Wednesday, 31 May 2017

Superfast Making

I bought this silk dress in the Rag Market a few weeks ago for a tenner, I wasn't fussed on the dress but thought the fabric was the star.

I had a lunch date so I whipped the top off and added some vintage fancy elastic - it was a big lunch - that I'd bought from the Textile society fair.

It was already lined so I was good to go.

Saturday, 27 May 2017

Ankara African Waxed Print & Soviet Era Fabric

I've been buying Ankara fabric from Birmingham to Barbados and finally I got down to using it.  It's known as an African waxed fabric, although it's not actually from Africa.  It has a sort of sheen/stiffness to it and I was concerned that when washed it would lose its crispness - both fabric and print  - and possibly colour also, but what do I know, it washes beautifully.  I love these bold prints and I've made myself one of the above, it's lightweight but sturdy and I think it just looks fab.  This one is on Etsy.

This one makes me think beach balls and it would make a great beach bag.

I found this mid century Soviet era print at the recent Textile Society Fair that I went to, the lady selling it travels the world looking for good fabric!  It was interesting to me that it was produced on a very narrow loom.  I also bought vintage French - watch this space - and Hungarian textiles from the same wise woman!

Thursday, 25 May 2017

Maj Nilsson & Afro Basaldella

I bought this rather gorgeous Haddon print at the Textile Society Fair.  Designed by Maj Nilsson in 1959 for David Whitehead Ltd.  It's so simple it almost reminds me of potato prints.

I've been having a little play with a leather hide I got earlier this week, I think it looks rather good against the bright yellow pocket zip.

The Haddon large tote is now in my Etsy shop.

I bought this barkcloth because it shouted out at me, it seemed the epitome of 1950/60's design, just what people have been trying to replicate ever since and after a bit of investigation it seems that I do have a good eye.  This print was designed by Italian Abstract artist Afro Basadella for David Whitehead, that first Art History degree was not wasted on me! 

I've been experimenting with making my totes stiffer and so bonded the fabric to a hefty middle.
The Afro Basaldella tote can be found in my Etsy shop.

Wednesday, 17 May 2017

Abstract Barkcloth

Today I've been working with some great mid century barkcloth that I found at the Textile Society fair in Manchester recently.  It was a pair of curtains in beautiful condition and after i'd deconstructed and laundered the fabric looked fresh as a daisy.  This is vat dyed, the print goes straight through the fabric fibres so the print on the reverse is pretty much the same.  Modern fabric just isn't of this quality.

I lined it with some coated linen and added bright yellow topstitching to the very useful pockets.

Monday, 15 May 2017


I've been hard at work with the Marimekko, blue Unikko and 

I'm eeking out the last of my mid century Alpine.

We've developed the after school routine of ice creams and five minutes down-time, 
Sally Hope thinks she should be included!

Monday, 8 May 2017

19th Century Chanvre

A book that I would recommend on the state of the fashion industry, featuring a very good table of who the big names are owned by is, Stitched Up by Tansy Hoskins.  
Also a good article on Carin Mansfield of in-ku and a good essay on Slow Fashion.


The completed pockets waiting to be attached, all the edges are seamed, the selvedge at the top is hard to distinguish because it's so fine, that's how the weavers rolled a couple of hundred years ago.

Bottom of pocket, hand stitched on with original hemp thread using modern but authentic beeswax.

Can you make out the top selvedge of the pocket?
I love how the different thread has taken up the dye and slubs.

A close up of the mending on the pocket.  No other part of the apron had to be darned, the sheet had worn thin in the middle so I used it from the bottom selvedge upwards and the darned pockets are purely for my amusement!

Sunday, 7 May 2017

The Tale of a Hardworking French Hemp Sheet!

A found a rather lovely 19th Century French sheet at the Textile Society Fair last week.  I obviously love my old fabrics but about 200 years is a very good vintage.  I made the duvet cover on my bed from some sheets that celebrate their two hundredth birthday this year, they are marked on the corner as part of a household inventory and I only wish I knew with what, the writing had been laundered for two hundred years and is still perfect in a very florid hand.  

19th Century sheets have a perfectly executed seam up the middle because they would have been produced on a narrow loom.  The above photo shows my deconstruction of the original sheet.  These are French and are hemp, which was easier and a cheaper to produce and spin than flax/linen.  In my head I thought hemp was far rougher but after doing a bit of research it seems that hemp just needs wearing in, it would have been normal for a servant to wear-in his masters shirt.  After a couple of hundred years hard labour this fabric is just divine.

