Our little town is well known for its independent spirit – and also for its independent shops. I personally make a real effort to buy from the High Street, or from Lewes folk, when it comes to presents. Of course it’s a supportive and green way to buy, but it’s also because the stuff available in Lewes is so good. Christmas, when our shops twinkle invitingly, is a particular pleasure.
Being a mother of young children and of that mid-to-ahem-late 30s age, I always have new babies to buy for. It’s the nicest shopping there is, isn’t it? Everything is so soft and pretty, it makes me super clucky (but not THAT clunky). Being practical-minded, I always buy clothes – and the odd book or blanket or bag – never toys. What’s a baby going to do with toys?
As those who may have read this blog for a while will know, I have always been a massive proponent of unisex clothing. Because although it’s nice to buy new for a tiny baby, as soon as you have one yourself, you realise how fast they grow out of everything. So buying something that could possibly only be used by one baby in a family on account of it being very pink or very blue seems an awful waste. This is why my boys are almost always in red, green, orange, purple and yellow. And almost never in blue. My sometimes-baby (sometime-daughter’s sister), who is nearly one, has worn almost everything that we have passed on to her. Handy.
For the same reason, I also don’t go for motifs – stripes, stars and spots are a yes, they’re a pattern (don’t tell me boys can’t wear a polkadot, I do not agree). But diggers, pirates and dinosaurs? No. I save those for pyjamas and let the boys choose their own so they can cheaply indulge their interests/buy into character merch. All this also means that when my sometimes-daughter stays over and she and my son decide the next day that they want to dress the same, she has plenty to choose from (although she wouldn’t mind wearing blue truth be told). Because yes, I’m also that person who will buy something great in more than one colour.
In fact I don’t even think you need to buy ‘baby’ for a new baby. They’re going to grow, right? So I have also been known to give a newborn a vintage jacket suitable for age four.
Here are some unisex and/or unique things to gift to new arrivals. The shops and makers are all local – they’re all in our town. But, as a twist, they are all OFF (as in, not on) the High Street. They are either online or they are in streets or buildings that do not have the benefit of the High Street’s footfall. Those where the offer is online only will happily meet up with you or hand-deliver.
You all know by know how much I love Popsicle and its owner, the colour-crazed Sharon Makgill. In the ‘In Town’ post I wrote about her and the shop, I showed a picture of some shoes by French brand Petit Pan, which made me wish for a daughter. Now that Popsicle’s full Petit Pan product line is in, I can safely say that – phew – I do not need a daughter to indulge.
Indeed, I don’t even need a baby to buy for. There are cot blankets and quilts, the latter which are reversible (see the pic below) and can be put straight in the washing machine whole hog. Great for camping, suggests Sharon. The pyjamas are also pretty natty – something for baby to grow into, and I firmly believe that the ones on the left (above) are completely unisex.
But Popsicle’s also a great place to come if you want to buy something ‘proper’ for baby. Not just clothes or shoes or a quilt, but something useful. There are entirely washable cotton-and-toweling change mats that frankly put the sweaty ones you get in any change bag to shame. Ok the pink is very pink, but the blue could be anyone’s. (Yes, there those shoes are again. So girly. So nice).
Via Popsicle, you could also gift baby a bag – this could be used very handily as a change bag, or you could give it to the parents for carrying their newborn around in. Looks roomy enough to me and the print is very Japonaise, meaning this bag will draw attention away from the ones under the Mum or Dad’s eyes.
Just joshing. They’re nice for nappies, wipes, Calpol sachets, Sophie le Giraffe and all the other shit you have to carry around for months though, no?
Address: The Needlemakers, West Street, BN7 2NZ
Tel. no: 01273 911 314
Magnificent Stanley is where to order soft onesies and long- and short-sleeved t-shirts hand-stitched to order with a single initial or less specific word (such as YAY or WOW) in your choice of Liberty-print fabric. These take about a week to make (though the four presents I bought for several new babies in my life came within a couple of days!) and come beautifully wrapped in tissue paper, with the child’s name stamped to an attached luggage label.
There are plenty of fabrics that are nicely unisex, although if you’re going to go for something personalised like a child’s initial, I guess you can go as girly or boyish as you like as it is unlikely to be passed on to a sibling… When I’ve given them as presents, I’ve tended to favour the bunny or word designs so they can be used again – and in the fabric above or below.
Clever Becky Belfield, creator of Magnificent Stanley’s wares, has come to this point from a childhood spent in Liberty-print dresses that her mother made for her, through working in the fabric department at Liberty while studying fashion and knitwear at Central Saint Martin’s, and ending – before having her son Herbie – as a wardrobe mistress to pop bands.
EVERY person I have given a Magnificent Stanley piece to has gobbled down its web address like a packet of Smarties and vowed to order gifts from Becky themselves. I suggest you do too.
This is a beautiful handmade knitwear range designed by Anna Phillips. She lives in Steyning and settled up on creating some Faroe-island-esque knitted designs after having her two boys and loving the knits her mother was making for them.
There was so much nice stuff around for girls, but hardly anything for boys. She now has a team of grannies knitting up her designs in the most beautiful yarns – think cashmere, alpaca etc – and these understandably retail through her site for a pretty penny, BUT with an eye on them being passed from generation to generation.
However, she sells her samples at Fleurie on Fisher Street (where you can also buy amazing secondhand threads for children and adults – my friend just bought her daughter a beautiful Marni dress there for £12!). Hambr0 + Miller’s samples go for a fraction of the price on the website and they go fast, so hurry – the hats would normally be £28 but are £12 as samples.
So I know it’s not very seasonal to think about woolies, but really the bargains are too beautiful and EVERYONE always buys for when baby is a little bigger (knowing, as we do, that ‘newborn’ is but a blink of an eye). Once the samples sell out, the stock will be full priced.
As an aside, if you love anything (and you will love everything) on the Hambro + Miller website, Anna will bring it to Lewes for you to save on postage. Also this year she’s increasing the sizing up to age eight and – GET THIS! – is developing some of the knits in adult sizes. I am popping with excitement. Expect to see me and each little he in the above Killing-style knit come Christmastime.
Address: Fleurie, 3 Fisher Street
Tel no.: 0844 057 0208
You’re probably thinking it’s a bit ‘Lori fever’ on Little Lewes at the moment – I blogged about her blog only last week… But it’s just a case of a not very thought-through editorial schedule! No matter, of COURSE her online children’s vintage boutique – her ‘Caravan’ – should be included in this post!
The site only fairly recently launched (March), despite Lori and vintage having been embroiled in a passionate love affair since she was a teenager in Leicester. It was having her son Arthur that opened her eyes to children’s vintage, and the quality and wearability of bygone styles.
Indeed, “the clothes have all been loved and cared for,” says Lori on her site. “And now it’s time to pass them on.” I’m always amazed by how spick and span everything is on Lori’s site, considering it’s all had a previous owner. I am always in love with the little Sixties shifts she carries, which my sometimes-baby also has a weakness for.
Lori says there’s very little boys’ vintage out there, but she always has a few pieces in her shop that can be used for either sex. Everything’s unique though, so go really girly or super boyish if you fancy – I’m giving you permission because it doesn’t matter so much if you pass it on, because it’s been passed to you. To quote Lori “think of it as really fun recycling.”
Disclosure: No compensation – financial or otherwise – was offered or accepted by the owners of this post’s brands and boutiques. I have collated this shopping editorial-style post based on support of local and fledgling businesses, because I think what each is doing it fantastic.
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