Royal Blue Cashmere Coat.

Royal Blue Cashmere Coat.

This coat was a bespoke commission for a mother of the bride who wanted to keep warm on the day! She wanted a royal blue cashmere coat so we delivered it with a twist. The base fabric was purchased new but all the embellishments, beads, charms etc. and the lining were all leftovers from previous projects or treasure finds from old stash that we find when trawling charity shops and boot sales.

After preliminary sketches we began by taking measurements and constructing the coat, up to a point. In order to decorate it according to our proposal we needed to keep some areas accessible. We take some ideas for colour/shape etc. from the client but also insist we are allowed to let our creativity and experience guide the results, keeping the client in the loop if we feel things are moving too far from the original.

So, once we had reached a certain point we began to plot and assemble the decoration. As you can see from some of the images the first step was to paint the lace motifs and embroidered scraps. We enjoy doing it this way as it gives a more blended look than flat colours.

Care is taken to make sure the decoration will balance through the design so we plot it out beforehand using tailor’s chalk, in this case. Once we are happy with the amount and position of the decoration we began sprinkling stuff on the fabric. We used a combination of silk yarn, knitting yarn, painted lace and scraps and small pieces of embroidery cut from waste fabric. Some of the pieces we used were tiny

It pays to keep standing back from the piece and taking a breather. This way we can keep assessing how the progress is going. Our process is an organic thing. We are happy to undo or re-arrange and entire panel if we feel it’s not quite going according to the plan or the colours or weight of it aren’t quite right. We’ve been doing this for a while, though, so we are quite good at it by now!

We like to use a mixture of techniques and machines to create the embellishments. We also believe you can’t go wrong with a bit of hand sewing here and there.

For this piece we wanted the basic shape to be quite a classic and let the decoration make it stand out. However, we couldn’t resist adding a little design feature on the cuffs that raised it from the mainstream. The cuff band actually weaves in and out of the sleeve. You won’t see that on a high Street coat; indeed it is our opinion you won’t see the attention to detail present in our pieces in many places anywhere on the planet. Where possible we use ‘old school’ techniques like French seams and bound buttonholes in preference to various corner cutting methods that we think lower the standard of finish and wearability of so much of today’s clothing. Our pieces will stand the test of time from both an aesthetic and practical sense. That’s sustainability for you!

Most of our pieces are our own ideas and creations but we are more than happy to discuss a commission with you if you have a special idea or a dream garment that you have always wanted to own. All we ask is that you allow us to use as much material as possible that would otherwise go to landfill or be discarded.

Steampunk lace jacket

Steampunk lace jacket

I spent quite a while selecting a design for this jacket to accompany the steampunk wedding dress. The options are numerous and I wanted something that would still be suitable for a wedding as opposed to something for a safari. I really wanted to show off the bodice but knew the whole thing was unfinished without a jacket of some sort.

I love lace and have made literally dozens of lace jackets of one style or another for weddings over the years. This style is easy to make and wear. It comes together quickly and the amount of trim is up to you. It’s also a great way to cover up in church without detracting from a fabulous wedding dress or décolletage!

It can also be a great style for dressing up just about any outfit either in lace or fabric.

I adapted a pre-existing bodice pattern of mine that was a high backed style suitable for a winter wedding because it was more of a jacket to begin with and would fit more snugly than a jacket pattern, which is what I wanted. It also already had the cut away neckline I was looking for.

I spent some time reacquainting myself with the shape of the pattern on the mannequin so I would know how to adapt it. I didn’t need to do a toile of it because I knew I could tweak it quite easily if I needed to during construction.

First I cut out the pattern in lace fabric and then spent some time cutting additional motifs from that fabric and others for the edges.

The construction was a case of sew a few seams then some motifs then more seams, gradually building it up until it was finished.

A quick try on to check the size/shape before adding  a couple of loops and buttons at the throat.

Upcycled silk swatches make a great Steampunk Bodice!

Upcycled silk swatches make a great Steampunk Bodice!

