Monday, 30 December 2013

the twelve makes of Christmas: everything else....

So, it turns out that there's only two days of December left, and as I'm not so keen on starting the new year blogging about Christmas, I decided to bung all the other crafty bits and pieces into one massive Christmas-fest post. Brace yourselves, people, it's going to be like you've been smacked round the face with yuletide!

First up, I made some little wire and bead decorations, which basically consisted of threading a selection of beads onto jewellery wire, then twisting it into different shapes until it stayed in place - I secured it at the top, by curling the wire into two loops with needle-nose pliers, which meant there was somewhere to thread the cotton so it could be hung on the tree, or on a garland. I found that it was best to use a relatively thick wire, as it meant it didn't go all limp when I bent it, and held the shape fairly well - I think I used 2mm or 3mm.

Ben and I had a bit of a crafty afternoon making cards and constructing stained glass windows from card and coloured tissue paper; although actually it ended up with me sat at the table cutting out shapes, while Ben sat and watched the cBeebies Christmas pantomime from the comfort of the sofa. Humph. Anyway, I made them by folding a length of card in half, then drawing a shape on one side, and cutting it out. I glued a layer of tissue paper over the hole, folded the card back over and then stuck washi tape around the edges. Quick and easy - the best kind of crafting!

After I finally got round to buying a Clover pompom maker (I bought mine before you were on the telly with your Christmas special, Kirsty Allsopp, so ner ner), I decided that this festive season was going to be packed with the woolly little blighters. I made pompoms to stick onto presents, pompoms to hang up, pompom garlands, and giant beaded pompom decorations (top image). I made these by making two pompoms of different sizes, then threading them onto a long piece of cotton. I popped some beads on either end, tied a loop between the pompoms and voila! You could easily join loads of these together to make one giant pompom-bead-extravaganza, or hang loads of them from the ceiling.... the possibilities are literally endless!

I made some lanterns from tin cans, washi tape and various pieces of printed paper - you can see the tutorial over here.

That was pretty much it - there were a few other ideas I had, involving leaves, giant sticks, mod podge, fabric scraps and various other materials, but they either went terribly wrong or I just didn't have time to carry them out. Next year! The house still looked pretty festive, and I was pleased with how bright and cheery it was - I made some paper pompoms, which are ridiculously easy and addictive, and I can't see them coming down any time soon....

Our old but well loved family angel

Christmas day itself was a lovely mish-mash of family, food, lovely presents and thrifted triumphs. The kiddos main presents - a bike and a dolls cot - were both second hand, and the Husband and I had worked on them for a couple of weeks beforehand to make them as new-looking as we could. Daisy squealed with delight and tried to get into the cot, and Ben declared it was the 'best bike ever', so we considered them both a success. I was hugely spoiled, with some ace knitwear, a couple of dresses and some new craft books left under the tree for me - I finished the day feeling very lucky and very, very full.

Knitwear galore
Make Hey! While the Sun Shines by Pip Lincolne
Granny Chic by Dottie Angel and Ted and Agnes


Sunday, 29 December 2013

the twelve makes of Christmas: clay gift tags

Cor, two posts in a week (and more to come!) - I'm spoiling you lot! It's just a shame I couldn't find the time to blog all these crafty ideas before the big day... but never mind. Next year!

When I was thinking about wrapping the presents this year, I decided I wanted to forget the usual paper gift tags that go out with the recycling, and give something a bit nicer that could be kept. Less waste, and a nice extra little something for the giftee (is that even a word? It is now!) to keep and hang on their tree next year - what could be better than that? I thought about going down the usual route of salt dough, but mine all seemed to puff up, and then they needed to be painted once they came out of the oven... not good for someone like me who gravitates towards crafts with quick results. So I had a play around with some Fimo (and some cheap own brand alternatives, which are just as good - the only advantage of Fimo is the ace range of colours) and came up with a few different ideas that are quick, simple and hugely satisfying.

1. Star Shaped Multi-Tags

Stick with me here, because this is tricky.

  • Roll out the clay, and use a different sized star cookie cutters to cut out your shapes. 
  • Punch a hole at the top of each star so you can thread your cotton through the top.
  • Put them in the oven to harden, then leave to cool.
  • String different sized stars together using a couple of strands of embroidery thread. 
  • Stick it onto your parcel.
Soooooo easy! You could obviously do this with pretty much any shape, or even try cutting out letters and spelling out the recipients name (actually wish I'd thought of that sooner..!).

