Halloween in Blists hill

Blists Hill

On a recent trip to Shropshire we visited the Blists Hill Victorian Town. One of ten Ironbridge Gorge Museums it recreates a victorian town as it would have been 100 years ago complete with a bank, grocers, bakery, candle maker, mini funfair and more. This was my first ever visit to a living museum so needless to say, I was quite excited. By daytime, the townsfolk are dressed in traditional victorian outfits and go about their daily lives and business.

Blists hill

Blists hill

Blists hill

Blists hill

Blists hill

Blists hill

Come nightfall on Halloween however, the town became something different…

Blists hill

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Blists hill

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Blists hill

Blists hill

My camera couldn’t handle gaslight very well so please excuse the fuzzy images, you can see more fabulous costumes here

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Blists hill

Blists hill

Blists Hill

If you ever find yourself in this part of the world, the surrounding towns are very charming and well worth a visit. See more of Shropshire, the birthplace of the Industrial Revolution in a future post.

In the meantime, here’s a gratuitous picture of our supper from the Blists Hill Fish & Chip shop…

Blists Hill

Scented Pine cones

 

 

 

Went for a lovely walk in the park this weekend and gathered a small batch of pine cones for this seasonal crafty post. You can probably buy these in the shops but seeing as pine cones are so readily available at this time of the year, it doesn’t make sense to pay for them. Just put your coat on, go for a stroll in the park and return with your bag of swag. Scented pine cones are very easy to make and you can choose your own scent. Imagine coming home from work on a dark autumnal evening to a house smelling of warm apple pie and spiced Cinnamon 🙂

**You will need**

Pine cones, Cinnamon Essential Oil / any of your choice

Scented Pinecones

Once you have gathered all your pine cones its time to put them in the oven! This helps to crisp them up as well as bake out any bugs still living in them. Arrange your pine cones on a baking tray lined with foil and Bake at Gas mark 5/200 degrees for 20 minutes. Get ready for the warm spicy scent of pine to fill your kitchen as they get toasty in the oven. Gorgeous!

Remove your tray of pine cones from the oven and allow them to cool down completely. They will be darker in colour and slightly more fragile so handle them gently. If you happen to have a can of spray adhesive to hand, give them a light coating. Mine look a bit like a tray of fossils, no? 🙂

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Pine sap will have oozed out making the edges slightly shiny too

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This pine cone is one of my favourites because it looks so unusual and beautiful. Almost like a cinnamon pastry! Its scent was also sweeter smelling compared to the other Long & Shortleaf pines in my haul. It is from the Atlas Cedar tree and although very popular here in Britain, they also appear to be a delicacy for woodland critters (squirrels?) so this was the only intact one we could find. The rest had been greedily munched on, like apples.

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Place a handful of pine cones into a ziplock bag, sprinkle a few drops of your chosen essential oil (I love Cinnamon), give the bag a shake to mix things up. Then leave them to infuse in the bag for between 1 – 7 days depending on how intensely you want them to smell. Repeat and top up with more oil if needed.

How to Make Scented Pine Cones

Make some tea, put your feet up, and enjoy your

deliciously scented home 🙂

Tealight Illuminaries

Repurposed jars

Got a spare jam/coffee jar lying around? Or maybe even a few jars lying around? DON’T THROW THEM AWAY! Give this project a go, there are many useful ways to repurpose glass jars. I have been slowly accumulating a collection of jars with the aim of doing a post on baking-things-into-jars, such as cake and bread. But I haven’t quite got enough yet, so for today I wanted to use this whimsical pack of napkins I bought from Tiger stores to make little tealight illuminaries.

***You will need*** 

Some napkins with motifs of your choice

Decoupage / PVA glue

A Small Paintbrush

Scissors

Jars

Repurposed Glass Jars

Begin by rinsing your jars really clean and removing the sticky labels. I learned recently that a can of WD40 does the trick. Just spray and wipe! If you haven’t got that to hand, some alcohol or white spirit should do the job nicely.

