A sky full of flowers



Helen Donnelly

(click images to to enlarge)

Other Credits

Rebecca Olds

Outline the story …

For this entry I was inspired by all the wild flower gardens and verges that have been popping up over the last few years. The range of colours and shapes is remarkable. These areas of wild space are essential to the future of ourselves and our environment. They feed pollinating insects and give small animals a habitat to live in. I chose not to try to reproduce actual flowers as I don't think I would ever do them justice, rather my aim was to evoke the impression of wild flowers. At some point I want to continue the embroidery onto the petticoat, but having already spent months on this embroidery I will add to it at a later date.
I have been planning on making a mantua gown for some time and this seemed like the perfect opportunity to combine dressmaking and embroidery. The floral designs of the 18th century have always fascinated me. I love the way they combine beautiful, elaborate designs and colours. This style of embroidery presents the opportunity to let your imagination go wild. The style of the Mantua also lends itself to the theme. Unlike other gowns, the pleats are not sewn down which means each time this gown is worn, it will be slightly different. I think this gives it a more natural flow and feel.

Outline the construction…

The main gown is made from silk taffeta and lined with tissue weight silk taffeta. I used silk embroidery thread for all of the embroidery and silk hand sewing thread for the gown. Everything on this gown was handsewn. I started by draping a mockup on my dress form. This was my first time draping a whole gown so it took quite some time. After I had draped the mockup I transferred the pattern to the silk taffeta and used this as a starting point for draping the gown itself. All of the sections of embroidery were done separately and then stitched onto the gown. I designed the embroidery pattern myself, although I took a lot of inspiration from various pieces of extant embroidery I could find on the internet. I used mainly long and short stitches, chain stitch and stem stitch.
This was the first time I had sewn with silk and used silk embroidery thread. The silk taffeta was heavy to hand sew and also marks easily. This made it really tough to hand sew and every pin hole showed so I was limited on how much pinning I could do. The very lightweight silk I used to line the skirt was very floating and moved around a lot. This silk embroidery thread snags really easily which made it particularly time consuming. Overall I have learned much from this gown which should help me in future projects.




  1. Avatar Christiane Christiane Edel on May 3, 2023 at 5:37 pm

    Love the embroidery!

    • Avatar Abigail Lamb on May 8, 2023 at 9:53 pm

      This is beautiful! The embroidered flowers are just wonderful 🙂

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