Friday, 8 November 2013

Amazing second-hand babies

Ok- not babies…. baby goods!

We are now over 10 months into our challenge and where the baby was concerned, we vowed to keep a bit of an open mind around second hand stuff and relax our rules a bit.  This was because
a) pregnancy and preparing for a baby is hard enough without additional pressures
b) our baby hasn't volunteered for this challenge
c) its our first child and we didn't want to miss out on any lovely experiences with her
d) our friends and family wanted to buy us some new things
e) it's our challenge and we can do what we like
f) sorry I am a bag of hormones.

What we have found is that it is ENTIRELY POSSIBLE to kit yourself out with baby goods- even ones you really, really want second hand.

Here is a little run down of Little One's stuff and how we acquired it:

1) Cot 

We really wanted a Stokke Cot- it grows with the child- up to the age of 7!!  If you want a specific brand, you need to start hunting early. We bought the cot about 4 months into our pregnancy.  We found that Gumtree was the best site for this sort of purchase.  The cost in the shops is about £1000 I think; we got it for just under £600.  It was in perfect condition and had even been freshly painted in Stokke paint!  Then all we had to do was get a nice new mattress made for it from the lovely people at

It goes without saying that you always need a new mattress as the bacteria held in a mattress from a child that isn't your own can increase the chances of cot death.  The lady we bought the cot from had washed her mattress but we felt that for the additional £40 of buying a new mattress it wasn't worth the risk.  We might re-purpose the old mattress as a dog bed….

2) Seat/High Chair 

Because our dog thinks babies are doggy-lollies, we really needed somewhere to put the baby down, without it being at ground level.  

Luckily, our favourite brand Stokke make a chair that also grows with the child- from new born up to adult, with just a few tweaks.  We found the chair on E-bay, locally to us.  I can't remember how much we paid- it was definitely less than brand new.  

We also got the new born attachment for £20 locally via e-bay and the lady delivered it to me due to the bump which was very kind!  

We have the high chair attachment too when we need that, but for now, at least we will be able to put the baby down without her being pestered by the furry baby.  

3) Wardrobe

I really wanted a vintage one, so off we went to British Heart Foundation in Ealing.  Surprisingly, old wardrobes aren't that popular and thus are pretty cheap.  This is because they don't hold that many adult clothes on the rail, but with a bit of diy help from my parents, we added a second rail and have found it is the perfect size for baby clothes and items.  

We added new nobs (within the rules as was a means of up cycling) from Anthropology.  They weren't cheap; at £20 they were as much as the wardrobe but they make it!  My mum gave the front some tlc and treated some of the scratches with a special wax and stain.  

4) Clothes

We have bought lots of baby grows from Fara charity shops- the ones especially for children.  We live in a nice area- Richmond so all the shops have very good donations.  I would recommend going to affluent boroughs/areas to get the best stuff.  Our favourite brand it Petit Bateau and we have found some lovely bits made by them for a snip of the price- here is my favourite find so far- £50 in the shops, £8 from Fara.  Surprisingly, it's pink!

The things you can't find second hand very easily are vests and basic like socks, bibs etc- this is because they just get wrecked and stained and minging.  So we have bought quite a few bits new to fill this gap.  And then, under reason c) and e) and f) above, we have also bought some lovely new "best" outfits.  I feel fine about this as we have done brilliantly so far with this second hand malarky!

We have also been given lots of things by lovely friends and relatives who have also had baby girls.  We are so grateful to friends and family for everything they have given/lent us.    

5) Nursery decorations

We have "nursery corner" as we just have one bedroom, but we wanted to decorate it and make it feel like a distinct baby space.  

I found some crates (not second hand- sorry) and my Dad put them up on the wall like shelves.  All the bits inside are a mixture of H's old toys, my Mum's Beatrix Potter books and vintage finds and treasures we have been collecting from vintage fairs and fleas.  

My favourites are the Potter books that my Dad made into shelves by drilling through them and then mounting them on the wall with a tiny bracket.  Those are my books- given to me by my late Grandpa.  

The only thing that is new is the hedge-hog toy and other softies- she deserves her first soft toys to be new, I think! 

So- there you have it- those are the big things we have done second hand.  

We decided to opt-out of getting a second hand buggy.  You may be disappointed in us re this, Dear Reader, but we wanted a very specific, new model and my parents offered to gift it to us.  It is an absolute dream and I can't wait to use it!!  

