Guest Post :: Making Vintage Dresses

Today, vintage loving Catherine of Vintage Frills joins us to talk dresses, vintage dresses. After spying her vintage dress collection and abundance of handmade creations on her blog, I just had to get in touch and ask her all about it! 
Catherine was only too kind to explain how she got started…

Dress making and sewing is getting more and more popular, with TV’s The Great British Sewing Bee and new sewing magazines and books coming out every month, home sewing seems to be everywhere. It’s partly nostalgia for a time when make-do-and-mend was the only way to get new clothes, but also I think people just like to own one off pieces. Once you get going it is a seriously addictive hobby. Nothing beats seeking out the perfect pattern and choosing just the right fabric to bring it to life.

Thus, I have discovered a whole new world of creating my own clothes. I’ve been sewing since I was a child and have always been very creative, but until recently I thought I lacked the skills involved to actually make a dress good enough to wear.
I mainly decided to start making dresses because vintage dresses were getting more and more expensive and harder to find. I love full skirted 50s and early 60s styles, but getting lots of real vintage was starting to stretch my budget. Since I finished my first dress I’ve really started to love the idea that I can choose any pattern and fabric and create my own unique item. Plus there is a certain pride when someone asks where your dress is from and you can reply that you made it yourself.

The thing is, anyone can do it. No one ever taught me to sew, the most textiles I ever did at school was making a hat when I was 12. I could already use a sewing machine as I’d been making cushions and curtains for my house for years. What really daunted me was following a pattern, as I’m terrible at following instructions. To get over my fear I spent hours watching pattern tutorials on YouTube where people make dresses following patterns. Even though they weren’t making the same dress as me I started to get the hang of the basics and it helped me no end.
Dress making doesn’t have to be expensive either. I use a £45 Ikea sewing machine, and it does the job fine. To make a dress all you need are basic stitches anyway. I now only use recycled fabric like vintage curtains or bed linen, I find the fabrics are better quality and I save myself a fortune. I buy buttons and zips from charity shops or salvage them from worn out clothes.
It would be great if more people could get into sewing and feel less daunted by it. There are hundreds of dressmaking courses for beginners up and down the country, but it’s also possible to buy very easy patterns and teach yourself. The internet is a wonderful tool and more than likely you will find a free tutorial that will help with any problems you meet along the way.
Being able to sew can also be a great way to have new things when money is tight. EBay is full of cheap patterns and sometimes they come free with sewing magazines so there’s no need to buy them full price.  Fabric is easy to pick up at charity shops, jumble sales and car boot sales.
If you’re an absolute beginner I’d recommend trying some modern reissues of vintage patterns for example the Retro Butterick and Vintage Vogue patterns which you can pick up on eBay for about £7 each. The advantage of these is the modern sizing. Once your feeling more confident move on to real vintage patterns.
Home sewing is also great for the environment especially is you are using recycled materials. Mass manufacture and shipping aren’t great for the planet so every little bit of home sewing helps.
So if you feel daunted by the idea of making your own clothes – don’t be. It’s not as hard as it looks, and doesn’t need to be an expensive hobby! The bet bit of all is the moment someone asks where you got your dress and you proudly answer “I made it myself!”

Make sure you go and see all of Catherine’s creations over at Vintage Frills. I guarantee you’ll be reaching for your sewing machine too!
Autumn Days When The Grass is Jewelled :: The Two Tickets Tote Bag

Autumn Days When The Grass is Jewelled :: The Two Tickets Tote Bag

Autumn is almost here. The leaves are falling off the trees, there’s a faint dew in the morning air and the sun is casting long shadows as it sets earlier and earlier. Shops are offering generous discounts as new season stock floods the high street. We’re ready for the new season, but the weather doesn’t seem to be just yet. Autumn is just around the corner, autumn is teasing us. 
I, for one, simply cannot wait. Nor am I prepared to wait. As September draws to a close, I’ve decided to break into my autumn wardrobe. Starting with this wood grain effect tote bag from the fabulous Amanda of Two Tickets. As a teacher, I’m always carrying things to and from school: exercise books, paperwork, text books…you name it. When Amanda said I could choose anything from her range, I knew it was this classic tote that I would be taken with. 

