An ode to stationery

Stationary Image for social.jpg

words: Jane Audas

As August melts away, cooler weather will bring leaf kicking and the joy of layered dressing in knitted things. This is also the time of year many are preparing to go back to school or college, so buying a new rucksack, pen, paper and eraser. That might be a tad romantic in our time of computers. But even after being out of formal education for decades, I still get the urge to go shopping for a new protractor set when September comes.

I love stationery. The old-fashioned gummed envelope, blue marbled notebook sort. And the washi tape, stickers and improbably cute Japanese cartoon character sort. I like a wall of pens with scribbled on ‘test’ notes lodged sporadically in them. And to find the thinnest nib is my self-appointed, happily accepted, lifelong challenge. So far, I am at 0.03mm.

To my joy, there now exist beautifully created stationery shops. The sort of shop where a notebook with an elastic band around it will cost a pretty penny. But I think something I use every day (as I do a notebook) is a special buy and worth the cost. With age comes the knowledge that four or five cheap tacky notebooks can’t replace the one that really pleases your hand and heart.

I can also be found in more ordinary stationery shops. On holiday I’ll search out both the just-so stationery emporium and the (hopefully slightly dusty) office stationery shop. There I will hopefully find multi-size binders and clear plastic poppered wallets, old paper accounting books with blue carbon copy paper in-between their sheets. If I get lucky there will be a selection of tiny cardboard boxes containing paperclips, drawing pins, small bulldog clips and the like. And if the stars are really aligned, the shop will sell cardboard tubes of different sizes.

A love of stationery began early. As a child I had a Galt Toy post office. This came in a bright red cardboard container, shaped like an old-fashioned post box. Inside bits of paper, a franking stamp and ink pad, gummed stickers, stamps and mini envelopes combined to keep me quiet running a post office from my bedroom.

Growing up with recurring autumnal needs for new stationery set me up for a life in paper and envelopes. One preferably topped off with a tin containing a rainbow of 50 assorted felttip pens. Comedian Victoria Wood had the right of it when she said: “I didn’t want a boyfriend, I wanted a 13-colour biro.”


Our friends at Papier love stationery as much as we do, so they are offering 15% off personalised stationery using code OHCOMELY15 at Offer expires 30 September 2018, valid on notebooks, notecards, sketchbooks and planners only

Fashioned From Nature

Silk train (detail), woven with a pattern of roses, c.1890s © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Silk train (detail), woven with a pattern of roses, c.1890s © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

In our spring issue, we celebrate ethical fashion with our feature, Yours Sustainably. The V&A’s Fashioned From Nature exhibition delves into similar themes with its exploration of the complex relationship between fashion and the natural world since 1600. 

As the exhibition shows, the beauty of the natural world has always been an inspiration for fashion, influencing colour, fabrics and patterns. Unfortunately, sometimes the fashion industry has chosen to exploit the very thing that has provided that inspiration. 

Earrings made from heads of Red Legged Honeycreeper birds, circa 1875 © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Earrings made from heads of Red Legged Honeycreeper birds, circa 1875 © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

These 1875 pair of earrings are formed from the heads of two real Honeycreeper birds – a hugely popular item that sold in enormous volume at the time. The devastating consequences of the plumage trade for world bird populations actually led to the foundation of the Society for the Protection of Birds in 1891. Cartoons appeared in Punch satirising those women that supported the feather trade. The feather debate continues today.

Greenpeace Detox Catwalk in Bandung © Greenpeace/ Hati Kecil Visuals

Greenpeace Detox Catwalk in Bandung © Greenpeace/ Hati Kecil Visuals

Other protesters draw attention to the waste and sheer volume of raw material required by the fashion industry. Greenpeace launched the Detox campaign in 2011 to encourage legislators, manufacturers and brands to eliminate chemical pollution caused by the textile and clothing industries. The toxic substances used affect drinking water, with a devastating impact on wildlife and the human population.

'Grape’ dress (detail) made with Vegea, a leather alternative made from grape waste © Vegea

'Grape’ dress (detail) made with Vegea, a leather alternative made from grape waste © Vegea

Fashioned From Nature also highlights the brands seeking out alternatives, for example Vegea, who use grape waste from the wine industry to form a leather-substitute (Italy produces around seven million tonnes of this waste each year).

