Over the last 7 years I have organised Victorian balls and several smaller events. What has started as a whim ( I wanted my Victorian party and yet there weren’t any around at the time), has grown into a regular … Continue reading
Last November I had to go to Paris to do some research and business stuff – and as usual I decided to combine the business stuff with a bit of pleasure. It was Lucas’s big birthday, and so a … Continue reading
Some things start unexpectedly…. last January I picked some lovely silk that just screamed Victorian Seaside Bustle frock… And so for the summer I put a few days aside to make it – and to nip somewhere on the coast for … Continue reading
Well, I thought our previous event at the venue was a blast – but this year it was even better! After a year of preparations, marketing, meetings, sales, dealing with emergencies and unplanned changes, sewing and general organisational madness, … Continue reading
You are a creative person and would like to run a creative business full time. You have read the success stories, you have chatted to friends, and everything looks peachy – so you are leaving your mundane day-job and are … Continue reading
It is finished at last!!!! I have loved this plate from ‘Harper’s Bazaar’ for years, and planned to make the jacket almost 2 years ago – now am happy to say that it is complete (well, almost…) I got the … Continue reading
There is a Georgian Festival in Stamford every other year – and this year we were contracted for a couple of jobs there ( thanks to Black Knight Historical).
The festivities lasted 3 full days with lots of lectures, meetings, Georgian market and living history – but our adventure started on Friday night – at the Georgian ball!
We arrived in plenty of time , and were led to a proper theatre style dressing room – and it turned out we were sharing it with Dr. Lucy Worsley, who dropped in for a moment of respite between her talks, book signing and other public duties. We have met before as worked for the Worsley/Starkey documentary in Hampton court the year before, so it wasn’t too awkward. Still, not often do we get to share a dressing room with a celebrity – and I felt a bit overdressed on the occasion 🙂
At the ball we danced, we chatted – and then provided some entertaining background during the buffet break as the folks were queuing for some lovely food – there was chatting, playing cards and some sketching taking place….
After the break ( and after eating rather a lot of left over cake) there was more dancing and frivolities – until it was time to drive back home….
Saturday was a day off, and Sunday we were taking part in the fashion show, so with a day off in between, I decided to make myself a new outfit – just because I have always wanted a jacket, and because i had the fabric for ages!
I made the skirt in a lovely quilted cotton, with a fringe, and then worked the rest of the day on a 1790 pierrot jacket.
I quickly drafted the pattern and then fitted it – mock up first and then playing with the real thing, in silk and linen
Sunday morning saw the jacket finished – but i had a few hours left before we had to make a move. so time to make a new hat! a gigantic one! Not the best of my creations, admittedly, but it did the job.
Then it was packing the gear and setting off.
The fashion show went down a treat – there was a huge variety of costumes, from different decades and different walks of life, and the commentary was super as well… a few behind the scenes shots..
some unspeakable and unmentionable things happened too….
After the show, I could change into my new bits and have a stroll around Stamford – and take a few pictures
But I was not exactly happy – I felt the wig did not work very well with the colours of the walking outfit. So when we got back home, I changed wigs and we went on to snatch some autumnal pictures at the local Nature Reserve…. much happier with these!
we even had a go at some heavy machinery….
all together, a cracking weekend was had!
photography – Lucas from Timelight Photographic
costuming – Prior Attire ( the walking outfit is now available for sale – here)
shoes – American Duchess, naturellment!
OK, so I do have a bit of an reputation for being a fast sewer. And because of that I have been exposed to a variety of opinions ranging from ‘ Wow, you sew so fast, you must be good!’ to ‘ It really must be crap, nobody can make it properly in that time’.
The fact is, however – neither of these sentiments are always true. You may be labouring on one item for ages – but that in itself doesn’t mean that the finished item will be a masterpiece – it may still be ill-fittng, badly stitched etc. Similarly – you can make items fast – and that in itself doesn’t mean they are poorly made. There are exceptions to every rule, but the most important thing is –
FIND THE PACE THAT SUITS YOU
To produce a quality garments you need to be working at a pace you are comfortable with. If you rush it – it will be reflected in the final look; but if you procrastinate too much, you may loose interest/heart to the project , get bored – and that will show in sloppy work too.
If you are in the comfortable position of sewing just for yourself, as leisure, do take your time. Unless, off course there is an unexpected event this weekend and suddenly you have an urgent need of a new frock… If you are earning your bread sewing things, you will need to find a pace you are the most efficient at without compromising the quality.
I get asked a lot, how I can make things quickly – and the answer is – not every item is made quickly – this simply depends on the purpose of the garment, the client’s purse and my own private time constraints . The most important factors are the purpose – and the quantity you are making.
