About Kate

https://katescreativespace.com

I blog at katescreativespace.com

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DIY Bags from anything!

DIY gift bags made from calendar pages

Ok, not quite anything.  but certainly from old calendars, newspapers and potato-chip tubes.

Last weekend I riffled through our overflowing recycling pile and extracted some paper to play with, experimenting with my sewing machine.  My favourite are these vibrant gift bags, made by simply stitching together two pages from last year’s calendar;

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The local supermarket weekly newspaper becomes a single-use tote or gift bag when stitched on two sides and adorned with ribbon-scrap handles..

DIY recycled newspaper tote

And a souvenir from our recent trip to Cape Town – a free weekly mag from the winelands – becomes a fun bag too!

DIY book from old magazines

And finally Pringles tubes covered in leftover gift-wrap become handy packages for cookies, sweets or half-bottles of Valentine’s champagne (I write that in case my husband is reading; what is a blog for, if not to drop heavy marital hints?)

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To make calendar bags…

If you still have last year’s calendar lying around (ours was from here),  separate and trim the pages and then stitch two of them together on your sewing machine, using a basic running stitch and staying as close to the edges as you can.  Make sure both picture-sides are facing out, to avoid gifting someone the insight of your carefully-detailed family events for the entire month of June 2019.  Use a hole punch to make holes at the top and thread through scraps of ribbon or string to make handles.  You could also add a pocket to the outside of the bag (to hold a gift card for example) by stitching on a square of card before you sew the two sides together.

To make newspaper or magazine bags…

These are less sturdy (despite my styling above, I don’t recommend using them for the weekly shop), but they’re great fun.  Try using a foreign language newspaper, or a glossy magazine  – they’re the perfect size and weight to hold a book or other lightweight gift.  Open up your newspaper and remove any staples, and keep just a few layers of the pages. You can fold the top over to make a cuff as I did with the Waitrose newspaper, or just leave them as is.  Stitch around the sides as before (make sure you leave the top open, of course..), and then you can either stitch on ribbon handles or use a hole punch and eyelets as above.

For the gift tube..

Take an empty Pringles tin (I’m afraid this craft may require you to eat a tube of Pringles first; consider it a display of your commitment to the muse), then roll it over a sheet of giftwrap to work out the dimensions of the paper you need.  Cut out the paper, paste it around the tube using watered-down white glue and then punch holes for handles when dry.  Don’t be alarmed by the drying process by the way, in which the paper will look awful.  By the morning it will be beautiful.

p.s. from the archives; book vases, stitched vessels and altered envelopes

Happy Thursday!

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Creative inspiration in South Africa!

Boulders Beach penguin colony

Hello, and Happy January!!  I know, I know – isn’t it the longest and dreariest month in the year?  We kick-started ours with an escape to the sunshine of Cape Town where it’s springtime and the whole country feels vibrantly alive and full of promise.  Here’s a few of my absolute favourite highlights from the trip (along with some creative inspiration for projects this year).  If you fancy some armchair travelling, or are planning a trip …here we go!

1. Boulders Beach penguin colony

We came here in 2017 and were keen to return to swim with the incredible African penguins who colonise Boulders Beach; you can wander on the beach and swim and kayak around, and can then follow a path of elevated boardwalks through a protected breeding area where you have a birds eye view (sorry) of everything without disturbing the birds.  This penguin had a newly hatched chick resting on its foot, the egg still visible tucked underneath.

African penguin with new-born chick

 2. Babylonstoren

A new discovery for us, Babylonstoren  is a magnificent Cape Dutch working farm with a hotel and restaurant that gets booked months in advance and acres of beautifully landscaped gardens, vineyards and farmland.  We spent a day there (and could have spent many!) and every twist in the path seemed to reveal another magical discovery.  I came away with a handful of ideas I’m dreaming about trying at home this year, including these reinvented scarecrows that could have made the pages of Vogue;

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…an incredible living-arch walkway strung with giant pumpkins of every variety;

Living archpumpkin archway

an insect hotel worthy of inclusion of in the Luxury Invertebrate Hotels of the World collection (this would be such a good weekend project!)

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Endless pebbled-mosaic pathways with inlaid features… I’d love to try this in our garden (have you ever done it?)

