Monday, November 05, 2012

Alchemy for my sister

It was my sister's birthday in September and I wanted to make something special for her. I wanted to make her a statement necklace that would look good heading into the Australian spring and summertime, something that would catch the sunlight and glow. 

What's more impressive, I thought, than a necklace that turns scrap wood into FACETED NUGGETS OF PUREST GOLD?!*
*not made of actual gold. 

Following on from my experiences making my something out of nothing necklace, and my enormous gold-tipped sapphires necklace, I cut some scrap wood into rectangles of varying sizes and then ground the corners and edges off until I had some pleasing facets. I then drilled holes horizontally through the narrower top end so that they would hang in the same way as the Sapphires beads. I gave them a couple of coats of gold paint leaving one of the facets on the bottom of each bead unpainted so that the grain of the wood could be seen. I wanted to give a little nod to the original material and add a subtle bit of contrast. I then gave the beads a coat of varnish to give them a good lustre to really catch the light.
I strung the beads together using small oval opal beads (from my stash) as spacers, and attached it to thin strips of pale gold leather (also from my stash) so that my sister could vary the height of the necklace depending on what she was wearing.
The necklace got held up a Australian customs for a bit - I think they might have been investigating the secrets of my mad alchemy skillz, but it made its was to my sister and has been catching the springtime sunshine since then. 

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Crocheting in a bubble

It's been a little while since my last post. I am currently enjoying the beginning of my maternity leave. I have been luxuriating in this little post-work-pre-baby bubble, or as I have been thinking of it - the little holiday between being covered in glue and being covered in poo.

This new phase of my life has coincided perfectly with the change of season and I have been enjoying the misty mornings, cool days and general autumnal colours and smells. We have been getting the flat baby-ready, I have been going for walks, making soup and spending chunks of my day like this:

But while I keep pottering away working on this bit of lovely green zigzag stripey-ness, I thought I'd share with you a couple of other crochet projects I completed recently.

After the (wonky) success of my first little baby cardigan, I was eager to have another crack at it. Luckily, two of my friends were pregnant so I whipped up a cardigan for each of their little ones...

Hooray! Much less wonky than the first one! The colour hasn't come out very well in this pic but it is a gorgeous teal-blue and the same tweedy green from the first cardi. I used the same Kelly Sweater pattern this time adding some stripes for a bit of interest. I used a slightly larger hook (4.5mm) because this little lady was going to be a bit older by the time the cool weather properly arrived.

The stripes are rows 3, 5 and 18 of the body and row 9 of the sleeve. 

A couple of green buttons for the green stripes and a blue button to finish it off.

The next little cardigan was for a little fellow who has only just made his world debut.
A lovely soft grey with stripes in the same teal as the previous cardi.

For anyone playing along at home - this one has stripes on rows 2, 4, 6 and 18 of the body and row 9 of the sleeves.

Little blue buttons for little blue stripes.

I'm really pleased with how these little cardigans turned out. I'm still not sure if the sleeves are right but they're less bulgy than my first attempt. I've also managed to make the edges more straight and even than the first attempt too. Makes me think I'll have to make another one for our little Botterbean (mainly so that it doesn't get shown up by these two!)

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Last minute boots

I am a week away from going on maternity leave, and in the midst of winding up at work, I wanted to make sure I finished off these boots for Mr B. I had previously made him these boots in black which he wears all the time and I thought that he might like them in this lovely brown too. The poor fellow has been waiting a while for these - I started them in February and they have pretty much been relegated to the back burner since then!

Punching the toecap.

Here's a post I did about folding the edges of the upper pieces ready for stitching. You can see that the silver pen line was a marker for the two rows of decorative stitching. 

While these uppers were waiting for me to get around to lasting them, they got splattered with hydraulics oil when a nearby machine had a rather messy malfunction. Luckily the leather coped ok and there was no need to start all over again.

I burnished the brogue holes and decorative stitching with a darker shade of shoe polish and added a hard-wearing top-piece to the heel and a thin layer of rubber to the leather soles for ease of future repair.
Thankyou to JJ for trimming the soles while I was busy doing some 'proper' work.

Mr B is happy with the result. I am quite pleased with them too. 

(and they only took most of a year to complete!)

Thursday, August 30, 2012

new for old

This was a commission from a couple of years ago...

The sandal on the left belonged to a friend. She loved them but they were rather knackered, and unbeknownst to her, her husband asked me if I could re-produce them for her. (What a lovely fellow!)

I spent a while sourcing the various bits and pieces - O-rings to form the foundation of the decorated strap, suitable beads, leather thonging etc, and experimented with the knotting technique. The wider interwoven central strap proved beyond me so I went with three thinner plaited straps instead.

I padded the insole so that it would be super comfy and covered it with soft leather. I made a wedge sole from layers of cork and covered it with hessian. The original sandals had a rubber wedge moulded to look like it was woven.

I enjoyed working on these sandals. It was a good project for figuring out some new techniques and improvising with hardware etc to achieve the look I was after. 

