Knitting back in vogue: Interview with designer Shirley Bradford

By Lucy Howell



Shirley Bradford has over thirty years experience working for women’s magazines in knitting departments as a designer and pattern checker, as well as working for yarn companies.

Currently working as a freelancer, Shirley is commissioned by magazines or book editors with a brief, produces drawings and knitted swatches then after the final design is chosen, writes instructions and has the sample garment knitted.

Polka Dots & Potions spoke with the designer about the rise in the popularity of knitting, the return of 40’s and 50’s patterns, and tips for new knitters.



Can you tell us what you are working on at the moment?

I’ve recently been working on several patterns for Woman’s Weekly magazine where they’ve given me patterns from their archive that they featured in the 1940’s and ‘50’s and I’ve had to re-write the designs using current yarns. The old patterns were usually only written in one size, and often in very fine yarns, so I have to adapt the new instructions to include a wide range of sizes, using yarns which are more popular today, while still keeping the look of the original garment. The magazine found that this is very popular with their readers; they print a little black and white picture of the original photo with the date it first appeared.

Are you surprised when old patterns come back into fashion?

Not at all, home and interior trends are constantly re-working styles of the past e.g. mid-century etc, so fashion is no different. There’s always a call for nostalgia. Not sure about 80s/90s big shoulders and picture knits, but a lovely fitted 40’s top always looks great, and every year the top designers do their versions of classics like Aran and Fair Isles.

A lot of younger people are taking up knitting. Is this unexpected?

No it isn’t  I think young people like to look individual, and to be able to create something unique is wonderful; the sense of achievement in making something yourself that you won’t see on anyone else. It used to be economical to knit your own sweaters, but these days it’s so easy to get nice-looking fashionable clothes very cheaply, like Primark,  so that’s not a reason for knitting any more. I think there’s a case for intelligent-thinking young people to buck the trend and do something more ethical and green, while satisfying a creative urge to make something with their hands.

What advice would you give to new starters?

Try to find someone to teach you, it’s difficult to learn to knit from books. There are demos on knitting techniques on YouTube which are really helpful. Also, there’s a growth in knitting clubs and workshops, look on the internet and you can usually find a local knitting shop, coffee shop or pub which runs a regular ‘knit and natter’ type event, it’s a lovely social thing to do, as well as getting help and tips on your knitting.

Where do you find inspiration?

For my own things, I always have at least one or two things on the go for myself, it could be after seeing something in a magazine or well known and out-of-price-range designers’ catwalk shows, maybe even a textile, ceramic or rug design.

What is your favourite style and why?

Anything really, depending on the mood. I love working with colour: Fair Isle patterns are fun to design, either based on traditional patterns or with a modern twist; lovely chunky cables or delicate lace. The only types of knitting I’m not too fond of personally are ‘novelty’ yarns which give you a multi-coloured or crazily textured effect, e.g. fun fur, without any patterning as such – not great yarns for a designer like myself, but actually quite good for a beginner as you can get the effect without too much effort. I like a bit of design and effort.

Do you think the skill should be taught at schools?

Yes I do, and there is a change in schools doing more practical lessons such as food and nutrition these days. The only thing with knitting is it’s better taught as one-to-one or in small groups. The school where I help runs an after-school knitting club which is quite successful.

Where is the best place to buy good quality knitwear?

How long is a piece of string…? Knitwear, as in finished sweaters etc, the list is endless: Missoni, Burberry, Sonia Rykiel, Isabel Marant to name just a few, if money’s no object.

Good quality knitting yarns: John Lewis has a good wool department, also Liberty. There are loads of good online ‘wool shops’, the trouble is it’s such a tactile thing that unless you’re familiar with the yarn you’re buying, it’s unsatisfactory because it’s impossible to judge the colour and feel of a yarn on a computer screen.

