SUSTAINABLE SHOPPING (or more accurately, how I have been doing the complete opposite of this but am trying to do better)

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So about three years ago we discovered Aldi for the first time. We had heard about the award winning nappies and thought we would give them a try – one weekly shop later we were hooked and didn’t look back. I loved that I could fill one of the enormous trollies to the top and it would come to £100 (where as in Waitrose you can easily dangle £40 worth of shopping from your wrist). Aldi began to shape our lives. During the Summer we bought the gardening things, in the Winter we bought the logs. I bought Cbeebies magazines, colouring books, biscuits, bottled water, pocket sized packets of tissues and all kinds of other things that had never bought before in my life because they were luxuries that I quite frankly couldn’t afford. But then two things slowly dawned on me… firstly by shopping at Aldi we weren’t actually saving money because we were just buying more stuff and secondly, all the things we were buying came in packaging. So much packaging that it was a relief when we moved to a bigger house and could order a second wheelie bin from the council just to keep up with the recycling. I don’t know exactly what made me put the breaks on this consumption but I have finally woken up to the fact that our habits have to change in a big way – for the planet and for my soul.

Just to be clear, we still shop at Aldi and I still love browsing the mystery middle isle but one by one I’m looking for sustainable alternatives to the things in my trolly. I’m also discovering alternative places to shop (like my local re-fill store) and have been overjoyed to find so many amazing brands creating sustainable, ethical and plastic free alternatives to every-day products. This is something that I care deeply about and (after a quick Instagram poll) it looks like some of you might be interested in hearing more about my sustainable swaps (I’ve borrowing this catchy phrase from Bryony Willis) occasionally too. When I asked my beloved followers on Instagram whether they would rather see this type of content in Instagram stories or in a blog post it was roughly a 60/40 split in favour of Instagram stories. My poll also told me that this is not everyones cup of tea though so, after giving it some thought, I’m going to try a periodic ‘haul’ style video on Insta stories where I can show you my plastic free/sustainable/ethical discoveries and anyone who isn’t interested can just skip on past with no bad feelings. It’s interesting (and to be honest quite heartening) to see that plenty of people do still read blog posts so I’ll round up my best, tried-and-tested discoveries here every now and then too.

The picture above generated some interesting discussion on Instagram last month – it seems like there are lots of us on this journey together. If so come and say hi either here or on Instagram – I would love to hear about your experience of reducing waste, banishing plastic or seeking more ethical alternatives to every-day products.

FRUIT & FLOWERS: Finding Allotment Inspiration in Sussex…

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Happy 2019! I’ve still got that excited ‘New Year’ feeling – like I’ve just opened the front cover on a fresh exercise book. Last year was very quiet for me blog-wise whilst I poured my energy into other areas of my life but things have a way of coming in cycles don’t they? And now I have so much that I want to share –  starting with a visit to Charleston Farmhouse (the former home of Vanessa Bell, Duncan Grant and various other members of the Bloomsbury Group at one time or another) back in October.

The house’s interiors are decorated from top to bottom with paintings, patterns and art in all mediums and it immediately reminded me of Karl Larsson’s house in Sweden which we visited a couple of summers back. I feel like there should be a word for this way of life – where people grab a house with both hands and paint with murals and patterns all over the walls, doors, window frames and fireplaces… perhaps there already is? It’s the opposite of keeping your whole house white so that it will be easier to sell in the future. I found the guided tour so interesting (though photography indoors is sadly not permitted – you can see plenty on the Charleston Farmhouse website here if you’re curious) especially as I knew only a little bit about the Bloomsbury Group (and most of that from watching the BBC series ‘Life in Squares’). Just as inspiring as the house itself though were the gardens and I took plenty of photos which I’m excited to share today.

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2018 was the year I fell in love with gardening – so much so that by the end of the year I’d signed up for an allotment at a beautiful 150 year old site just around the corner from where we live. Dahlias in particular captured my attention and I started noticing them wherever I went (perhaps they’re in the zeitgeist?). I loved the peach-pink colour of this overblown beauty and am hoping to try growing them myself this summer.

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I’m painting flowers – one can’t resist them – when the sun comes out you can’t conceive what the medley of apples, hollyhocks, plums, zinnias, dahlias, all mixed up together is like.’ Vanessa Bell to Roger Fry, 1930

During the First World War the garden at Charleston Farmhouse was mainly used for growing vegetables and keeping hens but afterwards, Vanessa Bell and Duncan Grant gradually turned it into a ‘painters garden’. I read somewhere that the idyllic ‘English Country Garden’ (where fruit, vegetables and flowers co-exist in a relaxed jumble) is actually a myth and that this is very impractical to achieve but the garden at Charleston definitely fits my vision of an English Country Garden – with touches here and there to show that it is the home of artists. There are busts and figurines dotted around as well as a little mosaic terrace made from broken pottery (Vanessa’s son Quentin Bell became a potter and had his studio in an outbuilding of the house).

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I particularly loved seeing the apple trees growing amongst the abundant flowers. I took on our allotment at the start of the Autumn and spent the last few months of 2018 clearing the ground, building compost heaps, sowing green manure and other bits and bobs in preparation for the growing season. The Winter months so far have been spent researching and dreaming about what I’m going to grow this year. I’ve been talking to lots of green fingered friends and one advised interplanting flowers amongst my vegetables and fruit to create a good habitat for pollinators and other wildlife. I’m hoping I can create something that is productive in terms of vegetable growing but also feeds my soul like this garden did.

