Handmade honeymoon, or, What I wore on my holidays

Oh dear, I haven’t managed to blog for nearly two weeks, which is a bit pitiful. Weddings, hen dos, work, and boring house things all keep getting in the way. I haven’t had time to sew either, so instead you get this post which is a thinly disguised excuse to show you more honeymoon photos.

This year has been my best-ever when it comes to making things I actually wear. When packing my suitcase, over half of it was handmade. I present you with the pictorial evidence:

holiday 1

Here’s me in Positano wearing my yellow skirt and McCalls white blouse. I got rid of the pleats in this skirt as they never hung nicely, and I like it better now. The fabric is very odd though. It’s a bit too limp for an A-line.

This outfit was actually way too hot. I learned the hard way that you don’t want anything tucked in around your waist when it’s 30 degrees and you’re climbing up a massive hill, even if the view from the top is pretty spectacular.

positano
Positano – as you can see, it’s built on an ENORMOUS hill

The shorts I made were ridiculously useful, I wore them to death. Here I am wearing them in Pompeii and doing my best tourist impression:

pompeii

Pompeii was an amazing experience, although I’m glad I saw this British Museum exhibition about it before we went. The site is so vast, and there’s so many tourists wandering around, that it can be hard to get a sense of how special the place is. Having that context from the exhibition helped a lot.

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Room in Pompeii

The shorts also went really well with the vintage Maudella shirt I made earlier this year. As you can see from this (rather smug) photo, I don’t actually tan at all, so I like to wear something to avoid that ‘lobster-red British person on holiday look’. This shirt was a great cover-up.

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The shorts are also great with my Whistles-tribute white top. Here’s me waiting for the ferry in Capri while wearing it.

capri ferry

Incidentally I took my Kindle along thinking I’d have an endless supply of reading material, but it was hijacked by my new husband, so I had to resort to buying expensive English language books from a tiny selection on Ischia. I ended up reading the book you can see in this photo, Silver by Andrew Motion, which I can’t really recommend.

You can also just about spot me in this photo from the chairlift on Capri, which is in my top ten experiences EVER. I’ve never been on a chairlift before, and it was just like flying. I wish this mode of transport was available in more places. It would make the commute to work a lot more enjoyable.

capri chair lift

This is the view from the top. WHY DO I LIVE IN LONDON. WHY.

capri day trip

One thing I don’t really have in my hand-sewn wardrobe is summer dresses. This is disconcerting as every other sewing blogger seems to have 100s. Must work on that for next year. At least I took along  my Anna dress so I could get a bit dressed up in the evenings.

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I also took my emerald-green skirt which goes nicely with a simple navy top, and is breezy enough for aperitivo time.

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I’m ending this post with some holiday photos, just to show you how colourful everything is in Italy. I want to go back!

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Beach umbrellas
flowers
Flowers in Ravello
sunset
Sunset in Ischia
boat
Boats in Capri
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Washing in Procida
ischia
another Ischia sunset
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Red buildings on Procida
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Flowers in William Walton’s garden on Ischia
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More flowers from somewhere
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Chinese lanterns in Sorrento
kiss
Just to prove that Alex was actually there and I didn’t go on honeymoon by myself. Also that we are both big fans of navy blue.

The nicest hotel in Italy

It seems like ages since I blogged, and all I have to offer today is some honeymoon photos. Sorry. I know how monumentally dull it can be reading about other people’s totes amaaaazing summer holidays when you’re stuck at work.  But I thought you might like these pictures I took of our hotel in Sorrento, which was one of the best-designed spaces I’ve ever been in.

It was called the Maison la Minervetta and it was exactly like staying inside a feature from Wallpaper magazine.

Firstly, here’s the view from our bedroom window. Just to the left of this was Mount Vesuvius.

view 1

The hotel is built into the side of the cliff. The carpark is at the top, and you take a lift to get down to reception and the bedrooms (there’s only 12). So the views are just ridiculous, although it’s probably not for you if you suffer from vertigo.

This was the view from the terrace at breakfast.

breakfast view

The interiors are just as nice as the view, which is some feat.

The hotel was set up by an Italian interior designer and decorator, and just has SO MUCH cool design stuff in it (excepting the questionable ceramic heads everywhere, you can see one above – apparently they are a traditional Sicilian thing? Hmmm).

