Friday, December 6, 2013

Drawing of an Old Era

 Rolling up my sleeves and using a few personal obsessions to start chipping my through a personal fear.

The obsessions: a love of early 20'th century illustration. More specifically the racy kind of tricolor proto pin ups that would appear in magazines like "La Vie Parisienne" or "Le Sourire" during the late 1910's-early 1920's, and of course all things rococo, (something those illustrators were pretty obsessed with as well, vive la panniers! ).

The fear: Drawing again after not having drawn anything of any scope in a good few years.

See I have a background in fine art. Got my degree in it, been studying it most of my life. But as drawing became a smaller part of my job, I fell into a lapse. Then after few years, became almost deathly afraid of what I would see on the page when I finally put a pencil to it again.

This past week though like I say, I finally plucked up the nerve and the pencils to see just how much rust was sticking up my drawing gears, and I started drawing up some stylized pin ups to get back into figure drawing, and something I love.

(Nerd note:) The backgrounds were loosely based on 18th century pleasure gardens  like Vauxhall and Ranelagh, and the names from breeds of roses.

So obviously the rust is showing, but it wasn't quite the cack handed scrawl II was expecting. things are already starting to free up within just these three. The lines flowing better and becoming more elastic, and things started to become more comfortable. There is hope after all!

Next demon to hopefully be banished by frothy frolicking figures I guess will be painting. The biggest "sucking at stuff I used to rock at" specter of all...

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Halloween Dolls

Been doing a whole lot of real life stuff lately, but at the same time got to play with some dolls again too! 

First up in honor of the season is the Halloween Dal a good friend asked me to make. She gets a new doll every Halloween and this year wondered if I could customize one into a cute spooky lolita girl. She wanted something slightly casual, and I maaaaay have gotten a little frill happy, but wrapped her up with a wooly scarf and earmuffs to make her a little more cozy looking. Dal dolls always look so grumpy, I figured she's the kind of charachter who wouldn't suffer the cold just for a bit of candy.

I was sad to see her go but happy she went to a great lady with a great home. Snapped a few photos before shipping her off still.

Doll number 2 is still Halloween for me! I know a lot of people will want to hang me for saying this, but as a rule I find anthro dolls kinda terrifying. I don't know why, they just typically aren't my bag. That is until of course I ran into Pinkie Cooper. Somehow that peppy little spaniel won me over.

I have the London Pinkie sitting pretty just as she came out of the box, but something in my head snapped and I had to customize another Pinkie into Isabelle from animal crossing new leaf. So I did.

Something a bit different. I love painting her big eyes and making her tiny clothes. Just before I had her finished a friend said she needed a pet gyroid so now she has a little Lloid the gyroid to keep her company.

That's about all the sugary horror i have for now, but there are more photos over on Dolly Daydream for anyone needing an extra fix.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Cute as a Garter Button

Frippery du jour over here at quaintrelle towers (ok duplex) is garter buttons! You probably know the things I mean... Little silk covered buttons printed or painted with sultry eyed flapper faces from  the 1920's.

New styles and new hosiery had lead to girls rolling their stockings and holding them tightly in place with either rubber like bands or adventurous garters. Above the knee if you wanted to play it safe or bellow the knee if you were feeling sexy and wanted to let your knees do the taking! Fashionable girls could display their modern and irreverent attitudes with these flirty faces peeking out from under
rising hemlines.

Created by the ribbon companies at the time, they seem to have been printed on long ribbons, then cut and shaped into various whimsical buttons. Some were left simply as printed faces, some adorned with further ribbons and frills, and others went further with cheeky sayings like "You'd be surprised" or my personal favorite, a police man proclaiming "Stop go no further!"

Not wholly found on garters, they could also be seen on other flirty items such as powder puffs, and mirrors, all the various ribbon covered items in a true coquette's  arsenal!

You can often find them for sale on places like easy or ebay, but as a girl who likes ribbons it seemed like a fun thing to make from scratch. 
Currently still just buttons here are a few of the faces to come off my work bench this week....

