Friday, 7 December 2012

Handmade wedding - the cake.

So, this is all about the cake. The actual cake. The edible cake. The square or round cake. The tiers or separate cakes cake. The two or three tier cake. The save the top tier or not cake. The get a chunk on the night and lots to keep afterwards cake. The lets have lots of photographs of it being cut cake. The goodness how big is the cake knife cake. The do not make me pretend to cut this cake anymore cake.The takes two grown men to lift it when I decide to change the tablecloth cake. The please do not drop it cake. The let us hope it is cooked cake. The does it taste nice cake. The oh is it not chocolate small child disappointed cake. The do we have a big enough tin for the leftovers cake.The no knitting involved cake (well, in the decorations, there had to be a little bit!). The how beautiful is that cake cake.

Some decisions about the cake were very easy to make. We knew we wanted to have fruit cake with marzipan and icing. We knew we wanted three tiers. We knew that we were not going to buy it. I was all prepared to get making when I received some wonderful offers of help from my mum, my sister and my very creative friend. As very creative friend is artistic and has done a cake decorating course she was elected chief of cake and was put in charge.

My mum made the bottom layer and my sister made the middle layer, they marzipaned and iced them. The bottom layer took 12 hours to cook! Very creative friend made the top layer, the decorations, assembled the tiers and made an extra cake that I could take along to my knitting group. Big thanks to them all.

Each tier had navy grosgrain ribbon placed around it which was then decorated with knitted flowers. All I had managed to specify was that I wanted flowers in autumnal colours and I was amazed with what I got. I can not tell you how to knit the flowers as the pattern is very creative friends but you could use a pattern from the book mentioned in a previous post or just experiment and make one up. All the flowers had button centres and some had ribbon added too which gave a really lovely effect.

The flower placement on each tier was staggered which showed off all the flowers in their glory and also made it look a little less formal which was in keeping with the mood of our wedding. We decided that we wanted to keep the look quite simple so had matching flowers on the top of the cake.

Here you can see a close up of the flowers and a little bit of detail of the cake stand. It was an ornate silver 1920s cake stand which was totally gorgeous, I loved it. It was hired from the local bakers, what an object to own!

I wanted the cake to be on an embroidered tablecloth for several reasons. I love them and collect them. I like to imagine people sat in their living room embroidering little sections day by day. I like to think who those people may have been, who they were making it for, why they choose to use that particular transfer or that combination of colours. I like to look at the needlework and imagine someone making those stitches. I do not even mind if they have the odd stain as I wonder what it was and hope that they were having a good meal when it happened.

They also remind me of my grandma. She had a few such tablecloths that used to sometimes come out at tea time. There was always a chocolate cake on a cake plate and very often jelly in a big glass bowl. Grandma had a crinoline lady tablecloth which was my favourite. I have it now and pick up others when I see them. Sometimes we used the crinoline lady china set at the same time. My sister has that. The tablecloth used was not Grandmas as I did not want to worry about it on my wedding day. But I know she would have approved and it was a way of having her there in spirit.

If anyone knows why there seemed to be a crinoline lady obsession on tablecloths, napkins and china in the 1930s and 1940s do let me know.

One great thing about having three people each making one layer of the cake is that every layer is a different recipe. They all taste marvellous but not the same with variations in fruit, amount of fruit, type of sugar and type of alcohol used to soak the fruit or to feed the cake. We are enjoying having a cake to cut at and offer to guests. It is like a little piece of wedding joy every time.

Tuesday, 4 December 2012

Handmade wedding - table centres.

I love a good cup of tea and a nice piece of cake. The tea is best when served in a vintage china cup and saucer, preferably when I can choose my teacup from a selection. I would probably have Earl Grey tea.The cake is best when homemade, I'm not fussy what flavour it is, although it is hard to go wrong with some version of chocolate. I like my cake on a proper cake plate, served from a larger cake plate or cake stand. I don't mind if my plate doesn't match my teacup, in fact I often prefer it as I get to see more beautiful china that way. Maybe add a doily or two. Always have milk in a jug. Make it an occasion and enjoy. Add some fabulous friends. Have a good conversation. Appreciate the moment.

