Saturday, 28 November 2009

How do you tie your turban?

Some vintage beauties - and my attempt at a Make Do And Mend version....any ideas? Answers on an e-postcard please!

Out of season fairgrounds

There's something peculiarly sad about out-of-season fairgrounds. Be it Coney Island or the British seaside. The garish colours on gloomy days are instilled with memories of tinny roundabout music, children's laughter and ice-cream cones. There's a haunted quality about the still mechanisms and abandoned fun. You wish summer hadn't faded away, and your childhood hadn't been left behind long ago.

Inspiration peering through a window

I didn't realise until my recent trip to St Leonards and Hastings that Deborah Bowness, the wallpaper designer, is based there. I passed a non-descript looking building on the wet and windy seafront and happened to look in the window. I immediately felt my spirits lift as I saw what was inside. I'd unwittingly stumbled on Deborah's studio. She wasn't there, so the lights weren't on. But inside were objects currently inspiring her work, sections of her wallpaper, and simple but stimulating collections of objects. Thanks to Deborah for reminding me that the spark can strike at any moment and add a sparkle to the gloom. Here are some of the things I glimpsed through the glass that murky day. Beauty in the shadows.

More Hastings


Where to go when Melancholy takes hold? Hastings pier on a wild wet November afternoon.

Thursday, 19 November 2009

Fabulous forties flowers

It's so windy outside. My heart was in my mouth as the little cat who comes to see me nearly blew off my balcony. I'm calming myself with a craft project which I'd like to share with you. It's so simple - yet - you've got it - so effective!! These flowers make a wonderful corsage, or a trim for a hat. You’ll just need fabric, a needle and thread, a little bit of felt and a brooch back. Cut yourself two circular templates. Mine were 11cm and 9cm across. For a basic flower, cut out three fabric circles in each size. Fold each circle in half and do a running stitch along the curved edge (the stitch goes through two layers of fabric). Pull up and secure. You’ve made a petal! Now do the same with the other circles. Sew the three large petals onto a little circle of felt. Then arrange the three smaller petals on top - placing each in a gap. Sew these down, You can then put a button or bead in the middle. Sew on a brooch back, or make seveal and stick onto a fascinator base. Experiment with different fabrics - they’ll each give a different effect. I’ve used two separate layers of fabric for each petal in this picture, an old T-shirt and some net. V stylish!

Tuesday, 17 November 2009

Hat Workshop

If anyone fancies joining me to make a little hat - then I'm doing a workshop at The Fashion and Textile Museum in London this Saturday(21st Nov). We're going to make little headpieces, and I'll also chat about Make Do And Mend headwear - ie: how you can block a little hat from stuff you find at home! It should be fun, and it would be lovely to meet you.

As for inspiration - take a look at this little beauty that I spied in Brick Lane on Sunday. Not cheap - it's a genuine 40's hat - but isn't it simply stunning? I think it was probably made by someone at home. You see what you can achieve with some practice? I'm definitely going to use this as inspiration for my next collection.

Wednesday, 11 November 2009

Sewing again

Of course, returning home doesn't mean I've stopped making my way around my eye is attuned to Make Do possibilities, I'm seeing them everywhere! At the weekend, I was back where I started - in Greenwich Market, and I spotted Karin purchasing this dressmakers dummy. What a bargain! She managed to get it for £16 - bartering down from £30. Karin said that she used to sew - and like many other people is taking it up again. What's she's really interested in doing is getting all those fabulous vintage finds to fit properly. You know what it's like - they dont' QUITE look right - even though the fabric and essential style is what we're after. Karin hopes this will enable her to get over that particular problem. Good luck Karin!

Saturday, 7 November 2009

It's the perfect season for mushrooming

Autumn - season of mists and mellow fruitfulness - the perfect time to go foraging for mushrooms. Look at this stunning specimen...known I believe as the "Greater Darner". The cup boasts a diameter of 15cm and the rather woody flesh has a wide variety of uses. Myself - I'm planning to use it to block a hat! Unearthed in a Greenwich junk shop today for £3(what a bargain!) - it reminded me of my time spent learning basic mending skills with Sybil in Bury St Edmunds. This find I will really treasure.

Yes I have...

