Cassiefairy – My Thrifty Life

Cassiefairy's thrifty lifestyle blog – Saving money every day with DIY crafts, sewing projets, low-cost recipes & shppping tips


Tuesday Shoesday – 100 years of Converse All-Stars

Did you know that 2017 marks the 100th anniversary of the famous Converse All-Star high-top trainers? I didn’t either until I started Googling “Converse” when I was looking for a gift for my husband. A quick search not only brought up a whole host of classic designs to choose from but also a whole lot of history about the brand itself. I’m such a geek when it comes to gaining knowledge about the things I buy so I delved deeper to find out more. Read on to find out what I discovered about Converse…Let’s take it back to the very beginning; The Converse Rubber Shoe Company (to give the brand it’s full, original title) opened its doors back in 1908 in the US, making all kinds of athletic shoes before specialising in tennis shoes in 1915. This early success led the company to develop new styles of sports shoes with rubber soles… I think you know where I’m going with this! It was in 1917 that the Converse All-Star Basketball shoes were introduced. And when basketball player Chuck Taylor put his name behind the brand in 1920, the high-top style really started to take off. It was no longer just a shoe for playing sports in. Oh no.
Over the years the iconic design has become the footwear of choice for off-duty fashionistas and is the ultimate in casual cool. Fans started customising their All-Stars to make them their own and the style was reproduced in countless new fabrics, patterns and colours. Nowadays you can even have your own design made just for you by Converse using the customizer tool on their website.

Enter my £50 giveaway below…

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Tuesday Shoesday – Quality vs price in mens footwear

Just what IS the difference between a £25 pair of boots and a £250 pair? Can the higher priced pair really be that much better than the cheapy shoes? For some reason, there’s a big difference in this area between mens and womens shoes (proably something to do with the construction of ladies shoes) so today I’m focusing on menswear in this price v quality comparison. I’ve done my research and found out why some boots are worth so much more than others and that’s what I’d like to share with you this Tuesday Shoesday.It’s easy to say that the quality of the shoes is simply better in the higher priced pair but in what way specifically? I focused my research on Joseph Cheaney & Sons, who are Britain’s oldest boot and shoemakers. They produce handmade footwear for Boden, Shackleton Company and Herring to name just a few, and the price is definitely at the upper end of the scale. So let’s have a look at this producer and find out what goes into a pair of their boots.The first thing to note is that their footwear is still handmade. Okay, the product is made in a factory environment but it’s in Northampton, not China, and each stage of the process involves a real person handling the boots, not just a machine. In fact, each pair of boots goes through more than 200 hand-tooled processes and takes over eight weeks to ‘build’. When you hear the phrase ‘built to last’ this is probably what it means! Just to be clear, this isn’t a promotional blog post for Cheaney and Sons – although I’d be doing a good job if it was! – I’m just using them as an example of a traditional bootmaker that is still creating handmade items here in the UK and comparing them to the cheaper end of the footwear market.All I know for sure is that my husband’s shoes last years longer if they’re £100+ leather shoes from Clarks or Boden, or if they’re £300+ handmade boots from Shackleton. But when he wears supermarket or high street shoes, it’s barely a matter of months before they are worn through with holes that let in the rain, and have cracked, broken or flapping soles. So it must be the production method that make all the difference, right? That, and the quality of the materials too.So, back at Cheaney and Sons, the uppers are all made in genuine leather and the rubber soles are made by Goodyear. Yes, the tyre people. That probably explains why these soles don’t wear through like the cheap plastic versions in the budget fashion stores. If it’s good enough for a car, it’s probably okay for my husband’s feet! The soles of Clarks shoes also wear really well, and quite often the colour and condition of the shoes is what ‘gives up’ before the soles do. In fact, I made a video about giving my husband’s Clarks blue suede shoes a makeover with fabric dye, which goes to show that although the colour faded, the shoes were still absolutely fine to wear and could be brought back to life with just a little bit of effort (and some dye!)The same goes with real leather shoes – if you look after them and ‘feed’ them with polish, the leather will stay supple for many years. And the longevity of these higher-priced shoes is actually what makes them the ‘thrifty’ option. Okay, I know it doesn’t seem thrifty to splash out hundreds of pounds on a pair of boots, but if you’re sure that they are the style, colour and fit for you, they will probably last you a lifetime. And if they do, just imagine how low the cost-per-wear would be after just 10 years of wearing them! If you pulled on a pair of £300 boots every day it would be 0.08p per wear by the time the decade was over, and the boots would probably still be fine for at least another 10 years too.Still, as such a bargain hunter I really struggle to part with my cash all at once. It’s a difficult one to call, but when my husband can get through 4 pairs of £20 shoes in a year, yet his £100 Clarks shoes have survived 3 years without complaint, I think that the sums kind of add up in favour of the ‘investment’ footwear brands. Let me know if you have any experience of high prices vs bargain shoes and what you think is best by leaving me a comment below. And if you’re interested in watching my suede dying video – here it is:


