25 May 2010

Let's make a mix tape!

Recently Alela Diane's album 'To Be Still' has been playing on repeat on my stereo. Apart from the beauty of the music itself, I realised that my obsession might be something to do with the sewing imagery in her lyrics:

The strong spines of valley hills all overgrown in gold
Look softer than a spool of old silk thread
['Grass and Shadows']

I think about the ladies who weren't allowed to sing
Sewing all their pretty rows of thread instead of seed
['The Alder Trees']

Tatted lace frail figure graced
That has since been torn and stained
And put so far away
Oh! So far away
['Tatted Lace']

Mary Van Note posted a comment on one of my previous posts that cited Alela Diane as its soundtrack, saying that she was also listening to Alela Diane as she read it. We got talking by email and I asked her if she could think of any other contemporary songs with sewing imagery in them. She mentioned Joanna Newsom (another musical love of mine, and I believe she's pals with Alela Diane...?), in particular 'Sawdust and Diamonds' which references crafting (or maybe taxidermy?!):

And the little white dove
Made with love, made with love
Made with glue and a glove and some pliers

Maybe we could put our heads together to compile a sewing mix tape! The blogosphere has connected me with lovely, creative people from all over the world, none of whome I've ever met, all with the same passion - wouldn't it be great to all be stitching to the same soundtrack (wearing our sewing machine necklaces!)?.

There seem to be lots of old blues and folk songs about the hardship of working in clothes factories or old grannies burdened with darning socks, but I think we should skip those (unless you know one with a particularly rockin tune or amazing lyrics) in favour of contemporary songs, and preferably stick to songs which have a more positive take on sewing. Or crafting.

Submissions, please!

23 May 2010

Happy day

Without wishing to turn this into a lifestyle blog or renounce my cynical (British) persona for a saccharine tone, please indulge me by letting me stray away from the sewing-related theme for one post to just say that things are looking up! The stress of the last few weeks has melted away, some great things are happening in my life at the moment, I've started running again, the sun is shining, isn't life just ace etc etc. Spent a lovely afternoon yesterday celebrating with myself, reading and snoozing in my beautiful local park and eating Amaretto ice cream (because I'm real classy) from Brockwell Hall: 

And having a stroll around my new favourite place, the walled garden in the middle of the park, a secret haven behind an unassuming rusty gate:

There are tons of scary dogs in Brixton so this sign is a blessing!

And as if I hadn't had enough excitement for one day, Rebecca at The Clothes Horse featured me in her inspired blogger fashion Flashback Friday piece! I love her blog so it was a real honour to be included.

[Soundtrack: 'Hooky Street (Only Fools and Horses theme)' being sung by my boyfriend in the other room]

20 May 2010

Pile of lovely things

Feeling frazzled today but reminding myself about these lovely recent acquisitions has cheered me up. The French pattern was a gift from a colleague (I was so touched!) and the buttons were brought back by my mum from her trip to Argentina. The floral fabrics and the scallop edge blouse pattern (swooooon...) are from Brighton. You may remember the turquoise fabric from a previous post on imaginary shopping (I couldn't resist Ray Stitch's recent 20% off promo). And as for the sewing machine necklace... well... no explanation needed for this little beauty :)

[Soundtrack: 'Blackberry Stone' by Laura Marling]

19 May 2010

And the winner is...

Myra! Wooooooop! Cocktail napkins - of course! One more reason for me to learn embroidery. Just one more pic from Novita for good measure:

12 May 2010

Novita + pattern giveaway

Doesn't she look just like Camilla Rutherford?

Just hanging out...

It's Audrey's Italian counterpart!

Drool... LOVE those gathers at the hip. A bit saucy, actually...

O.M.G. Reminds me of Jean Seberg's stripey dress in A Bout de Souffle

Random splash of colour

So the English are fashionable after all...

Mmm... Battenberg...

