Tuesday, 8 December 2009

Christmas Ideas - part 2

I'm still trying my best to have as much of a handmade Christmas as possible. As I said before, photos will have to wait until after Christmas so as not to spoil any surprises. However, due to time constraints, it hasn't been possible to make lots all by myself, so I have bought some things from fellow crafters as presents - I don't think this is cheating! Again I can't reveal details, but I will share with you the work of a few people I met over the weekend.

First is Tula Moon. She does wonderful artwork that looks like patchwork. Her paintings range from Liverpool icons like the Liver Buildings and the Superlambanana, to owls and other cute designs. She also makes brooches, pendants and more. Check out her website: http://www.tulamoon.co.uk/

For beautiful vintage jewellery, check out http://www.folksy.com/shops/clairepalmer

Her jewellery is really unusual and has a fabulous vintage charm to it. I bought a georgous pink Eiffel Tower necklace from her for myself. I know that's naughty but it signified my love for all things French so beautifully I couldn't pass it up.

Her sister is a fabulous photographer, I bought some of her Christmas cards. Check out http://www.helenpalmerphotography.co.uk for more info.

There was also a company there who make handmade vegan soaps and lip balms, none of which are tested on animals which I thought was a fantastic idea. Check them out at http://www.etsy.com/shop/mmmmhandmadesoap

I was really pleased to see that Kirsty Allsop has extended her homemade home series to a 3 night special called Kirsty's Homemade Christmas. I really enjoyed her homemade home series and tonight's Christmas edition did not disappoint. It is full of great design and craft ideas for Christmas and continues tomorrow and Thursday night. The only problem is that they should have put the series on slightly earlier to allow for more time to organise and make things before Christmas. I 've often wondered why there aren't any programmes on tv about crafting/sewing etc. Kirsty's Homemade Home and Christmas are a breath of fresh sir amongst the monotony on our screens. There was another brief series on either bbc 3 or 2 earlier this year about swapping clothes and altering things, a kind of "make do and mend" idea, which I enjoyed, and of course there is Project Catwalk and Project Runway (of which I will blog in detail tomorrow after the final show) but apart from those there is nothing else. So sad. Anyway, be sure to check her programme out if you haven't seen it as it is really good.

Monday, 7 December 2009

What a Weekend

This weekend was a mad, crazy one! I attended the New Village Fete again at Heebie Jeebies, and this time I was placed right next to the front door. It was a great event, with lots of different stall holders to last time I was there. Plenty of people turned up which was nice, and I did really well. I completely sold out of Russian Dolls which was a surprise. I didn't sell a single one last time.
It's a great venue I think, with bags of character. The food and live music was great too. What really made my day was that I was approached by somebody who owns a shop. She bought a lot of my earrings and some Russian dolls and is going to sell them on. She also wants to stock my bags which I'm really excited about. Still can't believe my things are for sale in an actual shop!

Some of the other stall holders asked me to participate in another fair they had organised on Sunday. This time it was in the centre of town above a cafe. So on Saturday night I quickly got busy making more Russian dolls for the next day! Big thanks to my mum for all of her help.

This venue was really lovely, a nice spacious, light room and again we did really well. We managed to pull in a lot of shoppers who were passing by. It was nice to see that people appreciate buying handmade things, and are looking for an alternative to the highstreet.
I really enjoyed this weekend because I met some lovely people, but it really tired me out! I've also got a lot more things to make for my shop and for any other fairs I may do, so much for that break I was talking about in my last post! Then again, I do really enjoy what I'm doing at the moment.

Thursday, 3 December 2009

Inspiration and Creative Processes

I'm often asked where I get my ideas from, and what inspires me to create. When I tell people that I love Japanese popular culture and fashion, people automatically think of Kimonos, Geshias and green tea. However, there is so much more to Japanese culture than that these days.
First and foremost I am always inspired by my fabric choices. When I see a certain print, I start to visualise it as something else. I always seem to get my main inspiration from the print and colour. Then I begin to experiment with different shapes and curves, and somehow a bag is born! I didn't realise how difficult it actually is to describe your creative process until I actually sat down and tried to write this.

To help illustrate what I am trying to say, I wanted to share with you one of my favourite designers, Akira Minagawa, and his label Mina perhonen. His designs epitomise what I love about fashion; playful use of colour, print and shape.

I love this bird bag, so cute, and the way the feathers are leaves is really clever, like a bird in a tree. I love the print of the dress as well.

I currently love bows. My latest bag design features a large bow on the front and I've been thinking about using them elsewhere in my work. I love how they have created a bow necklace here, a simple and sweet design.

Another great, simple use of embelishments on this dress. A classic fabric rose. They are used frequently throughout the mina collections.

I love the simplicity of this dress, and the bold use of colour. I also like the contrast of this blue with the yellow leather of the bird bag. This colour combination is reflected in my blue bow bag.

Birds are a prominent motif throughout the Mina collections, and I noticed today how almost every fabric I've used lately has a bird motif on it!

