Butterflies at the Natural History Museum…

I went to London last Tuesday, all on my own, complete with book to read on the train (well Kindle…on my phone actually, Robert Harris ‘Enigma’ which I loved) to see the Wedding Dress exhibition at the V&A.  It was great, not just the exhibition itself, but sitting on the train reading, having lunch in the museum and wandering around the galleries without bored kids in tow.

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But it made me feel guilty, as we rarely take the kids ‘into town’ and it’s only a 40 min train ride into Victoria, so I decided to take advantage of an inset day on the Friday and I took them to see the Butterflies at The Natural History Museum.  M was away for his IronMan in Austria (he did it – hurrah!) so it was just me and the munchkins and it was good fun.  They became a bit tired and whiny by the afternoon and we ran out of steam and didn’t get around even half of the Museum, we’ve been before and will, no doubt, go again so this wasn’t a problem.

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The butterflies were great, it was quiet, there was certainly no need to have pre-booked our tickets, in fact we were allowed to go in early as there was no queue.  Of course, like everyone else, I had my phone out the entire time attempting to snap photos of the ever moving beauties, but I made lots of time to just watch them and it was fascinating seeing the long, curled tongues sipping nectar.  I’d have loved a shot of the chrysalis, all lined up, as they really were fascinating, but that area was quite busy and I don’t like to take photos at the expense of blocking other people’s views.

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Charlie was keen to get his phone/camera out too and if you’re wondering why F has his hoodie up, it’s because the very first thing that happened when we stepped inside the tent, was a butterfly landed on his head and he instinctively tried to swat it only to have me yell at him in horror.  Luckily it flew off before he smacked his own head, but he thought it best to put his hood up just in case it happened again.  I think killing the exhibits might be frowned upon 😉

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They loved both my frock and newly dyed hair.  My top tip?  Go through the side entrance to the museum (the butterfly tent is outside so you don’t enter from the museum anyway) as the queue was ridiculous, it was very, very long and I got totally confused why no-one was using another entrances, apparently it was simply because they don’t know to, or so the guard told me.

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Back home, I struggled to get going this morning.  My attempt to re-arrange the studio and shoehorn all my ‘stuff’ in has got out of hand.  I had hit the stage when it felt like I’ve been working for days but with no obvious results so I woke determined to sort things out.  It hasn’t helped that I’ve not been sleeping very well, largely down to the humid weather we’ve been having.  I waited patiently for the forecast rain all weekend, but it never arrived, we had the odd spot, but not the stormy showers I was expecting and certainly not enough to clear the air.  Not only does it make our bedroom (built into the original loft) hot but the studio and kitchen, with all its glass is like working in a sauna.

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Today, I finally feel like I made it over the hump, as it were, and I can step into my workroom without tripping up on piles of boxes.  Again, I’ve made myself crack on with unfinished jobs.  The old office chair, kindly given to me by my bosses at The Imperial War Museum (it was out by the bins ready for collection but is, apparently, a designer classic, clearly no-one knew that or I’m sure they’d have never have let me scavenge it!!) has been re-covered ready to go into F’s new room.  Phew, another unnecessary thing removed from ‘my’ space (I use M’s Aeron chair, which is much better for my back and currently has no home…it’s a bit like his old camera, I figure if I borrow it long enough it just becomes mine…no?  Have I got that wrong ;)).

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It’s the second time I’ve re-covered it, the first was done in the nice vintage gold linen, but that had worn through, so I’ve gone for a super heavy blue tweed.  It doesn’t feel that nice to touch (it really is very weighty, when I sewed the Weekender Bag above, which I originally bought the fabric for, I nearly cried trying to get the side seams stitched together, with their multiple layers!) but it’s tough and should cope with a little boy mistreating it.

Nearly forgot to mention the lovely cushion came from Felicity at Eclectic Handmade.

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I’ve also finally glued and waxed a rocking horse I’ve had since I was a kid.  Yet more of the typical ‘junk’ I hoard.  This has followed me around for years, I stripped it back in 2009, and sadly I can see from the photo I took at the time (as above) that storing it in the roof alcove, directly in front of a glass window, has done it no good and has left me with cracked paint to deal with.

