Ari of Balinor



Laura Smith


(click images to to enlarge)

Outline the story …

For the theme this year, the obvious choice for me was the most influential book series of my childhood: "Unicorns of Balinor" by Mary Stanton.

This children’s chapter book series follows Ari, a 13 year old girl who discovers that she is actually Arianna, Princess of a magical land called Balinor, and her horse Chase is actually a unicorn named Sunchaser. She travels from our world back to Balinor to reclaim her throne and save the Kingdom from the evil Shifter.

When she first arrives in Balinor, she is not aware of her identity, and finds work cleaning stables at an inn. The first outfit she is given to wear in Balinor is a too-big dark red skirt with embroidery at the hem, a white cotton ‘peasant’ style blouse, and a leather vest. She wears the same riding boots from our world, and continues to wear this outfit for most of the books. Ari is very practical when it comes to her clothing, since she goes on many quests and does a lot of riding.

For my interpretation of Ari, I wanted to make her outfit a little bit fancier and with historical influence, but still suitable for riding unicorns and questing. I wanted the main focus to be on the embroidery and trim at the hem, and wanted to embroider unicorns that appeared in the story.

Outline the construction…

The shirt is made of a cotton curtain, entirely handsewn and based off Bernadette Banner's 18th Century Men's Shirt video. Somehow the sleeves turned out much too long, so I tied them up, which adds a nice fantasy element to this look.

For the skirt, I remade my old (badly made) red kirtle. I cut off the bodice part, and evened up the hem. I used scraps of the same fabric to make the waistband, with hook and bar closure. I had a few issues when it came to attaching the skirt to the waistband, since there was not as much volume as I usually work with. I ended up with two small darts in front and gathers in the back.

Cathy Hay's video about the construction of her green skirt was very helpful, as I attached my waistband to skirt with the same technique and tried out stiffening the hem with buckram.

I used a combination of metallic and regular embroidery thread for the Unicorns and hem design. Each of the unicorns is a different colour of the rainbow (as per the books) which resulted in a bit of a strange look with some of the unicorns standing out more against the red wool than others.

This was, by far, the largest embroidery project I have ever done, and of course I underestimated how long it would take me. However, I was still able to complete all of the embroidery, with minimal changes to my original plan.




  1. Avatar Kristen K on March 11, 2021 at 11:33 pm

    I love the tied up sleeves and the entire aesthetic. I 10/10 would wear this unicorn skirt for adventuring (and am considering making one myself now!)

    • Avatar Laura Smith on March 27, 2021 at 7:40 pm

      Yes, we all need unicorn adventuring skirts!

  2. Kitty Mortensen Kitty Mortensen on March 12, 2021 at 9:21 am

    I LOOOVE the unicorn embroidery! This is SO beautiful

  3. Avatar Angela Teece on March 13, 2021 at 4:06 pm

    I love the embroidery too. It’s such a special piece.

  4. Avatar Mandy Pursley on March 14, 2021 at 2:15 am

    I just love the little unicorns! They make a simple skirt turn into something magical, which I think is very befitting for Ari.

  5. Avatar Deborah Melo on March 14, 2021 at 8:33 pm

    I love the embroidery! The unicorns are so cute!

  6. Avatar Ellie B on March 14, 2021 at 10:32 pm

    This out fit is so gorgeous! The way the skirt is gathered makes it hang beautifully. (Also makes me want to read the books.)

  7. Avatar Carly Van Groeningen on March 19, 2021 at 10:30 am

    The embroidered unicorns are so gorgeous, lovely work!

  8. Avatar Maeri Certo on March 19, 2021 at 1:25 pm

    How fun! Lovely job!

  9. Avatar Aurelia E. on March 20, 2021 at 12:26 am

    Wow, I saw the title of your entry and clicked so hard because Unicorns of Balinor was my absolute favorite childhood series and I always felt like not many people had read it before! Thank you so much for bringing it to life. I love the look of the tied-up sleeves; they give such a classic fantasy element. I also adore how each unicorn has a unique mane style.

    • Avatar Laura Smith on March 27, 2021 at 7:39 pm

      I’ve only met one other person who had heard of and read the books- its great to see another! I’m glad you like my interpretation!

  10. Avatar Laurie on March 20, 2021 at 4:30 am

    Lovely skirt! I like the materials very much and the embroidery is great!

  11. Avatar Stephanie Murison on March 24, 2021 at 2:00 am

    This embroidery is just lovely! I love how each unicorn is unique, they are all different colours and in different stances, like each one has its own personality! They really bring the outfit to life! The trim at the bottom is also great, that little edge of grey gives it that hardy adventure-wear feel to me. Lovely photos too, definitely looks like you’re ready for an adventure!

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