Saturday, 28 June 2014

The Girls In Their Summer Dresses

I've just got back from a lovely week in Lyme Regis, the highlight of which (and the purpose of the trip, to be honest) was a two-day dressmaking workshop at the weekend with Caroline at SewLaDiDa.  I had first seen Caroline - and her wonderful patterns - at the Knitting and Stitching Show at Ally Pally last year. Aware of the current interest in dressmaking, particularly using vintage patterns, but equally aware of the fact that they are not really cut to fit today's woman, Caroline has produced her own range of vintage-styled patterns.  Not only that, but on chatting to her I discovered that she was going to be running workshops to make these vintage-styled frocks. Needless to say, I couldn't wait to book.

The classes were held in the Town Mill, a lovely old building in The Artisans' Quarter of the town.  
We didn't have to take anything with us, and although I did take several lengths of fabric to make my dress, needless to say, when I saw the selection of fabric available in the SewLaDiDa shop in the adjoining building, I was compelled to buy more.  I choose something age-appropriate and sensible, obviously - a snazzy leopard print fabric, overprinted with big cerise,yellow and turquoise flowers.
There were seven of us, of varying ages, abilities and experience in dressmaking, and we all chose different styles of dresses.  We checked measurements, made toiles, pinned, stitched and fitted, and then cut out the perfected pattern in the 'real fabric'. With assistance, encouragement and advice from Caroline, not to mention her 'Top Tips', we all had a lovely new frock to show for it. 
This morning, I tried using the self-timer on my camera to show you a close-up of my dress - but the photos turned out a bit blurry ......
So then I tried photographing my reflection in the mirror

In the end, I decided it was easier to wear the dress to our Young Embroiderers' meeting today and I got my friend Gina to take some pictures in the garden, shortly before the rain came.

Gina climbed on a chair to perfect her 'David Bailey' techniques, and I was channelling my inner Victoria Beckham.  
Not so as you'd notice. 

The Girls In Their Summer Dresses - The Airborne Toxic Event

Saturday, 7 June 2014

I'm Not Like Everybody Else

It's been a while - I've been away and done a few lovely workshops, but I'll have to tell you about those another time.  However, I was prompted to write this post, having read Gina's Brush with Celebrity story HERE.  
About a month or so ago I went to see Sunny Afternoon at the Hampstead Theatre.  

Of course, I realise that I'm a bit biased.  I was a Kinks fan from the beginning - they were the first band I ever went to see when I was sixteen - at Boscombe near Bournemouth, and Ray Davies has remained my all time musical hero ever since. 
As indeed I told him a couple of days before Christmas a few years ago when I happened to bump into him in the gift department of John Lewis at Brent Cross. I actually said "Oh goodness it's my hero!"  He smiled and asked if I'd got everything I was looking for and I said "Well, I have now".  Pathetic, isn't it?
Over the years I've seen him lots of times - with the Kinks, performing solo, and with the Crouch End Festival Chorus.  I even braved camping and hideous portaloos to see him at Glastonbury in 2009, so when I read about this show, I was always going to go. I went with my mate Jan on the second night, and it was absolutely fab- the cast were superb - great actors and performers - they played all the instruments themselves and I couldn't have enjoyed it more.  It received justifiably brilliant reviews and when I got home, I immediately booked a ticket for the last night (there were only single tickets left, but I didn't mind going on my own and I got a seat in the third row from the stage).

