Mr Rat clothing commission!

Commission, Construction

A lovely lady posted on my Mum’s village Facebook page that she wanted someone who sews to make some clothing for her daughter’s favourite cuddly toy and my excellent mother sent me the link, knowing how much I love doing personal commissions! So, I got in touch with her, intrigued by the message, we chatted about options and I got hunting in my fabric stash…

And found some possibilities for his Pyjamas and…

Some off cuts to make a jacket for him!

Erena kindly sent me Mr Rat’s brother to use as a guide – I’m so glad she did otherwise it would have been very hard to create from a photo – who was not as cuddled so a little fatter but perfect to get the dimensions from!

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I started with the PJ trousers – it felt like being back at uni because I got my calico out and started pinning and cutting around Ratty.

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Surreal but so much fun! Now I spread my pattern out and cut from the red and white striped cotton Erena had chosen. I added elastic in the waistband and a little hole for his tail. The legs were the trickiest as they were so small I needed to sew them in by hand!

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Well worth it though, because doesn’t he look adorable!

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I moved on to the PJ shirt – a simple idea, basically a rectangle with arm holes but very effective.

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Although I had a little mishap cutting the button holes…

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It happens to the best of us and actually I am much happier with the second shirt as I made it a touch smaller to fit the skinner Mr Rat!

I used the same pattern for the jacket but wanted to make it a bit more special so decided to mix and match some of the tweed scraps to create an almost duffle coat look. I added a collar and pockets out of different fabric and I am super pleased with the results!

He looks absolutely adorable! And I hope the clothes fit the honoured Mr Rat well and that Erena’s daughter loves them as much as I do!

So, my first foray into creating clothes for toys was not what I expected but I absolutely love doing special Christmas commissions like these, knowing what you have made will go to a good home and be loved!

Merry Christmas Everyone and I hope your preparations for the festivities are going well – remember to think small and independent to support us indie makers and creatives, we live for jobs like this and even just a card or a scrunchie purchase truly makes us do a little happy jig! xx

Small chair commission

Commission, Construction, Homeware, Textile work

I was commissioned by Samantha, who was my first Roman Blind customer, to see if I could rework an old chair which was left outside for a long period of time and had a hole in the middle of the seat!

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Of course, I said yes! Any excuse to get back to a bit of upholstery! With glee I striped the chair of all it’s old layers till I was back with the skeleton of the chair.

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I then added new, tight webbing…

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We decided on foam for the seat of the chair to make it extra squishy and I stretched calico over the top to give it a smooth finish.

On the back rest of the chair I started with hessian and built up horsehair and lint then stretch calico again before playing around with the placement of the top fabric.

Samantha had chosen some lovely Laura Ashley fabric that she had left over from another project and I had to join two pieces together to make enough to cover the seat, so it was tricky to hide the seam but by placing it at the back of the seat it was less visible.

We then needed to decide on how the pattern should go (see above images for options) and Sam preferred the fabric going in two different directions as it made the chair more interesting.

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She also decided on the trim she wanted – a lovely soft grey which matched the spotted fabric excellently!

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I finished the chair off with the same fabric and trim on the back and I absolutely love it!

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I did a quick fix with some upholstery velcro – I think I maybe have distorted the old seat section with all my calico stretches so it popped up at one corner but the velcro worked perfectly just to encourage it flat.

What a difference between the before and after images! I love that my job gives me to freedom to accept lovely upholstery commissions along side my oo arh! work!

Large Dog Bed Commission

Commission, Construction, Textile work

I was approached by one of my husband’s (still getting used to saying that!) colleagues in making a dog bed for his mum’s birthday – apparently they have a lovely counter in their utility room with a dog bed underneath. So it needed to fit the specific measurements of the counter – it was 3m by 1m, however, since his mum’s dogs are very small he decided to go for a half bed to fit the space.

I did some research and found some great companies online who cut foam to size and deliver it! Expensive but super comfy, luxurious, and prompt.

We did some brainstorming together to figure out what colours and patterns his mum would like – Cath Kidston, patchwork, tartan, tweed, Ralph Lauren. So I had a lot to work on. We also thought it would be an interesting idea to have an oil cloth side so that if they dogs were wet from a walk his mum could flip the dog bed over and there would be no damage from their fur!

I started by hunting through my fabric stash and made a bundle of tweed and tartan scraps, large and small ones in a similar colour scheme. My first job was to wash all the samples so the dog bed can be laundered later down the line.

