Indigo-dyeing day

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I’m more than pleased with my first try at indigo dyeing. Indigo dresses

I thought I’d share my first attempts at indigo dyeing. 

It’s all courtesy of my friend M, who has a lovely workshop because she dyes yarn for a living, and decided to invite all her friends over to try their hands at this technique. I was in the second workshop, and decided to cut some dress lengths, because in the past, when I’ve done shibori dyeing, I’ve ended up with pieces of fabric that were too small to use. 

This time I was determined not to make the same mistake, so I cut a simple sundress shape out of fabrics in my stash. One is a white-on-white stripe chintz that I’ve had for over 25 years and never used, and the two others were cut from a bamboo and cotton single duvet cover.

I also did some test samples on offcuts of kimono silk and old haori linings that I’d removed from garments that I dissassembled.

I spent the night before the workshop tying and stitching my fabrics.

mokume shibori

One dress length I did as mokume – a technique where you sew running stitches through the cloth then draw it up. I actually did this on my sewing machine, using a 20mm tacking stitch through both pieces of fabric, and when drawn up, the piece was only around six inches long. You can see here how the striped chintz adds an extra level of texture. 

 'bean' shibori and maki-nuiAnother, I knew I wanted mostly dark, so I tied individual dried beans into it, using elastic bands rather than thread. On the bodice section, I used black-eyed beans, in the middle section I used chickpeas and on the skirt part I used white kidney beans. (The different sizes proved to be a waste of time, as they all came out looking virtually identical.) I also whipstitched in between the motifs on the bodice part – a technique called maki-ori. 

kumo shibori

The third piece was a last-minute decision – kumo shibori of a sort, though very rough in technique. I just drew up a handful of cloth into a point and secured it with one or two elastic bands, going all over the cloth until it was covered. Each dress length ended up about six inches wide and a foot long. 

The indigo had been mixed in a plastic dustbin, using ready-to-use indigo crystals. Apparently it’s important to let it settle until it forms a yellowish layer on top, rather like oil on vinegar in a salad dressing. Into this, you dip your fabric, preferably wet to the ease the penetration of the dye, and trying to disturb the surface layer as little as possible to avoid oxygenating the mix.

Three of us, L, V and myself were all trying this, suspending our pieces on coathangers with bits of string, as the level of the dye was well below the height of the bin. Each dip takes a few minutes, then as you pull out the fabric it turns first bright turquoise, then – as it oxidises – blue. You allow it to dry a bit, then dip it again if you want to strengthen the colour. Between us, we did dress lengths, t-shirts, scarves and various pieces of cloth. We were later joined by C, who used cushion-cover-size pieces, each with a different design. 

Indigo vat

I dipped my mokume dress and the silk samples twice and the other dresses three times, but I now wish I’d carried on dipping perhaps another twice to get a really dark indigo blue, given that this colour will fade. Nevertheless, I’m absolutely made-up by the results. All of the silk samples were rubbish, pretty much (indigo doesn’t penetrate as far into fabric as the Procion dyes I’m used to, so my pleated efforts, etc, were totally wasted) but the dress lengths all came out exactly as I’d hoped. 

Indigo samples

An indigo vat will keep for some weeks, so I’m now going to shibori some more garment lengths – maybe trousers this time – and see what effects I can get while the going’s good. Wish me luck.  

Review: Phyderma products

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Premium skincare products with a silky feel on the skin.

The people over at Phyderma recently sent me a few of their products to review, so I thought I’d share my findings. 

Esprit dOrient

First up is the Esprit D’Orient (Eastern Spirit) Brume Parfumé Corps & Cheveux (Hair and Body perfumed spray, 24.90 euros), with organic argan oil and silk extract. This is a product you use on dry hair or skin, or after a bath, and it act as a conditioning spray. For me, the smell is a little sweet and doesn’t suit my personal taste, nor did I find it made much difference to my hair, which is already fine and silky. However, it works very well as a freshen-up – for instance, if you’re going out for the evening and don’t have time to bathe before changing.

