Thursday, 29 October 2009

A Family Tradition

For me, Autumn, Halloween and Bonfire night have a smell associated with them, the smell of treacle toffee! Every year, my dad makes his infamous treacle toffee, from a recipe passed down from his mum. This year he decided that it was time to pass it on to his eldest child, so I went round today to help him make it. I've missed the smell of it over the past few years since I permanently moved out, so I was thrilled to be involved this year. The funny thing is that although he had the recipe written out, he didn't stick to the quantities, not even close! A lot of guess work was involved, so really I'm none the wiser as to how it is made, but I do know you need brown sugar, butter, syrup and a bit of vinegar...

... then add the treacle, not too much though...

...keep stirring it on a low heat until it begins to boil then boil it until it reaches 180 degreses and it is clear on the back of a spoon.

Pour it into a tray covered with grease proof paper and leave to set.

Under the watchful eye of blossom the cat...

...break it into pieces...

...then put it into packs ready to give to friends and family.

It wouldn't feel like this time of year without my dad's treacle toffee. Even though he guesses the quantities, it always tastes the same! Hope you all have a great Halloween weekend.

Monday, 26 October 2009

Handmade Presents

I've decided that amongst working full time, making things for my shop and for craft fairs, that I would like to make Christmas presents for people this year. I like to do this because it means that I can try out other people's designs from books, as well as my own. One of my favourite books at the moment is Sew Darn Cute by Jenny Ryan. There are 30 different projects to make, and all are so cute and lovely.

I already made one of these fab square bears for my friend's little girl's birthday. They are relatively simple to make and so much fun. Might make some more for the babies in the family.
The projects in the book vary, from things for the home like this sweet collage picture...

... to tote bags...

... and even things like glasses cases...

I love this necklace. Probably because I have an obession with fabric covered buttons at the moment! What I love most of all about this book is her fabric choices. They are bright, modern and funky, and many are either Japanese or Japanese inspired, another one of my obessions!

Yesterday I added some more clutch bags to my shop. I have one range in funky bright Japanese fabrics, and my other range, which I started yesterday, are all made with fabrics inspired by nature. I will be adding to both ranges in the coming weeks as I still have plenty of fabric left that I haven't used yet!

Where I Live

I have lived in this area for pretty much most of my life, but it's only recently that I have begun to really appreciate how pretty it is. A few days ago, we went for a walk to a local beauty spot, just minutes away from our house. This beacon is one of hundreds across the country which were used as communication years ago. From the top of the hill, the views are fantastic, and on a clear day, you can see the Welsh mountains, the Liverpool docks, Blackpool Tower, the coast between Formby, Southport and Blackpool, and in the other direction you can see Pendle Hill.

This stone has a compass which shows you which direction to look in for the local sights.

My camera couldn't see as far as I could with my own eyes, but you still get the idea of what a spectacular panoramic view there is.

The sky was really beautiful that day. I was blown away by the clouds.

I love coming for walks up here as it is so quiet and peaceful and you rarely bump into other people. Being so high up, watching the world go by, is so relaxing and tranquil.

It was a sunny, crisp autumnal day, so we decided to go for a walk in the surrounding woodland. We could hear birds and other animals in the undergrowth, but we didn't manage to spot any.

Walking through the woods reminded me of when I was a child and my Dad would hide sweets in the woods by our house, and when we found them he'd say the fairies left them for us. We loved that.

Despite the silence and tranquility, there were signs that people had been there before us, very Blair Witch-esque and a bit scary!!

However, the beauty of the canopy distracted from that.

And as the sun began to set, I felt at peace with the world. Better than any form of therapy, when life gets too much, I go for a walk, and soon realise it's not so bad after all.

