Bird in Borrowed Feathers Market this Weekend!

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It’s finally here!  I will be at the Bird in Borrowed Feathers Market for three whole days selling my vintage crafty wares!  Also I will be running a workshop on Saturday morning showing you how to customise a t-shirt.  For just £3 you can pick my brains and rummage in my crafty stash.  Drop me an email to book a slot and then have a look at my customising pin board for inspiration.

There will loads of other designers, makers and crafters selling their amazing work and there are lots of different workshops going on all weekend for every age!

Don’t forget to say hello when you drop by!

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Sew and Tell: Louise West Lace Design

Photo courtesy of

A few months ago I had the pleasure of taking part in a lacemaking workshop with Louise.  Lace always seemed so intricate and complicated but in its simplest form as long as you can count to four, you can make lace!  I have to be honest, it did take me four hours to make a skinny snake bookmark but I could have carried on all day.

Louise’s work shows how versatile lace can be, from traditional lace trims to 3D sculptures.  She even created the lace that was used to emboss the exterior walls of the Nottingham Contemporary gallery!

Name: Louise West

Occupation: Lace designer/tutor

Current location: Derby

Sweet or Savoury?  Savoury

Hero or Villain?  Hero

Favourite decade?  Current one – always think today is better than yesterday.

Favourite film?  X-files the movie

Describe Louise West Lace Design in five words:  Unique, creative, inspirational, enthusiastic, fun.

3D lace made with wire.

What drew you to lacemaking and how did you start?  I saw someone demonstrating lace many years ago and thought it looked interesting, so wanted to have a go. I found a course and once I tried it I was hooked.

What does your studio look like?

Louise's studio in Derby.

Where do you get your inspiration?  I have many sources of inspiration.  Historical designs by Thomas Lester always inspire me to design, partly due to the organic nature and plants involved.  A lot on my own designs feature botanical inspirations, although some are stylised to the point that most people won’t recognise the original plant.

Louise's MA lace art pieces.

What tool could you not live without and why?  Lace bobbins – hundreds of them – without them you cannot make bobbin lace!  Many are so beautiful in their own right, with hand painting and inscriptions that they are works of art themselves.

If you could meet any other artist or designer who would they be?  Historically it would have to be Thomas Lester from the 19th century who has inspired so much of my current work.  His designs made lace so much more organic and flowing.

Some traditional lace designs made by Louise.

Your work jumps from the traditional lace to contemporary art and beautiful jewellery.  Which aspect do you prefer and do you have a favourite piece?  Traditional lace is always a favourite, in particular Bedfordshire lace, but the contemporary lace is much more of a challenge.  Sometimes even the equipment has to be made or adapted before the work can begin and this is another challenge.  I love the jewellery and being able to wear lace in this form every day and making it is great fun.

Some of Louise's lace embossed jewellery.

What do you hope for the future of lacemaking? Do you think it will become a popular craft again?  I hope that it continues to flourish as it is an important part of our heritage, and can inspire so many new directions. It is also very therapeutic and can be relaxing which is a great stress reliever – something we all need in the busy pace of 21st century life. There is a lot of interest in workshops with more people enjoying finding something more traditional and away from digital technology. Many people find being creative really empowering, and leading to more confidence in other areas of life. Lace is something that any age can do as long as they can count to four!

And finally… Are there any events or projects to look forward to?  I love teaching, and have many courses booked which I am travelling to teach over the next 18 months, but I am also working on some new lace designs which I hope will be published in a book next year.

The lace embossed walls of the Nottingham Contemporary gallery.

Thanks Louise!  If you would like to see more of Louise’s wonderful work or find out how you can learn to make lace, visit her website:

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Sew and Tell: Illustryous

*Heads up! This blog post contains images of artistic nudity*

Meet Laura of Illustryous, a wonderful Brighton based artist (and dear friend) who’s figurative illustrations incorporate the magical and fantastical.  When she isn’t drawing mermaids and unicorns, Laura works as a life model and drawing tutor as part of Draw Brighton.  Find out why she ran away to join the circus and bumped into a mermaid on Brighton beach!