I also found another use for it, not advertised on the product, and that is as a freshener for sheets or for clothing that’s hung too long in the wardrobe. For this purpose, it works brilliantly, due to the clean smell and the very fine diffusion – it’s unusual to find such a fine actuator on a skincare product (it’s more like Elnett hairspray), and this delivers a micro-fine, even spray with no droplets. If the fragrance was different, I would probably use it on my face and hair, but as of now, it’s mostly being used on my pillow and sheets each evening. The pearl-coloured can looks quite nice on the dressing table, too. 

SubliLift mask

The second product I tried was the SubliLift Masque Lift Éclat (Radiance Lifting Mask) with Bio-Cellulose – Oslift (oats extract and ‘botanical’ extracts). This is the new kind of disposable one-use-only mask that has come from Asia, and consists of an impregnated bio-cellulose mask trapped between two layers of paper. You peel off the backing paper, position the mask with its cut-out eyeholes over your face, tap it down and then remove the top layer of paper.

For someone who has not tried this technique before, it felt very strange. The bio-cellulose has a cold, slightly unpleasant feeling, but you quickly get used to it. The mask dries a little and on my skin produced a tingling, cooling effect, followed by noticeable tightening. All I was hoping was that the DH wouldn’t come in and start making Leatherface remarks.

Afterwards, I noticed that my open pores were very definitely less visible and my skin looked smoother. To be honest, I was slightly disappointed that it worked, because at 59.90 euros for a pack of four, it’s well out of my normal price range. I used two masks on consecutive days and the effect was noticeable.

Personally, I would regard this mask like a spa treatment and use it in the run-up to an event such as a wedding or a school reunion when I want to look my absolute best. 

Phyderma Perles de Jeuness

Product number three was Perles de Jeunesse (Pearls of Youth, 69.90 euros), a new serum in the Caviar Time Collection, which uses plankton extracts. This is something of a flagship product for Phyderma and makes use of a new airless pump dispenser, so I was keen to try it. In my view, the outer (card) packaging rather lets this product down, as it looks like a supermarket brand and for the premium price, I’d expect something more enticing, but the inner packaging is lovely – high-end superclear acrylic with gold detailing and a gold actuator, which looks elegant on the bathroom shelf. 

The pearls themselves are visible inside the bottle, and they look great – about the same size and shape as real seed pearls, with a sheen that gives the product an exotic appearance. I was a bit surprised when the dispenser didn’t actually dispense a whole one for me to pop open, but in fact it pops the pearl inside the tube and dispenses exactly one dose onto the back of your hand. I find two doses is about right for both face and neck.

The product is very silky and watery, with a pearlescent sheen, and absorbs very nicely into the skin. My skin is very sensitive and prone to itching and hotspots, but this has caused no irritation at all. As to its claims to reduce wrinkles, I couldn’t speak, but it certainly reduces the appearance of wrinkles – I tested it first on the backs of my hands, and it made them look much smoother. The product is also very agreeable to use with its silky feel and very light, clean fragrance. You can always add more layers of product if your skin is dryer.  

I probably wouldn’t buy this product for myself, to be honest, because of the price, but I would certainly wangle it as a present.   

Phyderma Soin Combleur De Rides

The last product I tried is the one you would have to pry out of my cold, dead hands. It’s the Soin Combleur de Rides (Fill Out Wrinkles, 39.90 euros) with hyaluronic acid and silk extract. This is a silicon primer of the Smashbox type and comes in an airless pump (ever my favourite mode of delivery). The bottle (unlike the one in the photo) is in frosted glass – very luxe – with a superclear acrylic cap, which looks great in the bathroom. 

The product, as you would expect from a silicon primer, has a very silky feel on the skin, making your complexion look instantly matte but dewy. It also has a trick up its sleeve in the shape of very fine mica particles that give a subtle sparkle. I absolutely love this product and would definitely buy it again. 

