Wednesday 29 November 2017

Hip To Be (Afghan) Square - From Cot Blanket to Blanket Coat (Now With Added Pockets)

In late November 1966 with the arrival of her first born imminent, my 24 year-old mother got out her crochet hooks. The Afghan Square cot blanket she created served its purpose and continued to be useful for years, passed on to my brother born just eighteen months later, as a bed for several of the eleven cats that shared our family home and wrapped around our shoulders on a winter's evening in the draughty Edwardian home in which we lived. Forty-five years later when the house became empty, I reclaimed our childhood blanket where it moved around Stonecroft, tossed across the foot of the bed, draped across the back of the settee or tossed over the arm of a Victorian day bed long since moved into the shed.

(That's the letter Grandma wrote to Mum the day I was born)

Taken way back in 2012

Kelly, who blogs at Mother of Reinvention, commented that the crochet skirt I wore on Friday's post reminded her of a Dior dress she'd fallen in love with ages ago. After a bit of a Google I found this image, Cate Blanchet in a Dior dress from 2012. Isn't it fabulous?

Then inspiration struck. Why didn't I unpick my blanket and re-purpose the squares into something else? There weren't enough to make a dress and, as I've got plenty, it would be a shame to refashion them into a maxi skirt which I'd only wear occasionally. As it's so ridiculously cold at the moment how about a coat that I can wear over everything?

Apologies for the deranged face, Jon called me Crochet Jesus as I posed for this, I couldn't keep a straight face.

So, after washing the blanket & leaving it to dry, I carefully unpicked each square (you need a bright spot, with plenty of natural daylight so that you only unpick the stitches attaching each square rather than the crochet itself ) then laid them out on the floor in the shape I wanted. I sewed each piece together by hand using vintage darning wool I'd had in my stash for years and this was the result.

Brass tribal necklace - from Orissa, bought in Tamil Nadu, 2011
It's not quite finished. I need to blanket stitch the edges and add pockets - but I've run out of wool.

WEARING: Me-made blanket coat, 1970s brushed denim maxi skirt (eBay, 2011), vintage suede waistcoat (present), red leather 1970s platforms (vintage fair, 2015), 1970s dagger collar wool blouse (nicked from the stockroom)
Ta-dah! Now with blanket stitched edging and added pockets. I wasn't happy about the way the jacket was hanging when I saw the photos so I've also unpicked and restitched the front section. I'm happy now.

House news! I'm a bit taken aback, I've been inundated with offers, some for even more than the asking price. What on earth's that all about? Oh well, it's been empty for seven years, there's no need to rush into any decisions yet. I'll keep you posted.

See you soon!

Monday 27 November 2017

Market Day

Sod unpacking the van from yesterday's vintage fair, a stroll into town to pick up Jon's new glasses and a rummage around the charity shops sounded far more appealing.

After Saturday's snow, the temperature had warmed up a few degrees so I swapped my coat for my beloved velvet jacket and a Dollyrockers corset waist maxi dress printed with supersized paisleys, found by our friends, Lynn & Philip, on a trip to an antique centre on a recent holiday in the Lake District. I was a bit hasty, it was still bastard freezing!

We walk past this fifteenth century archway, which lies beneath the crypt of St Matthew's Parish Church, every time we walk into town but, as with most things that become part of our daily lives, we rarely give it a glance so today I thought I'd stop and share it with you. 

New specs collected and Jon's normal pair left to be reglazed with his new prescription, we'd exhausted Walsall's four remaining chazzas in less than twenty minutes. Some people complain that their high streets are full of charity shops, they should think themselves lucky. Our main shopping street has that many boarded up & empty shops we'd be thrilled with a few more chazzas - anything's better than dereliction.

Instead we had a wander round the market. There's been a town market since 1219 but permission to run a weekly one was granted to William Rufus, the Lord of the manor of Walsall in 1417. In 1818 it was said to be the second largest market in the country dealing with around 2000 pigs a day.


