Wednesday, 11 December 2013

Crafting on the Move

We have just flown half way around the world, and are spending our Christmas holidays in New Zealand and Australia.  The journey was a long, long, long one.  London to Hong Kong (11 hours), Hong Kong to Melbourne (10 hours), a night in the airport hotel (11 hours), Melbourne to Christchurch (3 hours).  Yep, that's 35 hours all together from start to finish.  Actually it's about 7 more than that when you add in the commute and time waiting around in airports.

The girls were both really good, considering how long the journey was, and how little they slept.  When we do long journeys I try to plan ahead and stock up on new craft activities that are easy to do, involve little mess and no glue.

As a basic starter, the girls both have a drawstring bag, pencil case, and A4 drawing pad.  I bought the bags from Funky Dory Party Bags, the pencil cases from Simply Colors, and the drawing pads from Cass Art.

I also included a few craft kits.  I recently found a lovely range of Scribble Down Transfer kits, which work just like a Letraset.  The girls found these really easy to use, and they were a nice change from sticker books.



I also discovered a website (Yellow Moon) where you can order really good craft kits.  We used this website to buy foam crowns and stick on foam shapes for Samantha's 5th birthday party.  After a bit of searching I found a few Christmas themed craft kits that were suitable (not too big, and no glue involved) for making on the plane.

Christmas Stocking Sewing Kits

Nativity Foam Wreath Decorations

Nativity 3D Decorations
Even though the description for the foam wreaths said they were self-adhesive, the people and animals needed to be glued to the wreath.  We ended up making all the parts, and then saving them for glueing once we got to New Zealand.  The Christmas Stocking Sewing Kits were my favourite.  It took a bit more time to make them, and kept the kids amused for longer.  The only thing we didn't have onboard the plane were scissors, to trim the ends of the yarn.  I just tucked the ends inside the stocking and trimmed them later.

Craft activities that have worked well in the past have included the Usborne Sticker Dolly books, origami paper, and packs of stickers.
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Friday, 29 November 2013

DIY Wrap Bracelet - Take Two

Earlier this week I was doing some shopping in Covent Garden and I discovered Beadworks at 21 Tower Street, Covent Garden, WC2H 9NS.  It was so nice being able to visit and actual bead shop, rather than having to rely on websites and online ordering.  I bought supplies to have another go at making a wrap bracelet just like this one by Stella and Dot:


I bought more 1mm black leather cord, and 5mm Faceted Brass Rounded Cube Beads (Silver Plated).  The beads cost 50p for 20 beads.  I bought six packets to make a bracelet that would wrap three times around my wrist, and that was almost exactly what I needed.  When I compared the leather cord to the one I bought from Beads Direct, I noticed that their cord was better quality.  It seemed shinier and glossier.

I also bought a bobbin of Thick Bonded Nylon thread to use for the sewing.  This thread was strong, supple and didn't need to be waxed.  It was absolutely perfect.

Once again, I used this tutorial in the construction of my bracelet.

As mentioned in my first post about this wrap bracelet, I decided this time to use a single strand of sewing thread in the construction of the bracelet.  This resulted in a much neater finish.  The squared beads also sat really nicely in a flat row along the length of the bracelet.  Also, because the beads are brass, there is a lovely weight to the finished bracelet.  

Here is the finished bracelet (in a slightly out-of-focus shot).


Here you might be able to see how I did a little wrap with the cord when I tied off the button.


Again, this is a bit out-of-focus, but hopefully you can see how much neater the beads and the sewing are.


And, just to finish off, here's a picture of me wearing the bracelet.


I love this.  It's really cool, and I think it's very close to what I wanted to achieve.  Short of getting the exact beads used in the Stella and Dot bracelet, I think this is as good as it's going to get.
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Monday, 25 November 2013

Crafting for Christmas - Origami Tree

It's that season again, and I've started getting emails from Pinterest with cute Christmas craft ideas.  I saw this one on the weekend for Origami Christmas Trees.