Incidentally, after using all four products for about a week, I was told – quite out of the blue – by a friend that my skin was looking ‘radiant’. Mmn. At the age of 52, I don’t get ‘radiant’ very often, so this is well worth bearing in mind.  

Phyderma products are available from affiliated stockists and www.phyderma.fr and www.phyderma.co.uk

A change of plans

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The best-laid plans.

Well, it’s Friday the Thirteenth. Ooh err. 

All nonsense, of course, but the day starts with our having to cancel planned filming on our new movie, The Garden, as it’s chucking it down with rain and some of the crew have come down splat with colds in any case.

They were filming here yesterday in bitter temperatures. Although I’d sent out an email reminding everyone to dress in their warmest clothes I was a bit surprised when they all turned up in short jackets. I think people underestimate how cold you get when you’re standing around in the cold rather than walking around in it.

The DH, of course, was walking about without a coat at all, not because he’s hard, but because he’d donned his Regatta fleece thermals as a base layer and was wearing neoprene-lined wellies, so he was as warm as toast.

The day began thrillingly frost-covered, with the whole landscape looking like a Christmas card, but to my, and everyone elses’s surprise, he didn’t want to film in it for continuity reasons, and instead waited until most of the frost had burned off. A missed opportunity to my mind, but then it’s not my movie.

My job, as usual, was makeup and costumes. Our main female character, who is nameless, is dressed a bit like a rock chick, necessitating jeans, loads of cheap jewellery, a t-shirt with writing all over it and a denim waistcoat. This, quelle surprise, had gone missing in the post (exactly as happened with our last shoot), but luckily one of the crew had an old denim jacket that he didn’t mind us butchering, so while the crew had breakfast, I frantically cut it up to make a waistcoat (sleeves off, shoulders narrowed, bottom trim removed and sides taken in). I then frayed all the raw edges and it looked great – exactly what we were after. 

Since our earlier location had blown out (hence the necessity to film at our house), and along with it, the caterer, I was also doing the food, and had spent hours over the previous few days creating vegetarian soups and curries, plus puddings, for the supposed seven to eight crew members. Only two are veggie, but it saved cooking two separate dishes.

After everyone had had breakfast and gone out, I tidied up, kept the woodburner loaded up and then, at 11.00, took hot chocolate, cakes and hot water bottles out into the garden, all of which were met with alacrity by the freezing crew. E, our sound girl, ended up with a hot water bottle under each arm, stuffed up her gilet, while P, a new guy on board, had feet that were completely frozen.  

Once elevenses were over, I started on lunch, gently reheating a Chinese mushroom soup I’d made the day before, plus a quiche that P had brought with him, and focaccias and ciabattinis. M kept popping in and out, as she had to ‘look summery’, but she was streaming with cold, and C too began to feel achey and shivery as the day wore on.

Lunch was meant to be at 1.00 but they carried on filming till 1.45, then we all sat down and everyone ate like they’d never seen food before. It must have been tough going outside again after that, even though the day had warmed up to a balmy 9 degrees or so. I was glad I could stay in by the fire. 

Another hour’s filming and they began to lose the light, and they finished up about 4.30. I made coffees for everyone then, and we reviewed the rushes, and everyone toddled off home again, ready to be up at 6.00 this morning for another day.

Sadly, it is not to be, so it’s back to adopt Plan B, fridge up the massive vegetarian curry that was defrosting in the kitchen, and we’ll just have to hope we can start again tomorrow.   

A question of balance

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A bit of balance would be very welcome in our lives right now.

Well 2015 does seem to be getting off to a bad start. We could really do with things getting back to normal pretty soon. 

Not only did I start the year with a job loss, so have almost no money coming in, this was shortly followed by the terrible massacres in Paris (and even round here the gendarmes are now armed with sub-machine guns, which is hardly a comforting sight), then the death of a close friend, and then by some upset in a couple of groups of which I’m a member. Someone also reversed into our car while we were parked.

