Let Them Wear Hats!

 

cropped ship hat copy

Last weekend I attended a workshop at my home away from home – the V&A.  Intended to celebrate the opening of the new European Galleries (which incidentally I thought were beautiful!), the one day workshop started with Marie Antoinette as fashion inspiration but quickly spiraled off into pure, over the top, puffball fun!

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The workshop was led by the founder of Pearls and Swine Millinery, Bink (check out her work here), and we were each given a sinamay teardrop shaped base with a large sailing ship cheerfully glued onto it.  From there we were free to choose from a large array of flowers, rubber cakes, birds, feathers, fluffballs, and other wacky pieces.  With Bink there to guide and advise on placement, balance, and colour combinations, everyone in the workshop turned out a truly unique piece of headgear.  Bink has a lovely, warm energy and was very generous in sharing what she has learned over the years of creating incredible hats.

 

The other participants on the workshop were also really friendly and willing to talk about other people’s ideas, offering gems of wisdom from their own experience.  One lady started millinery 15 years ago, and is now 75!  She created a beautiful hat, and said she was there to push her boundaries as a hat maker, and try something new.  How inspiring – I hope I am still pushing myself artistically at 75!

Some of the top tips I picked up?

Invisible thread is your friend!  Although it is very hard to use single strand, so use a double thread.  This helps to prevent the thread constantly slipping out of the eye of the needle.  Sadly it doesn’t prevent your thread getting caught up in your ship’s rigging!

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We stitched a row of fake leaves all around the edge of the hat base, which gave a lovely finish to the hat.  Although you don’t see the leaves really, what they do is prevent you seeing the ugly sinamay edge, without having to balance elements precariously on the edge of your hat.

 

 

 

 

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Stitch fake flowers together first, then stitch them to the hat.  Creating bunches of elements off the hat is easier than trying to stitch individual elements.

 

 

 

 

To wear a large hat without it ending up on the dance floor, twist some of your hair into a small clip and anchor the hat comb into the tied back hair.  This gives more stability than pushing the comb into loose hair.

I would say the ONLY part of this workshop that I didn’t like was at the end when we went to have our pictures taken in the new gallery.  If I was wearing a ship as part of a fabulous outfit I would go anywhere, but walking for 10 minutes through a crowded museum in blue jeans with a ship and a load of flowers on my head was rather embarrassing!

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The new European galleries themselves are beautiful!  I particularly like the way elements of fashion, home decor, art and everyday objects are placed together in the displays.  It gives me a real sense of the feel of the period, as opposed to seeing clothing in one location, furniture in another etc.

 

 

Pearls and Swine are planning to offer additional workshops like this, and not just in the capital so be sure to keep an eye on their FB page for more details.  It is certainly a must do!

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A Jewel in Tooting Bec!

I never even knew IMG_2875that there was such thing as the Sewing Machine Museum, but after hearing that the London Dressmaker’s Meetup Group was going along, I had to see for myself

The museum is part of the Wimbledon Sewing Machine Company premises on Balham High Street, about a 5 minute walk from Tooting Bec underground station.  It was begun by the then Managing Director Ray Rushton over fifty years aIMG_2883go, and now has over 600 machines in it’s collection.  It is only open between 2 and 5pm on the first Saturday of each month – so mark your calendars because you don’t want to miss this!

To be honest I wasn’t expecting what I found there.  I thought it might be one nice little room connected to a larger business, but in reality the museum covers three rooms, and is nicely laid out.  One room is for industrial machines and another holds the domestic machines.  There is also a faux shop front set up, looking like a sewing machine supplier from the 1940’s or 50’s.  At first it is kind of IMG_2886overwhelming, there is so much to look at, so I would really recommend walking around each room more than once.

Some of my favourite pieces were a statue of a lion which opens up to reveal a sewing machine, and some beautiful little carved sewing tables in which everything has it’s place.  Pride of place in the museum goes to a sewing machine that was a wedding gift to Queen Victoria’s daughter.  It is stunning – carved tops to the thread holders, and rich decoration all over the machine

Fittingly, shortly after this visit I ‘won’ an item on EBay, which I have been chasing for a long time.  I have long wanted a Singer 201.  These are the workhorses of sewing machines, probably the closest thing to an industrial machine while still being a domestic piece, and some would say even better than an industrial machine!  Many were supplied as treadle machines, but with the optionSinger 201al motor attached these machines can stitch over 1,100 stitches per minute.  Singer started manufacturing the 201 in the late 1920’s.  The model I now own is probably from 1939, and would have been one of the last ones produced before Singer turned their factories over to the war effort.  The Singer 201 was manufactured again after the war, and had very few design changes up until the 1950’s when the construction was changed from cast iron to lighter aluminium.

