But don’t worry! It’ll all be ok! You can STILL keep in touch with news, updates, sewing classes and special offers over at Reddskin.
It’s been a blast! Don’t go changing.
But don’t worry! It’ll all be ok! You can STILL keep in touch with news, updates, sewing classes and special offers over at Reddskin.
It’s been a blast! Don’t go changing.
I can’t put it off any longer. It’s happening. It’s HERE!
Tomorrow, 1st June 2014 7am my BRAND NEW SHINY WEBSITE will be born.
I guess it has felt a little bit like giving birth to a precious bundle (metaphysical pain, less fluids). I finally get to show the world – you actually – what I do and what I CAN do. There are handbags, clothes, accessories, home type items (wares?), workshops, classes, parties and events – all in one delectably BEAUTIFUL PLACE! I’m so excited I can barely keep still! Bear with me whilst I find my feet (they must be around somewhere *chuckles at hideously awful joke*).
Thank you for indulging me thus far – I do hope you’ll stay along for this next chapter.
I’ll also be running a competition soon to celebrate all this lovely new-ness so stay tuned!
So have a look, get up early if the mood so takes you, browse, bookmark, read, peruse and SHARE! Please do feedback and let me know what you think.
Reddskinbags you have been SO good to me *sniff* We’ve had some tremendous times *gulp*. But it’s time we parted company.
It’s not you, it’s ME!
They came bearing gifts.
My three fresh-faced crafters – one Nervous and Quiet, another Mature and Polite and her younger sister grinning with barely concealed EXCITEMENT – brought a huge bag full of fabric goodies…and a cushion. Not just any cushion but a ma-HOOSIVE cushion “I’d like to make a cover for THIS!”, Mature and Polite announced with a flourish and a winning smile.
How could I resist a challenge put so optimistically!
These lovely girls, eager to learn how to use a sewing machine properly and make something useful in the process, descended upon my kitchen workshop one Tuesday during half term.
As the day progressed their confidence developed as the projects they had merely imagined began to take shape. We talked of favourite subjects at school and ballet vs contemporary dance and Roald Dahl’s Revolting Recipes. We imagined a world where you could sew only using strawberry laces for thread (don’t ask). Meanwhile Nervous and Polite was morphing into another entirely different character – Excitable and Curious – whose favourite phrase became “but what’s the point of that”? Fortunately I knew the answers. Honest.
After a break (my trio had scurried home for lunch “to give you a rest” as one of their mothers succinctly put it) all three bundles of energy bounded back inside to finish their projects.
A couple of hours later a MASSIVE cushion cover, a colourful Kindle Bag with a strap and an hand-appliqued Tote Bag emerged. I was so pleased with their application and their relentless efforts. But, more importantly, they were thrilled and couldn’t wait to show off their creations at home!
A Half Term Tuesday very well spent.
Tiring? No doubt but worth every moment. Nothing beats that sense of pride in creating something from scratch and learning a new skill – or passing one on. Priceless.
What about you? Have you made something you’re really proud of? What gives you a sense of fulfilment?
A little Forest Hill Fashion for y’all.
The second is a short featuring my designs by Media production company IndieVisual
Picture the scene. A skinny ten year old girl lying on the floor in her mothers bedroom. Underneath her slight frame a brightly patterned length of folded stretch chiffon in purple and pink. A borrowed felt pen in hand and an oversized pair of forbidden dressmaking shears nearby. She wriggles as she hastily tries to draw her rough outline from ankle to underarm on either side of her body. Stops briefly to listen to sounds of her mothers soft footsteps – just in case she is caught in the process of fabric butchery – especially as said fabric happens to belong to the unsuspecting adult. Reassured, markings complete, the excited youngster carefully cuts a hole for her head on the centre fold of the fabric and threads a needle with novice hands. Finally, rough back-stitch and half an hour later, The Most Beautiful Kaftan In The World is born.
