Cassiefairy's thrifty lifestyle blog

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


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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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My vintage caravan ~ somewhere to iron my sewing projects

So on this wet Wednesday morning, what better to chat to you about than my new ironing board. Honestly, it’s a much more interesting topic than you’d think! I needed to replace my previous ironing board this week because I discovered that it has gone mouldy and rusty where it had been leaning up against a damp exterior wall. Do you remember that I talked about my damp bedroom and problem with condensation? Well, it turns out that it wasn’t only my bedroom that had the problem! So when I came to get out my ironing board to iron the darts into the dress that I challenged myself to sew this week, I found that my ironing board had been ruined.

brabantia ironing board outside my vintage caravan sewing room

You can probably tell from the above that I’m not what you’d call a regular ironer, which is why I hadn’t noticed the rust appearing on the ironing board frame. Even so, I need an ironing board for all of my sewing projects and I felt a bit stumped without one. I’m not going back to my student days of laying a towel on the floor and using that as an ironing surface! So I visited the John Lewis website and picked out this Brabantia ironing board – mainly for the cute tea-party pattern on the cover! When it arrived, I realised that it did so much more than I’d expected and could be used at many different heights so it will be ergonomically the right height for even small ladies like me! Plus I can even iron whilst sitting down, that’s how low it goes! It’s really chunky and sturdy, as you’d expect from a brand whose tag line is “solid company”, plus I love the little teapot hot plate for resting your iron on. All in all I thought it was a good choice and I’ll be keeping it in my sewing-workshop caravan now, to make sure that it isn’t met with the same fate as the previous ironing board.

brabantia airing rack outside my vintage caravan sewing room

While on the subject, I also got this Brabantia airing rack, which was equally sturdy and has more hanging surface area than I ever thought possible – enough for a whole washing load. It’s handy for this time of year, because I don’t have a tumble-dryer to dry my clothes (not that I’d want to pay for the electricity to run it, I’m too stingy!) and I reply on good weather and my washing line. Looking out of the window at this time of year, I can tell I’m not going to be getting any washing dry on the line, so I needed an alternative. This airer will sit in my bathroom and the warm air will dry the clothes – plus I don’t mind having the window open to air the bathroom and take out the dampness from the wet clothes.

So although not always the most interesting subject area to talk about, my new clothes-drying-and-ironing system is one of the more exciting things that has happened to me this week and I’m pleased to be getting everything in order so that I can really enjoy Christmas in comfort! Not to mention all those sewing projects I’ll be able to get on with now..!


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Getting organised with Christmas gift guides

I love looking at catalogues at this time of year.  There’s just something special about Christmas gift guides that gets me in the mood for the festive season – even if I don’t ever buy anything from them! Although I try hard not to get excited about Christmas too early, I am a bit of a kid when it comes to all things festive, and I just can’t help picking up stacks of Christmas gift guides when they start appearing in the shops. Add to that the fact that festive catalogues start dropping through my letterbox from the middle of October and you’ve got a recipe for an over-excited adult with restless fingers that just want to be flicking through those pages.

getting organised with christmas gift guides using Post its

This weekend was one of those rare occasions that I found myself with a couple of hours of spare time and a festive feeling floating around inside me. So I snuggled down with a cup of tea (who are we kidding, it was a pot of tea) and methodically went through my stack of gift guides, making notes and marking my favourites with Post-it Index markers. Now, I don’t want any of my gift recipients to flip through my xmas catalogues and straight away see what I’ve earmarked for them, so I’ve avoided putting name labels on the tabs. Instead, I have put an index in my diary of which colour Post-it refers to whom – this head’s not just a hat stand eh?! 

