Thursday, 29 May 2014

Retro Orchard - We Chat to Wendy Kendall & New Workshops!

We did a little dance this morning when we got an email saying that Wendy Kendall's latest collection for Dashwood Studio, Retro Orchard is going to be with us tomorrow! Despite being ultra-busy getting ready to exhibit over in the States, Wendy took time out to answer a few questions for us about her latest collection and what she's been up to of late.  Read on to discover more about her gorgeous new collection.

We have also just added our next batch of workshops onto the website and we are so excited about what we've got on offer over the next couple of months!

Ever had the situation where you finally find (or make!) the perfect dress for a special occasion only to discover that you don't have a bag that matches?  Never find yourself in that sticky spot again when you know how to make the perfect Cute Little Clutch bag to go with your dream dress!

Talking of dream dresses, I made my very first By Hand London dress earlier this year. I have fallen head-over-heels in love with Anna!  There are 3 different variations of the pattern that mean it can be made to work for any occasion - super elegant maxi dress, perfect wedding frock or ultra-cool festival threads.  Join us for a two part Anna Dress Workshop that takes you through the whole process from making a muslin to achieve perfect fit, how to read and cut out a pattern through to completing your most favourite ever dress.

If it's dresses for little people you're after then book on to our workshop to make this simple but adorable girl's dress.

We team up with Emma May of Simple Pleasures School of Sewing again to bring you this one day workshop covering the basics of dressmaking on a small scale producing a gorgeous, one-off dress for a lucky little lady.

You seriously need to keep in touch over the next few weeks as we have an amazing program of Autumn stitching lined up, including sewing with jersey (like, who wouldn't want to learn how to do that?  We all wear it all the time!) as well as some cool projects for boys - yes, sewing for B.O.Y.S! Considering we have several between us in the HQ extended teaching clan it's a downright travesty we've not got our bottoms into gear and done this yet, so we're going to make up for it pretty darn soon.

Right, on with our little chat with Wendy Kendall ....

You won the Ideal Home Wallpaper of the Year Award in 2013 for one of your designs from Petite Street - how did it end up becoming a fabric collection?

I designed Petite St originally as a bedding collection and posted the design onto my website. I entered and won the Ideal Home Wallpapered competition with the main house print, but had previously been contacted by Dashwood about designing a range for them using that particular design collection.

There’s a bit of a buzz about Dashwood at the moment – how is it working with David and the team? 

Dashwood are a great company to work with, they are so enthusiastic about design and offer great support and advice.


Can you talk us through the process of getting a design onto fabric?

In both collections, three existing designs have been chosen by Dashwood and I’ve then been asked to work up complementary prints to sit with them. Palettes, repeats and scales of designs are amended and reworked by me in conjunction with Dashwood until the point where the individual designs look like a comprehensive collection together. The finished designs are sent to the mill for sampling along with my colour printouts for first sample swatches. Once the colour matching is approved they are ready to go!


There’s always an amazing sense of fun in your designs.  From what do you take inspiration when designing a new collection?

I love fun, happy designs, I don’t really do serious or miserable :) My house is filled with bright pops of colour against white walls, so I think this just translates in my work really, it’s my personal taste I suppose. A lot of my work tends to feature animals, trees and florals  so I do use nature as an inspiration , but I also love design from 50s/60s/70s so tend to also use these to inspire and adapt in my own way.

The colours you have chosen for your new collection, Retro Orchard give it a very different mood from those used in Petite Street. How do you choose a colour palette?

I wanted to give the fruit print an autumnal feel, and was conscious to create something new by steering away from my usual palette of turquoise, limes and pinks ( my favourite colours) I think it’s good to push yourself sometimes and break away from your usual colour choices. I actually love the purple, and although I still managed to sneak the pink in, I’m hoping it comes across as more sophisticated by adding the khaki and mink tones. 

How did Dotty Wren Studio come about?

Dotty Wren Studio is a recent collaboration with three other fellow freelance designers, Dawn Machell, Susan Driscoll and Lizzie Mackay.
After exchanging a few emails we met up here at my house a couple of times and have since become great friends. We decided to take the plunge and exhibit together at the major artwork show Surtex in New York. We returned last week and were over the moon with the reaction our booth and our designs received. It was an amazing week away, meeting fantastic new clients and other lovely designers, we are so pleased we decided to go for it! And we got to hang out in New York for the week, added bonus!:)

What’s the best thing you’ve ever seen made out of one of your fabric designs?

There have been too many amazing items made up in Petite Street! I’ve loved them all, if I had to pick a personal fave it would have to be the tiny baby shoes in the triangle print made by Daniel & Alexis for their Etsy shop, they are so cute! I was also in awe of Susie Dunlop’s changing bag, and also the Ochil Tree's beautiful make up bags, I do love a make-up bag!:)

Do you envisage what your fabric will become when you are in the design process or is it purely about the pattern at that stage? 

