Saturday, 30 April 2011

NY Day One

It's been a lovely day in NY NY.

After a very late night (21hrs awake in total) and a great NY dinner of takeaway pizza and Snapples the boyf and I woke up to the Royal Wedding.. some things you can't avoid, and rather glad I didn't, feeling proud to be British. We then left the hotel about 8.30am walked south from the hotel on 39th via as many landmarks as we could fit in. Its just over 3 miles as the crow flies, I think we managed to double it and my feet are telling me that it felt like even more :) But the sun shone the whole day, I am entranced by NY and the architecture and we met some great people.

Highlights included the Empire State Building, jazz in Washington Sq Park, lunch at a gorgeous Italian in TriBeCa with the friendliest waiter, and the Memorial Preview Centre at Ground Zero which brought me to tears.

Last, but not least, a quick trip up to Mood... It was everything I expected, packed to the rafters with bolt after bolt of fabric, way too much to try and choose from, slightly grumpy staff and the bulldog! Thanks to the very patient boyf, who is far more fabric-aware than he'd ever want to admit, I am very pleased with my purchases which have just enough classic and quirk to suit both me and do justice to the historical nature of the dress.... I hope! I am excited to get home and start working with them... And may also just need to pop into a trim shop or two as they are everywhere I look and brimming with gorgeous things...

Thursday, 28 April 2011

Miss K's Corset Card...

It's Miss K's birthday this weekend... the girls and I, in a moment of madness, decided that we'd make her a corset one weekend: a present-girly day in-bit of a laugh all round-in-one present. So, to get things started we decided that she'd need to get measured up... a job for the boyf, not us!

The card is meant to look like an old pattern packet, with instructions inside and a tag tied onto a ribbon bow to close. I wanted a naughty but nice, vintage look for the card, envelope and measuring instructions. I deliberately mixed up various baroque elements, handwritten and ornate fonts, as I wanted a classic feel which wasn't too perfect. I'm pleased with the results and delighted to say that Miss K was very pleased too.

In preparation for NY

I have bought the pattern for the rest of my Victorian costume, I hope to by the fabric at Mood as our hotel is only 2 blocks away... They're all from Truly Victorian's Natural Form range.

Here's to a couple of hours rummaging, not that the boyf knows this yet ;)

Wednesday, 27 April 2011

Does half a corset a corset builder make?

So I sat down last night to start the corset properly; sewing in the hoop side of the busk and then continuing to add panels round to the back seam.  Although I'm using Alasse's pattern, I also have a copy of How to Build a Corset which is now thumbed, annotated, post-it noted within an inch of it's life and the prospect of sewing steel into fabric for the first time in my 36-odd years had me checking, double-checking and "just checking again"! 

I started  by deciding where to place the busk, marked the openings for the busk hoops and then (wrong sides together) sewed the seam, leaving gaps where the hoops would be pushed through.  Once I actully commited needle to fabric, I was very pleased with how the coutil, canvas, fabric combination stayed together and was a pleasure to sew; though I put a sharp needle in the machine just to be sure.  The seam was then pressed open, the fabrics folded wrong sides together and pressed again.  Pins were placed where the gaps were and I sewed down the seam 1.5mm from the edge.  I unpicked and resewed a couple of the seams and will possibly do so again as I've not tied them off sufficiently and they are coming loose!  Annoying, and there is no suggestion of how to finish them so that they hold, I think I will tie them off and sew the excess thread through. 

The busk was then pushed into the seam and the hoops through their gaps.  I changed the machine foot to a zipper foot and sewed a line of stitching down the far side of the busk to hold this tight to the edge seam.  I actually sewed this twice as I didn't think that the first was close enough, and then panic un-picked the first seam, certain that in doing so I would catch the fabric and pull a thread... thankfully, all went well.

Finally, flushed with success and at 10.30pm on a school night!, I decided to sew on the next panel.  I paid no attention to anyone's instructions here and decided to sew the front and back panels on separately, which I can do thanks to my design for the corset; external bone casings that are both decorative and will hold the front and back layers together.  Careful pinning and a little adjusting on a couple of seams and I'm pleased; I was able to sew all the panels, round to the back, together in less than an hour.  I pinned a couple of bone casings onto the panels to see how they would look, but ordered 3" too short a length of casing... back to Vena Cava for some more casing and a little patience whilst I enjoy New York before I can get on with the other side....

But... I have half a corset made!! :o)

Monday, 25 April 2011

An evening at Casa B...

We went to the B's for a BBQ dinner... driving to any dinner with a bowl of homemade potato salad, 5 yr old Tempranillo and your corset-in-progress in a bag on your lap is a pretty good indication that it's going to be a good one and the B's did not let us down!  Thank you both for a fabulous evening at Casa B with great food (legendary lemon meringue pie!), wine and lots of laughter; the perfect end to the weekend xx

Happy Easter everyone!

