Category Archives: Sewing at Damgate

Woolly and ragged

… or I could call this a right old Rag Bag. I remember we had a rag bag at home, in the 1960s. I think it was an old pillow case, but gigantic,  filled with bits of material, ripped sleeves and worn out clothes. It was a great big bundling thing that lived at the bottom of the airing cupboard and never really delivered anything useful. My mum dragged it out sometimes, no doubt with a task in mind, and the contents were all pulled out, sorted through, recognised and remembered again, and then stuffed back in. Great game.

So think of this post as a pillow case, a sort of eclectic blogging which is another way of saying – hey, anyone wanna look at my holiday pics?

First up – a quick visit to the Alhambra in Granada. Amidst all the splendours of palace and garden we stumbled upon what was probably the mop and bucket cupboard, a small space leading nowhere. The ordered blues and greens of the wall tiles have that beautiful random quality which gardeners and designers always strive for, but is actually really hard to achieve. The patched area in the middle is intriguing, done by an apprentice or a renegade labourer?

I love the regularity of these geometric patterns. And yet both surfaces, with their subtle blend of colours and soft textures, manage to transcend the colouring book mentality. There is order, but there is also an artisan’s personal selection, a decision maker who has stamped these places with his mark.

And then, as if imbued with Moorish magic, wondering about life in the 15th Century and wandering the cobbled streets of the Albaicin, we have indeed tumbled back in time, to a quasi medieval Europe where the men wear very warm woollen gear and sport large cosy hats – and the market doth sell quantities of vintage fabric and old tin baths. Only joking – it’s a scene from Game of Thrones

Next stop Oxford for a few days, lots of culture and colleges and celebrations – and cycling in the heat to the Tandem Festival

This was such a lovely festival and we were blessed by the wonderful hot weather, pints of local cider, wonderful vegan food, great music and an atmosphere that was utterly relaxing.

I have never experienced such a blissful night under canvas, snoozing in a wild flower meadow while the bands played on, my only challenge during the night being a couple of trips to the long-drop toilets.

There were lots of other people there too. And bikes of course.

Back in Oxford we headed out to Wolvercote Cemetery where our cousin Bridget Crampton is buried. What does one do at a cemetery – say hello, remember happy times, think of family? All of those of course, but it’s also helpful if one can recall where the burial took place. We meandered about for an hour and decided a return trip was in order preferably when the sexton was around, then waved goodbye and set off for the pub.

Enough of this gallivanting and back home the weld crop is taking over the garden. Coincidentally weld is a medieval plant – and has been used for centuries to obtain a yellow dye for fabric and cloth.

It’s all very well growing plants that have been around for hundreds of years but I am clueless here. Reading up about dyeing online has been intriguing but confusing.

What I want to make is this bodice as presented by the Weald and Downland Museum in West Sussex. The museum has a great film about dyeing with madder. And there is a link here with another excellent film made by the historic clothing project  which is all about researching and making historically accurate working clothes. Loads of sewing in this clip too! It’s so interesting to hear about working clothing of the poor rather than silken finery of the privileged few. The Weald and Downland is such a wonderful museum and is well worth a detour if you’re ever in the Sussex area.

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Really I want to go back in time, to be this woman dressed in yards of linen and live hand to mouth from the garden. So after too much deliberation I decided to chop up some of the multitudinous plants and see what happened. It was a bit like making soup but without the appetising smell. I don’t think it is toxic.

I simmered tons of this stuff for a couple of hours then after it had cooled I dropped in two pieces of cloth, one cotton, one linen, and left it overnight. In the garden. I think the technical term might be ‘steeping’.

The result is definitely yellow.

Here are the pieces after drying and ironing. Indoor and outdoor shots. The outdoor one, on the right, is most accurate; the fabric is the colour of chamois leather.

Finally back to the sewing room with my trusty Friday group. They were very polite about the furniture rearrangement.

Right that’s it. Time to put these scraps back into the sack in the airing cupboard and publish this post. And I am reminded of a strange poem I wrote, when I was struggling with some writing, and felt it would be so much easier to be sewing instead.

 

Writing a Shirt

Shake out instead a length of linen

cut from a cumbersome roll

 

spread it smooth along the table,

the print arrows of tissue pattern

 

lying with the straight grain of fabric

and then stitch together order

 

planned like maths in a gingham apron.

That would surely be easier –

 

yet any garment sewn by these hands

betrays the mark of maker,

 

bespoke dropped shoulder, discrete

lengthening of body and sleeves;

 

even so, I would rather write a shirt

and stitch a hidden label tight into its nape.

