Friday, 23 November 2012

Stocking fillers

It's that time of year again.  Christmas is fast approaching, and I've been frantically trying to add stock to my Etsy shop.  My latest additions are these mini notebooks made from recycled wallpaper!

There are some amazing wallpaper designs to be found these days, and these are just a few examples of some designs that caught my eye.  The books are comprised of a single signature of around 10 folded pages which are then attached to the wallpaper samples which have been stiffened with gold or silver card.  The finishing touch is to round the corners, and then add a few beads to the spine in contrasting or toning colours.

I'm quite happy with the results.  I love the deep pink flowers against the black background on this one (above left), but I think my favourite is the 'lace-effect wallpaper' used on the notebook in the picture (above right).  I haven't seen this wallpaper before or since making this book, but I just love it.  Amazing things can be created from the most unlikely of objects.  Do you have any crafty recycling tips?  Do share them with me.

Until next time - happy making!

Sunday, 11 November 2012

Wear your poppy with pride

Hello everyone on this beautiful Remembrance Sunday.  Only a short post this week - my theme is 'Wear your poppy with pride' - and I've selected some of my favourite wearable poppy-related items from Etsy, this time through an Etsy treasury (my very first attempt at curating one!).  Hope you like it.

My daughter took part in her first ever Remembrance Sunday parade with the Brownies today, and I'm heartbroken that I couldn't be there to see her, but I'm some 200 miles away, helping to care for my mum who has cancer.

Whatever you're doing this Remembrance Sunday, give a thought to the fallen, try to be grateful for what you have, and wear your poppy with pride... Enjoy!

Rememberence Day Handmade Poppy BroochPoppy Flowers Round Glass Tile Dome Cabochon Pendant NecklaceBeautiful Red Poppy Flowers Antique Brass Dangle Resin Earrings Poppies

Pleated Bag // Shoulder Purse - Large Poppies in TealFOR BABY. crushing on you red felt poppy garland headband.
Paper mache bangle - Poppy, floral printRed Silk Poppy hair pin or broochPoppy Flowers Organic Women's Scoop Neck Top in Earth Natural
Hand painted Womens silk scarf red poppies on light green background natural silk FREE SHIPPINGPoppy linen tunicRed Poppies Large Black Canvas Tote
Elegant Poppy Red Shoe ClipsTeal handmade fairy wings with red poppyMac-Mac - Big red poppy purseFelted Slippers- Poppy Flowers -Made to order-

Monday, 5 November 2012

Remember remember...

Hello everyone.  Well, Bonfire night is upon us again, but I have to admit that I'm feeling my age and am in real danger of turning into a grumpy old woman.  The fireworks just seem TOO LOUD!  Or is it just me?  My childhood memories of Bonfire Night consist mainly of watching Catherine wheels spinning round, before dangerously flying off  the garage wall, to which they were supposed to be firmly attached, of making patterns with sprinklers, held tightly in mitten-gloved hands, and of (rather tame) rocket fireworks being lit on our lawn, having spent the previous few weeks in the requisite tin box.

Nowadays, in the age of increased health and safety awareness, I suspect most firework demonstrations are of the professional, 'properly organised' variety.  (Images of my dad going back to check on an improperly lit firework, embedded in a pile of sand springs to my mind).  But with organised firework displays increasingly being the norm, the fireworks seem to be bigger and louder, and seem to go on well before AND after Bonfire Night (see - 'Grumpy old woman' status has definitely kicked in).

But, in spite of all this, Bonfire Night still makes me feel nostalgic, and makes me feel as though Winter (my favourite season) has truly begun.  It's the combination of the cold night air on your face, whilst being wrapped up in your warm winter clothes, and enjoying the spectacle of light against the night sky...if only it wasn't so noisy! 

So, embracing the spectacle and tradition which is Bonfire Night, here's my selection of fireworks and Guy Fawkes-themed goodies from Etsy.

Guy Fawkes Paper Sculpture Kit by MakeNLearn

I love this paper sculpture kit from MakeNLearn, depicting the man without whom none of us would be enjoying the 5th November.  Remarkably effective, quite eerie and educational too.  I think it's a great product.

