Designer Maker Blog 2017

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Denim Jack cropped

Each month I write a blog linked to my work as a designer maker. This blog is very different to the one I write as a D&T teacher. It focuses only on textiles and is not limited to D&T textiles which is the main focus of my work in D&T. It therefore varies from D&T based textiles themes to craft textiles, art textiles and anything else textiles related that catches my eye. 

Scroll down to see the blogs for this year.

See blogs from previous years 

Getting Creative at Christmas

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Who doesn’t love an advent calendar for Christmas? Here’s one that’s also good for your waistline as instead of chocolates you get to build a Christmas character each day using Wilko’s Blox (a cheaper version of Lego although it does have to be said it is no where near the quality of Lego). The box opens up so you can showcase what you build to create a Christmas scene.

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This idea instantly appealed to me as being a bit more creative and interactive than the usual advent calendar so this month’s blog is going to be a little bit different. Although I’m writing this bit of the blog in the middle of the month, which is the time I try and write an entry each month, I’m actually going to record each day l open a window from 1st December so this will be more like a diary. Call me a big kid but I love the idea of being able to look back in the future at the blog and being able to see how things grew! Roll on 1st December!

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Look in the side bar to view other blogs I write on textiles, D&T, education & coaching 

Contact:     Tel 01159 607061   Mob 07972 749240  Email

Freddie Gilroy & the Belsen Stragglers

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Freddie Gilroy & the Belsen Stragglers

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Back in the summer we visited Scarborough as part of a birthday celebration. It has been many years since we visited the area so there were lots of new things to explore, particularly around North Beach where we stayed and which we don’t remember ever visiting before.

A quieter side of the town, North Beach is also the home to a giant steel sculpture called Freddie Gilroy & the Belsen Stragglers. The sculpture by Ray Lonsdale celebrates Freddie Gilroy, a former miner, who, as a young man, was one of the first Allied troops to enter Bergen-Belsen Concentration Camp where they discovered 60,000 prisoners, most of whom were seriously ill, along with thousands of unburied bodies.

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The sculpture represents everyday people who are pulled out of their ordinary lives because of war, and in doing so who experience extraordinary things which impact on their lives in a profound way.

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 Although Freddie was originally from County Durham, the sculpture became a permanent fixture in Scarborough after it was on display there for a short period. A local pensioner donated money to keep the sculpture in the town and it has been a permanent feature ever since.

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The sculpture is incredible for its size, how it uses the material and for the emotion of both the story and the character within the sculpture itself. It is something that is well worth a visit if you are ever in the area as only being near it can really communicate the sense of scale and emotion of the piece.

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Ray Lonsdale also has another giant sculpture in nearby Filey called High Tide in Short Wellies. Also made from steel the sculpture is inspired by the decline in the fishing industry, a traditional source of income for the local area. 

There is also another steel structure built by Lonsdale in his home town of County Durham titled Eleven O One.

Find out more about the work of Ray Lonsdale

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Look in the side bar to view other blogs I write on textiles, D&T, education & coaching 

Contact:     Tel 01159 607061   Mob 07972 749240  Email

Knit for Peace (& Your Own Wellbeing)

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Knitting was one of the first textiles skills I learnt and it is something I have done on and off over the years, especially when I was a lot younger. I even chose hand knitting as an area to specialise in the final year of my degree. 

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It came as no surprise to me to see the results of a study for Knit for Peace which said that the health benefits of knitting are significant, including lowering blood pressure, increasing sense of well being and purpose, encouraging activity, offering opportunities for social interaction as well as much more. 

The report also identified that the benefits increased when knitters had a reason to knit beyond the obvious family and friends. This was particularly of interest to me as one of the reasons I stopped knitting in later life was because you can only knit yourself and others so many jumpers before you (and they!) get bored. This has been the case with a lot of the creative work I do and it’s been the reason I have gone through different phases focusing on different textiles techniques. Indeed one of the reasons I started selling my own work was to give myself a purpose. 

The aim of the Knit for Peace organisation is to support those in need, whether it be refugees from Syria, street children in India or for hospitals in the UK, along with giving knitters a purpose for their work. The website has lots of resources to get knitters started, including patterns, information on knitting groups, and different causes knitting can be donated to. Knitters can take on simple or more complex challenges depending on their skills and the time they have available. 

I’m going to take part in their Keep Britain Warm campaign making knitted dressing gowns. The knitting is very basic - just lots of knitted squares sewn together but this will be something I can pick and and put down without having to follow a pattern and it will be something I and even if I only have a limited amount of time. Why not get involved too?

