Friday 27 November 2015

How To: DIY Advent Calendar With a Twist!

Please note: this is an advertorial and I received a fee to create a Christmas craft idea for

The lovely people at Tesco Living got in touch a few weeks ago with a fun challenge: could I come up with a twist on their 25 Days of Handmade Christmas advent calendar tutorial?

I do love a crafty challenge!

The original project is a tutorial for making a DIY advent calendar from mini envelopes, mini pegs and a large embroidery hoop - click here for the step-by-step how to. Nice, huh?

And here are the materials I used for making my version - including my all time fave craft material: felt (of course!).

Wanna see how my advent calendar turned out?

Click here to see my twist on this DIY advent calendar project :)

Wednesday 25 November 2015

How To: Simple Stripy Scrap Cards

A couple of years ago I'd been thinking about making paper flowers for my sister's wedding. She ended up going in a different direction with her decor, so the crepe paper colour swatch I'd bought went in a drawer and sat there unused... until now!

I have no plans to order more crepe paper any time soon, so when I re-discovered the swatch this week I decided to chop up the samples and use them to make some colourful, stripy cards:

Aren't those colours just gorgeous? Ah, bright colour makes me so happy.

The texture of the crepe paper is also rather wonderful.

Making your own striped cards is a quick and easy crafty project, and a great way to make use of any delicious scraps of colour in your paper stash.

Okay so you probably won't have a crepe paper colour swatch sitting in a drawer, like I did, but if your crafty stash is anything like mine you've probably got lots of colourful paper scraps which you've kept because they're too nice to just throw away.

To make the cards: 

Cut your scraps to an even width (mine are about 5.5 cm across), then cut them into sections of differing heights (I cut mine between 1-3 cm). I used a pencil and a ruler to make sure all my rectangles were straight and neat, drawing the lines on the back of the paper.

Arrange the scraps on white card blanks, with a mix of colours and sizes.

I made some tall stripy cards...

.... a stripy postcard...

... and some mini stripy cards to send with my parcels (using up some scrap bits of white card in the process, hurrah!). Add a hole and a piece of coordinating twine and these would make great gift tags.

Once you're happy with the arrangement of your scraps, stick them in place with double-sided sticky tape or a glue stick. I used tape to stick mine, it's less messy than using glue and I was also worried that pressing the glue stick along the flexible crepe paper would stretch and distort it. Whatever method you chose, line up your rectangles neatly and press them down firmly.

On the mini cards, I cut the cards to be slightly narrower than the paper scraps (5 cm wide) so the paper went up to and over the edges. If you like this look, once you've stuck the paper in place turn the cards over and trim the excess paper with scissors for a lovely neat finish.

So simple, so stripy, so good.

I can't wait to send these little stripy bursts of colour!
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Monday 23 November 2015

A Trip To Bristol: Shaun in the City & Climbing Cabot Tower

Time for another summer Nice Day Out flashback!

I love Bristol and miss living there and don't get back half as often as I'd like thanks to the steep train fares (I miss my student railcard, too!). This summer I realised it had been over a year since my last visit so I splashed out some cash on some advanced tickets and booked myself three Bristol day trips.

I spent two of the days catching up with old friends and meeting up with new ones, but the third was free for me to do whatever I wanted in the city. After a bit of umming and ahhing I decided to spend the day following the Shaun in the City trail.

I'd really enjoyed the London leg of the trail earlier in the summer. All the Shaun the Sheep sculptures were delightful, tracking them down was like going on a treasure hunt, and the sheep-hunting was a great way to tour the city (and get some exercise!)

I got into Bristol nice and early and spent a long, busy, happy day working my way round the map - I did a lot of walking and managed to see 31 out of the 70 Bristol Shauns (told you it was a busy day!)


It was a gorgeous, sunny day - perfect weather for a day wandering round the city, ticking Shauns off the map and enjoying the sights along the way. The bright colours of the harbourside were looking particularly lovely in the sunshine!


