Sunday, 24 June 2012

Carven Electric

Get some powerful prints in the mix, courtesy of Carven...

If hopes an African summer in the traditional, and idiomatic sense, seemed dashed until recently (and still somewhat doubtful, at that) then perhaps it may have explained why African-inspired fashion has yet to feature prominently among the key statements of this season. Sure, many key pieces that excited the fashion press were of a distinctly out-of-Africa nature - the construction and colour palette at Donna Karan and the ethnically-inspired embellishment at Burberry, to name but two - but aside from a few neon and boldly coloured ikat-style geometric prints, it appears to have kept a relatively low profile... until now. With this and the major trend towards bright colour (hell, it's the only sure-fire way to brighten up our days where some of us are!) in mind, I decided to take on Carven's tribal printed shirt from the picture below:

Writers (just to use an umbrella term - advances in modern technology have quite blurred the lines as to which source comes primarily from where these days!) have mentioned likenesses to Missoni, but I think I can go one better than that. Looking at the collection, yes, I too could imagine it being conjured up by the Missoni team, using offcuts from British-Nigerian artist, Yinka Shonibare's Here installation or the prints from his work for the Un Ballo Maschera film. Looking at how the tribal geometric prints intertwine with sketched linear patterns, I had to throw in my two DIY-driven cents on how to get the authentic look. So, in for a penny, in for a pound...

You will need

Two paintbrushes including one good one and one really soft, cheap one you don't mind vandalising

Fabric paint in:
Lemon yellow
Apple green
Olive green (mmmm, greens!)

Black permanent fabric marker


Patternmaster or graded setsquare

Gold gel pen

White shirt collar and all purpose adhesive (optional)


Very easy 

Very easy, in fact I suppose the only reason the scissors icon isn't on the far left-hand side is to cover my back with creating the ikat-style effects. It may take a while to get the feel for it and you might want to practise on a scrap of material, but it's very easy when you know how. The scribbling part's easier still.


It took me about 7 hours per side. That said, I was pretty distracted and, if I'm honest, that time went pretty fast. In fact, I'd describe the process as really enjoyable colouring in (which I hadn't done in a fair few years!)

The process - as communicated in the form of interpretive dance:

Only joking - but I did put together a collage for easy reading.

Friday, 22 June 2012

DIY Digest: Get cape, wear cape, flaunt

Can't stitch 2 pieces of fabric together? Don't fancy the mess or challenge of sewing? Haven't actually got 12 free hours at your disposal but need a quick, no-fuss revanping tip? Can do!

I was spurred on to introduce my first quick, super-easy DIY tip - that's so easy I kind of feel cheeky calling it DIY, rather a subtle-but-effective styling fix - to make it easier to post more often and to share my creative solutions with readers who aren't that confident with technically demanding projects. To leave something for everyone, in other words. The idea for this particular one also came to me from working in an overly air-conditioned office and managing to mess up my cardigan en route. I found myself resorting to using my scarf as a kind of security blanket, whilst thinking, wouldn't it double up nicely as a cape? Okay, arguably, this brainwave should have happened around November when capes were more of the moment, but then, frankly so should this disappointing (though nonetheless enduring) weather! Besides, with the amount I paid for it, it's heartening to know my black devoré skull scarf can serve a second purpose!

So, for Operation: Fabulous Wooby, you will need

A generous-sized rectangular scarf

A nice matching brooch or a safety pin

...and, ooh, a good 30 seconds at your disposal.

Think you can manage? Here's how it's done

Sunday, 17 June 2012

Scarf Ace

Scarf printed tops are the signature look of the current season - room for one more?

This concept of this tutorial came to me as a creative solution to the issue of what to wear to a festival (and still look fabulous whatever the harsh, conspiring weather!) I came up with a kaftan-style scarf printed top that's lightweight, cool and not too clingy. In fact, the advantage of its shape is the freedom of movement that it allows, as well as the versatility - it can be worn sleeveless with the drapes cascading along the sides or wrapped around your arms for extra warmth. What's more, if you glam it up and choose a silk patterned scarf, it's as chic for day wear as it is classy for the evenings.

