Archives for the month of: January, 2014

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This month’s spree began with a pair of jeans.

I normally shop with the office in mind, since that’s where I spend the majority of my time (Sad, but true). Thankfully where I work isn’t too corporate, or at least I’m not, so a lot of my wardrobe multitasks for days off. Denim is weekend only though, and I like to have a couple of pairs of jeans in rotation. Christmas weight gain meant I was down to one tatty pair of jeggings; and since by some craziness I have a little bit of money left at the end of JANUARY (I know, I have no idea), I thought I’d treat myself to some new threads.

I happen to work directly on top of a New Look, and they do a lot of denim. I found a pair of OK looking ones for £25, but I wasn’t as excited as a clothes purchase ought to make me really. Where was the hunt? The thrill of the chase and a bargain well caught?

I think I have been spoiled by charity shops.

Instead, I decided to take my £25 into the wild, and see if I could get more for my cash. Charity shops are an excellent place to shop for jeans. Firstly, there are racks and racks of them. Everyone buys jeans on a whim that don’t really fit or flatter, and you can reap the rewards. Secondly, most of us aren’t affected by frequent trend changes in jeans making them always in fashion. Sure, high street shops try to tempt us with different versions of the boyfriend/skinny/drainpipe etc, but essentially they don’t change too much year to year. I have decided you can be too staid though. I discovered indigo bootlegs in the early 90’s, and it’s been hard to move away ever since. Consequently I was after a lighter wash for spring, in a straighter leg for a change.

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Thankfully, these lovely Moto (Topshop) Martha jeans jumped out at me fairly quickly. They are a straight cut, uncomplicated style, and have great reviews on the Topshop website. And they were mine for the princely sum of just £4.

So now I had my jeans, plus another £21 to spend.

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This teal handbag is lovely quality leather, and the wear it’s had only makes it more buttery soft. It has no brand label, but I’m guessing maybe Next, since the zip tab (always a great place to look for clues) says LKK, and I have similar zips on other Next handbags. I love the colour, it fits well into the Autumn palette I now shop almost exclusively from. There was a number handwritten on the lining. At first I thought it may be a product code, but on reflection I like to think it was the beginning of a phone number; maybe the owner found a scrap of paper after all. I love these little signs that make you wonder about the life an item had before you. I’m a sucker for leather bags, but can rarely afford them. This was a fiver.
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£16 to go…

You need an open mind when charity shopping; to go out with a very strict agenda is a recipe for disaster because you have no control over what stock will be there, but I did set two rules for today.

1) No black. It makes me look drained and doesn’t suit me, but black is still such a go-to colour that I have to stop myself. I mentioned the Autumn thing above. I’m really on board with colour analysis. Though pale, I am quiet yellowy and need those warmer shades.

2) No prints. I am inexorably drawn to patterned, usually floral fabrics. Thought not always a problem, I’m hoping to boost the plain fabric quota in my wardrobe for more versatility and to help me look more streamlined and grown-up. The frothy, flouncy, flowery thing doesn’t always look great when you’re fat and firty-seven.

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As you can see, rules are made to be broken. I loved the muted shades of this dress, and when I tried it on (on top of my clothes, the Salvation Army doesn’t have a fitting room*), I loved the style. Gypsy dresses hold a special place in my heart, having worn them a lot during my early 20s. I only hope this is sophisticated looking enough to get away with. It’s a Peacocks, a brand I generally avoid when shopping second hand. In fact, if I buy a ‘value’ brand at all, it really needs to impress me by being either brand new, very cheap or (ideally) both. Its true that even charity shopping is not as inexpensive as it used to be. My threshold for dresses was £5 for years, but you have to move with the times, and I was happy to take this unworn one home for £7.

The other dress was £7 too, but this is a Jigsaw. Yes, a JIGSAW. Something of a sought after brand by me. I’m happy with quality pieces from the high street giants like M+S or Next, but am extra chuffed to find an item by Hobbs, Laura Ashley or Whistles etc. I loved the pintuck bib on this, but it is a little ‘sackish’ in shape, probably not helped by the chocolate colour. However, this fulfills the grown-up brief, and I’m hoping with a belt, this will look good for the office. Its a cotton/modal mix and feels just lovely.