On the day I was due to go, I was at a stitching workshop during the day, and I joking said to my mates "I expect Ray will be there tonight as it's the last performance" and they all nodded and smiled in the way that you do when you are humouring a delusional friend.
I decided to drive to Stanmore Station and get the tube.  What I hadn't bargained for was the fact that there was some 'important'  football match on at Wembley that day (sorry - no further details, in the event that any of you are even mildly interested), so the traffic was horrendous. THEN, when I got to the car park the whole world and his football-mad son was leaving Stanmore Station.  Turns out, there's only one way in and out of the station car park, and it's really only designed for one car width, so it wasn't looking promising.  To confirm this, a bloke at the top said "You'll never get down there love, everyone's queuing to get out."  I smiled and said "Really?  Watch me!"  
I gradually forced my way down against the flood of cars getting out, and everyone was moving over as far to the left as they could, without actually graunching their car along the fence - I guess they could see I was a woman on a mission.  Anyway, I eventually arrived in the car park, got parked, ran to the tube and got my ticket and got the train.  By this time I was really pushed for time, and kept glancing at my watch and counting down the stations to Swiss Cottage.  I really began to doubt that I'd get there in time for the start and worried that they wouldn't then let me in until the interval. 
As luck would have it, I got there - literally - with one minute to spare.  I swapped my printed email for my ticket and programme and ran into the theatre.  I handed the ticket to the girl on the door and said "I really didn't think I was was going to make it - the journey was a nightmare!"  A male voice to my left said "Yeah, tell me about it!"  I turned - and it was RAY DAVIES!!  
I would LOVE to be able to tell you that I told him that I was his biggest fan, or that this was the second time I'd seen Sunny Afternoon because it had been so bloody brilliant the first time, or even that I'd politely asked him to sign my programme.  But no.  I just looked at him, said "Oh, Hello!" and he said "Hello!" back.  Then I took my seat.  
For the rest of my life I will think of all the clever, intelligent, meaningful things I could have said. 
If ever I see him again - I'm going to have a speech prepared. 
PS -  I just searched and I think this was the gig I went to -
Imagine that - under a quid to see the best band in the world!

PPS - When I went to the bar in the interval to get a coffee, I found myself standing next to Paul Weller, but this paled into insignificance against Ray, I'm afraid.

I'm Not Like Everybody Else - The Kinks (but I think you knew that)

Saturday, 10 May 2014


I've made my first COCO ....
There are so many gorgeous versions of this dress out there - check them out HERE
I was particularly taken with this one 
Consequently, I ordered some Black and White Dogtooth Ponte Roma fabric from Minerva Crafts here . It's a lovely weight of fabric for this project - just the right amount of 'guts' (technical sewing term).  In fact the whole project went like a dream, no alterations to the pattern, apart from adding a few inches to the bottom (a concession to my height and age).  I wasn't sure which neckline I was going to do or whether I wanted pockets, but I cut the collar and the pockets out anyway.
I decided to go for the turtle neck, but the jury is still out on the pockets.  Anyway, after just a couple of hours sewing yesterday, I wore it today (pocketless) and I love it.  
Unfortunately, I forgot to get anyone to take a photo while I was out today, so I've had to resort to balancing my camera on the bookshelf and set the timer, hence the expression. 
I feel enough of an idiot posing on my own in my lounge, without smiling at a non-existent photographer.

CO-CO - Sweet

Sunday, 27 April 2014

Glitter and Gold

I've had a lovely week - on Thursday I went on a workshop at Art Van Go with Angie Hughes, entitled "Inspired by Klimt"  - plenty of opportunity for a bit of glitz and glitter there.  Angie showed us what we could create using velvets, silks, bondaweb, transfoils and sweetie papers (and there's always plenty of those in my house, as you know) plus a bit of added glitter and sparkle.
After lunch, when we had created our background, we began the free machine embroidery - and everyone had some beautiful pieces to continue stitching into at home.

The next two are mine - I seem to have moved from little hearts to little houses ..
Oh tell a lie, the hearts are still there ...
A lovely workshop - AND I got to wear one of my exhibition pieces -
Glitter and Gold - The Turtles

Monday, 21 April 2014

She's My Inspiration

Back in February, I read a post by Rhinestones and Telephones who had just launched a competition to make a Dolly-inspired dress to celebrate the wedding of said Dolly Clackett (aka Roisin) and her beau Nic. I've been an avid reader of Dolly's for some time, and have been constantly overawed by her fab frocks - and can only wonder at her Tardis-like wardrobe space.
Somewhat fortuitously, I had made a rare fabric purchase (oh yeah, about as rare as the number of occasions I've eaten chocolate over the last few days) from here, and I had also recently got my hands on a copy of the Emery pattern.
As I hadn't made it before I decided to try the pattern out in some B&W gingham that's been knocking about for a while.  I was quite pleased with it, and decided to wear it to the private view tea party of our exhibition, but felt it needed a bit of embellishment, so added two rows of this fabric
I know you've seen the finished dress before, but a friend agreed to take some photographs, so I did some posing in my garden - which is looking beautiful - even if the model has seen better days.

