Friday, 9 December 2016

So I Went to America...

Yes! I finally did it! I went to America.

Colonial Williamsburg, actually. And normal ol' Williamsburg and Richmond. And being in the mighty state of Virginia, everything was named after me! It was awesome! I have a brewery, a beach, a library, licence plates, ham... totally surreal.

See! I even have my own library. Squee!
The purpose of the trip was to attend two of the wonderful Burnley & Trowbridge C18th sewing workshops - "To the making of your Jacket: Exploring 18thc Men's Jackets & Waistcoats with Sleeves" and "A Fitting Jacket: Exploring Lady's Jackets of the Last Quarter of the 18thc". I've been wanting to do these for so long! The tutors are fantastic, the fabrics are right there, the people are lovely. I've learnt a lot and made some good friends.

Plus, I got to catch up with two of my favourite people, Katte and Aubry. Fun was had! Stories were told! Nearly the whole class rocked up to our cottage for a sewing party! Bunny didn't know what she was in for, rooming with us :D

Our little cottage. Plus, see how sunny it is? The weather was marvellous <3

Fritz was the ringleader, obviously. Here he is with his modestly sized margarita:

Glug, glug, glug...

Menswear tutor Neal Hurst, demonstrating the buttonhole.

Back to business. The classes were a great experience. It was so nice to be in a room full of like-minded people, working towards a shared goal: to develop our cutting skills, extend our knowledge base and achieve a higher standard of sewing, with authentic C18th techniques. The main difference between ladies and mens garment cutting in the C18th was that menswear was cut on the flat using a patternmaking system of measures, and ladieswear was generally draped directly on the body. So attending these two particular classes was an adventure in polar opposite cutting methods and thinking. Soooo good for my brain and my creativity.

Flat pattern cutting is the mainstay of modern fast fashion, and what I learned at fashion school, so aside from the measures being slightly different I was pretty much at home here. I learnt a lot about C18th fit and construction in the menswear class, and have since thought of questions to ask next time... it seems that one workshop experience begets another, as interest and the desire to delve deeper grow. Plus, clients come in a wide variety of shapes and sizes, and you're always coming up against challenging fit problems to solve.

The ladieswear class was delightful! We all got on so well. In this class we paired off to drape toiles on one another, in true C18th form. At times, hilarity did ensue. But the fear of cutting into fabric is great, leaving other moments quiet with intense concentration. But the fabrics... oh! the fabrics! Colourful stripes, dazzling plaids, demure figureds. I. Love. Silk. There was quite a bit of geeking out over threads, too. Overall, my biggest take away was draping the  shoulder piece, in that I've been doing it wrong for my own garments, given the shape of my shoulders.

Ladieswear tutor Janea Whitacre shows us how to drape the bodice back...
...and the front. Her willing assistant is the lovely Angela from B&T

Turning in seam edges, using a bone folder/creaser.
Using a seam technique that allows two panels - together with
their linings - to be stitched together at once.

Pleats and stripes! Katte's jacket is coming along so well :)

Fritz takes a supervisory role as Bunny fits Aubry's jacket back.
Aubry chose a gorgeous dark blue figured silk that I admire very much. Or covet. You decide.

Camaraderie <3

Not all new friends made this weekend were two-legged!

Fritz has a bit of a rest on Jan's bum roll. I think the margarita is catching up with him...

Remember those draping pictures from earlier? Here's Angela in her (nearly) finished jacket! 

I've done all this to be able to provide my clients with a higher level of historical accuracy in their garments, should they so wish to have it. I have a couple of commission slots open to start in January, so if you need anything made please do contact me.

More to come in the next post...


Monday, 6 June 2016

The Making of an 1840's Ball Gown

Well, the Prior Attire Victorian Ball has been and gone for another year. It was wonderful! I can't wait for the next one.

This year's theme was 'crinoline', and although I myself was resigned to wearing my bustle style from last year, I did go full speed ahead on a new gown for my lovely opera singer friend Angharad. I love making outfits for performers. Style and fit are so important, helping the performer to embody the character they are portraying and bolstering their confidence by way of appearance.

