Thursday, 31 October 2013

The sock dream

Handmade socks. As of around August this year, I have thought of little else. Knitted on circular needles, knitted on double pointed, cabled, ribbed, stockinette, fairisle, mohair, lace... a whole new and rather obsessive world has crested the horizon of late summer and sent me barrelling into autumn with nothing but 4 ply on my mind.

Handmade socks are, in no particular order: to be knitted by a log fire, or the ticking of central heating, under a blanket, in close proximity to a hot mug of chocolate, orange spiced tea or mulled wine, they are wrapped in brown paper and hidden under the tree, falling down inside your wellies as you stomp through mulched orange leaves, or like me, knitted groggily at 6.30am on the Metropolitan line as I journey for 4 hours a day travelling to the studios 5 days a week. Suffice it to say, my socks are coming on quickly.

The reaction to knitting in a public place is rather varied. Some people look at you suspiciously, others look at you like some sort of circus performer, often to my amusement I will glance up to discover at least 3 or 4 fellow passengers sleepily hypnotised by the rhythmic clacking of my 5 needles and I like to think of myself as some sort of calming crafty early morning Buddah figure to them all. Sometimes I start doing the robot to see if any of them join in.

The funnest of commutes is when I unknowingly sit down opposite a fellow knitter. Then the fun really starts. This can go one of two ways: the kindred spirit, appreciative, let's knit together my brother sort of journey. Or, more testing but often more rewarding, the competitive journey. Having sat down opposite an extremely tall, very hip chap complete with royal blue braces and trousers tucked into his matching royal blue socks (think the Fresh Prince meets Hoxton), you can imagine my complete joy when he pulls out a giant snood in progress on circular needles knitted with a chunky, blue and green twisted wool.

I very slowly reached into my bag and pulled out my black, grey and blue self striping sock on 4 double pointed needles (the traditional enemy of the lazy circular needle), and set to knitting at a much faster rate than I am used to or at all comfortable with. We did not acknowledge each other, steam coming out of my ears as I struggled to match his smooth, easy, calm knitting whilst I frantically clattered all over the place. Onlookers watched with amusement, I kept sneaking glances at my opponent's progress whilst he remained utterly composed throughout. My socks advanced the same amount in that short 15 minute leg of the journey as they normally would in an entire hour long sleepy slog, so in some ways it was a success. As I got up to continue my journey, almost unable to contain my excitement at finally sharing a knowing smile, a wink or an appreciative nod to my knitting partner, he did not look up, he continued to knit as though nothing had happened and only smirked gently into his snood as I stepped off the train. What a pro.


Knitted socks are the corner stone of my handmade christmas presents this year. As difficult as they are to master, it is a life skill. Everyone finds comfort in a soft, new pair of socks; everyone wears not one, but two- every day! They seem to have garnered a bit of a bad reputation during the festive season as the unwanted present, the 'Dad' present, or the dull stocking filler. But think twice this Christmas when you wander past the knitting stall at the local craft market, or the expensive 'handmade in Peru' boutique pair in the window of that shop, or whilst unwrapping the old familiar sock shaped package from Nan. They will have taken many hours to create, they will probably have travelled all over the place as a work in progress, they will have been passed round at work proudly, and caused a few sweats when Downton Abbey got really dramatic and suddenly half your instep's fallen off. But consider buying handmade over machine/mass made, appreciating the usually unappreciated gift, and spending that little bit extra in support of this old craft. And if you spot a tiny mend or a little imperfection, blame a bump in the Metropolitan line. Or Julian Fellowes.

