Thursday, 26 February 2015

The Buyer's Archive - February

Last year I started keeping a note of the clothes I was buying.  My spending habits had decreased in recent times and I was craving more space and less stuff.  Being mindful about what my money went on with regards to non necessities seemed like the logical place to start.  I had an idea to compare my purchases from this time last year to the ones I've made this year and see if there's any change, and if I wasted my money on stuff that didn't last, or that I changed my mind about.  Last month I just talked clothing, but for the new purchases I'll be discussing everything my pennies went on from now on.

Here's what I bought last February...

  • H&M mens purple cardigan - £7 - This was worn a lot until a few months ago, when I started favouring thicker knits in my freezing office.  The heating is pretty much working again though so I can definitely get it back into rotation.
  • Topman tan pleat belt - £3 - I rarely wear belts so I'm not quite sure what possessed me to buy this...I like it with my summer dresses and skirts, which tend to be more fitted than my usual style, and it's good with jeans on the rare occasions I wear a shorter top.  Otherwise there's that lovely belt lump sticking out...
  • H&M stacking ring set - £5.99 - I coveted a set of rings like this for ages (damn you Pinterest) and I loved wearing them...until the inevitable 'green finger syndrome' associated with cheap jewellery appeared.  It doesn't stop me wearing them (albeit for shorter times) but again, it's about remembering to actually put them on.  I'm a bit clumsy for wearing jewellery to work - the amount of times I've walked into a handle or corner on my own desk is pretty embarrassing.

So, that brings my spend for February 2014 in at... £15.99.  Reasonable, but maybe not filled with the most practical of items.  I'm giving myself a pass here though - the odd pretty things are excusable.

Most of my February purchases from this year were made in the past week or so.  Let's start with the wearables...

  • Vintage floral dress from charity shop - £3 - This is the only wardrobe related item I spent money on this month, although I did try on a few things in M&S with the view to buying a knee length denim skirt.  The only one I vaguely liked was this Limited Collection number, the rest were a bit strange fitting.  The dress was found in Bathgate and Tam's mum swears she had an identical one in the 80s.  I love the design and it fits great, although the sleeves will be getting chopped and maybe the skirt shape will be changed.  I'm planning a day with my sewing machine soon so time will tell how it ends up.  I know for sure that the shoulder pads are on the way out anyway...

  • All books from charity shops - price from 50p to £2 each - I'm collecting up the Outlander books as my next series to read.  Ordering books from Glasgow Libraries is proving a bit of a challenge so I decided to look for these in the charity shops and, completely against the usual laws of charity shopping, I'm actually finding what I'm looking for.  I now have four of the eight books in the series, so hopefully I actually like it!  I picked up The Thief Lord for 50p in the same shop as the dress - I like Cornelia Funke's books for an easy fantasy read, and this one is turning out good based on the first few chapters.  And Pawnee by Leslie Knope, because I got my friend a copy when it came out and still haven't read it myself, and Parks and Recreation is one of the best things on TV, so the book can't fail to be awesome, right?

  • Staedtler fineliners 20 pack from Ryman - £8.99 - I've had my eye on a set of these pens for a while but couldn't justify the price for a hobby I only do once in a while.  We were passing Rymans on Sunday and I noticed they were half price.  Sold!
  • Pretzel stitch markers from Abso-Knitting-Lutely - £8.50 - I've been talking to Nadia on Twitter for a while and admiring her creations from afar, but I had to get myself a set of these stitch markers when she posted a pic of them in the making.  I was also getting Tam's mum the fox ones for her birthday so it wasn't a completely selfish purchase...  I think mine have sold out now but there's so many other good designs on there.
  • Fluffy red wool from charity shop 50p - Multicoloured thread from The Works £1 - I remembered a knitted gnome design I'd seen in a book and thought I'd use the fluffy wool to make his beard, if I ever get round to the actual making of the rest of him.  And I love multi coloured craft things, so the thread had to be mine.  Both impulse buys, but I've already thought up a couple of projects for them, so not a total loss.
Total spend in February was £28.48.  The majority of my purchases were second hand, and one supported a small business, so I can't feel too guilty about buying a bit of a pile of things.  If I'm feeling very generous, I'll even share my fancy pens with Tam...


