Woodland Christmas ornaments

Struck down for the past few days with a horrible pre-Christmas lurgy, I’m just popping in to share some photos I finally got round to taking of my air dry clay Christmas tree decorations…

Homemade Christmas decorations
Hoot’s man there’s a moose, loose, about this hoose…

Now, unless mine is the only blog you read, I’m sure you will have seen variations of these at a number of different places. From bloggers who actually give you some inspiration / advice / tutorials at a relevant time so you can still go to the shops, buy the equipment, come home and make the thing before it’s far too late. Ah, not me! Even if you, too, are a late Christmas tree putter-upper, there’s still probably not enough time to start making your own ornaments now.

(And if mine is the only blog you read, thanks so much! You’re my new bestie…)

But still, I was pretty pleased with these, so I thought I’d give you a little view of my new woodland friends anyway.

Homemade Christmas ornaments
Even though he’s just in silhouette, this little squirrel looks quite cheeky, I think…
Homemade Christmas decorations
A Christmas snail.

I used cookie cutters bought from Ikea and just rolled out my clay (purchased from Hobbycraft a few weeks back) and then stamped them in, making a little hole at the top for the red wool.

I’m not entirely sure how sturdy these are, in all honesty. One of the moose (meece?) lost a leg and his nose on his way to be photographed. Poor guy, that’s worse than a bad hair day… So I don’t know if they’re likely to survive til next year. But, unlike the beautiful Habitat glass baubles which have not been taken out of their box this year, I won’t mind in the slightest if the sproglet tears them from the tree and dashes them to the ground…

Homemade Christmas ornaments
The one surviving moose that’s not legless

Incidentally, I did try and take some photos for you of these in situ, dangling cheerily from the tree itself, but the light was all wrong, or the baubles started moving when I wanted to photograph them and, in my under-the-weather state, I got fed up pretty quickly.

And on that cheery note, a Merry Christmas to you all! I hope you’re all happy and healthy and full of seasonal cheer. I’ll be checking out now until the new year, so have wonderful Christmases one and all and a fabulous New Year’s Eve. May the start of 2014 be excellent for each and every one of you…

Sabrina xxx

Christmas crafting

After my frazzled, manic late-night making sessions of last December, I decided not to go for any homemade Christmas presents this year. A rather sensible decision, for me, what with temporarily living at my Mum’s, not having access to any of my supplies or, frankly, much time or energy spare at the moment…

christmas craft supplies
Craft supplies, just waiting to be turned into something wondrous…

Everyone in my family is a bit skint this year, so we all set ourselves a £15 budget per person. All well and good, I thought to myself.

But then, when I started out looking for presents, I discovered (somewhat to my horror) you can’t actually buy that much for £15. One of my sisters requested a bobble hat. I looked in various shops and, nope, I just can’t find a bobble hat for less than £15. So, hey, I might as well knit her one. It seems crazy not to.

I bought my nephew a lovely little £15 polar bear jumper from John Lewis. It’s super cute, but, hmmm, it’s a little bit boring to just give a jumper to a four-month-old, isn’t it? I’ll just whip up a couple of very small little extras to go with it.

And then there’s the tree. Non-breakable decorations are needed this year. I definitely want to make some more fabric baubles for my own tree, as well as a couple of other super simple, super quick things I’ve spotted around the place.

And then stockings. I simply must make a couple of nice things for the stockings – it is, after all, the first Christmas that the sproglet will really remember…

So, somehow, with a week to go til Christmas I’ve got a rather large list of things I want to get made and an ever-growing pile of supplies. It’s just, erm, when do I have any time to make them? Wish me luck!

Related articles:

Liberty fabric baubles

I know, I know, I had you at “Liberty fabric baubles,” didn’t I? There’s not much need to write anything more…

Fabric baubles DIY
A plate of Christmas loveliness

I made up these little beauties a few weeks ago for my sister-in-law who was running a craft stall at a charity fair at the weekend. I’m not sure that nine little baubles will have made much of a dent in terms of making-an-entire-stall’s-worth-of-items-to-sell but, hey, hopefully they filled a small space somewhere.

DIY fabric baubles
The one in the middle is my favourite

I followed a tutorial in the Guardian by Hannah of the wonderful blog Seeds and Stitches, which I first Pinned two Christmases ago and have been meaning to make ever since.

