OK so I know it’s rather late to be talking about New Year’s Resolutions, but as I’m currently still keeping mine up, I figure it’s acceptable! Having spent the last few years crafting various treasures to sell, I’ve recently been thinking how I’d like to get back to crafting for pleasure and also learning some new skills. I had a bit of a go at cross stitch last year, which I quite enjoyed, but I didn’t feel like I could / wanted to go any further with it. And for years I’ve been meaning to learn to crochet properly, only to drop it again after learning a single new thing. Anyway, last month I decided to subscribe to Mollie Makes to give me a little more inspiration and to help me keep my promise to myself to learn something new this year. I was lucky to get a copy of the 50th anniversary edition, which came with a darling little kit for an embroidered bear plushy. Now I’ve had those kits before (and many of them are sat languishing in the bottom of my sewing box) but the super cute little bear really appealed to me, and I decided I’d make it as a gift to my husband, who loves bears. The kit included a printed piece of fabric, showing guidelines of where to stitch, all the embroidery silks I’d need and instructions of how to do all the various stitches involved. Perfect for a newbee wanting to learn! Dutifully following said instructions, I fixed my fabric into a hoop and began embroidering….. I learned chain stitch, stem stitch, satin stitch, fern stitch, lazy daisy, buttonhole wheel, french knot, arrowhead and straight stitch! Not a bad start! Once the embroidery was complete (this took several nights’ work whilst snuggled up on the sofa watching The West Wing), I pinned the back of the bear onto the fabric still in the hoop, and stitched them together leaving a gap to fill him. I opted to fill my bear with lavender instead of toy stuffing, because a) I had lavender and no toy stuffing at the time, and b) I thought he’d make a nice pomander to go in the car (which can niff a bit of the dogs at times!). Once filled, I used the left over threads from the kit to make a four-way plait, then sewed this onto the back to make a loop to hang from the car’s rear view mirror. And now he’s happily installed in the car! We’ve named him Bear McCreary (after the composer of Battlestar Gallactica, because we named the car Caprica and used some of his music to walk down the aisle last year….don’t judge me!) and he’s a very happy sight indeed! Here, see for yourself….! Next on my list is to make a hundred (yes, a hundred) donkey pomanders to donate to The Donkey Sanctuary. I’ve recently started volunteering for them, and I thought they were just an adorable little treasure to make. I’ve learned blanket stitch and applique to make the ones I’ve done so far, but I’m hoping to make some fancier ones with some of the stitches I learned from the bear kit, and perhaps some more besides! I’ve used my new hobby as an excuse to buy up some exciting supplies too (no surprise)…..I have a load of hoops stashed away to make into pretty embroidered things, plus I hit Hobbycraft last weekend and purchased these lush neon embroidery threads! I can’t wait to use them….perhaps to embroider a cute mini shoulder bag for myself! I’ve also started a Pinterest board (because, that’s what you do with a new hobby, right?!) to inspire me to take on new projects and to save some great tutorials for new stitches. Head over and have a look, and do share any advice you have on embroidery too, please! Ems x
Last Saturday I was lucky enough to attend a friend’s “Purple Party” to help raise funds for Willow Foundation*. Clare is running the London Marathon for the charity this year, and so put together the brilliant themed party to add to her fundraising target. There were purple cocktails, purple food, a purple photo booth and the whole place was decked out in purple, including the guests!
Being a bit low on purple things to wear myself, I decided to make some purple glittery treasures, with extra for Clare to sell on the night. And because I know everyone loves glitter (not to mention with Half Term in full swing!) I thought I’d share a little tutorial for how to make them. The batch I made took a while because there were so many, but one or two would be very quick to make, and super easy too! You can buy everything you need easily and inexpensively at a craft shop or online.
