Wednesday, 31 January 2018

Make a little birdhouse in your soul..

Birdhouse Backpack : Vendula London
Today will be wonderful, there will be beauty, love and happiness all around me and I will bask in it all.

My shoes are pretty wise, today, it seems. That's the little phrase on the backs of them and although I have been this week joining the masses of people complaining about just how long January seems to have been taking to reach the end, it's not been a bad month, all told. In fact, I've had lots of lovely things happen, have spent my time with some of my favourite people and have already made some positive life changes. It might be too soon to say it, but 2018 is gearing up to be a good'un.

Midnight Steel heels: Irregular Choice
One lovely thing of note is the arrival of this frankly awesome handbag. The new collection from Vendula London is as amazing as ever, with quirky new designs. I don't know how they always manage to come up with such new and different ideas, but they do. And I love it.
In my infinite wisdom, I decided that a birdhouse needed a bird - luckily Shippers had me covered with this lovely blue-tit necklace, which she sent me for Christmas and which never fails to remind me of watching the birds from the kitchen window of our little cottage escape in County Durham last year.
But anyway, more about the bag? OK. Well, it passes my test for being large enough to carry the essentials. House-shaped, this has a grab handle on the top (roof) section, which also has a double zip, so that you can open the whole of the top of the bag. It fits my diary (because I'm still living in the stone age and have to carry my A5-sized diary around with me, everywhere!), phone, keys and purse as well as the usual pens, lipgloss etc and there's plenty of room.
The outside of the bag is made from vegan leather, and it's full of the attention to detail which I've come to expect from Vendula London - the tiny flower details,.ric rac and rosebuds around the door. The window and door are also covered in 3D flower embellishments, and the bag sits on four tiny metal studs to save the base from getting marked or dirty.
A backpack, it's straps are adjustable and made from the same material as the body of the bag. The lining is finished in a lovely floral print and there's a tiny zip-pocket inside (I find these to be the perfect size for that emergency tenner).

Honestly, it's absolutely perfect and it's certainly my go-to bag at the moment. Ideal for spring, which can only be around the corner. I've already seen snowdrops and the days are definitely getting longer.

Friday, 26 January 2018

Friday Favourites 267..

ff267 Collage

This week has been all about the panic-browsing, for me. I'm in desperate need of some smart-casual outfit staples, for those occasions where you'd be considered overdressed in a suit, but have to be a little more conservatively dressed than in a handmade teddy-bear print dress and wacky heels. I kind of hate those occasions, as I prefer to dress to please myself, but it's amazing how judgmental certain people can be based on what you're wearing. Solicitors and estate agents can be some of the worst, I've found, lately. So, plain shoes, monochrome tones and perhaps a muted print, like this grey leopard mix are probably essentials to form the basis of a more muted outfit.
Of course, Spartoo had me covered. More than just shoes; they seem to have a good selection of these amazing Barbara Rihl handbags each year - one of those maybe-one-day wishful thinking purchases. I love that this one looks fairly plain when you first look at it, despite the cartoonish design.
The bow on this leopard print coat is reminiscent of one of my favourite designers (Kate Spade, of course!) and I think it would look lovely over jewel tones, or just a plain black dress. The sandals, although rather staid by my standards, I suppose, are kinda cute with their metallic accents, as well as having a lovely chunky heel which is sure to be sturdy and comfortable for daytime wear.
Does this count as power dressing? I never understand that phrase, but I guess it's more about meeting convention somewhere in the middle...?

Wednesday, 24 January 2018

Jumpers and pearls..

Honestly, we're not even at the end of January and my spending ban is getting hard already. How am I going to manage to last a whole year, with such lovely things tempting me all of the time. Today it seems to be the turn of everything knitted. And mostly embellished with pearls. I mean, as far as I'm concerned, you can forget your strappy sandals and skimpy LBDs for Valentine's day; with the weather as it's been lately, I'd much prefer to layer up in a pretty knit.

Valentines Collage
001 // 002 // 003
004 // 005 // 006

Luckily, it looks like the Zaful has me covered with their Valentine's Sale. All of these jumpers are less than £20 and if I'm honest, I'm struggling to pick a favourite.
I love the dusky pink shade, combined with the pearls and the balloon sleeves of 0047, but at the same time, those ruffled sleeves on 001 are just incredible. I love bows, so the ribbon tie on 005 is a winner and 003 is probably my favourite shade of green.

Which would you pick...?

Tuesday, 23 January 2018

Tuesday Titles 150..

