24/12/2008

Last Minute Christmas Spirit

Twas the night before Christmas
And I could no longer pretend
That it was still October
The year far from its end

If I'd been prepared I would be now in my bed
While visions of domestic bliss danced in my head
Mamma would be happy, and Papa so pleased
And the holidays would feel just like a breeze

I crept around trying not to make a clatter
I'd be embarrassed if anyone knew what was the matter
"I'm too old for this," I'd cried, "The magic is gone"
But in my heart, I knew I was wrong

I dug out my old tree; removed red and gold
The bedraggled remains from tinsel of old
Tied ribbons to the branches, draped paper underneath
I had no time to DIY a wreath

I was so hurried, I had to be quick
The thought of missing out made me quite sick
I cut paper snowflakes as I caught up on TV
For a few hours Twitter did without me

Now dashing, now dancing, prancing to the rhythm
Of free Christmas-themed music, that was a given
But I needed inspiration for my Yuletide craft
As I found it online, I happily laughed

"How silly I was, to believe it couldn't be done,
The season isn't over, and now I have won
My quick and cheap decorations cheerfully adorn my room
I have cleared away all my pre-Xmas gloom!"

It could be Christmas morning. Or the night before. Afternoon of. Boxing Day. Do not despair, you can still get into the Christmas spirit before it is too late. I speak from personal experience here.

Put Some Music On

Do it, right now. I recommend The Best Christmas Album In The World...Ever! but if you can't bring yourself to embrace the cheese and/or it's too late to obtain a copy of said CD, independent music is here for you. Filthy Little Angels have just made their most recent Xmas-themed compilation available to download, check it out here. They have been releasing a Xmas-themed free album every year for a while and you can find all the others, plus more non-seasonal music on this page. If that's not to your taste, look around, ask your friends, or don't bother with theming it, just turn up something you like so that you can boogie around and get in a celebratory mood.

Get Costumed

Wearing red and green together usually makes one look like one is celebrating Xmas, no matter what the time of year. Embrace this fact, dress up, then check yo' fine self out in mirrors as often as possible. If you don't own red and green clothing, try silver or at least grey instead. Get out those fairy wings, or make them now. Draw holly, Christmas pudding or present boxes on your face with eyeliner. Glitter is an absolute must.

Decorate


This is so easy. First, keep your music on or find yourself some Christmas telly to watch. I recommend that socalist masterpiece Mrs. Santa Claus (she helps child labourers and joins the women's suffrage movement! Brilliant!). Next get a pile of magazines. You don't have a pile of magazines? Junk mail will do, ditto newspapers, old wrapping paper, any kind of paper, but try to recycle, and printed matter will look more interesting. Cut out lots of circles of varying sizes, and then make paper snowflakes from them. Don't remember how to do it? Papersnowflakes.com has more information on them than you can shake a candy cane at. I blue-tacked mine on the corners of my bookshelf and on my mirrors, but try attaching them to banisters and sprinkling them over tables - they'd look especially nice over a plain tablecloth. You can make other shapes as well, and if you like paper chain tutorials are all over the internet, but I find the snowflakes more fun and more modern looking than traditional paper chains. Perhaps you could make a snowflake-chain!

If you have any tinsel, find something unexpected to wrap it around. Get out a tree if you've got one and decorate - failing that bring in a dry log and cover it with glitter and surround it with candles for a centre piece. You can even just tie bundles of twigs together with ribbon and hang them about. I have a mini plastic tree, which surprisingly requires some imagination to decorate - most decorations are too small. This year I tied on some blue ribbons that I saved from crackers last year, sprinkled on some bits of tinsel, wrapped a piece of lilac velvet around it, and topped it off with some butterfly hair clips I bought as a teenager. It makes the perfect fairytale tree.

A snowflake made from a ancient supermarket magazine (the chain no longer exists!) adorns my bookshelves. Tree wouldn't photograph well...will try again tomorrow!

Find A Reason

A reason to appreciate the holiday. If you're not religious, research the secular traditions of the season. Think of it as laughing in the face of the credit crunch, or as embracing your inner child. Or both at the same time. Maybe you can find joy in the fact that Xmas means a Doctor Who special, and/or in the excuse to eat parsnips - I certainly do. Only engage in this serious thinking after you have done the previous three things - it will be easier if you've already cheered yourself up. If you sit down to muse on the meaning of Christmas to you without already being a little bit excited, it'll be harder to get enthusiastic. Fake it til you make it, baby!

My sister's guitar gets into the spirit, and the card I made her sits beside it

Make Cards

Even if you don't actually use these 'til next year, it's still a fun activity. My sister and I made each other cards, here is mine. It's inspired by a tutorial in the e-book Stunning and Simple Seasonal Salutations: 10 Holiday Cards in Ten Steps or Less, which you can download for free, thanks to the lovely peeps at Artella.


Featuring 10 beautiful handmade cards, complete with photos and descriptive "how-to" instructions, showcasing a variety of techniques such as rubber stamping, collage, and innovative paper and mixed media arts. Download your copy here!

Make Gifts

Okay, so it's too late to make it to the shops, which leaves you with few options:
1. Gift certificates that can be e-mailed to the person
2. Make something

The first option you should be able to manage by yourself! A great collection of tutorials to help you craft Xmas gifts can be found at Sew, Mama, Sew! Here is the Handmade Holidays 2008 list.


But let's take a moment to be realistic. What can you make that is cheap, relatively quick, and created from, erm, ingredients that you actually have in your home? That's right. Food. Biscuits and cakes in particular. Check the contents of your cupboard, and return to the internet to get recipes.

If you have any spare notebooks, decorate them for emergency gifts, or offer your practical skills as presents, you can easily design and print or hand decorate vouchers for your own services. Bargain Queen Meg has more ideas.

Make Drinks

You in the mood yet? If so, great, top off the cheer with an appropriate tipple or two. If not, this should do the trick!

I love mulled wine. This is Delia's version, which I'm sure works very well, but personally I like to be a bit more experimental. Basically simmer for at least 20 minutes (I do it for longer so that I can taste-check) a combination of the following things: red wine, cinnamon (stick or ground), mixed spice, nutmeg, cloves, apple juice, orange juice, lemon juice, bits of the fruit instead of/as well as the juice. You can put water in as well if you want it to go further, and sugar if you like it sweet. I like to taste it as I go and add extra bits of anything I feel doesn't have a strong enough presence. You can top up the alcohol after it's done with gin or fruit liqueur, or alternatively you can use cranberry juice instead of red wine for a alcohol-free version. Or use cranberry juice and then add other alcohol once it's heated. But one of the greatest things about mulled wine is that you can use the most hideous 3 for £10 wine and simply add plenty of juice to water down the strong taste of cheap!

"The cards are made, and given away,
I think I deserve some mulled wine today"
Merrily I cried, after sampling this delight,
"Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good-night."


13/10/2008

Monday Amusements 3

Useful

Dahl nicely sums up the materials debate for shoes in Shoe Dilemma: Ethics, not Aesthetics. I've had this post bookmarked for a long time.

Kittens

Have you had a Kittenbreak today? I used to visit that website everyday when I was at school in Year 13. We were in a IT classroom for registration period so that we could work on our university application forms. I spent most of the time having a Kittenbreak and reading webcomics.

