Friday, 16 August 2019

Introducing Pearl

If you follow me over on Instagram you will have noticed we have a new addition to the family, little Pearl. Three weeks ago Pearl came to her forever home with us to enjoy retirement after working as a racing Greyhound for the first few years of her life.

The last few weeks have been a bit of a whirlwind to be honest. I have never had a dog before only a cat and a few small furry creatures as a child. I had absolutely no idea how hard it would be and for the first few days I did really struggle. My husband has had dogs his whole life and so for him it was very normal but everyday he went off to work and I was left alone with Pearl trying to figure out how on earth to teach her how to behave.

Rescue Greyhounds are very different to normal rescue dogs. Most of the time they haven't been hurt or abused they have simply been working dogs that now need a forever home to retire to. That means they don't come with a lot of the issues normal rescue dogs have which is great but it does also mean they have never lived in a home before. Getting a retired Greyhound is basically like adopting an overgrown puppy. You have to teach them everything about home life.

In those first few days I was at a total loss as to what to do. She didn't respond to her name, thought all the food in the house was for her, didn't understand no, would plonk herself in the way and wouldn't budge so I was lifting a 25kg dog around which is very hard for someone with M.E. and chronic pain. She also cried all night when we left her downstairs, scratched at our doors and took all the paint off and kept jumping on furniture in the night to steal hats and place mats off the high shelves to eat.

I ended up becoming quite low about the whole situation. I had desperately wanted a dog my whole life and now I finally had one I felt completely overwhelmed and kept thinking I'd made a huge mistake. I seriously considered giving her back because I thought I simply couldn't cope and maybe I was just a cat person after all.

I shared some of these feelings on my Instagram account feeling like the worst dog owner in the world. I couldn't believe it when I was inundated with a flurry of messages from friends and followers saying they too had had those feelings when they first got their dog. They told me it was totally normal and that it would get better and sticking it out would be the best thing as soon I would have a furry friend I loved more than I ever thought possible.

And they were right. After the first week she had already improved so much. She was responding to her name, to whistling, to the commands of No, Wait, Stay and Off. We've obviously still got a long way to go when it comes to training but all that work I put in in that first week really paid off. We now have a gorgeous cuddly loving dog who wags her tail every time we get ready to go for a walk, climbs on the sofa for daily cuddles whilst I'm knitting up orders and loves being part of our family.

We chose a Greyhound as we had heard from many people and online that they were incredibly relaxed dogs. Everyone thinks because they are racers they have lots of energy and need a lot of exercise but actually it's the opposite. They need about 20 mins walk a day, a little run around in the garden every now and again and a comfy bed to spend the rest of the time on. They are so gentle and calm. She never licks, jumps or barks. She simply stands there being cuddled. She's been amazing with every family member and friend she's met so far and we know in years to come she will make the perfect family dog.

It's been a hard few weeks and we are still having some very early starts which is exhausting on top of M.E but I am so glad we have this gorgeous girl in our family now. We love you Pearl.

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Monday, 22 July 2019

New Beginnings with Stitch and Pearl

Some one you may have noticed over on my instagram that I've been keeping myself busy knitting over the last few months of ill health. When my chronic pain became quite severe in December I started to struggle to do a lot of the things I had been able to do before. I developed chronic fatigue syndrome/M.E. in the January and I soon found myself unable to read, write or blog. I was stuck at home feeling pretty awful but also incredibly bored by my sudden debilitating illness.

I had already been knitting quite a bit in 2018 but as we moved into the new year and my chronic illness only got worse I started to knit a lot more. I found it was the one thing I could still do even with such extreme exhaustion and pain. I found it relaxed me, calmed me when the pain was bad and helped give me a real sense of purpose each day stopping me from falling into a downward spiral of depression. In all honesty it saved my life. I know that sounds terribly dramatic but when you've lost nearly everything that made you you because you are suddenly unable to do it and your days are spent simply existing in pain and exhaustion you do start to wonder why on earth you're still alive at all.

