The Tale of Nancy and the Unicorn

This is a bit of a saga – you might need a cup of tea to accompany the following blog. Or some Kendall Mint Cake – that should sustain you. As the immortal Tilly (not mine, the one in Miranda) says ‘Bear with, bear with…’ Interestingly, Sally Phillips, who plays Tilly, describes her as Miranda’s friend, “monster idiot” and “language disease.” This is entirely by-the-by, but it turns out that Tilly is my new word-crush. I shall henceforth be using far more of her language right here in my blog.

Image

Sample: “I presume you are kiddingtons?” (translation: I hope you are joking.)

Back to unicorns. A while ago, Polly went through a unicorn-obsessed stage. As Polly likes to draw whatever she is thinking about at the time, the house slowly filled with unicorn pictures. I looked up some on the internet for her to look at; she wanted to know what colour they were and whether they had tails or not. And most of the pictures of unicorns looked something like this:

Pink Unicorn

Which is fine, if you like that kind of thing. But unicorns are such  interesting creatures; mythological, enchanted, magical. Powerful. Not swirly and pink (I don’t think. I do realise that they don’t really exist, by the way. Or probably don’t exist, anyway…) I suddenly wanted, very much, to do a t-shirt with a unicorn on.  And I remembered an artist that I had met at a craft stall once. She was selling artwork, and some bags that she had decorated with a chicken-print. Sarah and I loved them. They all had different decorations on, and we couldn’t decide which one we liked best, so in the end, we went and chose one for each other. I still use mine all the time. (This is a good explanation of how we tend to make very little at craft fairs  – if we sell stuff, we nearly always go and buy something.)

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The artists’ name was Nancy. Have a look at her website; her work is beautiful.  I finally plucked up the courage to arrange to meet her -I am always nervous of meeting people whose work I really admire; and she was bound to be really arty and cool, possibly a bit aloof . I met her in Pensieri, where she sells some of her work occasionally.  She was indeed arty and cool, but also really really lovely, disarmingly honest and interested in what I was doing with the t-shirts.  I liked her straight away, which clearly helps if you want to work with someone.  I love the idea of putting art on t-shirts. It’s a great way of owning and wearing brilliant, original artworks, and at the same time supporting local artists (and t-shirt designers – ahem.) Nancy drew and painted me the most amazing unicorn head. It was bold,  and floral at the same time. Perfect. I loved it.  And we printed it on a t-shirt. And it was nice: sweet, girly,  and pretty.  Polly liked it, other girls liked it. I wasn’t sure. I wanted to love it but it just wasn’t right. I fretted about it. I hate being disappointed with stuff. So I sold a few, but felt kind of bad. It just wasn’t the unicorn I had hoped.

So I worried for a bit longer, and then I got bored with being disappointed, and rang our t-shirt printing guru, Tricia, and told her I wanted to try again; to do the unicorn justice. I took a  deep breath and told myself that the extra expense would be worth it. I chose a different t-shirt colour to make the design stand out, and I told Tricia to make it BIG.

And NOW I’m happy.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

I think it is both marvilisimous and tremendulant.

Want one? They go on sale this week. Very limited edition at the moment, but if they go down well there will be more!  You can buy them at our folksy shop here. Or email sarahandaliceclothing@gmail.com. They are a bit more expensive than usual. It’s a sad necessity. The prices of our t-shirts have gone up in the last year or so, but I am determined to stick with good-quality, ethically produced t-shirts. We could go cheaper but we’ve stuck with our principles. And with t-shirts we love the quality of.

Advertisements

Day of the Dragonfly

This is a mini-blog (blogette? babyblog?) in celebration of the very fine work of a good friend of mine; Lloyd. Some people are just quietly brilliant, and would never dream of shouting about it. I’m sort of doing the shouting on behalf of him here. I’m quite good at shouting, as it happens.