The purpose of the garments will considerably influence the speed at which you can produce an item -. If you are aiming at historically accurate garments and are making everything by hand ( the ‘before Singer’ eras) because your garments will be shown to the public etc – it will take much longer than a garments that looks fine, has handfinished details but inside seams machined. But if you are making modern clothing and are free to use sewing machine, overlocker etc – that would cut the timing considerably.
a few examples
1. – 2 17th century gowns, one handmade ( 1660 style, in green silk); and a 1634 in blue satin with machined innards and the rest handfinished. The handmade took me 5 solid days of stitching; the other one only 3. But can you spot a difference ? unless you look very, very closely, you cannot… (more on making the blue gown and construction details here)
2. Tudor gowns – this one is completely handstitched – petticoat, kirtle, gown – every single stitch. Took 2 solid weeks
These two were made using a machine, with hand finish – all inside seams are machined, but lining is inserted by hand, all visible seams, eyelets etc are hand stitched. Each took about a week.
3. Napoleonic bling – military lace sewn by hand ( 6 hours each side)
and on a machine, with hand finishing – 3 hours each side
A short tutorial on the machine style is here
The other factor is the quantity – how many items of the same sort you make. In short – experience. The more doublets/corsets/bustles you make, the easier it will get and the faster you will become. This is mostly down to the fact that if you are making a new piece of clothing, you do take your time considering the best way of putting it together, you make mistakes – but this is a very valuable time, as with every mistake, ever minute spent pondering on how on earth do these two bits fit in, you learn. My first corset took 3 days as I was just experimenting with techniques. Nowadays I can make simple corset in 3-4 hours, and if anything, is is better and much more structurally sound than the one I made in 3 days…
With that in mind, if you feel you would like to speed up your sewing, these are the tips I found worked for me:
* quality sewing machine and tools. The machine doesn’t have to be expensive, but it needs to be reliable. You don’t need an industrial model straight away – though I love my semi industrial Janome for its speed – just make sure it does its job consistently and without mishaps. Also – do that the advantage of the many different attachments. I love my ruffler for example – without it it would take me much longer to make flounced petticoats, gathered chemises etc.
It is worth investing in some specific machinery if you make lots of similar items -for example, for corsetmaking getting an eyelet setting press meant shaving at least 30min off the complete making time.
*take notes. If you are working on a new project, just jot down bits that caused you problems – next time you wont have to work it out from the very beginning. I admit I had problems working our suspenders production – and since i wasn’t making a lot of corsets with suspenders , the first couple of times i had to work out how to make the things, made mistakes and wasted time. Once I started making a lot of them – I simply made a sample one and pinned it on a board, within reach if i ever need to be reminded how to put the thing together. Sorted, no more wasted time. you can always take photos and scribble on them too 🙂
* Practice – basically that’s where the experience kicks in. The more you make, the better you can get at it ( practice makes perfect!) but remember to practice only the bits that worked – repeating the mistakes again and again wont do you much good, o matter how long you spent practicing it :-(. The more you sew, the more you will learn about how different fabrics behave, which stitches, needles, setting to use – almost automatically, without sitting there and looking for the manual.
* if you are making clothes mostly for yourself, save the mock ups and make them into generic patterns, you can then adjust them ( neckline, hems, sleeve length etc) to fit in with a new project – and it will save you at least an hour or two on making a mock up from a scratch. The same applies to your repeat clients; or, if you are making a lot of stock items, a few graded hard patterns will not only speed the work up, but also ensure consistent sizing.
* Neat work environment. Well, this actually doesn’t work for me at all, by work space is consistently chaotic, cluttered -some would call it messy, even… but I generally know what is where. I have attempted a neat work environment, works for about 2 days and then get s back to its original chaotic state. But if you are a person who can tame the chaos, and organize the space well – that would help too!
* plan ahead. Time management is essential, especially if you are running a business – I have written a whole post on just this issue – here
*outsourcing. Sometimes it is simply easier and faster to rely on others who are better at certain things. I can make handwoven braid, lace, etc – but I know I cannot make the braid as fast as those who specialize in it. So when time is an issue, I buy my braid, points, laces from people who are expert. Money well spent!
* limit procrastination. Yes, I am guilty here too… when time is of an essence and I know I need to concentrate I simply try to eliminate the procrastination sources – switch off facebook, usually.:-)… I answer my emails once a day in the morning, then switch off the outlook too, so no notification, pings etc distract me. It is not always possible, but when it is, it is great. I found I work much faster when I go to my Stitch and Bitch sessions at Julia, at Sew Curvy – I haven’t got a laptop with me, I put the phone aside, and all I can do is work ( and chat) – and am at my most productive.