Unsuitable Match
An Unsuitable Match: Joanna Trollope

It's been a while since a book not only jumped the queue, but that I finished a book within a day of it plopping through the letterbox. But when this arrived with me last week, I was taken in by the cover (who says never judge a book by it's cover?!) and description and I packed it into my bag for my spa day last week.

I read it within the day, just falling into the story in that way that sometimes happens.

An Unsuitable Match, by number one bestselling author Joanna Trollope, is an a uplifting story of love, family and second chances.
‘Why on earth, after all you’ve been through, all you’ve survived, all you’ve achieved, why do you want to get married?’
Rose Woodrowe has just got engaged to Tyler Masson – a wonderful, sensitive man who is head-over-heels in love with her. The only problem? This isn’t the first time for either of them, and their five grown-up children have strong opinions on the matter . . .
Like Rose’s daughter, Laura, who remembers her parents’ painful divorce and doesn’t want to see her mother hurt again. Or the twins, Emmy and Nat, who simply don’t trust the man their mother has fallen for. Then there’s Tyler’s children: Seth, too busy with his San Francisco sourdough bakery to get to know his father’s new partner; and Mallory, the aspiring actress, who is still wrestling with the issues of her own childhood.
Who to listen to? Who to please? Rose and Tyler are determined to get it right this time, but in trying to make everyone happy, can they ever be happy themselves?
I really loved the way our two main characters, Rose and Tyler, who have found each other again after more than forty years since their lives went in separate directions, have a little emotional baggage with their relationship this time around.
The book really explores the situation (which judging by the attention it gets in media outlets and across social media, is getting more and more common) of two families being brought together for a second marriage, and how their various children (and ex-partners) might react to that. I loved the consideration that grown-up children might have to be consulted in the potential remarriage of one of their parents and I felt that some of the characters really were quite selfish (particularly the twins), although one might argue they were just being practical. A real divider of opinion.
As ever, Trollope explores modern family relationships and puts her own unique spin on the story; there's something that little bit more gritty about her writing than a lot of the others in the chick-lit category, I think. I'd certainly recommend this. The book comes out on 27th February 2018.

*Thank you to Pan Macmillan for sending me an ARC to review.

Saturday, 20 January 2018

Top 10: Tu Clothing

001 // 002 // 003 // 004 // 005
006 // 007 // 008 // 009 // 010

I popped into Sainsbury's the other day to pick up some milk and some supplies for our guides meeting and I was close to falling down a Tu Clothing rabbit-hole.
I don't know whether it's been substantially colder this winter, or whether my circulation issues are getting *even worse* but I've been feeling so cold lately. I'm actually not joking when I say that I can't remember when I last felt my feet. So lately, I've been layering jumpers over some of my dresses and tights, rather than cardigans so they've been catching my eye.
These green and blue cable knit ones would make perfect staples for layering and I love the sleeves on the pink one, which I think would look great under this floral pinafore. The polka dot jumper is super bright and cheerful and frankly that jacquard suit has kind of stolen my heart. So pretty and so many mix and match possibilities!
I really like the bow on the grey handbag - very Kate Spade, in my opinion.
Somehow, I managed to stick to my shopping ban and resist the urge to add any of them to my basket, but these are basically haunting me now.

Thursday, 18 January 2018

Top 10: Sammydress

Sammydress10 Collage
001 // 002 // 003 // 004 // 005
006 // 007 // 008 // 009 // 010

I've got to admit, I've been rather enjoying picking out a selection of favourites from some of the websites I find myself browsing lately. Today's features a bundle of pretty dresses I'd love to style up, all from Sammydress, purveyors of vintage style prettiness most definitely inspired by other brands...

These sunflowers look great on their navy background colour and I love the space prints -the blue with the collar (002) reminds me of an episode of Blue's Clues which my little sister used to be a bit obsessed with, as there was a song for remembering the names of the planets in the solar system and the illustrations are very similar.

I love that the newspaper print features cats and dogs as part of the design and the Peter Pan collar looks great on those turquoise polka dots.

Obviously anything with vintage-look dogs, dinosaurs and crazy dancing cats gets my vote.

Which is your favourite?

Wednesday, 17 January 2018

Alice and Betty..

