Sunday, 27 March 2016

A capsule collection

This collection has been made for my client who is a lady falconer (keeper and exhibitor of birds of prey), she and her husband have a thriving business and this work is her way of creating a professional image that encompasses her creative flair and forms a recognisable corporate identity for the company.  It is fantastic to make such extensive use of my embroidery machine and software as I am embroidering the company name inside each waistcoat and jacket and a striking bird of prey design on the outside, each in a different tone, size and location appropriate to the individual pieces.

Together we selected a range of fabrics to begin the collection, as this is an ongoing project that will include a much larger number of garments. The client wished to use a colour pallet that was mostly greens and browns although we have picked highlights in other shades because she loves bright colours.  One of the pleasures of this undertaking is that of making use of vintage buttons, buckles and fabrics in my somewhat large library of materials.

Tweedy! This is my favourite waistcoat so far and is made with a narrow strip of tweed that was a remnant from an interior design company I picked up a couple of years ago, to highlight the turquoise in this tweed I have made-up embroidered the bird in the same shade.  The lining is a very high quality twill lining, along with all the other linings used in this collection, that I bought at Bailie House Warehouse, website below, and buttons were bought at Fabric Land in Salisbury a few weeks ago because they were scrummy!  I saw my client in this waistcoat last week and it look really fab.

Here is where I am embroidering the company name, it is the facing inside the neck and is a practical solution for having the name easily visible without being in your face.

Waistcoat number two is also in tweed, this piece I have stashed away for many years and can’t remember for the life of me where it came from, it is nice though.  The lining is satin finish twill and matches the red of the embroidery and vintage buttons from one of my many button tins.  The buttonholes on this and the previous waistcoat I have made using the same colour thread as the embroidery and buttons. I like the effect and buttonholes have become a design feature as a result.

Third off the line is a yummy soft needle cord waistcoat, the corduroy was supplied by the client – it has been sculling in her cupboard for quite a time because she loved it and bought it with a future project in mind.  Twill lining again, a plain dark moss green with corresponding embroidery this time which is a lovely contrast to the soft turquoise. Flower shaped buttons that I have been dying to use on something for years give a real feminine touch.

My client originally contacted me to create a copy of her favourite skirt which kicked off all the work I am producing for her, and here is that copy.  It is an A line skirt with small godets in the front and back to give a bit of extra flare at the hemline just below the hips. 

Here you can see the contrasting waistband facing inside which is in printed denim, good use of some leftovers from another garment.  The button here is a proper rivet button that I found online and got a big pack of, they are very easy to apply with a hammer and some thick fabric to wrap around to prevent damage when putting it on.  This zip is a nice chunky one that I inherited (literally) along with a large collection of goodies – perfect colour.

Making good use of the pretty stitches available on my JUKI sewing machine (model HZL – 300) the back patch pockets have little flowers tracking diagonally towards the centre back seam.  There are belt loops on the waistband in the cord and all the seams have been top-stitched twice for durability and presentation.

I love this jacket, it is a subtle departure from my  design as there is the embroidery at the front (outside) and the facing (inside) in the same bright acid green of the twill lining, the pockets are different, as are the sleeves.  This tweed is gorgeous and has a delicious teal stripe running through it which is echoed in the fabric of the collar and revers, cuffs, pleat and half belt at the back.  I have made all the piping in the tweed which will make the edges very durable indeed, perfect for the hard work it will be put though.

So here you can see the double welted fake pockets on the outside (I normally use a tailored pocket on this style of jacket which are double skinned and double stitched for hard ware) which were requested.  There is a double welted pocket inside the jacket for a piece of equipment that is roughly the size of a smart phone. All of the welts have been put together in the teal contrast fabric which is a lovely suiting from Bailie House.

That bird really is striking isn’t it!  Embroidery thread is finer than standard sewing thread and has a shiny finish; it catches the light beautifully and changes as it moves around because the stitching is multi-directional.  Here you can also see just how attractive the contrast panels are, these buttons have an interesting texture that also catches the light, I have used the same (in a larger size) as the first waistcoat, but they are the opposite way up being darker on one half.

Using gauntlets to handle her birds is essential so I have made the cuffs narrower to accommodate that portion of the glove and they are piped in the tweed at both top and bottom.  The rest of the full sleeves are pleated into the cuff so she can wear a nice jumper underneath on chillier days.  I have this kind of sleeve on my orange coat and it keeps the drafts out very well indeed.