What I love about it is that it is a workhorse and yet is absolutely beautiful!  The curved lines, the engraved plates, the gold decoration – everything about it is lovely to look at, and lovely to use!  And what better machine for whipping up those vintage inspired pieces I so love?

For more historical information on the 201 take a look at Alex Askaroff’s article here:  The Singer 201

For directions and information on the Sewing Machines Museum:

The Sewing Machine Museum

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New Knitting Course Starting Soon

I cannot believe how the summer is flying by!  I have had a lovely time recently showing my nephews around London, and experiencing being a tourist in my own town.  I also found unexpected inspiration in the Harry Potter studio tour, and I must admit there will likely be some interesting collars, sleeves and embellishments cropping up in my autumn sewing.

As thoughts turn to autumn – my favourite fashion season – I also get the urge to pick up my knitting needles again.  If you have always wanted to learn to knit, why not come along to my next course at 57 Arts in Lewisham?

On 9th of September I will be starting another Knitting for Beginners course.   Over four weeks participants will learn to cast-on, knit, purl, cable, increase, decrease, and cast-off – basically everything you need to get knitting those cosy winter scarves we all love.

We will also cover how to read a knitting pattern, and how to decipher the label on a ball of yarn.

Classes run on Wednesday evenings from 7-9pm, from 9th September to 30th September. The course costs £90 for all four classes and includes all materials and equipment.

For more information or to sign up visit 57 Arts website. I hope to see you there!  Enjoy the rest of the summer!

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Heritage Knitwear and Vintage Hunting in Edinburgh

greyfriarsI am writing this as I whizz along in the train back to London after visiting Edinburgh for the first time. I have wanted to visit for ages and finally got the opportunity as my other half was working there. And it didn’t disappoint! I loved the city – such a fantastic mix of architecture, stunning natural phenomena such as Arthur’s Seat, beautiful parks, and some great street style.

I arrived late Friday night and the first thing I did Saturday morning was head to the National Museum of Scotland to see the exhibition on 200 years of Pringle. The exhibition was small but lovely, and charts the brand’s journey from premier underwear provider to Royal Warrant holders for twinsets and cardies! Not to mention some stunning photographs of Tilda Swinton.

drying rackIt was interesting to see the old wool onesies, and the drying rack they were stretched on during manufacture, and there were lots of bloomers and camisoles which look like the ones I unearthed in an elderly relatives house last year. I will have to get home and check the labels but my suspicion is they are more likely to be Marks and Sparks than vintage Pringle.

The knitwear – favourite pieces were a cardigan from the forties, embellished with cleverly placed twill tape, another one in pink with a pretty bow, a patterned mini dress from the sixties, and a cool cable knit sweater made recently with incorporates long nylon beads as panels within the traditional cable pattern.

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Then I set out to explore the city.  For vintage lovers Grassmarket is the place to go. I went to Armstrong’s Vintage Emporium which is apparently a local landmark having been established in 1840. I had read some mixed reviews about the shop, with some reviewers complaining about Primark clothing getting mixed in with the vintage. Well – I must admit I did find some Primark pieces along with some Top Shop and Zara, but they were all hung on a rail clearly marked ‘Modern Dresses’ . The vintage rails we just that – vintage – and I did see some very nice pieces. In the end I didn’t buy, but I would recommend a visit as the stocked was well organised and for the most part in fairly good nick.

Another lovely little shop, where I did buy, is the relatively new Pi-Ku Collective at 39 Candlemakers Row. It is a small but perfectly formed shop with a lovely collection of vintage clothing and blankets. I bought a beautiful pale blue silk bed jacket trimmed in off-white lace, and a cool sewing booklet on fitting from the 1960’s.

rooftopsFor the most part though, my favourite part of the weekend was just wandering the streets and soaking up the atmosphere. I have never been to a city where the natural environment is so integrated into an urban setting. The city has really been built into the natural formation of the land rather than imposing on it and the end result is a feeling of peacefulness. I will be back!

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Simplicity Star Sewist Contest Entry

 


Here it is!  My entry for the Simplicity Star Sewist contest.  Although I am pretty new to blogging I was excited to see a sewing contest just for bloggers so I wrote off for the pattern.

I decided to enter the Best Dressmaking category and soon New Look 6145 arrived in the post.  It is a simple shift dress which leaves you with lots of options to customize and embellish.

dartThe first thing I did was adjust the pattern for fit.  I usually need to make a short back adjustment, so I took the back up a little and increased the side bust dart in the front to keep the side length the same on both front and back pieces.  That done, I decided to make a few changes to the design.

