Sunday, 29 November 2009

A Sustainable Xmas Gift Guide, by M.O.

I Took The Handmade Pledge!

Handmade gifts are Works of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction. They have a unique and personal feel to them, and time and care invested in them rather than just money. Especially in the festive season, which at least in theory is about sharing joy with your loved ones, that counts so much. Making a gift for someone accounts for a lot more than just tradition. I think that even if it's not perfect "quality" or not as super spectacular as you could wish, it's still awesome like no purchased good can be. It comes with a strong message of love/care/affection. And anti-consumerism! Did you know yesterday was Buy Nothing Day? Did you know the book Handmade Nation is now also a movie? Did you know you could avoid massive terrible crowds in the streets and make all or most* of your gifts for friends and family? And that it would be awesome?

*I feel like books are exempted from this rule of make rather than buy. I firmly believe it's ok to buy books, and really great to read them. Though of course if you made books too, I'm sure it would be the ultimate awesome gift for anyone.

Note: for your supplies, try Freecycle for maximum non-buying effect.

See the post below for a bunch of ideas on embellishments. The embellish-your-tights tutorial is sheer brilliance!

But you can find a garment, any garment, and make it beautiful. Use old clothes, charity shop clothes, street-found clothes, whatever. A top trendy suggestion would be to add studs.

Lace is another top hot tip. Used as an embellishment is one, but you could really go to town and make a lace collar/necklace. You only need: a long piece of lace, or a few shorter ones to combine, a fastening of some sort, and needle + thread. You could sew the collar onto a shirt or dress, but having it as a self-standing item allows you to wear it with many things - all you need to figure out is the fastening. It could be all fancy and jewellery-like (and haberdasheries will have the equipment you need for making it work), or simple button-casual, or even long enough to not need a proper fastening - just make sure your head fits through. For inspiration, have a look at this etsy shop.

lace necklace by MillicentRussell


collars by Mertxe Hernández

You can also branch out into fabric collars/necklaces that are not necessarily lace. It's a really good accessory, and you could make it just by putting bits of fabric together on one longer piece of fabric that would hang from your neck. Catalan designer Mertxe Hernández makes ones like that - basically a bunch of vertical fabric strips sewn to a straight collar. There's also these two stunning collars/necklaces on etsy:

Did you get my mail Spam Neck Piece by squillinan

The Windsor - ruffle necklace with rope by louloudo


Snoods are all the rage this season! Even if you are not an experienced knitter, making a simple one should be super easy. Just knit a plain piece that's long enough to go around your neck and sew the ends together to form a tube. The lucky attendees of last week's knitting and crochet workshop should have no trouble with that. But if in doubt, ask Sophie or Katie! (Also look at this etsy shop).


Make a paper or fabric book cover. Here's a tutorial how to make one from a t-shirt, but you can use any fabric, and even print on it. Obviously same goes to paper.

a nice set from Book City Jackets


On the topic of printing: IRON TRANSFERS. There's lots around (like the gorgeous Sukie set), but you can also make your own. Here's a video. You just need access to an inkjet printer and some transfer paper. Then you can put it on any cotton-based fabric: t-shirt, top, hoodie, dress, cotton bag, pillowcase, curtain, fabric book cover, fabric necklace/collar, the list goes on.


Or "xstitch". It's very easy, and very cool. If in doubt, consult online videos. Make up your own patterns (pixelate pictures), or use ready ones - my heartfelt recommendation is Radical Cross Stitch (Radical Rags on etsy).
Anti-Patriarchy E-Pattern from Radical Cross Stitch

Question Authority E-Pattern from Radical Cross Stitch

Alternatively, if you don't have time to make your own gifts, buy stuff other people made. It won't be extremely anti-consumerist and a bit less I-love-you-look-I-made-you-this, but is still pretty awesome. The item will still have tme and care invested in it, and you support crafters who made it. Some ideas:


tattoons by Lizz Lizz

Lizz Lunney draws a lot of amazing stuff and puts it in comic books and onto postcards, pocket mirrors, bookmarks, badges, and even tattoons. See her website shop and etsy shop for more.


Hannah makes things with love in Manchester. She is like Tatty Devine, minus the super overpricage. I bought her purple button earrings on Sunday Upmarket over two years ago, and they are still my most favourite earrings ever. I like the look of this robot necklace. The measuring tape also comes in shape of a brooch. The lips are very Mae West by Dalí.

upcycled knickers and headband drawing by Pretty Green

I already blogged about Clare of Pretty Green. She has an amazing custom lingerie upcycling service. Tell her a bit about the person for whom the gift is, and she will make you a beautiful pair of knickers or a bra. Tested personally both for myself and as gifts for other people, and it worked brilliantly every time. She also makes knitted headbands to keep your hair in shape for winter, and you can choose colours! Stuff always comes beautifully packed and with a personal note. Clare is a UCL student, has an etsy shop, and also runs a blog.


