As many people share photos of their children heading out to schools and nurseries in fancy dress to raise money for “Children In Need” today, a piece I wrote a few years back resonates. It was originally published here in answer to the question: Are we letting our little girls down by dressing them in pink?
It was dress-up day recently at my two-year-old daughter’s nursery and the children were asked to come in a costume of their choosing.
Most mornings I deliver her just in time to enjoy a second serving of breakfast and as the table of toddlers begin to tuck into bowls of cereal many stop, mid-spoonful, to stare up at us whilst I struggle to take off her coat. It’s an amusing sight. But as I pushed open the door to the pre-school room that morning it was an amusing vision made all the more so with the addition of fancy dress. With spoons held aloft sat a fireman, a monster, a couple of policemen, a teddy bear and a Bumble-bee. And then I noticed the girls. Each one in the same shiny frilly polyester dress in varying shades of pastel pink and purple, most with a sparkly tiara-shaped hair band.
I left the Hawaiian surfer to tuck into her cereal and headed to the office, my head buzzing with determination. It wasn’t the fact the girls wore frilly dresses and sparkly headbands which irked me, it was that each one was dressed identically.
Some of Ruby’s many guises!
It saddened me to think that whilst the boys in my child’s playgroup that day pretended to be a variety of fun characters, the girls got to play just one role – a princess. Situations like those were why I took the decision last year to shift from designing womenswear and accessories to childrenswear and begin my own unisex label.
As a new mother who had moved to Britain after living more than a decade in France, I was shocked at the segregated aisles I found in most of the UK’s toy and clothes shops. Much emphasis seemed to be placed dangerously on a girl’s appearance whilst boy’s stuff encouraged action and valued toughness, the rainbow now divided up according to male or female.
The idea that a colour is synonymous with gender seems odd to me. I’m sure the sole reason is as an attempt by the manufacturers to squeeze more money from us and as a result, toy brands actively no longer encourage boys and girls to play together. Girls now learn from an increasingly early age that the pink stuff is for them, and dividing up the goods in this way means more sales.
The parents now deciding to raise their child as “gender-neutral” are no doubt responding to and challenging these stereotypes.
I don’t believe in hiding a child’s gender and what I do isn’t about rendering children genderless – nor is it about forbidding girls to wear dresses, or outlawing pink. It’s about not wishing our children to be defined or restricted by their gender.
Clothes for children should be built for sturdier purposes than the changing vagaries of style – to be passed from sibling to sibling, or friend to friend regardless of gender.
Many were shocked by the news of parents choosing to conceal their child’s gender. More worrying for me is what led the parents to make such a decision.
Although all parents need to think beyond the messages marketed and give their children a well-rounded childhood I believe ultimately responsibility lies with the manufacturers, designers, government and society as a whole. If we continue to force stereotypes then there will be consequences such as parents who feel the need to hide their child’s gender.
We should be providing our children with a childhood void of limitation, free from restrictions and full of opportunity.
By Kate Pietrasik | Tootsa MacGinty Founder / Designer.
Halloween is here again! We love this time of year – there is so much fun to be had dressing up, decorating pumpkins, and baking delicious treats.
Did you know Trick-or-Treating began in Scotland? The Scottish tradition of ‘Guising’ was first recorded in 1895, where masqueraders, in disguise as spirits of the dead, would carry lanterns made from scooped out turnips and visit homes to be rewarded with cakes, fruit and money.
If you’re looking for your own original and cosy Halloween outfit for Trick-Or-Treat night then why not consider our cheeky Pumpkin and Day of the Dead sweatshirts?
Or how about a greedy Owl jumper? ….team it with the printable owl mask below!
Last Halloween we brought you the Tootsa Day of the Dead Printable Mask and this year (due to popular demand) there is a brand new mask to print, colour, and wear…. a Spooky Owl. Print, get creative and hey presto, your “Guising” costume is well on its way!
Share your finished masks on social media with the hashtags #TootsaMacGintyComp and #OwlMask and on October 31st we will select 3 masks at random to be sent an owl sweatshirt. Good luck!
When it comes to decorating the house and getting creative for Halloween there are so many ideas out there. We have chosen our 8 favourite Halloween products and DIY crafting + baking options:
This month we welcome the return of annual International Walk to School Month (IWALK). Created by the Active & Safe Routes to School program, it is a mass celebration of ‘active transportation’, with over 40 countries encouraging primary school kids and parents to ditch the car and instead walk or wheel to school.
How do your kids get to school? For many families the car has become the main mode of transport for getting children to school, resulting in a decline in the numbers of kids walking and wheeling on a regular basis. Although it may seem more convenient to just jump in the car, IWALK raises some important themes that should be taken into consideration when choosing how to travel.
Convinced? Good! Well we wanted to make your walk to school even more fun and so we’ve created the Tootsa Printable Walk To School activity sheet for you to download.
This collection we have the very popular ESK 3-Way Reversible Jacket available in Ivy Green (below), and Loch Blue. This is a great option for school walks with the bright rainbow colour blocking on the back, and reflective piping and panel ensuring children stay warm, dry, and easily visible on those dark winter’s evenings.
Keep toasty with our beautiful hand knitted Fox Hats, Scarves and Mittens. Hand knitted in the UK from the softest blend of organically dyed, British farmed Corriedale, Merino and Alpaca, choose from Marmalade or Grey.
There is something lovely when the air loses its warmth and instead turns crisp and fresh. As we begin October, it’s fun to find cosy jumpers and socks, and start cooking more hearty, wholesome, and comforting dinners.
The changing of seasons is a great time to get kids interested in nature and wildlife – discovering tiny acorns, big shiny conkers and beautiful leaves in all shapes and sizes. There is so much to learn about from the science behind the changing colours of the trees, to the migration of the birds, and not forgetting our more sleepy friends heading into hibernation.
Autumn can also inspire lots of gorgeous crafting possibilities and, as the days grow shorter, it’s a perfect way to keep kids (and adults) busy in the evenings!
So to encourage your kids to get crafty, we’ve teamed up with toucanBox to give you the chance to win a three month Petite subscription! That’s a total of 6 toucanBoxes, delivered through your letterbox every fortnight.
toucanBox was founded by mother of two Virginie, who realised that sometimes “simply using household items” for projects was a little bit more tricky than it sounded – “I thought to myself, wouldn’t it be great if I could get a tailor made selection of materials and activities delivered to my door? A monthly treasure trove with educational and fun themes to keep the kids entertained in a productive way – all in one handy Box.”
Every craft comes equipped with all the materials needed for a fun educational project, a set of illustrated easy-to-follow instructions, as well as exclusive access to lots of extra content to help parents plan for further creative activities. It’s never been easier to create and play.
To enter and be in with a chance of winning, here’s what you have to do:
So, the kids are officially back to school. Hopefully they are happy about that and looking forward to being back in the classroom. Perhaps though the prospect of some subjects don’t fill your child with much joy? When I was at school, maths and science were the dreaded two – they always seemed unreachable, and certainly not enjoyable! I was a smart kid and got good grades but I could never really connect to, what seemed to me, very dull concepts – there was absolutely no creativity attached to subjects like Maths or Science.
Although there is still a long way to go, thankfully the approach to the teaching of STEM subjects has undergone some refreshing changes in recent times. If you are finding it tough to inspire your children we have highlighted some of Tootsa’s favourite fun, artistic, and exciting ways to engage in STEM.
There are tonnes of Mathematic Art Projects for kids out there to get them learning through colour and fun. The utterly fantastic blog What Do We Do All Day written by stay a home mum Erica is a great resource. Check out her activities for Pi Skyline, creating a colourful cityscape by graphing the numbers in Pi, Parabolic Curves, and Tessellations.
Earlier this year New York teacher Anna Weltman released This Is Not A Maths Bookwhich is full of fun drawing challenges with a mathematical basis. “Amazing patterns with a mathematical essence will be revealed as you follow the simple activity instructions”.
