About Kate


I blog at www.katescreativespace.com

Posts by Kate :

Personalised North Pole Telegram Giveaway

North Pole Telegram with PJs

At breakfast time on Christmas Eve last year, Harry was thrilled to discover a telegram all the way from the North Pole, which had been blown down the chimney in the night.

From Santa Claus, it announced his intentions to fly over that night and asked for food to be set out for the reindeer to keep them fuelled during their epic journey.  It added to the magic and anticipation of the day, and we duly followed the instructions at bedtime to make sure everything was ready.  This year, we hear that Santa is sending Harry a special pair of new pyjamas to wear on Christmas Eve, so these will be sent with the telegram (above).

Santa's telegram blow down the chimney on Christmas Eve last year

Santa’s telegram blow down the chimney on Christmas Eve last year

North Pole Telegram 2013

I shared a printable template last year for you to make your own, but if you’d like me to create a personalised version for your household or any children in your life this year, leave a comment below (‘yes please!’ or ‘pick me!’ will do :-) ).  I’ll pick 5 names at random on Friday and contact you to find out what wording you’d like; anything at all, as long as it fits on the telegram.  You may have specific family traditions we can refer to, or children who would be thrilled to be individually name checked..just let me know.  I’ll create and mail you an A5-sized telegram on heavy-weight textured paper to arrive in good time for the most important night of the year.  All languages  OK, though you’ll have to help me by providing the text if it’s anything other than English or schoolgirl-level French!  All you need to do then is to leave it carefully on the doormat, or in the hearth, or by a pillowcase to be found on waking; wherever the North Pole Postal Service might consider a good place for such important communications to be delivered.

Time is of the essence of course, given the pressures on the regular postal service at this time of year, so leave a comment before 8am on Friday GMT (midnight Thursday PST/3am EST), and I’ll get started…

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The Dream House Renovation: The Guest Room!

Guest room rug and bedside

We moved into our house almost 3yrs ago, and it’s taken us this long to tackle the guest room.  Partly that’s due to cash-flow – living in an 18th Century house means that every year there’s an unforeseen roof leak, boiler breakdown or ceiling collapse (and in this particularly costly year; all three…) – but it’s also due to the awkwardness of the room and my endless prevarication about what to do with it.  Unlike the downstairs rooms with their 3.5m ceilings and sweeping bay windows, the guest room is considerably less well-endowed.  Here’s what it looked like a few weeks ago..

old room 2 old room 1

Tired decor, floral borders, exposed pipework and the oldest piece of furniture I own – a bed from my student days.  It also became a dumping ground for the things which didn’t fit anywhere else (hello, enormous mirrored IKEA wardrobes).  So we took a deep breath, saved up our money for a while, and ripped it all out to start again…



Guest room makeover 3



We laid an engineered oak floor – the same one as in the kitchen – and fitted tall tongue-and-groove panels to the walls, to create a shaker/scandi-style natural look.  With Northern light filtering through the windows, a palette of muted greys, bleached wood and off-whites seems to enhance it and create a calming space.  To create inexpensive peg rails, we used lengths of unfinished wood and drilled holes for pegs bought en masse on eBay; we glued these in place and left for 24hrs to harden up before painting.

Shaker pegs

wooden wreath and shaker peg rail

We used paints from the Farrow and Ball range (see below), and to save on cost I gave the battered-but-very-comfortable pine bed a couple of coats of Chalk Paint.  If you’ve not used it before, it’s a slapdash renovators dream; you don’t need to sand or strip surfaces or use primer; just clean them and go for it… it seems to stick to anything, and the colours are chalky, soft and beautiful…

Old pine bed repainted in chalk paint

Guest room base elements

Materials I used; Cornforth White (panelling and woodwork) and Wimborne White (walls) from Farrow and Ball.  Artisan Engineered Oak Linen flooring from Kahrs.  Bed painted in Paris Grey Chalk Paint from Annie Sloan.  Pegs available on eBay and Etsy, timber from all good DIY stores.