....caught the knitting bug that is! Thanks to Marieke and her fantastically simple pattern, which I posted in an earlier blog entry, I have now made my own fab woolly hat - not only completed it - but finished it in the space of two days! I really am pleasantly surprised, as my experience of knitting in the past has been like one of those relationships that drags on even though it should end - you really want to finish it, but you just can't. This was a very different experience though. Using number 9 needles and two balls of wool at once really means this hat grows quickly, and it's much more interesting than making a scarf. It was rather big, but a little elastic around the bottom means it fits much better, and I topped it off with a little fur pom-pom from an old belt. I am a convert. I would never have taken up knitting if it wasn't for my Make Your Way Around Britain trip - the people I met were really inspiring. And yes, the kick I get out of saying "I made it myself" is immense. Total cost £8.98 including needles. By the way, is there any other wool I can substitute for the mohair that the pattern uses? It looks lovely, but is just a little itchy. I don't really know the "rules" about substituting one wool for another. Any advice would be much appreciated.

Friday, 6 November 2009


OK- you'll probably have gathered from my month's adventures that I live on a pretty tight budget. Make do and mend is nothing new for me, although I have ideas way beyond my purse. But I want to tell you about two tips for living the high life on a low income in the capital. Today I really wanted to go to a spa. Having been on the road for 4 weeks, I felt I could do with a bit of relaxation and pampering. But of course, the bank account couldn't take it. So instead, I went to one of my favourite London haunts - Ironmonger row baths near Old Street tube. The baths were built as a public washroom - and now they house a Turkish bath, a laundry and a swimming pool. I've tried the pool before, and it's fine - big with lots of lanes. But today my destination was the Turkish baths. For £13 you get to spend as long as you like trailing between the steam room, cold plunge pool and three rooms of varying shades of hot. You can hire a towel for an extra £5 (refundable on return) which means you don't have to traipse around town afterwards with something dank and damp in your bag. It's a bit rough and ready down there - there's no piped music, glasses of champagne or fluffy gowns, but I like it. There's a real camaraderie and on ladies-only days you don't even have to bother with your swimming costume. After relaxing in the water and heat treatments you can lounge around on a variety of odd looking beds, so I was able to get on with my knitting! I also treated myself to a salt scrub - which at £12 was busting my budget a bit - but compared to a spa - it was really good value. A sort of massage plus booking just ask on arrival and you're fitted in. After all that doing nothing I was feeling a bit peckish and headed to the Japan Centre near Piccadilly Circus. It's really the best value and best tasting sushi in London. BUT - imagine how thrilled I was to find that just before closing(at 9pm) they knock a whopping amount off everything. I bought my six California rolls for 65p instead of £2.60!!! All the rest of the fresh sushi was similarly reduced. So my advice is get down there after a film or a drink and stock up. It tastes all the better for being such a bargain! I'll race you.....!

Thursday, 5 November 2009

Have I caught the knitting bug?

Having spent a month Making My Way Around Britain - I'm really eager to learn new things. SOOO...this afternoon I went out and bought some mohair wool and some large knitting needles. Now, I did try knitting at the beginning of my travels, and I'm proud to report that I've done about 30 rows. Ok - to you it may be nothing - but to me - it's a reasonable start! However, I felt frustrated that I wasn't making anything particular - so after an on-line search, I found a great knitted hat (of course!) at this excellent site - treats and treasures. I recommend it - lovely SIMPLE knitting ideas - but a whole lot more besides. I've included Marieke's picture here, in her lovely design. I agree with what she's saying too - cosiness, warm baths, hot choc and childrens' books...perfect for Autumn and so comforting. The essence of home.

22 October 2006

Lately I am very much into cozy warm things like children’s books, hot chocolate, warm baths… and chunky knitwear.

It's true!

In spite of being half Scottish, and spending lots of time up North, I always thought it was a myth. But I was wrong!

Edinburgh Skies

Edinburgh was recently voted the UK's most popular city AGAIN by The Guardian - and you can see why. It's small enough to be able to walk everywhere, the coffee shop culture is alive and well, it's traditional but its student population ensures that the quirky and creative retain a healthy influence, and it's near to beautiful countryside. It also has stunning skies. Whilst staying at The Claremont Hotel(where regular readers will remember I managed to barter a room for a hat!) the owner Alexander took me up onto the roof (five stories high) to see the incredible view. It was a 360 degree vista. Inching up on the ladder was a little scary - but well worth it. The Edinburgh-based writer Ian Rankin says that Scotland's capital is both intensely private and very public. I know what he means. Perhaps that partnership of private and public is also the basis of a healthy relationship and a balanced life.

Tuesday, 3 November 2009

Newsnight latest

Take a look at my latest piece for BBC Newnsight - just click here - I'm coming to the end of this trip and I need to know what you think? Is Make Do And Mend just a trend?