This is how it looked in the early 1970s when we were kids - in fact I wouldn't be surprised if Jon or me are somewhere in this photo. Everyone visited Walsall market on a Saturday. The market extended from just beneath the church steps way down to local heroine, Sister Dora's statue on The Bridge. There wasn't anything you couldn't get from the market - clothes, shoes, fruit & veg., skinned rabbits and pheasants, toys, tools, fresh fish, books, costume jewellery, make-up, kitchenware & soft furnishings, substandard china from the factories up the road in The Potteries to fabric, key cutting and watch engraving. Special coaches would bringing shoppers in from all over the country and the whole thing had a festival air with traders yelling out their wares and indulging in friendly banter with the crowds.

These days, with a twenty-four hour supermarket dominating the area to the left of the old photo, the market is a shadow of its former self. Asda offers almost everything the market used to, why stand in the cold when you can park up, pile your trolley high with everything from carrots, chicken and beer to buckets, cushions, knickers and wrap dresses. The market might be cheaper but what's cheap when compared to convenience?  I think we're in the minority, still buying all our fruit & veg from the market, indulging in Carry On type humour over the size of cucumbers and staggering back home over Church Hill aka The Hill Of Doom, wondering if we really needed three caulis for a quid.

Fortunately Asda doesn't sell everything. Monday's market is the day for Asian fabric, trimmings and ready-mades and there's an air of excitement as the predominantly female crowd rummage through bolts of £1 per metre chiffon, luridly printed polyesters and a veritable rainbow of crushed velvet. 

As we examine cards wrapped in yards of cheerful pom-pom braid, ribbons embossed with sequins and dotted with paisleys, we chat about what we're planning to do with our purchases - trimming a dupatta or a salwar kameez, embellishing a tunic or, in my case, tarting up a patchwork lampshade or a cushion cover.

The ready-made stalls are a sight to behold. The rest of the week the traditional clothing stalls are a drab mass of jumpers, cardigans and pleated skirts with elasticated waists in every shade of grey acrylic. On a Monday it's a rich tapestry of velvet in luscious jewel-like colours, gossamer thin tunics with vibrant embroidered panels and metallic stitched details, glinting in the pale late November sunshine.

Much as I love those knee length velvet tunics with soutache embroidery the style isn't something I'd wear. However I did spot something rather special (and very me) on one of the display mannequins. 

 This soutache adorned black velvet jacket from Pakistan came as part of a suit but with a bit of friendly persuasion the stallholder was kind enough to split the set and sell me the jacket separately. Wouldn't get that in bloody Asda, would you?

Check out my bejewelled bangle and coral ring, a very generous gift from Mel, a lovely fellow trader at yesterday's Moseley Vintage & Retro Fair. Vintage traders are amazing as are our visitors, customers and organisers. I'm going to miss the scene enormously over the next few months!

Right, less of the chat. I'd better go and unpack the van. See you soon!

Sharing with Patti & The Gang for Visible Monday and Style Crone's Judith for Hat Attack#53

Friday 24 November 2017

Technicolour Friday - Charity Shop Treasure & Some Hardcore Drum 'n' Bass

Black Friday? Not on your life or on my body. There's been no shopping round these parts today, in fact we haven't left the house all day. I've been sorting the stock ready for Moseley this Sunday (details HERE)our last vintage fair of 2017, while Jon's been cracking on with the decorating. I'm very excited as I've just had a visit from a lady in love with The Cottage, eager to sound me out. Her house has only just gone up for sale but I really want her to buy it, she's as passionate about original features and preserving old houses as I am. I'm keeping everything crossed.

WEARING: Ruffle sleeved top (£1.99, charity shop), Crochet maxi skirt (handmade by Liz), Vintage purple suede platforms (£6.99, charity shop), Hmong tribe belt worn as a choker (the fabulous Krista)

 We haven't had much chance to go charity shopping lately. There's never a great deal donated in the run up to Xmas - except for us and the contents of The Cottage - and we're avoiding the shops we gave my parents' stuff to, I'm happy to give it away but I don't think I could deal with seeing it on the shelves being picked over by the Black Country's great unwashed. That being said, now I've photographed the past fortnight's finds, I don't think we've done too badly.

