Monday, 27 September 2021

handmade years : my sustainable wardrobe, part 2

hello lovely ones. today i want to share an update on my journey into a more sustainable wardrobe, after the last post where i introduced my thoughts and reasoning and i guess a kind of philosophy on clothes/fashion. today i'm talking about my latest Instagram account, called @handmadeyears and it contains more regular updates than i can post here, so if you're interested, go and give it a follow.


it's already been quite a journey. and i've already got things to share with you that i've learnt...

first and foremost, how my shopping addiction hadn't really left me (still hasn't) and how i just replaced it with buying loads of secondhand things instead. my consumption rate was still  really high, and i probably realised at the time of that last blog post that i was consuming too much under the pretence of 'saving it from landfill' when in fact, i didn't need it, and someone else could've done with it; i just ended up redonating a lot of things. 

so lesson #1 : buy LESS 

this even goes for contemplating how to select fabrics and new yarns for crochet projects, i want to be as sustainable as i can, but without breaking the bank - i could easily spend £200 on hand-dyed, locally sourced 100% wool yarn for just one crocheted jumper, but i don't have that sort of money for a project! same with fabric, i could spend £70 to get new fabrics for a project, but they won't necessarily even be made in this country - so i've taken to purchasing secondhand fabrics in the form of old duvet covers and tablecloths - it's hard sourcing, but i've found a couple of fabrics i really like that are ready to me made up. and actually with hand-me-down fabrics from my mum i've got quite a stash to work with.

i also spoke in my last post about looking for quality pieces, which is something i am definitely doing. in one of Beth Jones' (@bjonesstyle) latest videos, she mentioned a technique when thrifting where she simply scans the labels to look for vintage ones, and only then assesses the clothing from there. i tried this the last time i was out and i thought it was so fun and i found way more than i was expecting, and it really helped weed out the modern day, poorly made, fast fashion.


then lesson #2 : make more

i have been on a making kick, as i've always got some sort of project on the go lately! whether that's crochet or sewing. the only problem has been getting carried away a little too much and not being specific enough with what i actually NEED to make to add to the wardrobe. so in my latest YouTube video (scroll down to the end of this blog post to watch) i have begun a new method where after my seasonal wardrobe audit i write down a list of potential makes, which you'll see at the end of the video. 

i've really enjoyed the process of creating, and learning new skills. it feels great to keep my brain ticking over trying out a new crochet stitch, or learning how to put in interfacing, gather sleeves or sew a curved neckline.

there's also been a fair amount of progress on my mending pile (now in a drawer in my revamped office/craft room - YouTube video of that to come too). and it's been super fun to solve mending conundrums, like wax spills on jeans or broken zip pulls, or how to make arm holes wider. you'll likely have seen some of these in my YouTube video called 'All my DIY alterations to thrifted clothes'. there have been so many things i've saved that i would've previously thought were done with, and now get another life in my wardrobe.

i mean what else are evenings for than patching holes in your kids trousers and repositioning buttons?


and lastly lesson #3 : stop worrying

the biggest lesson of all has been to take a breath and stop panicking about whether i'm getting this whole 'sustainable' wardrobe thing right. if i'm conscious of it, that's the most important thing. if i don't know all the answers that's ok. if i feel overwhelmed with it, actually that's a call to simplify and dial back from any outside sources talking about sustainable fashion in a negative way. 

i can't get everyone to stop buying cheap fast fashion, and i can't make everyone sew on a button or patch trousers. but I CAN do those things. and that's enough. and i can share it, so that it becomes more normal, and it encourages more of you to think about your choices. i believe even if a couple of you reading this make small changes, it will ripple out amongst your friends, and their family, and their friends, and their family, etc.

i remember the first time i experienced 'eco-anxiety' - i wanted to buy new pants/knickers, and i just couldn't understand how 'eco' pants cost £20 a pair, but i could buy 5 for £12 from M&S. i remember having hours of conversation with my husband about which pair of pants to buy.... and we said, if in doubt, always choose the brand you know is well made. so i went with the M&S ones, and then started sewing again so i can eventually take back the power and make my own pants! how hard can it be?!


anyhow, that's all for today, i hope you enjoyed reading - i'd really love to know where you are on your sustainable wardrobe journey - are you just becoming conscious? were you taught awareness by your parents? are you pretty deep in the journey? tell me something you've learnt...

thanks for stopping by, i hope you have a wonderful day x


Wednesday, 8 September 2021

our favourite autumn books

hey all, today's post is hopefully refreshingly light, inspiring and fun! i'm going to share our favourite autumn / fall children's books with you, because i love switching our books around each season, and i want to inspire you to do the same. if you already do, then i hope there's a couple on my list that you'll pop on your wishlist or buy as gifts for friends. 

let me start by saying why i love switching books up with the seasons...

firstly, there's a huge benefit to me in switching things up around the house each season, switching my wardrobe over and re-arranging the books and toys, moving around any seasonal decorations, deep cleaning and generally doing lots of organising and donating to charity shops. it clears out mental space and allows my creativity to flow, and mostly just puts me in a good mood.

