Janice Issitt                    Life and Style

travel, interiors, photography, home, crafts, personal style

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Friday, 18 August 2017

Counting Sheep and Wool Bedding.

Until last Christmas, I didn't even know there was such a thing as bedding filled with pure natural wool and now I can't get enough of it. Ladies who have started to get hot flushes at night will welcome as many natural bedding products as possible and the combination of the wool duvets and pillows, with linen covers is a dream.



I think the people at Woolroom must have read my mind, as I've been driving myself crazy trying to find good pillows. I find it so hard to get comfortable at night and my current pillows simply aren't helping.  So when they asked me to try out their range of pillows, duvets and mattress topper, I was completely over the moon.

There are so many reasons why wool filled bedding is better than synthetic or down, let alone the dubious way in which goose feathers are collected and from where!! 

Wool duvets don't have a tog rating, this was invented to explain the warmth of synthetic bedding, but as wool doesn't work in the same way as synthetic, then this is replaced with a simple, light, medium, warm rating. As we already know, wool works more naturally as a temperature regulator, even when on the sheep it keeps them cool when it's hot and warm when it's not. It also has the ability to draw moisture away from a warm perspiration, unlike synthetic which will just trap and exacerbate the situation.


At Woolroom they have also been perfecting their wool so that it can be machine washed without it felting or shrinking, just be sure to follow the instructions and use a wool setting at 30 degrees.  

All these factors also add up to the fact that sheep wool is also good for anyone with allergies, so if you have problems in this area then please have a read on their website as they explain a lot of interesting new facts about wool and allergies.


I really love the way Woolroom send out their bedding, no horrible plastic waste, but lovely natural cotton bags. When you take out your pillows you can unzip the side and reach straight into the wool to fluff it up, and you can also order an extra bag of filling to adjust the firmness of your pillow exactly.



So other than all these lovely practical facts about why choose wool, well here's one that most importantly appeals to me, at the Woolroom they are totally supporting the British wool industry. Having been involved with all things wool since 1888, this family business was helped by the regeneration of the industry in 2008 and The Campaign For Wool started by Prince Charles. The British wool industry had become non-profitable and in total decline so the Campaign set out to re-educate about the benefits of this natural product and about how special it is to the UK. Here in Britain we have 35 million sheep and lambs, across 63 breeds. 

As any knitter will know, different sheep, produce different wool for different purposes and at the Woolroom they use specific British wool in their bedding, which has more bounce than say Merino wool which would not be suitable for duvets but is fine for clothing.  As an animal welfare supporter, it also assures me to know that by using British sheep from known farmers, they are only using wool that comes from sheep who are well kept, happy and healthy. Sheep are intelligent and fussy animals, their conditions are reflected in the quality of their wool, so it's in the farmers interest to look after them and in the sheep's interest that they get sheared every year. 



Did you spot my dreamcatchers in these photos? You could say I'm bed obsessed, and you would be right. Good sleep is vital for good mental health.  During the years around the menopause, a cool nights sleep becomes a thing of the past for most women. Sharing a bed can become a nightmare, so at least with wool duvets, the heat is regulated around the individual so while he is cool and you are having the hot flush from hell, the duvet should be able to cope with both of you at the same time.

My dreamcatchers have been featuring in a few photos and I love making them from old crochet table cloths and doilies, it's a great way to re-purpose and to add a cool and delicate decoration to your bedroom.

Hop over to the thewoolroom.com for some great discounts and more information about why choose wool, there really is no reason not to.

It may be time for me to have a little afternoon doze now, call it a power nap .... zzzzz

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Tuesday, 8 August 2017

Hill View Farm Creativity Festival

This weekend our dear friend, Natasha, took her 'Taking A Moment In Time Retreats' to a new level and built herself a mini festival site on the fields of her new farm.  Hill View Farm in Buckinghamshire is an exciting new venture which will be growing into a yarn related retreat experience, complete with sheep, highland cattle, home grown vegetables and flowers.




We all arrived on Friday afternoon to be greeted with a beautiful camp site of bell tents, marquees and a fire pit, all ready to start straight away on our first workshop of the weekend. I was lucky enough to be hosting a workshop making dreamcatchers and this was just one of the crafts that were on offer over the three days. 

Our knitting and crochet instructors even included Donna Smith all the way from Shetland, and lovely Donna was just one of the talented ladies who had travelled from far and wide to share their skills. 




