Cassiefairy's thrifty lifestyle blog

Cassiefairy's thrifty little lifestyle blog – DIY crafts, sewing, food & fashion – what more does a girl need??

HOPE jewellery handmade in the uk to support charity


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Give a little HOPE with your next gift

Shopping for low-cost, hand-crafted, UK-made jewellery that helps charity projects - sounds too good to be true, doesn’t it? But I’ve recently discovered an amazing online gift shop that does just that – HOPE Jewellery. As you probably know here at the Cassiefairy blog I love to support ethical companies, charities and socially responsible brands so I when I found out about this shop I simply couldn’t keep it to myself and wanted to share it with you all!

I got in touch with the shop and had the opportunity to interview two lovely volunteers, Natalia Molinero Mingorance and Lakshmi Sankaran about their involvement in Enacus (the student-led company that runs the ethical store) and all the voluntary work they do for the HOPE Project. I hope you’ll find the responses as interesting as I did and that you’ll be able to see why gift shopping with the HOPE store is a great idea.

HOPE jewellery handmade in the uk to support charity

Natalia, please tell us a little about Enactus and what it does?

Enactus Sheffield is a social enterprise company, based at the University of Sheffield. Through both social and commercial projects we aim to harness students’ entrepreneurial spirit, to make a difference in our local community and to communities abroad. Guided by academic advisors and business experts, the student leaders of Enactus create and implement community empowerment projects around the globe. The experience not only transforms lives, it helps students develop the kind of talent and perspective that are essential to leadership in an ever-more complicated and challenging world. Enactus operates in 1,600 Universities across 38 countries. Currently we have a total of 62,000 students who have put 7,300,00 hours into running their Enactus teams and developing their projects.

Lakshmi Sankaran, you’re the volunteer project leader of the HOPE Commercial Team - when did you first get involved in the project and why?

I joined the HOPE team in February 2013 and have been a part of Enactus for over a year now. During this time I have seen HOPE Commercial grow immensely. I joined it due to my passion for helping social causes. This project interested me since it empowers women, motivating me as a woman myself. There are millions of women all around the world who suffer from human trafficking and domestic abuse. As humanitarians we must take a stand to stop this and the HOPE project at Enactus Sheffield provides an elegant, sustainable solution through the use of enterprise. This year HOPE has expanded a lot. We are in two major shops in Sheffield; we have rebranded our website, merchandise and social media; we have also held sales events in large venues, for instance at the final Ice Hockey Varsity game at the Motorpoint Arena. With continued support and exposure we believe we can share our beautiful bracelets as well as our significant social cause with others who wish to change the world, just like us!

What does the HOPE Project aim to do?

HOPE Jewellery works with survivors of Human Trafficking, and victims of sexual and domestic abuse in South Yorkshire, with the aim of providing skills, knowledge, training, and confidence to be able to support themselves and their family financially in the future. This is partly achieved through the model of a jewellery business where the women hand-craft beautiful jewellery to sell. The women we work with are then empowered to use the skills and knowledge transferred to them independently in gaining employment or setting up their own micro-enterprises. This allows them to independently finance themselves and their family, enabling them to have a better and brighter future. All profits made from the jewellery sales are either directly fed back into the project, or kept aside as a micro-finance pot for the women to access when they need it.

HOPE jewellery new collection of bracelets made in the uk

How does the jewellery help the survivors of human trafficking?

We aim to empower vulnerable women to lead a better quality of life providing them with essential entrepreneurial skills. All the profits made by the commercial team, selling the bracelets, goes back to the women in their times of need. They can approach HOPE to provide them with financial support if they are interested in starting their own business. This project provides the women with many employability skills; communication, teamwork, planning, sales and motivation. This year the project was aimed to further develop the women’s entrepreneurial skills by locally sourcing all the materials for the bracelets as well as giving the different safe house teams the chance to design all the bracelets.

The women come to the craft fairs as well to see the commercial side of the project. The hope social teams run sessions to improve the women’s employability skills. For instance some of the women from the safe houses are involved in our sister company, HOPE Cosmetic’s placement scheme. This provides them with writing CVs, interview training and important workshops that build the ability of the women to go out into the world and be independent. We aim to provide continued support for women when they leave the safe houses with our community projects.

