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!


Heritage Knitwear and Vintage Hunting in Edinburgh

greyfriarsI am writing this as I whizz along in the train back to London after visiting Edinburgh for the first time. I have wanted to visit for ages and finally got the opportunity as my other half was working there. And it didn’t disappoint! I loved the city – such a fantastic mix of architecture, stunning natural phenomena such as Arthur’s Seat, beautiful parks, and some great street style.

I arrived late Friday night and the first thing I did Saturday morning was head to the National Museum of Scotland to see the exhibition on 200 years of Pringle. The exhibition was small but lovely, and charts the brand’s journey from premier underwear provider to Royal Warrant holders for twinsets and cardies! Not to mention some stunning photographs of Tilda Swinton.

drying rackIt was interesting to see the old wool onesies, and the drying rack they were stretched on during manufacture, and there were lots of bloomers and camisoles which look like the ones I unearthed in an elderly relatives house last year. I will have to get home and check the labels but my suspicion is they are more likely to be Marks and Sparks than vintage Pringle.

The knitwear – favourite pieces were a cardigan from the forties, embellished with cleverly placed twill tape, another one in pink with a pretty bow, a patterned mini dress from the sixties, and a cool cable knit sweater made recently with incorporates long nylon beads as panels within the traditional cable pattern.

twill tapepink beads

Then I set out to explore the city.  For vintage lovers Grassmarket is the place to go. I went to Armstrong’s Vintage Emporium which is apparently a local landmark having been established in 1840. I had read some mixed reviews about the shop, with some reviewers complaining about Primark clothing getting mixed in with the vintage. Well – I must admit I did find some Primark pieces along with some Top Shop and Zara, but they were all hung on a rail clearly marked ‘Modern Dresses’ . The vintage rails we just that – vintage – and I did see some very nice pieces. In the end I didn’t buy, but I would recommend a visit as the stocked was well organised and for the most part in fairly good nick.

Another lovely little shop, where I did buy, is the relatively new Pi-Ku Collective at 39 Candlemakers Row. It is a small but perfectly formed shop with a lovely collection of vintage clothing and blankets. I bought a beautiful pale blue silk bed jacket trimmed in off-white lace, and a cool sewing booklet on fitting from the 1960’s.

rooftopsFor the most part though, my favourite part of the weekend was just wandering the streets and soaking up the atmosphere. I have never been to a city where the natural environment is so integrated into an urban setting. The city has really been built into the natural formation of the land rather than imposing on it and the end result is a feeling of peacefulness. I will be back!


Easter weekend in Brighton


Easter at the seaside!  Rain, clouds, chilly winds, and hanging at the arcade on the pier! The photo above was actually taken last time I went – the weather didn’t even allow for a decent shot this time.

Still I love Brighton – always have since my first trip there age 10.  Then it was all about playing games on the pier, running on the beach, and eating candy floss.  Well to be honest – it is mostly about that now!  However, I have since found so much more to love here, and I find new spots every time I go.

A vintage lover’s dream – Brighton is chock full of retro boutiques, and lovely shops selling vintage inspired pieces.  But there are some traps to avoid as well.

This trip I found a new gem I hadn’t been to before.  The Brighton Flea Market is on Upper St James’ street over in an area called Kemptown.  I LOVED it, two floors of individual sellers’ stalls overflowing with treats and goodies from times gone by.  I got a fabulous vintage enamel teapot, which is absolutely huge and I have been looking for one every since I saw an example in the Pre Fab museum in Catford.  The teapot dates to the 1940’s and at some point has been painted with W.I. on it, no doubt it was used for copious cups of tea at local meetings.  I also got three Enid Blyton Adventure books, a real throw back to my childhood.

Another gem is Pretty Eccentric – basically this feels like someone took all the things I love and put them into one perfectly formed shop.  The merchandise is new, not vintage, but everything is inspired by the ’20s, ’30s and 40’s, including delectable lace dresses, beautiful little hats and headpieces, and decadent jewels.  I totally splurged and bought a stunning green lace 30’s style dress.

Check out their collections here:

www.prettyeccentric.co.uk  (I bought the Jasmine dress!)

I have spent many happy hours in Snoopers Paradise in the North Laine.  It was hard to walk away this time without a mid-century table, but I managed it.  I ventured upstairs this trip and found a wonderful spread of vintage, and re-made pieces by local artists and makers.  Loved the tin lamps!

IMO – best breakfast in Brighton – The New Cafe on the seafront.  Try the hash and eggs, or the smashed avocado on sourdough – seriously.

So where to skip?  Well – I might upset some people here, but I don’t love Beyond Retro these days.  I have found a few gems in the past, but I find their stock at the moment to be much too focused on the 1980’s which just isn’t my thing having lived through it the first time.  Also the prices seem to have risen substantially in the last few years, and I just don’t see the value there.  Especially when everything I found that was pre-1970 was stained in some way.  Disappointing.

Also – I read some reviews saying the lounge at the Hilton Metropole was very good – well yes, if you like your £12 cocktail accompanied by terrible service, and Ultimate Fighting on the bar television.  Not really my scene.

Ok – over to you – who else can share a Brighton gem?  Where do you go when you hit the seaside?