Author Archives: Ruth

Victorian Dress

A while back we were invited to a wedding, but this was a wedding with a difference,  the invite said: “please come dressed from your favourite era, 2012 B.C. to 2012 A.D.  After my boyfriend bought a top hat and tails I decided that I should go in matching Victorian style. Of course I had no intention of spending any real money (mostly because I had no real money to spend) and so I spent the next 6 weeks designing and creating an outfit. This was the result.

I began with an old puffed-sleeve, floor-length, A-line dress made by my mother long before I was born. Without going into the details I then altered it, hitching it up, adding a lot of lace and perhaps most significantly a bustle!

Some of it was very enjoyable, a lot was very frustrating, but in the end I was pleased with the result and I received many compliments on the day – mission accomplished! Call me big headed but if I’m honest this dress was all about impressing a large audience with what I could create. I could have gone out and hired or bought something far more authentic-looking but the satisfaction of knowing I came up with this entirely from scratch and at zero cost was worth every painful hour I spent sewing and pricking myself with pins and needles.

Even the accessories were things I dug out from the back of my wardrobe (or other peoples). The boots were the ones my mother got married in, the jewellery mostly belonged to my grandmother though she had never worn it and the parasol I bought in Venice about 4 years ago. And thank goodness I had it! The weather on the day was ridiculously hot, not only for the time of year but also for the country. Without it the heavy, long-sleeved cotton dress and lace up to my throat, not to mention the three layers of petticoat and heavy bustle would have been to much to bear. I have to admit, once the ceilidh got into full swing I did have to abandon the Victorian look for something a bit more modern.

Thank you to Inti and a couple of others, whose names escape me, for the wonderful photographs. And thank you to Matt and Mary whose crazy idea it was to get married amongst every decade since 2012 B.C.


I have been working on a commission over the last week. Nice to have someone else choose what I’m going to knit for a change. I am pleased with the pieces, I just hope they are too! 

First is a pair of little slippers. These are from a pattern I created a while back. I would be happy to share it if anyone is interested? 

Second, a Coffee cosy! Now this was a first. Quite fun to do, I just really hope it fits! It was not designed for the pot it is modelled on below, hence the bad fit, but I wanted to give you an idea of how it works. I had a specific brief for this one, ‘fairisle in soft greys or blues with a ladybird somehow incorporated’.



Yes, it has happened, I have decided to use Facebook to promote what I am doing. Chances are you are only looking at this site because you have been prompted to do so by Facebook in some form or another. However I just wanted to ask you, whether this is the case or not, please ‘like‘ my page on Facebook ( and help spread the word. The more people that ‘like’ it, the more people will hear about it and the more people that hear about it, the higher the chance of me getting some real commissions.

Favourite Top – Recreated

Desperately in search of a productive way to fill my spare time this is the project I came up with.  I think its funny how I managed to entertain myself for months and the second I find a job, boredom strikes. I bought the original top something like five years ago and wore it until it literally fell apart. It has been in the fabric box ever since in the hope that I might come up with something to do with it. So I decided to resurrect it, or at least replicate it.

I began by recording all the dimensions of the old top and taking it apart, this was much more difficult than I anticipated, the damn thing was way too well made! (Trust Boden, or at least Boden as it was back in the day). I had intended to keep all of  the seam allowances but I soon realised this was impossible. Once I had all the pieces separated I unpicked the darts and the gathers.

Second job – draw out a pattern. This was relatively painless once I had cobbled together some scraps of paper to get big enough sheets. I tried to make notes of the darts, gathers and the line of the grain as well as adding the required seam allowance in the relevant places. I decided to add enough extra to allow for French seams along both side of the empire band (don’t know what else this is called) and at the shoulders.

The fabric I chose is a light weight cotton, probably made by Laura Ashley or Liberty’s. It was bought by my mother before I was born. I wanted something similar to the original fabric in weight and in a summery pattern. I think it hangs really nicely though it would be even better if I had made the effort to cut it on the bias.

Cutting out the fabric was tricky due to its slippery nature and tendency to skew. I did my best to stick with the grain and to get the two front panels to line up. Despite being very careful to ensure that the pieces were laid out on the fabric prior to cutting in the most economical way I was amazed how much fabric it used. I guess I am quite generous with my seam allowances due to a better-safe-than-sorry attitude.

After carefully ironing all the pieces I began by pinning my darts and tacking my gathers. I then put the back together, first sewing all the darts, then joining the top to the empire band with a French seem and the bottom by the same method. I am unsure if managed to get the empire band the right way up as it seemed dramatically narrower than the top and bottom pieces but I did it the other way up in the font and it didn’t seem much better. I think the problem must have been in the pattern or the cutting.

 I cut strips of fabric and attached the to the raw edges of the neck as bias binding. Now that I had an idea of the shape and width I used the back to line up the two front panels and pinned them together. I then treated the two panels pinned together as the top piece of the back and joined them and the bottom to the empire band as before. As previously mentioned the band around the middle was a bit narrow and so next, to avoid loosing any of my seam allowance at the sides I cut four strips of fabric and attached them to each side of both the front and back to aid in sewing the side seams. In retrospect this actually made the placement of the zip much easier.

Sewing in the zip was surprisingly easy though I had to add a line of running stitch by hand at the end as it gaped slightly. Without a zipper foot on the machine I find it very difficult to get the stitching close enough the actual zip. I then sewed up the other side.

