Paper Paper!

Paper crafts

DIY Paper Marbling with Metallics

DIY Shaving Foam Paper Marbling

I’ve always loved marbled papers, ever since a trip to Venice as a teenager when I stumbled across a tiny paper shop called Il Papiro that was filled from floor to ceiling with hand-decorated sheets in every hue.  Even then (especially then!), they were way beyond my price range, so I admired them and reluctantly left them behind.  Finally, an unimaginable number of years later, I discovered how to make marbled paper at home.  The trick?  The cheapest shaving foam you can find.

In truth, I am pretty sure that this is not the secret ingredient that Italian marblers have been using since the fifteenth century, but still – it works a treat.

DIy marbled paper from KatesCreativeSpace

Firstly, go shopping for several cans of shaving foam.  Ignore the strange looks that this provokes; try not to appear as someone wresting with a secret, hidden, hairiness.  Then find yourself some disposable foil trays, food colouring and a syringe or baster / pipette.  Latex gloves too, if your fingers will appear in public soon afterwards; temporary staining is a potential hazard.  Let’s begin…

Fill your tray with spray-can shaving foam.  Make sure it’s the old fashioned cheap foam and not hipster shaving gel; you want plenty of ‘bouff’…

Foil tray filled with shaving foam (DIY marbled paper)

Then using the syringe or pipette, squirt drops of food colouring randomly around the tray.  Here, I used two shades of blue food dye (a turquoise and a deeper blue), and also some gold paint;

Mixing foam with food dye for marbling

Using a wooden skewer, gently stir and swirl the dye around until it’s mixed loosely together and there are no big pools or stripes of colour.  Don’t blend it in completely; you just want it stirred together, like this;

DIY shaving foam paper marbling

And then quickly lay your piece of paper on top, face-down, and push it gently flat so that all parts of it are covered by the foam mix

DIY paper marbling step 4

Lift up the paper and lay it down flat.  It will look deeply unimpressive.  You will be covered in foam.  You will despair.  But wait.  Wait just a moment, because this next bit is where the magic happens…

DIY foam paper marbling

Take a clean ruler and place it along your sheet, and pull down smoothly, wiping the foam away.  It’s awesome.  You will feel like an artist…

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Use kitchen roll to wipe away any residual foam, and leave the paper to dry.

You can get a second print from the tray, but it will be a bit blurrier and less defined than the first.  Try different colour mixes and experiment with using shaded papers.  My favourite is pale blue paper with blue food dye and silver paint; it gives an ethereal and delicate marbling pattern that’s perfect for making writing paper…

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Deeper and more vibrant mixes are great for making gift tags, or cutting out as envelope liners like below;

DIY Marbling Envelope Liners

Make sheet after sheet, and use them in everything you can think of…

DIY Paper marbling with shaving foam

Oh, and happy Sunday, wherever you are and whatever you’re doing! (Do this now; do this instead…)

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Mapping a Marriage

Valentines book from Kates Creative Space

Full of romance and good intention, I turned to my husband last month and described my plans for celebrating our milestone tenth wedding anniversary this summer.

‘That’s great’ he said.  ’Except it’ll actually be nine years’.

I was never good on detail.  High on enthusiasm; rather loose on the specifics.

But still, for this Valentine’s day I have a plan; a book that maps the eight-and-half-years of our marriage through the adventures we’ve had and the places we’ve been together.  When we married I promised that we would continue to explore the world; that whatever tide of real life and responsibilites consumed us, we’d keep on moving and travelling and experiencing new things.  And for the most part, we have.

This magical website lets you type in any place in the world and then translates it into a beautiful watercolour map that you can download and use; I found our favourite and most memorable places, printed them onto watercolour paper and bound them together in a book.  Each page comes without clues (he prides himself on his geographical knowledge; this is a challenge he will seize..), but on the back are notes and memories and photos from each trip.  I started with the Isle of Capri..

