Thursday, March 27, 2014

Somewhere in a forest, not so far away

My mum is doing a quilting workshop next weekend, where they take pictures of forests and convert them into a quilt blueprint - a mixture of piecing, appliqué and embroidery, as far as I can work out, primarily looking at light and colour.
After looking through her own collection of photographs, as well as through the books she owns, she didn't find a picture that took her fancy. I was headed for Perth the next day, and promised to try taking some pictures in the forests of the Perth hills, if I had time.
I'm very lucky that my uncle's house, where we currently stay on trips to Perth, is right on the edge of a national park, with native Australian forest literally right outside the back door. I took a little wander through the trees close to sunset one evening, and these are my favourite shots.
I tried to make the most of the light filtering through the trees. The trees show evidence of fire damage, although I suspect it's quite old, as there's a huge amount of recovery which has happened since the last time fire swept through the area. I was also amused not to see any kangaroos - I know there's tens of them in the bush around the house, as they come out at dusk. They're very good at hiding from me though, they just waited until a little later before they decided to come out for their evening feed.
Mum's not going to use any of my pictures for the workshop, she took some of her own the same weekend, but I'd love to see any of them made up into a wall hanging sized quilt. I think I have enough on my plate right now to not tackle it myself for the time being, though!

Plus! Check out my blue hair! That's what I went with once the pink had faded to ginger. Unfortunately, this colour washes out really fast, and is too high maintenance for me. I loved it at blue, and the slightly lighter grey it went as it washed out, but it was blonde after just a few washes. It's such a shame, as I loved it, but I've now gone back to my normal brunette self (or something close to it).

What natural wonders would you like to see made into a quilt?

Monday, March 24, 2014

Ultra short pyjama shorts

This project is kinda old now. Bad blogger. I knocked it up when I first got back from the UK - early January, I think. I wanted more pyjama shorts to wear through the Australian summer (granted, Albany rarely has crazy hot nights, but it's still warm enough to not warrant full on fleece PJ bottoms).

Totes flattering picture of my butt. 
This was self-drafted, but I used a pair of RTW PJ shorts as a guide. Trouser/shorts drafting is my Achilles heel right now. Even with the guide, there's still a few things about this that need fixing for future pairs - I'll lengthen the front rise a little, it's pulling down from the side seams towards the crotch, and I'll add a little length and flare to the back, as they're a little short in the back. Maybe also a little extra length on the inseam.

If you look closely at the picture above, you might just be able to tell that somehow, despite being ultra careful, I managed to cut one of the back pieces off grain. BOOOO. Luckily they're only PJ shorts that no one other than my immediate family and all of the internet are going to be able to see. 

The legs are finished with bias binding, turned to the outside rather than the inside. This means that if you were to inspect the side and inseam seams closely, you'd see the seam allowance just peaking through where the bias binding stops on the bottom of the hem. I don't care. Again: just PJ shorts, plus I wanted the bias on the outside as a design feature.

It wasn't all fun and games in the sewing department, either. The first time I attached the binding, I a) attempted to apply it like double fold binding, and b) forgot to lengthen my stitch length. Not only did it look shit, I also didn't do a very good job of stitching straight. The machine I'm using at the moment has a shot foot, and there's no speed control. Hopefully my Janome will arrive from the UK soon!

That's about it on this one! Hardly the most technical or creative of projects I've ever done, but certainly practical. No, I don't normally wear leggings under PJs, but my legs were ultra pale at the time (who am I kidding - still are), and I decided not to blind you. I'm so thoughtful like that. The fabric is a printed cotton poplin from the Lisette range at Spotlight (designed by Liesl Gibson from Oliver and S), and wrinkles pretty hard - I swear I ironed the shorts before these pics were taken.

Finally, a gratuitous puppy shot of the best dog in the world (who wanted to play during our photo shoot).

Friday, March 21, 2014

Care Bear Romper Part 2: The details

I promised more details from my pink Cheer Bear costume. I totally drafted this baby from scratch, which didn't come without it's challenges.

