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Everything has a story to tell me

not always with words.

Water feature three!

​So, to see how I got here, today I found these beautiful heavy glass bowls in the charity shop. If I had the right drill bit, I would have been tempted to drill holes in them and turn them into a cascade, but I haven’t and I’d only break them. Oh, and I don’t have a pump, just a bubbler.

Any way,  the bigger dish was too big, it would have channeled the water out of the concrete bowl. But the smaller one fitted fine, and the holes round the edge let me thread the tube for the bubbler into the centre.

I had then put in some rocks to raise the bowl up to the rim of the concrete bowl, and poured in some of my sea glass collection underneath, which is visible through the glass. Of course this all takes adjusting by trial and error, but finally I was happy and added in a traditional glass fishing float I was left by my mum. And then, the power of the sun and……..

Well, there wasn’t much sun about, because although yes, this is a shade garden, the solar panel is on top of the wall which creates the shade….only it was behind a cloud. When there’s a bot more sun, the bubble creates masses of bubbles which should both oxygenate the water and keep it moving to hopefully keep down algae, though I may try adding salt to the water which also helps. Or alcohol,  that helps too!

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Plump pumpkin project

I know there are lots of tutorials on how to make pumpkins, but hey, just like spiced lattes, I’m sure you can find room for another really good one!

So, start with a top I bought from a car boot sale for 25p.

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I gave it a good press, broke it down into it’s main parts and used different plates as templates to cut out as many circles as I could squeeze out of it. I would always recommend pressing the circles again before you use them, it just helps.

Start with a running stitch about 5mm in from the edge of the circle. (Do you like the circle frames, do ya?!) and go all the way round the edge. As a tip, if you’re using two different colours of thread, have two needles and thread one with one and one with the other, it’s a lot easier than having to thread and un-thread one needle.

At this point I put down my pumpkin body to make the stem. You can of course use a twig or piece of rope, but I like to use either a ribbon (this top came with some matching ones which helps a lot) or a strip of fabric cut from the same stash, or something contrasting. If you’ve ever liked rolling a ribbon into a tube and then wondered if you could use it for something, then this is for you – you start by rolling the ribbon round on itself, then keep rolling it round in a downward spiral. If you overlap as little of the ribbon as possible, you’ll create a thin tube for the tip, then as you work down you over lap more and more of the ribbon on itself, which makes the over all shape fatter. Pin it to hold it together, and then sew the layers together. I find as it gets wider, you can fit your finger into the ribbon tube which really helps to hold it as you work. When you decide it’s long enough, cast off your thread and feed a little piece of wire up inside. You can attach this with a few stitches, and to make this easier, bend it into a sharp, hairpin bend first so it doesn’t poke out when you’re finished.

To stuff the pumpkin, you can use wadding, but if you’re working with light cottons which can be slightly transparent, I’d recommend using scraps of the same fabric instead. I also use something like dried lentils or rice, as this adds weight to the finished thing. Pull the thread to draw up the circle, stuff the pumpkin and pull it all the way up until you can’t tighten it any further. I then like to do some long stitches from the underneath, round and back through the top to create the sections of the pumpkin.

I can then poke the wide end of the stalk into the opening and stitch through the opening and the stalk to fix on to the other, working round the wire. Don’t worry if there are raw edges and threads from the fabric edge showing, that’s part of the charm. With this one, I added one of the self covered buttons which came with the top, and then split another piece of the ribbon and stitched it into a loop, leaving the ends trailing to create the effect of vines. As a final touch, I heated the ends of the trails with a flame to melt them, and of course give the stalk a spiral shape to finish.

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I’m off to make some more of these, when I next blog I hope to show you what I do with them all.

Get serious with your stash….

If like me you collect fabrics because one day they might be useful for SOMETHING, especially clothes from carboot sales you know you’ll never wear, this is my guide on not how to drown in them.
1) get out your ironing board


You never have as much space as you want, so ironing boards make great work surfaces, but more importantly you should press everything. If you try and work with wrinkled fabric, you’ll always find it depressing and put things off, so get ready to press as you go.
2) Break down your purchases into usable pieces as soon as possible.


Cut down the seams and open up all the darts to maximise your workable fabric. Press these pieces once broken down.
3) cut those panels into project ready pieces.


I’m cutting these panels into circles to make fabric pumpkins (more on them later) so I’m using a plate as a template. Cut out your circles or squares etc and press again – these can be now put away ready, taking up far less space than whole garments and are ready to work with.


