Posts Tagged ‘bespoke’


This is really going back in time, all the way to November 2008, but I recently went to look this up and realised I had never got around to blogging about it.

It started with a message I received through my Etsy shop:

I absolutely adore these books!! I was wondering if you do commissioned work. I am looking for someone to produce about 12-15 books (identical) that contain 10 of my grandmother’s poems. They can be small in size- I am just not certain if you printed Shakespeare’s word on the pages of your books or used old books and recycled them. I read that you like to make new uses out of old treasures. Let me know if this sounds like something you would be interested in. I would just need her poems printed on the pages and then you could bind them. I can tell you do great work- your craftsmenship is impecable. I am from New Jersey, USA. Let me know what you think.

Best Regards,



We discussed the commission by e-mail and it ended up being an order for thirty little books, all printed with her Grandmother’s poetry.  The books were A7 in size.  The covers were smooth 120gsm, and the pages (of which there were 16 per book) were 160gsm cartridge paper.

She was really pleased with them, and it’s still one of the most enjoyable commissions I’ve taken on.






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A few months ago a friend asked if I would make him a little wallet in which he could keep a deck of cards, a little notebook, and a pen.  It needed to be small but sturdy as he’d be carrying it around in his pocket most of the time.  It took me a while to get around to this project as I kept trying to think of the best way to do it, but in the end I just found a likely-looking piece of leather and got stuck in.


I chose a beautiful ochre leather which is wonderfully soft, and the whole caboodle was sewn by hand.  I had to redo the pen pocket as the fit was too tight and he couldn’t get the pen out.  So I unstitched it, cut a little bit off, then put it back together again.

The following photos were taken by my friend after he’d been using the pouch for a month or so, and you can see that the leather is already starting to develop a very pleasing patina.







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No, not an actual disaster, but a commission inspired by the Paper Plane range by Disaster Designs.  Back in January I was contacted by a friend who wanted a guestbook made for her wedding.

I’d like something A4 and landscape with coptic binding, as suggested, and we’re expecting 120 guests.  We’ve not really got a theme for our wedding, it’s a bit of a mishmash!  Our invites are vintagey luggage tags and I love the Disaster Designs paper plane range with the old airmail border, old maps, that sort of thing.  My bridesmaid will be wearing teal/turquoise but we’re not going nuts with a specific colour theme.  I don’t imagine that’s very helpful really!

She also included links to some of the Disaster Designs items she particularly liked.  Despite her fears, this was all incredibly helpful!  I had a think, and played around with a few ideas.  My first thought was to have sturdy fabric pages covered with pockets so that guests could write their message on a luggage tag and then slot it into the book – this idea didn’t really get past the rough stage, but it’s certainly something I might attempt at a later date!

In the end we settled on the design you can see pictured above.  I used a map print by Cavallini & Co for the covers: it would have been nice to use a map which was more personal to the bride and groom, but they were born at opposite ends of the country so it wasn’t that practical!  I chose a lovely tan leather to create the look of a quarter-bound binding, and attached a luggage tag to the front bearing the names of the couple and the date.  The idea of using some airmail bias tape as a tie closure was abandoned as, in the end, I thought it made the design look too cluttered.






I did use some airmail style bakers twine on the luggage tag though, which I thought was a more subtle nod to the Paper Plane range.

I loved working on this commission as, like the bride, I am a huge fan of the Disaster Designs stuff.  I can’t believe it’s taken me this long to get round to blogging about it (the wedding was in August!), but it’s here at last and I hope you all enjoy seeing it.

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A couple of weeks ago a friend asked if I would be interested in a special project:

Basically on the 1st of December they awake to a stocking with 25 small presents in it to count down to christmas (small C as we’re not Christian). At the moment they believe that the fairies have taken their letters to Santa through the fairy door in Phoebe’s room and that the fairies put the small presents in the stocking for them. I’ll get some pictures of their letters later. I found one Tobi did too.  Was thinking letters from Santa could go in the stockings to be found with their gifts.

Would I be interested?  Absolutely!  I’m not a very festive person myself, but I love things that capture the imagination, and I have a soft spot for Di’s two kids.

Di provided me with photos of the childrens’ letters, and some information about them such as some of the secret things the fairies might have seen them do (reading to each other, and playing schools with their plush animals), and also letting me know what they were likely to actually get from their list.  Phoebe, for instance, would be getting one item for her birthday in November, so Santa wouldn’t need to bring it.

