It turns out, it’s really simple to make your own paperweights. Or, more accurately, it’s really simple to insert your own pictures into some pre-made paperweights for a brilliant personalised present. I always struggle to come up with good homemade presents for men, so this is particularly pleasing as you can put in any images you want and personalise it for whoever you’re giving it to…
It’s a really simple and quick process, but I thought I’d share a quick tutorial, anyway, in the hope it might inspire someone out there somewhere across the online ether…
Here’s what you need and how to do it:
Glass paperweights with a recess. I’ve used these 70mm round paperweights, which are the best value ones I can find online in the UK.
Some graphics (or photos). I am crazy on free vintage graphics at the moment and my favourite sites to find them are The Graphics Fairy, Clip Art ETC, Vintage Printable and the NY Public Library digital archives. Warning: you could lose hours of your day browsing these sites. For this set of paperweights, I’ve used some old scientific images (found on Clip Art ETC) which show the life cycle of the asparagus beetle. Love the images, love the title even more…
What to do
1. Unpackage your paperweight kit, which will have three parts: the glass paperweight with recess, a green bit of felt with sticky back and a cardboard circle. Check whether the cardboard circle provided fits the recess perfectly. If it does, brilliant, you can use this to draw an outline for your image. But, I’ve found with most of the kits I’ve used that the circle is either marginally too small or too big. If this is the case, draw a circle round the recess under the paperweight for the exact size you will want your image to be.
2. Print out your image onto some scrap paper. Position a paperweight over the top to check whether the image is the right size. At this point, you will probably need to re-size the images a bit to make them perfect.
3. Once you’ve got it just how you want it, make a final print onto some good paper.
4. Cut round the image carefully and put it inside the recess, facing outwards.
5. The circle of card goes on next, with the felt on top. As mentioned, the card might not be a perfect fit, so if it’s too big trim to size and put it in. If it’s too small, try and position it in the centre of the recess, but don’t worry too much, once the felt goes on top it holds it all in place. (I’m sure you weren’t worrying that much, anyway, it’s hardly a catastrophe to have a slightly small piece of card.)
6. Check, from the front, that everything is lined up as it should. All being well, peel off the back of the green felt…
7 …and stick it on.
8. Tadaaaa, all finished:
If you get the same kits that I did, they also come with quite a nice box to put the paperweights inside. I am all about presentation at the moment, so I love a rather swanky looking red box to display the finished product.
Along with my great fabric project dream, I have another business yearning: to open a craft shop on the high street where I live. I’ve recently moved across London and one of the things I miss the most from my old neighbourhood is the fantastic cheap and cheerful craft shop on Stoke Newington High Street, which I used to pop into at least once a week for something or other.
It stocked everything from coloured card, all lined up in a highly appealing rainbow stack, to fabrics, cheap wools, stuffing, paints and so on. Really, anything you could think of that you might need to complete any sort of craft project was lurking somewhere in that shop (sometimes covered in a few years’ worth of dust, it’s true, but always there somewhere).
Where I live now, there is no craft shop within walking distance. There’s a small, very expensive wool room in the back of a rather chichi and very expensive kitchen / clothes shop. And there are a couple of toy shops that stock a few arty things for kids, but that’s it.
So, a definite gap in the market. And I’ve longed most of my life to run a little shop. The nature of the shop changes by the day / season / year. Sometimes I think a deli is the most appealing, other times a second hand bookshop, or maybe a plant nursery. (The holy grail would be a coffee shop with deli attached, second hand bookshop upstairs, plant nursery in the garden and a space for craft classes. Sigh.) But a lovely craft shop, with all the wares arranged appealingly by colour is sounding right up my street just now. And, of course, I could stock all of my own fabrics in it.
All of which is a rather long intro to the thing I actually wanted to talk about in this blog post: DIY crafting kits. This is, clearly, something else I can stock in my fictional shop, when I get round to writing a business plan and opening it up…
So, to get myself a little more inspired, I thought I’d round up some appealing make-your-own kits. Some are for adults, some are for children. Absolutely all of them I want to buy right away and make…
First up, two from the children’s classic toy maker, Galt.
