Wordless Wednesday

From La Belle Epoque: Edwardian Fashion 1900-1914, the ‘Beautiful Era’ of Edwardian fashion currently running at Peterborough Museum until 6th May 2013.

Happy stitching!

Notions: The Language of Patterns.

No doubt the sketch of the design on the front of the envelope will catch your eye first.

From McCall’s Sewing in Colour

McCALLS Understanding Patterns 1   McCALLS Understanding Patterns 2

A beginning seamstress may feel Einstein’s theories are as easy to understand as the intricacies of a first pattern. Here is a place where first steps should be taken slowly […] &, whether you are a beginner or an experienced home-sewer, every pattern should be carefully studied before you lay out your pattern & start to cut.

A pattern […], not only gives complete instructions for constructing the garment, but also suggests the proper fabrics to use & provides basic information on preparing fabric, adjusting the pattern, cutting, marking & sewing techniques.

No doubt the sketch of the design on the front of the envelope will catch your eye first. On the back of the pattern envelope there is quite a bit of information to digest. Beginners may wish to avoid certain design features such as gussets, long button front closings, complicated collars & intricate darting. These features may not be clearly shown in the sketch, but will be noted in the description. Use this information to judge whether the construction of the garment is within your level of skill.

From McCall’s Sewing in Colour

Other useful information detailed on the Pattern Envelope is a section on Suggested Fabrics. Here the manufacturer has listed what fabrics would best suit the pattern such as light weight cottons for dresses & shirts or heavier weight fabrics for jackets. It is incredibly important to follow these guidelines as they will have taken into account things like the drape &  fall of the fabric to best suit the design & silhouette of the pattern. If you do decide to use a different fabric you may create a silhouette which is entirely different from the one intended.

Once you have decided upon your size using the measurements you have taken, you can use the Yardage Chart to buy the right amount of fabric for your design. By reading down the column from your size, & across from the widths of fabric listed, the exact yardage/meter-age needed is listed. I always tend to buy a little more to be on the safe side. This enables me to make things a little longer if needed. When interfacings or linings are required the amounts will also be listed according to your size.

There will also be a section for Notions. A strange word, I’ll grant you! Notions covers any Buttons, Hook & Eyes, Zipper, Ribbons or Ties, & any other items you may need to complete your design.

You will save time by buying everything at one time, & it’s easier to match colour of thread, zipper, buttons & trims if they are all purchased at once. Be sure to buy all the notions listed. It’s frustrating to have to interrupt  a sewing session just to run out & pick up a forgotten item

From McCall’s Sewing in Colour

Don’t you just love these Vintage sewing books for their pithy & helpful yet slightly rude advise? Brilliant, & so very much more to come!!

Also, check out our publication Understanding Vintage and Modern Patterns, available now on Etsy!

Happy stitching!

Wonderful little tutorial from Vivid, Please!

sugar skull brooch

Not just for Halloween!!

For this, my first Tutorial Thursday, I wanted to share this because I love this little Tutorial, and I love Vivid too!

Click on the above picture for the Tutorial, then have a good poke around the Vivid Blogspot site, they’re crazy talented & I always see something I want, or want to make, or just plain drool over. I recently read a great book on owning a small growing business & it said to find people you admire to follow & take inspiration from to act as sort of unknowing  mentors, & these guys are definitely one of mine. I really take courage from other growth businesses in the same crafty field as me because it means there is a market out there, & that I am not being delusional!

Happy shopping stitching!

Laura After Midnight at Retroville


I have had somewhat of an exciting time over the last few days.

To tell you the whole story I feel I need to rewind to the beginning of the year, & start by saying that- for Laura After Midnight as a small start up business- I had only a couple of goals for 2012. The main goal was to make an average of £50 a month from my Etsy shop by the end of the year. My first sale was in August & I am now averaging £105. The other loose goal was to stick at it, remain strong & try to grow the business slowly! All of which is very loose I know!!

Because of the above, I had initially decided to wait to do markets so I could concentrate on just one thing at a time & not spread myself too thinly but, as I was smashing my Etsy targets so thoroughly I decided I would choose one Christmas market & use it primarily as an opportunity to advertise Laura After Midnight. To ‘get my name out there’ & introduce what I do, my brand if you will, in to the marketplace.

