Friday, July 26, 2013

July Podcast V&A Fashion Gallery Tour (In the Moment) - London Victoria and Albert Museum- California Sewist seeks inspiration at the V&A

A modern Alexander McQueen dress
I nearly missed that duck feather tail!
Towards the end of Part 2

Come along and tour the Victoria and Albert Fashion Gallery with me- the two-part July 2013 "Enchanted By Sewing" Podcast is available in the pod-o-sphere!

California Sewist seeks inspiration at the Victoria and Albert

In the June Enchanted by Swing podcast I shared some of my favorite sewist sights in London: Tana Lawn fabric at Liberty, street fashion and a trip to a special exhibit at Buckingham Palace.

In July, before the show returns to a California August sewing scene,  I take you along with me on a tour of the Victoria and Albert fashion gallery. It's just like we're walking the floor together looking at all the details dear to a sewists heart.
And yes - we do take a tea break too ;-)
 Did you see that cuff? How did they make those roses? What is giving that bodice it's structure? 

Yes, the sights and sounds (even some of my camera clicks) of the gallery are all there. It's an in-the-moment show.

Co-Published with Enchanted by Sewing Podcast Show Notes at

Two Ways to Listen
i) Listen Right on the Web

You can listen to the show right on the web by clicking on the following links
Part 1
From Miss Heather Firbank's
I chat about her clothes in the noisiest part of the
tour, towards the end of Part 1

ii) Download the show to your mobile device (iPhone, Android, etc.)

 Or, download this podcast free from iTunes, to play on your favorite mobile device/mp3 player (like an iPhone or an Android), by clicking on this link to iTunes. (note it's a two part podcast)