Monday, August 27, 2012

Switcheroo - version 2

After the success of the first button braces re-fit for Mr B, he requested that I convert a pair of his regular clip-style braces to accommodate buttons. 

regular clip-style braces

Rather than having two separate button tabs on each end as before, he asked that the leather tabs be one piece as you see on some older, traditional braces.

I made a template based on the shape of the tabs from the first pair, and made a trial tab. I found it to be too long and so adjusted the template. When I was happy with the pattern I cut the tabs from leather, again ensuring I cut them in the direction of least stretch.
The markings on the above tabs is where I will begin and end the stitchline.

stitching the tabs.
I used a Singer post (as opposed to flatbed) machine. It has a wheel foot which stays in constant contact with the leather so that it cannot shift around.

I trimmed the excess leather close to the stitchline, making sure I left an even curve into the tab ends. I then lightly hammered the stitched area into a nice round shape.

I punched the buttonholes with a buttonhole punch...

...and attached them to the braces with another leather tab and a couple of rivets.

I am pleased with the result. As is Mr B. Success all round!

Thursday, July 19, 2012


I'm a very lucky lady because I get to share my life with a lovely fellow who is not only very funny and very clever, but also manages to be thoroughly dashing and impressively dapper. He recently bought some vintage button braces that had never been used and were generally in a good condition, however the button tabs had become brittle - they were made of some sort of vinyl-coated cardboard and they ripped the moment Mr B attempted to attach them to his trousers. So I switched the old cardboard-y ones for some nice new leather ones.

I cut off one of the old tabs and used it as a template to make the new ones. When cutting out the new leather tabs I made sure that I cut them in the direction of least stretch. Leather tends to be less stretchy along the animal's back from head to tail, and more stretchy sideways around its body. I knew that there would be pressure on these tabs and I didn't want them stretching out of shape. I used a small hole punch to make the holes for the rivets and a buttonhole punch to make the buttonholes.

I used gum tragacanth to slick the edges with my fingers - you can see the tab behind still has its fuzzy raw edge, the one in front is nice and slick. (more about gum tragacanth here)

Then it is just a matter of folding the tab over the D-ring, inserting a rivet and bashing it flat.

And ta da! New leather tabs for vintage button braces.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Lantern slides old and new

I have a few lantern slides which I found ages ago at The Junk Shop in Greenwich, south-east London. There were loads of them in the shop - photos of landscapes around the world, illustrations of Bible stories,  but I chose a few interesting scientific-y ones...

Hand-written label on slide reads: 'Sponge - Caualo.'
I love the little arrows.

Label on edge of slide reads: 'Miliolina, life appearance.'

'Group of, on dark ground.'
'Flatters & Garnett, Ltd., 32, Dover St., Manchester, S.E.'

'X15. Suckers on foreleg [male symbol] Dytiscus.'

'Gasterosteus spinachia'

Hand-written label reads: 'Centropus sinensis'
Label pictured in slide reads: 'Common Coucal, Centropus sinensis, Adult Male, Island of Ceylon'

I have a more recent addition to my little family of slides...
it is a lovely lino cut print of some old pewter charms made by Jo Waterhouse from the blog Toot as in Foot.

Have you seen Jo's blog? It is amazing, one of my absolute favourites in the whole of the internets. She has an excellent eye for unusual and beautiful objects (which she sells at Spitalfields Market), takes lovely photographs and has a very funny take on the world. She also makes videos of things going from one side to the other. You should make yourself a cup of tea and have a trawl through her archives. 

A couple of months ago she was generous enough to give away three of these beautiful slides and lucky old me was one of the happy recipients! Hooray!
She very swiftly sent it off to Botterman Empire HQ, and I am a bit embarrassed to admit that it took me until last weekend to gather the necessary bits and bobs to fashion a new display system for my little collection.

Rather than keeping them on the window sill as I had in our last flat, I wanted to add them to the growing gallery wall in the living room. I found a  suitably sized frame at the junk market in Deptford, pulled it apart and cut the angled edges off the two shorter sides using my nifty piercing saw. I then attached these two frame pieces to the wall and lined up the lantern slides on the bits of frame. The little lipped edge of the frame stops them from sliding off.

The 'Common Coucal' and the 'Gasterosteus spinachia' are checking out the new arrival.

The growing gallery.

Thanks again Jo!

Saturday, July 14, 2012

a lovely award...

I'm sure I'm not the only one to be feeling a bit jilted by summer. The rain is endless, and even though it is making everything nice and green and is quite nice to listen to in the evenings, I would really like some summer now please now. I would like to walk in the breezy sunshine without a cardigan and umbrella. I would like to enjoy the long evenings out and about while we still have long evenings. I would like my hair not to be frizzy all the time. Sigh. 

I haven't been making much at home. We have been really busy at work (working on some really great projects - more on that as and when it's appropriate...) and I have pretty much just been flopping when I get home. I have made a couple of bits and pieces but they've been presents and I haven't wanted to post about them until they have made their way to their new homes, all of which means things have been a bit quiet on the blog front.