After a lot (a lot!) of researching & pondering I finally decided upon Retroville at The Tobacco Factory in Bristol. It is an established market, the regular market happens weekly with food, veg and some Vintage and Handmade stalls but for one Sunday of the month it becomes a mix of Retro, Vintage, Handmade & eclectic stalls. They have been doing this for a while now & the reception to it has been fantastic but it still manages to retain a strong air of individuality, which was important to me. I thought Laura After Midnight would fit in well with the feel of the market & because of the buzz, reputation & almost guaranteed footfall I knew I held a strong chance of selling something!

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A selection of the Mini Top hats I took with me including two new ones- the Butterfly is simply divine!

I had been reading a lot about markets & stalls & not a lot of it had been very positive but I had managed to glean a few salient points- always take a decent float, get there on time & set up quick, be friendly, smile & talk about your work etc, but the most useful snippet of information started a thought process. Someone mentioned about carrying smaller, cheaper items to attract buyers who don’t want to spend too much. This started me thinking about my approach to markets as a buyer, & I am so very glad that it did.

I have a very strict code when visiting Vintage Fairs, markets or anything where tempting frippery is displayed in suggestive ways! I take between £30 & £50 in cash depending on the size of the market. That is all. No cards, no cheque book. Nothing. Would I spend that all on one stall? Never. So I needed to think very carefully about what I displayed, & how I displayed it. I wanted to draw people in with bright, shiny, expensive things but keep them there with interest in all the things on the stall, then send them away with something.

Firstly, I decided to reduce the price of all of my items by a fraction- between £2 & £10. This was decided because I don’t have the handling fee I do when selling online- the packaging, the postage, the long queue in the Post Office! Secondly I decided to sell smaller things. This actually made me think about what I am selling on my Etsy store- I haven’t sold any smaller items on there, so I removed them from Etsy & made more of them for my market stall, & they were all priced well below £10.

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A bowl of Vintage trims, Handmade Button display and a slice of the action.

Finally, I decided to take one expensive item- a Corset I had made from an Antique Victorian Silk Scarf- for display purposes only, labelled to inform people they could order clothing & to ask, & fliers clearly stating what Laura After Midnight is, does & could be to the customer.

As ever I also set myself a couple targets. I wanted to talk to everyone about my new Mini Top Hat Kits, but I only wanted to sell two, and I wanted to sell the same amount of the Fascinator Kits too. I didn’t expect to sell any hats as they are a higher end item and start to retail at £25 which is a bigger ask on a market stall, but I did want to sell at least one of every small item I had. All of this added up came to a target of £112 so I split it with my Etsy target & made my target for the day £80 which would cover the price of the stall itself, hot drinks for the forecast freezing cold day & materials used for the extra things I had made specifically for the stall.

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A beautiful Kilner Jar Pin Cushion, the Mini Top Hat Kits, the extremely popular Fascinator Kits and my favorite thing of all (and made by by exceptionally talented brother) one of the mini chalk boards!

Well Ladies and Gents. . . it worked! All of my prep, thinking, scheming & effort bloody well worked!

I sold five Mini Top hat Kits & SIX Fascinator Kits (which were quite the hit of the day) & of the smaller items I sold several rings and brooches. Finally & to my utter shock & pleasure two Mini Top Hats! Displaying the Corset really caught peoples eye, & I had a couple of lovely conversations with people about it & my other work, one of whom has already contacted me about a commission. Everyone who stopped & chatted got offered a flier & many took them away & they were all exceedingly complimentary about my stall, & the work I was doing (except a few husbands who were quite clearly baffled!!).

Keeping it simple & not out-laying too much financially was really important, talking to anyone who stopped & was clearly interested helped me, & taking the time to explain what the stall was about, & what I was selling made the difference to most of those sales. It helped that I had some wonderfully jolly company in my family & fellow stall holders as the day was bitterly cold & I was very tired (having decided at the 11th hour to create the Fascinator Kits), but I am over the moon at how well it all went, the positive response I received from customers, friends and students visiting me, family & the market itself.

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Fliers, my gorgeous bowl of Rose Rings and some of the Mini Top Hats.