secondly, i believe it's super important for my children to learn more about each season, to grow up with a seasonal mindset, to embrace each seasons for what it can offer. i love how it inspires a deeper connection to our planet and a sense of richness in the celebration of each season. 

so, now, you'll notice each book in this list offers something slightly different to the next, some are funny, some are deeply imaginative, some have grand stories, some are whimsical, some talk about mental health, some talk about different cultures... we can learn so much about being a well-rounded human from books!

we have an autumn collection, Christmas collection, winter collection and a spring collection, and i'm working on the summer list!


so without further ado, here are our favourites:

1. Thankful by Eileen Spinelli (UK / US)
 - a short and sweet book, with fabulous illustrations, detailing little things we can be thankful for, it's super sweet and funny

2. Fletcher and the Falling Leaves (UK / US)
 - a great book dealing with big emotions, talking about the loss of things and the changing seasons, this is lovely

3. The Very Helpful Hedgehog (UK / US)  
- super funny and highly requested in our home, this talks about making friends, and it makes us all giggle

4. The Very Best Pumpkin (UK / US)  
 - this is about making friends and being kind, it's also about growing pumpkins, and the illustrations are really unique, this also gets asked for a lot

5. Brambly Hedge Autumn Story  (UK / US)  
- a classic, for a reason, the illustrations are so detailed and sweet

6. A Windy Day (UK / US)  
- this makes us all laugh, visualising our tshirts going over the fence on a really windy day, it's very seasonally appropriate here in England

7. How to Make an Apple Pie and See the World (UK / US)  
- gosh we all fell in love with this book last year, it talks about where each ingredient comes from that is in an apple pie, it talks about culture and agriculture, and has a really yummy recipe in the back

8. Winnie-the-Pooh Weather  (UK / US)  
- a lovely book for younger kids, this lift-the-flap book talks about the different types of weather

9. The Jumble Bears (UK / US)  
 - another old classic, this is a long tale, and full of rich images

10. Sweep (UK / US)  
- this one is a love it/hate it sort of book, it talks about sweeping emotions away, and how instead we need to confront them - it's unusual and modern, but i like that it deals with this issue as grumpiness is a bit of an epidemic!

11. In the Rain with Baby Duck (UK / US)  
- such a sweet book, encouraging children to get out and enjoy the rain

12. The Year at Maple Hill Farm (UK / US)  
- amazing at teaching children how a farm works through the seasons, so much detail on each month, and it's a good one for slightly older little ones

13. Camille and the Sunflowers (UK / US)  
- this is a tremendous series, introducing fine art to children - in this case it's Van Gogh - and i love the storytelling mixed with the interpretations of his art

14. Wilfred to the Rescue (UK / US)  
 - another Brambly Hedge, and we love this for Wilfred being a hero and making sure no friend is left behind!

15. Usborne What Makes it Rain? (UK / US)  
 - we have a few lift-the-flap books from Usborne, because they don't shy away from detail, and they're great for all ages. the don't talk to the children like they're not capable of retaining the proper understaning of something. thankfully this one talks through science even i didn't fully grasp as an adult, so i learnt too!

so there you have it, our favourite autumn books! i would love to hear yours in the comments below, please....

Monday, 5 July 2021

am i really 'back' on social media?

Right, I’m ready to talk. About why I left social media, what I learned whilst I was away and if I’m actually “back” to regular programming now.

So, last summer I quit all of social media, I was burned out and bitter, and very confused by the whole thing. It had been a long time coming, the exit, and one day I just finally did it. My main concern at the time was really wanting to give my family 100% of me, rather than anything less than that.

It didn’t take long before I made a YouTube video, because gosh I love shooting videos, and it’s often the quietest platform in some ways, less interactions and fewer expectations, which unfortunately has the added backfire of people being much crueler in the comments boxes.

I quit Facebook and haven’t looked back at all, there’s nothing I really use the platform for and haven’t done really in years (seems like a great place for people to show off their holidays, children, husbands or jobs). I deleted Twitter too because I hadn't used it in probably a decade  (seems like it's just an excuse for people to be grumpy and angry, or overly political).

Instagram has been the funny one. And here’s a few thoughts as to why…

NEGATIVES (reasons I left social media)