Knitting saved me. It gave me a purpose and soon I was being told by friends and family that the things I was making were good enough to sell. They encouraged me to start a little online shop selling all the little baby knits I'd been making just for fun. And so Stitch and Pearl was born.

It's taken me a little while to get up the confidence to start selling things as I am such a perfectionist. I worry about tiny little imperfections or things not being completely 100% perfect. But my friends and family have encouraged me that this is the beauty of a hand knitted item. It hasn't been made on a machine and its imperfections give it character.

I've had such an amazing response with so many people telling how much they love the knitwear and my shop launch post on facebook was shared over 15 times! It's really given me the confidence to keep going with this idea. I'm not sure where it will lead but for now it has given me a real sense of purpose. No longer am I just knitting to keep me going but also as a mini business. Chronic pain and fatigue has been a horrible thing to go through but one positive thing has come out of it. It's opened up a completely different door for me and I am so excited to see where this leads.

Please do go over and check out my Etsy shop and my new instagram page. I have already sold one item so there are only two up at the moment but many more coming soon including some adult accessories in September!

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Friday, 10 May 2019

Turning Twenty-Five

As you will probably be able to tell from the title of this post I recently turned 25. I don't know why but 25 feels like such a big number. Maybe it's because it's a quarter of a century but it feels so grown up. I had dabbled with idea of having a big 25th birthday party but with my health being as bad as it is I think I made the right decision to take a week off in Scotland instead. 

We had a wonderfully slow and relaxed week full of lots of treats. It was a week of celebrations with my birthday on the Monday, my mother in laws birthday on the Saturday and Easter Day on the Sunday. We ate, and drank (yes I actually drank alcohol on my bday, turning 25 must be getting to me!) and laughed lots. After an incredibly hard few months of my chronic pain getting worse and worse, moving house and the stress of what we will do if I'm not well enough to go back to work, we really needed this holiday. 

Seeing as I have now hit the wise old age of 25 I thought it would be interesting to share some of the things I feel I've learnt about life, particularly in the last few years. They say you change completely from the age of 18-25 and I think I would definitely have to agree. I've gone from a fast fashion clad Liverpool party girl living life at 100 miles an hour to a woman who enjoys slow and natural living, nature, knitting, buys only ethical and sustainable clothing and dreams of living in the countryside. I definitely prefer who I am now and have found my heart is much more full then it ever used to be. So here are the things I've learnt about life so far... 

1. Slow is always better - I've been forced to slow down over the years having suffered from mental health problems and now physical health problems. It's been hard but I can also see the huge benefits in taking time to actually enjoy life. I was always so stressed, so worried about getting everything done that I never took time to just be. Now my priority in life is taking time to be in the present and connect with the world around me. This time will go very quickly and you never know when it will change, it's very important to take the time to enjoy what you have now and not to always be looking to the future. 

2. Don't sweat the small stuff - I have my husband to thank for this one. When I first met him at the ripe old age of twenty I was a little stress ball. I grew up in a house where stressing over tiny details and fussing a lot was completely normal. I didn't know that life didn't need to be this way. My husband taught me to calm down completely. Instead of shrieking and jumping around grabbing tea towels when some one accidentally pours a drink on the table I can now just calmly deal with it. There is no need to get stressed over a drink being spilt, getting lost, breaking something e.t.c these things don't matter that much. And once I learnt not to get stressed by the small stuff I also learnt to deal with the bigger stuff better. I am able to take a step back and think, does this really matter? Is this really as big as I think it is? 

I'm definitely not perfect or an expert at this and I do still have a tendency to get anxious and stressed easily but the little I have learnt has helped an incredible amount, especially recently. Life is just too short to be stressed and worried. 

3. You don't need to have it all figured out - I read a statistic somewhere that our generation will change career eleven times in their life time. I don't know if this is true but I have certainly done my fair share of chopping and changing in just the last seven years never mind a lifetime. We get a lot of pressure from our culture to be completely sorted from day one. We are supposed to know exactly what we want to do, have a five year plan at all times, be at the top of our careers or at least on our way and never give ourselves times to wonder if we are actually happy. 

