Monthly Archives

September 2016

Simple Self

Monthly Simplify – Wardrobe Clear Outs

September 30, 2016

Each month I pick one easy thing we can do to simplify our homes, diets and lives. This month, it’s wardrobe clear outs.

My poor wardrobe is lonely. The bare hangers are rattling around and the doors haven’t been opened in weeks. Why? Because my clothes are nomads. They circulate between the ironing basket, my body, the washing machine, and back again. Rarely, at the moment, do they ever make it as far as my wardrobe.

This is because I’m pretty lazy, and because ironing is my second most hated job .

I also have too many clothes.
So, in the spirit of new seasons (both natural and fashionable), this is what I’m doing to simplify this month. In October, I am simplifying my wardrobe.

If you’d like to join in, follow my tips below and share your own in the comments. I need all the help I get. Comment, tweet me, come to my house. Seriously.

My poor ironing basket...

My poor ironing basket…

How To Simplify Your Wardrobe – the 3 R’s

1) Rate

Clothes past their ‘sell by date’

Tops that are a bit bobbly, trousers with a stain that just won’t come out, anything that’s looking a bit worn – they have to go. I have a t-shirt with a hole in it for crying out loud!

A good rule of thumb is if you wouldn’t wear it in front of someone you want to impress (whether that be on a date or in a business meeting), don’t keep it in your wardrobe. You deserve more than clothes that make you feel crummy.

Clothes you don’t wear

It can’t just be me that keeps clothes ‘just in case’. Just in case I lose a few stone, just in case I have nothing ironed, just in case they come in useful. See above, we deserve more.

Embrace the bulge, or, if you do lose weight, reward yourself with something lovely and new! Anything that’s a last resort or that you stopped wearing 6 months ago, has to go.

Clothes out of season

Despite the warm weather we’ve had in September, October’s chill has definitely started to bite so it’s time to put away the summer clothes. Set aside a drawer or a box in the wardrobe for your out of season clothes that you can easily swap in and out of each season.

One thing to note though – if you don’t think your summer clothes will pass the ‘sell by date’ test when they come out again in May, then ditch them now.

2) Rid

Rather than just bin your clothes, look for places you can donate. Charity shops may not take most of your worn out things, so look for Air Ambulance donation bins (often found in supermarket car parks) to do some good with your cast offs.

If you’re strapped for cash, you can also find recycling centres that will pay by the kilogram. Also if you have high value items it’s probably worth having a go at selling them online first.

3) Replenish

Now for the fun bit. By now you will have got rid of most of the things you wear on a day to day basis, so you really need to get some more. Don’t just go on a mad spree though – be thoughtful about your choices and don’t make the same mistake again.

Buy outfits

Ensure that everything goes with everything else. This means you can buy less and get more value from the pieces you do have. It also stops you getting to this desperate stage quite so quickly.

Buy quality pieces

Often it is the cheaper pieces that will bobble up and let you down first. We can’t all afford to buy tailored all the time, and you should always buy within your budget. However, a great quality jacket that you’ll wear every day or a perfectly fitting pair of trousers that go with everything will serve you better than 8 cheap tops.

Buy cross over clothes

Some people like to have separate work and home wardrobes. I get it, but it doesn’t help with keeping things minimal and simple. I choose clothes that I can wear at work and at weekends too – it keeps the ironing load down and gives me good value for money. Plus I only buy things I love – don’t limit the number of times you can look fabulous!

Do you have wardrobe refresh planned?

Simple Pleasures

Inspirational Reads – The Simple Things

September 27, 2016

Sometimes we all fall a little short in the inspiration stakes. Times when it can be easier to slob out on the sofa with a takeaway rather than get outside or cook from scratch. And that’s ok. But to help you re-kick start your simple lifestyle, there’s inspirational reads: blogs, magazines and books full of ideas and interesting people to get you back on your chosen track.


