Category Archives: My Reviews: Exhibitions & Films

McQueen – the Film

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A Dressmaker at a Quilt Festival – a fish out of water?!

a dressmaker at a quilt festivalA wonderful contrast of the modern against the traditional. Festival of Quilts 2017 at the NEC.

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Liberty in Fashion at The Fashion and Textile Museum


After hearing and reading lots of great reviews, I visited the Liberty exhibition today with my good friend Helen.

First though, did you know that the museum receives zero funding and is totally self supporting? I didn’t and what an amazing job they do there. They have a brilliant programme of classes and the shop is a superb source of fashion and textile books.

So, what about the exhibition? I must admit to not being very knowledgeable about Liberty before visiting. I held the stereotypical image of Liberty in my mind, you know; dainty floral designs, very girly, maybe a bit of arts & crafts influence. But this exhibition did a wonderful job of expanding my knowledge; it presented the history of the brand alongside extensive examples of the diverse work that has been produced under its name and the numerous and often surprising collaborations Liberty has been involved with.

Here are some of my personal highlights:

imageI ADORE this skirt! This was a 70s collaboration with Collier Campbell and blew my mind that it could be Liberty.

imageBeautiful silk kimonos.

imageWhat used to come to mind when I thought of Liberty.

imageStriking 60s designs that I could easily wear today.

image“Romantic” styles from the 70s.

imageAnd a collaboration with Vivienne Westwood.

The fact that all these photos are my own that I took in the exhibition shows the forward thinking approach the museum has; how often do you visit an exhibition only to be told “no photos”? And I wonder how much social media exposure such exhibitions receive in comparison to those where you can take photos? I certainly wouldn’t be writing this blog post if I couldn’t include these pictures so, thank you and good on you FTM!

What I found at the Knitting and Stitching Show

allypallyviewThe amazing views you get from Alexandra Palace.  The building is a great bit of architecture and the park is beautiful – hard to believe you’re actually in London.

Hard to believe that this time last week I was in the thick of it.  It was a great show, super busy with keen creative types visiting, exhibiting and selling.  I met some really interesting people, talked myself silly, drank lots of tea, got a bit chilly and soaked up some inspiration.  Oh and sold lots of patterns, tools and stencils!

beforeandafterBefore………………and after!

Having a stand on your own at these events is quite a mission which leaves little time for looking around to see what else is there, but I managed to dash around each morning before the show opened and these were my highlights…..some things to inspire and admire, some things you may find useful.

There are always some high quality exhibitions at the Knitting & Stitching shows,Mandy Pattullo’s exhibition blew me away.  I can’t believe I hadn’t come across her work before, it’s stunning.

mandypattullo-websiteImage from Mandy’s website.

She takes old patchwork, quilts and tapestries and re-combines them into art works onto which she adds her own stitch and appliqué.  The resulting pieces have a lovely washed out, subdued colour palette due to the use of old fabrics and I loved them so much I bought one.  Here it is:


Have a look at her website to see more of her fabulous work.  She also teaches…..

Next door but one to my stand was Harriet Riddell with her “In Stitch You” stitched portraits.  Now I think you’d need nerves of steel to do what Harriet does…..basically she was using machine embroidery and appliqué to stitch portraits while people sat for her in her stand at the show with an audience watching!  No way could I do that, so hats off to Harriet.  Have a look at the huge gallery of portraits on her website.

institchyouImage from Harriet’s website of one of her previous on-site portraits!

Now for the knitters amongst you.  Knitting makes me go a bit funny, I’m definitely not a knitter.  I’ll have a dabble at crochet, but knitting I stay away from!  I do like what these knitters are doing though….

woolandthegangImage from Wool and the Gang’s website.

Wool and the Gang (what a genius name for a start!), are making knitting very cool.  They sell yarns, kits and readymades.  Their website looks so slick and modern, I love it and all their readymades are made by hand by a gang of knitters from around the world.  You can even knit for them yourself if you want to earn some extra spends.  Find out how here.  A genius name and a genius idea if you ask me.