IMG_0738Everywhere was teeming with life and activity;

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…including a 10 year old paparazzo :-)

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 3. Boschendal Wine Estate

Boschendal is one of the great historical wine estates in the valley between Stellenbosch and Franschoek.  Last time we visited we had one of their magnificent picnic hampers in the grounds, and this year we decided to try a wine tasting with small plates in their restaurant overlooking the vast kitchen garden.  I loved the art in the restaurant entrance and the quirky, brilliant interiors styling (those portraits! the hanging plates over the bar!!)…

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The food itself was art, and I’m keen to try to replicate it; one of the most stunning surprises was the breadboard; an explosion of colour from activated-charcoal sourdough, beetroot loaves and whipped butter and a pinch of salty proscuito…

Board plate at Boschendal

The emphasis is on farm-to-table cooking, and almost everything is sourced from within the estate.

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And finally to wildlife; our highlight was..

4. Aquila Private Game Reserve

Just a 3hr drive from Cape Town in a valley in the Karoo, Aquila is a 10,000 conservancy focused on wildlife conservancy and protection. Safaris last a few hours and you can go out at sunrise and dusk to see the animals at their most active (there’s also a star safari to help you navigate the night sky, accompanied by wine or hot chocolate!).  The animals we saw were breathtaking – and breathtakingly close – here’s just a few;

Lion in South AfricaIMG_0922Rhino in SAIMG_0877

This one made us want to shout ‘look out behind you!!’ at the bird…IMG_0844_2

It was a fabulous trip, and I can’t recommend it highly enough.  To preserve the memories, each night we sat down together before dinner and did a ’15 minute art challenge’ to draw or collage our favourite parts of the day.  In order below… my pumpkin arch from Babylonstoren; Harry’s zebra from the safari trip; the vibrant flowers that lined the avenues at Boschendal and a paper collage penguin from Boulders :-)

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IMG_0991collaged penguin

Have a great week, wherever you are and whatever you’re up to. It’s good to be back.

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Betwixt and Between

Did you have a good Christmas?  Ours was lovely; one of those miraculous years where no-one got sick, no-one argued, no-one’s flight/train was cancelled and nothing broke down in the house (one of the legacies of living in a beautiful-but-ancient house is we’ve spent far too many Christmas times without hot water or central heating, or with an oven switching itself on and off at random.  Not this year, thank goodness). Peace and joy and loveliness and far too much food, just as it should be.

And now the lull; the delicious period between the festivities and the start of a new year (new decade, even!).  I love this time; the pottering around and having to think hard what day of the week it is.  I’m enjoying the free-wheeling feeling of having no commitments and lots of relaxed time; even chores become fun – Harry and I dismantled the fir lady yesterday and stuffed her branches into sacks for winter kindling once the freezing weather comes.  We decorated them with sweeps and strokes of paint so they look gorgeous and will add a touch of fun to the log pile…

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I also made some thank-you cards using bits and bobs from my craft drawer; I cut up a deluxe paint chart and glued tonal strips to some bifold and trifold blank cards, and then added a ‘gratitude’ motif and wax seal.  We made lattes and hot chocolate yesterday and sat around the kitchen table filling them all in.

Paint chip thank you cards

I cut up the pages of a Waitrose supermarket magazine to make fun envelope liners too (trace the shape of your envelope with tracing paper or baking paper – anything see-through – and then use it as a template).

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Happy New Year when it comes!

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Stockings and Snowflakes

Snowflake gingerbread Christmas cake

So here we are; it’s nearly Christmas.  I hope by now you’re through the frenzy of last-minute shopping and work and the hustle and bustle of prep and are ready to unwind and relax.  I’ve been baking and preparing for Christmas Eve; we have a huge, overflowing houseful of family arriving tomorrow and I can’t wait.  Two quick things to share before they do, both of which you just have time to try if you want to…

My alternative Christmas cake is not the heavy, fruit-laden traditional cake (though I love that too), but instead a Victoria sponge, constructed in two tiers and frosted with buttercream.  What makes it a little special are the gingerbread snowflake flurries adorning it, pressed lightly into the buttercream once assembled.  The stars are made with a basic gingerbread recipe and multiple cookie cutters; I then used my best steady-hand technique to pipe them with icing and add tiny gold and copper balls as accents!

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As Christmas Eve approaches I’ve been preparing the annual telegram from Santa Claus (Harry is still a fervent Believer; or at least is canny enough not to be an overt cynic, lest this result in an empty stocking…), and Harry’s been making a wreath for the reindeer.  For his stocking on Christmas morning, I’ve given Santa a hand and wrapped a few carefully-chosen gifts; this year I am continuing our eco-conscious theme and have wrapped them in pieces of linen cut from an old, holey tablecloth – it was lovely to be able to repurpose it, and with a few tags and some leather cording to tie, they look pretty authentically North Pole-originated!

