Friday, October 6, 2017

Travel Memories, Part 1

It was hard to board the plane back to the US last week after 13 fabulous days in England.  However I promised to share the Great British Sewing Bee Live experience in a little more detail and am happy to keep that commitment.  Most Americans wouldn't know that an amateur sewing competition was aired in the UK for four seasons by the BBC since you had to sneak viewing it through youtube videos or a VPN link.  I learned about it through our wonderful sewing discussion boards and loved the civility, creativity and charm of it.  So when our trip plans coincided I was happier than imagined to buy a ticket for the expo itself and to take a class....and then to meet up with the talented moderator of one of the private Facebook sewing groups I have joined.  When Sue made that offer I was again touched and grateful at the friendliness of people who create and dream of fabric, fit and fashion, just as I had been when Sigrid did the same earlier this summer in Amsterdam. 
Thanks to the the easy to navigate London transportation system (oh, I know locals everywhere like to complain but it is marvelous) I took the tube from our hotel near Hyde Park, connected to the Docklands Railway (like Baltimore's above ground light rail system) and arrived at the enormous ExCel convention center.  

I dressed with some thought that morning since one of my expo complaints here in the US is that too few attendees wear something they have made.  My most recent stitch and flip jacket was the answer since it packs like a sweatshirt but looks "citified." (Another a sewing expo luncheon some years ago the lunch presenter asked us to raise our hands if we were wearing something we had sewn.  About half the room did which was a good sign.  She made us keep our hand in the air and swear not to explain to someone the mistake we had made somewhere, however, in sewing it;-)

Certainly the GBSB expo looked like American ones, those put on by our national organization, the American Sewing Guild and by for profit convention companies such as the regional Original Sewing & Quilt Expos or Sew Expo at Puyallup, WA.  There are booths (whoops, "stands") of vendors with fabric, notions, patterns, sewing machines, sewing furniture, dress forms, all the things that make our hearts go pitter patter and our credid cards go ka'ching.
Friday early morning expo traffic....four times as crowded over the weekend
Since this show is related to the GBSB there was a fun exhibit of some of the garments made over those four seasons...most of which came from seasons two onward.  (I am sentimentally attached to season one since Ann Rowley won and her beautiful creations and helpful sewing tips were already familiar to me from her postings through the years on Stitchers'Guild.)  The challenge for the contestants is, of course, to create these fashions under a time crunch as well as on camera so I am "gobsmacked" by what they accomplish in those circumstances....while keeping a civil tongue and good relationships with fellow contestants.  
Great British Sewing Bee contestant garments on display
I am thrilled that there are sewing bloggers who have made a name and now career for themselves over the last decade and one of my favorites has always been Melissa of Fehr Trade.  As an old seventies TV trope says, she has "spunk" and I have read and admired her creations since she started blogging.  So I was particularly happy to see her stand, her garments and order her new book on sewing activewear.  She graciously agreed to pose for a picture....probably thinking who is this crazy American lady who doesn't look like she runs too many marathons and what is she doing at my stand.
Melissa of Fehr Trade smiles for American tourist
I wandered more of the aisles and noted the stand for the McCalls/Vogue/Butterick pattern trio (usually referred to now as BMV but I still like McVutterick)  There were two women trying on a gorgeous yellow wool coat and I almost stopped dead in my tracks first at the beautiful lines of the coat and second that those design lines were exactly what I was describing to Mr. Lucky at the train station to Paris the previous morning.  I was noting the trend to more cocoon shaped dropped shoulder coat designs, not my best look, and pointed out a picture of a gorgeous version that was flattering and current's my poor snapshot...
Dropped shoulder but with cocoon coat seaming that made it less overwhelming
And there at the sewing show was the perfect pattern that I could use to work out my version for this winter's coat sewing project.  The sample is of course not my size but look closely at the line drawings for this pattern and I think you see what a hidden gem it is.  The shawl collar is just a wonderful additional detail but what makes it work, IMNHO, are the princess seams and the two piece sleeve panel with easy gusset.  Look at the grey drawing on the pattern envelope and you will see what I missed when this pattern came out...wonderful fit in those design lines.  Thank you, Liesl, loved meeting you and loved seeing this coat in person.  
Happily contemplating how I will make Butterick 6423 mine, mine, mine!