DIY gift project – Be your own clothing designer

I’m excited to share a fun project I’ve been playing around with this week. Yes, I’ve been designing my own clothing. I’ve been spending time picking out my favourite photos and choosing my ultimate ‘girl boss’ quotes in order to make a few designs of my own. And that’s because I’ve just discovered a new design website Spreadshirt. It’s a pretty cool site that not only allows you to shop a whole range of designs created by a fabulous community of artists, photographers and creatives, but that also lets you get involved with creating your own designs too. Who can honestly say they designed their own t-shirt? Well, I can, and I’m pretty chuffed with the results.spreadshirt design your own t shirt mug hat gift.jpgI actually stumbled onto the Spreadshirt website because I wanted to create a personalised gift for my husband’s birthday. As an artist and photographer, he doesn’t really like mass-produced styles and would prefer to choose to wear something hand-made or designed by a fellow creative. Which is precisely why I turned to Spreadshirt when I needed to treat him to some clothing for his birthday. Let me explain; once you’ve picked out a basic t-shirt, sweatshirt, bag, hat (or even mug) you can get to work adding your own designs OR browsing the hundreds of designs that other creative folk have added to the design hub.spreadshirt design your own t shirt diy step by step spreadshirt design your own t shirt diy step by step beards

If you upload your designs on Spreadshirt, you can sell them for other people to use on their t-shirts

Yes, there are hundreds of designs, quotes and images that you can add to a simple t-shirt to make it a truly personalised gift. Continue reading “DIY gift project – Be your own clothing designer” »

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Map geek – Wear your map on your sleeve

I’ve got that map-Monday feeling and I want to show you all something I got for my husband this week; a map on a t-shirt. Not just any map – I could actually choose the location of the map and have it custom-printed. Cool, huh?maponshirt pillow and tshirts printing map geekThe company I went to for this personalised top is I could choose any spot on earth and the map would be recreated on the clothing product of my choice – or even a pillow! Fabric is sublimation printed with the graphics of the map chosen (and any text or markers you wish to add) and then stitched up into a classic t-shirt silhouette. I didn’t want any graphics or text on the t-shirt so I went ahead and ordered a simple map of the Suffolk geek maponshirt tshirt menswear fashion reviewmap geek maponshirt tshirt menswear fashion review-9map geek maponshirt tshirt menswear fashion review-7 Continue reading “Map geek – Wear your map on your sleeve” »

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5 style taboos your man should ignore

One of the constant things about fashion is that it changes all the time. One season we hate baggy jeans and the next season slouchy ‘boyfriend’ jeans are a must-have item. Naturally, men fashion changes as well and over the years we’ve witnessed many men’s style taboos being broken by designers who don’t care about outdated ‘rules’. Here are the top five fashion ‘sins’ that men no longer have to avoid and, in fact, should be actively encouraged to wear to help them look gorgeous this autumn/winter.menswear mens fashion styling a tweed jacket layered warm outdoor forest autumn winter-61. Double denim
Remember the days when denim-on-denim was considered a sin? Well, times have changed and now those that can pull denim-on-denim off are considered the bravest fashionistas out there. The trick is usually to mix different shades and colours in order to get the best effect. For example, get your man black denim jeans and combine them with a grey denim jacket or blue denim shirt. The result is usually amazing and you won’t be able to take your eyes off your fashionable for men - double denim2. Blue and green should never be seen
Oh come on, this is such an outdated taboo, that it shouldn’t even exist anymore. In any case, many designers have included navy blue and green combinations in their latest collections, so this is the right time to see how these two colours suit your other half. If you don’t want to push it too far, you can simply motivate him to put on blue trousers in combination with a green sweater or jacket. The bravest can try adding shirt in a different shade of green or even mix another colour in the combination such as brown or for men - blue and green3. Forget florals
There were times when pants weren’t considered feminine and that didn’t stop us from wearing them. So it’s time to be fair to your guy and let him enjoy some florals. These are extremely popular and plus they really suit guys when worn with a smart jacket or cool jeans. If you want your man to have his own unique style, which would make him stand out from the mass of men in white or black shirts, then you should make him buy something with floral design. I am a bigger fan of floral shirts than floral trousers and jackets; nevertheless, you can see what suits your partner the best and go for it. Believe me, you won’t regret it and he’ll love for men - floral patterns
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Autumn/Winter Menswear – Styling a tweed jacket three ways