Fabric: Rifle Paper Co Wonderland fabric for Cotton & Steel, Cameos Green
I was thinking about my sewing projects lately, and how I seem to have slowed down my productivity levels so much over the past couple of years. Looking back over my handmade dresses, which I always share on my Instagram account, a few years back I was making upwards of fifty of sixty dresses per year. Last year, I think I managed just eight.
I don't think this has been a conscious decision so much as a result of circumstance. More commitments have meant I just don't get a lot of time at home to myself and I guess when I do, I spend those hours catching up on housework, errands and chores first and then split what's left between various hobbies and pastimes. And a string of makes which I ended up not really loving once they were done, made me fall out of love with dressmaking a little, I think.
But, over the past few weekends and some time off during the festive season, something seems to have shifted where I'm no longer trying to rush my way through making something just so that I can say it's finished and I can wear it. I'm taking a little more time about things - properly ironing and pressing where I'm meant to and finishing things like overlocked edges and hems much more neatly, even adding linings to most of what I'm making. 
I finished this dress a couple of weekends ago and have already worn it four times, because I really love how it turned out. Instead of rushing, I spent a little more time on this and tried to make sure everything was done neatly. I even hand-stitched every heart on the heart trim around the hem and the neckline so that it would stay nice and secure and because I thought machine stitches would end up looking too messy.
I picked up the fabric at one of the sewing shows I went to last year, having loved the C+S Alice collection but having ummed and ahhed about which print was my favourite, until it was almost too late and they were almost all sold out. I do really like this forest green background though. And I lucked out with finding this trim in my ribbon tin - I'd picked up a couple of metres on a whim whilst at the counter in my local haberdashery, with no idea what (if anything) I'd use it for, but I think it's worked rather nicely on this.
I think my efforts have paid off and I'm learning that it's okay to enjoy the process as much as the finished garment.

Pattern: Sew Over It Betty Dress

Tuesday, 16 January 2018

Tuesday Titles 149..

Her Frozen Heart
Her Frozen Heart: Lulu Taylor

It feels as though I've been reading six or seven books at once lately, but not actually finishing any of them. Which has pretty much been the case, if I'm honest. But finally, I'm starting to have some books I can share.

Her Frozen Heart was my first introduction to Lulu Taylor; a writer I've heard a lot about over the past year or so. I love a good duel timeline and it rather seems that Taylor does these well. This book tells two stories set seventy years apart, both of which are engaging and intriguing in their own way, before there's any hint of a connection.

In a bitterly cold 1947 winter, Tommy Carter is dealing with the loss of her husband and trying to keep her family warm and fed dealing with the wartime rations and shortages of the day. As her brother and various friends put upon her hospitality, she struggles to make ends meet, and does she also have reason to be suspicious of one of her guests' motives?

In contrast, Caitlyn is anything but suspicious about her marriage. As she pieces her life back together after receiving the shocking news that her husband Patrick has been killed in a car accident, she finds it hard to believe that anything had been wrong with her perfect marriage.

Sara, who has been her friend since university days is there to help her through these times, too. And it isn't until Caitlyn finds herself talking to an old acquaintance that It starts to become clear that Sara might not be as good a friend as Caitlyn had always thought. She puts the niggling doubts to the back of her mind, but eventually clues about Patrick's secret life come to light and she finds she can no longer ignore them.

A slow start, but I liked the way that gave both stories the opportunity to bed in, and I found that they got right under my skin. Some of the characters were downright loathe-able, which I also found refreshing in a way - it's sometimes nice not to have to like everyone.

A definite page turner towards the end, as the pieces begin to fall into place...

Saturday, 13 January 2018

Top 10: Zaful

001 // 002 // 003 // 004 // 005
006 // 007 // 008 // 009 // 010

I have a new little feature to share: a different kind of wishlist, I suppose. Rather than a round up of lots of different items from the depths of the internet, I've decided that I'll focus on one particular site and pick my top ten from them. This week, my top picks from Zaful, which has so many lovely bits and pieces at the moment.

I'm off to a spa day next week and so could do with a new swimsuit of some description and really like the tie around the back effect of this red one.

I'm a little obsessed with cute collars, cute elbow patches and I just think these sunglasses are pretty awesome. The rainbow jumper is a pretty similar dupe of a Lazy Oaf one I've seen about, and those cat earrings are just an amazing kitschy dream come true.

What's your favourite piece? Have you shopped with Zaful in the past...?

Friday, 12 January 2018

Friday Favourites 266..

001 // 002 // 003 // 004

Oh, it feels good to be back into something of a routine. I've been trying hard to avoid the January sales if I'm honest, but some things are just too amazing to pass up on. Here are some of my favourites to kick off the new year:
001: I only discovered rockcakes Etsy shop recently and placed an order with her Black Friday code for some amazing little festive brooches etc. She does some really rather clever designs though - the little pen pins which read "Mightier", for example. I love these little veggies and they make me think of springtime and all of the things I SHOULD definitely be achieving at the allotment.
002: Could this new Joanie Clothing jumper be more spring-time appropriate? It's bright and cheerful and everything that the new season should be, I think.
003: This might be the cutest Vendula bag I've seen, to date. Which is high praise indeed, considering some of the *amazing* bags they've come out with in the past. My collection is absolutely longing for this little birdhouse rucksack, though. How is it even possible that I don't own a rucksack of any description?!
004: One thing I actually really *need* to replace, I realised as I was writing my thank you letters after Christmas, is my address book. I've had it since I was about ten years old, most of the alphabet is filled with the addresses of school and university friends who have long since moved on or lost contact. I'm definitely in the market for something new and this Kiki K one would fit the bill rather nicely.
What's caught your eye this week? Any Spring must-haves?

