This weekend I’m working with The fashion souk at The Good Life Festival, My workshop is billed as customising clothes, hand sewing & learning how to make a 1 hour wrap skirt so I thought I’d better have a go!


working out the size; measure your waist and add half again (30 inches plus 15 = 45) Then multiply the waistline by 30% (45 x 0.3 = 13.5) round it off to 14 inches.

To work out the hem multiply by 40% (45 inches x 0.4 = 18 inches). Then decide how long you want your skirt, I went for 24 inches.

pattern 2 You end up drawing (with a ruler!) a shape 14 inches across the top, 24 inches down the sides and 18 inches along the bottom.

pattern 3 You then cut this shape out of paper and lay it on top of your fabric (I used old curtains) You need to cut three identical shapes.


Next stage is to sew the side seams, make sure you put the wrong sides together!



You then want to iron the seams back and front to make them nice and flat.


Next you’ve got to sew the hem edges on either end of the skirt. To do this iron quarter of an inch and then another half inch over again and sew. You need to create your waist band next, to do this fold over quarter of an inch and them a good inch and sew.


At this point you need to make a little hole for your ribbon to pass through at the inner edge of the first panel. You can do this by creating a button hole using your machine.

You then sew the ribbons on at either end. Finish off your bottom hem and Bob’s your uncle!



I know my instructions aren’t great, I’m better at verbal and demo than I am at writing instructions down so come along to the Good Life Festival at Oxford Island this weekend (25th April) it’s free, there will be lots to do for all the family and I can help you make a wrap skirt patter, way hey!!

I had the privilege of providing a vintage afternoon tea party and cocktail making class for a gorgeous bunch of girls in this Saturday on the North Coast of Ireland.

The tea party took place in a beautiful farmhouse at Mc Shane Glen holiday cottages, the view from the conservatory where we held the party was stunning, a panoramic spread of lush green fields and sparkling sea. 

We had our usual cake table laid out with hand printed signage and lovely glass cake platforms, I used the Yashica Box camera and a smattering of  vintage French postcards as props to add to the vintage look.

Bunting  transformed the room.

Home made three tier cake stands piled high with delicious treats (also home made – of course)

Luggage labels used as decoration made the event more personal.

Small bunches of flowers in milk jugs made the tables look pretty without taking up too much room.

A cocktail making workshop after the tea party was a fun finish.

All photography by the wonderful Elaine Jones.

Tea party and Cocktail making by

Location: Mc Shane Glen Cottages, Ballintoy, Northern Ireland:


The French have a wonderful habit of not throwing things out, instead they hang on to their junk and then eventually sell it on at ‘Vide Greniers’ (directly translated this means attic emptying). You will find Vide Greniers all over France in both cities and tiny country villages. They are usually on Saturdays, Sundays and bank holidays from March to September but also less frequently in the winter months too. Often they are only advertised with photocopies flyers distributed locally. As with any flea market type affair, it’s advisable to get there early to see the best of what’s on offer and also avoid the heat. At village Vide Greniers the local school committee will often sell tantalisingly tasty food to raise money, this in itself is often worth turning up for!

These photos show a selection of objects I have found over the past few years.


Enamel canisters are super easy to find in France, this little set have the most beautiful lettering, that’s the bit we fell in love with.

We didn’t set out to purchase a hand painted silk fan, one of our children broke it  and we were forced to purchase it, funny enough I quite like it now. The telling off was significant, not just from us but also from the French lady who owned the stall, quite a traumatic experience which I don’t think our son, Jonah will forget in a hurry!


This is Matilda, I got her for 20 euros which is an absolute steal if you’re into dead deer heads. She has a bit of a moth eaten ear so you’ve got to treat her gently. Our kids like dressing her up!


This very odd photograph was bought by my husband who likes to purchase strange things, it was taken by a doctor in the early part of the century, apparently he was doing some kind of research, the photos were all of men stripped from the waist up,  holding weights.


