The reason for my absence hasn't actually been that I've still been ruing all that I didn't know when making the 'What I Wish I'd Known' skirt, but that I've spent the week on a pattern cutting course at the London College of Fashion. Despite having been drafting my own clothing patterns for a few years now, my techniques were a mixture of what I'd gleaned from various books and my own instincts as to how things should be done, so I'd always felt that my methods may be far from technical and wanted to do something to remedy this.
It's very odd going back to learn something in a formal setting after so many years away. When I was at university as a teenager, there were several mature students on my degree course (I studied Sociology, just in case you're interested). I always wondered at how eager they were: their keen punctuality; their earnest questions; and their rampant note-taking during lectures. What curious creatures they seemed. When I spoke to my father mid-week and told him about the course, I was struck with the realisation that I now was this archetypal mature student that I had felt vaguely bemused by so many years earlier. Having left my children behind at 7.20am each day and stolen away, missing out on school runs and the flurry of activity and homework that takes place every day, my endeavours to understand pattern cutting were actually costing and affecting my whole family and it's amazing how much more you appreciate the opportunity to learn something formally when the you realise how fleeting and precious the times in your life to do that will be.
And the pattern cutting? It's even more technical than I'd ever imagined, but the building bricks are now at least in my possession. On the last day, our lovely teacher said as we left the workroom: use it or lose it, girls! There's a lot of truth in her statement, for at the moment what I've learnt feels like it's precariously rolling around in my brain like stray marbles, ready to fall away down the marble run if I move my head excessively or turn my attention to other things. However, I have a large roll of drafting paper, 6 metres of calico in my drawer and a wardrobe waiting to welcome new garments...I plan to use 'it' until the techniques are more firmly welded to my brain.
These were the random thoughts that occurred to me during my week-long commute of people-watching (these thoughts are possibly an insight as to why I studied sociology at university - the wish to analyse and observe people as a population never really leaves):
- In the context of public transport, chivalry is dead. While rows and rows of be-suited business men sat comfortably in their seats on the train, most days I sat on the floor of the carriage reading through my notes. I spoke of my surprise over this to my husband one evening and he argued that we (i.e. women) had done this: that this is the culture that feminism has created. He said that when he was commuting, having a seat when a woman didn't was something that always made him feel uncomfortable, but he never offered it up to her for fear of being publicly humiliated by a torrent of abuse over why he thought a woman would be in need of a seat more than him. I could see his point entirely (and yes, I can see the point of the raging feminist too), but for one who rather likes a little Jane Austen in her life, I found it depressing.
- On the underground, there is a marked difference in the size of those who stand on the escalator on the right-hand side and those who walk up it on the left. The choice to walk up the stairs or to be carried up them is emblematic of an attitude to fitness in general.
- Modern technology means that no-one will notice your laughter. Once I'd finished reading through the course notes, I passed the commute (which amounted to about four and a half hours each day) by listening to podcasts downloaded from Radio 4's Desert Island Discs archive. A few of the people interviewed were very funny and one day I found myself laughing aloud uncontrollably on the tube as Richard Madeley described a choking incident that had nearly killed him...without the prop of a book to justify this laughter and with my earphones largely hidden by the scarf I realised with horror that I would look utterly insane to my fellow passengers. However, it then dawned on me that nearly every fellow passenger was also locked away in their own private be-ear-phoned world and was most unlikely to have actually heard.
- People seem generally happier. Ten years ago when I'd lived in London I remember people looking rather stony-faced on the tube. Perhaps it was the sudden burst of Spring weather, but people looked more cheerful than I remember as they rushed around the underground.
My next post, I think, will be a rather link-filled one - I have so many good things to share with you. The photos throughout this post are some of the ones that I came across in my lunchtime forays into the fabric shops near the college. The upper photo shows bolts of silk, while the latter two are Liberty print fabrics which I thought would make wonderful summer tops (unfortunately, the shop which sold them had marked them up so highly that I left them behind).