Crafting from Scraps – my life…

It occurs that crafting from scraps is a bit of a metaphor for my every day life. Now that sounds a bit Oliver Twist miserable and I don’t mean it that way – I’m very happy but I’m always trying to stretch things a bit further, get a bit of extra life out of things etc .

Along these lines, I regularly participate in surveys for a few companies and I’m also part of Bzzagent which means that I get to try products for free and then tell people about them as part of word of mouth marketing. It gives me a chance to try out products before I buy and I like to share so I thought I’d tell you about the latest campaign for Activia Pouring Yoghurt. With the campaign, you get a voucher for a free box and I chose to go and pick up the vanilla flavour. I tried it on cereal in the morning and it was very tasty and creamy. I think I used a bit too much in relation to the cereal the first time as I poured it as though it was milk and that meant that I had a lot of yoghurt left at the end of the cereal but the next day I got the balance right. I don’t actually like milk which means that I never get to eat cereal although I do quite like it (well I do sometime just eat it out of the box but I’m not sure you’re supposed to admit to that or not). Plus it cuts out the easiest breakfast option and means that I don’t always bother with it (OK I know it’s not hard to make toast but sometimes I’m just in too much of a rush) so for me the Activia pouring yoghurt really fills a need. It means that I can grab a quick and tasty breakfast, plus it offers extra benefits in terms of digestive health. I haven’t been using it long enough to establish whether I can feel any benefit in that regard but, for me, it is worth it even without that. If you like the sound of trying out products for free, then you can visit to find out more (it’s free to register and take part)


Claire Squires…

Claire Squires died during the London Marathon raising money for the Samaritans.  From this tragedy though has come something quite amazing, her JustGiving page is flooded with donations with over half a million raised to date.  Click here to visit and donate. Small consolation for those that loved,her but a reminder of how wonderfuand generous people can be.

Renovating a Wine Crate

During a bout of serial decluttering, I found an wooden wine crate in the shed being used to store some odd sheets of sandpaper.  I decided that it was far too pretty for that purpose so stole it out and brought it indoors for a makeover.  This was ideal as a project to use some more of my lovely tin of teak coloured varnish, plus during the shed clear out I had also found some decorative wooden mouldings which were crying out for a purpose. 

So first off I gave it a light sanding and pulled out the loose nails in the top.  In a perfect world, I would have been able to line it with burgundy velvet and a little upholstsery padding but it isn’t a perfect world and I don’t have either of those things so  I settled for some burgundy paint which was left over from our hallway. 

I then glued on two of the decorative wood motifs on either short end, because I didn’t have a clamp, I had to glue one and then balance the box on its end with a very large gardening book to provide some weight until the glue set – didn’t look very professional but seemed to do the job!

It took four or five coats of the teak varnish on the outside to build up a decent colour and finish as the original wood was unfinished and so was just soaking it all up for the first couple of coats but I think it was worth the extra effort as the final finish looks really good quality – I’m not sure you really get the full effect in the photograph, but take my word for it.  Or don’t.  You have a mind of your own obviously.

Then just to tidy up the inside edge and to give a nod to the whole lining with velvet plan I did have some burgundy velvet ribbon kicking around so I just glued that around the inside.  The plan for the finished crate is to be the container for my parents Christmas Eve hamper as I won’t be seeing them on Christmas Day this year so it has gone up to the loft to lurk until I’m ready to put it all together. I’ll post photos when I do…

At the same time, I also took care of another sorry looking picture frame, adding the last two decroative wood motifs (lord only knows what I bought them for originally but I am very happy they have a purpose as they were far too pretty to be skulking around in the shed) and lots of coats of – yes you guessed it – teak varnish.  This one has a Christmas plan too, it will be for my in-laws and will contain a picture of all of our kids – it will take about a year to get them all in the same place at the same time so it is worth starting early on this one!

What next… more shed pillaging I think, seems to be some interesting stuff knocking about in there…

Renovating a Picture Frame

It was my birthday recently and I was very lucky to receive some lovely presents, plus one very lovely card from my mum and dad.  For some reason, it just tickled me and I thought it was too good to just put away.  The style of it I thought would sit very nicely with my bureau.  So I had a root around in the loft and found an old empty picture frame.  It was quite sorry looking but it was in a pine that was only lightly finished so that made it perfect for my purposes.  It was also quite a lot larger than the card which was good as I thought it would look a lot smarter with a mount around it.

