Now a registered trademark for fashion and homewares.

Join my blog as I experiment with colour, pattern and textile arts ...

I love photography, drawing, painting, working with fabrics/yarn and anything vintage ...

Thursday, 31 July 2014

Sad news

A sudden family bereavement means I won't be able to post on a regular basis for the next couple of months.  Sending thanks to all my loyal followers.  

Saturday, 19 July 2014

Couture Dresses of Paris and London, 1950's to present day - The Fashion and Textile Museum

A wonderful lecture given by Dennis Nothdruft of The Fashion and Textile Museum, London.  I believe this is done 7 times a year.  Well worth the effort of travelling there and actually getting your hands on some fabulous couture fashions of the past.  Attendees were given white gloves to wear, so that the pieces could be touched and handled.

The lecture began by setting the scene of how couture began.  French couture would have started around 1850 with Worth - an Englishman.  He developed a collection, displayed on mannequins, to order from and was the first to do this.  Before that, dressmakers made individual pieces.  A whole industry was set up around him.

The first item we were shown was a 1947 Dior dress.  Dior was a designer from a wealthy family who worked as a sketch artist initially.  He developed his own collection after World War II, financed by a large fabric company.  Fashion was moving towards The New Look.  This dress is from the last collection he designed and is the most valuable piece in the museum.  It comes in 2 pieces, which was typical of Dior, consisting of an underskirt and overskirt with embroidery.  This would have been done by a specialist embroiderer - probably Lessage.  Lots of regulated industries such as embroidery grew around couture.

Detail of the Peasant Scene embroidery 

The season, year and style number is included on the label.  This dress would have cost around £2,000 at the time of manufacture and was aimed at the middle class.

Another Dior dress from 1954.  Constructed from a cream coloured fabric with applied raffia knots.   You can see the wide seam allowances on this, for letting out if necessary.  Straps on the inside also hold you in ...

1958 and Yves St Laurent heralds a new, youthful look in this pin tucked and boned dress with bow details .....   Again, this had wide seam allowances for letting out.

Next up, Chanel.  Her designs were, of course, produced for ease of wear and stylish details.  You can see the gilt chain stitched along the inside of the jacket hem for it to hang correctly.

Chain links line the outer sleeve edge along with a rouleaux bow.

Beautifully tailored jacket pockets and pleats in the skirt match up perfectly.

This skirt suit would have cost £750 in the 30's.

Another Chanel.  This time a day dress or tea dress, sold by Berfdorf Goodman.  It was sewn in New York using Chanel's toiles.  The white collar is another Chanel detail, thought to be flattering and light reflecting worn around the face.

Beautiful embroidery detail ...

Now a green velvet coat by Balenciaga, a label aimed at a high end customer.  It sports a distinctive collar with bound buttonholes in the same fabric, which would have been very difficult to achieve. The front has braided Chinese knot buttons and princess lines.  As few seams as possible have been used on this textured fabric and it is cut into a trapeze shape.

This Indonesian Sarong from the mid 60's is an evening dress style in pink and white with a matching stole.

It looks deceptively simple on the outside - inside is a mass of boning to achieve shape.

This Princess Galaczini dress in chiffon again has an impressively structured inner.  I'd seen this name before in The Glamour of Italian Fashion exhibition at the V&A.  She invented palazzo pants. Dressmaking was an acceptable profession for any impoverished aristocratic classes with wealthy connections!

Courreges from the 1960's.  A simple, slightly A-line dress in thick blue fabric with one of the new space age materials - a white plastic trim.

It was short originally, but enough fabric included in the hem has enabled it to be let down.

Next up, an Yves St Laurent suede leather jerkin with knitted sleeves ...

This would have been worn with thick knitted tights and knee high boots.

This cream quilted coat in heavy cotton is by Pierre Cardin from the mid-60's.  It has a matching sleeveless shift dress.  Cardin made most of it's money from licences rather than couture.

A Balmain blue dress with cut-out details flared sleeves and bound velvet edges ....

A Lacroix couture sample made for a very tiny model ...

At the time of manufacture in the 80's/90's, this would have retailed at £25,000.  Everyone wanted to touch this ...

Lanvin, and a simple wool and wool jersey draped  little black dress setting you back £4,000 ... what price glamour?

This very beautiful appliqued lily dress on maroon net was worn by Halle Berry at the 2002 Oscars. Designed by Elie Saab, a previously unknown Lebanese designer and donated to The Fashion and Textile Museum.

Image found on web - not sure who to credit ....  for review only ....

Last, but by no means least, a little showcase of work by Zandra Rhodes to celebrate that she is now Dame Zandra Rhodes.  She left the Royal College in 1965 and has designed continually ever since.  Foale & Tuffin, the 60's design duo first utilised her fabrics.  Then Zandra formed a company with Sylvia Ayton before going solo.  She is of the 'Pop Artist' generation and crowd, re-interpreting all manner of objects ...  embroidery from the V&A, shell boxes, advertisements.  The textiles dictate the shape of the garments.

1967 Chevron Shawl Coat, inspired by shawls seen in the V&A

It's reversible - this is the inside
Classic wiggle and check pattern dress constructed around a circle.  The circle is a favourite design motif of Zandra Rhodes.

One of my favourites - Chiffon dress with Field of Lilies skirt and Knitted Circle bodice.

A satin padded jacket inspired by a visit to the USA (most of her work is inspired by travels), Busby Berkeley films and a homespun wooden box decorated with shells ... It's easy to see the connections ... I really love this and have only ever seen it in pictures before.  So wonderful to see it and touch it!

Finally, some designs from the present day and others developed from sketches done at the beach near Zandra's home in San Diego....

If you're in London, do go and see all this if you can - it's amazing!  I've heard that the dresses are changed each time, so there's always a chance of seeing something new.

Monday, 7 July 2014

Knit de France

I'm not really a sports fan but I've been swept up in the excitement of the Tour de France as it made it's way through Yorkshire, Cambridge and London this past 3 days.  I actually spent two whole afternoons knitting in front of the tv (I have a whole sleeve of my C&G sweater finished now :-)  I relented today as I thought I should really get some fresh air in the garden!  I was given an extra day of leave because I usually work in Cambridge ... 

The peloton rides up Main Street as stage two of the Tour de France passes through Haworth, Yorkshire. Pic: Martin Rickett/PA Wire *edinburghnews* 

Sunday, 6 July 2014

Eye, eye ...

I really thought that this tree in the Botanic Gardens was looking at me ...  Isn't nature strange ....

Friday, 4 July 2014

Nostalgia ...

We have a new gadget at home that can convert slides into digital files. It's like a whole new world of discovery! This is my mum from the 60's - I think her outfit is wonderful! I think I'd quite like to re-create the knitted cardigan and skirt ... again as soon as time permits! I'm getting on well with my C&G sweater though - post coming soon!

Wednesday, 2 July 2014

50.000 GIVEAWAY - it's yours Rosy

Completely by chance and a random pick ... so well done Rosy! I think I still have your address so I'll get your things sent out to you as soon as possible. I've enjoyed reading about your favourite designers - I forgot to give my reason for having such an admiration for work by Zandra Rhodes - it's the way she constructs garments around the prints she designs, rather than the other way round ... she comes up with such wonderful shapes. Anyway, thanks for taking part everyone - I wish I could have sent something to all of you.
Typically Zandra Rhodes! - Can't caption the photo, as I haven't been able to find a copyright owner.  Used for criticism and review only.

Monday, 30 June 2014

Degree Show Time

Work committments meant that I didn't get to see any of the shows this year, though I'm pleased to say that Manchester Metropolitan University - my old stomping ground - has their work online already. The course is structured a lot differently to when I was there years ago - then you had to choose at an early stage which discipline you wanted to study. I went for print ... I was happy about the drawing aspects, which I loved, but I always had a hankering for working with threads and yarns too. That seems to happen now. The course is called 'Textiles in Practice' and has a multi-media approach from the very start. Three sets of work caught my eye from this year. I've borrowed some images and artist statements for criticism and review only, from the MMU website, and hope that this post encourages more visits to the website or to the actual shows.

Ruth Murray says: 'My work explores the relationship between the drawn, printed and stitched mark. Using a range of textile processes, I have created embellished fashion fabrics for a scarf collection. These evolve from drawings which were translated onto fabric using a combination of hand and digital print. Embroidery further enhances the surface with freely flowing marks sewn on the Cornelly machines. Abstract designs convey the energy of the coastal landscape through marks observed within the space. I was drawn to contrasting textures and the relentless motion of the waves and tide. My work involves an intriguing juxtaposition of inspiration: vibrant colours extracted from aquatic life reveal a hidden world of colour beneath the water’s surface. I also studied rocks and shells collected from the beach and the specimens at Manchester Museum. Extracting their intricate details and surface patterns, I sought to display a world of beauty, wonder and curiosity.'

I was attracted to the drawn qualities of Ruth's work on the delicate backing fabric, further enhanced by stitch. The colour combinations are striking too.

Emily Otchie says: 'I have long been influenced by a fusion of cultural influences, whose vibrancy is reflected in my work. As a result, my work is always one to stand out from the crowd, with my fearless use of bold and vibrant colour and eccentric style. With family from both Ghana and the U.K., I am drawn to contrasting themes which explore the range and diversity of cultures that live side-by-side in modern society. This has been the driving force throughout previous projects and has carried through to my graduate collection. My collection explores the juxtaposition between modern urban life and traditional tribal textiles, fusing bold colours, patterns and embellishment with urban garment silhouettes. I am most excited about exploring the range of possibilities that can be created by pushing the boundaries within knit techniques as well as traditional craft, giving knitwear a personality which exudes lots of energy and colour.'

The bold colour combinations and innovative use of knit make Emily's work a favourite with me.

Emma Ross says: 'I am a process led designer. By using a combination of hand-printed techniques, I produce contemporary print designs for fashion. Abstract shapes and ceramic sculpture have inspired my current collection. By constructing a collection out of ripped shaped templates each of my prints are unique. I use manual processes as a form of development. Inspired by my initial prints, I use the print room as my starting point, drawing from my prints and creating textural collages that reflect the same qualities. My work is mainly led by composition, colour proportion and texture, which is shown in my 3 dimensional drawings and playful sketchbook. I work with both translucent and opaque fabrics, showing innovation within a fashion context. The context of my work is varied; my prints work well in small-scale proportions suitable for underwear and swimwear, however my fabrics could work well as designer womenswear fashion fabrics.'

Emma's use of gold with sophisticated combinations of matt colours caught my eye, expecially as I've been experimenting myself with the use of gold leaf lately.

See more great work at