Kirstie, take a seat

This week’s guest blog comes from Keck’s very own Jenna Roberts (@jenarobuts) getting riled over More4 reruns:

“A11791209_10153268779586284_1034515484_o (1)_editeds seems justified with pretty much most of the world’s crises (and several more minor personal ones), I blame tedious, oppressive capitalism and Kirstie Allsopp. Though I could spend most of my day calling bullshit on Ms. Allsopp and her questionable non-contributions to feminism, what I’m here channelling my resentment against is, perhaps one of her lesser offences, ‘Kirstie’s Homemade Home’ and her seeming renaissance as the Queen Of The Upcycle. Upcycling isn’t Kirstie Allsopp, Kirstie Allsopp isn’t upcycling. It really is so much more – and hear me out before you dismiss me as being recklessly profound.

Using my mother as barometer of popular opinion, there seems either this aggravatingly Allsopp-ian image of upcycling as sickly saccharine, faddish and twee, the domain of women with a flair for Pinterest and crafts –or a somewhat ‘Mother Earth’ vision of white girls with dreads ‘making do and mending’, darning up and tie dying their organic hemp ponchos. Whilst neither of these breeds of upcyclers are to be sniffed at, upcycling isn’t a fad – it isn’t whimsy or a quaint seasonable notion for wrapping Christmas presents in an ‘unusual’ way. It also isn’t just for those devoting all facets of their lives to being green and saving the planet (though MASSIVE RESPECT to you guys as we definitely all should be.) As cringey as it sounds, upcycling and re-use is for everyone – and beyond this needs to be instilled as an accessible, universal norm, transcending Allsopp’s ‘Homemade Home’ candy coating. Upcycling is fun – its creative, it can be craftsy I can’t deny and it’s charming and easy to fall in love with as a process. Repurposing an object that’s gone unloved or otherwise become obsolete, tangibly reworking and reinventing that object, its delicate, intricate and personal, a labour of love. It’s equally something of a necessity.

KeckerFor one, upcycling really does just seem to make sense – it’s logical. From a personal, more domestic standpoint, it’s thrifty and economical. Boiling upcycling down to its much less sugared core concept of ‘re-use’ and underscored with the knowledge of the phenomenal damage the textile, fashion and retail industries cause to both our environment and our economy, it becomes logical and necessary in an urgent way. Specifically textile waste in the UK is just unfathomable: 1.5 million tonnes and over £140 million of unwanted clothing are land filled each year. We buy our clothes fast and dispose of them just as quickly. We live in a throwaway culture where we’re in fact pre-designing items to lack durability and quality and be almost immediately thrown out – and only 30% of those clothes we throw away are we recycling or upcycling. According to the New Statesman, for every kilo of cotton preserved through re-using a second hand piece of clothing, you save 65 kWh of energy, the equivalent of over 30 kilos of CO2. Upcycling isn’t just reworking old piano keys into a statement piece clock or ironing patches on your shorts, re-use –after initial efforts we should all be driving to reduce in the first instance- should be an active fundamental of all of our lifestyles. Use it, re-use it, re-use it again. Upcycling isn’t quaint: it’s hardy, hands-on, savvy, defiant. Call me zealous if you will but upcycling is a politically-informed and motivated gesture towards establishing an environmentally-conscientious, circular economy – one that respects both the concept of value and our planet.”

Upcycled T-shirt bag tutorial.

Upcycled T-shirt bag tutorial.

Having had such a great reception to my mini workshop at Love Bristol Fair this weekend, I’m responding to all the requests for a visual how to for the T-shirt bags. Its oh so simple and ensures your bag is a little waterproof at the bottom in case of leaky stuff. Not ideal for heavy books etc, but perfect for the beach or gym wear as its easily washable. Enjoy!

