Because life’s celebrations shouldn’t cost the Earth

Wednesday, 19 November 2014

Happy Hanukkah Bunting

Appliqued Fabric Banner

This year I was delighted to start my seasonal sewing with a very special Hanukkah banner, which is now about to start its journey over the pond to some friends in America.

The backing fabric is from a pair of upcycled 'Mamas and Papas' nursery curtains and I always enjoy using it as the material is a lovely weight pure cotton canvas.  The dotty background also lends itself to almost any decor, which is perfect when I don't know the colour of the room where the finished banner will be hung!   It is also ideal for make-up pouches and pencil cases and you can read about this cute little Volkswagen Bug car here.

I created the Hanukkah bunting using raw edge applique, one of my favourite techniques.  I normally drop the feed dogs on my machine and free motion embroider around shapes when appliqueing, but as the flame on the candle was so small, I instead decided to simply straight stitch around it using an open-toed foot with a reduced stitch length.  Although this takes longer, it also gives me greater control when completing small scale designs.

I had originally intended stitching up the banner with the wording 'Happy Hanukkah', but as the festival has a number of different spellings I went with the somewhat safer 'Miracle'.  In retrospect I actually prefer this, as it makes a closer link to the meaning of Hanukkah.

At either end of the banner I stitched a Star of David with a candle, another reflection of the original story which tells the miracle of the Hanukkah oil. I stuck with a traditional blue for the main colour scheme but used a jaunty yellow bias-binding for the header tape, which really picks out the yellow of the candle flame.

Next stop Christmas!

Thursday, 13 November 2014

Reloved Magazine - Christmas Special

SewforSoul Magazine Feature and Giveaway!

Christmas is just six weeks away, which in creative tasking terms, is waaay too soon!  I now really ought to start thinking about some serious festive crafting and having an article published in Reloved Magazine's Christmas issue was just the thing to put me into a festive frame of mind!

Regular SewforSoul visitors will recognise the project from this blog post.

I based the adorable Father Christmas applique on this digital stamp by Cuddly Buddly.

Digital stamps are perfect for applique, as they're so easy to re-size and manipulate.  Cuddly Buddly have a huge selection and, as well as digital items, they also stock a wide range of physical crafting products for card making, scrapbooking, sewing, decoupage and painting to name but a few! 

If you haven't yet visited Cuddly Buddly, you've been missing out on a fantastic crafting experience and as it's 'nearly' Christmas I'm holding a giveaway for a lovely £25 gift certificate and, with over 12,000 items held in stock, they really do have something for everyone.

To be in with a chance of winning simply leave a comment on this post and then pop over to to start following SewforSoul.  The winner will be drawn at random on 1 December, just in time for a little Christmas shopping!

Good luck!

Friday, 7 November 2014

'Reloved Magazine' Halloween Feature

DIY Gothic Cloche Article - Better late than never!

Wow, time has really flown by and it's hard to believe that Halloween was only this time last week!  There were so many pictures I wanted to take and share, but just didn't manage.  I even forgot to blog this Reloved Magazine article featuring my 'Gothic Bell Jar Tutorial'.

It looked lovely in print, although the bloodstained and rusty saw was a somewhat macabre touch on the editor's part!

I am now more than happy to start turning my thoughts to Christmas projects, only seven weeks to go!

Tuesday, 4 November 2014

Halloween Dinner Party

All Hallow's Eve 2014

I fully intended to take some more pictures of our Victorian Gothic Halloween decorations but, as usual, once the school holidays started time just seemed to slip away.....  

I can now only share a couple of snaps, which I took before the holidays began.  I had sourced some vintage glass fronted cabinets and filled them with lots of little jars labelled to look like specimen jars and medicine bottles, really rocking the spooky apothecary cabinet look!  The examples below are simply glass spice jars filled with plastic toys.  I created the labels using two lovely free fonts 'Jane Austen' and 'Old Newspaper', then printed them off onto yellow paper before further ageing them with scrapbook chalks.

Believe it or not, I'm not actually a fan of Halloween.  I worry that children rushing 'round houses in the dark asking for sweets might scare older folks and the thought of devils really leaves me cold, so Mr Larkin was sent out with the children earlier on in the day delivering sweets to the neighbours and checking that they then didn't mind us knocking on their doors later that night to collect them all back in!

As I'm not keen on the 'darker' side of Halloween, 'Victorian Gothic' seemed a perfect compromise, particularly as the children study the genre in their English Literature lessons at school.  

A skull ashtray was another cheap car boot sale find and a perfect fit for the theme, a satin top hat slung on 'his' head and sat atop a pile of suitably vintage books. You can see him in position on our mantel here.

The dress code was period costume or black tie and everyone looked absolutely perfect, but I even forgot to take any pictures at the party itself. Luckily some of the guests had managed a couple of snaps, so I can show you a selection of the super outfits.