I had been endeavoring to keep a very firm eye on all of my family- which had been out en masse to help/support me- to try to see what they spent throughout the day. In thinking back now I am pretty sure they all spent between £30 and £40 each (they were there all day!), at a variety of different stalls so my theory works!

I have been fatally bitten by the market bug & have spent the last 24 hours scrambling to try to book another stall before Christmas. I am currently on the waiting list for The Full Moon Market at Stokes Croft, Bristol for the 8th. I do hope I can sell there as the customer base is very different, it is smaller & more intimate and that area of Bristol has a deserved ‘artsy’ reputation. I also have a stall booked for the 21st for a night time market, but more on that later!

Finally, I am surprised by my continued reaction to all of this. I find myself constantly humbled by peoples kind words & support- to my utter delight several ladies I have taught over the last year came out specially to see me & my stall- & I think in the new year I may have to start believing I can do this!


Me, hiding behind my stall!

Happy stitching!

On sale now!!

Get them while you can!! Mini Top Hat Kits on sale now…




Please go to my Etsy store- click any of the photos above- to buy. Great as an unusual Christmas Gift, as something to make for yourself for the Party Season or to learn basic millinery skills with I guarantee you wont stop at one!! The pattern included is re-usable so with just a short dash to your local haberdashery store you could be making them for all your friends, for your bridesmaids or wedding party, as gifts or to wear yourself to the envy of all!!

Pictured above is our basic range, I also have some special little treats in store including Kits with Vintage Kimono Silk, Embroidered Silk & some funky Moustachioed Fabric too!!

Laura After Midnight can also Gift Wrap and send to the recipient so don’t forget to buy that option too for a fuss free Christmas… We are urging all who buy to share their creations by sharing the photos on Facebook  or by emailing heresmyhat@lauraaftermidnight.com & I can’t wait to start sharing everyone’s wonderful creations.

Currently you can also buy them at Flo-Jo Boutique on Gloucester Road in Bristol too. Please do not hesitate to contact for Wholesale prices, samples or to discuss bulk orders and Hen Parties.

Happy stitching!

A kit is born…!

Finally, I have just finished putting the finishing touches to my Mini Top Hat Kit & I have to say I am enormously proud of myself!!


So, I am off to the printers in the next couple days to have them printed up & they will be available to buy (in many colours & all with decoration details included), from my Etsy store from the 1st November along with many other scrumptious goodies for Christmas!

Happy stitching!



Machine Embroidery insights

I am teaching a course on Machine Embroidery tomorrow & thought I share the worksheet… I absolutely are free hand Machine Embroidery for its many and varied uses!

General Free Hand Machine Embroidery tips:

Always make sure you keep your hands on the edge of the embroidery hoop. This is essential for safety and will ensure you don’t sew over your fingers (which is easily done!).

Unless you want a random design, it is always best to sketch out your design onto the fabric you are going to use first in pencil. If you are trapping or appliquéing fabric cut and pin these in place as you sketch. Outline any design first, then go back and work more detail in to it. Don’t try to be overly careful- follow your design approximately, but not precisely. You will start to build up texture, and it will start to look delightfully sketchy!


Place the fabric tightly in your embroidery hoop, so that when you tap it your fingers bounce off it like a drum. When stitching your fabric should lie flat on the sewing machine.

When starting to stitch drop your dog feed, then hold the top thread in your left hand. Roll the needle towards you to take a full stitch, catching the bottom thread. Pull the bottom thread up and fully out. Push both towards the back and start to stitch. Follow this and you’ll have trouble free embroidery!

When using fancy threads- like metallics and ombre thread- always make a bobbin of matching normal thread. Never use the fancy thread in the bobbin, your machine will hate it!

Remember, this type of stitching goes against what your machine wants and is designed to do! Don’t pull your fabric jerkily or too hard in one direction as this can cause the needle to catch in the fabric and ruin your stitching, and even break.

Play around with stitch length, and even stitch style:


To make sewing easier, you don’t have to finish the ends and cut the thread whenever you want to move to a different part of the fabric. Simply sew a few stitches on the spot, then raise the foot, pull the hoop to move it to another area of the fabric, lower the foot and carry on sewing. Once you have finished, just cut the threads that you don’t need. If your fabric won’t move, turn the needle towards you to ‘dis-engage’ your needle from the current stitch. This should enable you to move your fabric freely.

