Tewkesbury Farmers’ and Artisans’ Market

Last weekend was bliss. Two days of no plans, fall sunshine, digging and cooking left me were very chilled indeed. I even made some chili on Sunday night to have for dinner on Monday, so the relaxation went into the week. If only I could always be this organized.

On Friday night we visited family in Tewkesbury. It’s a lovely little town, well worth a visit if you’re ever in Gloucestershire. Of course there’s the Abbey, but there are also several excellent charity shops (my weakness!). This Saturday also happened to be the day of an extra large farmers’ and artisans’ market, so the High Street was shut to buses, and I had to walk past all of it to get the bus home. What a shame! 😉 I was impressed with all of the stalls, but thought I’d share a few of my favourites. Supporting independent artists & craftspeople is becoming increasingly important to me. I can’t really afford to buy much of their work, unfortunately, but I hope spreading the word will still help somehow.

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As you can see, there was a lot to browse. The first stall I stopped to look at properly, though, was local glass artist & illustrator Sarah Brown’s.

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Unfortunately this is the only picture I took that I was happy with. Let me assure you everything in the stall was unique and beautiful! Sarah creates art with fused glass (sometimes based on her own illustrations), and what I particularly like about her work is how architecural and contemporary it is. So much of the fused glass I’ve seen in the past is metallic and while I’m sure many people love that, I find this kind of work more elegant. This ornament is just over an inch in diameter, and I bought one that looked like a Christmas pudding for a friend. Adorable! Sarah also runs workshops, and has a couple of very reasonably priced ornament sessions coming up in December. It was also really nice to discover someone who is based so nearby, literally just up the road from R’s parents.

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p1070094Then I saw these beautiful ceramics. I think they have the glossiest lacquer finish I have ever seen. They also have subtle patterns. I tried to get a picture without glare, but couldn’t. So lovely. These are by Rachel Pritchard, a Worcestershire artist. Unfortunately I don’t believe she has a website, but she seems to be displaying in several galleries at the moment.

As The Crow Flies

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And then there was my favorite! As the Crow Flies is a Bristol-based artist (via the Edinburgh area, apparently) who uses ceramics as a base for her illustrations. I really loved the feel of all of her pieces. Most have nature at their heart, be it a peacock or wildflowers. Some were on stock porcelain, but still beautiful, while others were hand thrown or slip cast. My favorite was this dandelion vase – the design is gorgeous and I loved the shape. It was quite reasonably priced, and if I wasn’t going to a craft fair in Cardiff on Sunday I think I would have bought it. I settled for buying a harvest-themed tea towel instead. What can I say, I’m a sucker for tea towels. My Stroud-based friends and readers may be interested to know that she’s going to be showing at several Stroud markets this fall and is also showing in a gallery there.

 

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p1070109Technically, Break Vintage wasn’t part of the market, but I liked that they got into the spirit of the event by putting a couple of tables outside. It is my favorite charity shop in Tewkesbury, and I always find something beautiful & unique there, whether it’s for me or a friend.

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This time, it was this Victorian Coalport jug. Pink isn’t usually my thing, but I adore cherry blossoms. I also love how simple this design is while still being detailed – you can see they’ve painted in stamen dots, and one of the blossoms is facing away, while the handle itself is shaped like a branch that goes down either side to the blossoms. Wonderful.

How was your weekend? Have you found any lovely things in charity shops recently?

Vintage threads

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A few weeks ago, we went around the charity shops in Gloucester. A few shops in particular consistently have good vintage items. I bought two of my favourite vintage items in the Salvation Army, for example. Finding vintage haberdashery items in any charity shops can be a challenge, but I got lucky during this trip. Isn’t this thread beautiful? I bought all of these, plus a few other modern cottons, for £2. I just can’t get over how vibrant they are!

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I’m not sure when they’re from, but I think it’s between the 60s-70s. The best thing about them is definitely their names – bright navy, light kingfisher, venetian red, light reseda, lagoon blue, dark petunia, Napoleon. They’re so evocative. I think it adds another lovely detail to homemade items, to be able to describe the colour so nicely.

I can’t wait to use these! A colleague asked if I planned to display them, but I am eminently practical and try not to buy things that don’t serve a purpose. Are you the same? Would you use them or just show them off?

Learning to sew: a 1960s sleeveless dress

A couple of years ago, my in-laws gave me a sewing machine as a birthday gift. But apart from one cushion I made as a Christmas gift last year, I’ve hardly used it. Seeing it languish under my bureau been making me feel quite guilty, though, and of course I was initially given it because I’ve been wanting to learn to sew for years. Lack of time has been a convenient (and realistic!) excuse previously. However, I recently got a new job, which has freed up loads of time. No excuses anymore!

For my first project I chose this classic sleeveless dress (I’m making the version in the middle, with the full skirt). The pattern was 50p in a charity shop. It’s not dated, but I think it’s from the early-mid 1960s. I also found this 1965 Certificate Needlework book  in a charity shop for 80p.  The fabric I’m using is also a charity shop find and was about £2. (Can you tell charity shops are one of my favourite things? I spend far too much time in them.) All the sewing books recommend starting out with cotton fabric, but as this material was so inexpensive & I really liked it I decided to use it in spite of its slipperiness. Besides, it was such a bargain that it hardly matters if the dress doesn’t turn out perfectly. Plus, the cushion mentioned above made with a relatively stiff linen fabric, so I’m ready to embrace a new challenge.

 

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I am still quite nervous about the project, so for once I’m doing everything by the book, starting with the bodice. Those bits of string in the middle of each piece are tailor’s tacks. According to Certificate Needlework and many modern sewing books I’ve looked at, tailor’s tacks are the most professional way of transferring marks from a pattern to fabric. I practiced on a scrap piece of fabric before attempting it on the actual garment, but I was surprised by how easy the tacking actually was.

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The tacks are there to mark darts, which provide shaping for the bust and waist. While my bust is the same size as the pattern, my waist is actually about 1-1 .5 inches larger than the pattern sizing recommends. This is definitely the biggest challenge of the project. I will need to reduce the size of the waist darts to increase the overall width of the fabric at the waist. In fact, I have a sneaking suspicion that I may end up taking the front waist darts out completely.

Bust darts - basted

 

The only way to know for sure, though, is do to a test run. Today I started basting, which is basically making a mock dart with a large(ish) running stitch before using a machine to put in the final darts. This is what the front bodice looks like with the basted darts:

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The really hard part is figuring out if they’re actually accurate! I’m going to baste the back waist darts next. Anyone have any idea what I should do next? The pattern just seems to assume the darts will fit perfectly. I think I will baste the side seams together and pin the top seams to get an idea of whether it fits properly. I have a feeling I will need to rope in my husband to help with this part.

Because I have to concentrate a lot to learn something new, this dress will probably be mainly a weekend project. Come back soon to see how it’s coming along! And if you have any sewing advice, please do share.