Archive | March, 2013

Tiny teapots and lurid lobsters: shrink plastic experiments

30 Mar

When I was about eight years old an odd craze swept through my primary school. The jewellery-made-from-crisp-packets craze.

Do you remember it?

It must have been about the late 1980s and it was suddenly de rigeur to put a crisp packet into the oven, watch it shrink and then stick a safety pin on the back and wear it as a badge. I know, easily pleased hey?

I was vaguely aware at the time that there was a more sophisticated version of the crisp packet badge. A version that involved painting your own designs onto some special plastic and then shrinking it down to size.

I’m not sure that we ever reached these levels of sophistication in my family, content instead with pledging our allegiance to some deeply unhealthy salty snack.

But, 25 or so years later, I finally tried it out.

Shrink plastic teapots

Tiny little plastic teapots

I’ve noticed some really amazing shrink plastic jewellery recently. I first saw this absolutely stunning Squirrel Nutkin necklace about a year ago, by the Savvy Crafter. I pinned it (of course) but never thought I’d ever be able to make something similar myself, due to my complete and utter lack of ability to draw anything.

Then, a few weeks ago, I spotted these bird earrings by Dream a Little Bigger. And, guess what, she’d made them out of a vintage picture, simply printed out of her computer! Bingo. This was more up my alley. No need to attempt to draw something and – even better – another excuse to get the vintage images out.

I read up on a few tutorials, which all made it sound super simple, so decided to make myself a lobster necklace and some teapot earrings, with some retro images I found on the Graphics Fairy. (This lobster and this teapot…)

The initial stages are, indeed, super simple.

All you need is a printer, an oven, some scissors, a nice image and some ink jet shrink plastic (I bought mine from eBay, of course). Shrink plastic comes in various different types, but if you want to use a printed image, make sure you get an ink jet one. Then you can choose clear, white or frosted, depending on what look takes your fancy.

Then you draw or print your image onto the plastic at about double the size you want it to end up.

Shrink plastic

Shrink plastic with the images printed out: there’s something quite ethereal about it…

Cut round the shape, add any holes you might want with a hole punch (for hanging earring clasps or whatever) and pop it into the oven.

And this was when I found it all started to get a bit more complicated than I expected…

Shrink plastic

Still full size, ready to go into the oven…

All the instructions I read said that it would take two to three minutes (I read the lines “shrink in front of your eyes” a fair few times…)

Ready for this amazement, I put it into the oven and watched. And watched. And watched.

After 15 minutes nothing had happened, so I turned the oven up. And watched a bit longer.

In the end, I found that pieces of the size I was making took about 20 minutes to shrink completely down, when the oven was on at 200 degrees. Maybe my oven’s a bit crap. Who knows?

The instructions on my shrink plastic (and on the other blogs I read) all said that you’ll know it’s done when the plastic has curled up and then flattened back out again.

The thing is, it never completely flattens back out. Well, it didn’t for me. It curls up, like one of those fortune telling fish, then returns to a sort of flat position…

I tried to make them dry fully flat by putting them under something heavy while they cooled, but it didn’t make much difference.

Still, at the end of it all, I had some diddy little shrunk pieces of plastic!

Shrink plastic teapot

Shrunken teapot

Now, as I said, I was planning on making the teapots into earrings, but when I tried them out with an earring hoop on the top I thought they looked, well, pretty stupid and amateur.

It could be because I hadn’t cut them into a proper circle. (Why not? I don’t know.)

But even if they were perfectly circularly symmetrical, I’m still not sure that I would have produced something I wanted to wear in my ears.

(Before I started this, I was imagining producing some cutting edge jewellery to give Tatty Devine a run for their money. What I made, instead, would look a bit too rubbish to be stocked in Claire’s Accessories…)

I still thought they were kind of sweet though and was scratching my head, wondering what else I could turn them into, when it suddenly dawned on me: gift tags.

These would be just perfect tied onto a bit of ribbon, to wrap a present with.

And, take a look, I wasn’t wrong:

Wrapped present with teapot gift tag

Who wouldn’t want a dinky little teapot on their present?

Shrink plastic teapot gift tag

You wanted to see it again in close up, right? Right?

