Wednesday, 31 October 2012

Hola! Happy Halloween!

 I decided to go back to my Mexican-American roots this year and do a Day of the Dead look for Halloween this year.

I'm off to a special screening of 'The Lost Boys' in an old Victorian chapel - hope I don't get too spooked!


Sunday, 28 October 2012

A Look Inside Dior Couture at the V&A

Working with mass produced clothes on a daily basis, as I do, can give you a somewhat altered idea of what a sewn garment should look like, and can affect the standards you apply to your own home made pieces. There are some good ideas about construction and technique to take away; there are also some things to avoid (not enough stuff is lined, as far as I'm concerned, and too many pieces have elastic waists, therefore avoiding the need for tailoring and fitting). Though the styles may not always be to my liking, I have to admit that the basic construction standards are usually good. Most things are slick and sharp inside and out, but there is no evidence of any human hand being involved in the construction - everything is correctly placed, seams are all overlocked, etc.

It was therefore very refreshing to see this when I visited the newly re-opened Costume Galleries at the Victoria and Albert Museum:

Inside detail of the bodice section of the Zemire ensemble by Christian Dior, 1954-55
 Here's a close up:

I love it! Notched seams, massive seam allowances, tiny hand stitching which a modern chain store customer would turn their nose up at, and no overlocking. You can see the 'hand' of the  person, or people, involved in making this piece.

Here's what it should look like when worn:

The bodice was part of this ensemble, consisting of jacket, skirt, petticoat, and bodice (source)

The ensemble has an interesting back story, which you can read about in detail here. The piece on display in the V&A was originally made for Lady Agota Sekers, who was wife to Miki Sekers, a British fabric manufacturer. This ensemble was comissioned from Dior and made out of cellulose acetate satin made at the Sekers mills who supplied not only Dior, but Balenciaga, Givenchy and others. Apparently it was common for Lady Sekers to comission designs by top couturiers to promote her husband's product. She sounds like a hoot - she often abandoned fitting sessions in order to go sight seeing around Paris! The Sekers company is still going - it celebrated it's 70th birthday in 2008. Read about it here and here.

Anyway, back to my main point - seeing the inside of this piece made me smile. I've never really got on with overlocking/serging, and I don't really mind if there are slight imperfections in any of my finished pieces. I see it all as a learning process, and any so-called mistakes just give each piece a bit of added character. And I'm so glad the V&A has thought to show the insides of not just this, but several pieces in their collection. I find it frustrating that so many non-sewers have no idea of the work that goes into the clothes on their backs; hopefully this tiny gesture will make an impression on a few visitors. That beautiful clothes can have personality inside and out, and that perfection isn't necessary for an item to have aa lasting impression.

Thursday, 25 October 2012

A Second Chance - the Ally Pally Stitching and Knitting Show

Last year, I attended the Stitching and Knitting Show at Alexandra Palace which I blogged about here. At the time, I didn't give it a glowing review because in my opinion it focused far too much on whimsical crafts and luxury products, and very little on fashion and practicality - a bit too much of the 'Mollie Makes' apple warmers and not enough for those of us wanting to build a handmade practical wardrobe.

I decided to give it another go when I read that the UK  Hand Knitting Association needed volunteers for their Sweetie Shop project at the show. I've been toying with the idea for a while of teaching crafts, or trying to get involved with a craft group, but I wasn't sure if I would like it, or if I could even do it - I'm not always the most patient of people! This seemed like a good way to find out.

It was great!

A knitted sweeties shop!
Denise and the other members from UKHKA kitted out an area of the Palm Court to look like an old fashioned sweet shop, with jars full of needles, wool, ribbons, and other bits and pieces. As a volunteer, it was my job to encourage visitiors to join in, ask questions, have a go at knitting or crocheting, and ultimately make a small sweet to pin to the centrepieces on each table.

Mollie, Nina and Yorke having fun knitting!
It was such a lovely experience! I taught people new to knitting (a little boy of 6 was the youngest) as well as spending time with much more experienced knitters, who showed me a few new things. The sweet shop theme was really attractive - no matter what your experience, you could complete something in a short time, and leave feeling you'd achieved something.

2 more satisfied customers
A crocheted toffee, and some little sweets made out of magic loops

I had 2 really fab days volunteering, so much that I'm going to organise something of my own - watch this space... And a big 'thank you' to the UKHKA for organising everything - do look at heir website if you have a chance.

See you soon!

Saturday, 13 October 2012

The Routemaster Tribute Capelet!

Living in London, you are incredibly reliant on public transport. Londoners talk about transport almost as much as they talk about the weather, and any changes that are made to it are analysed and discussed at length.

Several years ago, our esteemed city elders decided to replace this beloved design:
Classic Routemaster
With this fire prone, cumbersome piece of s***:
 I hated these buses so much, I even resorted to making my own 'I HATE BENDY BUSES' badges and leaving them on buses and in public places - my own little stab at art terrorism/protest. I was unbelievably pleased when it was decided to take them off the road, and replace them with an all new Routemaster. Transport in this city is still over priced and unreliable, but this new bus just makes me smile, and I'm so pleased to see government taking a chance on a piece of public design which is stylish and takes risks with a classic:
Thomas Heatherwick's new Routemaster design. Read more about it here

 The back view, with the open 'hop on, hop off' platform restored

By coincidence, I made a jacket that is nearly the same shade - my Routemaster Tribute Capelet!


This was a stashbuster made from some cheapo red polyester that I bought locally. It was intended for trousers, but when I got it home I realised it reminded me too much of an air stewardess uniform, ie scratchy and synthetic. It languished on the stash pile until a couple of weeks ago. And I've been wearing it almost constantly - I love it!

Here are some details:

I wanted to keep the cost down, so I lined it with a £1.50/m poly cotton black and red polka dot:

I wanted it to be a quick project, and keep hand sewing to a minimum. But there were some things that couldn't be avoided, like the little chain that attaches the cuff to the body of the coat:

This fabric frayed and unravelled like nobody's business,involving loads of trimming with the pinking shears. In the end, I approached it the way you do when you're tidying up your home and shove everything into a cupboard or drawer - the 'out of sight, out of mind' method. I put the lining in quickly and attached it loosely with a catch stitch to the hem of the jacket:

 This is my new favourite way to do my nails - I've been watching a lot of Lana del Rey on Youtube

And to end, some more photos of the jacket in front of a double decker bus - it's not a Routemaster, but it was too good an opportunity to pass up!

                        Mr Needles says that this hairdo looks better with a 'haughty' expression...

That's it! See you soon!