For the windows, we had shutters made very simply from lengths of MDF with moulding glued on to simulate original panelled shutters;  it cost a fraction of the price of the real thing, and looks almost as good…

Make shutters from MDF and beading

An old sofa and cable knit throw fit neatly into the bay and make for a comfy spot to curl up and read before the light fades..

sofa in bay

With the basic complete, it was time to have fun with the accent pieces and decor…

Design elements for the guest room

We fitted wall-mount bedside lights behind the panelling, and invested in a pair of beautiful tree-slice tables for the bedsides, which are wide enough to hold everything you might need through the long hours of the night…

Guest room 4

and soft reindeer hides to add some luxe comfort to the wooden boards;

Guest room rug and bedside

I gave an old, chipped console table a new coat of paint and it now serves as a dressing table, complete with over-sized mirror which helps to bounce light around the room.  A faux fiddle-leaf fig adds a splash of green and is helpfully immune to my usual rather slapdash attempts at watering and general house-plant maintenance…

Guest room makeover 1

Fiddle leaf fig

The console also houses a rotating set of treasures, like this beautiful vase by ceramicist Tina Vlassopulos, a gift from my father several years ago.

Decorative accents

The vintage wooden dough bowl that usually sits in our bathroom is enjoying a spell on top of the butchers block where it holds guest towels and extras like spare toothbrushes, shower gel and other easily-forgotten essentials.

Butchers block with old suitcase and dough bowl

I like the spartan simplicity of the room, but couldn’t help but add a few final decorative touches; the old tin barn star is an antique-fair find, and perches on an old milking stool;

Barn star on milking stool

And this feathered cape makes a timely escape from my wardrobe to hang near the window where the light can filter through the feathers..

Guest room makeover 2

Other features below; fresh flowers scent the room and add a burst of life and colour; the bedside tables have simple glass bottles as carafes. You can find my tutorial on folding books here; the wifi code is discreetly framed and sits on the dressing table; the overhead light is the Norm 69 pendant; a nightmare to assemble but beautiful when in place!

Guest room accents

Enjoy the rest of your weekend; we’re having a small birthday lunch for Harry and excitement is already off the scale!

I’ll be back in a couple of days with some DIY party-hats and a Knights and Dragons cake…

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ps If you missed them, you can see our kitchen, hall and bathroom makeovers too.


Guest room makeover 1

A brief miscellany this week, of projects either finished-but-not-photographed, or started-but-not-yet-finished.  A succession of gloomy, rain-filled days has meant a lack of good light to take pictures, but conversely we’ve spent a lot of time this weekend sheltering in the warm and making, baking, painting and sticking to alleviate the weather.

I’ve a whole host of things to share with you as soon as I find myself at home, in bright daylight, with 10 minutes and camera.  Until then, here’s a few pics of our work in progress – like the guest room, which used to look like this below…

old bedroom

… but now has beautiful oiled oak flooring, shaker-peg panelled walls, shutters, and seems somehow infinitely more welcoming and cosy than before.  I’ll give you a proper tour and pics next week. Also the story of this butchers block, which took two strong men and lots of swearing to manoeuvre from the hall to the first floor…

Guest room makeover 3

Two last pics, and then I’ll wait for the proper post. I just couldn’t resist..

Guest room 4

Guest room makeover 2

In other news, we’ve been continuing our festive preparations with some more card-making; Harry drew a Christmas tree which I’ve magicked onto cards for him to write in and sign (I’ll show you how we did this; very simple and fun).  The labour involved in forming careful letters when you’re 4 means that we’re doing a couple at a time to ensure that enthusiasm and concentration is sustained…


…and I’ve been playing around with my art supplies, forming wreaths and trees and other shapes with soft pastels and paint trays to make some imagery befitting of a crafter at Christmas…. I’m thinking these might make lovely gift tags or cards. Hmmm, watch this space.

Pastel wreath

paint palette christmas tree

The house looks more than usually chaotic; as I write, most of the kitchen surfaces are topped with pieces of coloured fondant as I figure out how to make a castle birthday cake for a would-be-knight who turns 5 in a matter of days (where did the time go? I can hardly believe it).  The Snug is becoming Christmas HQ and has rolls of paper and part-wrapped presents and tags strewn around.  Harry is bursting with the excitement and pressure of keeping secrets about the presents he is aware of for grandparents and for each of us, and keeps trying to drop heavy hints and clues, accompanied by  his newly-perfected wink; it’s very funny and poignant in equal measure.

