29/09/2009

Monday Amusements 6

This is the most link-packed Monday Amusements Ever So Far because I have been saving these up for weeks and not posting them because it wasn't Monday whenever I remembered. D'oh. I actually had eighty bookmarks in my "Monday Amusements" folder. 80. Some had been posted before. Some are so out of date it would be silly to post them now. But the rest will follow, not all in this post, but spread out over the next few weeks. Oh yes, and it will be Tuesday here by the time I post this, minor details...

I have been learning:

How to make padded envelopes using reclaimed materials
. I have loads of padded envelopes that my relatives give me for book swapping, but they get too battered eventually to re-use and I have to repair them. I think I could adapt this tutorial to re-use bubble wrap out of the envelopes when the paper's gotten too many holes in to just cover up with tape.

I've also read a couple of times How To: Wear a Headband and Not Look Dumb but I wore some seriously bad headbands in my younger youth and none of the headbands I own are as cool as the ones featured in this article.

I wish I had an extra pair of Dr Martens so that I could follow this tutorial to make a pair lace patterned. I have two pairs but one are purple and were my 17th birthday present and the other are plain black and need to stay that way to go with everything.

I have been attempting:

To feel like royalty whilst living in poverty with these tips from the Princess Portal (warning: lots of pink). See also these credit crunch fashion tips. I've finished my MA and am now trying to find a source of income and avoid spending any money if I can help it.

I have been longing to get my hands on:

The Gothic Charm School book!

I was an aspiring goth and avid reader of the Gothic Charm School website for most of my teenage years, though I never went further than dressing on the dark side. Mostly because I didn't know much about the music, and everyone I knew who was more goth than me really liked skulls. For a long time I hated skulls and thought they were really tacky. Then I moved on. A while ago I decided that they can be cute. In moderation. On other people. Sometimes I catch myself looking at a skull-adorned item and thinking it is lovely, but I haven't been able to convince myself that it could look okay actually on me yet. Anyway, I used to love reading the posts about club etiquette when I was far too young to go to a club and imagine what it would be like, and I learned a lot from The Lady of the Manners' advice to other teenagers struggling with parents and friends used to mainstream fashions. I cannot wait until I can get a copy for the book and devour it like the snarkling bookworm I am.

Whatever your subcultural alignment, if you are the merest bit non-mainstream, if you've ever had people ask you if you're wearing a costume when you're simply dressed the way you like to be, or have had teenagers shout abuse at you or confused relatives wonder when you're going to grow out of this "phase", Gothic Charm School has a lot to offer you. Here are a few of my favourite posts from the site:

Home for the Holidays -Or- Surviving Family Togetherness
Too Old To Be Goth - Revisited
Labels Really Aren’t Just For Clothes
and most recently, Of Goths Of Color

The Lady of the Manners has also made three YouTube videos so far if you prefer to take your learning in a moving picture form, here is the first one, What Is Goth?

See also under babygoth/dark-dressing essentials: the alt.gothic.fashion faq, only available through the Wayback Machine at the moment, it's gone down off the actual website for some reason.

I have been loving:

My jeggings. As well as skulls, I was also scared of prints up until recently. I thought they were invariably hideous. I also used to hate stripes and I resisted skinny jeans for ages and hated leggings for a long time as well. I used to wear the ones with stirrups as a kid (though I thought they were great fun at the time), can you blame me? But I am pleased to state that I am wearing a printed top right now with jeggings. Jeggings are jeans crossed with leggings via Topshop and they are a glorious invention. Imagine if skinny jeans were comfortable, soft and stretchy, and you'll be imagining jeggings. This is pretty much the first time I have ever admitted that something Topshop is good (on me). I still couldn't actually seriously look around that shop and try things on, I sent my mum and sister in to buy these for me after my sister got some and I thought they looked great then tried them on and loved them, because, like I say, they are like skinny jeans but comfortable.

I still can't stand footless tights though. What is the point? They're like a less warm version of tights and it frustrates me no end when I see what would have been lovely tights mutilated into those footless monsters. Bleh!

I have been planning:

To attend The Alternative Bring and Buy Sale (in London), the next is on the 6th of December and I am really hoping I have a source of income by then!

I am also going to the Zandra Rhodes talk at the V&A and to the Knitting and Stitching Show and to the Jump weekend from Spread the Word! I know, how am I paying for all this considering what I said about avoiding spending money above? I'm going with relatives to the first two and the last was such a bargain (£35 advance concessions for an evening plus full day of writing related stuff!) I spent most of my last bit of pay on it. I'm sure it will be worth the fact I now have to walk practically everywhere. Oyster card will be used in emergencies only (I topped it up the time before last I got paid).