Isn’t it a beauty? The bag is a perfect autumnal shade and contrasts with most of my dresses. The handles are made from the softest leather and even when carrying heavy goods, it doesn’t dig into my shoulders. What I simply adore is the Two Tickets emblem, it’s classy and retro. 

Who is the brains behind Two Tickets? Amanda Schwartz, a New York designer of luxury leather goods and accessories for the urban woman. Her vision started with a toaster, a mid-century rocking chair and a leather backpack. Sounds crazy, right?

Amanda is a woman on a mission! A woman trying to raise money for her first handbag order. You can support her by pledging from as a little as $1, to higher amounts. In return for backing her project with $12 or more, Amanda will gift you with certain goods. 

A huge thank you to Amanda for gifting me with such an amazing bag. A bag I’m sure will last for years to come! You can also find Amanda and her creations over on Instagram, hands off the moon phase scarf! It’s mine…in the future. 

Are you a fan of the classic tote?
Are you excited for autumn?
As always, much love,
Donna x
Born Ruffians, Manchester :: I Belong To No One, A Song Without An Album

Born Ruffians, Manchester :: I Belong To No One, A Song Without An Album

Last Wednesday, I decided to take the night off, put on a pretty dress and go see four lovely Canadians perform live in Manchester. You see, it was Rachel’s birthday and that has to be the most perfect reason to for putting down the books. Born Ruffians opened their UK tour at the Northern Quarter’s, Soup Kitchen. A well-known small, intimate venue famed for its soup. 

Born Ruffians’ sound is catchy, soul-stirring and fresh. Considering they formed 11 years ago, their melodies are upbeat and modern. Their latest album, Birthmarks, is a collection of musings from time spent together in a rural Ontario farmhouse. The inspiration for the album’s name? A shared birthmark between lead singer Luke and his girlfriend. 

A small group of us headed out into September’s wind and rain with high hopes. Stopping off for a quick bite to eat at Common, we arrived after the support band ‘Moon Kingdom’ had finished their set. Looking around, we were struck by the youthfulness of the crowd. Then it clicked, Freshers’ Week. Having a good ten years on these whipper snappers, this was a gig that we definitely preferred to spend standing out of the front row glare.  Nevertheless, the snap happy side of me refused to resign the evening to just a memory. 

Before long, we were toe-tapping, swaying and joining in the fun. You see, their sound is so infectious you just can’t help be carried along, despite our whinging that we were too old to be out on a school night. It feels like it’s been such a long time since I went to a gig, in fact I can’t remember the last one I went to. Does Kendal Calling count?

Will you like Born Ruffians? Yes. Try before you buy? Find the official video to ‘Needle’, taken from Birthmarks, on YouTube.

Are you a fan of Born Ruffians? 
Do you go to weekday gigs?
Collar Shots :: A Round Up of Back to School Teacher Style

