Saturday, 30 January 2016


I moved back home to my Mum's house with the girls in May 1970 and spent a couple of months staying in and trying to get my life back together.  One evening I decided to go out and put on this outfit in what is still my favourite colour combination.  By sheer chance I bumped into some old school friends and was taken to a pub where I met a new group of people, one of whom was Bob.
I wore this outfit to the first party I went to with Bob soon after we met and he even remembers it from time to time. I had kept myself occupied with the crochet work in the weeks before after leaving my first husband.

By Christmas in 1970 we were a couple and I made this special evening dress for the dinner dance Bob had organised for his rugby club.  The fabric was a lovely heavy crepe that hung beautifully and I even dyed some shoes to match.

Of course  having two daughters was wonderful for me, being able to make their frocks out of the left-overs of my dresses.  They were never short of something pretty to wear.  The frilly blue and red check one Joanna is wearing was originally my maternity dress when I was expecting Justine and was bought for me by my darling granny.

In 1971 Bob and I took a fortnight's holiday in Ibiza and I had a lot of fun preparing my wardrobe and making these bikinis from scraps of fabric and 3 plastic rings to hold the triangles together.

Yellow seems to have been one of my favourite colours at that time, although I very rarely wear it now.  This cotton trouser suit was perfect for our wonderful first holiday together.

Wednesday, 27 January 2016


Today is Jimmy's 4th birthday and here is this year's card I made for him.
When Jo and Jimmy came to stay last August we went to the circus and I took plenty of photos with the idea of using them as inspiration for his card.

I started with the background, painted in watercolour on a stiff rough paper.  The sides are in red card folded into a concertina with about 2 centimetres for each fold to which I added the layers as they were made.
First at the back is the lioness in her cage. I made her stick her head through the bars, I wonder if Jimmy will notice that?

The ringmaster comes next with his horse who trotted around and jumped over bars.

The acrobat was very young and brave doing her moves high in the air on a hoop and the clown was a young girl too.  I think Jimmy was quite taken with her and some of her jokes and antics.

I built up the card in the layers and it wasn't till I had finished that I noticed that the acrobat was upside down!  As she was attached by a ribbon it was easy to turn her over but too late for the scans so you'll just have to imagine her the other way up!
I hope Jimmy remembers our fun afternoon at the circus when he sees this card.

Saturday, 23 January 2016


My fashion story continues with this blouse and the skirt I made to match the coat on the first page.  We were learning about slimming styles for larger sizes and these side panels were recommended as a good idea.  The sewing machines we used also had an attachment for pin-tucking using 2 needles which was very effective.

As well as dressmaking I was a keen knitter and here I designed the pattern for this fair isle jumper and made a plain wool mini kilt to match.

I also discovered shirring elastic which gave a nice slimming effect on the top of this summer dress in cotton lawn.  I loved it so much I kept it for many years and altered it as you can see in the drawing for hotter weather.

At the end of the 2 year course we had a fashion show at the college where we were expected to produce two outfits to be modelled by professionals.  I made a jumpsuit in a synthetic voile and this dress in polka dotted cotton fabric.  The front diagonal seams gave me a lot of trouble stretching as I stitched and the teacher was a task master, making me unpick and re-sew at least 3 times but it was a good lesson in preparing the fabric with understitching before starting to make up.  These clothes had to be made in model size 8 so I never got the opportunity to wear them and anyway they disappeared after the show, probably taken by the models!

In June 1967 I finished the course at art college and gave birth to Justine a couple of weeks later so there's a bit of a gap now while I start my family life at the age of 18 with no time to sew and not enough money either!  By the middle of 1970 the marriage had broken down and I moved back into my Mum's home with my brother and sisters and 2 baby daughters.  I found the time again to sew and bought some leather scraps from the tailor in town to make belts and bags and this skirt which was a favourite for a long time. 

For my 21st birthday I made this gorgeous dress in fine cotton voile which I mounted on a white lining in the body part and left transparent on the sleeves.  I really loved this one and spent a lot of time and care sewing it having learned my lessons well at college.
At the college the course was split into 2 parts, wholesale manufacture and couture methods.  While I enjoyed the details of the couture classes, my heart lay with the wholesale making methods which concentrated on speed and efficiency and this stood me in good stead over the next few years as I could work at home making clothes for people and then as a home machinist for companies such a one of the suppliers of Harrods.  I only stopped doing this kind of work when I picked up a copy of Vogue in the dentist and saw the dress I had been working on the previous season for sale at £50.  I was quite shocked as I had only been paid £1.25 to make up the cut pieces which included rouleau loops on the bodice and a pleated skirt!

