Balenciaga at the V&A

I finally managed to get to this gorgeous exhibition the other day and it was frustrating to think it was both ‘worth the wait’ and ‘why did I wait so long!’  Whatever the answer I really glad I did.

I’ve loved the V&A since I was about 14 or 15 when I was studying for O-level Needlework (!!) and I used to visit to draw the clothes that were on display in what was then known as the Costume Court. I would sit patiently in front of the cabinets to sketch the details of historical garments, it’s definitely where my love and fascination for the construction of garments began.

Amazingly I found some of my original sketches from that time (although if you look carefully one of them seems to have been tampered with by a small child!) They were drawn on graph paper donated by my Dad. At that time I’d decided I wanted to be a costume designer, although through a few educational twists and turns I finished up doing bridal and evening wear instead which was the next best thing. Fortunately since then the fashion galleries have moved on a fair bit in the way they display things now, more rotation of garments from the collections and less dusty mannequins. That said, a few of my favourite garments from that era are still on display so I can still get my nostalgia-fix.

magenta crinoline
one of my favourites, a magenta crinoline
IMG_1667
This is another of my favourites, it’s from 1937 designed by Charles James and made in a silk chiffon with a print by Jean Cocteau…I’d wear it now given the chance!

Nowadays they utilise the central downstairs area to host changing exhibitions along with the upstairs gallery. [This is was an inspired move in my opinion because all that the upstairs area used to contain was ancient dusty stringed instruments and, as far as I could tell, no one ever went up there!!]

And so to Balenciaga…he was a Spaniard born into a humble background in 1895 who eventually worked for almost all of his illustrious career in Paris and came to be hugely respected and influential amongst the pantheon of great designers.IMG_3077

IMG_3076

He developed innovative ways of handling fabric to create extraordinary shapes and styles, many of them had hidden foundations which enabled them to hold their shape. Fabric was all, it was always his starting point and the design came from there, not the other way around. He was extremely proficient in all aspects of the design process, he understood fabric and its capabilities, so he could drape and cut the fabrics into his chosen shapes, he was an expert tailor, pattern cutter and could sew too. Not every designer is capable of all this and many rely on the expertise of others to realise their visions. I have great respect for designers like this.

Balenciaga at work
Cristobal Balenciaga at work in his atelier, a calm and quiet place where he always wore his customary white overall.

IMG_3081

One thing that is different about this exhibition to most others I’ve been to at the V&A is being allowed to take photos-I can only assume this because they’ve given up trying to stop people, or they don’t need to protect anyone’s copyright or intellectual property??

The dress in the foreground here was, apparently, adored by fashion editors of the time and much photographed. Only a few were sold though because it was nearly impossible to go to the loo whilst wearing it!!

The exhibition has a several displays at the beginning which illustrate Balenciaga’s use of fabric and his swatch system and the designs that stemmed from it.

His Spanish heritage was often a source of inspiration too, boleros being typical of this but also the use of lace and flamenco-influenced ruffles and flounces.

IMG_3078
a bolero jacket…sorry, not a good photo…

IMG_3089

The whole of the downstairs part of the show is given over to Balenciaga’s own designs for both his couture collections and the ready to wear line that he also developed. There are evening gowns, coats, day dresses, tailoring and pant suits. There’s an opportunity to try on mock-ups of a garments for yourself, and there are also a number of toiles that have been recreated in calico by MA students from UAL including Claire-Louise Hardie who blogs as The Thrifty Stitcher and who was the sewing producer on the Great British Sewing Bee series.

IMG_3092
Claire-Louise Hardie’s toile

There are several exquisite beaded coats and gowns as well as a fascinating accompanying video showing exactly how the beading is done-don’t miss it, it’s enthralling. IMG_3102IMG_3103IMG_3104

I adore this dress, my photo doesn’t do it justice as it’s a vibrant fuchsia pink in reality. On the wall behind is one of several specially commissioned x-ray photos taken by Nick Veasey and showing the secret interior construction of the dress.

This is a strapless gown that has been turned inside out so that you can see all the details that mean the dress won’t fall down! My previous blog from a visit to the FTM also tells you about my ‘hands on’ experience looking inside beautiful couture clothing, read it here. 

Upstairs there are lots more clothes created by many contemporary designers who acknowledge the debt that their designs owe to Balenciaga’s influence. These include Roksanda Illincic,  Erdem and Nicholas Ghesquiere, who became chief designer in 1997 when the Balenciaga brand was reinvigorated for the 21st century.

IMG_3106
Roksanda Illincic-love this!!

 

IMG_3110
Erdem

 

IMG_3108
Nicholas Ghesquiere for Balenciaga

There’s so much more to see than I can show here so I’d urge you to go along to the V&A if you love finding out about the history and development of fashion design. This exhibition is on until February next year so there’s plenty of time at the moment. Make sure you look around the rest of the fashion exhibits that are on display in the surrounding gallery too-there are so many interesting garments, often dating back centuries, and you can see the influence and development that they’ve had on clothing over that time.