Thursday, 11 January 2018

My thrifty gift swap..

Although it rather seems like a while ago now, I signed up before Christmas to take part in Janet's Thrifty Christmas Gift Swap. She runs it every year in the run up to the festive period and I enjoy thinking up a suitable selection of gifts for my recipient. The idea behind this one is that things are supposed to be either thrifted or homemade, which adds a little more of a challenge, but rather appeals to my bargain-hunting ways.
This year, because my recipient was based in the US, I was in a bit of a hurry to try and make sure it reached her before Xmas and I completely failed to take any photos. Thankfully I have had a message from her to say that she loved the parcel. But here are some photos of the contents of the parcel I was lucky enough to receive from Louisa.
A new mug, which might be destined for my office because my previous work mug was a heat-sensitive one and the transfer design has been peeling off lately. Dinosaur themed socks, chocolates and a bookmark which fits over your book to eat the page, which is awesome.
Also coffee and a letter-set and a rather great magnetic photo frame, which gave me the push I needed to clear out the front of the fridge, getting rid of the old post-it notes and shopping lists and put a photo of a recent trip with my sisters on there instead.
All in all, I think Louisa has me pretty well sussed! Did you take part in any gift swaps this Christmas?

Wednesday, 10 January 2018

Stick Man lives in the family tree..

"I'm Stick Man, that's me!"
Spending a lot of my Christmas break with a rather small person meant that it fairly heavily featured Stick Man, to be honest. I'd seen the dramatization a year or so ago, and it, along with it's Gruffalo counterparts is a book I'm drawn to when I'm reading a story to a friend's little person, as there's something about the look of the books, and the stories which appeal to me.

This particular Little is quite a fan of him and we'd look for suitable sticks to be Stick Man when we were out on woodland walks etc, as well as endless recollections of the story. So, when I had a day at home and was feeling a little under the weather, I'd decided to have a go at knitting her a stick man of her own.

IMG_3794[1] IMG_3796[1]

I must begin by pointing out that I followed no pattern at all for this - the only stick man patterns I could find online seemed to be for crochet versions and that's something which I have just not quite managed to pick up, so I raided my basket of wool for something brown (this is one of the colours of the intarsia pattern on a vest which has been on pause for goodness-knows-how-long, because I am a terrible procrastinator and often put things down when they get a little too confusing or when I've forgotten what row I was on etc). But I didn't think I'd need all of it, so I got to work on a stick.


After casting on some stitches and making a kind of narrow rectangle, with the plan to stitch it together when I came to stuffing him, I basically just continued until I thought there was enough "body" section and added a few more stitches, split what I had into two and continued knitting the legs. again, more trial and error until I decided that the proportions looked right. The arms were made in the same way, although separately and stitched up and on afterwards.


For the face, I knitted a nose and stitched it on, and the eyes, mouth and eyebrows were just stitched on with some scraps of yarn. I stuffed the body, legs and arms and stitched it up as I went, and added a few leaves on the head and one arm, to try and match the pictures in the books.

I think this turned out quite well; basically I tend to be happy if someone can tell what something I've made it meant to be, and I think it was fairly evident that this was supposed to be Stick Man, so I guess I did okay. Apologies that I'm no expert when it comes to writing up the pattern or anything; it was literally just trial and error all the way.

Tuesday, 9 January 2018

Squirrels and giraffes..

Skirt: Palava (via blog sale)
I'm all "is it Spring yet?" despite the fact that it's still January 8th and was -4C yesterday morning. But still. Dressing like it's Spring will make it so, I'm sure.

Collar: Fairytale Collars
I adore this collar necklace. Emma from Fairytale Collars is lovely and also makes some amazing products. This floral collar is made entirely of felt, and yet her flowers look so realistic and so effective. I decided this was the perfect opportunity to wear this yellow sweater from Tu Clothing which has been sitting in the wardrobe for the best part of a year, too.

Coat: Vintage
I like it when the weather is cold yet crisp, as it gives me the chance to wear a nice thick, furry jacket. So warm, but I try to keep them only to days when I know it definitely isn't going to rain, as nobody likes soggy fur jackets!

