Sewing Bee

This is the year of refreshing old skills. Sewing , like watercolour has been long abandoned. My mum was a brilliant seamstress and made fantastic clothes and costumes throughout the sixties and seventies. I learnt loads from her but never really used the skills and ended up just about competent to turn a hem. In time her wonderful, but heavy, 70’s Brother machine, found its way to the tip. A couple of years ago my ex- husband bought me a lightweight, new Brother. Nothing like as swanky as the old one, but how much tech do you need to turn up hems?

Sewing Bee came on the TV, originally, when I was still working stupid hours in London, then early this year it was announced that it would return in the late winter after a gap of a couple of years. No longer having erratic hours and on-call as an excuse, I enrolled on a sewing course to gain some Sewing Bee chutzpah.

https://www.makeat140.co.uk/ is a gorgeous fabric and sewing stuff store at the Royal William Yard. Lizzie Evans the happiest of haberdashers, ran a successful business from an old mortuary in the Barbican area of Plymouth. Old Mortuaries are a bit of a thing around here, there’s us, Lizzies previous incarnation, a bakery and a bar running in old mortuaries locally. Anyway I digress.

Links to other old mortuary businesses in Plymouth

https://www.theoldmorgue.co.uk/

https://columnbakehouse.org/

Make at 140 moved to its new location recently and now has the fabulous spaces at Ocean Studios in which Lizzie can run her courses.

I did the beginners course. Our course was taught by Jackie, an enthusiastic teacher with five years experience of home sewing. My group of novices were a group of women ranging in sizes and ages. We were all pretty focussed on producing the two items being created during our five week course. The first, a tote bag, taught us basic pattern use and sewing machine skills. The first class also covered the anatomy and physiology of a sewing machine and the tools needed for a basic sewing kit.After the Tote bag we quickly progressed onto making an actual garment. We were really well supported by Jackie, who is endlessly patient and encouraging. Lizzie was also there every Tuesday , sometimes supporting other groups or classes but always there to make half time beverages, comestibles and to share her sewing wisdom. At the end of week five I had a strong and useful tote bag and a top that actually fitted me.

There are loads of follow-on courses to join but I decided to take some time out and make some mistakes at home before returning for advanced stuff later in the year.

First up in my mistake plan list was a Merchant and Mills pattern, euphemistically called 101 Trousers. 101, has come to represent basic, simple or easy, but my take on 101 has always been more about George Orwell’s torture chamber in his novel 1984. As it turns out the trousers straddled these two meanings rather effectively. My big error was buying a fabric that was the same on both sides. Hannah my partner chose a lovely botanical fabric with a plain reverse side, she had a much easier time of it. My choice gave me ample experience using an unpicker.

On reflection the pattern probably was foolproof but we just took foolish to higher levels than it could accommodate. Eventually after using a months supply of the f**k word, copious tea and YouTube gazing we produced two lovely pairs of trousers, with pockets, that we will wear with pride in full daylight amongst people we know. That is high praise because we are a fussy pair.

https://merchantandmills.com/

I’m already planning my next garment on the mistake plan. I’m confident that my new found basic/ beginners skills will ease me towards less mistakes and more confident seamstressing and then on to the next course at Make at 140. For everything else there is YouTube .

Home made pattern weight using recycled fabric swatches and ribbon from Christmas gifts.

https://www.professorpincushion.com/

#todayimwearing. Why I couldn’t survive a capsule wardrobe.

I’ve collected clothes since I was about 20, that’s 40 years of shopping. Its also 40 years of donating to charity shops as I curate my collection and get rid of the evidence of impulse or imprudent purchases. I’ve always considered my wardrobe to be my palette for creating my style on a day to day basis. Not much exists that is actually 40 years old, but many items have been replaced like for like as they have worn out. In some respects this is counter to the current trend for fashion bloggers, or influencers who highlight what is available to buy now and indeed Fashion and Style magazines. Real life is not about buying everything new each fashion season. It is about knowing what works for you as an individual and buying a couple of bits to replace worn out things or to add some new colour. Just as I have favourite products and colours to create abstract paintings, I have favourite clothes that can be combined to create the style that I feel comfortable in. I have made some expensive mistakes both in art and fashion shops.

All of my previous working life I wore a uniform, clothes shopping was for commuting and weekends. Now I have a new life, as a full time artist and writer, clothes have become a lovely every day creative process and I rarely put the same two things together.

I’ve become more careful about wearing normal clothes to paint in. I managed to buy a massive pair of 1970’s dungarees on Ebay a couple of years ago. I wear old t-shirts underneath. So on painting days the age of my #todayimwearing clothing is about 45 years.

The inspiration for this blog was an outfit I put together recently to deliver some paintings to a client. I was aiming for an arty look. As I put the composite parts back into the wardrobe I realised I’ve been putting this look together since 1977. In turn it was inspired by my mum in the 60’s. I can be that accurate because I wore this look to attend my Viva Voce exam in Russell Square London. At the time I thought this look reflected me as a sensible professional. I realise now it was just me being me.

I am still a fan of a knitted cardigan, but now it tends to be Seasalt that make them rather than my mum.

www.seasaltcornwall.co.uk

Here are the four pieces that inspired this piece of blogging.

The Straw Hat- I love hats, my grandmother bought hats from a gay milliner called Francis Golightly ( seriously) I longed to wear hats , as she did, every day. That was never going to be possible so a straw hat in the summer is the best I can do. This one is about number five and is possibly the cheapest ever as it was bought in a hurry from New Look after number four met a watery grave during a storm in Cuba.

newlook.com/uk

Big Sunglasses- I suffer from sweaty eyelids, big sunglasses are the only answer.I have no idea how many pairs of these I’ve owned. Usually they are cheap fake ones from Greek supermarkets. Age has caught up with me and now they need to be prescription lenses. Ollie Quinn makes these beauties.

oqspecs.com

Scarf- I may have the national Collection of scarves. Simple reason. I’ve never been a size zero and any woman no matter what size can buy a scarf even in the most sizist of shops. Blush pink, I’ve learned to love it, inspired by a fellow blogger. This member of the scarf family came from Oliver Bonas.

sleek-chic.co.uk

oliverbonas.com

The black and white dress. I love this dress, it is the latest iteration of my black and white dress family and is probably the closest to the one my mum wore in the 60’s . I used to make these for my Sindy. This one is from Marimekko.

www.marimekko.com

It’s strange that I’ve never realised that my clothing choices have not really evolved greatly throughout my adult life. I suspect I could trace all my clothes back with similar stories to these four pieces. What chaos could I create in my life if I ever used a personal shopper?