Atelier nani Iro Meets Indian Woodblock~ A Case Of Sewing Not Writing

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I started making my own clothes in my teens: it was the era of Pop Art and Mary Quant shifts. I made a bee-line for cheap remnants of furnishing fabrics with big prints and turned out some surprising garments. Much much later, when were living in Kenya and Zambia, I was inspired by the bright local fabrics and started sewing again. Graham still has some striking longish shorts – an all-over mango tree design – orange print on navy – the lovely glazed cotton bought in Lusaka back in ‘93 and initially used as curtains in our little house on Sable Road.

Back in England again, I did not sew so much, though I remember making a big winter coat which features in one of my earlier blog headers. Thereafter the sewing urge mostly faded away. It was easier to buy stuff.

And then recently I discovered nani IRO. Not only was it love at first sight, but the advent of a whole new sewing adventure: the hitherto unencountered territory of Japanese design. This was the book that started it:

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For those like me i.e. not-in-the-know, Nani IRO is the brand name for the fabrics created from designs by Japanese artist Naomi Ito. And Atelier nani IRO is the design studio that produces the sewing patterns. In the past they have catered only for petite Japanese sizes. But this current collection now includes sizes up to UK 14/US 12.

The book is beautiful – every page of it. But being captivated by the images and fabrics is one thing. I soon realised the challenge of using it to make an actual garment was probably bordering on the impossible. The patterns that come with the book comprise two fat folded wads of stiff white paper. They are inscribed with multiple pattern pieces that overlay one another, and at all angles. Furthermore, the instructions are in Japanese, although on the whole the book’s accompanying diagrams are more or less clear to anyone used to tackling European dress patterns.

So: this is what a small part of the pattern sheet looks like. Think exploded Venn diagram meets Heathrow air traffic control flight paths:

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Each garment does however have a letter code in English and the sizes are indicated S, ML, L+, 2L. After this, you are pretty much on your own.

Once you know the letter of your chosen project, you must then study the designated layout in the book to fix in visual brain the shapes of all the pattern pieces you’ll need. Then you have to search for those shapes within this bonkers mega-puzzle, and having located them, trace them off to the appropriate size on dressmaking tracing paper.

By this point, on my hands and knees amid clouds of tissue paper strewn across the bedroom floor, I realise I am pursuing, and with dogged intent, an extreme form of writer’s procrastination. I have actually chosen to unravel this devilish design of cross-purposes rather than sort out the pressing narrative plotting problems of the novel.

Found you out! I cry. This is not really about making a big blue frock out of a stash of Indian block print cotton that you just happened to have handy. This is about NOT WRITING.

But  then of course when it comes to prevarication, writers have all the excuses. I tell myself it’s good at my age to go in for new forms of mental and manual exercise, even if the initial processes are killing on the knees. Besides, there is also the great satisfaction of making and completing a project. And while I can see that my new blue Indo-Japanese gown is hardly the sort of thing I can wear at the allotment, it does have potential as a personal seaside ‘changing room’. I can even look fairly gracious when needing to treat with the postman before I’m quite up in the morning.

And then I’m actually rather in love with the thing itself. Scenes from Kurosawa epics (Seven Samurai, Ran, Yohimbo) come flitting through my mind. Perhaps a little of the master’s creative impulses might just rub off on me (though hopefully not adding confusing Japanese influences to a yarn set in the East African bush. Or there again…) So I may just hang the finished work on the wall. Perhaps it will tell me I’ve used up all present excuses to not write. Perhaps it will say: stop play-acting out in the field with the other half and get back to the keyboard!

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July Squares #7

Today In The Garden ~ Blue On Blue

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One of the best things about a garden on several levels is that you get to see plants  from unexpected view points. Here’s Rozanne busy flowering her socks off. She’s on top of the wall that holds up the bank behind the house, well above my head height,  and will be flowering now until the first frosts. The almost black foliage in the corner is Cotinus aka Smoke Bush or Smoke Tree. When it flowers it is a mass of feathery creamy-pink plumes.