Angharad is a great lover of fabrics and had a beautiful piece of gold and black striped satin in the stash she collects for performance wear. It's been in there for a while, waiting for the 'right' design. Likewise, I had bought a metre of stunning purple silk velvet in Venice a few years ago that was waiting for it's forever style... and so a match was made!

There was only enough of the stripe to cut a fairly narrow Victorian skirt, so I opted for an early style - 1840's - to be worn with a small crinoline. Starting from the inside out, I made a shift, pantaloons, corset, crinoline and petticoat before I cut the skirt and draped the bodice. Angharad came up from London to stay with me at that point, while I did all the draping and fittings. Working to a super tight budget, I resolved to only use fabrics that were already in my stash. The shift and pants are light cotton; the petticoat is polycotton sheeting; the corset is made in black denim lined with coutil, with pink binding I snapped up on sale at MacCulloch and Wallis back when I lived in London. I did have to buy cotton tape for the crinoline, though. The shift would have been decorated with lace if I'd had enough in my stash, but that can wait for later.

The underwear in all it's glory. Yes, the pleats of the petticoat need pressing. I was too excited to wait! I love petticoats!

I make a lot of linen items and don't have a particular pattern that I use for them, but for the crinoline I used Jean Hunnisett's instructions, which are a little flawed but pan out in the end... the corset I drafted myself. Interestingly, I find that many of the mid-Victorian corset patterns out there are too short in the waist for myself and my clients. Angharad and I both need an extra two inches added to the length at the waist. On designs with bust gussets, the gusset never starts in the right place for me. I'm pretty careful with my fittings because of those watch points.

The beginnings of the skirt and bodice.
Tracing off the bodice pattern after draping it on Angharad.
The skirt was a bit of a fiddle. The fabric is striped evenly for the most part, then has a densely striped border along one edge. I could have just gathered the length onto a band and the border would've sat at the hem yadda yadda, but I wanted the main body of the skirt to have vertical stripes rather than horizontal, soooo... off came the border! I cut the fabric into drops, stitched up the seams and applied the border back on at the hem so that everything ran in the right direction. Plus I inserted a piece of the border, manipulated to have a couple of extra gold stripes on it, into the centre front. I pleated the waist edge to a cotton tape band so that the gold stripes were dominant. I like the sun-ray effect as the pleats open out into the rest of the fabric.

Pleats, pleats, pleats!
The bodice. Essentially, I had a couple of books laid open on the desk (Jean Hunnisett, Frances Grimble), Angharad standing in front of me in her Victorian underwear, a rough mock-up of a bodice in cotton, a box of pins, a pen and a big pair of scissors. Hehehe! Lucky she trusts me, mwahahaha :D After the bodice was draped and styled I cut it in both the velvet and some lovely cotton organdie, mounted the pieces, and did the assembly. Velvet goes together much more smoothly with an interlining. Light boning was applied to the seams and darts, and piping around the neckline which can be pulled up to tighten just a little. The gathered sleeves were crazy fun to make, like little sculptures.  the bottom edge is faced with binding, turned under and handstitched. I decided that a lining could go in when I had more time. most of the museum pieces I see aren't lined anyway so I didn't feel too bad about that. Hook and eye closure at the centre back. I opted for minimal embellishment because of the size of the skirt, but next time she's worn I think this li'l lady will have a bertha collar in the stripes.

The bodice back, showing the puff sleeve I enjoyed making so much, and playing with the border fabric to create a bertha collar for the next wearing.
While the bodice and skirt are separates, I do recommend hooking, tacking or pinning them together so that when the wearer lifts their arms up in dance there is no gap. In this case, with time being of the essence, I used black safety pins. Best. Things. Ever.

Making the rosettes. I found the gorgeous gold medallions and the purple silk velvet in Venice.
I kept the embellishment simple, just a black satin ribbon rosette with a drizzle of jet beads and a gold medallion set over each sleeve.

The finished product! First stop the Assembly Rooms in Bath...

... next stop, cocktails! I love how my creations go to so many weird and wonderful places!

Doesn't Angharad look wonderful?! She tells me she felt comfortable, elegant, and above all special in her gown. I achieved my objective :)

Here's the group picture taken at the Prior Attire Victoran Ball 2016, by the wonderful TimeLight Photographic. Can you spot Angharad? Can you spot me? :D


Sunday, 27 September 2015

Rebelling Against the Crocodile

My biggest marketing struggle is with myself.

