Posted on Leave a comment

New Gazebo!

Gimme Shelter

If you’ve ever been to Wellington, NZ, you will know why the thought of outdoor markets gives so many stallholders anxiety. I have certainly done my share – trying to catch flying stock, hanging onto gazebos and umbrellas, worrying about rain, dealing with mud, watching the sky constantly… It can be calm and sunny when you leave the house, and by the time you pull over to start setting up, it’s like a totally different season. We have had gale force winds, snow, floods, electrical storms, weatherbomb lows… 
​And then there are the proper summer days. They say that you can’t beat #Wellingtononagoodday, and I have to agree – my city is simply stunning, when she feels like it. Thing is, here in NZ, we’re also dealing with something else – the ozone layer is thinner here, so we have a higher risk of sunburn and, of course, skin cancer. So whether the weather is foul or fair, we stallholders need a decent roof over our heads.
​The thing is, a cheap gazebo is more hindrance than help – and anyone who has ever seen a gazebo cartwheeling down a busy street can confirm that you need the sturdiest frame and fabric, as well as some serious leg-weights, to survive the Wellington winds.
I asked around other Wellington stallholders, listened to their horror stories and lessons learnt, and made my decision – I was going to get a Hercules gazebo.
I knew that I wanted a 3x3m, and I knew that I wanted it to be mainly white, so that the colour of the canopy didn’t  affect the colour of my wares. I decided to spend the extra to get a custom-printed gazebo – why miss out on that opportunity? Luckily, Hercules have a very helpful set of packages on their site, which really helped guide my decisions:
What frame? What sort of bag? What printing package?
With their advice, I chose the Pro 37 frame, and it was excellent at its first market yesterday – easy to set up, reassuringly sturdy, and it looked amazing. I can’t stop looking at the photos, and I want to share them with everyone – I’m like a proud new parent 🙂
Posted on Leave a comment


From the tiniest seed…

​It seems like just the other day, I was thinking about getting back into making things for craft markets – but that was waaaay back in April! And here we are, with Copper Catkin getting nicely established, back into the swing of things!
It’s been quite a year – the world has seen a lot of major changes, we’ve lost many treasured celebrities, we’ve had earthquakes and floods, and it’s sometimes seemed a little like the End of Days was come at last. As well as launching Copper Catkin, I’ve also taken on a full-time contract working in IT, and we have done evening courses in jewellery making and welding, I have started holding French conversation classes, and working at the Craft Central pop-up shop on Thursday evenings. As well as also working full-time in IT, and helping with the markets, George has been working on restoring motorbikes, and we have both been trying to fit in caring for our pets and our property. It’s been, frankly, hectic, and we’re both looking forward to the compulsory holiday shut-down with a great deal of anticipation. 
I have gone from around 10 to 229 published fabric designs on Spoonflower, and several dozen more awaiting some final touches before printing. I’ve been so busy that I’ve almost run out of earrings and pendants, and the ideas won’t stop coming – not  a bad thing at all 🙂

Next year, we will have more product lines, more OOAK (one-of-a-kind) artworks, more designs in fabric, and generally, more depth and breadth in our range of quirks for you to work. 

In order to pull that off, we’re taking a break – today was our last craft market for 2016. We will be back on deck and raring to go, starting with a bang at our first outdoor market as Copper Catkin – Eat, Drink, and be Crafty, a  Mana Lions Fundraiser for Wellington Free Ambulance, combining the best of hand-made crafts, artisan food and drink, and family entertainment in a rural setting.

The fair is being held on Saturday 28 January 2017, from 10-4pm at Battlehill Farm on Paekakariki Hill Rd. It’s been running for six years and attracts thousands of visitors from across the Wellington Region.

We attended the first couple of years as Phersu Dancing, and it was an absolute blast – we can’t wait to get back into it. 

To all our customers, and fellow stallholders, if we didn’t manage to catch you in person – we wish a very merry Xmas, a happy New Year, and the very best holiday season to every one of you <3
#CopperCatkin #WorkYourQuirk

If you want regular updates on Copper Catkin, like and follow us on Facebook 🙂

Posted on Leave a comment

Working it at the Wellington craft markets

​We’re getting the hang of the whole craft market scene again – it’s a bit like riding a bicycle, as they say. It’s great market research, too, pun intended. I’ve missed that general sense of inspiration that you get by osmosis, simply from being surrounded by creative people and their wares all day.
We’ve had great feedback on the first batch of designs. I’ve been drawing and working away whenever I can to make some more designs out of those drawings, and I have several new collections on the way. 
As well as the Masala collection, and some of my ‘legacy’ designs (older artwork that I still love), I can currently offer quite a range of designs.

