Friday 23 December 2011

Celtic cufflinks

Phew, that's the December rush over with! I can't complain too much about being busy as that means I've got business coming in, but it has been a mad month with only 2 days off between working on pieces and manning my stand at a few craft fairs. The next few posts will be showing off what I've been working on as Christmas presents (both for others to gift and one for me to gift too) starting with one I know has already been given so there's no chance of spoiling the surprise for the recipient!

A customer came to me at the beginning of October looking to commission something as a gift for 'her beloved'. All she had was a sketch of a celtic motif that he liked, and a rough idea that either a ring or cufflinks would be worn and appreciated. As the motif was square I suggested cufflinks as a ring would have to be very wide to accommodate the full motif, and of the sketches I presented to her she chose to have the motifs split across 2 rectangles per cufflink (joined by a chain to go through the cuff).

After much experimentation the design was rolled on to a strip of silver, which was then cut, filed and emery-ed to make the individual rectangles and given a light polish.
Once two of the rectangles had been hallmarked by the Assay Office (one mark per cufflink in case the pair get separated at any point in the future) it was a 'simple' case of polishing each rectangle to a higher shine, soldering the chains in place then giving the whole cufflinks their final polish.
Fortunately the customer loved them, and I got a text from her a few days later to let me know that the recipient had too, which is always good to know! 

Saturday 10 December 2011

Clutch bag

I've been so busy over the last month I've barely had time to stop and post up pictures of what I've been working on, but here's a little taster for you...this beautiful clutch bag was made from offcuts of Duchess Satin from a dress I remodelled a while ago.

It's a fairly simple clutch bag but with a reasonable capacity (about 25cm wide, and 7cm deep at the base) and a lovely 'boat' shape. With a zip closure and adorned with a matching bow, it makes the perfect accessory for a party!


Thursday 10 November 2011

Present for a creative person?

I know it's always difficult to find a present for a creative friend. Do you buy them something ready made, or would they prefer to receive something they can use to make something for themself? And if the second, how do you know you're buying something that will be useful for them?

With this dilemma in mind, and having listened to people coming to my stall and commenting on how they'd like to learn to make some of the things, I have put together some 'make your own corsages' kits for the coming round of Christmas craft fairs.

Each kit contains pretty much everything you need to make 2 corsages of your own - all materials, thread and even a needle. All the recipient needs to have is a pencil, mug/glass and a pair of scissors, all of which most people are likely to have easily to hand at home!
The colour of the fabric and buttons inside the pack vary from those pictured on the front but I have coordinated so that you do get contents that will match not clash (well, I think so anyway). And the price? £5 a kit, which I think is reasonable considering what you get for that.
They're currently for sale in my Folksy shop or on my stall at forthcoming fairs

Monday 7 November 2011

Spectacular feathered cape!

It's not just me saying that this piece is fairly spectacular, it was seen by a few family members on Friday who all thought so as well!

I was commissioned by a customer who is a Shirley Bassey tribute to make a cape as similar as possible to the white cape she wore for her Electric Proms performance. Complete with feathers round the edge. And, quite a few metres of chiffon and several boas later, I'm please to say that the result is pretty good. But first, a few snaps of my workroom as the feathers were being attached!

The new boas trying to escape from the box they were delivered in...
Even my dressmaker's dummy was roped in to holding some feathers...
And it did feel like they were going to swallow the sewing machine at times...
But the end result was worth it (even if it was a bit difficult to photograph in full without someone to model it for me!)

Simple skirt

I finished a couple of bits last week but didn't have much time due to family visits to put photos up, so here is the first item: a simple 'a-line' cord skirt, with side zip and belt loops along the waistband, commissioned to match a pair of winter boots (what better reason than shoes?).

Although it looks simple it's still pleasing to know that it's exactly what was ordered...
...and now I'm wondering whether I want one for myself, especially as there is a lovely teal coloured needle cord in Fletchers at the moment!

Saturday 22 October 2011

It's not just your eyes...

If you're a regular reader of my blog you might notice that it's had a bit of a redesign. Rather than leave you wondering why it's all changed (and where the pretty black background has gone) I thought I'd give you a brief explanation of why!

Basically, it's all in the name of 'integration' - my blog is now included in the main menu of my website (and has a new web address: and I didn't want it to be too much of a visual shock for people coming here expecting a page which is similar to the rest of my website. So the colour scheme has been changed to match, the banner is the same as the rest of my website, and the only link at the top takes you back to the index page.