With the Autumn/Winter season in full swing, I thought that today would be a good time to share a menswear styling post with you. As you know, I’m a rather thrifty girl and I like to come up with ways to style my clothing to create many different looks from just one special piece. I believe that there’s no such thing as separate summer and winter wardrobes and I’ve always found that just adding a few accessories or extra layers allows me to take an item of clothing throughout autumn, into winter and on into the new year, dressed up in a different way for spring/summer. So today I wanted to show you how this can work for a man’s wardrobe too, so that he can make the most out of the clothes he invests in and bring down that all-important ‘cost-per-wear’ price!menswear mens fashion styling a tweed jacket casual beach autumn winter menswear mens fashion styling a tweed jacket layered warm outdoor forest autumn winter-6 menswear mens fashion styling a tweed jacket smart autumn winter-8I’ve taken one key piece – a classic tweed jacket – and have come up with a few different looks for the autumn/winter season; from casual still-warm days, to a layered look for chilly November and on to a smart style for festive parties in December. If you’re a man reading this, welcome! I hope you’ll be able to get some ideas from this autumnal photo-shoot and that this post will help you get the most from your favourite items of clothing simply by styling them up with a few different items from your wardrobe. And if you’re a woman, this is for you too: a tweed jacket works in the same way for you too, so recreate similar looks for autumn with your own clothing. And if you’ve got a man in your life, you can use these ideas to show him how to dress up one piece to make it work for three very different occasions. For each style we’ve used a Heritage Tweed Jacket from Samuel Windsor in ‘Border Check’ and added a few extra items for each look.menswear mens fashion styling a tweed jacket casual beach autumn winter-9 menswear mens fashion styling a tweed jacket layered warm outdoor forest autumn winter-13 menswear mens fashion styling a tweed jacket smart autumn winter-6 Continue reading “Autumn/Winter Menswear – Styling a tweed jacket three ways” »

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Menswear sale bargain – A new Army & Navy coat

Even though I only picked up a handful of goodies in the sales this year, I think you’ll agree that my husband has got a great deal with his bargain purchase: a new coat from House of Fraser. It’s been literally years since he got a new coat and even though he already has a few in his wardrobe, they are all sale, second-hand, or charity shop finds, so after a few years of wear they are looking a little tired. So I was delighted when he liked the look of this clearance coat and I couldn’t wait for it to arrive by mail and navy coat menswear sale bargain

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My first attampt a knitting an ombre scarf…

I don’t know whether it’s the weather, or the darker evenings, or just the fast approaching Winter but for whatever reason, I’ve had the urge to knit. DIY homemade ombre scarf using chunky alpaca wool-2

I’ve tried knitting in the past but never really progressed beyond a knitted bow that my friend Laurie taught me to make using her YouTube tutorial but this year I want to try a bigger project. Or perhaps I should say longer project. It’s not going to be a super-challenging knitting project (I’m still too novice for that!) but I want to at least knit one complete scarf.

DIY homemade ombre scarf using chunky alpaca wool

I’m hoping this will become a Christmas gift for my husband and it will go well with the knitwear gift that I’m planning to treat him to for Christmas – there’s a new range in Debenhams by my favourite TV hero Patrick Grant. Yes, the tasty judge of The Great British Sewing Bee has created a fabulous collection of men’s knitwear, shirts and tailoring so I’m hoping to be able to snap up a festive fairisle jumper for my husband for Christmas, that’s if they don’t all sell out before then!

DIY homemade ombre scarf using chunky alpaca wool-3

So although I’m not brave enough to tackle fairisle pattern just yet, I will be attempting to make an ombre scarf. I’m hoping that the pattern will be straight lines (simple enough even for me!) and the colours will do all the work – creating a gradient effect by using 3 different colours of wool. I also chose this chunky knit because it is super-soft alpaca wool and will look great knitted into a chunky, manly style. Well, that’s the theory anyway!

DIY homemade ombre scarf using chunky alpaca wool-4

I’ll keep you updated with my progress via photos on my Instagram @Cassiefairy and let you know how I get on with my first big knitting project. Wish me luck!

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Pieday Friday – Awards & nachos

I know you should be getting a recipe post from me this lovely sunny Friday, but it’s a big day in the Cassiefairy calendar today – it’s the National Blog Awards!  And you’ll never guess what I’m going to talk about instead of cakes and pies 😉 Today I wanted to quickly share with you my husband’s outfit choice for the big event and start making up for the serious lack of menswear posts on the blog!

