Pine Cone ElvesReally nice Christmas tree decorations can be expensive, but they don't need to be if you make a few of them yourself.
I love pine cones, they make brilliant firelighters, they're free if you live near a pine tree, they even tell you whether it's going to rain or not (I can't quite remember how they do that though?) These little Pine Cone Elves are such a fab idea and they'll cost you a little felt and a bag of wooden balls - a couple of quid for around 50 little wooden balls!
I also use pine cones as they are, they make handy clips to keep the Christmas tree wires tucked in on my tree.
I have pinecones all around the house at Christmas, in bowls with baubles and pretty much just scatter them around so my house feels a bit more Narnia!
Pine Cone Elves
These little pine cone elves look very happy! They're created by EAB Designs.
How to make a little zip up purse - a really easy tutorial.
This cute little fabric coin purse makes an ideal gift or stocking filler, especially for a little girl to keep pocket money, hair clips or any other little treasures inside. It's very simple to sew up too, and makes an ideal sewing project for a beginner. Scroll through the pics - the mini coin purse tutorial is at the end.
The purse pattern is simple and easy to sew up (zips are really easy I promise!) and it can be made to any size.
Mini Coin Purse Tutorial
This cute little padded purse has a useful little tab for clipping inside a larger bag or attaching to a keyring.
This purse is made using a cotton/linen mix fabric, lightly stiffened using lightweight interfacing. It is fully lined using co-ordinating cotton and lightly padded with 2oz wadding. I use the lining material to make the tab for the d ring but any keyring or piece of ribbon would work equally well.
Cutting list –
2 x 10cm squares of outer fabric, lining fabric, interfacing and wadding.
1 x small zip – see pattern notes
1 x 1cm d ring / small key ring
1 x 4cm wide strip of lining fabric – see pattern notes
1 x 4cm wide strip of interfacing for tab (to match above strip)
This purse will be approximately 8 x 8 cm
This simple pattern can be made to any size, with the length of the zip being the only limiting factor, any size zip will do as long as it is of equal or larger size to your available fabric. You will also need a zipper foot for your sewing machine.
The size of the tab can also vary in length to your own requirements but I advise making it no shorter than 4cm in length for ease of sewing, you can always trim to size later. I usually make a long strip so that I can clip off tab pieces as and when I make a new purse.
1. Cut fabric and iron on interfacing - Cut all of your fabric pieces and interfacing. Press the interfacing onto the reverse side of your outer fabric and onto the strip of lining fabric for the tab following the manufacturers instructions.
2. Making the Tab - Whilst the iron is still hot press the strip in half lengthways. Then fold each half in towards the centre line pressing each flat and being careful not to burn your fingers. Finally fold in half again pressing flat to create a 1cm strip.
3. Sewing the tab - Using the same colour cotton as the lining fabric sew down each side, equidistant from the edge, to create an attractive and sturdy 1cm wide tab to thread through your d-ring (or key-ring).
4. Attach the zipper foot - Attach your zipper foot to your machine, zips are such a pain without it, if you don’t have one I would say it is well worth the investment.
5. Sewing in the zip (a) - Sandwich the zip between the lining and outer fabric as shown with the right side of the zip and the outer fabric facing. Make sure the zip and the fabric are in line and pin if necessary. If you are using a zip that is longer than your fabric (which I am as this is such a mini purse) position the fabric towards the end of the zip, keeping the zip pull closed and at the other end, out of the way.
6. Sewing in the zip (b) - Sew along the zip edge allowing the raised bump of the zip to be your guide against the protruding section of the zipper foot. Consider the amount of zip you wish to be showing and set your stitch width accordingly, too close and you risk the zip getting caught. I usually have my needle position set to 2 or 3.
7. Sewing in the zip (c )- Now you need to repeat the process for the other side of the purse. Flap down the side you have already stitched to reveal the other side of the zip. Make sure you take care to line up the fabric pieces exactly and again pin if necessary. (If you are using a shorter zip it may be necessary to stop halfway and lift the zipper foot to allow the zipper pull to pass through without causing your line of stitching to be uneven.)
8. Sewing down the lining - This is not an essential step but I think it is important to add quality and stop the lining ever being caught in the zip. When you lay out the fabric ready to sew the lining down ensure that you have both of the outer pieces to the other side, you are just adding an extra line of stitching to each lining piece. Pull the fabric pieces gently as you stitch down the line.
9. Use the zipper foot as a guide - I use the edge of the zipper foot as a guide to ensure I get an even width along both sides, keeping the stitch width at the same setting.
