Archive for the 'stuff I made' Category

Pre-shop opening giveaway!

December 9th, 2013

I’ve been beavering away in the background taking pictures of pretty things to stock my little shop up with, but that seems to be taking forever, cropping and re-sizing pictures, amending the colours on some, which quite frankly bores me (wish it didn’t, I would have had lots more blog posts then!) so in the meantime, and spurred on by a post I saw on Sew Mama Sew, I thought I would host a little give away for you and take part in Giveaway Day 2013!



give away

I’m giving away a small sewing basket, pin cushion and needle case pictured above (as well as some other pretty things I will put in as an extra surprise for the winner).

  • The basket is a vintage one I up-cycled and has a padded lid, perfect for poking pins into, and contains a tape measure, needles, pins and a pair of scissors.  It’s made from tiny gingham and has a vintage pink crochet doily appliqued to the top, closing with a duffel coat toggle.
  • The pin cushion is a pretty berry printed poplin, topped with felt leaves and a crochet Irish rose.
  • The needle case is a felt strawberry, hand beaded on both sides and has 2 wool felt leaves for you to store all your needles safely.

All of these have been handmade by me, and I hope will bring many hours of sewing pleasure to the winner.   I always think that no matter how experienced a crafter you are, you deserve to have nice tools to use when working.

Want to enter?  All you have to do is comment on this post and tell me your favourite crafting tip – can be sewing, knitting, crochet – whatever floats your boat really.  The winner will be picked by having the most useful tip for people to use.  I’ll do a round up of all the tips so we can all benefit from them too.

Stuff to note:

I will ship internationally, so this give away is open to everyone, wherever you are.

The giveaway is open until 5pm PST on 13th December (if you’re in the UK that means 1am on 14th!) after which a winner will be picked, and the announcement will be made on the blog, with the winner being emailed by Sunday 15th.


Thank you for taking part, and I look forward to hearing all your tips! xoxo


P.S. Have a look at some of the other amazing giveaways posted on Sew Mama Sew too!


Clean and green

November 7th, 2012

When I was 12, I was certain that one day I would go off to the Amazon to save the rainforest, or stop a whaling ship, or something. Needless to say I clearly was wrong in the predictions I had about my life.  My current job is managing a network of advice centres on behalf of the Citizens Advice Bureau, and is as stressful as it sounds, the amount of eczema on my hands being testament to that.  I don’t teach as much as I used to, either because the classes aren’t running due to lack of numbers, or mainly because I don’t seem to have the time or energy to do 2 or 3 classes per week on top of working full time.  Over time I have realised that I need to simplify my life, slow down a little bit and take care not just of those I love, but myself and my home and my bit of the environment.  I’m de-cluttering (hell, I sooo need to keep doing that!) and organising, trying to regain my love of cooking, enjoying the simple things like crocheting blankets to welcome new additions to the world, and have less stress both in my head and on my body, whilst trading a little more lightly on the planet.

One of the things I realised , and has been a good thing to come out of having itchy, sore,  unsightly (and frequently quite painful) eczema on my hands is the amount of chemicals that we use in our homes that affect us and the environment.  After cleaning the bathroom recently with a spray made by a well known UK manufacturer, I could barely breathe, my sinuses were so sore at the amount of perfume and chemicals that were in it.  The state of my hands was appalling too, even though most of the time when I am cleaning I use gloves. Cleaning the kitchen was the same.   Something had to change; I don’t remember my family using that many products when I was a child, our home was always scrupulously clean  but wasn’t filled with harsh chemicals.  I remember my mother knowing all sorts of things to use to remove stains, washing dishes with soda rather than washing up liquid, cleaning windows with vinegar and newspaper way before it became “fashionable” to do it the old fashioned way.  So I started to think about making my own cleaning products.  I know that out there are a hundred and one ways you can use the most random of things to clean (like banana skins to polish shoes), but in all honesty I don’t have either the time or the head space to be that green.   I do, however want to be able to use products like I have been doing efficiently but know what goes into them, and not suffer any ill effects afterwards.  So I did a bit of research.

