Friday 31 January 2020

On such a Winter's day

"There’s a certain slant of light,
On winter afternoons,
That oppresses, like the weight
Of cathedral tunes."
~ Emily Dickinson, #82 (1924)

Nearly a century has passed since Ms. Dickinson wrote these words, but they hit home nonetheless.

Winter afternoons, especially those of the granite grey variety, have the tendency to oppress, as if a heavy weight is holding you down, making your limbs feel leaden and a fog descend inside your head. We've been having far too many of such days lately, grey and wet affairs, but not nearly cold enough to be classified as true Winter's days.

And then you wake up one morning with the sun piercing through the layer of clouds, and it's as if a curtain opens up inside you, lifting your mood almost instantly. 

We had the pleasure of making the acquaintance of such a day on the Sunday before last, when plans were afoot for going to our monthly indoor flea market. 

Some minor, overnight frost had cooled down the temperature considerably, warranting the wearing of some long neglected Winter woollies. 
And why not wear my faithful old tweed suit? It had been quite a while since I wore it as a whole, rather than just the jacket which, as it happens, I last wore on a walk during the Christmas holidays.

When I found it on the rails at Think Twice many years ago, I didn't actually think twice and snapped it up without any hesitation. I fell in love with its classic shape, its mustard colour speckled with red and brown, its caramel buttons and, of course, its furry collar and cuffs.

The jacket's belt loops bear evidence of the fact that it was once accompanied by a belt, now long lost in the mists of time. This allows me to use one of my own choosing, and in keeping with the rest of my outfit, I opted for a purple one.

The jacket's collar was the perfect canvas for trying out the fur clip my bosses were kind enough to give me.  Copper and more purple, could it get any better than that?

At first, I wasn't sure what to wear with the skirt and I tried several blouses and jumpers, none of which looked right. I was about to give up and wear something else entirely, when I saw this purple vintage jumper winking at me from the top shelf. Initially, I thought it would be too warm, but then I remembered it can be quite chilly in the cavernous flea market venue. 

I love the diamond pattern at the yoke, each containing an embroidered flower. Admittedly, I did hide one of these with my floral brooch. 

The zebra print belt added a whimsical touch, as did the diamond patterned purple tights, which were a gift from Kezzie.

OK, I'm ready to go now!

After our initial disappointment as there seemed to be less stalls than usual, we soon got into the swing of things, especially when I found a brooch less than a minute after walking in. It was the green Merhorse on the bottom right and you will be getting a much better view of it later in this post.

Childhood nostalgia for Jos, who fell for this rectangular carton box full of magic lantern slides.

Our friend Tania's stall always yields one or two treasures, this time in the form of a vintage collapsible wirework egg basket. Here it is among the other kitchenalia in Dove Cottage's kitchen, ready to provide the eggs for one of Jos's famous English breakfasts.

At the end of the very last aisle, we spied this Kodak Brownie camera on a stall presided over by a couple who lives in our village.

It's a Kodak Brownie "Holiday Flash", a popular camera with a moulded brown and tan Bakelite body, which was produced between 1953 and 1962.

It did not come with its flash, but for the sake of this blog, we attached the flash of another Brownie camera from our collection.

There are quite a few Kodak Brownie cameras among our modest collection. The flash belongs to a 1950s Brownie Starlet camera, which Jos found, complete and still in its box, in the waste disposal unit of the block of flats we used to live in back in the 1990s.

Tania's friend Rita's stall tempted us with this stunning Art Deco style bonbonnière, which has found its rightful place on the 1930s side-table in our sitting room, where it is being kept company by our 1950s Bakelite radio.

No more handbags, I told myself, but did I listen? You bet I didn't, as how could I possibly not fall for this fabulous bottle green bag? 

Well, I was always going to allow myself the exception of out of the ordinary ones like this. It has got a quality seal inside which says that it was made in Belgium.

I've already mentioned the Merhorse brooch, but I found more. Here they are all grouped together for you to pick a favourite.

Let's have a closer look.

One of my star finds is the oval brooch on the top left, with its leaping stag. It turns out that the shimmering blue background is made from ... butterfly wings! This kind of jewellery, usually made from the South American Morpho butterfly, was popular from the Art Deco period up to the 1960s.

Apparently, butterfly wing jewellery is still being made today, using butterflies from butterfly farms. If this sounds cruel, then note that these farms are considered as a form of environmental protection of endangered rain forest, allowing more eggs to hatch than when left in the wild. The butterflies then die naturally of old age, which is around 130 days, after which their wings are used to create this amazing jewellery.

