Wednesday, 11 September 2013

A Retreat into Vintage

Northampton is not known for it's shopping or the prettiness of the town centre, but the cultural quarter goes someway to rectify this with The Royal & Derngate Theatre, the new Errol Flynn filmhouse (popcorn, wine and gin brought to your chair, thank you please) and 78 Derngate all being 'musts' if you are in this neck of the woods. In the same area there are in fact some very good independent boutiques to be found like Dychurch Lifestyle, St Giles Cheese and Berties. But another fantastic independent shop can also be found outside of this cultural quarter, it is The Vintage Retreat. The idea behind this shop is to rent out spaces to small independent sellers of the vintage, handmade and unique all under one roof.  Most of the sellers have there own distinct style and sell beautiful items such as goat leather handmade (and fairtrade) bags and satchels, a large brie box made into a clock, vintage clothes and records and upcycled furniture.

Stalls at the Vintage retreat Northampton
Some of the stalls (courtesy of
The staff are helpful and it's clear that they are keen on vintage and enjoy working at the shop which has found it's own 'scene' and fan base in Northampton.  Although not limited to a particular crowd by any means, 40s up-do's, creepers, tea dresses and vinyl lovers of all ages would not go amiss here.  To top it off the tea room selling delicious cakes and tea make The Vintage Retreat a go-to location for a relaxed potter in unhurried surroundings and it certainly pulls in the customers, which is to their credit since it isn't in the centre of town.

Loving the colours of my crochet granny squaresAfter a few Facebook messages with them I had a meeting at the weekend and agreed that I would run some knitting and crochet workshop sessions in part of the tea room, beginning with a Granny Square workshop in the morning of Saturday 26th October. Details will follow once we've ironed them all out but needless to say I'm really excited about this new venue for workshops, we came up with lots of ideas within just a few minutes of meeting!  As with all the venues I've approached it has the perfect atmosphere in which to inspire creativity. I decided that Granny squares would be a great topic to kick off with because they can be as simple or as complex as you decide, thereby suiting both beginners, rusty once-crocheters and old-hands.  I've recently become a little obsessed with them as I attempt to create a blanket for our new house.
My crochet workshop will be help in the cute Vintage Retreat tearooms
The Vintage Retreat tearoom (courtesy of
Three vintage books I brought whilst at the shopWhilst I was at the shop I just couldn't help taking a peak at the stalls, well it would have been rude not to.  A vintage but new to me sewing box (from Timeless Attic) and several Agatha Christies might have found their way home with me.  Along with three brilliant self-help books from the 1930s I think, although there is no date inside them. I wanted to buy them all but I settled with The Home Entertainer, The Practical Way to Keep Fit and Real Life Problems and Their Solutions. They are terribly quaint and matter of fact in true 1930s style.

We take such books and the similar 1940s and 50s public information broadcasts completely tongue in cheek now, but it made me wonder who once owned these books and whether they used them as serious items of reference, I kind of think they must have.  Here are just of few of the many quaintly amusing pages.  I'll have to get Mr P practicing his balancing skills for our next soiree and don't get me started on the fun to be had with human croquet! As for the one in the middle, I've no idea how it fits into The Practical Way to Keep Fit but I just love the lady's volumous dress - no wonder she's on the floor, there isn't a chair big enough for her.

Page 143 of 1930s book The Home Entertainer shows you how to juggle & balanceAnother illustration from The Home Entertainer, Human Croquet.Illustration from The Practical Way to Keep Fit

Thankfully I had room to fit all my purchases in the car, unlike one family who left just before me with their newly acquired record player. They left the shop minus Mum who had to walk home - putting the kids in the boot was considered but they're can be so picky about their human-rights these days (it would have been a whole other story circa 1930).

More details on my workshop at The Vintage Retreat coming soon.

A beautiful wooden sewing box I brought at a snip from The Vintage Retreat.

