Making

The simplest DIY dog collages!

 

Dogs, dogs, dogs!

Once in a while, the internet throws up something magical.  I was browsing Pinterest recently and came across a set of fabulous stencils designed for pumpkin carving by BHG.  Follow this link and it will show you magical pumpkins, alight with characterful faces of every dog breed imaginable, and free to download.  nb If you have any trouble accessing the original link (some geographies may), try this one instead).

The idea of carving them was a bit beyond my skills, but Harry and I cut up the stencils and then drew around all the individual shapes onto scraps of paper instead, to build a fun set of doggy collages..

Screen Shot 2018-08-24 at 13.37.33DIY dog collages   We started by printing of sheets of the dogs we liked the most, and then cut out the various features (eyebrows, shaggy hair, button noses..), before tracing round each one onto a piece of scrap paper.  I keep a drawerful of interesting leftover paper for projects like this; we used newspaper, old cookbook pages, giftwrap scraps and so on. For the tiny eye pupils, we used a hole-puncher after discovering that neither of us could cut teeny-tiny circles freehand :-) Collaged beagle Collaged hound

Once we had all of the doggy features cut out, we played around laying them in different shapes to create different expressions, before finally glueing them into a permanent arrangement.  Harry used a stick glue; I used a runnier paper glue – either works very well.DIY dog collage project

We were so pleased with the end result that I scanned a couple of the best collages and then printed them onto cardstock to make cards we can use to send to friends and family.  The envelopes are basic white envelopes that I lined with giftwrap (I have one of these sets of envelope liner templates which I use all the time for things like this…one of my better investments!).  Dog card portraits DIY dog collage cardmaking

This is a lovely weekend afternoon activity, and one with endless potential for creating something unique.  Once you’ve mastered these, have a look at the extraordinary dog collages created by artist Peter Clark, who takes things to another level entirely..

Have a wonderful week; good luck to all of those braced for the start of a new school year (take a deep breath).

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DIY Balsa Wood Mobile

DIY Balsa wood mobileToday’s post is one of those projects where you can accomplish something impressive with very little practice or experience.  Trust me on this.  Make it, hang it somewhere obvious where your friends and family can’t miss it, and then allow them to believe you ordered it from MOMA.  Then, after a dramatic pause, reveal that you actually made it yourself IN THE BATHTUB.

Ok, well you can start the process in the bathtub.  I will explain.

I decided to have a go at making something with balsa wood; the kind of deliciously long, thin strips you find in craft shops but can never quite think what to do with.  I’ve become fascinated by the work of artists like Tom Raffield and Jane Crisp who both steam-bend hardwood into amazing homewares, and wondered whether I could achieve the same by soaking strips of balsa wood in the bath and then twisting them into weird shapes.  I’m pleased – and somewhat astonished – to say that it WORKS!

Balsa wood forms V

I used pieces of wood that were 3′ long, 1.5″ wide and 1/32″ thick.  I soaked the wood strips in warm water for an hour to help it become more flexible and less inclined to snap, and then randomly bent it into shapes, holding each in place with a soft-grip laundry peg to dry out.  On this one I also cut a thin channel out of the wood with a craft knife, to give it a more interesting shape…

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Then I threaded an ordinary sewing needle and held the shape together whilst I made a simple cross stitch in the place where the peg had been.  The wood is so light that a single stitch was all it needed; I like the shaker appearance this gives the forms;

Balsa wood forms VIBalsa wood forms I

Once I had a collection of different shapes and had carved different patterns into the ends, I strung each one up with another length of thread and tied them onto a wooden embroidery hoop, then played with the different lengths of thread and moved the shapes around the ring until I had a mobile form that I liked.

DIY Balsa wood hanging mobile

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I decided it needed something else as a contrast, so I found a 2″ wooden sphere and threaded it too (use a button underneath to secure the thread and hold it in place) – and then I decided it was done. Here it is hanging in the spare room whilst I work out where to put it permanently (if Harry was still tiny, I would hang it over his crib!).