So, when I was thinking about how I would like my wedding to be I realised that I wanted to have afternoon tea because it is my favourite way to combine the good cup of tea, the china and the nice piece of cake. Plus you get to add in fancy sandwiches and possibly a scone (or two). Our venue enjoyed turning my idea into reality. Several members of staff made the cakes - mini battenburgs, a super chocolaty brownie, carrot cake, lemon drizzle cake. We had fruit scones with butter and jam and cheese scones. The sandwiches were coronation chicken, local ham and salad, smoked salmon and cream cheese, egg mayonnaise (because it reminds me of children's birthday parties , happy times) and hummus and grated carrot. It was served on cake plates and cake stands, with cake plates and teacups. Nothing matched, though some tables had a set of china, but it was all beautiful.
The place names were handmade by a fabulous and talented friend.
She hand painted each one.

I was ready to beg and borrow china from friends and family and seek it out for myself. Despite Mr O's belief that I could supply a cafe with my own collection it would not stretch to a wedding, even a small one. However, the venue then managed to purchase someone else's china collection. I don't know how they let it go although I am thankful that they did. So my china stayed safely with me and we enjoyed seeing more.
I was mulling over decoration ideas, as you do, and realised that there was a very happy way to combine my favourite pastimes of cake eating and knitting. Yes, knitted cakes on cake stands for the table centres! When I did my craft badge as a Girl Guide I knitted a battenburg cake and a jam waffle and they looked fabulous. This obviously stayed in the back of my mind and came out as wedding decorations. I stumbled across a fantastic book full of patterns for knitted cakes and that was it, ready to go.

I have to say at this point that I was not responsible for any of the knitted cakes. I delegated so that I could make other things! So huge thanks go to my great friend and bridesmaid and to my mum. My friend, who had only knitted in garter stitch before, surpassed herself and made the most beautiful array of cakes. She began on the swiss rolls as they were easiest and worked up to angel cakes and heart shaped raspberry cakes. I was amazed. My mum is a great knitter so she got the harder patterns from the outset and produced beautiful doughnuts and slices of fruit flan. The fruit flans were quite a late addition so my dad and sister were roped into a production line to cut out the cardboard bases, stuff and sew!

Between my mum and myself we had enough cake stands to have one on the centre of each table. Each table got a selection of cakes arranged on the stand. I stood the stands on a tower of ladybird books which I had been collecting up with a half formed idea that they would be part of the wedding decorations, although I was not quite sure how until about the week before. I should have said that the ideal tea and cake scenario would also involve reading a good book so I wanted my love of reading to be reflected in some way.
I loved them. Mr O loved them. Our guests loved them (except the guest who picked one up to eat thinking that they were real!). They proved to be a great conversation starter and added a lovely handmade flavour to our afternoon tea.

Wednesday, 21 November 2012

Handmade wedding - how to make a bouquet, posies and buttonholes..

At last! I can write about the items I have been making over the past few months. I have been maintaining a state of secrecy as all the items were for my wedding and I wanted to keep some of the details under wraps. I also needed to wait whilst I was hounding guests for their photos. But, now that I have been happily married for one whole month, I can begin to write all the posts that have been stored up in my head for some time!

I was keen that our wedding would have lots of personal touches and that decorations and other items would be handmade wherever possible. That does not mean that it was all made by me, I would not have managed it and stayed sane. I have had help from a number of my family and friends for which I am massively grateful. The bouquet and posies are however, all down to me.

I got mixed reactions when I said I was going to make my bouquet, even more so when I said that I was going to knit it. I wanted to have a bouquet that I could keep and I just fancied the challenge so I decided to go for it. I had a Plan B of grabbing a bunch of whatever flowers there were in the nearest supermarket if I created something too embarrassing to be seen with.

So this is how I made it. I didn't have a definite plan, it was just in my head and I worked it out as I went along. Inevitably that meant that I made the odd mistake and some bits worked better than others so I am going to include what I would do if I were to ever make another (not for me though)!

