Tag Archives: handmade

Meet the Maker: Ciara McGarrity of Waffle Design

24 Feb

I first met Ciara McGarrity, the Irish designer behind Waffle Design, at HOME last year. The strong graphic quality of her grey and white cushions drew me to her stand and on closer inspection, I loved the intriguing combinations of woollen threads running through the textured cloth. Later, over tea at The Albion, we chatted about Ciara’s childhood in Ireland, a conversation which inspired her to design the Burren Waffle cushion exclusively for Decorator’s Notebook. I recently caught up with Ciara again to talk colour, fabrics and social responsibility.

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Decorator's Notebook meets Waffle Design

Waffle design cushions

When did you first start working with fabrics?

Everything I’ve done has involved fabrics in some way, although I only started Waffle about a year ago. I studied Display Design at the Dublin Institute of Technology and then moved to London to create window displays for retail stores.

Then about 10 years ago I jumped into freelancing and set up my own company specialising in displays for shops, exhibitions and events; everything from windows for Liberty to visual merchandising at the Science Museum. Fabric nearly always played a part… although back then it was usually just fixed with a staple gun!

How did you make the transition from displays to making your own cushions?

I was asked to work on an event for the British Chamber of Commerce, which involved creating a Bedouin tent inside one of the rooms of a listed building on Belgrave Square. There I met a lady who adored the tent and approached me afterwards to recreate something similar in her garden. She became a kind of mentor to me, encouraging me to make curtains and drapes for her super house just around the corner from Harrods.

I taught myself to sew at first, but later went back to college at the Cass Faculty of Art in Whitechapel to learn how to make soft furnishings properly. I now combine making bespoke curtains with my new project, Waffle.

Waffle Design cushions at Decorator's Notebook (720x800)

Roll of fabric Waffle Design at Decorator's Notebook (719x800)

Why the name ‘Waffle’?

It comes from the woven waffle fabric that forms the basis of all my designs. It’s made from organic cotton and produced by a fairtrade community group in Kerala. Hand-weaving in India is a fading industry and I like that I can play a small part in keeping it going. The cushion designs came from playing around with the grey and the white fabrics and exploring the possibilities of the waffle weave.

 

Talk us through your design process when you start work on something new…

The inspiration can come from anywhere – an image or a place – but the design process always revolves around combining colour. I spread out lots of samples of fabric and try them with different combinations of yarn. Once I’ve chosen which colours work together I sketch out pattern ideas and embroider small samples. I can easily lose hours testing out colours this way!

Dyed fabric swatches Waffle Design at Decorator's Notebook (533x800)

Pegs with coloured yarn Waffle Design at Decorator's Notebook (748x571)

What colours are you drawn to?

I really enjoy clashing colours and unexpected combinations, but I think part of the appeal of Waffle is that they’re used in quite a restrained way. While I was back at college I worked in the furnishing fabrics department at Liberty for a couple of years. I saw that while people were naturally drawn towards bold colours, more often than not, they would opt for the safer options in the end.

I kept that in mind when creating Waffle – I let people have fun with a little splash of colour but on a neutral, adaptable background they feel comfortable with.

Exclusive Burren Waffle Cushion Decorator's Notebook

Burren Waffle Cushion exclusive to Decorator's Notebook

Tell us about your inspiration for the Burren Waffle cushion (above), which you designed exclusively for Decorator’s Notebook?

I grew up in Ireland and The Burren is somewhere we used to visit on school trips. It’s a vast rocky plateau in the West of Ireland and I remember stepping off the bus and feeling like I was on another planet. The slabs of rock are criss-crossed all over with cracks and all the kids would play jumping over the gaps.

From a distance the landscape looks rather bleak but, if you look more closely, you can see all sorts of rare wild flowers growing inside those cracks. The colours the flowers inspired the embroidery and there’s an echo of the texture and tone of the rock in the fabric.

How did you find wool in exactly the right colours?

I use tapestry wool, which gives me access to a fantastic range of colours. My supplier has just sent me a new shade card with more than 400 options so the colour combinations are almost endless!

Reclaimed carpet yarn Waffle Design at Decorator's Notebook (723x800)

{Photographs Yeshen Venema and Decorator’s Notebook}

What’s your next creative milestone?

I’ve recently started experimenting with other materials for the embroidery, like coarser reclaimed carpet yarn and thin strips of leather. Because the waffle fabric is so versatile there are lots of exciting things I’d like to try. I’ve also begun working with a social enterprise in East London to outsource some of the simpler edge sewing, although I’ll always do the embroidery myself. They employ people suffering from anxiety and depression and help them build their independence by providing non-pressured working environment. It’s hard to let go of any element of what I do, but working with them is going to make it easier for me to grow and keep doing what I love best.