The instructions are very clear, and this is not complicated origami.  With a little bit of help, Olivia (8 years) was able to make a tree.  The only supplies you need are paper and scissors.  You need either origami paper or regular coloured printer paper.  Make sure your paper isn't too thick, or you'll have trouble making precise folds.  I won't repeat the instructions here, because there is a brilliant photo tutorial on the Krokatak page

Here's a few of the trees we made.


The trees haven't made it to my mantlepiece yet, because the girls immediately appropriated them and made a forest for their Lego Friends people.

I really enjoyed the origami and have found a few more ideas I'm going to try.  Hopefully there will be a few more posts of other origami decorations soon.
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Friday, 22 November 2013

Really Easy DIY Beaded Wrap Bracelet

A while ago I saw this bracelet at a Stella and Dot jewellery party:


I loved it, but just couldn't justify spending £32 on it.  This week I stumbled across this handy tutorial for making a beaded wrap bracelet:


It's a very similar look, and if I could find similar beads and a nice button, I think I could easily make my own.  The instructions were very clear and detailed, and there weren't many materials required.  I did a quick online search and found supplies at Beads Direct.  I bought 1mm black leather round cord for £1.49, and two packets of 4mm silver glass beads for £2.29 each:


I already had needle, thread, and some buttons.  Including postage, the total expenditure came to £8.06. I followed the Crafts Unleashed tutorial to make my own bracelet.  I did make a few changes, as I was having a little trouble with some of the techniques.

Firstly, I used a clipboard for holding the first loop firmly, then I pulled the leather cords tightly and taped them to the back of the clipboard.  This meant I had two neat, parallel rows of cord to work on.  When I left them dangling loose, I had trouble with cord and threads getting tangled and messy.

Secondly, I tied off each section of sewing thread, pulled the loose ends through the last bead sewn and trimmed them off.  I then started a new thread by feeding it under one piece of the cord, finding the middle point, and tying a single knot.  I then threaded the two loose ends onto a needle and started beading.  I tried the method outlined in the tutorial, but my threads kept getting tangled.  This was my first attempt.



Overall I'm really happy with how the bracelet turned out.  I'm going to have another try at making one that is more similar to the lovely Stella and Dot bracelet at the top of the page.  A few things I would do differently next time:

  • I need to do some research and find a more squared bead.  
  • Try using a thicker and stronger sewing thread, but just use one strand.   
  • Get some beeswax so I can wax my sewing thread.  I think it would make it much easier to work with, and less likely to tangle.  
  • Find some decent buttons.  
This was definitely a good learning experience, and I would absolutely recommend this tutorial for anyone wanting to make their own bracelet.
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Thursday, 31 October 2013

Laundering the Woolies

I accept that this is probably a very lame blog post, but I am a little bit obsessive about my laundry.  I separate loads into dark, woollen, towels, shirts, and then I fall down a bit  by chucking all the whites in with the light coloured stuff.  Where I get really obsessive is in hanging things up and then ironing them.

I always carefully shake out laundry and get it as flat as possible before I hang it up.  On tops, I match the seam under the armhole and flatten from there (never from the bottom hem because tops just end up twisted this way).  I flatten socks and match them into pairs.  I always flatten underwear and hang along a side seam ... I could go on for a while.

Anyway, this little post is about how I dry my woollens.  I always carefully shake and flatten them first, then I lay them flat on either the spare bed, or a clean rug.  I make sure the sleeves are uncrumpled, and flat and that the side seams aren't twisted.  This is a picture of my latest load of woollens drying:


Using this method, means jumpers are not crumpled, they don't have washing line fold marks on them, they don't stretch out of shape, or twist at the seams.

Once the jumpers are dry, I usually give them a very gentle press (or seam) with a warm iron.  I like to make sure the sleeves are not creased, and that the bottom hem isn't curling up.  I'm also looking for the perfect padded satin hangers for my jumpers, but I'm thinking I might end up having to make them.
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Thursday, 24 October 2013

Simple Hair Bow Clips

My youngest daughter has very fine, curly hair.  It's always hanging in her face, which drives me nuts.  I usually comb a large fringe section into a bunch, and tie it up neatly.  Sometimes it's nice to use a clip, but most hair clips just slide right out of her hair.  The only kind that stays neatly in place are the small metal alligator clips, with grosgrain ribbon bows on them.  Like these ...


