Saturday, 30 July 2011

Saving Grace

When you think back to when you were young (for some of us that is longer ago than others I know!) did you like the same stuff that you do now? It's quite an interesting question really. When I was 17 & I left home I went to Wellington to the School for Dental Nurses. For the first year we lived in "The Glen", a wonderful old brick building in Kelburn that had been housing trainee Dental Nurses for over 50 years. Sadly, we were to be the final draft to live there. I loved living in this gracious building.
   Even then, I filled some old tin cans with dirt & ferns from up the back of the hostel & kept them in my room. And there were flowers to pick from the gardens & two old fat cooks that made wonderful old-fashioned meals & who snored so loudly they never heard us sneaking in to the pantry in the middle of the night for leftovers...especially the bread & butter pudding that was made in huge baking trays!
I would walk for hours around Wellington hunting for vintage finds & old fabric in my jandals (thongs, flip, flops) & on the weekend I would head off to Victoria Street Market looking for loveliness, wandering through the Botanical Gardens on the way & stopping at the wholefoods shop & fruiterers. Many times I would carry a banana box all the way home, up & down a million stairs, until I thought that my arms would fall off before I got there! After buying the essential item of an old potty I then bought a Singer treadle sewing machine. It only went forwards but the stitching quality was so much better than the modern machines will ever be.
Of recent months, through my engagement with Pinterest, I have been quite intrigued to find that I still love exactly the same things as I did back then. Through the years it has been fairly thrashed into us in one way or another that we should always be thinking of others first. I really wish someone had told me sooner, that the more we work out who we are, the more content we are likely to be & more able to give of ourselves to others. I have become quite fascinated with the huge personality variations that I see expressed through something as simple as a personal online scrapbook. Even the titles of people's boards tell a story...I laughed & laughed at "Yo Momma is Pinteresting"! I think it would be a worthwhile exercise for anyone to have a go at Pinterest even just for a week or two & would certainly help a child to figure out a bit better the things that interest them & even maybe their passions...chances are those things won't change that much through the years.
Before Pinterest I began making know the old-fashioned sort where you rip stuff out of magazines & stick pictures in to a blank book. No wonder I had kept an article entitled "Saving Grace" from a New Zealand magazine from a year or two ago. The story still makes my heart sing!
It is the tale of a wonderful woman from Nelson called Sue Bevin, who, when she was four cut up her bedspread & shortened her curtains when she was supposed to be having a nap! When Sue's only son Marcus died at the age of 29, suffering from severe back pain & insomnia she began to sew. She says "I was drawn to create so I took clothes from my wardrobe & from op shops then renovated & lavished decoration on them".
Soon after her son died a friend asked Sue if she would foster a needy baby. At first she said no, but eventually caved & has since fostered 11 children. What a lovely combination, salvaged clothes & rescued children. Many of the children's dresses she makes have 3 or 4 layers & she likes to put "something exciting"- a secret pocket, a snippet of embroidery, a hidden swirl of lace - on each layer."
As a teenager Sue wanted to be an artist but her mother told her that artists were beatniks. So she went nursing instead. In 1989 Sue did some Volunteer Service Abroad in Samoa assessing needs & running sewing classes. "In the villages there were sewing machines donated by the United States Navy after WWII. By chance a Burmese engineer was stationed in Apia & he taught her how to take a sewing machine apart & fix it & make new knobs from Coca-Cola bottle caps".
 The beautifully dressed girls are from left to right named Porche, Ella & Madeleine.

Earlier this year I found this divine 1950's dress on trade me. It doesn't actually quite fit..oh you mean that size 12! But I adore it non-the-less.

 A sudden very cold spell, much snow in other parts of the country, gave me just the excuse to wear my lovely old velvet spring green coat last week.
I have been saving one or two pretty cups to make in to pin cushions but then I saw this cute idea on Pinterest..a cup in a cup. Works nicely.
 A rather sallow "English Garden" but still valiantly blooming through the winter.
 Winter roses (the other kind) immediately droop if picked with stems but will happily float all week in water like this.
 The angels enjoyed a wash & hanging about on a sunny Thursday afternoon.