You Will Need:
- Fine purple glitter (or another colour, if you must)
- Original Mod Podge
- A flat ended brush (about 10mm to 15mm wide)
- A mixing pot (a yogurt pot or take out tub is perfect, especially if it has a lid)
- An old teaspoon
- Wooden laser cut shapes (I used 20mm and 30mm hearts, and 40mm stars)
- Brooch backs and / or stick on pendant bails
- E6000 glue
1. Sprinkle about a teaspoon of glitter into your mixing pot (if you’re making a big batch just double this, and keep making fresh batches as you go, so none is wasted)
2. Add about the same amount of Mod Podge and mix them well with the spoon (then wash the spoon!)
3. Choose which side of your wooden shape you want to paint (there are often marks from the laser cutting on one side, so paint onto that as you won’t see it when you’re finished)
4. Paint a thin layer of the glittery glue onto your shape….best not to use too much at a time so that you don’t spill over the edges and it stays neat
5. Wait for that to dry and then paint on another thin coat
6. Keep adding thin coats once the last is dry to build up the coverage….as with most painting projects, it’s better to do lots of thin coats than one or two thick ones (if your mixing pot has a lid you can cover your mixture whilst you wait for drying, so that it stays fresh)
7. I applied four or five coats to mine, and if you decide to make a big batch you can of course apply each coat to all of them, and by the time you’ve done the last, the first one will be dry and ready for the next
8. Once you’re happy with the coverage, leave until completely dry before flipping over ready for the backing
9. If you’re using a brooch back, check it works ok before using it, then blob some E6000 onto the flat side of the brooch back and press it firmly onto the back of your wooden shape
10. If you’re making a pendant, blob the E6000 onto the flat pad of the bail and carefully press it onto the back of your shape….before it dries turn it over to make sure it’s on straight
11. Leave for 24 hours to dry well before adding a chain if you’ve made a pendant, or before proudly pinning your brooch onto your clothes!
These would make great party favours for a Bridal Shower or Hen Party I think, or for children’s parties (although take care with brooch pins!)….or of course you could make some to raise funds for charity too!
* Willow is the only national charity working with seriously ill young adults aged 16 to 40 to fulfil uplifting and unforgettable Special Days. These Special Days enable them and their families to reconnect and refocus on each other while enjoying an activity of their choosing. A day for them, a day about them and a day that will create memories they will all treasure forever.
Having a bit more time on my hands this year, I managed to get round to some Christmassy crafting for myself! Not nearly as much as I’d hoped still….hopefully I’ll be more organised still next year! I thought I’d share some of my projects though, now that all the gifts have been given and no surprises will be spoiled!…..
First of all, I got my stitch on to make some little embroidered Christmas tree ornaments. It being the year Adam and I got married, I made a little tartan-backed heart which I embroidered with ‘Mr and Mrs McDowall’s First Christmas’….and finding myself rather pleased with it I made another for our friends Claire and Matthew who also got married this year (Claire is Christmas mad like me too!), as well as one for our new niece!
We had some prints made up from the wedding, and the usual doggy calendars for our Mums featuring our own hounds as gifts too. I got a bit more hands on though making some hand painted salt and pepper pots for my Father in Law….annoyingly I forgot to photograph them, but they work on the same principal as the Capybara ones I sell on my Etsy shop, but featuring a gold finch and a green finch as they’re his favourites!
The dogs are never left out in this house, and so I baked some yummy (yes, I tried them myself!) cheese, parsnip and swede star biccies for the six McDowall dogs who live in the UK (I will make it up to Bree in the US I hope one day!). They were super easy to make, so I’ll be making more again soon I’m sure.
I have made some sort of alternative Advent calendar for Adam for a few years now, and this year has been his favourite by far! I wrote out a riddle for each day, giving a clue as to where he could find that day’s treat! He loved working them all out, and searching the house for chocolates and little gifts…his first day’s treat was a pair of tweezers as he’s always pinching mine!
I also tend to make our Christmas cards too, and this year I painted portraits of our beloved hounds which I turned into cards….I scanned in the paintings, then we had them printed before I attached each to a pretty pastel card with silver photo corners. I was really rather pleased with them actually….not least because I managed to get them out in time for them to be delivered at the start of December this year!
I took to making our own crackers a few years ago, and like to put new and fun things inside each year, as well as changing the way they look. I have been crazy about candy stripes this year, so used that to wrap them (as well as our gifts), then wrote out little jokes to go inside as well as funny stick-on moustaches for everyone to wear in place of hats!
I’ve also had more chance to decorate my nails in a festive fashion this year too….not least because they’ve not been covered in glue all the time! I painted tiny festoon lights, little Christmas puddings, pretty snowflakes and of course some candy stripes too….now for a New Year’s Eve design!
