Hello Nancy

Christmas Gift Guides - Girly Gifts

Unlike previous years I have decided to put together multiple beautiful gift guides for you all to gather inspiration for the big day. First up presents for the ladies, or whoever enjoys the finer more feminine things in life for that matter. I've tried to include a range of items, making sure to feature lots products that are ethically made or by wonderful independent designers.

All of these goodies are also in my Girly Gifts Pinterest board here. Enjoy!

Meet the Makers - Meylor

I've been wanting to share the work of Grace aka Meylor Goods for a while now. We were introduced by a mutual friend at Top Drawer and I instantly fell in love with Grace's sensitive floral illustrations, they remind me of a more feminine version of Quentin Blake's work, which I love. Rather excitingly we're collaborating to design my wedding invites which I am so excited about.

As well as sharing her lovely creations I wanted to know more about Grace's design process and business goals so continue reading to find out more about her work.

What made you want to work with paper?

I have always had a love for luxury and finish; this is strongly reflected in the paper stock that I choose for my products. The lean towards paper as a medium comes from my profession as a graphic designer. Whilst at university, I would be fascinated by the finish and process of any promotional material, from a product catalogue to a coffee table book. I used to visit Shepherds paper shop, at the time it was based in Holborn (now near Victoria). The shop was very oldie worldy, with amazing floor to ceiling old-fashioned dark wooden paper drawers with old stepladders where the shopkeeper would retrieve my order. It was during these visits that I introduced myself to the world of merchants like GF Smith, Fedrigoni and luxurious handmade papers. This exploration made me realise how the finish of the paper reflects the content of what I am designing and these choices would reflect the level of luxury. With my love for anything-high quality, I was over the moon when I was hired straight after university to work as a graphic designer for Burberry in London. After spending four years working on amazing projects from campaigns to the fashion show invites I really cemented my knowledge of luxury. The paper stock is a key component to that process.

What is your favourite part of running your own creative business?

It is an avenue to express your personal creative standpoint. To make your stamp in the creative industry so that other creatives and industry professionals can observe and see your creative identity. I had a longing for my own creative outlet and working for myself, what is more exciting than making an interest or hobby into business and working on your own ideas day to day?

If you could own a brick and mortar shop where would it be and what would it be like?

It would be tricky to choose one place, I have always been torn between country and city life. I feel I would have to have a shop in both locations. I am partially based in South Buckinghamshire; greater west London, it would be amazing to find a location which has a creative hub that would support a  stationery shop a stones throw away from London life.

Have you got any new ranges coming up?

Meylor's Christmas range will be introduced in the coming weeks. Then the second collection will be launched at Top Drawer Spring in January.

Any tips for my readers in case they want to set up a creative business too?

Do spend time thinking about your brand and what you stand for amongst the crowd of the market. How do you want to communicate this across your website, and social channels? When starting a business, there will always be instances you were not expecting. Be aware of the unexpected, and remember to keep striving for your end goal. It is that focus which will keep you pushing forward.

What's the best piece of advice you've ever been given?

Advice and feedback is always well received, especially from individuals who have experience and background in their chosen topic. I.e. I am no marketer, and I love hearing advice from experienced individuals about social media and website strategy. I would say the best advice so far is to have patience, for some this may come naturally. However, when you're eager for something to succeed, it's important to remember to keep going and thriving off positive feedback and remember you can't conquer everything overnight.

Thanks to Grace for answering my questions so thoughtfully. I hope you found Grace's work inspirational and enjoyed learning more about her process. Don't forget to visit her website to see more of her gorgeous products.

New Prints and Notebooks

I just wanted to quickly update you all and let you know that I have two new prints and three new notebook designs up on my site. I had so much fun designing this new collection of paper goods. I think they help to add some cheeriness and colour into the otherwise dark wintery weather of the season.

The notebooks are A5 and come with either lined, dotty, grid or plain pages so you can choose what suits you best. As always they are made in the UK using sustainable and eco friendly methods. Gotta look after the earth folks. £4 each

The prints are either A4 or A3 in size and are printed on a thick slightly textured card stock so my paintings can really sing. From £15 for an A4 print. I think they'd make a lovely Christmas gift if you framed them in a gold or copper poster frame.

How To Style Knee High Boots

I've only recently discovered a love for knee high boots. I remember seeing them a lot last year and I never had the courage to try them out. This year I thought "f**k it" and I found an inexpensive pair to try out from Zara. I've been wearing them most days since. I opted for a light brown pair with a very slight heel as I'm already quite tall and I wanted to be able to wear them all day. I even wore them for halloween as they matched my 1970's disco lion costume, I know, weird outfit choice but it's a long story.

The pair I bought are these ones from Zara. I was looking for an inexpensive pair that had stretch so they would fit nice and tightly around my legs and these boots matched up with what I was looking for perfectly. I really didn't want to spend a fortune on a leather pair and these were a very reasonable £29.99. H&M, Asos and John Lewis also have a lot of options.