I then made the scraps into squares or rectangles to make composing the patchwork side easier. I overlocked all the edges so the inside is neat and tidy and is not affected when taking the cover on and off the foam.

Next I had the excellent job of build the patches together! This was so much fun!

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I ironed each seam as I went which gave me a wonderful finish.

I also used my scraps to create the sides of the cover and to house the zip- when these were completed I was able to pin the patchwork side to the side panels, lay them over the foam and get the correct fit by moving the pins and stitching the line.

I did some research into oil cloth – especially Cath Kidston printed ones, these are quite dear but I found a company online who cut and ship oil cloth table cloths which had some lovely patterns and colours – the colleague chose one with charcoal printed dogs and I used the foam to trace the pattern piece!

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I then had a lovely pencil line to stitch along, I still pinned it to the side panels first and checked it on the foam so I got a snug fit!

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I have to admit, I had to redo the zip – originally I had inserted it on one of the shorter sides of the foam and due to it’s thickness (20cm) the zip would not stretch wide enough for me to insert the foam!

Never give up – I recut the zip so that it would fold around one corner and give enough space for the foam to be inserted.

It didn’t take long and success – I actually did a fist bump when I had wiggled the cover over the foam and zipped it closed!

I am so impressed, if I do say so myself, with how it has turned out – the corners are crisp and clean, the patchwork contrasts nicely with the precisely printed oil cloth and is nice and cosy for the little doggies!

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Wedding bouquet

Commission, Homeware

I really wanted to save my wedding bouquet to make a memento out of it after the wedding was over…I had no idea how I would go about this and merrily went off on honeymoon leaving my mum (bless her!) to figure it out for me – honestly, I had forgotten that I wanted to save it at this point!

She did some research and managed to purchase some silicon which she places around sections of the bouquet in a large tupperware container – left it for a week or so and they came out beautifully dehydrated but still with their original shape, texture and colour (mostly).

I was thrilled! She had managed to press a whole load more too – so I had a lot of material to play with! Now what to do with it…?

Since Christmas was fast approaching I suddenly had the idea to frame a small bouquet for my Granny’s present – you know the kind of oldy-worldy style of framed dried flowers? So I did some research about how others have designed their flowers and lay them out and got playing…

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This was the arrangement I settled on and then went looking for a frame…which I probably should have done first! Although I managed to find an amazing one from Hobbycraft that just happened to be on sale – perfect! 40cm x 40cm, nice and big so I didn’t have to start rearranging!

I bought some clear glue to stick it all down with but found it hard to work with as many of the flowers and grasses were stiff, but good old double sided tape to the rescue!

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I included a sample of the lace fabric from my jacket, which avid readers will remember was my Granny’s wedding dress! Some confetti and the ribbon I had around my bouquet!

I love that all the different textures are still visible and am thrilled at the way it has turned out. Can’t wait to give it to her in a few weeks!

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Handmade Christmas decorations

Commission, Construction, Homeware

A returning customer commissioned me to make some more Christmas decorations for her family this festive season. Last year it was out of her Grandfather’s cardigan and this year she had found some beautiful embroidered handkerchiefs which belonged to her Grandmother.

I started by ironing them and the cutting them into 10cm squares with a 1cm seam allowance – I overlocked the raw edges first to prevent fraying.

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I then machined two squares together – including the ribbon to hang them by and leaving a 10cm gap so I could turn them the right way round…

They look so sweet! Now time to stuff them!

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It was actually a quick process because all that was left was to hand stitch the opening…

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I stitched the corner on this one because there was some beautiful stitching on the edge of the hankie which I wanted to preserve…

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And here they are! I hope her family like them as much as the cardigan ones – I love doing such personal projects!

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My Wedding Dress!

Commission, Construction, Textile work

Yes, that’s right, I decided to make my own wedding dress – how could I not?! I would have felt cheated if I had not had even a small hand in my special dress. And I would really like to share the process with you!

When I was in school still, and finding my way towards costumes and historical dress, my Granny gave me her wedding dress to study and then to keep! I have kept it tucked away in my cupboard in my mum’s house and as soon as I told mum that I was engaged she whisked me upstairs demanding I try Granny’s dress on!

 

It still fitted after all this time and it is lovely to think that I am a similar size to my Granny when she got married!

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My beautiful Granny with her dad on her special day in 1945.

I knew I wanted to use her gorgeous dress, but thought it might be nice to upcycle it into something that is possibly more me. This was my first idea, of simply changing the bodice and adding an underlay as the skirt is a little on the short side.

