Do or DIY

A PUN! Hooray. And also, sorry.


In my last post, I talked about a general restlessness that had descended on me, and how taking a break had been what I needed to refocus a bit. While away, I decided to have a bit of a life clear-out, so this week I’ve been cleaning out my outrageously messy room. I’m generally pretty houseproud, but a lack of storage space and abundance of freebies from my fashion/beauty editing work (I’m not complaining!) left me Confucius-like, yelling at a tide of clothes to stay back.

Clothes to the left of me, clothes to the right of me, and hours later I found myself standing shell-shocked with a variety of huge bags around me. Some were destined for the charity shop, others for the textiles bin, others were tucked away until next Winter, which is probably a good two weeks away, based on my reckoning. I was left with one pile. I called it the ‘adapt or die’ pile. So, look here. I’m bored of most of my clothes, but I’m also poor. The solution? To get sewing, painting, and gluing.


I started with two small projects last weekend, just to ease myself back into it. There’s a danger with DIY that you’ll go too far, customise a bit too enthusiastically, and end up looking like you covered yourself in E6000 glue and rolled around in a habadashery, then Claire’s Accessories, THEN ransacked the wardrobe of that ghastly Kirstie Allsopp. Tread carefully, is what I’m trying to say.

My two projects, then. I picked up a lovely cornflower blue man’s shirt from a charity shop for £3.30, and some non-roll elastic (AMAZING STUFF), and was inspired by Geneva Vanderzeil’s book to create a mini skirt from it. Seriously easy stuff, and perfect for first time sewers. I don’t want to write up the full instructions here, as I don’t think it’s fair to Geneva and her hard work, but I’d encourage you to grab her gorgeous book..Initially I tried the shirt as a dress, as you can see below – something I might explore another time, but it was VERY short. Sorry about the rubbish quality of pics in the post, was without my usual camera.

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The second project I can tell you exactly how to do, and it’s the easiest update for jewellery ever. I dug deep into my jewellery box and found a pair of very boring rhinestone earrings. Beyond boring, they looked cheap. A clear crystal rhinestone tends to look dull at night and strange during the day, so here’s what I did: I grabbed some nail varnish. And I painted over the crystals. I used jade and lavender for a colour blocked effect. I did three coats to get a decent coverage, and left them to dry overnight. Easiest thing ever. Bonus tip: my favourite leather jacket had zips that were starting to discolour, so I painted them over with a metallic nail varnish, and it looked brand new. SIMPLE.


DIY Project #1: Gold and black leather jacket

I seem to enjoy starting most posts with a whispered confession, and today will be no different. What am I owning up to today? Well, brace yourselves. This is shameful stuff, the kind of thing that no one should admit – particularly not anyone over the age of 19. Here goes. I am 23, and I still watch Skins. I know. I KNOW. I’m a terrible person. If you’ve somehow missed the concept of the show, it essentially centres on a group of attractive and bizarrely dressed yoofs scampering around Bristol, taking lots of drugs and wishing that someone, anyone would understand the intense pain they’re experiencing, the pain of being young, attractive and the owner of a mild crack addiction.

Anywho, let’s gloss over the casual dependencies, the sheer misery, and the bizarre ‘Bristol’ accents, and look at something infinitely more important: the clothes. Ahh, the clothes. If you know me in person, you know I go slightly loopy over clothes. Possessive and all wide-eyed when I see something I want. The Skins wardrobe varied from the exceptionally odd (those lace cycle shorts that no one really wore) to the sublime (see my project below). In the third generation Skins – at least I think it was the third, I stopped counting, and they suddenly all seemed about 10 – I was particularly entranced by the wardrobe of one Mini McGuinness. That’s despite her wearing of the aforementioned ghastly cycle shorts, and penchant for Paul’s Boutique bags.

She was often seen lolling around in a jacket that I found particularly covet-worthy. It was essentially a black leather jacket, but seemingly sprayed with gold, so that the bottom half of the jacket was engulfed in glowing clouds of warm bright colour. I was sunk. It was glorious. I sat, rewinding and replaying any scene containing the object of my affections. I searched for a similar item, but it proved fruitless. Having a spare black leather jacket in my possession, I made some quick calculations. I assumed it had been spray-painted with some kind of hardy paint, but I couldn’t find any information whatsoever on it, or anyone who’d attempted something similar.

That was last year, and having stumbled across the jacket again, I finally decided to get off my lacy cycling short clad bottom (just kidding, calm down) and spring into action. I tried one more Google search, and there it was: apparently the costume designer had covered the bottom of the jacket in hundreds of sheets of actual gold leaf. Yes…well, sadly, I do have some semblance of a life, and the patience of Alan Sugar, so I chose not to follow this. I also have to say, I don’t actually think you can tell that, from the pictures above. I still think it just looks like spray paint.

