Tuesday 26 January 2010

Out on a Lim

Accordion to my research, this chic piece of bling is still hot for banishing the winter blues…

Total Cost

About £8…

Save it!

… Which, compared to the £250 price tag of the original, pales into insignificance at less than a thirtieth of the price, or a saving of about £242.

You Will Need

1.5m of black grosgrain ribbon. Hobbycraft do one which is just under an inch and a half wide, priced at 75p per metre.

Half a metre of sheer black ribbon, also available at Hobbycraft at 39p a metre.

Picture hooks to mimic the hinges on the original ( I haven’t been able to find appropriate hinges of the right size, but the look that the picture hooks method gives off is pretty authentic) priced at £1.32 a packet at Wickes. Also some wire to bind them together. I used copper wire I found at home.

Chunky golden chain, something my tongue falters while I say, as it’s not the sort of item you’d typically associate with fine taste. Furthermore, the chain I used for this entry came in the form of a 3-chain bracelet from Primark and cost £1. Just think of the black ribbon textures and gems which make this exercise all worthwhile!

A selection of round, diamond-shaped and teardrop-shaped rhinestones in white, green, yellow, red, purple and black if you can find one. I picked mine up from a haberdasher’s in Birmingham’s St Martin’s market and the total cost came to £1.11

Black leather fake leather will do.

2 gold eyelet holes they cost £2.99 a packet at Hobbycraft

2 pairs of long-nosed pliers

Needle and thread

Pritt stick or equivalent

Ruler, fabric scissors and metallic gel pen

Sewing machine with a leather needle the latter is available at all good haberdashers.

Hammer and scrap piece of wood or - if you have some -eyelet pliers

Something to punch a hole through leather - I used a scalpel, but if you have a leather hole puncher, so much the better.

Get your Lim beau rocks on…

Look at the way the ribbon on the original is folded. It’s concertina-folded, like a fan, in the way that it curves around.

Take your grosgrain ribbon and fold it concertina-style, but in such a way that the pleats overlap, causing the pleats to be about 1″ deep, but for them to appear to be about 1cm deep on the surface. Notice, on the original, that the pleats are also done at an angle to make it curve round, so you need to mimic that with the grosgrain in order to get the same effect. Pin each pleat in place after you’ve folded it. You should use up the entire ribbon to get the right length.

When the pleats are pinned in place, secure them by machine-stitching along the top.

When you pick your grosgrain ribbon up, you will probably find it curves round in a spiral. Don’t worry about this, as you can secure it in its original curves shape by stitching it by hand along the bottom. Just run your needle and thread through the pleats, keeping it beneath the surface so that it can’t be seen.

Cut four of each of the following pieces out of leather:

Fold back the flaps and use your glue stick to hold them in place. Using your sewing machine and leather needle, sew the hexagonal pieces one on top of the other so that no raw edges are showing.

Punch a hole in the narrow top end of each of the two new hexagonal pieces and insert the eyelet hole. The eyelets I suggested come with instructions as to how to use your hammer or eyelet pliers. Ensure that you follow instructions carefully and take care not to cause damage with your hammer, if you’re using one.

Cut your sheer black ribbon in half and thread each piece through the eyelet holes. Secure them by tying them in a knot around the leather piece.

With the flaps of your rectangular leather pieces glued back, sandwich your black grosgrain ribbon between each set of two, pin them together and sew them in place.

Time to create your “hinges” with your picture hooks. Use your pliers to bend the hook all the way back so that it forms an enclosed loop shape. Repeat this process with three more hooks.

Place each hook in the middle of the top of your rectangular leather pieces and the bottom of your hexagonal pieces, on the opposite side to where the eyelet hole is. Stitch them in place. You may need to stitch from a few different angles in order to secure your hooks properly.

Feed a small piece of wire through the enclosed hooks and twist them with your pliers to secure them in place.

Detach all three pieces of chain from your Primark bracelet using your pliers, you should be able to prise open the small connecting wire loop fairly easily.

Attach two full chains onto each other using your pliers and one of the connecting loops. Repeat this with a third chain. You will probably find it is too long to fit onto your necklace, so you can trim it down by using both sets of pliers to pull the strong chain links apart.

Stitch the chain, link-by-link along the top of your necklace.

Finally, stitch your gems on, using the original as inspiration as to where to stitch them.