Not only was I shopping for parents, siblings, in-laws and friends, but I was also shopping for myself. Let’s face it, without a gentle nudge in the right direction hubby may well buy me a vacuum cleaner for Christmas (ok we do need a new one, but that’s not the point!). So I thought I’d give him a helping hand by adding in these pretty pink Post-its on the things I simply must have.

getting organised with christmas gift guides using Post It Index

Plus, I’ve gone one step further and have been sending him cheeky photos of the products that I want with a big red arrow pointing to it, so he knows what to buy and even what it looks like! Is that too cheeky or is it very helpful?? It’s a lesson that I learnt from my friend at Glitter Daze blog – she always read magazines with a stack of sticky-tabs to hand so that she could mark the outfits and cosmetics she liked and then pass on the magazine to her housemates to get their opinions before making the purchase. That was in the days before camera phones so my modern solution to living miles away from my uni friends is to take a snap and post it to Instagram or Facebook to get a second opinion – or in this instance to drop a subtle hint to the hubster about what would make me very happy this Christmas!

getting organised with christmas gift guides using Post It sending photo of product with phone

I really enjoy this part of the run up to Christmas and find myself repeating the ritual year after year. I hope I’m not alone in the joy I find from browsing through Christmas guides – please leave me a comment below and let me know if you do it too!


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A special honour for Cassiefairy

I’ve received fantastic news that my little lifestyle blog has been honoured by DotComGiftShop as one of their favourite blogs. They contacted me to let me know that I’d won this little award for my crafty sewing projects and that they had shared details of my blog on their ‘beautiful crafting blogs’ page. Here’s what they said about my blog “Whether you’re after ideas for your next homemade project or in need of room decorating ideas, you’ll find it all here at this gorgeous, girly blog. Ever wanted to revamp a pair of funky sunglasses or make your own roman blinds? It’s all here to inspire you! We especially love this blogger’s monthly sources of inspiration. She’s used everything from antique teddy bears to vintage wedding dresses, to get her creative juices flowing.”

Dotcomgiftshop badge

They even sent me a badge for my sidebar and offered me a little gift from their site. I was so chuffed to receive this recognition and it was lovely to browse their collection of gifts to choose a treat for me. I never get to shop for gifts for myself, so this was an extra-special treat. After a fun hour of online shopping I decided on this stunning ceramic cake stand with ruffled edge. It is completely beautiful and something that I’d always wanted but never really got round to buying for myself. It’s an item of crockery that you’d only really use for a celebration, so it’s suitably apt for this special occasion and I’ll definitely remember this accolade every time I use it. Plus now I’ll be able to display my birthday cake with pride next month (although I’ll probably be making it myself haha!).

vintage christmas bunting from dotcomgiftshop in my retro shabby chic caravan and ceramic cake stand

I also swooned when I saw this Christmas bunting set on sale and even though I’m trying hard not to get too excited about Christmas yet, I couldn’t help myself! It’s such a cute retro design and the duck-egg blue and pink fabric colours are perfect for my vintage caravan. It’s a really long string of cotton bunting (about 8 metres) so even my caravan will look suitably festive when I put up my Christmas decorations next month!

vintage christmas bunting from dotcomgiftshop in my retro shabby chic caravan 2013

Massive thanks to DotComGiftShop for choosing the Cassiefairy blog as one of their favourites and awarding me with this badge, I am chuffed to bits! And now that I’ve started visiting the site regularly (checking out the deal of the day!), this store has fast become one of my favourite places to shop and I’ve got a massive Christmas present wish list – I’ll keep dropping hints to hubby and keep my fingers crossed for one of those light-up bunnies! ;)


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More Christmas prep ~ shopping for fairy lights!

It started with the party dress… and now I’m already looking into festive lights for my home. It’s funny how one thing leads to another when you’re searching for ‘Christmas shopping’ online and I ‘accidentally’ started browsing through fairy lights and christmas trees!

I’ve only had one previous Christmas in my home, and having only recently moved money was tight, so I didn’t really focus much on decorating the house for Christmas. Of course I went to town on the interior (I don’t think there’s ever a bare branch on my Christmas tree!) but I didn’t have the time or budget to invest in outdoor lights. I admired plenty of houses nearby that were lit-up for the whole of the festive period and I even found a house with ‘bah-humbug’ spelled out in fairy lights – is that ironic or what?! I definitely want to get in on the ‘exterior illuminations’ act this year and I’ve been investigating the most thrifty way to do so.

christmas lighting decorations from the white stores blosson tree and retro lantern lights

