Choosing a Vintage or Custom Made Engagement Ring

When we got engaged the proposal wasn’t planned and so there was no engagement ring – Phil fashioned one from a paper napkin as a token gesture! However, the up side to this was that I then got to choose the ring.

As I collect and wear a lot of vintage clothing, accessories and jewellery my first thought was to go for a vintage or antique ring. I love the styling from the Art Deco period, so an old ring from this era would have a unique design and history to it. We are fortunate to have Mann Jewellers in Stroud, established in 1741 and stocking an extensive collection of second hand pieces.

There were a few rings that caught my eye, but I quickly realised I had expensive taste that went way beyond the budget – even the tradition of spending a months wages seems like too much to me!

A second hand ring is an ethical and sustainable option. Mining for precious metals and gem stones uses a lot of labour, equipment and resources. To produce one gold band, five tonnes of environmental waste are produced. This waste pollutes the top soil as well as nearby water sources, affecting the health of local communities and wildlife. The miners work long hours in terrible conditions and are poorly paid. So if you do buy new then look for ethical and fair trade options from jewellers that provide full traceability.

Now, I already own a beautiful pendant by my friend Elaine Day Jewellery. She makes each piece from scratch and recycles old silver, gold and gemstones. I had a plain rose gold band which belonged to my Grandma and thought it would be really special if Elaine could use this to make a bespoke engagement ring for me.

There are many artisan jewellers who will do this for you, Elaine is a member of the Gloucestershire Guild of Craftsmen, but there are other regional Guilds as well as The Society of Designer Craftsmen who can connect you with a UK jewellery designer who can custom make a piece for you.

I met with Elaine and she drew up some sketches, working with the idea of incorporating motifs into the design that had significance to us, as well as working on a shape that would ultimately interlock with a matching wedding band.

The final piece has a hedgehog, feathers and leaves on it as well as part of a needle & thread on the back, which lines up with the rest of the needle on the back of the wedding band. To finish it off, there are pressed forget-me-not flowers on the inside of both rings.

So, although there are no diamonds this engagement ring is precious to me and has great personal and significant meaning, both in the motifs and because it re-uses a piece of heirloom jewellery from my Grandma. The wedding band doesn’t look like much on it’s own but worn together they interlock and represent the union of marriage.

By choosing second hand or custom made jewellery you will have a piece that steps away from the exploitative practices of commercial mining and the finished piece will have so much more meaning to you, which is truly something to treasure.

DIY Fabric Garland Bunting, from vision to reality!

So, I had this vision to hang DIY garland bunting around the inside of the dome in the main room at our wedding venue. It looked simple enough to do, just strips of fabric tied onto rope, easy right?

A quick online search brought up this lace & gold example which I sent to my friend and Mate of Honour Nick. Yep we can do this he replied.

Lace & Gold Fabric Garland Bunting from

Lace & Gold Fabric Garland Bunting.

I already had a stash of fabrics which I had been given when a friend was having a clear out – curtains, remnants and left overs from dressmaking. I picked up more at the Vintage Mary stall at our local Friday market. Another friend gave us some old climbing rope to use to tie the fabric strips on to, helping to keep it all as sustainable as possible!

Then we made a start. working out how much we needed. Rather than making one long, unwieldy 24m length we decided to divide it into twelve 2m sections, and then each section could be slightly different.

We cut and ripped the fabrics into strips between 2″ – 4″ wide and 32 – 45″ long. This took ages, and some of the fabrics, like the satin acetate, frayed and sent loose threads flying everywhere. It was messy and physically hard work! As we went along, we bundled each colour group together so we could see what we had.

Next came knotting them onto the rope – fold the strip of fabric in half,  pass the ends through the loop and pull tight. To see how it all hung together, we strung a section of rope between two chairs and started tying on the terracotta damask and gold damask fabrics first. We had loads of these and it made good base colours. Next we overlaid the brighter colours, layering it up until it looked suitably colourful and vibrant.

In the end we split the project over the course of a week doing a few hours each day, and we only settled on the colour combinations at the last minute. You could do a random mix of colours, or make each section the same. We went for a base of gold and terracotta on all of them, then some had accents of blue, some green, some bright pink and some floral. This reflected our bright, jewel colour theme for the day.

The end result was perfect. The venue had hung their own fairy lights and paper lanterns in the dome, then we added the sections of bunting, they hung down so you could see them where ever you stood in the room, and they brought in a tactile, fabric element which reflected my background in and love of textiles.

And all done ethically and sustainably. Nothing was bought brand new, we managed to source everything second hand.

Let me know what you think in the comments below!


