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!)