Monday 29 April 2019

Back To Black - A Recycled Dress & An Experiment in Natural Hair Colour

 After years of avoiding it, I'm coming back around to enjoying the odd bit of black in my wardrobe. This Indian cotton dress reminds me of what the cool Sixth Formers at my all-girls' grammar school used to wear, often accompanied by a cloud of patchouli oil, when I was a first year in 1978.

WEARING: Interlinks, London Indian midi dress (eBay) with vintage Kashmiri hand embroidered waistcoat (also eBay), 1960s Gohill's exotic snakeskin boots (more about them HERE), Russian folklore belt (new with tags from a charity shop) and some Chloe-inspired sunglasses 'cos the sun's shining.

The dress is fully lined and made with light-as-a-feather Indian cotton gauze. It has an Interlinks, London label, a company that specialised in selling garments imported from India during the 1970s and 1980s. They're not around any more and their clothes can sell for £££s. At £15 with the original tags still attached, I think mine was a bit of a steal.

My Kashmiri waistcoat and tribal enamel & brass earrings bought in India
In fact, this dress is such a joy to wear that I wore it yesterday, too.

This time worn with Victorian-does-the-1960s lace up boots from a car boot sale and a vintage Tyrolean belt Helga sent me nine years ago.

Jaipuri metal earrings (India) and a bit of vintage label porn
As this dress is an unworn import I treated it as I do all my Indian clothes and hand washed it in lukewarm water with organic baby shampoo, I gently wrung it and hung it up to dry away from direct sunlight (not that there's been much around lately!) Many Indian textiles are made using natural colours which aren't fixed. Always wash your Indian textiles separately (and not too often) and don't panic if a shedload of colour comes out.

I've had raven locks since 2006 when, after months of being almost housebound after a total hip replacement, I was sick to death of looking at my natural blonde hair in the mirror and decided to dye it black. These days I retouch my roots every five weeks or so, only dyeing the rest once a year but I love how my hair colour has lifted after last year's long hot summer, the week we spent in Greece and during our trip to India and I'm keen to embrace its more natural look. 

This was taken on Thursday afternoon. Those roots are bad - it's time to dye!

After thirteen years of using Superdrug's semi-permanent Natural Black, I've finally decided to give natural hair colour a bash. Unlike your average hair colourant, Daniel Field (famous since 1981 for his organic & natural hairdressing services & products) Water Colours don't contain ammonia, hydrogen peroxide or alcohol and are free from phenylenediamine (ppd). The dye claims to penetrate the hair cuticle without disturbing the hair's structure or integrity. 

Daniel Field products are only available on-line (HERE). The packaging is minimal, there's none of that gloopy conditioner included and a reusable plastic applicator bottle is supplied with your first order thus reducing waste. To use you simply put a small quantity of hand hot water into the bottle, add the colour power and shake it for a minute. You apply the mixture to hair that has been washed (and not conditioned) 24 hours earlier, pop on the polythene cap and leave your colour to develop for up to an hour. After the development time you shampoo your hair and condition as normal. Daniel Field recommends adding a freshly squeezed lemon to your usual conditioner for added shine.

I'm impressed. Although it's not cheap, it's a lot less smelly and messy than my normal dye (no more dye-stained ears, forehead or kitchen table) and it doesn't leave my hair full of static for a week afterwards plus it's vegan and 100% cruelty-free. I use Natural Darkest Brown but there's 37 colours to chose from. 

*This isn't sponsored - I paid for my hair dye myself!* 

As you can see the lads have no need for dye, theirs is all natural.

See you soon!

Linking to Patti & the Gang for Visible Monday

Friday 26 April 2019

The Weekend That Never Was: No Basic Boot Sale - No Boot Sale At All (Updated)

This photo was taken on Friday afternoon when I was full of optimism,
We're should have been off to Classic Car Boot Sale. Gilbert had been painstakingly transformed and was packed to the rafters with hand-picked vintage to tempt visitors who'd travelled to London from all around the world to shop from over a hundred carefully chosen traders. 

