english girl at home

A Sewing & Knitting Blog, Made in Birmingham, England


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Leather Bag Making

Handmade Leather Bag
A couple of weeks ago I attended a Saturday workshop to make a leather handbag run by Gosia Weber, a local designer maker here in Birmingham. The class was held at Bilston Craft Gallery, which runs a really good selection of courses which are also cheap! I booked the class back in December as a Christmas present to myself:) I’d seen the course advertised previously but been unable to make the date so was adamant that I was going to make it this time around. As it happened I had to travel  to Istanbul for work the week of the course – but arrived back on Friday in time to attend, if rather tired and keen to spend some time at home.
Handmade Leather Bag
Making a leather handbag was actually easier than I though and was mainly made up on a sewing machine – with some hammering of metal fastenings also involved! Gosia made it easy by providing a pattern for the three main pieces involved – the back (which also formed the flap), front and bottom/side piece. These were all cut from small leather off-cuts.
Handmade Leather Bag
In order to personalise the bags we each cut out a small motif and sewed this (by machine) onto the bag before the bag was assembled. I used the hand wheel rather than the pedal to keep sufficient control while attaching the motif. My choice of a moon and star motif was influenced by the color scheme of my bag. Plenty of tea was provided to keep us going.
Handmade Leather Bag
Handmade Leather Bag
The picture below shows all of the bags produced in the workshop. You can see we all went for different colours, designs, and even placement of the clasp!
Handmade Leather Bag


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Book Binding Involves Sewing Too!

A couple of weeks ago I attended a book binding workshop with my friend Claire. The workshop was at Bilston Craft Gallery, and was run by Rachel Marsden. A friend of ours had previously attended one of Rachel’s book binding classes and recommended it so I booked up as soon as I saw the event being advertised. Rachel is a blogger herself, as well as a book & paper artist, curator, researcher, etc!

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One of Rachel’s own miniature books

The binding technique we learned during the workshop is pretty straightforward and doesn’t require much equipment or many supplies so would be an easy craft to take up at home. I took some pictures as we were working so you can see the basic steps involved in the process below.

Rachel had set up a workstation with supplies for each of us for when we arrived. Along with some basic tools, she’d prepared 12 pieces of plain card which would form the pages of our notebooks.

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The first task for us participants was to fold these pages in half and create (using the awl below but a needle would do) four holes in the spine of each page. One hole 1.5cm from each edge and two holes 5mm from the centre of the spine.

Book Binding Workshop with Rachel Marsden at Bilston Craft Gallery

Next up came the sewing! I was very excited to discover I’d get to do some sewing:) The key to this was to loop in and out of the four holes you’d created – so taking your thread in at one end, back out at the second hole, in again at the third and back out at the fourth. It was also essential to loop the thread through the loops from the previous page with each step – to bind the pages together.

Book Binding Workshop with Rachel Marsden at Bilston Craft Gallery

Book Binding Workshop with Rachel Marsden at Bilston Craft Gallery

Having sewn the pages together we clamped them securely (using two small pieces of wood and elastic bands) while we secured the binding by glueing on a piece of fray (very similar to interfacing) the same size as the spine. A layer of pva glue was placed below and above the fray. We also attached a ribbon (to serve a bookmark) and a piece of headband (the small coloured ribbon-type material you’ll find inside the spine on hardback books) at this point. Both were glued to the spine with pva.

Book Binding Workshop with Rachel Marsden at Bilston Craft Gallery

Before releasing our books from the clamps we attached a second piece of fray, this time 2cm wider than the spine on each side, with the four corners trimmed off as below. The point of this fray was to allow the centre pages to be attached to the cover.

Having released our books from the clamps, we attached some lovely coloured endpapers. I used a beautiful (and lucky) paper Rachel had bought in china, which was red with gold speckling. The endpaper was cut slightly larger than the actual pages, folded in half (wrong-side out) and then attached (with a thin line of pva) along the spine edge of the two outermost pages.