I’ve been a member of the V&A for 3 years now so I can go as often I like to their exhibitions but, as ever, all opinions here are my own! I hope you enjoy this show as much as I did and I’d love to hear your thoughts on it.

Sue

Making a dirndl skirt with a sash belt…and no zip!

I’ve started working recently with The Creative Sanctuary sewing and knitting shop in Hertford and they asked me if I could run a class for a gathered skirt using the lovely border-print cotton they stock from Michael Miller fabrics. First I had to make a sample and this is how I did it.

Because the fabric has the border printed along one edge you should buy the quantity of fabric you want according to the fullness you’d like, for this particular version I used 2 metres which is quite full, but anything over 1m would be ok unless you have a large waist measurement (you don’t want it to look skimped so don’t be too stingy with the quantity)

First of all you need to decide how long you want the skirt to be when it’s finished and then add seam allowances top and bottom [for example 65cms plus 1.5cms plus 1.5cms =68cms] Because the print ran right to the selvedge I didn’t want to turn this up for the hem and lose some of it so I chose to add a facing instead. This facing is 6cms in length but you could make it longer or shorter as you wish.

IMG_0003
working out the length from the selvedge so the hem is to the left and the waist is to the right in this photo.
IMG_0006
draw a line parallel to the selvedge.

Next, if you’re having a hem facing decide how deep it will be, plus seam allowances, and draw that immediately next to and parallel to the first line. Finally draw a third parallel line which will be the waist sash, this should be at least 12-14cms deep including the SA.

IMG_0009
This shows the cut skirt, the sash and the hem facing.

To begin with take the hem facing piece and press under 1cm all the way along one long edge then pin the unpressed edge to the bottom hem edge of the skirt, right sides together.

IMG_0010
The hem facing pinned and ready to stitch in place.
IMG_0011.JPG
Facing being sewn into position.
IMG_0014
next I under-stitched the facing using a contrast colour. The fabric is still flat at this stage, the seam will come later.
IMG_0016
I overlocked the raw edges that would become the seam, and then ran two rows of gathering stitches all along the top edge of the skirt. These should be the longest straight stitch your machine will do, they should be 5mm and 1cm approx from the cut edge and parallel to it, within the seam allowance. I always do a backstitch at one end but not the other so that I have something to pull up against.

Now make the only side seam. Leave an opening at the top for the waist of between 15-20cms, topstitch around the edge of it to stop it unfurling.

IMG_0017
After this I applied some iron-on interfacing to the waistband sash but only on the middle section for the waist, not the tie ends.

Now, when I made the sample I made the tie ends on the sash first then attached it too the gathered up skirt section, and that’s the process the photos are of. However when I ran the class I did it differently and it was a bit simpler so I’ll use the photos because they are the only ones I have but describe both methods as best I can.

IMG_0018
To make the tie ends first place a piece of tape or ribbon or even piping cord along the centre line of the fabric and pin it at the narrow end. Make sure it’s well away from the edge you’ll be sewing because you don’t want to accidentally sew though it.
IMG_0019
Fold the tie in half wrong sides together as normal, enclosing the tape.
IMG_0020
Stitch up in the usual way checking occasionally that you’re not sewing through the tape.
IMG_0021
trim the corner neatly at an angle to reduce bulk. If the tie is quite narrow you might want to trim the seam allowance down a little.
IMG_0022
Now’s the good bit! gently pull the tape and the end of the tie will start to come through. You’ll need to wiggle the end a little bit to get the corners out but persevere
IMG_0023
keep pulling…!
IMG_0024
Eventually the end will pop out. Cut off the tape neatly, you may need to make good the ends by hand if there’s any gaps in the stitching.

So that’s the tie ends if you make them first. When I ran the class I attached the waist band to the gathered up waist first and THEN made the ties in situ.

The gathers should now be pulled up to your own waist measurement plus a few centimetres for ease, you don’t want it too tight or the gap won’t close up nicely-there’s no zip after all and you don’t want your pants showing!

IMG_0031
Pull up the gathering threads. You can see the neatened waist opening in this photo too.
IMG_0032
When you’ve pulled up enough wind the threads in a figure of 8 around a pin which is at a right angle to the stitching.
IMG_0033
Adjust the gathers so that they are evenly distributed.
IMG_0034
When you’re happy with the distribution stitch in position (remember to put your stitch length back to normal!) you might need to tweak the gathers a bit as you go so don’t rush.
IMG_0035
Fold the waistband in half, press. Then press under the open edge of the waistband by 1.5cms

If you’re doing the waistband first, now you can make the ties using the method I’ve described above and then finish with the section below to enclose the waistband.

IMG_0036
From the front, pin the waistband in position through the join.
IMG_0037
This is what the pinning should look like from the reverse-the idea is to sew it as closely as the this!! The reality might not be quite so accurate!
IMG_0038
I always knew this as ‘sink’ stitching because the stitches ‘sink’ into the seam but at some point it’s become known as ‘stitch in the ditch’…same thing though! Take your time and you’ll get good results.

