Thursday, October 25, 2012

This is what it all boils down to ..

.. making things - consistently and as best as you can.

This is basically what I do, my day revolves around the making of things and even though I sometimes catch myself flirting with the idea that I might be better off unburdened by the urge to create, free to while away the time left over from 'a more official kind of' employment as I please,  I know that I'll probably make it back to this vicious  and unrelenting circle of productivity. I've done my fair share of romanticizing hard-work - it became a coping strategy for a while. Now I just focus even more on creating better, something tells me I do not afford to stop just yet.

So here is a pair of donated and reclaimed burnt-orange gloves bearing an interesting label 'Made in Germany West-Zone' which I chose to intricately embellish with (also) donated, re-purposed lace motifs, re-assembled in the shape of a
 floral branch that leads all the way down to the tip of the smallest finger and a spray of seed pearls and glass beads to mimic delicate cupcake decor. Do not ask why - it's tough to find answers to that question. It seemed like the perfect thing to do.

And below, two photo collages of the first in a series of multi-purpose sashes I'm currently devoting what little time is left at the end of the day to (that is, unless I'm in the mood to read, or watch a movie, or go out, or get sloshed) - (erm, no I do not suggest intricate beading if you feel like a drink.. after a while, throwing beads across the kitchen might become amusing, and there simply aren't enough words to describe the dismay first thing in the morning when you step on them/drink them with your tea/brush them out of your and your cat's hair). In any case, this one is made out of sturdy lined wool and embellished with diamond shaped Art Deco style lace motifs in ivory, silver beading, pearl beading an
d a perfect round button from a vintage lot I've been given.

And this is the second one - a tribute to my love affair with pipa knots (all kinds of knots really - am currently on a quest to master a number of good ones - they make for the perfect party trick - !!NOT!!). I finished all of the seed beading whilst watching 'The Supersizers go..' series.. darn shame that both finished simultaneously, leaving me a bit lost at the end.. looking for my next project and my next series. 

yes, sewing can get lonely sometimes!

And just when I thought I'd round up things nicely and end this post with another declaration of love for Sue Perkins, I realised I hadn't yet featured any of these dresses in previous posts. Time just rolls by so quickly. Again, I find just opportunity to state how lost and lonely I sometimes feel after I close the door on a project or five. I'm detecting a pattern!

Above: a lovely (if I may say so myself) prom-style dress for an Autumn wedding guest in purple-taupe and black lace.. heart shaped, cap sleeved and with a decorative bow at the back.. It comes with its own black cloud of an underskirt and I am very looking forward to seeing pictures of it in action!
Below:  one eye catching statement dress for another wedding guest in vibrant magenta taffeta and chiffon with matching and hand sewn lace appliqués.. and from the photos I received, it appears to me that it was a success!

And the dress in my absolute favourite colour.. (well, definitely my current favourite, and it's been this way since the beginning of 2012.. when the colour mood changes, rest assured I will make it a point to inform you). With this dress the wave-like silvery pattern of the material, reminiscent of japanese waves, inspired the very cut - and I am very happy it happened!

 and a lovely red feathery hat which I restored - a donated hat as beautiful as the story behind it and an antique diamante hat pin present from Bologna which complements it perfectly <3 .. drop me a line if you know of anything special enough happening on the island for me to show up in this combo cos I'm finding it very difficult to peel myself out off my 'fuck-olympics sign-off' t-shirt right now!

I shall leave you now.. and whilst I contemplate my options for this evening (a perrier or a green tea, tv or sleep, book or another book) here I list my current obsessions outside of sewing for no reason in particular: Making smoothies late at night (yesterday's was: banana+avocado+celery+milk, today's: grapefruit+banana+pear+plum+blueberry juice), listening to and watching Dawn French laugh, Tony Curtis in 'Some like it Hot' and planning my next bake (Crème brûlée tarts or a plain old Victoria Sponge?!)

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

On the home front ..

I came home with new hair to an equally new place: same place, same hair but an attractive freshness to both. No use dwelling on the reasons why I sometimes, sporadically and in the past, considered giving the scissors a break and letting my hair grow long (enough to tie back into a bun - never flowing locks, just a simple elegant bun). It happens every time, I sit in the hairdresser's chair, visualize Vanessa's appalled face at the suggestion of a longer hairstyle (Vanessa is a close friend and a staunch supporter of exclusively short hair on yours truly) and I go ''qaccat, man!'' (ie. ''choppity chop and pronto!''). 

That's basically the reasoning behind the haircut.

The house is another thing entirely. I have welcomed today a couple of hard-earned kitchen appliances I simply cannot believe I've done without for this long. Fair enough, I did have pale imitations of these brand spanking new ones - recycled appliances from kitchens across the island that have served us well but have taken a most worrying turn to the worse of late - but a clean slate and a clean start is looking very attractive right now, especially since I actively decided to devote more time to honing my cooking skills. What's more, my new appliances are bad-ass black beauties, metallic trims and all!

as pathetic as it may sound, I enjoy accessorizing my kitchen with bunches of fresh herbs!

This, on the other hand, is a beautiful arrangement that has come together quite by surprise. The hat and the book are my nannu's (*see the post before last), the colourful brass lamp from Morocco, the poster of 'Louis Cyr - strongest man on earth' and the red-I-never-tire-of on the walls.