This collection is the first half of what we currently have planned; we have collated materials for two more waistcoats, another jacket and some other garments, so watch this space for the next lot.

Here are a couple of links to the two suppliers mentioned earlier:

Bailie House, Sturminster Marshall – this is a strange warehouse full of lots of different products, it is worth visiting regularly to see what they have, I only visit for fabrics, and there are really, really good deals to be had on dressmaking and interior design fabrics: 

Fabric Land has a number of branches and they have a fantastic mail order service – very reasonable on p&p too, they buy in bulk and pass on great savings to customers and it is well worth a visit to their stores:

Tuesday, 22 March 2016

Tinker Belles Market Saturday 19th & Sunday 20th March 2016

Set among the springtime greenery of the National Trust Stourhead Estate, Stourton Village Hall, which is the venue for the Tinker Belles Market, is a gorgeous setting to showcase all the scrummy work on show yesterday and Saturday.

Putting the finishing touches to our stalls before opening on Saturday morning and checking out all the lovely things on each others pitches
We set up in the morning to open the doors at 10am on Saturday 19th, the day started a bit grey outside but we were perky and looking forward to a good weekend, it is always nice to check out what our fellows have, it can be pretty inspirational too, sharing other good venues, top tips and cooing and ahh-ing over each other’s goods. While catching up with Gylla Pens, lovely hand turned pens made with Dorset wood, we were chatting about buttons, I had asked about having some made a while back and they are being made as we speak and I am really looking forward to seeing how they come out.  I love using local products and buttons made from local wood on my jackets would be really special.

My area set up and ready to go, I like the Wedding Dress contrasted with the Butterfly Sheba Coat
This month and next I am focusing on the wedding season so the Silk Wedding Dress I made recently is taking centre stage.  Given that it is still a bit chilly out I thought it would be a good idea to put the Butterfly Sheba Coat on the other stand for this show, it made such a lovely contrast to the wedding dress and is a show stopper in its own right.  There is a new bag on show too, made with satin ribbons and in a similar colour way to the wedding dress so nestles on the table in front of the dress.

The wood burner has just been lit to keep us all toasty for the day and we are waiting with hope for a stampede of visitors
Just as the doors opened the wood burner was lit and I noticed how lovely the window is above, the hall is so light and airy and everyone’s work looks great, so here we all are chatting before a jolly busy day and catching up with our friends.

A very good day on Saturday, the weather is perfect to bring in lots of customers
Once the day got going there was a good steady stream of visitors and customers. Visitors to Stourhead pass right by the door to the hall and the attractive signage of Tinker Belles is a big draw to get folk in through the door.  It was that that got me in the door the year before last to make enquiries to the organisers Teresa and Carey to exhibit at future markets, and here I am enjoying the lovely atmosphere and excellent marketing opportunity for my business.  Sales were nice and steady all day and I had such a nice time chatting with people who had not come across my work before.

Lots of sales all round on Sunday, even more folk through the door than on Saturday, it was great
Crickey, what a busy Sunday morning, all the car parks were packed and I had a lovely, if unplanned, walk from the top car park as there were so many early visitors to Stourhead.  The day was really busy from the get go and it was a real delight to get to speak to so many nice people. There were at least twice as many in through the door compared to Saturday and I got talk about my work to hundreds of people!

As the day went on it just got busier and busier and at the close of the day the sun shone brilliantly - a wonderful note to end the weekend on

As the day went on the numbers kept going up and up.  Among the groups who came in the door were some of my clients with their friends and families; it was great to have a catch up and they told their companions all about the work I had done for them, personal recommendation is the best PR in the world. One of those I spoke to in the afternoon was a lovely young woman who was deeply interested in all things creative; she took time to talk at length with many of us who were exhibiting our work and it was wonderful to bounce ideas around with her, I find young people so inspiring because they make such creative leaps, teenagers are cool.  To round the day off perfectly, the sun came out from behind the clouds and gave us a stunning evening before setting, it was pure joy to walk up and collect my car ready for loading up.

The whole weekend was fantastic and Carey & Teresa have my grateful thanks for creating such a lovely atmosphere.  I have booked an extra date to exhibit on Sunday June 5th as well as the previously booked date in October, and as I sit here I am wondering why I have not booked a day on the last market nearer to Christmas, methinks I will revisit that thought when I check out my diary for later in the year.

Next Tinker Belles Market is on Saturday 4th & Sunday 5thJune, 10am-5pm and I will be there on the Sunday, look forward to seeing you there.