Clockwise from top left: Past Times floor length wool cardi; Peter Baron, London 1970s over-shirt; Vintage red velvet kaftan; 1970s maxi with chiffon cape sleeves; Indian cobalt blue velvet waistcoat; 1990s brocade Steampunk/Victorian jacket; Vintage crushed velvet catsuit; Vintage embellished velvet playsuit
The two jewel encrusted playsuits and the crushed velvet catsuits were, according to the charity shop manager, donated by the same lady - she must have been a showgirl or a dancer back in the 1970s. If I don't sell the orange catsuit on Sunday I might have to borrow it and I think I'll be keeping that velvet kaftan, too!

Clockwise from top left: Vintage pearl embellished playsuit; Vintage chartreuse crushed velvet catsuit; Vintage St Michael fake fur; 1970s leather patchwork waistcoat; Unlabelled (possibly handmade) crochet dress; Vintage kaftan (made in Cyprus); Vintage Laura Ashley printed cotton velvet jacket
I can't entirely claim the credit for all of our finds. The crochet dress had been put aside by a kind charity shop volunteer as she'd thought it was very me and a fellow shopper who we bump into every week was holding on to the Laura Ashley velvet jacket until I got there as she knew I liked "old stuff" and didn't want anyone else to get to it before I did. Talk about creatures of habit, you can almost set your watch by our charity shop visits!

Clockwise from top left: Vintage leather trench coat; Emerald green Harrington; Yves St Laurent wool jacket; 1960s Crombie overcoat; 1970s Varsity style jacket with coated PVC sleeves; Vintage 1960s tonic effect jacket with ticket pocket
Clockwise from top left: Hardback copy of Desperate Romantics by Franny Moyle, The private lives of the Pre-Raphaelites (50p); 1950s plaster wall plaque - isn't she like Amy Winehouse? I love her! (£2); RAC guidebook Jon only bought 'cos he loved the India Tyres bookmark (£3); Orange suedette platforms (£3); Gold coloured costume jewellery (earrings 99p, rings 50p each); Fake Prada sunglasses by Asos with tags still attached (£1).
 As a child the family's daily dinner service was Barbara Brown's Focus by Midwinter, a wedding present to my parents in 1966. I used to call it balls in boxes. There's only a few pieces left from the original set so I was thrilled to spot a pile of odds and ends on the bric-a-brac shelves of chazza a couple of weeks ago. I thought each piece was £1 but when I took it to the counter it was actually £1 for the lot!

But it's not all shopping, selling and decorating in the lives of Vix & Jon. Last night I blagged  tickets to see Walsall-born legend Goldie at his homecoming gig at Wolverhampton (known as Wolves by us locals) Civic Hall. It often surprises people when they find out that we're into drum 'n' bass and dance music, just 'cos we're vintage traders we're expected to like Elvis and stuff from the 40s and we most definitely do not. We've been known not to do certain vintage fairs as the music is so awful. After six hours of being stuck in a room listening to covers of the Andrews Sisters and Vera Lynn on repeat I start to fear for our sanity.

Terrible photos, incredible night! I loved how diverse last night's crowd were, the ages ranged from hip young students to handful of pensioners and who knew Goldie was so big with the Sikh community? When I got home I realised that the last time I'd watched a gig without a pint in my hand must have been over thirty five years ago. The first band I saw was The Stray Cats at Birmingham Odeon when I was 14. I went with Liz, the friend who made the skirt I'm wearing today.

You probably hate drum'n'bass - most of our friends do - but just in case, here's a snippet of Goldie doing his thing....

And here's his support, Reeps One, the amazing human beat box.

Tonight's Peaky Blinders on catch up. Last week's opening episode left me breathless.