Collar Shots :: A Round Up of Back to School Teacher Style

The past two weeks have passed by in a blur. A blur of work. Going back to school after a five week break is hard*! So, whilst my blogging self is bursting with ideas, I’m having to pen them late at night when planning, preparation and assessment is complete for the day. I’m busy, but I’m happy.
Starting work at 8am doesn’t leave much time to get ready in the morning. I value at least 7 hours sleep and sometimes it can be midnight before I make it to bed. Last year, choosing my work wear was a rushed job each morning and a bonus if it a) matched b) was ironed or c) all of the above. However, this year I’m making more of an effort to let my personality shine through and dressing as me is one way to do this. Kirsty’s post ‘Let’s Get Preppin” shamed me into organizing myself better, so far so good. I’ve made small steps, such as choosing my work clothes the night before. 
So, as last weekend passed in a blur of sickness and enjoying time with the boy, I thought I’d share my work collars with you. This started off as a twee Instagram shot one Monday morning, it quickly snowballed into a daily occurrence. I never realized just how many scalloped collars and kitschy printed blouses I owned. Until now. It was never intentional, I just haven’t been able to resist them for the past 5 years and now I have quite a collection. I think my favourite is the pencil sharpening print dress. Do you have a favourite?
As always, much love,
Donna x
Lena B, Actually
*Hard but rewarding. I should mention that the 14 hour days and the 60 hour weeks are worth it. Teaching is definitely a labour of love, a rewarding labour of love that is. 
Our Mini Anniversary :: Red Hot World Buffet and Bar, Manchester

Our Mini Anniversary :: Red Hot World Buffet and Bar, Manchester

To say life has been a little busy recently, would be a mild understatement. I’ve been back at school for 11 days, but already it feels like weeks. I’m not complaining, I prefer to be busy… just not at the expense of my life! My life has been one big blur of planning, displays, marking, preparation, oh and teaching.
Over a month ago,  I was selected to be a Red Hot World Buffet Tastemaker which meant myself and a guest could enjoy a complementary meal at Red Hot World Buffet, Manchester. I booked the boy and I in for a Sunday afternoon lunch, thinking it would be a lovely back to school treat and noting it was our mini anniversary. I  then promptly forgot about it and life took over. 
Last Sunday, we woke to howling wind and rain. Howling wind and rain that we would have to battle from Burnley to Manchester. Making it to the restaurant, almost dry and slightly out of breath, we found our seat and took in the surroundings until our waitress, Liva, arrived. Neither of us had ever visited before, but Liva was pleasant and explained the concept to us: English, Chinese, Indian, Japanese, Italian, Thai and more to make an eclectic mix for dinner. Wisely, she advised us to save room for dessert.
Eager to eat (we hadn’t eaten a thing that morning in preparation!)  we headed under the arches and were dazzled by the selection. Walking round like lost sheep, the manager and head chef approached us and took us to each station to explain how the food was prepared and the different selections to offer. Well! When in Rome? I made myself a platter of world wide starters: prawn crackers, pakoras, samosas, bhajis, naan bread, onion rings. It was delicious!

As you can see, we didn’t stop there. We helped ourselves to a little of everything, the boy stopping en route to table to scoff a piece of sushi. I ate Thai green curry and a chicken tikka curry, but John was more adventurous and had teppanyaki freshly prepared at the station by one of their five star chefs. Eating all that food was thirsty work! I loved that our table came complete with an ‘I’m Thirsty’ sign. There’s nothing worse that sitting gasping for a drink during a meal. Within minutes, our waitress was over taking our order. Genius.

I’m so glad I saved room for dessert. To say they were plentiful would be a mild understatement. I had a brownie, chocolate ginger cake, cheesecake, hot waffle and almond sponges. Yum! What I really liked was being offered coffee just as I’d returned to my table with my loot. I’m a huge lover of coffee and cake. My latte arrived right on time and piping hot. Perfection.

I have to say before visiting Red Hot World Buffet and Bar, I had read and heard mixed reviews. For us, it was everything we hoped it could be. There was an incredibly large selection of freshly prepared food, you couldn’t fail to find something to suit your taste and staff were welcoming and attentive. For £10.99 per head, it’s a definite bargain.

It was lovely to spend quality time with the boy for our six month anniversary. I don’t know your thoughts on mini anniversaries, but for me, it’s important to celebrate the detail in life. Take time to appreciate one another. A big thanks to Red Hot World Buffet for letting us do it in style!

Have you been to Red Hot World Buffet and Bar? Are you a Tastemaker? Do you celebrate mini anniversaries?
As always, much love,

Donna x