The details in the fabric*

This is a decorated piece of discarded chewing gum on the Millennium Bridge in central London; it's about 2cm by 2cm and most people walking over the bridge would just glimpse something colourful out of the corner of their eye and carry on walking, admiring the stunning views of the Shard, St Paul's and the river. But I was curious enough to squat down, take a photo, and look at it more closely (causing a little bit of a pedestrian traffic jam – sorry, folks).

It turns out that there are hundreds of these tiny works of art on the bridge. Once your eye tunes into them you realise they are all over the walkway. Aren't they lovely?

They are made by Ben Wilson, popularly known as Chewing Gum Man; you can find out more about his tiny works of art here.

I was on my way to the Fashion and Textile Museum in Bermondsey – a lesser well known gem of a museum, about five minutes' walk from Borough Market, that is well worth a visit if you've not been before. Their current exhibition is Liberty In Fashion, and I was so excited to be going. I have loved Liberty designs since I was a teenager, when I used to buy quarter metres of Ianthe Art Nouveau tana lawn in the red colourway (no longer made it seems), to embellish my denim jackets and jeans. This is still my most favourite Liberty print – in any colour – and I still think it goes beautifully with denim.

The exhibition had dresses, jackets, stoles, scarves, skirts and blouses from the last 140 years – all made from Liberty fabrics, and many of them made by Liberty too. My favourites were the ones from the turn of the 20th Century and the 1930s because the garment construction was as exquisite as the fabrics.

I love the tiny floral prints, and the beautiful smocking, piping and gathering details that make the dresses so glorious.

Tiny things, made with care and attention to detail; I think they're just as enchanting when they're made from old chewing gum as they are when made from silk or lawn.

*I lifted the title of this blog post from the Jason Mraz song of the same name – thank you, Jason Mraz! It's one of my favourite songs – and not just because it has the word 'fabric' in the title.

 

My local area

What do you think of as your local area? In a huge city like London people often consider their local area to be their postcode (which a few years ago was even identified as being linked to gang violence in London, Sheffield and Birmingham). I've lived in Leyton (E10) for the past twenty years, and if someone asks where I am from I always say Leyton. However, I realised recently that what I think of as my local area is anywhere within walking distance; and walking distance for me means Leyton, Leytonstone, the Olympic Park and parts of Walthamstow and Hackney. My 'local area' is a broader term than 'home' it seems.

These past few weeks I've often been too tired to go into town (what I always call central London – is that big city terminology too?) on my days off, so I've stayed in my local area. We don't have the big museums and galleries which I love so much, but there are still excellent cafés, parks, wine bars, gorgeous views, great pubs, restaurants, interesting shops and quirky bits of local history to enjoy.

It's incredibly resorative to sit in a local pub – just a few minutes down the road – with a friend and a pint, and have a catch up for an hour, before walking home to hang out the washing you put on before you left. Spending a few hours out of the house in my local area is an effortless and easy way of unwinding on a day off. Do you love local too?

 

City Stroll Wrap Skirt

In the past couple of days I've made myself a wearable muslin of the City Stroll Wrap Skirt, as a practice run before making a denim version. The fabric I had on my shelf that was closest to denim in weight, was some lilac needlecord – not very me, and not something I was saving for a special project, so I jumped right in and cut it out.

There are many things I love about this pattern. It's such a pretty shape, and it has large roomy pockets. It sits nicely on my waist and hips and doesn't gape open when I walk, or when I sit down (which I was worried it might). The length is just right, and you can add contrast fabric inside the pockets and on the hem facings.

The big downside though, is the waistband. It's an enclosed waistband, which means it sandwiches either side of the top of the skirt. Enclosed waistbands are very bulky and its hard to make them look really neat on a sewing machine. As I've wrestled with enclosed waistbands before, I hand-sewed the inside edge, which was much slower than machining it but does look better.

The skirt is fastened with four buttons across the front of the waistband, and because of the bulk of so many layers of corduroy (and interfacing) in the enclosed waistband, making the buttonholes was a right royal pain in the neck. I switched to a denim needle on my machine, and still struggled to get the buttonholes really neat and accurately placed. I unpicked and re-stitched the last one three times before I was happy with it. Have you ever tried unpicking a buttonhole? It's not the best way to have fun.

With the denim version I want to make next, I'll leave out the interfacing, and adjust the way the waistband is folded and stitched to reduce the bulk. I'll also have some soothing music playing when I make the buttonholes.

 

An autumnal surge in creativity

I was at work on the night the clocks went back – this is my favourite time of year, but an extra long weekend nightshift with an ICU full to capacity and several sick patients elsewhere in the hospital waiting to come in was not the best way to celebrate it. I appreciate my days off all the more now that the unit is busy with the illnesses that come with cooler weather, and there is less daylight. I have a new desire to make the most of every minute.

The other development that has come with a change in the seasons is a desire for more making. My knitting (which always languishes during the summer) has sped up. I've bought some new patterns and some new fabric. I'm debating which hats I want to knit for when winter arrives. I've got measurements to sew my littlest nieces some new skirts, and I'm writing crafty to-do lists.

 

Here's what's energising me at the moment:

  • Johanna Basford's new colouring book. I'm still in the middle of the Enchanted Forest, but looking forward to losing myself in the ocean very much. I may need to treat myself to some new colouring pencils in blue shades.
  • I've never successfully knitted a cowl. All the ones I've made previously have been too short, too prone to rolling up, and just not cosy enough. I am rummaging for a new pattern.
  • I've bought some lightweight denim (£11 a metre from Cloth House) to make the City Stroll Wrap Skirt. I don't think the pattern cover photo is particularly enticing, but the versions I've seen people making on Flickr and Instagram have looked lovely. Plus I wear denim skirts constantly during winter, and fancy a new one in a different style.
  • At Cloth House I also bought some Indian handwoven cotton (inspired by the two visits I've made to the V&A's Fabric of India exhibition) to make a top, tunic, or dress. I am now in the middle of some very pleasant dithering over which pattern to use.
  • Socks! I've got three different pairs on the go, and am thinking I really need to learn the magic loop method so that I can knit two together.
  • These wartime knitting patterns from the V&A. A knitted turban is bizarrely appealing!

 

What are you making at the moment? Do you have any cowl patterns that you would recommend? Do you share my love for denim skirts?