An outfit for Amelia Fang

Laura Ellen Anderson with ooobop

Not for the first time, my day job and passion for dressmaking have come together and partied!

Like when I made an apron for Ellie Simmons to celebrate the launch of her book Ellie’s Magical Bakery, and when I made myself an outfit for Gemma Cairney’s launch party for Open the book. And it only bloody happened again!

Imagine my excitement when Laura Ellen Anderson asked me to make her an outfit for her book launch of Amelia Fang and the Barbaric Ball!

I’d seen the cover of the book already – designed by the super talented Tiffany Leeson at Egmont Children’s Books  – and was called in for a meeting with Laura to discuss the outfit. There wasn’t too much to discuss to be honest, because Laura’s adorable illustrations gave me all the information I needed. So I took a few measurements, scribbled a few plans and couldn’t wait to get started.

Amelia Fang and the Barbaric Ball cover

If you follow Laura on Twitter – @Lillustrator – you will know how busy she is, not just with her marathon illustration and writing sessions but also flying from workshops to events like nobody’s business! This lady needed some wings at the very least!

Amelia Fang takes the starring role of this ‘terrifying’ tale. She’s fun, fiesty and loyally flanked by her friends, Florence the yeti, Grimaldi the reaper and Squashy her adorable pet pumpkin. When spoilt-brat Prince Tangine captures Squashy they must escape the party to plan a daring rescue! In their race against time, they come to realise things in Nocturnia may not be quite what they seem . . .

It really is such a fun read. The characters are so endearing and I loved it! And so say loads of other readers… it was voted book of the month at Waterstones in October, too!

I started with the petticoat. I figured it was going to take the longest to make. But also the colour of that tangerine made me so happy! It has a poly satin lining and waistband and three double-tiered layers of netting. The joins are prettied with orange satin ribbon and hemlines are finished with orange satin bias binding. I created the waistband to include 4 channels of narrow elastic. I find this helps to move the gathers around if you want to position the volume more at the back or at the sides. I’m not a fan of too much poof at the front! It looks way better, too!

tangerine petticoat

Next was the skirt. I cut a full circle from some black duchesse satin as the overskirt and box pleated some black and white striped cotton for the underskirt. I just love it’s Tim Burtonesque edge. The best find was the orange foil-like fabric for the detail on the overskirt. Oh how it tied in perfectly with the orange foil detail on the cover!

To prevent the shiny bits from fraying, I faced the pointy tips and just pressed under the long sides before topstitching to the skirt. A duchesse waistband sealed in the top edges and an invisible zip at the back was the only notion needed.

Amelia Fang with Unicorn

And then the wings. I have my milliner friend, Jayne Hepsibah Sullivan of the Hepsibah Gallery to thank for the introduction to animation wire. And for a genius solution to making a posable framework that I could cover with bat-like faux leather. They attach as a neck piece that ties at the front with black satin ribbon. The wire has no memory so the wings can be positioned at will. Oh, and I couldn’t resist adding a few cockerel feathers left over from my significant birthday dress. Such fun!!

Amelia Fang wings

The launch party was just fabulous. Held at The Crypt of St Pancras Parish Church, London which was originally designed and used for coffin burials from 1822, when the Church was opened, to 1854, when the crypts of all London churches were closed to burials. It was the perfect choice of venue. And everyone looked amazing… Prince Tangine especially!

Prince Tagine

Laura Ellen Anderson with Sarah McIntyre

Gutted I didn’t get to say hello to Sarah McIntyre. She looked incredible!

But I did get to meet so many other lovely people at the launch. It was such a coven of creative talent – writers, illustrators, art directors, musicians and photographers… It inspires me so much to hear others talk so passionately about their work. And it was thrilling to get so many compliments on Laura’s outfit. I loved making it as much as I loved seeing her wear it. And I was just buzzing with pride.

Amelia Fang launch party

I have clean forgotten that I ever said I couldn’t imagine sewing for anyone else. I guess its a very different story when your customer is so cool and perfectly lovely and you get to make a one-off, bespoke, fun outfit for her. I take it all back…

“This is most definitely my favourite kinda ‘work’!”

Big massive thank yous to Tiffany for putting me forward, to Laura for such an awesome opportunity and to Laura’s mum for the fabulous photos.

And Squashy would like to remind you that he is not just for Halloween… Amelia Fang and the Barbaric Ball would make a perfect Christmas pressie for 7-9 year olds. And it’s on Amazon right here! (affiliate image link below) Along with the next book in the series, Amelia Fang and the Unicorn Lords:


Retro Butterick ’57 halter-dress

butterick b4512 halter dress
I made this dress to wear at my sister’s wedding last month but ridiculously didn’t manage to get any full-length, blog-worthy pics. So yesterday, we took a lovely evening stroll down to Fulham Reach for these shots.

butterick b4512 halter dress

It took a bit of effort to ditch bags, change outfit, reapply slap and head straight back out after a long hot day at the office but I’m glad we did. The light was lovely – no jacket required, and it took no time at all to chill out on the banks of the Old Father Thames!

butterick b4512 halter dress

A swift G&T softened the self-concsious blow of twirling around like a loon in full view of passers-by. And it wasn’t till after we’d finished that I clocked a security guard behind a smoked glass door applauding from his ringside seat!

butterick b4512 halter dress

The pattern is Butterick B4512, a retro 1957 reprint. It’s a halter-neck bodice with optional collar/pussy bow. I cut my own circle skirt though I believe simplicity’s one is a circle too. I just didn’t want to split the front skirt section. It would have messed with my dots!