* set a time limit. If you like competing against yourself and enjoy a challenge – set a deadline. I work best when on a tight deadline, it motivates me far more than anything else – and I love it. Not everybody’s cup of tea as some people find it stressful – though there is a way around it, if you are willing to have a go. If you set a deadline on a bit of sewing that is not hugely important and failing it won’t influence your work in general, you can see whether you enjoy the challenge. And if you don’t – back to time management and planning….
*music. Again, different music works better for different projects – so find out which tunes motivate you, jeep you alert and happy. Similarly, for hand sewing I love audio books and learning languages. while stitching hems is pretty boring, listening to the Game of Thrones etc makes the task not only enjoyable, keeping your mind occupied and stopping if from looking for distractions, but you will sew faster too.
Having said all that – remember it is not always a race. I do often have to rush things for myself, as I ‘squeeze ; private projects in between the commissions ( best example , a ballgown in 24hours here_)- but I also have a few long term bits I work on and I enjoy taking my time – I am just finishing a lace making project I started about 3 years ago, for example:-)
So find your own pace, the pace that works for you, and stitch happy ! 🙂
A recent post by Wearing History shed some light on the weird phenomena that social media create – what people usually show is just the good sides of their lives, creating the illusion that this is the only side. But reality is in fact far from perfect:-)
The blog post is well worth a read – and Lauren also threw a gauntlet asking other bloggers to help dispel the myth that everything is always ideal ( another one by American Duchess here)- well, this is my contribution.
I must admit that I am a very optimistic and at the same a very pragmatic person – and to start with I just couldn’t find anything worth mentioning – yes, there have been good times, and bad times, but in the end, it all worked out ok, and that’s all that matters. I think I have been very lucky so far – no partucularly serious injuries, illnesses, tragedies, etc – just some boring everyday reality, really…. So I suppose a few of the bits below may seem trivial – but trivia are also a part of our lives, so, for whatever it is worth, I decided to include some banal thing here too.
Here we go!
York, circa 2006. Had a horrendous toothache – to such an extent that I spent half the day trying to get an emergency appointment with a local dentist – and then the other half with my jaw frozen up and dribbling – but at least pain free…
Wideacre muster with Grenvilles, August bank holiday, 2008
A fantastic event – made even more interesting by the fact that one of the troopers brought viral gastroenteritis with him… he spent the first day and practice in tent, recovering – the following day our CO got and and was busy ‘purging’ and so unavailable for action. The day after ( luckily Tuesday, so no battle) I spent early morning hanging out of my tent, looking at the contents of my stomach. Then had to drive back home, stopping ever few miles for some more stomach action ( though my man had provided me with a bucket, secured in the passenger’s seat. very helpful). I was able to get back to solid food 3 days later, was off work for a week. In total, half the regiment succumbed to the virus. And oh, one of the troopers came back with a broken hand ( and he wasn’t even riding.. )
2 more Grenville events – just before and after my wrist operation, when was in such pain I could hardly grip my sword… My right wrist is in a brace, carefully hidden in the gauntlet.
Peterborough, Katherine of Aragon festival – looking serene, but my car broke down on the way to the event, on A1. I was already in full kit, and spent 15min trying to coax the pile of junk into some semblance of life. A few well placed hits with a spanner did it in the end, so was able to get there, albeit late – and had no guarantee that I will have a car to go back home in….
Holkham Hall 50ties event. It was June, but I was freezing ! more on the event here – Being MM. Also, being a sex symbol had its price – some of the comments from the public, whispered, were indecent – and there were a few older gents, who, why posing for photos, cuddles with me and the rest of their family, let their hands stray…. not a big deal, just unpleasant.
Fortunately the company of friends made up for it:-)
On my birthday, 18th April. I had a very painful operation on the 13th – just a few days before. Heavily drugged with painkillers, suffering from blood loss and not able to move my hand, the shoot was not much fun – especially since I had 2 more models to dress up too. I had to stand in a very peculiar way to hide the dressing….
Medieval pageant. The owl crapped on my new silk surcoat. 3 times….
My wedding. It was the first time Lucas hunted with me in the morning – and then we rode after the ceremony ( more on the event here – Victorian Wedding) . But a few months later he fell of a horse when we were riding in Pland, and fractured his vertebrae. He spend 3 months in a corset, and it healed but the picture above is one of the last pictures ever of him riding – the risk to his spine is now too great :-(((
A very hot day in Hereford ( more on that here ). It was boiling hot and I was drenched in sweat. Moreover, with a heavy period, I suffered from cramps all day long – but the real problem was the fact that throughout the day I felt liquid running down my thighs, straight into my boots- and could not check whether it was sweat or blood…. Was happy to find out it was sweat, and was not leaving bloody footprints…
Holkham 2013 – just a fortnight later our garage caught fire. Lost all my stock, lots of private stuff and despite insurance cost me a few grand. Still we got a nice photoshoot out of it!