The Simple Things Magazine

The Concept

The Simple Things is basically this blog in five years time. Their motto is ‘taking time to live well’, which includes allotment-ing, adventures, home inspiration and interesting people.

The Contents

As you can no doubt tell from my own blog menu, I love neatly ordered categories. The Simple Things fulfils this inate need by splitting the mag into Fresh, Living, Escape, Think and Nest – which sound divine just on their own right? The good thing is that there’s something for everyone. Even if you, like me, can’t grow veg or properly decorate your rented house, there is some lovely inspiration for days out and generally slowing down.

What I love is that each piece is engrossing; as a whole it’s so well thought out, with no weak links. It’s the perfect slow read (it’s taken me all month) for slow living.

Perfect for…

Ideas for days out, veg patch envy, thought provoking articles and a peek inside the homes of your favourite bloggers.

Find The Simple Things in your local supermarket, online and on Twitter.

Simple Self

6 Ways To Get Away From Screens

September 26, 2016

One thing that’s crucial to Simple & Season is spending time away from screens enjoying the outdoors, learning something new and generally adventuring. Not that screens are bad, of course. They are great for learning and discovering, reading blogs and chatting with friends old and new. My days would not be complete with an hour or so of screen time.

Where the balance is not quite right is when our phones become an extra appendage and we can’t go a day without watching TV. Here are my tips for spending less time with your screens – your eyes and soul will thank you.

1. Stop turning on the TV

I got into a really bad habit of getting home from work and sticking on the TV as a bit of background noise as I had my after work snack (always crumpets, always amazing). The trouble was that the background noise ended up being 2 hours of me gormlessly watching television and there went my evening.

As obvious as it may seem, making a conscious effort not to turn on the TV resulted in me getting a lotta sh*t done. I learnt I didn’t need background noise for my five minutes of hunger-quenching. It helped me enjoy my food more mindfully (mmmm, oozing butter), and then I could crack on distraction-free.

2. Plan your time

This ties in with my Happiness Planner post from a few weeks ago. When I started scheduling my evenings I found I didn’t miss TV or constantly refreshing Facebook as I was busy doing far more interesting things. Over the last month I have done so much more with my time. That’s not to say I’ve become a social media hermit; I simply do all my checking as a sort of treat after I’ve finished my to dos.

3. Turn off social media notifications

Newsflash: you don’t need to be contactable at all times. Really. I don’t have any notifications for any of my social media networks – not that I am in anyway inundated, but even the few I get are pretty distracting. As a child of the MySpace generation when you only got to see your notifications when you were allowed on the family PC after finishing your homework, I really hold on to that Christmas morning feeling of going online and seeing how many notifications you’ve accrued throughout the day.

If anyone really needs you, they’ve got your phone number. As my best friend demonstrated when she text me to reply to the hedgehog video she’d sent me on FB 18 minutes before.

Adventure flatlay

4. Unfollow

I am rather keen on this William Morris quote: “Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful” (see 4 Quotes for Inspiration). True dat. Here is a similar mantra: “Follow no one you do not find inspiring, or who does not make you feel good”.

As we change as people, we should also change who we follow. If following models and celebrities is making you hate your muffin top, unfollow them and follow a load of great local bakeries. Follow people whose lifestyle inspires you, whose photos are beautiful or who post about opportunities you can take advantage of. Anyone else is a waste of your precious time.

5. Discover a new magazine or book

Use your screens for good and find something new to read. Your favourite Instagrammers and bloggers are good places to look for inspirational magazines. Head down to your local bookshop and buy the first thing that grabs you, or ask bookworms you know for their recommendations. When you get stuck into a book your screen time automatically decreases, but be conscious to take it out with you so you can read it on the train rather than scroll through your screen. To get started, have a look at my inspirational reads or the last book I read.

6. Go out and about

Take yourself out on a walk and make a point of taking time to listen to the birds, smile at passersby and watch the wind rustling the leaves. Go out for a dinner with friends where none of you Instagram your plates but just wet yourselves with laughter. Get outside and recharge yourself while your phone does the same back at home.