If you too are feeling crafty and looking for holiday inspiration, here’s our take on advent calendars, paper star decorations and a few of the festive projects we were making last year  - enjoy.

Have a great week!

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Quick crafts: DIY Santa!

DIY Torn-Paper Santa

Harry and I are beginning to feel a bit festive (if you’re in Bah Humbug-mode, look away and shush your tut-tutting…).  Perhaps it’s the steady thud of Christmas catalogues arriving in the post, or the relentless holiday music playing in every retail space we wander through.  By December, we’ll probably be fatigued, but right now we’re loving it.

We’ve been discussing what our home-made Christmas cards should look like; last-year’s button tree cards went down a storm so the bar is high.  Harry is keen that we should feature the iconic Big Man himself, so we’ve chosen Father Christmas as our focus.  Or Santa Christmas as H calls him, in one of those 4yr old linguistic mash-ups I want to remember always.  I was inspired by these fun gift bags with their simple graphic image, and had a play to try and create a picture which could be made very simply, involved some fun tearing and ripping, and would be very forgiving if one of us got distracted by Lego (him) or wine (me).

DIY Santa face giftwrap and cards

To make these you’ll need:

  • Red paper
  • White watercolour paper (any white paper will do, but textured paper like watercolour paper looks great for the beard and hat)
  • Pink or flesh tone paper; I used this
  • A black marker pen
  • Make-up blush or a pink crayon
  • Glue

Firstly, decide on your base / background; we used white cardstock for making cards, and also decorated a brown kraft paper bag and a gift tag, to practice and see how they looked.  Here’s the bag, step by step…

1. Cut a wide strip of pink paper and paste across the centre of your bag.  Trim at the sides to fit.

Step 1

2.  Cut and glue a wide strip of red paper above, to the top of the bag (or card, or tag, or whatever).

Step 2

3.  Tear a thin strip of watercolour paper; do this roughly, don’t use a ruler, and don’t worry if it’s irregular.  Glue it over where the red and pink paper meet; this is the trim of Santa’s hat.  Now tear a wider piece of the white paper for the beard and moustache shape; aim for a shape which curves up in the middle like this:

Step 3

4. Now take your marker pens and dot two eyes and sketch a little smile (play around with expressions; each one can be different!).  Use a pink pen to ink in a nose.

Step 4

5.  Finally, dip your finger in some blusher (or use a crayon if you’re a dude), and swirl on two rosy cheeks.  You could dab some on the tip of the nose too if you like; it gets cold out there on the sleigh.  Ta-da; you’re done!  Now just repeat  - or you can scan your work of art and print it out instead; the lazy crafter’s guide to mass-production at Christmas.

Step 5

If you use a red base, as we did with this gift tag, you can skip a step and it’s even simpler; just add the pink and white papers on top.

Santa Gift Tag

Our living room is now adorned with smiling Santas, who are partially stuck to various surfaces as they dry.  The rain is beating down and we are slowly beginning to think about work and school bags and clean clothes, with that small heartsink that comes with the end of a lovely weekend and the prospect of Monday morning.  An open fire tonight, I think – let the weekend linger just a little bit longer.

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

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California Highlights

Sea Nettles

Sea Nettles at the Monterey Bay Aquarium

How was your weekend?  We had a lovely but strange one, adjusting to the timezone shift after a wonderful trip to California.  It was a magical break, and we came back with a suitcase full of sand, beach-treasures and 1,013 photos.  Count ‘em.  Sometimes digital cameras are not such a good thing… Here, for those of you who can bear it, are some of our highlights!

We flew in to San Francisco and spent a couple of days adjusting and sight-seeing; obvious favourites like the Golden Gate Bridge and the Cable Cars of course, but we also found delights like the Saturday morning farmers market at the Ferry Terminal building, where we wandered the stalls for ages, sampling goods and being amazed at some of the produce..

Ferry Building Farmers Market SF

I was particularly taken by these mushroom-growing kits; aren’t the results beautiful (below)?  I brought one home and we spent the morning soaking rolls of paper and sprinkling over the spores to see if we could reproduce some of this magic..

