Thursday, 27 January 2011

Awesome Umbrellas

In Old Street last week I discovered, much to my dismay, that my GCSE English Teacher, Mrs Knight, was quite correct when she told me sternly in class one day:
'Naomi, fail to prepare, prepare to fail.'
At the time I thought to myself, 'What the hell do you know Mrs. Knight, I wing all my essays and because of the power of my awesomeness, I never get less than a B!' However, whilst lost in the rain in Farringdon (I know, Old Street isn't even in Farringdon) I remembered her words. I FAILED to plan my route, deciding, insanely, to rely on the ever unreliable Googlemaps for the Blackberry, I FAILED to have the number of the chap I was meeting and I'd also FAILED to bring an umbrella. Consequently, I was late, flustered and extremely, well, damp.

Which brings me to the moral of today's blog post: ALWAYS TAKE AN UMBRELLA. In films, women look sexy when caught in a rainstorm; in real life, when your mascara is dribbling down your face into your cleavage and your nose is gushing like an Oscar winning actress, you don't look hot. You look like you need a bath. I've trawled the interwebs to find interesting rain-cover options, so you never need face this trauma. 

Not on the high street brings us the Ay Up Petal Umbrella for £25 by a seller named, mysteriously, 'Um...' You'll note it's a sturdy, golfing umbrella design that isn't going to blow inside out at the first breath of wind and has the added bonus of being able to annoy other pedestrians with the size of its canopy. Interesting features are: a fun button that you press to make it open and exclusive illustrations by Tricia Stubberfield. If pink isn't your thing, they also offer an equally lovely Squiddle Umbrella, which comes in light blue or green.

For £28 Cath Kidston offer the Candy Flowers Umbrella, which is apparently 'ideal for wet country walks'.

If you're of a more romantic vein, you can purchase this Heart Shaped Umbrella in red for £19.99 here or in hot pink and black for the same price at Goth shop Kate's Clothing.

Now, these are all really for girls, so, with a bit of hunting, I've found some *perfect* manly umbrellas. Boys, I bring you, the ULTIMATE man's umbrella, designed by Materious, manufactured by Kikkerland, for the humble price of $19.99 for the big one (the one you want) and $25.99 for the compact...THE SAMURAI UMBRELLA. This is awesome, because you can totally tazz about on your rainy commute, secretly pretending to be a Ninja.

Alternatively, there's the Gunbrella which has a definite comic-book vibe about it. At the moment it's reduced to £12.99.  Not strictly for boys, because I also sort of want it too...

Or, if you're more into Star Wars, you could always get a light-up LED Lightsaber Umbrella...The Star Destroyer Umbrella doesn't exist yet, but if it did, it would look like this. Sigh.

Saturday, 22 January 2011

Cushions, daschunds, things that are Made In Britain...

Dear Ria from over @AYDblog  and I both take great delight in finding unusual things to buy that are Made In The United Kingdom. I'd say that we're all like, striving to help the economy, but actually it's just because we like beautiful and unusual things made by super talented artists.

I can't vouch for Ria on this, but do you know what else I like? I like DASCHUNDS! Oh how I've longed for a sausage dog since I was the tender age of thirteen. How I've wanted to take dear little Fritz on little walks in a little coat with a little red leash, to watch him frolic in the park, with a definite hint of the absurd about him, because his legs are too short and his body is too long and his silky ears are disproportionately sized and get in the way. Sigh. So, imagine my delight when what do I stumble upon on HELKATDESIGN website? Only a handmade cushion from Wiltshire featuring Fritz!

Here he comes in charcoal and ivory, with some pretty red hessian, ribbon and linen trimming on the reverse.  You can also get him in pale duck egg blue as evidenced below. Each daschund is hand stitched for an interesting and unique character - look at this one, he sort of looks like he's begging for a biscuit.

They are but £35 pounds, which isn't a lot for something so delightful. There are way more beautiful and ever-so-slightly-quintessentially-English cushions around that price point featuring battling March hares, pheasants, a weasel, a dear little partridge family and some stags and flags. I especially like this foxy loxy.

