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An Anniversary

Steampunk Victorian Leather Pen in wooden display box
Steampunk Victorian Leather Pen in wooden display box
Steampunk Victorian Leather Pen in wooden display box

May the Fourth 2021

I knew there was something familiar about today’s date. 

Other than my being a science fiction fan, May the fourth last year was significant because it was the day we announced that we could restart the supply of our non-essential goods to customers (see the Covid-19 info on the Belts site). 

So today marks a year since we began a new normal; one that has continued to evolve, and will continue to do so. We are still sanitising hands and surfaces, wearing face coverings and keeping our distance…

We are delighted to be able to welcome customers into our new-look shop, with the belt maker’s workbench right in the window, and a spacious shopping area inside. 

Those exciting plans I mentioned a year ago became a shop called ‘The Belt Makers and Friends‘ and inside you can now find a good range of gifts and accessories that compliment our belts, and that you might find around a person who belongs – for a part of their day at least – in an office, study or studio. Things like suitable leather bags and briefcases for the trip to work. Other items that brighten your day, such as a smart shirt and cufflinks to team up with a more casual trouser; comfy and bright, British made woollen socks; and leather pens that have been expertly hand crafted from our very own leather trimmings. 

The range is expanding all the time and ‘desk decor’ is an area we are aiming at for the near future. Where will we be this time next year? To quote Dave Lister, of the JMC mining ship, Red Dwarf: “It’s going to be fun finding out!”

Stay safe, people.

Marie

‘An Anniversary’ was written by Marie Buckfield

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Open longer for Christmas!

Christmas shop front
Christmas shop front
Christmas shop front

Open longer for Christmas!

The kindly Mr Jenrick has announced that retailers are permitted to open longer hours without the lengthy application process. Tomorrow our area exits the England Lockdown 2, into Tier 2 instead. I am here to let you know where that leaves Christmas shopping with The Belt Makers & Friends!

Open!!

From TOMORROW (Weds 2nd December) at 10am, we… are… OPEN!!

All our COVID-secure measures will be in place, both for you to shop in comfort and safety, and for the safety of our staff.

  • Hands: Everyone will be asked to apply the supplied hand sanitiser at the door
  • Face: Face coverings are mandatory (medical exemptions apply)
  • Space: We have 2m markings throughout the store and we may restrict numbers in store if required

New December arrangements

We are delighted to announce new shopping hours for December! We will be opening our door for a little longer this year, to allow for socially distanced browsing, over longer shopping days.

Thursday is traditionally late night shopping so we will keep our door open to all, until 7pm every Thursday, from now until Christmas.

We are introducing personal shopping appointment slots for Friday and Saturday evenings. On Fridays you can book appointments between 5 and 8pm and on Saturdays you can book between 5 and 7pm.

We will also open Sundays, from 11am-4pm AND Mondays, from 10am-5pm.

Press the image below to go straight to the bookings page!

See you soon!

‘Open longer for Christmas’ was written by Marie Buckfield

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Poppies on the Door

Poppies on the Door

Poppies on the door

As you may remember, I sent off for Poppies in the Post. This was the 2020 Royal British Legion campaign to make poppies available to all (mentioned in post ‘2020 Royal British Legion Poppy Appeal‘). They were aware that some of those who wished to wear a poppy may not be able to access those in their local supermarket.

The poppies arrived just a few days before Remembrance Weekend. By then we were once again in lockdown, so I decided to make them available all night as well as during our Click and Collect opening hours. I creatively stuck the basket to our window, next to the door.

I admit I was a touch nervous that some or all might be strewn all over the pavement in the mornings. There was no evidence of this and the numbers gradually went down until the basket was empty. No one has been on the phone about littering.

I hope I did the right thing, made my Dad proud, and that it has helped not only to raise some much needed funds for former service members and their families, but that it has made some people happy!

‘Poppies on the Door’ was written by Marie Buckfield

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Thank you NHS

Thank You NHS on blue heart

Thank you NHS

Our wonderful NHS supportive offer is in action from now until the end of November, to be sure that your order is ready in time for Christmas. You may remember the story behind this pledge, from our British Spirit blog post.

For every bespoke TBM British Spirit Belt sold between now and 30th November 2020, we’d like to donate £25 to NHS Charities Together.