10. Sewing up the edges - Sew up the side of the purse that will not have the tab attached first – be sure to position the end cap of the zip inside your line of stitching and be extra careful not to allow your needle to hit the metal cap as you pass from the outer fabric, over the zip and onto the lining fabric. Now sew along the bottom of the outer section of the purse.
11. Seam Width - I allow a seam width of approx 1cm in order to leave room for a second line of stitching when I attach the wadding.
12. Attaching the tab – At this point ensure that your zip is in the open position. Position the tab about 1cm below the zip with the d-ring facing in. Consider your seam width to judge how far in to position the d-ring. I usually clip my tab to 4cm long and line up the edges with the fabric, Giving a tab of 1cm if I use a seam width of 1cm. Pin into postion. As before, sew up the layers ensuring that the zip is laying flat. I usually add a few extra lines of stitching to the tab section for strength.
13. Attaching the wadding – Sandwich the outer fabric section of the purse between the two squares of wadding you have cut out. Stitch around 3 sides to secure the wadding. I use this as an opportunity to add a strengthening second line of stitching all around the purse leaving the bottom of the lining open to turn through. At this point trim off any excess fabric.
14. Turn through and press!- Turn through the purse, pushing out all of the corners. Then gently press the raw edges of the lining. Be careful of the wadding which will melt and stiffen if pressed on a hot iron.
15. Stitch the lining - To create a neat finish to the lining piece, press the raw edges in and stitch across. Then push the lining into the purse and that’s it – you have a neat little purse!
Forget the Elf on a Shelf, this year my shelves will be adorned with wine elves! I love how simple this is, a bit of fluff, some felt and a little pom pom. Found here (not sure if this is the original link or not so please let me know if you find the designer's name)
Having spotted these elves or Father Christmas wine covers, I had a look for more.
A little more skill needed to make these needle felted hats - the effect is fantastic and these are definitely Wine Santa's rather than wine elves.
More wine santa's! these one's are for sale too if your crafty skills aren't quite up to making your own.
Follow my handmade Christmas facebook page if you'd like more Christmas decor ideas that you can make yourself or buy from independent designer makers - and if you make your own Christmas gifts and decorations, do share them on the Facebook wall.
Whenever I find an app that I think will be super useful for my fellow bloggers I vow to write a post about it...(then I get sidetracked) I have at least 10 on a list ready to share with you all so here's the first I think that every blogger, writer or social media manager should have.
This app is a constant help for me. I have an A-Level in English, however, I still make mistakes and this Chrome extension has been extremely useful. I've added it as an extension on my Chrome browser, so wherever I'm typing when I'm online it is constantly pointing out issues with my copy.
What does Grammarly do? Here's the concise answer from the Grammarly website.
As you type, Grammarly checks your text for more than 250 common and advanced writing improvements. The checks include common grammatical errors, such as subject-verb agreement, article use, and modifier placement, in addition to contextual spelling mistakes, phonetic spelling mistakes, and irregular verb conjugations. Plus, Grammarly’s spell check takes the context of your sentence into account. Grammarly also provides synonym suggestions to make your writing more readable and precise. With Grammarly, you can write online with confidence.
And here's a little video that shows Grammarly in action.
Better Writing with Grammarly - YouTube
It's not completely fool-proof and of course, you'll still need to re-read and check over posts but on numerous occasions, Grammarly has picked up on simple mistakes I've made.
It underlines the spelling or grammatical mistake and then you can just click to repair it or click ignore to overrule it.
I'm just using the free version, but I'm very tempted by the 'advanced' paid for version as I'm sure there are many more mistakes to repair in my writing.
Grammarly Synonyms Feature - aka making your writing more interesting
Another genuinely beneficial feature for me is the synonym feature. You simply double click on a word and it shows you alternative words with a similar meaning.
I usually write quickly and then edit later. Quite often I use words like 'great' and 'lovely' far too frequently so this is quite helpful to make my writing less repetitive.
Another Quick Tip - Overusing Exclamation Marks
Guilty. I'm addicted to exclamation marks so at the end of a post I click ctrl + F and search for exclamation marks. This isn't a Grammarly feature but one I use to weed out the zillion !!!'s I use when I'm typing at speed. Sometimes I realise I've been using exclamation marks like full stops, so this helps as it highlights them all so I can double check really quickly if they're all necessary. (I deleted 6 from this post, in most cases, they are most definitely not required!)
Are you looking for some cute Easter craft ideas to make this year? For the last few years I've made some little DIY Easter craft projects as gifts. I like anything I can fill with little chocolate eggs as that always goes down very well with the kids and adults too if you go for some good quality chocolate.
