Cassi Griffin shows off her crafty know-how on her blog Bella Dia. She’s got a keen thrift store sense and can recycle anything vintage into something new and different. She first caught my eye with all her ornate felt pincushion designs. (Pictured above are Middle Earth pin cushions.) Looking deeper, I found an wealth of tips, tutorials and great projects from totes, quilt cards, softies and more. I got a chance to talk to this inspirational crafter about her work and even got some special tips to help take your sewing to the next level.
Quilted Card – fabric and paper collage
Cassi Griffin – Bella Dia LInks:
Nat: You seem to have a great background in all things crafty from sewing to crochet. How did you get interested in crafts? What kind of training did you have?
Cassi: You know, I’ve enjoyed making things for as long as I can remember. My mother and grandmothers were a big influence since they liked to make things too and as a kid I just naturally wanted to try it for myself. I haven’t had any formal training, just self taught and an interest in improving my skills but the basic lessons I got as a kid definitely gave me a solid foundation to build on.
Nat: Your blog Bella Dia showcases some amazing projects you’ve made. What prompted you to start a craft blog?
Cassi: Well, I had been at a flea market and found this great flour sack material that I wanted to make into tote bags. I looked online for some help and came across Craftster. I actually couldn’t believe that there were all these people out there that enjoyed doing the same things that I did. Then I started noticing that some of them had their own web sites or blogs and thought it was such a great way to keep track of your projects and share them with others. I never expected to get out of it what I have – support, camaraderie, inspiration, motivation, and friends all around the world.
Nat: You just came back from vacation recently. Did you see anything inspiring that will carry over into your craft work? What inspires you?
Cassi: I get this question a lot, so I’ve had to put a little more thought into exactly where my inspiration comes from. But I’d have to say that, in general, my initial inspiration comes from colors and color combinations. I live in a very rural area in South Central Idaho so nature and landscapes are a big influence. I also love children’s literature and their illustrators, flea markets, and period films. We just had a long drive through the desert to get to the Las Vegas area so I had a virtual feast for the eyes. The subtlety of the desert landscape compared to the pop of Las Vegas was a real treat – I loved it all.
Nat: You have a knack for transforming old into new such as your recent pillow case skirt (see below). Which other recycle projects are some of your favorites? What’s your thrift store stash like?
Cassi: Oh thanks :) Gosh, my sister and I started thrifting so long ago way back on Melrose in L.A. when it was still kind of a dodgy area to be in. Back then I bought a lot of vintage clothing and jewelry to wear so I’d have a one-of-a-kind outfit. Now, I’m usually looking for fabric and linens, old trim and buttons, children’s books, and kitchenware. I’m a total pack rat and after so many years of thrifting and going to flea markets I try to only buy things that I can put to good use because I’m running out of storage space! I love making window and shower curtains from old bed linens, refinishing and painting furniture, using illustrations from children’s books for decoupage and paper crafts, and wool sweaters for felting. Some items just seem to tell you what to do with them; not too long ago, I fell in love with the covers of some old travel booklets so I took out the inside pages and replaced them with blank paper so I could use them to keep notes and sketch out ideas.
Nat: Can you share with us some good thrift store tips?
Cassi: The best tip I can give is if you see something you like then buy it because you may miss out if you decide to come back for it later. I’ve kicked myself more than I can say because I hesitated or thought I could get it another time – aah, the regret of the one that got away! Try to check in with your local thrift shops on a regular basis or ask the clerks if there are certain days when they stock up. Some of the thrift shops have their items as silent auctions and I’ve gotten some great stuff that way. Don’t forget to go thrifting when you’re traveling to find a different variety of goods according to the climate and local color of the area.
Nat: How do you come up with the designs for some of your beautiful pincushions?
Cassi: I’m glad you like them :) Flowers are a big inspiration for me when I’m thinking of designs for my pincushions. I start with an idea of what I want and then start cutting and manipulating the felt until I’m happy with the way it looks. I get a little bored doing too much of the same design so I’m always thinking of new things I want to try.
Nat: The tutorials you have are excellent at giving crafters some excellent tips and tricks on improving their technique. I learned a lot from you “No Knot, No Tail” tutorial post. What are some other super simple tips you can share with us?
Cassi: One thing that I’ve learned with sewing is that an iron is your best friend. If something needs hemming or blind stitching I always iron the seam first so I have a nice straight fold to work with. Also when I’m making bags, I just press the heck out of them – it really helps to give it a professional look. Another huge helper is interfacing; I wasn’t familiar with using it when I first started sewing but as I got more experience I could really see what a huge difference it made in my finished pieces. Experiment with a variety of weights and you’ll see how much interfacing can change the appearance of your project and it will also give fragile and thin fabrics the support they need. That’s all that comes to mind right now but if I think of anything else I’ll be sure to put it on my blog.
Nat: Thanks for taking the time to talk with us. What are your crafty plans for the summer?
Cassi: Well, right now the kids and I have been moving and rearranging furniture so I can have a real studio for all my craft work. The house has become overtaken by my crafting stuff and it’s constantly being moved out of the way for meals and such and ultimately ends up in jumbled piles everywhere. Being able to leave everything out in one room will be a real boost to my production time, so once the new studio is finished you can expect a big update to my shop. I’m also working on some other craft projects for an online store and a book contribution and I’ll be participating in the Plush You show in Seattle so I’ve got to get busy with those designs also. We have a really short summer here, only about a hundred days, so I’ll be trying to enjoy the great outdoors as much as I can too! Thanks so much for your interest in my work Natalie. I’m really flattered that you read my blog and have taken the time to interview me, it’s been fun!
Thanks Cassie for the great interview!
Here are some of Cassi’s cool projects and tutorials:
New pincushion house
Bag made from bold fabric and vintage glitter lucite buttons
Combination crochet and fabric drawstring bag inspired by
something similar in a Japanese craft book
Join Cassi’s Flickr group – Nifty Thrift, a place for all your cool thrift shop finds.