Liberty Meets: Amber Wyles

Tuesday 16th June 2015, 12.48





We catch up with Maimie London’s Amber Wyles to find out more about her ultra-wearable Liberty Print designs.

AMBER1

Spearheading a Liberty Print revolution, emerging British label, Maimie London, has delved into our iconic Art Fabrics archive, constructing exquisite silk satin pieces that transcend high/low boundaries. The brainchild of designer Amber Wyles, the brand is defined by classic, easily wearable shapes, designed to present a luxurious solution to everyday elegance that “slips on like your favourite pyjamas” – we can think of nothing better!

Home-grown production is a matter that lies at the heart of the brand, with operations remaining firmly rooted in the great British capital. Every piece is handmade to the highest quality by an intimate team of skilled seamstresses, lovingly crafted to make you look and feel incredible! So, whether you pick from the latest collection or get creative with their coveted bespoke service, anyone ill-equipped to take on the sewing machine can leave it to Amber et al to magic up their very own Liberty Print creation. But be quick, these limited edition designs are only available until the rolls run out!

Frankly, we’re a little bit overwhelmed by Maimie’s passion for our pride and joy; we spoke to Amber herself for an exclusive insight into the creative vision behind this exciting venture…


What do you love most about Liberty?
I’ve been an avid fan of Liberty prints, ever since I was little and given a paisley silk dressing gown my Aunt had made – I used waft around in it, pretending it was a ball gown! I love that the prints are made by such a small group of dedicated designers and I love that everything is made in England. I have to say, as well as Liberty Art Fabrics, I adore the shop itself. The history, the heritage, the products… the first… second… and third floor! A major goal from the outset has been to get Maimie London on the shelves.

Can you pick your three favourite prints?
My current favourites are the Hampton Wedding, Anne’s Garden and Engine prints.

What was the first Liberty print item you made?
Some rose floral pyjama bottoms

Where do you draw your inspiration from?
Vintage lounge and leisure wear – particularly that of the 1940s and 1950s.

Which other designers do you admire?
So, so many… Emilio Pucci, Charlie Brear, Carven, Barbara Casasola, Chalayan, Vilshenko, Oscar De La Renta, Stella McCartney, Alice Temperley, Issa, L’Agence, Christopher Kane, Mara Hoffman – to name a few. I love designers that celebrate femininity and make elegance easy.

Why silk?
I love the feel and the drape of silk. I know it is expensive, but it is such a treat to wear and unlike so many expensive things, it lasts forever if it’s looked after properly. Silk is also quite a magic fabric – not only is it breathable, but it’s cooling on your skin when it’s warm, and warming when it’s cool.

Does the fabric pose any challenges during production?
I am lucky to work with an amazing seamstress who specialises in silk, so she manages to overcome the challenges. Lots of manufacturers simply won’t or can’t work with it because of its slippery surface, particularly silk satin.

Where did you learn your craft?
I studied Design at the University of Leeds.

How important is it for you to keep production in the UK?
Absolutely, 100% important. British manufacture is all part of Maimie London.

Is it exciting to see people wearing your pieces?
So exciting! I actually don’t think there is anything better (I’m sure that sounds a bit sad) but to see ladies feeling really good, wearing something you’ve designed, is just the happiest feeling.

Who would you love to see wearing Maimie London?
I would love to see all the ladies in England feeling feminine, confident and comfy in their Maimie’s! But if I had to be specific, as Maimie is a Pro-British, pro-female brand, it would be a particular pleasure to see Kate Middleton, Helen Mirren, Kate Winslet, Rachel Weisz, Keira Knightley, Anna Friel, Lily James and of course our brand favourite, Cressida Bonas, wearing Maimie London.

What can we expect to see next from Maimie London?
I want to make a ‘Hollywood Glamour’ inspired silk jacket to complement the cigarette pants next season… watch this space.

AMBERFINAL

Photo Credit: Francesca Hill

Feeling inspired? Shop Liberty Silk Satin here

Shop Maimie London

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Liberty Windows: Dalston Darlings and Shoreditch Sisters

Tuesday 9th June 2015, 16.16





We talk quilting with the Dalston Darlings as the W.I.’s commemorative quilts go on display.

