Tuesday, 31 August 2010


Just a quick post about what I have been doing for the last couple of days.

This morning I took a box to the Post Office, containing this:

It's a paper mock-up of a Planner/Diary, which a friend asked me to make for her. 

It has space for a photo, a diary and a notebook.

I printed off some diary pages, just to give her an idea of the layout.  Once she's happy with it, I will complete the layout of the diary pages, print them and bind them into a book.

This is really just an example, made from paper, to give her an idea what it would be like and the chance to alter the design if she wants to.

I included this sheet of fabric and paper samples, so she can choose the materials she would like for the case and book covers. 

I hope she's pleased with this; then I will be busy making it!  I think I'll make some more diaries too, to put in my shop.  After all, once I've gone to the effort of making the diary layouts, I only have to print them off (double-sided, hem, hem...) and bind them inside some nice covers.  I might make one for myself too!

* * *

As if that's not enough to keep me occupied... I also sent an e-mail today.  It contained a spec for a one-day workshop, teaching "Papercrafts for Christmas" to 9-16 year-olds at DS's Saturday "Frontiers Club".  This is a club set up by the local Education Business Partnership, to give extra activites and learning opportunities to children who are on their school's "Gifted and Talented" register (because they are gifted in one or more academic subject/area, or have a special talent in the arts, sport etc).  J. goes to this for 7 Saturdays in each term.  They offer 6-week morning courses, with an all-day workshop (in a different subject) on the 7th week.  He really enjoys going and has tried all kinds of stuff, from art to computing, ceramics to science, writing computer games to table-top war games, masked theatre to magic! 

So, I looked at the prospectus and thought "I could teach a course.  I could teach papercrafts and bookbinding.  Icould make courses for kids, to show them some simple stuff that I like to do."  Back in May, I approached the organisers, asking if they would be interested.  I heard nothing and was a bit fed up about it.  Eventually I asked the club supervisor about it one Saturday morning and she chased it up.  Then I had an e-mail, asking me to fill in a complicated form and send photos of the stuff I would do in a one-day workshop... Apparently they start new tutors with a workshop.  Great. Try to decide what to do in only 4 hours... 

I admit I left it sitting in my in-box for a while.  I couldn't get my head round the form, with its "what will you teach in each hour" boxes and its "Learning Outcome" box for each hour.  I also wasn't sure about the content for a four-hour course.  I'd been thinking of stuff to keep kids occupied for 6 mornings of 2 1/2 hours each.  

I then had a reminder e-mail... I left it for a few days...  

So, this morning I pulled myself together and sorted out what I would do.  I couldn't just let it go; either I had to e-mail back and say I wouldn't do only a workshop; or I had to say I wasn't ready to do any course this term after all (having said I could... hmmm...); or I just had to pull myself together, put my ideas down on paper and send that form back!  

I filled in the form.  I decided on Christmas Cards, made with embellishments that the kids could create using rubber stamping and colouring, peel-off outline stickers, pre-printed pictures (like santas, christmas trees, cute reindeers etc), matting and layering etc -

This sort of stuff, like I made last year.

I also thought they could try some simple Christmas Decorations

I made these last Christmas.

I found some instructions for making decorations with sparkly pipe-cleaners and beads too, so I included pictures of those.

I did an afternoon course in card-making, for some of the ladies who live in the sheltered-housing where my mum lives.  The cards we made were similar to those above.  They really enjoyed it.  I think the same techniques would be very easy for children to do and we could just add in extra bits, depending on how quickly they picked it up.  The cards are quick to make and look good, so they should be able to make at least a couple each.  The decorations are a little bit more tricky, but not impossibly hard - they're all bright kids and they have to have something to challenge them. 

I hope the Club are still interested, despite my prevarication... It's only one day after all.  It might give me the chance to do a course in the Spring term - perhaps simple book-binding, or scrapbook making.  

Time Will Tell... but it's a bit Scary just now.  Wish me luck!  

Saturday, 28 August 2010

New Page, New Toys!