Not a complete waste of time, then, but not quite the work of genius I’d originally imagined.

And now for the lobster. This is he:

Shrink plastic lobster

Look at this little guy, he went into the oven about 20cm long and he came out half the size. Poor thing

At first, I thought this was as much of a failure as the teapots, but I put it onto a necklace anyway, just to see.

And, well, I think I sort of love it!

Shrink plastic lobster necklace

Do you like him? I think he’s kind of funky…

 

What do you reckon? Is my judgment (along with my eyes) just blinded by the hours I put in, sitting in front of a hot oven, or is this something that I might actually wear when leaving the house?

Related articles:

I’m really pleased that this project was featured at Serenity Now:
Featured At Serenity Now

Easter guest posting

28 Mar

It’s a blinking good morning here in sarfeest London. The sun is shining, I got a full six hours un-interrupted sleep last night (finally breaking my lack of sleeping spell) and it’s almost the long Easter weekend…

Could life get any better? Turns out, it could!

Because I’ve also got my first ever guest post happening today over at the always-beautiful Patchwork Harmony blog.

Egg cosy tutorial

I made these. With my own fair hands. Best of all, you can too…

It’s for some really easy-to-sew egg cosies that I made. Complete with pattern. (I know, get me!)

Here’s a sneak peek photo, but head over there for the full tutorial: DIY: easy egg cosies for Easter.

And I’ll let you into a little secret. That lovely wood table? The beautiful floral teapot? Those huge sash windows? Not mine. Not my house.

My house is still such a complete and utter tip waiting to be renovated, that I had to go to my sister’s lovely flat to take the photos. It’s the same sister who I’m teaming up with for the Letterpress cards, so expect to see her flat in a few more photos!

It’s Bacon Connoisseurs Week!

23 Mar

I’m not sure how this crucial information can have possibly passed me by until now, but I have just discovered that it’s Bacon Connoisseurs Week. This week…

Felt bacon

Lovely delicious strips of bacon. Felt bacon.

Luckily, I found out in the nick of time, for tomorrow is the very last day we have to celebrate all things bacon until the revered event comes around again next year.

Always a sucker for a food-based festive event (slash thinly disguised marketing ploy; see the Love Pork website for full details of this prestigious week), I spent a while wondering what I could do to celebrate.

Apart from eating bacon, which I obviously intend to do as well.

Usually, I’d whip up a babygrow with a relevant picture transferred onto the front, much like my National Carrot Day outfit. But somehow, putting my baby in a bacon top didn’t really appeal.

(I toyed with the idea of doing one with a pig picture instead, but that didn’t quite seem in the spirit of things. Oh look, a nice little piggy, oink oink oink. I’m going to turn you into bacon this week, but don’t worry, you’ll taste utterly delicious…)

I was busy doing some head scratching (“scratching,” geddit…) and then I suddenly remembered my great love for felt food.

When I first joined Pinterest, just about every other photo I pinned was of some sort of felt food.

Of course, I never got round to making a single item (Pinterest being invented purely, I am pretty sure, to make you waste hours at your computer Pinning things you intend to make, rather than actually spending any time making anything).

But, finally, here is my chance!

Bacon on its own would be a little odd, so I decided to make a full English. (That’s not odd at all, you see. Nope.)

What do you think?

Felt fried breakfast

All this breakfast needs is a little dob of ketchup

I vaguely followed a tutorial from Wee Folk Art for the bacon and eggs and from One Inch World for the tomato slice…

Felt eggs

Sunny side up

Felt tomato

Just missing a few pips

The sausages I just cobbled together…

Felt sausages

Juicy and plump sausages

Now, what on earth am I going to do with a felt fry up?!

Felt breakfast

A close up of the lip-smacking felt brekkie

Felt breakfast

And an overhead view so you can see the breakfast in all its felt glory

Any takers?

Related articles:

  • Take a look at the carrot baby clothes I made for the equally (if not more) prestigious National Carrot Day
  • And if you can’t get enough of felt food, I’ve corralled all my felt food Pinning obsessions onto one lovely board: Felt Food.

