East London Tour: Pitfield London

Pitfield London was another stop on our East London shop tour of joy. An interiors shop with a cafe and exhibition gallery just off Old Street, it's an incredible space run by interior designer Shaun Clarkson and textiles designer Paul Brewster. Both gave us a little talk about how the place started and then let us have a browse and take some snaps of their amazing stock. It's a perfectly curated collection of part new, part vintage objects. My favourite pieces were the old children's rocking horse below and the original botanical prints above. 

Whilst Shaun and Paul were talking, they mentioned owning two other business ventures, both in the Norfolk area. I suddenly had a pang of recognition and asked if one of them was a wedding venue. Sure enough, this brilliantly talented pair also run Cliff Barns, a venue I shortlisted in my own wedding hunt. It offers an all-inclusive barn and accommodation package and is something I would have loved, had it not been slightly too far away.

We also sampled some of the food at the cafe inside- huge salads and fresh savoury tarts, washed down with a smooth flat white. If you're headed to East London and fancy a spot of lunch, this place was very reasonable and you get to gaze at the pretty decor as you  eat. My idea of bliss.

Paul & Shaun

Boohoo: Pick of the Bunch

I haven't put together a wish-list post for a while now, and since the season has changed  and due to the fact that I'm loving quite a lot of Boohoo's A/W 12 collection at the minute, I thought it was about time. Their range is huge, much bigger than I ever remember it being. 

I'm not one for the amazing studded bra-lets and sequinned hot pants sadly, but their dupe of the Topshop/River Island army jacket with pleather sleeves is quite frankly a bloody bargain at £30. The sequinned matt gold blazer is another stunner, perfect over a simple black dress. I have a 1930's crepe, floor-length column dress that this would look perfect with. 

The animal print thing? Yep, I think I'm over it. The only exception I'll make is for miniature owls, like on this 'ere shirt. Add a little black ribbon under the collar and you'd have yourself a rather fetching little ensemble. 
Cranberry, I've discovered, is a very good colour match for my ginger hair and chunky knits are always high on my list for A/W, even if I mostly end up wearing them around the house with PJ's and slippers. This lovely, slightly oversized jumper is a good mix of those two things. 

I wear dresses an awful lot- probably on 19 out of 20 work days a month. In the winter, everything tends to be black or navy and as a new season resolution, I want to wear some warmer hues. This patterned dress is exactly what I was thinking of, with thick tights, ankle boots and a roughly-woven scarf. 

However, saying that, it's also my aim to start buying more separates. These contrast lace tops would look great with cropped cigarette trousers and, if the weather permitted, a pair of simple black ballet flats.

And the shoes, the shoes! £18 for these incredible glitter chelsea-style wellingtons is a steal. I don't think I'd ever want to take them off, what else could a girl ask for? Hugely practical and very sparkly is my favourite combination. 
Way back, when I was 17, did most of my shopping online via Hot Topic and my favourite band was The Distillers, I owned a pair of black and pink leopard-print creepers. They were the comfiest shoes I've ever owned. These creeper boots are cheap enough to experiment with and might allow me to relive some of my misspent youth!

Think you could pull off the creepers? What are your inspirations for winter dressing this year?

DIY: Recover a seat-pad

I bought this little stool from a junk shop in Hampstead for £1 a couple of weeks ago after lazily searching for one for ages. Because our flat is so small, we like to have a few extra seats in case we have people over and for one pound I couldn't really pass it up, even if I did have to carry it home via the Post Office looking like a crazy person who's afraid of long queues.

It stayed as it was for a long while, in a rather forlorn state until I received an email from Bags of Love offering to send me something from their site. Now, for the record I'm not a big fan of photos of people I know/love on anything other than my walls in frames or in albums, so I was all ready to politely decline until I saw that they offer personalised printed fabric. All you do is upload your picture or pattern and choose your fabric. 

The wonderful Natasha, illustrator extraordinaire from The Secret Tea Party, kindly volunteered her fawn drawing, I picked a hardy 500gsm canvas and two days later (mega fast for a personalised product!) it turned up on my doorstep. Am thinking I might still sand it down and revarnish it slightly darker, but it's much better than it was. I'm already thinking about what I can get printed onto poly-cotton to make some curtains with, as it seems to be a pretty cheap option for making your own.

See below for a run through if you've not recovered something before. It was very simple and as long as you have a staple gun and remember to pull the fabric as tight as you can you can't really go wrong!

East London Shopping Guide: The luxury ones

For the second post in my series jokingly (but accurately) entitled: 'Shops in East London So Cool You've Probably Never Heard of Them', I present to you my favourite: Luna & Curious. A sort of messed up giftshop on Calvert Avenue, selling handmade homewares, taxidermied creatures, tights by the amazing Les Queues de Sardines (below) and all manner of quirky, irreverant and beautiful items.

What struck me about the shops we visited last weekend was how they all used their respective spaces (none more so than those I will show you in the next post!). Luna & Curious was spacious and felt light and airy, with the till area pushed back into one corner so not to feel imposing. Items weren't just stacked up on shelves, they were displayed exactly as I would show them off at home, using the space to show them to their utmost potential. For example, they had assembled one of each of the flat-packed mini London landmarks, the hangable art was hung on bare white walls and there was even real (albeit slightly stale) toast on the porcelain toast racks.

The prices ranged from £10 for an illustrated tea towel or some Paperself lashes to over £300 for the taxidermy and one-off art pieces. Not your everyday, treat-yourself shop, but a real pleasure to browse around and somewhere I'd like to pop back to soon.