I've had a busy week, but today I had some fun and have made a new Scrap Page.  It was inspired by Shimelle's Challenge, to scrap with Aqua, Red and White:

I embellished it with hand-stencilled designs, using white Conte crayon.  I also made some embellishments with hand-cut lino stamps.  They all came out pretty well. 

I'm pleased with this one - another for my "Me" album, which has about 4 pages now... Time I actually put them in an album together, I think!

It was a good afternoon to be in my studio.  This was the weather outside (after a morning of bright sunshine, when I was stuck indoors!) -

Yes, that is a small flood you can see on the road!

Luckily it cleared up after a couple of hours and the sun came out again before bed-time!

While I was in my studio, watching the rain, I played with my new toys!! EEEEE.... I am excited to announce the arrival of....

A die-cutting/ embossing machine!

I got this today at a local scrapping shop called, Stamp Addicts.  They are a great shop and stock their own ranges of rubber stamps and crafting materials, along with a good selection of other stamps, papers, embellishments, inks, paints, tools etc, etc... They have an online shop where you can get a lot of their stuff. 

Anyway, they have had a special promotion during August and I got this today.  I'm really happy about it, as I already had this - 
- and needed a die-cutter/embossing machine to make it work.

I spent an hour or so experimenting.

The Cuttlebug included this little set of embossing dies, which I had fun trying out.  As you can see, they produce a really nice, crisp imprint.  I did another on a thinner paper though, which didn't come out well; so obviously a good quality paper is best. 

I also had this Sizzix embossing folder, which I got free with a magazine about 100 years ago.  The brass stencil is good for hand-embossing, but I wanted to see how it came out on the embossing machine.  After a bit of experimenting, and making my own packing sheet from a piece of medium-weight card, I got a really nice impression - as you can see.

Encouraged by the success of the Sizzix die, I tried out a rubber mat I had bought along with the Cuttlebug, which is designed to allow you to use the brass stencils you get for embossing by hand. 

I tried a couple of brass stencils and was really pleased with the results.  I think I ought to buy some Christmas stencils, for this year's cards!

Then I started to experiment a bit with the Letterpress kit.

There were nine plates provided with the kit, so I thought I'd try some embossing with this one.
A piece of grey paper on top and close the lid...
Not a very good result.  The paper is a bit thin.
This was the result with a piece of cardstock.  It's a "debossed" image, which means it goes in, rather than being raised out from the surface.  It doesn't produce an embossed image on the reverse though, so I can't emboss with these plates, only deboss.  Still, it looks nice (better in real life!).

The kit came with a tube of sticky black printing ink, a roller etc, but I didn't want to get all gooey today!  I tried inking up the plate with an ordinary little craft ink pad in a soft aqua colour.

This is the result.  I'm really pleased with it.  It's printed onto some soft sketch paper.  The hand-dabbed ink has given it a soft, blended effect and it really looks lovely.  I could do good stuff with this!

A closer view of the de-bossed and inked effect. 

So, that was today's experimenting.  I have lots to learn about these two bits of equipment, but it does mean I have my own teeny mini printing press!  I still need to find out what other kinds of stuff I can use as plates to print with.  The rollers do not adjust and I can't use anything that's too thick, or it will break the machine; but I hope I might be able to try some prints with the soft lino I have bought.  If the Letterpress won't allow it, I think the Cuttlebug plates are varied enough to accept some lino plates.  I'll report back when I have tried it out!

Thursday, 26 August 2010

Yum, yum! Brownies, anyone?


While I was on holiday, I came across this recipe for chocolate brownies, which was supposed to be very quick, easy and tasty. 

So, of course, I had to try it out!

* * *

Quick Chocolate Brownies

230g Dark Chocolate - 140g broken up and smashed into chunks
125g butter
250g sugar
1tsp vanilla essence
90g plain flour
2 eggs, at room temperature
pinch salt (if using unsalted butter)

20cm/8" square tin, lined

Melt the butter and 90g chocolate (the bit you didn't smash up!) in a bowl over hot water, or in a microwave (heat for 10-15 seconds, then stir, repeat until chocolate is melting, then stir until it has completely melted. This avoids burning the chocolate by over-heating).