Twitter also introduced me recently to a shop which is full of Things That Are Made In Britain, called From The Wilde which I like, immensely. And, after contacting dear Emily, I am permitted to share with all you lovely readers a Crafty Little Beggar and AYD Blog Reader discount of 10%, huzzah! All you need do is input the coupon code 1111 and you'll get the discount off any item on the site on orders placed after February 1st. The things I do for you lot :) 

Worth mentioning are the spiffingly unusual tea-towels, my favourite of which features a lovely print of union keys for just £7.65 and also has a set of 4 cotton napkins (reduced to £16.80), a cushion for £36 and a cup to match! Sigh, I do so like it when things are all matchy-matchy.


At the tender age of 17, I decided, after watching An American Quilt, that I totally needed to make one.  I can also remember my Nana Dorothy working on patches for a quilt she made for charity, which I thought was amazing at the age of 7.  I'm terrible for starting crafty projects and then abandoning them for ten years, as evidenced by this particular as-yet-still-non-existent-quilt.  However, I made my resolutions that 2011 was going to be a year of completeness, which is why I dug out all the scraps of material that I've been carefully gathering over the years, old clothes or material offcuts, and actually started to make patches. 

Since Christmas, I've attempted this project with a number of different approaches; the first was freehand - disaster. Ended up with wonky squares that didn't match up correctly and despite coming across as totally carefree, bohemian and somewhat haphazard, I love neatness in everything other than the state of my bedroom and desk. 

I decided to try using card tesserae (templates that you stitch your fabric around in order to maintain straight lines), but it was too fiddly to tack the fabric without taking the thread through the card, which was hard going on my fingers and needle. So, third time lucky, I tacked the fabric to cut out sections of paper. I recycled old bills and envelopes, because it turns out, that's about the right thickness.

Here are the patches I've made so far. It's quite fun to do it in my spare time, like when I'm sat by myself on the Tube. I have a LONG way to go yet, but it feels dreadfully satisfying to see the squares looking all neat.  

I know that it's impatient because I haven't got all of my squares ready yet so I can't plan the design, but I've stitched a couple of squares together, just to see what it's going to look like... 

Friday, 21 January 2011

Why I adore stationery...

Having nice stationery reminds you of that first week of term, where life is full of possibilities, like the possibility that this school year, you won't get hit in the face by a netball during water polo because you're not allowed to wear your glasses in the swimming pool and you're essentially dyspraxic, or that Corin Pratt won't kick you in the shins with his steel toecap Doc Martins because Rosie Repton told him that you fancy him. Love really does hurt. Anyway, having nice stationery makes you feel both organised and a little bit cleverer than you used to feel with your scratty jotter and your Tippex embellished pencil case.

This is why I take a simple pleasure in having nice stationery items. My old boss knew this about me only too well, which is why when she spotted this Nautical Fancier's Stationery Set on Pedlars, she thought of me 'instantly'. Delightfully, it's in the sale right now at £13.50. Presented in a lovely box (just the way I freaking like it baby), is a collection of 30 sheets of paper, 8 notelets, 20 envelopes and a notebook, brought to you by the Society Of Revisionist Typographers (SORT), all adorned with yet another one of my passions, nautical stampery. The anchor motif on the envelopes is probably my favourite.

Equally, when @presentcorrect started following me on Twitter this week, upon reviewing their website I began to let out high-pitched squeals of delight, which probably disturbed my housemates somewhat during their endless games of Fifa and CoD Black Ops. The Present and Correct website is full of clean and minimalist, beauteous things, created by the P&C team or sourced elsewhere, all of which I covet and desire, like the know it all pencil set, where each pencil has a friendly fact for you to wow your friends with, for the price of £11.50.

I also particularly like their rubber collection boxes, wittily titled the P&Correctional Facility, for £9 of your English pounds. See, six new and vintage rubbers come in this spiffy cardboard box for you to cherish and pretend like you never make a mistake.

