. . . . . . A place to contribute, exchange tips and ideas and find further info on the LDC group on Meetup.

Wednesday, 19 February 2014

Exhibition Visit- Fashion and Gardens at The Garden Museum

The Garden Museum is on the South Bank of the Thames, next to Lambeth Palace and with a fine view of the Houses of Parliament, in an old church that has fascinating tombs and memorials within its grounds.


My description of the exhibition is purely from a dressmaking point of view but the stunning installation by  Rebecca Louise Law  of live flowers hanging over the entrance space must be mentioned.  It was installed at the start of the exhibition and the blooms will wilt and decay gradually during the run.

Before you enter the exhibition area there is a very interesting display of garments created by MA students at the London College of Fashion.  The photo shows me standing next to the display of outfits created by Lei Wang using two white silk fabrics, one an ethereal  transparent gauze and the other a delicate herringbone weave creating a textural variation.  The stitching was faultless, a lesson in exquisitely made collars, pockets, perfect seams and zip installation.  The left and right sides of the garment were not the same in one item, another way of introducing contrast.

Ana da Siva Rodriques display used very simple shapes and primary colours in unusual textured modern fabrics while Yunweit Jiang showed almost sculptural clothes featuring geometric shapes in double-sided felt-like fabric, each side a different colour.  A skirt hem graduated up in steps from front to back, an oblong cutout in a top allowed you to see what was underneath.
In the small exhibition itself, where photographs are not allowed, items from the 1600’s featured beautiful floral embroidery and paintings showing lace that mirrored the patterns in parterre gardens.  Flowers could also be seen worked on slippers and a “pocket”, not the sort we have today but a separate item attached under the skirt, probably the equivalent of today’s handbag.  I’ve often thought that a decorated “pocket” attached by loops to a skirt or dress belt would be so useful at work to carry pencils, notebooks etc. around.
I was disappointed in the rather tame designs for floral woven silk on display because I know of wonderful examples by English 18th century designers, especially Anna Maria Garthwaite, that they could have used.   Have a look at some of the items in this lovely blog post
Unfortunately the European Galleries are currently closed for building works but due to open in December 2014
There was a small section about artificial dyes and how attracted the Victorians were to these but I thought it might have been more relevant to gardening to discuss natural plant based dyes.
Some examples of current fashion garments inspired by gardening, sometimes very loosely inspired, were on display.  The most stunning of these was a Valentino evening cape inspired by wrought iron designs used in gates, obelisks etc..  One could easily create one’s own version, perhaps a loose transparent tunic, embellished with piping in toning or contrasting colour, to wear over a flesh-coloured camisole top. 
Generally considered I wasn’t crazy about this exhibition.   It was so small (one room) I feel I must go back again in case I missed some of it hidden up an alley- and to have some more amazing cake from the café, which specialises in food from nature.  Thus I had courgette, ginger and lime cake with plump sultanas in it and a creamy topping – but I could have had a cake based on butternut squash, or a raspberry Brownie, or orange, rosemary and almond cake or …. Enough!  You can get a flavour  (I’m thinking food again!) of the exhibition here  Do watch the video interview to see some of the items that I could not photograph.
And a glimpse of one of those memorials with which to end-


Friday, 14 February 2014

Shopping overload - Walthamstow

Becky, Imogen and me went to Walthamstow High Street to get some fabric. As it is always the case with me, I only need one or two pieces but end up with a thousand more. Today wasn't any different.

We met in Jesse's Cafe ("A" on the map) for tea and coffee. It felt like one of those 1950's diner in the US with more than reasonable prices. I also had an omelet with cheese which was a good start for the shopping spree.

The first shop we discovered was Hussain Fabrics ("B" on the map) which is next to Jesse's Cafe. Unfortunately, I forgot to take pictures. There were no prices shown but the fabric Imogen bought came at £2 per metre.

Sai fabric was the second spot, prices were shown and came between £1 and £3 per metre. The fabric itself was a little bit more of the stuff I usually buy so I ended up with one dark red piece for my dress making class next weekend. And of course I bought another piece, a really nice white piece with embroidered blue and black flowers. There was a huge sale sign on the door, the only one I saw on Walthamstow High Street.