Suitcase: River Island
I've been having something of a clear out lately and have been rearranging my storage choices for various things, which meant I freed up this suitcase bag from it's previous life as my jewellery storage. A Christmas present from my sister several years ago, it's too cute to keep inside and is plenty big enough for all of the daily essentials..

Boots: Steve Madden via TK Maxx
These boots were a TK Maxx find late last year, too. I like the fact that they're actually a soft leather, with a floral print, making them much warmer and more waterproof than a lot of pairs. I relied almost solely on them during the snow we had a few weeks back.

Jumper: Tu Clothing
As for the skirt, it was a bargain from Donna's recent Insta-sale. A little alteration and it was ready to be styled up. I like that the whole combination kind of works in a plum, yellow and blue mish-mash kind of a way.. well, I thought so, anyway.

Monday, 8 January 2018

Handmade is best..

Because it seems like quite a while since I last updated, I've collected together some photos of a few of the things I made over the festive period because I'm coming to the conclusion that handmade really is best.  I consciously made an effort not to try and commit to too many handmade presents because I find that I have less and less spare time to get things finished, but I made a few exceptions. This owl was something I made for a Secret Santa I was part of, where the only rule was that all presents must be handmade, so I raided our knitting books for something which my owl-loving recipient might like, and used it as a bit of a stash-buster, finishing off some scraps of wool from my collection, too. Double win.
These PJs were supposed to be a present for something else, before Xmas, but I didn't have a chance to make them when the fabric first arrived with me from Japan, so I squirrelled it away until December, where I made a fairly simple pair of pyjama trousers from a Simplicity pattern I've adapted over the years and added them to the present parcel I was sending to a friend.
I've always preferred sending handmade cards to shop-bought ones and that's a childhood tradition which doesn't seem to be showing any sign of subsiding. Some years I'll have a theme to stick to, but this year I took all of my card-making bits to Rangers and we just...made. This wool tree design was something I'd tried a similar thing to in the past with hearts, but I like how simple they look and made quite a few of these this year.
Another Christmas parcel staple for me - melted snowman bark. This is so simple to do and looks effective; just melt white chocolate and add Smarties, sugar carrots and sugar eyes, pretzels or matchmakers to look like twigs and arms - whatever you have to hand, really. Leave them to set overnight in the fridge and then break them up to send out in little bags. Always well-received!
Despite having plenty of festive frocks to wear already, I rediscovered this fabric in my trolley a little before Christmas and decided I wanted to try and get it made into a dress to wear over the holidays. I think I bought it in a closing down sale on a website at one point and then ran out of time last year. I went with the Mortmain pattern, which is a tried and tested one for me, and added a little bow from the leftover scraps to the waistband. I wore this on Christmas Day and a few others over the holidays and really like the festive kittens.
Have you made anything exciting lately? I have a couple of other things I'm excited to share but which I think require their own posts, as there are more photos of the various stages. Stay tuned for my take on Stick Man, my first pair of dungarees and what is possibly my favourite handmade dress so far in my dressmaking career....

Wednesday, 3 January 2018

One hundred years from now, it won't matter..

Xmas Eve 2016
Hello! And Happy New Year, and all that jazz. Again, a little quiet around these parts over the festive break, but things are back to normal now and here we are. I've seen this thing doing the rounds on Instagram etc where you take a picture from the start / end of the year and reflect on how things have changed. So, consider me on board with this.

In the top picture, I'd been persuaded to leave my bed for the first time in days to go to a NYE party at a friends' house. I hadn't stopped crying for about a week, and think I would have preferred to stay home in my duvert fort with a film and just sleep, but they were worried about me so I braved the party with my brave face on and pretended things were okay until it was safe to leave, and drove home through a stream of salty tears.

Xmas Eve 2017
Skip forward to the next NYE party and on the surface, not a lot has changed. My hair is a little longer and a little more grey, there are forehead wrinkles and my eyebrows (and thighs) are a little thicker. Things aren't all bad; I've trained hard over the past 12 months and set PBs in the weights I can lift and my Parkrun times and also ran my first proper races.
I travelled a little, and made decisions which were right for me, rather than trying to keep everyone else happy. I also said no to some things, which felt kind of good (and is worth noting). But, I took on new challenges, too. I think I was just a little more picky.
But, the most important part to note: things got better. A lot better. After feeling as though they might not, I'm infinitely happier than I was a year ago. And that, I think is worth the extra couple of grey hairs.
Yes, I have some goals for the year but I'm still kind of refining them, so I'll share them when I'm ready. One thing I've definitely learned over the past 12 months is that everyone moves at their own pace and that's okay.