To be honest I don’t really have a particular product in mind when I design the collection. I do think in terms of whether the collection would be more suitable for kids or homewares for example but I don’t get bogged down with the end products. I think it’s more important for me to get the scales of design and colours right so then sewers have enough options to make use of as many fabrics in the collections as possible if needed.

Do you sew yourself?  If so what do you sew?

I know the basics, but no I’m not a great sewer, unfortunately. I wish I had the time to learn, it’s on my list, I think that’s why I’m in such awe of the products people are able to make. I’m a lot safer with pens and paper for the time being :)

What’s next after Surtex?

I have freelance projects to concentrate on and follow up work now after Surtex. I never actually know what’s coming up in the next year, I suppose that’s the downside, but also the upside sometimes of being a freelance designer, the work is very varied.

I just hope to keep busy in these next few months and create lots more new designs, because that’s what I love doing :) 

Thanks to Wendy and good luck with the new collection!  View the full range of Retro Orchard here.


Tuesday, 27 May 2014

Our warmest thanks go to Steve and Sandra of Sewfine who joined us at this month's Sewcial and gave us the lowdown on what we should be doing in order to keep our machines in tip-top condition.  I think there's going to be a run on machine oil after their advice!

It was also the busiest Sewcial we've had to date!  So sorry to those we just couldn't fit in. It really does seem to have gone quite bonkers of late.  It's brilliant to think that so many people are wanting to get together with others and sew and we wish we could fit you all in every time but alas, we do have a limited amount of space.

We've decided that the fairest way to do things is to put places at the Sewcial on the website as per our workshops. That way we can hopefully avoid people turning up on the night only to be told that we're already full.  The next Sewcial is just a week away on Tuesday 3rd June. We kick off at 7.30pm at St Anne's, Wendover. We'll let you know when we've put it up on the website so you can go book your place.

This month, as usual, we had all sorts of loveliness going on. In between getting tips from Steve and Sandra, there were fantastic fabric birdies being cut out ...

... and appliqued.

Cute little whirlygigs being hand stitched....

... and Sophy got to grips with overlockers.

 Phone armchairs were weighted...

 ... and hair was flicked!

 Sashes stitched...

  ... and lots of cake was consumed whilst contemplating patterns.

Tailor tack techniques shared...
 ... yet more patterns cut out...

... quilts and skirts, a knight's costume and dresses and toys made - what else?  A whole lot more else, that's what! Blimey you guys can sew - and chat - and drink tea. So it looks like The Sewcial's here to stay, I'd say.

Right, off to meet Emma for the last of our current sewing program (zips at the ready, ladies!) but don't worry, we've got some other lovelies lined up for you over the next couple of months including our little girl's Pinafore dress class on Saturday 14th June and our Anna dress workshop beginning Tuesday 15th July.  Details of those and more to follow very soon but do shout if they sound interesting.

Don't forget Ripley's challenge for May - see here to enter and win some fabric - Competition closes this Sunday 1st June!

Cheerio for now.

Monday, 19 May 2014

Ripley's Challenge - May - NOW CLOSED!

Hi All,

If any of you saw my Instagram post on Saturday you will have already had a sneak preview of this month's Ripley's Challenge.  She's been at it again and stolen some of my stuff, the cheeky little madame.  But I forgive her as she did look resplendent in her blue chevrons.

The fabric we want you to identify this month is the one that my lovely new Brigitte headscarf is made from.  I made it for Tilly Walne's online book launch for Love at First Stitch, Demystifying Dressmaking, her beautiful debut into the world of sewing books.  Read my review of the book here.

The actual real life book launch that we were so excited to be invited to was just amazing!  The venue, Drink Shop Do on the Caledonia Road is a must visit for all you crafty folks.  Utterly cool and brilliantly fun.  I am so going back to have a go at their Lego robot making competition ... or maybe the Lionel Rich Tea night ... tea towel screen printing ... or even play with clay Dolly Parton style .... too ... much ... cool stuff going on!

It was great to get to see all the clothes from the book up close - I really do need to make me a Mini blouse, or four - utterly timeless and so beautiful.

We're stocking the book in our shop in Wendover, as well as the GBSB Sew You Own Wardrobe book. Both are amazing, with full size pattern pieces for all the projects included, so basically they're both a total bargain. If you're in or close to Wendover, stop in and have a little browse.

Right, on with the Challenge:  Now closed!!! Congratulations Christine, (and well done everyone else who entered) for identifying the fabric correctly as Michael Miller's Swan Dive Indigo! We'll be in touch to find out which fabric you'd like us to send to you.

More fun from Ripley again this month so stay tuned!

