Monday 17 June 2013


Last Saturday I was delighted to be going to another of Viv, Hens Teeth's workshop
at the lovely Weston Hall in Staffordshire.

I attended the same workshop last year (see pantry violets blog) and so I had been thinking about 
what I could do this time - I had a sudden flash of inspiration - a rare and unusual thing these days,
I would make a chatelaine which included a needlebook.  All week I was poking about in bags and 
boxes digging out likely things to include. 

 I decided to make not one but two!  One for Viv who has been a good friend supporting me
 this past year, and one for myself.  Fair enough I didn't start soldering til Friday evening - as I
 havent soldered for Lord alone knows how long, probably wasn't the best start.  Anyway, 
I set off taping up and covering stuff, fixing jump rings but I had to throw in the towel after 3am!!!  
I decided a couple of hours sleep was definitely required before I set off.... two may have been
a tad ambitious.

We started work, I started polishing the soldered bits!  Then I made my little needlebook, I just
put a piece of an old quilt inside a delightful little progressive whist card I'd found stitched it in and
crocheted a chain to close it with a beautiful little button. 

By this time it was lunchtime and I had to get a bit of a move on, most of the other bits and pieces just needed fixing on to dangly bits and attaching to the wooden bobbin I'd soldered jump rings to, however, this didn't prove as quick as I'd expected, and Viv was coming round looking what we were doing so I had to keep some bits well hidden until show and tell time!  I used some antique ribbons, a test tube with a lotto number stopper, two watch part vials, a little tin I'd painted and applied labels to and a little matchbox I covered and put Vivs initial on.  All the containers were filled with bits and bobs.  I'd also so applied some little quotes i'd found; my favourite being - 'changing the world one sequin at a time' - Lady Gaga, and one I knew Viv would love, (and she did) see below ... and of course, a dobber with the long-eared lovelies from
Viv's blog header ...

Just in the nick of time it all came together, I added the top piece which has a pin on the back to secure it

Viv, who had admired the bits I'd been working on was blown away when I gave it to her - she was so thrilled, and I was thrilled she loved it as much as I did.  She says she will treasure it all her days, isn't that
lovely.  Essentially, you really can turn a pile of bits and bobs as shown at the top into something like this

Now all I have to do is finish mine!

Many thanks to Viv for letting me use her lovely photographs, as you can see, my poor effort on the stone leaves a lot to be desired!!

I hope you like it - let me know what you thinks as comments are always welcome.

Love to All

Tuesday 7 August 2012



As always apologies for the delay, I am permanently trying to catch up with myself and be disciplined about blogging but it never happens!

Last time, you may recall I asked whether I should give my donkeys a colour wash - thanks for your suggestions.  I made a third donkey a couple of weeks ago and I decided to use a watercolour wash in a pale greyish colour so that it wasn't too coloured.
I made some paniers from a snippet of cloth, as usual from my Rag Rescue stash.  I couldn't for the
life of me decide what to put in the paniers, but, last week whilst I was in France at Les Soeurs Anglaises
for a bijou holiday with Becky, Jone and Oolie I had a sudden flush of inspiration.............. what better than French Lavender?  Mon Dieu! Why didnt i think of it before, I think its perfect, do let me know what you think ..................

I also said I would blog about my second Hens Teeth workshop makes.
On the first workshop made three brooches in total, the first two took most of the day

 Then in the last 10 minutes, I had a flush of inspiration - I love paper and decided to put together scraps of
haberdashery labels and card to make another brooch - it turned out to be my favourite of the day ........

When I went to the second Hens Teeth Haberdashery workshop I decided to continue to explore this theme and here are the results ...............
Again in the last 10 minutes I decided to try my hand at a donkey brooch, pinching Viv's glove fingers for ears idea I stitched up this little beauty ................
I finished him off in France last week, tidied up the back, put the pin on and added his eyes, originally he was going to have two press studs but I'd lost one, routing about in my sewing kit I came across the vintage red diamonte - all the girls agreed it was just the ticket!  It would seem that he was never intended to have matching eyes......................... Again it was my favourite of the day!  

