Monday, 29 April 2013

floor decoration

When I'm browsing interiors blogs and homewares magazines, the one thing I always look out for is what's been done to the floor. As renters, we've always been stuck with whatever awful carpet the landlord has provided (I dream of the day we can actually have bare floorboards, possibly even whitewashed...), so I'm a big fan of covering as much of it up as I can with a good rug.

There are heaps and heaps of good places to buy rugs from; IKEA sell great graphic ones, and Urban Outfitters have got a huge range of lovely eclectic styles, but my favourites came from somewhere I never expected - Lotta from Stockholm.
Famous for their fabulous range of incredible clogs (have you seen the aubergine T-bars? Amazing!), Lotta also stock a range of Pappelina rugs, full of geometric shapes, pastels and bright colours. There's even an Aztec-esque pattern in there - look!

I'm particularly taken with the bottom left style, 'Klas Red' - I think it would look amazing in our teeny tiny hallway. Every rug is available in a range of sizes and prices, so no matter what size or shape your room, there's something for everyone. See the full range here - and then go and have a look at the clogs. And bags. And, err, jewellery. Ahem.

Sunday, 28 April 2013

thrifted: floral blouse and the best purse ever

I mentioned in my last post that I'd had a couple of failures in relation to the 'no buying' rule, but in all fairness - nope, there's actually no excuse. I'm just completely weak willed, and a total sucker for a good bit of vintage - so when we drove past a Save the Children Super Sale last weekend, there was pretty much no hope for me!
I actually didn't time my posts very well this week, as I've already worn both new (to me) things in previous outfit pictures, but I think they deserve a post all of their own, so here they are...

I found this lovely little blouse just before I left, although I'd walked past and not noticed it on the way in - I've been wearing lots of blouses and shirts lately, so I thought another one added to the collection was a very sensible purchase. And that's exactly how I justified it to myself. Ahem.

I've got no idea when it dates from, but I'd guess around about the 1970s. The absolute best bit is hiding underneath the label in the neckline....

Yes, it was made right here, on British soil. Hurrah for vintage-ethical-British-manufactured wonders.
I featured my other buy in my outfit post yesterday - the most amazingly beautiful floral bag that I have ever seen, in the world, ever.

I love everything about it; the colours, the pattern, the fact that it's deceptively roomy (yes, 15mm crochet hook, you can live in there) and the way it's actually wonderfully multi-functional - at the moment it's holding my crochet hooks, but as it's big enough to hold my phone, keys and some money, it would double as a great little clutch when going out for dinner. Hint hint, Husband.

I've been doing an awful lot of pottering about online, trawling eBay and Barnebys, and have come up with a little selection of things I'd snap up in a nano-second. Especially that beautiful cape!

From top left: 1970s Dress - devoted 2 vintage // Blouse - Yayer // Leather Brogues - Rokit // Tapestry Cape - Love Miss Daisy //
Sunglasses - Rokit // Geometric Top - Rokit // Sleeveless Denim Top - Rokit //Suitcase full of goodies - Barnebys

This post was written in collaboration with Barnebys.


Saturday, 27 April 2013

worn: charity shop and vintage mash-up

If you're a fan of sustainable, ethically produced fashion, and you haven't heard of the Style Is website, you're massively missing out. Founded in 2012 by Ceri Heathcote, who writes for the Ethical Fashion Forum and works on her own blog (as well as about a gazillion other projects), it's basically a gigantic search engine, stuffed with every ethically produced, environmentally friendly item of clothing you could ever want, from every brand you need to know about. This month, Style Is has been running a competition to win £100 worth of shoes from Spartoo - and at the last minute, I decided to have a crack at it!

The only rule was that your outfit had to contain at least one ethically made, vintage, second hand or locally produced item of clothing. Considering most of my wardrobe comes from eBay or charity shops, that was never going to be too difficult!

Jacket - charity shop // Blouse - Hideout (a local vintage shop) // Belt - Dead Mans Glory //
Jeans - Monkee Genes // Clogs - Lotta From Stockholm // Purse - local vintage sale //
Pendant - charity shop // Brooch - belonged to my Grandmother

I bought the jacket a couple of years ago from a small charity shop (I think it was a Salvation Army), and it's actually meant to be a size 20 shirt, I think, but I wear it as an oversized jacket - it's long and slouchy, and ace. The blouse came from a local vintage shop, and I actually only bought it because of the colour - I've got a real thing for that aqua-ey, teal-ey colour, it's great for the Summer, and adds a bit of colour to dull days in Winter. My jeans are my one ethically produced item - they're from Monkee Genes, and I've lived in them since they arrived. I can honestly say I'll never be going anywhere else for denim ever again - not only are they massively comfortable, but they're 100% ethically and environmentally produced, from the cotton farmed on organic farms, to the manufacturing process that takes place in organic factories. No chemicals, no slave labour, just good, honest clothing. Just how it should be.

