10 Reasons Not to Miss The Great British Sewing Bee Live plus 5 pairs of tickets – FREE GIVEAWAY!

GBSB live logo

Are you a sewing-obsessed, GBSB fan like me? Do you love fashion and vintage and tailoring and dressmaking… and Paddy?

In case you haven’t been party to this hot piece of sewing news, buzzing around the blogosphere, read on for why you should totally be at the UK’s biggest, most exciting new dressmaking event at ExCel London, 21-24 September this year. I am talking all things Great British Sewing Bee Live… Yes LIVE!

I spent last Tuesday morning at London’s Fashion and Textile museum, in a room full of superstar sewing bloggers, for an intimate audience with the legendary judges of the TV series, Patrick Grant and Esme Young. I know, right?! We’d been invited to hear a little more about what we can expect from this incredible event. And boy are we all in for a treat!

ooobop and didyoumakethat
Karen and I were just a bit excited to meet Patrick and Esme!

An audience with Patrick Grant and Esme Young is underway @fashiontextilemuseum. Fab crowd of colourful #sewing bloggers.

A post shared by Great British Sewing Bee Live (@thegbsblive) on

1. Patrick and Esme will actually be there, in real life, right there before our very own eyes

Contestants from past shows along with the bravest of audience members will take part in challenges live on stage. Jenny Éclair, comedian, writer and TV personality, will be your host and will ensure the nerves and mishaps are glossed over with giggles. What can possibly go wrong?!

Patrick was asked, “Will there be sewing hecklers at the #GBSBLive Super Theatre?

“I hope so” he replied!

To be honest I would buy a ticket just for this alone. But there’s more…

 

Patric Grant and Esme Young

2. Your chance to be a contestant!

Have you watched every episode, longing to be one of the contestants? Then here is your chance!

Click here to complete an application form. You just don’t know unless you have a go!

3. More than a hundred workshops

Hosted by your favourite contestants and other top stitchers and tutors, the hardest part will be choosing. Seriously, make a cuppa and get yourself comfy before clicking this link to all the amazing workshops on offer. The choice is insane!

Incidentally Patrick was asked who his favourite contestant was. He paused, with glint in his eye… he said, “I loved them all!” What a tease! “No one ever left early. It was always about who sewed the best challenge, not who was the best sewer.”

4. Live Demos

There’s a jam-packed programme of live demonstrations from well-known personalities from the world of sewing and dressmaking as well as contestants from the Great British Sewing Bee. You’ll get all the tips and advice you need to get you on your dressmaking journey, whether you’re a complete beginner or a seasoned professional there will be something for you.

All sessions will be free to attend and are offered on a first-come, first-served basis.

Janome sewing machine workshop gbsb live

5. Dressmaking drop-in clinic

We’ve all got a project or two in that pile of doom and defeat. Dig it out and bring it along to the drop-in clinic where one of our lovely sewing experts will help you to solve your issues and get you back on track.

It’s common knowledge how helpful the sewing community is. And it was really sweet to learn that Esme frequently got a telling off for trying to help contestants on the show! “As a teacher, It’s so difficult to watch people struggling.” Oh how I’d love to have Esme on tap!

6. Fashion Catwalk

From high-end fashion and couture creations to vintage designs, bespoke tailoring and wedding garments, it will be a feast of dressmaking fashion from both independent and larger pattern companies.

There’ll be three shows a day, free to attend on a first come first served basis, along with a daily showcase of garments from leading fashion and textile students.

catwalk gbsb live

7. 200+ (Yes 200+!) dressmaking and sewing suppliers

All your online favourites and more. This is going to be the best shopping trip ever ever ever!!!! Even Esme claims to have the most ridiculous fabric and button stash. She can’t help herself. If it’s beautiful, she just has to have it!

8. Garment galleries a plenty for your perusal and delight

This is your chance to get up close and personal with some of those amazing creations from previous shows. There will be a crazy collection of the garments from across the series, including some of the most stunning, the most stand out and frankly the most bizarre designs from the programme.

I wonder if it will include a certain pvc skirt that Patrick sewed for himself… ooops, did I just say that out loud?!

9. The Fashion and Textile Muesem: Liberty in Fashion Exhibition

Dennis Nothdruft (who incidentally Handmade Jane and I met at the Couture Inside Out exhibition and we can therefore advocate as brilliant) has curated a stunning exhibition of Liberty pieces: From romantic, densely patterned garments from the post-war 1930s to the Art Nouveau revival of the 1950s and Swinging 1960s, then Seventies Pastoralism with its characteristic smocking… I’d buy a ticket just for this too!

10. Bloggers delight

Asides from all the magic and mahem, inspiration and excitement of the above I truly believe that this super duper sewing event will also prove to be the best ever blogger meet-up you ever went to, like ever! And if you see me wandering around in a dreamworld, please stop me to say hello. I love nothing more than meeting my readers in real life.

Does any of that lot float your lil boat?

 

Designer and Sewing Bee judge Esme Young said: “Whether you’re a professional tailor or hobby dressmaker, fashion student or vintage fan, there’s something for everyone with a love of sewing, and even complete beginners keen to give it a go.  We hope visitors will leave the show inspired and full of ideas for their next dressmaking project. ”

 

So who’s up for a free pair of tickets then? I have 5 sets up for grabs and you don’t have to do anything more taxing than to subscribe to my blog (top right hand column under the ooobop logo, if you are viewing on a pc, or scroll to the bottom of your phone screen) and then leave a comment below. You have up until Friday 14th July 2017 when the giveaway will close. 5 lucky winners will be announced on Sunday 16th July.