Montana Gold spray paint

I hot-footed it to my local art shop, Saltmarsh in Tunbridge Wells, and purchased what I can only assume to be the Don of spray paints. Named Montana Gold, it was priced at something like £6.95, and I tucked it into my handbag feeling like Banksy. The girl in the shop informed me it would go onto ANYTHING, any surface, and that it was very long-lasting. I’ve Googled it, and I can see people have used it to paint their cars. It sounded perfect. I set myself up outside with a big dust sheet, some plastic gloves and a scarf over my face, and prepared to spray.

Jacket pre-spraying....

It’s VITAL to shake the can for about 3 minutes. If you don’t, the colour will be totally off, or it’ll just sputter some clear looking liquid out. After that, it’s the easiest thing in the world. The Montana Gold paint is a dream to work with. It goes on easily and dries quickly, and the coverage is fantastic. I was anticipating it would form a sort of ‘skin’ (see what I did there?) over the jacket, rendering the fabric really stiff and impossible to wear, but it didn’t – the jacket stayed pliant. The colour is beautiful, a really bright, glowing gold.

It’s up to you where you draw the line – I was very tempted to just drench the whole jacket in gold, feeling a bit Midas-like, but stopped myself as I was trying to achieve the effect of the Skins jacket. You could even mask the point where you want the gold to stop if you’d like a neater line, but I liked the effect of the scattered gold particles that settled lightly on the black part of the jacket. I also wanted an uneven line. I wanted it to look like the jacket had been dipped in a molten lake of gold, then pulled out before it was completely submerged.

So that’s my glam rock jacket! Good luck if you create your own….just be sure to do it in a well ventilated space (I did all of mine in the garden), and be sure to chuck a scarf over your mouth and nose. It’s potent stuff.  I’m going to get some better photos up of it, once it’s all dried and sorted, but these should do for now 🙂
Lots of love,

Amelia xx


Project #003/update

Oh, curse you, British weather. I didn’t manage to get out in the garden this weekend, so I’ve been working on prep for another couple of projects (as well as shoving a lot of things on Ebay and sorting out horrible old internet banking).

So, for what will be Project#012, the Royal Wedding Party, I have been creating hand-crafted invitations for my guests.

And, for what will be Project#19 (if I’ve calculated correctly), I will be entering my very first race for charity, ever. So, unlike every other year, where I just look at the flyers for it, and think ‘ooh, I really should get round to doing that’, I’ve decided to go for it properly. Which starts with actually signing up. Which I have just completed….

Sorry it’s been an unsatisfying week for actually completing projects, but I’ve got a few to do in the next week (week off), so will keep posting 🙂 xxx

Project #003: I like the flowers, I like the daffodils

….I like the mountains, I like the rolling hills – as anyone who has ever done a drama warm up will chorus merrily back at you!

I’m feeling absolutely full of delight at the prospect of Spring. Yes. The sky is blue, the sun is out, and I’m frantically counting off the days on my sunrise/sunset calender, till we get to a point where it’s actually light at 6.p.m. Today, I even dug out my much loved floral Bayliss & Knight sailor dress! (Last seen circa August 2010.) Yes, and yes again. I have a spring in my step (badoom tsssch).

We’ve started to fill our house with flowers, and whenever I take a bath the room is filled with that heavy, enveloping scent of beautiful white jasmine. The kitchen is permeated with the faint but insistent smell of hyacinths, and I’ve started to dance around the house, filled with new hope, new ideas, and an uncontainable joy that I only ever get when the Winter finally starts to loosen its icy grip.

I had been struggling to think of a third challenge. My mind will grope around aimlessly, trying desperately to think of something, anything good, and then, the second I sink into bed, exhausted after a day at work, PING. There it is. That’s what happened last night, just as I’d disappeared into my nightly ritual of lying in bed with BBC7’s Comedy Zone floating out of my pink DAB radio, sinking into a stupor. But there it was – plant flowers! Nooooo, my tired brain argued – sssh, go to sleep! I’ve had enough of you and your “brilliant ideas”. But the little energetic voice was insistent, and wearily but excitedly, I reached for the well thumbed notepad by my bed, and managed to jot down ‘flowers’.