As with the raw edges of the neck I cut strips of binding for the back of the neck and arm holes. I attached these before joining the shoulders with French seams. Finally I secured all of the binding and sewed up the hem by hand with hemstitch and added the label in the back.

As you can probably gather I am rather pleased with the result. It was very satisfying to create something which I can wear out in public without (I hope you agree) it obviously looking handmade. The whole project I think took me about fourteen hours to complete but other than that it is an item of clothing that was completely free for me to acquire (I even had the zip lying around). Of course I  would be happy to try and recreate one for you too though as you can see my methods are a bit haphazard and perhaps unreliable. Below is a gallery of all the images I took to document the process.

P.s. I hope this post looks reasonable on your PC. I spent ages fiddling around with the layout and got pretty angry with the whole thing. If anyone has any bright ideas about text wrapping in WordPress then get in touch!

Chocolate Cakes

Happy 50th Birthday Naomi Ocean!  Chocolate espresso cake made to order with dark and white chocolate icing for a very special occasion.

Chocolate truffle cake. Sponge with dark and light chocolate truffle layers. Truly divine.

Baby Dungarees

Whipped these up for my niece, or at least under the pretence that she might get some use out of them. They are all part of the great experiment – trying to establish whether there is really money to be made from such endeavours. Despite various hiccups along the way I am really rather pleased with the way they turned out, I only hope the fit! The fabric is vintage Laura Ashley (from my mothers stash), beautifully soft, slightly brushed cotton and machine washable. If anyone would like something similar for someone of a similar size then please get in touch. I originally thought I might sell them wholesale but I think it will be more profitable to sell them direct and anyway, I don’t want to become too detached from my customers. I like the idea that I can produce unique and customised pieces but this is only any fun if it is relevant to the person who is going to end up wearing the garments or using the objects. There isn’t quite the same magic in mass-produced, unique, customised products. (Out of interest do you call these dungarees, romper suit, play suit or something else?)

The Winning Cupcake Recipe

As you have hopefully seen, I had a trail at a deli in Shoreditch for the position of part-time cake maker. Well, I got the job! And what better way to celebrate than to share the winning recipe. So here it is, cardamom and coffee cupcakes with piped coffee and chocolate buttercream.

Recipe (makes 12)

Ingredients for the cakes:

80g butter, softened

300g caster sugar

240g plain flour

3 tsp baking powder

1.5 tsp ground cardamom

200ml milk

2 eggs

2 tblsp ‘Camp’ coffee and chicory essence

For the chocolate buttercream icing:

250g icing sugar

80g butter, softened

40g cocoa

40ml milk

For the coffee buttercream icing:

250g icing sugar

80g butter, softened

1 tblsp ‘Camp’ coffee and chicory essence

splash of milk.

chocolate covered coffee beans or similar to decorate (optional)

You will also need a twelve hole muffin tin lined with paper cases and a piping bag and nozzles (optional)

Method for the cupcakes:

Pre-heat the oven to 180 degrees C, gas mark 4.

Beat the butter and sugar together to form a crumby texture, then add all the other dry ingredients and mix together. In a separate jug measure and whisk together the milk, eggs and coffee essence before combining them with the dry mixture a third at a time. Beat until you have an even consistency but do not over do it.

Spoon the mixture in to the paper cases (I prefer to return it all to the jug and then pour it in from there) and bake in the pre-heated oven for 18-25 minutes. Test by inserting a skewer into the centre of a couple of cakes – it should come out clean. Cool on a wire rack and in the mean time make the buttercream icing.

Method for the  buttercream icing:

To ice these cupcakes I made two separate flavours of buttercream and swirled them together through a piping bag. If you prefer you could just choose one flavour or even substitute some of the milk in the chocolate buttercream recipe with 1 tblsp of coffee essence so that you have two flavours in one icing. Bear in mind that you may have to adjust the quantities. If you do not want to use a piping bag or do not have one then you can apply the icing with a knife. If you are going to use this method then you will not need so much icing, 300g icing sugar and 100g of butter should be enough (split between the two flavours if you wish).

To make the icing as I did, beat together all the ingredients for the coffee and the chocolate icing separately until you have two smooth pastes which holds its shape. You may need to add more icing sugar or milk to get the right consistency. Tip one icing into the other and swirl together with a maximum of two or three strokes. Once the cakes are cool carefully transfer the icing to a piping bag, being careful not to mix it up too much, and pipe each cake. Finish with a couple of chocolate covered coffee beans on top






Shetland Lace

This is my first piece of Shetland lace, knitted for my mother. Beautiful colour and fairly easy to do, it is rather a shame that I can’t wear it myself. I wish the was an easy way of taking decent photo’s of lace work in central London, a nice bush to drape it over without some kind of thorough-fair in the background would be good!

The quest for the perfect cupcake.

I have been trying to find the perfect cupcake recipe for a baking trial I have to by way of interview for Franze and Evans in Shoreditch. They want interesting flavours and the icing must be piped. Here are my experiments: Ginger and butternut squash with ginger icing, lime and coconut with a cream cheese and lime icing, coffee and cardamom with a mascapone and coffee icing, red velvet with pink buttercream, lime and coconut with lime buttercream, coffee and cardamom with chocolate buttercream and the winner, coffee and cardamom with swirled chocolate and coffee  buttercream.