During my years as an independent wedding dress designer I always stowed away the little swatch cards of silk samples from my silk supplier once they have been withdrawn from stock. They are too beautiful to just throw away but are essentially worthless from a business point of view. After my stash got a bit too big for the drawer I decided it was time to do something with them

Since they are all in shades of ivory or cream the logical thing to make would be an upcycled wedding dress. Even with all the swatches I had, though, it would be a small wedding dress so I decided to make a bodice from the swatches, supplemented by vintage silks and scraps I had salvaged here and there,  and  re-use a skirt from my student days.

After looking through some old sketches for inspiration I settled on a lightly Steampunk vibe with an apron fronted skirt with an attached train, a separate bodice/corset with busk front and lace up back and a lace shrug with long flared sleeves.

Although these are the edited highlights, there’s still plenty of detail in there for those of you who are interested in how a thing like this comes together.

The idea was not to go too far into the realm of steampunk but, rather to reference it through the style and a subtle decorative embellishment to the bodice. The garment is still a wedding dress that could be worn anywhere.  However, consider it in a different colourway, perhaps a red/black combo or shades of gold/sepia and it becomes a different beast altogether. Add a gun and holster, goggles and construction boots and you’re away (in a dirigible, of course)

The skirt is an old one I designed years ago while studying at the London College of Fashion so I’m sorry I don’t have any construction images for it. I don’t think digital cameras were invented then; smart-phones definitely not! I’ve updated it with a new separate apron front though, and was lucky enough to find a perfect match for the silk.

For the purposes of the blog the garments are modelled on a mannequin which is approximately a standard 10, if such a thing exists.  Therefore if any fitting issues are apparent in the images, I would crave your forgiveness. Creations always look better on the body they were destined for.  When I make for individual clients the size is not an issue, everything is “made to measure”.

BODICE

There are many ways to construct a bodice/corset. I do it my own way, developed from years of experience, training and prototyping. I don’t say my way is the best, I just say it works! If this an area you want to get into there are some great patterns to experiment with frm the mainstream pattern suppliers such as Vogue and Butterick. Getyourself a good reference book, too. This will help you work through the instructions on the pattern as someof the language might be unfamiliar to you.

I decided to use silk dupion as a base for the swatches in case they didn’t quite match up exactly. Some of them had embroidery or flowers on so wanted to make the most of them

Toile:

After measurements are taken, a toile is made from calico and fitted to the body. Adjustments are made and transferred to the paper pattern before cutting out the silk, interfacing, tie canvas and lining. I fitted my bodice toile on top of the skirt to allow for the fullness of the fabric in the skirt.

In this instance I used a medium weight iron-on interfacing under my base fabric.  In my opinion it provides a flexible support and helps to prevent extreme fraying while working on silk. I don’t use it under all my fabrics. Sometimes I use silk organza or even calico. Each project is assessed on its own merits. I knew that in this project, most of the silk would be covered anyway.

Face fabric:

Concentrating on the silk layer I gathered together a range of lace and embroidered silk samples. These were reclaimed textiles from old sample cards from silk suppliers that had been discontinued, offcuts or waste from other wedding dresses and scraps from my somewhat extensive vintage collection!

I spent ages choosing and positioning the various bits onto the respective bodice sections before sewing them down. This is always a tricky thing to do as you need to keep checking the whole thing for balance and harmony. Once the fabric bits were positioned to my liking I sewed them down. I decided to do the sections individually as opposed to sewing the silk first and appliqueing (is that even a word?) the scraps on afterwards. I wanted to emphasis the fact that the bodice was made up of so many different pieces. I could have blended them together over the seams but decided instead to let the beading flow over the fabrics, tying them together.

 

Beading

So far the bodice is coming together in a very “normal” wedding way. I decided to use some very, very small watch cogs as beads to introduce the Steampunk element. I got mine from Red Rooster via e-bay.

http://redroosteruk.com/100g-steampunk-watch-parts/

I selected not only cogs but weird shaped innards and even some tiny watch hands. I interspersed them with some mainstream beads in shades of gold along with crystals and pearls of various sizes.  I kept it subtle so it would become a talking point if people bothered to look closely enough. If I was doing a straightforward Steampunk dress I would have upped the ante on the cogs and other general “steam era” references.

I often find it easier to bead bodices in sections before they are constructed completely. I know I might find I have to add some more but don’t mind that if most of it is done.