Order one for yourself, for your partner, for your sibling, your best mate. Together we can repay some of the awe-inspiring workers of the NHS and help them prepare for the winter. 

‘Thank you NHS’ was written by Marie Buckfield

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2020 Royal British Legion Poppy Appeal

2020 Royal British Legion Poppy Appeal thank you poster
2020 Royal British Legion Poppy Appeal thank you poster
2020 Royal British Legion Poppy Appeal poster

2020 Royal British Legion Poppy Appeal

The 2020 Royal British Legion Poppy Appeal, like many other events this year, is like no other that has gone before it.

Poppy Appeal collectors absent

I can no longer differentiate between news I have read online and that which I’ve picked up from radio or TV. I have either read or heard that the Poppy Appeal collectors are being protected from potential COVID-19 infection this year and will therefore be absent from our high streets for the first time. That is why I called the Royal British Legion this week to ask whether we could host a poppy collection box in our shop this year.

I was very surprised to hear – although of course I understand the stance – that they are unable to send out boxes due to the social distancing requirements within the dispatch setting. They instead have available, on their very impressive website, dedicated pages for online donations and for their ‘Poppies in the Post‘.

My Dad was a WWII veteran and, aside from noting that this collector absence is a sad state of affairs, he would be pleased to note that the appeal is still happening and has largely moved online. It is thus worth noting at this point though, that there is a huge number of people for whom online fund raising is not only not an option but also a completely alien concept.

My own campaign

With this in mind, I have begun my own campaign. Firstly, I have made my donation to the webpage instead of to the on street collector. Secondly, I have created a QR code to add to the Royal British Legion poster that links directly to their donation webpage. I will be displaying the poster in my shop window, as soon as I have coaxed the printer into using all of its print head capacity… otherwise the QR code will be useless! Thirdly, I have requested some postal poppies in case anyone wants to have one to wear, should they wish to do so following their donation from outside our shop window. They will only have to knock.

Those unable to access the internet?

How does that help those unable to access the internet? The idea of Poppies in the Post is for those who can, to request postal poppies online and make the collections for donation themselves. If anyone wants to donate cash to us in store, we will be delighted to pass the money on.

Please do donate to the appeal if you can, and make sure that those you know who don’t dabble in the magical world of the internet, aren’t left out should they also wish to be involved. Thank you.

‘2020 Royal British Legion Poppy Appeal’ was written by Marie Buckfield

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TBM’s Marie runs London Marathon in Exeter for local charity

Exeter CITY Community Trust logo

TBM’s Marie runs London Marathon in Exeter for local charity

I’m not a runner. Never have been. Having been swept along by the atmosphere while watching the 2019 London Marathon in my dressing gown (an annual occurrence) I entered… and in the October learned that I had got in.

Securing a ballot place meant that I was able to choose my own charity, but which one?

Charity

I used social media to invite charity nominations with simple criteria: help as many people as possible over as broad a range of needs as I could. I discovered a suitable charity right on my doorstep but didn’t really know anything about them.

Mission

My mission is now to raise funds and awareness for the Exeter CITY Community Trust, the charity arm of our very own Exeter City Football Club.

Aim

Their aim, through the power of sport, education and physical activity, is to provide opportunities for all people to improve physical and emotional wellbeing. They work with anyone who is living with physical or mental disabilities, at risk of social isolation, or being left behind by technology; ex-forces and emergency services, LGBT+ and young and old people.

They run football clubs for youngsters, support the homeless and provide team building skills opportunities for students. Did you know that the supermarket shelf labels for foodbanks came from one of ECCT’s National Citizen Service student groups?

At the girls’ football summer camps, participants get the chance to train with Exeter City FC coaches, improve skills and develop new ones.

Marie's charity ECCT girls football camp
ECCT girls football camp

Every two years ECCT selects a number of charity partners and this year’s homelessness charity is Julian House. They work to solve and prevent homelessness across the whole of the South West.

Not all about football then?

A lot of it is about football but you don’t even have to like football to be one of the 10s of thousands of Exonians that benefit (some without even knowing) from the amazing work that ECCT do.

So what’s happening with the London Marathon now?