Pondering

This is Lloyd. And his t-shirt. And his pipe. (Mostly just a prop, I think.) A while ago, Lloyd designed these dragonfly t-shirts in a nice yellow/navy combination, and we just loved them. Lloyd lives in the countryside near Bedford and is a stay-at-home-dad as well as a graphic designer / drayman for local micro-brewery White Park / editor of brilliant music Fanzine Phaff & Potter. I think that’s possibly the best job description I’ve ever come across.

Lloyd has done some excellent designs for us in the past, but these t-shirts are for one of his little sidelines: louie louie t-shirts.

Image

If you’d like to buy one, and I suggest you do, as they are rather Chris Packham-esque – and who wouldn’t want to emulate Chris ‘I’m quite attractive, very enthusiastic AND I care about wildlife too’ Packham – you can do so here. They come in adult and childrens’ sizes, meaning that you could have a father-daughter/ father-son combo.

When he is not designing t-shirts / pritt-sticking musical satire/delivering beer/looking after his girls, Lloyd can be found defacing the work of Grand Masters:

Image

Brilliant, eh?

I need to update our much-neglected (by me as much as by customers) Folksy shop. Folksy is a brilliant website – if you haven’t had a browse, go ahead. You are almost guaranteed to find  some hand-knitted cat-shaped tea cosy, or rude-message cross -stitch samplers, or a nice bit of interesting jewellery; or something else you had no idea you needed in your life until you have seen it, from which point life seems to be impossible without it.  I love that kind of stuff. Things I have bought from Folksy in the past have included a Cafetiere cardigan (!) an Eiffel tower brooch and a selection of photos someone had taken and made into postcards. Just random lovely things that you might not otherwise stumble across. I’ll update it this week and in the process try and share some of the cool stuff I’ll no doubt be distracted by…

On a final, Sunday night note: thanks very much to everyone who read my blog about the Where’s Wally Fun Run and have sponsored me. I’m really grateful, as the National Literacy Trust  is such a great cause to run (stagger) for.  I can report that I am officially in training, and have therefore downgraded my morning butter and jam on toast to just butter as a nod to making me slightly less hefty to drag around, and have been out huffing, puffing and generally sounding like Darth Vader to ensure that I can at least complete the course without a major health issues. Bring on the fun, and with a little less enthusiasm, the run!

The tale of the Stripes and the Gambler.

I am a terrible gambler. I pick a Grand National horse each year based purely on name (they never win,) I get addicted to 2p machines on seaside holidays and I once won a line at Bingo but was too shy to go up and claim my (£3) prize. I’ve only won one raffle in the last 15 years, and that was at a school pamper night, right in the middle of a manicure. My daughter was new to the school, so I had decided to try and get to know some of the other mums by going to a pamper night. I was just having the final coat applied, when I heard my name being called. I was quite a long way from the raffle and had to do an undignified sort of running through the school hall, past lots of people I didn’t really know -with no shoes and socks on, as I was due to have a pedicure – my varnish-y hands outstretched like a zombie in order to collect what turned out to be a wonderful ‘pamper hamper’ of goodies. But since then, zilch. I played the lottery for a while with my friend Lois, but I spent most of that time in a state of paranoia that I would forget to buy a ticket when it was my turn and our numbers would come up. We won a tenner once, I think.

But it is Christmas. And we’ve had some ideas for t-shirts kicking about for ages, and haven’t got around to printing them. We’ve both been busy lately, and preoccupied, and to be honest, a bit worried about printing t-shirts. Just in case, you know. Just in case they weren’t good enough. Just in case people didn’t like them. Just in case they ended up sitting in a corner of my living room. Basically, we got The Fear. If you don’t have much money to gamble with, it quite often feels like a silly thing to do. Much more sensible to put the money in the bank and save it. But then, two weeks ago, I got a bit bored of The Fear, and remembered that in order to get an idea off the ground, you need to actually do it. It might fail, it might, actually, turn out to be a rubbish idea; but you’ll never know if you don’t try. Sometimes you really do have to take a gamble.

So in a typical last-minute rush (some things never change) I arranged to re-print our retro-rollerskate design on some beautiful stripey t-shirts. I was guessing at the result, I’m actually quite bad at visualizing stuff, which is annoying, but I do love stripes, and I love the rollerskate design. So I made a wild guess that a combination of the two would be good. And here is the result.