Instead of the vent in the back I put in a box pleat instead.  I also changed the collar, drafting a two piece pointed version.  I then embellished the front of the dress with embroidery and raised appliqué.  Finally, instead of using facings on the dress I decided to line the dress with a light cotton.

The dress is liningmade in a cream cotton/linen blend and lined with a light white cotton.

The lining was done with a great technique I learned last year where you draw the armhole lining and dress first out the front hem, sewing from under arm seam to shoulder seam, and then repeat pulling the lining and dress out the back hem.  This results in a lovely finish with no raw edges anywhere.  Everything is contained within the lining.

The embellishment on the front of the dress is done with two different techniques.  The flower centre, petals and thin leaves are embroidered in satin stitch, Romanian stitch and double knot stitch.  Then the larger leaves were appliquéd onto the front, slit in the back and filled with wadding to create a raised surface.

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back pleat

 

The small box pleat at the back is created with a scrap of vintage fabric that a friend gave me while sorting out her stash in order to move house!  It is a lovely loose weave cotton with a spring-like print.

 

 

 

So there it is!  Fully lined, embellished shift dress which I plan to wear this weekend on a vintage hunting trip down to Brighton!

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Sequins and Wool

Well the weather in London has really become quite spring-like, so this new coat will have to wait until next autumn to be worn.  However, it has been a labour of love, and I am very pleased with how it turned out.Coat on background

I saw this coat first in the 12/14 issue of Burda Style, and I just loved it.  You know that feeling when you just HAVE to make something?  What I particularly loved was the large collar, the curved front edge and the fabric.  I decided that something which was going to take so much work needed to have the right fabric.  I sourced the wool fleece from Germany and a company called Alfatex.  This place is actually really helpful if you are a fan of Burda.  Since Burda sources many of their fabrics from here, the website shows the styles from the latest issue of the magazine and makes it really easy to find what you are looking for.  The shipping costs were really reasonable and my fabric arrived very quickly!  The sequinned tulle is from Schwarzschild Ochs, which is based here in London.  This is another company where I had a great customer service experience and I will definitely buy from them again!

So – the coat itself.  It is a three quarter length winter coat, made from a wool fleece overlaid with a seplacing sequinsquinned tulle.   The first step after cutting out was to lay the tulle across the wool front.  It is then hand stitched into place along the sequin pattern outline, and the tulle cut away.  This is where I made my first mistake!  The pattern says you should stitch along the pattern line all the way along, while I allowed the tulle to go into the side seam, under the armhole.  However, I decided that it looked fine, in fact I kind of liked it that way so I let it stay.

I am not a big fan of fusible interfacing, so instead I used a firm sew-in interfacing.  I find that fusible tends to lose it’s sticking power quickly and can make the fabric bubble after time as it comes away.  I interfaced the collar with a lighter weight to keep the roll of the collar soft.

The original pattern called for patch pockets, but when I pinned them into place on the coat I really didn’t like the way it looked.  They just really pulled focus away from the line of the coat, and so I decided to leave them out.

I lined it in a lovely gold colour, which you really only see when it is open as the facing on the front is so deep.  The lining has a pleat in the centre back to allow for movement, very important in a garment like this.coat close up

I finished the coat with vintage buttons from my great aunt’s sewing stash.  They are fabric buttons covered in gold beading, and I think they work well with the sequin on the coat.

When I looked at the coat at the end and compared it to the image in the magazine, I wondered if I had put the collar on backwards.  Then I compared it to the tech drawing and thought – no, it’s right.  I am still not sure!  What do you think?

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I also think that if I ever made this again, I would put a deep cuff on the sleeve.  Somehow I am not sure about the balance on the sleeve to the rest of the coat.

All in all though I am very happy with this – I made it mostly to see if I could, and so even though I do see the mistakes, I think overall it turned out well!  Now I think I might stick to some pretty, light summer dresses for awhile!

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London Dressmaker’s Club

This week I was invited to contribute to the blog for the London Dressmaker’s Club.
This is a great group that I connected with through Meetup.com, and I am really enjoying being part of it!

In my post, I talk about going to Fashion on the Ration at the Imperial War Museum, and creating the replica 1940’s dress below.

You can see my guest blog contribution here:
http://londondressmakersclub.blogspot.co.uk

1943 vintage pattern
1943 vintage pattern

Hope everyone is enjoying the spring sunshine!

Jenn

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Easter weekend in Brighton

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Easter at the seaside!  Rain, clouds, chilly winds, and hanging at the arcade on the pier! The photo above was actually taken last time I went – the weather didn’t even allow for a decent shot this time.

