Wednesday 29 May 2013

Room for improvement #3

This is the last of my room for improvement posts. You may recall I am taking part in this competition run by Money I am crossing everything in the hope of winning £500 worth of B&Q vouchers so I can transform my living room.

This last little project is to finish of my bedroom sprucing. So far I have made a lampshade, created some artwork and finally I wanted to prettify my bedroom table. I cleared away everything from the top, just keeping my lamp. I dug out an old lace napkin that was probably my Nana's, so we can call it vintage. I added a little bowl from Anthropologie to keep rings and hair bands in (the last things I take off at night), as they are normally scattered all over the table. Then I made some little vases to keep posies in, to make my side of the room more girly.

When I say 'make' what I really mean is I wrapped some washi tape around a couple of jam jars. You really don't need step-by-step pictures for that!

So here is the before picture..

and then the finished result, much better, don't you think?

So this is how I spent my £50 as part of the Room For Improvement competition by Money
£12.99 Lampshade kit from ebay
£3.70 dye from my local craft shop
£4 bleached calico from my local craft shop
£4.75 Watercolour paper from (that's right) my local craft shop
£5.75 ink local craft shop again, they've done well from this challenge
£6 washi tape from Tiger
£12.99 a new cushion from Home Sense
Total £50.18

Sweet dreams!

Tuesday 28 May 2013

Room for improvement #2

Once I had finished making my new lampshade I wanted to keep on sprucing up my bedroom. I decided that the empty wall behind the bed could do with some brightening up. 

Remember I said that I sometimes do nothing because I can't decide what I want. Well I knew that the wall needed some art work but I couldn't make up my mind what. I had to stop over thinking and just get to it
I really love the trend of little mood boards with snippets of washi tape incorporated, so I thought I would create one for my bedroom. 
My husband does not really appreciate anything too flowery or girly, so a green colourway was the way.
I used to be a textile designer, and one of my fellow designers came up with this great way to make a sun print, without making a sun print...don't worry it will become clear. I gathered the equipment I needed and made some fairly instant art for my walls. You don't need to have an artistic bone in your body to be able to pull this off!

A few days before you start, you need to pick some greenery and flatten it in the pages of a big heavy book. I choose ferns and some little leaves (I think they are from a birds foot trefoil plant). Don't choose anything too bulky, you want leaves (or flowers) with lots of interest.

You need to stretch you watercolour paper before starting, so that it keeps nice and flat after painting. I only had masking tape, but gum tape is the best. You should really wet the paper first and let it dry before you start, but I couldn't be bothered!

Then take out your flat leaves and lay them on top of the paper in a pleasing composition!

Unleash the spray mount and spray the paper. You want a good layer of glue, but be careful that your leaves don't move about, so make sure you are spraying down onto them rather than sideways.

Then add the ink, you can use any colour, but start with a lighter tone, pure black probably wouldn't work so well.  I used Daler and Rowney Acrylic Artist Ink in sap green. Gouache or watercolours won't really work, but you can experiment with little scraps of paper before you move on to the finished piece.
Once the paper was covered I then brushed off the excess ink with a large brush.

I then kept working into various areas adding a little bit more ink and dabbing some off with some kitchen roll, until I got the effect I wanted. You can see where you spray the spray mount the ink is lighter.

Ta-da! the finished product, it's really effective, don't you think? And very easy. This works really well on the cheap ready-made canvases you can buy. Great for Christmas presents.

I wanted some other bits and bobs to go with my 'sun prints' For years (decades, probably) whenever I have gone on holiday I have sketched and painted. I find it very relaxing. I have always wanted a little group of these sketches framed, but I have never got round to it So I dug out my old sketch books, I choose some pictures that I made in my youth, but also a few sketches from my honeymoon and family holidays. I also invested in some fabulous washi tape from Tiger. 

The finished wall! With approval from Mr Lemon Drizzle! 

This is the second part of my Room For Improvement series, the last post is tomorrow. asked me to take part in a competition they were running. They are asking bloggers to improve a room for just £50, it was serendipity, so I said yes! You can find out about the competition here, there is still time to enter, and you will also be in with a chance to win £500 worth of B&Q vouchers.

Disclosure, I was provided with £50 from to improve my room.