Dalston Darlings window
Photo: The Dalston Darlings with their Liberty window display

Not only is 2015 the year of Liberty’s 140th birthday, it also marks the 100th anniversary of the Women’s Institute. To celebrate the occasion, the Shoreditch Sisters and the Dalston Darlings have each created a commemorative quilt, working to a brief inspired by the heritage of our iconic store. The groups were given licence to interpret the maritime tattoo theme however they saw fit, with a focus on reflecting the ethos of the W.I. The results draw on subjects as broad as feminism and London history: how better to demonstrate the ever-evolving values of this quintessentially British institution? With an eclectic Liberty print patchwork forming the basis of their designs – in Tana Lawn, no less – a series of imaginative illustrations has been brought to life, painstakingly finished with hand-embroidery and appliqué.

We spoke to Bryony of the Dalston Darlings for the inside scoop on this unique project:

Why do you think the W.I. is still so important?
The W.I. began with the aim of bringing together women in rural communities and contributing to the war effort. I think the essence of creating a network for women and a space in which they can develop their skills and in doing so, make a real change to the world, is still hugely important. The world might have moved on, and the political landscape shifted over the last 100 years, but the WI has remained relevant throughout because so many women continually need what it provides – support and skills.

Do you feel a certain responsibility to uphold the traditional values of the WI?
In that its ‘traditional values’ are ‘to provide women with educational opportunities, help them to build skills, take part in a variety of activities and campaign on issues that matter to them’, yes I do. People consistently spout ‘jam and Jerusalem’ at us without realising that the values of the W.I. translate today, and don’t need to include jam making. The Dalston Darlings invite inspirational speakers to share their experiences and impart their skills to our members. We make sure we provide as many fun and new experiences we can find in London and beyond. We support the campaigns the WI champions and we raise money for our nominated charity each year which we ensure is a local organisation helping to develop and change our area for the better. These activities play out the traditional values of the WI and I think are certainly worth upholding.

Dalston Darlings Quilt
Photo: The Dalston Darlings’ quilt

What do you love about Liberty?
As soon as Liberty’s name was mentioned we were inundated with offers to help out! I think everyone loves Liberty because of its association with classic style and innovative design. Many of us have grown up with Liberty fabric and it was brilliant to see the designs from the past decades which triggered lots of warm memories in our members. Personally, I studied History of Art and was particularly inspired by the Arts & Crafts Movement. I am really interested in its influence on how British design evolved and Liberty’s role in that process. Some of my favourite designers worked for Liberty & Co (such as Archibald Knox) and I think everyone loves the heritage that Liberty represents – whether they know the detail of its history or not, Liberty is a national treasure and an instant byword for style.

Did you have much experience in quilting prior to this project?
Not at all! When I first met with the girls at Liberty running the project they suggested we make the quilt where our group meets, and were surprised to hear we hold our meetings in the back room of a pub! We do a range of activities which often include crafts, and the majority of us work in the Creative Industries, but quilting was not part of lots of our repertoires, including mine. I can do basic sewing but was definitely excited, if a little daunted, at taking up the quilt challenge which was completely new to me. Thankfully we did have a few experts such as Tara Adamson though, who imparted their wisdom and without whom, I’m not sure we could have done it.

How many people were involved in creating the quilt?
Over 30 of us created our quilt. We divided up the squares which were to be decorated between members so that everyone contributed their own ideas, designs and pieces of embroidery. We got together for a few weekend sessions to get people started, swap ideas and help each other out with any tricky designs, but also because we wanted this project to be a social experience which gave us the opportunity to feel like we were creating something together. Our trooper, Tara, sewed all the finished squares for the front side together herself as we thought this was a task which required a single effort rather than trying to co-ordinate many different sections being put together by different people – we wanted the seams to match up! Then about 15 of us who were available met up for one final session to put the whole thing together with the wadding, backing fabric, border and the odd extra sequin we felt it needed. Sarah Waldie bravely took on the final daunting task of sewing on the border as we all nervously held the quilt to feed it through the machine…and tried not to squeal.

Shoreditch Sisters Window
Photo: A few of the Shoreditch Sisters with their quilt

What challenges did you face along the way?
Definitely time management. We are a relatively young W.I. and so most of our members work full-time, and everyone juggles busy schedules. It was difficult to fit in sewing sessions that everyone could make and if I’m honest, there were a few times I thought co-ordinating such a large group was not going to work. However, we all pulled together and once we had made up bags of fabric squares with copies of the quilt pattern we were following, we had packs we could hand to members to complete in their own time before getting back together at our sessions – that really helped move things along.