2. Crochet-Edged Tags

This actually started life as a crochet-edged leaf (just, don't ask), but I ended up sat on the sofa with the hump, covered in torn pieces of leaf because I couldn't get it to work properly. And so, the clay gift tag with crochet edging was born!
  • Roll out the clay, and choose your cookie cutter - I decided on a circle, because it's the easiest one to space the crochet evenly around, and there's no pesky corners to tackle.
  • Cut your shapes out, then pierce the clay around the edge to make the holes that you'll work into later. 
  • Pop them into the oven to harden, then leave to cool.
  • Using a needle threaded with the same colour embroidery thread as your clay, blanket stitch around the edge of your shape. Make sure you do it fairly tightly and evenly, but not so tight you can't get a small crochet hook underneath.
  • Using a 2mm crochet hook, work a row of double crochet stitches into the blanket stitch around the edge. Don't worry if there's not the same number in each section, just try to make sure it lies flat. I used a cotton yarn (Rico Creative Cotton is ace) in the same colour as the embroidery thread, so it looked nice and neat.
  • Using a different colour yarn, work the following into your stitches to create the star effect: double crochet, treble crochet, create picot, treble crochet, double crochet, slip stitch. Repeat these around - you might find you have to frog it a bit, adding in slip stitches or taking them away to make it fit, Make it up as you go - I always get my best results that way!
  • Fasten off and weave in ends.
  • I painted mine (I can't remember what paint, acrylic I think. By this point, my little conservatory craft-space looked like an explosion in Hobbycraft) with a simple snowflake, but you could easily decoupage with a vintage Christmas picture printed from the internet. Or leave it blank!

3. Cross -Stitch Clay Tags

Of all the tags I made, these were by far my favourites - I've mentioned my new found addiction to cross-stitch, so it was pretty inevitable that I was going to find a way to work it in with these little babies. They're sooooo simple to do - it's literally just a case of working out what you want to embellish your tags with in advance, so you can punch the holes in before they go into the oven.

  • Choose your clay (I went for teal and mustard... surprise..... and traditional festive red), and your cookie cutter shapes, roll out the clay and cut them out.
  • Decide what design you're going to do - I went with simple triangles (everybody loves a triangle, plus it's the easiest shape to do), snowflakes and rows of simple cross-stitches - and use a toothpick to create the holes. Don't forget to make a hole for the thread that it'll hang by.
  • Put them into the oven to harden, and leave to cool.
  • Using different coloured embroidery thread, stitch your design onto the right side of the shape. This was the most enjoyable part for me - sitting in front of Homeland, stitching my heart out. And eating biscuits.
  • If you've done cross-stitch before, you'll know that the back is often a bit of a mess (mine more so than others, I always seem to get in tangle somewhere along the way), so cut a matching shape out of wrapping paper, and use some spray mount (it's nice and strong) to stick it to the back. Don't worry about it being a perfect fit - the aim is to cover the ends of the threads; plus, imperfections only make it more lovely (or so I constantly tell myself....).
The great thing about all these ideas is that you could make them all year round; for birthdays, new baby gifts, Valentines day.... anything really. In fact, I may never buy a gift tag again! 

Friday, 27 December 2013

the twelve makes of Christmas: handmade stamps

So, the big day has come and gone (hope you all had an ace time, and you ate as much as we did. The Husband just sat on the sofa groaning all afternoon!), but technically the festive period is still underway, as traditionally it doesn't end until twelfth night. Which is handy, really, as I've still got a few crafty posts waiting in the wings that I couldn't find the time to post before - so get your craft foam out, today we're making stamps!

For the life of me, I can't work out why I've never done this before. I love stamping stuff, and I've spent waaaay too long slicing fingers left, right and centre with lino cutting tools - I'm an impatient crafter, I like quick results with minimal fuss (probably one of the reasons why I crochet instead of persevering with knitting), which is why I was overjoyed when I discovered the idea via the wonderful Davina Drummond of The Making Home. She'd used (if I remember correctly) foam to cut out triangle shapes, then stuck them to blocks of wood and stamped onto fabric or paper. 'Oh aye,' I thought, 'if you can do it with triangles, I wonder what else you can do it with.' And so the dove-tree-peace-joy-triangle-coolyule extravaganza was born....

