Sunday, 8 September 2013

The Oxford Conference of Corsetry - Sunday & Hometime

As you can imagine, I was quite tired on Sunday, having gone to my room at 2am.  I managed to drag myself out of bed with some help from my friend Nikki who knocked for me to make sure I didn't miss breakfast!
Which reminds me, I haven't mentioned much about the fabulous service and staff at Jesus College.  The ladies and gents working there were so helpful and accommodating all weekend, serving up a full English breakfast with a smile every morning, cleaning up after us and providing endless cups of tea and coffee all day long.  Seriously, when I got home it felt weird to have to actually sort out my own food and drink!
Despite the fab food, I felt a bit ill all Sunday.  Not because of anything I ate (or drank the night before!), but because I was very nervous about my photo shoot that morning.  This was the first time I'd made a corset for anyone other than myself and there were no fittings - I had to make it purely from measurements, so I was doubtful it would fit.  I was also fairly convinced that it would simply fall apart as I tried to lace it up, which I know is illogical, but such is fear!  So, as you can imagine, I was getting a bit worked up.
Detail of the finished corset.
Detail of my finished corset.
Other than feeling nervous, the morning waiting for the shoot was spent adding further embellishment, chatting with my new friends and trying not to actually drool on the other amazing corsets they were working on.
As well as the photo shoots, Sunday brought us antique corsets from the Symington Collection, presided over by Sarah Nicol and her lovely assistant Hannah Wroe (a textile and corsetry teacher I already knew from Nottingham!).  Unfortunately, I missed Sarah's talk as it was during my photo shoot, but I did get to go and check out the corsets after lunch and I am so glad I did!
This is the largest selection of corsets Symington have ever sent out for an event like this and it was a truly impressive array; even better, we were allowed to carefully touch and handle the corsets and take photos to our hearts' content!  I won't share them all, but this should give you an idea of how unique an experience this was:
Courtesy of the Symington Collection.  Many thanks!
Courtesy of the Symington Collection. Many thanks!
Courtesy of the Symington Collection.  With thanks!
Courtesy of the Symington Collection. With thanks!
So many corsets, so little time!
The absolutely stunning Bride of Dracula corset by Royal Black, brought along by Morgana (thank you!).
The absolutely stunning Bride of Dracula corset by Royal Black, brought along by Morgana (thank you!).
Alas, all good things must come to an end and the conference was no exception ... 4pm came ticking around far sooner than any of us would have liked.  Looks were exchanged - the end was nigh.  And sure enough, Julia gave a short speech thanking everyone for their help, support and attendance, and announcing the end of the conference.  Had that really been a whole weekend?!  Was it over already?!
We dragged our feet and stitched a little longer, waiting for buses and trains, but there was no denying it - this was the end.  There were hugs, Facebook friend requests and even tears.  Somehow, this weekend of loving corsets didn't just lead to that rather professional and perhaps impersonal idea of 'networking', it actually brought a lot of people very close very quickly and friendships were forged across the world, with many promises of coming again next year and looking each other up if we were ever in their neck of the woods.  Julia hadn't even worked out whether there would be a next year at that point, but I don't think we were giving her an option.
And luckily we didn't have to - it has since been announced that the college has been booked again.  The Oxford Conference of Corsetry will happen again in 2014.
The journey home was a strange combination of subdued and excited - I was sad that such an amazing weekend was over, but I was also so inspired by everything I'd learnt and all the wonderful people I'd met.  There was much sketching of ideas, pondering of possibilities and pawing of finds from the swap and then I was home.
You want to know how good this year's conference was in short?  Well, I'm already saving for next year.
(And since my last post on this, Marianne Faulkner, designer of Pop Antique and AKA Victoria Dagger (model and the other model at the conference, as well as workshop runner!  Phew, multi-talented, or what?!) has posted her thoughts on the conference, too.)