I also squeezed in a quick visit to the Bristol Museum & Art Gallery (one of my favourite places in the city) to see this awesome temporary exhibition, and made my first ever visit to the nearby Georgian House Museum. At the Georgian House you can step back in time and see how the house might have looked in the 1790s - it's free to visit and well worth doing so! 

Another Bristol attraction I'd never visited before was Cabot Tower. The tower was built in the late 1800s and looms over the city from the top of Brandon Hill (a lovely park, conveniently located near the museums). When I actually lived in Bristol I wasn't that interested in sightseeing so I'd never been to Cabot Tower and had no idea you could actually climb it until I read Polly's blog post about her own visit earlier this year.


The landscaping around the tower is totally charming with winding paths, a little waterfall, and lots of semi-hidden spaces to explore. Some of the paths up to the tower are very steep!

The views across the park and the city are rather special from the base of the tower...

... but if you're feeling brave you can climb up the tower for some even better views. Cabot Tower is 105 feet (32 metres) high and has two viewing platforms. The higher platform is apparently 334 feet (102 metres) above sea level!

The spiral staircase up the tower is quite steep and narrow - you have to get quite cosy with anyone going up/down the stairs in the other direction! - but the views are wonderful. It was delightful to spot so many familiar places and to look down at places I'd visited earlier that very day as I followed the Shaun in the City trail.

P.S. You can read more about Cabot Tower and see its opening times here. The Shaun in the City trail has now finished but you can read more about it here and buy lots of Shaun-themed goodies in the fundraising shop here. Until late December you can also buy raffle tickets for the chance to win a giant Christmas-themed Shaun sculpture!

Saturday 21 November 2015

#Crafting365 Days 56-73: Juggling Lots of WIPs + Trying New Things

It's been a busy couple of weeks, with lots of crafty goodness along the way!

On day 56 of my #Crafting365 challenge, I finished stitching the final few squares of the Christmas quilt I'm making for my sister. There's still lots of sewing to do before this is an actual quilt, but it's great to have the patchwork finished after all those hours of hand stitching.

When I tried to take photos of the finished quilt top, our little old lady cat demanded that I pay attention to her instead of this weird thing on the floor so most of my photos turned out like this:

On day 57 I did some relaxing knitting in the evening, and soaked up some creative inspiration from UPPERCASE magazine. UPPERCASE is always awesome but I'm especially loving this colour-themed issue.

I did some more knitting on day 58 and (with rainbows on the brain) I sorted through my stash of squares and planned out the colour order for my rainbow blanket.

Don't all those bright colours look delicious together?

Day 59 involved more knitting, although with slightly less colourful yarn than the stuff I'm using to knit my rainbow squares!

This is a much neglected project with a woodland animal theme. I've got lots of hours to put in on this if I'm going to meet my planned deadline of Christmas (and it's nearly the end of November already, eek!)

On day 60 I went to Renegade and spent several hours oohing over all the awesome wares for sale and doing a bit of shopping. In the afternoon, I visited the Foundling Museum to see their current (excellent and very moving) exhibition, The Fallen Woman. While enjoying a cuppa and a very tasty brownie in the museum cafe, I doodled a whole bunch of new project ideas on a napkin.

I love visiting exhibitions, etc, on my Nice Days Out but I also love the time to think that a day out on your own away from work and deadlines gives you. I often find myself scribbling down new ideas in cafes or on my train journey home after a busy day of going new places and seeing new things.

(Psst - that awesome crafty tattoo is a fun temporary one from Floss & Mischief)

I was feeling a bit under the weather for days 61-64 so I just ended up doing lots and lots of simple knitting while curled up watching TV. Not very exciting crafting, but better than nothing and look at all the squares I finished!

On day 65 I decided I'd had enough of all this sleepy knitting and had a Making Day - minimising my screen time to focus on Actually Making Stuff.

One of my projects for the day was to finally cut out some more felt flowers for my in-progress cushion project. I ran out of flowers back in September and the project has been on pause ever since. It was nice to get back to working with all this colour!

I started adding the new flowers to the cushion on day 66 - pinning and tacking them in position ready to sew later. Finding the best place for each shape is a bit like doing a felt-y jigsaw puzzle!

