A gift to myself! – Joes Toes Slipper Kits

One Sunday morning a few weeks ago I was browsing Facebook on my phone in bed, as you do, and I stumbled across Make your Own Slippers Kits from Joes Toes. This instantly peaked my interest as I was in desperate need of new slippers but I had not worked out how this would fit within my ethical stance of making my own clothes rather than buying.

Joes Toes

I’m especially interested in footwear as I worked in an Independent Shoe Shop called Bawtry Shoe Company for many years.

I quickly selected my kit option, red and charcoal grey, so I could create myself some ladybird themed slippers and paid through PayPal, which is always my preferred payment option when shopping online. I will add that the delivery is really reasonable at £3.95 for orders over £10 and my order arrived within a few days.

These slippers are constructed from felt uppers, insoles, midsoles and outer soles and the felt is a minimum of 90% wool. The felt is so thick, soft and luxurious, even before they are made up, you know how comfortable they are going to be.


Frustratingly I was so busy for the next week or so preparing for my Learn to Sew Lounge Pants Workshop that my Joes Toes slipper kit hung distractingly in my workspace waiting for me to have time to look at them properly and make them up.

On the Sunday after the Learn to Sew Lounge Pants Workshop, I sat down at my table in my weekly 3 hour window of me-time, when Gary takes Jack back to his Mum’s. I opened up the bag and looked the instructions up on the laptop and within less than an hour the slippers were completed and on my feet!

I was so eager to make then up that I didn’t take the time to decorate them before I started stitching them together, which in hindsight was a mistake as it made it much more difficult to sew on my ladybird spots after my slippers were made up.

I stitched my slippers with a simple backstitch which was so easy and therapeutic and they made up into something tangible so quickly. The slipper soles and uppers are pre-punched with stitching holes that line up so perfectly, they really are a joy to create.

With over 4,000 colour combinations for you to choose from, and different sole options, there is a slipper for everyone. You can even create mismatched slippers if that is what you desire, and for the 60% of the population with odd sizes feet, Joes Toes will accommodate and you can buy a different size for each foot.


My completed slippers with my ladybird spots

Even if you have never thought of making your own slippers, I would highly recommend trying Joes Toes. They will make an ideal gift, if you are reading this and are someone who I usually buy a Christmas present for, don’t be surprised if you get a Joes Toes make your own slippers kit for Christmas!!

After wearing my slippers for a couple of weeks I am going to purchase myself another pair with a hard Vibram sole, so I can nip out to the garden in my slippers to feed the rabbits or put the bins out in my slippers. I will decorate my slipper tops before I sew them up this time and I will make sure I pull my stitches much tighter as my stitches have given a bit and the uppers are moving a little with my feet instead of holding firm as they should do.

Joes Toes are the brainchild of Cordwainers trained footwear designer Amanda Blackwell based in Brighouse, West Yorkshire. Amanda has used her knowledge of shoe construction to create these easy to make kits. Check them out for yourself at the Joes Toes Website or on Facebook.

Do you think you would like a BagLadyBird – Learn to Sew Slippers Workshop? – Watch this space!

Alison xx

Learn to Sew Lounge Pants Workshop – Saturday 23rd April 2016

Learn to Sew Lounge Pants Workshop

Would you like to slip into something more comfortable?
How about a pair of lounge pants or pyjama bottoms that you made for yourself.
If you would like to join us at the Learn to Sew Workshop on Saturday 23rd April at St Nicholas Church Hall in Bawtry, (1-4.30pm) please call me on 07957 437001 or message me info or to book your place.

Alison xx

Preparing and Panicking

It’s been a super busy week this week as we jet off for 2 weeks holiday today to Cambodia (where my parents live).

I’ve been busy preparing for the next workshop as well as finishing a bespoke dress for a client and making myself some bits to wear on holiday.

Here’s a quick visual recap of my week…

The dress I made was for a School Reunion next week and is yet to be worn, so I can only show you a little sneaky peek!

