craft

Think Pink: Painted Bottle Vases

painted glass bottle vase DIY

I was looking for a way to quickly brighten up our summer dining table yesterday, and this super-quick DIY was born, using leftover paint samples to decorate glasses and vases to fill with garden blooms.  I used water-based emulsion paint, roughly mixed for a layered, ombre look.  I wanted a temporarily decoration that I could scrub off again later – if you want to create a permanent effect, just used oil-based paint and a primer.

I used Ensidig vases from IKEA; cheap as chips at just £1 each, and a lovely clean, simple shape like a retro milk bottle.

painted glass milk bottles

To make these, simple clean and dry your glass (drinking glasses work really well, as do all kinds of jars and bottles). Roughly mix up your paints – in my case a rosy pink and pure white, and use masking tape to define the area you want to paint.

water-based vase painting

Layer on your paint, then use your brush or finger to blend to create the look that you want (using one colour looks great too).

painted milk bottle vases tutorial

Peel off the tape when the paint has dried, and you’re ready to go… I added a tag to one of mine ready for Grandma’s bedside table when she comes to visit (quite a large tag, to accommodate Harry’s fledgling letter formation!)

DIY vase for grandma

A set of these would look great in rainbow colours down the centre of a table (use water-based acrylic paints from a craft store for vibrant colours), or even with stencilled initials or motifs. Handle the finished vases gently; splashes of water won’t cause any harm, but they’ll be vulnerable to scratches and knocks.  To remove your paint afterwards, just scrub in warm soapy water.

And finally; four minutes of magic for today;

I’m a huge fan of TED talks, but somehow had never come across this one by the incredibly talented spoken-word poet Sarah Kay, who talks to her as-yet-unconceived daughter about how to be brave in this world.

It’s four intense, passionate, fevered minutes of oratory (the whole talk is worth listening too, but at least the first 4minutes..), and for me it captured all of the things we want our children to know from the moment we first hold them; the mistakes we know that they will have to make,  the things we know they won’t believe until they see for themselves … and most fundamentally of all, the one message that we hope above all to instill; that there’s someone in your corner no matter how tough it gets, and that your port in the storm will always be here. With us. Whatever life brings.

Enjoy.

In Praise of Fathers, new and old…

fathers day hat

When your husband also becomes the father of your child, there’s no question that the relationship changes immeasurably.  You go through things together that you could never imagine as a footloose, fancy-free couple (childbirth, for one…); through a whole roller-coaster of adrenalin, hormones, thrills, spills and life-shortening panics… and most fundamental of all, joy.

Now, on this fourth occasion of Fathers’ Day, we are celebrating the general awesomeness of Daddy in a variety of ways, big and small.  We have a special honorary party hat ready for A to wear at breakfast time on Sunday (above), which I designed on my PC and then taped into a cone before decorating with braid … and then to complete the ensemble, some home-made LEGO cufflinks – a very satisfying quick craft;

LEGO cufflinks for fathers day

I ordered some blank cufflink backs on Ebay and asked Harry to select some Lego squares from his toy box. Harry is obsessional about Lego so it also commemorates this year’s passion and a favourite Harry/Daddy past-time.  Attaching the Lego bricks with Superglue makes for a very strong bond, and we were delighted with the end result.  Some men may hesitate at the thought of making such a flamboyant style statement, but we know our man well; he has been known to wear Superhero Cuffs to work and has his own dressing-up box after all (I know, I know; some things you just have to accept as unique in a marriage…)

lego cufflinks close up

lego cufflink on cuff

Tucked into his card will be a hand-made book of vouchers, giving him various treats such as time off to do Man Things (usually involving bikes, the watching of sport, rummaging in the garage and other such male pursuits), dinner and also a few activities which Harry can get involved in, like telling Daddy a great story on request.

dad vouchers 1

dad vouchers 2

dad vouchers 3

I’ve included a download of my printable below if you want to make one of these; I simply cut around the vouchers and clipped them into a book made from leather-look card stock.

fathers day voucher book

And on the subject of fathers..