The children sat at one end of the table and looked beautiful dining by candle light.  They have grown up together since tiny babies, attending both the same church and school. Their ages range by five years but they all get on so well and it's always wonderful to have an opportunity to reflect upon what mature and thoughtful young people they have blossomed into.

The dress code was open to interpretation and so, amongst others, we had Victorian gentlemen, one of literature's most famous jilted brides, Miss Havisham, as well as some spooky Victorian maids.

'Miss Havisham' won the 'Best Youth' prize
This mother and daughter combo won 'Spookiest Adult and Youth'
The Gent on the left won 'Best Handmade' for his gorgeous frock coat
Dressing the table

I always buy plenty of luxury Christmas crackers when they go down to 90% off in January, choosing neutral colours that can be customised for various events throughout the year.  For Halloween I re-tied them with black satin ribbon and attached a plastic spider (spray painted silver) to the front of each. 

We are lucky that one of our downstairs rooms is quite large, so we can set up tables going the entire length of the room seating thirty guests.  A sheer black satin chiffon tablecloth was a great backdrop to the mainly silver colour scheme and I had made enough candles to ensure that we didn't need any electric lighting.

If you squint carefully at the pictures you might be able to spot our Halloween tree, decorated cloches, wall sconces and beaded fabric bunting.  Next year I might even get some photos of the dressed shelves and apothecary cabinets!

Next stop Christmas!

Wednesday, 22 October 2014

Owl Cupcake Toppers

Felt Teacher Appreciation Gifts

Our local schools break up for their half-term holiday on Friday, with all next week off.  It's been a long eight weeks since the start of term back in September and both students and teachers are ready for a well earned rest.

Alice has now joined her brother at secondary school and it was a very successful transition, due to the efforts of her lovely form tutor and subject teachers.  George went into Year Ten and has stayed with the same great tutor for the fourth year running.

As a little thank you for all their help and care in making the first half term so painless, the children and I stitched up some cute cupcake toppers for both tutors.

George also helped out with the design of the packaging and on the back is one of my favourite seasonal quotes;

 'Autumn is a second spring when every leaf is a flower' Albert Camus

The yummy frosted cupcakes were purchased in Sainsburys and the ones pictured only just made it through the photo shoot before they were polished off by some very willing 'helpers'.  I'm now putting off buying replacements until the last minute, hopefully avoiding further temptation!

We're off to Barcelona for a few days next week and when we return it will be almost time for our Halloween party, so it should be a lovely break for the children.  If you're on holiday too, enjoy!

Monday, 20 October 2014

How to Style Cheap Plastic Skeletons

Give your decorations a cool new look!

The quick tutorial I'm sharing with you today is not only the most straightforward of my Halloween DIYs - it's also one of my favourites.  I took inexpensive plastic decorations and instantly gave them a great new look, simply by the application of a little heat!

Take a look at these guys - Don't they look debonair in their casually cool poses!

They actually started out as cheap hanging decorations bought from my local supermarket, and are just the kind of thing you find in any pound or dollar store.  The little chap below has yet to be subjected to the magic;


So to place boring skeletons into far more interesting poses, simply heat with a hot air gun and gently manipulate into place.  The process doesn't even need any extra photos, it really is that easy!

 Go and turn up the heat!

Monday, 13 October 2014

From Plastic Clock to Perfect Cloche!

Halloween Cloche Tutorial

Our Halloween theme this year is 'Victorian Gothic' so, not surprisingly, bell jars, cloches, apothecary jars and other weird and wonderful curiosities all feature prominently.  

We've collected lots of great items but something exciting happens when 'treasures' are placed under glass, as they instantly become even more special!  Our displayed specimens also have authentic looking museum labels, which I created in a gorgeous copperplate script, adding to the Victorian curiosities feel.  

I love cloches and bell jars but found them shockingly expensive in the shops and I needed loads to transform our home into the abode of a slightly eccentric Victorian family, so I set about making my own.  I've already shared a tutorial on the smaller cloches, two of which you can see on either side of the top hat wearing skull.  They looked great, but I also wanted a few taller ones for our larger exhibits so when I found a (very) kitsch plastic dome clock at my local car boot fair I knew I had struck thrifting gold!  I subsequently found another six, paying between 50p and £1.00 for each, leading to my next Halloween Craft DIY;

Thrifted dome clock
Small handle or knob
Spray paint 
Dremel or drill

Firstly remove the clock itself as only the base and dome are needed.  Simply turn the clock over and unscrew, retaining the removed parts for a later project.    

The next step is to cover the holes left from the clock with a circle of acetate.  I upcycled mine from the clear window commonly found in packaging.  It needs to be the same size as the inner circle on the base.  Stick into place and then spray paint black.

If your dome is plastic rather than glass, drill a hole in the top and attach a small cabinet handle.  Mine was originally a rather bright brass colour so I sprayed it black to perfectly match the base.

That's it........

...from plastic clock to perfect cloche!

What will you display in yours?