Until now I have done very little season shopping: I don’t think there is much that I really need and in general I love buying presents that will have some practical use.

On Sunday I visited the Old Spitalfields market with the idea of finding some presents… Sadly, I failed to find anything suitable. The market itself was nice to visit, but I was a bit disappointed that many stalls didn’t sell items of own production.

There were a few stalls with woollens and I didn’t resist the sheepy temptation for long! I went home with a woolly booty:

as well as some soap bars by All Natural Soap Co (handcrafted soaps, 100% palm oil free, made with olive oil and wild shea butter).

And this is a hand-knitted present (a self-aid charity put my commission through to a skilled knitter who made it). My friend will have a beautiful neck warmer and a knitter will have had work. The (free) pattern is Braidheart by Rose Anne.

After the failed attempt at the market, I resorted to the net, where I found some useful presents:

Fire Log Carrier Bag

A fire log carrier bag


Kneeler cushion for gardening


Seedling labels


Striped twine assortment


Twine in a tin


reusable muslin bags

(all but the first one were purchased from Burgon and Ball, an old British company based in Sheffield, England)

[disclaimer: as usual, I have no agreement and receive no compensation for mentioning items or brands]

Little Christmas markets


some of today's purchases

some of today’s purchases…

[Edit: this is a post from last week that was held in my drafts for want of pictures]

With Christmas almost around the corner, there have been a few local markets taking place. Originally we only knew of one of them, but walking up to the venue, we discovered another one on the way – so we had to check it as well 🙂

The “mystery” market was inside St. Stephen’s Church, Rosslyn Hill, a beautiful 19th century old parish church located not far away from Hampstead, London. As I was in a hurry to check out the stalls, I forgot to take any pictures… doh! Anyway, you can see some lovely & happy shots showing this beautiful church in this photojournalist article on a Scottish wedding in London (I think the photographer made a great job! do have a look at the link).

St Stephen's Church, source: St Stephen's Trust

St Stephen’s Church, source: St Stephen’s Trust

This unplanned visit turned out to be the deal of the day: the Christmas Fair hosted yummy food stalls of many types, many crafts (including knitted items), some assorted and vintage products, and even had a stall dedicated to pensioners (they could get a product pack at a very advantaged price), which was fairly crowded. The fair was lively and well attended, well worth the visit!

They had many nice things on sale, so there was constant temptation… In the end I purchased quite a few items, mostly those that had a practical use. To make up for the lack of pictures from the fair, I will show the purchases I made 🙂

♥ baby bed set

♥ baby bed set

This is a baby bed set, probably home made (it had no labels) and unused (mint condition): there is a duvet cover, a sheet and two mini pillow cases. For £6 it was an absolute deal. I’m planning to reuse the fabric, as I have no kids. Look at the stunning fabric pattern…. ♥

cute motifs

...more details...

…more details…

could I let the sheep go? clearly not

could I let the sheep go? clearly not

Short after, I spotted a table with really nice home products… I took an organic bubble bath for a new-born baby, scents for the house and assorted soap bars:

Organic baby bubble bath and house scents

Organic baby bubble bath and house scents

Sheep soap bar... how could I leave this?

Sheep soap bar… how could I leave this?

I have a weak spot for nice soap bars

I have a weak spot for nice soap bars

Apparently, there is a Christmas Vintage Fair coming up on 8th December, so if you’re nearby, you may want to pop in for a quick browse. More details on Pop Up Vintage Fairs webpage.

The other fair, which was the one we originally went out for, was taking place at the Rosslyn Hill Unitarian Church. A brief history of the pretty building courtesy of Wikipedia:

The chapel, which stands on Rosslyn Hill, was at first a simple wooden structure. Said to have been built in 1692 by Isaac Honeywood who lived in the adjoining mansion, the Red Lion Hill meeting house was first replaced in 1736 and then, having become unsafe, rebuilt in brick on roughly the same site in 1828. The current building (using the old brick chapel as its hall) was built from 1862 to 1885 in the Neo Gothic style. Two of the building’s stained-glass windows are by Edward Burne-Jones and William Morris and another is by Henry Holiday. […] Its stone arches and pointed ceiling vault give it an excellent acoustic, making it a popular recording venue.

