Archive | January, 2013

Top 10 homemade Valentine’s presents

31 Jan
Best homemade Valentine's projects round-up

The ten best homemade presents for the day of lurve

I’m not the biggest fan of Valentine’s Day.

Whether it’s the memory of all those agonising February 14ths at primary school, hoping that someone would leave a card on your desk, and the crushing disappointment when nobody did. (The only year worse than the barren years was the time someone did leave me a card and a heart-shaped rubber (that’s an eraser, of course, not the other kind) and then hid behind a bookcase while the rest of the class chanted that we were “sitting in a tree, k.i.s.s.i.n.g…” An early lesson to me that getting what you wished for doesn’t always make you happy as I cringed in embarrassment and rubbed out the page where I’d written our names festooned with hearts.)

Or the memories of all the meals out as a student in a relationship, where we played grown-ups and sat in a hushed restaurant full of couples, all eyeing each other and paying over the odds for the special Valentine’s menu that came with a glass of bellini.

Or the times early in a relationship where I’ve tried to avoid the schmaltz and ended up going to see a depressing film at the cinema (The Pianist one time) and felt a bit jealous of all the other happy people having a meal as we caught the bus home, miserable after the harrowing experience we’d just been through.

Even now, with a fiancé and a baby, and no option of going out to do anything, I still object to the huge commercialisation of the whole thing. The main aim of the day not to show our love for someone, but to line the coffers of the high street.

And every year, I say I’m not going to do anything for Valentine’s Day this year, because it’s so commercial, yadda yadda yadda. And every year I crack at the last minute and do something.

Well, what’s the other option? To be that grumpy bugger who can’t even tell their partner how much they love them on Valentine’s Day.

So, with two weeks to go until the big day of love, this year I’m ahead of myself and I’m going to make something really nice for my partner. Something homemade. That I’ve thought about. And which doesn’t take too much time or money.

So, here’s my round-up of the ten best homemade Valentine’s ideas that I’ve seen out there on the internet. I hope something here catches your eye.

Ten best Valentine's tutorials

Best Valentine’s ever?

1. Love bugs

I suspect these bugs by Dandee are the all-time best Valentine’s present that has ever been created.

Schmaltz-free, funny but still super cute. They’re meant for children, of course, but my insect-crazed partner would absolutely love these.

You can get a printable pdf for the jars on her blog and then it’s just a question of hitting the toy shops for some suitable beasties…

(And who wouldn’t want to start their Valentine’s Day preparations by staking out the toy shops, rather than battling the hordes in a florist for some flowers that seem to have mysteriously trebled in price over the past few weeks.)

Top 10 homemade Valentine's

Oh to be Sarah!

2. Felt envelopes

I first saw these adorable miniature felt Valentine’s envelopes by probably actually last year, a little too late to do anything with them.

The hand-stamped name on the front is an especially lovely touch, along with the felt heart sewn on to the card.

Who knew a Valentine’s card could be so romantic and classy at the same time?!

Head over to probably actually for more information: Be Mine.

Top 10 homemade Valentine's presents

No pink here!

3. Funny Valentine

I absolutely love the blog Delia Creates. Its author, Delia, somehow manages to juggle looking after three kids (one of them still a baby), with making the most amazing projects, taking the most stunning photos, and writing it all up for her blog. With just one baby of my own, I read her articles in awe and wonder what on earth I’m doing with my own time. (Yes, I guess I just answered that question, ha ha.)

She always makes really appealing projects for holidays and these Funny Valentines boxes are no exception. In bright, cheery colours, each box has a joke on the outside and some sweets inside.

See all the details, including a template for the boxes, here: Funny Valentine.

Top Valentine's homemade presents

Yum yum

4. Felt hearts

It seems like felt and Valentine’s Day just go hand in hand; here’s another cute felt project from the Purl Bee.

These fluffy hearts are a really simple sewing project that can be filled with sweets, trinkets or even a little love note.

I think even the most inexperienced sewer (ahem, *raises hand*) could manage to stitch these together.

As ever, with the wonderful Purl Bee, the instructions are super clear and illustrated with lots of great photos. See the tutorial here: felt candy hearts.

Top 10 homemade Valentine's ideas

Glorious!

