Making samples

dress designer, dressmaker, luxury clothes, wedding dresses

Just to follow on from my last post about sample dress sales, I sometimes make my sample dresses from silk  bought in sales from my trade textile suppliers.  Sometimes the silk has some marks on it, sometimes the material has got creased, even on a roll, or the weave isn’t quite right or the colour has faded etc.

So I am then able to buy the silk at a very reasonable price and cut round the faded colour or fault and make the fabric up into new designs for my collection.

Here is a new design I have recently created in this way – the silk had some odd marks scattered on it so I used the material that was pristine to make up this fully silk lined double crepe ivory silk wedding dress which took about 60 hours to make – which is why I only add a handful of new designs to my collection of handmade gowns and dresses each year, even if I can buy my fabric at trade sale prices.




Why sample dresses go into a ‘Sale’

dress sale, wedding dresses

Over the years I have designed and made a collection of dresses and gowns so that when clients visit me they can see my style of designing and cutting out patterns.  I have books full of photos of my designs as well as lots of sketches, and I can always make a ‘toile’ which is a mock up of a dress made out of calico or fabrics similar to the actual fabrics that the dress will be made of.  This is so that a customer can have an idea what a style will look like and I can also fine tune the fit of the dress before cutting it out from silks.

But of course, the best way to see a dress is to have made up samples of my designs which also sometimes go out on display at exhibitions and wedding fairs.

One such dress is illustrated below.  It is  a wedding dress in ivory  made from Thai silk which is exceptionally light and smooth, lined with habotai silk.  The silk bodice is covered with corded lace which I hand beaded with imitation pearl beads.  The skirt lining has a lace flounce on the hem and there is a separate net petticoat.

This dress is made from slightly faulty silk which has been washed several times because it was on display in a bridal shoe shop window and at wedding fairs so it is slightly imperfect.

If you would like to view this dress, and other samples in my collection send an e-mail  to to view by appointment only in Tunbridge Wells.


The sophisticated luxury of silk and cashmere

day clothes, evening clothes, luxury clothes, maternity clothes

Made from two of the most luxurious fibres, silk and cashmere, this lightweight tunic from my ladies wear collection is versatile in more ways than one.

The fluid style means that this simple tunic can be worn by someone of a very small size. a medium size or a large size (up to about a 115 cm bust depending on the shape of the wearer).  Of course, on a small person the tunic will fall in many fluid drapes, with less drapes on a larger person, but it would still flow when worn by a lady with a full figure, due to the cut of the tunic, and it would also make very comfortable maternity wear.

It could be worn with a long or short skirt or dress, or with leggings or trousers, making it a versatile addition to your wardrobe for either day or evening wear.

The tunic in the attached photo is a one off @£350  so once it is sold it is gone.  This particular silk and cashmere mix only comes in one colour.  I may be able to make a similar garment to order, provided the supplier still has stocks of this fabric, although the cut may not be quite exactly the same as illustrated, because I improvised when I cut this garment, and the price will vary according to the fabric suppliers’ current prices.

I can make this style of tunic in many other silks and fluid fabrics.  The design can be varied to make a longer style tunic which could be worn as a dress and there are several other styles of tunics to choose from in my collection, some of which are showcased on these pages of my website:

damask rose tunic side view

new ‘Artist’ Facebook page

stencil art, visual art, wedding dressess

You may already have found my Facebook page with updates about craft and wedding shows that I participate in but I have created a second page for my work as a visual artist

Do check out both pages to keep up to date with postings ab20s - smallout my wedding shows, art exhibitions, news and new work.  The image to the left is created with some of my handcut stencils and I have drawn round the edges with a pen to give more definition to the figure of a 1920s lady with roses.

Making art from hand cut stencils

airbrushed art, handmade cards, pochoir, stencil art

   Daffs small

A while ago when I was experimenting with an airbrush to create images, I became quite frustrated with the length of time it took to apply each layer of colour.  This was because the ink or paint needs to dry thoroughly before applying a mask or stencil on top of the colour to protect it while other shapes of colour are applied around it to create the image.

I came across an airbrush system that uses marker pens in a holder which can be attached to a can of air or for best results, to an artist’s compressor.  This easy to use airbrush system inspired me to create the airbrushed images which I make from stencils which I cut by hand. Because the inks are more or less touch dry when they are airbrushed onto paper, this system is a very quick way of making images from my stencil very quickly.  Most of my stencil designs are for greetings cards, including Easter cards and Christmas cards, so this marker system made it cost effective to reproduce these designs as hand made greetings cards.

