Archives for category: Homemade

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:


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’


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

I have not  blogged for ages, I was wondering why that was?

Is there nothing creative and inspiring happening in my life or have I just been spending too much time drinking tea and eating cake? these recent photos may give a clue to the answer!

I think I have become quite obsessed with teapots..

I’ve brought in New Years on rainy Belfast streets listening to terrible tribute bands,  toasted the new day on a beach with an audience of sleepy seals and  spent several New Year eves wandering the deserted lanes of a very sleepy Belgian village waiting for something to happen.

The eve of 2012 was a  new experience of uncharted territory for me as I was  treated to a traditional Ulster Scotts New Year in the heart of the quiet Ballymena countryside (at least it was quiet until the Lambeg made it’s entrance).

For a non musician, Rhthymless person such a myself, it was a revelation to spend the evening with a small gathering of musicians,in a character full old farmhouse, jelously guarded by two very alert geese and about a dozen roosters.

The Walls of the farmhouse were papered with Caroline’s energetic paintings and  Willie’s collections of fiddles and drums hung, slung and perched on every available space.

As midnight approached we joined the geese and livestock in the farm yard for a serious Lambeg drumming session, the incredible sound of the drum cutting through the darkness was riveting, I wonder did the neighbours find it as riveting as I?

Suitably inspired we were all give a drum or percussion of some shape or form and joined in with WIllies infamous “Lambeg drum rant rap”  (click on the link at the top of this page to listen). I was given the wooden spoons which I  just about managed without disturbing the rythym!

The drumming ended up being pretty frenetic  and could have ended in a very sleepless night but  we were fortunate enough to have Cherith Boyle ( to wind us down with a stunning harp recital, she played some of her own compositions which were both haunting and sparkling, worth a listen on this link.

I woke up this morning to the sound of twelve roosters, two Geese and my two little boys who had happened upon a clatter of tin whistles, luckily everyone was still filled with the grace and patience of newly made resolutions of loveliness and those who could, slept on!

We breakfasted in Canadian style with caroline’s wholemeal cranberry scones, apple blackberry sauce and maple syrup yoghurt all fabricated on the spot though I did notice the blackberries came from the hedgerows via the freezer.

A bit of a wander in the country side in a rare spot of winter sun finished off a very special and unforgettable new year for me.  Stuff the champagne and canapés and bring on the Lambeg. Great celebrations are all about spending moments with friends, sharing time, ideas, inspiration and giving a bit of yourself, thanks guys!

A Wigwam is not something you generally throw together without prior thought or preparation, so impromptu may sound a little odd, however…

When I was a child my dad undertook a project of making a shelter with us from tree poles. It was for my brothers school project but the whole family got involved, I have lovely memories of hanging around in the woods all day, and watching the structure emerge, the excitement of afterwards being able to sit inside this home with the damp mossy ground underneath and the sunlight filtering through the woven fern roof. The shelter survived for quite a number of years and each time I walked the nearby path, I would glimpse the building through the trees getting more skeletal as each year passed.

I have had a thought in the back of my mind for some time that I should do something similar for my boys, though how,I did not know as my woodsman skills are limited compared to my father’s. 

It was a lovely surprise then, to find myself in the possession of eight beautifully straight poles which I cut from a bay tree which had spread too much.

Jonah was able to get involved trimming the excess branches and leaves, we just threw the structure up by finding poles that leaned nicely against each other, might not have passed building control but it stood.

Finally I found some sheets and tablecloths and pinned them together with clothes pegs, it was really a lot simpler than expected.

The boys had the most wonderful day playing inside their tipi, they took it very seriously transforming themselves into a king and his servant, it’s not just girls who like to play houses!