Please can you tell us about your sister site, HOPE Cosmetics?

By selling cosmetic products this team contributes so much to the ongoing success of the HOPE project. By bringing in new streams of revenue, the reps make sure we can keep offering our placements and empowering survivors of human trafficking and victims of domestic abuse. 

HOPE cosmetics natural scrub and body butter

So what do you think? Fancy buying the next birthday gift for your mother from HOPE? Or how about treating yourself to a natural, handmade HOPE cosmetics product such as a lip balm, scrub or body butter? All of my friends and family can certainly expect a to receive a little HOPE with their next gift and I’d love it if you would consider shopping and supporting this charitable project soon. Check out their Facebook page here – HOPE Sheffield.


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The only tights you’ll need this year

Quite a bold promise I know, but honestly you really won’t need any more pairs of tights that these two! I spend my life in one or the other of these tights (depending on the weather!) so I know how useful they are for all weathers and all seasons. If you buy these tights (I don’t mean just one pair, you can have more than one of each!) you will never need to go looking for a suitable pair again. Here’s why they are my favourites:

1. Silky Textures 140 Denier Thermal Fleece Tights - these are the best ever winter tights. And I mean EVER. That’s because they are thick opaque tights (as we all know black tights go with any outfit to turn a summer outfit into a winter look!) that don’t run and don’t get holes in them, thanks to the double layer of fabric – they are silky soft tights on the outside but are fleece lined on the inside. You can imagine how toasty you’ll be in these tights – they are practically a fleece jumper for your legs! I’ve been wearing and washing a few pairs for the past 6 months and they still are showing no signs of holes, runs or pulls. The only downside was that the silky side got a little bobbly after lots of machine washing but I could pull off the bobbles without making runs in the tights (same as pulling bobbles off a jumper) and when I needed a quick solution, I simply turned the tights inside out so that the fleece was on the outside. The fleece has no bobbles (and they don’t really look like fleece at all) so the tights still looked great in spite of months of wear. I’ve just got some of the Pretty Polly chocolate brown fleece tights (below) so I’ll let you know how I get on with these too! Please be careful not to confuse these tights with the Silky Textures Acrylic tights which were much more woolly and less long-lasting.

winter thermal tights and toeless summer pantyhose review

2. Charnos Simply Bare No Toe Tights - the ultimate spring and summer tights. When it’s a little too cool for bare legs but you don’t want to wear black tights I’d definitely recommend these. I am a lifelong hater of getting my legs out in the summer but these tights allowed me to bare my legs with pride because they provide a natural tan colour to your legs that is so sheer that even up-close my friends and family couldn’t tell that I was wearing tights. Not only is it the sheerness of the 7 denier tights (with the strength of 15 denier) that tricked them, but it was the fact that they are no-toe tights so I could wear flip-flops and sandals without anyone suspecting that I had a pair of tights tucked between my toes! Unlike other no-toe tights that I’ve tried (which tended to roll up under my foot) these have a toe loop which keeps the tights in the right place by anchoring them to your big toes. As long as you have a thin strap on your sandals across the toes, no one will ever see the join and will be sure that you’re rocking bare tanned legs with confidence. If you’re worried about being too hot in tights during the summer these have “climate control technology” which let your legs breathe – I never once felt too warm wearing them throughout the whole of last summer. As you can see I have stocked up for this summer already even though I have 2 pairs in my underwear drawer that are still going strong from last year!

You can buy both of these brands (along with loads more bargain pairs of tights in different styles and thicknesses) at UK Tights and now I never buy anything else. Sure there might be cheaper options available but in this case you really do get what you pay for – and that’s hard for me to say because I’m such a spendthrift! I know that I’m actually saving money when I spend out on these tights because I can wash and wear them time and again and that I can get a whole season’s use out of them rather than struggling with laddered tights after one use. Plus I usually keep an eye out for special deals from this website because they always have a couple of brands on offer so I make my purchases while there is a discount on ;)

One final thing – and probably the most important factor of all – these tights don’t slip down while you’re wearing them. For me there’s nothing worse than penguin-waddling after your tights have come down a little and having put up with the discomfort until you get the chance to hoist them back up when no one is looking! Let me know what you think of my choices and tell me what you usually wear on your legs throughout the year – can you recommend anything for me? Leave me a comment below or tweet me @Cassiefairy :)