The next evening (day 67) I did some knitting and some relaxing colouring in while we watched TV. This is a fun Evolution-themed colouring book which I was sent to review - well, you can't review a colouring book without actually colouring it, right?

On day 68 I revisited a project that has been sitting half-finished in my "in progress" box for years: felt bird ornaments from a vintage craft kit I bought way back in 2011. I am so terrible at finishing my personal projects!   

Fingers crossed I can finally get all the birds finished in time to display them this Christmas!

Day 69 involved yet more blanket squares. That yellow is growing on me more and more with each square I knit.


Then on days 70 and 72 I tried something a bit different from my usual makes.

I've done a few projects for docrafts Creativity magazine of the past couple of years and the magazine always comes with a crafty cover gift (or three!). I thought it was high time I used them to make stuff.

First up: card making with decoupage kits and coordinating papers from the Forever Friends range (very cute!).

The next day I put together some more card toppers - foiled Christmas designs, cute kittens and vintage-y florals. I don't have any of the proper mounts/dots you're supposed to use to stick the layers together, so I got creative and used double sided sticky tape and little pieces of white felt to create the 3D effect :)

I've never made any kits like this before and I don't often work with patterns and pictures, so dipping my toes into this kind of card making is proving to be a really fun creative challenge.

I was back to my regular crafting on day 72, doing lots of sewing with a kitty keeping me company!

Those Christmas pudding ornaments are based on one of the earliest tutorials I shared on my blog. I cut the pieces out last year planning (I think) on making a few different versions of the pudding ornaments to show how you could vary the pattern. Sadly I failed to write down what I'd planned to make and I've since forgotten! Oops. So, instead, I'm just stitching up the ornaments and I'll be adding them to my sample sale sometime soon.

Then yesterday (day 73) I worked on a whole bunch of different crafty things.

I almost finished the vintage bird ornaments (I need to buy some ribbon before I can actually finish them but at least they look like birds now!)... I finished the Christmas puddings... I put together some charming Gorjuss decoupage kits (more Creativity freebies) ... and I used some colourful crepe paper samples to make some stripy cards.

Right, time to stop blogging and to go do some more making...

Thursday 19 November 2015

A Summer Flashback: Visiting Osterley Park

Right at the end of summer (in the middle of that heatwave we had at the start of September, which I am totally counting as summer because it was craaaaazy hot) I headed to West London for a Nice Day Out at Osterley Park.

Osterley Park itself is free to visit, but within the grounds you'll find Osterley House and its gardens which are run by the National Trust and have an entrance fee.

I got to the Park nice and early, walking up the long drive towards the house...

... past the Garden Lake...


... to the house itself. Pretty fancy, huh?


The ceiling of the portico is a teaser for the intricately decorated interior of the house.

There are some really fabulous spaces to explore here (several of which you might recognise from the movie The Dark Knight Rises, in which Osterley House starred as Wayne Manor) - just look at the entrance hall!

I happened to be reading this pattern-filled issue of UPPERCASE magazine on the train that day, which turned out to be the perfect reading material for a Nice Day Out spent oohing over patterns and repeated motifs and design details.

I spent ages looking round the house and its pretty gardens, and wandering round the park eating an icecream or two (on a hot day like that one was you definitely have to have icecream breaks instead of tea and cake breaks!). 

I have to admit that I'd never even heard of Osterley before buying my Art Pass but I'm so glad to have discovered it, it's a gorgeous place and well worth a visit. I highly recommend the introductory talk (available on the hour) - this was very entertaining and a great introduction to the house and its colourful history.

Even if you just visit the park and don't venture inside the house, you can take a peek inside the stable block...

... where there's also a nice cafe and a little shop selling second hand books and plants from the gardens.

On the drive out of the park you'll also find a farm shop. I bought a selection of veggies for dinner, including this rather fabulous Romanesco broccoli (featuring yet more patterns!).

I'd never tried one of these before and couldn't resist treating myself to this one simply because of how gorgeous it was. I'm pleased to report that they're very tasty!