Firework pendant by somethingtodobeads

I love the colours and vibrant feel of this polymer clay        pendant by somethingtodobeads which really conveys the excitement of Bonfire Night.

Black firework arm warmers by SecrettSerendipity

Finally, I love these Black Firework Arm Warmers by SecrettSerendipity.
Beautiful fabric, and a truly novel way to get into the whole Bonfire Night vibe!

However you decide to enjoy Bonfire Night, stay safe and have fun!!
Until next time, have a great week!

Monday, 29 October 2012


I'm having to take a break from bookbinding for a couple of weeks, in order to look after my mum who is due to start some gruelling radiotherapy treatment for cancer.  It's going to be a tough few weeks, and I will miss my binding for the creative satisfaction and emotional calm it provides me with in difficult times.

Somewhat appropriately, the last book I produced was covered in a beautiful royal blue velvet effect paper, with the word 'Believe...' highlighted under a glass cabochon on the front cover.  That I should produce something with such a positive message at a time in my life where I feel my beilefs are being tested to the absolute limit is entirely coincidental.  But somehow, it seems kind of fitting.  Subconsciously or not, the idea behind this journal was linked to the importance I personally place on the having a journal or notebook as somewhere to offload the troubles of the day, to dream, write out fantasies, but ultimately as somewhere to connect with our inner selves, in a way that tapping into a computer just doesn't quite manage.  Writing down thoughts and feelings has, for me, always been tremendously therapeutic, and creating a beautiful and inspiring receptacle for these thoughts and feelings is a constant challenge.

The word 'Believe...' appealed for its simplicity, its ability to apply to any number of circumstances, and for its connotations of hope, optimism and achievement, whether its getting through a gruelling course of radiotherapy, or writing a novel.  We live in uncertain times, and it's often difficult to remain positive about what the future holds, but just one tiny grain of hope is better than none at all, and in many ways that's what this journal represents - that things can, and will, get better, if we work at it, and most importantly, if we...(you've guessed it) ...believe...

What gets you through the tough times?  Do let me know!

Monday, 22 October 2012

Hallowe'en is nearly here!

It's that time of year again.  The nights are drawing in, the leaves are tumbling down, and there's a definite nip in the air.  Yes it's autumn, and with autumn comes...Hallowe'en!

I've always loved Halloween, the dressing up, the decorations, and the whole vibe, despite the huge commercial circus that it has turned into.  It's hard to believe that, at one time, it was virtually impossible to get hold of Halloween costumes, spooky decor and the like.  We had to be inventive and create our own outfits out of mum's cast-offs, whereas now, you can pick up every conceivable object with a Halloween theme, along with your weekly supermarket shop.

But in spite of this rampant commercialism, there is something about Halloween which brings out the inner kid in me, and I love nothing more that playing with every spooky gadget and rummaging through the fancy dress outfits with my daughter.  No, the commercialisation of Halloween is here to stay, so we may as well embrace it.  Besides, I'm always fascinated by every year's new range of products, which somehow seem to get more gory/bloodthirsty every time, but it is interesting to see just how creative the range of Halloween products can get.  In particular, I love those products which have a slightly different slant on the whole Halloween theme, daring to veer away from the predictable pumpkin/witch's hat/spiderweb/black and orange combinations.

Which brings me neatly to my Etsy selections for this week.  As always, I'm staggered by the huge array of wonderful products out there, and the boundless creativity of the Etsy sellers, especially when it comes to Halloween-inspired creations.  Amongst my favourites are:

Vampire IstriaDesign

This Vampire journal by IstriaDesign is dedicated to the little-known Jure Grando, the first vampire mentioned in the written word.  I love the originality of this item, and the combination of goth and vintage elements.  Wonderful stuff!

Haunted London pop-up book by niapaper
I've always loved pop-up books, and the way they can convey a miniature world in book form, almost like a doll's house.  Perfect for Halloween is this Haunted London pop-up book by niapaper, uncovering tales of ghosts in the capital, including the Tower of London, Kensington Palace and St. Paul's Cathedral.  Enjoy!

