Archive for the ‘sewing’ Category

Corsets, Waistcoats, etc!

Friday, September 28th, 2012

Here is your thought for the week period until I make another blogpost:

Being a self employed dressmaker is cool and bohemian, but it palls in comparison to being a professional musician because I don’t get to carry an instrument case around.



I finished the corset! Yes I did. Corsetcorsetcorset. It took a long time. It fought back. I had to redo one particular seam SIX TIMES. To be honest, it’s pretty far from perfect, but it’s DONE.

To qualify the above, I’m not terribly experienced with corsets anyway, and that, coupled with the fact that this was the first iteration of a new design, made for some… fraught moments. In addition, about half way through the first half, I worked out a WAY better way of doing things, but I couldn’t really undo everything I’d done, so I had to keep making the rest in the old way. Rest assured that when I make these to order, I’ll be using the new way. Because New Is Always Better.

Here is a picture. A few things still need adjusting about it, and next time I’ll cut the fly at the front differently. I’ll get it up on Etsy for made to measure sales as soon as I work out a price and get some decent pictures of it.

One of the reasons I was delayed in making the corset was that on Monday evening, I got an enquiry on Etsy about the Harlequin Waistcoat. Due to a wardrobe emergency, could I make one up (my made to measure stuff is made completely from scratch- I draft the pattern from your measurements, cut the fabric accordingly, and put the whole lot together) to be delivered on Thursday? Given that I was at a friend’s on Monday evening, that meant two days to draft, make, and ship it. I do like a challenge! Anyway, I put everything on hold, starting tuesday morning, and got it in the post, next day guaranteed delivery, on Wednesday lunchtime. Mission: Success! So if you’re ever thinking, “Hmmm, I like it, but I doubt he could make it in time…”, I probably CAN make it in time, so try me! Unless I have a vast amount on, I won’t charge extra for a rush order.

I’ll add a little note here on the end: I don’t tend to update this blog that often, but you can keep up with what’s going on by hitting that LIKE button on my facebook page:

OR you can follow me on twitter:

I post new designs and progress on orders and ideas in those places, so keep an eye on them!


Deadlines, patchwork, swimming, site redesign, and corsets

Tuesday, August 21st, 2012

What ho! Today, a catchup on what I’ve been doing. My aim now is to update my Facebook and Twitter several times each day with pictures and updates about what I’m working on, and then once or twice a week to have a longer post here pulling everything together.

First things first! As the title suggests, I’d like to talk about deadlines.

I love deadlines.

That may sound odd, but I am sure a lot of you can relate to my position. If someone asks me to make something, and sets me a deadline, that thing will be made by that deadline. No questions. Last Sunday, I was at a market in London, when a friendly fellow asked me to make him a pair of trousers. BUT, he added, he needed them to wear to a party on the next Saturday. That’s six days, including shipping them to London (for those of you outside the UK, it’s small, but it’s not THAT small, and I live about 6 hours away from London by road). No problem! I measured him, drafted them on Tuesday, cut them, and made the fly on Wednesday, leaving myself just the waistband and the hems to do on Thursday, which I did before shipping them special delivery just after lunchtime. They arrived Friday morning, and he had a great, bespoke outfit in under a week.

So when I am set a deadline, I meet that deadline. Questions? No? Good.

The other side of the coin is when people say “Oh, no rush”.

Goddamnit, people! I NEED the rush! If there’s no rush, if it’s a run of the mill product, it’ll take anywhere from a month to in excess of six (SO sorry, customer (you know who you are)). If it’s something I’m excited to make, I’ll get the basics of it done super quick, but then all those little finishing bits will drag on and on and on. So please, if you’re ordering something from me, tell me when you want it by! It can a week’s time, or a year, but let me know!


Now, item number two in the list is Patchwork! I do love me some patchwork, and I think it really brightens up some relatively normal designs.


Me, in cotton Harlequin trousers

These trousers, for example, are a pretty standard cut. A little higher in the waist, perhaps, and they have only one pocket, but still. Add some patchwork to one leg, and you get nothing but compliments!

Several of my recent designs were inspired by that very black and white diamond patchwork fabric. Those of you who know me well will know that I have a thing for harlequins, and when I saw this fabric, I had to have it. However, it’s quite expensive on the roll, and the shop that I got it from has only the one roll and cannot get any more. Not wanting to rely on no one else buying any, and that already slim roll somehow lasting forever, I decided to figure out how to make it myself, quickly and easily.

To cut a long story short; I did! Mainly thanks to my overlocker. I love my overlocker.


NOT SHOWN: Lipstick marks.

If anyone’s interested, I’ll post a tutorial on how to do it. It’s a very quick method that does not involve cutting out hundreds of tiny diamonds which then fray and get lost before you have a chance to painstakingly join them by hand.