Go visit our website and tell us which fabric she is sporting.  In order to enter you need to do two things:

1 - add a comment on the post telling us what you'd make with this fabric, or alternatively, what's on your sewing table this week.
2 - tell us the name of the fabric in an email sent to
Whatever you do, DO NOT mention the name of the fabric on your comment on the post - sort of defeats the whole object, doesn't it?

We'll then pick a winner at random next week - on Sunday 1st June - and send you a fat quarter of a fabric of your choice. Et Voila! Easy peasy way to build your stack.

So, this week Ripley is mainly wearing ...... (shhhh - just in an email - remember!)

Friday, 16 May 2014

HQ update & Mini pop-up craft fair tomorrow!

Hi All,
I hope the weather is as amazing where you are as it is here?!

Perfect timing, too as we've got the second of our mini pop-up craft fairs here at the Courtyard Gallery tomorrow.

We're keeping it small-but-perfectly-formed again but there are still lots of lovely things on offer, like funky stuff for kids and big kids from Hot Chop Threads...

... Beautiful quilts and scrummy cakes from Cake Card Cloth ...
 ... Fab and functional clutches from Teasel Bags ...

...and Lovely Zesty soaps from, erm, Zesty Soap!

All this loveliness can be found at The Barn Courtyard, behind Antiques at Wendover, 25 The High Street, Wendover 10am-4pm tomorrow, 17th May.  Come along and support our local makers and enjoy the sunshine while you're at it!
Right onto HQ news.  We've been massively busy of late with lots of little (and not so little) exciting projects on the go.  Some of these we can tell you about now and others will have to remain under our tightly pulled down hats for the foreseeable but it'll be worth the wait, believe me!
Firstly we've had lots of lovely new fabric and patterns in including Story Book Clouds ...
Atomic Tabby (oops- this sold out in a flash but back REALLY soon - just had to share it, it's so cool!)
... this beautiful Sailing Stack from Michael Miller ...

... and a ton of new Colette patterns - so beautifully timeless - will work fantastically in your wardrobe.
Secondly The Sewcial has had a lot of press of late.

We were mentioned in the first edition of Love Sewing Magazine and we've just done an interview for another mag about Sewing meet-ups!  All very exciting but it does mean that if you're planning to come along then please do get in touch first to book your place.  We really don't want to turn people away on the night.

The next Sewcial is on Tuesday 20th May at St Anne's Wendover 7.30pm-9.30pm and we're jolly well looking forward to it as it seems like an age since the last one!
Thirdly, we are just about to announce our program of workshops leading us into the summer months so check back for more news on what's in store over the next few weeks.
And finally, our very good friends and Neighbours The Dandy Kid have made it to the finals of the Muddy Awards!
Hooray and flippin' well deserved in our eyes seeing as they are so blooming marvellous.  Please please PLEASE show your support by voting for them here
Hope to see you at the pop-up tomorrow, if not then enjoy the sunshine, whatever you're up to!
Over and out.


Wednesday, 7 May 2014

Love at First Stitch book review ... basically it's fab!

If you love Tilly’s blog Tilly and the Buttons then you’re sure to love her new book, out today published by Quadrille.
Love at First Stitch –Demystifying Dressmaking is the kind of book that everyone new to garment sewing should have in their collection.
The ethos of this book is one of ‘learn as you sew’. It’s packed full of handy hints and tips and instead of having all the techniques listed at the front or back (or worse, expecting that you look it up elsewhere!) it gives you information when and where you need it and there’s always just enough to get you through each project.  This means that you don’t get overwhelmed with lingo and jargon and enables you to get on and sew instead of having to learn the theory of what you’re doing out of the context of actually doing it!
 The projects in the book (of which there are 7 with two bonus variations for each!) start at a total beginner's simple head scarf and culminate with a simply gorgeous, fully-lined frock.  All the pattern pieces you need are stored beautifully in the back pocket of the book and are printed on sturdy paper (not horribly tricky tissue paper!) ready for you to trace and cut.  Tilly uses her own sizes 1-8, getting us away from the highly subjective and controversial sizing you find on the high street and shows you how to properly measure yourself and even how to grade between pattern sizes in order to get the perfect fit for your own unique shape.

 I love the fact that she uses practical and unpretentious methods in her making – like making simple pattern weights with food tins!

The photography is absolutely stunning  and the text is clearly laid out with basic how-to-make instructions being on sunny yellow and differentiated from the specific technique pages printed onto gridded pages.

This is essential reading for those about to venture forth on the road to DIY fashion but is equally a joy for those with more dressmaking experience.

We’ll have a few copies of Tilly’s book to purchase at our little shop in Wendover or you can order it online here.

That’s it – now go get yourselves a copy and thank your stars that you heard about this little beauty!