Upton House & Garden 

Well hello! I know, it’s been a while… I never really do much crochet or knitting during the summer, but this year I haven’t sewn yet either. I thought you might be interested to see somewhere I recently visited and found fascinating. I admit there are a lot of typewriter photos, I just loved them!

Upton House and Gardens in Warwickshire, is a National Trust Property with a current exhibition called: Banking for Victory. It once belonged to Lord Bearstead, whose father founded Shell Oil. (More information here.) In 1939 the family moved out of the house and the family bank relocated from London, for the duration of the Second World War. Mary Berry opened this exhibition last Autumn. I finally got around to visiting earlier this month.

This is the film tent with a little introductory film to the exhibition…      



The exhibition is superb. The great thing is that the NT do not want you to treat it as a museum, you are actively encouraged to open drawers, sit on chairs and sofas and basically be the nosy Parker that I you always want to be, but feel you can’t in most NT properties. Needless to say I sat and typed a paragraph at one of the typewriters, what no spell check? I opened some filing cabinets, rifled through the in/out trays and read some correspondence, read some Wartime newspapers and sat in the Bank Manger’s chair!

The attention to detail in the house is fantastic. For example: there are toothbrushes and hairbrushes in the dormitories, and much more, open magazines and knitting which seem to have been put down for a minute in the staff room, postcards displayed from local villages and towns and maps of cycle routes.

The bank staff left families and friends in London to live and work at Upton. It seems that they had a ‘good war’ living in the relative safety of the countryside, but lived with guilt knowing their loved ones were in danger and suffering in the war-torn city.

This doesn’t seem too much of a stretch to me, but different times perhaps?!

Knitting! I found knitting!

The project is something you can become involved in, if you fancy. See here for details. You have until 30th September deadline if you want to send some bunting. What really impressed me, while I knitted a bunt (is this the singular of bunting?!) and chatted to one of the organisers is that at the end the finished triangles will be stitched together to make blankets for charity. What a great idea and a practical use of the knitting at the end. I often wonder what becomes of things after yarn bombs and record attempts. I didn’t take a pic of my knitting. I’m not sure why, but you really didn’t miss much!

Today was a return visit to Upton as it poured after the tour around the house, so the gardens had to wait. I’m glad actually as the herbaceous border is now stunning with all the sun we’re enjoying. It was a lovely hot day.

Are you crafty during the summer, or more like me?

Treats, rewards and more baby hexagons

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This is a progress photo from earlier in the week, it’s 28 days worth of a baby hexagons. Well, what can I say? They are addictive and so easy to make! But LOOK – 28 only measure just over 16″, so for a decent sized blanket by 31st December we’re going to need to crochet one a day, plus lots more!

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So now I’ve kind of abandoned the whole baby hexagon a day concept. Although a one a day CAL is a lovely idea I don’t think this one was properly thought through measurement-wise. So now I’m just doing a batch when I feel like it, and I plan to continue this throughout the year. It’s impossible to just make one a day anyway, the one turns into five or sometimes (prepare yourself) I don’t feel like crocheting anything at all.

Isn’t it turning out pretty though? I’m using leftover yarn from my zesty raspberry ripple blanket and pinching colours that I’m using for my motifs. It will change though as the plan at the moment is to add new colours from whatever I’m making in Stylecraft as the year goes on.

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When I decided to redesign my William Morris colour inspired motifs I was slightly panicked by going from a blanket which was a third complete, with a basket of semi-finished motifs to absolutely zero. So I hooked new versions without pausing to darn any at all. Argh! I ended up with so many ends that I’ve had to stop and do nothing but darning. Argh! On Sunday I divvied the remainder into seven little piles to tackle like homework each night. I missed last night because I was out, but it’s a good idea to tackle the last of a tiresome job in small bits. For the next fifty motifs I will make one, darn it, then move onto the next. I really will.

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I saw my dentist last week “Ah you always have stunningly good teeth” he said before I even opened my mouth! Afterwards I bought a bone handled 1935 cake knife made to commemorate the silver jubilee of George V who was the Queen’s Grandfather. It was a bargain £4, after some Googling it seems most online sellers are asking £15 plus for one! I bought it because I really wanted a cake knife, rather than grabbing the first knife which comes to hand when we have guests, but what a lovely find.