Shiny Things

guttersnipe yarn's skeins of handspun natural-fibre yarn are inspired by Halloween, steampunk, Sweeney Todd, music, graffiti, and whatever else their creator finds interesting. They are not generally so much shiny as creative and cuddly, but the steampunk yarns come with some shiny things - "accoutrements" - including keys, watch parts, and buttons, intended to be put into whatever the knitter creates. I have my eyes on a few of the skeins, I wonder if you can guess which ones ;)

17/09/2008

dark red spiral mesh cap

I knit this hat from a pattern in the book Domiknitrix. I bought the right weight yarn - aran - I checked on Ravelry. I got some Rowan Scottish Tweed in 013, from the sale bin at John Lewis Bluewater. It's this lovely dark red with flecks of other shades and the occasional blob of purple. I used the right size needles. I even checked the gauge! I often can't be arsed to check the gauge! I measured my head. I decided a small was the right size. I cast on. You can never really tell the size when you've just cast on. I did the picot band. I did a few rows of the hat body, and then I stopped.

It was clearly coming out too big. Damn. So I knit the rest of the hat, so that I could judge exactly how too big it was. I looped the thread through the cast-off part without cutting it, and I took this horribly blurred photo, so you too can see exactly how massive this hat came up.

It covered my nose and I could fit both fists inside it at the same time as my head. Bemused and amused, I took it off, pinched it about to see how much less fabric there needed to be, did the appropriate maths, and then frogged it. I left it a couple of days because I was feeling annoyed, then made sure I had plenty of episodes of I Should Be Writing on my mp3 player (I'm catching up on the archives), and cast-on, for attempt number two.

I am delighted to say that my maths did the trick perfectly! I took another horribly blurred photo to prove it!

I must learn how to use self-timer or remote control on the dSLR, so that I can show you decent photos that are not taken at arm's length. My camera has self-timer, but you have to put it on again after every picture and I can never be arsed to try it more than twice.

But isn't the hat cute? I love it! Nobody else in the blogosphere or on Ravelry has reported sizing issues with this pattern, so I will blame my small head and probable inability to accurately measure it. I will review the whole book once I've tried a few more patterns, but I really enjoyed this one and wanted to show you my work.

I wore it the day I finished it with this teal-green cardigan (Topshop via Red Cross shop), a black vest top, my grey and black striped skinny trousers (H&M), and a red bag. The only full outfit photos that got taken that day were in purikura booths, and I haven't been e-mailed them yet. When I do I will show you, or I may just wear that outfit again as it was hot!

16/09/2008

Monday Amusements 2

Okay, it's Tuesday here now, but as long as it's still Monday in some part of the world I will use my title - I like the assonance.

Useful


Do The Bustle! Ivy explains the bustle, and provides a guide to making your own version. I didn't know they were actually invented to stop 19th century women's skirts dragging on the ground - I couldn't wear them under a skirt as the curve of my back gives me too much of a natural bustle!

Kittens

The two talking cats. Yes, we're covering all the YouTube classics here!

Shiny Things

Champignons produce beautifully stenciled moleskine cahiers. I have promised myself one as soon as I need a new notebook - however I have accumulated so many that it make take me years to fill them, unless I learn to make my letters a lot wider all of a sudden (unlikely). In the meantime, I am considering treating myself to one of the cameo pendants instead.

08/09/2008

Monday Amusements

Useful

Seeing Life Through the Eyes of a Child, by Jill Allison Bryan at Creativity Portal.

I especially like the advice to turn 'your to-do list into your “I get to-do” list'. I started titling my to-do list "Adventures for..." and then the date, and it makes everything seem more fun.

Kittens

Kittens on a treadmill! This is so cute, and it makes me crack up laughing every time.

Shiny Things

Eclectic Eccentricity is my favourite jewellery e-store in the world. I own a necklace and a ring from there, which are really nice quality and fairly priced. I spend a lot of time going through the pages and adding things to my basket. The new Autumn/Winter 2008 range went up a few days ago, which contains more lovely shinies as usual. Subscribe to the newsletter and you'll get regular discount codes.

The sections in this post are inspired by a venty e-mail one of my friends sent me - she pleaded for things in the the last two categories to cheer her up.

17/08/2008

Book Review: The Goddess Guide

This book is beautiful. The cover is gorgeous, flocked velvet, which is really nice to stroke. It has a ribbon bookmark. If you buy this, I recommend the hardback version as half the fun would be lost in paperback, and it would also deteriorate faster. The best thing about this book is the way it looks, every page inside is a collage of wallpaper scraps, fabric, drawings, different typefaces, and photographs. It's aesthetically outstanding, very "arty".

The content of the book is less exciting. The Goddess Guide aims to teach you how to be a modern goddess and is split into sections governed by the various goddess types: style, beauty, travel, home, garden, food, having fun, joie de vivre, pillow talk, and g-spots.

Personally I am finding the goddess theme, one that pops up in beauty and style guides again and again, to be more than a little tired. I think it really wore out the moment Gillette announced that you can "reveal the goddess in you" by shaving your legs with their Venus razor. Nevertheless, I resisted the temptation to put the book down after reading about Gisele Scanlon's different goddess types, stroked the cover, and continued on.

The first three sections are the most substantial, and after those the rest seem disappointingly small. I found myself coming up with ideas for things that should have been covered in the later sections of this book, which was great for me because I can blog them later, but not so great for my impression of the book.

The worst part about this book is that it is for the most part, a shopping guide. A shopping guide published in 2006, so I can guarantee at least some of the info is out of date. It's a shopping guide for those with plenty of money. Globetrotters. There is also lots of name-dropping - if you hate that, avoid this. The book features products and corresponding interviews from minorly famous fashion people (MFFP), but Scanlon gushes over them adoringly, and forgets to ask them much that's interesting, so their pages look like elegantly designed sales pitches. The book is very much focused on its author, I'd describe it as an autobiographical shopping guide. There is a LOT of info on her orthodontic work! The Goddess Guide is pretty much a case of style over substance, basically a shopping guide with occasional anecdotes thrown in to make it more personal, but not enough to make it really charming and to have you willing to buy into the author's taste.

However, it is nowhere near as bad as How To Walk In High Heels, which remains the worst anything guide I have ever read. In short - it is not patronising, does not presume its readers are in any way incapable, does not contain bad attempts at humour, and it is well targeted to its audience - those with cash to splash. It has good international sections recurring throughout the book, and would be a great shopping guide if you have the money for the stuff Ms Scanlon talks about. The anecdotes are cute, my favourite being the one entitled 'Carousel'. It features some good advice on hoisery, coats, and tipping, and if you're into seeing snippets of the lives of MFFP, the short interviews will keep you interested in the book. It's also pretty global - there is a very slight UK bias, but Scanlon clearly travels all the time and this reflects that. If you never travel this book will not have as much value for you as it would for someone who does or is going to visit the cities Scanlon shops in.

The Goddess Guide is not worth buying if you want a book for yourself and you read this blog. Not that my blog is comprehensive by any stretch of the imagination, but if you read this you probably read a couple of dozen other fashion blogs as well, in which case, apart from the aesthetics, this book with be a disappointment in comparison to what you get online for free. All the advice it gives is available elsewhere if you want it and more detailed and regularly updated shopping infomation for various destinations can be found online. E.g. Gala's Guide To Melbourne, Gala's Guide To NYC, and Gilda's Guide To Tokyo...those are just the ones I could remember off the top of my head and searched the respective sites for!

