Saturday, 12 April 2014


Over the years my work has got smaller and smaller.  I don’t know why this is but I could speculate that the clutter I was creating in a small space with vast swathes of velvet when I made bags stressed me out or that I hate machine sewing and would rather sit curled up with a needle and thread.  There is the fact that I just love miniature things, the blankets I made for my daughter’s dolls house for instance, tiny sewing kits and bottle cap pincushions.  Whatever the reason my work is now tiny – my smallest pincushion design is 20mm in diameter!

Recently, I have had to rethink my attitude to size when a lovely customer received their mini pincushion and needlebook set and said that even though they had read the measurements in the description that they had envisaged the set to be bigger!  They were not the first person to mention this and a couple of previous customers had also mentioned that my idea of a normal size for a needle book might not measure up to everyone else’s!   As a result I had retitled all my listings online as ‘miniature’ to clarify things but for my latest customer as a leather worker with big needles, she really wanted a bigger set to use.
My biggest problem with upsizing my work apart from my attitude is the raw materials, one of the reasons that my mini pincushions are 40mm in diameter is that that’s how big milk bottle tops are and that’s what I use for the bases as there are loads of them about.  I’m not a bookbinder by any stretch and I make one size of needlebook and one size only and I got all my grey board cut in advance by a man on Ebay to 7 x 5.5 cm.  If I want to make a needlebook necklace I trim some off but I can’t make the card any bigger!

Luckily, lots of people at my kids’ school save their plastic bottle caps for me and I often do shady handovers of suspicious looking bags in the playground!  Sometimes odd sizes creep in to the bags and I put them to one side to see if they inspire any one off projects  and I had a feeling that a couple of caps from kids’ vitamin bottles might work here for my customer’s pincushion.

 As for the needle book challenge,  I don’t know why I didn’t just go to a craft shop and buy some grey board, I really don’t – I’d already removed all the backs from my old spiral notebooks and sketchpads for random things and lack of inspiration and fear of upsizing just led to procrastination and delay!  Then, from nowhere whilst sitting in the pub one tea time with my husband, came the answer!  I don’t know why I didn’t think of this before since my amazing bookbinding teacher and guru Kate Bowles often uses this exact same material but I had to wait until it was under my drink before it dawned on me!  I would like to apologise to The Busfeild Arms in East Morton for the theft of four of their beer mats but I can assure them that it was in a good cause!

Some wider lace,  a slightly different approach to the findings on the latch fastening and some tiny beads on the pincushion because the lace pattern was begging for them and here are the results!  I don’t think that I will be regularly making normally proportioned sewing equipment but for a one off it’s been rather nice to see a jumbo set and a mini set side by side!
Paula xxx  

Monday, 7 April 2014

Quiet work.

It's been one of those running-to-stand-still months when you feel a bit like a hamster on a wheel.  I've got behind with a few of my orders and that's bringing me down a bit.  After a slovenly Winter working everywhere and anywhere it was warm, it was time last week to put the clocks forward and get back up into the loft where my workroom is.  So with my husband's help we've cleared the desks (and the floor) and I've got on with some really productive work at last. 

Still not feeling tip top though, I really don't like to make things when I'm not feeling good so have been recharging with some quiet, enjoyable jobs.  At Yarndale last year on my birthday I bought a big bag of 3mt lengths of the cotton lace I use on most of my pincushions and needle books but all in white and cream, the reason for this was that the day before I had taken part in a natural dyeing workshop with the amazing Claire Wellesley-Smith at Clarabella and thought I would have a go at colouring it myself. 

I've generally just been using stuff I had in the house but have got some great subtle colours so far with tea, coffee and left over mulled wine from Christmas!  In the first pic the dark brown at the top of the card is the commercially dyed caramel lace in the background that's been over-dyed in a pan of mulled wine - it's a strange smell to have in the house in April but not an altogether unpleasant one!
  My next job is to sow all of the dye plant seeds that I bought enthusiastically after the workshop and be a little more adventurous! Paula x