1. My rainy day socks for Vanessa 2. A spot of colour 3. Free People's cosy socks 4. Knitty's lace socks

Friday, 21 June 2013

A note on 'handmade'

'handmade [ˌhændˈmeɪd]
(Clothing, Personal Arts & Crafts / Crafts) made by hand, not by machine, esp with care or craftsmanship'

Whatever you choose to call it: handmade, bespoke, custom, made to measure etc I would like to reiterate what that term really means. I'm applying this particularly to myself as a costume and  dressmaker, but it applies across the board to all creative disciplines. When something is handmade, we have spent time creating something with our hands, making sure every facet of production from fabric sourcing, pattern drafting, design, fit, hand detailing, finish and final packaging is as perfect and pleasing for our clients as possible. This takes time, because we are not using great big workrooms, or factories, we don't have large pieces of industrial machinery or saws that can cut 100 dresses in 20 seconds, we don't clock in at 9 and leave at 5.

Christian Dior atelier 1952
We get up early, drink endless cups of tea, try things, rip them apart, try them again, worry, take photos, try again, find the most exciting, beautiful and perfect ways of making something come to life and often crawl into bed in the early hours, lying there thinking of a neckline, a collar, a piping detail. We are always listening to our clients' insecurities, desires and twitters of excitement, a silhouette, a line, a colour, an impression, hide this part and accentuate this better part, a little bit up a little bit down. Drawing a design, sampling fabrics, drafting a pattern using rulers, set squares, tripping over rolls of pattern paper, draping fabric on a stand, a pin here a pin there, slice that, move this, trim there, remake it all again into a toile so the client can try and see their garment emerging, fit, adjust the toile, fit again, create in top fabrics, with linings, bonings, underpinnings, tacking lines, careful consideration, every line, every seam thought of, beautiful hand finishing, hours of stitching with just a needle and thread, beads, embroidery, slip stitched hems, checking everything looks just as we and the client want it, pressing, steaming, boxing or bagging, wrapped in tissue or in special garment bags... This is handmade.

It is not and never will be, the cheaper option. Coming to a private dressmaker does not mean that we can create something you have seen in the shops, but for less money. Handmade bespoke garments will never be able to compete with the prices we have come to be used to on the high street. And so they shouldn't, those garments are mass produced, they are not made to fit a real person but fashion's idea of size 8 or a size 12, the imagined silhouette of 36, 24, 36. The construction and detailing have not been overseen by someone who cares about where the garment is going, the designs have been created in order to maximise profit, minimise production time and to copy what has been made by luxury designers, here is no true craftmanship in these pieces.

Christian Dior atelier, contemplating a hem
Prior to WW2, there was an entirely different stance on clothing and dressmaking. People would invest money in a good coat or dress like we now do in an iPhone, or a smart camera, or even a car. The amount of money we now attribute to an entire month's spending on wardrobes of poorly made garments, made from materials that harm the environment using manufacture routes that are not fair trade, to the detriment of the third world countries who sadly so rely on the labour; is the same amount spent then on just one or two pieces. Ladies would peruse magazines with examples of stunning coats, dresses, shirt styles and take these to their private dressmaker who would create their dream wardrobes for them. So specialist, to such a high quality that not only would the garments by far outlast those we waste money on today that break after two wears, but they also don't go out of fashion. They are loved just as much by their owners on the twentieth wear, as on the first. This is the nature of bespoke clothing, it does not follow a fashion cycle faster than a quick wash at the launderette, where by the time you've tumbled your bodycon dress or razor backed tank top, then you're ready to chuck it into the nearest charity shop because suddenly STOP THE PRESS, you've gone off it and everyone's wearing one and 'actually I fancy something new...'

If we treated clothing as an investment, spending that bit more on handmade garments that have timeless character, details we love, practicality, incredible shape or print or detail; if every garment in our wardrobe made us proud to walk down the street, to know that this piece of fabric on our backs made us look incredible, powerful, stylish then we could save money, minimise clothing waste and its effects on the environment, and support the makers who have spent years fine tuning their craft in order to deliver the highest quality of craftmanship and care and make a living keeping a traditional skill alive.

Tuesday, 28 May 2013

ruby shirt

Introducing the Ruby shirt, a 1950s style striped shirt with raglan sleeves and gentle puffing at cuffs. It has a classic nipped in waist and open neck collar. The collar is made from hand embroidered hankies featuring delicate buttercups and forget me nots. Underneath is a hidden contrast Liberty print undercollar, perfect for popping up over the top of your coat, or wrapping a neck scarf around. Finished with zesty hot orange buttons. 


