Monday, 19 June 2017

So Many Dresses...Such A Tiny Luggage Allowance

For a woman with a wardrobe stuffed with backless, slash fronted, halterneck, gloriously impractical dresses it's a crying shame I was born in a country where we can count the number of gloriously hot days suitable for wearing them on the fingers of one hand.

Vintage 1970s Bernshaw maxi (pressie from Curtise), African tribal choker (inherited from Mum), 1970s sunglasses (50p, Age UK), Massive hoop earrings (50p, Sari stall, Walsall market)

When the perfect opportunity for wearing strappy summery dresses comes along (a week in Greece) we've only got a piffling 15 kg luggage allowance between us (which is why our return flights are less than £80 each). We could pay for more but we're out and out cheapskates. What with the sun cream & mossie repellent, toiletries, the beach blanket, a few choice pieces from my bastard massive jewellery collection and our flip flops that leaves around 3 kg each for our clothes. Five cotton dresses, a couple of bikinis, two pairs of knickers (that's only because some of my dresses are a bit on the see thru' side), a rayon wrap, a shawl and that's my lot. 

Our packed bag weighs in at 12 kg...phew! 

Which means that there's lots of dresses that can't come, such as this '70s Bernshaw number*. Happily, since Saturday, the UK's been enjoying temperatures of 30 degrees meaning that not only have I made a good start on my tan but I get to flounce around the lawn in skimpy clothes swigging cans of pre-mixed G&T and generally getting into the holiday spirit.

*I think I usually wear it with heels hence the reason why it's pooling around my bare feet (unless I've shrunk).

We haven't been completely lazy. As usual, whenever I go on holiday I have to clean the house from top to bottom (trust me, that's not a regular event) and donate a shed load of stuff to the charity shop (mostly paperbacks, I read like a maniac when the sun's out). In addition, the decorators start work tomorrow so we've had to shift all the plants from the front of the house and move them elsewhere (easier said than done in our tree-filled wilderness). Luckily I'm not a high maintenance woman so getting myself holiday ready consists slapping some colour on my roots, painting my nails and shaving my legs in the bath later. 

Keeping the boys in food (and cat litter) is a full-time job. Jon's been on a lettuce run for Jacob so often this weekend the checkout lady in Lidl is beginning to think that he's stalking her. 

Linking to Patti & The Gang for Visible Monday.

Kalinychta (as they say in Corfu!)

Wednesday, 14 June 2017

Baddesley Clinton - Knights Have Dwelt Within Their Walls, Fugitives Fled To Their Secret Chambers, Cavaliers Knocked at Their Oaken Doors

A National Trust visit was long overdue, so yesterday armed with cheese sandwiches and the camera we jumped in the van and headed south across the border to Warwickshire.

A home has stood at Baddesley Clinton since before the Norman Conquest. Set in the heart of the Forest of Arden, although the moat surrounding the manor house dates from the 13th Century the house wasn't built until the middle of the 15th Century. Baddesley Clinton was acquired by Edward Ferrers in 1526 and the property remained in the Ferrers family for over 500 years until being acquired by a distant relative in 1940. In 1980 it was bequeathed to the National Trust and opened to the public two years later.

Over the course of its history Baddesley Clinton has provided refuge for those seeking escape from the outside world, never more so than during The Reformation, when the house offered shelter to persecuted Catholic priests escaping the 1559 Act of Uniformity. Harbouring priests was seen as an act of treason and owner Henry Ferrers faced certain death if it was discovered that he'd rented out the house to the ardently Catholic daughters of Lord Vaux who'd installed priest hides (see photo below) within the house to hide Catholics. 

As the centuries passed, the house developed to suit the needs of the occupants.

Some of the most radical changes happened in the late 19th Century. By then the house was occupied by a group of Bohemians collectively known as The Quartet. The story goes that Rebecca Dulibella Orpen lived in County Cork with her aunt, Georgiana Chatterton and was courted by the wealthy Edward Dering. Her 53 year old aunt was somewhat deaf and when Edward asked for her niece's hand in marriage, Georgiana misheard him, thought that he was proposing to her and accepted. Apparently very chivalrous, Edward didn't correct the mistake and married her despite the 25 year age gap. 

Marmion (what a brilliant name) Ferrers, the last in the line of direct descendants, married Rebecca in 1867 and all four moved into Baddesley Clinton. Both couples remained childless and inseparable, devoting their lives to the restoration and refurbishment of Baddesley Clinton & to painting, writing and religion. Georgiana died in 1876 and Marmion in 1884 leaving Edward to marry his true love, Rebecca, in 1885.