These chime birds are a great idea for kids. Sew together a little bird mobile, complete with wind chimes. The birds play into the ever-popular vintage vibe with their cute fabrics. Do eight-year-olds buy into the current vintage zeitgeist? I don’t know, because I don’t have an eight-year-old, but if they do, they’d be sure to love this.
A bit less trendy but just as cute, is this sock rabbit kit. The box boasts that it comes with “real toy eyes.” I’m not quite sure why that’s so exciting, but if toy eyes do it for you you’re onto a winner. Okay, sarcasm aside, I love the whole thing, including the eyes.
Nepotism alert, for the next kit is from a company run by a good friend of mine. Trug is her new venture of kits for children. She’s got a few (check out the Trug Facebook page for details) but my favourite is this lavender bag kit.
This make your own doorstop owl from Maia gifts is hardly a make your own kit at all. All you need to do is fill it with rice, but for the really lazy DIYer, this would be a particularly pleasing result. I just love owls at the moment. And foxes. I know, I know, there’s no originality in this brain of mine.
I’m not such a big fan of tapestry, but this London bus cushion by Kirk and Hamilton is quirky enough to tempt me (though the price tag is decidedly offputting).
John Lewis stock a huge range of amazing kits and I can’t resist but put a fair few in here:
From Sass and Belle, make your own felt dinosaur. He looks frightening but a bit limp at the same time. I especially love that this isn’t too perfect but retains the whole homemade look…
Also from Sass and Belle, this fabric fox is a little terrifying in some ways. He looks a little like a roadkill fox. Perhaps more appealing to adults than children, but, like I said, I love me a fox, so I couldn’t resist this little critter.
As an actual knitter, I always find knitting kits a bit odd – you pay much more for buying some wool and a pattern than if you just, well, bought some wool and a pattern. Still, this knitted tea cosy is really awesome and the kit would be a great way to introduce a newbie to knitting.
And, veering away from fabric or wool based kits, I’ve just stumbled across the following almost-irresistible DIY kit: make your own insect house. Why wouldn’t you, really? Even the tin this comes in look nice. Ah I’m a sucker for packaging.
All-in-all, a rather excellent round up just in time for Christmas, methinks. But tell me, in this one-day-to-be-realised craft shop of mine, what other DIY kits should I stock? What favourites do you remember from childhood? And what would you like to buy now?
I have to admit, my favourite type of craft project is one that involves little more than putting a few things together. Okay, as I’ve written that, I realise that “putting a few things together” is a distillation of every craft project there ever has been, as well as any food recipes too. But, when the putting of things together is really straightforward, then you have a happy London Wolfe.
With this in mind, don’t be put off by the rather alarming title of this post. Make your own soap, I say. Make my own soap? you ask. Why on earth would I make my own soap? I can buy lovely soap for not very much money and besides, I’m no chemist, I won’t have any of the equipment needed for making my own soap… But fret not! Rather than suggesting you don a lab coat and goggles and mix together a range of ingredients to bubble away on your stove top, I’m only actually suggesting that you purchase yourself a “melt and pour” soap kit and then add some nice flavours.
(If you were thinking Brilliant, finally a chance to get out the Bunsen burner and test tubes and use all that glycerin I’ve got stored in the attic then I apologise, this article is going to be a sad disappointment to you…)
So, slight misnomer title aside, on with the actual soap making.
As I mentioned in my post on Homemade Christmas presents, lack of funds this festive season has meant that I’m making all my gifts this year and only spending money on supplies.
Okay, this does mean that it’s December 17th and I’m in a slight panic because I’ve only made three presents, but on the upside, I’ve discovered the joy and simplicity of home made soap. With some readymade soap base you can easily make up absolutely any flavour soap you can imagine. And, because it’s the time of giving, I wanted to share that joy with you…
For a really attractive, distinctive and unusual present, this is all you need to do. I’m going to talk through how to make lavender soaps, but I’ve put suggestions for lots of other flavours at the end…
Melt and pour soap base. As ever, because I am frequently too lazy to leave the house and look for something I haven’t bought before in the actual shops, I got this from eBay. It cost me £9.86 for 1kg – which is enough to make about 18 small bars. I got a translucent base, which was SLS free.
Lavender essential oil (other flavours suggested at the end of this article…)
Soap moulds. This can be anything you like the shape of: old yoghurt pots, soft cheese pots, Tupperware or cake moulds. I’ve used a 12-hole silicon cupcake mould in the photos of round soaps below and Tupperware for the square ones. Of course, you could also buy an actual soap mould if you’re so inclined.