Kittens:

Nora the Piano Cat, in tribute to my keyboard, which I put on and played today for the first time in months. I didn't play her for a long time as she got moved into a different room from her adapter and any ready plug sockets, and then I was in MA completing panic and had too little time to keep practising. The first thing I did was make her play the wedding march whilst I hugged her! NEVER AGAIN SHALL WE BE PARTED, my fingers have gotten so weak. I need to clear out my bedroom so that she can fit here with me.

Unsatisfied by these offerings? Check out:

How to have a burlesque party, Synthetic Dreads Tutorial, how to make a goth sunglasses case, the Make Lounge's latest workshop dates, the Feminism in London '09 event programme, and/or Chore Wars, the nerdiest (and therefore possibly the best) time-management system ever!

19/09/2009

this pirate obsession

Ahoy there me hearties! It be International Talk Like A Pirate Day, one of the major holidays of the year! Ye other be Halloween, obviously.

I be very excited about this, though I be not dressin' like a pirate, or partyin' like a pirate. I be not drinkin' rum because I be slightly ill - it be suddenly very cold in these oceans known as ye British Isles. I be instead drinkin' ye 'grog' that be known to the landlubbers as Earl Grey. It be delicious.

I be practicing me pirate for ye last couple o'weeks, an' I be picking up ye plastic wall hook we be donated in ye shop yesterday and pretendin' it be a hook. Arrr. That be mildly amusin'.

Today, I be pretendin' that I be plannin' some burnin' and pillagin', arr? ARR! An' I be recievin' in me inbox ye Etsy Finds newsletter, an' I be findin' inspiration to be collectin' some pirate booty of me own. ARRR!

Firstly I be wantin' ye Grace O'Malley pirate hat, because it be purple an' I be ye most purple pirate that be known in ye seven seas. If ye be readin' this scroll regular, ye be knowing this. If ye be a former landlubber recently recruited to ye voyage, I be recommendin' ye be checkin' out ye archives. Yarrr? YARRRR! If ye be not a purple pirate, ye fancy black and gold tricorn be for ye.

Second, I be thinkin' that 'Marie Antoinette goes pirate' be a bonny look, so I be considerin' these hair combs. But when I be wantin' t'be a more subtle pirate, I be thinkin' ye piratical badge be most appropriate, arr. These be especially worth ye pieces of eight.

Pirates with style be readin' ye Pirate Clothing webpage and be dressin' accordingly, and be makin' sure ye be wearin' earrings. Ye be showin' off how good they be at huntin' treasure/fightin' rich landlubbers/pillagin' if ye be wearing ye pirate hair jewels. If ye pirate be also a steampunk, ye be likin' ye pendant. If ye be in a battle where ye be best pretending to be a privateer or a lawful sailor, ye be best keepin' ye love for ye sea subtle with ye dusk sailing czech glass ring.

If ye be a pirate that be good in the galley, be pesterin' ye captain to be plunderin' ye a pirate cupcake t-shirt. Ye be available in various designs an' be on stickers an' bags an' ye aprons. If ye be havin' a party on board ye ship, be not spendin' all ye gold on rum (though it be a good investment if ye be not wantin' t'voyage with angry pirates) , an' be obtainin' ye skull an' crossbones flags for ye cupcakes, an' be makin' sure no landlubbers or privateers be joinin' ye voyage with ye pirate invitations.

If ye be havin' ye small pirates, ye jolly roger hat be keepin' them warm on ye seven seas and ye knittin' needles be useful in case ye pistol be not loaded when ye be boarded by ye Royal Navy.

Arrrrrrrrr. What be ye doin' for ye International Talk Like a Pirate Day? Be ye not hearin' of it before? I should be makin' ye walk the plank...but I be too busy enjoying me 'grog'.

15/09/2009

How To Donate To Charity Shops (an insider’s guide)

After reading the title of this post, I'm sure most readers will be thinking 'I know how to do that, you get a bag, put donations in, and leave it to be collected or drop it off at the shop'. Well, prepare to be educated! I have been volunteering at a local charity shop for the last two months and I am going to tell you how you can put in a little extra time and thought and make your donations much more valuable to the shop you donate them to.

There is a lot of work for volunteers to do in charity shops – we have to sort donations, work at the till, put items out on display, price items, clean, organise, steam clothing, alphabetise books, and bag unsaleable items to be sold to recycling companies.