Kiwi Crate is a company devoted to getting kids curious and creative. They make three different boxes / kits that you can order online: Koala for 3-4 year olds, Kiwi for 4-8 year olds, and Tinker Crate for 9 – 16 year olds. The Tinker box concentrates on science and engineering and is a fantastic way to get your kids fired up. Their manifesto:
Combining art and maths is, of course, not a new concept. Throughout history, artists, scientists, and philosophers have been fascinated by the relationship. The ancient Egyptians and ancient Greeks employed mathematics to plan monuments including the Great Pyramid, the Parthenon, and the Colosseum, using constructs like the 3-4-5 triangle. In the Italian Renaissance Luca Pacioli wrote the influential treatise De Divina Proportione (1509), illustrated with woodcuts by Leonardo da Vinci, on the use of proportion in art. Another Italian painter, Piero della Francesca, made pioneering use of mathematics for perspective, developing ideas first put forward in Euclid‘s Optics in treatises such as De Prospectiva Pingendi, and applying this knowledge in his paintings.
In his Barbican talk Alex Bellos promises to “reveal the patterns in our universe and explore the beauty and wonder of maths in an imaginative, stimulating and completely undaunting way.” In his latest book, Snowflake, Seashell, Star – A Colouring Adventure in Numberland (available on 24th September), he worked with his mathematical artist friend Edmund Hariss to produce a fantastic series of patterns first to colour, and then to create, using simple mathematical rules.
Talking about the release he said: “This book has been incredibly fun and exciting to create. The patterns I’ve chosen are all doubly enjoyable – they are gorgeous to look at and colour in, but they also unlock hidden mathematical ideas.”
Fibonacci is another fantastic way to learn how to apply maths in art and a good way to introduce maths games for kids. The Rabbit Problem, by children’s author and illustrator Emily Gravett, is a great reference book for the theory – “How does 1+1 = 288? A family of rabbits soon supplies the answer! Hop along to Fibonacci’s Field and follow Lonely and Chalk Rabbit through a year as they try to cope with their fast expanding brood and handle a different seasonal challenge each month.”
The wonderful thing about all of the learning resources we have featured is that if you didn’t particularly enjoy STEM subjects when you were at school, you can re-learn too. So, when you are buying your geometric items from Hay, you’ll actually know the true maths behind that beauty!
With the days getting a little shorter and the weather … not so desirable … we are determined not to lose the colour of summer. So as Autumn and Back To School approach we want to bring the bright with us.
This season we introduce our fantastic colourful ESK 3-Way Reversible Jacket available in Loch Blue (below) and Ivy Green. It’s waterproof body, bright rainbow colour blocking on the back, and reflective piping and panel will ensure children stay warm, dry, and easily visible as the evenings get darker. With a warm woollen tartan and faux sheepskin lining, the jacket features removable sleeves that can be zipped off transforming it into a fabulous reversible gilet. 3 coats in 1!
To compliment the jackets colourful stripes, we have found a few more items for Back To School that will ensure there is a rainbow in every day.
Monkey: Not Ready for Kindergarten by Marc Brown- “soothes preschoolers’ worries about starting kindergarten. Monkey isn’t sure he’ll make new friends, like the snacks, or find the bathroom, but one by one his fears are assuaged as he realizes he’s perfectly ready to transition to the experience.”
Dory and the Real True Friend, by Abby Hanlon – “the sequel to Dory Fantasmagory and stars a wildly imaginative 6-year-old. Dory is starting first grade and and has to leave her imaginary friend Mary behind. At school, she meets equally imaginative Rosabelle, and the two have exciting adventures, many featuring the imaginary friends and foes from Book 1.”
This month Dr. Rebecca Hains, author of The Princess Problem, wrote about an incident that, although shocking, is unfortunately all too familiar for many parents. Whilst at their local YMCA swimming pool, a mother was told by staff that her one year old daughter had to cover up and wear a swimming top.
Tootsa’s unisex swim shorts – featured in Wildling Magazine, 08/15
Dr. Hains raises two important points as a result of this incident. Firstly, why would any adult think it necessary for a girl’s undeveloped chest to be covered? And secondly, at such an young age it is often difficult to know the gender of a child, so this type of rule clearly discriminates against what people may perceive to be feminine coloured swimming attire. If your one year old daughter was wearing blue swimming shorts, would she avoid the attention of over zealous staff? Similarly, what if your son wore pink swimming shorts? The gender discrimination is hard to miss.
Commenting on this incident professor of psychology Dr. Jennifer W. Shewmaker says, “Through this kind of behaviour as adults, we are teaching little girls that their bodies are sexual objects … Because culturally, we believe a female body is a sexual object for the pleasure of others. We have got to stop this nonsense. It’s teaching our girls very harmful messages about where their social power comes from, and about what makes them valuable as a human being.”
In a similar event occurred last month in Ontario; an 8 year old girl, who had taken off her t-shirt to join her brothers in the local wading pool, was told that she had to cover up. The policy was that girls over 4 years old had to wear a top. Her father later commented “She was so embarrassed and really nervous and scared because it appeared she was in trouble … You hope that never happens, but you know it’s going to eventually. Basically she’s eight years old, and she’s been sexualized by a stranger.” At such an early age we see how society teaches this little girl that there is something wrong with her body and that it needs to be covered up.
Tackling these types of unacceptable policies head on is so important because not only do they sexualise young girls, they very directly feed into the wider issue of what we now know as ‘body shaming’. And there are many examples of how this concept effects children from an increasinlgy younger age. You may remember back in April the “I hate my thighs” baby grow which was swiftly taken off the shelves due to a massive outcry on social media.
Employee Jason Evans took a picture of the purple baby grow hanging next to a blue one with the slogan ‘I’m Super’ in New York University’s Bookstore. He shared the image on Facebook saying: “I had a very difficult time not raging out about this in the college store. These are onesies…for infants…guess which one is for girls and which one is for boys? THIS is the problem.”
Earlier this year Children’s advocacy group Common Sense Media released a report about the media’s unrealistic beauty standards and its effect on kids self esteem.
Jennifer Swann of TakePart commented on the report – “The findings showed that 80 percent of the country’s 10-year-old girls have been on a diet, and more than half of girls even younger report not being as thin as they’d like to be. Boys also overwhelmingly say their weight causes the most dissatisfaction with their body. Many of them grew up playing with action figures, whose measurements now exceed those of even the biggest bodybuilders.”
Common Sense Media Infographic
Along with many others, here at Tootsa MacGinty we feel very passionately that we should #letclothesbeclothesand allow children to be children. We believe the unisex aspect of our clothing allows kids to just enjoy the fun and colourful side of clothes, rather than informing who they are, defining them by their gender and conforming to how they “should” look.
Why burden children with concepts such as gender identity when they have their whole lives ahead of them to discover who they would really like to be?
When the sun has got its hat on, lidos are always a great hit. There are so many across the UK dating back to the 1930s. Though many have been updated and refurbished, quite a few still exhibit that art deco charm. Although not all of them are free, family day passes are affordable and you can usually bring your own picnic.
Ok, not quite a lido … But we have had hours of fun in the water here. The square is animated with 1,000 choreographed fountains that squirt and splash in patterns – a massive hit with kids – and beautiful at night. Bring a picnic, grab some deck chairs and your afternoon is sorted – and totally free! (Adults, grab a coffee-to-go from Caravan – top notch!)
On accepting the title he vowed to keep the visual literacy of children the focus of his term, “I am humbled to take on this role after the giants that have come before me. I want to put the joy of creativity, of drawing every day, of having a go and being surprised at what one can achieve with just a pencil and an idea at the heart of my term as Laureate.”
His publishers Pan MacMillan said, “He will also work to widely celebrate and defend school libraries and librarians who, together with parents, match children with books that will inspire and help them grow into great readers and thinkers. He intends to emphasise the excitement of illustration at live events, both alone and with unexpected collaborators from across the arts.”
Pan MacMillan have loads of wonderful Chris Riddell activities on their website, including a sneak peak into his sketchbook to see how certain characters came to life.
