Hello Nancy

Exploring Hampstead Heath

At the weekend myself and my lovely friend Freya headed out to Hampstead Heath for a walk. We arrived armed with our Thermos flasks filled with hot vegetable soup and ginger tea to enjoy in the beautiful sunshine. It was the perfect day to don my beautiful new winter boots from Celtic & Co, you really can't go wrong with navy suede.

After chatting and eating our packed lunch we slowly strolled around the Heath looking for the most beautiful early autumn leaves and acorns. Both Freya and I adore this time of year so we were very content spending the whole afternoon wandering around under the trees. We really couldn't have picked a better day to visit. I should go to Hampstead Heath more often and take advantage of the beautiful woodland, whenever it's a sunny day I'll try and go from now on.

I also wore some super comfortable grey marl leggings, a navy blue merino roll neck jumper and chunky wool socks all by Celtic & Co to make sure I was extra cosy for our walk. I'm so happy that I was introduced to Celtic & Co as it's rare to find an affordable yet ethical British brand that actually make clothes I like. I'm such a classic dresser that sometimes it's difficult to find simple staples that will last. Also you may have noticed that I'm still trying to cling onto summer which means that I'm not quite ready to let go of my denim jacket just yet!

After a three and a half hour walk it was time to head home and do some design work, I felt so refreshed and inspired by having the afternoon out it really proved to me how important it is to have time in nature once in a while. Thank you to Freya for talking the wonderful photos of me (have a look at Freya's beautiful papercuts and illustrations here)

Where do you like to go to feel rested and refreshed?

Spiced Orange Gin Fizz

If you're feeling a little blue now the nights are drawing in this cocktail is bound to cheer you up. Cooler weather is the perfect excuse to spice up your drinks a little and this one is flavoured with cinnamon and nutmeg making it the perfect warming cocktail for autumn. You can easily omit the gin and Aperol to make this alcohol free, it would also be delicious with the addition of ginger ale.

Simon and I have wanted some classic champagne saucers for years. There's something elegant and special about drinking out of vintage style glasses so I was so happy when LSA very kindly sent me a set. When they arrived we swiftly popped some champers to *ahem* try them out.

Anyway, on with the recipe!

For one cocktail you will need:

Champagne saucers (or your glass of choice)
The juice of 1 orange
Orange slices to garnish
2 shots of Aperol
1 shot of gin
A pinch of cinnamon
A pinch of ground nutmeg
Soda water
A dash of bitters

Firstly make the spiced orange syrup. In a small saucepan gently heat the spices and orange juice until the liquid is perfumed with the flavour of the spices. Do not boil. Once the spiced juice is infused pop the mixture in the fridge to cool.

In a cocktail shaker or tall glass, measure out the Aperol, gin and bitters and a handful of ice cubes. Shake or stir the ingredients together until well mixed.

In your champagne saucer pour out the gin and Aperol mixture, straining the ice. Pour over the orange syrup, top with soda water and add a slice of orange to the glass. Enjoy your autumnal cocktail!

Thank you to LSA for gifting me a set of their Wine champagne saucer glasses and thank you all for supporting the brands that make this blog possible.

Black & White

Turkey seemed to be the perfect place to take my new pieces from Finery out for a spin. I really miss the balmy nights and last warm rays of the sun now I'm back home in London.

On our penultimate evening on holiday Simon and I popped out for a stroll to take some photos before dinner, out of nowhere two hilariously chatty black cats decided they wanted some attention from the camera too. They were so adorable and matched my black skirt pretty well.

I was kindly gifted three gorgeous pieces from Finery to take on holiday with me, this lovely white cami with a slightly scooped neck goes equally well with a more formal skirt or casual culottes and jeans. The skirt has a lot of detailing with embroidered flowers and leaves and a scalloped hem, the mesh fabric has a surprising amount of give which I was very grateful for during my birthday dinner! If like me you can never settle on silver or gold jewelry the D shaped bangles go with everything and added a teeny touch of embellishment to the simple ensemble.

Ah how I miss the sun and all the kitties strolling around the streets! Thanks so much to Finery for gifting me these pieces, they were the perfect thing for a special dinner.

My Mental Health Journey & Happy Bags

Today I have a special and important post to share with you all. I'll be writing down the honest account of my mental health struggle and what I did to change it all around. I wanted to do this today (the 10th of October) as it's World Mental Health Day. To celebrate being open and honest about mental health issues myself and my friend Ana of Cocowawa Crafts have collaborated to make a special limited edition toiletry bag to raise money for our chosen mental health charity. 15% of the profits will be donated to help those who are struggling with mental illness. Keep reading to find out why this is so important to me and why we would love your support.

