Thursday, 29 September 2016

A Touch of Tweed

At this time of year, with the change of season, one starts to think about all the cosy things in life, warm bowls of soup on rainy days, fluffy new socks and, if you make your own clothes – or like to have something cosy made, woolly things to wear.  You might like knitting or crochet and love nothing better than to have a new project keeping your lap warm and whiling away your evenings in front of costume dramas (I love Poldark, and Victoria – and Downton Abbey, oh how I miss Downton).  Me, I like riffling through my fabric boxes pulling together fabrics to make jackets and coats, redesigning them and referring to all the new season’s colours.  Not forgetting the all-important buttons – I spend ages deliberating over buttons!

The most versatile, hard wearing and divers fabric used in jackets and coats is Wool, which is incredibly hard wearing, gorgeously warm and acts a bit like plasticine with a bit of steam; it also moulds beautifully to the wearer over time – which is why when you try on a well-worn vintage jacket it feels weird until you have worn it in for yourself.  I used to have a huge WWII Naval Trench Coat in my early 20s which I wore with a tiny, tiny skirt, thigh length suede boots along with my bright red, corkscrew permed hair – thinking I was the bees knees.   The most fantastic wool fabric one can get is Tweed.

Tweed can be grouped together in to four main styles; 

Plain Tweed, on the left is shot Black & White and on the right is a printed plain tweed.

Plain Tweed can be bold or subtle, some are made with fibres that have been dyed before spinning and create the soft heather tones you see sometimes.  Some use two colours of thread such as the shot version in the photo above, and then others are embellished with printed patterns after weaving such as the one in the picture. 

Twill woven Tweeds

Twill woven Tweeds are generally in one single colour and come in a wide range of weights from very soft fine fabric to rather chunky and blanket like cloth.  If any of you see me out and about on really cold days you will see me in my orange coat made out of the orange tweed on the right of the picture. 

Herringbone Tweed is varied in pattern dependant on the design of the cloth to be made

The Herringbone Tweed in the centre is very traditional and would be what most folk would imagine when they think of Herringbone Tweeds.  Either side are less traditional patterns that incorporate a variety of colours. 

Check Tweeds are even more varied in their pattern and use of colours

Check Tweeds are probably the most widely worn, and the tweed with the strongest associations with tailoring and culture.  In Scotland each one of the Clans has their own design of Tartan patterned Tweed which were greatly popularised by Queen Victoria and Prince Albert in the 19th Century after their first visit to Balmoral early in their marriage.  Nowadays there are a massive range of checked Tweeds to choose from, I particularly like a lot of the upholstery designs such as the second from the left in the above pic; it seems that weavers are letting loose their creativity and I for one love it.

The most famous Tweed cloth is probably Harris Tweed which has a long history and protected status nowadays.  The weavers all live on and around the Isles of Harris and Lewis in the Outer Hebrides in Northern Scotland and some produce their work as part of their life as Crofters, using local wool fleece, which is dyed locally and blended to produce the myriad of tones and colours that is unique to Harris Tweed as part of a cooperative group.  This is such a beautiful cloth and is a joy to design and work with.  Given the quality and special nature of this fabric it is in my humble opinion the pinnacle of wool fabrics and it is very good value for money.  One is only limited by your imagination when putting it to use – during my final degree collection I made a lined Bra with sky blue basket weave Harris Tweed, it was most pretty.

Every so often I go window shopping online to drawl over all the delicious colours and patterns that are available at Dashing Tweeds. I was lead to them by another tailor a couple of years ago who is also excited by all the pretty things they produce.

While on holiday in Yorkshire some time back I came across an outlet at the Courtyard Centre   where there was an shop stocking really inspiring jackets.  I got rather excited by the piano facings and creative use of patterned linings and bindings inside these jackets which were produced using Moon Tweeds which are made locally in one of the last remaining mills where raw wool is processed from fleece to finished cloth in the UK.  This year I discovered a smaller outlet that stocks offcuts of Moon cloth for craft uses at Quilting Antics just outside Settle where you can obtain it by the metre or by weight, if you take a look at the Moon website you can contact Quilting Antics and see if they have small pieces of the fabric you like – they have a vast variety in the shop to riffle through – it is cloth heaven for me!!!

Mixing it up

This waistcoat was a recent project made using two different Tweeds, Herringbone for the main body that I bought from Bernie the Bolt who has lots of fab things for very small prices; and the check Moon Tweed from Quilting Antics which was a small piece just big enough to cut the collar, pocket welts and send away the last few scraps to DM Buttons for them to make the covered buttons for me, which are truly lovely against the Herringbone.  Normally I tend to use far bolder colours but some people are more comfortable in softer tones, admittedly, having made this waistcoat I am rather enamoured with wearing Tweed like this now too.

