Monday, 18 November 2013

chichester vintage fair

As a family, our Saturdays usually involve a whole load of child-friendly activities; parks, baking, cake-based coffee shop treats - anything that doesn't leave them a) bored or b) fidgety. This weekend, though, the weather was bright and crisp, the sun was beaming down, and there was a vintage fair on near us; I'm a huge fan of buying as many vintage and handmade gifts as possible for Christmas, so we hustled the kiddos into the car and set off.

I've been waiting for it to get really chilly, so I can finally wear one of the three hundred* coats I've found in charity shops lately, which meant I was more than happy to get up and see the frost glistening on the grass. I saw an oversized, double breasted coat in one of the high street shops a few weeks ago, but my inner tightwad scoffed at the £90 price tag - so when I saw this red one in my local Sue Ryder shop for £4.75 (£4.75! That's less than a fiver!), I practically ran to the till with it. What makes it even better is that a) it's the most beautiful shade of red and b) it's pure wool, which means it's really, really warm. I popped it over an old denim shirt, a vintage jumper and decided on some skinny black trousers; I'm experimenting with attempting to wear trousers rather than jeans lately, but to be honest, I'm not really sure how I feel about them. These ones weren't quite as skinny as I'd hoped, but I do like the way they're slightly tapered at the bottom - it's nice to be able to wear a denim shirt on the top half as well, without feeling like I've stepped out of the eighties (I know some people do double denim, but it just looks ridiculous on me). I finished it off with a satchel by Scaramanga, some polka dot socks and bargain eBay chelsea boots.

The Vintage and Very Nice Fair was held in the Assembly Rooms in Chichester, a beautiful old building with the most incredible tiling in the foyer (I meant to get a photograph, but forgot, dammit), and exceeded all my expectations. Located on the first floor, up a winding old staircase, was stall after stall of beautiful vintage and handmade goodies; retro wooden toys and puzzles, rails of vintage clothing and accessories, antique lace and handkerchiefs, handprinted and sewn bunting, bags and brooches, homewares, kitchenalia and even homemade jams and chutneys. The stallholders were friendly and accommodating, and the whole atmosphere was really lovely; I spent a good hour wandering around, picking up bits and pieces for Christmas presents, but my absolute favourite purchase was (drum roll please).....

.....a vintage wooden dolls cot, complete with ticking covered mattress. I honestly wish I could get across just how happy finding this made me; I've been looking for a dolls cot for Daisy for a few months, and was absolutely despairing at the choices available. It seems to be that you either pay a small fortune for a wooden one, or have to tolerate nauseatingly-sickly shades of pink plastic that will a) offend my eyes and b) break by the time the Queen appears on the TV on Christmas Day. So when I saw this one perched on the Maybefranc stall, I got very excited, very quickly. I umm-ed and ahh-ed a bit, pondering on whether I could carry it back to the car on my own (the Husband and kiddos had abandoned me by this point, and I already had a few shopping bags, ahem), and then quickly decided that there was no way I could leave without it. And now it's sitting in our conservatory, waiting to be jazzed up a little in time for Christmas; I did consider leaving it that colour, but I think I'm going to strip it back and paint it white, and add some vintage decals that I've been trying to find a use for. Oh, and there's definitely going to be retro bedlinen for one very lucky doll!

My other finds were just as amazing; a couple of retro toys to sit on Ben's shelves, some Christmas presents, a couple of bits from the wonderful Matilda Wren, some wonderful gift tags (that to be honest, I don't think I can bare to use) and some vintage scarves, fat quarters, and an amazing lace collar. There's a special Christmas fair on at the same place on the 13th December, so I'm putting some pennies away now.....


Wednesday, 13 November 2013

latest thrifts

If you follow me on Twitter, you'll have seen my tweets bemoaning the lack of thrifting opportunities lately; I always check the charity shops regularly, but they just seemed to be full of old Primark stuff and characterless work shirts - not a vintage frock or crocheted blanket in sight. Suffering from a severe case of Thrifters Despair, I was about to give up completely - until I spotted the corner of something floral and suspiciously vintage looking through the window of my local Salvation Army shop. I ran inside in an excited sweat, and came out clutching a vintage Jaegar blouse that cost me the princely sum of £4. It had been a long time coming, but completely worth the wait - and the best thing was, it kicked off a couple of weeks worth of amazing finds.

I'm not sure exactly how vintage the Jaegar blouse is, but considering the amazing pattern and bargain price, I'm not overly bothered either. It's actually made of silk as well; so it'll be cool in the warmer months, but still perfect to layer over thermal tops this winter. Hurrah!

The spotty blouse was an eBay find that I was really pleased with - until it arrived in the post, with a load of holes in the right hand sleeve. I think they'll be easy to darn, but it's still irritating that it wasn't disclosed in the original listing. The seller offered to refund me, but I decided I'd rather have the holes mended than mess about sending it back and waiting to get my money back. I've never had any trouble with eBay sellers before, so I'm hoping it was a one-off genuine mistake! Even with its holes, I love the button cuffs and waistband, and the little gathered pleats - it's a beaut!