Hopefully these things will all blow over, but it feels almost like there was a shiver in the ether or something. I am keen for things to get back to normal.

The death of our friend and colleague Steve Gold, in particular, has thrown us into not only grief but a mid-life crisis. The other day, the DH and I sat down and decided to make strong efforts to achieve more happiness in our lives. In his case, that means film-making and electronics; in mine it means more sewing and beading. And for both of us it means getting out more and feeling as if we really live in France, rather than just in our house. Beautiful though it is, it could be anywhere – Scotland or Wales – and if one doesn’t make the trips to the bakery and the café and the patisserie, some very pleasant aspects of French life go by the board. 

In the interests of achieving some peace and quiet psychologically, I am also progressing in my Zen Den. The daybed has arrived, which replaces the old double bed, and it has been furnished with a nice mattress and lots of cushions. I’ve installed some lovely Diptyque candles, a little Zen garden, my singing bowl and runes, lots of light in the shape of SAD lightboxes, daylight-balanced fluorescents and softer lighting for evening. There’s room for my yoga mat to go down without having to move anything, and the animals, much as I love them, can be shut out. (As anyone who’s tried to do yoga with cats or dogs around will know, they do tend you ‘help you out’ in distinctly unhelpful ways…). My plan now is to sell our old Renault to pay for a huge cupboard to be built in.

The other night I had one of my white menopausal nights and came down at about 4.00am. Instead of sitting in our vast living room, I went and snuggled up in the Zen Den under a quilt and read a 1920s book of household tips until I felt sleepy again. It was lovely to have this quiet, white retreat with no fear of disturbance and I think it will be a haven in the coming months. 

Charlie Hebdo sold out

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The first million copies have all gone. It’s 9.30am and we’re just back from a trip into town to buy Charlie Hebdo. No joy – it’s sold out. 

In our local presse, we managed to reserve a copy for Friday – the Thursday reserves are all booked. One copy each – you can’t buy multiple copies, it’s strictly one per person. In the supermarket, meanwhile, it was all sold out within minutes of the store opening.

The solidarity shown by the French people since this godawful incident is amazingly heartening. The extremists have stuck a fork in the toaster this time, when they kill journalists, police officers and Jews and threaten the civil liberties of an entire nation.

I know that the image on the cover offends some Muslims who have decided it’s Mohammed (although whether it is, is moot, and there is besides a long tradition of depicting the Prophet in Shia Islam – the idea that depictions are and always have been forbidden is simply not true). But I live in a village with a church, whose presence offends me because I am an atheist. I have a friend who is a big fan of Thatcher. We can’t all go around killing one another because we disagree about subjects – offence is something that is taken, not given.

 

 

 

Steve Gold RIP

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A good friend died last night.

Our friend Steve Gold died last night. 

He had complications following heart surgery, which he had needed for a long time due to his heart failing. 

Steve and I were friends for about 25 years, almost half my life, and he was friends with my husband for even longer. In fact, he was how we met. I was working on PC Dealer magazine in 1991 when Steve, who was acting editor, brought aboard his friend ‘Rotsky’ to act as features editor.

Steve was always an ebullient man. Fundamentally a techhead, he had also worked as a psychiatric nurse or orderly – I forget which – and was one of the first to warn me that my then-boyfriend was a psycho (he was not at all wrong, as it later proved). He was a kind and generous co-worker and few of those who knew him will forget his ‘hacking’ of the fruit machines in various pubs to pay for rounds of drinks for the PC Dealer team.

When I met my now-husband of nearly 20 years, Steve was the one who lent us his flat so we could talk in peace and quiet. He was sympathetic partly because he had by then met the woman who would become his wife, Sylvia. On one occasion, Sylvia was visiting her family in Poland and Steve decided to send her some red roses. He spent about 20 dollars, not realising that this would buy all the roses in the district, and the flowers arrived at the family house by the cartload. 