We love these ones -
If you want to keep up with his most recent sketches, check out his twitter – he often posts new ideas there – @chrisriddell50
Riddell’s attitude of “just give it a go and see what happens” is right up our street – that’s why drawing is so much fun! Here are some crafty supplies that will get your budding artist in the mood to create -
Fancy winning a Tootsa MacGinty voucher? Then read on …
We just know that there are lots of Tootsa-MacGinty-wearing artists out there and we really want to celebrate all your talents!
Design an outfit for Sven the fox, Polly polar bear, Claude the lion, Basil bear, or Maude the cat!
Our favourites will be shared on the blog and one lucky artist will win some Tootsa goodies!
How to enter:
Choose and print out your Tootsa character, design their outfit and share their new looks using the hashtag #tootsaprintables or email them to us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Closes at the end of July.
With Father’s Day this Sunday, we chat to father and primary school teacher James Ross.
We ask him about education, the challenges and rewards of working with kids, and his experience of raising a little girl.
Tootsa: What or who inspired you to become a teacher?
James: My dad used to be a teacher, and I think that a passion for sharing knowledge runs in my family. But it wasn’t until my daughter, Evie, was born – and the fact that she doesn’t live with me – that I realised how many children go through their early years without a day-to-day male role model. I thought through primary teaching I could help, and decided to pursue teaching as a career.
Tootsa: Working in education certainly has its challenges. What is it about the job that you love and find rewarding?
James: The only real challenge is the bureaucracy surrounding the school system in the UK that can stifle so many good teachers! Of course some children can be difficult, but it’s getting through to them, and getting them to engage with and make progress in their education that makes the job so rewarding. For me there is nothing better than hearing children discuss in the playground what they have read or heard in a lesson, or coming back the next day with questions about something they have learnt.
Tootsa: Do you have any activities for parents of children already in primary school who are finding reading or writing challenging?
James: Be positive and enthusiastic yourself! Children are like sponges: if you delight in reading with/to your children (or at least for their sake pretend that you do!) it will be a fun experience for you both. Children love stories, so try to weave them into everything they see and do. Make sure that they enjoy reading and writing and don’t see it as a chore. Praise them for effort… and persevere!
If you have a really reluctant reader, don’t think of books as the only option. Put subtitles on when they watch films; comics or simple worded picture books work too. Find a format and context that works for your child.
Tootsa:Do you have any fun ways to introduce pre-school children to maths?
James: Blimey! Well, sums in themselves are a pretty abstract concept, and numbers still confuse me at times! But whatever you do, make it easy to relate to. Use things they are familiar with, don’t talk too much and let them ‘do’. Practical maths where children can touch, feel and move objects is a vital way to gain an understanding. Do activities together, and make them entertaining!
Tootsa: These days some children are able to use iPads and laptops before they can even talk! Can you recommend any fun educational apps or websites for children?
James: There is a wealth of choice on the market these days, and different formats work for different children. The secret is for the children to be learning without realising it… there is a series of ‘games’ called Toca Boca which my daughter absolutely loves. They are simple, informative and gentle; children can play at being a chef, a vet, a fashion designer… and it helps hand-eye co-ordination whilst being fun at the same time.
For slightly older children I would recommend ‘Mathletics’. It is suitable for all primary school children, and combines exercises on all aspects of maths, has fun challenges, and they can even play games against other children from all over the world. There is a useful tool that enables you to track their progress, and helps pick the most suitable activities for them.
Tootsa: You have a 3 year old daughter. What do you recognise as the challenges for a father bringing up a little girl?
James: My biggest challenge is ensuring I can maintain a strong influence in her life. It’s great now she is old enough to ‘FaceTime’ when we are apart so we can interact more naturally, although this does involve long periods looking at her ceiling as she draws me a picture or bounces on her bed! I have all of my holidays with her and we have a very strong bond, but dealing with the time apart doesn’t get any easier.
Other than that I have two main issues… PINK and PRINCESSES! Don’t get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with either in moderation, but the gender-stereotyping that surrounds our children is horrifying. I am pleased to say that Evie loves to dress as IRONMAN and is obsessed with cars. But try to find either of these things on the high street, and – guess what? – we have to go the ‘boys’ section!
Tootsa: What are your favourite places to take your daughter which are great for learning as well?
James: What I love about being with children is that they learn wherever they are! Be it at the supermarket, in the park, at the breakfast table, or on the train. They have a natural curiosity that should be nurtured. My favourite outings with Evie are walks in the woods, and we both love castles! There is nothing better than dashing around them, making up stories or, if granddad is there, being told what really happened… which is usually just as exciting!
Tootsa: With father’s day this week, what advice have you received from the male figures in your life that you will pass on?
James: My dad would always say, “It doesn’t matter what you do, so long as you have done your best.” It didn’t sit well with me as a teenager, but growing up and then becoming a dad I realise just how true it is. As a parent, so long as you do the best job you can, putting your child’s happiness and well-being first, no one could ask more of you.
“Learning should be much more fun and former children’s laureate, million-selling author, broadcaster, father of five and all-round national treasure, Michael Rosen wants to show you how. Forget lists, passing tests and ticking boxes, the world outside the classroom can’t be contained within the limits of any kind of curriculum – and it’s all the better for it.
Long car journeys, poems about farting, cake baking, even shouting at the TV can teach lessons that will last a lifetime. Packed with enough practical tips, stories and games to inspire a legion of anxious parents and bored children,Good Ideas shows that the best kind of education really does start at home.”
We have gathered together a few gifts for all those fathers out there. If they weren’t daddy cool before, they certainly will be after receiving one of these!
Fruit and fashion go together like, well, apples and pears. We love the slices of fruity delights popping up at the moment. It all started back in 2012 – Prada featured Bananas, Stella McCartney had the Citrus, and Moschino brought the Apples – and, ever since, the fruit salad has been here to stay.
So, there’s no excuse for not having your 5 a day – especially when you can wear it on your face, in your hair and on your feet …
The summer holidays are just around the corner, so why not make up a batch of delicious and healthy fruit popsicles / ice lollies. The perfect hot day snack and a fantastic way to get fruit into the kids diet. We can guarantee there will be no complaints!
Here are three minimal effort recipes we have discovered:
Introducing our first ever range of Espadrilles.
Handcrafted on the Landaise Coast in South West France, these bright and colourful summer shoes have proved to be a great hit with both the kids and their parents!
Whether on the beach, in the garden, or off on an adventure, we think they are the perfect throw-on summer shoe for kids. Made from 100% cotton, with a jute inner and a natural Spanish rubber outer sole, they will be comfortable enough for children to wear all day long – ideal for the fast approaching summer holidays.
At only £15, our six styles are now available at the Tootsa MacGinty shop, sizes 22 – 32 (subject to availability):
The history of the ‘humble’ Espadrille is a colourful and exciting one. In the thirteenth century Basque mine workers, Pyrenean priests, and even the King of Aragon’s infantry wore the easy-to-wear shoe. Espadrilles with ribbon ties (known as ‘Espardenya’) were worn by the Sardana dancers of Catalan’s national dance. The name itself originates from the species of plant ‘Esparto’ that was braided to create the infamous, coiled jute, Espadrille sole.
Popular with both men and women in France and Spain, it was not long before the footwear spread across the whole of Europe. By the 1940s and 50s they began appearing on the feet of Hollywood style icons across the Atlantic!
Clockwise – Humphrey Bogart, Grace Kelly, Rita Hayworth and Salvador Dali.
In the 1970s the shoe really came into its own when Yves Saint Laurent introduced the famous wedge Espadrille. Since then they have featured in just about every Spring / Summer season, in many different shapes and guises!
Our kids Espadrilles have been made by Mr and Mrs Arauzo in their small, family run factory (featured in the video below) since 1960. As well as developing mechanical techniques, they also very much preserve the “traditional and indispensable” hand-stitched methods.
There are so many gorgeous, on-trend Espadrille options available at the moment. The age old issue of comfortable summer shoes that are also stylish seems to have been solved.
