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Archive for April, 2010

All That Glitters …


Well, they say that all that glitters isn’t always gold, but in the case of goldwork, it often is.  Technically, goldwork refers to embroidery worked with any kind of real metal (be they silver, copper or gold) of various forms, such as bullion (metal wire twisted into a long spring, usually couched down) or spangles (AKA sequins).  Various types are shown (and for sale) at Golden Hinde.

And it’s bloody gorgeous.

I’m not big on bling or gold, but there’s something about goldwork, particularly of the 18th century, that is just sublime.  Don’t believe me?  Well, check these beauties out:

Red silk Goldworked mantua from the V&A (also in '17th & 18th Century Fashion in Detail')

Detail of another mantua, also from the V&A

18th century goldwork embroidery from south Germany. There are a variety of forms of metal here - sequins, plate, silver gilt thread and purl.

And goldwork wasn’t just for the ladies – the gents could also get in on the action:

Detail of the above waistcoat from the Manchester Galleries.

1745 waistcoat cuff, V&A

More blue and silver from the 1740s, V&A.

The V&A description of the last waistcoat mentions that blue and silver was a colour often worn by the groom at his wedding, so that might explain the popularity of that combination.  That’s fine by me – I love blue and silver (moreso when the silver has tarnished down a bit like this, too).

More of a regency lady than a rococo rake?  Well, they still loved their goldwork in the 1900s, too:

From Kent State University Museum

And the cloak/train thing that goes with it. Gorgeous.

Extreme detail of the Regency gown.

There are lots more details of this gown, so do have a look at the page for it.

Oh, and of course, my second favourite century knew how to give good gloves and gorgeous goldwork gauntlets:

1630s silver embroidered jacket, V&A

And some of you may remember this pretty that I’ve been lusting after for quite some time:

What’s not to love about it (and the pink one I found at the same time)?  I have definite plans to make my own little reproductions of both (one of which will be a needlebook – practical and pretty!).  Unfortunately, I doubt I’m going to be able to afford real gold or silver, so I suspect it’s going to have to be regular embroidery thread and spangles, but a girl can dream that it’s real goldwork.

The wonderful thing about real silver goldwork is that it tarnishes to a non-bling colour!  The good Duchess has been having her own problems with excessively bling-y non-real silver trim over on her blog, but she’s also found a rather handy solution – go have a looksee!  I’ll try the Duchess’s technique of staining to dull down fake silver embroidery thread when I come to try out the pocket books.

But, of course, there’s lots more for me to be getting on with for now … (And I am working on the Butterick B4790 – more on that soon!)

(Oh, and this isn’t goldwork, but it is glorious and 17th century and I found it while I was checking some of these links, so I really just had to share it:

It’s a little worse for wear, but just imagine how fabulous those feathers were when new – droolworthy to the extreme.  Oh yes!)

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I’ve just finished my cockade (well the ribbon part, still need to sew on the backing and a brooch pin) – I do rather love it. It would have been even better (and even more nautical) if I’d been able to get hold of blue and white stripe, but I’m still pleased with how it came out.

So cute, rather fun, a little fiddly, but totally worth it.

I made the larger white one first and while stitching it, I noticed how nice it looked on the back, so the blue one is actually on the reverse side. The button is one of several I bought a few months ago for this very purpose – yay for anchor buttons!

The button turns so you can wear the cockade a different way around

What’s that?  You want to make your own?  Well you bloody well can – go check out American Duchess’s easy-to-follow tutorial.  Go.  Do it.

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Graduation Dress


I’ve just been given the date for my MA graduation (yay!) and realised that I don’t have a suitable dress (other than the one I wore for my BA graduation) because the venue is obscenely hot and made worse by the lovely heavy polyester of the graduation gowns (sarcastic yay).  A new summery dress would probably cost a minimum of £20 and knowing me, I’d spot and fall in love with something about twice that price.  There’s also the distinct possibility that I wouldn’t find anything at all that I liked/fitted/suited me.

But fear not, help is at hand for your intrepid graduand!  I downloaded this very pretty free pattern from Burda Style quite a while ago and this seems like the perfect opportunity to make and wear it. 

It looks like quite a simple pattern, so I can have fun with a patterned fabric or some detailing on the ruffle or waistband.  I might also make the skirt a bit fuller.  If I really like the finished product, I would probably make a version with a circle skirt – swiiiing!

The weather’s been warming up here lately, so I’ve been looking at patterns for summery dresses for hot days, which is how I fell in love with this famous Butterick pattern:

And it’s super easy.  And my favourite cheap fabric shop has this amazing printed cotton, called Fan Dance (what a great name!):

And I think I’m going to have to make a few different versions of this dress – I might end up wearing it all summer! 

