Wednesday, 9 September 2009

Sewing by the book

Sometimes we need some inspiration - well, I seem to need a lot of that commodity. And sometimes we find it through books and magazines.

I've stumbled across a couple of publications which I thought I'd pass on and then I'd search them out for myself too.

The first is a 'real' magazine in that you have to physically go and buy it. Tsk, but it's title was cute so I felt it best to pass on to my dear readers. Sew Hip was launched in 2008 for beginner and intermediate seamstresses (they say 'sewists' which is a step too far for me). Sadly they don't have many pictures to pepper my words with but here's one that will make Claire Montgomerie at montyknits squeek as her rabbit is having a little lie down on the cover!!

Next up is a rather more accessible publication as you can sit in your jammies (ahem) and read all about it. Threads is awash with observations and tips. Part of the appeal to me is that they give little crits of that week's Project Runway so I'm a very happy girl.

Maybe all the people who are asking me about sewing tutorials will get the bug and start (gasp) making their own clothes. Has it ever been done!!?

Tuesday, 1 September 2009

Autumn Fair Abney Hall Stoke Newington

As you may already know, I've now embarked on another page of the story with the set-up of MakeDoMend with Claire Montgomerie. We're looking forward to organising either tailored tutorial events in creative crafts or being more ambitious and helping in the organisation of hen parties to baby showers. We know that it's going to be quite a mission to let everyone know that we're ready and waiting for lovely ideas so we're booked to 'appear' at MakeLondon's Autumn Fair in Stoke Newington on 5 and 6 September. We'll be offering beginners' workshops in knitting and crochet and some wonderful cake decorating workshops too. If you go to the Make London website you'll get an idea of when the workshops are starting.
Many of those able to visit can already knit, crochet and all manner of things but maybe you have a friend who's been badgering you to learn. If so, then bring them along and enjoy their happy face!!!!!

Wednesday, 26 August 2009

New finds

Two rather nice sites that I've come across in the last week spurred me on to write a post and pass them on to you.

The first is a beautifully designed blog/shop by Colette, her mission 'to help you create clothing that feels both beautiful and personal'. The patterns are nicely illustrated and there are several shots modelled on Colette which give a truer feel of the what the garment is going to turn out like on a 'real girl' (apologies to Pinocchio). Colette is, in fact, Sarai and she writes a more personal blog called Sweet Sassafras and both this and her Colette blog have lots of good links.

Next up is Craftapalooza (great name!) which is a lovely splash of colour and is awash with punchy prints. There are kits and all for sale and then you can hop over to the blog and see what goes on behind the scenes.

Well, that should keep us busy for another week!!

Monday, 17 August 2009

Something blue...

...and that must mean something boro'd. Boro is the Japanese word for patched or mended textiles. For too long this also meant shame and deprivation. Like the sharecroppers of America the need to use what was to hand to make your own clothes was regarded as a necessity but not one to be celebrated. Now, with our growing interest in sustainability (see my new workshop on Design & Create) we are beginning to appreciate the innovation such pieces represent. Boro fabrics used the wonderful indigo hues of the Edo and Meiji eras and you can almost imagine the intensity of having to sew these beautiful creations out of the worn and tattered clothes that were you're only possession. No wonder for many years these were held in such low regard. Memories could be painful of difficult times. Now we can appreciate them as works of art and circumstance.

The two examples above are futon covers from the early twentieth century but the nagagi or kimono at the top of the post is equally stunning. What wonderful canvases these make for the imagination and recall the works of Tracy Emin that I posted about earlier this summer.
In researching this topic I stumbled on a lovely blog devoted to creating finely tailored garments in denim and, in this case, boro. Denham Jeanmaker has created some wonderfully contemporary and modish garments in their Boro Spy Jacket.

I was interested to read that much of the best indigo-dyed denim now comes from Japan where, by using many original looms from USA, they have created truly fine fabric. The West's loss through mass-production went East and now comes back to it's roots. The Japanese often show us how to appreciate real craft.
The beautifully appliqued cut and stitched patches of the interior of the jackets are to die for. I love to think of the originators of these humble textile triumphs are to be remembered and revered.