Isle of Capri in watercolour

It was the first place we went to together, staying out of season in November in the Capri Palace hotel, enjoying late autumn sunshine and then sitting wrapped in blankets in the village square at night, drinking wine with the locals. It was, in a sense, where we began.

Then later Cape Town, where we honeymooned; a more identifiable harbour for this seasoned cartographer to spot…

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There are twelve maps in total in the book, ending with Sydney, our latest great adventure;

Sydney Habour watercolour map

And here’s how I made it…

DIY Valentines Map Book

You’ll need;

  • Two sheets of greyboard or other strong cardboard
  • Decorative paper for the covers and inside leaves of the book
  • A length of ribbon or bookbinding fabric to make your spine and cover the edges of the boards, binding them together
  • Your printed sheets; I used 300gsm paper to look like actual watercolour paintings
  • Linen-backed paper tape to attach the pages
  • I added a love letter to the inside leaf of the book, and a large button to the front to hold the book together

Stitched button map book

The detailed instructions are below if you want to give this a go; it took me two evenings, three cups of tea and two glasses of wine.  Also a deep paper cut on my index finger.  It was worth it.

But if you do nothing else, have a play at making beautiful maps online (your home town! Your next holiday destination! Anywhere….)

Have a wonderful week.

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DIY Valentines book of all the places youve visited together

 

Making the book, step by step;

  1. Mix a cup of white glue and water, using 1 part glue to two parts water.
  2. Cut your decorative paper so that it is 1 inch greater in size all round than your greyboard.  These are the margins that you’ll fold over the board.
  3. Paste the paper thoroughly on the reverse side, and lay each board carefully in place; fold over the edges of the paper so that they are glued in place, and then place a sheet of parchment/baking paper over the top before weighting down the covered cardboard to dry (use heavy books for this).  The parchment paper will stop the cardboard from sticking to the books as it dries.  Don’t skip this step; without weighting, the glue will curl the cardboard and you’ll end up with bowed covers.  This is a good time for the first cup of tea / glass of wine.
  4. Once your boards are throughly dry, lay them alongside each other, ‘good’ side up, so that they are like the open covers of a book.  Leaving a space of 1 inch between them; glue a 2 inch-wide length of fabric or ribbon so that it adheres to each board and binds them together.  Turn the book cover over, and paste another sheet of decorative paper to the inside, hiding the pasted edges of the covers (see my picture 2 in the montage above, where one side is decorated and one side still bare and uncovered).
  5. Whilst this is drying, print out your pages and order them carefully, practising flipping through them to make sure you have them facing the right way (it’s surprisingly easy to get them back to front).
  6. Using strips of linen tape, stick the pages together.  This tape is helpfully marked down the centre with stitching so that you can get your seams absolutely straight.
  7. Then – and you’re almost done now – use strong decorative tape to tape your bound pages into the book covers.  I used navy-blue constellation patterned tape which contrasted nicely with the sea colours of the paper (see pic above).
  8. Finally, just to show off, use a punch or bradawl to make two tiny holes in the cover and stitch a button in place (don’t even think of trying to force a needle through the greyboard without pre-made holes; it will end in disaster and stab wounds…).  Inside the back cover, glue or thread a length of ribbon that you can wind around the button to hold the covers closed.
  9. Congratulate yourself on navigating my impenetrable instructions, and present the finished book to your lover, emphasising just how much effort has gone into it.
  10. Be showered with adoration as a result.

Festive Stained-Glass Luminary Cards

Luminary Bauble Cards

Hello! Are you feeling festive yet?  We’ve had a Christmassy weekend, hunting down the perfect tree (I love the smell of resin and fir; even the myriad of inevitable small needle puncture-wounds that track my hands and arms are worth it…) and crunching through nearby fields of frost. Yesterday afternoon we lit a fire and retreated indoors, and made batches of these tissue-paper luminaries, which look beautiful on their own and even better with small battery t-lights placed behind them…

Tissue paper bauble holiday cards

We made Christmas trees, baubles and stained glass windows; once you get the hang of the glue and the tissue (it’s a messy sport, but a lovely one), they are deliciously simple, whilst looking like they have taken great mastery and hours of dedication.  Perfect.

