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.
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.
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.
Our local tourist board Visit Peak District and Derbyshire have teamed up with X Factor contestant Chelsea Redfern and musicians from Lady Manners school in Bakewell to produce this 2 minute film about the Peak District. Gorgeous.
Oh dear - one of those weeks. Royal Mail lost of parcel of 5 handmade Liberty tops that Millie sent back to me all beautifully finished. So I remade them all! And now they've just been delivered safe & sound.
So if you are looking for a last minute present I've just uploaded them. 15% off discount code is PPENEWS. Can deliver right up to 22nd.
Liberty print pinafore tops (6-12m) - £29.74 each incl discount
Liberty Phoebe blue £25.49 (2-3y)
Liberty Paulies Parrots £33.99 (new size 9-10y)
Liberty Plum dog £25.49 (2-3y)
Also, I can't promise these will be back in stock in time for Christmas but I have 3 Bella Luella knee length puff sleeve dresses handmade in Liberty tana lawn being sent back to me that were photographed for a magazine summer feature for summer 2012 (product only, so have not been worn) that I'll be putting on the site at 25% off (£48.75 each, normally £64.99). Email me if you'd like to reserve one.
Bella Luella in Tatum blue with pink rose garlands is size 6-12m Bella Luella Wiltshire red berries is size 12-18m Bella Luella Betsy green is size 18-24m
Feeling a bit tearfully overwhelmed as I've had a series of sweet emails from customers delighted with the clothes I've sent them with gorgeous pics and comments. This is why I love this job.
I'm terribly grateful to Ginnie for sending this adorable photo of her daughter Ava wearing a Bella Luella style bridesmaid dress with velvet trim I made for her to wear at their wedding in October.
Ginnie very kindly says: "Ava's dress is absolutely perfect! It fits her beautifully, is just the right length and she looks really lovely in it. Thank you so, so much. I am delighted. The service you've provided has been first rate all the way through and I can't believe the speed at which you turned this around. I couldn't recommend you highly enough"
Newsletter subscribers can use the discount code PPENEWS to get 15% off all in-stock clothes in the Ready to Wear department of the website. (As in Peak Princess email newsletter - not as in Politics, Philosophy and Economics News - though I can recommend the Freakonomics podcast which I've become addicted to!).
Last UK Christmas post is 20th December. Last Europe post is 12th December (rest of world is 5th so you'd need to be quick!).
Examples of in-stock items with 15% discount applied.
Freya Bean blouse in Mitsi (18-24m) now £25.49
Baby Belle Romper dress (3-6m) in Nina now £33.99
Freya Bean long sl blouse in Betsy (6-12m) now £29.74
I love the idea of passing down sewing knowledge. Mum (who was a couture designer in the 60s) taught me to sew as a little girl. I grew up making cushions & bags and even won our local Young Enterprise competition at school selling drawstring bags. I'd made the odd dress and pair of trousers for myself but never really gone further. I never had the time with a busy, full-time job as a radio producer. So the very best thing about starting Peak Princess has been sitting down with Mum and learning the art of pattern cutting, design and pattern making, and, of course, beautiful sewing.
Last year I taught Chinley 1st Guides to make hair scrunchies. Though they were great I'd advise that they are actually quite fiddly and possibly a better project one on one that trying to teach twenty odd girls at once how to work out that fiddly bit of sewing the closure. So this year, I took inspiration from Cloth Magazine's pattern for making drawstring shoe bags. Super simple, near instant results and very pretty and customisable with different fabrics, ribbons and decorations.
Thankfully - with 26 girls - I had a couple of Mums as well as local fabric designer Kate Yorke (from Emily Pickle who makes my hair accessories) on hand to help with cutting, ironing and learning to use the sewing machine. We split the group with half making cards wtih local linocut artist Jill Kerr and bead badges with another local bedding linen designer Rachel Child.
Many of the girls were genuinely fearful of the machine*, never having used one before. My approach is to acknowledge machines can be dangerous but with a bit of respect they are easy to master and you are always in control. Most of them took to it like ducks to water and the look of amazement on their faces when they turned the bags inside out and realised they'd made something was priceless.
