A couple of book reviews

Just before Christmas, Bloomsbury Publishing asked me if I would like to review a couple of their books.  As soon as I saw the titles, I jumped at the chance.

What the publishers say:

 The Vintage Pattern Selector by Jo Barnfield is a practical sewing book that arms the reader with all the techniques and information they need in order to mix and match clothing styles from the 20th century.

Accompanied by a CD with printable patterns for a range of dress sizes, this book is a comprehensive guide to creating contemporary outfits from vintage styles.

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The book is clearly and attractively set out with lots of pictures and diagrams.  It contains full instructions for printing the patterns, assembling them and making the dresses, with a section at the back covering the basic techniques of dressmaking.  

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It starts with a timeline of the main styles and trends for each decade between the 1920s and 1970s then goes into more detail about each decade.

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I liked the way it shows the way modern fashions draw on vintage styles, giving examples from different shops.  It also suggests ways to combine particular details of different eras so they work together.

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I haven’t yet tried making up any of the patterns but I can envisage playing with a few of them, notably the 1920s flapper dress (pity I no longer have the shape for it!!).

The second book is quite different in style to the first.  The publisher’s introduction to The Story of Colour in Textiles by Susan Kay-Williams -

Colour and shade of dyed textiles were once as much an indicator of social class or position as the fabric itself, and for centuries the recipes used by dyers were closely guarded secrets.

The arrival of synthetic dyestuffs in the middle of the nineteenth century opened up a whole rainbow of options and within 50 years modern dyes had completely overturned the dyeing industry.

From pre-history to the current day, the story of dyed textiles in Western Europe brings together the worlds of politics, money, the church, law, taxation, international trade and exploration, fashion, serendipity and science.

The Story of Colour in Textiles is an introduction to a broad, diverse and fascinating subject of how and why people coloured textiles.

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Being a historian as well as a dyer, I loved reading this book.  Again, it is attractively set out with lots of gorgeous pictures, but much more factual information too.  I enjoyed reading Victoria Finlay’s book on the story of colour generally, but this book focuses specifically on colouring textiles in Europe.  It mentions other parts of the world but mostly only as they affected European dyeing.  The book starts with an introduction to the various types of fabrics that were being dyed, mostly natural ones such as wool, linen, silk and cotton.

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Unlike Victoria Finlay’s book which goes through each colour in turn, the author of this book works her way through history with chapters on prehistory, the Dark Ages, the Middle Ages, then each century from the 15th to the present day. It was useful to read about them in their historical context, and she draws on contemporary paintings which illustrate various dyeing processes, such as Jan van Eyck’s painting of the Arnolfinis, and the Bleaching fields of Haarlem by Jan van Kessel the Elder.

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It is a good book to dip into or use as a reference, but also has a very readable style.  It was interesting to read about the secrecy around new discoveries and subterfuge used to obtain valuable information.  Did you know that a whole mile of coastline around Tyre and Sidon consists of ground up mollusc shells, waste from extracting purple from the shellfish?    Colour as a sign of wealth, power and intrigue….

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She also covers the use of mordants, the introduction of patents and the development of chemical dyes as well as bleaching and the removal of colour to make white. 

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The book has an extensive list of footnotes at the end of each chapter and a large bibliography for further reading.  Definitely worth buying if you are interested in the development of dyeing and use of colour through the ages.

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January activities

snowy garden

This is what the garden looked like last week.  The white stuff stayed there for a whole week (quite unusual for this area), but last weekend a warm front came in and we had torrential rain, thunder, lightning and hailstones and now it’s all gone. The hens were a bit nonplussed by it all, and refused to leave their run even when I opened the door – normally they are falling over each other to get out! And even when they did emerge, they congregated at the back door as if pleading with me to give them their warm mash and shut them back in again…

snowing

This was one night last week when the snow was coming down for the last time.

upcycled skirts made into top

From last October two of my sons have gone off to university, leaving only one at home and it is very strange and is taking some getting used to.  As a result I have been a bit at sea here and feeling rather disorientated.  I have been getting a bit fed up of making wall art/generally stuck and have been exploring alternative ways to use my printed fabric.  Though maybe I’ll just keep it as art cloth… dilemmas, dilemmas….  I have also been getting into upcycling and refashioning clothes.  I made this top using one of Marcy Tilton’s Vogue patterns.  Every now and again I buy a sale ‘goody bag’ from People Tree, who sell fairtrade fashion, but sometimes the clothes they send just aren’t me at all.  I made this one from a couple of ra-ra style skirts in tshirt material plus an old tie dyed tshirt that the boys had outgrown.  The colours are not quite true but you get the general idea!  I still have to finish the arms and face the neckline but I quite like the result.

 

harris tweed jacket

I also bought this gorgeous Harris Tweed men’s jacket on Ebay and am busy restyling it, putting more darts in to convert it into a woman’s jacket. I plan to put new buttons on and add a few more decorative features, not sure yet exactly what.  The dressmaker’s dummy, by the way, was another recent Ebay acquisition which is becoming very useful!

