Wednesday, 27 June 2012

Britain want there Wool back!!

Lincoln Longwool sheep
I am a true Yellow Belly, born and bread in Lincolnshire, so my heart sits here and it's history certainly brings me to the belief in why I have such deep affection for British wool and Knitting. Even the term yellow belly among other stories which are said arrived apparently because of the traditional breed of sheep in the county called Lincoln Longwool. As the name suggests, it's fleece was, well, long. These sheep would graze in the fields of mustard that were once a common sight around lincolnshire. As their shaggy coat dragged along the ground it would pick up pollen from the mustard flowers and give them a yellow belly.

Through reading a lot of information on the history of British wool I have learnt that the main reason why our wonderful towns and citys are here today is because of the wealth that wool brought to our country. The textile industry was once a mainstay of British manufacturing.

Wool cloth was spun and woven by the tribes of Northern Europe even before 10,000BC. Roman emperors cherished British woollen cloth, it was so fine that is was comparable with a spiders web. 

The wool trade was of immense importance to the wealth of medieval Europe and Lincolnshire was the centre for this trade. They used the Long fine wool from it's native sheep breeds to produce a cloth which did not require the fulling process. This fulling process is a shrinking method. It requires soft water and water power through mills which need hills and fast running streams. The process was mainly used in the Pennine Districts of Yorkshire and Lancashire.

Due to the new inventions which speeded the process of spinning and weaving based mainly around Lancashire during the industrial revolution of 1750-1850, the older industries which were in places like Stamford and Lincoln declined and never recovered.
We are pleased to see the wool trade coming back into fashion with even a royal seal of approval by prince Charles who has backed National wool week in an attempt to reignite our love of Britain's most natural, eco-friendly and durable yarn. 

Info on British wool week:

Stamford was particularly famous for it's woven cloth called haberget. The towns communication routes via the great north road and the river Welland to the North sea ensured the success of it's trade.

Derek Lawlor
What I can see is that people are stuck to thinking that knit is an old method only used by grannys. Our granny's are cool!! You can create your own piece with any colour you want, in any structure with yarn, it's really exciting and not as complicated as you think, if you want to knit faster you can even use a knit machine instead of your hands. There is so much potential with knit as it stopped at a point and wasn't experimented even further. 

These days we buy all our goods for fashion abroad when we have a fibre in England which could be better than anything if we play with it more. We now have the opportunity with technology and all that to bring back a world wide name for England. The wool industry could even bring back employment. 

Tuesday, 5 June 2012

The end of University is here and I'm still smiling

It has come to the end of university and nows the time to find a job, graduate this september, help out with this knit show at the Hub in Sleaford and promote myself at the Graduate Fashion week in London, oh yeah and also of all things pay all the depts that university has very nicely built up through the last three years.

Everything went better than expected. There were moments where I nearly set my knitting machine on fire, threw the overlocker out my window, crushed the sewing machine or even nearly lost my cool with the teachers, but thank goodness I managed to keep my self together.

I managed to get some wonderful friends to model in my outfits for the critique. I couldn't have better models. They even came over a few days before so I could work out what accessories and shoes to match. They had no hesitation. Lots of thanks to Jodie, Danny, Lisa and Jen. For the critique we were to create four finished outfits, this was a success and the lecturers seemed very delighted by the collection, I managed to get some lovely compliments and was told to create another outfit using the spare materials to add with the four others for the catwalk.

Within two days I managed to design and make this silk dress just in time for when the teachers were choosing which outfits would go on the catwalk. Luckily all five outfits were accepted but I was told to do plenty more. They didn't believe that I would be able to finish all the jobs given but being myself I do love to surprise, teehee!! Above all the jobs that they gave me I also managed to make a necklace with my knitted faces on, make a bracelet which wasn't used in the end, buy accessories, make a vintage camera a neck piece and decorate my shoes using a soldering iron and some knit. I was determined to get that one picture from my imagination into a real thing.

Here's the illustration for the four outfits of my collection.

My collection was called 'Enticing Extramundane'. The research for the theme started from this book which I read during the summer called Banners of Silk by Rosalind Laker, a book that my great aunty Betty gave to me which happened to drop out of my bookshelf one day with a little note saying 'read me'. It's about a seamstress who worked for a very well known English designer called Charles Worth who made his success in France in the mid 1800s.