I'm annoyed I didn't think to get pictures as I went through the muslin stage of this- some of the initial results were pretty funny - plus the final muslin with the bodice and shorts together looked like a boiler suit. The first major issue I ran into was a massively too short bodice at centre front- I had to add 6cm to the CF and curve out to the side seams before it looked anything like hitting my natural waist. Damn boobs, eating up fabric like it's going out of fashion (never! Fabric will never go out of fashion!). First draft of the hood was also hilariously square at the back. One thing that did go right was the dart placement - perfect first time round, yeeha!!

Once I'd sorted those dilemmas, I had to work out how I was going to join the bodice and culottes/shorts. I knew I wanted an elasticated waist for ease of wearing (it's a Care Bear costume for goodness sake, not a high fashion silk playsuit), but didn't want to lose the structure in the front, or interfere with the belly badge by running elastic smack bang through the middle. In the end, I added a waistband, and elasticated just the back of the waistband with 3cm (I think!) ribbed elastic, secured with 3 rows of stitching. The elastic takes the place of the darts in both the back bodice and back culottes to provide a bit of shaping. In retrospect, I wish I'd made the whole waistband elasticated, as the ends of the elastic pull a little at the spot where the elastic joins the side seams, and I suspect will tear with wear. I could have then stitched the belly badge over the top of the elasticated waistband, somehow.

Details were stitched using a combination of hand embroidery and both hand and machine appliqué. I think I mentioned in my last post, but my machine didn't like appliquéing two layers of flannelette together. There's some waviness in the facial features where the two layers didn't feed evenly (especially around the muzzle). In future, I'll switch to a walking foot, and interface both layers (like I did for the heart on the bum). 

Another awkward point? Getting this thing on and off. I designed it with a zipper down the front, as I was adding a hood. This made it very difficult to get in and out of - I tore the centre back seam more times than I care to admit. Every time I tried to fix it, it tore again. Boooooooooooooooooo. Flimsy flannelette is apparently not designed for the stress of being pulled off my shoulders, who knew? In the end, I fixed it by adding a faux yoke, cut as one piece across the CB, interfaced all the way across. I finished the yoke with fake flat felled stitching, using a twin needle (my new favourite thing ever). In the future, if for some reason I needed to make a romper with a front opening again, I'd eliminate the CB bodice seam all together- I had it in this because I wanted it to flow through from the culottes CB seam, but in retrospect, I could have saved myself a lot of hassle by cutting on the fold. Alternatively, a lower back neckline and back opening would work even better.

Final detail - the belly badge (which definitely needs ironing in these pictures!). I probably went about this a little awkwardly- stitching each of the rainbow pieces to each other, clipping curves and pressing as I went. An appliquéd rainbow would have been easier. Also! You can't really tell anymore, but I ended up with 2 left sides of a rainbow, thanks to the lack of obvious right-side to the quilting cotton I used! Oh boy. Some creative trimming allowed me to fake it back together, as I really didn't want to  have to start again from scratch to fix the problem. The rainbow was then machine appliquéd to one layer of white flannelette, which was then stitched to a second layer and flipped right side out to give clean edges. I marked which parts I wanted open for pockets, then stitched between the top and bottom of the pockets with a twin needle, before stitching the rest of the outer edge of the flannelette to the belly of the romper itself. Only exception is where the rainbow butts up to the zipper- I hand stitched that down so that I didn't twin needle over the rainbow. 

The holes where the hood drawstring comes through are stitched like the outside part of teeny tiny bound button holes, then topstitched. I wish I'd made them a bit bigger, but love the overall look I got here (rather than using just regular buttonholes). Armholes and leg hems were finished with bias binding and twin needled from the inside- so the outside is actually sort of zig-zagged if you look carefully enough. Final finishing was by hand- stitching the hood lining to the neckline seam, and the waistband facing down. 

All up, this probably took me 3 or 4 days of solid work, but that includes the drafting and muslin stages, which took up a lot of time. Plus the details took quite a bit of work, as did trying to fix that damn CB problem. 