You will need:

Craft foam (I found mine at Hobbycraft in the kids section - handily it was self-adhesive on one side)
Wooden offcuts
Ink pads or acrylic paint

1. Choose your image or phrase, and print it out; if you're using words make sure you use a simple font - foam can be fiddly to cut, especially if your scissors aren't as sharp as they could be, and curves can end up a bit messy.

2. Reverse the image and trace it onto the foam, then cut it out carefully.

3. Peel off the backing, and stick your foam shapes or letters to the wooden offcuts.

4. Print onto everything!

Excuse the crappy iPhone picture!


Friday, 20 December 2013

the twelve makes of Christmas: 3D paper decorations

As there's now only four days until Christmas (how, how, how has this happened?), the twelve makes of Christmas looks more and more likely to be the six makes of Christmas, at best. I'm still trying to finish painting the vintage dolls cot we bought Daisy, as well as making the bedding, and a whole heap of other presents - which frankly, doesn't leave much time for photographing tutorials. Hey ho, six is better than none, right? Right?

I'm guessing that this idea has probably been done a gazillion times before (I haven't Googled it, so I'm not sure), but while I was trying to make something else (I forget what now, the whole of the last two weeks are a blur of yarn and cotton and fabric, interspersed with much tea-drinking and hand-wringing) I came up with the idea of.... folded card shapes glued together. Technical, huh? Brace yourself for the tutorial, it's dead scientific....

You will need:

Sheets of fairly thin printed card (I downloaded some free scrapbook pages, and also some vintage sheet music) or old offcuts of wrapping paper (mine was wrapped around a lovely gift from Lucy of Lulastic last Christmas)
Shapes to draw round (I used cookie cutters)
A glue stick
Some embroidery thread

1. Draw around your shapes onto the back of the printed card or paper three times - if it's a repeating pattern, make sure they're all the same way up.

2. Fold each shape in half vertically and crease down the middle.

3. Glue the halves together to make your 3D shapes.

4. If you're going to hang them individually, thread a needle with a couple of strands of embroidery thread, and push through the top of the shape from front to back. Secure with a knot and hang on your tree / shelves / hooks / door handles / everywhere. To make them into a garland, insert the needle in the top of the shape from left to right, and then repeat until you're left with all of your shapes strung together. If they've got a fairly wide base, you can also stand them up - stars look great standing, and so do triangles.

As well as basic shapes, I also downloaded some retro wrapping paper with old-style baubles on it, printed it off three times and made each bauble into a 3D model - they look delightfully kitsch standing on our mantle. They're so simple to do - I made mine in front of the exciting end of series 2 of Homeland (have you seen it? If not, you are missing OUT!), and could have happily carried on into the night, had it not been for the fact that I ran out of paper. And TV.


Thursday, 19 December 2013

mollie makes mama

When it comes to magazines, I don't tend to bother with fashion and beauty much because, let's face it, I'm not exactly one to care about what's 'trendy'. I like colour, I like pattern, I like anything old, and if possible, I like it to be mustard or teal coloured. Craft magazines, though, are my absolute weakness - particularly if they've got sections dedicated to eclectic interiors, vintage finds and great websites; yes, Mollie Makes, I'm looking straight at you.

I remember when Mollie Makes first came out; I read the whole thing from cover to cover in one sitting, and then spent the rest of the month counting down to the next issue. Since then, they've branched out into special magazines that seem to be bi-annual (do correct me if I'm wrong, someone!); the first was Mollie Makes Home, and now Mollie Makes Mama has arrived. If you've got children, you're expecting your first, you're about to become an Uncle / Auntie / Grandparent / Godparent or have any children in your life in any way at all, you're going to want to have a flick through this amazing magazine. Packed full of great tutorials, amazing websites, creative resources and appearances from blogging greats such as Emily, Hannah and Kat, I think it could possibly be the best Mollie Makes yet.

Find your copy at any large branches of WHSmiths, or buy online here. Quick, quick - before they're all gone!