If you're browsing on my website, you can get to the blog from any page by clicking on the link in the top right hand corner. 
In other online updates, there is also now a calendar of events on my website, to make it easy to see what craft fair you can catch me at next.

There have been some other behind the scenes changes, but as I doubt you'll notice them unless you browse in detail I won't bore you with them here!

Right, back to actually making things...

Friday 7 October 2011

Another step further on...(with some delays)

Ok, so the application of the crystals didn't go so smoothly yesterday. For some reason, despite my test section working perfectly, about 40% dropped off when I moved the pieces of fabric after the cooling period. Further attempts to iron those that didn't fix first time on again didn't work either, so I collected up all those that had fallen off and put them carefully in a pot and then sewed the pieces of fabric in to the dress. I then collected up the other 20% that fell off during the sewing process and put them in the same pot.

They're not still in that pot though, I don't give up that easily. Once I'd done all the sewing that I could on the dress (it needs hemming and some internal tidying yet but I need the customer in her shoes before I can do that) I sat down with a pair of tweezers and my trusty fabric glue. 1500 little spots of glue and several hours later, the score is Sonia 1 - Crystals 0.

It does look quite spectacular, but I have to confess to being quite glad (at this moment in time at least) that the next commission on my list doesn't involve any crystals!
And the back...
If I had to say why the crystals didn't all fix my first suggestion would be the coating of the satin, although that doesn't fully explain why the test worked, or why some are firmly stuck down. I don't think it's an issue with the iron, as I haven't had any problems with ironing interfacing with it (famous last words!). Maybe just one of those things that are sent to try us...

[p.s. thanks are due to my boyfriend for putting up with the cursing, muttering and general stress grumps last night, and for making tea/fetching drinks - he had the misfortune to arrive home from work just as the second lot of crystals fell off the fabric!]

Thursday 6 October 2011

The difference small things make

I spent a large part of yesterday arranging two sizes of Swarovski crystal on to some satin dupion for a dress commission, and it struck me while doing so how the smaller crystals actually seemed to make more of a difference than the larger ones, so I thought I'd share this thought with you.

First I scattered the larger (5mm) crystals liberally over the area being covered - in this case a downward pointing triangle on the back of the dress, with the point finishing just above the hips.
So far, OK, but even with more of the 5mm crystals added it was still missing something. Then I added the smaller (3mm) crystals and voila, suddenly it came to life!
Oh, and it wasn't just that one piece that took so long - there's also a large quantity of crystals arranged over the bust as well, and carefully graduated in density for added effect. All in all, going on for 2000 crystals!!
Now to iron them all in place...

Tuesday 4 October 2011

Pretty lacy dress (lots of pics!)

This won't be so much a wordy blog as a phew of photos of my most recently finished commission: a lace bodiced dress with a full tulle and net skirt. 
The top part of the bodice was lined with satin dupion (for modesty's sake!) and the same satin dupion featured under the top layer of tulle in the skirt:
The lace motif was transferred on to ribbon (to stabilise it) and ran over the shoulders to form elegant straps:
Swarovski pearls dotted the tulle, which was finished off with a ruffled hem:
All in all, quite a fancy dress but fun to make and it did look good on the girl who's going to be wearing it!

Monday 12 September 2011

Another first...

And away from clothing and jewellery in to the world of knitting this time...a few friends have been suggesting that I should write up some of the knitting patterns I improvise so that others can get the opportunity to enjoy them. But, as is often the case, time and other things get in the way so it never gets started.

While I was knitting myself a new headband the other day (partly because I needed one, partly to use up some left-over sock yarn) I decided to test write up the pattern and see how it went. After all, it is quite pretty, and is probably a good length pattern to start with.

The design? A neat 2 stitch cable running up between two seed stitch columns. The edge deliberately doesn't have slipped stitches as I like the neat bumps the seed stitch gives, but anyone wanting a smooth edge could easily slip first stitch of each row instead.

