Saturday, 27 August 2016

A Simple Vase for Toddler Picked Flowers

Here’s a little hack for anyone who may receive very short-stemmed flowers from the toddlers in their lives.

Take an old spice jar (preferably one with a nice shape), wash it and remove the label and glue. Save the perforated inner lid. When you receive flowers from little children, fill the jar with water, pop the perforated lid on, and put the flowers into the holes – that will prevent them from slipping into the water, and will keep things looking neat and pretty. 


 Before I thought of this I used to balance flowers I got from my children on the edge of a small vase, or fill a bottle cap with water for the really short-stemmed ones, with varying success – what do you do?

Sunday, 14 August 2016

Don't Judge a Book by its Cover

These past weeks have been tough (yesterday was one month since our loss), and only in the last few days have I even got back to doing some kind of sewing, however simple. (Meanwhile, the boys are happy with the curtains I made for their room, and the decorative pillow cases I made for our bed look very nice. It’s good to sew again.) I know there has been lots of Harry Potter related posts lately, but really, except for feverishly organising my house, that’s been pretty much all I’ve felt up to. Of course, Halloween is creeping up on us, so that is another reason. Bear with me, I’ll get back to historical sewing eventually.


As I was going through my stuff, organising and purging, I came upon a tiny book, you know the kind you’ll be given as a present, filled with quotes on certain topics, which you end up never reading after that first time. Well, as this one had been in a box for five years or so, I saw no reason to hold on to it as it was, but thought the cover might be of some use for my annual Halloween party. Just a note to all the book lovers out there: this was a contemporary book with thousands of exact copies, it was never a great contribution to the world and won’t be missed. I’d never destroy a book of value.
It was clear that I would re-cover the book, and that the pages wouldn’t be needed. I carefully cut them out, then looked for a suitable paper for the book I had in mind among my scrapbooking supplies, and came up with one that almost had the look of cracked leather. Perfect. 

Unfortunately I forgot to take a ‘before’ picture, but you can clearly see on this look at the inside that the book has a new cover. I messed up a bit, and the corners ended up too short; however, I saved that situation later. 


I had decided on a title early on: Tinctures: The Tiny Tome. I messed up again when writing the title, and I used a ‘k’ instead of a ‘c’. That’s what happens when English is not your primary language, you work on things that require thinking too late at night and don’t double check the spelling. Ah well, maybe the book was produced by a foreign publisher? I pencilled the title and frame first, then filled them in with gold pen. After the ink had dried, I traced the title and frame with a knitting needle, to make shallow indentations which made it feel more like a real book. 


I was very happy with the result, but then I started thinking… Instead of only using this as a prop, what if I actually made it into a real book – a guestbook? I like the idea of a tiny guestbook, as I never know what to write in the full sized ones. 
I cut out pages from tea dyed printing paper. One paper gave ten pieces, twenty pages when folded in half. I used three sheets of paper, as sixty pages sounded like a good number. 


The different sheets had slightly different shades, as I didn’t time how long each one was in the tea. To avoid this being too obvious, and giving a more natural look to the pages, I mixed them up.
I organised the folded-in-half pages in groups of five, then I made holes in them in preparation for sewing them together.


Sewing book pages together is really very fun to do. My husband (who is interested in bookbinding) and I agreed that someday we’d like to take a class to learn it properly. As I’m not a pro at this, I’ll refer you to the blog post from where I learned how to do it, by Making My Rent. I managed to pull too sharply at the thread when attaching the second group of pages, and broke them. Boo. Fifty pages seemed too few, didn’t fill the book up enough at all, so I decided to make new ones. Rather than having half a sheet of paper left, I used a full one, and ended up with a total of seventy pages. Much better.


The rest of the sewing went smoothly, and the result looked rather neat. “Too bad no one will see it”, was hubby’s reaction, but that’s what blogs are for.


I sort of followed the steps of the tutorial, gluing the spine, gluing on thin fabric – I didn’t have the proper material (scrim?) for this, so had to pick something from the fabric stash. And here’s another of those moments when you’re glad you have a blog – doesn’t the stars seem like a typically wizardy thing to have? It will never show, but I’m sort of pleased they’re there. 


I glued on a narrow satin ribbon that would be the bookmarker, and then a wider satin ribbon as headbands.


I glued in the pages, attached the endpapers covering the insides of the book and let the book dry under a heavy cookbook. This is where I saved the mistake I made earlier, by gluing the papers rather closer to the edges than I would otherwise have done. I trimmed the endpapers a bit, and that was that! 


A small book, decoration and guestbook in one, perfect for my annual Harry Potter inspired Halloween party. My kids are looking forward to draw in it, for of course children will be as welcome to sign it as adults.


What do you think of guestbooks, love them or hate them?

Thursday, 11 August 2016

How to Remove Glue from Jars

So this is a bit different from my usual posts, but it’s too good a hack not to share. Who of you ever re-purposed a jar, bottle or tub, but was annoyed that the glue from the labels never came off? I certainly have, but then I found a good way to remove stubborn glue by The Creek Line House, using only baking soda and cooking oil, and it works beautifully. A bonus for it being non toxic.