Happy Thrifting! 

A x

Wednesday, 4 September 2013

What I have learnt so far

So Dear Reader- it has been a while since I posted. I am sorry about that but I wanted to tell you that we are now 6.5 months pregnant and 8 months through our challenge. 

So far, we have not bought anything new for us (bar umbrella) and have done really well with baby purchases too. 

It was our intention to keep baby things as far as possible within the rules but as she has not volunteered for this project we are being more flexible on her things. We have stretched the rules to a new rattle for her that looks like a donkey. That is all! Oooh- we are having a girl by the way! 

It has been an interesting time over the last few months not buying new. I have found that sometimes I have used the project to negate or ignore my needs because it seemed like too much effort. I have sometimes had the thought "I don't need to buy anything at all". Which is a BIG FAT LIE. I need and want loads of stuff!! I think sometimes I have not been in a particularly abundant mind frame and have denied myself things- which is not what this process was intended for! 

I wanted to feel more connected to buying and choices- not to spend and buy mindlessly. Pre challenge- if I went into a shop, I would often feel like I needed to buy something. That I would never find another item like the one I was holding- again a complete lack of abundant thinking. I guess it is natural that during this detox I might swing the other way a bit. I guess I just wanted to offer some explanation as to why everything seemingly went quiet! 

So, after a bit of time reflecting on what the challenge has thrown up for me- I have got back on the horse. 

I have done very well in terms of finding a second hand and non new maternity wardrobe and here are my top tips in that department: 

1. Tell your friends that you need their cast offs- they are only too happy to clear their lofts. My lovely Mummy friends have kitted me out with:
5 yes 5 pairs of maternity jeans! I made one pair into shorts that have seen me through the summer. 
2 dresses, 1 top and one very smart
Autumn coat. 
I have also been loaned a smart dress which I only wear for work. I am slightly nervous about wrecking it but hopefully restricted wear will help! 

2. Check out your local Fara charity shop. I have picked up preggy jim jams (made me sooooo happy), a top, and a dress and more jeans. 

3. Look for larger sized dresses in charity shops and belt them in.

4. Go to local convent bizzares. Last year I went to a nursing home bizzare that is a convent. I found 3 50s maternity dresses for 25p each. I guess that's where in married women went in those days and someone's clothes were found in a cupboard! 

5. Make your own. I got some Liberty Print fabric for my birthday and using a non maternity but loose pattern from John Lewis made this dress. I love it. 2 tops still in progress...

So- that's all for now Dear Reader! I promise to write soon about more of our successes in non-new baby itemry and others,


Alice x 

Sunday, 12 May 2013

How my chest got us a 'new' washer-dryer (kind of)

Wowee- it is the middle of May; almost at the half way point of our challenge.  So far, so good- (bar one umbrella), neither H, nor I have bought anything new and have stuck to our rules.

We had our first big challenge recently- one I was dreading... our very old, very tired washer-dryer machine broke down last weekend.  I felt really nervous about buying second hand electricals.  I think its partly because they are pretty reasonably priced first hand and I worried we would find ourselves saving just £50 on a second hand washer and then it being a pile of cr@p.

However- there are options for buying decent second-hand white goods.  British Heart Foundation have lots of lovely furniture and white goods warehouse type shops (we have one locally, in Ealing) where they guarantee their white goods for a year.  I have had a look at their washing machines before and whilst they are a little over priced for my liking (£200 for second hand is a bit steep I think) they will deliver and you do have the guarantee.

H was very clear with me, however, that we are going to need a washer-dryer when the little one comes.  The dryer in our Candy combo broke about 2 years ago so we have got away without one for a while but I think she is probably right. I imagine there will be times when we just need to dry the baby's bedsheets or whatever, quickly.

So- we started hunting.  I like Gumtree for second hand electrical goods.  I can't be bothered with bidding on e-bay, I find it a bit too impersonal- no number to call and just have a chat about the item and searching locally is just a bit of a faff.  With Gumtree- you just search for what you want where you want it and lo and behold we found a Hotpoint washer-dryer, 2 years old, in Kew (down the road) for £150!  We went to see it and it was the cleanest white good we have ever seen and after getting a good feeling from the seller (soooo important) we arranged collection.

Now.... how do you collect a washing machine??  We had a few options- our local taxi service said they would send a 6 seater and pick it up for £20 but we would need to do some of the lifting.  Possibly an option (the seller said he would help load it for us as obv I can't lift anything).  We could have also tried to put it in our car with the seats down.... but its not a good idea to lie a washer on its back as the concrete block in the top could have warped the whole thing.

What H said was, if we could get a trolley of some kind, she would wheel it the 1.5 miles home from the seller's house.  But where do you get a trolley from, Dear Reader?  Well, I went to Homebase and considered borrowing one but realised it was too heavy for me to get in the car and probably was considered steeling....and then I had an idea.  I wondered if our local (i.e. next door) recycling centre could help us.  I drove in, went to the scary portacabin (why are those places so intimidating?),  and explained that we needed to get rid of our washer and collect a new one and asked if they could lend us a trolley. Now it may have been because I was bending over slightly when I asked (to look through the little hole in the screen) and my new pregnant frontage did the trick or maybe they were just really nice guy- but they took me round the back (hold on) and gave me a Homebase trolley to borrow that they pulled out of the tip!

So- after a bit of furniture removal, we dumped our old washer at the tip, and wheeled ourselves the 1.5 miles to the seller's house, strapped the 'new' washer-dryer to the trolley and wheeled it home.  We did get some looks but we felt SUPER SMUG so we didn't care.

And it all ends well, Dear Reader- the washer is fantastic- it actually cleans clothes which is a bit of a novelty for us (why did we wait so long?!). It has a zillion programmes and is very quiet.  The dryer part is a bit temperamental but we aren't going to use it hardly so all in all, we are dead chuffed.  

H is currently working through a list of baby items that we need- I will report back on how we do, very soon.  

In the meantime- tell me, Dear Reader- have you scored some good second hand electrical goods?


Alice x

Wednesday, 27 March 2013

Haberdashery cabinet- how I love thee!

So, you will remember back in February, I announced that I am opening premises for my craft and vintage events business Handmade by You.

Although this challenge does not apply to the business (as I wouldn't be able to run it without buying anything new) I have as much as possible tried to buy second hand in setting up the studio.  The Studio is in Alfies Antique Market, Marylebone and if you haven't been yet to have a mooch around, you really must- it is a treasure trove.

There was this lovely lady who had a haberdashery shop, selling lovely bits of lace, trimmings, buckles etc- you name it, she had it.  Unfortunately she has now retired and a couple of weeks ago, she shut her doors.  I was lucky enough to go in there about a month ago and spied an amazing haberdashers cabinet tucked away in the corner.

I have longed for one of these for some years and could not resist it for the Studio.  I can't reveal how much I paid for it, Dear Reader but it was not cheap and nor should it be.  It is a beautiful piece that I and my clients will enjoy and I was happy to pay a fair price for it.

I haven't quite organised the draws yet- I am so looking forward to that part- it will be very satisfying.  Here is a wide shot with my childhood dolls house on top of it which I am using to store china!

Love Alice x

Monday, 25 March 2013

A new addition to the Handmade and Found Family

Sorry I have not been blogging much, Dear Reader- things have been a bit crazy to say the least.

I have some more big news- H and I are having a baby!  We found out a couple of weeks ago so it is very early days for us but I just can't contain myself; I have to share the news.

It has been a very long journey to get to destination 'baby'.  I know many couples also have challenges getting pregnant so this in itself is nothing new, but as a same sex couple it is very challenging if you don't have a spare £10K in the bank and want to have a baby.  We explored lots of options- including co-parenting and using a known donor but in the end we went for an anonymous donor and received IUI (insemination) treatment at a private clinic in London.  We were told there was a 12% chance of us conceiving (which is the percentage chance for anyone trying to get pregnant, the regular way) and were astonished when we defied the odds and got pregnant first time.  (And thank God- the procedure was the worst thing I have ever experienced).  I am feeling well at the moment, if a bit up and down both emotionally and with my energy levels.  Both of us are incredibly excited about becoming parents.

A friend of mine asked if having the baby might mean we disband the challenge of not buying new for a year.  My first thoughts were "Hell No!".  Having a baby is the perfect opportunity to ramp up our second hand buying activities- there is just no need to buy anything new especially when it might only be used for a matter or weeks or months.  Especially when several of my lovely friends have babies under 2 and are probably itching to clear space in their garages of all the toys and kit they no longer need/use.