Good luck everyone!!

And don’t forget to hop over to the GBSB Live website for all the latest info.

I’ll leave you with a picture of pure glee. The faces say it all!

See you soon, sewing lovers x

 

The Pencil Atelier at the Port Eliot Festival

port eliot wardrobe dept
The quiet before the storm!

I have just recently returned from the most exciting and inspiring 4 days away at the most amazing festival, ever – The Port Eliot Festival in Cornwall, UK.

Lucky old me was asked to join the Pencil Team to fuel the 80s theme and bash out some rara skirts for lots of festival goers who would then participate in the fashion show finale at the end of the week. It all seemed a little bit daunting at first, not least of all because raras aren’t the quickest things to whip up and with minimal resources and in a tent!

ooobop sewing at Port Eliot festival

But we did have leccy and we did have good fabric. Boy did we have a substantial stash! Sponsored by Chloe no less. No expense spared for our budding fashionistas!

fabric sponsored by Chloe

So the afternoon before the first session we arrived at a prototype. For Paul! A willing and most encouraging volunteer who was delighted to be my model and first happy customer!

rara_skirt_for_paul_1

The order of the day was raw and ready! Overlockers didn’t get a look in and hey, who needs a hem anyway?! We had 2 shifts a day–one for each rara–at the very least, times 7 sewists: 4 fashion students from the Glasgow Clyde college; 1 amazing consultant stylist; one very wonderful experienced seamstress/mother/grandma to everyone… and me!

Bumble teaching sewing

To emphasise the ‘raw’, we barely used scissors, save to snip the ends of the fabric before ripping near-as-dammit lengths for main skirt and flounce sections. I accounted for double waist measurement for the width and measured just above the knee for length. The measurements for the layers were guessed… and hoped!

lanyas rara skirt

So we started flat, gathering the flounces from bottom to top. But not a gathering thread in sight. Way too much faffing! We just pinched and manipulated those strips under foot and zigzagged into position, covering each layer of stitching with the next flounce above.

rara skirt in progress

When sufficient layering was complete, we stretched and sewed the waist elastic (measured comfortably stretched against the body) to the top edge of the skirt using a wide zigzag stitch – making a casing was taking too much time. If there was any excess fabric beyond the end of the elastic, it was simply trimmed off. Then there was just one back seam to stitch up.

Each skirt took about an hour and a half on the whole, including a lot of chatting and demonstrating and getting the children to have a go. Some were willing. Some were quite happy to sit and chat and have a bespoke skirt made before their very eyes. I know I would be!

rara skirts

Little Miss O was in charge of printing the designer labels!

designer Pencil Atelier labels

Every customer had their own ideas. How many flounces, what fabric combo and whether or not there were additional ribbons and bows. In fact it seemed the younger the customer the more determined they were to inject their own creativity. However much we tried to push the gold mesh it often got declined! They wanted pinks and blues and yellows. And oh the relief when only one frill was requested!

port_eliot_amelia

I can, hand on heart, say that the most amazing music to my ears was hearing that most of the pre-teen children I sat with knew how, or regularly operated a sewing machine. Mostly of their own! How refreshing is that. No surprise that it wasn’t from the teaching of schools or after-school clubs, but by the willingness of their fabulous grandmas. It really was so encouraging to hear. Sewing isn’t disappearing anytime soon, fellow sewingistas! There are grannies out there championing this all-important and special skill that so needs to be nurtured and that makes me sooooo happy.

These twin sisters were a prime example. They love making their own dolls clothes and hope to make their own clothes one day. Fashion student, Megan made the skirt on the left and I made the one on the right, independently, guided by each allocated twin.

The twins wearing their rara skirts

And the results were fascinatingly, coordinated!

rara skirts for the twins

The sewing sessions were fast and furious but no less creative and fun. So much so that immediately after each one we stayed behind when everyone had left to make use of the fabric and whip up our own outfits.

after hours sewing in the tent

It was such a delight to meet these Scottish student beauties. So much energy and passion for sewing and fashion. And so much fun to have around.

Fashion student outfits

Whilst rara skirts flew off the sewing machines at one end of the tent, hand-painted slogan T-shirts were being pegged up at a rate of knots! A massive resurgence of 80s brilliance.

And then, when the last session finished, and the chilled dandelion and burdock tins where handed out (ok, so maybe there was an odd swig of the strong stuff!) then it was time for the fashion show. Paints were cleared, and in their place, a spray of silk flowers were jiggled into a jug, and the models were prepped by Jenny, Ruler of Pencil!

Jenny Dyson backstage ready for show
Shot by amazing society phogotraher, Darren Gerrish – port Eliot Official

Just check out these amazing head-dresses made at one of Piers Atkinsons workshops! The single only downer for working at the festival was that I didn’t get to make one due to clashing of classes!

headdress by Piers Atkinson

head wear by Piers Atkinson

They were all so excited. rehearsing their moves: A flick of the hair, crossed arms, over the shoulder attitude, pouts galore, working those raras and T’s!

Hay bales outlined the catwalk and the music began. It was simply brilliant!

Pencil Atelier fashion show

pencil atelier fashion show

I felt a wave of emotion once the children danced off. And moreso when one came back to hug me and thank me and tell me it was her most favourite skirt in the whole world. I properly cried!

But moods surged the next day whilst taking photos at the Rubbish Olympics. Another amazing concept drummed up by Jenny! Human dressage, Egg and spoon race without said egg and spoon, pencil tossing, Zoolander musical statues and more. Quite difficult to photograph when you are splitting your sides laughing but here is one of my faves. They were ‘Best in Show’ of course!

