Let Them Wear Hats!


cropped ship hat copy

Last weekend I attended a workshop at my home away from home – the V&A.  Intended to celebrate the opening of the new European Galleries (which incidentally I thought were beautiful!), the one day workshop started with Marie Antoinette as fashion inspiration but quickly spiraled off into pure, over the top, puffball fun!


The workshop was led by the founder of Pearls and Swine Millinery, Bink (check out her work here), and we were each given a sinamay teardrop shaped base with a large sailing ship cheerfully glued onto it.  From there we were free to choose from a large array of flowers, rubber cakes, birds, feathers, fluffballs, and other wacky pieces.  With Bink there to guide and advise on placement, balance, and colour combinations, everyone in the workshop turned out a truly unique piece of headgear.  Bink has a lovely, warm energy and was very generous in sharing what she has learned over the years of creating incredible hats.


The other participants on the workshop were also really friendly and willing to talk about other people’s ideas, offering gems of wisdom from their own experience.  One lady started millinery 15 years ago, and is now 75!  She created a beautiful hat, and said she was there to push her boundaries as a hat maker, and try something new.  How inspiring – I hope I am still pushing myself artistically at 75!

Some of the top tips I picked up?

Invisible thread is your friend!  Although it is very hard to use single strand, so use a double thread.  This helps to prevent the thread constantly slipping out of the eye of the needle.  Sadly it doesn’t prevent your thread getting caught up in your ship’s rigging!




We stitched a row of fake leaves all around the edge of the hat base, which gave a lovely finish to the hat.  Although you don’t see the leaves really, what they do is prevent you seeing the ugly sinamay edge, without having to balance elements precariously on the edge of your hat.








Stitch fake flowers together first, then stitch them to the hat.  Creating bunches of elements off the hat is easier than trying to stitch individual elements.





To wear a large hat without it ending up on the dance floor, twist some of your hair into a small clip and anchor the hat comb into the tied back hair.  This gives more stability than pushing the comb into loose hair.

I would say the ONLY part of this workshop that I didn’t like was at the end when we went to have our pictures taken in the new gallery.  If I was wearing a ship as part of a fabulous outfit I would go anywhere, but walking for 10 minutes through a crowded museum in blue jeans with a ship and a load of flowers on my head was rather embarrassing!


The new European galleries themselves are beautiful!  I particularly like the way elements of fashion, home decor, art and everyday objects are placed together in the displays.  It gives me a real sense of the feel of the period, as opposed to seeing clothing in one location, furniture in another etc.



Pearls and Swine are planning to offer additional workshops like this, and not just in the capital so be sure to keep an eye on their FB page for more details.  It is certainly a must do!


New Knitting Course Starting Soon

I cannot believe how the summer is flying by!  I have had a lovely time recently showing my nephews around London, and experiencing being a tourist in my own town.  I also found unexpected inspiration in the Harry Potter studio tour, and I must admit there will likely be some interesting collars, sleeves and embellishments cropping up in my autumn sewing.

As thoughts turn to autumn – my favourite fashion season – I also get the urge to pick up my knitting needles again.  If you have always wanted to learn to knit, why not come along to my next course at 57 Arts in Lewisham?

On 9th of September I will be starting another Knitting for Beginners course.   Over four weeks participants will learn to cast-on, knit, purl, cable, increase, decrease, and cast-off – basically everything you need to get knitting those cosy winter scarves we all love.

We will also cover how to read a knitting pattern, and how to decipher the label on a ball of yarn.

Classes run on Wednesday evenings from 7-9pm, from 9th September to 30th September. The course costs £90 for all four classes and includes all materials and equipment.

For more information or to sign up visit 57 Arts website. I hope to see you there!  Enjoy the rest of the summer!


Sequins and Wool

Well the weather in London has really become quite spring-like, so this new coat will have to wait until next autumn to be worn.  However, it has been a labour of love, and I am very pleased with how it turned out.Coat on background

I saw this coat first in the 12/14 issue of Burda Style, and I just loved it.  You know that feeling when you just HAVE to make something?  What I particularly loved was the large collar, the curved front edge and the fabric.  I decided that something which was going to take so much work needed to have the right fabric.  I sourced the wool fleece from Germany and a company called Alfatex.  This place is actually really helpful if you are a fan of Burda.  Since Burda sources many of their fabrics from here, the website shows the styles from the latest issue of the magazine and makes it really easy to find what you are looking for.  The shipping costs were really reasonable and my fabric arrived very quickly!  The sequinned tulle is from Schwarzschild Ochs, which is based here in London.  This is another company where I had a great customer service experience and I will definitely buy from them again!

So – the coat itself.  It is a three quarter length winter coat, made from a wool fleece overlaid with a seplacing sequinsquinned tulle.   The first step after cutting out was to lay the tulle across the wool front.  It is then hand stitched into place along the sequin pattern outline, and the tulle cut away.  This is where I made my first mistake!  The pattern says you should stitch along the pattern line all the way along, while I allowed the tulle to go into the side seam, under the armhole.  However, I decided that it looked fine, in fact I kind of liked it that way so I let it stay.

I am not a big fan of fusible interfacing, so instead I used a firm sew-in interfacing.  I find that fusible tends to lose it’s sticking power quickly and can make the fabric bubble after time as it comes away.  I interfaced the collar with a lighter weight to keep the roll of the collar soft.

The original pattern called for patch pockets, but when I pinned them into place on the coat I really didn’t like the way it looked.  They just really pulled focus away from the line of the coat, and so I decided to leave them out.

I lined it in a lovely gold colour, which you really only see when it is open as the facing on the front is so deep.  The lining has a pleat in the centre back to allow for movement, very important in a garment like this.coat close up

I finished the coat with vintage buttons from my great aunt’s sewing stash.  They are fabric buttons covered in gold beading, and I think they work well with the sequin on the coat.

When I looked at the coat at the end and compared it to the image in the magazine, I wondered if I had put the collar on backwards.  Then I compared it to the tech drawing and thought – no, it’s right.  I am still not sure!  What do you think?

tech drawing in magCoat on background

I also think that if I ever made this again, I would put a deep cuff on the sleeve.  Somehow I am not sure about the balance on the sleeve to the rest of the coat.

All in all though I am very happy with this – I made it mostly to see if I could, and so even though I do see the mistakes, I think overall it turned out well!  Now I think I might stick to some pretty, light summer dresses for awhile!


London Dressmaker’s Club

This week I was invited to contribute to the blog for the London Dressmaker’s Club.
This is a great group that I connected with through Meetup.com, and I am really enjoying being part of it!

In my post, I talk about going to Fashion on the Ration at the Imperial War Museum, and creating the replica 1940’s dress below.

You can see my guest blog contribution here:

1943 vintage pattern
1943 vintage pattern

Hope everyone is enjoying the spring sunshine!