Ok so it wasn’t perfect. I (yes the youngster was me – how did you guess?) had completely overlooked the fact that I would need to actually move around in my creation so it was a little tight on the legs. But, oh, when I raised my arms and shimmied (hobbled) down my mothers bedroom catwalk, I felt like the most celebrated fashion designer slash model alive!
Fast forward 40 years. Having rejected ‘Fashion Designer’ as a viable career (too competitive for my inherently ‘lazy’ nature ) I chose Dance instead. Go figure. I continued to design and sew clothes for myself and later, my family, whilst a pursued my teaching career.
In February 2013 the first Forest Hill Fashion Week (FHFW) took place and I was lucky enough to become involved with my business Reddskinbags. September 20th – 25th 2013 saw our second event, it’s bigger, brighter and altogether more glamorous sister.
A Live catwalk show took place at The Horniman Museum and Gardens in Forest Hill. The evening kicked off five days of talks, demonstrations and workshops related to craft and fashion. On the evening of Friday 20th September a magical Horniman conservatory was alive with vibrant stalls showcasing the creations of local talented designers, most of whom also had their unique designs in the show.
For my part, I had (finally) taken the plunge and designed a tiny collection of four pieces to accompany my bag designs. Undoubtedly, THE best decision I’ve ever made. It was a fan-TASTIC evening. The Forest Hill area exploded with Fashionistas and their friends eager to find out what the fuss was all about and support a wonderfully exciting event.
So much energy and enthusiasm converged to display a warm community spirit that was a pleasure and a privilege to witness. A huge thank you to Penelope Else, the visionary and driving force behind Forest Hill Fashion, and to the human dynamo Charlotte Cameron who organised the Catwalk Show and Cherrelle, bubbly stylist extraordinare.
These photos are a teensy snippet of my part in Forest Hill Fashion Week. There are many more pictures of the designers, characters and their work by London Photographer Sara and Belle Studio. Have a look. Take your time. Is ‘history in the making’ too grand an observation? Who knows?
How FHFW will evolve only time will tell. It wouldn’t have been so successful without the time and efforts of many brilliant volunteers – take this as a Big Fat Thank you! *holds applause card up for a very long time*
What are the next steps for Reddskinbags?
As usual … watch this space!
It’s not as if I didn’t have anything else to do with my time. I was half way through the Spring term. Or ‘The Term when the Year 11s start to Panic’ as I prefer to call it.
The very first Forest Hill Fashion Week was drawing to its glorious close and, by rights, I should really have been kicking back with a pile of DVDs and a (few) bottle(s) of wine…or exploring some exotic far away city with only my Rough Guide for company.
But anyone who knows me is only too aware that my idea of relaxation actually happens to involve sewing. Quite a bit of it.
So that’s how I found myself rearranging my kitchen early on the Tuesday of half term ready for my first Super Sew Me! clients.
My two eager girls, aged 9 and 10, had never met before. Yet they bonded immediately over their obvious love of fabric and sewing. A few minutes in and we had already learnt that Laila loves designing. She arrived with a bag of fabric and a brimful of ideas. Lizzy was the loquacious one. A lover of all things purple and enough optimism to fill a stadium. We were all going to get on like a house on fire (not literally, panic not).
Teaching children really hones your explanation skills. On the whole, if one of my pupil gets it wrong it’s usually because I haven’t put it quite right. It was clear that my two trainee Sewing Warriors wanted to learn (images of sponges and puddles spring to mind) and I was equally eager to give them the best sewing experience that I could create. Plus, don’t forget, it was my half term too and I was up for having some fun!
It’s probably no secret by now that I was bored senseless by my needlework lessons (textiles technology now, if you please) when I was at school in the Dark Ages. I’m not sure whether it was the curriculum or the teacher that was to blame (sorry,
anonymous Needlework teacher). I just did not ‘get’ it. Not so MY lessons, I decided. *determined face*
Super Sew Me! took place over three consecutive mornings. We went over the basics of threading and using an electric sewing machine. Lizzy brought her mothers old machine (there’s something about this that makes my heart soar) and Laila worked from one of mine. Homework that evening was greeted eagerly by both. The girls arrived the next day brandishing their handiwork proudly. Laila arrived early to practise as her very own sewing machine was on order.
And then they were off and away! Choosing colours and making Tote bag patterns and debating the advantages of contrast versus matching fabrics.
We discovered that Laila is rather impatient and she learnt that steady produces more quality sewing. Lizzy learnt that she can rely upon her own instinct and that when she is calm she can produce brilliant results.
We had great fun together and – if their beaming expressions are anything to go by – they were thrilled with their achievements. I’m sure that, armed with my instructions and their new confidence and Sewing Warrior status, young Laila and Lizzy will go from strength to strength.
I was lucky enough to have been involved in Forest Hills very own Fashion Week, scheduled to coincide with London Fashion Week. “Who needs LFW when you can have FHFW?” was the strap line. It took place during half term from February 15th to 19th. Gosh it seems like an age ago now!
Penny, Louise and their trusty team of SEE3 volunteers worked tirelessly to produce A Fashion Week to remember! After a Sunday afternoon of photoshoot fun the posters of volunteer models arrived in local shops and outlets. It’s me!
It all happened so quickly! The first I heard that I was on a poster was when the boys at the school I teach in started saying ‘Miss! We saw you in Sainsburys!’. Huh?
We even made in to Time Out!
The Week kicked off with an opening night at The Sylvan Post, a wonderful restaurant and bar converted from the old Forest Hill Post Office and with many of the original features. That Friday also saw the opening of a new pop-up shop in Forest Hill Love Ur Look run by stylist and businesswoman Ronke Fashola. This quirky outlet has lots of beautiful outfits and gifts to suit many budgets. Ronke will be taking her fabulousness elsewhere very soon so don’t miss out!
Forest Hill became a happy hive of activity! There were fashion upcycling workshops and craft workshops as well as events and sales in lots of lovely local shops. I ran a free Corsage making session at Forest Hills newest Art gallery The Montage. We had great fun turning scraps of fabric into fabulous accessories!
My next workshop was at the same venue teaching keen newbies how to upcycle a plastic bottle into a beautiful bangle. Maria Ramil Photos popped along to take photos some of which you can see in her funky slideshow .
Later that day I was able to squeeze myself into one of my favourite shops Stag and Bow where a knowledgeable Pascale was teaching how to make a detachable collar. I joined a group of women with a range of sewing abilities and had a grand old time chatting and creating. I’m thrilled with the result too!
Sunday evening saw Soul Train event at Art Gallery and workshop space Canvas and Cream who were also celebrating their first birthday. Doesn’t time fly when you’re having fun! It must have been my lucky night because not only was I handed a free glass of prosecco as the 20th person to arrive but I also won a goodie bag for being ‘Best Mover’. Oh yeah!
On Monday (I do hope you’re keeping up here) , on the way to the Catwalk Show dress rehearsal, I popped in to Stag and Bow again (I can’t keep away) to browse the Twisted Vintage sale. They make delightful pieces upcycling discarded or broken pieces in to delectable jewellery. This piece of gorgeousness is now one of my favourite bracelets in my collection. Because I’m worth it of course!
The final Catwalk show was filled with fabulous fashion creations and outfits from local designers and shops including, Best of Both Boutique, Doopodoopo, Bunka, Stag and Bow, Love Ur Look, Twisted Vintage, Katherine Harrison, The White Room SE4 and so many more! It truly was a night to remember. For me not least because it was the first time I had seen a selection of my bags ‘in situ’ on the catwalk. I’m definitely hankering for more of that fashion action.
You can see more pictures of the Catwalk Wrap Show here
The worlds first Forest Hill Fashion Week was over almost as quickly as it began. I thoroughly enjoyed filling my half term with fashion and craft and creating. Frankly I cannot wait to do it all over again!
What? Did you think that was IT?
Missed it? Want to catch the next one? Follow @SEE3PortasPilot on Twitter and Facebook or sign up to their email newsletter .
