Mrs. Make do & Mend, that’s me!

mrs sew and sew

Above is an official government cartoon featuring Mrs. Sew and Sew a “woman of resource and ideas” who promoted the “make do and mend” philosophy of the lean World War II years. In Britain, clothes were rationed from 1941-1949. At the beginning of the ration, women were allotted 66 coupons to spend on a year’s wardrobe. Because clothing was limited, sewing and what we’d now call “refashioning” was essential. After all, as the voice over states, “Just think of the coupons you’ll save!”

from Wardrobe Reimagined.  

Click the picture to be taken to the utterly charming cartoon, it is quite my new favorite thing! As I am undergoing a little ‘make do and mend’ moment of my own this week I thought this was very apt. I am making many, many dresses & skirts for myself out of the many fabrics I have stockpiled in a furious attempt not to spend any money so I can save! My current saving goals are:

1. to be able to afford a Workshop for Laura After Midnight. I will need to streamline & expand soon so my top priority is to be able to afford a dedicated space to do this in. As I hope to teach private sewing lessons, & more there I am stupidly excited about this one!

2. to have a lovely time on Holiday at the end of May. Possibly this may just be an excuse so I can buy more fabrics!

3. to buy a new Digital Camera. Mine died a couple years ago & I find I have to process the images my mobile phone takes quite heavily so I have decided to invest in a new one. I think it will also help me to write a little more about my day-to-day sewing adventures too!

4. to book a model &  hair/make-up artist for a days photo shoot… just as soon as I have finished the capsule collection.

The best thing about this list? It’s all exciting! I don’t mind saving for things like this, in fact it’s a pleasure & I can’t wait to start ticking them off.

Happy stitching!

The Great British Sewing Bee!

uktv-great-british-sewing-bee-5I am slightly alarmed to see that possibly only two of the people pictured seem to be wearing their own creations! And one of them is a judge! I do hope to be proved wrong… They look like a jolly bunch, & I already know I’m going to be envious of their work space!!

I have no idea if I am going to love or hate this!

I am a staunch addict of Project Runway- & have been for it’s entire run of 11 Seasons, I have various Degrees & qualifications in Fashion, Textiles & Design, I have been making my own clothes since I was roughly 13 or 14 but sewing since I was 5 or 6 & recently started to teach Dressmaking, Pattern Cutting & other garment construction techniques to all manner of students… all of which has made me realize just how much I know, & the magnitude of my unquenchable thirst to know more!!

Normally this sort of programming would make me feel queasy & annoyed because they can be too simplistic & talk down to the audience, but having watched The Great British Bake Off (my Nan & Granddad were addicted & sold it to me!), I have to say I am intrigued despite the rather insulting possibility of being crowned ‘Best Home Sewer’. I would honestly hate to be classed as such, & I am dubious that this doesn’t slightly diminish what can be achieved by home sewers!!

Honestly I shall be watching because, as I teach a regular beginners sewing classes at Flo-Jo Boutique in Bristol & Cordial & Grace I’ll be waiting to be asked how to do the things they are!!

In the first episode, there will be three challenges for the contestants; a simple pattern for an A-line skirt, transforming a high street top by altering the neckline and producing a made-to-measure dress for a model. Two hopefuls will be eliminated in week one, while one contestant will win the prize of ‘garment of the week’.


So, as I have been looking for a small project to sew up with regular Blog posts I have decided to choose one project from each week & follow along with the contestants! It’s something I occasionally did back in the day with Project Runway challenges (it’s always good to know you can make a Couture level gown in under 10 hours… if only for the ego boost!). All of the press released so far is saying they are starting with an A-Line skirt which I have already shared a pattern for here, but I shall start at the beginning & write several posts as I make one up. Starting with making up the pattern, pinning & cutting out, inserting a zip, fitting, making a waistband & inserting a buttonhole & sewing on a button, & finishing with making the perfect hem.

I have just come across this advance review…

The contestants are a nice bunch & the history lessons mildly interesting, but the ‘How To’ guides too vague to be useful. Perhaps in future episodes we’ll be treated to some Couture of exquisite beauty, but so far watching people hunched over a table sewing clothes simply doesn’t appeal to the senses in the same way as watching people create & consume food. [Claudia] Winkleman talks of a quiet revolution, but this one’s positively silent – for craft enthusiasts only.


… & my class earlier today of 10yr olds decided the stricter the teacher the tighter their bun, so I shall be whipping my hair in to shape, adopting my strictest tone and will adapt my weekly ‘Notions’ to clarify anything they may have skipped over- I am so determined to teach people how to sew the proper way that skipping steps & wishy washy instructions make me madder than mad!! I know it is because they are working to a time limit but really!

I have also just purchased the accompanying book, so I’ll make sure & do a review of that too… ooh I’m all excited & twitching to get stitching!

Aren’t you?

The best Haberdashery shops in London!

Back when I had just taken Laura After Midnight full time I read a blog post by a small business owner who had been working away on her business for a couple years & was about to go on holiday. Probably many people reading this wont understand the magnitude of that statement however; I was fascinated. To have set up & run my business to a level where I could afford to take a week off from it seemed like a far distant prospect, but to take a week off & go away using money I had earned from running my business seemed unthinkable.