Unfortunately Samantha has a habit of taking out her hair clips and losing them.  Decent quality hair bow clips aren't cheap, so it made sense to have a go at making them myself.  There are loads of tutorials out there for making hair bow clips.  Some are simple styles, some are incredibly fancy.  I found this great tutorial for a fairly simple style bow.

Simply Couture Boutique

I made an even simpler version of this bow by having just one bow loop on each side, rather than the two in the tutorial.  I started by making eight navy blue bows, that could be worn to school.



I found it surprisingly hard to photograph something so small and dark coloured.  Not my best photographs!



These bows are great - they don't fall out.  They have also lasted well, and we still have five left.  Since the first batch were so successful, I decided to make some pink ones.  You can't go wrong with pink!  Surprisingly I've found it really hard to get the two widths of ribbon (9-10mm, and 20-22mm) in many interesting colours.  I ended up with this selection.


I ended up choosing plain white to cover the alligator clip, and I also used it for the knot with the lighter pink ribbon.  For the bright pink striped ribbon, I folded the ribbon in half for the knot.  I would really like to have found matching ribbon in the narrow widths, but it just wasn't available.

These are the finished bow clips being modelled by Olivia and Samantha.



You can't see Samantha's hair very well in this shot, but we call her The Wild Woolly (it's a Bottle Top Bill reference).  She has curly, fluffy hair, and every morning it's a huge tangled mess.  I love using a little clip like this, because it keeps the hair out of her eyes.

These bows are so easy to make and you don't need a lot of supplies.  I bought small alligator clips from Amazon and Grosgrain ribbon from John Lewis.  I also used a needle, strong thread, a glue gun and a candle.  The candle was used to seal the cut edges of the ribbon to prevent fraying.
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Monday, 14 October 2013

The 5 Minute Pencil Case

Olivia is going on a school trip to the Roald Dahl museum tomorrow.  I'm so jealous.  I loved reading Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and James and the Giant Peach when I was younger, and I really want to go too.

The school emailed me asking for Olivia to bring a "drawstring bag to put a pencil in".  I don't have anything like this around the house, so I quickly whipped this up.



It was incredibly easy.  The most difficult part was trying to decide whether to sew the casing for the cord first (and have difficulty sewing the side seam all the way to the top), or sew the side seam first (then have difficulty sewing the casing).  I ended up sewing the casing at the top first.  I haven't done a step-by-step tutorial, as it really was a 5 minutes sewing job.  This is what I did:


  1. Cut a rectangle of fabric measuring 6"x9".  
  2. At the top of the rectangle fold in 1/4" on each side and press.
  3. Fold the top edge down a 1/4" and press, then fold down 1/2" and press.  This will give you a 1/2" casing with the raw edges tucked inside.
  4.  Fold fabric in half lengthwise (right sides together), and sew 1/4" seam on side and bottom seam.  You will have to pull the seam allowance to one side where it joins into the casing, and sew as close to the casing as you can. 
  5. Trim corners, turn right side out and press.
  6. Using a safety pin or bodkin, thread cord through the casing at the top.  Add a toggle (I think this is the correct word for those cord-holding-thingys).
 The last thing I had to do was sew a name label onto the bag.  I should have done this first, so I could do it by machine, but I completely forgot and had to hand sew it on afterwards.

Here's a couple of close up shots of the casing at the top.



A larger draw string bag would be much easier to make.  If the bag had been bigger I would definitely have sewn the side seam first, and made the casing last.  Because this opening was so narrow, I couldn't get the presser foot inside the opening without causing the fabric to bunch up. 
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Saturday, 12 October 2013

My Front Door is No Longer a Forest of Shoes


Just inside our front door there are usually piles of shoes all over the place.  A little while ago I bought two pink IKEA Trofast tubs and tossed the girls shoes into them.  The hallway was already looking a bit neater.  I decided both boxes needed labels, as I kept putting the wrong shoes into each box.