Last night I typed and deleted, typed and deleted, wanting to say something about Easter but not knowing how to.  I am a person of faith, rather than religion, and unlike Christmas (which melds religion and tradition and commerce almost seamlessly into a joyousness that encompasses and surpasses all it's elements) Easter I find trickier.  I appreciate the profound meaning of the Easter story and I like the occasional piece of chocolate egg, but we do not "celebrate" Easter in our household.

That said, Easter is about great love, a single momentous act of giving, redemption, rebirth, miracles and faith and in far smaller, far less profound but, in their own ways, no less meaningful, ways we have experienced some of these things this weekend.  We have shared love, generosity, kindness, compassion and been privileged to do so in the wonder of nature in all its springtime glory... I feel truly blessed after this weekend.

Sunday, 24 April 2011

Its been a lovely weekend!

This weekend has been a lovely one and today was no exception. 

Whilst the 9 year old spent the day at the beach with Hannah, the boyfriend and the dog perfected their indoor/outdoor pottering and I sewed on a button, mended Wednesday doll (who had had a small bust up with the doberman!), made a little denim skirt from a pair of jeans I never should have bought in the first place! and have finished the birthday card I've been meaning to make.  We took the dog for a lovely walk through the bluebell wood and ended up having curry for dinner. 

It has also been one of those weekends when I am shown again just how lucky I am to live in our little village.  We have found one of those rare places where being part of the community really does mean something; where our neighbours brought us a fresh trout for dinner last night, our local Indian is as happy to make a buffet for two as they are for 50 and friends knock on our windows to say goodnight as they pass by of an evening.  To top it all off, the woods were just beautiful, I get to rediscover a little of my youth in my "new" denim skirt and we have another days holiday tomorrow! 

Thank you to for a great little tutorial.

Saturday, 23 April 2011


Halloween invites approved! ;o)

Cutting the pattern for the Corset

According to Wikipedia: Coutil (or Coutille) is woven cloth created specifically for making corsets[1]. It is woven tightly to inhibit penetration of the corset's bones and resist stretching. Coutil has a high cotton content. Cotton has good dimensional stability, or a resistance to stretching, which makes it a good choice for such a stressed garment. Coutil may be made to be plain (similar to 100% cotton facing), satin, or brocade. It is common for coutil to have a herringbone texture, or a similar woven texture.

According to Lucy Green: Coutil is a plastic cardboard masquerading as fabric sent to scare the novice corset maker!  Beautiful, tightly woven, tiny, perfect herringbone woven fabric which doesn't look as good once it's been washed and the steam iron isn't heavy duty enough to iron out the creases again... Some serious ironing later, I had cut the first 10 pieces of my corset and was now more worried about how plastic cardboard would "fit my curves" than ever I had been about the creases... 

Too much Geisha, not enough Gothic!
10 pieces of cream canvas (I left it alone, we had no hassle) later and the third layer was my gorgeous Alexander Henry Zen Charmer, a yard of which I finally found for sale thanks to an estate sale in America. 

I first cut the pieces matching the pattern, but when I pinned them all together I had a pair of Geisha's and not much else showing.  I wanted more Gothic than Geisha, so re-cut various pieces with no pattern matching at all. 

My yard of fabric disappeared quickly with the pattern matching and what little was left I've used for the new sections.  There is nothing but scraps remaining now, but this corset is a one off piece so any spare fabric would have just sat gathering dust; it was a wasteful but useful process and in finding specific parts of the fabric for the new panels I've created an overall look that I am  pleased with.  I hate waste, but I know I wouldn't be as pleased with the final outcome if I'd not gone through the process... and the scraps will look great in a quilt one day.

The Future Quilt
And what actually went on the bin.

Now I just have to get my head round sewing three layers of fabric (plastic cardboard) together with a bit of stainless steel thrown in for good measure...!


invites you to laze... lounge... relax...  It doesn't invite you to work, sew, design birthday cards, turn your old jeans into a skirt or blog for that matter!

By 10am the whole house, chooks included, was sunbathing in the garden...

Thursday, 21 April 2011


aren't they just beautiful!

My Independant Girl...

The 9 year old has been at her Grandparents, with her best friend Hannah, for a week now.  Usually a trip to the Grandparents is accompanied by lots of calls, with a few pathetic "I want to come home!"s.  This time, mostly thanks to Hannah's presence I'm sure, there has not been a single call and I have deliberately refrained from calling her as I know that as she's growing up, I have to learn to do so too.