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Sculptures by the Sea 2014: Cottesloe

"Once Removed" by Robert Barnstone
It's Sculptures by the Sea time again in Perth. Every year, a host of sculptures are set-up along Cottesloe  beach and the terraces - now in it's 10th year in Cottesloe. Some travel as part of the exhibition (which also visits Bondi in Sydney, and Aarhus in Denmark [country, not south-west Australian town]), while others are specific to the Cottesloe exhibit. 

"Overconsumption" by Kerrie Argent
"Overconsumption" by Kerrie Argent
We were lucky enough to be in Perth for the first weekend of the exhibition a couple of weeks ago, and even managed to snag a (relatively) cool day to visit - the day before had been a gross 39C, so we were pleased to be able to enjoy the sculptures without  passing out with heat stroke.

"Permanent Sunset" by Alejandro Propato
The exhibition is really well curated, with a huge range of sculptures- something to please even the fussiest of visitors (you know the ones- the ones who say "I could do that…" to most modern art). "Permanent Sunset" by Alejandro Propato seemed to be a crowd pleaser - although the best view was from the terrace or carpark, rather than beach level. I didn't realise it was depicting a sunset until I saw it from above (or maybe I'm just super slow to grasp these things!).

"Gift of the rhinoceros" by Mikaela Castledine
"Gift of the rhinoceros" by Mikaela Castledine 
As perhaps is to be expected from an exhibit on the beach, environmentally friendly sculptures were a feature. "Overconsumption", the colourful fish shaped sculptures above were made of empty milk bottles and covered with coloured bottle tops, while the rhino (my favourite!!) was crocheted (WOW!) out of black plastic bags. That baby was life sized, and so cool!

"Rescheduling permanence" by Helen Seiver
More crocheted plastic bags! This time coloured ones in "Rescheduling permanence" by Helen Seiver, crocheted into the shape of coral- but attached to a house shaped form, as the artist was focused on domestic waste, rather than commercial.

"Bulk Carrier" by Norton Flavel
Who could walk past a giant goon bag (wine cask bladder, to those more sophisticated, non-Australian types out there)? Officially called "Bulk Carrier", by Norton Flavel, it felt like a giant bouncy castle, but you'd definitely fall off if you tried to jump on it, I think. 

"Bulk Carrier" by ____
Here's me, for scale! It's seriously huge.

"Fetch" by The Winged Collective
I also loved "Fetch", by The Winged Collective. A series of dogs playing on the beach, cut from mirrored alucobond, it's a highly reflective piece - initially it tricks the eye a little, as you try to work out whether it's transparent or actually reflective.

"Fetch" by The Winged Collective
"Wave 1" by Annette Thas
What exhibit is complete without a surreal and somewhat creepy piece? In this case, a wave made entirely of Barbie dolls (as one junior beach goer exclaimed, "Oh my god! They're all naked!"). Speaking to a world of conformity and body pressures, the piece seemed to fascinate a whole range of people. You had to get right up to it before you could tell it was made of Barbies- standing back, I thought it was seaweed or something similar. 

Unfortunately, my camera battery died before I got any snaps of the sculptures away from the beach, so this is just a taster of the beach-side pieces. If you're in Perth, you have until the end of this weekend to check out this year's Scultpures by the Sea while you still can!

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Care Bear Romper: Cheer Bear costume

Cheer Bear playsuit: because what's not to love about a nearly 30 year old dressed as an 80s cartoon character?
Meet Cheer Bear! She is an original Care Bear, has a rainbow on her belly, a heart on her bum, and just loves to make people happy. She also happens to be my completely self-drafted costume for a "Kids" themed 30th birthday party I went to a couple of weeks ago (complete with bouncy castle and fairy bread*)!

All clothing must have pockets, this is non-negotiable.
This costume has so many great features. It's a romper/playsuit, which helps to preserve modesty when jumping on bouncy castles (a dress version this short would have the potential to be a little more scandalous). It's got a hood, complete with bear ears and face, and the belly badge doubles as patch pockets either side of the zipper. The back waistband is elasticated, and the arm holes and hems were finished in pink bias tape. Yes, I did dye my hair pink for the costume, although it's faded quite a bit in the last couple of weeks, so it looks a little more ginger than pink these days (although not nearly as ginger as it went the first time I dyed it pink, a week before the party. It took 2 attempts at lightening it to get a decent pink happening).