The main ingredients that everyone seems to recommend are:

  • Bicarbonate of soda (sodium bicarbonate)
  • Borax
  • Vinegar (distilled white, not malt!)
  • Lemons
  • Castile soap (which is made from olive oil)
  • Essential oils

All of which I can get locally, don’t cost much (apart from the essential oils, but I already have a few of those) and will enable me to make lots and lots of cleaning products really quite cheaply.  I also decided to get myself some new bottles that could be re-used (I ordered mine from here as they were the cheapest I found in the UK with no minimum order) although as bottles become free (I’m not going to throw away what I have, that wouldn’t be very green, although I don’t have much to use up) I will start to clean them and use them too.

I found lots of recipes online from lots of different sites, so I thought I would collect the ones I have been trying here as a printable PDF of Thrifty and green cleaning recipes for you – as I try out new recipes I will add to them and update them.

The ones I really like are the shower spray (I usually use Method cleaners, which is great, environmentally friendly but not cheap) – my washing up liquid was orange scented, so to add to it I added a couple of drops of orange Essential Oil too, and my shower after doing a quick wipe round sparkled and smelled great.  I also love the linen spray – I used it to freshen up the curtains in our dining room and it smells lovely.  I think next time I will try orange flower water (get it at your supermarkets in the baking section) and some orange essential oil to mix it up a bit, or maybe rosewater and patchouli…..? And the Lemon and lime clean everything spray.  I have also tried the Bergamot laundry booster which smells gorgeous and is much, much cheaper than buying the usual oxygen releasing cleaners (and better for your skin too), and have put this in a cleaned up tub of the previous sort.

These don’t take long to make (I spent about half an hour making lotions and potions, and quite enjoyed it) so it’s no excuse to say that you don’t have the time to do it and buying products is quicker and cheaper!  I got my bicarb from the pound shop, the vinegar was super cheap in Wilcos, or local supermarkets/ shops.  We’re lucky in Nottingham to have a stall on the indoor market called Aladdin’s cave that stocks all the dry goods, including Borax, alongside all sorts of hardware, crockery, roasting dishes, and random bits like you find in Lakeland, only much, much cheaper.  The whole stall smells of moth balls and carbolic soap though, so if you don’t like the smell, I wouldn’t visit!  If you want to find Castille soap most health food shops sell it, or you can find it online.  Once you have things bought, you’ll be able to make lots of these cleaning products for a long time, so its much more economical in the long run.

As with everything there are some warnings as these ingredients, although common household items, are still chemicals.  Borax (or as is usual to get in the UK, Borax substitute) can irritate your skin, so wear gloves.  Essential oils are strong, and some are not recommended for use if you are pregnant, so be wary when you’re using them. Strong acids like in the lemon and lime cleaner whilst will kill germs and smells will also damage marble, if you have any.  And remember to label your bottles!

On the whole, I now feel that I can clean without burning my sinuses, it will damage the environment less and cost less, so my home and self are going to be much better off for it. So whilst I am not saving the Amazonian rain forest, I do feel that I can do my little bit to minimise my impact on the environment, keeping both my 12 year old and 36 year old selves happy.

Have you tried making your own cleaning products at all?  If you have any recipes or tips drop me a line or add a comment to share!

Pimp my ride

October 19th, 2012

Or in other words, a new shopping trolley bag.  Doesn’t sound that exciting does it?  Well this is something I have been meaning to do for the last few years and been going on about “I’m going to do that next week/ when I have some time/ right now if I could summon the energy”, but finally I put my money where my mouth is.

I got this shopping trolley second hand at a local market for £4 about 6 years ago, and I think in terms of cost per use it paid for itself within a couple of months.

(I love how Stella decided she wanted to be in the picture!)

I know shopping trolleys aren’t cool or sexy, but when you don’t drive and want to do a big shop/ carry heavy things this has been brilliant and at times an absolute life-saver.  Its also proved useful helping me lug things round for my classes; when I used to teach a printing course my trusty HP printer would be lobbed in it along with a ton of chemicals and rolls of paper, and off to work I would go.  But it was looking sad.  It never looked amazing but had progressively gone downhill over the last year or so.  It didn’t help when Stella decided she would have a go at nesting in it for a while.  Then the sides decided to rip…

Finally last weekend I decided I had had enough and set about making a new bag identical to the old one.  I’d actually bought the oilcloth and vinyl almost 2 years ago, but clearly had never got round to doing anything about it.