I didn’t get round to making a wreath this year as I often do, in part because there wasn’t really anywhere suitable to hang one. I’m rather pleased with our tree though, and the other bits and bobs we’ve decorated with….but mostly I’m looking forward to being in our ‘forever home’ next Christmas so that I can really go to town!
“Who inspire you? Are they close to you? Somebody famous? Or even somebody infamous?”
I get inspiration from all over the place. I love my fashion books and vintage magazines for design inspiration, blogs and old cookery books for recipe ideas, films and fashion trends for event and party planning, and friends for more personal stuff. I’ve never really thought of *people* as being inspirational to me though, at least not celebrity type people….but when I think about it, there are certainly a lot of creative people who inspire me to be more creative myself….
I saw the Tomb of The Unknown Craftsman exhibition at the British Museum about 18 months ago, before which I didn’t know a great deal about Grayson Perry. Not only did I come out of the show feeling like I knew the guy, but also feeling massively inspired, excited to work and full of creativity. I think it shows true inspiration if you can be so creative that you make other people feel creative too….often I come out of amazing exhibitions like that feeling like I’ll never be any good and it’s pointless me even trying…but there’s something about Perry’s ingenuity, originality and confidence that just grabs you and tells you that you can do it too!
I’ve been a big fan of Tim Walker’s work for a long while, but seeing his exhibition Storyteller at Somerset House earlier this year was still an eye opener. I adore his playfulness, intelligence and silliness, and I suppose because so much of his work speaks to me, I find it terribly inspiring too.
As much as I owe to these awesome creatives though, I can’t forget the inspiration I gain every day from all the creative people around me. I have lots of seriously creative friends, acquaintances and online chums…. whether they be designers, photographers, crafters or writers…. and I count myself lucky to know them and to be part of their world….
These include (but are not limited to…I know I’ll forget some people!)… Vixie of Matin Lapin…. Nevada of Joy Nevada…. Michelle of My: Creative…. Ellen of B Millinery…. Elizabeth of Rosalilium…. Jackie of Oooh Mrs James…. Sharon of Sharon Cooper Photography…. and my very own Adam of Unfamiliar Ceiling….
After a little inspiration from the Austrian-themed hen do I went to last weekend, I’ve finally listed my new jam jar sculpture….. Inspired by the opening scene from The Sound of Music, this miniature scene features Maria atop a meadowy mountain, with her arms outstretched in song.
I love making these tiny pieces of art, and must get onto making a few more of the scenes I’ve been planning! If you have any ideas or requests, do let me know!
Right. Before you say ANYTHING, I am allowed to obsess over stationery and packaging, *for professional reasons*. And so what if I did spend an inordinate amount of time last week building a washi tape dispenser in my studio? It was *for professional reasons*.
I mean, I have to ensure the goodies I spend hours making are carefully wrapped up against those brutal Posties, and the goodies also have to be pretties don’t they? And washi tape is just so incredibly versatile too….I mean, what other tape could you make such pretty mini cupcake bunting from?!
Needless to say, I’ve become a little obsessed about washi tape lately, but all the cool people are, and any combination of Japanese kitsch, pretty packaging and super cute stationery is bound to get me over-excited, so I’m going with it. And now you are too….here are my favourites….
You may have heard me going on about the dresser we’ve been transforming for our kitchen, and I’m so pleased with the results that I thought I’d share how we did it here.
We bought a very orangey-varnished dresser for the kitchen from a local-pick-up Ebay seller last year, and although it’s a nice shape and size, it looked very dated in its finish. So, we decided we’d give it a make over, to make it brighter and fresher, and here’s how…..
What you will need:
- Your dresser or other piece of furniture
- Fine grade sand paper (an orbital or palm sander makes it easier if you can get one!)
- Lots of scrap paper or newspaper
- Masking tape
- Wide and narrow brushes
- White (or any colour for that matter) DURABLE kitchen-friendly paint (we used Wilkinsons Durable emulsion)
- Tester pots in contrasting shades for handles (we used Wilkinsons emulsion tester pots in pastel shades)
- Satin finish durable varnish
- A piece of dowel for stirring the paint and varnish
- Sugar soap
- Rubber gloves
- Protective goggles and mask (wear these all the time you’re sanding and preferably when you’re painting too!)
