Author Archives: Wendy

Time to go Global

It’s always encouraging to get repeat business.  So when I received a phone call from a previous client I immediately said yes and came out of my summer sabbatical 4 weeks early.

The brief is to make 2 complete sets of costumes for 6 dancers – I have just 4 weeks (& 1 lovely assistant).

Thankfully, most of the fabrics arrive a week before I am due to start and my studio starts to fill up with (more) colour.

Bright, Vibrant colours to lift the soul.

The first year I made these (2016!) I had 101 questions to ask the designer (Ashlee Hill) – how big do you want the collars/pockets/sequin cuffs?  Does the balance work better with 3 or 4 buttons?  What type of pockets does Mr. Khaki have; box pleats or inverted pleats?  How wide is the stripe down Mr. Sporty Blue’s sleeves & shorts?  The photos below are the kind that I would send for answers to my questions and what my computer photo files are filled with.  However, this was a repeat order so I didn’t have to worry about these things!

Four weeks later and they are all ready to be packed up and delivered.

Here they are, my costumes on stage at the Global Village in Dubai.

Johanna, 1 of my lovely assistants and her assistant Audrey, working whilst enjoying the summer sun.

Strictly Learn Dancing part 1 – The Quickstep

Our local hospice put on a charity event called Strictly Learn Dancing.  In just 6 weeks you learned 2 ballroom dances then performed them on stage.  My (then) boyfriend/partner and I decided to take part in this.  We love dancing but had never tried ballroom and I really wanted the chance to be swept around a dance floor wearing a big flouncy frock.  What’s not to like!

Of course, being a costume maker I made our costumes.  I asked my good friend (and wonderful costume designer) Emma Waugh to design my dresses and she gave me a beautiful dress.  For the Quickstep we went pastel and frothy with a multicoloured, multi-layered petticoat.

The dress was then made from a layer of pink sequin over a green/pink shot satin with gold godets and highlights.  All with added sparkles.  I even added a fake necklace of crystals to the flesh net.  For Paul I made a cumberbund (sadly un-crystalled) and a crystal encrusted bow-tie.

and to see the costumes in action have a look at this youtube footage:

To be continued …

Strictly Learn Dancing part 2 – The Rumba

As I explained in part 1, I was taking part in a charity dancing competition – learning 2 ballroom dances in 6 weeks.  Now we are on to the dance of love … The Rumba!

For this Emma designed something dark, brooding and sexy.  We had a lot to live up to!

Both costumes were made from the same bright blue base fabric (you can see this in the photo of Paul’s final fitting), then another, shinier, more sparkly fabric was laid over it to get a lovely deep 2-tone effect.  For a bit of added sexiness we decided to use just the purple shimmer for Paul’s shirt sleeves.  I then added even more sparkle to his shirt yoke.

To tie the 2 costumes together I used Paul’s shimmery top fabric for my frills.  It’s lucky that I quite like my legs!Rumba costumes Rumba action C




To see these costumes in motion, watch the you tube footage below.


Something Blue

I love making little things for weddings because sometimes it’s the little things that count.

One customer wanted a little ‘something blue’ to be sewn into her friend’s wedding dress, so that’s exactly what she got.

Something Blue embroidery

Something Blue embroidery

I am currently working another ‘something blue’ project.   You’ll see the results in the next few months.  In the meantime – here’s a little sneaky peak!

Lace garter

Bucks Point bobbin lace garter

Heart shaped pochette!

The widower of a regular customer contacted me one day & asked me to make a special gift for the new lady in his life.  He wanted a small bag that she could wear while dancing and into which she could pop her dance notes (they are both keen scottish dancers).

The brief was that it should be heart shaped and able to hold an A4 piece of paper after it had been folded about 3 times.  He also wanted quilted hearts and her initial – ‘P’

The concentric hearts weren’t a problem.  The initial took a little longer to work out.

 With the design finalised I got to work with the quilting.

Can you spot my deliberate mistake?  All was not lost!  I quickly re-wired my brain to work back-to-front and tried again.

With the addition of an adjustable (& detachable) strap held on with beautiful heart shaped clasps and magnets to hold it closed, I think the lovely ‘P’ had a rather lovely bag.

