paper boats

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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Resurfacing! (and The Shipping Forecast…)

Well, it’s certainly good to be back.

A crazy few weeks of work, business-travel and a greater than usual number of plates to spin and balls to juggle has meant that creative things have taken a backseat of late.

But not anymore; the days are long now, with August just around the corner bringing a welcome reprieve and some headspace once more.

So let’s begin again…

paper sculpture by katescreativespace

Remember the old shipping maps, that I found in a vintage shop of a couple of years ago? One evening last week I unfolded a map, took out my trusty craft knife and had a go at creating a paper-boat seascape, setting a fisherman out to sail;

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Here it is!

The Shipping Forecast by Katescreativespace

Close-up of Shipping Forecast paper cutting

I began by making a simple paper boat (instructions here).  Paper boat-making is about as close as I come to origami (apart from these stars, which are just as simple), but it’s a very lovely throwback to childhood and simple pleasures.  Then I cut out the base for the paper sculpture; three tiers of paper waves, with a sliver of foamboard glued between each of them for definition and layering.

Layering paper in paper cutting

And now the hard bit; I used a sharp craft knife to carefully cut out one side of the boat cabin, and then cut a similar-sized piece of translucent paper to glue in its place.  Freehand, I lightly drew and carved out shapes of a fisherman, wheel, lantern and a small shoal of fish, before sticking them into place.  As a final touch, I pushed a battery t-light into the folds of the boat…

Turning paper cutting into luminaries

 

To create a mantelpiece luminary!

Paper boat luminary

If the paper-cutting feels prohibitively complicated, stick to making simple paper boats which still look beautiful with a battery light inside them.  A fleet of them down the centre of a dining table at night, or an armada of tiny paper ships floating on a pond or a pool if you have one would look lovely!

p.s., popcorn boats, Driftwood boats, and a ship for the littlest pirates.  Plus another way to make luminaries.

popcorn boats

Have a wonderful weekend!

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An Overture to Springtime…

You know what they say about the best laid plans and all that?  Well, our trip to Morocco was eventful but not quite in the ways we’d imagined; the temperature dropped like a stone from around 28C to just 8C, sending Marrakech into a state of shivery shock; our hotel had somehow over-booked itself, resulting in a midnight taxi ride across the city in search of a bed for the night, accompanied by the profusely apologetic manager (we found a new hotel and bed which looked fine in the dark, but were greeted by a curious family of cockroaches on waking – cue yet another relocation after breakfast…).  Even our eagerly awaited trip into the Atlas mountains had to be abandoned as thick fog rendered the narrow hill roads too dangerous to be easily navigated.

A disappointment, for sure, but an experience so populated by adverse events that it quickly became funny, in that sort of mildly hysterically way when things spiral completely beyond your control.  Even then there were highlights; freshly squeezed local orange juice in the Jemaa el-Fnaa, the universally lovely and helpful people, and the rose petals, everywhere… beauty amidst the chaos which leaves us keen to return, albeit probably not in February.

Back home we tried to coax a little Spring sunshine and cheer ourselves up by throwing an impromptu dinner party on Friday night.

Paper Boat Placenames

I swiftly made paper boat name settings for everyone, and Harry and I dunked handfuls of curly kale into poster paint to make a fun sea foam for them to rest on (I’ll post a proper DIY for these in the week together with the patterns to download – a very easy yet lovely ‘make’ to do with a glass of wine in hand, and a little gift for friends to take home afterwards).  Along the table centre I placed random kitchen accessories and pots of herbs – anything that made me think of spring or summer, like fresh basil and lemons…

Springtime Tablescape

Fresh basil table centre

 

Bowl of fresh lemons Breadsticks

 

We had such a good night, in the way that often happens when you don’t have much time to plan and just throw people and food together; a lovely way to end the week and start the weekend.

In other news, remember my intent to start a proper glasshouse this year and your suggestions of Meyer lemon trees and other great plants?  My newly acquired lemon tree is looking beautiful and promising abundant bounty; whilst I can’t claim responsibility for the current crop of lemons, new flower buds have appeared all over in the last couple of weeks and suggest that it’s thriving; I’m very proud :-)

Meyer Lemon TreeMeyer Lemon Flowerbuds

Harry and I also took the opportunity of half-term to get busy in the kitchen, making Star Wars cookies using our newly-acquired cookie cutters from here (US Star Wars fans can find the same ones on sale here –  a bargain!).  We made basic sugar cookies and then rolled out fondant icing to stamp the toppings; C3PO also benefits from a light dusting of gold powder (we do love a bit of bling).