So much neater.  An additional bonus, is that a lot of the dried dirt from shoes ends up in the bottom of the box, instead of all over the hall floor.

This year Olivia is supposed to be packing her own school bag each day.  I thought it would be a good idea if both the girls had a chart on the wall showing what had to go in their bag each day.  I had two spare IKEA Nyttda frames in red, so I made them a bag packing list and fixed it on the wall above their shoe boxes.



Each girl has one side of the front door for their shoe box and school bag packing list.  It's now a really neat space.


I love this organisation solution.  It was also really inexpensive to implement.  The only expenditure was £6 for the Trofast boxes, and £2.50 for the Nyttda frames.  I printed the labels and lists myself, and used some clear adhesive book covering to attach the box labels, and blutack to hold the picture frames in place.
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Wednesday, 25 September 2013

Library Book Bags

Both my girls love a trip to the library.  We try to go every weekend, but sometimes life just gets in the way.  Thank goodness our local library doesn't charge overdue fees on children's accounts!

I have been wanting to make the girls their own special library bags where they can store their books and also a notebook to keep track of books borrowed and due dates.  I had the ridiculous idea that if they had a pretty bag to hang on their door, the books would be kept there, and not get lost all over the house.  Thank goodness we write a list of the books borrowed, so I know what books to go hunting for before we head to the library.

I searched the internet and found a wealth of library book bags that people have made and blogged about.  I particularly liked this one by Mo Bedell on Sew Mamma Sew.  

The things I liked most about this pattern are:  it's pretty (always a good start), there is a special pocket on the strap to hold the library card, there is also a pocket for storing a notebook.  

The things I wanted to change were: the dimensions, the appliqué picture, and I wanted the bag to be fully lined. 

I used Ikatbag's incredible bag making tutorial series for tips on lining bags and making straps.  In particular I referenced her Darted Tote tutorial, Lined Flat Tote tutorial, and Reversibility and Other Magical Traits tutorial.

I started by mapping out a pattern.  I decided on the dimensions of the finished bag, and worked my way back from there.  This is what I came up with:


I also drafted a picture of a flower which I used to create the appliqué on the front of the bag.  

These are the two finished bags:



When I made these bags I wasn't planning to blog about them, so I haven't taken step-by-step photographs.  Instead I've made a list of the steps below:
  1. Gather your supplies - plain fabric for the main bag (I used a white denim - I think I should have used canvas, as the denim is too soft and slouchy), patterned fabric for the lining and appliqué details (I used two different quilting cottons), Bondaweb or similar product for the appliqué, a coloured hair elastic, a button.
  2. Cut out all the pieces using the measurements from the template.  
  3. Draft a feature picture, iron your patterned fabric to Bondaweb and cut out the image.  Iron the image to the 14"x10" outer fabric piece.  When working out the position of the appliqué, don't forget to allow for the 1.5" of fabric that will fold around to become the side and bottom panels of your bag.  Otherwise you'll end up having to unpick the appliqué and reposition it after you've already sewn up the whole bag (speaking from experience here).
  4. With right sides together sew the 14"x11" contrast fabric piece to the appliquéd piece.  Turn it over, iron and top stitch (Step 2 of Mo Bedell's instructions).
  5. Using Mo Bedell's instructions (Steps 7-10) sew the strap and library card pockets.  Leave the ends unfinished as they will be disappearing inside your lining later.
  6. Place your pocket on the right side of one piece of the 14"x14" outer fabric and baste 1/4" from the edge around the three sides of the pocket.
  7. With right sides together (pocket on the inside) sew the two 14"x14" pieces of outer fabric together to form a bag shape (don't worry about finishing seams neatly as they will be disappearing inside the lining later too).  Do the same with the liner fabric.
  8. Using Mo Bedell's instructions fold the bottom corners of the bag outer bag and sew 1.5 inches from the corner.  Repeat with the liner.  If these instructions make no sense, have a good look at Steps 4 and 5 of Mo's instructions.  The main difference is that I don't sew a French seam, because I am lining this bag.  I also used my pinking shears to cut off the excess fabric on the corners.
  9. Turn your outer bag right side out.  Pin the straps in place.  Take care doing this so that you have them the right way around, the pockets on the correct side and don't have a twist in the strap.  Slide the outer bag and strap inside the lining bag.  Line up the seams and pin.
  10. Sew around the edge of the bag.  Leave a 4-5" opening on the back of the bag for turning the bag the right side out. 
  11. Turn the bag the right way out through the opening.  Press the top edge of the bag neatly and top stitch all the way around.  This will seal the entire top edge of the bag, and also help to secure the straps.  
I'm not sure how much sense these instructions make, but if you reference Mo Bedell's tutorial and Ikatbag's tutorials it should be fairly straight forward.
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Tuesday, 24 September 2013

