I managed to see another inspirational exhibition in Helsinki. My flatmate and I were visiting our Finish friend and I read that we were just in time to catch the Grayson Perry show at the Kiasma gallery. I went to see his exhibition when I was in Bristol for a conference less than a year ago but was still keen to see more.
Folk Wisdom contained some different pieces to the last Perry exhibition I visited. Again, I was impressed by how prolific he is as an artist and how he brings methods that might be traditionally regarded as craft into the realm of high art.
I love Perry as a cultural commentator. The image below is just part of one of his huge tapestries, itself part of a series. However, it really captures an issue that comes up a lot in my work as a psychologist.
I’ve been noticing how artists that inspire me have included my current interests in their work. For example, the textiles on show at the Frida Kahlo exhibition I visited. Similarly, I was taken by the garments Perry had made.
I have been getting more interested in beading since doing some work on the vintage jacket I picked up. I’m hoping to do an embroidery and/or beading class at the Royal School of Needlework soon. I noticed that part of one of Perry’s tapestries was beaded.
While in Helsinki we were staying near an adorable LYS called Snurre. Of course I coudn’t resist possing in and my flatmate was very patient while I looked at every single skein in the shop. I had hoped to get yarn that was linked to Finland in some way but they were a little low on stock. I ended up getting this, which I plan to use for some new fingerless gloves/mittens to match my planned Kelly anorak, if I ever get around to making it. I impulse-bought the buttons, which are made from coconut husk and would be perfect for a cardigan.
I also picked up this hemp yarn at the local craft store in my friend’s hometown. I’m planning to use it to make some plastic-free kitchen scourers.
Finally, we managed a visit to the national craft museum in Jyvaskyla. I highly recommend it. It’s got lots of interactive exhibits, which are always a plus for me. I resent not being allowed to touch stuff in museums. I tried my hand at the loom pictured and I’m even more sure that I want to have a proper go at weaving.
A few weeks ago I went to the Frida Kahlo exhibition that is currently on at the V&A. Titled Making Herself Up, it displays a lot of her personal artefacts. I believe that her husband’s will requested that Kahlo’s bathroom remain sealed for a number of years after both of their deaths. The exhibition explores how she created and curated her image as well as how she presented herself in her artwork.
I thought I knew quite a lot about Kahlo before attending the exhibition. Looking back, I’m not sure why I was under that impression. I never really studied her when I was doing art at school. I was going through a phase of antifeminism at the time and for some reason picked Roy Lichtenstein as the artist I studied for my GCSE art project. Many a regret was had.
Anyway, it was really interesting to learn about her life and how it influenced her as an artist. In particular, I had no idea that she was disabled.
One of my favourite parts was seeing the display of her clothing. Her personal style evolved quite a lot over the years and she seemed to be very mindful of her image. I liked the way that she wore traditional Mexican clothing.
Many of the pieces were embellished with beautiful embroidery or beading, which must have been done by hand. It was also interesting to think about how Frida’s dress enabled her to present herself in the way she wanted in spite of her health and physical challenges.
I felt quite an affinity with Frida through the exhibition, in particular a love of colour and being inspired by flowers and animals. I had chosen an outfit especially to wear to the exhibition. Sometimes I curate my image very carefully, but there are also days where I don’t bother. I generally don’t think that I dress in a notable way until I see a picture of myself in a group and realise that I am wearing every colour of the rainbow while everyone else is monochrome!
I tried to get a selfie with the Frida earrings I couldn’t resist buying from the gift shop. I discovered that, even with a machine designed to take self-portraits in my pocket, I’m not very good at it!
One of my favourite purchases from Wilderness was this vintage jacket. I had been very tempted by a mass-produced capelet covered in holographic sequins. Relatively cheap at £25 or so, they were extremely popular at the festival. I held off, aware that such an item would only be useful for fancy dress and very much against my pledge to buy more mindfully this year. When browsing other stalls, I spotted this beaded jacket in one of the vintage tents.
Although it’s not my usual style at all, it really caught my eye. I tried it on and it fit perfectly. It had a lovely drape and weight to it. Another tempting factor was this.