Stella Good

A sprightly springtime look to blow away the winter cobwebs?  How about……..YES

As we leave the ice-laden days of extreme winter freeze behind us for pastures green(-ish) and the dawn of the springtime warmth, you only have to walk into a shop to find that spring has definitely sprung on planet fashion. From the high street to the catwalk, attention has already turned to what’s hot for the approaching warmer months, and there’s not so many a cold sore on one’s lips as there is the topic of what to wear when it’s finally time to banish those jeans, boots and coats to the back of your wardrobe, once again, until the autumn.

Well, for inspiration, here’s a start: The floral printed dresses from Stella McCartney’s latest spring/summer collection, in upbeat hues of red, orange and blue, with pleats and cascading frills, straddled the catwalk at her show to the backdrop of a giant canvas with YES splayed across, in an equally bold colour scheme. This chirpy, optimistic theme resonated throughout the collection, particularly in the dresses, and will surely be a key look for the season ahead.



Much as it pains me to say so, this one’s likely to test you to the limit, as, indeed it did to me, owing to the processes involved, including DIY pleating (with thermoplastic fabrics. “Thermo-who, now?” I hear you ask - more on that enthralling saga later), frill-making and more fun with bias-binding. Confused? Fear not, all will be revealed, my friends…

Total Cost

Mine worked out at just over £15 (because the fabric I bought was on offer - yours might work out more expensive but not by much)


Mine took me about 4 days - but that included making mistakes, learning and re-doing. Luckily for you, yours should take less time, as long as you follow instructions closely, and shouldn’t be nearly as stressful.

You will need

About 2 metres of red polyester, maybe more depending on the width of your fabric. Barry’s Fabrics in Birmingham -1 Moseley Street, Birmingham, B5 6JX, tel    0121 622 6102   (They also have a branch in Manchester called Leon’s Fabric Superstore -419 Barlow Moor Road, Chorlton, Manchester, M19 1PL, tel   0161 861 7960  ) do an appropriate fabric with a floral print in brown, crimson and pink, like the one used for Stella’s dress.

A matching (or close enough) one-shoulder top or dress that’s reasonably well fitted around the bust. Unfortunately, these are currently harder to find than a straightedge at The Priory, but after much perseverance, I managed to track one down in Primark for £5 on the sale(product number 8159176) A word of warning - it’s actually pink, so I’d recommend you keep in the direction of crimson hues for your covering fabric.

2 reels of matching red thread and a roll of satin bias binding Available at Hobbycraft for £1.40 a reel and £1.79 respectively.

Metre ruler


Fabric scissors

Large sheet of paper

Drawing pin

Long strip of sturdy card

Scalpel (optional) and pencil

Needle and thread

Iron and ironing board

Piece of calico you don’t mind burning (honest to God, I’m a sane person!)

Sewing machine

Shall we begin…

Truth be known, this was the entry that wouldn’t die, and defeated me on a lot of counts, which had never happened in Chic Cheat history before. Traditionally, I’d always known what I was doing, would look at the garment in question and know instantly how to problem solve my way to a respectable replica without a hitch. This time around, I thought I did, but, instead, found myself redoing certain processes before getting them right, and living to regret my choice of fabric and base garment for customising the first time around. Fate hasn’t been kind to me over the past week. It was spent wrangling with the respective processes of this dress, whilst battling the common cold and tearing my hair out, debating whether to add a magnum shotgun to my list of ingredients so that I might be spared by blowing my brains out! At least going down with the proverbial lurgy gave me an excuse to spend more or less the entire week in my pyjamas and rarely leaving the confines of my bedroom - which still looks a cross between a bombsite and an eccentric’s laboratory where the sane fear to tread. There, I plugged away undisturbed at my new experiment, yet still managed to make even heavier weather of it than the freezing outdoor conditions most of us have seen this month! The hours I put in reverted me to a primal form I hadn’t assumed since my stroppier days of teenagehood, giving me the motivational skills of a lounge lizard and a ghastly temper. Still, talking of going back to school, I actually found myself referring to an old textiles project I did when I was about 17 to find out how best to pleat fabric. ‘Twas in a dusty, forgotten corner, in the bowels of our house, that I discovered the ancient tome, reading “The Advantages of Thermoplastic Fabrics” (okay, I tell a lie - it was saved on my Dad’s old Mac, but work with me here!) And so here, by this process, begins our first method…

Just pleat it! 