 

Have you ever taken a complete hiatus from your screens?

Seasonal Adventures

6 Things To Look Forward To In Autumn

September 22, 2016

Hooray, it’s autumn! 22nd September is the official first day of autumn, even though if it does feel like it’s been around for weeks. And so begins the best season of all – it has the best light, the best temperature and by far the best food. It also has the best name of all the seasons – any word that is all ‘u’s and has an ‘m’ and an ’n’ next to each other knows it’s fabulous.

Here are six things to love about this most lovable month.

Going outdoors

Autumn is just about the best time to get outside. Not so hot that you’re a sweaty mess, not so cold that shivering, and kicking the leaves to keep warm. The last of the berries, the animals rushing around getting ready for winter. There is that amazing golden light as the sun settles itself down in the sky, and you get to see more sunrises and sunsets.

This is why we’re focusing on getting outside this autumn on Simple & Season. Look for great walk ideas, warming autumn recipes, the best walking woolies and making your home a cosy nest to come home to.

Autumn Leaves

Knowing what to wear

Chunky knits, layers, hairy legs under skinny trousers and woolly socks in boots. I love lazy and warm A/W fashion. But what I love the most is knowing FOR SURE that you’ll need a coat. None of that British summer ‘will it be warm, will it be cold, will it start raining in three hours?’ nonsense. Wrap up warm and get on with it.

Game season

Sorry to the veggies, but autumn is all about game. Venison, guineafowl, pheasant are all coming into season so get out to your favourite restaurant and start eating. I personally cannot wait to wave goodbye to wishy washy summer salads and dive head first into deep, rich flavours and gravies to die for.

Image courtesy of my other half

Image courtesy of my other half

Reliving your childhood

Now that we’re just about adults, Christmas is all about being busy at work and balancing budgets. Autumn is where we can let our little kid out. Whether it’s kicking up leaves and giggling as they crunch, collecting pocket fulls of conkers or cooing at fireworks with a hot dog, autumn is all about nostalgia. All with the added bonus of being allowed wiiiiiiine.

Country pubs

Yes a pub garden is a lovely idea in summer, then you remember wasps. Much better is a big glass of smokey red wine on a leather sofa in front of a lovely, stinky wood fire. Don’t feel sad you city dwellers – a lovely dark, wood panelled pub does just the job too.

Image courtesy of @honestygroup

Image courtesy of @honestygroup

Making lists

There’s something about the back to school vibes of autumn that makes me feel like getting super organised. Whether it’s going mad for stationary and planners, planning next year’s holidays or setting goals to complete before the year is done, now is a great time for planning. Even if it’s just writing your Christmas list (I may or may not have had mine since August…).

 

What are you looking forward to this season?

Mid Week Eats Seasonal Stomach

Mid Week Eat: Quick Quark ‘Carbonara’

September 21, 2016

It’s easy to eat seasonally with a whole lazy Sunday and 6 hours to roast a joint ahead of you. It’s more difficult when you get in from work late and all you want to do is order a pizza. My Mid-Week-Eats recipes are all quick, really easy and made mostly using ingredients you’ll already have in your cupboards. No trailing round various health food shops to source a weird paste anymore.

If you’ve never heard of Quark, prepare to have your world changed. A favourite in slimming recipes it’s a naturally fat free soft cheese that is light and creamy – it’s also available in supermarkets (Tesco and Aldi fo sho) for under a pound.

This recipe is adapted from one my mum made in her Slimming World days – a perfect mid week eat, you’ll be done and washed up in half an hour.

