Wednesday, 5 September 2018

New Beginnings and why? The Theatre de la Mode.

Hey Hey.

Have you ever seen anything that has had a profound impact you and has never left you ever.  I'm not talking about something negative or horrific, because that does happen.  Its awful and private.  I am talking about something that you see that makes you want to know more, that has a deep creative response and something that never leaves you.  All in a good way!

Back in the very early 90s, I was working at the National Film and Sound Archive as a Film restorer and technician.  It was a great job, lousy on the personal side of things but great at work.  It was during a research investigation, I found myself at a University Arts Library and while I was looking for some information on a silent movie star, I saw the following book on the shelf.


I couldn't help myself.  I pulled it down and flipped through it.  I was totally captivated.  Time just melted away.  If you have never heard of Theatre De La Mode then hop over to Google and have a look.  But be prepared to fall down the rabbit hole.

The Theatre De La Mode was an initiative set up by the remaining French Design Houses after the end of Work War II.  I say remaining because a number of houses closed during the German occupation of Paris.  The houses that did remain, did so under a bit of a cloud but ... Lucien Lelong did speak about that time by saying that he was able to keep a lot of his house in employment during the occupation.  It was food on tables.  A lot of medical studies on the effects of starvation on children was conducted on children during the German Occupation of France.  Like Holland later in the war, starvation was rife and the people suffered terribly.  When the war ended and rebuilding began, the Design Houses in Paris were trying to think of a way that they could show the world that they were back in business and still at the peak of Design and Fashion excellence. They came up with the Theatre De La Mode.

A sculptor designed the Mannequins and the Fashion Houses set about making collections in miniature to dress the models.  The hat makers, the shoe makers, wig makers and Jewellers all helped the designers realise their new miniature collections.  Famous French artists painted back drops and helped create sets for the displays.  Jean Cocteau was one of those artists, he directed a beautiful version of Beauty and the Beast (that Disney used as Inspiration for their cartoon) in 1945.  He worked on the Theatre De La Mode.  The mannequins were all dressed and the sets all built and then the Theatre was pack off around Europe to be displayed and then was sent to the US.  The Mannequins and sets were never returned to Paris, and were eventually housed at the Maryhill Museum.



The chic looking gentleman is one of my favourite Designers, Jacques Father, with one of his designs.


It's a fascinating story and the Mannequins themselves in their beautiful clothes were just astounding.  I was so entranced by them and their story (I've only given a brief description of the Theatre here), there are two books available on Amazon, one of them is out of print but second hand copies can be found at ok prices.

I have never forgotten what it was like learning about the Theatre De La Mode.  I spent years looking for information on the Theatre.  I wrote a novel based in Paris during the war, and spent three years researching this time.  I spoke to French people who lived through the occupation.  The Theatre helped resurrect the French Fashion industry.  ITs a great story full of really interesting people and fabulous design.

It gave me an idea back then and that idea has stayed with me for all those years and here I am now, telling you about the Theatre and sharing my idea.

I  thought it would be fun to design a Mannequin, that could be dressed in what ever time period someone wanted.  If folks weren't sure about how to pattern make, then maybe I could show them and then the Fashion world is their oyster.  They can dress their Mannequin in whatever they want and then do what the French artisans did in the 1940's, make wigs, shoes, hats jewellery, furniture, whatever takes YOUR fancy for your Mannequin.

It could be a real journey that a bunch of folks can do together.  I thought it would be fun.  So finally after all this time and after much work and refining, the pattern for the Mannequin is now up on my Etsy store as a digital download for the princely sum of $5.50.  If you would like a physical copy, please send me an email and I'll see what I can do for you.  Next Month, I'm going to put up a video  tutorial on youtube on how to make a basic garment.  Im not sure which one yet but I'll keep you posted here.  I'm in Japan for a couple of weeks soon, so I'm a bit time poor at the moment but the blog is now live and I will be posting regularly (especially about Japanese design).  I don't know if anyone else wants to have a go at their own mini Theatre De La Mode, but I'm going to do it anyway.  Might be fun.

My Etsy Store can be found here

Monday, 14 May 2018

To be “Moderne” or not to be “Moderne”, That is the question!




I bought this at a local newsagent today and it’s had me thinking and thinking. 

I really think that all of us who quilt, regardless of what kind of quilting they do (machine, hand, repro modern, whatever) are really modern Quilters. We are all living in the 21st century, regardless of wether someone makes only reproduction quilts or not, the materials and fabrics we make are all made with modern inks, techniques, base fabrics, even templates and sewing cottons, you name it.  In a hundred or two hundred years time, archivists and historians and interested folks would identify quilts by the materials etc and there is no doubt what they would call us. 21st century Quilters.

But ... that can mean different things to different people. I’ve really been thinking about that means for me as a Quilter/sewer/maker.  While I may not make Reproduction quilts, I really appreciate and admire and am interested in all the techniques and history that go into Reproduction quilts and the actual quilts they are based on.   No matter what skills (I think) I have, I can always learn more and always improve on the skills at my finger tips.

