If you’ve been tuning in here for a while you’ll know that second to crafting, travel is my passion. I love discov­ering new places and having experiences I never could at home. But sometimes I spend so much time online when on the road that I can miss experiences right in front of me. It’s ridiculous! Are you the same as me? Do you find yourself staring at your phone when you should be looking out the window?

As part of my ongoing focus this year on finding balance between the online and offline world (remember this post), I recently got together with Cathay Pacific to launch their #onedayoffline campaign. To really get into the spirit of the #onedayoffline concept, I traveled to Italy, Florence in fact. As the global capital of leather artisans, the gorgeous city has been on my radar for a very long time. I had to pinch myself once I realised I would be spending one glorious day learning the secrets of the leather trade with leather artisans. To be honest, I could have stayed a year but I’m definitely not complaining.

By some miracle, I was able to get into the Florence School of Leather, which is THE place to learn the secrets of this artisan trade. Established after World War Two as a leather training college for war orphans, and now cater­ing to students from all over the world, the ‘Scuola del Cuoio’ is the heart of traditional leather craft in this city. I went offline for a day and got a private training course from one of their artisans.

Not only was there so much knowledge to drink in, so much to see, but being offline while I did it allowed my creative juices to flow. It was one of the most amazing expe­riences I’ve had in a very long time.

What would you do with your one day offline? Head to the #onedayoffline website to make your pledge.

Florence Leather School

The tools of the trade.

One Day Offline - Leather Making in Florence

Gorgeous Florence (guide coming soon!)

Florence Leather School

View from the Duomo

From a few of your comments on social media I know many of you are incredibly interested in doing some sort of leather course like this, and I think you should! I took the one day course (sadly we were tight on time!), but the school offers these types of courses as well as longer intensive study over 3 and 6 months. It’s not exactly cheap, but if you’re looking to become a professional I would say it’s a good investment.

During my course, I made a leather journal and also learnt a range of different techniques needed to work with leather on both big and small projects. All of these techniques given me a much greater understanding of leather as a medium – I can’t wait to experiment more! A few takeaways:

Choosing Leather

One of the best things I learnt was how to better choose leather for a project. Obviously this comes down to matching leather with what you’re making. This will depend firstly on the leather thickness, which will effect how pliable it is or how much movement the leather allows. Secondly, it’ll come down to the type of leather. There are lots of different types but they can be roughly split into two groups: those that come from the topside of the leather (often more sturdy – you’ll be able to see the pores of the skin) and those like suede and nubuck that that originate from the layer below (and are a little bit velvet like).

Cutting Leather

In the past when I’ve cut leather for projects I’ve used scissors, but soon learnt in Florence that it’s a completely no no. The action of snipping away means your lines move and curve in the wrong direction. Instead, a ruler or template should be used with a scalpel or rotary cutter. Florence Leather school obviously had a zillion different tools of every possible task at hand, but I think at home (or in the studio) these two cutting tools are a good place to start.

Using a Cardboard Pattern (or ‘Form’)

So it turns out that the beautiful cardboard patterns hanging all over the walls in the Florence Leather School aren’t there just to be B roll for my video – they serve a traditional function. All the bags in the main gallery and in their store have been made using these cardboard patterns. After making the cardboard form of the pattern you can use it over and over again to trace the outline. You just place the cardboard form onto the leather and hold firmly with one hand and then use the other hand to cut the leather according to the pattern, by placing the blade as close as possible.

Pressing Leather

One thing I found fascinating is that in professional bag making, once you’ve cut your pattern it is pressed using a special pressing machine, essential rolled between to rollers so that the leather is of a uniform thickness all over. This was a surprise to me as I had no idea this is part of the making process, and I can understand why home made leather products are generally more rustic.

Finishing the edges of leather

I’m a bit of a perfectionist, and have always wanted to know how to create that perfect bought-in-a-boutique feel for my leather projects. One place my projects always seem to let me down is their edges, professional pieces always have perfectly finished edges that wear well over time. Turns out this is because of two factors – the edges are beveled (cut on an angle) and treated with a glue mix to seal and then burnished (fancy word for rubbed) so they shine. A process that’s completely worth it!

These are just a few of the things I learnt on my #onedayoffline, I can only imagine how much you would learn in a whole semester!

One Day Offline - Leather Making in Florence

The centuries old building of the leather school made it an awe inspiring experience.

One Day Offline - Leather Making in Florence

Admiring the work station of one of the master artisans

One Day Offline - Leather Making in Florence

Not a bad place to spend a day!

One Day Offline - Leather Making in Florence

The space was just so atmospheric.

One Day Offline - Leather Making in Florence

Due to the location on the river, Florence has been the home of leather tanneries forever, which helped create this centuries old industry.

One Day Offline - Leather Making in Florence

Starting the process of making my journal.