Butterick B4512 sewing pattern

butterick b4512 halter dress

I knew I might have issues with the fitting of the bodice but I was time short as always and used a lovely cherry print fabric for my first attempt. Alas it was too long overbust if that’s a thing. So I had to take an inch out horizontally. I could have gotten away with it, pesky kids or not, but my inner perfectionist nagged to get it right. So I adjusted the pattern pieces and re-cut in some stash polka dot. This fabric has subtle stretch which I knew would work with me!

butterick b4512 halter dress

Once I’d sorted the issues it really took no time at all. Only the bodice is lined. I think the most surprising thing was not even having to level the hem after letting it hang overnight. It didn’t distort at all!

butterick b4512 halter dress

We treated ourselves to a long overdue child-free dinner date at the Blue Boat afterwards. The same place where we shot my not so boring pencil skirt! I got lots of compliments at the bar. I didn’t feel like I had to justify why I was wearing it. After all, why save a party dress for best? On whose say so? Not mine!

butterick b4512 halter dress

I’d love to try this pattern in other fabrics, even a plain one. It’s kinda formal fancy Hepburn from the front but the backless feature and the swishy skirt make for party factor. The petticoat was a happy find in an Oxfam charity shop on the way home from work one day. I’ve been meaning to make myself one for ages, determined to make everything I wear, but couldn’t ignore this beauty for a fiver!

butterick b4512 halter dress

It’s very strange with youngest daughter being away this week (She’ll be tucked up in her sheep shorts now, no doubt) but at the same time so lovely to be spending some fun times with the Mister and his clever camera skills. Long may this sunshine and warm weather hang around. These evening strolls totally make me feel like I’m on holiday!

A festive full circle

Tartan full circle skirt

Here’s a little something that wasn’t on my mahoosive Christmas to do list! So it’s a small miracle that it’s being blogged here and now. Each and every year at around about this time, I say out loud, over and over that next year I will start earlier with Christmas prep: do my accounts in September, the Christmas presents in October, get the cards sent in November and not take on quite so much work so I can ease in gently and revel in the lead up! Perhaps next year I might take note.

So with all this month’s stressy stuff going on, how on earth did I get it together to make anything new? I stole sleep. Robbed it, right from under my own nose. Three whole precious hours. Doesn’t sound like much in the grand scheme of things but when you are only averaging about five to six as it is, the motive would have to have been significantly necessary. Well I did need an outfit for the office lunch!

tartan circle skirt

I’d like to say it was an impulse make but to be honest I spend a lot of time dreaming about what I want to make so when I eventually get round to making it, it feels like I’ve made it before, at least 4 or 5 times in my head!

I love the Westwood/punk/vintage/rockabilly vibe of tartan. I know that it has deeper, traditional roots and I even have some distant Scottish blood so it feels highly appropriate and very festive!

tartan circle skirt

The skirt is self-drafted full circle with a waistband and lapped zipper. I didn’t line it and chose, instead to finish the insides with Hong Kong seams and a bias finished hem. I feel slightly guilty for machining the hem but I think that’s a small price to exchange for some shut-eye! I’m wearing a tiered organza petticoat underneath. Just one layer. Just to give it a bit of poof!

twirling in tartan circle skirtAnd I went for a shorter length this time. I’ve recently been hooked on below the knee pencil skirts so this 17 incher feels much more party like. Just had to be ready for any embarrassing fashion blunders in this blustery weather.

Tartan was most definitely the right fabric for the job.
The drape is perfect.
It doesn’t need lining.
Its a dream to sew.
Bit fraying but with quick work and seam binding , that’s not really an issue.
It doesn’t crease
Its totally machine washable.
It only took a metre . . .
. . . and only cost a fiver!

tartan circle skirtI didn’t have too much trouble lining up the horizontal patterns but if I allowed a bit more time I could have evened up the design at the sides a bit more. I did however leave it to hang for the statutory 24 hours before trimming and hemming. I know how worth it that bit is now!

I can’t see me getting anything else sewn this side of Christmas, unfortunately. I simply have no idea how I thought I might have chance to finish my coat. The muslin is made and I know what adjustments I need to make but the fabric is going to be looking longingly at me for a few weeks more, I think.

So in the meantime I will just have to resign to the wardrobe what is and twirl in my new tartan . . . while I’m running around like a headless chicken!

tartan circle skirtThanks as always to the fabulous Daniel Selway for his tireless photography favours.
And also to the wonderful Jayne Hepsibah-Sullivan whose Hepsibah Gallery window makes a perfect backdrop!