Gilbert and the stall had even been featured in the official advertising campaign.

This'll be would have been the fourth time we'd traded at the Classic Car Boot Sale. We'd endured gale force winds in October 2017, torrential rain and unseasonably cold weather in April 2018 and even some sunshine back in August 2018.

What would this weekend bring? 

With the alarm set at 3.30am we were on the road by 4am, the force of the predicted Storm Hannah already making herself known with torrential rain and strong winds.  Fifteen minutes down the road and just about to join the M6, we heard a strange sound.

What's that noise? Jon asked. I think the roof's just blown off, I replied as I looked up and saw an expanse of sky that hadn't been there previously. With horror, we realised that the gale force winds had ripped off Gilbert's skylight and rain was cascading into the van and on to our stock. We turned around and drove back the way we came to see if we could locate the missing skylight, to no avail. Back and forth we went, wiping the condensation from the windscreen and hunched forward in our seats peering out at the inky blackness. Some thirty minutes later, I spotted the offending skylight wedged in a bus shelter. Jon ground to a halt and I ran down the road grabbing it just before the wind took hold.We drove home, covered the gaping hole with a tarpaulin secured with a pile of bricks and - as it was too early to let the organisers and our cat sitter know - we went back to bed for a couple of hours.

Gilbert is fixable but with a classic vehicle it's a matter of locating the appropriate forty-year old spare part.

We did consider going down to London tonight in our works van to make use of our hotel booking but the underground car park isn't tall enough to accommodate a high top van and the nearest one is in Camden and costs £26 for an overnight stay.....and then there's the congestion charge. 

After all this morning's stress the thought of another 3.30am get-up and, with an unsettled weather forecast, having to trade in the open air with nowhere to shelter (after you've unloaded your stock only classic vehicles are allowed to remain on site) doesn't appeal in the slightest.

WEARING: Vintage patchwork maxi (Mel at Moseley Vintage Fair, April 2019): bell sleeved top & whopping great big silver and brass necklace (both charity shopped)

After all the weeks of work Jon's put into painting Gilbert and replacing almost every fuse, plug and bulb, the blisteringly hot day I spent sewing replacement curtains & tiebacks and the eight hours we spent on Tuesday sorting and pricing our stock only for a freak gust of wind to ruin everything, both of us feel like crying.

Sorry Classic Car Boot Sale, we're going to have to take a rain check, we'll see you later in the year.

Now, where did I put that rum.....

Wednesday 24 April 2019

Who Made Your Clothes?

Did you know it was Fashion Revolution Week and as consumers we're being urged to ask Who made our clothes? We dedicated secondhand shoppers are already doing our bit for the planet (& its inhabitants) by not buying into fast fashion, shunning the new and by recycling other people's cast-offs. I'm proud that the proceeds from the clothes I buy either go to charity or to small independent vintage and secondhand businesses and not to dubious third world sweatshops.

Anokhi waistcoat via 5678 Vintage

Still, it does feel good when you can admire the pieces you own and know that they were ethically produced. My block-printed cotton maxi waistcoat is by Anokhi (meaning wonderful), a bang-on Indian brand established in 1970 and based on a farm outside the Pink City of Jaipur, who still use the traditional printing method with blocks hand carved from local teak wood.The Indian-grown cotton used in the manufacture of their products is coloured by hand using all-natural dyes.

WEARING: Vintage 1970s maxi from a charity shop I deconstructed and remade using an Indian bag as a bodice 
Anokhi pride themselves on looking after their workers, allowing them space and comfort whilst they work. They are paid fairly and the company strive to ensure all their employees have long term, secure work and income.The workers lunch in a communal al fresco setting where they are supplied with a good meal, often using food grown on the farm. They have an environmentally friendly air conditioning system which uses cool water and fresh air to ensure the workers are comfortable in the workshop.

