Friday, 12 July 2019

Faux Taxidermy Triceratops Kit

Faux Taxidermy Triceratops Knitting Kit: Sincerely Louise

Recently, since we are now into the second half of the year, I saw quite a few people posting updates on how they are getting on with their #2019makenine. And it gave me a bit of a metaphorical kick up the bum, because I'm not really on track. 

Basically, I've been letting myself get distracted by all number of things- mostly making as many handmade gifts for people as I possibly can - and combining that with the fact that we're currently working on the living room, which means that a lot of the furniture and general living room stuff has been relocated temporarily into my sewing room, has made it a little harder for a procrastination champ like myself to get on with things. 

Seeing these posts, though, I realised that although so far I've only finished one thing from the list (the Liberty dino dress I posted about here), the second thing was pretty close. So I took my big needle to it and stitched this kit together. 

I think this Sincerely Louise triceratops kit was a birthday present at least two years ago, possibly even longer. It's been one of those things which I wasn't sure when I would get around to doing it, but decided I had no excuse and popped it on the list for this year's challenge.

As it was nicely self-contained with everything I needed, I decided to take it with me on a weekend away recently. It's not uncommon for me to take a knitting project with me, and I decided I could kill two birds with one stone, as it were. I found that with the wool being so chunky, it took me next to no time to get all of the pieces knitted - the pattern and instructions are very easy to follow, which I've found with SL patterns in the past, too. (I've made a badger scarf and a diplodocus scarf in the past, as well as some other things which never made it onto the blog) .

Anyhow, an episode of Lucifer and a bag of stuffing later, and here it is. 

Thursday, 4 July 2019

An irregular obsession..


I don't think I can have been more than sixteen when I first came across a pair of Irregular Choice shoes in the flesh. So, I'd been to the Bullring (the nearest big shopping centre to me when I was in my teens) and had discovered Schuh, the former IC stockist. And completely fell in lust with them. They were cream, flat boots with images of cowgirls on the sides and actual metal spurs on the backs. I saved up my wages from waiting tables and my monthly allowance and probably my dinner money too, in order to afford a train ticket to Birmingham and this amazing pair of boots. And at the time, it was probably the most expensive thing I'd ever purchased. I had that happy buzz on the train home, along with a kind of feeling of "how could I be so frivolous", which I've experienced oh so many times since. 

My collection has certainly grown since then, but the feelings of "ooh, this is amazing" have very rarely subsided.

Gem recently posted here about her similar feelings on the brand which we share a love for, and I am in total agreement, to be honest. My collection grew slowly over those first few years, with the internet only just starting to become a thing. I used to save up and buy the pairs I loved the most each season from Schuh. I remember paisley swan prints, teddy bear prints, ice cream prints and unicorns with big pink ankle ties, as being some of the first ones I was able to buy full price (I was at Uni at this point and probably saved all of my student loan for this alone). Lets Buy Shoes (an IC discount website) was a god-send.

Over the years, the styles and releases became larger and more frequent and I was constantly amazed with the new and unusual ideas that came out. Ice cream cone shaped heels. Glitter, orange velvet, robots, I don't think there was ever a season where I didn't have some serious lust going on when the lookbook popped through the door.

Having built up a lot of my collection second hand through eBay, or discount websites, I was so excited on actually visiting the Carnaby Street store than I came away with several pairs of shoes and some clothes, too. Remember when they did clothes?! I wish they still did.

Anyway, the years went by and just when I thought things couldn't get any more out there, in 2013 they only went and released a shoe with a heel in the shape of a bunny. Honestly, my mind was blown and there began an era of wondering just what they would come up with next. The following year we got deer heels, and then I stop remembering - the releases merge but we've had dinosaurs, ballerinas which actually play music in the heel, pandas, unicorns, and lots more, not to mention all of the huge collaboration releases with Disney. (Disney isn't really my thing but I'm always intrigued to see where they go with these).