Got to Pick a Pocket

medieval celtic wedding dress and grooms frock coat with hand embroidery


In 2007 I made a wedding dress & coat for a lovely couple, Michelle & Stuart (see my previous blog ‘A Celtic Twist’)




A few years later I asked to borrow these to show at a wedding fair.  In payment Stuart asked for some pockets to be added to his coat.   I was more than happy to oblige.

celtic embroidered coat pockets 2

celtic embroidery coat pocket







He didn’t want pocket flaps to spoil the line of the coat so instead I just added a ribbon tab and button to close the pocket & hopefully foil the pick pocket (or2).




His ‘n’ Hers Patchwork

When I have a few spare moments I like to make things for me, friends & family, the house, our lovely campervan.  Well, this time I thought our tired old camping chairs could do with a bit of a face-lift.  The metal had worn through the fabric and the wind whistled through them to chill any sitter to the bone.  So, while out & about I found the perfect base fabric, I then searched through my extensive ‘scrap’ fabric and started some patchwork.

With 1 block each in greens, reds & bluey/purples I created his ‘n’ hers chair covers.

We’ll be lovely and cosy next time we go camping.


More than just an Alteration

I will admit now, from the start – I don’t like doing alterations!

I will alter my own clothes (I’m an awkward shape) and, if I’m feeling kind, I may do bits & pieces for my nearest & dearest but, as a whole it takes too long and I am rarely truly satified with the result (though I’ve had no complaints so they can’t be that bad)

Wedding Dress Before

Wedding Dress Before

Having said that I did enjoy altering Danielle’s dress.  She had bought a lovely dress which just needed a few tweaks to give it that ‘WOW’ factor.


Wedding dress after

Wedding dress after



So, we altered the neckline, , changed the belt from black to ivory then added lace to the belt, sleeve cuffs and hem.


Danielle looking radiant, glamorous and ready for her wedding.

Danielle looking radiant, glamorous and ready for her wedding.




With the addition of an ivory net petticoat, I think you’ll agree that she looks every inch the glowing bride.

This is my kind of alteration!

The Perfect Prom Dress – The Mother’s View

Getting a dress, or any item of clothing, made specially for you is one thing, standing back & watching from the side lines is something else.  Getting involved and helping make it is something completely different.  Here is the story of the Perfect Prom dress, this time told from the mother’s point of view.

When your daughter says she needs a prom dress but REALLY hasn’t seen anything she liked but she has drawn what she would like…what do you do? Well I called Wendy Harrup of Anything but Ordinary. What followed has been about making dreams come true, rekindling hobbies and ending with a dress fit for a princess.

It all began with ideas, fabric thoughts and measurements. This started with meeting Wendy in her studio ‘The Bye Studio’ based in her garden, one afternoon in March. Having shown her my daughter’s sketch it was a huge relief to discover that Wendy could see what she was trying to create and enthusiastically began making suggestions about how it could look. Fabric books then began to appear along with samples of fabric that Wendy had in her workshop. Just a couple of hours later, Wendy had a good idea of the fabrics needed and Islay could see the start of her dress. Measurements were then taken and, although this was a bit daunting for a self conscious teenager, Wendy handled it all with patience and humour, to make Islay as relaxed as possible. fabric, croppedJust a little while later it was back to The Bye Studio to see the fabrics and the black toile or mock-up of Islay’s outfit. This was to be a skirt and corset top as Wendy suggested this would be more versatile and adaptable in time to come. It was hard to imagine how Wendy had managed to translate measurements into this outfit but it was a perfect fit and being that Islay is very slim it was great to think that she wouldn’t have to have tucks in her clothes for the first time in along time !!!!!

fitting cropped

With Wendy getting along with the corset side of the outfit, it was then she suggested that perhaps I would like to make the skirt, with her guidance and support. I had sewed before, whilst at college, but was apprehensive about doing something as important as a prom outfit. However, once again, Wendy came up with the solution that I could sew at The Bye Studio with her on hand to direct and advise as required. This certainly seemed like a good compromise and so for three nights in a row I found myself in Wendy’s sewing room , with the birds singing, her two cats making occasional appearances and the gentle hum of a sewing machine. All this was interspersed with gentle chatter and instruction when required. Not once did I feel that I had asked a silly question, when I needed reassurance in the next sewing step I was doing, nor did Wendy ever make the instructions difficult to understand. As the skirt started taking shape I began to remember why, with my first ever wage packet, I had bought a sewing machine … there is something very satisfying about watching a garment come together.