4) if the garment has buttons and ribbons to match, cut them off and keep with the cut pieces in ziplock bags so you don’t lose them. And if you’re really cunning, you may like to snip up the scraps to use as stuffing, a good tip when working with slightly transparent fabrics!

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Find out how to make this in my next blog!

Water feature part two

Water feature update – it seems to be working, and my trick of filling the inner section certainly worked as I was able to bale it out, reducing the weight and making it flexible enough to lift out. I am leaving it in the outer for longer, as the rubber buckets will slow the curing process, though removing the inner will help it speed up a bit now.

Pleased with the finish so far, it’s lovely and smooth, taking its surface from the smooth rubber. And I’ve discovered homebase do an even bigger size of bucket……..

Diy water feature

i’m having a go at a water feature, to go in my shade garden. I don’t know if it’s worked yet, but this is where I’ve got to so far.

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If you want to do this, you’ll need two flexi tubs, one which fits into the other, a bag of concrete, some oil, a collection of stones (it helps that we live near the beach) and running water, oh, and a spade and trowel. You will need a space to mix the concrete, or even another big tub!

I started by oiling the inside of the big tub, and the outside of the small tub, I dropped one inside the other and squidgged them about in it. My glass tutor recommended WD40, we’ll see if she was right in a bad way later…..

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Then I put an array of bigger stones into the bottom of the big tub. The idea is that these will stop the interior bucket squishing too much of the cement up and so thinning the base. They will also help make the concrete go further and look nice.

i’m not going to tell you how to mix concrete because I’m sure you can read the instructions as well as I can, but it’s a bit like making pasta with a spade.

First though, I laid out my other stones in size order (roughly) so I can grab what I need easily. Then began mixing…… And once it was mixed, I shoveled about a third into the big tub and smoothed it down, trying to insure no gaps.

Once the base is flat, as much as is reasonable to expect, I then put the smaller, red tub in. To weight it down and stop the pressure of the concrete deforming it too much, I filled it with water, which if I need to, I’m hoping I can bale out later.

Then I began trowling concrete down the sides between the tubs, pushing in the stones as an when, so they’ll be trapped on the outside of the finished vessel.

After the last of the concrete had gone in, I pushed in a ring of stones to create an interesting edge, and there we go. I used 25kg of concrete, and I feel I could have used maybe a half a bag more, so there is a risk that the finished vessel won’t be deep enough, but this is all part of the learning process.

nothing to do now but clear up, cover the whole thing with plastic to protect from rain, and leave it to cure. As it’s now raining, I’m not going to try unmolding for three days, as wet weather slows the process. I’m guessing that even then, the rubber tubs will slow things down too, so will probably leave it a day out of the mold too. Unless it all goes a bit Pete Tong……..

The kitchen begins

It’s been a long time since I wrote, which I’m blaming on two things – having a baby and moving house. Now that both amazing things have happened, I have a huge project to work on – because the house – and almost no time to do it – because the baby.

However, this is blog about making stuff which isn’t babies, so onto my first and largest project.

Our new house has no kitchen on the ground floor. It’s a three storey Victorian Town house, and the previous owners were using the ground floor as a business, so when we moved in there was nothing at all on the ground floor where you’d like to find a kitchen. While this is odd, we do have a kitchen on the first floor, which although not ideal does mean I can work on the new kitchen without the pressure of not having a kitchen while I’m doing it. This is a good thing, because the baby.

We also don’t have much of a budget – because the baby – so I’m trying to get the best quality kitchen I can in the most economic way I can. I have had to admit defeat and ordered three units from a cabinet maker, which will come unpainted for me to finish, but the rest I am trying to upcycle and source myself.

I found three pieces on eBay, which were taken out of a much bigger and more expensive kitchen than I can afford, and the first one I’ve finished is a large plate rack.

The Plate rack had been stored in a barn, and the top section was suffering from a bit of damp and dirt.

As well as that, it was very heavy as it’s mostly oak, and a bit over powering, so I decided to cut the top section off, to stop the damp spreading and to lighten it all up a bit.

I took all the plate rods (not sure what else you call them?) out, then copied the curved detail from the lower section to give the top shelf some shape. As you can see, it took me a while to work it out, so if like me you have several ideas, make sure you mark the one you want clearly enough so you cut the right line! I finally simplified it down and got out my new toy, a black and decker Jigsaw (which I love.) And zip – there is is, cut down to size.

I want to keep the detail to the inside, as the kitchen space we have is not large and I don’t want to over power it. We do have a diner space too, which means I can spread my old kitchen contence between two room, but even so. If you want to see my pintrest board with my mood board for the project, this is a link here.

