Author Archives: The Hankerer

Fashion Antidote

At school, sewing machines scared me. I was certain my fingers were going to be punctured by the needle going up and down in a blur, so all my concentration was spent on making sure that didn’t happen and unfortunately not on my sewing. But after having several quotes recently for loose chair covers, cushions and curtains, I decided that I should get over this fear and learn how to use a sewing machine so I can make things myself.

I looked at several courses held across London and considered The Thrifty Stitcher in Stoke Newington and Saturday Sewing Session in Chelsea but decided on one run by Fashion Antidote just off Brick Lane. I chose the One Day Intensive Sewing Class because I thought it looked the most thorough and covered a lot for the price of £95 and also because I’m a tad impatient and there was a class the following week.

Fashion Antidote LogoAs I walked up the stairs of Fashion Antidote’s compact studio the sound of sewing machines clacking and the smell of ironing greeted me. There were two courses going on that day, the 1 Day Intensive Class and the Skills Training Programme, a professional standard course for people wanting to get into the fashion industry, and so it was a nice bustling environment in which to learn.

Our tutor Josefine Wing was clearly very skilled (she runs Mint Siren, a lingerie and accessories label) and quickly got the six of us beginners on the course comfortable with the sewing machines. We spent the morning going through the parts of the sewing machines, how to set up the machines,  wind the bobbin and sew basic stitches. Then we spent the rest of the day making a small skirt out of calico so that we could learn all the elements including how to sew different seams, darts, insert a waistband, a pocket, attach a concealed zip and at the end of the day we went through the basics of patterns.

My finished practice skirt

Josefine was really helpful in recommending where to buy fabric and which sewing machine to buy and with her help, along with the lovely ladies in John Lewis, I chose a good all round sewing machine that I’m very happy with and find easy to use. The Singer 160 Anniversary Sewing Machine did tempt me with its good looks but the price helped restrain me from buying it.

Singer 160 Anniversary Sewing Machine

I really enjoyed Fashion Antidote’s course and at the end of the busy day was rather pleased with my skirt and, although it’s too small to wear, I marked all the seams and stitches so I can refer back to it to refresh my memory. I felt so confident with my sewing ability afterwards that I was able to come home and make a little dress for my god-daughter.

If you sew, what have you made recently?

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The Cycloc

Bikes are great when you’re cycling round on them but when you’re not they take up so much room. If you live in a flat and don’t have a garden it seems there’s little choice but to get a Brompton or lean your bike up in the hall and bash your shins on the pedals every time you go past. We’ve got our bikes in the shed but with two in there they take up all the floor space so there’s barely room for anything else.

I’ve seen hanging bike storage solutions before but none that look as good as the Cycloc.

Cycloc - green

Available in white, black, red or green for just under £60, it fixes to the wall so you can hang your bike up by the frame horizontally or vertically so it’s out of the way and your shins are safe.

Cycloc

These bikes look like an art installation, although I’m not sure how easy it would be to get the top ones down…

Cycloc multiple

The space in the centre is big enough to store your cycling accessories like gloves and lights and there is a slot so you can use an ordinary bike lock to secure your bike if you need to.

I think these are a wonderful idea and perfect for having at home (although maybe too pretty to put in a shed?) or in the office. Nag your boss to get some so you can cycle into work without getting your bike pinched from the lamppost outside.

What do you think?

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Lie Down I Think I Love You

Not a command I generally associate with handbags, that is until I stumbled upon a little shop on a birthday trip to Brighton where I found some gorgeous bags that spoke to me through their labels. However, Lie Down I Think I Love You is just a visitor to Brighton, their products are made in London and their ‘jewel-like’ shop you’ll find in Islington.

The bag that really caught my eye was in buttery soft pale blue re-worked vintage leather, large enough to hold all the useless crap that I insist on carting about with me and topped with a bright vintage scarf. It was less than half price in the sale so it soon became my birthday present.

Lie Down I Think I Love You Bag

Lie Down I Think I Love You have some real beauties of bags, like this Baby Bubble Pop at £255.

Lie Down I Think I Love You, Baby Bubble Pop / Red Patent

The scarves are interchangeable so you can change them to match your mood, the seasons or your outfit and there’s a lovely animation that shows you how to tie the scarf so it looks as good as when you bought it. Choose from a range of vintage scarves, all at £15, my favourite is the one with the cars…

This Hard Heart will make your’s melt, one side is patent and the other has been covered with vintage scarf fabric and will set you back £165.

Lie Down I Think I Love You Hard HeartThey are more than I would normally spend on a bag if I’m honest, but the quality of workmanship is really good and I think they’re very unique with their vintage elements. Look out for their sales with most things reduced to 50% of the original price.

