Saturday, 20 November 2010

Static Museum Display

What with the Re-enactor's Market (TORM, aka The Original Re-enactor's Market), last weekend, and so much work to do in the run up to it, I haven't had the chance to post pictures of this recent job.

This is for a permanent static display, created by a sculpture company, for a museum in the Channel Isles.

The stuff was actually delivered a few months ago, but I got the photos from the client a few weeks ago.  Forgive the background - it's not 'in situ' yet, and these are taken in the sculptor's workshop.

I made (or obtained!) the stuff for the figure on the left of the picture, with the blue gambeson.

There's a shirt, a gambeson (the blue), and a pair of hand sewn hosen.

The backseam is handsewn using backstitch, and then the seam is sewn down a second time, and the hems made, using a variation of whipstitch.  The eyelet is reinforced with an internal metal ring.  The photo has been lightened a bit to allow the stitching to be seen!

Non-sewn items (eg armour, etc) were provided by Mark Vickers, Cap-a-Pie, Kevin Garlick, Dr Timothy Dawson, and Armour Class.

Saturday, 6 November 2010

V&A Diaghilev Exhibition

I've long been a fan of the costume designs done for the Ballet Russes, in the teens and twenties of the last century particularly. 

Now the V&A (Victoria and Albert Museum) are holding an exhibition on Diaghilev and his Ballet Russes.

I love that Diaghilev collaberated with some of the greatest artists and designers of the time, including Chanel, Matisse, Picasso, etc.

My favourite have to be the designs of Leon Bakst, though - they're just so full of colour and life, like these ones.  (And check out those chopines on the red design!)

The exhibitions full title is 'Diaghilev and the Golden Age of the Ballets Russes, 1909-1929', and it runs until 9th January 2011.  As it's a special exhibition tickets cost around £10 for an adult, although museum entry is free.

Friday, 29 October 2010

The Importance of Being Fitted!

People have lost the art of having things made for them!

I'm frequently baffled by the number of people who seem to think that having fittings is optional.

Now, don't get me wrong, I'm not talking about the long-distance thing here.  I have customers all over the world, from the Americas to Australia - I can do long-distance.  For the majority of the garments and other things I make, I can post slopers and toiles to be fitted at a client's end.  It works very well, and is the ideal way to deal with international clients who can't visit me, and whom I can't visit.

No, I mean things where it's arranged that fitting should be done in person.

I sometimes get the feeling that (some) people think I'm just being extremely difficult if I say that something will need to be fitted two or three times as a minimum.  I'm really not.

Obviously, due to the sheer range of things I make, there are things that I can do without fitting.  But some things simply have to be fitted.  It's not that hard a concept really, is it?  Clothes that fit tightly (eg arming doublets, hosen, dresses, corsets, etc), or that need to hang correctly to look good (eg gowns, other dresses, jackets, uniforms, etc), really do have to be fitted, one way or another.

I can cut things carefully and accurately, yes.  I can hang things from dummies to check the lines, yes. 
But here's a startling piece of information: cutting accurately cannot possibly hope to allow for all the vagaries of the human figure, even with all the measurements and notes on posture that I take.  And another stunning fact: no dummy, even one padded to match a client's size and posture, will ever replace the fitting of a garment to a real human being. 
For a start, dummies don't move.  They don't have to sit down when their feet are tired, or to bend over and pick up the thing they just dropped, or to stretch to reach a high shelf.  And they can't tell you if a tightly cut armhole pinches.  you get the gist, I trust...

When you order something from me (or any clothes maker, be they on a street market in Thailand, or a designer dressmaker, or a tailor on Saville Row), what you're asking me to do is to translate your 3D form into flat shapes on a flat piece of cloth.  And then back into 3D.  It isn't remotely easy, it takes years to learn, and it can't be done instantly.

Without fitting, there will be errors.  It's unavoidable.

If a garment needs two or three fittings, and somebody doesn't show up for one, or more, then only one of two things can result: 1 the order will take longer, because the appointment will have to be rescheduled; 2 the garment (or garments) simply won't fit.

I'm good at what I do, but I'm not a miracle worker!  neither is anybody else who cuts or sews.

So the whole point of this post - if you order clothing or costume from anybody, and they tell you it needs to be fitted, show up. 
On time. 
And if they say you need a particular pair of shoes, or particular underwear, do as asked.

Wednesday, 27 October 2010

Hand Embroidery

Embroidery, (by hand, that is), is one of my favourite types of stitching.

All hand sewing is far more attractive to me than machine sewing, because there's so much more variety, and so much more to learn, but hand embroidery is the thing I like the best.

It could be because I started to embroider when I was very young.  I was around two years old.  I was apparently an annoying, curious child, so my Nana sat me down with a needle and thread to keep me from sticking my fingers into sockets, or the fire, etc, etc.

Or it could be because there's just so much to learn - there are so many different types of embroidery, and so many individual stitches, that it would take a lifetime or longer to master them all.

Or it could be that embroidery doesn't serve any real purpose.  Embroidery isn't really functional, or utilitarian.  It's a frippery - it's entirely decorative.  A beautiful thing that serves no other real purpose other than to be beautiful!

I like that. 

Anyway, all of that said, my latest piece of embroidery does serve a purpose.  It's a medieval (Wars of the Roses) livery badge.

This one is stitched in silk embroidery floss, on a linen ground (the backing fabric).  The body of the badge is done entirely in split stitch, and the outline and detail in back stitch.

This is currently on display alongside an original metal badge of the time, at Wakefield Museum, in their exhibition 'The Battle of Wakefield', which is open Tuesday - Saturday, 10.30am - 4.30pm.  It's on till the 29th January 2011.

Sunday, 15 August 2010


Ok, I've finally succumbed, joined the 21st century, and started a blog. I'm very new to all this, so do bear with me.

It's my intention that this blog will be a sort of 'semi-pro' blog.  Or 'semi-personal', depending on which way round you look at it.  It will never be an out and out commercial blog such as you see on some sites, because they're dry, and a bit boring (and frankly I find the endless sales pitch to be kind of tacky).

So just me writing about my work and the stuff I do for fun - which does tend to overlap a bit.  But it could well cover anything, from what I've been making, to what I've been researching, to anything I've seen or done that's inspired me or interested me.  (I wasn't kidding in my profile when I said my Nana taught me to sew to stop me sticking my fingers in sockets - I was interested in what would happen - I've never really lost the interest in things around me.)

Anyway, my entire life (pretty much) is spent sewing and designing. If I'm not making historical costume, I'm making modern clothes; if I'm not making things for customers, I'm making things for me (or just for the hell of it); if I'm not making clothing of some sort, I'm making other sewn things; and if I'm not sewing, I'm drawing, or buying fabric, or writing about sewing, or thinking about sewing.  Obsessive - moi?

That being the case, the posts to this blog may on occasion be patchy. I plan to post often - at the minimum once a month, but the sewing really has to come first, so if I disappear for a while, that's why. On the upside of that, when I do get back to the 'puter, I should have lots of things to write about.

Now then - about me - as you can see by reading about me, I'm an historical costumer.  I design and make modern clothing too.  I don't really have a period of special interest - I'll make things from just about any era.  I have a low boredom threshold - I get very bored if I have to spend too long in one historical period (including the modern day).

Anyway - that's my introduction - I'll be writing again soon about whatever takes my fancy, be it modern clothes, historical clothes, or just things I'm making in general, and about things I've been up to recently. And I'll add some photos.

So as I said in the title, hello, if anybody's reading this out there in the world!