While many people make resolutions at the start of a new year, I prefer to focus on the new things I want to achieve over the coming month. And in particular this includes new skills. In fact, there’s two occasions during the year that I tend to take up new activities and it happens to coincide with the academic terms in September and January. Maybe that’s because it’s easier to find evening classes starting up and online courses are being promoted more at those times of year, but mostly I just think it’s down to me having a bit of time off and having the chance to reflect on what new things I want to learn.In September I started to learn Spanish but time constraints meant that I never quite got through all the practice tasks for the beginners’ Spanish lessons so I couldn’t progress at the same speed as the rest of the course. Nonetheless, I have all the documents and workshops sitting in my inbox so I can get started up again whenever I get some time. I guess I’ve just got to make time, right?!The other course I started in September was ballroom dancing. I went along to my first class on a dark Thursday evening and was immediately hooked. Well, who doesn’t want to be waltzed around a dance floor like a princess, eh? The added bonus was that latin dances were taught alongside the traditional foxtrot and quickstep ballroom dances, so I discovered that I quite liked these too. Who would’ve thought that I would enjoy dancing a rumba? I certainly didn’t see that coming! The beginners’ course has just finished and I loved getting my head around the steps. I’ll be back for more as soon as I can.So this January I want to focus on developing my crafting skills and it’s the wool-crafts that I want to focus on. Excuse the pun but knitting has always had me tied up in knots. Continue reading “Learning a new skill in 2017 – Knitting” »
What do you get for your niece and nephew when you’re the coolest aunt in the world? Why, handmade teddy bears, of course! It’s a project that has been six months in the making and now the bears are finally wrapped up and flying across the sea to reach the little ones in Ireland in time for Christmas. Now, I’m not saying that it took me six months to actually sew the bears – the making part is quite a simple process (thanks to the new teddy bear pattern I used) – it was all the planning that went into the project that took some time and I’ll tell you why.I wanted to make a keepsake teddy bear for each child, so I wanted them to be personalised in some way. When I first opened up the pattern I could see that it would be easy to make the pattern pieces fit into items of my niece and nephew’s clothing. What better way to make a personalised gift, and to upcycle old clothing at the same time, than to reuse their baby clothes to make them a teddy bear? I asked their parents if they had any of their tiny outfits left, and luckily they did. I asked for non-stretchy items (which are easier to sew) and it wasn’t long before a bag of baby clothes arrived. I got the newly launched Charlie teddy bear pattern from Amazing Craft and studied the instructions from front to back before getting started. There’s only a handful of pattern pieces and the construction seemed so much more straightforward than bear patterns I’ve used in the past. I was eager to get started and see just how the pattern worked. I’m pleased to report that this is the most simple-to-use set of instructions, and having fewer pattern pieces meant much less tacking, pinning and fiddling. I whizzed up the arms and legs in no time at all. The body is the only piece that has any darts in it, and even then there’s only two small darts so it’s really uncomplicated to construct. I guess the pattern does what it says on the cover – it truly is ‘bear making for beginners’ and it couldn’t be easier to follow. It’s available as printed instructions (which I got, at £6.99) or as a digital download to print at home for only £4.99. The little trousers were the perfect base to make the arms and legs of the teddies – the linen fabric wasn’t at all stretchy and I could make a feature out of the details on the trousers. I positioned the pattern pieces so that my niece’s bear would have the spotty trim from the trousers around the outside of the paws, and my nephew’s bear has tiny pockets on the legs. I could even reuse the lining of my nephew’s trousers to make a soft inner arm, and I added little monster designs from his tiny t-shirt to make contrasting paws and feet. I used a floral baby-grow to make the insides my of niece’s bear’s arms and even the bears’ ears have a patterned underside. I wanted the bears to be safe for the little ones to carry around, so I got some safety eyes and plastic safety joints from Amazing Craft. This means that the head, arms and legs are poseable and the eyes can’t be bitten off because they pop together and clamp into place. In fact, I couldn’t even get the joints apart again if I tried! My tip for using these is to get the position of the arms and legs right first time, because you won’t be able to take them off again if they’re in the wrong place, so double-check the position before pushing the joints together. Soaking the joints in hot water for a minute will make them a littler easier to pop together. The plastic joints are also safe to go in the washing machine, which is good news because we all know how mucky kid’s teddies get!