Although we spoke just about every week on the phone, I last saw Steve in 2011, when I visited London briefly. I was a bit shocked by his appearance. Even then, he was looking pale, though his personality was as ebullient as ever and he made light of any concerns. He gave me a cake for my birthday, and, as ever, he slipped me some tablets – on this occasion Imuran – understanding very well how poorly I was with my ulcerative colitis. We took different routes on that issue – he taking whatever the medical profession could offer him, myself opting for the natural and diet method. But it may be that the UC in the end was what killed him – he told me last year that it had weakened his heart and he would need major surgery.

He went in for this not long before Christmas, which we knew although he hadn’t announced it – worried, perhaps, as a freelance journalist, that people might not book him for work if they knew how ill he was? I don’t know, but although he seemed to be recovering well from surgery, yesterday he could not be woken, and he died in the night.

We’ll miss you, Glod. I don’t care how good a journalist you were, or how respected in your field. For us, you were just a good mate. Rest in peace.  

 

Je suis Charlie

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Christ, what a terrible day. Je Suis charlie

What can you say about these people? 

What can you say about people who will kill a man just because he thinks differently? Who will shoot in the head a defenceless man lying on the ground? Who will kill a man who does nothing but draws a line on paper that disagrees with their world view? 

Yesterday was a shocking day for France. These terrorists are not just killers but murderers. Not just murderers but executioners. Not just executioners but assassins. They chose their targets carefully, and through sheer hatred – men who had committed no crime, but reserved the right to say, and draw, what they thought, as is their right in a democracy. 

As fellow journalists, we feel it keenly. The victims were like us. These were people sitting in an editorial meeting, on an ordinary day, as we ourselves have done so many hundreds of times in other newspaper offices, in other cities. The ordinariness of such a day, ending in fear and tragedy for no good reason at all. It beggars belief. So many bereaved and orphaned children, for what? Who kills cartoonists, for Christ’s sake?

France has long defended freedom of speech and Charlie Hebdo takes the piss out of everyone – Jews, Christians, Buddhists, politicians. It reserves the right to be offensive. It is one of things for which it is loved. And never, ever, has this offence been a killing issue until now, with these Islamic extremists.

Now it is the moderate Muslims who will pay for it as the right-wing nut-jobs exact their revenge on everyone they can get their hands on – the housewives and the taxi drivers, the shopkeepers and the children. This terrorist attack plays straight into the hands of the Right.

And perhaps we British too will suffer – because there are plenty of Le Pen scum who would love to kick us out of this country. My own commune did not shift to the National Front in recent elections, but all around us are communes that did – something we would not have thought possible when we moved here under Mitterand’s Socialist government so many years ago.  

Life in France feels bleak today. We can only hope that they catch these murderers soon and bring them to something approaching justice. 

 

Project 333

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Could you stick to 33 items of clothing for the next three months? fiske hoody

I thought I’d write a bit today about Project 333.

Project 333 is a minimalist clothing concept developed by blogger Courtney Carver. Basically, you commit to wearing only 33 items of clothing for the next three months. Anything you didn’t wear by the end of that time, you donate or sell. Then for the next three months, you do the same again. There exists a website where people can log on and commit to the idea and post how they’re getting on, along with daily photo diaries of all the different combinations that can be achieved with just 33 garments. 

I thought 33 items (including footwear and accessories but not including undies) was a bit tight, but actually it’s quite do-able. However, many of the participants don’t seem to need very different winter and summer clothing the way we do here, so I know that my four three-month tranches would vary quite widely.

As anyone who follows this blog will know, I live in a big old draughty house in rural Normandy. This morning, it was minus-6 outside and 11 degrees in the kitchen. Right now, in front of the woodburner in the living room, it’s more like 18 degrees. Sitting here in my ‘nightie’ (a knee-length merino wool dress plus fleece pjs and Uggs) I feel quite warm. But in summer, it could easily reach 28 degrees in our bedroom and I’d be in my thinnest silk or bamboo nighties. 