The major decision is to pick your flowers. I decided to have all the same type of flower and to vary the colour of them. You could knit a mix of flowers, you could knit the same type but all in one colour. I found a knitted flower book was very helpful for generating ideas and for visualising the flowers. I went for dahlias as I enjoy the blowzy shape and they looked fun to make.

Next you need to decide on yarn and needle size. Many patterns do not give a needle size as you just need to pick one that gives you a flower in the size that you want. I started with 3.75mm, liked the size and stuck with them. I thought I was going to use cotton to knit the flowers as it would have produced a lovely sheen. I tried a couple, didn't like the effect as much and also thought they were a bit small. Changing the needle size would have produced a texture I didn't like. I had some cotton, silk, merino blend yarn, tried that and loved it. Also, here I had one of my two Bridezilla moments when I realised I wanted a big bouquet, bigger than my bridesmaids posies, a real stand out one! So they got the cotton ones. Which were still beautiful, just different.
Once I had knitted the flowers and made them up I needed to work on the bouquet and poesy construction. I bought a bundle of 20cm lengths of florist's wire and threaded one length through the stitches at the back of each flower, as you can see above.

I decided to use pencils as my stems but skewers or knitting needles or dowel would work just as well. I used new pencils and placed them in a convenient indent in the middle of the back of each flower. It occurred to me later that sharpening them and sticking the point into the flower would give extra hold.
I then wrapped the wire around the pencil, keeping it as tight as possible and catching it through a few stitches on the way. Using a pair of pliers to tighten the wire up would be a good plan here. I couldn't face rummaging through the loft to find mine (note to self - put them in a more suitable location). The objective is to attach the flower head to the pencil stem in a reasonably secure manner. Obviously the bouquet and posies are generally treated quite gently. If you are going to throw yours a spot of glue may be called for.

I tied some yarn around the wire to prevent it from slipping down the pencil, it acted like a kind of shelf. I did think about knitting icords to cover the pencils and if I had left myself enough free time I would have done. I think that would give the prettiest look. I used green grosgrain ribbon to wrap around the pencils to turn them into stems and it worked really well.

I grouped my flowers into threes and tied them together making sure that the flower heads were well arranged and not squashed. Odd numbered groupings tend to look most pleasing but you could play around to obtain the effect that you want. The posies were made of 3 flowers, my bouquet was made of nine. For my bouquet I then tied each set of 3 flowers together. Here it was really important to check that all the flowers could be seen well to get the full effect. I found varying the heights of the pencils and the angles at which they were tied achieved this. I then wrapped them in ribbon as mentioned previously.

At this point the flowers looked great, it looked like a poesy or bouquet, but I felt something was missing. I was thinking that shop bought flowers often have something wrapped around the stems and I suddenly though doilies! So I raided my vintage doily collection (that is your something old right there) until I found the perfect ones. Each poesy got one doily, the bouquet had one per group of 3 flowers. I tied them around the pencil stems with yarn and also stitched them to some strategic flower petals so that they didn't flop down.

I wrapped the stems in thick green ribbon which I stitched and pinned into place. I then got a couple of metres of thin velvet ribbon, because I love it, and wrapped that around the centre of the stems. I used colours to match our dresses and also used a pale blue ribbon on my bouquet (there is your something blue)! I stitched a small pearl button to the centre of the bows that I tied in the velvet ribbon. We were all wearing pearl jewellery and I had vintage pearl buttons on my hat so I wanted it all to tie in.

My bridesmaids and I with the finished articles!

I made the buttonholes from the carnation pattern in the same book. I choose yarn to match the ties worn by the groom and best man. I made each one a single carnation, following the pattern exactly, including the short icord stem, I just changed the length of it. When I had made up the flowers I attached a brooch back to each so that they could be worn on suit jacket lapels. Despite some last minute knitting in the car on the day before our wedding I was really pleased with how they turned out.