More recently, I've lost interest in some of the more recent releases; I almost felt they were becoming a little more mainstream and too staid for my liking. I love glitter as much as the next person, but plain glitter heels in heights which I find uncomfortably low, just weren't my cup of tea.

So, it seemed pretty fitting to me that this year, as part of the celebrations to mark the 20th anniversary of the brand, Irregular Choice decided to bring some of those amazing character heels back...with bells on. This not only sees the re-release of amazing characters such as the dinosaurs, but added intrigue such as sounds, neon lights and oh so much glitter. Fluff, flowers, removable embroidery embellishments; honestly when I saw the release photos there wasn't a detail I didn't adore. (Well, except for those scary gnomes.)

I'll post more photos as soon as I can, but I've happily made space on my shelves in the shoe room (which I also plan to post about soon) for these and I'm super pleased that after all these years they're still able to bring the wow factor.

Tuesday, 25 June 2019

Tuesday Titles 173: Ali McNamara blog tour..

Secrets and Seashells at Rainbow Bay

The sun is shining on the golden castle on Rainbow Bay - and change is in the air!

Amelia is a single mother, doing her very best to look after her young son, Charlie - but money is tight and times are tough. When she first hears that she is the last descendent of the Chesterford family and that she has inherited a Real-Life Castle by the sea, Amelia can't quite believe her ears. But it's true!

She soon finds that owning a castle isn't quite the ticket to sorting out her money problems that she'd first hoped: she can't sell, because the terms of the ancient bequest state that any Chesterford who inherits the castle, must live there and work towards the upkeep and maintenance of the family home. So ever-practical Amelia decides to uproot her little family and move to this magnificent castle by the sea.

Living in a castle on the beautiful Northumberland coast is fun at first, but organising the day-to-day running is a lot more complicated than Amelia first imagined. Luckily she has help from the small band of eccentric and unconventional staff that are already employed there - and a mysterious unseen hand that often gives her a push in the right direction just when she needs it most. It's only when she meets Tom, a furniture restorer who comes to the castle to help repair some antique furniture, that Amelia realises she might get the fairy-tale ending that she and Charlie truly deserve..

As you can probably tell from the description, this is pitched to be a pretty feel-good, summertime read. I'm imagining sitting out on a sunny terrace and enjoying with a cold glass of juice. 

It's pretty saccharine, in the way that you'd expect a book about someone inheriting a remote castle to be, and I thought that the story could have been told just as happily and successfully without the supernatural element. 

Thursday, 20 June 2019

Dior: Designer of Dreams {part 3}..


Walk into the next room and you get a sudden feeling of stepping back into Regency times. Exquisite detailing and tailored shapes.


Again, the nipped in waists giving that 1950s New Look silhouette, which has come to be expected of Dior's designs. 


I particularly liked this design for the embellished bows all down the front seam. Personally I'm not a fan of centre-front seams, but this is a good way of drawing attention away from that. 


Cropped matching jackets - possibly to enhance the waist shape even further? And me sneaking into the reflection of the photo in the background.. 


Frankly, who doesn't need a taffeta trouser suit? I really like the waistcoat detail too. 


So. Much, Embellishment. 

Tuesday, 18 June 2019

Here be giants..


I must admit, I don't think I realised that taking a trip to Belfast would make me feel so uninformed. Whilst I had a vague understanding of the history and "Troubles", I don't think I'd expected it to be so apparent even now, when speaking to people, which side they fell into, or what their beliefs are. Having said that, we had a really great weekend and found everyone to be super welcoming and friendly. 


On the Sunday of our trip, we got up fairly early and headed into the city to hop onto our bus tour for the day. The main destination on the cards was Giant's Causeway; a collection of basalt columns (about forty-thousand of them in total). Volcanoes are pretty cool, I guess. 


Our coach parked up at the visitor centre and we walked along the coastal pathway for a couple of miles until we could see the towers of rock. I kept getting around each corner, looking across and thinking "is that it?!" but in actual fact, when I did see them, it was quite an impressive sight. 