Not technically handmade, but spot-on for sustainable credentials. Do The Green Thing launched an amazing project Glove Love, the objective of which is to re-use single gloves, matching them up into new pairs. You can order a pair online for a fiver, specifying gender and size, but what actual gloves you'll get will be a surprise. You can also donate gloves, and tell The Green Thing their story. Each glove comes with a tag with a name and where it was rescued from. This could be a gift for ANYONE, including distant family members, coworkers, or other people you don't know well enough to make a real cool personalized gift for. And it's universally useful - come winter, anyone would wear gloves. Win on all fronts, for £5.

Happy Crafting
and keep it Modo people ;)

Sunday, 22 November 2009

Why my love affair with Embellishments continues - S.V.

So: many people have this thing where they claim very adamantly to dislike ‘fuss’. As if there is something wrong in having a penchant to sparkly, spangly luxury. From personal experience however, I find that what people say and what people are actually attracted to are two different things! I for instance succumb fully to it, the more sparkle, the better (okay, within reason) and naturally as a self-confessed magpie my joy was great in realising embellishments were still in style this winter.

My question is why do people love sparkle? Why is there a need to jazz up otherwise ‘simple’ outfits? First of all, I think the idea of fantasy is a key player. We have grown up in a culture that is constantly alluding to the land of make believe and fairytales. The idea of princesses and faeries is one that is still prevalent in our culture, and it is these associations we make when we think of jewels, sequins, beads etc.

In short, embellishment means wealth, it means opulence and mysticism. There is something exotic about rich fabrics studded with beads and jewels and things that draw attention to the outfit and its wearer. There are connotations of luxury when we think of this, which is something that is a constant throughout history also. Whether it be a Russian Tsarina, a Tudor queen or an Indian Maharani, the portraits are all the same; these people in positions of power covered from head to toe in the most expensive and eye-catching minerals of the earth:

Designers for centuries have been fascinated by the creation of these beautiful things, from Charles Fabergé’s extraordinary eggs and the fabulous Cartier necklace commissioned for the Indian Patiala family in the 19th century to modern day detailing from all the huge names.Obviously then, there would be a natural transition of jewels on clothes....

Perhaps it is the versatility of embellishment – its ability to completely transform an outfit’s mood and style that this interest is rooted in. This can clearly be seen in this picture from Italian vogue where the mirrors and studs add a really edgy and rock-chick angle to the look. Whereas in the picture next to it, the same mirrors give off an exotic far-eastern radiance:

Perhaps it is the break away from the historical sensibilities of austere, strict and simple dressing, often associated with certain 17th and 18th century groups, or Arthur Miller’s The Crucible (we all know what happened there) - the escapism embellishment provides externalises its appeal. Whatever the reason, it is one trend that I don’t think will go anywhere, or if it does, will come back very soon. There is only so much interest that lies in clean lines!

One of the hardest things to do is to recreate the look of opulence and find cheap embellished garments. Often the high street and designers think the more shit you stick on an outfit the more you can charge for it. However it is so easy to embellish your own clothes with a bit of well-placed sequin trim or appliqué. This is a great tutorial that shows how to embellish your own tights: [Click!] 

There are also a few books on it like [Fine Embellishment Techniques: Classic Details for Today’s Clothing] by Jane Conlon. One of my favourite places to go is East Ham market (left from the tube station, main entrance next to the Sainsbury's) to find bits of trim and beading. There is a great stall left of the fishmongers where everything is really reasonably priced. Alternatively any good fabric shop has a great section for ribbons and beads etc. With the right level of sparkle, any outfit can be totally transformed and the best and most rewarding thing is that you have done it yourself, and the possibilities are endless!

Keep it MODO people ;-)

Friday, 20 November 2009

Fresh for fridays: Faustus make-up fashion by J.T.

This week, I did make-up for Dr. Faustus which was shown in the Bloomsbury Theatre. There are some interesting characters that I got to experiment with make-up wise. However, I'd just like to post my 2 favorite characters that I did in terms of make-up.

Bad Angel

For the bad angel, I just put really dark eyes and blended them to look as naturally evil as possible. What I love about what I was able to make-up wise was the freedom to do the spirals in any way that I wanted.

Here is another variation of the dark angel. Instead of spirals, I just put in some simpler curvy lines to make her look cold and evil.

Good Angel

I put small golden dots underneath her eyes and just brightened up her eyelids with shiny silver eyeshadow (which unfortunately cannot be seen in the picture). Instead of putting blush, I drew some lines coming in with silver, aqua, pink and yellow eyeshadow.

Hope this inspires you to be more adventurous in your make-up endeavors.

Keep it modo people!