This week I’ve had an eye test. Have you ever been shown photos of the back of your eyes? It’s amazing being talked through how they can tell you probably haven’t got diabetes or glaucoma, and seeing your optic nerve captured in action. I hate the puff of air and the flashing light so the new book by the very talented Kat and a cheese scone for lunch were my rewards! I’m thankfully now at the end of my mini MOT…
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I’m so lucky to have been given membership to the V&A in London, officially known as The Victoria and Albert Museum. I’ve used my card for the first time and loved swooping into the Wedding Dresses exhibit with a simple flash of my card. Do go if you can before it ends. You “Wow!” your way around. I also visited the members’ room which was described to me by a room guide as ‘the inner sanctum’. It was certainly very peaceful and comfortable. The water jugs were donated by Waterford Crystal and even the tray is lovely! My membership includes a guest so I’m hoping to take friends and family to events over the year. Thank you Father Christmas.
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I’ve baked my first loaf of Artisan bread in my new cooker. I started to use silicon coated baking paper last Autumn because you can place it gently down into the heated pyrex while safely holding the strips of paper. I adjust the oven temp down to 220 oc from the recipe’s 230 oc to comply with the paper’s instructions, but this oven has a much better seal and there is a huge gust of steam as you open the door. I’d quite forgotten ovens do this and have had a hot facial a few times. The problem is this time the paper became melded to the bottom of the loaf. It might have been a wetter dough than usual, or the new oven. While I’m not fussy I don’t like the chewy texture of silicon. (Yes, I did try it.) So I might go back to gently plopping the loaf in sans silicone because it’s a tragedy to have to cut the crust off.
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How’s the third week of 2015 going for you?

At the weekend

It’s been a lovely weekend, the kind where you pack lots and lots in and enjoy it all. The washing machine is whirling around as I type, the carpet needs hovering and dust is floating but it can all wait.
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On Saturday I went to ExCel, at the London Docklands, with a good friend for the Simply Christmas craft show. I haven’t been before and imagined sparkles, tinsel and decorations galore. It all began with a bit of a bang as we entered the space; a woman with a lot of bags was trying the dodge the staff on the way out. A member of staff was shouting that she couldn’t leave until security had been called. Apparently the woman had been caught stealing a few items and had more bags that hadn’t been searched. When my friend bought fat quarters from a few different stalls none gave receipts, so how to prove you’ve paid for items? We decided you’d need to make memorable comments, or talk with a really weird accent, during purchases just to make sure of being remembered.

The sleigh and everything you see above is made from sugar. The Grotto was full of sugary Christmas scenes and smelt absolutely delicious!

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The main focus seemed to be paper crafts and fabric. Black Sheep Wools had a stand and there were a few other small yarny tables, but not many. It’s probably for the best. Most of the show was just plain stalls selling what they might sell at any other time of year. The majority hadn’t decorated at all and there was a distinct lack of any sign of Christmas. We weaved from the beginning, along the stalls in row A, and so on, and by the middle we found a decorated tree and a couple of singers performing seasonal songs. Things seemed to be morphing into Christmas.Then we saw the sugary grotto and the display of Christmas makes above.

I particularly enjoyed watching some art workshops. Two or three fairly large groups of people sat imitating the artists who stood at the front with a fixed camera showing their techniques as they worked. This was shown on a large screen so the participants could listened to explanations and paint or draw along, using watercolours or pastels. They all ended with their own representations of the same picture, it was rather impressive. I wish I could draw!

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Mmmmm chocolate. But I’m not buying any until we go to Brussels on a jaunt to the Christmas market. I’ve never been on the Eurostar train which travels under the English Channel, it’s going to be fun.

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After ExCel we headed to do the really cool thing we’d run out of time for last time; The Fan Museum in Greenwich. Maybe it’s not the most exciting visit, but there is impressive painting and workmanship. If you’re really clever and concentrate you can name all the parts of a fan and explain how they’re made. As you walk inside the rather lovely town house you can imagine the Upstairs, Downstairs lives played out there in the past.

