Friday, 13 June 2014

I've moved!

Beautifulorpractical has moved to Wordpress! You can find me here

Tuesday, 10 June 2014

Wardrobe updates - altering a tailored jacket and changing sleeves

Two months in and my buy no new clothes challenge is going surprisingly well. I have only really had one major challenge which was finding a fabulous show shop when I visited Edinburgh with a friend. The shoes were beautiful but also capable of withstanding a good walk and while I'm a little sad that my show buying now takes that into account it;s just a fact of life! My friend was just as smitten with the shop and tried on 7 pairs while I looked longingly at them .............. I made it out without a purchase, my friend didn't!

To try and take away the temptation to buy I have been sorting through everything in my wardrobe that needs altered or fixed in some way. Alterations are brilliant because it feels a bit like shopping in your own wardrobe!

My most successful project has been a brown cord jacket that my sister gave me - we had a big clothes swap to re-home our unworn clothes. The jacket was beautifully made but just not quite me. It was a little long and just a bit too casual. I had put it to one side to go to the charity shop when I picked up a lovely beige and burgundy dress from a charity shop (sounds revolting but it is really pretty!) and was really stuck for something to wear it with. It needed a brown jacket. I figured that as much as I hate to waste things the jacket was on its way out anyway and it hadn't cost me any money so it wasn't a huge big deal if I messed it up.

I straightened off the bottom so it ran straight across the waist line. Then reinforced the edges with a zigzag stitch and trimmed off the frayed edges. Of course I forgot to take a decent before photo :0 

Testing the length

Making the first big cut!
All evened off but still not quite right......

Finally I added a trim to cover off the unfinished edges.  And magically it goes perfectly with the dress! It probably took me just over an hour  - far less than I would have spent searching for something new, and it cost me just £2 for the trim.

Ready to go
Now I can wear my dress :)

The second favourite update was to remove the floaty sleeves from a jersey sundress. I love these French Connection jersey dresses, they used to bring them out every year in different patterns with slightly different detailing. I loved the print on this one but the floaty cap sleeves were just a bit too girly for me and I kept putting it on and taking it off again before I went out.  This update was really quick and simple. The seems were unpicked, sleeves removed and the armholes re-hemmed. I now have a much more wearable dress which has now become a holiday staple.

Complete with flicky sleeves

Now a holiday staple :)
Being able to make these simple updates to get more out of my existing clothes makes me so glad my mum taught me how to sew!

Wednesday, 4 June 2014

Cutting the crap - quitting caffeine

I have been a coffee drinker since I was about 12. For me it was a symbol of adulthood and independence and I've never really moved on from there! While I love a really good coffee, most of what I drink is instant tar usually supplied during work meetings. While I love coffee and a nice cup of tea, I'm not sure they love me.  With a little more time to think about how I feel and how I am affected by difference things it is fairly obvious that after a day drinking tea of coffee I really don't feel that well. It just makes me feel sluggish and upsets my stomach.

Now that I am not working full time in an office the temptation to guzzle down huge amounts of coffee is still there but the fact that I have to make it myself means I have to think about whether a really want a coffee or a tea and whether I should have something else so I have a real opportunity to change my habits. But...............I have tried in the past to give up caffeine and although I have been successful for up to a month, after that I typically get bored and slow slide back into my old habits.

So the challenge is how I am going to make this time different? By having a plan! I found some great guidance on and the plan below is largely based on that.

1. Have a powerful motivating reason and refer back to it regularly.
Think about why you want to give up. For me I want to feel healthier, to be more specific I want to have more energy, improve my sleep, cut headaches and improve my digestion. I also have a lot of problems with muscle tension and wonder if this is connected.

As an additional motivator here are some known side effect from caffeine.
  • Stomach ulcers
  • Heartburn
  • Insomnia
  • Poor digestion
  • Decreased bone density
  • Increased muscle tension
  • Irritable Bowel Syndrome
That makes it sound about as attractive as smoking,...............................

2. Have a substitute 
If there is nothing else available I will reach for the tea or coffee so some restocking and reorganising is required in the kitchen. I have plenty of lovely herbal teas so I have moved them to the front of the cupboard and the real tea and coffee to the back.

3. Address the social side
Having coffee is a social activity in its own right. I don't want to say no to invitations for a good gossip so I need an alternative plan. This means hunting out cafes that serve lovely teas, good quality decaf and hot chocolate if a real treat is required!

4. Address habit and boredom
This is a tricky one. I gulp down coffee in meetings for a couple of reasons, if I am holding a coffee I don't fidget (!) and in a very long meeting, getting up for a coffee is a blessed relief . The answer I think is just to find an alternative, a herbal tea or a water. I have stocked my handbag with nice herbal tea bags.