Thursday, 19 November 2009

Tights: The Underestimated Accessory by V B

We're all aware that the right shoes or handbag, or a well placed necklace or scarf can completely transform an outfit, however have we considered the stylising properties of tights? These everyday clothing items can completely change the look and feel of your outfit and can be worn in so many ways.

Bright tights add distinction and dare I say it pazzazz to all sorts of outfit. This burst of colour is particulalrly welcome during these dull winter months and whilst are gorgeous clothes are covered up by winter coats we can still show off those pins!

The ever fashion forward cast of Gossip Girl demonstrate the tights under jeans look which is genius as it allows you to wear those cute little shorts even in the British winter. It also adds a more lady like element by drawing attention away from scandalously short shorts to the whole of the leg.

White tights make a brilliant alternative to black as like black they go with everything but give the outfit and innocent playful edge. They also push those vintage buttons as they are reminiscint of the white stockings of a Georgian lady (uber vintage I know!) or even Twiggy if worn with 60s chic.

Tights can also be as sexy as stockings as demonstrated by the seamed tight, so popular during ww2 when they couldn't get hold of a pair they dyed their legs with tea bags and used eyeliner to draw on the seam! Just goes to proove how essential and brilliant tights are.

Keep it modo people ;)

Sunday, 15 November 2009

Sustainable Fashion - hippy/hip? by M.O.

cover of October's Eco World Fashion Magazine - the DIY issue

Green is trendy and all that, but a lot of the time 'ethical', 'eco', or 'organic' bring to mind images of off-white canvas, long shapeless skirts, and other aesthetically dubious tree-hugging connotations. Similarly to feminism, the term is used vaguely, too much, and often condescendingly. It kinda makes me feel a bit sick. Sustainable fashion is serious business, but just as much glamour and style as anything else (on that note: did anyone get anything from the Jimmy Choo for H&M scramble? I always underestimate people's fierceness and motivation to queue). The fact that there's a slight moral premise to it doesn't mean that everyone wearing organic cotton will look at everyone else not wearing it like they are criminal idiots. Another parallel comes to mind - that of vegetarianism or veganism. It's true that some people think that shit like that makes them superior, and will as a consequence look down on everyone else, but it's not a movement relying on the existence of assholes in the world. Neither is sustainability, so it doesn't deserve the automatic reactionary treatment. Whether recycled, vintage, or diy, style is still style, and hence controversial, unforgiving, and a lot of work.



It is true that some very noble initiatives are more on the funny, or cutesy, or downright pastoral side. The popular thing of making bags out of billboards is pretty cool, but no matter how fancy the designs, it will always work best on messenger-type sporty/urban pieces, channeling foreign typography and skateboarding/surfing style at best. I'm not saying it's ugly - it's just a very specific style - very low-brow&pop culture. In that context, I think it really works, but I find the transgressive attempts quite tiring. Rather than trying to outdo themselves to make loudly printed vinyl look business-like or feminine, recycled banner designers could branch out into other products, for example furniture (excellent examples by the Barcelona-based company Vaho: chairs, and even flower pots)

Stuff like Ecoist candy wrapper bags is exactly the kind of thing that in my opinion firmly ties sustainability to a bit of a crap/pop fest. The design may be durable or inventive, but it's hard to get genuinely excited about the aesthetics. It's more like something you buy if you're a teenager on a schooltrip, or as a ~funny~ gift for someone you don't know very well.

Making graduation gowns out of plastic bottles is so genius, so hilarious, so sweet and so tacky at the same time. Possibly the epitome of sustainable non-style (but for other reasons, very compelling!)

Moving onto stylish stuff: things made by TRAID (Textile Designing for Aid and International Development) are awesome. Their label TRAIDremade "design and produce gorgeous clothing for women and men using second hand textiles that would otherwise be thrown away". They really say it all themselves: "Each piece is a complete one off and sustainably remade by hand in our workshop beside the seaside in Brighton". Please admire, pictured above, one of the super limited edition of gorgeous eco bags designed exclusively for Timberland and in stock now at Timberland Regent Street and Fournier Street. TRAID Flagship shops in Brighton and Camden, more on this list.

Junky Styling is the home of "timeless, deconstructed, re-cut and completely transformed clothing." Take a moment to look through their massive galleries of proper catwalk shows, with mens- and womenswear. The label was set up by two best friends, Annika Sanders and Kerry Seage, who were club scene stars in the early 90s, and decided to transfer their talent into business "after extensive travels as skint teenagers" and "countless compliments on their clothing". They have a shop in East London, a custom order service, a walk-in wardrobe surgery and a book about it.

Fashion Conscience's slogan is "Seriously stylish, seriously ethical". "Eco fashion never looked so good": my point exactly. They have gorgeous pieces sorted into organic, vegan, sustainable, fairtrade, recycled. And everything looks brilliantly chic.

In two week's time I'll post about Christmas gift ideas; until then, keep it Modo people ;)