Essential sewing keeping me clothed and sane

Sewers Break Into Jail


If you live in New York city then Peter organises the MPB meet-up and takes you to the very best fabric shops in the world only to be found in the garment district, then on to lunch at some fabulous Greenwich Village bistro.

If you live in London, then Pinheiro schedules a world record breaking meet-up to fit in with a stupendous exhition at the V&A of some world-renowned designer and a gourmet lunch for pattern and fabric swapping.

Anywhere else in Great Britain and you get the chance to join the Minerva meet up for demonstrations and workshops.

If you live in Sydney then Velosewer shows you how to go for extravagant fabric shopping and English afternoon tea.

If you live in Belfast, Northern Ireland, where do you go for your first ever local sewers’ meet-up?

A jail, of course!


This is the Crumlin Road Gaol, or the Crum , as it is known locally. Closed to the last prisoners in 1995 and now open to the public for tours, concerts, plays, exhibitions and nights out in a genuine Victorian jail setting.


Through some sort quirk of international politics involving NATO, the Cold War and east-west relationships the Bolshoi Ballet and the Russian Museum of Ethnography released some of their costumes for an exhibition in Belfast: the first time these costumes have been allowed out their country of origin. I got a wee bit lost in the explanation as to how this occurred but I’m very glad it did. From Bolshoi to Belfast  – now there’s a phrase you don’t hear everyday!


The costumes were arranged along B wing with the exhibits in cells. This was an excellent way of showing the clothes as you had to walk into each cell to see what it held.

The operatic and ballet costumes were works of art; beaded embellishments, applique, embroidery – just breathtaking.

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And the original ethnic clothes were inspiring and detailed.

Look at this little bolero – no shoulder seams, so obviously cut on the fold with a little shaping for the back of the neck. And the dress/apron underneath is entirely worked by hand using red cross stitching on white. This was a wedding outfit.

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This one is entirely hand-made – see the little stitches? Done in white thread, no attempt to disguise the stitches.


We fell in love with this style of sleeves – slit so the blouse/garment underneath shows.



And while this one was for the chorus line, its simplicity impressed. It is cut on the bias and we all pictured ourselves wearing this in summer. The pattern is painted on the pale yellow linen and buttons are for decoration only, there are snaps underneath the front band (quick costume change I suppose).


Some of the later (1990s) costumes were just downright colourful and reminded us a little bit of Disigual

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And if you have a stack of single buttons then make a collar


Here’s the four of us with some tutus – now there’s another phrase you don’t hear every day – LOL


From L – Lynne, Evelyn, me and Stephanie.

Each of these wonderful ladies was resplendent in their own makes: Lynne in one of her signature print dresses, Evelyn in a very stylish grey/silver skirt and matching top and Stephanie adorned with her incredible bead work in the form of a delicate bracelet and matching necklace. I wore black and brown AC.

Unfortunately (or fortunately) I had to leave to go to see the newest edition to our family – baby Harry, 15 days old today!

Thank you ladies for a great morning out and we’re planning on meeting up again in a few months time. So if anyone else out there would like to join in there’s plenty of advance warning. Can’t promise you an Alexander McQueen retrospective or Goldhawk Road fabric shopping but good chat, good fun and meeting some incredibly talented people.

24 thoughts on “Sewers Break Into Jail

  1. Thank you, thank you, Ruth! Gasping and drooling over my keyboard at those fashions and headdresses!!! You lucky Belfast beauties…and to see them up so close and take photos…oh my…absolute heaven! The colors, the buttons, the sheen and satins and sections of artistic sewing is to die for!
    On a more gastronomic note…where and what did you eat on your day out?

    • There’s a pretty poor coffee shop on site which we went to waiting for our escort to B wing. However, there are marvellous eateries in and around Belfast but I had to leave early for the new nephew.
      The costumes were amazing. I know they are costumes and not clothes, but still…….

  2. Fabulous garments -and the ones in the exhibition were ministering too! Do you know if the exhibition will be moving on after Belfast? I am hoping for Birmingham (or at least London). Glad you had a good day 🙂

  3. awh sorry I missed it! Looked like good fun and the costumes look amazing.

  4. and if you live or want to visit Manila, Philippines, you can come with me on a hot and dirty tour of all this city’s best fabric places….. Although at the moment I wish I lived in Belfast…

  5. A jail. Ha! I saw the title and had to read what the post was all about. What gorgeous outfits on display. I love the colours! I hope you all had fun at your meetup.

    • We were very impressed at the combination of colours and patterns. On the outfits everything worked but you really wouldn’t have chosen each individual fabric thinking it would work.

  6. That is a lovely jail, a crum that’s way too good for crims.
    I love the Disigual comment!

    • It is freezing! They had to put in special heaters and humidifiers in B wing for the preservation of the clothes before the curators would agree to show them.

  7. Goodness me, you’re on the ball! This is the first time I’ve looked at the Internet since yesterday! Thank you for organising the meet up, I had a lovely afternoon. I would urge anybody to see this exhibition if they get the chance. The costumes were amazing, and we had great fun trying to work out how they were made.

  8. Simply stunning…thank you so much for sharing. How wonderful it must have been to see these garments close up.

  9. What a great exhibition. Lucky Belfast and lucky you!
    Thanks for sharing.
    Now I want one of those bias dresses too for summer.

  10. Wow, thank you so much for sharing these spectacular garments! Beautiful work and so painstaking.

    • And all the more impressive Mary when you think that most of these were worn on stage, in bright lights and only seen from a distance. The earlier costumes were better made that those from the 1990s – Perestroika? Interesting how political change has an affect on costume making.

  11. LOVE this exhibition, Ruth – thank you for the inspiration!!

  12. Hi Ruth. Great fun to meet up yesterday. I really enjoyed the visit to the ‘Crum’ and meeting you all. We pencilled in the first weekend in January 2015 for our next get together. I’ll keep an eye out for a suitable event! Stephanie

  13. Is the garment with the slit sleeves a sort of cape? The combination of fabrics is lovely.

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