Thursday, 16 September 2010

My Own Label

Talking of labels, Mum gave me an envelope the other day with an excited expression on her face.
‘I couldn’t wait until Christmas,’ she said.
‘I’m glad,’ I replied, given that it was over six months away at the time, and, no matter what the envelope contained, that was far too long to wait to find out.
I tore it open and shrieked. It was my very own set of Moose and the Machine labels! Professionally made, just like the ones we used to sew into PE kits, strip after strip of of curly purple writing and even a little design of a sewing machine on the side! Much as I loved the Honour Original ones I’d inherited, they paled at the sight of these; mine, my very own precioussssss.
I sewed the first one into my new brown skirt, the second into my sister’s red skirt. The rest I’ll sew into other things, as yet unmade, unplanned, non-existent – yet no longer anonymous.

Wednesday, 15 September 2010

Pink becomes red

It occurred to me, after straightening out my leaning green skirt, that I hadn’t seen my sister wearing her leaning pink one for ages. Perhaps she, too, had got fed up with that persistently falling over feeling and dispatched it to the charity shop, thereby leaving a gap in her wardrobe for something slightly hippy but not wonky.
I know… I thought. I’ll make her a new skirt for her birthday! Granted, she would perhaps rather have had something commercially made and with a label on it, but the idea, once in my head, stuck. This would be a first… making something for someone else. Something they actually might wear out into the wide world – a very different matter from me parading my creations around my more narrow world where people, regardless of what they privately thought, would at least be forgiving. But she had no such dispensation, and also has a serious job, for which she needs serious clothes. The pressure was on…
What colour? She had probably outgrown pink by now. Brown isn’t her colour. I flitted through the rainbow and kept coming back to red, which she wears a lot of. Not the safest bet, but then it was a gamble anyway. The problem was where to buy red cord – most places I looked stocked only muted shades of green and brown. Which reminded me of a game we used to play as children, having discerned that a certain type of man, quite often although not always a Frenchman, always wore a certain type of trouser. Corduroy trousers, to be precise; slightly baggy and either bottle-green or mustard-brown.
The game (exciting childhood that we had) worked on a points basis. I had bottle-green while Nats had mustard-brown and we would score a point whenever we spotted our particular colour.
The game, as far as I am aware, is still ongoing (I’m in the lead by several pairs) but onto red cord now. I found it, eventually, at Cloth House, in Soho. It was expensive, but a lovely, vibrant shade of red with thick, wide pile.
Using my greaseproof paper pattern I cut out more triangles, bigger ones, to make the skirt slightly longer (serious job, like I said). I lined it with red satin, added funky buttons I’d found at All the Fun of the Fair and then worked my fingers to the bone trimming the hem with blanket stitch, the fabric, if possible, even stiffer than before. It came out OK, I think, although I haven’t seen her wear it yet. So there you are. Her pink cord skirt turned into a red one; my green one become brown. If you’ve really got nothing better to do, there might be a game in that somewhere.

Tuesday, 14 September 2010

Leaning Towers

Three months – where did they go? Oops. I can’t really explain what happened there, so let’s just forget about it shall we. Ahem. Now where were we… Skirting the issue perhaps? That’ll do. For a long time one of my favourite items of clothing was a slightly askew skirt I found in a back alley in Camden. I had taken a wrong turn whilst looking for the Vietnamese noodle bar and found a shop selling a whole array of asymmetrical clothing. I liked the skirts so much I bought two – one in green for me, one in pink for my sister. I wore mine through several dark winters, until in a slightly OCD way I realised I was more and more bothered by the fact that the left side of the skirt was longer than the right, which made me feel like I was perpetually leaning to one side, like a human Tower of Pisa. No one else noticed, of course, it was all in my mind. But that’s the worst place for anything to be.
One day I woke up and thought ‘no more’. I took the skirt out, spread some greaseproof paper over it - not with a view to baking, but with the vague notion that I was ‘taking a pattern’. Instead of following the asymmetric lines though I made sure that both sides were even. The skirt still went down into a point at the front and back, but points that met between my legs and not somewhere left of my thigh.
I could feel the stress inside me easing even as I cut out my nice isosceles triangles from brown cord and stitched them together. The feeling of relief continued as I added a lining of yellow floral cotton (last seen inside the disastrous attempt at a hat), a bright orange zip and sewed on a few coloured buttons for good measure. Then I switched the telly on to re-runs of Friends, and spent a lazy sofa afternoon sewing lime green wool into blanket stitch all along the hem. Up at the sides, down to the points, up again. It took ages and my finger pads were numb for a whole week from pushing the needle through the heavy fabric, but I quite liked the finished effect. Not wonky but still slightly hippy; not so much leaning tower as flower power.