So- I have added a few baby related items to the wishlist- big things and small things that we want and I can't wait to report how we get on finding them.  I would love to get everything we need for less than £500 too- that would be a real win!

I have also listed a few maternity items for me- tops and jeans and will venture into second hand places I have never been before in order to hunt these out- how exciting!!

I promise to keep in touch more regularly Dear Reader and let you know how all this goes!


Alice x

Sunday, 24 March 2013

Shoes glorious shoes

As you are aware, Dear Reader; I am challenged by second hand shoes.  I find it so hard to get good ones in charity shops and vintage shoes are always too small- I am only a size 4.5-5 but I think if you are a size 3 you get the pick of the bunch.  New shoes are a challenge for me too- I am very picky, will not tolerate the need to break shoes in or sustain blisters for the sake of a beautiful pair.

But, I have been buoyed recently by lovely twitter folk tell me how they have loads of pairs of second hand shoes and I need more faith.

And at a recent pop-up fair in Islington, I found a fantastic pair of 80s suede pixie boots for £5, yes, you heard me, suede boots for £5.

Here are the little beauties:

So maybe my faith in second-hand shoe shopping has been restored?  Hmm?

Love Alice x

Sunday, 24 February 2013

I found the perfect gift for my Dad!

As you know, Dear Reader, gifts have been the source of a bit of worry for me over the last month..... with one in particular being for my Dad.

My Dad is the kind of person that wants for nothing- it is a family joke that he would wear his clothes until they were falling off his back, if it wasn't for my Mum quickly disposing of his worn-out wardrobe and insisting he buy something new.  To be fair, she keeps him in pretty good shape but without her he might look a bit trampy (sorry Dad but it is true!).

He is so proud when he has kept something for ages; he has a pair of white leather shoes that he used to do the gardening in, which he revels in telling me and my sister that he had had them since we went to Tunisia, which is when I was 11.  So- he is a good role model for this challenge!  However, because he wants for little, he is very hard to buy for.  He doesn't have practical hobbies; he loves Rugby and the usual things- holidays, socialising etc but it is hard to think of something he might like gift-wise even under normal circumstances, let alone with the challenge.

What I have come to realise, is that when buying a gift under this challenge- it is better to just get out there and see what is on offer, rather than to have a fixed idea of what you want to buy and trying to find that particular item.  I like to think that if I have an open mind, the Second-hand Fairies provide.

And boy, did they, the other weekend!  H and I headed off to a Pop-Up Vintage Fair in Islington recently; I love these fairs- they are always super friendly and full of affordable loveliness.  Plus there is a vintage style tea service and entertainment.  We were having a little mooch and I spied a lovely little something on a stall...

A gorgeous, vintage travel razor- complete with blade holder- for £5!  I did a little research on-line and found some blades that would fit for £6 and got them delivered.  

My Dad seemed to really like the gift- he goes away quite frequently with Mum on breaks and holidays  and this is both useful and beautiful. 

So- Dear Reader, I am feeling buoyant again, after umbrella-gate.   Buying nothing new IS a great idea and does work!!

Love Alice x

Sunday, 3 February 2013

Eek....a slip?

So, Dear Reader.... I have a confession.....*takes a deep breath*  I kind of had a slip in my 365 day challenge of not buying anything new.

 I say 'kind of' because I feel like what happened could be borderline in terms of my self imposed rules.

It was Thursday, and I was on my way to Sunny Croydon for my consultancy job that I am doing at the moment for a lovely charity.  Except that it was not sunny..... and when I arrived at the station it was tipping it down with rain.   Now, I am one of those people who very rarely has an umbrella as a) I go nearly everywhere by car (you can judge, I don't mind) b)when I do own one, I pretty much always leave it on the tube- I think in total over the 12 years I have lived in London I must have lost 48 umbrellas, at least.  

Anyway, as I stood in the station, peering into the torrential down pour and lamenting the last lost umbrella on the district line 2 months ago, imagine my delight when I spied Timpson's display of reasonably priced umbrellas.  It was a complete lightbulb moment- I thought "hurrah! I don't have to get wet, I can just buy one, simples!"  And, I engaged in a lovely conversation with the nice man in the shop, a few other customers and then I JUST BOUGHT ONE.