Another inspiring exhibition was by Tilleke Schwarz, an artist of whom I’ve been a big fan for a long time.


She does hand embroidered almost graffiti style stitched pieces taking everyday life as inspiration, often resulting in mixtures of poignant thoughts and situations stitched alongside things so mundane they make you laugh.  Have a look at her work on her website which is in the same entertaining style.  A read of the FAQ section of her website will definitely make you smile…..

My stand was next to the very busy Upcycling academy where several organisations were educating visitors about some of the darker sides of the fashion and textile industry and how we can all get involved to try and do something about it.  There was much activity upcycling and customising old clothes, making rosettes, doing giant knitting and making mini protest banners.

craftivistcollectiveImage from Craftivist Collective website.

The Craftivist Collective were one of the organisations keeping people busy.  Their manifesto is “To expose the scandal of global poverty and human rights injustices through the power of craft and public art.”  Have a look at the many many great projects they’ve organised on their website.  I particularly like the mini protest banners.

So, the main activity of the day at these events is shopping, here’s a little round up of some of interesting shops I found on my early morning dashes!

Scissors – if you’re in the market for some new scissors and feel it’s time to upgrade to a quality pair that will last a lifetime have a look at Ernest Wright and Son.  They make a huge range of specialist scissors and they’re still made in Sheffield using traditional skills.  I have my eye on a few pairs.  Maybe one for your Christmas list?!

Sewing machines – I’ve always sung the praises of Bernina machines as being the ultimate machine to aim for.  It seems to me that Juki are now snapping at their heels and just possibly for the serious dressmaker, overtaking them.  Juki are known for making industrial sewing machines and are now putting all that technology and experience into domestic sewing machines.  I have two Juki overlockers and after using most other brands, I wouldn’t have anything else.  Franklins are a well established family run business who know their sewing machines and were at the Knitting Show with the full range of Juki machines.

Fabrics – have a look at Fabrics Galore.  Visitors to my stand were singing their praises.

For a huge range of any thread you could ever want and some quality basic fabrics Empress Mills is a good place to start.

If you can’t find the buttons you want, chances are you’ll find them at The Button Company or Textile Garden along with plenty of other haberdashery!

If embellishment rather than making is your thing, have a look at Thermofax who do mini screen printing.  I’m currently toying with the idea of running a workshop on this technique next year – could be a good solution for adding professional looking prints to your garments without the mess of traditional screen printing.  Also Art Van Go has every kind of dye and fabric paint you could ever need and a very useful techniques section to explain how to use them and which is the best to use for your particular project.

Books – those that know me or regularly read this blog will know I am a fan of old sewing books.  Luckily for me I didn’t have enough time to browse the shelves atThe Old Bookshop which has a brilliant collection of old sewing, fashion and pattern cutting books.  They do have an online shop though……

I also met some people I’ve only ever met online before – Fiona from the Sewing Directory, Julie Briggs editor of Sewing World magazine and lots of lovely people who follow me online, either on my blogs, facebook or twitter.  It was a pleasure to meet you all!

The next place we can meet “in the flesh” will be at “Made Brighton” on the 21st to 24th November at the Corn Exchange.  Look forward to seeing you there!

A morning of inspiration

I had a little mosey round the Biba exhibition at Brighton Museum this morning and was pleasantly surprised.  Biba seems to attract avid die-hard followers, I’ve never thought of myself as anything remotely like that, but just kind of quite liked some of her things.  I realised after this morning that I like quite a lot of them.

She still doesn’t make it into my top 5 designers (Cristobal Balenciaga, Alexander McQueen, Issey Miyake, Vivienne Westwood,  Paul Smith if you’re interested), but here’s some of my highlights.  (Photography was allowed as long as it was without flash.)

 A beachwear design she produced at 18 for a competition in the Evening Standard. 

I really like what she did with sleeves…………..

….and more sleeves.

