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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

Can Craft improve health and well-being?

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Can Craft improve health and well-being?

*blinks in the sunlight*

Well HELLO there! It HAS been a while!

I’d really like to report back  that I’ve been super busy making and selling and being uber-productive. But the truth is that I’ve been stepping down, having a ponder, making things for me and learning to simply ‘be’.

More on that later.

Fair warning as Mental Health Awareness Week draws to a close this post WILL actually touch on mental health. Mine. So if that makes you a little uncomfortable then now’s the time to go and make a cuppa.

Still here? Oh. Good!

A few months ago a respected friend, Momtaz aka @TheCraftcafe , asked me to guest on her, then new, weekly show on One Harmony Radio who are a community internet radio station based in Brockley, SE London. At the time I was in, shall we say, a ‘difficult place’. I had been off work for months and the doctors had been chucking scary words like ‘Anxiety’ and ‘Depression’ in my direction. Frankly I was in a bit of a state about it all. Talking sense? To an actual person? Over the airwaves? Not uppermost in my thoughts.

But I had HOPE (wonderful stuff. I highly recommend). So we made a flexible plan and, several weeks later, I found myself sitting in front of a microphone at an unheard of hour on a Saturday morning.

Momtaz introduced me as her ‘Best Dressed guest ever!’ thereby cleverly ensuring that I would be putty in her hands for the duration of her show. Good one, Momtaz. Although it was nerve-racking, (watching Momtaz in action was like an masterclass in Radio to me. So effortless!), the topic is so close to my heart that I found it easy to chat and open up. The hardest part was shutting up when the little coloured lights were on/off/whatever they do. Flash?

Me being all 'best dressed' 'n' sh*t

Me being all ‘best dressed’ ‘n’ sh*t

I learned to sew in my teens thanks to the patience and expertise of my mum. Newly single and working to a tight budget she would turn her creative hand to most things out of necessity. I liked it. Loved it, in fact. Now my mum ‘persuades’ me to sew everything for her. Fair enough.

Throughout my life the Arts, in a variety of forms, have always been my place of solace. My natural home. I became a kick-ass (not literally. Illegal apparently) dance teacher and always marveled at my students ability to create and express themselves regardless of ability, age or gender. When, after a pesky injury,  I began to focus more on my sewing skillset it never occurred to me that the same wouldn’t apply. People are often surprised that I taught boys to sew. ‘SACRE BLEU!!’ they exclaim. (French-speaking of course….with a flair for melodrama). Craft knows no gender. Fact. It’s SO much more than the activity. It’s that feeling of pride, of making something from practically nothing. Learning a new skill or perfecting a new one. That feeling of worth and achievement. It can’t be beaten! One of my ABSOLUTE FAVOURITE things is to show others how and then watch them run away with it. (not literally because that’s dangerous) To those of you who say ‘Oh I’m no good at *insert suitably creative activity here*” I say ‘Pah’! And ‘Try!’. And other (clean) one syllable expressions.

The advice for the millions (yep. Worth keeping in mind next time you feel like you’re on your own) of people out there experiencing Anxiety or Depression is well documented. And a great deal of it involves getting out and ‘doing’ things. In the spirit of ‘doing’ you can’t go far wrong with trying a new skill. Can you see where I’m going here? My experience has always been that when the going got tough (seriously resisting the urge to embed THAT Billy Ocean tune into this post) if I could get to my sewing machine, or pick up a crochet hook or teach myself to knit half a sock *glances feebly at half knitted sock* then I’d be moving in the right direction. UP (in case you hadn’t figured it out).

IMG_20150319_241959795

It might work for you.

Back to Radioland. So Momtaz and I chatted and I made a bit of sense (allegedly) and we how we laughed and Momtaz played some FAB-ulous music (what happened to PM Dawn? Anyone?) and before we knew it the show was over! *sniff*

At time of writing I am still a Work in Progress. But aren’t we all? I’ve made some positive and life-shifting changes (to put it mildly). But I know I won’t be giving up sewing (or teaching others to sew) anytime soon.