Currently available at Copper Catkin markets are:


Coming soon:

Dinosaur activists
The Underwater Unexpected
Water lillies
Stripes and plaids

Here’s a sneaky preview of the working for the new designs… 

Posted on Leave a comment

Work Your Quirk on the Cotton Catwalk!

 Are you interested in providing research inputs for Copper Catkin? Would you like to see your shape used to develop garments that will actually fit and flatter you?
If you answered ‘yes’, then please send me through a set of 3 ‘technical’ photos (these are for the garment development) and 5-10 ‘dynamic’ photos (these are to help visualise how the garments and the fabrics might perform ‘in the wild’).

Your original photos will never be displayed publicly, and you will only be credited if you want to be. 

Technical poses

A ‘technical’ pose is relaxed, arms down by your sides, head facing straight ahead. 
A set of technical pose photos is front, back, and profile, wearing close-fitting clothing that changes your shape as little as possible.

Dynamic poses

A ‘dynamic’ pose is more realistic. I’m not talking Charlie’s Angels, here (although that could be funny, too), or very posed pseudo-sexy stretches – I mean something closer to natural movement, but frozen at an interesting point. Think Madonna’s “Vogue” meets dancing under a strobe light.
It would also be really helpful to have your measurements, so that we can start to build up our data:


In order to be able to use your photos, I will need photos of you, in fitted clothes that don’t alter your body shape significantly (except a bra – as these are clothes designed to go over your underwear, please wear what you normally would). Photos should be taken in good light, with your body clearly outlined against a neutral background. 
If you’re keen, please PM through Copper Catkin’s Facebook page:
the 3 technical poses

  • Front
  • Back
  • Profile (side)

5-10 dynamic poses, also suitable for use as silhouettes, for example:

  • one or both arms up
  • one or both arms out
  • hands on hips
  • legs akimbo
  • dance moves
Posted on Leave a comment

Shapes  2 – The Reality Show

Ok, so here’s where it gets real. In order to complete my design brief for the pattern maker, Liz, I had to be absolutely accurate in my drawings of my garments. Liz also requested photos of me in clothes that were similar to what I wanted, with notes, as references. My initial sketches were useful as guides, but the only way I knew how to do it was to draw them on my own shape – so, as well as the reference photos, I had my husband take photos of me in fitted clothing, and then I used them to trace my actual shape. This was a difficult experience, because it’s hard to face yourself at any time, but as a big girl who has lost the weight twice before, and regained it again, it’s even harder, because I was acknowledging my failure to keep the weight off head-on. Still, I persevered, and came up with these.
You’ll notice that the heads look a bit weird – I didn’t take too much time over them, because my focus was on the body shape – but as you’ll see later, the head actually makes quite a difference to the way the clothes look on the body. The guesstimated heads also emphasise my bad posture, and make me look a great deal more glum and slumped than I actually was.
Still, I worked my way through it, using the shape to show realistically where I wanted each garment to sit on my body, so that Liz knew which measurements she would need, and have a diagram to show me exactly where to take them.
Next, I used the garment designs to ‘test’ my fabric designs. This is around about when the head started looking pretty weird, especially in profile.
I decided to add my hair back in, and used unnatural colours, because that’s definitely a quirk I like to work 🙂
The upshot of this was that I suddenly absolutely loved the whole look – and I had so much fun playing with the little ‘me’ figures that I realised, this was a great fabric design opportunity! 
The thing is, these poses were deliberately boring – they were designed for technical drawings of garments. For a fabric, I thought something more dynamic would be good – and then I realised, what I needed was both technical (aka boring) AND dynamic photos of all the shapes! I could then use them to work out good fits for each shape at a design level, using the ‘technical’ poses, and then test the design on the dynamic poses – and then I would use those fun, dynamic poses to make fabric designs! 
So now, I’m looking for some quintessential versions of each of my shapes, in some really dynamic poses. 
Posted on Leave a comment

Competition #1 – Inspiration

Wow, there was a really huge response to our first competition post!
To keep track of it all, let’s sort it into categories – animal, vegetable, mineral.