I mentioned in my blog post earlier this week that I’ve been out in my caravan now that the summer is here and I’ve crafting non-stop. I made little Red Ted and posted my sewing project on Wednesday and today I’m sharing some snaps of my recent attempt at tile painting.I heard about the Topps Tiles Henley Cool project last month and was totally inspired by the vintage patterned tiles in the range. I couldn’t wait to join in with creating a patterned tile of my own. This week I’ve finally found the time to sit down and spend a fun afternoon painting up my large ceramic tile with a pattern of my own.I’ve been looking through my retro fabrics recently after deciding that this would be the year that I finally make a quilt, and I flicked through them again to get inspiration for decorating my blank ceramic canvas. I really love the garish colours but wanted to stay modern, so stuck to yellow, orange and turquoise for my design. I’ve kept the colour detail at the top of the tile so that it can be hung as a border around a room, much like the Henley Cool pattern itself. Continue reading “DIY project – My ceramic tile design” »
This week I’ve been crafting away in my caravan and have enjoyed a couple of happy afternoons of cutting, sewing and painting (more on that project soon!). Today’s post is all about the latest addition to my soft-toy family; a cute little teddy bear named Red. There’s something about summer that makes me want to be creative. I think that being outdoors more often helps me be inspired by the things that I see and I end up taking hundreds more photos at this time of year; flowers, animals, landscapes, the beach and, of course, ice creams! Can you see any resemblance to a seaside deck chair in my little creation??Even though I love being cosy inside my caravan in the winter, it really comes to life in the summer. It’s always so lovely to get outside when the weather is nice and throw open the windows of my caravan to let a soft breeze flow through as I sit at my sewing machine. So that’s exactly what I’ve been doing this week.I wanted to join in with the Hillarys craft competition this month and have been totally inspired by all the amazing creations on their Pinterest board. My mind whirred into action when I saw the gorgeous fabric choices on offer and an image of little Red ted appeared in my mind immediately. I quickly ordered a metre of the Hatti Raspberry striped fabric and set to work cutting out the pattern pieces for my little bear. Continue reading “DIY sewing project – My little red ted” »
Back at the end of September I travelled to a fabulous 1940s event at the North Norfolk Steam Railway and really enjoyed the whole weekend. Not only did I get lots of opportunities to dance, (check out last week’s Tuesday Shoesday blog post about my new hobby) but I also enjoyed stepping back in time – the whole town had taken on the 40s theme and it felt like a genuine wartime weekend. We enjoyed afternoon tea with spam sandwiches and hopped on and off the steam trains all day long before shopping in the town and watching the vehicle parade. Here are some of my photos from the weekend:
It seemed appropriate to use our vintage Holga lens on the camera so please excuse the grainy blurriness of my photos today; most of the photos we snapped at this weekend were taken with this pin-hole-esque lens. It sometimes didn’t work very well, with some images turning out too dark and some too bright, but I liked the random nature of the images and it reminded me of getting a film back from the developers and seeing which photos had printed well and which were over-exposed. Initially, the lens wasn’t working at all and I couldn’t work out why all the images were black – then I realised that the internal lens cap was still on. Blush. Problem solved in one quick unscrewing!
I relished the opportunity to wear a 40s-inspired look and although I didn’t have a genuine vintage dress from the era, I still enjoyed wearing my spotty shirt dress – which cost only £1 from the charity shop! – and my Joules tweed jacket. I’d recently won a pair of Orla Kiely shoes in a competition and I was delighted when I tried them on with my seamed tights – they looked just right! Plus, they were super-comfortable and even though I was on my feet pretty-much all day long, the shoes still didn’t rub or cause the balls of my feet to ache. I never thought that I could wear such high heels for a day out and I even took a change of shoes with me, but I was able to leave them in the car and didn’t need to change out of my vintage-inspired shoes all day. The chunky sole is a little too heavy to wear for dancing – I do a lot of kicking when I dance lindy hop! – but they were ideal for posing on the station platform and trekking around the town.
It’s great to find a pair of modern shoes that fit in perfectly with the 40s style and I love the yellow so much – it really makes me happy when I look down at my feet! I will definitely be wearing these shoes as often as possible and I would love to own the ‘Dotty’ Orlas in the black and burgundy colourways too so I’ll be saving my pennies and putting them on my Christmas list – that’s if they haven’t already sold out by then, eek!
I am forever spotting gorgeous vintages dresses when I go for my weekly rummage in the charity shops but I am often put off from investing in an outfit because it is far too big for me. Last week, I tried on this vintage shirt dress from Oxfam, which was around 3 sizes too big for me, but I loved the (so on-trend!) tropical pattern of the fabric that I decided to give it a new home and see what I could do to make it fit me.
The dress didn’t have any labels in it, so it may well have been handmade in the first place so I didn’t feel too bad making adjustments to it, although that first cut is always difficult, because I don’t want to ruin something that has survived so many years! At least it will be worn if I can make it fit me, whereas it would be relegated to the back of my wardrobe if wasn’t brave enough to make any changes, so I got my scissors out and set to work.