Roll on pay-day!

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What a weekend!

Friday – I got home from work to this yumminess:

(They’re a bit creased as I’ve hand-washed them, but haven’t ironed yet.)

The photos really don’t do these fabrics justice.  I’ll confess, I’ve been too busy to do a burn test, but from the feel of the fraying threads on the cut ends and the way they hold colour (so luminous), I am sure they’re silk.  If not, they’re bloody good synthetics.  To call the darker one navy is to do it a great disservice: it’s far richer in colour than navy normally is – it’s more of an indigo.

And I was right about the lighter blue – it’s not electric blue, instead it’s an absolutely amazing cerulean blue shot with a lighter violet, which makes it seem almost ultra-violet when it shimmers and catches the light.  Even better, the two sides of the fabric are quite different – one seems a mid almost-turquoise shot with purple and the other is a light greyish-blue with the violet sheen.  I seem to recall that the edges of the polonaise-style jacket (up to the trim line) are a green facing, which is making me think of using the opposite side of the fabric for the edges and using a purple trim (perhaps purple velvet ribbon).  I suspect I’ve not explained that very well – I’ll put together a diagram at some point!

Polonaise style jacket from the Cut of Women's Clothes

Which leaves the question – mostly light with the darker side on the edges, or mostly dark with the lighter?  Decisions, decisions!

Saturday – went to the library, got the Beginners Crewel Embroidery book, another introductory embroidery book and this little haul:

I’m thinking calico pockets embroidered with green leaves and twisty stems and blue and purple flowers with yellow stamens.  Unfortunately they didn’t have crewel thread, so I had to get regular stranded cotton, but I figure this will be good to practice with and when I have a bit more money I can order some (probably from Sewandso.co.uk as recommended by Rosel).  Oh, and the ribbons are for cockades (as per the good Duchess’s tutorial plus a couple of other (less good) tutorials I’ve found in old books) – I’ve got some blue and white buttons as well as some brassy anchor ones, so I thought I’d go for a nautical theme.

I also had an eye test on Saturday and for the first time ever, I was prescribed glasses.  I got a great deal (two pairs, including scratch-resistant coated lenses for £99 – one pair of those lenses is usually around £70) and picked up one pair yesterday (the other is on order).  I always wanted glasses as a kid and now I’ve got them, it’s really weird – I think I’m glad they’re only for me to use when I feel I need them (when my eyes feel tired or I feel a headache coming on and I’m using a computer).

Saturday evening (I said it was a packed weekend, didn’t I?) I worked on the stays and I’ve finished sewing the boning channels on the front panel:

They’re not perfect, but not bad considering my newness to sewing and still-developing machine skills.  In the end I decided to sew straight through the ridgeline that forms the two horizontal bones as it would have been a massive headache to sew around them by machine (if I were hand-sewing I would have done that, though – I do like the look of the horizontal stitches) plus the ridgeline is a different width to the cable-ties, so it might have looked odd.

And as for the rest of Sunday – well, I read those embroidery books and did a little bit of stitch practice with some spare embroidery thread I had in my stash.  Unfortunately it’s off-white and pretty much matches the calico perfectly, so it wouldn’t show up very well in a photo, but this week I’ll get started on the pockets and will post pictures then.

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At last – I’ve finished cutting and filing down all the cable ties for the stays!! My hands hurt and I did manage to stab myself in the knee (it bled quite a bit, but not on the stays, which is the important thing), but the boning is ready to go. Oh and I nearly pinged a craft knife blade in my eye when it broke, mid-cut!

It took me a lot longer than I was expecting, but maybe that’s partially because I was a bit analy retentive about filing them smoothly. Now I can get on with the sewing bit – yay!

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I’m not sure how much this sort of thing is reported internationally, but in the UK we are rapidly approaching a General Election and last night was a historic night in British politics: the leaders of the three main parties stood up on live television and had a debate, answering questions from the audience.  OK, OK so there were quite stringent rules (for instance, the audience weren’t allowed to clap, jeer or generally react or make noise, though there was some laughter once or twice)) and the presenter wasn’t allowed to probe their claims, but it was interesting even if it wasn’t perfect.

So you’ll have to forgive me if I post about politics over the next few weeks …

Brown, Clegg , Cameron & Alistair Stewart, the presenter. Photo from The Guardian.

There has been much talk about a hung Parliament, which kinda makes sense – there’s so little to choose between Labour and Conservative, that the country may as well share their vote almost equally between the two.  Although there are dangers with a hung Parliament (that is, where no one party wins an outright majority in the House of Commons), I think it’s what a great many people in the country want.  We are all so disillusioned with the two main parties (both the same) and the political system, that we want to shake them up, perhaps even remind them that they only have their power thanks to us, the everyday person on the street, the electorate.