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Baby Loss Awareness Day

The Hankerer has been pretty quiet over the last few months but I’d like to restart with a fitting post.

Today is National Baby Loss Awareness Day in the UK and International Pregnancy & Infant Loss Awareness Day in the US. I lost my hanker because I was grieving for our pregnancies that had ended too soon and after the stress of multiple losses the smaller things just didn’t matter to me for a while.

Baby Loss Awareness Banner

This evening a ‘Wave of Light’ will commence globally in remembrance of babies that have died in pregnancy, or during or after birth. At 7pm, candles will be lit and burned for an hour and as people do this in different time zones, a wave of light will spread across the world.

One in five pregnancies end in miscarriage and every day in the UK 17 babies are stillborn or die shortly after birth. That is a huge number of grieving parents but still it seems taboo to talk about it and people don’t know how to react or what to say. I found the silence the hardest thing to deal with.

My husband and I didn’t meet our three would-be babies but the attachment I feel to them is very real. Whether they were medically considered clumps of cells, embryos or fetuses, they were babies to us. These failed pregnancies represent possibilities lost. We had planned for them, we had a bedroom for them, we had light-heartedly bickered over names, researched prams that would fit in my tiny car boot, bought maternity bras and imagined their faces and characteristics. I witnessed the flicker of the tiny heartbeat only for it not to be there at the next scan. I willed them to keep growing, tried in vain to stop my body miscarrying and bargained with God that if this one could make it… In life we have control over most things; we have come to expect it. The lack of control over miscarriage is maddening and humbling all at once. I am a person who needs a plan and I didn’t have a plan for this.

We will be lighting three candles this evening in remembrance of the three miscarriages I’ve had over the last year and I will always love them and remember them as my babies.

If you need support or want to know how to help a friend more information can be found at The Miscarriage Association, Tommy’s or Sands.

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Knitted Baby Blanket

After I knitted my first scarf a few months back, I had a hanker to make something a little more challenging. My friends and their daughter are staying with us this week, so a couple of months ago I thought I’d try to make a baby blanket for her first birthday.

As it was to be the third thing I’ve knitted, I was looking for a basic pattern that looked a little fancier than it was. After a bit of searching I found a pattern by The Wooly Knitter on Etsy called Bethan  that only requires knit and purl stitches but has a more complicated looking texture.

Susan in Mrs Moon helped me choose Spud & Chloë Sweater yarn, a cotton and wool mix in a gorgeous dark pink called Jelly Bean that you can stick in the wash and even in the tumble dryer (on a low heat).

So I set about knitting and was quite pleased with myself until I made a mistake a quarter of the way through. I kept knitting convincing myself that it wouldn’t be noticeable but it turned out it was very noticeable so, after trying and failing to fix it, I ended up unravelling it all and starting again.

With this little set-back I was rather behind schedule so have spent the last two weeks knitting frantically trying to get it finished in time. My husband has started affectionately referring to me as ‘the claw’, but despite the repetitive strain injury I’m quite chuffed with the finished blanket.

My hand knitted Bethan Baby Blanket

On one side is a wave pattern and on the other a woven pattern.

My attempt at The Wooly Knitter's Bethan Baby Blanket

And here is the little lady snuggling up to it with her milk on her birthday.

The finished blanket

Any recommendations on what I can knit next?

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Pleat Surrender v.2

A few months ago I wrote about the skirt that converted me to pleats. Alas, when I went back to buy it for a wedding I was going to, it had GONE and NO MORE were coming back in stock. I’ve been thinking about it ever since.

But last week when I walked into Ted Baker there was a dark green version hanging in front of me. It may have winked at me and lifted its hem a little…

Pleated Maxi Skirt GALVA - Ted Baker

Well that was all the encouragement I needed. Sold to the over-excited woman!

I’ll say it again, it’s not cheap at £139 but it is beautiful. A little tip though, walking upstairs in it while carrying a large box with both hands will not end well…

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Dorothy Shoes in Blue

I am a high heel type of girl, since I was fifteen and my mum caved in to my nagging I’ve worn them daily. I just can’t do flats, they make my heels feel all bruised and I trip over in them constantly. The width of my feet also mean that most of them cut in on the sides and squash my toes.

But a couple of weeks ago I found a special pair.

PLEASANTON D - Diamante Embellished Ballerina - Dune

They aren’t cheap at £99 but they have a proper sole with a tiny heel unlike most cheaper ballerina pumps, so my heels don’t feel bruised after walking around all day. The sides encompass quite a lot of foot so they don’t cut in on my big or little toe joints and they make my wide feet look a normal width.

