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Friday, January 31, 2014

I've moved

Hello! I'm now blogging over at bell-street.com/blog. Follow the new feed on bloglovin here or in other RSS readers here. See you there!

Monday, January 27, 2014

Update - website changes and Australia Day ramblings

Just a quick update today to tell you about some changes to the website - I was playing around with it on the weekend and I'm really happy with how it looks. I've been trying to transition it from a fashion designer's website to a bridal designer's website, and I feel like that transition is pretty much finished now. I just need to create some more work to show off in the portfolio!

The blog has moved

The biggest change with the website is that this blog is now fully part of the main site (previously it was hosted on blogspot). So, if you have a bookmark to the blog, you'll need to change it to bell-street.com/blog, or if you use Bloglovin' to follow blogs (great service, terrible name) - you can subscribe to the new feed here. I'm still having trouble with the new RSS feed so I'll keep posting updates at both locations until that's fixed. Ok, hope that wasn't too complicated! Oh, and if you usually keep updated by just clicking on the links that I post to twitter or on my facebook page, you don't really have to worry about anything.

Happy (belated) Australia Day!

Yesterday was Australia day, which is a holiday I always love. Partly because it marks the anniversary of when I met my husband (seven years ago!) and partly because it's fun. Because it's officially the anniversary of British settlement in Australia, there's often discussion over whether this is something that really should be celebrated. I think of it like this - we should definitely have a national day to celebrate what we love about Australia. When should it be? Well, the anniversary of Federation is on New Year's Day, so that's taken. It should be in summer, so we can go swimming and have barbecues. It should be far enough away from Christmas and New Year that they don't all blend together, but before schools and universities go back. So... January 26? Sounds good. Now who wants a cheesymite scroll?

Lastly, I've been making a hot pink evening gown from this pretty lace. I was playing with some of the offcuts and I love how the flowers look individually... so now I'm trying to think of a way to use them. Decoration on a bridesmaid's dress? A pink and white wedding dress? I don't know.

Friday, January 24, 2014

Nowhere to wear your favourite dress? Create your own opportunities to dress up

If you're anything like me, chances are you have more nice dresses than you really need. Your friends probably do too. Here are some ideas for you.

Go to the Theatre

According to old people, no one dresses up for the theatre anymore. I suppose people are more casual than they might have been, but you still see plenty of people dressed up and you wouldn't look out of place in a nice evening dress. See what's playing in your area, buy the cheapest ticket and dress 'to the nines'. All the old people in the audience will love you for it.

Have an Overdressed Picnic

Get some friends together and wear your favourite dresses (and/or suits) for a very posh picnic. Make sure you have plenty of picnic blankets so no one ends up sitting in the grass and bring cloth napkins to tuck down the front of your dress - picnic food can be messy! Bring some fairy lights or garlands to put in a tree. Everyone else will be jealous of your pretty picnic. 

Wrangle tickets to a Uni ball

Universities have balls all the time, but some people manage to make it all the way through their degree without ever attending one. They're usually held by residential colleges and academic societies (law societies always seem to have good ones). So if you know anyone living at college or members of uni societies, pester them to take you to a ball. It's a good night out and usually pretty affordable.

Host a Viennese hour

Have you heard of a Viennese hour? It's basically a really fancy dessert buffet. I've read vague references to an age old tradition at Viennese balls, but I have a sneaking suspicion that this 'tradition' was invented (or at least perpetuated by) the modern wedding industry. Either way, it sounds fun. Tell your friends to have a light dinner and bring over their favourite dessert. This is no Gilmore Girls-style junk food pyjama party - serve everything in pretty dishes, put on some Mozart and dress like a pretty cupcake. Maybe try and teach each other the Viennese waltz.

Eat at a really fancy restaurant (or bar)

Ok, this one isn't exactly a bargain option. Look up the really posh restaurants in your area - 5 star hotels usually have at least one. People get very dressed up for dinner at these kind of places. Make sure you find out in advance how expensive it really is and whether you're able to actually have dinner there. If you can, yay! have fun. If not, go to their bar and sit on a glass of house wine for an hour while you pretend you're waiting for a table. 
Extra tip: if you're really worried about looking overdressed, carry a gift bag. People always get a little more dressed up for birthdays - and you can keep snacks in the bag to save money on dinner! Genius.

