Out to Africa

Dear Friends,

Some of you will be aware that I went to Kenya about 5 years ago, working with a lady named Helen and an organisation called Open Arms International. Well, Helen has been encouraging me to come back out to Africa with her in a more active role ever since. Fast forward 5 years: I am better heath-wise, have a degree (Oh my!) and have numerous semi-jobs that give me flexibility in my time. SO! Iam going back to Kenya soon; this Saturday, the 25th, to be exact.
This time I am going out with Helen and a small group of otherswith the CRED foundation (http://www.cred.org.uk/) to work at the Spurgeons Academy (http://www.fredoutafoundation.org/academy.htm). Spurgeons is in the middle of the Kibera slum. There are 1,000,000 people in a square mile, no running water or electricity, one toilet per 400 people. Most of the families are made up of young children and the elderly. All the middle group of ages has dwindled through death from illness or working far away from home. Any income that there is, is not above £1.50 a day.
I personally will be teaching a small group of their older girls how to make a simple shirt. By teaching these girls some simple sewing skills we are giving them a skill set that will enable them to generate income in a positive and constructive way that could be expanded upon in the future. The others on the trip are working with the younger children and the staff members, teaching them life skills and organisational skills, bringing encouragement.
We are going out for one week, and will, hopefully, be giving a talk when we come back at Thornbury Baptist Church, (Thornbury, Bristol, BS35 2AX.) the members of which have supported both Helen and myself in this venture, financially and materially. If you would like to come to the talk, you are most welcome, and I will be sending out more details as and when I get them.

I will be taking as many photos as possible so watch out for a special post here!

This is not a plea for assistance in any way. I just wanted to share with those who have supported me over the years to be aware of what you have been assisting towards!! Those of you who are so-inclined, all prayers for health, safety and the blessing of all we meet out there is Hugely appreciated. If you have any questions, please ask.

Many blessings to you all

Scottish Opera does The Magic Flute

So, for 3 weeks I worked for Scottish Opera on their new production of Mozart’s The Magic Flute.  It is set in the Victorian era and has been given a Steampunk twist. The costumes are, therefore, dazzling in their ingenuity, pizazz and beauty.  This opera is wonderfully comical, at times very silly, but all imbued with totally fabulous music.  If you have never been to the opera before, go to this one!!

This was my first time working on a show with a budget to fit such a large cast and production; the detail and quality of what we were producing was wonderful to be in amongst.  The buzz in the workroom was amazing; there were 10 of us working for John Liddell, the Head of Costume, and Simon Higlett, the Designer, and it was 6-day weeks of hard work.  As part of the making team, of course you have to have the plot and the twists described to you so that you understand better what it is you are making and why: the reasons for certain fabric choices, fast change cheats, pyromaniac moments that need fire-proofing (no feathers, please!)  Some might think that this would spoil the show for you, but seeing a drawing on a page and hearing a description of how some of the actors are going to get onto the stage is nothing at all like seeing it actually happen.  The same, too, with the set.  Scottish Opera has a wonderful facility that enables it to have rehearsals taking place in the rehearsal space in Scottish Opera on the full scale, actual sets.  These are then wheeled out to the waiting stage removal trucks and wheeled into the theatre, and the actors know exactly where everything is, the size of the space they have to fill and how it all works, right from day 1.  This also means that the backstage crew know all of this as well, and the chance to go and stand on it was fantastically inspiring.  But this is without all the lights, without a proscenium arch, without an auditorium and without that wonderful smell of the theatre.

All I can say is Please, Please, Please, go and see this production, because you will have a brilliant night out.

Eilidh’s Rockabilly Dress

Most of the time, I see Eilidh in jeans and a jumper or veterinary scrub set.  She does, however, have a penchant for purple and skirts that go ‘whoosh’.  Therefore, when her other half asked me to make her a dress, the question wasn’t really ‘what style?’ or ‘what colour?’, but ‘how many petticoats?’ and ‘what shade of purple?’

This is what we came up with…

Purple acetate satin, with a lace overlay on the bodice; side zip fastening with ribbon detail; 8 layers of ballet net petticoat, trimmed with 4 different colours of bias binding.  That’s 40 metres of bias binding!  Such fun to make!

To judge by the amount of spinning, swirling and leaping around that went on, i think she enjoys wearing it, and her other half was quite pleased too…

Wedding: Ashley and Craig

Ashley and Craig’s Wedding

Last summer, I had an invitation to be involved in another wedding.  A friend of my sister’s was looking for something a little different…

There were several interesting and exciting factors involved: I was commissioned to make, not only the bride’s dress, but a bespoke corset for underneath the dress, two bridesmaids’ dresses and her flower girl’s as well; Ashley requested a detail on her dress inspired by Ellen Ripley’s jumpsuit in the film Alien; and the wedding was in Glasgow and I was much further south.

A Scottish fabric shopping escapade and an all-inclusive measuring session was followed by a stretch of making 4 bright green petticoats, the three bridesmaid/flower girl dresses in tandom, and expetimenting with lacing and double zips in fine silks.

This was the result!

Thank you Ashley and Craig for allowing me to do this with you!


Photo Shoot with Andy Manns

Well, I recieved a very exciting package in the post the other day: the photos from a shoot I did with the brilliant Andy Manns.