5. Take stock and celebrate
Go back to the motivators on a daily/ weekly basis and ask honestly whether I feel I've made progress.

I am not planning to try a weaning off process. I have already cut my consumption quite drastically so I think it must be time to go cold turkey :0

Here are some of my favourite alternatives so far:

Pukka herbs three mint tea, refreshing and uplifting

Pukka herbs, Peppermint and Liquorice, delicious

Brewhaha Super Happiness Tea, quirky and fun

Wish me luck!!

Monday, 2 June 2014

Slowing down and living more - why I walked away from a successful career

One of the main reasons I left my previous job was to slow my life down a little and concentrate of the things that really mattered. Family, health, community and the environment.

If I described myself as an environmentalist you would laugh and I would probably join you. My life is very far from squeaky green clean but making an effort is important to me. What I found was that the busier I got and the more I earned, the easier it became to justify making choices that weren't very eco or good for my health. Always in a rush there seemed no option but to take the car. Ready meals and take aways started to invade the kitchen and the number of plastic take aways boxes we have amassed is a bit embarrassing...........Cooking from scratch became a real challenge and there never seemed to be time for fun or light heartedness. Holidays were invaded by work and I felt like I was neglecting my husband, my family, friends and my health.

Even recognising all of this it took me about two years to leave. While my heart said leave very loudly, my head said no, you need to try harder, you've worked so hard for this. As one of very few senior women in my company I thought it would set a bad example if I said I can't do this or I don't want this. I have always believed that if you don't like something you should change it and I found it incredibly hard to admit that I couldn't change the culture I worked in and I couldn't make my job into something I wanted to spring out of bed for.

But eventually my heart won. Ultimately what was right for me and my husband was more important than what people might think. In the end I was overwhelmed at just how supportive people were of my decision. Within days of making the change I felt like a huge weight had been lifted and much as I miss my colleagues, there is nothing I miss about that life.

Trying to make up my mind what to do I read lots and lots of books.  Some made me feel like a terrible under achiever (168 Hours:You Have More Time than You Think) and others were hugely inspiring and uplifting like The Fire Starter Sessions, Danielle LaPorte and Outrageous Openness, Tosha Silver. There is a webcast of Danielle LaPorte talking about goal setting on Marie Forleo's website - I highly recommend watching it for really straightforward and practical advise on working out what is right for you and setting your goals.

One incident really tipped the scales. I went on holiday for a friend's birthday last year, 16 of us hired a huge house in France for her 40th. While I was waiting for a hire car my bag with all my ID documents, my holiday money, work phone, iphone, ipad and clothes got stolen. It should have been a disaster but actually I had a fabulous holiday because I was forced to switch off and just enjoy the company, the food and use the very few things that were in my husband's bags! There were three lessons I learned 1/ I didn't see how I could ever manage to feel that disconnected from work if I continued to do my job, 2/ the way we had lived for the week was very similar to how I was brought up and a million miles away from my everyday life and 3/ I was really shocked at how little losing all that stuff mattered, ie, I must have far far too much stuff if the impact is so insignificant. I could dismiss this as a healthy attitude to loss but I found it really disturbing!

So what has any of this got to do with making green choices?
In a way I think green choices are interlinked with simpler living. Less stuff = less impact. More conscious cooking = less impact. More time = ability to walk or take public transport instead of taking the car. Less rushing about looking busy = more time for social interaction.  But perhaps the biggest shift is simply one of mindset, it took a big push for my head to admit that status and stuff isn't important, making time for priorities and connecting with people is.

So what am I changing? 
  • I work for myself so I can flex my hours to fit around other commitments and I don't feel guilty making a commitment to do something frivolous like going for a walk on the beach. When I tried to define success for myself one of the things I listed was being able to leave work and walk on the beach or cycle through the woods. It seemed unobtainable but it isn't.
  • I now work in town so I can walk and get the bus to most places I need. I feel lots better for even getting a short walk to the bus stop rather than hopping in and out of the car!
  • The second car is up for sale as we really aren't using either - hubby is much more energetic than me and cycles everywhere :0 Now I just need someone to actually buy the car :(
  • I have the time to consider what I buy, to look at packaging and buy local. We are eating much better and our waste is going down.
  • I have the time to indulge my old sewing hobby. The sewing machine is out and years with of mending has taken place, my wardrobe has been updated with simple changes and I have vowed not to buy any new clothes for the rest of the year. It is going amazingly well so far, mainly because the mending has given my wardrobe a new lease of life!
  • There is space in my head to think about saving energy and reusing materials. I have still to compare our energy usage but I'm sure we have made progress in reducing it.
  • Most importantly I have time to catch up with friends and family. I have seen more people. smiled more and laughed more in the last two months than I have in years!
  • Over and above that I'm loving reading other people's experience of simplifying their life and homemaking.
Specific challenges?

