Cashmere Commission

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 I 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 I find when trawling charity shops and boot sales.

After preliminary sketches I began by taking measurements and constructing the coat, up to a point. In order to decorate it according to our proposal I needed to keep some areas accessible.


I take some ideas for colour/shape etc. from the client but also insist I am allowed some scope as far as creativity goes and to let my experience guide the results, keeping the client in the loop if I feel things are moving too far from the original brief.

So, once I had reached a certain point I 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. I 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 I plot it out beforehand using tailor’s chalk, in this case.

Once I am happy with the amount and position of the decoration I began sprinkling stuff on the fabric.

I 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 I used were tiny.

It pays to keep standing back from the piece and taking a breather. This way I can keep assessing how the progress is going.

The process is an organic thing. I am happy to undo or re-arrange and entire panel if I feel it’s not quite going according to the plan or the colours or weight of it aren’t quite right. I’ve been doing this for a while, though, so I’m  quite good at it by now!

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

For this piece I wanted the basic shape to be quite a classic style and let the decoration make it stand out. However, I 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 my opinion you won’t see the attention to detail present in one of my  pieces in many places anywhere on the planet.

Where possible I use ‘old school’ techniques like French seams and bound buttonholes in preference to various corner cutting methods that I think lowers the standard of finish, wearability and longevity of so much of today’s clothing. My pieces will stand the test of time from both an aesthetic and practical sense. That’s sustainability for you!


Most of my pieces are my own ideas and creations but I am 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 I ask is that you allow me to use as much material as possible that would otherwise go to landfill or be discarded.

Wedding day disaster averted!

I was approached by a client who had bought a Jenny Packham dress in a sample sale. The body of the dress fit fine, even the length was perfect. The lace mesh at the centre front had perished but otherwise it was in pretty good condition.

Lucky Girl!

However, the same could not be said about the bust area. The dress was cut for a B or C cup at most whereas my client was a decidedly devoted “F” cup!

Not so Lucky Girl!

Unfortunately, the shop who sold her the dress insisted all she needed was a strapless bra and all would be fine. Well it doesn’t take much imagination to know this was some very bad advice.

What’s a girl to do in a situation like this?

While it may be a straightforward job to reduce a hem or side seams this was a more interesting challenge

Well, after an intense consultation with the bride we settled on a complete rebuild of the bodice which would keep the romance and feel of the dress but have enough structure and support to eliminate the need for a bra.

This gave her one less thing to worry about on the day as it is rare that a bra and dress are completely compatible in a relatively unstructured situation.

 The idea was to use one of her bras on a mannequin and fit the dress to it to keep fittings to a minimum. Simple!

All good? What are we waiting for?

Well, the dress was an old sample so the fabric had developed its own particular “shade” of ivory that was not going to be easy to match up to. I scoured the land for a match and found one through a contact I have in Birmingham.

We wanted to keep as much of the original dress and its beading intact so I increased the bodice area above and to the side from the new fabric. The first step was to create a base or foundation for the new bodice from calico and make sure it fit the bride comfortably and maintained her modesty.

This also had to incorporate new “grown on” straps as opposed to the skinny straps it had on the back of the dress which had perished badly. This would also help to minimise the appearance of a fuller bust (Top Tip, right there)

Once the foundation was perfect I used the same pattern pieces to cut new satin areas. Once they were secured to the original bodice pieces it looked as though it was always intended to be that way. A completely new lining was cut for the bodice and then the whole was fixed to the skirt. I also incorporated an amazing elastic underband into the lining all the way round which mimicked the action of a bra to hold the whole thing in place without any slipping or unexpected “wardrobe malfunctions”. The bride said it felt amazing and gave her every confidence

The last job was to create some new beading at the centre front. We didn’t want to bead it all over as that would have only increased the illusion of a heavy bust rather than minimising it. Plus there was a budget to consider!

Lastly, I tidied up and replaced any and all loose or damaged beads on the original part of the bodice and checked the skirt for the same.

Et voila! A dress any bride would be thrilled to wear.

Game of Thrones

To honour the release of season 6 on dvd in the UK  just prior to airing season 7 of Game of Thrones HBO commissioned a large tapestry representing a battle from one of the episodes.

With the finale coming up I thought it was time to remind you all of this…

Hardhome is where Jon Snow and the Wildings barely escape from the White Walkers and we, the viewers get a better understanding of what the whole seven kingdoms are up against should they decide to march south of The Wall. The tapestry shows the White King, a very sinister character with ice cold features and skin. As the leader of the undead White Walkers he is a very formidable adversary indeed.
Many groups and individuals were enlisted to complete the work harnessing a wide variety of skills and techniques. The roll call of those who were involved reads like a ‘’who’s who’’ of the UK based textile practice.

My personal involvement was to machine embroider the hands and shoulders/top of arms of the White King to go under his body armour. (If you take a look at my textile art work, I do a lot of skin!)

Once I received the printed fabric the first thing I did was a lot of research on the image of the White Walker from the scene to be depicted. The digital fabric print out that I was given was incredibly blurred so I found it difficult to differentiate between his hands and the background. Fingers were blurred and merged with the people behind him.

