Thursday, 10 September 2009

Blog switch

As I'm embarking on my Make Your Way Around Britain trip in just a couple of weeks time, I thought it might be sensible to start a blog dedicated to the trip itself. So I've decided to switch blogs from now until the end of October, as I doubt I'll have time to do both justice. SO PLEASE STAY WITH ME AND JOIN ME ON MY TRIP! I'll be making ends meet by "making stuff" rifling through markets, visiting charity shops, meeting makers and visiting quirky places and projects along the way. It's all going to be about Make Do And Mend - and you can just click HERE to see what I'm up to. Please come along for the ride!


Wednesday, 12 August 2009

Creature comforts

I know the world doesn't need more cat pictures - but the world gets given lots of things it doesn't need but can add to its overall level of happiness. This cat pops in sometimes from next door, and every time he does, it cheers me up. Hope he cheers you up today if you need it.

Friday, 7 August 2009

Make Your Way Around Britain

Ok - I'm getting itchy feet. It's time to hit the road Jack, and that's just what I plan to do in October, when I'm going to try and travel the length of the country by making stuff. Hats, bags, belts, lavender bags - I'm going to turn my hand to everything in order to literally make my way around the UK. The plan is to visit areas of the UK with a rich textile history or a quirky craft and then to try and create a series of objects linked to the area to actually sell - so it might be suspenders inspired by Nottingham's lace heritage or customised berets based on Luton's hating history. I'll be hoping to make some money each time I set up shop, to enable me to move onto the next place. I'll be concentrating on textiles, but if I find other intersting bits and bobs along the route I might incorporate those into my designs too, and I'm not ruling out baking a few biscuits either! The question is - how should I travel? Over the last few months, I've been checking out the options - campervans, cars, different prices, different countries, different looks. So now I'm putting it up for the vote. What do you think of this motor?

Saturday, 18 July 2009

Berlin fleamarket

You guessed it - another city another fleamarket....this one a mix of old and new, food and fun, a hippy, dippy, happening vibe that feels uniquely Berlin. I highly recommend it for chilling out and people watching. In terms of bargains, I bought a rose spattered tablecloth for 2 euros and after a spot of bartering, a little Eiffel Tower for another 2 euros. That's right - when in Germany, take home a bit of new European! There's great food on offer, from coconut milk served straight from the shell, to freshly-made Turkish spinach/cheese wraps and German beers, there are so many flavours to enjoy. Savour it all and mooch away the day. Musicians stroll up, tune up and draw the crowds. There are tightrope trippers and hippy collectives, pop-up picnics and dancing dandies. Check out Berlin's alternative artscene by reading this excellent article in The Guardian/Observer. Lots of options off the beaten track.


Wilkommen, Bienvenue, Welcome! Last weekend - The Mobile Millinery went abroad for the first time. Am stopped at airport security on the way to Germany as my box of buttons sets off the metal detector. I'm told to wait as my rucksack is unpacked. Feel like drugs smuggler, but in fact am only a bead mule. Am released from interrogation by really rather friendly lady who relaxes into a smile once she sees my stash. With the help of my fabulous facilitator and friend Katharina, who speaks maybe six languages fluently, we put on the event at The Bilderbuch Cafe in West Berlin - and it's a triumph! Ten interesting women, all of whom speak excellent English(unlike my non-existent German) join us for the afternoon - and I lose myself in another world for a while. A couple of my clients sport fabulous 40's hair-do's, another, a 40's style dress that she's sewn herself from a vintage pattern. They all love the retro techniques I show them for designing their own little headpieces, and the results are great. I thoroughly enjoy my Berlin millinery moment - and hope very much to come back soon. There's such an exciting feeling in this city. It's the sense of history, creativity and forward thinking that perhaps sets it apart. A bit like New York, there's a buzz in the air. It rubs off like the "shining from shook foil" as Gerard Manley-Hopkins would say.

Sunday, 28 June 2009

I beg your pardon....

On a beautiful summer's day there are few places I'd rather be than The Rose Garden in Greenwich Park, London. The names of the blooms alone are enough to inspire a thousand different poems, stories or pieces of music. The colours combined with the perfume make me want to twirl around and shout out loud! I breathe them all in and close my eyes. I really hope that beauty can sink into your Soul....I inhale and I make wishes. I often think about which of these roses I'd have in my Wedding Bouquet (yes, SHE who despises such tradition!). I'm amazed how it changes from visit to visit - will it be the vanilla white ICECREAM or the heady scent of ROSEMARY HARKNESS? Today Rosemary wins me over - a plethora of blossoms spilling over with pink, apricot and lemon yellow. I'd marry in an instant for that!