One of the lovely things about writing this blog is the connections that it creates.  Usually with strangers who reach out and share stories, comments and feedback which lead to virtual friendships, but perhaps even more surprisingly with the people whom I already know and love.  When I wrote about typewriters here in February, I had a letter from my father who shared how it had brought back vividly the memory of receiving his own first typewriter, as a reward for passing a school entry exam;

‘..my parents promised me that if I passed the exam I could have a typewriter.  My recollection is that the life-changing letter came on a Saturday morning in June.  That very same morning we went off to a small shop in centre of Coventry, and I became the hugely proud possessor of an Olivetti Lettera 22.  It was one of the most beautiful objects I have ever owned.  The smoothly stylish Brancusi curves, the elegant typeface, the fluid touch of the discreetly rounded keys, the leather carrying case fusing design perfection and total practicality.  It was love at first sight…

..It was a brilliant object in its own right (and something my parents must have struggled to afford –I believe it cost £26 which in the mid-1950s, in our household, was a small fortune), but it has also become a symbol of that transition to a school that opened the doors to a future that would have been beyond my parents wildest imaginings – the opportunity of a grammar school education, university and … the world’.    
I was incredibly touched by my Dad’s letter, which went on to say that though the typewriter is long gone, it has always been for him  the talisman of the life-changing opportunity that a great education gave him.  This year for Fathers’ day my Dad will unwrap a vintage Olivetti Lettera 22, sourced on Ebay from the loft of one careful owner, who was delighted to know it was going to someone who would cherish it.  He is banned from checking my blog before the weekend, so hopefully the secret will be kept…

lettera 22

To Dads everywhere, here’s to you; may you have a glorious weekend…

fathers day voucher book

Fathers Day Voucher Book COVER

How to impress with your watercolour skills, even if you have none…

watercolour stencils DIY from katescreativespace

You can bet your bottom dollar that the likes of Turner and Kandinsky refined their watercolour skills over decades, diligently painting day after day as they mastered the art of pigment on paper, water and brush.

Not us, oh no.  This is, after all, the home of slapdash crafting where most projects take less than an hour and benefit from the accompaniment of a glass of wine.  And I’ve discovered, somewhat by accident, that using basic stencils can create impressively accomplished results with very little skill.  It’s a great thing to try when you have a few minutes to spare, and the results are likely to be as good if you’re 8 as if you’re 80 (and there’s not much we can say that about).

watercolour palette

A few basic materials are all you’ll need; simple stencils, watercolour paints and something to mix them in (I used an inexpensive plastic palette), heavyweight paper and brushes.  The choice of paper is the most important thing; using 300gsm paper will help the paint flood within the stencil but then be quickly absorbed, reducing the risk of it running.

DIY materials

Once you’ve chosen your stencil and assembled your paints and paper, simply hold it in place lightly with your fingers and brush your chosen colours into the stencil.  Work quickly, so that the colours can mix before they dry.  Warm colours work beautifully together (pinks, oranges, reds and golden yellows), as do cool ones (blues, greens, lemon yellow), but there are no rules.

bird in pinks

If you have a steady hand, you can whip your stencil off straight away; otherwise, wait for the paint to dry completely.  I’ve found the best technique varies from one stencil to the next (I guess it’s to do with the shape); for my hummingbird I was able to lift the stencil off instantly and the still-wet paint retained a perfect silhouette.  For the pigeon at the bottom of this post, it took 20 minutes patient waiting and a cup of coffee before it could be successfully revealed.

watercolour stencils tutorial

Once I’d done a few stencils, I began experimenting with rubber stamping, into both wet and dry paint.  Make sure you do this with the stencil in place to get a clean finish within your chosen shape.

watercolour stencil and stamp

watercolour pigeon with stamping

pigeon stencil how to

I used these bird stencils, but letter / monogram stencils would also look wonderful .  If you don’t have any stencils to hand but do have craft punches, simply punch out a shape in a sheet of thin plastic or cardboard, and use it as a stencil.  Use the finished paintings for cards, gift-tags or collage, or even frame them as paintings in their own right.

So; a morning’s artistic activity where you should be able to refine and develop your prowess in the space of an hour.  Much better than a lifetime spent starving away in some bohemian artist’s garret and waiting for the muse to strike…

stencil painting

Weekend Notes

Hello Typewriter card

Did you have a lovely weekend?  We had a divine long weekend of sunshine, friends and downtime, with very few places to be and nothing which required more sartorial effort than t-shirts and deck shoes.  Perfect.  it gave me a chance to plant up the windowboxes which line our sills and always make me think of those beautiful hidden squares in the heart of French villages..