The accessories are all vintage, but from various sources - I bought the purse last week from a Save the Children Super Sale, which is actually mostly made up of vintage clothing (I'm not sure if that was intentional, or if I was just lucky). It's currently got my crochet hooks and sewing kit in it, which means it goes everywhere with me - it's big enough to hold some change and my phone as well, but sadly not nappies, dummies, snacks, milk..... The belt came from another vintage shop that's sadly closed down now, the pendant came from a charity shop (it's a piece of painted silk in a small frame, strung onto a chain, and it's one of my favourite pieces of jewellery), and the brooch was my Grandmothers. I never met her as she died just before I was born, so every time I wear her things, it's sort of my way of staying close to her. I think she'd like that.

Please excuse my incredibly shoddy nail painting!

If you want to enter the competition, you need to be quick - the closing date is 30th April (I only just got in by the skin of my teeth). Check out Style Is for more details, and make sure you also have a nosey at the Ethical Fashion Forum and Ceri's own blog, Style Eyes.

Friday, 26 April 2013

out and about: sunshine, antiques and vintage jackets

On Wednesday, the Husband had the day off work, and unbelievably, the weather decided to play nicely; the day dawned with bright sunshine and gentle breezes, so we did what any normal parents would do - offloaded the kids onto their Grandparents threw the kids in the car, and headed out for the day.

We started with coffee and cake (is there any other way to begin a day trip?) and then drove out to the park and the lake. We try to spend as much time out of doors with the kiddos as possible - neither of them are really ones to sit in front of the TV, and Ben gets a bit feral hyperactive if he doesn't get out to run off some of his excess energy.

There were antiques shops, and colourful window boxes and then lunch on the common, where the Husband had a go with my DSLR:

He now knows the value of giving a warning before taking a picture. Also, not to be picky,
but I look a leeeetle bit like there's something growing out of my head.
And I spotted some bicycle porn:

I like to be comfy when we're out and about - I know some Mums manage to wear heels, but I just can't cope with it. My recipe for success when chasing the kiddos around is jeans plus jacket plus flat shoes. Done.

Jacket - vintage from Tango Tea // Shirt - charity shop // Jeans - eBay //
Shoes - Kate Kanzier // Pendant - charity shop

This jacket is one of my absolute favourite vintage pieces in the entire world - it came from Tango Tea in Southsea, the most beautiful little vintage shop that sells all manner of eclectic things (I've bought some beautiful embroidered hankies from there before). The owner told me that it used to be a cape, but had been remade into a jacket - I love it for both its history and its unique print. A firm favourite!

Thursday, 25 April 2013

worn: ethical jeans and some thrifted florals

I know, I know - at the start of this whole clothes malarkey, I pledged not to buy any more clothes for an entire year. Well, not even a month in, and I've already had a fail. Actually, two fails. But in my defence:

1. I got rid of two bin bags full of clothes. They went to the local charity shop AND I added gift aid as well (because, who doesn't?)
2. On this little journey, I'm slowly working out the things that I wear repeatedly, and those that never leave the cupboard. So it's only right to stock up on the winners, no? Ahem.

I've discovered recently that the one item of clothing I turn to, over and over again, are jeans. Jeans with the husbands t-shirts, jeans with retro knits in Winter, jeans with floaty-hippyesque tops and sandals in Summer, jeans in the sun, wind, rain and snow. Jeans for running around with the kids in, jeans for going out for dinner in (well, we might go one day...), jeans for working in, jeans for lounging in. Jeans, jeans, jeans. I do love a good dress (I've got enough of the bloody things), but I just feel more 'me' in jeans. Which is why, after the sad demise of yet another pair of old favourites bought from eBay, I was going to invest in a brand-spanking-new pair of ethically made jeans. And I knew exactly where I was going to find them, too.

