Tuesday, 11 November 2014

Working With Lace

Hi everyone!

This last week I've been altering a wedding dress, and I kinda wanted to learn how to make videos of me working... so here's a little film showing how I work with lace hems. I hope you enjoy it!

Please do let me know what you think, as I'd like to make more little films in the future, and your feedback would really help :)


Saturday, 20 September 2014

Hey everybody!

I've had a wee technical glitch. Yesterday was my turn on the blog hop and I had pre-written my post, times it's release etc. and it didn't work! And today I'm rushing out the door so I can't write a new post yet :(

So, I'll post when I can but in the meantime, you can read the last post from i heart stitching and catch the next post, from mayacoa today!


Sunday, 13 July 2014

I Made a Thing!

A half-scale thing! A half-scale mannequin thing, so that I can experiment with patterns and toiles without committing to using up a huge amount of time and fabric. Hurrah! Fun times ahead!

I used the amazing tutorial from Grow Your Own Clothes, but I made mine out of coutil and stitched it together, rather than making it in craft foam. I couldn't get the right foam and I was keen to get on and make the mannequin! I think it worked pretty well. I still have to check the measurements, though.

Now I just need some half-scale patterncutting tools and then the half-scale world is my oyster!


Friday, 6 June 2014

Fashion Museum Research: Late C18th Waistcoat

Let's take a look at a men's waistcoat from c.1785-95. I viewed this beautifully embroidered waistcoat last week at the Fashion Museum, Bath, UK. Likely to have been made in France, the waistcoat is of woven silk, embroidered in silk. The reference number is: BATMC II.32.40.

I love embroidered buttons! I find it interesting that they are placed much closer to the edge than we would have them in a modern garment.

It's very easy to book study time at the museum. Just email them and ask when they have dates available. It's best to contact them about two months in advance, as spaces book up quickly. In a two-hour period you can view up to 6 garments. The collections assistants are lovely (special shout out to Elaine!) and via email you can request items or discuss the kind of garments you want to see. Wearing appropriate gloves, you get to handle the garments, sketch and take photos. A collection of books is available to view as well, sporting a ton of great information. It's a fantastic service, and I've met lots of wonderful people there too!

Okay, so back to the waistcoat. Click on the images to see a bigger version.
The front.

The back.

The inside. The lapel is embroidered on both sides because it would have stood proud of the neck when worn (with a cravat tucked in the neckline as well) and it would have been possible to see both the inside and the outside when looking at the wearer from different angles.

Detail of the awesome embroidered roosters. Note the texture of the trees,  made with at least two different textured stitches (I don't know what the stitches are, though, sorry!). 

Detail of one of the large flowers. I think the colour combination is gorgeous.  The main embroidery stitch here is satin stitch, with stem stitch and some French knots. It's more colour blocking than silk shading, in my opinion, with the colours being quite separate to each other like a colour-by-numbers painting.
Inside the pocket, plus detail of the background sprigs that fill the main expanse of the fronts.

The collar. You can see that the decoration doesn't extend all the way around the back.

The edging is a strip of woven tape, embroidered into place. I think (though it was hard to tell either way) that the surface decoration is put on after the tape is tacked into place and the slanted satin stitch done.

Buttonholes! Everybody's favourite :D I guess after a while of cutting and stitching them, through the embroidery (eeek!) you would get used to the fear of the embroidery falling apart...
I hope you enjoyed seeing this piece up close :)


Monday, 24 March 2014

Carnival of Venice: the Flight of the Angel

Carnival has been and gone for another year. As many of you know I attend the Carnival of Venice as often as I can. This year, apart from one huge thunderstorm, we had beautiful weather; sunny and warm. Everyone was saying how mild the winter has been, apart from all the rain. There was a little acqua alta, which at one point prevented me from reaching the cafe' where I buy my frittelle - though I could still smell them baking!! Torture!

The carnival is officially opened with the Flight of the Angel, at midday on the first Sunday. (For the last couple of years festivities have been extended by a week or so before the usual start date, but the Flight of the Angel is always on the same Sunday now, just as the end of Carnival is always the beginning of Lent.) More than 100,000 people pack into St Mark's Square to watch the angel descend from the bell tower to the carnival stage. Afterwards there's a parade of costumes, which this year I took part in. Well, it was one way to get across the crowd to Cafe' Florian! Then those of us in costume go for prosecco at Florian until it's time to head off to our various soirĂ©es. It's nice to see everyone again.

My Dutch friends Helen, Andre and Godelieve. Costumes by Nicoletta  Lucerna of La Bottega del Costume, Venice. I deliberately didn't crop this so you can see the crowd behind the fence of the press pit.

It's great fun inside the press pit. While we wait for the Flight of the Angel and the parade, we catch up with old friends and take numerous pictures of each other.

Godi and 'Vanity'.

There is always a wide variety of costumes on display. Some, like this play on Munch's 'The Scream', are particularly artistic.
The theme this year was 'Natural and Fantastic'. Here Helen compares feet with a dragon.