  • Political correctness has gone completely insanely out of control - you can’t say anything or do anything without offending someone, and too many of the honest and kind voices are being quietened out of fear of saying the wrong thing
  • Consumerism is absolutely the core of the platform - there’s no getting away from anything you post being wanted, whether that’s curlier hair, nicer yarn, a fancier bathroom, a larger garden - and even if your intention of posting isn’t to sell, it’s still a massive comparison trap. It got worse a couple of years ago when it was made more brand-friendly and sponsorship-friendly. 
  • Comparison is the thief of joy - following on from that last point, too much comparison can easily steal our joy, by simply making us spend time focusing on the things we don't have rather than the things we do. Now, that does all depend on what/who we are following and how strong and solid our mindset and habits are around social media, but it's a very slippery slope from a good level of comparison that moves society forward to it being too much.
  • Social media makes you put yourself in a niche when our lives just aren’t like that! I don’t know about you, but I’m varied and have so many different interests that I’d like to share with many of my friends, things I’m passionate about and things that light me up, but the algorithms don’t like it. Not everyone gets to see everything these days and that’s sad. I guess there's a positive offshoot of that though, in that for those with a specific interest or skill have the opportunity to shine.
POSITIVES (why I returned to social media)
  • Inspiration is a big one as far as I'm concerned. I came back to Insta first to seek inspiration, to sneakily look and get ideas for my crochet and my wardrobe (the algorithm on Pinterest is pretty worn out these days). So for regular inspiration, there's nothing like it! I just needed to change the sort of things I was following to make it work for me, whereas before I was following a heap of mummy and parenting accounts, I no longer do, because I feel confident in my path there and it generally made me feel negative. Any fashion Instagrams that were doing any partnerships with brands or regularly purchasing new clothes I stopped following to, because I found it would make me really want things I didn't need. 
  • Community is the other reason I returned, because Instagram is one of the main ways I connect with my friends at the moment, and I missed all my online friends, my international friends, my old friends, my acquaintances who I love to pieces and connecting on Instagram even in small ways is SO important to me. 
  • The Diary aspect was another huge part of the reason for the return. I love keeping my memories, simply because my real memory is so poor, and Instagram is a fabulous and cute way to journal your life. And I also missed making an extra special effort to see the good in each day, instead each day blurred into the next, from one wash load to the next. With Instagram, you keep your eyes peeled for the positive things, and try and savor that moment. That way when you scroll your feed you won't see the many hours spent cleaning that day, the hours spent prepping food, or caring for grumpy babes, or tidying or weeding. Instead you see the bits that made your day special, and those are the moments that make up your life. And for me, I tried doing more regular physical junk journaling, but there just isn't the time for it each day, but there's ALWAYS a moment to take and post a quick photo, to remember the day for the good bit you had, rather than the bad. And there's nothing wrong with that!

There's a lot more to it than that, but that's a starter for ten.

When I came off social media I was really excited to spend more time speaking with family and friends. I thought I would be much more able to pick up the phone and call or FaceTime or send a really great text (at least), but all that happened is that I spiralled into a pretty bad depression (yes actually, I saw a doctor). Why? Because I realised how ALONE we all are and how sad it is that we accept this daily isolation, especially as families.

The thing is, the really SAD thing is, that our society doesn’t really know how to do real life together. We were all spread out and distanced and isolated long before COVID. 

We all sit alone in the evenings, watching a screen (scrolling Instagram, checking the news updates, binge watching the latest Netflix series, catching up on a movie on Amazon Prime), sometimes not talking even to those members of our household properly. I clearly remember when I was 16, being sat in a room with someone really special to me and she was on her phone, and texting a friend, having fun, but I was the only other person in the room, and she was trying to have a side conversation with me at the same time. It was socially acceptable at the time, even cool, to be texting whilst someone else was present. I think she thought it would be rude to not text back, but I felt it was far ruder that she wasn't being present with me, the real person in the room with her. I felt really alone and second best.

Anyhow, obviously that event really scarred me, because I can remember the feeling and I remember telling myself never to let anyone else feel that way. I wish there was a book of modern etiquette around phones, because I still think it's the height of rudeness to get your phone out and scroll whilst other humans are present, unless it's to answer an important call, or book in the next date with each other. Yes, even and especially, with your partner or close family. We need to play more board games and do more crosswords and handicrafts together, and heck, maybe even read books together.

All that watching and screen time is just us comparing our lives to other lives, it's so addictive. But all it does is foster jealousy, and pretending we are all hard done by when actually so much of our life is SO simple and so richly blessed. We have so much to be grateful for! If we have a car, a driving license, good roads to drive on, access to medical care (let alone the free medical care we have in the UK), the ability to see, to talk, to walk, to think clearly, if we have a house, a garden, a garage, a bedroom (and all of those in a safe neighbourhood!), if we have a husband and children, if we have any kind of job or free education, and if we have access to fresh food and money to purchase food we can enjoy, we should be overwhelmingly GRATEFUL!!

But instead our culture around us tells us we aren’t pretty enough or our teeth aren't straight enough, or our kids aren’t smart enough or Montessori enough, or our houses aren’t clean enough or minimalist enough, or our food isn’t interesting enough or healthy enough. And it consumes us, oddly far more than those much more important things that we simply take for granted. One of the most powerful affirmations you can make in today's society is to yell loudly every day 'I AM ENOUGH!!'.

The thing that really has made my head spin is that society has got itself into quite the pickle and I cannot fathom a way back out again. A few hundred years ago we lived and grew up in the same community, we served it and it helped us in return if we worked hard and contributed and played by the community rules. People worked hard but that was (and is) how life is.

Now, we’ve all got it so easy and so convenient and our expectations are so high because we’ve seen so many different ways life can be and we’ve seen the details of them in tiny little grids. 