I would recommend this most strongly to anyone who wants Sarah Michelle Gellar's teeth. Scanlon bought 'em, and goes into great detail about the procedures and prices involved in having her teeth transformed to SMG standards. If you need a gift for a conventionally girly friend with money to spend who doesn't read fashion blogs and travels to the big international cities a lot, this would be a good choice as the travel parts are the best. Anyone who really likes anecdotes mixed in with their shopping guides should pick this up, and if you want a pretty coffee table book, this would be a nice choice if you're not picky about substantial, useful content. If you collect interviews with Miss Piggy and/or Kermit the Frog, this book is also for you.

11/07/2008

Zoo8 Festival Fashion Report

The Hives = awesome. My photographic skills = crap

Last weekend I went to the Zoo Thousand festival (Zoo8) which was as much of a mess as has been reported, I am afraid to say, I do feel like my money was somewhat wasted but I still had a good time. When I wasn't watching and listening to the few artists that actually turned up (ha! okay, most of them did turn up, but yeah...), I ate some food - smoothies and haloumi sandwiches being the highlights - and, naturally, checked out what people were wearing.

The Good:

There were lots of people with really fabulous wellies. I was jealous because although mine are from Juju (I was so excited to have wellies called "Juju", that being one of my many nicknames) and have this really cool orange and purple stripe lining, and they came in a matching box, and are very comfortable and fit well, being size 9s they are from the mens' range and because men are apparently supposed to have boring feet, they are plain black on the outside. Check 'em out. I remember just a few years back wellies only seemed to come in black or green, now you can even buy them in blue and red from the garden centre of all places! I checked the garden centre as part of my Mad Welly Hunt during the week before the festival and nearly got a navy blue pair but I wanted black to go with my planned outfits.

A selection of wonderful wellies:


I also noticed masses of stripy knee-high socks being worn, but unfortunately I don't think this is the beginnings of a trend as there were at least two stalls at the festival selling stripy knee-high socks so people were probably just buying them because the socks they bought got destroyed by the mud. I didn't get any because the brand they had comes in two sizes and they only stocked the smaller one and I already have one pair of purple-lilac striped socks in that size and they don't fit properly.

Also being worn were a lot of tutus from a stall called "Shut Up 'N' Dye" (I think), which weren't good as they were abused by being paired with horrendous slogan t-shirts (see below), but I did see a really gorgeous green silk skirt and purple cardigan on the stall - neither of which I could buy as I didn't have enough cash with me, sob - mixed amongst the rest of the stall's standard hippie-style clothes. Which shows you should never judge a stall by the stock out front! I also had a nice chat to the stallholder who had long, somewhat dreadlocked pink hair, and was disappointed to learn that grey hair can be hard to dye bright colours. I had been anticipating dying my hair purple when I go grey too. Maybe dying technology will have moved on by then! She complained that the end of her hair was still orange from an old dye job and wouldn't take the pink she tried to cover it up with so it didn't match and I said it was cool, like sunset hair, which she seemed really pleased with.

The Bad:

Idiots who didn't wear rain macs. No matter how stylin' your outfit is, it will not look good sopping wet and clinging to your skin/rest of your clothes.

There were some really, really, really, horrendous slogan t-shirts. These included such 'gems' as "WILL F*** FOR COKE" (even if it's true, why do you want to announce it to the world in black capitals on pink?) and "I'M A C***" (No, no you are not.). But the one that made me want to deliver a swift kick to the nether regions of the wearer the most was "I F***ED YOUR GIRLFRIEND" (No, you didn't.).
Things that t-shirt says about you as a person:
a) you are less of an a'hole than you want to be, which paradoxically makes you more of an a'hole
b) no one has ever cheated on their partner with you
c) any thinking person should avoid you.
Come on people. Most people seeing the t-shirt probably didn't even have a girlfriend, and if they did, they're not going to get all paranoid because of a t-shirt.

The Bizarre:

My friend Adele's SexyMac - a rain mac I believe she borrowed from her dad that proved strangely alluring to men on multiple occasions. I wrote a song/parody of 'SexyBack' by Justin Timberlake about it the other day, here is an excerpt:

I'm wearing the SexyMac; YEAH!
Them other ladies don't know how to act; YEAH!
You think it's special... what's covering my back; YEAH!
You look around and have a lust attack; YEAH!
(take it to the tents)

I'm a dirty babe
Sleeping in a tent and spending the day at the rave

My waterproof clothing makes you misbehave
No other coat or jacket can make you feel this way
(take it to the arena)

Come here boy, go ahead be gone with it
Admire my mac, go ahead be gone with it
VIP, showers don't work in it
SexyMac makes up, go ahead be gone with it
For the filth, go ahead be gone with it
Look at that hood, go ahead be gone with it
It makes you smile, go ahead be gone with it
Come here boy, go ahead be gone with it
And get your SexyMac on, go ahead be gone with it

18/06/2008

Book Review: Yeah! I Made It Myself

"But then I fell in love. It was on an August night in North London. The dizzy summer air smelt of petrol and fried onions, and the pavements were aglitter with glass from a smashed bus shelter. There was even a soundtrack: the sweet harmonies of sixties girl groups sha-la-la-ing from a stalled car, its radio blaring out the Ronettes. I came out of the Tube station, and everything in my world changed. The object of my affection? Was it a cool boy in old blue jeans and a handmade t-shirt, the neck sandpapered to give it that hand-me-down air? Or a girl in a thrifted fifties dress carrying a Snoopy lunch box as a handbag? Well, both, and neither. It was style that got my wholehearted attention."
-
Eithne Farry, Yeah, I Made it Myself: DIY Fashion for the Not Very Domestic Goddess

The above paragraph is my favourite bit of this book. I keep re-reading it. I love the third sentence, it paints the backdrop of the ugly world that fashion has as its stage perfectly. It mirrors the moments when I started to want to get into fashion and style.

Fashion didn't exist in my world until I went to university. I bought teenage magazines when I was at school, but was more interested in drooling over the pretty make-up suggestions than in the clothes. I liked baggy jeans when I was in Year Twelve, then in Year Thirteen when the dress code changed to "smart" from "casual", my female friends and I devised a way of being comfortable and slightly alternative despite this horrifying dress code - we wore Doc Martens under our corduroy trousers and either the teachers never noticed that they weren't "smart shoes" or they didn't care. I wore t-shirts in Year 12, collared shirts with buttons in Year 13, vests underneath in the summer so that when in the sixth form area I could take the shirt off and be more comfortable. We weren't allowed to show our shoulders, presumably because we might accidentally seduce one of the 19 boys in our year.

When I went to Goldsmiths, I knew what to expect. Masses of pretty boys. One of the reasons I had wanted to go there was the great numbers of pretty boys. However, by the time I enrolled I'd found myself with a boyfriend. I only had lectures on two days a week. I didn't notice a thing until I moved into halls in January. Then I had plenty of time to stroll around the campus.

Wandering around in the constant stink of exhaust fumes, stepping over the glass on the pavement, avoiding the dirty-minded ticket touts, there was an old lady with bright blue hair, many eccentrically dressed students, and The Rubbish Fairy. I felt like the most boring-ly dressed person ever in the history of the earth, and I dressed even more boring than I did in Year 13, because now I could wear t-shirts again.

It was bad. So I got a new habit. I started buying hats. I'd knit myself one that Christmas and it had started a passion. Scarves too. Then I knit a plastic-bag-bag and got more compliments on them than I'd ever received on anything, ever, in the whole rest of my life. I used that bag every day and got at least one compliment every time. I discovered the greatness of the colour red thanks to having to wear it for The Vagina Monologues and realising that there is a shade to suit everyone.

