Liberty in Fashion

Friday saw me off for a long awaiting weekend away in Bournemouth with my very dear friends Ali and April and I took full advantage by taking a few hours en-route for a happy afternoon in London.  I wanted to see the Liberty in Fashion Exhibition at the Fashion and Textile Museum.

The exhibition celebrates the 140th anniversary of Liberty’s. Focussing on Liberty’s fabrics and print designs, the exhibition explores Liberty’s impact on British fashion, from Orientalism and Aesthetic dress in the 19th century, through Art Nouveau (me drooling over these – my favourite era) and Art Deco in the early 20th century, and the revival of these styles since the 1950s.

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The surprising thing for me, and one that I had not considered before, was the continual recycling and reworking of the print designs through time. At times small on dark back grounds during the 1920’s, later the prints becoming lighter, to be blown up in the bold (my interptetation and reaction: the word ‘gopping’ sprang to mind in yer face prints of the 1960’s.  And of course the ever present Peacock feather, made fabulous by the Hera print design.

As a fashion and textile student in a former lifetime I was somewhat obsessed with the Aesthetic dress movement and styles of the early twentieth century.  The loose fit, the way the fabrics draped, the influence of the East.  So I was as happy as with this:

DSC04646This beautiful scarlet red cape (c. 1860) in silk with metallic thread embroidered paisley design and tassels to the hood:DSC04642 The silk tea dresses were just so  utterly feminine.  Shockingly tiny though, were women of a certain status starved to diminished proportions?DSC04601 And, aside from the cape, if I could have stuffed one thing into my rcuksack, it would be this sun-ray pleated pinafore dress made of Varuna wool in ‘Hera’ and cotton velveteen by Annabelinda:

DSC04605The detail at the yoke was just lovely, even though i am not partial to yellow, or brown, it was the sun-ray pleats, the button detailing at the yoke and side fastening and the overall silhouette that spoke to me:
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This button hole detail was recurring design feature, as in this pinafore dress in blue corduroy and cotton:DSC04613

The exhibition also gave a peek into the craft and design process.  This was a silk embroidery sample, yes just a sample produced by someone to show their skill and then tucked away in a cupboard.  It was exquisite.

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And the notebooks and sketches:DSC04610Definitely worth a visit.  Not much wool I’m afraid and definitely no knitwear but I did find this:

DSC04608And you can’t argue with that…

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Sad its over

Spinzilla day one
So, last week saw me and so many others all over the world spinning like the very devil.  No idea yet as to the total yardage spun globally.  I am pleased and very proud to have been part of Team HSN UK.  Not only did we outperform every other team in chat (over 2500 posts, closely followed by Team Alaskan Yarn Company with a measley 1500!) but we also span a stonkingly huge amount of mileage.  So how did we do? Drum roll please……

The team’s total was146336 and a tiny bit Spinzilla yards. That’s 83.15 miles! Average 3.32 miles per spinner.  How awesome was that? And spun in every corner of the UK:

Team HSN UK location map
Team HSN UK location map

My own personal target was to spin a mile.  Smashed that with a grand total of 2.25 miles!  It was also to speed up but slow down (last post – seeking the spinners nirvana).  I think I also managed that. Up to a point.  By Thursday I was starting to experience odd out of body stuff – my limbs still felt they were spinning when I was doing other things.  Very odd sensation indeed.  Not sea legs so much as spinning legs…

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Yarn spun during Spinzilla 2015. Top from left to right: Romney and silk worsted spun 2-ply, Romeny and soy silk blended colour gradient woolen prep spun long draw, Castle Milk Moorit/Alpaca/Rose fibre blend carded batt spun longdraw. Bottom Corespun BFL top with feathers.