Have a Cocktail Party

Look up recipes for fun cocktails in advance to work out what you'll need. Assign a bottle of spirits to each person coming and stock up on garnishes and mixers. Take turns making drinks for each other and serve all your food on toothpicks. If that all sounds too hard, hire some mobile bartenders like these guys who use old airline trolleys and dress up as pilots. They sound awesome.

Go to an Orchestra concert

The dress code for orchestral concerts always seems to be slightly higher than any other live event.  Most major cities have amazing orchestras and you might be surprised at how much you enjoy it! If you're in Sydney, it's an excuse to go to the Opera House, have a drink at the Opera bar, and pretend that this is what you do all the time. Do it!

A Posh pub crawl

A guy walks into a bar dressed as a rabbit. People think he's a freak. Ten guys walk into a bar dressed as rabbits. People mutter 'Must be some kind of pub crawl...' and go back to their drinks. There's truth to the idea of safety in numbers, and themed pub crawls exemplify that completely. Get a group together, plan out your route and go all out with the formal wear. Just be sensible and agree as a group that there will be no shots and absolutely no singing. Don't be That Group. 

Go anywhere after 11pm

I have a theory that after about 11pm, you could go just about anywhere in formal dress and people will assume you've just come from some kind of event. Grab some food at McDonald's then go out to your favourite bar. If anyone asks, say you've just come from a wedding and make up all kinds of scandalous stories about it.

Do a photo shoot

If you really are all dressed up with absolutely nowhere to go, get familiar with your self timer and have a little photo shoot. Get your hair and make up looking lovely and photograph yourself in your garden, or in your favourite room. Give the pictures to your mum for Mother's Day. Mums love that kind of stuff. 

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Weekly update January 21

The dress above is a dress I made for a Japanese customer to wear to a wedding. The navy silk is really beautiful and I can't wait to see it on her! Apart from that, This week will mainly be a lot of work-in-progress photos... 

I got an idea last week for a cute sixties wedding dress using these pretty fabric flowers I got in Hong Kong. It's been really fun to work on! 

My other work this at the moment is all in the toile stage - where I make a sort of practice or prototype dress out of cheap fabric to check that the pattern works. Both of the dresses I'm toiling at the moment are big long gowns so I've been working with teeny tiny scale pattern pieces to work out the most economical way to cut these dresses out. 

I'm working on another sash sample, I like having hand sewing to do in front of the tv in the afternoon! This one is a retro flowery style. It's just what I'm liking at the moment!

I was proud to finish off my pub paintings this week so if you didn't see them, check them out.

Awards season has put me in the mood for evening dresses so I've been sketching ideas for more bridal samples to make for the Etsy store. 

I keep my painting stuff (and some fake flowers) in these Andy Warhol soup cans.

Stacey from Rollergirl posted this cute photo of her in her bell street waitress costume rolling at the soda factory last week. Doesn't she look great? They're having a summer of 69 themed roller disco soon, so if you're in Sydney, you should check that out!

In other news, we bought a sandwich toaster this week and my lunches have improved immensely.

Friday, January 17, 2014

My favourite Sydney pubs, in watercolour form - Part 1

As I mentioned in my last post, one of the things we've missed most about Australia is being able to go to the pub for a good meal and some relaxed drinks. I've always loved the look of Sydney's older pubs and decided to paint some of my favourites. I'm going to make this a two part series (or maybe more) because it takes a long time to paint these and I keep thinking of more pubs I like. 

Cooper's Hotel, King St Newtown

 I have to admit I've never been to the downstairs area at Coopers, we always head straight upstairs to the beautifully re-done bistro area. They basically demolished half the upstairs area but left the facade, so it's created a great walled-in courtyard above King St. They have nice pizzas here and a delicious Angus steak. I don't think the pub name has anything to do with Cooper's beer, but they do serve it so it seems like a good place to enjoy it. Also, Tranny Bingo on Monday nights! (I'm yet to experience that one).

The Courthouse Hotel, corner of Australia St & Lennox St, Newtown

Extremely popular for a good reason. The beer garden with its long tables and big frangipani trees is perfect on a summer afternoon and pretty good in winter too. Although the Courthouse always seems crowded, you can almost always find a table because there are so many different areas to sit. Food is good and the Courty burger is very popular.

The Erko (Erskineville Hotel), Erskineville Rd, Erskineville.