In a separate bowl, mix the eggs, sugar, flour and salt (if using). 

Blend this with the melted chocolate mixture, to a smooth batter. 

Add the chocolate chunks and stir well.

Pour into the prepared tin and bake at 180 degrees C for 10-12 mins, until a skewer or sharp knife comes out clean. 

Cool completely, then remove from tin and cut into pieces.

* * *

The Verdict

The cakes seemed to take much longer to cook, than the 10-12 mins in the recipe.  This may have been the fault of my oven, which I suspect is not very good any more (other things have taken too long before, though they were big things).  It may also have been because I used chilled eggs... who knows? 

Anyway, once the brownies were obviously cooked, I left them in the tin on a rack, to cool down completely.

Even when cold, if you look at the photo above, you'll see that the chocolate was all runny.  They were really more like chocolate puddings, than chocolate brownies.  We did sample two, but ate them from a bowl, with custard!!

They tasted like brownies - in fact, they were really yummy - but we wanted Real Brownies, with that nice texture they have...

So, I put the whole tin into the fridge for an hour or two. 

Then I took them out and removed the paper:

They had the right sort of texture once chilled...
They had that lovely crackly top, like Real Brownies...

They looked and tasted just like Chocolate Brownies.
We tried a couple today, after storing them in a plastic box at room temperature.  They still taste like proper Chocolate Brownies, so I reckon they're okay!

I'm not sure why they took so long to cook - about 18-20 mins in the end - but if you try this recipe (and I really think you should!!), do follow the recipe time for your skewer test and only leave them longer if they're obviously not cooked yet.  However, I am pleased that, despite the minor hiccups and the necessary chilling time, these have come out wonderfully and taste great.

Definitely worth a try - the mixture was so quick to make and it was fun too!  I think I'll add some chopped walnuts (or similar) next time - I like brownies with nuts in.

Now then, where's the coffee, I need another Brownie!

Tuesday, 17 August 2010

Look What I Made! A little Tutorial for your Delight...

It's been a while since I put a tutorial on my blog... I think it's time to do something about that. So, while I was working away on part one of this little project last night, I hatched a Plan. I would make the second one this morning - and take photographs. Then I would make a tutorial for my blog friends.

Make a Mini-Peg Card Holder

Mini-Peg Card Holders

Yesterday I was in Milton Keynes (yes, that place made famous by concrete cows and huge shopping centre).  It was actually the shopping centre that was my destination and I actually saw the Concrete Cows.  True story - they used to live in a field/park round the corner from where I lived, in MK.  Now they live under the famous Oak Tree, in the middle of the new shopping centre extension.

Anyway, I went into the large branch of a certain famous Department Store chain.  In their haberdashery and craft department, I found two packs of mini-pegs, attached to which were hearts, butterflies and dragonflies.  These are cut from thin wood, which is covered with fabric:

Lovely, aren't they?

So I bought them. Brought them home. Hatched a Plan to make a Present for a certain tiny person's birthday in a month's time.  The tiny person's mummy loves vintage-style stuff, also banners, bunting, streamers and all things long, trailing and pretty.  "I will make a Birthday Card Hanger!" I thought....

So I did. Like this:

Sort your little decorated pegs into an arrangement you like and lay it out on a flat surface.  I had one pack of all-hearts and a pack of mixed butterflies and dragonflies; so I decided to use "Heart, Butterfly, Heart, Dragonfly, Heart... etc" as my arrangement.

Decide how long you want your banner to be and cut a length of thread for it. 

This will depend on a few factors, which you will need to determine yourself really... for me it was wanting to have a banner that held birthday cards, but would be short enough to hang on a fireplace/in an alcove etc; but I also wanted the pegs to be close enough together not to look sparse (as they are small).  I decided to use half the pegs on one banner and then made my thread about 120cm long. 