I was determined to use Charles Worth as inspiration after reading this book so I used that period as my main goal and realised that the Paris opera house was built at a similar time bringing me to a musical which my friend Natalie introduced to me on the first year of university called Phantom of the Opera. I wanted to bring the music into the garments, that organ. I tried to put together elegance at the same time as something beyond the physical world. I used baroque and gothic architecture to bring structure and detailing into the garments. Masquerade balls seemed to enter in like a lightning bolt during the design process steering me to the knitted faces. My intention was to go beyond my imagination. Though I did go to a point where I thought I was going too far leading me to making two of the outfits less extreme as intended, but I believe it all worked out well anyways.

 Below are some photographs of my collection on the catwalk at the University of Lincoln Fashion Show.

 The dress at the front is my own design print on fabric using Lincoln Cathedral as inspiration. It took many attempts to print but eventually was solved.
 The photograph above is of the outfit which was made after the critique. You can see on the shoes my attempt at drawing eyes with the soldering iron and applying knit for the lips.

This outfit is my favourite out of the lot as it certainly took the longest to make. The top is four faces attached to each other, one on each side of the bodice, one at the front and one at the back. The main piece has been knitted by machine with an extensive amount of mathematics involved. The lips and eyes are hand knitted onto the piece. The skirt below was machine knitted by myself as well with a velvet lined skirt underneath fastened at the waist to hold the weight of the knit.

Wednesday, 4 April 2012

A few illustrations to keep entertained :)

Looking at my blog I have noticed that I haven't really shown much of my work apart from the wedding dress of course. I won't be showing my final collection until after the catwalk so it can be a nice surprise on the big day. Haven't got long left now.

This first illustration is one I drew from a vogue magazine in the first year emphasising the colour and pattern which I was most inspired by through Etro's clothing of autumn/winter 2009. I coloured the clothing differently to the original using the colour palette that I had chosen for the project.

These two illustrations above were my own fast designs done on a time limit and then edited on photoshop. There are many of these drawings in my sketchbook. The designs were done in preparation for the bridal competition. 

Thats all I have to show at the moment because the scanner is down and it is now the last month in finishing our outfits for the crit which has nicely been organised on my birthday so I am very busy sewing, pattern cutting, twarling again and again. Things seem to be looking positive though :) 

Sunday, 1 April 2012

Lincoln Cathedral

I have been lucky being brought up by my father and mother who are both artists with incredible knowledge about history. They have taken me to many historic places, museums and galleries. I learnt wonderful stories which made these places a treasure to my memories. But of all the superb locations  Lincoln Cathedral seems to always stand out.

 Even with it's gothic appearance and many gargoyles peeping out of lots of different sections it has such an amiability to it. Coming back to Lincoln from my home town Stamford is a delightful experience, especially if you were to take the Roman road which is called Ermine Street. The road supposedly runs from London to Lincoln. Before arriving in Lincoln you have a marvellous view of the cathedral probably from as far as 15 miles, maybe more. There is a brilliant entrance as you arrive in Lincoln where the whole city emerges as you drive down the South common. The Roman road continues down the high street and then up this incredibly steep hill which of course couldn't have been named anything else but "The Steep Hill". In my first year of Fashion Studies I remember the lecturer explaining where we were to go for one of our lectures only saying 'It's on the steep hill.' Of course I was dumbfounded, which steep hill? Surely there are many steep hills, but that day when I walked up that hill nothing could beat a steep hill like that. The sweat, loss of breath, feeling of being very unfit from walking up this hill magically disappeared as the cathedral appears upon your eyes when you arrive at the top.

The thought of all these pilgrims and Romans who walked miles and miles to Lincoln Cathedral to get as close to god as possible, the many years that people dedicated in building this wonderful place, with people still working on it today. The love that so many people have put into it is astonishing. It brings exuberance to the whole city. Everywhere you walk you can see it, even some of the modern buildings are designed so there is always a window looking out at it, but of course it isn't only the outside which is astonishing. The inside is even more spectacular. You could take a whole week looking at the detailing, the wonderful ways the light shines through the stain glass. Even someone who has no clue about the church feels something which is more than life its self.

Because of my love for this place I have used the detailing on the Cathedral as an influence for my Final major project. As you can see the background on this page is a repeated pattern that I have created on photoshop using imagery from the Cathedral. This pattern has been printed on fabric for the final collection.

Saturday, 12 November 2011

Eco-sustainable clothing

As you know I am on my third year of fashion at the University of Lincoln.