So, my grand plan for re-integration into real human society failed, because most other people are on their phones! Also, Coronavirus. Also, families are super separated these days and most people don't know their neighbours. Plus lots of other people I know are mamas and their energy levels are already running on low (why? because they're trying to live up to impossible expectations).

Also, during the time I wasn't on Instagram, my actual official 'Screen Time' didn't change. I was hoping it would. And the first couple of weeks it did, I didn't want to be anywhere near the thing. But after, I was just consuming different content. That's the honest truth. I listened to podcasts and made loads of FaceTime calls, I watched YouTube videos and learned about permaculture gardening, and I spend time calling and texting people. Phones are such a valuable resource for learning and communicating, we just need to create better boundaries and keep our hearts and heads safe from negative influence. 

The one thing I did a LONG time ago now, and it surprises me to see that people still do have them, is to remove all notifications, apart from texts of course and WhatsApp. I don't get any pop-ups on my phone, instead I choose to be in charge of my attention and my time, it cannot call on me to spend more time with it! I try to only use my phone in moments when my children are asleep or being cared for my someone else (my husband or my mum usually), so they have my complete attention at all times - most of the day I have zero idea where my phone is, and my husband calls on the house phone! I try to text people back at the weekends when my brain has some free space, or in the evenings if I'm not completely exhausted.

So, let me end with...

  1. We NEED community, and we need to engage with community, wherever we find it
  2. You are ENOUGH!
  3. Be aware of the voices and opinions you're letting in to your head, they are influencing you one way or another, even if they're not trying to (you can't unsee things you've seen, or unread things you've read)
  4. It's cool to use Instagram as a diary to remember your happy moments and forget the parts that make each day blur into the next, especially as a mama, especially during lockdown. 
  5. When you write a message, whoever it's to, whether it's a text, a comment on a post or video, an email, make sure you read it twice and never send a message when you feel angry (when the anger goes, send a constructive criticism!), and mostly, try to BE KIND
  6. I've said this one before, but TAKE PART, be a part of your online communities - taking the time to send someone a message is kind, encouraging, heart-warming and just downright fantastic, so thank you to all of you that have ever sent me something
  7. GET OFF YOUR PHONE, especially when there are people around you, especially when it's your partner or a family member
  8. Take time to turn your phone off and create functioning boundaries with your phone. Don't let it rule your time.

If you weren't aware of my return to social media, you can find me @thealissaevelyn and @handmadeyears - my new account for all things sewing, crocheting, mending, etc ;)



Friday, 2 July 2021

A Very Average English Garden

Hi all, today I'm sharing my garden with you all, in photo but also in video, if you scroll to the end ;)

I call my garden "average" because it's not too small and it's not too big, it's just right. It's pretty average size for a garden plot in the UK, it's about 1/20th of an acre, and about 180square metres. We also have a front garden, but that's far smaller, and very much still in it's early stages. 

I felt nervous about sharing my garden with you, because it's so much in its infancy, the plants are still so little, and some just so new that the borders don't look as lush and full or as lovely as I want yet. But, there's something so miraculous about the journey of learning in any garden, that I wanted to share that today.


I've been gardening for a long time now, I had my first allotment (which die-hard fans may remember) when I was 23, and I've always longed to grow more of my own food. And then when I was 25 I got the opportunity to work with Sarah Raven, a woman and a company that I completely respect and which taught me a huge deal about growing flowers as well as vegetables. 

However, I haven't always been particularly 'green-fingered' - I used to, and I still do, kill plants on occasion, but I think that much of gardening is learnt through trial and error, through sticking your hands in the soil and moving things about. Each plant has it's own needs, and each garden also can offer something different, in terms of nutrients, water, drainage, and most importantly sunlight.

One of the things that attracted us to our home was the gorgeous old oak tree at the end of the garden, and it's a protected tree which means no-one can chop it down, including us. We have our fences built around it, and in the summer it provides the most fantastic shade to keep us all cool. However, it does present a challenge, as there's one simple strip of our garden that gets full sun, and so I have to be really picky about what plants I keep in that part. The rest of the garden is a bit of trial and error, some parts get full shade, others part shade, others bright morning sunshine, other can get very dry right under the shelter of the tree. So, it's been a fun learning journey! 


We've got quite a few pots, so I can extend the 'full sun' part of the garden a bit, and maximise what we can grow there. And there are so many things that grow so well in pots that I'm a bit spoilt for choice, but I do love my campanula and my strawberries the most!


I'm really inspired by traditional English cottage gardens, as well as permaculture principles. So, there's a bit of companion planting in there, but I'm also a massive collector of plants, so not everything is completely functional. The compost bin was a major step in the right direction last year, and hopefully next year we can get a more effective rain storage system in place.

We do love our lawn though, especially to sit and have picnics with the children, or play Kubb with our friends (it's just big enough!). 



Many of the plants have been chosen at random, based simply on how they look. There's not been much planning! I just know that with my garden most things will find a spot as long as it says semi-shade/part-shade on the label!

