This week has been all about learning new skills, in the spirit of my New Year’s revolutions: an online course in pattern cutting on Sunday, with Monisola Omotoso of Pattern Cutting Deconstructed, and two in-person courses on Visible Mending with Hannah Porter of Restoration London. All of them were part of the V&A Academy offer.
Pattern cutting was a completely new skill for me, as usually I use ready made patterns from either the ‘Big Four’ pattern companies or smaller indie designers. I didn’t know what pattern cutting was or how it translated to the bits of paper I apply to fabric and cut out, so the theoretical aspects were interesting, and it also introduced me to a new fabric called aso oke, a hand woven West African material used to make gorgeous traditional wraps and robes.
Starting with a look at Moni’s own career working within the fashion industry and as a freelance cutter at companies like Alexander McQueen, the course took us through how draping in 3D translates to 2D paper patterns, how aso oke is being used on the catwalk today, before taking us through the process of creating a pattern for a top using our own measurements. Aso oke is woven in fairly narrow strips, so you work within the width of these, although the pattern could then be used with any fabric. It also comes ready hemmed, so you don’t have to finish your garment in the same way as you would a ‘by-the-metre’ fabric. I bought my fabric at Metro Textiles.
As the garment is symmetrical, you only create half a pattern which you then cut on the fold of the fabric. Moni took us through the process of pattern marking (darts, notches etc), and even managed to do a bit of on-screen sewing using the paper pattern which was apparently a first for the V&A Academy! I’d highly recommend one of these courses – short tasters, which at £15 for 90 minutes is very good value.
The second two courses – Visible Mending – were in person at the V&A yesterday, which meant I got out of the house and spent a lovely day being peacefully crafty. There were only 16 people on each course, so Hannah was able to give one-to-one help where necessary, and all materials were provided along with tea, coffee and biscuits. At £35 per course this is very reasonable.
The first 90-minute course was on Sashiko stitching. I had done this course online previously, and enjoyed the opportunity to learn how to do it in person with proper materials as opposed to those I scrounged out of the shed (it says something about me that I had all the things I needed in the shed, but let’s not go there). The course covered sashiko – beautiful Japanese traditional stitching patterns – alongside satin stitch patching and boro. Sashiko means ‘little stabs’, we were told, and refers to the running stitches used to create the designs. Satin stitch is a dense coverage stitch which is used to fix patches behind holes as well as for decorative embroidery, while boro means ‘ragged’ or ‘tattered’ and refers to layering fabric patches to add warmth and strength to garments as well as for repair. Old garments would traditionally be used to create the rags when they were beyond repair, giving them further useful life. You can see my attempts below!
The second Visible Mending course was on darning, which I haven’t tried before but which is a handy skill to have if you’re going to make your own socks. Again, we were taught three techniques over the session with varying degrees of success! Materials provided included various coloured yarn, knitted samples to practice on and a square of stockinette stitch fabric.
Swiss darning was first up – also known as ‘duplicate stitch’, it can be used to add surface details to knitted pieces as well as to mend and reinforce knitted fabrics. Once I’d got the hang of it it wasn’t too tricky, but my first attempts kept going off the straight line of base knit and off on tangents.
We also tried woven darns, creating a warp and weft from yarn to cover and reinforce the holes we’d cut in the perfectly good squares. Mine were messy but did the trick which I suppose is the point! The houndstooth darn with tassels was a proper dog’s dinner, and I don’t think I’m quite ready to wear my darns with pride, but at least I can fix my socks….
Other things making me happy this week:
- Two days with the wonderful DT classes at Ursuline Academy, retesting our ‘Design Can’ sessions and the ‘If the Shoe Fits’ session
- A day at St Andrew’s primary in North Weald, working with the asylum seeking families currently staying in the village – so much fun and creativity
- Walking therapy with Miriam putting my head back together
- The Ninja Foodi thing. It’s my new best friend.
- Finishing my dragon scale socks (then realising a) they were two different sizes and b) neither of them fitted me so I have frogged both of them back to before the heel to redo them)
Now I have to go for a training walk! Same time next week…
What I’ve been reading:
Small Favour/White Knight – Jim Butcher
The Fifth Elephant/Snuff – Terry Pratchett (Audible)