Australian Home Journal: Part One

I used to make my own clothes waaay back in the eighties and nineties, but for some reason I stopped. I think I was just much more focused on the result rather than the process and eventually grew tired of it. I've recently revisited my sewing machine and I'm loving it! This time, I'm much more engaged in the whole process and and I'm finding it really rewarding; not to mention all of my past sewing projects were pre-internet so I'm now discovering for the first time all the fabulous resources that are out there - so many great blogs, fabric shops and downloadable patterns - yaaay!

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All of this sewing buzz prompted me to pull out my stash of vintage Australian Home Journal magazines. Some of them still have the dress patterns inside, but I'm more interested in looking at the beautiful covers for now. My collection spans thirty years from the early-30s to the early-60s, so I thought I'd dedicate a few posts to sharing this beautiful cover art with you. Here are the first seven that I've selected, spanning 1932-38; just look at all of those gorgeous dresses! As a bonus, here's a sassy lassy in a sporty tennis pullover from 1932...

From the Archives: Children's Dictionary

I went to a secondhand book sale yesterday with Mark & Stevie, & this is one of the treasures I bought - a children's pictorial dictionary from about the late 1940s-early 1950s. I love that it's Australian & features some familiar images, such as the galah I included in my montage below & the Sydney Harbour Bridge. Stevie spotted the book first & knew I'd love it because of the incredible endpapers (above). I love the vivid colours & the weird juxtaposition of images.

Mark also found an amazing design book from the 1950s for me - I'll show you some pictures of that one another time. It's nice to rummage at book sales with friends who can keep an eye out for things you'll love!

In other news, I was interviewed for The Finders Keepers blog recently, where I talked a little about my influences & work process. If you're interested, you can read it here.

Memory Lane: Kitty Cats

It's so interesting to compare the different ways these vintage cats have been depicted - each one quite easy to attribute to the decade it was made. They come in all shapes, sizes & styles, but these 20th century cats are all unmistakeably kitty-esque & adorable! Which one is your favourite?

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1. Bookends, LudiesBugaboo on Etsy
2. Vintage Packaging, TinkersEphemera on Etsy
3. Chalkware Statue, Pohlmans on Etsy
4. Letter Rack, RaggleTaggleHawker on Etsy
5. Ceramic Figurine, libush on Etsy
6. Cast Iron Money Box, MaisonMaudie on Etsy 
7. Embroidered Pot Holder, Scarlettess on Etsy
8. Metal Charm, YummyTreasures on Etsy 
9. Ceramic Figurine, SecretAgentGirl on Etsy
10. Salt & Pepper Shakers, The Spectrum
11. Halloween Decoration, MoesArt on Etsy
12. Vintage Greeting Card, GrandMothersAttic on Etsy
13. Vintage Playing Cards, WashiWishes on Etsy
14. Vintage Playing Cards, OldAndWise on Etsy
15. Wooden Clock, Serine23 on Etsy
16. Squeaky Toy, GC5Vintage on Etsy
17. Fortune Telling Cards, RetroHeart on Etsy
18. Ceramic Planter, MarcelAndMargolis on Etsy
19. Squeaky Toy, Hubbubbery on Etsy

Some of My Favourite Script Fonts

Some of you might already know about my sister Josella's wonderful site Tack-O-Rama, but for those who don't, it's a treasure trove of retro fonts, design & clipart, & you must visit it at once! She not only has free samples of her clipart for y'all, she also sells large-format & scaleable images individually & a collection of all 714 images.

Jo & I were talking typography the other day, & I was looking at the new additions to her font archive including some lovely, lovely new script fonts. I'm about as fanatical about script fonts as I am about circus fonts, so I felt it was time to post some of my old favourites, & some of my new favourites courtesy of Tack-O-Rama.

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Script fonts bring bags of vintage charm & glamour to your design projects. I've used a few of them right here as part of my blog design (which is not particularly glamorous, but I hope it's a little charming!). Some of them will come in handy for the holidays, don't you think - for very festive cards, tags, labels & invitations? I hope you love them as much as I do!

Please note: The fonts marked with an asterisk in the list below are for personal use only, but the rest are free to use in commercial projects; but just to be sure, please read each individual designer’s licensing agreement.

From the Archives: Mirror Writing

Thank you to the people who've entered my Haiku contest so far - so many beautiful poems! There's still time to enter if you're interested. I thought you might like to see this fabulous example of mirror writing on a postcard I have from 1908. People used to find ingenious ways to make their correspondence difficult for the postman to take a peek at, including writing backwards, upside down, & even leaving secret messages beneath the stamp. Bottom left is the right way around version, & the mirror image on the right. How amazingly clever Minnie was to master the art of writing backwards in cursive!

Memory Lane: Stationery & Office Supplies

Memory Lane: Make Do and Mend

We've all seen the Keep Calm and Carry On British wartime propaganda poster (& the countless modern variations) - 70 years later, that's still a great message to live by, isn't it? No wonder that poster is so popular!

