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One of my ambitions when starting the year was to learn to sew and to make my own clothes. Rather than struggle through alone I went to Junk Shopin Manchester for a four session dress making class.

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The class took us through the whole process from taking measurements, making up a form (like a personal body blueprint), making a pattern, cutting the fabric and sewing into a final finished dress.

I designed a high-waisted dress with slightly wide shoulders in two colours. Black at the top and a green cat fabric for the skirt. (All fabric is from ends of rolls that would be thrown away.)

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The sewing part was surprisingly easy, none of the snagging, tearing and breaking of thread I remember from classes.

When I tried my dress on at the end I fully expected it not to fit. After all it was my very first attempt. But it fitted perfectly. I don't think I have ever felt so proud, it's a lovely feeling having made something from scratch.

The finished dress, accessorized with vintage 80s belt and gold cat broach.
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Scribbling future ideas......(possibly over ambitiously!)
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Sue Ryder Care has teamed up with online craft and design community Folksy to set you the UPCYCLE CHRISTMAS challenge. A competition to reclaim craft and upcycle charity shop stuff into hand crafted one-offs, which will be auctioned to the public in the run up to Christmas, in aid of Sue Ryder Care.

To enter:
Register with Folksy to download your printable voucher to claim your free bag of clothes and brica-brac from a Sue Ryder Care shop near you and start getting creative. When picking up your free bag of clothes and bric-a-brac if you have any unwanted quality items you could donate it would help the shop greatly.
You can create anything you like and use anything you like; the only rules are that the items you use must be second hand and there is only one bag of Sue Ryder Care donated stock per entrant. Accessories, home ware, fashion, furniture... you choose what you create from Sue Ryder stock.

Judging:
Our celebrity panel of judges, which include Red or Dead’s Wayne Hemmingway and Vogue TV’s Louise Roe, will choose four winners based on
the following criteria:
• Best use of materials
• Craft skills used
• Most innovative piece
• Fun / playfulness
An additional prize will be awarded to the object voted for by the Folksy community.

Winning:
The winners' works will feature in the Sue Ryder Care’s flagship store
in Camden in the New Year.

Deadlines:
30th of November – You can claim your free bag of clothes at your local Sue Ryder store just by taking your ticket available from Folksy.com

6pm on the 5th of December - The deadline for submissions.

7th December – Winners announced.

7th – 13th December - online auction for all the items entered.

All proceeds will be given to Sue Ryder Care.

Go to Folksy blog and Sue Ryder for more information and to see the things people have made as they are submitted.
Follow Upcycle Christmas on twitter @upcyclexmas and on the competition Facebook page

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It is well and truly over! I can't believe how fast the summer has gone. And quite how rubbish we've been at doing this blog. But we stuck to the not buying new clothes...it turns out it's incredibly easy. The 'official' year of buying no new clothes ended months ago and I have bought a few new things (underwear, tights, leggings and a pair of 'jeggings') but apart from these basics everything else I've bought has been second hand.

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Whilst most were enjoying England’s green, pleasant & rainy land last Bank holiday, I was whisked off to enjoy the sights of Amsterdam to visit one of my best friends.

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Despite a wet week in the Dam prior to my departure - ever the optimist – I packed some summer clothes.

Arriving on Amsterdam’s biggest holiday to a state of Queen’s Day chaos, I found the remnants of manic celebrations marked by a sea of orange flags & jersey’s.

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Never one to turn down an impromptu party, I seem to have come dressed for the occasion myself with my favourite orange cardi!

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An outfit inspired by regular Rose favourite, Luella.
Orange Cardi: £2,99
Floral Dress (Amended): £3.99
Purple Patent Belt: 99p

Despite being to Dutch captial several times before, I failed to see any of Amsterdam’s tourist attractions so I decided to rectify this with a whistle-stop tour…comfortable shoes, a spacious satchel & a bit of colour was definantly in order…….

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Ah, the old masters. Not normally one for seeking out pre-20th century art, I did find myself quite astounded once at the Rijks Museum (not least at the queue to get in!!!)

http://www.rijksmuseum.nl/rijksmuseum-maastricht?lang=en

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Worth the wait to get a glimpse of some of Vermeer & Rembrant’s classic pieces.

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Time for a quick coffee & off to the Van Gogh museum (after an embarrassing incident involving a lack of funds at the front of the queue), I was even more astonished by how striking these familiar pieces are up close. My awe was interrupted by another slightly embarrassing incident of my phone ringing loudly whilst admiring VG’s ‘Starry Night’….a barrage of about 140 rather scornful looks ensued.

http://www3.vangoghmuseum.nl/vgm/index.jsp?lang=en

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As you can see, I cleverly co-ordinated my outfit with my favourite Van Gogh piece, Almond Blossom, inspired by the birth of his nephew.