We’re both a little addicted to Groupon, Living Social and Amazon Local deals so anything gets seriously considered; especially if it’s under £5 or £10. This year we’ve done all sorts of outings and activities, as we take it in turns to book the next thing. My friend bought the Fan Museum deal as it was £2 (it’s £2 if you’re a National Trust member anyway, by the way.) The next deal I’ve booked for us is a Charles Dickens London walking tour. We’ve been on the It’s a Ripper and Ghost walking tours this year, and I figure we’ll need the post-Christmas exercise in January.

We then went for a wander in Greenwich park as the light began to fade and wondered where we fancied going next.
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Generally, if in doubt, a pub is always a good choice. I haven’t drank in The Gypsy Moth for ages. It was still light when we arrived and only 11 degrees, so we sat in the garden looking at the twinkling lights as the light fell. There was more, but I’ve run out of photos and it really involved more tube travel, the O2 and dinner. And that, was another good day.

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On Sunday the Mr and I went to Blenheim Palace to see the Christmas decorations and rather speed walked through the rooms as we’d already seen the Ai Weiwei exhibition. I bet the attendants thought the pair of us were philistines, only there to visit the shop.

The stilt walker was hilarious, Someone wondered how he ties his shoes…

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I wouldn’t mind eating Christmas Dinner at the Marlborough’s table.

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And home for a mug of tea and some crochet. I promised myself that when all the ends were all darned I could download and read the new Inside Crochet. Apparently I always say “Next time I’ll darn as I go.”
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And she’s off….!

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I’d planned to finish the zesty raspberry ripple by the end of the month. I was soooo close. Last night I did darn in the rest of the ends, and trebled along both sides. Tonight I’m going to complete the rest of the border, if it’s only a day off that’s not so bad, is it?

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This was taken last night under a lamp, so the colours are rather muted. It’s so soft and warm, I know it’s going to used lots and appreciated. I’ll do a ‘FINISHED’ post with all the yarn details soon.

How was your weekend?

Fashion and Textile Museum: Knitwear, Chanel to Westwood

Yesterday a friend and I went to the latest exhibition at the London Fashion and Textile museum in Bermondsey. I’ve visited a few exhibitions there before (Kaffe Fassett and Bellville Sassoon.) It really is a gem of a place. Originally founded by Zandra Rhodes in 2003, it’s now operated by Newham college.
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Before buying our tickets a few weeks ago I’d Googled to see if there were any discounts. It’s so worth doing this before buying anything online. The results showed an Amazon Local deal several pounds cheaper, with vouchers for two hot drinks at the cafe. While I waited for my friend I used mine, I’m not sure why I chose hot chocolate as it was 21 degrees by mid morning! This is very strange weather for October – though beautiful.

The exhibition brochure begins: ‘Knitting is one of the most fundamental textile techniques, produced from a continuous yarn and simple needles, yet its origins are shrouded in the mists of time. Early examples of knitting dating from Coptic and Egyptian cultures still exist, along with hats, stockings and knitted undergarments from the sixteenth century…”

Most of the examples of knitted and crocheted garments are from a private collection and the exhibition ‘reflects the emotions we invest in objects.’

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I took this with the wacky and wonderful Jill in mind. At the moment she’s busy crocheting rhino horns for beanies. That seems to be one of her typical working days.

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This is an Edwardian wool petticoat from 1907. Can you imagine wearing it under layers of clothing?

To read some blogs there are current designers and makers who write as if they invented ripple and chevron patterns, but in 1907 (and probably long, long before) women were choosing red and black wool and rippling away. It’s quite humbling isn’t it? Nice too, to think we’re just many in a long history of the craft.

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How old is this crochet dress? When would you date it?
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It’s from H&M and was sold in the 1990s. Did it fool you, like it fooled us?
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Items from the 1940s Make Do and Mend era during The Second World War. There are examples of old dresses reworked into new skirts and garments knitted or crochet from many oddments of wool.
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The exhibition is not without faults I’m sorry to say. Some other women we chatted to felt that there was not enough information about how items were made and they regretted not being able to see garments from all angles. Curiously the displays were standing in what looked like giant packing crates. Signage is rather unclear so it takes some time to work out which garment information refers to. I found displays on top of crates really frustrating. They were at least 7′ up in the air and you couldn’t see them clearly. Why?!

