Wednesday, 31 January 2018

The Gardening Skirt

Over the up coming year I would like to refashion more clothing for myself instead of sending all the good stuff to the shop. I thought about this a lot before Christmas and came up with the idea of challenging myself to refashion a random item of clothing to see what I could come up with. The trouble with that idea though is that I know myself too well. I knew I would avoid the overly tricky or ugly pieces and pick something within my comfort zone. So I enlisted the help of my husband, handed him £5 and explained my idea. I told him that anything went and that he should pick whatever he wanted.

What a bloody stupid idea that was.

He came back with the swamp green monstrosity you see above. He thought this was funny for several reasons.
1) I hate army surplus gear and like crocs, cannot fathom why anyone would want to wear them willingly.
2) I hate khaki green even more than army surplus gear. It's the colour of sludge or what you get when you mix all the Play Doh colours together. In short, this is not the sort of thing I would want in my wardrobe.

Now as this is my first refashion for the blog, I made some school girl errors. Number one was forgetting to get a good picture of me wearing the awful thing. I'm going to put that down to being too busy trying to figure out what the hell to do with it.

In the end I went with a tube skirt and then thought "hey no problem! I can dye it black and it will actually look really good!" School girl error number two.

Always, always read the label first my friends. Preferably before you've spent money on fabric dye and stuck it all in the washing machine.

As you can see, the patches took just fine. However the disgusting swampy green laughed in my face and stayed swampy green. Brilliant. At this point I had to concede defeat with the colour. Due to the fabric being acrylic no dye or bleach would make any difference. Weirdly however, it was the green that led me to come up with my next idea.

During these cold and often wet winter months, getting outside in the garden can be a bit of a chore. I realised I could make myself a warm skirt that would add an extra layer of warmth to my legs while I'm out getting the garden spring ready. Not just that, but I could make pockets with the patches to keep my phone or secateurs in. Now you're talking!

So on with the refashion. I simply cut the jumper width ways underneath each arm and then put it on to measure it. I wanted it to have a snug fit, but with some stretch so I ended up pinning it in a bit.

Even the cat doesn't seem to be amused with me cutting this thing up. Am I the only one who doesn't like it as it is??

And this is where I forgot to take photos of the next few steps. Trust me though, they happened.

I made a waistband using strips from the sleeves and 1" wide elastic.

I unpicked the patches from the arms to make the pockets and placed them on the sides of the skirt as I wanted to be able to move and bend freely so the pockets had to be out of the way! I also made the pockets deep and asymmetrical so that anything I might have in them won't fall out when I bend down. These got pinned and stitched in place and then et voila! I have a new gardening skirt!

It's still that stupid swampy colour so I'm sure my husband will feel he's won something there, but hey ho. It's a refashion I'm proud of, it will get some real use and I can hand on heart say that it is now a part of my wardrobe!

Wednesday, 10 January 2018

I Bought No New Clothes In 2017 - Here's What I Learned And Why I Kept It A Secret

Hello everyone.  I hope you've had a lovely holiday and had time to catch your breath and relax a bit. And if you have a little time to spare I would like to share my first post of the year with you. I promise it's a goodun! I can't believe I actually managed to do it. I also can't believe I managed to keep it a secret for the whole year!

But I'm getting ahead of myself, let's start from the beginning.

It was Christmas time last wait, 2016 (!!) and I was searching for bloggers who wrote about secondhand fashion. I found a fair few, but none matched what I was looking for. Many were old and abandoned blogs, some were rarely updated and others had started in an area that caught my eye, but had since moved on in another direction. This brought to mind the old chestnut "be the change you want to see". I mulled this over for a while and concluded that as most things in my wardrobe came straight out of a high street store, with the exception of one or two eBay finds, I couldn't be that change myself. 
That said, around the same time I had started buying and revamping second hand clothes from charity shops to sell in my Etsy shop. I loved the feeling of giving something old a new lease of life, making it a one of a kind item that someone else would love while also helping to keep it from landfill.
And that's when the idea of challenging myself not to buy any new clothing for a whole year came to me. It seemed like a no brainer given the new direction I was taking the shop in and also, how could I expect other people to embrace second hand fashion and not see it as icky if I wasn't doing it myself? But I doubted my willpower and was reluctant to make my intention public in case I ballsed up in the first month, yet I really wanted to give it a go. So I decided to jump in and just not mention it to anyone. 

The start was easy, which I had expected as it was new and shiny and the novelty was fresh.
Then in the spring we moved and I forgot all about it. And I mean completely. So completely in fact that the memory didn't return until Alessi went back to school in the autumn.
I can tell you exactly where I was and what I was doing when I remembered, (kitchen, knee deep in laundry) and to say I was angry at myself was an understatement and I realised in that moment just how much I had wanted to see it through.
Here comes the best bit though and where it gets interesting. As I cast my mind back to work out just how badly I'd fallen off the wagon, I was amazed to find that I hadn't. Not even a little bit! The swing from extreme anger and disappointment to elation was so sharp I gave myself mental whiplash.

I sat down and wrote out a list of all the new items of clothes I'd gained during that period. They were all second hand from eBay, bought in a charity shop or gifted to me by friends. Nothing had been new. I was over. the. moon. Not just because I had managed to stick to my challenge, but because I had managed to do so without even consciously thinking about it! That was back in September and for the next few weeks I basked in a smug glow of how easy I found this and how good it was and oh wasn't I doing well! And then I got a little carried away and started taking things further.