Human Dressage
Human Dressage

Such a glorious place, such amazing creative people, such talents and inspiration. Port Eliot is such a magical place. I truly hope it returns next year. And I think you should all come too.

ooobop’s 20 ways to boost your SEWJO!

20 ways to boost your sewjo

You know how it is. One minute – all guns blazing, knocking out capsule wardrobes like they’re going out of fashion, the next – it’s all gone. Just like that. At the drop of a hat. You know – that thing that’s sent to try us – our sewjo!

So how DO we kick start the enthusiasm that was? Read on for some inspirational ideas to get those feed dogs chomping at the bit and hungry for more!

1. RTW window shopping

Have a wander round some local high street fashion stores and remind yourself why handmade and slow-fashion refashions are a far better way forward. Dodgy hems; crap fabric; poor fit; not forgetting the ethical issues… need I go on? But do take what IS on offer: Clock the styles you like, the colours and the closures, note the shapes, the trims, the sleeves, and burn them to your memory or better still, take a cheeky picture of two and store for future reference 😉

2. Pinterest

It’s an old fashioned concept in a digital format and it’s used by millions. Just search for inspiration and there’ll be a board ‘with your name on it’. I made a board called #inspirational fashion to post every thing I’d love to make, or be able to make! Make your own mood boards to pin or repin your favourite fashion finds, tutorials or sewing tips. And have a nosey on other peoples boards. But do be warned. This activity is highly addictive!

3. Movie Makes

Chill out! Where’s the fire? Remember it’s a hobby and the only deadlines imposed are callously created by you. So relax. Watch a movie. One with a prominent wardrobe! I personally like the oldies. As aforementioned, Shirley Maclaine in The Yellow Rolls Royce; Pick an Audrey Hepburn movie, Roman Holiday, Breakfast at Tiffany’s in fact any one you like or Marilyn if she’s your thing: Some Like it Hot and The Seven Year Itch are my faves. And Madmen is always flavour of the month. There’s a reason my Joan dress came about! The Devil Wears Prada, Sex and the City, Titanic…. there’s an endless supply and Netflix is mostly your best friend.

4. Glossy Mags

What do we look for first in a glossy mag? The fashion, of course. I confess that I rarely part with hard cash for a hard copy but a sesh at my hairdressers or any other waiting room becomes such a treat when theres a pile of them for your personal perusal. Vogue, Elle, Grazia, Marie Claire, all those high-end, sharp-edged glossies don’t scrimp when it comes to drool-worthy styling and photography. Dior, Chanel, McCartney and McQueen… they’ve got a top-paying ad after every article to fund fund them so no expense is spared. Re-snap those shots, Instagram them, Pin them, take notes in Evernote. You will feel the fire burning in your belly with every click! (I will have this dress!)

5. Meet up for real

Plan a meet up with sewing blogger pals in real life. It is so good for the soul and infinitely good for your sewjo. (I feel it prudent to warn about online safety issues but I’m assuming we are all grown ups) Like-minded sewing people understand. Friends and partners and children do their best. That’s the difference. Last Wednesday I spent the most pleasurable lunch hour with the wonderful Jax Black aka Mrs Bee Vintage. We talked without breathing, about a gazillion things sewing-related and I went home a far happier and inspired bunny. Most recommended – I swear by it!

6. Rummage and marriage

When was the last time you had a proper rummage in that fabric stash of yours? I mean a proper one, whereby you take every last piece out of every single box – one by one – spread it, stroke it, love it, admire it with a tilty head, ponder for a while, fold it up, and put it back again? Try simultaneously matching pieces with patterns in your collection and see if you can marry them together. I guarantee there’ll be a match made in heaven, you’ll see.

7. What’s on in your area?

Check out any exhibitions or fashion exhibits at local museums. Any period, any style, it really doesn’t matter. Better in fact to make a small departure from your usual comfort zone to trigger something afresh. And just take the time to study, properly. Close up and personal. I am so priviledged to have the V&A, The Fashion and Textile Museum at my beck and call. Handmade Jane and I spent a wonderful afternoon at the Fashion and Textile Museum, there in our white gloves inspecting the guts of such beautiful designer dresses as Chanel and Dior and Balenciaga. The workshop was Couture Inside Out –1950s Paris and London. Art galleries too: National Portrait and Tate galleries for instance. There is just as much fashion inspiration in a renaissance painting as there is on a glossy centre spread. (Just Google ‘renaissance paintings’, o ye of little faith.!) I love the silence of such places, the calm and the space. And more importantly how you get stripped of all niggling distractions the minute you walk through the door. It is proper therapy, I’m telling ya! And you will return to your machine, renewed and inspired.

8. Read all about it!

There’s a world of inspirational reading out there. Finding it is sometimes tricky. But when you do and it lights that spark that was struggling to flicker, the feeling is priceless. I have a few titles I’d like to mention: The Pink Suit by Nicole Mary Kelby as recommended by Didyoumakethat; Vivienne Westwood by Vivienne Westwood, totally recommended by me; The Dressmaker by Rosalie Ham (very soon to be screened in the UK) and Mrs Harris Goes to Paris by Paul Gallico as recommended by Dolly Clackett. Outside of the autobiographies and stories, you may want to seek inspiration from some of our favourite household bloggers: Tilly’s Love at First Stitch: Demystifying Dressmaking, Gerties Gertie’s Ultimate Dress Book: A Modern Guide to Sewing Fabulous Vintage Styles, Lisa Comfort’s Sew Over It VintageAnd when theres no ‘Bee’ on the telly, Claire Louise Hardy’s The Great British Sewing Bee: Fashion with Fabric feeds us some great challenges instead. I confess it’s been a shamefully long time since I set foot in my local library but the craft section is usually a cosy corner worth visiting and you get all that eye candy for free! But if finding time to read is tricky as it often is for me then Audible is definitely the way forward. This wonderful app has made it possible to me to listen to a book on the tube, at work, whilst jogging, in bed, in fact whereever and whenever you bleedin’ like!

