christmas

It’s beginning to feel a lot like…

Fir Lady 2017…Christmas!

So here she is; the Fir Lady returned in from the cold, this year with an old and much-mended sack as her elegant shawl, and a sprinkling of dried limes and pinecones to decorate her skirts.  Oh, and twinkling lights of course, because everyone deserves to sparkle at Christmas.  This year she’s taken up residence in the hallway, where she lights up the entrance and welcomes friends in from the cold.  And also in the hall;

IMG_3039An oversized wire star (from here), threaded with white lights and hung against a wall of logs, catching my eye and making me smile whenever I move about the kitchen.

IMG_3002In the bedroom, a more tranquil nod to the holidays; a simple driftwood wreath on the mantel.

Christmas mantelAnd then in readiness for the weekend …festive baking!

rosemary christmas cakeI decorated this simple jam sponge with thick white icing, a rosemary-sprig forest (topped with tiny pieces of gold leaf) and amaretti biscuits providing a rocky woodland path for the miniature model deer.  And then I took it all off and experimented with something a little different; a felt-mouse snowball fight!  I still haven’t decided which topping to go with…

Fun and festive Christmas cake

Making notes, for the creatively-minded

- The fir lady is an annual creation, made using branches of fir (from my local garden centre) wired around an old shop mannequin.  I secure a length of chicken wire around her waist and then attach the branches one by one, overlapping and occasionally trimming branches which stick out at peculiar angles.  After the first year, I learned to wear rubber gloves to avoid becoming a human pin cushion.

- I used a string of 750 warm white lights to wrap around the hallway star, and then taped the cable to the floor with transparent packaging tape for safety’s sake.  The star is hang on a wooden baton secured between the logs, but for an ordinary wall just use a standard picture hook.

- For the cake, I wired stems of rosemary to cocktail sticks to stop them wilting, and pushed the sticks into the cake.  A light sprinkling of powdered sugar simulates snow.  The paper tape and ribbon wrapped around the cake are previous year’s purchases from Anthropologie and John Lewis.

- for the ‘snowball’ cake, I used felted mouse tree-decorations and snipped off the hanging cord, sticking them into place on the cake top with a dab of icing.  The snowballs are made of fondant paste, and the rosemary makes a reappearance as the forest backdrop.  Felted holiday ornaments are everywhere this year; try White Stuff, Anthropologie, Oka, Pottery Barn and John Lewis.

….and now the weekend is here, and school is at last finished for the year for a jubilant, exhausted Harry.  I have a few more days of work to go, but before then a weekend filled with friends and family, with the making of eucalyptus garlands and stringing of ornaments and mulling of wine, and of log fires and duvets.  And possibly, just possibly……snow!

IMG_7556Have a wonderful weekend wherever you are and whatever you’re doing.

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Three fun holiday projects!

ReindeerHappy Monday! How are you?  It’s turned numbingly, bitingly cold since my last post, and we had our first flurries of snow on Sunday (the perfect day for a picturesque but entirely unproblematic snowfall).  Harry and I finished making our annual Christmas cards, this time with a beautiful and cheery reindeer, painted by Harry. We were inspired by the work of amazing illustrator Catherine Rayner, who paints gorgeous animals and also shows children how to draw them for themselves (this giraffe!).  Harry sketched out his reindeer and then we mixed up some watercolours for him to use.  He outlined it in a black water-resist pen which made all the difference to his finished painting…

Harrys reindeerI scanned the picture and printed off a set of cards for us to fill in (if you’re wondering – he added the holiday lights two days after the rest of the painting, and after I’d printed out the pictures below; an artist never stops iterating…).  For the cards that we can hand-deliver, we’re sealing them with big red and wooden buttons from the button box for a final fun accent.

Reindeer cards We’ve also made some simple but vibrant tags to go on gifts, by taking inexpensive bulk-buy white tags and glueing on a mass of tiny pom-poms; we simply rolled a glue-stick over the last couple of inches of each tag and then pressed a handful of pompoms onto the glue, leaving in place until they dried..

DIY PomPom Gift TagsAnd then my third and rather more understated project; silver-sprayed giant gift sacks made from the same paper potato sacks I used for this project;

Silver-sprayed paper bags for holiday gift sacksTo make these, simply spray your paper sacks silver (or any colour – but do it outside given the fumes and the mess!).  Whilst the paint dried, I printed out giant name-tags onto watercolour paper (using this font), cut them into shape and then used a brown marker pen to line the edges in dashes to mimic stitching, adding a wooden star to each tip.  I glued the tags under the turned-over rim of each sack, and they’re now ready to stuff with gifts….

