Friday, 28 September 2012

Cath Kidston 'Make Your Dream Room in a Shoebox' Competition Entry

Oh friends, why oh why do I give myself these challenges?! When I spotted on the Cath Kidston website early last week that they were holding a challenge to create your dream room in a shoebox, well, it felt like I couldn't not enter. Competitions where you get to make something in floral in a tiny scale don't come along very often, after all! Never mind that my to-do list was growing by the day and that I started a new job this week, I set about finding myself a shoe box and getting stuck in. The results are not to the standard and detail I usually like to employ in these projects, but here is my entry in any case.

Despite not leaving myself very much time I always love these sorts of projects, using the initial ideas I jot down and then adding others in as the scene develops and starts to tell its own story. The little china dog turns up in many of my miniature projects, but think he'll find his final home in that 1940s house I hope to create one day. I can see him with a new sign around his neck that reads, 'Wot no bananas!'

And I'll definitely be making more mini teepees in the future!

Wednesday, 26 September 2012

A Very Special Birthday Tea Party in Miniature

Three years ago in June, it was my nan's 80th birthday, and all of the family gathered together to celebrate. I nervously handed over a very special handmade present, carefully wrapped and topped with blue ribbon...

Just before Nan opened her gift I turned it round for her, and she saw this inside...

...A very special 80th birthday tea party was waiting within! 

Every item in the room box has been collected or handmade, and every piece symbolises something of significance in my nan's life. On the tea table is a pork pie because my Grandpa was a butcher by trade, his beloved pipe and favourite brand of Swan Vesta matches, as well as a box of Bird's Custard - the packaging from the decade my grandparents met - because it was his favourite custard brand. I painted the tea set the same colour as the one my mum remembers as a child. A copy of Betty's Paper sits on the left chair, perfect for the lady of the same name. The tea cosy was made from a pair of my grandpa's favourite corduroy trousers! My nan is a huge fan of a good old cup of tea, so I knew it needed to feature heavily in the scene... now you know where I get it from!

And can you see who's sitting on the chair?

One of my special felt hats - slightly wonky because it's the first I ever made. On the wall are photos from my parents' wedding, a family photo from when I was a toddler, and on the right, African elephants. My uncle and his partner lived out in South Africa for a couple of years, and Nan had a wonderful time when she went to visit. 

Birthday cards on the mantelpiece, and a photo of my young mum and uncle above, with a photo of my parents propped up there. The standard lamp to the left was in my childhood doll's house, and has been re-covered in fabric from my mum's cousin's bridesmaid's dress from Mum's wedding. 

I have never been entirely happy with the way the flames of the fire turned out - I would have liked them to look more realistic - but the potential for special effects was limited in this case!

It wouldn't be a birthday without a box of Quality Street chocolates. On the shelf is a duck. I love ducks and Nan used to take me to feed them when I was small. She lives by the sea in North Wales, and we used to collect shells together too, so they also had to be included. To the right of the shelf is a picture of mini me with my nan and her brother at her wedding anniversary. I couldn't find any photo frames to fit so making them was quite an experiment.

You may recognise this hat as one of the two I made as my celebration of the Queen's Jubilee this year. I gave it to my nan for her birthday in June to add to this scene, as she is the only one in the family to have been alive when our queen was crowned! The toy car is because my uncle and brother are both car-mad, and my brother owns a white VW Scirocco - his pride and joy. One of my favourite places to visit when I go to Wales is the Ffestiniog Steam Railway, one of my Grandpa's favourite haunts, so a book about steam trains had to be one of the birthday gifts.

A rather scary toby jug still sits in my nan's living room to this day, so here's my amused nod to it here! Winnie the Pooh and The Wind in the Willows are there because I now own copies of each from the 1920s, which belonged to my nan's father. 

A stunning Victorian grandfather clock chimes out every hour in my nan's living room and the whole family are so fond of it, so a grandfather clock stands in this room, too. At its foot is a carpet bag (again made from those corduroy trousers), a familiar-looking hat, a chimney sweep's brush, a black umbrella and a book. Whenever I visited Wales as a child I would watch Mary Poppins with my nan and found it utterly magical; it's still one of my favourites today. Nan has always appreciated literature and encourages my interest in it, so the Mad Hatter's top hat adds the final touch here. 

My favourite photo of my grandparents. My grandpa died when I was nine but I treasure so many happy memories of him, and the full-size version of this photo lives in my purse. I love how happy they look here. 

Nan has a table just like this one. She taught me to sew on a Victorian Singer sewing machine - a genius idea because a child can use the wheel to control the speed, making learning less scary. We often write letters to each other so here are a pile waiting to be read, and a cheeky bottle of her favourite ginger wine waits for later! 

My nan's brother's family are very talented musically, so the violin and sheet music represent this. 

The tortoise under the table? My mum and her cousins each had a pet tortoise when they were small - Topsy could apparently move surprisingly quickly when she wanted to!

There's the other one, hoping for cake, clearly. 

Birthday parcels wait to be unwrapped. The cushion is made from the fabric of a chair that sits in my nan's sitting room. Don't worry, I didn't cut a square out of it when she wasn't looking. 

A cheeky mouse running up the clock and a working electric light complete the scene.

I haven't been able to visit Wales for a couple of years so I was so pleased to finally make it over there last weekend and snap some photos to show you! It was such an exciting project to work on, with the whole family contributing ideas and memories for me to turn into items, and my brother made the box itself.

 I'm working on a smaller scale room scene at the moment, so hope to be able to share it with you next week.

