Archives for category: Art

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!!

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.

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!


I was recently invited to a party thrown by an art teacher who happens to be amazingly creative, very inspiring and just a little bit crazy (as all art teachers should be).  The dress code requested was to come as ‘a work of art’. There was not even a single second of hesitation in mind when the invitation came through; it was just too tempting, as if I had been waiting for this moment for the last decade!

I was first introduced to the  extraordinary and complex character of Frida Khalo during my  my first teaching practice at Strathern. The Head of Art I was working under was a pretty passionate feminist and a big supporter of women artists, I probably learnt more from her about art history than I ever did at art college. When I went on to teach art myself, I used Frida Khalo’s work frequently with my younger students, they were often at first repulsed and confused by her work but once they learnt a bit about her passionate and tragic life story, they were soon able to decipher the symbolisim in her paintings and connect with the sadness and desires at the heart of Frida Khalo’s paintings.

If you don’t know Khalo, I recommend 2002 film ‘Frida’ staring Salma Hayek, it gives a pretty comprehensive and slightly too beautiful representation of her crazy, fairly short life.

One of the attractions for me of Khalo’s work is her representation of Mexican culture in both her paintings and exaggerated traditional costumes. Since her death, The Mexican people have raised her to an iconic status, their representations of her in their altars and day of the dead figures are incredible looking works of art in themselves and have inspired some of my own work built inside vintage tin boxes.


Getting back to the party you can see I didn’t quite pull off the sad intense Khalo stare without making it look just a bit too grumpy! The bazaar thing was, I wasn’t the only Frida at the party infact most works of art turning up at the party had a double: there were several American Gothics, banksys and Van Goghs, how crazy is that given the vast world of art out there!