Seeking Happiness Day by Day

It’s a return to the 1930s Problem Pages, with help from Leonora Elyes, a steely-eyed agony aunt you may remember from previous posts. She reassures her readers, ‘I am always here to help and advise you whenever you are in difficulty or trouble’. This page is titled ‘Seeking Happiness Day by Day’. Leonora Elyes advises her readers on many different matters, from parents  whose married children tease them about their Victorian home for not being modern enough, or asking a woman who wants to avoid having children and continue working to send in a stamped addressed envelope as she ‘will be glad to help…but the subject is to intimate for discussion on this page.’ That puts a whole new spin on the stamped addressed envelope.

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7 days of Ayoka: Final Day and Round Up

The final day of 7 days of Ayoka and the sunny weather kicked in. I had a gorgeous woollen skirt in mind for a final celebratory outfit. From the hems and zip you can tell it’s handmade. It’s a really beautiful piece, full length and a generous amount of fabric, and everyone seems to be loving the maxi skirt at the moment, me included. But as I mentioned, the sun was on a rare visit to London town, so unfortunately the woollen skirt wasn’t the right last outfit. Instead I went for the translucent top (£2.00) with skinny trousers (£4.00) and big heels (£7.00).

But that final outfit wasn’t all I could have worn. This project, if needed, could have continued for many days if I’d needed. There are some examples of outfits that didn’t get worn below.



And feedback? How was the challenge? I really enjoyed it. It was a challenge and a pleasure to really think through everything I was going to wear each day. I’m sure there are people who do this properly daily. It felt a little like the first day of school, when you have your new uniform and shoes properly laid out and ready, in stark comparison to the rest of the year, when you have to dig behind the sofa to find the jumper and under the kitchen table for the shoes. I definitely feel that shopping only at charity shops is possible. I was a little disappointed that the lurgy disrupted the challenge, and I had to fall back on other charity shop purchases, but, to be honest, it was reassuring to feel I could have done it easily, and for a much longer period, if I needed to.  It is difficult to avoid the immediacy of the high street; you know that you can definitely get something for an occasion when you need it. But maybe that’s true of the charity shops too, perhaps I just haven’t been looking hard enough. The clothes are there. What worked better than I could have imagined, was the process of going into a shop and grabbing everything I thought looked good and the right size and taking it home to then try it on and work with it. I avoided that painstaking half an hour of indecision, trying to decide what to buy, and everything I got, bar one Jigsaw dress that wouldn’t fit over my ample bottom, fit well and worked.

If you have the instinct to go and grab, and if you make the high street off-limits, then charity shop living is definitely a feasible way to be. Afterall, I had one small charity shop at my disposal, and now I have the whole vast number of them, just waiting to be ransacked.

I Love Letterpress

On Sunday I blogged very enthusiastically about going to the Paekakariki Press. I had a lovely couple of hours setting the letter press type and then printing these business cards. They took a couple of days to dry, and I got my hands on these last night. The colour and finish is beautiful. I’m very excited.


7 days of Ayoka: Day 6

Well hello ladies and gents. I’m cutting it a little fine again today with posting, but it should be up before midnight. You also get a photo of an outfit worn all day, rather than one primed and styled for photography, along with it’s frazzled appearance. I say all day, but since I still have the lurgy, I actually managed to sleep through until the afternoon. That’s a vast improvement on my current sleep cycle of –  doze off, snore, cough, wake up due to coughing, look pissed off, doze off…and repeat ad nauseum. And thanks to Mr Moll for reporting that charming little sleep cycle, as he experienced it, until he put ear plugs in and turned over.

So, once I was actually up and about, I wore a spotty skirt, from the now defunct C&A at £3.00, hitched up as a dress, and then a little pale translucent number over the top, which is a snip at only £2.00.  I think this is my least expensive outfit yet. I am then wearing long black knee socks, and lace up boots (both my own), and also a flashing LED badge, made for me by the lovely Mr Moll – hand soldered and everything.

I really like these type of outfits – layers, and loose fitting, feeling quite short, but coupled with long socks and boots, to even out the leg on show. The loose fitting  layers stop the socks becoming too ‘Clueless’ in style, but they’re still fun to wear. So another Ayoka challenge success!


7 Days of Ayoka: Day 5

Before the start of the challenge, I suggested that the ideal aim would be to find an outfit that felt really special – the type of one that puts a swing in your step. I think I might have found the one today. Found all in a one-stop-shop trip to Ayoka yesterday.

Take one Marks and Sparks number, a brown belt and some brown Topshop heels, and find the outfit of the day. I am so happy to have found something that works, that is really comfortable, and that I would be happy wearing on a special occasion. Charity shop shopping is not all hilarious jumpers and whitewashed jeans. You can come out with something that doesn’t cry out ‘charity shopped’ from it’s very fibres.


It also gave me a chance to venture into the courtyard garden in the middle of our block. I’ve never really been in there before, as it is, by nature, overlooked on all sides. But once inside, there’s plenty of plants and greenery to take your mind off it, and plenty of benches to curl up and read on. It’s 30 seconds from my door too, so taking a cup of tea along doesn’t seem out of the question either.

