I had been looking forward to this exhibition since it was announced last year. Despite it being rather an expensive venue (£7, compared to many other London museums being free) the Fashion and Textile Museum is an important source of inspiration and one that really does its best for the sewing, knitting and textile community in London.
I love the Josef Frank fabrics which have been stocked in Liberty for as long as I can remember. The colourful organic style of the fabrics appealed to both me and Nick (and it is not always easy to get agreement on style with one’s partner) and when we first decorated our flat in neutral shades with cherry wood furniture Nick wanted some colour and pattern. So we bought some off cuts at Liberty and I made cushion covers. We also bought a couple of trays that are very handy and nice. And when we had a chance to go to Stockholm for a conference we went to the shop and bought some more small pieces – the fabric is not cheap but it is really something special.
In addition, to put the top hat on it for me, Frank as an architect was responsible for some very interesting and enlightened designs for public and social housing. Here is a good article that gives great context.
So the exhibition was something of a pilgrimage for us, as we were keen to know more.
The exhibition celebrates the work of Austrian architect Josef Frank (1885-1967), exhibiting his paintings alongside his fabulous textile designs.
There were also some interesting drawings of “fantasy houses” he designed for his friends. These were pretty interesting but impossible to photograph. He fled Austria due to the rise of the Nazis in 1933 and settled in Stockholm with his Swedish wife Anna. He is widely regarded as Sweden’s most influential designer. I think the designs have a clear Scandinavian feel – especially in terms of the scale of the pattern, the use of organic forms and the colour palette. But they seem to have another element – a challenging, modern take on how to live I think. He designed homes that were functional, but also comfortable and personalised. Not for him the beige, ultra tidy lifestyle, but rather one where you feel at home. Throughout the exhibition one is invited to sit on chairs covered by his fabrics.
Here are some of the fabrics – and their stories. The earliest print featured in the exhibition was rather delicate and protected with glass. You can see how the leaves pattern was applied with the first block and then the dark red branches were printed on top.
This next one from 1925-30 (which I have at home) is called Mirakel (miracle). This is strongly influenced by William Morris, although it is also very much modernised. The black background and the use of complementary colours really makes it a vibrant print.
The next one Mille Fleurs, which is considerably later (1940) loses the joined-up-ness of the earlier prints. I like it slightly less as it looks more like a text-book rather than a fantasy garden. In fact Joseph Frank did use reference books – richly illustrated scientific books, maps and historical tomes – to help create a sense of verisimilitude. Mille Fleurs means “thousands of flowers” in French, and the name and idea come from medieval French tapestries where floral backgrounds leant a romantic and colourful context to the embroidery. I found this an interesting print as it is created from relatively small wood blocks that make up a very large pattern.
Finally US Tree (1943-45). Frank moved to New York during the Second World War with his American wife and this design was influenced by the very different types of tree he encountered in the States. I don’t know about you but I often find the trees abroad very different to what I am used to – especially in Australia, but also in America. While I think we expect people to speak and look different, and the architecture and towns to looks different, It is very shocking to encounter tree species that you could not have imagined before. You grow up with trees and somehow consider then immutable and eternal (silly, I know). Nevertheless Frank had the same experience and used field manuals to discover more about US trees. In this design he created a tree with 20 different fruits, leaves and flowers, sharing the branches. Maybe America’s diversity was being celebrated here. .
I have already done four toiles for the jacket. The first pattern was unsuitable and far too small (two toiles)
I found another pattern and made up the wrong size (two toiles)
Finally (toile no 5) it is getting much closer to a good fit.
Although Gus is no more than 38″ across his chest I got a very much better fit all round, and especially across the shoulders using the 40″ pattern. This is because his shoulders and traps are rather large and needed to be accommodated. I slimmed down the jacket to the s38 across the waist and hips.
I left the shoulders unsewn and added a couple of cms on to the seam allowance. I then pinned them at the right angle. There are no shoulder pads in there at the moment but I allowed sufficient space to include them. I was interested that when I checked the angle later against the patterns stitch line there was only a very small variation. So the issue we had before with the shoulders coming right up against the neck was probably due to there being insufficient fabric across the chest.
The second alteration I included was to reduce the CB seam a little. Again you can see that the sloping shoulders fit quite well and while I may need to take an inch out at the back waist this is a fairly minor alteration. I had added extra length because Gus is long in the upper back, but it looked stupid and out of proportion.
At this point I felt I was beginning to get closer to the look we wanted. I thought I had cracked it. Immediately instead of persevering with yet another natural calico garment, my mind turned to the idea of going straight to a wearable toile. I got out a couple of yards of some very nice, cheap polyester in bright green check. I fancied trying out the pockets on a cheap fabric before turning to the real thing.
But, you know what? I did what I could to straighten the grain. I pinned the selvedges and pressed the fabric carefully. But when I thought about having to match all the checks I just felt very tired indeed. I folded the fabric and put it back in the cupboard. It will do for another project. Then I persevered with making up the calico toile.
I made up the collar and sleeves (having taken out the extra length in the torso) and we had another fitting.
It’s not 100 per cent but I am pretty happy with the fit of the jacket at this point. It needs a little shaping and support, but this will be much easier when I use the wool fashion fabric rather than cotton calico. I think I took in a little too much at the CB. I will go back to the original pattern and take it in during the fitting stage. I can work wonders with wool and steam!
So overall a great sense of relief that this is not an impossible project. Nevertheless there is “many a slip between cup and lip” as Shakespeare said. This jacket will challenge my construction and tailoring skills, but I will move on now, confident that I can get a reasonable outcome if I go slowly and carefully.
The main lesson of my labours so far is to start with a pattern that more or less fits and mess with it as little as possible. A tailored man’s jacket is quite a complicated garment to make, with lots of pieces – you don’t really want to have to alter lots of them before you start.
We went to see the new David Hockney exhibition at the Tate Britain.
On his 80th birthday we can celebrate perhaps our greatest living artist. Yorkshire man, wit, of respectable working class origins, innovative and gay – he has always impressed me with his amazingly versatile approach to landscape, portraiture and especially his interest in the technical side of art.
I had never seen much of his early work and there were a couple of rooms full of his art from his time as a student at the Royal College – much of it directed to male homosexuality at a time when it was illegal in Britain.
I told Esme that we had really enjoyed the exhibition. She said “The Guardian gave it three stars”. I quickly showed Ted some of the photos I had taken at the exhibition. “Well I like the pictures” he replied. I am with Ted on this one. The glorious Californian landscapes are created with diluted oil paints creating the strongest, most vibrant hues. The two bottom pictures are of the blue veranda outside Hockney’s home with their red struts and lush vegetation.
I love the brilliance of the colour, the perspectives, the subject matter and the joy. I think that when all is said and done Hockney just loves looking at things – people, place, sunlight and water. I can relate to this simple pleasure of his and his willingness to use whatever is to hand – polaroids, iPads, crayons, video, photographs, – to create the most arresting images. He shares with Picasso (who is his hero – and mine…) a willingness to use different media and styles to suit the subject rather than just sticking to one approach.
There is not much there about fashion apart from that very famous picture of Ossie Clark and his wife.
There were other images of the designer couple, in the days when the designer couple was not yet “a thing”. Celia Birtwell and her husband Ossie Clark were both famous for their fabrics (her contribution) and dresses (he was a great designer and pattern cutter). The Hockney painting of them at home in London, with their cat, is one of the most viewed paintings in the Tate. The new exhibition features a painting of Celia in a shaped black (satin?) jacket and a full white skirt. Ossie, languid in an arm-chair wears a Fair Isle jersey. This pair shaped the fashions of the 1960s and 1970s in London, creating wonderful languid full length dresses with bias cut sleeves and lots of contrasting pattern. And Hockney himself set new fashions – bleaching his hair, wearing loud and deliberate spectacles and dressing in beautiful suits and lots of colour.
I don’t know about you, but I always got Hockney and Alan Bennett mixed up. They are both amazing Yorkshiremen who have created so much to enjoy in art, theatre, comedy and literature. Here’s to the aged, sexually diverse, working class, radical, shocking, self-deprecating, observant and funny Englishmen of their generation who have enriched our lives.
And yes, Ted and I recommend the exhibition, which opens today.
I mentioned I might be doing a bit of knitting this year.
So far I managed to make a second sweater for my son, which I will have a go at shortening. I also made something nice for myself. I used another Purl Alpaca design – the Cyrene jacket – as I had such great success with the Lorelle sweater. I chose Alpaca Rain – a greyish brown taupe (natural English alpaca yarn) and started knitting it before Christmas. I actually finished it a few weeks ago, and have been wearing it a great deal.
It is far from perfect.
My first attempt was very confusing as I couldn’t really understand how to deal with the moss stitch border, as this post elaborates.
My second attempt was much better, although this time I struggled with the sizing. I started making the extra small (as advised by Tracey and Kari-Helene), but I just couldn’t believe it would fit round my hips. I had no confidence in the shape, and even though I was along way down the line I unravelled it completely and started knitting the small. Then I thought it might be a bit big on the waist and shoulders so went back to the extra small. I made up the sleeves and they seemed to be about 2″ too long. I generally prefer a slightly shorter sleeve (so I can check the time surreptitiously). I hummed and ha-ed – should I rip it back and re-make them? I just couldn’t face it. So the fit is maybe a little weird and possibly unbalanced.
I am not really sure about the longer back. It is practical and warm. It has a kind of peplum look, but I think I would have prefered to have an even hem (I am slightly averse to high low hems of all descriptions). But I think it looks OK and maybe helps reduce the appearance of larger hips. What do you think?
The collar and lapels are sort of unstable, but I think that is a nice feature – they sort of flap up and down as they please. I have a brooch on in the outdoor photos so one side is anchored and the other is free. I think it is a very nice pattern and lots of people have complemented the cardigan – saying it looks like I bought it, and that it is an expensive item. I would recommend it – if I knitted it again (my Mum wants one….) it would be a fairly quick make as the yarn is thick and it only has one piece, plus the sleeves.
I have found that when you press these items and wash them they seem to loosen up a bit. But the texture of this item is much firmer than the Lorelle. As I guess it should be, as a jacket. Overall I am finding it a versatile, comfortable, fairly dressy cardigan that goes with everything.
And I am inordinately proud of managing a cardigan/jacket. I have done button holes! I did short rows! I knitted both sleeves at once! I sewed on vintage buttons (with thread – should that have been wool?)! I made a collar!! Set in sleeves! I made a fitted item! Why – I feel like I have just landed a jumbo jet. Not long ago this would have seemed the most unlikely project for me.
So what now?
I have started this jumper. It involves colour work in peerie stripes. It is knitted top down in four ply wool, and I am finding it pretty hard going. I have mucked up the tension. It maybe too small. The raglan transistions are non too tidy. I have lots of loose ends… Argggh.
However I have learnt to knit with the yarn on both hands. This is a revelation and quite good fun, although keeping the tension right is really hard. The colour work rows are improving as I work down the jumper. I will persevere as this involves lots of learning, and I am using inexpensive yarn and the colours are left over bits.
I mentioned I love the Ankestrick patterns, available on Ravelry and Love Knitting. I bought Heavenly (which is very similar to the Lorelle in terms of shape and construction style). Once I have familiarlised myself with the colour work I will do one of these. Then maybe I will move on to cables. Then socks!
I know a few people have been following the building project are keen for an update. I am being a little coy. Mainly because it is not really sorted out yet. The best thing by far about this house is looking out of the window. I have several dozen pictures like this – I can’t yet resist taking pictures of the amazing weather over the lake.
There are some defects and problems with the building that has taken quite a few weeks to sort out, and they are not all completed yet. But we trust and have a good relationship with the builder and we expect it will all come good in the end. Unfortunately some of the fittings eg shower screens, taps etc were not as specified so the correct items are on order and will be replaced in due course.
Secondly we ordered the house without wardrobes and cupboards, giving Nick the opportunity to make most of these items himself. He has reasonable carpentry skills but wanted to learn more and create really nice built-in furniture in the Shaker style. He has just started doing this, so at the moment we have very little storage. We live out of suitcases. But this is deliberate and will come good as he tackles each room in turn. My sewing room, for example, has a table and an ironing board. I have been making the odd thing but I can’t really get started yet. I will be making some of the soft furnishings to go with the new furniture – seat covers, curtains inside cupboards, cushions. I may print or buy the fabric. No clear plans yet. We have managed to get our two paintings up but maybe there will be more on the walls, over time.