One Day Offline - Leather Making in Florence

Learning to use the right tools (and trying not to smash my finger!).

One Day Offline - Leather Making in Florence

Walls of forms for making bags.

One Day Offline - Leather Making in Florence

Completely handmade bag designs in the school.

Florence Leather School

The finished product of my journal.

This post is in collaboration with Cathay Pacific.


Those of you following along on snapchat (find me: apair_andaspare) will know that I’ve been spending quite a bit of time researching and planning the DIY projects for the site for the next few months, I’m so keen to get some fresh ideas and trends up for you guys to try yourself. I’ve got a bunch of fun before & afters planned, as well as lots of original ideas to make from scratch. Excited! Naturally a style I’ve been really loving (and you can see everyone else is too) is the wide leg trouser. Pretty much the easiest thing to make in the world if you have even basic knowledge of hand or machine sewing. The trick for this project is choosing a nice fabric that moves well, thus taking them from pyjama wear to out on the town wear, although a little bit of both isn’t so bad either…

DIY Wide Leg Trousers

Wearing: DIY Trousers, Grana silk shell top (my new go to top because it’s classy like a camp but you can wear a bra!), Celine Trio Bag, The Mode Collective Heels, Daniel Wellington Watch.

DIy Easy Wide Leg Trousers

This project is a simple extension of a gathered waist shorts pattern – much like these sequin ones and these scarf ones. To eeeeaaasssy I’m telling you.

You need:

  • 2 metres (2.2 yards) of fabric, we used a nice flowy rayon
  • pins
  • elastic to fit your waist
  • scissors
  • thread
  • a pair of wide leg trousers or pyjama pants to use as the template.

DIY Wide Leg Trousers

How to:

1. Cut your fabric into two pieces lengthways. Then fold it on half. Place the long edge of your trousers on the folded edge of the fabric, as shown below.

DIY Wide Leg Trousers

2. Cut around the other side to mirror the crotch of the trousers. Do this again so you have two pieces.

DIY Wide Leg Trousers

3. Pin your pieces together along both curved edges.

DIY Wide Leg Trousers

4. The pinned product will look like this.

DIY Wide Leg Trousers

5. Now for the sort of tricky bit. Switch the outside seams around so they are in the middle of the garment and facing each other. Then pin the leg seams together on opposite sides.

DIY Wide Leg Trousers

Once you’ve done all the pinning your basic trousers will be created.

DIY Wide Leg Trousers

6. All you have to do next is to sew the pinned seams, sew the hems and then do an elasticated waistband using this method (fold over the sew down the waistband casing and them thread with elastic). Too easy!

DIY easy wide leg trousers

To wear them, I always make sure to cover the waistband either with a top of a belt, that gives them a polished look. And if you dress the finish product up with some nice accessories no one will be the wiser about how easy (and inexpensive) these are.

DIy Easy Wide Leg Trousers

Finished product photos by Bryant Lee.


Recently I travelled to Okinawa, a string of tiny islands off the coast of Japan with a friend, and had the most amazing time. I guess it was made all the better because I really didn’t know what to expect. There is pretty much zero info available on this part of the world (in english anyway) and everyone I asked in Hong Kong descibed it as… ‘random’. After being there I know what they mean, but for me it was random in a good way as opposed to being random in a bad way. First things first, the culture pretty much defies definition – Japanese but with a more relaxed vibe than bigger cities like Tokyo and with a hint of Hawaiian culture owing to the fact that many Okinawans moved out to the US in the early 1900s to work as labourers and brought the culture back post WW11. Every also feel very 70’s in terms of decor, it’s like time stood still. And those beaches! Worth going for those alone.

My friends over at Seek the Uniq sent me a few pretty pieces to wear on my trip, I recommend you checking them out if you’re looking for a few travel inspired items to freshen up your suitcase – currently loving this bucket bag, this simple beach dress, this one shoulder top and this retro swimsuit (doubles as a top!).

Guide to Okinawa

Rock formations at Aharen Bay on Tokishiki Island (wearing Seek the Uniq)


We went at the busiest time of year, so found accom both expensive and hard to get hold of. Avoid August if you can! We wanted to stay on the island of Tokashiki (a ferry ride from main city of Naha) but couldn’t find any accommodation, so for the first night we bunked down at the Mercure in Naha and then took a day trip the next day. We then headed up the island and managed to stay at Moon Beach, which was pricey at that time of the year but lovely.

Eat & Drink

We became addicted to the food in Okinawa, particularly the tofu and also taco rice while we were there, this weird mix of chilli con carne on sushi rice which is a bit of a staple around Oki. These are a few of the places we liked:

We loved our trip to Udonyama, best udon I’ve had since Kyoto and in the cutest house.

Borrachos for the best Taco Rice in Naha. It’s Mexican so great for an evening mojito.