There are two methods you can use to cut out the motifs:

Repurposed jars

Either cut out the motifs as closely around the edges as you can, then remove all the extra paper layers…

Repurposed jars

OR Separate the layers by pulling off the top sheet from the others and cutting out the pieces afterwards. Either way, you will only be needing the top layer.

Repurposed jars

Once you have cut out your pieces, we can begin with the Decoupage technique. This basically means, glueing your paper pieces, in layers, on to your chosen surface. You can decoupage onto virtually anything from wood, metal, glass and plastic but the key is allowing the drying time between each layer. This makes it scratch resistant and washable. Its worth the wait!

Dip your paintbrush into some glue and paint it on to the glass, about the size of your paper motif. Apply the motif lightly on to the glue with dry hands to prevent bubbles or ripping…

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Gently cover the motifs with a layer of glue and allow to dry 1 hour

Repurposed jars

Apply a second layer of glue then allow to dry another 1 hour

Repurposed jars

They’re done!

Afterwards, I decided to paint the tops of mine using two coats of Americana acrylic paint in Razzle Berry and Bluegrass Green, just to add a pop of colour…

Repurposed jars

Enjoy your twinkly tealight illuminaries!

Repurposed jars

Repurposed jars

Try putting your pens or stationery items into them, or use them in the kitchen to hold your cutlery and cooking utensils.

You can even send them to me so that I can do a post on baking yummy things into jars 🙂

Easy DIY cafe curtains

With the increase of high-rise apartments popping up around the area I decided it was time to fix myself some cafe-style halfway curtains to maintain some privacy whilst still allowing plenty of daylight into my craft space. I wanted something quick, thrifty, pretty, yet versatile. Behold, the Tea towel cafe curtain!

DIYcafeCurtains

Tea towels come pre-sewn and at the perfect length for most windows so you won’t have to worry about measuring and cutting fabric pieces, plus the edges are already seamed and finished so you won’t have to worry about those either. With such a wide variety of prints and fabrics available you really shouldn’t have trouble finding something to suit you. You can also get a handful of basic tea towels for very little cost these days, Pound shop or Vintage? the choice is yours. But you don’t have to stick to one type, because these cafe curtains are easily interchangeable as they are held up by curtain clips. Swap and choose as you like 🙂

***You will need***

2 – 4 Tea towels/dishcloths (I used 4 which was plenty for my window of 1.5 meters wide)

Curtain wire and clips

Seam Ripper

Sewing machine

I am using some Cath Kidston tea towels which I bought in the sale but can’t actually bear to use as tea towels, since they’re so pretty. The fabric is quite a thick canvas cotton but you can choose a more sheer fabric depending on how see-through you want your curtains. You can use this method for kitchen, hallways, bathrooms, or wherever you want some partial privacy.

DIY cafe curtains

Measure your window to decide how many tea towels you will need. Three was enough to span my window so I added an extra one for ease. You can add as many as you like depending on how much gathering you want. The more the merrier!

Rip open the side seams (lengthways only) of your middle pieces. Note: You will only have to open one length of your far left and far right pieces as the outside edges are already seamed and you want to keep those intact. For example; I opened both seams of pieces 2 and 3 and only one side of pieces 1 and 4 of my tea towel panels.

DIY cafe curtains

DIY cafe curtains

Decide which end will be the bottom of your curtain,

with two pieces facing stitch tea towels together…

DIY cafe curtains

DIY cafe curtains

Sew all the way down the length,

then open the seam and fold it over…

DIY cafe curtains

DIY cafe curtains

and stitch over it.

Continue until all your pieces are joined into one horizontal panel…

DIY cafe curtains

Like me, you might find that the tea towels don’t always match in length…

DIY cafe curtains

You can either trim off the excess or simply fold it under until it matches the shorter piece underneath then stitch as normal…DIY cafe curtains

Pieces all sewn together!

DIY cafe curtains

Attach curtain clips along the top of your fab new curtain panel and hang the panel on to your curtain wire or whichever system you have…

DIY cafe curtains

Admire your Easy DIY teatowel curtains!