A tiara fit for a princess

Megan Markle wears Queen Mary tiaraMeghan Markle, the Duchess of Wessex, dazzled on her wedding day on Saturday, wearing a beautiful diamond tiara lent to her by the Queen.

The Queen Mary diamond bandeau tiara was made in 1932 for Queen Mary – our current HRH’s grandmother. The centre piece is a detachable brooch which was given to Mary of Teck (as she was then) in 1893 by the County of Lincoln, on her marriage to Prince George, Duke of York.


The platinum tiara is made in a striking, art deco style with eleven sections, featuring interlaced ovals and pavé diamonds along with large and small brilliant diamonds. It was made specifically to accommodate and show off the stunning detachable brooch of 10 brilliant diamonds.

It was bequeathed to Queen Elizabeth following Queen Mary’s death in 1953, and hasn’t been seen since it was last worn by Princess Margaret in 1965.


Meghan was reportedly invited by the Queen to Buckingham Palace to view the extensive collection of jewellery and to choose a tiara to wear on her wedding day.  Tradition dictates that tiaras can only be worn by married women or by brides on their wedding day, when they are seen as an emblem of the loss of innocence and the crowning of love.

Initial speculation was that Meghan would wear the Spencer tiara, as worn by Princess Diana on her wedding day. Choosing a piece from the Queens collection seems to have been another gesture to cement the bond between Meghan and the royal family. However there was a nod to the late princess’s memory when Meghan wore Diana’s aquamarine cocktail ring by Asprey to the evening reception at Frogmore House.

Outfit styling for a 1920’s Party – Showgirl with a twist

Theatrical productions were a popular form of entertainment in the early 20th century, with lavish sets, elaborate costumes and big budgets to spend on popular stars. The most famous production names from this era were the Folies Bergere, the Ziegfeld Follies and the Ballets Russes.

Edouard_Manet,_A_Bar_at_the_Folies-BergèreYou may well recognise this painting on the left – I certainly do as I studied it closely in my Art History at A Level – it dates from 1882 and is titled A Bar at the Folies-Bergère by Édouard Manet. I always though the poor barmaid looked like she was patiently listening to some predictable chat-up line from the mustachioed gent stood before her!

First opening in 1869, the Folies Bergère is a Parisian cabaret music hall, which was initially built and used as an opera house. The facade was re-designed in 1926 by the artist Maurice Pico in the popular Art Deco style, and it is still in business to this day.

800px-Baker_Banana Here’s another iconic image for you, the singer and dancer  Josephine Baker in her infamous banana costume. This outfit, which was basically a string of bejewelled artificial bananas worn around the waist, with little else, was made for the 1926 revue La Folie du Jour. As you can imagine, the shows were not for the prudish, featuring elaborate costumes and erotic dancing, with the female performers in revealing outfits,  often practically naked.

The Ziegfeld Follies was founded in New York in 1907 by Florenz Ziegfeld and his wife Anna Held, taking their inspiration from the Folies Bergère

Their Broadway theatrical revues, which ran until 1931, featured many top entertainers from Josephine Baker and Louise Brooks to Bob Hope, alongside the Ziegfeld Girls, a chorus line of beautiful young women who sang and danced in elaborate costumes, some designed by Erte.

The Charleston, an energetic dance with side kicks and exaggerated play with the knees and probably the most widely known dance from the 1920’s, was created for the Ziegfeld Follies show ‘Running Wild’ in 1923.

Despite it’s name, the Ballets Russes never actually performed in Russia, preferring instead to base themselves in Paris and tour around Europe and North and South America. Ballet Russes Anna Pavlova & Laurent Novikoff

Formed in 1909 by Sergei Diaghilev it brought together young and innovative composers, artists, designers, choreographers and performers, injecting new life into ballet and bringing many new visual artists to the public’s attention.

Diaghilev commissioned all new works from composers such as Igor Stravinsky and Claude Debussy, he turned to artists such as Vasily Kandinsky, Pablo Picasso and Henri Matisse for the set design, and the bold and exotic costumes were by designers such as fellow Russian Léon Bakst and Coco Chanel.Giorgio de Chirico for The Ball 1929 Ballets Russes

Costume Design by Giorgio de Chirico, The Ball (1929). [Credit: Diaghilev and the Ballets Russes, The National Gallery of Art]

The Ballets Russes productions were so groundbreaking they are still referenced today, in fashion as well as theatre and ballet.

You can get the look today with trompe-l’œil dresses, black and white harlequin or pierrot costumes, sequin and bejewelled showgirl outfits with feather headdresses to match, or go DIY and channel Josephine Baker with a string of faux fruit covering up your modesty!