Monday 27 May 2013

Room for improvement #1

Twelve years ago, when we moved into our lovely new (to us) family house, someone, it might have been me, made the executive decision that we wouldn't go down the normal route of painting everything white, because I felt we would then loose the incentive to decorate properly...can you see where this is going? That's right, twelve years on and there are still parts of this house that haven't been touched. That is not to say that we have been resting on our laurels, we have had a loft conversion, an extension, reconstruction of the front garden into a fabulous drive, a new bathroom and kitchen, and decorated some of the bedrooms twice! However the front room and the hall are still the same as when we moved in. Although the decoration is perfectly fine, it really isn't my taste, and twelve years of hard wear have left them looking pretty sad. So, I decided that this year the front room was getting a make over. And, because we needed new flooring and plastering it will be cost effective to have the hall sorted out at the same time too. The first step of course, was to create a Pinterest board, and you can see mine here. Then lots of research and getting quotes for the work blah, blah etc.
However, this post is not about my living room! You have probably found this yourself ,but once you start to think about redecoration, then you see potential in every room. And our bedroom was starting to look a little unloved. It was the first room we decorated, so it has quite a few years wear and tear. Also two small children/house monsters have joined our ranks, and they tend to leave their detritus everywhere. I reach out to my bedside table to find dirty old tissues from a nosebleed, or ratty hair bands but also some small tender offerings of hama bead makes, or a picture, or two, or fifty. I already had some ideas to spruce it up a little, when asked me to take part in a competition they were running. They are asking bloggers to improve a room for just £50, it was serendipity, so I said yes! 

Here is the before picture.
Some weeks ago our lampshade broke and wasn't repairable. So I had been thinking about a new one. However one of my many problems, is that I am very fussy, which tends to lead to me not buying anything. I just couldn't find a shade I liked in the shops (at a price I could afford), and then in a flash realised that what I really wanted was a dipped dyed shade. I had a quick look online but the only ones I liked were over £200, again a recurring problem. So I decided to make my own, my normal solution. 

I started by cutting out the fabric into roughly the shape I would need for the lampshade. you need to use a 100% cotton product to get the shade shown on the dye packet. A polycotton will come out 50% lighter. 

There are lots of tutorials online, with various different ways to dip dye fabric, but this is how I did it. I started by mixing up the dye (Dylon Ocean blue, hand dye) in a washing-up bowl. I wet the fabric first and then I hung the fabric over  the bowl. Then, after about 15 mins, I lowered some more fabric into the bowl and again after another fifteen mins, and then I left it for a further 15mins. However when I took it out, it was too pale, I wanted a darker border. 

So I added some more dye to the bowl and went through the process again, just keep going until it is right. I left some white fabric at the top but you could dye it all a pale blue first if you wanted. I ironed the fabric while it was still damp to make sure it was as crease-free as I could get it.

Then I discovered this fabulous video by Martha Stewart showing you how to make your own shade. I spent an age searching for the styrene shown in the video, as I am in the UK so I didn't want to pay p&p to get the kit from the US. Fortunately I came upon this kit on ebay which was perfect...I will never buy a ready made shade again! You can even have your own images printed as part of this kit, or they will print a colour to match a Pantone shade.

After ironing the fabric, I stuck it to the styrene. It took a bit of pulling and re-positioning until I got it crease free, as I was using quite a flimsy material.

Then you cover  the metal frame with double-sided tape and stick the fabric to it. The kit comes with a full set of instructions and a tool to help push the excess fabric behind the frame, so it looks really professional.

I have to say making the shade was a lot easier than I thought it would be, and I am so happy with the results, much better than a bare lamp bulb. I have two other projects that I made for this room and I will post about them soon.

Disclosure, I was provided with £50 from to improve my room.

Sunday 26 May 2013

Sketchy Sunday

I was rummaging around for some of my old sketch books, to use in a project, and thought I should share some of my doodles with you. I may even start a mini series of occasional sketchy Sundays! Who knows what I'll do when I'm in this kinda crazy mood?

These sketches are from a trip I made with a group of fellow students on a residential course to Allenheads, a village in Northumbria. We were studying illustration and this was a field trip to refine our observational skills, lead by our tutor and a half Navajo Indian called Zane. He was a little bit (a lot) New Age-y in some of his practices. But the trip was really amazing and my work definitely improved a great deal.