Thank you Ciara for the lovely insight into your designs. You can find Ciara’s Burren Waffle cushion (£60) in the Decorator’s Notebook shop and blog readers can order one with FREE UK DELIVERY* using the code BURREN at the checkout.

* Free Standard UK Delivery (£4.95 discount) when you purchase a Burren Waffle cushion at Decorator’s Notebook. This code must be used at the time of ordering and cannot be used in conjunction with other offers or applied to other products. Usual terms apply – please visit our website.

DIY: air drying clay Christmas tree decorations

13 Dec

I just love DAS clay… a couple of years ago I used it to make these simple clay tree decorations and this week we had a go at some more using different rubber stamps to create an embossed effect.

DAS clay Christmas tree decoration DIY LR

Air drying clay Christmas decorations LR

DAS clay snowflake Christmas tree decoration LR

{Decorator’s Notebook}

For those who haven’t used it before, DAS air-drying clay can be rolled and moulded like salt dough but dries to an off white ceramic finish. A big 1kg block costs under £5 from Amazon or local craft shops. We used about a third of  packet to make about 25 decorations.

Air Drying Clay Christmas Tree Decorations

1) Slice off about one third of a 1kg block of DAS air drying clay. Seal the remainder quickly in the packet as it soon dries out.

2) Roll out the clay to about 1.5mm thick on a smooth surface. Cut out shapes using a range of biscuit cutters – we chose snowflakes and hearts but anything festive will do… play around with the different ones you have cutting positive and negative shapes and various sizes.

3) Working quickly before the clay dries, emboss the decorations using rubber stamps or found materials like lace and hessian. Anything you can find with a pretty textures surface will work nicely.

4) Use the plastic casing of a biro to cut a small hanging hole in the top of each shape for hanging.

5) Leave until the clay is leather hard, then gently lift the decorations from your worksurface and transfer to a warm dry place to dry out. These are thin so will only take a few hours. They’ll harden up and lighten in colour when they’re dry.

6) Thread with twine or ribbon and they’re ready to hang on the tree!

These are really simple and certainly easy enough to try with the kids this weekend. Don’t forget to share the results with us on Instagram / Twitter / Pinterest @DecoratorsNotes or on our Facebook page.

New arrivals in the shop!

6 Dec

We’ve been busy bees adding more beautiful items to our virtual shelves… what do you think of the things we’ve picked? Enamel billy can from Decorator's Notebook First up is our classic Enamel Billy Can, guaranteed to make you feel like your favourite member of the Famous Five whether you’re camping, hiking or on the allotment. A bargain at £15 and ergonomically designed to slip into a stocking! Shoreline plates from Decorator's Notebook I picked these Shoreline Plates because they’re just so effortlessly stylish. They’re made from fine moulded clay and have a lovely rippled surface that’s really organic and tactile. Green Glass Bottle Vases from Decorator's Notebook These Green Glass Bottles are the newest addition to our range of fairtrade products. They’re all individually blown using age old techniques by artisans in India, and each one has a unique pattern of bubbles and natural impurities in the glass. They’re just £7.95 each and the two shapes look lovely as a pair or group. Tiny hanging picture frames from Decorator's Notebook Obviously I love everything in our Collection but these Tiny Hanging Picture Frames are one of my favourites. They’re an exact miniature of our popular Double Sided Picture Frames with a sari hanging ribbon that makes them perfect as personalised tree decorations, placenames or wedding favours. They’re just so cute! ribbons and twine from Decorator's Notebook Finally there are some lovely new arrivals in our Styling Toolkit range to help you put the finishing touches to your Christmas gift wrapping, including luxury Sari Ribbon (£12.95), Braided Cord (£12.95) and a Coloured Twine Trio (£9.95) all wound on reusable vintage wood bobbins. And of course, they’ll all go brilliantly with our free printable gift tags!

You’ll find all these and so many more lovely gift ideas in the Decorator’s Notebook shop – we’re looking forward to seeing you!