There was a bit of me that felt I shouldn't have been buying the brolly on some level, as I handed over my money, but I put that down to the residual self-deprivator inside that sometimes wants me to go without even the basic self-care things of life and I felt proud that I wasn't listening to that voice and doing something nice for myself.   

It was only as I entered the office building that I remembered my challenge...... and I felt very annoyed.

I discussed the purchase with H and there are several ways I could justify the purchase under my current rules:

1) I bought it for work (only stands true if I don't use the brolly during non-work activities)
2) I couldn't buy a decent second hand umbrella as they do lose their structural integrity as you use them and rust etc.

But both these justifications feel a bit borderline.  The truth is that I was not prepared and I slipped into unconscious spending which is what I was trying to avoid with this challenge.  Had I been prepared, I probably could have found a recycled umbrella or a decent second hand one.  I was caught out and off-guard.

However, I do feel the self care argument is one that I haven't explored during this challenge.  What if I hadn't bought the brolly and just walked to work and got completely soaked?  This is not the sort of extent of discomfort that I am comfortable with inflicting on myself during this challenge. I have worked too much on my self-esteem to do that to myself.

So, Dear Reader, I would like to add an additional exception to my Rules, which is that purchases of new things will be allowed, in an emergency and if, without such item I would compromise the value I place on myself.  I am not saying that I am going to start saying I "need" that lovely owl shirt I saw in TK Max's window yesterday (sob!) but I am not prepared to not take care of myself, in the moment for the sake of this challenge.  So there.  It is a lesson in getting more prepared though.

There we have it, Dear Reader, a slip in an otherwise faultless month... I hope you are not too disappointed in me.  I am probably disappointed enough for the both of us but I am not going to give up- onwards and upwards.....

Lots of lovely posts coming up next week on successes on the challenge front.  The sooner we get over Umbrellagate, the better.

Love Alice x

Friday, 1 February 2013

Big news- revealed!

Very, very exciting news, my Lovelies!

I am delighted to announce that I will be opening the Handmade by You Studio;  the home of delightfully quaint craft and easy vintage glamour!

I hope that it will be a refreshing addition to London's make-it-yourself and vintage scene.

Opening in April 2013 in the wonderful Alfies Antique Market, in Marylebone, the studio is set to be an inspiring space filled with treasures and combining my two passions; craft using whimsical designs and easy vintage styling.  

I cannot wait to decorate the studio- I have so many ideas to make it so beautiful.  

For a long time, I yearned for a creative space where, after a long day, I could spend a couple of hours making something really beautiful, with everything provided for me. As you know, I love nifty craft projects that give stylish results, quickly and use pre-loved materials. I have always been attracted to vintage fashions and styling but in the beginning I didn't know where to start. My vision for the studio is that it makes both creativity and vintage glamour accessible for everyone!

The Handmade by You studio will offer an eclectic mix of craft and vintage-themed events including “Make me” sessions; offering a choice of exciting on-the-spot makes including 'Cross stitch an i-phone cover' and 'Make a vintage tea-cup pin cushion' with all materials sourced, tools provided and advice on hand if needed. 

I will of course be running my quirky workshops and craft parties with new exciting options like 'Make your own lipstick' and a variety of vintage-themed events including pop-up sales, hair and make up and easy vintage styling. On top of all of that we have lots of lovely treats to buy in the studio. 

I am looking for lovely people to run events with- if you are a vintage hair/make-up person, a fashion seller or market organiser or you are a crafty bod who makes lovely things with vintage materials, please get in touch  I would love to work with you.  

Those that know my journey will know that this has been my dream since the beginning, with lots of ups and downs and challenges along the way.  I can't quite believe it is actually happening, Dear Reader and I am very grateful to all my lovely clients who have supported me over the last 2 years and my lovely followers and partners who encourage me.  

More info on the way when I get the programme in order and definitely more blogging about my challenge (I have not forgotten about it!).

With love, 
Alice x

Saturday, 26 January 2013

What a week!

Sorry for the lack of postings this week- it has been a bit of a momentus week in my business to say the least, with a HUGE development on the horizon.  

I don't want to publicise my big news until it is all confirmed but it will enable me to expand, work with more wonderful people and ultimately fulfill my vision for my crafting business.  Those who have followed my entire journey into self employment may be able to guess my news, and you may have seen a few hints on Twitter, but I promise to announce all the details as soon as I can.  