I'm doing my dissertation as a study of the progression of eco-sustainable fashion and what impact the clothes industry has had on the planet and individuals. The research that I have undertaken has undeniably made my blood run cold. I have been sitting in the living room of my student house fixated in this book called "The Rough Guide to Ethical Living". My housemate watched my jaw drop at certain intervals.

What I don't understand, is that all of us aren't being warned today of the process of manufactured clothing. It is something that needs changing immediately, we are too acquisitive. We are indoctrinated by media that encourages us to buy brands which we have know clue about.  Only small varieties of people stop shopping at certain retail outlets which have been given a bad name for child labour. But there is so much more to it. It's every outlet, 1000s of men, women and children die a year working on the cotton fields because of the pesticides used. The "Pesticide Action network" have said that there are as many as three million poisonings and 20,000 deaths each year. These people end their lives using the very pesticides that forced them into dept.

And then comes the manufacture of the conventional cotton cloth where thousands of synthetic substances are used such as chlorine bleaches, heavy-metal dyes and treatments such as formaldehyde to lessen creasability and minimise shrinking. Many are highly toxic and cause environmental and health problems if not handled and disposed of correctly.

Organic cotton is now much easier to source. Certain clothing manufacturers and farms are certified by the Fair Trade movement, a logo which we are able to trust as they define the standards and certify that accredited products really are produced in accordance with them. They implement a trade auditing system which checks that every fairtrade-labelled product sold to a consumer has indeed been produced by a certified producer organisation.

The other day I was in Stamford my home town and couldn't help noticing that there was a wonderful new shop on St. Marys Hill. From what came to me as a surprise and prosperity for my dissertation as it is a "fair trade" certified shop which sells organically made clothing from certified manufacturers such as "braintree" and "Greenpiece". Being very excited by this new awareness I did some shopping to try out these sublime materials, my new socks made out of bamboo, my hat made out of organic wool from Nepal and a nice warm top made out of organic cotton. I wasn't the only one so excited by these new fibres, my mum also made a few purchases for my dad and her. The fabrics are excellent, they survived in the wash, they all kept me warm, and I'm amazed at how soft the materials felt on my skin, so much softer than the chemical fabrics, especially the bamboo. What I loved was the way each garment seemed to have a story, it was like buying a new rabbit or a dog, you get a little piece of paper which explains the fabric and how to take care of it. The shop had toys for children as well, with the name of the person who made it on the tag. It's a wonderful shop, and to be honest not over the average prices that people would pay. Similar prices to Topshop in fact :)

One thing I hope for the future is that we all go into fair trade and terminate those substandard organisations as it also will plummet our unemployed people who loiter the streets into jobs which will be much more well being.

Monday, 7 November 2011

A Sensational Sunday at the Bridal Show

A long day it was yesterday at the Bridal fair with Laura who modeled for me. She looked exquisite, wearing a charming pearl necklace resembling the detail on the front and a veil with an ivory ribbon trim and pearls on the comb complimentary with the dress. After all I had accomplished I was overjoyed by the final outcome and the commendations I had from people at the fair.

I was promised by the business I got the work placement from that I would have the wedding dress shown on the catwalk in the Bridal show, one reason why I put a lot of effort, time and money in making it. The business told me the day before the show, trying to trick me to believe that I had miss heard them from the beginning that my dress wasn’t to be shown on the catwalk and was to be walked around the fair promoted with my cards. The business acted very unprofessional purposely choosing accessories which ruined the look of the dress. In a professional manner I kept calm with them and exceeded in getting accessories which complimented the dress. I also still gave myself the opportunity to promote myself around the fair. I didn’t manage to sell the wedding dress on the day but I have been able to get some contacts and ideas in creating a business in the future. The dress is still for sale if anyone is interested.
I am now making jewellery and altering clothing for people as something to do in my free time while I’m in my third year of university. I’m going to start selling some drawings online and people will be able to pay me to draw what they want in a particular scale. This will hopefully start happening by next week. I will keep you up to date with the whole shebang.

I’ve been looking through the Spring/Summer 2012 collections recently, they look very exciting with beautiful shapes and inspiring motifs. Sarah Burton’s work in Alexander McQueen’s collection of ready-to-wear is definitely something you should imitate with sublime necklines and sensational detailing. 

It has been a very busy few weeks with lots of uni work. I am working on “Phantom of the Opera” as my theme for my negotiated project, with Baroque furnishing in mind from the marvelous Opera houses of the 1800s to the wonderful clothing by the renowned fashion designer Charles Worth. It’s gonna incorporate mysteriousness with a feeling of fear or agitation within the clothing at the same time as it being alluring and beautiful. 

