Craftiness, baking and other lovely things.

Friday, 13 November 2015

Liberty at the London Fashion and Textile Museum

A little light crochet on the train to London
So yesterday I took the train from my flat, rural Fenland home to the Big City, to hear a talk by Chinelo Bally at the London Fashion and Textile Museum.  I also got to see the Liberty in Fashion exhibition.  What to tell you about first?

I'll start with the exhibition, as that's what I saw first.  I have a bit of an ambivalent relationship with Liberty.  I truly love some of the Liberty fabrics but sometimes it's all a bit over-blown for me, just a little bit too far out there.  That said, the exhibition was fascinating, especially from a sewing perspective.  The details and construction of some of the garments, mostly dresses, on display was breathtaking.

All those little details, immaculate pintucks, embroidery and smocking.  Just beautiful and inspirational.  I must put more effort into those finishing touches.

Chinelo's talk was very good.  I haven't got her book in front of me to talk about.  I had already pre-ordered it from Amazon when I heard that I had won tickets to the talk - thank you very much to Frida at Pavilion Books.  Chinelo spoke about her book and Great British Sewing Bee and gave us her top tips for freehand cutting and dressmaking.  I can't remember them all but the ones that stuck in my head were:

Lose the fear - don't be afraid of cutting into the fabric or of your fabric choices.  What's the worst that could happen?  You can start again if it all goes wrong.

Measurements - we all know this one, but with freehand cutting it really is absolutely vital to get your measurements right.

Don't get hung up on not having all the gadgets - Chinelo uses a razor blade instead of a seam ripper (nice to know that even someone sewing for a living needs to rip seams out, isn't it?).  Look around your home and improvise if you haven't got a particular tool or gadget for a project.  She recommended the use of a tin of tomatoes as a pattern weight.  She's a very practical girl.

I'm looking forward to getting my hands on the book, fingers crossed it should arrive today.  In the meantime I'm wondering if I'll be brave enough to draw a pattern directly onto fabric and start cutting...

Monday, 9 November 2015

Tickets for Chinelo Bally's talk at the Fashion and Textile Museum? Yes, please!

I always enter those competitions on blogs, you know the ones, leave a comment and a winner will be selected at random.  Well lucky little old me, I won a pair of tickets to visit the London Fashion and Textile Museum for Chinelo Bally's talk launching her new book, plus entry into the Liberty in Fashion exhibition. #veryexcited.

I pre-ordered Chinelo's book just yesterday and I am intrigued, if slightly terrified, by her dressmaking methods, so it's fabulous to get the chance to go and hear her talk about it all.  Daughter number 1 thinks it sounds good, but it clashes with Scouts so she probably won't come with me.  (Scouts?  That's on every week!  Still, she's 12 and her celebrity crafter of preference is Kirstie Allsop.  Me, I like 'em all.)

I will report back, possibly with pics if I'm allowed to take them.  #winnerwinnerchickendinner.

Saturday, 7 November 2015

31 shirts and talking to children about death

In the summer, I sat on the steps of my beach hut under a gloriously blue sky, listening to the gentle sound of the incoming tide and talking with my friends about what the terminally ill father could gift to the family he would leave behind on death, to give them something tangible to hold onto, something that would help them remember him.  It wasn't a sad conversation, at least not for my brave friends; more a practical discussion of the possibilities.  I mentioned that memory quilts were worth considering, especially as Dave was a great wearer of shirts of all patterns and colours.  They liked the idea, although Ange did say it would definitely be something that I'd have to make, she having no sewing skills beyond button fixing.

Last Saturday I collected 31 shirts.  Dave was in the hospice, at the very end stage of end stage cancer.  He was expected to pass within days.  Ange knew he would not be wearing those shirts again and she had decided that she'd like to use the memory quilt, or memory blanket as we were calling it, to lay it over his coffin and then bring it home to comfort her and the children.

I took apart, cut up and sewed for 5 days.  The finished blanket had to retain the 'shirtness' of each shirt, rather than being made up of identically sized, neat little squares, arranged in an organised pattern.  Rather it had to include all the little details that made each shirt special: the contrast stitching; the crazy lining fabric; buttons stitched onto velvet ribbon.  The pieces had to be large where the pattern was large.  I pieced it blindly from piles of squares and strips of fabric.  I had enough fabric from those 31 shirts to make a double sided blanket.  It was huge.  It was beautiful.

Making that blanket was an unexpected experience.  Cutting fabric is usually boring, but not this time.  The whole process was almost meditative.  Whilst my hands were cuting, smoothing, stitching, my mind wandered and I remembered that day, and other days, on the beach with Dave and his family.  Parties we'd been to, conversations we'd had, cups of tea we'd drunk together.  It was an honour to be trusted with such precious fabric and I know that the finished blanket will be treasured.  I left the blanket with Ange's mum who laid it on her bed so that it was there when she got home late that night from the hospice.

The next morning, yesterday, at 6am, Dave - who hugged better than anyone else I've ever been hugged by - passed from this world.  Ange asked that friends meet in the evening to celebrate his life and send some fireworks up to heaven.

I didn't know how to tell my children why we going there.  They knew that Dave was ill.  But how could I tell them that someone they knew, their friends' dad, was dead?  In the end, it was my husband who told the older two in a very straightforward way.  We decided that Issie, aged 6, didn't need to know.  I wish now that I had joined my husband to tell them, even though I know I would have cried.  Grief should not be invisible and I realise now that I had the chance to show my children that, to show them that crying is okay.  The children took it in the same straightforward manner they were told.  They enjoyed the fireworks and had a great time running around with the other children.  It was a fitting celebration of the life of the man who was called a friend by many, many people.

As we were leaving, I hugged Ange and she thanked me again for the blanket.  "Dave would have been proud," she said.  Bless you, Dave Stocker.  You will be missed.