Things I saw in New York

I have a million photos from my time in New York, but here are some from the best shops and museums I went to. Obviously we have some great shops over here but the craft shops in NY were on another level. Some of them were so vast and so specialist you just have to wonder how they keep going, but that is what I loved, there were all these weird and wonderful places that were just so unique and special. Particular favourites were Stella Dallas Living which was a whole shop full of vintage textiles and haberdashery. Where does it all come from??! I loved Purl Soho for its unbelievable array of wools and fabrics, and Tinsel Trading for its sparkly, vintage, crazy displays and collection of vintage haberdashery dating from the beginning of the 20th Century. Just amazing. I miss these places!

Beads in Tinsel Trading Company

Tiles in the Met

Ribbons at Tinsel Trading Company

More Tinsel Trading (before it moved to its new, smaller location)

Vintage quilts at Stella Dallas Living

Purl Soho wool, fabric and haberdashery shop

Poster at the Queens Museum

Sampler in the Met

Tiffany glass in the Met

Penguins on the Subway

More Tiffany glass - love the colours

More Tinsel Trading - Christmas display

Quilts at the Museum of Folk Art - think this one was from the 19th Century!

'Quilt' made from negatives - Museum of Folk Art

Back to work

Having spent four months having the time of my life, it's probably time to get back to earning some money rather than just spending it. So in my first week back in Bristol, I have moved into a lovely new studio and found myself a part time job. Not bad going. Here are some pics of what I have been up to. More studio pictures to follow once I have it looking presentable! It is located just next to Bristol Bridge, opposite Castle park. Which will be a lovely place to meet Dave for lunch (preferably from Magic Roll) in the summer.

Inspiration - messy
Inspiration - organised

Sounds about right to me! 

Moving day! Just a small amount of the piles and piles of stuff it takes to be a dressmaker

Red star = location of new studio - not bad eh?

New York sights

Classic - view from East River State park at the end of our road, sorry street

NY doesn't do halloween by halves

The subway stations are so grimy! But there are clues that the stations used to be a lot prettier...

Miniture 'beach' - I have spent a lot of time here.

The best thing I have seen while I've been here was these Japanese dancers brightening up a grey Sunday morning at the farmers market - loved the costumes, music and especially the facial expressions!

The flock of geese that live in the local park, just chilling out and admiring the view.


Ideas and inspiration

So whilst here in New York I am busily planning my return and big relaunch that is going to happen in the New Year. Part of this is re branding myself. Although the 'twenty-three workshop' name has sentimental value, I feel it has run its course and is no longer distinguishable enough to be a brand name - there are now so many other labels named after a number. And I've always had a dream of putting my own name on the things I make - like a signature. Like Chanel, or Balenciaga! So here are some sketches and ideas for new names, logos, and layouts…what do you think? This is a sneak preview of very early ideas - watch this space for the final decisions on name and design! 


I write as I sit in the heat of the late October sun, sat in the East River State park, which has wifi (of course! This is New York after all). The cloudless skies show no sign of abating - Winter when it comes is going to be a cold hard shock to the system! Having experienced some crazy weather systems here at different times of the year, I am well aware that next week it could be snowing so I am making the most of it while I can. 

I left Bristol a month ago and have mostly spent my time walking, exploring, sunbathing, seeing the sights with Nicola, oh and road tripping along the California coast (but more on that later). But now is the time to get down to the serious business of - working out what I am going to do with the rest of my life! Specifically - how am I going to take the progress I made with Twentythree Workshop over the last couple of years and turn it into a sustainable, profitable, all - round rip roaring success of a business? 

I have put things on hold while I spend time here in New York. The decision to come and live here with Dave for 3 months (while he is busy sorting out the wayfinding system for the whole of the city) was easy. Apartment in Brooklyn? Yes please! 3 months exploring New York? Ok then! Working out how to uproot my whole business and move out of Cox and Baloney without leaving behind any loose ends - more difficult! It took months of sorting out mountains of scraps of fabric into 'useful', 'precious', 'sentimental', and 'for Scrapstores' piles and picking pins out the carpet before i could move on, as well as precision planning each minute of my time to make sure I completed all my projects. It was during this  that I realised how almost inseparable my business had become from my own life, I had been living and breathing vintage dressmaking for a year and although I loved (almost!) every minute (silk satin sewing freak outs aside), I realise now that it took over, and that working at that pace on my own next year will just not be a good thing, for my standards of work and my own general sanity. 

Commissions were flying at me from every direction - people just walking in and ordering dresses! It was fantastic! I had never been busier and never worked harder. I always kept up with the work and I made sure that everything that left my studio was completed to the best of my abilities - but this was sometimes only achieved by working looong, 14 hour days, mostly on my own, in a dark basement! I will never regret the day I sent a rushed email to Cox and Baloney's about why I would be the perfect person to rent their space, it literally changed my life! But I am glad now to have some time to step back, re evaluate my options and work out how best to proceed  when I return to Bristol in January. I think the only thing I am really sure of is that I can't work in a basement again. 