I put things off, I procrastinate, I over-think things. I let the evil little bad-talker inside me undermine all the good ideas I might have and any positive things I might say about myself. I'm scared of putting myself out there in case I fail - or worse, in case I SUCCEED. Because then I would have to keep this balloon up in the air, and I'm not sure I can do that. I'm scared.

I want to prove to myself that it's okay to stretch my legs to the bottom of the bed. The crocodile won't eat me.

You see, when I was little I was afraid of the dark. I'm talking pure terror here. A CROCODILE LIVED AT THE END OF MY BED AND HE WAS GOING TO BITE MY LEGS OFF. I would get so wound up about it I would actually throw up in my sleep from all the fear, panic and anxiety. Curled up into the tightest, smallest space possible, I could not cry out. Not even to my sister in the next bed. I was paralysed with fear.

That's how I feel about promoting myself and my business; about putting myself out there.

If I do it, something bad will happen.

Or will it?

Some good things might happen instead, right?

This is where I want and need to turn that fear around. To look it straight in the face and let it know it has no power over me. I want to shrink it down until it melts away completely and replace it with knowledge, skills and enthusiasm. I want to feel empowered.

This week a new class starts on CreativeLive and it's going to have a huge impact on how the world sees me and how I see myself. It's going to teach me how to put myself out there in a positive, empowered way. It's going to help me face my fears and stretch out into the world.

And if the crocodile tries to bite my legs off, I'm going to kick it in the face.

At the Jane Austen Festival, Bath, 2015

This post is a part of the Double Your Followers blog tour to spread the word about April Bowles-Olin’s upcoming CreativeLive course. Does hearing the word ‘marketing’ make your armpits start to drip with anxiety? Are you terrified of sounding salesy or like you have the personality of a dead blowfish? If so, come join me and 2,500+ entrepreneurs who’re taking April’s latest CreativeLive course, Double Your Followers with Creative MarketingYou can RSVP and watch for FREE. Yep, free. High fives, wildflowers, wine samples. Who doesn’t love free?


Friday, 7 August 2015

English Paper Piecing Borders Blog Hop - & Clover Giveaway!

So I've taken up sewing as a hobby.

I am now addicted to folding and stitching small pieces of fabric, by hand, around even smaller pieces of paper and then sewing them together to make a greater whole.

This is the wonder of English Paper Piecing (EPP). It is simple, peaceful and meditative. It allows me to create without restraint.

I rather like it as a break away from my professional sewing :D

This week I've embarked upon a Blog Hop, where several of us get to show you our different interpretations and experiences of taking an existing item and adding an EPP border. Organised by the wonderful Diane Gilleland at Craftypod, it celebrates the release of her beautiful new book, 'All Points Patchwork'.

I was drawn to this book by the colours, the gorgeous cover design, the pictures of the backs of the patchwork pieces, and Diane's wonderful teaching ability. The instructions are so clear, and so useful regardless of what design you happen to choose now or in the future. This is not a project book, it is a skill builder and a source of inspiration. Exactly what I wanted.

Without further ado, here is my project, or 'What I did in my garden on a rare sunny English day'.

I decided to tart up a brown Regency-style apron I made for myself a while ago. It was feeling a little drab, and I had an old duvet cover, in a fake patchwork print, that would provide the most perfect colours and patterns to accent it - so I set about cutting it up and making a stack of EPP hexagons.

I thoroughly enjoy the process of sewing these hexies. It's gentle, tactile, rhythmic. And Diane's instructions pretty much ensure a perfect finish!

Playing about with the design, I was fascinated with the idea of leaving gaps; holes between the hexies where the base fabric could peek through. Hexies are a lovely shape to work with, and leave an excellent 'frame' in which to put a little embroidery. Here come the lazy daisies!

I was not without helpers in my garden sewing adventure. NotMyCat is now an EPP addict too!

The 'finished product' isn't quite finished yet, but I'm sure you get the idea and can see where it's headed. I aim to be wearing it at the Jane Austen Festival here in Bath in September.