Their destinies will be another post later on, but for now, anyone else wanting to say it with buttons might want to check out the quick tutorial over on the Quaintrelle Life website and make some too! 

What do you think your knees might want to say?

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Dream Deco Teacup

Ok, my teacup Embargo hasn't been going well. I had said "I just need one Paragon teacup" but now I've also got a 2nd one. But hear me out!...

Wedgwood Deco Bloom
When I first started collecting teacups I was just looking to pick up the cup and saucer from each design. Since then however I've been trying to pick up trios instead with the matching side plate as well as the saucer. Some times it's easy, sometimes not so much, either because a pattern is discontinued, or because it never had a matching plate to begin with. This was the road block for me when I was looking to add a super art deco cup to the fold.

See, I fell in love with the "Deco Bloom" cup from the Wedgwood Harlequin collection. Since the line launched they've
adding extra pieces like side places to the collection for some designs like my spiffy polka dot set, but sadly Deco Bloom wasn't one of them. I wrestled with the fact it was my perfect dream cup, but that it would never be a full place setting. Then something amazing happened! An identical cup showed up on Ebay, complete with side plate! Uncanny right? The crazy thing was the auction cup wasn't Wedgwood.

My Paragon Pink Hydrangea Trio
Wedgwood's Harlequin collection is based on old designs from their design archives brought back to life, but this old auction trio was by Paragon.

The Paragon china company ultimately became part of modern day Royal Doulton, It's old pattern books presumed lost. I wonder if some of those books or later ones found their way to the good people at Wedgwood?

No matter how it happened it was a dream come true when this vintage trio made it way into my hands!

I dug around looking for more info on the pattern,  just stamped with a number on mine the design sometimes pops up as "Pink Hydrangea". I've seen a few pieces show up on auction sites as part of big lots. The cup and plate shape was used with a few other designs from Paragon for any other deco china fans. My little set is also marked as being a replica of a service made for the queen, though I couldn't find any information on the pattern's royal provenance they way I could with my other Queen Mary set. Royal or not though it's amazingly pretty, amazingly deco and amazing that I was able to get this dream setting after all!

Monday, September 16, 2013

Faking the Frippery

It's possible that one of my favorite things to design and
collect in the world is costume jewelry. Growing up I used to scour my favorite antique shops for their sparkiest pieces. I'm a die hard magpie and costume jewelry could always transform an outfit and make me sparkle like a duchess! (but not like a princess because that's too much of a pain)

We rather take costume jewelry for granted these days, but the decade we can really thank for it for starting the fervor for fakery is the 1920's...

With styles changing fast after WWI, and a growing spectrum of women finally able to participate in fashion, the inherited gems of the aristocracy could no longer fill our thirst for baubles, and it was time for paste to make a come back.

Dusausoy (Jewels) 1923 J.G Domergue Art Deco Style Doll ElegantUsed by Coco Chanel as a means to complete a woman's costume and unify her vision, fake gems were a must have for the wealthy woman looking for a little frosting to co-ordinate her pristine new outfit for the night,  and for the average gal on the streets it also allowed women of more modest means to enjoy wearing "jewels" of a less modest design. Jewelry designers also got to let their imaginations run wild without the constraints of precious material costs creating all kinds of whimsical designs.

I love vintage jewelry, real and "fake" from the 1920's for it's unique designs. There were a lot of interesting mixes of sparkle and colorful geometry. They also loved their pearls, and long time blog followers know what a soft spot I have for pearls!

I've been craving some deco gems to ad to my wardrobe lately, and despite being seeing some amazing period precious stone pieces, I just don;t have a Christie's budget, I'm also concentrating a great deal on sharpening my skills in the jewelry area so it felt only natural to turn my hands at designing and making a little costume jewelry set for myself, ready for when I get that deco feeling!

I went with a bit of Nile green  and tried to capture the long lean lines of my favorite 20's jewelry pieces. Something with the hard geometric shapes, but in a softer pallet to go with my usual wardrobe of pastels. They've proved quite versatile together and separate, and something I'm going to get a lot of millage out of.

