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Tag Archives: teaching boys

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!

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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?

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!

The trouble with boys…?

“You teach Textiles? In a boys school? To boys? Do they like it?”

I have always encountered near incredulity when mentioning my specialist subject to others. I actually trained as a dance teacher many hundreds of years ago (must be the green tea). I became accustomed to surprised reactions to the fact that boys even did dance at secondary school. Throughout my career I have been fortunate enough to work in schools where the Performing Arts are cherished. Schools that actively encourage both sexes to express themselves through this medium from Year 7 (1st year) up through GCSE and A level Dance. Extremely successfully too. Then bits started to fall from my body and a fabulous opportunity to teach textiles came tumbling into my lap. What was a girl to do? Sorry, I mean, what was a girl – who LOVES sewing, designing and creating with fabrics – to do?

This year class Year 8/TY2 have the pleasure of my company. Last year I taught my Year 7’s to sew by hand and they took home puppets they had made based on fairytale characters…

Glodi and Prince Charming

and sock monsters upcycled from old socks…

Eden and his socky - Stripy!

after the best part of a year. This year my task is to teach them how to use a sewing machine…. in SIX weeks!

*Rolls sleeves up*.

On friday at the beginning of the lesson as I finished taking the register and 21 eager faces looked at me expectantly . I announced the introductory lesson topic… ‘The History of Sewing’.

One lone, brave boy (we’ll call him X – for Xtremely foolish – shall we?) summed up the mood of the class “We’re sup-POSED to be doing sewing! Not HISSSS-tory!”

Don’t you just love children?

Once I had re-established the ground rules for expressing one’s opinion out loud, we continued. I displayed a script on the whiteboard and invited volunteers to read out a paragraph each. It was full of exciting facts about the history of sewing. I am serious by the way. The boys became particularly animated when learning about early thread made from animal sinew (true) and French tailors rioting back in the 19th century in uproar at the possibility of losing their jobs to industrialisation (“like the Summer riots in Lewisham miss!” Hmmm)

Once complete, I handed out envelopes which contained slips of paper with the same information. The class were given two minutes to arrange the paragraphs in order. Cue much hilarity. I noted (smugly, I admit) that X seemed to be having a great time motivating his group to finish quickly. Next came the quiz part. I read the questions and the first member of each group to hold up the relevant slip and read the correct answer gained a point. Simple, yes? Have you ever taught 12 year old boys?

Actually it was good fun…well I had fun stretching out the anticipatory silence before reading out a question reeeeally slowly. Isn’t that the point?

What am I trying to say? It doesn’t matter whether the subject is deemed ‘traditional’ or not, boys and girls will enjoy it because, believe it or not, they love to learn. And if they can have some laughs along the way….you’ve got them hooked.

Here’s the best bit…I hated Design and Technology at school! Funny that…

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