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They include a horn capable of summoning huskies, a notebook for capturing magical thoughts, pillow spray for sweet dreams and two eternal favourites and traditions; a box of Lego and a pair of animals for the ark.

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And with that, we’re almost ready!

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I wish you a very merry Christmas and a happy, healthy, exciting new decade! Thanks so much for reading and for all of your comments through this year; it’s been wonderful.

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Harry’s sustainable gifts this Christmas!

At the age of 10 (how did that even happen?), Harry is very concerned about the environment and on us all being more eco-friendly.

When we talked a few weeks ago about what Christmas gift he might make for special relatives and friends, we hit upon the idea of a reusable grocery shopping tote bag, decorated with some of Harry’s own appetite-stimulating art…

DIY shopping bags

Remember in the summer when we made paper-collaged food for our holiday project?

DIY paper food collaging

I scanned Harry’s work and together we printed it onto t-shirt transfer paper (lots of brands are very good; I used Epson Cool Peel paper for this).  I ordered some inexpensive canvas tote bags online – details below – and then we cut out the shapes and I ironed them into place; now our family can have a visual reminder of all the things they need to pick up at the shops!

shopping bag DIY

I kept one for myself (I couldn’t resist) and it came in handy this morning.  I’d love to say my daily grocery shop always looks like this, but in my defence we have friends coming tonight for a holiday dinner so I got to buy ALL THE GOOD THINGS :-)

DIY shopping tote

All the other bags are now tagged and ready, some of them filled with gifts – we’re almost Christmas-ready!

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My supplies…

  • Tote bags were these ones (they regularly go on sales at half-price)
  • This transfer paper is always reliable (expensive but consistently good – which matters when it’s a precious project)

This would be a great project to use with any kids art (or your own).  I’d suggest maintaining them by sponging off any stains and marks rather than tossing them into the washing machine – theoretically they should be fine but you never know!

Have a great week

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All present and correct

DIY painted gift wrap

Three ideas for inexpensive, fun DIY giftwrap this week, starting with hand-painted fir and mistletoe wrap and fir toppers!

I took a roll of brown kraft paper and taped it to the floor (tape all around to avoid it curling and buckling when you paint it), and then randomly daubed strokes of different green acrylic paint colours across the surface;

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Once the green was dry, I dipped the end of a wooden spoon into white paint and stamped out mistletoe berries randomly across the surface…

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To make the gift-toppers, I twisted three pipe-cleaners together and pushed the ends into a wooden bead, to look like sprigs of fir;

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If you make a bunch of these, they also look gorgeous strung as a garland (I’m going to drape mine over the mantlepiece in Harry’s bedroom)

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p.s. one from the archives – whilst you’ve got your paints out, why not make a set of tonal spoons too to use during the holidays or give as gifts?

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It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas…

How is your month going, are you ready for Christmas?

I’m not – not at all in fact, but with just a couple more days at work before I finish for the year the end is in sight.  I’ve been spending a few minutes each evening pottering around the house getting it ready for the holidays; here’s a few pics if you’d like to see…

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The new porch is part of the extension we  finished this year, and it’s been wonderful to finally dress it up!  The bay trees each now have a majestic 300 tiny fairy lights woven through their branches, and the stone dogs bear their usual festive hats and collars (made with tree baubles strung on ribbon and pinned into place at the rear).

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For the front door I made an oversized wreath using a basic faux pine wreath form and then weaving through branches of bay, eucalyptus, olive and ivy, adding sprays of wintery berries at intervals to produce an exuberant and untamed circle of foliage!  It’s mounted high enough not to behead unwary visitors, but makes an impressive decorative impact from afar

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The new hallway is bright and contemporary compared to other parts of the house; an oversized roof lantern bathes it in light and gives it a gallery-like feel, so I’ve gone for an understated look, adding just a couple of decorations, a leftover autumnal allium seed-head and a pair of vintage clogs waiting to be filled with tiny gifts on Christmas Eve (a Scandinavian tradition I’ve always loved).

