Monday 12 November 2012

A wedding dress with a difference

Back in September I was given the opportunity, thanks to a recommendation from an existing customer, to make a dress for a lovely lady to wear on her wedding day. Not your traditional bridal gown but a dress that she could wear many times again in the future and that suited her down to a T.

After much deliberation over fabrics she settled on a dark teal satin with a light stretch to it, and we tailored the style of the dress accordingly. She didn't want anything too complicated but wanted to focus on what she saw as her 'good points' so we decided on a crossover top with a wide waistband and slightly more than a-line skirt:
The 'V' at the front was mirrored on the back, and both the top of the zip and the little 'keyholes' details on the sleeve were finished with the most fabulous buttons (which I can't take credit for, she spend some time in Duttons for Buttons picking out what she wanted, but I did love them).
It was a joy to work with someone who was so excited by the garment as it took shape, and I had a text from her after the wedding saying she'd had many compliments on her dress, which was good to know (and gives you a warm feeling inside when you know you've got it right). I know she was planning to wear it again for a family event the week after so hopefully she got more then too!

Wednesday 7 November 2012

I'm back!

Oops, bit of a longer break from blogging than I'd planned but things all ended up getting a bit hectic! On the plus side, this does mean I have loads of stuff to show you... I'll try not to send it all out at once though so you won't get overloaded!

A few weeks ago I had a rather efficient weekend and finished off lots of little bits of jewellery that's been loitering partly done in my workbox. Some of them really did only need the slightest bit of work to be finished, but it's amazing how easy it is not to get round to doing the tiny things!

First off, a pair of simple spiral earrings made from silver plated wire. I've got a bit of a thing for spirals at the moment, these came out of wanting to play around with making some double-spiral shapes. All I had left to do was to add the hooks, that's how lazy I was being not finishing them!
Secondly, another pair of earrings, this time solid sterling silver with silk tassles made from silk dyed with logwood:
I also finished off and added jump-rings to two little copper shapes that I made during an 'Introduction to Enamelling' course at York School of Jewellery during the summer. I really like how they've come out even though it was my first attempt at enamelling:
And finally, something that I've been working at on and off for years and had a big push recently to finish. This is a tear drop fossil (can't remember the proper name, sorry!) set in sterling silver which has been chemically treated to give it a grey sheen. I haven't entirely decided what it'll hang on permanently so I'm using a black rubber necklet for now:

Monday 16 July 2012

Another dress for a wedding...

...this time for me to wear!

Thanks are due to my step-dad Ray for the pics of me in this post, as he kindly took proper pics of me wearing the dress before we headed out to the wedding rather than me taking them later on my dressmaker's dummy (I've not yet mastered taking photos of myself, although Ray has given me some tips to try out!)
The dress is made from 'Stoff' cotton, which is a lovely weight and drapes well. The bodice is boned and lined with black poplin, the skirt is a full circle (great fun in the wind, both me and my decency are grateful to my friends for their interventions on a couple of occasions!!) I also made a net petticoat to wear underneath in order to get the proper shape on the skirt.
This is a really fun dress to wear, but what was even more fun was getting to watch two good school-friends get married - they both looked so happy and it was an amazing day!

Monday 9 July 2012

The evolution of an existing pattern...

I have a regular customer who has had two dresses made from the same pattern previously (the last one featured in my blog a couple of weeks ago). For a wedding a week or so ago she asked if I could find a suitable fabric for a summer wedding and make her a dress using the same bodice but with a fuller skirt to give it a softer look.

Fortunately we managed to find the perfect fabric (so perfect in fact that I bought myself some to make a summer skirt) and after drafting a new skirt pattern the resulting dress was exactly what she had in mind:
I think she's had more traumas finding the matching accessories than she did the dress - she's got the bag and belt (white of course) but the right shoes weren't easy to find at all!

Monday 2 July 2012

From sari to dress

Another prom dress to share with you this week, this time made from a length of Sari silk that had been brought back from a trip to India.

The dress itself is fairly simple, the hardest part was deciding how best to cut it to use the most dramatic parts of the sari. In the end we went for a 'princess line' bodice (with sweetheart neckline) cut so that what used to be the border of the sari now sits along the waistline of the dress. 
The skirt was then cut as two rectangles to allow us to use the border around the hemline, with pleats at the waist gave the skirt some shape. 
The lining in this dress is serving a joint purpose of reducing the sheerness of the dress and supporting the silk along the zip and waist seams (yes, the silk is that fine!)

This is definitely one of those dresses that doesn't show it's full glory on a dressmaker's dummy (not helped by the weird light most days at the moment, even the morning's aren't really good enough for photography!). The girl it's for looks absolutely stunning in it, filling it out in a way an inanimate dummy just can't imitate so you'll have to take my word for it. It's still a really cute dress even on a dummy though...