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However, after visiting a few bridal shops and trying lots of dresses on I started having new ideas, which actually just complicated the matter as now I am stuck between wanting to feel like a princess in a new one and desperately wanting to capture history!

 

I really liked the idea of having a top made of the lace from Granny’s dress over a plain bodice and with a flowing skirt, and a colourful sash to nip me in at the waist.

This was the idea I was ready to roll with until we went to India on a family holiday and we got Alex a tailored indian jacket made out there – mum said Alex was going to look so good, all we needed to worry abut now was making sure I looked just as good, and she suggested that we order an extra meter of his chosen fabric so I can make my bodice out of it – what a shock he’ll get when I walk down the aisle matching him!

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Not the best photo, but an open jacket with a fantastic granddad collar – he loves it! I could really imagine me in a bodice made of it, so started designing the dress around it…

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I may need to get some more lace to give the skirt more volume but it depends on what I do underneath – as a compromise I might purchase a bridal skirt from a separates collection, there are some really interesting ones out there and then I would get that gorgeous feel of beautiful fabric without the stress of having to sew it myself – especially if I am going to cover it with lace, it might be nice to have a given shape to work from.

I decided to start with the bodice – I had an old pattern that I actually used in my GCSEs!

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I made it up and altered it to fit my design – felt like I was at uni again…

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I am really pleased with the shape and now I can start thinking about boning and fastenings…

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I was thinking about making an inner corset so that the top fabric does not need to be stretched out of shape and to give me more support throughout the day. I purchased some bra fastenings off eBay and created a little panel that could be sewn into the back side seams and pulled tight to give a corset effect.

Another reason for doing that was so I could have a button fastening for the top fabric, I’ve always loved those dresses with buttons all the way down the back but I don’t really have the time to that, so four or five buttons will have to suffice!

Starting to make the bodice out of the real fabric now!!

Once I had started on the bodice I got a sense of what sort of skirt I wanted…

So this is the final stage in the development of my wedding dress design ideas…I doodled on top of the image so I could get a sense of how it might look – I found this skirt online after a lot of hunting and researching – not too big and poofy but elegant and enough to make me feel like a princess! Ordered, slight delay on the despatch time, so I went back to the bodice.

Having left myself time to think and chatting to family members I decided to not add sleeves to the bodice. Since the back was quite low, I was concerned about how the sleeves would work and if they would stay up, etc.

So instead, I separated the bodice from the skirt on Granny’s wedding dress, cut down that the centre of the bodice and had a play with how it might sit as a bolero jacket…

I added two more darts at the back of the jacket to reduce some of the excess. Also two rows of top stitching around the new hem and cut the excess away. The effect is very feminine and romantic – perfect for getting married in and then slipping off for the reception!

Moving back to the bodice, I hand stitched the support panel to the completed bodice in for now, in case it needed moving back or forward a bit.

Once the bodice was together and I was satisfied with how it looked, I started adding boning to the seams – very simply by ironing the seams flat and sewing them down in the middle of the overlock stitch, creating channels which I pushed the plastic boning into. I only added them to the right hand ones as I didn’t want the bodice to be too stiff, but still to hold its shape.

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And I am so thrilled with the outcome! Cannot wait to try it on when the skirt comes!

Next for the facing – I actually ran out of the top fabric, I used the off cuts to make pocket squares for the groomsmen! (see blog link!) So decided to choose a very simple, soft white cotton to face the bodice with.

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I machined it to the front of the bodice and then flipped in to the inside, cut the edges and pressed the fold flat so no white would show on the front.

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I was going to top stitch the facing down, but I didn’t want to ruin the effect of the facing, so I herringboned the edge of the facing to the calico, so hopefully it will not slip and be seen from the outside of the bodice.

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I finalised where the support panels needed to be and machined them to the bodice.

Now the majority of the bodice is finished I could have fun with the detail of adding buttons and elasticated hoops to finish off the bodice!!

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BACK TO THE SKIRT:

I am very lucky to have my head bridesmaid who actually works at a bridal shop! She very kindly helped me to take up the skirt so that the skirt worked with my chosen shoes…

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Once I had done this, I started playing around with how I could apply my Granny’s lace to the skirt. I love the simple look of the bodice and skirt here but…its my wedding day and I want to look spectacular!

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I really like the idea of having a long jacket and although it looks beautiful like this, it is not really me…

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Now this really IS me! I love ruffled skirts!