It had begun. Three years of admiring College fashion. Sigh.

So anyway, back to the book. That paragraph gets me all excited every time. It's a good book for inspiration. It's funny. It's practical. The clothes have stories, which makes it interesting just to flip through. I think it's a good book for teenagers because of the tone, and for anyone who wants simple instructions for basic classic items, and projects that do not take long to complete.

I have three major criticisms. Firstly, there are no photos of the clothes actually on people, excluding the author photo at the back where she is wearing one of the dresses shown earlier without her. I think the idea is that you already know what an A-line dress looks like on, so you don't need a picture, but it would be nice to see how well Farry's instructions hold up. I have put loads of sewing books and knitting patterns down because their photographs look bad - if the example used to promote the book doesn't look right, how is it going to look good on me?

Secondly, it's technically limited. If you enjoy or have a talent for sewing, you would probably want to move onto something more advanced quickly. There are no patterns included, you have to work them out from the measurements given, which I find time-consuming and would much rather use a pattern.

Thirdly, there is a page on making adjustments to the measurements given for your size, but it is based on the UK standard sizes and doesn't give advice for those of us who might be making our own clothes because we don't fit the standard sizes in one way or another. This means that if I use this book to help me make anything, I am still dependent on my mum when it comes to fitting it to my lanky frame.

Yeah! I Made It Myself covers the basics of hand sewing and machine sewing, then has instructions for bags, skirts, dresses and various accessories. There is a chapter about customising clothes and one about knitting, and it ends with the humourous Epilogue, "How to make a draught excluder in the shape of a sausage dog in 17 weeks", which expresses the author's frustration at the crappy textiles classes she had at school. Mine weren't that bad although we never had as much time as 17 weeks!

I think this book is a decent all-rounder for those with an interest in creating clothes occasionally. It's inspiring and I love the the tone, however if you have more than a casual interest in sewing, you should check out something more advanced.

10/06/2008

What I Wore, 27/5/2008


Yes, this was last month. I was planning to take a whole load of daily outfit photos recently, but then I got ill. I'm recovering now but not at a high level of snappy dressing yet.

Necklace - purple Mardi Gras beads brought back from...some place...by my grandparents
Bracelet - jewellery counter in Debenhams, originally bought to wear with my dress at my school Leavers' Ball
Dress - Monsoon
Tights - Marks and Spencer
Slippers - The Disney Store (only place I can get slippers in my size!)

Unfortunately I took all my full-length photos and closeups of my make-up pointing the camera at the bathroom mirror...which I forgot to clean. The only clean part seems to be the bit I was pointing it at in the first photo above. I did get my sister to take some photos, but she, being arty-minded rather than blog-minded, just took a load of my legs and a couple of full length shots of my back.

Rule #3467 of Being A Fashion Blogger - CLEAN THE MIRROR BEFORE YOU TAKE PHOTOS

It is one of my favourite dresses, however, so I should be able to get a photo of the whole thing soon. Please, universe, let me remember to clean the mirror this time...

06/05/2008

TV Review: Blood, Sweat and T-Shirts

Blood, Sweat and T-Shirts is part reality TV show and part documentary, featuring six young British "fashion addicts" between the ages of 20-24 who have been taken to India to work in factories and cotton mills so that they (and we) will learn the truth about the conditions in which high street clothes are made. This programme is interesting, but you would have to have been burying your hand in the sand for years to be surprised by what this programme reveals about the clothing industry. It is not really shocking viewing for anyone who knows anything about how and where most clothing is made.

What is shocking is how ignorant, rude, and generally useless the group of young adults from Britain are. I've spent most of the episodes of Blood, Sweat and T-Shirts that I have seen so far shouting in frustration and shame. I am so embarrassed to be part of the same generation. They have definitely been burying their heads in the sand about this issue. Okay, Georgina and Mark haven't really said much about anything. Stacey is very bubbly and a bit silly. Amrita is alright, although she burst into massively inappropriate tears at the first factory. Tara has some respect for the work they have to do but she cried because the woman they stayed with in the first episode realised they were laughing at her house and confronted them about it (!!!).

But any redeeming qualities the others might have are completely negated by Richard.

Richard is 24, runs an ad agency and makes £50,000 a year. He starts the show as one of those "poor people are only poor because they're lazy" types, and spends the best part of the first two episodes moaning about how much more terrible it is for them (the group of British young adults) to be there than for the people who actually spend their lives in this way, because they're not used to it! Seriously! He goes around loudly insulting everything, and almost gets in a fight with an English-speaking Indian in the second episode because he's being so disrespectful. He doesn't start to realise until the end of the second episode that the reason the factory workers haven't gone to university et cetera is that they don't have the opportunity or money and they have families to feed, and only accepts this after a man at the factory explains it to him, repeatedly.

He also sewed sleeves of different sizes and a back and front that were different sizes together as one garment. How do you manage that?

Blood, Sweat and T-Shirts doesn't really try to push you into any conclusions about the clothing industry, and I'm not sure how I feel about this. On the one hand, it is good that viewers are allowed to make up their own minds, on the other, the lack of commentary means that it focuses on the personalities of the British young adults rather than on the lives of the factory workers. I think it would have worked better with a smaller group.

Apart from horror at the young people of today - I'm only 21 myself, surely I shouldn't be yelling "These kids are so privileged and rude!" at the TV? - I've got one thing out of this series so far: that boycotting in this case is definitely not a good idea. The clothing producers in India would be even worse off without their jobs. I think that instead shoppers have got to do their research and buy brands that regulate the conditions in their factories more closely and pay living wages, and put pressure on companies to look after their workers better.

Programme details follow, but everyone, including those outside the UK, can also check out the BBC's new online fashion magazine, Thread. It's got a fair bit of useful info about ethical shopping and good explanations of terms and organisations, but for more on specific brands, check out Green Is The New Black.

Blood, Sweat and T-Shirts, BBC Three, third programme Tuesday 6th May 2008 at 9pm, fourth & final programme Tuesday 13th May 2008 at 9pm. First episode available to watch online on BBC iPlayer for 3 more hours, second episode for 4 more days. Clips also available on YouTube for UK viewers.

03/05/2008

8 Random Things About Me

Ashe Mischief tagged me to do this in December 2007, and I have only just gotten around to it. That's how busy I have been. But I am no longer busy, as

1. I handed in my last pieces of work for my degree on Monday. I'm done. Scary. But more blog posts will be done! Whoo!

2. I'm intolerant of onions, which is a pain when I'm trying to buy pasta sauce or going to eat at other people's houses.

3. Writing is my first love, but music is a close second. Every other day I get up, get dressed, eat breakfast, and then practice piano before I do anything else.

4. Before purple, my favourite colour used to be yellow, which is really strange as they're opposite on the colour wheel and generally look terrible in combination.

5. I currently have twenty-three library books out. I am a member of two academic libraries, for my college and my university, and two public library systems, but I only have books from my college library and the two public library systems out at the moment.

6. I have fifty-three bottles of nail varnish. Not all of them are full size, but most of them are almost full. I keep them all in a ice-cream box that is a hideous shade of lime green, inside one of my cupboards.

7. I always forget about dirty mirrors when attempting to take daily outfit photos. I took one today but it came out really badly because of the mirror so I will have to try again later.

8. When I was a kid I wanted to be a witch when I grew up, but because all the ones I'd read about were evil, I decided I was going to be a fairy instead. Later I read a book with a good witch in it and went back to wanting to be a witch. I was fascinated by magic until I actually became a teenage witch, of the Wiccan variety, but after a couple of years I lost interest.