It’s a great, simple, messy, very pleasurable project. The only extra tip I would add is that you need far, far more fabric than you expect, so cut out loads of tiny squares first and then sit down for the glueing part. I seemed to spend most of the evening going to wash the glue off my hands when I discovered I’d run out of fabric mid-bauble for the hundredth time.

I also didn’t worry about hanging them up to dry, just put them on a sheet of greaseproof paper and turned them over at sporadic intervals, which worked fine.

DIY fabric baubles
Oh, laziness, this one wouldn’t stand up on his own to be photographed and instead of searching for some blue tack, I just grabbed a roll of sellotape that was closer to hand… Don’t worry, I haven’t accidentally glued it onto the bottom
DIY fabric baubles
The blue bauble, though, can stand up all on its own

Most of the fabric I’ve used is Liberty scraps, with the exception of the blue and white stripes, which were cut from my old primary school shirt. I felt quite nostalgic sticking it all together…

This weekend, I’m planning on making some more to adorn our very own Christmas tree. I’ve stuck the fabric to some cheap supermarket-bought plastic baubles, so the very best thing about them is that they’re sproglet-proof. Even if he managed to shatter them somehow, any sharp pieces would stay inside all the fabric, which is just the sort of Christmas ornament I need on my tree this year.

DIY fabric baubles
One last lingering look at the lovely baubles…

Related articles:

  • Planning to make more than ornaments? Check out my top 17 tutorials for homemade Christmas presents
  • If you’ve been reading my blog for a while, you might recognise some of the fabric from the original projects. The pink and blue geometric patterns were turned into these egg cosies; the red floral pattern was leftovers from my teapot cosy; and most of the rest is from the (still unfinished) quilt

17 homemade Christmas presents

This time last year, I put together a round up of my top 20 tutorials for homemade Christmas presents that I’d found elsewhere on the web, for the delectation of my lovely readers reader. (Ha! That is actually almost true. I had only been writing the blog for a few weeks and I was so excited that 20 whole people read that post in the first few days!)

This year though, oh frabjous day, I thought I’d put together a round up of some homemade presents from my very own blog posts, sharing some of my favourite presents that I’ve made over the past 12 months.

17 tutorials for homemade Christmas presents

Not all of these are my own tutorials, but all link to a tutorial for you to follow, so I hope there is some inspiration here for anyone planning on making some presents in this fine month of December. So, without further ado, here are my top 17 homemade Christmas presents…

For vintage lovers

A huge fan of a vintage or retro image myself, I’ve made a fair few things using some (copyright-free) vintage pics over the past year. These are the ones I’ve been most pleased with

1. Lobster necklace

Shrink plastic lobster necklace
Who wouldn’t want a pink vintage lobster strung around their neck?

This was my first experiment with shrink plastic and, I’ve got to say, I was pretty chuffed with the results. He’s rather spectacular, isn’t he? I also made some rather lovely shrink plastic teapots, which would work brilliantly as tags for presents…

Check out the full tutorial here: shrink plastic lobster necklace

2. Home-printed bookplates

Print your own bookplates
Looking at this photo, I’m reminded that I want to make some more of these for myself…

This was a gift from Christmas last year and one I was really delighted with. It takes no time at all to print out all the bookplates, but I think the (slightly time-consuming) additions of the little envelopes really added to the cute factor.

Read more: print your own bookplates

3. Homemade paperweights

Make your own paperweights
This is a little asparagus beetle caterpillar, ready for his transformation

A slightly cheat “do it yourself” because really all you do is buy a kit and add your own images. I’ve made these with the bugs, above, and also with a whole bunch of other vintage images…

Read more: check out my tutorial or have a look at some other suggestions for pictures that work well

Stocking fillers

All of these are pretty quick to make and small enough to fit into a stocking. Ideal for the homemade touch if you don’t have time to go the full hog on bigger presents…

4. Moustache mugs

DIY moustache mugs
What a fine selection of facial hair

Okay, okay, the moustache thing is a bit overdone by now, but these mugs are still pretty amusing to me. (It’s like she’s got a big moustache when she drinks tea, ha ha ha...)

Of course, you could also use the same method to create any artistic mug you fancy, or let your children have a go with some different coloured pens to make an artwork for Granny.

