Thursday, 7 February 2013

Back in my Shed!

I've had a bit of a break from my shed, mostly down to it being frozen up or just plain too cold to work in!  I miss being in there, listening to my radio though, so the recent thaw was very welcome!  I began work on this notebook cover back in December, but only got it finished recently.  What do you think?

I have also been making a start on two new Filofax-style organisers - 
The leather pockets have been temporarily gummed in place and now I need to punch lacing holes around the edges.  Then I will bring them into the caravan, pour myself a cuppa, get comfy and begin the long job of lacing the edges.  It's very satisfying, but it does take time!  There is usually a nice smell of beeswax in the caravan at this stage as I use plenty of beeswax to help grip the lacing needle as it's pulled through the layers of leather.  Once this stage is done, I can attach the metal six-ring clasp in the middle with strong rivets.  Another quick polish and they'll be all ready!
Horses are such beautiful, graceful animals.  You've probably guessed that this image is one of my favourites!
I love big, old trees and enjoyed carving this out freehand.  The leather I used for these two organisers has come out really speckled when the dye was applied which I like.  You really never know how a piece of leather is going to turn out until the dye is dried and you begin polishing it up!  I love that stage best as you get some wonderful surprises.
I recently got the chance to repair an old leather headcollar which gave me a little trip down memory lane.  It was through repairing broken leather saddlery for local riding schools, that I discovered decorative leather and learnt how to tool and carve it.  I used to get lots of repairs to do, lots of broken reins, torn headcollar cheek pieces and snapped buckles.  I once even mended the leather cuff of an artificial leg once which obviously had to be a rush job!!  I've also covered a steering wheel with leather, made a falconry gauntlet and repaired a long, plaited bullwhip!!  I wish I'd taken photos!  Mending broken saddlery is very tough on the fingers if you haven't done it for a while and I was suffering from thread cuts for a few days after tackling this job, but I was pleased with the results.
It's very satisfying to restore something back to working order again!
And here is a notebook that I finished last month, a little present to myself!

Friday, 28 December 2012


Oh, it's been a long time since I've posted!  Sorry about that!  I've been busy in my shed leading up to Christmas and some of the projects I've been working on have been for gifts, so I've not been able to photograph them.  There was also a spell of cold weather which made working in the shed a bit miserable to say the least ........

Brrrrr, the little jug of water that I keep for dampening the leather has completely frozen solid and on a few nights, I had to bring my bottles of dye into the caravan to stop them freezing too.  Luckily, it's just raining now so it's much better (if I can make it across the muddy garden without slipping over onto my bum that is!!).
Here is the beginning of a covered notebook.  The leather is completely raw at this stage and very easily marked.  It's lucky that I hate having long fingernails, as the tiniest little scratch at this stage in the making will show up for ever!  Once the dye has been applied and the leather is buffed and polished, it is sealed and protected and can take the usual daily battering and I can breathe easier!
And here it is, freshly dyed and drying off.  It is at this stage that the leather really reveals itself and all sorts of marks and patterns appear.  Leather is a completely natural material and no two pieces are the same.  Think about your own skin, the years of wear and tear and changes that it has been through - weight loss, weight gain, injury, dehydration, allergy etc etc.  Well, those are the marks that you see on a piece of leather.  The hide that this notebook cover was cut from has some beautiful stretch marks on it, naturally created as the animal grew and matured.  They make a lovely, almost marbled effect when the dye is applied and they are picked out.  Now, tell me stretchmarks aren't beautiful!!!
And here it is, waxed, lined, laced and all finished.  I love making these and I want to make myself a leather writing notebook, but I haven't decided on the pattern yet. 
And now Christmas is over, I can show you this handsome chap!  I was asked to make a Green Man last month and this is how he came out!  I was a bit apprehensive as I'd not done anything like that before, but I was really pleased with the results!
 Here is a personal organiser that I made a few weeks ago, using one of my horse sketches.  It has now flown all the way to Nashville!

So that's a bit of what I've been up to.  My camera is back now, so I can take more pictures, although the light in my shed is usually too dark at this time of year.  Isn't it great that the shortest day has been and gone.  Even though Winter is far from over, the daylight hours are getting longer - yippeee!!

Happy Christmas!

Sunday, 25 November 2012

Back to Black!!

 Well, I've been nipping in and out of my shed a lot lately, whenever I get the chance, even if it's just to do a bit of dyeing or tidy my bench as the daylight is so precious at this time of year.  It's also so flippin cold in my shed and working on a slab of granite is VERY cold work!!  I've been bringing pieces of half-finished work into the caravan wherever I can to warm them up a bit and let the dye dry thoroughly.  So, on one wet, wild day, I wasn't too unhappy to be seated in the warm with various copies of Horse & Hound and Racing Post around me for inspiration, sketching horse's heads!  These are the ones that I was happy with and that should translate well onto leather.