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Everyone in Amsterdam travels by bike & admittedly, it’s a great way to see the city (& some stereotypical sights further a field). Although 1 week later, I’m still struggling to sit comfortably on hard surfaces!

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Well I did say I wanted to embrace tourism….

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Despite our high st abstinence, I did find several sources of inspiration in innovative window dressing & open art markets

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Saturday Night Chic:
Sparkly Bubble Dress: £9.99, Barnardoes

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Well if you can’t drink, what better way to enjoy a Saturday night than sharing a large cauldron of cheese with friends.

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Glad my enforced sobriety didn't stop anyone else from having a good time..

Another day, another museum but this one was a bit special…

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Warranting a special dress, this time courtesy of lovely Rachel xx

http://www.tassenmuseum.nl/default.aspx?pagename=&language=EN

I spent so long in the Museum of Bags & Purses that they had to ask me to leave!

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The last week or so I seem to have got into a rut, wearing black jeans and grey tops, fine but not the most exciting or spring like choice.
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The world has gone beige!

Inspired by the sunshine and designers such as the lovely Luella I decided to go shopping for some bright, colourful clothes. clothes! 007
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Trying to be good I thought I’d have a look through the clothes I already have before I started buying more. I’ve got floral covered.
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And bright block colours too.
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And this is by no means exhaustive. I didn't realise quite how many clothes I had...second hand clothes being on the whole really cheap there aren't the usual constraints to endless shopping. I also started counting jackets I have. Over 23 (I got bored by this point!) A walk in wardrobe is unfortunately not an option. I think I might have to stop shopping!!

I’m going to buy a Diana camera…then everything will be odd colours anyhow. I love how the photos come out (the following are a selection from the Lomography website).
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With the summer sun shining, it’s not always necessary to take a trip to enjoy the weekend weather. A range of wholesome activities can also be had within walking distance (well, certainly if you live in lovely leafy cheerful Chorlton!)

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Animal Farm

A little touch of the country in ‘Kid’s Corner’ & an inspirational source of colour. Hmm, better get used to that…

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Dress: Pop Boutique, £20
Ever-useful Tangerine Cardi: £3.49, Age Concern
Glasses: £4, Ryan Vintage
Slouchy Bag: £2.99 & Printed Scarf: £1.99, Oxfam
Shoes: £3.99, Barnardos

Birthday Bash

I enjoyed a catch up at the birthday bash of one of my favourite friends last weekend. Not only did it present the opportunity to wear my new Yummy ‘Yumi’ dress, I also found my friend looking fab in vintage too!

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Dress: £9.99 & Black Patent Belt: £1.99, Oxfam
Cardi: (as before)

Tea for Two

As Rose mentioned, we enjoyed some delectable dishes whilst rooting through the rails of second-hand clothes for sale at a recent ‘High Tea’ event.

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Some lovely things, although sadly a little out of my price range. I think Rose & I have had a minds warped by finding so many bargain buys for under a fiver. The prospect of paying £25 for second-hand Topshop is slightly less tantalising.

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Rose, however, managed to find 2 original eighties numbers - 1 delightful dress fit for Wonderwoman & a lovely M&S outfit.

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& the clothes weren’t the tastiest thing on offer…hmmmmm x
High Tea: £5.99

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With the start of springtime in full flush, we Brits love nothing more than jumping in our cars, & parading our pasty pins on a good old fashioned day trip! Not quite warm enough for bathing on Blackpool beach, we decide on a drive to Chester.

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2-Tier Summer Dress: £3.99, RSPCA
Glasses: £4, Ryan's Vintage
Slouchy Bag: £2.99, Oxfam

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Rich in Roman history, a roam around Chester’s quaint cobbles seemed a great source of inspiration (& charity shops alike!)

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A rare pang of independent boutique envy!

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Hmm, for someone so sceptical of the idea of charity shop-shopping (hence the excited face), here stands a man dressed head-to-toe in second hand…

T-shirt: Swapped with friend
Shorts: Recycled old jeans
Pumps: err…borrowed from friend
Shades: Vintage

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Forbidden from spending the entire trip perusing Chester’s charity shops, we also found time out amongst the two-tiered Tea Rooms.

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When in Rome...
Despite the ban, I did manage to bag myself a lovely little leather pair of sandels. A kind of cross between a gladiator sandal & an old man's slipper!