Ain't no care bear romper like a care bear romper with a FACE.
The whole thing is made of 100% cotton flannelette. I had a serious crisis on my hands when I came to deciding on fabric- this was going to be worn in Perth, in February, where it could easily be in the high 20s or even low 30s well into the evening (celsius, obviously!).  That ruled out anything fleecy or synthetic, unless I wanted to be a boiling, sweaty mess who no one wanted to talk to. But I still wanted it to be soft and bear like. Truth be told, I wanted to make it out of stretch terry towelling, but for some reason, Spotlight's not big on terry towelling these days. Apparently that's not so fashionable anymore, I can't imagine why! I'm sure given enough time, I could have rustled up some baby pink terry towelling online, but I didn't really have enough time for that, so settled on flannelette instead, in the hope that being cotton it wouldn't be too awful if the party ended up in the middle of a heatwave. As it turned out, the evening was actually relatively cool, and this costume was perfect!

Care Bear bums: best with a bit of heart
I wanted to get as many Care Bear details in as I could. The face is a combination of hand embroidery and both hand and machine appliqué, and the belly badge rainbow was machine appliquéd from quilting cotton. I realised way too late in the game just how unstable the flannelette was - there's a bit of rippling around the face where I machine appliquéd it on. If I appliqué on flannelette again, I'll a) switch to my walking foot, and b) stabilise the area with interfacing first. I did both for the heart on the bum, and it turned out a lot better. 

My inspiration for this costume was multi-faceted. I'd planned to make a Care Bear costume for an 80s party last year, using a hoody and track pants, but it never happened. Then earlier this year, I came across a terry towelling playsuit in a book on vintage fashion, and decided it would be awesome to have one for the beach (I'm not crazy enough to want to wear terry towelling as an everyday casual outfit, although if that's your thing, PLEASE send me a photo because you are awesome!). Finally, there was the playsuit I came across in a vintage Handmade magazine. When the party invitation came through, I knew instantly that this was my opportunity to fulfil my Care Bear costume dreams while also trying out a playsuit. The fashion police would tell you fat girls shouldn't wear playsuits, to which I say the fashion police can fuck right of (mind my language). 

Left: From "100 Years of Fashion: 20th Century in Pictures". Right: From Handmade magazine, Spring 1991.
After starting on my playsuit, I discovered I wasn't the first person to think of a Care Bear romper - check out the awesome rompers from this Etsy store! Who knew there was a market for Care Bear rompers (and that I wasn't the first to think of it!)?!

As I mentioned above, this baby is 100% self-drafted. I started off with my personal easy-fitting bodice and straight skirt blocks, and eventually ended up with this (technically, the shorts half were a culottes pattern). Rather than boring anyone not interested in the technical challenges I went through to pull this together, I've got another post coming up with some of the ins and outs of drafting this costume (including the multiple muslins I went through). 

Here's some of the things I love (beyond the obvious- hello, it's a Care Bear costume!): the shape of the hood, the fit around the bodice, the armscye darts (if you look really closely, you might just be able to make them out), the rainbow ribbon zipper pull, pockets!

Should I make this again, here's a few things I change: that CF zipper has to go. It's nearly impossible to get this baby on and off (especially off), without doing structural damage to the CB, or dislocating my shoulders. I'll be moving the closure to centre back, which will be much easier to get on and off. The crotch length could do with being a little shorter (it hangs a little low right now), and the bodice a little longer to balance out my bottom half a little more. I'd also add a little to the shorts length- the front is okay, but the back is a little roomy around the hems, and flashes my knickers if I bend over. It's because the culottes are A-line- a little extra length, or taking out some of the fullness, would make all the difference there. I wore leggings underneath for the party, so everyone was spared the horror of my knickers!

Final, gratuitous Care Bear playsuit shot.
What do you think? Don't you feel the need to run out and get started on your own crazy playsuit now?

* I can't believe there's actually recipes on the web for fairy bread! 