They are almost all perennial plants, as I don't have much space at all for starting things from seed. And as such, the garden is taking a while to establish itself. Thankfully that means if they aren't seeming to thrive in one spot, I can dig them out and move them to a different spot. The same for if I've accidentally put things too close together, or put something too tall at the front, or vice versa. Plants are very forgiving! I've learnt to be more confident and learn about the resilience of things.


I could go on and on about how much more the garden has taught me, especially things about patience and hope. But I'll save that for another post another day...

So there you have it... if you want to see plant specifics, I've named things throughout the YouTube video below, so I hope you enjoy!

Thanks for reading, I'd love if you would give me a comment below and share this with your other garden friends :)

Tuesday, 9 March 2021

my hair is getting long : a new approach

 yep, that's right, another YouTube video about my hair! some of you have been waiting a really long time for an update on this, and i know you've all been patient. so scroll down to watch...

i wanted to do a little update blog here too, to go with it, so i can chat about things you should be looking out for from the channel, a bit about where i've been, and chat about zero waste / products etc... so read on if you're interested.

the footage i filmed on the weekend, on a day where i only had a short space of time to film, i was headed out for a socially distanced walk with a friend and wanted to make sure mostly that my hair was as dry as possible, so it is by no means as perfect or perfectly curly as it could be, but it is fast! 20 minutes! and i'm so grateful, because if any of you saw the 8 things i hate about the curly girl method video, you'll know my biggest frustration was how long it would take, so now i've figured a few shortcuts i'm happy with, and it does involve a little give and take with my quest for perfection.

of course, as any curly girl knows, if your hair isn't perfectly dry before you head out the door, the curl will drop, and i even usually really like to make sure that i don't scrunch too much gel out my hair before i go outdoors, because it will naturally loosen with the wind/air (especially around here, lol).

i'm still growing out my hair, trying to see how long i can go, but at the moment it's in need of some more layers put back in. it's also starting to really grow back after the birth of my daughter and i have lots of wispy bits at the front. i keep eating my good fats (thanks almond butter blondies!) to make sure my hormones are in check on that one! anyhow, when i was looking back at the footage i realised that i wasn't loving on my hair very well, being pretty vigorous with the brushing :( so i need to do a mask day soon.

i'm also working my way through lots of products i bought two years ago when i started out the CG method. so the products i use here aren't my favourite but they do work, if not as brilliantly. i do believe each product can serve a purpose, and i'm determined to not throw any of my products away, unless i feel like they're actually damaging my hair.

eventually i hope to start afresh, get only my favourite on my beauty shelf, and try more zero waste ideas - i loved my rye flour hair wash, but i want to try chickpea and fenugreek. and i want to make my own aloe conditioner. i do believe the way forward isn't to have loads of products but just one of each. simplify, simplify, simplify! if you want to see my reviews of every product i've tested, click here. and if you have any requests let me know :) i hope reading my reviews saves you some money!

for now, i hope you enjoy the video, and i hope you don't feel the need to go out and buy any new products after watching, i've learnt that it's about 80% technique and 20% the right products for your hair type, you can make most products work, you just need to apply the right amount in the right way for your curl pattern...

anyhow, grab a cuppa tea and relax...


thank you so much for reading and watching, it's great to be back sharing my more relaxed approach to my hair with you, and i would love to hear your thoughts in the comments below or on the YouTube watch page. over and out x

ps. if you didn't read my latest post about 'my sustainable wardrobe', i would encourage you to check it out.

Thursday, 4 March 2021

my sustainable wardrobe, part 1

hey all, i feel like today's post is a looooong time coming, and also, i feel like i'm majorly behind on the times. suddenly i'm out of the haze of baby #2 and it seems like "everyone" is sewing their own clothes, repurposing and mending things, buying only from sustainable brands and having smaller capsule wardrobes...

today i'm going to share where i stand on sustainability as it pertains to my wardrobe. it's actually my one and only "resolution" for 2021, because i figured 'sorting out my wardrobe' was an achievable goal for the mum of 2 littles.

and i apologise for how shallow and unimportant this post is truly, and how for some, dressing is just formulaic and not a creative expression, and that's totally cool (and i'm a little bit jealous). but for me, i understand getting dressed as a chance to express a little of me to the outside world, as well as a little window of opportunity to create that i have every day. also, i'd much rather spend time with my kids, cooking, journaling, walking, gardening, etc, rather than spend my time choosing an outfit - so i figure if i put in the thought process now, i can save time in the future. and hopefully stop me looking at photos of myself and saying "what was i wearing?!"

so, apologies over, let's start with where i am starting from...

i had (and still have) a bulging wardrobe full of too many clothes and shoes. most of which don't go together. i don't really know what 'my style' is these days. i haven't stopped to consider what suits me in my current lifestyle or what looks good on my post-two-babies body. i still buy too many things (even if the majority are thrifted). i know a little about sustainable fashion, but it feels like a minefield.

at least if i have on thing going for me, it's an organised wardrobe...


so, onto my plan, how i've already been tackling it, and how i plan to proceed. also i want to share helpful and inspiring resources with you, in case you're in the same boat as me and ready to make some changes.