For a long time I thought this was normal. I threw myself into careers I didn't really want desperate to find something that worked for me. But the reality was it took years of different experiences to form some idea of who and what I wanted to be. I've changed completely since I was eighteen and I'm so glad I had the chance to explore many different jobs and different studies. It's made me who I am today and I can now go forward making informed decisions because of the experiences I've had. 

I still don't know what I'm going to do with my life. I have a vague idea and some hopes and dreams but I know I can still live a great life without having it all planned out. In September I will go back to studying part-time and I'm really excited. That's as figured out as I am at the moment and that's good enough for me.

4. It won't go to plan and that's okay - Following on from the previous point even if you do have it all planned out it won't necessarily go to plan. I spent two years trying to get my perfect job in a school library and when I finally did I was ecstatic. After only seven months I became so unwell I have had to be put on sick leave. I keep hoping I will be able to go back but as my health is at the moment we really have no idea when and if that will be possible. The plan I had had for years of becoming a school librarian surrounding by books everyday, teaching creative writing and inspiring young people to read and then spending my holidays writing my own books, has just gone out the window. 

You never know what is around the corner. It's good to have a plan, it's good to set yourself goals but it's important to remember it's okay if they don't all go exactly as you want. That's life and it would be very boring if we could plan and predict everything right now. Having ambitions are great but also having the flexibility to cope with life's changes is essential. 

5. Go with your gut - I struggled a lot in my early years of adulthood trying to figure out what I wanted to do with my life. I trusted other's opinions far too much and didn't trust myself enough. This resulted in two failed degrees. Looking back I always knew I wanted to go to university to study creative writing but it took me until I was 22 years old and independent from my parents to actually have the guts to do it. Obviously I am glad I hadn't done it from the get-go as I would never have met my husband and he is the best part of my life full stop. I wouldn't choose anything over him. But I do wish I'd been strong enough to trust my own instincts and trust that I knew what I wanted. 

Over the last few years, thanks to my husband being my biggest cheerleader, I have had the guts to go for things much more. I've trusted myself, my ideas and what I wanted and it has paid off. I've moved from quite a few jobs but managed to get some amazing experience. I know how hard it can be at times but I think you do just have to make a decision and jump in life. It may be ridiculously scary but life shouldn't be about taking the safe road, risks pay off and you will thank yourself later. 

My biggest piece of advice would be to trust yourself. Go with your gut and dive into life head first. None of us can see the future but we can make informed decisions knowing who we are and what we want. Just go for it. 

What I Wore:
Dress - People Tree | Shoes - Supergas | Sunglasses - Old

So there you have my five lessons learnt over the last seven years or so. I hope they are helpful to some of you and that I've encouraged you to go out and live the life you want. I'm by no means an expert and I will spend my life learning about who I am and what I want to do but for me that's the best way to live. Always learning, always improving, always living. 

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Friday, 12 April 2019

The Perfect Style

Today I really wanted to share one of my top tips for creating and sustaining an ethical and sustainable wardrobe and that is to create a style over following trends. The ridiculous speed and growth of fast fashion has meant that we now have new styles and trends coming out almost weekly. These encourage us as consumers to drop whatever we are wearing and loving and instead adopt a new trend for a few weeks. We seem to have lost our unique style in this country and instead I see groups full of girls all dressed the same way.

 I remember my first few weeks at university being horrified as I stepped out with my new flat mates to go on a night out. I was the only one not in disco pants, a crop top and heeled boots. It was like a line of clones twisting its way down the street waiting to enter the club. There I was in my vintage white skirt and red spotty crop top standing out like a sore thumb. The funny thing was though that I got a ton of compliments and none of my friends did. This encouraged me to not allow my style to change at uni because of what others were wearing and instead stay true to myself.

