Tuesday, 21 October 2014

Not my Granny's Curtains Evening Bag

The thing I made, that so restored my faith in making for the love of it, rather than because I feel I should, well, here it is... Ta Da!

I have named it the Not my Granny's Curtains Evening Bag. Its was a gift for a lovely friend who had a birthday yesterday.

It was made from some lovely vintage upholstery material that I was give by a complete stranger a couple of years ago. I think, in the distant past, he used to be an upholstery salesman of some kind, because he gave me heaps of samples. Pieces less than a metre square, sometimes in more than one colour-way.

They are completely perfect for bag making, but call for a clasp which is a little bit sophisticated. Something a bit special.

So I hunted around on the interweb and found these. I think the technical term is a kiss clasp. I like that - it sounds very affectionate. These ones double up as a handle, which is even better.

I popped a little label inside because I like a label.

I am completely over the moon with how it turned out.

I have a head full of makes bursting to get out, so I am off to work on one...


Thursday, 16 October 2014


Thank you to all of you that took the trouble to comment and leave your wise words in response to my dilemma. Sometimes the simple act of articulating a problem makes the answer leap out, and sometimes we need a little nudge in the right direction to see the blooming obvious. 

Small smalls and big sea
I have decided that for the time being I am going to make a few things for my Mum's market stall, which is partly to support her and partly to keep a tiny toe in the water, and apart from that I am going to make things for the love of it.

Big ice cream and small life belt?
 I am going to finish sorting out the unpacking and work on my house.

I may not be making money, but I will be saving it by not spending it on tradespeople unless absolutely necessary, and by making gifts rather than buying them.

Smallest small and biggest ice cream

I won't be clock watching and penny pinching over every make, I will be doing what I love.

Not quite knees
 In the future I may well explore the teaching route more fully, but I will try to stop worrying about missing the boat, and needing to do everything immediately if not sooner.

So, having found some perspective, I have made something I am super-pleased with, but it is a gift so you will have to wait until after the event to see...

I did so enjoy making it. Just because I wanted to.

Three foot prints...
Still not sure I know What I Want To Be When I Grow Up, but I have crossed a possibility off the list, at least for now.


Tuesday, 14 October 2014

Project WIWTBWIGU: The thing

I have a thing. A thing that is filling my head and making my mind race in the wee small hours. A thing that is getting in the way and needs to be dealt with.

So here's the thing:

I love to make things and I have a seriously long list of potential makes in my head. The list is like a living thing, in motion, ever changing, and I do not dare to try to write it down in detail. The list includes wedding presents, new baby presents, birthday presents, christmas presents, clothes for me, alterations, repurposings, upcyclings, curtains, re-upholstery of our furniture, experiments, techniques to try, pictures in my head.......

Often when I make things and give them as presents, or use them myself, people tell me that 'I should sell those'. And when people ask me to teach them to crochet or knit they say 'you should teach classes'. I love both of those ideas, but. But but but...

When you make something and sell it you have to put a value on it. The maths is easy:

cost of materials + cost of labour + cost of overheads = value of item

This is where we encounter the first hurdle. If you want to pay yourself a half decent hourly rate, and as far as I am concerned, not to do this undervalues your skill and creative energy, the answer to that sum, even with careful sourcing of materials, turns out to be 'quite a lot'. The quite a lot comes from the fact that to sell things costs money. You need an outlet: a shop will want to buy from you at a wholesale price and mark up the item so they make a profit too. A market stall costs money to hire and time to man (remember the decent hourly rate), etsy or similar, charge a listing fee, plus you have to factor in postage...

The trouble is, there is another, very important way to calculate the value of an item:

what a customer is prepared to pay for item = value of item

It is very very hard to make the two add up.

Let us turn to the other idea: teaching classes... The actual process of planning a workshop or programme of classes, organising the materials and doing the teaching appeals to me very very much. But as soon as I think about the idea properly my head is filled with: venue? advertising? evening vs daytime vs weekend? are there enough people around here who would like to learn? what is a customer willing to pay for the service? am I really skilled enough?

And then, there is all that other stuff, the presents and the experiments and the ideas, where do they fit in? What happens when a Small is poorly? Can I commit to working at the weekend or evenings without destroying family life? Will there be time to do up the house? do the shopping? the washing? cleaning? gardening? help with homework?