Sunday, 13 March 2016

A day at Charlton Marshall Village Fair

Yesterday was a lovely day at Charlton Marshall, there were lots of beautiful wares on offer, including some stunning cross stitch pictures, two of my friends with their practical textile products and British Alpaca crochet hats and scarves, the lady who makes lots of painted and jewelled pictures (I bought a clock from her as a gift few years ago which is gorgeous) and lots of yummy home-made cakes (the apple cake was particularly scrummy).  The event raised lots of funds towards the new Village Hall and a jolly good day was had by all – the wedding dress I had on show caused a bit of a stir and I had some lovely conversations about bespoke wedding dresses so here is hoping that it will work hard to bring in lots of commissions.

Friday, 11 March 2016

Wedding Dress

This beautiful Silk Wedding Dress has been made using a stunning cream twill weave Silk that has a droplet pattern woven into it, the pink silks are heavy Moroccan crepe for the decorative panels and piping; and Habiti for the lining. I have used a vintage style silhouette as this is extremely flattering, suits a wide age range and is very current this season. The ethos of the dress is to present a well-made garment that is comfortable, flexible and would be suitable to wear again as occasional wear and as separates.  The whole bespoke outfit would cost around £1,100-£1,200 depending on the size, this example is a size 12 and is £1,100.

Making the outfit

Here are the fabric selections for the dress and jacket, I fell in love with the cream silk, it has a bit of weight and has a really stunning water droplet raised pattern that looks a little like water droplets on glass that are in sprays.  The heavy Moroccan crepe is gorgeous, it is from Bennet Silks in Stockport and is one of my absolute favourite fabrics as it falls like cascading water and is very forgiving on the body, it also has the added bonus that it does not crease as much as many silks. The Habiti for the lining is nice and light weight but very smooth next to the skin.  

The pattern started life as a commercial pattern that I have changed quite substantially as it saves time to start from a basic shape and then change it.  So I have lengthened the skirt and added more fullness at the back, added piping at the top and waistline, added a petticoat, added a lining, added a button stand for behind the rulo loops at the centre back, replaced the zip for rulo loops and buttons, changed the way the hem is finished and tweaked the fit. 

The jacket is a pattern I made for a client a number of years ago that fits perfectly with this dress, it was originally inspired by my client who reminded me of Marilyn Monroe because she has a perfect hourglass figure.  Adding the jacket to a wedding dress was inspired by an original Christian Dior Wedding Dress that I saw at an auction room in Sherborne several years ago. The jacket itself has a fluted peplum that flares from the waist to enhance a slim waistline and goes perfectly with the 1950s style dress.

Here you can see the facing for the jacket pinned before sewing, the piping has already been attached to the facing and then this sewing line is used as a guide for sewing the facing on and keeping the piping nice and taught so the original stitching is not exposed when it is completed.  You can also see here the sew-in interfacing I have used. For silk it is always best to use a sew in interfacing, which you sew to each piece of the garment before assembling; the advantages are that there is no risk of the adhesive permeating and marking the silk, and that you can change the characteristics of the silk depending on the interfacing used, here I have used wool challis because it prevents creasing in the finished garment and keeps a soft fall to it too.  

This is the bustier before I hand caught the pleats. The Moroccan crepe used here proved a little problematic because it has rather more give than other fabrics and it has also been used on the bias, hence the hand catching to stop it from drooping and making the bustier pleats drop out.

The dress is almost completed, you can see that I have used a patterned lining, this was bought for another project and I liked it so much I bought plenty of extra for something else in the future, and here is the something else! You can also see all the extra details of the dress that I have added, such as the rulo loops, covered buttons and button stand.  All of the buttons were hand made by a wonderful company in Soho called DM Buttons, an old family firm that has been making buttons for over a century for Saville Row tailors.  DM Buttons are a superb company and I heartily recommend them to anyone who wants something special, you simply send them your fabric and a cheque for the buttons and postage and they come back a week or so later looking like these – I use them a lot as they are really great value for money too; check out their website at

Here you can see all the added detailing such as the piping at the top and waist, this dress is substantially longer than the original pattern  by around 20cm so it falls to mid to lower calf depending on how tall the wearer will be.

The back of the skirt I have made fuller than the front to echo the peplum of the jacket.  You can also see what a difference the rulo loops and buttons make to the back, it looks really beautiful in my humble opinion.

Buttons and rulo detail – Here you can see how fabulous the buttons are close up; you can also see in detail the droplet pattern in the cream silk.

