Archives for posts with tag: vintage

Since I devised my list of 40 things to do before I’m 40, I have had a birthday. In only one day I changed from having forever to complete my tasks at a youthful 37, to feeling completely overwhelmed by the knowledge that I have less than two years before the big 4.0. When you consider there’s a couple of trips abroad to be had at the very least, that’s a lot of planning to be done.

I have managed to tick a few things off the list.

I visited a Michelin starred restaurant.

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My lovely husband took me to Simpsons for a birthday lunch. The staff there couldn’t have been more welcoming and friendly, although I confess I did feel something of a fish out of water. The food was very………..complicated. Lists and lists of ingredients. But it was all completely delicious. I’m not a food blogger and would have been far too embarrassed to start taking pictures, so you are spared that at least. We each had a different taster menu of four courses, and where possible chef prepared the plates so we both got to try a bit of everything. The highlight was the braised ox cheek. So soft! And something neither of us had tried before. After the meal the waiter bought some complimentary macaroons on a plate with ‘Happy Birthday’ piped in chocolate. I felt very special and, whilst I don’t feel the need to repeat the experience frequently, it was a lovely treat.

I have restored a piece of furniture

Specifically this little desk, picked up on Ebay for a song.

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I chose it to fit into a little nook in my living room. We have only two rooms downstairs, and no spare bedroom space, so carving out an area to work has been a bit of a challenge. This small desk is perfect, and could easily evolve into a study desk for either of the children’s rooms as they get a little older.

It’s got a mid-century vibe to it, teak and well made. The replacement handle was probably why it was so cheap, but I liked the mixy-matchy vibe. My ‘upcycling’ was relatively simple: I sanded it down, revarnished all over, and gave the drawers a lick of paint. Dulux tester pots were perfect for this.

I’m really pleased with the result.

It’s very much my style I’d say, and compliments my G-plan coffee table and wall unit. Next I’m after a sideboard to put the TV on. They are fetching some lofty prices of late, way above my bargain threshold. Its strange to think you couldn’t give them away just a few years ago!

I have learnt how to read Tarot

Well, perhaps that should say learnING, since its a slow process to become really knowledgeable. I am fortunately a quick learner, especially once I have an interest in something, there’s no stopping me! I have a decent working knowledge of each card and some basic spreads, but its more about developing one’s intuition and learning to see the cards in relation to each other as a whole.

I am enjoying it much more than I thought I would. I bought a set of The Housewives Tarot, a fabulous deck featuring illustrations that could have been designed especially for me! They are very easy to use for the beginner, with detailed images and clues. I am tempted to invest in a tradition Ryder Waite deck next, some Tarot cards are so beautiful and I can see it would be an easy collection to fall into.

The Four of Wands is one of my favourite images
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I’ve been reading for everyone who’ll let me. Friends, husband, even the lovely ladies on my pregnancy forum have been getting daily card pulls. As you would expect, some seem more successful than others but I think I am improving. I find it difficult to read for myself though; it’s limiting to talk to yourself about a card’s reading, I need people to listen. Typical extrovert behaviour.

In truth, I remain sceptical about spirits, magic and all things mystic, and recognise that cards are heavily open to interpretation. I do believe in an individual’s guiding energy though, and if we choose certain cards, there may be hidden meanings it would be helpful to discover. Tarot has been one of my best discoveries this year.

Now that I look at it, I really need to get much more of a move on if I’m to finish the list before 40. There are a number of other slow burners: I am trucking through West Wing Season 4 and the List of 32 Books That Will Change My Life, plus November is my vegetarian month, and the husband is dying to teach me poker.

If all goes well over the next few weeks, the part time working (a Serious One) will become a reality too. Watch this space!

The Christmas Jumper has seen something of a resurgence in recent years. Previously, it’s reputation had been so poor that only weather forecasters and Noel Edmonds dare go near it, but it’s now travelled through the seas of hipster irony into (dare I say it, passé?) Primark territory.

This winter just gone, you couldn’t glance at Facebook or trip down the high street without seeing multiple reindeer and snowflakes in vibrant red and green gracing people’s chests. Thankfully, there has also been increased interest in more tasteful Fairisle/Scandi styles too. The Christmas jumper was to 2013 what the onesie was to 2012.

The office I work in has taken part in Save The Children’s Christmas Jumper Day the last couple of years, a lovely gentle fundraising idea that everyone gets involved in. Incidentally, this website has a couple of free knitting patterns for tiny jumpers.

Awful photo of a photo; I am in the middle wearing the orange Gap affair.

Awful photo of a photo; I am in the middle wearing the orange Gap affair.

To my slight embarrassment, I have worn (gasp) a shop bought jumper both years. And though I do believe the trend to be on the wane, stylish hand knitting never goes out of fashion, right? Therefore, I have started knitting my Perfect Christmas Jumper!. I love this look of this design. I’m more vintage-inspired than true-vintage though; I’ll probably do a less flamboyant sleeve top. At just 5′ 1.5″ tall, padded/dramatic shoulders seem to wear me rather than the other way round. The 40’s style waist does suit me however, I’m quite short-waisted and most tops are too long.