Finally, moving slightly away from stationery, but still on the topic of AWESOME, would you look at this German Protozoa Chart, which has come from an actual German classroom, for £70. I would have that on display in my library or playroom, which doesn't exist yet anywhere other than in the world of Naomi's Forms, but let me tell you, when it does and I invite you over for wine, cheese and biscuits to show off my fancy pad, you're going to be so freaking jealous, you might just explode.

This post also guest features on superbly spiffing and awesome blog About Your Dress, run by the delightful @riaface. You should follow the blog, it's better than a white rabbit...

Friday, 14 January 2011


Have you heard of Folksy? It's a bit like US online craft market, Etsy, but about ten times cooler because it's UK based and we love supporting our fellow countrymen (and women). You can buy supplies, scrumptious handmade things from UK sellers, which are sometimes recycled, and also learn how to make something new in the 'Making' section, if you want to have a dabble. Or if you're terribly gifted and clever you can sell things yourself.

I often have a nosey round the website, searching for things-of-note and this morning, whilst doing just such an activity, I found this little delight from a fantastically talented Seller called Becky Hogg.

Becky is selling this spiffing Blackwork kit for £30, which isn't a huge amount to justify, when you consider that a generic, mass produced, hideous cross stitch kit like this one here can set you back £37.49.

Obviously I love the pretty design, but what I love even more is all the thought Becky's put into branding and packaging. It comes in a clean, minimalist cardboard box, with a colour printed pamphlet detailing how to learn Blackwork (in a lovely, non-offensive font too).

Becky says: "Blackwork is a counted embroidery technique in which decorative patterns are made up by a series of joined Back stitches on an even weave linen." 

This would be a beautiful, thoughtful present for somebody (like, for instance, me) who enjoys adding crafty feathers to their caps. You can find it here, but hurry, because she's only got four left. Happy shopping!

Thursday, 13 January 2011

Things I dreadfully want...

Okay, there’s no easy way to confess this… I love cross stitch. Yes, yes, I know, this makes me sound like a 50 year old lady, and this is probably-one-of-those-reasons-I’m-single, but the fact is, I love nothing more than making pretty pictures out of threads. And what I really like best is when I look at the back of my stitching, and it’s as neat and tidy as the front. This is somewhat miraculous and paradoxical, because I am not a neat and tidy person. But meh, I’m something of a contradiction in terms, and in the words of Britney, ‘That’s my prerogative.’

So, for ages it was super tricky to get cross stitch kits that weren’t uber-lame patterns of trains, landscapes or flowers. In fact pretty much the coolest thing you could get were patterns for forever friends bears or Winnie the Pooh *gag* and who-the-hell needs or wants a Winnie the Pooh bookmark anyway? So imagine my (carefully kept secret) delight when cross stitching became retro and fun and not-something-to-be-ashamed-of anymore.

PopSoupSupplies on has some really fun patterns available, which you purchase for around a fiver – but you have to source the aida and threads yourself. I particularly like this Pee Wee Herman Cushion and the Warhol inspired 3 Monroes:

Another awesome supplier on Etsy is Bella Stitchery, retailer of super-cool retro Pin Up patterns like these, which I'd painstakingly turn into cushions to adorn my home with:

If you want all materials included, you can get some awesome kits, like these beautiful Emily Peacock HUG and KISS cushion kits I spied on, also recently featured on my beloved Kirstie’s Homemade Homes:

For £54.99 you can have the small size, which is just right for a bed or sofa and the large costs £74.99, which is apparently big enough for two. Now, this might seem pricey, but I have considered it and there are many reasons to justify this purchase. You’d probably pay £60 for a nice looking cushion from a shop anyway, plus you’ll have the satisfaction of having made it yourself, plus £80 equates to one, maybe two nights in the pub, whereas the kit will keep you busy for many a night, so you’ll be richer AND thinner, as you won’t be drinking loads of lovely booze. Plus, it’s awesome. Okay? Great I’m glad we’re agreed on that.