By this point I needed some new clothes. Not in an "oh I'm bored of my wardrobe, it needs updating" way, more in an "oh all my clothes have holes in them, but I will not buy myself anything else because I. AM. AWESOME!" kind of a way.
Ok that wasn't actually my inner dialogue, but with hindsight I feel that it should have been. I had become a self righteous wanker frankly. Luckily however, thanks to the whole keeping it a secret thing no one else had to endure this. So I continued to wear my tops and trousers with the holes and ignored the water getting into my boots and told myself that I was doing just fine. I kept reasoning that I could make do and mend, but in reality there just wasn't enough time.
And don't forget that the now funny, but then not so much irony to the whole thing was that I was putting in a lot of time and effort making pretty things for the shop while all of this was going on.

I can laugh now, in fact I am. But at the time I had started to grow quite resentful and I didn't even stop to ask myself why. In fact it wasn't until I thought about writing this post that I started to dig deeper in to how I felt about it all.
I realise now that I did take it too far towards the end. The challenge was to only buy secondhand, (with the exception of underwear and if necessary, shoes) not to stop buying clothes altogether.
That said I'm glad I did take it that far as I have learnt so much from the experience. Mainly that I won't be doing it again.

So to round up, here's what I learnt from the whole year.

1) Shopping in charity shops can be a nightmare if you aren't prepared
If I go in with no idea of what I'm looking for then more often than not I will come out with something I don't want or need. It might seem like a faff, but look in your wardrobe, have a think about what you need and then using that as a guide, go and look for it. DO NOT be afraid to leave empty handed. I do that now more often than not and am much happier as a result. It means that when I buy something, I really do like it and will want to wear it again and again.

2) Use changing rooms!
I'm speaking from bitter experience here. I hate changing in shops, but I've learnt the hard way that you need to know how an item feels when you're wearing it. Not just to make sure it fits, but to check out how it moves on your body, it's texture and simply how it looks on you as opposed to the hanger. Top tip: when trying on tops, jackets, dresses etc, always cross your arms over your chest, then raise them above your head. This pulls the fabric taught as you move and will tell you how comfortable the item will feel as you move about.

3) eBay can be a bit of a gamble
People aren't great at providing measurements, usually you just get a size, 10, 12, 14 etc. If you don't have a standard sized body (for example I'm petite and even petite sizes can be a little big on me) then you will need to dig a little deeper to find out if clothes will actually fit when you get them.
Also colours can be different than pictured and don't get me started on the amount of times I've received items that honk of perfume.

4) Buying new is not a crime
Probably my biggest take away from this whole experiment. In fact next year I will be buying new occasionally and already have a few things on my wish list. While I will continue to buy secondhand as my first preference, sometimes I will need something new and I feel that as long as I do so thoughtfully and use a bit of common sense it's fine.

5) You can have a lot of fun revamping secondhand clothes
This is another big lesson that I'm taking away from this whole experiment. At the start of the year I put so many things that I loved back on the rail just because it wasn't quite right size wise. I want to prioritise more time to work on my own wardrobe in 2018 so I will be able to alter anything that isn't quite right. I might even start posting some tutorials if there's a demand for it.

And there you have it. My not so dirty little secret is out and I'm already looking forward to more charity shop delving this year.

So what about you? What are your thoughts on buying secondhand? Do you find buying second hand icky or a lot of fun? Do let me know, you can find me over on Instagram or Twitter and I love a good chat.


Wednesday, 6 December 2017

Wales - 8 Months In

Back in May I wrote this post. We had been in the valley a month and it was my intention to write another update after we had been here for six months. That was two months ago and I'm only just getting around to it. So here it is, Wales. Eight months in.
  1. The biggest change to me is the valley itself. Back in May the valley was a palette of greens, often set against the brightest blue skies. The wildlife was everywhere (including the house) and I was knee deep in brambles. Fast forward to December and the valley hills are now a palette of earthy browns and yellows set against grey skies. It's darker, wetter and colder, but still beautiful.
  2. We no longer have wildlife living in the house with us and thanks to a new wood burner there will be no jackdaws filling the chimney up with twigs next spring. 
  3. The brambles have also been tamed. It took a lot of work that one and I lost count of the amount of hours I spent in the orchard pulling up bramble and nettle roots. In case you were wondering, nettles are easy and quite satisfying to pull up. Brambles are the actual devil. The orchard now homes Alessi's slide, trampoline and mud kitchen. We don't spend nearly enough time out there at the moment due to the rain and cold which feels like a huge waste somehow.
  4. Which links nicely to the mud. It's everywhere. Every time there's a storm or a spell of hard rain/wind, the windows get covered and I have to wash them again. Not because I'm precious about windows, but because they genuinely get that bad!
  5. The roads in the valley become interesting to drive after these periods of heavy rain. Water and debris from the trees cover the roads frequently now. My car hates it and develops an annoying squeak in wet weather. Speaking of my little Starlet, she's now almost permanently covered in a layer of mud. Poor girl.
  6. The bathroom has become Baltic once again. 
  7. During the summer the grapevines in the orchard's greenhouse went mental. I was too busy battling brambles to tackle them then, but last month I finally got around to pruning them. It was like Day of the Triffids in there, but less orange. They are now pruned and the chickens are safely tucked away in there, protected from the worst the winter weather can bring. 
All in all, it feels like the time of discovery has past. I don't even feel like this is our 'new' life anymore, it's simply our life now. And that feels good. It also feels like the right time to move on from the valley. The great Welsh experiment was a success and we now know that we made the right decision to move here and want to put down roots of our own. While I love this house and the valley, I need a home to call my own and earth to dig up and plant as I wish. Hopefully we can find something next year, but if not, I can certainly think of worse places to rent while we wait.

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