9. Podcasts

A podcast is effectively an independently made radio show. And I always forget how good these are. My first intro to podcasts was Threadcult. Christine Cyr Clisset of Daughter Fish has such a natural interviewing technique and her content is varied and always inspiring. Tilly recommends Modern Sewciety. I love hearing how others got started, what fires them up and how far they’ve come. Seamwork Radio is a relatively new one but Sarai is a natural! Just like Audio books, you can listen on the go.

10. Join the club!

My first and my best and still my most favourite go-to sewing community is Burdastyle. I tentatively posted my first project on there before I knew anyone or very much about sewing. And I never looked back. The support and inspiration you get from such a world is amazing. Free patterns, great inspiration from other sewing people of every sewing level, the ability to interact and get feedback –and for FREE – is worth every minute invested. Other groups that spring to mind are Sewing Pattern Review, which does exactly what it says on the tin. A great place to check out a project before you get stuck in to your own; WeSewRetro which is my favourite resource for vintage and retro submissions and more recently The Foldline, a new, exciting and rapidly growing community of which I have recently signed up to. Join me here!

11. Fabric heaven

Take a trip to your local fabric store(s). No online store substitutes the therapy induced by real-life feeling and stroking and stretching (only in secret) and sniffing of fabrics. What? You don’t do that? Only me then! Allow yourself time. Wander slowly. Looking up, down, left and right AND behind the counter. AND move the front rolls to get to the back rolls. That all important fabric is waiting just for you. For that all important garment that you know nothing about just yet. But when it happens, its going to be jaw-dropping, show-stopping, envy-inducing. All you have to do is browse and let your imagination do it’s stuff.

12. Old news is good news

Who throws old copies of sewing/crafting magazines away? Not me! And I’ll take a wild guess at not you either! Put the kettle on, slip into your favourite jammies, blow off the dust and pile them at your feet. A cuppa and a browse of a Burda Style mag or two is guaranteed to inspire an idea or ten. If you are one of those less hoardie types I’m sure you don’t need a nod, but there are a gazillion great mags on the shelves of Smiths lately. SewLove Sewing, Sewing World, and Threads to name a few UK titles. Sign up and look forward to that monthly thud on your doormat. And then you can have piles like mine!

13. List lovers

Keep a running list of projects you’d love to make. Either digitally or the old-fashioned pen and ink way. Even if looks like you’ll never get a minute to yourself to follow through. You just never know when that moment will happen and when it does you will be prepared to seize the day with an inspired to-do list. Keep it on your person for when you are perusing the aisles of your favourite fabric store. It’s a penny-dropping moment in the making! If you’re bored of seeing the same old, same old on your list then rub it out and add something new!

14. Fashionary fashion

This is a fabulous little thing that I just love to have in my handbag at all times. It’s effectively a book full of naked croquis (body outlines) for you to create your own designs. Bring it out in your lunch hour; Have a go on the tube; whenever inspiration strikes sketch a garment on a pre drawn croqui. After all, that’s the hardest part, isn’t it? Drawing the croqui, that is.  I got mine from the V&A shop. Amazon stocks a slightly different version too. Or if you’d rather spend your money on fabric you could draw and photocopy your own croqui by tracing a photo of yourself, preferably in your undies so that you have a true representation of your silhouette. You could then photocopy multiple pages to form your own very personalised Fashionary-style book!

15. Party time!

Do you have an exciting event coming up? A birthday party, perhaps; a wedding; anniversary or just a blow out with a mate next month? Then picture yourself making your entrance in that amazing outfit you’ve been making in your head for months. The reception is raptuous and your pride is bursting at the seams. So do it. You can. And you will have that dress. And boy it will feel good.

16. Up the Tube

You Tube is a fabulous source for tutorials. My go-to for sure. If your sewjo is ever stuck in a rut because you can’t solve a problem, there’s a wealth of knowledge and selfless help out there just for you. And it’s mostly visual – no reading – which is always a win for me. I’m forever grateful that someone, somewhere in the world has hit upon the same issue and has the answer, a visual one. One I can pause and watch again and again, till it totally sinks in! You can subscribe to your favourite channels and keep up to date with your favourite teachers. And its all FREE!

17. Sign up

Join a class. Improve your skills. Learn a new technique. Meet some like-minded sewing people and make new friends. Have a look at your local authority adult-education classes, they’ll be the cheapest, or Google some private classes in your area. There’s plenty of classes in London  but feel free to add any from your local area in the comments below. My London suggestions are: Thrifty Stitcher, Sew Over It, London Fashion and textile Museum, Morley College, Badger and Earl, Tilly and the Buttons… If the going out bit is the issue there are plenty of brilliant online courses on offer too: Try Craftsy, Burdastyle Academy, or Angela Kane for starters.

18. Bloggers delight

I know this sounds blindingly obvious but actively follow the posts other sewing bloggers. Read about their experiences. Ask them appropriate questions. Tap into their enthusiasm and build yours. It’s what we’re here for!