Nearly there…just the hem to do.

Turn up the hem facing along the seam which should turn quite crisply because you’ve already under stitched it [do that at this point if you didn’t do it earlier] Finally top stitch the hem facing in position. I chose a matching grey for the outside and a coral colour for the underside. Of course you could slip hem it by hand if you wish. To close up the side seam opening I used a few small press studs, I think they stay closed better than hooks and eyes.

IMG_1803
One finished skirt! You can see that by using a facing the whole of the print runs right to the hem, those leaves would have been lost if I’d rolled the hem up instead. You don’t have to make the facing this deep though, the choice is yours.
IMG_1804
The ties are nice and long and make a lovely bow.

I made this version using a border print fabric but you could just as easily make it in any suitable fabric, although you may need to cut it across the width of the fabric rather than along it depending on the print. You could add patch pockets as well if you like.

I’m leading the class again on Monday 17th July 1.30-4.30pm so what are you waiting for?! Full details of other classes I’ll be teaching are on Creative Sanctuary’s website now.

Very sadly, since I made the sample, the owners of the shop have made the incredibly hard decisison to close in September. This means yet another bricks-and-mortar fabric and knitting store will cease to exist. I’ve so enjoyed my brief time with them, and getting to know the lovely and talented ladies that work there, it’s a very sad thing that that’s happening.

I was provided with fabric to make the sample but the method is my own devising (faults  and all!)

Happy Sewing!

Sue

Strictly dresses part 2!

So here I am with another collection of photos and, I hope, interesting info about how the dresses come together on Strictly Come Dancing (Dancing with the Stars elsewhere but I guess you know that)

With the start of every new series Vicky Gill is given a set budget and from this she has to create every single costume. At the beginning that’s a LOT of outfits because initially there are 16 celebrities and their professional partners, there will be group dances every week on the main show and Sunday night, as well as other dances accompanying any guest acts. Theme weeks like Halloween, Movies or Musicals mean there might be other accessories too which wouldn’t usually be needed. The budget restrictions also means that each week some dancers will get more elaborate or expensive outfits whilst others are less costly. This usually results in a ’swap’ over the following weeks so that everyone gets something very special at some time or another…unless they are voted out early doors. As I said in my previous blog, some of the dresses can cost as much as £2000 so they will almost certainly be reused in subsequent series whenever possible or sold on the DSI website, or on the SCD cruises for that matter.

I mentioned how Vicky might have particular fabrics cropping up throughout a series and Claudia’s two piece featured here is another example of the lace or embroidered fabrics that she used in the last series. It’s also the sort of style that wouldn’t be seen in real Ballroom dancing competitions, they have their own trends going on and SCD doesn’t particularly reflect them, it’s often more fashion-led than competition clothes.

Claudia F
Claudia’s skirt is an example of the use of ‘crin’ around the hem to make it stand out. It’s used in different widths, usually 1″, 3″ or 6″
Claudia F blue
Theresa told us how this skirt changed shortly before the actual show from being a peach underskirt with navy organza and satin overlay to having a navy tulle overskirt. This was because Vicky decided it was too shiny under the lights in the studio.

 

The dress run takes place on Saturday afternoons and in the 2 hours between the end of that and the live show starting the team will often have to make changes to costumes for lots of different reasons-too long, too tight, too shiny, too daring etc etc. Vicky and Theresa are at the studio in Elstree from Friday evening and take a supply of fabrics so that skirts can be recut, repaired, whatever is needed. The dresses are made at DSI’s base in Croydon but they are then taken by car by a member of staff direct to Elstree on Thursday evening, this is because they can’t risk putting everything in a taxi or a van and then it ‘disappears’ en route-no costumes=no show!. Bearing in mind that the costume designs aren’t usually finalised and started until Tuesday morning that is an incredibly tight turnaround. The machinists are extremely skilled and adept at working with stretch and other tricky fabrics, it isn’t for the faint-hearted that’s for sure. Vicky often watches training footage too to ensure that her designs will work in conjunction with any tricky lifts for example-too much skirt or fancy details at the waist might make it really difficult.

Before the live show begins everyone is sewn into their outfits so that no disaaaasters like straps or hooks coming undone, ties flapping about in the male dancers faces and so on can happen. This is fine unless they need the loo, in which case it has to be redone after they’ve been!

Katya and Ed
Ed the knight in shining armour swept new dancer Katya off her feet in this dress.

Katya 2

IMG_2651
This was an unusually sober dress although it did have some stoning on the polkadots

Ed Balls was a good example of a male celebrity who didn’t want any sparkle to start with but quickly embraced the whole ‘Strictly-fication’ of his outfits!