Read more: moustache mugs

5. Soap

Homemade soap
Lavender soap, complete with actual lavender

Of all the presents I’ve ever given people, my homemade soaps have got the best feedback (and requests for replacements when they’ve run out…) Using a melt and pour soap base, these are straightforward to make, but still give you that pleasing mad scientist feeling as you stir them all together.

Read more: homemade soaps

6. Business card holders

Homemade business card holder
I like the octopus one best

For the loveable executive in your life… …what better than some homemade business card holders?! I’ve got to admit, since I made myself one it has seen very, very little action — but then I really must start carrying my business cards around and handing them out a little bit more. Again, this is a quick project, perfect for when you’re half paying attention to something on TV.

Read more: business card holders

7. Plastic bag stuffer

Plastic bag holder
The world’s sexiest present

If you thought the business card holders were a prosaic present, let me introduce you to the plastic bag stuffer! Sexy? No. Romantic? No. Thoughtful? Erm, perhaps. Useful? Very!

The thing is, buying something like this in the shops costs a ridiculous amount of money and it’s really, really easy to make with some beautiful fabric. But, I reckon, don’t give this to someone unless you know they have a plastic bag mountain hidden in a drawer or cupboard. This is the sort of  present that could see you on the receiving end of a pair of socks the following year if given to the wrong recipient.

Read more: plastic bag stuffer

8. Felt food

Felt fried breakfast
Anyone for bacon?

Erm, what can I say about this? It’s a fairly weird present, I know, perhaps better suited to children with a toy kitchen, but this felt breakfast really pleases me. Those little yellow yolks on the eggs, the curly bacon, the bright red tomato. Visually, it’s rather glorious.

Read more: felt fry up

9. Egg cosies

Egg cosy tutorial
Yum, yum, eggs you can actually eat

Infinitely more practical than a felt breakfast, these egg cosies can keep your actual eggs warm and toasty on a winter morning. Also good for getting the most out of scraps of beautiful fabric…

Read more: egg cosies

If you’ve got a bit more time…

Ideally, if you were making these presents, you would have started a while ago. But, hey, I’m only posting this today so you couldn’t have known… If you’ve a fair of time before the big day, these would make lovely presents though.

10. Hot water bottle cover

Knitted hot water bottle cover
Just add a ribbon round the neck for some extra flair

This might take you a couple of evenings to knit, but it’s a really nice pattern and very simple to follow. I was delighted with the way it looked at the end and (as is the way with every present I make for someone else that I really like) have been meaning to make a version for myself ever since. It never happens, of course, because there is always another present to make for someone else first…

Read more: knitted hot water bottle cover

11. Apple and blackberry vodka

Blackberry vodka
Oh this is a sight for sore eyes!

Not that this takes a long time to make, but it takes a long time to get really tasty. If you knew a patient person (it’s not me) you could make up a bottle of this now and tell them not to drink it for a year. Otherwise, make up some bottles now, and save until next Christmas for giving out…

Read more: apple and blackberry vodka

12. Dog draught excluder

Dog draught excluder
Woof woof

I was umming and ahhing about including this, since I don’t have a (non-photocopied) version of this pattern to point you towards. But, this dog draught excluder is so amazing that I couldn’t resist including it. If you’re good at sewing, you could probably take one look at it and figure out how to make it. It’s just two main pieces for the body, plus a garter at the top of the head (and the ears, of course)…

Head over to the main post for more pictures: dog draught excluder

For babies

There’s something almost irresistible about making presents for babies. From their cute little tiny person clothes to lovely snuggly soft blankets for keeping them toastie and warm, there’s an almost infinite option of things to make you super broody while you whip them up.

Of all the presents I’ve made this past year, the large majority have been for little people. These are my faves:

13. Knitted blanket

Shale baby blanket
Looks so complicated, knits up really easily…

I knitted this for the sproglet while I was pregnant, working my way through a few rows every evening. It’s called the shale baby blanket and is one of the few patterns I’ve ever paid for. Worth every penny though, because it’s utterly gorgeous. The finished result looks really complicated, but it’s actually only four rows to remember so is quite a relaxing knit…

See more: shale baby blanket

14. Baby bibs

Baby bib tutorial
I couldn’t resist this 1950s cowboy fabric…

If there’s one thing every six-month old baby needs it’s a lot of bibs. I made this pattern myself (not that it is hugely complicated, ha ha) and the bibs are all backed with velour, for easy post-meal mouth wiping.