We are absolutely thrilled to announce that Tootsa MacGinty took home the childrenswear award at the prestigious UK Fashion & Textile Awards.
The awards recognise the best of British brands with a judging panel including fashion luminaries Henry Holland, Colin McDowell, Anita Barr, and Melanie Rickey.
The glamourous evening was hosted by the gorgeous Amber Le Bon and Jack Guinness -
Taking place at Tobacco Docks, London, the event was attended by many names in the business, including Mary Portas (doesn’t she look great!), UKFT patron HRH Princess Anne, the ever dapper Henry Holland, and witty George Lamb.
The Childrenswear Award was presented by musician and mother Sophie Ellis Bextor who, we are delighted to say, added that Tootsa MacGinty was her “personal favourite”!!
A very proud Kate and James with HRH Princess Anne, Sophie Ellis Bextor, Amber Le Bon, and Jack Guinness -
“I am absolutely thrilled Tootsa MacGinty is now recognised alongside some of the best brands in the UK. To be chosen for this award by some of the finest in the fashion industry proves that age appropriate, unisex clothing for children can be done with style, creativity and colour” – Kate (Tootsa MacGinty founder/designer).
We want to say a huge THANK YOU to all of our loyal, faithful customers. We wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for your continued commitment and support.
It has never been so fashionable to have green fingers. We have certainly been inspired by the recent surge of terrariums, planters and colourful accessories available. And, for those of us who are garden-less, the stylish options for bringing the green indoors are endless.
So we wanted to speak to someone who knows her stuff when it comes to plant life and gardening tips.
Sophy Lennon lives in London and is a freelance garden designer. She is mother to three children, 9, 7 and 5 years old.
Today we ask her how to get kids excited about the outside, and some advice on making our lives a little more green.
Sophy Lennon & her children
Tootsa:When did you decide you wanted to pursue a career in garden design?
Sophy: Plants, planting and re-design have always been a favourite pastime, but it was only when I designed a garden for a friend as a favour that I realised I could make a career change. Last summer I finished a three year diploma in Garden Design and I am now enjoying designing gardens for a living.
Tootsa: What are your earliest memories of gardening?
Sophy: From an early age I helped in the garden. I used to have my own flowerbed, which I re-designed when I was seven. My grandfather loved growing vegetables and flowers. I have fond memories of sewing seeds, tying canes and picking sweetpeas. It was always fun to visit and see how they were doing. Spelling was never my strong point, but my granny insisted I learn the Latin for each plant in her garden. I thought she was eccentric but it has helped enormously.
Sophy’s children cutting sunflowers
Tootsa: Do you garden with your children?
Sophy: My children love being in the garden but they are young and want quick results. They grow herbs, strawberries, sweetpeas, sunflowers and lots of bulbs. My daughter grew beans last year and my son made wigwams with bamboo sticks for them to grow on.They also enjoy visiting gardens, picking and pressing flowers, as well as fruit picking.
Tootsa: What type of activities would you suggest an adult could enjoy with young children to get them involved in plant life?
Sophy: Children love looking, exploring and collecting. I-spy and nature spotting books can get them thinking about plants as well as insects and birds. Kew Gardens, The National Trust and RHS have a good selection of activities for children. When gardening with children, the main rule is; don’t be too precious, experiment and have fun. Keep a diary. If it doesn’t work out hypothesise why and try it another way. If you have space, a child might like his or her own border or a large pot to create a fairy or troll garden. Try sunflowers, calendula, poppy, coriander, chives, sweet basil, carrots and beans.
The National Trust Community Garden section of Trengwainton
Tootsa: At this time of year what should we be planting that are easy to maintain?
Sophy: Now it’s getting warmer, you can plant many things directly outside, for example: sunflowers, nasturtiums, poppies, cornflowers, nigella, lettuce, carrots, peas, runner beans, chives and coriander. Check you plant them in the right place and don’t forget to water them.
Tootsa: Terrariums and succulent planters have become increasingly popular recently, what would your advice be when buying these?
Sophy: I have seen some beautiful terrariums and succulent planters lately. They look great all year round as long as they are in a sunny, sheltered location and watered sparingly. They don’t like wet feet, so good drainage is key. A straggly plant is probably reaching out for better light conditions.
Tootsa: For those of us with no garden, what tips do you have for window boxes and maximizing the green in our lives?
Sophy: I am a strong believer in choosing the right plant for the right place. Think about whether the box will sit in the sun or shade, a windy or sheltered site, and choose plants that will thrive in that position. You can have a lot of fun putting different plant combinations together, but don’t forget watering is a must!
Tootsa: Where are your favourite places to buy garden furniture and accessories?
Sophy: I am a fan of bespoke seating with storage and cushions made in a fabric of choice. I also love the Cacoon hanging chair. It is fun for adults and children, reasonably priced and looks good in a modern garden. Go Modern and Habitat are also in my address book!
Tootsa: We know your kids are fans of Tootsa MacGinty, do they have any favorites from the Spring Summer collection?
They love the bright colours. My daughter loves the dresses with big pockets so she can collect flowers and shells.
Need some activities for kids in the garden? We have sourced a few child friendly garden items that are sure to add a bit of excitement and fun to the idea of spending time outside -
“Africa Utopia returns for its third year in 2015. The festival looks at what can be learnt and celebrated from Africa and the African diaspora.
We explore how African art and ideas can change the world for the better: how Africa can lead the way in thinking about culture, community, technology, fashion, sustainability and ethical wealth creation.
Some of the continent’s most iconic musicians and artists appear at the festival and take part in the debates alongside experts, entrepreneurs and activists.
Highlights from last year included performances from the godfather of ethio-jazz, Mulatu Astatke, and Kinshasa Symphony Orchestra, the extraordinary self-taught orchestra and chorus from Kinshasa, who performed in London for the first time.”
Tootsa MacGinty stockist Jenn Cattaui founded children’s wear shop Babesta in 2004. As well as the online store (Babesta.com), she now has three stores in New York – two in Tribeca and the most recent at Brookfield Place. She was Chief Editor at Earnshaw’s Magazine, and has been executive editor at several fashion magazines. She is mother to two daughters, Amina and Camille.
Today, we chat Mother’s Day, New York and career changes …
Tootsa: You have described your career trajectory as “atypical”, from studying law to running two children’s wear boutiques, via journalism. How did you go from law to specialising in children’s wear journalism?
Jenn: It was over some time, but I graduated law school and then worked for Ernst & Young in their tax law consulting practice. I thoroughly enjoyed that but then had the opportunity to move to Paris and couldn’t pass that up! I ended up moving out of tax law (I had focused on state and local tax law, not so relevant in Paris!) and ended up working at the Institute of World Business Law. While in Paris, I was freelance writing for different magazines on the side for fun. In 2001 I moved back to NYC and bought a place in Tribeca. It was right before September 11th and I had been interviewing in various legal/finance related positions. After 9/11, like many people, I re-evaluated what I was doing and what I wanted to do. It made you think about your career in a different way. I ended up pursuing journalism on a full time basis. I worked at a range of magazines focused on celebrities, pets, women’s fashion, and NYC lifestyle. I met some really inspirational entrepreneurs which definitely made a lasting impact. My last mag was an edgy fashion mag and, when I was pregnant, I started looking into edgy fashion for kids. It was the beginning of a movement of niching up the kids’ industry and I found that really compelling. Babesta started online in 2004 as a side project while I was still in media, but it grew into a full time business and ultimately where I hope to make a mark!
Tootsa: What inspired you to open a children’s wear boutique?
Jenn: I had been selling cool rock & roll and pop culture based clothing online since 2004. Then, in 2007, I stumbled upon a location that I thought would be perfect for a brick and mortar store. Everything came together and I went for it. It has been a tremendous adventure and learning experience and I’ve loved this exciting challenge.
Tootsa: You have opened a second boutique in New York. Are there any more Babesta boutiques planned and would you like to bring the store to other cities?