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Wonderful fair isle tank tops. As we read the info the four of us all chorused – before we came to it – “And the Prince of Wales was sent one and wore it to see the GOLF and that’s how fair isle became famous.” It’s obviously one of those tidbits that everyone remembers.

There was much more to see and this is just a taster. The exhibition is there until January 18th. Although we experienced some irritations with the display I would still recommend visiting if you can, as the sheer range of items is interesting. I heard many cameras clicking and comments as people recollected similar clothing they, or their Grannies, used to wear!

Afterwards we walked towards the river. Look at all those t-shirt wearing people. In October! In London! ENGLAND! I was one of them, because thank goodness I checked my weather app before I left home.
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Looking across the river we could see that the area around the Tower of London was busy, but it wasn’t until today that I heard of the surge of people who took advantage of half term’s sunny weather to go and see the poppy installation, a memorial for the British and Colonial soldiers who died in the First World War. Apparently Tower Bridge tube station had to close several times during the day. And now visitors are asked to delay going until next week because of the crowds.
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Isn’t Tower Bridge pretty? Spotted the bird?

Next we aimed to walk to Greenwich, along the Thames path as far as we could go, as we had tickets to visit somewhere really cool (not at all) but paused at The Angel, Rotherhithe for some of Samuel Smith’s Yorkshire finest. Sitting on the outside balcony watching the river craft passing, hearing the water lapping below while soaking up the sun turned out to be a very good thing too. When the sun shines like that you make the most of it. And the other thing will have to wait until the end of the month.

Happy November to you.

The Colourful World of Kaffe Fassett – The American Museum, Bath (part 3)

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Even when the stunning Kaffe Fassett exhibition is no longer at The American Museum, Bath, (after 2nd November) it’s really worth visiting. As you see I wasn’t exaggerating when I described the beautiful Wiltshire countryside. What a stunning location.

The museum has a collection of over 250 American quilts. A large proportion are displayed in impressive racks which you can flick through like you used to be able to do in The Poster Shops of the 1980s and 90s, albeit on a huge scale. The last three quilts are hanging at the top of the house and were created by Kaffe Fassett, aren’t they beautiful? There are also his sketches and swatches too, dotted around the main museum building. So if you visit the exhibition don’t pass the main house by; it’s full of interesting American folk and decorative arts, as well as furniture and original interiors bought by the museum’s founders before demolition in the States.

I bought a few treats from the shop too. Some edible (naughty naughty Reeces which I grew up eating courtesy of American rellies and friends, and some of those OTT flavoured Snyder’s of Hanover honey mustard pretzel pieces – love ’em), a sweet patchwork log cabin patterned tin and a few cards which will be posted to friends in the future. The shop is always a really fun last thing to do on a special day out isn’t it?

 

The Colourful World of Kaffe Fassett – The American Museum, Bath (part 2)

 

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The pics above and below is the flooring of the green room, very cleverly, and expensively according to one of the curators, created for the exhibition.

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20140410-160156.jpgOh dear you can really tell that this was a windowless room, despite my clicking the ‘enhance’ photo button. But isn’t this a stunning display? After leaving this part of the exhibition I really felt as if I had spent time in a garden. There seems to be something incredibly refreshing about being surrounded so many shades of green. It’s strange but I’ve never chosen to wear green ever; if you asked me pre-2011 I would always have said it was my least favourite colour. Since I learnt to crochet in 2011 I’ve found myself inexplicably drawn to green. It’s really odd. At times after reading about those who’ve had strokes and discovered they now love eating vegetables that they previously couldn’t bear, I wonder if I’ve experienced a small one which changed my colour perception and tastes. This is not meant to be disrespectful or flippant, I am completely (if oddly) serious.

There is going to have to be a part 3 about the exhibition. I took so many photos. I don’t look back at my blog much at all, it’s very much of the moment and I move on to the next thing, but the two posts I’ve revisited fairly frequently, when I want a jolt of inspiration, are my visit to The Fashion and Textile Museum last June to see Kaffe Fassett: A Life in Colour and last year’s Spring Knitting and Stitching Show.