I popped the skirt on my mannequin and played around with how I wanted the lace to work, but it actually looked a bit too much so decided instead to apply some of Grandma Rosemary’s lace to the skirt to tie the rest of my wedding outfit with my headpiece.

I hand stitched this gorgeous belt I made out of the lace, once I had worked out the arrangement of the lace I machined it on to a piece of silk with some iron on interfacing to give the belt structure…

I then cut away the excess silk, leaving a belt of lace!

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This I hand stitched over the waistband with some fastening to complete the effect – this will hopefully give the look that the bodice and the skirt being one rather than separates.

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I also added the rest of Grandma Rosemary’s lace to the bottom of the skirt train…

 

To link in with my head piece, I applied beads to the lace flowers to add a little glitz to my dress!

With Granny’s wedding dress I went back to mum’s idea of creating a long jacket out of the gorgeous lace – now I have another layer and have included something so meaningful in my wedding outfit.

BRIDESMAIDS –

For my lovely three bridesmaids, I was able to find three dresses from Two Birds company in the sale at one of the bridal shops I visited – they were perfect, different shades of blue and ones which they could design their preferred bodice style!

I let them choose their shoes as they needed to be comfortable on the day but I was able to purchase some beautiful faux fur shrugs for them from dazzlingladieswear on Etsy – they were perfect as a cover up on the evening. I also got a navy version for myself which really worked with the blue in the indian fabric!

Following my bridesmaids instructions carefully, I began taking up the layers of this gorgeous skirt. It is quite hard to tell from the photos but I took the inner most lining up to around my knees to get it out of the way entirely and then turned the netting over slightly to make them rest on the ground.

I had to unpick the lovely hem on the top fabric, iron the new hemline and reinstall the horsehair in that fold. I tacked the horsehair to the inside of the new hem for ease when stitching the lining down.

  • Since writing the above I have changed my mind about my shoes…I know, typical bride. And since my lovely bridesmaid is back at her home in Huddersfield and I feel too awkward to ask her to come down just to help me with the hem! So I contacted a few people to see if they might be able to help, Cynthia from Oui Madame in Cookham turned out to be the one! She was unbelievably helpful and knowledgable – totally over qualified to just fix my hem! She was able to give me suggestions on design and also assist with taking the excess of the train up for dancing later on!

It was a mammoth task and I’m not sure if I would ever feel comfortable making someone else’s wedding dress but I loved every minute of making mine. I loved the personal touches and historical lace I was able to incorporate.

Alex had no idea that I would be in the same fabric as him, in fact he knew next to nothing about what I was wearing – he said, the engagement was his little secret that he had to keep, so this was like my version. And what a surprise!

It was the perfect day, and I feel truly blessed to have been able to celebrate with all my loved ones – here are some of the official photographs, I’ll add more when I get them!

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Images with thanks to David Scammell!

 

Upcycled Peter Pan Costume

Commission, Construction, Textile work

I was contacted last year by a customer about making a unique costume for her son’s 18th birthday in 2018 – he had a Peter Pan costume when he was little and lived in it. So for his special birthday she wanted to replicate it for him! Such an original idea, so of course I said yes!

I wasn’t exactly sure where to start so, as per usual, I got on Pinterest to see what other people had done and get some inspiration.

I started with the feet and worked up…I wanted to make him some shoes…but then realised the would end up more like slippers which he could not really wear outside. So instead I set about making something that could go over any footwear. This meant getting my foot on the work table and drawing round it, wrapping it in pattern paper and generally making a mess!

But I got there –

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And then it was on to the felt…

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It didn’t like the curves but we got there in the end!

 

I secured the side with a small piece of elastic so he could slip it on over his foot, and another strip to hold it in place underneath.

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Tada! I think they are adorable!

I purchased some green leggings and a second hand green t-shirt from eBay and started cutting…

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I also found him a belt to pull the XXL t-shirt into his wait – v Peter Pan!

And finally, green felt and red feather means…

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Yep, you guessed it, the hat! I had been sent the original costume hat to work from which was a real help as it is subtly shaped – I love the outcome!

 

Can’t wait to see the birthday boy in his costume – so cute!

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Moto jacket for Nikki

Commission, Construction, Textile work

One of my uni friends challenged me with a commission – she is in love with these moto jackets but cannot find any to suit her unique taste and also they are becoming scarce as the fashions change. So she appealed to my better nature and asked if I could make her one of her own and of course I said yes, I love a challenge and would love to make her something she adores!

