For the love of vintage….


Cast_of_WPC_56

I have been enjoying a real gem on the BBC iplayer called WPC 56, there are currently three series to enjoy – hop over and take a look you can only see them for a limited time (just over 16 days!).  I found them absolutely divine, not just for the interesting stories but the beautiful 1950s details, and clothing!  (I am a fan of call the midwife too).

WPC 56

However what I loved about it mostly is the secretary who appears in the last two series: she is simply gorgeous, admired by the men but she is also a buxom woman. Oh how blissful to see the beautiful pencil skirt worn by a woman with hips, boobs and a bottom! It was so refreshing, and it made me see myself a little more kindly.  Mad Men might have also offered some pretty eye candy, but the actresses were definitely of this era of size zero. WPC 56 then is outstanding, delivering a far more attractive and authentic look in my opinion.

The 1950’s is a great period for me – I remember at one of my health checks where I was bemoaning my figure – the Nurse told me I wasn’t overweight just born in the wrong era!

I know that it is all too easy to wear rose tinted spectacles about the past, but the popularity of Artists such as Jack Vettriano where women wear polka dot dresses, hats, and bight lipstick and the men are in shirts, ties, braces and trilby hats seem such a vivid optimistic time.  Its an age where women looked different from men, dressing up was something you did on a Saturday night. For me it epitomises Glamour – and inspires me.

It has a full half skirt and is lovely to wear - you feel a domestic goddess as soon as you tie the bow!
My 1950’s inspired apron is lovely to wear – you feel a domestic goddess as soon as you tie the bow!

Where I live the clamouring for vintage is very popular, Brighton has a very active Vintage/Retro scene with Vintage Style Boutiques selling British made dresses  in Retro style. Alongside a very busy swing dance scene that offers a chance to dress up, put flowers in your hair and dance with a smart looking man in shirt and tie several times a week. I might not live in the 1950’s but I can step back in time now and then: great fun it is too.

ttfn.

 

Recycled wax tea cup candles

Tea cup recycling candle

My fellow blogger Cheryl is taking up the challenge to have a make do and mend year, (you can take a peek at her lovely blog) One of the things she loves are scented candles – reading her blog reminded me about my candle recycling.

Its easy to do and makes good use of the candle wax we usually throw away saving you pounds and the planet!

 

Some of the scented candles are strong enough second or third time around!

tea cup candle recycling

You simply collect wax as you go – I usually pour out the hot wax into a bowl after I have blown out the candle. Not only does this seem to help with lighting the candle the next time I use it but I keep collecting until I have enough wax.

I use my slow cooker to melt the wax its easier than a double boiler.

Place about 1 inch of hot water into the ceramic bowl and then put the bowl of wax to melt on a medium to low heat. (Don’t put the wax directly into the slow cooker especially if you are using scented candles)

tea cup candle recycling -005

 

 

You can purchase pre waxed wicks – 50 of these cost only £2.79 from an ebay seller called Szafir who will send you them postage free.

They come boxed up nicely and they work very well.

 

 

 

I use two bamboo sticks to hold the wax tapers in place, just hook over the edge and place in the middle of your tea cup.

tea cup candle recycling -003

Chop sticks work just as well – and if you wish you can secure both ends with hair bands it traps the wick tightly so that it won’t move when you fill the cup.

When the wax is liquid you can colour it with wax crayons if you like, or leave it white.

Use bamboo sticks or chop sticks to trap the wick in the centre – you can bend them over slightly

A small hair band or elastic bands can be wrapped around each end if you want to trap the wicks and hold them in place.

Fill the cups using a ladle and leave to cool

 

Tea cup recycling candle

You will find that the wax tends to creep up the wick slightly.

Once the wax has set, trim the wick to to the length you want.

 

The wonderful thing about recycling candles is that you can use any container as long as it is heat proof.