My next few posts will cover other handmade items from our wedding. In a couple of these pictures you can see my hat and bag which were made for me by a very clever and generous friend. I can't tell you how they were made as I did't make them but I want to point them out as they are absolutely beautiful and completed my outfit.

Saturday, 6 October 2012

Mountain Maid wools 1940s jumper

I initially picked up this pattern because I loved the colours used in the picture and the fantastic hairstyles. When I looked at it more closely I realised that it featured two fabulous early 1940s jumper patterns. The green one is called 'ribbed sweater with fancy yoke' and the red one is called 'jumper in fancy stitch'. I like that a lot, not much detail given but 'fancy' conjures up a good image.

I seem to have managed to expand the width of this poor woman when I took the picture! I was just trying to get a close up that showed the fancy yoke and the jumper as a whole.

I love knitting from vintage patterns, especially those from the 1940s and 1950s so when I was asked to knit this jumper I was really pleased and excited. Knitting from vintage patterns can be an interesting journey as they often assume a certain level of knowledge, use techniques or stitches that are no longer common and often do not write out the full instructions, leading to a certain amount of educated guesswork! However, this is what makes it interesting. Also, nothing beats a hand knitted jumper which keeps as close to the original pattern as possible if you are after an authentic vintage look.

The jumper pattern is written for 3-ply wool for a 34-36 inch bust. I needed to knit it in a marginally larger bust size using a 5-ply wool from It was a gorgeous bright red and lovely, soft merino so it was really a pleasure to knit with. Because of the change both in size and weight of yarn I had to knit up a number of tension squares on a range of needle sizes to be sure that the jumper would come out correctly. If you are changing between a 3-ply and 5-ply (or other wool weights) you need to remember that it will change the look or feel or both of the garment from how it was originally intended. Using the 5-ply for this pattern has produced a very dense, close rib, especially as I had to use very small needles (vintage14s) for much of the rib. In the 3-ply it would have come out as a finer looking, lighter rib.

The completed back showing back opening.
The back opening is closed with four buttons. A row of single crochet
is worked down one side and loops are made to fasten the buttons.

The jumper looks really tiny which caused the odd panic but as it is a purl 2, knit 2 rib it has a fantastic amount of stretch! A friend kindly gave me a crochet lesson so that I could manage the back fastenings. It has definitely put crochet on my crafts to learn list.

The front, showing the armhole shaping.
A close up of the fancy yoke!
The sleeves were very interesting to knit and construct as they had shaping that is quite different to modern sleeve shaping in order to create that particular 1940s look. At the shaped end the side stitches of the centre panel are stitched to the cast off edges which lie beneath them, creating a kind of box.

The sleeves showing the shoulder and top of sleeve shaping.

As the jumper came together it was very exciting and I am really proud of the end result. It is definitely fancy and I like that!

The finished article.

Friday, 28 September 2012

My fashionable mother (and father)!

I have written about my mum's clothes from the 1970s in a previous post. I have also written about her 1960s scrapbooks. I now want to combine the two using some photos that I found when I last rummaged through my parent's photograph albums. I have chosen photos that show outfits of my mums that I love and which particularly reflect the era in which she grew up. Many of the clothes she wore as a teenager she made herself, some of the clothes of her early twenties are bought from boutiques.

This is my mum aged about 15 in the back garden of her house. The trousers are dark green cotton and the blouse is white trycel with a frill, from the John Moore's catalogue. The shoes were her favourites, they were nice to walk in, had a tie at the front and a block heel. Two things stand out in particular for me in this photo. The blazer pulls the outfit together and it made me laugh to find that it is my mum's oldest sisters. It is the blazer of Bridlington Girl's Grammar and was dark green with white and black stripes. Then the sunglasses, mum looks so cool but they can't have been needed in Lincolnshire!

I love this picture even though the detail is hard to see as it has been double exposed. I couldn't find any single pictures of either of the outfits featured. Mum is about 16. The pale green coat is from a Petticoat magazine pattern offer, the material arrived cut out and ready to sew. It was herringbone tweed, fairly straight up and down, long sleeved and had a front zip with a big ring pull a la Mary Quant. Mum's main comment was that it was itchy!

