NOW AVAILABLE Peak Princess & new designs individually & lovingly handmade for you in your choice of Liberty prints by Millie Crawford
Though I'm hanging up my newsletter, I'll be keeping customers up to date with what Millie and Kate are up to so for latest news, design previews and sales please do still sign up via the contact me page.
News & blog
One of the most rewarding things about this job is the lovely letters and emails I get from customers with pictures of their little boys and girls wearing my clothes. You'll also find my latest press coverage and my blog postings here. You can also follow me on facebook or twitter @peakprincess.
To receive my enews letter with sample sales & preview offers just send me an email with 'newsletter' in the message box. I won't overwhelm you - I try and send one every month or so.
Welcome to my first newletter and new collection - 'Pick and Mix' - one of Liberty's new seasonal prints perfectly compliments the idea behind 'Millie London', which is to be able to offer you a pick and mix service.
Prices on the website are now quoted as dressmaking fees and therefore the designs can be made up in any Liberty tana lawn or cord print. Browse my new designs like Zara Anastasia, Holly Isabel, Florence Evie and Rose Ursula. Of course I am still making up Peak Princess' best-selling favourites!
'Freya Bean' long sleeve blouses handmade in Liberty 'Pick & Mix' tana lawn (£20 dressmaking fee + fabric costs)
I have a small selection of fabrics in stock and for those last minute occassions some tops and dresses too - please email me with your required age and I can then let you know what is available for immediate dispatch. We had a sweepstake with my girls and a few of their friends to pick our favourites for Christmas presents...Freya Bean, Rose Ursula and Livvy Anne were all very popular and make ideal treats for godchildren, grandchildren or nieces. Rose Ursula looks good with long sleeves too!
Fabrics can be purchased from the following websites:
Liberty of London (£21 a metre), Shaukat or Truro Fabrics (both approx £15-16 a metre. Truro are good for cord) and Unique, Ulverston but do please email me first so that I can advise you on how much to purchase, depending on the age of your child. Do also have a look at the fabric Lissa is selling too (£15 a metre for my customers). And finally do please remember that all my clothes are handmade to order so they can be made to fit your children, if for example your daughter is tall for her age I simply make it longer but it will still fit over the chest. All I need is accurate measurements which I can advise you on. For all orders placed by 15 November I can offer free P&P (UK only).
But in the interim I got rather swamped by requests for PR work. I phoned Vicky on one of those days when everything was getting on top of me to cancel the shoot. Her kind words of wisdom gave me that bit of courage to follow my convictions. And she promised me - as a fellow believer in karma that she'd return the favour in the future.
A few months on and Millie's just sent me the pictures of the photo shoot Vicky did with Millie's little girls last month and I'm as proud as a mother hen.
I'm incredibly grateful to Vicky and Millie for keeping the Peak Princess spirit alive.
Vicky's shoot for Millie
The dresses Millie made for Vicky
The clothes I made for the customer whose wedding Vicky photographed
PS I should also add a note about my mother's firm belief in the laws of 'serendipity' - which meant that 18 months ago - when I was struggling to keep up with orders and moaning to Mum about the fact that I'd never find anyone to help me sew - an email from Millie dropped into my inbox asking if I needed a dress-maker.
PPS So that's 3 rules of life plus the rule which says 'my Mum is always right'.
How exciting - I'm sitting at my Mum's kitchen table with Millie going through her fabulous new designs. This is the new Rose Ursula - based on my Megan Jane smock frock with a ruffle her eldest girl loves.
One of the best things about setting up Peak Princess has been all the lovely people I've "met". I put that in inverted commas as many are telephone or email relationships over the phone or online but over many months of planning you really feel you get to know them.
Victoria Dawe is a brilliant wedding photographer (check out her work at Elegant & Wild) who asked me to make her bridesmaids' dresses, pageboys' waistcoats and groom's and best man's ties. It was a big order and so Millie and I split it with me taking care of the boys and Millie making frocks.
Vicky and I were going to do a Peak Princess shoot together which I think would have been a real hoot but I then I decided I just couldn't keep up the dress-making and PR/journalism.
So I'm delighted that Millie and her little girls Kate and Rose are going to be doing a shoot soon down with Vicky in Brighton with Millie's latest creations. I'll be sure to post pics.
After four wonderful years I've decided to take a break from sewing and hang up my tape measure to return to my original career of PR & journalism. The generous press coverage I’ve had for Peak Princess led to me being asked to give other small businesses PR advice.
That means I simply don’t have the time needed to devote to sewing and designing new patterns. Each of my garments is individually marked out with chalk, cut with scissors and pinned together, then sewn on a small domestic machine. The love really is sewn in - it’s not just a strapline.