These pictures come from a an Italian fashion magazine from October 1952 that a friend in Rome kindly sent me. As if the pictures aren't enough, in the middle of the mag is a sewing pattern for a cute little top with what looks like a lace or embroidery bib piece. No instructions, rather some random little illustrations of popular American cocktails. Behold:

In fact, there wasn't just one pattern but two identical patterns inside ... which can only mean one thing: giveaway! It'd be good to have someone else working on this too so we can combine brain power to work out how it goes together (I know it's only a top, but the few words there are are in Italian!). If you'd like me to send you this pattern, leave a comment before Tuesday 18th telling me 1) what fabric and colour you'd make it in and 2) what on earth are those cocktails about?!

[Soundtrack: '81' by Joanna Newsom]

9 May 2010

Apples & plums

A couple of weeks ago I found this shirt buried deep inside a sprawling Brighton antique shop a shapeless behemoth of a garment with an asphyxiating collar, but in an amazing apples and plums print that made my heart sing. While the randomness of vintage shopping hasn't agreed with me in the past, with my new sewing skills at the ready I snapped it up with the words "upcycle project!" ringing in my ears.

To make it more shapely, I took in the side seams and added bust darts and contour darts at the waist and back.

I cut the sleeves down to three-quarter length, created gathers at the cuffs and finished the seams with bias binding (excuse the wiggly pen markings - they show how shamefully slapdash my sewing is!).

I cut the neckline into a more feminine v-shape and used the sleeve cuffs as the front collar! I also made some bias tape for a tie bow at the neckline.

I kinda made it all up as I went along - I know I don't look too happy in the photo (boyf was out so I was suspiciously eying up the self-timer on the camera) but I'm chuffed that it came off. Actually, I do look quite smug in this pic! Not working from a pattern has made my stitching confidence soar to new heights!

[Soundtrack: 'Dry Grass and Shadows' by Alela Diane]

3 May 2010

Quilt of Quilts





So... you're probably sick of me going on about the V&A this week but just two more things to tell you about and then I'll shut up, promise. Above are some of the public entries into the Quilt of Quilts microsite, developed to coincide with the Quilts 1700 - 2010 exhibition. Aren't they a delight?

I took my mum to the exhibition yesterday for her birthday outing (it's not a bowling ball present, honest!). The early quilts, some dating back as far as 1690, looked very modern, in colours such as teal, mustard and coral (or maybe they were faded primary colours?). In those days quilts were considered indicators of wealth. One of the 19th century ones had a window on the back through which you could clearly see that the templates used for the patches were recycled shopping lists and receipts. The exhibits were interrupted with the occasional modern piece by artists including Grayson Perry and Tracey Emin - conceptual works rather than functional or decorative objects. One of the most startling quilts was made recently by men in Wandsworth Prison, who found they enjoyed the meditative and calming effect of stitching, and, as one of them put it, the quilt demonstrated to his mum that he "hadn't completely wasted time in prison". 

When I emptied my bag this morning I realised I'd picked up an extra exhibition guide by mistake. Rather than stick it in the recycling, if any of you would like it, let me know and I'll put it in the post.

I can't really see any of these draped over my bed (I like the calming effect of taupe ticking stripes and grey flannel check on my sheets), but the idea of patchwork appeals to me (mmm... pretty colours...), so I might try to make a bag like Jessica's. Or maybe a patchwork skirt... or is that going a bit overboard?! Have any of you made any patchwork clothing?

While at the V&A, we also went to the Grace Kelly: Style Icon exhibition. The first outfit you see as you come in is a dress made from a McCalls home sewing pattern! The story was that Grace was dressing for a photo shoot with Prince Rainier when there was a power cut in the hotel, meaning that her outfit of choice couldn't be ironed. So she picked up a floral "easy to sew" number that she had in her room having modelled it for a 1955 pattern book. The rest of the exhibition featured some to-die-for shirtwaist dresses, a few dodgy 70s chiffon numbers, and, my favourite of all, a load of glasses! Yes, old Grace was one of us, a speccy four eyes. Hurrah!

The only glaring omission in my mind was the amazing dress she wore when she made her dreamlike entrance in Rear Window: