21 January 2011

Cutwork Away!

Last week BurdaStyle published a great article on cutwork, very inspiring and while I have tried applique (poorly) I hadn't thought of trying this but by the end of the article I had decided to give it a go.  In fact I thought it might be perfect for something I am making at the moment.

It's a great way to add a vintage touch to sewing. Cutwork as a way of adorning linen (cloth, sheets) has been in existence since at least the 12th century and later become popular as a finish for all manner of clothing including undergarments and accessories such as gloves and parasols.
As I sat this morning trying it for myself, I can see this would have been one of the ways that Jane Austen's girl's would have whiled away the hours waiting for their Mr Darcys to call or ladies sat by wirelesses listening for news of loved ones overseas fighting for their country.

The BurdaStyle article doesn't have photos for its tutorial, so here a few shots of my first attempt this morning, it is a bit quick and rough, this is about half an hour's work.  I used to be able to handsew beautifully, I am evidently out of practice but I shall be doing much more of this in future so there's opportunity to improve!

I used a medium-weight linen as my fabric, its got quite a clear weave which helps to keep stitches even and tightly woven enough that it won't fray.

Using a tailor pencil I drew an outline of a shape to create. I then drew a second, parallel line about 1/8" inside the original lines.

 I then traced over these lines in thread like sew so --->

They're a bit quick and long to be neat but they're to pad the button-hole or satin stitch and aren't visible afterwards.

Using double thread and button-hole or satin stitch, start a stitch just outside one line and carry thread over to outside of opposite line and finish stitch.

The fabric should be in an embroidery loop to help prevent puckering.  Also with large cutouts it is recommended to sew "bars" across the middle to help prevent he shape skewing.  As this was a trial, I didn't add any bars but I would use them on a shape this size (about height of a needle) done properly .


  I used thread snippers to cut through the middle and then around the inside of the stitching.   

Et voila!

Addendum:  These were my first attempts at applique for a show costume - Chilli Peppers!  

I drew the design myself and tried out the satin stitch on my machine, unfortunately the exercise proved that my machine is not up to doing much other than buttonholes with that stitch,I'll make sure my next one will!

17 January 2011

Shabby Blogging

If, like me, you're a big fan of the Shabby Blog look you'll notice that a lot of my cute buttons come from Shabby Blogs. They're awesome.

They're also so popular they have had to move servers so [and now for the public service announcement] if you use their buttons, blinkers and backgrounds too you will need to update all your codes by the end of the month. Otherwise on February 1st it will look as though someone has snuck in overnight and pinched parts of your blog!  More info available on their blog here.

Nothing Shabby about your blog?  Then it is well worth a visit to their site, it's like a candy store for craft bloggers and even better, it's all free!

Ice-cream, Lollipops, and all freeeee today!

16 January 2011

It appears that Batman has been at my fabric stash....

I pulled out some navy lining for a skirt I'm making, spread it out and this is what I discovered...

I think the last time I used the fabric was for lining a dress, this is how the fabric was left after removing the pieces, don't know how I didn't notice it before!

P.S. Note the beautifully folded and stacked fabric stash in background, most proud of my productive day spent doing that!

9 January 2011

In with the New and Out with the Old...

Well that does sound such an anti-vintage thing to say but rest assured the "old" isn't old enough to fall into that category yet!  It simply means I am taking the new year as an opportunity to do some much needed decluttering.

A whole portion of my bedroom has been lost these last few months to an ever growing pile of boxes marked "ebay" and which I have not had the time to attend to but am now addressing! Maybe by February I will be able to get into the cupboards and bookcase again somewhere behind that pile!

My mood has also led to another sort through my pattern collection, there will be a lot going on Etsy when I re-open my shop and I am now looking for the perfect storage system for my patterns, which prompts the question, "How do you store yours?".  I would ideally like my patterns to be stored upright in single file (dividers ok) and flickable. I was thinking of chests of drawers or filing cabinets.  The latter would add some pretty tough protection against rodents, elements and fire but aren't exactly pretty or cheap yet a chest of drawers is going to take up quite a bit of space and I'm not sure where I could fit them... 

Finally I also spent a rewarding day shaking out and refolding all my fabric stash.  Its now sorted according to fabric type, folded in neat bolts and sat back on its shelves looking pretty as opposed to the messy, collapsed piles it had become.

As for the new, I have just treated myself to a new camera, thanks to the generosity of the family and their Amazon voucher gifts, that should arrive midweek so I can finally get taking pictures again.  It's been about 6 months since I had a working camera I think....  Blogging will become illustrated again!

What are you doing to mark the start of your new years?  And have you made resolutions?  I don't usually but I am going to try to organise blogging and sewing time better.  Maybe blog reading over breakfast, sewing in the daytime and blog-writing at night... otherwise I spend far too much time reading other people's fab blogs, inspiring me to rush downstairs and sew only to realise its far too late in the day and there are other things to be done.