- First of all I put the dress on to see where the adjustments needed to be made. The shoulders were too wide, the side seams could be taken in about 6 inches and I wanted to make it into a knee length dress, otherwise it would be too long for me. So I pinned down the sides to make it fit, pinned up the shoulders and measured how much fabric would need to be removed in order to make it knee length.
I began by stitching up the side seams by following the line of the pins to create a more figure-hugging shape, trimmed off the excess fabric and zig-zag stitched over the seam to prevent it from fraying.
- Instead of taking up the hem of the dress, which already had a perfect blind hem stitched in place, I decided to shorten the dress at the waist. So I cut the dress straight across at my waist point (a very scary moment – I needed to be brave!) which left me with a ‘top’ and a ‘skirt’.
I used the measurement for the right length that I noted down whilst trying on the dress, which was 4 inches shorter, so I cut a strip 4 inches deep from the top of the skirt – cutting straight across again.
I then reattached it by pinning the skirt around the bottom of the top, with the right sides of the fabric together. I zig-zag stitched around the middle to join the dress back together.
Now my vintage shirt dress is 4 inches shorter and about 6 inches smaller and fits me perfectly. After I tried on my new dress, I realised that the sleeves would look better if they were a little slimmer too, so I took in the sleeve seams by about an inch too. So next time you find a dress that you love which is too big for you, don’t dismiss it straight away. Think about what you can do to make it fit, and give the dress a new lease of life!
I’ve been rather excited this week because a little secret work project is finally coming to fruition and I’ve been bursting to share it with you! I’ve had to keep it on the down-low for a while but now it’s in progress I am free to tell you all about it! I was recently asked to design a collection of ‘Cassiefairy t-shirts’ by Got-The-T-Shirt.co.uk. I know – SO exciting, right?! I never thought that a little bit of blogging work would take me into the realms of (technically!) fashion designer so after a few moments of surprise, shock and sheer terror that I wouldn’t be good enough to do it, I accepted the offer and got to work. I spent a few days coming up with ideas and a bit of a moodboard for the t-shirt designs, which helped me to go from ‘no clue’ to ‘hmm, I’m getting an idea!’. I knew I wanted the t-shirts to be plain, white, simple and fresh but I wanted to put my own stamp on it – the essence of “Cassiefairy”. But what did that mean? Even, I didn’t know! I started with the things I love, which are rainbow colours and inspirational quotes and attempted to incorporate these elements into my designs.
I started off by jotting down some quotes and messages. I like to think I came up with them myself, but who knows how they popped up in my brain in the first place! The quotes I wanted to use are ‘just love’, ‘choose to use your wings’, ‘follow your excitement’ and ‘believe in your dreams’. Some that I’ve got on standby include ‘it’s playtime’, ‘live a life you’re proud of’, ‘don’t grow up’ and a few more, but I think I’ve chosen the right words for the collection. I chose a couple of font options – hand-drawn and scribbly or blocky capitals – so that I could choose which looked best for each quote. I love Spriograph – you remember the geometric drawing tool from childhood? – so I wanted to include a repeating pattern, lots of circles, swirls and scribbles. I played around with some patterns and tried out a rainbow of colours to imitate the effect I used to create with the Spirograph. All of this ‘playing’ resulted in some curvy cuddly shapes, such as clouds, hearts and twirly scribbles trailing off. I especially enjoyed it when I began repeating the shape into a multi-coloured pattern and knew I’d found my design. I tried out each of the designs in a variety of colours – the joy of computer-aided design, eh? It’s great to have the ability to switch up the colours of a design in just a few clicks! The two effects I loved were a bright rainbow of colours and the same rainbow in pastel shades. When I decided to do a three-pattern repeat of the shapes, this lent itself nicely to working with the CYMK printing colour model so I chose a hot pink, turquoise blue and bright yellow for the lines. I also tried this out in a pastel version, and it was very hard to decide between the two… After a lot of editing and playing around with size, I was finally happy with my final selections. I uploaded my designs using the t-shirt designer software on Got-The-T-Shirt.co.uk and submitted my work. I am delighted to have a t-shirt ‘collection’ in process and soon the articles themselves will winging their way to me in the post. When they arrive I will share photos of the t-shirts so you can see how the designs turned out – in fact, I’m bursting to see them myself! I’m also planning to giveaway one of each design to my lovely readers in a competition, so watch this space to get your hands on one of the first ever Cassiefairy t-shirt designs!
