Northern College of Costume Exhibition

ncc flyerThink you are not interested? markterry_170509_8660cropThe latest group are putting their efforts on display this weekend and it is worth taking a look.


This is good old fashioned history based theatrical costume making.

Never wondered how many component parts go into making one Tudor “dress”?  Well, now is the time to start wondering and also have the opportunity to find out.  At the same time you could take a peek inside  a Teddy Boy’s pockets, or ask the ladies about their 1940/50s evening wear.


I went along as a dresser for the Tudor photoshoot in our local Tudor Barley Hall. Those big skirts over farthingales and the stays can take quite a lot  effort to get on and then to manage. It was so atmospheric in there – I can’t wait to see the photos.

The Teddy Boys stayed in the city centre down one of the seediest side lanes. No romantic Tudor beams for them. The final shoot of the day was at a Neo Classical chapel. A rather busy day.


Take a look at the complexities of the makes, see what can be achieved with some  ingenuity, hard work  and a lot of know-how and guidance. And then think – this was all achieved in 15 weeks!

I did the course a few years ago, and survived with battered, stitched fingerends and a lot more skills than I started with.

If you are in York, do drop in.

markterry_170509_9194cropallPhotos : Mark Terry

Silk Mill Dress

Or …..And this was Sunday… or A story of a miniature Georgian dress.

Want to work from this ,

An account of John Lombe’s silk-mill at Derby, 1791, from Wm Hutton’s History of Derby.

“….The raw silk is brought in hanks, or skaines, called slips, and would take five or sixdays in winding off, though kept moving ten hours a day…... The workman’s care is chiefly to unite,by a knot, a thread that breaks; to take out the burs and uneven parts, ……. The threads are continually breaking; and to tye them ‘is principally the business of children whose fingers are nimble. The machine continually turns a round bobbin, or small block of wood, whichdraws the thread from the slip, while expanded upon a swift suspended upon a centre. The moment the thread breaks, the swift stops. One person commands from twenty to sixty threads. If many cease, at the same time, to turn, it amounts to a fault, and is succeeded by punishment. From the fineness of the materials, the ravelled state of the slips and bobbins, and the imprudence of children, much waste is made, which is another motive of correction; and when correction is often inflicted, it steels the breast of the inflictor.”

Wanted to base  it on an extant silk garment from the era, or a contemporary portrait. Settled on this – drawn up by Janet Arnold, so I had shapes to work from, the dress is in the Manchester collection.

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That  was 9am, it is now late afternoon. It is not quite finished, but my hands hurt so a rest is required. Did the text on the new machine (yet to be named)- a bit ambitious but well…. but all the rest is hand sewn. Haven’t managed to include all the text, but the gist is there, in various degrees of control and legibility.  The shoulder band will define the dress more clearly but I think the collar will change to something more like the LACMA redingote below ( really wanted to do this one all along, bigger scale required though, it is all in the buttons).ma-8195-WEBThis one might be love. “Midsomer Murders” has just come on,  time to vegetate until I get over it!

Update – went back to sewing to get over Midsomer.  Put in the shoulders and finished the bodice front off. Just the collar and then all the usual  dithering about getting the feel right –  ephemeral, used,, ghosting – a bit like an incomplete memory  or an echo. Certainly not squeaky new and toothpaste white!







Don’t forget York Open Studios is on next month. The next Stitchy Day is April 5th – if you fancy having a go at the freehand thing- check the frantextiles  facebook page for details or email.

Inspector’s coat


Focus this week has been words and dress again. Thinking and presenting is happening on the landscape side as well as workshops, but that is creative background noise. In the foreground is a mini short frock coat and waistcoat.

I was reading around the early  Factory Acts but found the texts dry and eye watering in just about every respect, so went back to writing on clothing.



The combining of primary sources with items of dress seems right. Both seem to become more, that little bit of context adds a bit life to the understanding of both. I like the idea of using simple fabric, of ‘ghosting’ the garments rather than finishing them. This isn’t about making replicas or fancy dress. That they are only part there, that what is seen and read is incomplete and only part of the whole narrative feels appropriate.  This of course leads to many mini crises, how much HAS to be done, how much is choice, how much can be undone?

I have hand sewn these, there is no seam or hem finishing or linings, but why not? I could print these documents onto fabric and cut the garments out of that and make them up like good little article of clothing. Why not machine sew?  The text is machined…. and does it matter that the words can be very hard to read? Nope, try reading any hand written document!P1060491

Some of the reasoning I think I understand, it is a touch Romanticism, a touch pragmatic, and very contradictory, of course. I want to take time, to have to sit and think, I want to share not preach or shout, I want it to be as unfinished as I am, and as the original people were in these documents. I have seen a tiny part of them, their world continued without me.  I don’t want this to be subtext driven or a historical crusade.



In part, this is trying to get below the headlines only approach, behind the obsession with dates and facts which was  my own education. I like history but not museums, nor increasingly, history books, so this is my response. This is personal, it is not meant to be deeply meaningful or massively insightful.