Now that we're well into the season for spring/summer 2012 (read, just about getting started as far as the weather's concerned), I've noticed that the fashion statement to shout the loudest this season has been the Dolce & Gabbana-inspired scarf print look. The above examples are, well, just to refresh your memory, if, indeed they're needed (in which case, I do hope you enjoyed your holiday in space and eagerly await your postcard) Scarf prints are just one of the key looks inspired by Dolce & Gabbana, as they hold a well-heeled (and high-heeled I should suspect) foot in the camp of couture, with their collections being among the most talked about, season upon season. This time around, it's funny to think that such a distinctively colourful collection would come from a fashion label once famously known for their use of black, albeit in as bold a way as ever, with contrasting animal prints and, all too often, fetishistic overtones - in their use of fishnet stockings and satin corsets. What's more, nostalgic romanticism was at the core of their creative inspiration from the start, the scarf prints of this season have just been a novel, contemporary approach, as is inevitable in fashion. As Domenico Dolce once said: "I like time. Now is not two minutes later and it's never like before. Repetition doesn't exist." Amen to that, and to alternate interpretation, Mr D.

Speaking  of new sartorial incarnations, the kaftan-style top I came up with was meant as an easy tutorial, ideal for all abilities and levels of experience. I also find it's great as a kind of all-purpose top, ideal for evening wear, throwing over a bikini at the pool and even for wearing with cut off shorts at a festival. It's easy to move in and great for adding a touch of elegantly draped finesse to an outfit...though I say it myself!

You will need

A patterned scarf, about 1m x 1m (H&M currently do one for £7)

About 1.5m ribbon that's strong and wide (mine was 3.5cm in width, priced at £4.35 from John Lewis, however you can buy it much more cheaply at a market. Also I'd recommend you choose a versatile colour that's not too hard to match like black or white)

Sewing machine

Thread that matches your scarf

Sewing scissors (the smaller and sharper the better)

Embellishment trims and all purpose/contact adhesive (optional. Quick tip: A thin covering of glue on the ends of your ribbon is a great and subtle way to stop it from fraying)

Tape measure

Patternmaster or a ruler and setsquare for measuring points on the scarf and making sure they're measured along straight lines.)

Metallic gel pen

Sewing pins



Just because you'll more than likely be working with a satin scarf or even something more sheer like chiffon, which can be a bit of a fiddle to sew. My advice is to just take care and take your time to avoid any nasty snagging and ripping.


It took me 5-6 hours but I was pretty distracted so normally it'd probably be a lot less.

 So, here's how to give your scarf a second life...

Sunday, 10 June 2012

Chic Cheat Reloaded - Chic or Unique? Shoes for festivity

Hello and welcome to another slightly late-in-the-day blog entry with a retrospective flavour. My excuse this time? My last computer broke down (apparently, the motherboard finally hit the cyber-menopause or something equally terrifying) so, to cut short a long story of which I don't quite understand the technicalities, I decided, over the course of the weekend to take the plunge and indulge - nay, invest - in the dandy convenience of a new laptop. So, once again, readers, here I am with another retrospective DIY-fest (clue in the choice of words - more on that later), this time, in wedge shoe form.

First of all, a bit of background on the events of this weekend, I've been living and working in Peterborough for roughly 18 months, and am already at the stage, so perennial in the life of any crafter with hoarder tendencies, of being able to go through a veritable adventure of endless charm and reminiscence much like that of a local history walk just by going through my things for a quick sort-out... today's archaeological escapades took me to the shrouded depths of the mesh drawer cabinet, into which every receipt, craft project emergency buy and essential piece of equipment I recently forgot I had was shoved at machine gun speed while I worked your way through the tight time schedule of work alongside mandatory everyday executive functioning. My legitimate reason for this  was trying to find programs, driver software and space for the new acquisition I had welcomed.

