Orsini: prominent designer

orsini A584This is my latest dress, to complete the outfits I’ve made for my niece’s wedding next weekend. I found the pattern in a bundle donated to the school where I work. It seems a local lifelong needlewoman and seamstress had given up sewing due to ill health and had decided to bequeath all her patterns, ribbons, sequins and more to the textiles department. Always delighted to have a look through dress patterns, I was thrilled to discover patterns from the fifties through to the eighties. Although they were not all in my size (it was usual in the old days to buy a pattern for a specific size, whereas now each pattern is good for multiple sizes), this pattern caught my eye as I love the glamorous lines of seventies evening wear; this probably comes from the fact that I used to enviously watch my mother getting dressed up to go out in the seventies when maxi was the “in” length for skirts and dresses. I did some research into this pattern and found that it was available by mail order via newspapers and magazines. The Prominent Designer range produced patterns from the 1950s to 1970s; I can date this one to 1976 as I was able to view a page from The Salt Lake Tribune published on July 18th in that year, and an advertisement for this very pattern was there in black and white. I had less luck with Orsini; I couldn’t find out who s/he was, but the name has strong links to the fashion world still today. I found a tie manufacturer and vintage clothes shop and a flower power men’s shirt on eBay, all carrying the Orsini brand, but couldn’t find a dress designer from the seventies.IMG_2704

The pattern is number A584 in the Prominent Designer range, and comes with an instruction sheet with just 11 steps to finish the dress. Everything was quite straightforward, and I had no problems with construction. I’ve found that hand-sewing was much more of a thing in the old days, slip-stitching bindings or linings for instance, but I am always keen to use the machine wherever possible, and find it perfectly acceptable as long as the stitching line is accurate. The challenge I faced with this dress was the fit – although it is stamped with “size 14″  (bust 36″) it came out very small in the mid-section and I had to be creative. I overcame the problem by sewing a satin ribbon to both sides of the back opening, then sewing my zip to the ribbon, which gave a much needed extra inch or so around the midriff. Luckily the dress has an integral scarf attached to the neckband which ties loosely behind and obscures the whole zip, so the emergency insert is not glaringly obvious and could even be seen as a design feature (blue sky thinking has always been one of my strengths). My colleague took some shots in the classroom at lunchtime today – this is not how I usually dress for school!


Ballot box at polling station in 2010In a few hours the polling stations all across Britain will be opening. I was told today that my village will have an extra polling station this year because a high turnout is expected. Let’s hope that’s true. Both my son and my daughter will be able to vote in a General Election for the first time – I hope they both take the opportunity to exercise their democratic right.

Last year I wrote a short piece about voting. Today I saw this video by Owen Jones, a columnist at The Guardian, author and political commentator. He talks about how seemingly insurmountable problems have been overcome in the past to bring about change and to give us all the right to vote. Let’s not lose hope.

What I’ve been reading: Proulx/Gwyn

Read what I thought of them here – Librarium 2015

Down on the farm

toptentuesday2This week’s list was announced as “Books which feature characters who…..” and my chosen ending for that is “….live on a farm”. For details about this meme and to read other TTT posts, visit The Broke and the Bookish.

I came up with 16 great titles, but have whittled it down to only books which have not previously featured on my blog (the discarded ones do get a mention at the end though and are well worth a read too). So this is what I came up with……in no particular order:

  1. we-were-the-mulvaneys1We Were the Mulvaneys by Joyce Carol Oates An American farming family in the 70s is torn apart by an act they cannot even bring themselves to mention. This is a powerful tale of family relationships, shame and retribution.
  2. Fantastic Mr Fox by Roald Dahl Perennial children’s classic about the fox who outwits three farmers in order to feed his family and neighbours.
  3. On The Black Hill by Bruce Chatwin Brilliant novel about twins growing up in the Welsh/English border area. A no frills portrayal of the brutalities of cultural and social repression in rural life in the early 20th century.
  4. Animal Farm by George Orwell Couldn’t really leave this one out. Classic dystopian novel; an allegory of pre and post-Revolution Russia.
  5. sheep pigOf Mice and Men by John Steinbeck Published in 1937, this is still a text for teenagers studying literature at school in the UK. The tale of George and Lennie, two migrant ranch workers in California.
  6. The Sheep-Pig by Dick King-Smith Endearing story of the piglet brought up by sheep-dogs who believes that he, too, can herd sheep. Made into the film Babe.
  7. Property by Valerie Martin Set on a sugar plantation in the early 19th century; a slave rebellion is brewing. A highly original slant on this evil period in history.
  8. caravansTwo Caravans by Marina Lewycka Comic novel (published in USA as Strawberry Fields) about migrant workers picking fruit on an English farm. Explores the deep and dark social issues of exploitation and human trafficking.
  9. Cider House Rules by John Irving The life and loves of orphan Homer Wells from his bleak beginnings in an orphanage, to life on an apple orchard and finally back to the orphange.
  10. Mr Vertigo by Paul Auster A modern American fable. Orphan Walt is plucked off the streets of St. Louis by Master Yehudi and taken to his farm on the Great Plains, where Walt begins his instruction in levitation.

Honourable mention to Stoner, Bad Dirt, A Lost Lady, Haweswater and Harvest which all appear on my blog, and Charlotte’s Webb by E.B.White which doesn’t.

Top ten all time favourite authors

toptentuesday2Top Ten Tuesday, as brought to the blogosphere by The Broke and the Bookish, is a weekly feature for anyone fond of lists and fond of books. Each week they will issue the theme of the next list, and bloggers take it away from there. I’ve just discovered Top Ten Tuesday, and will give it a go now. In no particular order, here’s my top ten ………….with my favourite reads .

1. Salman Rushdie

2. Iain Banks

3. Ian McEwan

4. Enid Blyton

5. Rose Tremain

6. Andre Brink

7. Isabel Allende

8. Mervyn Peake

9. Toni Morrison

10. Margaret Atwood

What I’ve been reading: St. John Mandel/Paton

Read what I thought of them here: Librarium 2015

26 years on

Justice for the 96 who died in Hillsborough Stadium


photo courtesy of BBC


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