Geraniums

We managed to eat al fresco every single day, with picnics in the park and long, lazy lunches in the garden at home.  The magnolia trees continue to explode in bloom so I snipped a handful of buds to float in a bowl in the centre of the table;

magnolia

magnolia 2

magnolia 3

We feasted on some tried-and-tested family favourites like this tomato salad with grilled halloumi cheese, torn basil and balsamic glaze;

summer salas

…and experimented with some new decadent dessert recipes which I’ll share with you properly in due course.  The cocktail glasses were all scraped clean with happy sighs so I’m considering that a resounding success!

Strawberry Cheesecake Cocktails

There was one small shadow cast over the weekend, and a grave reminder that pride surely comes before a fall.  My sunflower, which shot off the proverbial starting blocks just a week ago, has now developed a worrying lean.  Like a teenager in the midst of an ungainly growth spurt, it has somehow overshot itself.  We’ve called in the fire brigade to assist but I’m not confident.  The other two are standing strong, but I may make an early and untimely exit from the family race..

wobbly sunflower

And finally… one of the loveliest things about the gradual arrival of summer is the long balmy nights.  I spent one evening this weekend with the garden door propped open, glass of chilled white wine to hand, making these cards (top and below) using a photograph I took of my Valentines typewriter.  I’ve included a printable version at the bottom if you want to use this yourself; just trim around the main image, then carefully slice around the top three sides of the typewriter-paper which is inserted into it.  Roll the flap lightly around a pencil to create a curve (see below), then glue the main image to card stock, being careful to avoid glueing your flap down.  Ta-da; a 3d typewriter correspondence card.  I added simple white shirt buttons to the keys as further embellishment..

typewriter correspondence card

Before I sign off, a huge thank you for the lovely comments recently, and welcome to those who are new here; it’s wonderful to hear from you and  to have you along for the ride.

Have a good week, and may the sunshine be with you!

Vintage Typewriter Printable

Whale Tales

whale tales bookmarks

Here’s a question for you; what loves water, can hold its breath for upto an hour and eats around 100kg of meat a day?  …Did I hear someone say Michael Phelps? Alas no, not when you consider that our mystery creature also has the largest brain of any mammal on the planet.  Whales, of course.  I guess the picture above is something of a giveaway.

I’ve had a lifelong love affair with whales, despite (or perhaps because of) them being a rarity in the waters around our small island nation, so when I came across some vintage drawings of whales, I had to do something with them.  These images are all scanned from out-of-copywright books, so make great pictures for crafting and projects…

pygmy sperm whale

I played with the colours on the blackfish image above and then overlaid it onto a vintage map image to create the montage below, before cutting out the image and mounting onto light cardstock to make a bookmark; much more stylish than the old receipts I usually use to mark pages..

Whale bookmark template

whale bookmarks with printable

I added an array of tiny sequins in a palette of silvers, granite and blues to other cut-outs to make gift tags (though I’m so taken with these I’m going to have to be prised away from the gifts when handing them over);

whale gift tags with sequins

DIY whale gift tags

These are very simple to print out and make en masse with a glass of wine in front of the TV, and if you can bring yourself to do that they’d make beautiful bunting, cake toppers (sandwich a toothpick between two and glue together) or even a nursery mobile; particularly if you vary the size.

I also love this image (below); a stylised vintage drawing. I printed out multiple images onto a sheet of circular stickers to make a set of cool envelope seals…

vintage whale drawing

whale seal

DIY Whale Label Seals

..I think I’ll use the same image to print onto linen napkins for the summer, using transfer paper (but that’s a whole other project..).

So, a watery week of fun for me, and I’ll continue to experiment.  The various images I’ve created are downloadable below, and you can find more great whale pictures here,here and here.  What would you make with them? All ideas and inspirations welcome, as ever…

Have a lovely weekend!

