Wednesday, 28 January 2015

DIY Wedding Dress Part II: Materials

So, after the introduction and inspiration post on my wedding dress here, the saga continues with sourcing materials!!

First up on our search list was some embellishment. Bling! Oh yeah! This would dictate a lot of the design decisions, it was likely to be the most expensive component and the least easy to source. Man is that an understatement! We started with the usual high end haberdashery and bridal fabric stores of Berwick St, Soho. We riffled through every dusty box of beads, gulped at the prices for couture hand beaded pieces and combed the shelves of each store with a fine tooth comb! We diverted off piste to the Indian boutiques of Tooting and Marble Arch and experimented with fullly embellished saris, metallic leather and delicate lace. We were all a little weepy at one point over the perfect embellished lace, but the minute we tried it on my bodice we were all a little 'meh'!!!

Lace and leather!
Finally, on our SECOND visit to the couture fabric store Joel and Son, in Edgware Road, we stumbled upon the perfect piece! It was from India, hand sewn onto tulle with thousands of tiny crystals, pearls and beads in a super intricate pattern! The story behind that small piece of fabric is so incredible - it took three men in India two months to sew the whole piece!! It had a large motif along one edge and smaller flowers throughout and a simple scalloped edge along the bottom. It was just the right amount of sparkle, class, age and charm. I loved it and we dived right in. Deciding how much to buy was terrifying, every inch costing a huge amount extra but the risk of not having enough was equally unbearable!!

The exquisite detail
Once the bling was bought, the next stage was the material. We experimented with a huge range of different coloured silks all the way from a light purple through to pinks and peaches, creams and whites. Ma trailed around the shops of London looking for it!! She picked up swatches of all the contenders and we poured over them at home. I had originally dreamt of a warm peachy, dusky pink colour, to give richness and depth and history to it, but in reality many of year colours didn't feel so bridal or felt almost too vintage. After a process of deduction, we eventually we whittled it down to a rich and buttery raw silk that complimented the beading and looked delicious! It was just enough warm colour to not feel cold and blue-white, but it still reflected the light beautifully and we were sold.

Experimenting with colour
We returned to the shop to buy out supplies...are were quite literally nearly when we realised they had only 6 meters of this magical material! After a few rounds of mental arithmetic decided that 6m would be EXACTLY right amount for the dress. Phew! We took the lot and used every spare inch for the dress, train and flower girl dress! Talk about efficiency!!

Smiles all round after a successful shopping trip!

Sunday, 25 January 2015

2014 in Review!

We're past mid January now, so a belated welcome into our world 2015! What big shoes you have to fill. 2014 included sewing miles of bunting, working on my photography, a few small life events like throwing our wedding, honeymooning in Greece, renovating our hearts out, learning to love woodwork and sanding, learning to hate putting up curtain rails...and then eventually getting the hang of it! :)

But don't worry 2015, we've also had our share of worn out soles, shiny toe-pinchers and the leaky boots in 2014. It's been a roller-coaster - both my best and worst year so far. Naturally I don't share much of the down days here - when the choices I've made cease to make sense any longer. But that doesn't mean the ugly stuff doesn't exist - the last 6 months have probably been the hardest of my life (hmm maybe it had been bit a cruise up to that point in all honesty!). But I am working on trying to remember all that I have, to remain ever grateful for it rather than focus on what we don't have.

Anyway, for now I want to remember and celebrate my favourite bits of 2014, from the blog and personally:

Lost a fiance but gained a husband (and this is how I feel about it!!). Best bits of our wedding day was shared herehere and here. And there is even more to come (milking this one day for all it's worth!!) so that's enough for now.

After looking and wishing for about a year, we finally closed on our first home together! A blank canvas to turn into our special safe space. Or a black hole into which to throw every spare penny and spare hour? No, noooo!

We've started in earnest on the renovations, this has been a little under wraps on here - too busy actually sanding to post about it!! But in this cushion DIY we shared a little peak at of our bedroom at the half-way stage. More coming soon! More importantly than just getting to play house in a REAL house with bricks and stuff is we actually have room to invite folks round for dinner or have the 'rents over to stay without forcing them to sleep on the sofa (poor Mum!).

Designing and printing our own wedding stationery was a huge journey! From the initial letterpress sessions, devising a logo, designing and printing the final invites, orders of service, menus - the full works! And then learning how to photograph it...

