Tuesday, 24 January 2017

Vintage Fur - Yay or Nay? My Ethical Dilemma.

Hello Lovelies! Okay so this may be my most divisive post yet and is inspired by a vintage fur coat that I bought in the local antique/junk ]market /car bootie where I also score my vintage sewing machines.

Sartorially my coat does nothing for me but when these photos were taken it was about -4 degrees Celcius outside and I was totally toasty.

The coat itself is a lovely Musquash fur in pristine condition and is actually a little too big for me. Since vintage things rarely come large enough and I was in need of a new winter coat for this year, I snapped it up swayed by its loveliness. However, now that I have got it home I am having feeling a bit of inner turmoil. As a vintage loving clothes-a-holic it was only a matter of time before I succumbed to the siren song of a "good" fur coat. No fashionable lady of yesteryear, with a yearning for glitz and glamour, would have been without her fur - a real status symbol at the time - and the vintage/second-hand shops are awash with them. However, I am a committed animal lover and find the idea of wearing modern farmed fur abhorrent. So where does vintage fur lie in this ethical debate?

First a little history.......

Who wore it best? Source

Musquash fur is derived from the Muskrat (Ondatra zibethicus) which are found all over North America and Canada. Musquash fur was very popular as a cheaper alternative to mink and could be found sheared and/or dyed to more resemble other pelts. The darker the colour of the musquash the pricier the fur.

At the time that this coat was made in the 1930's it is likely that the pelts used would have been sourced at a fur sale such as those of the Hudson Bay Company who sold vast quantities of skins from an unbelievable variety of animals such a squirrels, raccoons, mink, beaver and fox. These skins would have been obtained from animals trapped in the wild and brought to trading posts all over Canada, where they would be collected and shipped to places like London and Paris.

For fox' sake! Couldn't find the source but this is a HBC trading post, apparently.

 Unfortunately, the impact of the fur trade reached beyond wildlife and had a huge, and could be argued highly negative, effect on the indigenous aboriginal peoples of Canada who abandoned traditional ways of life in favour of trapping fur in exchange for bartered goods. Due to the large costs of shipping and handling the wild-trapped skins the latter part of the1930's saw the advent of farmed fur, especially for high-vaue pelts like mink. The fur trade died out somewhat with the popularity of the animal rights movement in the 60's - 90's but has never really gone away. In the last few years it could be considered to be having a bit of a renaissance with many designers showing fur again.

Where the Wild Things Are

So where does this leave me? I love animals and always support animal charities. In my time I have taken in countless stray cats,  abused rabbits and all manner of little lost furries and given them a lovely life. However, I am not vegetarian, although I used to be for many years  and we eat mostly veggie/vegan in our house. I would never dream of purchasing modern fur. However, I am in two minds about the vintage variety. I know that this is still a(n) (dead) animal product, even if it is about 90 years old, and that muskrats died for this coat but I am very much against things going into landfill and like to reuse/recycle as much as possible. Many millions of animals die every year for the production of food. Why are the (leather) by-products of the meat trade more popularly acceptable, or are they? Is the wearing of vintage fur ever justifiable? Does it have the same impact as wearing a modern fur? Could reuse, reduce, recycle ever apply to fur? Do you find fur culturally acceptable and think that this is just first-world angst?

I may be hanging my head in shame

So what are you thoughts people? Am I a completely morally reprehensible homicidal animal slaughterer with my ethical compass set to serial killer or do you think that wearing vintage fur is acceptable as it is a kind of recycling? Do you even care? I am feeling terribly guilty and torn about my purchase. I do own a couple of 60's vintage sheepskin hats. Is this any worse?

Please feel free to comment but play nice people. I know that this is an emotive subject but we should respect everyone's views.


Wednesday, 4 January 2017

A Stroll Round The Burrell Collection

One of the great things about living in Glasgow is the staggering amount of free art galleries and museums that are open to the public. One of the nicest and, in my mind completely eclectic, is the Burrell Collection which I had the pleasure of visiting last year (but was yet to blog about). Since the building that houses the collection is now shut for refurbishment until 2020 I thought that I would share some of my photos from my trip. There were some absolute gems of antique textiles there as well as some great stained glass, paintings and sculptures.