As we got closer to the towers, it's more impressive to see how the years have shaped them. Naturally, we did some exploring. And took some photos. 


Plenty of photos in fact. 


I think this may have been taken in the middle of some dance or other which I was trying to do. I was wearing my newly made Turia dungarees, plus thick tights due to the freaky Storm Hana weather. It was pretty cloudy and rainy all day. 


One of the stops on the tour bus was literally in a lay-by so that we could take photos of this castle ruins. I don't recall what it was called. 


Just chilling on the rocks. As you do. 


Next stop was at the Bushmills Distillery - not much of a destination for someone like me who doesn't like whiskey, but there was the chance to get a coffee. Becks and Lucy ordered a set of three tasting shots of whiskey and we played a game of trying to decide which one tasted the least like paint stripper, so that was entertaining. 


Then, back on the bus to head for the next stop, which was Carrick-a-rede rope bridge. One for the next post.

Thursday, 13 June 2019

Liberty dinosaur Betty..

Fabric: Liberty Rumble and Roar Tana Lawn {sold out} 
I can't remember exactly when I first found this fabric. I remember seeing it on someone's instagram feed and thinking how absolutely perfect it was. Even though I had no firm plans for it, I ordered two metres from Liberty London pretty much immediately, and let it languish in my fabric stash for a couple of years. I have a couple of other Liberty fabrics sat around waiting to become garments and a couple of dresses which I've made with some of their gorgeous tana lawn, but sometimes I think it's the kind of fabric which scares me a little to cut into it. You know, that feeling where you think you don't want to cut into it for fear of ruining it..

Pattern: SOI Betty Dress 
Well, I found and was reminded of it last summer and decided enough was enough> two metres of fabric are no use to me sitting in a box, so what I needed to do was pick a pattern and get on with it. I decided to go with the old favourite Sew Over It Betty dress. It's a pattern I've used time and again and I know it's a good fit for me without needing much tweaking. I pinned out the pattern pieces, got distracted, and then packed it all up into a box because I was moving house. So, it took a few months before I picked it up again.

Collar: self-drafted using pins and tissue paper
I don't know whether it was cheating to include this dress in my #2019makenine post, but I did. And, to be honest, I'm glad that I did because it's now June and I've only managed one from nine. Argh! 

Anyhow, I don't have a huge amount to say on the construction process - I've made this dress so many times before that I could probably do it in my sleep. I made a sleeveless bodice with a green twill lining (I just found it in my statsh and there was enough of it and it was in the right colour for this fabric, which is a little too thin to go unlined) and also attached some light tulle net into the skirt as I gathered it up for extra volume. 

As I finished up the hem and popped it on the mannequin, I decided there was something missing. I couldn't decide whether to make some bows to go on the shoulders (which I've done with this dinosaur one and really liked, although it does make wearing a cardigan over them a little bulky), or whether to add a Peter Pan collar. After a little IG Stories poll.......I completely disregarded the results and set about pinning some tissue paper to the neckline, so that I could figure out the shape and size of the collar I had in mind. (I *must* have a pattern piece for a PP collar somewhere, but I'll admit that not all of my sewing room boxes are unpacked yet, so who knows where it may be). 


As a final touch, I managed to find a length of ribbon (one drawer which has been sorted out at least) which was the perfect colour and length to add a little bow. I've stitched it in place so so that I don't have to worry about faffing with tying it up or it coming loose. 

So, one down out of my #2019makenine and let's ignore the fact that we're already halfway through the year. 

Friday, 31 May 2019

Dior: Designer of Dreams (part 2)..

It seemed about time for another little instalment of pictures from the Dior exhibit I visited recently, following on from my first post here.


 As a keen amateur dressmaker, one of my favourite things about exploring the Dior: Designer of Dreams exhibit was just to take in the construction of some of the amazing works of art.

Bows on the bodice detail - I'm a sucker for a bow.


I adore the tailored, nipped in waist on this jacket.


Some of the displays showed samples of the fabrics used, and also detailed the design process, which I found pretty fascinating.