Unfortunately, the fine art laid paper I used to make the cards has been unobtainable for a long time, and the maker of the pens changed the shape of the holder as well as the pens, and the replacement pens were not the same colours as I had used in my cards.  So I scanned my designs, although it took ages to clean them up on the computer.  So at the moment I print the scanned images of my stencil designs onto digital fine art paper using archival quality ink.  Some of my card customers have told me they like to frame the card images so using very good quality fine art paper with long lasting inks means that the images when framed, should retain the vibrancy of the colours of the designs for quite a while.  The card I tend to use now is a paper made by an English paper mill which dates back several hundred years, who make very high quality water colour papers.  Their paper is made with several finishes to the surface, e.g. for pastels, painting inks, and especially for digital print which requires a different type of surface than paints or pastels.

I do hope to be able to re-introduce individually hand airbrushed cards at some time in the future.  I am still looking at my best options for new equipment and the new pens I have found are mostly different colours from those I used in the designs I originally created.  So when I do get started I will see what takes shape – whether I just create some new designs using new colours as well as designs which use simple colours, like black, or if I re-work some of the colours of the first set of designs which I made.  This may detract from or enhance the original stencil designs, I won’t know ’til I experiment with them, and it may be a little while yet before I start the new stencil project.

The designs are made from anything from one stencil to half a dozen or more, depending on the image and some people think that they are paintings rather than stencil designs.  I started creating these designs with a great influx of inner creativity.  I then discovered that the French call stencil artwork Pochoir and it was used very much during the first part of the 20th Century as a hand printing process for illustrations.

Until such time as I am able to start making my stencil cards by hand again, the original designs are available as printed images and can be seen on these pages of my website. Egg small

Here is a link to some information about stencil art (accessed 1st April 2015)

What is a designer dressmaker?

dress designer, dressmaker, evening dresses, wedding dressess

It is a bit of a shame, but about half of the enquiries I receive from the general public are of no use to the customer nor to me.


Well, I have spent years writing and re-writing my website to give people as much information as possible, without overburdening them, about what I do and how I do it.  But sad to say, although I try to spell out that I am a designer who makes her own designs, I still receive a lot of enquiries from people who think that I am just  a dressmaker.

Before there were websites, I used to write little leaflets to give to customers in the hope that they would understand what I do.

By just a dressmaker, I mean someone, female or male, who sews dresses that have been designed by another designer, sometimes from commercial patterns that can be bought in a fabric shop.  Or the enquiry may be from another designer who is looking for someone to simply sew up their designs for which they have either made the patterns themselves, or the designer will have asked a pattern cutter to make up dress patterns according to the design drawings of the designer.  And sometimes another designer will contact me and ask me to make the patterns for them as well as sew up their designs, which I do not really do…….

But a designer dressmaker makes the dress making patterns for and sews up their own designs.

When I started my design practice, I had a few designs made up and as my business grew, I gathered up photos and sketches of my designs that I made during the course of my work.

Most customers just look at the samples, photos or sketches of my designs and I base what I design for them around the clothes they look at during an appointment.  Either they order one of my designs, as is, either in the same fabric or in something else that suits the design, with perhaps a few tweaks to the design to adapt it to the needs of the customer, or I sit and sketch out ideas with them, showing the client lots of fabric swatches as well, until I came up with a preliminary working sketch for the design.

Whether my clients want a design made to order from my collection, which is now around 40 sample garments including wedding gowns, evening dresses, special occasion clothes and just dresses, jackets, skirts, blouses and camisoles, or if they would like a really unique bespoke dress, then I can either start to make the dress from the actual fabric of the dress, if they are pretty sure they are happy with the design, or I can make a toile.

A toile is a mock up of the design to test the style and the fit before cutting out the dress from the actual fabric.  Traditionally a toile is made from calico, which is very off-white in colour and stiff.  So it does not suit all styles.  In which case, I will use an economically priced fabric or fabrics, which is/are similar to the weight and drape of the material to be used for the actual dress.

For the first fitting the garment is just tacked with large stitches.  These are called tacking stitches or basting.  This is so that the customer has a rough idea of what the style of the dress will look like and I then adjust the fit at a fitting.  I cut the clothes too long and usually with generous seams so that there is ease for the fit and adjustments of the style as the dress is being made up.  If the seams were sewn properly at the first stage then there is a strong possibility that the fabric would be marked if the seam needed to be undone to adjust the fit.

Some makers just use a sewing machine, others use a machine and hand sewing but I do all the sewing by hand so that again, there is as little damage to the fabric as possible, particularly as I make a lot of silk dresses, but hand sewing also gives a particularly soft finish to garments and it gives a lot of control when sewing together intricate pattern pieces.

This, very briefly is what a designer dressmaker is.  It does not mean a dressmaker who makes up designs created by other designers, but someone who sews up their own designs for which the maker has also made their own patterns.