Right across the street is New Fabric ("C" on the map) were prices were also shown and similar to the ones in Sai fabric, maybe a little bit higher. I ended up with some white hummingbird fabric which (hopefully) will turn into a long summer dress one day. I also bought a white(ish), transparent piece with small pink dots. I planned to make a half circle skirt of this one but there was only 1.5 metre left so I don't really know yet what to do with it.

The forth shop we went into is called Fabric store ("D" on the map). Prices were shown and between 50p and £5. I've seen a pile with fabric remnants and had to buy this white jersey stretch with black and blue pattern, perfect for my first t-shirt! It's roughly 1 metre and was £2.

There is a quite new haberdashery shop with all kind of zippers, buttons, ribbons, thread, tape bias, beads and everything else you probably need when finishing a project. Prices were not really shown, and we didn't buy anything.

The last shop we went into was Saeed Fabrics which had a very nice vanilla smell. The fabric was, as far as I could see and feel, a better quality and therefore prices were a little bit higher but still reasonable. Prices were shown for some fabric, but I didn't buy anything and hence cannot say much to the fabric without prices.

Imogen had to leave for her appointment, a dressmaking class in Fulham. Becky and me went on but felt a little overload. There were some stalls selling more fabric and haberdashery, to be honest I didn't really pay much attention and once again, prices were not shown.

In short: A lot of different fabric shops with cheap to reasonable prices. Not nice when you already have a huge Ikea bag full of fabric and no time to sew, you'll end up with too much stuff! If you happen to just start your dressmaking and need some fabric (or the odd case in which you have used all of your fabric), that's the place to be: A lot of shops and stalls with amazing fabric.

You should be able to click on the map to view it bigger

More Fabric Buying Temptation

Way back in June 2013 London Dressmakers Club member Colleen 47 posted a comment in the Discussions section of our Meetup site about Woolcrest Textiles and the bargains to be found there. Ever since, I have been meaning to visit.  It is open Monday to Friday only but a remark made at February’s Monthly Meeting, as to whether it would be possible to have Meetups on weekdays during the daytime for those who have free time then, made me think about investigating the warehouse as a possible place for a Meetup visit.

I set off to locate the warehouse, accompanied by fellow member Rebecca  Rogers.  We were a bit taken aback to find that 6 Well Street did not appear to exist but a helpful shop owner at no: 8 pointed us to a gap between buildings and into the yard where a huge sign above a brick warehouse left us in no doubt that we had arrived at our destination.

Upon entering, rolls upon rolls of fabric, piled high on racks, met our gaze.  I just knew I was unlikely to keep to my vow not to buy any more fabric – and so it proved.  It is very much a case of rummaging everywhere for what you want.  There are rough divisions of the fabrics into sections- wools, denims, lightweight etc.  The cheerful staff are happy for you to wander at will.  Nothing has a price on it but just ask; they may even decide, as they did with me, that the price is actually cheaper than their first quote.

They do not sell less than a metre of fabric but, after the first metre, will then sell the additional fabric in that length in half metres.  But it is at such bargain prices that it doesn’t matter if you have a bit more than required for the garment you intend to make.  My purchase of 2 metres of bright wool mix fabric for a jacket and 2 metres of ivory colour soft polyester for a blouse cost a total of £14. 

Having sated our eyes it was time to do something about our stomachs as it was lunchtime.  Walking along Mare Street we came across The Trampery.  It had a delightful cosy café with a tempting and inexpensive menu but, be warned, the portions are huge.  You can get anything from just a coffee to a full meal.  It seems  the sort of relaxed place where one could do a bit of hand sewing and chatting  gathered round a table –a  shame that it is not open late in the evenings  as a café or it would be great for an after work hours Meet up.
 I’ve since discovered that there are a number of other fabric outlets in the vicinity that sound worth a visit- can my finances stand any more research?!  Would any members be interested in joining up for a weekday daytime sortie into the textile venues of East London?

Details –  
Woolcrest Textiles, 6 Well Street, off Mare Street, Hackney, London E9 7PX.  I got the tube to Bethnal Green and then walked but Cambridge Heath and London Fields overground stations are nearer.  There are also plenty of bus routes. 
The Trampery “Look Mum, no Hands” Café, 125-127 Mare Street, London E8 3RH