The detail on this dress was just incredible. From afar, it looks like feathers, but the effect is made from layers of net and sequins.


It looks amazing up close, and like feathers from further away. 


Everything was incredible - the attention to detail stunning and we're only in the second room (of many). 

Thursday, 30 May 2019

Blog Tour: Concerto by Hannah Fielding

Concerto: Hannah Fielding
Another blog tour for you today, and a new author to me. I've not read any Hannah Fielding before but if Concerto is anything to go by, I'll certainly be looking out for some more.

When Catriona Drouot, a young music therapist, honours an opera diva’s dying request to help her son, Umberto Monteverdi, recover his musical gift, she knows it will be a difficult assignment. She had shared a night of passion with the once-celebrated composer ten years before, with unexpected consequences. The extent of her challenge becomes apparent when she arrives at her client’s estate on the glittering shores of Lake Como. Robbed of his sight by a nearfatal car accident, the man is arrogant, embittered and resistant to her every effort to help him. Still, Catriona sings a siren’s call within him that he cannot ignore. Caught up in the tempestuous intrigues at Umberto’s Palladian mansion, Catriona discovers that her attraction to the blind musician is as powerful as ever. How can she share what she has hidden from him for the past decade? Soon she realises that hers is not the only secret that is rippling uneasily below the surface. Dark forces haunt the sightless composer, threatening his life – for the second time. Concerto is a sensual and romantic story of lost love and forgiveness, destiny and difficult choices, and of a heroine determined to put things right at last. 

I found the detail in this book so immersive - I was thrown right into the Italian landscape and descriptions of both that and Nice, where Catriona's life is now, have me longing to visit. We hop back into several chapters detailing how Umberto and Catriona first met, and where their lives have taken them since those romantic encounters, years before. 

The pace the slowly builds and so does Catriona's heart rate when she realises she is going to have to see Umberto again. But, he's been through an awful experience and she believes she can help him, so of course she has to do what she can to help.

She faces her fears, with a huge secret to hide and decides to fulfil the opera singer's mother's dying wish and do everything she can to help Umberto. 

This is a slow-burning romance with a bit of a twist at the end - I'd say it's the perfect holiday read. 

Tuesday, 21 May 2019

Tuesday Titles 172: Kingsbane Blog Tour


It's been such a while since I read something on schedule and took part in a book blog tour, but I'm getting back on track and this is an exciting tour to jump back onboard with.

Throw yourself into a world of queens, angels and kingdoms at war. Kingsbane is the long-awaiting sequel to Furyborn, the first in a trilogy of books billed as fiercely feminist fantasy. So, of course I was intrigued. 

Kingsbane intensifies the legacy of Furyborn, building on the threat and thrills, lust and romances, whilst reigniting Claire Legrand as a trailblazing voice in the fantasy genre.

Rielle Dardenne has been anointed Sun Queen, but her trials are far from over. The Gate keeping the angels at bay is falling. To repair it, Rielle must collect the seven hidden castings of the saints. Meanwhile, to help her prince and love Audric protect Celdaria, Rielle must spy on the angel Corien—but his promises of freedom and power may prove too tempting to resist. Centuries later, Eliana Ferracora grapples with her new reality: She is the Sun Queen, humanity's long-awaited saviour. But fear of corruption—fear of becoming another Rielle—keeps Eliana's power dangerous and unpredictable. Hunted by all, racing against time to save her dying friend Navi, Eliana must decide how to wear a crown she never wanted by embracing her mother's power or rejecting it forever.

The pace is fast and each chapter pinballs back and forth between the queens: Eliana and Rielle. We know that they are living hundreds of years apart and yet that there's a strong connection between the two of them, and the book unravels this connection neatly by the end. I'd hoped for a little more progression between their worlds, which seemed to jump between centuries and yet be described very similarly, but I think that's just me being a little picky. 