July Squares #4

The Blue Of Marc Chagall

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For me a stained glass window is a transparent partition between my heart and the heart of the world

Marc Chagall (1887-1985)

Chagall was one of life’s shining stars. According to Wikipedia he is described by art critic Robert Hughes as a ‘quintessential Jewish artist’. Yet such a description is truly too confining for a creator who saw his work as ‘not a dream of one people, but of all humanity.’ To me, an unbeliever, his work speaks of spirit – the soaring, transcending best of us that comes with a wry but kindly smile and, above all, forgiveness (for ourselves and for others).

The stained glass in the photo comes from a window in the auditorium at the Musee National Marc Chagall on Cimiez Hill in Nice, one of the loveliest little art galleries of the world. The hill, too, is surely a place of creative hallowed ground: just up the road from Chagall is the wonderful Matisse museum. Both artists were magician-shamans, masters of colour, form and light – their works the manifestation of their spirit-journeys that ever invite us to rise to the occasion and follow.

Chagall was still working in his nineties, his last commissioned work (I’ve just discovered) is the north stained glass window of Chichester Cathedral in Sussex, England. I feel a pilgrimage coming on. In the meantime another detail of the Nice window:

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When Matisse dies, Chagall will be the only painter left who understands what colour really is.

Pablo Picasso

July Squares #2

Beating The Blues With Bubbles

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I have never grown out of loving bubbles. As a rural child of the fifties receiving a tin of them complete with a pretty little plastic wand (pale pink or blue) was one of life’s big thrills. And so rather more recently when we came upon the Bubble-Making Man at Bishops Castle Michaelmas Fair it was all I could do to stop myself from joining in with the children’s great bubble chase. Because that’s what you do with bubbles – you try to catch and keep them. You want just one of them to last forever and ever. Anyway, being several decades beyond childhood, I contained my excitement by snapping them instead. Which of course means I do get to keep them. And you get to have them too. And if you’re having a so-so Monday, or even a dreary one, here’s a gift of bubbles to lift the spirits. Who’d’ve thought there was so much magic in a bucket of soapy water and a piece of net. Just goes to show!

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Related post: Summer Came Back On Saturday And Took Us To The Fair

July Squares #1   Every day this month Becky wants us to show her BLUE anyhow we like, so long as it’s SQUARE. Follow the link to join in.

The Changing Seasons ~ Wenlock In June

The header photo was taken early on Friday evening, after my orchid hunt on Windmill Hill. It was hot on the hill, the light reflecting off the windmill’s masonry. No shade up there, only sweeping views of the farmland behind Wenlock Edge. I was glad to retreat to the path through the woods. It brings you to the old railway line and the Linden Walk. Stepping into that pool of greenery was like a soothing embrace. I was struck, too, by the play of light through  the canopy.

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But when I turned to look back across the Linden Field I was amused to see a true sun worshipper, flat out on the grass and soaking up every last ray.

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And in case you missed the last post’s orchid expedition here are more shots. Click on one of the images for larger versions:

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Back at the Farrell house, the garden has also been looking very wonderful, while over the fence the guerrilla plot is thriving, as is the wheat in Townsend Meadow beyond it. ‘Meadow’ is of course a misnomer in this mono-crop context. A meadow is the kind of thing you have just glimpsed above – full of exuberant diversity that lightens the spirits. Still, it looks as if this year the farmer will have a good harvest, and along the field margins there are still havens for grasses, blackberries, dog roses, oh yes and a very tiny crab spider that instantly tried to hide, but then decided I posed no threat and came back to show itself off. I also have to say I quite like the visual drama of the mega-tractor’s agri-chemical delivery tracks, though it does make me wonder what most of us are eating.

The Changing Seasons: June 2019

Communing With Orchids On Windmill Hill

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Yesterday morning he who presently spends his time making a scale model of a static steam engine, surprised me by abandoning house and shed to take part in the orchid count on Windmill Hill. We had the first count last year, but this year the orchids are far more numerous. The hill is in the care of the Windmill Trust, a group of local volunteers, and in the past the limestone grassland was mostly kept in check by a flock of small ponies, brought in to graze at the end of summer. Unfortunately the little ponies had to be sold, so last year at summer’s end  the Windmill Trust had the hill mowed, the hay baled and dispatched to the local riding centre and the ground harrowed. It’s certainly given the purple pyramidal orchids a boost, though later when I went up the hill to see for myself, apart from the pyramids, I could only find this single Bee Orchid and one Spotted Orchid, though I was probably a bit late for the latter; they anyway prefer the parts of the hill where the soil is less calcareous.