Balsa wood mobile DIY

Do give this a try; you could use the same technique to make wonderful napkin rings or even a fascinator for your hair :-) .  I’m still thinking of what else I can do with my latest obsession.  Never has the family had so many baths (or shared them with so much wood).  As always, I’m more than happy to answer any questions if this captures your imagination, from my limited, new-found knowledge.

Key equipment:

  • Balsa wood; as long and thin as you can find
  • Soft grip pegs to hold the shapes
  • A craft knife to carve out different patterns on the ends
  • A wooden hoop to hang the shapes from
  • Needle and thread for the stitches (or cheat and use a stapler)

Have a wonderful weekend!

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ps Thank you for the lovely, lovely comments on last week’s post.

 

DIY Easter Crackers!

Easter table crackers

Welcome back, welcome back! After a brief break for work and travel and end-of-terming I’m back, and spring is definitely in the air.  Our tulip bulbs have pushed through frozen soil, buds are budding and birds are on the wing; it all looks very promising.  To celebrate and add a festive air to Easter, I made these fun table crackers, using vibrant printed giftwrap in three different designs.  There’s a very simple way to make these and a more complicated, sophisticated way; in both cases you can still stuff them with chocolate eggs, tiny toys and a cracker snap (of course!) and have the same amount of fun.  Read on…

First, choose some decorative paper for the outside of the cracker.  You could even paint your own if you have the time and inclination; I used wrap from here and here (whenever I see gorgeous sheet wrap I tend to buy it, then think of the project later…)

spring tonal giftwrap

You’ll also need cracker snaps if you’re using them, and toilet rolls to help the crackers to hold their shape.  Plus of course some lovely things to stuff them with; I chose stickers, mini eggs and a couple of irresistible furry friends (who fitted in – just – once I smoothed down their ears :-) );

easter stuffed crackers

 

For the simple cracker project:

  • Roll a toilet roll up in your gift wrap to see how much you need, and then cut a piece 1 inch wider and four inches longer than the tube.
  • Place the toilet roll on the reverse of the flat paper so that you have exactly 2 inches of paper either end, and then secure the paper around the tube using double-sided sticky tape
  • Insert a cracker snap and gifts into the wrapped tube
  • Feel for where the toilet roll ends are and tie a piece of baker’s twine or ribbon at this point, tightening steadily to draw the paper in and form your cracker ends.  Use a finger to recreate the ‘bell’ shape of the cylinder once you’ve done this, plumping them out again.  This works really well with thin papers like tissue or crepe paper.

For the more complex crackers (you’ll need a craft knife and a printer to download the template):

  • Download and print a cracker template like this one or this one, and use it to draw the template for each cracker, then cut out the pieces as shown.  Whilst it looks fiddly, it actually doesn’t take long, and gives you beautiful concertina ends that fall naturally into the cracker shape you want; it’s definitely worth the effort if your family/friends have been particularly loving towards you lately.  If not, go for the simple design above.
  • Wrap the cracker paper around your toilet roll (you might need to trim the roll depending on your template), and seal with double-sided tape as above, before filling the cracker and tying each end with ribbon.

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For even more Easter table magic and style, use the leftover pieces of gift wrap to make napkin rings; simply cut toilet rolls in half and then tape or glue the wrap around them to make complementary accessories for your crackers.  Here are mine;

Easter DIY napkin rings

p.s. for other seasonal inspiration;

…and many more; just search ‘Easter’ in the box at the top of this page and you’ll find 5yrs of projects big and small.  But start with the crackers; they’re great fun.

Kates Easter Crackers

Have a wonderful weekend!

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World Book Day inspiration

Phileas Fogg costume from Kates Creative Space blog

March 8th is World Book Day, and everyone in Harry’s school is allowed to dress up.  Fortunately at the grand old age of 8, Harry still loves the opportunity to dress up (remember Star Wars?), so we spent Saturday rummaging through our loft and local charity shops to create Phileas Fogg, complete with hot air balloon and basket ..and seagull!  Here’s what we did.