I love working in costume jewelry using a lot of techniques I was taught to work with in fine jewelry, and I always give a big "thanks" to the 1920's for setting the ball rolling!

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Deco Month

I've been all psyched up for the return of Boardwalk Empire. Coupled with knuckling down to finess my 1920's dress making techniques, I'm all swept up with an art deco fever this month! I figured I cant be alone in all this so I'm dedicating this month's blog posts to the 1920's. Got some tutorials on the way, some recipes, clothes, and who knows what else. For right now though here's a 1925 photo of a girl with an infinitely more picturesque sewing space than mine.

Friday, August 2, 2013

Bumbury Bound

I've managed to get it under control (ish) again, but I'm crippled with a long term Animal Crossing addiction. I've been shaking down trees (suck it tree), and digging up fossils since the 1st game came out in 2002. But the newest incarnation, Animal Crossing New Leaf has left me useless. I mean this time around I'm the mayor you guys! I can't sit back and expect Tortimer to take care of things, I'm dragging the town of Bumbury from forest squats to forest splendor! I... I... I have a problem...

So yeah this game came out over a month ago, so old news. But I've been playing since then so where was the time to blog about it going to come from? (That's right it wasn't.) After chewing my nails waiting for this game to come out for what feels like a lifetime, it ended up one of those great moments in life where fulfillment totally lived up to expectations.

This time around there are so many things to do. Muck about on a tropical island with actual real life friends (I still have those if they pay animal crossing too),  play hide and seek with my townies, build stuff, make clothes, and there are squeaky hammer toys! Yup finally a game that fully captures all the chores of my daily life in virtual life! 

Most of all I'm really enjoying customizing my town. Making my own little world to run around in, and clothes for my alter ego mayor Lady☆Bro, and pals, you have so much more control to make the game personal in new leaf. 

Also happy to have the game back on a portable platform too (pre-ordered the limited edition DS to enjoy this life suck in style!) it just seems like the most natural fit for the game. It's also kinda social now too. You can collect the houses of the players you pass in the street through street pass, and the device connects to various social media to share photos and bitch about townies building their houses in the middle of your carefully planned grand avenue (don't even try it guys!) with other borderline shut ins too.

So anyone else an AC mayor too? Maybe one day we'll streetpass from across a crowded room.

I started a little archive of animal crossing QR codes over on Dolly Daydream, and Tumbling my adventures on my little Bumbury Tumblr and with the Cheetah Gang (all of whom are hilarious!). And of course you can take a peek at my town in the dream suite if you like houses with lot's of pink. 
DC: 5700-2203-2275

Right guys, I have an illuminated heart dedication ceremony to attend, I mean work to do...

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Tea is Always Greener

There was a time when I had more than enough teacups. Then it came to my notice that perhaps the cups and saucers also needed small matching plates to complete the setting? Now I have enough pretty trios to perfectly host a good old English afternoon tea. But what if the tea I'm hosting isn't terribly English? What if it's my latest wagashi treats and a perfectly brewed Japanese green tea with them? What then!? Well, we could go with my regular English and French bone china, or... we could start exploring another avenue of tea wear, we could try drinking from a small amount of Japanese tea wear, just a few setting for just a few guests...

And it's that kind of thinking that can get a girl into trouble. It's that kind of thinking that can lead to this, my first Japanese teacups, and a whole new world of gilded porcelain and lacquered woods.

To start off with are these two, meoto yunomi, or married couple cups. The big one for the fella, the little one for the girl. I'm guessing you're thinking what I was thinking at first too "sure give the man the lion's share!" but the size is actually an ergonomic consideration. Since the cups have no handles, how they feel in the hand is an important consideration, and since ladies on average have smaller hands than guys, the girl's cup is slightly smaller to fit more comfortably, and the boy's slightly bigger for the same reason. I have to admit, first drink I went for the big one, because "no one will tell me how much tea I can or can't drink!" but yeah in the end, the smaller one really does feel better to hold and drink from. I have to hand it to the wife cup! Different teas usually have different specific cups/bowls to go with them. Yunomi like these are taller than they are wide, and a less formal cup you can use with just about any tea.One of the reasons I liked them as a first Japanese teacup.