19. Better to give…

If you are stuck for something to make for yourself, make someone else’s day! I’m all for selfish-sewing but once in a while it’s a great fix to make for a small child or a rellie or a neighbour instead. And it doesn’t have to be a garment. Christmas, birthdays, anniversaries… there’s always an occasion for a quick fix crafting project. Or just rustle up some stand-by pressies for the hellovit! A quick Google gets you any amount of free patterns. Bags, ties, toys, aprons, napkins, headphone cases, purses, hats… I could go on!

20. Never let go

Be your own inspiration. Remind yourself of how far you’ve come, why you sew and what you do it for. Was it the fit? The relaxation that ensued? The social side? Or the endless possibilities for the most amazing wardrobe of garments ever?! Just take a moment to reflect on the best thing you ever made. How did it make you feel? What more did you want to achieve then? Just do it, why don’t ya? Or take a break. You can do that too. Because as scratchy as we get, we’ve come so far there’s actually not much chance of going back. Sewing just gets hold of us by the short and curlies… and never lets go!

I do hope this post has been a helpful nudge in the right direction. Please share any of your other ideas by commenting below and by reposting or Tweeting to any fellow sewing people who’s sewjo may be in need of a boost.

What are your favourite movies, your best books or your most recommended courses? Where do you go to get your fashion fixes? We’d all love to know please!

Happy sewing my lovelies! x

 

Sewing Bloggers and Gaultier – The Perfect Rescue Remedy!

Anyone else bumbling through the school holidays? I’m quite exhausted to be honest. Don’t get me wrong. It’s lovely to see more of the children but trying to work full time and juggle child-share has had me a bit frayed around the edges this year. No holiday plans has meant no proper stretch of time off and though I’m quite used to that, I’m really not used to being so knacked that I don’t have head space to sew or even think about what I want to sew. Robbed of inspiration, I was. Until this weekend that is!

I’d almost clean forgotten that Roisin had planted a seed to go to the Jean Paul Gaultier exhibition at the Barbican on Saturday. So following a Tweeted nudge, I booked that there ticket along with a voucher for a cocktail. Well, it would have been rude not to!

The day began with an assembly and fashion parade of beautiful sewists at Goldhawk Road, of course. Emmie, Roisin, Amy, Marie, Katie, Jen and a lovely chance, fancy-seeing-you-here type meeting with Alana too! I usually arrive with a handbag and a relative amount of restraint when it comes to shopping in the Goldhawk Road. I live so near and my stash is so ridiculous that I can only justify purchases for immediate plans. And I actually have some of those, now, funnily enough.

Last week, Anne from Mercury Handmade so very sweetly sent me the August issue of Burda Style magazine which I tried so hard to get hold of and failed miserably. WHSmiths could offer no reason why they just weren’t delivered and then just when I’d given up Anne Tweeted that she had a spare and would I like one? What an absolute Angel! of course I would! And If that wasn’t enough she’d enclosed two gorgeous vintage patterns for me as a surprise. She is such a kind and generous lady and spookily knows exactly what I love.

vintage patterns tops

So I bought some fabric. I’m thinking the red leopard print and or the lighthouses for the wrap blouse. I’ll need something more drapey for the tie blouse. Oh, and I bought some shoe fabric, just because!!

fabric for blouse

The next three hours sped by and then we were en route to the Barbican for some divine inspiration!

We were greeted at the entrance by some iconic breton stripes and some freaky blinking mannequins! The live expressions were projected onto the faces of the otherwise static dummies. Quite distracting at first as we were more focussed on the faces than the garments. You get the idea from the pic below:

blinking mannequins

 

Gaulier crop top

But not for long. The outrageousness of the designs increased and the freaky faces paled into insignificance!

gaultier dogtooth allover

I shamefully realised how little I knew about this incredible man.

He was self-taught and got his foot in the fashion door by sending some of his sketches to Pierre Cardin. (Best I invest in a new Fashionary book!!) This exhibition starred 165 of his amazing garments spanning 40 years of his work

His very own first collection was released in 1976 and soon earned him the title ‘enfant terrible’ of French fashion. Street fashion was dominant throughout but the couture pieces were nonetheless exquisite and edgy at the same time.

I still have no idea why the man-skirt never took off. Teamed with some serious boots and those iconic stripes of course. Such a great look and one I’d be happy to wear today too!

Gaultier kilt

Of course there was a fine selection of construction corsetry and some incredible leather cage designs that I would so love to replicate if I even knew where to start!

Gaultier leather cage

I just love the shape of this coat and I marvelled at the gazillion green feathers that incidentally look as though they were hot-glued to the lining. Kind of puts the couture classification into question, don’t ya think? Or is that allowed?

Gaultier feathered coat

And check out this ‘pinstripe’ dress, which on closer inspection transpires to have thousands of mother of pearl buttons sandwiched in between pleats and encrusting the cuffs!

Gaultier mother pearl button dress

Gaultier button cuffs

I love a bit of contradiction. A spot of rule breaking. Rebellion even! A bit Like here where recycled camo is patchworked to a ball gown, complete with fishtail and adorned with dripping glass beads. Perfect.

Gaultier camo ballgown

And a clash of the tartans. Proper rule breaking. Love it!

gaultier tartan clash

But my favourite piece which has stuck in my head and clearly wont leave until I blatantly copy it, is the yellow tartan jacket with its wonderful sculpted lampshade silhouette. I was so desperate to touch but just knew I’d set of an alarm so I gently encouraged Roisin to stick her head up and see what was going on. She kindly obliged but alas the lining hid all!

gaultier yellow tartan jacketWe loved the pan-scourer/tin-can jewellery. And a further use for all your perfume packaging! There was even a shiny tea-strainer on the belt!

