A #HillarysCrafternoon

Now I’m certainly no stranger to upcycling old clothes, but I haven’t really ventured into repurposing furniture or homewares much, mostly because I spend most of my free time at my sewing machine. So I couldn’t turn down an invite to a crafternoon run by Hillarys Blinds and Joe Blogs, in which a bunch of crafty bloggers were set a challenge to upcycle pretty wooden shutters using Annie Sloan chalk paint. Throw Kilner jars (and coffee and yummy sandwiches!) into the mix and that’s pretty much my idea of a perfect afternoon.

The event was held at At Bristol, meaning it was a great chance to meet some other South West bloggers. Before getting stuck in, we were shown what to do by designer Becky Clarke (she made it look so easy, and it actually surprisingly was! You can find out for yourself how it’s done on her website). Then it was time to choose our shutter and get started.

JoeBloggersHillarysCrafternoonBristolUpcycling Workshop

I chose to paint my shutter a lovely turquoise colour, which is one of my fave hues, and attach my jars in a random formation (no measuring required, win!). This was my first time using Annie Sloan chalk paint, and it really did live up to the hype – I now want to paint everything in my house! My paint application technique was, well, quite messy, but I imagine/hope that with practice I would improve.


Waiting for the paint to dry provided an excellent excuse to stop for a coffee and a sandwich or two from the rather delicious spread provided for us and have a bit of a chat. This paint dries really fast, so you can get a project done fairly quickly (although that does leave less time for scoffing sandwiches!).

Upcycled Kilner Jar Shutters

Even my boyfriend, who has seen so many of my creations that he usually just responds with a “that’s nice dear” (especially when it’s yet another dress), was impressed when I proudly presented my finished shutter. It certainly won’t be holding any of his stuff, though – my jars are, of course, going to be used for sewing kit storage!

Vintage cotton reelsCute Sewing StorageTape measure

Never one to know when to stop when it comes to craft projects, I decided I fancied giving my shutter a distressed look, so set to work distressing it with a piece of fine sandpaper (and adding a bit of Washi tape to the jars for good measure) before filling the jars with vintage cotton reels and other sewing bits and bobs. I am super chuffed with my new bit of storage and have definitely caught the upcycling bug. Thanks to Joe Blogs, Hillarys Blinds and Becky Clarke for an inspiring day!

Why Sewing is (Mostly) Better Than Buying


No one will ever be wearing the same outfit as you. The odds of another sewist choosing the exact same fabric and pattern as you, and making it in exactly the same way, are slim to none, so your me-made clothes will always be unique to you. There’s also the added bonus of the feeling of satisfaction you get when proudly stating ‘I made it myself’ when someone compliments your outfit. #Nailedit.

It can be cheaper than buying ready-to-wear. Not always, granted (see below), but sewing can often be better value than buying RTW. I managed to make a dress to wear to a Christmas party for under £10 last year, which is a lot less than the usual cost of a party frock!

Choosing versatile patterns you love and will want to make again and again – and tracing them, rather than ripping them to shreds with pins – is a good place to start, as you won’t have to purchase new patterns every time you want to sew up something (of course, being able to draft your own would be even better! One day I’ll learn how…).

Fabric bargains can be found in abundance online on sites such as Remnant Kings and eBay – you might have to spend a few hours browsing the options, but it’ll be worth it! Plus, if you don’t spend too much on the fabric, you’ll probably be more likely to experiment with different sewing techniques as you won’t be so scared of ruining it.

It’s a great creative outlet. We aren’t all lucky enough to have the opportunity to let our creative side free at work, so sewing is a great chance to indulge in your love of all things aesthetically pleasing. And that would make us all a little happier, right?

It changes the way you view fashion (for the better). I used to think I enjoyed shopping, but what I actually liked about it was browsing and being inspired by all the pretty colours, patterns and styles on offer. Sewing is like that, only much more fun, as you get to choose all those things for yourself and combine them in just the way you want! And because you know how many hours it took to sew that gorgeous dress or stylish jacket, you’ll treasure your clothes all the more. Fashion is no longer throwaway for me, and I rarely make spur-of-the-moment purchases (well, unless it’s fabric anyway) and that can only be a good thing.

Vintage Spools

And why (sometimes) it’s not…

It takes time. Although simpler projects can be completed in a weekend (or, if you’re really good, an evening), there’s no denying that sewing is time-consuming, especially if you want to get it right and not end up with a #sewingfail on your hands (believe me, I’ve been there). Sewing is not a fast fashion fix, but that isn’t a bad thing. It just means you have to plan in advance for any big events coming up, or admit defeat and head to the high street when you haven’t been able to squeeze in any sewing time.