Mushroom MiniFarms

From San Francisco we picked up a car and headed to Santa Monica; a longish drive broken up by field after field of pistachio groves.  The journey was worth it; we awoke before dawn the next morning and headed straight for the beach to watch the sun come up, coffee in hand; it was beautiful;

Dawn surfers at Santa Monica beach

We hired bikes and rode for miles along the boardwalk, people-watching and soaking up the amazing sunshine as the beaches came to life and the day unfolded.  I received some great suggestions of places to check out including the vibrant pier; we ended up staying so long we had dinner at a restaurant on the beach as the sun set again; I could get used to this lifestyle..

Santa Monica Pier

From Santa Monica we hugged the coastline and gradually pottered back towards San Francisco, stopping whenever we felt the urge along the way (at least once an hour!).  Our next proper stop was in Pismo beach, famous for its seals and sea-glass, amongst other things.  Again, we gravitated to the shore, and made pilgrimages every dawn and dusk to see what the tides had brought in, joining the wading birds at the edge of the water..

Commanding the sunrise

Harry commanding the sun to rise on Pismo Beach

Wading birds at the shoreline


At the tideline we found seal skulls and vertebrae, driftwood of all shapes and sizes, golf balls (mis)hit from cliff top courses and tiny, beautiful pearls of sea glass.  Most of it we returned to the shore, but a few treasured souvenirs have found their way back home with us.

From Pismo we headed for Carmel and another reader’s recommendation of Carmel Valley Ranch, which was the highlight of our stay.  We’d saved up for a few amazing days here, and loved every minute; we learned how to cook S’mores beside the campfire (we caused great hilarity by attempting to assemble the whole cookie and then pierce it with a skewer before roasting… you can only imagine how tricky this is).  At Carmel I also attempted my first – and possibly last – cardio barre class, which my thighs have yet to recover from.  I knew I was in trouble when I hobbled back up the steps to our lodge and Harry whispered loudly  ‘Daddy, I think Mummy is going to need our help with the stairs’.

We used Carmel as a base to explore and tour the coast and surrounding areas; we agreed that if work and finances were no object we’d happily relocate there tomorrow; we loved it. Here are a few of our highlights – again, thanks to all those who suggested wonderful local secrets like Pfeiffer Beach and the Monterey Youth Museum that don’t tend to appear in guidebooks… we tracked them all down and they were wonderful..

Watching the surfers at Carmel Beach

Watching the surfers at Carmel Beach

Beach after the rain

Wine tasting and touring the winery at Chateau Julien

Wine tasting and touring the winery at Chateau Julien

Witnessing the power of the ocean at Pfeiffer Beach

Witnessing the power of the ocean at Pfeiffer Beach

Viewing some impressive pumping carving at Carmel Valley Lodge

Viewing some impressive pumping carving at Carmel Valley Lodge

Pebble Beach

Choosing fantasy homes in Pebble Beach

Sea Nettle

Watching the mesmerising sea nettles and moon jellies at Monterey Aquarium

moon jellies


As the nights draw in during the weeks ahead, we’ll sift through our souvenirs and photos ready to make our next family yearbook, and I’m stitching our route on the map we used along the way so that we remember…

Stitched holiday map

Have a good week ahead, wherever you are and whatever you have planned; when work abates I’ll be back at the end of the week with a new project. See you then!

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California, here we come!


MarisaMidori Illustration

We’re still not packed, we have at least two meals-worth of strange, incompatible-yet-perishable things in the fridge to eat up, but my goodness we’re excited; our long-awaited Californian road trip is almost here!  We’ve made the most of your tips and recommendations and are planning to start in San Francisco and then follow the coast, stopping at Monterey, Carmel, Big Sur – anywhere and everywhere that captures our attention until we run out of time.

I’ll be back here in a couple of weeks to share our trip highlights and some more of our home renovation; clouds of plaster dust are still settling gently around my shoulders as I type, and our guest room is almost complete.  In the meantime, have a wonderfully spooky Halloween!

