Archives for posts with tag: tutorial

2017-11-19 14.15.58
Everytime someone whinges “but it’s not even December”, an elf loses their sense of purpose, and gets turned out into the cold. Help save jobs in Santa’s Workshop by keeping the festive spirit alive! Forget S.P.E.W…that’s so 1994. Elves of today have a new campaign and slogan – Christmas should be forever, not just once a year. ūüėÄ

Yes, I know…I’ve gone a bit OTT, but people can bah-humbug me all they like. I’m still not going to change; I just love Christmas. I was making plans for this occasion even before Halloween had been and gone…Actually, I probably started as early as spring when I went looking for pine cones during our nature rambles.

18359031_10155128500520856_4906400600311179133_ow
Early May saw us at Spring Wood in Walley which was practically covered in gorgeous bluebells. Quite by coincidence, it also had a lot of pine trees in the vicinity…The ground was full of pine cones, much to my delight. If you live in Lancashire, another great place to gather pine cones would of course be Beacon Fell.

18319265_10155128499865856_52985287915454952_o pine1sq
I wish I’d thought of bringing a bag or basket with me because I could only carry the cones in my coat pockets. They were very large and deep pockets though, so I did collect enough pine cones for craft purposes. The little branch that some of them were attached to could come in useful for another project, so I took that home with me as well.

2017-11-18 16.45.12
As it’s my first time working with pine cones, I had to do some research on how to prep them. According to various online sources, there are a number of methods. However, a vinegar bath seems to be the popular choice. Mostly because it not only cleans them, but also kills any bugs that may be hiding within. It will stink the room out as well, but that can’t be helped! ūüėõ

2017-11-12 13.50.05 2017-11-12 14.06.33-1
It’s advisable to grab a pair of tweezers so you can remove any visible debris before doing anything else. There’s probably all sorts of muckiness trapped in the scales. After that, put the pine cones in a bucket or large bowl. Mixing the solution is not an exact science, but it’s roughly two parts water and one part white vinegar.

Leave the cones to soak for about 20 minutes or so. You might want to weigh them down with a small dish as they tend to float to the top, and the cones need to be completely submerged in order to be cleansed thoroughly.

2017-11-12 14.08.07 2017-11-12 14.35.47
As you can see, the pine cones close up when wet, but this is normal, so no need to panic. They open up again once dry. From here onwards, there are two ways you can proceed. Either lay them out on some old newspapers or a towel, and let them dry naturally, or use your oven.

2017-11-12 14.37.52-1 2017-11-12 15.18.33
I am not certain if there’s a difference in the outcome if you opt to do it either way, but I have heard that airing cones can take a few days, whereas the oven gives a much quicker result. Plus, it has the added benefit of further bug-proofing your cones.

As I was impatient, I put them in the oven on the highest setting and took them out after about 45 minutes. It was probably a little too long as a few of the cones turned darker. I didn’t mind so much as some of them will get painted eventually, but for future reference, I’ll take the cones out after half an hour, or turn the heat down.

2017-11-19 13.51.06
When the pine cones are dry, it is recommended that you coat them with some sort of clear varnish in order to preserve them. The smaller cones were quite brittle, so the lacquer did help slightly in keeping the ends from flaking off. I am not keen on gloss, so it was a matt spray that I used. You can’t really tell from the photo above, but the pine cones that I sprayed have a smooth sheen as compared to the ones in the tin trough which have no varnish on them, since I will be painting those at a later date when making some of my Christmas ornaments.

2017-11-19 14.30.00-2
Pine cones fully sanitised and glazed, I could finally relax and enjoy a small batch of truffles I made earlier. What could be more Christmassy than chocolate? Truffles are a simple treat to make, whether for yourself, or friends and family.

The recipe is pretty forgiving as not a lot can go wrong…It’s basically ganache that has been allowed to set, rolled into little balls, and coated in ground nuts, cocoa, or any other ingredients you like. To make these, I used:

150gm Dark Chocolate – Chopped
150ml Double (or Whipping) Cream
25gm Unsalted Butter

Melt the butter in the cream until the mixture begins to simmer. Then pour it into a bowl with the chopped chocolate. Keep stirring until the chocolate melts and blends smoothly with the cream. If you want to add other flavours, such as coffee or Amaretto, now would be the time to do so.

2017-11-18 14.34.56 2017-11-18 16.51.17
Let it the ganache set in the fridge for a few hours (it took four hours in my fridge). You’ll know it’s ready when the little balls keep their shape after you’ve rolled them in your hands. The first one I made sank into a sort of squishy blob, so back into the fridge the ganache went.

