How to create a Bling Bobble Hat

Ross and I went to Rome this time last year and, apart from the fact that it rained solidly for the entire duration of our visit and that Ross was recovering from a back operation and had to lie down every few hours, we had a brilliant time.  We really enjoyed having the time together and exploring the old part of the city and the fact that around every unsuspecting looking corner there appeared to one of the seven wonders of the world. My favourite was definitely the Trevi fountain which was bang slap in the middle of a shopping precinct. Cue shameless selfie blocking out most of this amazing work of sculpture…

GetAttachment (1)


There was a shop round the corner from our hotel which was full of very tacky clothes. You know the type, very trendy for the ten minutes they a) last for and b) are in fashion for. Jeans that are so low cut they’d barely cover your vajazzle etc. It wasn’t really my kind of shop apart from a table in the middle full of the most amazing bobble hats that were covered in pearls and crystals. Like a magpie I was pulled towards them despite the warning voices in my head screaming “they’re acrylic!”, “they’ll make your forehead itch!”, “your hair will go static!” and other sound words of wisdom. I ignored them all and bought a hat, took it away and loved it. I went back the next day to get a few more for my sister’s Christmas presents but they were all gone. I was right, of course, my hair does go static, it does make my forehead itch and one more thing the naysayers in my head failed to address – all the sparkle has worn off the crystals revealing bare plastic. I didn’t see that coming.

When you love something that much it needs to be re-created properly so I ordered the daddy of crystals, Swarovski crystals (apparently these are the real deal and will not lose their sparkle) and some gem-tac glue on ebay, got myself  100% wool hat and got busy.




The swarovski crystals are so tiny that you need to use tweezers to have any control over them. The glue has got a metal precision tip to make it easy to get the glue exactly where you want it. I squeezed a dot of glue on the back of each crystal them stuck it onto the hat. It’s important to make sure you stick the crystal onto an actual strand of wool otherwise it disappears into the hat the minute you stretch it out to put in onto your head.








I placed my crystals at  fairly regular intervals but I might try another time with a more random approach. I used 85 crystals in total – they get used up surprisingly quickly!






Crystal hat_1






Here’s my right hand woman wearing the original hat and me with the souped up version. Her crsytals look white because they are just bits of plastic, mine look white because of the light. Obviously. My next task is to replace all the sparkles on the maroon hat with Swarovski ones -some day!



Time to Wrap Up

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I love this time of year for one reason and one reason alone – coats and sunglasses. It’s like pink and orange, so wrong but it so very right. You just cannot argue with sunglasses and a coat. Call me shallow but I think it’s a very valid reason to love a season. When I was going out with my favourite ever boyfriend, we had a conversation about our favourite time of year and discovered we both loved autumn. I could see he thought we were a match made in seasonal heaven as he began to wax lyrical about the changing colours and nature’s beauty. ‘So why do you like autumn?’ he eventually asked. ‘Because it’s my birthday in October and I love wearing sunglasses with a coat’. He was a little bit taken aback as it began to dawn on him that I was not going to be his intellectual and philosophical equal but it was too late for him, he was in love and so I let him marry me so he could forever more enjoy my sunglasses/coat combos.

So I’m back to work in my (very) little studio after a long summer break. It’s time to make myself a winter coat. I’m very excited about the one I’m currently working on; two words – snakeskin and boiled wool. That’s three but enough said – I’ll share it when I’m finished. In the meantime, I did start a coat last February which I finally managed to finish in May, just in time for the summer. Practical. I got about three minutes wear out of it before it had to be packed away for the summer. But those three minutes took place in Amsterdam which is actually further north than Haslemere and therefore much colder – coat time!  All joking aside, I was glad I brought it because it was freezing and my sunglasses would have looked completely inappropriate with anything other than tweed.


Pink coat_2


This coat was compiled of pink tweed and pale pink leather. I’m not normally a pale pink wearer but my friend Narn McMoo (actually almost her real name)  bought 5m of pink tweed and 5m of coral tweed in an auction in 1994 and after twenty years finally realised she was never going to use them so released them into my hot little hands. The coral still awaits inspiration but I decided to go for it with the pink tweed and see where it led me. My main concern was crossing the fine line between fashion and confectionery but I think the marshmallow look has been narrowly avoided and I’m pleased with the result. I’ve discovered, through less than satisfactory projects in the past, that tweed (or any loose weave fabric) like this always looks better when it’s interfaced. It means taking a little bit longer to prepare the fabric before sewing but it makes a world of difference in the final result. This coat has been interlined with fusible cotton but I’ve used ordinary cotton and lining fabric tacked on to create the same effect, although it takes a LOT longer.