Here’s what you do.
First the labels must be removed from the containers. Soaking in hot water and possibly a bit of dish soap does the trick, sometimes with a bit of scrubbing. More often than not, a lot of glue is left.


Then you mix a little cooking oil (use whatever you have at home) with baking soda, to make a paste. 


As long as it will stay put, even a slightly runny paste works well. 


Dab the paste onto the glue on the containers and let it sit for a few minutes or so. 


Scrub! I prefer to use my fingers, but for really stubborn glue maybe a sponge could come in handy. In most cases the glue comes off quite easily.


When all the glue seems to be removed, wash the containers, by hand or in the dishwasher. You’ll then have completely clean containers without disfiguring glue residues. 


I have done this with so many jars, with different kinds of glue, and so far this has worked on everything. I tried it on a plastic tub, and it got light scratch marks from the baking soda, that acts like an abrasive. Nothing too horrid but I’d better mention it. 

Do you have any must-know cleaning hacks? Please share, I'm trying to improve and simplify my home making!

Wednesday, 10 August 2016

Brown Paper Packages Tied Up With Strings – and Magic

For this coming Halloween party I wanted to add some funny-shaped parcels to our decorations, you know, the kind that are wrapped in brown paper with strings round them, with old fashioned and/or wizardy labels attached, dropped off in a corner as if you hadn't had the time to put your shopping away before company arrived. Everything I used was craft materials or things to be recycled that I already had at home.

 
I wanted the parcels to be really light, both for storage purposes and the fact that it will make it lots easier to make them “levitate” or so, should I want that sometime. I used a variety of re-purposed cartons and empty cardboard tubes, and wherever needed I cut them to shape, added bottoms or tops, and stuffed them with crumpled up newspaper so they wouldn’t collapse under lighter pressure. For wrapping I picked brown paper in different shades and textures, to make it more organic and realistic, and I avoided using ordinary tape wherever it might show on the outside. I thought it more likely that grown wizards would use magic to wrap parcels, and a light Sticking Charm to hold them together. Sure there is supposed to be Spellotape available, but what adult and reasonably competent witch or wizard would bother with that when there’s an alternative?

For two of the parcels I used a large Toblerone carton cut in half as base. I closed the ends with taped on “lids” made from milk carton. One of the halves was stuffed full of newspaper so it looked quite fat, the other one I folded and shaped to look decidedly more skinny, made “lids” to emphasise the shape and only put a tiny bit of newspaper in the middle. 


One of them got a label I also used for some of the potion’s ingredients I made last year, based on a chain of apothecaries mentioned in The Half Blood Prince. I also added a tag with a serial number and wrote our last name on it, as if I had went in to order something, and came back later to pick up my purchase, ready packed.


For the other I made a string from green and purple linen thread, and glued on a label in the same colours. The label was all purple to start with, with an embossed pattern. I just filled this in with glittery green pen, and added a couple of letters. I then cut out a piece of green cardstock slightly larger than the purple in size so it made a narrow frame, and glued them together with the string in between.


For the bottle shaped parcel I used an assortment of cardboard tubes that previously held plastic foil and other kitchen items (I always save cardboard tubes, and they always prove useful), an empty cardboard baking powder jar, a short cardboard tube that used to hold crochet thread and a piece of carton, and made a crude bottle shape from them. It didn’t look too pretty as was, but that didn’t bother me, as no one would see it when wrapped anyway. 


Once that was done and a string tied round it, the would-be bottle looked really realistic. I added a label from The Leaky Cauldron – they have lovely non-alcoholic beverages there as well, at least that’s my story and I’m sticking to it. I found the label on-line.


This one was just an empty toilet roll that I cut open and rolled tighter to make it less obviously toilet roll-y. I wrapped it in tea dyed printing paper - I have several tea dyed papers ready to be used for different projects. I found a picture of a weird looking chap in Ca 1830s clothes that I cut out of a magazine years ago when that was my main source of images (meanwhile, I love the treasure trove that is found on the internet), and by cutting down his top hat to be a pointy wizard’s hat, and adding gold accents to the hat and coat, he looked…. Well, he looked a bit like a prat. A wizard prat, but a prat nonetheless, so Prat & Co became the name of the shop. I giggled over that a bit. I made a string for carrying out of some dark brown, really unevenly spun linen thread I was given once.


Here I used a cut down milk carton for the base, and it was sturdy enough to hold up without the help of crumbled up newspaper. I added a label I got of the Internet, and a narrow satin ribbon (it matched the label nicely and I had just enough of it to work) for carrying. In a family like ours, of course you’d have purchased something at a bookshop.


I’m not quite sure what’s supposed to be in all of the parcels, but they do look nice, I think. Put in a wobbly, lopsided pile I think they’ll make a great decoration for our wizarding party. But I might need some more parcels, bigger or square ones to form a more solid base for that to work really well. These will look good as accents.


With different labels, parcels like these might also make nice Christmas decorations. What do you think about them?

