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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

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?

Getting shirty!

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Last week I posted this fabulous idea on my Facebook page. Many commented on how ingenious it is and joked about the difference between the size of the model and some our not-so-svelte figures!

That’s the trouble with Ingenious Upcycling Ideas. When it comes to clothing would you reeeeeally go out in public wearing any of it?

So last Thursday, getting ready for my Live Jazz fix at Jazz:Refreshed , I decided to put this to the test with my own version catchily entitled ‘Man’s shirt as a TOP for meeeeee!’.

First I needed to find a shirt big enough to fit comfortably around my…ahem…’friends’. Half an hour and knee deep in shirts later I finally settled on a large white man’s dress shirt. (the first shirt I’d picked as it happens – typical)

Ironing is SO last year!

I didn’t even bother attempting to fasten the top button (stop laughing) but settled a good 3 or 4 down the front (I said stop laughing!)  I accessorised with a pretty brooch which also served to help me feel much safer. No popping button incidents for this Ms thank you very much!

Can you see what it is yet?

Next it was all about the sleeves as belt part. I did try tying them as a halter neck but unfortunately the fabric hung in such a way that it drew WAY too much attention to my upper body – SO not necessary.

…view from the back!

Finally my hair went up in an orange silk wrap, I added my favourite jacket and a slightly nervous smile and I was off!  If I’m honest I did feel a little self-conscious at first but once my chief stylist (teen) had given her seal of approval I managed to relax.

Teens’ patience wears thin…

Quick before I start laughing again!

What do you think?

Now are you ready to give it a go? Do let me know how you get on!

Reduce, Reuse, Re…what ARE you wearing?

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Over the past few months I have met some really interesting crafty (verb not adjective) people. This year I have made a concious decision to seek out new creative ventures whenever time allows. So when I stumbled across Penelope Else asking for local people with sewing skills for a new venture she was starting I emailed her straight away.

Frockcycle is an event that takes place at Canvas and Cream, a brand spanking new Art gallery slash workshop space slash restaurant in Forest Hill, Sarf East Londinium. The main premise is to up-cycle your old unwanted items of clothing in to fashion desirables with a fresh eye and a handy pair of scissors. All you need is enthusiasm – no previous sewing experience is necessary! Penny runs the show – the first part has involved trying clothes on upside down or backwards – mad fun!

Helpers are on hand to transform the clothes into new fashionable creations. If you need extra crafty items then Pascale from local ‘purveyors of craft haberdashery and history’ Stag and Bow, is there with her array of goodies. Oh and did I mention that you can buy cake and there’s a bar? Perfect.

During the last session Paulina Palian brought along a pair of bright orange trousers and an old orange vest then practically grabbed and pointed me in their direction.

Happy feet!

She knew full well that I wouldn’t be able to resist their vibrant colours (clever woman that). It was her suggestion that I play with the idea of combining them both to make a bolero jacket. In between helping clients I started the venture but ended up taking it home where it sat on my mannequin for a week whilst I pondered and got on with the business of ‘life’. Once I’d started again, after a lot of pinning and tacking it finally began to take shape.

See what I did there?

When 2 become 1.

I added some vibrant African batik cotton with a golden overlay to the edge.

That’s better!

I used the same fabric to create a semi-Cape effect to the back of the jacket.

Super cape in the making!

Next I cut the sleeves, added elastic and pushed them up my arms. Now I was on a roll! Finally I cut a length and sewed it just inside the pockets for a little definition – although sadly my photos haven’t picked this up *tiny sob*.

Avec orange necklace accessory

I was so pleased with my efforts I test drove the outfit the very next day!

Superwoman and her cape!

Tah-Daaaaah!

Your turn!

The next Frockcyle event is on Sunday 28th July. You can book here. Come along, bring your old fashion faux-pas, meet some new interesting people and most of all have some FUN!

Do YOU have any fashion regret-tables?

Or have you turned an unwanted item into an object of desire?

Oh go on, DO tell!

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.

😉

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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