I'm working on an organiser with a horse head design at the front and will hopefully have it in my shop in the next day or two.  At least the lacing round the edges can be done from the warmth of the caravan too!
 I also had a commission for a belt to make for a lovely customer.  The flowers were drawn freehand first and then I carved them out with my trusty little swivel knife.  (not easy to carve AND photograph at the same time, so excuse the blurring!)
 Once carved, I could set to work with my modelling and beveling tools, trying to create the details of petals and seeds and a feeling of 3D.  And then I did something that I haven't done for years!!  I reached for the black leather dye!!
I normally shy away from black as I worry that it doesn't show off the designs as well as antique brown does, but actually, I like the black a lot!  After lots of waxing and buffing up, the belt is all ready and I can't wait to give it to it's new owner!

Thursday, 15 November 2012


For some time now, I have been thinking of carving a horse's head into leather.  It's been a long time since I sat down with my art bag as drawing has been replaced by sewing and leathercraft over the years, but I spent most of my childhood drawing horses!!  I've been trying out different angles and styles and finally settled on an Arab head because they are just such beautiful, graceful animals and have very distinctive features which I thought would look good when carved into leather. 
Here is my horse sketch, carved into the leather!  Since taking this photo, I have dyed the leather and I'm just waiting for it to completely dry so I can apply the wax and get polishing.  This will be a leather organiser when it's all ready! 
This is a sample piece that I did to see how the design would work on leather.  I must have been pleased with it as I've added my initials!! 

Friday, 26 October 2012

Autumn Leaves

We've been away for a break recently and while walking in woodland, I picked up some leaves and did lots of wax leaf rubbings with them.  This is a really great way to pick out the veins and textures of each leaf (as well as being childishly fun to see the picture appear!  Go on, you try it, it's very relaxing!). 

I then picked out the clearest leaf rubbings and traced the outline onto tracing film.
And once I'd transferred the details onto the leather, I carved them out and dyed them!  So each leather leaf is a pretty direct copy of an original woodland leaf!  These two leaves would look great as part of a seasonal display. 
Here are some that I carved out and are waiting to be dyed.  A mixture of Sweet Chestnut, Field Maple, Oak and Hawthorn leaves!  This will be a personal organiser when it's finished.
And here it is after being dyed and waxed!  This is the exciting part, when you start to see how the finished item will look.  Just needs to have lacing holes punched, a strap attached, to be lined with suede, pockets cut, edges laced and clip attached and it's all ready!!  Better get my skates on!

I love using leaves in my designs and of course everywhere I go now, I have my nose to the concrete, looking for interesting leaves to pick up. 

Tuesday, 16 October 2012

Wristbands and Organiser all finished

Sorry for the long break since my last blog post!  I am having a few troubles with the camera I use for photography my leather things and it is now in the hands of Curry's for repair!  Here are the finished wristcuffs that I was making.  I'm really pleased with how they turned out and will hopefully make some more for the shop.

Getting the time to spend in my shed gets tricky at this time of year, but hopefully I will have electricity this year which should give me some extra hours.

Today, I finished this and put it in the shop -
I'm really pleased with it, the leather seems to have really taken on a lovely, rich colour.  It has taken me a long time to get the dyeing process just right, I used to be terrified of it and many things ended up in the bin (or flung against the far wall!!) when the dyes went wrong.  Thankfully, I have a lot more patience than I did when I was younger! 
I'm working on some other nature-inspired ideas, so I will let you have a peep as soon as I have some more time in my shed! xx

Friday, 28 September 2012

A few things I've been working on

Here are a few things I've been working on lately. 
Two small notebooks which I've enjoyed making
My fridge magnets have worked out well, the magnets have been glued in with a hot glue gun as I hate it when the magnet bit falls off the back of fridge magnets don't you!  I'm not sure what to do with them yet, they seem a bit small to put in a shop.  I'm still hoping to find a place to sell my leathercraft in 'real life' and a little bowl of fridge magnets will make nice, small gifts.
I finished this and it is now in my shop.  The lacing took ages and resulted in me busting several needles!  I like the finished effect though.

I put these little mobile phone charms in my shop too.  

Right now, I am working on some decorative wrist cuffs for a customer and am really pleased with how they are shaping up.  My little shed has become something of a dumping ground over the summer, with tools and pram and paddly pool finding their way in.  I need a good old shed clearout and a bit of inspiration on how to make it a cosy place to work.  A trip to IKEA maybe!!