This afternoon I’m off to prepare for a workshop, making vintage paper flowers with the lovely Lizzy and friends, for decoration for an engagement party. Regular readers may remember the invitations I designed for the occasion. I am off on an expedition to get some paper for the occasion and to discover if all the mini glue guns and heatproof gloves I ordered last week have arrived. We’re going to bundle around a table at my studio for this. Originally we hoped to use the fantastic Create Place, the craft venue a couple of doors down from Ayoka. They have an amazing range of workshops and offer the space for parties. If I wasn’t living an hour away, I would be there much more often. This time, for my own workshop, it wasn’t really possible unfortunately – the dates didn’t quite match up, and we weren’t quite sure on numbers, and since friends are lovely and forgiving, we’re bundling around in the studio. But if you do fancy a vintage paper rose bouquet, or a workshop making one, then do get in contact with me.

And now, to Notting Hill and a second-hand bookshop emporium, with the special damp paper smell. Exciting.




7 days of Ayoka: Day 4

Today I had an exciting expedition, to the centre of this challenge, the lovely Ayoka.

It was time to collect a new set of clothes for the next few days, and I cannot tell you how excited I am about the upcoming outfits.

It’s basically a dream situation as far as I’m concerned; going into a charity shop and pulling all the things I like off the shelves, and walking out with them in an enormous bag, without a second thought. Again, I’m sure there are people who dream about doing the same thing in glossy shops – those shops where there is one item per peerless, clear, glass shelf, and the assistants are the species above human, or at least that’s the impression they choose to give.  But if you chose a perfectly placed item from a perfectly placed shelf, that is perfectly placed in exactly the same position in many different clone shops, where is the exciting sense of discovery? This is the best thing about charity shops as far as I’m concerned.

I also have to say, Ayoka is currently full of amazing homewares too. I can’t really consider the ‘one in one out’ policy on clothing and objects we have in our one bedroom flat a completely positive thing, but it works. Today, it prevented me from bringing home a collection of beautiful, pure white and dainty cups and saucers for only five pounds, or gorgeous little patterned tea-pot, or some hand painted little serving bowls, all from Ayoka. They also have an excellent retro range of brown and yellow crockery for vintage fans.

Discovering one-off pieces, home-made clothes, or high street treasures, at the fraction of usual cost, and then, here’s the key, boasting about it later, is where the true joy of the charity shop lies.

I’ve also been thinking; I would never normally consider sweeping into a charity shop, grabbing things I loved from the shelves with specific outfits in mind, and not even trying them on, but walking out with them confidently, like I did today. But if I did, like today, what would happen?  Well, I would have a dress, two belts, two skirts, a pair of shoes and a top for under £30.00. Which is excellent. Unless you’ve got a ‘one in one out’ policy.

And today’s outfit? It again relies on a couple of previous Ayoka purchases, but that’s no bad thing.

Black and white stripey top – Bought a couple of months ago for about £2.00

Cinch belt – £1.00

Slouchy black a line skirt from H&M – £4.00

And the old classic black high heels – £5.00

Promise to wear different shoes tomorrow. Excited about tomorrow’s outfit. See you then!

7 days of Ayoka: Day 3

I am very excited about today’s activities. Extraordinarily so. I haven’t quite banished the lurgy yet, but for once, it has been overshadowed by my day.

Apparently some people watch ‘Cribs’ or ‘Footballer’s Wives’ as life inspiration, imagining that if they work hard (or sleep with the right person), they will eventually be able to live this dream. I feel the same thing when I walk into a studio or workshop of some sort, a hidden away type of place, filled with paper and inks and interesting and satisfying pieces of machinery, and the smell of workshop (similar to that in art shops). If there’s a kettle in sight, radio 4 in the background and possible need to wear overalls, I veritably melt into a puddle on the floor.

Today I had the opportunity to go to the Paekakariki Press. There was ink, there was paper, there was massive and exciting printing machinery, there were wooden drawers full of letterpress letters and labelled with the different fonts and sizing. And radio 4 was on the background. It was beautiful.

We went there thinking we would be shown around the press by our gracious host Matt, which we were, and hoping to see the incredible Heidelburg KS Cylinder press (see the website for photos of each press) in printing action. We saw this too – Matt was printing some pages from a collection of poetry, called ‘London Rivers’. A lovely collection, and beautifully printed too. But then Matt offered to help us print something, perhaps a business card or similar. And guess who needs some business cards? Yes, that would be me.

So we spent a lovely couple of hours picking out the letterpress letters, setting them (and Matt kindly re-setting them), doing a couple of sample cards, ruing the day when I chose to use the word ‘and’ rather than the Ampersand (the Ampersand ‘&’ looked particularly fetching in letterpress), and finally getting our hands on the Treadle Platen printing press. Printing involved turning a wheel or pressing a foot pedal to do the same, which in turn moved mechanisms that moved rollers to roll ink onto the letterpress letters, and to move letters and paper together. That is a clumsy and extremely simplified rendition of how the press worked, and you can see a much more experience user using a similar press here.