The Merhorse is made from ceramic, and is definitely one of my favourites, not in the least because of his gorgeous green colour. Isn't he fabulous? And definitely vintage, judging from his trombone clasp.

While both the butterfly brooch and the Merhorse were separate finds, all the others were picked up from the same jewellery heaped stall, one of our regular stops, for a silly total of € 12.

There was a fearsome cross between a big cat and some kind of mythical beast (top right) and a fabulously dressed and behatted lady carrying a bouquet of flowers (bottom left).

The coppery duo of delicate, slightly tarnished, pearl-hearted flowers is my particular favourite, and might very well be the oldest one of the bunch, while the heavy gold leaf and the blue enamelled floral one are both more recent.

Well, that's all I have time for now.

There will be one more January catch-up from me in February. Until then we will be off on a short break next week, so no need to send out a search party if you don't hear from me for a couple of days!

See you on the other side!

Monday 27 January 2020

Sleeping Beauty's castle

It was Sunday the 12th of January and I was sulking a bit. Not just because yet another weekend was almost over, it had also, yet again, been a particularly wet one. On top of that, the week ahead promised to be a stressful one, as my bosses would be visiting from Miami. Admittedly, they are the two nicest guys ever, but still, a visit from them tends to disrupt my usual office routine just a little.

I knew I would be too exhausted after work to assemble outfits for the next day, so I did some prepping by assembling a couple of tried and tested feel-good ones. Surely, a favourite skirt and blouse combo would do the trick?

The grey wool skirt criss-crossed by yellow, red, green, black and white diagonals creating a kind of plaid pattern, has been a long-time inhabitant of my wardrobe. Its colours, plus a dash of pinks and blues, are repeated in the black floral pussy-bow blouse. Admittedly, it has become a big snug across the chest area, but as any gaping is covered by the floppy bow, it isn't going anywhere soon. Besides, when Face Timing with the girls at the Miami office on the day I was wearing it, they all exclaimed over it, which kind of clinched the deal.

I wore my red boots and my recently charity shopped red King Louie cardigan. The brooch I pinned to it was a flea market find, the lady captured inside wearing a skirt and blouse made of tiny scraps of fabric.

The black and white woven belt tied the skirt and blouse together perfectly and while scouring my stash of rings for a possible contender, I happened upon this black and white checkered metal one.

When I posted the above collage in Instagram, Nancy remarked that the ring reminded her of ska, or rather, 2 Tone, the record label created by The Specials's Jerry Dammers back in 1979. 

The label went on not just to sign The Specials themselves (their "Gangsters" is one of my all-time favourite songs), but also Madness, The Selecter and The Beat. I loved the combination of ska, reggae, punk and new wave and fashion-wise I remember spending my meagre pocket money on a black and white checkered belt I'd fallen in love with at the time.

But I digress!

Let me introduce you to these two fabulous new additions to my brooch collection. I'm sure you'll be astounded to hear that they were a present from my bosses, who bought them for me from an antiques market at Miami's South Beach. 

The one with the cluster of purple stones is Ben Amun, and reasonably modern, while the other one, with its lethal looking two pronged clasp is a fur clip dating from the 1930s or thereabouts.

And while we're on the subject of jewellery, why not take the opportunity to show you the charity shop finds I forgot to mention in my previous post.  The top brooch, a cat painted on a flat stone, was just € 0,10, while the ceramic brown and cream brooch and the bracelet with its glass Millefiori beads, were € 1,50 each. I've already got the bracelet in a red and a light blue version.

As expected, the week turned out to be quite manic, but nevertheless the days sped by like a train and before I knew we'd reached the last carriage and another weekend rolled along.

What's more, the seemingly endless succession of grey rainy days had given way to some bright but crisply cold winter days for a change.

The thick wool-blend dress with its vibrant watercolour print was the perfect choice for the colder temperatures we were having. I love the dropped pleats and its self-fabric belt with its pink plastic buckle. All of these were selling points when I came across it in a charity shops many years ago.

The fluffy maroon cardigan I charity shopped during the holidays made another appearance, already proving its worth as a wardrobe workhorse. I added an off-white oval "lady brooch", which is another stalwart. The wooden beads are an old retail buy, but I can't remember where they came from. I have them in another colourway as well.