Skull Bats book by Idle Workshop

My final selection is this highly original Skull Bats handmade book by Idle Workshop.  Perfectly capturing the Halloween feel, the book contains 70 pages of wizard parchment and magnificent carved bat-winged skulls on the cover.  Exquisite!

Whatever you're doing this Halloween, enjoy yourself, and if you're working on any Halloween-inspired items, I'd love to hear about them.

Until next time,  have a great week!

Monday, 15 October 2012

Longstitch binding

It was with some trepidation that I recently had a go at long stitch binding, my previous attempts some years ago having been far from satisfactory.  I must credit the fabulous 'Mini Book Necklaces and Keychains Tutorial' on the 'Art by Wendy' blog and 'Altered Alchemy' for providing the inspiration for my creations.  Their beautiful work encouraged me to have a go, and having some small leather samples to use up, I had another attempt. 

As you probably know, long stitch binding differs from traditional bookbinding in that the stitching is sewn directly through the covering material, leaving the (hopefully) beautifully neat stitches exposed on the spine.  Popular in the middle ages, the method has enjoyed something of a resurgence in recent years, and I'm starting to appreciate why.  It's a reasonably simple binding, requiring very few tools, and you can see the results fairly quickly.  It's also surprisingly versatile, with many variations of the style available.

Miniature leather longstitch binding
My own version uses the long stitch and chain stitch combination, but there are many different styles, often much more complex and detailed.  There are also many different closure mechanisms, ranging from leather cord to buttons.  My own version, I have to confess, was taken from the 'Art by Wendy' tutorial (sorry Wendy!), but I loved it so much, and it was perfect for a long stitch binding of this size (ie. miniature).  Attached to the covers were some beautiful filigree style embellishments from The Funky Aardvark in Chester.

The popularity of the long stitch binding is evident in the number of Etsy sellers producing remarkable work in this style.  There were too many to mention here, so I've whittled my selection down to the following beautiful examples:

This leather journal sketchbook by absolutelyevo demonstrates how beautiful the stitching can look.  The closure mechanism is a leather wrap closure.  Stunning work.

I love the stitching on this LongLink Bound Leather Notebook by ipiccolilibri which features a brown leather long as a closure mechanism.

 I love the clasp closing mechanism on this Embossed Leather Journal by Coco's Creations.  Beautiful leather and stitching too.

If anyone fancies having a go at long stitch binding, I found these online tutorials very helpful:

Sew Technicolor: Handbound (Faux Leather) Journal Tutorial

YouTube: Medieval limp binding

YouTube: Simple Bookbinding

Until next time, thanks for reading.  Have a great week!

Monday, 8 October 2012

Funky Aardvark

Last weekend I visited the beautiful city of Chester, where I had the privilege of meeting the inspirational Bex Raven, who runs the Funky Aardvark, a fabulous shop/gallery which showcases the work of a range of up and coming artists, as well as holding regular exhibitions and arts courses.

I was lucky enough to meet one of the talented artists whose work was on show - Katie of Kipper Tie and Cake, who makes the most wonderful badges, felt tattoos and traditional hand sewn teddy bears.

Alfie mohair teddy bear by Kipper Tie & Cake

Other work which impressed me included the colourful glass creations of Chrissie Smith Glass and Alicebead's individually designed jewellery and bags.

Happily Bex liked my work, and so I'm lucky enough to have some of my items on sale in the Funky Aardvark shop.  If you're ever passing through Chester, please do call in and show your support for this wonderful venture.  You won't find anything like it on the average high street.

A final mention must go to the Cheshire Sandwich Company, who make the most amazing sandwiches, and provided the kind of customer service that is sadly so often lacking these days.  Check them out if you get the chance.

Until next time, have a great week!

Saturday, 29 September 2012

Hebden Bridge adventures

Can't believe the weather we've had this week.  It's hard to believe that last weekend we were happily trotting around the delightful Hebden Bridge, and although admittedly quite cold, it was relatively dry.  It was also quite sad to witness the impact that the floods of earlier this year have had on so many businesses in the Hebden Bridge area.