What to do
1. Melt the soap base squares in a big jug in the microwave. Or, if like me you don’t have a microwave, use a double boiler. Or, if like me you don’t have a double boiler, stick a pyrex bowl into a much bigger saucepan filled with boiling water.
2. Once all the soap is melted, add in some drops of lavender essential oil and stir round. If you’re making one batch all the same flavour, add the essence straight into the mixing bowl. If you want to make each bar a different scent, you can add flavours directly to the individual moulds. Use approximately one or two drops per bar of soap.
3. Pour the liquid soap base into the moulds to about half an inch deep, using approximately half of your total mixture.
4. Return remaining liquid soap to heat, so it doesn’t set.
5. Add a sprinkling of dried lavender to each mould (or see below for other solid flavours you can add)
6. Let the soap set for a minute or two, then pour the remaining liquid soap over the top (this lets the lavender sit about half way through the soap…) You may find a few air bubbles get trapped inside as well. Personally, I think this is really pretty, but if it bothers you, spray your first half with pure alcohol before adding the second batch and they should disperse.
7. Leave your soap to set for at least four hours
8. To release the soap from the moulds, put it into the freezer for ten minutes. When you take it back out, the difference in temperature loosens it from the mould. (If you’re using a silicon mould, you can probably skip this step and just push the soap out.)
9. Admire your beautiful homemade soap…
Other ideas for flavours
Just add a pinch, sprinkle or drop of the following flavours more other delicious smelling soaps…
Earl grey tea and bergamot oil:
Of course, being English, I’m all about a good cup of Earl Grey. Just a word of warning: once you’ve added the tea leaves, they’ll continue to bleed into the soap day by day, so if you’re making this as a present, leave it to the last moment to make, if you want to still see the contrast between the tea leaves and the clear soap. (After approximately a week, the whole thing will be brown.)
Honey and ginger:
Mix these together in a separate container before adding to the soap.
Cinnamon and clove:
Perfect for Christmas! You really only need a tiny pinch of each of these otherwise the soap turns a rather unappealing dark brown colour…
On their own, these won’t provide much scent, but I thought they looked really beautiful. You could mix in another essential oil to provide more flavour. (Or crush some cardamom seeds and add to the liquid soap.)
Another one that I’ve used more for the way it looks than its flavour or scent. But bung in an essential oil too and you’ll have both…
Or, of course you could just add any pure essential oils and have a beautiful clear soap. I tried lemon, grapefruit, ylang ylang and rosemary.
Oh, I have great plans for the packaging for these soaps. If they materialise and look as nice as they do in my head, I’ll add a post on that with some templates for boxes too…
I did indeed manage to make some attractive packaging for the soaps. Take a look at some photos, along with a free template and tutorial: gift boxes.
This is going to be my last post about my partner’s birthday, I promise… But, I realised that, though I’ve already posted about the things I made, I haven’t yet said anything about the other 25 presents that made up the box of his 30 presents for his 30th birthday.
Some of these were a bit random but I thought that, with Christmas round the corner, some of the cooking items I bought him might provide inspiration for anyone racking their brains about what to buy the domestic god in their life…
Read on, dear follower, for my selection of the perfect presents for a gastronome.
3. Jamie Oliver recipe tin, which comes with blank recipe cards inside and a pencil, so you can store all your best culinary creations.
4. Brabantia pot scraper (Not, I’m ready and willing to admit, the world’s sexiest present, but my other half is a fanatical cake maker, and sometimes I think it’s really nice to be given a luxury version of a basic utilitarian object that you wouldn’t necessarily buy yourself…)
5. Black and Blum lunch box, this is a fabulous stew pot, with a smaller container underneath perfect for rice or mash or whatever accompanies your steaming hot stew. Also comes with a spork. Don’t you love that word? Spork.
Those of you on the knitting website Ravelry, have you discovered the “neighbours” page?
This brilliant widget is one of my favourite things on the site. It pulls up a list of other users who have made the same projects as you, or queued the same patterns. As soon as I add another project, one of the first things I do is check my “neighbours” to see if anyone new has been added.