5. Hanging hearts

My Valentine’s surprise for my partner last year was to fill the small room bedroom in our temporary apartment in Hong Kong with hundreds (okay, maybe tens) of hanging origami hearts. It looked amazing, but it did take me all day to complete (and sadly I didn’t take a photo…)

These wonderful heart garlands by dottie angel, however, sound far simpler to make and would have an even more dramatic effect as you really could completely fill a room.

(I have to say, being a serious bibliophile, I couldn’t bear to chop up an actual book to make these, but a magazine or newspaper would work just as well.)

To make them, see the Have a Heart How-To.

Homemade Valentine's presents round-up

South Bank dating

6. Valentine’s paperweights

Okay, as I’ve called this blog post the “top ten” Valentine’s presents, I feel a bit arrogant having included something of my own in it, so let’s just rename it now the “top nine presents, plus something I made,” instead…

I am pretty pleased with this idea though: a paperweight with a vintage map inside that shows the place where you first met or first went on a date or got married.

It doesn’t look obviously Valentinesy, but has a lovely romantic significance.

See my post Valentine’s paperweights for more info on this one, along with some other ideas for images you could put inside the paperweight.

Best homemade Valentine's projects round-up

Sweet heart

7. Heart cake

A homemade cake for Valentine’s Day would please most people. A pink heart nestling inside is just the (wait for it…) icing on the cake. (Aaaay thankew.)

This cake looks amazingly impressive to me, but Kara’s explanations of how to construct it on her Butter Hearts Sugar blog make it sound like (wait for it…) a piece of cake. (Isn’t that one of the most appealing blog names you’ve ever heard, as well?)

Get the full details here: Heart inside Valentine’s cake.

Round up of the best homemade Valentine's presents

Pencil pushing

8. Just write

Is there anyone in the world who doesn’t love a pun? If there is, they’re certainly not friends of mine…

So, these fantastic “just write” Valentine’s pens are, well, just right for me.

There’s a really clear tutorial and free pdf with the heart artwork all on the blog positively splendid. The simplicity of these (along with the pun) really appeals to me.

Find more info here: Pencil arrow Valentines.

Top ten homemade Valentines projects

Please, have my heart

9. Vintage card

As with every other subject under the sun, there is a wealth of amazing copyright-free vintage imagery for Valentine’s Day on the Graphics Fairy blog.

This lovely Valentine’s Scots boy is holding a particularly plump looking red heart.

To make a unique card, just print out the image on the right hand side only of a horizontally aligned piece of paper, fold in half and add your message to the inside.

Stick the word “Valentines” into the search on the blog and you’ll find a plethora of other appealing images as well.

Round-up of the best homemade Valentine's presents

Fried love © Carey Nershi

10. Fried egg heart

Don’t want to go overboard, but still want to show your beloved you care? Follow the tradition since time immemorial to show someone they’re a bit special to you: make them breakfast in bed.

There’s something about sneaking out of the bedroom, clanking away in the kitchen, and reappearing with a laden breakfast tray that warms the cockles of every recipient’s heart.

This heart-shaped fried egg, nestled in a piece of toast will spread a bit of Valentine’s love, all in the time it takes to cook an egg…

Get the full how-to from Reclaiming Provincial: egg in the basket.

So there you have it. Ten homemade projects sure to put a smile on your Valentine’s face.

For even more suggestions, take a look at my Pinterest board Valentine’s sweetness. And if there’s a great project you think I should have included, do post a comment below and let me know about it. I always love to hear from you…

Related articles:

Stamp your own gift tags

27 Jan

Stamp your own gift tagsI realised when I sat down to write this post that I’ve been playing rather fast and loose with the word “vintage” these past few years.

You see, I was going to call the article, “Create your own vintage gift tags” – which is clearly an utter nonsense.

That’s the whole point of vintage: you can’t “create” it now. It’s old. Vintage even.

When I was growing up, the word vintage meant a classic that’s stood the test of time. Usually something at least one hundred years old and widely recognised as being of a particular quality. Now, it can mean anything from not-brand-new to even something that’s not old but displays a certain kind of aesthetic (generally, I would say, anything that harks back to the era from the 1920s to the 1950s).

I remember when I first heard someone use the word vintage in its current guise. I guess it was a decade or so ago. I asked a friend where her dress was from and she replied, “Oh, it’s vintage.”