William Burrell, a Glaswegian shipping magnate, was a renowned art collector who in 1944 bequeathed a collection of about 8,000 objects to the City of Glasgow. However, it wasn't until 1983 that a purpose built museum was opened on the Pollock Estate in the Southside of the city to house these objects. The building, as it currently stands, only displays about 20% of the collection so is being upgraded and expanded. The collection itself covers every period and medium, from gorgeous tapestries to statues from Ancient Egypt.

Tapestries and Textiles - Forgive the terrible photos. These wee housed under very low light.

I was tempted there by an exhibition of medieval stained glass, which was additional to the normal glass on show. I love the rich colours and the details.

Lovely Lady with Moustache and Sheep

Reminds me of Lord Flashheart for you Blackadder fans out there

Getting Medieval on your A**

And some lovely sculptures.

Anyway, I hope that you enjoyed a little snippet of the collection and apologies for the quality of some of the photos. My cameraphone was ill-equipped to deal with the low lighting required for the more delicate exhibits. I always feel like a wander in a gallery or museum invigorates my creative mojo. 

If you are in Glasgow and fancy some art, a selection of the Collection is on display at Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum along with the plans for the building refurbishment. They have the Alphonse Mucha exhibition on there at the moment so it is a very good excuse to pop along. I am off there this weekend!

Tuesday, 3 January 2017

(2016) You Taste Like Tear Stains and Could-Have-Beens

Hello Lovelies!  I am just posting up to wish you all the best for 2017!

I am sorry for being M.I.A for a bit. Life here has been a bit hectic, for good and bad reasons and blogging has become a casualty of that. 2016 really was a funny old year, though to quote Jarvis Cocker "Well, I can't see anyone else smiling in here".  I will be very glad to start with a blank page.

I have been reading your posts and commenting in my free moments, which have been few and far between, but have been thinking about how everyone has been getting on a lot.

I really have done very little in the way of sewing, knitting or anything much since my last posts from August (AUGUST!!!!).  We had quite a fruitful harvest in the garden but I left most of it for what I thought were the birds. Oh dear, b@$tard slugs!

There have been a few vintage buys and a couple of gifts like these fabulous curtains that I have coveted from afar for the last decade.

They were up in my brother's Victorian house when he moved in and belonged to the last very elderly lady occupant who had been born in the house. I have no clue about their age. They are such a gorgeous colour and so heavy I am wondering if my modern walls will take the weight of the curtain pole with them on. The photos don't do them justice. I can't wait to get the living room repainted and them up.

Literally the Town Centre. Was very cute

I looked at an old house in Kirriemuir which is commuting distance from my day job. It was lovely but needed a bit more structural work than I was prepared to do and had no garden.  Didn't think that this would bother me until I saw the place. I do like an outside space.

Was worth the trip though as Kirriemuir is a lovely (wee) place and there was a fab statue of Bon Scott, the late great singer of AC/DC who was born there and lived in the town until he was six. Apparently they have a small rock festival there every year called BonnFest.

Kirriemuir is also the birthplace of J.M. Barrie, author of Peter Pan and there is a small statue commemorating this in the town square.Apparently, the town is also famous for its witches. I don't know if I would have believed that until I saw this shop window below. Sprogzilla was totally unimpressed, she thought that the place was like the setting for "Hot Fuzz". Can't imagine why?  So moving plans are on hold for the moment as we will see what this month brings.

I also went to see The Damned for their 40th Anniversary tour at the start of December. They were brilliant but it was mostly full of men of a certain age. Makes me smile to think that Punk is now that old. Obligatory grainy phone pic below. Blaming being at one side of the stage for only getting shots of Dave Vanian.

So apart from that there has been nothing but work.
No resolutions here or promises as it cuts me up too much when I can't get things done.
 Just work hard,  create things that make me happy, laugh loads and (most importantly) spend as much time as possible with the people that I love.

Hope that 2017 brings you all joy and (hopefully) this will be the start of a busy blogging year!