Continue reading for my favourite ways to style knee or thigh high boots, hopefully there's something for everyone but my personal favourite is wearing them with a breton top and denim mini skirt.

Oversized t-shirt and a denim jackets are perfect for a sexy "I just threw this on" look. Via Vogue

Keep it simple with a denim skirt and striped top. Via AEO

Feel free to mix neutrals like black with brown so a really simple and chic look, I also like the contrasting textures of the leather and cotton. Via Zara

Match over the knee boots with a cosy jumper and cotton mini skirt to dress up a casual outfit. Via Em Talks

Flat knee high boots are great for a comfortable day time outfit. Via  Debiflue

If in doubt just go full on Jane Birkin. Via Baerwear

Take a look at my boot styling Pinterest board here for even more ideas.

Get Your Home Ready For Christmas

Well it's already mid November, can you believe it? I'm getting the urge to begin decorating the flat and I was seriously craving mince pies last night, which means that for our little household Christmas is well and truly on the way. If like me you love to get organised for the festive season you may find this checklist helpful. Also keep your eyes peeled as I will be posting five, yes five, gift guides this year!

I was recently introduced to handmade furniture company Arlo & Jacob, after browsing their site I have already mentally picked out a new two seater sofa for my flat, oops! I think it would be lovely to invest in a new price to ensure that my home is looking as smart as possible on the big day. Anyway on to the organisation part of the post! Arlo & Jacob and I worked together to create this helpful festive checklist...

Decide on a theme for your Christmas tree – whether it be traditional red and gold, neon pink decorations or cactus shaped tree decs - this has to be number one on the list!

Pop down to a local Christmas market and support independent and local designer makers, plus a visit to Santa!

Scour second hand shops and vintage markets for unusual christmas decorations, my favorites are the brightly coloured glass designs from the 1950's.

Christmas candles are a must. Mulled spice, cinnamon and pine are all favourite scents for the festive period. Add a couple of blankets and you’ve totally embraced the word of the season, hygge.

Make sure to write all your Christmas cards and post them before the 21st of December – time to embrace handwriting cards again and forget about emailing.

Don’t forget to order your favorite festive foods for the Christmas table, plus vegetarian and vegan alternatives for those meat-free of course.

Ensure there are enough glasses of Bucks Fizz and Champagne Cocktails to go around, and then to go around again once all the presents are opened.

Wrap all the presents for the family – with lots of bows in sight – and ensure they are all under the Christmas tree with name tags.

Make sure there are enough tins of Christmas chocolates to go around – even if the strawberry and orange cream ones will be the last ones left!

Plan your Christmas day outfit. Whether that’s a sparkly, sequined dress, jazzy patterned socks or wearing your pyjamas and slippers all day the choice is all yours.

Why not bake homemade mince pies and sausage rolls (traditions in the Straughan household) and don’t forget to leave one or two out for Father Christmas on Christmas Eve.

If you're planning to spruce up your home this year why not take a look at the gorgeous Arlo & Jacob furniture. With family time central to this time of year make sure to order by the 14th of November ready for the whole family to watch festive films. My favorite is White Christmas!

I had a good look at the Arlo & Jacob website to choose my favorite piece and as I've been lusting over green velvet recently it had to be their Orlando sofa. Perfect for Simon and I to curl up on with some mulled cider. I hope you found this list helpful and best of luck with the Christmas planning!

Thornback & Peel Christmas Wrapping Workshop

Last week I was invited along to a lovely festive event at the Thornback & Peel shop in Holborn to enjoy a wrapping workshop taught by the ladies at Wrapsody . I was so grateful to have an evening with like minded creative people and enjoy a few glasses of bubbly, I was trying to kick a cold and I felt pretty sorry for myself so the night was very welcome.

Oh, mum look away now, I know you read my blog and I don't want you continuing as you'll ruin two of your Christmas presents! We had the opportunity to pick out two Thornback & Peel products to gift wrap and take home. I chose this adorable rabbit cushion and a set of blackbird handkerchiefs as my mum has a blackbird family that live in her garden.

The first technique Kirsten taught us was the addictive kimono style wrapping. I will definitely be adopting this method for all my rectangular shaped gifts this year, it's surprisingly easy to accomplish, even after two proseccos.

We were given a gorgeous selection of ribbons and trimmings to make our gifts even prettier, I loved the glittery copper ribbon and little jingle bells.

We then had the difficult task of wrapping the large and squishy cushions, In the past I probably would have popped a gift like that in a large box or gift bag but we were taught a very useful paper pouch technique. I also learnt how to make a pretty fancy floristry bow which I loved. It looked so festive with it's read and tartan ribbons.

I had such a lovely evening, I see myself as a pretty good gift wrapper but it was so useful being taught by a talented professional like Kirsten. The Thornback & Peel shop is also so gorgeous, a perfect place for gift buying.