Pink coat_3
Dicing with death

As a final note, I must offer much respect to the people of Amsterdam who ride these bikes like it is the easiest thing in the world. They hold umbrellas, text, comb their hair etcetera, all while riding their bikes around the city – sometimes all at the same time but I can tell you from personal experience that it’s very hard. Those bicycles are huge, there are no brakes so you have to peddle them backwards to stop and when you want to go, you accidentally stop because you are trying to get your peddle into a ‘go’ position and then you fall off. All at every junction of the amazingly laid out cycle path system that is everywhere in the city.  I nearly ended up in the canal more than once but, thankfully, I lived to sew another coat.

leather and tweed
Leather piped pocket

Making a pencil skirt-the easy way!

I don’t know about you but there’s hardly an item in my wardrobe that I haven’t fiddled with or adjusted in some way (how is it possible NOT to own a sewing machine?!). One of the most annoying alterations is letting things out – mainly because it means you’ve put on weight and that’s just depressing. Taking in? Delightful! The thing that makes all these tasks frustrating is the endless unpicking and having to alter the lining as well as the garment – sometimes I’d rather chew off my own arm than start taking something apart. The following tutorial is a brilliant way to make a pencil skirt (I can say that as it wasn’t my own idea, although I really wish it was). The idea came from The Dressmakers Handbook of Couture Sewing Techniques by Lynda Maynard (available here).

I love sewing books because, sadly, not that many people sew their own clothes any more and even less at professional standard; so there aren’t that many people to chat about stitching and swap technical ideas with. Books are always a great way to learn new techniques and you can’t progress without new ideas! I recently bought The Dressmakers Handbook of Couture Sewing Techniques for a fellow seamstress and it was a great read, although only if you’re into sewing obviously – it won’t be appearing on Richard and Judy’s book club list any time soon.  There are a few techniques that I’m itching to try but this one in particular stood out. I’ve made a few pencil skirts this way now and it’s brilliant.  So, without further ado – a new way to line a pencil skirt. A word of warning though, this tutorial is aimed at those with some experience. I haven’t included instructions for absolutely everything; how to put in a zip, for example.

I made the pencil skirt from this denim and lining.


Pencil Skt        Pencil SKT_1

The idea of the skirt is to have beautifully bound seams and a mounted lining. Begin by cutting out your fabric pieces as normal, using a pattern of your choice. I used this New Look pattern but any pencil skirt pattern would work.

Pencil SKT_0



When you come to cut the lining, cut the lining 1cm bigger than the pattern along the side seams. I adapted the pattern slightly because I wanted a dipped hem and split at the front.

Pencil SKT_2


Now place the lining and fabric RIGHT sides together and pin along the sides. Sew the lining and fabric together using a 0.5cm seam allowance.

Pencil SKT_3


Your lining will be baggier than the fabric skirt piece but that’s ok because when you turn the piece inside out this will happen…

Pencil SKT_4

You will have a beautifully bound skirt piece that is exactly the same size as when you cut it out. (The pieces shown are actually the same size – it’s my photography that’s squiffy)

Pencil SKT_5

When all the pieces are mounted onto the lining you can begin sewing your skirt together.

Pencil SKT_6

Pencil SKT_7


For the hem I cut a strip which mirrored the hem of the skirt. I bound the top part of the hem facing in a contrast pink lining and did the same on the waistband. I matched the hem facing right side to right side with the  skirt and stitched them together. I finished it off by handstitching the hem up.

Pencil SKT_8

The finished inside looks so beautifully neat and tidy – it’s just a shame no one will ever get to see it. Except you.

Ladies Don’t Flash

So how do you follow up a first post? Don’t say it – with a second.  This is how popstars/musicians feel releasing their second album – under pressure! Remember the doyenne of cool Natalie Imbruglia’s first song -Torn? Yes? But can you remember her second? No – me neither. However, I will press on regardless for that is what perseverers do. I’m actually improving too – please notice that the pictures have been centred this time. Not rocket science I realise but small steps for the technologically phobic (or ‘User Error’ as the husband refers to me – so rude).

So, I’ve been busy – there’s nothing like reporting your results on a blog to increase productivity. Also, ‘See What I Made’ don’t run any workshops in the summer so it’s always a good time for our own projects. I’m very keen to do some tutorials and number one will shortly be on the tutorials page -how to line your pencil skirt in a whole new way. Well, it’s new to me anyway, everybody else might have been doing it that way for years.


Marilyn pencil skirt


I found some brilliant London skyline lining in my favourite Aladdin’s cave of fabric on the Goldhawk Road in Shepherd’s Bush and, confident I had some denim in my fabric locker, headed home to make a super sleek, Marilyn Monroe style denim pencil skirt to be documented at each stage for my tutorial. Without the pointy boobs and beauty spot though.