Making holiday gift sacks…like this olive tree! olive treeIMG_9865Have a wonderful – warm! – week, wherever you are and whatever you’re doing.  In the evenings after work we’re slowly decorating the house for Christmas, building this year’s Fir Lady and taking a rather Nordic approach to winter decor, with stars, greenery and wooden accents dotted around; more to follow on this next time!

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p.s. One from the archives;  rather more elaborate heirloom sacks for those with the time and dedication…

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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Bears, bears, everywhere…

Plaster brown bear head from katescreativespace

This week, I made a giant brown bear head to hang on the wall….

Papier mache bear head on wall

It is one of the messiest things I’ve ever made, so brace yourself.  It’s also really, really good fun.  Having mastered the bear, Harry and I are currently attempting a triceratops (because our ambition knows no bounds).  But first, let’s scroll back to the beginnings of the bear..

Start by blowing up a large balloon (actually, start with at least two; one will pop or deflate at some point in an explosive, soul-destroying splatter, so have a back-up).  Soak pieces of this magical plaster and carefully cover most of the balloon, leaving a plate-sized gap at the bottom; I used three layers, waiting 24hours for each to dry.  You can also use traditional papier-mache, it will just take a few more layers to become rock-solid.

papier mache balloons

When dry, gently pop the balloon with a pin to release the air; this will cause it to shrink gradually away from the sides of the shell and minimise the risk of it collapsing, like so;

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Stand and admire your beautiful spheres.  Consider fleetingly how anatomical they look.  Get a grip, begin again.

balloon mache base for animal heads

I fashioned a nose and some ears out of more of the plaster, squeezing it into lumps and moving it around for an appropriately snout-like muzzle.  I trimmed the rough edges around the sides to give a flat base for hanging.

papier mache animal heads

Then the fun (and slightly less messy) bit;  paint!  I began with a base coat of caramel-brown acrylic paint, then added a darker shade to give definition around the muzzle and back of the head;

making a mache bear head

..and then added hot pink inner-ears, a sponged smudge of colour for the cheeks, and a black nose, using white shading to create the impression of nostrils (and that’s not a line I ever thought I’d write).  Two buttons from our button box made perfect eyes, glued into place, and my husband’s stylish and expensive winter scarf the perfect stolen borrowed accessory.

papier mache bear head

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..and then I borrowed my actual husband because Harry was finding it quite heavy to hold.  Doesn’t he look dashing?

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Nate (for that’s the bear’s name, we’ve decided) is currently residing in the spare bedroom, but will shortly transfer to Harry’s room where he can keep a careful and affable eye on things.  At least until the triceratops comes along, and then who knows?

brown bear head craft for kids room katescreativespace animal head making

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

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p.s.  I’m quite obsessed with this plaster; The Odd Egg and the moon

Mache brown bear head!

An Extraordinary Adventure!

Usually at this point in December, our home would be festively adorned, bedecked with wintery tableaux and with the fir lady preparing to make her annual seasonal entrance.  Instead, suitcases are down from the loft and checklists being drawn up and steadily ticked off as we prepare

…to go to Australia!

This year, for the first time ever we will be away for Christmas, going down under to Sydney to stay with my brother and his family, and taking the opportunity for a grand adventure and extended roadtrip whilst we’re there.  We are beside ourselves with excitement and anticipation.

We are also slightly despairing about the growing size of our luggage, which includes; a) a portrait of my bother, painted by my father (beautiful, fragile, large); b) a huge papier mache giraffe ordered by my brother (‘you can’t find them anywhere in Australia, sis’), and c) a football, bought for my nephews by another well-meaning relative.  We do not lean towards practicality in my family.  I am hoping that Customs officials will look kindly on us; I suspect we will make their day.