I loved this dress that Daisy Lowe wore to dance to the old music hall song “Daisy, Daisy, give me your answer do” with Aljaz. It was so understated with a simple daisy lace trim added to the neckline and crystals on the front. It’s a good example of a less costly dress too.

Daisy daisy
It had an unusual cowl back too.
IMG_2672
Tameka Empson’s Charleston costume was probably one of the least expensive outfits to create in plain navy fabric and very few sparkles. Theresa told us the red trim was an example of a costume getting altered after the dress run because the front was too low and revealing, especially for an active Charleston!
Tameka Charleston
I loved this dance, it’s a shame Tameka didn’t get further in the competition.

Tameka green dress

 

Green, blue and pink was an unusual combination but it works beautifully. There are a lot of stones on this dress so it will reappear in a future show in a different guise. IMG_0510IMG_0511IMG_2635

IMG_2634
These are 2 of the most unusual costumes to feature on SCD. They were worn by Judge Rinder and Oksana when they danced the Paso Doble and the skirt and ‘moth wings’ were both hand-painted by an artist-friend of Vicky Gill. Theresa was telling us that the jacket didn’t have enough colour on it so they were daubing it with Dylon only hours before the show and drying it with a hairdryer!

Strictly Come Dancing 2016

Just a few more pictures now and they are some of my favourite costumes, all worn by Joanne Clifton, who won the competition dancing with Ore Oduba.

Ore Singin' in the rain
This lovely canary yellow ‘raincoat’ wasn’t out on display to see close up but it did feature in the fashion show and was modelled by two members of the crew!
IMG_0573
The dress featuring in the fashion show on board.

A very different sort of dress, it featured shorts under a long georgette skirt (which wasn’t always georgette, it got changed late on) and a roll-neck top which was stoned. The striped fabric is more usually used for the men’s shirts.

This dress worn by Joanne for the Quickstep was one of the hardest to create because of the centre front seam between 3 different fabrics. It also featured heavyweight metal zips from the side and across the back as well as crystals, sequinned fabric and gemstones! The finished result looked amazing but took a long time to achieve.

Ore showdance
Old school Hollywood glamour for the Final
IMG_0023
So simple yet so lovely, sheer navy over a nude base.

IMG_0022

IMG_0024
Feathers, multiple godets and crystals-gorgeous!

Lesley Joseph was the oldest person so far to compete in the main series of SCD and she looked stunning in this beautiful raspberry pink heavily beaded dress. Unusually it has a centre-front zip because of the beading details on the back.

I’ll finish up with two more hot pink outfits [because it’s my favourite colour] as worn by Breakfast television presenter Naga Munchetty and  professional dancer Karen Clifton.

Karen’s outfit for her dance with singer Will Young to Jai Ho! was made using sari fabric and embellished with Indian necklaces bought in a sari shop.  The gold belt was made using plaited elastic and, like the bodice, it was stoned to make it sparkle.

So that’s about it, I took masses of other photos of the Showcases which the professionals danced as well as the fashion shows but sadly many of them aren’t good enough quality to publish here.

I hope you’ve found it interesting because I certainly enjoyed finding out all about the creation of the outfits and all the back-stage stuff, there’s probably still masses more I could have learnt and I would have loved to chat more with Theresa [it turns out we both went to London College of Fashion at virtually the same time although she went on to work for the Emanuels…. and I didn’t]

As before, the information I’ve shared is as I remember it from the cruise so I hope none of it is incorrect or misleading, and I’ve received no payment either. If you think it is then do let me know so that I can rectify that. Most photos are my own but others were sourced from Google images.

It’s only a couple of months before the whole cycle starts again with lots of new celebrities and we can marvel at what Vicky Gill and her brilliant team create in almost no time at all.

I, for one, cannot wait!

Keeeeeep Dancing!

Sue

close up with the Strictly Come Dancing costumes

I haven’t written a blog for absolutely ages because I’ve either been super-busy with sewing, teaching and alteration commitments, or I was away from home, and now two blogs come along in quick succession…

In early May I went with my good friend (and sewing student) Sue to south west France to walk a section of the Camino de Santiango between Cahors and Moissac. After taking Eurostar and the TGV all the way to Cahors we walked from one destination to the next every day, carrying all our belongings with us in our rucksacks. It was challenging at times but a positive one. We had little contact with home, no TV or news (lovely!), no make up, simple accommodation and delicious home-cooked meals. It also meant I couldn’t worry about anything back home so it was very liberating in that respect. One of the things I didn’t have to think about was sewing and, much as I love it, I didn’t particularly miss it!

IMG_1916
all of my belongings for a week were in this bag…it was quite heavy
IMG_2141
spotted in the window of a French dry-cleaners….seems all the world needs things fixing!
IMG_2233
best foot forward….

After my French sojourn I had a couple of weeks in which to start/continue/finish as many projects as possible before heading off on a cruise around the Baltic. What we didn’t realise when we booked it months ago was that it would be a Strictly Come Dancing themed one and not only would judge Craig Revel Horwood be on board (with his Mum Bev and his sister Di!) along with dancers Aljaz, Janette, Giovanni, Oti, Oksana and her husband Jonathan, but LOTS of the costumes would be on display too!