The essentials What you’ll need: Old t-shirt ,Scissors, Duct tape, Needle and thread (optional)
Cut off the sleeves – larger holes mean a longer handle. Cut out the neck – the deeper the cut, the larger the bag opening.
Turn inside out – take bottom hem and fold up toward neck twice making each fold around 2cm tall.
Duct tape along the fold, making sure to overlap at the sides a little. Turn over and duct tape along the other sides, overlapping onto the tape from the first side. Add another layer of tape along the bottom edge, making sure it sticks to the first and second pieces. The more you stick the duct tape to the duct tape, the better it glues.
Turn the right way out and pull unfinished edges slightly to ‘hem’.
Put stuff in your bag! You can sew the outer edge if you like, but i’ve never needed to.
Wear your bag like a boss! You could even post a selfie on your social media and tag us, or post to our facebook page: kecksclothingbristol xx


Upcycled turban head wear tutorial

Upcycled turban head wear tutorial

Ok, so I have had MANY enquiries as to how i made my little upcycled turban the other day….so I did a super quick tutorial for you to get going on your own!

ImageWhat you need:

  • An old t-shirt or other spare material
  • pins
  • needle and thread
  • scissors

ImageLay the material flat and cut out a rectangular strip from one side of the tshirt incorporaing both back and front, of about 30cm in width, from the neck to the hem. Cut a piece the same length, but half the width from the remaining side, leaving the side hem in tact.

ImageImageFold the same sized pieces in half, with the inside out, pin along the edge and sew.


ImageTurn inside out so the hem is hidden.


ImageTake the resulting pieces, cross over, and form a figure 8 shape.


ImagePin and sew the remaining piece, then turn inside out.

ImageTurn the raw hem of the thinner piece inside.

ImageTuck the ends of the figure 8 piece inside the ends of the thinner piece, pin and sew.

ImageImageImageImageTa dah! But please sew yours more carefully as i rushed mine a bit xx

ImageImageStretchy materials provide a more snug, sporty fit for use in the gym, keeping hair out of your face etc. More fancy materials work for every day wear and special occasions – add brooches, studs, or even feathers for next level glam xx

Top 13 songs of 2013

Top 13 songs of 2013

As much as I am an upcycling buff, and determined business woman,  I am a mere empty shell without music in my life.

So I’ve gone all self-indulgent and created a top 13 songs of 2013 list – not all of the songs were released this year, but in some way they have rocked my little world in the last 365 days.

1) Janelle Monae – Q.U.E.E.N feat Erykah Badu

Not a lot not to love here – its enhanced 100% by the video for me. Perfect motivational gear for small business owners and general world citizens alike. Plus Monae is a right role model and a half – daaayum that tailoring is good!

2) The Dillinger Escape Plan – When I Lost My Bet

Drastic change of pace here, but underneath my skin runs a rich vein of metal (hence all the studs and slashed tees in the Kecks collections i guess), and i love loud schitzo music. Greg Puciato has a great set of pipes too. Be warned, the video has its fair share of intestine mask wielding scary folk  Pretty.

3) Jack White – Top Yourself

I only really got in to Jacky’s music this year, having loved his Dead Weather work with my beloved Alison Mosshart. This AMEX live performance is worth watching if you have a spare evening, and this is one little saucy little number from it. Hot tamales.

Jack swaps between male and female bands, and they are all this well decked out. Now that’s what I call style.

4) Big Mama Thornton – Hound Dog

Before Beyonce bust out Single Ladies, there was BMT with Hound Dog. Every gal needs songs to give bad doggies the brush off, and this is a great one.

5) Arctic Monkeys – R U Mine?

From the patchy AM album released this year, this rings out as a real stand alone track for me.

Plus, i have a penchant for those wiry little Indie boys like Alex Turner and his jangly guitar. Lets not discuss his hair. Bless.

6) The National – Demons

if you havent heard The National yet, you will soon. Go see them live – they are crazy bonkers good.