A complete overhaul in the way I think about food. This one was a complete suprise to me! I've never given a thought to what I eat. In fact, I distinctly remember guzzling a whole grab bag of peanut M&Ms and thinking 'there, I ate the lot and nothing has happened! I should do that more often!' And so I did. Until 2014's spontaneous decision to quit refined sugar completely changed the way I eat. Wow. 

We welcomed my brother and his girlfriend back to Europe after over 7 years down under. It's been awesome and crazy to be able to actually hang out with them over the last few months and can't wait for many more late night conversations over a full bodied Bordeaux and slithers of saucisson! Plus sidekick Izzy landing in Brixton has totally made my year - I've got to spend sooo many hours in her company!

Making flower crowns with all my favourite girls! This was an EPIC day and we then go to wear them out, brilliant. Classiest hen do every. I'm so lucky to have such wonderful friends and family that humour my crafty desires! :)

I'm in the thick of my thirties now and they Rock! For anyone not sure sure about the big 3.0. - have no fear. People actually listen to you and take you seriously. You finally learn to not care what anyone else thinks an just DO what makes sense to you (sometimes we learn this a little too late, but better late than never?!). You learn not to stress about those folks who make your life harder and less enjoyable. You embrace those friendships that make you happy and who you can help too. You build up a tribe of folk around you that are all you need to survive and to thrive! 

So, here we go 2015, we're stronger, tougher and know what we want, so come show us what you've got!

Tuesday, 13 January 2015

DIY Wedding Dress, Part I: Inspiration

So this is the big mama of DIYs, the holy grail of turning mundane into magic, the biggest Knicker Elastic DIY by far! (And undoubtably the biggest we are ever likely to attempt...that is unless we decide to build a house or a rocket one day!)  Plus, full disclosure here - I had help, a lot of help, from my Ma! But, enough of a pre-warning, suffice to say this isn't exactly your average DIY, it's more the story of my wedding dress (and it was getting so long I had to break it down into a series of posts!!).

Part I: Inspiration

For links (clock-wise from top) see Rich SilkSparkleVintage GlamourLong VeilJewelledStrapless Bodice and Low Back.

I remember, quite vividly drawing my ideal wedding dress when I was about 12 years old. It was a big white satin dress with a v-waist, big puffy Princess Diana sleeves and emerald green silk piping! I also remember Mum admonishing me - 'there was plenty of time to think out my wedding dress in the future'...with undertones of 'you just concentrate on your studies for now darling'! Which of course, I naturally did... ;)

It was not strange to be drawing dresses in our household, given my Ma's profession as a wedding dress designer. We were constantly surrounded by sketches, patterns, materials, motifs and the dresses themselves. They seemed sacred things when we were growing up - we'd be banished from the dining room for weeks on end as Ma worked her magic (for fear of the dreaded grubby kids hand prints!).

Whenever we did get a glimpse of a dress it was terribly exciting - the brides-to-be seemed so glamorous and other-worldly as they flittered in and out with their entourages to inspect the sketches or try on the gowns! I never wondered what it would be like to actually BE one of them. A wedding had always been one of those things that happened to other people. I'd never imagined my own wedding day, let alone my dress!

We started with the usual rounds - dress boutiques, wedding fayres, Pinterest perusing - and was kept fully up to date with all the new Brides magazine by my fab friend at Conde Nast! Bedtime reading sorted for 6 months! :) Thankfully, whilst pinning and scrapbooking like a crazy fool (see my wedding garb pinboard here), some trends and patterns began to emerge from the fog of dress-steria! So we knew there was going to be:

  • a lot of vintage jewels
  • BIG volume in the skirt (go big or go home!!)
  • a rich warm raw silk
  • maybe some light fluffy tulle
  • a strapless bodice
  • with a low back
  • and a large oversized bow!!
Next, in part II, we hit the shops to see what gems we can find on the streets of London Town to make this dream a reality!

Friday, 9 January 2015

2015 New Year's Resolutions

It's that time of year again - new year's resolutions!! I love a new start, a fresh moleskin, a clean page, a new beginning. The wealth of possibilities makes me giddy, my imagination runs wild. Where could we be by the end of 2015? Living in our finished dream DIY home? Hosting our first Christmas dinner? Sailing around the world? Cycling across America?

The only thing holding me back is making that first step. Every notebook I've ever used has a blank first page. Making that first mark is way too much pressure for that first page. So I always start on the second page. Or the last page and work backwards. I have a whole notebook that I filled from the back to front. Maybe 2015 should be the year I pluck up the courage to start on the first page and just see what happens...