I managed to spin up the fibre for my next 2 projects.  The purple is for my Nieces birthday gift, the five skeins forming a colour gradient from pale gold through greens out to reds are for a circular shawl  (itching to get started on that one).  I only managed a couple of skeins of the castle milk for a jumper.  By this time I was so bored with conventional spinning and it was brown.  Bored.  Bored.  BORED!!!.  I’d been watching my chickens moult all week, their feathers were so downy and fluffy and gorgeous, calling to me: ‘spin me spin me’.  So on Saturday I just had to spin feathers.

'Spinning Feathers' Corespun BFL with chicken feathers
‘Spinning Feathers’ Corespun BFL with chicken feathers

I have to say it was my most favourite spin of the whole week.  I absolutely love it.  I’ve been wearing it around the house all week bringing out my inner rock chick and going total Stevie Nicks. I had to draw the line at rocking it up to Tesco’s in double denim – think the world is perhaps not ready for that.

But the fun goes on.  We are reconvening at Fibre East 2016.  The team is keen to keep the fun going.  We have decided to put that Shetland top kindly donated by Martin Curtis of Curtis Wools Direct to very good use.  Each of us is going to contribute a knitted a 30cm square which will form a blanket to be auctioned off for a good cause (yet to be determined).  There’s also the Back 2 Back challenge.  Taking a freshly shorn fleece, spinning it and knitting it into a garment in one day.  Hmmm.  Not sure about that one.  Neither a speedy nor consistent spinner and a very slow knitter…

So sad its now over.  I met an amazing group of people and had a really good time.  But its back to reality.  Till next year…

Getting faster to live slow

Apples 2015
Apples 2015

September is a crazy stupid busy month.  The last of the fleece that will be spun up and knitted over winter needs to be scoured whilst there is still power coming out of the PV panels and sunshine to dry it before storing.  The garden is banging out so much fruit and veg that needs eating (yum my favourite thing), freezing, pickling and jamming/chutnifying. There is no more room in the freezer, the pantry is nearly full, as is the workshop. The green tomato chutney is on the hob as I write and this weekend is all about Christmas booze.  Sloe gin, damson vodka and getting the cider on the go.  Oh I’m very amused when I read about ‘Slow Living’. An oxymoron?  You tell me.  I can’t move fast enough nor have enough time in September.

Its just about over now and I have some space to focus on Spinzilla.  Spinzilla kicks of next week 5 – 11 October – go Team HSN UK!  Which incidentally also coincides with UK Wool Week 2015. I’ve been thinking about my own personal challenge.  I have two.  The first is to spin enough yarn for two projects.  A cardigan with some cabling in Castle Milk Moorit and a circular shawl that has been in my head for a year but more on that one in another post.  My other personal challenge is to speed up my spinning.  Yes, I am well aware that this may appear contradictory to my own ethics.

The fundamental reason I spin is the very slowness of the whole process.  Particularly if you are working with raw fleece fresh from the farm.  It allows for a very deep connection with the things made. From what the weather was like when I collected it, who I have to thank for providing it and the conversations we may have had, to the very sheep it came from embedded in the smell of its fleece and how it feels in my hand.  Everything made is unique and has a story woven into its making.

As an activity spinning is a repetitive, mindful activity that I find totally immersive and (mostly) relaxing.  My mind is occupied enough for it to loosen its focus on the brain babbling and helps deal with anxiety. This is well observed, creative activities, such as spinning and knitting, can ease stress,  help with anxiety, depression and pain may counter the effects of stress-related diseases (see for example this review by Gutman and Schindler 2007).

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me spinning in pyjamas

Spinning faster is not necessarily a contradiction.  During a week of intensive spinning (a luxury that life very rarely affords) I want to work at improving my hand (drafting) and feet (treadling)  co-ordination so I don’t have to concentrate so much, to let the rhythm take over, and the mind to become freer.  The whole spinning process ought to become not only more productive but, more importantly a more relaxed and deeper meditative experience.

The spinners nirvana.  A perfect state of bliss.  Just ask any spinner.

From competitive spinning comes the road to enlightenment…who knew.