Friday 22 June 2012

A second, very different, bridesmaid dress

At the end of May I blogged about the first of two of bridesmaid dresses with a difference that I had been commissioned to make, for a wedding in June (see here for that post).

The second dress is now done, and looking absolutely stunning, and it's this dress that I want to share with you today. It uses the same mushroom Italian lace with gold threads, this time in carefully placed gathered panels down the front and back of the dress. The main body of the dress is ivory polyester/cotton with tiny silver flecks woven in, and lined with poplin, and the whole dress is finished off with a 7mm chocolate ribbon under the bust:
I have to say that this does look gorgeous on the girl it's for, with the added bonus that when she twirls round the lace panels float up to horizontal (yes, this has been tested during fittings!) Apparently the two sisters are both convinced that their dress is better than the other one's, which I think is a sign that both dresses have been a success! (So long as they don't ask me to choose which I prefer!)

Friday 15 June 2012

Repeating a good way!

I suppose the best way to be sure that you're doing something right is to be asked to do exactly the same thing again. Back in January I made a smart red cotton dress for a customer who does quite a bit of public speaking. I knew she loved it and was getting quite a bit of wear out of it, but I was delighted when she came back to me earlier in the month and asked me to make her another one, this time in navy.

It's almost exactly the same as her previous one: a 'klona' cotton dress with a net underskirt to give the skirt structure...
The only difference is that this time the lining is navy with white spots (the previous was white with red spots that matched the outer layer)
And another delight - when she came for her final fitting and tried it on she ordered another dress. I'm clearly doing something right, must make sure I keep it up!!

Monday 4 June 2012

A bit more de-stashing (finally!)

Something I've made for me this time, as part of my ongoing sewing-from-stash - a project which I started with enthusiasm at the start of the year but got a little bit side-tracked from in March and April!

Even though it's quite a simple pattern and was reasonably quick to make up (cut & sewn in a day) this dress is quite a big step as it's:
a) a pattern I made about 3 years ago,
b) fabric I've had in my stash for about the same length of time, bought for this pattern, complete with zip and thread which had been kept together.
c) a summer dress, that I've managed to make in time for our (theoretical) summer.

And, voila! One sleeveless summer dress...
It's made from cotton shirting and lined with polycotton poplin. There's a hip-length back zip (invisible of course) so it can just be stepped in to & done up (none of this 'over your head' malarkey) and the bottom of the lining is trimmed with cream lace edging that just peeks out to give it the look of a petticoat underneath.
Now I just have to hope for enough sunshine this year to get some wear out of it!!

Monday 28 May 2012

Bridesmaid dress with a difference

Today I've got a bridesmaid's dress with a difference to show you. This is one of two dresses that I'm making for a wedding in June which are completely different styles from each other, chosen to suit the girls who are wearing them. Both dresses use the same soft Italian lace fabric as the top layer of the dress, which ties them together beautifully.

This dress is in a 50s style, with a fitted waist and flared skirt. The neckline is high at the front but a very deep 'v' on the back which will look stunning as she walks up the aisle after her sister (in fact, her sister has threatened to send her up first so she can see it too, although I'm not sure if she'll go through with that one the day...)
The top fabric is beautiful soft Italian lace in a colour best described as mushroom with gold threads running through it, which has been set over an iridescent chiffon underlay and lining, and the whole combination is beautifully floaty when it's being worn!

Friday 25 May 2012

Handmade retirement gift

Today I've got a really pretty commission to share with you that was a real pleasure to make. Some of you may know that I finished my previous full-time office job in November 2010 (which seems like it was yesterday and ages ago at the same time). This week a longstanding member of the team I led retired, and I was approached to make the jewellery that was to be given as part of her retirement gift. 

The designs chosen are part of my standard range of fine silver wirework, but the amethyst beads we decided on were a stone I didn't have anything made up in so this set of a bracelet, earrings and necklace was made specifically for her:
I know she's already got any number of plans lined up for activities to fill her day, so I hope she enjoys her retirement! (& her gift, of course)

Monday 21 May 2012

Second prom dress of the year

My second prom dress of the year is also in cotton jersey fabric but that's where the comparison with the red dress in previous posts stops. It's just as gorgeous but completely different.

This dress is floor length, with a deep 'v' neckline front and back, individually applied Swarovski crystal stars on the under-bust band both front and back and a leg-split topped with a crystal star.

Full-length shot:
Showing the front and back together (you can just see the star at the top of the leg split):
The star at the top of the split:
The girl this is made for is really thrilled with it, which is always gratifying, and it does look absolutely stunning on her (I know, I'm slightly biased, but it really does!)   

Monday 14 May 2012

On the person it was made for...