Do not listen to unless you are sort of ok in yourself…

7) Deap Vally – Make my Own Money

I’m clearly not trying to be cool here, I just LOVE these guys. Big hair, short shorts, cut up t-shirts? My kind of women! Plus this in your face big guitar independent woman tune. I bought some of their merch pants I love them so much. Whatever.

8) Savages – She Will

Yes they sound like New Order / Siouxsie Sioux. I don’t care. I love the masculine tailoring, disciplined tightness and humourless delivery of this band. Not everything has to be frivolous!

9) Policia – Amongster

This is just so bombastic a track with its altered states and crescendo. I love it. The lyrics are well buried in there, but worth digging out for a read.

10) My Ruin – Ready For Blood

More metal and from an old album, but this has been on repeat on the old i pod and proved most motivating for a work out.

Angry brunettes, gotta love us eh?

11) Lana Del Ray – Ride

Because falling out of love with someone after a really long time is difficult and wonderful, and this song is that.

End of.

12) Nick Cave – Hold On To Yourself

This song appeared from nowhere into my sphere, and has kept popping throughout 2013. It seems very important and, of course, Cave has magical powers.

13) Cat Power – Bully

Cat is another magical being, and this performance really got me in the belly.

Wonderfully articulated.

Personal icons – women who inspire my fashion range

Personal icons – women who inspire my fashion range

The fashion industry is full of people who explain themselves as “I used to ….. but now i do this” people. Painters, writers, architects, and most of all, musicians. I am no different, I’ve never devoted myself entirely to any one discipline, but the thing I’ve felt most devoted to is music. Fashion has always felt an integral part of being a performer – essential to performance and an extension of the craft. Perhaps it is ego, or part of that innate need to express, whatever the reason, musicians have always been my style icons with their boundary pushing, easily imitable, expressive styles.

For this blog, I will talk about some of the ladies who have influenced me the most (I’ll get to the gents later), starting with the women who forged my formative style….

1) The Runaways

ImageWhats not to like here? All that denim and the customised, handmade tees certainly permeated my consciousness!

Joan Jett, Lita Ford, Sandy West and Cherie Currie were scandalously young when they hit the big time in the mid 70s, and they were scandalous in general. Their lyrics were explicit and the clothing followed suit – Cherie Currie infamously sported a basque and suspenders for one live show in Japan. Nothing compared to Gaga or tongue lolling Cyrus, but at the time, damn shocking.

ImageAs a 12 / 13-year-old, i fell in love with their shocking nature and the styling – I tucked my jeans into my boots, my tee into my flares, and wore my cut offs high and tight. Quite rightly, it all terrified my parents, and Joan Jett has fuelled my love of annoying society in general ever since. Though i go the pleather route where I can.

2) Tori Amos

This particular goddess has always produced artistry that feels a little bit like she creeps into my room at night, and like some sort of perverse tooth fairy, steals my thoughts making them into amazing songs, and wonderful visual art. Tori’s work is incredibly evocative – Neil Gaiman long ago made her into a character in one of his graphic novels – and her stylistic choices are often inspired.


She is never afraid to flash a bit of flesh, and rarely follows any fashion whatsoever, but always manages to remain incredibly haute couture. When I have seen Tori live, she has appeared in everything from jeans and vest to immense chiffon gowns, all the while skipping from piano to harpsichord, often playing both at the same time, and singing complex, towering vocals for huge audiences. Of late, her personal appearance (sometimes her stylist should be slapped) and plastic surgery choices have been criticised, but hey, she’s only human right? Sometimes I struggle getting past pajamas and I’m not a multi million selling artist. So, chill.


The above artwork from concept album ‘American Doll Possee’ is a fine example of the extra mile Tori goes for the visual aspects of her work – inventing different personas for songs and changing into their costume during gigs, down to the wigs. What a gal.