 And where can you get the pattern? Ravelry of course, available for free download here

Thursday 25 August 2011

Leaf it out

In a break from posts about clothing, it's time to showcase some of the new jewellery designs that I've been working on. I've been trying to bring a touch of nature in to my work with metal, along with a bit of the gothic-ness that I love. The result is a series of cuffs and pendants featuring handmade brass buttons with leaf imprints (each one different, of course!) on leather and suede.
The cuffs feature three buttons, along a suede or leather strip which in turn runs through a larger backing piece of leather. The fastening is simple and adjustable - the loose end threads through the loop and then will either stay in place of it's own accord or can be knotted if desired.
The pendants feature just the one button plus a leather/sueded strip threaded through a contrasting square of leather. These will sit on black rubber necklets which not only look far better than a leather thong or silver chain for something like this but are also very comfortable to wear.
The only problem now is that I want one for myself, but I also have a show coming up this weekend that they're supposed to be on sale for...will I resist or will I have to make myself one before then?
And if I'm making myself one, which colour do I want?

Monday 15 August 2011

An exciting week...

I managed to have a very exciting last week. Not only did a childhood friend get married in a truly wonderful celebration (which I won't go on about here, but it was a lovely day with lovely happy people) but I also managed to get a shop local to me to take a trial stock of my Handmade House Shoes.

After much thinking about sizes and possible fabrics, I decided to take 6 pairs in (I didn't want to overload her small shop with much more than that) - 1 size 5, 2 size 6's, 2 size 7's and 1 size 8.

Because quite a bit of the fabric I use to make the House Shoes, especially the linings, is either offcuts or individually bought "fat quarts" each pair is unique and unlikely to be repeated but when I laid them out there did seem to be a little bit of a theme going on at least:

Each pair has leather soles to give more grip on the floor than plain fabric (I didn't want to go down the route of buying in specially made rubber soles).

I'm hoping to find time to make a few more pairs up to have on my stall at future Craft Fairs, but in the meantime they're exclusive to Bolsita, Micklegate, York!

Tuesday 7 June 2011

Phew, made it in time!

I'm generally pretty good at working to deadlines, but I always like to leave myself a bit of leeway for the unforseen. There wasn't much time for that this time though, and then things compounded to get even tighter...still, all done and one happy customer!

I was asked about 10 days ago if I could make a dress for an interview, something simple but a little bit tailored, which sounded straightforward enough so i said yes.

Steps 1 & 2 were straightforward enough - the customer came round to be measured, we agreed the design and ordered the fabric that day (unfortunately she wanted something which local shops didn't stock so it had to be online).

I made up the toile ready her for her to try on...

All well and good...but there was a delay on the fabric being despatched which meant that it wasn't sent until Friday afternoon. And then to compound things the postman and I managed to miss each other (it's the proverbial law of sod that the postman will call in the one moment you're out of the house that day!) so I ended up not getting the fabric until early this morning.

And the deadline for the dress? Yep you guesses correct - the interview's tomorrow!

I don't think I've sewn this fast in a while, I'm just glad that I'd spent time toiling and adjusting the pattern previously so I could be confident that the pattern was completely correct.

I did manage to get it done, lined, overlocked and all the finishing touches done in time for her coming round to collect it. And it fitted well and looks good on (although it does need a final final iron at the time of taking this photo!)

Now I just have to hope she gets the job!!

Monday 6 June 2011

Reacquaintance with an old friend...

...of the back of the trouser variety - a pocket!

Recently I was make up a pair of trousers for someone which involved making up a type of pocket I hadn't done in a long time, but which does look great in trousers and jackets. I have to admit to an initial wobble trying to remember the best order of construction (I was sewing from a toile & pattern pieces, without any construction instructions at all) but once I'd got my head back round how it went together it was lovely to get reacquainted with a pocket which gives a lovely look to the finished garment and isn't as difficult to put together as it looks.

Now I just have to work out what I'm going to make to give me the opportunity to use it again!

Friday 20 May 2011

Yet more fabric!

I may have a fabric problem. This won't come as a surprise to anyone who knows me, but I think I do have to finally admit that I may be addicted (in fact, it may just be a general fibre addiction, as although I have managed 5 months 'Cold Sheep' I don't think it's cured it, just reduced the stash a little bit).