I am trying very hard not to be pessimistic, but to be realistic. Why burden myself with a bigger work-load if I am not going to make some pennies, when I could concentrate on the things I love doing for my own pleasure, and the pleasure they can bring to others if I share them.

So you see, working out What I Want To Be When I Grow Up is hugely tricky. Should I attempt to sell the things I make? Should I have a go at teaching classes? Or not?

The thing about the thing:

The thing about the thing is that indecision and uncertainty are not good for me. They make me worry, make me grumpy and make me hide from life behind social media, tv, radio, audio books, magazines, books... I keep the input up so high that I don't have to listen to my own thoughts. So I can block out the worry.

It is ridiculous to be worrying about an idea, worrying about something that exists only in potential. I know I should get my act together and worry about only the really important things, but that does not help in the wee small hours.

That my dear bloggy friends is the thing. I would very much value your thoughts on the thing.


And now the bin-men have been and I have been so busy self-indulgently worrying about the thing that I forgot to put the bin out. Bother.

Wednesday, 8 October 2014

Meet the Maker: Julie at Hide and Tweed

Hello hello!

I am a very excited lady today. I have several talented friends who make beautiful things and I thought it would be fun to share them with you. So... this is the first in an occasional series of Meet the Maker posts. 

First up is Julie Lockie at Hide and Tweed. You can find Julie's work online at her Etsy shop, or in her home town of Berwick upon Tweed where she is one of over 20 artisans who sell their wares through a charming high street shop: Serendipity.

Julie works from her home studio with fabric, leather and paper to create wonderful notebooks, photo albums, and handbags. She also takes orders for bespoke items. I went for a nosy around Julie's studio and asked her about her work.

How did you begin working with leather?

I did an Accessories Design course at the London College of Fashion where I was taught by a very skilled leather craftsman.  From the first session on the course I loved working with leather.

The combination of masculine leather and feminine liberty prints is very striking. Where does the inspiration for your pieces come from?

My family and I spend a huge amount of time outdoors walking and cycling in the Scottish Borders and Northumberland countryside and I've found that I've naturally gravitated towards the colours I see, both in the leather and tweed I use.  I've always been a huge fan of Liberty prints and think they make a stunning contrast to the more masculine leather.

Can you talk me through your creative process? Do you have the finished article in your mind’s eye or are you led by the materials? 
A bit of both really.  The two main materials I use are leather and tweed/wool, hence the business name of Hide and Tweed!  I then often use Liberty print fabric and silk (usually tartan) for highlights and detail.  My main focus for products is books and handbags so the combination of the materials and products drive the creative process.  There is never a shortage of ideas popping up in my mind but the hardest part is finding time to develop and bring them to fruition.

Having a studio at home is many budding crafter's dream. How do find working from home?

Mostly, I love it.  It’s the most efficient way for me to maximise my creative time around being mum to my four year old son.  I am usually extremely disciplined and work the whole time he is at school but it can be very easy to get distracted by phone calls, the computer etc.  I also feel torn when I want to be in the studio creating but can see the kitchen floor needs washed or the whole house dusted.

What is your favourite piece to make?

My favourite process is easy – stitching my leather books.  I’ll have decided which style to make, cut out the covers and ties, spent a long time cutting hundreds of pages of paper, selected the linen threads and stitching design and then the real treat comes - sitting in peace and quiet stitching together a batch of books.  Making bags is a much more lengthy, complicated process and because many of my bags are unique I never quite know how they’ll turn out.  It’s very satisfying when you complete a bag and the finished product makes you smile.

Do you have plans to add your handbags to your Etsy shop?

Yes.  I’ve been very pleased with how well they’ve sold in Serendipity but I’ve still been refining the style and design.  My immediate focus is building up my stock of books for Christmas but I hope to have time to make bags for my Etsy shop.

If you enjoyed meeting Julie pop over to her Esty shop. I am sure you won't be disappointed!


Friday, 3 October 2014

Some things and a plan

Some good things: The sun shone, J's parents and a lovely friend from my choir came to help, accompanied by a crowbar, and unloading the crates was not as awful as I had anticipated. 