Our first stop was the Blitz war-time tea room, a fantastic cafe above a shop, kitted out in 1940s war time memorabilia, a big band soundtrack and an appropriately attired waitress.  There were some wonderful examples of war time posters on the walls, newspapers dated from the era on all the tables, and a hat stand in the corner, holding a German helmet, fur stole and gas mask.  I was a bit nervous about the menu, with British war time food not exactly my idea of a treat, but our 'Blitz rarebit' (with an added layer of Spam) tasted wonderful.

Other delights on the menu included Homity pie, corned beef hash and macaroni cheese. 

Next stop was the Heart Gallery, showcasing some wonderful examples of British contemporary craft and jewellery.  Special mention must go to Heather Wilson, who describes herself on her business card as "Maker of mad and beautiful things".   She creates lovely personalised name pictures, which bring together a range of personal details regarding the recipient, such as hobbies, family, pets and occupations.  They make beautiful and unique gifts.  I also loved her range of hats: highly original, and with more than a touch of humour, they were also extraordinarily beautiful.

Off to Chester today - will report back soon.

Have a great week everyone!

Heather Wilson's 'Lying Cow' hat

Friday, 21 September 2012

Experiments in Copper Etching

I'm always interested in discovering new crafts, especially when I can incorporate them into my books in some way.  Recently I've been experimenting with copper etching, with the help of some wonderful tutorials on the Internet.  Basically, a design is applied to the surface of a copper blank, and this acts as a resist (meaning that areas left untouched will be etched, leaving your design as a raised surface).



A number of suggestions were put forward as to the best resist to use, ranging from a Sharpie permanent marker, to acrylic paint to nail varnish.  I experimented with the Sharpie and nail varnish, and got satisfactory results with both.

After covering the back of the copper blank with resist, the etching process begins by suspending the piece in a tub of ferric chloride.  I purchased my ferric chlorid from Maplin, but I would imagine this would be available at art shops.  Opinion varies as to how long to leave the copper in the solution, but keep checking, and after 30 minutes or so, the solution should have worked its magic.

This is my first attempt, and admittedly, it looks a little 'rough', but I quite like that.  I added it to my most recent book creation, and I love the effect of the etched copper against the luxurious velvet effect covering.

Burgundy velvet postbinding journal by GlassRoofBooks

As always, searching around on Etsy, I found some amazing examples of 'proper' copper etching, which brought home to me how much of a beginner I am when it comes to etching, and also how many talented people there are out there.

I love these dragonfly earrings by KismetStudiosOnEtsy
Such a simple design, by highly effective

MarieOfSweden has some truly beautiful items in her shop.  I was spoilt for choice, but this etching is typical of her style.  Simply stunning.

These Shooting stars copper etched earrings are another of my favourites, by CabariBeads.  I love the patina effect, which adds depth to the imagery.

So there we have it.  Any tips by those in the know regarding copper etching, I'd love to hear from you.  And anyone who fancies having a go, I found the Internet tutorials below very helpful.

Happy etching!

Copperheart - Tutorial: How to etch copper

Hodgepodgerie: Etching Copper

Autumn Equinox: Copper Etching Tutorial

Monday, 17 September 2012

C is for Cancer Research

My legs have just about returned to normal following my epic half marathon walk on Saturday 8th September, in aid of Cancer Research UK.  Taking part in the 'Shine' walk through the night in Manchester city centre was an amazing experience, despite the aches and blisters, not to mention the two hour wait before we even started walking.  But it felt good to be contributing in some small way to a very worthwhile cause. 
Before the walk - all smiles

The number of people taking part who had obviously been personally affected by cancer in some way was staggering.  Up until now, cancer had not directly impacted upon my life - I knew some people who had survived cancer, some who had died, but the 'C' word still felt far enough away for me to feel somewhat detached from it.  Like witnessing distressing news reports, you watch and feel for those affected, but you can still sleep soundly at night, safe in the knowledge that it won't directly affect you.  How ironic then, that I should learn the news, whilst still basking in the glory of completing my half marathon, that my own mother was suffering from cancer.  It's been a shock, but we're taking one day at a time, and hoping for a positive outcome.  So next time someone tells you they're raising money for Cancer Research, please donate - you never know, one day cancer could personally affect you.