Anyhoo- enough teasing, I thought I would give a little update on our buying nothing new challenge, 26 days in.

H has been using e-bay a lot this week and has managed to find her bike computer, cycling jacket, another pair of boxing boots, two second hand shirts and a t-shirt to spray paint, all second hand.  She has really got into the swing of the challenge; we thought it was going to be a bit tricky for her as her requirements are quite specific, but she is doing brilliantly!  

She also bought a second hand, only-worn-once pair of ear-phones....  now, I think I might have employed our hygeine clause with these, but the seller apparantly didn't like the way they felt in their ears and she gave them a good wipe with her colleague Mike's antibacterial wipes....  She is definitely dedicated!

As for me, I have been concentrating on getting some gifts organised- I have 3 friend's birthdays coming up and my Dad's.  I think I have the girls' gifts sorted (more on the blog soon re those) but I am still a bit stumped about what to do for my Dad.  I think some sort of experience gift might be better than a handmade or vintage one- it's just not his cup of tea. 

We have also had a few dilemmas- we got some gifts that weren't to our taste at Christmas and took them back, but we obviously can't exchange them for anything new, no matter how tempting.  So instead we got a gift voucher which we can use on food. 

I have not been tempted by anything new this week at all, but I have been making some wonderful, new friends who have been helping and encouraging me along the way, which I will tell you all about next week too!

So, for now, happy weekend Dear Reader and I hope to see you here, next week.

Alice xx

Friday, 18 January 2013

Handmade How-to; Make a skirt from an old pair of jeans

So, this week I wanted to up-cycle one of several pairs of jeans that I have that I don't really wear and turn them into a wearable wiggle skirt.

What I used:

  • Pair of old Jeans
  • Some scrap fabric- approx 1m x.25m
  • Scissors
  • Sewing Machine and Thread
  • Pins

What I did:

1) I held the jeans up to myself and popped a pin in the leg to mark the desired length.  Don't put them on to do this as the waist will always be higher when the crotch is cut out.  

2)  I cut my jeans at the mark and then folded them in half and cut the other leg.

3) I cut down both legs, ensuring the bulky/folded over part of the seam was intact at the front.  Don't bother trying to unpick the legs- it is hard on the hands and no fun!  I also cut through the crotch and trimmed the crotch away so that the front and back tops of the triangle laid flat.  

4) I placed an oblong piece of contrasting fabric (from the shirt dress I bought the other week) in between the former legs and pinned the seams onto it.  Make sure you don't pin through the back part of the skirt too.  

5) I top stitched the former leg seams onto the fabric, turned the skirt inside out and trimmed down the contrast fabric leaving approx 1cm seam allowance.  

6)  I pinned the back seams together and sewed them too- you may find you have to sew a little higher than the original crotch line (the bit pocking out in the photo) so that the skirt sits properly across your bottom.  

7)  I didn't hem the bottom as I think it looks cool to be a bit frayed.  

Then I found out how hard it is to take a decent picture of yourself wearing a skirt!

Happy Weekend Dear Reader!

Love Alice x

Top Tip; Always dry your wellies


It's SNOW DAY today in the UK!  Hurrah, huzzah!  

If you are like me, proper footwear in the weather is paramount and I cannot live without my cosy fake-fur-lined wellies (bought pre-challenge)!  

But alas, my wellies seemed to get holes and rips in them so quickly after winter and recently I learnt why- if you leave you wet after stomping through the snow or rain, this can make them rot!

So, Dear Reader, dash to wear your boots are, right now, and give them a wipe down or next week your boots will be no more!    I like to pop mine on the radiator to make sure they are nice a dry.  

Have fun in the snow; Treacle certainly does!

* Please don't call any animal cruelty charities- but that super-cute picture is of Treacle at 12 weeks in the snow.  At the time we thought it would be fine, but looking back it was probably far too cold for her little soul to be playing in the snow!  She was absolutely fine afterwards and loved it but it probably was irresponsible of us. Sorry Treacle!   

Tuesday, 15 January 2013

How to keep your hands warm

Thought I would post on a subject close to all our hearts at the moment....keeping warm.  Gosh- it is freezing at the moment, isn't it??

One little tip for keeping your hands toasty-warm is to make one or two of these, re-usable hand-warmers.  They are super-quick to make, cheap as chips and really do the job in terms of keeping your hands warm on days like this.