What message do you hope to project with this piece?
The Dalston Darlings is all about creating a sense of community within the sprawling city and I really hope our quilt reflects that. It is a joint effort which displays a group of women’s individual personalities combined together to form a riot of colour and pattern that somehow works as a whole. I think that is our group in a nutshell. I hope the quilt embodies these friendships that the WI forges and the power and beauty of what women can achieve when we work together.

How does it feel to see the finished creation on display?
Emotional! It’s actually really overwhelming to see, I’m not sure we could all quite take it in. It really focuses our combined achievement and as I said, we all love Liberty and so to have that presence in the store is something we are all beaming with pride about.

Has this piece inspired any future quilting projects from the Dalston Darlings?
Not just yet! But we are all really pleased with what we created and I think many of us surprised ourselves at the extent of what we did. This project has certainly played out the WI’s aim of developing skills, and I think we should capitalise on what we’ve learned – we just need a bit of a breather first, and then I’m sure should another project quilt challenge present itself, we’ll be raring to go. The experience of creating something together was perhaps what we all enjoyed most, so watch this space for a re-quilt…

See the outcome of this labour of love for yourself! The finished creations will take turns occupying a space in our window display this June, before finding a permanent home in-store in our Haberdashery department on 3rd.

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Liberty Meets: Louise Gardiner

Wednesday 20th May 2015, 16.17





We caught up with British artist Louise Gardiner after she got creative in our window display last week.

Louise Gardiner
Louise Gardiner with her birthday quilt for Liberty. Photo: Emma Williams

Louise Gardiner is bringing embroidery firmly into the 2010s thanks to a unique combination of spontaneity, crafstmanship and creative vision. After a whirlwind career – including an exhibition at The Saatchi Gallery, multiple industry awards and a feature in The Guardian – Louise continues to produce work to inspire the next generation of crafstpeople. Last week, Louise staged some guerilla embroidery live in our Great Marlborough Street windows to coincide with her exclusive quilt being on display. We caught up with her to talk needlework, inspiration and creating a commemorative quilt for Liberty’s 140th birthday. . .

Louise Gardiner Liberty
Louise Gardiner in the Great Marlborough Street window. Photo: Sophie Broadbridge

Did you enjoy getting creative in our windows?
I love new opportunities, so getting in the window to embellish my quilt was a great opportunity to flag up the wonderful medium of embroidery in such an iconic store.

What kind of response did you receive from passers-by?
A mixture! Being a Northerner it didn’t faze me at all to smile, wave and blow occasional kisses in-between stitching on PVC stars. Besides promoting my career, it was a great opportunity to bring vitality to the window, connect with my work and make people giggle. The biggest challenge was to encourage stern commuters to engage; the quilt is cheeky so I did win over a few smiles. It was a refreshing change to my cow-surrounded studio in Cheshire!

What was the best part of collaborating with Liberty for the 140th birthday quilt?
Liberty gives me projects that are exciting; the challenges allow me to show off my sense of humour and finest stitchery witchery! I am passionate about inspiring people with creativity, colour, texture and thought-provoking imagery. It is my mission to push the boundaries of contemporary British embroidered art to new exciting places. The two quilt projects I worked on with Liberty have enabled me to produce textile art with the wow factor.

What inspired your quilt design for Liberty?
I was asked to produce the quilt in 20 days on the theme of Maritime tattoos. As soon as I got the email I just started researching as it’s such a specific subject.

Stitching is perceived to be such a dry old pastime so I was looking for an excuse to bring an edge and show that it is still a beautiful, rich and timeless medium. Tattooing is an ideal theme for the needle, as punching elaborate threads into canvas is so closely related to transferring ink onto skin.

Louise Gardiner Quilt
Louise Gardiner embroiders live in the Liberty windows. Photo: Sophie Broadbridge

What made you take the leap of faith from cards and wrapping paper to canvas and quilt embroideries?
Since graduating from Goldsmith’s, I have always created art by drawing with a needle. It is a spontaneous technique that fits my style of working. I have completed many different projects from figurative book illustration, hospital art works, advertising campaigns, greetings cards, velvet poufs, pillows and scarves. The Liberty projects are up there in my favourite challenges though, as they require lightning decision-making and ambitious large-scale planning.