A good selection of the living history community are represented, too.

Andre and I. Soon after this picture was taken I took off my cloak and let the Watteau pleats at the back of my dress run free! My scarf and gloves stayed tucked away in my panniers. It was an amazingly warm day :)

I hope you've enjoyed these. I'll post some more soon, of different events and of the city itself.

Until then, here's a brief snippet of the Flight of the Angel:


Thursday, 6 February 2014

Workroom Tour!

Here's a little workroom tour for you! This is my sewing room. I have a patternmaking room too (which doubles as the spare oom), but it's hard to photograph! It's pretty plain and functional, really - the cutting table is a big sheet of customwood/MDF on storage boxes on the double bed; lots of boxes of fabric and interfacings live under the bed; rolls of paper are stacked to one side; there's a wardrobe full of craft supplies; there's a little fold-out table with the overlocker and some patternmaking text books on it; there's a male mannequin(or a female one, depending on what I need to use). I like to use interesting paperweights :)

Anyhoo, on with the sewing room tour...

This is what you see when you first walk in. My Singer sewing machine gets great light! My ironing set-up is  very basic, but works for me for now. Client work. my mending and my oak-tag patterns are hanging on the rail to the right. The full-length mirror lives under the rail, along with little old suitcases full of vintage sewing patterns. (The smallest suitcase there was my BFF Adam's school bag when we were very small!).
Turning to the left you can see my bookshelf, Flossie, and my lovely Bernina. Mum sent me the beautiful christening gown (because she knew I'd love it) and my friend Katte made me the gorgeous picture with the tatted edge. There's an old map of Venice and a moving paper penguin (There are a lot of penguins in my house, and this one was a gift from my friend Galen).
Further around and you can see a wedding gown hanging on the door, awaiting alteration, then  the Georgian  embroidered waistcoat and Victorian trousers I made for James. And the Heath family portrait, with my wonderful grandfather :) To the left is a little window seat which is currently occupied by STUFF, hehe!
Huzzah! Sunshine! I took this a few days ago, whereas the others were all taken in today's gloom!  Here is yet another sewing machine (needs a bit of fixing up), my red stays and my 1950's dress - both made by me. Oh, and my original panniers, with their insanely experimental construction. They are very, very functional!
Next up is the garment rail. I hunted high and low and got myself a really sturdy one that extends up to 6' and has baskets top and bottom. No way was I getting something flimsy! I have my patterns hanging on there at the moment, along with some mending, client work, James's living history gear, James's duct tape mannequin and, on the end, the cloak I made for James for Christmas (which I am very pleased with!). Up top are many boxes of trimmings, and I even sorted them into colours! 
Just one more corner and we're back to the start! You may have notices that there are THREE double wardrobes in this room. THREE. This is one of the things I like about this house. Plus, this is the third time James's embroidered waistcoat has appeared in these photos! I moved it around to see if I could get a decent picture of it. The satin is really hard to photograph. Look, you can see the post box outside the window!
Here's a full-frontal view of that waistcoat. It was a practice garment in terms of the embroidery, when I hadn't embroidered for a while. I made the design intentionally stylized, and it's worked entirely in chain stitch. The pockets are functional and the back has eyelets and lacing.
Close-up, albeit a little shiny and fuzzy! You get the idea :)

So, that's my workroom today. I'm pleased that I got my trimmings organised into those boxes on top of the rail. I've been trying to get that job done for aaaaages. What I didn't photograph are the two enormous boxes in the middle of the room, overflowing with fabric. My next workroom chore is to find homes for all that fabric! Yes, I am a horder and a fabricaholic.

Many of the things in my workroom have huge sentimental value for me. I love having them around me for inspiration and connection to my family and friends. It's entirely possible that everything I own has a story :)

I hope you enjoyed this visit to my workroom. I enjoyed showing it to you :)


Wednesday, 29 January 2014

Learning to use a sewing machine

This is actually something I wrote to a fellow blogger who is learning how to use an industrial sewing machine, but I wanted to share it here as well. While I was writing about industrials, some of the tips apply to using domestic sewing machines too (but not the bit about the position of your feet on the pedal):

Sewing on an industrial will become second nature quite quickly. I switch between my domestic and industrial machines depending on what my project needs/what I feel like using (as I love my old domestic Bernina and Singers :) ) Patience and practice will get you there. Go slowly at first to build accuracy - very much like learning to type.

I was taught (at fashion school) to sit with my right foot forward on the pedal and my left foot back, as I'm right handed, and use the right to accelerate and the left to break/slow/control. Using both feet like this gives me more control over the machine.

You can use the fly wheel by hand to get into tight spots, but experiment with slowing down the machine and getting around corners/tricky bits just with manipulating the foot pedal. If you're using an automatic it will stop with the needle up or down, as you specify, which is great, but I think it's best to learn on a basic machine to gain well-rounded skills.

When I teach beginners, the first thing my students sew is paper, with no thread, to get used to the machine (domestic or industrial).

This website has really great templates that will get you practising everything you need: