RSS Feed

Tag Archives: Education

Can’t stop, won’t stop!

Oh Hai Pretty purple cloche with your tie-dye lining!

Oh Hai Pretty purple cloche with your tie-dye lining!

It’s no secret that I love to create. I just can’t help it. I am currently making yet another hat with the fabulous Katty Janneh at her millinery workshop. My latest creation is a purple cloche of perfection that I’ve worn almost constantly since it came off the block. There is now a luscious leopard print sun hat in progress. It’s an addiction for which  I hope there is no cure.

At 17 I hastily dropped A Level Design and Technology after a particularly off-putting brief that involved designing a plug. Just, NO. Up until the day of reckoning I had completed some lovely projects. My absolute favourite was a resin and brass brooch in the shape of a womans pout (it was the late 70’s…shush). Yet as far as I was concerned my foray into jewellery making stopped there.

Fast forward several decades.

I have been admiring Victoria’s exquisite creations from afar and love the quirky take she has on her silver jewellery designs. When the chance to attend her new workshop in silver smithing arose I jumped at it.

I was going to make the necklace for myself. Again. But as every hat I’ve ever made has ended up on my own head I decided to make these tags as a gift for mama. *polishes halo*

Instruments of torture or tools of the trade? You decide.

Instruments of torture or tools of the trade? You decide.

So one windy weekend we descended upon a quiet unsuspecting part of South West London. After a welcome cuppa (perfect) Victoria took us gently through our paces. We learnt to use a Band Saw without breaking a blade (oh yeah), work a bow drill (harder than it looks but so soothing once you ‘get’ it) and sand pieces of silver so that they glowed with pleasure.

Heart of Copper. Work in progress.

Heart of Copper. Work in progress.

We practised on bits of copper then moved swiftly (for us novices) on to the real thing. We frowned and concentrated and giggled and chatted whilst we worked (there may have been whistling) Victoria did an amaaaazing demonstration making one of her signature love heart necklaces that made it look so easy!

Polished to within an inch of their lives

Polished to within an inch of their lives

We drank more tea and then we ate Victorias delicious homemade cake. Lots of it. Seemed a shame not to really.

My tags stayed behind so that they could be machine-polished properly into their final shiny glory. When they arrived in the post a few days later I literally gasped with delight! Not only is it a beautiful necklace but I made it – with lots of help but even so – I MADE IT!

Yep.

Shiny Happy Necklace!

Shiny Happy Necklace!

So I’m hooked on creating. Again. That sense of achievement cannot be easily beaten.

If you want to book one of Victorias silver smithing workshops contact her here.

And/or if you want to try your hand at making hats with Katty Janneh try  here.

What about YOU? What do you love creating? Is there something new that you’d like to try your hand at this year?

Do tell… *pats sofa*

Cushions and Kindles and Totes! Oh my!

Posted on
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?

Hats off!

Posted on

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?

One night…whilst on a sewing break.

preorder on Amazon now

preorder on Amazon now

Our school has a Facebook page created by our wonderful librarian, Ms Webb, who regularly posts news, competitions and updates. On Sunday she posted a picture of this book and offered to lend her pre-proofed copy to the first person to ask.

I asked.

After staff briefing the next morning Ms Webb duly handed the pristine package to me.

That night I came in from school eagerly carrying the precious cargo. The blurb reads thus:

“Colin Fischer doesn’t like to be touched. Or the colour blue. He avoids eye contact unless absolutely necessary. Sherlock Holmes has a place of honour on his wall. His room is a shrine to clear-headed logic.

When a phone rings loudly in class, Colin can’t cope. So he barks like a dog.

But when a gun goes off in the school cafeteria he isn’t scared.    He’s curious…Colin Fischer is determined to discover who fired that gun” 

Five hours later I wrote the following email to Ms Webb.

Hi

When I got in after a long difficult day, I made a cup of tea, grabbed the last mince pie and went upstairs to change. I started to read. An hour later I hadn’t moved. M came in from college tired, cold and hungry. I reluctantly lay the book down, stroked her back and listened to the tales of her day. Her sister called her from downstairs and the moment my door closed I carried on reading. I was interrupted by K bearing a lovely hot bowl of stew. I ate it with gusto then continued reading.
At about 9pm I got up, poured myself a teensy glass of Sicilian red and returned to The Book.

I finished it 10 minutes ago. In the entire history of Karen I have NEVER read a book in one sitting.

This book is fascinating, laugh out loud funny and engagingly written. The characters are endearing and recognisable. The story has all the suspense of a classic thriller. I LOVED it and I’m gutted I can’t buy it for my sister (who would also love it) for Christmas. I posted it on instagram and someone asked whether it was aimed at adults or kids. There are references to puberty and some words that might pitch it at a late Year 8.  Every teacher should read it. As well as every parent or relative of a child with Aspergers. As well as every child who is in a class with a boy with Aspergers. Well just about everyone then

THANK you. Just thank you. Big FAT recommendation from me. And you can quote me on that!

Nanight *drains wine glass* 

K xxx

Ms Webb was so pleased with my email that she asked me if she could pass it on to the publisher, Hannah, at Puffin books.

Hannah was so thrilled that she mentioned my ‘review’ to the authors, Ashley E Miller and Zack Stenz. Now THESE are the guys who wrote the scripts for X-Men First Class and Thor. Hollywood scriptwriters no less! Colin Fischer is their first book. Sickeningly talented pair that they are. In Ms Webb’s words “One’s to watch”.

Two days later a package arrived in the post.

What a lovely surprise!

What a lovely surprise!

Inside, part of the note reads

“I believe you mentioned you wished you had a copy of the book to give your sister for Christmas  – please find enclosed a copy. Thanks again for such a fantastic review”.

Made my week!

I suggest you mark February 7th 2013 in your diary. This is the date that the book will be available to buy in the UK and on Kindle.

It’ll be worth it.

So there’s bound to be a film, right? Hmmmm I wonder who’ll they’ll cast as Colin?

Your Sewing Machine is your Friend!

Posted on

Fact.

As with many of my ideas, this one came from a casual conversation with some friends over a glass of wine, possibly in my kitchen I can’t honestly remember. Maybe it was more than one glass. Hey ho!

Our comprehensive survey – four slightly tipsy women and their mates – concluded that many people have a sewing machine at home but haven’t a Danny La Rue what to do with it. When one friend quipped “Wouldn’t it be great if we there was a local expert who could teach us?’, aaaaaand then they all stared in my direction, I thought “Actually, they might be on to something”.

Add  one flustered neighbour  ringing my doorbell one evening who was having ‘a bit of trouble’ with her sewing machine. In a fit of thriftiness and blind optimism she had agreed to make the costumes for her children…all three … for the school play…the next day.

I  figured that it was time to don my proverbial sewing cape.

Lea and her welcome cuppa

Never one to shy away from a new challenge (Flamenco style wedding dress with 14 metres of fabric, anyone?) I set about making plans.

I love teaching – I love textiles – and I LOVE teaching textiles. This seemed like a wonderful opportunity to combine the two without leaving my cosy home!

We’ll chalk that up as a WIN.

Jo sewing and thinking “stop taking my picture!”

I have never described myself as an ‘expert’ but I do know my way around a sewing machine. I like to think I have a way of working that gets the point across without it being (too) baffling and is fairly good fun. What’s the point if it isn’t?

Fledgling Sewing Warriors ‘werking it’!

Naturally we all started with a welcoming cup of tea. It’s the law apparently.

Try as I might, Kirsty could not be persuaded to finish MY ironing!

My lovely clients were keen and enthusiastic and we had a LOT of laughs! They even did their homework!

Matching Zebra stripes! WOOP!

Jo and Lea made a fabulous zipless cushion cover. Jo would like me to highlight the fact that she made the back panels match. On purpose. Honest!

Christmas stocking complete with funky border, finished!

Kirsty made a Christmas stocking for one of her boys  so successfully she’s making another one as I write. So clever!

She did it!

Now no self respecting Sewing Course would be complete without a congratulatory certificate. My ladies are ready to go and wield their talent as fully fledged Sewing Warriors!

I’m so PROUD of them! *sniff*

There is something really special about creating. That overwhelming sense of achievement – gained from doing something you never thought possible – takes some beating….in adults as well as children *turns death stare towards the current Education Secretary*

I raise my glass to Jo, Kirsty and Lea, my FIRST Sewing Warriors. May they share their zest for crafting with many more!

Sewing classes are popping up everywhere – as the combination of penny saving and new challenges kick in. If this whets your appetite, why not make finding a local sewing class your New Years Resolution?

You’re WELCOME!

x

Pea Head Vegan

Just me and my head like a pea, eating all the vegan food.

Jack Monroe

The #1 budget recipe website

Patterns

Telling stories & healing through words. Learning as I go

Reddskin

Sewing, making and creating...most of the time.

WB2QB

Worker Bee 2 Queen Bee

Tall. Black. One Sugar

Sometimes you have to hold your tongue, other times you have to say it as you see it.

afrow

Black Girl on the Front Row!

Crazy Green Thumbs

Chronicling a delusional gardening experience.

jazzre:freshed

forget what you think you know about jazz

Holly Coleman

artist and embroiderer

rellestyles

Fashion Stylist. Fashionista. Naturalista. London.

arhinarmah

'Cut from a different cloth'

Pepperbox Couture

Reduce, reuse, recycle - the sustainable design style