I was abuzz with ideas, and for a while the prevailing one was to put lots of stamps, and a faux north pole postmark on the envelopes… but another idea came creeping to the fore, and in the end that was the one I went with.

My own personal style tends towards the simple but elegant.  The first idea would have worked, and looked great, but it wasn’t quite right.  It was too…busy.  Santa, after all, has plenty of other things to be getting on with at this time of year.  The finished letters are hand written on parchment type paper in black ink, using a cursive script that’s reminiscent of your grandfather’s handwriting.  The envelopes are hand made, bear nothing other than the child’s name on the front, and are sealed with red wax using a snowflake seal.

Simple, timeless, elegant.  Also, I hope, convincing enough for the kids!










I have also sent Di some self-adhesive silver wax seals (with the same snowflake design) which she can use on some of their presents, to help add to the effect.

This has been such a great project to work on that I wish I had more!  If you’re interested in a letter from Santa (or Father Christmas, depending on your child’s beliefs) then please do contact me.

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sari blouse_01

So, my friend Jennifer rang me up last month with an unusual request.  She needed a sari blouse made in a hurry for a wedding, and wanted to know if my mum could do it for her.  My mother is good at alterations, but she doesn’t do tailoring.  Jen, however, had absolute blind faith in my mother’s abilities so she dropped a metre of gorgeous purple silk off, stood still to be measured, and left us to it.

“It’s just two bits of material sewn together” – or so Jen insisted when my mother said she couldn’t do it.  Well yes, technically it is, but she’d forgotten two very prominent things.  The blouse would need to be shaped with darts to fit around those two prominent things.

sari blouse_02

My mother put her foot down and said she couldn’t do it, so I wrangled with her and in the end it was agreed that I would do all the cutting and fitting, and mum would do the sewing.  Jen’s faith in our combined abilities is wonderful, but she’d have probably had an easier time just nipping down to Brick Lane and finding someone in a shop there to do it!

Anyway, I had a look online and saw the sort of shape the pattern ought to be, made a toile out of some (frankly hideous) scrap fabric we had stashed away, then got Jen back to try it on so we could tweak the fit.  Jen was a little bemused, but did concede that she’d not considered that having to make the blouse fit around the shape of her body was somewhat more involved than she’d first imagined.

sari blouse_03

The following day the toile was unpicked, and the silk cut.  Lots of pinning and sewing went on, Jen was asked to come back for a second fitting, and eventually the blouse was finished.

sari blouse_04

sari blouse_05

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It’s a very simple item, but my goodness was it difficult to make!  Not bad though, considering our total lack of any tailoring experience!  We just put hooks and eyes at the back to fasten it, but that wasn’t very efficient (in the end Jen had to employ the use of safety pins to stop it coming undone)… but it all looked great, which is the important thing here.

sari blouse_08

She looks lovely, doesn’t she?  So, that was my brief foray into bespoke tailoring… it was educational, but definitely not my preferred craft!

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A couple of years ago I turned one of Matt’s old Cyberdog t-shirts into a notebook (which he ended up keeping), and this week I gave the same treatment to a very moth-eaten FCUK t-shirt.


As you can see, the t-shirt was in a very sorry state:



The lower half of the t-shirt was even worse, so it’s a good job the pictures were on the top half!  It was a bit of a nightmare to work with, as the cotton of this shirt was extremely thin and floppy, but I persevered and here is the finished book.





As he’s going to be using this book at work I thought it best to put the more polite of the two pictures on the front cover!  Matt’s been using his Cyberdog book and gave it back to me to be refilled with fresh pages, so here’s a shot of the two upcycled t-shirt books together.


Do you have an old t-shirt which you’d like to see turned into a notebook?  If so please do get in touch, commissions are always welcome!

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I’ve just realised that I haven’t posted any photos of new notebooks since early March, which is pretty poor considering my main craft is bookbinding!  I haven’t been idle, I have a pile of books which are waiting to be listed on Etsy, I just haven’t got round to it yet.  I’ll remedy that in the next few days.

In the meantime I had an unusual commission last weekend.  One of my gardening clients (or, rather, her youngest daughter) wanted a hairbrush personalised for one of her friends.  Not my usual thing, but I’m always up for a challenge!  They provided the brush, told me what they wanted on it (a guitar, and the friend’s name), and then left it with me.  I found a picture of a guitar I liked the look of, simplified it somewhat, got busy with the pyrography iron, and voila!

WIP 17-04-2013


WIP 17-04-2013_2

It came out well, very true to the original sketch, and the client was pleased with it 🙂


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