Saturday, 3 June 2017

Customising and Embellishing - Ribbons and Pom Poms and Studs Oh My!

A couple of weeks ago I spend a few days away on an early summer getaway to Mallorca and had an amazing time exploring beautiful Alcudia.  We stayed in a lovely spa hotel, overlooking beautiful Alcudia Port and enjoyed three days of gorgeous sunshine, delicious food and total relaxation. 

I only took hand luggage with me and if you read my last post here you can see what I made to take along.  It occurred to me though, when I was considering what other essentials to pack, that there are plenty of ways to take a few simple holiday bits and bobs and customise them to make them unique and truly your own.  I like to mix up hand-sewn items with high street  or thrift items generally and I also like to combine them, by embellishing or altering ready made garments to create a bit more interest.  Or I like taking inspiration from something I've seen someone else wear, or in a shop, and then improvise creating my own version.

I thought I'd show you a couple of customised pieces that I spent a few happy hours stitching, gluing and embellishing, specifically to go with my holiday outfits.

Firstly a very quick fix and a look that is currently very popular, an embroidered patch for my old denim shorts.  For me cut off denim shorts are an absolute summer basic and despite their humble appearance, this particular pair are about as customised as they get!  They were once favourite jeans, which after being downgraded from everyday wear to allotment attire, became so dishevelled they didn't even pass the deliberately 'worn in' look and just became downright unsightly.  I cut them off, stitched the seam rips along the (ahem) crotch area (I'm blaming that barbed wire fence that looked lower than it actually turned out to be!) and then when the zip eventually broke I unpicked and replaced it.  So far so customised.  

For this season's brand new look for these old bruisers, I added an embroidered heart to the back pocket.  This is just cotton embroidery thread, some cord and the whole thing has a denim backing that I've then hand applied with slip stitching to the shorts.  Much love to you my old amigos, I will get another season out of you yet.

Next I specifically wanted some shoes to go with a particular outfit for evening.  They needed to be black, not too high for strolling into the local town or down to the beach bar, but with a bit of interest.  Getting black strappy sandals with a mid heel and a bit of pizazz about them is a challenge this season apparently (limited black sandals to be found anywhere) and on a strict budget proved nigh on impossible.  So with a plan in my head (plans are always brilliant when they're in my mind's eye) here is what I purchased instead.. ... 

Basic sandals, some black grosgrain ribbon, pom poms and some mini-pom trim.  The piece of black leather is from my stash, but I could have bought a small piece of fake pleather very cheaply if needed.

I had a vision, inspired by some rather expensive high-end high street beauties, that pom-poms and leather tassels would take these rather workaday sandals up a step from 'meh' to 'ooh la la'.  Here's what I did.  

The mini-pom trim was first machine stitched onto the grosgrain along one edge of the ribbon and then each ribbon section cut to slightly longer than the sandal toe-strap.  I turned each cut edge under and stitched across.  This was applied to the toe strap with fabric glue - I used the type of glue that will bond securely to leather.  Then apply stationery to secure.

Once this was in place I used three larger pom poms on the top edge of the ribbon, glueing them in place and used more mini-pom trim across the ankle strap, using fray stop on either end to make sure no stray threads were going to unravel.  I used the fabric glue to apply it to the strap.  You have to use a bit of testing here to make sure your little mini poms can go all the way up to the buckle, but won't get snagged in the fastening itself when you put the shoes on.  You have to bear in mind the ankle strap needs to go through the buckle and you don't want to be hauling those cute little poms through there when you're trying to take your shoes off at the end of the night!  I tried them on to see which buckle hole I need to use, and trimmed off a couple of poms accordingly. Everything needed to be held together securely for the glue to bind properly, and so my shoes ended up bristling with more bulldog clips and, when I'd run out of those, wooden clothes pegs.

Lastly I made a leather tassel, in the same way I've shown on on the blog previously.  Those of you who look at my instagram will know how much I like a tassel and having already be-tasseled everything from key rings to my ears, it was only a matter of time before my footwear were to receive the same treatment.

This was looped over the buckle at the side and the tassel is large enough for a statement, but not long enough to drag along the ground.  Done!  Fabulous one-off footwear for an absolute fraction of the cost of a designer purchase.  Boom!  I could of course happily begin with sandals in a bright colour, and apply more coloured trim for a really funky pair.  The world is your pom pom.

Safe to say I got the bug after bedecking these specimens and couldn't resist having a go at another pair of shoes, but something for everyday.  In this case I found a simple and cheap pair of denim pool slides, perfectly functional and I'd have been happy to wear them just as they were actually.  But I thought, how much more fabulous to Gucci them up a little?!  In this case, the inspiration came from Gucci's recent collection of sandals and wedges boasting pearls, studs and rope embellishments (which for the real deal would go north of £650).  Here are my slides, before and after their treatment.  

I added red rope, red sequins, gold studs and seed pearl trim by stitching each strip in a band along the denim.  The great thing about fabric shoes is you can stitch anything you like to them.  I could have used patches, embroidery, even machine stitching on these.  I used a tiny bit of fray stop on the edge of the rope, to stop the strands parting company and then used hand stitches to secure it firmly at either end and along its length.  These studs are amazing, purchased from the wonderful 'Kleins' in Soho, London.  They come in a wide band and you can just cut them in strips however you like.  These are antique gold and have a fabulously detailed, textured surface.

The seed pearls are on a secure strand and so are easy to apply with stitches in between every other bead.  These little slides were just brilliant on holiday and happily took me from poolside to beach and then from bar to dinner.

There is a slightly addictive quality to customising though, which I think comes from the sheer speed at which you can change the look of things and get a satisfying result.  It's definitely much quicker than making from scratch and you can apply a bit of personality to any garment, shoes, bag or other accessories.  However I think the less is more approach pays off here and having one or two embellished items at a time is plenty.  Lest I risk looking as though I've been dipped in fabric glue and thrown in the bargain bin at V V Reuleaux.  Having said that, I can think of worse fates for a custom-addict. 


  1. Brilliant clothing ideas! I absolutely love your Pom Pom shoes.

  2. Thank you LGS! I love those shoes too. I'm very tempted to do another pair in a different colour. Sarah X

  3. I think these are some of the best customisation I have seen. They just look like expensive/designer shoes rather than a home made effort. Brilliant.

  4. What a brilliant idea, and beautifully done - bet you enjoyed doing them too.

  5. Thank you Fabrickated, that's very kind of you! The designer look was what I was going for so I'm glad they look the business. Sarah.

  6. AWR, I did really enjoy doing these and I've enjoyed wearing them too. I've also been asked to make a few for friends, which has been keeping me busy.