Blog Every Day in May: Who Inspires You?

“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….

Ems x

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The Hills Are Alive, With the Sound of Music!

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!

You can now buy this jam jar scene on my Etsy shop for just £35….. I hope you like it!

Unique, hand made Sound of Music scene in a jam jar "The hills are alive with the sound of music"

Unique, hand made Sound of Music scene in a jam jar "The hills are alive with the sound of music"

Unique, hand made Sound of Music scene in a jam jar "The hills are alive with the sound of music"

Wednesday Wants….. Washi washi washi

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….

mt 2012 Autumn NEW- Japanese Washi Masking Tapes / 6mm Slim Twist Cord A set of 3

Twist Cord A set of 3, from Little Happy Things, £3.39

New-Sanrio My Melody Paper Deco Tape / 15mm (Pink)

Sanrio My Melody Paper Deco Tape, Little Happy Things, £3.73

MT ex 2012 Autumn NEW- Japanese Washi Masking Tape / Map


MT Map Japanese Washi Masking Tape, Little Happy Things, £4.75

Green and White Grids Washi Tape / Masking Tape - Classic, 15m, 1 Roll

Green and White Grids, GoodiMochi , £1.83

Pink Inch Scale Washi Tape / Masking Tape - 10m


Pink Inch Scale, GoodiMochi, £1.83

Fluorescent Color Washi Tape / Masking Tape // Your Choice of Color - Yellow, Pink, Orange, Green // 10m, 1 Roll


Fluorescent Color Washi Tape, GoodiMochi, £1.83

Black and White Chevron Washi Tape / Masking Tape - 10m


(*cough* Twin Peaks) Black and White Chevron, GoodiMochi, £1.83

Heart in the Clouds Washi Tape


Heart in the Clouds Washi Tape, Wishy Washi Tape, £2.03

Washi Tape: On the Road

On the Road, The Sewing Post, £2.03

NEW- Moomin Carriage and Umbrella Series Japanese Washi Masking Tape / Salmon Pink

Moomin Carriage and Umbrella Series in Salmon Pink and White, Little Happy Things, £5.93

Ems x

How To…. Transform a nasty dresser into a nice dresser

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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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. Now you can finally start to paint! Don’t forget to stir the paint pot well before starting!
  8. 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.
  9. 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!
  10. 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.
  11. Now you can clean the un-painted surfaces with the sugar soap, and get on with the little details.
  12. Lightly sand the handles and clean them with sugar soap.
  13. Then paint each one in your chosen colour, again in several thin coats, waiting for each coat to dry in between.
  14. 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.
  15. 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!

Ems x

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Wednesday Wants…. I Am A Bird

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!

fox necklace in wood necklace- framed fox necklace- hand painted unique fox necklae

Fox in wood necklace, £30

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.

honey harvest bear- fall fashion wooden bear necklace- wheat field dark wood- iamabird black friday cyber monday sale

Honey harvest bear, £30

I love this sweet little grizzly bear who stands in front of a wheat field. Another original painting, every order is completely unique!

summer owl - turquoise teal summer fashion owl- hand painted wooden necklace black friday cyber monday sale


Summer owl, £27

I adore the teal backdrop to this owl necklace! It just looks stunning against the blonde wood and golden owl.

Framed Fox Necklace- Hand painted wood fox necklace- reclaimed wooden fox necklace

Framed fox necklace, £40

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.

honey bee spring fashion necklace- hand painted bee necklace- honey comb wooden necklace

Honey bee necklace, £30

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.

valentines bird wood slice necklace- hand painted wood slice necklace


Love bird necklace, £17

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!

Ems x

Some pretty big news….

So…… I got engaged!

 

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Me, my ring, a milkshake manicure and a big smile!

 

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.

 

Ring2

My very sparkly ring!

 

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!

 

Ring3

I so prefer antique rings….they are always so pretty even from the side!

 

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!

Ems x

Living for the weekend….dealing with the post Christmas blues

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!

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DIY Projects

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!

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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!

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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!

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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!

Happy adventuring,

Ems x

How To Tuesday…. Personalise your own bunting

With a dull grey sky outside, and a distinct lack of festive decor inside, I thought now would be a good time to share this rather cheerful crafting project!

