Wednesday, February 04, 2015

Blue cloche - Historical sew monthly

So last year I totally failed to take part in the Historical Sew Fortnightly which is organised by the marvelous Dreamstress. This is a great idea, whereby sewing challenges are set fortnightly, and participants complete them by recreating historical garments, in 2015 the challenges will be monthly. I really wanted to take part last year but things like getting married, or being ill, or making other peoples wedding dresses took up all my time and all my good intentions went phut.  However, this year things are going to be different. As mentioned in a previous post, I have decided that dead lines are no longer my friend so I'm changing my work patterns to suit my crappy health.  This does leave me some more time to do some me sewing, and so here is my first effort for the Historical Sew Monthly. 

The February challenge is Blue, to make an item that features blue, in any shade from azure to zaffre. I've been wanting to do some more free form blocking so a 1920's pleated cloche is my first challenge. I began by blocking the hood over my domed hatblock as I wanted the top of the hat to have a classic, rounded bell shape.  When it was dry I marked the head fitting line (where the hat will sit on the head) using my hem marker.  I'm quite pleased with this way of marking the headline as it lets you decide the depth of crown you want really easily and you don't have to take it off the block first.
Once the hood had dried I removed it from the dome block and started to shape it on my malleable wig head which I covered in cling film to protect it from any dye leaching from the hood when I steamed it.  I took inspiration from some extant examples of felt cloches that I found online. The first is a blue fur felt cloche with lovely pleats at the back, it was for sale a while ago on Vintage Martini. The second is a 1928 hat by Miss Fox that is in the V and A Museum, this time the pleats form part of the brim at the front.
I decided to focus my pleats at the back to create an asymmetric sweep around the base of the head and then hand form a turned up brim at the front.  I used blocking reed to secure the front head fitting so it would not stretch it out of shape whilst forming the brim.
And finished-really must tidy up my workroom!  I'm very pleased with how it turned out. Now I just need an occasion to wear it to....

The Challenge: February:Blue 

Fabric: Wool felt
Pattern: No pattern, based on extant examples.
Year: 1920's
Notions: Millinery petersham
How historically accurate is it? The wool felt hood is period accurate and the cloche is entirely hand sewn.  I used modern water based hat sizing, as the chemical version that is technically accurate is seriously toxic! So 95% accurate.
Hours to complete: about 10 hours, not including drying time.
First worn: not worn yet 
Total cost: I have had the felt hood for ages so not exactly sure! They cost about £5 and maybe £2 for the petersham and thread.  So approx £7.  

Monday, January 05, 2015

2014 Round-up and 2015 Plans

Well its a New Year, an obvious time to take stock of things and plan for the future.  2014 was a very mixed bag of a year.  ON the positive side I had some fabulous times with friends and family and totally the best day of my life so far, when I married my beloved Mr EB in June. I couldn't have asked for a better day, the weather was perfect, food was amazing and we are so lucky to have so many lovely people in our lives who came to share it all with us.  Sadly, the year also contained way, way too much crap!  I spent two weeks in Papworth in March/April plus a further three weeks at home on ivs being treated for Micobacterium Chelonae, I can honestly say that the treatment was utterly horrible-I have never been so sick in my life!  So that was hilarious fun,  then in October my health was the worse its ever been, i ended up back in Papworth and oxygen dependent for the first time in my life.  I don't think I really appreciated just how ill I was at the time, probably because going into denial was the only way I could cope with it.  I had another round of the micobacterium treatment (yay more ridiculous nausea!) and spent three weeks in Papworth and another two weeks on ivs at home.  It really was a horrible experience, I had one evening when I simply could not catch my breath, my O2 saturation plummeted and the nurses bunged me straight on oxygen.  In retrospect I was really scared, and it still scares me just how bad I got and how quickly, but at the time I was surprisingly calm, as I wasn't totally aware of what was going on.  The next ten days or so were spent pretty much on oxygen 24/7 which whilst it definitely made me feel better, meant I was also stuck in bed for pretty much the whole time-very dull!  I became very weak and lost a spectacular amount of weight during October and the only reason I didn't end up have to NG feed was that I had a total freak out about it and managed to persuade the dietitians I would start drinking the dreadful milkshake supplements (which I have and thank God the weight is slowly getting back to an acceptable level).