Image

I really, really like it. So does Sarah. But ultimately, we are not making t-shirts for us, we are making t-shirts for other people to buy. The proof of the pudding is in the eating, right? Well don’t eat this t-shirt, but if you have a little girl who likes to rollerskate, do think of buying it. Hell, do actually buy it! Try here. Our Folksy shop is woefully under-used:

http://folksy.com/items/3847042-Retro-Rollerskate-t-shirt-4-5-years-

And for parents of boys: don’t worry! We haven’t forgotten you. We’re re-printing our best-selling BMX design on black and white stripes THIS WEEK! We also have two other new designs, which I shall update you/blather on about in my next blog post this week. (Two in one week?? Blog posts are the new buses.)

Being Proud

Sometimes, on busy mornings when you’re throwing clothes in the vague direction of children in the hope that they will get dressed so that you can actually leave the house,  the issue of where their clothes are made seems about as insignificant and irrelevant as what David Beckham is having for breakfast, or something (apologies if you are obsessed with the oh-so-pretty footballing one, but you know what I mean. ) And then sometimes, something happens that makes you think about it. On Tuesday, 264 people died in a fire at a garment factory in Karachi, Pakistan. There were no fire escapes and the windows had bars over them. The workers inside had no hope of escaping.

The clothing industry in Britain and the West depends heavily on these kinds of factories churning out cheap garments, with workers treated badly and paid terrible wages. And all so that we can buy cheap clothes again and again. Countries like Pakistan need the income, and the issue is not about taking work from them, but ensuring that the people who make our clothes are treated like human beings.

We work with a t-shirt supplier who believes in offering workers a clean, healthy and safe work environment, fair wages, reasonable working hours and overtime pay, paid maternity leave and on-site health clinics run by health professionals. These are conditions that we all take for granted in the UK, but sadly are the exception in some parts of the world.  If you buy a t-shirt from us, you know that it was produced in a factory where workers were treated as we would want to be treated. Fairly.

This is what they say about their Well Made Clothing.

“To us, Well Made Clothing is about having
the best possible design, materials and details
on a piece of clothing that will be cherished
for years. It’s about getting that perfect feel and fit.
It’s about recognizing that there’s a lifecycle for
every garment we make and that each part of that
garment’s journey – from design to manufacture to
delivery and beyond – is an opportunity to benefit
everyone involved.
For us it’s about using the processes of
manufacturing cotton-based garments to have
a positive impact on the communities and on the
environment in which we work.
Crop care, water management and fair wages
in Tanzania or Pakistan may seem a million miles
away from a cool boutique in New York or a large
print factory in London but to us they’re all firmly
interlinked. ”

We’re really proud to work with people who feel like that.

What I did on my Summer Holidays. Part II.

This is my new bike. Well, I say it is mine, it’s far too small, and actually intended for Polly, but ever since Richard rescued a vintage racing bike from a tip, and totally fell in love with it, I have been inspired to find beauty in old bikes. (I’m not in competition with a 1980’s racing bike, or anything…luckily, as I’m not sure I’d be winning. He took photos of it with him on holiday !!)  The bike was at our favourite recycling spot/second-hand emporium/tea shop venue, the Emmaus Village, Carlton.  It was £10. And it reminded me of being 7. We got halfway down the road from Emmaus before I decided that we HAD to go back for it. Bikes are lovely. Bikes mean freedom, and adventure – even if it’s just going to the park under your own steam. And this particular one seems to be shouting ‘put streamers on my handlebars!!’ Or is that just me??

It is funny, the things that inspire you. Last week, spending some quality raining/reading/beaching time in Devon and Dorset, I tried to hoover up as many lovely ideas as possible. New prints and new opportunities are stacking up for Autumn (season of mist, mellow fruitfulness and a happy return to production for S&A.) Autumn is actually my favourite season. It smells like bonfires, hotdogs and new school shoes. It sounds like Nick Drake. It very rarely gives you sunburn and it all looks very pretty. Seeing as I am a total stationery geek, the whole ‘back to school’ thing particularly appeals as well.