Monday, February 24, 2014

Back online! Finally!

Real talk: iPhone photo in my bedroom.
Just a quick post to say my domain is (finally!) back online. I messed it up around Christmas/New Year, and haven't been able to figure out how to fix it. As it turns out, in the end it was super easy to fix, for which I'm extremely thankful. Moral of the story, kids: don't mess with deep internet things after midnight. Much like feeding Mogwai (critter, not band) after midnight, it can only turn out badly. 

Hopefully there's still a few people hanging around. I have some fun posts coming up for you, including a Care Bear romper. Now who wouldn't want to see me in a Care Bear romper? Also- I dyed my hair pink in honour of the costume, so that explains what's going on with my head up there.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Meet Pembe and Emily: Rhinos at Colchester Zoo

Emily & Pembe, Colchester Zoo's mother and calf rhinoceroses
This year, for my birthday, Jay gave me an awesome gift: keeper shadowing at Colchester Zoo. The deal is, you pick the animal you want to spend time with (Lions! Tigers! Meerkats! Oh my!), and get to spend 30 minutes, one-on-one, with the animals and one of the their keepers. Depending on the animal, you get literally face-to-face with the animals (strangely, they don't let you pat the lions. Who'd have thought it, huh?). 

That's Emily up there. No judging my dorky hoody get-up, alright?
Seriously: Face-to-f'ing-face with a baby rhino. Holy hell. It took me a long time to decide which animal I wanted to spend time with, choosing between the cheetahs and the White Rhinos. In the end, the lure of a freaking baby rhino won out- how could it not? LOOK AT HER "LITTLE" FACE!

Pembe, the baby rhino (sung to the tune of "Lambchops")
Emily is the mum, Pembe is the baby. Pembe (it means "horn" in Swahili) was born in April- we actually saw her in May when we went to the zoo, she was a funny little thing, bowling about the paddock chasing after her mum. I was so lucky to get to meet her face-to-face, and give her scratches behind the ear.

Rhino ears are good ears
Little known fact: rhinos are known to be overgrown dogs to their keepers. They're incredibly affectionate, and love attention. Emily would get jealous if Pembe was getting attention, and muscle her way in to get pats. I also learnt that even though the skin on their backs is incredibly thick (I think 1cm thick in places), it's still sensitive. They also have soft spots behind their ears, so you can scratch them behind the ears like a dog- the keepers use this spot to administer injections when necessary. Where Emily gets jealous, Pembe is curious, always wanting to find out what's going on and trying to get her nose in.

Emily, with special appearance from the blue drum Pembe had destroyed
I was very lucky to get to spend time with Pembe & Emily. The keepers were taking time to introduce Pembe to Otto, her dad, when I visited. The usual routine was that on days when Otto was out in the paddock, Emily & Pembe would be in the yard, and vice versa- they couldn't just be thrown in together too early, as Otto would see Pembe as a threat. However the day I visited, Pembe and Otto had been out together getting acquainted, and when it was time for Otto to come in (it was his day to be in), he wasn't having any of it- he knew that once he was out for the day, that was it. But Emily and Pembe came in, so I got to meet them instead of Otto- very fortuitous for me, indeed! Of course, I'd hoped I'd get to meet Pembe (we should have a chat sometime about my erm, extreme, love of baby animals), but I'd known that there was a chance I wouldn't be there on the right day for that. I'm so happy I was, although I'm sure meeting Otto would have been an awesome experience, too.

Baby rhino all up in my face
I got to meet Flossy, one of the other rhinos, briefly as I was led through the night quarters by Ben, one of the keepers- she's never been able to have a calf, due to polycystic ovaries, and has now gone through menopause- so Otto thinks she's a male (due to lack of female hormones), and sees her as a threat, so they can't be in the paddock together. I also went pretty close to some of the giraffes- I had no idea how tall they are! I know that sounds stupid (duh, they're giraffes!), but I'm so used to seeing them from a distance or from a platform, that I hadn't really appreciated how tall they really were- I could walk underneath a fully grown giraffe without bending, and I'm solidly in the "average" height range.