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With all the rain we’ve had, the grasses are knee-high and the orchids not as conspicuous as they usually are. But there are also masses of other limestone meadow flowers: wild thyme, mallow, agrimony, viper’s bugloss, knapweed, thistles, ladies bedstraw, hop trefoil, vetches, yellow rattle, cinquefoil, brambles, St. John’s Wort and hawkweeds. The place was alive with insects too – not only bees, but also blue damsel- and dragon flies and masses of Meadow Brown and Small Heath butterflies. Also a Common Blue. I didn’t see the peregrine falcon though that Graham had seen in the morning, but I went home thinking what a treasure place is Windmill Hill.

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P.S. Hot off the press come the orchid count results: 3,574 pyramidal orchids (compared to 864 last year); 129 spotted orchids; 15 bee orchids.

 

Six Word Saturday

Monochrome Lines And Angles ~ A View from the Allotment

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Perverse, I know, to be featuring this wintery scene as summer arrives in the northern hemisphere. Still, it seems to fit quite well with this week’s b & w challenge over at Cee’s. I’m thinking too that those poor souls who are presently being broiled by unnatural heatwaves across Europe might be glad of a cooling vista.

Cee’s Black & White Challenge: Lines and Angles

Allotment News ~ Late June Edition

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Lately, between showers, I’ve been enjoying the company of birds on my allotment plots. First there’s been the pheasant family – Mr and Mrs and a single puff-ball chick. The adults make soft puck-pucking calls to each other as they wander up and down the weedier areas beyond my borders. I suspect they may also have been nibbling the celeriac seedlings which I’m not so pleased about. More recently I’ve been pursued by robins and hungry blackbirds. They have been most excited by my turning of several compost heaps. One blackbird in particular is adept at filling her beak, five worms at a go, dangling down like a mouth full of ribbons. The robins just nag, moving in at ever closer quarters, and piping up whenever I look like flagging on the heap turning front.

And talking of heap turning, in my last update on plot doings I was feeling a bit despondent over plans to adopt no-dig gardening methods. I realised I would need a phenomenal amount of compost. I think I’m talking tonnes here.  (The main principle of no-dig being that you cover all the growing areas with several inches of compost every autumn so you don’t need to dig in spring and thereby upset the balance of soil micro-organisms which create fertility. It also cuts down on weeding and watering). Anyway, I can now report some success, at least in a small way.

Back in March I was inspired by TV gardener Monty Don to try growing new potatoes in a raised bed. I had one ready, with its autumn compost topcoat well applied, so I thought, why not? In went my twelve Pentland Javelin earlies, set out in a grid formation. I simply popped them into the compost layers, placing them around 40 cms/15 inches apart. I then buried the lot in several inches of compost, and covered the bed with horticultural fleece. Later, once they’d started sprouting, I earthed them up with more compost (which accounts for why I found myself short of the stuff later). A fortnight ago, once flowering was over, I pulled up the first plant to see what was going on. And here’s the result (cue fanfare):

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And coming up next is the raised bed where the rest of the plants are still going strong. I used 2 plastic raised beds (2 x 1 metres) bought from a departing neighbour a couple of seasons ago, each a hand’s span tall, and placed one on top of the other to create enough depth to contain the earthing up compost. The end result of this is: no weeds and no need for digging up. When it comes to harvesting I simply pull up the plants and have a quick scrabble around in the compost like a lucky dip. Also, I’d fully expected slug damage after all the wet weather, but so far there’s none to be seen. In fact these are the best first early spuds I’ve ever grown – in looks, taste, ease of extraction and quantity per plant. And, I repeat: no weeds!

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And so, with all this vegetable encouragement, and a break in the rainy season, it’s back to the compost bins and bays and my demanding avian companions. More waste gathering and turning are definitely required. I’m thinking now that no-dig can work, even on my claggy Silurian soil – albeit one raised bed at time and with mega quantities of compost. In the meantime, here’s Mrs Pheasant, a view of a scarcely visible chick, and a bee in the nigella:

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