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Friday, 23 August 2019

DIY parrot costume..



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This year, instead of an Xmas party, we're bringing the party forward and having a summer get-together. Instead of just a BBQ, it was decided that this party should have a theme, and they agreed on pirates. (As a Scrooge, I'm fully in agreement with the avoidance of a festive get together, so I'm on board. Pun not intended.)
A costume party does, of course, mean the requirement for a costume. And surely a pirate costume is a fairly simple one - how many times have I dressed up as a pirate for nights out, parties and the like? Well...loads. So, yes, I have an eye-patch, hat and a pair of boring black boots which I could don for the day. But, I kinda wanted something a little bit....different. 

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After pondering this for a while, I wondered whether it would be possible to make a parrot costume. They're piratey, right?! I had visions of one of those terrifying mascot costumes to begin with, but decided there must be a better way to do this. After some online searching, I'd found plenty of tutorials on how to make a pair of bird wings for a kid, and decided I could adapt this. 
Not leaving myself with very much time before the party, I decided I would try to use up what I already had in the sewing room, as it seems dumb to have to buy a shitload of fabric for a costume which will only be worn once. I hunted through my fabric stash looking for inspiration and came across this (parrot?) bird print fabric, which I figured would do for a base, with the added bonus that I will get actual everyday wear from it.

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So, first things first I made myself an Emery dress, and lined the bodice with an old pillowcase from a set of bedding which I'd decided was past it's best - I have a drawer-ful of old fabrics like this, all washed and ready to use for scraps, toiles and linings where needed.

I was still pondering how to do the wings, but having made the dress, I at least had a colour scheme to work with. Using that old bedsheet as my base fabric, I measured my arms from the centre of my back to my wrist, and then measured how far down I'd want them to sit, from my shoulder blades down. Marking those measurements out on the sheet, I joined them up with a curved line, and made sure to cut them on the fold so that I'd end up with two wing base pieces of fabric, which matched in size.

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Next up, I raided the felt stash, cut myself out a feather shape from cardboard as a template and set to work with my rotary cutter. When I started this, I had done absolutely no calculations as to the number of feathers I would need to complete this. Turns out, it's quite a lot.

Starting at the bottom of each wing, I pinned each feather down in place, ensuring that they were close enough to each other that you couldn't see the backing fabric, and then machine stitched them along the wing from one end to the other, in a line. I made sure that my stitching is up at the top quarter of each feather, in order that it is most likely to be covered by the next row of feathers up.

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I then continued to work up from the bottom row, choosing a new colour each time (I didn't follow any pattern with the colours, it was mostly down to how much of each felt I had available as I was using up scraps) and pinned them over each other, so that they'd cover the gaps in the row below. On some rows I was able to add half-feathers to the centre edges to help with the overlaps, but again this was entirely felt-permitting. 

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When I reached the top row, I trimmed the top edges, so that any feathers which were overhanging the top edge of the backing fabric were trimmed back down to a straight edge, and then applied some satin bias tape, to give a clean edge. At the centre, I left a long end either side so that I can attach the wings to fit, by tying these ends in a knot or a bow at the centre. This gives them more opportunity to move with my arms, rather than being stitched together in the middle. 
I also added another set of bias tape ties about halfway down the back of the wings, for more stability. 

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Next up, I needed to add something along the top edge of the wings, to attach it to my arms when I'm wearing them. I stitched some lengths of elastic to the inside of the backing fabric, so that it's not visible from the front. I put a larger loop, big enough to wear on my shoulders, about 6in in from the top corner, and a smaller loop, which will fit on my wrist, a little way in from the other edge. I didn't measure these, just had someone hold the wings on me, and then pinned where these needed to go, as it really would depend on the arm length etc of the person wearing them. 

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Finally, from a little more scrap felt, I cut an eye mask shape and two beak pieces, which I hand-stitched around the bottom edge of the mask, sandwiching it in the middle. I cut out some eye holes, and decorated the top edge with a handful of leftover feathers. A little bit of elastic stitched on the back to go around my head and it's ready to wear.

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So, there we have it. My tenuously pirate themed parrot costume. Super easy and made entirely from things I already had lying around in the sewing room. 

Thursday, 22 August 2019

The Corbet bed tapestries..

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A few weeks ago I visited the Shrewsbury Museum & Art Gallery and this was probably my favourite room. The Corbet Bed is on display here (on a long-term loan from the V+A museum), due to it's local links and I was super intrigued by the restoration project and also the matching tapestries. 

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The bed was commissioned in 1593 by Robert Corbet, for the master bedroom of Moreton Corbet Castle. It's carved predominantly from walnut wood and when it was relocated to the museum, there was a huge restoration project to create some embroidered replica hanging drapes for the bed, and a bedspread. The work was done by a team of volunteers and took several years to complete. 