Ever since I started reading about ethical fashion, I've known about Monkee Genes - beautifully made, on-trend jeans, manufactured in a way that doesn't harm the planet and helps people to earn a living wage. Soil Association certified, this ethical wonder-brand pride themselves on using a manufacturing process which contains no allergenic, carcinogenic or toxic chemicals, and affects neither the environment or the wildlife. As a certified organic company, the cotton in their jeans is produced without harmful pesticides, and anybody involved in working in the factory where they're produced is employed in high social conditions - workers can expect a good rate of pay, regular breaks and reasonable hours. Not only that, but they're also working on a project to help save the bees. What more can you ask for?

I spent a long time on the website, peering at the gazillion different shades, fits and styles, and pondering over what was most important to me in my selection. I was hugely tempted by the pistachio sateen skinny jeans, and also the eye-popping colour of the aqua sateen skinnies, but in the end I decided to be sensible, and opt for a normal, bog-standard denim. These had to be multi-functional, after all. I'm pretty fussy when it comes to jeans, especially concerning the softness (my absolute pet-hate is stiff denim that feels like you're wearing cardboard trousers), so I emailed to ask which style was the most comfortable and had the most give to it - Natasha replied almost straight away with loads of advice and tips, and I ended up opting for the Bamboo Denim skinny jeans - they're mid waisted, which means no builders bottom effect when I bend over to retrieve a pen / crochet hook / errant child, and it also means that they can be worn higher up, with tops tucked in, or lower down for a more relaxed look (i.e. when you've eaten too much cake, and you're wearing your husbands t-shirt to hide the evidence).

Shirt - thrifted // Jeans - Monkee Genes // Loafers - Kate Kanzier

I honestly cannot rave about these jeans enough. I dread buying denim, because most of the time, you have to endure that awful, uncomfortable period where you 'break them in', but these arrived as soft as a baby's bottom, and ready to go. They're versatile, they're skinny without being so tight you have to be winched into them (fine for youngsters, not so great for those of us who have been through two pregnancies....), and most importantly of all, they're comfortable. Ahhhhhhh. Monkee Genes, I salute you.

Natasha also let me have a sneaky peek at the lookbook for Fall 2013 - and it's a goodun. Think ticking, contrast turn-ups, rich colours and jewel tones - I know what I'm going to be dressing my legs in this Autumn (and Winter, Spring... Summer....)

Check out Monkee Genes on their website, and read more about their ethical commitments here. If you're not looking for jeans, do check out their range of shorts and chinos - they're not just a one-trick-pony monkey....

Disclosure: I didn't receive any free goods for this review, but the lovely people at Monkee Genes gave me a discount, which was incredibly kind of them. I would have bought them regardless, and will be returning again as a very satisfied customer.

Wednesday, 24 April 2013

five pregnancy myths debunked

I remember during my first pregnancy with Benjamin, back in 2008, how amazed I was at the sheer volume of people that would stop me and offer their well-meaning advice, tips and insider information. As soon as I announced I was expecting, everybody from the woman-next-door to the lady in WHSmiths had something of the utmost importance to tell me - it got to a point where I'd lost track of the amount of sheer guff I was hearing.

Apologies for the dreadful photo quality - courtesy of an incredibly old camera phone!
As I've now officially put my child-bearing days behind me (the Husband: "I'd rather take a hammer to my nuts than go through that again"), I feel it's sort of my duty to pass on some of these snippets of hilarity. So here they are, my top five pregnancy myths, in all their tosh-y glory.

1. The morning sickness always stops at the end of the first trimester.
Does it? For who? I guess this might be possible, but I've yet to meet a woman who got to week thirteen and suddenly sprang out of bed in the morning, large as life (no pun intended) and full of beans. During my first pregnancy, it eased a little at around the fifteenth week, but it certainly didn't stop - I had endless, grinding nausea for the entire time. Same again the second time around - I was only ever sick once, but the nausea grated on me like nails down a chalkboard. And as for the myth about ginger biscuits helping, well, I'd rather have eaten a turd, quite frankly.