This health crash has forced me into having to reassess my life, yet again-bloody CF!  Trying to stick to my motto of 'adopt, adapt and improve', I'm attempting to view this as a positive thing, but mostly I'm just a bit confused as to what I am going to do.  Working to a deadline is just way too stressful when you can't tell if you may suddenly end up stuck in hospital unable to do anything for three weeks...So work is going to have change a lot, I'm just not quite sure how yet! More hats and embroidery seem one way to go, but I don't know how I'm going to sell anything-suggestions gratefully received...

We are also considering moving to a new house that will make my life a bit easier on the domestic front.  Stairs are definitely no longer my friend.  It's not that I can't do them, I can, but when I'm not feeling great (which is increasingly often), when I get to the top I either feel terribly faint or have a massive coughing fit-not ideal! Our house only has an upstairs bathroom which is a bit problematic; so we are on the look out for a bungalow- I feel so old!  I love George Street and really don't want to have to go through the stress of moving, but equally I am increasingly conscious that I cant keep up with the domestic side of life, not to mention the garden-I really do feel utterly useless at times! So, we are considering moving now before I get much worse and it becomes harder.  So it looks like there will be some big changes ahead in 2015.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Wedding Pictures!

Yes, I know its been ages since we tied the knot, but I have at last sorted myself out (a bit) and uploaded a few of our photos.  I will do a post about my dress in a bit more depth once I've finished it- I started it ages ago but have been procrastinating ever since! Our photos were taken by the fabulous Paul White, who I cannot recommend highly enough. As well as being such an amazing photographer he is a really lovely chap who made us feel so relaxed that even Mr EB didn't mind being snapped!.

Our amazing 'Lego' cake made by my genus of a sister in law.

Wednesday, July 09, 2014

Pictures, pictures, pictures!

Oh dear another long blog silence! But in my defence at least I can say 'Reader, I married him!'  Always wanted to do that:-) We had a glorious day for our wedding without a drop of rain, the day after we had a huge thunder storm! I will do a post about my dress when I get time to actually write it and have sorted out the pictures.  In the meantime, you can see a slideshow of our wonderful photos as taken be the incredibly talented Paul White, on his Facebook page

Tuesday, April 22, 2014


Oh dear, I've been a bad blogger again... Its mostly been down to my health being a total disaster area.  The doc's finally decided that I'd had enough positive cultures of a micro bacterium called Chelonae to actually warrant treating it. Given that they've been trying to decide this for about two years, you can see how few positive results I've had and also how serious the treatment is as they don't give it to you until they really think you need it.  The treatment is seriously, seriously crap- for me it was two weeks in Papworth on three IV drugs, two of which are very, very strong along with two nebbed antibiotics and four pill antibiotics!  This was followed by a slightly reduced IV regime of the two massively strong ones, as well as all the nebs and pills for another two weeks which, thank God, was at home and I am now on the maintenance regime of the two nebs and two pill antibiotics...its still a lot of drugs, but it is much more bearable than the IVs. They actually wanted me to do the IVs for longer but I'd lost so much weight (5kgs in about 10days) and was so knackered and weak that they let me stop at four.  They were really nasty drugs too; tigicycline (I think that's how you spell it!) makes you seriously sick-I spent the first 48 hours unable to eat anything and not even water was staying put. The docs eventually got a good anti-sickness regime going which at least let me keep food down, but one of the anti emetics I started with, was so strong it basically knocks you out; so whilst you aren't being sick anymore you are also mostly comatose-great! To give you an idea of quite how sick I was, they gave me the same drugs that they give cancer patients when they are on chemo-really no fun at all. So, that was pretty much all of April out of the window on massive loads of drugs, so I didn't have a chance to do anything interesting to blog about.