I have to admit, I slightly snickered to myself, thinking this was a rather poncey way of saying second-hand, or, from the charity shop. (Not that there’s anything wrong with buying clothes from the charity shop, of course. As a teenager in the ‘90s, I grew up with the idea that a good find from a charity shop gave one the necessary cachet. All my favourite bands went out of their way to look as if they were wearing a creation from the bargain bin at Oxfam, and to ape Pulp, Blur, Elastic et al, I spent most weekends trawling through those bins myself…)

Now, of course, I use it in that sense all the time myself. For my wedding later this year, I’m looking for a “vintage” wedding dress. I was delighted with a “vintage” hat box I received as a present at Christmas. And even on this very blog, I’ve spent far too much time extolling the virtues of “vintage images” I’ve found – when really I just mean old.

So I’m going to try my best to use the word correctly from now on. A vintage car must be an old Rolls Royce, not a beat-up 20-year-old Skoda. A vintage dress must be a Chanel number, not a two-year-old Primark dress found on a rail in the Salvation Army shop. And a vintage gift tag? Hmmm, perhaps some stunning design by Fortnums from the 1920s, but not something I’m making myself. Not yet, anyway. Maybe in 50 years my grandchildren will discover my gift tags in an old hat box and declare them to be true vintage… But most likely, they’ll be picked up with the recycling this week.

Anyway, vintage rant over, back to the subject of this post: stamping your own gift tags. (I suppose I could have gone with “utilitarian gift tags” if I really needed an adjective…)

I’ve seen buff brown tags printed with simple designs all over the place recently, from Etsy to Cox and Cox.

Trouble was, I didn’t really want to pay those prices for something that is by nature pretty disposable. Plus, it’s always more fun to have a crack yourself.

So, that’s exactly what I did…

After a bit of research, I bought these alphabet stamps from Amazon.

The reviews for them were pretty bad – everyone said that it was really hard to line them up properly and that you often saw smudges of ink from the corners of the stamp. But, luckily that slightly shonky approach was exactly what I was looking for…

I thought the box was attractive and the price pretty good too, at £14.99 for the whole set with upper and lower case as well as the punctuation.

Next, also bought through Amazon, I got 50 tags for £1.61 and a black ink stamp for £2.33.

Once all of my supplies arrived, it was just a question of stamping the messages.

You can use these for whatever occasion you want.

So they’d be as perfect for Valentine’s Day in a few weeks…

Stamp your own gift tags for Valentine's Day

…as they would for a birthday…

Happy Birthday gift tag

…or to welcome a new arrival…

Stamp your own gift tags

…spread Christmas cheer…

Stamp your own gift tags

…or celebrate a wedding…

Wedding hand stamped gift tag

I love that you can personalise for the recipient as well, adding in people’s names or perhaps significant dates:

Stamp the wedding date onto your homemade gift tag

So there you have it. Easy to make gift tags.

I’ll leave it for you to decide if they’re “vintage” or not. And, hey, at least we’ve all stopped saying “shabby chic”.

By the way, if you like the camel wrapping paper I’ve used in the top image, check back here in a few weeks, as I’m planning on sharing a pdf for some print-it-yourself wrapping paper (vintage-style, ha ha). And if you’d like more inspiration for beautifully wrapped presents, have a look at my Pinterest board Wrap it up.

Related articles:

This project is linked up at Made by You Monday at Skip to my Lou. Head over there to see what others have been up to this week…

Weighty issues: Valentine’s gifts

22 Jan

No jibber jabber from me today, just a few pictures.

I revisited the paperweights I made for Christmas and used Valentine’s Day images to create some nice, weighty, non-cheesy Valentine’s Day presents.

For a detailed step-by-step for making these (and a lot more jibber jabber), see my post on how to make your own paperweights. Today, I’m just sharing a few more options for images to put inside…

Heart paperweights

Give your loved one your heart this year. Captured and encased in a glass dome paperweight, ha ha…

Two different options here. I can’t quite decide which one I prefer at the moment.

Both images were from the Graphics Fairy blog: black and white heart and colourful heart.

heart paperweight DIY

From aorta to vena cava, I love you with all my heart.

valentines heart paperweight DIY

Another heart, this one with colours. Which is nicer d’you reckon?