Tuesday, 4 August 2009

What a deal

I was having a lovely chat with a friend who is as crazy as I am about sewing. She also knows a deal when she sees one and this is some deal!!! A sewing machine from John (lovely) Lewis for just under £50!!! Whoa. Plus it looks the cutest little red corvette I ever did see. I believe they might try and introduce some other colours but that's not all it's charm. Perfect for the novice they say and that's just what I like to hear. The more people we can encourage to sew the better. If price and colour are good then hopefully the other tick points will follow. Easy drop-in bobbin sounds good and having nice clear, uncomplicated introduction to stitch choice rather than a confusing crowd of stitches, half of which you won't use, is definitely an advantage.

Sales have been beyond expectation and they've had to rush more out than anticipated. That tells me that people are coming back to sewing. We'll be making our entire wardrobe soon and Vivienne Westwood may not be alone in her expertise!

Friday, 24 July 2009

Antwerp Museum of Fashion - MOMU

I was so pleasantly pleased with Belgium. Quaint, quirky and just made for me. Right down to the moreish waffles!!
On a stifling day last week, I wandered in to the cool calm of the Antwerp Museum of Fashion (MOMU) to check out their latest exhibition. They have a huge archive: obviously, because it is the birthplace for the talent of Dries van Noten, Martin Margiela and so many more. However, unlike the V & A, they don't display archive material. It's a good idea in some ways as it means they can concentrate on perfect little areas.
The exhibition at the moment is Paper Dresses, which didn't exactly fill me with confidence but when I came to wander round (joy of joys I was almost completely alone!!! Belgium is EMPTY. Go now!!!) I was captured by the ingenuity of some of the designs and the retro appeal of others.
As I said, Antwerp is the fashy capital of Belgium and there are plenty of opportunities to off-load trolleys of cash in the local emporia but I was happy with schlepping around the simple paper designs.

Saturday, 11 July 2009

What a terrific idea

Anees is a determined kind of person. She knits. Fine. But then, she can crochet too. That's good. I know because I taught her how. Now she wants to improve her basic sewing skills. She's sewn simple cushions on her mum's sewing machine and that's given her the taste for more challenging projects. about a dress. Oooo, I don't know, that does look hard. Patterns just don't tell the whole story. How do you get from here to there? What do those squiggles on the pattern pieces actually mean? That's where Sewing Bee steps in.

The pattern

Anees arrived with a pattern, a piece of fabric and a few doubts as to how she was going to get to grips with all this. By late afternoon, the dress looked great with a facing to fit and a hem to turn which she could do at home. Her boyfriend might have to help there!!!

Mind the tacks!

I'm really looking forward to the finished article. She's promised to send me pics and you can bet that I'll post them when they come!!

Are my seams straight?

For sewing classes for up to 4 people and one-to-one tuition please contact me -

Tuesday, 7 July 2009

Jessie Chorley and Columbia Road Market

I'm a bit of a magpie and a bit of a fantasist. I'm a bit of lots of things and I love people who are a bit the same!!! A few years ago a friend gave me a lovely brooch for Christmas from Buddug Humphreys and I started my search for more by her.My first port of call was Broadway Market where I knew she had a stall. One cold November Saturday I walked down through the market stalls and stumbled upon Buddug and her stall which she shares with her friend and colleague Jessie Chorley. Jessie is the a seamstress like Buddug and I was really charmed by her handmade gifts made from rescued items such as old spectacles cases which opened to reveal perfect little sewing-kits of vintage finds. Everything is nostalgic but with a twist.
The time of year for my next visit was entirely different. A hot Sunday in June, moseying down Columbia Road flower market. If you're not a resident of London but find you're in town with a Sunday to spare then go there. Immediately. It's fabulous. We had a lovely morning and we watched the stall-holders selling the mountains of gorgeous flowers and wandered in and out of the beautiful little shops that line the street behind the stalls.
Suddenly I spy a doorway (146 Columbia Road, E2) leading into some rickety stairs up to an open-windowed first-floor straight out of a Dickens novel. The rooms were filled with a cornucopia of Jessie's and Buddug's work and quite a few fans like me.
I could have spent hours in there but sadly I had to high-tail it home so I'm planning my next trip!!!
At the same time I'm going to check out Beyond Fabrics which looks like a 'destination store' as far as I'm concerned and Franklin Alvarez (I'm not entirely sure if that's still there) who use vintage finds to make gifts and artworks.

