Sunday, 26 June 2016

The blackbird dress -part 1

The Secret Sewing Project has hit a major fitting crisis, the sort which can only be dealt with by an emergency visit my mum, wailing, "How do I fix this?" That's scheduled for tomorrow after work, so in the meantime . . .

My London trip unsurprisingly included the fabric shop heaven that is Goldhawk Road. This time I went for quality rather than quantity, and bought silk for a couple of projects, but despite my best intentions, a couple of cotton dress lengths somehow insinuated themselves onto my shopping bag!

This tree print was available in three different colourways, but I really liked the green (or possibly turquoise/teal, I can't really decide on the colour).

Trees in a row

When I looked at it closely, I noticed that one of the black leaves was actually a little bird sitting on the lowest branch.

Blackbird on a branch

In the summer I have a little table and chairs in the yard (or 'patio', if I'm feeling posh) where I take all my photographs, and eat outside whenever the weather is good enough. A blackbird often sits on my neighbour's TV aerial, and warbles away beautifully for ages. So the association was enough to make me buy the fabric (any excuse).

I've decided to use it to make New Look 6723, view B. As ever, I'm lengthening the skirt a bit.

I'll decide about the belt once the dress is made

For New Look patterns, I have to shorten the bodice between the bust point and the armscye. This produced a really exaggerated curve on the princess seam.

The bodice is lined, so because I wasn't entirely convinced about my alterations I decided to make up the lining first, as a sort of wearable toile. I've also had a few problems with straight-across necklines gaping on me, so this was a good way to check if the neck needed altering.

It turned out that the neckline was fine, but the armholes gaped a bit. The solution was to take in the princess seam, which made the bust curve even more exaggerated. It also meant that the front and side front no longer joined, so I had to redraft side front completely.

The final bodice side front piece

It was well worth doing however, because the bodice does now fit perfectly, and I made my mistakes in easy-to-replace locally bought lining, not fabric bought 200 miles away!

When it came to cutting out the dress, things got 'interesting'. Like a lot of fabric, this wasn't quite printed on the straight grain. The row of trees is on a slight slope, with the occasional wobble in the row added for good measure. I decided to go with the printing line rather than the grain line; my logic being that the skirt is full enough to hide any wonky hanging issues, and the lining will keep the bodice in shape. It did mean that I had to cut everything out from a single layer of fabric, marking the tree trunks on the pattern pieces so that they would match up, and pinning the pattern pieces on far more firmly than I would usually do.

Lots and lots and lots of pins!

So, all cut out and ready to sew.

Sunday, 19 June 2016

Missoni at the Fashion and Textile Museum

There will be some actual sewing on this blog again soon, I promise! It's just that I'm currently working on something I can't post about; all will be explained in a few weeks' time.

In the meantime. . .

I've been down to London for a few days, and one of the things I went to was Missoni Art Colour at the Fashion and Textile Museum.

The exhibition was originally shown at the MA*GA Art Museum in Italy last year, and takes as its starting point the Missonis' interest in modern art, and how this influenced their designs. It begins with a display of works by modernist painters, including Sonia Delaunay, Lucio Fontana and Gino Severini.

'Ballerina' by Gino Severini, c 1957

The exhibition also includes some of the large knitted patchworks which Ottavio Missoni made from the 1970s onwards, as well as clothes made from the same process.

One of the smaller knitted pieces

The staircase gives an idea of the scale

Patchwork knitted jumper

There are colour studies, and knitted samples.

Design sheet for a distinctive Missoni zig-zag knit

Knitted samples

But the most striking element of the exhibition is the pyramid of mannequins, 42 in total, wearing Missoni knitwear designed from 1953 to 2014. The mannequins are displayed in a constantly changing light, moving from almost darkness to glaring brightness, which adds to the slightly other-worldly feeling of the display.

Arranged by colour rather than chronologically

Partially lit

Fully illuminated

Missoni Art Colour at the Fashion and Textile Museum runs until 4 September 2016.

Sunday, 12 June 2016


Just to prove that I didn't spend my entire trip to York in the Castle Museum, studying the Shaping the Body exhibition in microscopic detail . . .

One wing of the Castle Museum

York was originally the Roman settlement of Eboracum, founded in about AD 71 by the Ninth Legion. Not much of this remains today; not even the street plan. There is more evidence of the Viking town, in particular in the street names.

