Shine like Diamonds

A few weeks ago I got an email from my stockist in Stow-on-the-Wold which opened with ‘I am doing a vintage ‘Great Gatsby’ shoot  and a  ‘Marie Antoinette shoot and I want to get some hair items that are made out of vintage necklaces so they go over the forehead and are pinned in to the hair (I hope im making sense) is this something you think you could make?’

My heart beat a little faster. I had just finished a commission for a 1920’s style bridal hair piece, and my head was buzzing from the stunning costumes and visuals in Baz Luhrmann’s The Great Gatsby, this was going to be fun!

Two weeks later, on a sunny Sunday afternoon, and I am driving through the gorgeous Cotswold countryside to deliver an ordinary looking shoe box filled with a secret treasury of vintage pearl and diamante necklaces, feathers and marcasite brooches, all re-worked and transformed into flapper style hair pieces for the photoshoot.

ALAIS haedband group shot

I am so excited to see the first images from the shoot, they feature clothes, accessories and jewellery all available from As Long as it Sparkes, and I will be tweaking the sample pieces I made to produce a range of hair bands which will also be available in the shop.

But mostly it is great to get styled images, with beautiful hair and make-up, to show off my work at it’s best!

Photo Katie Hamilton Photography

Hair Charlotte Donaldson Hair

Make up Penny Wadley

Bristol Brides

Today I had the unique experience of attending a dress fitting for four very gorgeous and excited young ladies, being a bride-to-be and her three bridesmaids, along with her mother and mother-in-law!

I was dropping of a wedding commission, and we had arranged to meet at the studio of Laura of twentythree, a dress maker with a workshop at Cox & Baloney, Bristol. It’s the ideal setting as they have a lovely tea room there so you can relax with a cuppa whilst choosing fabrics, colours and styles.

cox and baloney shop picnik

Photo by mystreetchic

Tomorrow I am going back to deliver another bridal order, a very different piece, and this time I’m just meeting the bride-to-be so it won’t be quite so hectic!

More photos to come – Keep an eye out for them on my Commissions page!

An Unexpected Tail

A couple of months ago I made some Bunny Ears which were sold through my local stockist Made in Stroud.

They sold well in the run-up to Easter, and one lady even bought two woollen pairs for a party.

I collected the unsold stock to take to a Vintage & Craft Fair in Gloucester. That same day the customer (who had already bought 2 pairs) contacted me to ask if she could buy the last remaining woollen pair.  She also asked if I could make matching tails to go with the ears. The catch, she lived in London and needed them all in 5 days time for the party!

Gulp. So, allowing for posting time, I effectively had 2 days to make them. Not one to disappoint  I went to the studio on Sunday, dug out the woollen fabric, looked up patterns for making ‘tails’ online, and experimented with different shapes and designs.


I quickly realised that using a tennis ball or juggling ball pattern was just too time-consuming, and I didn’t have that much fabric to play with, so instead I scaled up the pattern I use for making felt flowers and produced a fluffy, tail shape.


The tails were made from the same fabric as the ears – recycled felted wool from old jumpers – and made for a  fetching set of Bunny outfits!

Hels Belles!

Tucked away behind the pedestrianised Southgate Street in Gloucester is the stunning Blackfriars Priory, it dates from the early 13th century and is the finest surviving example of a Dominican Friary in Britain.

Last Saturday it played host to the Vintage and Craft Fair organised by Hels Belles Vintage. I had a stall there, sharing a pitch with my local vintage shop Strangeness and Charm Vintage Boutique.

Gloucester vintage.

Photograph by Stephen Moore Photography

We were lucky it was a beautiful, sunny day, but the main hall we were in had thick Cotswold stone walls and was so cold most of us kept our furry coats on to stay warm!

It was a busy fair with a friendly atmosphere, I met lots of lovely vintage fans and my work was much admired!

I enjoy getting out and interacting at these fairs as working away in my studio can be a solitary experience, and as most of my products are sold through Made in Stroud it’s not often I get to meet my customers and chat about what they like, and take special orders and commissions.

The next fair here is on the 6th July

hels belles july 6th

Mad March

Inspired by pieces I saw recently in Liberty’s, and remembering a prototype pair I rustled up for a Mad Hatter’s Tea Party themed event, I have made a collection of bunny ears.

Every girl should have a pair in her wardrobe  to call on for a party, or festival, or just a quirky pick-me-up. Put them on and you can’t help but smile!

Lace montageThere are lace and chiffon ones for a fun and sexy look.

Or for a more soft and wholesome vibe there are ones made from recycled, felted woollen jumpers.

Wool montageAvailable from Made in Stroud. Or contact me if you would like to order a pair

They are wired so can be bent and moulded to create different expressions.

Pearly Queen

I have been collecting up old pearl necklaces, initially thinking of using them for flapper style head bands or tiaras, but after playing with coiling one round on a sinamay base and adding a diamante brooch for a bit of sparkle I came up with this design;

bridal montage

This particular one is available at my new stockist in Bristol, Cox & Baloney (more on them later!) and received very positive comments, which has lead me to develop the design into a range using different coloured bases and necklaces.

vintage bridal trio

The middle one has handmade flowers made with pink satin fabric with vintage earrings in the centre, I have made lots of felt flowers before, but struggled to find a design that works with lightweight fabrics, and have been experimenting with different shapes before finally coming up with these.