Jenn: We actually just opened our third, at Brookfield Place. We have two boutiques in Tribeca – one dedicated to clothing and accessories, and the other dedicated to furniture and gear. We’ll see where we go for now. Short term, I’m focusing on this new shop at Brookfield, but am open to opportunities in places that could use and appreciate a fresh baby & kids scene!
Tootsa: Since you started working in the children’s wear industry, what changes have you seen in terms of what clothes parents are buying for their children?
Jenn: I think that parents take more risks and have fun with the clothes. Boys styles are definitely changing and there are many more choices and cooler, less traditional things happening there. There are fewer gender rules which I love.
Tootsa: Being a parent and running your own business is a very demanding schedule! What do you do to relax?
Jenn: Go for a jog, play tennis and binge watch Netflix, Showtime & HBO. Read in a sunspot and research fun places to travel next.
Tootsa: Mother’s Day in the US is fast approaching, what is on your gift wish list?
Jenn: We love our “Word to Yo Mama” tees that we have made for the occasion! We do a sort of Jersey Shore meets downtown hipster in our shop with our heat press tees and that’s our latest exclusive design for all the moms out there!
Tootsa: What advice have you received from the women in your life that you will pass on to your two daughters?
Jenn: Be bold, be kind and have fun. Never think “I can’t”. Go for it.
Tootsa: What are your favourite family New York destinations?
Jenn: I love being out along the water in NYC! Battery Park City and up the Hudson River – there are a bunch of parks to visit, stretches of lawn, all looking over the water. The girls love the parks there because of the sprinklers in the summer and all of the lawn games. I love hitting the marina when it’s packed with mega yachts and grabbing a picnic lunch from Hudson Eats with the family on a lazy Sunday. There’s also a restaurant that docks during the summer called Grand Banks that we love going to – it’s a boat where you can have a drink and a bite literally on the water.
I love the MET and the MOMA – both have great programming for kids and I’m totally looking forward to the new Whitney in Meatpacking! Someday we will do that sleepover at the Natural History Museum – its always intrigued me. We often hit the 2-fer booth down at the Seaport to grab inexpensive tickets to shows we haven’t seen. I always need my NY culture fix!
Tootsa: Babesta has been selling Tootsa MacGinty for 3 seasons now. What are your favourite picks from the SS15 collection?
Jenn: I always love the Tootsa line – it’s so much fun, great colors and the knits are out of this world. I love the knit hippo sweater and the leopard harem pants (great shape!!!) but I think hands down one of my favorite Spring Summer musts is the uber-retro super cool quilted sunrise jacket. We’ve had both girls and boys buy it and rock it! It’s simply awesome!
Tootsa MacGinty featured in the Spring Summer 2015 Babesta Beat online magazine -
Kate Carter is life and style editor at the Guardian, and also edits the Running Blog. She has run two marathons and is training for two more this year – London and Berlin. She has two daughters, Lily, six, and Rosalie, three. Rosalie is the family fashionista, and would prefer that everyone wear Tootsa McGinty, preferably accessorised with welly boots and ear muffs at all times. Including heat-waves!
Today we ask her about how running has become so key to her life, and how on earth she fits it all in!
Kate Carter and Haile Gebrselassie
Tootsa: Who or what inspired you to start running?
Kate: To be honest, I’d love to say I had some great inspirational moment – and I’ve certainly always loved watching running and athletics generally – but to be honest it was just practical! I was on maternity leave with my youngest daughter, wanted to get a bit fitter and healthier again, and running was the most efficient way to do that! If you have 20 minutes, you can do a 20 minute run. Any other sport requires getting somewhere else, changing.. all that faff! With running you can put on your shoes and go.
Tootsa: You’re a busy working Mum – are you able to run regularly?
Kate: Yes I run six days a week. You do have to be pretty determined sometimes, when it’s 6am on a winter morning and you are knackered! But in the week, I often run to work, or home from work, or at lunchtime. At the weekend I train with my running club on Saturday mornings, then do my long run very early on Sundays.
Kate Carter and her daughter Lily
Tootsa: Why is running important to you?
Kate: Oh, so many reasons. I value the time by myself of course. But I just love running. Before I started, I would have thought all runs are much the same, but every one is different. Whether it’s different distance, weather, terrain … sometimes I hate it, and feel awful – but then feel even better when I’ve finished. I don’t think I’ve ever regretted going for a run; well, apart from the one the other day where I got completely lost in some road diversions and was late back …
Tootsa: You ran the London Marathon – what tips would you give a beginner thinking about training for a marathon?
Kate: I’d say two things: respect the distance, but also, enjoy it! When it comes to training, find a really good plan (unfortunately there are some rubbish ones out there) and stick to it. When you start having to do the long runs, don’t worry if they are really, really hard. You might do 18 or 19 miles and feel utterly broken and think “how on earth can I do 26.2?” – but you will! The training is harder than the race. On race day, just enjoy it. And every day for the next week or so you will wake up thinking “I RAN A MARATHON. I ROCK”.
Tootsa: What do you eat in preparation for a marathon?
Kate: For breakfast that day? Just normal – I always have a bagel or toast. One bit with peanut butter, one with marmalade. I know, wildly exciting, right? For dinner the night before a bit of a carb-load but that just really means one big bowl of pasta or pizza or something. Unfortunately, carb-loading doesn’t mean eating every bit of bread, pasta or potato in sight. I wish.
Kate Carter cross country running
Tootsa: What’s in your running kit?
Kate: Ha, well my husband would probably say, “What ISN’T?” I do have a lot of kit. Clothing depends on the weather of course, but things I will never be without are good running shoes (I race in Asics but usually do long runs in Nikes) and my Garmin 620. That tells me pace, distance, cadence.. pretty much does everything except run for me. I listen to music when I run too so an iPod shuffle is always in the bag. I love Nike clothes, and Lululemon is a new obsession. There’s some really great small brands too, doing gorgeous premium stuff, like Ashmei or Iffley Road
Tootsa: Do you encourage your children to do sport?
Kate: Yes, absolutely. Just to try and show them all the options, give them a love of it early on. Lily, who is six, does Junior Parkrun with me sometimes – but I am careful never to pressure her, only if she feels like it. I don’t want her to think of it as a chore, just fun. I certainly don’t want her to care about times or speed or anything. Her little sister, who is just three, does Small Sports at nursery and loves it. She’s pretty good at rugby tackling me to the ground, too …
Tootsa: How else do you like to unwind?
Kate: Drawing – if I ever get the time. Reading. Or lying in bed, reading for about 30 seconds before passing out with my book on my face.
Kate’s daughter Rosalie wearing Tootsa MacGinty
Tootsa: Being a working parent is tricky but also rewarding – how do you manage your work/life balance?
Kate: Probably badly! It always feels like fire-fighting, rather than planning, but we scramble through somehow! It’d be a darn site easier if I had a PA, a butler and a chauffeur, mind.
Tootsa: What do you enjoy doing with your family at the weekends?
Kate: The girls always seem to have something on – a birthday party, or play date with friends. I wish I had their social life! When we do have some free time they love doing crafty things, or “arts and crafts” as they rather more grandly put it. Also, making cakes is always a favourite (as is eating them afterwards, obviously) and going to the local park to play.
Tootsa: Finally, we know you are a Tootsa MacGinty fan, what are your favourites from Tootsa MacGinty’s new SS15 collection?
Kate: Oh I am a sucker for animals so I love it all. I’ve already bought the denim smock dress for Lily, and I love all the shorts. Then I love the Peekaboo lion sweatshirt – and the cross stitch ones. Basically all of it. The last collection was amazing too – I am a panda-holic so it could not have been more appealing to me!
Today we are delighted to launch our limited edition hand painted Porter Colline for Tootsa MacGinty Pegs! Wearing Tootsa MacGinty jumpers, this fashionable pair will bring instant colour and joy to your home. They are the perfect gift to yourself, or, if you’re very selfless, someone else.
Exclusively available at the Tootsa MacGinty shop you will have to be mighty quick if you want some! Click HERE to get yours.
So, to celebrate their arrival, we chatted to the busy artist herself – the very talented Carrie Hill. We talk pegs, China Town, inspiration, and Instagram.