purge

so, already i've been really ruthless with my wardrobe, i've cut it in almost a half, and i'm still going. i've got a whole bunch of things waiting to list on ebay in the spring. 

i have previously found it really hard to get rid of things, thinking maybe one day i might "need" it, but after watching a whole bunch of capsule wardrobe videos on YouTube i was like, hmm, i really don't need most things that i keep for that one occasion. 

if something is still in my wardrobe i have to LOVE it, it has to make me feel good when i wear it, it has to be comfortable and practical, it has to be in good condition. i got rid of lots of things i used to love, things that have memories. i got rid of lots of things that were for my old job, or my life before parenthood. i got rid of things that were expensive when i bought them but never wore them. i got rid of "trendy" things too, the ones that really didn't look like "me" at all.

one cautionary word here though: the most sustainable clothing you can add to your wardrobe are the ones you already own, or in other words, getting rid of stuff is really costly to the planet, so be careful how you do it. start by seeing if you can make it into anything else/adjust the length/reuse the fabric, then see if family want it or swap with a friend, then consider selling specific items on ebay (branded things sell well), donate to a good cause, or retire to the fabric recycling banks.

vision

the next thing i've spent time thinking about is what i want to look like. this is the area i most struggle with, and probably is the reason lots of wardrobe/fashion books recommend taking daily outfit photos, because knowing what cuts, fabrics, colours, shapes, etc, work on you, and look most like you is really tricky. though a daily photo would be hard for me, i might try a little morning photo shoot try-on with my mum in the spring, so we can assess what works and establish some "go-to looks" for me.

i've found 'The Curated Closet' (US/UK) by Anuschka Rees a really useful resource for helping figure out where i want my wardrobe to go. it's got some helpful tips in it, if you're interested into digging a little deeper.

i've also been really guilty of just copying other people, and their style, trying things out, but not pulling it off. why? because it wasn't really me, and then i looked way too try-hard. so, i have at least worked out some words to keep in mind if i'm buying a new piece or putting a look together. 

  • soft
  • feminine
  • comfortable
  • timeless
i also found using these words as i was/am purging my closet to be really helpful - shiny fabrics had to go, as well as things that were too masculine, or things that were too tight, or too trendy.

quality over quantity - reduce

now i'm moving into the next level of my sustainable fashion journey, i think the key thing is to assess my wardrobe each season and ask if there are any pieces that are missing or need replacing. cardigans is the first place i've started, because i wear them all the time, they get worn through almost every year. so i've tried to work out which colours would suit and then i've tried to source quality ones - it's taken a LOT of time to find quality sustainable brands at a good price. 

quality and thought is so important when it comes to sustainability, because if you can buy fewer items of clothing and make them last much longer then you save the environment in the long run. in fact, even if you bought one well made natural fibre piece from a high street chain that you kept for a long time it would be a massive improvement. the amount we throw away is a huge environmental issue, so i want to make sure i reduce this as much as possible by making sure each piece is really thought through and i don't ever impulse buy.

mending & sewing - reuse

i've been patching my sons trousers for the last year, and it feels so good to get a few more months of wear out of them. i even then take the trousers with completely irreparable knee areas and chop them and sew them up into shorts. so easy and quick and gets another life out of the trousers. so, i want to start doing more of this for myself. 

i've had a sewing basket and sewing machine for over a decade and i'd say i'm only a 'confident beginner' when it comes to actually sewing. i don't know many techniques, but i'd be happy to give anything a shot. so i've started reading and watching a bit about #memade wardrobes and saving patterns i like to a list. i've even bought two, but i'm waiting for the charity shops to open again post-lockdown to look for some vintage linens/fabric to use to make them.

if you're interested in sewing patterns but not sure where to start, check out Birgitta HelmerssonBy Hand LondonMerchant and MillsPeppermint Mag (for free patterns), Made My WardrobeAnna Allen Clothing - they're all modern patterns and they look fabulous!

mostly i've been mending my clothes the last couple of months, adding elastic waists, taking in denim jeans (easier than i thought it would be), seam ripping ruffles and taking up hemlines. it's really satisfying to keep my favourite fabrics in my wardrobe but give them a new lease of life. i've also started back up crochet - so i can make cardigans for me and my girl (there are some lovely modern crochet patterns out there).

in the past i've made great use of my local tailor, altering things to make them fit perfectly always makes things look more expensive and helps you get more wear out of them. so if you're not interested in owning or using a sewing machine, this is still a fabulous option for reusing your clothes.

thrifting - recycle

i've been thrifting / charity shopping for probably about a decade now, and the number of gems i've found is always amazing! i even did a YouTube video about my top tips for charity shopping. i cannot wait to get back out in the charity shops, simply because i find it really good relaxing and inexpensive "me-time". i do think it's the cheapest sustainable option out there if you do need something else in your wardrobe - but to find the things you are after you might have to make it a few visits to different stores. 