And thirdly we are slowly bringing things from our existing home and trying them. Do they fit? Do they look nice? Or not? So that is a bit provisional too.
Finally I need to explain that we are living on a building site. The company that run the estate don’t build until they have sold a plot. So while we are in situ next door is a recently sold plot, and in our “road” there will be around seven or eight homes. Two are actively being built at the moment and we have met some of our “neighbours-to-be”. But when we go to sleep at night we are very alone – just watching the foxes and rabbits running around, ignoring us completely.
So when people say “is your new home finished?” I usually say “yes! We have moved in. But there is still a lot to do!”. To date we have only had the family to stay, and they love it. We plan to cook a meal for friends (the builders actually!) very soon. And I think by March we will probably have friends to stay.
In the meantime I will share a few photographs.
The living room is large and we can seat eight at the slate kitchen table. There is underfloor heating and a air-sourced heat pump, and it is well insulated. However the wood burner is amazing and beautiful. We lit it frequently at first as the heating didn’t work. But now the house is very cozy. The sofas are genuinely comfortable as this was very important to me. I love the greys and blues with the wood. It looks calm and harmonious without any kind of obvious “interior design” feel – our homes will never look like a magazine feature.
I think the house is so beautiful and we are already loving being there. The surrounding countryside is exceptional – we have joined the Cirencester Ramblers so are finding out a lot about the local area through investigating on foot. There is a gym and pool, tennis courts and open space in the vicinity so plenty to do. The air is fresh and even though it is winter so long as one dresses appropriately it is delicious to get out into the fresh air for a change. Our London home is well located but the air quality is poor. Being able to breathe is a real advantage!
(I will give a SWAP update next Saturday. I haven’t done much this week! My dear son is proving a little elusive and I need to do a bit of fitting.)
Apart from reading a book a week, learning more about knitting and completing a wardrobe for my son Gus, I have been attending evening classes. I usually manage to dedicate one night a week to learning something new. This year Nick and I decided to attend a course together as we had really enjoyed doll making as a pair – somewhat to my surprise. We both found the concept of learning something new, and meeting people, and sharing an interest rather a compelling combination.
So earlier this year I listed a range of courses that appealed to me – including printing, basket making, millinery and yoga – and emailed Nick. I arranged them in order of preference but said I would be up for any of the above. I added ballet too, knowing full well I had zero chance of getting Nick into a tutu.
He came back very quickly, choosing jewellery making. I was a bit surprised as, other than cuff links, he never wears jewellery. But I think using tools and the idea of making presents appealed to him. Unlike me he had done a bit of metal work as a school student and had enjoyed it.
In case you are interested here are the details of the course we are currently undertaking at Morley. This is one of my favourite venues as it convenient for us, has good facilities and generally they employ high quality tutors. Our teacher – Paul Wells in no exception. As well as teaching at Morley he is employed by Central St Martins and he makes, repairs and sells jewellery too.
The group is beginners and intermediate students. Paul divided the group and Nick and I were put with two other beginners. We have worked together all term, supporting and encouraging each other. And making sure we remembered the instructions. This approach is brilliant compared to the highly individual approach of many teachers, where it takes you all term to get to know the others (“excuse me, can I borrow your pencil sharpener?). Jo, Jeanette, Nick and I have worked as a team and it’s been great.
As beginners we are obliged, this term, to create three items with just a little bit of room for personalisation. The first ring is a wide band, with a hammered finish. This ring is first made in brass to learn the techniques, and then in silver. The second project is a nice square pendant that has a textured surface. Finally we make a ring with a stone set in it.
We spent two weeks making the brass ring and we very pleased with our efforts. Then we moved on to creating exactly the same thing in silver, which took roughly half the time.
I can’t explain why this course is such fun – I think the process of making something with precious (as well as base) metals is very exciting.
- Magical transformation
- Basic materials are relatively inexpensive
- Made to fit exactly
- Opportunities to design and personalise
- Interesting tools, heat and chemicals
- Detailed work and concentration
- Something nice and unique to take away and wear or give to friends and family
Once the rings are polished we will move on to the pendants. We bought the materials already so when we make the final project (a ring with a stone)Nick will be using malachite and I have a ruby! I will share our progress later in the term.
Have you ever done jewellery making or metal work?
In 2016 I read 42 books, ten short of my intention (one book a week).