In the middle of all this un-inspired-ness, how lovely to be nominated for a Lovely Blogger award by Snippa! Thank you so much! It's funny, I think of myself as such a newbie blogger and I find it amazing that anyone has even found my blog is such a vast digital ocean, and that people take the time to stop by and comment. It's really great. So thank you Snippa for the lovely boost! (If you haven't seen her blog you should have a look. This is one multi-talented lady - sewing, sock knitting, she also dabbles in a bit of silversmithing making beautiful pendants using semi-precious stones.)

There are rules attached to this award. They are as follows...
- Thank the blogger who nominated you
- Post the badge
- Share seven random facts about yourself
- Pass the award on to ten more bloggers

Some random facts about myself are as follows...
- I made my first pair of shoes when I was 16. I was doing a week's work experience with the excellent Eugenia Neave and I made a pair of sandals. They were black leather, a solid panel on the inside of the foot and dividing into straps on the outside, and I cut out little star shapes on the inside sections and stuck silver leather beneath that shone through. They were very wonky BUT I HAD MADE SOME SHOES!!!

- My second toes are longer than my big toes. I believe this is called 'Morton's Toe'. Apparently this means I will never become a prima ballerina (which is ok with me) and also means that a certain husband who shall remain nameless refers to them as my "weird long finger-toes".

- I can be oddly OCD about certain things, for example, when I do the washing up I always wash in this order - glasses, cups, bowls, small plates, big plates, cutlery, pots and pans.

- The Muppets Take Manhattan is one of my all-time favourite movies.

- I can do pretty legible mirror writing. 

- I once had a brush with death when a tree I was sheltering under during a sudden storm got blown over.

- There was a time during primary school when loads of chain letters were doing the rounds, all with the don't-break-the-chain-send-this-letter-on-to-seven-people-or-something-terrible-will-happen-to-you warnings. I found this to be a great worry in my young life until my mum told me it was ok to break the chain, I wasn't going to be beset by calamity. Ever since then I have been a bit adverse to chain-style letters, even those harmless and probably quite useful recipe chain emails.

(It is for this reason that I will not be passing this Lovely Blog Award on to ten other bloggers. I greatly appreciate being included on Snippa's lovely blog list and I shall take her up on her don't-feel-obligated-to-pass-this-on disclaimer.)

Gosh, what a lot of words! To balance things out, here is a picture of a miraculous face that once appeared on my finger whilst eating chocolate cake...

And for you nature lovers, here's a picture of a baby ladybird...

Monday, July 02, 2012

Snow White and the Huntsman

**This is an example of some of the work I was involved with when I worked for a company called Theatrical Shoemakers. We made costume shoes for film, theatre, television etc**

We at Theatrical Shoemakers had a great time making some really interesting boots for Snow White and the Huntsman from designs by the amazing Colleen Atwood.

We made multiple pairs of boots for the actors playing the Dwarf characters, as well as pairs for the little people stand-ins for each Dwarf character. We also made pairs for stunt doubles as well as little stunt doubles. 

Ray Winstone as "Gort"
Brown leather and suede with pleated/pulled together lacing detail.

Johnny Harris as "Quert"
Brown suede boot with leather strap.
Boot on the left is for Johnny Harris, boot on the right for little person stand-in.

Toby Jones as "Coll"
Black suede boot with red leather fold down cuff and thonging detail.

Midway through making "Coll" boots for Toby Jones, little stunt double, little stand-in.

Midway through making "Duir" boots for Eddie Marsan, little stunt double, little stand-in
Brown and yellow suede with inside and outside lacing.

"Muir" boots for Bob Hoskins and little stand-in.
Grey suede inside laced boot with blue suede fold down topline.

 Brian Gleeson as "Gus"
Brown and blue suede boot with orange leather fold down cuff

Iain McShane as "Beith"
Brown suede boots with buckle detail, pink leather fold down cuff with stitch detail.

Nick Frost as "Nion"
Brown suede boot with grey leather fold down cuff and outside leather and lacing detail.

"Nion" boots for Nick Frost and little stand-in.

"Young Prince William"
Brown suede inside laced boot with blue leather fold down cuff.

I think these are for Sam Spruell as "Finn" (or I may have gotten confused and included some boots from another film entirely!)
Black leather boot with centre seam piping detail and false lacing detail at back (inside zip)

terrible photo of "Finn" (?) boots, but I wanted to show the nice topline of this boot. This can cover the knee or be folded down as a cuff.

Vincent Regan as "Duke Hammond" 
Brown suede boot with bound edges, false outside lacing detail (inside zip).

We also made boots for Dave Legano as "Broch" as well as boots for Sam Cafflin as "Prince William" in brown suede with buckles and black suede with buckles, but I now realise I managed to not photograph them. Sorry all.

So there you go, lots to keep an eye out for when watching Snow White and the Huntsman. (I just wish we'd had a chance to make shoes for Charlize Theron's evil queen...)