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I’ve been a bit busy with other things and rubbish at posting my blogs so a quick catch up is in order.

Another fancy dress party…I’ve been told the number I go to isn’t normal? Anyhow, while I’m usually up for costume and dressing up in something different even I am beginning to feel that enough is enough. So I cheated somewhat for a ‘rock’ party and wore clothes I liked with a kind of rock theme.
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Again the local charity shops had everything I needed in a half hour dash round. This tux jacket was £5.99 from Oxfam, the jeans were £3.49 from Barnardoes. The bag I bought a couple of months ago and is one of my best finds…it’s massively on trend and for a paltry £1.25. Sequinned top was again an earlier buy (from Oxfam).
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My current favourite bag.

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Alice's Twiggy top was a charity shop buy.

Wore the purple dress (from the East End Thrift Store- loaned to me by my sister) when out in Chorlton watching the fabulous. Alexis McClean & The Poorboys Have a listen, they’re great, she has an amazing voice.
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And wearing the purple dress again…after watching the Whitest Boy Alive.
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It was a brilliant gig, my photos are rubbish though. Being 5ft 5 this isn’t an unusual view at a gig.
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I love going to see bands but I can’t help thinking it would be even more fun if I got more the occasional glimpse of the people I’ve gone to see! The support band were good too, a Norweigen band called the New Wine 80s electronica funk, really fun live. (Yes I know I’d make a rubbish music critic..great, brilliant etc etc!)
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Went to ‘vintage afternoon tea’ on Sunday at Jam Street Café as it was a sunny day. Vintage clothes and the nicest teas complete with scones, cream and wafer thin sandwiches.
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Lisa in a suitably summery dress.

I went a bit 80s-tastic though and am beginning to have second thoughts (£30 for two dresses later).
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Maybe my wonderwoman goes to a ball dress will grow on me or I’ll alter it a bit?! Or if anyone wants to invite me to an 80s fancy dress party I’m ready!

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The return of Herve Ledger’s legendary bandage dress has sparked a surge in sophisticated sportswear (as well as Body con – but I’m not going there in my present state!)

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Fuelled by fashionista collaborations like Stella McCartney for Adidas, now’s the time to ‘work it’ as you work out!

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Black Retro Velour Trackie: £3.29, PDSA
Black Adidas: £4.99, Oxfam

With a lengthy respite required from my beloved Thai-boxing, I decided to take advantage of my local gym’s 6-month special offer, which leaves me a bit of a clothing quandary…

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Chocolate Hoodie: £3.49, British Red Cross

Despite already being creatively kitted out in stylish second-hand gear for Kick-boxing, I wasn’t so keen to sport my shiny pink boxing shorts & gloves on the cross-trainer!

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Grey SS Hoodie with Pink Detail: £3.49, PDSA
Pink Trackies with Grey 'Go Faster' Stripes: £2.99, Barnardos

Never yet to be failed by Chorlton’s Charity shops, I manage to find sufficient sports wear to look suitably trendy on the treadmill!

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Black Runner-back Vest: £2.99, PDSA
Pink Trackies: £3.49, PDSA
Blue & Orange Retro Nikes: £3.99, Age Concern

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Another trend which has sauntered into style on the spring breeze - & one of my all time favourites - is colour blocking.

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With influences acquired from the East, clashing collections of jewel colours create striking spring outfits.

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This is an effortless & eye-catching look, so now's the time to exploit your love of all things vivid & vibrant to mix up your make-up & unite your knits & enjoy this colour clashing craze!

Splash the Clash

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Teal Beaded Coast Cardigan: £3.99, PDSA
Coral French Connection Linen Skirt: £2.99, Barnardos
Floral Silk Top: £2.99, Age Concern

Orange & Green is fit for a Queen...

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Primrose ASOS Dress: £4.99, Oxfam
Lurex Orange Cardigan: £2.99, PDSA

Tangerine Dream

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This bright little bargain is already proving to be Spring Staple - aptly accessorizing denims & dresses alike...

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Orange Cardi & Silk Top: As above
Teal Tea Dress: £3.49, British Red Cross
Coral Cropped Cardi: £2.99, PDSA
Purple Patent Belt: 99p, Age Concern

Purple Passions & Pussycat Bows

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Magenta Dress: £2.99, Thrift Shop
Hot Pink Cardigan: (Very) Old Cardigan dyed pink

If total blockage is slightly too intense, why not break it up with arty accessories...

Satchel Match

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Billy Bag Messenger: £3.49, PDSA

Perfect Pairing

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Scarlett Schuh 'Bow' Wedges: £3.99, PDSA

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