Workers at the Anokhi factory (Source)

The love and care Anokhi show their workers is almost palpable in their clothes, not only are they beautiful to look at but they are a joy to wear. As you know, I'm happy to buy Anokhi clothes not only secondhand but also new and at full retail price - and I don't say that about many labels!

WEARING: Lamani coin belt (worn as a necklace) made using obsolete George V 1941 rupee coins

Talking of secondhand shopping - here's some of my chazza shop finds from the last seven days:

Clockwise from top left: 1980s Indian velvet jacket; St Michael fake fur; 1980s-does-the-1960s American-made velvet mini dress; Chinese brocade wrap; Gents tailcoat; 1960s three-button blazer; Handmade raw silk cocoon coat; 1960s gents car coat; Anokhi for East patchwork midi skirt; 1970s English-made cord bomber jacket; 1960s Chinese brocade padded jacket; Peruvian Connection organic cotton skirt (currently retailing at £149); Handmade Mexican (?) cotton tunic

I managed to create this outfit from last Thursday's finds:

The tapestry overnight bag is St Michael (vintage 1980s Marks & Spencer), the leather boots are by Clarks, the 1970s wool felt hat is a replacement for my other vintage navy hat (which is slightly too small) and the ridiculous giraffe maxi is unlabelled and possibly one of the craziest prints I've come across in a long time.  Linking to The Style Crone, Judith's Hat Attack #70.


If you're interested in how Anokhi manages to run a successful retail business using traditional methods whilst ensuring that both its profits and the workforce thrive check out this article HERE

See you soon!

Monday 22 April 2019

Blood, Sweat & Garden Shears

Did somebody mention a holiday weekend? There's been no rest for the wicked at Stonecroft these last few days. With the Easter weather predicted to be hotter than the Spanish Costas, it was the incentive I needed to get our poor neglected garden sorted (although when I say garden, I mean the area directly outside the front of the house as opposed to the remaining 100 metres of wilderness - that's a step too far.)

By way of a change we decided to give the DIY Superstore a miss and visit a local garden centre instead. When we'd last visited some twenty years ago it was all rather depressing, all naff garden ornaments and eye-wateringly high prices. Two decades on and its a whole new world, a team of young knowledgeable staff, a wide variety of plants (many grown in the UK) and all at prices significantly cheaper than the big chain we usually visit. We even got an additional discount at the till for no other reason that the boss was in a good mood.

Back at home I rummaged through the outhouses and under the kitchen sink for any suitable containers to serve as planters for my new greenery (and not-so-new but in dire need of re-potting). The succulents that grow like weeds in our borders were transplanted into old enamel teapots, antique earthenware pots, a Victorian jelly mould and even a tiny terracotta pot I'd found washed up on a remote beach in Tamil Nadu shortly after the Boxing Day Tsunami.

My Green Man wall plaque (bought from a car boot sale about four years ago) was looking a bit shabby so I repainted him with a selection of Barry M Nail Paints.

I hauled this cast iron chair from out of a skip over a decade ago. It's too far gone to sit on but far too pretty to get rid of.

I bought these aluminium window boxes from a half price supermarket clearance sale fifteen years ago. 

Back in the 1960s when everyone started having central heating installed these chimney pots were chucked in skips. My Grandma, an avid recycler, used to rescue them and use them as planters - a tradition that's passed down to me. We had quite a few nicked when we first moved into Stonecroft - lesson learnt - these days I fill them with builders rubble and old bricks so they ain't so easy to shift.

I uncovered these Victorian cast iron railings when I was digging further up the garden. They're quite rare, the majority were removed from houses and melted down to make ammunition during WW2.

That was my watering can until the bottom dropped out but I didn't throw it away. Beneath my feet are Victorian Staffordshire blue bricks, produced locally and found by Jon on eBay.