Whilst business is still a little rocky- I freelance in many different forms including Costume, Design, Teaching & Laura After Midnight on Etsy etc- & I am still learning to balance everything from month to month, I am slowly running my business a little more successfully each & every month. I am learning to diversify, reach for opportunities & see gaps in the market, fight for myself & Laura After Midnight & start to believe in my skills & talents.

In all, despite the stress, never being able to rub two pennies together & constant uncertainty, the last year of my life has been incredibly empowering & I am getting ready to take my first holiday at the end of May! I’m so excited that I am already able to do this. Honestly, whilst I can afford to take the time away, I’m not too sure I can afford to spend any money but I am keeping my fingers crossed I will be able to go to London for a few days to visit all my old haunts,  stock up on interesting fabrics, trims & trinkets & load up my inspiration banks again.

Old haunts include…

the shop


The Shop, just off Brick Lane. A little gem of a shop stuffed full of incredible Vintage textiles, fabrics & clothes. I almost never seem to actually buy much of anything in this little gem of a place however; I certainly leave excited with ideas flitting about my head & my fingers itching to get stitching! Last time I was rummaging through their shelves I was tempted by Vintage embroidered handkerchiefs, 1940’s patchwork quilts and all manner of Vintage trim fragments. I shall definitely be hoping to pick up some unique & inspirational fabric to stitch up in to something lovely.

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  cs 4 cs 7 cs 8

The Cloth House, Berwick Street. A true haven, or heaven to all fashion, costume & fabric lovers alike. I adore this shop, & could happily stay in there for hours! Selling a truly awe inspiringly classy selection of cottons & silks, they also hold a breathtaking selection of Vintage French Silk ribbons, trims and buttons for you to drool over. Their window displays are adorable & the whole experience is very inspirational to me. Some day I shall have a studio & it will look like this shop!!

Just down from The Cloth House are several other gorgeous fabric shops such as Borovick Fabrics, which is excellent for the Costuming world, & The Silk Society which is scarily expensive but whose servers- when nudged- tell wonderful stories of which Designers have been in that week, & what films their fabrics have popped up in! After a quick cuppa in one of the excellent but slightly odd cafe’s I shall be performing a quick skirmish into The Cloth House’s sister shop at the other end of Berwick Street as well.

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MacCulloch & Wallace, just off Oxford Street. Incredibly snooty & indifferent staff reign supreme here however; they have all the bits & parts that make the Design world go round. From busks, eyelets, several different types of tailors chalk in five different colours, scissors (the proper ones), pins, boxes of needles, to everything you haven’t even thought of & topped off with an entire floor of ribbons, feathers & trims this is the notions capital of London. I shall be looking for handy accessories, stocking up on the aforementioned tailors chalk- I’m definitely going to get the black this time!- and reveling in the pins aisle. I love really good pins!! I expect to find some lovely new silks for my Mini Top Hat Kits as well.

I’ll also be dropping in on Barnett Lawson for feathers & trims. It’s in an enormous basement just off Oxford Street stuffed to the gunnels with haberdashery! VV Rouleaux  on Marylebone Lane will definitely be on the list for ribbon inspiration before fainting at the price, but having ooh-ed & aah-ed at the beautiful displays & thoroughly having enjoyed touching everythingKleins,  for a quick peek at yet more haberdashery, will be a wonderful treat before having another cup of tea!

Somehow, I enjoy visiting London more than I ever enjoyed living there! I know all the short cuts to walk around, behind or over the busiest streets to get to the haberdashery quicker, I love looking forward to visiting my favorite Chinese Restaurant (Super Star, next the The Prince of Charles Cinema!), & laughing at all the busy bee Londoners before hopping on the train back to lovely Bristol.

What fun, happy stitching!

Balenciaga in ’06.

There are some catwalk shows which I don’t think I shall ever forget, & this is one of them. I have never quite had the same experience (except maybe when viewing Galliano’s perfect Calico toiles’!) when viewing such beauty from a single colour.

I rediscovered this stunning tailored jacket, which was inspired by lingerie lines, when looking for Wordless Wednesday images & simply had to share! Having studied both Fashion & Costume Design I have become familiar with most designers throughout the decades however; each only has a few truly iconic, breathtaking, Couture moments and this is one of Balenciagas.

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The day after this ’06 Catwalk Show this image was everywhere, and for the few months after it still haunted the pages of most fashion magazines. You can almost breathe in the hundreds of stitching hours this must have taken!

I think you’ll agree that this is work every designer aspires to, & if you like this then I have a superb treat in store for you in a future Wordless Wednesday.

Happy stitching!

1920s Collar

I follow a blog called We Sew Retro & one of the contributors was recently gifted the below 1920’s collars.

The collars have been in her family for over 90 years & I just had to share them because I adore their shape! I think they are stunning to look at, the intricate lace & teeny tiny rose embroidery is exquisite however; it is the shape that has captured my eye.

collar 1 Front

collar 2



Please click the photographs for the original post.