Further rooting around, this time in the shed, yielded a tin of teak coloured satin varnish so a quick sanding down of the frame and about four coats later the frame was ready.  I was happy with this but it still needed the mount and I was all set to pop over to Hobbycraft and get myself some mountboard (through work I am blessed to have a mount board cutter which lets me do lovely bevel edge mounts).  Then I reminded myself that I am supposed to be crafting from scraps and not from stores and so I had a little think and remembered a roll of the wallpaper that hangs behind my bureau which was lurking in the loft.  So back up I scuttled to fetch it.  I cut the mount out with a craft knife but it looked too flat against the card.  So I cut another couple of mount, each 1/2 cm larger than the other, one in the wallpaper and one in a plain white.  Layered together, I think they give it a bit of a lift and make it look much more like a sketch that’s been framed than just a card. 

Anyway, that’s the project for the week, and my tin of teak coloured varnish is still sitting in my kitchen as I loved the effect so much, I’m going to hunt out some other stuff to use it on…

Heroes Tin – Decorated Cake Tin

I have been having a bit of a clearout of some seldom used cupboards and came across a Cadbury’s Heroes tin that I have been holding onto from some indefinable purpose.  They are so sturdy and look so useful that I can never bear to throw them out but there is only so many you need in one house.  Plus I haven’t bought these chocolate tins for a few years on account of all of us having no willpower and stuffing the chocolates too quickly so this one must have been sitting for while waiting to fulfil it’s destiny.

So I sat it on the table and thought about what to do with it. I’ve tried painting them in the past but find it scratches quite easily, particularly when you take the lid on and off.  I think this might well be because I don’t have a lot of patience for sanding and always want to skip ahead to the fun part but there you go…

So I decided to cover this one with some gorgeous paper serviettes that I bought for a party in the summer.  But as it was quite a pale colour, I needed to put something underneath so the Heroes part wouldn’t show through.  So I covered it first in just a plain yellow paper serviette that I had kicking around.  You just paint the tin with PVA glue diluted 50 – 50 with water, tear the serviette into strips, and lay it on.  Then you put another coat of the diluted PVA on top.  After that, you just keep adding extra layers until you have the effect that you want (it works with tissue paper too).  When you are done, just give it all a light sanding to smooth down the wrinkles.  In my case, I smoothed out the layers with sandpaper and then added the decorative serviette on top to finish it off. 

The edges do get a little messy so I covered these with some cheap ribbon I bought at a market and then finished off with a bit of leather thong that was attached to some gift set that I received once (honestly the stuff they wrap and pack with in some stores is just far too fabulous to throw away!).  I plan to give this to my mother-in-law for her birthday filled with home made cupcakes (on which I solemnly promise to do proper pretty icing rather than just slap it on there and hope for the best which is what I usually do).  Once these are eaten, then she can use it for a biscuit tin or whatever…

Got a bit into the whole thing and covered an empty golden syrup tin as well which I will punch a couple of holes in the bottom and plant in some crocus bulbs or something for a little indoor flower display (also for my mother in law as she is a lover of pot plants and her birthday is in December so will work out about right for a few little yellow crocus bulbs).

Wine Bottle Gift Bag Instructions

Well my shiny new silk turned up today and it is just the most gorgeous colours, which matched in perfectly with the peacock feathers.  The photos don’t really capture the colour all that accurately as it is a particularly dim and dingy day but I’m sure you are well aware of what a peacock feather looks like so just imagine that!

Anyway, I was using a different colour for the inside than the outside but obviously it would work just as well with just using two squares/circles of the same fabric…

Cut two circles (one of each colour in my case) 10cm in diameter (this followed a  lot of frantic measuring in my kitchen to find something that was the right size, ramekin to the rescue!).  Cut two squares (again one in each colour for me) 33cm wide and 34cm tall.   See picture 1.

Pin the base to the shortest edge of the rectangle, being careful not to ‘pinch’ the rectangle. Picture 2.

Stitch round where you’ve pinned and turn right side out. Picture 3.

With right sides together, stitch the two remaining short edges of the fabric together. Picture 4.

Fold so the long edges are together, stitch along the length leaving a couple of edges open on the part of the fabric that will be on the inside so you can turn it through. Stitch the opening closed.  Picture 5.

In my case, I wanted to add the peacock feather embellishment  which I did by just using tiny stitches along the stem and then just drawing the fabric over the bottom of the feather to hold it firm and hide the edge.

Add a bottle and a ribbon and there you go! I was so pleased with the results that I used up most of my silk in making four bags – that way I will always have one handy and it is so much easier to make in batches than start from scratch.  Lots of other ideas for variations on a theme going on in my  head – no doubt more experiments are to follow!