DIY Stained Glass tissue paper cards

To make these you’ll need…

  • Cardstock for the cards
  • Tissue paper in different colours
  • Shaped punches or a craft knife to cut out your shapes
  • Tracing paper or vellum to layer your ‘stained glass’ onto
  • Glue and scissors
  • Christmas CD, glass of mulled wine (optional; but hey, why not?)

We started by punching out the circle shape from our cardstock..

Stained glass cards step 1

Then, take the circle shape and place a square of tracing paper or vellum over it, taping it into place.  Cover it with glue from a gluestick (less messy and more forgiving than runnier white glue).  Cut strips of your tissue paper and place them in uneven, overlapping layers of the shape;

Stained glass cards step 2

Repeat as many times as you like, and then draw a circle around the edge of your shape, slightly larger than the shape itself (this makes for a much neater silhouette when you stick it in the card ‘window’, especially when you’re using a t-light with it and having a lot of light shine through)…

Stained glass cards step 3

Take your original cut-out card and add a tin line of glue around the inside of the circle shape, and then press the tissue-bauble into place, with the tracing-paper side facing inwards, like so (below).  Cut a freehand shape for the top of the bauble; we used gold card but any colour will do;

Stained glass cards step 4

Fold into half and trim if needed.

Ta-da!!

Stained glass bauble cards

Stained glass christmas bauble cards

The christmas tree cards are made in exactly the same way, though are a bit more complex – I cut out a triangle shape, punched a star above and then used this hole punch (a favourite tool) to punch random holes around the tree to simulate fairy lights.  Don’t invest in one unless you’re a regular crafter; just use the point of a compass to poke holes through (carefully, of course…)

Christmas tree stained glass effect cards

Christmas tree tissue cards

Then place a battery light behind each one to make them glow;

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Package each card up in an envelope with a battery t-light attached (best to save this for hand-delivered cards) – I bought a bulk pack of these and they’re fantastic.

Final step?  Walk away from the scene of devastation you have created.  Tell yourself that it will look better when you return.  Take a bath instead.

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DIY Driftwood Boats

Long-time readers of this blog will know that I love the sea.  Specifically, I love wild, empty beaches and the magic of a newly-washed shoreline and all the treasures that the tide leaves behind. Whether it’s Christchurch, New England or Monterey, my family has become wearily attuned to coming home with a large, suspiciously-smelling bag full of beach finds.  I keep a big bucket in the art room, labelled ‘Driftwood and the Sea’, and last weekend I finally had a rummage through and began to craft a small fishing fleet…

How to make a driftwood boat

DIY Driftwood fishing boats

And because every fisherman needs a warm and and inviting home to navigate back to as dawn breaks; a couple of cottages too, complete with chimneys and freshly laundered sheets drying on the line…

Fishing cottage made from driftwood

I started by sorting out some of the most interesting looking bits of wood I’ve collected over the months (ok, years..)

Driftwood

…and then rummaged through the art room to gather together all kinds of bits and bobs I might need.  I used…

  • Old nails and screws to make masts, chimney pots and washing line posts.  If you don’t have any old or rusty ones to hand (we have an ancient shed full of them), you can paint them or even rust them yourself with tutorials like this (but really, you could so something much more exciting instead I’m sure)
  • Eyelets, to make windows and portholes
  • Wire, for sails and bunting and washing lines
  • Paint – any paint – and sanding paper, so that when it’s dry you can gently buff it and make it look more weathered and aged
  • Beads, shells, bells and any other things you have lying around
  • Scraps of linen (from a favourite, ancient pair of trousers that finally became too holey and revealing to wear)

Materials for making driftwood boats

Painting the wood is simple; I used a couple of layers of colour, blended unevenly, in complementary sea-like tones…

painting wood for driftwood boats

And as for the rest?  It’s entirely upto your imagination and whatever you have to hand.  After all, each boat should be unique, and none of them need to be remotely sea-worthy.  In case you’re interested in giving this project a go, and have a similar haul of driftwood (or an opportunity to go collecting), here’s a step-by-step breakdown of how I made each of these.