Of course now I also want to be a DJ….

It’s not you, it’s me.

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I can’t put it off any longer. It’s happening. It’s HERE!

Tomorrow, 1st June 2014 7am my BRAND NEW SHINY WEBSITE will be born.

I guess it has felt a little bit like giving birth to a precious bundle (metaphysical pain, less fluids). I finally get to show the world – you actually – what I do and what I CAN do. There are handbags, clothes, accessories, home type items (wares?), workshops, classes, parties and events –  all in one delectably BEAUTIFUL PLACE! I’m so excited I can barely keep still! Bear with me whilst I find my feet (they must be around somewhere *chuckles at hideously awful joke*).

Thank you for indulging me thus far – I do hope you’ll stay along for this next chapter.

I’ll also be running a competition soon to celebrate all this lovely new-ness so stay tuned!

So have a look, get up early if the mood so takes you, browse, bookmark, read, peruse and SHARE! Please do feedback and let me know what you think.

Reddskin

Me!

Reddskinbags you have been SO good to me *sniff* We’ve had some tremendous times *gulp*. But it’s time we parted company.

It’s not you, it’s ME!

www.reddskin.co.uk

K x

 

Super Sew Me!

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Half term.

It’s not as if I didn’t have anything else to do with my time. I was half way through the Spring term. Or ‘The Term when the Year 11s start to Panic’ as I prefer to call it.

The very first Forest Hill Fashion Week was drawing to its glorious close and, by rights, I should really have been kicking back with a pile of DVDs and a (few) bottle(s) of wine…or exploring some exotic far away city with only my Rough Guide  for company.

But anyone who knows me is only too aware that my idea of relaxation actually happens to involve sewing. Quite a bit of it.

Laila hard at work

Laila hard at work

So that’s how I found myself rearranging my kitchen early on the Tuesday of half term ready for my first Super Sew Me! clients.

My two eager girls, aged 9 and 10, had never met before. Yet they bonded immediately over their obvious love of fabric and sewing. A few minutes in and we had already learnt that Laila loves designing. She arrived with a bag of fabric and a brimful of ideas. Lizzy was the loquacious one. A lover of all things purple and enough optimism to fill a stadium. We were all going to get on like a house on fire (not literally, panic not).

Attaching the handles

Attaching the handles

Teaching children really hones your explanation skills. On the whole, if one of my pupil gets it wrong it’s usually because I haven’t put  it quite right.  It was clear that my  two trainee Sewing Warriors wanted to learn (images of sponges and puddles spring to mind) and I was equally eager to give them the best sewing experience that I could create. Plus, don’t forget, it was my half term too and I was up for having some fun!

Look at what I made!

Look at what I made!

It’s probably no secret by now that I was bored senseless by my needlework lessons (textiles technology now, if you please) when I was at school in the Dark Ages. I’m not sure whether it was the curriculum or the teacher that was to blame (sorry,

anonymous Needlework teacher). I just did not ‘get’ it. Not so MY lessons, I decided. *determined face*

A very happy Laila with her finished project!

A very happy Laila with her finished project!

Super Sew Me! took place over three consecutive mornings. We went over the basics of threading and using an electric sewing machine. Lizzy brought her mothers old machine (there’s something about this that makes my heart soar) and Laila worked from one of  mine. Homework that evening was greeted eagerly by both. The girls arrived the next day brandishing their handiwork proudly. Laila arrived early to practise as her very own sewing machine was on order.

And then they were off and away! Choosing colours and making Tote bag patterns and debating the advantages of contrast versus matching fabrics.

Look it has a pocket! Elizabeth and her finished tote.

Look it has a pocket! Elizabeth and her finished tote.

We discovered that Laila is rather impatient and she learnt that steady produces more quality sewing. Lizzy learnt that she can rely upon her own instinct and that when she is calm she can produce brilliant results.

We had great fun together and – if their beaming expressions are anything to go by – they were thrilled with their achievements. I’m sure that, armed with my instructions and their new confidence and Sewing Warrior status, young Laila and Lizzy will go from strength to strength.