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Oh well, it’s glued back together and waxed, maybe I’ll find time in another 5 years to give the head a coat of varnish to stop it flaking even more 😉

I need to get back to sewing now, I am very aware how quickly this school term is flying.  Tick tock and all that!

Sale Shopping: Dresses…

Just a very quick post as the sales have started and I’d squirreled away some money to spend.

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I got hyper-excited because Orla Kiely had put this dress into their sale section under the pre-season banner, with quite a lot off the original price, I even put it in my ‘basket’ but then thought, no, I don’t need any more OK dresses, I’ve been collecting them for years and lovely though they are, I tend to save them for best (they are often silk and need dry cleaning) so they don’t get worn often and in complete truth Orla Kiely is out of my price range these days, even in the sale section (I should add, I have pretty much only ever bought sale items).

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Instead I went for this pretty cotton number from Boden, and it works well, it’s light and easy to wear and has enough of a vintage vibe to keep me happy.

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In fact I am so pleased, I’ve also ordered this version (both 40% off at the mo).

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Finally, I somehow found myself buying this mustard frock by Mary Portas from the House of Fraser sale.  I know her things are comfortable and often very flattering so it should be a winner and hopefully I’ll got loads of wear out of it.

Done.  There will be no more shopping for a good while for me now 🙂

Roses and Moo Minis…

Glyndebourne was EXCELLENT!  I didn’t take any photos.  Sorry.

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Since then, F has had another birthday (where does the time go!!).  It’s getting difficult to get gift ideas together for him, we’re reverting to Amazon vouchers so he can choose, later, what he wants; I’d rather that, than putting things on a list for the sake of it.  He is currently obsessed with Minecraft, Sonic and turning out bucket loads of drawings.  He has just started reading ‘Northern Lights’ by Philip Pullman as his school book, so at the moment we are all being given rings with our personal animal demons on, I got a cat, which is pretty spot on really.  Clever Boy.

I am not so clever and have just spent about a week wondering why I couldn’t upload any photos to my blog, then I realised my storage allowance is full – doh!  I couldn’t be bothered to upload images elsewhere and link back so I paid for extra storage (£14 per year), I stupidly didn’t take the ‘bundle offer’ thinking it wasn’t relevant, then remembered that I already pay for no ads (because they annoy me…but I may have to review that bit, having just realised how expensive it is!) so the bundle wouldn’t have cost much more and I could have done a lot of personalising to this page, which I would like to do in the future.

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I also wrote an entire blog post yesterday and then it got sucked into a black hole when I hit the publish button, which on the back of a crappy day, left me deflated.  All was fixed in the evening with carbs, wine and my continued watching of movies I’ve missed over time (M used to watch a lot on planes, so I’ve complied a list of movies I’d like to finally see and I’m working through them whilst I’m a football/iron man widow).

In the daytime, I have been sewing lots, mostly autumn things so I can’t show then yet as they aren’t photographed, instead here are their tags, which come in the form of Moo Minis.  Look!  They have optional rounded corners now – hurrah!  That made me very happy.  The cards came back much darker than the images I’d uploaded, which I wasn’t ecstatic about but they are usable and I ordered loads, as they were on sale, so they should last me a while.

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Forcing myself to get on with the half-finished autumn bits was great for my mojo.  I decided to spend a week doing nothing but sewing, during school hours, (I have to go into parent/cleaner/gardener/cook mode, when they get back) and the satisfaction of my half-finished project boxes emptying and my shop boxes filling is a joy, it has really got me back on track with renewed enthusiasm for The Linen Cat.  I’ve tried this method before, the you-will-not-leave-this-desk-until-the-box-of-things-you-are-avoiding-is-complete method and it works well for me.  I struggle to get going, sometimes, but once the tidy piles of completed work start to form, my enthusiasm returns.

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This box of roses is typical of things I have sitting in sewing limbo.  They were cut out and half-stitched last summer, to be fair I cut many other flower brooches that did get finished, but these were abandoned, incomplete.  Since then, they’ve travelled to Yorkshire, Centre Parcs and goodness knows where else, in the hope I’d get stitching, but after a little push and a couple of days hand sewing they are finally done, packaged and ready for the shop, come September – yay!