2. You'll feel instantly closer to your boyfriend / partner / husband.
I suppose this could be true - but for me it certainly wasn't. I'm a terrible patient when I'm ill, and even worse when pregnant; hormonal, rage-y, irritable and tearful. The person that got me into this situation was the Husband, so in all my oestrogen-fuelled fury, it made sense to make his life as miserable as humanly possible. Particularly if he did any of the following:
1. Rustled packets or clanked cutlery.
2. Left splashes of water on the floor.
3. Left crumbs on the kitchen worktop.
4. Forgot anything.
5. Disagreed with me about anything.
6. Didn't think to buy me flowers.
7. Wasted money buying me flowers.
8. Bought the wrong chocolate, despite me telling him to choose for himself.
9. Stayed in.
10. Went out.
I also remember early in my first pregnancy, I found the smell of his face physically nauseating. And yet still he married me.
Leggings ahoy - pregnant with Daisy 2011-2012
3. Dressing during pregnancy is simple now there are so many great maternity clothing brands.
Two words: maternity jeans. Probably the most irritating things in the world. The under-bump ones, unless skin tight, feel like they're about to sink to your knees at any moment, while their over-bump friends make you feel like you're wearing a gigantic nappy. Seriously, how is it possible that anyone could think a woman is going to want to wear jeans with a huge piece of lycra attached, designed to reach their armpits?
I'd like to add a side-note to any clothing designers that might be reading - pregnancy does not necessarily equal huge knockers. Yes, lovely clothing company, I would have loved to have bought your comfortable-yet-stylish looking maternity dress, but unfortunately my shortcomings in the boob department mean that the top half is as limp as a wind sock on a calm day. Trust me, Isabella Oliver, nobody is more disappointed than me.
My tip? Buy leggings. Leggings with jersey dresses, leggings with tunics, leggings with your other half's tshirts. Leggings, leggings, leggings. Those, and pyjamas.

4. Pregnancy gets easier each time you go through it.
Piffle. During my second pregnancy, I was anaemic, suffered from nausea for the entire time, had sciatica and SPD, looked after a three-year-old, and worked up until week thirty-three. The first time around, I spent a lot of time whining and taking naps. Go figure.

5. You'll be desperate to keep the house clean towards your due date.
No you won't. You'll be desperate for someone else to come and clean it for you. Presumably because you'll be too busy sitting in your leggings, eating biscuits and berating your partner. Ahem.

Tuesday, 23 April 2013

made: DIY studded leather jacket

For ages and ages, probably since I was about twenty-one, I've wanted a studded leather jacket. I've spent ages umm-ing and ahh-ing over various different styles, on every clothes website around, and have never managed to quite commit myself to spending quite so much money on one item of clothing, Seriously, they retail for around £200, and I know why - it's leather, obviously - but still, £200 is an incredible amount of money. When I was younger, I didn't have it. Now I'm older, and most of the time I still don't have it - and if we do ever have any spare cash, I automatically spend it on the kiddos (seriously, they wear Boden and Little Green Radicals and Beau Loves, and we dress in charity shop and eBay stuff!). But still, the longing for a studded leather jacket nagged and nagged at me, until I decided to do what every thrifter worth her salt does - gather some craft supplies and make my own!

I actually started this DIY about three years ago, when I bought the leather jacket on eBay for a bargain-tastic £4.99. £4.99! I wanted a biker-style jacket really, but then I also want a winning lottery ticket and a wardrobe full of Swedish Hasbeens and Modcloth dresses - beggars can't be choosers, and I'm a strong believer in working with what you've got.
I only got round to adding the studs over the last week (I partly had the fear of ruining the jacket, and partly couldn't find the time to actually do it), which ended up being a little more drawn out than I expected. So I decided to make a post of it, and give you my top tips for studding your own leather jacket. Ta-dah!

1. Get some decent pliers.
You're going to need them. A heavy set pair, with padded handles and a good grip is best - you're going to be using them for a while, so anything to make them more comfortable in your hand is great.

2. Plan where you're going to put your studs.
Choosing a layout is vital - it ensures that you like the end product, and you don't end up making mistakes. If you're going for a complicated design (I did two straight lines and two triangles), it's best to make some marks where you want to put them.

3. Check for seams and fabric thickness.
There are certain areas in a leather jacket (and any item of clothing, actually) that are thicker than others - seams are one, shoulders are another. You are never in a gazillion years going to manage to poke a stud through those areas - you've literally got more chance of flying to the moon. Studding leather is difficult anyway, but this is nigh on impossible. It's possible that you could use a nail to punch a hole, but even then, I can't imagine it being that easy. I decided to save myself a massive headache by just steering clear of those spots!

4. Take your time.
Adding studs to something is time consuming, particularly when it's made of leather. Make sure you've got enough time to take it slowly, plan it properly and can leave your project and come back to it if you need to. Rushing will just make you feel stressed and increase your chances of making a mistake. Put the radio on, and let it become repetitive - before you know it, you'll be finished.