I woke up early on the morning of Saturday 16th July with that unmistakable feeling of mild hysteria. This accompanied by a fatigue that only a week of late night sewing, early starts and full-time working can produce effectively (although, carers of small humans, I salute you).
My first Open House with Sydenham Arts Festival was imminent! It’s not that I hadn’t held an Open house before – my first one in March last year was a modest affair that I had agonised over for weeks.
Too many questions…Would I have enough stock? (Yes)
Would anybody turn up? (Yes. Lots. In fact they stayed long after I ‘shut’ shop)
Should I serve alcohol? (No. Well, yes. Afterwards. So *that’s* why they were reluctant to leave!)
THIS Open House was different because I had been invited to participate and I couldn’t quell the feeling that I had entered a special club. Perhaps I would get a badge? (P’rhaps not).
Sydenham Artists are a long standing and talented bunch of creators. I relished the thought of being part of a wider artistic community but…would I fit in? It was also different on another important level.
My solo Open Houses have started at 3pm until 7pm. This has given me enough time in the morning to complete a ritual that involves lots of tweaking, tea, panic (there’s a theme here) and a very calm and organised teenager who eventually takes over.
In contrast, Sydenham Open Houses start at 11am (!) and finish at 5pm and runs over the weekend! That’s two consecutive days, people! Lawdy! Anyway some of you will know that the weekend before it had all gone a bit Pete Tong so some of the same questions were going through my tired little head – mainly – Would anyone turn up?
In the midst of my mental mayhem, the organiser Annabel turned up to do a Risk Assessment. As I answered the questionnaire – under ‘pets’ I wrote ‘two goldfish’. I don’t think that’s what they meant – Annabel whizzed around my house adding black and yellow hazard tape to steps and a liability poster for insurance purposes. You know the ‘if you slip and fall don’t say I didn’t warn you – Have a nice day!’ kind that really welcomes you inside. Annabel was upbeat and optimistic, giving me lots of encouragement as she left.
Then it started to rain. Heavily. In fact I may even have shaken my fist skywards at this point.
So I wasn’t expecting anyone to bother if I’m brutally honest. What with the rain and the mixed up dates and an uncharacteristic peppering of realism/pessimism….and I mentioned the rain, right?
As I popped a mellow Dwele CD in to the player and pressed ‘play’, I jumped out of my skin (metaphorically, you understand…yuck) when the doorbell went at a quarter past eleven! One friendly face after another started to arrive.
I made tea and we chatted and I sold some bags. I should confess here that it was my mother, on an impromptu weekend visit, who sold the first bag enthusing about one I’d made for her to an unsuspecting client. (I mention mum in passing ,but she deserves an entire blogpost or two. Hold tight)
Then the Pimms came out courtesy of a worryingly proficient teen and the next thing I knew it was almost 5pm! Not only had I survived but I’d had a good time too! The next day was just as much fun with a similar mix of visitors, less rain and more Pimms. WIN!
So what did I learn? The list is a long one but…
I learnt that rain doesn’t necessarily stop play.
I learnt that it’s not just my friends and family who love what I do.
…and I learnt that yellow and black tape isn’t easily removed from pvc door frames.
…ask for salt and tequila!
My mother is the Queen of lemonade makers. Not literally, you understand. I’ve never tasted my mum’s lemonade… although she does make a mean Ginger beer – the real Bajan knock-you-out-just-smelling-it stuff too! (great for colds apparently…with Bajan rum) What I mean is that I remember her turning every day disasters (in my eyes) into masterpieces. Mistress pieces. Whatever. The most memorable occasion involved her baking a cake. I was excited about this particular cake. Not because it was a special occasion but because it was…well it was CAKE! I was around nine or ten so cake baking was the pinnacle of my social calendar. Girls Brigade was yet to feature so heavily in my life. Anyway I digress. So mum took this cake gingerly from the oven and we both inhaled its gorgeous aroma deeply… then watched with barely concealed disappointment as it deflated in slow motion. Mum barely missed a beat. Whilst I sobbed inwardly she disappeared into the cupboard, opened an emergency tin of fruit salad (always the emergency tin), emptied it unceremoniously into the steaming concave vessel and ‘Viola’! Fruit Flan!