The lovely Di Ford-Hall, author of Primarly Quilts 1 & 2 is a master of Broderie Perse and Applique. I’ve have learnt so much from her. Her books inspire. Just because you may not be interested in recreating a 30s quilt or something much much older, doesn’t mean that you can’t learn and apply what you learn to anything you make now.  Learning is important and it does make our quilting and sewing much better!

I really think that now I’ll classify myself as a 21st century quilter with modern overtones, but learning from the past! Ah, labels!!! 

How would you classify your quilting and sewing? I’d love to see, I bet it’s not as cut and dried as we think. Comments below if you’d like to jump in on this!!




Wednesday, 9 May 2018

Passing it on ...


Copyright Getty Images. Selecting fabric for clothes.

Do you ever get what I call “prickles”. That shivery feeling when you say something or do something that unbeknownst to you, is important?

My kid and her friends were all together yesterday. I was there as well, some of them are doing a research project on the Great Depression for school. The only way I found that out was because out of the blue my kid asked a question at the dinner table.

“Mum, did people really wear clothes made out of sacks during the Depression?”

As we all know, yes they did! I think she got a surprise when my eyes lit up and I went racing up to my studio, and found my feedsack book. I was able to show her pictures like the one above and then show her in my studio, the real feedsack pieces I have.

Fast forward to yesterday. I had taken  the book and a piece of feedsack with me, I knew a couple of the girls were doing the same topic.

Picture a room with 5 tweens, all lolling (that’s a great word), 2 with ipads, one on a laptop at a desk, two others in front of Youtube and all talking at the same time. This is how the following conversation went:

Me: Darlings, whose doing the Depression for English?

3 heads look up:

Me: I thought you guys might be a little interested. This is a book on feedsacks. Y’know how people used to wear sacks that flour and animal seed came in and how companies put patterns on them. Here’s some pictures of the sacks, and stuff people made and here is some real feedsack.

Eyes wide, mouths open.

Kid bouncy: Is that real?

Kid learny: is that a copy?

Me: Nope. It’s the real deal.

Kid bouncy: so when is it from?

Me: the Depression.

Huge intake of breath and now all 5 sets of eyes are like saucers including my kid who can’t pretend it’s not cool any more. 

All five kids: Wow!!!!

Then they all touch it.

Kid bouncy: but it’s so nice.

Me: the Pattern is lovely but it’s only in one colour and white so it would have been super cheap to manufacture. And it’s just a simple loose weave cotton fabric so again not to expensive but it looks great. 

General exclamations etc.

Learny kid: why did they do that?

Me: cause folks had nothing at all, and the printed patterns gave them dignity.

Cue “prickles” all round.

We forget that everything we make has a history. We mightn’t see it now but we will in the future and so will the folks who wind up with the stuff we made. These little mirrors into the past are important. And what’s more, it elevates the stories from being words on a page to living reminders. The girls got a taste of that yesterday. That’s cool.


Monday, 7 May 2018

A brief, wee look at what’s coming next and trying out the app.

Here are a few pictures to have a look at:



Textile Design:

Pre motherhood, I went to design school and got a degree in Fashion and Textile Design and I worked in a studio design textiles for the fashion industry ( women’s and kids wear). After many years, I’ve picked up my brushes and fired up my Mac and I’ve put together a collection of fabric designs that will be going up on www.spoonflower.com at the end of June. This picture is a little colourway of one of the designs. I’m a lover of Vintage so my collection has a vintage feel to it.




The Pattern Work Book. I’ve been working on this, off and on, for years now. I have decided to actually devote as much time as I can to see it realised. There is more on this further down.



The Theatre de la Mode is something that has fascinated me for years and years and I’m going to write more about it over the next few months. I first heard of it in 1992, and it was also a catalyst for the Pattern Work Book.



Sensei Chuck Nohara is a quilt master from Japan. Her book 2001 quilt books is amazing and I am learning so much. So I’ve stopped every other piece of quilting I have been doing and I’m just concentrating on this quilt until it’s done. So it’s going up here because I just love it.



Vintage typography and illustration: Beautiful. You’ll see my favs here.



This is the first part of the The Pattern Work Book. I thought it looked lovely! 



This is the front cover (illustrated by me) for the first part of The Pattern Workbook.

There are a couple of Applique patterns coming (but they are  being refined now) and once a year we go to Japan, so there might be a little bit about Japanese design and culture plus some other little surprises coming. I feel like there isn’t enough hours in the day but in the best kind of way.  
It was five years ago that I posted here. Five years!  I nearly died when I saw how long ago it was. So much has happened during that time, too much, but its all been leading me back here.  But ... there is a change coming.  In the next month or two, revolutionarycake.com is going to be on Etsy, on InstagramSpoonflowerZazzle and Society6 as well as here and this blog will be the heart of it all.

I'm just tying all the bits together, crossing the t's, dotting the eyes and getting everything ready to launch. Very exciting!  Watch this space - I am, woohoo!