Outfit made from leather off-cuts and surplus yarn, Katie Jones, 2017. Photograph by Rachel Mann

Outfit made from leather off-cuts and surplus yarn, Katie Jones, 2017. Photograph by Rachel Mann

And, like our Yours Sustainably feature, it shows what customising can do to give clothes new life, as Katie Jones did for fashion writer Susie Lau (AKA @susiebubble) to wear during Fashion Revolution Week 2015. We also feature Katie Jones on page 65 of our latest issue – with details about her workshops for knitting and reinventing your clothes. 

Visit the V&A before 27 January 2019 for more inspiration, or pick up a copy of our spring issue

Happy birthday One Good Thing!

Selina Pearce

Selina Pearce

We're celebrating an anniversary today – a year of #onegoodthing. Every day, at 1pm, we tweet a small moment of pleasure – those fragments that bring joy, and can so easily be forgotten (you can read the full story behind #onegoodthing here). When the news appears relentlessly grim, there's some comfort to be found in celebrating the little splendid things in our lives – the way that sunblock smells exactly like summer, perhaps, or remembering that we've made a cup of tea, and finding that it's now at the perfect temperature.

One of the particular joys of this project is hearing other people's #onegoodthing. We were delighted to discover #onegoodthing had inspired an A-level project from one of our readers, Selina Pearce. Her beautiful work illustrates this piece and you can see more examples on her embroidery blog

Let us know your #onegoodthing, and don't forget to join us every day at 1pm on Twitter

Feminist late at National Army Museum

Air Assault Brigade, Operation HERRICK, Helmand, by Sgt Rupert Frere, 2011, (c) Crown 

Air Assault Brigade, Operation HERRICK, Helmand, by Sgt Rupert Frere, 2011, (c) Crown 

This evening, 14 June, the National Army Museum, London, is holding a feminist-themed late. 

It's the first 'late' event held at the museum, which re-opened earlier this year following a three-year redevelopment

The late looks at the impact feminism has had in shaping women’s role within the army, with 2017 marking the centenary of women being able to enlist. This will also be the year when the first female soldiers finish their training and take up role in the infantry for the first time in the army’s history

Among the events will be a panel discussion with the writer Sarah Ditum, Sam Smethers (Chief Executive of The Fawcett Society), Lucy Noakes (senior lecturer at the University of Portsmouth & author) and the military historian Elisabeth Shipton. 

West Indies Auxiliary Territorial Service, c.1943. (c) National Army Museum

West Indies Auxiliary Territorial Service, c.1943. (c) National Army Museum

There will also be a talk by the author Elizabeth Crawford, exploring the impact of the First World War on women winning the right to vote, as well as the chance to hear about the first-hand experiences from women in the army.

Find out more about the event at the National Army Museum site

2nd Lt Hannah Bedford, aken by Cpl Mike Fletcher, 5 Apr 2006, (c) Crown

2nd Lt Hannah Bedford, aken by Cpl Mike Fletcher, 5 Apr 2006, (c) Crown



Culture Monday

Anna Meredith, who plays the Simple Things festival this week. Portrait:  Lauren Maccabee  for  issue 33 . 

Anna Meredith, who plays the Simple Things festival this week. Portrait: Lauren Maccabee for issue 33

Another week, another opportunity to throw yourself into our cultural picks. From photography to film, music to MADE, there's masses on this week - the problem will probably be deciding where to start! Do let us know what you get up to, and if there is anything you think we really should be checking out ourselves...


Unveil’d Photography @ various venues, Exeter (20 to 23 October)

Helen Marten: Drunk Brown House @ Serpentine, London (until 20 November) 

Quentin Blake: Inside Stories @ National Museum Cardiff (until 20 November 2016)



Cambridge Film Festival @ various venues, Cambridge (20 to 27 October)

Aberdeen Film Festival @ various venues, Aberdeen (17 to 26 October) 



James Vincent McMorrow @ The Roundhouse, London (17 October) 

The Duke Spirit @ Manchester, Nottingham, Bristol, London (17, 18, 19 & 20 October). Read our interview with Leila Moss in Oh Comely issue 31.

The Simple Things festival @ various venues, Bristol (22 and 23 October), featuring issue 33 interviewee Anna Meredith 

Slow Club @ Brighton, Bath, Leicester (20, 21, 22 October) 


Theatre & Comedy

Lost in the Stars @ Union Chapel, London (17 to 19 October) 

Bridget Christie: Because you demanded it @ Leicester Square Theatre, London (19 & 20 October)

Cathy Come Home @ Bristol, Southend, Luton (21, 22, 24 and 27 October) 



Undiscovered Islands @ Stanfords, London (19 October)

New Writing @ Foyles, Charing Cross Road, London (24 October) 



Bloomsbury Festival @ Bloomsbury, London (19 to 23 Oct)

MADE London Marylebone @ One Marylebone, London (20 to 23 October)

How To Hygge Festival @ The London EDITION, London (22 and 23 October) 

Battle of Ideas 2016 @ Barbican, London (22 & 23 October)


Show us where you've been and tell us what we should include in next week's round-up via our Twitter or Instagram.