See the Knit for Peace report on the benefits of knitting

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Contact:     Tel 01159 607061   Mob 07972 749240  Email

Adventures with Millie in Liverpool

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This weekend we visited Liverpool, my husband’s home town, along with my niece Millie. She says Liverpool is one of her favourite towns because there is so much to see and do and because of the atmosphere and vibrancy of the city. 

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As with most of our visits to any city we're always on the lookout for anything creative and this visit was no exception. The day started off with a bit of shopping and seeing this fabulous colourful canopy of umbrellas in one of the main shopping areas. Next we visited the Tate Gallery to see the famous ‘The Bed’ by Tracey Emin. The controversial piece art was interesting to see if only to try and understand why the last time it was sold it fetched 2.5 million pounds! Millie wasn’t very impressed and thought her bedroom looked worse!

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Much more impressive were the lambananas sculptures inspired by Japanese artist Taro Chiezo, original superlambanana, which itself was inspired by lamb and bananas being popular goods travelling through the busy docks in the past. 

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Equally impressive and inspiring was the architecture of the town with contemporary and traditional architecture sitting side by side. One of the things Millie particularly likes is the variety of architecture and the impressive size of things which gives the city a grand and vibrant feel. We saw some of the architecture from the famous ferry that crosses the Mersey, on a windy day it was a little cold but well worth it. 


As well as visiting the city we also visited the beach at Crossby to see the Antony Gormley ‘Another Feature’ statues on the Beach. 

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This is a permanent installation of 100 cast iron life size figures spread out along 3 kilometres of the shore and going almost one kilometre out to sea. It’s quite a powerful thing to see the figures, especially the ones in the sea itself. 

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A fabulous few days in a fabulous city with lots of inspiration and ideas. We all look forward to visiting again soon. 

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See more of Millie’s design and make adventures!

See blogs from previous years

Look in the side bar to view other blogs I write on textiles, D&T, education & coaching 

Contact:     Tel 01159 607061   Mob 07972 749240  Email

Mowgs Baskets

It’s been a couple of months since my last blog as life has been so busy. It’s a shame as I see so much inspiration around me that I’d like to showcase on the blog, but with so many other things going on, I often don’t get chance to upload a post. So much of what I see that inspires me is in unusual places and it’s these unexpected surprises that I like the most. Recently on a long road trip we stopped off at Gloucester Services, somewhere we had never stopped before. What an unexpected surprise this was as the services are a fabulous example of eco design along with a big focus on giving the user a great experience. Instead of the traditional fast food restaurants there was a great restaurant with fresh local produce, along with an amazing farm shop. It’s not often you see a fully blown butcher’s department in a service station! 

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In the farm shop I spotted these Mowgs bags made out of repurposed plastic strapping that has been woven. The bags were a riot of colour and immediately caught my eye. On returning home I investigated the weblink on the swing ticket and discovered the bags are all hand made, making each one unique, and that they are made by artisan weavers who use traditional rattan basket weaving techniques. 


Instead of using traditional materials the weavers upcycle the packing tape waste found locally. The bags are distributed by a British company with the aim of supporting the artisan workers and creating items from what would otherwise be waste. 

Mowgs bags
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What a great way of supporting a local community as well as using up common plastic waste. Find out more about Mowgs bags. 

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See blogs from previous years

Look in the side bar to view other blogs I write on textiles, D&T, education & coaching 

Contact:     Tel 01159 607061   Mob 07972 749240  Email

3D Printing


When my niece Millie visits us for a day out she gets dragged along to all sorts of museums, galleries and creative venues. Her visit over Easter was no different with a visit to the 3D printing exhibition at the National Centre for Craft and Design in Sleaford, Lincolnshire. 

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The exhibition showcased a wide range of applications for 3D printing from ceramics, textiles, metal and even 3D printed food. 

There was some impressive items on display, but when you're fourteen, guess what's the first thing you think of doing with a state of the art 3D printed hand?

After our visit to the museum we went into nearby Lincoln for shopping and some retail therapy! Another great day creative out!

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See more of Millie’s design and make adventures!

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Look in the side bar to view other blogs I write on textiles, D&T, education & coaching 

Contact:     Tel 01159 607061   Mob 07972 749240  Email

Proud Teacher Moment!

I have taught many students over the years and one of the ‘perks’ of the job is being able to play a small part in sparking an interest in design in a young person and then seeing that grow. 

I love to hear what my ex students have gone on to do, particularly if it related to design in some way. I was therefore very proud to hear that Nicholas Daley, an ex student in my last school, is one of just fifteen designers recently awarded NEWGEN support by the British Fashion Council. This supports new and emerging talent with the aim of helping them build global, high end fashion brands of the future. Nick has already had some success with his work being stocked in a couple of outlets in London, as well as considerable success in Japan, so hopefully this NEWGEN support will help him develop his business further.