I’ve enjoyed making them and am looking forward to creating more over the coming weeks, I always need to put time aside to just play with new ideas before the product clicks and I have something I’m happy with, it’s all part of the creative process, and can be equally frustrating and rewarding!

For Justine


A selection on mock-ups for a recent wedding commission.

See the finished piece here


Manchester! A day trip to the Great Northern Contemporary Craft Fair

One of my contemporaries from my student days at Winchester School of Art, and best friend, is Nick Ozanne, maker of  beautiful hand woven silk scarves, ties and woollen blankets, amongst other things.

Nick on his stand at GNCCF

In 2009 Nick set up his own label called Leto & Ariadne, and he now spends many weeks each year travelling up and down the country exhibiting at Craft Shows & Fairs.

This weekend it was the turn of GNCCF in Manchester.

My sister Victoria and I decided to go up for the day for a look around, a bit of market research and a chance to speak to fellow designer makers, and also to meet up with a school friend (who I haven’t seen for about 4 years!).

There was lots to see at the fair, ceramics, glass ware, leather goods, basketry, millinery  textiles, and lots and lots of jewellery!

The standard of the work was very high, we found ourselves tempted by home and fashion accessories, and indulged in some Christmas shopping!

We stopped and chatted to Sarah Cant, a milliner whose work I admire and would love to own….but until I can save up enough money I will just have to settle for putting her book Hats! Making Classic Hats and Headpieces in Fabric, Felt and Straw into action and have go at making my own!

It was great also to meet leather maker Wolfram Lohr, a very charismatic chap based in Brighton who makes fabulous but practical bags in brightly coloured veg tan leather.

One of the many jewellers that caught my eye was Maneggi, founded and run by Nikki, whose background in textiles means her approach to making is slightly unusual and her ribbon jewellery pieces are like soft origami pieces, pleated and inter-spaced with beads or pearls.


Childhood memories

This weekend me & my sister Victoria went on a little trip to Dorset to visit our cousins in Lyme Regis.

It was a flying visit as one of the guys is about to venture off on a round-the-world trip for 6 months, so we drove down in the evening, caught up with family, and spent the night in our aunt’s house right on the seafront.

Now, my aunt has lived in Lyme for as long as I can remember, and her house is like the family holiday home. I remember long summers spent there exploring the beaches, looking for fossils, eating ice cream and candy floss, and messing about with boats.

The house has remained largely unchanged over the decades. It’s old and draughty, spread over 3 floors, and bursting with collections of books, prints and paintings, china and ephemera. It’s like my parents house, but more ordered and exotic!

Looking round now I appreciate what a strong influence it has had on me.

I am such a hoarder. I love old things, and have always collected bits and pieces, starting as a young child at antiques and flea markets with my pocket money burning a hole in my pocket.

I still have some of those finds, old tobacco tins, silver jewellery charms, Art Deco tea sets, faded Victorian photographs, and I treasure them just as much now.

Wearable Art comes to Town

Painswick is a sleepy, picturesque, village, not far from where I live here in Stroud. It it’s known as ‘the Queen of the Cotswolds’, and once a year plays host to a Wearable Art Festival. Initially inspired by a similar, international event in New Zealand, Art Couture Painswick is now in it’s 3rd year and attracts thousands of visitors to the narrow streets lined with Cotswold stone buildings.

This year they added an extra category, ‘Head Candy’, and I thought it was about time I tried my hand at entering the competition. Buoyed on by a friend I duly filled in my application form, and quietly started to sweat and mull over ideas.

Come June I had to submit my artists statement, this meant I really had to get cracking. My first attempt sat in a corner of the studio for a couple of weeks and when I came back to it I realised it needed to be bolder and more structured. I started again.

Working  with wire, hot glue gun and Totopoly paper money, I pieced together my headwear, trying it on, making adjustments.

Adding pearl buttons and painting the glue once it had cooled.

As the big day came closer I started to think about what to wear – sure I had this great  head piece, but I couldn’t just rock up in jeans and a t-shirt, it needed something simple but structured, in muted colours, to set it off.

I picked out a full length vintage evening skirt (it’s first outing in 16 years!) and a cream top, I toyed with a pair of matching gold heels, but the thought of toppling over on the catwalk soon changed my mind I went for pumps instead.

Add a can full of gold hairspray, metallic make-up, and a handful of pearl and gold jewellery, et voila!

Photos by Camilla Reynolds

Being a perfectionist

I was away this weekend, working as a volunteer at the Royal International Air Tattoo at RAF Fairford, something my dad, sister and I have helped at for years now, a bit of a family tradition.

It involves 5.30am starts, and long days on your feet, dealing with the visitors, checking and issuing tickets, and being friendly, chirpy and helpful. It’s exhausting!

But, before I could head off to the airshow, I had set myself the deadline on Friday of finishing the wedding commission for Kathryn.

It was coming together nicely, I had made the feather bases, and chosen the jewellery….yet there was one little job I kept putting off…the main piece for the bride was to have veiling coming down across the face.

I was stalling on this as I knew it was going to be tricky, and I wasn’t wrong!

It took an hour and a half of pinning, tacking, sewing, re-pinning, trying on, to get it right. I really felt the pressure of this being worn on Kathryn’s wedding day, and featuring in the wedding photos which will be around for years to come.

It had to be perfect.

Well, it was worth the effort. I’m really pleased with the results, and am now much more confident with veiling!

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