Outfit styling for a 1920’s Party – The Flapper


Peaky blinders LizzieI make a lot of headdresses for clients to wear to 1920’s parties – the Great Gatsby, Peaky Blinders or Speak Easy theme is always popular for dressing up in style!

As original vintage clothing from this era is hard to come by and very collectible, it makes sense to just get an outfit together which ticks all the style boxes but is still affordable, practical, and you can wear again.

First up we are going to look at the iconic Flapper Girl. A bright young thing, with bobbed hair, she wore make-up, which she wasn’t afraid to apply in public, drank and smoked and danced energetically to the new jazz music. Mattita, 1920's Fashions changed dramatically in the 1920’s as women were exploring new, post war freedoms, including the right to vote.

As clothing evolved the restrictive corset was cast aside and women were able to enjoy more activities which were previously impractical or difficult to participate in; sports such as tennis, golf, swimming and cycling were popular.

Young women were gaining more independence, the world was changing, with the evolution of new technologies came new jobs, typists, bank clerks, telephone exchange operators, as well as factory production line work.

These young women had more disposable income and they looked to movie stars and magazines for their style inspiration; public figures such as actress and original ‘It Girl’ Clara Bow, singer, dancer and entertainer Josephine Baker, actress Tallulah Bankhead with her brash personality and acerbic wit, and socialite, novelist and painter Zelda Fitzgerald, wife of F Scott Fitzgerald who captured the highs and lows of the roaring 20’s in his novels the Great Gatsby and The Beautiful and the Damned.

Great Gatsby 1974 This era has been referenced time and time again through the decades, most notably in the 1974 film adaptation of The Great Gatsby with Mia Farrow and Robert Redford, and Baz Luhrmann’s 2013 film version with Carey Mulligan and Leonardo DiCaprio.

The iconic flapper dress is essentially a simple, loose-fitting, straight up and down sleeveless dress. It had no zipper or fastenings and was simply pulled on over the head. The ideal physique was slim and boyish, so minimal curves here – the ideal look was ‘le garconne’, short hair and flat as a board!  These dresses initially had a dropped waist, which then evolved so that by 1927 waistlines had gone altogether and hemlines rose to just below the knee. Covered in beads, or sequins, usually in a geometric, Art Deco pattern, they would shimmy and glisten in the light, tiers of fringing moving with the wearer as they danced. They were usually made with embellished silk, but with the advent of new materials, such as rayon – a cellulose based fibre usually made from wood pulp – more affordable versions were available for those who couldn’t afford couture.

Nowadays many high street fashion stores have a 20’s inspired look for their party dresses, look to labels like Kate Moss for Topshop, Reiss, Hobbs, Phase Eight and Karen Millen.

If you don’t mind wearing second hand then you can pick up preloved dresses from dress agencies or online from eBay, better to buy a well made dress in good quality fabrics which will look good and last a long time, rather than a fancy dress costume which is designed to be worn once then thrown away.

Finish off the look with a headband with feathers and a beaded or diamante motif, a string of long beads or a tassel necklace, long gloves, and mary jane or t-bar shoes with a small heel. Cigratte holder is optional!


Royal Women – Queens and Princesses and their dresses

This week got off to a good start, with a trip to Bath with my studio buddies Nick and Victoria, to see the Royal Women exhibition at the Fashion MuseumRoyal-Fashion-MAIN

On display were dresses and gowns from four recent generations of the British royal family, Queen Alexandra, Queen Mary, Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother, and Princess Margaret.

For these women it was important to support British designers and materials, as a way to show patriotic loyalty to their new role. “In 1863 Alexandra brought her own beautiful Belgian lace wedding gown, but was forced instead into a blizzard of Honiton lace and swags of orange blossom: the exhibition demonstrates how as soon as she could she had the gown drastically remodelled, stripping off the frills and abandoning the giant crinoline.” 

By 1910 Alexandra preferred French couture houses, and the dress that I would have taken away was a purple embroidered chiffon evening dress by Doeuillet, Paris. The colour is a deep, regal purple with the most exquisite embroidery and bead work, including tassels of beads cascading from the cuff on the short sleeves.

There were two dresses from Queen Mary, both from the 1930’s, my favourite era, one a floor length fully beaded gown, the other a devore velvet dress with built-in cape.

Queen Elizabeth Queen Mother If you’ve been watching The Crown you will have had a window into the world of the royal family, and looking at the dresses from Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother I was reminded that Edward and Wallace called her as Cookie, a reference to her rounded build (like a cook, not a biscuit!).