Best of all, it’s super easy to make so you could whip up a little bundle very quickly for a last minute present.

Get the (free) pdf pattern and step-by-step tutorial here: baby bibs

15. Printed babygrows

Home printed babygrow
The one on the far left looks a little evil, doesn’t she?

If you’ve visited here before, you’ll know I’m a big fan of using iron on transfer paper to add images to fabric. This works particularly well, I think, with babygrows, which can look adorable with an extra embellishment. This matryoshka is one of my favourites…

Check out the matryoshka babygrow or take a look at my tutorial for transferring prints to fabric

16. Quilted burp cloth

Homemade quilted burp cloth
Yet more 1950s fabric. Don’t you love it, though?

There’s no denying that little babies are cute. But there’s also no denying that they are very vomitous. Very, very, very vomitous sometimes. I sewed a burp cloth before the sproglet was born and it’s fair to say it’s seen a bit of use in the intervening year or so. This isn’t the most glamorous present, it can’t be denied, but it’s a super useful one. Perhaps pair with some bibs or babygrows to up the cuteness quotient…

Read more: quilted burp cloth

17. Baby trousers

Homemade baby trousers
Stomp, stomp, stomp go the elephants

I’ve saved the best til last with the baby pressies. I’ve made a few pairs of these baby trousers now and I think they are utterly gorgeous and great for showcasing a nice fabric. These red elephant ones are my most preferred.

Read more: a trio of teeny, tiny trousers

Related articles:

What better way to finish off a handmade present, than with some lovely handmade wrapping. Here are some suggestions to get you started:

Carrot and rhubarb jam (aka Christmas in a jar)

carrot rhubarb jam

When we moved all our possessions into boxes and suitcases a few weeks ago and decamped to my Mum’s (so the builders could take our house apart and, hopefully, put it back together to be much better) I brought a gigantic box of tins and jars.

When I say gigantic, I mean gigantic. It took two grown men to lift the thing into the van.

It seemed crazy to put all our bits and pieces from the larder into storage, so we thought we’d bring them with us, but I knew my Mum was never going to be crazy keen on the idea of finding space in her cupboards for my collection of random tinned foods that I bought two years ago on a whim and have never used.

So I promised myself (and her) that I would use everything up as quickly as possible.

Top of the list were two tins of rhubarb, purchased when I was last pregnant with the idea it might prevent me scarfing down the treacle pudding and never since touched. I love fresh rhubarb, but this tinned stuff just never quite appealed…

Then, in a rather pleasing moment of synchronicity, browsing the local Oxfam bookshop in Marlow yesterday (a veritable treasure trove, well worth a visit if any reader is close enough to make one) I came across a book all about growing vegetables, for the princely sum of £1.99. I purchased it, thinking it would be helpful for my revision for my horticulture exams coming up in February, and it was only once I’d got it home that I discovered the delights of a small recipe section in the very back.

And one of the very first recipes to catch my eye was, wait for it, carrot and rhubarb jam. Yes, you read that right, jam. Not chutney.

Carrot and rhubarb jam
Jam. The kind you spread on bread…

My interest inevitably piqued (carrot jam? Surely not? But then again carrot cake is pretty damn tasty) and the rhubarb tins crying out to be used, I set about attempting a version of my own.

The original recipe had only three ingredients (carrots, rhubarb and sugar) and those in vast quantities, so I tweaked the amounts, added some spices and, a mere hour after commencing the process, had four jars of this rather wonderful concoction.

Rhubarb and carrot jam
Yum, yum, jam

The thing that surprised me the most is that it tastes like the perfect jam for Christmas. It’s got a good spiced flavor, not unlike mincemeat in fact, but with a real freshness of taste at the same time. I had some on bread this morning and it was really delicious, but I think you could also use it as a compote for porridge or yoghurt, or even in the place of a more traditional rhubarb chutney, alongside some cold meat or cheese.

Because the jam has very little pectin in, it hasn’t set, so much as thickened, and it isn’t something you could store for a long time. The original recipe says three weeks in the fridge.

But if you used a jam sugar with added pectin, you’d achieve a more jelly-like consistency and would be able to store it for much longer.

