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Archive for May, 2010


My good Mother told me earlier about a book she’d heard discussed on the radio at the weekend, as it was about the 18th century, she thought I might be interested.

(My Mother is very good – she also listens out for interesting names and saves them for me to use.  Isn’t she wonderful?)

Well, I’ve looked up the book and it’s shot to the top of my wish-list:

I also like the sound of her other book, Cavalier, about a 17th century gent.  I use the term gent in the loosest sense (that of being a member of the nobility) as the subtitle of the paperback version is ‘The story of a seventeenth century playboy’.  I don’t think playboys count as gentlemen, but they do count as generally rather interesting reading material.

Not least because the style that comes from Lucy Worsley’s website is overwhelmingly not what most would expect from a history book – she has a sense of humour, a sense of fun and a nose for those intriguing little details of life.

Don’t believe me?  Well, go and check out her article from BBC History Magazine: A Survival Manual for Georgian Courtiers.

As for me, well, I need to win the lottery so I can give up work and spend all my time buying, reading and writing books…

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I can’t believe I forgot to blog about this when I first saw it – clearly I had a lobotmy that week – so here it is now and my gushing about how much I love it:

Yep, I said it – I don’t mean her (nothing against Lily Cole, it’s just not her I’m in love with), I mean her costume in this scene of The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus, specifically the pair of stays she is wearing.  Annoyingly, there are very few pictures around of the outfit:

Really, these pictures do the stays no justice – they’ve got this fabulous flowery/fruity thing going on and would make a great fae/goddess/woodland spirit type costume, or go for grapes and get ready for Bacchanalia!

Either way, I love the stays and want them.  I think I’m going to have to buy the DVD and get some screen captures.  The whole outfit is a nod to the 18th century, with that hair and the shift and the pantaloons she’s wearing could either be a Victorian lady’s bloomers or a 17th or 18th century gent’s breeches fancified.

If you haven’t seen the film, do have a looksee: it’s a lot of fun and if you don’t enjoy it, then you at least get to see these stays as they’re right at the beginning!

And yes, it says ‘part I’ up there – I think I’m going to give some film costume love every once in a while, so look out for more as and when the whim strikes me!

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Happenings


I’m back! I was much too tired to say hello the past couple of days, so apologies for the late update, but without further ado – stuff what I did last week:

Played! I was pretty excited to find that there is now an adventure playground with a ZIPWIRE (!!!) by the regular playground (with swings, which are almost as fun). I was extra excited to find that there were no children around (7pm on a Sunday evening – homework time for them, perhaps?), so we hijacked the balance beams (despite the stiff sea breeze, I managed not to fall off!) and the ZIPWIRE (!!!). Then the boys hijacked me on the zipwire – they wouldn’t let me off and kept dragging it (with me on it) back to the start to go again. It was fun, but after the fourt time, I wanted to get off! Such cruel boys – definitely not gentlemen.

The Boy did pretty much the same thing to me with the swing and kept pushing it when I wanted to get off – what a git!

Read! OK, perhaps less deserving of an exclamation mark, but since when did that stop me? I met up with my friends from the MA and we sat in one of their gardens (a lovely, lovely garden out in the countryside – I saw a fox that had caught a squirrel!) and ate and drank and read our work to each other. It was a wonderful afternoon – I do miss my writerly friends living up here.

Dressed up!! Prepare to laugh at me looking rather foolish indeed:

Yep, that’s me dressed up as an old lady for The Boy’s 25th Birthday. Charity shop dress (£2.80), saggy tights, hair rollers, grey hairspray and one of those plastic hood/cap things that grannies wear to keep their hair dry. Oh, and truly frightening make-up. The Boy looked equally hilarious and carried his pipe around all evening (except for one point when he dropped it in the middle of a crowded dancefloor – luckily I have eagle eyes and rescued it before it got stomped on!).

Hosted! (Yeah, I’m keeping up the exclamation marks, I’m afraid.) The Boy’s parents visited us for the weekend – it was lovely to see them, particularly as up until this month, they had been living in Dubai!  The weather on Sunday was glorious – this was my view whilst lounging in the park:

So that’s the brief low-down of my trip and time off. In the near future, expect a writing-related post, and this week or next I hope to finish the Butterick wrap dress and get started on embroidering my pockets (I’ve had a pattern drawn up for weeks now, but haven’t yet started – it is rather over-ambitious, but since when have I ever let that stop me doing something?!).

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HMS Victory, dry-docked in Portsmouth

I’m going to be away for most of next week – I’m visiting the seaside, and this first-rate ship of the line,* huzzah! – and I didn’t want to leave my lovely readers adrift, so here is some recommended reading:

For Readers (AKA everyone!)

  • Want a tip on how to maintain your 18th century love affair?  Lauren over at Marie Antoinette’s Gossip Guide has just the thing – a fab, fun post that looks like it might become part of a series!  (I certainly hope so!).
  • I do enjoy a bit of gender inversion and Rowenna of Hyaline Prosaic has posted a saucy 18th century print showing just that.  Be sure to read the comments, too, there are some interesting ideas going on about the symbolism of the parrot and dog in the image.

For Writers

  • Picture the scene – you’ve found yourself in a lift with a literary agent, you’re chatting, the topic of your finished manuscript comes up, you’ve got 2 minutes to wow them and get them wanting more – GO!  Does this scenario fill you with dread?  Me too.  Thankfully, help is at hand from a very successful agent: Rachelle Gardner tells us the Secrets of a Great Pitch to help us prepare for just such a moment and even has some advice for agents and editors to remember when us poor writers garble over our pitches!
  • I am as guilty of this as any other writer – saying and thinking I don’t have time to write.  Funnily enough, I read two posts relating to this over the past week or so.  First Rachelle Gardner wrote on What We Give Up, raising some hard-hitting points – us writers can’t do everything, we have to prioritise and sometimes we have to give things up.  So often modern life encourages us to ‘have everything’ that we forget that in order to have the things we really want, we have to bid farewell to the less important things.  And just today, Kim from What Women Write wrote about excuses not to write – we all make them and fool ourselves into believing them.  We all need to overcome them.  I desperately need to get over those excuses, cut down on the excess and give up some things in order to get on with the important thing: writing. 
  • Something to think about and discuss – how do you Pick your Perfect Title?  Go and join in with the writers at Let the Words Flow.

For Stitchers

And as for what I’ll be reading while I’m gone?  I’ve got half a manuscript to go over with my red pen and get back to writing.

So, I wish you adieu, my dears – when I return from Portsmouth, it’s The Boy’s Birthday and his parents are visiting, I should be back and a-posting around the 24th May.  Wishing you all happy writing, pretty stitching and fun in the sun in the meantime!

* HMS Victory is dry-docked in Portsmouth – ’tis a rather pretty ship (am I allowed to say ‘pretty’ about a ship?) launched in 1765, so it’s from the century everyone loves!

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I was lucky enough to win a prize in the virtual Masquerade Ball held by author Prue Batten at the beginning of the month… and it arrived today:

I’ve tried to take a close-up photo so you can see how careful and dainty the stitches are, but the picture (unfortunately blurry) really doesn’t do Prue’s stitching justice:

And those berries are all 3-D and wonderful – they’re lovely!

I’m carefully examining Prue’s stitching so I can improve my own.

Thank you, Prue – what a wonderful prize.  Now I just need to find a special use for it …

(Do go and read Prue’s blog – there’s a very interesting conversation going on there about the current direction of the publishing industry and, like yours truly, she’s a stitcher as well as a writer with a great imagination.)

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Follow the link for a taster of an embellishment tutorial in the book.

Wow, I must be a bit psychic (that, or it’s a coincidence, but that’s not so fun, right?) as my new book (The Party Dress) was waiting for me when I got home on Friday. I read it cover to cover that evening and here are my thoughts (having only read it, not tried it out):

Positive

  • The dresses are great – there should be something here to suit everyone.
  • There are good ideas for personalising the dresses and making different variations on them.
  • It’s written in a very positive way – he has an upbeat, friendly and encouraging tone, which is exactly what a beginner needs.
  • Gorgeous colour photos throughout with some fun photoshoots (giant white rabbits, anyone?).
  • Embellishment tutorials that you could use on many different projects.

Negative

  • I’m not convinced his examples are perfectly-fitting (there is some wrinkling) – surely this should be the priority in a book about how to make dresses that fit you perfectly? I suspect taking greater care and being more of a perfectionist would help.
  • The instructions aren’t always clear – sometimes I was reading them and couldn’t fully understand what he meant and the photos do not always help. I generally use more than one book when reading up on techniques, anyway.
  • I would disagree with some of his recommendations on what suits the different body shapes – for example, that short people should wear longer lengths, in fact they often make you look even shorter and tend to dwarf shorter ladies (I speak from experience!). I’m not saying short women should never wear long gowns, but you have to do so carefully!

And this point is neither positive not negative, but something for anyone considering this book to be aware of:

  • It does contain four dresses (and a basque top, which is used as the bodice/pattern for the dresses and can be made up separately). Considering the prices of patterns, you wouldn’t be able to buy four patterns for the £10 the book costs (I got it cheaper on Amazon Marketplace, so look out for copies there!), so I consider it a good deal for that alone (plus the block, bow and fabric flower tutorials), but some people might expect more from a book that is specifically about creating ‘the perfect’ party dress. Having said that, I do think that whatever your figure, at least one of these styles should suit you, and Simon Henry does give ideas for variations, so you could make four different takes on the same dress.

Anyway, overall, I would recommend this book, though I doubt it has much to offer the more experienced stitcher except for, perhaps, inspiration.

The other weekend happening – Priscilla Queen of the Desert: The Musical … Bloody amazing!! So, so much fun! Uplifting songs and story, amazing performances and a bus on stage – what more could you ask for? I had a fabulous time. Oh, and the costumes were out of this world – I never in my life thought I would ever watch a stage full of dancing men dressed up as cupcakes. Yep, I’m serious. If you get the opportunity, I heartily recommend this show and challenge you to leave it without a massive grin on your face!

And, lastly, back to dressmaking – the promised pictures of the wrap-over, nearly complete – the bias binding is all on now, though the hemming isn’t yet done and neither is the closure. I’ve tied a scrap of leftover bias around the waist and I quite like the effect, so I think I’m going to sew that at the wrap-overs and tie it at the back. I did originally try this with a wide strip of the blue poplin to create a large bow at the back, but this created too much bulk around the waist. My only slight concern is that adding this red bias changes the lines on the dress – does it spoil the shape?

(Sorry the photos aren’t fab – my camera is still being dead and the Boy’s one refused to work, too!  Only bad thing about my phone – rubbish camera.)

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Things Beginning With P


It’s been a rather busy week, so apologies for my lack of blogging – I even took photos of the dress (almost finished) way back at the beginning of the week, but I’ve not had time to post them yet!

In the meantime, however, I have a few other bits and pieces to natter about and hopefully on Sunday I’ll be able to post some photos of the dress.

I had an email this week to say that my order has been dispatched, so this book is on its way to me right now! 

I’m quite excited as I saw this book months ago on a crafty/stitchy trip with a friend of mine and I was impressed by the clear explanation of how to make a block (with photographs to illustrate) and some gorgeous dresses.  I seem to recall there are about 4 or 5 dresses in the book, but Simon Henry suggests various permutations for each one, from changing length to adding embellishments and decorative touches.  In reality, you could make dozens, even a hundred dresses from these patterns, depending on how imaginative you are!

Anyway, the point being that I finally ordered it last week and can’t wait to get my greedy little mitts on it.  More info here when I’ve had a proper look at it!

On a quick aside – Politics – it’s all rather interesting here at the moment, things are all up in the air thanks to a hung Parliament.  I can’t wait to see what happens. 

‘Hang on,’ you might be thinking, ‘did she say she couldn’t post photos until Sunday?  Whyever not?!  Doesn’t she care about us?!’  Of course I do, but I am hopping on a train tonight to my mother’s so that tomorrow we can go with my sister to London to seeeeeeeeeeeeee

PRISCILLA, QUEEN OF THE DESERT - The Musical!!

I love the film and I cannot wait to see this tomorrow – it’s going to be super-awesomeness incarnate!  Plus, extra fun, we’re staying in a hotel in London, so I won’t be home until Sunday afternoonish.  Hence the lack of blogging until then, my dears.

In the meantime, let me leave you with one last P (we’ve had Party Dresses, politics and Priscilla):

OK, so it’s a slight cheat, but it is vulpes zerda, the fennec fox.  And I love them.  And they’re cute.  So, sssssh!

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