For the basket we used:

  • A willow Christmas tree skirt from the loft (a cardboard box would work well too)
  • Two belts to act as straps, attached with cable ties to the wicker (alternatively use lengths of cord or a pair of braces if you have them)
  • Spare curtain rings, attached with cable ties again
  • Tasselled curtain tie-backs from the fabric bin at a local charity shop; any kind of rope will do
  • White balloons for sandbags, with the front ones tucked into paper bags stencilled ’50kg’

Hot air balloon costume elements

And for the balloonist and adventurer himself…

Phileas Fogg Costume from Kates Creative Space

  • A brown jacket and trousers from Harry’s existing wardrobe
  • My favourite umbrella, from here
  • Binoculars, a toybox top hat and flying goggles (really, we could supply a costume store with the amount of accessories we have collected over the years…)
  • A fake seagull from Amazon.com (try also www.dzd.co.uk)
  • A self-adhesive moustache, that left a rash for 2hrs afterwards (try using liquid eyeliner instead; we did that the second time!)
  • and not strictly part of the outfit, but just because we both love them… these socks!

Phileas Fogg costume ideas

Happy World Book Day for March 8th!

p.s. talking of books, thanks again for all the great suggestions here; I took two of them on a work trip to the US last week and they made the long flight a treat rather than a chore

p.p.s. come and say hello on Instagram!

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Love Letters

Ransom Note Valentine's Card

Have you got your Valentine’s Day affairs in order?  To my beloved this year I am giving a tatty old John Grisham thriller, a supermarket newsletter and a page from the Guardian Review of Books.

Well, to be more precise, I am giving him a hand-crafted card declaring my love, snipped from the pages of the above book and periodicals, with carefully scissored words and letters glued into place to form a very unique kind of affirmation that Hallmark couldn’t quite offer.

To make something like this, you can simply riffle through the Sunday papers and snip out useful words, or raid a novel you have no intention of ever trying to re-read (how annoying would that be?  To reach page 96 and find a crucial paragraph has been cut out).  I snipped out some pronouns and joining words so that I had a little pile of ‘I’s and ‘you’s and ‘and’s and ‘then’s … and then found some altogether more interesting and random phrases and snippets to spice it up a bit.  Then I laid them all out and got to work;

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Ransom note Valentines Card

Have fun with the envelope too, and then quietly congratulate yourself on your artistry even as you survey the 249 tiny shreds of newspaper that now cover every surface and skitter gently across the floor carried by the infernal draughts that plague your ancient house.  Ignore, sip wine. Use leftover clippings to craft a series of ransom notes and post to your neighbours under cover of darkness.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

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How to make a fortune in just five minutes.

DIY Fortune cookies

Recently we had a Chinese takeaway and Harry discovered fortune cookies.  On a scale of life’s wonders, it briefly ranked RIGHT AT THE TOP. ‘A cookie that actually tells you what is going to happen to you?  Woooah!’

In practice, the cookie itself was a little underwhelming, disintegrating into an explosion of crumbs when snapped and revealing a rather vague fortune about pleasant strangers.  So I had an idea; I’d make my own…

DIY Chinese Fortune Cookies made of paper

The good thing about homemade fortune cookies is that you can customise your fortunes to suit the recipient (these are the ones for my husband; heavy hints wrapped in paper);

DIY Paper Fortune Cookies from KCS

Harry’s contain equally alluring and essential promises;

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Best of all? They are so simple to make.  Details below…

Supplies:

  • Paper.  I used 3 types; a vellum-like paper with a sheen (gorgeous), basic paper torn from an exercise book, and script-patterned gift wrap
  • Circle template; I used the lid of the tin in the top picture.  Aim for something about 10cm/4in square
  • Fortunes; scribble them out onto strips of paper and cut up ready to slip in as you fold the paper cookies.
  • Scissors, pencil, glue