If you read this, consider yourself tagged, but you don't have to do it. I'm not going to hunt you down and force you to post your own!

12/04/2008

Shoes Glorious Shoes

I just updated Big Feet Big Problem - Shoe Shopping For The Outsize with a section devoted to all the wonderful custom-sized slippers and shoes that can be bought via Etsy. Go forth and enjoy!

Whilst searching through 4o-odd pages of shoes to find the custom-made ones, I discovered NDEUR Shoes, which feature handpainted designs. Wow. They paint on vintage shoes which I expect means standard sizes only but you can also send them your own shoes to be decorated, although it is still quite pricey - US$200! I think on my budget I'd rather give my sister £5, a brush and some shoe paint, and I probably would if shoes that fit me were more commonplace!

I also think these are lovely, and these Miss Bunny Skull Wedges and Heart and Sole Wedges are fantastically sweet and gothy, although I think anyone wearing them would need to follow the stripy tights guidelines, if they didn't want to look too baby batish!

Anyway, I'm going to return to lusting after these...

30/03/2008

Top Five Craft Podcasts

A note: thank you everyone who commented on the last post! At the moment there are six comments on the blog about it, and I got a couple of e-mails too. That's a new record for me and I'm really happy to get so much good feedback. People actually read my blog! Yay! It's especially nice as I am posting really sporadically at the moment thanks to the uni workload. I promise more posts, uni is winding down for me now so I should be back with a vengeance by the start of May. Whoo!

I like to listen to podcasts on the train. This involves never sitting by the window unless the carriage is really quiet - the sound from outside is really distracting, and risking blowing my own ears off when I walk into a quiet building and discover how loud I'd turned it up to make it audible over the noise of the train and the traffic. The podcasts I listen to can be divided into two categories: craft podcasts, and I Should Be Writing.


I have listened to a lot of craft podcasts over the last couple of years, at one point I think I was listening to every one that came out. However, the whole podcasting scene has since exploded and I can't keep up with all the new ones and have had to stop listening to some. So I've had to make podcast priorities, and out of the craft-related 'casts, these are the ones I'm still listening to and love. They are in reverse order, rated on how much I love them and how much I've got to catch up with them!

5. CraftSanity, by Jennifer Ackerman-Haywood

CraftSanity is basically an interview podcast. Each episode Jennifer interviews a crafter or artist about their work, life and feelings about art and craft in general. I love CraftSanity because the episodes are really long, and you really find out a lot about the crafter/artist in question. There are also projects posted for most of the episodes provided by the interviewee. My favourite episode is the interview with Violette Clark, it was so interesting and inspiring and quite funny.

I am pretty behind with CraftSanity, unfortunately, because each episode is so long and Jennifer is really productive!

4. CraftyPod, by Sister Diane

Episodes of Craftypod are either focused on one particular craft, or feature interviews. Sister Diane (of the Church of Craft, in case you're wondering), has covered loads of different crafts and featured masses of projects. I love CraftyPod, for the opposite reason to CraftSanity - the episodes are pretty short and sweet. I like to listen to all the episodes, even those about crafts I'm not interested in, just because they are interesting, but sometimes I listen to an episode relevant to a craft just before I'm about to start it to get me in the mood. I have done this at least twice with the ATC episode. This podcast is also really well edited - it's really smooth sounding and professional.

I am more up to date on CraftyPod than CraftSanity, I think I've got nine episodes to listen to before I'm all caught up.

3. Faery Knitting, by

I discovered this podcast yesterday. Seriously. I have listened to all nine episodes since Friday afternoon. This just gets into the number 3 spot for being about two things I am really really obsessed with: fairy tales and knitting. But Erin also talks about spinning and her goats and alpacas and cheese. It's not one for you if you're not interested in hearing about the podcaster's life, and I think Erin is still getting to grips with Audacity so you have to forgive her for not editing out all the umms and urrs and silences, but it's still a really interesting podcast and I love it. Erin is running a draw at the moment where you can win some yarn if you leave her a comment with feedback on the podcast (see the most recent podcast post) but you'd have to be quick to participate - it ends today and you'd have to actually listen to the podcasts.

2. CraftLit, by Heather Ordover

CraftLit is like having a really good English literature lesson. It is basically a little bit of craft, a lot of literature, and great commentary by Heather Ordover, who used to be an English teacher and now I think produces educational materials or something like that. I think I mentioned this before but I knitted my Wisp whilst listening to the Pride and Prejudice episodes, lying on my bed in my old student house. It was pretty much bliss except for whenever I made a mistake with the lace and had to stop the podcast and frog a few rows. That was not nice. Especially at four in the morning (I got really into this podcast!).

I am terribly behind with CraftLit. I have a lot to listen to, hopefully when all my university work is over I will catch up. It's harder to listen to on the train than the others, because I need quiet so that I can get into the story.

1. Cast-On, by Brenda Dayne

There is a podcasting god, her name is Brenda Dayne, she makes knitting sound like the most awesome thing on earth, Wales sound like the most awesome place on earth, and she is a spectacularly awesome person herself. If you're not interested in hearing about the podcaster's life you might be wary about checking this out because Brenda does talk about herself quite a bit but when you get into it you want to hear about her life because she is just amazing! I sound like a total fangirl but that's okay because I am.

Cast-On has been sponsored by the Arts Council Wales, the production is great and it's just generally fabulous. It's funny, it's serious, there is a special sound effect for whenever Addi Turbos (a brand of knitting needles) are mentioned. Loads of really cool people write essays and read them for this podcast too. I love it. Hearing the intro thrills me - I adore this podcast that much.

Brenda just, literally, just posted a new episode, ABOUT HATS. I am thrilled, although I am a few episodes behind. But only a few, because Cast-On is that good I can't help but keep up with it.

14/03/2008

How To Wear Striped Tights Or Stockings (Without Looking Like A Mall-Rat Baby Bat)

Some Don'ts:
  • Don't wear them with black Converse All-Stars
  • Don't wear them with a tutu
  • Don't wear them with a hoodie
  • Don't wear them with eyeliner on the inner rim of your eye
  • Don't wear them if they are laddered or have holes in them
  • Don't buy them from the supermarket or cheap accessories store at Halloween, get a pair from a decent brand
  • Don't wear a pair that have orange, purple or green stripes with any clothes in the other colours (e.g. if you're wearing purple and black striped tights do not wear orange or green as well) unless you want to look like the embodiment of Halloween.
At this point I must confess that I have in the past worn my black and purple striped tights with black Converse All-Stars, with eyeliner on the inner rim of my eye, and that they have a mini-ladder by the right toes and were bought from a cheap accessories store by my sister, the original owner.

The first two sins were committed on Halloween 2005, which was before I really learnt how to dress myself, the third is covered by shoes, and the fourth can't be helped now. They are slightly see through so I sometimes wear them with black tights underneath for best results. However, they are slightly too big width ways and I have to keep pulling them up so the stripes stay even.

I am actually currently wearing them with a skirt that has a layer of netting underneath the top layer of black cotton. However, since I am otherwise perfectly neat, tidy, and hopefully elegant, it looks okay.

I also slightly spoiled my all-purple-and-black outfit when I went out today by taking along a carrier bag with orange on it. I suddenly realised I was channelling Halloween and was not happy to say the least!

Now for the Dos!