The reason it’s so addictive is that people who’ve made a lot of the same things as you probably have similar taste, so it’s a great way of browsing other patterns, seemingly randomly, but with a high chance they’ll be things you want to make too. I’ve lost hours looking through the projects of some of my neighbours – and we all know that spending hours adding projects to an increasingly long Ravelry queue is almost exactly the same as actually making them, right? (Ditto, of course, my Pinterest I could make that board.)
I was cheerfully catching up on some new neighbours who had appeared in my list the other day when I found the most wonderful idea for a Christmas decoration. Someone had knitted a gorgeous little pair of Christmas socks and put them inside a glass bauble. She’s also posted about it on her blog, so go and take a look: Handmade ornament.
This gave me a good idea for one cute and (hopefully) quick Christmas present for my homemade Christmas plan. I will make everyone in my family a tiny knitted Christmas related thing (socks? these mice? something completely different?) and then buy a set of clear glass baubles (I am hoping Poundland will sell some) and put them inside. Everyone will get one bauble, and all together it will make a whole set.
So, what should I knit to go inside the baubles? Let me know any ideas you have by posting in the comments.
Last year, I was in Hong Kong for six months over Christmas so I had to buy presents online for my family back in the UK. Despite the fact I was on what I cheerfully referred to as a “sabbatical” (read instead “long holiday”) and wasn’t earning any money, I felt a bit sad that I wasn’t with the rest of my family for Christmas and wanted to make sure I sent nice presents over.
So I over-compensated. I spent £800 on presents. £800! And that’s not on presents for everyone, just my family. And to clarify again, I don’t mean aunts and uncles and cousins and grandparents. No, I mean mother and siblings and siblings-in-law. Eeeeeep. I didn’t even buy everyone grand amazing presents, I just did that thing where you see something cool online and it costs £15 or so and you think “Oh, that would be a nice little present for x” and you buy it and then you forget you’ve bought it and you keep on going until you’ve got five “little” presents for x and accidentally spent a fortune.
Anyway, lesson learned this year, and the plan is to spend nothing at all and make presents for everyone (or at least only spend money on supplies…)
With this in mind, here’s a round-up of 20 appealing-looking tutorials for presents. I’ve only made a few so far, but I’ll keep you updated on any successes (or amusing failures…)
You can find more craft projects that I’m planning on making at my Pinterest board I could make that. Go on, follow me there, you know you want to.
I’m normally tempted to go all-out on knitted presents, but this year I am trying to keep the selection small, as this is one of the slower ways of making presents and I have less time on my hands than normal, what with a four-month-old to look after and the past few weeks spent making presents for my partner’s birthday. Here, then, are a few quick and simple knits:
I absolutely adore this little cabled romper suit (and the cute baby in the photos…)
I’ve had the pattern saved in my Ravelry queue for ages and a Christmas present for my baby is the perfect excuse to get it out of the queue and onto the needles. By the way, if you’re on Ravelry too, do friend me. I’m here: Wolves in London.
If this romper suit is just so much adorable cuteness that you can’t actually bear to stop knitting once you’ve finished it, there is a matching hat and booties to go with it too. All for free. Amazing…
2. Bella’s mittens. A free pattern by Marielle Henault found through Ravelry. These look lovely and snuggly with a big thick wintery cable pattern. I’ve already started on these, in fact, and the first mitten knitted up super-quick. I’ll dedicate a separate post to them, once finished.
3. Selbu Modern hat. This looks so elegant and comfy. Free pattern found through Ravelry (as always!) I’ll be making this for the same sister who is getting the mittens. I’m currently trying to decide whether to match yarn or just make two completely different items. Hmmmmm…
4. Cable knit socks. Classy, woolly sock pattern from the Purl Bee. These would be perfect for wearing under wellies or boots, or just for slouching around the house.
6. Citrus sugar body scrub. I followed this tutorial from Maybe Matilda to make up a tub of sugar scrub for a friend earlier this year after she had a baby.
She said it smelt so delicious that she had to taste a little bit to try it. If that’s not high praise, I don’t know what is.
(Disclaimer: no matter how gorgeous your scrub smells, I don’t advocate eating it…)
7. Bath Fizzies. Simple sounding instructions from the Martha Stewart website.
8. Also from Martha Stewart, these grass soaps look amazing…
There is something about the presentation here that is so fantastic. There are lots and lots of different soap making projects on the website so I definitely plan on buying some melt and pour soup base and having a crack at a few of these.
