If you follow me on Twitter or Instagram you may already know I've been sewing a shirt. It's not my first go at dressmaking, I started making my own clothes when I was about 10 but the habit petered out when life got busier. Apart from curtains and a pair of pyjama trousers, I have done no dressmaking since making my own wedding dress . . . it's been a while!
But the intention was there and about 2 years ago I bought some fabric – Liberty Tana Lawn with a design by Grayson Perry. (I now wish I'd bought all his designs in all the colourway, sadly they are no longer available.)
small detail of 'Flo' by Grayson Perry 2009
(I think this is my favourite detail)
I dithered and couldn't find the right pattern, I just wanted a simple ladies shirt. Luckily Su spotted just the thing and recommended Simplicity 1538 – it was the kick start I needed . . .
The story of a shirt
Cutting out the pattern pieces brought all my dressmaking memories flooding back . . . this was going to be fun :-)
Cuffs I do love a bit of hand-stitching!
And then came the difficult bit . . .
I used my 1970s Singer Starlet electric sewing machine to sew the seams and do the top-stitching but what about the buttonholes?
Starlet does zig-zag stitching and her booklet has instructions for doing a bottonhole, BUT no matter how hard I tried on pieces of scrap fabric, the results weren't neat enough for me. So I got out 'THE book' and practiced hand-stitching buttonholes.
I must have had better eyesight 20 years ago! Things improved considerably when I decided to use my illuminated desk magnifier! (the one I use when carving lino blocks)
And there it is
Just needs a final press . . .
and some pearls ;-)
I wore it while selling my cards and prints at our village Christmas Bazaar on Saturday morning . . . I'm not sure how many people noticed the quirky fabric . . .
But this exchange on Twitter is one to treasure!
What shall I sew next? I fancy making a skirt . . . if you know of a nice pattern please let me know.
Meeting up with people you first 'get to know' via their blogs is invariably a joy and often the friendship, built on shared interests, grows beyond the occasional comments on each other's blogs. Yesterday I went to London to meet up with Gina and Frances, our meeting place was the entrance hall of the V&A.
Seascape study with rain cloud by John Constable (1824)
The exhibition looks at the influences on Constable's work, how he studied the work of the 'masters', such as Claude, Ruisdale, Rembrandt, Rubens and Gainsbrough. The original paintings and Constable's copies are hung side by side and a collection of engraved prints reproducing 'old master' paintings that Constable owned and hung on his bedroom walls, has been recreated.
Most telling of all are the many small scale sketches from observation of the landscape, skies and nature. Constable read books on the theory of painting and art and drawing from observation and made meticulous notes and pencil sketches in tiny sketchbooks.
He learned by observing how others had worked but above all he learned from looking at the natural world around him.
The exhibition reveals glimpses of the man behind the too-familiar set piece paintings. Sensitive, serious, hard-working, under pressure to deliver great work, torn between town and country, working hard to make a living.
It is a thoroughly inspiring exhibition.
After that we were in need of a sit down and lunch . . . and a natter. And as bloggers that make stuff do, we exchanged gifts . . .
Corsage by Gina and tiny Christmas Sweater by Frances
Who Are You?
After saying farewell to Gina and before I headed home, Frances and I decided to go to the National Portrait Gallery to see the Grayson Perry exhibition 'Who Are You?'. I'd already been to see it with Su but it's so good I was more than happy to go again. If you haven't seen the TV series which looks at the subjects of the portraits, I recommend you have a look . . . it is moving and insightful. The thought and care Grayson Perry puts into his work is evident in all the pieces in the exhibition . . . he works very hard.
A lovely moment was watching a 'white middle-aged middle-class man' rush in from the next gallery to find his friends and like an excited child, announce "I now GET Grayson Perry!". Priceless! There are not many exhibitions that can make that happen.
It was such a good day spent with two lovely friends and gave me lots to think about on the way home . . .
. . . my musings on a train . . .
Constable is often described as a 'self-taught' . . . and sometimes I feel art historians/critics use the phrase in a derogatory way.
I suppose it means someone who didn't have a formal art education, but Constable studied at the Royal Academy . . . I know he was a little older than the other students when he eventually studied painting full time, but don't most art students do lots of work and glean knowledge however and wherever they can before embarking on full time art education. And don't artists continue to teach themselves by looking and reading and practicing, throughout their lives.
And finally . . .
I bought myself a treat from the V&A shop, a lovely watercolour set made up of stacking circles with a palette lid. Inspired by Constable's colour sketches I'm looking forward to using these to paint some Suffolk landscapes. Celia xx
Of course there are many Christmas greetings rubber stamps for sale in craft supply shops and stationery shops, but it's fun to do your own – here's how I did mine . . .
You will need a rubber stamp block (mine is a Speedball Speedy-Carve block) or a large eraser would work too. Draw your design then trace it onto tracing paper (or tissue paper) and turn it over so the letters are reversed. Now you need to transfer the design onto the block - I rubbed blue chalk onto the tracing paper then drew around the letters with a hard pencil. This transfers a faint mark, so it's worth inking over the letters with a non-permanent, water-soluble pen.
Now carve away the block around the letters using lino-cutting tools. The rubber block is very easy to cut, but mind your fingers – always keep them behind the blade!
The block (and your fingers) will get a bit messy! So when you've finished carving, give the block a gentle wash with a little hand soap and water then dry it gently with a paper towel.
Before printing, it's best to mount the block onto something firm and perfectly flat – either a block of wood or, as I've done, a couple of pieces of sturdy corrugated card stuck together. I used double sided tape to stick the card together and the rubber stamp on top.
Now, you're ready to print . . .
Either use a large ink stamp pad or a little ink pad that you can dab over the surface of your stamp – I can recommend Versacraft Small Ink Pads, they come in lots of lovely colours and print onto fabric and paper.
If you haven't time to carve complex lettering, try cutting a star or a simple snowflake to decorate inside the card or the envelope.