The jacket has no labels in it and I have absolutely no clue about how much vintage beaded items normally cost. Still, the fact that it was reduced piqued the interest of my inner miser. The label also indicated that the jacket had been sent by Goldsmith Vintage (which funnily enough is quite near my work). The little shops around the Portobello area normally have good-quality items.
Anyway, I couldn’t resist and bought the jacket. Out in the Oxfordshire countryside the evenings were much cooler than they have been during the heatwave in London. I wore the jacket every night and it was surprisingly warm.
On my return to London, I had a bit more time to inspect the jacket properly. Being a maker helps one to appreciate fantastic workmanship (or, more likely, workwomanship). The jacket really is exquisitely made and finished. I’m sure the beading must have been done by hand, which would have been an incredible amount of labour. There were quite a few broken threads and I have a feeling that I lost some beads over the course of the weekend.
I looked up a few articles on repairing vintage beading. I couldn’t find much, though this blog post was quite helpful. Since I don’t have any beading stuff, I decided that I would just do what I could to prevent any more beads from getting lost. I inspected the jacket for broken threads. When I found them, I treated them like ends that need to be woven in on a piece of knitting. I knotted the threads underneath sequins and then hid the ends between the jacket and lining.
Of course, I don’t really know if this was exactly the right thing to do but I hope my instinct will help to keep this jacket wearable for a bit longer.
It was a learning process to figure out how to remove the threads without losing more beads, so I had a few sparkly casualties. I’m going to hang onto these beads and sequins since I might try and fill in some of the bare areas at a later time. Reading the article I linked really did get me interested in vintage beading and it might be something I start looking out for when I’m in secondhand shops.
I just love the subtle beading on the back. It reminds me of the night sky.
I spend a good few hours working on the jacket and it’s interesting to have a ‘project’ where the end is almost indistinguishable from the beginning. If it can give this beautiful item a good second life with me, I will consider the time very well-spent indeed.
Last week I went to Wilderness festival. I have been mostly blissfully ignorant of the rubbish problem when I have attended festivals before. I’m sure I felt a little bothered by the bins full of disposable cups and plates, and the massive piles of perfectly good items that attendees leave behind. But now my eyes are much more open to the problem.
I armed myself with my vacuum flask, water bottle, keep cup, metal straw and cutlery. This was quite a lot of equipment to have with me at all times, but I brought my beloved yellow backpack along largely for the purpose of carrying these items. Aaaaand…. like the best laid plans of mice and men, it went completely out of the window.
I learnt that I actually find it very difficult to make a special request for myself when the infrastructure is not set up to deal with it. All of the plating was set up and I just felt bad asking the vendors to change it so that it would fit in my containers. Wilderness has a lot of ego-massaging placatory messages, such as the dishes being compostable, but of course there is a lot of upstream waste associated with making the disposable items.
Because I am extra af and dangerously addicted to espresso, I took my stovetop coffee maker and milk frother for my morning flat white. So I at least didn’t use any coffee cups during the weekend.
One thing that the zero waste mindset helped me with was with making purchases. Wilderness is a festival where people feel very free to dress outlandishly, which I am very much on board with. This year was one of my first festival experiences where I had some disposable income available. It would have been very easy to spend a lot of money on items that are just not wearable in any other context. I was very much enamoured of this pompom headdress.
In the end, I bought a vintage beaded jacket that was actually very restrained for the festival, but just about straddles the line between jazzy and useful in my real life.
I also bought some little sparkly jewels to wear on my forehead because I couldn’t resist getting a little something.
The festival did allow me to get out some much-loved but seldom-worn items. I wore my rocket Southport dress for just the second time and it was perfect for this event.
I brought the circuit sentiments kit I have had at home for years and used it to fashion my own light-up headdress using a flower crown I bought a few years ago on eBay. The LED kits are the kind of impulse craft purchase that I would like to stop making as much. I used a few of the items to make my Port Charlotte jumper light up when I was pretending it was a Christmas jumper.
I finished my latest summer top in short order after my last post, which meant that I met my target to wear it in Florence.
Fortunately the tight armholes are not too much of a problem.
However, I definitely need a full bust adjustment and possibly a back adjustment too. I see people talking about swayback adjustment quite a bit so maybe that?
For a top made in the wrong type of fabric, I’m fairly satisfied with it. I find the mandarin collar a little constricting around my throat, but I can’t really see myself wearing this buttoned all the way up so that shouldn’t be too much of a problem.
