One thing I love about blogging is how it allows you to look back and reflect over the year. Highlights, projects, plans, day trips and more are all stored in this little online space to look back on. While I’ve not had time to fully think about goal setting for the New Year yet (heck, I’ve not even started planning the NYE party food!) looking back over 2015 is certainly giving me food for thought… sorry I’ve got snacks on the brain now.
Anyway, as promised in the title above, before we rush full steam ahead into 2016, here’s a little round-up of your favourite posts of 2015 nominated by you, via Google analytics. Clearly you’re a crafty lot as they’re all how-to and tutorials! Enjoy, and here’s to an even craftier 2016.
How we spent Christmas day plus some bokeh Christmas tree photography
A slightly early (or very late, depending on how you look at it) New Year’s resolution of mine was to take more photos at Christmas, on Christmas Day in particular. Usually we’re all having too much fun to remember to take some snaps so I simply made sure I left my camera in the living room with us to remind me to pick it up every now and then. I’m pleased to say it worked!
We had a truly lovely day, starting off with breakfast and presents as just the two of us, then heading to my Mum and Dad’s for more presents, the most delicious lunch and several board games. The day went far too quickly (except for that game of Risk you can see below, that went on for hours!!) but time spent together was much needed for us all after a busy year.
The second part of this resolution was to try out a bokeh effect on the Christmas tree, again I was desperate to try it last year, but having only just moved in we didn’t have a tree up and I never had time while round my parents’ house. So I used this tutorial from Katie at Life of Kitty and made a Christmas tree shaped bokeh, I’m not going to lie; taking photographs with it was a lot of fun! Definitely going to make a different shaped one for next year - I can feel a new tradition coming on. I also had to try it at night and at day time and really like both sets of images, perhaps I’ll print them as my Christmas cards for next year...
How did you celebrate the big day? Let me know in the comments or leave links to your Christmas posts!
This finished project has been a long time coming, I honestly never thought I'd be capable of Fair Isle knitting, it looked too complicated and far too many balls of wool at once. However, one evening when feeling particularly determined I sat down with a pattern, pinterest and youtube and got stuck in. Several weeks later and I’ve finished this headband! It’s not perfect but to have finished it feels like such an achievement.
I’m definitely going to be trying some more patterns; this is the one for the headband. If you have any favourite fair isle ones let me know! Also I found the stiches at each end of my magic circle are the messiest, I'd love to know if you have any tips for keeping this part neater (or maybe I just need a lot more practice).
As well as knitting I’ve been squeezing in time for reading and have finally started The Saffron Trail by Rosanna Ley, after it’s been sat on my bedside table for over a month. I’m woefully few pages in but the start is certainly intriguing enough to want to keep reading. I’m looking forward to the characters reaching Marrakech and the colourful chaotic descriptions of life there. I’ve also been picking up the new Mollie Makes every spare 5 minutes, I think I’ll be trying out my new fair isle skills on the alpine gloves pattern soon.
Robins are everywhere this time of year, whether they’re adorning Christmas decorations or hopping from branch to branch in your garden. So today I thought I’d share how to make your own needle felt robin to perch in your Christmas tree. Needle felting is such an easy craft, you don’t need many materials and once you’ve got the hang of stabbing and shaping the wool roving you can create anything you like! I originally wrote this tutorial for Workbox magazine a couple of years ago (you’ll notice the step-by-step photos are taken in our old flat) but I took some new ones of him on the Christmas tree this year and thought it was time to share the step-by-step with you.
You will need:
Needle felting wool, also known as ‘wool roving’ in dark brown, light brown and red
A needle felting needle
A piece of foam
Polystyrene shape (optional)
Decorative items (optional) - beads and thread for eyes and wire will all come in useful
Most good craft shops should carry all of the above and you should have plenty of wool leftover to make into other things or more robins! I’d also recommend buying more than one felting needle as it is possible to bend and even break them. Oops.
