Gemma Sangwine

Unique and bespoke millinery, fascinators and bridal tiaras

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And Finally….here’s the last one I made!

So….the last two blog posts have been about pieces I made for a collaborative photo-shoot….well here is the 3rd and final piece!

The dress was made from 8 metres of pure silk taffeta with a lace-up back and flower corsage at the waist.

I wanted to make a Pre-Raphaelite style floral crown to go with it, and Emmie was able to save some of the off-cuts of fabric for me to make the flowers with.Sally montageI had recently been practising making fabric flowers and was keen to hone my technique and make a finished floral head-piece, so this really was the perfect opportunity!

To start with, two layers of fabric are bonded together, this works best if one of the layers is cotton organdie, but in this case I used two layers of the red silk (I did a small amount of the red silk bonded with black chiffon for a bit of variety!). Then I cut out the petals in a range of sizes, pressed and manipulated them into shape and stitched them together around a fabric covered ‘bud’ to make a natural looking rose.Sally WIP montageI found some green silk (gifted by a friend who popped by the studio and saw what I was up to!) which was perfect for making some leaves and also to wrap around the headband.

The finished piece is asymmetric with a mixture of different sized roses, and includes some made with black chiffon for a darker feel.Sally final montageOn the day of the shoot Harriet did a great job sweeping Sally’s long hair into a romantic style up-do, with braids on one side, emphasising the asymmetric look of the floral crown, which she positioned off to one side, and which also echoed the corsage on the waistband of the dress.

The dress is the ‘Josephine’ by Emmie Miles Bespoke Dressmaking & Design, hair by Harriet’s Organic Hairdressing, make-up by Aine Thomas. And of course the photos are by the very talented wedding and portrait photographer Camilla Reynolds.

The photo-shoot was a lot of fun to be part of, everyone enjoyed the day and Camilla did a great job of recording it all;

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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!

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Welcome to our Material World!

The last two weekends have been a hectic whirl, as we opened our studio at Stafford Mill as part of the SIT Textile Trail.

There is a rich textile heritage in the Stroud Valleys, as it was once a world leader in the production of woven textiles. It is home to the Stroudwater Textile Trust, and Stroud International Textiles who organise the Textile Trail. The trail is only in it’s second year, but has been a great successes, and is a welcome forum for local textile artists, designers and makers to showcase their work, helping to keep the Textile heritage alive and relevant.

We had just under 300 visitors over the course of the 4 days, including plenty of familiar faces, old and new. It’s always a bit daunting opening up what is normally a private and personal working studio space. I am fortunate to share the space with my sister, who also works with recycled textiles, and we have my good friend and fellow graduate from Winchester School of Art, Nick, in the studio downstairs.

Victoria and I find it particularly heartening to meet fellow recyclers, who have often made the trip out especially to see us. They admire the shelves stacked high with neatly folded lengths and swatches of fabric, wool blankets and tweed coats, and suitcases stuffed full of old jumpers. One lady even took a photo to show her husband, so he couldn’t complain about her hoarding habit, which was quite minor in comparison!

One of the tips we picked up were to keep even the tiniest scraps of natural fibres – wool, cotton, linen, viscose – and save them up to go on the compost heap. These scraps are called ‘Shoddy’, and spawned a whole recycling industry in the 19th century when old woollen clothing was ground down and re-spun into new yarn to be woven into cloth. I already get a pair of wrist warmers, a pair of slippers, and numerous mobile phone pouches and flower corsages, out of just one felted woollen jumper, but I find it satisfying to know even the smallest scraps can still be put to good use. Perfect timing too as Nick and I have recently taken on an allotment, and the compost heap is currently fermenting grass cuttings and weeds, which need cardboard egg boxes and natural fibres to temper the nitrogen from the green matter.

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There’s nothing like the pressure of a deadline…

With a week and a half to go, the sewing machines are whiring away here at Stafford Mill, in preparation for the Textile Trail Open Studios, taking place on the weekends of the 12 & 13th and 19th & 20th of May.