Don't get me wrong, the happiness and relief I feel when I finally see those photos of all those brides and bridesmaids walking down the aisle makes it all worthwhile! Final proof that I am good at what I do, and that people love my work! Hooray! But you can't help, as a creative being, always wanting more, always wanting to do better, which I guess is what drives me to work those crazy hours and take crazy risks like, deciding to rent a studio and shop space within the space of 4 days with no funds or business plan to speak of. 

I'm a great believer in visualising what it is that you want - really picturing it. I know that one day I will have a shop, and I know exactly what colour I am going to paint it, and exactly how the window display is going to look. I know what it will sell, and where it will be in Bristol. I won't go into these details right now, you will have to wait and see! But I think that unless you know exactly what it is you are aiming for, how do you know how to go about it? 

I believe in making your own luck by trying as many different things as possible, and believing in yourself and your vision. Therefore everything I do is with a view to owning that little south facing, peach coloured shop one day. And if it doesn't work out exactly how I imagine, then, at least I tried, and, I bet I will end up somewhere equally exciting. Right now I may not have as much money, I may not own a house or take big holidays (this year being the exception!) like some of my peers, but I am so happy knowing I am on the way to where I want to be, and I know there are no shortcuts. Running your own business, especially a craft buiness,  is probably one of the hardest things you can do, career wise, which is why only the people that really really want it manage to do it! Hopefully in ten years time, I will still be one of those people. 

This is a long waffly way of saying, I am proud of what I have achieved, and here's to the next phase of twenty-three workshop, whatever that might involve! Any suggestions on what I should do, how I should do it, inspiring business I should know about etc would be gratefully received at

Thanks for reading this far! 


It has been a long time blog, it's time I stopped neglecting you! I love reading other peoples blogs and learning a little bit more about the lives of the creative people that I admire. You could call it being nosey, I like to call it, being interested! So here goes the second attempt at keeping up regular blog entries, so that you call learn a little bit more about me and my fledgling dressmaking business!

A brief summary:

- I moved into Cox and Baloney's vintage boutique in Cotham, Bristol. We have spent our first happy year together (!) and I am only planning on staying! I get to share their lovely customers and they get to share mine. I work (and pretty much live) in the basement - come and say hello!

-I made lots of lovely vintage style dresses, to order and to sell, and they went down a storm! This is what I have decided to focus on this year. Although there are lots of people making vintage style new dresses, there are hardly any (in the world, that I can find!) that make these dresses from vintage fabric. My dresses are therefore all unique - just the way I like it.

- My vintage fabric belts were featured in the lovely Cloth magazine - exciting!

-I worked on some wedding dresses....

...and lots and lots of other things - too many to list! 

I am so happy doing what I am doing. There is still a lot do to get the business where I want it to be but I love working hard, I love a challenge and am confident I can get there. Thinking about why I am where I am, I start to think of the inspiring women I have worked for in the past; I honestly don't think I would be here if it wasn't for all I learnt from them, in terms of technical skills and problem solving but mostly in terms of personal strength and will to succeed! In particular, Nin Castle and Clare Farrell at Goodone ( where I worked as Studio manager. Orsola de Castro at From Somewhere in London. Amy and Joney who I currently work with at Cox and Baloney's - the way they juggle running a shop and a tea room with bringing up the babies inspires awe in me every day - so thanks guys for showing me that it can be done! 


Good news! twentythree now has a shop space! twentythree Work/shop is now open downstairs at Cox & Baloney vintage boutique in Bristol. I will be there from Tuesdays to Saturdays creating one off gifts and accessories to sell, dressmaking & carrying out alterations and repairs. I will also be selling vintage fabric, and eventually running sewing classes, as well as continuing with stalls at various markets. I want the space to become a one stop shop where you can buy sewing supplies, learn how to sew, or get things sewn for you! Come and see me at twentythree Work/Shop, downstairs at Cox & Baloney, 182-184 Cheltenham Rd, Cotham, Bristol, BS6 5RB (right next to Colston Girl's School, near the Arches.)


Twentythree will be at the Harbourside market in Bristol this Sunday the 4th September, with the new art collective Artistic Off License. As well as our usual cushions, jewellery and belts, there will be paintings from Alex Hendrie and prints from Izzy Cowen. Come and check it out - it's the Organic food festival on the same weekend just around the corner so why not go to both?


Here are a few images of a new pop up shop being run in Bishopston, Bristol, by a very talented local designer Charlie Boots. She makes limited edition, UK made, womenswear and accessories from ethically sourced materials such as organic, sustainable, fair trade and vintage fabrics. As well as her own designs she is selling lots of other lovely upcycled accessories and homeware, and exclusive designs from twentythreelondon (shown above). Go and have a look because the shop is beautiful and you are bound to find a lovely present for a friend....or yourself?!


Here are a selection of new necklaces from the Spring / Summer 2011 collection. I am just waiting for a delivery of sterling silver necklaces and then they can be finished off and listed on my Folksy page

Check it out!!