See you soon, unless we see you in Birmingham on Sunday.

Tuesday 21 November 2017

A Day Without Dressing Up Is A Day Wasted

A day without dressing up is a day wasted is my life's mantra and has been the strap line on my blog's About Me paragraph for over eight years. When I started blogging I posted an outfit every day but that was way back when there weren't many blogs around and it was easy to keep up. Nowadays, by the time I've caught up with & commented on all the blogs I follow, I've rarely got enough time to post more than a couple of times a week so, although I dress up every day, most of the clothes I've worn never get shared.

Many of the friends I've met though blogging have abandoned the platform in favour of Instagram and have pestered me for ages to join them but I own an old school Nokia pay-as-you-go phone which rarely gets turned on (yesterday was the first time I'd used it since July) so Instagram was off limits, there was no way I was going to buy an expensive phone and take out a contract when I could blog for free. That was until a random internet search led me to Gramblr - a (FREE) application which allows users to post photos to Instagram directly from a PC without the need for a fancy phone. This means I can share my daily outfits without being wracked with guilt when I haven't caught up with my blog reading (I'm a Brit, I can't help it). With less than seven weeks to go until I'm in India, living out of a tiny backpack with a limited amount of clothing, I'm going to dive into my vast wardrobe and make the most of being able to wear something different every day.

Another Vixism is Dress for the life you want, not the life you have so, here's what I've been wearing over the last few days and the ordinary things I've done whilst wearing them. 

WEARING: Vintage psychedelic maxi dress (99p, eBay, 2006), white leather go-go boots (present from Emma Kate), Mary Quant scarf (20p, jumble sale)
On Saturday, I had a lie-in till 8.30 am and finished my current read, A Sarong In My Backpack. Jon cooked us a veggie breakfast and I varnished my completed, decoupaged screen. After we'd eaten I sorted out my dressmaking patterns, dividing the unwanted ones into five lots and listing them on eBay - getting bids on all but one within minutes. Spurred on, I polished four pairs of 1940s shoes I'd bought from a flea market for pennies last year, photographed them and listed them on Ebay - this was followed by a quick search which lead to an impromptu purchase of something vintage and lovely! I spent the afternoon reading The Guardian from cover to cover and doing the crosswords. As we'd done quite well this week from selling some unwanted bits and pieces on eBay we treated ourselves to a delivery curry (veg pathia for me, chicken shashlik for Jon with a veg naan) which we ate in front of the TV - episode 5 of gripping Spanish subtitled thriller I Know Who You Are and a couple of episodes of series 2 of Norwegian whodunit, Acquitted.

WEARING: Vintage psychedelic catsuit (99p, eBay, 2010), saffron bodysuit (Retail, on-sale), leopard ankle boots (swapped with a customer last year), Urban outfitters perspex belt (present), Fake Prada sunglasses still with ASOS tags attached (£1, charity shop last week)

On Sunday I watched the Andrew Marr show over tea, toast & organic rhubarb jam, did a couple of loads of washing then touched up my roots. I emptied the bookshelf on the landing and bagged up the huge pile of books we'd already read, ready to drop off at the charity shop next week. After lunch a friend we'd first met at Glasto popped round to give us a suede jacket she no longer wanted. I sorted out the furniture I'd found along with the doll's house in my parents' attic last week, cleaned it up and made a list of what to look out for on Ebay then we watched Toffs, Queers and Traitors, a feature length documentary on Guy Burgess. After tea (the rest of last nights' curry with some freshly cooked basmati rice) we watched a couple more episodes of Acquitted

WEARING: Vintage psychedelic maxi dress (Won for £5.50 on eBay a fortnight ago), Yeti coat (£3, charity shop), Silver leather ankle boots (retail sale), Lamani coin choker (2008, India)
At just after 8am yesterday morning we walked into town for our annual optician appointments, we've got a family history of glaucoma so we're both entitled to free eye tests. All done we had a quick whizz around the chazzas - Jon picked up a couple of pieces of vinyl, we popped into Wilkos for some bird food and walked back. After an update from the estate agents (there were ten viewings over the weekend and there's already couple of offers) we had lunch. Afterwards I started to alter a dress before whizzing round to the dentist. I'd fractured a tooth on Sunday evening and they'd managed to squeeze me in for an emergency appointment. When I got home, just over an hour later, Jon prepared tea (roasted veg with Haloumi) and I did some housework. After eating we watched part one of a BBC documentary series on Kim Philby while I re-sewed the hem on the dress I'd worn earlier.

