A week in the life of a Costume Maker!

The last week has been incredibly hectic, with not one but three huge Costumes being made in the Studio. The first was another for Celebrity Cruises who wanted the Evil Enchantress Costume I made up earlier this year in Blue…

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The Collar was again constructed by hand using layers of Crin, Net, Calico and Blue Lycra (the base fabric of the Costume) with the addition of those fab Laser Cut Butterflies.

Each Butterfly is individually sewn on, which as you can imagine take quite a while. Indeed, I had someone just on Butterfly duty!

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Front, side and back of the final Costume. The Skirt is separate for ease and a Quick Change. I’m not sure, but I think I like the version better than the Black one!

In total this Costume took about 100 hours and three people to create however; we only had three days so you can imagine how quick we were stitching!

The second order was two Georgian Dresses for a Media Ball. Again, a little bit of a rush job but with myself and my trusty seamstress assistants we just about managed it.

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One was a delicate and flouncy affair, with Silk Ribbons, gorgeous Linen Toile du Juoy Underskirt, delicate silken Pinked and Scalloped Ruffle and Satin Bows.

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The second was a darkly Gothic creation made from lovely, heavy striped Velvet with a dark Purple line which inspired the dark Purple Silken Pinked and Pleated Ruffle with Black Satin Bows and Black Lace detailing across the Bodice and Front of the Skirt.

With over 10 meters of Boning in each Bodice, over 20 meters of trim in each and taking about 80 hours to create these were managed in a 2 and a half day period as a last minute order. We stitched until the last possible moment, but these fair ladies made it to the Ball!

After a few days off to look after my Husband who has just had an operation I shall be back at the Sewing Machine on my next order… but also at the drawing board for a huge Costume Design Commission I will be building in the new year, eek!

Happy stitching!

18th Century gorgeous-ness.

So, a few years ago when I was about half way through my Costume Degree I decided to take a trip across the UK and visit as many Costume Collections as I could. Some eluded me because of refurbishments and opening times mainly however; it took about a month but I saw some amazing things, met some wonderful people and thought I would slowly start to share some of the amazing pictures I collected along the way with you.

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1700-20 Waistcoat – Fine linen top and coarse linen underneath, quilted all over with cream 20 ply silk in back stitch. Design of small feathers and ‘rose window’ marguerites threaded with twisted sheep’s wool. Ground of small lozenges. Fronts curve away – slashed at sides and centre back. Sleeveless. 9 eyelets over sewn for front  [Stomacher is missing] lacing.

The first is this simply stunning Waistcoat, still my favourite piece from any collection I have seen (and I’ve seen many around the World!) however; I hadn’t noticed its awe inspiring beauty until the Curator, Althea Mackenzie, lifted the piece and the cold blue light of the mid-morning sun illuminated the expert craftsmanship.

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We had been gazing at Quilted Petticoats from the late 1700’s at the Wade Collection for some hours, and this piece was just one in many but it still resonates with me. I have long been a fan of Quilting as a decorative form- having been taught to sew through Patchwork and Quilting- and this is the finest example of that I have ever had the pleasure to be in the presence of. A Ladies waistcoat, dated 1710, with subtle flaring and two slits at the back to allow for the fullness of the skirt, this is just longer than hip length and the curve at the front would have also slightly flared out over the skirts. Gorgeous.

Similar to a Gentlemans waistcoat I have cut of the same period, I long to re-create it for myself! It is exquisitely quilted, with hand worked eyelets and genuinely has to be one of the most beautiful pieces I have ever seen in my life. They really could make fabric do things I think we have now forgotten- the neckline would have gently but oh so slightly turned back on itself when wearing, as would have the bottom hem line under the lacing. The combination of Quilting and Backstitch also interests me, and I think contributes to the Embroidered feel. Lovely. There are more Quilted Waistcoats out there, Killerton holds a particularly stunning one which has a slight contrast colour in the stitching.

I have a storage box stuffed full of similar images, and I shall start to sift through them and share the unusual (burnt and blackened Corsets found in a Chimney and Thatch, which was a slight trend amongst the Victorians’!), the beautiful (some hand painted silk with the stencil still showing) and more. I shan’t follow a time line, but pick and choose as I please!

I do hope you find this as lovely as I do… any collections suggestions? I shall be travelling across Europe later this year and would love suggestions any where!

Happy stitching!

The Great British Sewing Bee!

uktv-great-british-sewing-bee-5I am slightly alarmed to see that possibly only two of the people pictured seem to be wearing their own creations! And one of them is a judge! I do hope to be proved wrong… They look like a jolly bunch, & I already know I’m going to be envious of their work space!!

I have no idea if I am going to love or hate this!

I am a staunch addict of Project Runway- & have been for it’s entire run of 11 Seasons, I have various Degrees & qualifications in Fashion, Textiles & Design, I have been making my own clothes since I was roughly 13 or 14 but sewing since I was 5 or 6 & recently started to teach Dressmaking, Pattern Cutting & other garment construction techniques to all manner of students… all of which has made me realize just how much I know, & the magnitude of my unquenchable thirst to know more!!

Normally this sort of programming would make me feel queasy & annoyed because they can be too simplistic & talk down to the audience, but having watched The Great British Bake Off (my Nan & Granddad were addicted & sold it to me!), I have to say I am intrigued despite the rather insulting possibility of being crowned ‘Best Home Sewer’. I would honestly hate to be classed as such, & I am dubious that this doesn’t slightly diminish what can be achieved by home sewers!!

Honestly I shall be watching because, as I teach a regular beginners sewing classes at Flo-Jo Boutique in Bristol & Cordial & Grace I’ll be waiting to be asked how to do the things they are!!

In the first episode, there will be three challenges for the contestants; a simple pattern for an A-line skirt, transforming a high street top by altering the neckline and producing a made-to-measure dress for a model. Two hopefuls will be eliminated in week one, while one contestant will win the prize of ‘garment of the week’.

From: www.digitalspy.co.uk

So, as I have been looking for a small project to sew up with regular Blog posts I have decided to choose one project from each week & follow along with the contestants! It’s something I occasionally did back in the day with Project Runway challenges (it’s always good to know you can make a Couture level gown in under 10 hours… if only for the ego boost!). All of the press released so far is saying they are starting with an A-Line skirt which I have already shared a pattern for here, but I shall start at the beginning & write several posts as I make one up. Starting with making up the pattern, pinning & cutting out, inserting a zip, fitting, making a waistband & inserting a buttonhole & sewing on a button, & finishing with making the perfect hem.

I have just come across this advance review…

The contestants are a nice bunch & the history lessons mildly interesting, but the ‘How To’ guides too vague to be useful. Perhaps in future episodes we’ll be treated to some Couture of exquisite beauty, but so far watching people hunched over a table sewing clothes simply doesn’t appeal to the senses in the same way as watching people create & consume food. [Claudia] Winkleman talks of a quiet revolution, but this one’s positively silent – for craft enthusiasts only.

From: www.timeout.com

… & my class earlier today of 10yr olds decided the stricter the teacher the tighter their bun, so I shall be whipping my hair in to shape, adopting my strictest tone and will adapt my weekly ‘Notions’ to clarify anything they may have skipped over- I am so determined to teach people how to sew the proper way that skipping steps & wishy washy instructions make me madder than mad!! I know it is because they are working to a time limit but really!

I have also just purchased the accompanying book, so I’ll make sure & do a review of that too… ooh I’m all excited & twitching to get stitching!

Aren’t you?