Thursday, 29 May 2014

Retro Orchard - We Chat to Wendy Kendall & New Workshops!

We did a little dance this morning when we got an email saying that Wendy Kendall's latest collection for Dashwood Studio, Retro Orchard is going to be with us tomorrow! Despite being ultra-busy getting ready to exhibit over in the States, Wendy took time out to answer a few questions for us about her latest collection and what she's been up to of late.  Read on to discover more about her gorgeous new collection.

We have also just added our next batch of workshops onto the website and we are so excited about what we've got on offer over the next couple of months!

Ever had the situation where you finally find (or make!) the perfect dress for a special occasion only to discover that you don't have a bag that matches?  Never find yourself in that sticky spot again when you know how to make the perfect Cute Little Clutch bag to go with your dream dress!

Talking of dream dresses, I made my very first By Hand London dress earlier this year. I have fallen head-over-heels in love with Anna!  There are 3 different variations of the pattern that mean it can be made to work for any occasion - super elegant maxi dress, perfect wedding frock or ultra-cool festival threads.  Join us for a two part Anna Dress Workshop that takes you through the whole process from making a muslin to achieve perfect fit, how to read and cut out a pattern through to completing your most favourite ever dress.

If it's dresses for little people you're after then book on to our workshop to make this simple but adorable girl's dress.

We team up with Emma May of Simple Pleasures School of Sewing again to bring you this one day workshop covering the basics of dressmaking on a small scale producing a gorgeous, one-off dress for a lucky little lady.

You seriously need to keep in touch over the next few weeks as we have an amazing program of Autumn stitching lined up, including sewing with jersey (like, who wouldn't want to learn how to do that?  We all wear it all the time!) as well as some cool projects for boys - yes, sewing for B.O.Y.S! Considering we have several between us in the HQ extended teaching clan it's a downright travesty we've not got our bottoms into gear and done this yet, so we're going to make up for it pretty darn soon.

Right, on with our little chat with Wendy Kendall ....

You won the Ideal Home Wallpaper of the Year Award in 2013 for one of your designs from Petite Street - how did it end up becoming a fabric collection?

I designed Petite St originally as a bedding collection and posted the design onto my website. I entered and won the Ideal Home Wallpapered competition with the main house print, but had previously been contacted by Dashwood about designing a range for them using that particular design collection.

There’s a bit of a buzz about Dashwood at the moment – how is it working with David and the team? 

Dashwood are a great company to work with, they are so enthusiastic about design and offer great support and advice.


Can you talk us through the process of getting a design onto fabric?

In both collections, three existing designs have been chosen by Dashwood and I’ve then been asked to work up complementary prints to sit with them. Palettes, repeats and scales of designs are amended and reworked by me in conjunction with Dashwood until the point where the individual designs look like a comprehensive collection together. The finished designs are sent to the mill for sampling along with my colour printouts for first sample swatches. Once the colour matching is approved they are ready to go!


There’s always an amazing sense of fun in your designs.  From what do you take inspiration when designing a new collection?

I love fun, happy designs, I don’t really do serious or miserable :) My house is filled with bright pops of colour against white walls, so I think this just translates in my work really, it’s my personal taste I suppose. A lot of my work tends to feature animals, trees and florals  so I do use nature as an inspiration , but I also love design from 50s/60s/70s so tend to also use these to inspire and adapt in my own way.

The colours you have chosen for your new collection, Retro Orchard give it a very different mood from those used in Petite Street. How do you choose a colour palette?

I wanted to give the fruit print an autumnal feel, and was conscious to create something new by steering away from my usual palette of turquoise, limes and pinks ( my favourite colours) I think it’s good to push yourself sometimes and break away from your usual colour choices. I actually love the purple, and although I still managed to sneak the pink in, I’m hoping it comes across as more sophisticated by adding the khaki and mink tones. 

How did Dotty Wren Studio come about?

Dotty Wren Studio is a recent collaboration with three other fellow freelance designers, Dawn Machell, Susan Driscoll and Lizzie Mackay.
After exchanging a few emails we met up here at my house a couple of times and have since become great friends. We decided to take the plunge and exhibit together at the major artwork show Surtex in New York. We returned last week and were over the moon with the reaction our booth and our designs received. It was an amazing week away, meeting fantastic new clients and other lovely designers, we are so pleased we decided to go for it! And we got to hang out in New York for the week, added bonus!:)

What’s the best thing you’ve ever seen made out of one of your fabric designs?

There have been too many amazing items made up in Petite Street! I’ve loved them all, if I had to pick a personal fave it would have to be the tiny baby shoes in the triangle print made by Daniel & Alexis for their Etsy shop, they are so cute! I was also in awe of Susie Dunlop’s changing bag, and also the Ochil Tree's beautiful make up bags, I do love a make-up bag!:)

Do you envisage what your fabric will become when you are in the design process or is it purely about the pattern at that stage? 

To be honest I don’t really have a particular product in mind when I design the collection. I do think in terms of whether the collection would be more suitable for kids or homewares for example but I don’t get bogged down with the end products. I think it’s more important for me to get the scales of design and colours right so then sewers have enough options to make use of as many fabrics in the collections as possible if needed.

Do you sew yourself?  If so what do you sew?

I know the basics, but no I’m not a great sewer, unfortunately. I wish I had the time to learn, it’s on my list, I think that’s why I’m in such awe of the products people are able to make. I’m a lot safer with pens and paper for the time being :)

What’s next after Surtex?

I have freelance projects to concentrate on and follow up work now after Surtex. I never actually know what’s coming up in the next year, I suppose that’s the downside, but also the upside sometimes of being a freelance designer, the work is very varied.

I just hope to keep busy in these next few months and create lots more new designs, because that’s what I love doing :) 

Thanks to Wendy and good luck with the new collection!  View the full range of Retro Orchard here.



  1. I really love the colours of the Retro Orchard fabrics. I could be tempted to make my first foray into quilting with them!

    Very excited about the new workshops ;-)

  2. It's seriously lovely, Sam and would make an amazing quilt!

  3. Retro orchard looks great. Wendy Kendall is a fantastic artist.