 

 

Tea cups are ideal because they are made to handle high temperatures.

tea cup candle recycling -010This tea cup had a crack in it, it would be a pity to throw it away. As it was such thin china it gives a beautiful glow as the wick burns down.

If you have a big cup – you can always use more than one wick.

I usually keep these on my bathroom shelf, they look so pretty during the day and give a beautiful glow at night.

 

I use lavender and camomile essential oils which are so relaxing combined with a luxurious bubble bath.

ttfn x

Recycled tea cup candles

 

 

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A vintage supper

We attended a pop up restaurant in the form of “A Good Vintage Supper Club” It is a great idea, you never know who you will be eating with and the food was lovingly prepared by Daryl. As it was Goodwood Revival weekend, we were encouraged to dress up Vintage style – I thought I would pay homage to Downton Abbey that returns on our screens this month! (Can’t wait!)
The menu was interesting, wild rabbit served in a spicy crust, drunken guinea fowl served with seasonal organic vegetables and a beetroot chocolate brownie! Mr D enjoyed a Selsey Crab macaroni dish which was so generous he was unable to finish. 
The wine was provided by the local wine shop and they encouraged us to taste five different wines over the course of the meal from France, Italy and New Zealand. 
Conversation flowed easily around the dinner table and friendships forged, it is a marvellous idea and was a lovely evening. 

Knit witts!

I have just started knitting again after many years – I learnt to knit when I was about 8 or 9, it seemed to come naturally to me and even now there is a beautiful state of meditation and calm as I pass the wool round the needles and see the gentle progression of my garment. 
Jumpers these days are not made in the traditional sense, look at any jumper and you will discover that it is made in a similar way to a dress would be, only using a fine knitted material to make up its jumper like appearance. 
For years, I have had a sense of disillusionment, most knits are shapeless, despite their delightful elasticity – it appears the trend is for mostly shapeless garments that do not flatter anyone’s figure. 
Take this one for example, it bulges at the hips, cuts across the widest part of the body (which in this model is tiny) and does nothing for her at all apart from hide her body away. In an ordinary woman this would be a disaster, the stripes running across the body would accentuate and make anyone look wider than they are, and the drooping shoulder would make her look as if she was slouching. Now I am not a prig, this is a nice bright jumper for days when you want to curl up on a sofa, with a cup of tea, an open fire and good book, but it could do both – it could flatter the body rather than fattening it! 
You would imagine Chanel would get things right, but look at the hip line, with that very chunky rib, the model is tiny but it makes her look bigger than she is. While the lace insert detail at the back is lovely, this could have been made to fit closer to the body, the black hole at the bottom indicates that there is a gap – and the folds you can see at the back would be resting on the rise of the bottom….. not flattering at all! 
This is from this season, and a knitting magazine so it should get things right, but in this case it doesn’t – she looks absolutely enormous, there is no shape and the short length makes her look as if she has outgrown it. Now I can understand the lovely sixties vibe that comes out of this but what is it doing for this girl? It doesn’t flatter at all. 
Doesn’t she look lovely? That gorgeous neckline accentuates her collarbone, and you can see she is a woman – the style is making her neck look long, the delicate sleeves enhance the curve of her chest and out to her arms. This flatters her shape and makes her look feminine, she is not disappearing under a shapeless jumper. 
This makes stunning use of the stitch and the properties of knitting, I love the structure the rib gives and the way it reflects the bias cut style of the 1930’s. Notice too that it finishes just below the waist, not at the hip, this is kinder to body and gives rise to curves without distorting the size of the hip. The upright direction of the rib on the lower half has a slimming effect, and while the shaping enhances the bust, it does it subtly. 
Vintage patters make knitwear sexy, yes you read that right, sexy. Imagine you can be warm and sexy how good would that be! 
Look at the complexity of the patterns created, how they used the knitting to create puff sleeves, frills and curves. Thank goodness for the current Vintage trend, it has allowed us all to re-claim the lost art of knitting, to be inventive and use it to enhance our bodies. 
This was a next jumper that was in the shops last year, and it shows that the current desire for more fitted styles are in demand. No matter what shape you were, this little jumper would have made you beautiful, as the lovely ribbing enhances the waist, the lines would draw the waist in so that it would appear smaller. 
This pretty cardigan is from Primark, it is still a little longer – ending at the hip line, but the pretty crochet collar is a nice touch. If you intend to buy knitwear then my advice is to buy one size smaller you will find your body shape won’t disappear. 

