Gemma Sangwine

Unique and bespoke millinery, fascinators and bridal tiaras

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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.



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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Welcome to our Material World!

The last two weekends have been a hectic whirl, as we opened our studio at Stafford Mill as part of the SIT Textile Trail.

There is a rich textile heritage in the Stroud Valleys, as it was once a world leader in the production of woven textiles. It is home to the Stroudwater Textile Trust, and Stroud International Textiles who organise the Textile Trail. The trail is only in it’s second year, but has been a great successes, and is a welcome forum for local textile artists, designers and makers to showcase their work, helping to keep the Textile heritage alive and relevant.

We had just under 300 visitors over the course of the 4 days, including plenty of familiar faces, old and new. It’s always a bit daunting opening up what is normally a private and personal working studio space. I am fortunate to share the space with my sister, who also works with recycled textiles, and we have my good friend and fellow graduate from Winchester School of Art, Nick, in the studio downstairs.

Victoria and I find it particularly heartening to meet fellow recyclers, who have often made the trip out especially to see us. They admire the shelves stacked high with neatly folded lengths and swatches of fabric, wool blankets and tweed coats, and suitcases stuffed full of old jumpers. One lady even took a photo to show her husband, so he couldn’t complain about her hoarding habit, which was quite minor in comparison!

One of the tips we picked up were to keep even the tiniest scraps of natural fibres – wool, cotton, linen, viscose – and save them up to go on the compost heap. These scraps are called ‘Shoddy’, and spawned a whole recycling industry in the 19th century when old woollen clothing was ground down and re-spun into new yarn to be woven into cloth. I already get a pair of wrist warmers, a pair of slippers, and numerous mobile phone pouches and flower corsages, out of just one felted woollen jumper, but I find it satisfying to know even the smallest scraps can still be put to good use. Perfect timing too as Nick and I have recently taken on an allotment, and the compost heap is currently fermenting grass cuttings and weeds, which need cardboard egg boxes and natural fibres to temper the nitrogen from the green matter.

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There’s nothing like the pressure of a deadline…

With a week and a half to go, the sewing machines are whiring away here at Stafford Mill, in preparation for the Textile Trail Open Studios, taking place on the weekends of the 12 & 13th and 19th & 20th of May.

The local Made In Stroud shop have already got a range of our products on display (and for sale!). They re-did the window to showcase our work – which meant we were all beavering away until the small hours making more stock for them – if you’re local to Stroud do pop in to have a look, there are;

Hand woven silk scarves by Leo & Ariadne.

Cushions, bolsters and draught excluders made with recycled fabrics, including mens tweed suits, from Studio Vee,

Fascinators, brooches, corsages and Obi style belts made from recycled ties, by Sanguinello.

I have been busy snipping and sewing with scraps of felted wool to make a new range of flower head bands, based on my current favourite felt flower design!

It’s a great way to use up small off cuts, and I’ve discovered a use for old, felted, moth damaged woollen scarves, which come in a variety of bright colours, perfect for making flowers.

They work particularly well combined with feathers, and all fixed on a pretty elastic fabric band.

I’ve also been making more fascinators with old Monopoly sets, and came across another game called Totopoly, which works on a similar theme but is based on the world of horse racing!

Perfect for anyone looking for a unique head piece to wear to Cheltenham Races!

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Bristol beckons!

One of my aims for this year was to find more shops and outlets to  sell my work through. As a small scale maker it can be intimidating approaching new retailers, and it’s hard not to take each knock back personally.

The best leads often come from word of mouth, through friends and family. A casual conversation can lead to an opening, an opportunity to introduce your work, and yourself as a maker.

There’s lots of factors to consider, not just whether they ‘like’ your products, but how will they be presented and displayed, what are your trade and recommended retail prices,  how do they sit with the rest of the stock already in the shop?

However,  when you hit on the right place , and find yourself falling in love with the products they already stock, you know you’re on the right track!

Flo-jo Boutique is a new shop in Bristol, on the Gloucester Road, a vibrant area which boasts of  being  one of the few remaining independent High Streets, with  a rich variety of locally run shops, cafes, bars and restaurants.

Although the shop is a new venture, it’s founders, Delia Dee and Erika, are two very talented ladies who have been working together for years. They make vintage and retro style clothes, pinnies and aprons, and underwear! They have created quite a stir with their Fancy Pants Knicker Making Kits, and also run sewing workshops where you can make your own pair of saucy undies.

I am very excited to have the opportunity to sell my work here. After spending a weekend working away in my studio I have sent them a range of my Fascinators, mainly the feather and vintage jewellery ones, and little Felt Flower Corsages, all of which have gone straight out on display!

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Slipper Workshop


Had a great day at Prema Arts Centre yesterday, running an afternoon workshop. We were making a pair of slippers out of old, felted woolen jumpers. The emphasis was on using favourite jumpers which had been a victim of the washing machine and shrunk to unwerable proportions!

We followed a simple pattern, adapted from ‘Sewing Green: 25 Projects Made with Repurposed and Organic Materials’ by Bez White.

The pieces were cut out and stitched together right-side out so you get a thick, decorative seam around the edges. The soles were re-inforced with leather heel and toe grips.

ImagePictured above are Jenny’s slippers, almost finished! The jumper was a hand knit and had shrunk to make a lovely, thick felt.

Here are Emily’s slippers, great use of mixed materials. The stripey fabric was from two jumpers which were accidentally felted. The cuffs are from an old Aran jumper (see below!).

And Ruth’s, which look particularly cosy – made from a chunky Aran jumper and finished with blue blanket stitching.