Decorator's Notebook Shop www decoratorsnotebook.co.uk

New additions to our Collection

18 Oct

I can’t believe how fast this week has gone! We’ve just had time to add a couple of new pieces to our Collection

handmade wooden eating bowl and spoon set £60 Decorator's Notebook

Our beautiful wooden bowl and spoon sets have arrived from the lovely Hatchet & Bear! Each bowl is turned using traditional skills and the spoons are individually carved by hand. EJ gathers different woods each season so we’ll be offering bowls and spoons in a selection of finishes as we go through the year. The latest are made from birch, which has a lovely even grain and rich golden colour enhanced with a rub of linseed oil and beeswax. Buy the wooden bowl and spoon sets here and we also have some gorgeous walnut wood spoons available on their own.

dipped terracotta jug mug and bowl Decorator's Notebook

And secondly, a heartwarming little tale… our popular terracotta mugs and bowls have a new addition to their family! Say hello to the adorable dipped terracotta jug, which is handmade by artisans in India. The pottery is part of a fair trade initiative that trains able-bodied and disabled people from disadvantaged backgrounds and offers them safe and secure employment so they can support their families. The jug has a really lovely handleless design and is just the right size for milk, cream, gravy or sauces. You’ll find all our dipped terracotta pieces here.

There’s a new Decorator’s Notebook Collection Pinterest board too where we’ll be posting new products as soon as they arrive, so do take a look and follow if you like our style.

Have a lovely weekend – I’m going to be working on a little craft project for Lou’s Nature in the Home series which begins again on Wednesday. Pop back then to see my creation!

Decorator’s Notebook Shop is here!

1 Oct

Welcome to the most exciting day for Decorator’s Notebook ever!

It was almost exactly a year ago today that Joe and I joined forces to follow our dream of opening the Decorator’s Notebook shop. It’s been an amazing time and today we are thrilled to share the result: a refined range of handpicked accessories to help you create a more personal and beautiful home. Here’s a taster of our launch collection…

Easterly Welsh Blanket £230 Decorator's Notebook Shop

I love products with interesting stories, makers and traditions behind them, so everything I’ve chosen for the new shop has intriguing origins as well as good looks. The Easterly Welsh Blanket is designed in London on a vintage dobby loom before being woven at one of the last remaining woollen mills in Wales.

Dipped terracotta mug - £12.95 - Decorator's Notebook Shop

These Dipped Terracotta Mugs are so gorgeous! Each one is handmade in India by members of a fairtrade co-operative where training and secure employment is provided and the empowerment of women is encouraged. The base is unglazed terracotta and has a lovely earthy colour and texture.

Burren Waffle cushion - £60 - Decorator's Notebook Shop

As well as pieces we’ve sourced from talented craftspeople around the world, you’ll also find a growing range of designs made exclusively for Decorator’s Notebook. This tactile Burren Waffle Cushion is one of them and has been created for us by Irish designer Ciara McGarrity. The Burren is a breathtaking national park in Ireland where rare plants and flowers can be found growing up through the limestone. The colours of the plants inspired the embroidery.

Campfire screen print - £60 - Decorator's Notebook Shop

Another exclusive, this time our Campfire Screen Print designed by my favourite illustrator Double Merrick. The great outdoors was a big inspiration to us growing up, so we commissioned Merrick to create a design that reflected both our love of adventure and the comforts of home.

Feather vases - £34 each - Decorator's Notebook Shop

You’ll find a natural thread running right through our collection, whether that’s in materials, patterns or rural crafts. These stoneware Feather Vases are thrown by hand before being decorated with delicate photographs of guinea fowl and pigeon feathers. I think they’d sit equally well in an ultra-contemporary or country-style home.

Landscape coat hooks - £45 set of 3 - Decorator's Notebook Shop

If you’re organising your home for autumn these are for you! These Landscape Coat Hooks come as a set of three – one in copper, one black and one lakeland design. We have co-ordinating cushions too.

Wire and Wicker basket - £38 - Decorator's Notebook Shop

Lastly, a stylish Wire and Wicker Basket for homegrown produce or logs by the fire. Many a crumble was had after this photoshoot day!

So, what do you think? Without this blog the Decorator’s Notebook shop would never have come about, so there’s nobody’s opinion we’d love more than yours!

Have a good poke around www.decoratorsnotebook.co.uk then please let us know your favourite product and help us spread the word!

Visit www.decoratorsnotebook.co.uk

{all images ©Decorator’s Notebook}

Join us @DecoratorsNotes on Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram and Facebook.

15-minute make: porcelain pen plates

22 Feb

Here’s a simple DIY using just two ingredients… a porcelain pen and a plain white plate. You could try out any design you want, but I really love the simplicity of this graphic pattern. It looks great and there’s no particular drawing skill needed to recreate it – just the kind of crafting I like!

white plates decorated with porcelain pen DIY craft idea

Porcelain Pen Decorated Plates

Fire at home porcelain pen

Basic white plates

1) Read the instructions on your porcelain pen – follow those if they differ from mine!