Under the premise of looking for fabric to match to a dress I've been asked to alter, and in need of some white cotton (for a corset) and an invisible zip, I came back from delivering some clothes to a customer via Fletcher's Fabrics. I had said to myself that I was allowed to have a look at their new summer fabrics and buy a couple of fabric lengths to make up some sample tops & skirts, problem do you choose when they're all lovely?! In the end I decided to come home with the following poly-cottons, some of which I have definite plans for in my head whilst others I have a small idea but not much more than that: 

The first was bought to be used in combination with some black cotton on a skirt, although it would make a great top too...
The second is one I couldn't resist (I do have a bit of a reputation for shoes as well after all!) and I think will probably be a skirt...

This next one will probably be a summer top of some sort, and is actually along the lines of what I was planning to get...
And finally, a length that I could hardly leave behind (yes I do also have a tendancy to collect handbags!) I think this might also end up in a skirt too...

Having said that they're planned for samples, if anyone wants something making up for them out of any of the above I'd be happy to oblige...then head back armed with another excuse to do a bit of shopping!

Wednesday 18 May 2011

Finishing with a sleeve...

Ok, so I did actually add this sleeve to the toile last weekend (not even the one just gone!) but I've finally managed to upload the photos so I thought I'd best put it up to complete 'the tale of the toile'!

I think adding the sleeves is one of the most exciting bits of making a toile. Not the easiest, as sleeves need to be inserting with a bit of care to avoid accidentally adding creases or even pleats, but very satisfying nonetheless.

The sleeves this coat is going to have are a relatively plain two part sleeve, and in the final garment will have a button detail at the wrist:
It still needs to be tried on, but we're waiting for the final fabric samples to come in so we can do the fitting and choosing of fabrics at the same time.

Thursday 5 May 2011

Moving on from paper...

After drafting and cutting the pattern pieces yesterday, today was the day to move on to cutting and sewing a calico mock-up of the coat to test both the pattern and the fit.

First task: lay out all the pattern pieces on the calico, and work out the most economical way to fit them on to the fabric. This is one of the things that a commercial pattern does for you as they usually provide a plan of where to lay the pieces, but it's a task I quite enjoy as a bit of a challenge. Once laid out all pieces are laid out it's time to pin and cut. 
Second task: the 'simple' matter of working out what order to sew the pieces together in, and doing said sewing. I'm pretty pleased with the result so far, although exactly how well it fits remains to be seen - I still need to draft and sew the sleeves before it can be tried on by the customer!

Wednesday 4 May 2011


Following on from finishing the ring (see prev. blog) one of my next main projects is a Frock Coat. Measurements have been taken on the customer it's for, and the outline design has been agreed (although a couple of small details are still being decided) so my job at the start of the week was to draft a pattern block based on those measurements.

Once the 'block' was done, it was on to first the interesting bit - creating the pattern pieces in order to cut and sew the toile (calico mock-up for fitting purposes). And there are quite a lot of pieces to this pattern jigsaw - 10 in total...
And now to cut out and sew the calico...

Monday 18 April 2011

Nice to be finished...

Last week I finished a commission that I'd been working on for a little while. Why didn't I blog about it then? Because it was quite a special item and I wanted the person who'd commissioned it to see it before the world did.

So what was it? A ring. Not just any old ring though, it was a ring to hold a pink sapphire which had been in the family for years, having been brought back from India after the war. A very special stone then, which did make it quite a nerve-wracking commission to work on (especially when it came to setting the stone at the end).

It had been set in a claw setting previously but it didn't seem too happy to stay put in place, and she was beginning to be afraid to wear it for fear of it dropping out. So the ring I designed for it combined being a more secure setting with a very sleek modern design which although it had less of the stone on display highlighted the stone better.

And what did it look like? This...
pretty stunning, no? 

And yes, she was pleased with it. Which is a relief really!

Wednesday 9 March 2011

The joy of pot luck parcels

Sometimes it's nice to take a risk and leave your fabric selection fate in the hands of someone else. When I ordered some fabric from Abakhan the other day I decided to try out one of their cushion fabric bundles - 5 metre long pieces of 5 different cushion/upholstery fabrics - perfect for bag making I thought...and oh what lovely pieces I got:

A large-ish flower pattern...

A large piece with an equally large vine/ivy patten...

A charming bright flower pattern on lightweight fabric...

A wavy geometric pattern...

And some ducks and hens...

While the animals are slightly off the wall (although I can see them looking great on a tote bag!) I love the flowers and am already designing bags & peg bags in my head!

And once I've used them all up, I might have to order another bag...