Wednesday, 20 March 2019

Cutting It - Counterculture, Couture & A Tutorial

I've been at it again - opening my wardrobe and letting loose with my scissors. Not so much shopping my wardrobe as chopping my wardrobe.

This week's creation is the bastard lovechild of:
  • A tie-dyed cotton skirt from the '90s
  • A Kutchi dupatta shawl (cut in two)
  • A moth-eaten embroidered Banjara blouse
  • A handmade waistcoat from a Sri-Lankan fair trade company 

If you fancy having a go yourself then here's a very rough tutorial.

Does that make sense? 

The two halves of the dupatta shawl formed the sleeves and the waistcoat served as the bodice (which I used backwards so it buttoned at the back). The design on the front of bodice was a sleeve unpicked from the Banjara blouse. The skirt had an elasticated waistband from which I removed the elastic before I started. 

My inspiration behind my dress is this amazing nomad dress which was made in the 1970s by the founder of the Folkwear pattern company, Alexandra Hart. Along with many other truly inspirational pieces, the Alexandra's dress featured in an exhibition called Counter Culture: Handmade Fashion in an American Counterculture held at the Museum of Arts and Design in New York in 2017.


More commonly referred to as the hippie movement, the counterculture of the 1960s and 1970s did away with the conformism of previous decades and heralded an alternative lifestyle that still exists today. The movement saw unique manifestations of handmade fashion and personal style as people fought for change by sewing, DIYing, quilting, crocheting, patch-working and tie-dyeing their own identity.


The garments, jewellery and accessories exhibited reflected the ethos of a generation who, against the backdrop of the Vietnam War and the Civil Rights Movement, rejected the ideals of an American Dream rooted in consumerism and conformity and instead embraced a vision of a new civilisation based on self-expression, self-reliance, a connection to nature and ideas of love and community which deviated from the traditional ideal of the nuclear family.




In an age of growing political unrest, increased violence and terrorism and with a planet on the brink of disaster due to decades of rampant consumerism, isn't it about time we all embraced the hippie ideals of the 1960s & 1970s?

I did manage to find myself a copy of the Folkwear Afghan Nomad Dress pattern but it's never been used and it's such a thing of beauty that, unlike the contents of my wardrobe, I'm afraid to cut it up. It's been looking at me for years!

Talking of sewing, how gorgeous was Riccardo's 1970s-inspired Harris Tweed coat on the last night's Great British Sewing Bee? The most fabulous garment I've ever seen on the programme!

WEARING: Me-made Afghan Nomad dress with some vintage 1960s-does-Edwardian lace-up boots (car boot sale) and a H&M felted wool hat (via a charity shop)

See you soon!

Monday, 18 March 2019

Just In - My Latest Acquisitions

On Saturday we traded at our first fair this year. I know, lazy sods, aren't we? Despite the iffy weather and Brex*it uncertainty, Pop-Up Vintage's Walthamstow fair was wonderful. We caught up with our trader pals, our super stylish regulars and made lots of vintage lovin' folk very happy.

I love these girls! They always look amazing.

Could this jacket have fit any better? It looks like it was made for him. 

Forget Lent, deprivation and giving stuff up, this month I've been acquiring stuff like its going out of fashion. Buys included the vintage block printed kaftan I wore on Saturday. I could have sold it ten times over but it ain't for sale. These things are like gold dust and although my eBay find wasn't cheap, it was listed in a strange category with none of the keywords (ie., block printed, vintage or kaftan ) so I won it for a fraction of the crazy prices they're currently commanding.


The kaftan has a Made in Pakistan label which, with most of my acquisitions, inevitably leads to a trawl of the internet to discover more. Back in the 1970s Pakistan was firmly on the hippie trail - here's some of the freaks (how the original hippies referred to themselves) chilling out in downtown Karachi.

This necklace was £1 in Sense and I couldn't part with my cash quick enough. On the other hand I dithered over the £2 top in Cancer UK before sticking it back on the rail. It preyed on my mind for ages so I was relieved to see it still hanging up when I went back to the shop a fortnight later. Thank goodness the people in Walsall don't have the same taste as me!

I ferreted these supersized Goggles sunglasses from out of the 50p junk basket on a chazza shop counter. Designed by Oliver Goldsmith (that's the designer as opposed to the 18th century Irish novelist) they were quite the thing in the early 1980s and ever the massive sunglasses fan, my Mum had at least two pairs. Remember this TV advert? I do.

 I spotted this 1970s cotton velvet maxi skirt on eBay. The embroidery is identical to the green Indian dress I bought a couple of weeks ago. I was the only bidder and won it for £2.50. War on Want is an anti-poverty charity which was founded in London in 1951. The skirt was made in India, an early fair trade piece.