Sat in the car on the way home, we were talking about the things that change as you get older; since the sex-ed session at school the 9 year old is full of wonderfully uncomfortable questions and some stunning theories...  and I really had to bite my cheek during "y'know Mum, I'm going to start to listen to you more now cos you've grown up before!"   It did get me thinking about how hard it is growing up the first time and how hard it's going to be to grow up the second time too, because there is no doubt in my mind that watching your baby grow into an adult is one of the hardest stages of growing up there is...  Living through it yourself is one thing, watching (and trying to support) your most precious creation live through it is an entirely tougher thing...

Wednesday, 20 April 2011

It is, I've decided, never too early to think about Halloween!

And whilst, I've just realised (!), there's not a lot I can say at the moment without giving most of the game away, I have got it all sorted! 

Sadly, I am not yet allowed to start buying my props... in a house our size, where do you stash your spare skeletons?!  But, the shopping list is ready, recipes and decorative plans noted and filed, and, if the boyfriend approves the design, I will start work on the invitations. 

I do so love Halloween... and this year, I am truly excited!

Tuesday, 19 April 2011

If beauty is in the eye of the beholder,

then I count myself lucky to have eyes that find beauty in a great number of things. 

It was a question often debated in my Philosophy classes at University.  Form, symmetry, proportion, harmony, consistency and an ability to understand, to connect emotionally and, in some beliefs, also spiritually, all work to help us decide whether something is beautiful or not. 

In my experience, the trick is not to look but to really see; to pay attention and notice the subtleties.  It is the things that make you laugh out loud, stare in wonder or smile broadly that I class as beautiful and sometimes it can be the silliest, simplest things that lighten the day and make me happier just for seeing them. 

Now look...

...who would ever imagine finding a heart - a totally unexpected love token - sat on the floor, in all the mess that one drooly doberman and a bowl of water can make!

Monday, 18 April 2011

A Victorian Chemise

With thanks to Alasse from the BurdaStyle community (her blog can been seen at, I was inspired to start the Victorian project using her "Unmentionables" chemise and corset patterns.

The chemise is now done; in white broderie anglaise, with a crocheted lace neckline and sleeves. The pattern was a joy to work with and it came together so quickly and beautifully that I felt compelled to flat-fell the seams: a seam that brings back all sorts of Home Ecc class horrors from my dim and distant youth!
That said, standing at the ironing board with the 9 yr old, trimming and steaming the seams and explaining as I did so, I was reminded of my Grandmother and felt that connection to the past that hovers around when you are imparting good, sound knowledge. Not that my fabulously modern, iPod/smart phone/laptop/Moshi Monsters/iPad/DS XL/Scooby Doo/Wii/dinosaur/swimming obsessed daughter will ever need to flat-fell a seam again; I am just pleased to know that she could do if she wanted to!

Starting early..

I do miss my 9 yr old when she's away but the few minutes extra that this gives me in the morning are precious and always get me out of bed just that little bit quicker.

I walked the dog through a haze of cold mist, looking upwards at the blue sky and white clouds above, heralding what has turned into a wonderful sunny April day and by 8.15am, with the animals fed, lunch made, boyfriend off to work, dog snoozing and a quick tweek with the straighteners satisfactorily answering "does my hair need a wash?", I found that I had 15 minutes to do exactly as I pleased... So I now have a tidy dining room (ironing all done, or hidden out of sight!) and some photos to post later of the chemise that started my Victorian project off.

Sunday, 17 April 2011

The issue of space...

Moving to a house in the country is one thing, moving to a tiny two bedroom cottage with your boyfriend, daughter, doberman, cat, guinea pig, hamster and three chickens... oh, don't forget the fish... is quite another thing and space is of a premium!
Not that I'm complaining, I adore our little cottage with it's beams and graveyard and duck-to-get-through doors, and I loved the giant clearout we (ok, I) had when we moved (so very therapeutic) and the knowledge that every thing I see around me now has been chosen with care and love and deserves its place, rightly so; but when you love to do as many arty things as I do, space is of a premium.
And this is my current dilemma... The "big project" of the moment is a Victorian Costume. Having sewn for years, I rediscovered my love of sewing with patterns last year when I made a boned evening gown and bodiced Gothic Snow White Halloween costume. A Victorian costume, in all it's constituent parts, is possibly one of the most challenging sewing projects you can take on, especially if you use original patterns, and this is my challenge for this year. So, I have made the chemise (more later) and am starting on the corset. And having finally got all the pieces I need together I find that I have a bad case of "sewers block"; partly because everything is just sitting there, all pristine, looking at me, and partly because of a lack of space. Until I tidy away the current round of washing, tackle the huge pile of ironing, and return Indy's maths tutors tutoring aids to him, I am sharing the dining table (my work space) with a whole pile of stuff!
So, I'd better do some ironing then...

the first post..

so, I'm venturing into the blogsphere... it'll be interesting to see how it goes!
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