Of course in the last six years my style has evolved with age. I've gone from being super cute vintage to a bit more classic but I still have a huge vintage influence in my wardrobe and there are pieces I've had for years that I still wear. For me this is the number one way to keep your clothes going and create a sustainable wardrobe.

So how do you figure out what your unique style is and how do you keep it fresh and current? I would suggest you look at all your clothes and try to find the common theme. What always jumps out at you when you're shopping? What do you see on Pinterest or in magazines that you love? Whose street style do you always covet? For me it's always the classic, elegant, pretty styles that I love. I like anything with a vintage twist and my fashion icons are people like Amal Clooney, Kate Middleton, Julia Engel and Audrey Hepburn.

You want to create a unique style that is timeless so that your clothes will last. Create a Pinterest board full of all the styles that you like and that inspire you and then keep going back to it for inspiration. When shopping think about your style and what is already in your wardrobe. Have a little look at your Pinterest board. Try not to be too influenced by trends and instead go for pieces that will stand the test of time. For example this striped tee I recently picked up from the People Tree sale is such a classic piece. I knew it would go with lots of the trousers and jeans I already owned as well as bags and accessories. I also knew a striped tee never goes out of style and would fit in perfectly with my classic look but also added the feminine side I needed with the peplum bottom. I love it and have already worn it ten times making sure I definitely get my #30wears.

So there you have my top tip for creating a more sustainable wardrobe and to always make sure you get your #30 wears. I would love to hear your tips in the comments below.

What I Wore
Top - People Tree | Jeans - Old | Shoes - Old | Bag - Old
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Monday, 8 April 2019

Knitters Do It Better

You may have noticed if you follow me over on instagram that my stories have been rather taken up by knitting over the last year. In January 2018 I decided I really wanted to get back into knitting having dabbled with it a lot over my childhood and teenage years. I was inspired to learn how to knit by a lovely family friend. I was amazed by the beautiful things she could create and found watching her knitting needles go back and forth so mesmerising. I was about 10 when I told my Auntie Sarah I really wanted to learn how to knit and so she taught me the basics one evening. A few weeks later I went to visit my Granny who encouraged me to learn more about knitting and found me lots of odds and ends of wool in her collection for me to play around with. And that was it! The knitting seed was planted. 

I knitted on and off through my teenage years but I never seriously devoted any time to learning how to do more than two types of stitches. I also never learnt to read a pattern and it was more of a random relaxing past time then anything else.  

As I got more into ethical and sustainable over the years I discovered how hard it was to find clothes that really suited my style. There are only a handful of brands in the UK and only some of them make clothes in a style that I feel suits me and my personality. And so I decided to learn to make some clothes myself. 

At first I thought about learning to sew having played around with sewing machines during my teen years but unfortunately my sewing machine was broken and I didn't have enough money to buy a new one and so my attention went to knitting. I started off easy with a small knitted jacket and matching hat for a baby. This helped me to learn how to read a pattern properly and I learnt so many new techniques and stitches with the help of youtube and my Knitty Gritty book. I then moved on to harder projects like a jumper for my nephew and then a cardigan for my husband.  

In the last few weeks I have finally knitted my first garment for myself and I absolutely love it. I found the pattern for this jumper in a knitting magazine and was lucky enough to find the exact wool it suggested in my local yarn shop. The idea of knitting my own clothes is to create beautiful unique garments that are both ethical and sustainable and so I am very careful to choose materials that adhere to this. For my nephews jumper I used a yarn made from 100% recycled textiles. For my own I used this beautiful wool from West Yorkshire Spinners which is guaranteed 100% British wool meaning it is not only ethical and sustainable but also helps feed a local industry that is at risk of dying.  

I have absolutely loved learning to knit over the last year and am now officially bitten by the bug. I can't seem to put my needles down and I have even started to design my own patterns. I love being able create beautiful garments that really suit my style but also know exactly how they were made and what with. It has also given me a much bigger appreciation for clothes as I am now aware just how long it takes to create a garment and how much skill has to go into it. It's a slow process to create my own piece of clothing taking weeks but that just makes it even more special and precious.  It's such an exciting part of my sustainable and ethical wardrobe and I can't wait to learn even more. 