Those of you who have been reading my ramblings for a while know that our Saturdays are usually spent trawling one or two charity shops. That Saturday one of shops we'd decided to grace with a visit was the one in the neighbouring town of Duffel.

As we were parking our car opposite the town's enchanting park, we thought we'd better make the most of the gorgeous weather and go for a walk before hitting the shop.

The sky was such a vivid shade of blue and the warmth of the sun on our faces could have fooled us into believing it was almost Spring. It certainly fooled some of the trees, as one of them was already bearing catkins galore. Juxtaposed with these early signs of Spring were the remnants of Autumn's seed-heads, a mid-winter conglomeration of seasons.

At the far end, the park seamlessly meets the grounds of a castle ruin, which we decided would be our walk's destination. 

Skirting a pond, its surface a mirror for the trees to preen themselves in, we caught our first glimpse of the castle, the tangle of trees all but hiding it from view, so that it reminded me of Sleeping Beauty's castle.

Consulting my blog, I was quite shocked to learn that the last time we were here was over two years ago! As the castle's turrets seemed to be leaning ever more precariously with each visit, the ruin falling more and more into ruin, so to speak, we were a bit fearful of what we would find.

Getting closer, though, we could see that fortifications had finally been put up inside the castle's empty shell, so that at least the walls are safe from toppling over in the next storm.

Doing some research, I have read that plans are afoot to restore what's left of the evocative castle which, having its origins in the 12th Century, is one of the oldest buildings in the Province of Antwerp.

And about time I should think, as even if the building has been protected since 1973, the town of Duffel has left it to deteriorate in such a way that for safety reasons, its curlicued gates with its now mossy coat of arms, were finally closed to the public in 2013.

I remember going to a flea market held near the castle well before that time, and a brass band playing in the castle's forecourt, the band leader's stage banter having us in stitches as we trawled the market stalls on a hot Summer's day.  

The castle is home to the park's many birds and waterfowl, who seek shelter inside its walls. Apparently, they have now been joined by two black woolly sheep who have been employed to graze the castle's grassy borders.

I'm including this moody shot of the castle ruins reflected in the moat. Taken with my phone's quite inadequate camera and given a sepia filter, it was much admired on Instagram.

After a final glance and a wave goodbye, we turned our backs to the castle, and made our way back to the main part of the park along the adjacent river's towpath.

And we did visit that charity shop after all, even if we found nothing worth mentioning. We didn't mind very much, as our walk to the castle had been worth driving all that way. Besides, we had a flea market to go to on Sunday. But that will be for my next post!

Thursday 23 January 2020

A stitch in time

The dust has settled and life at the office has gone back to normal. Nevertheless, my blog is still a week or two behind real life so that, while the calendar tells me it's January 23, I've still got to tell you about what I've been up to in the week and weekend before last.

Not that I've been up to very much at all, mind you. At this particularly uneventful time of year, the days and weeks seem to hurtle by even faster than usual, in hindsight making it almost impossible to distinguish one from the other.

But there have been a couple of bright sparks throughout, even if they were mainly provided by what I've been wearing.

A promise is a promise, so I'll start with that burnt orange velvety skirt last seen wearing by Angelica. Finally, that week, it was my turn!

There's something quintessentially 1970s about orange and brown, which people are forever associating with that decade. In later times, the colour combination was jokingly referred to in a what-were-they-thinking kind of way, but fashion designers back then definitely must have known what they were doing, as I for one think orange and brown is a great and timeless look!

So, in honour of the decade in which I did most of my growing up, I plucked this brown floral vintage blouse from my wardrobe and introduced it to the skirt which, rather than being vintage, is from a modern-day brand called American Outfitters. Never heard of them? I can't blame you, as in spite of its name, it's a Belgian label founded in the late 1990s.

I'm sure you must have recognized the teal King Louie cardigan, the woven belt and the beads, as they're all regulars on the blog, all of them charity shop or flea market finds. The brooch was a flea market find as well, bought from the famous Brooch Lady in February 2017. 

The week had been a particularly grey and wet one, the days dark and dreary, making my eyelids droop by mid-afternoon and filling my head with cotton wool.

On Fridays my office closes early, so that there was still a smidgen of daylight about when I was on my way home. The sun had finally managed to chase away the eternal rainclouds, only to start setting soon afterwards, back-lighting the clouds with the last of her orange glow.