Makes 2 portions

3 handfuls of pasta (I use wholegrain because, you know, health)
Quark (anywhere from 1 spoon to 250g)
4 or 5 rashers of bacon
Frozen peas (I used 3 handfuls because I like peas)
1 clove of garlic (optional)
Left over broccoli (optional)
Chilli flakes

  1. Put your pasta on to boil
  2. Put a frying pan on the heat and crush a glove of garlic into it with a drop of oil to prevent burning
  3. Use scissors to cut your bacon into bitesize pieces and add to the pan
  4. Sizzle your bacon and garlic so you get the pan all covered in lovely bacon juices
  5. If you’re using broccoli, I usually stick it in with the pasta for the last 5 minutes. Drain when done.
  6. When your bacon is crispy, take the frying pan off the heat, add your peas and spoon in your Quark – how much you use depends on how thick you like your sauce
  7. Slowly and gently heat the Quark – you don’t want it to get too hot or it will curdle and separate
  8. Add the drained pasta to the pan and mix it all together
  9. Sprinkle with chilli flakes – you don’t have to if you’re a spice-phobe but it adds a little summin’ summin’
  10. Serve and enjoy
Simple Self

4 Quotes For Inspiration

September 18, 2016

As I started to think about this post I realised how quickly it could spiral out of control into a 100,000 word epic. I’m not even a quote fanatic, but the more I think about it there are lots of little quotes and sayings that I live by every day without even realising, and that’s before we get on to the ones that are event-specific!

So I thought I’d start us off with some Simple & Season quotes – introductory quotes, if you will, that have inspired me in trying to simplify and connect with the seasons more. Hopefully they’ll do the same for you too.

On things

William Morris quote

“Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful” – William Morris

Yes, before Marie Kondo there was William Morris. As the godfather of Arts & Crafts, I prefer to follow Morris as his quote seems to allow for more cosiness and seems altogether more forgiving (and easy to follow).

Nothing comes into our house now that I do not truly, deeply love, unless it’s, you know, a spatula. I ask myself in shops whether this is beautiful enough to be allowed shelf space – it definitely helps you to curb your spending. Following this philosophy helps you to really curate what you own, rather than going on BUY IT ALL frenzies.

On the seasons

The poem ‘Desiderata’ by Max Ehrmann is just awesome life quote after awesome life quote, so it will probably feature a lot in upcoming posts (it’s already been in my post about finding unique art). I have been a cheaty cheat and included two quotes here – neither are specifically about the seasons but both remind me of them somehow. They both feel like they’re about living at the same pace as the natural world, which is what Simple & Season is all about.

Go Placidly... in the sky

“Go placidly amid the noise and the haste, and remember what peace there may be in silence” – Max Ehrmann

This is the first line of the poem, and the first Desiderata quote I saw. It chimes with my little introvert personality, and also reminds us to set our own pace, pay attention to what we want to see and take time to enjoy the small things.

You Are A Child Of The Universe

“You are a child of the universe no less than the trees and the stars…” – Max Ehrmann

I love this quotes because it reminds us that we are nature, we’re a part of the circle of life, and we have a responsibility to waste less and do more to protect the land we walk on.

On exploring

Two Roads

“Two road diverged in a wood, and I – I took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference.” – Robert Frost

This is a classic (from ‘The Road Not Taken’ by Robert Frost), but it’s the one that comes up most often in my life. There is not one walk I go on where I don’t think this to myself or use it to persuade my companion. Out walking there is sometimes a reason that the path less traveled by is just that (i.e., it’s overgrown with brambles and the views are the other way). But 9 times out of 10, it does make all the difference.

 

What quotes do you remember and find inspirational?

Interiors Simple Pleasures

Where To Find Unique Cheap Art

September 16, 2016

I love a home filled with art. I’ve never really been one for having photos up all over the place – even when at uni when that sort of decoration was de rigeur, I didn’t see the point of having faces on my bedroom wall I could see up to date versions of on Facebook. I guess for me having art displays personality and loves in a more introverted way.

All the art I have in my house means something – it is also all under £20 (excluding the wildly expensive £40 print that was a Christmas present). It feels like there’s been an explosion in affordable art and prints over the last few years, but to me it’s all very samey. You can flick through three or four interiors blogs and they all have exactly the same prints on the wall. Rifle Paper Co. is the new Ikea of wall decoration.