Ben also talked about the problems of poaching in the wild, and how it's starting to encroach on rhinos in captivity. White Rhinos were once one of the most threatened species, but thanks to conservation activities, like that of Colchester Zoo, their numbers have grown. However as their numbers dwindle in the wild, poachers have been known to turn to those in captivity to supply ivory. Rhinos horns would grow back, like our fingernails, however they're almost always killed to get to the ivory, rather than having it cut off. It's horrible, and makes me glad I can support conservation efforts in any way. It's such a huge, daunting problem- and honestly, I struggle to understand how anyone would be able to kill these animals if they were able meet them up close. 

If you're looking for an unusual gift for Christmas, I can 100% recommend the Keeper Shadowing at Colchester Zoo- there's an animal for everyone. Colchester Zoo had some pretty awful news this week, and my heart goes out to all the keepers. I've visited the zoo many times, and the staff have never been anything but professional, utterly dedicated to the welfare of the animals and conservation, and I know this must have really rocked them. The wolves are a particular favourite of Jay's, so it hits quite close to home- it was only a couple of months ago that we were watching the wolves eating their supper. We can help them out by supporting them.

P.S. Did you notice I cut all my hair off? I really did. Maybe I should do a post about that, and all the fun ways you can style super short hair.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Pattern Magic 1 - Another Morley class

A few weekends ago, I took the Pattern Magic: 1 class at Morley College, based on the first book in the Pattern Magic series by Tomoko Nakamichi (the other books are here and here). The class was led by Lynda Kinne, who usually takes the Draping on the Stand class. This was a great class, taking a book with minimal instructions and some intimidating designs, and breaking it down into small steps.

We started off by drafting a basic "Bunker" style bodice block, which we used to create the patterns for each of the designs we worked on. Different to Melissa's class, we could use our own measurements (although I used a standard set to simplify the drafting). The basic block from this book is complex, with some odd measurements and calculations that most of us are probably not familiar with - for example, the waist darts are worked out using percentage of total waist suppression (the difference between waist and bust measurements). Luckily for us, Lynda's husband (who runs the tailoring class at Morley- keeping it in the family!) had done all the maths for us- so once you had your basic measurements, you could use a handy chart to work. He'd also extended the chart beyond the size chart in the book, which runs very small to cater to the Japanese market. 

Once our basic block was drafted, we worked on 3 more patterns throughout the 2 day course (run over 2 Saturdays). We looked at the Crater bust pattern - a complex pattern that involves slashing and spreading a small portion of the full bust block to create added ease in some areas, while keeping the connecting areas without ease- the difference creates the "crater" look. To be honest, this is a look I can't see much potential for, at least in a bust- it's very hard to get fabric to actually act like that without additional support, especially in full size. The pictures in the book are taken from half-scale models, which are easier to manipulate into weird and wonderful shapes. However, I can definitely see the potential in a sleeve cap (which is actually shown in the book, too). I foolishly didn't get a picture of my finished pattern for this, but here's a picture from the ikat bag blog of the book:

On the second day, we worked on two patterns: Bamboo Shoot, and The Twist. Bamboo Shoot seemed to be pretty popular, and is something I can see a lot of potential in. It basically consists of a series of intersecting tucks to create a lattice effect- each of the coloured lines on my pattern below represent a separate tuck. It was awesome to see each of the steps laid out- this is one of the designs from the book that I felt I understood when I read through the book (some I did, some I didn't!), and it was great to put it into practice, of sorts (I haven't stitched up a toile yet). I really want to work out a way of converting it to a back bodice. I need to play with it some more- the front bodice version we made replaces the bust darts and creates a 3 dimensional space for the old boobs, which obviously you don't need on a back. 

Bamboo Shoot from Pattern Magic 1
Bamboo Shoot from Pattern Magic 1
The final pattern we worked on was The Twist. This one looks a lot like a top has been skewed on a body, and you need to resist the urge to go up and tug it around. This is a simple pattern, comparative to the others- skewing the pattern from the hip means that it's cut off grain at the side seams (although centre front at the top is still cut on the grain), and creates a twisted effect.