More curious things: Magic

In issue 33 - out on 13 October - we pick out a selection of magic-inspired products, suitable for dressing your home and mortal form. We always find more treats than we can include in the magazine, so - abracadabra! - we've pulled a few extras out of our hats...

Who, with more than a passing interest in magic, could resist a book whose topics include: "Alchemy, Astrology, Chaos Magic, Love Magic, Necromancy, Phantasmagoria, Runes, Shamanism, Talismans, Tarot, Voodoo and Wicca"? Certainly not us. Over 400 pages and with plentiful illustrations, this authoritative book explores all of the above and even more, tracing them from Palaeolithic cages to the digital age. 

The Occult, Witchcraft & Magic: An Illustrated History by Christopher Dell, £24.95, Thames & Hudson 

And should you need something to keep your place in your new book, we think we've found the ideal thing. This bookmark, designed by Barcelona-based Octaveo, is inspired by a nazar, an eye-shaped amulet of Turkish Ottoman origin that’s believed to protect against the evil eye. Made from finely cut metal, with a black finish, you’ll never need to look for the right page again.

Nazar bookmark by Octaevo, £10, Unique & Unity

On the list of things you perhaps don't want to bump into on a dark night - a Belionota Prasina (or Jewel Beetle). That doesn't stop us marvelling at it in this beautiful shot by Goran Liljeberg. There's a whole host of prints to pick from including all kinds of bugs and beasts.

Goran Liljeberg's insect prints, £33, Natural History Direct

Empty Casket specialises in "witchy jewellery, crystals and treasures", meaning that they gave us plentiful inspiration for this Magic-themed issue. We don't really need another tote bag, but we really, really want to be part of their coven. 

Coven tote bag, £6, Empty Casket

We've also been eyeing up this laser cut perspex brooch by Jennifer Loiselle, with the glitter making it extra bewitching (if only we could get our eyeliner to look this good!). The brooch is sold by the British Library, meaning that every purchase helps a wonderful institution. 

Brooch eye blue, £28, British Library  


Ancient alchemists may have been concerned with turning base metals into gold but we'd be pretty pleased simply with keeping our skin soothed and happy over the winter. Hence this kit that harnesses the power of botanicals to leave facial skin, lips and hands feeling hydrated, soft and protected. Magic indeed! 

Grown Alchemist Amenity Kit Gift Set, £19, John Lewis


Order a copy of Oh Comely issue 33 to see more Magic-inspired picks. 

Oh Comely X Folksy Marketplace

Here at Oh Comely, handmade is a mantra. From felted slippers to bold jewellery, the Folksy takeover in issue 31 means that summer gifting is in for a treat! Here's our guide to presents from Folksy.

For the newlyweds:

The sunshine is here and with it brings a whole host of bouquet throwing and confetti sprinkling. Opt out of the present list and go for a counter to mass produced goods. Jennifer Campbell Kirk of Folksy shop, Vintage and Floral designs stunning quilts and cushions using traditional techniques to give her contemporary designs a quality and specialness perfect for cuddling up with.


For the free-spirited

Every year we flock to the seaside enticed by shell necklaces and sticks of rock for our besties, but Emily Johnston has beach cool readymade for us in her affordable and unique handmade dichroic glass jewellery and ornaments. Crafted in Newquay, Emily’s work is inspired by the coast around her, plus she adds a little extra sparkle, making her jewellery an excellent choice for all aspiring mermaids.


For the comfort-lovers:

Just because the sun is out, it doesn’t mean we should be neglecting home comforts, and after a day in sandals there's nothing better than slipping your feet into something soft. Amanda at Joe’s Toes used to design for big shoe brands, now she works for one of the smallest - herself. Made from thick woollen felt, Joe’s Toes slippers are a special treat for flip flop-worn feet.


For yourself

Buying presents and holiday souvenirs can be tiring work, so make sure you treat yourself this summer too. Handmade in her Somerset studio, Eleanor Christine’s bold and sculpture jewellery inspired by the stone cuts and styles of pre-1800 designs have our hands adorned with colour. She works to commission so you can order yourself something extra special. If you’re near Somerset keep your eyes peeled as she runs workshops too!