Preparing for the Alternative Clothes Show

IMG_0245I’m taking part in the Alternative Clothes Show in Hornsey, London at the weekend- My first show for a while so I’m hard at work with felt and embroidery.  In the spirit of the show I’ve been working on a range of necklaces using upcycled beads from the local charity shops and my own embroidered felt.  I’ve also put the polystyrene hat blocks I carved last June in a course with Jane Smith to use making a couple of felt toques.

It’s now the final push to the line finishing the final pieces, and gathering supplies for  dressing the stall (and my self as I agreed to model some handmade felt in their fashion show!)

A Tiny Tri-corn and mixing beer with sewing…

My Tri-corn is finally done, complete with embroidered felt feather (forgive the picture.  I took it in a hurry first thing this morning.)DSCF8296

I finished sewing on the crown and added the hatband and feather at the October meeting of KnitSewManyThings. They are a knitting and sewing group that meet monthly in a Stoke Newington pub, and was founded by members of the Tower Theatre (which is how I found them.)

I have been a member of the Tower for a number of years although my involvement these days is mostly as an audience member, and when the Scotsman directs a show, a provider of:

  1. moral support,
  2. reading in and a listening ear at auditions
  3. sumptuous ‘get in’ lunches for cast and crew

In July there was an article in the Tower e newsletter and I went to the August Meet only to discover that they meet on a Wednesday – the same evening as the Millinery Class I had just signed up for… However I made it to the October meet as they had it late and so it coincided with my half term.

I miss the ‘sitting around a table working and chatting’ element of my embroidery class. (We don’t know each other well enough yet in Millinery to be idle chatters – plus we are constantly learning stuff.) I’m not convinced that a pub is the best of venues for craft – the lighting leaves a lot to be desired! It’s not too bad if you are knitting or crocheting, but threading a needle is a bit of a challenge!!

Very good beer though which is a nice extra…

The F Word…..

I learned this week in my millinery class that there is one word that is definitely not to be used there – ‘fascinator’ otherwise known by our tutor as ‘The F word’…. !!

The subject came up as we are all currently making small constructed hats – the exercise is being used to teach us basic skills like wiring a brim or edging with petersham ribbon, but in a way that takes less time than making a full size hat.

Brim wire being attached with blanket stitch

Brim wire being attached with blanket stitch

We held the wire in place with masking tape and used a version of buttonhole stitch with an extra twist round the needle to attach the wiring.

I’ve shaped mine into a tricorn brim, although it won’t strictly speaking be a tricorn as it will have the wrong sort of crown.

Beginnings of a Tricorn

Beginnings of a Tricorn

The wire needs to be shaped before the petersham is added to the edge so am just beginning to sew it on with a stab stitch hence all the pins.  (I was packing up when I took this photo which is why the spare petersham is sitting in the middle.)  I think it’s going to look cute.  Much better than any old bit of feather, ribbon and wire, otherwise known as a fascinator!

Brim ready to sew on the petersham

Brim prepared ready to sew on the petersham

Milliner or Hatter….I’m not quite sure

I’ve started a Contemporary Millinery course at Morley College on Wednesday evenings, hoping to add finesse and finish to my hats. My felt making has definitely improved in technique over the past three or four years – but I thought it would be useful to learn some more about hat construction and finishing. I doubt I will ever be tempted into Couture levels of millinery. I’m more interested in the everyday hat, with a dose of historical and theatrical hat thrown in.

My tutor for the course is Karen Shannon – who has a background both in couture with Freddy Fox and Stephen Jones, and also for film and theatre.

I have singularly failed to take any photos in my first couple of classes. We are starting with felt which suits me although I have never worked with commercially made felt before. I guess the techniques will be translatable though once I’ve learned them – steaming, blocking, wiring a brim. We have each bought a ‘cone’ to make a small brimless blocked hat and a ‘flare’ to cut up and make a mini constructed hat (apparently you can’t buy commercial hat felt in flat pieces so you cut it up and steam it flat). Pictures soon when I remember to take my camera.

Karen currently has an exhibition at Craft Central in London for anyone who is interested. It runs till next weekend.

2012 Hat Project – A January Hat

The Scotsman suggested that I made a project in 2012 with a hat per month.  The January hat was already underway when he suggested this – a sheep themed hat based on my photo  ‘The sheep that looks like Andrew Marr’. It also came from seeing so many people on the London Underground wearing (mostly knitted) hats with animal ears.  I found myself thinking “I could felt ears easily into a hat…

So it is a hood with very big ears, a sheep-nose like front, dreadlock like fringing and is made in natural coloured wool .  I think the wool I used was Shetland in two colours  (but it could have been Jacob as I very cleverly forgot to label the bags when I bought it!)  with a little pink merino for contrast and because of the inside ear colour.

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On basic completion of the hat it was much too big (see photo 6) even for the Scotsman.  Not sure whether this was because I made the template too big, because Shetland wool shrinks less than the merino I usually use or literally just because I hadn’t shrunk it enough.  A bit of all three probably… I ended up cutting it down a little and also turning back the nose piece that I had originally intended to sit over the forehead.  The upside of playing around and doing this was that the pink inside was exposed to frame the face which I really like!

And so on to the next hat – As it is a February hat I am thinking ‘Valentines Day’…also I’m doing a Cobweb Felt course at the end of January so hoping to incorporate something cobbwebby…. Watch this space…

Hat Blocks as Art…..

I was in Merseyside last week visiting my Dad and went with my sister Fran to Tate Liverpool to see the Magritte exhibition – The Pleasure Principle.  Liverpool seemed to be buzzing on a beautiful day under a blue sky.

Liver Building with new Museum of Liverpool in foreground

Perhaps its time as the European City of Culture has really made a difference – or perhaps it was just the effect of the first day of the school holidays!!!

On our way back through the gallery after seeing the exhibition (which was excellent) we noticed the This is Sculpture rooms one of which is currently curated by Philip Treacey, the milliner.  Along with his choices of artwork was a display his personal collection of beautiful wooden and scrim hatblocks….

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Textile Jewellery Course

On Friday I did a one day textile jewellery course at Morley College…..some of the things covered were similar to those done on the Creative and Experimental Textiles. (But lovely to have access to equipment such as the heat press.)  I spent my time working with Pelmet Vilene to make cuff like bracelets.

The green one was originally intended to be inspired by waves – but the colours that the dye paper we were using meant that it turned out more like a garden.  I added some embroidery to complement this…..

I then made a second one using lace to transfer a pattern onto the vilene once I had dyed it abasic red colour.  I was thinking of it like an actual lace cuff so I put a fake button on it.   Debby also showed us a whole new way to use a soldering iron to burn small holes in the vilene.  I was aiming for it to look like lace.

Finally I sowed some of the actual lace onto the bracelet  The lace print doesn’t show up very well on the photo but the holes made by the soldering iron do….