This Year’s “Thing”…

Every year I seem to have a “thing” – that is a repeated gift or item that gets remade for pretty much anyone I know.  This year’s thing has come about by accident really whilst looking to dress up a bottle of wine as a gift as something a bit more special (it occurs that I spend a lot of time doing this).  So wine bottle gift bags take their place as this year’s thing.  I particularly like the idea that they can be regifted by the person  you give it to, seems like a very green and practical thing to do.  I know some people don’t like regifting but I don’t have much of a problem with it, well certainly less of a problem with it than with things lying around useless at the backs of cupboards.

So the first two, pictured together, are quite sensible as they are for my Dad’s birthday and all his wrapping is on a silver, red and black theme.  Both are made of scraps of material left over from other projects.  The second one (the bunny) is notably less sensible.  I’ve made a few of these for Easter.  These are made from a cheap fleece blanket from Tesco – and I’ve still got quite a lot left over to play with.  I’m quite intrigued by the idea of making different shaped gift bags and so I’ll be experimenting with this throughout the year. 

I have cheated a bit though and ordered some quite luxurious silk fabric and some short peacock feathers to make some really fancy ones for people’s birthdays but it was only a metre of fabric, I should have plenty left over, and lots of other excuses to justify why I couldn’t resist 🙂 Well if you don’t buy some new stuff, you can’t have scraps to craft from.  Photos to follow once my pretty things


In the spirit of recycling…

Not crafting I grant you but just came across this website and thought  I’d share in case there are more of you out there that spend far more than they can afford on books.  OK, I go to the library but I am very weak willed when it comes to book shops and I always want more than I can afford when I look in them.  So this is groovy – helping the environment and your pocket at the same time.  Plus you can sell your books there too so it might work out to be a good alternative to eBay for book sales (always find I don’t get much for mine on there).

Handmade Mother’s Day Gifts

I like to be early with making my gifts so I don’t have any last minute panics although I have say that I was a bit earlier than intended as I thought Mother’s Day was in March!  Turns out it is on the 3rd April.  But anyway, fortune favours the prepared and so these are my handmade gifts for that special occasion. 

I should explain that Mother’s Day has never been a big gift occasion in our family, we love to spend time with each other but the gift is more of a token thing.  So there isn’t a lot of extravagance required.  So I decided to give the gift of sugar this year.  Although I thought, rather than just give sweets in a bag, I would dress them up a bit and decided it would be sweeter (excuse the pun) to give them in jars.

I had a couple of large glass jars kicking around that used to have crocus bulbs in them that I have never used since and the pink and white spotty fabric was part of a very big Freecycle fabric haul.  I also had some ribbon off some Christmas gifts and some little flowers that were in a card making kit that one of my kids never used.   To complete the set, I made some matching cards using some wedding invitation samples that I had picked up ages ago.  Hence the front is totally covered by the fabric (to hide where it says wedding invitation).

I don’t have a lot of craft hardware but one thing I did invest in years ago was a Sizzix machine and a tag die which has been invaluable.

So if I’m being honest, this post just demonstrates that I’m all about dressing up something inexpensive so it looks better than it is. Time spent together has to be worth more than an expensive gift but a little effort in presentation also goes a long way – an early Happy Mother’s Day to you all!


I have always been a fan of the home made gift or card – I love the fact that people spend time creating something special just for you, that doesn’t have a match in the whole world.  So I love to make stuff for people – I’m sure at times I’ve missed the mark and the recipient has looked at it and thought ‘what was she thinking’ but I hope at least that they appreciated the effort that went into it.  However, I noticed that more and more I was buying stuff from craft stores (particularly the one with the blue and yellow logo) and given that they like to turn a profit, they were definitely selling the same stuff to lots of other people too.  So my stuff wasn’t original any more.  Plus it was getting very expensive.

So I took a resolution, I would continue to make as many gifts and cards as I could but I would buy as little as possible.  I was instead going to use as many bits, bobs, odds, ends and miscellaneous stuff as possible.  It serves a number of purposes

  • my stuff will be truly original, hopefully in a good way
  • it will be an awful lot cheaper (and although I never regret jacking in my job to follow my dream of professional photography, I have to face the fact that I don’t have the money that I used to have) 
  • I will use up stuff that I have been hoarding and revel in all the newly created space
  • I will use up stuff that doesn’t have any other use and would otherwise eventually end up in landfill.  OK, it might still end up in landfill eventually but at least it will have experienced a bit of love from someone on the way there.

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