The Hampstead Christmas Market hosted many crafts products and largely locally or UK made. They were beautiful but (understandably so) the price tag was more substantial and many were of little practical use to me (i.e. I hardly wear any jewellery). I remember a stall that had woollen traditional fabric capes made in the UK – absolutely gorgeous items at a reasonable price, but I would have no use for them; though, the brand name was a bit unfortunate: Moth (WTH???!). For the life of me I couldn’t find any online reference to the brand. There were many other lovely items, from customised paper, cards, sewn stuff to knit and decorations. But by that point most of my budget was depleted – I did buy one thing though, and gathered quite a few business cards for later 🙂

lavender bags make kit by Little Hands Design

lavender bags make kit by Little Hands Design

Lavender bag kits by Little Hands Design

This is a kit by Little Hands Design to make three cute lavender bags. I was impressed by the decorated fabric, so although I could have easily made some myself without purchasing the kit, I wanted that particular one 🙂 Plus, the kit includes all necessary bits and accessories in one neat pack for an affordable price and I can support a local business. Checking out their website, I noticed that they also offer sewing and crafts classes in London and may attend some when my budget is in a healthier state.

the embroidered fabric is really sweet

the embroidered fabric is really sweet

Ideas for the finished items, but each kit is different

Ideas for the finished items, but each kit is different

After the markets I still wanted to visit a last spot: there is a small bric-a-brac seller in Hampstead who usually has some interesting things at reasonable prices (that’s were the tartan blanket from my previous post comes from). I found some more bargains…

a bit of haberdashery for my stash

a bit of haberdashery for my stash

A very last info:

If you’re around London and love animals (sheep in particular), there is a festive event on the 15th December – Christmas Fayre at the Farm. At the last local fair they brought farm animals and I was able to pet a sheep or two for quite some time; this is the farm who provided the creatures. Kentish Town City Farm was founded over 40 years ago… obviously, I’ll be going! I can’t wait!!

Kentish Town City Farm - herdsman sheep

Herdsman and sheep, picture by Kentish Town City Farm

A history of London in pictures: the Hampstead Heath

Hampstead Heath, also locally known as The Heath, is an ancient natural park situated in North London, not very far from the Camden Town area. While Camden has a rather alternative flavour, the area of Hampstead Village is on the posh side. On one side of the heath, there is Hampstead Village, which has a long history and beautiful old houses. On the other side, there is Highgate Village, with its beautiful historic cemeteries (Karl Marx lies there).

The Heath has a gracious mix of various landscapes and landmarks: it includes beautiful woods, grassy hilly areas with breathtaking views on London, ponds, swimming ponds, bird areas, Kenwood House, a lido and some playgrounds.

Here it follows a gallery of views and places in the Heath and its surroundings (the photos are taken with my iPhone, so the quality is not the highest really!)

The area is really extensive and there is another set of photos taken in the surroundings of the Heath, including the Pergola, Whitestone, the Observatory and Hampstead Village… but that will have to be another post!

A history of London in pictures: Greenwich

Greenwich is a lovely village along the River Thames, a World Heritage Site just a short train ride from central London. The area has been in use since the Iron Age and the place was named Grénewic in Anglo-Saxon (translating approximately as ‘green dwelling place, village, town or bay’) [I took an Old English course while ago, but I sadly forgot almost all of it; it is a beautiful language, for a quick reference there are many source online, I used this dictionary]. The town was the birthplace of many in the House of Tudor, including Henry VIII and Elizabeth I.