Important Note. This is a two-part podcastYes, technical difficulties are tedious:-( You'll want to make sure you download them both.
Did I miss any links? If so, please post here and let me know, or else email me at,  EnchantedBySewing AT gmail

~~~ Show Notes Links ~~~

The Victoria and Albert Museum (V&A)
Visiting London? This wonderful museum is free to visit. It's just across the block from two other free to visit museums I never miss. The Natural History Museum (gorgeous architecture and ornamentation) and the Science Museum.

Hard to decide which was my favorite
post-War retro look
In the second part of the cast, you'll
hear me chatting away with a local
mother and daughter about this dress,
and other fifties styles,
and accompanying undergarment
Search the V&A Collections (yes - it's free from your own home, or when you're abroad. If you have an iPad or similar mobile device with you on a trip, you may enjoy searching on site using the in-museum wifi.

Looking for a quintessential pot of tea and a scone, or slice of British cake? Don't miss the Cafe at the Victoria and Albert Museum. (And since museum admission is free, you could pop in any day for refreshment alone!) Wander through all the rooms, because you won't want to miss any of the decor, and find a spot in the Morris, Gamble or Poynter Rooms - Go ahead and ask people with a spare chair (it's a popular place, you're not likely to find a table to yourself)  if you can join their table, many people just plunk themselves down and don't even ask - but we visitors should! You may even end up having a lovely chat with locals or people visiting from other lands, if you and your table mates are so inclined.

Here are some conversational gambits I've used - if the people look like they might want to chat -

* May I ask what the beautiful language you are speaking is?
* I just love those blue and white Arts and Crafts tiles! I wish I could have just one to hang on my own wall/Don't I just wish I had a whole room tiled like this!
* These scones are so much tastier than what I had at Starbucks yesterday!
* This is the perfect break from looking at all those beautiful things in the museum. If this continues into chat I can then ask -
    * What are your favorite galleries?
     * Oh you come often? What would you suggest I not miss? What other museums and places would you not miss in London if you were me?
* If you and the other person have children with you, you might ask about parks and other areas and attractions where their children like to play

Edwardian styles and the modern woman of the 30's jersey bathing suit, reminded me of Agatha Christie's Autobiography. A wonderful read! Dame Agatha makes many references to clothing, style and culture from the Edwardian Era of her childhood as well as the major changes in fashion and women's lives after WWI. There's also wonderful detail for the traveller, as she describes her own trip on the Orient Express and wanderings in exotic lands to the area where she met her second husband, Max Mallowan, on an archeological dig at Ur (I always stop in at the Ur exhibit at the British Museum in London and wonder if one of the pots on display is one that Agatha helped to reconstruct, as she often did.)

Heather Firbank's clothing, especially her Gibson Girl blouse and beautiful linen suit, reminded me of the movie "Room with a View". That's a favorite movie of mine. Helena Bonham Carter, as Lucy Honeychurch, is such an enchanting and funny ingenue. I often wonder if she and Maggie Smith chatted over old times in this Merchant Ivory film when they worked together again in the Harry Potter films.

Coco Channel's Pantsuit  evoked images of the movie "Witness for the Prosecution"  with Marlene Dietrich and Tyrone Powers. This movie is based on a popular Agatha Christie play. It's very dramatic and has, for many people, a quite surprising conclusion - as do other of Dame Agatha's plays, like the Mousetrap - I'll never give that ending away either! The Mousetrap, as you may know, is the longest running show of any kind and is still a kick to go and see on a visit to London.

Mrs. Minniver and Mrs. Tim Christie
would have carried their gas masks too, when they
went to the market in their tailored-to-fit
tweed suits during the war
(WWII that is)
But they wouldn't have made the mistake
this designer did, since regulations
required no more than three buttons on
the jacket.
The "Tailored to Fit" - World War II and post war clothing-rationing section of the gallery, reminds me of one of my favorite movies, "Mrs. Minniver" with that wonderful perfect model of a well brought up English woman, Greer Garson

D.E. Stevenson's set of four "Mrs. Tim Christie" novels harken back to a time in England when a gas mask was a fashion accessory you might not be able to live without.

A link to the Balenciaga exhibit I saw at the DeYoung in San Francisco. Books for exhibits like this can often be found at discounted prices once the show finishes touring the country. Abe Books is a great source for used books.

Designer Alexander McQueen (see the duck-tailed dress, the first photo in this posting) has some stunning garments in the last, and most modern, section of the fashion gallery. This wonderful designer passed away in 2010.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

We got Dragons!

Click on the illustration above
To enjoy the true beauty of this California dragon

Walking in the park
Today I met a dragon

Monday, July 15, 2013

The Sewing Zone - Carving out Room for Sewing

I used to dream over those photos in sewing and craft magazines where the happy sewist has a lovely room dedicated to the enchanting pursuit of sewing. 

She (yeah, I know you sewing fellas are out there - but in this case "she" is an imaginary me) has racks on the wall full of neatly arranged spools of thread, full length mirrors on either side of the room, shelves and cabinets stocked with neatly organized and folded fabrics, interfacing and lining, file drawers stocked with patterns that look like they did the day she brought them home from Fabulous Fabrics and two permanently situated dress forms in some idealized size, onto which her patterns fit without the need for any kind of adjustments. Naturally her sewing machine occupies the place of honor, right next to a huge perfect-height cutting out counter.

Now let's get real. I live in a small two-bedroom house with two other people, a pooch and a marvelous marmalade cat. We do other things here besides sewing, including cooking, eating, watching movies, reading newspapers, magazines and books, and gardening. Out here in California many folks have smaller houses and most of us don't have basements or the kind of attic you can walk in (we can slide a few things along under the eves by standing on a ladder, but that's not where I want to cache my sewing inventory - though I have done it!). There is no hardly-used room or covered space that I can discover. Our garage does not house our cars, but it does serve to store bikes, tools,  and numerous metal racks that hold products from the big box store and other household necessities.