- A clean cleaning cloth
How to do it:
- Prepare the area you’re going to work in by ensuring you have good ventilation, your piece of furniture is free from any obstacles, and any other furniture or belongings are covered in newspaper to protect them from saw dust and paint. Also remove any handles etc. and take off the doors and drawers to make them easier to paint separately.
- Decide which areas of the furniture you want to paint and which you want to leave as exposed wood, and put on your goggles and mask.
- Sand the entire piece, just roughly all over, so that the first layer of old varnish or paint is roughened. This level of sanding will suffice for all the areas you want to paint.
- For the bits you want to leave as exposed wood, continue sanding until all the old varnish or paint has gone, and you are left with a nice smooth surface and a more natural colour.
- Now mask off these areas you want to keep un-painted with newspaper, sticking this down carefully to the edges with masking tape so that none of the not-to-be-painted surface is exposed, but all of the areas to be painted are exposed.
- Wearing your rubber gloves, pour a little sugar soap onto the cloth and clean away the dust from the sanding, so that your to-be-painted surfaces are nice and clean. You’ll need to wipe over a few times with water too, in order to get rid of the soapiness.
- Now you can finally start to paint! Don’t forget to stir the paint pot well before starting!
- It’s better to paint three or four very thin coats as opposed to one or two thicker ones, as you’ll get a better finish and the paint job will be less prone to chipping. Use a narrower brush to get into all the nooks and crannies and corners, then a bigger brush to fill the larger areas.
- Let the paint dry THOROUGHLY in between each coat….it’s hard to be patient but the finish will be much better if you are!
- Keep painting thin coats all over the piece until you have a good coverage, then leave it to VERY THOROUGHLY dry before carefully removing the masking tape and newspaper.
- Now you can clean the un-painted surfaces with the sugar soap, and get on with the little details.
- Lightly sand the handles and clean them with sugar soap.
- Then paint each one in your chosen colour, again in several thin coats, waiting for each coat to dry in between.
- Once those are dry, stir your pot of varnish well, then take a small brush and thinly coat each handle with the varnish. Again, you’re likely to need around three thin coats.
- Once the varnish is dry, replace the handles and doors and drawers, then fill up your dresser with pretties, sit back and admire your hand work!
All in, our dresser cost less than £100, including the piece itself and all the painting things. A bit of a bargain I think and well worth the effort! So much so in fact, that we’ve already done our kitchen table to match (with exposed wood top and white legs) and we’re planning on painting the chairs in the pretty pastel shades of the dresser handles!
Hope this is useful and you enjoy your project!
I came across these stunning treasures on Etsy a few weeks ago, but was very happily reminded of them today when they featured in a daily ‘Etsy Finds’ email!
I Am A Bird is an enchanting Etsy shop hosted by the wonderfully talented Madeleine Belanger, a 21 year old artist and jewellery designer from British Columbia, Canada. Madeleine also has a darling blog that you can find here, but it’s really her stunning jewellery that has my attention.
Taking inspiration from her surrounding Canadian landscape, colors and animals, Madeleine hand paints each completely unique piece featuring owls, deer, evergreen trees, squirrels, racoons and birds.
You can even order a bespoke piece by Madeliene, and I think a pet portrait necklace would be an incredible gift!
How adoringly crafty is this little fox?! This beautiful pendant was made from unique wood retrieved from wine vats, which has been cut, sanded and drilled by Madeleine’s Dad! The pendant has been painted and sanded, then filled with a crystal clear resin.
I love this sweet little grizzly bear who stands in front of a wheat field. Another original painting, every order is completely unique!
I adore the teal backdrop to this owl necklace! It just looks stunning against the blonde wood and golden owl.
The oval shaped pieces rather remind me of cameos, and I find this little fox utterly enchanting! The wood, which is recycled from old bed posts and the like, has been hand stained.
I’m loving bees at the moment, so this one was bound to appeal to me. For this particular style, a hole is drilled into the wood and the bee is forever suspended in his quaint little home, safely behind a super glossy resin.
