Conker brown leathers

Good quality leather is a material that just gets better as it ages.  I remember the wonderful old armchairs at my grandparents’ home and the beautiful glossy patina time and use had given to the leather.  I love to collect vintage leather bags for this very reason.

The picture below is of a shooting bag, at least 40 years old.  It’s not mine, sadly, but was in my custody for a few days while I made repairs to the stitching.  The cotton thread had rotted in a few places around the straps but the leather still looked as good as new.

I enjoy working with coloured leathers, especially the reds but my favourite shades are always the tans and conker browns.  

The large bag at the back is the very first “Tiddleybag” I made and is still going strong. 

This scrumptious grainy leather is to die for!  It’s a treat to work with and always feels lovely to handle and use.  I bought a whole hide of this as I love it so much.  I used it to make the Very Useful Belt Pouch below.  This was inspired by a commission for a gentleman who wanted a simple pouch to carry his mobile phone [in its hard case] on his belt.

This is available in my Etsy shop, Tiddleyworks.  I’m adding new items on a regular basis so watch this space!



I’ve been tying decorative ropework for well over 10 years now since I taught myself to splice ropes for my narrowboat.  The knot books I bought also had pictures of beautiful decorative knots so it wasn’t long before I was learning some of them as well.  To start with there was a great deal of swearing as I got the hang of each one but gradually it all started to fall into place.  Above are pictures of a bellrope made for my neighbour’s doorbell a couple of years ago and below is a big challenge, a “swan’s neck” made for the elum of an historic working boat.  (It’s the long piece running down to the rudder).  

The term “tiddlywork” (as I was told by a fellow boater) is Navy slang for small scale knotwork and it’s where I took my business name from.

The knotting took a back seat when I started working with leather until a few months ago, when I found out that round leather cord in different thicknesses was available.  Why not trying a bit of tiddlyworking in leather?

So I did!  I nearly fell at the first hurdle.  The 4 mm cord I began with was far too stiff to shape into intricate knots and I was puzzling about how to soften it.  I found that by soaking the leather for several hours (or overnight) it became pliable enough to work with.  Another bonus was that it shrank slightly as it dried, meaning that the knots tightened up nicely.

Since then there’s been no stopping me!  I’m beginning to list my creations on my Etsy shop, Tiddleyworks and more will be appearing soon.  I was especially pleased to learn to tie the Dragonfly and Cross knots.  They make really beautiful keyrings or bag charms when tied in delicate 2mm cord.  

Out and about again!

Been quiet on the old blog for a while now, mainly down to holidays and other stuff.  Since the return from said hols Hazel and I (The Leather Ladies) have been gadding around all over the place.

We began at Tutbury Market on Sunday 3rd July which was a well-attended street market in guess where?  Tutbury have a charter which allows them to close the main street 4 times a year for a street market, and the Leather Ladies are attending all this year’s markets.  Next one is on Sunday 25th September.

Tutbury Street Market 3rd July 2016
“The Staff” at Jacqueline’s Homemade Chocolates and Sweet Treats

As you can see from the second photo, we know who to set up next to.  We love consumer testing Jaci’s chocolates.

Then on the 10th July we were at Ashby Show, in the Rural Crafts Marquee.  This is a massive country show and I wish we’d had more time to explore all the wonderful things on offer. (Or even take some photos!)

At Thorpe Hall, Thorpe Constantine Saturday 16th July
“Haifflinch Designs” Hazel arranging her wares in the Leather Ladies’ stall at Thorpe Hall.

Next was our appearance at Thorpe Hall’s first ever Country Show on Saturday 16th July.  Thorpe Hall is at Thorpe Constantine, about six miles north of Tamworth and near to Clifton Campville.  Not a good start as the gazebo broke as we were setting up and we had to tie it together with string and hope for no high winds!  Then, just as we’d finished arranging ourselves nicely, the heavens opened so we had to rearrange ourselves all over again.  There was warm drizzle all morning but amazingly it didn’t put the crowds off.  (Perhaps they were sheltering in our stall!)

Overall it was a brilliant day and a very well-organised show indeed.  Now we have cobbled together two gazebos into one ready for our next event and here it is:-

Mabel’s Vintage Fair Sunday 24th July

The organisers are encouraging all the stallholders to “look vintage” if possible.  As Hazel put it, “But I AM vintage!”




Home Improvements? A Tale of Two Beds

There’s not been much leatherworking here today at the OK Corral.  Instead I have been doing Home Improvements.  About two months ago it became obvious that our bed base needed changing as we’d got that dreadful “sleeping uphill” thing going on and the new mattress wasn’t helping.

So we ordered a new bed base on the cheap from a chap recommended in the pub.  “He’ll deliver it on Wednesday or Thursday”, we were told.  After two weeks it still hadn’t arrived so in desparation, as I’d originally intended, I put boards across the old bed under the mattress.  This solved the problem and was very comfy.

Of course as soon as I’d sorted the boards the new bed actually appeared.  It took up its place on its side in the hallway where it remained for many weeks, with us and our visitors squeezing around it.

Despite numerous promises from Him In the Garage that the new bed would be installed, nothing happened.  So today I began dismantling the old bed base but had to stop short at separating the two halves as they were joined by the padding and the bed springs.  Now I’d burnt our bridges and he’d have to sort the new bed else we’d have nowhere to sleep tonight.  (Hell hath no fury like a woman with a few screwdrivers).