At least now I've had a bit of time to recover and even go on holiday with Mr EB and the massed Evans clan, I'm getting back to work on my wedding dress and doing some embroidery too. Hopefully, I'll be able to do some more interesting blogging soon when I will finally be able to blog all the pics I've been taking  of my dress and have some other work to post as well.  Life will finally get back to being sewing and fun based, rather than drug based!

Monday, February 17, 2014

Useful post 3: Gadgets and gizmos

I must admit to being a bit of a gadget addict...If I can find a gizmo to do a job, be it in cooking, hat making or sewing then I really am useless at resisting.  Quite a lot of the gadgets I buy are, to be honest a bit of a waste of time and money.... Rouleau loop turner-just use a safety pin, thread snips- just use a pair of scissors like any normal person!  However, some of them are worth their weight in gold and I would probably go quite mad without them.  So these are some of my total essentials that I would recommend anyone who sews a lot invest in.

Walking foot
This rather marvelous gizmo makes sewing annoyingly slippery fabric a doddle. Some fabrics like satin or velvet (or any fabric with a pile ie a furry surface) just will not stay still when you try ad seam them together, no matter how much you pin or baste them; I've even been known to baste and pin out of sheer desperation... Other fabrics like leather, can stick together when you seam them (and actually velvet can do this as well depending on the way the layers are laid). So they bunch up under the foot and end up all folded and lumpy. This can result in many seams having to be resewn and a serious waste of time!  The walking foot ensures that both layers of the fabric get fed under the machine foot at the same rate- with a normal foot the under layer tends to get moved a bit faster than the top layer as it is in actual contact with the feed dogs.  Add to that a slippery fabric or a sticky fabric and it ends up getting very, very frustrating, until you put the walking foot on the machine and then you can sew all these irritating fabrics with total ease-marvelous!  This is particularly useful when you have a costume designer who loves velvet! This foot is available from all major sewing machine manufacturers and is really worth its cost.
Ruffler Foot

This foot isn't as useful as the walking foot, in fact it is really quite frivolous!  It creates beautifully pleated trim that can either be made up by itself or sewn directly onto the project as it is formed.  It works by harnessing the movement of the needle (with the fork like arm being fitted over the needle attachment arm) which powers the front arm to push tucks into the trim.  Its a bit difficult to explain clearly so if you want to see exactly how it works the watch this video by Heirloom Creations.  It is such a fun deice and you can alter how many ruffles it makes by adjusting the lever on the front (in the pic to the right) so that you get a tuck every stitch, every six stitches or every twelve stitches.  You can also adjust the look of the ruffle by changing the stitch length.  I use this foot a lot when making petticoats, as it is so much easier to ruffle up fabric with this foot than having to gather the darn stuff by hand.   I also love to ruffle up ribbons as a decorative trim, I used this to finish the edge of my cerise mini tricorn which would have taken forever if I had had to make it by hand.

Mini Iron
Exactly what it says it is- a miniature iron.  It is extremely useful for ironing seams open and getting the points of darts nice and flat.  It is also invaluable for hat making- it makes forming felt into valleys, such as those in the crown of a pork pie hat, so much easier as you can get the heat and steam easily into the felt and it forms beautifully into the block.  I also use it for flower making as you can use the sharp edges and point to makes really sharp folds that don't flop, you can also get extra ends for shaping petals too.  All in all, my mini iron is on the ironing board all the time.

Pin Pusher
One for hat makers here, another fairly self explanatory tool-you use this for pushing pins into hat blocks.  As my health has got more annoying I find this invaluable as hat blocks as necessarily, really hard! SO this gizmo holds the pin in the tube with a small magnet, and then you can push the tip of the pin into the block and the handle lets you use your whole hand to push the pin in.  It really does give you much more control with how deep you push the pin in than using a hammer as I've seen some books recommend.  Frankly my hat blocks are beautiful and expensive, and I don't want to ruin them by hammering pins into them (as suggested in some books!) that I then cant pull out!