The bag itself was super simple, and the construction was quite easy to figure out too, even though I decided to line it (I think if I need to wash the bag by hand that would be fine).  It also gives a bit of strength to the vinyl used for the main body of the bag (an eBay bargain) as it was quite soft, and doesn’t have a woven backing, unlike the Mexican oilcloth used for the pocket front and flap (that, as ever is from the amazing Viva La Frida).  I lined it with a remnant of creamy/beige cotton curtain lining that I picked up locally for a couple of pounds.  The only tricky part of all of this was wrestling it on the machine when I attached the lining to the bag sandwiching inside the drawstring, and that was only because of the sheer weight of slippery stuff I was putting through the machine.  I used normal polyester thread (I did debate over using some heavier-weight thread but didn’t have it in the colour I wanted to made do) and a thick sewing needle (leather point) and that was fine to go through it all.

The bag attaches to the frame with straps round the back, and a strip of Velcro holding it in place at the top, and closes with a drawstring and toggle, with more Velcro on the pocket and flap.

David’s opinion on it is that it is far, far too bright, and he wants me to make a more subdued one for him to use when he helps with the shopping, and I have some of the same polka dot vinyl only this time grey with white dots that I can use (I would like some colour in too so I think some mustard yellow trim would look lovely as a highlight….. although that seems to deviate from the “subdued” request somewhat).

Anyhoo, I love it, and am really pleased with it and can’t wait to go shopping with it (any excuse eh?) and even have dreams of making matching  bags for life, although I need more re-usable bags like I need a hole in the head.

If anyone is interested in making one of their own I am happy to share it as a tutorial, just get in touch and I will take pictures whilst I make the David-style one!


It’s not all jam and Jerusalem…

June 21st, 2012

Hi, my name is Claire and I am a member of the Women’s Institute.   Very proud member in fact; so much so I volunteer on the committee too.  Our WI is one of the newer generation of WIs where most of our members are in their 20′s/30′s, most work full time or are studying but all have an interest in cooking, crafting, gardening and generally meeting other interesting people.  I think that the perception of the WI is changing, mainly thanks to some of the other, newer WIs springing up all over the place, and popular media is helping too with films, TV shows and documentaries.

I probably had one of the best introductions to being in a WI as the first meeting I went to was a baking taster evening in Oct 2010 – the range of baked goods that evening was amazing and I met loads of other new people who were also new to the WI.  I’m actually quite reserved (I hesitate to use the word shy) with people that I don’t know, and wondered if this would be somewhere that people would be friendly (I can feel quite panicky in new social situations) but I need not have worried.  I even got chatting to a lady from Ballymoney where David’s family live, really proving that it is a genuinely small world!   One of the nicest things about our WI (and the other couple of WIs I have visited) is that they are really friendly, so you never really feel on your own as there’s usually a bunch of people that introduce themselves to you before you’ve had a chance to get a cuppa!

So, what do we do, apart from eat cake?  Well cake clearly does feature significantly in most of the things we are associated with, but there’s more to us than that.  Each month we have a guest speaker on a topic that is of interest to the group – last month we had a talk on organic gardening from Ecoworks.  We have also had talks on vintage fashion, eating seasonably, and the work of the Lincs and Notts Air Ambulance.  Sometimes we book guest speakers, other times we have really fascinating talks from within the membership, such as our January meeting where one of our members spoke about her experiences of volunteering to help clear up the damage left by the earthquake and tsunami in Japan.  Next month we are having Robin Hood guide us on a walk around Nottingham.

The WI also have a long history of (and a fearsome reputation for) campaigning on a variety of issues, from environmental campaigns such as helping save the bumblebee, to reducing packaging on foods (I love that some WIs took back all of their excess packaging to the supermarket and dumped it on the manager for them to deal with).  The current resolution (what members vote on and what will be campaigned on in the following year) is to call for more midwives, and for more midwife training.   The resolutions are proposed by members, and voted on so whatever causes are close to people’s hearts they have a chance to submit proposals each year to be (hopefully) selected and voted on – I like the democracy of the process, which seems to make a refreshing change in the current climate!

One of the things we do really well in Nottingham City WI is our fetes – this year will be the third fete we have held, and the second one that I have been involved in.  This is one of the main ways we raise money for charity – this year’s nominated charity is The Friary Drop In, an organisation I work with closely in my day job and who do some pretty phenomenal work with really disadvantaged people, on next to no money.  We raise money for this by selling cakes – have a look at the cake table from last year:

(Excuse the rubbish picture – these were taken on my phone as I had sensibly left the camera at home…!) and by having a raffle, which last year was epic and covered the bar upstairs completely.