I did think of submitting that as my one and only entry into the Dolly Clackett competition, but in the end I decided it was a bit too subdued, even with the embellishment, so I decided on making a second Emery with this fabric .....
I did think perhaps it was a little bit bold - and maybe not very age appropriate.  I am rather inclined to make clothes for a woman that I'm not, with I lifestyle I haven't got - and with a figure I've never had.    
But then I thought, well I AM a vintage sewist, and this is vintage sewing machine fabric, so why not??
I cut the fabric out weeks ago, but then, as is my wont, decided that there was no rush, there was PLENTY of time to make it up.  And then yesterday I suddenly realised the deadline for the competition is this Wednesday, so I'd better get a move on.  So, I started the stitching today - and it went together beautifully - even the invisible zip went in perfectly,  first go.  By 3 o'clock this afternoon it was finished in time for my mate calling round and being roped in to take some outdoor shots. 
I made a few changes to the pattern - I left out the back waist darts, mainly because I don't go in much in the middle, and I don't like dresses too fitted.  I also lengthened the bodice by an inch and a half as I'm fairly tall, but other than that it's pretty much as the pattern.
It's a great pattern, and I'll definitely be making more - possibly with a pleated or circle skirt.

 I have to say - I really love it!

She's My Inspiration - Thunder

Monday, 17 March 2014

Picture Painted

Here's news of another local exhibition, this time showing work by my friend Jill, together with three of her painter friends.

They are all fantastic artists, with very different styles, and I urge you to go along, whether you are looking to add to your art collection, or would just like to see a diverse and accomplished selection of work.  
And, of course, there will be tea and cake - with all proceeds from refreshments going to the Isabel Hospice.

Picture Painted - The Ravines

Saturday, 15 March 2014

Afternoon Tea

I always think that a day that starts with buttercream  is probably going to be a good day.
It wasn't that I deliberately set out to have buttercream for breakfast, but I was icing cakes, and someone has to lick the utensils, right?
I may have overdone the tangerine food colour - or maybe I should have gone for a more lurid pink to match?
The cakes were for the Afternoon Tea Party and  Private View of the Spectrum Textile group's second exhibition held at Art Van Go today.
It was a proper vintage style tea party with lashings of homemade cakes
 and tea served in pretty vintage cups.
and I wore my new 'Dolly Clackett' inspired frock - the Christine Haynes Emery dress, made in black and white gingham, decorated with my Russian Doll fabric that I got from Fondant Fabrics a few weeks ago (I bottled out of making the whole dress from it).  This is my first Emery Dress and I have to say I love the pattern.  I made a toile just of the bodice, and my only alteration to the pattern was to leave out the back waist darts as I don't really have a waist.  Unsurprising really, given that my diet is largely buttercream based.
Check out those dollies ....
It turned out to be a brilliant afternoon - we had more visitors than we could have hoped for and everyone seemed very complimentary of our work - although I expect they were really there because word of our cakes had gone around after our previous exhibition.  I am ashamed proud to say that I had four during the course of the afternoon, but they WERE small(ish) and one was only a biscuit.  I say 'only a biscuit' but in truth it was a homemade custard cream made by our group's mentor, Gina .  
The work did look really good - if we do say so ourselves - and if you find yourself in the area of Art Van Go - art suppliers to the stars - in Knebworth, there's an added incentive to go there in the next few weeks to see the exhibition, which is on until 5th April.  Here's a taster of what you'll see ...
For this exhibition, I've gone back to my dressmaking roots, and I made two dresses, a skirt and a tunic, with the theme of "Print"
The tunic behind me is a Schoolhouse Tunic pattern made from fabric that I screen printed, and the dress - a Merchant and Mills Camber dress (another fab pattern to make) is machine embroidered with flowers, with inspiration taken from vintage embroidery transfers.
The shift dress is made from a self drafted pattern, decorated with cut-out dolls from a newspaper fabric
and the skirt is a self-drafted 8-gore skirt decorated with block printed flowers which I then embroidered by hand
Thank you to all our friends and families who came to see us today; to the girls who make up Spectrum; to Art Van Go for allowing us to completely take over their gallery space today; and most of all to Gina for being a fab mentor and friend.  And cake maker.  And for sending me this card as encouragement when I told her about my frivolous frock -

Afternoon Tea - The Kinks