Sorting donations is always our top priority because we don’t have space to keep unsorted donations in bags, and we want to get the best things on the shop floor immediately, but unfortunately it is the most time consuming task. One afternoon I spent almost my whole four-hour shift sorting a couple of bags, whereas last week I spent the same amount of time steaming nearly two racks worth of clothes. As anyone who has ever volunteered or worked in a charity shop, or watched the first episode of Mary Queen of Charity Shops will know, we get some really crappy donations. Stuff that is useless, broken, unsellable. We also get some amazing, good quality donations, but they are often mixed in with the rubbish.

Obviously we appreciate all donations, pretty much everything we get will be sold, if not on the shop floor then to recycling companies, but if you want to help us maximise the profit made for our charities, there are a few, simple, not very time consuming things that you can do to reduce the time we have to spend sorting and otherwise dealing with items that cannot be sold.

1. Do the research

Make sure that the shop you are donating to actually accepts the items that you want to donate. My manager had to turn away a large donation of bed linen because we are a very small shop and don’t have the space to display it. Another charity shop in the same street as the one I volunteer in doesn’t take clothing donations as it is an even small shop than ours, they only take books, cassettes, CDs, records and bric a brac.

Most charity shops do not take electrical items, because they have to be tested by a qualified PAT tester before they can go on sale. The shop I volunteer at does take electrical items, because we have someone to test them for us. All you have to do to find out whether the shop can take electrical items is ask! If you don’t regularly pass by the store and they are part of a large charity with its own website, you can look up the charity online and there should be a section for stores that lists addresses and phone numbers.

There are also other items charity shops cannot sell, for example, anything that can be used as a weapon, which includes metal knitting needles! Here is the British Heart Foundation’s list. You are better off finding a new home for things that are in good condition but can't be sold in shops by using a local e-mail list or putting an ad in your local paper.

Charity shops also won’t sell games and puzzles with pieces missing, we have to check through before putting them out to make sure all the parts are there, so make it worth our while!

Charity shops usually have deals with rag collectors, and at the shop I work at, the vast majority of the items we can’t sell on the shop floor can still be sold to recycling companies, we very rarely throw anything away. But our shop seems to be a bit of a special case, on Mary Queen of Charity Shops one of the shops that was featured had to spend a lot of money having unsaleable items collected by the council and taken to landfill. If you don’t have time to ask, it is best not to donate unsaleable items – except clothes – and to put them in your own bins.

2. Inspect clothing

If the clothes have stains or holes you are not willing to repair yourself, or otherwise look very worn, charity shops won’t be able to put them on the shop floor, but they can sell them to a rag collector and make a few pennies per kg. You can save volunteers time sorting by putting them into a separate bag and writing “rags” on it. They will still check through it but it will be a lower priority.

Please make sure the clothes are clean. If they have any marks on them, even marks that are obviously not stains and would come out in the wash, they will probably end up in a rag bag. Very few charity shops have washing machines on the premises.

However, clothing donations don’t need to be ironed! Charity shops usually have irons, at least, in the shop I volunteer at we have a steamer. After being folded in the bag they will need to be ironed or steamed anyway, so don’t worry about making sure they are pressed.

3. Don’t think too small

Most charity shops don’t have the space to take large items, like furniture, on a regular basis, but often they can take one or two, just ask. The shop I volunteer at had a chair, several mirrors and a bookcase when I last went in.

Large organisations that run charity shops often have specialist shops that do take furniture. Check out their websites to see if there is a store near you. Here is Oxfam’s list.

4. Don’t think too big

One of our biggest sellers is jewellery! We have lots of bangles and 'karma beads' -remember how every teenage girl in the UK had those back in the early noughties? They’re taking over a charity shop near you right now!

Make sure any earrings you donate have backs, and if something is real gold or silver, write a note so staff can make sure that they price it accordingly, or let someone know when you hand it over.

There are a couple of baskets by the till at the shop we work at, and we fill them with little things like yo-yos and packs of cards and marbles and keyrings (and a few karma beads of course). People often pick up these items whilst they’re waiting.

Make sure they get to use in good condition and wrap them in a couple of bags or tissue paper, or put them in a box.

5. Have a look round whilst you’re in the shop!

Obviously if you’re donating using one of those sacks that get put through your doors and not visiting the store this is irrelevant, but if you are coming in, take a look round! Charity shops have loads of great stuff, the cardigan or scarf or hat of your dreams could be awaiting you!

Coming soon: How To Shop At Charity Shops/Thift Stores (an insider’s guide in three parts)

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