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I was inspired to start this project thanks to a KAL suggested by Andi over at the Untangling Knots group on Ravelry. She proposed a breakdown of garment parts throughout the year. I’m currently on catch up having bought my yarn late, but hope to post some progress pics soon. She’s even produced a badge for those of us playing along.

The yarn I'm using is Cygnet wool-rich 4 ply. It seems fairly authentic for the period, and to be honest I couldn’t afford the kettle dyed type indie yarn I usually buy my fingering weight in. I’ve gone for Geranium, a very Christmassy red, although a little blue toned for my usual taste! It’s pair with a cream to soften it a little.

I’m hoping knitting throughout the year will provide inspiration for me to avoid the crazy November rush in other areas. I’ve had ropey Christmases the last couple of years. Like most women I take on the primary role of festive organiser, despite working more hours than my partner. Gift purchases I tend to have a handle on; internet shopping truly is a beautiful thing, plus I work in a city centre so can pick things up as and when.

Where I have disappointed myself has been the entertaining/decoration side. For two years in a row, late December has seen me in tears because I am working right up until the day and I haven’t saved enough annual leave to get things going (this is despite the fact my workplace is VERY quiet that time of year. Remember the Robot?). My holiday allowance is woefully low, and I often need to take days for childcare etc, so its often unavoidable.

I am in a constant quandary with my work/life balance thing. As a natural extrovert I struggle with the reduced social time my working and family responsibilities now afford me. In truth, I rarely entertain at home. When I do try to arrange visitors it feels like I can’t get arrested at times; I guess because its so infrequent that I extend an invitation. Consequently I don’t make a lot of effort to make the home as nice as I can; we’re so rarely there.

But this year, I have decided you will definitely know it is Christmas Chez Minx. My early ideas are, like the jumper, vintage inspired. Now that car boot season is underway I have started to keep an eye open for vintage baubles. My main idea is an Edward Scissorhands tree. No, not black and spiky, I mean the 80’s-does’50’s version Kim decorates in the rather excellent movie

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We already have a white tree, and the red bows look simple enough. I’m thinking a Pintrest wander might through up more ideas. Pretty soon it may even be time to crack open my Delia’s Christmas Collection book. As it happens, I’m not much of a cook, but man do I like reading cook books. I like Delia’s no nonsense style, and this tome is old enough to be edging towards retro (if not vintage) territory. I may not be at the menu planning stage, but its all about the ideas right now.

It might seem odd to be contemplating Christmas so soon after Easter, with the promise of summer round the corner, and I don’t want to wish them away. Maybe its a knitting thing to think of the long game? We are not into instant gratification after all. Plus, with a career background in retail, I’m used to thinking a season ahead. What do you reckon? Do you think about Christmas throughout the year? What are your plans?

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This is another project that’s been finished a while, but the writing up and photographing seem to take an age! In the end, I have opted for this very natural photo taken in the pub by my pal last night. We were there for the pub quiz, the England flag was flying to celebrate St George’s Day.

We lost the quiz. I think it was my fault. I don’t expect another invite.

I was distracted as I took some more knitting, the first cotton garment to grace the needles in a while; I have plans to make a few this year, in anticipation of a hot summer. A post for another day I think, back to the cardigan.

I chose this pattern, Marion by the ever so talented Andi Sutterland, for my Knitting Goddess Movie Stars KAL project for April, based on Anthony Hopkins.

The link? Well, he starred in a 2012 film called Hitchcock, playing the famous director. Hitchcock directed one of my favourite films of all time, Psycho, in which a character called Marion Crane is killed in the infamous shower scene.

The movie is one that has always been there, THAT shower scene iconic enough to be familiar even in childhood, when I had nightmares about Norman Bates hiding in my wardrobe. It was a student that I began to appreciate the true genius of the film. As part of my Theatre Studies degree at Liverpool Hope University, I took a film module and wrote an assignment on the evolution of the horror film; specifically slasher flicks. It was 1995 and Scream had just been released, which satirised the usual formula and piqued my interest. I wrote about that film, and traced the genre back through the heyday of Halloween to Psycho, considered by many to be the forerunner.

More recently, the TV series Bates Motel has reminded me how much I loved the original, as well as providing me with my new fashion icon. Unfortunately, the second season is proving a little lack-lustre, so I turn again to the original to be scared and entertained. Anthony Perkins as Norman Bates is just one of the best cinematic baddies ever.

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*shiver*

Onto the pattern itself. I love Andi’s designs, having previously knitted a Miette and a Stray. This was just as well done as the others; clear, simple and just my style! The rope-type cables put me more in mind of a medieval Maid Marion, perhaps the original inspiration for the design. I chose some Classy from stash, in a lovely russet brown which will match a lot of my cross-seasonal wardrobe. I fretted about finding five buttons to match from my eclectic tin, and opted for mis-matched vintage ones in the end. You can see from the photo that they ended very high on the button band, and I could’ve done with just three. I may remove the two erroneous buttons, but I will keep the remaining ones odd I think. It adds to the handmade look I like, plus I abhor all finishing and like to minimise it where possible!

Next month is Maggie Smith. I already have something up my sleeve (or on my head) for that……….

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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.

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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.