The second outfit is brown, shiny, single breasted coat. It was made of a new fabric which was a foam backed cotton/rayon. I think that sounds strange but mum said that it draped well as it was heavy, it was warm and it was showerproof. This coat was not handmade but the red baker boy cap was, out of some old clothes, a good example of recycling!

Mum made this green suit in 1967 from a Petticoat magazine pattern. You sent away for the basic pattern and then every week in the magazine it showed you how to adapt that pattern in different ways. For example, to change basic sleeves to puff sleeves, to add epaulets to make a military dress or to change from a round to a v neck. It was like having pattern cutting lessons and helped mum expand her dressmaking techniques. At junior school she had learnt how to sew simple gathered skirts, blouses and some embroidery.

Trouser suits had just become fashionable with thin legged trousers and a Mod length coat. You can see the influence of The Beatles in this and in the John Lennon sunglasses.

This is mum aged 18 in her favourite dress; it is navy and white patchwork knitted trycel. The bodice is sheared to the waist and the sleeves are sheared above the elbow and tie at the wrist. Mum has paired it with navy shoes and hat. It was bought from a Mod shop in her hometown and she wore it when she was at college and at work in London. I commented on the length of the dress when I found it, I don't think I would have been allowed out in it! Mum said she hadn't thought about the length until one day half way up the stairs to the top deck of a London bus!

This is mum in Hyde Park in 1971 just after doing her A levels. She was staying with a friend. This dress is handmade; it is cotton polyester with a pink paisley on a white background print, bought in Eve and Ranshaw in Louth, Lincolnshire. The dress was cut in one piece and was slightly A line. It has puffed sleeves, a V neck and a zip up the back. Mum's shoes are grey snakeskin sandals from Clarks.

I love this outfit of mums from when she was at college, it is 1972. The photo was taken in Greenwich Park which mum and dad visited via a boat trip on the Thames from Westminster. The trousers are from Topshop; blue bell bottoms printed with white stars. Although you can't see her top mum remembers that it was a red t-shirt with blue star shaped buttons. Her shoes are blue patent clogs, it is so wonderfully co-ordinated!

The clogs almost got mum into trouble. When at college she could not afford the halls of residence so lodged with some other girls in the nun's wing of a convent! Curfew was 11pm, one day mum just made it before the door was locked and ran down the corridor to her room, clogs banging away on the floor. The next day at breakfast Sister Patricia spoke at length about the noise and the seriousness of almost being late in. After that mum ran down the corridor in her socks!

Mum made her coat by cutting down a big black sealskin coat of her Nanas. Nana used to demonstrate ballroom dancing at The Pavilion in a park in Sheffield. She wore the coat over her dancing clothes. Mum lined it with brown and gold brocade which came from old curtains. It fastened with a large press stud.

Mum made this dress; she bought the material at Peter Jones; it is purple cotton with a white pattern. It is
1972 and maxi dresses were beginning to come in. The dress had a tight bodice and sleeves with an A line skirt and a tie at the back. I like this photo as it shows mum dressed up to go out and celebrate my dad's 21st birthday. She also remembers that it was just after Lady Chatterley's Lover had had the ban on it lifted.

This was taken in Hubbard's Hills, Louth in 1973 on the way to a wedding. The dress is from Bus Stop, a boutique in Kensington Church Street London. It was one of the places to go and shop, it had communal changing rooms (horrors) which were a new idea. The material is dark red, dark blue and cream Indian paisley on cotton lawn. It fitted very closely over the ribcage a la Biba. I have shown it in the 'inside my mother's wardrobe post'.

Itis time to feature dad! It was much harder to get memories about his clothing from him but I did get a few facts. I love the colour combinations here. It is 1973, the shirt is skinny fit with a long collar. The tank top is Lord John and is maroon and white stripes. The jacket that can just be seen is part of a tweed wide lapel suit.