I found the wonderful puff-sleeve blouse in a charity shop I don't visit very often, because it's right out of town, so it was actually a happy little accident. It actually started its life in my wardrobe with full length sleeves, but after a small tussle between it, the Husband and the iron, they ended up at just about elbow length. It leaped out at me amidst a sea of dull lycra t-shirts and bootcut jeans, and I love it for the ace vertical stripe print - something a bit different from all my other breton-style tops!

I think the award for 'Best Thrifty Find in the Entire World, Ever' has to go to this little vintage blouse, which I found nestling on a rack in my local Barnardos shop, and cost me exactly £2.99. It has no labels, and is made of what I think might be a viscose / silk mix, but the embroidery on it is absolutely exquisite. Tiny leaves, stems and petals adorn the front and sleeves, and there's even a single motif in the centre of the back; it feels quite delicate, so it might well end up being one of those things that is put on display on the bedroom wall.

These vintage dresses are from the early eighties, and I found them in Sue Ryder - we've got quite a large branch in our little town centre, and they've usually got a fairly good selection of stock. I found them side by side, like they were just sitting there waiting for me; the red floral one is my absolute favourite, mostly because of the crochet peter pan collar, but I do love the other one as well. The Husband said nothing when I pulled it out of the bag, which I suspect is his way of being tactful! It is admittedly quite a loud print, but I'm planning on wearing it with a cable knit jumper over the top and thick black tights or leggings, which should tone it down a bit. Maybe in the summer it'll come out in all it's glory!

The leopard print blouse also came from Barnardos, and is wonderfully oversized - the only problem is that I have to do it up at the neck with a brooch, as the buttons stop at chest height. I've been looking for an oversized leopard shirt for months and months, so was pretty pleased when I found that one - I think it'll be grand with skinny jeans and my famous mustard coat. I've also found two coats in the last week; one is grey and has a faux fur collar, and the other is an oversized, red, double-breasted wonder-coat, which could easily go for £80 in the shop. Both are pure wool, and both came to exactly £10.99. You just can't knock a good thrift!

Have you found anything lately? Leave a link in the comments if you have, I love nosing through peoples charity shop finds!

Monday, 11 November 2013

on technology

I'm going to start this post by saying that I am possibly the least technologically minded person I know; my laptop is ancient, and I have to balance it on one of my huge fashion books and a USB fan to stop it overheating. Being a lover of old bookshops, I am completely resistant to Kindles, Nooks, Kobos or any other eReaders - I like to feel the weight of a good paperback in my hand, and personally, I feel reassured by the fact that if I drop a book in the bath, there's zero chance of electrocution. When everyone around me was going mad for tablets, I declared that they'd never catch on and couldn't see the point. And then I ended up getting one.

A tablet is one of those things that you don't realise you need until you actually own one. Halfway between a smartphone and a laptop, it manages to combine the best features of both; the weightlessness and convenience of a phone, and the capabilities and screen size of a laptop. Argos have an absolutely huge selection, and the reviews can make the final decision a lot easier; I opted for a Google Nexus 7 - the 7" screen was what won me over; large enough to see the display comfortably, but small enough to carry around in my usual bag. Ace!

One of the more purse-friendly models around, the Nexus 7 is ideal if you're on a smaller budget, but still want all the handy features that come with a tablet. The screen size and resolution are perfect for everything, from blogging and writing on the go, to watching catch-up TV and even downloaded films, and the connectivity is pretty impressive as well. There's obviously a huge amount of apps available to download, which cover everything from reading to crafts, fashion to cooking, so I thought it'd be good to include the best ones - and the good news is, most of them are free!

The Craft Apps
Any fans of knitting or crochet will almost certainly have already heard of Ravelry, a lovely wool-based community which features forums, patterns, and some great tools to keep track of your projects. The associated Android app, Ravulous, is probably one of my overall favourites; it allows quick and easy access to anything you're currently working on, and also allows you to see what friends are making. The handy search function means you can also look for new projects, although you can't refine the results - so it pays to be specific when entering your search terms. While I'm not exactly a competent knitter (I started a cushion for my Mum roughly this time last year. It's still not finished....), I know a lot of you are, so I thought I'd mention the Knitting Patterns Database app, which allows you to save both knitting and crochet PDF patterns from all over the web in one handy place. Another handy little discovery was Knit and Crochet Tools, which cost £1.27, but is worth every penny; featuring useful tools such as the row counter, on screen ruler, calculator and universal knit and crochet symbols, it's the most practically useful crafting app I came across.