Logic would tell us that now is the time to talk about swimming, but it’s not! That comes later! I’m going to talk about the upcoming redesign of this site.

When I first got this site, it didn’t have much direction. I made stuff that I thought was cute, and it was! Oh my, was it ever. But now, I have a lot more direction. Recently, it’s been Circus Swing, and further back, Steampunk. So I’m going to have parts of the site redesigned to better reflect this! I’m also going to get rid of the portfolio section, replacing it with some kind of garment retrospective, and I’m going to get rid of the “Home” page, because what on earth do you put there that doesn’t go in another section? The site will work just the same, it’ll just look different. Better, I hope!

Now, by way of an apology for the last paragraph’s dramatic departure into chaos, corsets! I am working on some corset designs. There’s not a whole lot to say here, except that I’ve only ever dabbled with corsetry, and I’m excited to be getting properly into it! Keep an eye on my twitter for excited tweets as it all comes together/despairing, angry tweets as it all falls apart.


Finally, swimming. The event I was training for, the 2.2 mile Breakwater Swim (swimming from Plymouth’s Breakwater to the shore) was last Sunday. You can read a bit about it here (that’s me on the right, refraining from doing what the photographer suggested and putting my hand on Pauline’s shoulder, because she was covered in Vaseline). This was before the swim, when we were all excitedly nervous. Anyway, it went off without a hitch, once I was in the water (although I came off my bike on the way there and did the whole thing with cuts all down my right side and a swollen elbow on one side and shoulder on the other). I took longer than I wanted, but 12 weeks ago I couldn’t swim 25m crawl, so I’m still pretty happy. Now it’s time to work on my technique and my speed. I set the bar nice and low for next year!


Thanks for sticking with me through all that, folks! That was long. Reward yourselves now! Perhaps a cup of tea, or something from the store?


Friday, January 6th, 2012

You know what’s awesome?









GEOMETRY is awesome.


Tuesday, December 20th, 2011

One of the blogposts that was lost recently was about a pair of yoga pants I made for a friend. Over the years I’ve been making clothes, I’ve been given many old items that would have gone out, or gone to charity, and among them, I had a crateful of t-shirts. When my friend asked me to make her said yoga pants, I realised that this was a chance to use some of them up.

The result is the riot of colours and designs you see on the right. She wanted them loose and comfortable, with a deep crotch, so I just made up some rough templates, laid out bits of fabric to fit, and stitched the whole lot together, adding an elasticated waistband at the top, and some ruffles to the ankles.

Today, I will be making my mother’s christmas present, and she also wants yoga pants, although ones that are rather more sober than these, and also a rather different fit. Pictures to follow!

Catsuits and Dancewear

Friday, April 30th, 2010

Marta has long been interested in dance, and, when I met her, she was a keen oriental dancer, which is basically the smart name for bellydancing, as I understand it. All veils and shimmying and so forth. It was this which inspired me to make Marta a bustle skirt;

Bustle Skirt

This, with some tweaks to the original design, gave birth to this skirt(link to our Etsy page) which was made after someone saw Marta wearing hers casually, just over jeans, and literally ran over and asked her where she got it (with the benefit of hindsight, this story may have been made up by Marta for the benefit of my ego). Anyway, streams of consciousness aside, the idea behind the skirt was that it would really pick up on the hip movement that is so important in this particular dance style, and it also turned out to be pretty good for casual wear.

Since then, Marta has turned to a more traditional dance format, incorporating several styles, and, for rehearsals at least, she needed a one piece catsuit (Or mono as it is called in Spanish, which interestingly means monkey). This was just after I had bought my new sewing machine, with all it’s zig-zag capabilities, so I got right on it, and made her two, one from a lovely feeling, but horrible to work with cotton lycra mix, very stretchy, and the second from a pure, or as pure as lycra ever is, lycra.

Interestingly, I was sort of scared of working with stretch fabrics before this. I didn’t have a sewing machine that could sew them properly, my armless, legless dress form was not really suited to the business of templating, and I assumed that calculating for stretch would be hideously difficult. As it turns out, I know love stretchy fabrics! I have a bunch of projects to make finish right now, including a silk cocktail dress for my mother to wear to a ball in two weeks, but I am most looking forward to receiving the measurements of a client who wants a catsuit, so I can once more get my stretch on. (That last sentence marks the first time I have referred to myself as having a “client”. I feel terribly grown up!)

A further irony that has stemmed from the advent of the stretch era is that my way of making has no apparent relation to commercial methods; I recently saw a website where you could order a bespoke leather catsuit for around $900. Commercially, they are available, un-bespoke, for around $200-300. Naturally my methods mean that every garment I make is made individually, but it is weird that while I could make a bespoke leather catsuit (and for a lot less than $900, if anyone fancies one!), I have no idea how I would make a non bespoke suit.