We passed the Jaipur blue pottery workshop several times during our stay but never visited. I'm not sure if this jug originated in Rajasthan but I loved the cobalt blue glaze, its pleasingly chunky proportions and the fact it was £1.99. It shows off my daffs a treat.

In a sea of shoddy man-made tat, this vintage calico bed cover stood out like a beacon in the Age UK clearance shop and was priced at £1. Ghalamkari is the Persian method of block printing. This piece came from Iran and was bought from a stall within the Grand Bazaar in Isfahan. This is the second piece I've picked up in a local charity shop, we're a well-travelled lot in the Black Country, aren't we?

Do I turn the bed cover into something wearable? I'm thinking that I should.

After looking at these photos of the Grand Bazaar I'm desperate to go to Iran but sadly the British Foreign Office are currently advising against travelling there.


This American craft book printed in 1972 is incredible. Jon and I did a macrame workshop in Goa last year & I'm hoping that I can remember enough to give it another bash, that neck piece worn over the black maxi dress is giving me palpitations, I need it! I've found this book on-line for £35 - mine cost £1.50 from the local hospice charity shop.

It's not all buying though, I've been sent lovely things from some fabulous women...

This vintage quilted waistcoat and leather drawstring bag were gifts from talented Sarah aka Little Acorn 73 (find her Etsy shop HERE).

I collected her parcel of joy from the Post office earlier and, as luck would have it, the contents matched my outfit perfectly (she knows me so well!) It's appeared on my blog many times before but just in case you missed it, I'm wearing a tissue silk gauze maxi dress by Treacy Lowe that a friend found for me in a charity shop.

Another virtual friend, Aril, who blogs HERE sent me this gorgeous Moroccan cuff and a card featuring Indo-Portuguese embroidery from the XII -XIII century.

The fabulous Jode, who I met doing vintage fairs a few years ago, sent me these two brilliant prints which she designs herself. I'll be on the lookout for some secondhand frames on my travels this week. Blame it on my vintage heart needs to be hung up next to my overstuffed wardrobe. Fancy some of your own? Find her HERE.'s finally stopped raining, I can finish unpacking the stock from the van.

See you soon.

Wednesday, 13 March 2019

Recycle, Reuse, Reduce - An Afghan Nomad Dress Made From Scraps

What on earth do you do with.....

A rayon kurta from off the £1 rail, a scrap of vintage sari fabric, the rest of which was used to make this off-the-shoulder top, a frayed and sun-damaged embroidered Indian skirt and a Banjara tribal skirt which hadn't been worn in ages?

Chop 'em up, sew them together and make yourself a Afghan nomad dress!

Just in case you can't make it out - the red skirt was cut up and made into sleeves with cuffs edged with orange braid taken from the kurta, the scarp of sari fabric formed the bodice which has a sequinned neckline (also salvaged from the kurta) and the Banjara skirt was simply sewn to the bodice. Like the traditional Afghan dresses, it pulls on over the head and fastens up the side with press studs.

The back is trimmed with the remaining orange braid.

  I didn't use a pattern, I laid everything out on the floor and played around with different combinations until I was happy. Everything I used from the cotton, the embroidery thread, the pinking shears, the needle, the press studs and the dressmaking pins came from charity shops.

In keeping with a traditional Afghan Nomad dress, I hand-sewed all the pieces together, a wonderfully therapeutic thing to do when it's lashing it down with rain outside. Take that, Storm Gareth! 

Just as I was putting the finishing touches to my dress, I turned on the TV to tune into last night's Great British Sewing Bee on the BBC only to discover that the theme was Recycle, Reuse, Reduce. The contestants had to make a pussy bow blouse using up to five secondhand garments along with a placket from a man's shirt, an item of clothing from the scraps accumulated from the last five weeks of the series and a made-to-measure garment using every day household fabric (ie., curtains, blinds or upholstery material). 

The best episode ever! 

A lot of people say that sewing is an expensive hobby - but it doesn't have to be. You don't need sewing lessons, a state of the art machine, fancy fabric or posh trimmings - get down to your local charity shop and let your imagination run riot. Other than a disastrous school term when I was 11, I'm entirely self taught. I found my vintage sewing machine dumped by the side of the road. Even if what you make doesn't turn out to be a huge success, you won't have spent a fortune and you'll have learnt something along the way. There's nothing to beat the feeling you get when you finally make something wearable especially when people stop you and ask where you bought it and you can say, I made it myself!

Self-sewn Afghan Nomad dress worn with original '70s purple suede platform boots (charity shop) and Indian earrings (50p from Walsall market)

We're trading in Walthamstow, E17 on Saturday 16th March (details HERE)

See you soon!