(*It was also interesting to get to use the John Lewis mini sewing machine (£49). It's great value and the speed is nice and slow but personally I think the horizontal bobbin deck made threading very fussy and it seemed to come unthreaded and lose tension quicker than the grown-up machines. That said, I'm a massive John Lewis fan and do all my Peak Princess sewing on their basic Janome machines).
I'm not sure they believed me when I told them that now they'd mastered the drawstring bag they had learnt all the basic skills you need to make cushions, curtains and even a halterneck dress. Perhaps that's next year's class!
PS I'd really recommend buying any child who shows a creative streak a subscription to Cloth magazine (just £12 a year) or go on their website's project page.
Lucy's just sent me a lovely email and gorgeous pics of her wedding day: "I wanted to send you some photo's of my niece Celia in the beautiful dress you made for her to wear at our wedding! She looked amazing and so many people commented on her dress."
The dress is a full length Bella Luella handmade in Liberty's limited edition Paulie's Parrots print. I have just a couple of metres left. It's divine but I have to admit I'd never have thought of it as bridesmaid dress material but Lucy's judgment was obviously spot on.
It brings an understated, playful touch to the formal occasion and what's more it suits Celia's colouring perfectly and I adore her choice of a Liberty purple bow to match the groom's tie. (I also love Lucy's dress with its sophisticated little bolero).
I've been absolutely inundated with orders for Hello Kitty print blouses and dresses over the past couple of months - Millie and I are dreaming about kittens! There was just the tiniest bit of Wonderland left - enough for me to squeeze out a baby size Freya Bean smock blouse (6-12m).
If you don't already subscribe, I'd heartily recommend it. The fashion is gorgeous and it's packed with ideas to keep your little ones amused in the big smoke. Even if you don't live in London it's a great read - editors Annie and Emily are always trying out new products and services and it's packed with interesting articles. And if you can't wait for the quarterly issues, sign up to Claire's weekly email newsletter. It's the most beautifully presented, easy-to-read guide to what's on and where and what's hot and what's not.
They've been incredibly supportive since I set Peak Princess up three years ago and dared pick up the phone to Annie to see if she might have time to look at my designs and have featured me several times. So a big thank you.
Wow! It's been Hello Kitty-tastic at Peak Princess since last month's newsletter. Thanks to everyone who ordered. I sold out in 3 hours. Millie and I have been sewing like demons and the orders are nearly complete. I have a little more fabric so if you're on the reserve list and there's enough left, I promise I'll be in touch. I'm keeping a Hello Kitty photo album on facebook if you'd like to see how my designs look covered in kittens.
Meanwhile, Kate's been busy at work making super cute Hello Kitty hair clips and bobbles from my offcuts - perfect little stocking fillers. There's a limited number in stock for £5.99 a pair or you can order in the print of your choice for £6.99. (Delivery 1-2 weeks).
NEW DESIGNS NOW ONLINE
There are several new designs now available on the website including the Kate Charlotte dress (from £39.99) - inspired by Millie's little girls who adore being able to dress themselves. It's pretty and practical but a little less formal than the fitted bodice & button down back of my best-selling Bella Luella. Options include puff or angel sleeves and one or two tier ruffle skirts.
The Rose Ursula cord dress (from £39.99) and blouse (from £39.99) is a response to the demand for a cord version of my Freya Bean/Megan Jane tana lawn smocks - it's slightly less gathered to suit the soft and snug, thicker Liberty cords.
And I'm delighted that my Matilda May slouchy pocket dress was a hit with its namesake. Product testing revealed each pocket comfortably held 14 conkers! (Huge thanks also to Tilly's talented Mum Hannah who's designed my new logo. Check out Tilly's Mum and Dad's fab graphic design agency Design Everything).
Coming soon is the Popinjay baby romper which pops open to lay flat for super easy dressing and has an elasticated bottom for easy out-and-about nappy checks and changes. It's named in honour of our friends' Anna and Ian's baby boy Jay. This is him modelling.
£20 PREVIEW OFFERS
I'd also be super grateful for 2 or 3 product testers for a couple of new designs I have in mind. One is a skirt version of the Matilda May slouchy pocket dress and another is Millie's inspired idea for a romper version of my Freya Bean blouse with an elasticated bottom, similar to the Popinjay design. I've put 3 of each on the website at £20 each in the print of your choice, subject to availability. (As ever it's strictly first come, first served).