Book Binding Workshop with Rachel Marsden at Bilston Craft Gallery

By this point we had bound centre pages, but they were in need of a cover. That meant that we got to choose a lovely piece of book cloth. Very exciting!

Book Binding Workshop with Rachel Marsden at Bilston Craft Gallery

We cut three pieces of cardboard (front, back & spine) for the cover – slightly larger that the size of the pages, although the spine needed to be the same width. We then cut a piece of book cloth large enough to cover all three pieces of card with a 2cm border around the edges, plus 5mm margins on either side of the spine. The bookcloth is glued to the card pieces to form the cover, and the edges are glued down.

Book Binding Workshop with Rachel Marsden at Bilston Craft Gallery

All that was left to do at this stage was to glue in the bound pages. This was done by glueing down the fray attached to the spine of the pages, and then glueing down the outer endpages to cover up the cardboard and secure the pages. As you can see, we were supplied with tea and cake to keep us going while we crafted.

Book Binding Workshop with Rachel Marsden at Bilston Craft Gallery

And that was it – we had a finished notebook. I got a few photos of all of our finished books together. I love how we all went for different colours and patterns.

Book Binding Workshop with Rachel Marsden at Bilston Craft Gallery

Book Binding Workshop with Rachel Marsden at Bilston Craft Gallery

Here’s my own book, with a silver speckled cover and lucky Chinese endpapers. Now I just need to think of something nice enough to put inside it.

Book Binding Workshop with Rachel Marsden at Bilston Craft Gallery

Book Binding Workshop with Rachel Marsden at Bilston Craft Gallery


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My First Workshop at Guthrie & Ghani

Batik Workshop at Guthrie & Ghani

A couple of weeks ago I attended my first workshop at Guthrie and Ghani in Moseley. Having visited on their opening day and had a nose at their upstairs studio, I was keen to go back and try a class there. A friend at work was attending a Batik Taster Session so I decided to tag along.

The course was run by Layla Tutt who is a local batik artist and, as she told us herself, first and foremost a rock chick and musician. Layla introduced us to batik by showing a number of her own works as well as pieces created in previous teaching sessions she has run with children.

Guthrie & Ghani Grand Opening
Guthrie & Ghani Grand Opening

(Batik pieces by  Layla Tutt)

Batik Workshop at Guthrie & Ghani

Layla then introduced us to the tools of the trade. The key tool is the tjanting which is used to create outlines in hot wax. This wax serves as a resist, creating an area protected from the paint which is then applied.

Batik Workshop at Guthrie & Ghani

We were given the opportunity to dye either one large or four small pieces of batik. I went for the one larger piece but it did mean that my very first attempt was my only attempt, and by the time I had got to grips with the tjanting I had run out of fabric. On a single layer image (which was all that was really possible in a short session as we didn’t have enough time to allow the paint to dry) batik can be quite a quick technique. However, Layla stressed that a large, multi-layered image can take a long time to create; largely due to waiting for each layer to dry before starting the next. The tjanting appeared to be one of those tools that does take a bit of getting used (wax coming out too fast, not enough wax coming out, etc) so it was difficult to achieve much in a short session, but it was good fun to have a go. I really enjoyed it but think I’ll probably stick to lino/screen printing and direct fabric painting at home due to the additional barriers of getting to grips with batik (the need to purchase a wax pot and tjanting, and to learn a new technique).

Batik Workshop at Guthrie & Ghani

Anyway, here is my batik piece from the evening. As I said, I only had one piece of fabric so I made use of every inch to squash on a fair few patterns and colours. Layla mainly creates floral patterns and her pieces inspired us to do the same – I think every single member of the class painted flowers!

Handmade Batik Print
Handmade Batik Print

Having finished painting my piece of fabric quite early in the evening I took advantage of the opportunity to pop downstairs into the Guthrie & Ghani shop to do some shopping.  I treated myself to some lovely Sevenberry fabric which I’m in the process of making into a blouse with a peter pan collar. Assuming I don’t slack off and spend too much time watching TV / reading blogs you’ll be seeing it very soon.

Sevenberry Fabric
Sevenberry Fabric