I blame the knitting. Five jumpers instead of ten books. I suppose that is about right.
In our new holiday home we don’t have the internet and I am intending to spend many weekends there. So this year I intend to read at about the same rate. My resolution has so far been successful with four books already read in January.
In case you are interested in what I read last year I asterixed and provided cover images of the ones I really enjoyed.
- Siddhartha Mukherjee, The Emperor of All Maladies; A Biography of Cancer
- *Stephen King, The Green Mile
- Stephen King, Mr Mercedes
- Rachel Abbott, Sleep Tight
- Philip Gould, When I Die: Lessons from the Death Zone
- Marguerite van Geldermalsen, Married to a Bedouin
- Stephen King, Doctor Sleep
- Kate Atkinson, A God in Ruins
- Keith Houghton, No Coming Back
- Margaret Atwood, The heart goes last
- Liliana Hart, Dirty Little Secrets
- Ford Maddox Ford, The Good Soldier
- John Le Carre, The Night Watchman
- Ruth Picardie, Before i Say Goodbye
- Jacky Fleming, The trouble with women
- Mikhail Bulgakov, Heart of a Dog
- Danielle Steel, Flowers in the Snow
- *Veronica Roth, Divergent
- Veronica Roth, Insurgent
- Kimberley Chambers, Payback
- William Blacker, Along the Enchanted Way
- Hanya Yanagihara, A Little Life
- Elizabeth McKenzie, The Portable Veblen
- Michael Frayn, Towards the End of the Morning
- Hannah Rothschild, The improbability of Love
- Mick Herron, Slow Horses
- *Nina Sibbe, Love Nina
- *JM Coetze, The Schooldays of Jesus
- Mick Herron, Dead Lions
- Sue Monk Kidd, the Secret Lives of Bees
- Mhairi McFarlane, You had me at Hello
- *EL Doctorow, The Book of Daniel
- Macrae Burnet, His Bloody Project
- Nina Stibbe, Man at the Helm
- *Richard Flanagan, The Narrow Road to the Deep North
- Elena Ferante, My Brilliant Friend
- Elly Griffith, The Crossing Places
- *Ian McGuire, The North Water
- Margaret Atwood, Cat’s Eye
- Mark Edwards, Because she loves me
- Nick Alexander, Let the light shine
- *John Steinbeck, The Wayward Bus
I realise I have rather eclectic tastes – teen fiction, classics, modern prize winners and a couple of light reads – mainly British and US writers. I am OK with that – I don’t have anything to prove over 40 years after my last A Level. I have been reading a few classics to the children, such as The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, and I hope to revisit some of the great books with them.
Finally my overall winner was Ian McGuire, The North Water. Just a great story, well written with an excellent ending.
Anything you have read recently that you would care to recommend please? Just leave a comment below – many thanks!
Firstly – I finally finish the trousers. As ever I have not reached perfection, but I have got to good enough. Gus really likes them. I will give you some properly modelled photographs at some point. Here is a picture of them still in the process – unhemmed and with tailors’ tacks – but tried on with Jumper no 1. Such a cozy, comfortable outfit for a man in winter – cords and a wooly.
Secondly – what has happened to the Sewing with a Plan? The Artisan’s Square website seems to have disappeared – any one know what is happening?
Thirdly – I finished the third item – my second knitted item.
Pattern, yarn and needles
The 1966 polo (turtle) neck sweater is from Patons and assumes you are going to use a creped Bri-Nylon, Terelene or similar “modern” 1960s acrylic yarn. I however used cashmere! I bought DK cashmere from Colourmart, in Holly. It was beautiful to knit, although this company takes yarn from companies that weave or machine knit cashmere, and then spins it into thicker yarns. So each strand is a little separate, giving an issue with it splitting apart. So you have to be a careful to catch all five ply in each stitch (I imagine there is a technical way to express this, although I am still learning the terminology).
It was a big, straightforward sweater; traditionally knitted and sewn together. A little ribbing, lots and lots of stocking stitch (one row of knitting, followed by a row of pearl) for acres, then a a bit of shaping for the armholes and neck. A couple of sleeves. Finally the collar. This involves something which sounded rather ugly – knitting it flat, then stitching it “with wrong side facing, sew up half the seam of polo collar, turn to right side and sew up rem. half”, so that the stitches don’t show when it is folded over. Although I know very little about knitting I thought the polo would be much better created with circular needles. So that is what I did, and I really liked the effect.
