Chinese inspirations

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China through the looking-glass, or fashion’s beady and greedy eyed glare at Chinese inspirations. I have a limited experience with exhibitions inspired by clothing, my strongest memories are of old V&A exhibits of the Supremes glittery gowns and later, of the japanese imperial family’s most treasured kimono, and more recently retrospectives on John Galliano and Dries Van Noten (in the Parisian Des Beaux-Arts and it was amazing) but this was something else. For starters, the sheer scale of the exhibit, three floors, each corresponding to a different element  of either chinese history or a type of garment, the entire thing was larger than Ireland’s national gallery! Then there is the range and beauty of what was on display.
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Leaving aside the obvious contributions from fashion houses such as Galliano, Alexander McQueen, Dries Van Noten, Hermes, Chanel, Valentino and many more, there was also an extensive array of artefacts. Scattered throughout were pieces of pottery, the famous indigo blue scenes of the countryside, that, no doubt, are in most grandmother’s homes. There were also intricate metal and wooden objects, laying beside garments, indicating the various designers inspirations. Later on there were walls covered in ancient calligraphy, delicate 1920’s perfume bottles and posters of the early communist China. My favourite addition was on the lowest floor, housing garments inspired by an imperial China, filled with traditional chinese dress and large screens showing films that were also inspired by this era.
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 There was even a section dedicated to chinese film, detailing what was worn, and displaying those same outfits nearby. Overall the exhibit was a masterpiece, and held just as much worth for myself (fashion obsessed) as for my mum (along for the fun of it all). If you are in New York before September 8th (exhibition closes on the seventh) I really recommend that you see it. The rest of the museum is just as amazing: sketches by Degas, paintings by Van Gough, and the most comprehensive collection of works by 20th Century artists.

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wistful thinking

Summer 2014 After talking about summer in my last post I felt the need to make a little mood board on my hopes for summer. The red-head on the left is from a magazine I picked up recently called Bare. The imagery in it is to die for, and the articles are really well written as well. If you see it at least look through it if not buy it because it is quite beautiful. The rest are images of the care-free summer I’m hoping to have, either by the beach in cut-offs or about in town in linen shirt dresses. I’m also going to try and photograph everything, at least ten pictures a day. After seeing lots of life photography I want to capture more of mine and learn how to truly manipulate the manual settings to my desire! Now just five weeks till paradise arrives! If you want to see more summer inspiration you can check out my pinterest board.

The experimenter

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Hello again, I hope you all had an especially lovely holiday season, whether with family grappling for radiator rights, or down under, strolling around the beach. My holidays were very calm and relaxed, not too much happening but there were still events to attend. One of the most important events being Christmas diner at my nana’s house. This dress was a simple shell, a basic A-line shape with a bit of extra flare and a little bit shorter for some fun. However I had bigger plans, involving crochet hooks and way more hand sewing hours then I could have imagined!

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The design came in the middle of an art class, I was madly inking, painting and drawing away hoping IMG_0003jfor that miraculous thing one calls inspiration, my eureka moment. And it came. I was interested in playing with new textures, some knitting, dying, even macramé…, or crochet. I haven’t “hooked” anything in a few years. I had a tendency to make my pieces with really loose tension, there were a lot of holes in my supposedly warm hats, so I left the craft and picked up my more successful endeavour, knitting. Another thing I wasn’t good at with crochet was the patterns, knitting patterns have a code that reveals itself like a friend, crochet is like knitting’s more beautiful yet evil twin. So I did what any normal person would, I made up my own pattern with the help of the internet and my fingers muscle memory, soon I had a mini fleet of crochet circles waiting for their commander to give them a battle field. Now all I had to do was figure out how to attach my little army to their neutral base….

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And so, with the help of early home times during exams I started to sew on the pieces. I continued doing at least two or three hours every day, while reciting the laws of physics, the revolutionaries of the 1800’s and some French grammar. even with the exams over there was a mighty load left, so every night for the two weeks leading up to Christmas I would work on the dress, I even managed to reclaim my new Christmas dress ritual of late finishing by sewing the buttons holes on Christmas morning! But it was all worth it. I’m seriously in love with this dress! I love the colours, the irregularity of the crochet pieces and the neckline. I’ve been told it looks a little high, but I think it works with the style of the dress.

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The next chapter of the dress was the photographing. I had to sacrifice all warmth for several minutes. Ireland in December is cold, and while the dress is mainly made of wool and has a high neckline, it also has no sleeves and is rather short. After getting the desired shots my fingers were numb and tingly for at least 20 minutes, dedication I tell you.