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So just £2 left. I wasn’t expecting to see anything else, but then I spotted a waterfall cardigan on the sale rail (see on Jigsaw dress, above). It’s a Primark, not something I’d usually buy, but these light layers are perfect for an office with changeable temperatures, and its in mustard which I can never resist. Best of all, it was only £1.50.

All in all, a successful trip. I could have bought one pair of ‘meh’ jeans, instead I came home with a veritable haul.

And 50p change.

*Despite this, The Salvation Army in Northfield is still one of my favourite charity shops. I’ve unearthed a few real quality gems, and they are the only shop forward thinking enough to have a loyalty card. I collect stamps, and can have a fiver off next time. They also offer discounts off purchases when you take in a bag of donations. Fab idea.

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…….is a knitting one.

Not being one for resolutions as such, I nevertheless welcomed the dawn of 2014 armed with a list, consisting of goals/aims/targets/objectives (call them what you want). I developed this list with the help of a rather fabulous little book called Your Best Year Yet. Its a very simple guide consisting of just ten questions, and I used it with some success last year. 2013 was definitely a contender for my best year yet, and I’m optimistic 2014 can beat it.

However, even this mercifully short process was probably unnecessary when it came to one of my knitting aims, since I suspect I share it with half of the crafty minxes on the planet; finish those WIPs.

Despite my tendency to start and then abandon so much in life, I am extraordinarily restrained when it comes to knitting projects, so its not like I have 30+ carrier bags lurking under beds in my house (I’ve seen the confessions on Ravelry). I do have a couple of things I am determined to get off the needle in 2014 though.

One of these was my Deco cardigan. Oh yes, note the use of past tense here. This started life as a 99p car boot cashmere blend Ralph Lauren jumper. After several hours of unpicking and unwinding, following the advice of the fabulous Unravellers group, I had about 500g of usable sport weight yarn in an eau de nile colour. Unfortunately, carefully taken photos of this process are unavailable thanks to a stolen mobile phone late last year, but I was fairly impressed with myself

The cardigan itself then took an age to knit. Its an effective pattern, but involves a lot of stocking stitch at a tight gauge, so not exactly riveting. It only needed a little finishing and blocking when it was eventually passed over for something more sparkly and exciting, and went to live in a bag somewhere quiet.

Nothing much happens here New Years Day. Except hangovers and knitting. Having missed my usual partying (Stayed in with the kids which was lovely), I had a clear head and a determined spirit. I finished the cardigan and it looked…meh.
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I liked the fabric. I liked the style. I had pre-ordered the clear press studs needed and picked out some lovely vintage buttons/ribbon for it (see above). But I just knew the colour did nothing for me. Though pale, I’m an ‘Autumn’ and pastels in general leave me sallow and little cadaver-like. But that’s what you get when you re-use yarn instead of spending on squishing new skeins in the shop.

So on the 2nd January I decided to dye it. Oh yes, I was on a roll! I wasn’t able to travel far, but my local shop sold Dylon.
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Nooooooooooooooooooooooo! Said Google.

You need special dyes for wool! Said Ravelry.

But I knew better, being the impatient person that I am. And convinced, thanks to the optimism of the foolhardy, that the dye would definitely work for me, despite all evidence to contrary.

At first, things seemed fine. The colour is the drum was exactly as I’d hoped, a russety brown with a hint of pink.

And then I took it out.

I couldn’t understand it. I’d washed a gauge swatch in the machine and it had bloomed a little but come out just fine! Whether it was the extra friction caused by the weight of the whole cardigan or the salt I put in with the dye I don’t know, but this felted mess isn’t wearable.
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I should have learnt when the same thing happened to my Blackberry Cardigan. See, I love the feel of proper wool over superwash but I’m too flighty to be trusted with it. Luckily, I’m also too little attached to a lot of the physical world to care. I was a bit sad for the wasted money on the dye, but hey what price for a lesson learned?

And I have learnt it now. Honestly.

Plus, where there are losers, somebody is winning. The kitty is very happy with her new super-soft basket liner.