Tuesday, 24 February 2015

The weekend and Photo an Hour

The weekend started for me at Friday lunchtime, when I left work early to have lunch with Mother and do some shopping.  'Some' shopping turned into a hunt round IKEA for a storage unit big enough to hold the wool piles accumulating in my room.  I may have found something good...I'll show it off when I locate the screwdrivers and get it put together.  I'm excited for a bit of re-arranging and craft organisation!  That might be the most grown up I've ever sounded...

Friday night I headed into town to meet Andrea.  It was the first time we'd seen each other in person so it had added excitement!  The plan was to go for dinner and drinks, but having stuffed myself with McDonalds many hours before, I was still too full to eat.  Luckily Andrea and her partner Adam did the same with sushi, so we contented ourselves with drinks and lots of chat.  They're both really fun to hang out with and I'm so glad we got to meet up at last.

Saturday was Photo an Hour day, organised by Louisa and Jane.  My progress was pretty questionable this week, as you're about to see...

08.55 - We woke up early and faffed about a bit, locating all the minions and piling them up for giant hugs.  The usual.  

09.33 - I'm *this* close to making it into the shower.  Getting in the shower before I'm properly warm is akin to torture for me so I continue to faff as long as possible.  (My dressing gown and pj bottoms are from Long Tall Sally, I love the matchy-ness!)

10:41 - Much discussion decided we'd be going to Bathgate to check out the market and charity shops.  Tam's mum needed wool for a new crochet project so we had to stop at the local yarn store... had to...

12:52 - We went to the market, which was supposed to have a car boot element but in reality was about three cars and a bunch of market traders.  Not to my taste, so I was happy to get to the charity shops on the high street.  I got a bargain or two of course!

13:27 - Lunch at The Bus Stop cafe, and the selection of tea pots in there boggled our minds.  If you click the link, you can see even more.  The food was fab, although we were in a hurry to get back, so the cake was bought to go.

The photography part of the day sort of fell down here.  When we got home, Tam went to watch football and I went to see Testament of Youth with his mum and aunt.  It was wonderful and horrible at the same time, and I really want to see it again.  On a lighter note, the costumes were gorgeous, with knitwear being a strong feature.  Always a huge plus for me!

17:20 - It was still light on exiting the cinema, a bit of a novelty after all the darkness of recent months.  Tam arrived home at the same time and we took Parsnip a quick walk.  I got him a pack of tennis balls for Christmas and he loves chasing them around the fields.  He thoroughly tired himself out, so our work was done!

I did a little bit of knitting before we decided to get adventurous with dinner and make vegetable tempura with katsu curry and sushi rice.  It took three of us an hour to prepare it, but it was bloody marvellous.  It might also have been the first time in forever that I made an actual contribution to the dinner, so I want that on record here.  I feel I should point out that Saturday night was very nearly much more exciting than usual - Glasgow Film Festival was holding a ceilidh and showing archive footage, and I would have had tickets for that if more people had shown an interest in coming with me.  THEN when I found out Alan Rickman was going to be at the screening of his new film, I was this close to buying tickets, before I decided I couldn't face going anywhere that busy on a weekend, even if someone that awesome was involved.  So...I hope you liked the dog pictures...

