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!                                                                                                                                 

Wednesday, 7 September 2011


After a very busy year from February until just before I went to France in July, I am actually able to tinker by the sea! 

At least one day at the moment is set aside to just enjoy making things and it is sooooo wonderful - this weekend I was on finishing off a couple of the paper mache figures I made at West Dean in February on the Julie Arkell paper mache workshop:

My great niece Iris was one of my inspirations - at a year old she amazed us all by throwing her arms in the air and shouting 'hurray' for no particular reason - so I couldnt resist making a paper version of her doing just that...
her little cardigan took me the longest time to make and looks a bit chunky here though it is actually very fine silky thread!  When making again I must remember that action figures look great but are extremely hard to dress with limbs going in all direction - static is good and clothes-shaped is better so next time I will be making very different figures!
Here is a longer view with her sitting on the wall - temporarily - she is going to my niece Zoe, Iris's mum when they get back from holidays.

Next on the finished pile is my angel - again with the benefit of hindsight the wings would have been better made of fabric!  very hard to dress this one.  But I am happy with the end result - here is a front view - at a bit of an odd angle as I was photographing from underneath her! 

Again the dress took the longest time and was made when I stayed with my friend Kay last time, Its raw silk - lucky angel - with silk thread embellishments - her shape and pose was incredibly difficult to sew around so I ended up making a cross-over back design and sewing the dress on by the straps when I'd got it fitting about right! We live and learn do we not.  Here's the back view and a detail of the front embroidery ....

When I'd finished my two figures completely I still had a bit of time to try out an idea.  I'd looked at Danielle's Pinterest pins - follow the link on - there is so much to inspire on Pinterest.  One of the things I loved was a paper feather - using a sheet of music and cutting the feathered bit of the feather - check out - isnt it lovely:

  Here is my painted peacock feather - I think it holds a host of possiblities!
Have a happy week - Love to All

Tuesday, 19 April 2011

If the shoe fits ..........

How fabulous are these shoes - for me they are of the scale of my shoe-ometer! For many reasons - not least of which is I could actually walk in them!

Then, they remind me of clattering about with my mums 1960s court shoes on! Or my niece, Tracey, wearing 'clip-clop' shoes - either little princess shoes she got for a present or her mum's shoes she clattered about it for many a happy hour. 1960s mules with feather pom-poms that the most sophisticated ladies wore at home like slippers! They are the stuff of dreams, in my childhood and just as much today - they have everything - great colour, hearts on the front, kitten heels, sling-backs I could go on, and on and on! And, amazingly I think they are still for sale in the Vivienne Westwood shop - must dash - shoes to buy!

Love to All

Thursday, 17 March 2011


During the Summer two of our friends who are also neighbours got married. We went to the evening reception and had a fine old time and I decided to make them something to remind them of their big day.

Here is a glass house - based on Sally Jean Alexander's design. As anyone who knows me will tell you Sally Jean is one of my personal craft heroes! I taught myself to solder from her book and her tips on collage-making are second to none. I highly recommend her book 'Pretty Little Things', my copy is just about falling apart!
Here are some views of the finished house ..........

Their photographer, Miriam is also a neighbour and she kindly let me have black & white pictures. The collage includes snippets from the invitation, bits from the table decorations, suitably romantic sheet music, a poem, some snippets from my collection of 'useful knowledge' from vintage instruction books, this particular one is a 1930s volume entitled 'Newnes Everything Within' (A Library of Information for the Home). Most of the quotes are from the sections on 'How to Treat a Wife', 'How to Treat a Husband' , 'Good Wives and Husbands' and 'Advice to Married Couples'. Two of my favourite bits are 'Never pick a wife by Candlelight' and 'A good wife is a good present - a very good wife is a very good thing but the puzzle is how to get her'. To the modern eye its perfectly hysterical, to me the books are priceless!
The collage combines elements from the day like the pictures and invitation as well as some very useful advice! Oh yes, its not just an ornament, my other fixation (also shared with Sally Jean) is making things light up and these houses light up too! Hope you like it ......... comments are always welcome.

Friday, 18 February 2011


The Threads of Feeling Exhibition at the Foundling Hospital in London ....

The installation by VV Rouleau - each ribbon has a childs name attached.

Whilst staying with Danielle before going off to West Dean on the Julie Arkell papier mache course we went to see the Threads of Feeling Exhibition at the Foundling Hospital. What can I say .... tragic, poignant - completely unmissable as far as I was concerned! Can there be anything more heartfelt than a tiny scrap of fabric left with a child, by a mother with no alternative but to hand over her child in order that it might stand a chance of survival - I think not. The tokens were left as a 'mark for distinction' a way identifying a child in the unlikely event that circumstances changed and the child could be reclaimed at a later date. Tragically, approximately two thirds of the children who were admitted died.

The tiny tokens, some fabric, some treasured objects, some embroidered with names, some tiny bits of ribbon or cloth carried an enormous amount of emotion through the centuries. If objects speak to us these shouted out loud! Objects have always carried meaning for me and these tiny

pieces were always going to make me cry - and they did - the only surprise was it took me until the third row of exhibits! My sister, Lynda, was telling people I had to go crying in London before I went to West Dean on my course!

The most heartrending for me was the patchwork piece, made with love and cut in two - part left with the baby and part kept by the mother ................... it speaks volumes - doesnt it?

Monday, 24 January 2011


I came across the idea of a loose pocket last year whilst on the Julie Arkell workshop at Les Soeurs Anglaises in South West France. I thought Julie's pockets were both useful and lovely and as the year progressed I kept coming across others!

Above : - a patchwork pocket from the V&A quilts exhibition book, Julie Arkell's pocket, Ellie Evans' pocket and a lovely amulet bag by Tinctory - a kind of tiny pocket for precious treasures worn as a necklace which my Mum got me for Christmas.

Julie embroiders words on the pockets and on a lot of her work, Ellie combines documents printed (her own family documents or a clients when commissioned) onto vintage fabric and highlights important phrases by embroidering them . Eva, (tinctory) uses hand dyed, pleated silk to make her jewellery in this case the tiny bag meant to keep treasures close.
Here is my first attempt! Started in Boston sitting sewing with Kate and Jamie and finished over Christmas .......
Made from part of an old black denim waistcoat, a piece of antique french fabric (see the bigger piece to the right which we were shown as Les Soeurs Anglaises last summer) some lace, binding and a portion from a victorian metal beaded trim - all bought from Sandia at Rag Rescue. The fringe on the strap is a Wallace & Sewell ribbon with layers of binding and denim. Im pleased with the results - though in my head it was more pouchy with laces to pull the front pocket together and the back pocket being less floppy. Maybe next time .....