Baddesley Clinton was closed earlier this year for maintenance work. The kitchen, a Victorian addition, was one of the rooms restored.

Although rather dark, Baddesley Clinton felt welcoming and cosy, with lots of the personal possessions of the Ferrers family on display.

We loved the creaky floorboards and the strong smell of beeswax.

Henry Ferrers used the Great Hall for a reception room and entertainments. When the carved heraldic chimney piece was installed on 2nd March 1629, Henry was recorded as saying Work in the great chamber have finished and set up the chimney piece....which I like well but the unicorn is not set up for the crest, and is as I think made too big and the horn too big, and too upright, and the eyes ill set and sidelong.

Typical me, touching up the curtains to see how they'd work as a frock.

The stain below the fireplace is rumoured to be blood from the grisly murder of a priest in 1483.

Runners in this vibrant print cover much of the floor at Baddesley Clinton. Isn't it gorgeous? 

You know me, I can't walk past a rail of clothes without taking a closer look. 

An illustrated article on Baddesley Clinton appeared in the first edition of Country Life in January 1897 where writer John Leyland described the house  as A truly quaint and beautiful domestic survival of the English country life of the olden time

He continues Mailed knights have dwelt within their walls, fugitives in troublous times have fled to their secret chambers, cavaliers have knocked at their oaken doors...... 

About seven miles from Warwick… all amid the silent woods, its grey walls and timber gables reflected in a lake-like moat, stands the old Hall of Baddesley Clinton. Its aspect carries you back hundreds of years. You will readily, if so disposed, conjure up an old-world history when you look at it, and if you have any antiquarian interest – and who has not at least a tinge of it? – you can easily forget for the time that you are living in the Nineteenth century.

The gardens were gorgeous. Many of the visitors already knew each other and the names of the gardeners, they must picnic there every week.

Many National Trust properties have second hand bookshops in the grounds but the one at Baddesley Clinton was incredibly well stocked and staffed by a very knowledgeable gentleman. We found an amazing post-war guidebook to Greece for just £1.

After we'd eaten lunch we strolled around the estate accompanied by some very friendly ducks.

Despite being issued with a map on arrival we still managed to get hopelessly lost in the vast grounds much to the disdain of the estate's livestock.

We did manage to find our way to St Michael's, Baddesley's medieval church. Aren't the baby skeletons on the gravestone odd?

Rising Lane, Baddesley Clinton, Warwickshire, B93 0DQ

Open daily (except 24 - 25 December)

See you soon.

Thinking of everyone affected by the Grenfell Tower tragedy.

Monday, 12 June 2017

Hey Mickey! Curtain Couture & The Story Behind Our Latest Stock

When I wear my hair in twin buns Jon calls them my Mickey Mouse Ears so, after spotting a pair of Disney curtains in the 50p bin in a chazza on Friday, I just had take them home and transform them into a maxi dress.

At the Acoustic Festival last weekend we got chatting to lady about our mutual love for cats, travel, festivals and the Labour party. After we got home she phoned us and asked if we'd be interested in buying some of her late mother's clothes as she'd been hanging on to them for years and felt that, after meeting us, now was the right time to move them along. With a resounding Yes! we jumped in the van and drove over to rural Staffordshire to take a look. While there's always a thrill when we're buying vintage stock, discovering the story of the previous owner makes them all the more special. 

Sadly, nothing in the collection was my size so Ms Kinky has kindly offered her modelling services.

Born in 1927, Betty was just a teenager when WW2 broke out but had an older sister who owned this Utility suit. For thirty years the females of Betty's family borrowed the suit for work, appointments and job interviews until it was eventually packed away in the late 1970s.

Bearing the increasingly rare CC41 label, utility clothing was introduced at the end of 1941 by the British government (To learn more click HERE).

Unlike many 1950s women Betty wasn't a stay-at-home wife, choosing to work full-time as a cashier for a well known (now, long gone) Black Country bakery firm. Outgoing and sociable, she took it upon herself to organise coach trips to the seaside for the bakery workers and their families. This cotton two-piece was her regular day trip outfit, featuring in many photos and hand made by her sister, the dressmaker of the family. The skirt has been painstakingly darned in places, something I love to see. No throwaway fashion back in the 1950s, back then clothes were loved and treasured and often worn until they fell apart.