Driftwood Fishing Boat deconstructed

Driftwood Fishing Boat 2

Driftwood Fishing Village 3

p.s. three other nautical projects; paper boats, beachcomber table settings and cork boats… and one of my favourites ever; Harry’s Ark.

Have a wonderful week!

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How to print a fish (and other useful skills you didn’t know you’d been missing)

Have you ever heard of Gyotaku?

Gyotaku fish printing DIY

It’s the ancient Japanese art of printing beautiful pictures from fish, and artists devote years – lifetimes, even – to refining the skill.  I stumbled across this by accident, and came across a myriad of sites which explain how to catch and then carefully cleanse and fillet your fish, before stuffing its every nook and cranny with absorbent tissue  and gently pinning its fins into a delicate, aesthetically pleasing fan shape before beginning your print.

Or. Or. You could do what I did and choose two sardines from the supermarket for the princely sum of 75p, and use those instead.  Yes; with apologies to the Gyotaku community of practice, here is the simpleton’s guide to achieving an acceptably pleasing print within a morning, and then being able to cook and eat your fish for lunch afterwards.  Just rinse it first, would be my insider tip.

gyotaku (Japanese fish printing) materials from Katescreativespace.com

You’ll need;

  • A fish.  Two if you can afford a spare.
  • Rubber gloves.  Because it is a dead fish after all, and remember that you have a fresh manicure that it is not worth sacrificing for this project.
  • A piece of foam board or polystyrene that you can carve out for your fish
  • Pins, if you are keen to arrange your fish.  Skip this bit if your constitution is even remotely delicate.
  • Paint; I used silver, black and grey for my prints
  • A piece of silk or thin cotton, or super-light silk paper like this or this (try art and craft shops; it’s often sold with giftwrap or in small, single sheets).

First, rinse and pat dry your fish.  Oh, put the gloves on first.  Sorry.  Start with those.

Let’s try again.  Put the gloves on and then rinse and pat dry the fish.  Do not look it in the eye; it will only make it harder.

Then, draw around the shape of your fish on your foam board/polystyrene and cut out a shallow hollow for your fish to fit into.  This will stop it rolling around when you paint it and make prints.  Then, place your fish in the hollow you’ve made and daub colour all over your fish.  I used silver paint, and then added grey and black in the areas of the fish that looked the darkest.  I peeled off my gloves and took this single picture to help.  Then it just got too messy to take pictures of anything.  Too many fish scales; too much paint.

Gyotaku fish on board

Once you’ve painted your fish, you need to act quickly before it dries.  Pick up your piece of silk or silk paper and place it over the fish, and then pat it all over, making sure you press the shape of the fish and its fins into the paper.  Peel the paper off and place it aside to dry; you might get a second print, but usually you’ll need to reapply the paint to get a good second print.  Practice makes perfect; my first print looked like this….

Gyotaku fish printing DIY project

Recognisably a fish, but only just.  So next time I added more paint, including a good splash of black over the eyeball, and got a much better set of prints…

Gyozo fish print 3

Once you’ve made a print that you’re happy with, wait for it to dry and use your brush and paints to add any further detail or highlights that you want to.  I then cut out my fish print and glued it to a piece of white card so that the print stood out more clearly..

Gyotaku fish printing simple DIP project

 

Gyotaku printing project - make beautiful prints of fish!