I sent the 'saved' brooch to Julie Arkell before I left for France and gave the goldilocks haberdashery brooch to Katie Elliot Armitage and the darning thread one to Dean Spille who had admired Katie's when she took Becky, Jone and Oolie to see him and his lovely wife Billie Spille, I figured Billie could wear it and Dean could look at it, but he did wonder if he could get away with wearing it himself!

Do let me know what you think of my makes, I find your feedback very encouraging!

Oh Yes, here are my delightful Julie Arkell pieces;  'A gentle Stillness', I love Donkeys' and Little Donkey on my recently completed bedroom fireplace, you may also spot the Jennifer Collier lampshade and a couple of Viv, Hens Teeth brooches.  All of which inspire me each night when I go to bed and each morning when I get up.

Love to All
xx Di

Monday 28 May 2012



Here after a long absence are my donkeys, made at West Dean whilst on the Julie Arkell Paper Mache course at the end of January 2012.

After my disastrous creature dressing panics last year I arrived at West Dean with a cunning plan: not to make anything that needed dressing!   Accordingly, making donkeys to take to my hut seemed the way forward!

This is my first donkey, I did crochet him some panniers so he carry his own stuff to the hut!

I loved him so much I decided to make him a companion with a cart to transport heavier stuff they may need ........

Here he is with a cart made from twigs and linen thread, which fastens to his granny square harness - a particularly inspired moment I thought!

I had also decided that it might be fun to make a paper mache pram - that way I could make some lovely bedding using some lovely bits and pieces of fabric which should be too taxing for an amateur sewist such as myself.

Here is the pram (which features large in stories from my childhood as anyone who knows me will confirm!)

I so wanted the pram to be a 'Silver Cross' type with suspension - which I think turned out OK - so as not
to make it too easy for myself it became increasingly important to me that the hood went up and down -
nothing like a technical challenge!  I worked well into the night (and the next morning) and eventually I 'made it have it' .......................
I have yet to make the aforesaid bedding - events rather took over at the end of my course but I fully intend to finish my little pram and will blog the finished item when done!
Now, I have been wondering if I should colour my donkeys?  Or leave them as they are? Just cant decide - suggestions would be much appreciated, I will ponder in the meantime.


Thursday 22 March 2012

Julie Arkell - I've Dusted the Farmyard

This month I was lucky enough to be invited to the Private View of Julie Arkell's solo exhibition 'I've Dusted The Farmyard' at Liverpool's Blue Coat Gallery.

It was lovely to catch up with Julie again, and what a joy to see so much of her work - it filled half the gallery space - there must have been getting on for 100 pieces.  I urge all fans of Julie's work to visit if they can, the exhibition runs until 12 May.

For a very long time I've wanted to own one of Julie's paper mache pieces, the range and quality of this work is remarkable, and, having taken her paper mache workshop at West Dean twice, I begin to understand just how difficult it actually is to create the pieces and then dress them! 

Whilst at West Dean this year, and, in order to avoid 'dressing' my creations, I made a couple of donkeys - me being a beach hut person!  I will show you my makes in a future post.  Julie was telling me she'd just done some donkeys herself.  I was delighted to see the donkeys were in Julies exhibition - and needless to say, I now own not 1 but 3 pieces of Julie's paper mache!!! 

Here they are .................

Little Donkey

A Gentle Stillness

And, a little person to look after them .............

I Love Donkeys

I decided whilst I was at the exhibition that I would like to inhabit the world that Julie makes, a gentle whimsical world where life is full of simple pleasures and interesting fragments of fabric and phrases .... what a joy that would be.  

You can see more photos from the exhibition on 

I have a backlog of blogging to do - future posts will include Ellie Evans Workshop, West Dean - Julie Arkell paper mache workshop and Hens Teeth - Viv's first workshop.

All comments welcome - thanks for coming by.


Thursday 19 January 2012

First of all - Happy New Year!

The Genius of Jennifer Collier!

Towards the end of last year I attended two workshops at Jennifer's studio - Unit 12 in Stafford.

The first was with Jen making gloves and clothes - we learnt lots of methods and made examples to take home.  I still have to finish most of my work and will post it when done. It was a fabulous, action packed workshop and very inspiring.  

Whilst there I took a lot of pictures of Jen's work:

the shoes on the right are my all time favourite, the writing on the postcard is highlighted with stitching, loose threads left dangling - I think they have a poetic quality.