Name: Laura Burgess

Occupation: Illustrator/Drawing Tutor

Current location: My studio, Brighton.

Sweet or Savoury? I just ate a whole bag of sweet and salted popcorn, so I prefer a combination!

Hero or Villain? I’d like to be a villain, but a kind of benign one.

Favourite decade? The ’60s, all that peace and love and flower power – although I probably have an overly romanticised ideal of it.

Favourite film? Breaking the Waves, by Lars Von Trier.

Describe Illustryous in five words: Ethereal, Figurative, Beautiful, Intriguing, Colourful.

How did Illustryous start? I finished my degree in Philosophy, and went off on a massive tangent, deciding to train myself up as an Illustrator. I took an art foundation course, and found life drawing to be the most exciting and inspirational aspect. My illustrations are all based around figures drawn from life, with patterned embellishments.

What is Draw Brighton and how did you become involved? Draw Brighton is the organisation I run life drawing sessions with, it is a collective of artists, models, performers and creatives. We run ‘Drawing Circus‘ events in theatres and other locations across the South East, a visually delightful performance in which hundreds of people come and engage with the act of drawing, sometimes for the first time. I also run the weekly themed life drawing sessions – which include a set and costumed model based around themes as diverse as Pandora’s Box, Poisonous Plants, and Mystical Creatures.

Photo from the Drawing Circus

Where do you get your inspiration? I draw my inspiration from the colourful characters around Brighton – my mermaid drawing is of Michaela, who busks on the beach as a mermaid in summer, blowing bubbles and combing her hair, in full mermaid costume. The human figure is hugely inspirational, most of my drawings are drawn from life; the act of sitting in front of, witnessing and then translating the form of another human being on to paper is something I find profound and moving. I find drawing the human figure is the very best way to improve one’s drawing, it is so challenging to get right – the subtle nuances in faces and proportions, yet so satisfying when you can capture something of the essence of a person with something as simple as a pencil and paper.

A Melody of Mermaids

What tool could you not live without and why? A 2H and a 4B pencil, I use them daily for my drawings, it is amazing what you can create with really low tech materials and turn into finished works.

If you could meet any other artist or designer who would they be and why? Audrey Kawasaki is a huge inspiration, I absolutely adore her work and drool over her website whenever I have any spare time. Her skill and vision as an artist is incredible, her aesthetic is absolutely stunning, and I’d love to create work as accomplished as hers.

Album cover design for Noir Musique

And finally… Any events or products to look forward to? I am working on some illustrations inspired by unicorns at the moment, and will be continuing to update my blog and shop with more work, so follow me there. Also, if you are lucky enough to live in the South East, The Drawing Circus runs monthly events at the Old Market in Hove. My themed life drawing sessions continue to run weekly, check out the Draw website for details.

Thanks Laura! Follow the links in the post to find more about Laura’s amazing work and the Drawing Circus.

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New Vintage Goodness for Spring!…and other news

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Hello there!

It seems like ages since my last post.  I feel like I haven’t had a moment to spare since moving back to Nottingham.  I’ve moved house again and plans for a studio are in the making, but until then I’m settled in the spare room of my new house and trying to get organised (easier said than done!)

The Flashback event was a great success!  If you weren’t able to make it have a look at this great little film to see what you missed.  There’s also a few photos on the Spinster’s Facebook page.  I can’t wait for the next one!

I have also added some lovely new items to the shop including some of the tantalising designs above and lots of vintage buttons and buckles.  I’ve got loads more on the way including some great 1950s vintage fabric!

I’ll be back later in the week with a Sew and Tell with Laura of Illustryous. So be sure to pop back with a cup of tea for a good read.

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Flashback and other news…

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It’s been nearly a month since my last post and so many exciting things have developed since then!  Among them is my decision to move back to my home town of Nottingham.  I’ve been hanging out in the West Midlands for a while, but with a change of job and a desire to bring Spinster’s Emporium back to its birth place, it seemed like it was the right time to move.