After first being postponed until Sunday 4th October, this year’s London Marathon has now been transformed into a virtual race, on that date.

That means we download the new app and upload our real world completion data from there. 

I’ve trained for this twice now! This is me just before the Falmouth Half Marathon in March, one of the last mass participation events before lockdown. My half marathon this time took place on the cycle path along the River Exe, a stretch from St Davids towards the Turf Locks.

Where am I running my Virtual London Marathon?

I’m starting opposite the Exeter Community Centre on St Davids Hill at around 7am on Sunday 4th October.

From there I’ll make my way along the Iron Bridge, North Street, South Street and on to Holloway Street and Topsham Road. I’ll be walking up the hills as I need my dodgy knees to last the rest of the 26.2 miles!

Once across Countess Wear roundabout (that’s 2.6 miles down, 23.6 to go!) I’ll continue to Topsham Quay Antiques Centre and back to the roundabout, as many times as it takes me to cover the distance. By Google Maps it’s only 3.8 miles there and back to the roundabout but I do cross the road a couple of times and do a loop at the Antiques Centre 😉

I’ll need to cover that 6 times and then head back towards the city centre… I should complete the marathon distance somewhere around the new Millbrook Village!

Marie's turnaround point near Countess Wear roundabout
My turnaround point, at the road sign (red circle)

Sounds simple!

I’m not quick. I reckon I’ll do it in under 6 hours. If you’re local, why not join me for a bit or watch out for me along the way? I’d really appreciate a spot of moral support! 😊

If you’re running your marathon in Exeter on that day too, you are warmly invited to join us on the route! 🏃‍♀️

Please share this message and donate to this fantastic cause.
My Virgin Money Giving page: https://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/TBM.MarieBuckfield

In case you’re still not sure why, check out this short video about Exeter CITY Community Trust: https://exetercct.org/about-us/ and scroll down a little way to the video.

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Our Signature Piece: the British Spirit

TBM British Spirit Belt

Our Signature Piece: the British Spirit

Last time I talked about beginning to plan ahead for that special gifting period at the end of the year. Continuing in that vein, I’d like to dedicate this page to our Signature Piece: the British Spirit.

Our British Spirit was born from a time that is not unlike this one in many ways. It was inspired by the sense of team spirit that was exhibited by the players, supporters and volunteers that were ‘Team GB’ at the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games.

The red, white and blue stitching represents the colours on the British Union Flag or ‘Union Jack’. 

Union Jack
Union Jack

When the volunteer Games Makers made the London 2012 Olympics happen, their selfless energy and skills were given so that we could benefit from the history being made. Sound familiar?

TBM British Spirit Belt
TBM British Spirit Belt

We love to make this belt

We love to make this belt and are very proud of it. The Raise style enables us to safely secure all the start and finish ends for each of the three decorative thread colours on the inside. 

Each of the red, the white and the blue stitches – always in that order – are painstakingly hand sewn with a long back stitch, evenly along the full length of each side and around the tip. When done correctly this produces a candy cane style of striping along the inside.

A piece of thinned leather will sit between the two rows of candy stripes and the entire top layer can then be sewn onto a base piece, producing the raised effect. 

In a medium sized belt that’s around 1,360 stitches and a lot of work, as you can appreciate!

Which made us think.

Thank You NHS on blue heart
Logo: https://www.my-gcsescience.com/

Like those amazing, proud Games Makers of 2012 but this time with utmost, awe-inspiring bravery: the doctors, nurses and other members of our NHS risk their lives in British Spirit in this historic time of pandemic.

For every bespoke TBM British Spirit Belt sold between now and 30th November 2020, we’d like to donate £25 to NHS Charities

Can I say that again?

For every bespoke British Spirit sold between now and 30th November 2020, we’d like to donate £25 to NHS Charities.

Order one for yourself, for your partner, for your sibling, your best mate. Together we can repay some of the awe-inspiring workers of the NHS. 


Have a browse

Our incredible belts are now accompanied in store and online by a wide range of accessories. For items that will suit the office, studio and working from home environment the website is open 24 hours.

The shop is open for business 10am-5pm from Tuesday to Saturday. In store appointments are available for private browsing for just you and your household/bubble. Please get in touch if you need this service by filling in the contact form, button below 👇

News to your inbox?