Speaking personally it’s the only place pretty much I sell my Pinky and Boo bits and bobs now, and there are lots of other really talented crafters out there who also sell their work too.

This was my stall last year: 

This year our fete is on 7th July at Cape Bar in Hockley, Nottingham from 11-3.  I know I could be accused of being biased, but you really aught to come down and have a look.  Not only is there the amazing cake stall and raffle (which lets face it is actually reason enough) but you can get hold of some lovely crafts, clothing, home grown plants, pottery, even get your nails manicured!  And meet some lovely people in the process of it all too.  Who knows, you may even end up joining us too!

If you don’t live in Nottingham, find out where your nearest WI is – I thoroughly recommend you find out what they’re up to, you may be surprised! xoxo

P.S.  We don’t sing Jerusalem either!

Dresser make over

April 14th, 2009

Back again after a break that ended up being far longer than I imagined. No real reason, just a general “meh” feeling I haven’t been able to shake off, combined with IT issues (something to do with blog surfing and then getting the blue screen of death…. RAM burning itself out…. do I sound like I know what I am going on about? If I do, I don’t…..)
Anyway, just cos I haven’t been active online (barely been able to check my emails each week let alone daily, so I really had disappeared off the radar) it doesn’t mean that I have been idle. Think I need to have a bit of a show and tell really.
I also recently started teaching 3 craft classes – 20 week hand embroidery course, a 15 week hand and machine embroidery course and a 20 week mixed crafts course, so I am happily settling into them. Have dates for 5 weekend courses through the summer school, and 3 evening classes starting in September. Craft fairs may have to take a back seat this year, although I have booked to do 5 in West Bridgford, which were consistently good/ at the least OK last year and I have new ideas for the stall. It’s also the time of year again when I am being made redundant – this time it’s the end of May, so job hunting time again. I love working in the Voluntary sector but the funding situation is starting to be a bit boring now – after 12 years of working I have never had longer than a 2 year contract. That’s getting a bit much as this is the 6th time I have been invited to “you’re being made redundant and we have no guarantees as to whether we’ll get more money in to continue with the project/ course/ service….” discussions. Moan over. I’ll find something else, I always do.

My plan is to be on my own domain soon, with the blog and shop all accessible and pretty. That’d mean me getting my act together, but watch this space!

Anyway, the first of the “show and tell”s for you – this dresser is solid pine, but had gone a really manky orange colour, but I can’t complain as it was free from a friend who was relocating from Nottingham to Sheffield, and simply didn‘t have the room in his small and incredibly minimalist flat…. David had suggested that I paint it dark brown, as we have a lot of dark wood furniture. Poor lad was given an “are you taking crazy pills” kind of look. I wanted cream and robins egg blue. So that’s what I got. Couple of coats of satin later and I am really happy with the result, especially as I think the colour helps show off the little nick nacks I have displayed.

I always wanted a dresser with loads of chickens on it, so although this is a small dresser at least I have 2 of my hens (anyone remember Bread?) and my 50′s cock- tail tray for starters.

Not to burn myself out too soon I will go, and now we have some decent light take some more pics of the other things I have been beavering away at recently behind the scenes, and be back soon xoxo

