Saturday, 29 September 2012


A week ago I woke up from an afternoon nap to find an email from someone at instructables.

She'd seen last year's halloween costume on Craftster and wanted me to enter it into the Instructables Halloween costume contest.

So I did.  I reckon you should vote for me.

Tuesday, 18 September 2012

Argentinian Flag tango bag anyone?

I seem to be making a lot of shoe bags for myself lately, and not many for my shop. I do have a good excuse though...

My design process for shoe bags is quite... freestyle.  I get the fabric and sew it together, hoping for the best.  As a result, the first attempt isn't always perfect, so I keep it for myself.

For my Argentinian flag tango shoe bag, I was experimenting with the best way to create the sun beams, which got better as I made my way around the circumference of the sun.

Now, not only do I have a lovely new home for my tango shoes, but I'm good to go should anyone request an Argentinian flag shoe bag in future...

Saturday, 15 September 2012

Gingham on the Inside

Doctor Who was back on our screens a few Saturdays ago - which was a perfect excuse to delay starting work on my latest OU assignment.  After all, I thought, it's only 45 minutes.  I can get cracking on my design work afterwards.

Instead of watching Doctor Who and then working on my assignment, I watched Doctor Who, and then spent 4 hours making a TARDIS shoe bag and ordering TARDIS coloured shoes from ebay to match:

And no, it's not bigger on the inside - it's gingham on the inside!

The shoes are TPS, and a style I've ordered before in gold so I didn't expect there to be any problems with them.  I took them out for a test-dance on Wednesday and they were okay... But the glittery straps are glittery on both sides, which makes them a bit scratchy around the toes, and I leave a trail of glitter everywhere I dance. Brings a new meaning to the phrase twinkle toes!

I'm not sure they'll look quite as fabulous for very long (once the glitter has all fallen off), but for now, I'll just enjoy being thoroughly coordinated.

Monday, 10 September 2012

Mini Moos

My Moo cards arrived on Friday.

I was in the middle of OU assignment chaos at the time, but it didn't stop me from taking a few minutes to stare at them and say "Oooh! Ahhhh!"

They're very pretty :)

Friday, 7 September 2012

Lime Green shoes

As I mentioned in an earlier post, I've been topping up my shoe supplies in preparation for the Berlin Salsa Congress, so I've been doing a lot of browsing on Ebay.

Here's a conversation I had with my boyfriend as a result:
Terrier Playnet Shoes

Leanne: Look at these lime green ones

Paul: You could wear them with some neon hotpants

Which is why I shouldn't take fashion advice from him.

Thursday, 6 September 2012

Saturday, 1 September 2012

Made to Order

A few months ago, a friend asked me to make a shoe bag to match the branding of his dance classes.  

So I did*:

Which just goes to show, if you have an idea for a shoe bag that you want to become a reality (and you don't have the time, inclination or sewing machine to put it together yourself), then you just need to ask...

*The graphic in the middle of the bag is their flyer.  He was planning to get an iron on transfer made to complete the bag.

Wednesday, 29 August 2012

Crocheted Characters

A while ago, I came up with a great idea for a birthday present for a friend called Steve.  So I made it for him and this is how it turned out:

Since Steve was in a band with a lot of my other friends, this first successful foray into the art of improvised amigurumi, spurred me on to make some more:

These consisted of most of the people in the rest of Steve's band Mambo con Rumbo (though the band line-up has changed a bit since then).

At this stage, there was still one important band member missing - and I'd already told him that he was impossible to make, but he looked so sad about it that I gave it a go anyway:

As it turned out that, either he wasn't impossible to make, or I am brilliant at crocheting.  I finished crocheting the band feeling proud of my wooly achievements and happy that I'd completed the challenge.

I toyed with the idea of whether I could make a crocheted anyone, but couldn't see how I'd make it into a feasible business if I didn't really know the people.

For a while, all was quiet on the crocheting front.  Until my boyfriend started complaining that he didn't have a little crocheted character.

"Well, you're not in a band are you?" I responded. "So you don't get one."

But when it got round to sorting out Christmas presents, I caved in and managed a pretty life-like representation of him too:

I'd posted all of these pictures on Facebook - mainly to show off my mean hook-based skills and gain admiration and respect from my friends.  

One day, one of my contacts -  a friend of a friend - contacted me on Facebook to ask if she could pay me to make some for an anniversary present for her boyfriend.  So I did, and it turns out I can do it if I don't really know the person too:

If you want one, get in touch and I'll see what I can do.

Also, if you can think of a name for a custom crocheted character type business, then shout it out.  In the meantime I'll be trading under the name of Mambo Delight.