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It spurred me onto some purse making (I have been trying to finish acorns as well, they still need to be packaged).

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I had to abandon them mid-way as I ran out of interlining, I get through loads on purses and have just opted to buy a 25m roll.  I took this forced break to draft new cardboard patterns.  I always work on brown paper, but for things that will need repeat cutting, I often move to laminated card so the edges wont get worn.  It was also a good opportunity to stick interfacing samples onto card and label them, I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve gone to buy more and couldn’t remember what kind I’ve been using.

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I had planned to put my feet up and enjoy the latest issue of selvedge magazine.  It’s the only subscription I still get, having cancelled all my others over the past year, but I think my mini tidy in the purse making box has spurred me on the sort out the studio in general.  I now find myself clambering over boxes and piles of fabric as I try (yet again!) to re-jig the space to work better.  We’ve just given up our spare room to F as he’s getting too old to share with C and it was always his room anyway, so the excess furniture has to go somewhere.  In typical me style, I then got upset about the state of the walls in here, for those who have been reading my blog for years, you might remember that this room once had the spare bed in half of it, then half became the kids play space, before I begged to be allowed it all in return for removing as much of my clutter as possible from the rest of the house.  As a result the walls are covered in sticky little handprints, pencil marks and scraped paint, so to add to the chaos I am now attempting to paint it patch by patch as I move furniture around.

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It’s proving to be hard work and I’ve rather abandoned the rest of the house in the process, but there is a sense of satisfactions as each little bit becomes clean and white and the accompanying furniture is put to good use and tidied.  I even brought some roses in from the garden to pop on the desk as that simple detail makes me smile (as long as I don’t turn around to look at the rest of the room!!).  Hopefully there will be some photos, when I’m done, but for now it’s back to the grind.

Glyndebourne Outfits 2013 AND 2014…

Because, hey, apparently I’m totally rubbish at finishing and publishing posts I’ve half written, so here’s two years in one.

OK, for reference, Glyndebourne is a country house that hosts the annual Glyndebourne Festival in it’s grounds (the 80th year this time around).  Apart from some wonderful music and singing, amazing sets and costumes, many of the audience go to town on their outfits and (weather permitting) bring completely over the top picnics, often with tables, chairs, flowers and candles to eat in the immaculate grounds.  Over the course of the evening you eat a multiple course meal around the performance (starter when you arrive, then there is a big interval so you can eat your main course, usually with dessert afterwards, followed by candle lit coffee and mints at the end…..or is that just us!!?).  My very generous Sister kindly treats her best friends and me to tickets each year and as I don’t get out much, I take it as an opportunity to dress up.

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When there a few years ago, we chatted about opera coat envy (oh yes, there are opera coats) and there was talk about my making some, but, in reality, the cost of the fabric alone (I was thinking tweed or velvet, Scottish Widow style) would be high, and then there’s the actual making, which I just know I’ll never get around too.  A quick Etsy hunt showed it would be a much better idea to just buy a vintage one.

DSC_0108I found this 1930’s beauty quite modestly priced and it was swiftly delivered from Mexico City (the listing photos were a bit dreadful, so it was a punt, but one that worked out well).  It’s been shortened at some point, so is a bit below knee-length on me, the lovely beaded ‘phoenix wings’ were in good condition as was the velvet and lining.  I washed it.  Now that was a gamble, but the white lining was more than a bit grubby so I chanced it, the dye did run a bit from the velvet but I managed to wash the lining separately so it ended up looking pretty good.  I did quite a lot of fixing, as some of the actual seams were splitting and I re-stitched nearly all the beads on just to make sure they stay there over time.

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These last three photos were taken a few weeks back, as the poor thing has been waiting for a new button before being carefully stored away (I don’t like to leave dark coloured things, or ‘dust catchers’ on display in case they get sun damaged, or worse, clothes moths move in).

ad3b753b788513c93e2f2e174208e00bThe rest of my outfit was matched to the cloak, from things I already owned.  There was this fab Orla Kiely dress that sat on my wish list for months, I remember being a bit gutted that in the sale, there were none left in my size, then my pathetic ‘keep looking at it’ method paid off as some more were listed and I snapped one up.

f45334c3ad9536d0f4944316a0401333My shoes were an addition to my Chie Mihara collection, courtesy of a Christmas gift, ‘Anuncio’ in the brown/gold colour.  I notice that these are still hanging around on some sites in the sale, even after a year or so.

