of the future quilts will be a repeat friendship braid, also intended as a gift, but his time for a female friend.

Hoffman bali pops blocks

Thin blue frame, then a batik border

I’ve made all the Pandora’s Box blocks and am about to attach a fine blue frame (cut at 1 1/2 inches) and then add a border in a black batik fabric, which will also be the backing. The binding will be plain black, when the time comes.

I’m using a Hoffman Bali Pops jelly roll which I chose for their masculine appeal, as this quilt is intended as a long overdue birthday gift for a male friend.

The batik strips are lovely but can not can not by any stretch of the imagination be interpreted as 2 1/2 inches wide. Even though I used a scant quarter inch seam and measured my seams against the outside point of the sawtooth edges, I had to trim the centre units back to make them square. Boo to you, Hoffman.

First Quilt Finish of 2014

Taking inspiration from Textile Ranger who recently posted her first finish for 2014, here’s mine. I just managed to get this log cabin quilt done (and posted here) within the first quarter of the calendar year. Doesn’t that sound like an office worker talking?

barn raising log cabin quilt in blue and ivory

Measurements: 50 by 50 inches

This time the centre ‘hearths’ are a mellow orange colour and I chose a binding of a darker orange to continue that theme. The label still needs to be attached but other than that, I’m done.

It’s the first quilt I’ve made where I haven’t pre-washed the batting and I’ll be interested to see how it responds to washing. But first, I plan to use it a bit.

No Progress Update

Really wanted to play along

There has been no progress on any weaving or quilting project for several weeks now, apart from a little hand sewing from time to time to attach the binding to my latest log cabin quilt. That’s relaxing work but I find my shoulder gets tired if I keep hand stitching for too long. One length of thread, then it’s time for a different activity.

I feel frustrated about the lack of opportunities to do craft projects while I’m busy working and keeping the house in order. On weekends there are other fun things to do, things that involve treasured friends.

You can only be one place at one time and last weekend we had a much better offer to catch up with friends we rarely see since they moved to the country.

The highlight of the Dean’s Marsh Festival was the terrier race, open to all small dogs. There were so many competitors that they had to run the race in heats. After the small dogs had had their go, the big dogs competed. A beautiful border collie ran like lightning in the big dog race and won hands down. Just for fun he then ran back to the starting line for another go. The dog races were barely controlled chaos and great fun.

stick, straw and wool creatures

Also on offer, and staying true to the fibre theme of this blog, was wool craft using stick armatures, straw and wool to make creatures. Too bad it was labelled kids craft as I would have loved to have a go.

Roo burger price list

Sold out!!

There was food, too. Kangaroo is more usually considered dog food than human food in Australia, but we do get roo mince and roo sausages from time to time. As you can see from the price list on the left, the roo burgers sold out at border collie pace.

It was a great day out in the fresh air and the crafting will still be there next weekend.