Monday, 9 December 2013

My Business Saturday shopping spree

Small Business Saturday UK

Saturday 7th December was Small business Saturday here in the UK, so I decided that I would  try to only use small busiess for the whole day. Luckily my home city of Cardiff has a great variety of small shops and independent cafes to frequent so it was hardly a struggle to find places to give my custom too.

First stop of the day was to the Christmas market where  there were plenty of craft, jewelry and food stores to browes through. Not having made a start on my christmass shopping yet (I always seem to leave it till the last minute for some reason) it was great to see so many unique and handmade products, from local craftpeople and further of field.

One of the favourite sellers I saw at the Christmas market was Natures Best Designs   who make a variety of wooden bird boxes, and bee hotels along with other garden items and pet house. The items are realy beautifully made out of  hard woods and some even have a slate roof! They are clearly very passionate about the quality of their work and also about how to promote wildlife in our gardens and outdoor spaces. I had a lovely chat to them about the visiting hedgehog in my garden and what to do to encourage it to visit more often ( and maybe even stay)!
The next stop on my trip was Cardiff indoor market that holds a thriving selection of  sellers  and small business. You can find any thing from hardware stores to a wide selection of butchers and fruit and veg sellers and even a fortune seller.
I was there for two shops in particular , firstly to go to the brilliant E Ashton fishmongers, this is a Cardiff treasure and has a really great variety of fresh fish and sea food. 

It's always a real treat to pick up some really fresh fish from here for tea, you can even buy cockles or oysters as a snack to eat straight away and the staff are really helpful if your not sure how to cook a particular fish.
Next up was the fabric store to peruse their selection of  Christmas fabrics for some festive sewing projects I'll be working on over the next week or so ( seeing it's already the 9th I better get cracking!)
For a small sewing store they have a great range of haberdashery and the prices are pretty competitive and between that and the haberdashery store that's  a few plots across I can usually get all of my sewing supplies here rather than having to go further afield to John Lewis.

 I love all these festive prints  they look so pretty and I can't wait to use some of the for homemade festive decorations and gifts.

My final stop on my shopping spree was to two shops  in the lovely Royal Arcade one of several beautify Victorian shopping arcades in Cardiff. These arcades are really my favourite place to  spend a leisurely afternoon window shopping when ever I get a free few hours.

First stop was to the brilliant deli Wally's which was originally set up at another nearby location in 1947. It has always been part of my Christmas traditions to come here and stock up on festive produce  and as they now have a gorgeous olive bar and a really good coffee shop I find myself finding more and more temptations to come here all year round!

Then on to my final stop was the Pen and Paper stationers, to pick up a birthday card. I love stationary and I come here quite a lot of my art supplies, they have a great selection of artists materials as well as stationary, cards and gift wrap.  


I really enjoyed my Small Business Saturday shopping spree and it definitely reinforced the idea that  shopping in smaller  retailers is a much more pleasant and friendly way of shopping rather than shopping at big brands. I really hope that Small business Saturday was successful in giving the small independent businesses a well deserved boost and would encourage everybody to try having their own small biz shopping spree. Hope you all have a super week xxx

Monday, 18 November 2013

My visit to Renegade Craft Fair London!

  It was a very happy coincidence that I found myself in London on 9th November and was free to go to The Renegade Craft Fair to take a look at all the fab indie makers and designers showing their work there.

Now in its 3rd year of being held in London, if you haven't already heard of it already Renegade is a curated craft marketplace that showcases  indie and contemporary designers and craftspeople and promotes the handmade and DIY craft movement.

It was really inspiring to go and see all the wonderful handmade items that were on offer and I had to be really restrained as I was in danger of having a serious shopping spree and was already meant to be on a tight budget. Being mindful that I have trying to be saving at the moment and the Jaunt to London was quite a big treat in itself  I managed to leave with only one purchase ( I know I'm not sure how I did it either !!)  a lovely printed moleskin notebook created by OhNoRachio.

I did, however, come away with a fare fe scribbles about work I found really impressive and thought I would share with you some of my favourite sellers that I saw that day.