This was a 'new' discovery on this last trip and I'm putting it straight up into the top five. I don't like a lot of fanciness in a pub and the Erko is just the right kind of relaxed environment where it looks like they've made an effort, but you'd never feel underdressed or not cool enough to be there. We also met one of the nicest bouncers I've ever met, who did everything he could to make sure our group got a good place to sit. I haven't tried the food here yet but I've heard good reports.

The Hampshire, Parramatta Rd, Camperdown

I've ended up frequenting the Hampshire because it's a good midway point between our place and my friend's place in Annandale. It's also close to RPA where a couple of our friends work so it's a convenient meeting spot. There's not really anything fancy about the Hampshire but, as you can probably tell by now, that's the kind of place I like. The bartenders are always friendly and it's always quiet enough that you're pretty much guaranteed to win the meat raffle on a Friday night. They also now have a beer trio taster thing where you choose three beers to try and get a pony (a little baby beer glass) of each for $7 - good way to try some of the local beers they have.

Kelly's on King, King St, Newtown

Kelly's is yet another pub that has become a favourite purely by convenience. For three years it was the closest pub to our house so we went there a lot, and still do out of habit. I can't think of any unique redeeming feature apart from the fact that it's open very late and you're quite likely to be the coolest person there.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Update - Back to Work

First proper update of the year! I've been back at work a week now and so far have been working pretty hard which is exciting for me. I've been running this business from home for three years now (full time for the last year) and it's taken a long time to really get good at working from home, but I think I'm finally getting there.

We had an awesome Christmas/New Years break back in Australia and despite how much we packed into two weeks, it still went way too quickly. We spent the week around Christmas with my family in the Snowy Mountains and then James' family in Newcastle, and the week around New Year's in Sydney. We spent a lot of time taking advantage of the random little things we've missed - fresh healthy food, good avocadoes, breakfasts at cafes, pubs, supermarkets, clean air, usable public transport, quiet streets - I'm not saying we can't find any of that in Manila, it's just all so different. We went from our normal view of tall buildings as far as the eye can see (not that far with the pollution), to views like this:

We were well overdue for a break from Manila and it was just what we needed. I think we've come back pretty refreshed! I've got good work routines in place, we've been keeping the place reasonably tidy and I've been trying out lots of new recipes inspired by the fresh Aussie food we enjoyed over the break.

This is the recipe photo from Real Living. Our dinner was just as good but maybe not as stylish looking!

I've just finished a custom dress order and right about to start another one, and I have a bridal order to work on this year as well! I'm also trying to produce lots of bridal samples for the Etsy store, which is now back online after the holiday break. There's not much on there at the moment so I want to fill it up a bit more with samples and custom orders.

Finally, Jodie from jodiehilton.com did a feature on me and my work for her site this week, so go and check it out here if you want to learn some random little known facts about me!

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Inside: my workroom

I've moved a lot of things around since I last shared photos of my workroom so I thought I'd do an update. The main reason for moving everything was to have my desk in the one corner of the room that gets good wi-fi, but I like it better how it is now. The room feels even bigger and the air flows better if there's a breeze, which is a nice treat in this hot climate.

This room doubles as a spare bedroom but when we don't have anyone staying, I push the twin beds against the wall and cover them so they're kind of like a giant couch/storage bench. Most of the time (when I'm not taking photos) there's a lot more stuff piled up on them!

I can never get enough light when I'm sewing so the fairy lights are practical and pretty.

I decided to use the fancy panorama mode on my phone camera so you can get the whole picture:

Friday, January 3, 2014

Adventures in Watercolour, part 2

Part 1 here

Before my mum came to visit us, I let her know that I wanted to get better at watercolour and demanded some lessons from her (she's good at all that). While she was in Manila we had a few painting sessions and I've been making it a habit to paint regularly since. I've been painting lots of wedding dress ideas, and also did some watercolour illustrations for my Hong Kong post.

I still use fashion drawing templates, because trying to draw people properly takes all the fun out of it for me. I've also been adding ink outlines using various techniques - fine pen, thicker markers and bamboo pens. My favourite way of drawing with ink is to cut an old-fashioned quill from a feather (so hipster, I know...) but I didn't think to bring feathers with me when I moved to Manila and I have no idea where to buy them! In Australia I would just buy a novelty feather mask from the party section of the supermarket or a packet of coloured feathers from the craft shop but I haven't been able to find any in Manila. There are also no birds in the city apart from sparrows, so the chances of finding a feather lying around are slim. Luckily the town where my parents live is full of magpies, so I managed to collect a few feathers while I was there before Christmas.