I found this little oil painting last summer, it is probably a painting of the Mediterranean coast. I love the fact that it’s all battered around the edges. I like to think of the person who painted it, perched high up on the hill overlooking the sea and enjoying the sounds and smells of a warm summer’s day. I think it cost me eight or ten euros, I can’t believe I deliberated over it!


This is one of many battered vintage tins which I can’t seem to keep my hands off, I probably found this one at the bottom of a box full of junk. Often at Vide Greniers, the vendors won’t bother to unpack the boxes of things they consider worthless so if you have a good scrabble around in boxes you can usually find a gem for peanuts.


This little set of beauties were bought off guy at a Vide Grenier, he pretty much had an assortment of dirty broken things spread out on a rug on the ground. They were so filthy you could not really tell what the base colour really was! I have since spotted the same set sporting a hefty price tag in a shop in London.

Photo by Antoinette Marshall

Most visitors to Belfast have an aversion to our weather and many of us locals use it as an excuse for ditching our bikes and sticking with a car but when Polish born, Danish raised  Joanna Karolini first came to Belfast and met with our constant companion, the rain, it didn’t put her off.

For Joanna pedal power is more a matter of principal than comfort, the driving rain was just another small problem needing a resolution.

Wearing ugly waterproof bike trousers was not an attractive option, Joanna wanted to make a practical garment she could wear while cycling which could be quickly wrapped on and off as the weather changed but still look fashionable and attractive. Thinking in a more creative way that most, she fashioned her first ‘rain skirt’ from an old broken tent, a perfect solution for warding off the seeping rain whilst still retaining some cycle chic!

Photography by Tomek Cegielka

Not long after her tent recycling experience, whilst attending a popular Irish weekend music festival, Joanna came face to face with a shockingly wasteful attitude sadly prevalent in our society today. Due perhaps to poor weather, hundreds of festival goers had simply abandoned tents, camping gear and food leaving them for bulldozers to clear up and dump in landfill.

Initially astonished and frustrated by this sight, Joanna felt that she couldn’t stand by and do nothing, for the next few hours before the bulldozers arrived, she stripped the tents and gathered together a harvest which would provide enough material for her first year in business as ‘Belfast Rainskirt’.

Over the past three years Joanna has developed the business, designing and making bespoke skirts, hats and aprons, which cleverly re-use not only the tent material but also zips, fastenings and buckles. ‘Belfast rainskirt’ has been represented at music festivals including Glastonbury (2010) and Electric Picnic where Joanna sells her unique creations and offers advice on sewing and up cycling.

We may not usually think of camping gear as being fashion conscious but the tent crop, which Joanna harvests after festivals constantly, presents new colours and patterns which reflect the seasons current trends. This diverse range of tent material allows Joanna to continually up date her collection of bespoke pieces.

photography by Tomek Cegielka

Joanna’s philosophy is to pass on her ethos of up cycling, waste reduction and preservation of sewing skills. She is focused primarily on creating a social consciousness about our attitude and responsibility to the land, encouraging people to recognise that they can change their actions individually and collectively to preserve, re-use and create.

With every rain skirts Joanna sells, comes the opportunity to sew a new seed by passing on the story of turning something destined for landfill into a new and beautifully crafted practical piece of clothing. Joanna is keen to share her vision, teaching others how to sew and up-cycle, hoping that the rest of the world will catch on to the idea of giving new life and function to what we so easily see as rubbish.

Joanna’s Rainskirts can be found at St Georges Market with ‘Go Green Glass’ every Saturday and Sunday and also online at

The photography on this post is by Antoinette Marshall (portraits of Joanna) and Tomek Cegielka (Rainskirts shoot)

This article first appeared in ‘The Ulster Folk’



Tucked away the back room of an old Belfast flax mill, Charlie Bosanquet is slowly but steadily chipping away at the world’s gigantic carbon footprint. Born into a family of environmentalists, Charlie’s instinctive  approach to life is to tread carefully and clear up afterwards.