I shall now reveal exactly what I meant when I was banging on about this whole thermoplastic malarkey. Quoth I, from said project I did back at school: “Thermoplastic fabrics are a type of man-made fabric whose configuration can be changed when heated, if shaped, for example, to fit a mould, and retain this new configuration on cooling, until re-heated. The reason for this is that the fabric has become heat-set. This is what the name ‘thermoplastic’ means.” Basically, they are fabrics you can mould into shapes, textures and pleats by heating them, manipulating them into whichever shape you want, and cooling them down to set them in place.

The reason why all thermoplastic fabrics are synthetic, or part-synthetic, is because of their make up. Thermoplastic fabrics are made up of molecules which are held together in long chains. When they are heated, the chains lose their weak grip, making the material go soft, and rendering it pliable and easy to shape. When cooled down, the long chains attract each other again and the weak bonds reform, thus the material becomes rigid again. The fabric can only be moulded when it is soft, therefore, it needs to be heated to quite a high temperature for the heat-setting process to take place. As thermoplastic fabrics lose their shape on heating, they should be washed at very low temperatures. Bet you didn’t know that, did you? Okay, settle down, class, here’s how I’m going to apply it to the Stella McCartney dress…

Cut two rectangles from your fabric, both 80×70cm. Concertina-fold them into pleats about an inch deep, pin them in place. Tack-stitch them in place and take the pins out, otherwise you’ll get pin marks heat-set into your pleats - sooo not a good look, honey!

With your fabric stitched together into pleats, cover it with your sheet of calico and iron it on maximum heat for a few minutes.

When your pleats have been heat-set, you then have to attach your fabric to your garment.

Note: if you are using the Primark top I suggested, you will also need to cut the pink frills off. Try to cut as close to the garment - without damaging it - as possible.

You can attach it at the top, just under the armhole.

Place your fabric across your garment, upside down, with the wrong side facing upwards, 1cm below where the armholes come to.You’re likely to notice that the top of your rectangles of fabric are somewhat wider than the close fitting top of your garment where you need to attach them. I solved this problem by folding certain of the pleats back on themselves, so that the edge of your fabric diminishes in width and is able to fit exactly onto the front of your garment.

Repeat this process with the back of your garment.

Attach your fabric at the sides using your bias binding.

Finally, finish off your hem by folding the bottom of your fabric up by 1cm, machine-stitching over it as close to the edge as possible and cutting away the excess fabric. Then fold your fabric over again by a tiny amount and stitch next to the edge again, as before.

And now, for the big frill…

Draw a circle on paper 64cm in diameter, and a circle inside it 31cm in diameter. You can do this by making a giant compass, using card, a ruler, a pencil and a scalpel or scissors. Simply draw around your ruler and cut out your new rectangle of card.

Pierce your card near the edge with your drawing pin, and, keeping your pin in, mark 15.5 and 32cm from it. Pierce in the centre of the card at each of these measurements and make a hole large enough for the tip of a pencil to draw through. Your new compass should look something like this…

Draw your 2 circles and cut them out, so that you have a pattern piece that looks like a large paper Polo mint.

Draft and cut out a similar circular pattern piece of a circle 2cm wider in diameter, so that it is 66cm in diameter on the outside and 31cm in diameter on the inside.

Pin onto your fabric and cut out each circle piece twice. Cut out a line from the outside of the circle to the inside, so that instead of circles you now have four long, curved pieces of fabric.

Sew each of the two circles to one another.

Again, finish off the lower edge by folding the bottom of your fabric up by 1cm, machine-stitching over it as close to the edge as possible and cutting away the excess fabric. Then fold your fabric over again by a tiny amount and stitch next to the edge again, as before.

Pin your frills together with the wider one underneath the narrower one, and sew your bias binding along the top.

Pin your frills, now attached to the bias binding along the top, folding the binding back and forth on itself continually around the garment so that the fabric attached to it forms billowing ripples like the ones on the original dress. Machine stitch it down, making sure the line of bias binding is straight.

…And after that rigorous procedure, you may feel like you’ve really been put through your paces, but the good news is you should be left with something that looks like this…


Christmas might be over… But as the new year approaches, and the party season rolls on, who needs stockings when you can have fabulous shoes!

