Sunday 7 October 2012

DIY Digest: Viral Skulls

Once again, I'm blogging in diaristic form this week, charting the DIY inspiration sources that grabbed me, rather than grappling with the wider fashion world for across-the-board key trends. For the sake of variety,let me promise, in earnest, that this will be my last skull-related tutorial. Being a proud rock fan, skulls have always been something of a sartorial staple and still hold a fail-proof magnetic appeal for me, and while they continue to dominate the high street one must stay fresh and avoid getting stuck in a rut of clich├ęs and  predictability.

On the other hand, skulls have seen something of an iconic regeneration in recent years, ditching the punk and pirate association-prone crossbones and coming into their own - on their own - as a distinguished emblem of Alexander McQueen and conceptual inspiration for Damien Hirst. The art historian Rudi Fuchs said of Hirst's work "The skull is out of this world, celestial almost. It proclaims victory over decay." It also had a fabulous set of cheekbones, and perfect teeth!

Is icon too strong a word? In this case, I think not. I've seen the term "icon" being used somewhat liberally in recent years, chiefly on subjects infinitely better suited to the title "famous face I'd like to slap" but the skull, of course, isn't one of them. It's dazzled in diamonds and appeared on many a fashion staple in seasons past, not least of all as a print on a scarf. Little surprise, then, that it's back to haunt us this season. Oh the humanity!

I have the above holiday snap to thank for my latest blog creation, taken in Bordeaux, a stunning city where architectural opulence, photo opportunities and DIY inspiration abound. I loved those boots but at €149 (that's about £120 or $195 to you and me, as of this entry) the price just wasn't right - when it could just as easily be about £26 back at home!

You will need

Black boots, preferably with a zip along the back. The ones I chose didn't have one so I just split them along the back and glued zips in

Sewing machine with a leather needle (needles which are dead easy to insert and available at all good haberdashers)

Grey thread

Silver gel pen

Light blue or grey fabric paint (make sure it's opaque)



Quick tip, though: When you're planning where you're going to do your machine embroidery don't go too far down or it'll become impossible to machine. I'd recommend a minimum of 8cm distance from the base of your zip.


About 3 hours.

Total cost

The boots, thread and paint came to about £26 for mine - making them a saving of nearly £100!

How it's done

Use your gel pen to mark out where you want to put your twig patterns and skull. You might want to trace out a shape to make sure your skull motifs are the same, like the following one I used:

The beauty of using a gel pen is that they're wipe-clean so you don't have to worry if you make a mistake or can't, for whatever reason, cover all the lines you set out to cover with your thread.

Machine stitch your twig patterns in place. I find an effective way to do it is to drag your machine back and forth in a kind of narrow zigzagging motion until you've covered the relevant areas. You can also machine normal branch-like linear patterns but I find that much more time-consuming and painstaking.

Then, simply paint your skull on and you're done!

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