First of all I used Rustoleum chalk paint in clotted cream to paint the whole thing, giving it two coats and then sanding back. I have bought a bundle of retro printed napkins, all of them using advertising images from French and American magazines from the 1930’s-1950’s, and these are the pattern element I’m using. Because life is short and I only have little bursts of time to work on this, I am sticking them randomly onto the back of the units, over lapping and then sanding some back to create a weathered feel. I’m thinking of the walls you see in Mediterranean villages, with years of posters layered up and peeling in the sun.

Once they’re been glued in with my pva and water glue, I waxed the outside of the cabinet and then varnished the inside. I use floor varnish and give it two coats minimum, which means it can be wiped clean in the future. Once it’s all dry, I put the staves back in (Ahh, staves, that’s a better word) and replaced the old cup hooks with new, thicker ones – and it’s done.

plate-rack-finished

Sea foam and pebbles – felting tutorial.

I’ve recently been experimenting with felt, making both three dimensional objects and fabrics. In this tutorial I bring together both to create a wrap inspired by my new costal home.IMG_3038

To make something like this, you will need some wool tops, wool that has been washed and dyed and is ready for spinning or felting. I get a lot of mine from Wingham wool here , but there are plenty of places to choose from. I bought a skien of mixed tones of deep blues and greys, and a selection of earthy tones to create the beach. As well as your chosen wool you’ll need two lengths of bubble wrap as long as your work space (at least 1.8 m) some dress net the same length and/or painter’s plastic sheeting, something to roll it all around ( I use an old rolling pin but pool noodles are popular) natural or olive oil soap, a spray bottle and some old tights to use a ties. I also used dry felting needles and a block to make the 3d elements. Old towels and a cover to keep your work surface dry are also required, and ideally a body form or dress makers dummy. You don’t need an expensive one, a shop display torso with no stand cost me £17 on ebay.

  1. The first stage is to lay our your yarn on top of your first sheet of bubble wrap. I tend to lay this bubbles down, so you’re laying out on a smooth surface. The edge furthest from me is the shore, so to build this I took smaller pieces of the sandy/earthy colours and laid them out. Try and work in layers, with the strands going left to right then up and down then right to left, but it’s not essential to worry too much. Break off small pinches and try and lay each in a different direction to the one underneath. I also roll some very loosely into balls and drop them in. Try and have some pictures of a sea shore pinned up around to help you get the feel of a beach, and don’t try and be too regular in your placements. Then the sea – for this I pulled longer strands of blues, greys and greens and sort of bent them into wave shapes before adding them in, still trying to work in layers that go in different directions. The white foam pieces I added last, so that they gave definition to the shore and a sense of breaking waves. Don’t worry too much about the odd hole, indeed, I often introduce them towards the lower edge of the fabric as the felt will still hold together fine and you can get some beautiful cobweb effects that way. Be bold!

  2. Now you’re ready to start felting.

    Cover the wool with your dress net to prevent the fibres sticking to your hands and everything else, then fill your spray bottle with the hottest water you and it can take, and a dash of washing up liquid. Spray the wool through the net to get it wet – it needs to be wet through but not pouring water onto the floor, then wet your bar of soap and rub this gently through the net. Massage the wet wool with your hands trying not to dislodge the pattern but also press out air bubbles and look for any pockets of dry wool. This is the start of the felting process.

3. Rolling – nobody likes it but this is how you turn wool into felt.

Remove the net carefully, making sure none of your fibres are pulled out with it. You can replace it and use it when rolling, but I like to replace it with the thin painter’s plastic. Then put your second piece of bubble wrap on top to make a sandwich, putting this one bubbles down too. Then roll it round your rolling pin and secure with the old tights or rubber bands. Place a towel on your work surface both to help mop up water and to add more texture, and roll your work back and forth for about five minutes.

4. Then unroll and check your work – IMG_3016

Don’t worry about the impression of the bubbles, that will vanish naturally. Lift your work carefully and flip it over, then re-wrap in the same way and roll again for another five minutes. You will probably need to repeat this a third time, then do a pinch test. This is just where you pinch a piece of fabric between forefinger and thumb and lift it off the wet bubble wrap – it’s ready when the whole thing begins to lift, not just the few hairs you’re holding. I always feel this is when it looks the least interesting, as after rolling it’s very flat and thin looking, but don’t worry, the next stage is ‘fulling’ which changes all that.