Sunday was a bit stormy and wet and just not very pleasant, but we went a mini trip up to the museum in Kirkcaldy for a wander somewhere inside.  Then we went to town.  I'm gutted now that I left my camera behind due to the weather, but that place was a total retro dream.  It reminded me of shopping with my mum and gran on Saturdays, so much so that I expected to see a C&A and an Etam adorning the high street.  We popped into a few charity shops, an indoor market and this gem of a cafe.  Two lunches for a tenner and I got to pretend I was back in the late 80s with my chicken burger and chips.  I can't wait to go back again and explore more - I feel like this blog is crying out for a photo series of decaying Scottish towns...  (I'm not being offensive here - I genuinely love seeing places like this and mourning a bit for the past while rejoicing that all this wonderful architecture still exists.)

I think we can agree that, despite the lack of photos, this was a rather successful few days.  Who else did the Photo an Hour?  Leave me links!


Monday, 23 February 2015

Finished Crochet - Lace Collars

When Janet mentioned that she loved adding crochet collars to her dresses, I had a lightbulb moment.  Couldn't I make a crochet collar for her myself?  Surely learning to crochet isn't just about making creepy amigurumi and impossible scarves?  It would seem that the world thought so though, since Ravelry turned up surprisingly little in the 'crochet collar' department.  The one pattern that stood out was this one from Lulu Loves, and it was perfect.  There was a suggested number of chains given to start with, which I used the first time with green 4 ply wool, but I was a bit worried it was a little small in the end, so for the peach one I added a few chains and used DK wool.  The pattern also suggested sewing the collars onto the clothing since they can move around a bit, but I just added a couple of odd buttons from my stash to finish them off.  I'll let Janet be the judge of the sewing requirements!

Each collar came together in less than two hours.  It was maybe even closer to one, but I was making them in a stop-start manner in between work tasks so I didn't actually time it.  The peach one also has a row less than the green one - I was experimenting a bit.  I'd love to make more in the future so if I know anyone else that wears these, make yourself known now!


Friday, 20 February 2015

Me and my dresses

After my Knitwear post, in which I shared my favourite (and arguably most well rounded) part of my wardrobe, I'm moving on to the next best section - dresses.  After knits, dresses are my most worn items.  I may not have many, but that's because I expect them to be versatile and take quite a few factors into account when I'm picking a new one.  

Length is the main concern - I favour knee length because it works year round, and it's surprisingly hard to find something long enough that won't break the bank.  

Comfort is also high on the list of course, which is why jersey fabric is a big feature here.  

I like dark colours and small prints, and an overall design that I don't have to be too precious about for work.  The amount of times I've caught my clothes on my desk, splicers or shelves is pretty embarrassing, but typical for me.

The charity shop finds
black print - 'Classics', denim smock - Monsoon, black floral - BHS
Working with my list of specifics makes charity shops the most awkward place to find dresses.  I don't mind sizing up if I find something I like, especially since smaller sizes are the hardest to find in my experience, but length is the major issue here.  I'd guess around 90% of the dresses I like in charity shops are too short, and most of the others aren't in a style that suits my shape.  Vintage is the obvious way to go here, but with the second hand places being increasingly picked over these days (and especially in and around the city where I am), the odds of finding something suitable are close to nil.  All of these dresses came from my very small home town - in fact I think I found both the printed ones on the same day.

The black printed dress has the label 'Classics' (no idea) and came with a matching belt, which I wear tied around my waist since it's a couple of sizes big on me.  I wear this dress the least in the winter because I think it looks a bit frumpy with tights, but I love it in the summer for keeping me cool but covered.

The Monsoon smock dress has a fun story attached to it.  I was browsing the book section and I overheard a lady asking the price of the dress.  When I glanced over I kicked myself for not spotting it, but when she heard it was £3 (gasp!) she changed her mind and decided it wouldn't fit her.  After she left I moved swiftly to the rail and claimed it!  It doesn't fit me either, being three sizes bigger than me, but I love how comfy it is.

The black floral dress also came with a belt, and required some serious altering to make it fit me right.  The sleeves came off, the sides came in and the skirt pleats were replaced with gathering.  I'm not hugely keen on the way I altered the armholes (they're still a bit wide) but I don't care enough to fix it...