Labels, Labels Everywhere

Labels are brilliant.  They tell you what is inside something without having to open it.  They also take the mystery out of the contents of my pantry cupboards.  Much better than having to smell it, touch it, or taste it to figure out what the heck is in the mystery container.

I've got two favourite kinds of labels. The first are the permanent ones.



The second are the temporary labels - like you put on leftovers.



The temporary ones are easy.  Grab a role of Washi Tape, stick a piece on your container, write on it with a marker pen.  When you're done with the contents of the container, just peel off the tape and throw it away.  I use Washi Tape labels on all my leftovers.  They stay on in the freezer, and peel of easily afterwards.  Plus they add a bit of colour, which is always nice.


The permanent labels are a little more complicated, but not much.  I usually use PowerPoint to create my labels.  The thing that always takes me the longest, is choosing a colour that looks great once I print it.  I'm always creating fabulous labels, printing them, then realising the colours are too dark, or not what I was expecting.  Once I have the perfect colour, font, size and layout, I cut my labels and run them through the laminator.  I usually attach them using double sided tape.  Lately I have had more success using clear adhesive film to cover and stick labels to containers.  It doesn't tend to peel off as much as the double sided tape.




If you'd like a tutorial on making labels on your computer, there's a great one on iheartorganzing.

I've also experimented with stencils and spray paint.  I really like these because they are so bright, cheerful and clear.


I love how neat spaces look when everything is labelled.  I'm slowly working my way through cupboards, shelves and other storage spaces.
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Saturday, 21 September 2013

Pony Bead Bracelets

It's been a while since I last posted.  Once the girls went back to school, I fell into a lethargic heap and battled two colds in a row.  I finally got up this morning feeling a bit better.

Olivia has been badgering me to help her make some bracelets she can give to her friends.  She had some thin, silver elastic cord and a container of pony beads.  Long ago we had a bead kit with instructions for how to make a bracelet using these supplies, but we had managed to loose the instructions.  I did the usual Google search and found something vaguely similar which helped to get us started.

This is what we made:


It was actually very easy, once we had worked out how to thread the elastic correctly.  Here's how you can do it yourself.  You need a thin elastic cord and some pony beads.


Olivia wanted to make rows of matching beads, so we started by sorting the beads into groups of four.  We used a paint palette for holding the sorted beads.


The first step is to thread four beads onto the centre of your elastic.


You then thread the next four beads onto one end of the elastic.


Take the other end of the elastic and thread it through the four new beads (the blue ones in this picture) in the opposite direction.



Pull the elastic so that the beads line up together in their rows.  It's important not to pull the elastic too tight at this point.


Continue adding the four beads at a time and threading both elastic threads through in the opposite direction.  Don't pull the elastic too tight, or the bracelet will pull out of shape.  You can gently tighten the elastic at the end.


Once you have enough rows to fit your wrist (it shouldn't be stretched out when wearing) you can gently pull the elastic along the edges so remove the slack.  This is what the finished beading should look like.


To join the two ends of the bracelet together, thread the ends through the first row (the purple row in this picture) like this.


Gently pull the elastic until it is tight enough, tie a double knot, trim the ends, and thread the ends back inside the beads.


The finished bracelet.


Once Olivia got started she found this really easy to do.  It's definitely something a 7-8 year old could do without help.
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