15 May 2016

The Freakish Yellow Skirt pays Italy an elevating visit

I'm very excited to be the honoured writer of a blog post featuring The Freakish Travelling Yellow Skirt. Now, some of you will already know her; but I'm guessing that most won't, and so you'll be suspecting me of overdoing the LSD here ... so let me quickly explain. 
There's a voluminous, dazzlingly bright-yellow skirt which tours the world spending time as the pampered guest of lucky Bloggers all over the place. She was sent to me here in Italy from Germany where she'd been gracing different hostesses with her presence. Before Germany she'd been in Spain, and before Spain it'd been America. Her Tour Manager and original owner, artist Melanie Kobayashi lives in Vancouver from whence she directs The Yellow Skirt's movements. Whether you're a blogger or not you really should visit Melanie's blog, Bag and a Beret. I'm not being glib when I say I love her; (I do Melanie ... I LOVE you!!!) Her writing is intelligent, creative, original and humorous with a touch of authentic eccentricity. But contacting her directly I've found she's much more even than that. Melanie, thank you for your consistent kindness, generosity of spirit, presence, reassurance and encouragement. And thanks for considering my blog worthy of featuring this salubrious yellow visitor.  
As soon as I learned I would be given the chance of styling The Yellow Skirt, my first thoughts turned, ambitiously (and impractically) to Venice as my location for the photo shoot. I envisaged myself by the Grand Canal, the Rialto Bridge rising in the background, my Creative Team keeping meandering tourists from wandering onto "the set". But, when I took Umberto to the Carnival this year I witnessed the palaver a real photoshoot entails, so discouraged I set my sights just a notch lower and considered the Roman Arena in Verona for my backdrop. What was I thinking? The Arena in Piazza Bra is always heaving with visitors (my Creative Team would also have it's work cut out here, keeping tourists out of the picture!) and I don't have a decent camera anyway. I felt dejected. The Yellow Skirt was used to VIP treatment. Was Italy going to fail her?
Then ... EUREKA!!! What about the Villa Pellegrini, 5 minutes up the road in Castion? Our friends are the Custodians there; and together with Martina, a Photographer schoolfriend of Camilla, and Marzia, Umberto's Art Therapist (and also Artist and Sculptor) as Artistic Director, I really did have my Creative Team, AND the perfect location too. 

The Villa Pellegrini Cipolla in Castion. The sun is beginning to set, and with the shadows lengthening, Marzia does a recky of the location.

I was to be the "bronze statue" that would anchor the Yellow Skirt  as she viewed the World from altogether new angles

We moved closer to the Villa as the shadows crept in

In a corner of the facade there was a last patch of evening sunlight

And when the front of the villa was enveloped in shadow, we moved around to the back

The deal with having the Yellow Skirt to stay is that the host or hostess has Melanie's permission to enhance it with something artistic/creative. I asked Umberto to create a signature artwork to attach to the skirt. When we did the shoot I still hadn't sewn it to the skirt but you can see it here with Umbi, draped over the statue's foot.

The title of the artwork is "732 Days a Year" ....  I'd better explain ...
About six weeks ago, at the beginning of April, Umberto had spent the day with his Dad. When he brought him home (and Umbi had skipped indoors) he hovered in the doorway for longer than usual. After hesitating a moment, he said, "Thanks for what you do for Umberto". I must have looked surprised and confused. After all, this was the very first time my sacrifices for, and dedication to, Umberto were being openly acknowledged by his Father. So he continued, "Well, it's World Autism Awareness Day today!"
I thanked him. I was touched. Anyone who knows the history of our separation, also knows that this seemingly simple gesture of his was momentous. 
But how could I possibly have missed "World Autism Awareness Day"? I missed it because EVERY DAY is an Autism day. Each individual living in Autism does so 366 days a year (you'll forgive me for erring on the side of abundance here!). And Autism also comes around 366 days a year for the Carer of that individual. So, while I'm sure we're grateful for any crumbs of "awareness" we can get, I have to point out to the creators of "World Autism Awareness Day" that they are off in their calculations by a full 731 days a year!

Umberto painted "732 Days a Year" during his Art Therapy with Marzia, using acrylic paints on viscose fabric

My Technicolor Son

Finally I sewed it to The Yellow Skirt, and she was ready to travel to her next hostess in the United States. She had been a gracious, accommodating and unforgettable guest.

A Technicolor "Repose"
at the end of an amazing
Technicolor Day

This blog is pro-autism

Post Script: Thank you everyone - I received so much help to create this post, not only from Marzia Sandri my Artistic Director, Martina Colloi my Photographer and Irene and Mauro Piras, the villa Custodians, but from many others too. Martina took over 370 photographs, and as it would be sacrilegious  to waste decent pictures now I've actually got some, I'll do "The Making Of The Freakish Travelling Yellow Skirt Post" very shortly ..... you HAVE been warned :)

14 May 2016

The Backfat's Back - so I made a capacious "Cloat"

The title of this post is facetious, though not entirely irrelevant. When I began sewing again after a 20-odd year break, I discovered I could browse and buy patterns from Sew Direct. Oh joy ... I was like a sugar-starved child in a sweetshop, snapping up many more than I needed; and I often chose from the patterns which were listed out-of-print but still available. Well, I'd already missed out on enough designer gems over the past twenty years and I wasn't prepared to let any more escape me if I could help it.

This pattern by Pamella Roland is one such purchase.