It’s a decision made with a heavy heart. We moved to the Peak District for a less stressful life than the hectic, helter-skelter of the London rat race. I’ve loved the challenge of setting up my own business and will be forever grateful I took the opportunity to learn the skills of pattern design, cutting and the finer points of sewing from my talented, dress-designer Mum before it becomes too late for her to pass them on.
But I’d rather leave on a high note and you never know, one day I might pick up my scissors again!
Millie's little girl Kate wearing a 'Freya Bean blouse in Liberty Eliza's owls that Millie made.
I know many of you will feel disappointed but don’t despair. Millie Crawford, who’s been helping me with orders over the past year, is a brilliant dressmaker. (My Mum coos over her seams!). She is very keen to carry on sewing for you.
Millie's an experienced dress-maker who used to manage wedding dress-designer Anneliese Sharp's Chelsea store.
Over the summer holidays (in between her having fun with her two little girls Rose and Kate) we’ll put our heads together and have a think about how best to she can take the business forward. I’m going to leave the website up as an archive of a fabulous chapter of my life.
Meanwhile, do please contact Millie direct if you’d like to order any dresses. (She already has some lovely new design ideas which I’ll let you know about soon).
I should also mention that Peak District designer Kate Yorke, who makes my accessories, is embarking on an exciting new venture. She’s set up her own label website Emily Pickle (named in honour of her little girl). She has a great range of new collage-style prints out available on tea towels and cards.
And her bin design is down to the final shortlist in the Brabantia Design Your Bin competition (out of more than 1,000 entries) and this is the prototype Brabantia have made. Fingers crossed - if she wins it'll go into production. Meanwhile you can buy her collage style cards and tea towels (recently picked out by the Guardian as their top 10 buys).
Again, do please contact Kate direct if you’d like to order any Liberty print hair accessories.
I’m holding a 50% off sale on clothes and accessories in stock (not made-to-order) and 25% off Liberty prints I have in stock.
Social media's been really important to me running my own small business from home - it's allowed me to connect with customers and journalists and make friends I'd never otherwise have found. I was recently asked to devise a training course for Podium Training with my lissacookPR hat on and asked Tilly if she'd write her top ten blogging tips for me.
Her style is down-to-earth and approachable. She creates a great sense of community amongst her followers. And most of all, it's always an entertaining and informative read. She also tweets as @tillyvanilly. Over to you Tilly...
I started Tilly and the Buttons on 1st January 2010 on a hangover as a dare. I’d just taken a sewing course and wanted somewhere to document my progress and connect with other stitchers, as none of my real life friends sew. But the blog has given me so much more than that. It has kept me motivated as I learn to make my own clothes, has allowed me to share my passion and encourage other people to give it a try, and has enabled me to become part of a network of people around the world who give me a daily dose of sewing tips and inspiration.
I didn’t know anything about blogging when I started, so everything I’ve learnt has been gleaned or figured out along the way. Here are my top tips:
1) Consider your motive.
Why do you want to start a blog? If it’s just to promote something, readers will get tired of all the plugs and won’t engage with what you’re saying. But if you are doing it because you want to share with and learn from your readers – as opposed to the old media model of “broadcasting out” – then you will find blogging much more fruitful and rewarding. For a company or an organisation, having a dialogue with your readers is a great way of finding out what they really think - and ultimately developing loyalty.
2) No niche is too niche.
People read blogs as an antidote to the homogenisation of mainstream media. There are so many blogs out there – and so many potential readers – that there is space for diversity and you can afford to make your blog as niche as you like. Don’t try to be like any other blog and don’t try to appeal to everyone in what you write. People will engage because your blog is different and because it appeals to their unique set of interests. Personally if I discover a blog that features a combination of sewing, silent movies and cats, I will almost definitely become a huge fan!
3) Keep it regular.
How much or how little you blog is up to you, but whether it’s twice a month or twice a day, try to keep it regular so returning readers know roughly when to expect a new post. There’s a temptation as a blogger to spurt out a load of blog posts when you’re feeling inspired, but you have to prepare for the drought periods when you don’t have time to blog or can’t think of anything to write about. When you’re feeling inspired, by all means write the posts, but don’t publish them immediately – schedule them to go live at regular intervals. Then you can afford to relax for a bit!
4) Carry a notebook.
Related to the above point, it’s no fun knowing you’re due to publish a blog post but can’t think of anything to say. So carry a notebook so you can jot down ideas as they come to you at random times (on the train, during business meetings…!) and to flesh out ideas when you get a spare few minutes.
5) Permanent beta.