I always immerse myself in the image to be sewn for a long time before I start stitching. This gives me an overview to retain in my head when I’m working intensely on a small part of the whole that is captured and stabilised in an embroidery hoop. I made sketches and also traced the original printed image to keep for reference later when checking tension and shrinkage.

Part of the brief was to keep the thing as monotone, cold and scary as possible in recognition of the general murky, icy and foggy look of the whole. If you’ve ever watched an episode of Game of Thrones it looks as though all scenes shot in the north, particularly north of The Wall, look as though they’ve been shot through a blue lens; you can almost feel the cold from your sofa!

Bearing this in mind I made a selection of threads ranging from black and navy blue through various shades of blue, grey and violet to an icy blue and white; In all I used 14 shades of ordinary domestic sewing thread. The technique I used was freehand machine embroidery and my machine is an industrial Bernina 950. 

I did several practice samples on scrap fabric in a similar shade to the official one. I tried to use a technique known as cable stitch where thicker yarn is wound by hand onto the bobbin and the piece sewn upside down. I was trying to introduce some metallic yarn into the mix to give the icy feel. This was unsuccessful due to the thickness of the fabric. I knew if I just used sewing threads it would look very flat and possibly recede too much into the background with the “war torn landscape”.

Since the White Walker is the prominent figure I wanted to make sure his skin supported the other elements of the piece.

I spend a lot of time sourcing and trying out a variety of solutions and settled on an applique of spun thread “open” fabric from a florist shop that was blue and slightly sparkly; perfect. Its original purpose is to be wrapped around bouquets of flowers!

I struggled with the traditional method of using bondaweb to fix it to the piece before stitching as the fabric didn’t want to bond with the web! I persevered and finally got it to stay in place long enough to stitch a rough outline down before doing the detailed stitching

Once this underpinning was done I began by filling a selection of bobbins with a range of threads; not all the shades but just a selection ranging from black to white.

Then by using a wider variety of shades on the top of the machine, starting with the darkest colour, I built up the skin tones, moving towards the paler shades and emphasising any highlights in white where necessary.

As with any project of this size it is important to keep stepping back and assessing the work to maintain the integrity of the piece as a whole. It’s very easy to get bogged down in the little area you are working on and lose sight of the bigger picture.

As the skin pieces were isolated I had to make sure that as a whole they looked homogenous, as though they came from the same person. To do this I kept working on all the pieces with the same colours as opposed to finishing one piece and starting another. I find this keeps the balance right for the depth of stitching and the shading.

I had no idea what techniques were being used on the other elements of the tapestry or who was doing them. We were all working in seclusion. It was quite exciting, wondering how it would all come together. Assembling the final pieces must have been a mammoth task, not one I would have envied. The thing is huge! If you want to see more of the results click on this link.

Why Intermittent Fasting is Good For You.

The results are in and the boffins agree that it is actually good for you to fast now and again. However, I cannot stress enough that it must be done in a controlled and safe manner.

So here’s my Blueprint for Safe Fasting for Sewers

  1. Make sure you inform your family that you intend to fast and for how long.
  2. Keep a journal of your fasting episodes. Write down how long your fasting lasts and how frequently you do it.
  3. You should also monitor how often during the fast your thoughts turn to sewing and work on strategies to avoid this. Sign up for our newsletter and get a free download of possible alternatives to sewing to do while you are fasting.
  4. Don’t go ‘all in’ to begin with. Try a few minutes at a time for the first week and build up to half an hour or so. Too much, too quickly is dangerous.
  5. Consider a fasting buddy. The cravings can be lessened if you can take each other’s minds off sewing, even for a short while.
  6. Join an online group for intermittent sewing fasters or, even better; check out if there is a physical group near you with regular meetings. This can strengthen your resolve.
  7. Remember, it is considered cheating if you do any of the following while you are fasting:
  • Think about sewing
  • Read books or magazines about sewing
  • Talk about sewing
  • Look at pictures of sewing
  • Look at things you have sewn, even in picture format or online.
  • Sort out any of your drawers or cupboards that contain any items even loosely connected to sewing.
  • Take sewing items you no longer need to a charity shop.
  • Look at the inside of a garment to see how it’s made while in a shop during a fast.
  • Watch factual television programmes about sewing. (This includes You Tube)
  • Watch TV series or movies where the characters either work in haberdashers or run a sewing business. (This includes ‘Suits’)
  • Mend anything with a needle and thread that could just as easily be done with a glue gun or staples.
  • Read ‘The Tailor of Gloucester’ to your grandchildren.
  • Apply for a job in a sewing store or college or next door to a sewing store or college, or in the same town as a sewing store or college, or for a job in a magazine about sewing.
  • Comment on someone else’s sewing.
  • Dream of fat quarters.
  • Sharpen your scissors.
  • Try to insert words related to sewing into everyday conversation in a way that looks as though you are not talking about sewing. For instance… “Where did you stash the cheese?’

Good luck and let us know how you get on.

Meanwhile, here’s an image by Mathew Henry from Unsplash that perfectly sums up how I feel about fasting; intermittent or otherwise. And because some guru told me that pugs get you more ‘engagement’ on your posts.

Happy sewing, guys!