WEARING: Vintage velvet maxi dress with a marabou feather trim (£10, Judy's Affordable Vintage Fair), huge Indian brass pendant (gift from blog reader, Vonda), Rajasthani shoulder bag (£2, street market, India), Purple suede platforms (£6.99, charity shop)

This morning, after my daily Wii Fit work-out and usual fruit & yogurt breakfast we nipped over to the part of my parents' garden we're holding on to and cut back the brambles next to the garage as we'd got a workman coming to repair the roof later. After a quick tidy up we got changed and drove round to the accountants to drop in our end of year accounts before dropping off a few eBay sales parcels at the post office. Back at home Jon cracked on with insulating the walls in the spare room and, as my services weren't required, I swept the leaves up outside the front of the house and brought the geraniums into the utility room for the winter. After lunch I caught up on my blog reading, wrote a blog post. After tea (wholemeal pasta with pesto, fresh broccoli & leeks) I'll finish altering the dress I started yesterday and wrap a couple more eBay sales parcels then we'll watch the final installment of I Know Who You Are on the BBC i-player.

If you want to look at my daily photos on Instagram then you'll find me HERE. You don't need an account to look and you can rest assured that my page will be a pouting selfie-free zone. I'm 50 not 15.

I've no intention of abandoning blogging and why would I? Having my own little space to write, share photos and connect with like-minded people the world over has helped me through some of the toughest years of my life. It's made this ordinary almost-fifty-one year old woman feel like a celebrity at times - being recognised in the street never fails to take me by surprise. I'm going nowhere!

See you soon!

Linking to Patti & the gang for Visible Monday.

Friday 17 November 2017

The Keeper Of Lost Causes -Tackling The Family Albums

I come from a long line of hoarders. The dress my great grandma wore for her wedding in 1906 lives in the bottom of my wardrobe, my great great grandma's mourning jacket hangs on a rail encased in a suit carrier and my great great grandpa's top hat lives in a box on top of a cupboard. You'll find the Chinese parasol Grandma and her sisters played dress up with as children in the umbrella stand in our hall and her collection of Victorian mourning jewellery is safely stashed away in a box in my dressing table.

Inherited stuff - Victorian top hat, shot silk and velvet mourning jacket with jet beading and my ivory Edwardian wedding dress

Great grandpa's Cheshire Rifleman's regimental jacket survived the Boer War and now lives, complete with the corresponding waistcoat, on a vintage French mannequin in the dining room, occasionally worn by me.

But what of the endless paperwork and photographs my family have held on to for over a hundred years? Newspaper cuttings, party invitations, greetings cards, tickets, travel passes, identity cards, letters, postcards, holiday snaps, wedding photos, mementos of family gatherings and even envelopes of hair stuffed in lidless shoe boxes and yellowing paper folders, crammed into dressers and chests of drawers gathering dust and largely ignored for most of the past century.

With my brother uninterested and our house already bursting at the seams, I've spent at least an hour a day this week trawling through all the boxes, reading letters, retrieving interesting photos from the endless envelopes and unearthing the odd curiosity, finally managing to whittle down a century of memories into a single (vintage) album.

Here's Thomas William Harris, Mum's paternal grandfather, outside Grandpa's childhood home, Hamble Cottage in Kings Avenue, Stone in Staffordshire.