 If you've read my blog for a while you may have read the post I wrote last year about my mental health and anxiety issues. You can read the post here if you missed it. For as long as I can remember I have been a worried, anxious person. I remember having mild panic attacks as a small child, something that I didn't really understand back then. Things gradually got worse after my father died when I was 15 and I experienced bulling at school. After graduating university I moved to London with my boyfriend who became more and more mentally abusive towards me. I always saw myself as a strong young adult but here was someone who managed to tear down all the good thoughts about myself piece by piece over a period of two years. I ended up being a shell of myself and it took me a long time to move out and find new people to spend my time with. Then I met Simon. He is the one person who allowed me to fully be myself, and I am so thankful that I met him. He taught me to love this scary new city I found myself in, love other people and most importantly slowly learn to love myself again. I consider myself unbelievably lucky to be marrying him next year.

The frustrating thing about mental illness is sometimes the the most painful blow hits you when you're most happy and settled. I had been living with Simon for a year and work was doing ok, I was on track in many ways but my mind decided that something was wrong. Slowly I began to have panic attacks at least once a day, I didn't want to leave the house, use public transport or see anyone. If you've ever had a panic attack you'll know how awful they are. For me it begins with shallow and panicked breathing, shaking, numbness, nausea, dizziness, everything feels as though its pushing into me and noises are too loud. It sounds irrational but I feel as though my heart is failing. The last stage is the feeling that I'm shrinking and disappearing into myself like I'm not real. When I had attacks over and over and over again I begin to forget what I was like when I was "normal". I would say to myself "well this is who I am now, this is my personality, I'm a person who is too scared to leave the house."

This went on for years and it got to the point where I couldn't function anymore. I bit the bullet and decided to pay for a therapist. Going down the NHS free care route was too stressful and taking way too long. Unfortunately it can be very difficult and time consuming to see a therapist via the NHS due to funding cuts plus many GPs won't recognise mental illness as important. I was scared that if I waited any longer to get help that I would become schizophrenic, I was already struggling to understand what was real and what was in my head. Luckily I found a therapist that understood me, we worked together brilliantly and I couldn't believe the change in my mental health in only a few months. It's almost been two years and now I'm down to one session a month which suits me perfectly. I have never been happier or more secure in myself and I'm slowly re-learning the many things about my personality that were taken from me. I'm strong, sassy, kind, empathetic, sensitive and loving and all those good traits cancel out my bad ones (most of the time!).

So this is why this project with Cocowawa Crafts is so important to me. There are many people out there struggling, we all need help sometimes and many people can't afford to pay for help or are too ashamed to do anything to help themselves. So please help us raise money for these wonderful charities and purchase one of our Happy Bags.

Thank you.

You can read Ana's story here and buy the bags on my website or the Cocowawa Crafts Etsy.

My Favourite Autumn Recipes

Although I'm currently laying on my bed in Turkey enjoying a break from the midday heat there's a part of me that can't wait to get back to London to enjoy the cool Autumnal weather. It's always quite strange coming on holiday to a super hot country only to return to a much colder climate. When we left the UK we were experiencing a proper Indian Summer so I'm a little nervous to see how I'll cope with the new and much more typical October temperatures when I return next week.

To help me through the adjustment I'll be cooking up a lot of suitably Autumnal feasts, I'm felling very inspired after a look through Pinterest. I've collected my favourite Fall recipes for you all to try out and hopefully enjoy!

Salted Caramel Pear Pie by The Judy Lab

Harvest Stew with Smoked Sausage by The Cozy Apron

Smores Waffles with Nutella and Toasted Coconut by Pinch of Yum

Sweet Potato and Peanut Stew with Kale by The Awesome Green

Caramel Apple Cake by Miranda Gore Browne

Butternut squash, spinach and goat’s cheese pie by Delicious Magazine

Hot Chocolate with Dulce de Leche by Call me Cupcake

Carrot, Tomato & Coconut Soup by Green Kitchen Stories

Pumpkin Pie Overnight Oats by Ambitious Kitchen

Creamy Vegan Butternut Squash Linguine with Fried Sage by Cookie and Kate

Gingerbread Latte with Salted Caramel Sugar by Half Baked Harvest

Spicy Ramen with Tofu by Pinch of Yum

Chai Rum Hot Toddy by Kitchy Kitchen

The Dordogne

This summer I embarked on my first holiday with Simon's family. The Hackings holidayed in France every Summer when Simon was younger and are huge Francophiles, after 10 days lounging around the cottage, eating too much brie and walking along the The Dordogne I can see why.