Just a brief post this time! Our local paper, The Press, send a photographer to most of the local school proms so I was thrilled to receive an excited phone call from a customer yesterday to say that not only had her daughter been photographed in the dress I'd made for her but they'd put her right at the front of one of the photos. I knew she was going to look gorgeous in it on the night as she had in all the fittings, but it's lovely to be able to see that other people thought so too!

I don't have a copy of the actual photo as it's (quite rightly) copyrighted to The Press - they make them available for parents to buy as a momento so they're not going to give me a free copy, but it's available to view at the link below:

Friday 27 April 2012

Prom dress season...the first one done

I know I've not blogged for a while, but April's been a bit of a strange month. I've been mad busy, with lots of things on the go at once, but I've not actually got to the end of any projects and had a finished object to show off (and the one I have, I haven't photographed yet).

But today that changed as I finished the first of two prom dresses that I've been working on. This one is made in red cotton jersey, which is a fabric which gives a lovely drape and fit to a dress (jersey seems to be a trend in prom / evening style dresses this year):
The asymmetrical strap is positioned so as to serve the purpose of holding the dress up properly as well as looking good. The 4 flowers each have 3 Swarovski crsytal beads in the centre, and are all detachable so that they can be repositioned to suit the wearer's fancy on the day.
This has been a lovely dress to work on, and it was really satisfying this afternoon to sit down to make the flowers and be able to take the final pictures!

Wednesday 28 March 2012

Making triangle from straight pieces...

Ok, a change from the dressmaking now to show you progress and final pics from a pendant commission I've been working on.

The brief? A 'simple' inverted triangle with a hanging loop at the top. Sounds easy, and in a way it is, but there are a lot of stages involved nonetheless.

I started with a flat strip of silver and filed a v-shape in the centre (unfortunately I forgot to take a picture of this so you'll have to use your imagination) then folded the resulting piece up to create the bottom half of the triangle:
Once this was soldered to secure it, I then filed the tops of the two prongs so that they lay flush with the piece going across the top and soldered the top bar in place:
The protuding ends were filed back flush to form a perfect triangle before all the faces were emeried smooth:
I then attached a small ring to the top of the triangle for the jump ring to go through, and polished the whole pendant up. The result is indeed a simple but beautiful pendant:
(although try as I might I couldn't get it to lie flat and not look wonky while photographing it in the box!)

Monday 19 March 2012

What my customers get up to...

...or rather, one customer in particular. You see, I happen to have a customer who's a Shirley Bassey Tribute, and a rather good one at that. 

Anyone who's been on my Facebook page may have seen the photos of a stunning gold sequin dress and matching gold lame cape, which were commissioned by Jacqui to take with her on a trip to the states this Feb/March. I was quite pleased with the result, and the dress especially managed to look stunning both on the mannequin and on Jacqui during fittings.
By all accounts her trip seems to have gone really very well, she had a wonderful time and some of the comments on her Facebook page give testimony to how well her show was received everywhere she went. The gold dress seemed to make an appearance at most shows she did, and she said there were often little gasps of amazement when she walked out in it - based on this photo she gave me, I'm not surprised!

Tuesday 28 February 2012

Handmade Mother's Day gifts that really won't break the bank!

Given the speed the year so far seems to have gone, Mother's Day will be here before we've had time to catch our breath. While it's nice to give your mum a treat, I know most people don't have much spare cash at the moment so I've put together a little guide to some of the beautiful handmade items that I've got for sale on my website that shouldn't break the bank.

I've broken them down in to two groups - under £10 and under £20 (of course, if you want to spend more you're most welcome to, but that's not the point of this little guide!) and I've taken my postage charges in to account when selecting them so you really can get them ordered & sent to you for less than the headline amount!

Gifts for under £10

If you've got a mum who enjoys a night out and would like something a little quirky to put in her handbag, how about one of these cute coin purses? They're guaranteed to make her smile when she pulls it out to find her change!


Whether you think she'd prefer fabric or crochet, these unusual corsages make a great addition to any coat or cardigan:

Or, if you've got a creative soul for a mother, why not consider one of these corsage kits? (currently only for sale through my Folksy shop) Each kit contains enough materials to make 2 corsages, and once she's made those she'll still have the instructions so can carry on making more...who knows you might end up getting one back as a gift at some point?

Gifts for under £20 

Pretty much all of my coloured wirework jewellery comes in to the £10-£20 bracket, which gives you a great range of earrings, bracelets and pendants to choose from...and some lovely colours too including purple, turquoise, lilac, blue, red, hot pink and dark green.

Alternatively, if silver's more her thing, both of sizes of my silver wirework earrings slip under the £20 mark, as do the pendants (I'm afraid the bracelets just tip over at £21 plus postage).

Or, if you think she'd prefer something a bit more practical for everyday use, I have just one sturdy shopper left in stock!

So whatever you think she'd like, go on...treat your mother!