We were sailing on the P&O Cruises ship Britannia from Southampton and once we were on board we set about exploring straight away…actually that’s not quite true because we had some lunch first!

IMG_2653
3 of the dresses on display in the atrium of the ship.

I discovered that the costumes were on show in the central atrium area of the ship so we generally had to go past them most of the time if we were walking elsewhere, which wasn’t a problem as far as I was concerned. They were all displayed on mannequins and you could get right up close and have a good look at them. This was thrilling enough, and I would have been happy with that, but then I discovered that there was going to be a guided tour of the dresses so we could find out more about each of them in detail. Fab-u-lous.

So my husband (bless ‘im) put my name down on the list [we were first and second hehe] so on the second sea day we rocked up nice and early for the ‘tour’.

So the first thing I learned is that all the costumes (men as well as women) are made for the BBC by a company called DSI London based in Croydon. If you ever watch It Takes Two in the week during the run of Strictly you’ll see designer Vicky Gill talking about the dresses for Saturday night’s show. Although she wasn’t on the cruise her production manager and indispensable right-hand woman, Theresa Hewlett, was. What might seem like a dream job she described as hectic, stressful, fun, very long hours, pressurised, sparkly, rewarding and exciting.

IMG_0015_2
Theresa…oops, eyes shut 😉

Theresa walked us through the various dresses on display, many of which were from the most recent series of Strictly [I bet you didn’t know that you can buy the actual dresses as worn on the show? They go onto the DSI website on the Monday morning so you too could own a piece of telly memorabilia…although it doesn’t come cheap]

Over the course of the series they will have to design and create in the region of 350-400 dresses and outfits! That’s a lot of crystals, ruffles and godets! Incidentally DSI are also responsible for the male judges outfits but not Tess, Claudia or Darcey-they have to sort themselves out-although they quite often have to shorten Claudia’s frocks as she’s so diddy.

This is a selection of the dresses I saw and wherever possible I’ve accompanied them with a picture of the celebrity wearing it in the series.

 

Anastasia wasn’t in the series for that long but several of her dresses featured and they are interesting because they were made from ready made basques which were bought on the high street and then customised. She liked a slinkier silhouette so they had lots of fringing and were heavily embellished with crystals by Ash who does most of the stoning and you’ll hear Vicky singing his praises on SCD ITT on a Thursday night regularly.

 

 

 

This black Guipure lace with baby pink lining was worn by Laura Whitmore, it was such a pretty combination. Theresa told us that Vicky gets sent samples of all sorts of fabrics and last season there was a lot of heavy laces which aren’t traditionally used in ballroom dresses. The dress worn by Oksana dancing with Judge Rinder was also lace although it was a more ‘fun’ dress. Because lace doesn’t stretch like the other fabrics used it would often have to be cut in small segments for the fitted bodices and pieced back together over body curves.

 

 

I loved this pretty dress Oksana wore in a peachy shade with heavily-crystalled bodice and neckline. We were lucky enough to see her wearing this dress for real in the second week because she and her husband came on board. It’s an example of a bodice and skirt which Vicky uses quite often because of the flexibility it offers by being adaptable and getting a good fit in double-quick time.

IMG_0559
Oksana in her ‘Prom’ dress in the on-board fashion. show
Judge R Flintstones
The white Flintstones dress was interesting close up, it was lots of feather-shaped pieces sewn on singly to strips of elastic which, in turn, were stitched to a white leotard.
IMG_0021
The ‘feathers’ look really effective but were, apparently, a real pain in the neck to sew on.

Theresa told us how all the dresses start out on the base of a leotard, everything is made from scratch so they have a huge range of colours and fabrics at their disposal, almost all of them stretchy to allow full movement. They have bra-cups in them when needed, or made in such a way that the dancer or celebrity can wear their own bra under it,  invisible straps or flesh-coloured mesh. The celebrities usually start out quite shy and want to be covered up but as they progress, and often slim down a little, they become happier to expose more flesh.

Louise Rednapp was a good example of this. She didn’t want anything figure-hugging at the beginning (even though she has an enviable figure!) but by the Final she was much more confident about herself and her abilities and her outfits got more revealing.

IMG_2481
Louise’s Argentine Tango dress

Louise Argentine Tango

 

This is Louise’s show dance dress from the final in a lovely grey and pink combination. You can also see that it’s been the victim of a mishap at some point because the front decoration has been damaged. The dresses frequently go overseas on loan to other versions of SCD and, although they shouldn’t, they often fiddle with or alter the dresses.  This particular dress got sold to a passenger on the cruise so the front will be rectified before she takes delivery. Louise showdance

Because the dresses are so stretchy they will fit anyone from a size 6/8 up to about a 14 which can be useful during the run of the show. Dresses which are heavily embellished are extremely costly both in terms of crystals used and the man hours making them so one garment could cost as much as £2000! These dresses (if they don’t get sold) are frequently recycled in later series by using the bodice and/or skirt on a new outfit. Unless your very eagle-eyed though I doubt we’d recognise it. I was fascinated to learn that the dresses will all go into the washing machine! on a gentle cycle mind you, and not the ones with feathers on, they get carefully hand washed.