Along with Michael Jackson tributes and the great Tiger Woods debacle, there was just no getting away from Christian Louboutin’s trademark wanton red soles, strutting their way among the fashionable and the famous. If indeed, all of the last sentence was news to you, then I do hope you enjoyed your stay on Mars, but speaking of good news, ’twas an all-familiar feeling when I spied the coveted shoes and thought “six hundred quid!!? They’re ‘avin a larf!… Especially when I can make my own for as little as £16!”



Technique-wise, this one’s far from taxing, but, now that you’ve had the good news, the bad news is, it’s just as easy to make a mess, both on your surroundings and your precious New-boutins, so the logistics are a challenge - to say the least - and the relevant precautions mandatory.


Couple of hours’ preparation, covering your shoes and preparing your work area (I’d recommend doing your shoes outdoors, even in this weather, or in a garage, shed or studio where making a mess and living with suffocating fumes aren’t an issue) intermittent sets of 20 minutes or so for painting and lacquering and anything up to a few days’ drying/ lacquering time between coats.

Total cost

If you buy the cheapest black stiletto heels, currently on sale, enamel paint and lacquer, it should come to about £16. Add on another few pounds if you find yourself buying black shoe paint, should you have any spillages you’d need to correct.

Save it!

That’s a saving of almost £550, however, if you’re not careful with paint-related damage limitation, you might find yourself paying that difference in home repairs as you’re dealing with permanent paint!

You will need

Black stiletto shoes, ideally patent black if it is the real McCoy you’re going for. Said shoes start at £6 at Primark.

Red enamel paint, ideally spray paint to get an even finish - however it is messier than brush-on paint, harder to control and - for the environmentally-aware among us - the less saintly option for the environment, being in an aerosol can. I used Plastikote fast-dry enamel paint (colour: Insignia Red 1065) priced at £4.25 from Hobbycraft.

Clear lacquer spray, 300ml will do, priced at £5.99 a can at Halfords.

Black shoe paint for correcting errors is an advantage: I got mine for £4 but prices may vary.

Parcel tape.

2 plastic carrier bags.


White spirit for getting the paint off your hands.

The worst clothes you own - and don’t mind ruining!

Newspaper and an appropriate working space.



In a nutshell…

Protect your working area with newspaper to avoid messing it up.

Put parcel tape around the edges of your shoes near the sole, so that the surfaces are covered right up to the edge. Pay particularly good attention around the heels.

Spread your carrier bags across your shoes, so that they cover the rest of the surfaces, and tape them down. You may need to cut them in places in order to manipulate them better. Your shoes should be completely covered and water-tight, except for the soles.

Time to spray your enamel paint. Follow instructions carefully, spray paint from a distance no closer than about 25cm, try to apply as thinly as possible so that it dries more quickly and doesn’t run or seep through. If you’re using the Plastikote spray like I did, then it should take around 3 hours (!) to dry.

Now for the lacquer to protect the paint. Read instructions carefully and ensure that you take all necessary precautions. The one I used required spraying in 2 thin coats, leaving 15 minutes for each layer to dry, and then about a day for the shoes to dry completely… Simple as… Job’s a good ‘un… Good times!

In Practice…

Logistically this project was a challenge and a half! I’d had the raw ingredients since Christmas eve and was hoping to get the entry in before the end of the month, and before the party season was officially over. It would surely be a race against the clock to get the Louboutin look in before it went out of season, and I suppose the words “more haste, less speed” weren’t at the forefront of my agenda for a process so seemingly simple. “Cover your shoes, point and shoot, leave to dry, uncover… Bob’s your blood relative - sweet as a diamond,” I thought. I did the painting on the lawn outside my house, and it proved a nightmare to get enough hours of daylight, since I’d had to work for the next few days since getting the right things, including Christmas day (hitherto an alien experience, but this year I had no choice in the matter - yay Credit Crunch!) My parents might have quetioned my haste in the creation of this entry, and I suppose new year’s eve’s a bit 11th hour anyway, but I’m still trying to keep this blog to 2 entries a month, so, as I believe they say in the old country - this year would be nice!

I made some mistakes, which I learnt from before writing this entry. I initially used masking tape, but that proved too weak and too permeable, so my paint and lacquer ran. I even caused some minor damage to soft furnishings with wet paint which I thought was dry, which is why I can’t stress enough the importance of reading and sticking to instructions. In fact, patronising as this may sound, I’d recommend parental supervision to any younger readers of this entry. However, I got there in the end, the results are definitely worth it and I’m gonna wear it to my friend’s new year’s eve shindig tonight. Have fun with this one, dear audience… till then, ciao - I’ve got a party to go to!