This is the lounge area.

library 1

As you can see, there are thousands of pounds worth of uber-fancy art books just sitting around, looking decorative. At least, I never saw any guests reading them. If you’re holidaying in the Bay of Naples, idly leafing through a £300 coffee table book of David LaChapelle photos isn’t exactly top priority.

There were colourful ceramics and stripes and checks everywhere.

ceramics

What really cracked me up was that even the nice ladies who dished out breakfast matched the decor – they had to wear Marimekko aprons so they blended in.

You can see the kitchen in the back of the photo below. There was always at least two different varieties of cake on offer in the morning, another great reason to stay here.

kitchen

I loved these red chairs in the reception area. Also, in the photo below, the vases on the left are actually made of silicone. They’re the sort of useless design object that cost £2,000 a pop and make you wonder why anyone would buy them. So now you know why – they would look amazing in your new Italian boutique hotel!

reception

There was a steep walkway from the hotel down to Sorrento’s Marina Grande, and along the way there were all these little places to sit and chill out, including an area with a plunge pool, and even more importantly, a phone so you could call up and order drinks from the reception.

As everyone knows, the best thing about going on holiday in Italy is the sheer quantity of snacks you get when you order an aperitivo. We took full advantage.

pool

pool 2

There was modern art everywhere, including these slightly creepy shrines under glass domes. By the end of our stay I was convinced the owner had set up this hotel just so he’d have a place to put all the coffee table books, bizarre ornaments and random art pieces he’d been collecting for years. It was like staying in the coolest museum ever.

crazy art

Everything was blue, green, white and red, and I am now obsessed with this colour scheme. When we got home our flat felt so tiny and beige. I am having to resist the urge to cover every surface with striped blue and white ceramic tiles.

blue and green

The view at night from the terrace was the best thing.

night terrace

The only weird thing about staying at this hotel was that there was never anybody else around. It felt odd to be on this amazing terrace with this jaw-dropping view, drinking wine, playing travel Scrabble and eating large amounts of salty snacks, with zero other people around. Possibly I have lived in London too long.

Anyway, if you ever go to Sorrento, you should stay in this hotel. It’s pretty expensive so I probably won’t be able to afford it again until my second marriage (only joking darling), but it was so worth it.

Minerva Blogging Network: Simplicity 2258

Thanks for all your thoughtful comments on my last post about my image being used by a styling website. I just wanted to say that I was impressed with how quickly the CEO of the business emailed me, and I’m happy with their response. I’m sure they’ll source their photos more carefully from now on….

Anyway, on to more exciting things, like sewing!

The first thing I made for the Minerva Blogging Network is up today, and it’s a colourful cotton skirt.


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Initially, when I saw what all the other bloggers had lined up, I felt slightly ashamed of the ridiculously simple pattern that I chose.

But actually, I’ve been reaching for this skirt non-stop! It’s perfect for summer weather and super easy and comfortable to wear.  The ties at the side stop it from looking too elasticated. Also, and this is crucial, it has pockets (and a gigantic bow).

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For once I matched up the fabric and pattern pretty well. This cotton poplin is delicious to sew with and the print is crazily awesome. It also hardly wrinkles.

If you do buy the kit you’ll have half a metre or so left over once you’ve made the skirt. I’m thinking of using mine for pocket linings or for the yoke on a top like my McCalls one.

I also think this would be the perfect project for beginners. Just please, please, promise me that you won’t try and sew up the long tie pieces right sides together and then turn them out. That has to be the worst, must frustrating sewing task ever.

All I did was iron down the edges, fold the tie in half, and then sew the long edge up. In this fabric nobody is going to notice if your stitching is a bit wonky or if the edges don’t quite meet.

Here’s what it looks like before you fold it in half and sew:

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You could probably draft this skirt yourself if you have the inclination, but the pattern also includes options for shorts and capris which could come in handy, so I think it’s worth a purchase.

You can buy the kit for this skirt here.

If you like the cotton poplin fabric you can get that on it’s own here, and the pattern is here. I totally forgot to include elastic in the kit as I usually have some lying around, but you’ll need a metre of this 32mm elastic, and some black thread.

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Thanks again to Minerva Crafts, and you can read my post for the Bloggers Network here. I can’t wait to see all the other projects now!

On blogging and context

I had a bit of a shock the other day. I clicked on a referring link to my blog and saw my own face staring back at me from a site I’d never seen before.

Some company called ‘The Style Up’ had used one of my photos on their website – a daily style inspiration service.

skirt

They seem to be yet another internet styling service funded by affiliate income. You sign up and get an email each night with an idea of what you could wear tomorrow. The gimmick is that it’s personalised to your local weather forecast.