 What a delightful find this lovely picture was yesterday out at The Mart in Havelock North.  
Yes indeed, my love of vintage things has surely been my saving grace too.
I am so glad for all that I have right now...more would truly not be more.
Lovely to see you.
 Hope that your week is filled with simple beauty & contentment.


  1. Hello darling catherine what a lovely post.I think I have always loved vintage.I have always loved cowboys too but failed in lassooing myself one of those lol.
    Do you still have that treadle?
    I wont pintrest as I know for sure it will be another addiction I dont need to have (true that!)
    I am a cutter and scrapbook stickerer and my scarpbook is close to 20 yrs old now I started sticking pictures of clothing I liked and I still find myself likeing the same things now as then.
    That lady Sue makes some beautiful things just like magnolia pearl makes.I must go google her so I can see her things close up.
    That rose dress is exquisite.I dont blame you for buying it.And that GREEN VELVET coat is divine (drool drool)
    I cant resist buying teacups when I see them have a fair few now.
    All your flowers are so lovely I really need a nice garden too xx

  2. Hello sweet Catherine, what a lovely story, both yours and Sue's. I have always had a love of vintage and pretty as well. I just picked up a picture of flowers to add to my collection today. Will take a picture of it tomorrow.

    That is the most gorgeous dress!

  3. Interesting post and lovely photographs.
    Liz @ Shortbread & Ginger

  4. Another gorgeous post Catherine. I remember being very drawn to aritistic pursuits in primary school, I loved drawing, creating with plasticine and loved patterns. My first memory of being drawn to patterns was on a tissue box and I asked mum if I could have it after the tissues were finished. Unfortunately I don't have it anymore, but how I wish I did so I could remember what I was drawn to back then. Highschool brought more opportunities for artistic exploration but the need to work at sixteen took over my life and somehow all that creativity was suppressed for a long time. I've found it now as you know and you would see from my favourite Pinterest board Bohemian, the real me. Colour and pattern.
    I love the painting you found and am continually amazed at how many lovely things you have in your thrift shops in N.Z. No such luck here I'm afaid.
    Enjoy your Sunday,
    Anne xx

  5. you know? i so love your posts. they are pretty deep. the saving grace story... it is beautiful.
    thank you for doing this, the way that you do!

  6. I remember that article. I kept to too. Every time i go back to it I am re-inspired. Today I have made a little pink dress, and I am very pleased with it. I'm going to post about it and the article in Australian Country Style that you were asking about.
    It has been my saving grace of creativity just recently. That and having a few days to myself.
    I soo enjoyed your post, and the little insights into your personal story.
    Much love,

  7. This is such a beautiful post - I often pop by to take a peek at your blog and marvel at the gorgeous images and words. I can identify with the long time love of vintage - there's something beyond the aesthetic about it, I love the idea that vintage things already have stories of their own and we get to be their custodians while we own them :-)

    Jem xXx

  8. Thanks so much for sharing the lovely story of Sue and Saving Grace.

    Several bloggers I really like have talked about Pinterest and now my interest is peaked. Sounds like fun!

  9. What a wonderful article Catherine, I really enjoyed reading it. Love the "rose" dress and the green velvet coat. I have a darker green one that my mother made in the 50's.

  10. I have always loved vintage things. I love knowing things have a story. I have little glass bottles I found as a teen, a beautiful kitchen mixer than doesnt currently go takes pride of place in my kitchen, vintage sheets, pillowcaes and a stack of doilys are hidden away for future projects and suitcases.. I love old suitcases. I also am always on the look ou for things of amber glass, and the shades of yellow and orange that melt my heart. I hope my home keep fulling with vintage things.

  11. Sue's creations are enchanting! Thank you for telling her story. I'm sure the rosy dress will look fantastic on you, Catherine! I think you are so right about what we love as a child. I think the image of you digging in the woods for a potted fern is magic. I love Pinterest for the same reasons. Great post!


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