See you soon,

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Top: Marisa Midori Illustration via here


DIY Dutch Canal House Luminaries

DIY Dutch House Luminaries

Back in the Springtime, Mum and I went to Amsterdam for a weekend which we spent in cafes, galleries, stores, bars and – most of all – walking along all the beautiful canal streets, picking the houses we most wanted to live in, transfixed by the rooflines with every conceivable shape and architectural feature.  These were some of my favourites;

Canal Houses in Amsterdam

With the nights slowly but surely drawing in, I wanted to recreate  the houses as delicate luminaries which could be backlit with candlelight on the mantle.  I drew different house shapes (templates at the bottom)…

Dutch House Luminary 1 BLANK


Dutch House Luminary 2 PLAIN

Then printed them onto A4 sheets of cardstock (go for card as thick as your printer will take – mine was quite flimsy which made it very easy to cut, but the luminaries will be more likely to curl and bend over time).

Carefully cut out all the tiny windows with a craft knife and self-healing mat.  Use a safety-ruler for this if you have one, the kind with a deep groove for your fingers, particularly if you’re as easily distractible as me.

Making luminaries

…fold the side-flaps so that you have a self-standing shape, and then simply glue a sheet of vellum or tissue paper on the back.

Making Luminaries 2

Stand them up on your cluttered desk and admire them with the natural daylight shining through…

DIY Luminaries in daylight


…and then watch them come into their own by placing candles (in jars! Safety first..) behind them as the light fades.


With the festive season around the corner I designed two styles; one plain, and one with a sandstone texture and snowflakes.  You could also print out the plain one and paint or decorate it and send as a greeting card…You can colour in the windows to avoid having to cut them all out (cunning, and very labour-saving… life’s too short to spend too much time with an x-acto knife in hand).

We love our small canal-house street, and lighting the luminaries has become an evening ritual as we shed school bags and coats, briefcases and umbrellas and head for the warmth of the snug to catch up on the day’s events.  Just don’t forget to blow them out before bed!

Templates below to download… enjoy :-)

Dutch House Luminary 1 FESTIVE

Dutch House Luminary 1 BLANK

Dutch House Luminary 2 FESTIVE

Dutch House Luminary 2 PLAIN

Dutch House Luminary 3 FESTIVE

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Channelling Icarus, and a week in pictures…

Icarus wings master

You can imagine the moment when Icarus, full of hubris and exhilaration as he sailed above Crete with his home-made wings, began to question the wisdom of using wax.  Perhaps when the first rays of the sun warmed his back and he began to feel an alarming softening of his wingspan….  the rest, as they say, is history.  Or myth, more accurately.

If only Icarus had enjoyed access to poster board and lolly sticks, we reckon it might have been a very different story.  Lighter, less smelly than wax and feathers, and surprisingly resilient even when you get stuck in a doorway when trying to launch yourself outside, these are proving a winner in our household this week.

Harry has recently developed a passion for flight, in no small part due to discovering How to Train Your Dragon, and also the cast of Lego Ninjago – his new heroes.  ’Mummy, can we make me some wings please that I can wear?’  well sure, let’s try, said I.  ’Great!  They need to ping out when I press a button and fold away when I click and they should be big enough to fly, ok?’  Ummm, no.

Still, we did OK.  I quite fancy a pair of these myself, and am trying to invent / discover a party that I can justifiably wear these to…

Icarus wings for littles

I used poster board (foam board), and hand-drew a wing shape before cutting it out with a craft knife (I used plates to get clean half-circle shapes around the edges).  Wooden lolly sticks glued in lines gave the appearance of a wing frame, and then I used ordinary paper fasteners and scraps of faux leather to make handles and to join the two wings together.  If you fancy having a go, gather the materials below  - I’ve also made a proper template which you can download and photocopy to the size you want it.  If you’re in need of detailed instructions, just let me know!

You’ll need:

  • Two sheets of foam board or cardboard
  • A pile of wooden lolly sticks
  • Paper fasteners
  • Glue (all-purpose or hot glue).
  • Scraps of cardboard, faux leather or foam to make the handles and connector piece
  • Braid (optional)

Icarus Wing Template

wing template

How to make Icarus Wings

Making Icarus Wings

In other news this week, the fair came to town!

A traditional steam fair comes to the Village Green of a town near us each Autumn, for a weekend of bumper-cars, helter-skelter rides, coconut shies and old-fashioned fun.  Crowds come from all of the surrounding villages and it’s a lovely event.  Harry wore his aviator goggles throughout, although we persuaded him to leave his wings at home.