10. For all my bath and food creations, I plan on printing out and attaching some homemade labels. I was inspired by this post on a thousand word’s blog. She’s made a whole hamper for her friend’s birthday with matching labels on all the products. So gorgeous. There’s a raft of great labels to download and use on the World Label blog.
11. I’ve been planning a quilt for my sister and her husband for some time. I bought some stunning Liberty fabric a few years ago and it’s been sitting waiting to be transformed ever since. Consequently, I’ve been storing lots of quilt tutorials, so can offer a few options:
12. Lavender and cedarwood bags in matching fabric to the quilt. I met up with my sister the other evening and was gratified to see that she was wearing the snood I made her for Christmas two years ago. Less gratifying to see though, was that there were a couple of holes in it — however, gratifying again, that when I pointed this out, she was genuinely annoyed at seeing them and said they have got a serious moth problem in their new house. So, lavender and cedarwood bags are an essential. I won’t actually be following a tutorial for this as it’s pretty straightforward, but there is a great tutorial on Martha Stewart’s site that also tells you how to print your own designs onto fabric first.
I’m not entirely sure where I’d be finding big slabs of wood, but if I do I will certainly be making…
15. This must be one of the simplest ideas for a present ever. Print out some beautiful vintage bookplate designs and cut to size! I’ve come across a few different free graphics for these, so I’ll be putting together a combination of the ones I’ve found at The Graphics Fairy (pictured on the left), Design Sponge and Benign Objects (links take you directly to the bookplates). I think I’ll also make some little envelopes to hold them all. Will cut some to size out of card, stick one of the bookplates that is inside on the front and embellish the insides using the Guardian’s guide to making envelope liners. It’s a really simple idea, but hopefully will be appreciated by the bibliophiles in my life…
16. I’m going to have my first crack at grown-up potato stamp printing, inspired by the tutorial for this stunning feather-printed gauze blanket. I think I will try and craft mine into a scarf, however.
17. I’ll be following my own tutorial for transferring printed images onto fabric to make some more printed T-shirts, this time for friends’ children. I’ve been storing cool free graphics to use for this. The advantage of doing this is you can make the perfect T-shirt for their tastes. One friend’s son is crazy on horses, so he’ll get a horse T-shirt and I am already excited about how much he’ll love that…
This is a really perfect homemade present: hard to find in the shops, a bit unique, looks beautiful and, best of all, utterly delicious…
19. Christmas wouldn’t be Christmas without Turkish delight. I’ve never tried to make it before, so I don’t know how well it would turn out, but this turkish delight recipe from the Guardian sounds pretty simple.
20. Thesepeppermint hearts from Flossie Teacakes blog (love that name, don’t you?) originally got on my radar as a potential Valentine’s Day present. But I think they’d be great for Christmas too: all wrapped up in a nice box, with a jolly ribbon tied on. I think I’ll make up a couple of batches of these to use as “back-up” presents, just in case I forget to buy someone something…
So tell me, what have you got planned for your DIY Christmas presents? And what amazing tutorials have I missed off this list? Please share anything fabulous you’ve seen or created by posting a comment below…
I’ve made a few of these projects now, so I’ll add links here to anything I’ve tried out
My favourite of the completed Christmas presents was definitely the homemade soap. It went down really well with the recipients and I made so many I’ve used a fair few myself! Read more about it: how to make your own soap
I managed to get a fair few things knitted in time, including the lovely Bella’s mittens, along with a hot water bottle cosy and a nice slouchy cable hat. See more photos and details of all at Christmas knitting
The bookplates were certainly one of the simplest but most appealing of all the homemade presents. See the finished bookplates and the cute little envelopes I made for them (ahem, even if I do say so myself…)
Somewhere around the time I hit 30, I started to become a bit mercenary with presents. No longer for me the joy of surprises, waiting to see what someone would get you, hoping that one of the things on your secret wish list might be wrapped up in that shiny paper and ribbon. Nope. I started emailing my family with a list of stuff that I’d like, including direct links to the product and instructions like “I would like this exact one please, in red, not the black one…”
(One year I had a particular yen for a red metal tool box from B&Q. My brother quite fancied getting me a tool box, but thought this red one was outrageously naff and he wasn’t sure if he could bring himself to buy it. He asked if he could get a better one instead. Something sturdier. With more space for tools. An easier opening action. I said no.)