The key to this pattern working is the crazy amount of ease built into the basic block (seriously, there's something like 12cm ease in that baby). Without that extra ease, this design wouldn't work- so while it's easy to draft from a basic block, take into account the ease in the block is there for a reason!


The pics above are of the toile that Lynda stitched up- notice how the side seams are still straight, not twisted like it would be if the top was just twisted up on the body. I think with a more pronounced twist, this is an interesting design. It's a balancing act though- not enough twist and it looks like the top isn't being worn straight, too much and the fit will eventually be affected.

This is a great class, at good value- I absolutely recommend it if you have even a passing interest in the books. The books are kinda dauting at first look, they're such a different way of approaching pattern cutting, it's nice to have someone there to hold your hand a little. It's really helped me think about how to add some of the elements into my own designs- honestly, some of the designs are pretty out there, and probably won't be to everyone's taste, but the techniques behind them? The techniques are freaking awesome- creative and unusual, a total departure from some of the boring patterns out there today. 

It would be nice if the entry requirements for the course were enforced a little more- despite intermediate-advanced pattern cutting skills being listed as an essential requirement, there were still people in the class who'd never drafted a pattern before, which slowed us down at the start. But then again, without requiring pre-requisites, I'm not sure how this could be enforced - and it may exclude those with the skills but not the formal training. 

Sign up for Pattern Magic: 2 here & Pattern Magic: Stretch Fabrics here. I'm sure the Pattern Magic: 1 class will be back in the autumn term next year!

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Pattern Cutting at Morley College

Oh, how I love Morley College. Earlier this year, following such favourable reviews from Melissa about the Pattern Magic course as Morley, I enrolled in Pattern Making - Beginners. The beginners classes at Morley are for those with no or little previous skills, or those wishing to brush up on their skills, which was the category I fell into. As a self-taught pattern cutter, I wanted to compare my skills and techniques to those taught by the professionals, as well as forcing myself to get some regular practice in.

As a 13 week course, the first couple of weeks were a very gentle introduction- learn to use a set square, draft a Dirndl skit, then draft a tailored skirt block, in both full size and half size. We all drafted a size 12 block, for consistency and to reduce confusion- we had a very mixed ability in the class, so it made sense. With everything from fashion graduates to those who had neither any pattern cutting or sewing experience (seriously, how awesome is it that someone who can't sew would sign up for a technical class like this?!), making sure everyone was working from the same page was important. It's very much a flat pattern cutting class- while we did cut out a toile for the basic block (which I eventually sewed up), we haven't done any other sewing. For me, that's perfect- the sewing skills aren't what I need practice on (usually...!), but it's something to be aware of if you're hoping for more sewing.

From there, each week concentrated on a particular skill or skirt style- adding or removing flare, adding pleats, moving/removing darts, waist treatments, etc. Our tutor, Linda Powell, is very experienced, and does a great job of talking to a particular student's needs- everyone progresses each week.

I've learnt a lot from the class. Most reassuringly, I learnt that I was doing the right thing (hooray!), and that I do understand the underlying principles in the way that I thought I did. I've also refined some of my skills- marking notches, for example, is much quicker now than it was before, as I've worked out the quickest way to use them. Maybe this is obvious to everyone but me, but I always used to cut out a little wedge of fabric at the notches (protuding from the seam allowance, not into it). Now, I just cut a little snip into the seam allowance. Mind = blown. I've also been able to have a lot of really interesting conversations with both Linda and the other students- about sewing, what people look for in patterns, how people go about learning the skills they want.

Each term focuses on a different block- skirt in autumn, bodice in winter and trousers in the spring. I'm sad that I won't be around to take the bodice and trouser classes- the regular practice is really valuable for me. The bodice classes with Linda are already booked up, but there's a Friday evening session still available with a different tutor- I definitely recommend signing up if you're interested. Morley courses are really well priced compared to some others in London, and the quality is great. If I had one wish, I'd wish for a little more room to spread out by having a few less people in the class, but I guess they need to make their Central London rent somehow! 

P.S. That Vionnet book in bottom right corner of the top picture is stunning- check it out if you ever get a chance.