Willy Wonka 2

despite my best intentions, I didn’t do an amazing job documenting the making of the tailcoat for the rugby promotion. But here is what I have got!

actually, the only interesting photos I took are of the preparation of the canvas. The canvas is the inner shell of a suit – it is sculptured into the body shape in the chest area and the shape is “locked in place” by padstitches. After a good press with plenty of hot steam, the shape stays in the canvas permanently… and this is the secret of a good quality suit.

there are many ways of cutting the canvas. I still have not got the “one and only” way to do it. My cutting of the canvas is usually determined by what types of canvas I managed to get hold of, since that usually poses the first problem! The quality and thickness of the main fabric also plays a roll in choosing the canvas type and shape. This tailcoat was made from fairly thick furnishing fabric, so I chose to add a shoulder piece.

The main canvas piece, the largest one, has the same grain as th main fabric. The grain of the chest piece, usually cut from horsehair canvas, is determined by the angle of the break line. Both canvases have 2 darts to give shape to the chest. These darts are closed with fusing tape, that is iron on tape. In addition, after the tape is applied, they are secured by zig zag stitches.

the break line is pulled in and prevented from stretching by either applying fusing tape or, when doing it the “proper way”, by basting a piece of selvage from lining fabric tightly in place. A slightly tightened break line promotes additional room for the chest.

in the above photo the pad stitches are clearly visible. All layers are held in place with padstitching – and the direction of the stitches gives a clue that the  layers are rolled into different directions whilst being stitched together. An additional layer of thin wadding gives extra volume to the chest shape.

This photo illustrates the main fabric having been mounted onto the canvas, the cut in the canvas through which the pocket bag of the chest pocket has been pulled and the lapel having been padstitched. Finally the canvas on the front edge is being cut back to the actual sewing line and fusing tape is applied to hold it in place before sewing the lapel fabric to the main body.

and then… as if through magic… the coat has got sleeves and lining and a collar!

Calling mum

Today would be, IS, my mother’s birthday. She died nearly 20 years ago, six weeks after my father – it was an unimaginable tragedy. They were so young, late fifties and early sixties, when they both succumbed to terminal illnesses. My sadness, all our sadnesses were endless for their lost lives, their incompleted lives and it then seemed, this bottomless sadness was never ever going to end. But everybody who has lived through grief knows that humans get through tragedy somehow, receiving scars and bumps and burns. It becomes part of us, makes us who we are, it doesn’t go away.

Grief is an ever changing process. For so many years now, my grief is really all about me, my loss, my children’s loss, our family’s loss. All the love we have missed out on! All the moments of sharing successes or losses, when “you have to ring to tell mum/ granny”. My parents never lived to find out I had two more children…img_9280

Today is also a day of celebration, indeed a day I would desperately want to share with my parents and make that phone call!

It is exactly a year ago that I returned to my first career as theatrical tailor. Last January I made my first tailored coat in nearly 20 years, it was for the character of Jean Valjean for the Manila production of Les Miserables. Today I have finished the same coat, for the same character (different performer), but the Brazil production. This coincidence, finishing this coat on my personal ‘coat making coming out of hiatus anniversary’ and my mother’s birthday so makes me want to ring her and share one of the biggest mysteries of life: you win some, you lose some – we never know what happens next, you just don’t know how things will turn out. Be in the moment, spot opportunities, grab them with both hands, be always guides by your heart.

Happy Birthday, mum.

A Pouffe

Sadly, I don’t have the reference photo at hand, of the pouffe that inspired me to take up crochet. I saw it at Vicky’s holiday house at the South Coast a few weekends ago. She also had millions of granny square blankets, which inspired me to dig out a book of granny squares from my craft library. They are easy enough to make!!!

So I started on a few granny squares and found them very addictive to make and could not stop. Then I found a crochet mandala tutorial on the web… And instead of making a pouffe with a plain side and a seperate granny square blanket, I put the two ideas together: a pouffe with granny square sides!image

Two nights ago, I made a big cushion from calico. Stuffing the cushion with the beans from an old bean bag seemed to take longer than crocheting the cover, LOL! Last night I hand sewed the bottom of the side to the bottom of the cushion, and VOILA! A fabulous pouffe for our lounge room!

i have been working at Sydney Theatre Company for a few weeks. This is my view! Just stunning.imageimage

In Top Gear

I am beside myself with exitement because I made a phone call, just checking how the land lies in regard to that film/ theatre work. Part of me thought it was a bad idea because it makes me look potentially very pushy. But on the other hand I thought that I might just not get the work, unless I am proactive and let people know that I am keen.

So, I made the call and managed a light chit chat with the designer, pleasantries and so forth, but mainly letting her know that I am very keen to take on some work and that there is that flexibility with my other job and voila – within 12 hrs I had a call from the cutter to let me know that she is totally overwhelmed with various jobs and could I please come and work in her workroom for one or two weeks! YIKES!

This opportunity has made me so very very happy, I have been sewing and making patterns for all sorts of things during the weekend.