It is also a good idea to back the area being stitched, particularly if working on a stretch fabric like T-shirting. A tearaway stabiliser is ideal. This is then torn away when the stitching is complete.

Embellish your designs once they’re complete with beads, buttons, sequins and even hand embroidery. Water soluble fabric is also an amazing thing to play with.

Now, aren’t you inspired to create?! I found the amazing photographs above- and many more, along with a very helpful blog post- from the very creative Clutterpunk. Just doing a simple Google search for images has really quite inspired me, & I can’t wait for tomorrow’s class!!

Happy stitching!


Birthday sparkles!!

It is my birthday today!!

My gorgeous Fella has made Laura After Midnight all official & purchased my domain name… so now Laura After Midnight is a ‘dot com’!! I feel a little bit grown up!!

In other news, I have added a Custom Spats listing to my Etsy store… this means anyone can purchase any spats they like by buying this option & messaging me with their requests. How fancy is that?! I shall be adding more as necessary so remember to check back with my Etsy store… click the picture for the link!



With that I am off to make a lovely cup of Earl Grey tea & eat far too much cake!

Happy stitching!!

Strictly (Victorian) Ballroom!

I have just finished the Victorian Ball Gown commission, in a flurry of last minute details as always! We changed a few things from the original illustration, mainly due to time constraints however; I love the final garment!

The skirt, the pattern for which was from Truly Victorian– which my client had already purchased otherwise I would have been drafting one from The Cut of Women’s Clothes by Norah Waugh- went together like a dream! It took about two hours to cut out because it has about six meters of fabric in it which I would caution anyone making something like this about… you need space! It sewed up in only a couple of hours though which is amazing to me as I am used to taking a lot longer to not only figure out what the pattern is asking me to do (historical & ‘hand made’ patterns not always having the clearest of instructions), but also to maneuver that amount of fabric through my sewing machine! Thank the stars for industrial machines!!

The corset was drafted from a pattern I already had made up from Corsets and Crinolines by Norah Waugh. This book was a revelation to me, & I use it constantly for both reference & drafting corsets of all styles. If you haven’t come across it already here is the blurb from the jacket:

Corsets & Crinolines is a study of the changing shapes of women’s dress & how these were produced, how simple laced bodices became corsets of cane, whale-bone & steel, while padding at shoulders & hips gave way to the structures of farthingales, hoops & bustles. Added are contemporary tailors & dressmakers accounts, illustrations, index, a glossary of terms & materials, appendices on the repair & manufacture of corsets and crinolines.

Obviously some changes have to be made when drafting from the book to fit both the modern body & different body shapes & sizes however; once done nothing compares to the 1880’s corset I use from this book. The pattern is below, & I simplify it slightly for the modern form making the curves a little less severe, straightening the front top line out & shortening it slightly so as not to dig in to the wearers hips. My client didn’t want a busk, which was the biggest change from the original  & makes the curves less obvious. The fit was perfect, & the graceful curves of the corset really accentuated her curves.

We layered the fabrics for the corset, to create an interesting texture & look. Using Coutil, of course, for the base fabric, a modern crinkle Taffeta overlayed with an interesting ‘watered’ look Net. Obviously this made the sewing up more difficult but I am more than happy with the results.

Some hints when making a multi-layered corset: baste the layers together by hand once they are cut out, & write the piece name in white fabric pencil on the back at the top of each piece- I do this with every corset because the pieces are incredibly easy to confuse & I hate, just hate, to unpick things!

Probably most of the work was done in decoration & finishing details. We added lace sections to the bottom edge of the corset, for a more decorate flossing detail, a net ruffle to the top & strings of beads. To the skirt we added a bias cut band of black velvet & meters of lace trim, instead of the original, more complicated design along the hem. I think this look is simply stunning, & I shall definitely be using it again!!

It really was a truly satisfying commission, & I now have a few more booked for the following months which is a dream. I look forward to sharing them with you.

Happy stitching!

Well, if I’d known it was this easy…

… I probably wouldn’t have needed to gain a Degree in Costume Design!