8 January 2011

Happy 2011!

Greetings to all, I hope you all had marvellous holidays and new year's and are full of excitement and plans for 2011!!

I have been absent for some time, it's been Panto season [I love panto] and I have been uber busy costuming the young cast of Aladdin [oh yes I have]. I would love to share some of it with you, unfortunately I haven't seen as many decent shots of the costumes as would like and regretfully none of my genies, who looked lovely. However I will post below a few snippets.

As is traditional it was set in China, but the director wanted a '50s feel. In my design this became fairly traditional Chinese peasant wear up until the point the Genie of the Lamp makes Aladdin rich at when everyone reappears glammed up in tuxs and gorgeous 50s dresses. Quite a few of the costumes were genuine vintage garments.

From Mandarin rags

... to 50s party time riches!

  I put quite a bit of thought in 1950's Aladdin and decided that since he spent so much time daydreaming about being rich and "living the life", that he would be greatly influenced by the Golden Screen too. Therefore his icons would be Elvis, Marlon Brando and James Dean which is wear I got Aladdin's look and was fortunate that out traditionally female, principal boy could carry off that look. Once enriched she does swap to a more typical principal boy look, but reappears in a later scene dressed as Bruce Lee!

Here is Aladdin in the cave with the lamp, which was also my handiwork (modroc, newspaper and a Cheerios box in a previous life-form!)

Within the company were some very talented acrobats and to showcase their talents, we created "cave nymphs" to present the lamp from amongst the treasure to Aladdin after a breath-stopping acro-balance display.

The stock characters, Wishee Washee and the dame, Widow Twankee, were just fun and silly and garish.   I really liked my utterly mismatched WW and the actor had so much charm he made the costume work well.  Here are a couple of snaps of "mother" and son:

A couple of costume details for you.  Instead of fabric gloves, Twankee had pink marigolds, upon coming rich these were fur-trimmed in pink, sparkly maraboa to complement her gorgeous pink floral kimono and [genuine] '50s ladies hat.  WW had the most lovely tie made entirely of pearls!  The eccentric looking fellow in the middle is the Emperor, based apparently on Prince Phil!  The smoking jacket and relaxed bow-tie were all in preparation for the seduction of Twankee...

Onto the baddie.  Well he was not truly evil in a downright nasty way, but cunning and devious.  And as things go in Pantoland, a little bit unexpected.  We had been loaned a stage dalek, so naturally a TARDIS was written into the script, it had been comandeered by the evil Abanazer so that he may go hunting for his dead father's treasure trove and the lamp.  In a discussion with the director on a damp and cold summer afternoon, while sat in the member's restaurant of Tate Modern, I pitched the idea that as well as having the TARDIS, Ab should take on the doctors ever-changing personas, basically every time he came on stage he would be dressed as a different doctor...

Of the eleven, I chose ones that would be most familar to kids and adults and so we had Matt Smith, David Tennant in both his brown pin-stripes and his blue with overcoat, Tom Baker and Peter Davidson.  I hope I can get complete photos of the costumes, but here are a couple below.  For the scene where Ab has kidnapped Jasmine and headed back to Gaza, he reverts to his true evil self and dons black robe and mantle.

His side-kick, is an adrogenous '50s styled fusion design, she wore flat brogues, swing pants, military style blouse, vest and tie in shades of brown, because as we later find out she is not truly evil at heart.  In the Tom Baker scene (and I apologise now for the atrocious wig, I asked for something better but didn't get) she is dressed as a leprechaun (I have no idea why but it paved the way for a lovely gag).

And finally but certainly not least, little Mango's stage debut as the Apprentice Genie.  Her outfit is based on the Flower Fairy patterns and is in rainbow organza.  I made it a little big so she can get some wear out of it and it needs some repairs so I will photograph her in it at a later time.  Cue shameless posting of my sweetie-pie!

On safari in a flight case she hi-jacked!
Mixing wallpaper paste a la Witches of the Scottish Play!

Incidentally, she ended up head to toe covered in wallpaper paste and papier mache as did a radius of about a metre of linoleum.  But she had incredible fun (and I learned how difficult it is to get paste off lino!).

And so there you have a little bit of Aladdin.  It was a great show, the teenagers in it worked extremely hard and there is some incredible talent within the group, the punters certainly liked it and the feedback was that it was on a par with the mainstream pantos which is great considerng the only industry pros were myself and the director!  I certainly had a great time working on it, despite sleepless nights and early starts and a budget of just £12.50 per actor!

Performance of Aladdin, December 2010 by Young Theatre at Beaconsfield. 
Written and Directed by Mark Oldknow.  Photography by Josh Martin.