I’ll leave you with some of my favourite quotes from Kaffe’s publications from a display at the exhibition:

 ‘Working with colour is not an intellectual game. You should see what the heart feels, that way you will stumble across more and more personal excitement in your work.’ Glorious Inspiration (1991)

‘The main thing is to have a go at trying 0ut colours, the wilder the better. None of us designers really know what works until we see it, so sampling becomes wonderfully exciting as you stumble on really unpredictable and interesting colouring.’ Pattern Library (2003)

‘My first lesson about design – when in doubt, try it!’ Glorious Knitting (1985)

‘Since I was such a freak – a six-foot-three Californian man who was knitting – I got a lot of attention from the press.’ Dreaming in Colour (2012)

‘Purple or red cabbages are fabulous objects, with deep, mysterious colours. I once heard of a garden planted with rows of purple cabbages and lined with chunks of black coal – how elegant it must have been!’ Glorious Needlepoint (1987)

The Colourful World of Kaffe Fassett – The American Museum, Bath (part 1)

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I’ve long been an admirer of Kaffe Fassett’s work since the 1980s when Mum introduced me to some of his books. The colour! The tapestry vegetable cushions! The knitting! The handsome man with the cheeky twinkling eyes! (I had rather a crush on KF.) I’d loved visiting his exhibition A Life in Colour last June in London and couldn’t wait to see more.

Well as you can see I had a fantastic visit to The American Museum in Bath yesterday. There’s been such a buzz about the exhibition online and in craft magazines that I just had to go SOON, although it’s on until 2nd November. I loved reading Kaffe’s take on the display. The exhibition’s housed in a separate building from the main museum, which has existed for 50 years in the renovated Claverton Manor. The American Museum is worth visiting simply for the grounds alone. If you want to sit, or walk, in warm Spring sunshine while enjoying a view of verdant rolling hills and stunning English countryside this is the place for you.

While driving to Bath I fleetingly wondered if I should keep my iphone firmly in my bag and simply look, exclaim and take it all in. But, during days out like this, I just think how much you’ll, probably, enjoy seeing such an explosion of colour, design and inspiration. Especially if you’re the other side of the world and unlikely to be able to visit. I experience a very strong urge to share. There are many, many items exhibited and I’ve shared just a selection of my favourites. The last photo is not great (there wasn’t a huge amount of natural light in the building, which you’ve no doubt gathered and flash photography is a no-no) but I’ve put it in as a cheeky hint of amazing things to come. Really. The exhibition was grouped into areas by colour and I’ve saved my favourite until last. I arrived just after noon; only twenty minutes into opening so was lucky enough to see the green room alone for some minutes. Bliss.

More to come tomorrow….

Springtime in London

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Spring has arrived, St James park on Saturday was full of swathes of daffodils and crocuses. Beautiful.

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Beautiful cherry blossom too.

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After a good walk in Green Park, coming across The Changing of the Guard and oohing and aahing over the flowers in St James Park we played the adventure bus game. Our rules are you get on the first bus that comes, pick a number each (we used coins in our pockets; on the count of ‘3-2-1 show!’) combine them and get off the corresponding number of stops later. Have a look around the area, then get on the first bus which comes to the stop nearest to you (try not to inadvertently catch the next across the road from where you arrived as you’re in danger of ending up exactly where you came from. I know this…!) One of the first stops was right outside Borough Market, at lunchtime. What great timing. Mmmmmmm.

Sunday was a day of rugby at Twickenham for some, I went to Spitalfields, East London. The weather was glorious and unseasonably warm at around 19 degrees.

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There’s been a market on the site since 1638 when Spittle Fields was a rural location on the outskirts of London. King Charles I licensed it to sell flesh, fowl and roots. Doesn’t sound too appealing put like that does it but it’s been a thriving marketplace since. It was latterly known for being a wholesale fruit and vegetable market before the business moved to the New Spitalfields market in 1991. Now mostly clothes, accessories and homewares are sold on the original site. The area has been refurbished and there’s many cafes, bars and restaurants where you can still purchase flesh, fowl and roots accompanied by a latte, beer or glass of wine.

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Brick Lane smelt very pungent with all the curry restaurants and food stalls in and around the old Truman Brewery. People browsed rails of goods and buskers, street artists and gamers lined the edges of the lane. The chess player was playing 2 games with space for another, rolling from side to side on his chair.

