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

Monday, 7 January 2013

What to do with old, broken, useless jewellery?

I'll tell you what.... make it into new, lovely jewellery!

I had a lot of old single earrings, broken bracelets etc and I didn't want to throw them away; it just seemed so wasteful.

And so, I got my jewellery tools out and refashioned all my broken bits and bobs into a new pendant.  

Here he is:

If you would like to have a go at this, but are not sure where to start, why not join me at my craft club that I run on Tuesday nights, in Hammersmith, West London.  

All the details are here and I would love to see you there!

Resisting the temptations of the January sales (kind of)

So, it has been a satisfying first week into my year-long adventure, but it has not been without its challenges.   The main one at the moment, is resisting the January sales......  so many of my favourite shops are having sales and those enticing bargains are testing my resolve.  

This weekend I went for a little mooch around the shops, but stuck purely to the charity shops to avoid any unnecessary temptation.  I went to my local Traid in Hammersmith; which is by far my favourite shop as it has a lovely little vintage clothes section which is always well stocked.

But wait, Dear Reader- what is that in the window?  SALE?  With the words £3 under it??  Oooh yes! I don't need to tell you what happened next... H and I got our sale bargain fix.  
Here is a little selection of what we purchased:

Some lovely tops for me, including a vintage shirt,  £3 each. 

A vintage, skinny tan belt for 75p!

And some vintage sporty tops for H- £3 each.

Not bad going for an afternoon- some more of our wish-list fulfilled!  All in, between us we got 8 tops and a belt for £24.75.  A total bargain and at saving of at least £135, if we bought the items new or from vintage shops!

What did you buy, second-hand this weekend, Dear Readers?

Friday, 4 January 2013

Stuff for free event- West London- 13th January 2013

Oooh!  I have just come across this event in Acton, West London that I am really excited about.    Here are all the details:

Stuff for Free:  Saturday Jan 5th -Sun January 2013

Start 2013 with a decluttered and organised home, and donate your unwanted Christmas gifts, clothes and household items to our next Stuff for Free event!

We are unable to accept open cosmetics and make-up, earrings, food and drink, plants, animals, chemicals (open or otherwise), tyres, items without fire safety labels, gas canisters, fire extinguishers or needles.

You don't have to give to get- but it will make you feel all warm and fuzzy inside!

Give Dates:
Saturday 5th January 10am – 2pm
Friday 11th January 8am – 2pm

Take Dates:
Sunday 13th January 8am – 2pm

Venue: The Vision Warehouse,
15 Kendal Avenue,
W3 0AF

I am going to donate a few bits and bobs tomorrow and then will report back the week after next as to what amazing bits I might find!  

Do you fancy being involved with this project too?  

Handmade How-to; Make a cardigan from an old jumper

So, as you will know, I am coveting 'new' woollens at the moment.  I am rather particular these days- I don't like anything that doesn't have a high wool content- lambswool, angora (although can be a bit fluffy-in-my-mouthy) and cashmere...... ooooh cashmere (makes Homer Simpson type gargly-drooling sound).

You can find excellent cashmere and woolly jumpers in charity shops at a snip of the price of those on the high-street, which can be alarmingly expensive, even the ones that are 120% acrylic are like £45!!!  What's that about??

Anyhoo, today I took a look at some of my pre-worn woollies to see if I could revamp them at all and I found this old lovely:

My Granny bought me this inky cashmere dress for my 30th birthday.  As is the way with cashmere and sloppy housekeeping, it has shrunk a little over the years and is just a tad too tight.  So I thought I would re-purpose it as a new bolero cardigan, like this!  

This is what I used to create my new cardi:
  • Old jumper
  • Sharp scissors
  • Tailors' chalk
  • Pins
  • Un-picker

This is what I did:

1)  I used another bolero cardigan for the pattern- laying it on top of my jumper dress and lining up the necklines/shoulders.

2)  I then popped a pin in the jumper to mark the bottom of the bolero:

3) I marked a line with tailors' chalk, about 2 inches below this line, as I wanted my bolero to be a little bit longer and I cut the bottom of the jumper dress off (which will be used for another project).

4)  I removed the little buttons with my un-picker, I cut down the centre line, then marked with more chalk so I could cut the jumper open completely:

5) I opened the cardigan out and using the other bolero as a pattern, marked and then cut the curved edges on both sides:

6)  Ta da!!  Here is my 'new' cashmere cardigan!!

And here it is accessorised with a skinny belt:

And here it is accessorised with a naughty cocker spaniel:

What do you think Dear Readers?  Do you have some old jumpers you could up-cycle like this?