How to make a needle felted robin:
Firstly, try to plan your process and design. I had an ipad with pictures of both real robins and toy ones open throughout, to keep me on track.
I used a polystyrene egg shape from a local craft store as the body, but you could easily go without this and make the body from the needle felting wool. To begin lay the wool in place over the polystyrene shape and then it’s time for the exciting bit - start felting it with the needle by stabbing it into the polystyrene. It feels a bit strange at first, but just keep going! I’ve found the shaping and speed needed for felting comes with practise and like most other crafts once you get into a rhythm it’s really therapeutic to do.
Use the dark brown for his back and base for his wings, once this is in place make his head by twisting the wool roving into a ball shape and felting together, it’s best to do these bits on top of your foam – so there’s less chance of a needle related injury.
Once you have a head shape felt this onto the body and then cover the rest of him in robin colours, a light brown for this tummy and of course a bright red for his chest!
Once the whole shape is covered you can start to build up the layers and tidy up the felting, I found that laying a thin layer of felt flat on top of the robin and felting this in gave a nice finish and stopped him looking overly fluffy. For his tail felt a rectangle and leave some wispy bits of wool at one end, use these to felt the tail on to your robin.
Next, make some felt triangles to use as wing tips and felt these on top of each wing, but leaving the tips free to stand slightly away from his body. For the feet, you could use pipe cleaners, but I went for wire and twisted several strands together to make it nice and strong. Include a loop one end of the wire and push a pin through this into the polystyrene to attach his feet. Felt a small bit of wool over the top of the pin heads to cover them.
Then it’s time to add his face, and here’s where your robin will really come to life. There are no rules – I opted for black beads as eyes and sewed them on, but you could use black felt. Use the dark brown wool to felt a beak and felt this on to his head.
And there you have it, a little needle felt robin.
Trying to look after my skin a little more and channelling my inner beauty blogger with a Lush face mask. I've never been good at skincare but what with all the central heating and cold winter air playing havoc with my skin I figured now was a good time to start. Lush was obviously my first port of call and this BB Seaweed mask has certainly left my skin feeling softer. It was my first face mask in years, but I won't leave it so long next time!
Eating Nakd bars, these healthy snack bars* from Natural Balance Foods are dairy, wheat and gluten free and are surprisingly tasty! I was a bit sceptical as the main ingredient in the bars is dates, which I’m not usually a fan of but I’m a complete convert. They come in lots of flavours, so far I’ve tried pecan pie, cocoa orange and berry delight which have all tasted good. I’m particularly excited about the ginger bread one and am saving that until slightly closer to Christmas. Apparently they are also one of your five a day so make a guilt free snack (I can confirm they go well with a cup of tea) and are made in Britain, which I always think is an extra plus point.
Crocheting a batman birthday card for the boyfriend. The bat was a little fiddly, but didn't take long and he seemed to like it! You can find the pattern here.
Walking at dusk because we keep running out of daylight hours at the weekend! A walk in the dark for some fresh air and exercise is certainly better than no walk at all and I just about caught the end of the sunset on our most recent one. Don't forget your favourite woolly hat, gloves and a torch to light your way home.
What have you been doing recently?
*sponsored link, item sent for the purpose of a review but all opinions my own.
So it's the first week of December and I've not made any Christmas gifts yet. Slightly worrying. However, I have crocheted this cute giraffe for the boyfriend's new niece who should be arriving any day now! It's the same free pattern as this one, which I made earlier in the year, this time in a grey and white colour scheme picked by the Mum-to-be to match their newly decorated nursery.
You can find the pattern on ravelry here, it's free and easy to follow. You can also take a look at some beginner crochet amigurumi tips I wrote up the first time around. Practice really does make perfect though and I finished this one in a little over a week (although the looming 'gifts to make' list might also have had an effect on my speed).
I can't wait to present him to his new owner!
Which colour scheme do you prefer grey and white or the traditional yellow and brown used last time?