Sunday, 15 December 2013

the perfect stocking filler: a little book of craftivism

As soon as November rears it's head, it seems that newspapers, magazines and the television become saturated with those dreaded gift lists. 'Buy this!' the advertisements scream at you, halfway through the latest episode of Homeland, 'your world will be transformed!'. 'If you buy that, your kids will love you forever!' promises the lady grinning manically up from the pages of the Sunday supplement. It drives me absolutely crackers - I watched this (fairly old) documentary on YouTube about where stuff comes from and where it goes, and it only cemented what I already thought; we're being constantly manipulated and sold a pointless lie. So I decided not to do any gift list posts this year - not even ethical ones - in the hope that more people will follow suit in thinking outside the box, making gifts themselves and buying second hand items for their nearest and dearest. (There are some incredible blogs out there at the moment with a gazillion tutorials and ideas for a more ethical Christmas; Mel has done a great tutorial on handmade bead necklaces and Lucy has posted two amazing posts about the tyranny of toys and unorthodox Christmas presents for kiddos.)

I'm going to allow myself one recommendation though; the incredible Little Book of Craftivism brought to you by the amazing Sarah Corbett. I've gone on about the Craftivists a hundred times before, so they really don't need an introduction (and if you've missed it, click here and immerse yourself in the world of gentle, peaceful activism through craft), but the book is faaaabulous and makes the perfect little Christmas gift. It starts with an introduction to Craftivism and tells Sarah's story, then moves quickly on to various small and simple (but highly effective) project tutorials, and even includes some stitch guides. There are also loads of tips and facts that will help even the most novice craftivist, and it's ideal for anyone who wants to learn more about the subject, or who feels stuck for ideas. Plus, the photographs are proper craft eye-candy. I was one of the lucky crowd-funders, so I managed to get my name in the front as well, hurrah!

For the princely sum of £5, it would make the best present, stocking filler or Secret Santa gift, and would last a lot longer than novelty gadgets that are funny on Christmas morning, but have been relegated to the bin by lunchtime (George Monbiot has written a great article on exactly this. Oh, and he wrote this one as well which is also pretty good). To get yours (gift wrapped, with a lovely bow!) head to the Craftivist Etsy shop - bugger the plastic, give a package full of ideas and inspiration this year.

(I'm not bashing anyone who might have chosen to do a series of 'gift list' posts on their blogs, by the way - loads of my faves have done a few - but they're just not my bag!)

Friday, 13 December 2013

the twelve makes of Christmas: festive crochet garland

Every time I finish a crafty project, I give myself a mental high five; there just doesn't seem to be enough hours in the day lately. Between school runs and bouts of seasonal germ-fests, paid work and the handmade Christmas presents I've committed myself to, seeing friends and family and finishing the Christmas shopping, there doesn't seem to be much space left for crafts - but I'm determined to cross off as many of the twelve on my list as possible; so today, it's the crochet Christmas garland.

The pattern for the crochet motif is easy-peasy, I promise, and you could knock up six in a couple of hours (including weaving in those pesky ends). I used Rico Creative Cotton, as they do such a great range of colours, but any cotton based yarn will do - working it in cotton rather than wool or acrylic means that it holds its shape better, and doesn't curl over when you hang it up.

Ch - chain
tr - treble crochet
dc - double crochet
sl st - slip stitch

1. Ch3. Work 11tr into the third of ch3, then join to the top of ch3, so you have a flat circle.
2. Ch5. 1tr into the first stitch, *chain two, 1tr* into the next stitch. Repeat * around, then join into the third of ch5.
3. Ch1. *2dc into 2chain space, then dc into the top of the treble from the previous round*. Repeat * around, then join into the top of ch1.
4. Ch1. *dc, tr, ch2, tr, dc into the next two stitches, sl st, sl st*. Repeat * around and join into the top of ch1. Fasten off yarn. You should be left with a flat circle, which has several points.
5. Join a new colour into the top of any dc on the right hand side of one of the points (I realise this sounds confusing, so if you can't work out what I mean, do get in touch and ask!) *Sl st, dc [dc, tr, ch2, tr, dc] into the ch2 space from previous round*. Repeat around and fasten off. Weave in any ends.
6. Make a cuppa and admire your handy work (or email me in a rage because my rubbish instructions don't make sense....)
I'm completely not used to writing patterns down, and usually just sort of cobble things together, so if any part of this doesn't make sense, let me know and I'll do a quick video or add some pictures or whatnot.