Pocket and button details

As I was saying earlier, I take ages to choose buttons for each project, they can make or break the look of a garment, this is particularly true on fabrics like Tweed because of the tonal quality of the cloth.  Covered buttons are a brilliant solution to make them match the rest of the garment or as a contrasting detail, however, Wooden buttons are also lovely used with tweed because it too is a natural product and will blend beautifully such as the ones in the following photo, you may also consider Leather buttons which I have used in the past and which you will often find on Country Sports jackets in charity shops (vintage leather buttons are amazing on tweed).

How about embroidery too

When using Tweed one can utilise its strength to carry a wide range of embellishments, with my embroidery machine I regularly use text and picture designs to produce bold details on clothes and bags that make each piece unique to the ultimate wearer.

This is not an exhaustive look at the uses of Tweed, take a look at Tweeds and unleash your creativity. Tweed is hard wearing and incredibly versatile for clothes, soft furnishings and accessories as it is so durable and can be surface cleaned if the need arises – less dry cleaning needed than many other fabrics, the patterns also hide a multitude of sins.

Over the next few months I will be exploring lots of fabrics and their uses, addressing some of the more challenging ones and how to handle them.  If you are just starting out with sewing and want to make a big impact I would recommend Wool, and particularly patterned Tweed as it is so forgiving – just remember, steam is your friend.  The next piece will be about Wool in general and will explain how to make use of Wool fabric to achieve the best results for a project.

Enjoy, my sewing friends.

Thursday, 15 September 2016

Jackets with autumn in mind

Well, it doesn’t seem right now much like jacket weather with all these record breaking temperatures does it?  But autumn is just around the corner and before we know it there will be chilly mornings to step out in to.  When that almost frosty morning comes around you will be glancing through all those summer togs looking for something a bit warmer and equally sensational.

I love this time of year and really look forward to chilly mornings that turn into golden afternoons and wearing lovely jackets, my own collection grows with a new jacket each year, this year I am designing a shortened version of my Sheba Coat that will also be a little fuller than the previous version.

Here are some examples of jackets that I have made for clients and for my ready to wear range. All these jackets can be tweaked to suit different shapes and sizes, and incorporate any of your own design ideas & fabric choices not forgetting the all important buttons!  

This little Mutka Silk number is sweet and is lined with turquoise and gold cherry blossom satin brockade.  The front skims the body and is finished with wooden toggles.

In the back it is a little more tailored for a soft, comfortable fit.

A very practical jacket is my Oriental, it is a similar shape to the last jacket, but with extra length and lovely big patch pockets on an angle to slip mittened hands into.

Photo 4 – From the side you can see the ¾ length sleeves with their vent which can be made with contrasting fabric inside for a little creative flare.

In the back is the soft tailored outline which skims the hips to just below the bottom.  I made this particular jacket for my sister’s 30th birthday, she loves it because she can fling it on and it always looks fab, she wears it all the time, in fact we often joke about it by me saying, “that’s a lovely jacket, where did you get that” and she replies “oh, it was a little number my personal tailor ran up for me”.

Harris Tweed is deliciously warm for the cooler months and this piece was a client project made with a sumptuous fabric her tailoress Mother had bought over 50 years ago.  The revers have been made with a wool twill that picks up one of the darker tones in the Harris tweed.

From the side you can see the classical tailored pockets and darting at the waistline.

The back is very traditional and you can see the vintage leather buttons at the cuffs here too.  I love using vintage buttons – so much more character and perfect on vintage fabric.

In the pocket detail, you can see the vintage crepe backed satin, also from the client’s Mum’s fabric collection which really sets off the tweed.

Another vintage Harris Tweed jacket made for a client, here the grey tweed has been teamed with turquoise upholstery fabric for the contrast areas.  The covered button was made by the lovely folk at D M Buttons to match the piping and lining of turquoise satin.

 In the back of the Midi Highway there is a box pleat with half belt, this one has a cheeky flower which you get a flash of as the wearer walks along.

Yummy contrast cuffs and tailored pockets here too.

One of my favourite client projects was this jacket made with two tone tweed and decorative panels that have lots of shades of turquoise, green and purple satin ribbon appliqued onto a mix of soft turquoise fabrics and is finished of with matching covered buttons.