I also used brown sugar, because that’s what I had to hand in the right quantities, but of course that has made my jam turn a rather brown colour. If you used granulated (or jam) sugar you’d maintain the orangey-pink of the rhubarb and carrots, which would look a little more toothsome.

carrot and rhubarb jam
Slightly brown-looking, but it tastes delicious, I promise…

Anyway, alterations aside, here is my recipe. Make up a batch this weekend and I promise you’ll feel Christmassy every breakfast right up until December 25th

Ingredients

  • 500g tinned rhubarb, strained (two large tins)
  • 500g carrots (peeled weight), peeled and roughly chopped
  • 500g sugar (I used soft dark brown, but I think a white sugar would look nicer)
  • 5 cardamom seeds
  • 1 orange, zest and juice
  • 1 thumb sized piece of ginger, peeled
  • half a nutmeg

What to do:

1. Put the chopped carrots into a large saucepan and add the piece of ginger, the cardamom pods (bruised to release the flavours) and the juice of the orange.

2. Bring to the boil and simmer until the carrots are really soft

3. Strain the carrots, discarding the spices but reserving 125ml of the cooking water.

4. Return carrots to pan and mash them. (You could also blend or liquidise, but I always like the route that involves the least washing up at the end…)

5. Add the reserved cooking juice, the zest of the orange and grate in approximately half a nutmeg.

6. Cook for about 20-30 minutes until the jam starts to thicken. This isn’t a jam that is going to take on a traditional “set” so there’s little science involved, just stop cooking it when you think the consistency looks appealing.

7. Decant into sterilised jars (either run them through the dishwasher or wash in hot soapy water and then leave in the oven at about 100 degrees for ten minutes or so) and add the lids. Voila! Christmas in a jar!

Carrot and rhubarb jam
All my breakfasts look like this. Honest…

And do let me know what you think of it if you have a go at this recipe.

Now, I just need to figure out what I could make with those 25 tins of sliced peaches.

PS What do you think of my photos for this post? I’ve been taking part in a Blogging Your Way course, from decor8, and this week we had to try and take some styled photos. It is not something that comes naturally to me (in fact, I shy away from putting food posts up here on the blog as I find it such an absolute bitch trying to take good photos of food, which always need to have excellent styling to look nice) and I can already see loads of errors in the pictures here, but, hey, it’s not a bad start I think.

Related articles:

I’m a real fan of making jams, chutneys and cordials. If you share my passion, take a look at some of these other recipes:

Garden moodboard: December

Since I haven’t seen our house for a fortnight now, I can only imagine what the garden is looking like in December. (Covered in builder’s tools, bricks and building dust I would guess…)

December garden moodboard by Wolves in London
Mmmm, winter’s here

Here at my Mum’s, I’ve a few evergreen plants to show you that really sum up the festive month of December. Actually, not many are ones I would choose to have in my own garden (especially the dratted ivy — I spent every weekend for a month a few summers back removing the ivy from my old flat) but there is no doubt that they scream Christmas is nearly here!

Evergreens
Can you hear them announcing the imminence of Christmas? No? Bend closer to your screen

I think these green and yellow leaves are from a shrub called Euonymus Fortunei ‘Emerald ‘n’ Gold,’ which we learnt about as a useful hedging plant in my gardening class a few weeks ago. My Mum’s is mostly green or yellow, which I cheerfully informed her means it’s reverting to its original colours and therefore needs a good prune. Still, the few variegated leaves that are there look rather nice:

Euonymus fortunei 'Emerald 'n' Gold'
Euonymus fortunei ‘Emerald ‘n’ Gold’ (don’t even get me started on the “n”…)

And while I wouldn’t have ivy in my garden again, I do think the variegated leaf varieties look really pretty and festive:

variegated ivy
This is a particularly nice leaf

Of course, a Christmas garden scene wouldn’t be complete without some berries. These orange ones, I am reliably informed, are pyracantha…

Pyracantha
Gorgeous bright colours against all the green

Somehow, the rose bush is still putting out a few flowers. I’m sure there is no rose that would intentionally flower in December, so it must just be due to our rather warm Autumn this year that a few are still hanging on. Jolly nice they are too. I do so love a white rose.

Rose
One of the last roses in the garden

Related articles:

  • I’ve put all my garden moodboards of the year onto a new board on Pinterest, so head over there if you’d like to see some more: Garden moodboards

DIY advent calendar

DIY advent calendar tutorial from Wolves in London

I’m a complete curmudgeon when it comes to advance Christmas preparations.

Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely love Christmas. Just not in September. (Or August, October or November, for that matter…) And, as we all know, September is generally the time you start seeing Christmas bits and pieces popping up.

The first few times you tut to yourself in whatever giant multinational supermarket you happen to have popped into, “Tch, Christmas cards and advent calendars and it’s still September. Idiots.”

But, before you know it, the insidious pan pipe Christmas Carol music has crept into your brain and you’re feeling all Winter Wonderlandy and tinselly. And then, bamm, the middle of November hits, all of your Christmas joy has been used up already and you’re yearning for your next summer holiday.

So every year, I guard myself carefully against any Christmas thoughts at all until it’s December.

And so it is, that I have just, a few days in advance, allowed myself to think about making an advent calendar. And this is it.

DIY advent calendar
What’s not to love? Tiny little bags filled with chocolate and some vintage Christmas images

Lots of gorgeous little numbered bags stuffed full with chocolate and decorated with jolly vintage pictures, all found on the wonderful Graphics Fairy website. Here are a few of my favourites:

DIY advent calendar
I love the little gingerbread house for December 6th

If you’re a late preparer like me, and would like to make yourself one, I’ve put all of my images into a pdf and there are some really straightforward instructions below.

So, joyeux Noel, all. May the mulled wine drinking and mince pie eating officially begin!

Supplies:

DIY advent calendar
Scissors, bags, transfer paper
  • Small drawstring bags, approx. 9cm x 7cm. (I ordered mine through eBay ages ago, mistakenly getting a size that was too small for our wedding favours. Luckily, they were perfect for this purpose…)
  • This pdf template with all the images and dates
  • Some iron on transfer paper for pale fabric
  • An iron and scissors

What to do:

  1. Print out the pdf onto the iron on transfer paper. (The numbers and images are backwards, but don’t worry, this is as they should be!)
  2. Cut round the images leaving a small border of a few millimetres around the outside of each one.
  3. Position an image, face down, onto a bag.

    DIY advent calendar with vintage image
    Use the grid on the back to make sure the picture is straight
  4. Cover a wooden board (or your table) with a tea towel and, with the iron at its hottest setting, but the steam turned off, iron over the image for about 90 seconds. Make sure you cover the edges and especially any corners. (You can’t use a normal ironing board, because it’s too soft for the iron to really press the image onto the fabric.)

    Making an advent calendar
    Nice tea towel, isn’t it?
  5. Leave the transfer until it’s dry (you can iron on another one in the meantime)
  6. Carefully peel off the backing and tadaaa, you have a lovely little bag
    DIY advent calendar
    Start at a corner and gently pull the backing off

    DIY advent calendar
    Bag one, finished. Only 23 to go…
  7. Stuff with a chocolate, tiny presents or diamonds. Whatever floats your boat.

    diy advent calendar
    The perfect size for a Lindt Lindor, aka, the best chocolate ever created
  8. Repeat until all bags are finished and then hang somewhere festively…
    DIY advent calendar
    A lovely pile waiting for a treat
    DIY advent calendar
    I think they’d look very nice strung from a Christmas tree too
    homemade advent calendar
    Or use a bit of washi tape to hang them from the fireplace…

    DIY advent calendar
    Ah, just one more photo, so you can see this nice reindeer

If you want a bit more info on the process, check out my step-by-step tutorial for ironing images onto fabric, or my tips and hints for getting the best results.

I’m a traditionalist with advent calendars and only go up to December 24th, but I’ve included a 25 in there too for any of you newfangled crazy modernists out there.

Hope you enjoy this and do leave me a comment if you make one yourself.

Related articles:

  • I know that there must be lots of people out there waaaaaay more organised than me, because the round-up I put together last year for the top 20 tutorials for homemade Christmas presents has been getting lots of interest in the past few months

Busy Needles

It’s hard to admit this, even to myself, but I can’t foresee a huge amount of making things occurring over the next few months that we’re staying at my Mum’s while our house is a building site.

Busy Needles cover
I am not as busy as this woman

Sure, I packed a few bits and pieces in the optimistic hope that I would be able to work on some projects, but at the moment my sewing machine is still in its box on the kitchen floor while I ponder if there is anywhere to put it (there isn’t) and of course I’ve brought all the wrong wool for anything I want to knit and though I have a few secret projects packed and ferried over here, I’m not entirely sure exactly when the time for making them will present itself.

