Canberra, 1955: Home Beautiful special feature

Category: Homewares, Housing

In my large pile of vintage home and fashion magazines, which I am slowly scanning my way through, there is this:

Home Beautiful magazine, m=March 1955

A March 1955 special feature on Canberra. Canberra was a relatively new city, and after WWII, modern architecture sprang up everywhere alongside the original Californian bungalows and (almost Arts and Crafts) cottages. There are many excellent examples, and the best place to read about them is the Canberra House blog. One of these excellent houses is actually up for sale: an Alex Jelinek house at 10 Gawler St, Deakin. It comes with its custom made Krimper furniture! Price is ‘by negotiation’. Canberra prices are pretty outrageous even for ordinary houses, but if I was the kind of person who had a lot of money to spend on a house, I’d be up for this one. Looking at the pictures, I wonder if those are the original bathrooms. The fittings look kind of 1978 and out-of-place.

Anyway, the Home Beautiful feature has sections on public architecture, such as at ANU; private homes, including floor plans and interiors; and local craftspeople making pottery and furniture. I’ve put it all into a PDF for download, it’s 30MB: Home Beautiful Goes to Canberra – March 1955.

Home Beautiful 1955

Home Beautiful 1955


Vintage 1940s plus-size sewing pattern catalogue

Category: fashion

A while back I found a very tattered old mid-1940s pattern catalogue at an antiques centre. What was unusual about it was that it featured outsize fashions, something you hardly ever see. I paid a bit too much for it considering the condition, but I balanced it out with a few bargains elsewhere!

It’s a Leach-Way catalogue, a British company that seems to have been making patterns from the 1930s. You can find them now and then on eBay. All these patterns are for bust size 40″ to 50″, about a 14-24 in today’s clothing sizes. And they are about 5281% more flattering and lovely than nearly everything on offer in the plus-size market today, even in modern pattern catalogues. There are plenty of dresses, with complementary suits, blouses, skirts and coats. If you’re handy with patterns it shouldn’t be too hard to figure out how to construct them, especially if you have a few vintage patterns already. You can always trace and scale up a vintage pattern, too. Here’s a very useful tutorial: How to re-size a pattern.

I’ve put the whole catalogue into a PDF, it’s 27MB. A few pages are a little blurry on one corner or tilted off-center – sorry about that, but the disintegrating condition of the catalogue made it hard to scan properly. Download it here: Leach-Way Outsize pattern catalogue.

Cover of outsize fashion catalogue

1940s vintage plus size dress patterns

1940s vintage plus size dress patterns

1940s vintage plus size dress patterns

1940s vintage plus size dress patterns


Ars gratia artis

Category: Art

Fiddling about with Illustrator this evening, I made this, a tribute to 1950s abstract-atomic-biomorphic-pop art. It was inspired by a painting in the background of a Shag work.

Tribute to the 1950s....

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Vintage recipe: Coconut ice

Category: Recipes

Coconut ice has long been a favourite sweet! Often found at school fetes and at CWA or any fundraising cake stall, it’s a delicious confection of desiccated coconut and sugar mixture. Traditionally white and pink – tinted with chochineal – adventurous cooks branched out into other colours when artificial food dyes became available. Fact: there were Coconut-Ice skating rinks in Willie Wonka’s factory.

Coconut ice

I made two batches last weekend, as you can see in the photo. The pink one is flavoured with vanilla and rosewater, and the green with lime zest and vanilla. There are several ways of making it: with a cooked milk mix; with condensed milk; with a boiled, kneaded fondant; and with Copha.

I used a variation on the Women’s Weekly coconut ice recipe and it created a nice fudgy texture. I don’t like the waxy texture of things with Copha!

Harp Lounge Coconut Ice

  • 5 cups icing sugar
  • 3.5 cups desiccated coconut
  • 395g can sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 egg white, beaten lightly
  • For pink:
    10 drops pink or cochineal food colouring
    vanilla extract (the thick syrupy kind, not the liquidy vanilla essence)
    rosewater or rosewater essence
  • For green:
    12 drops green food colouring
    1 tablespoon finely grated lime zest
    vanilla extract
  1. Line a 20cm square cake tin with two sheets of baking paper, crosswise, and long enough so that plenty overhangs the edge.
  2. Sift the icing sugar (or at least make sure it has no big hard lumps) into a large mixing bowl, then stir in everything else except the food colouring. Mix until well combined – it should be quite dense. Add more coconut if you think it needs it.
  3. Halve the mixture into two bowls, add the colouring to one and stir through evenly.
  4. Press the white mixture firmly into the lined tin, and then the coloured mixture on top of that. Refrigerate for at least 24 hours to set.
  5. Remove set mixture from the tin by lifting out with the baking paper. Slice into small squares with a sharp knife. (Should make 36-64 depending on how big you slice them.) You can refrigerate the cut squares to set them further, especially if the weather or your fridge is humid.

Eat deliciousness.

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Vintage harps

Category: Advertising

This is the Harp Lounge, after all.

Here’s an ad for Pabst Blue Ribbon beer, date early-mid 1940s, I think, going by the pageboy hairstyle. A time when beer ads featured classy lassies wearing more than a bikini! (Artist placed the lady sitting way too far down the harp, incidentally. And sitting on the wrong side of it! Sorry, that’s my musician pedantry at work. :) )

Ad for Pabst Blue Ribbon featuring an elegant harpist with a one-stringed harp

Not sure exactly what this one’s about, but possibly hand lotion, as the copy reads “Reason for calluses on slim hands – harp playing”. Again sometime in the 1940s, and this time she’s on the correct side of the harp and at the right height!

Here’s one for Bufferin for arthritis! 1950s.

Advertisement for Bufferin for arthritis - featuring an illustration of a harpist

And lastly for today, the harp being used for its connotations of elegance in this ad for wallpaper and furnishing fabric by Sanderson of England (click to embiggen). This was from a 1952 Australian House and Garden magazine.

Advertisement for Sanderson furnishings, featuring an illustration of a harp

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