The length of thread needs to be long enough to hold the pegs and also to leave extra at each end, to attach to something for hanging (a pin, sticky tack stuff, tie onto something etc). 

The thread should be strong enough to take the weight of the cards - 12 greetings cards would be reasonably heavy, so I used a strong linen thread, that I have for book binding.  A piece of strong crochet cotton, string, thin tape or ribbon, or even fine wire, could also be used.

Thread this through a suitable needle. 

* * *

Put the needle through the hole in the peg-spring of the first peg - as shown in picture. 

Pull the thread through until the peg is near the end, but leave a tail for hanging.

Then put the needle back through the hole, in the same direction, to form a loop. 

Pull the loop up, so it is tight round the back of the peg - picture 3.

* * *
Space out your pegs.

You need to space your pegs evenly, so it looks neat and balanced.  As you see, I used my cutting mat as a guide. 

Decide how far apart you want the pegs, thread the next peg on and slide it up the thread, so it is the correct distance from the one before - as shown.  I chose a spacing of 8cm between pegs.

Make sure your peg is the right way up! I'm sure you wouldn't want pegs sticking up in the air, with upside-down butterflies...

Make your loop around the peg-spring. 

Use the tip of a finger to keep the peg in the right place, as the thread will pull through if you let it.

Continue along the thread, spacing each peg the same distance from the one before.

Take care not to slide the pegs along the thread, as you move them out of your way while you are working.

* * *

Use a blob of strong PVA glue to secure the thread loop to the back of the peg.

Lay out the peg string in a line.  Adjust any "slides" that may have occurred - check measurements if you need to. 

Glue every thread loop to its peg.  Leave the whole string to dry thoroughly - a good time for a refreshing cup of tea, your lunch or a good night's sleep!

Make another if you want to.  Hang on the wall - singly or together.

* * *

These would be great at a wedding reception or special party.  You could attach slips of paper - like I have - and guests could take one, write a special message to the Happy Couple / Birthday Person / To Whom It May Concern, then re-attach it to the peg-string.  You'd have a whole line of good wishes to take home!

You could also make these for other occasions.  I have seen these mini-pegs in lots of craft shops etc.  Sometimes they have embellishments attached, others they are just plain.  They come in colours, made of wood or plastic. I've seen gold and silver ones too. 

If they don't have embellishements on, you can make your own, or buy some of the crafters' embellishment packs and attach them to the pegs yourself.

I've seen these with lots of other embellishments - ladybirds (ladybugs!), bees, frogs, fishes, dinosaurs, birds, butterflies, flowers, Santas, reindeer, fir trees, holly, mistletoe.... you get the idea!

You can get them online too.  In UK there's a children's craft catalogue, sent home by many schools, called Yellow Moon.  They have a website where you can buy craft supplies - Yellow Moon, pegs. I'm sure there are other sites too.

Of course, you could make something similar with full-sized wooden spring-pegs.  There are plenty of ready-made embellishments that you could glue onto these.  They would hold all kinds of stuff, from cards to scrap pages, ribbons to bunting flags...

Have a go and leave me a link to your project - I'd love to see what great ideas this sparks off! 

Sunday, 15 August 2010

Paaaarty - No Sleep 'til Bedtime!

Okay, for those of you who are too young to recognise the reference... Beastie Boys!

Meanwhile, I have managed to snatch a couple of hours in a busy weekend, to join in with Shimelle's great Scrapping Party.

So far, I've managed to do a few of the photo challenges, make one layout and do the "Scrapping with whatever you have left" challenge too.  I'll post that one first...

Scrapping With Whatever You Have Left

I had some bits of burgundy cardstock and some little shreds of paper lying about, after the scrap page I made. There was also an assortment of ribbons and lace, in a couple of little boxes, at the back of my table, plus a small scratch-pad that I had been using to make notes about the challenges etc. So....

I made a mini note-book!