  • Buy no new clothes in 2014
  • Buy no more toiletries in 2014 - a trawl of the bathroom revealed a ridiculous stash of part used products and miniatures released from hotels :0
  • Sell the second car
  • Reduce the amount of packaging we buy and consume - I'm not sure what an appropriate target would be though?
  • Spend more time with friends and family
  • And the one that is ridiculously hard to measure - laugh more and cry less  - I guess you know if you're there by the way you feel!
I hope you'll follow my journey!

Sunday, 4 May 2014

Me Made May 2014

I read about Me Made May on My Make Do and Mend Year. It's a project to encourage all the wonderful people who craft and make clothes to wear their handmade items with pride in May.  original challenge was to wear something made by you everyday for the whole of May. Although I have made clothes in the past it has been a long time so rather than go naked I'm adapting the challenge to make it a bit more achievable but in the spirit of the project.

You can find out more about the project at the fabulous So Zo, What Do You Know who kicked it off. 

So my pledge is to wear something I have either made myself, mended or revamped in some way for five days a week for the whole of May.

I'm a bit late starting so I guess I better crack on!  I got off to a head start today with my revamped pyjamas. 

Happy making, mending and upcycling!

Make do and mend - Shortening sleeves on a waterproof jacket

I've had this waterproof jacket for years but it rarely gets worn because the sleeves are so long. If I wear it walking and it rains I end up with soggy wrists as the sleeves start off turned up and then fall down after a while.

In keeping with the Buy Nothing New Challenge I thought I would try to shorten the sleeves so Ic an get more wear from the jacket.

I am the queen of lazy fixes so normally I would just turn the sleeves under and stitch them in place but there is a rubber bit on the cuff that is quite bulky. I have never shortened sleeves properly so this was a bit of an experiment!

Taking off the cuff was a bit tricky because it was secured on both sides and really well made!
I should have measured the sleeve length first but I took a guess that I needed to take off the length off the cuff so I took 5 centimetres off the outer sleeve and the lining. 

This turned out to be a bit of a mistake, but I didn't find that out until I finished machine stitching the outer sleeve to the cuff and realised it was still far too long  when I tried it on :( It turns out I needed to take a whopping 10 centimetres off!

I pinned and tacked the sleeve to the cuff and then machine stitched them together. I thought I'd done great until I realised it was still too long and I had to unpick it and chop a bit more off! Turns out the DIY mantra measure twice and cut once applies to sewing too :(

The original sleeve was machine stitched with a running stitch on the inside on both the outer sleeve and the lining, I think this must have been done before the sleeve was attached to the body. I couldn't work out how to do this without taking the whole sleeve off so unsettled for hand stitching. 

Instead of the original finish I tacked a hem into the lining and then tacked the lining to the cuff. 

I then hand stitched the lining onto the cuff with small stitches tacking care only to go through the inner layer of the cuff so as not to damage the waterproofing on the outside with unnecessary needle holes.

The shorter sleeve was quite a bit wider so I put a small single tuck in the fabric and secured it with the hem.

I'm really pleased with the result, the stitching at the lining is visible but  I now have a much more wearable jacket and saved it from the charity shop :)

Ta da, a sleeve that fits

Thursday, 1 May 2014

Make do and mend - how to save a stretched pajama top

I have a pair of Cath Kidson cotton pajamas that I love. They have been washed so many times that they are super soft and comfy. Unfortunately they have also been washed so many times that the top has lost all lycra and stretched so much that it is a bit obscene! We had guests staying last week and I realised that the op really couldn't be worn in front of anyone except my husband - even then it was starting to get a bit embarrasing.................

I wasn't really sure how to fix it and all the guides I could find were for stretching teeshirts that had shrunk. I did try boiling it to see if it would shrink but that simply killed the rest of the lycra :0

  I measured about 2 1/5 inches from the top seam,  ran a zigzag stitch all the way along and then added a simple straight seam. The nerve racking bit was cutting off the excess fabric but I made the cut and it worked perfectly.

 The back edge of the top was left raw so I turned it under and tacked it.

Then I got a little adventurous and snipped off the lace edging that was looking a bit grey and sad. Next I added some ribbon that I had left over from Christmas. 


I tacked the ribbon in place to ensure it wouldn't slip on the machine and then striched it place with two lines of stitching. Before machine stictching I did check I could definitely get my head through the resized hole! My favourite pajamas are now restored and I can wear them without disgracing myself!!