 

Greg and Natalie
Natalie Lowes and Greg Rutherford dancing a Samba
IMG_0013_2
Close up of the stoning on one of Natalie’s outfits

IMG_0017_2IMG_0020_2

IMG_0014_2
these are strings of bugle beads which are glued in position. It’s used to give a lovely feathery or swishy effect but is pretty time-consuming.
Natalie samba
The outfit in action, it was memorable because Natalie managed to finish up with the skirt up around her waist by the end of the dance!!

 

Natalie’s dress from Movies week when she and Greg danced to the theme from Robin Hood, Prince of Thieves.Natalie Robin Hood

Theresa told us that Natalie always likes a belt or sash to emphasise her waist.

 

black and white dress

This dress is one which featured in the group dance at Blackpool so it’s one of about 12 the same or very similar! It’s a lovely example of stoning too, as is the dress below .

 

IMG_0016_2
More fringe beading on Oti’s show dance dress, it was amazingly heavy!
Oti red dress
Oti Mabuse and Danny dancing in the Final.

This is an example of a dress which will be reused sometime in the future because of the the amount of work in it, even though it is essentially a tube of stretch fabric. When Oti came on board during the second week she brought with her another of her dresses from the Final.

 

This one was also extremely heavily stoned, probably one or two days work alone!Oti showdance

The crystals are applied by picking each one up individually on a small stick which has a blob of bees wax on the end and then glued on. Ash has several people who help him but it still takes HOURS.

 

When Oti and Danny danced their jive (I think…) she wore this heavily-stoned two piece in green, a colour that she wasn’t very keen on. It was green because the dance had a snooker hall theme so it was the colour of the baize. Another factor that Vicky Gill must take into account every week is that each couple has a different colour from one another so that there shouldn’t be two shades the same or too similar, to give a balanced look to the show. It’s one of those things that the audience wouldn’t even think about probably.

I’ve got loads more pictures and interesting info to share so I’ll finish this blog here and write up a second one, that way you don’t get Strictly overload! I’ve got lots more insider facts to come yet…

All the information I’ve shared here is as I understood it from the guided walks and fashion shows that I was fortunate to take part in. If you know any of it is incorrect or misleading in any way please let me know so that I can rectify that.

Most photos are my own, others were sourced from Google images,

Until next time,

Sue

Visiting the Henry Moore Foundation

Back in March I made a flying visit to see the Burberry 2017 A/W collection which was being displayed to the public in Soho at the Makers House. It was a wonderful  collaboration between the long-established design house and the Henry Moore Foundation in Hertfordshire which resulted in some beautiful, wearable and covetable clothes. You can read that blog here 

I’d visited the Foundation at Perry Green about 4 years ago with a GCSE Art group from the school I worked in at the time and really enjoyed it so, having been reminded of it in March, I thought another visit on a sunny day was a must.

My friend Janet and I had originally planned to go to the Tate at the end of May for the David Hockney and then whizz on to the newly opened Balenciaga exhibition at the V&A but, in the end, the day promised to be too darn hot to travel into London so we came up with plan B, and I’m so glad we did.

The Foundation is set in beautiful quintessentially English countryside and it comprises of the home that Moore lived in from 1940 until his death in 1986 and surrounding it are acres of gardens and fields where his monumental work is displayed exactly as he’d intended. He had numerous studios and workrooms scattered about the site in which large quantities of the maquettes, tools and preliminary works are on show, much as he left them in most cases. Since I last went they’ve now built a fabulous new visitor centre with a classy  shop and a seriously gorgeous cafe overlooking the gardens which, on a glorious sunny day, was idyllic.

IMG_2361
The view from the cafe terrace

In all honesty I’m very far from knowing anything much about sculpture so I’ll just share some of my photos that I took on the day. You could easily spend most of a day here because the grounds are extensive and you’re free to roam around them, you can take a guided tour of Hoglands, the house Moore and his wife Irina lived in which is still filled with his personal belongings of books, ethnic artefacts, paintings and other objects, and it’s where he ran his business from too (he never had an agent so if you wanted to buy a Henry Moore you dealt directly with him) Many influential world figures visited him here. Moore was never knighted, he was the son of a Yorkshire miner and one of eight children so he was a Socialist all his life but he did receive an Order of Merit (OM) of which he was very proud.

There is a large modern exhibition space which features a new show every year, as well as an ancient barn which he had dismantled from elsewhere and reassembled on the site, it now contains some fabulous tapestry versions of several of his paintings.

aisled_barn
The Aisled Barn at Perry Green containing tapestries of Henry Moore’s sketches. 