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Just in shot here you can see my favourite new display; I dragged in a fallen tree branch, sprayed it lightly with snow spray and then suspended it from the roof lantern, stringing baubles to hang and spin in the light and gentle breeze from the door.  It’s devilishly hard to photograph but I’ll keep on trying…

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At the far end of the hallway stands my bike, temporarily repurposed as a sleigh-like delivery bicycle, laden with wrapped gifts and parcels, bouquets and even a tiny Christmas tree

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In the kitchen, tiny silver baubles adorn the (faux) points of our resident antlers;

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And more hang in the branches of a potted olive tree I’ve temporarily brought in from the garden (giving it a few days to acclimatise in the porch)

Potted olive tree with tiny silver baubles

I was so busy adding small touches that I didn’t notice someone else had been equally occupied adorning their own front door; Marco the house fairy has bedecked his home in the finest possible style.

Fairy house in the skirting boards

 

More pics to follow as the house takes shape, including the Fir lady in her final glorious position. Also later this week a few eco-ideas for DIY giftwrapping (messy but wonderful – remember this post?!)

Have a wonderful week

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A fun and quick DIY for Christmas Eve (with printable!)

DIY Christmas Eve wreath

Firstly, thank you SO MUCH for all the wonderful comments about this year’s Fir Lady; she’s settling in wonderfully and has managed to retain the fullness of all of her skirts despite our raging central heating and log burner!  I have lots of pics to share of our home as it takes festive shape for the holidays, but whilst I gather them up into a sensible order here’s a quick DIY to plan for Christmas Eve if you have little people in the house… a wreath just for Rudolph and his reindeer friends!

Be warned though that you’ll have a job to do late on Christmas Eve because by the morning it definitely needs to look like this (don’t try this until you’ve renewed your dental insurance)…

Reindeer wreath on Christmas Morning

 

You’ll need a cardboard or wooden wreath form, strong glue (I used a hot glue gun) and a selection of veggies.  Simply arrange and glue them around the wreath, get your little person to fill out the tag and then hang or rest it in pride of place where the reindeer can find it.  Easy!

Two bizarre tips on technique;

  • If you’re using carrots, try to handpick them so you can choose similar lengths and girths (!).  I was lingering over my choices in the supermarket and holding two carrots up against each other for size when a woman stopped me to exclaim; ‘Goodness!! You MUST be a great cook to care about the exact dimensions of your carrots in recipes!’  Well quite.
  • Ensure your veggies are at room temperature before glueing them (I could never have imagined writing that line).  My first go, I took them straight out of the fridge and they all promptly fell off the wreath after 5 minutes.
  • When biting the end off the carrots at midnight after a glass or two of champagne, give the paper tag a good chew as well.  Reindeer are not very discriminatory.

Nail those, and the rest is simple.  You can find the printable below to download and customise; I printed mine out on brown kraft paper and strung with some festive ribbon.

Have a good week!

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Reindeer Wreath Tag from katescreativespace

The Fir Lady is back…thanks to some woodland helpers!

The Fir Lady 2019

It’s become a tradition that each year the Fir Lady visits us, and this weekend she rose up from the forest floor one night, a tangle of roots and vines becoming a magnificent woman by sunrise. A flurry of woodland animals gathered to help her, clambering onto the toadstools that grew around her skirts and bringing ladders and pulleys to adorn her with golden acorns;

Mouse details from the fir lady 2019

Details from The Fir Lady by katescreativespace blog

For some (even a  forest has introverts), it was easier just to clamber safely out of the fray and enjoy watching the festive preparations with a book.

Fir Lady 2019 Detail

Every forest has its leaders, and it seems the foxes were the self-appointed project-managers, cheerfully directing operations whilst everyone else cheerfully ignored them;

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Teamwork is everything.

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To make the Fir Lady this year…

I used the mannequin I prepared last year, and in a bid to spend less and think of the environment I sourced the greenery for her skirts from our garden (we’re lucky to have a legion of fir trees!)

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  • The mice and other woodland animals are all tree decorations; I bought mine in the post-Christmas sales last year, but you can find them in many UK stores and garden centres this year too.  Online, OKA, White Stuff and Cox and Cox have a range in stock.
  • The toadstools were inexpensive wooden craft shapes I painted.  Mine were from a local garden centre (or try Hobbycraft in the UK, or Michaels in the US); I gave them a basic wash of off-white and then painted the hoods in a khaki shade before dry brushing the same colour over the stems.  I rolled tiny balls of white clay for the polka dots on top.
  • The gilded acorns the mice are carrying are from a wired wreath pick; I unravelled them and trimmed the wires so the mice could carry them easily (and they wrap well around a fir sprig!)
  • The ladders were made by snipping up fallen twigs and hot glueing them together
  • And because I’m often asked… my backdrop is the ‘chalkboard’ backdrop from here – and I’ve used a sheer length of cloth on the floor for these pics too.