The cards were printed in Garamond, in a dark blue, and the rubber ink used to print them is currently drying. Expect a forthcoming and excited post with picture when they’re dry and in my hands. It was a really unexpected, lovely and interesting opportunity. If you do want anything printed in letterpress, do get in touch with them.

And my outfit for today’s excursion? Well, I thought I had been failing in my duty to accessorise. So I made an active decision to include a couple of extra touches. I used a brightly coloured scarf, that, as well as injecting some well needed colour, held my hair in place admirably all day. I also used a little cinch belt, that I bought from Ayoka a few months ago myself.

Please see photo below. Also please forgive ridiculous face. I’m trying to pretend photo isn’t happening. You were one click away from having a photo where I was covering my face with my hands.

Scarf -No price tag. But probably either 50p or £1.00

Belt -£1.00

Shoes – £5.00 And yes, I’ve worn these every day so far. I make no excuse. They’re black, go with everything, high heeled and very easy to wear.

Cardigan – £4.00

Trousers – £5.00


7 days of Ayoka: Day 2

I am earnestly trying to prevent this series of blogs from merely charting the progress of my lurgy. This is a blog charting the challenge of wearing only Ayoka clothes for seven days, not the challenge of getting dressed at all when you’re feeling under the weather.

But anyway, if I had been feeling sprightly today, I would have been visiting either this sustainable fashion show or this jumble sale. I definitely plan to go a-jumbling again soon, and keep an eye out for another charity shop fashion show and promise to tell you all about them then. Apologies for not reporting from the front line of sustainable fashion this time, but give me time, I shall continue my stint at the front.

However, this rainy Saturday, I managed little North London wander along to this Russian restaurant to meet my lovely friend, Gaia. We ate a lovely collection of food; gherkins, sauerkraut, salt beef, rye bread and smoked salmon. The kind of plate that would revolt a whole number of people, but excite others; those type of foods you have try many times before you take to them; that seem utterly revolting until the moment of conversion, at which point you become obsessed. That’s definitely how I feel about gherkins.

And for this jaunt, what Ayoka outfit did I wear?I had an excellent outfit today. I wore a pale, peachy pink playsuit, black tights (my own), an indigo blue cardigan with black leopard print, and some chunky black heels (swapped for boots when the rain kicked in). My favourite bit of the playsuit is the collar or frill – it goes all around the back. I do love a playsuit or jumpsuit- deceptively easy to wear and comfortable…until you need to pop to the loo. If any men are wondering why women spend so much time in the toilet, it’s not the chatting or nose-powdering, it’s the process of extrication from clothing and getting re-dressed. At which point, I would like to congratulate all those (many) brave souls who I saw at a festival recently wearing all-in-ones.It’s one thing to enter a festival toilet, it’s another to get nigh-on undressed in one.


So today’s outfit:


It was comfortable and felt a little special or unusual. A definite thumbs up, and another bargain.

Playsuit: £5.00

Cardigan: £4.00

Shoes: £5.00






7 days of Ayoka: Day 1

Oh dear. Day One, and already the project has hit a problem. I have the lurgy. I spent yesterday on the sofa, and managed at about 3.00pm to waddle to the shop, swaddled in a hoodie, to get soup. I have been awake for about ten minutes, and I have already take a couple of cold and flu capsules, some nose spray and I am currently drinking some barocca. I shall not be defeated!

However, this does means my plans will change. My outfit for today was set to be a figure hugging skirt and little blouse combination (I won’t give you any more details, as hopefully it will reappear later in the week). But, having the lurgy means the last thing I want to do is squeeze myself into a restrictive skirt and toddle around in it. So, comfort it is. Stylish comfort though I hope. Perhaps this is the kind of fashion advice we need; not what to wear when we’re looking surprisingly well, but what to wear when we’re knackered, having a fat day or have the lurgy.



Item no. 1.Extra Large man’s Katherine Hamnet slogan t-shirt. Price: £3.00

Problem number two – I’m already nearly breaking my own rules; this t shirt was bought from Oxfam at the weekend, rather than Ayoka, but the last minute outfit change courtesy of the lurgy has changed the goal posts. I promise to do better. However, if I’m going to use something from an alternative shop, I’m glad it’s a Katherine Hamnet t shirt. Not only are they the original slogan t shirt, but Katherine Hamnet has long been campaigning for ethical production of cotton, and environmental consciousness in the fashion industry. These slogan t shirts are designed to campaign. What a difference from today’s slogan t shirts, eh?

Item no. 2. Cropped charcoal Grey trousers, H&M Price: £5.00

Item no. 3. Black high heels. Price £5.00

Overall price: £13.00 What a bargain!

I really like the combination of the oversized top, with a straight leg trouser and heel underneath. All I need now is an oversized bag and a bit of a quiff-style hairstyle and a line of eye liner. What do you think?

Making Things Easier

‘Making Things Easier’ is the name of the advice page in the 1950s ‘My Home’ Magazine. Here are a few excellent examples of problems. Click on the images to enlarge them. Enjoy with a cup of tea and a biscuit.