Tuesday, July 12, 2011

The Joy of Handmade

Thank you to those who visited my recent on-line shop update and made a purchase, or offered me feedback via email...It was lovely to hear from you again, as I have been away from the on-line side of my business for a while...I still struggle to juggle everything, I'm afraid, but will try and add a few items now and then, so I hope you may be able to stop-by occasionally.

Whilst I was wrapping and packing my parcels, it got me thinking...What do you look for in a hand made product? I love buying items from other makers, as I can appreciated the time and thought that goes into making something, which is usually reflected in a beautifully finished product. Do you go for originality, where the crafted object has an underlying look that typifies its maker? Is it because you appreciate the craft-person's ethics; perhaps they recycle materials to produce an end product? Do you buy because something is on-trend/fashionable at the time? Perhaps its the joy of choosing a handmade article that makes gift buying a pleasure, which means its unlikely the recipient will receive another of the same item? Is it the heirloom quality a more expensive piece offers?
I love making things and can't imagine a life without me finding time to sit and sew, or to play with glue and found objects. Admittedly now that I run my shop, my time is a lot more limited. I sometimes feel my items have a slightly more mass-produced feel these days, but I am always careful to make each item of stock for my shop, a one-off. Often, once I've cut into a piece of vintage fabric, I am left with very little in which to produce more items anyway. Adding buttons and other trims means no two bags are the same, for example.

I was also thinking about the makers I admire and why:
Viv's work at Hen's Teeth always fascinates me. She produces a wide variety of items, but each one has a distinctive look that can only be attributed to her. Whimsical, fun, edgy, beautifully stitched and often reflective of a time gone-by.
Photo by Viv.
Then there is Christine over at A Mermaids Tale, whose work I have long admired after seeing an article in Country Living magazine quite a few years ago now. Each treasure that Christine produces has a very carefully selected colour scheme and a meticulous attention to the tiny details. I am in awe of her imaginative use of faded antique fabrics, natural finds and vintage trinkets.
Photo by Christine.
Then there's Lilla of Just Lilla, who lives on the island of Oahu in the Pacific Ocean. A VERY productive lady, who constantly comes up with new creations, sometimes made from fabrics, sometimes paper and sometimes a mixture of the two! She also, very generously, produces video tutorials which she adds to her blog for all to see.
Photo by Lilla.
Another of my favourite artists and blog writers is Lynn from Sea Angels. Lynn's pieces are very often one-off delights and feature beautiful hand embroidery in a soft, wintry colour pallet. Her choice of fabrics and trims are at times experimental and so her work has a very individual look that is always feminine and gentle.
Photo by Lynn.
In quite a contrast, I am also a great admirer of Wendy's work; Wendy creates the cutest collectable soft toy characters who have the most endearing faces - These can be seen on her blog Whendi's Bears. Sadly beyond my price range, but I love to visit her blog to see the latest animal that Wendy's managed to capture a likeness of. If you've not visited before, have a look through some of her past posts - I particularly like the little zebra and the giraffe.
Photo by Wendy.
Another lady from across the pond is Karla. I'm not sure that I know of a more prolific maker. Karla (of Karla's Cottage) produces a vast array of unique little treasures, often featuring pretty vintage millinery flowers and glitter!
Photo by Karla.
Finally, there's these exquisite beauties produced by The Old Pretenders.
Photo by The Old Pretenders.
Their fine workmanship authentically reproduces beautiful C17th and C18th English wooden dolls.
Here's what they say of their studio on their blog: The Old Pretenders studio offers collectors the finest quality reproductions of English wooden dolls in the 17th and 18th century manner. Each one of a kind creation is handcrafted individually using traditional techniques and an eye for authenticity in every detail.
Our dolls feature custom made enamel eyes, appropriately fashioned wigs and meticulously researched costumes. As often as possible: 17th and 18th century antique textiles, trim work and lace are used in order to recreate a doll that looks and feels every bit as authentic as an original example.

Photos by The Old Pretenders.
I realise these would be way beyond my budget, but I'd be quite happy just to own a pair of those tiny shoes!
What do you look for in a hand crafted item and whose work do you admire?
July has been a bit full-on so far, and I've hardly had time to draw breath (not complaining! ;-))
Thought I'd just pause here for a while to show what's been going on at the shop etc.
I've been buying more stock, which includes this beautiful old spinning wheel.
I displayed it in the shop window today.
Lots of smaller treasures too.
And this original artwork of the River Dart.
A Victorian print entitled 'The Peacemaker'.
Lots of china pieces to re-stock the shelves.
All washed and ready to take with me this morning...
I displayed them around the shop...
And then promptly sold these two items this afternoon. (Thank you!)
So there's been several re-jigs to this lovely old painted dressing table since I bought it last week.
I've also been working on a few make-overs. This basic Lloyd Loom style blanket box had been painted a rather vivid purple and was upholstered rather badly...
So I stripped away the old mauve velvet...to discover not one...

Not two..............................Not three...
But 4 layers of fabrics before I got down to the original covering, which matches the original paintwork and can be seen on the back of the blanket box below. (Previous owner obviously decided to only paint the parts that would be seen! ;-))
I gave it a fresh coat of white paint to cover these differing colours. I had thought about reupholstering the top in a piece of vintage Welsh blanket (seeing as it is a blanket box!), but I couldn't find one in a suitable colour in my stash. So I went for this antique style chintz.
I finished the edges with a red,white and blue trim.
I took it to the shop today.
I did go for some Welsh blanket on this old footstool though...
It now has a soft woollen top, perfect for fireside relaxation later in the year.