Get some inspiration from the high street:


1: Ivory/pink ombre jumper, £25, Dorothy Perkins 2: Grey pearl cluster jumper, £45, Miss Selfridge 3: Metallic jumper light silver, £39,99, Mango 4: Marl striped jumper, £30.40, Warehouse 5: Jumper in vintage pattern with fringing, £38, ASOS

(Press images)

Read more stories from Lucy here


Style Icons: Taylor Momsen

By Leigh Morley

Taylor Momsen has been silent for the last few months, busy writing and recording the second album with her band, The Pretty Reckless. At just the age of 19, the singer has toured the world, had an incredibly successful acting career and has modelled for a number of massive designers. It seems there is no end to this girl’s talents, and it looks like she’s only just beginning.

aaataylormomsen3 Taylor Momsen for Nylon magazine


Taylor Momsen at Warped Tour

Taylor’s parents put her into acting and modelling at just two years old, and she landed her first commercial for American company Shake ‘n’ Bake immediately. As she grew up, she modelled for various companies and played the role of Cindy Lou in The Grinch, followed by other movies like Spy Kids and Spy School. At fourteen years old, she got the part of little Jenny Humphrey on the hit American drama, Gossip Girl. The actress was catapulted into fame and became known for her alternative dress sense outside the soap.

After two years on the CW show, Taylor decided to quit after finding her calling, singing for her band, The Pretty Reckless. Despite facing some scrutiny by alternative music publications for her glamorous acting past, Taylor proved she was a true musician by hitting number one on the iTunes rock chart and the band’s first single, ‘Make Me Wanna Die’ became the theme song for super hero flick, Kickass.


Taylor Momsen in Versace

Soon The Pretty Reckless were touring the world and scored headline spots on America’s massive Warped Tour and some of the world’s biggest metal festivals, England’s Download Festival and Germany’s Rock AM Ring.

If that wasn’t enough for Taylor, she became the face of Madonna’s Material Girl line and Samantha Thavasa handbags, both companies choosing to snap her up because of controversial dress sense.

“This is how I want to dress,” Taylor told FHM magazine. “I’m not a slut because I dress the way I do. What’s wrong with dressing like this?”

As well as her dress sense, Taylor was criticized for being the next Courtney Love, but she bit back at critics explaining recently to Nylon Magazine: “I don’t want to be Courtney Love, I want to be Kurt Cobain.”

Taylor Momsen isn’t the type of girl to shy away from controversy, with antics like smoking and flashing on stage, licking a knife and posing with a sword during a photo shoot, and performing a rather racy show with rock god Marilyn Manson at last year’s Golden Gods awards.

With her individual style and amazing shoes, Taylor is one lady worthy of style icon status.

With her band, The Pretty Reckless

With her band, The Pretty Reckless

Read more stories from Leigh here

Lisa Hempstock; home-grown designer fashion label ‘Sister,’ charity fashion shows and online global market

by Railah Iqbal

Sister boutique on Ecclesshall road in Sheffield

Sister boutique on Ecclesshall Road in Sheffield

Lisa Hempstock- owner of 'Sister'

Lisa Hempstock- owner of ‘Sister’

Lisa Hempstock started as a teen business woman specialising in lingerie and is now a leading fashion entrepreneur for designer clothes with an upcoming charity fashion show.
Lisa owns boutiques; ‘Sister’ for ladies designer fashion in Sheffield and Chesterfield and she has built a worldwide customer network through her online retail business.
The inspiration for Lisa to own a business spurred from her father’s business. Lisa explained; “I’ve always had a passion to be self-employed and my father had a business in machine and engineering which was seen as a man’s world, so I was not allowed to join it.”
Lisa first took to the fashion industry when she decided to set up a brand and build a career rather than undertaking job roles in other people’s companies. Lisa said; “Whilst I worked for others, I put in a lot of hours and always gave 200%. So one day I thought why don’t I put all this effort into something for myself and I have always had a passion for fashion.”
Her first trademark in the fashion world was through a lingerie store; ‘Caress’ in Sheffield’s city centre in the 1980s. She sold creative underwear to “fill the gap in the market because M&S started had taken ‘knickerbocker’ concept but it was nothing as creative as people wanted.”
‘Caress’ developed into ‘Sister’ when Lisa decided to specifically target professional clientele. Lisa said; “I cater for those who understand good quality clothing.”

Model showing Lisa's latest collection

Model showing Lisa’s latest collection

However just before the first store opening Lisa fell severely ill and ended up in hospital. With the help of her family the store saw its re-launch and is now a popular brand across South Yorkshire.
Lisa explains that a successful fashion business should be customer orientated; “we will wrap a £25 tunic in the same nice tissue paper as a £200 dress, because good customer experiences are important to a healthy business.”Locations of fashion businesses are important in its success and Lisa is hoping to branch out her business in southern areas.
Lisa added; “ I would love to have a shop further down south because I feel there are more opportunities for new businesses there.”
Further Lisa’s recent uptake on the e-business industry through ‘Sister Online’ was a successful move. She explained; “It had a positive effect and it has reached people globally as well as brought people into the store. I should have done it time ago.”