It’s called The Caravan Trail and you can imagine how excited I was when I first stumbled upon the website after spotting a link on Twitter last week. It’s a website full of gorgeous homewares, with beautifully decorated crockery, pretty teapots and picnic items. And most importantly, there are caravan patterns everywhere! I ogled the ‘Festival’ collection for ages with its floral caravan designs and pretty bunting print before I decided on a pair of mugs. Obviously, I chose a caravan design for me – with multi-coloured campers and one just like my blue vintage caravan – and it was equally easy to chose a mug for hubby because there was a bright beach-hut design in the collection and my husband was a beach-hut builder – perfect!
I couldn’t wait for them to arrive and they were actually even better in ‘real life’ because the mugs are larger and even better quality than I expected. My tea break now lasts for longer due to the larger volume of liquid in my new cup hurrah! Hubby loves his mug too – not at all fazed by the floral girliness! – and it’s nice for the two of us to have a his ‘n’ hers set. I’ve been taking my mug out to the caravan while I’m working in there and it makes me smile every time I use it. Plus when I’m drinking from it indoors, I still feel connected to my caravan and it keeps me in a happy-camper mood!
I sent the link to the website to my equally caravan-mad pals and now I’m sharing it with you too, because I know you’ll love it as much as I do! Check out The Caravan Trail and let me know what your favourite collection is. I’m definitely going back for more and have got my eye on the melamine set for summer ‘al fresco’ eating, so watch this space!
This week I watched a video on You Tube about the Aloha Summer collection from Dorothy Perkins and have been inspired to write a Tuesday Shoesday blog post all about this tropical trend. It’s a very ‘holiday’ look with bright colours – lots of summery yellow and blues – and plenty of floral prints. But it’s not the dainty ditsy flowery patterns from summers past: this year’s florals are tropical, with palm prints and big blousy flowers and this has inspired me to look around for some shoes and sandals that would compliment this collection. Have a watch of the video and let me know what trends you spot:
When you’re wearing a big bold tropical pattern, it might be best to pair this with some neutral shoes rather than over-do the trend from head to toe. I’ve looked for some neutral shoes that won’t take attention away from the print you’re wearing and some brighter coloured pumps to pick out the colours from the patterns:
I also wanted to find a few floral patterned shoes in order to tap into the trend even if you don’t want to wear a bright print on your body. Not to mention the fact that I love patterned heels! I’ve found some pretty pairs online so let me know what you think of this trend and whether you’ll be wearing it yourself this summer 🙂
During the week I shared a blog post about my new sewing project and how I was working with stretch fabrics for the first time. I wanted to share my progress with you and let you know how I got on – so here goes!
As you know, I spent a lot of time getting the measurements right and carefully cutting out my pattern. In the end there were only 4 pieces of fabric needed to construct the top: a front and back – made from the ‘lemon summer’ floral jersey fabric – and two sleeves, which I cut from lilac jersey fabric from Minerva. The top was constructed in a rather unusual way (or at least in a way what I’ve never done before) which was to sew the darts and stitch the top seam of the front and back together to make a sort of tabard before insert the open sleeves into the open sleeve holes – so the sleeves were stitched in at the shoulders before sewing up the side seams or the sleeve seams.
The sides were then stitched in one continuous line from cuff of the sleeve, up the arm and back down the side seams. I tacked this seam using a long stitch so that I could try it on for size, and even though I’d double checked all the measurements on the pattern, the top was still too large for me. So I took the opportunity to take in the seams at both sides when I stitched them closed using a zig-zag stitch to allow it to stretch with the fabric. Because I was using a stretch thread (Mettler Serflock) I was able to straight stitch around a finger-rolled cuff to finish off the sleeves and I did a double-row of top stitching at the hem of the top (above).
I decided to finish off the neckline with some contrasting pink stretch bias binding to pick out the colours in the floral fabric. This was a great product to work with and I could use it in the same way as normal binding, but it stretched easily around the curved neckline and still has a little bit of give in the fabric so that it can easily be pulled on and off over my head. I pinned the binding around the neckline and stitched the binding open, using a straight stitch into the crease line. I then folded this back to behind the fabric, ironed it flat and then pinned again before stitching around the neckline on the right side, very close to the edge of the binding, but not on it. This caught the binding at the back and stitched it in place without leaving a line on top of the binding at the front.
I am very pleased with how my summer top has turned out and I will share some photos of the finished item soon. I really love the colours and floral pattern. It was such an easy design to create, with very few pattern pieces and nothing too technical – I guess that’s why it says ‘FACILE/EASY’ in big letters on the Vogue pattern! I guess it would have been more tricky if I’d used the neckline pattern pieces rather than using stretch bias binding, but if I can find a shortcut to creating something that looks great in half the time, I will of course use it! I’m planning to make this pattern again in different fabrics and I think it would take me even less time and effort now that I’ve done it once – who needs high street shops anyway?! 😉