Café Doka Doka in Onna is a cute cafe with a lovely view and little gallery/pottery shop.

Pizza in the Sky is similar to Cafe Doka Doka with yummy pizzas and a great view of the sunset.

We had a traditional meal at

Paanilani Hawaiian Pancake House  is so cute and serves the most amazing pancakes (that’s all it serves). We loved the recommend the ‘nut’ pancakes which are actually coconut.

Ball Donut Park is the cutest place for a sweet treat in Naha.

C&C in Naha is great if you’re lovers of breakfast like we are.

We also visited a number of small bars on Paradise-dori in Naha, most not much bigger than a front lounge room where we met some lovely locals. The owner pulled out her Sanshin (like a guitar) and we all sang along (we didn’t know the words!). They forced us to drink so much sake and we ate all these yummy Okinawan pancakes and tofu. Delish!

See & Do

Okinawa is absolutely huge and there’s so much to do, these are a few of the things we liked while we were there:

A day trip to the Kerama Islands by ferry from Naha is a MUST DO. We chose Tokishiki because I’d read about  gorgeous Aharen Beach. Book a public fast ferry in advance (you’ll have to call them up) and then on the island get a bus to the beach. In true Japanese style it’s all so efficient! You can rent umbrellas, chairs and eat taco rice, sashimi, snow cones, have a cocktail, go exploring.

Highway 58 between Naha and Chantan has the most amazing array of vintage stores – furniture, brick a black and all sorts of amazing retro pieces. I would go back for these alone.

A visit to Ikei Beach is the perfect day.

The Pineapple Park looks so twee if that’s your jam.

We loved our quick trip to Cape Manzamo (the elephant rock).

We popped into the Yomitan Pottery Village and could have bought everything!

We popped into the aquarium which we liked. You only need about 30 mins there.

Good to Know
If you’re staying on the main Okinawa Island you need o get a car, there’s zero way to get around otherwise.
Make sure you have the internet on your phone or GPS as the signs are so hard to work out.

Guide to Okinawa

The only street signs that matter…

A Quick Guide to Okinawa

 Seek the Uniq bag (so appropriate for Okinawa!), DIY Shorts, Karen Walker Sunglasses, Sportsgirl hat

A Quick Guide to Okinawa

Aharen Bay didn’t disappoint.

A Quick Guide to Okinawa

Soaking up the rays in this pretty mixed print playsuit.

A Quick Guide to Okinawa

How good is travelling with your bestie?

Guide to Okinawa

The view from the plane was gorgeous!

A Quick Guide to Okinawa

Hotel Moon Beach

A Quick Guide to Okinawa

Snow cones and beach, is there anything better?

Guide to Okinawa

Packing: Seek the Uniq Off the shoulder top, One Teaspoon shorts, flats my own design (!), midi rings

A Quick Guide to Okinawa

Fitting in with the decor and making friends in Tokashiki (wearing this).


We found this little secluded cove (and yeah, insta-gasamed)

A Quick Guide to Okinawa

Love an off the shoulder number on holidays!

Essentials… Seek the Uniq Clutch (also like this one), Bobbi Brown Make Up, Aesop travel products, Ray Ban Round Glasses.

A Quick Guide to Okinawa

Lunch at Pizza in the Sky (ca-uuutttteee)

A Quick Guide to Okinawa

Yomitan Pottery Village had me heart eyes.

A Quick Guide to Okinawa

Pulling up a lounger on Aharen Beach.

A Quick Guide to Okinawa

It’s not a holiday without two ridiculously decorated drinks.

A Quick Guide to Okinawa

Blue everywhere!

A Quick Guide to Okinawa

Japanese treats as far as the eye can see.

A Quick Guide to Okinawa

Lots more travel guides coming up since my last trip to Italy, and have a few more destinations on the cards… feeling a bit like this. Thanks for the lovely pieces Seek the Uniq!


Reading for me is the ultimate therapy. Hunkering down with a good book for a few hours is kinda of like going on a one week health retreat, it’s that time to disconnect that I think my brain craves these days. Although I read most nights for an hour before going to sleep (my brain can’t switch off otherwise), I love to do it the most on Sunday mornings, particularly as the weather starts to cool down and staying in bed becomes more appealing. Drink tea and whirl through the pages. Or should I say flick through the kindle? Or whatever other not-quite-right verb you use for an e-reader.

In the past, my favourite books have been recommended by other people, and so I thought, what better way to get to know you more than to ask you what you think I (and other people out there) should be reading right now. I just sailed through Station Eleven, All The Light That We Cannot See and The Girl On the Train, all fairly new worth reading, and am on the lookout for my next great read. I would be so grateful for any recommendations of new or fairly new books you have. Happy Sunday!

What are you reading at the moment?

Ps. See here for my favourite books about places.

Photos by Michelle J Proctor. Socks and sleepwear from Papinelle.