Steps:

Draw around your circle shape and cut out as many shapes as you need from your paper.
Then, using the pictures below as a guide;
1. Fold the circle lightly in half and pinch hard at the crease in the centre, leaving an indent
2. Let the circle open again and lay a fortune sideways across the indent you made
3. Roll the opposite sides of the circle together as shown so that they overlap slightly; this forms a cuff that will hold the paper cookie together
4. Press your finger into the indent you made on the opposite side to push in the centre of the cookie, making the distinctive folded shape
5. Add a dab of glue deep in the fold and either hold for a minute until dry or use the tips of your scissors to anchor it in place to set as shown
6.  Repeat!

DIY Paper Fortune Cookies
Ideas…

  • These would make a beautiful Valentines gift for someone; a bag of fortunes customised for the one you love
  • Or try making a single over-sized paper cookie (12″), containing a letter or poem written out along a whole strip
  • Experiment with materials (I want to try using a piece of tan-coloured leather; you could hide a pair of earrings or a necklace in here as an exquisite little gift)
  • Have fun with the packaging; I used an old tin that had once held tempura mix and made my own label to cover up the original text

Paper fortune cookies

 

Happy folding!

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Adventures in giant knitting

On my birthday recently, my mother gave me a very large cardboard box.  I say she gave it to me; in fact she dragged it in through the front door with much huffing and puffing and muttered cussing, and left it in the hall whilst she lay down on the sofa to recover herself with a gin & tonic.

‘Is it a puppy?’ asked Harry hopefully.

‘Why no‘ she announced dramatically; ‘it is ….A BALL OF WOOL!’.

A 5kg ball of lightly-spun wool as large as a doberman in fact, and a pair of 60mm wide knitting needles to tame it with.  Welcome to the unladylike art of Giant Knitting.

Adventures in giant knitting

It took me a little while to begin the knitting because the needles were immediately seized to be used as light sabres and general tools for random destruction.  You can see the appeal…

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Once in posession of both needles and wool, I studied the booklet that came with the kit (mine was from here), and taught myself the basic ‘knit one, purl one’ blanket stitch.  Unlike those genteel grandmothers you see clacking away on television, there was nothing effortless about my stitching; it required a vast turning circle of personal space (I jabbed so many family members in the eye and ribs with my herculean needles that I was eventually exiled to a small chair on my own); but good lord, there is something so satisfying about knitting a throw that is four foot square in just two hours.  To give you a sense of the scale, just 25 stitches completes a row (and also, I suspect, burns about 200 calories).

Occasionally the wool would come unspun and break apart if I tugged too hard, but you can immediately press it back together and carry on.  Dropped stitches are by their very size immediately obvious, making this the most energetic but also the most forgiving of needlecrafts.  I think I am in love.  The only drawback is the cost; a ball this size will cost around £100, which makes this not an economical hobby.  But as my husband says ‘Not bad value when you consider you’re basically knitting together an entire flock of sheep’.  Well quite.

My messy, irregular and somewhat whispy wool throw is a thing of great heft but also of quiet beauty, and magnetises the smallest member of the house.

A giant knitted throw Giant knitting (great for wannabe ghosts)Have you tried giant knitting before?  Any tips or second-project recommendations?  A couple of people on Instagram recommended arm knitting, which sounds like a natural progression, albeit not one to try when multi-tasking, I suspect.

Happy Monday!

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DIY Cook’s Calendar

DIY Cook's Calendar 2018Here’s a project for anyone slow off the blocks in tackling 2018.  I know many people have their next-year calendar in place from August, or fully populated by November, but perhaps you’re one of those people who just hasn’t got a grip yet (me), or has maybe fallen out of love with the store-bought/gifted calendar you acquired and fancies something much cooler instead.  This is for you.