Bunnies doing binkies
Cats on glass tables
Fighting fish
Pygmy Hippos
Baby goats
Dinosaurs for adults
​Dinosaur kamasutra
​Heart-shaped bunny huddle


A skyline silhouette, with a landscape, a series of cacti, etc.
Succulents and cacti




Stargate SG-1 characters
Bearded ladies​
Plus-size cosplays
Agatha Christie characters
Kurt Vonnegut characters
​Tom Robbins characters


Sweet Release’s “Dough My Goodness” treats
Butcher’s diagrams 


Spoons and skulls
Tea paraphernalia
Minigolf courses
Subversive Girl Guide/Brownie badges
Siberian princess tattoos
Posted on Leave a comment


So, I mentioned in a previous post that I was trying to come up with a good system to help women identify if an outfit would fit them or not.

I figured out that the closest thing to my own shape was the New Zealand sweet potato, called a kūmara.

I started doodling shapes, to see if I could figure out the different plus-size body types. As you can tell from my drawings, the ones closest to my shape were the easiest for me to draw.
I posted on my Facebook wall, inviting comment, and was pleased to find that I had correctly identified enough of the right shapes that my friends could find themselves in the drawing. 

Beautiful Butternut


Pretty Parsnip


Curvy Kumara


Ravishing Radish


Saucy Shallot

I decided to test the shapes on the range of possible designs that I had come up with for my own, kumara shape on these shapes, to see what happened – and it was fascinating.  
First, the dress – as it seems to fit almost every shape, this one is a dead cert. Pretty parsnips with smaller busts may not like them as much, but given that it’s a stretch bodice, at least they won’t sag the way a structured/tailored bodice will. As expected, the hourglass wears it the best, but the kumara (highlighted) doesn’t look too terrible, either 🙂
Another fairly universal winner is the blouse, although its success with each shape will be more a case of personal taste. A lot of women will also feel better if it’s belted, which leads me to the next one – the cincher.
The shape is still very much a draft, but the effect is very specific – and as you can see, it only really suits the bustier shapes. I think it will be worth spending a lot of time on developing the cincher design, because if it’s good, it will be very, very good, but if it’s not – ugh.
The skirt is another very subjective design. Again, it looks best on the curvier figures, although the radish still has enough va-va-voum to carry it off – poor parsnip. We will have to devote some serious attention to her, down the track.
Conclusion – these designs will definitely work for the kumara:
They probably won’t work for all the shapes, though – so I am going to take a punt and rate them as I expect they will play out:
Dress: Shallot, Butternut, Kumara, Radish.
Blouse: Shallot, Butternut, Kumara.
Cincher: Shallot, Butternut, Kumara, Radish.
​Skirt: Shallot, Butternut, Kumara.
Posted on Leave a comment

Clothes for a curvy kumara

There’s something comforting about having your ducks in a row. I know what shape I am:
I know what sort of garments I want to make for my shape, and which ones I want to start out focussing on. 
And I even know how to get them! I’m working with a pattern-maker now to get my designs turned into reality. In the meantime, because I have the clothing shapes and the fabric designs, old and new, well underway, I can start thinking about how I will combine them into successful outfits.
Using the magic of MS Paint, I have figured out how to use my garment sketches as stencils – I overlay them on my fabric design patterns to see how they would work out as dresses. Here’s an example of the process:
And here are some mock-ups of the outfits that I plan to make for my test-drives. Which ones should I choose???
Posted on Leave a comment

Fabric design collections – Legacy

I have been designing fabrics casually for years, under the banner of Phersu Dancing. These are some of my old collections, that will be rebooted and updated for sale if people are interested.


My poppy designs were some of my most popular sellers ever. I made them into designs for my packaging, and also as a fabric design, aimed for tablecloths for my market displays, and dresses. 

Jellybean Butterfly

My Jellybean Butterfly collection is an oldie but a goodie – it came out of a design for something bright and colourful to go on the bottom of the custom longboard that my husband was building for me. Sadly, I had an old injury that flared up, and as a result, I couldn’t learn to longboard, so the physical deck never eventuated. The design was so charming, though, that I decided to make it into jewellery, and I had a small length of the fabric printed. 

I have plans to fill out the collection with simple, complimentary patterns – jellybeans, coffee beans, butterflies, and stripes. 