If you could capture any scene in miniature, what would you choose? 

Monday, 24 September 2012

Lavender Shortbread Recipe

If you're keen to hang onto the memories of summer (eh? what summer?) or just fancy making use of the last of your lavender flowers from the garden, lavender shortbread always goes down well, I find. It's not at all flowery or over-powering, in fact it's more like a delicate after-taste, and this buttery recipe is the one that convinced me that shortbread is far from dry and boring.

You will need:

125g caster sugar
350g butter, room temp.
4 tablespoons icing sugar, sifted
4g fresh chopped lavender
325g plain flour
Pinch of salt
65g cornflour

Cream together the butter, caster sugar and icing sugar until light and fluffy (this is always my favourite bit because the transformation is magical!) Next, mix in the lavender. 

Mix the flour, cornflour and salt, add into the butter mixture and combine together. Wrap the dough in clingfilm and pop in the fridge to firm up for around an hour. 

Preheat the oven to 180C. Forget the rolling pin - pop your dough onto a greased flat baking tray and flatten it using your fingers so it forms a round, about 5-7mm thick. Use a fork or a finger to mark round the edges, or make any pattern you wish.

Pop in the oven for 15-20 minutes, or until your shortbread is beginning to look golden. 

Leave it to cool for half an hour before cutting into individual biscuits. You could sprinkle some caster sugar and extra lavender on for decoration.

These biscuits make a great offering for an afternoon tea party, posh snack with a cuppa in front of the telly, or a present for someone lovely.

Have a sweet day,

Friday, 21 September 2012

Craft Book Vlog: Super Super Cute Crochet

Join me as I simultaneously laugh at and glomp all over this bizarrely charming latest craft book to be added to my collection...

If you can't view the video you can watch it on my YouTube channel here.

Since making this video I have popped on Amazon to read others' reviews of this title (buy it here), and notice some people comment that they had a few difficulties with making some of the book's patterns work properly, so you may want to bear this in mind if you're not an experienced crocheter.

How to Make Jewellery with Tatty Devine, mentioned in the vlog, is available from The Book People (£3.99) and Amazon (£9.09).

Happy Friday me dears, I'm taking Beatrix to Wales for some beach time this weekend, and will be back on Monday.

Wednesday, 19 September 2012

Nautical Series Part 2: Smash Book

Arrrr, me hearties, I am back with the second in my Nautical Series. (First post here). 

I decided to gather all sorts of seaworthy ideas and pop them into my smash book to make a themed page. Smash booking is already becoming an exciting new craft for me because I have come to realise lately that every craft or art I do is pretty precise, whether it be working with miniatures, embroidery, knitting or sewing. One slipped stitch or lapse in concentration and it's often all over! Even when writing - although writing can be a very free artform - I tend to spend a long time choosing that perfect phrase to describe that situation.

So my smash book allows me to just get my ideas on a page, to stick them in haphazardly without worrying about doing it wrong, or being neat, and to just enjoy the process. It feels like getting back to the rawness of creativity.  

I'm sure this page will help spawn ideas for the rest of my nautical series too!

Have you tried smash booking yet? This video explains things pretty well if you're wondering exactly what it is:


I'm off to drink copious amounts of rum walk the plank,

Ta ta!

Monday, 17 September 2012

Snapshots of Life Recently

Clockwise: * First blackberries of the year (these went in a pie) * My cousin's lovely handmade wedding, complete with Zimbabwean bunting and Northumbrian tartan (and my first wedding) *  Poppies are so emotive yet delicate and vibrant * An ancient oak tree snapped on a dog walk *

Clockwise: * Fairytale-like mushrooms hiding in the undergrowth * A beautiful sunny tree avenue where I like to go to think and write * Amber with marigolds * Mint iced mocha and a good book *

Clockwise: * Alfie is always happy to pose * An embroidered Beatrix card I made for my parents' wedding anniversary (not cross stitch this time!) * Pressed flowers and washi tape - a fun combination * Making a game pie for Pretty Nostalgic magazine (and wearing a jumper in a vain attempt to pretend it was Autumn at the time) * 

Friday, 14 September 2012

Cross Stitching My Way to Cool

...To adapt a quote from Matt Smith's Dr Who there.

Eleven year olds are tricky beings. Especially girls who are no longer into toys but are not yet into make up and clothes (thank goodness). Add in the fact that my niece is a sporty tomboy with a penchant for pink and suddenly birthday gifts start to cause a few problems. Luckily Georgia does quite definitely like two things: Super Mario and making things. So I thought I'd combine the two, make her a Yoshi card, then give her a hamper of art supplies to get stuck into for her gift. I actually give her art supplies every year, but this time they're getting a little more sophisticated, to the point where I was buying double of everything so I can play too!

This is the first cross stitch I have done... well, since... ever. As you know I've been doing a lot of embroidery lately but cross stitch kept reminding me of cottage scenes, simpering kittens and poppies. Not true, I know, but I needed to get past my own associations. So I decided that cross stitch is cool, hopped on and got to work. It was really satisfying watching the design come together over an evening.

Next, continuing the theme of the gift I got out my new alphabet ink stamps (she's getting a set too!) to add my own stamp (ahem) to the envelope and the inside of the card. Together with some fun washi tape and embellishments recycled from my own birthday cards I was pretty pleased with the results.

It's not about the objects themselves. Nothing says 'I love you' more than the gift of time and care; something any crafter knows only too well. And I may be able to keep the title of 'cool aunt' for just a little bit longer...

Happy Friday,