Wednesday, 17 June 2009


Haven't camped since girl guides - not a great experience. Soaking tents, grumpy teens, hard ground, and ants. However, for some reason I've recently been tempted into giving it another go. I found this fantastic Cath Kidston tent on Ebay for £40, and somehow the flowers persuaded me out to play! I realised pretty quickly though that I'm a fair weather camper- if I'd felt the slightest speck of an approaching shower I'd have done a runner! As it was, the sun shone all day - and that feeling of waking up, unzipping the door(?) and filling your lungs with fresh air is unbeatable. You do of course get roused from slumber pretty early when you're in the great outdoors...even my freebie Virgin eye-mask couldn't stop the dawn from prodding me in the back at a very unsociable hour. Ouch! But still it was worth it. Oh - and next time - I'll remember to bring a torch. Maybe camping without light isn't very sensible. Now my next big decision is whether to buy a potty; vintage china or practical plastic...which shall it be? Suggestions on a postcard please....

Saturday, 30 May 2009

The politics of clean clothes

You see, I don't have a washing machine, never have done. It's always seemed a bit eccentric to others, a bit odd. But that perception changed for me when I discovered that most New Yorkers don't have a washer either. Suddenly, I didn't feel so strange any more - overnight I joined the ranks of my cool cousins across the pond who visit the laundromat once a week to get a service wash. Their take-out attitude to dirty clothes seems a sensible one. It means more employment and less water wastage. You free-up space in your already cramped apartment leaving more room for the necessities of life like more shoes and hats. There's no dripping clothing cascading over your rusting radiators, and you have a smile on your face as you're not dealing with dreary damp undies. Join the club! Bring the laundromat back to London!

Mothers Day in New York

Puppy love from New York - kiss



 The Anthropologie store near the Rockerfeller centre in New York is just packed full of inspiration. Can't afford the clothes, but the interior and window displays are full of ideas you use in your home. Check out these flowers made of recycled plastic bottles, then sprayed different colours. Eco-chic!

The Diner

First morning in New York: blueberry pancakes, crispy bacon, a side of maple syrup and topped-up coffee. Heaven!

Sex and the City


I was contemplating going on the "Sex and the City" tour in New York, as I'm a massive fan of the show, but by the time my week in the Big Apple was nearly up, I realised I'd done most of it anyway! The brownstones where Carrie sits contemplating life, MePa where Samantha lives and loves in the shadow of the former meat packing warehouses, the cute and taste-tastic Magnolia Bakery - cupcake heaven, Bleecker Street and associated Marc Jacobs boutiques (disappointingly the great second-hand biography bookshop on the corner is apparantly being turned into YET ANOTHER MJ store -  think about it Marc - wouldn't it be a more exciting retail concept to keep the bookshop somehow?) So I didn't have to fork out $40 after all - and could tuck into another cupcake guilt free...Carrie would approve! 

The Beauty Bar

I have been a little remiss with my blog since returning from New York. Life is what happens when you should be busy writing about it! But I do want to share one of my New York finds. By the way, I LOVED New York. A real buzz in the air, a can-do attitude, a feeling that success is guaranteed if you work hard, entrepreneurship, creativity. Exploring the Lower East Side late one evening, lots of small shops and bars doing good business. One girl sewing at her counter, refashioning clothes, chatting and laughing with customers at 10pm. A cigar lounge with a circle of chaps in armchairs passing a pleasant hour in a fug of smoke. A
Victorian Gothic bar lit by candles, and open to the street packed with young lively customers discussing their day. Greek food, health food, Chinese food, French food - every option within a few paces. One place I especially liked was The Beauty Bar.
It's a converted 1950's Beauty Parlour, offering martini & manicure for $10. Just great fun and fantastic cocktails. I'd really suggest you go!

Wednesday, 15 April 2009

The £1 wardrobe


                                                    Dressed for £1

OK, I'm going to share a major fashion secret with you. I have spent no more than £1 on each item of clothing I've bought since the New Year. It's partly due to the fact that I'm broke, but more than that, it's down to a fantastic discovery I've made at Deptford Market, which is in my opinion, a fashionistas fantasy. There's a stall near the Catholic Church on the High Street, owned by a very friendly guy. Running past on my way to the post office one Saturday, I was sidetracked by his sign advertising dresses for £1. At first I thought they might be the usual cheap and cheerful frocks you sometimes find in these markets, imports of poor quality and uninteresting design. But these were different. I call them "granny dresses" - the sort of thing your Granny or indeed your Mum might have worn back in the '70's and '80's. Often high on polyester percentage, the fabric content fades into insignificance when you check-out the style, and the fit. All the dresses came from a warehouse in central London which closed down a few months back, and the stall holder bought the lot. Truckloads he informs me. He's desperate to get rid of them, and boy, am I even more desperate to take them off his hands. Hunt through the rails and you'll find clashing colours, vintage style and pots of possibility. A belt here, bright tights there, and you've got yourself a one-off. Each week there's something new. Mind the sizes - they're a bit hit and miss, but try on, or take a chance. At £1 you're not going to argue. I find that for me, a 12ish, the 38 seems to fit well. There's something about this old-fashioned cut that fits my figure perfectly. I'm told dealers are heading to Deptford and buying dozens of these frocks - then selling them on for a mark up of 900%!! Get down there. You heard it here first - the £1 wardrobe is a thing of beauty!