Some of the exercises were too 'out there' for me, we had to sit in a pitch black wood, all alone, trying to draw the 'spirits'! However, others really taught me a lot about drawing. For example on the very first day there we did a circular walk, stopping at various points to make quick sketches. After once such stop Zane asked 'Who had drawn the wind, or the song of the birds?' In a sketch, you have to not only capture what you see, but, what you feel too. To be able to convey to the person viewing the finished piece, that it was windy or eerily quiet, is an art that takes a lot of practice.

It really brought a smile to my face to dig out these old sketches, and a tinge of sadness too. My friend Gretel and her lovely partner Andy were part of our group, Andy sadly passed away earlier this year and coming across a sketch I had made of him was bittersweet.

I definitely need to do some more sketching as it sharpens your creative muscles and really makes you  appreciate the landscape, so much more than taking a picture with a camera, which can sometimes remove you from what you are viewing.

I hope that you have enjoyed this trip down memory lane as much as I have, and look out for more sketchy Sundays coming your way!


Tuesday 21 May 2013

Make your own cookie mold

Some time ago I wanted to make my own mold for a project. I sought advice from some fabulous cake/chocolate makers who often make their own molds, and they pointed me in the direction of CharmFlex. This is a putty (hydrophilic vinyl polysiloxane impression material, try saying that after a glass of wine) used by dentists to create molds, and so it is food safe. It is also a quarter the price of a similar product you can get from cake decorating suppliers.

Photo: Of course if it's Mayan it has to be gold #tastinghouse

The project I had in mind didn't work out, but I used the product to make some Mayan coin cookies for an event I was working on, and it was definitely much quicker, and easier than making each cookie by hand.
Anyway it is such fabulously gooey awesome stuff that I thought it would be perfect for a project to do with the kidlets. So one rainy Saturday (and we have had a lot of these recently!) I sat down with them to create cookie molds. We photographed the stages, but some of them are a bit blurry, as it is very hard to get them to stay still!

Supplier list at the bottom of the post.

Safe-d-clay is a food safe clay that you can use to make the template for your mold. It is fantastic stuff and reusable  Use the spacers (these are 1/4") to roll out a small amount of the safe-d-clay.

Than cut a circle out from the clay. This will be the final size of the cookie.

You can use a non-toxic pencil to draw your design onto the clay. The kidlets are a little bit obsessed with pugs at the moment, I'm not sure why, but this is their version of a pug (yes, I thought it was a cat too!) Cut it out with a scalpel or knife, obviously a job for the grown-up as we don't want little fingers in the mix. Stick the shape onto the clay circle. You don't need any glue as you will want to re-use it, so just apply a small amount of pressure and it will stick, Then roll out a thin sausage of the clay, to create a border. You could probably use an extruder if you wanted to make it perfect, but that's too much hard work for little fingers.

Then add any details of your design, eyes, whiskers (but not for pugs, that's it's nose OK!) etc.

I made a shaped cookie, I wanted something blossomy. Don't make the features too delicate though or they will get lost in the process.

Then get rumble!..Sorry couldn't resist it. Get out your CharmFlex (or equivalent, I can't find the supplier who I purchased mine from, but I have found a substitute, the link is at the bottom of the post), obviously read the instructions, but most of them work by taking equal amounts of the two different putties and mixing them together. they all have different hardening times, but the dental product is quite quick, only a few minutes. So if you are intending to cover a large area then mix up batches as you need them. Start by forming a barrier around the template with a sausage of the putty, then cover it with small balls of the stuff, making sure they are well linked together.

Then leave it to harden for about fifteen minutes, until it is good and firm to the touch.

Gently peel out the clay template. You may find bits left in, just poke them out with a cocktail stick. Then roll up the clay ready for it's next use.

To bake cookies you need to use a nice firm dough that doesn't spread too much. Then, to make the circle cookies, cut out a circle of dough (the same size as the template) and press it in firmly.

For a shaped cookie, cut out a circle that is slightly bigger than the shape, then either press it into the mold with your fingers or you can use a small rolling pin.

Then scrape off any excess dough with a palette knife.

For both the types of cookie you then very carefully ease it out of the mold. If it starts to stick you can lightly dust the mold with some corn flour.

Chill the cookies on a baking tray in the fridge for at least thirty minutes, and then bake as per usual. 

You can then add to the embossed effect with icing pens (don't worry this is a rabbit and not a pug!)

Or some gold lustre dust

Or just leave them plain.
I would love to know if you use this technique and what you create!

You can get safe-d-clay here and the equivalent to CharmFlex here.