Butterick 6423 on Liesl's blog

From here I slipped over to watch the fashion show and enjoyed seeing the independent designers as well as the BMV garments.  I'm a poor photographer to start and trying to capture moving models made it almost impossible to get respectable pictures.  I did like seeing this Vogue dress in action, Vogue 1532, with the beautiful overlay and sparkly cuffs.
Vogue 1532
The Seam Detail Dress as a top
The unlined Raw Edged Coat in leather
Striking in their simplicity are the designs from Frances Tobin and The Makers Atelier which have a modern deconstructed look to them.  Since the samples at the stand were in cool tones they drew me in but in reality I can't carry this look off without looking sloppy and frumpy, not the look I am going for....usually;-) Sewing pattern gallery But I felt mildly sophisticated for the moment being in London after all so the designs were calling me....and there were plenty of pockets for the inevitable return to dog walking and errands.  However none of the patterns came home with me and that's just fine.

By now I wanted to share my excitement with a sewing friend and was struggling like the dickens with my phone and the ExCel wifi service...finally was able to catch up with Sue and yes, after the  nanosecond "Hmmmm, wonder if this new sewing friend and I will like one another, why did I offer to meet up, could I just slip on by..." we were laughing, comparing notes, enjoying all that comes with finding another person as passionate and involved with the art and craft of making clothing come to life.  And then you, dear Audrey, came up and took up my challenge to add a sweet, thoughtful and fun greeting to this lonely sewing person and made it all a wonderful gathering of sewing aficionados.
Jane, Audrey and Sue, strangers no more
Sue and I had tickets for the afternoon theater show starring the GBSB judges and some of the former contestants.  Again, so sorry for the poor pics but it was so much fun hearing Patrick Grant and Esme Young share info about their backgrounds and their show experiences.  Three former contestants were introduced and had an onstage refashioning 45 minute challenge.  They were paired with an expo attendee, given a thrift garment (in our case, a long gown) and told to make it over into something new...while on the other side of the stage the interviews were going on, another previous contestant gave a sew demo and there was general hilarity.  Talk about focus.  I can't even get my lowly projects done with only Lucky the dog at home to interrupt me.  All good fun and so in the spirit of the show.
Patrick and Esme chatting with Jenny Eclair
The refashioning challenge being critiqued
Sue and I had the loveliest chat afterward, sharing our enjoyment of the show and personal backgrounds that got us to this common place.  But those of you who know me personally are wondering, Jane, you haven't bought anything yet, could this be true?  You know me too well, dear friends and readers.  I could not resist two pieces of wool, my favorite this tweed herringbone with colors that reminded me of our beautiful previous week in Cornwall...
Pure wool, 15 pounds sterling or under $20 per yard
from Fabworks Fabworks online 
I know others envy the US and its great fabric resources like Mood, Elliott Berman or Britx but for pure wool fabrics in wide array of colors and fabrications at reasonable prices, wow, this was a goldmine.  
Then Sue helped me enabled me select a remnant from the Savile Row company Holland and Sherry.  very heavy 100% wool home dec fabric...two yards a little over $25 total.  I see it as a long winter vest over a cozy turtleneck.

All of this in day one of the sewing expo.  I had to battle rush hour that evening but Mr. Lucky and I had fun sharing stories of our days on the town.  While I was in sewing heaven, he took public transportation out to a golf course near Wimbledon, rented clubs and enjoyed the glorious weather with new golf buddies on the local course.  Happy times for both of us.  
Next morning I repeated the journey for more fun and some hilarious'll see why I say that in a moment, I promise.
First priority was to visit the exhibit of Libery garments to honor their 140th anniversary.  I have always loved their prints and the feel of those fabrics but never felt I could afford them or do them justice.  I was in my glory getting to examine the details and stitching on the garments, some home made and others sewn my a professional dressmaker and all with that Liberty look.  