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I’ve seen this busker before, he’s really good and always attracts a crowd.

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The street art around the area is wonderful. Here’s a link to an excellent blog about Spitalfields which features information about and work of Roa, the street artist.
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Eleven Spitalfields have an interesting exhibition showing the photographs of C.A Mathew, who took a series of pictures around the area one Saturday in 1912. If you can pop in then I recommend you visit before it finishes on 27th April.

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I had a mooch around the Petticoat Lane market and then a wander around the square mile, which is the original financial district of the City of London, admiring the old and the new.

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Apparently England beat Wales in the rugby, I began a new crochet make and everyone was happy. All in all it was a very good weekend.

Did you have a good one? I hope the sun was shining for you too.

The Glamour of Bellville Sassoon

On Saturday we went to the Fashion and Textile Museum, in Bermondsey, London (where I saw the Kaffe Fassett exhibition several months ago.) I’d seen an advert for a Bermondsey Street Fashion Heritage Walk with local Historian Stephen Humphrey – free when you purchased a ticket to the Bellville Sassoon exhibition.

Belinda Bellville founded the company in 1953 and joined forces with with designer David Sassoon in 1958, creating the Bellville Sassoon brand. Bellville Sassoon has existed for over 50 years, dressing all of the female Royals apart from the Queen. Lorcan Mullany joined the company in 1987 and now designs patterns for Vogue Butterick.

The exhibition was full of stunning gowns, as you will see. Some more of their time, others classic truly beautiful pieces. The smaller exhibition space did not allow the taking of photographs probably because there are a few of the many outfits the label created for Diana, Princess of Wales, displayed. There are also notes Diana wrote to accompany sketches sent by the designers, and several montages of Royals wearing the label’s clothes.

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20131118-092658.jpgMany of the dresses were lent to the exhibition by their owners. The beauty above was worn (see photo behind) by Dame Shakira Caine. Former Newsreader Angela Rippon’s sparkly dress from 1999 is displayed (though not shown here) it’s a teeny tiny size, and very lovely.

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20131118-092730.jpgThe museum with the blue sky above reminded me of being in Barcelona! The sun shone for most of the 1.5hr tour. We walked around the local area looking at the features of former warehouses – some not just flats now, but always, always luxury flats as Stephen highlighted – and learnt about the former sites of the leather industry. Stephen Humphrey is a walking encyclopaedia of names, places, dates and fascinating stories about the industry, people and buildings from centuries past. It was absolutely fascinating, if you can book yourself onto a tour do not delay!

If you fancy a wander around the Bermondsey area one day go to the museum, then go and see how many streets you can spot with related names, here are a few to start you off: Lamb Walk, Tanner Street, Leathermarket Street and Gardens, not to mention the related pub names…

As we walked around I counted at least 5 men carrying lovely bunches of flowers. I thought there must be a romantic breeze in the air, somebody else thought a lot of morning after apologies might be required. Flowers? Nice but I was more than happy to be given a surprise present – a super magnet from the FTM shop for those moments when my pins jump all over the floor.

And that, as Little Pete used to say, was “another good day”.

Kaffe Fassett: A Life in Colour

Natasja of crochetime and I met yesterday at The Fashion and Textile Museum in South London to ogle Kaffe’s designs and use of colour. I used to be a huge fan of his tapestry (aka needlepoint) and have owned a copy of Glorious Needlepoint for a long time. Mum reminded me, over Sunday lunch, that she has several of Kaffe’s knitting books and heard him talk in the early 1990s.

It was great to see my favourite tapestry designs in 3D, especially the vegetable cushions. Radish anyone? Or perhaps you’d prefer a beetroot?

I know that many of you are not near London, or even in the UK (if you are then the exhibition is on till 29th June) and so here is a good selection of what I loved. If you like tapestry you’ll probably be swooning along with me.

Click on any image to view a larger version.

“Colour themes that run throughout his textile work include the historical hues from early-medieval and Renaissance decorative arts, traditional pairings of blue and white, and the rich inspiration of China, India and international travel. In 1992 Fassett visited India as part of a charity delegation to explore what handicraft might be produced there to sell in Britain to raise money. The experience was profound and sparked a shift in his use of colour.

‘India proved to me that colour is a vital ingredient in life.'”