DIY cafe curtains

If you have a very small window, you may not have to do any sewing at all, just hang one panel on either side of your window using the clips and you’re done! If you have a small AND short window? Try hanging your panels horizontally instead of vertically. Heck, you can even try patchworking multiple patterns and pieces together, or try adding lace edges or ribbon for your own truly unique curtain panels.

Let me know how you get on, I would love to see your creations!

American Halloween

I’m not sure if its an actual word but I suppose I would consider myself a sort of Americaphile. A big fan of US popular culture and the food. Oh the food. I blame all those imported TV shows I grew up watching and the young teen fiction I loved reading, and somewhere I’ve still got a very modest collection of Archie comics. But what I love most of all about visiting the US is timing the trips for Halloween. Yeah ok, I’m too old for Trick or Treating but not too old for admiring all those fabulous displays and cooing at the abundance of Pumpkins dotted around. Halloween fever just hasn’t caught on here in the same way it has in the US, we Brits don’t seem so keen on decorating our homes with skeletons and pop-up ghouls, especially if there is a chance you’ll wake up one morning to find someone has messed with your pumpkin display. And so, I must get my fix elsewhere.

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So we begin in Salem, Massachusettes in October 2010. A little corner of the world most famous for the Witch Trials of 1692 where scores of people were accused of witchcraft and imprisoned, 20 of them were sentenced to death.

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There is something about the US clapboard, grand victorian house which really appeals to me. Its like a giant gingerbread dollshouse.

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Today, It is estimated that 10% of Salem’s residents are modern day witches. You can see by strolling its high street and browsing its many charming magic and herb shops that the spirit of witchcraft is very much embraced here.

Salem

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This Salem resident appears to love Halloween more than I do. In this backyard, blood spurted from various places and the guillotine was motorised. Of course.

Salem

 

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But we mustn’t forget that Salem also has a very rich maritime history thats well worth exploring once you’ve gotten over all that witchy excitement

 

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From here we move on to Halloween in San Francisco 2013.

A foggy day in the city made this visit to Alacatraz Island particularly atmospheric and eerie

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SF

Back on the mainland, Little Red Riding Hood went for a walk in Golden Gate Park but wandered into Sleepy Hollow

SFMore awesome displays

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SF

 

SF

SF

SF

We don’t have pretty painted victorians like these over here in the UK, I thought this one in particular looked chocolatey and autumnal

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I want to live in this amazingly decorated spooky house. That is all.

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SF

SF

SF

SF

SFThere was something about this October evening in San Francisco with its thick fog and twinkling lights that made me feel as though there was definitely something magical in the air…

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And lastly you must meet Claude! What does Claude have to do with Halloween you ask? Well, have you ever seen an albino alligator before? His striking colour would make him extremely vulnerable in the wild as he doesn’t have the swampish camouflage that you would normally see on ‘gators, so he now lives at the California Academy of Sciences, SF. I find him incredibly weird and wonderful at the same time, don’t you? Halloween is a time when we can all let our darker sides come out to play. That is what I think Halloween should really be about.

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Claude fails at going incognito…

 

How to carve a Pumpkin

Pumpkin

Autumn is my favourite time of the year because I get to eat chestnuts, squashes and Pumpkins. I should mention that I have quite an obsession with Pumpkins. Not only is the colour gorgeous, but they are fun to carve, taste really awesome, and you can even roast the seeds for snacking. Pumpkins are also a fun reminder that Halloween is just around the corner. I spotted this good-looking pumpkin in a shop window yesterday and knew it was the one. Here’s how I carved my own Halloween Jack O’ Lantern:

You will need:

A Pumpkin Carving kit (Got mine from Sainsbury’s supermarket)

A Tealight candle (Battery operated recommended)

 

This nifty little kit from Pumpkin Masters  is perfect for carving your pumpkins. It comes with a scoop, 2 saws, a tracing wheel, a drill point and a cool pattern book.

Pumpkin

Begin by marking a circle about the size of your hand around the base of your pumpkin. Using the larger saw, cut around and remove the bottom.

pumpkin

 

pumpkin

Woohoo! Enjoy the sound of ripping open the pumpkin and have fun removing all the guts and entrails. Separate the seeds from the flesh so that you can roast them later on. I like to sprinkle them on my breakfast oatmeal or add them to salads.