Your Loyal and Faithful Serpent

Fashion takes a walk on the Wylde side…

Image: net-a-porter

Christmas is coming, some geese are getting fat - even if noone’s wallet is - and the festive rituals are in full swing. To be fair, they have been for a month, already, so nothing hot off the press there, as such. In my opinion, it’s a mixed blessing. The freezing outside weather conditions add to the sense of coziness indoors and, with my home town being in the heart of historic England, the atmospheric darkness turns the scenery into an otherworldly fairyland bathed in incandescent flecks of light. I don’t mind that it’s the festival of mindless consumerism, for most of us, or that it entails weeks of trawling the manic shops to buy people things they don’t need (That said, for a real Nightmare Before Christmas, beyond anything Jack Skellington and pals could have dreamt up, look no further than the bedlam of Oxford Street!) However, when it comes to Christmas music - I’m talking music of the post-modern, non-religious persuasion, here - I remain of the bah humbug school of thought. Completely.

I have to say, this nation’s a funny lot when it comes to odd yearly traditions. “Awww, it’s so Christmassy…” they coo over the same novelty Christmas records, that were far from bearable to begin with, played year in and year out, ” it really gets you in the festive mood!” I’m still congratulating myself on getting this far and being able to avoid hearing Slade’s “Merry Christmas” so far this year, and all the other trite and embarrassing songs of the season (”Fairytale of New York” excepted) I mean, every time I’ve had to hear these bouts of jangling noise pollution, and the equally naff justification thereof, I’m moved to ask, “well, what about getting up and coming home from school/uni/work in pitch darkness and plying yourself with vitamin C lest you come down with virulent influenza - is that festive and Christmassy, too?” A silly question, some may think. Well, I tend to keep an open mind before writing any question off as such, with the possible exception of “what’s the national religion of Antarctica?” Egyptian writer, Naguib Mahfouz even said “you can tell whether a man is clever by his answers, you can tell whether a man is wise by his questions”…so there!

I was always one to laugh in the face of conformity, when it came to things I didn’t see the point of. I’m going to take a similar angle of self-indulgence for this entry. My blog has, thus far, been predominantly mainstream and trend-led , but rather than covering what’s hot right now, I chose to copy something just ’cause I love it, and, I would say that it’s quite the perfect gift, but, be warned, there’s a serious risk of it turning out so fabulous, you’ll want to keep it for yourself! Hanging onto all that remains of the tough chic trend of this past year, I give you…. Thomas Wylde’s serpent boots - a Chic Cheat tribute:

Image: net-a-porter



Ummmm… hard to gauge, this one, because, it’s all basically straightforward apart from putting the zip in, which comes fairly easily to me, but may be hard for the inexperienced.


The beadwork, itself, took about 10 hours per boot, and you’d need a couple of extra hours to put the zips in, and the buckles if you want to.

Total Cost

About £42 without the buckles - still, not bad for knee-highs and…

Save It!

…it’s for less than a sixtieth (!) of the price tag for the originals, which will set you back £2,460!

You will need

Knee-high black boots. Primark do a pair I’d recommend for £18.60 (prod. no 7005616)

750 gold 5mm ovular beads (Item ref 80-518-01 Cat ref. 114N)
200 oxidised silver 5mm beads (item ref 80-517-04 Cat ref. 114M)
Both from The Bead Shop, 21A Tower Street, Covent Garden, London, WC2H 9NS, tel: 02072400931 , order online from www.beadworks.co.uk tel: 02085533240 - TOTAL SHOULD COME TO £17.22

About 40 silver 2mm beads, which should set you back £1-£1.50

2 black zips, 30cm in length, priced £2.19 from Athena Crafts, http://stores.ebay.co.uk/Athena-Crafts ,      0871 288 5779

Computer with printer

Sewing machine with zipper foot and leather needle (available at all good haberdashers)

Contact/ all purpose adhesive



Metallic gel pen


Needle and black thread

Black kilt straps (optional)

Make-up removal wipes (believe it or not!)

Let’s Rock!

If your boots are too wide, you may want to pin them together at the back so that they fit more tightly. Mark the points out with your gel pen.