Gaultier jewelery

Of course there was the famous cone corset for Madonna’s Blond Ambition Tour of 1990 and also the amazing nude sequinned suit modelled so beautifully by Naomi Campbell but I still haven’t learned to turn off my data roaming and so my stupid i-phone ran out of juice at the crucial exhibits!!

The exhibition reflected his genius talent and humour at the same time without dropping an ounce of style. Though humour was evident by his starring role in 90’s Eurotrash. I loved that!

Two floors and 165 garments examined and discussed, we made way to the Gin Joint. Yes that’s right. A bar purely dedicated to gin. In the same building, with a great view and a menu of gins longer than both my arms! We had time to kill, you see. At least half an hour before the Gaultier Bar opened and where our cocktail voucher was valid. But there were no complaints. Just lots of ooos and arrs and a table full of pretty coloured gins! So enamoured by this place, that we came straight back for more after our cocktail, for truffle mac cheese… and another gin, bien sûr!

And it can’t go unmentioned that I now have taken ownership of the best loyalty card evs!!

Gin Joint Loyalty card

Alas the last day for John Paul Gaultier at the London Barbican is today, 25th August so if you are London-based and not shaking your tail feathers at Notting Hill Carnival, I advise it as the best place to keep out of the rain today . I’m just so grateful for Roisin for giving us the heads up in time and organising such a wonderful day which has totally inspired me to get back on that sewing horse and do what I love most. Thank you lovely lady. Thank you Anne and thanks to all you gorgeous sewing bloggers who make me tick!!

Couture Inside Out

I’m fresh back from the ‘Couture Inside Out – 1950s Paris and London’ workshop at the London Fashion and Textile Museum.

Must blog straight away for fear of forgetting anything! After all I forgot notebook and pen in the first place!

First treat of the day was that I got to meet and enjoy this experience with Handmade Jane. It’s always so good to have like-minded people to raise your eyebrows at, make ‘ooo faces’ with, and give knowing looks to, during a lecture!

It was a very informal 2-hour affair with such amazing content divulged by the lovely Dennis. We donned our white cotton gloves and prepared to soak up all the info we could.

The first thing I learned (and remembered) was the definition of ‘haute couture’. (please spare me if I’ve got this wrong!) It is a term used to describe the highest level of hand-sewn, bespoke garments, in Paris by a delegated team of incredibly experienced seamstresses to strict regulations. Interestingly enough it was a term that was originally associated with the fine work of Charles Worth who was an Englishman.

Of course we have couture in the UK but with much more relaxed rules, apparently!

As the garments were presented, on a white covered table, the polite student audience jostled for position to get a better view and a feel and a photo.

First up was Dior. A gasp as the two Dior creations were revealed from under the tissue.

The fact that both were aged: faded, stained and torn, did not deter from the unanimous awe.

Both dresses were in two pieces which was intriguing. Nothing like a skirt and a top. So much clever scaffolding with fine underskirts attached to the bodices. No waist-stay required.

dior cream dress

Every little bit of both of these dresses were hand-stitched!! Including the tiny rolled hems on all the chiffon layers. Beggars belief!

Please excuse the fuzzy photos taken on a phone whilst being too polite to jostle too much!

dior embroidered dress

dior embroidered dress detail

Next up was a later Dior in a really heavy weight fabric. I will be looking at furnishing fabrics in a totally different light from now on. This was heavier than any curtaining I have ever felt.

It was laid out on the table, ready for inspection! A gorgeously shaped one-piece dress. Made for someone who clearly didn’t eat that much. The waist was super tiny. The seam allowances on the other hand were enormous. At least one and a half inches. All pressed open and hand finished. The fabric had a ridged, pin-tuck like texture. All the rows of which lined up perfectly on the side seams.

dior later dress

No lining, which was a surprise. Though the dress was underlined and interfaced.

dior dress inside

Chanel then graced the table with black contrast dress and two piece skirt suit. Both very classically Chanel.

Chanel black dress

The bling was upfront and out loud on this one but only took shape as a collar detail and chain weight in the hem on the set below.

chanel skirt suit

Chanel only incorporated details if they worked and if they were functional. The little ‘petal’ pockets sit at the hemline, precisely centred with the seams. The chain weights are typically seen in Chanel hemlines. She was obsessed with the way that fabric hung and remained throughout wear and this little trick became one of her many signatures.

chanel_hem_weight

Far removed from the finer details of Chanel but not to be sniffed at, is the work of Balenciaga. This Spanish master draped most of his designs and employed much fewer seams than other designers.

This coat was A blooming Mazing. My rubbishy i-phone photos do not do it any justice whatsoever. Firstly the colour. Secondly the texture of this fabric… OMG. It was hand created to get this incredible effect. And yet the design remained oh so simple. I can’t tell you how much I want this coat!

balenciaga green coat

I didn’t care too much for Balenciaga’s Sarong Dress. But you gotta take your hat off to someone who incorporates so much into the under-scaffolding of something that fundamentally looks like a sarong!

balenciaga sarong

Now, will I get shot for not having heard of Courréges? Probably. As these designs were pretty iconic!

courreges blue dress

Jane got right in there! Impressed by those perfectly bound buttonholes.

courreges coat

Dennis couldn’t be sure of the fabric that this Pierre Balman dress was made. It kind of felt like the sew in canvas that I recently used to interface my jacket! But it was gorgeous and necessary to keep that amazing shape. There were cutouts trimmed with velvet at the hemline and on the sleeves.

pierre balman dress

Of course it goes without saying that every detail counts. Balman even ensured that his labels were mitred.