I was Incredibly Nervous about doing a photoshoot, especially since I was to be the model.  I had every faith in Andy, though, as I had seen some of his work before, and my faith was rewarded.  We did the shoot at a tiny little church in Somerset which has no electricity and no running water, just charm, history and the most incredible sense of peace.  Within it’s crooked walls, crumbling masonry, haphazard graveyard and tiny copse, we walked and talked and Andy took photos.

It was a truely lovely day.  More shoots are likely to follow…

These images will be incorporated into the relevant categories, but here are a few of my favourite images from the day:



Wedding: Jo and Adam

When I was in secondary school, my friend Jo and I would go through some of our German GCSE classes chattering, partly in German, honest!, about wedding dresses, culminating in a pact that we would each make each others’ dresses when the occasion rose.

Since then we have just about ruled out Jo making my dress, but when I heard that she was engaged to Adam, I jokingly said, ‘so, I’m making your dress am I?’  To which she turned around and said, ‘Yes, actually, I would like you too!’

So, the pressure was on…

Jo was fantastic to work with and a pillar of strength and calm, all the way through.

The satin dress is strapless with a sweetheart neckline,  ribbon lacing at the back, lace overlaid on the bodice, and seed-beads sewn on top of the lace.

Jo and Adam have very kindly given me permission to display some of the photos of their special and truly beautiful day.

Photos by Clare Hewitt

Welcome back folks!

So, do you want the story of why it has been about 4 months since I last posted?  Nah, didn’t think so.  I am now back, I have a computer that works, and I am (maybe, possibly, ha ha ha) getting better at managing my passwords…

I have many things to post about: 2 weddings, a 3-piece suit, a kimono, the beginnings of a dissertation and a photo shoot.

As the pictures filter through, I will do my best to keep the news reel rolling, but for now, here are some pictures of my kimono as it is at the moment…

Conclusion of Chaos: Candide

Well hello there!

I know I owe a Large Post to the website since I have neglected you for several weeks now.  The time has come to reveal what on earth has kept me so preoccupied!

Since the beginning of January, my university project has been a large making unit, sniffily entitled ‘Concepts in Context’*.  For this, we were studying the novella Candide by Voltaire, which was written in the 18th century, with a view to making the costumes for a fully staged** production of the operetta of the same name by Leonard Bernstein.  The costumes had been designed by one of the recently graduated 3rd year design students and, requirements meaning that there would be two of almost every character to give all 40 makers an individual costume, she came up with a simple colour scheme of black/grey/silver and sepia/brown/gold.  So we chose our designs and I picked Young Candide.*** Deciding it was nearest in silhouette to 1770, I dived into my research of frock coats and breeches of that time.

The result of my research, talks with the designer and discussions with my tutors resulted in my using black silk dupion, over which I blithely said I could stitch the silver stripes on myself – more effective, closer to the requirements than anything I could find to buy+ and, since my pattern drafting would be producing something that was going to be nice and simple to construct, a bit of labour-intensive fun to be super proud of when it was finished.

What I didn’t realise then was that a) I would inadvertantly order to little of the silver braiding and have 3 weeks worth of panic attacks wondering if it would really turn up in time, and b) I would end up stitching these stripes, at 2cm intervals, By Hand.  When you think that the longest stripes down the length of the coat were about 140cm, that each one of those took 16 minutes ++, and that I was covering, not only the entire coat but the breeches as well, and that, because of my slip-up in ordering, I had basically 1 week to get the Whole Thing striped-up…you get the picture.  Oh, and the buttons are hand-beaded and covered too…

I was rather pleased with the finished result.

I now have a great tip for those doing a lot of handsewing: If you are using your thimble on your middle finger but your index and thumb are getting sore, wrap them in masking tape.

So here is 8 weeks of work in a few photos.  This is the day we handed it all in, presenting the work on mannequins in the studio.

Photographs by Andy Manns!


*We are now going on to the equally pretentious ‘Perceptions of Performance’, though this is alongside the very straight forward, ‘Self Directed Project’, which explains itself to any who care to look at it.

**totally theoretical ^

^neither the work load, nor the expenses were theoretical…

***as apposed to Old Candide who, although appearing later in the story, had a jacket from the beginning of the century, whereas mine was from the end of the century.  Go figure.

+without completely bankrupting myself, and even those were not quite what she was looking for

++yes, I timed it



The green corset has been SOLD.  I will be getting some pictures for that when I see the lady in question at the beginning of March : )

Also, there will be photos soon of the project I am currently working on – final fittings are tomorrow…   If I say 18th Century, silver and black, and extraveganza, does that whet your appetite?



Corsets for sale!

The start of the ready to wear pieces!

These are pieces that I have made and wish to sell; they have not been commissioned  and so are up for grabs for everyone and anyone!  They are one of a kind, like the rest of my garments, and made to the same high standard.

I have two, small-sized corsets for sale:

One is an underbust of black coutil with white bone channels – stripey!  – to fit a waist measurement of 25″ – 28″ (63cm – 71cm).  It has solid steels so will hold you tightly in place.  There is a picture of a similar one on the corset page in the underbust section.  Price is £90, including postage.

The second one is an overbust corset and is a copy of the corset part of the absinthe fairy gown in the ensembles page; same colour, same fabrics.  This has spiral boning, so will hold you snuggly, but will allow quite a bit of flexibility.  Again, for a waist measurement of 25″ – 28″ (63cm – 71cm). Price of £120, including poastage.

With both of them, if you are interested, send me an email at mary@moondragondesigns.co.uk and I will be happy to answer any questions you have.  I take cheques and use Paypal.