Have a great week, wherever you are and whatever you’re doing!

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DIY Paper Collage Holiday Wreath

DIY Holiday Collaged Wreath

Here’s a lovely project to start that you can spend a few minutes on each day, creating something beautiful very quickly.  This paper collaged holiday wreath will look gorgeous framed in a simple box frame, but you can also just photograph it when you’re done and use it for Christmas cards (mine are being printed currently!)   Start making your wreath on a tray or in an area where you won’t have to move it around constantly, and keep an eye out as you go through the mail and sort through old magazine for interesting pieces of paper to snip and save to use.

I have a drawer full of painted papers that I make for collaging, and raided them to make the leaves for my wreath, adding veins with coloured pencils;

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For the pine cones I cut a base of brown paper (floorboards in a design mag) and added little diamonds of contrasting shades for its texture;

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The nordic fir branches were made by cutting tiny snips of coloured paper and glueing them along a paper ‘spine’…

DIY paper collage fir sprig

 

My rosehips were made from painted tissue paper, giving them an ethereal glow and transparency;

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paper collage rosehips

The hellebores were the most complex, with petals cut from painted white paper, dotted with yellow pen (I use the Posca brand) and with green stamens added; fiddly but worth it!

Paper collage winter role

Very soon you’ll have a page full of festive bits and pieces ready to arrange…

wreath components

 

Play around with different formations until you get the shape you want; you can see me bringing mine to life here!

DIY Holiday paper wreath

 

Once you’ve got the shape you want, you can glue all the pieces into place. I find that pinpoint/rollerball glue pens are ideal for this kind of collaging; they are very precise and dry fast, which is exactly what you need!

Happy snipping, sticking and arranging….  p.s. other collage ideas here, here and here

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Pilgrims, paper boats and festive placeholders

My thoughts keep turning to Christmas;  I can’t help it.  The stuff I always love to plan are the times when we’ll all come together around the table, feasting and celebrating.  This year we’ll have multiple family and friends over, so I’ll make a flotilla of paper boats as placeholders to float on plates along the table…

Pilgrim paper boats

Bedecked with festive mice transporting a forest of Christmas trees and topped with tiny, woven-thyme wreaths, they become even more special;Festive holiday placeholder paper boats

Whether you make these for Christmas or Thanksgiving, they are so simple to construct, and you can then make them as elaborate as you like.  Here’s what you’ll need;

  • Kraft paper sheets (A4 in the UK or letter paper in the US)
  • Rubber stamping kit and ink pad
  • Long wooden skewers and cocktail sticks
  • Pack of thyme stems, thin florists wire, edible silver balls (or beads – you’re not going to eat them so it doesn’t matter!)
  • Glue (ideally a hot glue gun, but not crucial)
  • Decorative items to place in the boats – I used hanging tree decorations and mini bottle-brush trees
  1. Firstly, fold your boats.  I used this tutorial as a reminder (what did we do before videos?!).
  2. When you have them constructed, stamp names along the side of each boat.  I found it easiest to start with the last letter at the mast and work backwards, so that I didn’t run out of space.  Here’s a tip; don’t do this after a glass of wine, and if you have any complicated names in the family write them out first; it’s surprisingly easy to make mistakes when you’re spelling backwards :-)
  3. Take a long skewer and push it up through the peak of the boat, pointy-end first.  Once you have it in place, use the glue-gun to secure a cocktail stick in place to make your mast.  (The order here is important; if you build the mast first you have to push it down through the boat and that’s harder, and creates a bigger/looser hole for the mast to rattle around in).  They should be looking a little like this:

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(If you’re wondering about the tiny boat; we have a new baby due to arrive in the family between now and Christmas, so this yet-to-be-named, mini trawler will be safely roped to it’s new mum’s ship and will take pride of place!)

To make the wreaths, take a stem of thyme and wrap it around a length of thin wire, before bending the wire into a wreath shape as shown (it’s easier than it sounds..)  You can bunch together strands for thickness.  Then glue silver balls at intervals around the wreath if you want added decoration (I ALWAYS want added decoration!)

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Drape your wreaths over the mast of the boats and fill them with whatever you choose!  I opted for a small flotilla of felted woodland creatures, bringing Christmas trees as their precious seasonal cargo – but the possibilities are endless.

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I hope your week has got off to a good start; I’m just home from work and have a local pub quiz to go to with friends tonight; it feels deliciously decadent to be out on a school night so early in the week, once we brave the cold and dark!

Have a good one, wherever you are and whatever you’re doing.

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