And below, my first Lemon Meringue Pie!

Credit for whisking skills (apart from the 'new' Kenwood) go to Sarah, whose surprise visit delighted, and whose company in the kitchen remains unparalleled in terms of usefulness married with charm and a good eye for detail. We took photos of my first bake, made rose water lemonade with the left-over lemon juice and meringue rosettes with the left-over beaten egg whites. Thrifty & crafty lasses, is what we are!

mmm.. the 'artfully' piped meringue just out of the oven and that accompanying feeling in the pit of your stomach which is a mix of dread and exultation - hoping it'll cease with more experience and a helping hand in the shape of a new oven!

Oh, and this is Ingrid.. my new hat model. We met this morning and we fell in love. Below is a photo of another pair of lovers - re-united after a long, unprecedented break-up. These things just warm my cockles! As do Sue Perkins, unexpected peanut-butter biscuit gifts from Canada, talk of pashminas from Little India and a valid excuse to spend money on tassels in the near future!

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Movimiento Tango

This is where most of my stories begin: at the fabric store. What I don't usually have is 'company' or rather, a partner in crime. Mid-summer, I went to the fabric store with Nathalie, a professional Argentine tango dancer and instructor based in Malta who came to me with a proposal, to help her create a selection of milonga-worthy dancewear that is at once practical and dressy. Dance wear that focus on the elongation of the limbs and the neck, that reveals enough without giving away too much. The tanguera is meant to look elegant as she dances, and revealing too much, as we all know, doesn't get you there. We created a collection that is sensual yet youthful, with playfully adaptable features and a focus on detail to make every item a stand-alone piece. This is dancewear that sees one from practice hour, to a weekly milonga and on to after-practice drinks. All of the skirts, trousers, dresses, tops and accessories are designed by hand and appropriately named by Nathalie. Yesterday we held a mini-launch of the collection in Rabat where a group of ladies chatted over some wine, with the discussion swaying from elegant posture, the right hairstyles or the dance, appropriate beginner shoes, manicure rules and well, let's just say, perhaps, more than our fair share of bra-talk. It was bound to happen!

Here's Nathalie herself, trying on swathes of fabric for size.

Accessories: designing these was a learning curve for me. Only an experienced dancer would ever have been able to point out a tango dancer's requirements so clearly.

Dresses, and the joys of adjustable gathers, criss-cross lace-ups and bias cut skirts!

 Skirts: obviously!

Some tops that lengthen the neck without exposing too much

And trousers: slit, pointy and gathered 

This is a photo collage of the hard-copy of the catalogue, a series of hand-drawn and painted designs in a 100% recycled and hand-stitched cover, including sample sheet.

And Nathalie's own dress. For the first dress we chose the 'el beso' design which we then adapted to her particular needs. With this collection our main aim was to make clothes that fit the dancer as well as the dance. It would have been futile to create made-to-measure dancewear that fits as badly as shop-bought casual wear appropriated for dance.

We believe we've created a special little something here! Should you be interested in having a look, e-mail me on [or my facebook page] or get in touch with Nathalie directly [ or blog

Monday, October 15, 2012

In-Nannu Gorg

I have come across the most sentimentally charged inheritance over this weekend. This has been the shortest time I've ever spent whining for something. After a marathon watch of The Great British Bake Off, it occurred to me for the first time in my life, that I was actually missing out. I did not have a mixer! (and neither did I have the blinding whisking power that Mr. Hollywood has in his arms). As it turns out, my nannu Gorg's Kenwood from way back when needed a home away from the damp shed/room at the back of nanna's yard as did some flan moulds and this precious French culinary bible, quite literally my deceased nannu's reference book/spiritual guide/prized possession. Known better as 'il-bahri', he must have been one of very few ex-sailors to retire in Qormi to earn himself the nickname. Born in Valletta (and proud), he married in Qormi to my nanna Giorgina, but also to the sea, the HMS Merchant's Navy, the Australian Army, and a number of well equipped and respected hotel kitchens in Malta (as well as Comino) after that. Sleeping over as a child couldn't have been more fun .. I got my pick, and more than my fair share of freshly made croissants, potato gnocchi, fruit flans and crunchy meringues. I also must have caught the cooking bug in the process.. hopefully, to my nannu's delight. 

Here's a decidedly 70s aspic-hell of a spread ... this is the cuisine that formed my nannu's repertoire. He, understandably and thankfully, took several shortcuts to spare his family the gelatine; but I am glad for his explanation and recipe of the marie-rose sauce. I bet a kid hooked on shrimp cocktails is any chef's nightmare, even a chef who flourished in the 70s!!

Nannu posing with the captain on board HMS Birmingham as they prepared the yearly Christmas pudding, looking into big vats (photo is charmingly blurred!) and a 16 year old, and slightly confused nannu before leaving for Australia.

Nannu's 'borma forn' - weirdly reminiscent of torture chambers and submarines that have seen better days but functioning nevertheless. 

And my dearly beloved .. may we embark together safely on this baking voyage and never return, may we see each other through several meringue towers and ganaches .. please be my own well-behaved and sturdy Paul Hollywood and I promise to oil you regularly and display you proudly in my kitchen (which surprisingly enough, you match perfectly!)