Okay, I sound like a vile person now, I realise, but after a certain amount of birthdays and Christmasses, you’ve actually already got a lot of stuff that you need and it’s only the odd thing left that’s missing. I always love being given something handmade, or a present that someone has spent ages carefully choosing, but if my family haven’t been hit by inspiration then I reckon a list of stuff that I would appreciate and use is probably a good starting point…
This year, though, I’ve already informed my family that I am making all of their presents. So, I didn’t really think I could send out an email of demands requests for them to spend their hard-earned cash on me.
Instead, dear blog readers, I’m sharing it with you. If there’s anyone out there looking to get me something gorgeous, look no further, this is my definitive list. Oh, okay, chances are you’re probably not buying something for me, but hopefully this might provide a little bit of inspiration to anyone who is stuck for ideas this December time.
Clockwise from top left
JUST moccasin slippers: I bought my other half a pair of men’s JUST sheepskin slippers from John Lewis for his birthday recently. I tried them on when they arrived. Now I want my own pair.
After a few not hugely successful attempts at fabric printing, my next stop is to try proper screen printing. So, to go to a one day screen printing workshop at Print Club London would be ideal. (Annoyingly, it’s in Dalston, which I used to live right next to for seven whole years and I’ve only discovered this class since I moved to the other side of London. Life, hey?)
I’d love an annual National Trust membership. Though I’d have to make sure I used it. I had one for a year before and, ahem, never actually went to a single building…
For a long time, all my heart desired was a glass cake dome. Then I was lucky enough to be given one for my last birthday by a particularly thoughtful and internet adept three-month-old son. Now, my heart desires a matching Sagaform cheese dome. This, I believe, is a thing of great beauty.
I used to own this exact Roberts radio in this beautiful duck egg blue. When I went travelling, I remember asking my Mum to look after it until I could get its battery fixed. She remembers me asking her to throw it away because it’s battery needed fixing. So that was the end of my radio. Very sad story, I know, but the main point is, I need a new one…
I think this is the most brilliant idea: a national art pass. You get free entry to lots of small museums and galleries around the country (including the Dulwich Picture Gallery, which is just up the road from me) and 50 per cent off many of their exhibitions.
The short version of this post would be: not enough.
If you’ve seen any of my other blog posts (if not, why not? Go and take a look now…) you’ll have seen I am far from the most proficient photographer. I was asking my other half what he thought of my blog photos just last night and he said “I love the fact you can tell they’re not marketing shots…” Which, a little passive-aggressive questioning later, led to him confessing that, as I feared, my photos all look a bit amateur.
I got my lovely Canon DSLR about a year ago now and I’m still mastering all of its functions. I’m definitely better but I still spend huge chunks of time getting frustrated that I can see a lovely photo in front of me, but when I shoot it the scene turns a different colour, or looks washed out, or I failed to notice a huge wire trailing across the foreground.
I took a short camera course back in Hong Kong which helped me master the basics, but I’m really keen to do another one soon, ideally in macro photography, so I can take better product and food photos to share with you lovely readers. The London School of Photography has a really appealing selection.
So, once I have actually learnt something useful about photography I promise I’ll come back and share it with you. In the meantime, I thought I’d just show you some of my best shots from my Hong Kong photo course. These are the ones I’m quite proud of. I show some promise, right?!
By the way, to see what I aspire to, check out the gorgeous photos on the blog of my real life friends at Nimble Fingers & Steady Eyebrows and my in-no-way-real-life-friend-but-someone-I-think-looks-super-cool-from-reading-her-blog-all-the-time Delia Creates.
And if you too are a frustrated budding photographer like me, check out my Photography board on Pinterest for loads of hints and tips from people who know what they’re doing.
Things I’ve learnt is an occasional series, where I talk about stuff I’ve picked up while trying to set up a new business of printed fabrics. I’m hoping that the information in these posts might be informative / interesting / amusing to anyone else setting up their own business. If you’ve any suggestions for other topics for this series, or any thoughts on what I’ve written about, please do post a comment at the end of the piece…