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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!

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!

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

Hats off!

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?

Super Sew Me!

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!

Forest Hill Fashion Week!

Forest Hill Fashion Week!

I was lucky enough to have been involved in Forest Hills very own Fashion Week, scheduled to coincide with London Fashion Week. “Who needs LFW when you can have FHFW?” was the strap line. It took place during half term from February 15th to 19th. Gosh it seems like an age ago now!

Penny, Louise and their trusty team of SEE3 volunteers worked tirelessly to produce A Fashion Week to remember! After a Sunday afternoon of photoshoot fun the posters of volunteer models arrived in local shops and outlets. It’s me!

50 and Fab!

50 and Fab!

It all happened so quickly! The first I heard that I was on a poster was when the boys at the school I teach in started saying ‘Miss! We saw you in Sainsburys!’. Huh?

We even made in to Time Out!

Forest Hill makes time Out!

Forest Hill makes the Time Out website!

The Week kicked off with an opening night at The Sylvan Post, a wonderful restaurant and bar converted from the old Forest Hill Post Office and with many of the original features. That Friday also saw the opening of a new pop-up shop in Forest Hill Love Ur Look run by stylist and businesswoman Ronke Fashola. This quirky outlet has lots of beautiful outfits and gifts to suit many budgets. Ronke will be taking her fabulousness elsewhere very soon so don’t miss out!

Cute leather bag in Love Ur Look

Forest Hill became a happy hive of activity! There were fashion upcycling workshops and craft workshops as well as events and sales in lots of lovely local shops. I ran a free Corsage making session at Forest Hills newest Art gallery The Montage. We had great fun turning scraps of fabric into fabulous accessories!

Corsage making at The Montage

Corsage making at The Montage

My next workshop was at the same venue teaching keen newbies how to upcycle a plastic bottle into a beautiful bangle. Maria Ramil Photos popped along to take photos some of which you can see in her funky slideshow .

Bottle to Bangle crafters

Bottle to Bangle crafters at work!

Corsage workshop by Reddskinbags Karen_-5

Slowly does it…

Later that day I was able to squeeze myself into one of my favourite shops Stag and Bow where a knowledgeable Pascale was teaching how to make a detachable collar. I joined a group of women with a range of sewing abilities and had a grand old time chatting and creating. I’m thrilled with the result too!

Antique lace and hand beaded collar with African batik trim!

Antique lace and hand beaded collar with African batik trim!

Sunday evening saw Soul Train event at Art Gallery and workshop space Canvas and Cream who were also celebrating their first birthday. Doesn’t time fly when you’re having fun! It must have been my lucky night because not only was I handed a free glass of prosecco as the 20th person to arrive but I also won a goodie bag for being ‘Best Mover’. Oh yeah!

On Monday (I do hope you’re keeping up here) , on the way to the Catwalk Show dress rehearsal, I popped in to Stag and Bow again (I can’t keep away) to browse the Twisted Vintage sale. They make delightful pieces upcycling discarded or broken pieces in to delectable jewellery. This piece of gorgeousness is now one of my favourite bracelets in my collection. Because I’m worth it of course!

Twisted Vintage upcycled bracelet of beauty. Mine.

Twisted Vintage upcycled Bracelet of Beauty. Mine.

The final Catwalk show was filled with fabulous fashion creations and outfits from local designers and shops including, Best of Both Boutique, Doopodoopo, Bunka, Stag and Bow, Love Ur Look, Twisted Vintage, Katherine Harrison, The White Room SE4 and so many more! It truly was a night to remember. For me not least because it was the first time I had seen a selection of my bags ‘in situ’ on the catwalk. I’m definitely hankering for more of that fashion action.

Tweed and African print Boston bag with outfit from Bunka

Tweed and African print Boston bag with outfit from Bunka

Upcycled Coffee sack - hessian and African print Weekend bag in da house!

Upcycled Coffee sack – hessian and African print Weekend Reddskinbag in da house! Jacket by Christopher Ran

You can see more pictures of the Catwalk Wrap Show here

The worlds first Forest Hill Fashion Week was over almost as quickly as it began. I thoroughly enjoyed filling my half term with fashion and craft and creating. Frankly I cannot wait to do it all over again!

What? Did you think that was IT?

Missed it? Want to catch the next one? Follow @SEE3PortasPilot on Twitter and Facebook or sign up to their email newsletter .

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