Tuesday, 7 March 2017

Advance notice -  York Open Studios - Last 2 weekends in April.   Will have my machine embroidery on show and for sale, as well as small scaled elements of costume and  some of the 'words and dress'  series.

 If you are unfamiliar with the Open Studios idea then definitely come along, you get to see a whole range of  artist/ makers in their native habitat with an open invitation to question and chat!  If York is  not do-able then check out locally, most areas and towns have their own  version.

Monday, 6 February 2017

A Tangent- but still costume and history based!

I spent part of the Autumn exploring the idea of clothing and words being linked at very particular times. This developed in response to my father's illness and the desire to wrap him the words he couldn't hear us say, to tuck them into the creases, seams and pockets of his pyjamas for him to find and hang onto as he woke up.
This became a textile installation  currently on exhibition in York, but also lead to other ideas.

What would result from combining primary sources with appropriate costume ?  One way to find out.

 Finding documents written by the mill workers proved difficult so contemporary  documents arising from their lives - a newspaper report and official factory accident report had to do as start points for the experiment.

National Archives is a great place to get lost in, virtually and really, but the first find was a newspaper report following an inquest  in Bristol 1860 on Elizabeth Davis, a 16 year old textile mill worker. She been injured at work and later died.

 The mill and the area was quite well documented with photographs from the era, so these were the start point for a simple work dress loosely based on a quarter scale version of a day dress in Janet Arnold's Patterns of Fashion. The account of the accident was embroidered across the bodice and around the skirt.

Martha Appleton was the small dress, 18cm high, and around the hem are quotations from her accident report. She had been injured at work, losing fingers on her left hand.

Made of cotton lawn to keep them delicate and light,  they were dipped in glue to set it into 3 dimensions. Martha was dip dyed but Elizabeth has been rubbed with graphite powder to age  them.

I still haven't made my mind up about them. There are things I would change, scale, the lettering, complexity of the make, but they are also in the exhibition along with extracts from the documentation. The initial responses have been very positive, even emotional.......

Wednesday, 20 July 2016


I' m feeling guilty for not doing more on the costume side - I spent most of the Spring working on the full sized costumes for the York Mystery Plays and apart from this have had very little time to do anything other than my textile-arty-stuff.  One day .......

If you would to see more of this  try franbramm.wordpress.com, on facebook or google my website.

Thursday, 3 March 2016

Is there anyone in historical costume land who hasn;t  at least heard of Janet Arnold? 
Museum of London has some of the extant garments she worked from for the Patterns of Fashion series and has put a lot of information on line.


 I have always found this museum  very approachable and helpful, and they do a pretty thorough  photographic record once they get going.
 I am going to take the time to do more than browse a little - who knows the next inspiration may be lurking there.

Hope you find something of interest too!

Thursday, 25 February 2016

A Victorian inspired Return!

Long time, no write, but it seems that the technical issues have been resolved. Well, we can hope!

This is one of the costumes made since the last blog. It is  a little Victorian walking ensemble of short tailed jacket, apron and asymmetrical  back overskirt over a polonaise  style skirt. It was made to fit the cat so some proportions may be rather odd! It is based on a V&A 1868 promenade dress, drawn by Janet Arnold in Patterns of Fashion 2 ,but as the over all length is  9", the jacket is 3", many  modifications have had to be made.
The jacket has a hook and eye closure underneath the fake buttons, but all of the shapes  and seaming
of the bodice and skirt panels  are as faithful as possible.  The elaborate cuff treatments were an adaptation due to scale  but I hope it kept the  idea of the original= they were certainly menace to do - I do need smaller pins and smaller fingers  too.  The flaps at the front of the jacket, collar and other decorative details were also sacrificed for reasons of sanity. The stand collar was borrowed from other extant jackets, it worked better with the cat  proto-doll.

The underskirt is drawn up on loops sewn into the seams to create the volume - the problem was always how to keep the hem level-ish and convincing. After all of the fiddling on the apron and rear panel I prefer it without. The fabric is too bold to carry the details, it becomes confusing. Another decision to regret was the inclusion of the premade roses - they look too mechanical and perfect. And of course there is the perennial cry about buttons - they may be the right diameter but they are too thick!  Some things never change.....

On a different note I am opening my work room as part of the York Open Studios event in April  2016- although the focus will be on my freehand landscapes these little costumes will be out and about - so come along if you want to see them or to chat!

Thursday, 28 May 2015

desparate measures

apologies to all -  I am abandoning this blog site - unresolved technical illnesses. The posts etc will remain as they stand but no more will be added on here.

New blog is now up and toddling, not quite steady on its feet yet. It is focussing on all areas of my textile practice and will reflect on current obsessions and  state of  total chaos in the sewing room. The link will take to one of the new posts - if you dare.........    new blog

Sunday, 26 October 2014

Fairfax House dress - toile

So far so good - the trouble is 'so far' isn't very far at all.  To recap - inspiration is -  Phillip Mercier's portrait of Lady Anne Fairfax, 1750. Progress at the end of last week - under pinnings made, like this-

Tasks this week were  petticoats,  source fabrics and toile (prototype dress).  Petticoat is made -

The robe anglaise style dress I'm planning on is  pleated on the back, en ferreau (back bodice and skirt is cut as one)and  front closing. General ideas for the shapes are from Janet Arnold's Patterns of Fashion 1 and from  extant examples in the Metropolitan Museum.  The closest examples to the painting seem to be from 20 years later but....
Toile is kind of done, it's a little awkward as the pins are nearly as big as the seams.  But the fabric choice remains a problem. I posted for advice on facebook and received some good insights, duchess satins or silk taffeta seemed to be the consensus.  Not in abundant supply in York but did find some, not the right colours, but had a try. These are probably the right stuff for period etc but not at this scale- they both bulk up alarmingly as soon as they are pleated and have a dislike of tight corners and shapes. The waist is only 5 1/2 inches and I want to knife pleat the skirt on to this. Compromise time - I'm going into town  on Tuesday  (hope) to buy what ever will do the job- should be shiny,  softly drapey and as close to the slightly greenish yellow ochre colour as I can.  I don't quite believe the colour in this copy - think it is too rich, so will have to pop back into Fairfax House to double check.      Do wish they would allow photography.

In the mean time - distractions -
Sewing buttonholes and buttons onto Gwen's Rupert frock coat,
Trimming the Victorian  1890s day skirt,
Actually got some drawings taken and now  published by the Stamp Press, Manchester.

And there is to be a new fabric in York -   Yipee!

Still can't wrinkle forehead following the botox  treatment 9 days ago - will keep trying.

But at least The News Quiz is back on Radio 4!