Friday, 6 September 2013

The Oxford Conference of Corsetry - Saturday

So, I left off my report on pre-conference Friday by saying how lovely the other conferenceers (I like it, makes us sound like we should have cool chapeaus and big boots) were ...
It was with these delightful ladies I spent Saturday learning about draping corsets on a form (much less scary than I was expecting, thanks to Gerry Quinton, mastermind behind Morua Designs) and the fine art of fitting (with particular emphasis on that trickiest of spots - the bust, led by an expert in that region (!), Alison Campbell, creator of Crikey Aphrodite's yumminess).
Draping design with my crew - Niki and Beth.
There were goody bags with pressies from Janome and pretty corset postcards (yay!), as well as a huge fabric and embellishment swap.  Seriously.  I don't think all that stuff even left the building.  It might even have formed its own gravitational pull at one point:
SONY DSC
This isn't even the peak of the swap. Sari fabric, antique lace, pretty, pretty things!
We even had media coverage on the BBC News website 'in pictures'a local newspaper and BBC local radio (Julia speaks about the conference at 2:25:20)
There was stitching, coffee and chatter (the three staples of any corsetier, methinks) between classes in our hub, with much setting of eyelets and other fun.
hate setting eyelets.  It's the most stressful part of corsetry, I think!  So there I was setting eyelets on Saturday afternoon, getting more and more stressed.  You see, one of the (many) awesome parts of the conference was the opportunity to sign up for a short photo shoot with a professional model and photographer and as my City & Guilds deadline finished just before it was announced that one of those models would be the multi-talented and utterly gorgeous Morgana (AKA Threnody in Velvet, a make-up artist and photographer herself), I thought this would be a good idea ... Hence the deadline that's kept me off-blog for a few weeks.  It was a bit of a scary experience, drafting the corset purely from someone's measurements without any fittings, but this was too good an opportunity to miss.  Here's a little sneak peek:
Late night phone snap, sorry!
Late night phone snap, sorry!
The photo shoots were Sunday.  I hadn't finished the eyelets or embellishment and it was Saturday.  Now you see my stress?  Also, I loved the look of the loomstate satin I used (from Sew Curvy earlier in the year), but it frayed like a complete bastard.  Seriously - I think it gave me splinters.  So, more stress.
But it's OK, I soon had a distraction in the shape of Saturday night ...
Saturday night was a real treat - Pimms O'clock (that's the official name, right?) followed by a formal dinner in the Hall.  Oh yes, didn't I tell you?  We ate all our meals beneath the watchful gaze of Queenie (founder of the college):
SONY DSC
SONY DSC
And Charles I and Lawrence of Arabia (bottom left):
SONY DSC
That's just a taste of our imposing and impressive surroundings - it really made the weekend even more dream-like and fabulous, and the staff at Jesus were so friendly and helpful.  I couldn't ask for more!
Due to rain, the Pimms drinks reception was held in a rather fancy room whose name escapes me, but which contained yet more Queenie:
oxoford queenie 2
And what's more, she had a cherry earring!oxford Queenie detail
A CHERRY EARRING!
Yep, so she kept watchful gaze over our drinking (for some people the first time they'd tried Pimms) and admiration of everyone's gladrags, then it was off to dinner and another highlight ...
Our after dinner speaker was Ian Frazer Wallace, someone I admit I hadn't heard of ... and I wasn't the only one - many of us went a-Googling and found precious little about this mysterious corseteer.  Then Julia posted this video of his work on famed burlesque dancer, Immodesty Blaise (mild bottom nudity towards end of video):
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PYwfAjElnJ4
Polly Fey in more Ziad Ghanem, made in collaboration with Ian Frazer Wallace.   Image from Fashion PR.
Polly Fey in more Ziad Ghanem, made in collaboration with Ian Frazer Wallace.
Image from Fashion PR.
Ian made the green and white corsets in collaboration with designer Ziad Ghanem.  Wow, eh?  That soon cleared things up, so when the conference finally came around, we were all excited to hear Ian's talk and he did not disappoint.  An interesting fellow and an enlightening speech, giving us a glimpse into the fashion world's take on corsetry, with interjections from his muse, Polly Fey (also glimpsed in the video - second model to walk out on the finale, corsetted, shaved head, many tattoos, looks awesome).  It was something of a double act!
Could things get any better?  Turns out they could - these two weren't a pair of snooty fashionistas, here for their talk, then off to something more important, despite what Hollywood films might lead us to expect.  No, they stayed all night, hit the bar with us, chatted, drank, giggled, entertained, hugged and were just generally delightful company, fun people and genuinely, well, nice.  They spoke to everyone, sharing advice, showing interest and giving encouragement.  (Ian wished me luck with my photo shoot when I said good night and teased me for sewing in the bar at midnight, since I still hadn't finished my corset for the shoot and it turned out mine was in the morning!)
So it was that I ended up tottering to my room at 2am, tired, but inspired.
Thus endeth Saturday at the conference - just one day left!

Friday, 30 August 2013

So Colette Patterns have been nominates for a Martha Stewart American Made Award worth $10,000 and they decided they would give that cash to their three employees (ie, the non-owners who work there).