Lisa's fashion leaflet

Lisa’s fashion leaflet

Lisa also established that fashion shows advertising her products are a key marketing device. Her most recent one, held in-store at Sister on Ecclesshall Road, modelled Lisa’s collections and customers were able to purchase items at the end of each show. Lisa said; “I wanted to do a fashion show in-store so people can come in, have a glass of wine, enjoy the show and then are drawn to buying our clothes.”
This show is a taster of the big event happening in Chesterfield on Thursday 16th May and all of the proceedings from this, Lisa is donating to the Ash-Gate charity. If you are interested in attending the event, check out Sister’s page for further information.

Check out Lisa’s fashion show exclusively here:

Photography and video by Railah

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It’s been a cruel summer for Mermaid Killer

by Leigh Morley

Punk rock entrepreneur and proud vegan Felicity Jayn Heath seems to have it all at just 24. Not content with being a very famous blogger, this Australian babe has to have her own hugely successful clothing line to boot. Polka Dots & Potions grill Felicity on what it’s like to have it all, her unique vegan clothing line, and where the name Mermaid Killer actually came from…


Since flying home to Australia from the glitzy Los Angeles, Felicity had come to the realisation that an acting career wasn’t what she wanted. When arriving down under, she was no longer under any restraints from the acting industry, and so began dying her hair eccentric colours again, dressing however she wanted, and so stumbled into the world of fashion.

Felicity’s vision stemmed from a mixture of the early 90’s riot grrrl movement, Disney cartoon characters and early noughties punk and ‘emo’ music. The name Mermaid Killer was born, and so was the name for her famous micro blog, ‘Punk Rock Mermaid’.


Mermaid Killer’s Facebook page has since gained over 4,000 likes and Felicity’s clothing line has exploded into the fashion world. Felicity’s forward thinking attitude and friendly, respectful approach to designing her line has created something completely unique and refreshing.

“I want people to feel like they can wear anything when in Mermaid Killer,” Felicity explains. “I hate this idea of “I love it but I could never pull it off”. Uhm, yes you can. You can do whatever you want and it should make you feel amazing and empowered!”

Felicity talks about her line passionately on her blog, as well as her choice to become a vegan and incorporating that into her Mermaid Killer line.


The first collection to appear on Mermaid Killer was the Thrash, Riot & Resist range, a nod of appreciation to punk rock music everywhere and has even been worn by famous musicians such as Jenna McDougall, lead singer of pop-punk band, Tonight Alive.

Following this hugely successful collection, Felicity worked extremely hard and released yet another fabulous range, Animalia: Adopted, which featured adorable crew neck t shirts and jumpers with kittens and puppies made into skulls. Adding to the release of this fabulous new collection, 10% of all profits went to the Animal Welfare League.


The latest range is titled Cruel Summer, something Felicity explained she worked incredibly hard on. All of the designs and clothing were made for a large variety of people, coming in men’s, women’s, plus sizes and gender neutral cuts, something Felicity takes a lot of pride on.

Not only is there equality for buyers of Mermaid Killer, but for the people creating the garments, too. Felicity proudly admits that her company is vegan, ethical and good quality, something that definitely helps her stand out from other designers.


“Mermaid Killer garments are sourced locally in Sydney through small businesses. I do this to ensure ethical practices and decent pay rates are kept considering I run a vegan clothing company,” Felicity explains. “Considering Sydney is one of the most expensive places to live, it is also one of the most expensive cities in the world to rent real estate. This is reflected in what I pay to get my garments made, which is fine. I also do my best to get high quality garments and high quality printing. The prints are digitally printed and stretch and retract with the movement of the garment, rather than splitting.”

There’s no denying that this punk rock babe has landed on her feet. She’s created something unique and special, she’s done it independently and it’s safe to say, she’s kicking major ass in the fashion world.

Find more posts by Leigh Morley here

This week we’re wearing…Aztec

Me wearing my new aztec outfit - Dress, £15,; Tights, £3, New Look

Me wearing my new aztec outfit – Dress, £15,; Tights, £3, New Look

Ladder back detail on dress (£15)

Ladder back detail on dress (£15)

Words by Steph Hodgkinson

Up and down the high street there’s one trend that’s everywhere at the moment: aztec. The bright and bold print is quickly becoming this summer’s hottest trend and a staple for every girl’s wardrobe.