Sunday, 26 August 2012

A very shoe-y shoe bag

When I saw this fabric in my favourite fabric shop, I just had to buy it:

I resisted the temptation to make it into a dress, as suggested by my friend at Oakwood Aromatics and instead set about creating some lovely shoe bags.  They're only £12 each and two of them got snapped up almost as soon as I'd finished them.  Available from my Etsy shop.  Go on - treat yourself!

Saturday, 25 August 2012


When I was at Mambo City this year, I entered a prize draw - and then I won it!  Which is why I get to go to the Berlin Salsa congress in October.

I'm sharing a room with SalsaFeet who, as you'd expect with a name like that, has been buying new shoes like there's no tomorrow in preparation for our Berlin adventure.  I've pretty much accepted that I'll never be able to keep up on the shoe buying front now - but it doesn't stop that competitive edge from rearing it's ugly head from time to time and sending me straight across to ebay to see what sparkling beauties I can pick up on a budget.

This morning the Postman kindly dropped off a packet containing these:

"Oooooh", "Ahhhh" etc...

This is my first pair of Brillantes, and since they only seem to stock them up to a size 6 or 6.5 at the moment, it looks like poor SalsaFeet isn't going to get to review them with her marginally too large feet.

Brillante are another of those Hong Kong based companies - and unlike TPS, they don't seem to have a distribution hub in the UK -so your shoes come directly from Hong Kong. This can mean that it takes a a bit longer for them to get there.  Though saying that - it still took less than a week for mine to arrive.

In spite of the fact that they're currently cutting off the circulation to my big toes while I attempt to stretch them out a bit, I'm really pleased with them.  The pretty photos on their ebay listings aren't any exaggeration of what you get in real life and they come with a few little extras:

A pair of spare suede heel tips - not that the original ones on my shoes ever come off because I would never even dream of using my heels as breaks (ahem) - and this nicely branded shoe bag, which is a bit of a bummer because I'm in the business of making nice shoe bags.

On closer inspection the shoe bag isn't brilliantly made - the fabric is a bit plasticky - reminiscent of a cheap school satchel and I guess it would nicely trap that lovely after-dance shoe aroma inside.  It's not finished terribly well either - check out the zip placement:

So all in all you'd be better off with a nice breathable cotton Mambo Delight number!  

The design of the bag itself is a little more complex than the traditional drawstring bag - but I can really see the benefit of the zip pocket at the front so I'm tempted to experiment with some zips to see if I can come up with something similar.  Of course I've had a few ideas stacked up, just waiting to be sewn onto shoe bags for quite some time now, so I can't guarantee how fast that will happen. But I'm very open to my next project being to experiment with a different style of bag.  Any takers..?

I haven't taken my new shoes out for a spin yet, but if they hold up to a hardcore weekend at the Berlin Salsa Congress then I'll definitely buy from Brillante again.

As for those ladies with size 7s and larger - why not email Brillante and ask them about getting a larger size?  They seem to market themselves as a custom made shoe company and if you don't ask, you don't get!

Thursday, 17 May 2012

Cutting the Ribbon

I keep meaning to write lots of posts about what I've been up to while I haven't been posting here.  It involves drawing round my hand a lot, large amounts of sewing for a wedding present, quite a lot of dancing, and winning a pass for the Berlin Salsa Congress.

Instead I'm going to let you know that I finally coaxed my pet photographer to take some nice shoe bag photos for me, meaning that I have finally opened my Etsy shop.

Sunday, 29 April 2012

A Quick Pint

On Thursday I left work a little bit late, meaning that I missed my train.  Instead of waiting around on the platform for 15 minutes for a really slow train, I decided to wait in the pub for half an hour for the quicker train.

Pint purchased, I sat down and opened my book 'The Design of Everyday Things' to learn more about why, after 6 years of living in my house I can never work out which light switch is for the living room and which is for the kitchen.

It wasn't long before a strange man interrupted me to ask me what I was reading.  I wasn't sure whether it was because he was lonely, or genuinely interested in my book (which he must have been reading over my shoulder because the cover wasn't visible to anyone), but I humoured him. For all I knew, he might have made a new years resolution to speak to a stranger everyday.

In the 5 minute conversation that ensued, he gave me a short lecture on symbiotics and told me that the way I dress shows that I'm not poor.  He obviously hasn't seen the state of my bank account lately...

Then I ran away to catch my train.

Monday, 19 March 2012


This is Herman:

I'm meant to feed him and look after him for 10 days before passing 4/5 of him to other people and baking 1/5 for myself, but since I'll be in Milan on day 10 I'm going to have to bend the rules a little bit.

I'll let you know how he turns out...