Still I love Brighton – always have since my first trip there age 10.  Then it was all about playing games on the pier, running on the beach, and eating candy floss.  Well to be honest – it is mostly about that now!  However, I have since found so much more to love here, and I find new spots every time I go.

A vintage lover’s dream – Brighton is chock full of retro boutiques, and lovely shops selling vintage inspired pieces.  But there are some traps to avoid as well.

This trip I found a new gem I hadn’t been to before.  The Brighton Flea Market is on Upper St James’ street over in an area called Kemptown.  I LOVED it, two floors of individual sellers’ stalls overflowing with treats and goodies from times gone by.  I got a fabulous vintage enamel teapot, which is absolutely huge and I have been looking for one every since I saw an example in the Pre Fab museum in Catford.  The teapot dates to the 1940’s and at some point has been painted with W.I. on it, no doubt it was used for copious cups of tea at local meetings.  I also got three Enid Blyton Adventure books, a real throw back to my childhood.

Another gem is Pretty Eccentric – basically this feels like someone took all the things I love and put them into one perfectly formed shop.  The merchandise is new, not vintage, but everything is inspired by the ’20s, ’30s and 40’s, including delectable lace dresses, beautiful little hats and headpieces, and decadent jewels.  I totally splurged and bought a stunning green lace 30’s style dress.

Check out their collections here:

www.prettyeccentric.co.uk  (I bought the Jasmine dress!)

I have spent many happy hours in Snoopers Paradise in the North Laine.  It was hard to walk away this time without a mid-century table, but I managed it.  I ventured upstairs this trip and found a wonderful spread of vintage, and re-made pieces by local artists and makers.  Loved the tin lamps!

IMO – best breakfast in Brighton – The New Cafe on the seafront.  Try the hash and eggs, or the smashed avocado on sourdough – seriously.

So where to skip?  Well – I might upset some people here, but I don’t love Beyond Retro these days.  I have found a few gems in the past, but I find their stock at the moment to be much too focused on the 1980’s which just isn’t my thing having lived through it the first time.  Also the prices seem to have risen substantially in the last few years, and I just don’t see the value there.  Especially when everything I found that was pre-1970 was stained in some way.  Disappointing.

Also – I read some reviews saying the lounge at the Hilton Metropole was very good – well yes, if you like your £12 cocktail accompanied by terrible service, and Ultimate Fighting on the bar television.  Not really my scene.

Ok – over to you – who else can share a Brighton gem?  Where do you go when you hit the seaside?

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Clashing Pattern Shift Dress

After spending a lot of time on more complicated projects, I felt the urge to sew up something quick and easy.  With spring in the air, my monthly Prima magazine came through the door with this easy-peasy colour block dress pattern.DSC04934

The fabrics are two that I found at my local Rolls and Rems last year, and they are fun, quirky patterns that I just felt needed to go together.

DSC04933The pattern made up quickly, although when I make it again I think I will make the bottom block a little shorter, and let the top fabric come down lower.  Currently the fabric change occurs right at the widest part of my hips and despite the loose fit I think it makes me look a little boxy.   What do you think?  Would that problem be fixed by bringing the top block longer down, or the bottom block further up?

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And then of course there is the British weather to contend with!  Spring may be in the air but it hasn’t hit the ground yet, and the day after I finished this was decidedly chilly.  But what to put with this dress?  In the end I went for spotty merlot coloured tights, which I claim, pick up a tiny bit of merlot present in the dress (and yes I am referring to the colour – not an unfortunate sewing room/drinking incident!).  Not sure if you can see that in the photo, but trust me – it’s there!

 

So next time – change the blocking, perhaps add a little more shaping, and I’ll be using two fabrics with some pinks and greens in.  Now – come on weather!

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What are you sewing for spring?

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Hi! Welcome to my blog!

Ok – here we go!

I am brand new to blogging, but I am really looking forward to diving into the creative online community.  First thing I do in the morning is check out my blog feed and see what everyone I follow has been up to and creating.  I hope that this blog becomes a source of info, inspiration, and ideas for others as well.

So who am I?  I have been sewing and creating for my whole life, my first sewing machine came into my possession at age 5.  Ok so it was a hand crank one made for small hands – but it kicked off a lifelong obsession with fabric and creating.

I also adore vintage, and started collecting it when I was in my teens (we just called it second hand back then).  I have some real gems that I have sourced from family members, vintage fairs, boot sales, and recycling bins (literally!).  My collection includes clothing, jewellery, hats, shoes and household and beauty items.  I like to learn as much as possible about my items and I would like to share my finds on the blog as well.

I find inspiration in the past, in the city I love, in the colours and sights of nature.

Thanks for coming along with me!  I can’t wait to connect with readers and hear your thoughts on my posts!

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