Archives for the month of: May, 2014

It’s been a while since I posted about a charity shop haul, and although I have been picking bits up here and there, I enjoyed a rare targeted trip today.

I’m planning my wardrobe for a trip to Cologne next week, sans kids and husband, to visit a beloved old friend. Said friend is very glam, so I’m always a bit more sartorially aware when I see her. I was hoping to lose a bit of weight for the trip (cliché much?) but of course this hasn’t happened, and as I find myself heavier than usual at the moment my wardrobe options are looking limited.

Browsing during my lunch hour yesterday (I work in the centre of Birmingham, a city which markets itself as a shopping capital of Europe: nightmare), I saw this dress in cheapie shop, Select. It fulfilled my requirements for a new dress at this particular time: stretchy (read, comfortable), cheap and short enough to go over leggings or wear alone. The British summer has not played ball so far so I wanted to cover all bases.

At £15 its cheap enough, but then I thought maybe it was TOO cheap? Would this wash and wear for a long time? Did the design LOOK cheap? As I approach 40, I’m more aware that I can’t rock the pound shop chic look like I used to, particularly in styles like this that nod to the 90s quite so much.

I reckoned I could do better and boost my wardrobe from the chazzas with the same £15. So I set off this morning to ‘do’ Cotteridge and Northfield, my most local of Birmingham ‘burbs, and host to a plethora of charity shops. My brief: short dresses/tunics to wear alone or over my leggings/skinnies, and tops that might go with these. I bought them on a whim last month as they were comfy but I have not a clue what to wear with them. The baggy style of them make my bum look as big as Bulgaria, but despite the desire to go longer, I think short tops would give a more balanced silhouette.

And this is how I did. WITH CHANGE.

Not bad, eh? Here’s how they all came about

1) This Jasper Conran lovely came from a local CIC called Autism Birmingham. It’s owned by an old school pal, and raises money for a fantastic cause, helping local children with autism access much needed products and services. The shop is cheap and cheerful, with all clothes £1 or less, and is usually a selection of basics from the cheaper end of the high street. I popped in primarily to stock up on holiday reads, as their books are only 20p, but I couldn’t resist this. Jasper Conran! For £1! It matches the green trousers perfectly.


2) This it today’s star buy. I love the surfy-style brands but the stuff rarely suits me. I took this ONeil dress to the fitting room not expecting much, but it’s great! Perfect length to wear alone or layer, the faded green colour is one of my most flattering. I also like the neckline. I’m quite busty and find high necks feel a bit strangling sometimes. Mine for £5.


3) Whenever I go charity shopping, I often get some kind of ‘thing’ stuck in my head, and then I struggle to see anything else. It might be a certain type of garment, or an era. Or a colour. And today I was looking at ALL THE ORANGE. This little jumper isn’t for the trip, but it’s so soft I couldn’t leave it there. It fastens at the neck but has an open back which I found unusual. I’d never heard of the brand, Charlie and Robin, but a quick Google in the fitting room told me it was an Anthropologie, rare in the UK. Mine for £3.50.


4) Finally, this little cream top nearly passed me by, as its not a style I normally go for or a brand I knew. But I thought it would match the trousers so tried it. Peplum tops have been tricky for me in the past, but this was flattering, and a bargain at £3.

Anyone good at Maths may have worked out I’ve only spent £12.50 so far. Well, there were a couple of extra purchases.


I spotted these sandals outside one shop, where the sun appears to have melted the lining. I didn’t realise until I got them home and tried them, the lining stuck to my feet, yuck! I’m hoping the effect will wear off, but any tips will be gratefully received. I’m still happy I bought them though. Whilst not the sexiest ever, they are Clarks. And red! They are barely worn and the heel is pretty interesting. And best of all they were £1!!


My last purchase was this pretty beaded necklace, picked up for £1. Which left me with 50p for a Greggs doughnut.

Doesn’t look like I’ll be fitting into those old skinny clothes anytime soon………….


..or a rectangle, or an oblong (although I’m never quite sure what the difference is).

Most of our virgin knitting projects begin with a shape along these lines. Cast on, garter stitch, cast off. And no matter if you’re six or sixty, there is a great deal of pride to be had in the first piece of fabric you create.

I am teaching a Learn to Knit workshop at a LYS next month and was asked to come up with a functional first project idea. I started with the square: coasters, mitts, some kind of cosy?

I went with mitts, as I felt something wearable maximises the boast factor of ‘I made this myself’; it also gets the most out of the yardage, as the learners will be given one 50g ball of Debbie Bliss Rialto for the workshop. June may not the best time to be making woollen accessories but these are tiny mitts, and the more seasonal cotton poses too many tension pitfalls for the novice knitter.

What I came up with could hardly be called a pattern, although for the purposes of the workshop it is, with a pattern sheet and everything. For the more nervous student there is a completely garter stitched version



And for the more intrepid, a mitt incorporating……………wait for it…………………the purl stitch.


The workshop is only two hours long, and the brief is that attendees will be picking up sticks for the very first time, so I’m not anticipating FOs in class. I hope there will be just enough time to introduce the basic techniques and get everyone knitting with confidence.

The yarn is a delight. Though a little splitty for newbies, it lovely plump merino-ness is very forgiving and will even out some tension issues. The mitts pictured are unblocked, and not looking too bad. The duck egg blue shade for these samples was provided by the LYS. Personally, its amongst my least favourite colours. Duck egg to me is often dull, uninspiring and overused (in decorating circles at least). But it does have the virtue of being light in colour; whilst students will be able to choose whatever shade they like from the LYS staggering range, I’m hoping they follow suit as it’s so much easier to knit in a paler hue.

It’s also a great colour to match the Birmingham skyline this late spring afternoon; check out this picture from my office window.


Maybe mitts in June is not such a bad idea after all!