Friday, 23 September 2016

Childhood Crafting: Sylvanian Families Furniture

As well as making felt fashions and lots of mini fake food for our Sylvanian Families when we were kids, we also decorated our homemade Sylvanian houses with handmade furniture. Here are some of the things I made for mine (recently rediscovered in a box in our attic).

Kitchen cabinets and an oven!

 

Shelves made from matchboxes, old tissue boxes and the trays from chocolate boxes; beds made from card with faux-woodgrain sticky back plastic headboards; mini cupcake cases for lampshades; off-cuts of carpet and fluffy fabric for doormats; a sofa made from tights packaging; and pillows made from scrap fabric sewn round cotton wool balls.


I think you would call this look "recycling box chic". I had a big box in the bottom of my wardrobe full of little cardboard boxes and other stuff I thought might come in handy for making stuff... and this is the sort of stuff it became.

The kitchen units are particularly adorable. The happy hours that must have gone into making them!

The counter-tops are made with off-cuts of vinyl flooring from my parents' DIY projects, and the cupboards are all decorated with faux woodgrain sticky back plastic.


The oven has an extractor hood (another bit of vinyl flooring) and cardboard hot plates on the hob (there were originally four, one seems to have fallen sometime in the past 25 years). The doorknobs are brass fasteners from the stationery department and the doors open and close.


The cabinet is made from an old toothpaste box, the drawers in the cabinet are made from two matchboxes stuck together...


... and there's a matching chopping board, too (made from a rectangle of vinyl covered in yet more sticky back plastic).


The kitchen sink is a little cardboard box lined with foil and sunk into the top of the cabinet. The foil looks quite thin (not like kitchen/baking foil), so I guess I must have saved it from something like a KitKat.


Who needs a store-bought dollshouse when you have a fancy kitchen like that?

Missed my earlier posts about this box of treasures? Click here to see my Sylvanian Families collection, and here to see the food and fashions we made for our Sylvanians when we were kids. 

Wednesday, 21 September 2016

100 Gift Wrapping Ideas, Part One: From Pompoms to Hydrangeas to Old Photo Negatives!

I recently set myself a challenge, to share 100 crafty gift wrapping ideas over the coming weeks and months. And... I've just completed the first 10 ideas! Hurrah!

collage of gift wrapping ideas

I know I'm only a little way through this challenge, but I'm really enjoying it so far and I hope you guys are too.

I've started with a plain, brown paper parcel each time. I love the simplicity of brown paper (it's a great blank canvas!) but you could use any plain gift wrap you fancy.

1. Pompoms.

gifts decorated with pompoms

Pompoms are awesome: so colourful, so fluffy, so fun!

Three large pompoms in a row look great (heck, just one large pompom would look great stuck to a small gift). With smaller pompoms, arrange them in a colourful line across your parcel or stick them at random. I just stuck pompoms to the top of my parcels, but you could stick them on the sides as well for ultimate fluffiness.

I used double-sided sticky tape to attach my pompoms. This is easy to use but it doesn't hold the pompoms very firmly - it'd be fine if, say, you were wrapping a gift and putting it on the breakfast table to be opened on a birthday morning, but not great if you were carrying a parcel to a birthday party and lost a bunch of pompoms along the way!

For a firmer hold, use craft glue (remember that wet glue might seep through the paper, so only use it for packages in boxes so the item inside won't get damaged). You could also make a string of pompoms to wrap around your gift (see the bottom right of the photo, above). Use a large, sharp sewing needle to thread lots of pompoms on a piece of embroidery thread then wrap the thread round and round the parcel, positioning the pompoms nicely.

2. Beads.

parcel decorated with wooden beads and yarn

This wrapping idea is super colourful, and the gift wrapping is actually a second (small) gift, as the beads can be kept and re-used once the parcel is opened.

String lots of large beads onto a long piece of yarn - yarn is perfect for this as the fibres help keep the beads in place. I love this extra fluffy yarn, it's a great colour and the fluffiness adds another interesting texture to the parcel.

Secure one end of the yarn to the bottom of the parcel with a piece of tape, then wind it round and round and round, positioning the beads so they sit along the top of the parcel only. Once you're happy with how it looks, cut the yarn and secure the end underneath the parcel with another piece of tape.

3. Lavender & Washi Tape.

gifts decorated with polkadot washi tape and lavender

Dried lavender stems cut back at the end of summer smell amazing and look lovely. You could also use this method to decorate gifts with other small cuttings from your garden.

I rescued some stems from this year's cuttings pile and trimmed them with scissors, laying them out across the parcels to plan my arrangement.

Tear strips of washi tape (I used a lovely pink polkadot design) and stick them to the parcel at various angles - leaving space to add the final piece of tape in a moment.