Slash your boots down the back with your scalpel, down to about 11cm from the heel (and no further down, unless you fancy breaking your sewing machine by trying to sew over the hard spine of the boot!)

Cut a diagonal line 1cm long from either side of the line, so that you can fold the leather back on itself where your demarcations from your gel pen are.

Pin it in place and pin the zip to it. Glue the zip in place at the bottom and sew in the rest of the zip with the zip open.

Remove pins. If your zip is too long and you need to cut it, make sure you bend it, fold it over and glue it in place at the top of your boots.

Print out 2 copies of the shape, above, so that it covers the length of an A4 - or, you can sketch out your own design, if you like. Cut out the serpent shapes with your scalpel and pin them to the front of your boots about 2cm from the top.

Draw around them with your gel pen. Take the paper stencils off.

Stitch your silver beads sparingly in a dotted line around the edge of the snake’s head. Then stitch on your gold beads in a dotted line around the outside and in “scale” patterns like the ones on the original. You might want to print out an image of the TW boots to get some inspiration and authenticity.

Sew your oxidised silver beads on, dot them around sparingly so that they don’t clash with the gold and so as to give the boots a quirky, individual twist.

Finally, if you want to add your kilt straps, pin them so that the buckle crosses the zip, 11cm down from and parallel to the top of the boots. Sew in place with a regular sewing machine foot.

Hot Gossip

It’s a funny old world. Okay a bleak one, for the most part, at least in this climate, yet still not failing to spring interesting new surprises on us now and again. With today’s society facing barrage after barrage of bad news about the economic climate, and those of us lucky enough to be in employment holding onto our jobs like grim death, you’d think there was no way on God’s green - and sometimes grey - earth that there would be room for extravagant perks, would you? Well, according to Tonic.com, maybe you shouldn’t. Referencing Fortune’s list of the 100 Best Companies To Work For, the article maintains that, even now, there are companies granting their employees free lunches, onsite massage therapists (if you don’t mind) and even thousands of dollars towards down payments on houses.

And what of my vocation, being but the struggling writer that I am? Well, I haven’t made a bean from this blog, as yet, so any perks to the tune of free private healthcare, gym membership or company car for my staff (i.e. me) might be out of reach……. but at least I get to watch Gossip Girl and call it research.

GG is worth watching for the costumes alone. Come to think of it, I haven’t even seen an extra look anything short of ravishing!

And so, for my first Chic Cheat ode to this televisual fashion parade, I thought we’d kick it off with this be-sequinned top worn by Serena, aka. the lovely Blake Lively…

I saw the Lively one sporting this top a few weeks ago, and in recapturing that glorious moment online, again may I thank the Lord above for the gift of the Print Screen function! I mean, sequins, especially metallic ones, are everywhere this party season, and…….

The good news:


Mark out your design, sew your sequins on in neat little rows - all there is to it, so job’s a good ‘un! That’s why this one’s EASY - easy like a Sunday morning!

Total Cost

With a top costing £6 and sequins coming to about £10 (6-8 packets of 1000 required, plus postage) you should be looking within the region of £16-17, I’m guessing that’s just a little bit less than the GG stylist’s expenditure on the original.

The bad news:


Brace yourselves: You will be looking at about 40 hours for this one. I should know having tried, tested and timed my method, it worked out at about 20 hours for each side. Still, look upon it as a worthy investment of evenings and weekends for a versatile look that’ll see you through the springtime as well as the winter party season.

You will need

A top in baby pink or peach like the one sported by Ms Lively. If you can get your hands on one with a scoop neck and/or 3/4 length sleeves, then bonus. I’d recommend Select’s turn-back sleeve top in baby pink (Product Code: S030 14 0202 ) The one I used was New Look’s hanky hem top ( Product Code: 1827468) but I had to doctor it.

About 6-8 pots of 4mm metallic gold cup sequins. Find packs of 1000 at www.creativebeadcraft.co.uk (code: CS4 - nice easy one to remember for all you Photoshop fans out there!) or buy them at their London shop, Ells & Farrier at 1 Marshall Street, London W1F 9BA Tel:      020 7734 1982

Copious thread - you shouldn’t need more than one reel but make it a generous one.


Pencil or tailor’s chalk.

Hair gel or wax - optional.