I was particularly excited to finally have a go at macrame knotting with the expert guidance of Sam from 'Pretty Little Knots" who led us through quite a sizeable project that we all managed to finish with sheer determination.  I have to admit that Sam did have to finish mine for me as my back was playing up, and this really proved to me how much time and effort goes into making each piece.




Another of the workshops that I attended was with good friend Katie Robbins of 'Ceramic Magpie' who showed us how to cheat at making porcelain style decorations with an clay that can be baked in the oven.  Other crafters were also busy with different styles of knitting and crochet and after our small groups we all came back together for delicious meals cooked by Natasha and her team from the farm's home grown vegetables.  




Regular teacher at these retreats is the lovely Kristina from Written In Cloth who held a class in indigo dyeing, leaving many of the group with blue hands as a testament to their efforts, there was a beautiful display of their work drying on the fences showing the versatility of the shibori craft. 








The weather was kind of mad, but maybe we just noticed it more as we were outside with such expansive views, but the odd shower didn't dull our enthusiasm or spirits while we all concentrated on making wall decorations with Olga Prinku and Mobiles with Sarah Notes.  

It was such a treat to spend time with the other like minded crafters and instagrammers and meet up with some previous retreat buddies like Renee from East London Knit who designs beautiful and unique knitwear. 

Keep a look out for next years dates as this is going to be a regular event up at the farm and sure to get booked up quickly. The variety of workshops brought together a lovely group of what I hope will be a regular gang of makers. 

Apologies from me if this summer I am slightly sporadic with blog posts as I'm in the process of a big life changing venture.  In the meanwhile, a little vote for me in the Amara Awards would be very much appreciated, my voting page is 

Many thanks in advance, see you soon with more news. Janice 
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Friday, 4 August 2017

Rainy July - Be Home Free

Seriously, what a wash out it was here in the UK this July. It resembled Autumn and left us all thinking 'did we just skip Summer"?
So like everyone else you just say 'well it's good for the garden' and perhaps have a secret dream to move somewhere sunny.

This year I've tried to grow Dahlias for the first time. I'm not very good at gardening, well actually, it's more that I'm just lazy especially if the weather isn't consistently good, I tend to forget to water and weed and find more cozy pursuits indoors.

So I thought I would give the good old dahlia a try and ordered a bunch of root tubers from a company that Tamsyn Morgans recommended. 
I may have been a bit late planting them as it does seem that other instagram friends have been getting flowers a few weeks before me, but low and behold this last week they have started to show their big blousy heads.



I can see now why people plant the dahlia, yes it's a bit of a granny plant I know, as are the geraniums that adorn my window boxes, but a flower is better than no flower and my roses have seriously disappointed me, despite giving them food. 

So thanks to good old instagram, a handful of great photographers and stylists like Tamsyn and Emma Harris have managed to show these beauties in a new and classy way.  Generally I just tend to look out for anything that I think will survive a bit of neglect, although after planting the tubers I did remember to water daily at the beginning before the rain came.

I think I probably planted them a bit too close together, it's hard to imagine that the tuber will become such a huge plant, but they seem ok and my plan is to dig up the tuber and keep them in a shed over winter, which is the correct procedure. 

And so to a few of the photos from Be Home Free on instagram which caught my moody eye ...


@aslowgathering @petiteharvest @beforeandagain_

@belovelivecoaching @oldfashionedsus @erikaappelstrom

@petiteharvest @stateoflibertyco @poppinsandcompany @simpleandseason

My choice of favourites from the Be Home Free tag this month are a reflection of my mood after this miserable July, there's a hint of summer but only if you add a bit of hygge to it.

I love pops of pale pink in the dark, moody sunset landscapes and making an effort to go outside whatever the weather. 

This weekend I'm really praying for sunshine as it the camping retreat with Hill View Moments, where a group of us will be hunkering down over our crafty projects around the campfire. 

Keep a look out for photos from the weekend over on instagram stories. 

Thanks for tagging your photos, love and peace from Janice.





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Saturday, 22 July 2017

Latest Swedish Trend - William Morris

I certainly didn't see this coming! The latest trend in Sweden is for the British Arts and Crafts guru William Morris, who famously said the following ; 

"Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful.
The true secret of happiness lies in taking a genuine interest in all the details of daily life.
I do not want art for a few any more than education for a few, or freedom for a few."

So In this current climate of slow living and seeking happiness in the small things, his visionary ideas still hold true. 

Art teacher and Yoga lady Anna who I met recently got me up to speed on what's happening now in Sweden.