I hope that after a few months of settling in I will be able to have an open studio again and perhaps a space to do workshops! Fingers crossed!

Now it just so happens that my return to Nottingham coincides with a rather fantastic event which I have been asked to take part in.  Flashback II is set to be a marvelous evening of vintage goodness taking place in Nottingham’s Lace Market.  There will be live music, a fashion show, a dance class and vintage market presenting the talents of some of Nottingham’s finest creatives!

I’m excited to announce I will be running a vintage customising workshop from 7pm.  Bring an item of clothing and learn a few simple techniques to give it a new life.  All materials and equipment are provided at no extra cost!

If you want to take part but don’t have an item of clothing to bring, then you can learn to make a simple drawstring toiletry bag which you can decorate with buttons and trims from the Spinsters stash.

The best customiser will receive a Spinster’s Emporium goody bag filled with lovely vintage materials to customise at home.

You can buy tickets from the Lacehouse website or pop into Oxfam Goosegate or Sue Ryder Hockley

Click here to see all the other amazing collaborators on the Flashback blog and like the Facebook page to keep up to date.

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Sew and Tell: Lily and the Lamplight

Meet the super talented Steph Cunningham of Lily and the Lamplight.  Dressmaker extraordinaire! She makes beautiful vintage style clothes in hand picked fabrics perfect for retro lovers and fashion fanatics alike.  If individual and quirky is your style then Steph’s your gal. (A little bird told me she also does the odd commission!) Read on to find out the inspirations and aspirations of Lily and the Lamplight…

Name: Steph Cunningham

Occupation: Designer/Dressmaker

Current Location: In my studio in Lancashire, currently sorting through my new Spring/Summer fabrics!

Sweet or savoury? Definitely sweet, can’t resist sweet treats!

Knit or crochet? I’d have to say knitting. My Grandma taught me how to knit when I was younger.

Hero or villain? Hero, all the way! Always root for the good guy!

Favourite decade? The 1960s, I love the style of this time! Mini skirts, shift dresses and floral prints, make up the majority of my wardrobe.

Favourite film? Recently I really enjoyed The Great Gatsby.  I love the stylized style of the film and the clothes by Prada were amazing!

Describe Lily and the Lamplight in five words: Handmade, quirky, vintage, classic and one-of-a-kind! Maybe pushing it a little bit with the last word!

How did Lily and the Lamplight start? After completing a degree in fashion design at UCLAN University and interning at various fashion brands, I decided I would like to start my own brand designing vintage style clothing.

What does your studio look like? Full of printed fabrics, rolls of pattern paper and rails full of Lily and the Lamplight clothes ready for upcoming fairs!

Making, designing, photographing, branding! Do you do everything yourself or do you have a team? No, just me!

Where do you get your inspiration? I’m always on the look out for inspiration, from vintage fairs to fabric shops, to books and magazines.  Or anything quirky or individual that catches my eye!

What tool could you not live without and why? My pattern master.  It allows me to turn my designs into actual garments!

If you could meet any other designer or artist who would they be and why? Mary Katrantzou, ever since I saw her first collection in 2008 I’ve been obsessed with everything she does.  I love her use of print!

And finally… Any events or products to look forward to from Lily and the Lamplight? One of my new styles for Spring/Summer are my matching two piece sets.  Perfect for Summer and the festival season!

As for fairs, I will be at The Vintage Fair at 53 Degrees in Preston on the 1st February.  I will also be at Crafty Vintage Brockholes events starting May 10th-11th, and Crafty Vintage at Houghton Towers on the 25th and 26th May.

Please check out my Facebook for updates.

Thanks Steph! I definitely know who I will be calling when I need a new party dress!

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Posted in All Blog Posts, Inspiration, Sew & Tell Interviews, Uncategorized, Vintage/Retro fabric | Tagged , , , , , | Comments Off

2014: The year of the Spinster!

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Happy New Year!

Ok, so I know that new year was so sixteen days ago but there are still eleven months and fifteen days left of 2014 and I am going to try my hardest to make the most of them!  I’ve got several plans, a few relocations and some crazy ideas in the pipe line for this year.  Some of them might even work so I’m keeping positive during this rather grey month and thinking about all the good stuff.