Many of the objects in the workshops were the springboard to the garments within the Burberry collection, especially his blue and white striped aprons which cropped up as ultra-longsleeved T-shirts which I loved.

IMG_1319
copy-cat sleeve on my Zierstoff Sophie T-shirt

It’s lovely to wander in the fields alongside the sheep which are so integral to the overall effect of his work-they’ve rubbed the bronze with their fleeces over the decades so that it’s very shiny at sheep-height! Moore loved to watch the sheep from his window and sketched them over and over again. You’re free to touch any of the external sculptures too which makes a refreshing change from “don’t touch!” Incidentally the sheep were a direct inspiration for the Burberry collection in the form of beautifully sculptural Aran-influenced knitwear. Henry-Moore sheepimg_1157

img_1159
One of Moore’s sculptures at the Makers House in March

IMG_2391IMG_2396

IMG_2394
See what I mean about the sheep?
Henry Moore
Henry Moore in front of ‘Sheep Piece’ which resembles a ewe and lamb.
IMG_2404
Interacting with the art!
IMG_2369
This one is inside one of the studios

 

IMG_0615
This is the same arch as the bronze one above except this is stone and it’s in Hyde Park, London with Kensington Palace behind….and a stork sitting on it! I took this photo at the end of December 2016.
IMG_2398
Far away….
IMG_2386
and close up!

IMG_2384

IMG_2385
Janet is petite but this gives you a sense of the scale of many of the largest pieces.

So that’s a few photos of a lovely day out, and I urge you to go if you’re at a loose end in the area although you’ll definitely need a car as it’s very rural. There’s a pub next door too if a cafe doesn’t quite cut it for you. If you’re a really serious art buff then the archive is on site too although I guess you need to make an appointment for that.

I’m so glad I’ve been because it’s created the link between the show I saw all those months ago and also it’s made a real change from being indoors looking at art!

I haven’t written a blog in ages but there are a couple in the pipeline, I know this isn’t directly about my sewing exploits but I wanted to share my thoughts on this visit because it brings together two of my greatest interests-sewing and art.

As ever, all views expressed are my own and most photos are my own too, the rest were collected from Google images.

Happy Sewing (or not!)

Sue

 

 

When do you use those other fancy stitches your sewing machine has?

I’d already made a The Maker’s Atelier Holiday shirt recently which you can read about here and I’d got a second cut out ready. This second one was a soft cotton voile (or muslin, not entirely sure) which my elderly neighbour had gifted me a while back and I cut it out as part of my batch-cutting binge. I didn’t realise it at the time but she’s since told me that it’s Liberty which makes it even more special. I asked her why she’d never used it but she said it was “just one of those things”, it just never happened.IMG_1291IMG_1293

I started making up the blouse as before but this time I fancied changing it up a bit by using one of the range of stitches my ancient Elna 7000 machine offers.

Does your machine have loads of these embroidery stitches that you’ve never used? I’m curious to know whether having all these extra stitches was a reason for you to choose a particular model? trying out machine embroidery or quilting perhaps? [and I’m not talking about utility stitches that help with construction and finishing here, purely decorative ones] were you persuaded by an enthusiastic sales assistant, or a bargain price, to go with a more complex machine than your needs or skills warranted? I think it’s so important to be able to test machines and compare them before buying, and the internet makes it much easier to compare reviews than ever before. When I bought my Elna well over 25 years ago I was working in the dress fabrics department of our local John Lewis where we had two wonderful ladies who were employed by Elna and Brother to demonstrate the machines and give individual lessons. This gave me the luxury of taking my time and seeing the different machines in action before I eventually bought an ex-demonstration model which cost me nearly £500 then!! It was money well-spent though I’d say. If you’re new to dressmaking but aren’t sure that it will become a life-long hobby then there are some terrific machines available in the £120-£160 bracket, if you want it to be lifelong then you may choose to buy one machine now for the long-term and up to £500 would easily be enough to spend and get a good quality machine for it. If you have bags of money then you could spend waaay more than that-it’s up to you entirely.

IMG_4930
This is my machine when it came with me to the Sewing Weekender last August.

When my two girls were little I did use some of the stitches, little ducks, flowers etc and when my eldest started school her summer dress featured patch pockets with ‘LEFT’ and ‘RIGHT’ written across the top of them! But that’s 22 years ago so not very much use since then…

IMG_1757
These two rows of illustrations rotate to show all the stitches available.

IMG_1756

I tested a few that I thought would look nice around the collar, in a couple of different shades of blue, to see which I fancied best.

IMG_1681
Initially I liked the little triangles but I wasn’t sure I could get it to fit accurately to turn the corners which wouldn’t have pleased me at all.
IMG_1682
I tried out the blanket stitch on a corner and it was much more satisfactory so I decided to go with that.