That’s not to say, however, that there isn’t plenty of inspiration and planning going on…

I was reacquainted with an ancient and rather fabulous collection of magazines called Busy Needles that my Mum subscribed to back in the ‘70s and ’80s.

Do you want to have a look? But of course you do…

All the magazines are bound together in this glorious folder, which, as you can see, is rather more tasteful and restrained than the covers of the magazines themselves.

Busy Needles magazine
Of course, the first magazine you’d turn to would be the one on the left

Inside is a treasure trove of delights. Some that I genuinely want to make. Others that just make chuckle…

The colours on this baby blanket are a little sugary sweet for me, but I love the look of the pattern:

Retro baby blanket pattern
I’m tempted to have a go at this blanket once I next pick up my knitting needles

And this fluffy jumper is so retro to be cool again (or at least, I certainly think so, but maybe that just shows me up…)

vintage jumper pattern
Would you wear this?

In non-knitting projects, putting aside the extreme amount of 1970s brown in this photo, the animal rug is something I would absolutely adore to make for the sproglet’s room:

Vintage children's rug pattern
Brown wood? Check. Brown basket? Check. Brown rug? Check. Must be the ’70s.

On the other hand, I can’t say I will be rushing to start on any of these projects quickly. Fancy painting some tigers onto your clothes? Nope, me neither…

Retro craft magazine
Perfect clothing for the English summer

…or how about this Valentine’s get up?…

Vintage knitting pattern
Looking more closely at the photo, I can see that it’s actually the accessories that are more hideous than the jumper, but still…

…though you surely couldn’t fail to be tempted by this pink blouse?

Vintage craft magazine
Even better, there was a batik pattern on the back.

By now, I’m sure you’re dying with jealousy and desperate to have a copy of Busy Needles for yourself. Fret not! A quick google has just shown me that you can buy the first seven editions on Amazon for a piffling price of, wait for it, £219!

My Mum’s clearly sitting on a treasure trove right here. I’m not sure I’ll tell her, though. Or at least, not until I’ve made a few of the projects anyway. First port of call, a sarong painted with tigers…

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Knitting in Vogue

Advice please: T-shirt refashion

As a teenager in the ‘90s, I was a real little indie kid.

My best friend lived near the infamous Old Trout pub in Windsor, gig venue for every indie band ever on their way up to success (and many who would never again reach such heady heights as the 250-capacity audience at the Old Trout).

We went there religiously, every weekend, taking in all our favourite bands: Supergrass, Blur, Pulp, Oasis, Elastica, Sleeper, Suede, Echobelly… I could go on. Oh, we were obsessed.

Pulp
Pulp, one of the greatest bands of the ’90s for sure…

Every spare minute that wasn’t spent actually attending gigs was devoted to obsessively checking gig listings and writing extensive dramatic renditions of implausible scenarios where we met Damon from Blur (my friend) or Alex from Blur (me) and they realised they were desperately in love with us and took us away on tour with them. (Genuinely. Going “on tour” with them was pretty much the pinnacle of our teenage longings…)

Well, either that or hopelessly stalking Peter, from Iver Heath, who had curtains*, was two years older than us and drove a VW Beetle. I was dedicated to finding out his surname, somehow, in order to practice writing Mrs Sabrina So-and-so on all my science books.

But, just as much time and effort was focused on our wardrobe. Looking back now, I see that the sartorial choices of the mid-90s indie kid were somewhat formulaic, but at the time they seemed daring, shocking, and hugely individual…

You could put together a standard gig-going outfit like this:

Top, select either: (All must be very tight-fitting and expose a good amount of navel)

  • “Ironic” Disney T-shirt, bought from the children’s section of M&S
  • Silver vest
  • Band T-shirt

Trousers, select either:

  • Black leather trousers
  • Combats

Shoes, select either:

  • Doc Martens (any colours preferred above black)
  • Army boots (I sprayed mine silver. Uh-huh.)

Accessorise with colourfully-painted nails, lots of black eyeliner, a few children’s hair clips and a lot of silver jewellery (ideally bought from “Kenny market” or Camden).**

But of all these ingredients, the most important, the one that conveyed the most respect and adoration among envious friends was the Band tee. Any of my newpaper-round money that wasn’t spent on attending gigs was spent on purchasing T-shirts at gigs.  I had hundreds, I am pretty sure, but over the years they’ve all been lost / discarded / used as dusters / thrown away in disgust.