Monday, 13 February 2012

Fancy Dress

On Saturday night I went to a gangster themed salsa night and in fancy dress tradition, we made time for a photo shoot before I left the house.  Luckily I live with Paul Kelly, who knows how to take a good photo:

This costume was no trouble at all to come up with - I had most of it in my wardrobe and only needed to buy a few pearly accessories - unlike some other fancy dress costumes I've donned in the past:

From left to right:
  • Little Miss Muffett with a halloween twist, for which I had to make a dress, and bonnet, and then hand sew 50 odd plastic spiders all over.
  • Rubiks cube, for an 80s themed party - I made the skirt which was, by the way, solvable.
  • Rudolph - for fake Christmas one year - my first attempt at making a dress.  It was way too short.
  • Sheep - for another Fake Christmas - this time, the nativity scene - it was slightly less labour intensive, since I just had to stick a photo of my head to some cotton wool and pipe cleaners.
  • Lost - not for any particular reason - just a cold winters night when we thought it would be fun to get into some summer clothes and pretend we were in Lost
  • Wizard of Oz inspired Witch - low maintenance, only back-combed hair and 'ruby' slippers required.
  • Dangermouse - another 80s party, thought of and made on the day of the do - I won the fancy dress competition
  • Rock chic - no party, just for fun, using the clothes I already had in my wardrobe
  • Gangster - my first incarnation as a gangster, with a corset made out of a pair of pinstriped trousers.  

Tuesday, 7 February 2012


I spent the entire weekend, and the two evenings so far this week working on a top secret creative project.  Somehow it has taken over my brain for the past four days, but I think I've finally reached saturation point.

As I was clearing away the creative chaos that I exploded in my kitchen tonight, I had the definite feeling that I need to put it away an out of my mind until the weekend, when I hope I'll be able to make some more progress.  I still have an epic task ahead of me, but at least I've started...

Thursday, 2 February 2012

Leading the Way

I spent last Saturday at an all day beginners tango workshop... as a leader.

My introduction to tango was attending the very same course as a follower and I heartily recommend it to anyone. My lasting memory from it is less about the tango I learned, and more about the people I met there and the friendships that started on that day a few years ago.

It's been a while since that first workshop with White Rose Tango, and I have to say that this time I was even more wowed by it than before.  The warm welcoming atmosphere played a part in that, but the quality and volume of useful things that I was reminded of during the day was what really struck me this time.  I'm sure that if I had been there to follow, I would have taken just as much from it - even as an 'experienced' follower. The advantage of revisiting basic workshops two years on is that I'll (maybe) be able to retain more of it as it's not so much of a shock to the system.

As far as my leading is going - it's been 5 weeks now and it still seems way out of my reach to be anywhere near competent (which is probably about right for my following too!) but I'm really enjoying having the opportunity to see things from the other side.

On the plus side, it turns out that tango really is fun.  When it's not frustrating and annoying and impossible.

My First Shoe Bag

The first shoe bag I ever made, and the second thing I ever made using a sewing machine looked like this:

At the time I never dreamed that one day I would be making shoe bags that people would actually want to buy - in the same way that I never dreamed I'd ever wear short tight dresses, tiny shorts or animal print. - I guess dancing changes your life in many ways.

How has dancing changed your life?

Saturday, 28 January 2012

The Craft of Comedy

This week I went to see Josie Long.

The first time I went to see her was before she started winning awards left, right and centre. I remember her from then - way back in 2004 or 2005 because of the hand drawn picture of people on a bus that she brought along to illustrate her comedy, and the handmade badges she made and gave out at the end of the gig.  I still have mine:

Six (or seven) years on, and some awards later, she still has the same exuberant personality that I vaguely recall her sharing with the audience as she pointed out the detail on her childlike drawing of some people on a bus.

It turns out that she's still making people laugh, and still making stuff to give out to the audience.  On this occasion, it was the programme:

I don't remember any of Josie Long's jokes (I can't say I really remember any comedians' jokes) but I do remember her. Part of that is because she made things which once upon a time made me laugh and now I own some things that she made which I can attach to my clothes or read to remind me to care a bit more about politics and stuff.  I might throw some programmes away after they've cluttered up the junk drawer for a while - but I think this one will survive many-a-spring clean.  After all, it contains the power of the hand made...

Friday, 20 January 2012

My New Shoes

When I was taking this picture of my shoe bags, I made a startling discovery:  I don't have enough dance shoes to go inside them.  Fair enough, I don't intend to keep all those shoe bags for myself, but I thought I had more than 4 pairs of shoes...

That meant it was time to spend my Christmas money on a pair of these snakey beauties.

I've been wanting a pair of stiletto heels for tango for ages - although these aren't 'proper' tango shoes, the slim heel makes them look a bit more like they are and they are much more affordable than the made-for-tango shoes you see all over Ebay.  These were a bargain at £31.99 from a newish Ebay shop called globalcolourshop.  For TPS shoe fans, it looks like the shops are run by the same people.