Linking to Patti & the gang for Visible Monday

Monday, 11 March 2019

The Tale of The Dream Dress

After swooning over the amazing cotton gauze clothes on display in the Anokhi Museum in Jaipur I knew that I couldn't rest until I'd hunted something similar down, the trouble is that vintage Indian dresses are increasingly rare, hugely sought after and those listed on eBay generally sell for £££s. One identical to the blue one above recently sold on Etsy for £425! Much as I love beautiful clothing, I like to be able to eat.

Idly scrolling through a local selling page yesterday I spotted a listing for a Beautiful Dress and, on closer inspection, couldn't believe my eyes. With its quilted floral bodice and indigo block print, it was remarkably similar to my dream dress but without the hefty price tag! I fired off a message enquiring as to whether the dress was still available, manically checking my inbox every ten minutes for a response. When the seller replied and told me that, yes, she'd still got it and I was welcome to come round on Monday and take a look, I danced around the house like a woman demented. I could hardly sleep for excitement.

 The dress was just as lovely as it looked in the photo and the best thing was I was able to get its back story. It had originally belonged to the seller's older sister who was an artist, she'd bought it from an Indian market stall in the mid-1970s and worn it throughout her art college days, complete with masses of jewellery and flowing blonde hair. When she'd tired of it she passed it on to her younger sister Joan (the lady selling it) who wore it to special occasions and parties for many years afterwards. Now in her mid-60s she'd decided that she was too old for it and while I don't think you're ever too old for fabulous clothes, I was reluctant to argue the point too much in case she changed her mind.Although she was really sad to see the dress go she was thrilled that it was going to get a new life with me - I was wearing one of my gauzy Indian dresses so she could see it was my thing.

As I handed over my cash, she folded it into a bag and kissed it goodbye and I promised to give it a life just as happy as the one it had experienced with both her and her sister.

Mayur means peacock in Hindi. Mayur were based in Jaipur and produced clothes until the early 1980s.

Believe it of not Joan lived in the next street! The dress I fell in love with in Jaipur had been living around the corner for over forty years...what are the chances? Even better was that I didn't have to sell a kidney to own it.

I got some brilliant responses to my Sunshine questions, Betty posted hers HERE. I thought I'd better share my answers.

1. Five well-known women (alive or dead) you'd invite over for dinner (or just meet in the pub)? I'd take Freda Kahlo, Cher, Iris Apfel, Queen Boadicea and Patti Smith to 'Spoons.

That's us at Wetherspoons
2. Woman you'd most like to swap places with for one day and why? Modesty Blaise, the 1960s female spy. Only for one day though, I'm not sure I could lead a double life for long.  

3. Which female actor would you pick to play you in a film about your life? Bollywood legend, H Bomb Helen. It made my day entire life when a hip young guy approached Jon when we were in Jaipur and told him that I looked just like her.

4. Is there a particular woman who influenced your style or inspired you somehow, and who is she? There's two, Mrs Jones a hippy teacher at my junior school in the '70s (read more about her HERE) and my Mum, who taught me that having a strong sense of individual style was far more important than having a pretty face, which explains why I've never given two hoots about the ageing process.

5. Whose wardrobe would you most like to steal? Talitha Getty's.

WEARING: Vintage 1970s Mayur dress, cobalt blue sock boots (Topshop sale, 2018), vintage wool felt hat & Indian silk scarf (charity shopped)

Lent's supposed about giving things up. With me it seems to be all about acquiring more old dresses, it's just as well I'm an Atheist or I'd never get to heaven.

See you soon.

Linking to Patti and the gang for Visible Monday.

Friday, 8 March 2019

Ain't No Sunshine...

Our false Spring's over and the trusty sheepskin hat is back out of hibernation although, to be fair, it's the first time either my chocolate brown or the cream one have made an appearance since last year when the UK was mauled by the Beast from the East.

 I've worn my Anokhi riding coat almost constantly since I returned from India. It's one of the most expensive garments I've ever bought but if I got paid each time someone on the street admired it I'd probably be owed money by now. 

Beneath the coat I'm wearing the dress I also bought from the Anokhi shop in Jaipur (last seen on the fateful day when we visited the monkey temple). 

I'm not used to buying clothes from a proper shop so having fancy cardboard labels attached to a garment are a real novelty. I've kept them in my travel journal for posterity. The shop tag says:

This textile has been created with traditional recipes and techniques used in India for centuries.
Natural black comes from a mixture of scrap iron, molasses and water. Rust is from printed alum. Both are developed in an alizarin dye bath.

Gold and silver printing as a decorative finish was a common feature in Indian textiles and is still a very popular way to embellish both printed and dyed fabrics. Using a brass stencil & plunger, the motif is hand printed onto the cloth with a gum paste and dusted over with a cotton pouch. The powder adhers to the fabric wherever the paste is present.