Would you would like to be among the first to hear our news, direct to your inbox? You can sign up for our newsletter right here 👇

‘Our Signature Piece: the British Spirit’ was written by Marie Buckfield

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The New Season begins with Briefcases and Bags

The Full Monty Briefcase in Dark Brown with gun metal silver coloured fittings by Henry Tomkins Leather - inside

The New Season begins with Briefcases and Bags

It’s been an unusual year so far, to say the least. One of the strangest summers seems to finally be over and the children have gone back to school. 

You know what that means? 

It’s time to start planning for the end of the year. Let’s take it steadily, one gift at a time. 

We have many lovely things

We have many lovely things on our Friends website and I’d like to introduce you to them, and to some of the people who make them.

Let’s start with our bag maker, Henry, of Henry Tomkins Leather.

We’ve known Henry for a little while now and, although he is semi retired, we were delighted that he was pleased to have the opportunity to place a few items from his extensive catalogue in our new shop.

Henry from Henry Tomkins Leather at work
Henry from Henry Tomkins Leather, at work

He makes sturdy briefcases and lovely, soft bags and satchels in his studio, just 2 miles from our shop near the city centre. His hand made products are tough, durable and come with his personal 5 year guarantee.

We carry two of his briefcases; one very basic design and the all bells and whistles version called The Full Monty. 

The basic Essential Briefcase comes with plenty of features 

The bold buckle strap front is complimented by a strong and sturdy comfortable handle, with reinforced leather covered metal bar to keep the briefcase in shape while carrying heavy items.

You have two internal pockets, for separating your home and office gear for example, and the front pocket has additional sections for storing those smaller items that always find their way to the bottom, eg. pens, passport, tickets etc.

The Full Monty comes with everything

There are three separate compartments in the main section, with a total of seven additional internal pockets. These are ready to hold whatever you need to fit in them, including pens, phone, wallet, etc.

There’s a handy zip compartment that is accessible from the back and the look is completed with a locking front fastener and two buckle straps. The Full Monty also comes with a fully adjustable shoulder strap with integral comfort panel. The comfort panel is fixed in the middle and the strap can be adjusted from both ends so you can always be sure the comfort part is right where you want it!

Currently we also carry two of Henry’s other bags: a back pack and a satchel. We hope to add to these for the upcoming shopping period with some more designs so we’ll keep you posted with progress!

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The Belt Makers are appearing in John Lewis

The Belt Makers are belt making in John Lewis

The Belt Makers are appearing in John Lewis

At the end of August The Belt Makers will be making belts in the menswear department of Exeter’s John Lewis & Partners.

The Belt Makers are belt making in John Lewis
The Belt Makers will be making belts in John Lewis, Exeter

John Lewis & Partners, Exeter

John Lewis & Partners are keen to work together with other Exeter city businesses, both large and small alike. 

They share our philosophy that Exeter is for life, not just for holidays… and that it’s a great idea to pool resources and share ideas. By doing so, we can keep things fresh for all our customers all year round, and prove that Exeter is a fantastic place in which to find almost anything you could possibly need.

On Sunday 30th and Monday 31st August, Mark, Horace (the stitching pony) and I will be appearing in the menswear department of the John Lewis Exeter branch. 

You can watch us working on belts, live in store, and you will be able to reserve items. We will be on hand for discussions and Q&A throughout the two days.

Join us on August Bank Holiday weekend! 

Mark sewing a belt by hand (colour, 2020)
Mark sewing a belt by hand

Have a browse

Our incredible belts are now accompanied in store and online by a wide range of accessories that will suit the office, studio and working from home environment. 

The shop is open for business 10am-5pm, Tuesday to Saturday and of course the website is open 24 hours.

In store appointments are available for private browsing for just you and your household/bubble, please get in touch if you need this service by filling in the contact form, button below 👇

News to your inbox?


