Monday, 20 July 2015

Sewing Project Update

Last week I posted my step-by-step guide to a sewing-project, turning a £1 shirt into a one-off top. Well, I wore it to the music festival in Ombersley yesterday, and here it is -

Wednesday, 15 July 2015

Sewing Project 1 - Customising a Shirt

I've been promising for some time to post step-by-step guides to my sewing projects, and here is my first challenge. I bought a shirt from the £1 rail of a charity shop, in order to create a Visual Kei style top, at minimal cost.

First of all, I need to say that I'm not really very good at sewing. I have no idea how to follow a pattern, my stitching isn't very neat, and I have yet to have an encounter with a sewing machine that hasn't ended in disaster. I have never had a sewing lesson - I taught myself out of necessity when I realised that the sort of clothes I wanted to wear simply couldn't be found in the shops, even if I'd had the money to buy them, so I would have to make them myself. Somehow or other, it seems to work . . . .

So here is the shirt as it was when I got it home. Well worth the £1 investment! The things I liked about it were its length - it came down almost to mid-thigh when I tried it on - and its colour. Black! You can't go wrong with black! What I disliked about it was virtually everything else - mundane design and details, and some folksy beige-brown buttons that I particularly detested.

Ideas and inspirations - I spend a lot of time perusing my precious collection of Japanese fashion magazines, and my even more precious collection of Japanese music magazines. I get a lot of ideas for costumes from these. I don't copy anything directly, but I do find plenty of inspiration . . . .

The first step was to cut and shape the lower half into separate panels. It was originally very tight on the hips. The panels make it more comfortable, more interesting to look at, and means that it can be worn over a full skirt.

The next step was to bind the edges with contrasting bias binding. Most of my costumes are black with red, which means that any top can be combined with any skirt, to create a different look. The bias binding was the only thing I had to buy for this project - 30p a metre from the local haberdashery shop.

Then I shaped and bound the sleeves in the same way. Stitching the bias binding was a time-consuming job, and not particularly interesting. If you look carefully, you can see just how bad some of the stitching is . . .  I think I listened to every note Syndrome ever recorded while doing this part . . . But it was worth the effort.

Things start to get more interesting now. I sewed D-rings on tape into position on the back so that I could lace it. The lacing makes for an interesting visual detail, but most importantly, it improves the fit.

And I finally got rid of those vile buttons! In their place, I have put old brass regimental buttons. I found a big stash of these in a charity shop a couple of years ago, and I've been using them ever since. I'm always looking out for things that might be useful in costume-making, even if I've got no idea what to use them for at the time.

This is the reason why what I euphemistically refer to as  my 'Sewing Box' is actually two cupboards, the space under the desk, the space at the top of the wardrobe, several boxes, four or five tines, and a big heap of stuff in the corner of the room . . . .

Shiny buttons! You can never have too many shiny buttons! I've added them onto the panels and the sleeves, as well . . .

I didn't care for the breast-pockets, but to remove them would have damaged the fabric. I found a cross in the 'Sewing Box' to go on one, and on the other I've pinned this mysterious insignia. I haven't been able to identify it - I asked my friends on Facebook, and the general feeling was that it's probably an Eastern Bloc Soviet Era Airforce badge. I like the design - a bit Art Deco and a bit Steampunk . . . 

And finally, here is the finished version, front and back views. The cost of the shirt and the bias binding together came to about £3.50. It looks very good when worn - weather permitting, I think I'll wear it to a music festival in Ombersley at the weekend . . . .

Wednesday, 8 July 2015

Next Performance !

I'll be performing tomorrow night at Worcester SpeakEasy at the Old Rectifying House. Here's the link - hope to see some of you there!

Friday, 3 July 2015

Another Lost Gem

Saturday 27th June was a sad day for Worcester, when another of the city's iconic shops closed down. County Furnishings had been in the city for over 40 years - originally in the wonderful crypt-like depths of a Victorian Vinegar Cellar, until developer forced it out and it re-located to a 1950s car showroom in Castle Street. it was one of my favourite shops; I've been going there regularly ever since I  came to Worcester. It sold furnishing fabric in greater abundance and variety than I've ever seen in any other shop. It also sold cheap fabric remnants - which I've relied on over the years for my sewing-projects - I've made cushions, seat-covers, curtains, patchwork throws and handbags out of this scrap-fabric. Whenever I had any craft-projects that required fabric, County Furnishings was my first port-of-call. It did haberdashery, too, racks of braid for trimming bags and costumes - cut-price remnants and oddments of braid too. it sold thread and sewing-accessories, huge ornate tassels,and curtain-ties - everything you'd need for curtain-making and upholstery . . . . It was a treasure-trove! I even found affordable corset-lacing there - I never worked out why, maybe it has some unrelated purpose in the realm of home-furnishings.

The shop sold carpets as well, including beautiful Persian rugs which I knew I could never afford to buy, but I went in there simply to admire them anyway (and usually then came out with a bag full of fabric and braid.)

And now it's all gone; another unique independent shop has gone, and it will not be replaced. 

Over the past few years, Worcester has lost so many of its best shops. There was Good News, with the best selection of magazines in the city, foreign language newspapers and display-cases of exotic-looking pipe tobaccos. There was Concorde Stationery with its racks of craft papers and bargain envelopes. There was Russell and Dorrell, the department store. And of course, there was Pratleys, the crockery emporium, piled high with stacks of dinner plates and tea-services, that looked as though they were about to collapse at any moment, and with a section at the back selling a random assortment of furniture, rugs and taxidermy - the shop opened in Victorian times, and pretty much the only thing that changed since then was the style of the china. Now we've lost County Furnishings as well. 

Yes, there are new shops opening, but they mostly seem to be branches and franchises of well-known stores - bland and corporately-branded. They don't sell anything I want to buy, and they are nowhere near as enjoyable to visit as the shops that we've lost.