This bustier looks rather fab and the contrasting colour is very pretty, the band that passes under the bust then forms the shoulder straps and is very aesthetically pleasing although it was not terribly straightforward to accomplish.

Jacket front view – The whole outfit together from the front, I have carried  the piping on to the jacket at the cuffs and around the collar and down the centre front, this is one of my standard finishing techniques, I love it as it help garments keep their shape and it makes a lovely contrast.

Jacket button detail – On the jacket I had made slightly larger buttons as there are only three, the dress has 21 x 14mm buttons and these are 19mm, also made by DM Buttons. All of the rulo loops on this outfit I have made using a rulo tool, the knack is to make the rulo as small as you can so they are nice a neat; I will do a tutorial on this at a later date.

Jacket collar detail – For the top collar I have used the Moroccan crepe again, it looks very effective to use a contrast for the top collar and takes some colour round the back that would otherwise be lacking, it also bring colour next to the face which is always good.

Back view with the jacket – You can see the effect here of the fluted peplum and how it makes the waist look very slim indeed, curves are to be celebrated in my opinion! The coloured collar breaks up the cream nicely so one is not washed out by such a pale shade.


Tuesday, 8 March 2016

Diary Dates

Here are some more dates for your diary.  I will be appearing at the Charlton Marshall Craft Fair at the Charlton Marshall Village Hall, on the A350 just to the south east of Blandford Forum.  This is a lovely community event in the village  I lived in as a teenager that raises money for a new Village Hall, there are really yummy refreshments, good company and a very warm welcome to you all.
Come and see us on;

Saturday 12th March, 10am – 2pm
Saturday 12th November, 10am – 2pm

To find details on the Village Hall visit

Lace Bargain!

Shopping in my all-time favourite shop – Hanson’s Fabric Warehouse in Sturminster Newton – I was routing around in the bargain ribbons and lace baskets and came across these lovey bundles of lace.  I love the distinctive colours and am currently mulling over what to use it for, it could trim a skirt, edge a bodice, make a playful addition to a bag, or any number of things. Not made up my mind yet but they were such a good buy at 3 bundles for £1 that they were not to be passed up!

Bargain Lace

Thursday, 3 March 2016

Antique Kimono Waistcoat

This project has been a real delight to do, the client wanted her antique Wedding Kimono made into a garment that she could wear more easily for special occasions and asked me to make a 50” long waistcoat for her.  The Kimono itself is printed silk, each panel was individually made for the Kimono and printed for the different sections of the original garment, details have been printed with real silver and embroidered with 9 carat gold thread.

My task was to preserve as much of the original decoration as possible, to give the waistcoat some weight and to pipe and line with a suitable fabric.  It has been inter-lined, piped and lined with a selection of silks that will help stabilise the antique silk and give the garment weight and a good fall when worn.

Antique Kimono Waistcoat

Butterfly Sheba Coat, blue & orange

Since making my own Sheba Coat I have wanted to develop my use of the Brother Embroidery software, here I have used the Auto Punch option and tweaked the settings until I got a pleasing result.  Butterflies are always popular on my work and I have used contrast colours to make these really stand out, the placement shows how effective strategic use of a limited number of embellishments can be.  The coat itself is made with indigo blue and burnt orange chunky Corduroy which is very snuggly indeed, the soft collar can be manipulated to create a very high collar.  The piping was made using the orange corduroy and creates a beautiful rope effect to edge the front, collar, cuffs and pocket flaps and the coat is lined with French blue twill lining.  Size 14, £325.00.

Butterfly Sheba Coat

Butterfly Sheba Coat

Butterfly Sheba Coat

Making your own piping

A handy tip for you, I teach this technique to all my students and once they know how to do it they are very enthusiastic to use it, it is not difficult, just a series of simple steps to follow.

1. Cut bias strip about 5cm wide (bias strip is cut diagonally)

2. Sew right side ends together at right angles to create one continuous strip

3. Press open and trim so that the seam allowance is around 3mm wide

4. Using woven (wound will unravel) cotton piping cord wrap the bias strip around, right side out, and pin

5. Using a concealed zip foot, as in the photo (there is another type of concealed zip foot that is a block with grooves on the underside that I personally would not give house room to!) sew along the side of the encased cord, the closer the better, but not sewing the cord intself.

6. After sewing, trim down so that the remaining flat fabric is around 1cm wide, this is what you will trap in the seam allowance when sewing it in to your project

Instructions on how to set in piping to follow at a later date. 

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