Sunday, 20 March 2016

A special millinery make for Easter & a workshop!

It's time I gave you something pretty to make - just in time for Easter. And no, I'm not talking about an Easter bonnet....they're sooooo two centuries ago! Instead I give you the Spring flower hairpin which you can create in abundance and scatter through your hair however you choose. These flowers are crafted using a vintage technique that I discovered when I purchased a 1930's satin nightdress-case a few years back. The flowers had been worked in pale pink ribbon, but I prefer something more vivid and real looking, so this is my modern take on the technique. I hope you like it. Please share your pics on my Chic on a Shoestring Book Facebook page. I'd love to see the flowers you come up with.

You'll need. Cotton organdie fabric (I get mine from The Cloth House on Berwick Street in London) - 25cm will make lots of flowers. Scissors, needle and thread, felt-tip pins, hairpins, a scrap of felt, and a gluegun. A small paintbrush and some water.

Cut your organdie into strips around 40cm long and 5cm wide. Then fold in half along the length. Use the felt-tip pens to add colour along once side and blend using some water and the paintbrush. Allow to dry.

Use a double thread with a knot on the end and stitch as shown along the raw edge for about 6/7cm then gather up the thread to make a petal. Repeat the process to make a second petal.

Continue all the way along the strip until you have made several petals just like the strip below. Don't worry about it curling up. It will naturally do that.

Arrange the petals in a circle as shown stitching through the centre to hold in place.

Make a little loop of thread and form into a figure of eight as shown.

Stitch into the centre of your flower and chop through the ends of the two loops. This creates stamens. You can scrunch the flower in your hand to give it more of a textured finish. The organdie will hold the shape well.

Use the glue gun to stick each flower to a hairpin and cover with a tiny circle of felt on the back.

Pop in your hair and celebrate the Spring! 

If you'd like to learn lots more about this method and create a unique floral millinery headpiece using other vintage techniques, then sign up for my workshop taking place on Saturday 2nd April at my friends' beautiful Scottish wildflower farm - Scotia Seeds in Farnell (near Montrose in Angus). It costs £55 for the day all in, and there will be homemade soup for lunch and endless tea and coffee! 

For further details please email me: - it would be lovely to see you there. 


Wednesday, 16 March 2016

Upsize a leather skirt the MJ way!

Whilst visiting Edinburgh this weekend I picked up a great bargain from one of my favourite vintage shops -  Armstrongs in the Grassmarket. I purchased a red leather thrifted skirt. It cost me just £10.

There was just one problem.
It didn't fit!
Two choices: alter it or diet.
I say NO to diets!

Well, the skirt fitted well on the hips, but the waist was tiny. I just couldn't do it up. It had also obviously been worn by someone a little bigger beforehand, as the waistband was warped. However, it was such a good bargain, I felt I just had to buy it and give it a go. I considered taking it to be altered as it was leather and I wasn't sure I could manage the job myself, and then I thought: 'come on MJ - call yourself a make-do-and-mender? What are you doing? You should absolutely do this job yourself. It's not as if you're run off your feet at the moment - and besides, an alteration will cost twice as much as the skirt itself!'

It didn't look an easy job. As well as having a fair few seams, the skirt was lined and had a fitted waistband with a button. I measured my waist and the skirt waistband. Ahem. There was a good 3.5 inches difference. There was no way I would find enough leather at the bottom of the skirt to add to the waistband, and besides, with the number of seams, and the zip, it would be far too complicated.

And so...I decided to remove the waistband altogether, and see if there was some way of expanding the waist without it. I used a stitch unpicker, and in fact, it came away really easily.

I realised that without the waistband, the leather was actually quite stretchy, held firmly by the lining. I decided to undo the lining from the top of the skirt, trim it down slightly, fold over the top edge and tack it down. Then I would be able to slip the tacked lining back underneath the leather edge of the skirt, turn the leather back on itself by half an inch and hopefully stitch it all down again whilst skimming the top of the zip. That would certainly make the waistband bigger, but would it be enough? It's not easy to pin leather but I had a go, and by doing so was able to try the skirt on. And it seemed to fit pretty well.

Using a leather needle on the sewing machine and by taking it very slowly, I managed to stitch around the top edge fairly neatly. The leather stuck a bit to the plate beneath the machine needle so I had to guide it through carefully, especially over the bulky seams.

I then added a hook and eye at the top of the zip to stop it from coming undone.

Here you can see the inside. It's not perhaps a couture finish, but dear reader, it works!

Here you can see just how much bigger the skirt is now.

And by George - it fits pretty well!

Tah dah! Fitted leather skirt £10. Leather needles £1.20. Hook and eye around 10p. Total cost £11.30. Plus I feel really pleased that I managed to do it myself. Satisfaction guaranteed.