Monthly Archives: July 2013

Experimenting with leather and a new personal organiser

If you’ve happened across my shop or Facebook page recently you might have noticed a rather fabulous new piece of loveliness … my leather, embroidered personal organiser.  Look at it, isn’t it beautiful!

Filofax1 detail

My beautiful, gorgeous new personal organiser. Free machine embroidered with one of my little balloon girls in a blue leather dress.

I had bought some bargain scraps of leather from Abakhan Fabrics in Mostyn the last time I was up that way, and have been wanting to play around with them ever since.  I recently bought a few more pieces of leather from eBay and, with a fresh packet of leather sewing machine needles, on Tuesday I got freaky with the leather in my sewing room.

I made some little leather coin purses (more on them in a future blog), experimenting and playing with embroidering and appliquéing the leather, which is very tricky.  Unlike fabric, any holes you make in leather are absolutely permanent (there’s no unpicking and trying again with leather), and if you aren’t careful with your embroidering you end up perforating the leather so much that the picture, along with a chunk of leather, just falls off.

But I am beside myself with pleased with how it turned out.  Fully covered and lined with cream upholstery leather, free machine embroidered, it even has little leather pockets on the inside to hold your ticket stubs, shopping list, spare hair clips etc.

Filofax1 inside detail

Fully lined with leather inside, with a cute little embroidered pen poking above the back pocket.
I’ve found the ring binder mechanisms tricky to get hold of, my supplier used to sell them on ebay so it’s worth checking there every so often if you want to make one yourself.

This is the second personal organiser I have made, the first was a hand embroidered, denim one I made for my own use.  I designed it so I could punch and insert cheap 99p pocket diaries instead of having to buy expensive Filofax inserts.  Because I’m fashionably frugal like that.

My intention has been to blog a tutorial on making one of these, and it’s still high on my to-do list, so stick with me and I’ll try to put one in before too long.

The finished organiser

My first personal organiser which I made a year ago, and still the one I use and carry everywhere with me.




Snapped Up Market at Printhaus, Cardiff.

This afternoon we sent the children for some quality time with Grandma so we could concentrate on the activities on offer at the Printaus Workshop’s ‘have a go’ day.  (And to enjoy a sneaky beer garden visit and a sunny walk by the lake too, while we were footloose and fancy free).


Printhaus Workshop’s Snapped-Up Market flyer/posterIt was brilliant.  The continuing gorgeous weather certainly helped, especially in the courtyard which had stalls, a photobooth, circus skills and comfy sofas on which to enjoy the refreshments.


Sunny, bohemian, artsy, relaxed and chilled enjoyment in the Printhaus courtyard. With bunting. I can’t resist bunting.

Indoors there were many more stalls as well as  some have-a-go print screens already set up.

I chatted with Katy from Miri for ages, she was completely lovely and full of useful hints and tips on where to sell my work.  We’ll both be at the craft fair in Rhiwbina in November so I was excited to be able to meet her before then.  I also spent ages standing and chatting at Freak Unique‘s stall too, trying to persuade her to run workshops on upcycling lampshades after being completely blown away by a fabulous standard lamp that she had on display.

I spoke with one of the event organisers for ages as well, about the Printhaus, membership, courses etc. – I have been looking for a screenprinting course all year (I just missed enrollment on a fabulous one in January – D’oh!) because I have great ideas on how to incorporate printing with my embroidery, which I’m sure I’ve mentioned this before.

But THEN I got onto the having a go bit!  The screen printing itself was basically two passes with an inky squeegee across a screen that had been completely set up for me.  Not really what I call ‘printing it myself’, but I still really enjoyed it and am disproportionately proud of my screenprinted bag, a bright yellow tote bag which I printed with a Bear on a Ball image designed by Miri.

My second have a go project was making a silver ring with Lydia Niziblian. From scratch. Using a saw, pliers, a hammer, a blowtorch and acid.  Seriously!  This was proper, real metalwork, and I loved it!  Not quite enough to abandon my embroidery and buy in loads of precious metals and a heavy workbench, but definitely enough to do it again if the opportunity arises.


My lovely new silver ring and screen printed bag, which I made. *happy sigh*

So, to summarise, a top day out – completely brilliant fun and very inspiring, not just with regards to the printing (which I am definitely going to pursue), but also speaking with the artists and makers who were there.  Have you ever noticed how lovely, genuine and generous crafty and arty people are with their time, knowledge and advice?  They really are the best sort of people.