There are many attractions for all audience types, from the local curiosity and vintage market, to the National Maritime Museum, the Observatory, the Meridian Line, the Queen’s House, the fully restored sail ship Cutty Sark, as well as the village itself with its maritime flair and holiday feel. One day may not be enough to visit it all – it’s not my first time there and I will surely need to return to view more of it (or simply view again interesting things).

IMG_1385piece from the Long John Silver Collection, the largest collection of Merchant Navy figureheads in the world, mostly dating from the 19th century: the collection is literally placed underneath the Cutty Sark – you’ll understand when you visit..

National Maritime Museum

The first stop is at the National Maritime Museum, with its collections related to Britain’s sea travels and encounters with other cultures – there you can find the uniform that Nelson wore at the Battle of Trafalgar. It also hosts temporary exhibitions, like the former “Titanic Remembered” (a few items can be seen below) and the current Ansel Adams’ “Photography from the Mountains to the Sea”, an extensive display of his black & white photos of landscapes, of which I particularly loved the sections on Snow & Ice and Geysers. In line with the exhibition theme, I acquired a suitable necklace (shown further below).

National Maritime Museum, postcards and objects from the exhibitions

Nelson's coat worn at the Battle of Trafalgar          Vice-admiral coat worn by Nelson at the Battle of Trafalgar; on the left shoulder there is a bullet hole, near to the epaulette

IMG_1432Elizabeth Mellenger wore this cape on the night Titanic sank, using it to help revive Second Officer Lightoller, who was dragged on board lifeboat 14

IMG_1434                First-class passenger Edith Rosenbaum (the journalist Edith Russell) wore these fine evening slippers when she abandoned Titanic in lifeboat 11

IMG_1430Prince Frederick’s barge, bow view

Miss Britannia II, speed vesselMiss Britannia II, speed vessel

"The Tetons and the Snake River"The Tetons and the Snake River, Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming, 1942. Photograph by Ansel Adams

IMG_1429camera necklace with long chainette and Swarovski crystals

The Royal Observatory is the home of the Prime Meridian of the world: since the late 19th century, the Prime Meridian at Greenwich has served as the reference line for Greenwich Mean Time (GMT); it was the official starting point for the new Millennium. Here are listed some more interesting facts about the Prime Meridian. The observatory also hosts a planetarium and many instruments, like the Harrison timekeepers (Harrison is the inventor of the Compound Pendulum and of several Time Keepers) and UK’s largest refracting telescope.

Royal_observatory_greenwich(photo by ChrisO, available here)

During the lunch break you can visit the local market housed in a courtyard in the village and taste one of the many British or exotic culinary offers, while looking at the curiosities, accessories, craft and vintage items on sale.

Greenwich Market


Finally, we can head for the pier and enter the old sail ship Cutty Sark, now fully restored and exhibiting some great artefacts and installations originally presented. The ship restoration works, after a recent fire and a long duty career (it first sailed on 1869), were completed just a year ago, and it is impressive to visit the result of so much careful work. I ab-so-lu-te-ly recommend it. A complete presentation of the Cutty Sark history is available on this page. Arranged over the ship decks, there are distinct areas presenting the products that this trade clipper used to transport, with mesmerising sections on China tea and wool.

the Cutty Sark sail ship

a tea timeline                      a tea timeline

tea container

tea container, detail                    tea container, detail

Australian sheep Australian sheep

sheep's woolly coat is cut offwool is combedcarding combswool is spun and knitted to make... your jumpera woolly poemCutty Sark's 1,250,000 jumpers

An impressive feature is that the ship is suspended above the lower ground, hosting further exhibition space (that’s were the figureheads are placed) as well as a cosy cafeteria, serving typical teas, coffee, refreshments and some tasty teacake similar to the one in this recipe.

IMG_1391standing under the ship

Cutty Sark the whiskyCutty Sark the whisky (one of the many memorabilia)

The visit is over for today, after so many interesting things, thoughts are storming the mind and it’s time to rest. Has this little overview inspired you to plan a day in Greenwich?

Have a woolly week and happy travel thoughts!

sheep wool