Now, arguably a new "cloat" (Ha! there I go again, coining another new word for the English language  - you're welcome :) I've already invented strot and Beautive. This time it's cloak/coat, get it???) was not a garment I needed, but then I seldom sew because I need the finished article, but because I NEED the creative process itself, and I found that the design of this rather extraordinary item of outerwear piqued my interest. I made it from an utterly beautiful length of light, supple, textured velvet which had been given to me donkey's years ago by my wonderful friend Jon - "Curtainmaker to the more fortunate!". I added body by carefully applying fusible interfacing to the entire length before cutting out the pattern, and my only regret was not having quite enough fabric to perfectly pattern-match the back seam - (gnashes teeth).

I made shoulderpads, and interlined the yoke and collar. I also underlined the main body pieces and the sleeves (which I lengthened by 6cm, though they could have done with more!!!). Choosing to underline, and then tacking the underlining to the main fabric may seem like a lot of unnecessary effort, but once that's done you just get on and sew the layered pieces as one; and the benefits are huge. True, this cloat has two ENORMOUS pattern pieces, wrapping round from the centre back, folding twice over the arms to then meet in the front, and it seemed to take ages to sew the underlining to the velvet, but when I'd finished, it not only improved the overall drape .... 

....but it provided that necessary layer of fabric which enabled me to anchor the facings and hems in place without having to stitch all the way through the outer shell. I chose not to quilt the lining as the original design required, making it more of a mid-season garment (though goodness only knows where on earth I'll wear it when I move to Favignana!)

I cut the lining from the same polyester I used to make my Jungle January Wild Girl dress. Yes, this is she ... again!

The design calls for jumbo snaps to close the front, and I covered mine using scraps of velvet. But it was a mistake to sew them with stitches passing through all the layers to the outer side because it causes the front to drag most unfetchingly when I have my hands in the pockets ...

You'll be pleased to hear I've finally got around to removing them, but I haven't got round to sewing them back on again! Why not Sally??? Here they are, held in position with safety pins, all ready to be reattached, but just to the facing and underlining this time!

Anyway after having cluttered up my sewing room for a good 10 months as a pile of cut out pieces of fabric, The Cloat had finally manifested, and needed to be photographed. So, on the last day of the Easter holidays, with the sun weakly shining, I decided that if I was going to take advantage of the only willing "photographer" among my offspring it was now or never (well, at least 'til the summer holidays came around). So I slapped on some makeup, got all decked out, gathered up some props for the photo shoot and wrestled my son Filippo into the car to drive to my chosen location. Good Lord, it was only 10 minutes away, but within 5 minutes disaster struck; the sky clouded over and one of the props had pooed in the car. So we turned round and came home. 

The offending "prop" in question is pictured below - he's the beige one on the right. He's also the reason I still haven't bought a decent camera as I had to dip into The Fund ... again! Since our last dog died 18 months ago I'd been girding myself to be sensible, knowing I'd be moving into a rented house soon and not wanting to complicate matters with having to accommodate a dog in my plans. But I was clearly asking too much of myself. I became DESPERATE for a dog again, so I sought (and found) the perfect little chap. He's a French Bulldog and he's called Gaiety, which sums him up nicely. Yes I know his ears should be UP, but as I'm descended from Bulldog breeding nobility (which may be a subject for a post in the distant and hazy future), I picked him on purpose because he vaguely resembles a mini British bulldog. 

My theory about dog ownership is "Two are easier than One" (a theory I also apply to children), so simultaneously adopting Nauma, our adorable Italian Mastiff  seemed an obvious step.
My autistic son Umberto has grown up with all kinds of dogs, from Newfoundland, to Boxer to Bulldog, Bulldog, Bulldog (I'm partial to a molosser) but he has developed a special bond with Gaiety

They have both utterly stolen our hearts

Filippo with Gaiety and Nauma

But I still had a cloat to photograph, and my photographer was going back to university the next day. So we made do with no sun, and home for a backdrop. 
Looking at this picture I feel like Alice in Wonderland after she drinks the potion which causes her to shrink and get through the little door into the garden beyond. This house dates from 1580 and although this wooden door isn't original it's still hundreds of years old. Carts would have passed through the archway into the courtyard. Here is the other side of the door.

I knew a hat would enhance my outfit, but I didn't have a suitable one. So I experimented with the felt top-hat I bought in Venice, wrapping it in a long silk scarf which I cunningly draped, tucked, knotted and scrunched with a hair elastic. Yep, that'll do!

The next shot is the one which justifies the title of this post. I challenge any amount of back-fat to successfully announce it's presence under The Capacious Cloat 

Getting back to the cloat itself; I know it's a little odd, and it wouldn't be to everyone's taste, but I actually really like it. The pattern is graded Advanced, and although constructing it kept me on my toes, I would personally judge it to be no more than Intermediate - even Easy if you omitted the lining altogether, which I could well do. I think it could work nicely as a voluminous cardigan, made in a fairly stable knit. 
These picture can't do it justice as it needs to move to show off its full potential. I usually wear it with jeans, with heels or flats - and NO hat.

I really wanted to publish this post complete with extra shots of the cloat styled more casually and with "the prop" in tow, but I've lost my photographer for the time being - and time has run out. So I'll finish with a few pictures which I hope show that the cloat can be easygoing when she has to be!

Must dash! I have a truly star-spangled post to publish next and I want to be at the height of my post-publishing powers - because the revered guest of my imminent post is ......

..... the Fabulous, the Philanthropic, 
the Globetrotting..... 

This blog is pro-autism.