Friday, 28 August 2015

Dorothee L'a Fait

"Even tiny objects can be interesting, sensual and rich," says Dorothee

I first got to know Dorothee when I worked as a reporter for the BBC in Brussels over ten years ago. Dorothee had a part-time job at an enticing little shop full of tastefully curated vintage finds and curios near the square in Ixelles where I lived.  One day I went in wearing a '50's dress handed down to me by my Aunt. The dress is gorgeous. Black and white, it has a little Peter Pan collar and is covered in writing (although interestingly none of the words make sense). Dorothee remarked on my outfit and just like that, we became friends. She was my only non-BBC acquaintance in Brussels, and as a costume designer and artist, her world fascinated me. Moreover, she was an inspirational and lovely person.

Dorothee grew up in a bohemian household in Paris. It was perfectly normal for her parents to hold colour-themed soirees and even dinners were cooked according to shade and tone. It's hardly surprising then that colour is Dorothee's passion. One of her recent projects has been to create a series of silk flower corsages all hand dyed and sewn. The flowers are completely unique and many have been made with a specific person in mind using colours that complement them. Each flower is numbered and named after the person who owns it. You can see my beautiful specimen here below.

Here you can see some of the pretty headpieces from Dorothee's new collection. She has become fascinated by millinery and her hats are a wonderful showcase for the handmade flowers she loves to create. 

Dorothee's atelier is full of intriguing objects. Her training in costume design means she has a keen eye for unusual detail and I just love the way she groups things together. A visit to her flat is such a treat - a feast for all the senses!

Dorothee's latest collection features beautiful bridal pieces. Delicate and fragile in appearance each one is made carefully by hand and they seem somehow to spread a little magic.  I love the way that Dorothee sees her work. "Hats can transform a person and reveal hidden things about them," she says. I couldn't agree more!

Beautiful single flowers below made for a special day - each one formed by hand.

Find out more about Dorothee's work by looking at her website - just click on the link.

La Frenesie - Brussels

I've written about this fabulous shop in Brussels before but I want to plug it again as it's really worth singing and dancing about. You'll find La Frenesie in the Marolles district of Brussels on the site of the Jeu de Balles fleamarket. The owner Caroline Moreau is a florist and you'll find a beautiful selection of blooms on offer. However, she also has a great eye for interiors and her shop is full of gorgeous vintage finds all grouped in interesting arrangements which really spark the imagination. Hankie pelments, doilie curtains, vintage plastic table and picnic-ware, quirky crockery - you'll find them all here. It's my shopping tip for the weekend. Search this place out. You'll love it!

Friday, 21 August 2015

A visit to Legeron - Paris

Whilst studying millinery professionally some 12 years ago now, I visited Paris and the house of Legeron which is renowned for its handmade flowers. The atelier first opened in 1727 and was taken over by the current owner's Great Grandfather in 1880. The business has remained in the same family ever since. Bruce Legeron (pictured above) is now at the  artistic helm of the business.  Famous couture houses such as Dior, Givenchy, and Dries Van Noten adorn their collections with the gorgeous blooms created here.

I had such vivid memories of my first visit to Legeron that I was determined to go there again during my Mobile Makery tour and what's more, this time, I wanted to see behind-the-scenes. I had another special reason for learning more as my Belgian friend Dorothée had recently acquired an incredible flower-making press and all the accompanying tools from a milliner in Brussels who'd sadly decided to sell up. Dorothée wanted to find out as much as she could about the art and craft of couture flower-making, and so we decided to go to Legeron together.

The atelier itself occupies two floors of an incredibly romantic old building. Go up the wooden stairs which smell of melted wax and ring the bell. You're led into a room full of hand-made flowers tucked away inside dozens of small drawers lining the walls. The flowers are created from every conceivable material - cotton, silk, plastic, rubber, leather - and come in every shade of every colour. Dorothée and I had made an appointment so that we could meet the famous Monsieur Legeron ourselves but to our disappointment he wasn't there. Our 'behind-the-scenes' visit was looking unlikely until the company's website designer (the son of one of the women who make the flowers!) gallantly stepped into the breach and offered to show us around. 

First we saw fabric stretched out on wooden frames ready to be stiffened with (mostly) gelatine. Then we were shown how the petals are stamped out (there are hundreds of different shapes) ready to be individually dyed.

It's Mr Legeron himself who hand-dyes the petals. His tiny workshop is at the heart of the atelier and it has more than a touch of magic about it. Tints of different shades are created and then painted onto each petal. As you can see from the picture below, every flower has a unique top-secret 'recipe' to determine its finished appearance. Shhh.......don't tell a soul! The petals are left to dry slowly overnight.

Next, the petals go to the workroom where a small expert team assembles each flower using a variety of heated metal tools to coax the flat forms into life. It takes about 10 years to become fully apprenticed. The longest-serving member of staff has been at Legeron for 40 years. In a world where skill has been replaced by speed it's a reminder that true quality doesn't come cheap.

Leather 'fabric' adorned with 3D flowers.

My friend Dorothée proudly modelling a Legeron silk bloom.

Already entranced by our mini tour of Legeron, Dorothée and I were in for another treat. Our guide went and rummaged around in a back room and came back with a large ledger. Inside were original sketches for hats dating back to the 1950's detailing the trims with which they were to be adorned. Take a peek for yourselves here below!

It's enough to get a girl hatting again!

Sunday, 9 August 2015

Mary Jane's Mobile Makery - How to Make: EASY PEASY Vintage Pillowcase Top

Whilst in France I've bought dozens of vintage 1960's pillowcases in bight bold florals.  Many of them are the old bolster-style pillowcases which people don't use any more. These tend to be open at both ends and just simply hemmed.  They cost as little as 50p each, and are lovely and soft after being used such a lot. 

In this little tutorial I show you how to make a very easy top from one of these pillowcases creating your own pattern first from newspaper. Don't worry - you don't need to be an expert pattern draughtsman or woman - it's really easy! My cunning time-saving tip is that if you position the pattern at the top and bottom of the pillowcase, you won't have to bother hemming your top as the hem on the pillowcase is already there for you to use. Hey Presto, no tricky hemming! This pattern will work for a size 10 - 14 (UK) - it'll be loose and breezy on the 10 and a little more fitted on a 14. For your info: I'm a 14 so you can see how it looks on me. If you need another size you'll have to adjust the pattern a little.  

Hope you like it! Please send me pics when you make yours! If you don't have a vintage French pillowcase to hand (and why should you!) you can just use fabric of course. Recycled is best! GOOD LUCK!

Mary Jane's Mobile Makery - How to Make: Vintage Pillowcase Top Trailer!

Coming Soon! How to make a fabulous vintage top from a recycled French pillowcase thrifted on my travels!

Mary Jane's Mobile Makery - How to Make: Vintage Paper Decorations

I've been asked alot recently for some 'how to' tutorials and so I've been giving it a go! Using a couple of apps on my i-phone I've been having great fun putting something together. It's hard to make how-to videos stylish in my opinion as well as informative. So this is my first attempt! Not quite there yet, but I hope you enjoy this. It's all filmed in my Mobile Makery, my fabulous little craft studio on wheels with which I've been travelling around France and Italy.

Introducing Mary Jane's Mobile Makery Tutorials: How to Make: Vintage Paper Decorations!

Bargain Hunting MJ-style in France

Check out this little video to see what great vintage bargains are to be had in France!