A relief from business

This image really made me smile: a little Bob Cratchit type man, sitting and reading a Valentine’s letter instead of a financial report (or, at least, that’s what I imagine he normally reads).  Image found from Clip Art Etc: Valentine’s day.

Make your own Valentine's paperweights

“Quite a relief from business” indeed


Map paperweight

Finally, I think this is my favourite (and most romantic) idea: a paperweight with a significant location displayed. You could use the place you first met, went on your first date, got married etc.

I used a vintage London map here, but you could always just use an ordnance survey map, or whatever’s easier to lay your hands on.

map paperweight DIY

Wouldn’t it be romantic if your first date was a long walk along the South Bank and you gave this paperweight of that location? (Sadly, not where my first date was, so for me it’s just a nice image…)

And just because I particularly like this idea, here’s the side view as well. Graphic for this found on the Graphics Fairy blog: vintage London map.

Map paperweight from Wolves in London blog

Yup, I really am showing you a second photo just so you can see this from the side. Lucky you, eh?

So, tell me, what would you put inside a paperweight for your Valentine?

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This post is linked at the following link parties. Do go and visit and see what others have been up to this week…

Katie’s Nesting Spot, Creative Juice at Momnivore’s Dilemma, Transformation Thursday at the Shabby Creek Cottage, Glued to my Crafts, Serenity Now.

Moustache mugs, a perfect man present

21 Jan

Moustache mug set tutorial from Wolves in London

When I embarked on the whole homemade Christmas plan last year, the one person I was really worried about making something for was my brother.

I find him hard enough to buy for every single birthday and Christmas as it is. With all of the products available to buy in all of the shops that exist in all of London all of the time, I still struggle to find a present to buy him when the gift-giving seasons roll round.

So how on earth was I going to choose what to make for him, when my options suddenly became limited to something I was actually capable of producing?

I read through hundreds of lists on craft blogs outlining the top homemade presents for men, I scoured Pinterest, I made my eyes square checking endless pages of Google listings and couldn’t come up with a single thing that might appeal to him.

And then, I came across this homemade moustache mug on The Tortoise and the Hare blog. Bingo!

I really dig this mug. It’s funny and oh, as Grazia would say, totally OTM, dahlings (that’s “of the moment” for those who don’t devour women’s weeklies with quite the zest I have for reading celeb gossip and looking at expensive clothes on super-skinny people who haven’t had babies. Unless they’re Miranda Kerr, of course, who has had a baby and is yet still unbelievably skinny. And frequently featured in Grazia).

But, back to the moustache mugs. This was the perfect present for my brother and, even better, looked really easy to make. It didn’t take much brainpower on my part to decide to take it to the next level and create a whole set.

Make your own moustache mugs

The full set; another view so you can see each mug in all its hairy gloriousness

Here’s what I did.

Supplies:

Not much needed for this at all:

  • Mugs, bought from my local pound shop for £1.25 each. (Is that misleading advertising that they didn’t come in at under a quid???)
  • Porcelain painter pen. (I bought mine from eBay for £2.75 plus postage costs.)

What to do:

  1. Find some moustache images you like the look of on Google images, or if you’re a bit more arty than I am, just imagine some in your head.
  2. Either print out the image, or draw your own moustache ideas onto paper
  3. Cut them out and position them on the mugs with a small bit of blu-tack
  4. Check you’re happy with the position (you probably want to hold the mug up to your face at this point, to make sure you’ve got the maximum amusement factor when drinking)
  5. Draw round the templates in pencil (this will show up faintly on the mug, but is easily erased if you want to make changes)
  6. Use the porcelain pen to draw the pencil outline and then colour in the inside
  7. Leave it to dry and then repeat as many times as needed to get a good thick colour. (I did mine three times each.)

I also filled each mug in the set with smaller presents.

Make your own moustache mugs

The plastic catapult alien at the front was a particular hit

Two had little toy shop toys (he’s 30 next June, but still loved the racing bug, some exploding caps and a balloon car), one had some bergamot and coconut skin salve that I made following this tutorial, packaged as “Manly skin barrier cream,” and one had a T-shirt printed with a motorbike design (I followed my own tutorial for transferring prints to fabric).

Perfect! A quick, easy and amusing present, that you can customize in hundreds of different ways.

So tell me, what moustaches would you use on your mugs? And what other presents would you fill them with?