I thought Nick Clegg was a revelation, which is both a good and bad thing.  As the leader of the Liberal Democrats, he stands in a very unusual position in this election: many believe a Liberal Democrat vote is a wasted vote as they ‘can’t win’ a General Election, yet if there is a hung Parliament it is most likely his party that will be asked to ally with Labour or the Conservatives to form a Government. 

After last night, I think he will have won a great many voters to his party’s cause – great, my political views are closest to those of the Lib Dems (lefty liberals) – but I fear that it comes at greater cost to Labour (historically more left wing) than to the Conservatives (traditionally more right wing), which I am worried may swing the balance.  If Labour loose too much of the vote, there won’t be enough of an even split between Labour and Conservative to cause a hung Parliament, leaving the Conservatives the outright leaders. 

To me, that’s the worst possible scenario – I dislike the Conservatives and their values and goals (for example, to re-introduce fox hunting despite the fact the majority of the country is against it.  Never mind my personal views on the issue, but to bring back a practice that the majority of the nation opposes goes against the basic principal of democracy, which is a general feature of the party – benefit their buddies and sod everyone else.) and I think their rule without the temperance of a Liberal Democrat alliance would be terrible for the people of this country.

But all that is some weeks away yet – we’ll have to wait until 6th of May to see what happens, and there are more debates and more campaigning in the meantime.  Three weeks is a long time in UK politics.

A few predictions:

  • The Lib Dems will be under greater scrutiny as Clegg has been declared the ‘winner’ of the first debate.
  • After his disappointing performance in the debate, Cameron will try to play the underdog in the next one.
  • Many will still think of a Lib Dem vote as a ‘wasted vote’.
  • Many will vote for Lib Dems as a protest against the traditional Labour/Conservative two-horse race, but not enough to make a Lib Dem government.
  • Cameron will continue to be slimy to viewers and the audience in future debates.  (He’ll continue to mention how his children go to state schools and how great he thinks the NHS is and how proud he is of it and our country, a variation on this theme is his praise for our service-men and -women.)
  • Brown will continue to be slimy to Clegg in future debates.
  • Both Brown and Cameron will be somewhat tougher on Clegg in future debates since he did so well this time, while at the same time they will continue to court him just in case there is a hung Parliament – they still want him on-side.  (Last night it was really interesting to see how deferential they were towards him – they would talk over each other, but whenever Clegg spoke up, they both fell silent.)
  • There will be drinking games in future debates based around how often they do any of the following: Cameron/Brown suck up to Clegg, anyone says “brave service-men and -women” or thanks someone for their hard work as a nurse/teacher/member of the armed forces/etc, they pay lip service to Parliamentary reform, apologises for the expenses scandal … and so on.

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So Crewel


I’ve been thinking about embroidery quite a bit lately – my Mum’s been talking about it, the pocket books I want to make one day require it, a present I plan to make for a certain someone involves it – so I thought I’d have a look at the different forms to help me decide what exactly I’d like to try out.

Two particular forms instantly stood out for me – goldwork and crewel embroidery, so I thought I’d share some pretties that make me want to get involved!

Crewel work is traditionally made with wool thread, giving it a thicker, three-dimensional effect, which is what really appeals to me about the technique.  It can also be worked with silk or cotton.  Either way, it just seems incredibly tactile.

Oh, and did I mention that it’s ancient – it’s the technique used in the Bayeux Tapestry – and it was quite the thing in certain parts of my favourite century.  Check out this from the Kyoto Costume Institute:

I’ve got costume schwing!  (Sorry have seen Wayne’s World far too many times!)

Oh, and you might think me crewel (ba-boom!) for posting a picture of a lovely petticoat that’s locked away in an institute, but how about this one: it’s circa 1790, it was embroidered by nuns and it’s for sale (ahem, for nearly $7,000, but hey):

Check out the web site for close-up images.  That is an order – the details are amazing.

And this – who wouldn’t love this?!

This website has a great guide to crewel work with plenty of links and ideas and luckily my local library just happens to have this book:

So, at some point fairly soon, I think I might feel the need to get a little embroidery hoop and make some pockets – that way, if my embroidery skills turn out to be all kinds of suck, the results will be hidden yet still useable!

Oh yes, I did mention goldwork, didn’t I?  Well, that’s a tale for a whole other post, my dears …

(I’m at work and it’s my lunch break, but I’m pretty excited as there are two packages for me: one is parsley seeds from my Nene’s plants and the other is fabriiiiiic!  Huzzah!)

*Oh yes, and I do realise that I could have titled this post ‘Sew Crewel’, but I fear that might have been one cheesy pun too far!

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