And did I mention they’re sparkly, covered all over in diamantes? They are like Dorothy’s shoes but in blue. Dune have done very well with these and if they could make them a bit cheaper they would be perfect.

I am on my way to being converted to flats. Are you most comfortable in flats or heels?

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Bedroom Zig Zags

My new zig zag lights didn’t quell my hankering for zig zags, I wanted some more to finish off our bedroom and found this set of two cushion covers from Etsy seller Say It With Pillows.

Throw Pillows Set of 2 - Say It With Pillows

Along with these John Lewis value cushions in red and blue for £5 each, I now have enough zig zags and cushions in my life.

Red and blue cushions galore

I like that the zig zags on the cushions and lights are a bit different and don’t match exactly, do you?

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Light Up, Light Up!

Sorry for the lack of posts in the last month or so, we’ve had a few sad weeks and I wasn’t hankering for anything that I could share with you here. But I’ve finally got my hanker back.

It feels like we’ve been decorating our bedroom for months, it started off as 1970s hideousness. Brown carpet, huge brown fitted wardrobes with smoked mirrored doors to make it even darker, gold spotlights, peach vertical hanging blinds, leaded windows that made you momentarily think you were in prison upon waking and an Artex ceiling. To make it more brown we had some beautiful but massive teak Lombok furniture that my husband brought with him when we moved in together.

We wanted rid of the brown and in its place a clean white room with navy and red accents. So once the ceiling had been skimmed, the double glazing replaced and the wardrobes removed we could think about the colour scheme. I had in mind chevrons or zig zags. (Don’t know the difference between a chevron and a zig zag? Discover it here). But after looking in all my usual places and more I couldn’t find any zig zag or chevron fabric in the UK that was just one colour on white, the few I found were a mish-mash of colours. It was while reading about Natasha’s wedding fabric on Writer Reader Baker Bride that I discovered Spoonflower, unlike Natasha I didn’t create my own fabric design but I did find the zig zags I was looking for.

Bias Zig Zag Navy on White by RuthiePearl at Spoonflower

In my excitement at ordering samples, I totally missed that Spoonflower are based in the US and it wasn’t until a couple of weeks had passed that I looked back at the website and found out. So it did restrict how much I ordered as I wasn’t sure if Her Majesty’s boys at Revenue & Customs might whack a little extra on when it arrived in the UK. But when my three yards arrived less than two weeks later it came straight to my door.

The fabric was for lampshades, I wanted two small shades over the bed instead of bedside lamps and a big lampshade in the centre of the room. As I’d never tried making lampshades before I bought two small kits from Needcraft and thought I’d make them first to figure out how to do it and then bought the parts to make a big drum shade 70cm in diameter. They were surprisingly easy to make, if a little fiddly getting the fabric on straight. It reminded me of covering my school books with sticky-backed plastic as a kid.

My homemade lampshades trio

Talking of school, I made the schoolgirl error of cutting the fabric for the small lampshades from the wrong edge of the fabric which meant I didn’t quite have enough for the big one and had to fill it in with a patch, which caused a fair amount of swearing at the time, but you can hardly tell now it’s up.

What do you think?

If you’re wondering how to make a lampshade you can watch a video here.

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Quirky Baby Blankets

A couple of friends are pregnant or just had babies so I’ve been looking out for baby presents that are a bit different. These baby blankets by Carousel Belle are gorgeous and not your average run-of-the-mill designs, I had some trouble choosing just one so here are a few of my favourites.

My hands-down favourite is this cowboy blanket. On one side is a soft cow hide design and the other is a print of cowboys rearing up on their horses, chatting on fences and doing other cowboys things.

Cowboy Western Baby Blanket - Carousel Belle

Know anyone due a baby in the moustache growing month of Movember? This blanket could be the perfect pressie, especially if Daddy-to-be is mustachioed for charity.

Moustache Baby Blanket - Carousel Belle

This vintage-style tattoo design is really pretty with the purple spotty fleece on the back.

Tattoo Baby Blanket - Carousel Belle

I just love the Frida Kahlo design.

Frida Kahlo Baby Blanket - Carousel Belle

If you like your baby blankets a little more traditional, the Red Riding Hood blanket is sweet in clashy pink and red.

Red Riding Hood Baby Blanket - Carousel Belle

I could carry on showing you these gorgeous blankets all day as there is such a choice, check out the lovely London design that would be great for a Jubilee baby and the slightly macabre Day of the Dead designs.

These are all under £20, which I think is a great price for such unique blankets. Which is your favourite?

P.S. Apologies for the big gap in blog posts recently, life took over a bit!

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