23 May 2009

200 word review: '31 Songs' by Nick Hornby

I had high hopes for this book. I’ve wanted to read it for a while, so was excited when I got it as a gift. I thought that, as someone who loves music, I’d find a book about songs interesting. Unfortunately, I feel a bit let down.

The problem is, while Hornby is a great fiction writer, his writing style in this book is a bit … well … pompous. He seems to sneer at other people’s tastes whilst regularly protesting that he doesn’t really know that much about music. A bit of a contradiction, methinks. In fact, the whole book is based on a contradiction. Hornby says very early on that people who like songs because they remind them of certain events don’t really like music. So how come so many of the short essays in the book talk about how songs link into certain periods in his life? Pot, kettle and black spring to mind.

There are some highlights. The two essays in which he talks about his relationship with his autistic son are honest and moving. Unfortunately, these were the only diamonds I could find in the rock. The rest I found a bit supercilious and smug.

16 May 2009

Stash Wars: nearly there ...

Remember the free yarn I got recently? Well, I used up the black and white ball a while ago with the potholder and I then got some inspiration for the pink and brown ball:

I made these for the tabletop sale that I seriously hope my church are still doing at some point, once I've sewn saftey pins on the back they'll make very pretty (in my opinion) corsages. The pattern is based on one in 'Stitch'n'Bitch: The Happy Hooker' by Debbie Stoller and I first used it to make my best friend a corsage as a birthday present:

I made this a while back but she only got it this week so kept it under wraps. I'm very proud to say that she didn't realise I'd made it at first! It's a very fiddly pattern but once I got used to it I found I could play around with the yarn combination and petal sizes. Not only have the pink ones used up around half a ball of the free yarn, they've also finished off my pink acryclic and used most of my cream acryclic. Great! That, combined with some more baby booties that I've knitted for a friend who's becoming a dad soon (he'll never find my blog so I'm safe!), means my stash now looks like this:

Getting there! It will be increasing shortly but not for long, as I want to get some yarn to make a matching cardigan for my beautiful new vintage dress. But hopefully I'll be able to rid myself of the last of my stash soon - only to build it up again of course!

It's vintage, baby!

Want to be Generous with your clothes shopping, but can't find anything chic enough in the charity shops? Try vintage! When I passed my driving test recently, hubby offered to treat me to a vintage dress from The House of Rose and Brown in Saltaire, Bradford, and this is what I got:

Oh, yes, how pretty is that? It's 1960's and it makes me want to twirl and skip and be very girly! I dismissed it at first because I wasn't sure about the colour (I'm a brunette with a sallow complexion, whites and pastels don't always suit me) and thought it was a bit shapeless. But I tried it on anway and instantly fell in love. It's not shapeless - the empire line nips you in just below the bust (and the darts in the top part create the illusion that I have more bust than I really do!) and skims over all the bits you want skimming over. I'm going to wear it to my friend's outdoor wedding in August, but it looks great teamed with jeans so I'll be able to wear it more casually too. And it was only £36 - yes, you can get cheaper dresses in Primark, but will they last 40 years and look this good? I doubt it.

This was my first visit to a vintage shop and it was a little daunting. I get nervous in small shops when I'm the only customer, but the shop assistant was lovely - helpful, but not full on. It took a bit of rummaging to find things I liked but it was worth it. Here are a few tips I've gleaned from my first visit:

- Look twice. Of course, fashions have changed since whenever these clothes were made, so it can take a couple of looks for your eyes to adjust to the difference in style. I found nothing the first time I went round, but then I landed on three things I was interested in the second time.

- Try things on. In the shop I went to, everything was labelled with a guide size, but remember our shapes have changed a lot in the last half-century. I tried on a lovely maxi dress that was supposedly 8-10, which I am on top, but I'd have had to remove a few ribs to squeeze into it! Similarly, the dress I ended up buying looked too big at first, but when I got it on it was perfect.

- Think outside the box. I saw a couple of things that, with a bit of alteration (i.e. a raised hem), would look great, but I'm still on baby steps with my sewing so didn't go for them. It might be worth brushing up your sewing skills if you plan to shop vintage often.

- Visit again. I overheard the shop assistant tell another customer that they'd sold out of 1940's clothes the week before - such a shame, because I love that style. But it just goes to show that they'll have different things in every week, so I'll definitely be going again next time I want a treat! Don't be deterred if you don't find much the first time you visit.

I'm still a fan of charity shops and there's no doubt that helping a charity adds to the satisfaction of knowing you are reusing something that could have gone to landfill and saving resources. But for something a little bit special, vintage is a very chic form of recycling!

05 May 2009

Stash Wars: Cupcakes and potholder

For the last few weeks (maybe even months) I've been trying to use up my nasty acrylic yarn by making cupcakes. I've now run out of beigey-brown yarn so I'm almost done with the cupcakes for now, they just need buttons for decoration:

Don't they look good enough to eat? Well, don't - it won't taste nice and the thought of squeaky yarn against teeth does funny things to my spine. 

I also figured out a way of using up one of the free balls of yarn I got recently - hubby mentioned that a potholder would be handy for the kitchen, so I found a crochet pattern in 'Stitch'n'Bitch: The Happy Hooker' and simplified it for my purposes:

Not the most exciting project, in fact it's really just a big tension swatch, but it used up some yarn I didn't know what to do with and it'll come in handy. Plus, it kinda matches our lovely new worktop. It's very different from the original pattern - that was made of two nearly-squares sewn together, but I only had enough yarn for one side. Plus the original had a skull picture on it - obviously, I had to simplify that bit slightly!

No stash update because, frankly, I can't be bothered getting it all out then putting it back again. But I think I'm making progress. Plus, I've started trying to learn to sew on a sewing machine passed down to me from my Godmother's mother - I'm really useless at it now, but I'm hoping I'll get better, I've got loads of fabric in my stash bag that I keep meaning to do something creative with!

03 May 2009

200 word review: 'Friends Like These' by Danny Wallace

This is a big hug of a book. I love Danny Wallace’s work, because it’s so honest and personal you really feel like you know him. Plus his adventures are so weird and wonderful that you want to join in.

‘Friends Like These’ follows Danny’s latest ‘stupid boy project’ as he tries to meet twelve friends from his childhood. Sounds simple enough? Not when those friends include a Fijian chief, a Japanese doctor, a German rapper and a journalist living in America. Danny travels the world to see these people in an attempt to deal with the prospect of turning thirty, but discovers much deeper meanings along the way. The book is witty, touching and, in places, movingly profound. It made me think of the names on my Facebook ‘friends’ list, and how many of them I would count as true friends, how many I could go for a drink with after years apart. Maybe we should all start our own ‘Face-to-facebook’ just like Danny.

The book is a reminder of what friendship really means – not messages and comments exchanged through cyberspace, but a connection that doesn’t fade with time. And it features a ninja. What more could you want?