Here’s the top 5 things that have been trending in my scrapbook (yes, I actually keep one! I love it.  Cutting and sticking isn’t just for kids, don’tcha know.)

*Dinosaurs. We visited the fabulous DinosaurLand museum in Lyme Regis. Awesome. None of your hi-tech animatronic dinosaurs, more like plastic models of dinosaurs eating other dinosaurs, with lots of fake red blood everywhere. Loads of fossils and bones, and an impossible quiz sheet. Or, if you prefer more recent natural history, another room of stuffed animals with wildcats eating chickens. I kid you not – this was small boy heaven! And I know it was cool, because I bumped into Louisa from Luscious Juice Bar in there!! (From Lime Street to Lyme Regis…I like her thinking!) Polly drew some dinosaurs. We are currently in talks about her design-rights fees.

*Fantastic Mr Fox. The world has gone a bit fox mad recently, they are popping their little pointy faces up everywhere. Hopefully our own fox design t’shirts will appear very soon, but in the meantime I managed to watch the recent film of the Roald Dahl classic. It is quite breathtakingly good.

*Excellent toy shops. We stopped for a veggie/vegan lunch in Glastonbury on one of the more torturous journeys home from Devon we’ve had in recent years. The children had some holiday money to burn, so we nipped in to the Little Imp Toyshop (you have to love the place names in Glastonbury. The Cat and Cauldron, Heaven in Avalon, Look at my crazy shoes.com – it’s like Harry Potter, only with more incence sticks. ) Our own little imps were delighted, and once we had purchased a magnetic monkey and some actual fairy dust, (quality varies, I’ll have you know. This was good stuff,)  the lady told us her website offers free UK delivery! Just a pre-Christmas-nonsense tip there. I loved their stacking cups made from recycled milk containers!

*The H&M childrens’ homeware collection. It’s properly gorgey. I don’t know about anyone else, but I’ve had enough of pink flowery cutesy designs and football/car designs for kids. Neon wolves and grey and black stars are soooo refreshing. I suddenly feel the urge to buy multiple duvet covers. Oh dear.

 

*Fabulous places to take kids for brunch. Brunch is quite obviously the new afternoon tea.  (Though they are not competing for the same time slot. Soon I think, we will cut out traditional mealtimes all together, and have brunch, followed by afternoon tea, followed by a massive midnight feast, or something. I can’t say I’m against such proposals…) And there are a few places I’ve been over the summer that manage to pull off that enviable double-whammy of being both child-friendly, and design-conscious. And they support small local suppliers. Firstly, obviously, Fancy in Bedford. Famous for their sticky ginger cake and chocolate brownies, the savoury stuff is every bit as amazing. Try the bagel with onion chutney and cheese. 10.30 am perfection.

The other place in Bedford that I went to and loved was the Ground Floor Coffee Shop, based in the old Crayola Building off Ampthill Road. You can read my review of it in the marvellous September edition of the Bedford Clanger (and check out the brilliant  Photo a Day entries while you’re at it!) Quite simply, this place rocks. You can park your bikes or car right outside, there is plenty of space for any necessary running about, and they do magnificent brunches. Oh, and the vintage typewriter didn’t go unnoticed either…

And then The Town Mill Bakery in Lyme Regis is something very special indeed. With long benches and a help-yourself policy, it has that chilled-out, unfussy vibe that makes it suitable for wriggly kids; and the food is perfection. Freshly made pizza, bread, cakes, muesli, and locally made apple juice are all just waiting for you – cups hang on hooks above the tables – no agonizing wait for hungry post-beach breakfasts, or lunches, or teas…and it’s not even expensive. We went twice. I would have started camping outside, but that’s for next year’s plan for fun…

 

 