Come the morning, I’d just about managed to decipher this mysterious message from Tired Brain to Happy/Excited/Annoying brain. I have four things in my armoury. Peony tubers, a packet of seeds for growing peas, a sachet for growing violas indoors, and one for mustard and cress. Maybe not enough to create a Capability Brown style garden (Culpability Brown, maybe, when it all goes hugely wrong), but it’ll do for now. Peonies are my obsession. I can’t help finding beauty in something so blowsy, so stagey, attention-grabbing, and so elusive that they only appear for the briefest window each year. If I was going to garden, I thought, then it had to start with peonies.

My promise to myself was to try something new. And, really, the last time I planted anything was when I was in year 5 at school, and we were given our own tubs in the playground. I shared mine with my best friend at the time – a girl who, to this day, has absolutely faultless aesthetic taste – and we put little figures in that we’d collected (I’d imagine from Kinder eggs…) I don’t remember doing much actual planting, but I certainly do remember the following dialogue from a fellow classmate:
Know-it-all Year 5: Have you ever touched a worm?

Me: YUCK! No!
KIAY5: Yes you have. If you’ve been touching the soil in the tubs, you’ve touched a worm.

(Sound of my jaw dropping to the floor, then me running off to wash hands)
So, after than inauspicious start, I am ready to try again, weather permitting, this weekend. I’ll post results by next week, including a worm-report.
Thanks for reading. Wear your sunglasses tomorrow. Whatever the weather xxx

Project #002: Results

  I have to admit, the second project didn’t take me nearly as long as icing all those cakes. But it was just as important to me, because as I mentioned before, it was for my little cousin-once-removed. I’d sort of mentioned I’d make her one, and the old me would have really genuinely meant it at the point in time, and for a couple of days I would have REALLY HONESTLY thought ‘gosh, I must get round to doing that jacket at some point; and as the days went on, I’d think about it less and less, and then I’d feel all guilty when I DID think about it, and eventually it would fade to a very distant memory indeed.

Which is why earlier this week, I assembled my materials, and vowed to myself I’d sit down and get it done, wrap it up in silly amounts of hot pink tissue paper and pack it off. So, on Saturday afternoon, I sat down to a romcom on tv, spread the jacket in front of me, as well as a ton of rhinetones, an iron, and an old handkerchief (I just get so emotionally moved by these things. Just kidding, it’s to iron them on)

As I sat there, ironing on each rhinestone individually, I thought about how excited I’d be to tear into a pile of pink tissue paper, to discover something I’d really wanted but didn’t think I’d get. I’d have loved it! If I can make someone else happy because I took a couple of hours out of my week to do something for them, then I’ll be over the moon.

I really enjoyed this project, even though it wasn’t the most challenging. If everyone reading this blog decides to do just one tiny thing for someone else, just think how brilliant that would be. It’s a cliche but it really is true – the glowy feeling you’ll get from just doing something purely for someone else is repayment enough.


p.s. On a cheeky sidenote – if anyone wants anything embellished, to whatever design, I’ll be most happy to do it for you (for a small fee…unfortunately my financial circumstances prevent me from being THAT generous to everyone…)

Project #002: Starting with the man in the mirror

My second project sort of landed on my lap. Blissfully floating around on the smug glow of starting a new blogging project, I was feeling a lot of love for everybody, and very amenable to doing nice things for other people. Last weekend, we had the family over, and I got to spend some time with the delightful daughters of my cousin. Are they second cousins? I always start to work it out, then get distracted thinking of that particular bit in Mean Girls….”So, you have your cousins, and your first cousins….wait, that’s wrong, isn’t it?” “That is SO wrong”….

Anywho, putting distractions aside, one of the girls was particularly taken with a jacket I’d embellished myself; a shrunken black blazer with rhinestones on the lapel. She did a Michael Jackson dance in it. She was BRILLIANT. She LOVED this jacket. And I felt horrible for taking it back from her, like some sort of evil Dickens character.

Ping! Second project, I thought. I’ll just make her another one! Since a large portion of this blog is about me learning to not think/worry about myself for a few minutes, and actually do something kind and positive for other people, it seemed like an excellent thing to do. Plus, because I’m doing it for someone else, it means -ohmygod- I’ll actually have to do it all proper like. Instead of this cycle:

1. get really enthusiastic about making something
2. spend heaps of money to equip myself with ‘essentials’
3. start out, still enthusiastically
4. do it haphazardly in my best ‘cheerful five year old’ manner (remember that kid who stuck out their tongue because they were concentrating so hard? Yeah.)
5 do far too much, too sloppily, in the first day
6. get bored of it, leave for a few weeks
7. attempt to finish, without finesse

That’s what I’m trying to break out of. That’s been my life up until this point. NO MORE, I tells ya! I WILL do things properly, and finish them, and you should too!

Look out for upcoming posts…stay cheerful…do something different.

Good luck! xxx