So who would've thought that the land of minimalist monochrome design led functionality would so wholeheartedly embrace this English embellishment.  Well, to be truthful, I have seen it coming for quite some time, you may remember a few years back how I found that the Swedish were now decorating much more with colour and frippery, and how I believed that the British idea of 'Swedish Style' wasn't keeping up with what they are actually doing. 

My friend of many years, Rachel Van Asch brought her unique style of posh goth, skulls and roses, decadent, luxurious and interesting colour combinations to Sweden over ten years ago and the interest and love for her work was a clear indication that the nicest nation on earth were so open to any new ideas outside of their own view.




There's nothing like staying with families to really get a feel for a country and over the years I have begun to find out what true Swedish lifestyle is all about.  Firstly, nearly everyone has a second house in the countryside which they escape to for a long summer holiday. Don't expect to get your car fixed or your house repaired during the summer, as they've all disappeared off to wooden cabins near lakes.  The Swedish summer house is all about getting back to your roots, it's rustic, wild and away from the mod-cons. 

This seasons photo shoot for the Van Asch Autumn Winter catalogue took us to visit the beautiful yoga teacher Anna at her family plot about an hour outside Stockholm.  Typical of how the family ethos works over here, well, you have a bit of land with your summer house, and then your sons and daughters build their little cabins on it so that you can all be together for the long hot summer days. 

Anna's little three cabin area doesn't even have an inside loo! She takes her washing-up in a bowl to the veranda overlooking the lake, while all around on the gently sloping hillside there are blueberries ripe for the picking.  Perhaps you can even catch your own supper by fishing in the lake?




The Swedish don't leave their style behind though when they go on holiday, oh no, and so Anna has featured William Morris wallpaper in her little cabins, mixing it with traditional Swedish antiques. She so loves his designs that she even wears them! 



On a visit to Uppsala (a bit of a Viking pilgrimage for me as I'm mad for the tv series!) we found some very cool and stylish interior shops. Urban Collection being one of them and despite it's name, yes here was proof positive that Morris & Co designs are most definitely the theme of the moment here. Mixing it with cool contemporary, I really need to see more of how the Swedes are using it and I'm excited that perhaps I may give this a go myself. 

My first ever real passion was for the Pre-Raphaelites, I knew their names and their lovers names from the age of 12, I visited their paintings in the Tate Britain (back when they were so unfashionable they were hidden in the basement).  I visited William Morris's house so long ago I can hardly remember it and I sat and copied his patterns into my sketch book.  

So, I really need to get back into his designs again, and as I may be moving house for a new re-decoration project, then this could be the perfect time to mix up some Arts n Crafts styles with the Bohemian ethnic. Could be very interesting I think. It's time to start raiding the charity shops then for old William Morris fabrics before the trend hits the UK again.  


 And so before I sign off, here's a sneaky peak at our creation for the Van Asch shoot, our warrior queen ...


Van Asch will be showing their new Yoga and Clothing at Formex for Autumn Winter buying. 
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Wednesday, 5 July 2017

French Style Home

 If, like me, you adore French style elements in your home, and maybe like to mix it up with quality old items, a bit of chippy paint and some vintage lace, then here's a rough guide to adding a bit of OO LA LA.

Next weekend, from the 14th, it's the Arthur Swallow Fair at Loseley  Park and one of the best places to find lovely old French antiques and salvage. Here's a few things to look out for on your travels ..

Linen, and those big square pillow cases that we don't get in the UK, you can stuff them with a real French pillow or do as I do and put two normal pillows inside. Perfect for sitting up in bed and lounging in your boudoir.  My bedhead is old shutters just as I found them in a salvage yard. 


Another of my favourite things that I can only find from France are these long cotton crochet curtains. Made for those tall thin windows they have in classic French apartments. I use them all over the place, I've even replaced my bedroom door with them as the door just took up too much of the room. These old ones are far superior to new synthetic net curtains, often in a pale ecru and with beautiful patterns.



Here's a photo I took in Paris, showing again that shutters, shutters and more shutters, you can never have enough. Use them just as wall decoration, a headboard, a screen or a notice board, the possibilities are endless.



Old book illustrations, and lovely typography in French can make beautiful pictures or collages. 



Leather club chairs are found in abundance in France, some dealers specialise in nothing else as they are becoming so popular in the UK and the USA. I found it quite easy to repair myself, you can buy leather repair kits, a putty which fills holes and replicates leather when it dries. Stain it to match your chair and that old tatty armchair becomes totally useable again, with bags of character.