Star Wars Cookies

And finally, our cake-in-the-house Saturday ritual continues; this week it was lemon drizzle loaf cake, now just a scattering of crumbs.  Next week it’s back to work, and the gym, and a more abstemious few days of salad – but not just yet…it is Sunday evening after all.

Cake In The House

Have a great week, wherever you are and whatever you’ve got planned.

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Lost Arts: Paper Boats

tutorial on how to make paper boats

Do you remember making paper boats as a child?  Or perhaps paper hats?  I was thinking last week about how easy it would be for these oh-so-simple and yet so magical crafts to vanish in the modern world.  I grew up knowing how to make boats and hats, how to write secret letters in home-made invisible ink , how to tie a myriad of different knots – albeit mostly with the aim of binding my  brother to a tree – and how to build bivouacs and signal in morse code using my torch, illicitly, late at night.

It helped that my mother was a Girl Guide leader, and that most Friday nights saw the garden filled with girls flamboyantly  lighting campfires (health and safety be damned..) and practicing outdoor skills.  It was a gung-ho upbringing and I just assumed that all parents knew this stuff and could whip up a sailing boat, a double-half-hitch-crossover-hench-twist* or a series of intelligible smoke signals at the drop of a proverbial hat.

*Don’t try to look this one up; accuracy is not my strong point.

Of course, I have forgotten nearly all of it, so in an attempt to ensure I can create the same delight and awe in Harry, I gave myself a refresher crash course in elementary boat building.  If your skills are similarly rusty, arm yourself with a sheet of letter paper and follow this.  Pause it when you get lost and start-over.  Don’t do this after a glass of wine.

tradewinds paper boat with mast and ribbon flags

I made my boats from map paper and poked twigs and wooden skewers through each to form a mast.  Washi paper tape and scraps of fabric complete the sail, and I used a rubber stamp kit to print random numbers and letters on them.  I christened my boats with suitably nautical names – Tradewinds, Siren Song, Night Trawler et al – and prepared to set sail.

paper boat with sail

Tiny silver bells and paper dolphins accompany the boats as they take to the high seas; these are beautiful if you’re making boats to tuck into bookshelves and on mantels, but obviously won’t survive a voyage across the bathtub.

paper dolphine

If you find you’re having balance problems, try adding an anchor; I used a handful of beads from an old necklace which look a little like ancient maritime fishing bouys.

paper boat with anchor and paper dolphins, and linen sail

And finally if you want to produce an armada to be sailed across lakes, rivers or ponds, try using an old book.  The pages are perfectly thin and work brilliantly for folding.  I found an old book of letters in my local junk shop for 50p and now have a handful of tiny boats that we can practice bombing, sinking and blowing off course…

paper boats made from old book pages

Staying with our nautical theme, we managed a long weekend at the seaside, having a very British kind of minibreak; each day we acquired a smattering of freckles, a dash of windburn and the kind of bracing exfoliation that only frequent, brief hail-storms can provide.  Every time we turned to face each other our hair had been coiffed into evermore improbable positions by the briny crosswinds, and we practised our sprint-starts by racing each other to shelter under the pier when the heavens opened.

And yet, and yet …it was beautiful.

vibrantly coloured doors of houses and seaside photographs

In three brief, heady days we had a ball; crabbing in the harbour with leftover bacon from breakfast; building mermaids and forts in the sand; watching astonishing sunsets with a glass in hand, and gradually amounting a huge collection of dubiously scented seaweed, driftwood and flotsam, which has left a lingering & evocative presence in the car ever since that no amount of ventilation can quite dispel.

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We came home, unpacked the car, collapsed in a heap together on the sofa, and then remembered our sunflowers.  A feverish scramble to the windowsill revealed…

..that we have life!!  A magnificent 4 inches of life no less; we are very proud.

sunflower germinating

Have a wonderful weekend when it arrives, wherever you are and whatever you’re doing.  It’s a holiday weekend here in England, and for once the skies are blue and cloudless.  I feel a barbeque coming on…