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Archive for the ‘Weaving’ Category

2013-12-05 17.46.45

Dawson Street bespoke Jacket – and it has a matching skirt!

Inspired by two recent thrifting vintage finds – both of them tweed. The first is a bespoke (made from scratch) lady’s tweed suit maybe from the 50’s or 60’s made in Ireland by a shop on Dawson street which is no longer in existence. Some lovely West Van matron surely must have had it custom made for her on a visit to the ‘auld country.

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Detail – Irish Cottage Industries, 18, Dawson Street Ltd. Notice the flecks of red and green in this stunning twill tweed.

The second is a man’s British Austin Reed ‘Cue’ tailored jacket made with the classic Scottish Outer Hebrides Harris Tweed fabric.  I think this jacket is also from the 70’s or thereabouts although it’s not bespoke. The man’s jacket is very heavy weight fabric with pretty square shoulders – I imagine a rugged young man sporting it as he climbed up a mountain in a sturdy pair of shoes! No MEC gortex or fleece to be found. The jacket is mine now and with some strategic re-seaming and additional darts – I turned it into a lady’s beach walking jacket.

Deconstructed Austin Reed Jacket ...Reconstructed into a lady's beach walking Jacket

Deconstructed Austin Reed Jacket …reconstructed into a lady’s beach walking Jacket. I’m the lady. Oops, forgot to take a ‘before’ shot – suffix to say I removed almost a 2-inch width of fabric from the shoulders (and removed the shoulder pads).

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Detail – Pristine leather button – no signs of wear at all. See the gorgeous colours involved with the tweed?

The fabric (100% wool woven in a ’twill’ diagonal weave) and design is completely classic although I couldn’t find exact design references that matched them online. The Harris Tweed Authority doesn’t actually publish the trade mark numbers online… mine is No. 319214 which I think is one of their more popular twills.

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Harris Tweed ‘Orb’ label. Check out the Harris Tweed Authority – so so interesting http://www.harristweed.org/harris-tweed/love-harris-tweed.php

It would be hard to place both jacket’s exact provenance without time consuming research – suffice to say I was thrilled to find them as both garments are in pristine condition. The top button on the man’s jacket was actually hard to insert into the button hole which indicates it was rarely worn. A wonderful feature of tweed – is that both fabrics come across as neutral at first glance but the closer you look reveals the myriad of colours that are incorporated into the fabric, blues, greens, yellows, grays, etc. So subtle and elegant.

sheep-shearing-harris-tweed

Sheep Shearing for Harris Tweed

The fabric in the man’s jacket is made up of wool that is firstly dyed and spun in a island mill and every yard is handwoven in the home of a Harris Tweed weaver. I would expect the Irish tweed has a similar pedigree. The lady’s jacket has beautiful tortoiseshell buttons and the Harris Tweed man’s jacket has leather woven buttons.

2013-12-04 18.05.04It’s so appropriate that I happened upon both these treasures at the thrift store just as I’m reading an interesting book “The Coat Route’ (Meg Lukens Noonan) which is about bespoke tailoring and ‘slow’ clothing. I had to deconstruct both of my finds and tailor them to my measurements. I used tools originally from my mother’s stash… the Savile Row measuring tape, and her tailor’s chalk.

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Wow, the inside of the lady’s jacket and skirt showed the incredible workmanship that goes into bespoke construction. All the classic techniques were in evidence… wide generous seaming (for potential alterations if ‘yer measurements expanded), beautiful interfacing and underlining and hand sewing on some of the seaming. The man’s jacket even had horsehair interfacing! I managed to get away with only partial deconstruction by undoing the lining only at the bottom of the jackets and at the shoulder seams. Still, it was a lot of work as I had to recut the shoulders and reset the sleeves on both jackets to make them much smaller – but because the fabric is of such high quality the alterations worked out beautifully. I also narrowed the sleeves on both jackets to give proportion and balance.

2013-12-05 17.41.03Wearing the tweed is fabulous – especially in this December cold weather. I feel like I’m right out of Downton Abbey. I definitely prefer the style and function of tweed over our West Coast gortex and fleece.  The design will never go out of style… gets better with age… is ecologically sound because it’s biodegradable, VOC absorbent, non-allergenic, energy efficient manufactured…in other words it’s a fabric for the 21st century.  There is nothing like wearing a garment of this quality – I feel like a million bucks in both of them! My dear mother would be proud of my finds and my commitment to bespoke alterations.

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I was privileged to experience the slow art of tapestry with a wonderful instructor (Anthea Mallison) when I studied textile art at Capilano University. Although I was never really any good at it in the short span of time we had with our projects – it was a great experience to understand the art of hand weaving. I feel like if I wove using this technique for years and years (which is how long it takes to complete a large hand woven tapestry) perhaps I would improve my skills – not that I’m going to do that!. I believe I will stick to my somewhat automated Louet floor loom.

The Unicorn - detail - like a painting

Detail – The Unicorn’s hoof

On a recent trip to New York City I was privileged to see the beautiful Unicorn tapestries that are hanging in the The Cloisters in New York City – part of The Met museum. It was quite something to see this series of 7 hangings showing the plight of the Unicorn in this incredible medieval setting.

The Unicorn tapestries - wee rabbit detail

Detail – this little guy is an iconic motif used on the Met’s marketing materials for The Cloisters! No wonder – he is wonderful.

The Unicorn - silver wrapped yarn in collar - to see is to appreciate

Detail – the collar features the silver and gilt wrapped yarn and is so lovely and sparkly.

the Unicorn Taps - Gorgeous sleeve

Detail – gorgeous sleeve showing the visual folds made possible by the skill of the weaver

I just learned that the Unicorn tapestries are being re-created and starting in October are on show at Stirling Castle in the U.K. This link gives all the details and has some great information about the beauty and techniques involved with the slow art of tapestry:

The Slow slow art of Tapestries – check out the wonderful video at the bottom of the link where one of the tapestry weavers is interviewed. The weaver talks about her experience and some of the techniques used to create this art. Hope to be able to see these modern interpretations of The Unicorn one day.

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BBC News – Spider silk spun into violin strings. – Click on this link to a most interesting article. Although it is not made from spider silk, I wove a scarf out of tencel and silk called ‘Winter Web’ that was completely inspired by the frosty spider webs that I saw in our neighbourhood. Here is a picture – I put pale blue crystals on the fringe to contrast with the natural creams of the fibres and the wee webs of disruption in the fabric done by hand manipulated Leno technique.

Winter Web, tencel and silk, Swarovski crystals, 2012, 11″ x 120″, plain and hand manipulated leno weave.

Winter Web – Detail

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