The next stop was just over the road at the Mawi flagship- the only brand we visited that I'd heard of- for a gander at their bejewelled masterpieces. I'm not one for big, sparkly statement pieces, so whilst the other girls gazed at the new collection, I drooled over these Minna Parikka bunny ear shoes. Animal shoes really are all over the place at the moment aren't they? Cats, mice, bunnies, maybe rhinos next? Or flats with a big, leathery elephant trunk sticking out of them?

Next time, stop three: Pitfield London, LNCC and House of Liza...

Shop Crawl

'Fancy a guided shop crawl through East London to sample it's finest independent shops and cafes with me and a New York model/blogger?' asked Jen, kindly. 'Yes please!' said I.

Natalie, of Natalie Off Duty fame, won a competition run by ShopIkon to be flown to London for a few nights and be accompanied by a couple of UK based bloggers for a tour of East London. Not a regular east-ender, I jumped at the chance to discover some hidden gems, and my gosh, hidden was the key word here. Natalie and her sister Dylana were lovely girls, excited by black cabs and red buses and all the other things I take for granted everyday. 

I've decided to write a little series covering the fascinating places that we visited, with my own photos and reviews. Most I'd never heard of so feel like I need to be sharing them!

We started at A Gold, just opposite Spitalfields market on Brushfield Road. Previously a milliners in the 19th Century, this village-style shop stocks nostalgic and hard-to-find foodstuffs with fresh sandwiches and Monmouth coffee-to-go also on offer. It's a very beautiful shop, with the hundreds of different packets and tins creating a bright collage that covers every inch of the wall space. If you're near Liverpool Street one day and are feeling peckish, then pop here to pick up a salt beef and gherkin on white, some sarsaparilla and a handful of bonbons.

We were treated to a bag of pick and mix each (sweets are the best blogger bribe!) and off we popped to the next stop.

To be continued...

Oh, Crumbs!

Imagine that you're having one of those days. You leave your Oyster/bus money at home. Spill your morning coffee over yourself. Have to answer hundreds of frustratingly urgent- but inane- emails at work. Forget to eat lunch. Forget to wish your best friend Happy Birthday. Double book your evening plans. On top of all this, you feel like a nasty creature has taken up residence in your body, sucking life out of you. Yep, one of those days.

Then imagine, you arrive home and sat on your welcome mat is an anonymous white box concealing something that will make your day quite a lot nicer. This is what Crumb do. They make little letterbox-sized parcels of goodness that cheer the soul and quieten the outside world.

I was lucky enough to win Lisa's giveaway over at Mathilde Heart Manech to be sent the Petite Afternoon Tea & Cocktails Gift Box and it made me very happy indeed. Not necessarily because of the cake (delicious yoghurt topped tiffin and caramel shortbread if you were wondering!) but because of the little extras- mini flags for decoration, violet syrup for a cocktail- the recipe for which is also included, and 6 bags of some of the finest tea around. I think the idea is genius and am honestly a bit gutted I didn't think of it first. I think it would be great for a long-distance present, it's a bit more interesting and comforting than flowers though the cake may last decidedly less time than a bunch of gerberas!

Flats for life

I used to buy pumps by the dozen, usually from Primark or somewhere equally as throwaway and, unsurprisingly, that's what usually happened after a couple of weeks. I threw them away. They were either awfully uncomfortable, or fell apart or didn't hold their shape after being worn a few times. In essence, they were a total waste of (albeit not very much) money. 

Now, I'm not going to get all self-righteous about how spending more money on a good pair of shoes is an investment. That sort of advice doesn't really help when you can't afford an expensive pair of shoes in the first place. To be fair to the cheap shops, not all were the same. I still have a pair of Primark flats that I've been wearing around the office for the past 3 years. I've since learnt that when you don't subject shoes to our hideous, inclement weather, they last a lot longer!

However, one reason I started spending more on flat shoes was the support they gave me- they often have harder wearing, thicker insoles meaning I don't feel every stone I step on and meaning I could wear them for longer and more often. If we're talking cost per wear here, the dearer ones would win hands down. 

So I put it to you- would you rather spend £100+ on one pair of Pretty Ballerinas, or £100 on ten cheap pairs?

Back to School giveaway!

I hadn't fallen in love with a blog for a long time when I stumbled, fervently and hopefully, into Jem's world over at Beautiful Clutter. Her blog is a pure delight, showcasing charity shop finds in dusky sunlight and snippets of her life all photographed with a nostalgia-tinted lens. The name instantly grabbed me. My friends commonly associate the word 'clutter' with me and are often amazed how I fit everything I buy into our very small flat. I think Jem and I might have just been separated at birth, so similar are our tastes! A girl living over a hundred miles from me, the same age, the same love of stuff, it's uncanny.

Jem also runs a very lovely Etsy store and whilst rummaging for stock recently, came across a treasure trove of dead-stock vintage school badges. She put most of them up for sale online but, because she is an all-round wonderful person, asked if I'd like one as a gift and one to give away. 

All you have to do to enter this mini giveaway is make sure you're following me and Jem, and leave a little comment below. No Twitter/Facebook/complicated ways of entering, just a simple comment needed. It will be open for one week from today and end at midnight on Tuesday 18th September. The winner will get to pick their favourite from her Etsy store, so you could turn back time and finally get to be a prefect, a gymnast or even give one to the Head Boy in your life.

Thank you to Jem for her generosity, my Deputy Head Girl badge is looking all sorts of Mallory Towers on my new winter coat right now!