Tuesday, April 30, 2013

{Guest Post from David} Guthrie & Ghani Grand Opening

David and I were talking about our fantastic weekend in Birmingham and his impressions of the grand opening of Lauren's new haberdashery and his opinions on the Great British Sewing Bee....and he agreed to do a guest post for today!  Enjoy!

     It was great to travel to Birmingham this past weekend to be present at the opening of Guthrie & Ghani, the haberdashery/brainchild/labour-of-love of Lauren from the Great British Sewing Bee, and her partner, Ayaz.

     We had been thinking about going on an overnight for my birthday, and had a few ideas in mind but once we heard about the Grand Opening, it was an easy decision.   Debi found a lovely B&B between the airport and Birmingham city centre, and we looked into things to do the day after the opening (which will, no doubt, feature in a forthcoming post).

     I came away from the weekend feeling very much inspired and thankful.  As I've related in a previous guest post, it's been amazing to witness the support network that Debi has found online (and IRL as a result of meet-ups).  As the partner of a particularly passionate sewist, it's not only great to see her involved in an activity that gives her so much pleasure but it's wonderful to see the community that has formed amongst sewists online, and the budding friendships that have developed as a result of enjoying a common pursuit.

     Much of this was alluded to in interviews with each of the Sewing Bee contestants (and in a chat we had with Tilly on our way to the railway station), and I am impressed with the way the show highlighted the importance of sewing in Britain, and the many ways in which people approach the art and utility of sewing.  I love hearing about the reasons why people have taken up sewing; for the practicality of making durable clothes that fit and compliment one's body; to learn a traditional skill (often passed down the generations); to dress in a particular fashion (such as Debi's fascination with the clothes of the 1930s and 40s); or to indulge in a practice that harkens back to a time and ethos - something that is perhaps missing in our current era, something that is worth reinvigorating and keeping, in order to combat the more seemingly shallow and disposable aspects of modern life.

     It was also inspiring to see what Lauren and Ayaz have been able to do together - transforming a neglected building into a beautiful and lovingly-polished storefront and workspace.  The amount of care and attention to both the original building materials and the feel of the space were evident in every centimetre of the store and workshop upstairs.  The space itself has a wonderful feel to it, and will be a productive, engaging atmosphere to learn, shop, and sew in.  There are already big ideas floating around the workshop's ceiling.
     The work they've done on it together has imbued the space with their spirit, and that of those who helped, including skilled workers, family and friends.
     Debi and I are firm believers in following one's dreams (as it's brought us this far), so it's always wonderful to see others pursuing theirs.  Hopefully, this will inspire others to strike out on a similar path.


     Although the Great British Sewing Bee is presented in the ubiquitous television programme format of an elimination competition, the contestants all expressed similar sentiments - that although they wanted to win, it wasn't as important to them as engaging in the camaraderie that developed amongst the contestants, something that was very much in evidence this Saturday.   Most of the show's participants were present and happy to support Lauren in her new business venture.  Although none seem entirely comfortable with their newfound celebrity status, they were happy to lend it to making the day a truly successful event by helping to cut fabric, greeting those waiting in the enormous queue that ran up the sidewalk, signing books, posing for photographs, and mingling with fans of the show inside the store.

     A "bee" is defined in the OED as "a meeting for communal work or amusement:  a sewing bee."  It is a space wherein skills can be passed-on and refined, workloads (and stories) shared, and friends made.   It is a communal space that has nothing to do with competing for prizes or titles.  The fact that this true spirit of the term shows through both in the televised story and in reality is a testament to the strength of what is at the heart of sewing and within the hearts of the people who are drawn to it.

     Personally, I think a more interesting show format would be to keep all the contestants and showcase the creative ways in which they approach the set tasks rather than eliminating participants.  It was fascinating to see each individual's interpretation of the challenges.  Whether or not that would make for "good television" (something that could be commodified) is questionable.  However, what was evident on Saturday is that co-operation, friendship, and a passion for the art and skills of sewing are the defining aspects of this community, and that its expansion into the blogosphere and the skewed "reality" of television has only allowed its strengths to shine through to a greater degree.
     It is a community that I am happy to see re-establishing itself in our modern world, and one that I am happy and proud to support and be a part of.

Thank you David for such a great post!!