Don’t be afraid to test things out, adapt and evolve. For the first few months of blogging I was finding my voice, figuring out what worked, and defining what makes my blog unique. It may not fall into place instantly (I cringe when I look back at my earlier posts!), but it will come over time, so don’t be afraid to just get stuff out there and learn as you go along. Imperfect but published
6) Develop strands.
Writing regular types of features will make your blog look more considered and less random. Plus, it will give potential new readers an idea of what to expect if they subscribe to your feed. For example, I currently have a monthly “Day in the Life of…” fly-on-the-wall interview with someone who has turned their love of stitching into a career, plus other series which I produce in blocks of a few months at a time.
7) You don’t have to do all the work yourself.
Possibly my top tip! Invite other bloggers to write guest posts (it’s flattering to be asked and they’ll probably appreciate the opportunity to reach a new readership). Interview experts in your field. And, if you’re really stuck for a post, ask your readers a question! For example, with my blog I might ask what people’s favourite sewing pattern is and why, or what their best sewing tip is. They’ll appreciate the opportunity to be heard, you get to read lots of interesting responses… plus you can get a second post out of this by compiling the top ten answers!
8) Make it easy to subscribe.
If you want to build up a regular readership of people who keep coming back for more, give them lots of different options for how to subscribe – including by RSS, Blogger, Blog Lovin, email subscription… etc.
9) Find your tribe.
You won’t find many readers just by writing some posts and sitting back. The blogosphere is about having a conversation, so make connections with other bloggers with similar interests by commenting on their blogs. Make sure your comments are genuine though! Don’t do it shamelessly just to get people to read your blog in return - it’s so obvious when someone is doing that. Also, link to other bloggers. Think of it like good karma – treat other bloggers with respect and interest and the same will come back to you. You may also be able to make contact with bloggers through group blogs and other networks of likeminded people. I found my first blog friends by posting to Sew Retro, a group blog about handmade vintage clothing. I now manage a group blog in return, craftychristmasclub.blogspot.com, which links up people who are making their own Christmas presents.
10) Review how it’s going.
Google Analytics is a wonderful free tool which will help you keep track of all sorts of things through wizzy graphs and pie charts. The most useful information for me is which of your posts are most popular, who’s linking to the website and how many pages visitors are reading. This kind of data can help you assess what’s working, what’s not and how to make your blog even better over time. If you like this and want to take your stats geekery to the next level, check out GoSquared, which gives you real time data on who’s on your site and what they’re looking at. Be warned though – it’s addictive. I gave up after the free trial for fear of never going outdoors again…
Oh and finally – enjoy it! Blogging should be interesting, fun and inspiring – for both you and your readers. Good luck!
Being older than my little sister Emma I didn't have to wear too many hand-me-downs - though she'd be quick to point out that now we're grown up I'm forever raiding her wardrobe! (She's a shop-a-holic and has much better taste than me).
Nowadays I think handing clothes on has a much more positive image as we're all accustomed to seeking out vintage bargains and upcycling. And particularly as we make everything by hand I love the idea that my clothes have a second (or even third?) life bringing pleasure to another little girl so I was delighted when Delphine sent me this pick of her little girl wearing one of my very first Mia Rose shift dresses handmade in Liberty's classic print Tatum which Delphine bought for her cousin Esmay more than three years ago (you can read the original blog post here).
If you've passed on any of my clothes, I'd dearly love to know.
Thanks to Brides magazine for featuring our 'Kate Charlotte' ruffle top dress in their feature 'Step-by-step styling for DIY brides'. Being Liberty lovers we can't get enough of floral prints so love the idea of creating your own photo backdrop by suspending fabric from a curtain pole. Other clever ideas include flower combs and handkerchief favour bags.
This dress is one of Millie's creations - her little girls love it because the elasticated neckline means there are no fiddly buttons so they can dress themselves. (It's named in honour of Kate while Rose's namesake is our cord blouse/dress). It can be made in tana lawn or cord and is a perfect party dress or flower girl dress. For different looks try puff sleeves or double tiering for even more ruffles.
One of my all time favourite bloggers is Tilly Walnes - who by day works for the Independent Cinema Office and by night (well more probably in the evenings and at weekends) is a seamstress.
What I love about her blog Tilly and the Buttons is that Tilly only learnt to sew recently - in fact she only learnt to thread a sewing machine 2 and a half years ago. Living proof of what my Mum's mantra - "sewing's not magic".
I'm terribly flattered to have been asked to contribute to her regular Day in the Life series chronicling the daily routine of those of us who've turned stiching into a career.