 

Gyotaku printing onto silk paper

Once you’ve made your prints, you could scan them and print them onto different surfaces or make patterns.  Or use the originals for cards, as I did.  It’s a great project to try with kids, because it’s messy, involves dead things and paint (cool combination!), and the results are instant and gratifying. Just allow a bit of time for clearing up….

Have a great week!

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Crafty projects using holiday photos

DIY Holiday Card Making

Recently, we had a beautiful long weekend in Christchurch, on the Dorset coast. It was a miraculously hot weekend in an otherwise gloomy spell of weather, so we had 3 glorious days of crabbing, rockpool exploring, sand-castle building and a myriad of other retro beach pursuits.  Here’s a few photos, if you’d like to see;

Christchurch harbour

Make a wishMake a wish and blow

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mermaids

(it took about five showers to wash out all the sand after that one, by the way…)

Kite fliying on the beach

And then when we returned home, I got creative with the photographs…

DIY Photo Notepaper

I’d taken a lot of pics with sea and sky, so decided to make this photo into notepaper for Harry; I cropped it slightly (and superimposed a different kite that was a bit more recognisable!), and then simply printed out several copies onto matt white letter paper.  Harry wrote to his godmother to tell her about our weekend…

Photo letter paper

I also printed some fun envelopes with a photograph I took of the texture of a beach hut wall, with an address bar of weathered wood.  There’s a downloadable PDF of both of these images below if you want to print your own;

DIY Writing Paper from family photos

Beach Notepaper

Weathered Wood Envelope

You could also add text to make a poster…

 

The cure for anything

But my favourite project was this;

DIY Beach Hut Cards

I used one of my photos of the old beach huts at Mudeford, and then used the ‘remove background’ tool in Powerpoint to isolate the hut itself.  I printed it onto thin white card (step 1), then cut out the beach hut.  I printed photos of Harry to fit the size of the drop-front of the hut (step 3), and cut around them.  Then..

  • Using a craft knife, cut around the sides and top of the white hatch section, and folded it down to create a flap
  • Pasted a photo behind the flap
  • Mounted the beach hut onto a pre-folded piece of white card, and trimmed the top to fit the shape of the beach hut roof…

Beach hut card DIY

…to create this fun card!

Beach hut photo card

holiday cards from photos

We folded Harry’s letter into the card, tucked it into our homemade envelope, and posted it off.

Here’s a free graphic of the beach hut which you can download to make your own if you like (instead of a photo, you could turn it into an invitation to a party or event, with the details hidden behind the fold-down flap..).

Old Beach Hut image

Have a wonderful weekend when it comes!

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Altered Books for Little People

 

Making Creative Colouring Books for Kids

It’s that stage of the Easter Holidays where time seems to drag and even Harry occasionally thinks wistfully of school restarting, so we’ve been extra-resourceful this week and have had a go at making altered sketchbooks, inspired by this lovely – and very simple – idea from Rock & Pebble; a kids’ sketchbook shaped like a house, ready to be filled with drawings and pictures.  Aren’t they cool?

Dollhouse book by Rock & Pebble

You can’t buy these in the UK (and at $27, you might just pause anyway), so we thought we’d have a go ourselves and raided Harry’s art cupboard, where I always keep a stash of bulk-buy sketchbooks.  We decided to have a go at making a castle book, so I carefully measured and drew turrets, and used a craft knife and safety ruler to cut them out (metal rulers like these with a finger groove are ideal and minimise the risk of profuse amounts of blood on your castle, however authentic that may look)…

Making altered notebooks

We then took a second notebook and drew and cut out a simple slanted roof, and added doors to each, like so…

Altered notebooks for kids

I had some leftover brick-printed paper from Harry’s knights and castles party last year, so we glued this onto the castle book and added a couple of paper flags for extra style..