It is finished with a bias binding edge giving a neat finish to the drapy crepe dress without adding any uneccessary bulk. This was the first time I have made my own bias binding and it proved much easier than expected with this nifty little tool. Although I did make the error of using the 6mm tool to start with and that was just too narrow and fiddly to work in this fabric. Some times even for experienced dressmakers it is a case of trial & error. I used 12mm bias binding tool, which worked out perfectly for this dress. I can’t wait to show you the pictures…


Making the bias binding


Ironing the bias binding

I had bought this amazing fabric, with ladybird & bunnys and double deckers buses and I knew I wanted to make a skirt with it and it worked out great, the only issue was that I didn’t have a top to match. I did however fing this t-shirt in my wardrobe that I never wore. The neck and sleeves were too tight and it was unflattering and uncomfortable, so I got my scissors out and cut off the sleeeves, cut a lovely wide boat neckline and found some blue fabric in my stash which matches the blue in the skirt and the stripe in the t-shirt and cut some angel sleeves. I finished the edges of the sleeves with the rolled hem setting on my overlocker in a beige cotton to match the skirt and attached the sleeves to the newly cut armholes with my overlocker.


Upcycled t-shirt with gathered skirt

I found a Cambodian scarf that had never been worn from a previous visit to Cambodia and I quicky ran up the simple t-shirt pattern from The Great British Sewing Bee book. This t-shirt uses a different bias binding technique to finsh the edges where the binding is pressed to the inside of the garment and the topstiched giving a concealed bias binding finish. My bias binding this time was ready made and is in black as a contrast to the fabric of the top.


Simple t-shirt from a Cambodian scarf

This morning I have been fabric shopping, to Sewcute Crafts on Doncaster Market, I found out about this business on Facebook as I have not been to Doncaster Market for years! This fabrics will be some of the choices for the Learn to Sew – Skirts -Workshop on 2nd April at Austerfield Study Centre.


Fabric Shopping for the Learn to Sew Skirts Workshop

Nearly time for our lift to the train station!


Alison xx

Learn to Sew – Skirts – Workshop – Sat 2nd April 2016

Learn to Sew Skirts Workshop(3)

The next Learn to Sew Workshop with BagLadyBird is on Saturday 2nd April 2016 at Austerfield Study Centre, 1-4.30pm. This workshop will be focussed on Skirts.

Sewing machines are provided for you to use and all materials will be provided, so you can walk away from the afternoon in your very own, made by you skirt, for just £35 per person.

The workshop is suitable for beginners or those lacking in confidence or experience and I will guide you through the steps, so you will learn as you make.

There is no better feeling than receiving a compliment on an outfit and being able to say that you made it yourself.

To book a place on the workshop call me on 07957 437001 or contact me through my Facebook Page: BagLadyBird.

The Joy of Fabric Shopping

The internet is a wonderful place, granting us access to a miriad of wonderful things. Whatever you’re looking for, you can usually find it online, this also applies to fabric. Green satin with pink polka dots, or crepe fabric in a million different weights and finishes or in 50 shades of beige.

But for shopping for fabric you cannot beat shopping in real life shops.

There is nothing quite like the tactile element of fabric and there is nothing that the internet can do to make that a part of the experience of fabric shopping online.

When looking for the perfect fabric for a dress or skirt you need to feel the fabric, to see how it handles, how it drapes and how it will look against your skin. Seeing the colour through the distortion of your screen resolution doesn’t compare to seeing the colour with your own eyes and having the opportunity to view it in naural daylight.

If you’re really lucky, your local independent fabric shop will have really talented staff, who can be an invaluable source of tips and information. I was lucky enough to do just that at my favourite local fabric shop; Thread Mill on Chruch Street in Swinton (S64 8QA)

thread mill 2

Thread Mill is owned and run by a really talented lady, Cheryl Barnes, who has become my friend and mentor. With Cheryl, dressmaking is truly in her blood, her parents were professional dressmakers and her Great Aunt, who trained in Paris, was a Gownmaker to Queen Mary in the Royal Court.

thread mill 1

Cheryl has a wealth of fantastic bridal & occassion wear fabrics in her Aladdin’s Cave of a shop and regardless of how many times I pop in, there is always something new for me to discover.

Cheryl has a really creative mind and such a good eye for matching colours and fabrics that everything I have made from fabrics purchased at Thread Mill have been a roaring success.

The majority of the garments I create are from self drafted patterns, however if you are looking to purchase patterns Thread Mill stocks McCalls and New Look Patterns and has Vogue, Butterick & Simplicity to order.

Cheryl has will take the time to ensure that you leave with the most suitable patterns and fabrics to make what you have described to her and is so knowledgable, that she will impart hints and tips that will make your task so much easier.

Click here to check out Thread Mill’s Facebook Page.

Independent shops of all types are a dying breed as our high streets are increasingly derelict and the big faceless chain stores move to out of town retail parks. I urge you to take the time to explore your local area and find these little gems of independent retail, and shout about them far and wide. It is only with good paying customers that these shops will stay viable and mean that you actually have the option to shop in a real life fabric shop and not online.