The pockets are in seam with a decorative flap and the cuffs as you can see match all the other decorative panels.  It too has turquoise satin lining and matching piping – Turquoise is so popular and suits everybody, at least I’ve not met anyone yet who doesn’t suit that colour.

This jacket makes me wish I was a size 12! (The size I made it in.)  Made with gorgeously velvety two tone chunky corduroy it is scrumptiously soft to the touch.  I am especially pleased with the piping, corduroy makes amazing piping and looks like corded rope because of being cut on the bias.  The vintage buttons with matching grey buttonholes set off the grey panels.

And the cheeky pleat and contrast cuffs completes this delicious jacket which is one of my off the peg jackets that you can come and see at one of the craft fairs I will be exhibiting at.

This year I have had a number of themes for my craft fair offerings to keep things fresh, September’s theme is waistcoats and next month, October, will have Jackets as the main theme and I hope to see you at;

Crafts at the Exchange, Saturday 1st October, The Exchange, Sturminster Newton, 9am-1pm

Tinker Belles Market, Sunday 2nd October, Stourton Village Hall, Stourhead, 10am-5pm

Gillingham Arts & Craft Market, Saturday 29th October, Gillingham Methodist Church, 10am-1pm.

My next date in September is at Gillingham Arts & Craft Market on Saturday 24th September, I have also started to make new bags ready to tie in with this seasons new colours – look out in the next few days for my next post which will be a look at those Autumn/Winter colours.

Look forward to seeing you all soon.

Saturday, 3 September 2016

Pikachu comes to play at Crafts at the Exchange

What a lovely day it was Saturday at the Exchange after our summer break, it was great to catch up with everyone and see what we have all been making.

I have been running each season with a new theme this year and now that wedding season is over I will have a new theme each month for the remainder of 2016, September is Waistcoats, October will be Jackets, November is for Coats and December will be full of delicious gifts, so the next few weeks will be pretty busy with making in my ‘spare’ time!!  I love it, making all the new things and falling in love with them.

This is my stall in my usual spot at the bottom of the foyer steps, that lead up to the café. The mannequin at the left side is sporting the new waistcoat that I finished yesterday, it is made with English herringbone wool cut on the bias, with jetted pockets in pink silk velvet, shell buttons and embroidered butterfly & dragonflies.  I love the single pink button in the middle.

After setting up we all go round while it is still quiet to check out new things and catch up with each other.

A view down the other side of the room

And at the end.

This Fluffin Bag I made at the end of the day yesterday, it was cut and embroidered a while back and I was really chuffed with it when it was finished last night.

You can see a bit of the lining here, I love the soft colours and thought last night it would not be around for long, quite right too, it was sold by mid-morning!

WOW! Pikachu came to visit us today!! Of course one has to have a selfie with Pikachu.  I’m not in the least in to pokemon and in fact Pikachu is the only character I actually know – but it just has to be done.

Pikachu fell head over heels in love with all the lovely things.

Pikachu takes a peek in the mirror.

And then goes up to the café to say hi to everyone.

Pikachu was a Kodak promotion at Wessex Photographic and everyone who had a photo could get it printed for free in their store, you would not believe what a stir it created, Pikachu got mobbed wherever he/she went!  Check out the Wessex Photographic Facebook  and Twitter pages for lots more funny pics.

All in all it was such a fantastic day and such a delight to catch up with lots of my clients who were visiting the area too.  Thank you to Liz for making everything work like clockwork as usual.

Friday, 2 September 2016

Craft Fair Dates for September

Well, here it is, the new craft fair season.  I love this time of year, folk take lovely walks in the late summer and early autumn sunshine, start thinking about Christmas and come and have a cup of tea and some cake at all the lovely local craft fairs.  I will be exhibiting this September at;

Crafts at the Exchange, Sturminster Newton, Saturday 3rd  September  9am-1pm


Gillingham Arts & Craft Market, Gillingham Methodist Church, Saturday 24th September 2016

There will be lots of truly beautiful things for you to see, to suit all budgets from less than £10 up to high end pieces that will both beautify you & your home and celebrate the wonderful talents of local makers of stunning traditional wares.  There are wood turners, artists, photographic & paper artists, jewellery makers and many others, as well as myself with my jackets, dresses, bags and silk scarves. My theme this month will be Waistcoats, for both men and women.

Sturminster Newton has lots to see this weekend as it is Carnival week and all the shop windows are lots of fun, there is the Yarn Bombing celebration of all things wool dotted all around the town and of course, we makers at the Exchange.

We all look forward to seeing you at the Exchange and later in the month at Gillingham Arts & Craft Market.