This picture was taken on the way to my first commentary spot at the 2018 quidditch world cup. Calling and analysing the matches was a lot of fun, and it was nice to realise how much my understanding of the game has increased in the past two years.
Pattern: Threadcount 1617 view B size 10
Fabric: 1.5m cotton lawn from Sew Over It
Notions: Around £8
Pattern: £3.22 (second use)
Total cost: Around £27.50
Not long after writing my last blog post, I tried on my Humboldt sweater and realised that I wasn’t happy with how the gradient was looking. When I calculated how long I wanted each section of colour to be, I didn’t know that I had made a mistake when measuring my Port Charlotte sweater and therefore the dimensions were out. Also, the ribbing section is much more navy than turquoise, meaning that the turquoise section looked way too narrow.
The only viable solution was to rip back to where I finished the turquoise part.
This marl is pretty difficult to photograph! When I was looking yesterday, I couldn’t see much of a difference but now I can. I spent quite a bit of time examining the pattern schematic to try and think about the look of the gradient rather than just calculating it and I’m hoping this way will work out nicely. I will also have to think about how to do the sleeves, which will be much longer than the body.
I’ve managed to finish knitting the body and I think the length is looking as I want it. It feels so weird to be deliberately making a jumper too short!
I managed to cast on my first sleeve so that I could work on it on a flight. Despite the current heatwave in London, I’ve been making decent progress.
Now having a bit of a dilemma about how I want the gradient to look on the sleeves! Maybe it’s time for another lifeline…
Pattern: Humboldt by Anna Maltz
When I was planning going support some friends at the Quidditch World Cup in Florence, I thought it would be fun to make some supporters’ stash. One of our friends is famous for sharking (flirting/trying to get people into the sport) so I wanted a shark hat to wear in the crowd. I was going to crochet one until someone pointed out how hot that would be in the Italian summer.
Lots of brands sell shark baseball hats for babies, but finding something similar for adults was a struggle.
I managed to find this hat on eBay. I showed a selfie to a fellow supporter, who asked if I had made it. I do have a history of customising baseball caps. From looking at the hat, I thought that I could make something equally good or better, so I decided that I would make another one for her as a surprise. Within twenty-four hours, I had purchased the materials.
You will need
- Plain baseball cap
- Fabric paint in black and white
- Felt/fabric that matches the baseball cap
- A small amount of stuffing- you can use fabric scraps for this if you don’t want to buy
- I also used some scrap red corduroy for the heart eyes
Choose your design
Because I’ll be wearing this hat to support a cute and loving shark, I thought it would be fun to give her heart eyes. I played around sketching some initial designs.
Decide how you want to apply your design
I bought fabric paint in black, white and red, but then I thought it might be fun to add some mixed media elements. In particular, to either applique or use buttons for the heart eyes. Another advantage of appliqueing the eyes was that they covered the vents in the hat.
Because I knew that corduroy frays, I tested out ways of finishing the edges. I decided to slap on a liberal coat of fray check and then use blanket stitch to apply the patches.
I very roughly sketched some lines on the hat with a pencil. I decided to eyeball most of the painting and I think that was the right decision- the texture of the hat affected my painting and it was easier to adjust on the fly.
I did the teeth first, building up layers of white paint until it was opaque.
I did the black next. I had to use a fine brush for all the parts near the teeth.
Again I did a second coat of black to make sure the paint was even.
Finally, I added the grey section. Once it dried, it looked a bit dark so I added a second coat of grey with more white in it.
Don’t forget to iron your design if you want it to be weather proof. Use a pressing cloth to protect your iron.
Next, I glued on my corduroy heart eyes with fabric adhesive. I then blanket-stitched around. I couldn’t find my embroidery thread so I just used ordinary sewing cotton.
For the fin, I cut out a rough fin shape on the fold.
I then stitched it right sides together and added some stuffing.
Finally, I hand stitched it onto the top of the hat. I tucked the raw edges of the fin under, pressed and then stitched along the pressed line. I was in a rush so I didn’t photograph this step.
And you’re done!
Here you can see the difference between using a snapback (with a flat brim) and a baseball cap (curved brim). For me, it’s a matter of preference.