I've only been to France twice before, which is quite rare for a Brit, but after our stay I can safely say that I fell in love with France. We were staying in the middle of nowhere in a large country cottage, the nearest town was Sarlat which was still a good 45 minutes drive away. It was wonderful waking up and hearing nothing but the clatter of coffee making, the birds and a farmer working in the distance.

We spent a lot of time swimming and playing tennis by the house but what I loved most about the area were the many beautiful towns, my favourite being Martel. We also visited Souillac, Domme, Salignac and the beautiful Medieval town Rocamadour. Here a a few snapshots from the trip, as you can see there were so many beautiful old houses, gardens and markets plus our adorable French Bulldog neighbour.

The Best Fabric Shops and Haberdasheries in the UK

I'm very lucky because in London I get access to so many wonderful haberdashery and fabric shops, as a textile designer I love popping into to some of my favourite stores to browse their range of patterned cloths. A few years ago I discovered the joys of home sewing and dressmaking and the search for a new indie dressmaking patterns and fabric became a little addictive.

Not only do I love sewing for myself and my homeware business but I have also taught various classes in some wonderful haberdasheries over the years. In fact I've either taught or been taught in all of the places listed below so hopefully that gives me enough authority to select the best haberdasheries out there!

After many years of fabric buying I have created my list of the best haberdasheries and fabric shops in the UK. I live in London so the majority of the shops I visit are based near me but I've tried to include a selection of stores from across the UK too.

The Village Haberdashery, London

The Village Haberdashery is a brightly coloured emporium for fun and whimsical fabrics. With a specialism in dressmaking and quilting weights this is the place for hard to find fabrics from America and Japan as well as stocking a huge selection of UK based fabric houses too. Every time I walk into this place I am greeted my a rainbow of patterns and this never fails to put a smile on my face. The Village Haberdashery also runs a wide selection of courses and workshops.

Guthrie& Ghani, Birmingham

Guthrie & Ghani was set up by Great Sewing Bee finalist Lauren and her husband Ayaz in 2013. Lauren sources a huge range of beautiful supplies covering all your sewing and knitting needs in a very large two story shop and sewing school space. I've taught a few classes here over the years and I love the warm and friendly atmosphere Lauren and her team bring to the space.

Ray Stitch, London

Ray Stitch is one for all you sewers who love understated, hard to find, organic or slightly more grown up fabrics. They stock the usual suspects but I love their collection of beautiful organic cottons and linens. A perfect shop for the "cool" seamstress who is looking to avoid anything too twee and cute. They run lots of sewing and quilting workshops too, I'm going to one in December so I'll report back.

Merchant and Mills, Rye

Understated, simple and old fashioned, Merchant and Mills is a seriously cool haberdashery filled with everything you might need for your sewing basket. You may have seen their utilitarian supplies in Liberty and John Lewis. Their dressmaking patterns are definitely my absolute favourite to make. They also stock a range of classic linens and waxed cotton and teach various sewing classes too.

My Bearpaw, Edinburgh

A really adorable shop filled with all sorts of quilting, sewing and knitting supplies. Definitely a shop for those of you that love the traditional side of sewing as they specialise in quilt making supplies and workshops. With their selection of rainbow cotton fabric and yarns for knitting My Bearpaw feels like a very happy shop.

Fringe 108, London

Based in Alexandra Palace Fringe is a fantastic shop filled with haberdashery supplies as well as lovely gifts and homewares, some of which are made by the designers that teach the workshops. Their workshop space is one of my favourites, I've taught there a few times and the light filled large space with the rustic wooden tables is a really great work area.

The Cloth House, London

The Cloth House is a beautiful and traditional shop in the heart of Soho's fabric district offering a range of vintage inspired haberdashery supplies and fabrics, they also stock a huge selection of natural cottons and linens. The shop has a rustic French cottage atmosphere and I could spend hours browsing over their products.

VV Rouleaux, London

VV Rouleaux is ribbon heaven, I never fail to be completely blown away by all the ribbons, feathers and trims on display at this flamboyant shop. If you have a wedding, race day or other special event coming up you need to pay VV Rouleaux a visit to gather inspiration. I will definitely be picking up something special for my wedding next Summmer. 

The best of the rest. Ditto Fabrics, Brighton. William Gee, London. Belle Fabrics, Leigh on Sea. Edinburgh Fabrics, Edinburgh. Glasgow Mandors, Glasgow. Stone Fabrics, Devon. Macculloch & Wallis, London. Royal Fabrics, Leamington Spa. Daisybuds, Kent.

Some inexpensive options include Goldhawke Rd, Dalston Mill and Walthamstow Market all in London. In general local markets are a great place to find inexpensive rolls of fabric.

I hope you found this post useful and please comment below if you have any other recommendations.