Whether it’s monochrome or multi-coloured, there’s something eye-catching for everyone this season. New Look are particularly nailing the look with their extensive collection of crop tops, bandeaus, midi and maxi dresses and shorts. Boohoo have also followed suit with their ‘Aztec Invasion’ collection.

Sally Crosby, who works for Topshop, says the look is back in: “It’s definitely on-trend to wear aztec this season, and it’s one of this summer’s staples along with midi and maxi dresses.”

Ashley Tisdale in a sequinned aztec dress

Ashley Tisdale in a sequinned aztec dress. Image courtesy of

Dress down the look for daytime with an aztec top and stonewashed jeans, or glam it up with wedges and a colourful midi dress – the perfect alternative to a maxi for petite girls.

Celebrities from Ashley Tisdale to Megan Fox have been spotted rocking the trend recently. So what are you waiting for? Here’s our pick of the best aztec pieces from the high street…

Megan Fox rocking an aztec dress. Image courtesy of

New Look

Red & blue aztec midi, £16.99

Red & blue aztec midi, £16.99

Monochrome stripe sleeveless aztec midi dress, £14.99

Pink and black sleeveless crop top, £9.99

Cameo Rose multicoloured crop top, £7.99

Cameo Rose multicoloured crop top, £7.99

Pink and purple zig zag maxi tube skirt, £16.99

Pink and purple zig zag maxi tube skirt, £16.99






Amie embroidered denim hotpants, £20

Amie embroidered denim hotpants, £20

Frankie strip aztec crop racer shirt, £15

Frankie stripe aztec crop racer shirt, £15

Izzy tie front playsuit, £18

Izzy tie front playsuit, £18

Astrella aztec monochrome leggings, £8

Astrella aztec monochrome leggings, £8

Ezra light aztec leggings, £8

Ezra light aztec leggings, £8

All images above courtesy of New Look or Boohoo

Read more from Steph here

Style Icons: Hayley Williams

by Leigh Morley

She’s known as the extremely colourful lead singer of pop-punk band Paramore, and Hayley Williams is one lady deserving of a style icon title.

Her band Paramore recently knocked Justin Timberlake off the number one slot in the USA Billboard charts with their fourth self titled album, not 24 hours into its release. 2013 comes as a welcome good year for Hayley, who suffered a lot of criticism over the years when two band mates quit the band, claiming that Hayley was a ‘glorified solo artist’. Paramore continued as a threesome however, with Miss Williams biting back, adding: “I could never see myself solo. I originally wanted to be the drummer for Paramore, sat all the way back and away from all the attention.”

ImageHayley at Nylon’s 2013 annual pool party

Hayley admits that she was never really fashion concious until the last few years. Her love of experimenting with make up and clothing came when she finally let a make up artist shape her eyebrows during a photo shoot and liked how polished she appeared.
“Before I wouldn’t even wear foundation,” the Now singer said during a recent interview with Nylon. “But soon after that shoot I began playing with eye shadow and more and more things. I was a super tomboy but now I love playing with fashion.”

Hayley’s signature orange hair recently underwent a change when the flame haired songstress dyed half of it pink. Her trademark hair has constantly been imitated, and this new style is no exception. Her famous ‘baby bangs’ has come under scrutiny, but that doesn’t stop her rocking the bizarre fringe.

ImageHayley at the 2013 MTV movie awards. Loving the underpants clutch!

The 24 year old’s quirky style has recently nabbed her the cover of April’s Nylon issue and a contract with MAC make up, something Hayley never thought would happen. The MAC range includes multiple orange products, such as orange lipstick, eye shadow and nail polish, with Hayley admitting it’s because orange is the ‘colour of her soul’.

ImageHayley on stage

Never one to follow the trends, the Paramore singer is rarely seen in heels, and instead would rather wear Vans trainers and hang out with her band mates, Jeremy and Taylor. The monster success of their fourth album is still ongoing, with the band now heading out on a worldwide tour, starting with North America.