I have a big collection of vintage British, Australian & American magazines published during World War Two; reading them really makes it hit home how difficult life was with such limited resources, but how people used their tenacity & ingenuity to cope, & make life as comfortable for themselves & their families as possible - so many worthy practices came out of these times of rationing & deprivation. In some ways, with the realities of global warming & the uncertainties of the global economy, living frugally is equally relevant today.

Up to the 1960s, most Australian backyards contained a vegetable patch & fruit trees. Nowadays you're more likely to find landscaping & lawn, yet how we'd all benefit from fresh, organic, home grown produce that hasn't been in storage for months or transported across country. One of the positive shifts in the way we eat has been that people seem to eat less processed foods than, say, 20 years ago (despite time management being a constant issue for most of us), with a renewed interest in cooking & baking at home.

As well as Digging for Victory, other messages  from the British government during the war encouraged people to walk whenever possible due to fuel shortages (Shank's Pony is such a reliable old nag!), & to Make Do and Mend. We all know the virtues of sustainable living, but can always do with some encouragement every so often to consider all the little things we can do that make such a big difference. Don't you think these fantastic posters serve as a timely reminder, from an era when people had no choice but to buckle down, make do & carry on.

Memory Lane: It's Cracker Night!

After Christmas & birthdays, there was nothing so exciting to my younger self as Cracker Night, when the suburbs were aglow with catherine wheels, sparklers, roman candles & bonfires. Cracker Night was held in late-autumn here in Australia (a lingering tradition of the Empire Day holiday of May 24th that were phased out in the 1960s), & it was commonplace to set off fireworks on the abandoned circle of sand in your backyard that, come summer, lay beneath your 3-foot swimming pool. We also observed Guy Fawkes Night on November 5th. I recall an exciting evening at my primary school, where they assembled (what seemed to me) a gigantic bonfire on the school oval & burnt a floppy effigy made of newspaper-stuffed pantihose. I had no idea what the Gunpowder Plot was all about, but it was all very thrilling nevertheless!

Sadly, Cracker Night came to an end in the mid-70s, but I still have fond memories of the excitement of backyard fireworks. To celebrate the exuberant packaging design & advertising of the fireworks of my early childhood, I thought I'd dedicate a series of blog posts to them. This first one is devoted to the beautiful patterns & colours of fireworks labels, & coming up will be a post packed full of fireworks typography, & another about posters & advertising.

I think fireworks packaging & branding was absolute genius - so evocative & exciting - I'm sure you'll agree these patterns are gorgeous. I love that so much attention to detail was lavished on something that would eventually be set alight & explode! But what an explosion...raining stars, fizzy, sparkly, noisy & glorious.

The names of the different fireworks were as colourful as the packaging, conjuring images of fountains & fire bursts, space travel, magical creatures, snow storms, bombs, warfare, jewels & flowers.  Here are some of my favourites...

Twinkler, Floodlight, Crackling Pearl, Emerald Cascade, Harbour Lights, Golden Rain, Sequin Shower, Carnival Torch, Jewel Casket, Silver Fountain, Crystal Spray, Magic Flowers, Star Stream, Silver Cloud, Silver Mist, Silver Streamer, Glittering Cascade, Scarlet Runner, Shimmering Cascade, Golden Zodiac, Jewelled Pyramid, Silver Tree, Jewel Fountain, Harlequin, Magic Tracer, Jewel Torch, Flower Pot, Whistle Stop, Shamrock Shooter, Snow Drop, Snow Blizzard, Royal Squib, Jack in the Box, Signal Beacon, Whirligig, Spitfire, Smasher, Spangled Star Bomb, Fiery Whirlwind, Thunder Flash, Electric Whizzer, Air Bomb, Flash Gun, Dam Buster, Wonder Banger, Mine of Fiery Serpents, Humming Spider, Will o' the Wisp, Pixie Tree, Banshee, Screech Owl, Fairy Fountain, Little Demon, Flying Imp, Fairy Fern, Crackling Cauldron, Moon Travellers, Radium Dazzler, Mighty Atom, Meteorite, Lunar Rocket, Silver Orion, High Ball, City Flicker, Sunset Strip.

My Favourite Circus Fonts: Round #2

A long time ago I posted a list of some of my favourite typefaces of the circus/carnival/sideshow/wild west persuasion (which you can take a look at here). Since there are so many fabulous fonts to choose from, I thought I'd post some more for your typographic pleasure! The fonts marked with an asterisk in the list below are for personal use only, but the rest are free to use in commercial projects; but just to be sure, please read each individual designer's licensing agreement. (By the way, the pointy hands are actually part of the Joe Clement font - the left & right angle brackets). I shall be posting a list of some of my favourite vintage & script fonts soon too.

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I hope you have fun using these in some of your projects!  :)

And here are a couple more beauties...

  • Tightrope (Lost Type Co-op)
  • Nelma (Lost Type Co-op - .eps & .ai format only, but a beautiful display typeface)