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My year of thrifty retail & DIY fashion

I have amazing news and I’ve already been yelling it all over Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Tumblr and Google+ so if you haven’t already heard my screeches from where you are here it is again: I’VE BEEN SHORTLISTED IN THE NATIONAL UK BLOG AWARDS 2014! When I saw all the other amazing nominees in the Retail and Fashion category I could never have dared to believe that I might be shortlisted, but results are in and the announcement has been made – and my little blog has made it into the top 10 in the country! The finalists will be judged by industry professionals Carli Palmer from House of Fraser and Melanie Killilnea from Hotter Shoes – and I’m so excited to think that they could be looking at my blog right now. This has got me thinking about the past year on my blog and all of the thrifty shopping, fashion and DIY posts I’ve done now that I’m approaching my 1000th blog post and I wanted to take a nostalgic look back over the year with you – so here goes:

A recent early morning walk in the frost resulted in a mini fashion-shoot using blogger & stylist Sasha Bowman’s La Mere layering technique and gave me the chance to show off my new Brag Vintage find!

Again, snow was the inspiration behind my winter outfit post in which I proudly wore my new size 10 H&M coat that I never would have fitted into the year before and a cute Apricot dress. There’s really nothing better than being out in the cold while snuggled up with a hot drink.

At Christmas I let you all know what I’d be wearing with some snaps of my birthday/Christmas dress from La Redoute, my homemade snood infinity scarf and the festive jumper I made myself with just a bag of pom-poms and a needle – just two of the many of DIY outfit posts that I’ve written for Oxfam Fashion.

You’ll probably remember how terrified I was about attending the Company Style Blog Awards last year – what on earth would I wear to go into a room full of über-stylish fashionistas? And after a lot of deliberation here on the blog, I decided on an Apricot and New Look outfit combined with some car-boot sale bargains and borrowed accessories.

And then came my nemesis – the emerald green dress that I made myself – remember how long it took me to get going on the project, how scary it was to cut into the fabric, how many adjustments I needed to make to the pattern? Thankfully it turned out great in the end and sparked an interesting discussion about Sew-It-Yourself. Plus I now have a custom-made dress hanging in my wardrobe!

To date there have been 128 weeks of Tuesday Shoesday posts discussing footwear trends and weekly DIY posts on making your own accessories for yourself (and for the home too!) and adjusting your thrifted clothing to fit. I’ve also enjoyed sharing the new season trends and focussing on fashion week favourites – including how to get the look for less – the most important thing is saving money for us all through sensible shopping! Of course, there are tons more posts than I can mention here – we’d be here all day! – but please have browse through my categories on my sidebar to check out more shopping, fashion, sewing, trend and bargain-hunting articles for yourself.

I hope that you’ve all been enjoying reading my blog and have got some ideas that you’ve used yourself. But most importantly I want to say a massive THANK YOU from the bottom of my heart for voting for my little blog to be shortlisted in the National UK Blog Awards, you can’t imagine what it means to me but you can be sure that the smile on my face is gigantic right now! :D


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Festive shopping at Snape Maltings

One of my favourite places to visit and shop is Snape Maltings. I’ve visited this Suffolk destination many times over the years, and I love the vintage and farmers markets that are hosted there at regular intervals. It’s a gorgeous complex of independent retails in old maltings buildings and it really does have something for everyone – therefore I headed there this weekend to finish off my festive shopping.

chirstmas shopping at snape maltings toys and crafts

I spent a pleasurable couple of hours browsing around the craft barn and book shop (buying a secret present for hubby along the way…) before heading into the massive home and garden showroom. With inspirational displays of furniture and homewares I could spend hours in there, and the trouble is I want it all – I could quite happily pack up my stuff and move in!