Kate

Whale bookmark printable

Three whales on vintage French text

Vintage whales for envelope closures

Superhero Cuffs

By day, I am a mum, wife and career girl.  I leave at 7.30 each morning, waving goodbye to my family as I speed off in my ordinary car to my ordinary office building.  Beyond a certain bounce to my step, there is little to giveaway the fact that my alter-ego is – wait for it – ELASTIGIRL (da-da-daaaaa!).  This alter-ego was news to me too, but Harry has lately become obsessed with The Incredibles (or ‘In The Credibles!’ as he is inclined to call it), and my new identity has been resolutely confirmed.  In fact, there are times when he won’t call me anything else, which can be head-turning when we’re out in public.  Harry is Dash, and I am Elastigirl, and together we will save the world.  For those who are not familiar with The Incredibles, Elastigirl is a suburban superhero/mom with hips you could rest a bar-tray on and a questionable haircut, and she is very, very bendy.  My husband finds this comparison hilarious.

elastigirl-incredibles

I’ve realised that as a family we are somewhat lacking in superhero accessories.  Sure, we have plenty of spandex, and after three years of parenthood we all have a good repertoire of rocket noises and the kind of finely-honed reflexes that would rise to anything Marvel comics could throw at us… but what we really, really need are some superhero cuffs we can slip on to change our identities in a heartbeat.  So I made some:

Superhero Cuffs DIY

Toilet-roll Superhero Cuffs


These are the quintessential ’5 minute makes’, involving nothing more complex than cardboard toilet rolls, glue and paper.  I’ve added a downloadable PDF of my graphics below if you want to simply print these and use as a wrapper… or design your own and have a paint & glitter-fest at the kitchen table.

Because we’re very taken with gadgets and buttons, our cuffs have rocket booster features and a special button on the Batman cuff which alerts Robin to arrive at lightening speed in the Batmobile.   When I am wearing the Batcuff, it has been reprogrammed to summons a cup of tea, but I’m afraid neither of the men in my life is reliably responding.  *Sigh* …you just can’t get the side-kicks these days.

Superhero Cuff with Tea Button

Even the usually sensible Mr B has been seduced by our new superhero wardrobe…

superman cuffs with suit

To make your own cuffs you’ll need:

  • Toilet rolls or kitchen-paper rolls (these are usually a bit bigger; great for older kids – or grown-ups…
  • glue
  • paper printables (PDF at end of post) or paints, glitter and embellishments to decorate yourself
  • odd buttons to glue on for additional gadgets / accessories

Making the Superhero Cuffs:

  • Cut once along the length of the toilet roll to create a cuff shape and a flexible opening.  If you’re making a pair of cuffs like the Superman ones above, cut the toilet roll into two equal halves.
  • Print out the PDF wrappers and glue around the cardboard rolls, folding the ends over and glueing in place.  You might need to resize slightly depending on the size of your rolls.  The cuffs should look like this:

superhero cardboard cuffs DIY

  • You can activate your super-powers immediately, or you can glue on buttons and embellishments for additional gadgetry like we did below:

buttons for superhero cuffs

Behold; our work here is done.  One last word of caution; use your new super-powers wisely.  With great power comes great responsibility…

Have a great weekend!

Incredibles DIY cuff

Red and Grey Superhero Cuff Printables

Superman Cuff Printables

And now breathe…

egg hunt vintage bicycle sign

It’s been a glorious long weekend; a rich and hectic mêlée of friends and family coming and going, of feasts and wintery walks, with the frenetic, chocolate-fuelled hedonism of toddlers tempered  by evenings in front of the fire with a glass of wine and some exceptionally fine grown-up company.  It was blissful.

Today we had the long-awaited Great Egg Hunt, and the day dawned chilly and bright, with anticipation reaching fever pitch by lunchtime.  Eggs were laid throughout the garden, and this tantalising invitation was visible from the kitchen window and the driveway as Harry’s friends began to arrive…

easter egg hunt sign with bicycle and playhouse

Lola the rabbit  - Harry’s favourite hand puppet – welcomed guests from her lofty basket on this ancient delivery bike (another eBay find), surrounded by narcissi, balloons and golden chocolate eggs; a promise of what awaited our hunter-gatherers.

easter basket in bicycle

Inside the house, egg-hunting baskets stood ready for collection, from pint-sized hooped baskets for those still a little unsteady on their feet through to magnificent wicker hold-alls for those determined to speed like minesweepers through the undergrowth in search of every last egg…

easter baskets waiting for the egg hunt

The race was on; stragglers who were still wrestling with wellies or dithering over basket choice soon caught up and the hunt began in earnest

egg-hunting

Every garden nook and cranny was investigated in the hunt for Easter treasure

Playhouse

The eagle-eyed followed signs placed in vintage chimney pots and scattered throughout the garden…

egg hunt sign in chimney pot

egg hunt sign on bird table

The egg hunt was followed by a festive party tea of sandwiches and cakes for anyone who still had the space left for it after the chocolate-fest of the afternoon, then every small egg-hunter left with the contents of their basket and a bag of Bunny Tails, made by filling disposable icing bags with marshmallows and adding gift-wrap paper top cut with pinking shears and a free graphic from here;