Another big difference between western and Japanese tea settings is that in the Japanese setting, all the pieces aren't expected to match. They are expected to compliment, but not be identical. I rather like this approach. It opens up for so much more creativity and personal taste. Not to mention greater possibilities for laying out the pieces you have to be different each time!

So obviously to start I also picked up these neat little plates for serving the sweets that accompany the tea, and to go with my lovely little cups.

I hoped the rich wood grain shining through the warm colored lacquer would play well with the tones in the teacups, and that the small gold pine needle would echo the pine motif on the cups as well. I'm not sure how good a setting they might make to someone who grew up with this type of tea wear, but to my maybe overly English eyes they work well. One of the main reasons to enjoy nice tea wear is the good feelings it brings to the flavors you've brewed. The happiness these items bring me mean in that aspect at least they work.

Still saving up for the perfect saucers to accompany the 2 cups (got my eye on these 2...)

Been doing more research, and started to pull in other pieces to the set. It's big subject, and it's always good to have more to blog about. So I'm going to go get a quick cuppa right now and write more about my latest teaventure next time!

Friday, June 21, 2013

High Society Dressing

One of the perks of my job is getting to work on interesting custom pieces I don't usually get to tackle. Recently one of my most stylish clients asked for something a little bit different, a re-production of a Grace Kelly movie dress she had fallen in love with.

In the movie High Society Grace Kelly wears an amazing sky blue and white stripe dress by Edith Head as her character Tracy Lords sweeps into magnificent room to dazzle the reporters from Spy Magazine. Big sleeve, big skirts, and big glamor!

At first glance it seemed a fairly simple construction, but a glimpse at the back, and a showcase at the V&A showed a more complex meeting of solid and sheer fabrics that Ms Head was famous for. On top of that tracking down a strip silk in just the right size stripe, and just the right shade of blue took some serious supplier sleuthing. Fortunately I contacted a silk supplier in NYC the week they happened to get in the perfect fabric!

The project took a lot of experimentation to get the right drapes and translucency, as well as more than 17 yards of pure silk!

A few changes here and there to fit the lady who would be wearing it, but certainly an enjoyable challenge, and one I was sad to see leave the studio! (The waist on the dress is actually much smaller than the display mannequin, hence the gap on the over skirt band)

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Crafting meets Cooking

This weekend was my birthday! I got dressed up, got some books, ate some great food, and got lots and
lots of tea! (lots of tea). I love tea, I love drinking it, serving it, making pastries to go with it, and when it comes to English tea I have it pretty much down. This year however I'm looking to play out more with green teas.

They still work well with my usual tea service, but felt like it would also be fun to try bringing in some new tea traditions to the party. On the way are some first pieces toward a small Japanese tea set (and people thought I had run out of tea-wear to collect!),  and today I started taking a few baby steps into the world of wagashi, traditional Japanese sweets, often made specifically to go with green tea. Something a little different from my usual cream tea with  killer scones and home made clotted cream every now and then.

A while back we were lucky enough to try a few different kinds of wagashi from a wonderful shop in LA, and some others from Minamoto Kitchoan in Mitsuwa to get a taste for them. While I' await a big old book on the subject to drop on my doorstep, this weekend I took to the internet for some recipes and got my hands sticky trying to make a type of wagashi called nerikiri.

 The first step was to make a batch of sweet white bean paste, the second, to keep half the bean paste for fillings, the other to create the neriki, a kind of marzipan texture dough which shapes and colors like a dream. The result just like my first scones was a little spotty, but life is all about practice!

The whole process took somewhere over 3 hours, so it's not something to whip up the day you plan to serve them, but the bean paste and dough are freezable, so possible to keep on hand for faster making when the mood hits.

Typically served with matcha ( powdered green tea), the sweetness of the cakes is to play well with the bitterness of the tea, so if you go towards the top end of the sweetness scale from the online recipe, it's dialed right up to one hundred. In the future for full leaf green teas like I usually drink, I think I'll dial the sugar back a little.