When I first saw a picture of Jen's more recent sculptural pieces I first thought she had covered actual objects as they look so realistic!   Its fascinating that with relatively humble materials she is able to make such amazingly realistic sculptures, all made from recycled paper and cardboard!  - I soooo want a camera! 

I believe I could almost shoot a film with this Super 8!

Also loved the typewriter .....................

and the telephone ................

and the sewing machine .................

 and the teaset .....................
I think what amazes me most about them is the way they are stitched together and even the most complex joints and the way she incorporates her papers - the sewing machine is a dress pattern and instruction leaflet, the phone is some sort of directory and the typewriter is a typing manual. Genius!

It was the first time I'd seen Jen's Lampshades, I was bewitched!  Luckily, my Mum offered to buy me one of Jennifer's large standard lampshades for Christmas!  Its similar to the one below and will hang in my studio at home (when I start work on my sitting room later this year).

Jennifer is not only talented but an enthusiastic and generous teacher who very happily shares her methods and gives advice.  The Studio and gallery space is beautiful.  The workshops are a real joy, the atmosphere is relaxed and friendly and the variety is great. And there's always a cake! Added to which for me it just an hour away from home and most of the workshops are on Saturdays so its a great way to try new things and a fabulous day out.  

Four other artists have also got a space at Unit Twelve which means its also a shopping opportunity and a chance to meet the makers!   Check out details of this years workshops on

More soon about the Ellie Evans workshop at Unit Twelve.

Comments always welcome!

Friday 28 October 2011


When I was at the Rachel Hazell workshop at Les Soeurs Anglaises in July this year we visited the local brocante warehouse - Ali Baba's.  I found a box of old (and rather moth-eaten) toys which I thought would suit Becky (see Vintage Fairy Tales blog).  Now the 'souvenirs Nicole' would definitely not have suited everyone, however, Becky was delighted by them.

Amongst the souvenirs - can't help thinking there is a tragic little tale behind them - was a Dougal of Magic Roundabout fame - fair enough he had definitely seen better days. Barbara one of the American workshop attendees was horrified by Dougal and amazed, firstly, that I had bought the box, and, having bought it was actually thinking of giving it to a friend!   

I spent many happy days telling Barbara that Dougal was going to be hidden in her room, her case etc.  A couple of days after we returned home, I got an email asking where Dougal was - he was still in France waiting for Becky, but I decided to make Barbara a Dougal of her very own.

Here, is the original Dougal .........
not a very inspiring start you may think - but that of course is the magic of inspiration ........ this is what he and Barbara inspired me to make ...........
I'm really pleased with how he turned out and I'm hoping that Barbara will be happier with my version than she was with the original Dougal!  I sent him off a couple of weeks ago and he has just arrived Stateside.

What do you think?  All comments welcome

Tuesday 11 October 2011


At Rachel Hazell's fabulous and immensely inspiring workshop at LSA this summer I learnt how to make a book.  On my return, I was inspired to incorporate some of my finds into a little notebook/repository for the bits and pieces we collect but aren't sure what to do with (yet).

I dont know about you, but I always want a notebook to close so I incorporated a longer ribbon to provide a fastening.  One of the treasures found at the brocante we visited was an vintage french lotto set - I love everything about it, the counters are really good wooden ones which I have many plans for, the tickets or boards are a great colour - very 30s numbers and suitably distressed!  They were, however, quite damp with a not too endearing whiff about them.  My first job was to dry them out and leave them in a bag with a lavender and lemongrass drawer sachet to alleviate the odour.

Another of my prize finds; 'Galeries Lafayette' a 1950s magazine/catalogue full of the most wonderful items available in Spring 1956 - isnt it fabulous!
I made several little sections - us bookbinders call them signatures - get me! Each section had an additional double page insert which was either vintage music, a bit of the galeries catalogue or vintage california telephone book pages.  Here are a couple of the sections:

And here are a couple of sections which include little contrasting envelopes to hold mementoes.

I found the stitching together quite tricky and my stitch doesnt look anything like it should but its a prototype as Im hoping to make more for Christmas presents.  Hopefully Rachel will approve.  All comments welcome!