Tuesday, 2 August 2016

Harry Potter Inspired Faux Book Cover for Mum

I’ve been making faux book spines and book covers as props for the annual Halloween party (a great distraction, as I still can't make myself pursue more serious crafting), all of which I will show you in great detail later – there might be a tutorial as well - I just want to make a few more of them first. Now, I did share a teaser on my Facebook page the other day, as I’m so happy with how this project is turning out. My favourites are still under wraps though. 


When my mum, a fellow Harry Potter nerd, was visiting for a few days, I showed the “books” to her, and she wanted one too. When I asked her what she wanted more specifically, she gave me a subject - something to do with her greatest hobby scrapbooking - but gave me free rein as to the actual title and look of it.

 
 This is the result: a faux book cover entitled Documenting the Magic – Creating Enchanting Photo Albums, in her favourite colour, green. Combining two of a person’s interests like this is great fun. I also gave the green witch hat to her, as it fits her perfectly, and she looks fabulous in it. I always knew she wasn’t a Muggle.

 
 Meanwhile, I was spoiled with presents too: some decorative fabric tapes and ribbons, and a journal with leather covers that she’d made herself with me in mind, filled with pretty and useful things.

 Presents are fun, both to make and receive :)What do you think of home made presents?

Monday, 1 August 2016

Doing So-So

I didn’t mean to post this at first, but reading the accounts of other mothers who have been through miscarriages has been helpful to me, so I thought I’d share it after all. Maybe someone will find this helpful. 


Grief is an interesting thing. Sometimes you can think about or talk very calmly and sensibly about your feelings and what you've been through, and feel almost fine. You might even pursue your ordinary interests with joy. At other times the smallest thing can make you cry or ache inside, you can loose your appetite from time to time, and find yourself unable to do things. The curtains I was working on for the boys' room have, regrettably, been untouched for three weeks, but the Halloween decorations are progressing nicely... playing is just so much easier than working right now, so work that is not strictly necessary gets shoved aside

Watching my children play is usually a source of joy, but then one day it made me cry - the baby I lost will never run around and play, at least not in this mortal world. I miss the wonderful person it could have been, the cuddles I'll never get.
 
 Finding a pair of baby mittens I knitted before Eldest was born didn't bother me at all, but finding a pair of tiny white baby socks in a cupboard made me go to pieces.
 Gentle words, hugs and acts of  kindness makes me cry, yet I appreciate that people care about me. 


 The fact that my brother and sister in law are expecting around the same time my due date should have been – once a very exciting coincidence - is now mainly a reminder of my own loss. Her bump is so cute, and I’m sad about the fact that I can’t rejoice with them like I would have liked.

That it was most likely something seriously wrong with the poor wee thing and that what happened was probably for the best is a comfort only on an intellectual plane. Emotionally it doesn't matter a jot. As soon as I saw the plus on the pregnancy test, that knot of cells had a place in my heart, and hopes and dreams for what I already considered to be my child were formed, and they deepened and increased as the weeks and months passed. You can't just toss all that out the window, no matter how sensible the reasoning.

"Grief is the price of love" - even if the object of your love was only a few inches long when it was lost to you.

Monday, 25 July 2016

A Classic Witch Hat in Green Wool

I wrote this a couple of weeks ago, but, well, things happened. I’ll post it now anyway, as I’m emotionally recovered enough to begin to find my usual pursuits interesting again.

I’ve always been a master of beginning new projects, but not as good at finishing them. I have worked hard at fixing this flaw of character, and I’m getting better. Still, I sometimes stumble on sewing projects that have been in the Limbo of Unfinished Objects for years and years. One such I now saved from its sad state. I had, when I was in my very early 20s, made what I intended to be a 16th Century German flat hat. It didn’t work out as well as I’d hoped, so a few years later, after having seen the wonderful scene of Diagon Alley in Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, I cut out pieces to make the crown of a witch hat, intending the failed flat hat to become the brim. And then life distracted me.


But now that witch hat is done! It took only a couple of days’ worth of sewing now and then to finish it, using only stash materials. It’s made from a beautiful deep green wool, stiffened with ironed on interfacing. It’s lined with a cotton fabric checked in white and greens. 


The brim is decorated with quilting in a swirling pattern, which also adds stability. A wire (two overlapping wires actually – I didn’t have one long enough) stiffens the edge of the brim. 


The crown is stitched down in permanent creases, to give it that iconic witchy look. It’s decorated with a strip of lighter green wool and a simple buckle. I had hoped to trim it with plumes and feathers for the photo shoot, but they all seemed to have got lost in my stash. Ah well. A couple of ostrich feathers fell out of my feather duster when the kids were playing with it a week or so later, so I took them to temporarily trim the hat with for an additional photo. Sadly, the hat came out just a bit too small, so I’m going to sell it on, and let the new owner add trim, if they wish it. 


This was such a fun project, and I’d love to make more hats for witches and wizards. They would look great for our annual Harry Potter Halloween party. Only problem will be to fit the making of them in between everything else… The boys have already requested wizard’s hats for their dress up box – they loved wearing this one. But any hats I make for them will be in a simpler, more easily washed, materials.