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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

Hats off!

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Why hats? I have NO idea. I think that, as usual, I wanted to set myself a challenge…push a few boundaries. I don’t know whether I had heard of Katty Janneh or whether I was browsing for courses. But either way suddenly all roads seemed to lead to Katty. I was powerless to resist!

Lets be clear here. I knew (know) nothing about hat making and, if I’m honest, I completely underestimated the time and effort it takes to make just one simple creation. I had no idea what I was letting myself in for.

Katty Janneh is a extremely talented milliner who makes fabulous bespoke creations and whose stockists include Selfridges in Londinium.

Katty was uber-organised and spent time and effort compiling a list of items to purchase and bring along to the first session. So, naturally, I spent 4 weeks ignoring it and only looked on the day. BIG mistake. Already at the bottom of the class and I hadn’t even started yet!

Magic sinamay bias

Magic sinamay bias

Luckily Katty is an accommodating soul with a generous spirit (I’ll have my payment in cash please) and magicked up some sinamay; a natural fibre from the Philippines, to make a fascinator from. There were some techniques, like attaching the wire to help keep its shape, that made me swear under my breath.

And there were sublime parts where Katty showed me how to make sinamay bias strip. Seriously cool! Anyway I’m pretty darn proud of my first attempt!

Veil and flowers - fabulous fascinator!

Veil and flowers – fabulous fascinator!

Katty is an amenable soul with a wonderful sense of humour. Lets face it, you’d have to have a huge one of those to teach a gaggle of women with a mixture of abilities and personalities. Katty is definitely a natural.

So for my next trick, I decided a hot pink trilby would be the way forward. Clearly, subtlety has never been my forté.

I purchased a parisal cone (check me out with my millinery jargon!) then had to treat it with a concoction that looked suspiciously like skimmed milk although I’m assured that it wasn’t. Next I had to wrap cling film around a wooden block in the shape of my hat and stretch the cone over it, pinning in place as I went.

Trilby of a thousand pins

Trilby of a thousand pins

Now, I consider myself as having decent upper body strength. Pah! Katty came along – removed most of my pins (that had taken eons to push in!), re-stretched a portion of my Trilby-to-be with the combined strength of the Williams sisters and reattached the pins with a “now do the rest like that!” flourish. She is GOOD. *completely impressed face*

I have always respected creatives. Obviously. Having a vision and making it REAL is a skill that many, sadly, find hard to appreciate. But I now have a new found REEEEE-spect for milliners. Hats off to you all!

One hot pink trilby to GEAUX!

One hot pink trilby to GEAUX!

And thank YOU, Katty, for putting up with me and allowing me to enrol on the second millinery course! This time it’s bright red wool. I can’t wait!

Have you taken up a new hobby or challenge recently?

To rummage or not to rummage?

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I’ve always been a sucker for a bargain and it’s no secret that I LOVE clothes. So when Penelope – genius founder of Frockcycle – invited to me join her and Paulina Palian – fabulous fashion designer – on a visit to a recycling warehouse I jumped at the chance.

“Don’t forget the gloves…” read Penny’s last message.

Eh?

We arrived in the blistering heat (yay Summer!) to be greeted by a spectacular sight – hundreds of clothes items drying in the sunshine.

Our mission was to find some fashion faux pas’s for a Frockcycle event on Saturday 28th July. This exciting day is for anyone who wants help and inspiration to transform an beast of a garment into beautiful creation.

Chris Carey Collections is a family run business in South East London whose mission is to recycle unwanted clothes responsibly. Clothes are sorted in to sections according to value or condition by knowledgeable staff. Once signed in (it’s worth calling first) you can take your pick then pay by kg or item, depending on the items, on departure.

HOW many clothes?

So, gloves on and sporting a fetching neon vest (no pictorial evidence…you MUST be joking!) The Frockcycle Three were ready to rummage!

Except for one thing… I had forgotten how truly rubbish I am at the rummaging part. Pun intended. You see I’m more of a ‘Clothes in neat colour-coded rows on rails’ kinda gal if I’m really honest. *Diva face*

So whilst the Dream Team Penny and Paulina filled their recyclable sacks with all sorts of fabulous finds, I leant more of a critical eye. I’m really good at that!

I DID find this over sized skirt though…

Fabulous colours in this ma-HOOSIVE skirt!

However I wear it as a vibrant top! I LOVE it!

Skirt as Top? Why Not!

Come along and have some fun at Frockcycle…or have a go yourself at home! Trust me – an afternoon trying your old clothes on backwards and upside down is the new shopping! (and with friends and wine – hey it’s a party!)

What about you? Do you dive in regardless and rummage?

Are you a Diver… or a Diva?

There’s nothing ‘Mini’ about Me…

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I love a library! Rooms full of knowledge and adventure and fantasy and fact and FREE BOOKS! What’s not to love? Our School library is run by a human dynamo named Carol who decided to run a Self-portait competition for pupils and staff. As we were allowed to use any medium it seemed only natural for me to make a Mini-Me doll.

I have only ever made two dolls before. One is Leilani, our home fairy. One year, frustrated in my search for a Christmas fairy I decided to attempt to make my own. She had to be pretty and have beautiful brown skin like my lovely girls. I made her out of scrap fabric, drew her face using permanent ink and fashioned wings  using wire, old tights and a sprinkling of glitter (Pretty Polly Nylons, if you must know).
Leilani

Isn’t she a hottie?!

My next foray in to doll-making was years later following a plaintive plea from my little sewing-phobic sister. ‘Pleeeeease can you make Peso the penguin for my son? He LOVES the Octonauts!”. Erm…who? Conveniently over looking the fact that I have two teenage girls, know nothing about little children and had never even heard of Peso I set about this task with apprehension. I watched The Octonauts (after Rastamouse it’s become a favourite. Don’t judge me) and after a few wrong turns (flammable fabric, anyone?) managed to make a pretty good Peso. The best part is that he has become my nephew’s Toy du Jour. That’s a phrase, right?

I often find that I build a problem up into a massive mountain until I finally start and realise it was a teensy molehill after all! This formula applies to most parts of my life, unfortunately, which is why my title as Queen of Proscrastination will take some beating. However, I also love a challenge so once I had decided that Mini-Me would be a combination of the real me (hair and matching accessories) and fantasy me (perfect make-up and  ever-ready smile) making her became easier. Less of an Oh-My-Gawd-What-Have-I-Done? and more  Fun-Times-In-Front-Of-CSI:Miami. Her face is embroidered and her orange linen headwrap matches her undergarments. Oh yeah!

P.s I gained an ‘honourable mention’ for my entry and received a special book prize – To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee. Read it. It’s good.

I was so pleased with my Mini-me that I decided to run a competition. All you had to do was to tell me why YOU deserved to have a Mini-Me created. The lucky winner, Debbs, wanted to send her doll to her sister because they missed each other so much. Awww! I’m a sucker for a bit of sentiment. I made sure that she was wearing her favourite jeans tucked in to some ‘leather’ boots. As soon as the winner was announced I was contacted by an unlucky entrant, Kate, who wanted to commission a Mini-me for her boyfriend! Kate has gorgeous long curly hair and wanted to wear a dress and matching shoes! What I loved about making them was the artistic license I was given. They really are a combination of real life people and their fantasy counterparts. I hope that Debbs and Kate love their Mini-me’s as much as I enjoyed creating them!

So what about you? Have you ever worked yourself in to a state of near paralysis over something that turned out to be easier than you thought? Or is that just me?

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