Okay, my dears, look Lively, now…

First of all, you’ve got to plan and mark out your pattern, using your pencil or tailor’s chalk. Notice how the sequins on the original are in a pattern resembling that of the ripples found in wood. I’ve drawn an example in the diagram below in case you need inspiration:

Stitch your sequins along the lines. The sequins on the original have a lovely, clustered texture to them,

...and, I find, the best way to imitate it is to stitch your sequins in a line, one on top of the other, as shown in the diagram.

Stitch from the centre of your sequin outwards, to the back and then the front. Stitch your next sequin 1mm or less from the last so that half of it covers the one before it, then repeat stitching from the insdie outwards, as before.

Tip: Don’t let your thread give you headaches by knotting all the time. I find coating your thread in hair wax helps both to avoid this and to make knots easier to untangle, but try to use it sparingly to avoid getting grease marks all over your top.

Repeat until all your lines are covered and spaces are filled in. Wear. Stun. Masquerade in a manner of effortless stylishness of which Gossip Girl herself would be envious. Until next time, xoxo

Get your Roks on

Apologies, dear readers, for the delay in blog entries. I thank you for your patience for waiting for my new blog entry inspired by the flower corsage craze, and this rather awesome new frock from Roksanda Ilincic’s collection for Whistles.

Image: whistles.co.uk

Factors culminating therein include me being too busy and too distracted by the respective festivities associated with this time of year…

First there was Halloween, the weekend of which I spent at a mate’s house. Fun, yes, but I still miss the old days. You see, this celebrated festival of fancy dress and tooth-rot, has so far been one of mixed experiences. Taking its inspiration from across the Atlantic, it might now be customary to spend it in risible garb, often inadequate for the harsh weather conditions, pestering the neighbours for confectionery donations, followed by appropriate homespun festivities, but here in my home town, it was only in childhood that I truly observed the momentous occasion with the latter choice of halloween parties, fancy dress, apple-bobbing etc. However, I was forbidden to trick-or-treat, lest it upset/harassed/traumatised the town’s resident grey vote – so my mum maintained anyway! That rule, it seems, has changed in recent years (as soon as I was considered too old – grrr!) So, I vowed that next year I would spend it trick-or-treating, somewhere, somehow and to hell with what anyone thinks, but then, maybe I’m jumping the gun there as well. Perhaps Halloween’s just doomed by sheer divine intervention to be anti-climactic for me, and, whatever I do, will be forever thus. Maybe it’s just because occasions always prove anti-climactic when there’s pressure on you to celebrate them and have fun, and everyone’s on the make, trying to get you to buy into it etc. That’s why my worst day of the entire year has to be New Year’s Eve - and don’t even get me started on Valentine’s Day!

The other nationally-observed knees-up to happen in the past week was bonfire night, aka. Guy Fawkes night, of course, in – ahem – loving memory of the insurgent and his unsuccessful attempt to blow up the Houses of Parliament, dating back from a time when it obviously must have been considered tasteful to celebrate attempted acts of terrorism. Come to think of it, next to the last few examples I’ve mentioned, does Halloween really seem so bad?

I initially thought my version of the Roksanda Ilincic dress would cut it as a dead garden costume, but with flower corsages in full bloom this season, why limit it to the one occasion when it can have you looking fabulous all winter long?



Okay, this particular verdict is more to cover my back. Both the two methods I’m about to teach have their moments when they get a bit fiddly, but are generally straightforward.


I worked one the Ilincic design for about 5 days, but only for a few hours each day, so I’d say it’s probably doable in the space of a weekend.

The second one took about two days, neither of which entailed working long hours, exactly, but some variations on the theme, which incorporate frills and drapery may take a day or so longer.

The other example in this blog entry, for a rose corsage, also took me a few days, but it may take you longer if you’re doing more than eight roses, which I did.

Total Cost

The Roksanda Ilincic replica should set you back about £16.50-£20. Maybe more if you need to get a leather needle and black thread for your sewing machine.

The rose example I’m leaving open as it depends on the garment you’re customising and the matching fabric you’re using. You shouldn’t find yourself spending more than £10 on wool or jersey, but silk, tweed or duchess satin might set you back more…

Save It!

…Having said that, it should still be less than £350, the cost of the Roksanda Ilincic dress, giving you a Chic Cheat saving of about £330!