The local Made In Stroud shop have already got a range of our products on display (and for sale!). They re-did the window to showcase our work – which meant we were all beavering away until the small hours making more stock for them – if you’re local to Stroud do pop in to have a look, there are;

Hand woven silk scarves by Leo & Ariadne.

Cushions, bolsters and draught excluders made with recycled fabrics, including mens tweed suits, from Studio Vee,

Fascinators, brooches, corsages and Obi style belts made from recycled ties, by Sanguinello.

I have been busy snipping and sewing with scraps of felted wool to make a new range of flower head bands, based on my current favourite felt flower design!

It’s a great way to use up small off cuts, and I’ve discovered a use for old, felted, moth damaged woollen scarves, which come in a variety of bright colours, perfect for making flowers.

They work particularly well combined with feathers, and all fixed on a pretty elastic fabric band.

I’ve also been making more fascinators with old Monopoly sets, and came across another game called Totopoly, which works on a similar theme but is based on the world of horse racing!

Perfect for anyone looking for a unique head piece to wear to Cheltenham Races!

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Bristol beckons!

One of my aims for this year was to find more shops and outlets to  sell my work through. As a small scale maker it can be intimidating approaching new retailers, and it’s hard not to take each knock back personally.

The best leads often come from word of mouth, through friends and family. A casual conversation can lead to an opening, an opportunity to introduce your work, and yourself as a maker.

There’s lots of factors to consider, not just whether they ‘like’ your products, but how will they be presented and displayed, what are your trade and recommended retail prices,  how do they sit with the rest of the stock already in the shop?

However,  when you hit on the right place , and find yourself falling in love with the products they already stock, you know you’re on the right track!

Flo-jo Boutique is a new shop in Bristol, on the Gloucester Road, a vibrant area which boasts of  being  one of the few remaining independent High Streets, with  a rich variety of locally run shops, cafes, bars and restaurants.

Although the shop is a new venture, it’s founders, Delia Dee and Erika, are two very talented ladies who have been working together for years. They make vintage and retro style clothes, pinnies and aprons, and underwear! They have created quite a stir with their Fancy Pants Knicker Making Kits, and also run sewing workshops where you can make your own pair of saucy undies.

I am very excited to have the opportunity to sell my work here. After spending a weekend working away in my studio I have sent them a range of my Fascinators, mainly the feather and vintage jewellery ones, and little Felt Flower Corsages, all of which have gone straight out on display!


How to make felt flower corsages

So here’s a brief run down on how to make these felt flowers.

1. Start with a circular template, in this case I’ve used the lid to an aerosol can, approx 5cm across, but use anything similar that’s to hand or cut a cardboard template to suit.


2. Draw out 3 circles, taking care to make the best use of the fabric available.

3. Carefully cut them out, cutting inside the line or, as I’ve found from experience of using black marker pen, you get an unsightly black line around the edge of the flower!



4. Take one of the circles and, with the right side of the fabric facing out, fold it it half.












5. Then fold it in half again.












6. Hold it together tightly, turn over, and with matching thread sew it together with several stitches at the base of the flower. (Sorry my camera phone couldn’t quite focus at this point!)




























Now, repeat steps 4, 5 & 6 with the other two fabric circles.










You’ve now got 3 fabric flowers!

To make even more impact, sew the 3 together to make a corsage.

Group them together and sew through the bases. With the felt flowers groups of 3 work well. You can also make them from lighter cotton or silk, in which case you can group more of them together as they are not so bulky.

In this case I’ve made 2 more corsages from tonally matching felt and grouped the 3 together to make a super corsage!



Cut out another 2 circles, to use as the back, and sew the 3 corsages onto one.




























And sew a brooch back onto the other.














You can add a crocodile hair clip too, in this case I’ve made 2 slits in the fabric and pushed the back of the clip through the slits.












Now sew the circled of felt with the fittings on onto the back of the corsage

You can also add leaves by cutting oval shapes out of green felt and sewing them onto the back too.