Truly scrumptious adventure

I went up to the Cotswolds for Easter, it gave me an opportunity to spend a little time on the garden, plant a few seeds but it was also a time for relaxation and rest. It has been a busy four months, there have been so many problems at work that had to be resolved, requiring persistent effort. Not only that there are times when I feel that my life is not my own and work seems to spill over. Going up to the cottage then, is a break away, there are no work messages bleeping at me, I find I can get away from everyone and simply relax – it is blissful and I find myself wondering why I don’t do it more often. 

We spent a lovely Saturday wandering around Alcester, a pretty little town in Warwickshire (Shakespeare country!). We saw a whole gaggle of town criers as they were holding the National Town Crier championships! it was a sight to behold – the gentlemen in their red coats, tricorn hats and some of them had wigs – they looked as if they had just stepped out of the 17th Century. 
Just round the corner opposite the church we found this little gem – its called Truly scrumptious and I loved it so much I thought I would take some pictures to share with you. 
The counter looked really appetising with the pretty cakes in their glass domes.
Just to the left was a lovely snug area, all the books on the bookshelf are tea related, either fictional books set in tea shops or cake designs and such. 
This pretty little cake was sitting in an alcove. 
We were led to a charming tea room – pretty tablecloths and vintage china was laid out and there was lovely vintage music playing softly. We took a seat right by the window and had a view of the pretty garden – there were tables outside but it was a little chilly for that in April. 
Cakes abounded in lots of nooks and crannies – alongside quotations in pastel frames – all tea related. 
We opted for traditional English afternoon tea – not only enough to satisfy our hunger but we took a few cakes home as well. The scones were divine Mr D eats his in Cornwellian tradition, jam first and then cream, but I like the Devonian – cream first then jam. 
It is definitely worth a visit if you are in the area, or if you are getting married they do fabulous cakes
just follow this link

Changing shape

It occurred to me when I was looking at the designs at the V&A that the desirable women’s shape has altered a lot since the fifties for a more androgynous masculine shape, it was clarified when reading slip of a girl’s blog, where she discussed Vanity Fair’s double page spread on lingerie advertising.

What strikes me the most is that modern lingerie has none of the glamour of previous decades, mostly because the models have very small hips, the style does nothing to enhance the body of anyone who is less than ‘ideal’

 

Compare the two shapes and you will see that the vintage model is more curvaceous. The modern model has a bottom half that cuts across the widest part of her body, which is not very flattering when you are more than a size zero.

You can see this even more in this version there is a small dip in the waist but it is very small compared with the vintage model – you can tell more by the inside curve, the modern model’s body is almost a straight line. The vintage lingerie enhances the shape, finishing at a narrower part of the body, where as the modern version, while the panty line is slightly higher, still does not emphasise the waist. Also the bust is pushed out in the vintage model where as the modern bra pushes the bust upwards.

It is almost as if the female figure has lost its curves and become almost masculine in its shape. This drive for size zero causes a lot of anxiety for women and I am not at all sure that men find it equally appealing. What was noticeable mostly when people watching is that clothing has become androgynous too, jeans and tee shirts are the norm and it seems we have lost our differences between the sexes.