The Steam Fair

I’m trying to enjoy every last minute of Autumn, as we gather blackberries and pine cones and count-down the days until we can light the wood-burning stove and find that we are once again racing the sun at each end of the day; to school and work before it rises, home again before it finally sets.  Already the stores are turning to Christmas, and festive displays are filling the windows.  Part of me is horrified, and part of me slows and lingers, I confess.

I’ve been doodling on scraps of watercolour paper and thinking through ideas for Christmas cards (whisper it – I know it’s so long away..).  Happy polar bears, perhaps, once I get the proportions right and add a few festive accents..

polar bear sketching

On Sunday, we focused firmly on the present and had a weekend tea party in glorious late-season sunshine for Harry’s godparents; a lovely change to a more traditional lunchtime get together, and a delicious excuse for cake-making…. I made the universal favourite chocolate biscuit cake, which apparently was served at William and Kate’s royal wedding (we add raisins, cherries and decoration to ours; we love a bit of overkill!)…

Royal Biscuit Cake

And also experimented with mini banoffee pies in flower pots, topped with grated chocolate to look like soil…

Plantpot Banoffee Pies

And finally Harry and I made a raspberry and lemon bundt cake, which has become a family favourite and proves irresistible to even the most virtuous and health-conscious guest..

The cake thief


And talking of cake, it’s time to sign off, as I must ensure I’m in position on the sofa, glass of wine in hand in time for the final, climactic episode of The Great British Bake-Off; we don’t watch much TV but this has become my weekly guilty pleasure; with just three bakers left and some pretty daunting challenges ahead, I’ll be gripped.

Have a great rest of the week!

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The Simple Guide to Making Secret Books

DIY Secret Books

I’ve always loved the idea of making secret boxes from books; the kind where you pull out a book from the shelves, lift the cover and find instead a beautiful box full of exciting things.  I’ve always been put off  by the method, which traditionally involves glueing all of the book pages together and cutting, carefully and precisely, through every single page to cut out an inner section of the book.  The results often look amazing, but very time-consuming and requiring much precision cutting and sticking and use of clamps.  Not one for slap-dash crafters like me.

Instead, I experimented with making one by removing the whole of the book-text and replacing it with an inner made of cardboard or foam (I tried both; you can see pics below).  It took about 90mins from end to end and I love the result… it’s also a very do-able project to make with children  on a wet Autumnal afternoon.  It the idea appeals, here’s a step-by-step guide below; let me know how you get on!

Kates secret book box

1. Choose your book

You can choose whatever book you like for this – I found mine for free at a local shop which gives away books rescued from landfill sites – but a few pointers; choose a hardback book, so that you have enough rigidity in the spine and covers for your box.  Consider the size and thickness of the book; how big and deep do you want your box to be?  There are no right or wrongs here, but have a think before you choose.  Finally, give the book a good shake and the spine a waggle to make sure it is sturdy and not falling apart.  Oh, and if you’re choosing one from your bookshelves, make sure it won’t be missed…

Elegance by K Tessaro

2. Decide on your ‘filling’

I suggest using either corrugated cardboard or sheets of fun foam.  Both of these are very quick and easy to cut; if you are planning a real work of art or heirloom you could use artists grey board, but this will several hundred more strokes of your craft knife and is only for the very dedicated.  I’ve shown the steps below using cardboard.  The foam will look a little sleeker, but does cost more (you can usually find enough cardboard from old boxes). You can also use a box to insert in your book – I used half a box from a pair of inexpensive sunglasses –  though you don’t need one.

Corrugated for making hollow books How to make hollow books

3. Carefully remove the book pages

Two ways of doing this; one is to slice away the endpapers and (gently) rip the whole book from the cover; this will keep your book intact if you want to read it again, but it will also weaken the spine of the cover a little.  The other method which I used is to slice out the pages as shown below; they will come out in clumps and this should take less than a minute.  Cut as close to the glued spine as you can.

Making hollow books

4. Measure the page size and cut pieces of cardboard or foam to the same size

Cut as many pieces as you need to fit the depth of the spine (my book needed 10 pieces of foam, or just 5 of the cardboard, which was thicker).  Make sure you are measuring the page size and not the cover; your stack needs to fit neatly inside the original book cover.

