If you’re as much of an Instagram addict as I am, you may have noticed your fellow Instagrammers’ penchant for planners (usually snapped artfully placed at an angle on an impossibly tidy desk, accessorised with… More
Keep an eye on your stuff. As in many cities, pick-pocketing is rife in Rome, especially during the peak holiday season. Keep your handbag zipped up securely and close in front of you when you’re on the Metro or near busy tourist sites (especially when taking selfies – I saw so many people with open bags hanging off their shoulder while they were busy perfecting their pout. Don’t do it!).
Watch out on the roads (and the pavements, for that matter). You’ve probably already heard that driving in Rome is a bit on the crazy side – I had, but nothing prepared me for just how crazy it was. You basically have to walk into the road and hope for the best at pedestrian crossings or the cars will just keep on driving. And don’t think you’re safe strolling along Rome’s many quaint cobbled side streets – scooters and motorbikes speed around them like they’re on a race track. It’s all part of the holiday fun, though – just keep your eyes peeled while you’re eating your gelato.
Don’t stay near Termini. Sure, the prices are reasonable and it’s close to the sights, but in all honesty it’s really not the most pleasant part of Rome, and, to me, it didn’t feel that safe after dark. Instead, stay somewhere slightly outside of the centre, but still within a walkable distance, like Trastevere (where there are lots of great – and cheap – restaurants) or near the Vatican and you’ll have a much nicer stay.
Eat away from the tourist spots. This one seems really obvious, but when I go on city breaks I’m always surprised to see people jostling to get into the expensive cafes and restaurants near the tourist sights. In Rome, tasty, reasonably priced food is easy to find, often just a few streets away from those over-priced lunch spots, so don’t settle for the first place you come to. I can recommend Osteria Delle Commari on Via Santamaura – the food isn’t the cheapest you’ll find in Rome but it’s not the most expensive either, and it’s absolutely delicious.
All gelato is not created equal. Italy is known for its gelato, and rightly so. But that does mean there are a few gelaterias selling not-so-great gelato to cash in on this reputation. Avoid gelato that is very brightly coloured or that has an overly whipped appearance – both of these things are achieved by adding nasty stuff to it.
Tipping isn’t really a big deal. Seriously. Unlike in many other European cities, the locals generally only tip generously if the service was amazing – like, Michelin-star amazing. Although we just couldn’t seem to get over our polite-Brit need to tip everyone who served us, there was no expectation that we’d leave them something, so don’t panic if you don’t have any coins to spare at the end of your meal.
Book to avoid the queues (or visit in winter). Although we didn’t see much sunshine on our January visit to Rome, the lack of queues and crowds more than made up for it. We basically strolled straight into the tourist sites that are most notorious for queues, which, aside from making the whole experience far less stressful, meant we could get up a bit later in the mornings and still fit lots into our day. Win! If you really don’t fancy a winter holiday, I can’t stress enough the importance of booking before you visit the touristy spots, as those queues will be loooong.
See some modern art. I’m not suggesting you bypass the city’s famous historic sites and see some modern art instead, but Rome has a great modern art gallery that is well worth a visit. We saw some fantastic works by Man Ray and Marcel Duchamp, plus an exhibition on film star Monica Vitti (although the rest of the gallery has English translations, this was in Italian so I didn’t understand what the point of it all was, but I got lots of sewing inspiration out of it!). Plus, you can stroll through the lovely Villa Borghese gardens beforehand.
Walk it. Rome is one of the most walkable cities I’ve ever visited. We only used the metro a couple of times, and even then we got off a few stops early because we fancied the walk. On our first day, we walked over 25,000 steps and saw loads of the city. Just make sure you wear comfy shoes, or your feet will hurt before you’ve even done any sightseeing.
Chances are you’re already pretty familiar with Rome’s landmarks, so I won’t bore you with how amazing the Colosseum is, or how you really must go and see the Roman Forum and the Pantheon (although you really, really should – they’re famous for a reason, you know). Instead, I’ve put together this mini photo diary of my favourite snaps from my week in the Eternal City. I went, I saw, I ate gelato…
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My review of where I stayed in Rome.
