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We have mooooved!

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We have mooooved!

*sniff*

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All packed.

 

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.

Peace

x

Cushions and Kindles and Totes! Oh my!

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Cushions and Kindles and Totes! Oh my!
Calm before the storm?

Calm before the storm?

They came bearing gifts.

Ready, Set...SEW!

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!

Cutting out (and sorting pins)

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.

Pattern making

Pattern making

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.

Did someone say MASSIVE CUSHION COVER?

Did someone say MASSIVE CUSHION COVER?

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.

Colourful Kindle Bag! WOOP!

Colourful Kindle Bag! WOOP!

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!

Look what we made!

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?

F-F-F-Fashion!

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Greetings!

A little Forest Hill Fashion for y’all.

The first is by Videographer and all round good egg Aaron Seale.  Featuring designers Madeleine McIndoe, Reddskinbags, Walterworks, Taslima Khan and The Middle Clash. 

The second is a short featuring my designs by Media production company IndieVisual

Feeling blessed.

Peace.

K x

Forest Hill Fashion Week Sept 2013

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!

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Upcycled full skirt in progress

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African print caplet almost complete

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.

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Model fitting time! Nathan 🙂

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Reddskinbags collection ironed and ready to roll!

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Reddskinbags creations awaiting their matching outfits

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.

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Fun times at the Reddskinbags stall!

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Display of delight

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Magical Horniman Museum conservatory

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.

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Backstage calm before the storm

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Almost show time!

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.

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A giggly Belle Studio and Awesome Aaron doing their thing!

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Models in full Reddskinbags effect! Eeeep!

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Model Layla works the runway

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African model elegance – capelet and matching clutchbag

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Upcycled skirt and matching handbag.

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African print drop crotch trousers, tie and rucksack

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‘That’ skirt.

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Encore! Encore!

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?

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The unstoppable Charlotte Cameron – Catwalk show coordinator and all round good egg!

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Cherelle the Super Stylist!

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!

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A little hashtag action. You’re welcome!

K x

Me? Panic? Never!

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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 Reddskinbags Open House complete with covered £1 shop scrapbook.

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).

Applique 'Pod' in black denim.

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.

Welcome to my shop!

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.

Upcycled bags of 'lustiness

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!

Another happy customer!

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.

😉

When life gives you lemons…

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…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!

JACK MONROE

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