Tuesday, 4 September 2012

'The Raven' post-binding journal

My latest project is this A5 size landscape book which is crafted in the post-binding style.

The main advantage of this style is that pages are refillable, and the journal has more longevity, and can be used again once the pages have been replaced.  I also like to think that the replaceable nature of the pages helps overcome the reluctance one often has to begin writing or sketching in a beautiful journal for fear of 'spoiling' it.

Chunky Raven Leather Journal with Black Paper by silverwillowstar

Nevermore Raven Journal Notebook 
by KandysKeepsakes

This particular journal was influenced firstly by Edgar Allan Poe, whose work I have dipped in and out of regularly in the past, particularly 'The Raven', which seems to have inspired a number of wonderful book designs, (see above) and a number of Treasuries on Etsy.  The 'bird on a branch' image was placed under a glass cabochon, and anchored firmly in the bottom right hand corner of the slightly padded front cover.

As so often happens when creating new designs, the ideas I had in my head (the same ones which kept me awake at night) didn't translate into reality quite as I had wished.  The original intention was to create a detachable brooch, influenced by the wonderfully inspiring 'Gothic Jewellery' by Harriet Smith, with pieces of black linen and lace forming a 'dead corsage' within which I was going to place the cabochon.  When I actually got around to doing it, I wasn't happy with the result.  It worked wonderfully as a brooch in its own right, but on the book, it just didn't work.  So I placed the cabochon on its own on the cover, and now I actually quite like the simplicity of the look.

Inside the book, I've lined the boards with some faded blue and grey vintage-style patterned paper, and added a handy pocket in matching paper for the inside back page.

I'm planning to make more journals in this post-binding style, so I'll keep you posted for any updates.

Have a great week!

Tuesday, 28 August 2012

Walking for charity

Back from a few days break in lovely Wales, I'm taking this opportunity to publicise this event - Shine Manchester 2011 - which my hubby and I are taking part in very soon.  The event involves us walking thirteen miles around Manchester in the middle of the night, in aid of Cancer Research UK.

My 'training' which started several weeks ago in preparation for the big event, has involved lots of long walks with my other half and my daughter.  Some have been leisurely, some a bit more challenging, but somewhat surprisingly, for someone who doesn't like exercise much, all have been incredibly enjoyable, giving me a new perspective on the beauty of this country's landscape.  Recent walks have taken in Watergrove and Dovestones Reservoirs in Rochdale and Oldham, Stoodley Pike in Hebden Bridge, and Robin Hood's Bed at Blackstone Edge in Littleborough, while in Anglesey, our walk through the Newborough Forest was, at times, almost spiritual in its peace and tranquility.

It's been fascinating to delve into the history of some of these places.  Particularly fascinating was the story of Watergrove, previously a village developed in the mid 19th century, but developed into a reservoir during the 1930s.  During periods of drought, the foundations and cobbled roads can still be seen.

Please support the Shine event in any way you can.  In the meantime, have a great week!

Watergrove Village

Watergrove Reservoir today                    

Thursday, 16 August 2012

Vintage loveliness

Apologies for lack of recent blogging activity.  Health and family matters, work commitments, and the demands of a 7 year old daughter during the school holidays have all overtaken me, and knocked me temporarily off-balance.  (By the way, avoid the local swimming baths during the school hols - unless your idea of entertainment is being repeatedly splashed by overweight dive-bombing teenagers, and exhibitionist canoodling couples...but that's another story...)  But I'm gradually getting back on track, and attempting to devote more time to my craft. 

My most recent project was inspired by a lifelong love of 1950s fashion.  I've made up some single signature (pamphlet-style) case-bound notebooks, and covered them in bookcloth, skivertex, or plain coloured fabric, backed with paper.  The frocks on the front were adapted from old 1950s dressmaking patterns, onto which I've added my own embellishments - a touch of fabric here, a gemstone or ribbon there.  Some of them were coated with crystal resin - purely because I had some left over from another project and was curious to find out how they would turn out.  I'm hoping to take part in the Altrincham Vintage and Craft Fair on Sunday - would be great to see you there.
Have a great week!