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Filed under Alhambra, costume, Dyeing with Weld, Granada, Historic Clothing Project, Poetry, Sewing at Damgate, Tandem Festival, Uncategorized, Weald and Downland Open Air Museum

Scattered jewels

“I want it to look as if someone has just scattered the bed with gorgeous jewels!”

This was the design brief for the latest quilt to roll of the production line and it was referring to a colour palette of course, not that a bag of glitzy beads be strewn and then sewn on individually. The customer wanted warm tones, autumnal shades, rich red colours to evoke a sense of luxury I think. Finding and selecting the first batch of fabrics seems to take ages – especially if they are sourced from existing stock and lovely old clothes that either carry memories or somehow resonate with the right shades.

Next step – slice it all up. This always seems a rather privileged and indulgent activity – chopping up fabric just to join it all together again. But I can assure you that much of this pile of rag picker’s delight was unwearable. At this stage calculation is involved – how many square do I actually need? So I make towers of quantities – these are twenties I think. Then rather like a pudding it is stirred in an attempt to mix it up. This quilt is all about the colour and the pieces are going to be randomly placed – a scattering of patches of course – but it’s a difficult look to achieve. My only rule is that two the same must not sit next to each other.

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This is turning into a sort of recipe. the next task was to join pairs. The pairs were nice to do – radio on, select two pieces that work well together for some reason, 0.5 cm seam.

And lo, not a bunting lover, I have yards of the stuff!

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I think they look like Christmas cards or decorations or even a Christmas tree.  It was a bit sad to cut the strings.

Oh well – move on. Now join the pairs to make fours. Then join the fours  …   to make a coat?

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No. You are not playing at dressing up. Get on with it.

So then with the great stole joined up to form a square, it all became a large floor based activity. This part is difficult I think, involving much crawling around on the knees and trying not to pucker and wrinkle – the quilt that is. There are three layers now. The patches, a filling of quilter’s cotton wadding and a cotton backing – which also had to be patched in part, due to there not being enough of anything. And at this point I put a label on the back – with the date and a message.

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Feeling reasonably happy with the fabric sandwich I then trimmed the edges and put on a bias edging. And because I don’t have a gigantic quilting machine I stitched the layers together here and there, by hand with some little embroidery bits. It sounds a bit naff but at least the layers will hold together. I also had a last minute idea – to machine on some silken jewels, from iridescent scraps. I wish I’d thought of this earlier.

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Finished.

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Next request is for a quilt that looks like …   a Scottish rock pool.

Time to start collecting.

 

 

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Filed under Patchwork quilt, Sewing at Damgate, Uncategorized

Mopping up the muddle

Where to start? So many projects half started. I have just mopped the kitchen floor with a fresh mop head – irrelevant I know – but I think it’s given me new energy!

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First of all some proof that I made the McCall’s M6993 skirt for the Vintage Pledge 2016 mentioned in Getting a Badge. Taking the photographs was difficult, but luckily I had my intrepid photographer and stylist from 1950s Dirndl Skirt Remake at home for a fortnight. Alice was here on a vest-making marathon – seen here wondering what on earth has happened to the wildlife pond.img_5858

She took loads of pictures on a blustery  and blue-skyed afternoon – the top pic shows the skirt out of the wind. The one below is an accidental posture, but one that I think I should adopt more often – could even be a caption competition.

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I loved making the skirt. It’s a great pattern and I will definitely use it again.

Moving on – I went with my good friend Caroline to the Knitting and Stitching Show  this month. Here she is … with what looks like a bag of wool.

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Caroline took the reins on arrival and steered us up every avenue and then across every avenue so that we methodically viewed each stall. I was disorientated within minutes. Next year we are definitely going to buy a guide, for making notes.

Whilst there, I bought this great pattern from Now and Then Patterns.  Andree (of Now and Then Patterns) was free to chat to us – and  was wearing the Amelie Tuck Blouse in one of their most beautiful fabrics. Coincidentally she was also wearing the McCalls M6993 skirt, which looked fabulous in black.

In other news.

Sewing at Damgate has been continuing to hold its regular monthly all day workshops. These sessions are usually made up of three sewers. They sometimes bring their own machines. They sometimes travel here on the bus (very brave). They sometimes bring simple fare for a shared lunch. The aim, as always, is to have a fun and productive day.

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Spot the third sewer.

This year I have also inherited my mother-in-law’s sewing stash – some of which goes back to the 1930s, corset laces and bones. She is no longer sewing, but living close by.

I have also had a bit of a tidy up and sort out – long overdue.

 

And started a new jumper

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but it’s already been undone – and a different one begun.

So that’s it.

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Filed under Knitting and Stitching Show, Sewing at Damgate, Vintage Pledge, Vintage Sewing Patterns