  • If your striped tights or stockings are black and one other colour, do wear (cute) shoes that match perfectly the colour that is not black. If they are stripes without black, match them to one of the colours.
An example is on the right. In reality, the purple of the shoes is the exact same shade as that of the tights. I'm just a bad photographer.
  • Do wear them with more dressy/formal clothes. This will prevent you from being mistaken under any circumstances for a teenager.
  • Do wear them with cats-eye eyeliner, it looks elegant and again will prevent you from being mistaken for a teenager.
  • Do wear them with co-ordinating colours. Again, it will make you look grown-up.
Here are a couple of outfits I created on Polyvore based around striped tights or stockings. Unfortunately, Polyvore is extremely lacking in decent pictures of striped tights or stockings, so I could only do black and white stripes and black and red stripes, and no purple outfits! There are quite a few pictures of one leg in stripes, which is odd and pretty useless when trying to give a good idea of what it will really look like! Seriously, WTF?



In this I aimed to make the look softer and gently colourful. I love this outfit. I wish I had it! It would be perfect for so many occasions.



I love red and blue worn together and I decided to see what they would look like with some little black dresses. This is an example of me putting the "Dos" from above into serious practice! Ohhh, I wish I had these clothes...

02/03/2008

Book Review: Green Is The New Black

If you've followed this blog for a while, or dipped into the archives, you'll know that I am really interested in ethical fashion. When the book Green Is the New Black came out, I was excited to read it. The blurb suggests that it will "show you how to salve your desire and your conscience, enjoy the good life in style, and look eco-fabulous in high heels (and hemp knickers)", and I think it pretty much does what that says.

I would describe it as mostly a shopping guide, although there are chapters on DIY, entertaining (yourself & others) and travel. I read a comment on its Amazon forum which complained that it didn't acknowledge the part that over-consumption plays in the environmental crisis, but I would disagree. It does accept that people need to stop being so wasteful and emphasise that it is always best to thrift, mend or DIY, but it also accepts that it is hard to change old habits and that there are some things that people will need or want to buy. Clothes, accessories and make-up do wear or run out so it is impossible to stop shopping completely, and this book is a non-preachy, useful guide to what to do when you do need a new bra or pair of shoes, for example.

I did find the information on cosmetics to be somewhat lacking. It doesn't explain what to avoid and what to look out for when buying make-up, hair or skin care products, and I could have made a few more suggestions of recommended brands myself. Perhaps that's because I am a makeup nerd. Compared to every other section, the cosmetics one was the worst.

This book is pretty gentle. It will not make you feel bad for all the unethical shopping you have done in the past, or shock you into developing a conscience you didn't have before. It doesn't talk about why you should be concerned about ethical fashion , it assumes that you are already. Some people may consider this a weakness, but I actually think it is a strength. Global warming is a controversial subject, and there are still many people who don't believe it exists and so are not concerned about the environment. This seriously annoys me! There are many other reasons why we should be concerned about the environment, besides global warming. Amongst other things, fossil fuels are running out, the natural habitats of many species are being destroyed, and industrial waste is damaging to our health. It would irritate me and alienate some people if the book were to only talk about global warming, the issue du jour. Green Is The New Black also takes social ethics (fair trading, et cetera) into consideration and it would be a much longer book if it were to deal with all these things. I'm happy it skips that bit and gets on to the fashion, I find that more respectful of my intelligence and awareness of current affairs, however, the book does include a list of "Green Reads" for anyone who wants to know more about the science and issues, and provides letter templates to encourage readers to write to clothing companies and demand they be more responsible.

The writer has obviously done a lot of research and tested a lot of products. However, this book is intended primarily for readers in the UK, and people in other countries would probably be doing more harm than good if they were to get products shipped from the companies Blanchard recommends! As I said before, it is very gentle in its approach, so if you are already a hardcore paragon of ethical consumption, this book would probably not be very interesting for you, but for everybody else it is an inspiring read and I would recommend it.

10/02/2008

Too Much Work, Too Much Work, Never Let Me Bead

A couple of weeks ago, the only haberdashery in the whole borough, and I am not exaggerating, closed down. This is bad because finding another one would require a visit up town, but good because it was happening as Sheila (the shop's owner and namesake) was retiring, not because nobody visited, and because she had a 50% off sale!

I got some little red beads and a bunch of embroidery thread but I haven't had the chance to even get them out of the paper bag and look at them since I bought them! The photo I took marks the first time I've removed them from the place on the shelf that I tossed them after bringing them home.

I have had no time. I have actually had no time for any crafts consistently since October! This is terrible! I want to knit and sew and bead but I can't, because I have more important things to do. I have loads of books on my shelf, but I can't read them, because I have more important things to do. I haven't played the piano for months, which makes me very sad. Although I've been beyond the point for years where not-practicing can make me worse, I really wanted to get better, and that involves a lot of work at my level. But I have more important things to do. Same for singing. Same for my novels. Third year for uni sucks. I want to get a good degree, more than anything right now, but I don't even get to socialise anymore. This is a big case of too many interests, too little time. At least I manage to find time to blog, squeezed in around everything else!

Craft Projects I Would Start If I Had Time:
  • Striped bookmarks. To make all my reading more fun.
  • Covering my notebook, to make lectures more fun.
  • Embroidery on clothes found in charity shops.
  • More Mexican icebox cookies.
  • Knitting a shawl.
  • Knitting a sweater.
  • Making more earrings.
It's my birthday in almost two weeks, and all I really want for it is more time! Instead, I'm asking for some more books I don't have time to read :D

03/02/2008

What I Wore This Week: 3/2/2008

I have decided to start sharing the highlights of my outfits each week on the blog. Unfortunately, I only decided to do this on Thursday. Sunday is official designated "Ugly Day", the day when I wear my glasses (I got them back when I was in school, and they never suited me) and have two-day-dirty hair.

So I only have the three outfits from Thursday until yesterday and I am going to share them all!

1. Thursday


Apologies for bathroom mirror smudginess. Studies show that I am terrible at self-timer, and the fact that I have to reset it to self-timer every single time I take a photo annoys me no end. This is not a thrilling outfit really. I wanted to wear blue to match my nail varnish, and I only had to go out for three-four hours that day, so I wasn't too fussed. Thought I could do better the next day...

Skirt from H&M
Jumper also from H&M (I used to be a H&M fiend)
The shirt I'm wearing under the jumper is also from H&M but you can't see it
Tights are navy blue school tights I've had since I was 13 or 14
Watch is a gift, I've had it about twelve years - every other I've had has fallen off my wrist or been uncomfortable
Assorted bracelets all from Dorothy Perkins (never buying any more jewellery from there, it may be cheap but it falls apart very quickly)
Hair from my head and Reincarnate shampoo from Lush. My hair is wavy because I had it piled up in a bun thing overnight.



2. Friday
In this photo I am looking anxiously after my gorm, which has left my expression and wandered off to start a new life. Same skirt as yesterday, and I decided to see if I could rock purple and that shade of blue. I wish you could see my eye makeup, all myclose-up photos came out blurred. Blue on the outer half diagonally, and purple on the inner half. I hope that makes some sense...

Skirt and shirt from H&M (same as yesterday)
Jumper from Dorothy Perkins (actually, what I said about jewellery is rubbish, as I have actually sworn never to buy anything from Dorothy Perkins again - I did this last year after this jumper started to bobble ridiculously.)
Violently purple tights from M&S (they're really bright, the lighting was terrible. M&S have some fantastic tights in at the moment. So comfortable and such great colours)
Necklace from 'My Little Jewelry Shop'
Badges by MyMy and uni open day
Hair as before

3. Saturday

Okay, this is just jeans, top and tiara, but what I really want you to notice is my hair.