First up is OhNoRachio, who I made my one and only purchase with, Rachel creates beautiful hand illustrated stationary, ceramics and various charming textile items  ( like this gorgeous cloud cushion )
Large Happy Cloud Cushion/Pillow - Mint Cheeks
image source

I have been admiring her notebooks for quite sometime after seeing them featured on the Etsy blog and couldn't help but  treat myself to one. It has the caption on the front " The Adventure is just beginning " so hopefully it will give me some get up and go  when I'm in need of some
The Adventure Is Just Beginning -  Moleskine Journal
image from
Another seller I really loved was Designosaur.
Triceratops Dinosaur Laser Cut Ring, Dinosaur Ring, Stacking Ring, Perspex or Wood Ring. Statement Ring. Novelty Ring. Gifts for Her.
image from
Making  fabulously fun laser cut jewellery in bright acrylic and cherry wood, Designasaur have a joyful and upbeat feel to their pieces, inspired by dinosaur silhouettes and other quirky motifs, these accessories really brighten up your day and I was sooo tempted to treat myself to one , or two or three, ah well Christmas is on its way.
         KukuBigBag  by CandiceLau  is another  seller I saw that is destined to be on my Christmas list.
Beautiful handmade leather bags and accessories in block colours and geometric shapes combine contemporary design with traditional craftsmanship in a really effortless and chic manner. I was really blown away by these bags
image from
They are so wearable but really striking and different and I know that If I owned one I would use it to death.
There were so may brilliant sellers at Renegade that I could truly go on for hours on all the wonderful work I saw there, there are a few other sellers that I really wanted to talk about but I'm conscious this will become a very long post if I do so maybe I'll revisit them here in someway in the future. It ws so encouraging to see unique and handmade items being sold  and it really inspired me with my own work . I definitely want to join in the Renegade fun as a seller at some point in the future although I have a lot of work to do to get me to that point.

Hope you all have a really great week. xxx




Monday, 4 November 2013

Fabulous plumage and how to clean naturally sourced feathers

File:Types de plumes. - Larousse pour tous, -1907-1910-.jpg
As a milliner its not surprising that I love using feathers in my work, I'm also a bit of a bird and nature lover and  as millinery can be a pretty carnivorous activity in general , this is something that doesn't always sit comfortably with me.
Recently I have been pondering the use of feathers in my work, there are strict laws in place to  stop birds being hunted solely for their feathers, these laws stem from the early 1900's when  extravagant plumage on top of a hat was very desirable and plume hunters killed birds such as egrets to supply the millinery trade with their beautiful feathers.
These days the feathers used in millinery are as a by product of the poultry industry  or from birds like Peacocks that  shed their feathers annually and as these come in a myriad of colours and styles I never struggle to find a selection of gorgeous feathers to use  in my work.

This piece was created using rooster saddle feathers along with goose and duck feathers to create this striking affect
I am also pretty thrifty by nature and have started to collect what I call naturally acquired feathers. This collection comes from  feathers I find out walking and others  that are given to me by family members who find them on their travels or keep birds themselves. (I recently was given some flamingo feathers that a friend found along the path in a the zoo!)
Now these feathers can not be used straight on to a hat they need to be cleaned first , and after a little experimenting I have come up with a pretty good method of cleaning them.
First you assemble these simple house hold items  shown below:
Mix a good squirt of washing up liquid with some white vinegar ( this stops the feather from clumping up)
 Swill the feathers gently  in the soapy water then rinse in a separate tub of clean water ( for really grubby feathers you may want to repeat this a few times.

Pat dry using an old towel ( I can guaranty if you use mums nice white ones you will be in trouble - so best dig out the old grotty one ) resist the temptation to smooth out the feathers at this stage

Then blow dry using a hair dryer on a low setting - this can take a little time so I like to get them about 70% dry  then leave to air dry a little before giving them a final blow and smoothing them out as I go

Once they are all completely dry and you have smoothed them out they are ready to be used, at this stage you can trim them , dye them or  curl them  however you choose to.

Monday, 7 October 2013

Lady Lilith by Dante Gabriel Rosetti- A picture post

Lady Lilith by Dante Gabriel Rossetti source:
So I was having a browse through my inspiration folder today when I came to an article about  Pre-Raphaelite paintings, now I have always adored  Pre-Raphaelite paintings but hadn't come across this one before.  Today for some reason it really stood out  amongst the others in the article that I knew so well so I thought I would share it as a moment of inspiration  for everyone. 
I also wanted to share with you this really sweet mug I bought the other day. You know those impulse buys you have when think I really don't need this but I'm going to get it anyway, well this was one of them.
I know it sounds silly but I actually think this purchase has paid off over the last week ! I've had a pretty nasty cold  and the only thing that has really helped me keep at my desk sewing was drinking lots ( and I mean lots ) of hot drinks. I always think it tastes better  out of a  nice mug and this one really cheered me up!
So you probably now want to know what elixir I've been putting in this glorious mug well, it hasn't just been good old English breakfast ( although you can not beat it in the mornings!), my lovely friends bought me this scrummy tea back from a lovely little shop in Winchester. 
 Its called Winchester Sunday tea and it's a blend of Assam with vanilla, it is really lovely, it recommends that you have it with steamed milk, but as I haven't got a fancy coffee maker or milk steam I've just ben having it like normal tea with milk. I was surprised how nice the vanilla was without being too over powering. Definitely will have to get some more when this runs out, which could lead to a fabulous trip to Winchester which is indeed well over due.

