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...

Penrose Annual 1958

This is one of my favourite secondhand book finds this year - Volume 52 of the Penrose Graphic Art Annual from 1958. I bought it from the same market as the King Penguins I posted about a few months ago, & it's in nearly perfect condition! I can't quite remember how much I paid for it, but it was something like $28 - a super-duper bargain. I would love to collect more of these, particularly the late 1930s through to 1960, but they can be a little pricey. One of the best things about this book is that it's stamped on the front endpapers with "Hardwicke Knight Collection". Upon doing a little Googling, I found out that Frederick Hardwicke-Knight was a New Zealand author, photographer & collector who died in 2008 leaving behind a lifetime's treasure trove of amazing stuff. I feel honoured to own one of his books! You can see the man himself & some of his incredible collection here. How interesting!

King Penguin: Woodland Birds

I thought I'd better blog about something other than recipes for a change - it's been food, food, food lately! Must be the nippy winter weather & bracing seaside walks making me peckish! Here's my latest King Penguin acquisition, Woodland Birds. It's in beautiful condition, & is the first one I've bought that still has its dust jacket. Published in 1955, it was one of the last King Penguins to be released, & is written by Phyllis Barclay-Smith & illustrated by Peter Shepheard, who also designed the gorgeous cover. The colour plates are so beautiful, don't you think?

I Hit the Secondhand Book Jackpot!

I've posted before about the June long weekend secondhand book sale. I go every year (they had one in March this year too). As usual, I went with Mark & Stevie, & left feeling like a pirate who'd just plundered the most amazing treasure trove ever! Stevie found this big stack of King Penguin books from the 1940s (all of them $5 or $7.50 each & in pretty good condition) & in a very civilised fashion with no hair-pulling whatsoever, we went through them, picking out favourites, divvying them up so we each got to buy a few. I can't recall all of theirs, but there was one about freshwater fish, another mushroom one, wild flowers, reptiles, one about ballet, children's art, Scottish costumes - lots! Here are mine, with a couple of plates from each. The covers, as you can see, are gorgeous, & the illustrations are as fresh & rich as the day they were printed. What an amazing range of subject matter the King Penguins explore, I think I might have to collect some more - I love them so much! Popular English Art, written by Noel Carrington, illustrated by Clarke Hutton. 1945.

Film Noir Typography

I love old movies, particularly Film Noir. Here are some screenshots from DVDs in my collection - all of these are great films. In other news... I've finally succumbed to the inevitable - yes, Facebook. I've had a page for ages, but never updated it. I've now spruced it up & created a Magic Jelly page too, where I'll link to any major news & updates that I write about here on my blog, as well as post some other random bits & pieces. If you haven't had enough of me already, come & say hi...like me...be my friend...or subscribe! You'll find me here, & my Magic Jelly page here (I'll update my sidebar & footer to include my Facebook links soon).

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.

I Love...Golden Books

Before I get started singing the praises of Golden Books, I'm happy to announce that my contact page has just been freshly installed on my site! Come & help me test that everything's working & in order, by sending me an email. Just come & say hi, & I'll say hi back! I was going to put my info page up today too, but it's getting late & I have dinner to make (vegan leek & "feta" pastries!), so I'll make sure to do it during the week.

Just Like Me, written & illustrated by Leonard Weisgard, 1954

A Child's Garden of Verses, written by Robert Louis Stevenson & illustrated by Alice and Martin Provensen, 1951

Now, down to business... I bet a lot of you grew up reading Golden Books. I love that they were such an accessible way to get kids reading & appreciating great illustration. Earlier this week, I was working on a picture, & it occurred to me that it was strangely reminiscent of the spine & endpapers of a Golden Book. It was purely incidental, but it just goes to show what sponges we are as children. How the things we read impact on us in such a profound way. Googling Golden Books today, I discovered this fabulous blog, sadly no longer updated, but it's a little gold[en book]mine of mid-20th century illustration. I've posted the merest snippet of what you'll find there, from some of my favourite illustrators, such as Richard Scarry & the amazing Alice & Martin Provensen. I owned this edition of A Child's Garden of Verses & a few of their other books. I wish I still had them!

The Happy Little Handsaw, written by Robert E. Mahaffay & illustrated by Milli Eaton, 1955

The Golden Calendar, illustrated by Richard Scarry, 1956

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.