You Will Need

For the Roksanda Ilincic dress:

•Navy blue dress or tunic top. Peacocks do the former for £10, prod. no: 40876014.
•1-1.5 metres of black PVC, I got mine from Barry’s Fabrics in Birmingham.
•Black thread.
•Large tube of contact/ all-purpose adhesive.
•Metallic gel pen or marker
•Sewing machine (optional)

For the rose corsage design:

•Plain jumper/ dress/ top… come to think of it, any garment in need of perking up will do, and why not get down to your nearest charity shop for some inspiration – and bargains!
•A metre of matching fabric, I’d also recommend going for one the same colour as your garment to get the romantic, English rose look that’s hot this season, but since it’s a free country, the choice is up to you!
•Matching thread
•Sewing machine
•Iron, better still if you’ve got a steam iron.

Time to get your Roks on…

Image: whistles.co.uk

Look at Roksanda’s design and you’ll see that there are different types of flowers. I devised three methods of making PVC flowers to get this effect:

Flower #1

Draw out a flower pattern about 15cm x 15cm on the wrong side of your PVC using your metallic pen. Cut it out with your scalpel, then stick it down – wrong side facing the wrong side- on your PVC with your contact adhesive and cut the whole shape out, again, with your scalpel.

Repeat with the same flower pattern only one about 10cm x 10 cm in size.

Pin your flowers, one on top of the other as shown in the diagram and secure by hand or machine-stitching the middle of the flower to the dress.

Flower #2

Draw out a flower pattern about 15cm x 15cm on the wrong side of your PVC using your metallic pen. Cut it out with your scalpel, then stick it down – wrong side facing the wrong side - on your PVC with your contact adhesive and cut the whole shape out, again, with your scalpel.

Cut out 4-5 ovals about 7cm long, and 4-5 ovals 5cm long in PVC, then stick them down, glue them and cut them out, as before.

Place the ovals on the flower as shown in the diagram below and stitch them to the centre of the flower. Affix the flower to the dress by hand or machine stitching around the edge.

Flower #3

To create a PVC rose shape, you need to cut out a splatter shape (15cm x 15cm) and a wiggly spiral (20cm x 20cm). Stick them down, glue them and cut them out, as before.

Wind your PVC spiral around its centre, occasionally folding it back on itself, and forth again, to give a three-dimensional hint of petals. Hand-stitch the folds in place and the spiral in place along the bottom.

Attach the new rose shape to the splatter shape by hand-stitching through the centre.

Attach the rose shape to your dress by stitching , either by hand or by machine, around the edge, as shown in the diagram above.

Repeat 2-4 times with each of the flower designs, placing the finished ones around the front of the dress and the back of the collar, as shown in my example.

And for those who’re in for a rosy winter season…

Image: Toby Hudson for Sunday Times Style Magazine

To make a rose you need a long strip of fabric 6cm wide, with no raw edges. To create this, you need to cut a piece 14cm wide which spans the entire length of the fabric. You need to make it as long as possible to get lots of petals and detailing.

Fold your strip of fabric over so that it is now 7cm wide and machine stitch 1cm from the edge.

Turn your fabric inside-out and press it with an iron. Fold the two loose ends, at either side, in on each other and hand-stitch them together so that no raw edges are showing.

Roll the end of your strip of fabric into a small, diagonal cone and secure with a couple of stitches at the bottom.

Fold your fabric back on itself and forth again, as shown in the diagram, below, to stop the cone from sticking out. Stitch in place at the bottom.

Wind your fabric round the cone (tell you what – if it weren’t winter, right now, all this mention of cones would have me seriously craving ice cream! Alas – I digress!) for about two full revolutions – these will be your rose petals. Stitch loosely around the bottom in the way shown in the diagram.

Pull the stitching at the bottom in to create a drawstring effect. Stitch at the bottom and knot to secure your fabric. Then stitch through the top of your rose, in and out of the tip of the cone, and pull, so that the cone goes back into the petals and looks like a small bud in the middle. Also, fold the sides of the petals down.

Finally, fold the rest of the strip around the bottom, as shown in the diagram and secure with some stitches.

Repeat with however many roses you want to add, maybe throw in some frills (See: A View to a Frill entry) or some fabric drapes. You can finish off the edges by folding the fabric back 1cm at the edge, cutting away the excess fabric up to the stitching, folding the fabric back on itself again and securing your fabric in place with top-stitching.