(Carrie Hill and her son)
Tootsa: We are really excited to be selling your beautiful and unique peg characters. How did you come up with the idea?
Carrie: My first batch of pegs were borne of a random find in Camden Passage Market. I was making a promo for the TV company I was working for at the time, and was on the desperate hunt for vintage kid’s alphabet blocks, but found none. I saw the blank pegs and bought them with no clue what I was going to do with them, and indeed did absolutely nothing with them for years. One day I had them on my desk at the same time as some paints, and decided I’d dress them! A few friends said they liked them and one of those friends was Tootsa MacGinty’s Kate, who used them, and other props, for your SS13 photo shoot (see below). She then borrowed them to dress her London trade show stand where Molly Meg spotted them. The rest is history.
Tootsa: Following the arrival of your son you had a change of career. Was this something you had always wanted to do?
Carrie: Hmm, yes and no. I’ve always made things, I can’t remember a time I didn’t. But, never for sale, and never so publicly. I had always thought that it would change how I felt about making things if I had to work to deadlines. I also didn’t know if I had it in me to be creative on demand, or indeed consistently.. I had always imagined I’d go back to work in TV. I still never say never, but I had never imagined how much I’d enjoy painting tiny peg folk and seeing them disappear off around the world.
Tootsa: Working for yourself has so many benefits, but how do you stay disciplined and focussed?
Carrie: With a 4 yr old only in nursery for 3 hours a day, and a partner that travels frequently for work, I have to say, it’s a challenge. Looming deadlines are an amazing motivator! Truth be told it’s a ‘work when you can, where you can’ scenario. Very often I’m to be found at my desk, dinner by my side, working when my son is asleep. And my top tip is podcasts. It feels less like work with a fascinating podcast, a cup of tea and the rest of the household asleep!
Tootsa: Where do you gather inspiration?
Carrie: I follow over 4000 Instagram accounts, it’s insane. I adore looking at lots of Japanese accounts, vintage homeware accounts, interiors, clothing, pattern and colour enthusiasts and find so much inspiration there.
I’m a self-confessed internet addict, I love all the usuals, Pinterest of course, and Flickr also has fantastic photo pools of people with amazing collections. I love vintage advertising annuals, children’s books and second hand bookstores I cannot so much as pass without quickly having a look at old covers and colourways. I love found objects, and am constantly looking at the ground, picking up glittery bits and papers for future use. I have desktop folders brimming with images I’ve saved since the dawn of the internet, and real life paper folders full of cuttings from before that!
Tootsa: Are there specific places that you like go to?
Carrie: Hands-down in every single city I’ve ever lived in, Chinatown. The colour, the packaging, the food, the oddities in the over-stuffed shops have always and always will delight and inspire me.
Tootsa: How do you strike a balance between work and family?
Carrie: Ooh, sore point. I don’t. My son starts school in September and as much as I will never wish away these precious days with him, I am looking forward to having the week days to devote to Porter Colline. An Etsy shop is long overdue and I have no fewer than 8 overstuffed Moleskines with sketches and ideas waiting to be realised “when I have more time!”
Tootsa: As well as being commissioned by us you have worked with Boden (images above) and have created items for Molly Meg, can you let us in on what exciting projects you are working on at the moment?
Carrie: Right now I’m concentrating on custom peg orders. Families, wedding pegs, anniversary pegs, place settings, party bags, on and on. I’m forever inspired by the ideas others have for me to realise. Instagram really has changed my life and I make pegs for people all around the world. I love the custom orders as they involve such a lovely exchange. I get photos and stories sent to me to work with, and it’s a slower more experimental process. It just so happens that it’s also a perfect way of maximising these last precious months before I send my little boy off into the world of full-time school as I can take longer on each commission. I’m very lucky and grateful for the ability to tailor this little business to my real life.
Tootsa: We love seeing what delights you are eating via Instagram (see above). What favourite quick and healthy recipe can you share with us?
Carrie: I’m going to cheat a bit here and give you the recipe for my favourite dressing. It’s such a multi-purpose winner. I put it on courgette noodles with chicken or smoked tofu, on salads, brown rice, raw and cooked vegetables, even drizzled on avocado on toast. I make up a batch and keep it in a jam jar in the fridge- it keeps for a week, though never lasts that long. It’s uber simple.
Carrie’s Favourite Dressing
1 Tbsp toasted sesame oil
2 Tbsp sweet white miso (I use Clearspring)
2 Tbsp tahini paste
3 Tbsp white balsamic vinegar (or apple cider vinegar for the health benefits, but not as popular with young tastebuds)
Pinch of salt
Mix all the ingredients together and then slowly add a small amount of water until it’s at the desired consistency. You can also loosen the mix with more vinegar if you like a sharper dressing. I do!
But taste, adjust, taste, adjust.. My motto for all my cooking!
I’ve been known to add cayenne, sesame seeds, Japanese Furikake seasoning and coriander when the mood takes me. Though I do remove a portion for the tiny one before I go tarting it up too much.
P.S My favourite way to have it is in a salad of grated carrot, grated firm green pear, cubed avocado and sesame seeds, which I then wrap up like a sushi roll in toasted nori (seaweed) sheets. Don’t make the dressing too runny in this instance or it will be a soggy roll!
Tootsa: What does a nice day out look like for your family?
Carrie: Without fail, a quick trip to Planet Organic for our family’s current obsession, a hot almond cacao. I rarely start a day out without a cup of this in my hand at the moment. And I’d say that at the age my boisterous boy is, it’s park life all the way. Hampstead Heath, Highgate Woods, Trent Park, Crystal Palace Dinosaur Park, or my personal favourite Golders Hill Park (mostly because I can usually convince the team that a trip to Atari-Ya sushi shop is in order as it’s on the way) I like to eat! I’m attempting to cultivate that love in my son at every available opportunity. So if there’s food and a park, we’re all happy. And I really do subscribe to the adage that if the parents are happy the kids are happy. If everyone gets a wish fulfilled, the day is usually a good one.
Tootsa: We know that your son is a fan of Tootsa MacGinty – what are his top picks for SS15?
This week the wonderful illustrator Jenna Kunnas posted a picture on her Instagram (TinyLooksIllustration) that we just had to share with you. Mainly featuring her own child, Jenna describes the account as “illustrated tiny fashion pictures”. How delighted we were when she featured our very own Sunrise Quilted Jacket!
Previously the Commercial Director at Temperley London where she worked alongside her sister Alice, Mary Temperley has recently launched Make Skincare - her own range of natural skincare for face and body.
Following the birth of her second son three years ago, Mary decided to leave Temperley London and move to South Somerset with her husband so they could focus on their family. Always interested in the properties of skincare, she dedicated several years to training and researching natural methods of developing products. Initial batches were given to family and friends and with positive feedback and knowledge gathered, Make Skincare was born.
Mary is now mother to three boys, Phoenix 6yrs, Rufus 3yrs, and Flynn 9 months old.
We had a chat with Mary to find out more about her exciting new range and, very generously, she has given us a box of products worth over £100 for one lucky winner – perfect timing for Mother’s Day!
Simply add the #TootsaMacGintyComp and share this post on Facebook or Twitter to win.
Top Row: MAKE Hands Soft – Vanilla, Ylang Ylang and Black Pepper Hand Cream with Avocado, Jojoba and Vitamin E; MAKE Body Tone – Pink Grapefruit Body Oil with Avocado, Apricot, Kiwi Seed and Vitamin E. Bottom Row: MAKE Feet Revive – Lime, Lemon and Lavender Foot Cream with Apricot, Avocado and Beeswax; MAKE Face Glow – Moringa and Rosehip Face Oil with Rose, Sandalwood and Lavender
(Mary and Flynn)
Tootsa: What inspired you to launch Make Skincare?
Mary: I was inspired to launch Make after discovering what some of our cosmetics contain and being horrified that we are often so ignorant about what is in the products we use every day. I wanted to know what I was putting on just as I like to know what I eat. The best way to guarantee this was to make it myself, so I knew that I was using the best and most natural ingredients possible.I also wanted to create something that looks pretty on bathroom shelves with no need to hide away in cupboards.