I’m sharing this project at Serenity Now, the Shabby Nest, the Shabby Creek Cottage, Beyond the Picket Fence, Sew Can Do, DIY show off and I Heart Naptime. Head over and take a look at what others have been up to this week.

The (fabric) world is not enough…

20 Mar

You know how it is around these parts. You wait four months for any sort of fabric dream development, and then two pieces of news come along at once…

(Okay, to fit the bus analogy it really should be three things at once, but heeeeey, steady on there, let’s not get too carried away in a hive of activity, I don’t want to wear myself out before tea time.)

Hot on the heels of my sneak reveal of my first ever fabric design, I’ve now got a thrilling announcement of the expansion to my (as yet hypothetical) fabric business to include printed stationery as well.

Elephant card and camel card from Wolves in London

Soon the new Wolves in London Etsy shop will not only sell amazing fabrics, but amazing cards like these…

My super talented sister recently bought a Letterpress to make her wedding invitations and we’re joining up together to plan a business of prints for both fabrics and cards.

You’ll be relieved to hear, her love of vintage pics is as strong as mine. These were her incredible wedding invitations:

Camel card by Wolves in London

He’s a glorious camel, isn’t he?

We’re chomping at the bit to get started now and have business strategies and product plans and collection ideas bursting out of our every vein.

Not only is it excellent to broaden out from fabrics to stationery, but my sister is super-talented at design, so I’m really looking forward to working with her on all our new products. There’s going to be more than a thing or two she can teach this dunce…

Elephant card from Wolves in London

Everyone would love to receive this cheery elephant card, wouldn’t they?

More developments soon, I hope! We’re planning on getting our Etsy shop up and running asap…

A Luddite no more…

19 Mar

For someone who has spent more than half their office life working for online companies, I’m a surprisingly, no, ridiculously late adopter of two trends.

I say “trends,” but most people I know would call them necessities. Prepare to retrieve your jaw from the carpet as I tell you that I’ve never before owned a smartphone and I’ve never got with all the Twitter action.

The phone I’d owned for the last seven years is what you could lovingly refer to as a brick.

Though, I suspect a brick probably has more sophisticated functionality than that phone…

Vintage illustration of a pig building a house of bricks

I’ve recycled my old phone by sending it to this pig to build his house…
(Image from the New York Public Library digital archive)

But over the weekend everything changed as I boldly, bravely took a step into the Noughties. (A mere decade or so late.)

My sister gave me her old iPhone and I signed myself up to Twitter.

Actually, I tell a slight lie, as I have had a Twitter account in my personal name for at least five years. I’ve just never once used it. Or understood what on earth the appeal is. Or remembered to look at it for four-and-three-quarter years.

But I figured, what with the whole fabric business malarkey, it was worth investigating Twitter some more and trying to figure out why everyone else is so keen.

So, you can now find me here: @WolvesinLondon.

I have a grand total of 16 followers so far and I’m following 43 people. (I know, these numbers are so big it’s hard to actually visualise them…)

So, if you’re on Twitter, please do look me up. Promise to follow you back!

I think I might just be starting to understand what all the fuss was about.  It’s going to take up a lot of my time, isn’t it?

Vintage picture of pigeons

What do you mean a carrier pigeon is no longer the quickest way to communicate with people?
(Image from Vintage Printable)

Related articles:

  • Though I might be a bit of a dunce on the Twitter-front, when it comes to Pinterest, I’m fully up to scratch (read, totally addicted). If you’re more of a pictures kind of person, do come and link up with me here: Wolves in London on Pinterest.
  • If you like the pictures from this post, take a look at some other posts with projects I’ve made from vintage images.

Planting the seed…

14 Mar

If you’ve read, oooh, pretty much any other article on this blog, it’ll come as no surprise to hear I’m a lazy gardener.

Crocus

A crocus in my garden. Probably my favourite way of gardening: stick some bulbs in the ground, see what comes up next year

Every Wednesday in my horticulture course we learn about all the right ways to help a plant grow: how to provide the right soil conditions, the right nutrients, the best levels of light, the best position in the garden, the right amount of water, the right temperatures…

It’s all fascinating and I eagerly scribble down notes and ask (slightly spoddy) questions.