I cannot stop thinking about using the shape to add in to a beautiful bias cut top, or simple cotton vest top. I think it would look incredible! I imagine that because they hang over the shoulders slightly they would act as small cap sleeves, & that the trailing edges would frame the top most flatteringly.

Happy stitching!

Sewing Hints & Tips #4

When threading a needle to begin sewing, make the thread twice as long as usual. Fold the thread in half and thread the resultant loop through the eye of the needle.

Pull the loop longer than the two loose ends. Take a stitch, thread the needle through the loop and pull tight.

Voila! a secure beginning to a seam with no fuss!

Happy stitching!

Beautiful Edwardian photos

Find this stunning picture of an enormous Merry Widow Hat at American Duchess, alongside dozens of others. All the beautiful pin tucks, lace, trims, ridiculous lacing and stunning shapes are there and I strongly recommend you take a look.

It’s a huge source of inspiration, as is the whole American Duchess site.

Happy stitching!

Laugh a minute those Victorians!

Mistress: “Here is a three and a half minute glass Bridget; you may boil eggs with it.”

Bridget (five minutes later): “The eggs is done, ma’am, but I have me doubts about the glass.”

(Really this is just my excuse to treat you to some truly awful jokes- I am sure they thought so too- but some truly lovely photos of Victorians laughing. We see them looking happy so infrequently. . . )

Happy stitching!

Bustle Illustrations and a good read.

I just came across these rather nice illustrations of bustles from a pretty cool vintage book I snatched from under an old ladies nose in a thrift store a couple years ago. . .



Gloriously entitled ‘Taste & Fashion’ by the indomitable James Laver it is a splendidly out of date read, & gives a massive insight into how it used to be ‘done’! With chapters such as ‘The Theory of Decolletage’ & ‘The Two Bustles & the Aesthetic Movement’ how could I not squeal in delight & proceed with ill disguised glee to the till?

I am sure that now I have made my re-acquaintance with this priceless find I shall be quoting all over the place however; here is one to keep you going. From the ‘Lingerie’ chapter comes a glimpse of thigh. . .

“It is curious to note that the suspender, once invented, took a definite place not only in the history of fashion, but in the history of eroticism, largely owing to the cancan dancers in Paris in the middle nineties. . . In the course of her dance she lifted her skirts and displayed bare thighs traversed by suspenders, which kept the stockings in place. This thigh-eroticism was very prevalent in the nineties, and then suffered a long eclipse until the success of Marlene Dietrich in the Blue Angel brought it back once more into vogue.”

Steamy stuff, eh? A corker of a find, & actually very useful too, I recommend it if you need to know anything at all about the history of fashion or costume as it is very readable, with lovely illustrations throughout.

Happy stitching!

Making my soul sing.

My life has always been a little hectic, in the past I have sometimes found it difficult to say no to projects, work & ideas & even now find myself easily distracted when something shiny heads my way! All of which means I can find myself as I do now with many different and interesting projects on the boil, but with little or no time to dedicate to them all!!

The solution? You’ll find I’ll be blogging about costume making a lot more over the next couple weeks, and not my own lovely business as I have been, I shall have to put it to one side for a while in order to complete the following mad selection of costumes: A spandex Spiderman costume for Frontier Costumes, an Edwardian coat, dress & hat for The Little Black Box Theater, men’s tailored shirts for a commission & garment construction for a London based designer who has run out of time herself.

The reason behind my diversity? Money! I think I flat out panicked a week or so ago & agreed to the majority of these projects to make sure I would be able to make rent next month. . . it was about the time I was scaring myself with tax returns & general self employment doubts. The lesson to be learnt is: realize your goals. Stick with your goals. Do not get sidetracked because then your goals get all confused and scattered!

I think I may, finally have learnt this lesson. I have been tracking my shop stats closely & it has not escaped my attention that views are falling & that at least once a week, or even every couple days,  I should maybe have a new thing to add so I can blog this, tweet this & generally reward people for looking & being interested by having something new to look at! It’s the simple principle I am operating under for this blog, & it does seem to be working.

It is probably quite obvious by now that I am making a lot of this up as I go… I am so used to collaborating with a Director, or team of people that striking out on my own has been- & will continue to be- a massive learning curve.

What I did find very inspiring was  a discussion thread on Etsys Business Topics Forum from someone who had recently made her 10,oooth sale. She explained it had been hard, that her business had been growing over a number of years & because of sheer hard work, positivity & determination continues to do so. She encouraged every new start up to ‘keep the faith & and work hard at it!’, be open to new ideas, change & to listen to the Etsy ‘old timers’. I have since read more on several forum threads & now have a clearer plan of action because of this amazing post.

She also reminded me that “it doesn’t take 10,000 sales to be successful. If you are proud of yourself, proud of what you make, and your soul sings, then you’ve reached success no matter what your numbers are.”

I am sincerely thankful I stumbled accross this as I had begun to forget to be happy and proud of who I am and what I am trying to do. I’ve been happier in the last 24 hours than I have been in the last week & I am busy rustling up new delights for Laura After Midnight alongside the aforementioned costume projects. So I only get six hours sleep, who cares if my soul is busy singing?

See the original post here:

Happy stitching!