It is difficult to tell the two fibres apart but in their natural state their colour is different and they naturally would twist in opposite directions, flax clockwise and hemp anti-clockwise.  As a spinner I could work this one out.  I know a couple of people who can spin flax,  it's a completely different wheel and you wouldn't do it for fun, we've never discussed hemp but I'll definitely be picking their brains at our next Stafford Knot Spinners meeting.

This wouldn't have been dyed originally, a lot of the textiles coming from France seem to be blue and I'm not sure if it's an actual French thing or just a thing for export.  I saw a lot of work smocks in their natural colour, I have a gorgeous one made of a sheet with a tiny gingham collar which I'm sure would have been a thrifty make by a farmers wife - my husband won't be seen with me wearing this!  There were an awful lot of navy/denim blue workers jackets at the fair, old and new, but I don't imagine that a poor peasant farmer would have paid £145 for a new overall.

I bought the fabric because it had a lot of 'age' and I wanted to make it up into a couple of garments for myself because it was so soft and just such a good textile.  As I was contemplating I thought it would look better if it was completely hand sewn, machining would look harsh against  this worn-in fabric, but then what thread to use?  I don't have a stash of two hundred year old thread but as I was unpicking the centre seam a lightbulb went off in my head, I do in fact have plenty of two hundred year old thread I just need to harvest it.  There may well be/should be a difference between the warp and weft but I can't find it.  I pulled out the individual thread and waxed it and gave it more twist and hey-presto, like magic it worked, although very labour intensive.  Normally I would use Thread Heaven which is silicone but I went for the beeswax this time as it would have been available two hundred years ago.  I did know someone at the Embroiderers Guild years ago who swore by ear wax, it was actually a thing and a lady would have had a tool in her sewing box for the scooping out, but I'm not going to be that authentic.

The first garment that I've cut out is a cross back apron, I though it would be perfect.  I kept the selvedge as the bottom and as with my workers smock I used the original hand stitched hem at one edge and hand stitched my own hem for the other.  The above photo shows mine on the left and the original on the right,  I could have got mine as narrow as the original but I like to see the difference and I'm all for a good bit of visible mending.  Tom of Holland does excellent work championing visible mending.

What to do with the very important pockets?  I wanted again to utilise the selvedge and also the thinner parts of fabric so that I could do some form of darning.  I went with a long rectangle of fabric folded over with the selvedge outermost at the top and folded in the rest of the fabric, pinned, basted, stitched up the edges and then the fun part, the mending stitches.

More to follow...

Tuesday, 2 May 2017

Textile Society Fair

Sunday was the 25th Antique Textile Fair in Manchester run by the Textile Society,  I think I've been going for about 12 years.  It's my favourite fabric event of the year, always top notch stands run by people who know what they are talking about and are happy to spread their knowledge, good talks and very good bacon baps.  This years I listened to, Retropattern  - Fab Fabrics - 1950's to 1970's,  Paula Day - daughter of Lucienne talking about the Robin and Lucienne Day Foundation,  Jennifer Harris - Lucienne Day: The woman and her work and finally the very lovely Henry Holland.

I always apply my one bag rule at this event, a very big bag made by me of course, 

I filled my bottomless bag with barkcloth.

A lot of French fabrics.

Some great British stuff from Festival of Pattern, the one on the left is called Haddon, the one on the right might turn into a Pilvi jacket.  Christine was involved in the Back To The Drawing Board exhibition that I so loved at Keele.

Russian vintage cottons.

Ascher silk that is for me alone!

Hungarian linen on the top that are intended to be tea towels but are square so I'm going to use as napkins, I really want some napkins from Mungo in South Africa but the taxes are prohibitive and their UK stockists never have the colours I want - I'm sure I'll survive this hardship.  I also got a few very thick linen tea towels that I know are going to bring me joy in the kitchen every day.

This is a pile waiting for the washing machine to be free,  well loved linen, hemp and cotton. Also in the magic bag were a couple of things for Miss Belle a winter coat from the Isle of Bute and a pink French overall, four pairs of gloves for me and a few roles of braid.
I staggered back to the car, content for another year!

Monday, 1 May 2017

Josef Frank

At last I got to London to see the Josef Frank exhibition at the Fashion and Textile Museum.
I travelled to London with Miss Belle who had been invited to the Houses of Parliament, she went her way and I went to Soho.  My first stop was Cloth House  on Berwick Street and I found some rather lovely Japanese brushed linen in navy, it's had a wash and looks extremely boring as far as fabric goes but it's all in the feel.  I also popped into MacCulloch & Wallis for some very bright yellow linen.


I enjoyed the exhibition but I've been enjoying the excellent if overpriced
Josef Frank Textile Designs book even more.