So I started doing my pattern research (I did not think it sensible to start making my own pattern!) and found some really interesting ones online and in the end Nikki decided on this Evergreen Jacket from Hey June.

She gave me some colour and pattern ideas and I went shopping!!! Following in the pattern instructions I purchased some maroon sweatshirt material!

And got cutting…

I have not used a pattern for ages so it took me a while to work it all out but Hey June’s pattern was well thought out and clearly explained!

I made a pocket! One of the most exciting things I’ve done – adding a zip and pocket seems so simple but I suddenly realised I’d never done it before!

It wasn’t long before the pieces of the pattern were looking more like a jacket!

I love the little details that Hey June included in the pattern, simple things like top stitching lines around the collar make the item really stand out as unique!

I’m so proud of myself for sticking it out and I’m thrilled with the outcome!

Finishing touch…a lovely label for a lovely jacket!

Here is the finished item…I hope Nikki loves it as much as I do!

Stay tuned for images of the customer in her new garment!

The very talented Julian Jaschke took some amazing photos of Nikki in her new jacket and sent them over to me – I think she looks absolutely stunning!

Christmas markets and beyond!

Commission, Festivals, Homeware, Textile work

So, 2017 was my first Christmas season trading…and it’s time for some reflection.

To launch my festive trading I designed and made some alternative Christmas jumpers, which Webster is so wonderfully modelling here…

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With a winter animal theme and complimentary colours, each one unique and hand embroidered. They have been selling well, but I was not expecting to sell as many scrunchies as I have!

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We have also had very good responses to our ‘baggies’ (set of 3 or small, medium and large sold separately) which are very useful for filling with individual or personal presents, or simply on their own!

During the lead up to Christmas I also turned my hand to some cushions, which have not had much time on the shelves but we have also had some purchases and lovely feedback!

In total, oo arh! has attended 4 Christmas markets and overall I feel the ones we did best at were the ones like Bath, where we could have a larger range of all the stock on display. The marquee, although it is a lot of work to set up for one day events, worked to make the stall look inviting and different, even eye-catching!

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Nevertheless, even the smaller events were ways to get the name out there and to show a different way of reducing waste, which everyone can do themselves, through making or purchasing upcycled or reclaimed items. And without these advertising opportunities, I would not have been able to be involved in some of the personal commissions I have taken on this year!

It has been lovely to meet more like-minded people, friendly and encouraging traders and to get some wonderful feedback and suggestions of where to trade next, etc.

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…………………………

Looking towards 2018, it is going to be a busy year! I have some new exciting lines to look forward to, including some footwear and even more sari skirts! I am also exploring the idea of having some lines in small independent shops around the South so keep in touch for more news on that as it develops!

We may be attending a few Christmas markets this time next year but not too many as we have our wedding coming up – however we are super keen to go back to music festivals and possibly some new ones too – more information will surface in the New Year, so cannot wait to see where it takes me!

Also my soft furnishing services keep me busy on the side lines and I will still be offering these through my website. And am always up for taking on commissions, be it fashion, gifts or upholstery orientated!

A final thank you to everyone who has supported me this year, through buying your own unique oo arh! item, or commissioning one. To those who have hosted events and festivals, or simply popped into the stall for a chat and a browse! You make it all worth while and I cannot wait to get stuck into the next chapter!

Merry Christmas and a very happy New Year, one and all xx

Unique Upcycled Jacket!

Commission, Construction, Textile work

I was contacted by a lovely lady I met while trading at the Marlborough Christmas Shopping event in November. She loved my jackets but was not sure they would suit her or if she would really wear one with a long skirt. So I suggested she looks for her own which I could upcycled for her – she went straight out and found a bargain in a charity shop – a Giorgio Armani jacket! Sian also had ideas of what she wanted me to do with it, which was great for my first jacket commission:

Autumnal colours, trim around the neck and opening, pocket square, elbow patches and maybe some embroidery on the back, but that bit was left up to me!

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So, I got to work! Picking out some autumnal buttons to ease myself into the design process…

And then finding some beautiful fabric to make the pocket square and matching elbow patches out of…

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I then started in on the patchwork and embroidery to further the autumnal feel – I tried a few arrangements and sent my favourite to Sian to give the go ahead and hand embroidered an elegant flower over the top…

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We also decided on some trim to go round the whole jacket, excluding the cuffs, which really helped lift her jacket!

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It was so much fun to work on this personal project with Sian and I was thrilled when she said she loved it as much as I do!

And it looks even better on…!