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Interview with Fiona Buttery

By Funkifabrics, 1 July 2024

When I first started sewing for ice skating, one of the Mom’s said to me “You do know that the dress is part of the competition?” and I had to admit that I didn't, because my daughter was a gymnast and the costume goal of the gymnastics competition was to wear the team leotard, so it took me a little while to understand how important the dress is in Ice-skating. And it is important, not only because of how it makes the skater feel but how it looks on the ice, how it helps reference the music, and how it adds an extra element of detail to the performance.

If you are involved in Ice Skating or roller skating, on any level, you will be aware of beautiful ombré dresses, which have been popular for some years now and, to be honest, I cannot see them ever going out of fashion.

Ombre is such a versatile technique to create unique garments in so many varieties and somehow when you put them on the ice or the floor, they just look amazing. The ombre style is also big in other areas of dance like ballroom and Latin dancing, as well as in High Street Fashion. Once I saw a Men's Ombre T-shirt in a clothes store and I bought it for my husband. When I gave it to him, he said “oh, so I'm about to be ombré too!” He knows how much I love ombre and how I've been obsessed with ombre for the last 10 years.

I live in the UK and I would say I'm incredibly lucky to have a fabric company here, Friedmans Ltd, that stock the best quality beautiful Italian Lycra, and also have a printing service so they can print any design you could possibly imagine or want on stretch fabric and I knew they were the people to talk to about my idea..

Over the years I've had lots of linear ombres printed and made dresses with them, but the problem has always been the skirt. I've always had to spray the skirt to match, which is not easy. Airbrushing or dying fabrics to create the circle is a highly skilled operation, it takes quite a bit of space, and that space needs to be draft free, and you need to be able to pin a skirt, a circle skirt, vertically on a large area, so you can spray it.

When learning to airbrush you need quite a bit of equipment, which can be expensive; you need a compressor, at least one or two pens, a selection of fabrics, paint, pots, gun holder, background fabric, etc. Then you need to have a go with the pen, learn how to use it and clean it. Like with any specialised technique, there is a huge learning curve and also quite a bit of wastage. But after you've practiced and practiced and you begin to feel confident about your technique, how your pen works and the process, you will get to the point where you say “Right! I'm going to spray my real garment now” and then despite everything you've done, halfway through spraying, it blotches and blobs of paint spray where you don't want and your design is ruined and your only option is to start again. It can be very frustrating and very wasteful, even to someone very experienced too.

But now, finally, I'm delighted we have printed circle skirts in any colour combination of ombre that your heart desires. It is beyond exciting and to be able to share this with my fellow makers is really important to me. I could have just done this for myself, for my own use. I could have had a file created that I could pick and choose the colours and have them printed for myself but I have a very wonderful Russian friend Olga, who told me in no uncertain terms that it was the most selfish idea I've ever had and I needed to share it because everybody needs ombre circles, and she was right, and so here we are today.

The team at Friedmans have done a massive amount of work taking this idea and creating something that anybody can buy to use and make into an ombre circle skirt or skirt with dress.

The website is incredibly easy to use. Just find the print design you're looking for, both the ombre skirt/skirt dress designs can be found in their shading-ombre category When on the individual design page, you’ll see the two colour chips, when you click each one a colour palette opens up and from here you can pick whichever alternative colour you like. The picture updates instantly so you can see what the colour combinations look like. It’s incredibly fun to play with and very easy to make the most amazing colour combinations, which you would probably never be able to achieve by either dying or airbrushing.

For me, one of the biggest advantages of the printed ombre version is that I don't need to make the fabric colour-fast, as it's already colour-fast. Also, airbrushing and dying changes the texture of the fabric ever so slightly. The ombre gradient print is incredibly subtle and controlled, so if you're making a set of team dresses, starting with your ombre circles exactly the same, is extremely helpful. When I'm airbrushing, even just a two-layer skirt, the two ombres are not an exact match on each layer. It's not critical that they are an exact match because when you layer them the gradient evens out, but it is lovely to know when you're working with a printed ombre version, the gradient on both circles will be the same.

You can make any dress with this fabric that you like, including a skating dress, dance dress, ballroom dress, and you can use other patterns too, not just my favourite, the Jalie Fiona!

Ombre is a huge trend in skating these days and as skating is my main focus, all my testing and work has been around this. But this is a fabric design that has no limits; the only limit is what you can imagine you could do with it.

Fiona Buttery


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