One of the effects of the garage fire was having to move house – we found a nice place, a pricey one, but just on the borderline of affordability. We moved on Friday, and on Monday my husband was made redundant. We did the shoot for the Summer dress while we we living off savings, in a limbo of unemployment, staying n a house we could not afford to rent. It did turn out ok in the end, but these were 5 very stressful months!
Georgian Ball, March 2015. Completely lost voice. Some may argue though, that it was in fact a blessing on that occasion :-))
Well, there you have it – life is not all beer and skittles, silks and balls – reality does creep in. And so it should, it would be boring otherwise! 🙂
And oh, the last one – my workroom looks like that. About twice a year. For about half a day. Then creative chaos creeps in – and on every other day it looks like a fabric bomb has exploded. A few times… and sometimes there is too much work to spend time tidying… :-((
We have recently been doing a few habits, so I thought I put a post about them together:-)
Over the winter I have been working on a bespoke one – based on my 1885 version , but in luscious bottle green superfine wool, with burgundy braid decoration. The colour combination worked very well and suited the client’s colouring ( and the horse’s ) well – and we were lucky enough to grab a few photos when we delivered the habit to sunny Devon.
Another bespoke habit for another client is happening too, I will post the photos as soon as the work is finished and we get some pictures.
In the meantime, let me introduce to our latest batch – somehow earlier habits, destined to become stock items.
It all happened as I was working on a certain secret project ( details soon)- we had a horse booked for a side saddle at Historic Equitation, and the day before I found myself ending the commission work earlier that expected – so had a few hours free, and 6 metres of some rather lovely green cloth…. the temptation was too much! I went for the simplest look I could think of: no decoration, purely utilitarian, roughly 1860 look -with big skirts and plain, short bodice – based on this look.
The cloth was fantastic – it draped beautifully. W e used the habit for the shoot and for some riding, and had a short photoshoot at home too – with and without petticoat ( period solution as either corded petticoat or turkish trousers in the same fabric ( so that when the skirt billowed at speed while riding, the legs would be modestly covered). As you can see, the skirts are very long to cover the legs, and although they look lovely when mounted, they are a bit of a pain while walking. Ladies either carried the skirts, flashing the petticoat, or used buttons t o hitch them up – as shown on this fashion plate from La Mode Illustree
btw, lots of more images on my Pinterest board
I was wearing a corset, white blouse and a velvet ribbon neckband,styled my hair and restyled my top hat a bit to achieve the look:-)
Once we were done with shooting, I shared the photos and put the habit in our online shop – and was flooded with likes, shared, questions etc – and the habit sold within 12 hours, surely a record! not only that, there is now a queue of side saddle ladies awaiting news whether it fits the lady who bought it – just in case she returns it….
As a business minded person, I just couldn’t ignore this situation – and since had a bank holiday looming ahead ( which I had hoped to leave free to rest – silly me…), I decided to act on it. Luckily I was picking some cloth for commissions from my wool merchant, and while at it, I picked a few lengths suitable for habits…
A very busy time with a sewing machine followed – and I just managed to get 2 habits done for another scheduled side saddle session – this time with lovely Jane on her Zara at a very well kept Wakes Manor Livery Yard
I experimented with a slightly later look for these two – the first one was based on a fashion plate from Harper’s Bazar, 1873 ( the sitting lady)
I used the lovely soft dove grey cloth, edged with black and decorated with velvet ribbon.
Work in progress…
The habit is now available in our online shop, at a discounted price -details here
The second habit was based on this one from the MET
I liked the edge treatment and tried to emulate – I used piping and topstitching combination
and it fitted me well – really like the look!
Then it was Jane’s turn – it fitted her well too – and kudos to Jane who wore a corset for the first time – and not only wore it, but rode and jumped in it too ( part of a secret video project I am currently working on..)
and yes, there is a corset underneath all that!
This habit is also available in the shop – Here
I have enjoyed making these – and now have plans over summer to work on a few more models in a few sizes options – I already have nice berry coloured cloth and dark green twill put aside for the purpose:-). Although they are stock items, each habit will be a little bit different, so that each is unique – nothing worse than going into the Historical class and finding another lady wearing the same model! And of course if you want something special there is the bespoke option with fittings ( and a different price bracket too….)
Many thanks to all involved in the project so far – greatly appreciated! And a big thank you to the photographer – images courtesy of Pitcheresque Imagery