chirstmas shopping at snape maltings homewares

And when I got the kitchenware section, I did actually spend ages deliberating over the stunning range of enamelware below and eventually decided to invest in a couple of pot-bellied pans in red and cream enamel. They can be used on the hob or in the oven, so will be great for my festive cooking, plus they reminded me of the singing casserole pots in Beauty and the Beast! I think this might be the starting point of a whole kitchen makeover, so watch this space…

chirstmas shopping at snape maltings kitchenware

Not only do I enjoy the shops, but the whole environment is inspiring – the old buildings are photo-worthy and there is a picturesque walk around the site, along the river Alde and through the reed-beds at the rear of the Snape Maltings concert hall, punctuated with artworks to stop at along the route. It’s a gorgeous walk to go on at any time of year and I took loads of photos when I visited this week and here are a few photos of the lovely old malt buildings: 

chirstmas shopping at snape maltings

Although I’m usually a sucker for collecting points on loyalty cards in the chain stores, I am happier shopping at an independent retailer like Snape Maltings as I love to support local businesses, and much of the product range and food produce they sell is locally grown or handmade by resident craftspeople. Plus I can still collect points at any of the independent shops with Freedom Rewards when paying by Barclaycard. If you’ve never visited this area of Suffolk before it is well worth a taking a trip to visit the coast – and make sure you stop off at Snape Maltings en route, if only to enjoy their yummy local food in the café!


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Christmas gift ideas for chick flick fans

With the recent release of author Helen Fielding’s novel Bridget Jones’ Diary: Mad About the Boy, I thought that now would be the ideal time to think about the women in your life and what fantastic gifts are available for chick-flick movie fans. The latest installment in the saga of sad-single heroine Bridget Jones has appeared on bedside tables all around the country, as fans flick through the pages to find out what happens to ‘our little Bridget’ and what we can expect from any future film. I’ve added the book to my Christmas wish list, so I’m hoping that I’ll soon be reading it too! I’m a big fan and Bridget Jones’s Diary is my go-to film for a girlie night in, but there are tons of famous movies out there that chick-flick aficionados love – and with them, a whole range of gorgeous gifts suitable for the ladies in your life. So if you need inspiration for Christmas, birthday’s or  anniversaries, here are some of my favorite chick-flick inspired gifts:

1. Bridget Jones’ Diary

Let’s start with the obvious, the new Helen Fielding book Mad About the Boy was released on 15th October 2013 and essential reading for any fan of the Bridget Jones franchise. Or if she has already got the book, another lovely gift would be THE red diary that Bridget uses or even a pair of bunny ears, to reference the first film. I already have a floating heart necklace like Bridget’s that my husband gave to me at the start of our relationship and I loved it – plus I’m sure that any gift of jewellery that comes in a Tiffany’s box will be massively appreciated!chick flick gifts from bridget jones diary movie

Red diary from Moleskine and floating heart necklace from Tiffany & Co

2. Julie and Julia

A favourite film for foodies and bloggers alike, Julie and Julia starring Meryl Steep as super-star cook Julia Child and gorgeous Amy Adams as blogger Julie Powell is a great starting point for a whole host of gifts for the ladies in your life. Maybe she’d like a copy of Julia Child’s famous Mastering the Art of French Cooking recipe book or invest in a Le Creuset casserole pot, just like Julie uses to cook her boeuf bourguignon in the film.

julie and julia gifts for chick flick fans

Julia Child Cookbook from WH Smith and Le Creuset dish from John Lewis

3. Sex and the City

What woman doesn’t love the Sex and the City series and subsequent films? It’s pretty easy to shop for fans of SATC – simply buy anything that Carrie would wear! So designer heels like these Manolo Blahnik shoes would be massively appreciated by the girls (even if they’re not for wearing!) and yes, you can actually buy those blue shoes! Jennifer Hudson’s “LOVE” keyring from the first movie is a cute stocking filler and a personalised necklace like Carrie’s with the name of your recipient on it would be ideal for a special occasion.

chick flick gifts from sex and the city movie

“Something Blue” shoes from Manolo Blahnik and “Love” keyring from Amazon

4. Disney

I know lots of ladies who love a good dose of Disney every now and again, with or without the children! A fun gift for any Disney fan would be these cute Minnie Mouse ears, or even more fabulous – if you’re feeling extra-generous – would be being whisked off on a trip to Disneyland!

disney gifts for chick flick fans

Trip to Disneyland from Disney Packages and Minnie Mouse ears from Disney Store

So even though this is basically a wish-list for my own Christmas gifts, I’m sure that your friends and family will love these film-inspired treats too! What would you add to the list? Leave me a comment below and let me know :)