I think I love Mina because of the use of patterns and the avant-garde feel to the collections. When making bags, you can put colours and shapes together that you wouldn't necessarily use in clothing and I love to take inspiration from avant-garde designers and experiment with something new.

Wednesday, 2 December 2009

Busy times...

This week has been a crazy busy one already. I'm doing another craft fair this Saturday, again at Heebie Jeebies, and hopefully it will be just as much fun as the last one. So I've been busy getting things ready for that. I've also spent some time, well, quite a lot of time, making a page for the shop on facebook. I find facebook so difficult to use and so frustrating but I've finally managed it and a link is posted at the side of this blog so please become a fan!

I've also been discovering the delights of flickr, and the wonderful sewing and crochet groups that are on there. There are some really talented people. I'm still in the beginning stages of discovering groups, but so far I'm loving the echino! group and have added some of my photos, and the u-handbag group.
After this weeks craft fair I will be taking a short break over christmas and won't be doing any other fairs until next year. I'm really looking forward to some time off over so that I can get my life in order and to do some more making for myself. I really want to get my blanket finished so I can start other projects. But for now it's time to get back to it and finish off a few more bags for Saturday's sale!

Sunday, 29 November 2009

80s Throwback

I've spent this afternoon making this new clutch bag. I've been looking forward to trying out this new design for a while and I'm really pleased with how it turned out. The bag is much larger than the others I've made so far.

It is lined with bright turquoise fabric to compliment the blue migrating birds Echino fabric.

It is really roomy inside, you can fit phone, camera, purse, make up, even a brush, ideal for a big night out.

I particulary love the oversided bow, very 80's, hence the name. I will be listing it in my shop very soon.
Making this bag got me out of helping Andy with the DIY today. Luckily I was on hand to stop him from painting the walls with the gloss. Believe me, it was a close call! Hope you are all having a great weekend.

Wednesday, 25 November 2009

Latest Projects

My wool stash has been out a lot over the past week, it has significantly grown, much to my surprise, so I am determined to use some of it up!

This basket only represents half of my stash I am embarrassed to say!
At the craft fair last month, I was asked to make some crochet flowers as brooches, which is something I've been meaning to do for a while. So I thought I'd get my mum on board too, to knit some flowers.

She made this lovely poppy.

I made this rose. (sorry about the dark photos)

And I'm in the middle of this gerbera. There just doesn't seem to be enough hours in the day at the moment to fit everything in. I'm hoping to make plenty more before next weeks fair.
I got a delivery of some more Echino fabrics today and I cannot wait for the weekend to make some more bags. I have lots of design ideas at the moment and I'm looking forward to making them come true! I love the blue version of the migrating birds design, I already had the pink.

Really love this cute brown and turquoise fabric with the small bird motif.

And this bright pink is very bold and funky.

Hope you are all having a productive week!

Wednesday, 18 November 2009

Such a perfect day

I've been meaning to write this post since Sunday but I have been so busy I haven't stopped. As well as being at work I've made two Christmas presents (but can't show you those yet in case the recipients see them!)

So Saturday was one of the best days I've had for as long as I can remember. For our birthdays my siblings bought Andy and I a chocolate making workshop day at the most wonderful chocolate shop called the chocolate cellar, in Liverpool. The first time I went into this shop was earlier this year. Now, I've been know to be partial to a bit of chocolate, and when I found this shop I couldn't believe my luck! Their hot chocolates are like nothing else. You are given a mug of hot milk with a huge chunk of either milk, white or dark chocolate on a stick to melt into it and it tastes incredible.I haven't tasted many of the chocolates they make there, due to the fact that I "found my favourite" on my first visit, the dark chocolate rose truffle. (just like in the book and film chocolat,when the main character who opens a chocolate shop tries to find peoples favourites)

The shop is beautiful, they make stunning wedding cakes. And as soon as I saw this chocolate wheel I felt like I was at Willy Wonka's.

The Chocolatier, Bala, who was an excellent tutor throughout the day, told us we were going to make hand dipped truffles, and that we could choose a flavour. I chose to make my favourites, Andy chose to make a berry flavour using milk chocolate, and the other people who were there decided to use various liquors.

We started with chocolate buttons, and melted them in the microwave (better than on the hob apparently)

Hot double cream is then added slowly to the chocolate, which is then mixed carefully until it is an almost greasy texture.

Normally it would then be left to become firm overnight, but as we didn't have that amount of time, we added sponge cake to the mixture to help it the set quicker. At this point we added our flavours, mine being rose oil.

We then rolled it into balls and left it to set in the chiller whilst we did some chocolate tasting. There is a real art to chocolate tasting in the same way people taste wine.

Mine made quite nice ball shapes ...

...but Andy's didn't quite take shape, much to the amusement of everyone there. We said they looked like flatbreads rather than chocolates, it was so funny. The reason for this was because he had to use really hot cream which he had put the berries into the get the flavour out of them.

Once they were set, we dipped them by hand into tempered chocolate.