DIY Easter Bunny Tails; marshmallow treats for Easter

easter bunny tails - marshmallow treats

Guests could also choose a bunny balloon, which I made by customising simple pearlised balloons with bunny ears cut from vellum, and a hand-drawn face.  I added a bow and then threaded and glued a stripy straw onto each stick (I got quite into this; I can forsee a future post with a menagerie of balloon animals; consider this fair warning..)

DIY bunny balloon

Bunny balloons

Tea was followed by games and general mayhem, as the sugar kicked-in.  The clear-up was worth it…. a day thoroughly well-spent.

honeycomb tissue balls strung on door

Tomorrow brings a return to the fray; nursery for Harry and work for us.  Bags must be packed and diaries checked; alarms set and clothes located.  Until then though, plenty of time for one more favourite activity.  This book might finally be the one I manage not to drop in the tub…

reading in the bathtub

And the winner is…

I hope you had a lovely weekend, and one which lingered long enough to make Monday morning a little brighter than usual.  As promised, this evening we scribbled out the names of all of you who shouted ‘pick me!’ for last week’s $100 craft voucher draw, and placed the folded scraps of paper into Harry’s top hat.  And he drew out…

…Riara! Congratulations; an email will be winging its way to you with all of the details, and I’m trusting you to spend it flamboyantly and decadently on the loveliest things you can find.   

This weekend I’ve also been enjoying the last bursts of scent and colour from my gorgeous Mothers’ Day flowers (Mothers’ Day in the UK falls in mid-March); my husband ordered these in Harry’s name and then took him along to collect them, tightly clutching his piggy bank.  Harry tugged out the stopper and offered the florist £2.15, a couple of euro coins, a slightly furry M&M and a fistful of buttons which had been fed, unnoticed, into the slot; she assured him that this was exactly the right amount, causing him to swell with pride.  He strolled around the house that evening chuckling to himself and pausing occasionally to whisper ‘Shhhh!’ theatrically whenever I entered the room.  Happy days.

mothers day flowers

..and also planning a decadent weekend break to Paris in June with my best friend; decadent because it means 48hrs of being grown-up, footloose and fancy-free in one of my favourite cities, with one of my favourite people.  We’re already working out how to make the most of each minute, but if you have any insider-secrets or favourite haunts then please do let me know…

paris women

… and feeling giddy with joy at my latest junk find; this dilapidated former market stall / flower cart which I found by chance on eBay; it needs TLC and a cosmetic overhaul, but there are so many things I want to do with it (some thoughts below..).  Impractical? Yes.  Unnecessary? Absolutely.  But still, a unique and lovely thing which cost considerably less than a garden bench but will be infinitely more fun..

market barrow find

It needs a canopy, parasol or roof of some kind  but renovating it will be a labour of love.  We love having parties in the summertime so I’m picturing it hung with flower baskets and stacked high with pitchers of drink and cupcakes, strung with fairy lights to glow as the sun sets.. the possibilities are endless.

barrow montage 2

pictures above via Pinterest

… and finally I’ve been breaking in my newest happy find; raspberry-coloured Converse hi-tops, to replace my holey and battered much-loved pair. Raspberry (not red, and most definitely not pink) is my favourite colour; a starchy shop assistant once warned me that this was “definitely a play colour, madam, and one you should wear sparingly when you don’t need to be taken seriously”.   Pooh to that, say I, and wear it whenever possible, even if it means those around me wincing at the brightness.  Even so, these need a bit of scuffing and mud to reduce the box-fresh glare; I’m sure Harry will oblige.

kates converse

Mud is plentiful at the moment, as we endure the final throes of winter, complete with unpredictable frosts and torrential downpours.  Despite this, the prospect of spring is imminent and intoxicating, and we’re busy with Easter crafts and preparing for the arrival of guests.  Harry’s nursery friends will descend for a garden Egg Hunt when the clouds abate, a prospect which thrills him.