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Scoop out the pumpkin flesh until the shell is about 1 inch thick

pumpkin

 

Pumpkin

Draw or trace your design on to some paper and tape it to your pumpkin. Trace around your design using the little wheel or use the drill point to gently transfer it by puncturing little dot-to-dot holes.

pumpkin

Once you have transferred your design, start joining the dots and sawing out the background first. Take care not to cut through the bits which connect to the main pumpkin. Then using the smaller saw, cut out the door and windows.

pumpkin

Tadaaaa!!!

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Pop your carved shell over the tealight and base, then turn the lights out.

Pumpkin

You can find more inspiration here and some cool templates here

 

Happy Halloween Folks!

KERB your Hunger!

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One of the best things about sleeping in late at the weekend and waking up hungry is being able to pop down to yummy foodie gatherings such as KERB. I love crafting- that’s true, but I am also quite fond of food. Very fond indeed…

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A variety of different food stalls and trucks line up along Granary Square ready for me to stuff my face. Er… I mean, sample their offerings. First stop, its newcomer Yu Kyu and his Katsu Burger (Lightly breaded chicken in a brioche bun) with a delicate curry sauce. I asked for it to be sliced in half for sharing, a good trick at food events so you can reserve more belly space for sampling 🙂

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A good burger, and the sweet potato fries were especially yum!

Yu Kyu

 

 

Next up was the Piccante HeartBreaker Burger served up by Tongue ‘N Cheek. Beefy, Saussagey and spicey, and with Rosemary fries but I already ate them and forgot to take pics 😛

TongueNCheek

TongueNCheek

 

Lastly, there’s nothing like a bit of Lindy Hopping to work off that hearty lunch

Lindy hopping

especially with the awesomely retro sounds coming from the excellent DJ!

DJ!

Rain & DIY postcards

I was gazing out of the window this afternoon, enjoying my mug of hazelnut+PB coffee when it started to rain. Well, by rain I actually mean storm. It stormed so hard my window blurred so I couldn’t really see out anymore. Still, it was nice to be indoors 🙂

So I decided to have a go at machine stitching some postcards today, out of some screenprints I’d made earlier in the week. I’ll post the printing process another time as I wanted to get on with the stitching today.

***You will need***   Postcards and a Sewing Machine

 

I began by stitching all the way around the postcard edges

using a wide zig-zag stitch…

 

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This protects the edges of the postcard making it less likely to rip during the mailing process. It looks like a big fabric patch pocket!

 

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… Next I stitched a few straight lines randomly across the print

using different thread colours..

 

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… Then I added my text.

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All done!

I’m thinking of making these in batches using different paint colours

and perhaps try sandwiching them together to make envelopes.

Feeling Wicked..!

This little Elphaba doll is my most popular item and was created because I really enjoyed going to see Wicked the Musical but couldn’t find an item I liked enough to reflect that. So I decided to make my own!

Elphaba

I began with a little drawing one afternoon…

 

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Then, using a crochet hook and some yarn I began experimenting freehand to make those iconic stripey legs and ruby shoes…

 

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Next came the body and a pair of arms…

 

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Ta da!!    In the end I was so pleased with my Elphaba I decided

she needed her friend Glinda to Defy Gravity with.

 

Elphaba&Glinda

Visit my store for your own set of Wicked handmade dolls this Halloween!

Welcome!

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Hi everyone, welcome to my blog! I am dedicated to all things crafty and handmade. If there is a simpler, quicker, eco-thrifty way to make or do something, I will probably attempt it. I like making things with my own hands because I find it heaps more satisfying. Do I have a favourite craft? Nope! When its cold, I like to knit and when its warm, I might sew. Over the years I have learned various crafts from knitting, crochet, sewing to origami. Some projects have turned out great and some not so great. But what remains unchanged is how much I enjoy the process. For me, crafting is a learning process and if I can share what I have learned with you all, even better.

Candy Cloud Studio is my crafting journey.

I hope you join me in watching it grow and develop.

 Feel free to leave me your comments and ideas. What are you making today? 🙂