You can’t beat a traditional fireplace for creating a cosy atmosphere at Christmas time. But for those of us who don’t have a roaring log (or gas) fire in our living rooms to adorn with stockings, it’s still possible to get that festive feeling. I've teamed up with home brand Wayfair to create this simple TV stand upcycle.
It's been far too long since there's been some baking around these parts. So to rectify this somewhat unacceptable oversight I spent Saturday afternoon making these delicious cranberry and orange muffins. The seasonally appropriate flavours keep them festive but the simple decoration avoids early Christmas overload - I’m holding out until 1st December at least before starting on the mince pies.
You could argue that the cranberries and oranges make them better for you than some other Christmassy treats, chocolate log I’m looking at you, but y’know it’s still cake. Everything in moderation and all that. One thing I have discovered recently from British Lion Eggs is that there are surprisingly few calories in an egg* and we’ve been incorporating them into our meals a lot recently, always free range of course.
175g (6oz) butter
175g (6oz) caster sugar
300g (10oz) self-raising flour
100g (3½oz) dried cranberries
100g (3½oz) candied orange peel
50g (2oz) ground almonds
grated zest 1 orange
For the glaze
2 tbl spoons caster sugar
2 tbl spoons orange juice
Heat your oven to Gas 3, 160°C, fan 140°C. Set out the muffin/cupcake cases.
Cream the butter and sugar until pale and fluffy then gradually beat in the eggs.
Stir in the flour with the cranberries, orange peel, almonds and orange zest.
Spoon into muffin cases and bake for 20 minutes or until golden and a knife comes out clean. Allow to cool.
To decorate put 2 tablespoons orange juice and 2 tablespoons of the sugar into a small pan and boil for 2 minutes until syrupy. Then drizzle over the cakes and decorate with a few leftover cranberries.
Enjoy with a big cup of tea. Fairy lights optional.
What do you do when you fall in love with a cushion that's over your budget? We'll you find a way to DIY one! Cushions are really easy to sew, great for beginners like me, and this pattern has a simple envelope back so there's no need for a zip.
If you've found the perfect cushion, lots of stores do whole ranges in the same fabric so keep browsing and see if you can find tea towels or napkins in the same print. Luckily despite falling head over heels for Thornback & Peel's gorgeous rabbit and cabbage cushions, which are completely beyond my price range, they also do napkins for a fraction of the cost. And even better, they are 43cm square - the ideal size for a cushion!
You will need:
Fabric for the front of your cushion (ie. your napkin or tea towel)
Fabric for the back of your cushion (I used a plain white cotton to match the background of the front fabric and to keep costs down)
Not bad for a couple of hours work and I made two in that time! I'm really pleased with them - they complement the blues of our sofa and vintage trunk coffee table, add a slightly country look and kept to our limited budget.
p.s. I wasn't able to take step-by-step images while making these so created the graphics above, I'd love to know what you think of them.
Did you know you can regrow basil from a cutting? No, well I'm glad it wasn't just me who missed the memo on that one! It's so easy to do and saves spending money on a new plant for the kitchen every few months. Basil is one of my favourite herbs and although it comes into its own in the summer, you can't beat a tomato and basil soup or stew topped with some fresh basil in the winter. So I’m pretty pleased to have discovered this little trick.
Here's how to turn your fresh basil plant into an endless supply:
First, cut a stem of basil roughly 10cm long, making the cut underneath a leaf node, which is a part on the stem where new leaves sprout – the close up picture shows an example. Then remove most of the leaves, leaving only the top ones.
I cut two stems, but you could do more if you like and share among friends and family when they’re potted.
Place in a glass jar full of water and leave on a windowsill in sunlight. Try and change the water every few days.
After a week or two (I'd almost given up, but hang on in there) you should start to notice new roots sprouting from the stem! Leave on the windowsill for another couple of weeks until the roots are starting to fill the glass like below.
Then pot into individual pots and leave in a bright sunny place - I'm hoping all the cloudy days we're having won't affect these little fellas too much. Make sure to water them regularly and try not to pick any leaves until they've gown a bit bigger.