Back later this week with some of our plans and crafts, and a few ideas to share; have a great week in the meantime!

Kate

A spot of DIY Book Art, and a Giveaway…

DIY Book Art

Firstly a huge thank you for the lovely comments about Harry’s playroom and the Book Nook; it quite made my week.  The folded book art seemed to capture a few imaginations, so this week here’s a mini tutorial on how I made the various books above and below, using a pile of 20p junk shop books.  Trial, error, glue and a large glass of wine all played a role in the end results, but if you’re inspired to have a go, read on.  If the idea of laboriously folding your way through a fusty and dog-eared old novel is about as appealing as dental extraction, whisk straight to the end and allow me to tempt you with a giveaway instead.

book art tutorial

1. Creating a hanging ‘Cascade’ book

I made this one last night using a small (6 inch) hardback Peppa Pig book from a charity shop.  Find any hardback book; kids’ books are great for this as they don’t have many pages.  You’ll also need glue or double-sided sticky tape, a round pencil or pen (for rolling the paper), and a stack of paper for your cascades.  I used Papermania solid card stock, which I adore, but anything will do; brightly coloured tonal papers give this lovely effect, but clashing rainbow colours or plain paper also look great, depending on where you intend to hang it.

  • Start by rolling each page over on itself and sticking it in place so you have a series of gentle loops.  Doing this will gently force the book covers out to lie flat (or at least to be held open), and create a kind of concertina of folds for you to tuck your cascading pages into.
  • Take a series of sheets of paper that are approximately the same size as the original book pages, and again gently roll each one over on itself and stick the ends together, giving you a selection of tubular, petal-shaped inserts.  Don’t use too much pressure here; you want rounded curves rather than creases.
  • Tuck in your pages randomly between the folded book pages, and secure in place with glue or tape.
  • Add a few more pages by taping these to your first layer of inserts
  • Next, take some strips of contrasting colour paper and roll them up in a pencil, before gently pulling out to give a tendril-like effect.  Glue these in place between the lowest layer of looped paper.
  • Finally, screw a small eyelet hook into the centre of the cardboard book spine and use this to hang it from the ceiling or a wall hook.
  • You can make these as big and fluid as you like, by adding layer after layer; it would make a beautiful mobile or sculpture trailing down a wall.. when I get the time I’m thinking of making a huge, floor to ceiling one in muted papers for a corner of our bedroom.

cascade book

2. Creating Rolled Books

Roll-folding books

These are the easiest to make, if you choose the right kind of book.  They look beautiful when stacked in loose piles, but also when hung as barrel-like pendants.  First, decide whether you are going to fold just the middle of the book like the first one above, or whether you want to create a whole rolled book (middle).  You can also leave a single sheaf of pages standing proud (above right) for added interest.

  • For a ‘barrel’ book, choose a chunky book (200-300 pages); the width will help it hold its shape. First, ease off the paperback book cover and any loose pages which come away with it.  Flex the spine a bit until it loosens – as if it’s been read many many times.  You’re hopefully using old junk shop books so this won’t take long.
  • Glue a long piece of string along the exposed spine; this will allow you to hang the book when finished and is much easier than trying to thread string through the finished piece.
  • Open the book in the middle and take a section of about 20 pages and roll it into the spine.  Do this 3 or 4 times and they will start to hold their form and push the book outwards.  You can glue or tape these loops in place by gluing the upper most sheet and pressing firmly into place, but often you won’t need to use any glue at all.

rolled book close up

  • Once you get to the end of the book, go back to the middle and work around the other half, doing the same.  The book will naturally form an increasingly tight barrel, and you will end up tucking your loops in. Glue your final loop in place and – hey presto – you have a rolled barrel book.  If you want to hang it up, thread a bead to the bottom of the spine string to hold it in place and for the book  to ‘sit on’, and you’re done.