The latest Think Twice sales had been in full swing that week but pickings had been rather slim until at the end of the week I stumbled upon this exquisite white raffia handbag. I keep telling myself I should stop buying more handbags, but there was no way I could resist taking this beauty home for only € 4.

I paid the same price for a green speckled polyester dress, which unfortunately had lost some of its buttons. No big deal, as I didn't like them much anyway, so I scoured my stash of vintage buttons, hitting upon these perfect, and far nicer, replacements.

I already wore the dress to work last week, but as things were a bit hectic no outfit photos were made, which I'll have to remedy by wearing it again soon.

While I had my sewing basket out on Saturday morning, I decided to strike the iron while it was hot and finally tackle the partially detached side zip of a dress I bought in the Think Twice sales several months ago. 

Upon closely examining the dress, I noticed several split seams had been repaired by its previous owner using what looked like black darning yarn. To make matters worse, some of these so-called repairs had been done on the outside of the dress, so that there was nothing for it but to remove them all and re-do them using the appropriate sewing thread.

I may be far from a natural at sewing but even with my limited skills I managed to do better. Some people!

Here is the dress in question, which admittedly I only wore for these photos. I'd planned to wear it for work in the week ahead but I totally forgot, so it is still patiently waiting its turn.

The starburst brooch and the snakeskin belt were both flea market finds, while the ring came from a market stall in Bruges. 

Now this is what I really wore that Saturday for another rummage at the charity shops.

I love pleated skirts and dresses, and have several of them inhabiting my wardrobe. Among them, this vintage frock with a print of tiny squares in blue, pink, red, lilac and turquoise and a row of squarish red buttons at the bodice.

I added a wide red woven belt and turquoise beads and pinned a red posy brooch to my turquoise cardigan. Again, most of my outfit is vintage or second hand, except for the tights and the ankle boots. The latter is an old but favourite pair, which has been to the cobbler's a couple of times during its lifetime.

Here, and in the above collage, you can see how wide the dress's skirt actually is. Perfect for twirling or doing a little jig, but not so perfect for that day's weather. There was a fierce and chilly wind blowing so that I had to keep clutching my skirt while on our way to our garage and in-between shops. And why, oh why, did I have to wear this gorgeous but inadequately thin fur collared jacket?

I could tell you all about the fluffy pink scarf I was wearing or the pink and white knitted beret, but I'm sure you wouldn't have been listening, having your eyes fixed firmly on my handbag!

Isn't it fabulous? OK, I have been very, very bad, as I bought it new in the sales at Mango. Also, two handbags in one week, in spite of my self-imposed handbag ban! 

Enough said, let's go charity shopping instead.

Back in the 1970s, brown and orange didn't just rule the catwalks. It was omnipresent and I'm sure that every self-respecting home had its fair share of these colours in its furnishings and homewares.

We snapped up this plastic bread basket from the German Emsa brand in our local charity shop for € 1,50 that day. Made to resemble wood and decorated with a rim of orange and yellow flowers, we already have several items from the same range, including a spice rack, a coffee filter holder and an egg-timer. 

Oh, and we've got egg cups and a jam pot as well! The big brown flower decorated melamine tray isn't Emsa, but vintage St. Michaels, found at a retro event back in October 2017.

We went to another shop a bit further afield that day as well. Rummaging their well-stocked clothing department, I initially thought I'd hit the jackpot upon spotting a whole colour range of apparently deadstock berets. Unfortunately they were all the same size and too big for me, although I am now regretting leaving them behind as they were only € 1 each.

As it is, I only bought this red knitted hat - also deadstock, with a still pristine C&A label - as well as a long and super soft multi coloured scarf.

My final find of the day was this rather gorgeous cardigan in a navy honeycomb pattern on pink by Belgian brand Lucy Has A Secret. As it would have originally retailed at a silly price (at a guess, I'd say upwards of € 80), surely € 4 was a bit of a bargain. 

So, that's it for now. I'll be continuing with my catch-up in my next post. 

In the meantime, have a fabulous weekend, my friends!

Linking to Nancy's Fancy Friday linkup this week. Do go and check out this lovely girl!

Sunday 19 January 2020

Start as I mean to go on

Last week has been quite full-on workwise, with my lovely bosses visiting from Miami, so that any blogging activity was restricted to reading and commenting on your posts rather than churning out one of my own. 

There was no way my muddled brain could have coped with creating my signature collages, let alone writing coherent sentences and stitching them into something worth reading.