And the super-cute winner is this Love Bird necklace! The little loops are secured into each piece of wood, and from those the pendants hangs on a silver chain….you can even choose the length and colour!
Should funds allow, I’d go crazy and buy all of these….and probably lots more on the shop besides! And with an exceptionally reasonable £3 shipping cost, it’s all the more tempting!
So…… I got engaged!
Adam asked me just over a week ago, and we’ve spent the time since telling family and close friends, in person where possible.
We hopped into town on Saturday to shop for the ring in Hatton Garden, and found the perfect one, in the only shop we went into….. it was rather different than all the others, with a window jammed full of mis-matching, jumbled up antique pieces of all kinds.
I tried on LOTS, all very different (including ones with opals, peridot, and in Art Deco, Victorian and Georgian designs) but there was no real competition…. My 1950s diamond cluster ring is just the most sparkly and wonderful ring in the world, and I picked it up today after they altered it from a size S down to my tiny size H!
So now I can wear my ring proudly, there’s no stopping us from telling all and sundry! We’re not sure when we’ll actually tie the knot, but it’s likely to be next year some time…..we don’t want to leave it too long (too excited!) but we also want to be able to plan the most wonderful celebration!
I’m obviously in my element now….. I’m exceptionally excitable about weddings, even for a professional wedding planner, and we’re already well on our way to deciding what we want from our big day!
I don’t expect this to become a totally wedding-saturated blog, but I will warn you now that there will be plenty of planning and craft project posts coming up over the next year as a result of my news!….so apologies in advance as I’m likely to get even more over-excited!
That sky is grey again. And it’s all cold out there (and not in a Christmassy-winter-wonderland way). Still, the weekend is already here, and so I’ve been thinking of ways to fill it with fun stuff to take my mind off the fact it’s no longer Christmas. (Yes, I *am* still talking about Christmas, sorry)…..
Planning for the year
January is always full of the dulls. Everyone is shattered after the festivities, low on funds, and trying to catch up and get back to normal. But I find that there’s nothing like having something to look forward to to cheer me up, so I’ve been enjoying making lots of plans. I’ve bought tickets, made bookings, and started organising fun adventures to keep me busy and excited for the months to come. Get your diaries out!
With all the Christmas decorations gone, I know I’m looking forward to sprucing up the house a bit and starting work on some little DIY projects I’ve been planning. We have a Welsh dresser to sand and paint, and a few little tables and plant stands that I want to make-over. It’s a cheap and fun way to spend time, and you get the reward of something pretty to brighten your home at the end of it!
Bring in the Spring!
I don’t know about you, but I’m aching for the new season already! I’m bored of the cold and grey, and I want to see the Spring flowers come up. I’ve instigated this ahead of schedule by buying some lovely stocks to brighten up and scent the house…they look great in the Moomin Papa hat vase that I got for Christmas!
Baking and Cooking
I know that every other person is on some kind of diet or detox, but I firmly believe that in order not to go cold turkey, you need to slowly wind down from the festive gluttony. I’m still not used to *not* having a pudding after every meal (yes, including breakfast) and being surrounded by naughty treats. And so to ween myself off, and hopefully shed a few of the holiday pounds, I think it’s only sensible to get doing some good home cooking and baking. You’re more in control when you make it yourself, so you can start to think more healthy and reduce portions, whilst still technically treating yourself and avoiding going into complete withdrawal! I have had some success with new recipes, including making French Onion soup for the first time in years….yum!
Check on those resolutions!
It’s not too late to revise them, so have another look at whatever list you may have made and think about how realistic it all is. If you’re getting on well, well done you! If not so much, there’s no shame in re-working your list….you’ll do better for it in the end! I have done OK so far…..I have started getting myself sorted by way of a spider diagram (LOVE THEM), as well as playing around with the new pop-up studio Adam gave me for Christmas to help with my photography!
Go for a walk
I’d much rather kick off the new year with a nice country walk than a fad diet or detox. It’s far more fun and much easier to stick with too! The weather has been pretty gruesome all told, but the rain seems to be staying away rather more at the minute so why not take a nice long stroll this weekend? Extra points for finding a pub lunch along your way!
Whatever you get up to, I hope you have a wonderful weekend!