You can’t sew everything. This rather smoothly links to my previous point. As much as every sewist would love to have a fully me-made wardrobe, having work responsibilities (and, you know, friends and family to see) mean it’s impossible to find time to sew everything you’d like to, let alone the boring but essential basics like tees and vest tops. This is why I sew the fun stuff, like dresses and blouses, and buy all the dull but much-needed staples.

It can cost more. This may seem contradictory, seeing as I’ve just harped on about how sewing is often cheaper than buying, but both statements are true. It all depends on the project and the fabric. If you’re making a big, floaty dress that requires lots of fabric, say, and have your heart set on expensive material to make it with, then you’re probably going to be spending more. But, if you sew it well, that dress will be so darn amazing that you probably won’t care anyway.

If you liked this, you might like…

Silly quotes about sewing.

6 problems only people who sew will understand.

My guide to finding sewing inspiration.


Friday Fabric Love: Summery Leaf Prints

Leaf Print Fabric

1. Tropical viscose from Remnant Kings (on sale!). 2. Freespirit fern print cotton from Flo Jo Boutique. 3. John Kaldor cotton and linen fabric from Minerva Crafts. 4. Floral sateen fabric from Remnant Kings. 5. Tropical print viscose from Remnant Kings.

Move aside, classic florals – this is the summer of tropical leaf prints. These instantly make me think of exotic holidays (and are probably about as close as I’ll get to one) and are a fun, more contemorary version of the girly florals that come back in every time the weather heats up.

Although the brighter prints are perhaps best saved strictly for sunny days (although that’s only my personal preference – if you’re brave enough to wear neon pink in the winter, I salute you), subtler fabrics – like the monochrome leaf fabric above, from Minerva Crafts – would work into next season too, paired with boots and a light autumn jacket.


Check Mate

So, the last time I did an outfit post, I was wearing a bobble hat and a winter coat. Now (hopefully) it’s time for sunnies and sandals. Hats off to fashion bloggers who put up daily outfit posts – it seems I can barely manage one every few months at the moment. The sunshine has definitely helped me get back into the blogging spirit of things though.

This kimono-style top was a really simple make, using a pattern from Simply Sewing magazine – and when I say simple, I mean simple. It’s just two pieces of fabric sewn together – no fastenings, no facings, no bias binding to contend with. I’m loving straightforward projects at the moment, as they are easy to work on when I get home from a day at actual work, and they are a quick fashion fix – not usually a phrase associated with sewing! I’m hoping to tackle a bigger project soon, but for now I think I’ll stick to ones that don’t challenge me too much; I’ll probably be making this one again in the not-so-distant future.

I chose to make it out of a check crepe fabric from Remnant Kings – it seems to be sold out now, but they have loads of other amazing fabrics to choose from (and there’s a sale on at the moment!). It drapes nicely and ticks the monochrome box, although matching up the checks was a bit of a nightmare as the fabric kept moving around while I was cutting and sewing it.

The cropped, loose shape makes it ideal for summer (and for eating burgers in, which is what I look for in an outfit). I paired it with a skirt made from a refashioned men’s shirt, meaning this is an entirely me-made get-up apart from the accessories, which, as any sewing geek will understand, is always exciting. Speaking of accessories, I recently treated myself to these Rayban sunnies – although tempted by the classic Wayfarers, the more girly, rounded shape of the Erika style made them a winner for me. Now I just have to try not to scratch the lenses or sit on them…

RaybanErikasSummerFlowersCheck TopKurt Geiger BagBirdyMonicaVinaderMariePendantSummerStyleOOTDSummerWalkRaybans

Sunglasses Rayban Bag Kurt Geiger via Shoeaholics (similar hereSandals New Look Necklace Monica Vinader Rings ebay, Nikki Stark & Bloody Mary Metal

Clothes that Care

When you make your own clothes, you come to realise how much time, effort and know-how it takes to create a garment. That’s why I’m always shocked by just how little shops like Primark can sell things for – the people making all those super-cheap dresses and tops are surely not getting a fair deal. So I love discovering brands that have an ethos behind them, be it sustainable, ethical or charitable – these three prove that ethical fashion can be edgy, fun and modern, and that it doesn’t always have to equal mega expensive prices, which is a win in my book.

Made By Riley 

Made By Riley

You might be wondering who the Riley of this brand’s title is, although if you’re a fan of trashy-but-oh-so-good reality TV (like myself) you might already know – she’s part of the MIC alumni. Although it seems like most of the posh MIC peeps have their own fashion label, Made by Riley is a little different in that it’s a charitable brand – its printed tees and sweaters are designed and created in Britain, and a percentage of the proceeds from each garment goes towards various handpicked charities, including Maggie’s Centres, Action Aid and Human Rights Watch. My favourite piece is the Live Your Life sweater – not only is it comfy and stylish, but 20 per cent of the cost is donated to Breakthrough Breast Cancer.