Tuesday, 10 July 2012

What does your notebook say about you?

I've found it fascinating to read all the comments written in response to a recent article in 'The Guardian' newspaper 'The joy of Moleskine notebooks'.  Despite never having experienced the aforementioned joy first hand, it's nevertheless been interesting to get people's views on the subject, and on the subject of putting pen to paper in its most literal sense.  Firstly, it's great that in this digital age, so many people are still using paper, and more importantly, are passionate about it.  What came across overwhelmingly in the comments were the strict requirements, expected by so many, of the ideal notebook: nice to hold, the correct weight of paper, the right level of 'roughness' in the paper, etc. etc.  But aside from the practicality of these requirements, it was interesting to note the importance people attach to these notebooks as objects of desire, desperate to cultivate the right image.  The image that sticks in my mind was of the office meeting where every identically dressed person pulled out an identical Moleskine notebook.  I found this aspect a little depressing, although not entirely unexpected.  Although constructed in the same way, all the notebooks I make are completely individual, and it would be nice to think that people choose a notebook which reflected their individual personality, especially when what is often written in a notebook or journal tends to be incredibly personal and individual.  If not the content, then certainly the writing is as individual as we are.  I suppose that's why the idea of so many people slavishly using these - dare I say it, rather dull - mass produced notebooks is a little depressing to me.  My motivations as a bookbinder is the love of books as tactile objects, and the desire to produce well-crafted, handmade products.  And finally, the cover designs, each one completely individual.

I have used all manner of notebooks - from my own individually designed ones to cheap spiral bound recycled paper ones.  It tends to depend what I'm using them for at the time.  I have several from Paperblanks, chosen for their beautiful covers, but I have yet to sample the delights of the Moleskine.  Possibly because they seem to me just a little...well...dull?  (Sorry Moleskine lovers!).  I like quality paper as much as the next person, but I suppose I also like the idea of the notebook as more than just a functional workhorse.

Which brings me to another of the points raised in the original discussion: the fear of putting pen to paper in such a beautiful object.  Many people seemed to share this fear, as though 'nice' notebooks should be saved for special occasions.  I can relate to this, but I still believe that notebooks are there to be used, and it's a shame to leave them sitting in a drawer when they could be written in, handled and adored.

Ultimately, notebooks exist to be written in, and our choices as to what we use to write in are as individual as we are.  It's nice when the notebook we use matches a set of our chosen criteria, whether we want the notebook to help us look fashionable, intelligent or nerdy, or is just something that is pleasant to write in.  But it's always an added bonus when what we write in looks good too, don't you think?

Further info:
Notebook Stories: a Blog about Notebooks, Journals, Moleskines, Blank Books, Sketchbooks, Diaries  and More

Wednesday, 20 June 2012

Steampunk adventures

The appeal of steampunk appears to show no signs of diminishing.  My latest notebook pays tribute to this genre, using these wonderful sprocket gears from Tim Holz, and patterned endpapers containing steampunk motifs.

Originating in the 1980s, the steampunk genre incorporates elements of science fiction, technology and the Victorian Age.  The 'steam' refers to the steam power of the nineteenth century, and 'punk' is a reference to the 'cyberpunk' style.

Steampunk's influence can be seen in elements of fashion, design and jewellery, and there are some stunning examples on Etsy - too many to mention really, but these are a few of my particular favourites.

Aranwen's Jewelry produces amazing examples of Victorian and steampunk jewellery, one of my favourites being this steampunk watch cuff in Brass and Silver.

Also of note is Le Boudoir Noir  - this pocket watch pendant is a gorgeous example of the steampunk style.

Steampunknation  produces some wonderful steampunk pieces.  I love this Steampunk Octopus necklace.


Journals and notebooks can also be given the steampunk treatment.  This Steampunk steam engine coptic stitched blank pocket journal from Mamayo Journals is a lovely example.

Have a great week everyone!