Because life’s celebrations shouldn’t cost the Earth

Tuesday, 16 September 2014

Caravan Heart Applique

Cuddly Buddly Design Team

It's almost time for September's Design Team Challenge over at Cuddly Buddly and I suddenly realised that I hadn't even blogged August's!  Summer always seems to push blogging into the background as I would much rather be outside in the fresh air than sat inside in front of a computer screen.

Anyway, the theme was 'Thank you' and I stitched up a little appliqued 'Thanks for the Memories' hanging linen heart.  The weather has now taken a turn for the worst and it feels almost autumnal, so I would happily indulge myself with dreaming of British summers spent in a cute little caravan!  I based the applique on this digital stamp which costs just 99p from the Cuddly Buddly store.

It was a quick project to stitch up and I used the same basic pattern as I created for this owl hanging heart which you can read about here.

I'm also intending to stitch up some Christmas versions, as I love to see decorations created in classic linen hanging from the tree!

In the meantime there's a full  tutorial over at Cuddly Buddly, with easy step-by-step photos, so you can get stitching one of your own.


Friday, 12 September 2014

Halloween Gothic Bell Jar Tutorial

Upcycled Plastic Bottle Display Cloche

The children only went back to school last week, but my thoughts have already been turning to Halloween.  We're holding George's Birthday Party on 31 October and the theme is 'Victorian Gothic'.  I have been busy crafting all manner of props including apothecary bottles, museum-style specimen jars and these 'Gothic Bell Jars'.

They came about as a result of this apple gift box, which I crafted from two upcycled plastic pop bottles.

I made quite a few and had the top bottle halves going spare, luckily a friend asked if she could have them to use as cloches on her allotment. I handed them over and she reported back that they were perfect for preventing pesky little bugs from devouring her crops!  This got me wondering if they would also make suitable display cloches.  So I went down to my local food store, armed with my half bottle, in search of something to use as a cheap base.  I trawled through the aisles trying every possible jar lid until I found the perfect fit.  I then needed a cloche handle, I bought some wooden cabinet handles from the local car boot sale and sprayed them black, but I wasn't really happy with the result.  Mr Larkin then reminded me about these cloches which he and the children kindly gave me for Mothering Sunday;


He pointed that they had clear glass handles and suggested that I use a large clear marble - Genius!  (He also noted that they cost £12 each and I was now making 'free' ones....)

I was delighted with the finished item so thought I should write a tutorial, as who wouldn't love to make their own gorgeous display cloche!

Gothic Bell Jar Tutorial


Empty two litre plastic soda pop bottle
Lid from ‘Hunger Breaks ~ Hot Pots’ microwave meal
Black card
Large clear marble

Dremel tool or hacksaw
Strong multipurpose glue
Scissors or craft knife

Step One
Carefully remove the thread from empty plastic bottle, as in the picture below, using your Dremel or hacksaw.

Step Two
Using strong multipurpose glue, such as ‘E600’, stick the clear marble into the exposed bottle neck.

Step Three
Wipe off the expiry date on the bottle using nail polish remover or acetone.  Then remove the label, should any glue remain on the bottle simply rub with WD40.

Step Four
Carefully cut the bottle in half, using scissors or a craft knife, and discard the bottom piece (or make an apple gift box!).

Step Five
Cut a circle of black card to cover steam holes in the Hot Pot lid and stick into place.

Step Six
Now place your cloche cover on the black base, a two litre bottle fits the raised lip of the Hot Pot lid perfectly. However, if you can't find a 'Hot Pot' lid simply experiment with upturned saucers, dishes or other suitable items.  They even look fantastic just placed directly over your treasures!

I filled mine with various car boot and thrift shop finds - A quick spray of black and silver paint makes naff ornaments and cheap plastic animals look most gruesomely gothic!

Happy Halloween!

Wednesday, 10 September 2014

Reloved Magazine Feature September 2014

Hot on the heels of being featured in 'Sewing World' magazine, I also have an article published in the September edition of 'Reloved Magazine', which is available in shops now.

 Can you spot my piece from the contents page below?  

Yes, they asked to use my Apple Gift Box as a 'Back to School' special.  I was more than happy to oblige, especially as the whole magazine is devoted to upcyling, a cause very close to my heart!

I have a number of other projects in the pipeline which are going to print over the coming months, so keep checking back for more details.

Happy Crafting!

Thursday, 4 September 2014

SewforSoul ~ Sewing World Magazine

Appliqued Linen Pencil Case

The children went back to school this week so, after many weeks of wilful neglect, I am finally back to blogging with some very exciting news - I'm on the front cover of Sewing World Magazine!

Yep, that's my pencil case as the lead feature!  Julie, the editor, had seen this personalised version, which I blogged about last year, and asked me to create one for the magazine as a 'back to school' September project.

I was delighted to be asked and then to make the main feature, with my first project for her, was extremely flattering!

The article has been beautifully presented and is a lovely three page spread, including a little SewforSoul 'bio box'!

Sewing World Magazine is widely available in many independent newsagents or any branch of WHSmith's.  So if you fancy making your own 'Write On' pencil case go and bag a copy now!


Monday, 11 August 2014

Dr. Livingstone's 'Crocodylus Niloticus' I presume.....

We're hosting a Victorian themed Halloween party later this year and the children and I have been using the summer holidays to get ahead with preparations.  We have crafted some fantastic, if rather macabre, decorations (which are going to be featured in a national magazine!) and we're now busy planning menus.