I did yesterday's bun thing whilst my hair was wet, then slept on it, and got this fabulous mess which started the day Helena Bonham Carter but was more Russell Brand by the end...I liked it. Of course, I couldn't have gone out the house like that without risking stares from everywhere. Maybe if I lived in New Cross still it would have been alright, but I don't think the dully suburban peoples of Bromley are really prepared for such wild hair. They'd probably just think I was a tramp. A purple tramp. Hmm, that's quite inspirational, maybe I'll try to create a purple tramp outfit for next week...
Jeans from Dorothy Perkins (don't fit very well...why in my teens did I get so much crap from that shop?)
Top from H&M via charity shop
Tiara from charity shop
Necklace (barely visible) Edinburgh Winter Market 2005
Hair from awesome

To the right you can see my wonderful blue stripy socks and my Eeyore slippers. Thought I'd show you them in case you were in any doubt as to how goth I really am. The Disney store is actually the only shop that sells slippers I can fit!

31/01/2008

2008 Fashion Blogger Awards....x2

Edit: I spoke too soon. Clearly I am FAR behind on everything because there is actually another set of awards. I have to admit I'm not keeping up on my blogroll at the moment due to university work - I have massive backlogs for every blog that posts more than twice a week! So, take two!

I am in two minds about the idea of fashion blogger awards.

Mind One: Although I am usually skeptical about any kind of awards, there are so many great blogs out there and I think it's a great idea to share the love, especially when the mainstream press spend so much energy trying to put blogs down.

Mind Two: I can see the awards making bloggers more competitive, which could erode the great sense of community I think is there at the moment. I can also see several bloggers trying to set up their own awards and the whole thing becoming very confusing and pointless in the future.

I can only conclude that no one knows how awards will go in the future, whether they'll grow, flop, or get exploited (who knows, maybe the next years' will be sponsored by H&M as an apology!), and so it's a bit early to decide now. There are two sets of awards already, so I can see my confusion and pointlessness point coming true though, sad to say.

  • Jen at Mahalo Fashion is hosting the 2008 Fashion Blogger (F. A. B.) Awards. The project seems friendly and based around growing the community, and they're accepting nominations from anyone. Voting begins on the 1st of February, so go nominate!
  • The second set of awards, which I only just remembered although I'm sure I've seen them being mentioned before, are the 2008 Fabbies Fashion Blog Awards, which aim to encompass the whole of the "Lifestyle Blogosphere". I seem to have missed the nomination process, but voting is going on now. You have to register, but it only involves clicking a few buttons.

I have to say I'm not a great fan of the names for the awards. Maybe the cheesiness is because there are no dead fashion bloggers to be namesakes, and perhaps in a hundred years time (if blogs still exist) people will be celebrating the Bubbles or the Galas. Har har.

27/01/2008

I GOT SOCKS

A few weeks ago I ordered from Sock Dreams and last week it arrived! Me and my sister ordered together - I owed her half a birthday present still - and she got two pairs and I got three.

Their tagline is completely correct, they are the best sock store in the known universe, and probably the rest of the universe as well because I cannot imagine more fantastic socks!

I got two pairs of N Stripes that were on clearance, Magenta/Maroon and Purple/Raspberry. They were only $6 each. I have been wearing them over a pair of thin black tights because of the cold weather here. They come up halfway on my thighs although they do suffer from the effects of gravity over the day and start behaving more like OTKs - over the knee socks. Sock Dreams have infected me with their acronyms as well as with their love! I feel like I have sexy legs when I wear my N Stripes, especially the Magenta/Maroon pair because they are so sultry.

My other pair are Long Cuffable Scrunchable Socks in dark red. I haven't worn these yet but I can't wait and they are so long and thick and lovely I might skip the tights underneath. My sister got the Top-Striped OTK Tubes in Black with 3 White Stripes and the O Basics in a beige shade I can't check the name of because it won't display.

I asked my sister what she thought of her socks and she said "They're amazing. I've never felt socks like these, O Basics and tube socks. They're out there, bruv". Direct quote. I did tell her it was for my blog, maybe that was a mistake!

Earrings For The Unpierced: Part Two

Read about options for the unpierced in Earrings For The Unpierced: Part One!

The majority of my earrings are screw on. The other options are all too painful or too crappy looking in my opinion, and screw on earrings are as versatile as clips, but without the pain. On the right you can see my mole-y cheek and my fanciest pair of earrings. These are special occasion earrings for three reasons:

1. They are seriously blingin'.
2. They were £8.50, I consider this expensive for jewellery, so I do not want to lose them.
3. One of the screws is broken so it's like wearing one screw-on and one clip-on earring. Ugh.

I got them in a little craft shop that used to be on my local high street. Unfortunately, it has now closed down. Fortunately, Etsy exists!

The majority of screw-on earrings on Etsy are vintage. As I mentioned before, earrings for the unpierced are rarely made today. These antique Czechoslovakian earrings are from the 1920s and look quite heavy. A great advantage of wearing screw on earrings rather than pierced earrings is that it is possible to wear heavier designs without causing yourself pain. If you don't like purple, here is a blue and gold tone pair, also Czech. I don't like wearing gold coloured jewellery myself, but if they were silver coloured I would be all over them! Moving on a decade, this Sterling Silver Mexico Jade set includes bracelet and earrings, and is in an interesting Art Deco style. I think it would look great with a all-black outfit so that the jewellery was the centre of attention. Forward another decade and we have these Juliet Red Crystal earrings, which look to be in excellent condition.

I also love these sweet Teapot earrings, if only they were in silver, along with these Golden Chrysanthemum Earrings. Sigh. I am very tempted by these Pearl and Copper Swirl earrings (love the rhyming name) and the seller has several lovely unpierced earrings in her shop.

For more screw on earrings I recommend you search Etsy and eBay, try Glitzy Secrets for clip-ons, and for magnetic earrings try eBay again.

Alternatively, you can try making your own! Here is a pair that I made myself. I'm really proud of these and I love them. I got the earring findings/backs from a local craft shop but if you don't have a local craft shop or it doesn't stock screw-on earring backs, there are plenty of places you can get the findings online (the Two Es - Etsy and eBay - again, for instance).

The design is based on one from the book Creative Beading: Over 60 Original Jewellery Projects and Variations by Juju Vail. I originally picked it up because "Juju" is one of my nicknames. Seriously. I am a complete nerd. The designs in it are pretty and modern, and the instructions are really clear. Projects include earrings, necklaces, bracelets, and rings and variations are suggested for each of the designs too. I also really like the ideas for weaving large beads out of small beads. It's a great book and I recommend it whether you are a beginner or more advanced.

17/01/2008

Book Review: How To Walk in High Heels

This book is advertised as "Hilariously funny". Like almost every other book I've read that was described in this way, It Is Not. I sniggered once, and that was at a quote from Miss Piggy.

How To Walk in High Heels
is subtitled "The Girl's Guide to Everything", which is a bit of a lofty claim for a volume less than 500 pages long to make. The book is divided into sections, each focusing on a facet of modern life. Unfortunately, it doesn't start off well. The so-called 'Foreword' (written by John Galliano), is less than half a page long and is devoted entirely to extolling the virtues and style authority status of Ms. Morton.