The Ruby shirts will be made in several different fabrics, this is an example of the softer Wild Flowers series which is a delicate soft cotton version featuring hand embroidered collars to be worn with a high waisted skirts during long summer nights or pastel coloured capri trousers while out riding bicycles in the sunshine. We're working on the workwear collection also which will see our signature 6 shirts being given a work wear twist, in order to be worn during the day toiling at your craft, typing at your desk or running around frazzled keeping the world turning.   

As soon as summer truly arrives we have a very exciting photoshoot scheduled in order to photograph all our signature shirts for our lookbook. Exciting!

Friday, 29 March 2013


Shirts. Shirts. Shirts. I can always get excited about a shirt. They seem to have made an even bigger resurgence this season, buttoned to the neck, button down collars, bow ties, pussy galore long bows, collar tips, cufflinks, boyfriend fit, puff sleeve, peter pan... It's endless.

Men have many options when it comes to shirts: Ben Sherman, Brutus, Fred Perry, all the classic brands not to mention tailored options from Burtons, Hawes and Curtis, T M Lewin, and higher end options like Vivienne Westwood, Ted Baker, Hugo Boss and Ralph Lauren. The hours I've spent scrambling through rails in charity shops at lightning speed, hunting for that iconic polo player embroidered on the pocket. Most men I know, no matter how fashion conscious or unconscious, has at least one expensive shirt in their collection and could name at least a few places where they could go, should they need another.

Last year I took part in an embroidery event at the Hacketts mens tailors in Sloane Square, hand monogramming handkerchieves for customers; and whilst there I took in just how incredible the inside of a working men's tailoring company is. There was a private workroom behind a velvet curtain where all the highly skilled tailors beavered away on orders, the walls papered in mock pattern pieces. Front of house had all the possible options for suits, trousers, jackets, shirts all displayed on rails and mirrors all around for clients to admire themselves in. In particular, the display of men's collar options looked incredible, all pristine in a display case.

I have been secretly working for the last few months on a collection of bespoke shirts, for women! I don't feel there are as many options for women to go and find a beautiful shirt, in a particular colour or style, where they are able to choose their own detailing, collars, cuffs, fit and style as men do. The initial collection of 6 styles will debut in the shop over the coming weeks, with introductions to each style as we go along. Some have a modern shape, whilst others are inspired by original 1940s and 1950s shirts, all with secret details and hidden treats. The first style: the 'Ruby', will appear next week.


For more shirt inspiration, see my 'Shirt' board on pinterest.

Tuesday, 1 January 2013

A new year

2012 was such a busy, mad year that sadly this little blog got rather ignored! But no longer! There are lots of exciting things in the pipeline in 2013 and regular weekly updates are one of them. So without further ado, ringing in the New year, some wintery goodness.

Happy New Year everyone.

Saturday, 25 February 2012

spring inspiration

It was a warm sunny day in London today, spring is beginning to creep in. I'm looking forward to a summer of long sun soaked days, homemade lemonade in glass jars, cycling around the city with flowers threaded in bike baskets, campervans, grassy fields, daisies, juicy mangoes and barbeques on the beach. Here are some of my inspirations for the new spring items I will be adding to the shop. There is a shop update coming tomorrow too (finally), eyes peeled!

work in progress Folly costume

Some work in progress pictures of 'Folly,' a 17th century court opera costume design by Jean Bérain. He has been occupying most of my time in the last months. He has a large padded belly under there, a giant pair of breeches and many other hidden items. There is a lot of work left to do on his sleeves, an overskirt, hat and surface decoration (beading, embroidery etc). He will then be thoroughly broken down to age him, I really want him to look like an old costume that was brought out every year for the court balls, a bit battered and faded but still beautiful.

Still lots to do!