I’m thinking this could work well for Valentine’s Day too, with the mugs filled with love hearts, or Herschey’s kisses, or the fabulous Italian equivalent, Baci…

Do post a comment if you’ve been inspired and let me know what you made.

Related articles:

This post is linked up from the following link parties. Do go and check out what others have been up to this week! Easy Living Mom, Katie’s Nesting Spot, Glued to my Crafts, Skip to my Lou, Project Inspire, The Shabby Nest.

Snow! Snow!

18 Jan

In honour of the snow scene outside my window (snow in London is a pretty exciting, once a year occasion), I thought I’d share this excellent vintage image I found on the New York Public Library digital gallery:

Snowstorm vintage photo from NYPL digital gallery

Perhaps there are slightly grumpy-looking men crouched above my house, right now, shaking great gold pans of snow. Perhaps.

Things I’ve learnt: transferring images to fabric

18 Jan

Transfer prints to fabric: useful tips from Wolves in London blog

I’ve got a confession to make.

I started this blog with all the best intentions. As I wrote, in my first ever post four months ago, I was planning on “building a fabric empire” – creating new fabric designs, making beautiful things from the newly-printed fabric and, oh yes, actually starting up a business to sell said fabrics and gorgeous artefacts. And this blog had a high purpose: I was going to record all my trials and tribulations along the way in these pages…

I had visions of small business people around the world (that’s people from small businesses, not business people who are small) chatting in my comments sections, sharing information about how they’d mastered marketing their business, or selling on Etsy, or turning their initial ideas into business plans. Oh, it was going to be great! And inspirational, for me and for all my readers (short or otherwise).

And now I’m four months in to the blog. I’ve talked about cooking I’ve done, and presents I’ve made. I’ve shared a few pictures of some knitting projects I’ve finished. I’ve had a brief foray into some inspiration for the fabrics. And then I’ve returned to daily life, even telling you about the homemade cleaning products I haven’t made. Buuuut, there hasn’t yet been any actual chat about the fabric company. Mostly because, I haven’t actually done anything about that yet.

What can I say? It’s been winter, I’ve not felt like leaving the sofa for too long.

However, in my articles over the past four months there has arguably been one post that actually included something I might do in this nascent company and that was my tutorial for transferring printed images onto fabric.

Though I didn’t explicitly state it in the original article, I was toying with this method for getting images onto knit fabrics like T-shirts as a possible venture for the company. I love the idea of producing a range of T-shirts or baby-grows with attractive designs printed onto the front (it is ridiculously hard, I think, to find nice baby-grows, especially…)

So when I stumbled across the possibility of just printing out a computer image onto some paper and then ironing it on to your fabric it seemed just too good to be true. Which, of course, it was.

That’s not to say this isn’t a brilliant thing to do at home, but it definitely doesn’t create an end result with durability that would be good enough to sell for cold hard cash. (In my opinion, anyway…)

Transfer prints to fabrics: tips from Wolves in London blog

Great T-shirt with octopus book cover, image found on NYPL digital gallery

That said, I am still a bit obsessed with the process and I made quite a few T-shirts for friends’ children as Christmas presents, as well as finishing off another one for my partner.

So I thought I might share a few extra pointers from my experience using transfer paper for putting images onto T-shirts (and kid myself, at the same time, that I’m getting that one little bit closer to starting the dratted fabric business of my dreams).

If you’d like a step-by-step tutorial, return to my original post as well.

Choosing images

Transfer images to fabric: tips from Wolves in London blog

Amazing vintage image of horse and carriage races, found on the Graphics Fairy blog

This is the most crucial part, as the finished product will only look as nice as the image you’ve selected. So:

  • If you’re looking for copyright-free images, there are some amazing sites on the internet. My three favourites, which I return to time and again, are the Graphics Fairy, which has all sorts of vintage ephemera, cleaned up and ready to use, the New York Public Library Digital Gallery, particularly good for scientific stuff, I’ve found, like old drawings of animals and so on, and Clip Art Etc, which has loads of black and white illustrations of just about anything you can think of.
  • Images that will work best with transfer paper are ones that have no “blank space” in them. You want to choose whole pictures, or silhouettes you can cut out, rather than line drawings. Any blank space shows up as a shiny bit on your finished fabric. (See my original post for an example of what I mean…)
  • Print out the image onto plain paper first and put it onto your T-shirt. Make sure the colours work together. Sounds obvious, I know, but it makes life easier to realise it doesn’t work at this point, rather than once you’ve ironed it on.