Then decorated them in crystalised sugared rose petals.

I was so pleased with how they turned out, they were just far to big to be chocolates, more like bite size cakes!

After a while in the chiller, Andy's mixture firmed up and we could then roll them into chocolate size and shaped balls and dip them.

And after all that, his turned out the best looks wise.

We did some swaps with the other people on the course and ended up taking home a lot of chocolate.

To end the perfect day, we had a meal in our favourite local pub on the way home.

And sat by the log fire.

What I loved the most about today wasn't the chocolate though, (even though it tasted amazing) it was the making of the chocolate, and most of all, making it with Andy. We have never done an activity like that before and it was so much fun to share that day together.

Friday, 13 November 2009

Vintage Crochet

I was flicking through my absolute favourite crochet book last night, Vintage Crochet by Susan Cropper of Loop, when I thought it was about time I did a post about two pieces of real vintage crochet that I have. The first was made by my Gran. She made these mats from pink cotton, and she also made a yellow tablecloth from the same pattern, again out of cotton. The tablecloth is breathtaking because it is so big and the crochet work is so fine.

She started making the tablecloth when she was a teenager, and because of the war, she could only get yellow cotton. She continued making the tablecloth right up until her 70s, when she finally finished it, so it was a good 50 years in the making at least.

At some point she must have been able to get hold of a small amount of pink cotton to make the mats, and she kindly gave one to me recently. It is a bit of a family trait that we start things and never finish them. My gran has lots of half sewn embroidery kits, jumpers that have been knitted and never sewn up, but I think we can forgive her for that considering she spent a lifetime making this wonderful piece of crochet, and finished it!
I find it incredible that she could crochet so finely. She told me that she loved doing it because it was so fine and lace like. The photos don't really give you an accurate idea of just how tiny the loops are. In the photo below I have put a needle through one of the chains to try to give you an idea, but the needle is actually quite a big one so it still doesn't demonstrate just how tiny it is.
My gran still has the original pattern, it hasn't quite fallen to bits yet, so I scanned it with a view to having a go at it myself but I just don't have the patience! If anybody would like the pattern please just ask and I will email it to you.
I love the repetition of the floral motifs. This little mat is so beautiful, dainty and pretty.

The second piece of heirloom vintage crochet is one given to me by Andy's Grandma. It was made by her Grandmother, Mrs Minnie Jane Julian who lived in Aylesbury for most of her life. She was born in 1865 in an appartment next to Kings Cross Station and died in 1955. She learnt how to crochet at bording school, which she went to because her mum died when she was young.

I love the intricate detail in this piece of crochet. It is so beautiful, perfectly done.

Minnie had a wonderful technique, each stitch is flawless. The whole piece is in excellent condition, as if it was made yesterday, not nearly 100 years ago.

I wish I had the skills to produce something so delicate.

I feel honoured and privileged to have been given these two incredible pieces of crochet. Not only are they examples of fine craftsmanship, but they tell a story of days gone by and are important pieces of both of our families' history. I've been wanting to frame them and put them on the wall in our spare room/ sewing/craft room but I haven't yet found suitable frames. Hopefully I might spot something at the shops this weekend because they need to be displayed to do them justice. I have been working on my own crochet blanket this week in-between being worn out and tired from work. It is coming along and growing slowly but looking at these two pieces of crochet puts mine to shame. Just as well that the light was so bad that I couldn't photograph it today. I will however show you how it is coming along some other time.
We have a very exciting day in store for us tomorrow, involving lots of making, but making something I have never made before. And yes, that's right, I said we, which means Andy will be doing the making too! But I will have to leave you guessing until tomorrow as to what we will be doing.....

Monday, 9 November 2009

Just a quick one...

...to say that the craft fair on Saturday went really well. Unfortunately I forgot my camera, which was really annoying because the venue was great, the things people were selling were fabulous, the bands that were playing in the outside courtyard were really good, and I could have taken some great photos. Next time I will remember to bring it! I will be doing it again on December 5th and I have lots more ideas of things to make and sell and you will hear about it here first!

Friday, 6 November 2009

The New Village Fete...tomorrow!

This evening has been a busy one, preparing for tomorrow's craft fair. Here are my Russian lavender dolls all lined up and ready to go.

I haven't made any of these for a while and I was shocked when I saw I only had enough to fill one basket when at my last count I had filled two. Have to make some more of these soon. I designed a new bag pattern for a bigger bag than the clutches, but didn't have time to make any for the fair, so it's just the clutches this time. Maybe the bigger bags next time.

I did however manage to make plenty of fabric covered button stud earrings to match the clutch bags.

And of course my usual stud earrings.

And last but not least I got hold of some more glass beads and made a few more bracelets. I'm selling quite a lot of things that aren't on the website this time, so it's the place to come for an advanced peak.

I'm really looking forward to it, and most of all, looking forward to meeting some like-minded crafty people! Heebie Jeebies, Seel Street, Liverpool, Saturday November 7th, 10-4!