Here is what you will need:

  • Fabric scraps x 2 about 2 inches square
  • Needle and thread
  • Rice
  • Paper- about A5 size

What you do:
1) Put your fabric right sides together and sew either by hand or on a machine round 3 sides (I leave about 1cm seam allowance).
2) Turn right sides out and rolling the paper into a funnel shape, place the end of the funnel in your bag.
3) Fill with rice, leaving about 1 cm empty at the top.
4) Fold in your top edge and slip stitch or running stitch your warmer closed

To use:
Put your warmer on a plate in the microwave on high heat for 20 seconds and then pop in your pocket or carry for toasty hands!! They can be used again and again.

You could make bigger versions for cold feet indoors or for cramps or bad backs- just put in the microwave for longer to heat up.

So, treat yourself, Dear Reader and make one of these tonight for your poor hands.

Keep warm!

Love Alice xx

Monday, 14 January 2013

Getting stuff for free

This weekend we had the pleasure of attending a Stuff for Free event in West London, run by Healthy Planet.  The purpose of the events being to reduce the amount of stuff going to landfill by offering it up for free to whoever wants it.

Healthy Planet secured use of an empty warehouse (as they are a charity this reduces the rates the landlord pays to the council; win-win) and then they invited people to come and donate anything they no longer used.  I took a few of our unwanted bits from the "e-bay box" which we never seem to get round to putting on e-bay and selling.   A few days later anyone could come and take anything they liked, for free, with no restrictions, rules or limits.  What an amazing idea, eh?

So, H and I got up early on Sunday and joined the little queue outside the warehouse, excitedly anticipating what we might find.  I worried that when the doors opened, we would be part of a stampede and compulsively filling our bags with stuff and fighting with other people for the best things.  But interestingly, this didn't happen.  As I walked around, instead of feeling grasping, I carefully considered whether I really needed/wanted the item or whether someone else there might want it more than me, and I think to a certain extent, other people were doing this too.    

There was a large selection of baby items and toys, some homewares, lots of furniture, 3 rails of clothes, lots and lots of books and a selection of electrical goods.

I spotted a couple of vintage furniture pieces- an antique mirror from a 40s dressing table, a 60s coffee table and an old suitcase.  All three would have interested me if I saw them in a bootsale for £1 each, but for some reason, the spirit of this event made me feel like I didn't really need them in my life enough to deprive someone else of them.  Just taking them for the sake of it felt wrong.  

We weren't complete virtuous though- these are the things we did take:   

Lovely books- 
Delia's Complete Cookery Course, 
Jamie at Home, 
The Complete Guide to Home Remedies and 
The Complete Book of Creative Needlecrafts

Some energy saving light bulbs, 
Huge unused Tresemme shampoo and conditioner
Pink gap t-shirt (for H who is going to spray-paint and stencil something cool onto it) 

So, a nice little collection of bits and a very interesting, inspiring morning.  I would definitely go again and donate more to this event; it is a very good idea.  I guess, it could be argued that charity shops could have benefitted from the revenue gained from the items people were taking for nothing, but Healthy Planet itself is a charity and was able to fulfil it's mission to reduce waste without needing money to change hands, which feels great.  I am more warm to them as a charity and their cause now, as a result.  I guess it doesn't have to always be about the money, eh?

Keep warm Dear Reader,

Love Alice x


Friday, 11 January 2013

Handmade how to; make a felted baby hat from an old jumper

My dear cousin Emily and her husband Dave had a little baby boy in December, so I thought I had better get a little gift organised for them.

I thought handmade was a better option that second hand and thought I might make a little warm cashmere hat for  Xavier (what a gorgeous name, eh?).

I used a felted cashmere jumper- to felt it all you do is wash it at 40 degrees and it will shrink down a bit and felt- lovely!

I designed a little pattern- which you can download and use- just be sure to print it at 100% or fit to page on an A4 format.  

This is what used to make my little hat:

  • Felted cashmere jumper
  • Paper pattern
  • Scissors
  • Pins
  • Sewing machine
  • Thread
This is what I did:

1) Aligned my pattern to the bottom of the jumper and pinned it on, through both layers and the cut it out.  

2) I folded each piece in half and measured 2.5 cm from the top and marked with a pin.    