Tuesday, 24 March 2009

Swishing Success

Yippee! Forties fashion found its home at the Greenwich Frock Exchange on Saturday. Lots of hat-trying on, and swapping of redundant clothes for exciting new looks. Simple. Fun. Fab. x

Friday, 13 March 2009

Swish Swish

Come and join me at a retro-tastic SWISHING swap-party - Saturday 21st March at the Greenwich Community Centre - opposite Royal Teas on Royal Hill in Greenwich, London. Bring along three good outfits and a fiver, and you'll gain entry to Spring's hottest swap.  You can grab yourself some stylish new looks, get free tips on what to wear, and try on my latest hat designs. All this whilst checking out vintage goodies, feasting on cup-cakes and chatting with the girls. See clothes transformed by local lady, Inkeri.

It's like a grown-ups dressing up box. See you there I hope!

Tuesday, 24 February 2009

Beanie workshop success

We all had a great time at London's Fashion and Textile Museum on Valentine's day at my winter warmer beanie workshop. It was a really international crowd, with three women from Berlin and one from Barcelona. It's so good to be running a fashion workshop that's all about recycling - and that's what we were doing, creating pull-on woolly hats from old jumpers and then trimming them with all sorts of different things. Sabrina, who's invited me to do a workshop in beautiful Barcelona created this bohemian baby...isn't she a star? I'm hopefully holding a fascinator workshop at the museum in the Spring. E-mail me if you're interested. Just click on the website to find the address - it'd be great to see you there!

Sunday, 22 February 2009

The perfect skirt

Today I found it - the perfect skirt. I happened upon it as I was going somewhere else, thinking about other things, in a rush. I was doing a workshop, and had to go to the post office early, to pick up a couple of packages. In one of the parcels were cans of gold and silver spray. I knew I needed to collect them before driving off to conduct the workshop somewhere outside of London. So I got up early, and headed down to Deptford in South East London to collect my booty. Being a Saturday morning, the stall holders were setting up, and some were already in full swing as I made my way down the high street, hurrying so as to get back home in time to pack my car, to drive the road, to reach the place, to greet the girls to deliver the workshop that Jack built. I knew I mustn't be waylaid, as I invariably am as I go through markets, so I was unusually single-minded. UNTIL that is, I reached the Catholic church. Oustide, a notice caught my eye - dresses for £1. Now I don't know if you're anything like me, but at times like these, a price like that is not to be ignored. So I started rifling throuh the rails. That familiar excitement started inside - you know, that slight thrill when you just know you've chanced upon something special. The dresses were what I call "old-lady lovelies" - crimplene, nylon, man-made in gaudy seventies colours - in other words, the sort of frocks that I LOVE! Each came with its original tag - seemingly as good as new. "But how could this be?" I asked myself biblically. I chatted to the guy who owned the stall and he told me the story - how the stuff had all come from a big warehouse in London which had been owned by a company that had gone out of business. All the stock was from the seventies and eighties, and although a little grubby from having been neglected, had never been worn. What a goldmine! The guy bought the entire lot - seven or eight lorry-loads and was selling everything for £1 a piece at Deptford market. He didn't want any more cash than that he said, but the youngsters were buying the outfits ten at a time. I could see why - although the fabric might make you sweat and zings with static, the cut and colour is just perfect. I bought three dresses and a two piece suit, of which my skirt is the better half. It's a sort of brown and cream tweed crimplene and fits like a glove - skimming in the right places, and enhancing in others. I am in love, and yet it was a completely chance encounter. I have spent many months searching for the perfect skirt - in London, Paris and Rome. But in spite of looking determinedly in trendy markets, designer boutiques and second-hand stores, it's completely evaded me - until now. I wasn't looking and I didn't expect to find it, but in the end it happened so easily and was just what I needed. Is the perfect skirt a little like love?

Monday, 2 February 2009

Snowy scenes from London

The worst(or best - depending on your situation!)snow for nearly 20 years in London, and grown-ups and children alike were enjoying their surprise day off. Make-shift sledges were being constructed from anything and everything, flattened cardboard boxes, pieces of wood, tin trays, and(with great ingenuity) the backs of old office chairs! It was so nice to see smiling faces everywhere - there's something wonderful about seeing people having good old-fashioned fun together. No computer necessary. 

London's snowmen!

Saturday, 31 January 2009


You may not be a student of Middle English, but if you were, you might be familiar with the term "gimcrack". Formerly a noun, "gibecrake"
 denoted some kind of inlaid work in wood, later a fanciful notion or mechanical contrivance, hence a knickknack. Now the word has come to mean a cheap or showy object.  Why the language lesson? Well it's all because a new vintage shop called Gimcrack has opened in Deptford - and it's full of the quirky, quaint and kitsch. If you're looking for something unusual to make your place look personal, or you're after a great gift, this is the place to go. AND - the prices are good. The owners are set designers by trade, so they've got a great eye - it's the place Deptford's been missing. Pop in and see them! It's open on market days - Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday - 21 Tanners Hill.