Who Made Your Pants?

Who Made Your PantsThe Who Made Your Pants? team believe that pants can change the world. Crazy? Well, maybe not so much – you see, this campaigning lingerie brand is dedicated to tackling some of the most controversial issues in clothing production (and the world) today – wastage, working conditions and women’s opportunities. In a little factory in Southampton they use end-of-season fabrics from big underwear companies to create comfy and colourful undies, and hope to create jobs for women who have had a hard time and help them to thrive and learn new skills. What’s more, all their profits go back into the business for staff training and development. And, as if all those ethical credentials weren’t enough, their pants aren’t half bad either – they’re pretty darn lovely, actually, especially the lacy Aimee shorts.


CossacEthical fashion once had a reputation for being a little bit, well, boring and untrendy, but brands like Cossac are adding some much-needed edge to the sustainable clothing scene. Cossac’s mission, according to its website, is to ‘promote transparency in the fashion world and to produce quality garments that are sustainable in both manufacture and design, without sacrificing on style.’ Its clothes are produced in the UK and Turkey in factories that provide just working conditions for its employees, and the majority of its fabrics are Fairtrade, organic, recycled or have low environmental impact. The main collection comprises sleek, minimalistic pieces that are designed to be worn time and again, season to season. The super-cool high-low topslogan tees and tote bag are on my wish list.

Friday Fabric Love: On Cloud Nine

Cloud Print Fabric

1. Cotton cloud print from Cath Kidston. 2. Cloud print on medium cotton from Fabric Rehab. 3. Neon pink and teal clouds from Village Haberdashery. 4. Classic cloud design by Gunila Axén from This Modern Life. 5. Whimsical rain-cloud print by UK-based Dashwood from John Lewis.

For this week’s Friday Fabric Love, my head is well and truly in the clouds. There’s something quite fascinating and magical about clouds – they’re always there, silently floating past our office windows, but we rarely actually look at them (unless we think there’s rain on the way, of course, in which case we monitor their progress intently, trying to guess when the first drop will fall). As kids, though, there seemed to be almost endless time to play the ‘let’s find shapes in the clouds’ game – we had hours aplenty in which to gaze up to the heavens and find all manner of patterns and outlines in the sky. I suppose that’s why clouds remind me of chilled-out days and time off (especially rain clouds – thanks UK weather).

Inspired by Cath Kidston’s lovely cloud-print homewares (how amazing is this lamp?), I went on the hunt for some fabric that would have me on cloud nine. Of course, I’ve included a little number by Cath Kidston, which I think is my favourite of the lot, although the cute cartoony Dashwood rain clouds are a close contender and will give any dull day a silver lining. All are fab for home craft projects and pretty frocks alike.

Farm Life

I grew up in Somerset and I have to admit that I never truly appreciated its picturesque countryside when I lived there. I often bemoaned the lack of things to do (i.e. shops), and complained no end whenever it was suggested we go on a Sunday afternoon walk.

Ironically, going on a stroll around the countryside is now one of my favourite ways to relax of a weekend. I suppose we grown-ups end up with too many of the ‘things to do’ I so wished for when I was young, and so all we want is to get away from the to-do lists and city crowds. So that’s exactly what I did this Bank Holiday weekend, and ended up at a lovely little farm which has all manner of adorable animals on show to the public, from ducklings to meerkats. Entry is free, which obviously made it very popular with families, although I’m not sure who was more excited to see the lambs being fed, me or the hoard of hyperactive kids that were there (I admit, it was probably me). I really wanted to steal one (a lamb, obvs, not a child).

My day out on the farm provided me with some great photo opportunities – so many vintage pots, colourful flowers and, of course, ridiculously cute animals. Turns out country life ain’t so boring after all…

Watering Can Flower PotDuckiesVintage Flower PotDucklingCratesCountry PhotographyBlack LambFlower BasketCute SheepSpring FlowersFarm VisitPurple FlowersPretty Farmhouse

Friday Fabric Love: Sketchy Prints

Sketchy Print Fabric

1. Boxed lines from the Doe collection by Caroline Friedlander. 2. Summit Twilight by Hello Bear. 3. Script fabric by Katarina Roccella for Art Gallery fabrics. 4. Town print lawn from Fabric Rehab. 5. Shubbery in Turquoise from the Yoyogi Park collection by Helen Moore for Cloud9 Fabrics. 6. Bandeau voile from the Revelry collection by Lisa Congdon for Cloud9 Fabrics. 7. Indigo hand-drawn cross fabric from Fabric Rehab. 8. Chalk Charcoal fabric from Atelier Brunette.