ImageWith fellow Paramore bandmates, Jeremy (left) and Taylor (right)

Find more posts by Leigh Morley here

How To Get a Good Tattoo

by Leigh Morley

Since I can remember, I have always wanted to be heavily tattooed. I’ve always seen my skin as a blank canvas that needs to be painted with beautiful pictures. However other people, such as my grandparents and some employers, don’t exactly see tattoo culture the way I do and have opinions based on tattoos they see on the guests of The Jeremy Kyle Show.

Tattoo culture is not someone’s name on your face when you’ve known them for three months. It’s not a flower decorated in tribal on the top of your arm. It isn’t names of your children or some swirls on your foot, or a daffodil exploding into birds on your back. These are just some examples of clichéd, contrived and simply awful tattoos that are etched onto people randomly by a greedy tattoo artist who probably spent less than half an hour designing for their client.

By all means, have your children’s name tattooed on you, but please, get the names tattooed the right way, by someone who actually took the time to get to know your skin. The point is, people are starting to lose sight of what tattooing actually means. These days anybody can open up a studio with the right money and buy a tattoo gun.

Which brings me to my point. The tattoo industry is starting to fall apart, leading people to believe that anyone who makes the commitment to decorate their body is a bit of an idiot.

With Cheryl Cole’s multiple tattoo cover ups on her lower back and ‘that’ hand tattoo that millions have tried and failed miserably to imitate.

ImageOne of Cheryl’s most famous tattoos

Leading tattooist of Loaded Forty Four tattoo studio Danielle Mills explains: “Celebrities like Cheryl Cole, Rihanna and Harry Styles have a lot to answer for.” The celebrities in question constantly make headlines for their poor, mismatched tattoos which people seem to admire. “It kills me because celebrities have the access and the funds to the best tattooists in the world and they come out with the worst. Rihanna and Cheryl’s hand tattoos are abysmal and Harry Styles just gets random bits of crap everywhere that aren’t even placed properly. This leads people to want to copy them, not knowing what a good tattoo even is.”

ImageIt’s safe to say Harry looks a bit like a doodle pad

So how do you know that you’re getting a good tattoo? “Normally any studio who designs the tattoo specifically for your body and has a portfolio to back up their work,” 26 year old Danielle explains. “Anyone charging under a certain amount shouldn’t be worth going to. Normal studios charge a minimum of £25 for any tattoo.”

Adding to that, any studio willing to tattoo hands and fingers without any other part of your body being tattooed is another sin that adds to falling of the tattoo industry. It dates back to tribes where your face and hands are the last parts of your body to be tattooed. These days, those serious about tattooing start their journey with ink in hidden places, then slowly move onto more visible parts, eventually ending in their hands, fingers and knuckles being the final parts of your body to get inked. However, more and more people are taking to getting these body parts tattooed first, without being aware of the implications it may cause. People often turn to scratchers for these tattoos, who are people tattooing from their own home without gloves, a studio and a gun they purchased from the internet.

“Scratchers need to have their fingers cut off,” laughs Danielle, who has been professionally tattooing for over two years. “They have completely ruined the tattoo industry, leading people to believe that if they go to a cheaper alternative, it’ll be easier, but that’s not the case. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a case where someone has gone to a scratcher and gotten a good tattoo. I know this because I spend a lot of time covering them up.”

So with celebrities setting bad examples, scratchers and people losing sight of where is appropriate to begin your tattoo journey, it’s perfectly easy to sum up why it’s giving heavily tattooed people a bad name.

So how can we stop this? “There’s no way we can completely make it stop. People just need to realise that tattoos cost money,” Danielle explains. “Don’t go to scratchers, and work closely with your tattooist for a tattoo that’s best for you.”

ImageOne of Danielle’s famous pieces of Bane from Batman

If it’s just the one tattoo you’re after, then hopefully this article will still speak to you. Hopefully it will help you get your wrist tattoo pointing the right way (the bottom of your tattoo should always face the floor) or will inspire you to go to a studio, and not your friend who recently decided to open up a business from their kitchen.

As for me, I hope to continue my tattoo journey until a lot of my body is covered, but I won’t be touching my fingers or hands until I’m established in a career. Tattooing is a part of my life, it’s who I am, and if you tell me I’ll regret them when I’m older, I won’t. My skin will sag and wrinkle like everyone else’s, but my skin will at least be colourful and have pretty pictures on it.

ImageSome of the work on my body, by Beau Redman at Loaded Forty Four in Swinton

Find more posts by Leigh Morley here