K xx

Wednesday, 17 August 2016

Being Beige

I am on my holidays so I have decided to paint the whole house, starting with the dining room (I have done one toilet and the kitchen already). The place was trashed when I moved back so EVERYTHING needs done. It is depressing and the sunshine just shows up the muck more. 
 Gone with my beloved colour, I am breaking out in chronic "greige" as I would really like to sell it before the end of the year. I blame Kelly Hoppen. *grumble*

Feel for me, not a sniff of sunshine, except through the window. 

More corset posts to follow. I am waiting for a new busk as the size that was recommended in the pattern is too long for my short waist. 

Until later peeps, I have a hot date with a brush!

Hope that you are having fun and enjoying the beautiful weather.

Wednesday, 3 August 2016

Sewing With Mother: The Sophia Underbust Corset - Roll Pinning & Flatlining

Hello! Well after the great start I had catching up with my corset posting things went a bit awry. Life has a terrible habit of creeping up on me at the moment and expecting me to do other things. So, finally today I am going to talk a little bit about what I did with my pattern pieces once I had cut them out.

Just to back track a bit I had adjusted the fit of my toile to take into account the fact that I needed more room. Once I had made all the changes I tried it on again and it was so big that I could have taken out the last panel. Just shows you how much bloat I can gain or lose over the course of a few days, so back it went to the original size. So now I am making this up as the same straight size as the pattern with no adjustments (for now).

Firstly, I had decided that I was going to make a double layer corset consisting of the outer shell fabric (which I interfaced but I am not counting that), the inner strength layer of cotton herringbone coutil (recycled from my toile) and an inner "floating" lining (also not counting) which I will make out of a fancy patterned quilting cotton, kind of my trademark. The cotton coutil has a smooth side and a herringbone weave side as you can see in the photo above. Not that it matters for me as I covered it but the herringbone side will be used on the outside. The stripes are handy as I lined up the grain markings with them. I pressed the coutil with lots of steam before I cut out my pieces and all pieces are cut with the grain parallel to the selvedge.

I cut the pattern pieces out of a red/cobalt blue shot silk dupion and a medium weight fusible interfacing. You should really preshrink this by soaking it in hot water until it goes cold and then hanging up to dry. Then there is no surprises. If you don't do this and you then steam your corset later on then then you take the chance that it will look a bit bubbly instead of the smooth surface that you are looking for, just don't ask me how I know this. I had also pressed the silk with a lot of steam before I cut out my pieces. There is a lot of pressing in a corset. Remember to iron your interfacing on with a dry iron and no steam.

Just to be on the safe side when you are interfacing your pieces lay them out in front of you and make sure that they are a) the right side up and b) that they are the mirror image of each other. I like to use an interfacing as it provides a subtle extra layer of strength and support to the thin silk fabric and helps with cutting out any wrinkling of my outer fabric. 

So now I had a pile of interfaced silk pieces and my coutil pieces. I joined them together in a process called flatlining where they are attached to each other then treated as one piece. I did this by laying the silk pieces over the corresponding coutil pieces and carefully sewing round the outside close to the edge inside of the seam allowance. It doesn't have to be neat as it will be hidden in the seam.

However, if you just lay them totally flat and stitch them together like that then when you put your corset on finally then you are more likely to get wrinkles as the outer fabric will be stressed as it is getting stretched more than the inner fabric. How come you ask? Well, much as we would like we are not flat and to follow the curve of your body then the outer curve will be longer than the inner curve to cover the same distance, add into this the room that your fabric takes up, the turn of cloth, further stressing your outer fabric. To combat this before I started my flatlining I lined up the pattern pieces and pinned them in the upper seam allowance in the middle over a firm curved surface. Some people use a tailor's ham for this but you don't have to buy anything special, a towel rolled into a tube does fine. Then I smoothed out my pieces over the curve from the middle to the edges. Pinning them to keep them in place in the seam allowance and then stitched. My pieces didn't overlap completely by this point. This is okay and will be hidden in the seam allowance anyway. This technique is called roll pining and it will make all the difference in the look of my final corset.

The photo above shows my pieces after they had been roll pinned. They are lying on a table and you can see that they don't lie completely flat, they have a very slight curve to them.

