Every year when Black Friday comes around the shops go into overdrive to sell us as much stuff as possible. My email inbox is full of offers shouting at me in capslock, appealing to me with puns, telling me that happiness is 50% off.
I'm not anti sales and I won't judge you for picking up a bargain - goodness knows I've done my fair share of shopping! But this year I'm trying to avoid the headlong frenzy of spending and look elsewhere for something different.
With that in mind and knowing full well the potential stress of Christmas gifting is upon us, here's a selection of wonderful independent retailers I love that you might love too. None of them have asked to be included - these are purely my personal recommendations and ideas for lovely gifts made with real skill and thought, not just for Christmas but year-round.
Bespoke handmade children's clothes and knitwear made to order
Basically as soon as more of my friends have babies I will be putting in some massive orders because everything from Rainbow Bobbins is utterly gorgeous. The fabrics, the easy wear classic styles, the fabrics again...
My favourite picks: unicorn dress; jersey dungarees
Quirky greetings cards and one-off gifts
George's colourful and fun designs are sold in shops around the UK, but you can also order directly from her site, including cards, prints, tea towels and wrapping paper.
My favourite pick: Invest Love print
Bespoke paper flowers and other creations suitable for weddings, gifts and special occasions, handmade in Somerset
Gemma's paper flowers are beautiful and imaginative, and she excels at bespoke projects, with thoughtful themes that draw from the interests of the people she makes them for. She also creates other home decor items, most of which are one-off unique pieces.
Find Sappling Creations on Facebook
Handcrafted gifts made with love for your home and sent with a gift of lavender
Sonja makes lots of custom pieces including bunting, fabric-covered notice boards, and changing/organiser bags in a range of beautiful fabrics. They're incredibly good value for money and ever so pretty.
My favourite picks: elephant-patterned changing bag and elephant notice board. I just have a thing for elephants - other animals/fabrics are available!
Body positive illustrations and commission work
I had the pleasure of meeting Belgian illustrator Sanne Thijs earlier this year, and had already fallen in love with her drawings on Instagram. Now she's opened a shop, and in her own words is "making drawings full of happiness, body positivity and sometimes also full of freckles!"
My favourite picks: 'Reading Bliss' and 'Rock it like a supermodel' card designs
Personalised Lego minifigures from a UK-based startup
You don't even need to be a massive Lego fan (although I am) to see the appeal of having Lego figures made to look like specific people. You can order them with display frames as gifts, and there's a nice little curated range of other Lego products on offer as well.
A not-for-profit second hand bookshop and arts venue in Kenilworth, Warwickshire
This is one for Warwickshire locals, but I couldn't not include my favourite bookshop and promoter of community arts. Not only does it stock a wonderful range of second hand books, but owner Victoria is a specialist in European Renaissance art and regularly hosts lectures in the shop, as well as music performances and open mic nights.
LOVED BY FRIENDS
A few suggestions I was sent for this post which I'd not come across myself before.
a contemporary collection for Mums and little ones
My favourite pick: the 'Mumma Beads' teething necklace
Suzy Evans Art
Paintings in oils, inks and acrylics
My favourite pick: 'Island of the Hebrides'
Community shop and cafe in Ilminster, Somerset, selling recycled and upcycled furniture and household objects including locally made items from local artists
Find The Green House on Facebook
Do you have a favourite/some favourite independent retailers? Share the love in the comments on this post so others can find them too!