Learning to knit has also encouraged me to learn more skills so that I can create even more sustainable and ethical bespoke garments. Over the next few years I am hoping to learn how to embroider, sew clothes and up-cycle old ones. I love the idea of having a sustainable and ethical wardrobe full of hand made clothes, up-cycled clothes, vintage, second hand and new pieces from amazing brands. For me it is all about creating a unique and beautiful wardrobe that helps our planet and it's people. 

I hope I've inspired you to maybe have a go at knitting yourself or learn another skill like sewing or embroidery. There are so many ways we can be more ethical and sustainable when it comes to our clothing and it certainly doesn't have to be just a plain Fairtrade organic cotton tee. Let me know in the comments if you are a maker and what you like to make. Or if you're feeling inspired I'd love to know what you might like to learn to do. Wishing you all a wonderful week!  

What I wore...
Jumper - Hand Knitted | Jeans - Old | Shoes - Old | Bag - Cambridge Satchel Company

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Friday, 5 April 2019

Power In The Pound: How Choosing to Spend Differently Can Change The World

I am often asked by friends and family or at the talks I do on ethical and sustainable fashion, how we as individuals can best affect change. People often want to help with so many issues in the world such as slavery, sex trafficking, exploitation of workers rights, poverty, starvation, lack of education, women's rights and so many more, but they just don't know how to get involved. People feel the only way they can change the world is by working for a top human rights charity or devoting their time abroad to amazing projects but this simply isn't true.  

We as individuals have such a great power to affect change simply by choosing to spend our money in a way that will help change the world. And I'm not just talking about giving to charity, although that is a great way to help. There is so much power in our pounds but we often don't realise it. We shop for food, clothes, jewellery e.t.c in the way we always have done but what if we chose instead to do it differently? What if we choose to buy only clothes that have come from a brand that refuses to have slavery or exploitation in its supply chain? What if we choose to only buy food from local farmers markets where we can be assured that the farmer and his workers are being paid correctly? What if we choose to only buy things that make a difference in our world? 

This beautiful bracelet from Eden Ministry is a wonderful example. I was actually lucky enough to be given this as a gift and I have loved learning all about what a difference it makes. Eden Ministry was started by two women who wanted to find a way to break into the sex industry and change the lives of those working in their local red light district. So many of these women have been trafficked, coerced or forced into the sex industry and as Christians, Eden Ministry knew they needed to find a way out for these women. 

They do amazing work offering safe houses, creative therapy, counselling, training in many different areas such as beauty and barista, and language skills. They have funded their work by creating beautiful jewellery with the survivors of trafficking that they work with. Jewellery that not only helps funds their projects but also encourages it's wearer to "Speak Up" and make a difference in the world. 

Eden Ministry is just one of many brands that we are seeing emerge recently who are trying to change their world. It was so exciting to see a few at the Ethical Christmas Shopping Event I spoke at in November and if you would like to learn about a few more brands doing amazing things please pop over to that post and take a look. 

It has now become so easy to find brands doing amazing things and this is where we have our power. If every time we want a new dress, a piece of jewellery or a gift for some one we choose to buy it not just from a brand who reaps the profits but from a brand that is trying to make a difference, then we in turn will make a huge difference ourselves. For Christmas 2018 I did my best to buy every member of the family gifts that would help change the world. We spend over £350 at Christmas by choosing brands that make a difference that £350 could help change so many lives. 

Today I really want to encourage you as an activist for change you can make such a difference simply by spending your money better. Whether it's for you or for someone else, if we continually strive to choose beautiful things that mean so much more than what we find on the high street, together we can change lives. Never forget just how much power is in your pound. 

What I Wore...
Top - M&S | Jeans - Old | Bracelet - Eden Ministry 

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