A panoply of (sometimes) lovingly handmade crud.

Tag Archives: London

Once again Halloween rolled around and once again it was a week before a party that I started thinking about a costume. I had a little time in central London so wandered around a ‘vintage’ store for some inspiration. I wanted a costume that would work with my teeny weeny Afro. Initially I was thinking Moss from the IT crowd.

As I looked at the dubious vintage items (a bugbear of mine is ‘vintage’ stores that are overpriced and have crappy, samey clothing), I started to feel inspired. I quite wanted to go for an It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia costume but didn’t want to buy a new wig- maybe I’ll go as Ango Goblogian if I stumble across the right secondhand wig another time.

I had just seen the new Joker movie and wondered whether there was mileage in that as a concept. I’ve seen on Instagram (good targeted advertising I guess) that they sell hair wax that’s capable of producing vibrant temporary colour on Afro hair and doesn’t look crispy and awful.

Note: I’ve been meaning to write about the experience of cutting my hair but haven’t got around to it. I definitely surprised myself with how strongly my feelings about my gender were tied up with my long hair. So perhaps it’s unsurprising that I felt much more drawn than usual to dressing as a male character.

Anyway, when I went charity shopping a couple of days later, it was the character of the Joker that appealed to me the most. I spotted a red jacket and went to look at some reference images. What would the odds be that I could find a red suit, green shirt and yellow waistcoat all in my size in five days? Would I become desperate enough to violate my ethics and buy something new?

Spoiler alert

I visited the secondhand shops near my work and came away feeling a little apprehensive. I made the decision to just buy any item I could find that suited my needs- more on this later. As I returned to my office after lunch, I recalled that nearby Chiswick High Street has a fantastic selection of charity shops. Since I had some containers and could pop into the Source as well, I hopped on my bike and went over that very afternoon.

Chiswick sorted me out beautifully. The first thing I spotted in the Shelter store was a bright red jacket for £15. I tried it on and it fit. I decided not to buy it immediately just in case I came across something better.

The next shop came up trumps with a pair of red trousers- I had to ask the volunteer to take them off a mannequin for me. Not perfect but definitely good enough for my needs, especially since they were £6.50. I bought them straightaway so the lady wouldn’t put them back on the mannequin.

The thing I was most worried about was the waistcoat. I’d hardly seen any waitscoats at all on my search, and is a yellow waistcoat an item anyone would want aside for for costume purposes? But the Barnado’s shop contained a golden floral one. Again I didn’t buy it straightaway. It wasn’t quite perfect and I had a couple more shops to visit.

I wandered down to the shop at the end of the road, where my eye was immediately caught by a green silk shirt. It was more olive than I wanted, but a beautiful silk shirt from Whistles seemed too good an offer to pass up at £20- it’s something that can definitely slip into my work wardrobe when spooky season is over and done.

Classy AF

I quickly walked back up the street to collect the waistcoat and jacket, which was a great match for my new pants. It seemed silly to waste time looking any further. I was irrationally terrified that other shoppers would have snapped my items up, but I needn’t have worried.

The only big misstep I made was with the very first item I bought; another red jacket. For the first time, I investigated a weird junk shop that’s opposite my office. There’s no indication of what it is on the outside, just some rails of clothing. I went in and there are hundreds of poorly sorted items and no lighting. It’s so strange. There were people wandering about using their phones as torches. I wish I knew the story behind it.

I found a red men’s jacket in there and hastily bought it for £15. In the gloom of the shop, it had looked okay if a little big. As soon as I tried it on in a proper changing room, I realised that it wouldn’t do. I looked like a little kid in their dad’s suit. When I bought the second jacket, I donated the first one at the same time. No sense bringing it home to take up space when I have absolutely no use for it. I hope that Shelter will be able to make some money back from it at least.

Overall it felt really serendipitous that I was able to get everything I needed within only a couple of hours. Normally my cardinal rule of secondhand shopping is not to go looking for something specific. But this time, it worked for me. As my friend Cayleigh pointed out, perhaps even the men’s red jacket was part of the magic of that day of shopping. There may be some reason that it needed to find its way to the Shelter store in Chiswick.

In the end I paid £49.50 (not including the stupid second jacket) for my costume, which I know is far from cheap. The silk shirt I know will go into my normal wardrobe. And, in fact, I felt really fabulous in the red suit. I wonder if there’s a viable market for renting a single costume only suitable for a size 10 woman. Actually, two costumes since I still have my Wonder Woman dress from last year. I feel grateful that I am fortunate enough to be able to pay a premium to live according to my principles.

The one thing I bought new was the hair wax for £11. I had to use around 1/3 of the pot to get decent colour on my hair. I quite liked the definition that it gave my curls, though it did make my hair quite hard.

Yes I did go out for dinner dressed as the Joker. And yes my two companions were wearing normal clothes.