Meanwhile, the gentleman's shirt experiment continues - launch date's been put back to the New Year because of the huge Hello Kitty demand. (Photos available on request).
CHRISTMAS MADE-TO-ORDER DELIVERIES & NEW READY-TO-POST-NOW SHOP
I hate to use the C word in November but if you'd like to order for delivery in time for Christmas, I'd really recommend doing so in the next couple of weeks. Millie and I are trying our best to build up clothes and accessories that are ready to post now (though it keeps selling so this is proving difficult!). But if you'd like made-to-order, I'd really recommend booking a slot now to avoid disappointment. Feel free to drop me an email to reserve time in my diary so you have time to make up your mind on styles & prints.
The best days are the days that pictures of little girls and boys wearing my dresses pop into my inbox...and today was a real treat. Elaine kindly sent me these pics of her bridesmaid Maddie wearing my Lily May twirl pinafore bridesmaid dress made in a limited edition Liberty print called Plum Dog (now sadly out of stock). (There's more about how I designed this dress on an earlier blog post).
I adore Elaine's dress - turns out it's from Abigail's Vintage Bridal, described by Elaine as "a fabulous, very clever girl in Rutland who does vintage dresses from home".
You simply have to check out her website - it's vintage heaven. Abigail sources the finest original and unique vintage gowns from around the world from the turn of the century to the early 70s and meticulously cleans and restores them to their full glory. Dresses are available from the turn of the 20th Century to as late as the early 1970's. And what's even better is that she offers an in-house alteration service. What more could a girl want?
When my friend Hayley asked me if I'd help her daughter (and original Peak Princess model), Caitlin, to make a Tudor ruff for her Elizabethan themed school day next week I said no problem, imaginining I could concertina up a bit of the lining fabric I use for my dresses.
Then I started doing my research and started getting anxious. The marvellously ego boosting thing about children is that the have total faith in your skills. But there's nothing more crushing than a child's disappointment.
Various internet blogs suggested it was a 4 to 8 hour job & required some pretty specialist skills, not to mention materials like lace and horse hair.
Fortunately I stumbled upon Dawn's Costume Guide. I didn't have wired ribbon but I do use a lot of net which has the stiffness of starched lace.
I adapted Dawn's idea combining it with other patterns. Using my mannequin as a guide Caitlin decided she wanted a ruff that was 8 cm wide and stands 4cm tall - just fitting under her chin. My netting is 150cm wide. To give extra bulk and a smooth edge we cut 16cm strips and folded them lengthways. We made a 4cm piece of card as a folding guide...
...It was too springy and Caitlin was worried about the itchiness factor on the cut side so I ran the long side through the overlocker, though you could just using a running stitch on the machine or hand baste.
We folded up one (while turning fishfingers and trying not to let Otso the dog eat either the fish or pins). Rather than trying to do complicated maths, we measured it against my mannequin.
The inside of the ruff measured about 5 or 6cm. So we reckoned with Caitlin's neck measuring 30cm round that we needed about 5 lots of 150cm sewn together. I used a big darning needle that I use for sewing knitted seams and some strong linen thread to sew the overlocked edges of the pleats together.
Our guess-timate was right and even if we'd have been wrong we could have just added an extra one in.
According to Drea Lead's guide to making an Elizabethan ruff, authentic closed collar ruffs like those worn by Queen Elizabeth, were lined with starched linen. I improvised with the ivory double satin that I use for my Patty's Petticoats (named after Caitlin's grandma). It's soft and I have plenty of it and ties easily. Caitlin was still worried about itchiness so we actually ended up using 2 widths of 25cm one hand sewn to the top edge with trailing ribbons to tie the ruff plus an extra band sewn to the bottom edge. I basted them together in the middle.
Proud of our achivements, we were keen to show them off. My other half Nikalas Cook was down at our local pub, The Old Hall Inn, having a pint after an afternoon bike ride with our friend Paul Barton (one half of the talented graphic design Design Everything - his other half, Hannah, designed my new logo).
The 16th century Minstrel's Gallery provided the perfect backdrop for an impromptu photo shoot.
Spot the difference?
Queen Caitlin Can't wait to see the ruff with period costume dress next week.