But having wrapped up December in my last post, there's now a queue of January outfits waiting to be shown, which means I need to get my skates on, even if I'm skating on rather thin ice.

I'll start by casting my mind back to the first day of the year, when I decided to welcome in 2020 by starting as I mean to go on, which is wearing lots of colour. So, nothing new under the sun, really.

Nothing new where my New Year's Day outfit was concerned, either. The red wool-blend skirt,  a Think Twice find back in December, got another outing. Its fabric is super soft which makes it cozily comfortable, and equally perfect for a walk in park as for a lazy day on the sofa, feeling quite sorry for myself as I had to go back to work the very next day.

To accompany the skirt, I chose this handmade vintage blouse, in a satiny fabric, with the most ginormous spoon collar ever. Its print reminds me of a moonlit sky on a starry night, but with the added bonus of flowers in pink, red and green.

The tan woven belt pulled the two halves together, while providing yet another texture, while I added the red and white metal beaded necklace for further interest.

The grey of the day was briefly interrupted by an episode of blue sky and sunshine, so we hopped into the garden for outfit photos, for which I wore a pink and white knitted beret and the Anthology boots I charity shopped in November.

Phoebe came out into the garden with us and sat on our bench contemplating life, as she does.

The garden's main colours at this time of year are provided by the remains of the fiery red Cotoneaster berries and the prolifically flowering Winter Jasmine, but there's still quite a lot of green about as well.
The winter-bare shrubs, some harbouring the last of the autumn leaves, are a safe haven for our visiting garden birds, who happily make use of our fast food facilities.

Blue tits are our most common visitors, with the odd sparrow and wren thrown in, but ruling the garden - and in particular the food facilities - is our resident robin.

Once in a while, we are regaled by a small flock of long tailed tits, who noisily flit around the garden, delighting us with their antics. This one - top right and bottom left - sat posing for just long enough for me to take several photographs, before it flew off with his/her friends. 

My first days back at work were marred by rain and a public transport strike, so I was quite thankful the working week was a short one. After two days I was totally ready for another weekend!

Saturday was a lacklustre day which definitely needed another dose of colour and this outfit was just what the doctor ordered to restore my senses.
First wearing of this vintage handmade shirt dress with its generous sprinkling of green, pink and brown flowers on a navy background. Its fabric feels like cotton and thankfully it's fully lined, making it warm enough for a not too cold winter's day.

I added a cerise vinyl belt and a dusky pink vintage celluloid brooch, a charity and flea market find respectively, while the wooden disc necklace was an old retail buy from Accessorize who once upon a time had a shop in Antwerp.

A fuchsia cardigan was added for warmth, its tie neck fastened by a vintage scarf clip. The aubergine plastic ring, another old retail buy, is one of my favourites. 

The burgundy boots came from Think Twice, and the opaques are Le Bourget in a colour called Linden. They were a sales bargain two years ago, and I loved them so much that I went back for a back-up pair.

You'll probably have guessed we went charity shopping that Saturday, so without further ado, here are that day's finds.

The cobalt blue lightweight boat neck jumper delightfully closes with a row of white buttons on one shoulder. It has a single blue stripe near the cuffs and at the hem, which is why I didn't tuck it into the skirt, which would have looked better.

The skirt in question, in a burnt orange velvety fabric, was another one of my finds. It has a single pleat, both at the front and at the back. The white jumper threaded with lurex is vintage and has a posh Paris label.

The wide, shiny green belt Angelica is wearing above, as well as the maroon necklace she's wearing with the first outftit, were also picked up that day.

My final find was yet another heart-patterned King Louie cardigan, in red this time. I've acquired quite a collection of these over the past year, all from charity shops.

I wore it almost straight away, as it was just the perfect companion for the dress I wore on Sunday.

The celluloid brooch with its charming twosome of Scottie dogs was a lucky € 1,50 charity shop find last March.

The dress is one of my all-time favourites and has been with me for many years. It's Crimplene and has a pussy-bow and a print of trellises and flowers. Isn't the Shamrock label delightful?

I'm sure the white vinyl belt with its unusual triangular buckle needs no introduction as it's one of my most worn belts, bought from a vintage shop which has sadly stopped trading.

I found the funky red boots in the softest of leathers at a flea market in November 2018.

I liked the outfit so much that I wore it again in its entirety for work that week, as I did my new-to-me skirt, but that, I'm afraid, will be for a next post.