Nick Daley
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Both at GCSE and A level Nick was always an adventurous designer. For his GCSE he designed a giant hamburger bean bag complete with separate layers of bun, burger and salad all of which were over a metre in size! For his AS level he designed a man's jacket with a hood fitted with integrated MP3 player speakers (long before integrated headphones and speakers appeared in the shops), and for his A2 he created a man’s see through PVC coat with a shirt underneath. 

Seeing students go on to exciting futures such as Nick's is very rewarding and it makes all the hard work (and paper work!) as a teacher worthwhile.

Take a look at Nick’s collections as a menswear designer

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See blogs from previous years

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Contact:     Tel 01159 607061   Mob 07972 749240  Email

Creative t.shirts

Who says boys’ clothes have to be boring!

Fish t.shirt

The boys’ clothing buying at Sainsbury’s is obviously a big fan of 3D appliqué and lift up flaps as each season they seem to have at least one t.shirt or jumper featuring some sort of 3D appliqué effect. In fact so much so that I regularly visit that aisle just to have a look at the latest design! 

George the pig t.shirt

I think my favourite is the George Pig that has 4 pockets that unbutton to reveal a story about George’s trip to the woods.

Dinosaur t.shirt

Some designs are quite complex whereas others are effective because of their simplicity. Many use very clever designs that make them extra cute! They are, however, all great fun and much more interesting than the clothes the supermarkets sells for girls!

knitted hoodie with scales
superman t.shirt
Race zone t.shirt
space rocket
Jungle adventure
Tow truck applique t.shirt
Peppa Pig
Dinosaur applique
bus taxi 3D t.shirt
airplane applique t.shirt

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Contact:     Tel 01159 607061   Mob 07972 749240  Email

Prize giving presentation to the winner of the 2016 competition for schools

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Eliann Witt: Competition Winner 2016

Eliann was the winner of my 2016 Product in a Tin competition winning a sewing machine for her school as well as lots of textiles related goodies for herself. 

For various reasons the prize giving for the competition was delayed until the beginning of 2017 and it was really exciting to finally meet Eliann and her teacher and to hear more about what inspired the competition entry. 

Eliann's product was a reusable shopping bag that folds up into a pocket created by clever folding of the bag. It is made of a lightweight nylon fabric and uses hand and machine appliqué as well as buttons to create the foxes face. A clever drawstring across the corner of the bag means the bag can fold away into a small pouch. The bag uses French seams on the inside and has shoulder length straps. 

Eliann's product was chosen as the winner because of high level of skill and challenge and quality finish to the product. It was also chosen because it is an unusual design idea that is commercially very marketable. The information on Eliann's application form was also taken into account when choosing a winner. She describes how her product meets user needs that now exist because of the new carrier bag law. She says this has created the need for shoppers to have small, reusable bags that are functional and easy to carry around with you all the time but which are also fun and appealing. 

Eliann won a Husqvarna Viking H Class 100Q sewing machine for her school which normally normally retails for £300. She also won a big bag of prizes for herself. 

Find out more about the machine Eliann won for her school


Watch the video below to hear Eliann & her teacher, Mrs Lenton, talking about the competition entry.

Eliann is studying textiles at GCSE and aims to go on to study A levels and then a degree in a textiles related area and is particularly interested in a career in costume design for the theatre. 

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See more work from Burford School textiles department here

Find out more about my competitions

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See blogs from previous years

Look in the side bar to view other blogs I write on textiles, D&T, education & coaching 

Contact:     Tel 01159 607061   Mob 07972 749240  Email

New Year’s Eve 2016

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My niece Millie is nearly 14 and for every year for as long as I can remember she has stayed at our house over New Year’s Eve. It’s her mum’s birthday around that time so she often goes away to celebrate leaving us baby sitting. Millie’s older brother and sister used to stay too but now they are much older it’s just Millie. For many years this was a time of lots of activity, making things and baking cakes and then seeing in the New Year watching the fireworks. As we live on a hill close to Nottingham city centre we get a fabulous view of several large displays all going off at the same time which is pretty impressive. 

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This year though Millie wanted to do something different so we went out for a meal followed by the biggest dessert you’ve ever seen at Heavenly Desserts. We then went onto the cinema finishing just before midnight in time to see in the New Year with fireworks at Nottingham Castle. 

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A great end to 2016 and a fabulous start to 2017. Happy New Year!

See more of Millie’s design and make adventures!

See blogs from previous years

Look in the side bar to view other blogs I write on textiles, D&T, education & coaching 

Contact:     Tel 01159 607061   Mob 07972 749240  Email

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