An early Twentieth century Peshwaz, on permanent display in the National Museum of India in New Delhi. I wish it was in my wardrobe!

The Anokhi tag describes this dress as a Cotton Peshwaz, which was said to be one of the most opulent forms of Moghul clothing for women. Originating in Persia, it was introduced to India during Babur's reign (1483 - 1530) and comprises of a fitted bodice with a full skirt which fastened at the waist (mine has a side zip). Due to the way the dress was cut at the front, women were required to wear a choli (blouse) underneath, my modern version came with a black cotton camisole top.

I've certainly been getting my £5 worth from last week's charity shopped Mjus boots. I can understand why they're so expensive to buy new, according to the website the interior has cold padding, providing both cushioning and warmth so they're so cosy and comfy (and there's bargain pairs to be had on eBay).

So where is the sunshine?

Vronni, the headscarf rockin', avid readin', charity shoppin', ramblin' superstar who blogs at Vronni's Style Meanderings nominated me for a Sunshine Award. Those of us who've been blogging for a while (it'll be ten years this year!) will be familiar with the blogging awards that used to do the rounds way back then - the rules are that you accept your award, link back to the person who nominated you, answer the questions, nominate four more bloggers and ask them to answer your questions.

Here's Vronni's questions and my answers:

1) Why did you start blogging? A girl I used to chat to on a forum asked if I blogged. At first I thought What a ridiculous idea, who wants to look at photos of me or read my ramblings? Then I thought, Why not? The only blogs I ever came across were 20-something kids showing off their Primark hauls or posting wish lists or bossy women my age telling the over-40s to cut off their long hair, cover their knees and/or arms whilst promoting ludicrously overpriced clothing that turned everyone into a sad clone. Even if everyone laughed at my blog at least I was offering an alternative. 

2) Has your blog changed since you started it? Not a lot. The content's pretty much the same (vintage finds, trips to festivals, our travels in India, stuff I've made, our house and garden) but I only post a couple of times a week these days as opposed to every day. Hopefully my photography has improved.

3) Blogging is time-consuming - what are the challenges you find in finding the time? When I started blogging there were a lot of blogs out there and I'd only be happy publishing a new post once I'd caught up and commented on all my virtual friends' blogs (ever the polite Brit!) which made the process extremely time-consuming. Sometimes I'd be up at 6am just to play catch up. These days a lot of the bloggers I used to follow have defected to IG so it doesn't take half as long to read and comment on those in my blog list. Over the years I've learnt not to beat myself up if I don't comment on every single post especially if it's someone who posts every day or if it's a blog about a subject that doesn't resonate. It's not because I don't like the blogger, it's just that I have nothing noteworthy to contribute to the discussion.

Writing a blog post doesn't take too long - probably around an hour - unless it's one of my travel posts which can take an age to whittle down the photos and to recall the fascinating facts I've scrawled in my travel journal!

4) When do you write a post - in the morning or the evening? Usually in the afternoon, after I've done all my tasks and before it's too dark for photos (a nightmare in the depths of the British Winter).

5) What is your favourite topic? India! Not only does it help prolong my trip but the feedback I get via social media and email is amazing. One of the best things ever was bumping into a lady in the Indian Visa office in Birmingham who told me she'd been inspired to achieve her lifelong dream of visiting India after reading my blog.

6) What's the thing you love most about blogging? Connecting with like-minded women from all over the world. I'm always staggered when people recognise me in real life and bowled over when people make a special effort to visit our stall at festivals or vintage fairs just to say hello.

7) What's the thing you like least? I don't think there's a negative other than the inevitable pervy messages (which always get deleted!)

8) Where do you see yourself and your blog in five years time? Most of the time I don't know where I'll be next week, let alone in five years...hopefully alive and still having the time of my life!

I'm a bit of a rule breaker so I'm not going to nominate anyone in particular (anyone who reads my blog adds  sunshine to my life) but if you fancy answering my women-centric questions ('cos it's International Woman's Day) please feel free to do so either on your blog or if you don't have a blog either on Facebook or in the comments below. 

1. Five well-known women (alive or dead) you'd invite over for dinner (or just meet in the pub).
2. Woman you'd most like to swap places with for one day and why?
3. Which female actor would you pick to play you in a film about your life?
4. Is there a particular woman who influenced your style or inspired you somehow, and who is she? (Sheila wrote a wonderful piece HERE about her Aunt Ann) 
5. Whose wardrobe would you most like to steal?

WEARING: Anokhi dress & Anokhi quilted cotton riding coat, Banjara necklace (India), vintage Tuscan lamb hat & snakeskin effect Western boots (charity shopped)

Have a fantastic weekend & see you soon!

Linking to Patti & the gang for Visible Monday.