3)  I then measured 1 cm either side of the central marking and marked with 2 more pins:
4) Then cut a triangle shape out of both pieces using the pins as guides.  

5)  With right sides together, I folded each piece in half down the centre line and sewed each of the little triangles closed, keeping about 5mm seam allowance:

6)  Then, I placed the back and front pieces right sides together, pinned and sewed all the way round, being careful to ensure the little flaps created by sewing closed the triangles we laying flat.   I of course left the bottom edge open.  I then clipped the seams a little bit and clipped the curves.

7)  I turned the hat the right way- with the seams inside and admired it!

This will be winging it's way to Emily and David in New York, next week*!  

Have a wonderful weekend, Dear Reader xx

*cuddly toy not included; she's called Mousey and she's mine, sorry Xavier 

PS- I promise next week's how-to will be less old jumper orientated!

Wednesday, 9 January 2013

My wrapping paper problem solved....for the next 365 days and beyond!

Every now and then, I have the sudden realisation of something that I will need to buy second-hand this year that actually might be quite tricky.  One of these is wrapping paper.....

Now, I have been known to make my own w-p; this Christmas I simply printed my own directly from my printer using a sheet music of a christmas carol.  

And, I know I could carefully unwrap every gift I get from now on, iron the paper and re-use it, but quite frankly I think this makes gifts look a bit shoddy. And if I have to buy second hand and make gifts this year, I should at least make them look exciting and enticing from the get-go (although maybe crinkled, re-used paper will keep their expectations low.... hmmm).  But sometimes I just want the convenience of a roll of wrapping paper to just wrap something up on the hoof.  

Low and behold, the fairies* of second-hand shopping have come up trumps and have solved my second-hand wrapping dilemma; in a local charity shop, I found this huge roll of beautiful wallpaper:  

I love the geometric flower design- perfect for presents for men, women and children- just ready to be dressed up with a bit of ribbon...... doh!  The hunt for ribbon second hand starts now.

What are your ideas, Dear Reader for second-hand or handmade gift wrapping?

Love Alice xx

*maybe I do believe in Fairies

Second hand sports shoes are gross?

For my partner, H, buying nothing new poses different challenges than for me; she is rather particular about the things she buys, is very sporty* and has specific sports-wear requirements.  We would both like to demonstrate that it is possible to buy what you need and want second hand, no matter your taste or style.  

One of the items on H's wish-list has been some branded boxing boots.  We both have a thing about second hand shoes (we think they are gross) but we are having to open our minds as part of this challenge.  

So, this week H started on her hunt for some boxing boots on e-bay, and within a couple of days found some advertised as 'worn once'-perfecto.  She snapped them up for £10.50 including the postage; a saving of £26 compared to buying them new.  

The boots arrived today and here they are:

We all performed a smell test and and they scored 1 on a scale of 1-to-stench.  There was a slight odour on the outside of the boots but this may be because they came from a smoking household.  

There were no toe creases or visible signs of wear, other than slightly dirty soles and a little toe scuffing.  So all in all H is very happy and looking forward to training in them, next week.

There may be hope yet for me in making second hand shoe purchases, Dear Readers!  Have you experienced success in buying second hand shoes?

Love Alice, H and Treacle x

*I am not


Tuesday, 8 January 2013

The Handmade & Found calendar

One of the things I LOVE about the start of the year is that I haven't missed anything yet!

Here are some of the secondhand sales/vintage sales and other thrift events I am planning on going to over the next few months:

Sunday 13th January 2013- Stuff for Free event- Acton-  read more on this here

Friday 18th January 2013- Bric-a-brac sale -Barnes- I have never been to this one so will be interesting to check it out

Sunday 3rd February 2013- Chiswick Carboot sale- Chiswick- by far the best boot sale EVER (although not always super-cheap.

Sunday 3rd February 2013-Pop-up Vintage- Islington- always a good, well organised sale with lots of affordable pieces.

Saturday 23rd/Sunday 24th Feb 2013- The Vintage Kilo Sale- Hackney- Pick a kilo of vintage clothing for £15!

Sunday 30th March 2013- Vintazia Vintage Market- Kew- A vintage sale where I live!  It will be heaven :-)

Are there any events that you know of that I have missed in West/Central London?  Do pop a comment below!

If you are planning on going to any of these events too, let me know.  We can have scones and cakes and compare purchases.

Alice x