Leather wallets and holders

I have always held onto old leather clothes and bags with the idea that I could make cushions, but then it dawned on me when looking at my keyring/charms, that pipe fragments could be added to small leather card wallets too.
So I got busy with the sewing machine and the range expanded to include smart phone wallets in three sizes and spectacle cases.
Every one is different depending what leather bits I have to hand and I like to play about with complementary or contrasting colours, both for the leather and the stitching.
The spec cases have sold well so I am now busy making more, plus designs for change purses and passport covers
Find more here.

A wooden mantle shelf

This shelf is made from two carefully-measured lengths of mdf attached to a piece of 2"x2" and then tarted up with some mouldings and beading.
Then a few layers of paint.
The mirror I found in a local second-hand shop and tarted it up a bit using the same paint, plus a bit of copper-coloured acrylic paint, to make it look like it's always been there.

Kitchen cupboards and shelves

Back in about 1998 I ripped out the hideous old grey kitchen cupboards and the pale pink marble tiles (yes, really). I've always disliked the standard sizes and style of cupboard carcasses available (bespoke? to set sizes? eh?!) – I wanted something slimmer and less obtrusive. What on earth do other people keep in all those boxes? The more space we have, the more we fill it up and the more there is that flies past its sell-by date.Opening and closing kitchen cupboard doors that hinge from the side means you have to move your head out of the way, so I looked everwhere for thin cupboards that flapped down from the top but found nothing suitable. I thought of spinning pre-made cabinets to make them horizontal but I couldn't find any door fronts that I liked in the right shape and size. These days this kind of thing is everywhere but back then the only ones I could find that were almost right were from Habitat, but they were bulky and expensive.
So I set about making them myself...
I already had the small round-nosed shelf at the bottom, so I added three more long mdf shelves which I fixed to the wall with those standard L-shaped metal brackets. Then I got a frame-making friend to make me some cupboard doors that I attached with hinges at the top edges. A coats of primer and undercoat and 2 layers of gloss and... Voila!  Working out how to attach the openy/closey internal arms was a bit of a faff though. Then some magnetic catches and handles and... job done! 

On the other side of the kitchen I have two little RIBBA picture ledges turned up-side-down as display shelving for small ceramics:

Leather coat into cushions


Once upon a time, in the mid-90s, these leather cushions were a 60s suede coat that I loved. I wore it a lot but the cotton that had been used to sew it together was starting to lose its grip and the buttons needed replacing so, fed up with the constant repairs, I turned it into four 16" cushions using the suede and leather sides to maximum effect.
Each one is a different with plain brown cloth on the other side.

There are naked people in my house

Or should that be nude? I think nude means unclothed and naked means open. I will check.
Anyway, years ago, before my time was taken up with clay pipes, I used to go to life drawing classes. During those hours I also produced some paint sketches, studies, whatever they are called.
These three hang on the walls at home. There are plenty more in an art bag in the cupboard... what shall I do with them?

It's curtains

Everyday I open and close the curtains and it wasn't until an hour ago that it occurred to me that these are also handmade by moi. I have never bought curtains ready-to-hang from a shop. I may have bought some larger ones to cut down because they were in a sale and I liked the material, but invariably I chop up the material and remake them to fit the window.
I found these gorgeous red heavy cotton curtains in Ikea. They had those enormous eyelet holes in them, large enough to take a pole. But the window required a different solution so I remade them with pencil pleat header tape and left them unlined which means a lovely soft red glow bathes the room in the mornings when the sun shines through.
The two bedroom windows have curtains made of of single bed throws. They are loosely lined, but only attached at the top edge where the header tape is sewed on; less work, and it makes them hang better.
I prefer simple muslin for 'nets'. It's natural and cheap, and the crinkle effect is lovely. Easy to wash too; just hang them back up when they are still a bit damp and pull them into shape; no ironing (what's an iron? Life is too short!)
Here are some ideas for makeshift or quick-to-make curtains if you aren't good with a sewing machine...
Duvet covers with the buttons or poppers done up around the pole (or a tight cord). Or use tablecloths, sheets or bedcovers attached using those curtain rings with clips attached – if the material is too long, rather than hem them (with stapler!) just fold over the excess at the top before attaching the clips and create an interesting second layer. Or how about creating a row of small holes to take the curtain hooks using eyelets bought from a haberdashers? They really cheap and easy to attach – all you need is ruler and a hammer!

Early paintings

I found the verandah painting in the cupboard recently. I am not sure what to do with it. I painted it when I was about 14. It was the first time I had ever painted onto canvas. I had been encouraged to do so by my art teacher, Mr Lloyd. I recall messing about with the abstract lines and shadows and geometry. There was no preliminary work or inspirational reference as it was all a figment of my imagination. I brought the painting home and Mum hung it on the wall in her bedroom where it lived for decades. Every time I saw it in there I used to cringe. But she must have been proud of it/me.
I cannot get rid it but I don't want it on my wall either.



The middle image is my A level art entry for which I got an A grade. Ridiculous really. I didn't really give much thought to I was going to do; I just looked at the list on the exam paper and decided to do a still life cos it was the least hassle. To this end I collected together some of mum's plates and bowls and arranged them on a white sheet on a table in the corner of the art room and steeled myself for 15 hours of painting.
On day two, after about nine hours of brushwork I felt I couldn't stretch it out any longer. Mr Lloyd asked where my prep was. Er? Prep? Preliminary drawings? thoughts? Ideas? But it was still life! Had i missed something? It turns out I was supposed to produce something more than one piece of art! Oops.
So I spent the remainder of the time producing other sketches of the crockery in different configurations using alternative media.
(Which reminds me that I used to do my homework for all the other lessons in my German classes cos they were so slow and boring... but that's another story.)
The third picture is a painting I did of my favourite boots circa 1988. I loved those boots. They were from a Hobbs sale. Happy memories.

Red spotty dress

I am pleased with this dress. It's probably one of the most versatile and simple dresses I have made in years.
I only had about 1.5 metres of this jersey so I had to plan carefully... and it all could have gone horribly wrong as I had no spare material should it go wrong.
The top section is a fixed wrap, the sleeves are of a decent flattering length (ladies, I am sure you understand what I mean!), the skirt is made in six slightly flared panels that swish nicely and it finishes on the knee (also a good length!).
Yes, I am thoroughly pleased with it.
Here it is on holiday last year.

Sewing pre-1990

As mentioned above I was using the sewing machine to make my own clothes before I started big school.
At age eleven I remember being well ahead of the rest of the needlework class when our first task was to make aprons for our cookery classes by attaching cotton tape to rubberised cloth in four places. What on earth was everyone else playing at; what was taking them so long?! There wasn't any hemming to do and no pocket on the front!
I used to let my classmates use the electric machines thinking it would speed them up. But I hadn't realised how inept some of the other girls were. It was a pointless idea if they didn't know what they were doing in the first place! There was always a lot of screaming as the machines 'ran away with them'.
I happily used the hand-cranked machines; I loved using them, and couldn't wait to get to class and use one. I was in my own little sewing world; nothing else mattered. Least of all what Mrs Elias, the needlework teacher, thought of me. I was a pig in shit!
Mrs Elias was a large lady who used her ample bosom as a demonstration table. Her mantra was "is it sufficiently pinned?". I was always inadvertently pissing her off by questioning this pinning and tacking regime and making what I thought were messy chalk marks everywhere. It all seemed to me to be a waste of time, chalk and thread.
When we moved on to making nightdresses I remember going with mum to the haberdashery shop and choosing a complicated pattern with facings and self cords, and picking a fabric that required french seams and pattern matching, just that would keep me busy in class. But again, I finished my item well ahead of the others. All there was left to do was the hem... Mrs Elias nearly blew a gasket when I hemmed it by machine rather than hand-sewed it. I told her that I had discussed it with my mother and we'd decided a machined hem was better for a long item meant to be worn in bed because it was less likely the hem would snag and a toe would get caught in it. I can still hear her screaming "Does you mother want to come and take this class?!"
Ha ha.
I actually used to like my needlework classes but have nothing left to show for them now. I remember a lovely jeans-style skirt that I made complete with front and back pockets. The panels alternated with dusty pink and mauve brushed denim. Sadly, no pictures of this very 1970s item exist now.
Mum taught me much more than Mrs Elias did and I did not continue to take the subject at O level. Mrs Elias wasn't what you'd call inspiring or encouraging.
But I didn't really need encouraging... I went on to make lined suits and jackets, dressing gowns, dresses of varying shapes and styles, trousers, shorts, shirts, tops blouses and all sorts. I still do. But these days I start things and never really finish them.