Sunday, 8 September 2013

Review of iMake Magazine Issue 1

I have long been a fan of Martine's iMake blog and podcasts so when she announced that her new venture was a magazine I couldn't wait to see what she came up with. I've been lucky enough to review the magazine this week and thoroughly enjoyable it is too. 

I think I first met Guernsey based Martine at Knit Nation in London several years ago. I then listened to her podcast a few days later to hear her talking excitedly with followers of the show about their gorgeous yarn and fluffy (pom pom) purchases.  It was like taking part in a crafty conversation with knitting group friends who perfectly understand the need to purchase that beautiful ball of yarn you just had to have - needless to say I loved it. I then had the pleasure of meeting Martine and the lovely Kate (it's a show rule that this is her pre-fix) over a year ago when they visited Toft Alpacas where I was working at the time.  The podcast following this visit was a great listen, okay so I might be a tiny bit biased as they were both very complimentary, but have a listen.  So I've been a fan of the podcast for a while and I regularly indulge in a listen whilst having some lunch at my kitchen table with a cup of Earl Grey.

Front cover of iMake Magazine issue 1Now to the magazine.  Of course it combines Martine's inimitable style found on her blog and in the podcast, featuring friends of both, including the lovely Kate and foody Charles, brought to life in a longer, content rich format. The design is fun, informal and classic, mirroring the look of the blog and inviting creative types to enjoy a good read with more than a side portion of inspiration. An article on foraging for example by fellow Guernsey dweller Jen Merrit, must be the first I've read on the subject.  Whether I'll be brave enough to pick nettles and use them instead of spinach the jury is out, who knows, it would certainly be one way to clear up the garden!
See the how to on making retro looking bowls from old records.
Record Bowls, photo courtesy of iMake blog.
Along with a delicious pesto recipe (that I plan on making this afternoon) and a how to on making bowls from old records, there is Today's List featuring 10 external websites and how to pages on various creative things to try your hand at - Tunisian crochet and writing a song for example, not the usual suggestions to be found in a craft magazine.

The magazine balances smaller lifestyle pieces with indepth articles. One such article about rare breed sheep by Clare Devine (who also designed the layout of the magazine for Martine) struck a particular cord with me.  My experience of yarn from animal to ball of yarn is mainly with alpaca. So although I have seen and been intrigued by the seaweed eating North Ronadlsay sheep for example, I'm quite a novice when it comes to the rare breeds we have here in the UK.  The article has certainly made me want to get out there to discover and support UK breeds and check out the work of Nude Ewe, of whom I'd never heard. In fact I've been inspired to make contact again with a lady just outside of this very village about her co-operative of rare breed sheep owners. I'd nearly forgotten there is potential for local craft materials right on my own door step, thanks to this article I can't wait to learn more.
Chewing over the seaweed with some North Ronadlsay sheep
North Ronadlsy sheep, photo courtesy of
I also enjoyed the piece by Kate Ellis about her new volunteer position with P/Hop who raise money and awareness for Medecin Sans Frontieres/Doctors without Borders.  Martine's piece about starting your own podcast is very informative, she's pretty whizzy technically so I wouldn't have thought it was something I could do easily, but it's made me consider the possibility of podcasting in the future.  For me I think Audioboo's could be very useful to accompany 'how-to's' for example.  Lastly I will leave it to you to buy the magazine and discover the topic of Jo Milmine's Golden Toilet article!

I did think that some of the articles could have been balanced with a few more photographs, particularly as the photos that are used are of such a high quality.  Martine tells me that future issues will have even more photographs, this was down to a small teething issue with embedding photos that is all fixed now.

So there you are, iMake issue 1 is available on Etsy for a mere snip and I highy recommend it. Click here for links to purchase and sign up to be notified when new issues are released. Supporting this issue means that not only are you supporting a fellow creative maker who has more than enough ideas and inspiration to go around, you are also ensuring issue 2 sees the light, so go on, you know it makes sense...!