If you follow Spinster’s Emporium on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram you may have already seen my rather delightful custom made dress from Lily and the Lamplight.  To cut a long story short I cheekily said “I’ll send you some fabric and you can make me a dress ;-) ” and Lily and the Lamplight said yes! It’s amazing what can happen when you just ask!

So on Christmas day I was prancing around my parents garden having my photo taken (hence the wellies) in this beautiful 1950s print fabric dress.

Steph of Lily and the Lamplight was even kind enough to take some photos of the dress being made…

I couldn’t resist a little interview with the maker of my favourite new outfit so pop back this way on Saturday to find out more about Lily and the Lamplight.

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p.s. I’m on Tumblr now too!

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Betty is Spinster’s Emporium’s new best friend!

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Check out the Spinster’s Emporium Bow project in the beautiful Betty magazine! This simple project can be adapted so you can have bows on your clothes, bows on your shoes, bows in your hair, bows everywhere! (Even on your Christmas tree!)

Betty is an independent magazine dedicated to “Empowering and unifying women with a youthful state of mind and a nostalgic heart.”
“You won’t find any weight loss or diet tips here, we don’t play on people’s insecurities: our philosophy is for people to embrace who they are and celebrate it. When you enter the world of Betty you will find fashion, music, culture and lifestyle content plus everything in between, with how to guides, our own fashion styling and many a tip shared, Betty magazine is your new best friend.”

If you like beautiful photography, unique styling and pages full of loveliness then Betty is for you.  Order a copy from their website or find it in your nearest magazine retailer.

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Last Orders!

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Sew and Tell: Pretty Dandy

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Meet Becky the creator Pretty Dandy, an online homewares shop selling loads of vintage, handcrafted and beautifully designed goods.  She also organises the Pretty Dandy Flea which will be on this weekend in Nottingham.  Find out how she runs her business all the way from Barcelona with a cup of tea and cake on stand by…


Becky Morris Knight


Owner of Pretty Dandy

Current location:

At my desk, listening to the rain in Barcelona

Sweet or Savoury:

Sweet. Every time. I’m a sucker for sugary treats!

Knit or Crochet:

Knit. I can’t do either, but I used to be able to knit when I was little and it’s something I often think about taking up again. I love the feel of the needles, the clackety-clack noise, that moment when you slip into a rhythm. Plus you can buy wool in really lovely colours!

Hero or Villian

Oooh. That’s a tough one! I think I’ll have to go hero because even though I love a villain, I also do want them to lose in the end. I’d like a flawed hero though please, preferably with a great outfit. Like Wonder Woman!

Favourite animal:

Can I choose more than one? I love really silly kittens, with big heads and tiny bodies. I’m also a sucker for a little curly haired white dog. Lambs, llamas, alpacas, bunnies. Basically anything kinda fuzzy. Oh and octopi are pretty cool too!

Favourite film:

I change my mind about this all the time, but two really magnificent films are O Brother Where Art Thou? by the Coen Brothers and Magnolia by Paul Thomas Anderson. They are two of my favourites alongside Bugsy Malone, It’s a Wonderful Life and anything with Bill Murray.

Favourite decade:

1950′s for style (fashion & home), right now because life is good and 2060 because I’ll be retired and there will probably be flying cars and stuff by then, right?

What is your favourite vintage find and why?

My favourite find is some vintage wallpaper which I bought on a whim an awfully long time ago, for a couple of pounds on Ebay. At the time we were living in rented accommodation where we weren’t even allowed to put up pictures, never mind redecorate. I hung onto it for about 5 years, shifting these funny old rolls of wallpaper from cupboard to cupboard. Eventually we bought our own place and I was so excited to use this paper. I brought it out and proudly displayed it to my husband who took one look and declared he didn’t like it. We struck a deal where I could use it on one wall and if he didn’t like it we’d change it fairly soon. Luckily, he loved it and I still think it’s just beautiful, interesting and unusual. It’s stylish, bold and yet not too ‘in your face’.  I love it!