I knew my Grandma's father worked for the railways but had no idea that my Grandpa's father also did. I found his first class rail passes from 1916 and 1920 in amongst the boxes of stuff. While researching them I found an eBay seller listing a single "specimen" one for £145!

I also found this letter from the London-based chairman of the London, Midland and Scottish Railway Company awarding him a medal for remaining at work during the General Strike of 1926.

The Coppack family were cousins of my Grandma and also family legends. John Coppack married Sarah Ellen Davies in 1859 and had fourteen children (William, Annetta, Elizabeth, Isabella, Agnes, John, Florence, Mary, Evelyn, Fred, Ernest, Harold, Cecil and Anne) all of whom survived into adulthood.

My Grandma's mother was one of seven sisters. I'm not sure which one she is (possibly seated, second on the right) but I think the mother is wearing the mourning jacket I inherited.

Here she is again. How incredible is that dress?

Here she is with my great grandpa. The scribble on the back of the photo reads "Silver Wedding 1888 - 1913". I don't think it was a happy marriage. My Grandma told us that he was a notorious womaniser and her older sisters were often sent off to retrieve him from public houses around Chester.

My Dad's James Bond lifestyle - exotic places, beautiful women, fast cars, daring pursuits and mysterious foreign gentlemen. These photographs were taken in 1949.

Meanwhile, also in 1949, while Dad was gallivanting with glamorous brunettes, hanging out with Moroccans on the Champs Elysee and climbing mountains here's Mum, still a little girl, off to catch a train from Chester station with my Grandma and her other sister, my amazing Great Auntie Maud.

I'm assuming one of these Victorian schoolboys at the British School in Chester is my Great grandfather. I'm loving the teacher in the bowler hat. 

Here's the Crosby family (Grandma, her sisters, parents and family friends) on a trip over the border to Rhyl in North Wales in 1924 ..... and there's my parasol!

A few snapshots from my maternal grandpa's life. Reg was an only child, born in 1913. He qualified and worked as a chartered accountant but the love of his life was cricket, acting as a scout for Worcestershire C.C.C for many years. His mother, Mary Alice Chapman (b. 1880) was the original wearer of my wedding dress.

Here's Grandpa as a boy. I loved this poem his Aunt Dorothy (b.1884) wrote to little Reg in 1919 about her recovery from Spanish 'Flu - which between 1918 and 1920 claimed more victims than WWI.

Here's Mum with her youth club gang, busking their way around the Scilly Isles in 1963. Always a sun worshipper - just look at that tan!

Mum's mum, my grandma, was one of three sisters. This is her older sister, Florence in 1910. The kimono was a gift from a relative who travelled to Japan and was a favourite family dressing up item for years. Unfortunately, after Dad developed dementia in 2010, he threw it in the bin. Florrie died in 1943 after joining a religious cult which didn't believe in modern medicine.

That's my Mum introducing me to my brother, Marcus in 1968. I was so jealous I stole a pair of scissors and cut every pom pom off his clothes.

Grandma's father on a Great Western Railway employee trip. Great grandfather is the mustachio-ed chap standing at the back on the right of the photo. Aren't the boots the man seated at the front of the picture incredible?

Joan's school was scribbled on the back of this photo. That'll be my Grandma (Mum's mum). She was born in Chester in 1915 so I imagine this picture was taken in around 1920. She's the little girl with the brown bob standing at the back.

Wearing Cheshire Rifleman's jacket (circa 1900) with psychedelic printed velvet maxi dress by John Marks (Bought from a vintage trader at the Clothes Show Live, 2009) worn with 1960s-does-Victorian leather lace-up boots (car boot sale) and felted wool hat (charity shop)
Still here? Thanks for sticking with me! Blogging really is such a brilliant incentive for cracking on with stuff. I'm pretty sure that if I couldn't share these photos with you they'd still be festering in a pile of boxes for another hundred years.

Can you believe that I still haven't watched Peaky Blinders? I've been trying to avoid Facebook since Wednesday night in case somebody blabs. Can't wait to catch up tonight.

See you soon!