If you would like to be among the first to hear our news, direct to your inbox, you can sign up for our newsletter right here 👇

‘The Belt Makers are appearing in John Lewis’ was written by Marie Buckfield

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Summer of Kindness

Close up of our shop window with handwritten chalk pen banner stating Come & Browse, Free Prize Draw, #RetailWeek, #SummerofKindness

Summer of Kindness

Close up of our shop window with handwritten chalk pen banner stating Come & Browse, Free Prize Draw, #RetailWeek, #SummerofKindness
Close up of our shop window with handwritten chalk pen banner stating Come & Browse, Free Prize Draw, #RetailWeek, #SummerofKindness

We’re really seeing the benefit, goodwill and warmth that a campaign like Exeter’s Summer of Kindness can bring to a community. It’s following on from the buddy style plans that were due to happen shortly after lockdown began, but… well… lockdown.

Lockdown prevented the previous campaign launch

The original idea had been to team up with a business or businesses in a different sector or area from us, and come up with a plan to promote each other over a particular weekend in March.

We were going to put simple belt displays in Eat the Bird on Sidwell Street and in Recycled Candle Company on Gandy Street. In return we would display Eat the Bird menus in our shop and have a plate of their delicious wares in store during the Saturday morning. Obviously we would ensure that these were given out to our customers! A display of Recycled Candle Company’s products would reside in our shop too, and I had purchased a number of delightful cacti from them for our own product photography, for good measure.

Suddenly, city-wide, all plans changed; some were shelved, some were axed.

Summer of Kindness is Exeter’s latest city-wide advertising campaign

In a change to that previous billing, our local BID (Business Improvement District, known here as InExeter) have come up with the start of a team rescue plan. They have provided us with delightful paper daisies, that look fresh and inviting, to hang in our windows, giving a clear sign to customers that the campaign continues inside those stores. Participating businesses have been encouraged to team up amongst themselves, coming up with their own appropriate deals or offers that would invite their customers to visit the other businesses too.

Preparing a daisy for hanging
Preparing a daisy for hanging

Here at The Belt Makers and Friends, we have teamed up with Frocks in Swing Time (vintage fashions) and The Black Pearl (Italian fashions) on our own Fore Street; Zebel Bespoke (tailoring) who moved from Fore Street to just behind the High Street; and Loake Shoemakers Exeter on Catherine Street, in view of our most excellent Cathedral.

A whole new kind of shop display!

We have mannequins in our shop! Frocks in Swing Time have loaned us a gorgeous, lacy, royal blue dress with a matching sparkling necklace, which we have teamed up with a contrasting bright red, narrow belt. This compliments the nautical theme in their current window display.

The Black Pearl, whose mannequin is called Manny, is cool as a cucumber in a flowing, silky turquoise number, teamed up with a yellow necklace and silver shoulder mini bag. We have cinched in the dress at the waist with a turquoise belt.

Zebel Bespoke have sent us a blue suit jacket and matching waistcoat with a white woven shirt and a tie which picks out tones in the jacket lining.

Finally, we have a lovely pair of leather shoes with brogue patterning from Loake Exeter, in a delicious chocolate brown which works beautifully with the blue suit.

Those other terrific members of our #SummerofKindness team are also carrying items from our stock in their shops, such as belts, cufflinks and braces. They may choose to sell these on our behalf, as well as explaining to their customers where we are and inviting them to visit us.

Now let me tell you a heartwarming little story…

This week we had a visit from a lovely couple from two different continents, trying to get married. They, like so many other couples in the same situation around the world, have been struggling to organise their special day within the confines and uncertainty of COVID-19.

Having had to reorganise our own wedding due to Foot and Mouth disease (back at the turn of the century) we really felt for them.

They had bought wedding shoes from Loake Exeter and they needed to match a belt to the colour. The manager Kelvin sent them to us for a bespoke belt. We made up a couple of different samples for them, in different leather colours with different edge colours, and they picked their favourite.

During the conversation we chatted about cufflinks, and matching them to belt thread colours and to suit linings, and we were able to recommend Zebel Bespoke for the wedding suit. They headed back up the hill to make those arrangements and we will make the belt especially for them.

We were unable to help with a recommendation for the bridesmaids’ dresses as they are all in New Zealand (we did try!)

We felt all warm and fuzzy that we are all recommending each other and especially that we’d helped out some customers in need, in this time of such confusion and delay. I wholeheartedly hope that they manage to have a wonderful wedding in New Zealand, and that the organisation and travel for all the different family members and friends goes as smoothly as possible! 🥰