5. The easiest place to full the work is a sink with a draining board.

Gather up your fabric and run a bowl of very hot water in the sink. Pick up the fabric and throw it as hard as you like onto the draining board. Take our your anger on it, and throw it about 30 times. Then dunk it in the hot water to start washing out the soap, then squeeze it out gently. I will then rub the fabric against the ridges on the draining board, then rub the fabric onto itself between my hands, then throw it a few more times. Check all the time that it’s not felting to itself and is still basically a flat piece. Wash it again in clean cold water, then clean hot water. If soap is still coming our, add a little white vinegar to the wash and soak the fabric for a few minutes. Gently squeeze out the last wash and press the fabric on the wool setting of a steam iron.

6. Shaping – drape the fabric on the mannequin.

There are no set rules about this. Move the fabric so you like the way it sits, I turn the top edge back at the neck to create a lapel. To make it fit better at the back neck, I fold the fabric into pleats. Traditionally if you were making a garment you might use vertical pleats, but with this I felt the horizontal pleats worked better and were more in keeping with the feel of the piece. When you’re happy with the pleats, pin them – pins may rust BTW as the fabric is wet, but as long as you take them out the next day this won’t be a problem, just don’t leave them in longer than that. I also pull the top edge of the collar section between my fingers to stretch it, moving it out from the neck at the top to make it more comfortable to wear. When you’re happy with how it’s hanging, leave it to dry over night stood on the towel to catch the drips.

7. Now make the pebbles.

There are loads of tutorials on dry or needle felting online and I’m going to assume you know enough about the basic technique not to need me to explain here. Make as many pebbles as you want, but try and have an odd number when you’re done as aesthetically that always looks better. Work them until they’re dense and smooth, but don’t work the underside as you need the fluff left in place there to attach them to the wrap.

8. The next day, when the wrap is dry, pin the pebbles into place. Take some time to be sure you’re happy with how they look, then take the wrap off the stand.

Start by working round the edge of each pebble, pushing the fibres through to the back of the wrap. Then turn the wrap over and you should see an outline of the pebble in fluff. The felt the rest of the pebble, working in a spiral from the outer edge to the centre. This should be enough to fix each pebble in place, give it a tweak to make sure and keep felting until you’re happy. Using the same method felt through your pleats, removing the pins first, to fix the pleats in place. When you’re done, the wrap is finished.

You can use this method to add all sorts of 3-d details – if you like needle felting you could also make sea shells and starfish for the shore, and even fish swimming in the sea. On other wraps this is how you can attach 3d flower, and if you are limited on workspace, you can make three or more sections of fabric, build them up on the stand in this way and them felt them together to create more extravagant pieces.

If you’d like to buy my work, please look at my ETSY shop here  and follow this blog for more tips and projects. Caring is haring, so if you’ve enjoyed this, please re-blog or share it on social media, if nothing else it’s good karma! Feel free to ask my any questions about this or any of my posts in the comments box below, or just say hi!

Simple tulle Christmas garlands

This is another pretty simple but effective looking Christmas decoration idea. Have you ever seen those pre-cut rolls of tulle that are usually sold for wedding decorations? They’re about 6 inches wide and 100 yards long and pretty cheap, at around £5 (in the UK anyway) a roll, and available in a huge range of colours? Well, this idea uses one of those to make either room garlands or Christmas wreathes, and if you can hand sew to a basic level they are pretty easy to make.Finished wreath

You will need a roll of tulle in your chosen colours – this year I’m doing everything in a soft sage green with pastel pinks, but you could just as easily get pine green, rich red or even metallic gold or silver. You will also need a long needle, I use doll making ones which you can buy at craft shops for around £1 each, and some thread to match. You will need other decorative elements to finish each, I’m using cheap paper pull bows I bought from ebay, and some of my yarn covered Christmas baubles, but of course you can use anything from traditional cinnamon sticks and dried orange slices, to glitzy glitter pom-poms and fairy lights.

You need a long length of sewing thread – thread your needle and double it up so it’s extra strong. The longer the length, the more you can do in one go, but the more it can tangle and knot, so you’ll have to work out which length is best for you by trial and error.

You start by working your needle through the centre of the ribbon of tulle, pushing as much as you can onto the needle. When the needle is full, draw the thread though the bunched up tulle and then fix it in place by doing a couple of back stitches. The back stitching is important, if you don’t fix the frill then when you come to finish, the thread might pull loose and your hard work will be undone.