Arrange the lavender pieces, then carefully stick down the final piece of tape, pressing the tape flush around the stems to hold them firmly in place. 

4. Buttons.

parcels decorated with pastel buttons

This is a great way to wrap a gift for a crafty friend - you can never have too many buttons, right??

Buttons stick brilliantly with double sided tape. You could stick them at random across the parcel, or stick them in a row down the centre (like the row of pompoms).

For a really fancy look, mark out simple designs with small buttons (or big buttons on a large parcel). I chose a heart, but initials would also look great. Plan the button arrangement first, laying them out on your desk or a piece of paper then transferring them one by one to the top of the parcel and sticking them in place.

The double sided tape will leave a slightly sticky residue on the buttons, but they can be cleaned then re-used for more gift wrapping or other crafty projects.

5. Hydrangeas.

brown paper parcel with a hydrangea bloom as a gift topper

I have been slightly obsessed with our hydrangeas this year. They were such an eye-popping bright pink at the height of summer and now they're fading into these lovely, soft tones.

One hydrangea bloom makes for a spectacular gift topper. Cut a smallish bloom (one that you can lay on its side) with a few inches of stem. Position it on your parcel and stick it in place with a couple of strips of pretty washi tape.

three gifts decorated with hydrangea blooms

You can also use the larger blooms as gift toppers - they look amaaaaazing.

Cut the stem of a hydrangea bloom very short so it will sit flat on top of the parcel. Cut two long pieces of bakers twine (or other string). Tie the pieces of twine to the top of the hydrangea stem, at right angles from each other (the way hydrangea flowers grow out from the main stem makes it very easy to secure the twine). Place the bloom in the centre of the parcel and wrap the four ends of the wind around, knotting them securely underneath, then trim any excess twine.

Tip: set the parcel on its side as you tie the knots underneath, so you can keep two hands free for the knots and not squish the hydrangea beneath the parcel. Alternatively, get someone else to help out and hold the parcel as you secure the twine.

6. Painted Leaves.

simple parcels decorated with painted leaves

More nature-inspired gift-wrapping! I love the texture of the leaves and the crisp white shapes against the brown paper - though you can, of course, use any colour paint you want. You could also paint several smaller leaves and arrange them in a row, or use a marker to write a message on the painted leaf like a tag.

I used white acrylic craft paint to paint these leaves. I painted several coats on each side, leaving the leaves to dry between coats. The paint helps the leaves keep their shape but they're still quite delicate, so take care when working with them.

Position the leaves on top of your parcels and attach them by wrapping round and round with white sewing thread, creating a subtle stripey effect. For leaves without stems, you could alternatively use double-sided tape or craft glue to attach the leaves - but bear in mind the leaf's 3D shape will mean only parts of the leaf will be touching the paper, so make sure to add your adhesive at those points.

7. Feathers. 

parcel decorated with colourful craft feathers

Bright feathers from the kids craft section are great for quick, easy, colourful gift wrapping.

Use a dab of craft glue to hold each feather in place. You could choose feathers that are all the same colour to co-ordinate with colourful gift wrap, or mix and match colours. The bigger your parcel, the more feathers you can add.

8. Woven Threads. 

parcel wrapped with a grid of woven threads

This idea is a bit more subtle than the others but I kind of love it?

For this look, you'll need some embroidery thread (or yarn or narrow ribbons). I used two colours but you could use all one colour or combine lots of different shades (e.g. if you're using bits of yarn or thread left over from other projects).

Cut a length of thread and tie it horizontally across the parcel, with the knot hidden underneath. Trim any excess thread and secure the knot in place with a piece of sticky tape. Repeat to create several horizontal lines across the parcel. If you're using ribbon, secure each end of the ribbon with sticky tape instead of knotting it so the ribbon lies totally flat against the parcel.

Then repeat this process with the second colour, creating vertical lines. This time, weave the thread between the horizontal threads (over, under, over, under, and so on) before securing it. 

9. Yarn. 

gifts wrapped with bright and colourful yarn scraps

This is a really fun way to use up leftover yarn from your knitting and crochet projects!

I used scraps left over from making patchwork blankets. I selected some colours that went together, then tied lots of pieces around these small parcels to form a band of colour. For bigger parcels, just use longer pieces of yarn.

You can slide the yarn along the parcel, so it's easy to add colours to the design until you're happy with it. Position the yarn so it's all in a neat block in the centre of the package then trim any excess yarn so the underneath of the parcel is nice and neat. You may also want to add a bit of sticky tape to the bottom of the parcel to hold the strands in place if you'll be transporting the parcel.

10. Photo Negatives. 

parcel decorated with old photo negatives

Do you have a box of old photo negatives from the days before digital cameras? Strips of negatives from family Christmases, summers holidays and other special memories make quirky and nostalgic gift toppers.