Sunday, 4 September 2011

Bridal wear and its dire straits

Okay.... first time posting a blog so please let there be exceptions :)
This month I have been preoccupied in making a wedding dress which I have designed. The dress is for this catwalk show on November the 6th. Basically I managed to get this because of doing a work placement at a wedding shop.
It is the first time for me in making a wedding dress so I have been engrossed in research. The research has been very pleasant, bridal is certainly something I would consider in doing as a job in the future. 
There seems to be a plentiful amount that needs to be adjusted in Bridal wear, designs need to change, eco-friendly fabrics are being introduced, we need ranges designed for larger people, I was very well-informed at the bridal shop that the majority of brides are on the whole a size 14 or above. These brides generally have a very large bust which needs to be cupped in. What I learnt was that customers are very different sizes, some have big hips, small bust or big bust, small hips, it would be rare to see a woman enter in the shop and not need her wedding dress fitted.
The dresses were made by Romantica, San Patricks, ellis, Kelsey Rose, Ronald joyce. They were beautiful dresses but each one was designed for a six foot tall woman size 12. When I helped put the dresses on the customers the decorations which were supposed to be on the hip were placed randomly on the thigh instead. My favourite dresses were the San Patricks, they were of intricate lace, indistinguishable to the Duchess of Cambridge's but when I looked underneath at the way the dress was made, it was an embarrassment, some of the seams weren't overlocked so the material was fraying, they were definitely only worn for the one occasion, but to be honest I wouldn't be amazed if the bride stumbled down the aisle with the underskirt falling from the dress.

Basically at the bridal shop they have a fixed charge for the fittings, most the time the charge is too little as the seamstresses need to put work into mending stitches, altering the heights of decoration as well as fitting the dress on the customer. What is more disconcerted is that people in society today have no idea of how much work is put into altering these dresses because of how easy it is to buy a cheap outfit from a shop like Primark or H&M. People have no idea that in the past clothes used to be fitted perfectly to a person's shape. Clothes have become monotonous. They are dulled down considerably. Only affluent individuals can afford to get clothes which are made as what I would say "properly", but still those who are wealthy still contrive in buying clothes from designers which are just as uninteresting as those found in cheap retail outlets predominately because of the "LOGO". An exemplary retail outlet that primarily indicates how easy it is to make an inexpensive version of a"designer" which may have been sewn to lesser a degree and made with affordable fabrics would be Zara. This is one reason why I shop there, some of the clothes have just as much detail as what some of the designer's clothing has. I find this especially shocking in the men's wear. Take a look at the suits and blazers on:

and then take a look at the suits and blazers on:

There isn't much difference between the two, except for the price tag. To be honest if I was wealthy and to buy some clothes at the prices D&G charge I would expect it to be made for me, the colour, shape, form,proportion, everything about the garment. This is mainly why I would love a time machine and experience the parisian fashion world with Charles Worth as he designed clothes for the individual person, the clothing was only to be made for that person because of its colour, it's pattern, it's everything.

People need to be educated more in how important fashion and design is and maybe their perspective would be different towards everything, in colleges and universities being a design student can be difficult when mixing with people who don't do it, most believe that it's an excuse to go to uni when you have no brain. To be honest when I hear that, it definitely amuses me. Without fashion and design they wouldn't have wetsuits and trainers to keep them going in sports activities, we wouldn't have got man to walk on the moon without a spacesuit, what would they do without gloves, hats, jumpers, waterproofs. Fashion isn't only about sewing, it is an ongoing thing, trends change, materials change, people keep on changing. Fashion is everything, it's our influences put together as a whole, we change our impressions of things through what we watch, read and experience. We design what we predict to be in fashion as well as to make it comfortable, easy to walk in, we have to think about everything before we even manage to draw it on paper. And then there is the pattern cutting, a person isn't a cube, we've got hips, waist, bust, height of different measurements to think about, a t-shirt didn't start from nothing, someone had to design it and pattern cut it to make it. Clothes are unusual shapes which have to be designed so they are easy to put on and take off, people suite different types of clothing, obese people need clothing which hide their figure, but also make them comfortable, policemen need a uniform which will be comfortable for the job but protect them from being stabbed or shot at the same time as showing their status. I could go on forever about fashion but at least I have pointed out a few things which show that there is a lot to my subject.

I don't have a camera at the moment so I'm sorry that you will not be able to see my progress in producing the wedding dress and the design process. Hopefully in the next post it will be a different matter.