Shown above is some of items I made in the late 80s.
The first three pics show tops and a dress using a basic pattern I used to change/adapt every time. The blue skirt just glimpsed in the first pic was a fond favourite; using lots of material with a pleated waist (my waist was tiny then). Then there's the shiny party dress I made for a Christmas do, followed by a white T-shirt dress (one of many in various colours), the drill long army/jean-style jacket which had a matching fitted skirt (I had a successful job interview wearing that suit), and finally, the waistcoat that went with everything.
Many other fondly-remembered garments cannot ever be shown here because I have no photographic evidence, and the garments have vanished over time.
I still cannot fathom what happened to the lined suit of ivory herringbone-weave raw silk comprising wrap skirt and the double-breasted matching jacket with roll collar/lapels ... what did I do with that? Where did it go? Did i just give it to charity? There was enough material in there to revamp it into something else. Just not like me to discard things.
I dunno. I think when I moved out of my mum's house to start my new independent life, I probably had a purge. I probably threw away my old school books at that time too. Ooh how stupid. But at the time we think it's for the best.

More hats

This cold weather sees me digging out headwear.
Shown below are crocheted and knitted berets and hats, and some machined wool material ones. The tartan set has never been worn; I made the hat and scarf from a bizarre skirt I found in a local charity shop. But the end result didn't look very good on me. There used to be a matching scarf for the lilac wool hat top right, but the moths took a liking to it, so I threw it away. At least they have good taste.
My sister recently made off with the cotton stripey hat and wears it practically every day. She'd have the berets too if I'd let her!

Fake stained glass

I had a window created in the wall at the top of the stairs to let light through. Real stained glass was going to cost a lot of money, and be heavy. So I hit on the bright(!) idea of using perspex, self adhesive metal tape and scraps of coloured lighting gels.
Less than £20. Bargain!

Clay Pipe Jewellery

Hard to believe I haven't put any of these on here!
I am still trying to find a regular selling pitch/outlet and I am a bit jaded by the response of market managers saying they don't want any more jewellery stalls without actually looking at what I am selling or understanding that it's all about history, not twinkly accessories.
Any advice or ideas welcome.

Christmas card 2010

This year's, oops, last year's card is an arrangement of clay pipe fragments in the shape of a tree, including a bowl as the trunk. I have so many of these pieces because I collect them to make jewellery.
The 'berries are chrysocholla beads.
For those of you who didn't get a card in the post, or a link to this image on Flickr, I am am sorry but I don't have your address, so please accept this as a Happy New Year card instead.
Wishing everyone a prosperous 2011,
Jane

Christmas decorations

When I was in Junior school my favourite shops were WHSmith and Ryman's where I could buy coloured tissue, paper etc to make things including christmas decorations and cards.
Using my trusty Spotstick I worked out how make openy-uppy tissue baubles and bells by alternating the glue spots. I made about six of the things in various shapes. But I can only now find the four in the picture. Perhaps I threw away the tree-shaped one as it wasn't up to the standard of these...
Impressed with the results, I went on the hunt for coloured foil to make extendable chains and finally found some on a Romford market stall. But the Spotsick wasn't up to the job and so began my affair with double sided-tape, which I had to cut into little 4mm squares! I ended up making yards of the things in (it was yards back then).

Most of these concertina-style decorations still survive today – I only took these pics yesterday – and the glue is still holding strong after almost 40 years (ouch!).
In the box of decs I also found this applique Father Christmas picture I made artound the same time using all sorts of paper scraps plus white wool for his beard – check out the intricate design there! Sadly, he has lost a foot and a hand. Different glue see – had I used Spotsick or double-sided, perhaps he'd still be intact.
And the little paper hearts... I think they are circa 1995. Cheap and effective.

Clay animals

These sit on my mantlepiece and although I must look at them every day it hadn't crossed my mind to put them on here until now.
I think they were made within a year of each other between the ages of 10 and 11.
As I recall, the owl money bank, made by starting with a coil pot, was my attempt to be different to the rest of the class who all made pigs. Quite what I was thinking when I gave it (him/her?) those bright orange beak-lips is anyone's guess. Perhaps to distract the poor thing from having a cork up its arse?!
The pensive bear wasn't originally intended to have that demeanour; he slumped when fired, and so would you. But I think he turned out better for it.