And then I come home and can’t be bothered to do a single one of the recommended actions in my own garden. I don’t want to tenderly care for and nurture a plant for months on end, providing it with the best possible situation and assessing its wellbeing every day.

Nope. I’m of the plunk-it-in-the-ground-and-see-what-happens persuasion.

So planting bulbs and seeds is my very favourite form of gardening. Stick them in, forget what you put where, be pleasantly surprised by whatever comes up. (And anything that dies; well, it probably wasn’t going to be a very interesting plant in the first place…)

The only trouble with seeds is that there tends to be an awful lot of re-potting involved. From the seed tray to the small flower pots to the final position. So, when I read last year about planting seeds in old loo rolls, I knew I was onto a winner…

Empty loo rolls for planting seeds

There’s something quite pleasing to me about the arrangement of all these empty loo rolls, waiting for their seeds

You just fill them with compost, plant the seeds inside, keep them well-watered and once the seeds are big enough, plant the whole thing in its final position. As long as the cardboard stays wet, the roots will be able to grow right through them.

It’s the same idea as those biodegradable pots you see, but of course much cheaper. Why spend money on something when you can recycle an object that you’d otherwise throw away to do the same job?

Last weekend, I took some of the seeds I’d been meaning to plant for ages and spent a nice few hours pootling around out the back planting them into the loo rolls.

Seed packets

Sweet peas for the front garden and some veg for the summer…

Seed tin

My very bucolic (albeit slightly twee) seed tin. It makes me happy just to look at it

Of course, the process ended up slightly less straightforward than it sounds. Turns out there is one really good thing that all flowerpots have and loo rolls don’t. A bottom.

I spent quite a lot of time re-filling the rolls as the compost fell out of the bottom if I moved them the tiniest bit. And you really need something the size of a spoon (not a trowel) to fill them, otherwise you end up with a lot of soil in the gaps between all the loo rolls.

But let’s hope it was a bit of extra effort now, to save lots of effort later on.

This was how they looked once I’d finished:

Toilet rolls used as seed trays

Toilet rolls filled with seeds. Come on, little seeds, grow, grow!

I’ll let you know how they get on over the next few weeks!

Have you ever tried this out before? How did it work out? And do you have any other time / money saving tips for gardening? Post me a comment below and let me know…

Related articles:

This post is linked at Thirty Handmade Days, the Shabby Nest, Beyond the Picket Fence, the Shabby Creek Cottage, Sew Can Do, CRAFT, Simply Dream and Create, Serenity Now. Head over and see what others have been up to this week…

A toe in the water: teapot fabric

8 Mar

You know the drill by now. I’m meant to be writing a blog about setting up my own fabric business. Except, I’ve been too busy writing my blog to do anything about setting up my fabric business…

Until now, that is.

For, this week, I took one giant step towards making the whole fabric designing thing a reality.

I went right ahead and designed some of my own fabric…

Yup, you read that correctly. This person who’s been bleating on for so long about designing fabric actually, gulp, did it. This is what I made:

Teapot fabric design by Wolves in London

Lovely tea pots in aquamarine all lined up. Even looking at this photo makes me feel quite proud…

It’s cute, isn’t it?

I’m sure you all already know about Spoonflower, the amazing (US-based) website where you can upload a picture, turn it into a pattern and they’ll print it out on fabric and send it to you.

It takes a little while for the fabric to arrive here in the UK, but boy oh boy, is it worth the wait.

I used a free vintage teapot image and arranged it in a pleasing repetition. I’m delighted with how it’s turned out. Here’s a shot with a bit more of the fabric in it:

Teapot fabric designed by Wolves in London

You can get a sense of scale here

I’ve got something special in mind to make from this, which I’ll be sharing here just as soon as I get on with it… (Watch this space, eh?)

It’s not a cheap way of making fabric, and if I really manage to go ahead and set up a business, of course I’ll need to find someone to print it for me here in the UK for a much cheaper price, but it’s brilliant to see some things I’ve envisaged in my head right there in front of me on the weave. Here’s a final pic with the detail:

Teapot fabric designed by Wolves in London

It reminds me of the Mad Hatter’s tea party

Next step: total word domination…

What do you think? Do you like it?