DIY Castle Sketchbook

And Harry immediately settled down to colouring and creating, drawing knights, arrows, shields and battles…

Altered Castle Notebook

Castle colouring book DIY Knights colouring book DIY

Yesterday, we decorated the cover of the house book together, adding brick paper, shingle roof tiles and other bits and bobs of decoration.  We love how it turned out…

Harrys House Book customised drawing book for kids

Harrys House Book DIY Colouring book for kids

The inside is still invitingly blank, and our plan for tonight is to take the Ikea catalogue, a pair of scissors each, some glue and a huge array of snacks (it is the holidays after all), and collage a room full of all of our favourite things onto the pages… watch this space!

Have a wonderful rest of the weekend, wherever you are and whatever you’re doing….

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DIY customised drawing books for kids

The Archivist

Yearbooks together

Welcome back! and Happy Easter (almost) ..I’m looking forward to the chance to catch breath once again after a frenzied few weeks at work, and the chaos of the end of term at school for Harry.  The weather looks grim, but we are undaunted; it is as easy to eat vast amounts of chocolate in the rain as in the sunshine (easier! No risk of melting).

One thing that has been a lovely distraction in recent evenings has been completing last year’s Family Yearbook; an annual project to document all the best bits of the year before, and to translate the thousands of odd photos on my Mac into something physical that we can all flick through and talk about.  I began when Harry was two, and we now have four books in a nook in the Snug, which are regularly taken down and explored all over again..

Family Yearbooks

The biggest part of our yearbooks is always the family photographs, but it’s also a place to capture stories, passions, events and moments in time, like the time last year when the Tooth Fairy made her grand entrance…

Capturing the tooth fairies visit

And my brief flirtation with gardening in 2014 which produced an intense flurry of of interesting botanicals over a period of about 8 weeks before I got bored and forgot to water anything…

Gardening yearbook

And the funny things that you want to remember, like the time when Harry was just learning how to write, and was frustrated by the number of adult conversations that seemed to go on FOREVER without a long enough break for him to interject.  These notes were passed to us in the kitchen one evening by a stony-faced Harry, and were too good not to capture for posterity..

Notes

And I’ve also documented our gradual renovation of the house, like the guest room last year;

IMG_6505

Inevitably, the design and format of the yearbooks has changed over time, and it’s fun to look back on that too, as my own style has evolved and my comfort with the camera increased.  In some years I’ve grouped the book by season…

IMG_0187  Memory book seasons

And in others, by month..

January

Some things remain constant; in each book I have a section at the back for a gallery of Harry’s projects from the year; it’s fun to see the difference (and the things that stay the same; my thigh gap will never reduce; I am reconciled to this now..)

IMG_6479kids art in a yearbook

2013

I use a software programme that allows to you to choose different designs for the front and back covers (these below are the paper fruit we made in 2014, which miraculously have survived 18 months in the playroom without incident, beyond mild denting);

Yearbook back cover

Family yearbook back cover

I’ve learned the hard way that the best way of building a yearbook is to do it as the year unfolds (sitting on New Year’s day staring down the barrel of 3,426 photographs and a blank book template is no fun at all), so this year I am finally ahead of myself and have the 2016 book saved permanently as a work-in-progress that I add to every couple of weeks; my goal is that on New Year’s Eve I can just click save for one final time and press the Order button..

If you’re tackling a project ike this for the first time, I shared some thoughts on what to include here.  But I’d love to know other ways you use photographs and preserve memories – all tips welcome in the Comments section.  We have the Memory Jar, and hidden in the loft, the Time Capsule, and of course the blog itself; but I’m always looking for other ideas…

Have a wonderful long weekend!
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Now We Are Six

This is 6

Whilst for Harry, life moves infinitely slowly, with the space between breakfast and lunch sometimes seeming to be as long as a whole year, for me it is moving very fast indeed.  Growth spurts can occur during the time it takes me to gaze blankly into my coffee as I come awake, and I am always surprised at the frequency of birthdays (Harry’s and mine, in fact – how did I get so old??).