The Reading Apps
The one thing I find the Nexus 7 especially handy for, is providing me with something to read while I'm out and about. There are an absolute tonne of apps available; from your favourite newspaper to online copies of magazines, books and obviously, blogs. I personally favour Bloglovin', and have done for almost two years - the app is just as good as the desktop copy, and the feed updates itself quickly and easily. I also rapidly added Vogue Daily News, Guardian Anywhere and The Independent, as they're my daily choices, and then had a quick trawl through the Play Store to see what else I could find. One thing that left me feeling incredibly disappointed was the Issuu app; try as I might, I couldn't even access the content, as it kept telling me my login was incorrect (it wasn't), so I think I'll stick to the browser version. Zinio was a happy discovery, as not only can you get popular magazines a little bit cheaper, but you can also find a selection of free articles to read on a variety of different subjects; I came across pieces from Elle Decor, Country Living and Harpers Bazaar, as well as quite a few more obscure titles. They're mostly from the Spring and Summer, but hey - they're free!

The Cooking Apps
Long-term readers will know of my kitchen-related woes; it's safe to say, I'm not one of life's natural cooks. I do enough to get by, but on the whole, I prefer to be doing, well, anything else. I'm quite keen on baking, though, and do often look up recipes online, but problems usually arise when trying to read the next step on a small phone - there's nothing more difficult than trying to scroll down on a touchscreen, with fingers that are coated in a flour-butter-sugar-egg mixture, while trying to field the five-year-old away from the oven door. While I didn't really find any cooking apps that jumped out at me, it was the Nexus's screen size that won out in the kitchen - measuring seven inches meant that the whole recipe fitted on the screen in one go, so no need for scrolling. Also, the fact that the screen stays lit for much longer is an added bonus - no more being plunged into darkness at the crucial moment when you need to know whether to whisk or fold. I did find a couple of apps that were quite good; All The Cooks seemed to have plenty of recipes covering almost every food-related eventuality, while the Good Food app had a few free recipes - be warned though, to access most of the content, you need to pay extra (boo, hiss, BBC!).

The Best of the Rest
Then we come to the other apps that I love, but don't really fit into any category. Google Sky is an incredible tool and should be enjoyed by everyone at least once, while the National Trust app is ideal for history buffs and fans of crumbly old buildings; by simply zooming in on the map, you can discover places of interest in your local area, and then click through to find visitors details and even a gallery of pictures. I obviously downloaded all of the usual social media tools, and added in Blogger and Kingsoft Office, which means I can now write pretty much anywhere - which is always handy when you work around childcare and have to grab every single available second!

This post was written in collaboration with Argos.

Friday, 8 November 2013

pretty nostalgic: issue ten

Super duper vintage Southsea
I posted a while back on how I'd been working on a couple of features for Pretty Nostalgic magazine, and I'm back in issue ten writing about my beloved home town and all of the amazing places to visit (it's spread over a couple of pages, but I could have easily carried on and on!). I'm in superb company once again, as there are lots of great articles; the history of patchwork, vintage style lingerie, kitchenalia and a whole section on thrifty, upcycled Christmas gifts.

The issue comes on sale in the shops soon, and subscribers should hear it hitting their doormat any day now. To order a copy online, head to the website, where you can find all the details.

Wednesday, 6 November 2013

the handmade kitchen

A little while ago, I joined in with a challenge set by Money Supermarket to makeover a room in our house; I chose our poor, unloved kitchen, simply because it was the only room in the house that we'd never really bothered with. We sanded off and plastered over the artex walls that were so horrifying that they induced nightmares, and added a few plants and my beloved pyrex; it was easier to live with but still a long way off being the kitchen I dreamed of.

As renters, there are obviously some limitations on what we can and can't do. We've got permission to replace the worktops and tiles, but I tend to go back and forth with my thinking on this - we're going to be here for another five years at the most, and I swing between thinking that I can't tolerate mottled green worktops for another five years and that there's no point replacing it when we'll be leaving soon. The whole kitchen is teeny tiny; you can only just fit two people in there comfortably, and the units were a bodge job fitted by previous tenants. What's even more tricky is that the front door opens straight into the kitchen, which means that we don't have a proper hallway - just a corner with a coat rack.

Over the last couple of weeks, I've been adding some little bits and pieces to make the whole space a little brighter and more colourful; crochet garlands at the window, vintage handkerchiefs in painted charity-shop-found frames and plenty of washi tape everywhere. It's still pretty far removed from being my dream kitchen - a range oven, butler sink and eco-friendly dishwasher that manages to save tonnes of water, all jostling for space with vintage tins, retro pyrex and tonnes of enamelware - but it's gradually improving. The problem with it being such a small space is that if there's too much going on, it'll end up becoming claustraphobic, so I think the key is to use a few key colours, and not cover every available surface with pictures or garlands - as I come from the 'more is more' school of thought, this is going to be a challenge at the very least....

Out of interest, what do you think? Is it ever worth the expense of replacing tiles and worktops in a kitchen if you're only renting? I'd be really interested to hear your thoughts. (Please, someone, tell me what to do!)

This post was written in collaboration with Electrolux.
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