So where do you find art that isn’t generic but also doesn’t cost the world?

Seascape Painting

1. Visit fairs

I don’t just mean events like the Affordable Art Fair (which I’ve yet to go to because I always forget it’s on – however I imagine that it’s probably pretty ‘trendy’, i.e., samey stuff). If you’re London-based I’d recommend looking outside of the capital because, as all we country bumpkins know, everything is expensive there.

Out here in the sticks we have lots of fairs in the grounds of stately homes that 50-somethings walk around in their cropped trousers and sandals – quite my spiritual home. Here you find crafters and artists that sell across a variety of price points and there are some real gems. If you can’t make it to a fair they usually list their stall-holders online, so you can research and order direct.

Two of my favourite pieces were sourced from such an art fair. They’re by the artist Peter Hodson, and I especially love the big one on our mantelpiece (above) – it’s so atmospheric and full of texture. How much did it cost me? £25, framed. I know, ridiculous. This little one was £3. Really.

Little Painting

2. Use greetings cards

There are so many reasons why cards are awesome to use as art. 1) They cost like £2.50, max. 2) A standard size greetings card will always fit a standard size photo frame. 3) Even if it doesn’t, did I mention that they only cost £2.50 so it’s completely fine to chop them up. 4) If you buy postcards from a gallery you can literally have priceless classic art in your house. 5) You can swap them in and out as the season/redecoration/mood takes you to transform your room. 6)…But they can also be meaningful if it’s a card you’ve sent or received.

This is one we have in our house. It’s a birthday card I bought for Dan about two years ago, so I’ve had great 2 for 1 value from it as both a gift and a decoration.

Greetings Card Art

3) Exploit your network

The chances are you know someone who knows someone who produces art, so use your daily Facebook-stalking session productively to discover that person. The benefits of this method far outweigh the potential social awkwardness. By and large young creatives are cheap because they’re just happy to get paid (sweeping generalisation alert), and you can probably get something bespoke and exactly how you want it.

I’d been looking for a print of a new favourite poem, and although there were quite a few on Etsy none were quite right – I wanted to emphasise certain lines, you see. As luck would have it a friend of a friend chose that week to launch a new design venture et voila – a bespoke, unique, exactly what I wanted, original artwork, all for £15. Check out CF Designs and Artworks for similar.

Desiderata Print     Desiderata Print and Succulent

4) Make your own!

If your desire for prints is as uncontrollable as mine, then the most cost-effective option may be to learn to make your own. Check out my post on learning calligraphy if you like typographic prints, or if you’re not of an artistic bent there are tons of quote generators online, or simply create one in a nice font in a document and get it printed (try printed.com or your office printer). You can also try stamps or paper cutting, or press your favourite flowers for a feminine, vintage feel.

Have you got any arty bargains you’re particularly proud of? Where do you go to find art?

Mid Week Eats Seasonal Stomach

Mid Week Eat: DIY Flatbread

September 14, 2016

It’s easy to eat seasonally with a whole lazy Sunday and 6 hours to roast a joint ahead of you. It’s more difficult when you get in from work late and all you want to do is order a pizza. My Mid-Week-Eats recipes are all quick, really easy and made mostly using ingredients you’ll already have in your cupboards. No trailing round various health food shops to source a weird paste anymore.

This dinner is inspired by the fact that I impulsively bought a flatbread base in Tesco and didn’t have a clue what to do with it. Turns out it’s great for using up odds and ends in the fridge. You can try out some of my combos below, or put together something from whatever you have left over.

Variety is the spice of life, so separate the flatbread into halves or quarters to try different toppings with one base. It’s perfect for a couple of lunches too.

Makes 4 portions

  1. Prepare the flatbread by rubbing with garlic and oil

Brie, Bacon and Grape

A classic combo, this flatbread bridges the gap between rich and light for these end of summer evenings.