Harry turned six a couple of months ago, which for him signified the onset of adulthood, pretty much, and for me caused to me pause and think about all of the favourite things which make up his world in this moment – the objects with a story behind them, or those which represent abiding passions over the years.  I gathered some of them together, bit by bit, and created a photo montage that we can keep and look at together in the years to come.  It includes:

1. The Militaria collection (or a selection thereof).

For a very equable, peaceful boy, Harry has always had his head turned by a decent plastic sword.  His collection spans various phases from pirate to buccaneer, brave medeival knight to Jedi knight, with silver duck tape providing necessary repairs over the years.  We have all become skilled in the art of swordplay, which mostly involves bluffing, waving your weapon flamboyantly around in the air air and shouting ‘ahhaaarrgghh!’ at intervals.  We are such amateurs.

Slide1 2. The Food Pyramid

I don’t think Harry consciously leans towards round-shaped food, but we certainly eat a lot of it.  From Cheerios (the breakfast of  champions), to cucumber – a hands-down favourite among vegetables, though both he and my husband maintain that eating lettuce is inexplicably dull and bizarre and to be avoided at all costs.  Chocolate donuts are a treat breakfast for holidays only, and thus have a near-mythical status and powerful associations.  The Charley Bear lunchbag is at least 4yrs old, but appears whenever we have a roadtrip to anywhere longer than an hour, and must always be filled with ‘just-in-case snacks’, although the snacks are invariably eaten and the just-in-case scenario is never actually verbalised.

food

 3. The Passions

Lego, Thunderbirds, Star Wars and making-things-out-of-cardboard-and-paper are abiding passions of Harry’s that show no signs of abating, and in fact gain steady momentum.  I captured some of them here, and expect that they’ll feature for many years to come.  I pulled out and photographed some of the items from his craft stash to remind me of this year…

craft

 4. The Random Ones That Make Me Smile

Amongst the rest there are a number of items that defy easy categorisation; the microphone that we mime with on Friday nights in the kitchen whilst music blares and the family dance-off unfolds (unravels, really).  The Ukelele that Father Christmas bought and which is strummed, endlessly and usually accompanied by Freddie Mercury-esque poses and strutting.  The commencement of pocket money, which has led to much discussion about the joy/torture of spending vs saving, and has introduced Harry to the novel thrill of having independent wealth to jingle in your pocket as you rummage through charity shops in search of a bargain. And Uno, a card game that Harry mastered at Christmas and will now attempt to persuade all those who cross our threshold to play.  He can now hold around 15 cards without dropping them all, has developed a cheery cackle to deploy gleefully whenever he is winning, and is an expert, charming manipulator who will try to recruit you to ‘join my team!’ whenever you look like you might be ahead.  He is still working on the poker face.

treasures

When thinking about what to choose, it also struck me what’s missing from this list, like books; Harry loves being read to, and increasingly enjoys reading now that the struggle of navigating new words is outweighed by the momentum of those he knows and the pleasure and discovery of a new story – but at this moment there are no particular favourites or books he returns to over and over; there were in toddlerhood, and there will be again (Harry Potter, here we come..), but for now they don’t feature here.

To make the montage….

I gathered up all the items on our list and took photos of each against a contrasting-coloured background, then imported the pictures into Powerpoint (free trial here), and used the ‘remove background’ tool to isolate each picture so it would work against the white backdrop of the slide.  For some of the toy figures I used stock shots online which was infinitely easier.  If you’re an afficionado of Photoshop you’ll be able to create a montage like this easily using that, but I am a luddite and use .ppt.

But… the main value of this is to capture the memories and the snapshot of life at this age, so the method is much less important than the purpose.  You could just as easily make a scrapbook together with photos (or drawings!) of all precious items and write a line about each (we’ll be adding notes to our montage when I paste it into this year’s Family Yearbook, so we remember the story behind each one).

Just looking at ours makes me smile – a little mistily, in truth – and is the beginning of an annual tradition, I think.