About a half dozen or more were dresses and tunics from the '70s which is when I first came to London on the wave of American backpackers touring Europe on $5 a day.  When I saw these beautiful dresses I immediately thought of this picture with my two girlfriends who toured with me the summer of "72. 

I have laughed to see the maxi-dress return in its boho splendor in recent just keeps reinventing itself, right?

Ok, that wasn't the humorous part of the day...but my class experience was.  
When I saw the weekend class list I was happy to see that the classes focused on garment sewing, fitting, draping, all thoroughly useful techniques but usually those that I could do already, albeit half-baked, or had limited use I decided to take a class totally out of my box and out of my skill set....and it turned out  to be totally out of my reach.  Tambour beading.  Yes, I the American on a hiking holiday week was going to try her hand at this exquisitely delicate and refined technique for adding luxury touches to couture garments.  What could go wrong with that idea?  

Oh, wait, are you thinking any of those results are mine?  Very funny.  These are just some samples of the exquisite work done by the lovely instructor, Charlotte Appleby, The English Tailoress  She could not have been clearer, more patient or kind to this hopeless, hapless student.  It took me 1 1/2 hours of the three hour class just to learn how to set up our beading frame with its roller arrangement, woven tape and silk organza base.  Then I struggled with the tambour hook, with my new eyeglasses and trying to see the hook and finally just laughed and enjoyed watching Sue and the other women in the class learn to do this amazing craft.  To give you an idea of the delicacy and finesse in tambour beading, that beautiful seahorse is what you would make after a three day class with Charlotte.  Hmmm, much like my pottery throwing and mosaic classes, it's good to get it out of my system and move on.  Move on I did and so enjoyed a free demo given by Jamie Kemp on making hand made looking buttonholes.  he has the tutorial on his blog as well:  Male Devon Sewing 

Jamie Kemp and very good demo set up 
if you have stayed with me this far, thank you.  I will share one dramatic difference in American sewing expos and this one in the US we would not see this sign...

Since Patrick Grant shared that the sale of new sewing machines has multiplied dramatically in recent years (from maybe 50,000 to 100,000 per year to 1.2 million machines sold in three or four years) I believe this might have something to do with it.  So cheers to the Great British Sewing Bee, to Sue, Audrey and all my sewing friends and to you, lovely readers.  May your sewing projects keep you challenged and bubbly.


  1. What a great trip! I loved going along with you...vicariously.

    I'd also love to know what's up with Ann Rowley. Do you know? She's not active on Stitcher's Guild anymore, and I haven't seen any updates elsewhere on the web.

    1. I too was wondering about Ann since I had checked her Flickr pictures and the last of those gorgeous quilts she had been doing were posted in 2015. Classy, kind, and oh so helpful over the years so I hope she is doing well, too.

  2. What a wonderful trip! That Butterick coat is so beautiful. I've been dreaming of making it in hot pink ever since the pattern came out!

    1. Hot pink would be spectacular! Please post a pic when you make it.

  3. Oh Jane, what a great story to read. Wish I could have been there and it almost feels like it reading about your day. It's always easy to make friends with fellow seamstresses. Love the coat, you should definitely make it.

    1. I too wish you had been there and would appreciate your keen eye for design. Yes, the pattern should arrive in the mail shortly and will be going to the top of the winter list.

  4. Sounds like you had a fabulous time. I disagree with you though about the liberty. You are a fantastic seamstress and you would absolutely do justice to the fabric so I hope one day you get that pleasure.

    1. You are more than kind, Janine. I could expound on how and why I was intimidated by expensive fabric and so many there "good" things but that's not the purpose here. Now I realize that it is just time, patience, persistence, practice, good encouraging teachers....and the knowledge that they are still making fabric as we speak.

  5. Thank-you for sharing! Sounds like you had a fabulous time. (I'm a bit envious.)

    1. Thank you, Irene. It was a very special opportunity and just turned out that our timing was perfect.

  6. Thanks for sharing your adventures, I enjoyed reading about them. I had the same experience with Tambour beading. After 3 hour of painstaking work, my hand jerked and all that lovely chain stitching hold the beadwork unraveled. Sigh!


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