She's also a brilliant blogger. I would throughly recommend following her posts. I use her top 10 tips as part of my social media training course. They will be the subject of a soon-to-be-published blog post of my own.
If you really know what time I go to bed and I how combine PR and sewing you can read more here...
I was over the moon earlier this week when Jim and Amy sent me pics of their wedding which was featured on the wedding blog Love My Dress. I admit I shed a tear or two over my morning coffee. I made six ties in various Liberty prints for groom Jim and his ushers. Photographer Andrew JR Squires has kindly given me permission to reproduce them here.
Photography courtesy of Andrew JR Squires (copyright) - please do not copy or reproduce without permission
Often new product lines come from customer requests. I was rather daunted by the prospect of making ties and could find little advice on this specialist art. So last summer I set about tearing up my husband's favourites including a lovely one by Daks that I bought from Simpsons on Picadilly, long before it became Waterstones. Once I had a pattern I was happy with I product tested it on Nik and his friends. Rory O'Curry and his Dad were adamant my ties weren't weighty enough. Back to the drawing board. In addition to the Liberty lawn lining I needed to find suitable interlining. Trickier than you'd think. I finally found a roll of suitable weight wool interlining at the marvellous Abakhan on a trip back from my sister's in Wales with my Mum. MacCulloch and Wallis also sell a good weight alternative. Still Rory wasn't satisfied so I doubled it up. Voila - it passed Mr Cook's full windsor knot test.
The other issue with ties is that they are cut on the bias (diagnonally to you and me). If you take a piece of cotton fabric and pull it top to bottom or sideways there is very little stretch but pull the corners and you get a lovely give. It's what gives a lady's bias-cut dress that lovely drape over curves and it's what allows a tie to tie. Think about the curves of the neck and the way a tie needs to move to be neatly knotted.
In practical terms it means the simple looking tie is actually a terribly time consuming to make. First I cut and mark the lining fabric (I use white cotton lawn) including roll lines. Second I cut the Liberty print. Then I cut two lots of interlining and finally the contrast end linings. Once linings are joined and the tie rolled and pinned the final step is hand slip-stitching the 1.5m length of the tie.
I love the way Liberty prints transform depending on how you use them and the diagonal cut of the tie on the narrow tie is a case in point. A plain stripe looks much more interesting. Add in the possibilities of using contrast colourways or plain end linings and suddenly the boring old tie takes on a whole new life.
This week I've added slim width ties to my range. I was first asked to make one in the autumn for Matt Day's wedding to complement his handmade Liberty Glenjade waistcoats. Wedding photographer Vicky Dawe asked me to make two for her fiance Oliver in a beautiful feather print to match her bridesmaid dresses and page boys' waistcoats. And my god-daughter's Uncle Ben will be wearing one later this summer.
Carol's just kindly sent me these pics of Tallulah wearing one of my handmade Liberty print frocks she bought for her 1st birthday. It's a Bella Luella puff sleeve dress handmade in one of my original and favourite prints Wiltshire.
It's been raining too long - bring a little colour into your life with my spring sale. There's 1/3 off everything in my ready-to-wear shop including Hello Kitty limited edition print clips, bobbles and grips.
For an extra 10% extra off, sign up to my monthly e-news letter.
Here's a small selection of what's on offer - starting from just £2.
Baby Belle Dress (3-6m) £49.99 made to order Now £33.49 or £30.14 for newsletter subscribers
Freya Bean blouse (6-12m) £34.99 made to order Now £23.44 or £21.10 for newsletter subscribers
Lily May skirt (4-5y) £39.99 made to order Now £30.14 or £27.13 for newsletter subscribers
Ophelia Rose preview (5-6y) £114.99 made to order Now £77.04 or £69.34 for newsletter subscribers
Hello Kitty clips, bobbles, grips £6.99 made to order Now £4.68 or £4.21 for newsletter subscribers
Wilhelmina eyemasks Last stock Now £6.69 or £6.02 for newsletter subscribers
TERMS AND CONDITIONS:
1/3 off reduction applies ONLY to ready-to-wear/post stock for duration of spring sale period 10% off for newsletter subscribers is in addition to 1/3 reduction for ready to wear stock 10% off newsletter subscriber offer can also be redeemed against made-to-order clothes and accessories but NOT bridal orders 10% code will expire midnight on 31st May
Just a quick one for April. Huge thanks to Conde Nast Brides magazine for featuring three of my bridesmaid dresses in their May/June issue which is out now.