They make gorgeous patterns and they're lovely?!  I've gotta vote.  You should, too. 


(The rules state you can vote up to 6 times a day, apparently.)

Thursday, 29 August 2013

The Oxford Conference of Corsetry - Friday, pre-conference

It’s been rather quiet here since my City & Guilds exhibition, because I’ve been working on a corsetry deadline: last weekend I was lucky enough to go to the first Oxford Conference of Corsetry.

I'll come right out and say this from the start: it was one of the best weekends ever.  Gorgeous corsets, stunning surroundings and most excellent company.  And it's not just me who thinks it - Sara has already blogged her reflections on the weekend (spoiler - I think she liked it!).

I took the train on Friday afternoon feeling a bit apprehensive - who would be there?  What would they think of me, a little wannabe corsetier with just 3 (and a bit) corsets under my belt?  Would everyone be a million times more experienced than me?  Would they look down on me?  Would I learn something?  Would it be worth the investment?  So many worries and not a single one of them founded.

We stayed in Jesus College Oxford, which was an amazing setting for the fun to begin as we dragged (HEAVY!) cases up teeny staircases and bumped into people we recognised from the Facebook group for the event.

Oxford 2nd quad

One of my first memories of the conference was opening my bedroom door and thinking 'Wow, that's a wonky wardrobe ... oh wait ... no, it's the room that's wonky.  Okaaaaaaay.'

oxford room

oxford fabric
As you can imagine, there was much texting and Facebooking to organise everyone and find out who was where ... Luckily corsetiers are a little easier to herd than cats.  So, we ventured to the delightful Darn It & Stitch, a teeny tiny haberdashery on a side street in Oxford, which still managed to contain treasure (and was kind enough to give us a 20% discount!).  Of course, I couldn't resist temptation (When have I ever?!) and had to partake in some pretties (in the form of coral pink silk lining fabric for £5 a metre (what's not to like about that?!) and some soft cotton tape in fun designs).

Unfortunately, I'm pretty rubbish at remembering to take photos of the everyday doings of things, but the group (of around 8 of us?) were quick to get talking to each other, immediately bonding over our mutual love of corsets, fabric and stitchery.

Those bonds were soon forged even stronger by dining at The Big Bang - the ultimate bangers and mash experience.  The conference organiser, Julia Bremble (of Sew Curvy fame), kindly booked a table for all 15 of us who had arrived early.

And then there were sausages.  Not just any old sausages, but every kind of sausage and all sorts of mash and your choice of gravy.  Oh yes.

Of course, there was still more chatting and bonding and general awesomeness, together with entertainment from the owner who was friendly, accommodating and ... a bit bonkers?  (In a Good Way.)

At this point I'd met about half of the attendees, was already making friends and hadn't yet met a single unpleasant person.  I'd have considered that a success in itself ... and yet Saturday came, together with the rest of the corsetry crew who all turned out to be utterly lovely and delightful folk.  As you can probably guess by now, I met some wonderful people at the conference and really feel I've made some great friends across the world.

So, that was Friday, more coming up soon!

(Cross-posted from my writing/historical blog, as I thought it would be of interest to both sets of readers.)

Wednesday, 3 July 2013

I'm not dead!!! Corsets, bras and exhibitions ...

... though you could be forgiven for thinking I was!

Well, what a year it's been (academic year, that is).  Needless to say, I've been incredibly busy, but now I'm back and if there's anyone out there still reading this little bloglet, I'd like to say hello and thank you for sticking around!

What have I been doing?  Mostly sewing and marking coursework for my students.  I doubt anyone wants to hear about the latter of those two (I certainly don't!), but the former, well ... I suppose I need a big long post to really explain and share all that, so that can wait for another day, but for now I'll give you a taster ...

Last week was the final exhibition for my City & Guilds Level 2 in Corsetry (mentioned way back when, with it being no coincidence that my blogging black-out coincided with the start of the course and the academic year!).  It has been an intense course and I've worked hard, because being over-ambitious, I came up with quite a complex design and I was determined to get top marks.  I'm so, so pleased to say that I did indeed get a Distinction (wewt!) and I'm very pleased with my final pieces.

I'm not going to explain all the ins and outs yet, that's for another day, but here's my display:


It was rather fortuitous that someone from a previous exhibition has used this pale turquoise in her display space, so my tutor, the redoubtable and wonderful Linda Lloyd-Willis, nabbed the space for me and my turquoise and teal creations!