The one of the first rules of being thrifty is being careful with your electricity (I don’t want a huge bill just because I put up some twinkle lights!) and that’s where LED lights come in. Over the years these have got better and better, and it’s hardly even possible to get old ‘fairy bulb’ lights any more – and that’s a good thing, because LEDs use considerably less electricity than normal bulbs and they don’t get scorching-hot like the old-fashioned lights used to. Plus they can usually be used outside because they are a sealed unit and water can’t get in. So they are safe and energy efficient – what’s not to like? My absolute favourites are these lantern lights above from White Stores. They are so retro and make me think of Christmases past – I’m sure that mum had lights similar to these when I was a child. And even though they look like lights from the 70s, they have LED bulbs so are electric-friendly and nostalgic, what a combination! I’d love to have this multi-coloured string of lights along the front of my house to welcome guests at Christmas.

outdoor christmas lighting decorations from the white stores polar scene lights

I also love the LED blossom trees that are so popular at the moment. I think I enjoy them so much because there’s a chance that I could have them on all year round – they would look great in the garden on summer nights too! There are tons of different colours available but I would probably go for this pink tree (top pic) so that they would be suitable to use during the year. Now, above is a Christmas illumination that can divide opinion. To have a festive scene or to not have a festive scene – that is the question! I love seeing other people’s lawns strewn with plastic santas, rope light reindeer and path lights, but would I want all that confusion of colour and movement in my own front garden? I think I have come up with the solution with these classy polar bear lights. I think that these are much cooler (pardon the pun) than ye olde rope lights and I just can’t help loving their cute faces. And reindeer live at the north pole too, don’t they? They do now! Of course, it would have to snow all winter to complete my polar scene but that’s a minor issue and I’m sure the Met office can help me out with that!

Let me know what you think – do you decorate the outside of your home for winter? Tweet me @cassiefairy or leave a comment below :)


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My party season prep – choosing a party dress

I know I’ve mentioned it earlier this week but I really do mean it – now that Halloween is out of the way, it means that the party season is just around the corner and I can start getting excited about Christmas! Up til now I’ve been so busy sorting out my haunted house and spooky costumes to even think about what I’m going to wear for the festivities, so my attention has firmly turned on Christmas.

What I do know though, is that I want to spend a little extra this year and get something really special that will make me the belle of the ball. So, I’m going to ditch the high street and pick up some designer delights instead. I don’t normally do this but if a girl can’t treat herself at Christmas, when can she!? Of course, I still want to get a thrifty bargain and find things cheaper than full-price so I’ve been having a look online in search of the perfect party outfit and I stumbled across Psyche. I really like it because it stocks ranges from some of my favourite designers. Here are some of my best finds:

Ted Baker Lace and Velvet Dress

It is very rare to find a dress that nails multiple trends, but this Ted Baker Lace and Velvet dress does exactly that. Midi length – check. Lace sleeves – check. Velvet – check. This figure-hugging dress oozes sophistication and elegance. The lace detailing across the top and sleeves gives just a subtle hint of skin, making it understatedly sexy. I would team this dress with a pair of killer black heels and a slick of red MAC lipstick to really vamp it up. Velvet isn’t the most flattering though, so I may have to invest in some of Gok Wan’s control pants depending on how many mince pies I have!

my favourite party outfits from psyche online clothing store 

The Pretty Dress Company Red Lace Dress

Christmas is the most acceptable time of year for you to wear red. This doesn’t mean you have to go for a tacky Mrs Claus outfit, though. Why not go for this red lace dress from The Pretty Dress Company, and exude glamour come Christmas day? The square neckline will provide just enough cleavage, while the lace panelling provides a sexy touch that creates an enviable hourglass shape in the process. I’ve fallen in love with this dress and at under £100, who can resist!? 

French Connection all-in-one Jumpsuit

I know that everyone will be going for dresses this year, so I am thinking about choosing something a little bit different. I am really tempted by this French Connection Jumpsuit. The cut is just perfect, with the V-neck showing off just enough bust and the high waistband emphasising my curves. It’s a bit plain though, so I will jazz it up with some killer accessories. I’m thinking a sparkly belt and statement necklace. 

Decisions, decisions..!

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