Ask any dressmaker what their favourite aspects of the making process are, and chances are that going shopping for fabric would feature very highly on their list (in fact, it might even grab the top spot for me). I can spend hours browsing online fabric shops, gazing longing at all the exciting new prints and dreaming of what I might make with them (hours very much well spent, if you ask me) so it seems only right for me to share some of my fabric finds here on the blog.

While big, bold, in-your-face designs certainly have a place in my wardrobe, sometimes subtler prints like these sketchy designs win the day. These pretty fabrics look like someone has taken a pen or pencil to them (in a good way) and are a great way to show your arty side (especially if, like yours truly, you’re better with a sewing machine than you are a sketchbook). My favourite is Helen Moore’s turquoise print from her Yoyogi Park collection, which is inspired by her time spent sketching the unexpected plant life she found in Tokyo city – such an unusual print in a vibrant, cheerful hue that’s perfect for summer dresses.

Summer Style: Mini Handbags

It’s pretty much impossible to carry a tiny handbag in the winter, especially if you live in the UK. You’d be a fool to leave the house without at least one umbrella (rule no.1 of being a Brit: don’t ever trust a clear winter’s day), an extra cardigan for when it gets really chilly (and it will), a spare scarf (because one is never enough) and a medicine-cabinet’s worth of cold and flu remedies to cure the whole office (as you WILL all catch at least one cold). This usually results in a bulging handbag and a very sore shoulder – no wonder rucksacks have been so popular lately.

Summer – or, if you’re British, that week-long spell of sunshine (if we’re really lucky) – is different, though. Obviously you need sunscreen, sunnies and plasters (if anyone has found sandals that don’t cut your feet to shreds, please let me know) but aside from these and the usual essentials like your phone, keys and purse, there’s very little else you need to lug around with you – which, after a long winter of carrying all the aforementioned stuff to and from work, is just glorious. And that’s not to mention the fact that small handbags just look so darn adorable too. So, without further ado, here are a few of my favourite tiny handbags. Grab ’em while you can, UK peeps, as the tiny handbag season doesn’t last long…

Cedar Street, Kade Spade

Kate Spade Cedar Street

It’s striped, it’s from Kate Spade, and it’s super cute and tiny (oh, and monochrome is so very in right now). Need I say more?

Rowa Bag, Duo Boots

 Duo Boots Handbag

Although obviously known for their gorgeous shoes and boots that come in almost every size and width fitting under the sun, Duo also has a concise yet rather lovely bag selection which includes this bright little number. It’s not even actually that tiny, so you’ll definitely be able to fit all the essentials in it (read: a chocolate bar).

Heart Crossbody, Rebecca Minkoff via Sarenza Rebecca Minkoff Heart Crossbody

I’m a sucker for anything heart-shaped, so this bag caught my eye immediately. It also comes in black, but the baby pink will go very nicely with summery pastel shades.

Jet Set Crossbody, Michael Kors via Harvey Nichols Michael Kors Jet Set Crossbody

I couldn’t very well do a handbag run-down without including Michael Kors, the blogger’s go-to brand, now, could I? I love this one’s simple shape, and its metallic hue will go with everything.

March on Instagram

March on Instagram

1. Pastry. Enough said. 2. Amazing burgers from Three Brothers Burgers. 3. My Simplicity Blogger Challenge pattern. 4. New pieces added to my jewellery collection from Bloody Mary Metal. 5. Outfit details from Bristol Fashion Week.

March was rather hectic for me so I didn’t have too much time for snapping. I moved house last week, and packing all my stuff up took about a month. I just seem to have a lot of stuff – books, shoes, sewing equipment, the list goes on. Please tell me there’s someone else out there with as much stuff as me? My boyfriend was rather smug about the fact he only had a couple of bags to pack.

I’m really looking forward to finally getting stuck into Simplicity’s blogger challenge, which is looking for star sewists from three different categories: dressmaking, vintage and beginner. I’m entering the dressmaking category and am finding it rather tricky to narrow down my ideas to just one, let alone deciding on the fabric.

I was lucky enough to nab a blogger pass to Bristol Fashion Week last week and wore my favourite Duo Boots, new DKNY bag and biker jacket from New Look, as well as a recent finished project which I’ll hopefully share soon. I really enjoyed getting inspiration from the collections on show and it was quite exciting to see MIC’s Lucy Watson from afar. Yep, she is as posh in real life.