The mini label fable

I would just like to point out that we don’t condone plagiarism. I like to think this is inspiration, not copying.  I have recently noticed a few clothing brands who are doing something new and cool with labelling. They have their big label in the back of the item of clothing, with their name on, and then underneath they sew in a school name label type thing, which says something about their brand. Something fun (depending heavily on your idea of fun. I like this kind of thing.) I saw this in a few pieces of clothing (mentioning no names, I don’t want to anger any international lawyers again,) and thought, well, this is something we could do. We’re in the midst of working on our main label, which demands some mature, well thought out decisions.  But the school name label thingy? Well that’s an easy, fun decision. So I made it. And here they are:

I LOVE them. And I can’t wait to have some sewn in to the back of our t-shirts, along with the proper label. And yes, the writing is pink. I couldn’t resist. We are freeing pink from its girly shackles (ooooh la la!) and boldly persuing the ‘pink as unisex colour’ agenda, illustrated here by this (not uneasy on the eye) young chap. . .

Or, as this guy says:

He also probably has a t-shirt which reads:

‘It’s not a beard. It’s a slight shaving error.’

T-shirts, mead and MPs: the Castle Quarter Festival…

The Castle Quarter Festival was our first opportunity to show off our new selection of t-shirts and we were excited, nervous (in case we had just done that thing where we had made a load of t-shirts that we really loved, but that everyone else thought were rubbish, or perhaps worse, were totally indifferent to,) and cold! The indoor craft village was based in the old Topps Tiles building, which is not renowned for its tropical climate. Excellent use of a disused building though! And it was great. Loads of people turned out, despite the rain, cold and generally awful weather (but it’s MAY!! I kept muttering to myself, to keep my teeth from chattering too hard.) Hattie, who shared a stall and tea-break duties with me, had dressed far more sensibly than I had, in a proper coat, scarf and Ugg boots:

‘But why aren’t you wearing your jumper, Alice?’

‘Ummn, because I’ve just bought this lovely top and I really wanted to wear it!! To hell with hypothermia!’

It reminded me how brilliant it is to take a stall to events like this, just in terms of getting to chat to customers, and fellow crafty people (not as in fox crafty, I don’t think.) There’s always people willing to give you feedback, suggestions, ideas and discuss them with. You don’t get that from online shopping. You don’t get hot chocolate burgers delivered (cheers Chris!) to you either, or at least that hasn’t happened yet. Neither would be wonderful to get through the post. In short, it was lovely. You can’t beat events that bring the community together like that, especially if the event includes Pepper Pig, a pirate with an animatronic monkey on his shoulder, and a medieval band, complete with heavily bearded man wearing felt leaves embroidered onto his waistcoat. With a matching hat. I kid you not.

I also, unexpectedly, met our local MP, Richard Fuller. (Hello, Richard, if you’re reading this! Please be reading this! That would be awesome. In the House of Commons!

“Order Please, the Right Honorable Mr Fuller!”

“In a minute, Mr Speaker, I’m reading this brilliant blog…”)

Anyhow, just asImage I was thinking that I recognized this guy, vaguely, in that way where you momentarily wonder whether he might be an ex member of a 90s boy band, or something, I was introduced to him. Brilliant. He was very nice, and interested, and asked me what it was that I did, and asked sensible questions, and my brain did what it always does in these situations and had a total ditherspaz. ‘And do you have a background in fashion?’ ‘Hahahaha, no! Not at all!’ I shrieked, as if that was a totally ridiculous thing to ask, given that he was looking at our childrens’ clothing collection. ‘I just, um, had children, and we thought, er, there’s a lot of pink tat around, and mumble mumble – why not!’  Eloquent. I’m better written down, Mr Fuller.

All in all, a brilliant time was had, t-shirts and dresses were sold, no one got frostbite, and there didn’t appear to be any mead-related injuries. Karen and Sam, and all the other organizers – well done. Your hard work paid off, and I look forward to another stall on Sunday in the newly snazzed-up St Cuthberts’ Hall – the first of what will hopefully be a regular indoor farmers’ and craft market! If the weather hasn’t improved, I am going to award a prize* to the first person who brings me a hot drink.

 

* At this moment in time the prize is non-specific. It may be a hug. It is unlikely to have much monetary value. Terms and conditions, people!