After some protestation he eventually came to help and we tried moving the old base as one piece.  It was too heavy.  Back it went into the bedroom while I fetched my Stanley knife and he fetched his bolt cutters.  The separating of the two halves of the base sounded like one of those tense operations, “Stanley knife…….bolt cutters…….scissors”. Stuffing and dust flying everywhere. Eventually the two halves were parted and we bumped each one down the stairs.  Then we lifted the two new sections of bed base up to the bedroom.

He had to go back to work at this point, so I began taking the wrapping off the new bed pieces.  As I peeled back the polythene I found there were rust stains all over the covering material, round all the staples and screws!  Aaargh!  Recovered my composure and thought, oh what the hell, we’ve come this far.  Opening the wrapping on the second section I thought I’d make it a bit lighter by taking out the drawers.  I pulled out the first drawer and it came apart in my hand!  AAAAAAARGGHHH!

New bed base installed!

Yes!  We ignored the broken drawer.  (It was on the side next to the wall so wouldn’t have opened properly anyway).  The only worry now is that the two halves of the base aren’t joined in any way so I have a horrible vision of them moving apart and us and the mattress disappearing between them.  Ooo-err!

The drawer that fell apart in my hand

Now I have the two halves of the old bed in the hallway instead!  One is occupying the doorway to my workroom and the other is by the bathroom.  Hmmmm!

Doorway to my workroom!
The other half, aaargh!

As Himself pointed out, we’d have been better off keeping the old base with the boards and just burning the new one!



Great British Winter arrives at last!

Leather Ladies at Samuel Barlow Pub, Alvecote

Yesterday found the Leather Ladies at Alvecote Marina for the Floating Market.  We weren’t floating but all the recent rain meant the lawn was muddy and we couldn’t put up our gazebo.  So instead we tucked ourselves under the Samuel Barlow pub shelter.

I’m not sure where our Spring has got to, what with all the hail, snow etc. we’ve had this week.  Temperatures yesterday felt freezing with the wind off the water too and it definitely wasn’t encouraging the visitors.

Here we are!

Hazel with one of her beautiful new blue leather cushions
Jane and handbags - trying not to look too cold!

At midday the pub opened its doors, which was a Great Relief in more ways than one.  We decided that as a survival strategy to maintain our core temperatures and avoid frostbite, a large plate of chips was essential.

Chips and Dips!

Followed shortly afterwards with a tot of brandy each in our coffees! (We know ‘ow to live!)

Hazel maintaining core temperature

In spite of the cold we met some old friends, made some new ones and had fun.  Boaters and crafters are lovely friendly people; floating traders especially so. Many thanks to all.

Taking it slow

“Eye of the Needle” Bridge

This morning’s walk took me as far as this lovely canal bridge.  It’s known affectionately amongst local boaters as “The Eye of the Needle” as it’s probably one of the narrowest bridge holes on the network.  To thread your narrowboat through it without clipping the brickwork requires slowing down and lining up very carefully.  Even when you’ve put the bows through and think you’ve got it sussed it seems able to give the stern a surprising nudge as you exit.  The scars on the brickwork and stone are testament to those who didn’t take it slowly!

Taking it slowly also applies to working with leather.  Hand sewing is great but very time consuming.  Machine sewing requires a long stitch, a good needle and being able to control the speed and positioning accurately.  There’s nothing more infuriating than coming to the end of a line of stitching when your foot slips on the pedal and suddenly, all your hard work is ruined and you have to start again.

Hand cranked Singer 15K – my “Pearl”

With this wonderful 1950 machine I can do beautiful top-stitching at a pace that’s totally controlled.  Pearl is such a joy to use as well.  The great thing is that if this machine can’t sew through a piece of leather, it won’t even try and saves you ruining a piece of leather.

So there you go – the advantages of taking it slowly!

“Eye of the Needle” (2)


My Colleagues

My mobile phone rang this morning.  It was the delivery company checking our address on a parcel.  The first twenty seconds of the call were made awkward by the loud and persistent howling from the floor beside my feet.

Caller :  Sorry, I can’t hear you very well.  What’s that noise?

Me:  Oh, it’s just my Jack Russell.

C:  Is he alright?

M:  Oh yes.  He always howls when the phone rings.  I think he worries about us missing calls.

Jack waiting for the phone to ring

Not only is Jack a wonderful phone and front door alarm, he’s also amazingly good company.  Doesn’t say a lot or answer back but is always reassuring in times of trauma, when a project isn’t going to plan or the sewing machine has a wobbly.  Not just that, he makes me get up and take him out for walks and stuff.  As a work colleague, he’s pretty cool.

Jack and Oz – best mates

It’s not long since we had to say goodbye to Jack’s best friend and another of my colleagues, the beautiful Ozzie. The workroom feels a lot more empty now Oz is not in his usual place in front of the gas fire.   Jack has really missed him but he seems to be perking up again gradually.

Jack paying attention

Jack and I have another colleague – the lovely Willow cat.  More on her soon.

Colleagues – note Jack has all the cushions!


News from The Workroom

Blue bag commission delivered today

I delivered this little bespoke bag to its new home this morning.  It’s always a tense moment when you hand over a commission to the new owner.  “Will they like it?”  Luckily the lady was very pleased with it, so I am happy.

New design medium size bags in red and tan

Then it was back home to work on more of the medium sized bags I’ve been designing.  These are ready to have the eyelets and handles added.  Will post pictures of the finished articles when I’m done.