Today we made 'Crocodylus Niloticus' in honour of Doctor Livingstone's search to find the source of the Nile, as well as highlighting the evils of slavery.

 The Nile Crocodile in pastry form!

Check out those teeth

We made two versions but in between dodging the rainstorms, which apparently are the result of the tail end of hurricane Bertha, we ended up with the 'before' pictures of one and the 'after' shots of the second!

Watch your fingers!

The first specimen was made using shortcrust pastry and when cooked it looked much better than the second, created with puff pastry. This was due to a lot of the detailing being lost as it 'puffed' up during baking.

Happy Halloween!

Wednesday, 6 August 2014

Polish Pleasures

The Krakow Experience

Continuing in our mission to expose the children to as much culture and travel as possible, we've just returned from a quick trip to Krakow.  We wondered if they might find it rather similar to Prague, but they were more than able to distinguish between the two cities and had a fabulous time.

Much of our time was spent soaking up the sights in the Rynek Główny, Krakow's beautiful main square which dates back to the 13th century and is Europe's largest medieval square.

Panoramic shots by George

We stayed at the Hotel Senacki, a lovely little boutique hotel situated on the historic Royal Way, the old route of Kings and Queens as they processed from Wawel Castle to the main square.  The position couldn't have been more perfect as it was literally a two minute stroll to either stunning location.

Church of St. Peter and St. Paul from hotel window

Wawel hill rises high above the river Vistula and behind its heavily fortified ancient walls are the awe inspiring Cathedral and Castle.  As the seat of Poland's Royalty, it was site of the coronation and burial of practically every Polish monarch. The cathedral has a number of chapels and one of the most beautiful is King Sigismund's, its stunning gold dome claimed by some to be the best example of Renaissance architecture outside of Italy, if not within. 

Sigismund's Chapel

After careful deliberation we had decided to take the children to Auschwitz and as part of the preparation for this we visited Kazimierz, Krakow's former Jewish quarter. This in itself was a very moving experience and a simple whitewashed sign served as a reminder of how swiftly families, who had been resident in the area for hundreds of years, were so brutally eradicated.

Auschwitz is obviously not your usual holiday experience and it's difficult to know how to describe it without sounding trite or insincere.  I also wasn't sure whether it was appropriate to take photographs, let alone share them on social media sites but I feel we all have an obligation to educate ourselves, and our children, about the horrors humans are capable of inflicting upon others.

The sun shone throughout our visit and the meadows surrounding the camp were full of summer flowers, with birdsong filling the sky, and it was this air of normality which was so frightening - To know that mass murder took place in these grounds, within living memory, was a very sobering thought.

As we drove away our Polish guide pointed out the town of Oswiecim which exists in the shadow of the death camp.  After decades of trying to separate itself from the dreadful legacy of torture and mass murder, it has now adopted the slogan 'City of Peace' for its official title and hosts a number of festivals, concerts and other events designed as initiatives of world harmony.  Auschwitz was a difficult day and it was comforting to end the trip on a positive note.

One final positive element to the trip was sharing our time aboard the coach with a lovely American couple who were extremely gracious in giving their time to our children who were full of chat and questions!   Marty and Cheryl are very well travelled and have grandchildren of an age with our kids so were able to connect with them in a very natural manner.  We are fortunate to live in a very beautiful city which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a perfect base for exploring the North of England and Scotland, and we would be delighted to show it off to such pleasant visitors!

The food in Krakow was delicious and cheap, we indulged ourselves with pierogi (dumplings), bigos (stew) and placki ziemniaczane (fried potato cakes) at the Bicicletta Restaurant, a lovely little diner in the Jewish Quarter and the meals came to less than £5 including drinks. We also enjoyed plenty of street food including Zapiekanka, a Polish version of pizza or open toasted baguette loaded with mushrooms and cheese.

Sampling the local cuisine

We also found time to visit the Wieliczka salt mine which the children loved, but unfortunately the basic camera we took with us was unable to cope with the lack of light underground so we didn't end up with any pictures worth sharing.

Our niece is booked to fly to Krakow next month and will hopefully enjoy exploring this beautiful city and welcoming country as much as we did.

Curious George

Happy Holidays!

Tuesday, 15 July 2014

Teacher Appreciation

End of Term Treats

As this academic year draws to a close, it's time to get stitching and crafting to remember all those hardworking individuals who make such a difference to the world of our children.  

Alice requested a little handbag mirror, made using my trusty badge machine for her teacher.  I based the cute applique on the 'Apple Thanks' digital stamp which available exclusively at Handmade Harbour. 

It's such a versatile design and looks equally gorgeous when used in paper crafting, as this fabulous card expertly demonstrates.  It was made by the very talented Teresa over at The Fat Cactus, a beautiful blog well worth visiting.

George wanted a string of bunting for his French teacher who has had the pleasure(?) of teaching him for the last two years.  He reports that she always goes the extra mile for her pupils, and has even been known to bring in enough home-made crepes for the entire class!

We found some lovely fabric which was absolutely perfect for what we wanted, as it features various French patisserie recipes, including pancakes and crepes.  Another plus point was the black background, which will complement any colour scheme, and also shouldn't need washing too often when hung in a busy classroom or steamy kitchen!

In order to use the fabric as economically as possible some flags are actually upside down but they still look pretty cute and really rather shabby chic.   Bunting always makes a perfect gift and I posted a nice and simple tutorial here should you fancy whipping up some up for yourself. 

George then designed and printed an elegant bag topper to use as packaging, which I inked and glittered.

Thank you to all the wonderful teachers who have touched the life of my children!