Once I’d settled on the blanket stitch I made up the collar and embroidered it, I decided to add it to the sleeve hems too. I made the blouse up exactly as before after that.

IMG_1685
Blanket stitch on the collar
IMG_1686
…and on the sleeves.
IMG_1687
Finished Holiday shirt.

It might not be the most exciting use of embroidery stitches but it’s a start and I think it looks rather pretty. Do you use any of the stitches like this that your machine offers or were they a big lure to buy the machine to start with but then are actually redundant? I’m curious to know.

I’ve got plans to make at least one more Holiday shirt with some chiffon I bought at Birmingham Rag Market last year too, that will have to wait until my next batch of cutting though!

Happy sewing,

Sue

‘Sophie’ bolero PDF from Zierstoff patterns

After the success of my first Zierstoff PDF pattern (the Sue which you can read about here) I was keen, as soon as time allowed, to try another style. I opted for an intriguing-looking bolero called Sophie which has a lovely slouchy shape.

This time I didn’t have any trouble printing the pattern either, I simply checked I had it in the correct rotation by printing the first page off, it was right so I printed the rest of the pages. The Sophie pattern only needs 7 sheets of A4 too which is amazing! At £4.80 it’s very good value too. IMG_1706

As I described in the previous blog Zierstoff uses a system of rows and columns which is extremely simple to piece together. You might notice that a few of the lines aren’t quite in alignment but that’s more about my printer than their system I think. There are only TWO pieces to this pattern! The whole jacket and two sleeves (OK that’s three but it’s only 2 pattern pieces!)

I didn’t have any suitable fabric in the ol’ stash so, as I had a Saturday that didn’t feature any specific plans, I went up to Walthamstow to see if the fabled ‘Man Outside Sainsbury’s’ had anything suitable. I actually combined it with a visit to the William Morris Gallery which is a 10 minute walk from Walthamstow station and well worth the effort. It’s the house he lived in as a teenager, it’s surrounded, now, by a lovely public park and has some modest but very interesting and informative galleries about him and his life’s work.

IMG_1688
William Morris Gallery, Walthamstow, London

IMG_1689IMG_1693

Once I’d spent an hour or so absorbing culture I headed back up the road to the by now busy and vibrant market. Walthamstow has, over the years, become a very diverse and multi-ethnic area which means there are a wealth of varied and fascinating shops and stalls selling all manner of things. My primary interest though is the fabric and haberdashery shops and stalls, of which there are several. Karen at Did You Make That? blog has produced a downloadable map here which is helpful. Even though it isn’t that recent I believe most if not all the shops and stalls are still there.

I was quite restrained this time and only bought things I ‘needed’ including plain cotton lawn for lining at £2 per metre from TMOS and a patterned lightweight denim from him too. I got the double-knit jersey for the Sophie bolero from Saeed’s fabrics, and finally I got 5yds of teal polyester with a fan print on it from Classic Textiles for £1 per yard!! [they price in yards and metres, metres is dearer and I wanted a straightforward £5-worth…simple as that!]

IMG_1705
Teal polyester crepe, lightweight denim and the double-knit jersey with fine stripes on the reverse.

I got the last 2 metres of the jersey which was more than enough because the main body and sleeves of the bolero fit in a little over a metre (smaller sizes would take even less)IMG_1710

Because the fabric is double-faced I thought it might be a good idea to use a flat-fell seam which would mean that the bolero could be reversible.

IMG_1714
On the left, sew the seam on it’s correct seam allowance then trim down one side to approximately 4-5mm. Press the longer edge over the trimmed on folding the raw edge under to enclose it. On the right, stitch close to the folded edge to secure. This is traditionally the seams used on jeans. I used a very slight zigzag on my trial seam but I then used a straight stitch on the actual bolero.

You can only really use flat-felled seams in applications where you’ve got complete and easy access to where you’re positioning it because of the method of construction [if you look at the legs of a pair of jeans the flat-fell seam will be either on both outside legs OR both inside legs, not both]

Sewing the bolero together is a doddle because there are only 4 seams, 2 sleeves and 2 side seams so (even quicker if you’re not using flat-felled seams!) it goes together in no time. I chose to neaten the edges by turning the striped side over to the patterned side to give it a contrast.IMG_1727

I also added a little marker to the CB neck so that I know which way up to wear it! It’s a bit tricky to tell the difference otherwise…

IMG_1729
marker to show the top! ‘This way up’

So I’ve finished up with a super-quick, reversible bolero which will be really handy on holiday because it will roll up small and come out largely unscathed.IMG_1723IMG_1725IMG_1722

IMG_1719
Stripy side out

Have a look at the Zierstoff website if you’re a fan of sewing jersey because they have a variety of patterns as styles specifically for knits. I’ve been generously given this pattern to test but the opinions I’ve expressed are entirely my own-I always try to be honest about the patterns I try out because I think it’s not in anyone’s interests to make statements which I don’t believe in, aren’t instructive or could be misleading.

Happy sewing

Sue