Candid Joker

This bubble tea tastes funny

How dare you take the Joker's photograph

It was so much fun to dress up in a completely different way to normal. I’ve never worn a trouser-suit before and actually I was living for it. In fact, I don’t think I’ve worn a suit as an adult full stop. I will 100% be looking for any excuse to wear my red suit again. The biggest surprise was probably how hot I was! I suddenly have a new respect for men in three-piece suits on the tube. Continue reading


Tatty Devine are having a retrospective of the 20 years they have been in business at the Lethaby Gallery in London. I entered a competition on Twitter, where they asked fans to share their favourite piece. I chose the rainbow necklace I made at another workshop I attended.

I was a little disappointed not to win, especially because I felt faked out when the gallery tagged me as the runner-up. Then there was a plot twist. The winner kindly offered me her +1 and before I knew it I was reorganising my Saturday plans so that I could go. Yeah, I guess I hadn’t checked my diary when I entered the competition.

I’ve actually been to a free bunting workshop at TD before. I just scrolled back through my Instagram feed to look for a picture and it was nearly four years ago!

I’d slightly hoped they might have some offcuts from the amazing acrylic they were using for another workshop available, but they didn’t.

I initially went for my default option of rainbow. However, since I know I’m pretty fast at making up the jewellery (I must have been to at least five workshops even though I haven’t blogged them all) I decided to spend a little longer at the design stage.

I laid out every colour of acrylic available, grouping them by the colours I felt went together. And this more pastelly option presented itself.

I also had a look around the exhibition- which I recommend if you are in the King’s Cross area for an hour or so. I first became aware of Tatty Devine when I was at university, so I’ve been well over ten years (god that makes me feel old). I remembered a lot of the collections. It’s interesting to notice how my tastes and personal style have evolved, and how that is reflected in the Tatty pieces I have been drawn to.

The founders of TD met at art school and I found myself, not for the first time, regretful about the way my life has turned out.

I don’t think the idea of studying art even crossed my mind when I was 17 and choosing universities, or even when I was 15 and choosing A’level subjects. I did art and graphics when I was at school. Back in those days, I think you had to choose a creative subject (art, music or drama) and a technology (my school was a ‘technology college’ and I think the choices were food tech, graphics or resistant materials (which once would have been woodwork and metalwork)) for GCSE.

Even though I spent more time on my creative subjects than all the others put together, I was raised with the idea that a woman has to earn her own money. Following my creative streak simply didn’t seem compatible with gainful employment. I ended up spending three wilderness years studying psychology at Oxford, then (after a couple of years of low-paid employment) a further three getting my professional doctorate to get the job I have now. While I don’t hate my day job, it’s also not a passion for me.

I tend to see some kind of second career in my future. I can’t imagine doing the same job for the next several decades. But at the same time, setting up a small business seems like an awful lot of work compared to the relative safety of my life now.


I didn’t post about my twelfth OddBox because I didn’t make anything that interesting. Here is what I received in my most recent instalment.

My flatmate brought me some curry mix back from Singapore. I used some onions, the squash and potatoes in a vegan curry. It was really tasty!

I added a block of Tofoo brand extra-firm tofu to increase the protein content. The curry paste is pretty spicy so it’s nice to have something bland in there too.

I used the beetroot, an apple and the remaining onions in this vegan galette.

I found the recipe on Pinterest. I have to say the galette is amazing. The vegetables all have the right texture (this was on me, I roasted them for different amounts of time until I was happy) and their natural taste is enhanced by the dressing. The pastry is lovely and crisp. I used chunky sea salt that adds an extra crunch too. I was worried that it would be horribly dry. Like the vegan patties I made, the galette is on the dry side but that didn’t spoil my enjoyment.

You can easily adjust the recipe according to what you have. I used quite a bit more veg than stated in the recipe (due to what I had on hand). I just rolled the pastry extra-thin and piled the veg high. It worked well.

I made soup with the cabbage.


Last week, I returned from Lapland to my latest OddBox delivery.

I must say that I was baffled by the item in the bottom left corner. I thought it was a beetroot but there was no indication on the website or letter that we would get beetroot this week. I then thought it might be a really big potato. It smelled like a potato.

It was indeed a yellow beetroot, though I wasn’t entirely certain until I had cooked and tasted it 🙈

I stir-fried the cavolo nero and purple broccoli.

I followed the recipe that came in the box for a roasted carrot and lentil salad. I don’t really like roasted carrot (I prefer sweet potato) but I liked the lentils and dressing, and it was pretty filling.

I also followed the vegetable soup recipe from the box. The soup is serviceable but it looks repulsive.

I also managed to have zero waste vegan quidditch tournament! When I realised that the only available food would be from a burger van, I took some time to food prep. I had shopped in the Source and Lemons & Limes, a lovely greengrocer in Chiswick. I made the satay noodle dish I’ve done a few times before.

I packed two servings and warmed them up each morning before transferring to my vacuum flask.

Since I was volunteering, I got a £5 food voucher. I got some (black) coffee in my keep cup and the lid of my food container saved a couple of polystyrene trays from landfill. Its so nice to be able to eat hot food when you’re standing around outside in Manchester all day.

The team I was coaching came third and my club’s second team (London Unstoppables) took silver, so all in all a successful weekend.


