Friday, August 31, 2007

'Glad Tidings'.

I had a fruitful day at the flea market on Sunday. My latest acquisitions include some beautiful postcards, vintage costume brooches.....

Antique lace......

And fabulous fabrics....

Which will all be used in my next selection of handmade goods.

I am so glad (no pun intended!) that I spent a couple of hours in my garden at the beginning of the year, getting some Gladioli bulbs into the ground. I have been rewarded with these stunning blooms. They are so easy to grow and provide a dramatic splash of colour as we head into the autumnal season, when other flowers are beginning to fade.
I love how exotic they look.

Lastly I would like you to meet a friend of mine!
She happily sits on our raised decking most days and doesn't flinch when I walk past her with a basket full of laundry, as I trek down to the washing line. (Or to take her photograph!)

She does have a mate and they spend hours in our garden preening each other.

I can't believe it will be September tomorrow; time certainly flies by. It's good to stop now and then to look at the flowers blooming and the birds enjoying the late summer sunshine.
Enjoy your weekend, Niki x

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

My Dolls - A Brief History!

I have been the creative sort for as long as I can remember, but began making various types of dolls commercially around 15 years ago now. (Before that I made them as 'keepers' or as gifts for friends and relatives for many, many years!) At the beginning I made wooden dolls dressed in American folk art style printed fabrics and homespun checks. (They used to sit well amongst the patchwork quilts that I also used to produce - I shall have to do a post about those one day!) I soon had more dolls than I could sensibly own myself or give as gifts, so I began to sell them on the craft fair circuit. This was a very successful time for me, especially during the months leading up to Christmas.
Unfortunately my dolls started to get copied by other stall holders. I know people say that this is a form of flattery, but when it is your only source of income, it feels annoying, frustrating and unfair. (Sorry, but its a pet hate of mine! It can take a long time to perfect a look and find the right market for creations. So when someone copies the whole package, it seems very unreasonable to me.)
It was then that I decided to move on to making other sorts of hand made dolls.
Rather than paying a lot of money for the new folk art fabrics, I started buying old clothes from jumble sales and recycling the fabrics. Old men's cotton check shirts were brilliant for this!

This little doll was one that I made many years ago for one of my daughters to give to her primary school teacher. She is dressed in the same blue checked summer dress that was the uniform for the school.
I soon moved on from recycled jumble fabrics and invested in authentic vintage ones as my funds began to swell from the doll sales.
My collection of antique fabrics amassed as I visited more and more fairs and flea markets. It was at this time that I began to make large rag dolls for an antiques shop in Bath.

These are some of my early designs from about 8 years ago. I loved making each one different and unique.

The owner of the shop liked the simpler red or blue French Vichy check dressed dolls best. Each one had a check dress, petticoat and long bloomers, as well as a C19th French linen jacket.
I made these for several years.....

And also some smaller angel dolls at Christmas time.
Here is an angel order that I completed one year.

I have recently stopped making the dolls for the shop (for various reasons), but I am now back doing what I love. This is making totally unique dolls, dressed in antique and vintage fabrics, so that who ever chooses to own one, knows that they have a one-of-a-kind item.

sorry I'm sold.............................sorry I'm sold.
I use the smaller angel size rag doll pattern for most of them, each one made with care and much thought.
But I also like to vary the collections with tiny dolls too.....
sorry I'm sold
And I have just created a larger version as an alternative.
These are available on my website today.

Sorry I'm sold.............................Sorry I'm sold
I have to be honest and say that after so many years of doll making, there are days when I don't feel like making them; especially when my RSI flares up in my wrist, from stuffing their limbs with toy filler so firmly!
It is on days like this that I love to try out new ideas.
Such as vintage wallpaper wrapped handmade soaps. Each one is decorated with vintage lace or ribbon, plus a vintage brooch; I spend many hours sourcing the brooches, because I need so many. I like to use them on lots of my handmade products, such as:

Padded coat hangers and my new range of brooch pillows - perfect for storing your brooch collection on!

Handmade bags are made with a variety of vintage fabrics, trims, buttons or flowers and more brooches too!

I am at my happiest when I am being creative, as many fellow bloggers are too. To all of you who appreciate the work created by artisans and craft workers I thank you for that. After all, in the mass produced world of today, a handmade treasure can bring a special touch to your wardrobe, home or garden, that high street goods just cannot do.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

....I hope you like Jamming too!...

We only have a tiny plum tree in our garden, but this year I managed to pick this basket full of fruits from just two of its branches. There is still plenty more to harvest for pies, crumbles and for a tasty snack at any time....

I decided to use this bounty to make some plum jam.
This recipe is less sweet than many jams, as it uses a lot less sugar per pound of fruit, so it retains a slight tang and is full of flavour:

1 lb plums
12oz sugar
(use no water if fruit is ripe (1/8 pint if under-ripe.))
Cooking time: 20 - 25 minutes.

Simmer the plums with the water, if used, until fruit is soft.
Add sugar and stir until dissolved.
Boil rapidly until set.
Fill jars.

I used 4lbs of plums (plus additional sugar), which made 6 jars of jam and the china dish full......and it's delicious!

I have always loved to see homemade jams and chutneys displayed in the country kitchen; there is something comforting and homely about it.
I used paper napkins to decorate the jam jar lids, secured with a loop of narrow elastic. I then trimmed the napkins to shape.

...Think I shall take the girls blackberry picking at the weekend! This was so easy and great fun....I feel a production line coming on....!

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Checking In....An Update....

I hope that you are all having a fabulous summer. I thought I better just do a quick update to my blog, as I have been away for far too long....It's been a busy but fun time at home.....
My eldest daughters have turned 18 and 20 years old in the time I have been away. (Can't believe I have a 20 year old daughter...where has the time gone?!)
We were lucky enough to pick the one sunny week that there has been this summer so far, for our annual week away. We stayed in this tiny (PINK!) thatched cottage in the village of Stoke Gabriel near Totnes in Devon.
Bliss - it was so good to get back to the simple things in life....

Such as taking the girls crab fishing from the quay wall at sunset......

....good food....
and walks in the woods to view spectacular waterfalls.

As well as some shopping time of course! I bought the vintage tin from a fabulously nostalgic shop called 'This n' That' in Totnes. And the 1950's chocolate box came from 'The Snug' in Ashburton.
Upon our return, our home was rephotographed for an article in a regional newspaper supplement of 'The Western Daily Press'. (Think they should have skipped superimposing me over the top of the photo!!)
Unfortunately they republished an article that was written about 18 months ago, so some of the information was out of date!

It has been good to take some time out, which has allowed me the opportunity to search for more vintage stock for my website.
I have also spent many hours sourcing lots of stunning antique and vintage fabrics for my handmade creations.

Finding these beautiful fabrics has been the tonic that I needed to get back on my sewing machine and start making unique dolls and bags again.
And gorgeous lace and ribbons for those special finishing touches.

I would like to thank everyone for their kind comments to my previous post and I hope you all enjoy the rest of the summer.
I will be back soon with a mammoth website update, which I hope you will enjoy.
Niki x