Some of the street names in York

At first glance it looks as though York had an incredible (and surely not very secure) number of city gates. Actually in this case 'gate' comes from the Viking word 'gata' meaning street. The city gates in the sense of an entrance are called 'bars', such as Micklegate Bar.

Micklegate Bar

Just to confuse things even further, the most famous street in York doesn't have a name ending in 'gate'. Shambles was originally the street where all the butchers' shops were located, and is thought to get its name from the Anglo-Saxon word 'fleshammels'; the 'flesh-shelves' on which the meat was displayed. The butchers are long gone, and now Shambles is best known for its overhanging buildings which almost meet across the narrow street, but many of the shops still have the wide shelves outside.


The original shop shelves

York was an important stronghold for controlling the north of England, and in 1068 William the Conqueror built the first castle there; a wooden building on a high earth mound. Around 200 years later this was replaced by a stone structure, now known as Clifford's Tower.

Clifford's Tower

Despite the fact that I really don't like heights, and am not keen on narrow spiral staircases either, I went up to the top to take some photographs. (The things I do for this blog!)

It's a long way down!

Fairfax House

The spire of St Mary's, and York Minster

The top of the tower was the only place where I could get a decent picture of all of York Minster, because it is just so big, and so surrounded by trees and other buildings.

The West Front of York Minster, taken at ground level (phew)

Not far from where I was staying in Micklegate, I found this beautiful medieval building.

Jacob's Well


I hadn't realized that Guy Fawkes came from York. A Georgian townhouse, now a pub, stands on the spot where he was born.

The Guy Fawkes Inn

For some reason there are lots of cat statues in York; so many that they have a walking trail dedicated to them! I didn't find any complete cats, but I did spot this half one.

Blending into a lintel

As well as cat statues, York is home to lots of small independent shops.


Shop front in Stonegate

Mulberry Hall dates from 1434

Naturally one of my favourite shops was Duttons For Buttons.

Button heaven

After all the culture, cats and shopping, you'll need a nice cup of tea and a sit down. Fortunately York has not one but two branches of Bettys Tea Rooms.

Time for tea

So if you're tempted to visit the Shaping the Body exhibition, be aware that there's lots more to see in York. My visit just flew by.

Sunday, 5 June 2016

The University Chapel Project - June 2016 update

Last Wednesday most of the Chapel Stitchers attended a 'meeting' with a difference; the dedication service for the new chapel window and textiles.

Christine had brought the almost completed altar frontal along to our last meeting on 20 May. She had painted and embroidered gold rays around the cross, which really made it stand out from the background.

The embroidery complete

Close-up of the cross

We took the frontal down to the chapel, and I think that we were all a little stunned by just how good it looked. It almost seemed to glow amid the wood and the tiles.

In the chapel

This picture shows how Christine had attached all of the hands with close zigzag stitching, and machine embroidered over the infill pieces which we had added at a previous meeting.

Close-up of the hands

The two hours seemed to go very quickly, so Christine and I stayed behind to finish sewing the frontal together and add weighted strips to make it hang better. Christine had brought her sewing machine along with her, and Kath kindly kept us supplied with regular cups of tea!

Christine hard at work

Back at home, I sewed together the pieces of the green pulpit and lectern falls (and then pressed them obsessively until I was sure that they really couldn't get any smoother).

The frontal and one of the falls

As part of the dedication service, Kath gave a presentation about the textiles project. She and Fiona had put together a display of work in progress in the Senior Common Room. Fiona had also created a short handout on the project.

The work in progress display

This was also a chance for all of us to see the progress on the kneelers.

The dove now has its olive branch

The university had produced a leaflet on the Alumni Window for the dedication service, and the information which follows is taken from this.

The Alumni Window

The three small panels at the top represent three of the six founders of the college; Bishop Sumner (the star), the 14th Earl of Derby (the stag), and William Ewart Gladstone (the martlet).

The main panels represent life in 1839 and 2014, both at the College/University and in the country as a whole. The mountain is Mount Snowdon in Wales, and the rose is the University of Chester rose. Other images include the university's coat of arms, the original college building, and the blackboard for both learning and the college's roots as a teacher training establishment. Below the blackboard, the tools represent the early students who built their own chapel; the story which in part inspired us to use the hands motif on the frontal.

Now that the frontal is complete, work continues on the communion sets and the kneelers. The next meeting is on Friday 8 July at noon, in the usual room.