I’m in The Stage! Woop!!

It’s always rather pleasing to see something you have hand crafted in the Press, and this doesn’t disappoint because it’s accompanied by a rather lovely review! I’m head over heels a Costume I created was in a review in The Stage! I say again… woop!

Kristin Hutchinson, Catherine Cusack and Liam Smith in Howard Baker's Judith: A Parting from the Body at the Arcola Theatre. Photo: Nick RutterI was commissioned a couple weeks ago to create the Lead Actress’ Costume, a stunning Edwardian Bodice, Skirt and Petticoat (above, knelt center stage) in Green/Gold Shot Silk Dupion for Catherine Cusack in Judith: A Parting From The Body at The Arcola Theatre.

This costume had to be ”quick rigged” because the Actress had to unbutton the Bodice on stage, quickly, so all the buttonholes are fake! What fun!

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With a Design and some measurements I drafted a Pattern and my assistant and I got stitching! Apart from the nifty fake buttonholes I also drafted a lovely detail in the front of the Bodice, wherein the darts are incorporated into a separate Pattern piece under the bust, with gathers above. I’m pretty pleased with the outcome!

The Skirt is shaped, as the Actress was taking the Bodice off pretty early on we decided it would create a lovely shape with the shirt underneath whilst also being period accurate.

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In just four days this was picked up and whisked off to London to tread the boards, and I have to say she looked fantastic.

Happy stitching!

Best Tips, Notions and Tutorials of 2013

Roll up!, Roll up! The first Laura After Midnight retrospective is upon us!

2013 has been quite the whirlwind! Here are my favourite Blog posts from each month… so without further ado, and not a whiff of preamble take my hand and follow me down the yellow stitched road!

January   Book Review: The Handmade Marketplace by Cari Chapin

As Fella tells it, I just ‘had it one day’; and to be honest I can’t remember where I found out about it, or heard about it or even saw a copy. I really did just have it one day and I haven’t looked back since! I strongly advocate a read if you are in the first stages of starting a business- hand made or otherwise!- or if you find yourself in a rut as following Cari Chapin’s words of wisdom has helped me through more than once!

February   Notions: Measuring Yourself for a Perfect Fit

WELDONS The Correct Way to Take Measurements          TAPE MEASURE          MODERN NEEDLECRAFT How to Measure Yourself

So, you’ve picked out the perfect Pattern, you’ve chosen your fabric & are generally wildly excited about learning how to make your own clothes, but where to start? With accurate measurements of course! Using beautiful Vintage Illustrations like the above and sage advice from my collection of Vintage Sewing Books this post illustrates exactly how to take your measurements, which ones to take and how to do so accurately.

March   Notions: Herringbone Stitch

Quite literally my all time favourite stitch, ever! I use Herringbone Stitch for stunning invisible hems and this Tutorial will take you through the steps. March also saw my popular article on The Best Haberdashery Shops in London, which is well worth a read too.

April   How to Make a Simple Pattern Free Skirt

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In April I hosted my first Sew-a-Long… only I didn’t know then that’s what they were called! The Patternless A-Line Skirt is a technique I teach many Beginner Sewers’ and these Tutorials take you through each stage of creating your very own, fitted A-Line Skirt. Watch out for my soon to be released Skirts Zine too, which will take you through adapting the Pattern you draft in this Tutorial to make different styles such as a Circle Skirt, Pleated Skirt and more. Click each picture above for each stage.

May   Notions: How to Pin

Continuing my ever popular ‘Notions’ series this is a handy little Tutorial for an oft asked about technique.

June   My first Zine…

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High excitement was in the air as I researched, designed, hand illustrated (no Wacum Tablet back then!) and put in to production the first Zine in the Notions Series. Understanding Vintage and Modern Patterns has been updated and reprinted and has sold out again, and again much to my absolute joy. More have since joined the first and what started out as a bit of a personal challenge has now turned in to one of the true Laura After Midnight pleasures. Many more are planned and I can’t wait to release the first colour one! Click here to buy.

July   Notions: Fan Darts

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A lovely technique to make alterations or hand made dresses unique.

August   Notions: Concealed Zips

Fully illustrates guide to insert these tricky little buggers!

September   Pattern Month!

What a month September was! Pattern Month was a huge, rip roaring, smash of a success with competitions, tutorials on Drafting PatternsRe-Sizing Vintage Patterns and more, interviews with independent Pattern Companies like the gorgeous Gals’ over at Colette, with all sorts of additional hintstips and tricks it has to have been the most fun one girl can have Blogging! Planning the next one has started already…

October   Techniques and Tutorials

Finally, slightly exhausted after September I’m not gonna lie!, I organized myself and designed the now familiar Vintage Techniques and Tutorials Page. Here you can find all of the Tutorials I have written, projects and very much more. Enjoy, and don’t forget to make a request!

November   Hand Made Gift Baskets

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Prompted by an image I shared on Facebook, I whipped up this little Tutorial as part of the many Christmas Tutorials I did throughout November and December. From Stockings, to Pyjamas I had your Hand Made Christmas covered and they’re well worth a look through!

December   How to Make a Mans Tie inc. Pattern

Throughout December I was rained on… lots!, made over 100 meters of Bunting for sale on my (rainy!) Market Stalls, worked harder than I had all year, managed an (almost) completely Hand Made Christmas, hosted a Christmas Pop Up Sewing Emporium and posted some Christmas Makes in amongst the madness! It was a satisfying end to a year which has been incredibly interesting to live/survive through.