I couldn't find out why dad looks so puzzled! I picked this photo because of the leather jacket which is from Lord John. It is brown leather with cloth ribbing around the waistband and the cuffs. I like it so much it has been in my wardrobe for some time!

Here it is 1974 and mum and dad are on their way to a dinner dance. Mum's dress has a knitted sliver and black top with a deep rib at the waist. The skirt is long, black and gored. Dad is in his wedding suit which is Lord John. He thinks the tank top may have been BHS.

I have included these two pictures as they show mum in clothes that are featured in my post 'inside my mothers wardrobe'. All the details on the clothing can be found there.

Thursday, 30 August 2012

Vintage haberdashery adverts.

As well as the glorious patterns for all manner of crafts in my old magazines I also really enjoy looking at the adverts. I could talk about all manner of adverts, those for reducing (in size), tampons (as they developed), custard, shoes or bleach. Perhaps one day I will as they are a fascinating insight into the way people lived, product development and the gradual evolution of ideas and ideals. Because my latest magazine haul was Needlewoman and Needlecraft I want to focus on haberdashery adverts as, obviously, that is the most fitting product to advertise in that type of magazine. Plus, I love haberdashery. It is pretty, its is functional, it is interesting and most of all it is full of potential; just waiting for you to come along, make a choice and produce something gorgeous with it.

It is worth taking a look at the Woolworth's Museum site (random I know), for its 1950s haberdashery displays . Woolworths stores all had a large haberdashery department selling buttons, wool, knitting and sewing patterns. The site has pictures of these plus pictures of store windows showing a display for wool week or for making do and mending.

I think this is brilliant. The bonkers curtains, the lovely
colours, the shapes, her beautiful dress and hair.

I like Anchor adverts. Great colours again and a fancy
cross stitch tablecloth is always good.

I'm not convinced that she would do her own mending
but she does lend an air of glamour to the proceedings.

Same with her, I think the wonderful hair and make-up
would not leave enough time to personalise her dainties
with embroidery. I think a maid is lurking in the background.

What a fabulous display of threads. Spoilt for choice!

Janet, Alison and Enid. All three of them give great jumper.
And hair.
Enid is 'striking the happy medium between primness and
Alison is 'all for cosiness so this long sleeved style is more
suitable for me'.
Janet says ' how do you like the bright little idea I'm wearing

Wool snake. Wool snake charmer. Magic carpet.
Great colours. Can't beat it!

Showing you the 'smartest ways of using the best bias
binding of all'.

I would like to think that she is called Melody as well
as the wool. I love the cardi, I'm not sure I will ever
have the patience to make it.

'These little folk are happy all day long, at the seaside,
in bathing suits of Crocus wool. They are warm and
comfortable and do not shrink or loose their shape'.

Featuring a' backless suit for sunbathers, a fancy
pattern for two bright colours and knickers and
a brassiere to make a novel two piece bathing suit'.

Colour. Beautiful.

Good to have a reliable zip for all situations.

Excellent. Women can crochet and be intelligent. Quite

Little boxes of colourful delights.

Anchor had to feature an anchor at some point really.

I agree that the women have glamour.
The thread though?

Lovely embroidered tea cosy.

Nice to see how the transfer and stitching work.

I realised that I have had my own small connection to haberdashery for many years as I went to school in London at Haberdashers' Aske's Hatcham Girl's School. It was the longest name of a school in the country at the time but it has changed name now. Whilst it sounds ever so posh it wasn't at all, the name is due to the founder of the school, a Robert Aske, who was a Haberdasher. In 1689 he died and left £20,000 to the Worshipful Company of Haberdashers (of which he was a member), to buy land and build a school. The Haberdashers were founded in medieval times by a group of traders who all lived in the same place in London and all worshipped at St. Paul's Cathedral. They sold ribbons, pins, gloves, purses and beads and were joined by the Hatmakers in 1502. They were like the trading standards of the day in charge of checking quality, training apprentices and setting wages amongst other things. They controlled the haberdashery trade in London until 1650 when the population of London grew too large for it to be practical. They now exist as a City of London Livery Company and concentrate on education and charity work.