What is your favourite Fabric Shop? Tell us about it here on on my Facebook page: BagLadyBird – Learn To Sew.

I am a dressmaker with 20+ years of creative dressmaking experience, having graduated in Fashion Design from the Surrey Institute of Art & Design in 1999. I now offer monthly Learn to Sew Workshops, one to one dresmaking courses and bespoke made to measure dressmaking.

For further info, please go to my Facebook Page: BagLadyBird – Learn to Sew or call me on 07957 437001.

Alison xx

A Gallery of Past Creations

You might be wondering what qualifies me to teach you how to sew?

I took my BTEC National Diploma at Doncaster College and then went on to graduate from the Surrey Institute of Art & Design in Epsom (formerly Epsom School or Art & Design and currently The University for the Creative Arts, Epsom) with an Honours Degree in Fashion Design.

I have over 20 years creative pattern drafting and dressmaking experience. Take a look at this gallery for photos of past creations.

Dresses for Weddings – Wedding dress, Bridesmaids dresses, Mother of the Bride & Wedding Guest

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Dresses for the Races

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Prom dresses

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Dresses for other occassions

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Would you like me to help make your dress dreams a reality? Call me on 07957 437001 to book a free consultation.

I work in collaboration with you to create the vision in your head.

Or check out my facebook page for more information.

Learn to Sew – Aprons – Workshop – 27th Feb 2016

Learn to Sew Aprons Workshop

The next workshop will be at St Nicholas Church Hall in Bawtry on Saturday 27th February 2016. 2-4pm.

At Learn to Sew – Aprons you will walk away with a fabulous vintage style apron made just for you by you or to gift to someone you love! (It is Mother’s Day the following weekend!) Alternatively bring your mum along, wouldn’t it would be lovely to learn a new skill together?

£25 per person, all materials included.

Call me on 07957 437001 to book your place or for more info or check out my facebook page for more info on this or future Learn to Sew Workshops.


Victorian Inspired Prom Dress

One of my favourite things about being a bespoke dressmaker is some of the unusual requests that clients come to me with and how that allows me to get creative with styles I have never done before.


Bryony came to me wanting a Prom Dress based on the Victorian Style that she loved so much, inspired by an Episode of Doctor Who.


In a consultation with Bryony we discussed what elements of the style were essential to her and how we could work that into a dress for her prom.


To get the look she wanted Bryony wore a corset and hooped underskirt and we designed a high neckline with puffed long sleeves and a bustle style built into the jacket.

Bryony was over the moon with her prom dress.

Should you wish your dress dreams become a reality, please call me on 07957 437001 to book a free consultation.

Ethical Fashion & Me

Something happened to me last year – I started to care about who made my clothes and how they were treated. The catalyst for this was The True Cost documentary, which I watched on Netflix one evening when Gary was out. He came home to find that I had fundamentally changed the way I thought about fashion.

Fashion has always been my thing, I graduated in 1999 from the Surrey Institute of Art & Design with a degree in Fashion Design and had mostly worked in Fashion retail since then. I developed a serious shopping habit while at uni and I had an eye for quirky and unsual pieces that I could style up. More recently a lack of disposable income had meant that the shopping sprees became less and less and I would be more likely to be wearing supermarket clothing or the cheaper end of the High Street, such as Primark or H&M. Opting for the lower quality fast fashion option to keep my wardrobe stocked up.

Call me naive, but I just hadn’t really considered what went into making these clothes and how they could make them so cheap. Then I watched The True Cost and my eyes were opened. I could no longer stand by and be an ignorant consumer of fast fashion, knowing the human and enviromental cost of producing much of our clothing.

Since that date I have honestly not purchased any “fast fashion”.

I even made the majority of the Christmas presents we gave. Others were sourced at local craft fairs from designer/makers, and others were DIY kits for making your own crafts. (I will admit that the kids presents were mostly still plastic tat, but I’m working to change that for next year!)

I realised that with my skill set and background (20+ years of designing and dressmaking), the best contribution I could make to ethical fashion was to make my own clothes and to teach others around me how to make their own clothes too.

Should you wish to learn how to make your own clothes, please call me on 07957 437001, email me alisonrgreer@hotmail.com or contact me through Facebook http://www.facebook.com/bagladybird/

Watch the trailer for The True Cost here or see the full fim on Netflix.