I plan to offer more Super Sew Me Workshops – the next for one whole day during the Easter holidays – so if you have a budding young designer and you’re London based, do have a look!
But even if you’re not…why not look up Childrens sewing classes in your area? You never know, you may have a budding Stella McCartney or Paul Smith on your hands!

An Alternative Christmas message.

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An Alternative Christmas message.

What’s your favourite?

As I heaved my already full to bursting body onto the cosy sofa, a mince pie in one hand and a half finished glass of seasonal Port in the other, a slow realisation dawned on me. Tomorrow would be Boxing Day. Hardly a revelation in itself admittedly, but this Boxing Day wouldn’t be one of those lazy ones with a welcome lie-in followed by a visit to friends or a leisurely walk. Noooooo. This particular Boxing Day held my first volunteering shift at Crisis at Christmas.

Ah.

Why volunteer? Why now? Good question. But the answer is a bit…erm…vague I’m afraid. It just felt ‘right’.

I love Christmas and feel incredibly lucky that I can choose to spend it with my two beautiful girls (and they still want to spend it with me!) I have a more than enough food to eat and a roof over my head, a regular paycheck and even a holiday or two to look forward to. My girls are happy and healthy. In comparison to many I am blessed. Truly.

So I woke up one morning in late November and felt that I needed to do something. Anything. I googled ‘volunteer work’ and Crisis was at the top of the page. Spookily the deadline for applications ( I stupidly thought I’d just be able to turn up. So naive) was that day so I hurried mine off, clicked ‘submit’ and then carried on with my life.

A week letter a confirmation email of my acceptance arrived – I would be an Arts and Crafts Workshop Leader. I had NO IDEA what I would actually be doing but at least I’d be helping. I’ll be honest, it felt really good!

Four weeks later, after a lovely cosy Christmas, I turned up at a less than salubrious part of South East London at 10am on Boxing Day. Tired, a tad apprehensive but with an open mind and my ‘ready for anything’ hat on.

In their own words:

‘ Deptford Reach is a drop-in centre for adults over 16 years of age who are vulnerable through homelessness, mental ill-health, loneliness, social exclusion and severe poverty.’

Deptford Reach are open all the year round but close over the Christmas period which is when Crisis step in. Crisis provide many facilities that we take for-granted – showers, hair cuts, massages, clothes (when they can get them from donations) as well as  counselling. There is IT support, entertainment (quizzes, bingo, musicians) and an Arts and Crafts room.

2010/11 has been a difficult year for many with the effects of the recession and rising unemployment.  Deptford Reach has seen many people pass through its doors and is painfully aware that situation will probably become far worse with the new 2012 changes to Housing benefit .

I must admit I felt a bit clueless in the first few minutes  but I was soon able to get stuck in. The Arts and Crafts room was a place to escape from the hustle and bustle of the canteen/bingo hall/common room downstairs. A place to experience new crafts or do some painting, drawing or collage. On my second day I brought crochet hooks and wool. After demonstrating how to make a Pom-Pom everyone seemed to want to have a go!

Tiddly pom-poms

One client spent the next two days making pom-poms of various sizes which we decorated the room with. We also learnt how to make felt  and I taught a bit of crochet. More f un times with wool! On my final day another Workshop leader showed us all how to create a woven mat using strips of scrap fabric. I may show you how to later if you ask nicely…

Joseph’s coat has nothing on this!

What I loved about everyone who visited was not only how willing they were to try anything, but also how obvious their pleasure was when they had created something, anything, to treasure or to give away. We discovered some amazing talents amongst some of the most interesting and generous people I’ve ever met, clients and staff alike. True story.

Life changing? I wouldn’t go THAT far. But would I do it again? Of course! 3 days out of 365 was a teensy amount of time to give – I’ll certainly be going back for more….probably way before December!

Inspired? Why not donate to Crisis , volunteer next Christmas or have a look at the wonderful ideas here   . I’m sure you’ll find something that you could give a little time to!

Good luck!

K x

JACK MONROE

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