You mention on your website that you create work that will enhance our environment; can you explain what you mean by that?
Life is full of beauty, wonder and kindness and I hope that my work celebrates this. My aim is to create artwork and garments that are inspiring, thought-provoking and uplifting. There is nothing better than to see people smile when they see my work – it makes the many hours spent making it worth it.

Do you have any advice that might help aspiring artists?
Do what makes you happy and people around you will be happy too. Seek help and advice when you need it. Be brave. Be game. Have fun. Music and sherry are marvellous at releasing the creative beast too!

Finally, can you share any plans for the future?
I am developing a beautiful British-made collection of silks that derive from my original embroideries which is very exciting. I’m also working on a superstitcher book based on my teaching philosophy which will showcase a variety of my past colourful projects – maybe even a few sherry cocktails here and there too!

Louise’s quilt is now on display in the Haberdashery department on the 3rd floor.

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Make This: Holly Scatter Cushions with Little Lady Liberty Author Alice Caroline

Friday 8th May 2015, 10.11





Even the smallest of beginner sewers will love making this kitsch cushion.

Alice Caroline

Liberty print connoisseur, expert sewer and owner of Alice Caroline, Alice Caroline Garrett gives us a sneak peek at her new book, Little Lady Liberty with this quirky hand-crafted cushion cover. Having spent her own childhood rummaging through her Grandmother’s Liberty fabric stash, Alice has designed this book with children in mind, with the hope of bringing enjoyment and creativity through step-by-step sewing projects.

We caught up with Alice to find out exactly why she decided to create this book and to hear about her passion for encouraging the next generation to get sewing:

Why did you decide to create a book for children?
The book is based around a young girl’s bedroom and the projects are all things I would like to make for my daughter; the kinds of things I loved as a child. Each project is named after girls I know – my daughter’s friends and cousins – and I chose projects I thought they would each enjoy. For example, Lilly loves ponies, so I named the duvet set after her.

How did you develop your own skills as a beginner?
My mum taught me to sew when I was younger; we made sleeping bags for teddies and a few patchwork cushions. I developed my skills later by trial and error, through making dresses as a student; I would buy a pattern and work through it, just learning as I went.

Do you think it’s important to pass on crafting to the next generation?
Yes, it’s something I’m passionate about, as making something with your own hands is so satisfying. When you can make something to wear or for your home you know it’s unique! It’s a skill you can build and, as an adult, it can be a way to reconnect with creativity otherwise lost in a busy life of work.

Have you tried out any of the projects with girls you know?
Yes I’ve made the Molly purse with my daughter. She wanted the Hello Kitty Liberty fabric and chose a lining to match; it’s super cute! She does the pedal on the sewing machine and I say when to stop, although she is learning to see the end coming up. She plaited the handle as well.

Do you remember the first Liberty fabric you owned?
I remember I had a piece of one of my Grandfather’s Liberty shirts when I was about 10. Then, in my teens, I went to the Liberty store for the first time and bought some gorgeous sequinned Edenham. It’s so beautiful! I made a tiny bag from it but still haven’t used the rest.

If you had unlimited time, what would you love to make out of Liberty print?
I would make quilts for everyone I know! One day I want to make a quilt using all of the 2.5” charm squares I have been collecting for a few years, but I would grade them all by colour first.

Do you have any Liberty prints decorating your house? If so, which ones?
My daughter Sophie has the duvet from the book, crafted with My Little Pace and Emolly Can Can. I am slowly starting to make curtains for the house with the gorgeous The Secret Garden Collection; I’m going to start with Faria Flowers in the kitchen!

Is there a book for boys on the horizon?
I would love to do a book for boys (particularly as I have one), but there aren’t quite as many Liberty prints for boys. Although recently we’ve had the fabulous Queue for the Zoo and Tom’s Jets – I’d love to go through the archive and maybe reprint some great boyish designs for a book!

THE PROJECT: HOW TO MAKE YOUR OWN HOLLY SCATTER CUSHIONS

“Little Lady Liberty has been inspired by my lifelong love for Liberty fabrics; the huge range of magical prints is perfect for making beautiful things for children. I love sewing with a beloved one in mind; crafting a gift like a dress, toy, cushion or quilt that becomes woven into their childhood. All of the projects are named after little girls I know. I’ve designed the instructions with step by step drawings accessible to beginners as well as more advanced sewers, in the hope that anyone with a special little girl can find a project they both love!”