The last few years I've used my big stash of felt squares to make little easter gift bags.
In 2015 I made lots of these little felt bunnies. they're really easy to make you just cut a rectangle and on one side add the bunny ear shapes. I added some pretty fabric for the insides of the ears too. Then sew up the sides and add a little nose (I decided it was better without eyes too) Fill with some mini eggs and tie a little bow around to close it up.
Last year I made these little felt carrots, it's a really simple idea and the carrots look more realistic if you sew random white threads on them. I filled them with chocolate eggs for all the easter bunnies.
My Favourite Easter Craft Tutorials
I've been on the hunt for easter craft ideas for me to make this year!
The brief for my easter gifts this year -
Must be able to fill them with mini eggs... not negotiable!
Must be fairly easy to make, or have a really good step by step tutorial!
Not expensive to make!
I've got my sketchbook out doodling some ideas. I've also found some great easter craft ideas on Pinterest that suit my style, I will add more as I find them.
Please leave a comment with a link or description if you have any favourites you know of that fit my brief!
Easter chick from an egg carton - I just think these are cute AND I have some perfect orange card left over from Halloween! I keep my own chickens so I also have some really clean egg boxes. Only downside is they wont hold many eggs - would be good on a plate setting though!
Little sleeping bunny bags These look really easy to sew up and I'm pretty sure I have everything in my stash to make them so they definitely tick the inexpensive box!
Is your 'about me' page on your blog interesting and engaging? Does it make people want to follow your blog and journalists want to interview you?
As a potential follower of a blog I want to know who's writing it, what they are passionate about and why should I become a blog follower - what are you writing about that I just can't miss?
An 'about me' page on your website / blog can be difficult to write - you sit in front of a blank page and suddenly you are self conscious and wondering who will read and judge and perhaps even decide not to follow or buy, just based on the next few paragraphs?
- did I mention gin too many times, does it sound like I love my dogs too much, should I talk about my children?...
Make it interesting! Well duh!!! but you'd be surprised how many bloggers don't! If you already have an 'about me' page read it again, does it really sum you up?
Begin by writing your about me page from the heart, what are you actually trying to achieve with your blog? If you find it difficult to start, try asking yourself some questions like those below. Type your answers out and then edit them into a few powerful paragraphs that get the point quickly about what your blog is all about and why you think we should follow it.
Take care not to simply describe your domestic set up, I see this so often in those little bios in the sidebar of a blog.
'I am a mother with 2 fantastic kids and a wonderful partner, I make my crafts and write this blog in my spare time. I really love knitting, I learned to knit when I was 8 years old.'
YAWN! how about -
'If you met my family, you'd understand why I had to start writing a blog - it's certainly cheaper than a psychotherapist! I've been knitting since I was 8 - whatever you do don't open my cupboard doors, you will be drowned by an avalanche of yarn!' Rather than being turned off by the idea of hearing about some fairly average normality, we know you have a sense of humour and we're excited that we might find out some snippets about your hectic family life as well as your obvious passion for knitting and stash building.
If you have some favourite bloggers see what they've written, do you think they've done a good job or do you feel they are selling themselves short?
Questions to help you write your 'about me' page - Why did you start writing this blog? - What is this blog about? - In what environment do you write your blog? - Who do you think would love to read your blog? - Why should I follow your blog?
Write it and then edit edit edit... take out anything that isn't relevant.
How long should it be?
This comes down to personal preference and the style of your blog. If you write long posts then a long 'about me' will probably suit your blog style. If you mainly post images then perhaps you can sum yourself up in 3 images?
A huge essay / life story can be a bit overwhelming, most people clicking on your about-me page are there for the first time having landed on a post they found interesting enough to want to find out who you are and where you are in the world. You could include a link to find out more on a blog post you've written about your story.
What else to include on your 'about me' page
Your about me page is an opportunity to convert a first time reader into a blog follower. Social Media Links - Add just the links you use most so that people can quickly get in touch. A journalist/blogger might want to quickly send a tweet, or a potential customer or new blog follower might want to follow you on Instagram / Facebook
Instead of links you could simply add a big call to action to sign up for your newsletter!
Links to your best most popular blog posts - just a few of your best posts, a snapshot of what you write about.
How you work with brands - you don't need to include a full advertising page, just a few words at the end to indicate if you are interested in sponsorship and advertising will do alongside your email address or an embedded contact form.
If you find you start getting lots of requests to work with brands, then you could create a dedicated page to help filter out the spammers and all those people who want something for nothing!
Your email address or a contact form I would have a separate contact me page, people tend to look for 'contact' so it can help people who quickly want to get in touch. However, I think having your email address or a contact link on your about me page is also important.