Pierre Balman labels

The following is a really bad picture of the Ellie Saab dress that Halle Berry wore to the Oscars for Best Actress, The Monsters Ball. In stark contrast to the dresses that were 50/60 years older you can see no seam allowances, no underskirts and no hand stitches to speak of. It is undeniably a gorgeous dress and she looked amazing in it, but it is incredible how standards have changed over the years!

Ellie Saab dress

I cannot for the life of me remember who designed this dress but the fine pleating in the linen was unbelievable. An underlayer of shimmering copper gave a depth to the translucent linen and you could also see where the pleating was tacked.

(Thanks to the lovely Angela, I can now confirm it was Sybil Connolly!)

pleated linen dress

detail of pleat dress

Just when you thought you’d seen it all, something very little left me lost for words. If you look closely at all those painstakingly sewn on eyes, you will see that they are all oversewn with thread!

bound eyes

Now it would have been rude not to have mentioned Zandra Rhodes creations at this very museum. She is the founder, after all!

She entered the fashion world as a textile designer and the following two garments are testament to her designs. I’d never be able to carry these off in a million years but you have to admire her total originality in the way that she designed around the design of the fabric instead of sourcing suitable fabrics for a pre-determined design.

zandra Rhodes tunic

Here is her Knitted Circle dress. So called because the fabric design is made up of graphic knitting stitches. I swear there is more fabric in one of the sleeves than in the whole dress!

Zandra Rhodes circular knitted dress

knitted circle design

Both Jane and I left the workshop in a fuzzy reassured kinda way. It made us proud that we hand made our own clothes, albeit perhaps not to the same level of lavishness but there was nothing on show that we could not have handled. Give us a year or two for a deadline and we would gladly knock one up. But perhaps we might delegate the binding of the hook and eyes to someone else!

I did wonder whether I should have posted in so much detail so as not to spoil the experience for future visitors but really, you have to be there to actually see it. You have to feel and you have to hang onto every word that Dennis speaks because he knows everything there is to know!

How my Elisalex ‘test garment’ happened!

So much has happened over this last week. Starting with last Saturday when Rachel hosted her massive meet up! There have been plenty of fine reports of that wonderful day so I am going to cheat big time and point you in the direction of here and here oh and here!

I will however post a few of the pics. Just because I think they are great and our photographer for the day, Digpal Singh deserves bigging up because he was amaaaazing!

Rachels meet up

Miss Demeanour and Me
Miss Demeanour and Me

Anyhoos. One of the meet-up missions was to shop till we dropped in the Goldhawk Road. By this time I’d been so excited to meet everyone, I clean forgot my fabric shopping list and got completely distracted by the presence of Elisalex dresses modelled so beautifully in real life by these lovely ladies:

Amy, Roisin (wearing Elisalex) and Nicole
Amy, Roisin (wearing Elisalex) and Nicole
Lovely ladies inc Tara (wearing Elisalex) on right
Lovely ladies inc Tara (wearing Elisalex) on right

So I bought this fabric with the Elixalex in mind. Got a great deal by tempting Roisin into sharing 5 metres of hefty, stretch-cotton floral with me. £12.50… bargain!

floral fabric for actual Elisalex dress

For those who have yet to discover this fabulous dress pattern (I’ve a feeling I might be one of the few!) It is so brilliantly and readily available from By Hand London. I loved meeting the brains behind this fabulous site on Saturday. Meet Charlotte and Elisalex herself.

Elisalex and Charlotte
Elisalex (left) Charlotte (right) also modelling the Elisalex skirt.

I ordered my pattern as soon as I got home that Saturday evening. A miracle given no of G&Ts that were consumed beforehand! And it arrived PDQ. I’m still so busy with work and there was little hope of me achieving anything else this week but I tell no lies when I say how quick it was to put together. The instructions are very clear and it really is such an adaptable pattern that will tranfsorm with any style skirt or sleeve option. And so here is my first ‘test garment’.

Elisalex test full length

I repeat ‘test garment’ because I had no intention of actually wearing this one out of the house. But Mr O insisted, if I wanted him to take the photos.

Elisalex test pleat

Why you ask? Because it’s made out of a Duvet cover! It’s a pretty 100% cotton, Ikea, duvet cover but bedding all the same! LMO insisted on an ice-cream so there was only one thing for it!  Elisalex test buying ice cream A trip to the local cafe, that sells what transpires to be the most delicious ice-cream ever!

Elisalex test licking ice cream

Elisalex test eating ice cream

I’m actually glad I wore it out. It was a good test drive. Whilst I’m completely smitten with this skirt style on everyone else, Mr O’s rendition of You Can’t Touch This, did nothing for my indecision! It does take a lot of getting used to. I kept the length… and it is quite long. But it does mean I have to take ladylike steps with a wiggly walk which I quite like. I also like very much, that despite the blustery weather, the wind could not blow this skirt up if it tried! Unlike my first summer dress of this year! Proper Marylin behaviour in that one! I Love the princess seams.

Elisalex test princess seam

And I adore the shape of the back… just pretend you didn’t see the bra strap!

Elisalex test back

And I just can’t wait to make the real one in the fabulous floral! I would now like to remove this song from my head. So please take it and enjoy! [youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=otCpCn0l4Wo&w=420&h=315]

Jubilations and hangovers!