Monday, April 29, 2013

Guthrie and Ghani Grand Opening OR A Sewing Celebration

Oh My!! What a day I had on Saturday.  I met Lauren, Stuart, Sandra, Ann and Tilly.  WAIT! I met LAUREN, STUART, SANDRA, ANN, and TILLY...  ALL IN ONE DAY!  How freakin' awesome is that?

David and I went down to Birmingham to help Lauren celebrate the grand opening of Guthrie and Ghani, her new haberdashery shop.  It was so inspiring to see Lauren in her element:

The shop is a piece of art.  Lauren and her husband, Ayaz have been renovating the incredibly beautiful building for a year!  It's really amazing to read about the renovations (check out all 27 pages here....you'll be hooked) and even better to see the shop filled with people who LOVE sewing!  I can't even begin to describe how wonderful it was!

Lauren has done an amazing job decorating and the shop is filled with lots of goodies:

And now onto the sewing CELEBRATION bit....oh yes, I was on cloud nine meeting all the Great British Sewing Bee contestants...I mean, they let me into their sewing worlds for four episodes and I feel like I could talk pattern grading, seam allowances and edge stitching with them for hours!  I'm really going to miss watching them all sew!

They are all so lovely and generous as well.  Can you tell I am happy as a clam in all these photos?

Tilly and I had a great time catching up:

I just adore this photo of Ann and Tilly:

I couldn't help snapping a photo of Tilly and Lauren's button back blouses (Mathilde and Sorbetto respectively):

Can I just say Stuart is amazing?  He is so much fun to be around...and look, the lantern fabric!!

The place was decked out!  One of Lauren's friends made this adorable sewing cake:

We ventured upstairs and found a sewing haven.  A classroom just waiting to be used!  Lauren will be offering classes in her new space (with Tilly and Stuart also teaching classes):

I had such a fabulous time and picked up quite a few sewing goodies (like the fabric below):

THANK YOU Tilly, Lauren, Stuart, Ann and Sandra for inspiring us!  As Ann wrote in my book: Happy Sewing.  Happy sewing indeed!

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Is it over already?

I can't believe the Great British Sewing Bee is already over.  I feel like all the contestants are dear friends, urging and encouraging me to sew!!

Radiotimes.com photo

Part of the time I felt like I was still doing the Sew Weekly--sewing to a deadline (of course, without the  cameras, lights and oh, 2.7 million viewers....lol)  The BEST news is that they are planning to do another series! I can't wait.  My main question is do you think it will go the way of most reality tv shows in that the challenges will get increasingly difficult the more seasons they have?  Because I thought it was pretty difficult to begin with...

I was so disappointed that I wasn't able to make it to the blogger meet-up of the century in London this last week (crazy work week!!)  But I am super happy to report that I'll be heading to Birmingham this Saturday to attend the grand opening of Guthrie and Ghani Haberdashery shop--which is Lauren's (from the Great British Sewing Bee) new venture!

This is my favourite photo of Lauren:

Photo from Birminghammail.co.uk

And here's a photo of her new fabric/haberdashery store:

photo from Lauren's blog

Apparently there will be a few Great British Sewing Bee Sewists there, so I can stalk get them to sign my book!  Will you be there?  More details on Lauren's blog.

So, what crazy challenges do you think they will have (or should have) in season two?

Monday, April 22, 2013

Scotland Sundays: HM Yacht Britannia

This past week, Her Majesty's Yacht Britannia, which is docked in Edinburgh, celebrated it's 60th anniversary.  A super big thank you to So-Ha for alerting me to the fact that there would be a 1950s dress up event to mark the occasion!  We've been wanting to check out the former Royal Yacht for quite some time--so this was perfect!!

The Royal Yacht was commissioned in 1953 to serve as Her Majesty's floating royal residence.  It has since sailed around the world, covering more than 1,000,000 miles.

It was really fun taking a look at this historic vessel.  Much of the equipment and furniture is original to the 1950s:

I took the opportunity to wear my Mrs Peacock skirt made from a 1950s Simplicity (3196) pattern and my swing jacket which was sewn from a 1940 McCall (3619) pattern, but could easily pass for a 1950s swing jacket:

I have the perfect little 1950s teal topper hat that I got the last time I was out West in the U.S. at the fantastic Urban Eccentric Vintage store.  I love how it goes so well with the swing jacket and skirt (I love it when that happens--Teal can sometimes be hard to match, but I think they go together quite well!):

The yacht was amazing!  I love all the details of the royal residence from the lights, to the wood panelling to the pictures of the royal family scattered throughout the boat.