Have a great week, when it comes!

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Last-minute Christmas decorations: Simple 3D Stars

Simple 3D Stars tutorial

How are you, are you all set for Christmas?  We’re feeling festive  tucked away here in our small corner of the world, after a weekend of visits from family and friends, the official end of school and work, and the house now bedecked with lights and decorations (I’ll share a few pics tomorrow in a final post).  One last-minute addition has been these simple paper stars (above and below), made using this brilliant template created by Kate Lilley at Minieco… they look like beautifully crafted origami stars, but are a little easier for those who are quickly baffled by the dexterity needed in the twisting and folding of the authentic Japanese versions.

Simple 3D Stars for Christmas

We made ours  using old sample sheets of wallpaper leftover from when I decorated the chimney breast in our bedroom; I simply printed the template directly onto the A4 tester sheets (below) and then cut and folded the stars, which led to a beautifully tonal pile of petite étoiles which we’ve scattered along the mantel.  They’d look beautifulstrung into a garland, or even filled with small treats and used as place-markers on the holiday table; just leave one flap of the star unglued…

Making 3d stars

How to make simple 3D stars

3D stars to make

Have a wonderful rest of the day; we’re off to see Father Christmas later as darkness falls; rumour has it that his workshop can be found in a local forest if you take a compass and follow very specific directions, looking out for elves amongst the trees as you go.  Anticipation is very, very high….

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Brown paper packages, tied up with string…

Brown Paper Packages Tied Up with String

This year – and particularly the last few months – have been crazily, insanely busy.  Good busy, but still intense and pretty relentless, and as a result I feel ready for a pared-back, simple Christmas.  The fir lady is a decadent splash of colour and finery in our kitchen, but when it comes to gift-wrapping and other decor, undertstated and simple appeals.  Harry and I have been playing this weekend with brown paper and the craft cupboard, wrapping and decorating presents for family to stack under the tree…

Starting with Sarah’s gift, which we made by glueing a ring of these miniature wood slices around a piece of black paper to form a holiday wreath…

Wood slice wreath parcel

We then rolled out a sheet of paper and Harry stamped white stars randomly up and down it (we used different sized punches from hoobycraft in the UK and Paper Source in the US).  DIY gift wrap made to order for any size of present (in fact the hardest bit is getting your small, festive helper to stop…)

Festive stamped paper parcels

And then for a fun present, I created three folds in a sheet of paper and used it to wrap this gift below, tucking a couple of eucalyptus cuttings in to make a mini forest, and adding some birch moose decorations (these, if you’re in the US, bought recently on a work trip).  Because any gift is enhanced by the addition of a moose.

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And then once I’d prised the rubber stamping set out of Harry’s hands, we got to work making snowball gift wrap, by gluing different shaped white pom-poms to our kraft paper.  You can either do this straight off the roll or onto the actual presents once you’ve wrapped them.

Making snowball giftwrap

DIY Snowball Giftwrap

We have a couple of friends we’re not seeing until New Year, so I wrapped up their gifts with paper ribbon, butchers twine and old corks and cages from my collection (this particularly expensive and delicious champagne was a birthday present that I drank very, very slowly indeed…).

Brown paper packages tied with champagne corks

Brown paper celebration wrapping

And finally, a gift not for me (I’m not immune to buying presents for myself but rarely do I wrap them), but for Harry’s godmother, decorated with a chalkboard tag and a stick-on mini christmas tree, topped with a tiny, starshaped button.  A hopeless suggestion for any gifts you need to send by mail, but rather lovely for those that can sit, fetchingly, under the tree…

brown paper parcels for christmas

A productive weekend, then…and not over yet.  We’re off to see Bridge of Spies tonight and I’m so looking forward to it; a Sunday-night date feels decadent somehow, but infinitely more fun than packing briefcases and school bags and the setting of alarms.  All that can wait.

Have a wonderful rest of the day!

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