3) PJ Harvey

ImageA mixture of pure passion and folk, PJ is as complex and aloof as they come. She is a fascinating woman, and an adept visual artist whose image has been carefully cultivated and remains strong today. Her clothes are often underplayed, but she is cutting edge indeed – don’t doubt it.

ImageThis t-shirt set me off making my own slogan tops (soon to be revived) and i loved this picture so much I once recreated it for one grateful boyfriend.

Lucky guy.

PJ can often veer into the gothic and folky looking costume – but it’s all very much determined by the feel of her albums, and sits perfectly with them. A truly devoted approach.

4) Cher


Less the body stocking, enormo hair stuff of the 80s, and much more the mega gown, eyeliner, Sonny betrothed days of the 60s and 70s.

Not my favourite singer, but nonetheless a talented woman, and a much overlooked style icon. For some reason, I have always leaned towards the Navajo Indian look, no idea why, and Cher seemed to cultivate an accessible version of that for me – this inspired MANY an Afghan coat purchase. She had a snaggle toothed, aloof beauty, also possessed by my sister, which I very much admired. Now, Cher’s face looks very different, as we all know.

These days I’m more a fan of the dysfunctional Mom she depicted in Mermaids…anyone who knows me knows what I mean…

ImageI also love those mega dresses the 70s did so well, praise the lord they are back again! Check her out in this snazzy ensemble…Afro? Check. Fringing? Check. Bikini? Uh huh. Chandelier earrings? Yup. And yellow.

Also, a great tune.

5) Juliette Lewis


Now, Jules is a recent addition and is mainly here as she encapsulates so many looks that I love. A real rock n roll chameleon. Borrowing heavily from my true messiah, Patti Smith, and working all the clichés, JLew sums up a lot of what i like and what has stayed with me. The below picture could basically have been me from the age of 15..


Shirt and tie is such a classic eh? She also rocks a leather driving glove regularly which I’ve never been able to pull off…

ImageOverall, I love the bat shit crazy, all out rock styling she dons for this persona. It’s the disregard for the norm that appeals most to me – combining vintage and new, and wearing whatever the hell you feel like. That’s at the heart of my fashion ethic and its great to see it employed!

I’m sure I’ll kick myself for not including so may wonderful women, Allison Mosshart is already plaguing me,, but these are the lasses that spring to mind right now.

Who influences you?!

tattoos and i

tattoos and i

I often get asked how i got into the upcycled clothing malarkey – and especially how I came to paint on clothes.

I was always an artistic kid – my Dad brought home rolls of printer paper (yes, once it was on rolls kids) and wallpaper for me to draw on, so prolific was I.

At uni, i lost my love of drawing somewhat…no idea why…but it went away, only to crop up again in my twenties when i discovered a love of drawing tattoos for people. I got into the genre heartily – mainly in a way of photographing tattoos and dreaming up my own. I have never really had a desire to actually tattoo people, and after a few goes with the machine, i gave it up as a bad job. It makes me cringe, not the blood or anything, just the BUZZ of the machine. Blergh.

I also lack the incredible precision required of many artists…and y’know, I find it hard to uphold traditions in any genre, let alone the ones so ingrained in the tattoo world. I don’t like being told what to draw. Or do. Ever really.

After witnessing some amazing tattoos, and working at a shop, I left the tattoo world behind for many reasons, but i felt the need to keep drawing. So the t-shirts came about, and this is the medium I have grown to love.

The tattoo influence is still visible in some t-shirts.

Still my love of ink is very strong and I recently continued my own tattoo project, with a small tattoo from Holey Skin in Bristol.


For those of you who have never had a tattoo, this was just a quick design – having a fair amount of ink, and knowing what I wanted and where, i was booked in super fast.Its a kodama from a Studio Ghibli film, they are little tree spirits, and the receptionist and i had a good ogle of the little critters before  choosing the one I wanted.