Preparing the images

Transferring prints to fabric: tips from Wolves of London blog

Silhouette of horse T-shirt. (Most pointless caption ever? You could already see that, couldn’t you?)

  • The easiest shape of image to use is a square, to make it easiest to cut, but don’t be put off doing a more complicated shape.
  • Silhouettes can look really great, but just take care with the cutting stage. It’s easiest to use a scalpel on a special surface (such as self-healing board for sewing). If in doubt, cut slightly within your silhouette, rather than outside. Anything you have left outside the outline will show up shiny and clear and won’t look so great.
  • Before you start with the iron, check a few times that the image is in the right place. Is it horizontal? Is it positioned where you want it? Again, this sounds obvious, but I’ve often got a bit carried away and wanted to start the exciting part, only to realise afterwards I haven’t put the picture in the optimum place…

Using the transfer paper

Transfer images to fabric

Raaar, bright red dinosaur T-shirt

  • The transfer paper I’ve used has worked in slightly different ways so be sure you check the correct method first.
  • For images that are being ironed onto light fabrics, you will need to reverse the picture first (choose mirror image on your printer setting), as you put the image face down and iron it on from there.
  • For images that are being ironed onto dark fabric, you print it out as is, remove the backing (rather than the front) of the paper and iron it straight on. Double check before you print, so you don’t end up with writing the wrong way round…
  • Not all transfer papers are equal. Shop around, check reviews, try out a few different brands to settle on one that gives the finish you’re happiest with.

Aftercare

  • I’ve not found that my T-shirts wash as well as I would like. It’s best to put them inside out in the washing machine and wash them on a lower heat.
  • Don’t iron the image again, as it will start to come off and stick to everything. Yeah. I tried.

And I think that covers it! If you’ve used this method of transferring images onto fabric, do drop me a comment and let me know if there are other tips you think I’ve missed off.

If you share my love of vintage images and are looking for a different project that uses them, take a look at my homemade paperweight tutorial. For more images, including the ones I’ve used for these T-shirts, check out my Pinterest board Free graphics.

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 craft 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…

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Coughs and sneezes

15 Jan

Waddya know, you take the baby to the “well baby clinic” at the doctors and a few days later he’s struck down with a horrible cold. A few days after that, I’m struck down with the same horrible cold (not really surprising, given the number of times I’ve been sneezed at right in the face…)

This particular strain of cold has given me one of those deeply irritating dry tickly coughs. I absolutely hate a tickly cough – so infuriating and so unsatisfying. It’s been keeping everyone awake at night, no matter how much I try and muffle the coughing by hiding under the duvet, but I can’t take any sort of over the counter cough medicine because I’m breast-feeding.

So, this morning, driven to distraction by the dratted thing, I searched the internet for a homemade cough remedy.

Homemade cough medicine from Wolves in London

I came across this cough medicine recipe at Food.com. It’s heavy on vinegar and heavy on the honey. Most recipes seemed to be heavy on honey, actually, but after drinking endless honey and lemons, which – though delicious – hadn’t solved the coughing problem, I wanted something with a bit more kick to it too.

A lot of the reviewers on the site have complained about it tasting horrible, but I thought it tasted really quite delicious. But then, I am a big fan of vinegar in pretty much any occasion. (Which also leads to my deep love of any pickles, jellies or chutneys, or frankly anything that involves industrial amounts of vinegar added to recipes…)

It’s really simple to make and uses ingredients that I already had in my cupboards.

Ingredients

Homemade cough medicine from Wolves in London

  • 2tbsps water
  • 1tbsp cider vinegar
  • 1tbsp honey
  • Pinch (around 1/2 tsp) ginger
  • Pinch of cayenne pepper

What to do…

Starting with the liquids, put everything into a jam jar with a lid:

Homemade cough medicine from Wolves in London

Homemade cough medicine with honey from Wolves in London

Once it’s all in the jar, you’re left with something of a gloopy mess:

Cough medicine from Wolves in LondonPut the lid back on the jar and shake it really well to mix everything together.