I used unsweetened cocoa and ground almonds to finish off my truffles, but you could also try dipping them in milk chocolate or desiccated coconut. After coating them, I left my truffles to chill in the fridge overnight so they could solidify further. I am not sure what the shelf life would be for homemade truffles, but that might not be much of a concern…If your family is anything like mine, it won’t be 24 hours before they’re all gone.



In other news…

Processed with MOLDIVI’m very happy to say that the relaunch of my Etsy shop is going well, and I have made quite a few sales since opening it a couple of weeks ago. As a gesture of appreciation, all customers will receive complimentary gifts of either sweets or scented tealights, along with a small discount for their next purchase. Thank you all for your support…It’s been awesome! ūüôā

2017-10-11 23.03.51Summer might be over for us here in the UK, but the season of sunshiny days is just starting for those living Down Under, and that’s where a friend of mine is headed. Sarah will be spending a year or more in Australia, so we had a small leaving do to give the lucky young lady a proper send-off.

2017-10-11 19.40.02
As a fellow Disney fan with Princess Belle aspirations (yes, she even looks and sings like the character!), Sarah’s not a difficult person to buy presents for. Basically anything BatB-related will go down well, so when I saw this charming makeup and toiletry bag, I knew it had my friend‚Äôs name written all over it. Ok, I‚Äôm aware it actually says ‘Beauty and the Beast’, but in our reality, that‚Äôs synonymous with Sarah!

sq blog pic1
Heh, if I’m honest, I liked the bag so much, I almost didn‚Äôt want to give it away…But I resisted temptation and filled it with a few bits and bobs which Sarah might find useful in her travels, such as a set of mini squeezable bottles, plus a few other beauty products and tealights that I packaged in clear cellophane. Also…chocolates! No largesse is complete without it! ūüėõ

Such pretty things require fitting gift presentation, but with only a couple of nights to put everything together, I had to make do with whatever materials I had to hand. Luckily, I did already have a small collection of seashells, and since Sarah would soon be seeing a lot more sun, sand and sea, crafting something beach-themed was perfect for the occasion.

2017-10-11 23.14.18
This card and gift topper is very easy to do, and would only need the following:

  • White Card
  • Blue Card or Paper – Various shades
  • Brown Kraft Card or Paper – Various shades
  • Ribbon – Preferably white or cream
  • Seashells
  • Guillotine, or Scalpel and Ruler
  • Scissors
  • PVA Glue

2017-10-12 22.21.43
The ‚Äėstamp‚Äô was designed in Photoshop, then printed on thin creamy yellow card and cut down to size, but it’s ok to use white card instead. The reason I did not was due to the only white card I had left being too thick for my Epson Inkjet.

2017-10-11 23.06.18
Although the ‘stamp’ on Sarah’s present features Australia, please feel free to download the PDF¬†of a more generic version (with pic of a suitcase) if you too have friends going away and fancy giving this idea a whirl…Bonus if your mates also love Disney as I’ve included a line from one of the songs in BatB. Perhaps when I have a bit more time on my hands, I’ll expand on this and create a range of similar stickers with quotes from other animated films. ‚̧

bonvoyage stamp2
Awhile back, I bought some little wooden tags from a craft store simply because they were cheap and I liked the look of them. Although I didn’t get them for any specific purpose, they did come in rather useful for this project…A bit of sanding, some chalkboard paint and twine, and I got myself a reusable gift tag! If you can’t get hold of wooden tags, and aren’t bothered about reusability, thick black card works just as well. Writing on such a small surface with sticks of chalk can be quite tricky, so unless you’ve a deft hand, you might be better off with a dressmaker or chalk pencil.

sq blog pic2This is possibly one of the more straightforward cards I’ve ever made. However. if you’re not feeling confident you can pull it off, I’d advise doing a test run on some scrap paper before ripping up the good stuff. The paper weight also needs to be within the Goldilocks zone – too thick and it won’t be pliable enough to tear, too thin and you won’t get the nicely frayed edges. My top tip: Don’t stick anything down until you’ve got all your baits and pieces lined up, and are happy with what you sea! ūüėÄ

“Standing on the edge of the world with you.”

I do love weddings, though I’m not one to¬†enjoy the fuss and attention that usually goes with them. My own marriage ceremony was extremely low-key…so low-key in fact that, apart from parents and two witnesses, our friends and relatives¬†did not find out about it until after I became a Mrs (well, sort of…I kept my last name)!