Our next visit was probably the most exciting as Islay’s vision was finished and now about to become a reality. Just seeing the corset on a mannequin made us both gasp but once it was on Islay and she went out into the garden in the sunshine, the reality was even better than we had ever imagined.

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It was the most amazing dress and fitted like a glove. The colours were perfect for my titian haired daughter and the detachable sleeves gave her the cover she wanted to be able to feel confident in wearing it. Added to that were her unique blinged shoes which Wendy had allowed her to create and it was a dress fit for a Princess.

On Prom night Islay looked beautiful, with her hair cascading down, the gold of the sleeves complimenting the beading on the corset and an Aston Martin to get her there. Her friends thought it was amazing, which I believe is a true compliment bearing in mind they all looked beautiful too.

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Huge thanks to Wendy for making her dream come true, rekindling my love of sewing, and giving us a truly wonderful experience to go in both our memory banks for many years to come, I am very proud to be able to tell people that I made part of Islay’s outfit and that I played a little part in her prom night.

Just one week later the outfit was in use again. As Wendy had predicted, it was very adaptable and the corset was worn without sleeves, over denim shorts, for Islay’s 16th birthday. Once again it looked lovely and I have no doubt it will be seen again in the not too distant future.

worn again edited & compressed

So, do you have a project started but not yet finished, or perhaps, like me, you just need someone to guide you a little. If that’s the case then call Wendy and join one of her sewing bees or discuss with her your next dream outfit, because they really can come true.









Creating the Perfect Princess Prom Dress

 A few months ago a friend of mine asked me whether I would make a prom dress for her daughter.  All the pastel, strapless ‘princess’ dresses didn’t appeal to her, wouldn’t suit her and, as a girl with style, she wanted something that was ‘anything but ordinary’.  This blog is her story of her perfect princess prom dress.

Prom. Four letters, three consonants, one vowel.

One word that for the last year of secondary school is all that is on the tip of everyone’s tongue- ready to be planned pondered and panicked over from as soon as the year begins all the way up until the big day itself.

For the female half of the school year, the main talking point was of course the prom dress. As soon as the term had started, a Facebook group was set up ensuring that no one committed the ‘unthinkable’ faux par of having the same dress, and any lull in conversation would be filled with the same question: “Have you got your prom dress yet?”

I always had to answer no to this question, because despite numerous searches in shops and online, I had found nothing that I liked or more importantly would be comfortable wearing. I could find nothing that I felt suited me or was in a colour or style that I liked. Everything was strapless, sleeveless and short. Everything I didn’t want!

Mum however, had a solution or at least an idea for one, which led to a quiet afternoon being spent at the lovely studio of Wendy Harrup. I then haphazardly tried to explain what I was looking for in my ideal prom dress. I got as far as something historic themed, maybe a little like the Disney princess Elsa from the recent movie Frozen, but most of all must have sleeves and a long skirt.

Despite my horrifically vague instructions, Wendy enthusiastically helped me pick out fabrics and after a couple more fittings – in which I had to do a lot of getting used to  breathing with a corset on, and work out how to walk while simultaneously trying to keep the hundreds of pins in place.

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I had never been to a dress fitting before, let alone had a dress made for me. I needn’t have worried about any of it though, because Wendy was always supportive and ready to answer any number of silly questions, as well as also always keeping us informed about the progress of the dress.

With prom just a week away, we arrived after only seeing small parts of the dress to then be completely astounded by the final product. It was everything I had dreamed of, and everything that I could never have imagined. I loved the colour, and the design.




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Prom came around and my love for the final product Wendy so masterfully created was echoed by every
one else at prom. The rest of the prom-goers were even more astounded when, after being asked where I got it from, I could proudly say that it was handmade. And that I had helped design it!


I had a wonderful time at prom, and I think a large part of that is down to the wonderful dress Wendy made for me. The dress looked amazing, was certainly different enough to cause a stir, and didn’t make me feel self-conscious at all.


As well as this, the durability of my ‘prom dress’ was shown the following weekend, as the corset part of my dress worked just as well over shorts on a hot summer’s birthday party as it did over a long ball gown skirt.



I cannot say enough thank yous to Wendy for all her amazing work, her welcoming atmosphere and her willingness to go along with what must have at first seemed to be a far-fetched and very vague idea. I will never forget my prom, and will definitely be wearing my dress again, even if it separated into different parts!