Just also want  to point out that my Glorious mug does perfectly match the coasters I use in my work space making it the number one perfect mug to use whilst I'm working!
Any way I hope you have enjoyed my quick ramblings about tea, mugs and Pre-Raphaelites and have had a great start to your week! Jessie x

Saturday, 5 October 2013

What A Fabulous Film! - The Women (1939)- Director George Cukor, Costumes by Adrian

Quite some time ago I was recommended to watch The Women by a friend simply because she said it had some amzing hats in it. What she didn't tell me is how witty and charming it was.
It had been on my list of films to watch ever since but not knowing that I would enjoy it as a story as well as a visual treat it seemed to get a little further down the list, however on my most recent lazy day I decided that I would give it ago and I enjoyed it immensely, the costumes and hats brilliant and I actually really enjoyed it as a film too. there are a lot of brilliant lines in it and the scenes in the spa and on the ranch are some of my favourites.
Obviously A big draw of the film has to be the costumes, they are just beautiful and they capture each individuals character perfectly. I have to say Rosalind Russell's costumes really were my favourites, they complement Sylvia's character so well, and as an actress I think she carried the role beautifully. Her costumes are a mix of quirky sass and haughtiness.

I also really loved Mary Boland's costumes, in my opinion the Countess is such a fun loving character and her costumes are a big part of that and her Reno Ranch plaid shirt and pearls ensemble sums this up pretty well. 
 One part of the film which was quite unexpected ( you can tell I hadn't done my research on the film before I watched it) was the fashion show. I have a real love for films of this era which have a section made in Technicolor, I find it really magical, and in this film it really shows off  Adrian's  talents not only as costume designer but also as fashion designer of the time.
This brings me nicely on to the hats worn by the characters. Now I could write a whole series on my love for the hats in this film but to sum up by saying that my friend was right, the hats in the film are wonderful, I knew I have found an abundant source of inspiration  after the first 15 minutes of the film.

It reminded me that there was a time when it was normal for a women never to leave the house without a hat on and also reminded me of my recent lack of hat wearing!
So to seize this moment of inspiration, I have decided to attempt to recreate one of the hats worn in the film, now there are so many I could choose and as I type this I can hear myself suggest making two or 3 others  so you never know I may very well do that. But to start with at lest I have decided to pick this piece worn by Sylvia. I just love it for its playfulness but also its stature and form.
 I still haven't quite worked out exactly how I will interpret it but I know its going to be fun trying.
Any way I have written a lot more than I intended to so I will leave it there for now, I hope you have all had a great week and  enjoy the weekend. Jessie xxx


Wednesday, 25 September 2013

Beaded swallows and project musings

So A little while ago I  talked about a beaded embroidery broach project I was making for a friends birthday ( yay unintentional alliteration I love that!)
Well this is a picture of the type of beaded embroidery I have tried before. It's a picture of one of the hats I made for the last millinery course I attended and my aim was to use the same technique and a similar design but just on a smaller scale.

Now the first time I made the swallows for this hat they took forever, but as I did the second or third I got quicker and the outcomes became better.
However when I scaled down the design to broach size I seemed to loose some of the definite pattern. To be honest I made the design up as I went along and in hind sight I think it would have looked better if it had a more structured motif like the one pictured on the hat above.
Any way I gave my friend the broach and she seemed very pleased with it and  was surprised when I said I made it myself  ( she said she thought it was bought from Monsoon, which I took as a very big compliment as we both love monsoon things )  
After it was completed I decided I wanted to do some more research before designing anymore beaded broaches  and I created this mood board.

It helped me see that I definitely needed to properly plan my motif out before I start making it and decide on an exact colour scheme etc. also I love the effect using a variety of larger and smaller beads creates and  also having areas that are really encrusted. The whole process has given me plenty of ideas to be getting on with so I'll let you know how I get on. Let me know if you any tips or thoughts on these kind of projects or if you too have had a project that hasn't turned out  how you hoped but left you with inspiration and new ideas.
Hope you are all having a great week , Jessie xxx

Monday, 23 September 2013

A Glimpse of Inspiration- Model with Bahianas in Salvador by Anne Menke


I've been a bit absent  in blogging for a while but whilst  searching for some inspirational pictures from my collection of magazine cuttings  this evening I came across this one. Its a photograph by the wonderfully talented photographer Anne Menke from  a series in her book - See The World Beautiful.

 I love the cool peaceful feeling of the colours  of the clothes and scenery and the expressions on the ladies faces. I suppose what initially drew me to the picture was the lovely headdresses two of the ladies wear and also the expressions captures on their faces.

Any way I just wanted to share this lovely image with you all, have a great week Jessie xx