So at the end of this process you should be left with a big thick pile of your pattern pieces. They will feel pretty stiff with all the layers but this will be a good thing as they will need to stand up to a lot of pressure and not stretch out or tear.

This has taken me loosely to about point 6 in the pattern instructions. Now I needed to sew in the busk and add in the grommets to the back of the corset and baste it together for yet another fitting but more on that next time. Hope that this makes some sense. 

Have you ever had a misadventure with interfacing? Or have a better way to get the wrinkles out of your corsets. I would love to hear all about it!

Have a great week, Lovelies. 

K xx

Saturday, 23 July 2016

Blocks of Boredom: Checking In

Okay here is another quick catch-up post that I am writing whilst sat with a "cowpat" of henna on my hair, smothered in face cream lest I end up looking like an Oompa Loompa, and grooving along to David Bowie.  What a vision. I have never been so glad to be a blogger and not a vlogger!

 I had a spare night a couple of weeks ago and managed to get another 4 blocks sewn up. Patchworking  is really enjoyable but it is quite time consuming and I am never going to win any prizes for matching up my corners. It's all in the design though, right?

Where I stay for work during the week doesn't really have a whole tone of space so patchwork is perfect, it is small and easy to manage, not taking up too much space.

It is great getting it done in little chunks too.

Again most of the fabrics are Amy Butler, the spotty one above is a Japanese cotton from Mandor's in Glasgow.

Well, I am catching up with myself now so hopefully will be back on blogging track next week.
Have a wonderful weekend, Lovelies! Now to wash this off my head........ :)


Tuesday, 19 July 2016

The Blunders of Modern Technology and An Accidental Purchase

Hello lovelies! I hope that you are surviving the sweltering heat here in the Northern Hemisphere (or the cold if you are down under). I have had NO INTERNET at my week-time digs for the past two weeks so am terribly behind with blogging. I did have my phone but it is so small that I can't read it easily so have been pretty cut off and although I have been keeping up with your posts I have been finding it hard to comment. Just what did we do without internet access? Not blog if I remember rightly. Oh dear. 

So, I have a confession to make, I have been really bad and may have *accidentally* come home a  couple of weekends ago with a "new" vintage sewing machine and then spent a whole Saturday cleaning and polishing her instead of taking photos of my corset progress but I am sure that you will forgive me when you see her. 

I had went to the local car boot fair with high hopes of scoring some vintage fabric or clothes, nothing doing on that score, but I found a stall selling junk and antiques that specialises in vintage sewing machines. They had loads from the 1880's right through to 1970's machines. 

I should have taken some before as she was manky but here she is in all her glory. Sprogzilla really helped me to get this clean, along with a small can of WD40, lots of cleaning rags, a load of sewing machine oil and some proper elbow grease. It was a truly filthy job and I haven't got the paint spots off the case yet but the machine is now spotless, shiny and running like a dream. Just look at the gorgeous "Lotus" decals and the lovely engraved plates.

I love this look of this machine. They really don't make them like this any more. The attention to detail is superb. This is the back of the machine.

I love the decoration. Weight wise this thing is a beast. I can hardly lift her. All her innards have been cleaned, polished to a gleam, oiled and adjusted to sew beautifully. Sorry I forgot to take a pic of the stitch quality so here are another couple of the decals. She goes through corset coutil like a bit of chiffon.

I think that she is a hand crank 66k for those of you that bother about such things. I came to this conclusion as she has the funny foot that is only found on the early models. According to all the details that I can find online, the 66k with the Lotus decals was made at Kilbowie (the "K" I think) between 1902 and 1906. This is at odds with the serial number which does not have any letters at the beginning and according to the ismacs.net Website this dates her to 1889. Either way she is a lovely old lady and I hope that she will be sewing in another hundred years time. 

So, if you have read this far I will be posting things this week in an effort to catch up with myself so watch this space. If you have any info about vintage Singers, or even want to share a link to your prized vintage machines or a comment then I would love to hear from you. I am building up quite a collection at MOR headquarters.

Have a great week!
K xx