28 July 2010

Bright Star

People ask me how and why I suddenly made the decision to take up sewing, and I can pinpoint the moment exactly to one evening in November when I walked down to my local cinema to see Jane Campion's Bright Star. As I sat in the auditorium waiting for the film to begin, I was thinking about how I wanted to take up a craft come the new year, to put my hands to some use other than typing. As the lights went down I was considering pottery, but from the opening shot of the film - an extreme close up of a needle being threaded - my mind switched to stitching and the decision had been made.

The opening titles feature intimate shots of needle and thread, as Fanny quietly stitches the extravagant collar she will later emerge from the house wearing

I'm sure many of you will have seen the film, but if you haven't, and you're reading this blog because you love sewing, ahhh... you've got such a treat coming! Bright Star is about the passionate, short-lived love affair between John Keats and the girl next door, Fanny Brawne. While Keats' poetry is of course central, no less prominent is Brawne's own craft of dressmaking. The fabulous costumes don't just appear from the props cupboard: we see her working on them from design right through to the reveal at society events.

"This is the first frock in all of Woolwich and Hampstead to have a triple pleated mushroom collar"

Her character is first introduced as "the well-stitched little Miss Brawne, in all her detail". She is mocked by Keats' best friend for being a slave to "flounce and cross-stitch", a frivolous hobby in counterpoint to the more "serious" musings of a poet. However, while the poet friends struggle against writer's block and gain little respect (let alone income) for their work, Fanny consistently - and quietly - turns out beautiful pieces.

My personal favourite of Fanny's creations

Fanny sews to express not only her youthful style, but also love and grief. Keats' unlined coat is a constant source of concern for Fanny (and will eventually be the death of him); and when his brother dies, Fanny offers her condolences not in words but with an embroidered pillow case.

"She stitched it all night long"

The film is a real stitcher's paradise, not just because of the theme and narrative: the cinematography displays a wonderful sensitivity to fabric texture. Don't be alarmed if you're tempted to glide your hand over the screen... or at least have a sudden urge to go fabric shopping...

25 July 2010

Vogue 8280: An appeal

Was just about to get started on Vogue 8280, but when I opened up the envelope I was chargrined to find that most of the instructions were missing. Grrrrr...! I'm not quite at the stage yet of being able to work through a pattern without the instructions, so this is a setback. Does anyone have this pattern and feel like photocopying sheets 2 and 3 (pp.3-6) for poor little moi?

Not a great ending to what's been a pretty good week off work. I didn't go away, but I did:

- drink my body weight in Pimms
- pet an owl
- make a mix tape
- watch a medieval jousting reenactment
- dance vigorously to Boom Shack a Lak
- swim in the lido
- discover that Sergeant Pepper makes a great running soundtrack
- sew a red + white check tablecloth and eat pizza off it, shouting in a rubbish Italian accent
- watch a lot of Seinfeld

So all in all a very productive week!

Update: Thank you so much to both Sue and Rachel for sending me the instructions!

24 July 2010

Help! Baggy pedal pushers!

Blogosphere, I am calling on your advice and guidance once more. So I'm trying to make these pedal pushers from Simplicity 4255 (from 1953 - already made the blouse, which you can see here). They look okay from the front, but the backs of the legs are a bit wrinkly and saggy.

Front view is okay...

Shame about the back!

It'd be good to make them a bit more fitted, but my derriรจre isn't exactly small so if I take the back in any more it's going to look a bit... erm... rude. More importantly I won't be able to sit down very comfortably. What do you think? Can you tell me why they've gone wrinkly?

Clown trousers!

When I first started, this seemed like it was going to be a quick project and an easy way to use up the denim left over from my Beignet skirt. I made the pattern up in Swedish tracing paper to begin with, but the leg seemed a little tight, so I cut the denim extra big. But then they ended up like clown trousers! See comedy photo above. So I stitched them smaller... and then smaller... until I had a fabric palimpsest of various lines and stitches. The pattern also called for soft pleats in the waistline, which would look great in a softer fabric (on trend, even) but in denim it was causing some ballooning, and I didn't want to end up with a pants tent, so I put in some darts for more definition. But still I can't seem to get them to look right.

The original inspiration for these was Dorothy Malone in Written on the Wind. I also love both Janice's loose fitting linen capri pants and Katikando's tighter denim ones, but mine are a kinda cross-between both at the moment and not really doing it for me.