Religious statues and chandeliers, perfect finishing touches. 

We can't talk about French Style without mentioning Art Nouveau, so feminine and evocative. Look out for those curvy lines and floral motifs.



Who doesn't love a bit of kitchenalia. Keep an eye out for enamel ware in lovely colours, old coffee grinders and wire baskets and utensils. They look so nice you can keep them on display rather than hiding them in the units. Try open shelves in the kitchen rather than fitted cupboards, or an open fronted old cabinet. Useful and beautiful.





My recommendations for finding French style as seen in these photos;
The Loseley Park fair organised by Arthur Swallow is called the 'Decorative Home and Salvage Show" and has a particular French flavour. 

My old friends the Brocante Boys have tons of enamel ware and religious statues. They can be found all over the London area at markets and events and also the Milton Keynes Vintage Fair.

And if you fancy actually going to France and being guided by an expert then check out the September retreat organised by Bohemians France - Lush Getaways, which is a culinary experience, with wine and antique hunting. 

Keep a look out on my instagram feed from the 14th July to see more of me at the Loseley Park fair, and maybe see you there! Au revoir for now. 
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Saturday, 24 June 2017

Slow Living

It's become a bit of a buzz word, but what is slow living? There's one good way to find out and that's to go straight to the top, and join up with the guru of Slow Living - Melanie Barnes of Geoffrey and Grace  And what's more, it's free!

As a fellow anxiety sufferer, Melanie has been taking a good look at ways to calm down all areas of your life in simple and practical ways. It may not be possible to do every single thing that is recommended, but you can definitely find a lot of sense in it and it's a good check list of reigning in the clutter.


On the Slow Living Retreat, Melanie gives us some examples of reconnecting with reality and with yourself. Simple ideas of how to put your phone down and not have it glued to us (guilty), not be so worried by the seemingly perfect lifestyle of others on instagram (guilty), and not to let your home get cluttered with piles of untidy homeless objects (guilty). 

During the week of my e-course with Mel, I was suffering the worst anxiety I have had in years, so much so that I couldn't really tackle the tasks immediately, but now looking back and going through it more, I can see so much of what Mel says is helpful.

I've been doing more gardening, getting close to the outdoors is a brilliant way to slow down, and tending to plants with trimming and watering is very fulfilling. I've got help from some cleaning ladies to make my life a little less stressful, and with them keeping a check on me (yes I do tidy up before they come), I have finally had a clear out of my studio which had become some sort of mad woman's nightmare.


The very hot spell of weather forced things to slow down as it was too difficult to do very much in the melting sun, but I started to create some tidy and relaxing areas in the garden, digging out the gazebo from the shed and creating some nice table displays in the shade. 

Unfortunately I had a photo shoot in the sweltering heat, although the work was lovely and super creative it was exhausting. Despite wearing sunblock I did get a bit burnt, and although I was wearing a hat and sunglasses my skin took a bashing. 

don't forget to put water out for birds, this house sparrow has nested in the box on my house and has helped me wind down
watching her going in and out of the box all day to feed her babies.


As if they had read my mind, those wonderful people at Curious Egg asked if I would like to try out a few new products they are stocking now by A.S. Apothecary.  

A.S. Apothecary products are a real treat. The A.S. is Amanda Saurin who produces small batches of natural products made from essential oils carefully distilled from plants, flowers, roots, bark and herbs.

The Summer Skin Balm is everything I need at the moment in one small pot. It helps to soothe the skin from sun burn, but also has natural antiseptic  for bites and rashes, with all the ingredients to also calm the mind. 


The Lavender Aromatic Water is another good all rounder, it cools the skin, works as a refreshing aftersun, can be used to rinse your hair and reduces itchiness from bites, (yes, some critter got me). Best of all it aids sleep, which for me is a great combination when I'm travelling as I often can't sleep in unfamiliar beds. 

The Balm and Water will be a good way to help with my relaxation and my slow living efforts. While doing my breathing I can inhale the aromas of lavender, rose geranium, cantharis and hypericum. 

Coincidentally Mel has a interview with the owner and maker at A.S Apothecary so while you are over on Geoffrey and Grace please do have a look at that too. 





A.S. Apothecary balm and water from Curious Egg highly recommended.
Glasses from www.glasssesshop.com 
The Slow Living Retreat free e-book from Geoffrey and Grace

I would love to hear from you about how you slow things down and relax, take good care of yourselves xx Janice












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