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Also on display in the same room is the most amazing framed tapestry. I can't seem to find a lot of information about this, but it was incredibly detailed.

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Squirrels and castles and bears, oh my! There was an amazing list of items to find in the tapestry, which kept us entertained for ages.

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One of my favourite details is the tiny swans (above).

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The Corbet bed in all it's completed glory.

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Not entirely sure what the animal in the bottom left corner is...dragon?!

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Another favourite - the beehives.

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Teeny tiny vegetable patches. Super cute!

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This one has a travelling circus, arriving in town. And another strange dragon-type creature.

We did wander around the rest of the museum, too, as there was a zombie exhibit on which my sister really wanted to see. Tickets to visit cost £4 for adults and I think that's pretty good for a small, local museum. They put on lots of temporary exhibits and events through the year so there's often something new and different to see. 

Tuesday, 20 August 2019

Tuesday Titles 174: I Spy..

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I Spy: Claire Kendal
If you're anything like me, you'll have spent a decent chunk of your childhood making up imaginary scenarios based on books, tv shows or films. My sister and I used to spend a lot of our summer holidays looking for clues and pretending to be Harriet the Spy, mostly looking for mysteries to solve. 

I therefore felt a little pang of nostalgia when I discovered that Holly, aspiring spy and protagonist, shared this interest. I expected to warm to her for this very reason and allow her other quirks to grow on me, but if I'm honest, I never quite got to the stage where I did. 

Holly has always wanted to be a spy, but the book starts picking up pace just after she fails her interview to become one. From there, the split narrative flashes back and forth over a couple of years, where we discover that Holly has been living the life of a spy, as well as quite possibly being spied on. Her relationship may have started out perfect, but there's a slow-burning niggle of doubt creeping in that perhaps everything isn't as perfect as it seems. As realisation dawns, Holly finds she has work to do and that her suspicious nature may turn out to be justified. 

In the present day, we find Holly (now Helen) struggling to come to terms with a life-changing event, whilst desperately trying to uncover the truth behind what happened to her. Can she ever find a way to trust anyone again? 

I did enjoy this book, but at the same time I found a lot of it to be incredibly far-fetched and kind of struggled to get drawn into the writing far enough to find myself truly shocked by the shock outcome. 

But, see for yourself. This one is due out on 22nd August 2019.

Thursday, 8 August 2019

Irregular Choice Tonkasaurus Rex review..

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I guess if I had to do one of those post-it note lists of things I most like in the world, two of the things which would heavily feature would be Irregular Choice, and dinosaurs. So, imagine my excitement when I saw the photos for this new release, last week. 

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As soon as it arrived I couldn't wait to tear off the packaging and get outside to take some photos. There is SO much detail to look at. 

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First of all, the size. This is described as a weekend bag, and I'd say that's pretty accurate. If you were travelling pretty light I'd say you could probably use it as a weekend bag. (It's measurements, for those of you who are technical like that are h33 x w17 x l43 ) It seems to have around the same capacity as the Candy Jem backpack (whose dimensions are h40 x w12 x l35), but obviously landscape rather than portrait and this one has a shoulder strap, which can be detached, rather than rucksack straps. I've happily used my Candy Jem for a weekend in Belfast and managed to fit several pairs of shoes in there, as well as clothes. 

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The inner compartment is cavernous with a smaller zipped pocket (usually my passport pocket if I'm travelling somewhere), and the usual IC fabric owl tag. The lining fabric is a purple leopard print velour, reminiscent of the shoe linings we've been seeing in this season's offerings. 

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So, what about the design itself? Well, on the front we've got a myriad of glitter, sequins and embroidery. The main design elements of course are the four dinosaurs, all of which are made from sequins. They're standing (or flying) in front of grass, a lake and a volcano, which seems to be erupting with some amazing neon green glitter lava and producing lots of fluffy pink smoke. 

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Even the ground sections are made up of layers of differing textures and finishes. The hills and some of the tropical leaves just underneath the pterodactyl are embroidered in different shades of green stitching and the grass section next to the lake is almost Astroturf-like to the touch. 

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As for the top and the back of the bag? Well, it's making use of the wonderful multi-coloured dinosaur print we've seen used before on Doctor Dino, Fraggle and Steposaurus, to name a few. On the base of the bag and the bottom half of each side panel, we've got a lemon yellow PU with a finish I'd describe as pearlescent. 

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The handles at the centre top are purple, in a kind of reptile-look finish PU, and the bag also comes with a shoulder strap which is in the dinosaur print fabric to match the back and sides. The shoulder strap is adjustable, so that you can lengthen to suit. 

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Honestly, I think this may be one of my favourite Irregular Choice items, ever. I'm trying to save it for a good occasion to let it feature in my #365daysofirregularchoice challenge (which you can follow on my Instagram page).