2. Cook the bacon by grilling or frying and cut into bitesize pieces – I like mine crispy but don’t over-crisp at this point as it will have a second cook

3. Layer the bacon with brie and grapes and bake as per the flatbread instructions

4. Serve with a rocket or watercress salad

Sausage, Mushroom, Blue Cheese and Chutney

Great for getting you in the mood for wintery gooey-ness.

2. Grill the sausages (veggie or meat) while frying the mushrooms in garlic and butter (I find that oil destroys the flavour and texture, I much prefer a soft and buttery mushroom)

3. Slice the sausages and add to the flatbread with the mushrooms, crumble over blue cheese and bake as per the flatbread instructions

4. Splodge any chutney you have over the top and serve (if you’ve got no chutney, gently fry onions to caramelise them – this is important to have something to cut through the richness of the cheese)

Potato, Greens and Cheese

Helloooo carbs. This one is the perfect comfort food.

2. Chop potatoes into small cubs or slices and roast with garlic and rosemary until crispy

3. Scatter onto the flatbread and add cooked greens (try leeks or spinach) and cheese (a hard cheese like gruyere would be good but cheddar will do the trick). Bake as per the flatbread instructions.

Simple Pleasures

The Last Book I Read 1

September 13, 2016

This Is Where I Leave You by Jonathan Tropper

First things first, let me tell you that when it comes to books I love a domestic drama. I like realistic stories that expose the frailty of the human condition and where characters and their flaws are laid bare. I realise that this genre often walks a fine line between chick lit and modern literature, but my pretentiousness always ensures I stay firmly on the latter side.

The last book I read is all of that last paragraph. I’d seen it mentioned in various places and just reading the description I knew it was my dream book – at the time I was going through a reading slump where I just wasn’t finding anything fulfilling. This Is Where I Leave You was the perfect tonic.

It is one of those books that you can’t put down, but that you hate to read too fast because you don’t want it to end.

The Blurb

“Judd Foxman has the life he always thought he’d have. Good job, loving wife and a perfect house in the suburbs. That is, until he arrives home to find his wife in bed with his boss.

To prove things can always get worse, Judd is summoned back to his childhood home – along with the rest of his highly dysfunctional family – to mourn for his recently deceased father. Seven days, all together, back in the family home where no one got along the fist time around…”

This Is Where I Leave You - Jonathan Tropper

What I Thought

One thing I kept thinking when reading was that I definitely understand men better. You spend all your time in the unfiltered and frank mind of the narrator, Judd, which provides an incredibly honest ‘man’s eye view’ of the world. Pretty enlightening, to say the least.

I loved the completely unsympathetic characterisation of this dysfunctional family, and the believably ludicrous and wit-filled scenarios they got into. I loved slowly unpeeling the family histories and seeing the roots of the characters’ neuroses. Now that I’ve finished reading I kinda miss Judd’s mental mother.

Above all, the complexities of love/lust/hate/hurt, and how they affect real people’s lives rather than literary characters lives, was excellently drawn and engrossing to follow.

Try If You Like

Unreliable narrators, dysfunction, witty writing, small town American settings, complex emotions and relationships.

Crafts Simple Pleasures

How To Learn Calligraphy

September 9, 2016

When I was about 8 my mum booked for me to go to a calligraphy workshop at our local museum, but when we tipped up it turned out it had been the week before. This, quite unreasonably, is something I’ve never quite been able to get over.  Since then I’ve fawned over all types of calligraphy from medieval manuscripts to my best friend’s handwriting.

I’ve recently realised that actually learning calligraphy could cure my burgeoning quote print obsession and save a lot of money on birthday cards. Plus, I’d get to scratch that 18 year itch. So, on something of a whim, I booked onto the first calligraphy class within a 100 mile radius I could find.