Sunday, 25 October 2009

Blog Awards

I was really thrilled to find I had my first follower last week, and even more thrilled to see that she nominated me for a blog award! So a big thank you to Vanessa at Coco Rose Textiles Please check out her lovely blog where she shares a love of Cath Kidston and all things handmade!
Now, I'm new to this so I hope I get it right, here are the rules:
1. Post the award on your blog
2. Nominate up to 9 blogs
3. Let your nominees know they have won
4. Link back to the person who gave it to you

I've been doing a lot of looking for new blogs lately, and I've found some great ones so please check out the following:

Chameleonite - she makes really beautiful jewellery
Fiona Chapman - a wonderful silversmith, her designs are stunning
Mymiyel - another fab jewellery maker and a really interesting blog
Louise Evans - I love her style, she makes a variety of things, very vintage inspired

Hope you enjoy reading their blogs and admiring their wonderful work.

Wednesday, 21 October 2009

Up and Coming Craft Fair

Been busy getting things ready for the craft fair I will be showing at on November 7th. It's in Liverpool city centre at Heebie Jeebies and lots of young designers, makers and artists will be selling there. There is also food, music and a great atmosphere. So instead of visiting the usual shops in the city centre, why not spend your Saturday doing something different? You never know, you may find lots of unusual Christmas presnts too!

I will be selling...

and more!!!

Sunday, 4 October 2009

Weekend Project and The History of My Bag Making!

Recently, I managed to find time to have a productive sewing session. This time, I made something for myself. I bought a new mini laptop a couple of weeks ago and needed a case for it. It has a long battery life so is really portable, therefore I wanted a case that I could take anywhere. There are no nice cases in the shops, all are very dull. For my work laptop I have a Cath Kidson laptop bag, but I haven't seen any other nice bags anywhere, so I decided to use some of my latest fabric purchase on a nice bag for myself.

I measured my laptop and constructed the outer shell from this lovely butterfly print. I then added a zip and handles. I made sure the handles were properly reinforced to be able to take the weight of the laptop. I padded the bag with ordinary quilters padding, to protect the laptop from little bumps.

I then lined the bag with soft blue cotton. I'm not sure whether or not to make laptop bags for the shop yet. Maybe I should offer some sort of custom laptop bag listing with a choice of fabrics as laptops can vary in size? What do you think?

Doing this project really got me thinking about how I got started making bags in the first place. It all began when I wanted little corduroy bag, but couldn't find anything like what I had in my mind in the shops or online. So I went to a fabric shop and bought navy cord with a small red flower print on it. I made a little bag with a red zip on my mini JML sewing machine and used it everyday. Even though the seams were terrible, I was really pleased with it. One day I was on a train and a woman said to me, I love your bag! I told her I'd made it and she asked me to make her one and gave me her business card! I was overjoyed but at the same time scared because I'd never sold anything before. Unfortunately there was a fault on the JML mini sewing machine meaning that when I tried to change the bobbin because the cotton had run out, I couldn't remove it, rendering the sewing machine useless.

I didn't end up making that woman a bag, but I did end up buying a proper machine and experimenting further with bag making.

The original little bag I made eventually wore out, so I next made this one with what material I had left. It looks a bit battered because it got beer spilt all over it, but I still keep it to remind me of one of the first bags I ever made. Don't laugh at it!

What I loved about it was the fact it had a zip and a button and flap to fasten it.
In the early days, I used old skirts and tops to make bags. I even sold one on ebay, I was so happy! But making things from clothes was always a struggle as I never had quite enough material and therefore the bags were never quite perfect. Being completely self taught, I did a lot of making things up as I went along too. I knew there was a need for interfacing of some sort, and used various different strange materials to do so, until one day I discovered and my life changed. This wonderful website and blog opened my eyes to the world of bag making sundries and I've never looked back. From this great website I learnt how to properly interface fabric, use bag and purse frames, plastic handles, d-rings and magnetic fasteners. Here are a couple of early bags I made using handles bought from u handbag. The first one is made from a skirt I loved. It's brown velvet with lovely pink sequin, ribbon and flower detail on the sides. It's the first bag I ever made with a flat bottom to it and it was the first time I ever experimented with dimension.

It is lined with beautiful dusky pink satin.

Next I made a similar shaped bag but without the sides and bottom. As you can tell, I was going through a time when I loved bag handles and velvet and corduroy materials!

Since the discovery of u handbag, my sewing has gone from strength to strength! And my bags certainly look better than they used to! Here is my latest clutch, just been added to the shop. More clutches on the way in the coming weeks.