A little while ago I decorated some of my bunting collection with ‘Under A Glass Sky’ as a sort of banner to hang up at my craft market stalls. And so now that I’m taking a break from stalls over the winter, I decided it should brighten up my little studio….and it does!

This project is dead quick and easy, requiring NO SEWING, and is a lovely way to display a message…..you could decorate some butning with a new baby’s name as a gift, or make a ‘Happy Birthday’ banner. I have used my own bunting, which I bought a while ago from Rex International….I may well post a how-to on how to make your own in the future though!

What You Will Need…..

  • Bunting….one flag per letter, plus one flag for each space (for example ‘Happy Birthday’ would require 14 flags)
  • A contrasting fabric for the letters (I used a cotton casement which is easy to work with)
  • Tailors chalk or fabric pencil
  • Sharp scissors
  • Iron-on hemming tape
  • Iron and ironing board
  • Liquid fabric glue
  • A small spatula or paint brush

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How To……

1. Mark out an outline for each letter on your contrasting fabric, ensuring each fits nicely onto your bunting flags

2. Cut out the letters as neatly as possible

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3. Turning each letter face down, cut short strips of the hemming tape and lay on top of the letter, covering as much of the fabric as possible but ensuring you don’t go over any edges

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4. Flip the letters over and place one at a time onto the appropriate flag, ironing into position to secure

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5. To seal each letter safely onto the fabric, neatly glue the edges down with just a little fabric glue, but making sure you glue all around each letter. If you prefer, you can use a hand applique stitch to secure the edges instead….but it will take a lot longer!

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6. Make sure the glue is REALLY dry before folding up your bunting as you could end up with the flags all stuck together if you’re not careful!

7. Proudly hang your bunting wherever you like!

And that’s it!

Ems x

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How To on Tuesday: Pretty Dog Beds

So I don’t have any dogs yet. I really, REALLY want some, but we want to settle in before we ask permission to have some. In the mean time though, I sometimes get to borrow Adam’s Mum’s dogs Newton and Piper. They love to come round for visits (probably because of the special biscuit tin I keep well-stocked for them!) and I adore having them around the house.

And because I’m a good hostess and like to ensure my guests are comfortable, I decided to make some comfy beds for them to sit on when the dogs visit. We spend most of the time in the kitchen which has a slate floor, so the beds are a nicer, softer place to snuggle up by far (especially right in front of the radiator!). I made them this weekend and the dogs are off in Brighton this week, so they won’t get to try them out for a bit (and I won’t be able to take a photo of them using them yet) but I’m pretty sure they’ll be pleased when they next visit.

The beds were super easy and super cheap to make…essentially they are just an extra large cushion cover…. and as I’m so pleased with the results I thought I’d share with you!

What you will need to make one pretty dog bed:

  • A single duvet (you can get very cheap ones from Ikea or Wilkinson’s)
  • Some pretty fabric, two pieces around 1m x 0.5m each
  • Sharp scissors
  • Pins
  • A matching(ish) zip, around 30cm to 40cm
  • Needle and thread
  • A sewing machine (if you have one…patience if not)

How to make it:

  1. Take the duvet and fold it into quarters
  2. Lay the two pieces of fabric on top of each other, with the pattern facing inwards (‘face-to-face’)
  3. Place the folded duvet on top of the fabric to measure it up
  4. Measure 3cm out from each edge of the duvet and trim the fabric to size
  5. Now take the fabric and pin along each edge, with the pins at right angles to the cut edge (so you don’t need to tack stitch)
  6. Stitch, in a small running stitch, along the two longer edges and one of the shorter edges
  7. You should now have a sort of fabric envelope, with an opening at one of the shorter ends
  8. Find the middle of the open end by folding it in half, as well as the middle of your zip, marking with a pin
  9. Place the middle point of the zip on the middle point of the open edge
  10. Put a pin into the fabric either side of the  zip, thereby marking where it will go
  11. Now stitch from the corners up to each pin, so you are left with an opening wide enough for the zip
  12. Pull the bed cover through the opening so that it’s the right way around, and the seams are all hidden inside
  13. This is the only tricky-ish bit now….if you’re used to putting in a zip, sew it into the opening….if not, there’s a much better tutorial than I could write here
  14. Now take your folded up duvet and push it through the zip opening, just like you’re putting a duvet cover on
  15. All that’s left to do then is zip up your zip, plump up the filling, and get your dog ready for a snuggle!