Now, the good people at Clover have a giveaway for you in association with this blog hop! The prize is a box of their fab applique pins, ideal for use on EPP projects. just add a comment to enter. International entries are welcome.

a Rafflecopter giveaway
Do check out the other makers taking part in the blog hop. It's great fun!

Until next time, xx

Sunday, 26 July 2015

Making a Watermark in Picmonkey - a Tutorial

Some friends wanted me to teach them how I make and use watermarks for my photos, so here it is! I hope it's useful :)

To make your watermark:

Go to the Picmonkey website. Open 'collage'. You'll have to choose a photo so the editor will open, but you won't be using it. Don't worry about it.

The collage editor will open with a three picture collage template. Close two of the boxes by clicking on the 'x' in the top right corner. You'll be left with one big (empty) picture box.

Now you need to make it transparent. This is the whole trick behind making a watermark - eliminating the background by making it transparent. In the menu to the left of the screen, click on the painter's palette (bottommost icon) and select 'transparent background'. The picture box will have become a dotted outline, with no fill.

Select 'edit' from the toolbar at the top of the screen. It will give you a pop-up box; click 'open in editor'. Now you're in the main editor and your picture box will have a checkerboard effect in it. This indicates that the background is transparent, just like we want it to be.

Choose the type option from the menu on the left-hand side of the screen (the 'Tt' icon). Choose your font and click the 'add text' button above the font list. A text box will appear on the screen. Write whatever you want to in it, eg. your business name or website url. I like to centre my text. Click outside the text box to de-select it. Now go to one end of the text box and hover the cursor over it to get the stretch function (a horizontal line with an arrow at each end). Use this to drag the box outwards, making it longer than the picture box. Do it at both ends if you need to. This is so that you can make the writing bigger without it making itself into two lines.)

Select your text and, using the text editing box, increase your text size until it almost touches the sides of the picture box. Later on, when you go to use your text as a watermark, you'll be able to adjust the size to suit your needs, but saving it this big means that the resolution will be higher in the finished product. 

At this point you choose what colour and opacity you want your watermark to be. I have two versions: one in plain old black and one in white with a 25% fade. Adjust these by selecting your text and using the tools in the text editor.

Next, select the 'crop' tool from the left-hand menu. It's the top one, shaped kinda like a square. A highlighted box will appear on your screen. Use the circles at the corners to drag and manipulate the box until it surrounds your text, but only just. You want to crop very close to your text. Click 'apply'. 

Head to 'save as' in the top toolbar, and save your work.

To use your watermark:

Exit this screen. Choose 'edit' on the Picmonkey homepage. Open a photo. Select 'overlay' (the butterfly logo) from the left-hand menu. Choose 'your own' at the top of the list, and upload your watermark from wherever you saved it to. It will appear on the photo, in a box of it's own. You can drag the corners of the box to adjust the size of your watermark, and can click in the centre of the box to reposition it on the screen. The antenna-like circle at the top of the box can be used to rotate it.

When you're happy, save your work as before. Done! 


Fans! Fans! Fans!

Hi all!

My friend Megan came to visit me in Bath this week, so we went to the Fashion Museum for a study day. It was awesome. There was so much squealing when the boxes were opened! So much delight. We saw two men's late C18th embroidered waistcoats, several dresses, pelisses and ladies cloaks from the early C19th, and these fans...

BATMC VI.06.425
1780's; painted; made with bone and paper.

BATMC VI.06.170
1894; made of bone and silk.

BATMC VI.06.427
1750-1775; carved, painted, pierced; made of ivory and paper. Chinese.

BATMC VI.06.429
1775-1799; inlaid and painted; made of ivory, metal and possibly paper.

This one is my favourite. There's not much information about it, but it was made around 1815-1820. All you see on the other side of the fan is the sticks stuck to the paper.

As ever, if you share these pictures please include a reference to the Fashion Museum, Bath, and the BATMC number of the item. Thanks!

The Fashion Museum is a wonderful lace to visit, for the exhibitions or for research. Email them to book a study session. They're very nice.

And stop by at Bea's Vintage Tea Rooms for lunch or tea and cake. We did both... the food is amazingly good there. It's right next door to the museum/Assembly Rooms, but on the opposite side of the building to the main entrance. I suppose you could say it's behind the museum! I just don't think of it that way :D

See you soon!