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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!


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!

Willie Drennan Lambeg Rant Rap on Radio Ulster

Tis the season of giving which should be a joyful experience of blessing ones friends and family with little love and generousity. Potentially gifts should say so much; I love you, I understand you, I think of you… pressure!

Whilst preparing for Christmas I recently reflected on the best gifts that I had received during 2011, they had two things in common: they were all second hand and thus, they all came with a I though I would share a few of them with you, I can never resist a story!

Most Kitsch

I had taken a notion back in the earlier part of this year to find for myself a stuffed bird, preferably a canary. However, the purchase of this particulr item would have proved too costly. My wee brother  found this little pair of beauties in an antique shop in Saintfield. Aparently they had belnged to the owner who had them hung in her halway for decades. I named them Peter and Paul, somehow the filled the gap that had been waiting for the yellow canary and I halted my search!

Most Random

I was very puzzled when a good friend of mine brought this gift over out of the blue, fully wrapped in sparkly paper. Isn’t it fascinating to discover  what people think of when they think of you?! My friend Edyta  knows that I appreciate a bit of good old retro product design. Her husband was working on the renovation of a house and found this Electrolux hoover sitting all by itself (dead as a doornail) in a room that time forgot and so they thought of me!. Edyta’s father,who lived and worked through communism in Poland when times were tough and everyone did anything to fix up, re-cycle and re-use, knew exactly what this little h00ver needed to bring it back to life. He worked 0n it every evening for nearly a week and managed to breath new life into it’s beautiful little retro body. It actually works incredibly well and is as strong as an ox, makes you wonder what’s been happening in the progress of hoovers over the last 40 years!


Most weird

Most people who walk into my house find the sight of this deer skull slightly disconcerting. For me, it brings back  memories of the crisp February day  that I found the deer carcass tucked in behind a rotting boat on the shore of  a mountain lake. It must have sheltered there during the winter and not made it through, I felt quite attached to it immediately, the kids and I named it Smokey! We took the skull home and after bleaching it I handed it over to my husband with a request to have it mounted in some way for my birthday. The carpenter who mounted it did a beautiful job, creating an oak panel and attaching poor Smokey’s skull ever so carefully.  Smokey is mounted high up on our kitchen wall, I feel him gives the room a good old fashioned mountain lodge feel!

Most Precious

Most of my friends know of my love of tea sets, I have already blogged more than once about beautiful tea cups, cakes and sugary things. It’s fun searching for interesting tea sets in charity shops and flea markets but  it’s ten times more wonderful to be given something special. Recently my friend gave me this tea set, apart from the fact that it is more beautiful than the majority of sets that I own, I love the story that comes with it! It belonged to an elderly gentleman who passed away at the age of 92, he was the great uncle of my friend Elaine. The tea set belonged to himself and his wife and would have been their good set (probably from their wedding) which explains the perfect condition it’s in. The couple met during the war when she was sent out from the Donegal Pass as a refugee to the far flung safety of Purdysburn (about six miles away). I don’t know much else about their history  but I love to think of them sitting in their good room together sipping tea from their beautiful china and reminiscing about the circumstances in which they met.

Most cute!

I found this little parcel lying on my door mat last week, it was only the size of a matchbox!

I love anything wrapped in brown paper!  It was from a friend who spends a lot of time in France, he had found some tiny pill boxes which he thought I may be able ton use for one of my slightly eccentric pieces of artwork (as seen below!)