Sewing machines

Tuesday, April 6th, 2010

I recently purchased my third sewing machine, and prior to this, I did a little research. I wanted a small machine that I could take away with me when I go to Spain or elsewhere, and that also had to be able to zig-zag stitch, for reasons that will become obvious soon.

At this stage, there are some things that you should know.

Up until now, all of my sewing has been done on one of two machines. There is my 1957 Singer 15k treadle, and that seems very old until I tell you that the other machine is a 1930 Jones family CS. Each does a straight lockstitch, and each can have the stitch length adjusted, and that is it. (I should note however, that the Jones will do that straight lockstitch through absolutely anything. I think the record is five layers of heavy canvas, one of leather, and two of a light polycotton, all at once) The Singer has a zipper foot, and a few hemming feet, a ruffler, and various other bits. Naturally this leaves me incapable of effectively sewing stretch fabrics, which is one of the reasons I bought the new machine, but on those two machines, I have made everything that I have made up until I got the new machine. So you can imagine my surprise when, upon reading a review of my new Janome (I decided on the Janome sew mini, now no longer produced), I saw this:

“Con: Only does 10 different stitches.”

As I have said, I wanted a machine that could stitch in zigzags for stretch fabrics. I figured that, with adjustable stitch length, two stitches would be good for pretty much everything. So this aroused my curiosity, and after a little searching, I discovered that it is pretty hard to find a machine with less than 40 stitches, and all too easy to find one with well over 100. I realise that these stitches are often solely decorative, but is anyone ever going to use all 400ish stitches offered by the Janome MC 11000?

The odd thing, though, is that in spite of my scepticism, I still kind of want one.


Thursday, March 11th, 2010

Marta’s royal outfit is done! I posted it off to her yesterday.

I haven’t taken any pictures of the bolero or the petticoat, but I have no doubt that some will be along at some point. Here, at least, is a picture of the dress, before I had done the hem, and looking great from the front, although at the back the zip was wide open to allow it to fit on my mannequin.

So now I am free to do a few other bits. Right now, I am working on my friend Kate’s christmas present. And it is only march! Admittedly I was meant to give it to her last year, but progress is progress! It is a Star Trek themed corset, which I started making quite a long time ago, before I had anywhere near the ability or knowledge to make it. This means that completing it is more a matter of making the best garment that I can from the nightmarish cluster of fabric that, if I recall, I told Kate would be finished “tomorrow”. That was the day I measured her.

Anyway, if there is one part of this project that I am quite pleased with, it is the logo that I embroidered, which is also the main reason that I didn’t want to start over again, because a lot of time and effort had gone into that little part.

After this is finished, which will hopefully not be too long, I am going to make another, much, much better corset for my cousin, now that I actually have some idea what I am doing. It’s going to be black coutil, based on a design from around the turn of the century. Pictures to come!


Friday, March 5th, 2010

Silk is a fabric I very much enjoy working with; it is a delicate feeling fabric, which nevertheless has a great deal of strength to it. It catches the light beautifully, and is stiff enough to hold its shape, while still hanging nicely.

For Marta’s royal dress, I thought I would go all the way and stitch it in silk thread.

It turns out that silk thread is horrible.

It is the twistiest, knottiest thread I have ever used. Hand sewing with it is a nightmare because these twists and knots form between almost every stitch. And, for all that we hear about ninjas and assassins using silk ropes because of their light weight and enormous strengh, it breaks all the damn time.


Edit: I just stitched the hem in. Just over two meters in length, and the thread broke at least four times. The Bolero will stitched in cotton, and it will LIKE IT.


Wednesday, February 24th, 2010

Marta is going to meet the Queen of Spain.

A little while ago, Marta won a scholarship awarded by a Catalonian bank, which allowed her the opportunity to study a postgraduate course in the good old US of A. Now, with the application process over (and two acceptances so far!), the bank are holding a ceremony to formally present the scholarships, and the Queen of Spain is going to be there.

As Marta’s official dressmaker, it has fallen to me to make her outfit, and it is now approaching completion. We decided to go for an appropriately royal blue silk cocktail dress, with a black silk bolero, and a matching clutch.

This is a really awful picture of the dress on a hanger; because Marta is so small, and she really is very small, I cannot get the underbust on Esmerelda (my mannequin) sufficiently small, even though she is a small herself. Bizarre.


The dress is made from a lovely silk taffeta, and is going to be worn with an organza petticoat to give it a little extra body, with these shoes from Irregular Choice, and with these stockings from Wolford. All in all, a very regal showing.