This was Betty's "good" suit, worn at weddings and christenings throughout the 1960s.

The Acetate blouse was on the same coat hanger, suggesting that this was what she regularly wore under her brocade suit. Take that, fashion bloggers! Pattern mixing is neither new, brave or revolutionary. Betty was rocking clashing prints half a century ago. 

Betty's husband was described as a bit Victorian in his attitude and wasn't much into socialising. Did that stop her going out? Hell, no! She took herself off to the Saturday night dance at the social club with her three kids in tow (to prove to her husband that she had no intention of copping off with a bloke behind his back) and danced the night way.

From left: 1970s Windsmoor gold lurex party dress, 1960s crimplene mini (handmade by her sister) and 1970s-does-the-1930s Lurex maxi dress

What I love about Betty's wardrobe is that she was well into her 40s when she wore these clothes. Bare arms, short skirts, bright colours, loud prints, no toning it down and dressing appropriately. She was just a normal, hard working woman who dressed as she pleased.

On their 25th wedding anniversary in 1975, Betty and her husband saved like mad and went on a once-in-a-lifetime cruise, visiting Morocco, Cyprus, Portugal, the South of France, Malta, The Canaries, Italy and Spain

Her husband (now in his 92nd year) must have looked extremely dapper in this cobalt blue velvet jacket from C&A 
(now in Jon's wardrobe!)

Meanwhile this insanely fabulous lime green maxi was Betty's cruise-tastic choice of dress. 

Betty sadly died in 2008 but her fantastic wardrobe lives on as I'll take huge pride in telling our customers Betty's story when they buy her clothes.

Mickey Mouse curtain maxi (made from 1971 Butterick dressmaking pattern) worn with cropped and spray painted 1960s leather coat (charity shop, 2014), Swedish apple green clogs and Indian tribal jewellery
Good news! I was able to wear red on Friday as Labour won by a 10,000 majority in our constituency, Walsall South. I don't know about you but I'm utterly transfixed by the fallout.

Linking to Patti & The Gang for Visible Monday.

See you soon!

Thursday, 8 June 2017

Gold Digger

I think we did the right thing coming back from our festival early, it's hardly stopped raining since. So what to do when the weather refuses to play nicely and you can't be arsed leaving the house? Get creating. 

Just like last year, I'm obsessed with off-the-shoulder tops. I can knock one up in around an hour and they're ideal for using up scraps of fabric (or vintage scarves) and leftover trims. I made the two I wore at last weekend's Acoustic Festival using a different tutorial to the one I'd used before (find it HERE) which I altered slightly by making a couple of inches longer so it sat on my waist rather than under the boobs. The 1970s striped knit fabric on the left was part of the bumper pile Jayne sent me earlier in the year trimmed with some multicoloured pom pom braid from the local market stall. The top on the right was a vintage silk scarf Lynn gave me when we traded at Stockport last month. The turquoise pom poms were already in my stash.

You might remember this bolt of vintage gold lamé I bought from a charity shop back in March. I'd started to make a jumpsuit but the fabric was a bit too stiff and it didn't look right so I remade it into yet another top (this time trimmed with some Indian metallic fringed trim bought from a car boot sale last Summer).

When the rain showed no signs of letting up I ran up a maxi skirt to match (and there's still loads left, you'll be sick of the sight of lamé by the end of summer). Fortunately it was dry for a few hours yesterday so I could pose in my finery. A normal person might say they never go anywhere to dress in head to toe gold lamé but I say, own it and the right occasion will arise (although I've never claimed to be normal or to ever have dressed appropriately).

Those of a Tory disposition look away now.... 

The two smaller bangles on my left wrist are the handmade pewter ones I bought from Alan last weekend.

I'm wearing my Jeremy Corbyn badge 'cos I'm a Labour supporter (I won't be visiting the polling station today, I sent my postal vote off a fortnight ago). Vote for whoever you want to but please, please, please exercise your democratic right and go out and do it.

We managed a chazzing trip out yesterday. Amongst the heap of stuff we found was this tassel trimmed vintage scarf crying out to be refashioned into another top so, using some of the elastic I got in the car boot stash last month and some bargain thread (50p for 500 metres) from the market, I did just that. It's perfect with the 1990s linen gypsy skirt I found in the Everything £1 chazza and the stack of plastic bangles from the same shop. Maybe I'll be wearing red tomorrow to celebrate.

The van's in for an MOT today and guess what? It's raining! Looks like another day of sewing.

See you soon.