Charlie’s business, ‘Belfast Puncture’, may sound more like a car repair garage, in fact it’s a design studio where every item is made from re-cycled bicycle tyre inners.


Being a keen cyclist and re-cycler, Charlie originally made a single belt for herself out of an old punctured rubber tyre inner, she received so many compliments and requests that ‘Belfast Puncture’ was born.

Charlie began to ask a bike shop owner friend if she could have the old inners and started to explore designs for re-making this previously scrap material into something useful, trendy and appealing.


After a few years of working out of her own house, she set up a studio and put re-cycling bins into all the bike shops in Belfast so that she now receives a steady supply of inner tubes to satisfy the growing demand for her products.

Charlie designs and makes every item herself from wallets and belts to larger items such as shoulder bags and panniers.


She also sells patterns of her designs as she strongly believes in sharing her ideas and letting anyone have a chance to create something from nothing.

One of her core beliefs is that every artist has a responsibility to make a statement through their work, for Charlie it’s all about encouraging re-cycling and cottage industry.


Belfast Puncture products now sell throughout Ireland as well as in London and worldwide through Etsy. One of her main outlets is Spacecraft a well known spot for finding high quality local design and craft which is situated in the centre of Belfast.

Charlie is proud of her home city and feels that her designs have a unique selling  point as a locally Belfast made product.

To see more of Charlie’s designs; or visit ‘Spacecraft Gallery’ 9b College street.

This article first appeared in ‘The Ulster Folk’ Issue 7



I was privilleged enough to spend the past weekend with my eco concious friends from The Fashion Souk in the soon to be, city of culture, Derry .

We were charged by DENI with the challenge of encouraging the people of Derry to reduce thier waste by reducing, re-using and re-cycling. This little triage of eco expectations sound admirable and certainly desirable as a way of helping to put the breaks on our rapidly overflowing land fill sites. Applying the principals to our overcrowded lives is a little more challenging!

The Derry folk gave us a warm reception although considering we were offering to mend thier clothes and hand out free furniture, this was hardly suprising!

The Fashion souk approach was to set up  a vibrant  ‘Rethink, Re-use, Re-cycle’ pop up  shop in a disused unit in the popular Foyleside shopping centre.

This created a buzzing, warm environment where locals were invited to drop in over an entire weekend to take part in a number of free workshops.

The most popular of these was a furniture re-cycling workshop by  Catherine B, participants could choose from a range of freshly sanded and primed furniture collected from waste and second hand shops. They were then shown how to re-paint and re-upholster the pieces which they were free to take home with them. I know a few of you would have quite happily driven the whole way to Derry  to avail of this opportunity!

Other workshops included learning how to re-cycle tin cans, old plastic milk bottles and wooden palates to make a vertical garden, so clever! (I am going to try this method with peas and strawberries later on in the spring).

A local Derry lady was showing participants how to make fantastic funky cushion covers out of old shirts and a super talented seamstress was on hand to mend, alter and offer advice on getting more life out of tired and worn garments.

Vintage Lucy gave advice and demos on increasing the life of ones make up bag, while my offering involved helping participants to create beautiful hand sewn applique using scraps of material, it literaly was the cheapest workshop I have ever done with the only cost being the price of a needle!. You can see the example I did at the start of this blog.

Hopefully the “Revamp, Re-use, Re-style’ crew have left a lasting legacy in Derry, inspiring people to think twice before they dump and giving them the confidence to believe that they have the skills to restyle and the time to remake!

To find out more about future workshops in your area visit or

Continuing on my current vintage afternoon tea obsession I thought I would publish these illustrations.

I did them  a couple of months ago with the intention of using them for my website but they never quite fitted. I still like them and thought they at least should get an airing instead of being shoved in a little electronic folder deep in the dark and disorganised  depths of my desktop!