In comparison Princess Margaret’s dresses were tiny, her Dior dress from the early 50’s practically looks like it’s got a handspan waist.

She certainly seemed to be able to have more fun with fashion, and didn’t feel the need to always buy British, though she did follow in her grandmother’s footsteps and wear Norman Hartnell dresses. In fact Hartnell designed the wedding dresses for both Margaret, in 1960, and her sister Queen Elizabeth, in 1947.

Interestingly, many of these garments have survived because they were passed on to ladies in waiting or friends of the family. Some are on loan from our current Queen and others were purchased years ago by the museums founder, the costume historian Doris Langley Moore, as she discovered them squirreled away in a boutique in London.

The dresses which belonged to Margaret were acquired when one of the curators at the museum was invited by the Queen to come to Kensington Palace, pieces from Margaret’s wardrobe were laid out on a bed and the curator was motioned to pick one or two…well they cheekily asked if they could take them all, and, after some consultation, they did!

WedFest April 2018

With the promise of spring in the air, last weekend I packed up lots of my sample stock and trundled over to exhibit at WedFest in Cheltenham. It’s a wedding fair with a difference – set in an old barn on a farm in the lovely Cotswold countryside – and as well as showcasing wedding suppliers there’s also food and drink vendors on site so you can sample their catering and grab a spot of lunch in one go.

Well, in true British style the weather on the day was cold and raining, but that didn’t dampen our spirits. The barn was beautifully decorated with bunting, fairy lights and blossom trees.

I was showing my accessories alongside Jan Knibbs on the Atelier 19 stand, we both love all things vintage and work so well together that it’s sometimes hard to tell who made what!
As well as meeting lots of brides-to-be I also caught up with other suppliers, old and new, including Charlotte Parker Bridal Hair, who I have worked with on several photo shoots, Victoria Abbosh Makeup Artist, who I’ve been stalking on Instagram for a while, next to us were The Flower Girls with their signature elegant floral display, and Aisle Hire It who supplied lots of the venue props for the day including their distinctive Love light – they hand make all the props themselves so can pretty much supply anything you want!

The next event you can catch me at, with Atelier 19, is VOW Live in Bristol on the 29th April.

Call me sentimental….

There’s lots of benefits to working directly with a bridal client on a bespoke piece, but one that brings immense satisfaction is being able to incorporate items of sentimental value to the bride. This can be anything from a treasured piece of heirloom jewellery to a scrap of fabric or even a feather picked up from the ground at a special place.

Below are a few examples of commissions I made whilst working closely with the bride. Sometimes only she knows what the significance of a treasured object is, but if it brings pleasure and reassurance on the day then it is well worth it.

Caroline keepsake bouquetAlex bespoke bridal fascinator

Martine bespoke hair vine with shells and frangipani flowers

If you are interested in having something truly unique custom made for your wedding day then please don’t hesitate to get in touch! No matter how near or far you are, it can be done face to face or via email and post.

I look forward to hearing from you!

Parkin Roadshow – a sort of convention for Milliners!

This weekend I took a rare Saturday off to visit the Parkin Roadshow in Bristol.

Parkin Fabrics are a family firm based in Lancashire. 14484959_1327825540569693_7383953612802224056_nThey sell mail order, so the roadshow is a great chance to see lots of millinery materials and supplies up close in real life and quiz the team about any technical issues regarding using them.

I also learnt more about the history of the company and the lengths they go to to source materials from the UK and around the world. For example, in 1993 renowned milliner Mitzi Lorenz gave Parkin a small sample of woven fabric which she said was called Cinnamon, and asked if they could source it ….this turned out to be Sinamay, which is made in the Philippines from the Abaca plant. weaving-sinamay

Parkin work directly with the Filipinos who harvest and process the Abaca leaves to make a fine, strong yarn which is knotted together and hand woven to make sinamay. This is an incredibly laborious process, all done by hand, and is a craft which dates back centuries. It also ticks the eco-friendly box as Abaca is a renewable resource and the production process is carbon-neutral – completely fossil fuel free!

But it’s not just about sourcing materials from overseas, at Parkin their Buckram is 100% cotton and is woven, bleached and starched here in the UK, in the North West of England.

So, all in all, I got to go shopping and learn a bit more about the craft I love. Being able to label my millinery products as Made in the UK, or carbon neutral is a great bonus too!



Making a Recycled Vintage Diamante Hair Pin

Earlier I showed you how to make a vintage diamante side tiara. Next up is a hair pin made with a recycled vintage brooch. These pins look great added to an up-do and work well in thick or curly hair.