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I hope you all enjoy your celebrations of the new year. I also wanted to say thanks for an amazing 2013, it’s been a really unique and interesting year for me, in many ways… I’ll be back soon with some photos and resolutions!

Lazy days make good photos (and 100th anniversary posts)

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Sometimes the lazy days are the best kind of days. For me whenever I feel bored I find a spot with some good natural light and take some photos. It’s nice to get out of course but those little times with nothing to do but lie around, make brownies, draw and relax are the best! Life has been really hectic since these photos were taken but now they’re my symbols of calm, a memory of my last hours of being a completely free person. I think I’ll have to slow down a bit on the blog. I’ll still keep up my usual posts but I simply don’t have as much free time to sew, let alone blog. I’ll be incorporating more art and photography in the space. I still have some interesting personal projects going on, and of course a summer sewing backlog(!) but for now as real life gets extra busy, virtual life will calm down and take some of it’s own lazy days…

p.s. near two years later I’m celebrating my 100th post! Happy blogging!

Whimsical Creatives

My first creativity post, I cant wait to share this with you! As a person who gets inspired easily one of my favourite things is meeting or finding out about creative people. It was hard to choose just four people! These four are each to be highly noted. One artist, one fashion designer, one blogger and one literary figure. With these posts I’ll be trying to show both the new innovators and those whose careers have been part of people’s lives and childhoods. I’m also a bit of a history geek so I’ll be showing you both new pieces and early works. I want to put a bit of emphasis on Irish designers and artists too. I’ll include a song with some recommended tracks by that artist beside. With the preliminaries over enjoy the rest of the post!

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This first post has the a whimsical theme, either in the literal sense of Harry Clarke illustrating for fairy tales, or with Esther Boller having a general feel of whimsical in her blog. I hope you enjoy and if anyone has a particular theme or creative that you’d like to see leave a message and I’ll see what I can do!

Harry Clarke

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Harry Clarke was a famous Irish Illustrator during the early 1900’s. He studied in Dublin and won a national competition for his stained glass but later moved to London to work as an illustrator. Some of his most beautiful illustrations were for Hans Christian Anderson fairy tales, he made 16 colour plates and a further 24 half-tone illustrations. He is also known for illustrating the work of Edgar Allen Poe’s Tales of Mystery and Imagination. These two books led his career as an illustrator and led to much more work throughout the 1920’s. As he worked on illustration he also continued making stained glass. He created many pieces, mostly religious, and was renowned for his skill in drawing and use of colour, particularly deep blues. Some of his stained glass pieces can be seen at the Hugh Lane Gallery. Harry Clarke is my favourite illustrator because of the delicacy and intricacy of his work, the bright hues of his stain glass and the beauty that his art looks completely unique.

Alexander Mcqueen

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Alexander Mcqueen is one of the most innovative and creative fashion designers there is. He brought an entirely fresh perspective that hadn’t been seen before since the introduction of jersey fabrics by Chanel, or the flapper dress in the 1920’s. Whimsical, possibly not, but each collection had an almost fairytale style story along with. All of his work was either extremely intricate or impeccably tailored, there was a distinct air with all of his collections. All of them are stories he made with clothing, instead of just and inspiration he created a world, from the woman wearing the clothing, to the final catwalk, he had models walking on water, models in glass boxes, models on merry-go-rounds. Each collection was involved in its own fairytale world, that while the rest of the world couldn’t entirely get, could fully appreciate the beauty and detail of that place.

Esther Boller

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This girl is now my all time favourite blogger, the writer of Esther from the Sticks. I’m kinda in love with everything she does that it comes as a shock that I only found her blog this summer. That doesn’t mean to say I didn’t troll through her archives like mad woman. It feels like I have an internet twin, which made me so disheartened to find she already one. Or maybe it’s just that all pale, freckly, red-headed girls are destined to sew and be good at art…. Ether’s blog has a really whimsical vibe to it, from some amazing 70’s flares, to the beautiful soft photography (I swear you could make a book from her blog!) to the gorgeous lace dresses she makes and alters. I never thought I’d find someone who I could associate with so much that I’ve never met but apparently, red-headed minds think alike!

W.B. Yeats

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I have no idea how i managed to fit so many of my favourtie people into one post. I first discovered this poet in english class. Most people just sat staring into the sky, bored as could be, but I was entranced by his words. Then I had to study his poems, which threw me slightly off but recently I looked at them again, and fell in love with them… again. My favourtie poem of his is He wishes for the clothes of heaven. Whenever I see or hear the poem I think of watercolours, and I have a page in a photo album with a quote from this poem “The blue and the dim and the dark cloths” for a photo of dusk. The whole poem is decribing the sky, but in the most whimsical fashion. Describing times of day as beautiful fabrics, and the sun and moon as gold and silver. His other famous poem is “When you are old“, which is about his longing for a woman. He describes himself as Love, who “Hid amid a crowd of stars”. I’ll stop the poetry talk now because Im not a poetry junkie, just Yeats! His grave is in Sligo.