The original owner of The Cottage (my parental home) amassed hundreds of these Edwardian terracotta pots, I'll never have to buy a new plant pot as long as I live.

I love how the Greeks use old tin cans for planters. I found this catering sized tin by the bins at the End of The Road festival on the last day. I've keep it outside for a couple of years to give it a bit of rust patina.

Who needs to drive long distances to see bluebells? Not us! We've got hundreds of them.

The repro P&O enamel advertising sign ( a charity shop find years ago) hiding a bit of paintwork that needs a touch up.

That's better! Now the outside of the house matches our eclectic interior, a mishmash of salvaged, secondhand and bits found on our travels. 

And what am I wearing? An early 1960s cotton column dress by legendary Hawaiian designer, Tori Richard of Honolulu via Moseley Vintage Fair and last worn HERE when Jon & I met Polyester Princess, Ann & Jos on a similarly gloriously sunny day.

WEARING: 1960s Tori Richard dress, assorted plastic bangles (charity shopped), Krishna earrings (India) and some 1970s bug-eyed sunglasses (gift from a friend), nails by Barry M (obviously!)

Is that all I did this weekend? No! In my infinite wisdom I decided that newly painted Gilbert needed a new set of curtains, tie-backs and a cushion so I've spent a large part of the hottest weekend this year on attached to my sewing machine. I think a large glass of something alcoholic is called for.

Linking to Patti & the gang for Visible Monday.

Wednesday 17 April 2019

Some Secondhand Shopping & Further Adventures in Up-Cycling

 I swear, I don't go looking for these vintage dresses, they just keep throwing themselves at me. This cotton maxi happened to pop up on a local selling site of which I'm a member and at £5 it would have been rude not to buy it.

WEARING: Simon Jeffrey maxi dress with vintage wool felt hat (charity shop) and Clarks V&A Collection shoes (Clarks clearance sale); 

The joy of buying from the original owner means that you get the back story. This printed cotton dress was bought from a Birmingham boutique in 1969 when the seller was just 18 years old. The price was so low because the lady doubted that it would fit anyone. Although it's labelled as a Size 14 which, in traditional UK clothing sizes, would have equated to a 36" bust, this measures 32". Thank goodness for small boobs.

How do I know something is vintage? Obviously, in this case, I already know the history of the dress but if I'd found it in a charity shop and hadn't recognised the maker Simon Jeffrey, a popular British Boutique brand, the font used on the label would have been a strong indication. The metal zip, the non-over locked seams and the lack of machine washing instructions would have indicated that it was made in the 1960s (washing machines weren't a common UK household item until the 1970s). Sadly "Made in England" is pretty unusual when it comes to modern garments.

Jon's been working flat-out hand-painting Gilbert so I've been left to my own devices. I popped into town to buy a birthday card and came back with...rather more than a card!

Clockwise from top left: St Michael velvet blazer; 1970s polyester midi dress; 1960s Sybille Claymar blouse; Anokhi of India block printed cotton maxi dress;1950s flocked cocktail skirt; Vintage Thai cotton kaftan; 1980s batik print cotton day dress; 1950s Welch Margetson satin smoking jacket; 1970s John Collier dagger collar shirt; 1960s psychedelic maxi dress

In Vix's marvellous adventures in up-cycling I gave my useful but terribly plain 1970s pouffe a makeover using some William Morris Rose cushion covers I found in a charity shop bargain bin and some pom-pom braid from the Asian haberdashery stall on Walsall market.

Remember this Banjara shawl my friend Katy sent me?

Today's sunshine inspired me to chop one of the corners off and make a top ready for summer.... those who preach that women over fifty should wear a good bra, avoid crop tops and never show the tops of their arms need to look away now.

Wearing: Me-made halterneck crop top;1970s Third Eye Indian block printed cotton maxi skirt (eBay); Bug-eye sunglasses (car boot sale)
Those promised Easter weekend temperatures of 25°C?  I'm ready for you!

See you soon!