Enjoy!

Ems x

How To on Tuesday: Carve your own Jack-o-Lantern

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We had the most fun in our house last night! As well as cooking up a big supper of veggie lasagne, and making sloe brandy and sloe vodka with the left over berries we foraged, we spent the evening carving our pumpkin!

I’m afraid I’ve never been able to resist the lure of an ornamental vegetable…I just love things with two uses….and when we saw a table full of large handsome pumpkins at the market last week I just had to get one! Adam was a little less convinced, as he’d never carved one before, and had never really cooked with one. But after all the fun of carving ours last night, it’s his new favourite thing….and he hasn’t even tasted the stuff I’m making with the flesh yet!

Now the principals of carving a pumpkin are pretty simple, but it is a little time consuming and laborious in parts. I had presumed that everyone had at some point carved a pumpkin, but with Adam as proof that’s not the case, I thought I’d give you all some pointers in case you’ve not experienced this joy before either!

PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE be CAREFUL whilst doing this! Sharp knives are easier to use and less likely to cause an accident, but they are still sharp, so keep your fingers safe! Make sure you work in a well lit room too!

What you will need:

  • A pumpkin, any size you like (although the smaller it is, the more faffy it’ll be)
  • A very sharp butcher’s knife (or the largest, sharpest knife you have)
  • A very sharp paring knife (or the smallest, narrowest knife you have)
  • A pencil
  • A permanent marker
  • Paper for sketching
  • A large spoon, and kitchen tongs if you have them
  • A cutting mat or chopping board
  • Three large bowls (or two bowls and your composter)
  • A lamp
  • A tea light

How to make it:

1. Sketch some ideas out on paper first of all….maybe look online for inspiration

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2. Draw a circle around the stalk of your pumpkin, about half way between the stalk and the outer edge as you look down on it (this is the bit that will become the ‘lid’)

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3. With your smaller sharp knife, carefully cut around the line you drew, keeping the knife pointed inwards (towards the stalk) at a 45 degree angle….this is so that your lid will sit back into place and not just fall in!

4. Remove your lid and place to the side for now, then scoop out all the seeds and stringy bits from inside your pumpkin….the spoon is best to use in the main but tongs are handy to grab some of the stringy bits.

5. Pop the seeds into one bowl (we are going to save ours to use later) and the other gubbins into a second bowl (or your composter).

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6. Now, very carefully, using the larger knife, start to carve out some of the flesh from inside the pumpkin. Keep in mind which side you will use as the front, as you’ll need to keep it a little thicker there to make it easier to carve your design. We found that making a few vertical and horizontal cuts into the flesh helped us to then scoop out as much flesh as possible. Pop the flesh into the third bowl to use later.

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7. Now comes the fun bit! Pencil your design onto the face of your pumpkin.

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8. Once you’re happy with it, use the permanent marker to go over the pencil lines to make the design easier to follow. Because the skin of the pumpkin is so waxy and shiny, it’s unlikely that the pen will actually stay on, so be careful it doesn’t transfer onto your hands and clothes.

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9. Now, using the smaller knife, begin to trace around the lines. You don’t need to go all the way through the flesh at this stage, just carve your outline neatly to start.

10. Then, using the larger knife if you prefer, follow the cuts you’ve made around the design, but this time ensure the knife goes all the way through into the carved core of your pumpkin. Once you’ve done that, you should be able to pull out the shapes you’ve carved and add these to your bowl of flesh.

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11. You may need to tidy up the inner holes that you’ve carved, depending on how straight the cuts are….you can test how it will look by holding your pumpkin up to the lamp.

12. Once you’re happy with your carving, wipe off any remains of the pen marks and any gooey bits of the flesh on the skin.

13. Then place your tealight inside, light it carefully, and place on the lid.

14. Switch off the lights to admire your work!

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Keep an eye on your Jack-o-Lantern once it’s lit…..depending on its size the tealight may heat up the inside of the lid and can even start to burn it, so keep checking it and dampen it if needs be. You can always use a battery powered tea light for safety, although beware that some of these can also heat up a little too.

Now before I sign off and wish you happy carving, I thought I’d share with you some of my favourite pumpkin carving ideas that I found online whilst getting inspiration for ours…..maybe next year we’ll try something a little more adventurous!…..

Happy Halloween!

Ems x