This post was originally posted in 2011 and has been updated in Feb 2017
It’s often an afterthought; choosing a unique way to wrap presents at Christmas - But not anymore. Once you’ve finished browsing these 5 creative ways to finish off your gifts this year, the once boring boxes underneath your tree, will never be the same again.
The Cut Out
Inspiration and image credit: HomeEdit
Here’s an extremely quick and easy way to spruce up that plain paper you’ve been hoarding since Xmas ‘13. Simply draw a symmetrical shape onto a piece of card - Think Christmas tree or santa beard. Cut the shape out and fold in half. Use this shape as a template to draw on the reverse of your wrapping paper. Using a craft knife (Or very carefully with scissors), cut along the shape you’ve drawn - NOT along the fold line though! Now simply half fold out the shape to achieve a similar style as below:
Funky Gift Bag Modification
Inspiration and image credit: Fly Fresh Forever
This is the kind of gift wrap that will end up outshining the present! Why not take the gift bag you received from the office secret santa and turn it into an awesome little body shaped bag.
Tip for increased personalisation: Make mini caricatures of your family. Pop on a little cardigan design for your grandad or a peppa pig t-shirt for your young niece.
Vintage Twist - The Artisan Paint Fleck
Inspiration and image credit: Apartment Therapy
We love this simple yet effective way to take simple vintage craft paper and turn it into something striking this christmas
++ It’ll only take 2 minutes to do - Just be careful not to get paint on the carpet!
Simply peg up a large sheet of brown craft paper on the washing line. Take some thinly diluted paint (left over from the side of the house you forgot to paint this summer), and using a sponge or large paint brush, flick the paint across the sheets - Keep it mono-coloured for a classy outcome. You can order a few sheets of brown craft paper here
The All Out Gift Wrapped Extravaganza!
Inspiration and image credit: Karen - The Art Of Doing Stuff
Like a nativity play on a box, our next recommendation is not for the novice - However, if you can pull it off, or just want a cool project this sunday. Then why not try your hand at creating this boxy masterpiece.
Further inspo: How about making an ice-skating pond theme, using a similar design, but adding some blue paint and two black lines for skate tracks.
The Complementary Palette
Inspiration and image credit: Wrap This Up
So how about keeping it simple you ask? - No fear. This following suggestion will make wrapping beautiful presents effortless. Grab yourself a wrapping paper kit from WrapThisUp and take the guess work out of choosing perfectly coordinated paper, twine and tags.
So there you have it; 5 great ways to wrap your presents up this Christmas.
Have you got some ideas to share? Why not comment below with a picture of your gift wrapped masterpiece…
One of the special aspects of buying handmade items from sellers on the internet is when the parcel arrives. Unlike most large companies where you are just another order number, when you buy from an independent designer maker they will ofte go the extra mile to ensure your purchase is beautifully packaged.
I have a board on pinterest with some inspiration for making your parcels memorable
Make your packaging match your branding. This could simply be the colour of tissue paper, or perhaps a little sticker to seal the tissue paper with your logo printed on.
Include a little freebie. Nothing too pricey as you need to make a profit, just something little like a badge or branded stickers to make your customer smile.
Include a discount code to encourage the buyer to come back to your shop.
Always add a few business cards they can keep or pass on to friends - why not include a handwritten discount on the back with an expiry date.
Photograph your packaging and share it on product listings - people are reassured by a neatly packaged item.
Offer a gift wrapping option. A gift box may be too big and pricey to include in your standard packaging costs, but why not offer wrapping or a gift box as an extra.
Shop Nestled keeps it simple with butchers twine and brown paper bags
Practical Considerations when packaging products
Always find a clean surface to package your items. The floor is not a great idea, especially if you have pets (pet hairs stick to everything).
Packaging on the floor can also give you back ache, knee ache and result in you rushing the job. The ideal surface is a clean table or worksurface big enough for you to have everything to hand
Create a packaging tool kit. Keep everything you need in one place. You will save time spent looking for tape, scissors etc and you will also be able to see quickly when your packaging stocks are running low.
Practice wrapping and packaging your items before you add them for sale. You'll need to weigh the item complete with it's wrapping to get the price right. You can either incorporate postage costs into the product or you can add a price on your web shop. Either way, it's important you don't lose profit by undercharging.
Hunt around for packaging deals and consider reusing packaging. Being eco friendly could be part of your USP, let people know in the product description that you resuse packaging.
Don't make outer packaging too exciting as there are some very unscrupulous people about who might pinch your parcel.