Display below from Anthropologie

anthropologie

3. Folded Books

These are very simple but a little more time-consuming.  I showed you one last week which involved folding just a section of the book.  If you follow the same principle and work your way all through the book, you’ll end up with a diamond-like hanging pendant like this;

folded book pendant

I made these by the making the same two simple folds – just over and over again.  If you’re making a hanging pendant, choose a thick book (at least 300 pages) so you get a nice full shape.  And yes, that’s 600 folds, hence the large glass of wine.  Other learnings; don’t do this whilst your 3yr old son is still awake and, inspired by the crafting environment, is demanding to be allowed to do some ‘scissor practice’ on your book.  Also don’t practice your folding technique on the paperback being read by your husband, even if it was lying temptingly on the table; it won’t be appreciated. So, take your book and simply fold once to the centre;

fold 1

And twice to bring the top corner down to meet the fold; then keep doing this for every single page.  As before, if you want to hang these ultimately, glue some cord down the external spine before you begin folding, leaving a good length hanging out at either end.

fold 2

Once you’ve got the hang of folding, you can experiment with punches too; I used a circle punch to take a slice out of each page of this one below.

DIY folded book pendant

Phew; enough curling and folding; I’m now bedecked with small paper cuts and doubtless the beginnings of repetitive strain injury, but I do have a beautiful shelf full of repurposed books.  let me know how you get on..

And finally.. I have a $100 gift certificate for US craft supplier the Shoppe at Somerset to give away.  I received this as a ‘thank-you’ for a piece that I wrote for one of their publications, but whilst the e-store is filled with a myriad of tempting things, prohibitive transatlantic shipping costs mean that I’d much rather a reader of this blog is able to benefit and to spend every cent on frivolous but delicious craft materials.  If you’d like to win this, just let me know in a comment below and Harry will do the big draw on Monday.

vibrant book cascade

Happy folding (and wine drinking…)!

Behind the Blog: Design Elements

Are you having a good weekend?  We’ve had a lovely one; revelling in the afterglow of Valentine’s Day (a year’s supply of marmalade for him; an amazing vintage Imperial typewriter for me – I can’t stop stroking it..), enjoying a rare glimpse of Spring with brilliant sunshine and mild weather, baking crunchy, syrupy lemon drizzle cake (only crumbs left now, and a vague sense of remorse at our lack of self-control..), and the conversion of a cheerful little corner of Harry’s playroom into a Book Nook… but more on all of that next time.

As promised, this week I’m going to answer a few of the questions I get asked most often about how I design and style both the blog and the projects which feature on it.  Fonts, graphics, layouts; it’ll be something of a geek-peek behind the blog for those who are interested.  If you simply enjoy the projects and posts themselves (thank you!), then turn a blind eye and join me again next time, but otherwise let’s start by talking about fonts, fonts, glorious fonts….

fonts for blog 1

I love browsing for fonts on the fabulous site dafont.com.  There are a myriad of fonts available to download for free, which takes seconds.  You can also choose to donate to the author who created each, which I think is a great thing to do, and important for communities like dafont to continue to flourish and offer such loveliness (I’m like a kid in a sweet shop when I browse).

blog fonts 2

You can find all three of these fonts by simply Googling the name, and will be able to download them all for free for private use from various sites (if you’re thinking of using them for other purposes or commercially, check the licence details; the terms are often different).

blog fonts 3

The next most common question is about how I make the labels, signs, graphics and photo montages that I use, so let’s tackle that…

I do all of my graphics and montages in – wait for it – Powerpoint (I blush slightly at this revelation; I know it is seen as the slightly stale tool of jaded business execs the world over, but I love it, and more importantly, I know it intimately) … so no sexy Adobe tools and wizardry here.  And hence this post, I hasten to add, is just about what I do, rather than what other bloggers would suggest, or what might work best for you.. You can download Powerpoint in a format to suit your computer and have a month’s free trial before you have to commit to buying; worth it if you have the time and motivation to dabble a little and explore.

I work on an iMac desktop and use the in-built iPhoto software for simple photo-editing – usually cropping, and adjusting light (gloom & overcast skies being a perennial British problem), before importing photos into Powerpoint to create montages or add text.  Before I had my Mac I downloaded the free Picasa photo-editing software onto my ancient Windows laptop and used that very happily instead.  Toys and signs I’ve made for Harry like those below were all created in this way, as were the ‘font’ montages shown above.

harrys labels

For backgrounds and backdrops I tend to take photos of interesting textures, walls, surfaces and so on, and upload these for use in projects.  I also use books of art papers like these, often scanning them so I can play with them and use them repeatedly.  The one investment I did make last year which I love is in two polypaper photo backdrops from here, one of chalkboard and one of a faux wood-pannelled barn wall (see both below)… the chalkboard in particular I use all the time as it’s so versatile.  Often though, I just wander around the house following the light, and shoot against walls and on the wooden floor; it’s simple and instant.

