This week’s creative endeavours include decorating, curtain-making, skirt-making, patchwork and embroidery. Its been good to be making, almost every day.
Last week I had a short and ineffective battle with creating a simple 1920s-ish dress for an event. The dress was an utter failure, although the fabric has now been recut into something much better, to be made in less of a rush! I wore an original1920s coat and simple skirt and blouse instead, inspired by Lady Mary’s similar outfits in the current series of Downton Abbey.
The incident reminded me that there’s quite a large crossover of Downton fans and sewing fans who might like this special issue by Stitch magazine which came out this summer.
I designed three of the projects, a lilac silk stole, a pleated silk necklace and my favourite, a paper pieced patchwork notebook cover. I used the Downton Abbey fabrics from Makower, which was the editor’s choice not mine, but I do think they look nice in tiny hexagons.
The issue also includes lots of really nice clothes, embellished garments, accessories and kids clothes. As always with Stitch magazines, they are beautifully presented and well explained.
I’ve got a copy of the magazine to give away, just leave a comment telling me who you think is the best dressed in this series. I’ll pick one commenter on 24th October and send the magazine (UK only).
I’d like to introduce the Ruth Singer Studio teaching team (and their cats) to you all. Heather French and Erica Pickles teach classes and 1:1 tuition at the studio alongside me and help me keep inspired and excited about what we offer to students.
Dressmaking and pattern cutting tutor, Erica Pickles, is a professional costume maker, working freelance for a wide range of clients under the name Sewed Souls. She specialises in historical costume, performance wear and cosplay, and has made everything from Victorian gowns to super hero costumes! She also undertakes the dressmaking jobs that come in to the studio, currently including an alien gown and Polish folk dress for a wedding. Erica and I worked out that we have 44 years of dressmaking experience between us!
She also runs activities for schools at Beaumanor Hall, and somehow also manages to work in a pub as well, so she’s used to dealing with all ages and all kinds of chaos! She loves teaching the dressmaking classes for the studio and finally has some teacher’s gold stars to award to students when they remember to pin properly and set in a sleeve perfectly.
Erica is from Yorkshire and came to Leicester to study Design Crafts at De Montfort University. I first met her as a graduate, volunteering on a schools arts project I ran in North West Leicestershire, and I soon took her on as assistant tutor as she’s so good working with kids (and adults!).
Somehow Erica manages to find time to travel to Finland regularly and is learning the language. She’s also keen on video games, real ale, cheese and grows superb chillies on her windowsill.
Heather French shares my workshop space and helps the studio run smoothly. She teaches the complete beginners classes, purse and bag workshops and new print and sew courses. Heather originally trained in graphic design and she is responsible for the gorgeous studio leaflets (using the original brand design by Sophie Hardwicke). She also helps out with marketing and promoting the studio at events and fairs.
Heather runs her own business Heatherjean, specialising in hand printed textiles. Her colourful, geometric prints can be seen in the studio, and on purses, bags and cushions for sale in her online shop. Heather has only been printing a few months but already has local stockists and has been selected for membership of Design Factory. She will be attending her first design fairs this year with the screen printed designs. I’ve been mentoring Heather for the last year or so and it is a delight to see her business taking off.
Heather is taking Erica’s pattern cutting course and learning how to create her own garments from scratch, made up in her favourite vintage floral fabrics. She’s also working on decorating her house, mostly with vintage florals – or at least she would if her boyfriend let her! She’s also taken up gardening and is growing her first crop of vegetables this summer. In common with all of us, Heather is a cat-lover and is the owner of the gorgeous, giant, white 3-legged Hank.
Ruth Singer. I grew up wanting to be a fashion designer. My obsession with clothing was a bit of a surprise to my parents but they encouraged me to make and create all kinds of things, and fed my passion with trips to the late-lamented costume museums in Leicester and Nottingham, where I would spend hours with my nose pressed to the glass staring at 18th century gowns. I haven’t changed much. Rather than study fashion or textiles, I actually went to Manchester University and studied Medieval History and then to Leicester University for a MA in Museum Studies. I worked in museums for a good while but had little to do with textiles; I worked at London Transport Museum for 3 years and became very knowledgeable about trams! My last salaried job was at the V&A, which was, and still is, my spiritual home. I was responsible for adult learning, running courses, artist residences, workshops and craft demonstrations, as well as a lot of textile history lecturing. Working there inspired me to get out from behind the desk and make things for a living, which I have now been doing for 9 years.
I write books about sewing, teach textile history, mentor makers, teach freelance for arts organisations, occasionally manage museums projects and lots more, alongside the studio. I am also an active textile artist, exhibiting in galleries and undertaking commissions and have won awards for my work. I’ve recently been promoted to Fellow of Design Factory too.
My home life is run by Maya, a gorgeous tabby cat who is nearly as fat as Heather’s Hank. I have a somewhat run-down Victorian house and am slowly renovating it into a glorious little museum of my own, full of fabric and my endless collections of interesting old things.
I’ve had a lot of conversations with new stitchers about the different between dressmaking and pattern cutting workshops. There’s a misunderstanding about what dressmaking actually means and what you learn in each of the classes, so here’s a run down!
Dressmaking means clothes making – you don’t have to make dresses. For our classes you need to buy a suitable commercial pattern and then we help you follow the instructions and solve problems. It really helps to give you confidence in understanding patterns on your own. These classes take place on Wednesday mornings and occasional weekends and Monday evenings. Check dates here. If there are spaces, you can join a class part way through. Just contact us for information.
Pattern alterations means adjusting a commercial pattern to fit you better. Patterns are generic sizes so almost everyone will need to tweak the pattern to fit better. The alterations are best done on the paper pattern not the part-sewn garment. Depending on the pattern, the alterations might be really difficult – it depends on the style as to how easy or complicated it is to adjust a pattern. Sometimes you would have to do so much to a pattern that you would be better off with a different pattern! Our dressmaking classes help you get the right fit from any pattern – we will assess and adjust a practice garment while you are wearing it and help you make the changes to the pattern so the real version is just right.
Pattern cutting means starting from absolute scratch and creating a body-matching pattern. Using your own measurements, you draw out a basic pattern to closely match your body shape, called a block or sloper. You then test this is cheap fabric and adjust the pattern to be perfect. You will end up with a perfect body block which you can then use to create your own patterns, creating your own design for necklines, sleeves, fit, darts or pleats etc. When you cut your own patterns you don’t get instructions, so this is best if you know how to make clothes already or you can bring your pattern to the dressmaking classes. Our pattern cutting classes run over 4-6 weeks on Wednesday evenings, with just one course left before Christmas and then there won’t be any until Easter 2015, so book fast if you fancy this advanced course.
New dressmaking class starting in August
(content of workshops TBC but suitable for all levels)