On a daily basis in winter, I wear thermals, fleece pants and a fleece polo plus big socks from Corrymoor and trainers indoors. Outdoors I wear black jeans and either a waterproof coat for walking the dogs, with wellies, or a nice wool coat for going into town, with boots. Add a grey felt toque and some hats and scarves, and that’s about it. I have zero requirement to look ‘smart’. 

Now that Christmas is over, my 33 items for the next three months might look something like this:

Eddy teeshirt from FinisterreStarfish pants from Lands End

9 merino tees

Black Eddy tee x 3

Grey Eddy tee x 2

Linen Eddy tee x 2

Grey Fiske sweat

Grey Fiske hoody

5 bottoms

Black jeans x 2

Grey fleece pants

Black fleece pants

Black fleece Starfish pants from Lands’ End 

Bezant cardi from FinisterrePipistral coat

4 knits/warm tops

Grey Oxford collar lambswool cardi from Woolovers

Grey Bezant cardi from Finisterre

Black fleece polo from Lands’ End

Charcoal Aran Crafts long cardi with hood

4 coats

Taupe Pipistral coat from Finisterre

Black Squall Stadium coat from Lands’ End

Pink mohair vintage coat

Lemon mohair vintage coat

11 other

Grey fleece gilet from Lands’ End

Grey pashmina (gift from my sister)

Grey toque hat

Waterproof hat bought in Finistère

Shivling gloves from Rohan

Pearl necklace

Gold and pearl earrings

Uggs

Brown trainers

Walking boots 

Wellies 

Sticking to a colour palette based on neutrals simplifies things a great deal but let’s see if this lot gets me through till the end of March.  

A streamlined wardrobe

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Twenty sacks and counting.

My massive declutter continues and I’m beginning to see light and space in the house. Twenty 100ltr sacks of clothes have now hit the kerb one way or another. 

Organiser Marie Kondo recommends that you do your clothes first, because these things definitely belong to you and are easy to make decisions about, though I confess I am also doing it in a light way with books from time to time, just to take a break. For instance, I just boxed up all my remaining classics books from college and gave them to a friend (it felt great – haven’t looked at the damn things for 30 years).

When it comes to clothes, though, this process been a lot less painful than I thought. Instead of weighing up the pros and cons of each item – is it useful, how often do I wear it, etc, I simply picked up each garment and felt it in my hands. Your fingertips tell you the truth – this is too old, this is too stiff, this is too tired. Or this is snuggly, this feels delicious, this is silky and delectable.

I’ve found that quite coincidentally, the process has narrowed down my wardrobe to a palette of grey, black, taupe and teal, with the odd very dark brown piece, and pastel colours such as pale pink and light, leafy green and soft blue (mainly thin sweaters) for summer. There are one or two white things and some brighter coloured scarves and winter coats for a jolt of energy in a dark season. 

I still have too many clothes – my ultimate aim is to get them down to a single standard wardrobe’s worth – but it’s an improvement. I’ve taken 18 100 sacks to the charity drop-off point, given a shedload to friends and put aside a small pile for Ebay (is it worth the hassle, I ask myself, and the answer is no for anything worth less than £20, which is the vast majority of my stuff).

My vintage clothes, I’ve packed separately, as other than cashmere sweaters and coats, these are really more about inspiration than wear these days, when my clothes lead a hard life of mud, dogs and woodburners. Meanwhile, for daily wear, there is a handful of brands I rely on:

* Finisterre, for merino thermals, tees and hoodies, knitwear and my new Pipistral coat – the best coat I’ve ever owned.

* Lands’ End, for fleeces and walking shoes – their cashmere is also good.

* Wall, for Pima cotton dresses and wool trousers.  

* Boden, for grey cotton crewneck tees, which are 27 inches long, and linen and silk dresses for summer.

* Armor-Lux, for thick cotton Breton tops, which I own in navy and grey.

* M&S, for plain black denim jeans with black stitching, which I much prefer to a contrast stitch. 

* Sloggi, for cotton full briefs – the only knickers I now own.