Describe Pretty Dandy in five words:

Eclectic, curious, open, colourful and fun!

How did Pretty Dandy start?

I was working for my father, living in Nottingham but driving up to Doncaster every day to work in the family business. It was lovely to work with my Dad and see my family a lot, but the work I was doing just wasn’t fulfilling for me… our family business sells car parts! As I’m sure you can imagine, as a girl with a head full of art prints, bows and vintage china, it just wasn’t a good fit. I’d always wanted to follow in my father’s footsteps and set up my own business, so it was just a matter of deciding what and how and taking that leap!

Making, designing, photographing, branding! Do you do everything yourself or do you have a team?

I’d love to say I have a fabulous team, but actually it’s just me. I am lucky to have a lot of fabulous friends who have helped me out in so many ways – from my good friend Angi Fletcher who did our beautiful branding to my husband Anders who helps out on photo shoots, writing press releases, setting up for events and much more! I also source products from lots of different places – vintage things, stuff I make myself and also goodies from other crafters and designer-makers. Sadly the thing I usually run out of time for is my own making, so that’s something I hope to do more of in the future.

The Pretty Dandy Flea focuses on homewares and interiors rather than fashion.  Was this a conscious decision or did it just develop that way?

It was definitely a conscious decision. While I like fashion in an abstract way I’ve never really followed trends or have been a part of that world. Interiors however is my passion. I recently remembered that when I was about 13 or 14 I went through a phase of refinishing old bits of furniture. Not necessarily with a great deal of skill or taste, but I guess even then I was drawn to it. I just think our homes are so important, it’s where we go when we want to rest, to rejuvenate, to take care of ourselves and to enjoy ourselves. I can’t think of anything better than making that place just perfect!

Managing the Pretty Dandy shop and markets seems like a huge task!  How do you keep it together when things get stressful?

I’d love to claim that I never get stressed out or fazed by these things, but there’s been more than one occasion where I’ve had to be sat down with a big piece of cake and a cup of tea. Those are my two main coping mechanisms. I’m also learning to ask for help more. I’m a bit of a perfectionist (for that read: control freak) and am used to just being able to get things done by myself. However, as the shop & the events grow I realise I need to reach out more and ask the lovely people around me to help out. Luckily my husband is super supportive and is always happy to throw himself into the fray and back me up. Oh, and the other thing? Lists. A million long lists. I love a list!

Who are you most looking forward to seeing at the next flea?

Can I say my sisters? I live in Barcelona now and I can’t wait to come back and see all my friends and family. It’s going to be wonderful. In terms of stallholders it’s a tough choice, they are all so great! Some we’ve had before like the fabulous Carly Dodsley who makes great ceramics with a fab mid-century feel to the design, Jenna from Ding Ding creates brilliant geometric prints on all sorts of objects and is also lots of fun, Modflowers makes gorgeous stuff out of bright bold retro fabrics, Emma Blue makes beautiful paper cuts… really there’s too many to name! Plus there’s lots of lovely new stalls which I can’t wait to see too, like Charmain Lewis’ designer cakes, J.Lakin’s vintage treasures, Rebekah Critchlow’s beautiful painted gold birds and Suitcase Sounds – a fab stall with vintage suitcases turned into stereos! In fact, there’s only one stall I’m not looking forward to seeing and that’s the Spinster’s stall. I’ve only got a small suitcase… I’m never going to be able to choose which goodies to bring back with me!

Suitcase Sounds, Modflowers, Emma Blue, Carly Dodsley

And finally… What is the future of Pretty Dandy? World domination?

Yes. And I’d love to have a real-life shop one day too!

Spinster’s Emporium will be at The Pretty Dandy Flea this weekend! It will be wonderful to be back in the city where Spinsters was created.  There will be some special offers on so pop along and grab yourself a bargain.

If you would like to know more head over to The Pretty Dandy Facebook page. There’s some lovely Pinterest boards too, and of course the website full of handcrafted and vintage delights!

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