There's a lot of magic at force in this series and some incredibly strong characters - my only flaw is with Rielle, who we know has abundant magical power, and yet seems to turn to jelly when her beau, Prince Audric is around. Having said that, I love the dynamic between these two and Ludivine and the way that they played off one another. 

There are a couple of characters in here who I loved to hate as well (Simon, Corien) and some downright evil behaviour - it's funny how people's behaviour can be so driven by greed and their longing for power. 

But, time is running out and Rielle has some huge decisions to make which could change her life forever: the Gate which is holding back the Angels (not good) is beginning to fall and it's up to her to protect her kingdom.

If you can bear to fall deep into this world, Kingsbane is available today. 

Kingsbane Blog Tour Final

Monday, 20 May 2019

Dior: Designer of Dreams (part 1)


A few weekends ago, we hopped on a train (well, several trains!) to London for an overnight trip. We had tickets to the Albert Hall to see a friend perform, and decided to try and make the most of a rare weekend "off" from working on the house and spend some time in the Big Smoke. 


One of the things I was desperately hoping to go to was the Dior: Designer of Dreams exhibition. It's being shown in a separate wing of the V+A museum, and it's opening times are extended past that of the museum, but even so it's been sold out since tickets were released. However, I discovered that a few more tickets are released around the 15th of each month, for the following month so I stalked the website in mid-April and managed to nab us two. They sold out like hot cakes, so I think I was pretty lucky. I'd have ideally liked to get an earlier time slot, but we ended up with 17:15, which I was hoping would be enough time to see the exhibit, then make our way to the Royal Albert Hall for the 19:30 concert start time. 


Arriving at the entrance to the queue at just after five, we were told to come back in ten minutes as we wouldn't be allowed access to the queue until our ticketed time. This filled me with a little panic, but we hovered around the courtyard for ten minutes and then were allowed to join the queue. Where we waited to be allowed down the stairs. At around 17:20 we were allowed through the rope to descend the staircase and...join another queue, where our tickets would be checked at a second desk. We were then informed that there would be a short wait before they let any more people in, as the rooms were getting crowded. Once in, there is free reign and the tour guide at the queue said that people often spend upwards of two hours in the exhibit. The other thing which wasn't helping numbers, was that although all tickets had been sold out, people who sign up to become V+A members, are able to access the exhibit on that day, so there was an extra queue for those which was being merged in with the timed tickets. There were a LOT of these people, so I guess they have a lot more visitors than ticket sales would suggest. 


Fiiinally, at 17:35 our tickets were scanned and we were able to enter the first room, which gave us a potted history and timeline of Christian Dior's life and career. Thankfully, as this is something I'm fairly clued up on already, I opted not to spend too much time reading up on all of the information on the walls, although there was a lot. 


Progressing to the first display-case filled room, you're met with several dresses, at eye level and ceiling height. In the central glass case, the dress designed for Princess Margaret's twenty-first birthday takes centre stage, and it's clear to see why the princess deemed it her "favourite dress of all". Such detail. This one is on loan from the Museum of London, so if you miss it at the Dior show, it will be visible there once again, come September. 


Honestly, the level of detail was amazing on this, but the general staging of the room was also great -for the two rows of dresses on the far wall there were printed information cards at the side of the room which gave more detail on each of the garments, which was a nice touch. People took their time, but this room didn't feel crowded or slow to progress through. 


As someone who makes dresses, I was super interested to see some of the construction details, as well as (of course!) the famous New Look shape. It's easy to see how much these designs have had an impact on today's fashion trends and I loved being able to take in so many of the details. In order for this post to not become photo-heavy and never-ending, I'll split the rooms up into several posts. 

Thursday, 16 May 2019

Gin and tonic, endless cups of tea.


A few weekends ago, I boarded a plane from Liverpool with the rest of my THFC crew and hopped across the Celtic Sea to spend the weekend in Belfast. Although the weather had some funny ideas, we refused to let it rain on our parade. 


One of our stops on the itinerary was to visit the Botanical Gardens and we did this on Friday afternoon after we'd checked into our lovely city centre apartment. It was a short walk from there and we managed to locate and have a nose about in a couple of super indie bookshops as well (No Alibis and Books Paper Scissors were both great).