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After touring the house and wandering in the garden, my feeling is that the inhabitants were not actually the most skilled artists but what matters is that they went ahead and did it anyway. I love how they’ve left their mark on this house and garden and now it has taken on a life of it’s own. More and more I notice that striving for ‘perfection’ holds me back from realising many of my creative projects and that often I go over an idea again and again in my head until it feels like I have made it already and I run out of enthusiasm for making it for real. This year I’m going to try to be mindful of that and pick up the paint brush (or fabric scissors, or pencil, or whatever) earlier in the creative process and try to bring more of my ideas out into the world. Starting with my allotment!

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I’ve been sharing snippets of our allotment over on Instagram Stories and you can see what I’ve managed to get done so far in my Allotment stories highlights. The allotment owners scene on Instagram is strong and I’m excited to be able to contribute. During these Wintery months I have been enjoying Hothouse – a podcast about design, ecology and the way we garden now. Do you have any gardening podcast or book recommendations? I can’t wait to introduce you to my allotment properly (even if it’s just a rectangle of plastic covered earth at the moment). In the meantime I hope your year has got off to a peaceful start – I’m sending you good vibes for 2019!

 

HOW TO MAKE: A LINOCUT PRINTING BLOCK [DIY TUTORIAL]

How-To-Make-A-Linocut-Printing-Block-DIY-Tutorial_edited-1Spring has finally sprung here in the South-East of England – everything is a really vivid shade of green and bursting into life. The ferns in my back garden are unfurling long, sinuous tendrils which inspired me to make a patterned fabric featuring this intricate botanical. I had wanted to try linocutting for a long time so this felt like the perfect opportunity. I loved the process of designing and (armed with my Mum’s old linocutting tools from her art school days) carving my printing block and thought it might be helpful to show you the steps I took in case you feel inspired to try it too! Continue reading

GLOOM & GLOW (AND PLANS FOR 2018!)

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Hello and Happy New Year! I really wanted to share some photos from the last couple of months by way of a little catch up. I’ve been taking Sara Tasker’s new e-course Gloom & Glow which has really helped me see the magic in these dark and gloomy days and I’ve enjoyed the challenge of getting out into the fresh air in search of photographs (and also hiding indoors with my fairy lights and blankets). Continue reading

HOW TO MAKE A QUILTED HOT WATER BOTTLE COVER [DIY TUTORIAL]

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Winter where I live can be pretty brutal – grey skies day after day, freezing temperatures (but seldom snow to make it pretty), rain, going to work in the dark and coming home in the dark…

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I can think of two things though that help make Winter better wherever you are – hot pyjamas straight off the radiator and going to bed with a hot water bottle! The pyjamas you can probably figure out for yourself but I’m excited to share my new and improved  Quilted Hot Water Bottle Cover sewing tutorial today! Continue reading

PAPERCUT PATTERNS RIGEL BOMBER [MY LATEST MAKE]

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It’s been a while since I sewed a new garm so I’m excited to share some photos of my finished bomber jacket today! The pattern is, of course, the Rigel Bomber by Papercut Patterns – a simple, unlined bomber jacket with welt pockets. I chose a pink sweatshirt fabric (rather more lurid than these photos make it appear…) as I wanted something warm, comfy and easy to care for. Also, since it’s super cosy, fleece backed sweat-shirting, I thought it might be nice to see the contrast in texture on the inside of the jacket.

I learned a couple of things while working on this project. One thing, which is blindingly obvious in hindsight, is that (of course) if you choose to make details like ribbing, zips and welt pockets in a contrasting colour then any imperfections will stick out like a sore thumb. But if I stand at a jaunty angle like this then perhaps you won’t notice 😉 The other is that although this is a simple enough jacket pattern, jackets are inherently more difficult than dresses as they don’t look ‘pretty’ in-and-of themselves and don’t ‘spark joy’ in quite the same way. Also there are more straight lines and corners to match up so if something is slightly off then it’s harder to sort of ‘use the force’ and ease on down the road and lose the excess in the side seams (or wherever – hope it’s not just me that sews like this!).

I’m hoping this will be a good addition to my day to day getup, especially once the temperature drops a little more. I’m already planning a silk version for work but think I might try lining it this time – and maybe skip the pockets to save myself a whole load of time (and a little bit of heartache – my overlocker chewed up two side panels as I tried to make the inside of the pocket situation look neater). Thinking about the pockets just then made my heart feel all heavy and then it hit me – making jackets feels a lot more like ‘tailoring’ and a lot less like ‘dressmaking’ – more mathematical somehow with fewer nice, curved seams and pretty necklines. One thing I have realised though is that I desperately need to sew more every-day things so perhaps jackets are something I’ll come to enjoy more with practice?

One last thing (to do with my upside down feet). Long story short, my tripod is broken. I really wanted to show off these trainers which are by New Balance though as they just go so well with the jacket – what a coincidence 😉

SOMETIMES I WISH THAT I COULD FREEZE THE PICTURE AND SAVE IT FROM THE FUNNY TRICKS OF TIME…

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When casting about for a title for this blog post that song by Abba kept popping into my head – the one that goes ‘slipping through my fingers all the time I try to catch her every minute’. I decided to roll with it and here we are.

Emily is 7 months old today – I really love this age and feel incredibly lucky to be doing this baby thing a second time around. One thing I really struggle to do though is take enough pictures. Does anyone else have this? Continue reading

HOW TO MAKE: A FRESH FLOWER CROWN [DIY TUTORIAL]

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Flower crowns always bring a smile to my face – probably because they remind me of summer and festivals! Making one from fresh flowers is the perfect way to add some seasonal colour to a photo like this and a great way to put your fading bunch of flowers to use. This was a spur of the moment DIY earlier in the week when I found myself with a bunch of chamomile flowers, a free hour and a sunny garden to work in…

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