Here we go - these are some really practical things I want to focus on in 2015:

1. Renovations! We have a list as long as my arm of jobs to do, so it's a matter of breaking them down and tackling them task by task until the whole house is almost there. Specifically I want by the end of 2015 (eeek not wishing the whole year away here!!!) to have a house that works FOR our lifestyle rather than against it!!

2. Entertaining (renovations permitting!). We have our dining room up and running, with a table, chairs, crockery and cutlery. We're all set! And to kick things of as we mean to go on - we have our first guests arriving this weekend! :) Minimum target is one dinner a month (excluding family as that'd be too easy!!). 

3. Creativity - everyday day on my commute I think of wierd and wonderful paintings and artworks I'd love to try my hand at. This year it want to stop dreaming of them and start creating them. Plus we have a heck of a lot of blank walls to start covering...!! I want to simply get paint on a canvas at least once a week - even if it's just a few more blotches - by the end of the year it may be a masterpiece!?

4. Organisation - our possessions are still flung over our house with no thought for system or process. They've just gone in the nearest drawer or still stacked in boxes!! This year I want to find everything a new home, where it will fit, be happy, hanging out with similar objects and be a hundred times more findable!

5. And last but not least - Acceptance. Everything may not be as I hoped and dreamt it would be in our lives as we start out in 2015. But, our lives are rich and fulfilling and I want to learn to love it again and to remain grateful for all the wonderful people in it. I hope to allow my dreams and hopes for our future to change and evolve, without clinging desperately to a past and a future that's now long gone. As I said anything could happen, but whatever it is I want to make the most of it!

There we are, a list of resolutions of sorts. Not so much things to give up, rather things to do MORE of!! Do you do new year's resolutions? Any good ones I could pinch? :)

Monday, 5 January 2015

Happy New Year and Wedding Wine

Happy 2015! With the bangs of Edinburgh's New Year's Eve fireworks still ringing in our ears, what better time to ponder the providence of good wine? And not just any wine, but the wine we shared at our wedding table. Honestly, I was far to excited to be drinking red wine! I was guzzling down gallons of delicious crisp elderflower champagne. But where's the story in that? Let's instead imagine I was quaffing barrels of the finest Bordeaux till the wee hours of the morning...

Would you try and track down your wedding wine?! In one word, YES!! Luckily, my lovely new father in law was keen to select the wines for our wedding, with a couple of wine tasting sessions at home to fine tune the selection! But obviously we hadn't been to the vineyard itself to check out the 'terroir'. That is, until our recent visit to Bordeaux to visit my brother...

The Family, St-Emillion
We took a day trip to the world famous wine-making town of Sant-Emillion, to wander through the quaint streets of the historical and exquisite little town. Deciding it'd be fun to visit a vineyard and sample some wines, we started perusing the never-ending list of local vineyards. Moments before we were totally overcome by the options and melted in the sun, someone had a brain-wave to track down Chateau Bel Air, the red wine served at our wedding!

Inspecting the vines
This is the beast said farmer turned up in!
A brief online search (aaah, smartphones!) quickly turned up a telephone number and address so we called ahead to warn of our arrival. We took a short hop in the car to find the lovely little tumbledown establishment of 'Chateau Bel-Air'. Small, modest and a little unkempt! It was perfect. We snapped a few photos waiting for the proprietors. But it was only when a local farmer stumbled by and we haltering introduced ourselves, in our best French, that we discovered it was the wrong 'Bel Air'!! Turns out they are littered across the Bordeaux region!!

We aren't a family to give up easily on a mission (...I'm looking at you Mont Ventoux!), we pushed on to find the real deal and piled back into the car! The next Bel Air was the right one! And it was gorgeous. A modest 'Chateau' with lovely proprietors and a puppy (who doesn't love a puppy?!!) who showed us around the workshop. The huge vats and barrels holding the 2013 and 2014 wines, 2012 bottled up into hundreds of bottles nestled in the warehouse and waiting to be dispatched. The labelling machine was maybe my favourite thing - very cool and so functional, this was not a tourist attraction, but a real business.

2009 had all long been sent off to their clients, but we sampled some of the later years. We may have made a purchase of a few too. :p Actually we picked one from each subsequent year, to be added to our wine rack until ready to drink - That'll be our anniversary tipple sorted for the next 4 years then!! :)

A lovely experience and wonderful to feel yet an extra connection to our wedding wine. So next time in the off license picking out a wine, desperately trying to look like I know what I'm doing...any recommendations? If not, I'll know exactly what to pick!