The next step – craft fairs.

I’ve finally committed to doing my first craft fair this autumn, and I’m looking at some others with a view to attending them from September too.  This is actually quite a bit scarier than submitting to galleries.

I have no idea how much stock I’m going to need to make – I suspect (hope!) it will be a lot, and I know I’m going to need to expand my range to include pieces hitting different price points.  So as well as filling my evenings for the next few months by beavering away making lots and lots of lovely stock, I’m also going to have to design brand new items which fit my range and which can be produced quickly and cheaply enough to sell for a fiver or so.

No pressure, then! ;0)

filofax rings

I couldn’t find a suitable ‘thinking about going to a craft show’ photo, so here’s a picture of what I got in the post this morning instead. Can you guess what I’m going to make with them?

Lisa Porch workshop at The Model House, Llantrisant

I’ve just spent the day at Resist Gallery in Model House Craft Centre at a free machine embroidery workshop led by Lisa Porch and I have had a wonderful time.

By the end of her introduction I was almost beside myself with impatience to  get onto my sewing machine to start creating the wonderful samples that she had described.  She promised machine embroidery with the feed dogs both up and down, and that we would create lace by machine embroidering on netting and on dissolvable fabric.

My first piece from the day was made by building layers of different fabric and stitching them to each other with the simple straight and zigzag stitch on the sewing machine, with the feed dogs up and normal sewing foot in place.


The fabric pieces I chose were in shades of blue which, as I lay them against each other, wanted to be the sea, so I went with it.  It was extremely freeing to just stitch forward and back, forward and back with my foot firmly down on the pedal.  I experimented with changing the stitch width as I sewed, and felt like I could go on all afternoon.  The fabric was initially  light and fluid, but due to the dense stitching, pulled in on itself and warped and became a satisfying, robust, tactile canvas.

The cord which frames it in the photo above was made by twisting a length of fabric and zig-zagging over it. So quick and easy, beautiful and useful!

Lunch was very civilised.  We enjoyed a sunny picnic of sandwiches from the Butcher’s Arms on the green next to the castle.


A picnic lunch in the shade – it was far too hot today to venture into the open!


Lisa smiling obediently for the camera! You can just about make out in the back, one of the goats in the castle compound enjoying our scraps.

After lunch we played with free embroidery.  Using images of antique textiles as the initial inspiration, and layering fabric, vintage lace and other embellishments to create our canvas, we went wild with the feed dogs down and quilting feet (or embroidery hoops) on!


I had taken a suitcase of fabrics, trims and assorted bits that I had recently inherited from my Anti Elizabeth.  Some of the items in this suitcase are just fascinating, such as the ancient yellowing lace, fabrics intended for different projects and incomplete WIPs.

I used some of Anti Elizabeth’s lace and trims in this exercise, and a chunk of a beautiful old tea tray mat provided by Lisa, which I was reluctant to be the first to cut, so let somebody else have first dibs on!

As it came together I felt this was a very homely, cosy piece of stitching that I wanted to keep for inspiration in my workroom.  I suspect that having some of my aunt’s old scraps in it has made it feel more special to me, so I was moved to incorporate a little secret message under the fringe:  ”Melys”, meaning ‘sweet’,  from “Cartref Melys Cartref” (Home sweet home).

20130713_192119Our final example of the day was to create lace on a piece of doubled-up netting using free machine embroidery.  This was great fun, very quick and very satisfying.  I had to leave mine unfinished as the day had come to an end, but I suspect I might pop it back under the sewing machine for a self indulgent half an hour or so the next time I’m in my workroom.


We didn’t have time to look at making lace using dissolvable fabric, much to our disappointment, but we have been promised of another session devoted to free machine embroidery on dissolvable fabric, including its 3D applications.  Sometime from September, it was suggested … I can’t wait!

Completed embroideries

I finally managed to finish a mountain of works in progress – eight 3D embroidery/shibori pieces and a family trees!  Some of the shibori pieces will be going to local galleries, I’ll keep the remainder to sell myself, either through this website (news of a shiny new online shop will be coming in the near future), my facebook page or at shows and fairs.  Please see below for a little taste of the completed works.

Detail of a Family Tree commission


Embroidered girl in a blue dress with a light brown ponytail blowing bubbles

Detail – embroidered girl in a green dress with a dark brown ponytail blowing bubbles