The style advice that follows is really dull, pretty much all of it can be found elsewhere, and it's also really prescriptive. Morton insists that Brazilian waxes are part of basic grooming. Yes, basic grooming. Really. I will never, ever, EVER, EVER(!!!) have a "Brazilian", and I don't even shave my legs in winter, so she can take that advice and shove it up her hairless...yeah. The best style advice in the book is 'How to look like you've just stepped out of a salon', contributed by Sam McKnight. The most fun is the instruction on how to "Aisle Glide" - which is basically wearing high heels to the supermarket so that you can use the trolley to balance yourself.

After the dreary style advice section is over, it improves. The 'Being Socially Adept' section is pretty good. I like the short politics section and the instructions on how to play poker, chess, and bet are a nice touch. How To Walk In High Heels also briefly covers art appreciation (piece by Vivienne Westwood), etiquette, and has further sections on homes and gardens, and cooking. Anyone reading this blog is too technologically advanced for the "Tackling Your Technophobia" section. I skimmed over the house-buying and driving advice because I wouldn't be able to judge whether it was useful and adequate. The packing advice from Anya Hindmarch is quite good as well. In general though, the book features a lot of information that I would think most women would already know, or could learn from better sources. The best pieces of advice all come from other contributors, not Morton herself.

The instructions referred to in the books title - 'How To Walk In High Heels' - are very long and detailed. But they begin with the advice that you should buy designer shoes with high heels, particularly Manolo Blahniks, and don't take the reader's budget - or shoe size for that matter - into account.

For a great deal of the book the tone is relentlessly "posh" and Morton comes off as being an upper-class old-money type, but she also gives advice on what to do if you are broke and things to do to entertain yourself if you have no money. This didn't really sit well with me. How can the type of person who advocates travelling everywhere by taxi and relentlessly drops designer names as if they are personal friends - and some of them ARE - really know how to "cope with poverty"? The state of "poverty" she discusses only lasts a week and would be better and less offensively described as "being overdrawn".

Morton seems obsessed with marriage proposals. She keeps mentioning them and it's really irritating. At one point, she says "Marriage proposals: If its nine months and there's no action it's time to move on" and there is no indication that this is a joke. Whaaat? No offense intended to people who have married their partners within that amount of time, but I would imagine most people would never marry anyone after only nine months, let alone make that the deadline! I don't think comments about marriage proposals like this really belong in a book which is trying to be a modern guide to a stylish life.

I mentioned in a previous post that Morton comes down pretty hard on the idea that anyone would want to darn socks. As I said before, what is wrong with darning one's socks? Morton also advises women to avoid public transport and take taxis as often as possible, mostly because it is easier to wear high heels if you don't have to spend much time actually walking. In short, this book lacks any ethical or environmental consideration whatsoever. It was only published in 2005 so there isn't any excuse for it.

The book does have an index, and some of the quotes used are really good. The Miss Piggy one I sniggered at was 'Only time can heal your broken heart, just as only time can heal his broken arms and legs'. Brilliant.

I don't recommend you buy this book unless designer high-heeled shoes come in your size and you need to learn how to walk in them, or you'd like to read the short articles by the other contributors, which are almost all good. Even then it's not worth the cover price.

Check it out of your local library like I did, or if you're in the UK, get it for £3.75 from GreenMetropolis.

13/01/2008

Eleven Rules for Obtaining Free Cosmetics Samples Online

Did you know that the internet is just filled with cosmetics companies willing to give you free stuff? Because it is. Thanks to the internet, I get regular samples from companies like Nivea...and well, Nivea. I do get samples from other companies, but they aren't regular in the slightest. Here are a few things you should know about The Wonderful World of Free Stuff!

1. Google is your friend.


To find free stuff, just search using the keywords "free stuff" and your country, or the acronym for your country, if you live somewhere which is abbreviated like the UK or USA. There's a search button at the bottom of this page if you want to do this now. Once you find a site, go to the "Beauty and Health" section. The other sections are usually pretty rubbish unless you're a parent with a baby, they seem mostly filled with catalogues and brochures.

2. Some samples require a visit to the beauty counter.

I know! Horrendous isn't it! They actually want you to leave the house and go into a department store just to get a free sample! I don't want to have to spend ten minutes telling a salesperson that no, I don't want a free makeover or to try that new perfume, I just want my sample. Read the freebie list carefully. Usually they tell you whether the sample has to be collected or not so you only click through to the ones that will come through the post.

3. "Within 28 Days" means "Within two years, if you're lucky".
Free samples take a long time to arrive, if they arrive at all. Some sites will state in the terms and conditions that free samples only go to the first 10,000 applicants, for example. Sometimes stuff just gets 'lost' in the post. Be optimistic, but don't camp out by the front door for days and then waste time writing a complaint letter to the company. It's free, chill out, and don't count on it actually arriving.

4. Make sure you check or uncheck the right boxes.
You need to make sure you check the "I agree to the terms and conditions" box, but leave the "Yes! Please send my details to other companies that I might be interested in" type box unchecked. You do not want to have your information sold and start recieving loads of junk mail.

5. Check their privacy policy.

Just to be sure, check the site's privacy policy. Make sure they won't be selling on your details regardless of any boxes.

6. Use a different name.

Use an abbreviated or mispelt version of the name you usually use when you sign up for samples. That way, if you do get any junk mail, you'll be able to tell immediately from the name in the address box. Write "Return to sender" on it and pop it back in the post.

7. Be aware that foundation samples are always in their middle shade unless they actually let you choose, which is rare. Happened once.

I hate the middle shade. It always has some really stupid name like "sand", or one like "natural" or "nude", which is pretty offensive because most people's natural skin colour is nothing like that. I have no idea why they always send out their middle shade. It's a complete waste of time for most people, including me, as I am far too pale for it. "Natural" looks orange next to my skin! Frustrating!

8. Don't let the stuff go off!

Within the E.U., all cosmetics, including samples, have a little symbol like a opened jar with a number on it. This shows how many months the product will last before it expires. I don't know what the law is in other countries, but you should make a note of when you got the sample and make sure you use it before the date, and don't open it and leave it lying around.

9. Shampoo samples last for more than one use.
I have pretty long hair and I still manage to get three or four uses out of one shampoo sample. They are great for holidays, and you can always decant them into bottles.

10. Do a patch test.

Please avoid having terrible allergic reactions. Test it on a small area first and make sure it doesn't have any negative effects.

11. Sometimes perfume samples are on cards, sometimes they are liquid in tiny vials.

Read the page carefully if you don't want a card, but sometimes they don't tell you what you're getting, which is how I wound up with a few.

Some of the samples I have got include:

  • Many different creams from Nivea - they all claim to do different things but have remarkably similar ingredient lists
  • Dermalogica samples, which I haven't tested yet. I did a online skin analysis so they're personalised.
  • A free jar of Rimmel's "Cool Matte" foundation. I won this in a random draw, actually. I'm glad I did, because now I know it's crap, and I might have wasted money on it otherwise. It's pretty terrible in my opinion, dries too fast and looks a bit crusty if I'm not careful! Ew!
  • Many perfume samples. I have loads! Sitting on my shelf are: both Ghost perfumes (quite nice), Anna Sui's "Secret Wish" (alright) and a card sample of "Princess" by Vera Wang (revoltingly sweet).
Good luck amassing freebies, and remember, patience is a virtue and whining "Where is my free nail polish?" at the door won't help. That free nail polish never arrived :(
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