Tootsa: How do you choose the scents and ingredients?
Mary: Ingredients are chosen based on their function – ensuring they are the most beneficial for the specific area of the body they are used on. The scents are only from essential oils – I never use any artificial perfume – and chosen for their actions so rose is great for the face for instance whereas citrus oils and lavender are suited to the feet. Avocado is one of the best, most nutrient rich oils for the body so is in our body products. Of course, they have to also smell delicious as well as being beneficial so it’s about striking the right balance. I have spent years playing around with recipes before I settled on the current range.
Tootsa: The packaging is also exquisite and unusual– who designed that for you?
Mary: I always wanted to create a colourful range and chose my glass jars years ago-matching colour to the essential oils so pink for rose etc. I came up with the concept and drew all the illustrations, working with a graphic designer friend who realised my ideas. She is one half of the company “Sibling and Rival” along with my brother Henry.
Tootsa: There are plans for launching a children’s range – can you tell us anything more about this?
Mary: I always wanted to do a baby range of gentle oils, body washes and moisturisers. I make products for my children and know they work but need to find the time to launch this, probably not until next year.
Tootsa: You used to work as the commercial director of Temperley, your sisters successful fashion label, what are the benefits of working for a family business?
Mary: I worked with Alice from the inception of Temperley, launched in 2001, when there were just three of us until about three years ago when I had my second son and moved to Somerset.The benefit of working together is that you know each other so well, your strengths and weaknesses, likes and dislikes etc. There was an unspoken knowing which you get between siblings, understanding what each other was thinking was very helpful. We were able to support each other during the difficult moments and there is of course, an implicit trust you generally only have with family.
Tootsa: Being a working parent is tricky but also rewarding – how do you manage your work/life balance?
Mary: Being a mum of three boys 6 and under is a challenge while trying to balance a business and a husband working away.It’s amazing what you can cram into a day if you have to but somehow it works. I have an amazing mum who helps me out and I work odd hours, often when the children are in bed. As a mother, I think you tap into previously unknown strengths to cope with that old cliché of being a multi-tasker. It’s not easy but somehow it works for now.
Tootsa: What do you enjoy doing with your family at the weekends?
Mary: We often go to the South Dorset coast with the boys-Lyme Regis is one of our favourites.My mum has a horse and cart which we go out on if the weather’s good. You can’t live in Somerset without appreciating the beautiful countryside so we spend as much time as we can outside roaming around trying to burn off the endless amounts of energy our little boys have!
Tootsa: You live in glorious Somerset – a beautiful place to have a holiday, where would you recommend a family visited if on a vacation there?
Mary: I’m biased but I love South Somerset as it somehow feels tucked away and unspoilt but within easy reach of other areas. We have the Somerset Levels where you can walk for miles across wetlands rich with amazing wildlife, lots of pretty villages and interesting places to explore. It is especially good if you are a foodie as there are lots of amazing producers to visit. We are also within half an hour of the gorgeous south Dorset coast or the wilds of Exmoor.
Mary: Cider is a wonderful thing to cook with. A very quick but effective recipe is to smear a chicken with English mustard all over, sprinkle with dried herbs and pour an inch and a half of cider around it. Put in the oven and cook until ready – and you will end up with the most delicious, intensely flavouredliquid which can be used as a sauce.Sometimes I thicken it but it is good on its own too.
Tootsa: What would be your perfect gift for Mother’s Day?
Mary: A full body massage would be lovely, a night away or any sort of pampering!
Tootsa: Finally, we know you are a fan of our knitwear but what are your favourites from Tootsa MacGinty’s new SS15 collection?
Mary: I love the African animal jumpers and sweat shirts and the striped denim shorts are adorable!
Here are some of Mary’s favourite Tootsa MacGinty pieces -
Tootsa MacGinty’s new Summer collection The Kids Go Wild will be arriving in a matter of days!
Inspired by the wild animals, vivid colours, prints and textiles of Africa.
It is bold, colourful and, most of all, fun! Take a look through the catalogue ….
To celebrate the launch we have found some products that fit right in to the look.
Animal print has found a whole new lease of vibrant life!
We were very excited indeed that Paddington finally arrived on the big screen!
My five year old daughter and I went to see this last weekend and we both absolutely adored it. It’s a beautifully produced film with truly stunning animation.
And I was much relieved to discover the plot unraveled at a manageably slower pace than the other kid’s film releases we’ve been to see recently.
The simple story line and engaging characters make this a real treat for all the family. Go and see it!
Did you know? – The origins of Paddington Bear date back almost 60 years. His creator, Michael Bond, bought a small bear from Selfridges on Christmas Eve 1956, as a present for his wife, and named him after the nearest railway station to which they lived!
But Paddington is not the only hat wearing bear from Peru with a liking for marmalade.
+ Bear Treats! Come shopping with us in the next few weeks and you’ll notice we are giving away packs of “Bear” Nibbles with every order (whilst supplies last!). Bear are a great, like minded company with profits donated to some fabulous charities.
Find their range of delicious treats in your local supermarket or on their fun website here.
“Southbank Centre invites you to help knit blankets for older people at Christmas. Following great success last year, the Get Your Knit On! project is back.
Complete beginners and experienced knitters are welcome to learn to knit squares and how to sew them together to make blankets. You will need to bring your own wool and needles – ideally double knitting wool (DK) and 4mm needles.
The Get Your Knit On! project is in partnership with Age UK Lambeth who we are working with to distribute these blankets to vulnerable older people who need help keeping warm this winter.”
Join in the group sessions at the Southbank Centre, or send in your squares from home! Free, all info HERE.
“Australian artist Amanda Parer‘s edgy and ephemeral artworks explore the natural world, its fragility and our role within it.
Intrude sees startlingly beautiful creatures enlarged and frozen within our Winter Festival habitat.
Parer is an artist originally from Sydney but now resides in Tasmania where her work has been acquired by both public and private collections. She has been selected four times for the Blake Prize, as well as for the Glover Prize in 2008, 2012 and 2013.
Amanda’s major public art installation Intrude was the prominent work in the 2014 Vivid Festival in Sydney.”
Slava’s Snowshow at Southbank Centre Winter Festival
“Slava’s Snowshow returns to Royal Festival Hall for a fourth magical year.
The multi-international award-winning hit is now established as London’s leading Christmas show, having delighted theatregoers around the world for 20 years.
Slava’s Snowshow is theatre like you’ve never seen before. Fun for the whole family, this incredible show sees Royal Festival Hall filled with a heart-stopping blizzard of snow. Featuring breath-taking visual effects, it has been described by The Sunday Times as ‘theatrical brilliance’.
Recommended for ages 8+. Unfortunately, no children under 3 can be admitted.
‘Unmissable – a classic show of rare theatrical beauty.'( The Times) ‘Simply thrilling. An unforgettable comedy masterpiece.’ (The Independent)”
Today we are delighted to have her here on the blog to find out about her process, her inspiration and memories of Christmas.
Nadia originally studied law and then worked as a magazine journalist, but her childhood memories of creating homemade magazines and comics never left her. Throughout these years she continued her sketching and creating . After years of “doodling in the sidelines” she finally took the plunge and did an MA in Children’s Book illustration. It was at her final degree show where she presented her first book – Good Little Wolf – which was immediately picked up and published by Random House in 2011. Nadia is also the author of Hey Presto! and Yeti And The Bird.
Tootsa: From when you first have an image or figure in your head, what is the process of bringing that character to life on the page?
Nadia:I grab the nearest pen or pencil and doodle it on paper. Then I keep doodling obsessively for quite a long time. Then I lose those bits of paper, start about three separate notebooks with the same idea, and hop between them. I don’t work in an organised fashion.
Tootsa: How do you think yourself into a child’s perspective? And how do you think children see the world?