My daughters have inherited my mums talents in different ways. My youngest is a lover of all things baking and whips up madeira cake when she is bored. I may never let her leave.
My eldest has the ability to add a silver lining to anything. One memorable Family Come Dine With Me moment looked set to be ruined when youngest’s chocolate mousse would not set. Disaster? Mais non! Eldest whisked our guests and me into the living room whilst she helped her little sister in the kitchen quickly rectify the situation. The result? Crepes aux chocolate – pancakes with chocolate sauce to you. Delicious!
Tonight the Lemonade making mantle was passed on to me and I was truly put to the test. I was privileged enough to be asked for the first time to participate in Sydenham Arts Festival – a local event that showcases Arts and artistes. I offered my home and my creations as part of the Visual Arts Trail which this year takes place over two middle weeks of July. I chose the final weekend – Saturday 16th and Sunday 17th July – as I had also committed to another local event, Forest Fest on 2nd July and I wanted to have enough time to prepare.
When the brochures arrived I could barely contain my excitement! Even noticing that my business name was spelt incorrectly failed to completely dampen my spirits – I was IN the brochure ! Anyway, I pondered, it was far too late to change it. It was only this evening, with three short days to go, that I double checked my entry and noticed the glaring error! My Open House dates were wrong! According to the brochure I would be welcoming clients THIS weekend!
What to do?
I started and restarted an email but I repeatedly failed to express my upset and panic. I called some contact numbers but they were all out. I needed an actual solution. So I got off my backside and went to the pub. No not to drown my sorrows! It just so happened that the organisers were holding a Q & A session at the local pub. I was able to meet with the people who’d made the mistake, discuss options, come up with some damage limitation strategies and hear their (numerous and effusive) apologies. Not exactly ideal I know but at least I had done something! I left an hour later feeling a little better and a lot more hopeful. The world wasn’t going to end after all.
So I’ve added the event (with the correct dates) to my Facebook page, created a event, mentioned it on Twitter, and blogged about it. Anyone who turns up THIS Saturday or Sunday won’t see any bags apart from the ones under my eyes (sorry). What they will find is a busily optimistic handbag designer with a conciliatory drink in one hand, a reddskinbags discount voucher in the other hand and a hopeful smile on my face. It’s the best I can do – the only way I know how – with what I’ve been given.
Wish me luck!
Once upon a time there was a girl…
I don’t know when I started to like, even love, to sew. I do know that I hated it at school. Needlework for the girls and woodwork for the boys. I remember that we had to choose a pattern – mine was a Butterick pattern of a smock top. I was clearly a style icon back then. I chose colourful flowery pattern on a navy background in a polyester fabric. Yes I said it out loud – polyester. Choice. But at school needlework was beyond boring! I just wanted to go outside and run around or cartwheel across the playground (I was champion cartwheeler in my class I’ll have you know). All that cutting and pinning and marking and more cutting and the tacking! I never finished making that smock. I also failed needlework. And I still hate tacking. Hey ho.
I’m not one of those crafty people who can’t wait to get on the sewing machine to see what amazing creations I can whip up. Truthfully I sometimes go for weeks on end without so much as a pinprick. Then I beat myself up mentally for not being more focussed and driven. But then I remember that I work…hard (teaching at a boys school. Say no more), and I run a household (when I say run I mean ‘gentle stroll’ but you understand don’t you?) that currently is host to my two gorgeous growing-up daughters. I have social life of sorts, places to go and people to see. My life is fairly full, trust me.
What I do know is that when the bug takes me I am well and truly hooked. If I get a germ of an idea about a new design or something I can transform then there’s no stopping me and I cover my kitchen table with fabrics and findings. Since my mother taught me to use her Singer over thirty years ago I have surprised myself (and her to be honest) at the creations I’ve made. I do a couple of craft fairs a year and I try to sell some of my bags online. I’m hardly setting the world alight.
But there’s a smouldering on the horizon…
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