Sorry this post is a bit all over the place, but I wanted to mention so many things!
Two more snippets that I'd just like to share - I'm not sure yet if I will be able to get back to my blog again this week, so wanted to include these photos...
Bargain gladioli from my local greengrocers. £3 per bunch, which works out at 50p per stem. They're making me very happy...
And just had to slip in the other treasure that's making my very happy just now...;-))
Love her :)
Here's the card I made for my daughter last week.
Detachable vintage booties for her special little girl.
And a beautiful lullaby.
Sweet dreams to you too,
Niki x


  1. Beautiful post as ever Niki, gorgeous handmade things by you and a few other who i had not come across before, so thank you for sharing them. I love your reupholstered bits, such an improvement and bound to be treasured for many years now thanks to you. And lastly, that little bundle of treasure, wow, what ca I say, she is priceless! Enjoy x

  2. Anonymous9:18 pm

    Beautiful post Niki,I love the things you make,especially the dolls.I d love to visit your shop one day soon.Congratulations on your daughters precious bundle,that card is amazing ,something to treasure forever.juliexxxx

  3. Lovely, lovely handmade treasures... I also like the blanket covered stool - great idea. But the best is the baby - I just love new-born babies - congratulations on being a grandmother!

  4. I love your blog Niki. I am following you from the US. I just had a grandaughter 3 weeks ago and I am completely in love with her. :)

  5. Niki, your heart must burst with love every time you hold your precious granddaughter, I simply adore babies too!
    Very humbled that you mention me in your 'makers' list, thank you! You have mentioned some names there that I have never come across before, so I'm going to enjoy looking at their blogs now.
    Christine x

  6. Oh so gorgeous a post!
    So much to read and lovely photos and write ups on other makers...
    Brilliant post.
    I could buy most of your shop stock if I'd won the lottery tonight...

    Dreaming ...

    Sandie xx

  7. Niki ... congratulations to you all on the birth of your Grand- daughter. What a joy for you.
    Niki, I don't know how you do it, you are one very hard working lady. I enjoyed your post very much and the question you raised about why handmade is purchased. Thank you for including my handmade work, I was thrilled to see you had included me, thank you so much. x

  8. Wow, what an amazingly varied and interesting post - I can't get over how much you manage to squeeze into your days! It was lovely to see the handmade items you love and to see your recent makeovers. I especially love the Welsh blanket stool and as for the card for your daughter and beautiful grand-daughter - just stunning, and such a lovely treasure to keep always.

  9. I love your makes especially te card.
    Julie xxxx

  10. What joy Niki, how precious how fabulous I am so very pleased for you....I love the smell of babies..and I love the card you made with the beautiful lullaby.xxx
    You can imagine how suprised I was to see my work, thank you so much for even thinking of me xxxx and the other makers look really fabulous so I am off now to have a truffle on their blogs....bet you'll be cuddling babes xxxx
    Love Lynn xxxx

  11. A lovely post, as always. Your handmade dolls are gorgeous and are on my list of things to buy when I want to treat myself. A couple of makers that I love are Sam McKechnie at The Magpie and the Wardrobe. I have one of her fairies and would have more if I could afford them. Also Halinka's Fairies, which are adorable and quite reasonable considering all the work that goes into them.
    I think handmade items carry a bit of the maker's love with them and that lasts forever. With old linens for example I love to imagine who sat and embroidered them. xxx

  12. Oh my!!! Those toys from Whendi's Bears are the most incredible things I've ever seen!!! - WANT!!

    Also that's a very cute photo of you and baby, I can't waaaaaaaaaait to meet her!!

    Love you Mum,
    Kay xxx

  13. Contratulations on your grandbaby! And thank you so much for your kind post of my work :)
    Whendi's Bears

  14. What a little darling, aren't grandkids the most wonderful thing on earth?

    I'm honored to be included on your list, thanks so much!

  15. This is such a wonderful blog and the photographs are amazing. I so love your shop, it's beautiful. I feel really inspired to get on with my creations now, even though they aren't a patch on yours and your other bloggy links. xxx

  16. i'd give anything to visit your shop. pity it's across the pond. your grandaughter has already grown and she is lovely. keep in touch.

  17. I really feel uplifted in reading your blog and seeing yours and others work profiled here. My faourite on this visit is your blanket box. Thank you for letting me/us share a part of your life, especially as working from home can mean isolation for a good part of every day. xx

  18. Beautiful post as always Niki, best till last though!!
    T x

  19. il vostro blog è meraviglioso .. tutto è bellissimo e ben curato .Sono vostra sostenitrice ...come non potrei non esserlo!!Un saluto .."a tutto cuore.." Patry

  20. Il vostro blog è semplicemente BELLISSIMO!!!!!!Vi seguo da tanto tempo ...e come potrei non farlo!!!!Tutto è ben curato,ben fatto..le bambole sono magnifiche...Brava!!!!Un saluto "così..a tutto cuore"Patry


Thank you for finding the time to visit me...
Niki xx