One thing that really struck me and that they highlight on the audio tour is that the Queen didn't want the royal yacht surroundings to be over the top, instead, she wanted something that had a bit more of a relaxed feel--where she and her family could relax and entertain guests.  The living area is a perfect example.  Of course, what you don't see is a baby grand piano off to the left which has been bolted to the floor--so they could keep themselves entertained even at sea!

This is the seamen's dining quarters:

I'm a sucker for anything nautical--and I just love portholes!!

The Yacht was decommissioned in 1997 (and hence is no longer called a 'Royal' yacht) and is now permanently based in Leith (which is part of Edinburgh, in a newly developed harbour area).  The yacht has been turned into a museum--and a quite interactive one!  Captain David approves:

Many dignitaries have stayed aboard the Britannia including four U.S. presidents (Eisenhower, Ford, Reagan and the Clintons).  Princess Di and Prince Charles also celebrated their honeymoon aboard the yacht. 

We had a fabulous time! There was a professional photographer (Ruth Armstrong--who took the photo below) and our pictures even made it onto the Royal Yacht Britannia website.  We got a free bottle of champagne for dressing in the spirit of the 1950s!  I told the woman that I dress like this normally...lol...but that we would happily accept the champagne :-)

I definitely recommend visiting the Britannia if you are ever in Edinburgh, it's an interesting piece of history and has lots of neat nautical elements (like the most amazing engine room I have ever seen) and a little bit of something for everyone!

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Save the Date: Vintage Pattern Blitz

I am super excited to let you all know that several Etsy vintage pattern sellers are planning another Pattern Blitz to go live around the world on the 25th of April.  A pattern blitz means that these vintage pattern sellers list as many patterns as possible on one day (the 25th)--many with associated discounts and sales.

So, mark your calendars, you won't want to miss out!  The pattern blitz goes live at the stroke of 12:01 wherever the pattern seller is located.  I'll bring you a list of all the pattern sales and discounts as part of the pattern blitz but you'll want to keep an eye on Etsy since it lasts one day only!!

One discount that I know is already active is for the RetroMonkeys Etsy shop.  Mary has listed a week-long discount code 'BLITZ' for 20% off all vintage patterns at her shop.

There is also a new Vintage Pattern Marketplace website, which is a cooperative of vintage sewing pattern and supply dealers on Etsy!  On this website, you'll find links to all the member's Etsy stores...

You can believe me that I'll be camped out on Etsy on the 25th!  C'mon 1940 McCall patterns :-)

I hope you'll join me in supporting our independent vintage pattern sellers!


Saturday, April 20, 2013

Mysterious McCall 4043

I'm still catching up in documenting all my 1940 McCall makes--this one, McCall 4043, was my very first one!  Now this pattern is absolutely mysterious:

You see, this pattern should be from 1941 not 1940.  I can't for the life of me figure it out.  The cover envelope clearly says the copyright date is 1940.  But every other nearby pattern number is from 1941.  I've tracked down the following:
Isn't that bizarre?  I'm wondering if 1) this is a printing error, or 2) if this was a special release pattern that came out earlier than the other patterns (resort collection?).  It's not in any of the 1940 McCall magazines or style booklets.  I think it's probably in the February 1941 magazine.  Which just makes me wonder how many other copyright 1940 patterns are not in the number sequence??  This is the only one I've found so far...

This was a great and easy pattern to sew up.  This was my first time sewing a McCall pattern from 1940--and I ended up grading this up a little too much.  So the armholes are a bit too big.  Otherwise the fit is pretty good.  Luckily, it's never quite warm enough in Scotland to wear a sleeveless dress! It's a wrap dress that closes with two buttons at the back.  I made it with some heavier-weight fabric that I got from Ikea.

Here's a close-up of the fabric and my first lapped seam:

The dress has two patch pockets sewn on the front with a button closure and a kick pleat in the skirt front:

This is one of the few sleeveless sundresses that was released by McCall in 1940.  I just saw the pattern envelope image of McCall 3603 on the Vintage Pattern Wiki. This is the other wrap dress from the year 1940 (which I can't wait to find and sew up).

We took these photos in the Falkland Palace Gardens, isn't it a beautiful place?

I'm curious to learn more about this pattern.  Does anyone have one of the early 1940s McCall patterns in the 4000 number range?  I'm curious about the number and the copyright date!

I don't know about you but I can't wait to get started with some summer sewing (C'mon summer weather)!
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