Image by Judy Broad @jbcalligraphy

Image by Judy Broad @jbcalligraphy

The winner was Judy Broad’s two and a half hour calligraphy workshop in Cobham (she hosts others in Wandsworth too). I don’t want to bore you with the ins and outs, just know it was an engrossing and therapeutic afternoon in a shed full of brides. So addictive was it that I went straight home, got out a chopping board (still eagerly awaiting an actual desk) and started practising.

Whether you want a new hobby, an alternative to adult colouring books, to become more self-sustainable with your cards and gifts or, like me, have a calligraphy-based childhood trauma, it is a craft I recommend trying out.

There’s no need to fork out for a course straight away; I’ve included Judy’s top tips, the basics of starting out and my amateur observations to help you get going at home…

(I have used some of Judy’s images as they are more inspiring than my own scralls. I have credited these throughout).

Image by Judy Broad @jbcalligraphy

Image by Judy Broad @jbcalligraphy

Six Tips For Starting Out In Calligraphy

1) Don’t hold a pen like I hold a pen

The positioning of the nib is vital for creating the right lines. Firstly, the nib should lie parallel to the paper. When you’re holding the pen, the full tip of the nib should be touching the paper, en pointe like a ballerina. I had a tendency to hold it flat and on one side, like my 6th form self in cheap Ugg boots. This led to a first hour of corrections from Judy. Keep the end of the pen high, but not too high, to achieve this – you want it resting on the knuckle of your finger like so:

Your hand should look like this...

Your hand should look like this…

...and not like this!

…and not like this!

2) It’s all about pressure

I’m not sure what I thought made the pretty shapes, but it turns out pressure is key. On downstrokes you apply more pressure, creating a thick line, on upstrokes you apply to pressure, creating a thin line. In principal, yes, that’s easy, but measuring your pressure and knowing when to apply it is where the art form comes in. As you can see from my practice strokes, inconsistency is a constant danger. Pressure in the wrong place can make ugly blotches, and not enough pressure in upstrokes can cause gapping. An hour in and practising letters, however, and you begin to get your eye in and feel how it should flow.

3) Think narrow, and think oval

I have included my practice A’s here because I think they look rather like those diagrams of the evolution of man (if nothing else take from this how quickly and easily you can see improvements). I had a tendency to make my letters too big and spacious, whereas Judy’s are all neat and narrow. Once I noticed that was where I was going wrong, I kept checking myself to keep things narrow and that really helped.

Calligraphy Letters

Your key shape in calligraphy is the oval. Ovals are super beautiful. Wobbly circles are not. Whether it was my first weird A or my attempts at flourishing, I have this tendency to round everything rather than make them ovular. Practise making oval shapes, and then give me some tips on how to do it).

4) They’re not letters, they’re strokes

On our course we learnt by doing to fundamental strokes that build up the letters. Once we got to the letters, I realised how important that was. When you go freestyle on a letter you can get the pressure all wrong and over-compensate with the flourishes leading to a word which resembles a three year old let loose with a make up bag (.i.e., a mess). However, when you think of a letter as a capital stroke combined with an oval, you know how to put it together.

Practice Strokes

5) It’s allowed to take your pen off the paper!

When I was taught handwriting in year 2, we could NEVER take our little HB pencils off the paper. But, revelation alert, to make beautiful flowy calligraphy writing it’s RECOMMENDED. In order to make sure each letter is perfect and built from your lovely strokes, take the pen off after each letter. Judy recommends you take the ‘tail of the letter to the mid-point of the line, and take a breath before joining the next letter to it. This helps you to think about what’s coming, and avoid scrawling by moving too quickly.

6) Look online for inspiration

One of Judy’s tips was to watch videos and look at inspiration on Pinterest – when she took up calligraphy years after learning it at school, that’s what she did. If you are starting out at home, watching how a professional moves and holds the pen is really really useful. Judy recommends following Molly Jacques, Laura Hooper, Molly Suber Thorpe and Paul Antonio.

 

Image by Just Broad @jbcalligraphy

Image by Judy Broad @jbcalligraphy

Have you tried calligraphy? Have you been to a great calligraphy workshop?