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A rare chance to get my nails done and drag out some family jewellery, the ring was my Mum’s and the bracelet my Gran’s.  I used to wear the ring daily when I was an art student but it mostly sits in a box now and rarely wear gold, I tend towards silver and more modern style for day-to-day wearing, so the bracelet doesn’t come out much either.  Shame really, I must wear them more often.

DSC_0058 A very dodgy selfie complete with out of focus bits.glyndebourne lunchFor the first time, we abandoned plans for a picnic.  The year before we’d eaten in windy, cold, dampness and it rather took the fun out of things, so we booked into one of the on-site restaurants.  It’s a quick turn-around for the serving staff, you choose your food order in advance and the starter is in place when you arrive, it was yummy as well as pretty.  Sadly this was the only photo I took of the day itself.  We did take pre-Opera nibbles and champagne to have before, setting ourselves up on a side lawn to try to stay out of the wind, only to discover we had a prime view of the dressing rooms, which didn’t put a few of the male singers off from stripping down to bare chests in front of the glass.  It was a bit like a Diet Coke advert but we’re maybe a bit old for leering (not!).

(Incidentally, we saw ‘Falstaff’ which was funny, easy to watch and well designed; not as exciting, visually as ‘The Cunning Little Vixon’ which we’d seen the year before, which had AMAZING sets and costumes, but still good).
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Now for this year.  I did consider wearing one of the many floor length dresses I own, largely donated to me by my Sister, as it’s a rare occasion that I can wear a proper long frock, but then I fell in love with this amazing number some time at the end of last year.  Clearly, it’s not me in the photos, but the shop owner (Animal Head Vintage – what a cool name!)

il_570xN.337204434Being a little…humm…’larger’ it’s not quite so flattering on me, as it hangs off the bust and makes me look like a little dumpling, but I don’t care, I LOVE it!  As it’s another just under knee cloak, the rest of my outfit is the same as above, just in case you think I go the whole hog and wear all new.  I have no problem recycling outfits, I am happy to (and often do) wear a favourite frock over and over with no shame, for a couple of very busy Wedding and Christening years I pretty much wore the same two frocks in rotation, everyone must have thought I owned nothing else (which is clearly not true, as those who read this blog regularly know).8bc39a98977cf0ee2c32425f59b07ea2Besides, it gave me an excuse to finally buy a jewellery piece from Bill Skinner, in the form of a Tiger Bracelet,

product-bs-nw052-g-77I’ve a bit of a crush on the dome necklaces and rings too, which is the fault of Maison Bentley Style, for blogging these beauties some time ago, but for now they’ll have to sit on the wish list.

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We’re going to see Don Giovanni this year, which is an opera I know (phew) and have seen other productions of, I read this one is well staged and from the above publicity photos, I know I’m going to like the costumes.

The flaw in my plans will be if the sun shines, then I’d roast in the large opera coat as we’ll no doubt take a posh picnic to eat in the grounds, but it’s looking a bit stormy right now; and clearly I should be writing this AFTER I’ve been, but I know myself well and bet I don’t take any photos on the day, so I may as well publish now.

On other news, the boys go back to school today after half-term (spent in Centre Parcs for their joint Birthdays) and despite the house and garden needing attention, I’ve promised myself a week of sewing, as I haven’t done any in ages.  Besides, M has come down with a stinking cold and is at the stage where you feel lots of sympathy, but at the same time would like to kit him up in one of those infection control tents as seen in the movies, or in my case, hide out in the studio, donning a mask and lots of Purell before entering the rest of the house.  Perhaps I can give him a bell to ring so we know when he’s coming and can clear the room?  Actually it wont be needed as he’s coughing so much you couldn’t miss him (I joke, but it’s crucial Iron Man training time so it’s bit of a disaster for him really).

Back soon, maybe with some Glyndebourne photos?