The big thing with wagashi is they are supposed to be a treat for all the senses. Silky textures, good flavor, and candy for the eyes. Shaped to match the seasons, wagashi specialist's sweets look like perfect works of art! Mine, so far, maybe not so much. Had a go at hand shaping some like the pinks currently gowning in my front garden, and experimented using a petit four mold in place of the traditional wooden kashigata to see how that went (not brilliantly).

Certainly looking forward to learning and trying more when my book comes. It would be smashing to bring a bit of the surroundings to the tea plate this summer drinking tea outdoors. Next up "jelly" type wagashi. The retro hostess in me can't resist a pretty treat that wobbles!

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Tiny Tree Take Out

Every year right after the cherry blossoms fall, the apple blossom tree in our back garden bursts into life! Spreading a white canopy over my outdoor tea spot, it's one of my favorite couple of weeks during Spring. I'll admit it, I've hugged that tree, and the thought of leaving it behind when we move is one of the things that makes the idea of picking up sticks that little bit harder.

I might not be able to take the whole tree with me, but maybe, just maybe I can take the son of apple blossom with me?

Out and about town this past week with my sister and her awesome fella, we stopped by the national arboretum to take in the spring blossoms and national bonsai museum. Tucked in one of the twists and turns of their bonsai collection (which is breathtaking by the way!), was this incredible little apple blossom  bonsai! Perhaps fate? I've always wanted to grow a bonsai tree, and what better way to take my favorite tree with me? Right now I have a few cuttings lined up around the house, and going to also try growing from seed once the big tree produces fruit, as well as some late summer cuttings further down the line.basically I;m trying everything for the best chance of there being at least one that will make it to become a tree.

A great site my sister's fella, out pal and bonsai enthusiast Martin put me onto is this one, it has some great information of just about every stage. Beyond that crossing my fingers for tiny tree success, just think of the decorative and DIY possibilities in this amazing living art form?

Friday, March 15, 2013

Go Go Ghoulia!

I love my vintage, I love my Ghoulia, and I love to keep the 2 things as close together as possible! When Monster high dolls first came out, each character had such a strongly personal style. Ghoulia was my instant favorite (I was late to the game and got into them around the same time the wave 2 dolls were dropping) I loved her 60's Night of the Living Dead's Barbara style, and Thriller 80's touches. It seems the designs tend to go back and forth between the 60's and the 80's but as a vintage girl it's always been her 60's flavor I loved the best!

A while back I did a couple of custom monster High dolls dressed up in real world versions of their fashion influences,. A proper, elegant, lolita Draculaura, and 2 straight 60's Ghoulias. The 2nd one with black gingham trousers I sold, this dotty darling I kept!

She's found her way into my heart as one of my current favorite dolls, but I hadn't really had chance to photograph her until this week.

I recently acquired a giant printer/scanner for work, and aside from being great for digitizing my pattern drafting, it also prints out at the perfect size for Monster High doll backdrops. This little set of photos is the first with my printed backdrops, and one I hope really captures the retro geek chic of the lovely Ghoulia!

There are some more photos from this set over on the main Dolly Daydream site...

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

1957 Beauty Ads

You might remember an age ago me talking about collecting vintage catalogs (and now also magazines) for work research. I love pouring through the different styles from different decades, and figured you guys might as well! So I'm slowly starting to scan in bits of the collection.

 One of the latest bits of dusty old paper to come into my hands is a vintage hair stylists magazine from 1957, Pretty much everything is of course black and white, except for a few choice ads. I love the bright pops of colors with the monochrome illustrations, as well as all those delicious typefaces! Have to admit, I feel especially bad for the chick with crocodile hand.


Friday, February 15, 2013

Faking the Fringe

You probably didn't know that before there was a Quaintrelle Life blog, there was a Quaintrelle Life site! Blogs can be tough to brows when you are looking for a specific tutorial, how to, or feature, so I've been collecting and writing more in depth pieces over at Though left untouched for a while, a few months ago I gave the site a facelift ready to start updating again, and today the first new tutorial went up!

