Melbourne Craftiness : A Newbie's Guide

12 February 2014

For the romantics amongst you; Happy Valentine's Day. For the crafty types; Buttons!

Well, Tuesday morning proved to be satisfyingly enjoyable. One of those rousing, jolly and buoyant sort of mornings that comes from meeting lots of passionate and creative types. Most unexpected as I'd popped out into Melbourne's CBD on a quest for some 3.75mm 80cm circular needles in anticipation of a stunning pattern on the cover of the current edition of Pom Pom Quartely (of which more in another post).

On the Pom Pom website I'd spotted - seconds after I'd placed the order to send the mag from Blighty down to Melbers. Gah - that one of their suppliers in this Antipodes is L'Uccello Vintage Habedashery in the Nicholas Building. This is one of Melbourne's rather striking 19th- and 20th-century edifices, built in 1926 with a confidence not that dissimilar to the sort of thing happening in North America at the time. The building's location on the corner of Swanston Street and Flinders Lane is significant as this was the heart of the garment industry and today it still houses (as I found out) a number of fashion and textile studios, ateliers and boutiques.

The Nicholas Building, corner of Swanston Street and Flinders Lane in Melbourne. A mini Mecca of crafty and textiley marvellousness.

I'm pretty au fait with Melbourne as I lived here for four years in the mid noughties. At that time however, my stomping grounds were Carlton and the Art History Department at Melbourne University as well as Brunswick when gangsters like the Morans were taking ungentlemanly pops at each other on Sydney Road.

Yeah, things have changed somewhat in East Brunswick since then - super, super chic and trendy these days - but the art historians still gather around Carlton.

Another factor that contributed to my recent lack of nouse regarding where to go for knittery was that, simply, I didn't knit in the mid noughties. I do now. Hence Tuesday's quest for needles and a mission to find a haberdashery.

Obviously, this being Melbourne and the capital of coffee, I partook of a flat white in one of the CBD's laneways. Here's a picture.

Central Place. One of a number of CBD laneways with an abundance of cafes.
 Nice vibe, eh?

Thus, suitably caffeine-charged, it was onwards to L'Uccello, through the very striking stained glass arcade of the Nicholas Building, past the retro clothes store where I may have bought a very ill-advised mini skirt in the past, and onwards... and upwards...

The stained glass arcade of Nicholas House. Could a couple of shopping mall property corporates take a bit of inspiration from this, please (WESTFIELD. I'M LOOKING AT YOU)?
Oh. My. Gosh.

Not only was there the wonder of L'Uccello's (Liberty Tana Lawn aplenty, lashings of fat quarters, Sajou thread as well as exquisite crocheted textiles by French designer Sophie Digard) but Buttonmania, The Kimono House, Anno Domini Home, Harold and Maude and the Aladdin's cave on level one of Maria's Beads and Trims.

So much craft. So much creativity. Such wonderfully inspiring crafty types. Honestly, I spent a couple of hours chatting to the various owners. Kate Boulton of Buttonmania has been in the button trade for 19 years. Of course there's a button trade, there has to be a button trade, but it's just not something I'd ever really thought about. Until Tuesday. It's a fascinating world of colour, texture, provenance and creativity.

Buttonmania. See that cupboard smothered in dots? BEHOLD. The world's most amazing button drawers.
There will be a blogpost pending about Kate. And then another one about Leanne O'Sullivan, owner of The Kimono House. So you want to take up sashiko? Or maybe Japanese silk embroidery? How about some ikebana in your life? Or maybe you need some more washi tape. And a stunning lilac cotton kimono to wear as an summer dressing gown. I do. And now I know where to go.

Kimono House. Where do I even begin? It's just magnificent.
The conversation with Andrew Delaney of Anno Domini Home was thought-provoking. His work involves taking found textiles - hospital blankets, old doilies, curtain backing - and creating gothic-inspired, 19th-centuryish (I don't want to use the word "Victoriana". That has dubious hints of trouser legs for pianos to protect the sensibilities of corseted young women. His pieces have none of that. Fortunately) sculptures and objects. At first there's something disconcerting about the lifeless callico mannequins and doilie'd skulls but then you look at their beauty and soon the stories start. The stories behind the materials, the stories Andrew creates around his objects and the stories and memories that visitors bring to the works.

Embroidered heart sculptures made from found textiles at Anno Domini Home. I've got my eye on the black doilie'd one at the bottom.

And just a taste of what I found. I will write more later but for now I am sure you're on tenterhooks regarding the 3.75mm 80cm circular needles. Just where does one go in Melbourne? It turns out L'Uccello were able to send me on my way to Morris and Sons on Collins Street.

Oh my. I think I need a sit down. So. Much. Yarn.

And I forgot to take photos. Gah.

But who knew a worsted merino wool could be so silky? Be still my beating heart.

(Images: Zoë F. Willis)

No comments: