Thursday, 22 August 2013

Should have paid more attention in geometry class.

I've recently (read: the beginning of June) finished my first version of the Wiksten Tova and it got me thinking about stripes. This top was a really interesting exercise in deliberate cutting because I was working with scraps, not actual yardage. There were quite a few constrains on what could be cut from where. It's something I'm usually very lax about, so it got the cogs churning in my head.



Firstly, I wanted the front inserts to create chevrons from being cut on the bias, so folded along something like the CF line.

I see no chevrons. Whoops.

I also had a big issue at the back of having no single scrap long enough for the whole back piece , nor any scrap wide enough to cut a yoke on the fold. Once again, more chevrons and some flat piping to break everything up. Generally, I like the top, though next time I'll bring in the shoulders just a bit and possibly curve the hem a little. There's not much else to say about it really, there are hundreds of versions floating around the web so do go and check out all of the other lovely versions. Let's move on to something meaty.

I see a lot of suits everyday and it's had me pondering about stripe matching and manipulation in tailoring. Firstly, for stripes to always match over a shoulder seam, the shoulder seam angle compared to the CF/CB must be the same for both front and back bodice pieces. Okay great, so what? As long as your pattern placement is careful, your stripes will always match.

But what if they don't? Shoulder seams vary in placement and angle on several axes, which means you could have a style designed where the shoulder stripes NEVER match, no matter how careful you are. More importantly, you could feasibly achieve a point of fit (perhaps with forward sloping shoulders) where the stripes never match. Couldn't you?

Will shoulder darts throw off the stripe matching?
Secondly, I've been thinking about the CB line on tailored jackets. It sounds thrilling, I know. Stay with me, I'm about to spin off some mad thoughts. Please jump in with counterpoints if I'm waaay off the mark because it's mostly anecdotal.

CB seams aren't necessarily straight like the CF appear to be. I think this might be to do with our bodies having a more regular curve across the whole of our back compared to some odd lumps at the front, or perhaps the need for ease in the shoulders. That's beside the point. If you have a curved CB seam, your stripes will need to meet/splay out at some point.
Oval. Oval. Oval.

I guess this is a trait of RTW and industrially produced jackets: you add extra ease in the shoulders by curving the CB seam to create more room. Simple, and works well with plain fabrics.

Bus many industrious sewists know that the traditional norms dictate vertical lines are good. Good fit is the grain running perpendicular to the floor. Since men's jackets don't really have darts, logic says that these stripes should run vertically and if they're a bit curvy, that's probably not a good thing.

The curve on this CB seam is quite gradual
But, I think good tailors can get around this. There are techniques to steams and shape suit cloth to add room at the shoulders while essentially maintaining straight stripes at the CB seams. This will obviously only work with certain fabrics, more likely a wool than a poly for example. It's also obviously more time and labour intensive. This will be reflected in the price.

In fact, appear straight from afar...

So here's what I'm wondering now:
- Are curved stripes generally an indicator of an industrially produced jacked while straight/vertical ones an indicator of a bespoke/artisanal suit?
- Where's the tipping point between these two methods?
- What can you know about a man's background, socioeconomic status, financial resources, outlook...etc just by looking at his suit? (Or just the angle of his suit stripes)
- Does this apply on a large scale? (ie: changes in the garment industry towards certain production techniques?)
- Can producers of these jackets manipulate these expectations? Can they make an inexpensive poly suit look expensive by creating patterns and establishing a process with vertical and parallel lines? Can a Savile Row tailor make a bespoke suit look industrial by cutting a suit to fit industrial characteristics?

Is this a barmy discussion point, or is there something to it?

To finish, I wanted to leave you with a dynamic shot of the Wiksten in action mid-boogie. They came out a bit blurry.

Until next time...

Sunday, 18 August 2013


Looks like I left you hanging there for quite a while. Ooops. Okay, let's jump back into it again with a post with no project.

 A few weeks months ago, So-Ha of Unlabelled Clothes  very kindly nominated me for a Liebster award. Or half of one? I'm not too sure. So-Ha's attention to detail and quality is outstanding. Her style of blogging always seems so calm and considered, and really inspires confidence in simple execution of projects, having the details speak volumes. If you've not seen it already you should definitely check it out.

I love seeing these 21st century chain letters float around the network of sewing bloggers. The best bit is to see sewists answer some really interesting questions not simply about making. I'm a little nervous as she certainly didn't disappoint with some thought-provoking questions, but hopefully they're a good kickstart to diversifying what I post about. You may have guessed by the name of the blog, but there really should be more cultural content in here. With the Edinburgh Fringe in full swing and new theatre season looming in September, now seems like a pretty good time to get into gear and post a bit more about all the interesting stuff about.

Without further ado, thank you again So-Ha and here are some answers to your questions:

Where would you most like to be right now?
As I write the summer sun is streaming through my sash window. It reminds me of spending hours wandering in the Alsace countryside. I'd love to be back there again, high up in the Vosges mountains walking with friends. We discuss anything and everything, sip locally produced wines and chow on tarte flambee late into the night. Glorious.

That's what I'm talkin' about
If you were Queen for the day, what would be your first rule/change?
Remove all limitations on international broadcasting and media. Not just legal but practical and economic too. Even with the internet it's quite difficult to discover content outside of your own language, country or niche interests.You learn a lot just by flicking through magazines or watching the TV while on holiday, so it would be great to experience that once in a while at home. It would spark curiosity and encourage people to discover something new.
What does love feel/look/sound like to you?
Oh come on! That's super difficult! I guess love is a bit like Sailing By. You feel like it's being broadcast just for you, though there are millions of people out there experiencing precisely the same thing. That doesn't make it any less meaningful or unique, just quite different to a lot of other human experiences.

If you were to make a garment for anyone - who would it be and why?
Initially I was to tempted to answer with a couple of friends who I respect supremely. I've got that sense of duty to make something exceptional for them and there's a big emotional investment. But actually, I think I'd rather make a garment for an experienced sewist I'd never met. Like Ann Rowley for example. Someone who's aware of the learning process, who knows considered execution, who's seen every mistake, fix and fudge in the book. Someone who knows when and why you should push the boat out or play it safe.

Why do you sew?
There's a TV series on Arte called Tous Les Habits Du Monde (go on, Google it). A documentary crew travel all over the world and do short shows on clothing in different countries. They look at the cultural background behind mass clothing choices and unconscious everyday wear. They also cover fashionatas showing off, family celebrations and occasionwear. They go beyond the simple idea of  "because it's like that" and really look at how cultural dynamics are shifting, what you can know about a population from their clothing. They look at the role of veils in Israel, uniforms in China, rural and urban clothing in Morocco...even hats at country shows here in the UK.

In light of that, I guess I sew because I want my clothing to be a more deliberate expression of the cultural and subcultural groups I associate with. If the Arte crew were to stumble on a group of sewists today, what would they know about us? Or the community that exists around us? What would we be able to tell them about each of our garments and the stories behind them? Garments shouldn't exist in a vacuum. The clothes we wear have so many important meanings, connotations and narratives on a cultural and personal level. For me, sewing is a means of proactively controlling that.

Are the clothes you make different from the ones you normally buy?
Definitely. The clothes I choose to buy are normally suited to situations with fairly rigid social rules where me-mades could be seen as a liability. Bought clothing is all on the basis of a path of least resistance. The clothing I make is brighter, less pristine, more quirky. I work in a fairly conservative office and doubt they'd appreciate me-mades on a daily basis. 

If you could have a sewing buddy, who would it be & why?
Colin Hammick. He wouldn't be much of a buddy though, he was a master tailor and managing director at Huntsman. I found out about him in Richard Anderson's book Bespoke: Savile Row Ripped and Smoothed. His mastery and exquisite taste is evident and to learn from him would have been incredibly challenging. I would love to carry that sort of wisdom through to make my own work much better. Here's a quick snippet from the book:

"I would hear Hammick intone as though walking an aspiring surgeon through a lobotomy, 'we need to take a good eighth off the front edge, we need to deepen the scye a quarter, we need to lengthen the back balance three-eighths, and we need to shorten the right sleeve a sixteenth.' That's right. Hammick worked to the sixteenth of an inch. Show me a lobotomist who can work to the sixteenth of an inch using ten-inch shears."

I blitzed through the book in a couple of days. It's absolutely fascinating, you should read it.

 Some carefully chosen facts about me
i) I spent 2 hours drafting a version of this post only to accidentally delete it.
ii) I've been working at the Paradise Green venues in Edinburgh over the Fringe, post to follow on some of the great stuff that I found up there.
iii) While traveling around Europe a few years ago, I developed a short-lived lampost fixation. This is my favourite:

iv) I'm quite a fan of The Prisoner and am considering signing off blog posts in the future with the line 'Be seeing you'.
v) When bored on the train, I like to make up backstories for the other passengers.

Here are a couple of nominations to pass the Leibster on to
TheainSewingLand - I bumped into Thea at the London meetup in April. She was wearing a fantastic skirt in a Liberty wool print I'd been struggling to get to grips with at home. It was at that moment I knew she had excellent taste.
Auxetically - Laura's another London meetup contact, she found a Chanel lining somewhere in a basement on Goldhawk Road and it's yet to show up on her blog. She's currently running a series reviewing Craftsy classes which should be really interesting.
Treadling in Benin - I do wonder whether Cathy counts as 'up and coming', she seems to be a bit of a blogging veteran! She always has the most interesting stories to go with her projects and has such an enthusiastic writing style. Plus, there's the whole mystery of what's going to happen once she leaves Benin, here's hoping going offline isn't one of the possibilities!

So in sticking with the rule of not quite sticking with the rules, here are some questions for you:
- What's your most significant handmade/homemade item?
- What's your sewing soundtrack? 
- If you could pass on your knowledge of making things, who would you want to teach?
- Do you have a sweet tooth or are you a savoury person? What's you favourite dish?
- How do you define 'home'?
- What's the most important thing you've learnt or discovered over the last 12 months and why?

Have fun!

Thursday, 1 August 2013

A Frucket List of Sorts

Let it be known right now that it's 4.20am. I am really not looking forward to the comedown that will be happening at some point tomorrow. Oh boy. This is an odd experience though, typing late into the night. It's a bit like the customary "first night of the holidays" where time stretches out ahead of you and you want to savour every free and peaceful moment.

I'll be off up to Edinburgh in a few hours for the fantastic festival season and wanted to post a sort of bucket list for the time I'll be up there. I'm not a reviewer, just an enthusiast so I'm reluctant to give this list the label "picks of the Fringe", so it's called a Frucket List

Regent Rep - Baddies - The Space
Winning second place in Sky Arts' recent series Nation's Best Am Dram, the Regent Rep have always had a really strong reputation for high quality performances. Having worked at their home venue in Dorset I'm really excited to see they've ventured North for the festival.

Beta Males - Superopolis - Pleasance Dome
Always love a bit of good sketch comedy

The Paper Cinema - Odyssey - Summerhall
These guys came to Bournemouth Arts By The Sea last year and were fantastic. It's incredibly difficult to describe well what precisely they do. Any fans of puppetry...graphic music...storytelling...should really see them because they're developing a seriously good reputation.

Beth Vyse - Going Dark! - Banshee Labyrinth
The synopsis looks like this should be a comedy version of Duet for One. Not sure how true that actually is, but the dark humour side of me is really curious now.

Tony Law - Maximum Noonsense - The Stand
Lunchtime slot in a venue that's difficult to find. It's like earning your right to see the show.

Cheeky*Park - Company Man - C
Apparently a circus show about corporate life...? It reminds me a little of a show called Brainstorming (quand l'entreprise s'emballe) from a few years ago...

The Goddess of Walnuts - The Catherine's Club - Paradise in the Vault
The Catherine's Club performed Meat in our venue last year. It was excellent. Affecting. Tim Foley has returned with more of his own writing and I'm really hoping this will be as inventive as Meat was.

I'll be looking to post and tweet about shows while in the city too. As ever, some of the best shows from last year were ones we stumbled on at the last minute, so does anyone have any recommendations or suggestions?

So far recommendations have been for Chalk Farm, Casual Violence, Boy with Tape on his Face, a Socialist Magician (I don't even have a clue...), Speakeasies...

Not forgetting about the actual international festival and the book festival all happening at the same time. I totally missed them last year, but the Translation Duels look really interesting and I'm hoping to capitalise on some day tickets for the international festival too.

So if you're in town, I'll be working at the Paradise venues (main one on George IV Bridge) so stop by and say hi. (If any stitchers are up for a speedy trip to Mandors too...?)

(I owe you guys projects. Seriously, there are so many projects lined up. You will be bombarded)