For the qualification, we had to produce an overbust corset and a bra, as well as lots of paperwork and sampling (maybe I'll take some photos of that stuff, if anyone's interested?).

Here's my bra, together with some flower samples:


(And yes, it fits me!)

And my corset:


You'll notice it's not quite finished, but I'll explain about that soon!

So, there are lots of new things for me to share with you, new ideas, new knowledge, new skills.  I'll be updating you on 12 in 2012 (not that it's massively late or anything, lol!), giving details and information about the pieces for the City & Guilds, sharing some other bits and pieces I've made (somehow I've found time to make one or two other bits!) and talking about where things go from here and my plans for the future ...

But for now, hello lovely readers and thanks again for sticking around!  Take care and much love! x

(Big thank you to Nikki from the course for taking these photos on her rather swish camera!)

Thursday, 13 September 2012

Sewing Space, Now with more drilling

Remember back when I showed you preview photos of my sewing space?  Yeah, me either!

Well, I said that it was in need of a bit more drilling and I'm pleased to say that's been done by the lovely Mr Magpie:


Have I ever mentioned how much I love Ikea?  That's one of their Bygel rails, which was a bargainacious £2, add on some hooks (which were about £1 for 10), a Bygel basket for bits and pieces and a Fintorp pot for pens.

I'm thinking of making an inspiration line from that duck egg cord to peg inspirational images and pieces of fabric from, I'll put it between the rail and the top of my machine.

Everything being put away makes me feel happy and relaxed and ready to work and create.


This might well be my favourite adage - maybe I need to make a hanging embroidery that says that?

Oh, and yay for cutting implements arranged in size order ;)

Monday, 10 September 2012

Pretty Things 5: I Heart Stationery

I've been eyeing this notebook for ages, but have been trying to avoid buying any more notebooks.  But I just couldn't resist any longer and I'm starting another class soon, so I'll use this for class notes (at least that's my excuse!).


Even the back is cute!


It's one of Paperchase's stitched notebooks, so there's some sewn detail on the front and back.

Damn you, Paperchase, tempting me!



Saturday, 8 September 2012

This week, I have been mostly ...

Writing!

Luckily, I scheduled a few posts to catch you up on things I've made, because I am writing up a storm at the moment.  I going for a marathon finish of my novel-in-progress, planning to write 70,000 words in a month.  That's 17,500 words a week (eep!).  So, if my blogging goes a little quiet over here, I hope you'll understand.

I start my corsetry class on Wednesday, so hopefully I'll have things to post from there while I'm busy writing.

And I have been squee-ing over the pre-ordered awesomeness that arrived in the post on Wednesday:


Damn, Gertie, you don't make it easy on a girl to do anything other than drool over your gorgeous book and want to sew everything in it!

And she's lovely - she even retweeted me calling it sewing porn!

I might need to make myself some embroidered versions of the stunning illustrations by Sun Young Park to go up on the wall.  How inspiring would that be?!

Thursday, 6 September 2012

12 in 2012 - End of Summer Update


After completing a few pieces over the summer, I thought I'd have another update of my 12 in 2012 list.

Priorities and the like have changed, which is no surprise as that's life, right?  The biggest changes in terms of what I have completed come from my oilcloth sewing class, but the great thing is that I've made some really practical pieces that I've got a lot of use from.  I'd been needing the perfect Stationery Bag for ages, but had automatically dismissed the idea of being able to make it myself - far too complicated, right?!  Wrong!  I loved making the bag and am really proud of it, so the lesson from that, I suppose, is that maybe I should think about making the things I need as well as the things I want.

c. 1890 Corset V&A
A new massive factor has also appeared on the horizon in terms of my plans for what I will make over the remainder of this year: I'm taking a Level 2 City and Guilds Certificate in Corsetry, starting next month!  I can't wait to do this course - a friend has just finished it and her sewing skills have come on in absolute leaps and bounds, and she's made some great pieces.  I was considering doing the course, but the clincher for me was meeting the tutor at the fascinator class - I got on really well with her, she's friendly and knowledgeable and - one of the most important things for a teacher, especially in the creative arts - incredibly encouraging.  We chatted and she gave me information about the course and what it involved, and I was sold then and there!  Over the (academic) year, I'll be making an underbust corset and a 'Victorian style' corset (that's the wording on the qualification specifications), and I think I'll also be able to make a bra, as well as lots of samples of various construction and decorative techniques.

So here's the updated list with completed items crossed off and new information added in this mauve colour.