I have a long time love of Bettie bangs, i think they are just the right mix of retro sexy and retro cute. I don't however really have the hair to pull them off (they are always gappy and thin, yuck!)  and a also suffer greatly from commitment issues with hair (which you'll notice if you follow the link in a second...) So obviously I'm going to have to fake it if i want to enjoy the style! And fake it I do. It is possible to buy clip in bangs, but if you, like me have awkward colored hair, or are OCD about every tiny detail, then going DIY is the best option!

I made myself a set of clip in bangs in a Bettie page style, and now have a tutorial up on the QL website for anyone looking to do the same! making them is super easy to do, and because you'll have hair wefts left over, less expensive than buying a set pre-made (more tutorials for the left over hair weft to follow)

The clip ins are the secret of how I managed to get from this 1st style to the 2nd in 5 minutes instead of 5 months!

Try out the tutorial and start faking the fringe yourself!

Friday, February 1, 2013

Kanzashi Romance

I've been busy with kanzashi making the past few months, but trying not to spam up the blog too much with them. I love making the traditional geisha style kanzashi, and that's been building up into quite a collection! I also love the chance to do something a little more creative with designs as well.

I recently made up a batch inspired by vintage valentines cards and corsages for the shop perfect for valentines date outfits or valentines gifts. I made a decent name for myself back in the day making quirky kanzashi and loved trying some new things  out with these like making rose bouquets and pansies.

Also been adding little traditional mini monthly kanzashi for those interested in collecting a full calender of the flowers like me, without totally blowing the bank! 

Another thing I'm slowly working on is features on how to actually wear kanzashi since a lot of people seem to have fallen in love with them as objects over the years, but no-one seems to have much light to shed on how to use them! I started on the first steps to fixing that this week with some retro looking fashion plates featuring some of the kanzashi available in the shop worn in a 1930's inspired hair do.

Plans in the works for hairstyling tutorials to go with them too in the future. In the mean time if you are looking to buy some there are some rather nice (if I do say so myself ) traditional and retro designs in the Vivcore shop, and here are some kanzashi in action!

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Boudoir Darlings

A few months ago I discovered, and became really interested in 1920s boudoir dolls. I love them because they had such a short run, just though the 20's and 30's, and are so perfectly frivolous!

For any one as late to the pary as me, boudoir dolls came about as part of the many crafts coming into Paris from Russia at that time. Relativly simple cloth bodies, painted faces, and at the time more Russian style costume. They became more and more popular and soon they were being made in fantastic18th century inspired costumes, as fashionable flappers and seedy undesirables. Women would drape them around their bedrooms and personal spaces. They represented the style of the times, and also the fantasies and daydreams of the young women holled up in these rooms. The dolls weren't only restricted to the house, some daring flappers would carry their dolls out for a night on the town. More than just a fashion doll, they were dolls as fashion accessories!

 You can spot them quite often in old movies, and they show up fairly regularly in photos of film stars and flappers through out the 20's and 30's.

I design clothing and accessories for a living, but also make and customize dolls pleasure, so these have so much appeal to me as dolls and as accessories.
 from cute but beat up to "I can't believe it stayed so clean for so long!" Trawling through listings and photos I found myself more and more wanting to make my own so that it could be just as personal as some of the dolls that appeared to be to their owners in the old photos like the one above.

It took a while, but after getting my hands covered in clay, and clothes whited out with dust, I finally managed to steal some time the other day to finish off my first boudoir doll! She looks like a Constance so that's what she's called.

She went from a creepy head on a stick to a (apparently still creepy) well dressed girl, swimming in ruffles, ribbons and art deco styling!

She has a little floss wig, picture dress, and lots of little ribbon trimmings, right down to mini knee level garters!

There's whole line of projects to work on using this doll, and it's got me started making old style dolls which is something I've been wanting to do for a while.

A few things I might do differently next time around, but over all she makes me smile, and a great starting point for bringing yet another new old thing into my life :) More photos over on Dolly Daydream (including the dolly garters!!!) along with a lot of the other dolls I've made and customized over the years.



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