The jersey section - take one
blue bird print - Monsoon, blue floral print - Monsoon
I'll point out now that three out of four of these dresses are from Monsoon.  That means if we include the denim one above, more than half my dresses came from there.  So...I have a type.  Or brand loyalty?  Or I just don't like wandering every shop to find something I know I could get in there.  The length is just right, the styles are flattering and they last longer than I expected.  They also retail at around £55, which I think is a bit ludacris for a dress made of t-shirt fabric, so I generally hold out for the sales.

The blue bird print dress is the one that started it all.  I have no idea why I was even in Monsoon, but it was sale time and I was there.  I tried this dress on and had one of those rare moments where something fits perfectly and you don't ever want to take it off.  Plus, I wear a lot of blue.  It was fate.

The floral dress followed later that year.  I was looking for another 'blue dress moment' and almost got it with this.  The fit was right and the style flattering.  It was also half price.  I took it home happily and then...hardly wore it.  I have no idea why not.  Maybe it feels a bit dressier than its sister, or the style is a bit bold for me?  I plan to make more of an effort with this one since I do still love it, and the bird dress is starting to show its age a bit recently.

The jersey section - take two
blue dot print - Monsoon, blue/white stripe - M&S
Fast forward to this winter and my dress collection has been boosted again.  I definitely developed a taste for navy blue instead of black since I stopped working in the cinema, and around half my wardrobe is taken over by this shade.

The blue dot dress was purchased in the most recent sales a couple of months ago.  I'd spotted this design online and kept my eye on it, but when I finally saw it in person I was a bit torn.  The top half was different to how I'd pictured it - more drapey and oddly shaped than I expected.  That's what I get for browsing clothing sites on my phone.  I tried it on and still wasn't sure if I liked it, but I took a gamble and it paid off, because now I love it.  Sometimes I just need to give items time to grow on me.

The stripe t-shirt dress was a chance find in the M&S sale a few months ago.  I like to look at all the sale rails in there since they just mash everything together after a certain reduction point, and I found this in a size 22.  Which...well, I like oversize style better than anyone but that was taking it too far.  We eventually found a smaller size 16 and I set off to test it.  And it's now my comfiest, awesomest  (totally a word) dress.  The collar came decorated with the world's tackiest bling stones, but it was nothing an hour with an unpicker couldn't take care of.

So, if we've learned anything here, it's that I have very specific tastes in dresses.  I'm ok with that.


Thursday, 19 February 2015

Finished Knitting - The Cornish Dormouse Tea Cosy

The tea cosy is finished!  I blogged a bit about the process already, but here's the background again.  My friend requested a tea cosy with 'a mouse that goes in the top of it.  Like the Mad Hatter one.'  After she realised a knitted mouse would get stained and soggy, she agreed to pick another theme.  Then I found this pattern.  She totally loved it, and no amount of trying to get her interested in a cupcake shaped one would persuade her otherwise.  So off I went.

The body is made with two strands of DK wool in two parts, and it came together pretty quickly.  Then I took a break.  I'm not sure why now, although the other thing I was knitting was a bit better to transport, which always bumps things up the queue a bit for me.  I went back to it last week and knit up the mouse pieces and the rim, and Saturday afternoon was spent putting all the pieces together.  It's a little noticeable on the side pictures that the bottom of the join was a tight squeeze, but I put this down to my habit of knitting tightly, which the double stranded technique doesn't help with.  The mouse was made of single strand DK and has head, ears, arms, tail and a circular 'body' that fits around the top of the cosy.  

Tam declared the mouse to be creepy, and I was a bit disappointed that it didn't look exactly like the picture, but my friend LOVED it.  She told me it was the best present she's ever got!  I was inwardly questioning her standards slightly, but it made me feel all warm anyway.  She used it twice on Monday after I gave it to her, so I'd call it a success.  And when she realised I was on the hunt for a small teapot, she offered me one from her collection.  It looks like I'll be making another cosy soon!

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