Sunday, 27 March 2011

And back to sewing ...

So it’s week two of the 50s dress-making class (using pattern V8184), and we were packed off this time with a mountain of homework for next week; the last session so a little bit of pressure (although no more than hoping to wear this to a Vegas wedding in the summer – eek, making something I’m actually planning to wear, who’d have thunk it).  All of it is relatively straightforward theoretically, but I’m sure I’m not alone in suffering from performance anxiety once I’m away from the comforting gaze of someone who knows what they’re doing, can help me read the pattern and generally stop me making a total bobbins of things.

For example, I made a silly mistake on the strap which was part of our homework last week; I basted the ends for the neck edge (I slightly hold my colleague Laura responsible for this as we went out for drinks on Friday night, and it took me two days to recover – poor me).  I did get the edges into a lovely sharp point – something I’ve been practicing - which would be great if it had been for something that needed it, a collar for example, but obviously quite an annoying thing to unpick and made more so because when you read the pattern it’s blindingly obvious that it wasn’t what we were supposed to do.  Anyway, that’s unpicked now and I’m gazing at the pile of other things that need to happen before next week and missing my safety blanket.

This week we boned the bodice; satisfying to see the shape come together and feel how differently the fabric reacts as it gets treated in different ways.  We were using satin lined polyester bones – naturally we leave those whales in peace these days – so we weren’t fussing with sewing on pockets for the polyester strips.  They were marginally less stressful than zips, and the back seams were fine.  The curved front seams posed more of a challenge and I managed to stretch this relatively straightforward task out over nearly two hours which is quite an achievement in many ways, she says ferreting out that silver lining.

It’s a slightly smaller group than the introductory course, and the tutor effectively leaves us to get on with things, occasionally mooching past to check we’re on track.  Having her there, I feel relatively confident about getting on, albeit as slowly as a three-legged tortoise set in reverse, and my sewing speed is gradually improving (apart from round corners where I set the machine to slow and may actually be quicker hand tacking).  We’ve all been quite bold in our fabric choices and have opted for beautiful patterns ranging from quirky – a Liberty paisley print with little ghostly faces peering out - to neat retro florals and bold Moda prints.  It’s really lovely to see how different the same dress coming together can look; and we’re all working away with real quiet enthusiasm and verve so the time flies by. 

Although it’s still such early days with my sewing progress, I am starting to understand how people communicate through stitches.  It sounds very whimsical, but every time I get Bobby out there’s a little frisson of excitement about what’s going to happen.  Often, it’s a little bit of sewing, a lot bit of quick unpick; but occasionally I finish doing a something (like a pocket) that I’ve not done before and think “crikey, I did that”, with rather a lot of help from the pattern and You Tube videos of course. 

But with that in mind, and a rather patchy history of cross stitching dating back for two decades – yes, I was a pretty out there child and teenager, who knows how my parents coped – I booked myself onto an introduction to embroidery at the Royal School of Needlework which happened today (more of that at a later date - so much to mull through after a long but great day).  I met someone two weeks ago who had been accepted to study there, and said that walking into the rooms at Hampton Court Palace, she was struck immediately by how the embroidery that filled the rooms looked as if it had been crafted by angels.  I was as excited at the prospect of seeing these incredible works and being in the presence of that sort of creativity, as I was at learning new stitches and ways of working. 

There are two exhibitions at the V&A at the moment that I would love to see.  One is an exhibition of 80 Yohji Yamamoto creations, the first opportunity of its kind to see this quantity of the designer’s work in a very dynamic format.  The other is a social history of chocolate production and consumption over a 400 year period which I think would be fascinating, especially in light of people’s fairly intense emotional attachment to the stuff.  Next week the Cult of Beauty exhibition starts featuring two of Walter Crane’s works on loan from the RSN, as part of the museum’s exploration of the aesthetic movement during the second half of the 19th century.  I really should find a day, don some comfy shoes, and have a proper explore.

One final thing following the Comic Relief cake baking frenzy –  I was literally cleaning frosting off bits of the kitchen I didn’t know it could have reached for days afterwards – is that Abel & Cole very kindly steered me and my beetroot in the cake direction.  Given they had been so nice to get in touch, I’m now compelled to try this recipe and plan to do that on either Monday or Tuesday evening – I’ll take a photo if it turns out ok.  Sadly, it comes too late for last week’s beetroot (RIP) but if I’m not in the office for a couple of days next week it’s because my baking attempt has left me dyed a deep shade of purple, and/or I’ve gluttonously realised that root vegetables, dark chocolate and cakes are a heavenly match.  I’m ruling neither possibility out.

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