I’m not averse to this kind of thing. I love taking frivolous fashion quizzes online and finding out my ‘style personality’ or whatever.

Except. It doesn’t sit well with me that they’ve just taken an image from my blog without asking and then added affiliate links to ‘similar’ products. It’s notoriously difficult to make a business work solely on affiliate income, and I’m sure they’re earning less than pennies on these links, but they’re still trying to use my photo to make money for themselves.

affiliate links

I actually emailed them to ask them to remove the photo, which they promised to do (and haven’t – you can see it here). They also asked if I’d like to join their ‘exclusive blogger network’ which is another affiliate thing and isn’t of much use to me given that my blog is mostly about handmade clothing.

So I’m annoyed, but not upset. It’s interesting to read the comments from their users. When my photo is divorced from its personal context, people are a lot more unfiltered and honest. The outfit in question possibly would look better with a slimmer top, flat leopard-print pumps and one of those fashion-bloggers-favourite J Crew ‘bubble’ necklaces, as suggested by commenters (although you will pry my cardigan from my cold, dead, hands).

Changing context

I’ve been trying to analyse what annoys me about this incident.

Firstly, they’ve taken my photo from the original context and put it into a different arena to be judged as a styled image. I have never claimed to be a fashion guru, and if I wasn’t making the things I wear, I wouldn’t have started this blog. It did come out of an impulse to show off (as most blogging does), but to show off my sewing rather than my styling credentials. It’s a small difference but to me it feels significant.

Secondly, they’re using my handmade, one-of-a-kind bespoke skirt to shill mass-produced clothing. While I still buy shop-bought clothing I am becoming more and more aware of the problems with textile manufacturing. So this rubs me up the wrong way.

As does the fact that they didn’t ask if they could use my photo first.

Lastly, the online sewing community is very supportive and small. I’m sure there are people reading this blog who think I look ridiculous and that my outfits are terrible, but they keep it to themselves. So this feels a bit like cold air blowing in. A reminder of the fact that anything you put on the internet is fair game.

I’d be interested to know your thoughts.

Edited 5th August – Kendall from The StyleUp has emailed me to apologise again for not removing the picture and that it was a result of human error – they’re going to take the page down today.

Minerva Blogging Network

Hello everyone! Thank you SO MUCH for all the lovely comments on my last post.  They properly made me well up.

Also, I love looking at pictures of other people’s weddings because I am incurably nosy, but I know it’s not everyone’s cup of tea, so thanks for bearing with me if you come here for the sewing rather than the over-sharing.

I do have some actual sewing news for you! I’m rather amazed and happy to say that I’m part of the new Minerva Bloggers Network, which you may have seen announced on some other blogs this week.

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This project was the brainchild of Vicky at Minerva Crafts and the indefatigable Rachel of House of Pinheiro, two super-inspiring women, and I’m very proud to be part of it.

Each month I’ll be sewing up a garment, with all the supplies coming from the Minerva website. It’ll all be documented on their blog, and you’ll also be able to buy the project as a kit.

I’m interested to see if this kit idea takes off – I think people might enjoy the convenience of it, but I also wonder if other sewers will want to make exact copies of an existing garment. It’ll be fascinating to find out! Of course I’ll link to all the separate parts here on my blog as well in case you like the look of something in particular.

Also, I’ve not been the smartest sandwich at the picnic, as I didn’t quite get the whole ‘kit’ concept when I sent off my requests to Minerva. Therefore some of mine do not include essentials like thread, elastic, etc etc. I will link the missing pieces here too. Sorry guys.

On a practical level, I’m hoping that I can test out some lesser-known fabrics and patterns, and help you navigate the enormous warehouse of craftiness that is the Minerva website. I imagine it to be a bit like Hanger 51 in the Indiana Jones films. You could get lost in there for weeks…

The Minerva Fabrics warehouse, yesterday
The Minerva Fabrics warehouse, yesterday

There are 7 other ladies in the network, and they’re all rather amazing (I know I overuse this word spectacularly but for once it’s true).

Bloggernetwork

I’m sure you’re an avid reader of their blogs already, but as an introduction I thought I’d link to my favourite items they’ve made. This is what I would steal from their wardrobes if they invited me round for tea, and I had a bit less moral fibre:

I’m really excited about the network, and I can’t wait to show you what I’ve been making!