Bowing Out Gracefully – August Inspiration

This Was My Summer

This Was My Summer

Well it appears that this is it. Tomorrow we wave goodbye to August and with it the last remnants of the Summer. Without wanting to launch into a lengthy post about the transition from Summer to Autumn again (but if for some reason you are inclined towards that sort of blogging take a look at my last post) I simply want to talk about the things that for me, have made Summer, Summer…

First and foremost I have enjoyed the sun. No, we haven’t had much, but what we have had I’ve walked in, swum in and ultimately, revelled in. Summer wouldn’t be Summer without sun – something which Rosalind touched on saying that the element of the Summer she would miss most was reading outside in the sun. Summer is the time of the year when I myself read the most – a combination of longer holiday time and feeling relaxed and in the mood to sit and read and read until I’ve had my fill. When you’ve really got into a book, time is irrelevant – that’s why Summer holidays are the best time for them! But it’s not just books – being able to read the paper over a leisurely breakfast or lounge on the sofa flicking through the September editions of magazines is yet another, thoroughly enjoyable and leisurely pursuit.

So far I’ve finished How To Be A Woman by Caitlin Moran (but I’m sure you’ll be hearing my opinion of that in a future post) and With Your Crooked Heart by Helen Dunmore. I’m currently wading into the first chapters of Roger Deakin’s Waterlog and am already finding it highly enjoyable – both his excellent descriptions and manner of storytelling are extremely compelling and next in line is Laurie Lee’s Cider With Rosie. Another book I’m looking forward to settling down with is supermodel Alek Wek’s autobiography. Having read interviews with her in which she described her incredible journey from her native Sudan to the UK where she has become an international supermodel and one of the most recognisable faces in fashion. I found the book whilst perusing in the sale section of my local independent bookshop for just £1.99. A bargain if I ever saw one! I’ll be sure to let you know my thoughts once I’ve finished it.

How To Be A Woman

Continuing the cultural theme I’ve seen no less than two amateur dramatic productions whilst on holiday and have thoroughly enjoyed them both. There’s nothing like the excitement of watching enthusiastic performers burst into an infectious song as the lights go down and the sheer amount of time and energy that go into such performances is unbelievable. In my opinion live theatre can never be overrated – be it in the West End or a Church hall. I had the pleasure of attending one such production last night and even now I’m still singing the repeated two lines of the title song! As regards to events happening further afield I’ve been keeping up with all the goings on at the Edinburgh Literary Festival (follow them here on Twitter and try taking part in their daily #UnboundEd challenge) and have promised myself that one day I will be there – definitely as a paying spectator but one can dream of frequenting it as an author/writer!

The BBC have produced some excellent television over the past month or two including The Hour (lengthier post about that here) and Page Eight. I was delighted to read (in The Guardian I think) that The Hour has been recommissioned for a second six-part series next year in which Ben Whishaw, Romola Garai and Dominic West will all reappear. You can read all about it yourselves on the BBC Press Office site .

Freddie and Bel - The Hour

In other news I got to have a play with a Canon 500d the other day and was instantly hooked. I’m really hoping to acquire a DSLR in the near future so if anyone has any suggestions I’d be really grateful if you could leave a comment. I marked the end of Summer with the purchase of a knitted aran cardigan from an independent woollen jumper shop. It’s made from plum coloured aran wool with lots of cable knit pattern and I absolutely cannot wait to wear it. Oh and in case anyone was wondering, I checked with the shop-seller where the garments were all made and she told me that they are all sent from the factory in Leicester where they are made, a fact which I later double checked on the website. New, unworn, ethically made, guilt free clothes. Why can’t they all be like that?

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The autumnal effects of June weather

In the United Kingdom, June is a strange month of the year. Everyone rushes out to buy summer clothes on the first day the sun so much as peeps out from behind the permanent cloud cover we as a nation are subjected to, but as soon as it disappears we all retreat back into our Winter wardrobe – dismal at the prospect of yet another Summer passing without so much as a day of full sun, blue sky and a temperature that exceeds 20 degrees. (Does anyone remember the Summer of 2008? We renamed it the ‘Olympic Summer’ as all we did was stay inside and watch the Olympics everyday the weather was so appalling!). Looking out of my window now, on June 12th, it is grey, windy and pour with rain. From this position I cannot assess the temperature, though considering I’m sat inside and wrapped up in a thermal top, jumper and jumper dress complete with thick woolly tights I think it’s fair to say that the cold from outside is seeping into the house. Uh oh, I’ve just spent the best part of 200 words rambling about the weather – you will have to forgive me a I am British and therefore do not know any better!