Studding leather is hard work - you need to put quite a lot of pressure behind your stud to make it puncture the leather, it's a naturally resistant fabric and will put up a fight. I was pretty pleased with the result though, and would say it was definitely worth the hassle. And bruised thumbs!

Jacket - eBay (customised) // T-shirt - the Husband //Jeans - eBay // Clogs - Lotta from Stockholm //
Bib necklace -  Primark (four years ago) // Headband - belt from a vintage dress

Look! It's me! Outside! In the SUNSHINE!
Sunglasses from somewhere in Brighton

Monday, 22 April 2013

thrifted: a vintage coffee pot and some antique linens

A few weeks back, the Husband and I went off on a child-free trip to Stratford-Upon-Avon so I could do some research for some writing work (children and small tea rooms absolutely do not mix -  think of the china! Think of the noise! Think of the spillages!), and after a slight detour to London (don't ask, just - don't ask) we arrived in Stratford in all it's snowy glory.

Stratford-Upon-Avon is famous for it's connections to William Shakespeare, but I think it should be more well known for the overwhelming amount of junk shops, charity shops and antique stores. I had my big camera with me but ended up taking more photographs on my phone, and then uploading a few to Instagram. Junk-tastic!

 As much as I like a good rummage, the word 'antique' comes with a pretty hefty price tag, so when I found some vintage tray covers in a vintage market, I was pretty pleased. I was even more pleased that they were only 50p each. Bargain!

I haven't decided yet what I'm going to do with them, but I'm pretty sure it's going to involve a bit more embroidery, maybe some cross stitch and a frame or something. Either way, they're probably going to end up on the wall!
A wander into a local Oxfam turned up the Find-of-the-Day (or possibly even year) - the worlds best coffee pot ever, in the entire history of coffee pots:

Isn't it a beaut?! I have no idea what era it's from, all I know is that there's teal and florals - and it would have been criminal to leave it behind! It was a bit more than I'm used to paying for china in charity shops at £5, but I still think it was a complete bargain given how stunningly bee-yoo-tiful it is.

As usual I'm linking up with Liz and all the other fabulous Magpies over at Magpie Monday for some thrifty delights.

Sunday, 21 April 2013

vintage resource: barnebys

Over the weekend, I accidentally ended up going to a local vintage sale (we literally just drove past a sign for it) hosted by super charity Save the Children. I walked around for ages with an armful of stuff, then changed my mind and put it all back apart from a woven purse thingy and a floral shirt (more on those another day), which I thought was incredibly restrained. (I really am trying not to shop, honest.) I do love rummaging through charity shops and finding a good bit of vintage, but where I live it's actually mostly last years Primark or Marks and Spencers from the nineties. (I just cannot class the nineties as vintage - I was a teenager!) eBay is much the same - although it's an incredible, wonderful site, and I use it regularly, there are a lot of items listed as vintage, which turn out to be 'vintage style' - this is irritating enough when just clicking through to read the full listing, but if they don't disclose it and you actually buy it, it's enough to give you the right hump.

So when I was contacted by the lovely people at Barnebys, I had a look at their website and decided that it really did deserve sharing.

If you're a fan of real, honest-to-goodness, true vintage, you need Barnebys on your favourites list. This ingenious website brings together both online auctions, and those happening in salesrooms everywhere in the world, from right here in the UK to as far afield as Australia. The categories are stuffed full of everything from vintage fashion and homewares, to furniture, jewellery and artwork - I had a quick look and immediately found these lovelies:

Featuring lots from auction houses such as Christies and Sothebys, some of the prices are not for the faint hearted, and run into several thousands - but these are items such as diamond set jewellery and a Louis XV chest of drawers. There are bargains to be had, though, and after a bit of searching I stumbled across 1920s purses for £40, a 1960s handbag for £40 and a couple of nice day dresses. When you consider that you could easily pay those prices on eBay, without really knowing what you're getting, suddenly buying from a legitimate auction house seems like a very good idea indeed. At least you know you wouldn't get your new bits and pieces home only to find a Primark label inside....

Personally, I'm a big fan of Barnebys - I certainly wouldn't class myself as a serious vintage or antique collector, but there's always a chance I might like to add to my (already heaving) dress collection some time in the future, and it's good to know that there's a website out there that basically does all of the hard work for me.

This post was written in collaboration with Barnebys.
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