A few snaps from my trip to Spain.
Also stay tuned for the third and final part of my Rome travel guide series – I’ll be sharing my top tips for those planning on exploring the city.
When it comes to travel accommodation, I’m not usually the fussy type – as long as a place is clean, affordable and relatively close to everything I want to see, I’m happy. But my recent stay at a lovely little place in Rome has had me rethinking my criteria – it turns out that staying somewhere nice is pretty, well, nice. Shocking, I know.
I’ve always preferred city breaks to beach holidays, and often this means accommodation can be rather pricey, even for the most basic of hotels or apartment rentals. One thing this month’s Rome trip has taught me, however, is that visiting cities out of season is the way to go. Although it may not be appealing to sun-seekers, travelling outside of the tourist months has many benefits (hello, no queues!), one of which being that accommodation at the nicer end of the scale is so much cheaper.
I wasn’t sure what to expect when our taxi rolled up outside Relais Clivo Vaticano (well, when I say outside, I mean as close as our friendly driver could get – the hotel is set on a hill just outside the Vatican walls, so there were several steps to climb). We were pleasantly surprised by what we found beyond its unassuming gate – a little haven of calm in a hectic city, with stylish, contemporary decor and one of the prettiest gardens you ever did see. And all a walkable distance from Rome’s well-known sights (not to mention some great restaurants, too).As you might be able to guess from these photos, one of the highlights of our stay was the complimentary breakfast, which featured an array of delicious homemade cakes and pastries and was served in the bright conservatory overlooking the city – heaven. Getting used to having boring old cereal again is going to be seriously hard.
If you’re booking a stay in Rome (you lucky thing, you), I can’t recommend Relais Clivo Vaticano enough. As it’s more of a bed & breakfast than a hotel, it has such a personal, relaxed feel and we really felt at home there.
Stay tuned for the next post in my three-part Rome travel guide series, and follow me on Instagram for a few snaps from my Roman holiday.
When much-loved brands get a makeover it’s not always for the better, but this isn’t so for shoe boutique Ted & Muffy. Duo was known for its excellent fit and beautiful quality – just check out my post from their blogger event last year to see what I mean – and while I’m sure many will be sad to see it go, its latest incarnation as Ted & Muffy is an exciting one. Ted & Muffy is Duo’s cool, stylish sister – like Duo, it offers a vast range of calf and width fittings (and size 35s for my little feet, hurrah!), but there are edgier styles as well as the classics Duo was known for which makes for a more interesting collection, with flashes of cherry red, cobalt blue, metallics and animal print.
I couldn’t make this year’s blogger event, so the Bath store was kind enough to invite me in last weekend to show me around the newly refurbished boutique and get me fitted for my first pair of Ted & Muffys (scroll to the bottom of the post to see which style I chose…). The decor makes it all about the shoes, with pared-back white walls and wooden floors and vintage-look accessories. It’s a more contemporary, minimalist look than Duo’s, and I like it!
And here they are! My Hawk ankle boots, with touches of patent leather and a zip detail at the back. Although I wish my legs were long enough to pull off the OTK styles (let’s all take a moment to admire these lace-up Freia boots) I always feel most comfortable in an ankle boot. I was tempted by the Arietty and Pixie styles, but I chose the Hawks in the end because I haven’t seen anything like them elsewhere (and I can’t resist a bit of patent leather!).
Find out more about the new Ted & Muffy brand on the website (just don’t blame me if you end up wanting all the shoes) and follow Ted & Muffy on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram for competitions, offers and outfit inspo.
1 Remember when it was sunny enough to wear sandals? Sigh. 2 Wedding flowers. 3 More flowers! These were for my birthday. 4 Another notebook to add to my collection – this one is embroidered with my name though, so it’s extra-special! 5 My handiwork at a cupcake-decorating class for a friend’s hen do… 6 …and these were made by the professionals! 7 The two surviving flowers from my birthday blooms. 8 Posh breakfasting at the Lido. 9 My gorgeous Rainbow Club Jackie heels from last year’s blogger event had an outing at a friend’s wedding.