So what do you think? Is there a secret method of making the fit look better? Or have I just been staring at them too long and they don't look so bad after all? Am I working in conflict with the pattern, trying to make what are meant to be loose pedal pushers fitted? Maybe it's the denim - should I try again with linen or chambray and leave them loose? I'm going to put this project away for a few days so I can return to it with fresh eyes - and hopefully some fresh perspectives from you, my internet friends...

20 July 2010

Granny chic skirt

"You never can tell what someone is going to choose...", muttered the young and trendy lady at the till in Oxfam, as I presented my haul of grandma skirts and handed over my £3.

While in the past I've had little luck the clothing section of charity shops (thrift stores), rarely finding anything in my size, with my new sewing skills at the ready (and constant inspiration courtesy of Marisa at New Dress a Day), there's nothing holding me back - no garment can be too frumpy! At least not in the before shot...

Not even 100% polyester fabric ... at least the seams won't fray, so there's not need to finish them (my least favourite part of sewing) - hurrah! 

All I had to do to make this skirt wearable was take in the sides a little, take up the hem a lot, and Bob's your uncle. 

Isn't it pretty?

[Soundtrack: 'Peggy Day' by Bob Dylan. Today's snaps were taken in Brockwell Park's enchanting walled garden]

16 July 2010

Who wants to go to an exhibition?

Thanks to the inimitable Carys at La Ville Inconnue for her post about the Horrockses Fashions: Off the peg style in the 40s and 50s exhibition which is currently on at the Fashion and Textile Museum in Bermondsey, London. Eek! I'm itching to go! Any Londoners or people nearby fancy a blogger rendez vous? Maybe a Sunday afternoon in August? If you're interested, email me on tillyrose [at] gmail [dot] com, saying which dates you can do and I'll pick the date when most people are available.

*ooh I should add that Saturdays would be fine too and even next weekend (last weekend in July) is a possibility*

13 July 2010

Tidying up

A week ago: my stash was getting a little out of hand, piled up in a corner of boyfriend's office. Drastic action was required and sharpish...

Ta-da! So that's why they call them "storage solutions".

Let's take a closer look at the sewing section ... and my fabric stash - not bad for 6 months' worth of a hobby...

10 July 2010

Recent acquisitions

I finally made a pilgrimage to Ikea and scored some lovely fabric for £3/metre. The first one is an upholstery type of fabric (for want of a better description - I must learn me some fabric types!) which I think will make a nice winter pencil skirt with a silky lining. The other three are all quite lightweight cottons, so I'm thinking full summery skirts or simple shift dresses. Any ideas? Busy prints are a good excuse to break out the easy, clean line patterns!

Word up to Liisa, a reader who approached me on the tube the other night, having recognised the bow belt I was wearing. Turns out she lives on the same street as me! Sorry I was a bit flustered, I was a bit embarrassed to be spotted engrossed in... erm... Twilight rather than some intellectual tome!

5 July 2010

A 1970s feel Beignet

Here she is! My favourite sewing project so far, Beignet skirt from Colette Patterns. I made it in a gorgeous bright blue denim that I found on my shopping trip with Debi, a denim which made me think of the 1970s (in a good way) and went wonderfully with amber-yellow accents. As I've come to expect from Colette Patterns, the instructions are refreshingly clear and the pattern a joy to work with. The only thing I'd say - as some other bloggers have noticed with these patterns - is that I needed nowhere near as much fabric as it said I would. In fact, I barely used half of what the instructions told me I'd need.

I learnt that denim is really easy to work with, once I'd invested in some sturdy needles. But once I'd applied the facing, the skirt became really bulky, not to mention very blue. I started thinking to myself, "Next time I make this, I'll use a contrast cotton for the facing," and "When I become a more experienced seamstress, I'll think about these details ahead". And then something happened which I can't really explain - with uncharacteristic patience, I proceeded to unpick the whole facing, unpick the side seams, unpick the pockets, layout the pattern pieces on some leftover fabric from my first sewing project, cut them all out again, and go through the whole process of sewing the facing and pockets all over again. I really don't know what came over me, but I am so happy with the result!

[Soundtrack: 'Band on the Run' by Wings - the band The Beatles could have been...]

3 July 2010

Sneaky peek of the Beignet that never was...

The skirt I'm about to rip apart...

... and the new vision

Now that I've declared the new plan on the blogosphere, there's no going back! Right, better make myself a motivational cup of coffee...

[Soundtrack: "Foooootbaaaall!"]