The same cannot be said of my brother’s own nuptials last spring. The whole event was nothing short of spectacular. Two island resorts in Riau were commandeered for the celebrations and all-expenses-paid holiday for guests, which lasted several days (mostly over the weekend). Luckily, all organisation was taken care of by my rather¬†imperturbable sister-in-law, bro and co., which left little for the rest of us to do but enjoy our time in the sunshine.

Hubby David was sadly unable to make the trip due to prior work commitments, so daughter Zhouyi and I had a whole villa to ourselves,¬†including a large balcony over the water. The entire experience from start to finish can only be described as unforgettable, and the location could not have been more beautiful. Guests were asked to refrain from taking pictures (though professional photographers were hired) during the exchange of vows and equally anticipated fully-suited/gowned dock-jump (ok, bride’s¬†chiffon overskirt cleverly untied to reveal a shorter lace frock), but there were no camera restrictions the rest of the time, which allowed me to compile an entire album of gorgeous memories.

Months before the big day, I came across the Ultimate Cutting Board on a facebook post by the happy couple. I did originally intend to buy it for them as a wedding gift, but the Kickstarter product wouldn’t have arrived in time for my flight. Then I noticed that my brother and¬†his soon-to-be bride had sent a message to all guests, suggesting that presents were not necessary as it was our presence that they would treasure more. I wasn’t sure how to proceed at this point, as I really¬†wanted to do something special…I mean, this is my little brother we’re talking about, and he’s about to reach an important milestone!!!

After much deliberation, I thought the best compromise would be something handmade (of course!). I’d¬†seen quite a few bespoke Scrabble-inspired¬†gifts on Etsy, and had been toying with the idea of making one. What with Gabriel and Aggie being being into geeky stuff like that, I thought this would be the perfect opportunity. I’d never done it before, so I wasn’t sure how I was going to pull it off. Plus,¬†there were only a few weeks left to go.

I managed to order a few of the materials from Ebay, such as the Scrabble tiles, but everything else (except paper and string) was from my nearest Hobbycraft. Not the cheapest option, but taking into account possible cock-ups, time wasn’t really on my side.

The design I had in mind incorporated¬†the Chinese ‘double happiness’ Śõć character (traditional symbol of marriage) as central focus, with the tiles forming a border around¬†it, but I was worried about wonky positioning. Turns out accuracy¬†wasn’t as tricky to achieve as I thought it would be. Once I had decided on the words, I just glued each section¬†together in strips. Doing it this way instead of sticking each individual letter to the board made it less likely for mistakes to happen.

 

 

Creating the background image was probably the easiest part of the project since I was in my natural element as a Graphic Designer. A bit of sleuthing (basically snooping on facebook) was required to find out the couple’s official¬†anniversary date (not the wedding…long story involving cultural norms. My brother lives in Singapore, and¬†I’m from the UK), but it was pretty much plain sailing once Photoshop/Illustrator was fired up. I played with a few colourways, but eventually¬†decided on the subtlest since I didn’t want the final product to look¬†cluttered.

To get a quality finish, I sent the design off to Instant Print¬†which I later cut down to size at home (with a bit of help from David who has steadier hands!). The Scrabble sections were then glued into place. I took care to leave a decent gap around the edges, and had previously done¬†a few test prints using my own inkjet¬†to ensure the measurements were right. The large space above the ‘heart’ was deliberate as I’d planned¬†an extra decorative touch.

 

My first idea of a 3D heart garland (embellished with ‘Mr & Mrs’ from an alphabet stamp set I already had) did not work well. It was too large and bulky, and just wouldn’t¬†hang right. However, my second attempt with¬†mini paper bunting worked a dream. The floral ‘Laura Ashley’ feel wasn’t intentional, but I liked that it added¬†a little more romance and charm to the whole effect. I can’t quite remember where I got the patterned paper from as¬†I always have loads of that lying about, but a quick search online will probably bring up a huge selection.

Once my Scrabble gift was complete, I realised that the tiles obscured quite a¬†bit of my¬†‘heart’ word cloud, which seemed a shame, so I¬†ended up submitting the image to¬†TShirt Studio¬†to get a matching cushion printed. Now¬†I was faced with the conundrum of taking two¬†not-exactly-small presents on board a plane and ensuring that both got out the other side¬†unscathed.

Years of long-distance travelling have taught me to pack light, so I didn’t have to sacrifice much space in my suitcase for the box frame. I simply enveloped¬†it in bubblewrap, and surrounded it with rolls of clothing. The cushion accompanied me as hand baggage. With the logistics¬†all sorted, the only thing I had to worry about was the weather, and that as you can see,¬†was no disappointment either.