I spent a recent afternoon measuring, marking, stitching, measuring again, cursing, tying, threading and cursing.
A couple of years ago I found 3 matching pale blue leather “skins” on etsy and happily imported them. And put them in a zip up bag with pictures of ice creams on it and ignored them.
About THIRTEEN years ago, I bought a fat quarter of Liberty’s fabulous Ianthe fabric from a shop that has since been closed down and demolished.
I have a coffee table in a fairly offensively orangey stained pine and I decided about a month ago to make a leather button tufted cushion with Ianthe buttons for it, to turn it into one of those wanky footstool ottoman things you can still rest a tray on…
So with all of my tufting experience (that is, zero), I gathered the fruits of my undisturbed stash of delights, bought some foam and some coverable buttons, did a billion drawings, watched a couple of tutorial videos on YouTube and got to it.
You’ll also need, foam, strong leather working thread, a variety of needles, coverable buttons, normal buttons, beeswax, thread, leather, a sewing machine wash tape, scissors, lining fabric, lovely fabric, a world of patience and no problem with the sight of your own blood or the sensation of stabbing yourself repeatedly. You will also need an elaborate, dramatic and extensive collection of swearwords. Here’s the guide….

foam STEP 1 – Scrawl incorrect measurements onto a piece of pre cut foam. Swear. Scrawl correct measurements onto piece of pre cut foam.

leather STEP 2 – Join two skins together with washi tape, sew them together and scrawl some measurements onto them. (2cm bigger both ways than the squares on the foam)

Ianthe buttons STEP 3 – Cover buttons with beautiful yet sadly delicate fabric. This is Ianthe by Liberty and it looks great on blue.

stitches STEP 4 – Do complicated knotty thing copied from YouTube video. Puff up with some pride at impressive nature of sudden expertise.

tufting STEP 5 – Do this bit. Try not to weep too excessively when leather tears and breaks in your fat fingers of ineptitude. Honestly I thought this would be the most fun bit – It really wasn’t.

tufting2 STEP 6 – Nor was this. Attempt to add sharp folds into the leather so that it looks nice.  I used a lolly stick. It meant I had to eat a lolly for practical reasons.

tufting3 STEP 7 – Continue, with the poking and folding and swearing.

tufting4 STEP 8 – Add buttons. Consider not adding a base, not adding all of the buttons and spend a long time watching iPlayer and drinking tea instead of working on it at all.
The fact I have a Chesterfield sofa in the same room puts it to some shame, but the fact that I have a designer’s head, one that says, “ruin one skin, you’ll never find another in the right colour to match” and “could you just measure that again, idiot?” means that I now have a serviceably pretty thing.
I regret not waiting for a wooden base. I got impatient and thought tying it all up together taut at the back would do (no)… But other than that, I am very happy. VERY. All it needs now is a bit more stitching, a proper fabric base and some more cursing and I’m done….there will be evidence.
Keep your stashes. Trust them and the part of your brain that required them. The bits you love may find a way to be useful eventually…


If you don’t follow me on twitter (and IF you don’t, it’s a shame. I have come up with something truly awesome for the advent countdown…. Follow me here!! – you’ll have missed me dying my hair orange and white earlier this week too. It’s too late now!! It’s back to blondish again, but I did have a couple of important meetings looking like I had had an egg fight in a TippEx factory. AND I didn’t even cry. Not even once. I am grown up.)


You may also have missed the announcement that I was working on a design for the latest British Jewellers’ Association competition. This time it’s one to design a Cocktail Ring.

Cocktail Rings aren’t my specialty – as you can probably deduce from the massive number and variety of them I have never made – but I create things. I design jewellery and I know what looks nice. I’ll have a good stab at it….


And as I said in the tweet, It’ll blow your collective bum clean off.


So… this is how I work…(I wish this wasn’t so accurate).

  1. Instantly come up with a title for the Cocktail Ring I want to make. No idea what the piece involves or what it will look like but this time I was convinced that it would end up being called “DISCO WOLF GOES ON HOLIDAY”. Suffice to say, it won’t end up being called that – or anything like that.
  2. Spend a couple of weeks scribbling on post-it notes, inventing something absolutely impossible to make in the time. And too small for a catwalk cocktail ring. And not colourful enough. And barely functional. But it fits the title.
  3. Decide instead to listen to sanity and go for something completely different.
  4. Again with the post it notes and tiny pieces of paper, researching idea 2 until it is all I can think about… then realise that this is even more complicated than idea 1. And will take forever to make and at least 2 complex mechanisms… and springs….Decide to forge ahead.
  5. Speak to someone about it and note that they respond much more favourably to idea 1 than to idea 2.
  6. Procrastinate by doing other things – e.g….. dye own hair white and orange.
  7. Chat to a friend – who reminds me that I was talking about doing a design with this animal at some stage…wouldn’t that be cool?
  8. Realise that I have had a Kinder Surprise toy of this animal sitting in front of my face (balanced on the computer!!) for the past 5 months.
  9. Design Cocktail Ring (in about 2 minutes).


Horribly true. It will be brilliant though. …. (I hope)

competition sketch bundle...

just a quick note, each of the pages you can see is the front of a little booklet …of 8 pages…. I’ve been taking these EVERYWHERE…

Note  – I make these books (perfectly pocket sized) from a single sheet of paper, using this method I found on Etsy a couple of years ago.

It is so much better than paper for note making and mechanism sketches – you also get a neat little buzz every time you complete one – which is quite regularly seeing as they only have 8 pages…. Use and enjoy – and of course you don’t have to stick to A4 paper…

8 page booklet...


AND if you go to the PocketMod site , they have coded loads of very useful drag and drop pages for you to print onto your paper to transform it into a RIDICULOUSLY useful little cheap thing…. Those clever, altruistic humans…They deserve love and money and toast with good things on it.


If you’ve got a little more time, you might want to go even further….. This is a fantastic animated tutorial for making a slightly more complex larger notebook – with just tabs and slots holding it together – and glitter!

http://www.designlovefest.com/2012/04/make-it-10-2/ Kudos to D E S I G N L O V E F E S T for this. It’s chuffin’ genius.


More news… I am hopelessly addicted to Masterchef the Professionals – mainly for Monica’s face, but also for the food, I suppose. I love the premise of the show coming up on Monday, in which the 4 finalists are going to be given a load of manky kitchen scraps from which they have to produce something awe-inspiring and terribly fancy.

After work, I find it tricky to bring myself to even open the fridge, let alone do anything more complex than stare at its contents… these people are alchemists…I want a takeaway. Or toast with good things on it.