Cutting cardboard to make a hollow book

5.  Cut a section from the centre of each, to the size you want your box inner to be, and glue together

If you’re using a box to insert, measure this and mark on each piece of cardboard/foam where to cut, centring on each to ensure you are cutting in the same place.

book box step by step

When you’ve finished, push or place your box into the hole you have cut to check it fits snugly.  When you’re happy, lift it out, dab glue around the edges and reinsert to hold it into place.  If you’re not using an inner, you can decide what size of shape to cut out.  Now stack your pieces and glue together to make your completed insert. (and apologies for the lack of step-by-step pictures here; a combination of glue, paper, craft knives and darkness made this impossible)

6. Paint the cardboard if desired

I painted my cardboard stack black to match the original page edges and colour palette of the book, but you can leave as plain cardboard or paint any colour.  If you’re using foam, choose the colour you want at the beginning.  Here’s my cardboard stack, painted, with the cover sheet glued on top but without the box yet inserted or the edges trimmed;

DIY book box in progress

6.  Take one page sheet from the original book and cut out a hole of the same size/shape, and glue on top of your insert.  Trim any scrappy edges carefully, and then glue your finished inner back into the book cover by attaching it to the inside back cover and spine.  I used all-purpose glue and weighted my book down and left for a couple of hours to dry.

7.  You can also decorate the inside of your box; I stuck the opening page back carefully onto the lefthand cover, used a scrap of gift wrap to line the box, and also made a wax monogram seal with my initial.

wax seal

8. Admire, and fill with treasures!

You can use the book-boxes as jewellery boxes, or for storing secret treasures, letters or mementoes.  The beauty of them is that of course they close naturally and can be stacked alongside other books, looking indistinguishable from a normal one; great for storing valuables if you are going away.  They would also be lovely used as a small box for a ring-bearer to carry up the aisle; perhaps using a prayer book or book of poetry to make one of these.

Secret book-boxes for storing treasures!


My next project is to make Harry a secret box using a Harry Potter book, which he can keep under his bed and fill with ever-changing treasures.  We might even make one for the tooth fairy in the future; a tiny weeny box perhaps to tuck under the pillow, just big enough to hold a tooth and a piece of gold..

Have a great weekend!

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May The Force Be With You

Darth Vader DIY Cardboard Ship

Today I have an answer for that universal question which troubles us all at one or other time; ‘How Does One Make a Star Wars Fighter Ship Out of Cardboard?’.

Well alright,  I know that in reality it’s not a problem that many face, but it was a challenge laid down by Harry who was desperate that we should build together a spacecraft worthy of Darth Vader.  His actual specifications (‘One that really flies, Mummy!’) were a bit ambitious, but we emptied out the recycling bin and did our best….

DIY Star Wars Ship

It was a voyage of adventure (and misadventure), involving a pile of cardboard boxes, empty milk containers, a staple gun and some black and silver paint.  We took our inspiration – loosely – from the TIE Advanced cruiser that Darth Vader uses to shoot across the galaxy.  Can you see the resemblance, just a weeny bit?

TIE_Advanced courtesy of wikipedia

We tasked my husband with rummaging in the undergrowth during his evening runs in search of discarded hubcaps; he did brilliantly and managed to drag home a large and filthy selection.  Cleaning old hubcaps in the kitchen sink in order to stick milk-bottle caps onto them will be a defining moment of motherhood I think.  Still, it meant we had all our core components assembled;

Recycled materials

I sawed up cardboard to make wings and fixed them to a box (I punched holes and wired them together for strength, rather than using glue; these ships take quite a battering in astro-warfare..).  Harry was in charge of paint, a task he took to with enthusiasm.  I discovered belatedly that our paint of choice is not in fact washable; neither boy nor shirt have looked quite as box-fresh since last weekend…

Painting the Star Wars Ship

The rockets were made by spraying milk containers with silver paint and stuffing them with strips of tissue paper; I threaded a length of wire through bendy straws and used these to secure the bottles in place where they could provide jet power at the touch of a button.