I cut Esther’s T-shirt up and up-cycled my old plain one. Looks cute!image image

I took the pattern of Clare’s jumper – it is the nicest fit ever, so plain and elegant! Now I need to do the number crunching and then I can start knitting away. I am afraid it will be a slow process, the alpaca yarn is very thin and I will knit it with 2 mm needles.image

Here are some linen pants that I started. The pattern is from the Mills & Merchant book. Unfortunately this project is on hold, since I broke the only needle for my industrial sewing machine. Spares are arriving mid- week! I enjoyed the fly, the pockets… All that detail…image

And I also prepared some patterns from the Alabama Chanin book. I bought this some time ago because I just love the simplicity of the collection – the book comes with a CD with all the patterns! But wow – printing the patterns and sticking them together takes forever…image

I did not buy organic cotton – I just cut up some old T-shirts! imageThis skirt is so comfortable. And again – the pattern for my size was way too big, so I just took the skirt in. Any other patterns I will make I will use one or even two sizes smaller!image

Spring is in the Air

We have had our first dinner on the verandah last night, enjoying the view over the tree tops. I had forgotten how quickly it gets dark and how the mosquitos come to join us. image imageThere has been a lot of spring cleaning going on in the school holidays, hosing down garden furniture, blasting away the cobwebs and also giving my workspace a good tidy up. I find a clean workspace very inspirational! starting new things, venturing into deeper waters, trying something new altogether.

And I got myself a few treats, some nice buttons for something special (not sure what that will be as yet) imageand two beautiful books. I don’t need them, no, in fact Patrick said I could write them, true. The design and layout is just stunning, the illustrations, diagrams, photos and even the information is succinct, to the point and professional. Here and there are a few bits on info np entirely new to me, eg. how to make a tailor’s ham.image

imageSo all the three books have a different purpose: the one on the left is really an overview of the art of tailoring/ sewing and lays out all the fundamentals. I bought it last year. It does have a few easy projects and patterns, aprons, pillow cases, travel bagsa and the like. Every project introducing different materials and referring to the techniques illustrated. The book in the middle is just a small reference volume containing the essence of techniques, it’s like Mao’s little red book for sewers. I was so pleased about their brief chapter on full facings, which have been posed an ongoing mystery to me.image

Finally, the Workbook ‘All Season Wardrobe’ is just beautiful. It contains a heap of nice patterns (size 8-18) for very basic, timeless clothes that I love to wear. Plain tops, skirts, pants and jackets. It’s the crumpled and casual linen look… imageAnd I have so many fabrics that are waiting to be made into something… So I made this cotton top last night. NOTE: (1) the patterns are all a bit oversized, that IS their look. I am a size 10, but made this top in a size 8 and it fits nicely. However, I might make a size 10 top from a different fabric and look – so those are still decisions to be made for each garment. (2) the pattern layout on the fabric may not always be accurate in the instructions. I got the size 8/ 10 top pattern pieces out of the fabric amount they recommended – not sure size 18 would have worked.image image


Gone Couch Surfing!

Gone Fishing, Gone Couch Surfing in Europe… 4 1/2 weeks with my teenage son.

I had envisaged a nice photo of a note with the above notice on the shed door here on the blog… but I have run out of time. Ordered a takeaway, will ring for the taxi, have a hot bath and stop being emotional. Easier said than done…

Her is a doublet for Dougray Scott in Ever After, A Cinderella Story. I made two for him, this is in one of the scenes at the end of the movie, where him and Drew Barrymore finally get it together. I made another one, in purple velvet – featured in the wedding scene! I never had a fitting for this, but it worked really well. Phew!

Getting onto the stage

Here is another little walk down memory lane. London in the early 90s.

I finally made it – a job at the English National Opera. This was before the austerity measures… costume makers were allowed to take the train from the workshop to the Coliseum and attend the dress rehearsals! What a treat to track the progress of operatic performances and to just enjoy the music. My love of opera was definitely fueled in this job! I stayed for 3 years and then went free lance. This is an assortment of pictures from Don Pasquale, The Mikado, Carmen and Der Rosenkavalier.

I think this was just about my dream job. No day was the same, everyday a creative challenge, everyday work with my hands, trying to improve my skills.

Thoughts from within Plato’s Cave

It is cold and wet, very hard to get out of bed in the morning, not surprising that the kids cannot get up at all, even I am dragging my heels. Plato finds it even harder, as you can see… But once one ventures out of the house – the beautiful colors of the autumn leaves are thrilling, even in this weather!

It is hard to stick to the plan of the week, my schedule balancing study (one day a week, on a day where I don’t do any shopping, any kind of cleaning in order to maximize on the hours the kids are at school) work (one day at uni, any other time from home) and stuff around the house and food shopping and cooking and laundry and music lessons and swimmming and dog walking and helping with high school assignments on transformation and time travel… it is hard, because I have it all mapped out on a Sunday night – nailed the plan of my activities down – but then get thrown by kids taking turns in getting really sick or just feeling unwell and needing extra encouragement or nursing… so it’s hard, but all works out well, if one just goes with the flow!

The flow thing happens most reliably, if I get that 1 hr or 1 1/2 hr of knitting in at night, preferably with a glass of red.

Talking about going with the flow – we are used to the fact now that our house may be pulled down in 6 – 9 months time. Our home! But protests against greedy developers didn’t work, hiding our heads in the sand didn’t either, so now it is just something we have gotten used to. The trucks are rumbling on the building site 3 houses down every morning at 7am, 6 days a week. The street looks really uncared for: unread local papers and rubbish are littering the sidewalk. Never mind, we will pack up and go when we are told to and then we hopefully will get a house which has a bit more space and bigger rooms for children that have grown substantially in the last 13 years. Big deal. It’s just a house.

An what would a post without something textile be?

See Scary Spice? I made that coat for her in the mid 90’s for the Spice Girl’s first performance in the Royal Albert Hall, London!

And this is a coat for Richard E. Grant – nice, eh?