Become sexier than this?
I am not for one minute suggesting that one shape is superior to another, but I think each shape had its decade in the last century. When you consider the first line of women in the picture above they would suit the flapper style perfectly – it was a decade where women minimised their busts, and emphasised the hips, leaving the waist hidden. However, fabrics such as silk and chiffon softened the effects – together with rich embroidery – it was all about drape and flow. 
The next three decades from the 30’s to the 50’s returned to enhancing the waist once again. 
Then the sixties were about showing legs hemlines were high and A line skirts and dresses skimmed the upper body rather than drawing attention to it. It was also when we began to see thinner models such as twiggy becoming the desirable shape. 
The seventies and eighties seemed to nod back to romantic periods, the seventies in particular was looking for a folksy style of dress, with gypsy skirts and smocking. The marriage of Diana and Charles heralded a whole retro victorian/romantic style for the eighties and Laura Ashley with her reinvention of victorian style was extremely popular.  
What is interesting about today’s fashion is that women are free to decide how they want to dress choosing self expression over the high street. Most women want their own individual look, and are having the confidence to put an outfit together themselves. In fact it is all about creating your own style and if necessary making things, or re-inventing the old, to reflect your own sense of style. 
beauty is in the eye of the beholder
While advertising may present an image of the ‘ideal’ woman it delights me that women are now having the option to accept they differ from the norm and love themselves as they are without fighting their natural shape with dieting or exercise. Beauty does begin from within and knowing your body shape and working with it, rather  than trying to fit into a style that just isn’t you, is a whole lot less stressful. 
I believe that glamour is all about emphasising your best features, and we all have them. 
“Why change? Everyone has his own style. When you have found it, you should stick to it.” Audrey Hepburn. 

Vintage simplicity 5244- Cushion pattern

What a find! this lovely pattern was in a small box in a charity shop in Chichester priced at 4 shillings it pre-dates decimalisation but I think it must be more like a fifties pattern. It was thrilling when I visited the gorgeous thru the looking glass and discovered a modern day version for sale! 
I love the look of the bolster cushion it is just a case of finding time!  As I write the three metre by 90 cm drop lined curtains that are hanging across the door of my studio are looking at me reproachfully waiting to be finished! 
Still no more news on my poorly sewing machine, it needs a new board to run the computer element – but I have my daughter’s machine. It is the second time the motherboard has been replaced, it seems the more complicated things are the more they seem to need repairing. The board will hopefully arrive next week and I will be re-united with my dear friend. In the meantime I am learning how to knit cables – will show you when I am done!
ttfn 

Taking Great Photos

I have been playing with my new camera, trying out different techniques and combinations, I bought these buttons for the button bouquet I was making for my daughter’s wedding and I bought this pretty little cup at the local tablet top sale. It was taken in my only ‘darkroom’ space – my bathroom which has no natural light. I used simple table top lamps for illumination and played with the direction of the light to see the different effects. 
I think there are some people who are naturally gifted at staging – they can make the simplest object look stunning! Just look at this collection here, taken from a French sewing book. The whole thing seems to have a restful harmony.   
             
The problem is that I am in the middle of a project and don’t want to stop and ‘stage’ what I am doing! Sometimes I have ideas of what I would like to do and take lots of pictures only to forget to upload them! 
It is my intention to develop this skill so that I will be able to see how my photography has developed over time, which is the great thing about a blog. While I might look back and cringe at some of the photography – or even the projects (gasp!) it is a great way to see how my skills have improved (well hopefully!) 
I bought this book on line – sometimes I regret it, there is nothing nicer than browsing in a bookstore with a nice latte beside me, but this book has lived up to its title. Taking great photos talks a language that I can understand, the photography examples are beautiful and inspirational – and she pretty much covers all my needs without bamboozling me with technicalities (ok by that I mean numbers!) I hope it will up my game! but let me not be the judge of that! I would recommend it – in this new cyber world where online selling has become a normal part of our lives, it is definitely worth a read. 
A friend of mine is a great photographer; he taught me a lot about how to see – most importantly we never left home without a camera! I think it helps you to sit back from the ‘busyness’ of life, and become an observer. It is surprising just how much you notice. It can make something as beautiful and transitory – like a flower – have its beauty set forever. 