Sunday, 17 January 2016


For the new year I've started a new sketchbook, no 34, to record as many of the clothes I can remember making over the years ever since my childhood when I used to dress my Cindy dolls.

Justine gave me a lovely book for Christmas and I started by sketching the figures and trying to get my head round the skinny elongated bodies which bear very little relation to real life.  I've ended up drawing the clothes on body shapes a bit more like my own!  I searched my photo albums for ideas and hairstyles in particular and my tiny college sketchbook for some of the original designs.

I found a very early photo that I would definitely hesitate to show anybody but it did show the first blouse I remember making.  It also reminded me of how thick and uncontrollable my hair was!

I made a couple of dresses around this time but they were from commercial patterns so not very original, I particularly remember a bottle green jersey number my Granny gave me which turned out rather unflattering for a 14 year old!  These 2 tops were favourites as I had started to use old sheets to make my own designs, including a pink shift dress with the same pointy collar as the green one.

I started a two year dress design course at Croydon college of art in September 1965 full of hope of becoming famous.  This jumpsuit was a favourite made in needlecord with trumpet sleeves and big flared hems.  My boyfriend at the time was a photography student and he took several photos in the college studio, but sadly now they seem to have got lost.

The winter fashion that year included the baby bonnet, of which I made several including this pink wool one made with the leftovers of the dress fabric.  That herringbone suit was made from a length of fabric my mum found in her stash, the skirt was rather short at the time and I certainly turned a few heads when I went out in my bright pink tights!  I suddenly remembered the little fur edged boots as I finished this drawing.

I found the photo below at the bottom of a long forgotten pile and was reminded of this little outfit, also photographed by my boyfriend. 
 As you can see I'm still struggling with the figure drawing, the copied poses are ok but they seem a bit static, especially as I've had to draw in pencil first, not being confident enough yet to go straight in with the pen.

Well that's as far as I've got today, there will be more to come very soon so I do hope you'll come back to join me on my trip along memory lane.

Saturday, 9 January 2016



I've had a lot of fun this week binding some more books for Justine's garden party in April and I remembered that I haven't shown you the last book I made in 2015.
It's a photo album I made especially for my niece Esther who spent her last term of history studies at university there.  She had lots of pictures she wanted to put together in a special book.

I used black drawing paper stitched in such a way that each page was stitched close to the edge leaving a half inch tab to give the extra depth to account for the photos. I used the sheets of tissue that come in pastel paper pads as dividers and found some beautiful fabric for the cover and printed one of her pictures onto a piece of fabric as a centrepiece.

For the title page I was inspired by another photo of the colonnades and added the skyline and lettering in coloured pencil.  Esther was delighted with the result and now she's back in Venice again, working now as she's finished her course with excellent grades.

These are the books I made this week, filled with drawing paper and covered in some lovely fabrics and contrast spines.  I'm looking forward to getting stuck in to some more next week as the garden party will be on a Sunday and Justine is hoping to have many more visitors than previously.

Friday, 1 January 2016


Once again I've been busy making cards for family members.  This first one is Bob's for his birthday that falls on Christmas day. When we met he had a white MGB which he eventually sold to put a deposit down on our first home.  He likes to joke he exchanged his beloved car for a wife and two stepdaughters!  I was lucky to see a green model of this car a few weeks ago and took a few photos to use for this watercolour although it was quite difficult to interpret the shading for a white car and I even remembered the number plate of Bob's original car!

This is the one I drew in coloured pencils for my sister Juliet from one of her own photographs.  I really like the misty effect of the leaves keeping the strokes all in the same direction, must try that again one day!

Here's Jimmy's Christmas card, full of chocolate coins which he loved.

The next four are a set although the recipients would only realise that when they opened the card to see them all used as part of the message.

I had a lot of fun last January designing these using typical Christmas nature patterns.  I added glitter to the berries before sending them off.

I chose which letter to send to reflect the initials if possible and one friend did actually comment that he though it was very special to have a personalised card until he opened it and saw the message! 

I've already started thinking about next year's design but it's going to be a while yet before I'm happy with the idea I have in mind.
Have a very happy and healthy new year and happy painting too!