Florence and the Machine

Yet another red-head, sensing a double theme here! I really love this girls music, particuarly the harps, and someday I will see her live, for now live albums shall apease me. This song is one of her more whimsical songs, others including “Dog Days”, “Seven Devils”and “I’m Not calling you”. Her songs have an etherial slant which makes them really interesting to listen to, not to mention her hyonotic voice.

So the end of the first creatives post, hope you enjoyed! I’ll try have a new post every two months as sourcing all the pieces takes a bit of time, but it’s well worth it.

DSC_0245Here’s a little sneak peak of whats to come!

Fairy Fashion

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I made myself a top, a camisole. It was a supposedly really simple make. My original idea was to have a rectangle shape and then dart in the excess. I ended up taking in the side seams and back seams as well though, Then for the final version I made the top way too tight and made it while rushing and cursing, since I wanted to wear the top to meet up with my friends. I managed to finish but whether it’s finished well is another story…On going with my process post I thought I’d show some more of what went on behind the scenes with this top..

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First I came up with my design. I’ve recently found this blog and it’s made me want to make lots of loose whimsical lace dresses! Since I don’t wear a lot of dresses I thought a simple camisole top would satisfy my need for some whimsical fashion. I’ve also been wanting to make a camisole for at least a year as well. I made up this spec sheet to show the tops design features. DSC_0210Then I made up a calico, or toile, of my pattern, made some adjustments and then the real thing… The fabric was a remnant that I got a little over a year ago (yay stashbusting!) And then I used some cotton lace for the straps. The neckline is straight across the front and back so I used a facing to get a better finish.

DSC_0244Also did my first shoot where I took the photos as well as posed for them (my mum is my photographer) I’m pretty happy with how the pictures turned out as self timer was interesting and the rose-bush in my back garden managed to scrape me several times, not to mention the shoot was cut short as it started raining really heavily very quickly. I’m doing another course at the moment so I have some new designs, newer garments and some crochet inspired pieces too.. Back soon!

My Process

DSC_0232I’ve recently had a few comments about how I made my jacket, it was quite complex in certain places, namely the pockets but alot of the other features were very straightforward, such as the collar and attaching the lining, I used this method but not this tutorial since I was in a class so I was shown there. The jacket is actually a very simple style with minimal shaping, mainly in the back of the jacket and just two darts! I thought that when i’d do this post going into more detail about the jacket I would also show you a little bit about how I come to final garment from my initial idea.

DSC_0236Usually I start with collecting some images, then I’ll start to sketch, taking the details I love of one jacket with shape I love of another. I tend to hum and haw over an idea for a long time, this jacket being in that process for months. Sometimes its a really simple idea like a top, that can be made up instantly and if it doesn’t work out can be hidden in the back of my wardrobe. A jacket isn’t as easy to hide… In the end I adapted my original idea heavily into something I deemed more “wearable”, as in something that I could wear with both my jeans and dresses, even shorts in summer.

DSC_0239Then I get to the actual drafting of the pattern, don’t fret it’s not as complex as you might think. I find most bloggers who sew have done a little bit of drafting or are used to making some fairly big adjustments on sewing patterns. Drafting is a bit like making sewing pattern adjustments, the first thing you make is your block, you then get that ‘block’ fitted to your exact shape, starting with your measurements and then you try it on and fit from there, it’s really better to start off with a course though, after you get the hang of it you’ll be creating your own free patterns in no time! For my jacket I had to make a tailoring block, if you haven’t tried pattern drafting before the above photo probably looks like a bunch of mumbo jumbo to you, it’s a diagram of how you turn your dress block to a tailoring block and from that block you can make a jacket, coat, tailored suit jacket, even the recent Victoria blazer was most likely made off this block. The standard cut is like a well-made and super tight fitting suit jacket, nothing at all like my jacket. Once you have a well fitting block then it’s just a case of what you want the length to be and how much ease you want, I won’t go into much detail about the drafting of my jacket but feel free to leave a message if you want more info.

After everything is designed, drafted and tested then you can make the final piece. It’s quite a bit of work but its all worth it when you get a perfect fit on your garment, and you’re not only able to say “I made this” but you can say “I designed this” too!

DSC_0093P.S. I finally took some photos in manual mode on my mums SLR, I’ve been meaning too for ages but I haven’t gotten around to it, what do you think?