Cooks calendar with pencil

I used an old chopping board (or source a brand new one from a discount store and soak it in water for two days until it is rough and weathered – ta-da!).  Then I found this free printable calendar online and printed out the year onto thin cardstock – I loved the typographic simplicity of this one – thanks Crissy! – but search on Pinterest for a myriad of other different styles offered for free by generous designers.  I then punched holes in the top of each page and added eyelets, marking with a pencil through the holes where I wanted to bang in the old nails that I’d hang the calendar on…

Cooks calendar detail of rivets

To attach the pencil, two different styles;

  • For a clean, linear look, glue a bulldog clip to the board above the calendar and simply slip your pencil in (these are my favourite Blackwing pencils, beloved of Oliver Jeffers and decades of artists and illustrators)

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  •  If you like a firmer leash on your pencil, tie a length of thin string around the tip and then loop it through the handle of the bread board, knotting it in place where it can hang alongside the calendar all year, resisting casual abduction by other family members.  I also added a decorative vintage baking mould at the top of the calendar, bought as part of a job lot from a local junk store (I’m still thinking about how to use them – they look so pretty..)

DIY Kitchen Calendar 2018and then finally; loop a rope through the top of the chopping board and hang it on the kitchen wall, where your creativity can be admired by all the family, who can also adorn it with tomato sauce smears, greased fingerprints and multiple reminders of their own birthdays.  Honestly, I ask you.

One other style to play with; for a brighter look, try mounting the calendar pages on thick giftwrap, coloured cardstock or watercolour paper with bright splashes of  paint-  I made this smaller set to hang in my office, so that I have two chances of remembering important dates…

Brights calendarBright calendar

Have a wonderful week.

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A homemade nativity

Simple nativity angel

This week I made a simple Christmas nativity scene using some wooden blocks I picked up from a craft store.  Painted in muted colours and with twists of wire, modelling-clay and wooden accessories, they make a calming and beautiful tableau.

How to make a simple nativity setI bought a selection of different wooden shapes (mine were from A C Moore in the US; Michaels in the US and Hobbycraft in the UK also sell similar).  I chose sets of three shapes to form my shepherds and wise men, and then picked out shapes that could be crafted into the other key figures in the stable…

simple nativity set building blocks

I gave Joseph and Mary two layers of pale grey paint, and then rolled out a rectangle of white modelling clay to form their clothes, pressing a wooden button into each as it dried.  Baby Jesus too just has a thin sheet of clay to swaddle him; his cradle is a giant coat button and a soft handful of dried moss.

Simple nativity Joseph Mary and baby JesusOur shepherds have simple clay headcloths, tied with a small length of leather cord; their crooks are wooden pins (designed to use with wooden wheels in toy-making I think; but any piece of twig or stick would do).

simple nativity shepherdsnaive shepherd dollsThe wise men have simple crowns made by rolling out a length of clay and cutting it with serrated scissors (If you don’t have these, just use a craft knife to cut out triangle shapes).  Their gifts are little wooden squares (repurposed from a rubber stamp alphabet kit!), topped with the same little buttons as Mary and Joseph’s clothing.

three wise menthree wise men nativity dollsAnd finally Gabriel; my favourite angel.  Hand-cut wings of clay are pressed into his back, and a thin length of gold wire thread around his head to form a halo, topped with a tiny clay star.  He stands on a wooden block, keeping watch and centering the scene.  He makes me smile.

Simple nativity angel

A simple nativity, that looks all the better for being a little rough and ready and unformed.  It’s a very satisfying project for a winter’s afternoon… and the first sign of Christmas to appear in our home!DIY Simple nativity scene

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The Advent of Beauty

I’ve made advent calendars in the past, usually filled with chocolates and tiny toys for Harry.  This year I decided to make a rather different one for a couple of my girlfriends, which reveals a new beauty treat each day through the month of December…

DIY beauty gift advent calendar

A few weeks ago, I began to collect pocket-sized lotions, potions, lip balms and soaps; sprays and rollers and mini-mirrors and scents.  Some were saved from in-flight washbags or handed out at beauty counters as samples, whilst others I bought especially.