I stuck to the pattern and it’s a good pattern. I think the length is too short – I added lots of extra length as Gus hates a jumper or top that rides up with wear (I am the same – I like a proper tuck in). However I may have added too much in this instance.
My technique is improving I think. I didn’t drop any stitches or make a big mess anywhere and I actually quite enjoyed the “boring” knitting involved. While I really love the look of the flashy, colourful knits others produce (and I would love to do colour work myself at some point), my guess is that plain coloured, plain knitted jumpers that fit probably get worn more than something too unique. Especially for a man.
This part troubled me. As a seamstress I should have no fear of sewing seams. But I did. I sat and contemplated sewing this together for a week or so. I don’t really know how to do this job properly. I know many knitters put lots of effort in getting this stage done perfectly – making all the difference between a home made looking item and a professional one.
My sewing together is rudimentary and I just used hand stitches I am confident with – overstitching and back stitching. Many of you told me to do mattress stitch, but despite watching You tube I did not manage to crack it this time. I will have to have another go next time I make something like this.
So I am satisfied, more or less, with this item. I don’t seem to get the quantities of yarn right, and I have lots left over. So, as dark green is a colour I love I will make myself something nice in due course.
My internet friend Brenda asked me to create a special piece of silk. She intends to make herself a fit and flare type of dress. At the moment, while she is having treatment for breast cancer, she can only sew in short bursts (same for many of us without such a good excuse). So when I said it might take me some time she said not to worry.
I showed you the inspiration pictures she sent me.
Lots of nice stuff going on there but I was anxious, and daunted. I had trouble with all the elements of her specification
- deep colours
- including coppery brown
- medium scale
- leaf and elliptical shapes
Brenda sent some taupe brown cuttings, alongside the other deep strong shades – purple, teal and forest green. so I felt that was my main colour scheme. However my piece started with a central motif in pinks and purples, which are rather light. As I explained in my post on how to do this, after dividing the fabric into sections I like to start with light colours. Maybe this one is a little bit like a roundel in a stained glass window. The window is framed in dark green, like old-fashioned paint, with a view of a garden through them. I then used hot wax to outline these light colours and protect them from the darker colours I was planning to add next.
I planned to create a garden (botanical instruction) because I love painting flowers. They are my natural motif (Ruth of Ruthie Sews has a leaf as hers) and I love the colours and shapes of flowers (and the smell!) and enjoy flowers in art and on fabric. But Brenda hadn’t asked for flowers!
As I filled in the background I knew that I should be doing deeper colours. One of the problems I had was that I don’t have brown, and only a small pot of black. I have lots of blue, turquoise, pink, red and yellow (my colours!). So I struggled to implement this aspect of the spec. I did lots of mixing and testing.
Leaf and elliptical shapes and flowing, medium scale design
Once the pink/mauve flower was in I felt the need to put some strong deep green lines to divide up the space. I was thinking leaves and elliptical shapes. I spent some time looking at images of teardrops and paisley too. Also Brenda had mentioned “medium scale, botanical, flowing,” which worried me a bit.
I put leaf shapes diagonally in lots of shades of mainly cooler greens. These are my ellipses. They may look a bit like mussels. I think I used about 10 shades of green to make them look fairly natural and botanical. I wasn’t sure if this was flowing enough – probably not. And I think I messed up the medium scale – this might count as a large scale design?
Brenda specifically mentioned she liked wearing brown and you can see the copper verdigris, and there is a gingery brown in the peacock feathers. I knew I had to make this shade and I used orange with black and blue to make it. We used to call this “poo brown” (and not after the bear) when I was young. Sorry Brenda – this is my least favourite shade. I mixed in some turquoise which I thought set it off nicely and was true to the verdigris inspiration.
Unfortunately once the brown was on I was appalled. The photograph captures the work in progress at that point. My husband asked why I had put brown in. I was pretty crestfallen and I left it to simmer overnight.
