Archives for posts with tag: Shopping

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.
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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.

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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.

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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.

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

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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!!

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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………….

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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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I rarely do more than give a cursory glance towards the costume jewellery stands in charity shops. Not that I don’t love a bit of bargain bling, I absolutely do, but they are invariably merchandised all lumped together on a couple of hooks so you can’t quite see what’s hanging there. Plus, like all the other racks, they are overstocked; meaning you can find yourself in a bit of a vipers nest should you try to inspect something hanging towards the back.

However, this little beauty caught my eye as I was browsing, sitting as it was towards the front of a display. It was when I touched it though, and felt its significant weight, that I knew it was worthy of closer inspection.

A bit of a disclaimer: I know nothing about beads, necklaces or jewellery making in general. So this post will be littered with inaccurate terms and guesswork. I am genuinely interested to learn more, so if any readers are clued up, I’d love to hear from you.

It’s strung with glass beads in matt black and a beautiful amber colour, cupped by delicate filigree metal findings. It was only closer inspection that I noticed the oval faceted amber beads are cupped on one end, so they look like little acorns.
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There are some lovely squashed wheel-shaped beads, and all are in excellent condition. It’s clearly not a precious metal, but the gold effect chain is largely untarnished. The only part that shows some age is the clasp which is beautifully made in the fish-hook style, and also provided a clue that this was more than another Accessorize piece.
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I’ve been doing a little research on the t’internet and all of the necklaces I can find which look similar to this are Czech glass. The beads aren’t seamed, but they are some very slight differences, in the size of the facets for example, which make me think they are artisan made rather than very modern/mass produced. I am keen to age the piece, and indeed all the similar pictures I found are of Edwardian necklaces. I am very excited to think I may have discovered something 100 years old in the local charity shop, but that is certainly looking like a possibility. I thought it might be vintage, but antique? Wow.

You won’t see me on Antiques Roadshow anytime soon (similar items seems to sell for £30-£50), but I will get a little thrill wearing it whilst watching Downton Abbey next week and wondering if Lady Mary might have worn similar.

It was a tense Sunday evening Chez Minx. Moods swung wildly between anticipation, anxiety and abject horror. No, our overwrought emotions weren’t a result of Downton Abbey’s rape storyline (although, WTF?); I was washing The Blanket for the first time.

The Blanket is probably the biggest achievement of my knitting career thus far. It’s definitely the biggest FO. Consisting of a gazillion* squares, it took me the best part of two years and one pregnancy to make.

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I knitted it from Shelly Kang’s rather excellent tutorial, and it’s a deliciously simple way to use up all the scraps of fingering weight yarn one accumulates from too much knitting. Whatever that is. I am a pretty prolific knitter, but it was too grand a challenge even for me to accrue all the yarn needed for a blanket this size. So I entered into lots of swaps with other knitters, and even a couple of ‘bouncing bags’; where you receive a parcel of scraps in the post and replace anything you take out before posting to the next address on the list.

Therefore, the provenance of some of my yarns is unclear. Most of it is sock yarn, of that I am confident. Generally a mix of wool and nylon, it was in the main washable. But there are some rogue squares of luxury/handwash/rubmeupandIgofunny yarns too.

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I have avoided washing this blanket for a looooong time. I made it as an investment piece. I hate to use the word ‘heirloom’ on my own projects, it sounds so pompous and loaded with the misplaced self importance some knitters give to their work when it is largely unappreciated by others; but I did knit this with the hope that it would be a fixture on the sofa for a while. And it has proved to be very popular indeed. With The Boy. He sleeps under it, and over this long hot summer he used it in lieu of a quilt when the temperature hit its lowest points overnight. Which is lovely and all that; except he sleeps in the nude and has the hygiene standards you associate with, well, a seven year old boy.

So wash it I had to. But how would it react? It’s not only the fabric content that concerned me, but also how the blanket construction would hold up. You see, I can knit. MAN, can I knit. Quite fast, and very often. I can cast on several projects in one sitting. I even finish some of them eventually. But I am a terrible finishererofferer. My attention span just doesn’t seem to hold until a project’s end. The Blanket has fared better than most, since it was mainly knit-on construction (yay!), but there are the odd mitred squares at the side which were sewn on, and I could only hope they still would be after a spin in the machine.

Because of course this was a machine job. I threw a couple of Colour Catcher sheets in the drum. I’ve no idea why as I’m not even sure what they do or if they work but hey ho. One gentle wool cycle later………

Yes, they are a couple of casualties. One yarn in particular that formed a few of the larger squares has definitely felted, but The Blanket is big enough to be forgiving and you can’t really tell. As for the finishing. Well, I’m not going to show you the back. It looks like a rave in a worm colony. But structurally it is sound. There are a couple of holes where squares have become slightly unattached, but no dreaded unraveling.

But the real test? One little boy gave it his seal of approval

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*Square count is estimated.