I was thrilled when I found out that I could take a guest with me to the awards ceremony. At the Company awards I had to be brave and go in solo (but luckily I had my bestie Laurie Rose from My Blue Rinse blog to cling to!) but this time I will have my husband by my side to make me feel secure and more confident heading into the venue. As my date for the evening hubby will chauffer me to the event, make sure I don’t drink too much, keep an eye on whether I have food stuck in my teeth and will make sure I get back home safely afterwards – what a gem of a man he is! I know I won’t need to worry about him at all because he’s a great conversationalist, super-confident and such a clothes-horse that he’ll look amazing in anything. Hence the reason that it was so easy to pick out an outfit for him.

mens fashion style for spring 2014 with Joules smart shirt and blazer

The dress code on the invitation is ‘dress to impress’ and it’s hard to know just how smart or casual to go with it but we’ve been shopping (yes, he even came with me to choose his own shirt!) and this is the result of a few minutes deliberation – a gorgeous smart Joules shirt. It’s probably the most formal shirt in the shop in a pale blue stripe with tiny yellow dots embroidered all over. It looks amazing with his grey tweed blazer and the cut is equally smart when he takes the jacket off. He’ll be wearing the personalised cufflinks that I made for his birthday last year and one more possible accessory… I’ve been eyeing up the yellow lining and now think that it will look even more fabulous with a yellow bow-tie so I’ve made a last-minute tie purchase, but it’s up to hubby whether he chooses to wear it or not. I know he will look fabulous either way 🙂

mens fashion look using casual joules shirt and smart tweed blazer

We’re heading to the National Blog Awards in a few hours time (so you can imagine how excited I am right now!) and I will tell you all about the event afterwards. Luckily my husband will also be my official photographer, so even though my own photos might be a little squiffy after a glass of champagne, he will still be on hand to capture some lovely shots of the ceremony. Good luck to all the finalists and I can’t wait to meet you tonight!

Here’s a little Pieday Friday recipe for chilli beef nachos to keep you going until next week (you didn’t really think I’d leave it out this week, do you?!):

chilli beef nachos recipe

Ingredients: 1 large onion, finely chopped, 500g beef mince, 300g can drained kidney beans, 2 teaspoon of chilli powder, 1 teaspoon garlic powder, 1 teaspoon paprika, 2 tablespoons tomato paste, 1 beef stock cube, handful of coriander leaves.

Sautee the onion in a little Fry Light then add the beef mince and cooked until browned. Sprinkle on the spices and garlic before adding the tomato paste and frying for a minute. Dissolve one beef stock cube in 100ml boiling water and pour into the pan before adding kidney beans. Allow to simmer for 5 minutes and season to taste. Top a bowl of nacho chips with the chilli beef then grate cheese over the top before grilling for a couple of minutes until the cheese has melted. Dig in and add a couple of side dishes of salsa, sour cream and guacamole!


Tuesday Shoesday – Dapper Mens Shoes

Today we are taking a rare look at menswear. I know I should focus on fellas footwear more often so I’m starting today with a look at smart mens shoes and hopefully inspire men all around the country to smarten up for special occasions!

I’m specifically targeting this blog post at my husband because we’ve got a couple of important events coming up this weekend; the National Blog Awards in London and our best friends’ wedding, where hubby is doing a reading during the ceremony. I’m not saying that he’s usually turn up scruffy to events like this – in fact, he scrubs up very well and looks great in a blazer – but I wanted to make sure that his shoes were equally as well buffed-up as his well-ironed shirt!

clarks smart shoes collection 2014 review

He certainly did need a new pair of smart shoes for the ‘wedding season’, but what to go for? All the smart shoes I’ve seen on the high street are basic (boring) black or brown and although I love a pair of brogues myself, hubby wasn’t too sure that something decorative was for him. That was until we headed to the menswear section at Clarks. I usually have to drag my husband into a shop and it’s tough to get him to spend more than 1 minute looking at something before making a purchase but this time he was like a kid in a sweet shop (or a man in a shoe shop) and spent ages looking at the range, actually trying on shoes, getting the right fit and choosing from all the surprisingly funky styles of smart shoes in store. I’ve included a few images of the shortlist above – what do you think of these smart shoes from Clarks? The trouble was getting him to settle on just one pair but after about an hour (that’s quite an achievement to keep any man in a shop for that long eh Clarks?!) he finally chose this lovely pair of grey brogues.

Tuesday Shoesday - Dapper mens brogues shoes from Clarks

Somewhere between a smart dress shoe and a casual bowling shoe, the funky design of the ‘Farli Limit’ shoes stood out from all the rest and the distressed grey leather had hubby hooked straight away. I know he loves to polish up his shoes (that’s the boy-scout in him!) so we picked up a pot of grey polish too and he’s all set for our weekend of events. I know he is planning to wear his grey blazer to the blog awards so the shoes will look rather funky with his smart/casual outfit for an evening of fun. For the wedding day he has picked out his trusty pinstripe suit and I’m certain the shoes will look great with such a smart get-up for this special occasion too. I think that these are a great pair of investment shoes that can be worn for pretty much any smart occasion and now that my husband is happy with his choice I know they will come out of their box at every opportunity!

tuesday shoesday mens shoes grey farli limit brogues from clarks

What do you think of these dapper mens shoes? Would you choose these yourself? Tweet me with your favourite smart shoes this Tuesday Shoesday at @Cassiefairy 🙂

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