A dispiriting thing: I spent three days attempting to unpack and my dining room now looks like this.

A big thing: I have been force to come to the conclusion that we own TOO MUCH STUFF. We have a reasonably big house and can't fit it all in. I have been taking stuff to the charity shop and recycling centre for weeks and I am pretty fed up with everything being in a mess.

The plan: Today I am going to make my living room into a place I like to be. I will fold and remove the clean washing, sort out and find a home for the multitude of paperwork, tidy the mantelpiece and put onto it a few choice items that make me happy, and run the hoover round. Then, I will the pack a couple of bags because we are going away for a weekend of fun and frolics with some lovely, uplifting, good-for-the-soul folks and I will walk away from the mess.

On Monday, I will make a new plan.


PS Thank you for all your kind words after my last post. Bloggy types are also good-for-the-soul.

Saturday, 27 September 2014

That was the week that was.

So, I have had a very weird week. Just as I was getting into my stride, working out a good balance between house, garden, making, cleaning, cooking, shopping etc it was all turned upside down.

It began on Monday with J working from home. I always feel a bit strange about that. Is it ok to interrupt? Is there enough lunch for two (I usually eat left overs from the night before and cook with that in mind). He chose to set up camp in my corner of the sofa and of course needed the computer so I was off balance from the start!

He was working from home so that he could attend an appointment with an orthopaedic surgeon about having some troublesome wires removed from his elbow.  The doc said yes, no problem, how about tomorrow?

So on Tuesday, with less than 24 hours to get used to the idea, I had to take him to hospital for a general anaesthetic etc etc. We have done this a lot. Some people even call him Glass Man, he is so prone to breaking himself, indeed, the wires were put in after the last breakage. But it is really NOT FUN. The silver lining is that a lovely old friend lives a few minutes drive from the hospital so I hung out with her while he went off to theatre. She was suitably distracting and chatty and the time passed much faster than it could have done. He was discharged the same day, wire-free but pretty pooped.

So on Wednesday I had an invalid at home. Naturally I pootled 30 miles north to keep a long-standing lunch date with another lovely girlfriend. Invalids need peace and quiet right? So, far better for me to be out of the way.

On Thursday I realised that what had been a small issue of Big Trouble being a bit over tired by school, had become a big issue of him being too tired to eat, wetting the bed and being so overwhelmed that he didn't want to go at all. This is my boy who has been desperate to go since he could walk. I fretted and worried and worried and fretted, then spoke to the headteacher who was completely lovely and very understanding and suggested I collect him early a few times a week until he has found his feet.

So on Friday I went up to school four times: at 8.45 to drop them all off, at 9.30 to attend the Macmillan coffee morning, at 1.30 to collect Big Trouble and at 3.15 to collect the other two.  He wouldn't have a sleep but did spend the afternoon under a blanket reading books and chatting with me. He seems to have benefited already, and is less grumpy and tearful than before.

The other unfolding saga of the week was planning the delivery of all our goods and effects from St Helena. They are coming on Monday and being delivered to 'kerbside'. J has booked the day off work so that between us we can bring it all into the house. J is now unable to lift anything with his left hand. Hmm.

The upshot is that I have asked everybody I can think of to come and help in exchange for cake and beer, and our lovely friends and family have been very generous with offers of their time and energy.

Please please please don't let it be raining on Monday...


Sunday, 21 September 2014

And the winner is.... me!

Ooo I have been wanting to tell you about this for a few days but the weather has been so pants that I haven't been able to snap any pics to show you. 

A couple of weeks ago I entered a giveaway on Jo's blog The Good Life. I always have a go at a giveaway. People always find such lovely prizes! Well for once, it was my name out of the hat. Yey!

Jo had been sent a copy of Sarah Raven's Cutting Garden Journal to review, with the promise of another one to give away.

It is a very beautiful book. Full of ideas of things to grow, how to care for them and how to display them. I love cutting flowers from my garden and bringing them into the house, but I never grow them specially. I just snip a bit here and a bit there.

For the last couple of weeks Tall Girl has done it for me. Even though autumn has definitely arrived in this corner of the world she still managed to find me a big vase full. Lovely!


PS If you fancy your own copy there are details on Jo's blog...