Nadia: I find it very easy to take myself to back to that place, probably because I feel much the same now! It’s the upside of being quite over sensitive, I suppose. I try and remember the feelings of powerlessness but also curiosity of being a kid.
Tootsa: What children’s books did you enjoy as a child?
Nadia: Picture books are hard to remember as I didn’t own any – we just went to the library every week. The Meg and Mog books stick in my mind, and I’m enjoying them again now with my son. I was a Roald Dahl devotee and got quite annoyed when I realised he was really famous and *everyone* was into him. I was also obsessed with all the Enid Blyton jolly hockey sticks books.
Hey Presto! by Nadia Shireen
Tootsa: Our families are massive fans of your beautiful books – have you got any new books or projects up your creative sleeve?
Nadia: Thank you very much. I’m just finishing up the artwork for my next picture book. It’s very silly. I try and make myself laugh when I draw. If I can do that, it’s usually a good sign.
Tootsa: The penguin you created for the Tootsa MacGinty jumper in aid of Refuge makes us laugh with its bemused look! We would love to meet him and find out what he is thinking! Do you have a favourite character from your books who you would like to hang out with?
Nadia: I’d like to hang out with all of them! I think the Big Bad Wolf from ‘Good Little Wolf’ would be good for a night out. Presto from ‘Hey, Presto!’ would be great at bringing me cups of tea and being bossed around. And I’d like to cuddle the Yeti.
Yeti And The Bird by Nadia Shireen
Tootsa: As a former music journalist, are there any bands/artists/albums that you are listening to at the moment that you can recommend to our readers?
Nadia: I’m enjoying Sharon Van Etten’s latest album and also a band called The War On Drugs.
Tootsa: What books have you enjoyed reading recently?
Nadia: I’ve not been able to read much recently really – erm, home decorating magazines and parenting books that both conspire to make you feel inadequate.
Tootsa: Christmas is fast approaching so we have a few Christmassy questions … firstly and most importantly what are you planning on eating on Christmas day?!
Nadia: Turkey that I’ve brined for ages in loads of cosmic spices, and all the usual stuff. I like to cook in general so it’s always fun doing the Christmas meal. Potatoes are very important.
Tootsa: Do you have a favourite childhood memory of Christmas?
Nadia: My family is Pakistani so Christmas was never a huge deal in our house. My dad was a GP and he always offered to work that day so the other doctors could be with their families. We always had a nice time hanging out with family too, but it was all very casual.
Tootsa: Is there something you would love for Christmas?
Nadia: Aside from the health and happiness of my friends and family… A piano! Or a cat. Or a cat on a piano.
Tootsa: Finally, why did you choose to work with the charity Refuge?
Nadia:Refuge work with not only women in abusive relationships, but also the children who are all too often caught up in some really terrible situations. In my line of work my biggest objective is to entertain and connect with children. So it made perfect sense to me.
Good Little Wolf by Nadia Shireen
Buy your very own Nadia Shireen jumper and support the national domestic violence charity Refuge HERE.
Tootsa MacGInty and Nadia Shireen Christmas Jumper in aid of Refuge
To find out more about the charity and the amazing work they do visit their website.
The jumper will be sold exclusively by Selfridges and from the Tootsa MacGinty website to raise money for Refuge. A cool Christmas gift, Nadia Shireen’s rather bemused penguin will make kids giggle, but with 100% of profits going to Refuge the jumper will also help thousands of women and children who experience domestic violence.
Made from Tootsa MacGinty’s signature pre-washed cashmere blend yarn, the jumper is built to last and can be thrown into a washing machine time and time again. The penguin knit is part of Tootsa MacGinty’s New Christmas jumper range which also includes a Christmas tree and a Christmas pudding jumper.
Since 1971, Refuge has been providing life-saving and life-changing support for women and children escaping domestic violence. On any given day the country’s largest single provider of specialist services helps 3,000 women and children. The statistics cannot fail to highlight how vital this charity is -
· One in four women is abused during her lifetime
· One in nine is severely physically abused each year
· Two women are killed each week by a current or former partner
“Refuge is committed to a world where domestic violence is not tolerated and where women and children can live in safety.
We aim to empower women and children to rebuild their lives, free from violence and fear.
We provide a range of life-saving and life-changing services, and a voice for the voiceless. “
As well as safe accommodation, Refuge provides the necessary emotional and practical support so that women can have the opportunity to make decisions about their future and rebuild their lives. The charity’s Independent Domestic Violence Advocacy service provides guidance for those at the very highest risk of serious harm or homicide, helping them to stay safe whilst navigating the criminal justice system.
For many reasons some women choose not to leave their homes. The Refuge outreach service means that workers can meet with women at safe times in their own homes or in discreet places in the community. They help women to draw up safety plans, progress housing applications and also provide vital emotional support.
As is often the case, it is the children that get caught in the crossfire. Two thirds of Refuge’s residents are pre-school age children. Refuge’s team of child support workers work one-to-one and in group sessions with children to nurture their basic developmental skills. Their sessions include arts and crafts, story-telling, singing, cooking, gardening and play activities. They explore issues such as friendship, kindness and respect, and organise outings for mothers and children to explore community resources such as libraries, play groups and leisure centres.
One of Refuge’s child support workers explains how she worked with one family:
“Janice and her three-year-old daughter Charlotte arrived at the refuge after Janice’s partner had abused her and attempted to abduct Charlotte. They were both painfully shy and very introverted. Charlotte would hide behind her mother’s clothes, not speaking or making eye contact with anyone. When activities were planned she refused to join in, or would only join in if her mother was also involved. She had also reverted to having a comfort blanket with her at all times, and using a baby bottle at night. I worked with Janice to help lessen Charlotte’s separation anxiety, advising her to take small steps towards increasing Charlotte’s independence. For example, Janice would leave Charlotte with me at the table whilst she went to sit on the sofa or into the garden – still staying in eyesight. Reward charts were encouraged to recognise small steps forward and we devised a game called ‘Can Mummy be back before we count to 3, 4, 5 etc’.
Gradually Charlotte began to trust me and her separation anxiety began to diminish. She started to join in activities with the other children. A breakthrough came five months after they had moved in, when Charlotte asked if she could stay with me to make a Mother’s Day card whilst her mother was upstairs. It has now been seven months since they moved into the refuge, and Charlotte is going to nursery. She leaves her comfort blanket on the peg before joining in activities with other children, and has positive interactions with other adults. She is going from strength to strength every day.”
With the launch of our beautiful new homeware range we are delighted to announce our latest exciting collaboration
with talented French textile designer Valy Lévy-Debussy.
Valy has created a collection of tapestry stitch cushions bursting with colour, inspired by our signature unisex knitwear.
Valy’s cushions are a playful and original combination of shapes and colours created on traditional canvas, hand
“tapestry stitch” embroidered with pure lambswool and backed in a beautiful soft cotton velvet.
Each cushion is entirely made by hand in Valy’s studio. The process, from start to completion,
takes 8 hours with each piece beautifully finished. The “atelier” is nestled inside her beautiful cliff top house
which over looks the Basque coast in South West France, close to Biarritz, where she has lived for over 13 years.
“As adesignerI have alwaysclosely followedfashion. The designof the 1920s erahas particularly fascinated me. I lovethegraphicpainterSoniaDelaunay,Mark Rothko’s use of colour, Art Decojewelry, paintings by the South African Ndebelewomen, and thesculptures of Lalanne.
I’m an only child, and have,since childhood, always enjoyed working with my hands; be it drawing, collage, sewing, jewelry or beading. I made it into the “Ecole des Beaux-Arts” in Berlin and after graduation worked for20 yearsas atextile and fashion designerin France.
I’ve lovedembroidery for as long as I can remember, especially cross stitchwhichI used to do as a child. One dayI discovered an old tapestry stitch cushionembroideredwithwool and this bigidea cameto me to recreatethe same techniquewith modern, colourful, original designs.”
- Valy Levy-Debussy
The cushions are priced at £90 and available exclusively on the Tootsa MacGinty website.
Valy’s own collection of cushions and decorative, customisable, pillows can be found here.