I got into a rhythm and held the roll in my left hand while working the needle through with my right, which meant things went faster, though I did still occasionally stab my thumb joint! I also found that if I started moving my needle up to the top edge of the tulle, then down again to the bottom, this gave my garland a more uneven finish which I really liked.

When you’ve sewn as much of the roll as you want, or indeed reach the end, cast off by doing a number of back stitches and tie off and cut your thread. You can then add ribbons and bows or whatever you want to your garland, and hang it up.

swags and garlands

I made about three of these, which turned out to be around 30 yards each, which was plenty to do my three hearths. I added some simpler one made from tulle ribbons with bows spaced along them. But I really wanted to make my wreath, so here’s how I did it.

Use a cheap wire wreath frame, I used a 12 inch size, and first wrap it with some tulle to form a base. I then placed a length of tulle garland – this is about half a full roll, on the base to make sure it reach all the way round.

swag sewn to wreathYou then sew the garland onto the base by using your long needle and thread and stitching right through the garland into the wreath and out again. It doesn’t take long! You could always use two or more in co-ordinating colours, and once you have your base, you can really let your imagination go wild.

 

As I was using my yarn wrapped baubles, I took a length of the same yarn I’d used for them and wrapped it around the wreath as if it was tinsel. I then used a length of tulle to make a soft, hazy ribbon and then attached a cluster of baubles to hang underneath – one I bought in a charity shop for a pound and the rest I’d made. Finally I added a pull bow to cover the join, but I let the yarn strands dangle as I felt it added a nice, informal feel. You could have pieces hanging inside the centre of the wreath, use shop bought baubles and whatever decorations you’re into, it’s a quick and easy base which has a lovely, soft, smoky feel which is a great back drop to Christmas bling. White with lots of sparkly bits would look really wintery, while gold and red would be luxurious, while pine green and earth tones would be a lovely, natural look.

Enjoy!

Finished wreath

Dead easy Christmas make

Moving house has eaten up a lot of the last few months and still continues to do so, but I thought I would share a little easy Christmas decoration make by way of a seasonal gift.

group of ballsWhen planning Christmas decore, and I do, I often like to focus on texture. I wanted to use a colour theme of forest green with frosted pastel accents, and to add in lots of soft, fuzzy, warm textures. With this in mind I came up with these dead easy to make christmas baubles, both to hang on the tree and round the room, and to use in floral displays with ever green fronds of pine etc. They really are simple, and here’s how you do them.

One:  All you need is some yarn in the colours you’ve chosen, and a bauble.

materialsChoose one that fits in with your colour schemes as the idea is a little of it peeps through the yarn wrapping to add a subtle glitter. I have chosen a ribbon yarn for this one which is space dyed in the shades of pink with a hint of green I’m using. This is a great way of using up all those funky eyelash yarns that you bought but then can’t quite work out what to make into, other than yet another scarf.

 

starting to wrapWhat I like about this is that you don’t use glue at all. This means you don’t get sticky fingers, and also you can always unwrap the balls later and re-use.

Wrap the yarn around the top to anchor it, then begin to wrap the yarn round the ball. It might be a bit slippy at first, especially if you have a shiny ball like this, but pull the yarn tight, go slow and it will soon build up. The more layers you build up, the easier they will hold to the ball and the faster you can go.

wrapping the ballKeep wrapping, trying all the time to wrap the yarn through each ‘hole’, if you see what I mean. Keep turning the ball and you can easily get the yarn to cover all the surface. (Of course, you can use glue or even a strip of double sided tape to help keep it in place, which is good if you’re doing this with kids.)

 

 

finish the stringWhen you’ve wrapped all the ball like this, cut the yarn leaving about 20 cm loose. To finish off I pull the loose end of yarn through the wrapping near the top of the ball. Here I’m using tweezers, but you can fiddle it through with your fingers, or thread the yarn through a wide eyed needle, or even use a hair pin like a needle.

 

pulling the loop throughI then pull a loop of yarn through the eye of the ball – do I mean eye? Well, the hanging loop anyway – pull a loop through but don’t pull the yarn all the way through. You then thread the end of the yarn through this loop and pull. This secures the yarn and leaves you with a long tail you can use to make into a hanging loop for the tree or whatever.

 

 

finishing the loop

finished ballAnd there it is – the little gaps will catch the light but the yarn creates the soft, tailor made colour and surface I was after.

Any yarn can be used, I’ve also made some using soft and fluffy yarns which look really cute and snuggly.

 

 

pink fluffy

I hope you enjoy making these soft, tactile additions to your Christmas decor!

group of balls

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