These treasure hunt-style trips are among surprisingly many things that make me feel smug about following my dreams, trusting my instincts and going down the piss poorly paid creative route, against the advice of so many sniping cynics, at school and the like. Sure, I could have pursued languages instead and exploited my respective technical USPs in translation or somewhere similar, or gone into something technical like maths (with which I left on a good note, clocking up an A* grade at GCSE - no I don't know how the hell that happened, either!) Sure, I'd have led a nice, respectable  lifestyle well into the middle-class demographic with casual panache, resigned all my proud quirks to a kind of personality lobotomy and probably become an alcoholic if I didn't die of boredom first (no, I know it hasn't killed anybody - I'd be a world record holder, as yet another string to my overachieving bow, but, really, would the sacrifice be worth it?) But no, I remain a modest-living artiste, with proudly straightedge principles, a pursuit of truth and now in recent ownership of two pairs of tailoring scissors bought from  student-trusted shop, William Gee in Shoreditch, both acquired as part of a determined rush to the finish line of different art projects, and both at a time when I was solemnly convinced I had lost my last pair. Other finds among my treasure trove are two half-full tubes of contact adhesive from similar scenarios, a hazardously leaking glue gun and, I swear, every phone I've owned since around 2004!

There is a genuine point to my reminiscent ramblings, I promise, in fact, just to deliver, I'm tackling the hippie-inspired festival theme with an item from the fairly recent past, namely the Topshop Unique Woven Tassel Wedges, which were worn by Gossip Girl's Jessica Szohr at the Metropolitan Museum of Art Costume Institute Gala, then by Made in Chelsea muppet, Chloe Green and by Saturdays singer Vanessa White. My reason, well defence, is that while they may have been designed last year, tribal is still very much of the moment. Fashion, like all art,  communicates a language of imagery. The Swiss linguist Ferdinand de Saussure asserted that each part of an image, in this case it would be an outfit, is made up of parts of a whole - the "signs." These signs signify a message according to the choices and combinations of how they are arranged, so, for my festival-themed look, I'm going to slip these shoes in with studs, fringing, denim and Native American prints (hoping nobody notices, hee hee!) That's my story, and dammit I'm sticking to it!

You will need

Wedge heeled shoes

Black and red enamel paint

About two square feet of black leather (mine was fished out of a leather shop reject bin, in semi cut-up jacket form, at the bargain price of about £3)

Brown large beads

Red opaque fabric paint


Sewing machine with a leather needle (sold at most haberdashers and generally made for easy insertion)

Glue gun

Paint brush

Black pen

Pattern master or graded setsquare

Fine metal wire

2cm wide strips of black elastic

Needle and thread

With each shoe, you need to..

Using your black pen and graded setsquare, map out a symmetrical, angular area, like the one in the above sketch, on each of your heels. Paint it with red enamel paint and cover the surrounding area in black.

Cover the upper areas of your shoes, where the straps are, with the black leather, leaving peep toes at the front and attaching black strips of elastic along the backs of the ankles.

Cut twelve strips as long as possible (ideally about 30-40cm long x 1cm wide) fold them in half and sew them together so that they're double thickness. Paint them with red fabric paint along the edge. Separate them into two groups of six, and then each of the groups into three sets of two strands. Now, it's time to plait them.

In case this looks like some exotic parasitic worm diagram from a Victorian medical journal, let me rouse you from your apparent nightmare to let you know that this is, in fact a colour-coded picture of how to plait your three sets of two strips, from the previous step. You only need to do this on the one side, as you will notice if you look at the originals - plait the other side conventionally. Notice how the strands loop around each other.