Here I have used an old 1920’s brooch,  two hair pins joined together, silver knitted wire and silver 0.2 wire.

Firstly cut a length of the knitted wire, long enough to cover both the pins and be doubled over. Sew this in place using 0.2 wire.






Next undo the clasp on the brooch and pin it through the knitted wire.

Close the clasp and use pliers to squeeze it permanently shut. Sew the brooch pin to the knitted wire.






I have added a scrunched up piece of knitted wire into the gap at the back of the pin to help keep it securely in place.








Finally, line the back of the brooch with a piece of knitted wire to hide all the messy stitching and give a nice professional finish. Use an over stitch with the o.2 wire to do this.






IMG_20151113_112351251These pins are a great way of recycling antique brooches which have old fashioned clasps – which are not as secure as modern wheel clasps – and so are prone to coming undone and falling off.


Guest Exhibiting at Atelier for Select 2016

After opening our studio at Stafford Mill for the Select Trail for the last 5 years, we took a break in 2015 and enjoyed being tourists and visiting local artists and craftsmen for a change.

But in May 2016 I decided to join in again and took the opportunity to exhibit at Atelier Stroud, along with Heloise of Pink Frazada, Heather Haskins (Atelier’s resident seamstress), Francesca Chalk’s printed textiles, Polly Lyster’s Dye Works and Deborah Roberts Photography.

Atelier is a light, airy, friendly and relaxed space which hosts a sewing club and regular workshops. For the Select Trail the sewing machines were put away and our group of local artists and makers moved in, laying out our wares and generally taking over!

We had lots of visitors over the two weekends, many of whom had never been to Atelier before, so it was great to introduce them to the space, and to talk about our own work.


For me it was a bonus to be able to just rock up with all my stock and display props and set up my stall, rather than having to tidy up my own studio to make it presentable for visitors, which if you have ever visited us at Stafford Mill, you will know it is quite a task.

I end up frantically pushing boxes under tables and randomly shoving materials and equipment into drawers….and then spending the following months looking for them!

Later this year you can catch me as a guest exhibitor at the Made in Chalford Christmas Fair at The Victoria Works Studios, Chalford, on the 3rd & 4th December 2016.

Wiring together a Vintage Diamante Side Tiara

I have been making these side tiaras for a while now, but it all started in 2013 in response to an enquiry from a bride-to-be….montage

Paula loved vintage marcasite brooches and wanted a statement bridal headpiece made from them. I experimented with different techniques and ended up using silver plated wire to bind all the pieces together and fix them onto a blonde coloured headband.

Since then I have made many more of these headpieces (and learnt that they are called side tiaras!) and I have refined the way that I make them.

Here I will take you through the process I use to make a wire frame to hold the pieces of vintage jewellery together.

To start, bring together the jewellery you want to use and decide on the layout and composition. Think carefully about the size, weight and balance of the piece. At this stage I usually have lots of brooches and earrings piled up and I try out different compositions and different pieces, taking a photo of each one on my phone, and then scrolling through the photos to see which looks best.

JpegHere I have settled on a design made with 4 brooches and a pair of earrings, all gold tone with red diamante. Next I take some 1.0 gold plated wire and make a frame which will be the main structure that the jewellery will be wired onto.


JpegThe jewellery will sit on top of the frame, but check that it will be as hidden as possible and that each piece of jewellery can be securely wired onto it – hence the little wings on either side for the earrings to attach to.

I have used 0.4 wire to bind the ends of the frame where they overlap.

Next take a length of about 40cm of 0.2 wire and thread it through a needle, use it doubled over and knot it at the end. The 0.2 wire is fine enough to sew with and strong enough to hold the jewellery in place. Cast it onto the frame and sew on the first piece of jewellery. I usually start with the last brooch at the bottom. You can also keep the clasps intact and use them to help secure the brooches to the frame. Use the needle to bring the wire up through the small gaps in the brooch and back down to catch onto the frame. At this stage I should point out that this technique only works with jewellery that has gaps between the diamante stones for you to sew through, some pieces are totally solid and are only good for glueing onto feather or fabric bases.

Once all the jewellery is securely fixed to the frame, go round with teflon pliers to make sure all ends of the 0.2 wire, where you have cast it on, are smoothed over.

Now you can fix the diamante onto a headband. I prefer to use ribbon covered bands in a colour to match the client’s hair colour, then they disappear in the hair and all you see is the diamante.

Model -Stephanie Hazel Poole •  Photography- Kayleigh Adams Photography

This is a great way of recycling vintage jewellery, especially odd earrings and brooches which have broken clasps. You can also incorporate heirloom jewellery and pieces of sentimental value.

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