 Denim pencil skt


I finished the skirt and hung it up ready for it’s first outing, which was church last Sunday. I paired it with a fluorescent yellow top and leopard print shoe boots so I really was feeling like the dog’s whatevers and ready for anything. I was late, no real surprises there, so hurried in and sat down. It was then that I realised that the split up the front (which looked so promising while I was mincing around my bedroom, admiring the spanx effect of this skirt) had shot up to my pants and the pointy bits on the hem stuck straight out like two missiles looking for a target. I had to sit in a very demure fashion with my hands in my lap for the entire time. Demure is not a word I’ve ever used in a description of myself and I doubt anybody else has either. Fidget would be more appropriate but I couldn’t do that either. So I sat, very still, hands on lap protecting my modesty, and wondered why on earth this fabric was so stiff and unyielding that I might have need to call an ambulance crew to strap me into a stretcher and hoist me into a standing position for the last song? It dawned on me, while I should have been listening to what really was an excellent sermon, that the denim, which I had pulled out so hastily in my enthusiasm for getting a blog post out, was in my cupboard because I had bought it a few years ago to recover our camping chairs. This was just before I decided we couldn’t fit them in our car and bought new ones. Laughing  in the face of sustainability.

I have learned a valuable lesson – choose your denim carefully. I’ve since found the denim fabric I was thinking about in the first place, a bit further down the pile – firm in texture but lovely and soft, like jeans should be. Not like someone ripped the awning off your caravan and turned it into a skirt.  If I get tired of it, I’ll turn it into a hammock but in the meantime, I got a tutorial out of it and it really does look good (although only while I’m standing up) so it wasn’t a complete waste of time.


In the words of Marilyn herself “clothes should be tight enough to show you’re a woman but loose enough to show you’re a lady” She didn’t say anything about showing your pants in church though…

An African Lady’s Oven Mitt

Eek! How exciting – the very first post on our brand spanking new See What I Made blog. I had no idea quite how much mental energy this would take but I’m hoping that once I get started I’ll be on a roll! This must be how an artist feels when faced with a blank canvas – terrified!  A few weeks ago I was churning out sewing projects like I was on fire, coming up with multiple blog posts a day (in my head) but now, having spent at least three weeks trying to work out how to add a facebook icon to our sidebar, I’m totally over it.
One thing I have not tired of, however, is thinking about what to do with the many metres of African fabric I have purchased in a frenzy this summer. It must be something to do with my African heritage – to look at me, I’m Irish through and through, dark hair, freckles, pale skin, purple veins near the surface – the whole kit and kaboodle, but last week I had a conversation with my Italian dentist which went along these lines;

Me: I’ve got six wisdom teeth and one of them is annoying me.
Dentist: Eet is nat passible, only Africans have seeks wisdam teeth. (He may have done his training in Jamaica.)
Me: ( looking sceptically at my pale freckly arms) No, it’s true, I do.
[After X-ray]
Dentist: hoh ma gatt, you have seeks wisdom teeth!
Me: I know- sure I told you that.
Him: you need to check your family history…

Hmmmm, this may explain my obsession….Anyway,with the first piece I bought, I have made a pencil skirt, my other big love this summer – with trainers, like a middle-aged Eliza Doolittle (the pop-star, not she of the bad grammar and common ways).

African print skirt

I was so excited by the skirt that I decided to make a jacket with what was left over ( I bought a lot – I couldn’t help myself). It’s quite stiff cotton because of the residual batik wax and also the fact that, much to my great sadness, it’s not 100% cotton (although it’s just too cool to lose much sleep over) but it needed a bit of something to make it a bit more substantial for a jacket. I decided to pad it a bit with some very thin polyester wadding and a contrasting blue-poly cotton backing fabric. (Note to self – stay away from naked flames.)  I don’t know how quilters do it; after what felt like two hours of sewing up and down and back up again, I finally had my fabric quilted and ready to cut out.

Padding African fabric                           African print jkt

I made this little cropped jacket but before I got as far as adding the trimmings I showed to my husband, who is actually a very good and much relied upon fashion critic, although only by me. He looked at me in my half made piece of tailoring and tilted his head to one side – a sure sign he was coming up with something witty and amusing (in his own opinion). Eventually his thoughts were complete; ” you look like an African woman’s oven mitt”  What?! All this effort with the flammable fabric,the wadding and the sewing up and down. I was spitting polyester feathers. However, I shall rise above it – my jacket is finished, a fetching orange trim has been added, the whole thing has been bias bound and I am ready for action.

African Oven Mitt

The urge to wear them both together is enormous but l am resisting – unless I get invited to a fancy dress party, in which case I will be there as a Northern Irish Winnie Mandela.