The book measures just over 3" square. I took a few pages from my scratch-pad and cut them to fit inside the folded cardstock. 
I used a piece of burgundy ribbon, threaded through some broderie-anglaise tape, as the fastening.
The cover is decorated with a strip of B.G. floral paper. I then added a bright pink organdie ribbon, under a strip of white paper, from which I had cut some butterflies and flowers for the scrap page. I added a couple more punched flowers, to balance it and trimmed it to fit. The ribbon shows through the cut-outs as a shimmery layer and looks very pretty.

back view

The binding - stitched onto the back cover, with waxed pink crochet cotton.

I'm so pleased with this little project. And it only took me 20 minutes!

Then I managed a couple of pictures for the photo challenges:

a quick snap of those ribbons and lace, perched on my laptop keyboard!

Scary shot of my desk, while I was busy with the scrap page. The bit of green space is where I tidied up a few messy bits, ready for the next stage. I hadn't tidied up all the clippings yet - see that tin can in the background? That is my dustbin! All my tiny trimmings, clippings, shreds etc get put in there, then I can empty it later.
Last Wednesday and Thursday, I bought and fitted up my new shelves.  I've put some of my stuff on the shelves now, but the room is still quite a mess. Tomorrow's job is definitely, really definitely, to tidy up my workspace!

Lastly, my Scrapbook Page.  The only one I have had time for this weekend - even though I love some of the challenges set, I just haven't had time yet!

Perfectly Pink - all about my new clothes!

I read Shimelle's challenge and immediately thought of the small heap of pink papers that were sitting on my desk. 
I had a custom order for my shop, which was to make a dozen little notebooks for a lady's wedding (for use as mini-guest books).  She wanted them to be in shades of pinks and browns, so I dug out various papers that were lurking in my stash.  In the end I used six different Basic Grey papers, along with pink and brown ribbons. 
The whole set looked lovely and I was very pleased with it.  However, there were still lots of bits and pieces of pink (and brown) papers littering the top of my crafting desk (my book-binding table, on the other hand, was clean and shiny!).

Then, as I was going to bed last night, I looked at my new blouse and jeans... the blouse was found in a little shop in Wells, when I was on holiday.  The jeans were bought yesterday, during a shopping trip in Milton Keynes (while I waited for the Boys, who were very busy in the Games Workshop, playing battles with J's Warhammer set!). I hadn't bought any new clothes for months and months, so I'm very pleased with this new outfit. I didn't wear pink for a long time - until J. persuaded me to buy an amazing little cardi, in shell-pink lambswool, embellished with beads. It has been a favourite for about 4 years now (though it's starting to show its age!). Since then, I've been braver and bought a few carefully chosen pink items.  This blouse is perfect, as the pinks are rosy and warm, but the pattern is bright and summery. It goes so well with the soft blue of the jeans.
Which is what the journalling is all about:


So, this layout was born. It's an absolute plethora of pink really. Veeeery Pink for me! I did have the paper with blue and pink leaves on a brown background, which softens the blow a bit. And I kept the background paper darker, to make an impact. The blue note-paper that I used for journalling just happened to be in my notes-tray (with notes on the back of it!). So I cut it up, as it matches almost exactly with those blue leaves and brings out the blue jeans too.
A bit of messing about was needed, to get the photos to stand out from the hugely busy background. I've never done such a very busy layout before - it was really quite a challenge. I cut the photo corners from dark cardstock, then used a fine pen to draw round the edges of the photos. It's not quite perfect, but it looks good. 
I'm actually pretty pleased with the result! I think it met the challenge alright - there is definitely "at least a little pink" on that page!

I might get time to try another challenge tomorrow evening; but Monday is always a busy day and J. wants to go to another Warhammer event in the afternoon - that'll keep me occupied (sigh...).

I hope you all had fun, if you tried any of Shimelle's challenges this weekend. I've really enjoyed myself, even if I haven't had much spare time. 

And now it really is Bedtime and I am off to get some of that sleep!


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