Bias Binding Maker
So bias binding is really easy to make without a tool, but it is a bit time consuming and I always manage to burn my fingers when pressing it.  So if you want it nice and even and no burnt fingers, then these tools are definitely worth it.  I use a lot of bias binding in hat making so these get used a lot. They are very easy to use, you cut your length of bias ribbon and then gently feed it through the tool which forms it into the folds you need and you press it as it comes out of the tool and ta-da lovely, even bias binding.  This video by Whipstitch  shows just how easy it is to use.

Velvet Ironing Cloth
Another too to help deal with velvet-it really is a fiddle to work with!  Any fabrc witha furry surface is a pain to iron because as soon as you press it (on the reverse of the fabric, you never put an iron on the pile!!!) all the pile (the fur) gets flattened down and it looks, well, a bit rubbish.  You then can try and brush it back to looking good again, or only ever steam velvet with a garment steamer (expensive things, and not always that good at removing creases) but with some velvets, especialy silk velvet once pressed flat the fabric just never looks as good again... I found this whist making myself and evening coast from burgandy silk velvet.  It was driving my nuts, until the nice lady in John Lewis mentioned you could get these cloths especially to cope with velvet.  I had to order it online but it is fantastic!  It is basically a large piece of velcro- all the little hooks merge with the pile as you iron it on the back of the fabric.  This prevents the pile from being all squished and when you lift the fabric off, the slight grip of the hooks pulls the pile out and ta-da! No more rubbish looking velvet!
Close up of the little hooks.
Well those are certainly some of my favorite tools that I would really struggle to cope without.  If anyone out in the interwebs has got some personal favorites do comment, I would love to know as I would hate to be missing out on another fab gizmo!

Friday, February 07, 2014

Useful Post 2: Haberdashery

Haberdashery is usually taken to mean all the small items, such as buttons, zips and thread that are used in sewing.  To me haberdashery (or dashahabery as I once spoonerisumed!) also includes all the pretty things in sewing like fringing, beads, cord, tassels, sequins, and anything that you can add to a garment to make it even prettier or more sparkly!  

Barnett and Lawson, Little Portland Street.

This is one of those shops that it is impossible to enter without buying something- I've certainly never managed it!  They provide all sorts of trimmings-ribbons, braids, cords, buttons, buckles, fringes, flowers, motifs, tassels, sequins, ric-rac, you name it, they almost certainly have it and in a range of colours and sizes. Their basement shop is filled to bursting with so many beautiful things, at very good prices and I don't think I got through any show without at least one trip here. They don't do online shopping, but do offer a very good sampling service. For anyone of a magpie disposition like me, this place is heaven! 
-16/17 Little Portland Street, W1W 8NE

Macculloch and Wallis, Derring Street.

Another fabulous source for all sorts of haberdashery, trims and decorations, and also fabric and workroom essentials; Macculloch and Wallis have been supplying the theatre and fashion years for over a century from their central London store.  They are more expensive than Barnett and Lawson, but all their products are of excellent quality.  You can order online, but I do find their website a bit annoying.  Many of the pictures of their products, particularly the fabrics, suggest that they are available in several colours, but when you try and order them they are only available in maybe one or too-this can be rather annoying hence why I don't tend to get much fabric from M&W, but do order trim, zips etc.  
-25-26 Derring Street, W1S 1AT


Probably the last specialist haberdashers left anywhere, their Noel Street shop is currently undergoing renovation, but you can still order online -thank goodness, I rely on them for so many things!  If you need specialist corsetry supplies, zips,  buckles, buttons, webbing, purse frames, fasteners or any random specialist sewing tools, then Kleins probably has it.  The Zip colour matching service alone makes Kliens one of my life saving companies. They also have a great range of trimmings, ribbons and decorative items that are wonderfully drool worthy.  Can't wait for the shop to reopen in March!


Not exactly a haberdashers, as they supply so much more than that (their catalogue has over 5000 items!), but a very good source for thread, particularly large overlocking spools. Morplan is another place I was introduced to at RADA when I was taught pattern cutting, as it is where we bought our marvelous pattern drawing tool - the Patternmaster.  This is a combination, ruler, set square and grader that I use constantly.  I also get all my pattern paper, card, cutting shears and garment bags from this company.  They also do very reasonably priced dress forms and all sorts of workroom tools.