Voila! A simple homemade cough medicine all ready in less than a minute:

Homemade cough from Wolves in London

Take it by the teaspoon and see how it’s working. Because they aren’t any drugs in this, you can of course take as much as you like in one go… Or have another teaspoon as frequently as you need.

Personally, I think the vinegar in this goes really well with the honey and the spices and I would quite genuinely use this “medicine” as a salad dressing or, yum, even better, poured over some salmon to make a sort of ceviche. Anyway, food aside, it seems to have done the trick so far too. It’s 30 minutes since I swallowed a few spoonfuls and I’m yet to be taken by annoying coughing.

Let me know what you think of it. And if you’ve got any other failsafe homemade medicines, please post a comment and share them here.

(This post has been added to link parties at Skip to my Lou, Just Something I Whipped Up at Project Inspire, TGIF at Craft Junkie Too, Inspire me Fridays at Joyful Stamper and Frugal Friday at the Shabby Nest. Take a look at others’ projects from the past week over there…)

A wolf at the door…

14 Jan

Poor old wolves, I’ve only just noticed what a terribly bad press they get. Vilified in literature, always the bad guy (especially in 17th Century children’s books), it seems all they’re good for is blowing down adorable pigs’ houses or dressing up as old women in order to trick innocent young girls into being eaten.

Huntsman kills wolf

This picture is called “The Huntsman kills the Wolf”

What’s brought about this sudden realisation, you ask. (Or, I think you asked, I couldn’t quite hear over the sound of a howling wolf outside the window of my cottage…)

Well, I’ve been trying to update my blog banner and, given my well-documented love of vintage images*, I thought it’d be easy enough to find a cool retro picture of a wolf (for my blog name, y’see) and stick it up there, maybe with a cool retro image of London too.

Ha! How wrong I was. I spent a good few hours trawling all my favourite free vintage picture sites and, sure enough as I’d hoped, I came up with hundreds of images of wolves.  But the wolves weren’t being very nice. They were growling fiercely at woodmen, galloping maniacally across moonlight-illuminated fields while foaming at the mouth, or, worst of all, grabbing tiny babies in their jaws and carting them off to their lair, as the baby’s mother looks on in terror and fear…

Nope, the past few centuries haven’t recorded wolves in a fair and unbiased fashion pictorially.

Wolf as piper

Those dratted wolves, constantly luring innocent little lambs to their deaths by dressing up as pipers… Side note: I wonder why Gallaher’s cigarettes thought this picture would help them sell cigs?

Then to top it all, as if the poor wolf’s name wasn’t blackened enough, they became the symbol for new age hippies everywhere who suddenly wanted to run with them, dance with them, sing with them, howl with them, god knows what else with them.

What has the poor wolf done to deserve this? It’s just a shaggy dog, really and everyone loves dogs. Heck, we even love foxes. You couldn’t throw a stick in a design shop at the moment without it hitting into some fox-emblazoned piece of homeware or clothing.

So, come on people, let’s bring the wolf back in the from the cold. And so I give you, the cute lovable wolf. (Well, maybe not quite, but at least a few cool old pictures of some non-completely terrifying wolves, anyway):

Wolf

Yet another wolf advertising cigarettes, but this one looks (sort of) friendly

Marionette Peter and wolf

Okay, we know this wolf is up to no good, but he looks appealing in his marionette form

Scared wolf

This is my favourite of all the wolf images. Rather than scaring anyone else, this one looks rather scared himself. Poor little thing…

Wolf and horse, children's book illustration

I suppose the best you can say for this wolf is he hasn’t eaten the horse *yet* – but it’s a lovely line drawing, I thought, and we’ll give him the benefit of the doubt and decide he’s just passing through this field on his way to deliver chocolates to old people

All photos found on the New York Public Library Digital Archive: click on the photos to go directly to the right page. For more cool copyright free images, check out my Pinterest board Free graphics.

*For some craft projects using vintage images, see my tutorial for transferring printed images to fabric and the prints section of my top 20 tutorials for homemade presents…

Peacocks and paradise: William Morris at Tate Britain

8 Jan

Before Christmas, we trotted off to Tate Britain to meet some friends and visit the Pre-Raphaelite exhibition. The highlight of the exhibition, as far as I was concerned, was room number six, entitled Paradise. A room devoted to William Morris.