There was much kodama love in the shop that day…

Often you would have a consultation – especially if it is a bespoke design, and no decent artist will ever directly tattoo a sketch you have drawn yourself. they will redraw it to make it work. There is a method to their madness – it’s all about line and placement, so shop around and get what you want, but listen to the artist. You wouldn’t just build a wall without some advice first eh?

This was a small graphic piece, so it was printed off, put onto transfer paper..

DSC_0883…so I could check I liked the look of it, and then BAM, it began.

I didn’t take a picture of that bit – I spend time before a tattoo relaxing and breathing so I don’t flinch or giggle – which is the worst! It also helps it hurt less.

Does  a tattoo hurt? Yeah. Its lots of tiny in pricks putting ink under your skin. But personally, it doesn’t bug me too much, and this one was weirdly ok! Barely hurt! But then it was only a little un.


Here it is covered with clingfilm to protect it – it is an open wound after all!

Aftercare is a real hotbed of debate, but listen to what the artist says and do your research. Good aftercare can make a huge difference to the quality and longevity of a piece.

So, yes a brief overview of my tattoeyness. if you’d like to know more let me know and thanks to Holey Skin for being lovely…now, back to Kecks!

Hawt stock for hot weather

Hawt stock for hot weather

So, it’s pretty hot right?

I’ve been updating the Etsy store accordingly, and squeezed in a little shoot with my favourite model Geri!


I also branched out into more of the handpainted range – pretty challenging with upcycled stock as you never really know what you’re getting to paint on, but hey, that’s the fun of it!

I LOVE paiting on denim jackets at the moment, especially running off these wolf designs….


…and i’m getting to work on more of the Derby Grrls as they seemed super popular!


More soon! Give the store a look for more updates, or check out the Facebook page xx

Sustainability – teamwork

Sustainability – teamwork

Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed people can change the world.  Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.  ~Margaret Meade


I’ve been pretty absent from blogworld – the practicalities of building my business have taken up a LOT of time…who knew there were so many types of clothes rail to choose from?! Plus battles with finances, but we all hear that one, right?

One thing that has kept me going through this chaos, is the collaborations with pals, and those just happy to help.

The more i have delved into sustainable living, the more i realise it really only works once everyone gets into it – the potential is incredible when you combine practical and creative talents without the red tape of corporate living.


For example, the guys over at Freecycle – this online listing of donated goods has enabled thousands to get the stuff they need for free – whether it be furniture, or clothing, even sometimes food – and dispose of what they don’t need. Even down to unassuming stuff like old hair dye, it all stays out of landfill and saves money for the recipient. I have personally furnished most of my home with it, and as a single parent, have put clothes and toys back in and been thanked in a most heart warming way. If your local network needs a boost, why not encourage friends and family to whack something on there – advertise via social media – and watch it grow as word spreads. Its amazing what trash you can dispose of and what treasure you can find.

Another great factor is that Freecycle is based on basic human courtesy and generosity – simply asking and giving thanks is discouraged in consumer society, and should be encouraged way more. When i reached out to an old uni pal of mine for some help with a promo video, he offered his time in exchange for accommodation during one of  their many filming trips around the country – he and his partner’s company kindly filmed, edited and produced the piece and it just hit 200 views. Incredibly generous, and we had a great time working together and a bit of partying to boot.

If you fancy a video of your own, or have any other filming projects, give them a shout, I will be for my next shoot:

The film was not complete without some music, so i contacted a band i have seen several times at gigs and festivals called ALASKA. They also agreed to let me use their latest single as the background music in exchange for a little help on their South West tour – amazing eh?



They just released their latest single which features a collaborative artwork  with Dots Printhaus who live in their hometown of Leeds.

Give it all a look, its incredible stuff, and all based on a spirit of collaboration and working together to make the projects that may not get funding or support of the ground. Much like my own little Kecks Clothing.

Next up is some work I’m doing with the brilliant Figure 8 Festival in aid of Macmillan Cancer Support – tickets are on sale now, and I’ll keep you posted with all developments! check it out!