Stained-Glass Butterfly

The butterflies that I used for the Art Nouveau stained-glass butterfly collections were the ones that I drew for the Jellybean Butterfly fabric. 
I coloured them differently, and then used them in a variety of new designs for my ‘Steampunk Butterfly’ collection, using the cog designs that my husband and I created for our wedding stationery. The little twist with these was that the stripe is created from the word ‘Steampunk’ in barcode font.
I have refreshed these designs, and added some more, below. 
Posted on Leave a comment

Plus-size problems

A while ago, I started thinking about what I really wanted to wear. Pretty quickly, words like ‘eclectic’, ‘fun’, and ‘quirky’ started flying around. But you can’t really get fun plus size clothes, can you? Well, you can – but they often end up looking like a costume unless you really own the look. One example is the amazing Rockabilly fashions that have been appearing over the last few years – amazing, fun, and flattering for us curvier shapes – but they’re from a time when women regularly spent a lot more time on their appearance, and they require a great deal of commitment. 
That’s not really practical for everyday clothing.
Then, I started thinking about how I would make a corporate steampunk line – I designed my wedding outfits, and learnt a lot about plus size fashions in the process – for example, we need MUCH longer tops than you would expect, even under a corset! Corporate steampunk would require some really structured lines, and a lot of fabric in each garment. Again, this type of clothing wasn’t terribly practical for grab-and-go workday wear, and the couture aspect required a higher level of design experience than I currently have in my portfolio – so that idea got shelved, too.
So what did I mean by ‘fun’ workwear?
I sat down and did some Googling, and I established that what I really meant was something that let me buy my basics like black pants, simple leggings, cheap tops, and dress them up with accessories that made them into something more – I wanted adorable but comfy shoes; clever, flattering belts; light little jackets that gave me a shape; and the occasional piece of feature clothing that I could mix and match with my basics. That could be a cute dress that I could wear with a long-sleeved shirt and leggings in winter; a blouse to dress up my boring black pants; a little stretchy skirt to make me feel happier about wearing tunics or shorts with leggings; and most importantly, and elusively, something to pull in the sack-like plus-size tops in a way that would flatter me and give me a shape, without being too uncomfortable to wear at my desk all day. 
So, where is this heading, I hear you ask?

What is my shape?

In classic body shapes (apple, pear, etc.), I think I’m somewhere between hourglass and rectangle. This sounds impossible, but that’s the thing with plus sizes – once you start putting more weight on someone’s frame, they carry it differently. So, how do I express that? 
I looked at the different plus-size websites, and they were all too diplomatic to be really clear. 
Here’s an example from the Lane Bryant website, which has three collections of pants – the ‘Lena’, the ‘Ashley’, and the ‘Sophie’. This is from the ‘Sophie’:


But what does that even mean? I couldn’t get any of the words to match my shape, and the models all seemed to be used interchangeably. There were no clear guidelines, measurements, or graphics to help me choose, and none of the models had bellies, so I couldn’t get any guidance from there. I decided that I would start with identifying a new shape for myself, and then going from there to figure out what clothing might flatter my own shape. Then, I could use that as a benchmark to try to identify more shapes and the cuts of clothing that would work for them.

What do I like to wear?

So, if I was going to start with my own shape, I needed to figure out what parts of it mattered, in terms of flattering cuts and comfort, so I started by thinking about what things I like to wear, and what things I don’t.
I like simple clothes. I like layers, but only hen it’s really cold. I get warm too easily, otherwise. I don’t like tops made of such thin fabric that you have to wear another layer underneath. I like jeans, and belted blouses and tunics. I like Ponte di Roma pants, and leggings, and things with stretch that doesn’t confine.
I like fit-and-flare dresses, because they flatter me, but I don’t like wearing them, because the skirts, by their very nature, flare – they’re annoying in the car, they’re uncontrollable in the Wellington wind, and they make everything just a little bit more unmanageable. On top of that, they make me look and feel ‘dressed up’ – so, while I love the way dresses look, I would need to practise wearing them to get comfortable. Then, there’s the fact that they show my legs – so I would need to wear leggings or tights, and the right kind of shoes, and yikes, this is hard.

What *would* I like to wear?

The thing that I find myself searching for the most often is something to work like a comfortable corset – give me shape, but be more structured than a belt, without cutting off circulation or preventing me from taking a deep breath. This seems like a really simple thing, but it’s turned out to be the most complex of all – how exactly to design something I pull over my head, that still looks as structured as a waistcoat, as simple as a belt, and as flattering as a corset, whilst being as comfortable as a vest?
So, I started scribbling…
Pretty soon, I had narrowed it down to a few garments that I thought would work well – high-waisted, fold-over pants; a tunic that can be worn with or without a belt; a fit-and-flare dress, but without too much fabric in the skirt, and a stretchy bodice; and a flounce-sleeved, pussy-bow blouse.
Based on these sketches, I started drawing some ideas for fabric designs, which became the Masala Collection. Now, I knew what I wanted to have made to fit me, and what kind of look those clothes might have. I was underway!