Friday, 3 July 2009

Dash for colour

Finding the right fabric is half the fun of making. Going into a well-stocked store is just so pleasurable but not always practical. The internet experience hasn't got the same buzz but does open up the possibilities ten-fold. Morecloth is just what it says on the tin and has collated all the colours of the rainbow for you to make your own choice without all the hassle of looking. The 'color strips' are for fabrics sold on Etsy and really do take some of the sweat out of scrolling through scads of cloth! These are just a selection I chose today.

Kristin and Beth of SewMamaSew have brought together a pretty comprehensive of all things sewing and their shop has some very nice fabrics to choose from too. They do a great job of pointing you off in many interestig directions and I dip in there quite alot. The quilt below is from their Flikr Pool.

Wednesday, 24 June 2009

Jess Brown Design

Deep in the throbbing heart of Spitalfields, London is a wonderful shop, a veritable Cabinet of Curiosities. Caravan is a home-loving bird's dream with an eclectic mix of finds that only a stylist could have accumulated for our delight.

'rag dolls: hand made & one of a kind. All made of cotton muslin and tea dyed. Each doll is crafted using found, recycled, and antique fabrics and wools.'

This week I spotted these beautifully made 'fairies' of Jess Brown from California which I thought I'd share with you. On her eponymous blog, she even shows us her studio, and as you know from earlier posts, I love peeping into peoples' work spaces.

Monday, 15 June 2009

"I am an American happily living in Norway with my Norwegian husband and two young children. Staying at home with my children allows me to share in everything they do and gives me some time to enjoy all the crafts I love. Whenever I can I am busily knitting, sewing, crocheting, embroidering, beading, or making cards."

What a lovely way to introduce yourself and your work. I discovered Ravenhill quite by chance. So much by chance that I can't even remember but ever after I recalled the lovely colours of her fabrics and the attention to detail. It all came flooding back when I was oo-ing and ah-ing over a friends Babushka cakes which showed the same delicacy of touch but could disappear in a 'pop' in your mouth. Then I thought of Ravenhill's more permanent ladies.

The dolls are actually Matryoshka dolls and each comes with her own Fru (Mrs) name. They are made in colours clear and luscious with wonderful touches of embroidery. I'm so impressed by the work and attention which shows some real loving care. True collectors items.

There are many ways of seeing and participating in her work through Etsy and her shop, Ravenhill, her blog, and just delight in her photos on Flikr.

Wednesday, 3 June 2009

Another name for the list

I'm so excited with my new projects to do with sewing lessons. The schools may ignore it but there are lots of people who want to gain the skill. I'm glad I did all those years ago. It's never ceased to inspire me.
Anyway, while working out a class plan I came across an Etsy seller who has some very helpful pdf patterns. As you may know from my crochet blog, chaincreative, I am a passionate fan of Etsy. It's the only gathering of talent I've found of it's kind. There's is something for everyone. It's not 'curated' as such so there's a wide sweep of talent but talent there is, and heaps of it.
Keyka Lou has a lovely collection of projects in the sweetest prints which are so 'now'. She writes in profile of her love for sewing which rang alot of bells for Sewing Bee. Read in profile of her mother's influence. That's the only way I learnt and now my daughter has become even more talented. It just keeps giving!
Anyway, I'm going to hope that Keyka would answer a few questions for us.
Keyka also curates a lovely blog so there's even more chance to get to know her. An additional bonus is the occasional series of 'how to' posts.
She's a find!