 

  • Construction

The boning went on a separate layer of tie canvas before joining up with the bodice. The whole was piped top and bottom before the lining went in.  The busk parts are inserted during the lining process.  I learned how to do this at college many years ago, probably when corsets were still in daily use but you can see here for some instructions if you want to know more

http://www.silkthimble.com/how-to-make-a-corset-inserting-the-busk/

http://www.sewcurvy.com/buskfastner.html

If you like this sort of thing in general: follow their blog.

http://corsetmaking.blogspot.co.uk/

Bodice done and looking good, next up… the lace jacket

 

How To Make Ribbon Roses

How To Make Ribbon Roses

It’s a good idea to practice this first a couple of times to get the hang of it before doing it on your project. We tested it in three different ribbons before we decided which one we preferred.We used a tubular knitting yarn, an organza ribbon and a satin ribbon. Start by deciding how big you want your finished flower to be. Ours is about 2cms across. Draw this as a circle and draw a point in the middle of it.
Then draw 5 “spokes” from the middle to the outside edge, spacing them evenly.Take a thick thread in the same colour as your ribbon. We used 3 strands of stranded cotton for this. That’s the kind of thread used for hand embroidery projects such as cross stitch and is readily available. It comes as 6 strands so you will need to cut a length off and separate it into 3 strands.You’ll need to use a needle with a big eye to get the thread through. Tie a big knot in the end of your thread and poke the needle through the middle point from the back. Do one stitch on the spot to secure the thread.
Make a big stitch from the middle to the edge along each spoke. Finish with this thread by tying off a knot on the back. This can be done by using the needle to wrap the thread around one of the stitches that you have made underneath the work a few times and then passing the needle and thread through the loop of thread that appears when you wrap the thread and then pulling it tight. It needs to be secure as you will be putting some pressure on it soon.
Take a needle with a very large eye and a length of ribbon. The exact length will depend on the size of your rose. We used 50cms as a start and had plenty left over. Starting from the back, use the needle to poke a small hole in the middle and pull the ribbon through to the front and either tie a knot in the back or leave a piece behind, long enough to secure later. Once you have your length of ribbon on the front start weaving it under and over the spokes as you work your way round and round the rose.
You can experiment with the finished look by twisting the ribbon as you go or not. Try it and see what you think. Keep going until there is no more space around the spokes to use. Take the remaining ribbon through to the back of the work if you can by making another little hole with the needle. Try to do this slightly under the rose so you can’t see it. If you can’t pull the ribbon through then cut a tail of about 1.5cms and tuck it under the rose. Either way, secure the loose ends of the ribbon using ordinary sewing thread or the stranded cotton by sewing into the background fabric, underneath the rose and catching the ribbon in the stitches.
A Finished Rose

Get in on the act

Get in on the act

Ever thought of getting in on the act of upcycled fashion but not sure how to start? Think your sewing skills are not up to it? Well, the best way to start re-purposing clothes is to grab yourself something that already fits and that you like the basic shape and colour of. Build up your confidence by just adding a few touches here and there in the way of decoration to transform something mundane into a unique fashion statement.
For this project we took a simple high street brand mini skirt from a charity shop.The black and white theme was what caught our eye so we decided to stick to that. A quick trawl through our stash produced a triangle of polka dot fabric left over from a bunting project and a reel of black and white ribbon from a bridesmaid’s commission from over 10 years ago (see, we never throw anything away!)
A quick play around with positioning the pieces resulted in a fab result that no one would ever guess was a result of trying to use up a random piece of bunting!
Always look at the project and arrange the order of doing things according to what needs to be hidden and what doesn’t. For this skirt the polka dot needed to be sewn down first, hidden under the black flap of the skirt. We pinned it first and then sewed with a zig-zag stitch to make sure the fabric doesn’t fray too much afterwards. Then we pinned and sewed the ribbon with a line of stitch on each outside edge. The ends of the ribbon were tucked under the top and bottom of the skirt to keep the look tidy.
Finally we pepped it up with a pop of red in the shape of ribbon roses and toning beads.This part took as long as the rest because we dug out a selection of buttons, beads etc before we decided which combination looks best. Take care to space these out evenly or it will look a bit amateurish and you don’t want that!