Handmade Bella Luella puff sleeve bridesmaid dresses in Liberty Wiltshire berries and Betsy green and Grace Kelly pleat shirtwaister in Liberty Lou Lou Isabella - all avaiable handmade to order in print of your choice
Handmade Ophelia Rose puff sleeve bridesmaid dress in Liberty Fitzgerald Preview sample 25% off at £89.99
Handmade Laura Joan swing bridesmaid dress in Liberty Fitzgerald Preview sample over 25% off at £74.99
And you might also like to take a peek at two new bridesmaid dress designs that Millie and I have been working on. There is a preview sample of each new design in size 5-6y available at 25% or more off on the website.
First, a gorgeous, sophisticated 'Laura Joan' swing skirt sleeveless dress named in honour of Millie's niece. It's aimed at the older girl who wants a grown-up look but would work equally well for the little ones who'll adore twirling round in the acres of Liberty print this dress takes to make.
Then Ophelia Rose - named after my friend Fi's baby girl who lives in Denmark. This is a more formal pleated skirt with cuffed, puff sleeves. Both have rouleaux button fastenings - Millie is a whizz at this technique which adds an extra something special to the detailing.
Photo shoot sample 25% off at £69.99
Photo shoot sample 25% off at £74.99
And lucky for you, there are also two samples of my best-selling Bella Luella dresses made for a photo shoot (not worn) - a sleeveless Mirabelle and a puff sleeve Felicite (5-6y) - also available at 25% off.
Huge thanks to Rachel for sharing these pics of her gorgeous wedding. I made her a Grace Kelly pleat pinafore, a Bella Luella puff sleeve dress and a Finley Oskar Shirt (see below for sewing room pics).
Rachel kindly writes: "Dear Lissa thank you so much for the beautiful flower girl dresses and little best man shirt you made for our wedding. We wanted to create a vintage themed country fete at our rustic wedding and your designs and fabrics couldn't have been more perfect. Our 4 year old son Barney looked adorable in his shirt, with matching pale blue Converse pumps, while the image of our 2 year daughter Molly in her dress still brings me to tears! The clothes fitted beautifully and were so appropriate for our vintage/country theme. Thanks too for the Liberty off-cuts for our home made jam jar favours - we made pounds of plum jam from our trees and topped each one with your pretty fabric, so every guest had their own souvenir of the day. Your service was very professional and friendly, and so many people commented on the lovely outfits, thanks again."
Many of you know that I had the idea for Peak Princess during a picnic in the park with my god-daughter, Tilly, nearly four years ago, and that I'm a radio journalist by trade. Well, I had no idea what a phenomenal success my little dresses would prove to be with orders from all around the world. (The record so far is Tasmania!). I've had wonderful press coverage in magazines as fabulous as Sunday Times Style, Brides, Country Living and The Lady to name but a few and even an appearance on BBC Breakfast TV. That in turn has led to be being asked to help other small businesses with their PR and social media. So it's not an easy decision, but I'm gradually going to take a bit of a step back over the next few months.
Millie's kindly agreed to take on more of the day-to-day dress-making. As many of you already know, Millie’s an experienced dress-maker who used to manage wedding dress-designer Annaliese Sharp’s Chelsea store. She loves making Liberty print frocks for her two little girls Rose and Kate. Her sewing is beautiful - she gets the royal seal of approval from my Mum (a couture designer in the 60s) who waxes lyrical about her seams. Meanwhile I'll continue to handle orders, maintain the website & oversee the business side of things.
We’re going to slim down the existing range a little to make space for new designs coming out soon - including two more beautiful bridesmaid dresses called 'Laura Joan' and 'Ophelia Rose'. Local fabric designer Kate Yorke will continue to make the gorgeous matching accessories that are always so popular.
There are also six glorious new prints on the website. Three are silky soft tana lawns including Clarricoates and Fitzgerald from the new Liberty SS12 collection and the return by demand of an old favourite Sarah's Secret Garden. I also have three slightly heavier weight cottons from the V&A collection - two variations on Hearts and Seaweed.
SS12 prints including 2 from Liberty's Visualisers Collection: Clarricoates: Loosely inspired by an archival print from 1965, this is a modern polka dot hatched floral with linear lines and geometric structure. Fitzgerald: Inspired by a typical Liberty print design from the 1930s. The design has been re-drawn to recreate the essence of a meadow in spring.
And you might also like to know you can now order fabric direct from Liberty or other shops like Shaukat or Truro Fabrics giving you a choice of hundreds of gorgeous prints. Just call or email for a dress-making/design quotes and advice on lengths to buy. Thanks for your continuing support. best wishes,
Check out this wonderful applique work that one of my lovely customers Sarah made using my Liberty offcuts for her little girl Cosmo! Love the blanket stitch. See some of the handmade Liberty print clothes I've made for Cosmo over the past few years on my Happy Customers pages.