Some are meaningful gifts in themselves; the Cowshed candle that will burn gently by a bathtub for many nights, or the This Works pillow spray – whereas others are one-time fun throwaways; a single use Clarins hand-cream sachet or a sample-sized scent from Miller Harris.  A couple of chocolates did find their way in too…DIY Beauty Advent Calendar ideasI used a simple £5 wooden advent house frame, and painted the interior squares with different shades of green paint; olive, leaf, sage and the lightest mint. Then I counted out the goodies and wrapped each one in tissue paper before stuffing it into one of the squares (I didn’t number them; it’s a lucky dip choice!). I then cut a piece of cardboard in the shape of the house by tracing around it, and covered it with giftwrap to make a lid for the calendar and tied a ribbon around; DIY Christmas Beauty Advent CalendarAll ready for December 1st!

You could also use simple envelopes (glassine or paper) and a normal gift box for your advent calendar.  My other friend lives across the pond in Philadelphia so I’ll be taking hers on the plane, and opted to box it up instead, using different sized mini-envelopes with wax seals…Beauty advent calendar in day by day envelopes

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A few ideas if you fancy making this;

  • 24 is a lot of envelopes or boxes to fill, especially with just ten days to go; try buying multi-packs of things like lipbalm flavours, travel-sized product sets or simply cruising the aisles of Sephora, Boots or other beauty stores asking for freebie sample-size sachets and trial use products
  • Mix it up with mini-chocolates, hair clips, temporary tattoos (Meri Meri for kids or Tattly.com for me :-) ) or tiny nail polish pots
  • Other ideas entirely; different herbal or fruit-flavoured tea-bags.  Tiny dinosaurs for little people (I’ve made one for Harry this year filled with pocket-sized velociraptors and triceratops).  Miniature bottles of spirits for a whiskey-lover who is worth the investment …the possibilities are endless.  Best of all, share this with someone who might just make one for you, with a heavy-handed nudge.  After all, they have 10 WHOLE DAYS to get going!

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The Circle of Life

IMG_1997When we got married almost ten years ago, I slipped a champagne cork from the wedding breakfast into my husband’s pocket as a memento of the day. A year later, I did the same on our first anniversary, and then again when we raised a (very small) glass to toast Harry’s arrival into the world.  Slowly, unthinkingly, I began to assemble a collection of corks from the most memorable events in our lives.  Be it great dinners with old friends, Christmas and birthday parties, new jobs, reunions and celebrations big and small; whenever I remembered I’d scribble the date and event on the cork and stash it in the kitchen drawer.

But joy has no place in a drawer, so last weekend in a sentimental mood I tipped it out and began to create a huge circle – a wreath of corks – to hang on the wall in the kitchen and remind us of all of the magic that’s happened, and all that’s yet to come.  Tucked in the drawer now instead is a small tube of glue so that we can easily add the next cork, and the next one; layer upon layer…

IMG_2023To make this cork wreath….

I drew and cut a big (about 70cm) circle out of grey board, and then sprayed it with a copper-colour paint in case the card showed through between the corks. I deliberately cut a narrow ring so that the corks would appear to ‘float’ and the background would be invisible; the inner ring of corks are glued to the cardboard, but the outer ring(s) are simply glued to the corks themselves; their weightlessness makes this easy.

IMG_1902I used wood glue because that’s what I had to hand, but gorilla glue or any strong adhesive will work; I built this on the kitchen counter over the course of an afternoon and used glasses and cups to hold the corks in place whilst the glue set.  Position each ring as offset to the one before, so that the corks nestle between each other; this gives it strength.

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IMG_1917To hang on the wall, simply add a loop of thin wire around the ring and hang on a hook.  Consider it an ongoing life project which should never be considered finished, and whose gaps are to be filled as soon as a new occasion for celebration presents itself…

IMG_1951p.s.  from the archives: another use for those champagne cork-cases (scroll down), and two fun ways to wrap a bottle.

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