To prepare the fabric word, first choose what you want your garland to say and write it out on the computer - I went for a simple font, because it's easier to cut out afterwards, but you could go as fancy as you like. I like anything that looks papercut-ty or letterpress-ish - Papercute is great, and Carbon Block is a particular favourite of mine as well. Choose two contrasting fabrics, then cut out two sets of letters - don't forget to reverse the letters on one of them, as it'll be the back of the word; being double sided means you can hang it across the middle of the room rather than just on a wall. Iron the front letters onto some Bondaweb, then trim, peel off the backing and iron on the reverse letters. No sewing, no seams, no fraying - happy days!

Thread a needle with two strands of embroidery thread (it comes apart quite easily if you cut a length and then pull it apart gently), then put a small stitch into the top of each crochet motif and letter. Hang up, admire, and make some more!


Friday, 6 December 2013

the twelve makes of Christmas: cross-stitched gift tags

Crikey, that was a bit of an unplanned absence - my last post was over two weeks ago, what a shambles! In my defence, though, I've had a lot of work on, we've been swamped in illness (seriously, how many germs do kids pick up when they start primary school? I've been considering painting a red cross on the door this week!) and I've been spending the evenings crafting my little socks off. Although the title of the post is 'twelve' makes of Christmas, I do wonder if that might be a bit optimistic - as usual, I've committed to a whole heap of handmade presents and Christmas is approaching faster than a rat down a drainpipe, gah. So we'll start with twelve, and perhaps ignore the fact that it might end up only being the, err, six makes of Christmas. Ahem.

I was thinking for a long time about gift tags this year, and how it'd be great if more packaging was either multi-functional or just less wasteful - so I came up with a few handmade versions that can be handily hung on the tree the following year. First up, the cross-stitched version - needles at the ready, ladies and gents!

I first got into cross-stitching when I took part in the great Craftivist #imapiece project, which involved hand stitching a message onto a fabric jigsaw piece - since then, I can't look at things without thinking, 'yeah, that's nice... but it'd look better with a bit of stitching on it....' I love how you can make it as simple or as intricate as you like, and how therapeutic it is; if I've got the hump, nothing makes me feel happier than a bit of stitching in front of whatever box set we're watching. (This one was done whilst watching the Walking Dead mid-season finale, so possibly not quite as relaxing as usual....)

I'm going to start by being honest; this was supposed to be round, but I got distracted and trimmed the aida too much, so had to make it square. It's totally possible to make it whatever shape you like, though, and is simple enough to knock up in a couple of hours (depending on your cross-stitching speed).

You will need:
Aida for your chosen cross-stitch (I think I used a 14 count) and coloured embroidery thread
Fabric that either matches or contrasts with the cross-stitch colours
A sheet of felt
Bondaweb / Heat 'n' Bond / Wonderweb, depending on which brand you choose
A pencil or tailors chalk
A ruler or quilting square
Sharp scissors

1. Work out your cross-stitch pattern, and complete in front of the TV, preferably watching a Christmas film and eating biscuits.

2. Work out how large you want your gift tag to be, and then cut two pieces of your chosen fabric and a piece of felt to the same size. One of the fabric pieces is going to act as a frame for the cross-stitch, so you need to make sure there's enough space to fit the cross-stitch comfortably.

3. Trim the aida - it's crucial not to cut off too much, or the edges will be visible in the frame.

4. Cut out the middle of the frame and iron onto a piece of bondaweb, then trim the middle again. (The reason I adore bondaweb so much is simply because it stops fabric fraying, and gives a really neat edge with no need for seams. If there's a shortcut available in a sewing project, always take it - that's what I say!)

5. Remove the backing from the bondaweb, and assemble the frame, the cross-stitch and the piece of felt in a little sandwich (see below). Iron around the edge, and you'll find that you're left with the top of your tag.

6. Iron some bondaweb onto the other piece of fabric, and then press onto the reverse of the tag - this means when it hangs up, it looks as nice from the back as it does from the front.

7. Trim the edges, and then thread a needle with some coloured thread. Insert into the top of the tag front, and then fasten in a knot - make sure it's long enough not only to attach to a parcel, but also to hang on a tree branch.

8. Make enough to give one each to friends and family; I'm going to make loads with quirky slogans, geometric patterns and classic Christmas symbols. The sky's the limit!

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