I knew that Brenda had asked for deep shades but I felt the only way I could retrieve the work was by contrasting the brown with some strong, bright colours. I wanted red and pink in there. She hadn’t asked for it (although one of the cuttings has a purply red in it, just). I was worried but on instinct I introduced turquoise, strong bright pink, bright blue, bright light blue and bright purple. These are my colours (cool bright), whereas Brenda is deep-cool I think. And I felt it was a huge improvement. I am not sure this is what Brenda wanted me to do, but I had to do it.
The artistic process
When people ask for certain specifics I can get a bit fixated on them, and I start to worry if I can include elements I like and are “me” too. But of course this is acceptable – the whole point of a commission or a collaboration is that the creator (me) is being asked to put themselves into it. I don’t think I exactly answered the brief, but I felt Brenda wanted me to be myself and make this my own way.
I held her and her wishes close throughout the process. I knew, in my heart, that she would accept that I am going to communicate something of my own nature. Yet this was bothering me all the way through. I still don’t really like the brown in this piece myself. But overall I think it works well and I am happy with my work. I probably wouldn’t buy this in a shop as the greens and browns are a bit dark/warm/muted for me. But I think they will suit Brenda well and I love the pattern. To me it looks like bunches of grapes, malachite, delphiniums and peonies. It’s got a 1930s vibe, maybe more like a furnishing fabric than a dress fabric. But I could see it as a rather grand 1950s evening dress with a full skirt. Overall I love it, and so does Brenda. And I got 346 likes on Instagram!
“I can’t say enough how much I love the colors and the design” she kindly wrote to me. I fear she may just be saying this to make me feel good, but she is sincere as well as kind, so (riddled as I am with doubt that I may have disappointed her or failed to please her) I am going to believe she means it.
Once the painting is finished it is necessary to iron out all the wax, then iron actively and hotly all over the cloth until we are sure the colours are fixed. I have never had any trouble with this but as this is going to someone else I thought I had better do it properly. The whole de-wax and fixing process took a few hours. Next I washed the fabric in a fairly hot wash with detergent (as the wax leaves an oily residue). Then a final press before packing it up for its return journey to the USA.
This was a fun project, despite the angst. I like it the finished product very much. I think it is one of the best silk painting projects I have done. Now I know Brenda has received it I feel alot better. Brenda still has a couple of chemo sessions to get through, then her operation. Once all that is behind her I expect she will make something really nice with it. I really enjoyed doing something creative for Brenda, and I hope wearing it will make her happy too.
Lovely Amy from Almond Rocks contacted me to ask if I would like to send some photos of my sewing room for a regular feature in Love Sewing Magazine. For a moment I was confused. Was she talking of the one I am creating in our holiday home? If so it may take a few months to get it right – although I did start making myself a pair of trousers this weekend. But as anyone who has a second home will know – everything you need is at the other house.
One day my new sewing room will be perfect, like the pristine, zen like spaces many sewists show. With their Ikea units, pastel prints and vintage bits and bobs these spaces follow a fashionable trend. I tend to make do with old things I have had for ages, with a preference for sentimental attachments to rainbow thread features of buttons in sweetie jars, colour-coded.
But I soon realised she probably meant my sewing “area”, so I agreed, of course, at once. I love my sewing space and I am proud of it.
Like many journalists in search of copy Amy wanted the photographs yesterday. Well, not exactly, but very soon. I asked Gus to take the pictures as his phone-camera is much better than mine – but neither of us were free until the weekend.
As you might expect I had to find some time to tidy up my space. I scurried around on Thursday evening, stuffing the UFOs and other bits and pieces into my wardrobe. Then I thought it looked a bit plain so I pulled my Napoleon Six dress on Camilla (my K&L stand) but of course it was fairly fitted so I couldn’t do up the zip. Then I thought I would include one of my hats for a bit of colour. I don’t really sew with Carol wedged behind the overlocker. Amy’s caption made me laugh: “a decluttered space, for a decluttered mind”. Good job she hadn’t seen it before. Or into my mind, come to think of it. I am often in a muddle and forget crucial things all the time, such are the demands on my time.
Then Gus suggested a short of “the cupboard”, aka “Mum’s cupboard”, aka my “stash”. And my notice board. Neither were tidy, but I let him take pictures anyway. And one of me, grinning. In my Lorelle jumper. I have to thank Amy for cropping the pictures considerately and for including some very sweet words about me.
My sewing space is small, busy and messier than the photographs show. What’s yours like?