Craft fair day 1

May 16th, 2008

Back again after yet another bloggy break – feel like I should be writing lines out as punishment – “Must be a better blogger”
“Must be a better blogger”
“Must” – I’m bored now, but you get the point! I have been spending what feels like every waking moment making things and packing things and generally worrying about whether my stuff would sell. I had 4 hours sleep on Weds evening and worked til midnight last night, up again at 6:30 and pretty much getting straight again on the sewing machine to finish off my bunting for the stall….. I am so tired I have reached the “I can’t get warm” stage. So tonight, instead of pushing myself to do more I am going to have a bath, finish off a couple of bits of hand sewing for tomorrow and then have an early night. I haven’t been very pleasant to be around recently, so if you are reading this and know me in real life, I am sorry. Normal service will be resumed soon!
I placed a lot of pressure on myself for this craft fair, mainly because I need to be able to pay for the honeymoon, especially so now I have been told I may be (read: probably) made redundant in July (month before the wedding – great!) so I need to make money, basically. I have applied for a secondment to a more strategic post within the same organisation, which would be working 3 days a week, leaving me 2 days to do Pinky and Boo stuff, which would be wonderful if I got it.
I had been to the same organiser’s event recently in another part of Nottingham to see how it was set up, and there have been a number of “urban myths” flying around about just how good this craft fair is, some people making £600 in a weekend. Now, that is a lot of money and would see me rightly. So, the pressure got to me. I chilled out nicely with the Stitched Up ladies on Wednesday, and have had some great support from Vicky and Pamela in particular (thanks guys!x) but still been manic, mainly wondering whether I would have enough stuff to sell (after a conversation with someone on Weds who worried she hadn’t got enough) but the amount that was rammed into Vicky’s car today, and the fact I wouldn’t put all my stuff out showed I didn’t need to worry. However, I only managed to have my camera phone on me to show you what the stall looked like – proper photos tomorrow. The walls of the marquee were filthy, so tomorrow I will be taking some sheets and bits to cover them up, and probably move the way I have displayed stuff. Apparently Fridays are a bit quiet, but Saturday is great, especially as it coincides with the fortnightly farmers’ market – more people who are interested in buying up pretty thing hopefully. I made back the weekends’ site fee and the same and half again, so I am happy for day one. The otheer bonus to it being quiet was chatting to some lovely people who make fantastic stuff, which made the day pass really quickly.

Anyway, I feel a lovely hot bath coming on, probably followed by a slice of lemon cake and an episode of Pushing Dasies I recorded last week….Back tomorrow xoxo

What I’ve been up to since last time

March 15th, 2008

That’s an imaginative title for todays’ post isn’t it? I have been away for a week but I have managed to get quite a bit of crafting in since I last popped by. Not got many pics taken of things though (it’s the lighting that’s the problem – hate using the flash for close up photos – makes everything appear in the wrong colours!)
I do however have a couple of photos of what I made for my best friend Rach’s birthday. We have spent 2 lovely fortnight-long holidays in Cromer, North Norfolk and I know that Rach is never happier than when she is near the sea, so for her bithday, as well as some other bits and bobs I thought I would make her a couple of things to remind her of the lovely holidays. I made a little photo album that could slip in her bag and have a look at on a boring day at work (we all have them…) – on the cover is a picture of me “grafitti-ing” a sea wall with some chalk we found on the beach. I also made a purse with 2 pictures of Cromer that I printed directly onto some vintage sheets I stuck to freezer paper. I did, however, break David’s new printer in the process – be careful if you are printing onto fabric – we have a “top feeder” printer and the one at work was much better being a “bottom feeder”…. I made the purse up via Heather’s tutorial, which is dead easy to follow. I lined it in Kaffe Fassett quilting fabric - purple with lime green dots, and Rach loved it. I am making her another one with pictures of Pinky and Boo on it, and she would like it lined in pink (to match Stella’s ears). I am so pleased with it, and the new machine David bought me for my birthday (it’s on a couple of weeks but was a bargain so I have it early…) and Heathers’ instructions even made putting the zip in easy, and that’s the part I HATE with a passion!
I’ve also been making some more needle cases for the craft fairs I have lined up, and I may also list a couple of them on Etsy when they’re done. I’ll take some pics and post them this week.
Pootling round in the pictures I have stored I did find these from my London trip – the taxidermists in Islington Get Stuffed. I couldn’t believe the size of the Polar bear in the window, but it did remind me of a couple of stories my Dad used to tell me about when I was really young. The first was me rubbing my snotty, cold ridden nose in some fur coats hung up in a department store (this was also the day I managed to clear entire shelves of packets of shirts whilst my Dad was carrying me on his shoulder. Methinks I had been given some sweets before going out that day..) and the second was a very vague memory I have of a trip to the Maritime museum and a polar bear being on display, and within very easy reach of small children (as far as I know it still is, silly museum staff…) and, me being true to type, rubbing my face in the fur, but, it being very old being covered in dust. Thinking about it I can still vaguely remember the feeling of the dusty fur, so I must have been about 4 ish…. Dad always reckoned it was my first protest against fur coats. I reckon that it was simply an early sign of me liking soft fluffy things x