It is this kind of weather that almost makes me wish for autumnal clothes, isn’t that awful?! Because of the weather I simply cannot be bothered customising my summer wardrobe to make it suitable for chilly days and would rather skip this season in favour of my woolly winter clothes again! I do not think I am entirely to blame for this frame of mind however – what with the fashion magazines already advertising AW11 collections we seem to be in this constant rush to change our wardrobes and start wearing the trends half a year early. Yes I love fashion, but it’s moments like this when I am relieved that I can step back from the crowd and wear what I want to, irrespective of whether or not the particular colour or material of my outfit happens to be ‘in’ this season or not. One of the advantages of being an advocate of vintage clothing is that someone can never say to you (ok, maybe not this clichéd) ‘that is soooooo last season’ because you would simply be able to reply, ‘Last season, you’re about 30 years out love’.

 This lack of summery weather has led me to do quite a bit of knitting of late. Normally the  majority of my knitting takes place when I’m on holiday – when I have the time to curl up on  my bed or in front of the tv with my 8mm needles and a ball of chunky wool, but what with  this weather I’ve felt the need to be close to warm objects – hence the wool! A while back a  friend was kind enough to give me two huge jute bags full of wool she no longer wanted, and  since then I have been steadily working my way through them. The most recent item I have  knitted is this scarf for my cousin – knitted out of a fuzzy red wool on 8mm needles in elongated stitch (not as fancy or as difficult as it sounds! Any questions about the scarf or knitting in general just leave a comment or drop me an email). My next project is a hat to match!

An (imagined) vision in purple

Just wanted to:

a) Thank everyone who commented on yesterday’s post for their thoughts and suggestions – I appreciate them all!

b) Start the first of my ‘new’ posts off with an outfit description. No photo unfortunately, so I suppose I”ll just have to be extra-descriptive!

c) Let you know that tomorrow’s post includes photos of my latest knitting project!

But let’s get on with the task in hand. This ‘heatwave’ and  ‘drought’ that is affecting certain southerly parts of Britain hasn’t extended to the whole of the nation so unfortunately it feels more like January than June. This being the case I’ve gone for a thin, dark purple jumper (£7 in a Debenhams sale some years ago) underneath a thick, Winter skater dress in a silvery turquoise colour (again, £7 in a sale, this time in New Look two years ago). Continuing with the purple theme I’m sporting thermal tights (!) ok, ok it’s probably not that cold but they’re the only ones I have which match exactly! I highly recommend Elle tights to anybody who, like me, loves to wear dresses in Winter (or Summer for that matter!) but who suffers from the cold. This pair were £5 from TK Maxx but they do them in other colours too, and I’m tempted to buy myself a pair in dark turquoise if they’re still selling them.

My brown Winter boots came back out of the wardrobe as did my brown leather jacket and I topped it off with a purple headband which has a HUGE purple flower made out of lacey material sewn onto it. I love wearing outfits like this – the skater dress and the leather jacket are are opposite ends of the fashion spectrum. The first says “look at me in my swishy skater skirt” and the second says “please, I’m a leather jacket  – I can be worn with anything and still look good. Even skater dresses”. Oh, if only clothes could talk.

On a different note, do any of the literary inspired of you out there have any book suggestions for me? Please let me know in a comment if you do! Next on my list is Lucy Siegle’s new book which discusses the effects of fast fashion “To Die For: Is Fashion Wearing Out The World?” but I am looking for some engaging fiction to get my teeth into too. I think a peruse around the reviews section of a few broadsheet newspapers is required…

Image via weheartit – I just think it shows the beauty of the colour purple.