We'd been told about the Tropical Ravine and had planned to visit that to see the banana plants, but it happened to be closed for repairs on the day we visited, so that was a shame. The palm house was open though, so we had a lovely explore around there.


The palm house is one of the earliest examples of a curved iron-framed glasshouse: it was built in the 1830s, with the curved dome being added about two decades later and it's still used today to grow a range of plants. I'm unsure whether these are then used for the park around- there was a beautiful flower bed full of all kinds of blooms outside the front of the glasshouse when we visited: an absolute riot of colour.


I find greenhouses and glasshouses a bit like libraries - they're generally pretty quiet and seem to be places where you can just go at your own pace and explore as you like, without being hassled. Everyone's in their own little world of appreciation and discovery, and generally people only tend to be there because they wish to, so they always seem like a happy and contented place to be.


I'm not great at plants, although I'm trying my best with my annual veg-planting endeavours (and incidentally, this year it's going better than most, since I now have a greenhouse of my very own!), but I was pleased to see that many of the specimens in the glass house were labelled. I like to note down the name of things which I see in the hope I'll be able to find myself one for the garden next time I'm at the garden centre..


We spent a very enjoyable hour or so exploring the glasshouse, avoiding the drizzle and generally taking in the planty goodness. I'd definitely recommend. Do you have any nice glasshouses nearby?


Tuesday, 7 May 2019

Tuesday Titles 171..

Ask again, Yes
Ask Again, Yes: Mary Beth Keane 

One of the books I've most enjoyed recently: you know you've enjoyed a book when you're still thinking about it weeks after reading, right?

This one focuses on two families who move into a suburban New York neighbourhood in the 1970s to raise their families. Although both men are police officers, they don't really know each other to begin with and their lives slowly begin to overlap as they have kids in the same school and time passes.

Starting off with the fast passing of time, as things begin to settle into a slower pace, we learn more and more about some of the characters and witness a love story unfold, with some dramatic consequences. Suddenly on one night, everything changes and the families are left dealing with the fallout from this tragedy for the rest of their lives.

I don't know how much more I can share about this one as I don't want to give away the major event, so I'll just implore you to read it and leave it at that. Happy Tuesday!

Tuesday, 9 April 2019

Tuesday Titles 170..

I've been falling behind with my reading of late. Not that I have a schedule for reading exactly, bur I know that I used to devour more books than I seem to have been recently. I'm not sure why that is, other than this tiredness fog which seems to claim most of my evenings and spare moments at home, lately. But, here are my thoughts on a couple of books I've read over the past few weeks.

Tha Frank Business
The Frank Business

When Frank drops down dead suddenly at Heathrow airport on Christmas Eve, his estranged daughter Jem heads to France to try and understand exactly why Frank may have been travelling to London, with only his passport and wallet on him. She pieces together some of the clues and suddenly jumps to the conclusion that she may in fact have a brother which she didn't know about. To add a little more complication to the matter, she needs to track him down as Frank's cause of death was a heart condition which could be hereditary. So, it's only right that she finds the family and warns them....right? 

There are a few strange characters in this and I have to admit I didn't find any of them particularly relateable, but I enjoyed the parts of the story where the flashbacks pieced the backstory together of that fateful summer and we find out more about the mysterious Frank.

The Swimming Pool
The Swimming Pool

Another book which keeps you guessing. Natalie is intrigued when the local lido is reopened, and soon finds herself spending most of her spare time swimming there in the hope to meet the exotic Lara; local actress and philanthropist. Somehow, Natalie and Lara become friends and their families begin spending more and more time together. 

Chilling and creepy, I found this one rather mesmerising and it's easy to see how Natalie gets swept up in the hoi polloi of her new friends. Lines are blurred between wives, husbands, teachers and students and there's also a secret from the past thrown in for good measure, which Natalie thought she would never have to share with anyone.