Cut two long pieces of embroidery thread then use a large sewing needle to thread them through the holes along the edges of the strip. You only need one piece of thread on each side, but I decided to add a second colour for extra detail. Once your thread is nice and neat, use the excess thread at each end to tie the negatives to your parcel, knotting them securely then trimming any loose threads. You could attach one or two strips, or a whole row for a striped look.

Once the parcel is opened, you can all have fun holding the film up to the light to see the images and explaining to any kids in the vicinity what these strange little dark pictures are and how you all used to take your family snaps with this thing called "film" back in the day.


And now... my challenge continues! You can follow along on my Instagram, Twitter and Facebook. I'm sharing the gift wrapping ideas under the hashtag #100giftwrappingideas and will be blogging about the ideas in batches of 10 as I work my way up to 100.

You'll also find lots of creative gift wrapping ideas in my archive of free crafty tutorials (scroll down to the bottom of the page, you'll find card and gift wrap ideas below the Christmas tutorials).

100 Gift Wrapping Ideas: Part One

Monday, 19 September 2016

Free Christmas Embroidery Pattern: Stitch a Snow Globe!

If you've been reading my blog for a while - or if you've visited my archive of free crafty tutorials lately - you might remember the felt snow globe ornament tutorial I shared a few years ago.

When I was working on that I thought "ooh, this would make a lovely embroidery pattern, too!"... and it's only taken three years to get it stitched and shared on my blog! Hurrah! Better late than never, right??

snow globe embroidery

You'll find the free pattern at the bottom of this post. 

 snow globe embroidery

Here's how I stitched my snow globe...

I traced the pattern (excluding the snowflakes) onto a piece of white tissue paper with a fine black pen. I stretched a piece of blue felt in an embroidery hoop and used large tacking stitches to hold the pattern in place in the centre of the felt.

stitching a snow globe using a tissue paper pattern

Following the lines of the pattern, I used half strands of white embroidery thread (floss) and backstitch to embroider the design. Remember to use small stitches when you sew round curves!

When I'd finished stitching, I removed the tacking threads and carefully tore away the tissue paper.

snow globe embroidery in progress

Then I filled in the sky with snowflakes, creating each snowflake from four overlapping stitches.

embroidering snow flakes

Ta-DA! One embroidered snow globe.

finished snow globe embroidery

This embroidery pattern is for non commercial use only: you can use it to stitch as many snow globes as you want for yourself or as gifts, but please don't make any for sale. You may borrow a few photos if you want to blog about this project, but remember to credit me and link back to the original source, and do not reproduce my entire post or share the pattern itself on your site. Thanks!

Click here to view the pattern, then print it at 100%. I've included a scale line so you can see if your pattern has printed out at the "correct" size, but of course you can enlarge or reduce the pattern slightly if you prefer.

free snow globe embroidery pattern

You could also sew a cross stitch snow globe...

cross stitch snowglobe felt ornament

... or make felt snow globe ornaments!

felt snow globe Christmas ornaments

For even more Christmas sewing projects, click here to visit my archive of free craft tutorials.

free snowglobe embroidery pattern

Friday, 16 September 2016

A Trip to Seville: The Cathedral

One of the highlights of our trip to Seville a couple of years ago was the gothic Cathedral.

 
 
 

It's a beautiful building - and a huge one!

The story goes that the local clergy said "let us build a church so beautiful and so grand that those who see it finished will think we are mad". The end result is the third-largest church in the world and it impresses with scale and detail. I've visited a lot of churches and cathedrals over the years but I've never been anywhere quite like this.

 
 
 
 
 

Here's me and my mum by one of the huge doors:

 

The Cathedral was built on the site of a former mosque, and the minaret was converted into a bell tower. The tower - know locally as La Giralda ("she who turns"), after the weather vane at its top - can be spotted from all over the city.

 

There's a replica of the weather vane in the courtyard as you enter the Cathedral:


The outside of the building is pretty amazing, but it's well worth paying to go inside - there's just so much to see, it is a really special space.

We spent ages exploring the (vast! spectacular!) interior of the Cathedral and dropping our jaws at all the treasures and incredible craftsmanship, then we climbed the bell tower...


... for wonderful views over the rest of the building...


... and out over the city.


It's a long climb, but a gentle one and - when we visited, at least - a slow one as it's so busy. It's also it's quite a wide space so doesn't feel claustrophobic in the slightest (unlike some towers I have climbed!!).

And of course, once you've climbed to the top and back down you'll definitely deserve to treat yourself to a delicious coffee or an ice cream from one of Seville's many cafes.

Planning a trip to Seville? You might also enjoy my posts about the Mushrooms, the Plaza de España, and the Alcázar.

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