Glad I have that out of my head, it can live on ‘paper’ and not clutter me up. In celebration I have just wandered up to the local shop for treats, and managed to do that with one leg of my jeans peppered with needles and pins…..not much changes.



Merchant Taylors

Meet my new friend  -this is the ceremonial robe of the Master of the  Guild of Merchant Taylors. I am to make a new one!   It is  showing its age on some of the seams and trims but is still a spectacular piece.


It is medieval-ish in concept, elaborate sleeve treatment, heavy, dramatic trimmings, and with seams on the front and back of the shoulder.  It is also wool, half lined,  rather large and very heavy. I shall call it Ronald.



The sleeves are the big thing- open underneath with a cape to the back and  a cut opening  for the cuff, then finishing with the sleeve tube hanging down to hem level. Not the conventional approach. There is an extra seam following the lower arm hole – haven’t worked out why yet. Ronald is a robe of mystery.


under the cape






holding the sleeve away from the side to show the cape.











Love the pleat detail on the back waist and button on the collar. p1060301

First make sense of this one, then draft a copy to get the pattern pieces, then change the sizes to suit the incoming master, and construct a toile.

They are thinking of an update – making it more coat like- but would feel good to keep at least a nod to the history.  We shall experiment a little and discuss at the first fitting.


Should keep me quiet for a while.

Apart from –

Stitching with Colour –  21st January – Day course at the Viking Loom, York.

Messy Days – 1st & 5th Feb  – kitchen sink dramas playing with staining, microwave dyeing, etc. Simple ways of working with wet media to add colour for stitching. Literally at my kitchen sink in York.

Contact for more details……

And upcoming exhibition at Blossom Street Gallery.

And it’s tea time……

More Tangents

Wrong title, it is all tangents.

Been thinking about more 3D-iness. A kind of book form made to stand partially open with a few interconnected leaves. Too be honest this idea has been niggling at me on and off for a long time – years. There is a little collection of protobookthings in the bin and the way forward is not entirely clear. The current experiment is not visually exciting at all, being  a piece of cotton lawn drying flat. This I hope to become the book covers – it has been dunked in PVA solution so should dry fairly rigid.

So in the mean time I have amused myself by making a miniature 1840s day dress to glue.

I blame Jane Eyre. And the Bronte sisters drama broadcast over Christmas. And the general Dickensian goggles that seem obligatory at this time of year.

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For those of you into historical costume, Janet Arnold’s books may be familiar. She went around public and private costume collections in the 1970s drawing and measuring. She produced a series a books showing the evolution of dress and dress construction with scale diagrams of all of the pieces used. I simply traced off an 1840s dress pattern and with a few adaptations, sewed it all together. The finished garment is about 8″ high.


pleats on the sleeve head instead of gathers -more stable at this size.

The small scale does pose problems. My fingers are too big, the needle was  longer than some of the pattern pieces, and seam allowances are dictated by the fabric!, hence the lapping at the waist. This is not pretty so a cord detail will be added later to cover this. The neck will be turned once the glue has stabilised the edge.


The dress is at the first dunk stage. The bodice and lower skirt are stuffed with clingfilm and bubblewrap until they set, which is why they look dark.  The shape of the skirt also needs some tweaking. And this was done for fun.

I must remind myself that this was fun. Even when peeling PVA off the kitchen top – this was fun.

No Satisfaction….. the halfway to everywhere and nowhere stage.

Ever been here? The arms have fallen off the signposts, the only sign of passage is going back the way you came, even housework looks like a viable option.

Only excuse – head cold. Quite an intense one, but that had it’s benefits – all the food in the back of the cupboard that I didn’t really like is gone – couldn’t taste or smell it so it didn’t matter what I ate – even the horrible strong mustard crisps.

So, status? Have been busy, but not progressing with great decisive leaps.

Stone windows – no.2. intensified tone and will crop it tighter than first intended – don’t honestly like the whole of things, prefer fragstone 2 cropments.

Landscape blobs – started 2 small ones- varying the approaches to try to get the ideas across more effectively. My bet is on the purple tree at present – using flat blocks of tonal fabric against intense areas of colour and texture.



Also stitched several autumn tree layers ready to use.

Part way into WW2 costume job, making Civil Defence battle dress.

Finished off mini Victorian bustle ensemble ( part of it had to be retrieved from the hoover, so thought should finally hem it and sort out the bustle as an apology)P1170076P1170077

And changed my work room lighting. Made the guy in the local DIY laugh at least.

Also had some volunteers in to try some sampling out on – came with cake! So not all doom and gloom.

Nearly forgot – been playing with a Victorian portrait idea. Lots still to resolve – not least disguising her secret past as a prizefighter and the outsized dress.P1170089

Next week is costume making. Working on the little landscapes is second. Sorting out for the workshop I’m hosting on the 14th is third. Need inspiration for bleak landscapes, so explore and sketch is fourth (depending on the weather), Mounting or framing existing work is sixth. Watching Strictly is underpinning all of the above.