DIy Milk Bottle Rockets

Star Wars Ship Straps

Foil pie cases were glued on in abundance by Harry to add a bit of bling and space-age style, as were faux jewels from the art cupboard, and then finally I cut a large square out of the bottom of the box for Harry to step through and then added wide bands of elastic to act as straps to hold the ship in place.  A star cruiser was born.

I’ve not included detailed instructions for how we made our ship because I have a hunch that this is a rather niche craft activity (though mothers of small boys – and larger ones – may find inspiration here).  Instead, here’s a pictogram of what we used and how it all vaguely came together…

DIY Star Wars Ship Materials

And now I must leave you; the universe is in peril, I hear, and Darth is on the warpath. I don’t have the time or cardboard to knock myself up a lightsaber, so I will be relying on my wits.  This means I am doomed.

All being well, however, I’ll be back on Friday with a cheat’s guide to how to make hollowed-out books for storing treasures.

See you then!

handbag logo


The Letter Box: Preserving The Magic of Snail Mail

The Letter Box

I’ve written often on this blog about my love of letters and the abiding magic of good things in the post.  For someone who delights in receiving mail, I don’t write to others nearly often enough, so have gradually been gathering together lovely supplies to make it easier to scribble a pretty card or note in the moment I think of it, before life rushes on and the distracted hunt for a stamp or an envelope causes me to abandon my good intentions.

Harry too is becoming a man of letters, and has discovered the presence of the Royal Mail and the astonishing fact that letters, when posted into a box on our street, can be transported to far flung corners of the world in a matter of days (actually, in truth the time element has yet to be understood; Harry’s default expectation is that anything we post will reach it’s destination – wherever that may be – by teatime).

I’ve made Harry a Box of Letters which contains all sorts of lovely things for making and sending letters and cards to grandparents, family and friends – and even to us.  It’s helping him with his writing and means we can distribute the growing pile of artwork somewhat more widely.. and also has the bonus of generating letters in reply, which he adores.

Writing Letters

Here are some of the things in the modern man’s stationery bureau;

1. Enticing coloured crayons, pencils or pens.  We love Giotto pencils which have an almost oil-pastel like vibrancy and creaminess and go on thickly and easily.  They’re also triangular which helps with learning pencil grip, if you’re 4-5yrs old and facing such grown-up challenges.

Handful of pencils

 2.  Fun, bright stationery which doesn’t require much writing to fill it all up.  I’ve given Harry a fistful of my Happy Notes which only need about a sentence-worth of concentration and heavy-breathing before they are full.  I’ve also packed in a few of our home-made holiday postcards and some of Harry’s monogram stationery – again, just the right size for the attention-span of a small child.

Happy Note

3.  Decorative paper tape and stickers to adorn envelopes and add a dash of flair.  I also use the tape to hold the paper or cards in place whilst Harry writes and draws; with the flamboyance and heavy-handed pressure involved, it’s easy for them to skid and slip around unless I tack them lightly in place.

Washi tape and Stickers

4. And my favourite… personalised stamps and fun stamps.  I made some stamps for Harry using the Royal Mail Smilers service, and there are similar websites for the US and Canada which will allow you to upload photos and turn them into personalised stamps (lovely for a wedding or event as well as fun for kids).  They’re fun to use and raise a smile when they arrive on the mat at their destination.

personalised stamps

I made the storage box out of an old shoe box, and designed the picture below for the top (you can download a PDF printable below if you want to make your own).  I found some cow-print paper in Harry’s art cupboard which I used to line the box and lid – and now we have our correspondence kit to hand for whenever inspiration strikes!  I think one of these would make a lovely gift too for anyone young or old with a passion for stationery and lovely things; something to think about perhaps as Christmas stealthily approaches.

Letter Box Lid

Letters Box Printable

I’d love to know any other ideas for bits and bobs to include in Harry’s box or ways you’ve encouraged letter-writing and managed to avoid it becoming a tortuous semi-annual task after birthdays and Christmas; all tips welcome!

Have a wonderful weekend wherever you are and whatever you’re doing; we have a back-to-school party and a small family reunion to look forward to – and baking too; September sees the return of our Saturday Cake-in-the-House tradition; a glass of wine and a new recipe book await me this evening.

Kate x

Stationery box for kids