Related articles:

  • Update: I’ve since made a few more fabric designs. I’m less pleased with them than these lovely teapots, but do take a look and tell me what you think: Beetles and fish and lobsters, oh my!

The perfect packaging

7 Mar

I’m a huge fan of good packaging. When I really get started on the great fabric project and open my Etsy shop, I want everything I send out* to be so beautifully packaged that the recipient feels they’re getting a present in the post.

Which was just how I felt this morning, after taking delivery of a parcel containing something I’d ordered for the baby from The Round Window.

When I’d opened up the brown box, this is what I found inside:

Perfect packaging

Could you ever hope to open a box with a more delightful display inside?

Stunning, isn’t it? That gorgeous cheerful yellow paper, the baker’s string tied around it, the little acorn note…

The parcel itself was just like a lovely present. I almost didn’t want to open it up it looked so beautiful.

Perfect wrapping

Is it Christmas? Is it my birthday? Nope. Just something I ordered online… Beats the plastic bags you get from all major shops, doesn’t it?

The cheery little acorn (the motif from her online shop) had a hand-written note on the back, thanking me for the order.

Acorn gift tag

The world’s cutest gift tag?

And when I unwrapped the twine and turned the parcel over, there was even a matching acorn sticker, in place of sellotape.

Acorn sticker

And a matching sticker to hold the parcel together

Packaging just doesn’t get any better than this, does it? In all honesty, I’m not sure that even birthday or Christmas presents I’ve been given have been wrapped as beautifully! (Apologies to anyone whose ever given me a present and is reading this…)

I feel completely inspired to try and produce something as attractive as this for my own packaging when the times comes to actually start selling some stuff in my own shop.

Oh, and the icing on the cake? This was what was inside. A little stained glass egg man, that I’m going to hang in the window of the sproglet’s room.

Egg man from the Round Window

Glorious little egg man, from The Round Window. (His name is Eugene, by the way)

Beyond amazing, no?

(Apologies for all the superlatives in this post. In my defence, it’s not every day something as nice as this arrives at your door…)

*I might be making a big assumption here that I’ll get any orders at all, ha ha.

Related articles

  • It’s hardly in the same league, but I made some of my own gift boxes for Christmas presents last year. Take a look at my free template and tutorial if you’re inclined to do the same.
  • Stamp your own gift tags: transform buff labels into personalised messages
  • And take a look at my Pinterest board Wrap it up if you share my love of packaging

Vintage children’s book covers

6 Mar

First an apology. I’ve somewhat lost my writing mojo over the last week.

I was reading through my last few posts this morning (mmm, I know, surely there are better things to do with my time) and thought they were somewhat lacking in a little je ne sais quoi (except I do sais quoi: it was sparkle, verve, wit, elan, not to mention, on occasion, some good grammatical construction).

So, to anyone checking in regularly, my apologies. I hope the mojo reappears soon, but I’m not sure today’s the day.

(Just for your interest, the missing literary mojo (and every other mojo in my life right now) is down to sleep deprivation. The little sproglet is having serious sleeping issues, which of course means we are too. But I don’t want to bore on about that here…)

Sleepy Book, vintage book cover

How I feel, all day, every day

(Book cover found on Pinterest, from my vintage book collection blog.)

So, instead of trying to conjure up a witticism or three, I thought I’d share some amazing pictures with you instead.

I’ve just been strolling round Pinterest and had the most incredible discovery: galleries and galleries of vintage children’s book designs.

Straight hair, curly hair, vintage book design

Not only curly hair, but lovely ginger hair too — so we can teach the sproglet what it means to be a red head!

(Found at present and correct, an amazing online shop I’ve only just discovered, that also has a physical London store as well. Definitely need to go and visit soon.)

Being a serious bibliophile, a lover of vintage and mid-century design and with a bambino to read to, I don’t think I could have found anything more inspiring on a weary Wednesday afternoon.

Here, then, are some of my favourites.