making sure items i buy are made of natural materials is really important to me. not simply because i think they look better on me because they're usually softer and less 'shiny', but because i know that eventually once they're worn beyond repair that the fibres will naturally biodegrade right back from where it started from. so i look for 100% cotton, linen, 100% wool - they're usually easy to spot and there're plenty of them. i also check for quality of construction - some items are made to last, and some literally made for a few wears - i check its washing instructions too, as that's a good indication of how sturdy the fabric is and how well it will wash.

plan

so, having said a little photoshoot to establish some good "go-to looks" for me would be good, the other thing i plan to do is upload my wardrobe in chunks to the Stylebook app so that i can see my wardrobe, track what i wear, and geek out like the little statistician i am. this also means i can sit and put looks together the night before, a week in advance, plan for trips (if Covid ever lets up!) and just generally know what i wear on a regular basis. 

i've also started a Word doc where i keep all the links to clothing i'd like to buy, so i have links to brands i love, things i think my wardrobe could do with. that way i can keep coming back and editing it, adding and removing pieces, feeling out my style. but mostly, it's so that if something has been on the list for a really long time, and i still love it, it probably is a piece i'll love for a long time. it eliminates impulse shopping completely. it also means i give it a good clean through at sale time, and check for sales on the styles i'm after. actually i say this is a list, but it's pretty short - i hope it stays that way!


anyhow, that's all for today! i hope it's interesting if you're also starting on this journey, and if you've already got a wardrobe you love, i'd love to hear thoughts and tips on this too.

Wednesday, 3 February 2021

faith journal flip through 2020

 hi all, today i wanted to encourage and inspire you with some photos (and a video - scroll to the end) of my 2020 faith journal, kept from march to july. 

it's a bit of a mish-mash of faith journaling and memory keeping, so there are photos of my family in there - but they're such a big part of what i'm learning about in my faith journey anyway, it sort of seems fitting.

although i've done a video so you can see all the pages and all the detail, i wanted to use this space here to chat through some of the pages, and add in some of the links to useful resources.

first off, let me mention, lots of the artwork is via my Pinterest. so pop over there if you see something and you'd like it for your own journal. i get so inspired by quotes and art there, it's a great place to start if you're new.


most of this journal is "junk", and there's quite a lot of "art" too. the above piece for example, there's a fresh photo, a print out from Pinterest, a piece of a magazine photo, and then on the other side is a stapled piece of scrap fabric art i made with my son, that we thought was too pretty to throw away.


journaling through the time of COVID-19 brought many consistent themes: 'Lord, help me to be brave, help me to have more capacity, give me strength, let me not be judgemental, Lord show me who you want me to be'. i've talked about the weight of my thought processes over the last few months, and it's not only good, but essential, to creatively interpret them. it's been a heavy year for everyone in different ways.



one thing i love to do in my journals is make it really tactile, adding different elements, like stitching, tape, penwork, photos, card, fabric, old papers, new papers - i definitely don't conform to one specific style! i also love to collect and press flowers and leaves from our garden and from walks, and i pop those through my laminator to staple in also.



i often save screengrabs of things from instagram as well, that i might want to use in my journal, or ideas on layouts, anything that might spark some sort of idea that i can quickly go and stick down or write out.



i use the journal to record things that i feel God says to me, but also to allow Him to speak - that probably sounds a bit weird. but often when i sit down to journal i am creating a space for Him to speak, through reading the bible to seek a verse to journal, to listening to a podcast or to worship music. it's such a lovely relaxing time, and it's great to rest in His presence.



one of my favourite things about the whole journal is the cover, which was a vintage book i found on ebay. it wasn't cheap, but i just knew i'd always look at it and remember the time i made it. i also felt it was so appropriate given we were at home a whole lot!


here's the flip through video if you're interested...

thank you all for reading, i hope this blesses you and i hope you have a great day! let me know any thoughts or questions in the comments here or on YouTube. 

PS. Our YouTube family is now 14,000 strong! Thank you all for your support and all those lovely shares and likes x

Friday, 15 January 2021

my easy, no-fuss sourdough recipe (with a 'dry' starter)

hey all. so, today i'm bringing to you all the tips i've learnt about making and keeping a dry sourdough starter, as well as my foolproof recipe for a loaf. why? because this blog is a great personal journal for me, so i want to store this recipe somewhere safe i can always find it. and as we kick off 2021, in another lockdown, i know at least some of you will be starting or wanting to improve on your attempts at sourdough last year.

so let me start by saying that this method is the only one that's ever worked for me - i love a "dry" starter because it needs very minimal maintenance, and you keep it in the fridge. you simply have to remember the night before you want a loaf to make your levain, and then you'll have a loaf within 24 hrs.


about a decade ago i tried my first attempt at making sourdough, and it was an utter fail, nothing happened when i mixed the water and the flour. nothing. then i tried a couple of years later and this time, initially something happened, but then it seemed to die, and it smelt funny. 

turns out, years later, now homemade sourdough is much more popular, and the resources explain things more, that using tap water was a complete no-no. and that's why it basically killed my attempts each time i tried. now i use as fresh flour as i can, and ALWAYS bottled spring water. also, i store it in glass, that's pretty important too.