Last weekend was really a tale of two embroidery workshops. After spending a happy Friday evening stitching a vagina at the Tate Modern, I got up bright and early on Saturday to travel to the Royal School of Needlework at Hampton Court Palace.

When I was really unhappy in my job over the summer, I started thinking about alternative things to do with my life. One option I considered was a degree in needlework. I had really enjoyed playing around with beading when I tried to stem the flow of damage to my beautiful vintage jacket. I thought it might be a good idea to try out a workshop before taking things any further.

The price of the workshop (£125 I think) included the kit. The kits were on sale in the shop downstairs for £45. It includes most things you will need to make the song thrush, though not a large embroidery hoop. I picked one up from the RSN shop because I only have a little hoop at home and it’s not very good.

The first step was to create the beak using satin stitch. We then tacked a piece of felt padding to the linen.

We next learnt how to use soft thread to create an additional level of padding. This helps to make the final item more 3D.

We learnt three gold work techniques; couching, pearl purl and cut work. You can see a little bit of all three in the photo below. The head is couched in gilt thread, the wings are outlined in gold pearl purl and the brown bits on the wings are the cut work.

This is what I had achieved after the five hours of the workshop. I’m not sure when I’ll have some time to return to it, but it’s a project that I definitely want to finish.

I really enjoyed doing this workshop. I found the process really absorbing and meditative. Of course, I had my usual feelings of competition with my classmates. I’d been a little anxious when we were waiting to be picked up and I noticed that there was only one other person under the age of 60. The other women had probably been embroidering longer than I had been alive! Fortunately, the techniques for gold work are actually fairly straightforward providing you have decent fine motor skills and patience.

Funnily enough, I spotted some brooches in Liberty a few weeks ago that really caught my eye.

The company is called Macon & Lesquoy if you want to check them out. Their pieces are really stunning and contemporary. When I saw that the labels indicated the patches were handmade, I couldn’t work out how such tiny beading could be done. I realise now that a lot of the design is metalwork. I feel really inspired by learning this technique and I have some designs in mind that I would love to be able to create one day.


Last Friday was Lates night at the Tate Modern. I haven’t been to one of these events in a long time. They are normally good fun, but can get really busy since they are free.

We managed to get tickets to the keynote discussion featuring Susie Orbach. Hearing her speak really took me back to my days at the Tavistock studying psychoanalysis. I will definitely be looking out for her books in future.

The real clincher that got me to go along was a vagina embroidery workshop.

As Anna pointed out, this could definitely be used as a ‘tag yourself’ meme.

Once Paula and I braved the crowds to get hold of some embroidery hoops, we used stamps to put the designs on our fabric.

I kept it quite simple and did a chain stitch design. Here we are with the progress we had made after around an hour of work.

I decided to finish it up when I got home, since I had taken some extra thread with me.

There is another design (the same as my friend’s in the picture of us) in the shirting under the hoop. Maybe I will make it up one day, but to be honest I’m not entirely sure what I will do with one embroidered vagina, so I don’t think I need two yet.

I’m really glad I went out even though I wasn’t feeling too well on Friday. I’ve been feeling for a while that I would like to get more into embroidery, so this was a great way to dip my toe in the water.


My most recent Oddbox arrived during the busy final week of Veganuary.

I made some sticky sesame cauliflower. Since I didn’t have any sesame seeds, I added in some cashews. It was pretty nice- possibly some of the enjoyment was lowered because I didn’t reduce the sauce enough. I’m not sure if I would make this again because it really was not filling. I still struggle to remember that just because something looks like a decent amount of food, vegetables simply do not fill me up.

I haven’t eaten a turnip (to my knowledge) in years so I decided to roast it. The roasted turnip was okay. I wasn’t sure if I like turnip but I think that it’s swede that I really hate. I don’t tend to like bitter vegetables. The leftover roast swede was slimy and inedible so I stuck that in with the remaining cauliflower when I made some meatless balls. I’ve made this recipe before. It’s quite easy, filling and a good way to get rid of cauliflower.

The kale, cucumber and fruit went into either smoothies or lassis. I decided to go with a lassi as a non-vegan treat but I made the regrettable decision to try kefir rather than using Greek yoghurt. I will certainly not be doing that again. I juiced the carrots as I did with the beets last week. I am going to stop juicing until I have found a responsible way of disposing of my food waste. Even though I am ‘using’ the veg, in reality most of it is going in the bin.

Overall not the most interesting week but things have been so busy and hectic that I’m just pleased to have managed not to waste much food.

Weekly tilt

I stayed in a hotel at the weekend and remembered anew that sachets of instant coffee and individually wrapped tea bags are the status quo at most chains. I need to start travelling with my own sustainable solution. At home, I have vegan flat whites made from package-free beans and oat milk (tetra pak but not much alternative at present).

Weekly triumph

I have managed to convince my aunt to stop wrapping presents for me in foil gift wrap (it’s my birthday on Thursday). Even though there is still tape, at least I know that it’s reused paper rather than virgin material.