Sea Whistle Clothing from childhood dreams to childrens wear in Hastings
When she was 18 years old Nicola Amies wanted to design and make children’s clothes, but at the time her family wanted her to go down the more traditional route of teaching.
“A lot of my family are teachers and they felt it was a more secure option, going into the ‘rag trade’ just wasn’t the done thing,” she says.
But it seems that although they had reservations sewing is in Nicola’s blood.“People always asked if we were related to Hardy Amies, the Queen’s dressmaker, but we said no and that it was a coincidence we had the same surname,” she begins.“However my dad did our family tree and turns out he is my granddad’s cousin, so I like to feel me setting up my own business was meant to be.”
Nicola started making children’s wear through her business Sea Whistle in March.
When her work decided to restructure she took the opportunity to do something different and return to her passion from school.“I have always made clothes for myself, family and my nieces and nephews so I knew I could do it but what was happening at work gave me the push to do it full time,” she says.
Nicola creates children’s clothes from newborn up to seven years old, her range includes skirts, shorts, dresses and bloomers but she also does bespoke orders.“Some people have seen what I do like the bloomers but ask for it in another fabric,” she explains.“The bespoke orders are very unique they can choose the length, if it has buttons, the collar – every aspect.“Once I have the info I just go and sew in my lovely bay window with a view of the sea.”
Having worked with children Nicola understands the practical aspects of their clothes.“I want to make clothes that last,” she says.“The shorts have elasticated waists, so you can buy them for when they are three and it will last until they are five. “The skirts start long but get shorter as they grow and they can wear it with leggings.”
Nicola got he basic shape from a pattern and then modifies the design.“Once you have the basic shape that’s when you can start adding details such as buttons, or extra panels to skirts to make them fuller.“I have a pinafore that has tie straps so you can tighten it and then buttons which can be worn at the front or back so if your little one gets something down it you can turn it around put on a cardigan and done.”
All the garments have a French or hidden seam which she says looks better than using an overlocker but also feels nicer on the skin.
The fabric Nicola uses is linen, Rose and Hubble poplin cotton and Liberty.“I just love feel of Liberty fabric it is like silk and the prints are amazing,” she enthuses.“I can spot a Liberty print a mile off. I love the way it looks and it is really iconic.”
As well as buying online Nicola uses Liberty prints from her own stash, which includes her mother’s collection.“It means that some of the prints they no longer do, so a piece in that print really is unique,” she smiles.“I love things with a story behind them and many of the Liberty pieces do.”
That includes White Garden Tana Lake, which has links to Vita Sackville-West and Virginia Woolf.“I was approached to do an event at Charleston House so I decided to make something out of the White Garden Tana Lake fabric, because of the Virginia Woolf connection and when I showed them the woman said ‘how did you know Vita was my grandmother,” she says.
But it isn’t just the fabric that can tell a story, the table Nicola cuts her fabric on is made from Hastings Pier.“I say to people that it is where Jimi Hendrix and The Who played.“But also the name Sea Whistle. We are in Hastings near the sea and I live in Whistler’s mother’s house so it is in reference to that.”
Nicola just goes to show you that you don’t have to give up on your childhood dreams.“It was just meant to be and i love I am doing what I wanted when I was 18,” she smiles.