backdrops

So, no magic; just a little bit of knowledge and a lot of experimentation and practice.  If you’re making crafty projects at home and printing out graphics, labels and the like, my final tip would be to purchase and use photo-quality matt inkjet paper (HP make some; I’m sure others do too). This gives a great intensity of colour and the closest approximation to what you actually see on the screen.  As a dabbling amateur, I find buying great paper like this is more important – and much cheaper – than buying a world-class printer.

A final word on graphics; most of my pictures and graphics are ‘homemade’, but if you’re in search of general inspiration then Pinterest is a great source; search for free printables or graphics and you’ll often find lists of resources that others have created.  One other gem, particularly for those who like vintage ephemera, is the Graphics Fairy, which has a treasure trove of free-to-download goodies.

See you in a few days for more crafting and projects; have a great week, whatever you’re doing…

A Pocketful of Hearts

valentine

We’ve briefly come over all romantic this week, felled at last by the growing global momentum of Valentine preparations and the rosy hue of shopfronts as the world turns red for a week.  Valentine’s day here in the UK is still predominantly about celebrating grown-up, romantic love, but is gradually broadening to be a general celebration of love in all its forms.  Harry proudly – and very carefully – brought us home a large envelope containing a card he had made us at nursery which we are not allowed to open until Thursday (though Harry is adamant, in a moment of 3yr old confusion, that in fact we have to wait until Christmas);  he has red glitter in his hair and heart-shaped paint splats on his jeans, so I think we are safe to assume that Thursday is the day.

In turn, Harry and I have been busy crafting a Valentine card for his cool fairy Godmother; she’s the person in his life who brings him books about farting dogs and lollipops as large as his head, and believes that pyjamas should absolutely be worn all day if possible, thus earning his unwavering affection.

make a valentines card

To decorate the envelope, I drew a tiny heart shape on the tip of a pencil eraser and carved away the edges (do this in good lighting and when free of caffeine, red wine, or anything else that might cause your hand to twitch..). It’s soooo simple but looks great, and makes the perfect rubber stamp for kids (or adults) to push into an ink pad and stamp randomly over any available surface.  We used this ink, which I fished out of my old stamping supplies, and discovered as an added bonus that the colour turns from deep red to light pink as the pigment wears out, giving a lovely ombre effect.

make a pencil heart stamp

It’s been a while since we were active in the kitchen so we also knocked up some little meringue kisses to give to friends.  I used this recipe, which seems to produce drier, crispy meringues and allows you to whip them out of the oven sooner than usual, which is great for coloured meringues where you don’t want any browning or colour fade.  For the kisses, I stirred rose food colouring in just before the icing sugar stage, piped imperfect rosettes to fill a silicon baking sheet, and then when the meringues were baked and cool, I brushed edible glue around the base of each and rolled them in rainbow sprinkles before setting to dry on a cooling rack…

meringue kisses

little meringue kisses

With the leftover meringue, I spooned out dollops onto a baking sheet and then used a wooden skewer to swirl raspberry coulis through the peaks, giving this raspberry-ripple effect; as a treat we’ll have them with whipped cream, fresh raspberries and a glass of champagne on Thursday (after all, if you’re staying in you can afford to be a little decadent…)

raspberry swirl meringues

So, a giddy pink day to celebrate all things romantic.  Little does Mr B expect that Valentine’s Day itself will bring him the gift of 12 jars of marmalade in a vintage garden trug; I’m having to blow the dust off my Tracy Anderson bicep-building DVD before I can even contemplate lifting it…

Next time, by the way, I’m going to focus on answering some of the questions I’ve had of late about the fonts, graphics, camera and other tools and techniques I use here; if there’s anything you’re keen to know more about, please do shout and I’ll endeavour to cover it.  I should preface this by saying that those seeking technological enlightenment and cutting-edge wizardry should hastily look elsewhere; my secrets lie more in the artistic draping of bedsheets as backdrops, the procurement of free graphics, and in providing life support to an ancient entry-level printer – but that at least makes everything I do very accessible and highly replicable!

Have a lovely week..