Wool is well received

If truth be told (and no I didn’t write that deliberately to make everyone read it in a Gavin and Stacey esque accent), I’m rather obsessed with anything ‘wool’ at the moment. And I mean anything. Jumpers, cardigans, hats, gloves, scarves, skirts, dresses, hairbands, tights, socks, even capes! I seemed to spend my summer wandering round the shops in playsuits and shorts – buying knitted jumpers and tights! At the time everyone thought I was mental and told me I should be on the beach or in the garden “enjoying the sun”. Well since then it’s gotten much colder, wetter and windier in my little corner of England – and I am exceptionally pleased with myself and my clever planning in advance for Autumn. My purchases included an excellent multicoloured acrylic jumper from Cow Vintage, and a beautiful black wool cape (which I mentioned in my previous post “The Cape Comeback”) from Kitt’s Couture

Wool is, in my view, the most appropriate material for the September – April period. It is heavy and warm, comes in every colour and texture imaginable and doesn’t necessarily have to be expensive. I write this from the perspective of both a keen knitter and a shopping addict. I source my knits from both the high-street and my own creativity – buying jumpers and the like from places like H&M and New Look, and making most of my own accessories. In recent times I have created: hats, scarves, snoods, neckwarmers, hairbows, cuffs and various other knitted accessories. My current projects are a pair of ’80s inspired legwarmers and a pair of Winter mittens. Knitting for myself means I can decide one day on my outfit for the next, and in the mean time knit myself an accessory to complete the outfit.

Today for example, I am musing about what to wear to a Drama rehearsal tomorrow, and have decided on an ’80s theme (yes I am channelling “Fame”!) This will consist of blue leggings (actual dance leggings worn in the ’70s), a black sweater worn underneath the aforementioned bright ’80s jumper number from Cow,  my trusty grey converse, a bright red patent shoulder bag and bright red lips. I think possibly my royal blue beret as well as there is quite a lot of blue in the jumper. I am reasonably happy with the prospect of wearing this outfit tomorrow, but I feel there is something wanting. That “something” is quite obviously a pair of legwarmers (in either bright red or royal blue – I haven’t quite decided yet) – thus completing the “Fame” look. I don’t actually possess a pair of these such leggings, so tonight I will sit down to watch the tv and knit a pair.

Simple.

The pleasures of knitting

I have recently got back in to my knitting after a few months of my knitting bag being shoved at the back of my wardrobe. This bag only re-surfaces when I have some spare time on my hands, and now it has again seen the light of day I am determined to put it to good use. I have already knitted myself as long winter scarf in white wool, and yesterday I knitted a long ‘ribbon’ which I can wear, tied in a bow, as a headband. I love knitting. Not only is it a great way of showing your creativeness, but you can make things to wear yourself and gifts for other people. For me, it is a way of relaxing and as (if you become proficient enough) you can knit without looking – you can watch the tv or take part in a lively debate without being too much otherwise engaged with your creative activities!

Knitting

My recent knitting - I'm still in the 'scarf' stage!

If you want to take up knitting (and I really do recommend it) you first of all need to either: find someone who can teach you how to knit or watch tutorials on the web such as:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G9hv44QwQ-A&feature=related

Which will teach you how to cast on and start your first row, and

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mgwi3xgZzlk&feature=related

Which will teach you the ‘knit’ stitch.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eqqaIgvohcI

Will teach you how to ‘bind off’.

Needles can be bought from any knitting shop quite cheaply, or ask around family and friends to see if anyone has some they wouldn’t mind you borrowing. Grandparents are great for this kind of thing – as they have the time and the patience to teach you and often have their own supplies of wool and needles. The best thing to knit first is a scarf – nice and simple and you only need to know one stitch. Once you can do that, head down to a knitting shop to buy a pattern for something a little more challenging – a hat perhaps or maybe even some mittens!

The web is a great place to learn how to knit, and I particularly recommend YouTube and Videojug. The best places to buy cheap wool from are (you’d never of guessed) charity shops! They often have baskets where you can buy 2 or 3 balls of wool for a couple of pounds. Cash-and-carry’s and thrift shops also sometimes have wool for sale. Specialist knitting shops are great for buying particular types and weights of wool in certain colours, but are very expensive – so if you are a beginner buy cheap and experiment.