Peacock and bird carpet, William Morris

© William Morris Gallery, London

I flipping love William Morris. I love the ornate details, the colours, the grandeur, I love how his designs are fabulously floral without being twee.

But what really inspired me, aside from the individual beauty of the designs, was seeing all of his different work in this room and realizing just how much he was involved with.  There’s wallpaper, of course, textiles, curtains, books with stunningly ornate wood engravings… There’s even his four poster bed,  festooned with the Kelmscott Tree fabric.

As the Tate website says, his firm, “produced tiles, furniture, embroidery, stained-glass, printed and woven textiles, carpets and tapestry for both ecclesiastical and domestic interiors, examples of which are included in this room. In 1891 Morris founded the Kelmscott Press for the production of high quality hand-printed books.”

That’s quite a list! Everything from fabric to furniture, glass to books. For someone with plans and desires to set up a new fabric business, but who has a serious problem trying to weed through millions of different ideas and settle on doing one solitary thing, this was just what I needed to see. Why not try and do a bit of everything?!

Of course, my biggest problem is that I don’t exactly have the talent that William Morris did. But realising that even the greats sometimes take a scattergun approach, rather than refining and refining one specific discipline, was highly encouraging to me.

I didn’t take any photos of the room (well, you’re not allowed to, so I obeyed the rules), but I strongly recommend a visit if you’re in London before January 13th. There are all the details on the Tate website:  Pre Raphaelites, Victorian Avant-Garde.

Here, though, are a few William Morris patterns that are currently available, which are bringing me a bit of joy and good cheer on this gloomy January morning. I hope they do the same for you.

All photos are copyright Morris & Co and if you click on the photo you can go straight through to their website.

William Morris wallpaper

Fruit wallpaper, designed in 1864

Kelmscott tree fabric from Morris & Co

Kelmscott tree fabric, inspired by the curtains on Morris’s four poster bed

Kennet by Morris and Co

An original William Morris design, this is called Kennet. I think it’s simply stunning

Homemade cleaning products: a failed experiment

7 Jan

When we returned to London last March after six months in Hong Kong,  I was four months pregnant and had no job. I got a bit obsessed with saving money.

I spent hours a day reading every tip and thread on moneysavingexpert, forced my partner into making an annual budget with me, insisted that he take a packed lunch to work every day, walked everywhere rather than spend money on a bus, tapped my friends for loans of baby clothes and equipment,  trawled pound shops for essentials for us, banned frequent consumption of meat, requested a yoghurt maker for a birthday present and also decided, nay insisted, that we make all our own cleaning products.

Of course, all of these ideas still remain sound in principle, but at the time I was veering towards the fanatical end in my attempts at implementation. Oh, it was also around then that I insisted we bulk buy as well. So, inspired by various glowing reviews of natural cleaning products online, I took our annual cleaning budget (I’d allowed us £40, since you ask) and spent it all in one go on borax, soda crystals, castile soap, bicarbonate of soda, vinegar and soap flakes.

I hadn’t actually done a trial run of any of the various “recipes” I’d seen,  and, of course you can see where this is going: everything I did make turned out to be absolutely rubbish at cleaning. Rather than save us any money at all, I’d wasted £40. A fortnight later, the sink now covered in what appeared to be a permanent layer of immovable grease, I finally gave in to Jamie’s pleas and bought some Fairy liquid “for special occasions.” After that, it wasn’t long before the house was stocked back up with branded cleaning products again.

The trouble was, the homemade dishwasher powder, while removing most food, left everything looking smeared and tea-stained. The washing powder worked fine on clothes that weren’t too dirty, but it couldn’t shift a stain and the laundry never came out smelling fresh. The worst one, though, was the washing up liquid. This seemed to actually make everything greasier than before you’d started to wash it, including the sink, the washing up brush and our hands.

I don’t know if I did anything wrong, or if all those online advocates were just much, much more patient than me with their washing and rinsing, but now, 11 months later, I still have a cupboard full of bulk-sized bags of soap flakes and the like.

Ingredients for homemade cleaning products

The cupboard of regret

I opened the cupboard up this morning and felt a wave of guilt as I looked in at all the unused products. So, I am determined, once again, to have a crack at making something natural.

So, over to you: has anyone got  some good recipes for natural cleaning products that genuinely work?

No washing up liquid, please, that was a catastrophe too far, but I’m open to trying anything else…

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