Well, it’s been a while since I’ve done an Instagram round-up – mostly because my Instagram posts have been rather sporadic recently to say the least! The past few weeks have been a whirlwind of hen dos, weddings and work – plus my birthday in between – so my feed has mostly included photos of food and flowers, which is no bad thing in my book.
My favourite of these images is probably the last one (I wish I could wear shoes that pretty every day!) and, of course, the two cupcake snaps, because cupcakes.
You can follow me on Instagram here.
Sewists are a creative bunch, and that’s a great thing. But it can mean that we get a bit, well, ahead of ourselves when it comes to our sewing expectations. So, in the style of that roof party scene in 500 Days of Summer, I present a rather silly list of sewing expectations versus sewing realities…
Expectation: I’ll just quickly pop into the fabric shop for some thread. Reality: You emerge over an hour later with at least six metres of fabric in tow and a severely depleted bank balance.
Expectation: On my next project, I’ll be really, really careful not to drop any pins. Reality: I’m sure I didn’t just drop a pin…did I?
Expectation: Of course I’ll have time to make 10 dresses before my summer holiday. In three weeks’ time. Reality: Who needs 10 new dresses anyway? One is more than enough *sobs*.
Expectation: I’m definitely NOT going to leave bits of thread and fabric all over the carpet this time. Reality: I’ll just quickly snip these loose threads and hope they somehow disappear without me having to get the hoover out.
Expectation: I’m going to be ultra-organised and get all my sewing kit ready before I start. Reality: WHERE THE HELL IS MY TAPE MEASURE?
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1 Classic blue and white tiles from Spoonflower. 2 A jazzy print from Remnant Kings (this one has a bit of a 90s vibe, but in a good way!). 3 Gold print cotton from Etsy. 4 Blue tiled poplin from Splendid Stitch. 5 Persian-inspired tile print from Spoonflower.
Although summer seems to have deserted us already here in the UK, I’m not ready to let go of it just yet! Even if the skies are grey, tile prints like these are cheering me up no end. Especially that sunny yellow one! I’m imagining pretty tiled fountains in far-flung cities, or an ornate tiled pool at a five-star resort (well, a girl can dream).
What prints are on your fabric wish list at the moment?
Now I’m certainly no stranger to upcycling old clothes, but I haven’t really ventured into repurposing furniture or homewares much, mostly because I spend most of my free time at my sewing machine. So I couldn’t turn down an invite to a crafternoon run by Hillarys Blinds and Joe Blogs, in which a bunch of crafty bloggers were set a challenge to upcycle pretty wooden shutters using Annie Sloan chalk paint. Throw Kilner jars (and coffee and yummy sandwiches!) into the mix and that’s pretty much my idea of a perfect afternoon.
The event was held at At Bristol, meaning it was a great chance to meet some other South West bloggers. Before getting stuck in, we were shown what to do by designer Becky Clarke (she made it look so easy, and it actually surprisingly was! You can find out for yourself how it’s done on her website). Then it was time to choose our shutter and get started.
I chose to paint my shutter a lovely turquoise colour, which is one of my fave hues, and attach my jars in a random formation (no measuring required, win!). This was my first time using Annie Sloan chalk paint, and it really did live up to the hype – I now want to paint everything in my house! My paint application technique was, well, quite messy, but I imagine/hope that with practice I would improve.
Waiting for the paint to dry provided an excellent excuse to stop for a coffee and a sandwich or two from the rather delicious spread provided for us and have a bit of a chat. This paint dries really fast, so you can get a project done fairly quickly (although that does leave less time for scoffing sandwiches!).
Even my boyfriend, who has seen so many of my creations that he usually just responds with a “that’s nice dear” (especially when it’s yet another dress), was impressed when I proudly presented my finished shutter. It certainly won’t be holding any of his stuff, though – my jars are, of course, going to be used for sewing kit storage!
Never one to know when to stop when it comes to craft projects, I decided I fancied giving my shutter a distressed look, so set to work distressing it with a piece of fine sandpaper (and adding a bit of Washi tape to the jars for good measure) before filling the jars with vintage cotton reels and other sewing bits and bobs. I am super chuffed with my new bit of storage and have definitely caught the upcycling bug. Thanks to Joe Blogs, Hillarys Blinds and Becky Clarke for an inspiring day!