I am not entirely sure I enjoyed all of 2013, but I am damn certain it has taught me valuable lessons, encouraged me to work harder in 2014 and given me a firm grounding with which to take Laura After Midnight to the next level. In my plans for next year I have more Pop Up Sewing Emporiums, Kits for some pretty exciting and super cool makes and patterns, Zines a plenty and so very much more!

Happy 2013, Happy New Year, and here’s to 2014… each and every one if you!!

Happy stitching!

Pattern Making Musings: Madalynne

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Welcome one, welcome all to the last Pattern Making Musings! Boy, what a month it has been, and we are ending on a high with some great advice from Maddie of Madalynne.

Starting as something to occupy her during a holiday, Sewing turned out to be the most amazing transition for Maddie and you should hop on over to her website to have a read of how she got where she got! Starting out as a self confessed ‘Science Nerd’, she attended college yet never graduated, deciding instead to do something which I strongly advocate- get industry experience and stay there if someone offers you a job! Starting out as a Production/Technical Designer- which means tons of Pattern Making!- for Urban Outfitters she now teams Dressmaking and Pattern Making with Blogging for Urban Outfitters and Madalynne.com… but I’ll let Maddie introduce herself properly…

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Hi, my name is Maddie Flanigan and I am the blogger behind Madalynne, the cool sewing and pattern making blog. If Steve McQueen was the ‘King of Cool,” then Madalynne is the “Queen of Cool.” My blog covers everything from how to draft a Sloper (Basic Block) to interviews with seamstresses and what projects I’m currently working on. For two and a half years, my day job was in the technical design department for a very large fashion company in Philadelphia, and about a year ago, this company took note of my personal blog and asked me to start an intranet blog that would create a cohesive voice for all their brands. Sweet, right? I consider myself one lucky lady to be able to do what I love both day and night (blog and sew), not to mention I receive a stellar discount off some really fancy clothes!

Do you have any other Blogs or Websites you would recommend?

All sewing and pattern making blogs provide a lot of useful information and each one has their own vibe. If you’re looking to strengthen your patterning and sewing skills, don’t focus on a particular blog, instead, pay attention to the post content. Any post about a garment that a blogger just made will detail the construction steps and tricks they used – that’s where you gain a lot of information.

What has been the best piece of Pattern Cutting advice you have been given?

The best pattern making advice that was been given to me was “use common sense.” At the time, I was working as an assistant technical designer and the woman I reported to, Alla, was a Russian pattern maker with over 30 years experience. I was a newbie in the industry, so I asked a lot of questions, but a woman can only handle so many, “Should I reduce the rise? Can I bring in the width from the side seams? What if I increased bottom opening?” After asking my umpteenth question, Alla turned to me and said, “Use your common sense!” So simple, but so true. Pattern making is not rocket science – a pattern’s curves and shapes must make sense and if they don’t, just put two brain cells together and make it make sense.

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What is your must have item of equipment?

For this question, I’m going to have to answer with one of the simplest tools – a ruler or a measuring tape. Because I have experience in technical design, I’m a numbers kind of pattern maker / seamstress and I rely on my “specs.” When drafting, sewing, or altering a shirt, and this concept applies to other garments as well, I know that a body length spec (HPS to bottom opening) of 24” is perfect for my height and that anything longer than 29” long will look like a tunic on me. I stick to my numbers so much that I know my armhole depth by heart!

What Pattern, that you have you made, makes you the most proud?

I used to make elaborate garments that would take months to complete, but after finishing them, those clothes sat in my closet unworn because, well, where the heck am I going to wear a ball gown?! Over time, I’ve simplified the things that I make and as a result, I’m wearing more me-made clothing. Now, what makes me proud is not only that a garment is beautifully constructed, but that it’s wearable.

Which if the Independent Pattern Companies out there do you love at the moment?

Right now, my favourite pattern line is actually a book – Stylish Dress Book. It’s a Japanese sewing book that contains 15+ simple patterns. The designs are simple but also feminine and pretty. What I like most about these books is that even with a demanding full-time job, I can complete projects within weeks, not months, and that’s a great feeling.

How super cool is Madalynne? I especially love her advice about using your common sense. I am always telling my Pattern Class to use their eye, and if it looks a little odd on the Flat Pattern, it probably will make up odd. Don’t be timid- ironing out mistakes is what Toiles are for!

As ever, I would love to hear what you all have to say, comment below to join in! If you would like to read the other Pattern Making Musings the first was by Alexandra of IN-HOUSE Patterns, the second was from the lovely Sarai of Colette and last weeks was from Hannah of Sinbad & Sailor. Don’t forget to comment on Hannah interview to be in with a chance of winning a fandabbydozey Pattern from this new but oh so cool Pattern Company!

This weeks give away is all me baby! I am offering up the below bundle of goodies…

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A delicious Vintage Butterick Skirt Pattern, a stack of Dressmaking Zines including my newest Zips Zine, and one of my soon to be launched Sewing Tidy’s! Wow!! As ever, comment below to win. I’ll close the competition at midnight GMT 4th October 2013.

If you have just stumbled upon Pattern Month feel free to catch up through various posts from making the Basic BlocksToile and tips like Marking your Patterns, the Order of Sewing,  and Scaling Up Vintage Patterns! It’s great to have you with us!

Happy Patterning!

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…

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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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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!