* Bali, for minimiser bras, which converted me to underwires for the first time in 20 years. 

* Aran Crafts, for traditional knitwear, including my favourite long hooded coat. 

* Woolovers, for simply everyday knits in lambswool and merino.  

There is also a sprinkling of other brands: Orvis, Pringle, Braemar, Adini, Woolpower – mainly country or specialist clothiers rather than high street – and most of the unique spark is provided by vintage items: a lemon-coloured wool bouclé coat from the 60s, a bright pink 1950s coat in bouclé mohair, a cream polar-bear coat, a grey Persian lamb by Calman Links, etc. 

This Christmas was wick with social occasions, but with a trimmed-down wardrobe it proved sartorially easy. I mainly wore black cotton drill baggy trousers from Wall that look and feel like the finest wool, black leather ankle boots from M&S and a range of different tops and wraps – a silver textured fabric vintage jacket that my sister calls my ‘panscrubber’ jacket; a black wrap I made myself from silk fabric covered in shaggy beaded fringe; a scarlet Chinese silk embroidered vintage jacket from the 50s; a vintage sequinned cardigan with cream and black harlequin pattern; and a screaming magenta velvet vintage coat. 

This is how occasionwear looks in this neck of the woods – a nice coat that makes an entrance, some long, baggy trousers you can get your thermals under if need be and a top that looks interesting over the dining table.  

A room of one’s own

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I’m creating a Zen space for myself.

So, it’s 2015. 

I wonder what the year will hold in store? Good things, one hopes, but much of it is out of one’s own control.

Last year was a good year for us workwise: this year starts with unemployment. But on the bright side, perhaps less exhaustion from overwork to go with it. I will have to take back the gardening in-house this year as we can no longer afford to employ someone, the dogs are back on dechets, which will save us 80 euros a month, and I aim to put myself under a new-clothing embargo in the interests of economy.

Ideally I would spend nothing all year on clothing, but I think that’s a tad unrealistic – but I’m hoping to manage the first three months without spending any money on clothes. Because the truth is that I have no clothing needs, only wants. 

Because I do not believe in resolutions, only in intentions, I will not commit to something like Project 333 (I’ll blog more about this later), but I hope to stick to something similar myself, along with my other intentions for 2015: to lose weight, to gain fitness, to do more yoga, and to practice more zazen. 

In the interests of not spending money on clothes, I’ve spent the past couple of weeks diligently unsubscribing from five email feeds each day. It’s remarkable now little crap is now coming into my inbox. Some of these firms, such as Finisterre and Lands’ End, I did sign up for, but there were many that I did not – I’ve never bought a damn thing from Next, for instance, and yet there were their email offers, endlessly cluttering up my inbox. 

In the interests of doing more yoga and zazen, I’ve also stopped looking at the news, listed some Zen and simplicity blog favourites to read over breakfast, and clawed back a dedicated space for myself in the house. Our ‘second’ bedroom, which has in turns been a guest room, a sewing room and a winter bedroom, is now going to be ‘my’ room. Weeks of decluttering and discarding furniture (25 sacks of clothes and fabric so far, plus a double bed and a marble washstand) have resulted in a space large enough to accommodate a nice daybed for lounging and reading, plus a huge area to put down a yoga mat. Most of the rest of the room is empty and I am using the money gained by selling furniture to have another closet built in.  

Earlier in the year, we had closets built into one half of the room, which we exchanged for our vintage Karmann Ghia, which was rusting away in the garage. I think I got the better part of the deal, with floor-to-ceiling storage 60cm deep now running along the whole of one wall. Following Marie Kondo’s advice, I also put a bookcase in the back of the hanging section, which freed up space on our landing as well as providing me with storage for sweaters, shoes, etc.   

The room is now starting to feel very Zen, and will be even more so by the summer, I hope. Here will be my singing bowl, my rune stones, my scented candles, my miniature Zen garden and my SAD lightboxes. Everything white and calm. And no-one allowed in except by appointment…