You can read Hillarys Blinds’ account of the event on its blog.
No one will ever be wearing the same outfit as you. The odds of another sewist choosing the exact same fabric and pattern as you, and making it in exactly the same way, are slim to none, so your me-made clothes will always be unique to you. There’s also the added bonus of the feeling of satisfaction you get when proudly stating ‘I made it myself’ when someone compliments your outfit. #Nailedit.
It can be cheaper than buying ready-to-wear. Not always, granted (see below), but sewing can often be better value than buying RTW. I managed to make a dress to wear to a Christmas party for under £10 last year, which is a lot less than the usual cost of a party frock!
Choosing versatile patterns you love and will want to make again and again – and tracing them, rather than ripping them to shreds with pins – is a good place to start, as you won’t have to purchase new patterns every time you want to sew up something (of course, being able to draft your own would be even better! One day I’ll learn how…).
Fabric bargains can be found in abundance online on sites such as Remnant Kings and eBay – you might have to spend a few hours browsing the options, but it’ll be worth it! Plus, if you don’t spend too much on the fabric, you’ll probably be more likely to experiment with different sewing techniques as you won’t be so scared of ruining it.
It’s a great creative outlet. We aren’t all lucky enough to have the opportunity to let our creative side free at work, so sewing is a great chance to indulge in your love of all things aesthetically pleasing. And that would make us all a little happier, right?
It changes the way you view fashion (for the better). I used to think I enjoyed shopping, but what I actually liked about it was browsing and being inspired by all the pretty colours, patterns and styles on offer. Sewing is like that, only much more fun, as you get to choose all those things for yourself and combine them in just the way you want! And because you know how many hours it took to sew that gorgeous dress or stylish jacket, you’ll treasure your clothes all the more. Fashion is no longer throwaway for me, and I rarely make spur-of-the-moment purchases (well, unless it’s fabric anyway) and that can only be a good thing.
And why (sometimes) it’s not…
It takes time. Although simpler projects can be completed in a weekend (or, if you’re really good, an evening), there’s no denying that sewing is time-consuming, especially if you want to get it right and not end up with a #sewingfail on your hands (believe me, I’ve been there). Sewing is not a fast fashion fix, but that isn’t a bad thing. It just means you have to plan in advance for any big events coming up, or admit defeat and head to the high street when you haven’t been able to squeeze in any sewing time.
You can’t sew everything. This rather smoothly links to my previous point. As much as every sewist would love to have a fully me-made wardrobe, having work responsibilities (and, you know, friends and family to see) mean it’s impossible to find time to sew everything you’d like to, let alone the boring but essential basics like tees and vest tops. This is why I sew the fun stuff, like dresses and blouses, and buy all the dull but much-needed staples.
It can cost more. This may seem contradictory, seeing as I’ve just harped on about how sewing is often cheaper than buying, but both statements are true. It all depends on the project and the fabric. If you’re making a big, floaty dress that requires lots of fabric, say, and have your heart set on expensive material to make it with, then you’re probably going to be spending more. But, if you sew it well, that dress will be so darn amazing that you probably won’t care anyway.
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1. Tropical viscose from Remnant Kings (on sale!). 2. Freespirit fern print cotton from Flo Jo Boutique. 3. John Kaldor cotton and linen fabric from Minerva Crafts. 4. Floral sateen fabric from Remnant Kings. 5. Tropical print viscose from Remnant Kings.
Move aside, classic florals – this is the summer of tropical leaf prints. These instantly make me think of exotic holidays (and are probably about as close as I’ll get to one) and are a fun, more contemorary version of the girly florals that come back in every time the weather heats up.
Although the brighter prints are perhaps best saved strictly for sunny days (although that’s only my personal preference – if you’re brave enough to wear neon pink in the winter, I salute you), subtler fabrics – like the monochrome leaf fabric above, from Minerva Crafts – would work into next season too, paired with boots and a light autumn jacket.