 

rails of hand printed and hand dyed fabric

These are the clothes racks full of printed and dyed fabric that I have accumulated.  I think I may reopen my Etsy shop and put some of it for sale there – what do you think?   I’m not sure whether to experiment with turning it into clothes or sell it as art cloth.

cut out tartan dress pieces

Another thing I did at the beginning of December was to sign up for a Craftsy class called The Couture Dress with Susan Khalje.  So far I’ve made a muslin, attempted to fit it on myself (!), cut out the silk organza interlining and the actual fabric which is tartan Viyella fabric that I bought years ago before the UK textile industry mostly got outsourced to China.  This is the result so far!  I’ve made it very difficult for myself by cutting lots of pieces on the bias so I am unsure how it is going to turn out, but I’m learning lots of useful stuff on the way, such as how to trace patterns.  I doubt if I will ever make another couture dress as it is too slow and fiddly for me (and accuracy doesn’t seem to be within my capabilities which is why I don’t do traditional patchwork and quilting!!).  But it is a useful learning experience…

handmade books

And finally, here are a few handmade books I made recently using the instructions from Sue Bleiweiss’ online class that I took a few years ago…. Hard to believe that those covers started out as brown paper, isn’t it?  It was an opportunity to use up some of the gorgeous raku buttons I have bought from various Etsy people….

12 things x 12… a bit late!

I got so inspired seeing all the Facebook pictures of 12 things to celebrate the 12th of the 12th 2012 yesterday that I decided to do my own … pity I was a day late but never mind!  I had so much fun finding groups of 12s in my studio and rediscovering a lot of nice arty things I’d almost forgotten I had, that I went mad and did more than 12 so you’ll be seeing some of them here in the future… 

12 black pens

1.  12 black pens for making gocco/thermofax masters for screens with.

12 inks

2.  12 inks.

12 beads

3.  12 round beads.

12 handmade beads

4.  12 hand made beads.

12 buttons

5.  12 brown buttons.

12 reels of vintage thread

6.  12 reels of vintage Sylko thread.

12 thread labels

7.  12 thread labels.

12 glass pins

8.  12 glass headed pins.

12 stamps made from fun foam

9.  12 stamps made from fun foam stuck on card.

12 carved stamps from erasers 

10.  12 stamps carved from erasers or that pink rubbery stuff.

12 print gocco ink tubes

11.  12 Print Gocco ink tubes.

12 wooden printing blocks.

12.  12 wooden printing blocks.

Sunday Afternoon Walk

a quiet walk
sounds and smells …
someone whistling loudly and tunelessly up the lane

at a party in one of the gardens I passed; the sound of children playing, people talking,
the smell of apple crumble wafting as I walked past another house
the sun comes out
my sandals stop hurting my feet
I relax

Llanthewy Road, Newport

View from the Handpost…

top in Handpost shop window

I like this top in a shop window…

Looking back towards the Handpost

The road becomes noisier with more traffic…

houses at top of Stow Park Avenue

I love these houses….

Bellevue Park gate

The entrance to my destination….

bellevue festival

A chance glance at Shepherds Moon’s Facebook Page told me of Art in the Park this afternoon…

art in the park

A fun hour spent chatting to stallholders, drinking tea and looking at wares….

York Place

Then I set off back home; my feet decided these sandals aren’t so good after all….

Festival of Quilts

I am starting to write this on the train home from FOQ on Saturday evening (using Evernote again).  I only managed to make one day this year because DS2 was expecting his A level results on Thursday (he got a disgustingly high number of A*s and a place at Cambridge!)

My favourite exhibit this year was the European Art Quilt Foundation’s, closely followed by Cas Holmes.  Els van Baarle had a quilt inspired by a map which was striking in its simplicity.  I especially noticed that there seemed to be lots of chiffon this year, floating whenever the breeze caught it, and casting evocative shadows on the walls behind.

I didn’t seem to spend so long watching the demos in the virtual studio this year; maybe this is a good sign that I’m focussing less on technique and more on strength of design… they had changed the layout of the show this year and it took a while to actually find it!

I stocked up on thread and replaced my old clapped out rotary cutter and buckled cutting mat, and got some woolly nylon thread useful for winding in the bobbin when stitching hems with a double needle on stretchy fabric.  Yes, I am enhancing my wardrobe with a comfy Vogue dress designed by Sandra Betzina.  One of my latest purchases is an ex-library book from the San Diego County Library via ABE books, Power Sewing by Sandra herself.  It looks really easy and practical to follow so I’ll let you know how I get on.  I used to do a lot of dressmaking but am hopeless at altering patterns so if a pattern doesn’t fit perfectly, unless it is really stretchy like this dress, I often end up making stuff and not wearing it.  Anyway, this is the dress – it just needs hemming but I needed some woolly nylon thread to use in the bobbin because the pattern calls for a double needle stitched hem.

vogue dress

I also met Mags Ramsay at the show, who was manning the SAQA Masters 2 exhibit and had a lovely chat: one of the best things about FOQ, I find, is the random conversations with strangers and fellow bloggers alike. 

river severn in gloucestershire

The train journey home was very picturesque – the train line runs along the River Severn from Gloucester to Chepstow.  Especially when the sun is setting…

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