TPS recommends that you check your foot measurements before you buy the Global Colour ones as the sizing is different. I went for a size 7 rather than my usual 6.5 - but I think I could have got away with the smaller size after all.  My 7s are a fraction too long.

In spite of the 3 week estimated delivery date, these arrived in a week.  Hooray!

Amy from Salsafeet recently told me about her impossible 3.5 inchers, so the first thing I did with my new purchase was check that there is a finger space underneath the heel when the sole is flat on the ground.  With dance shoes, I think it's harder to do this - the soles are so flexible, so they just bend to whatever shape you make with them (within reason) - but I could make the finger thing work, so I'm happy enough!

At tango they went down well - I can dance in them with no difficulty (apart from the usual - 'you want me to make my body do what?!' moments) and had a fair few compliments ("They were the first thing I noticed when I walked in the room!" said one tanguera).

I changed into my flats when it came to my beginner leaders' class, because leading in heels makes my bum stick out... but more on how that's going another time.

Monday, 16 January 2012

The Art of Craft Photography

At the moment I'm working on ideas for how to sell these:

This mainly consists of leaving them on the kitchen table, hoping my boyfriend will get the hint to take some nice photos of them. Leaving them out on the bed in the spare room for three months didn't work.

I did spend an hour the other week taking photos within the limitations of my point and shoot camera (which is how the shoe bag line-up photo came into existence) but they weren't quite as good as I wanted them to be.

This is my boyfriend*:

As you can see, he's got quite a good camera, with an expensive lens so his photos are bound to be better.  

*(the crocheted version I made him for Christmas.)

Tuesday, 10 January 2012

A Mysterious Package

In my gap year, when all my friends went off to University for the first time, it was just in the time before email became big and so we wrote a lot of letters.  In those days I never knew when I'd be getting a message in a bottle through the post, or a letter written on a streamer, rolled up and posted in a match box...

These days communication between friends has changed beyond all recognition.  I always know if I'm getting anything other than junk mail in the post because someone will Facebook me, or text me and ask me for my address - then I know to expect that wedding invite in the next few weeks.  That's why I was particularly confused this evening to arrive home to find a card through the door saying that there was a package waiting for me at the neighbour's house.

Surely the pretty shoes I ordered off ebay at 8pm last night couldn't be here already?  Of course not.  

The only thing I could do is walk across the road to knock on the neighbour's door.  He handed me a cardboard package which was branded with the Open University logo.  It turned out that I was expecting that package after all - it contained the course materials for the Design Thinking module I'm due to start next month.

Still, inside that innocuous looking cardboard package was something very exciting.  This:

To think I was worried about how much work I'm going to have to do.  This is going to be fun...

Thursday, 5 January 2012

Tango Time

It was lovely to be back on the dance floor again last night, starting with a good old tango* (and a slightly more challenging lesson that I was expecting). I love being challenged though, so the paradas and colgadas were pitched just right to help put my mind to achieving much more for my tango this year.

Now I've got my head around the hundreds of little things you have to remember to do to take one perfectly executed step, I decided it was probably time to revisit basic technique again. The idea is that I can pick up on the thousands of little things I missed the first time round. This time, I'm going in as a beginner leader as there are often more followers than leaders in class.

I actually had fun being a beginner again, after shedding my initial self consciousness. Fun was kind of unexpected - I was only in it for the education and now I'm looking forward to leading in my next beginners' class. Next time I'll aim to relax a bit so I don't end up with aching muscles in my arms like I have today.

Later, during the milonga , I actually broke a sweat for the first time whilst dancing tango.  I like to think it's because I'm more capable of following faster and achieving more difficult moves.  I'll pretend it's nothing to to with being unfit after a Christmas of eating and drinking...

*By which I mean new tango - or tango nuevo as it's known in more exotic places.

Monday, 2 January 2012

New Year Delight

Last year I accidentally sold 9 handmade shoe bags to friends from my local salsa community.  Before then, I'd only ever made them for myself, or to give as birthday presents.  At the moment, a Facebook page with 26 followers, and a little used Twitter account (@MamboDelight ) is as far as I've gone in my efforts to establish my slowly emerging business.

This year I'm adding a blog to the family, on which you will find posts about:
  • Creating pretty new homes for beautiful sparkly shoes 
  • Creating manly new homes for manly dance shoes 
  • Sparkly new dance shoes that can be found on the end of my feet
  • Dancing
  • Sewing
  • Crocheting
  • Things what I have learned /I am learning about making a craft-based business.
I'm also starting the year off by reading this:

I'll let you know how I get on.