Southsea gardens Spring 2011

Kitch Kitchen – dresser revamp

I bought this dresser top for £15, it was the usual yellow pine – so I painted it a light blue and cream. There has been a lot of popularity for expensive paints that give a more chalky effect but the cost of them is huge! as much as £50 per 2 1/2 litre! In order to thicken the paint and create a more chalky texture I added three tablespoons of fine plaster to an ordinary standard tin of paint. I kept on mixing until the consistency was like whipped cream. It meant the coverage was very effective without too much preparation. 
I painted the back of the dresser in a white cream as I intended to use napkins to create a colourful background – the white would create a better base for the pattern. I gave the dresser a thin coat of varnish and allowed it to dry for a day or two. 
Patio paint is a wonderful medium, it is waterproof and can be used outside. It transforms napkins into a easy decoupage as it is gentle enough not to tear the delicate print. I buy the clear paint, but you can also get them in a range of colours. 
 You simply separate the sheets of the napkin until you have one fine patterned layer. 
With a very soft brush you simply paint the patio paint onto the surface and then gently lay the napkin over – painting another layer of glue and gently smoothing it onto the surface. 
If the napkin does break, you can repair the gap by laying a matching piece over. 

Keep pasting the napkins onto the surface until you have covered the area – allow to dry and then repeat another layer of patio paint over to seal. 
This can be used on any number of items, I have used it for tins as well as pots. My little kitchen is very short of space – and I could not use shelves because the walls are plasterboard. This has given a solution for all the necessities close at hand. It looks pretty too. 

Style with a smile?

I was reading Afua Hirsch’s article in the newspaper this weekend and I was completely in agreement with her, in this country we all try and alter our body shapes to fit clothes that often don’t flatter or simply distort our shapes and accentuate our least loved features. What madness is this?

Where did we get to this position where women really struggle to accept their bodies and love who they are? I have to admit I often visit clothing stores when the season’s change, just to keep up with what is on trend and often I leave without spending a penny. I look around and see women wearing ‘this season’s colour’ or ‘this seasons’ look’ without giving it any regard to whether it enhances her or not.

I am not bashing women and what they wear, I feel saddened that we all have pressure to fit in, I remember my svelte daughter wearing low slung jeans and a teeshirt that exposed a middle that did absolutely nothing to enhance her beautiful shape, it just made her look like her body was spilling over.

Thankfully the current trend for retro styling has allowed women to express their own sense of style – even if it is the vintage forties with victory rolls, rockabilly chic or fifties flair. There never is a better time to sew because not only can you chose your clothes and fabric that reflects who you are, but you can make clothes that don’t make you feel like you are ‘too big on the hips’ or ‘too busty!’ which is often why I have to return lovely summer dresses, they simply make me look trashy!

The great thing about making your own clothes is that you can choose everything right down to the cut or the weight of the fabric. It takes me back to the dressing up box and the most favourite item of all, a circular elasticated waistband skirt – the waistband moved with me, and it was simply glorious to spin and feel the fabric flow around my legs. That is how clothes should make us feel.

I am just back from Austria and came across shops full of dirndl dresses when I put one on it was like a childhood dream come true! I finally had a dress that I spent my childhood drawing after reading Heidi!  Not only that the blouses can solve my summer dress difficulties, they look gorgeous and feminine without exposing more than I am comfortable with.

My daughter got married and had a ‘steam punk’ wedding it was terrific fun, everyone dressed up in what they wanted to wear and I have never seen so many broadly smiling faces! We all went to the park after the ceremony for the pictures and many people thought we had come from a film set. Dressing up is fun!

If there is one thing I am passionate about it is the desire for every woman to dress to please herself and we can all take part. Next time someone is dressing ‘outside the norm’ encourage her confidence! it might just be me.