I know it’s not sewing related but it would be a shame not to post a few pics about the lovely weekend we just had, celebrating the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee. This is the second of our neighbourhood’s street parties, since I have lived here and despite the typical weather, we all partied hard. Supporters of the Crown or not, you would really have to find a better excuse not to be sucked into and revel in the true spirit of our community. I feel so proud and honoured to live among such lovely people.

True to form, the ‘Villagers’ came out in force to present our now traditional parade in order of ‘The Little Lad of Brackenbury’. A lovely ‘legend’ (written and) performed by a local resident with supporting roles from friends and neighbours.

Incidentally, our ‘village’ is in West London and not in the countryside. Technically a village must have a post office to be called as such and Estate agents would lay claim to the fact that they invented the term (to sell houses at a greater price) but the truth is, the residents themselves have created it. Its all about the people and not about the buildings or the greenery (though we do have a lovely park too!).

So much thanks goes out to everyone who helped to make this such a wonderful event. The party might be over but the bunting is still up and the memories will last a lifetime!

Post War British Textile design

fashion and textile museum

Today, I took full advantage of my freelance status, ditched the children for a couple of hours and headed off to the Fashion and Textile Museum, near London Bridge, to see Designing Women: Post War British Textiles exhibition. What a totally self-indulgent treat!

The intro to the exhibition:

“Britain was at the forefront of international textile design in the 1950s and 1960s. The art of textile design radically changed after the Second World War and three women artists working in England in the 1950s were pivotal in this artistic revolution. The drab days of the War were transformed by the fresh, progressive designs of Lucienne Day (1917–2010), Jacqueline Groag (1903–86) and Marian Mahler (1911– 83). Designing Women: Post-war British textiles showcases their work beginning with Lucienne Day’s ‘Calyx’ pattern of 1951, featured at the Festival of Britain, and moving through textile commissions of the 1960s and 70s. The exhibition features more than 100 works.

Original artist designs with bold abstract pattern, as well as the use of saturated colour, marked a dramatic departure from conventional furnishing fabrics. This new wave of bold textile designs, helped to bring the influences of the art world, in its most recent, refreshing, and largely abstract forms, into the contemporary home.”

The influence of modern art is so strong in all the designs of this period. Its very easy to spot some iconic inspiration from Joan Miró, Alexander Calder and Kandinsky.

Lucienne Day, wife of Robin Day, was the most prolific and successful of the designers having kick started the ‘revolution’  with her ‘Calyx’ print in 1951.

'Calyx', Lucienne Day  1951
'Calyx', Lucienne Day 1951

Heals, though at first very sceptical, was her first client. The work was considered too modern but the risk proved to be a good and profitable move for both parties. Lucienne Day was the first artist to be credited on the fabric itself.

'Diablo', Lucienne Day, 1962/3
'Diablo', Lucienne Day, 1962/3
'Apollo', Lucienne Day
'Apollo', Lucienne Day
'Good Food', Lucienne Day
'Good Food', Lucienne Day
'Trio', Lucienne Day, 1952
'Trio', Lucienne Day, 1952

Lucienne didn’t limit herself to fabric, wallpaper and carpet design…

Tea/coffee set, Lucienne Day
Tea/coffee set, Lucienne Day

Jacqueline Groag was born in Czechoslovakia and emigrated from Vienna to London in 1939. She is one of the key designers in Mid Century Britain having worked with some of the foremost  textile manufacturers and retailers, including John Lewis, Associated American Artists and David Whitehead Ltd. She also produced laminated surface designs for British Overseas Airways Corporation (BOAC). The same company my mum used to make pilots suits for!

Untitled, (Traffic Lights), Jacqueline Goag, 1952
Untitled, (Traffic Lights), Jacqueline Goag, 1952
Untitled (Bottles), Jacqueline Groag
Untitled (Bottles), Jacqueline Groag

This ‘Pebbles’ design by Jacqueline Groag is so nostalgic for me. As I stood in front of it, it took me back to my home in the 1970s. I can’t be sure that it was exactly this design but similar enough to generate some serious flashbacks!  My mum had great taste!

Untitled (Pebbles), Jacqueline Groag, 1952
Untitled (Pebbles), Jacqueline Groag, 1952

Marian Mahler was Austrian and emigrated to Britain in 1937. As artist and illustrator she combined both skills to generate designs for the younger, yet sophisticated clientele who were looking to create a stylish home. The fabrics were mostly rayon or cotton and the roller printing process made for fast production and an affordable end product. I just love the birds!

'Bird Chair', Marian Mahler, 1952
'Bird Chair', Marian Mahler, 1952

The temptation to ‘touch’ was too much!!!

'Linear Flowers', Marian Mahler
'Linear Flowers', Marian Mahler
'Mobiles', Marian Mahler, 1952
'Mobiles', Marian Mahler, 1952
Untitled (Sails), Marian Mahler, 1952/3
Untitled (Sails), Marian Mahler, 1952/3

Paule Vézelay was a painter and her skills transferred beautifully to fabric design. So much so that I think a certain Ms Kiely looks to have drawn some serious inspiration, don’t you think?!

'Composure', Paule Vézelay, 1967
'Composure', Paule Vézelay, 1967
'Crescents', Paule Vézelay, 1956
'Crescents', Paule Vézelay, 1956

And I wasn’t expecting to see any of these fabrics in dress form but just look…

Marian Mahler, Linear Flowers dress
Marian Mahler, Linear Flowers dress

dress

I hope you have enjoyed this little preview. I do apologise for the quality of the photos. No flash photography was allowed so they are a bit grainy and really do not give any of the fabrics the justice they deserve!

Well, best I get on with my real work now… the downside of freelanceness!