2) Give the pen a good shake and press the nib of the pen down several times on a sheet of scrap paper to get the ink flowing.

3) Start drawing your design on the plate, starting in the centre and turning the plate as you work to avoid smudging.

4) Leave to air dry for 24 hours then bake in the oven for 35 minutes at 150ºC / Gas Mark 2. Once fired the pen should be dishwasher safe but I’d recommend hand washing your masterpiece to be on the safe side.

porcelain pen plate DIY{Project and Photography Mormorsglamour}

Have a great weekend everyone. I’m getting behind the wheel for the first time in over 5 years… wish me luck!

15-minute make: twiggy plant markers

25 Jan

DIY herb makers made from twigs

Here’s a lemon squeezy little craft project for you to try out over the weekend. Spring is just around the corner so I’ll be adding a few green-fingered ideas over the coming months in celebration (anticipation).

Twig Plant Markers

Twigs about 20cm long and a little thicker than a pencil

Sharp craft knife and cutting mat

Alphabet stamps

Coloured ink pads or acrylic paint

1) Whittle one end of each stick into a point. At the other end, slice away the bark on one side of each twig, exposing about 6cm of the wood beneath.

2) Dab your alphabet stamps into the ink or paint being careful not to load the stamp too heavily. Stamp your chosen plant names onto the bare wood.

3) Leave to dry the pop into the pots. Standard craft ink isn’t waterproof so remove the markers before watering!

stick plant markers DIY

{both via Etsy}

15-minute make: pebble photo holder

11 Jan

pebble photo holder DIY craft idea{Danny Seo / Miki Duisterhof via Country Living}

When I was a child I was a bit of a magpie and my coat pockets were permanently filled with treasures I’d picked up and squirreled away… a grey feather, a scrap of ribbon, a patterned pebble or a shard of sea-smoothed glass. This simple craft idea takes moments and is one way to get part of your collection out on display.

Pebble Photo Holder

Nice smooth pebbles

Paper covered floristry wire

Pliers

1) Take a 20cm length of wire and wrap one end around the pebble. Twist to secure it tightly at the base.

2) Stand the remaining wire upright then twist the other end into a flattened spiral – the easiest way to do this is grip the end of the wire with pliers then wrap the next 3-4cm of wire tightly around them. Press with your fingers to flatten.

3) Pop a postcard, photo or polaroid into the top and voila! Experiment with different sized pebbles and lengths of wire to make a pleasing group.

Have a lovely weekend – wrap up warm!

Possibly the best mug ever

10 Dec

I love Toot as in Foot. Not only does it have one of the best blog names ever, author Jo always makes me laugh with her quirky tales and apparently fathomless vintage knowledge. If you’ve never seen a human jumble sale or you don’t yet know the weird and wonderful tale of Resusci Annie, you need to add this blog to your reading list.

homemade pottery mugs Toot as in Foot{Jo Waterhouse / Toot as in Foot}

I also think that Jo shares my compulsion to have a stab at new crafts… while I’ve been trying out screenprinting, she’s been playing around on the potters wheel. These wonderfully wobbly mugs are the fruits of her endeavours and they’re all so lovely I hope she won’t mind me sharing them. The one on the bottom right is captioned ‘possibly the worst mug ever’… and it’s absolutely my favourite.

Have you mastered any new skills during 2012 and what would you like to try in 2013?

15-minute make: ribbon star tree decoration

7 Dec

So, here begins a new little mini series I’ll be visiting on Decorator’s Notebook from time to time. I love settling down to a day of solid crafting with only a box of materials, cake and tea for company as much as the next girl. But in reality, we all know that finding the time to be creative is hard. So in this post I’ll be collecting together stylish craft ideas that you can reasonably start and finish in the time it takes to drink a mug of earl grey.

homemade star Christmas decoration

{Crafts & Creativity}

To make this ribbon wrapped star Christmas decoration, simply bend a strip of wire into a basic star shape with a hook at the top, wrap with a length of ribbon and tie the loose ends in a bow. Visit Craft & Creativity blog for step-by-step instructions. Try Jane Means for a beautiful selection of seasonal ribbons or try it with jute string or striped baker’s twine for a more relaxed look. Your local hardware shop is the place to buy thick wire (pick up a pair of pliers at the same time to make it easier to bend into shape).

Let me know if you have a go at this and share a photo via Twitter @DecoratorsNotes or my brand new Facebook page.

Have a lovely weekend!

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