Hulanicki started off as a fashion illustrator, here’s a lovely one of Audrey Hepburn.

Biba past and present – the orange frock is original Biba, the grey jacket is a recent collaboration with Topshop.

Personally I looooove these fantastic little jacket and dress combos.  I’m feeling particularly inspired by them as I have a birthday outfit to make for myself next year.  Bring on the glitterballs……!

If you fancy visiting the exhibition it’s on until April next year and even better, if you’re local you can get in for half price if you take along proof of residency.

The Power of Making

I went to the V&A’s Power Of Making exhibition on Friday.  This isn’t a huge exhibition, it fills just one room, but I think it makes a big statement about a rediscovered value of the process of making and of the handmade product in our society.

The single room is jam packed with beautiful, weird and just fascinating objects.  There are examples from many craft disciplines and media from textiles through to metal working and model making.

As well as physical examples of finished objects there are lots of short films of people making stuff.  I could have sat for hours watching these, I love watching skilled people create something out of nothing.

While there were many examples of well crafted items to admire at this exhibition, the ones I found most interesting were those that seem to have the power to really challenge the way we live today.  Amongst these were the examples of organic materials grown in laboratories to be put into use making replacement body parts and the 3D printers that have the ability to replicate themselves and any object that you choose to programme into them.  Could technology like this finally see an end to the consumer products that have a built in life expectancy that expires when the first component breaks?  In a future where we all have our own 3D printer we will be able to “print” our own spare parts and designers, as well as making, will be able to sell the blue prints of their designs direct to consumers to “print” their own, rather than seeing their designs being ripped off and reproduced on the high street.

The mind boggles.  And that’s a good thing.

The exhibition is free and on for another few months.  My only criticism is the usual ban on photographs made worse by a sparse yet large exhibition leaflet, insubstantial exhibition book / catalogue and a poor selection of postcards.  But hey, you can’t have everything can you.

Read more about the exhibition here.

See some clips from films of the makers and the making here.

Tracey Emin “Love is What You Want”

I went to Tracey Emin’s solo show at the Hayward Gallery in the Southbank Centre last week.  I’m glad I did as I can’t remember when I last enjoyed an exhibition so much.

As with most exhibitions photography was not allowed, but I couldn’t resist taking some sneaky ones from the staircase.  (I did also buy the catalogue and a good selection of postcards!)

It gives you a really good idea of the scale (you can just see someone’s head in the bottom left hand corner) and impact of Emin’s appliquéd blankets.  Twelve of them have been brought together for this exhibition (I think it might be the first time they have been displayed together, but I could be wrong) and there is another elsewhere in the exhibition.  They looked stunning all together like this; they’re more intricate than they seem on first glance, containing lots of smaller written patches that you really need to spend some time reading to be able to appreciate the blankets as a whole.  I was lucky to be able to earwig into a guided tour round the exhibition by one of the curators in this room too!

The exhibition contains work from all of the media that Emin is best known for; textiles, monoprints, drawings, sculpture, painting, neon lights and video.  Her writing also plays a big part in this exhibition which made me realise how important it is to all her work and I made time to read most of it.  It was worth it, her writing is just like her visual art; personal, to the point, touching and really makes you think.

I spent much of my time in the exhibition watching the videos, especially “Why I never became a dancer” and “How it feels”, also immersing myself in the recreation of an exhibition she had in 2003 called “Menphis” in its own little room set it was like stepping into another world.

I feel that Tracey Emin has often received a bad press, labeled as uncouth or “simply” a feminist artist or just too obvious, but nothing could be further from the truth.  For me her work is touching, personal, both ‘in your face’ and subtle, but to fully appreciate all of it you have to invest a lot of time and really look at it.

All-in-all well worth a visit in my humble opinion.  Emin is a great storyteller and isn’t that what we’re all constantly looking for as human’s – a story in everything?

If you’re in London you still have time to see the exhibition, it’s on until the 29th of August.  Go see it.  You won’t regret it.