Given all this, our usual creativity and crafting has tapered a little in the frenzied rush and my presence here will be a little less until January. In the meantime please do have a rummage through some of our favourite projects from the last few years, like…

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Homemade Gift Ideas from Kates Creative Space

  1. Wintery pinecone firelighters, for everyone you know with an open fire or wood-burning stove
  2. A homemade leather travel journal, for those with wanderlust…
  3. Together with a concertina mini photobook to store all their photos and memories afterwards
  4. If you’re choosing gifts for a book-lover, why not add in some of these whale-tail bookmarks to keep their place each night
  5. DIY bird-feeders, for the animal-lover in your life
  6. secret book jewellery box
  7. Or a personalised bowl for cereal-lovers
  8. cafe apron for the man in your life, which will encourage him into the kitchen this Christmas
  9. The gift of breakfast, for all those hosting this holiday season, to relax with the morning after

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Holiday baking ideas

  1. Three christmas cookies to box up and share
  2. Or Bake-at-home cookies for the students in your life who eat you out of house and home but wouldn’t dream of making their own
  3. Mitten-shaped ginger cookies, perfect to go with hot chocolate
  4. Or monogram cupcakes (I’d use a snowflake monogram for Christmas)

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Holiday decor ideas

  1. These fun ways to use kraft paper to wrap presents with a twist
  2. Handmade origami stars and folded stars
  3. Nutcracker peg dolls to hang from the tree
  4. You could make these personalised sacks for the most special people in your life
  5. The longest journey; a winter animal parade to meander along your table top or mantel
  6. And three years of our holiday decor here, here and here

And finally don’t forget to clear the playroom in advance by sending outgrown toys off to the North Pole Repair Shop for re-gifting, arrange a North Pole telegram for Christmas Eve, and magic reindeer food to sprinkle outdoors before bedtime.

North Pole Telegram

After that, may I boldly suggest a glass of mulled wine and a deep, comfy armchair?

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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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All is Calm, All is Bright.

Merry Christmas from Katescreativespace

So, Christmas is drawing close and we have an evening of gift wrapping, fire-lighting and – yes! – champagne drinking ahead.  Bliss.  The house is ready at last; the loyal dogs who guard our front door have dressed for the occasion…

Dogs in hats 2

Dogs in hats

The North Pole Sorting Office has once again taken up residence in the hallway, joined this year by my favourite bicycle, Delilah, who has been repurposed as a festive delivery bike and perches atop the hall table, bedecked with gifts and lights…

Delivery bike decoration for christmas Delivery bike gifts Delivery bike for christmas

Mistletoe is strung from every light fitting and I am making it my business to deplete as many berries as I can during the Christmas period; beware those who cross the threshold..

Misteltoe

Even the Montgolfieres Mice have decorated their basket for the holidays, and swing gently in the hallway, glittering with light.

Christmas mice

In the snug, I strung the columns with ribbon and cut delicate paper tree silhouettes out of paper for the window panes; they look beautiful in daylight with the sun streaming through and even prettier at night when lit from within…

Winter forest windows

paper winter trees

And so we are ready, I think; time to sign off now with just two big sleeps to go.

I hope that you have a wonderful Christmas and a joyful, relaxing break – thank you for another year of reading, following and commenting; it’s been absolutely lovely!

Here’s to 2016….

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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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A homemade Christmas

How was your week, has it been a good one?  It’s been a crazy busy one here; a mix of work and play, of Christmas parties and Nativity plays, of late nights and early mornings (Harry’s latest trick; to slip into our bed at an ungodly hour and whisper hoarsely in my ear ‘I love you to infinity Mummy.  Now can I stay?’).  We’re looking forward to a relaxing weekend and some festive crafting and decorating.

If you’re feeling similarly inclined, here are a few ideas from the archives for homemade gifts for those you love…

Like pinecone firelighters, for everyone you know with an open fire or wood burner;

DIY Pinecone firelights

Bake-at-home cookies for the students in your life who eat you out of house and home but wouldn’t dream of making their own unless you made it this simple..

Christmas Cookies in a jar

Or perhaps a tinful of these simple DIY bird-feeders, which are easy for small hands and will be a gift for the birds in your garden too…

DIY Bird feeders from katescreativespace

You could make batches of these fun striped holiday candles and tie them up as stocking-filler gifts…

Striped Holiday Candles

Or fill mason jars with their favourite sweets

candy jars as christmas gifts

Three different types of cookies to make and take to your holiday parties..

Gifting Christmas Cookies

Or why not make a 2015 mini photobook for grandparents or friends of some of the best photos from the year?  They look beautiful on the mantle..

DIY Vacation Photobook

And one of my favourites; DIY personalised pencils, made by printing onto washi tape.  If you haven’t tried this, you really should…

Magic tape printing DIY

And finally if you’re choosing gifts for a book-lover, why not make them some of these whale-tail bookmarks to keep their place each night…

whale tales bookmarks

I’ll be back after the weekend; I hope you have a wonderful one!

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