There's no little-used room or commodious closet (our bedroom closets were built in the late 30's when, apparently, people were happy to be able to hang up 5 or 6 garments and call that their wardrobe) that I can claim as a sewing room. But over time I have carved out what I call my sewing zones. There are two sewing machines setup on different parts of our family room, and I'm happy I can keep them setup all the time. My sewing zones also includes room in some cupboards and on shelves in that same room. I share those storage areas with other members of the household. In a pinch, I've been known to hang fabric folded over a hanger in the front hall closet, or one of our tightly packed 1939 closets. And, yes, I do have a few stacks of plastic bins on the big box shelves in the garage, that hold another portion of my fabric inventory. My duct tape dress form, Helen, lives out there in a plastic bag as well. My new dress form, Colette, (I'm making her in a class at summer school) will live there as well, when she's not in use.

When I need to do some cutting out I clear off somebody else's work or study project from the family room or dining room table, get my project done and then shift their stuff back. When my daughter was younger I used her twin bed with one of those grided accordion folded up cardboard things you buy at the fabric store. I have to keep my ironing board put away when I'm not actually using it, so that people can get out the back door.

My sewing zones are kind of fluid. If we have a party, I may need to carry my machines out to the garage (don't open the door and try to walk, please!), and when my daughter graduated and moved back home (good fortune on the post-college job hunt Darling) I cleaned out the whole front hall closet for her and managed to stuff the fabric inventory I kept there into another corner of the antique wardrobe that compensates for our lack of closet space.

I don't fret about moving things around. I don't mind if you want to watch "Myth Busters" while I sew, in fact I kind of like it. I often put on an old movie in the background for company when I'm sewing on my own anyway. When I do my hand sewing I watch t.v. with my family, or curl up with it in my bedroom, or take it out in the living room to hang out with others while they read or play a game. Because sewing can be a pretty social activity, and I don't need to be isolated to have a lot of fun doing it. I'm very happy for you if you are able to dedicate an entire room to sewing, but I'm not envious. 

Don't get me wrong, I wouldn't turn down a present of a special just-for-me room if the great goddess of sewing suddenly showed up on my stoop and handed me the golden key to an invisible door I'd never seen before. (Yes, that does sound like a children's novel waiting to be written, doesn't it?) However, no matter how limited my space, you're always going to find that I'm still.... enchanted by sewing.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Neighborhood Life on the Fourth

It's still the glorious Fourth in my neighborhood.

We start out singing a patriotic song (only a couple of us knew the words to "God Bless America"), then we pledged to the flag, followed by a loop-around the block parade on bike, skateboard or foot. Then there's food (we all brought something), and games for the kids.

All the friendly dogs came.

Mine stayed home - she's not unfriendly, just poorly sighted so she doesn't know what's going on around her, and that scares her. I took her out on her familiar route when the party was over.

What's do you do on July 4'th where you live?

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

SLO Travel Tips, San Luis Obispo

If you'll be visiting California this year, I highly recommend stopping off in San Luis Obispo (SLO) for a hike, meal and a nights rest. It's a great halfway spot if you're driving between Los Angeles and San Francisco and want to take some slow time to enjoy coastal and agricultural views. In addition to the lovely beaches just south of SLO, you can hike some of the different volcanic peaks right on the edge of town. The entrance is just off the 101 freeway. Ancient volcanic cones, like Mount Madonna and Bishop's Peak, are highly hikable destinations.

When I visited one spring weekend, the wildflowers were in full bloom and the weather was quite warm but not overly hot. Coastal breezes and fog keep the area pretty darn nice.

After our hike we went to taste wines and picnic at nearby Kelsey See Canyon Winery. It's a gorgeous setting, nestled in a lovely green valley. There are peacocks and tons of friendly dogs (local dogs and dogs who travel with their people)

There are lots of good restaurants in downtown SLO,just walk down Monterey or Higuera and take your pick (Natural Cafe is an easy good salad kind of place, Firestone has good pizza, and Big Sky Cafe is renowned for excellent food - salads, local meats, vegan and vegetarian ) also small local wine tasting shops and artisinal beer.

The local Farmer's Market is much more than a row of casual produce stalls. Folks drive from two or three hours distance to take in this happening weekly event.

Avoid just stopping off in SLO during high college times. Local state university Cal Poly Graduation is late June, and other significant college sporting and college spirit events can affect availability. The rest of the times you'll generally find lots of motels and hotels. Petit Soleil is a nice small B&B, within walking distance of downtown. It's just next door to fun little Splash Cafe, with easy meals and very tasty breads (you can buy those to go too). There are also more budget oriented motels in the same stretch. My husband is partial to "La Cuesta" which includes breakfast. Across the street, a little more expensive but fun, is Apple Farm Inn. It's a kitschy 70's kind of place. I'm partial to the very chintzy furniture, big soft beds and switch on fireplaces there, but if you don't like Disneyland it might not be your thing!

The stretch of Monterey where you find the motels, as you're walking downtown, and before you cross under the railroad trestle also has lots of fun little antique stores.

Many people stay in SLO before or after a trip to Hearst Castle. I've been to the castle, enjoyed it once, but I wouldn't probably go again. I like historic buildings but this one is a little overwhelming. Still, if you have time you might enjoy it a lot.