From eHow:

How to Make a Victorian Costume

Written by Melissa J. Bell

The Victorian fashion era, which includes the years between 1837 and 1901, is largely characterized by a move toward modernized sewing and dyeing techniques, and a move away from the rounded skirts of previous years. Although there was plenty of variation in style during this period, ranging from full bustled skirts to fitted sheath gowns, the most popular Victorian costumes today are the soft-bustled and straight-skirted gowns of the late Victorian period. Consisting of a separate skirt and bodice worn over a vast array of structured undergarments, the costume can be fairly complex to construct.

Skill level: Moderate


Things you need:
Sewing equipment and supplies White cotton fabric Corset outer fabric Coutil fabric Corset boning Grommets Grommet punch Gown fabric Bodice lining fabric Skirt lining fabric
  • Create a Victorian chemise out of white cotton by either following one of the patterns in the Resources below or drafting your own pattern. To make your own pattern, cut a rectangle of fabric that is your own width and would reach your knees. Take a spare T-shirt, fold back the sleeves and lay it on top of the rectangle to copy the armhole curve and shoulder seam. Curve the neckline, then cut an exact copy of your rectangle. Stitch the two together at the sides and add sleeves, then gather the top neckline. This chemise is worn under all other layers.

  • Create pantaloons out of white cotton, using a pre-made pattern or drafting your own from an existing pair of non-stretch sweatpants. Simply cut the sweatpants to the knee and take them apart at the seams to use as patterns. Stitch the pantaloons together in the same way the sweatpants were made, but run a drawstring through the waistband instead of elastic. If you want to be truly historically accurate, leave a large section of the crotch seam open. Wear the pantaloons over the chemise.

  • Make a corset, using a commercial pattern like the Laughing Moon Silverado linked in the Resources below. Corsets are difficult to construct the first time without a detailed pattern, though you can find public domain corset panel designs online to use as pattern pieces. To construct the corset, cut the panels in three layers: outer fabric, coutil and cotton. Baste the outer layer of fabric to the cotton, then stitch the front and back pieces to their lining, and insert the busk and grommets. Stitch the side panels together and attach the lining, then stitch the boning channels and insert the boning. Bind the top and bottom edges, and lace up the back.

  • Make a petticoat from a pattern or by cutting two wide rectangles of fabric and stitching them together, then gathering the top and attaching it to a drawstring waistband. The petticoat is worn over the corset.

    Create a Victorian skirt from the pattern of your choice, or make a simple circle skirt out of five pie-shaped sections of fabric. Clip the top of each piece straight, so that they match up to your waistband measurement. The waistband should rest at the natural waist, so make sure to take that into consideration for your skirt length measurements. Stitch the skirt panels together at the sides, leaving an open placket at the upper back seam, then sew the panels to the waistband. Fasten the waistband at the back with a hook and eye closure.

    Make a bodice that matches your skirt using your choice of pattern, or draft your own bodice using a plain, fitted non-stretch T-shirt. Put the T-shirt on your body and cut the neckline to your liking, then trim the bottom into a pointed curve like in your reference pictures. Cut the sleeves off completely, then mark the center front and center back with a fabric pencil or marker. Also mark the center of the sides, and a line at the center of each bust point. Take the shirt off and cut along these lines, then cut the shoulder seam open. Use the T-shirt pieces as pattern pieces, adding seam allowances, and sew together the bodice like you did the corset. Use buttons at the back instead of laces.

    I do find eHow rather amusing, don’t you?

    Just for reference, I would say the ‘skill level’ isn’t moderate! It’s most definitely advanced! If you are attempting your first Victorian outfit the best thing to do is to buy one of the miraculous Simplicity patterns, lots & lots of cheap-ish fabric & just get stuck in. Ask me any questions you may have, or any of the other excellent Bloggers out there. Do not worry too much about being historically accurate on your first attempt, that can come later when  you have mastered the ‘ready-to-wear’ patterns & are ready for more of a challenge. When that day comes there are an enormous amount of resources like Norah Waughs brilliant books, but these I’ll save for another post!


    Good luck to those of you new to this, I hope you have the sense to laugh at the above exceedingly unhelpful advice from eHow, & the good sense to tackle your dreams & not be daunted!

    Happy stitching!