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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 Rashomon Effect

The National Youth Dance  Co's latest!

The National Youth Dance Co’s latest!

For the last 2 weeks I have been working on the costumes for the National Youth Dance Company. They will be performing the Rashomon Effect and an extract from Vertical Road.  Both pieces are by their guest Artistic Director, Akram Khan.

They open on Wednesday 16th April at Sadlers Wells, and are well worth going to see. The show includes some amazing dancing from such lovely young people.

And you don’t just have to take my word for it… Here‘s a fascinating piece in the Guardian written by Akram Khan about his experience of working with the NYDC.

A Celtic twist

This couple wanted to lift their elegant wedding outfits with a little subtle surface decoration.  We settled on a simple Celtic knotwork design to enhance the deep cuffs of the groom’s coat and the neckline of the bride’s dress.

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.

back view cropped and compressedfront view cropped & compressedside view edited & compressed

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.

front with car edited & compressed

close up compressedback compressed

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.