Now to make some tassels. Cut out two strips of leather, about 40cm x 10cm and paint the backs with red fabric paint. Cut slits which end about 1cm from the top (I just eyeballed it) Then, take your wire, bend it over several times whilst still keeping it about 15cm long, loop it at the end and thread it through your large brown bead. Glue the wire underneath to the end of your leather, on the red side, and roll it up into a perfect cylindrical tassel.

Sew your plaited strips and tassels in place, on the outer sides, in the latter's case, and there you have it...

I also added some excess red-edged straps along the centre to look like laces:

Tuesday, 5 June 2012

Lovely Jubilee - Part 2

You will need

A metal clutch bag

Diamantés from seller crystalgems2010 (24408) on Ebay:

2000 in silver priced at £3.49 (total: £7.78 with postage and packing)

500 (approx) in black, priced at £2 (total £2.80)

250 (approx) each in red, yellow and blue £1.29 (total for the three with postage and packing £6.27)

Gemstone glue – £3.49 from Hobbycraft

Gel pens in gold, silver, black, blue and red

A few sheets of plain white A4 paper

Sticky back plastic

Spray mount




Masking tape


15-20 hours


Fiddly and a good exercise for the old patience at times but worth it.

The method in the madness...

Check out this video and find out!

The Result

Lovely Jubilee - Part 1

Frustratingly, owing to technical difficulties, my two Jubilee-themed entries have had to go live later than I would have liked. I won't bore you or appear to beg for your sympathy by going into details on he matter. If anything, I'd liken said glitches to the doomed off-ramp area of the Miami MacArthur Causeway on a bustling Saturday, i.e. don't go there! So, writing with a kind of preemptively retrospective angle, here's how I, here at Chic Cheat, celebrated the biggest national and international news of this past week (I mean, the utterly enthralling story about the drugged man eating a vagrant's face was tempting and all, but, you know, when in Rome...)The first thing I crafted in honour of Her Majesty's celebrated 60-year reign was this Alexander McQueen Union Jack clutch bag:


Very easy

Not my most adventurous entry, or ambitious, but then that means it's not my most challenging, either. For all those new to Chic Cheat or to DIY fashion as a whole, I'd recommend this tutorial as a great way to start.


About 10 hours - hazarding a guess here, as I dipped in an out of this with a lot of distractions, so it could well be less, you'll surely be pleased to know.

You will need

A metal clutch bag (prices may vary) I tried it on a converted jewellery box, and although I wouldn't recommend it, the same method would apply to - and work on - the former.

Pack of 250 diamantes in royal blue and red, each priced at £1.29 with 80p postage and packing, bought on Ebay from a seller called crystalsandgems2010 (24408): Total: £4.18

2.5m ribbon in red and a slightly wider ribbon in white (wider by about 4mm) prices may vary, as would appropriate widths, depending on the clutch bag you use

Fimo clay £2 from Cuddly Buddly

Blue Dylon opaque fabric paint £3 and a paintbrush

Gold paint by Humbrol about £4 on Ebay

Two small pearl beads (optional)

Gemstone glue - £3.49 from Hobbycraft

Faceted red  and blue beads (bonus if you can get them in different sizes - prices may vary but I'd recommend Ebay for this one)

Craft mount


Contact adhesive (£2.08 per tube at B&Q)

You need to...

Use your Fimo clay to sculpt a skull-shaped clasp cover for your clutch. Start by kneading the clay to get it soft enough to work with. You can also sculpt the back around the clasp of your clutch by building it over the fastening and removing it once you are finished.

Following the directions closely on the packaging, leave your clay skull to bake in the oven.

Paint your skull gold.

Paint your clutch blue, unless it is already that colour.

Cut your ribbon to fit in a Union Jack pattern on each side. Craft mount it to your bag, starting with the white before going onto the red.

Using your tweezers, glue on your faceted beads and diamantes.

After your gemstone glue as dried, repeat the ribbon and gem processes on the other side.

Finally, using your contact adhesive, glue your skull in place and, if you have decided to include the two pearls I recommended earlier, glue them in the eye sockets.

...So there you have it.