Clothes to Make:



  1. Skirt 1 - I've got about 2 metres of the Shoes! fabric left and would really to make a skirt from it ... I've got a peplum skirt in my head, a la So, Zo.
  2. Skirt 2.
  3. Skirt 3 (high-waisted skirt using Butterick B5466 - started in black silk dupion.)
  4. Blouse 1 (anchors fabric, vintage pattern).
  5. Blouse 2 - still finishing the silk crepe blouse.  This might be a disaster thanks to my dodgy facings.
  6. Cropped jacket (vintage pattern, silver-grey dupion).
  7. Dress 1 (New Look 6000).
  8. Dress 2 - Retro Butterick 5748 in the Shoes! Fabric.  Done!
  9. Underbust corset (this was another dress, but has now been changed as an underbust corset will enable me to wear other dresses I already own!).
  10. Men's waistcoat.
  11. High-waisted trousers.
  12. Coat (McCall's 6442 - the hood, the hood!!).


Not Clothes to Make:
  1. House thing 1 - (changed in light of the sewing class I completed over the summer) Awesome Oilcloth Bag of Stationery and Sewing Storage Goodness.  Done!
  2. House thing 2 - (changed also because of the class) waterproof picnic blanket.  Done!
  3. House thing 3 - patchwork cushion cover.
  4. Pattern weights.
  5. Apron 1 - for that giveaway I mentioned aaaages ago!  Started.
  6. Wild card - flower fascinator.  Done!
  7. Wild card - oilcloth tote bag.  Done!
  8. Yule present 1 - Kindle cover for lil sis.  Done!
  9. Yule present 2.  I'm making a patchwork quilt for a friend's soon-to-be-born baby ... I'd better get a move on!
  10. Yule present 3.
  11. Yule present 4.
  12. Something pretty!  Laptop cover.  Started.

New Things to Try Making:
  1. Men's clothing.
  2. Trousers.
  3. Piping.  I think I might do this on one of my corsets for my corsetry class!
  4. Actually completing an item from one of my vintage patterns - still working on the disastrous silk crepe blouse.
  5. Actually completing an embroidery item!  Working on laptop cover, which is machine embroidered.
  6. Doing some more advanced fitting/pattern altering techniques as needed (eg, grading up one of my vintage patterns that is quite a bit too small).
  7. Knit a garment (so far I've made a scarf and a snood). - Still working on that jumper!
  8. Outerwear.
  9. Patchwork.
  10. Making a lining.  Retro Butterick 5748 is lined.  Done!
  11. Underlining.  I've changed this because I realised that I've already done underlining (in my 18th century stays!).  So this is now a corsetry-tailored goal, involving something I've previously been a bit scared of: using steel boning!
  12. Hand-picked zip (they look so lovely and seem like a relatively simple technique to use for a bit of couture luxe).  Retro Butterick 5748 also has a hand-picked zip, so this is double-done!

Tuesday, 4 September 2012

First Photos - Shoes! Fabric Dress

So I was up until 1:30am the day before, but I managed to finish the Shoes! Dress in time for my friends' wedding!

Some photos are up on Facebook and I took one on my phone, but I don't have many photos through yet.  I can't wait for more photos, so here are some photos of me in the dress and fascinator.


As usual, I made things harder for myself because I decided it was a good idea to put a shirring panel beneath each arm, move the zip to the back and insert a waist stay.  Why follow pattern instructions, when you can make it up as you go, right?!  Errr, yeah ... maybe not the best idea.  The bodice doesn't fit as well as it did on the toile because of the changes, so I chucked on a belt and I love the fabric so much, I kinda don't care!

Look at me not caring:


I've decided that all weddings should have oversized swings - they're way too much fun!

If I made this again, I'd flatline instead of bag lining the bodice because that would have allowed me to adjust the fit more easily.  I might rip out the bodice lining and instead finish the neck and armholes with bias tape.  But that's for another day - for now, I like this dress a lot!

In fact, I probably will use this pattern again, after faffing about with indecision about it (thank you so much everyone who commented on that post of fabric fear - it really helped me have the confidence to actually do this!) - the bodice fits perfectly (if I don't faff).  I particularly love that the back sits just above the back of my bra.  I can't go bra-less, so low-backed dresses are usually a no-no for me, but not this one!  Isn't that one of the joys of making your own clothes?

Even better, I have about 2 metres left of this fabric, so I think I'm going to make a skirt with the remainder.  Yay for more Shoes! fabric fun!