Water All Around, vintage children's book

Illustrated by Bernice Myers

Found at the Retro Kids Pinterest board

This child, on the front of the brilliantly titled Water All Around, looks extremely happy for someone who appears to be in a swirling vortex of water, with at least one distinctly evil looking fish.

Mud, Mud, Mud, vintage book covers

Mucky pup

Another cheerful looking child on the front of the equally brilliantly named mud! mud! mud! and it seems to get even better once you’re inside the book:

mud illustration, vintage children's book covers

“They liked mud better”… Who wouldn’t?

(Found at the Etsy shop bibliocycle. That book has sold, but there are lots more to browse…)

And one last one, with a little lesson for us all:

Be nice to spiders, vintage book covers

I promise I will!

(Found at Elwood and Eloise on Etsy. Again, that book has sold but there are loads more to look at…)

You can see many many, more appealing covers on my brand new Pinterest board Book covers.

NB: I’ve tried to only include images here that are okay to reproduce, but it’s not always easy to check. If you think I’ve posted something that I shouldn’t have, please do get in touch and I’ll remove it asap…

Related articles

Okay, I’m something of a vintage illustration addict right now. I’m clearly having a little phase. But here are some other articles and projects that relate to vintage illustration one way or other…

  • A DIY gift box (template and tutorial included) using a vintage feather illustration
  • Some printed T-shirts, with vintage images transferred as logos
  • A few vintage gardening images, shared in celebration of the start of my horticulture course
  • Print your own vintage bookplates – perfect to go inside any books you’re buying: old or otherwise!

Birthday T-shirts

4 Mar

My love affair with ironing pictures onto T-shirts continued apace this week.

Home printed giraffe and tomato T-shirt

We’re off to Ireland at the weekend, to stay with some friends and celebrate their baby’s first birthday.

(We may also be tempted to betroth our sproglets to each other, ready to be wed as soon as they hit 16, if we could just find the relevant “Betroth your children” legal kit in WHSmiths…)

So, I was after a nice DIY one-year-old birthday present.

Of course, before the phrase “I’m after a nice DIY one-year-old birthday present” had even fully formed in my mind, I was reaching for the iron on transfer paper and searching my favourite vintage image blogs…

As you’ll know if you’ve perused these parts before, home-printed T-shirts were my go-to present for friends’ children last Christmas.

I was delighted, last week, when I met up with the recipient of the blue horse T-shirt (and his Mum) to be shown that he was wearing it right then. I was even more delighted when his Mum told me that he wears it at least three times a week (whenever it’s not being washed…) And it was a mixture of delight and relief to see that after all those washes, the transfer was still firmly in place.

(I’ve also been pleasantly surprised to see how well the carrot set I made for my baby has coped with being put through the wash. And it tickles me every time I put his chubby little tummy into one of the babygrows.)

So, spurred on by these successes, I thought that another outing of the transfer paper was in order for this occasion.

Knowing that the birthday girl’s favourite food is tomatoes, I found a nice old tomato image and, following my own tutorial, printed up the first T-shirt. (Of course, I didn’t actually follow my own tutorial, that would be a bit mental. I’m now imagining myself sitting reading my own blog in order to see what to do, ha ha.)

This was the end result:

Print your own images on T-shirts

Arcadia beauty brand tomatoes: yum, yum, yum

[I’m not going to share the link to this juicy, plump tomato image, I’m afraid, because I’m not 100 per cent sure that it’s free for use, so don’t sneak on me to the authorities, please…]

The second T-shirt, however, with this cute circus giraffe picture, you’re free to replicate if you’d like.

Print your own images onto T-shirts

Off to the circus with this jolly giraffe

I got this image, entirely legitimately, from the Graphics Fairy blog here: circus giraffe.

There’s a whole set of other circus animal images, so you can take your pick from a bear, zebra or even camel. (Has anyone in living memory ever seen a camel in a circus, I wonder?)

So, as ever, I’m pretty pleased with my T-shirts.

And I’ve got something else lined up, that also involves printed tomatoes. Here’s a sneak peek of it in process.

Tomatoes printed

Good enough to eat…

Intrigued? I’ve got the finishing touches to do today, so check back later this week to see all the details…

Related articles

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