this time, i followed The Elliott Homestead recipe for making a starter, only instead of the einkorn that she uses i used what i had on hand, which was just all-purpose wheat flour. i love her video that shows all the different stages, it's brilliant, and simple. and it WORKS. (i do love the Elliott Homestead - such trustworthy recipes). i use the exact ratios she does for creating and maintaining it, except i don't use einkorn - and therefore i use a different recipe for the actual loaf.

so here's my starter, straight from the fridge, there's about enough left there for one more loaf and to refresh the starter...


so, step one, turn the dry starter into a wet one (or a "levain"). in the evening, simply take a 30g chunk of starter and pop it in a glass bowl. add in 130g bottled spring water, at room temperature, combine with a fork until smooth. then add 120g all-purpose organic flour. combine with a fork until smooth. cover and leave overnight. then in the morning it should look like this...


at this point you have a regular sourdough starter which you can make into bagels, pancakes, cookies, cake, or just a regular daily bread...

the following recipe has gone through lots of trial and error and is perfect for the loaf i love. it comes easily out the banneton and has great structure and flavour. you can see my hand-scrawled notes, lol. it's a very well-used recipe.


in the morning, add 315g bottled spring water, at room temperature, mix with a fork until smooth. then add 430g organic white bread flour and 100g organic wholegrain rye flour. (you can use just 530g of bread flour, it doesn't even need to be organic, but i love the flavour i get from this combo). mix until no flour is visible. like this...


then autolyze - leave it for 40 minutes at room temperature, covered. i use either a plastic shower cap or a beeswax wrap.

once the timer is up, mix 8g salt and 20g water in a jar and pour that over the top of the dough. squeeze/squelch it in with your (super clean) hands. i always like the feel of this bit, and my son likes to help too.


now, leave it covered for 2 hours. you don't see a dramatic rise with this dough, like you would with dry yeast, but it will rise a little.

after the time is up, it's time for your first stretch and fold. simply google 'stretch and fold' if you're not sure what to do. i use a simple plastic dough scraper i got from amazon for this, and it's perfect. basically you take one part of the edge of the dough, lift it up and pull it over the top of the dough, and then go all around the edge of the bowl til you're done. i do it about 5-8 times each time. this activates the gluten, and it will help with even formation of the "bubbles" in the resulting loaf. so if your dough is too sticky, or the holes are uneven, chances are you need more stretch and folds.

i do stretch and folds 3 times in total. once after the 2 hour rest, then rest for 40 minutes covered, then another stretch and fold, then rest for 40 minutes and then another stretch and fold, then rest for 40 minutes. 


in the below photo you can see how the dough is less watery looking and starting to come together into a workable dough.


then, tip the dough out onto a clean, floured surface. using your dough scraper or clean hands, shape the dough. 

how you do this will depend on what tools you have available, as well as which shape you'd like your dough. i let my dough rise in an oval banneton, and then bake it in a dutch oven, i find this works well for me. but i used to simply round the dough and let it rise in the same glass bowl, lined with a floured tea towel, then i used to bake it straight on a baking tray. it worked beautifully. the only tip i have for you if you're doing it not in dutch oven is to throw some ice cubes in the base of your oven to create some steam as it cooks.

i do find i get a slightly better rise in my conventional oven with a cast iron pot with a lid, but it's honestly marginal. i got a red ProCook one for my birthday and i really enjoy using it (all the links to my favourite bits are at the end of this blog post). it's also a great place to store the bread after it's cooled.


so, back to the shaping. for my oval banneton, i spread the dough out to a large rectangle, you can be pretty tough with the dough at this stage. it will have lots of spring. then start rolling and pressing it down and then tucking the edges in. it's probably easier to watch a YouTube tutorial on this!


from here, leave it to rise in the banneton or bowl for 2 and a half hours. this usually takes me until about late afternoon. from here you can either bake it straight away, or you can pop it in the fridge until you're ready to bake. sometimes mine stays in for an hour, sometimes 24 hrs. it can help it form a stronger crust.

once you're ready to bake, turn the oven onto the hottest setting you've got, and place your dutch oven in too, with the lid. 

after 30 minutes of heating, turn your banneton or bowl upside down onto some baking paper. gently. then score it as deeply as you dare, i don't have a lame but i use a serrate steak knife that seems to glide through the bread well without tugging it. you can score it however you like.

then take out your pot and place it straight into the hot oven, with the lid on, for 25 minutes. after the time, take the lid off, and lower the temp to 220c and leave to cook for another 15 minutes.



leave it to cool for as long as you can be patient for or until completely cooled, as that makes it easier to slice nice and evenly.

links to the bits and bobs i love:
glass pot for storing dry starter - they're from ikea, and they're the perfect size 
plastic dough scraper - UK / US
pyrex bowl - UK / US
oval banneton - UK / US
banneton linen liner - UK / US
ProCook cast iron pot with lid - UK / US

so, there you have it. i hope you're all well! i hope this helps you in your journey with sourdough.

and here is the printable recipe... click to be taken to the Google Doc.