Select colours to match your bedroom’s theme or, if giving the cushion as a gift, make things a little more personal by choosing colours inspired by your lucky recipient.

Liberty Scatter Cushions

You will need:

33 x 73.5cm (13 x 29in) Liberty fabric for a 30cm (12in) square cushion (see the book for other cushion sizing options)

Sewing machine OR hand sewing need

Thread (either contrast or matching)

Scissors

How to make:

Step 1:
Select your fabric and cut to the right size for the cushion that you would like to make.

Cushion Step by Step

Step 2:
At one end of the short edge of the fabric, fold over 5mm (1⁄4in) to the wrong side and press.

Cushion Step By Step

Step 3:
Fold over another 1cm (1⁄2in) and press. Topstitch through all the layers, staying close to the edge of the original fold.
cushion step by step
Step 4:
Repeat steps 1 to 3 at the other end of the fabric.
cushion step by step
Step 5:
Lay the fabric out with the right side facing up and fold one end of the fabric over on top, measuring 19cm (71⁄2in).

cushion step by step

Step 6:
Fold over the other end of the fabric by the same amount as in step 5 and, most importantly, ensure the bottom layer is as wide as the finished size of your cushion.

cushion step by step

Step 7:
Stitch through all layers, 1cm (1⁄2in) from the raw edges, down each side of the folded fabric leaving the overlapped edges open for an envelope-style back.

liberty cushion
Step 8:
Turn the finished cushion cover right side out through the back opening. Press and insert the cushion pad.

And there you have it! A lovely little cushion to start building yourself a homely den when the rainy British weather gets too much.

We love to see all your Liberty print projects, so why not share them with us on Twitter or Pinterest using #SewLiberty.

Feeling inspired? Let Little Lady Liberty and our newest Liberty fabrics be the starting point for your next crafting afternoon.

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The Cape Drape is Here!

Wednesday 6th May 2015, 16.27






We chat to Sales Associate and creator of the Cape Drape Omar as his first collection for Liberty hits the shop floor.

Omar Cape Drape

If you watched Liberty of London on Channel 4 last November, you’re sure to remember Womenswear Sales Associate Omar. Creator of the Cape Drape, Omar’s talent was spotted during filming of the show, and his collection was quickly snapped up by Managing director Ed Burstell, and Buyer Stephen Ayers.

Here’s how this fledgling designer went from shop floor to stockist and meeting Adele in a mere six months. . .

How did it feel when Ed and Stephen told you they wanted to stock the Cape Drape?
It was so weird – on the day it was filmed the production crew just told me they just wanted to talk about windows, then Stephen and Ed came down. When they told me they were buying the Cape Drape the only three words I could get out of my mouth were oh my god. I was hyperventilating in the corner – it was so surreal. But amazing!

I’m still working on the shop floor, I’m training people on the cape drape in the morning, selling through the day and looking after my own brand. I straighten my rail every five seconds!

How does it feel to have the moment immortalised on TV?
I’ve watched it back once, at that moment in time it didn’t feel real. It was only while I was sewing the garments that it started to sink in, even last week it was so surreal saying the labels are here, or it’s launching tomorrow and I have to put signage out.

Did you come across any challenges in production?
The original Cape Drape was just made as an out-there piece for me, so I needed to bring it to a point where it was more wearable. I had to adapt the original to perfect things like the arm holes, it was just me having a vision and trying to put it across.

My university (LCF) were incredible, they let me use their facilities to produce the collection. I’m really grateful for them! Each Cape Drape is handmade, every little piece!

Do you have any advice for aspiring designers?
I would say stick to your guns, try not to doubt yourself and always strive for the best. If you envision something, make sure what you produce is what you had in mind.

What’s been the highlight so far?
Adele bought the first Cape Drape in the first hour of them being on the shop floor. She was just casually shopping, what are the chances??

What’s next for your label?
I’m looking to go into easy-to-wear dresses, along the same unfussy lines. I like the idea of shift dresses, that kind of thing.

Coming to Liberty.co.uk very soon, the Cape Drape is now available in-store.

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