And then, the other day, going through some clothes that had been packed away in a suitcase for years, I came across this crumpled Pulp “I’m common” T-shirt.

Pulp T-shirt
Ah I really should have ironed this before photographing…

Bought from Glastonbury in the summer of 1995.

I had just finished my GCSEs, and as a reward was allowed to go to Glastonbury for all four days with my best friend and boyfriend. We all shared one tent, though when it came to putting it up, we discovered that the inside was mouldy, so spent three nights sleeping under an open triangle. It was a scorching hot weekend, so warm that I burnt my hands so badly that my fingers swelled up to the size of sausages. My friends could spot me in any crowd with my bright red sausage hands up the air, the blue fingernails contrasting against the almost exploding skin.

We saw so many bands I can barely remember them all. I think we circled the programme to make sure we got the optimum route planned between each performance.

The Stone Roses were scheduled to headline, but they dropped out at the last moment. Instead, Pulp stepped in, one of my all time favourite bands, and started their set with their new song, Sorted for Es and Whizz.

As Jarvis, one of my ultimate heroes, took his gangly-framed body to the stage, the crowd cheered and cheered and the applause became deafening as he sang the first line:

“Oh, is this the way they say the future’s meant to feel? Or just 20,000 people standing in a field?”

That moment – the heat evaporating off the crowd, the sun setting, Pulp on stage, my best friend and I pogoing up and down like crazed things – is undoubtedly one of the greatest memories of my teenage years.***

And this little sunny yellow T-shirt, that now looks so small to me it could surely be worn by a seven-year-old, brought all those wonderful memories flooding back.

So, extensive reminiscences over, we come to the crux of this blog post. What should I do with the T-shirt?

I would like to refashion it into something that could be vaguely usable in some way, but I can’t think of anything suitable.

Pinterest is full of T-shirt refashions (of course), but the two most frequently recurring options don’t quite work for me. A popular choice is to turn your old T-shirt into a new summer dress for your daughter (this sun dress, for example, is gorgeous). Though I love the idea, in this instance this provides me with three problems: my old T-shirt is tiny, I don’t have a daughter, and even if I did, you wouldn’t want your daughter wandering round with this on her front, would you:

Pulp T-shirt
It’s only now, 20 years later, that I get why my Mum didn’t love me wearing this top.

The second alternative is to turn it into a cushion (like this Chuck Norris cushion), but again, I’m not really sure that I want a faded yellow cushion anywhere in my house.

So, dear readers, any thoughts? Genius brainwaves? All suggestions most welcome! Please drop me a comment and let me know…

For now, the T-shirt is going back into a suitcase, still crumpled, while I wait for inspiration to strike.

P.S. After the frenzied sorting and organising of a few weeks ago, the packing was stepped up a notch last week as we put all of our possessions into boxes and all of our furniture into a storage unit at the weekend and drove down to spend a month or so living with my Mum. Hence the recent radio silence. A little more sorting and organising this weekend and hopefully I will be in a position where I can actually find some clothes to put on in the mornings and normal life can resume again…

*I mean the classic ‘90s haircut, of course, not the window coverings. I wasn’t that easily impressed.

**Thinking back now, I can also remember some other slightly less formulaic outfits. There was a pair of red tartan trousers, which I matched with a blue V-neck t-shirt that said “Hooker” on the front. That was the name of a band. As I told my Mum repeatedly every time I tried to wear it out of the house. Now I think about it, I suspect the band – who certainly never made it past Old Trout status – probably only chose that name so idiotic 15-year-olds just like me would walk around with a T-shirt that said Hooker on the front…

Less sleazy, I also had a pair of purple dungarees with tye-die black moons and gold printed suns on them. Oh, they were a look! I wore them with a green combat shirt tied round the waist and a small T-shirt underneath (but of course, of course) and a permanent grimace. I actually have photographic evidence of this look, but I think it is evidence I should take to the grave.

***I feel obliged to point out, just in case my Mum is reading (she’s not) that we were not sorted for Es or whizz or any other sort of chemical stimulation. Indeed, despite the freedom of being allowed to go to Glastonbury on our very own at the age of 16, I think we didn’t even touch a sip of alcohol the whole time we were there. It was all about the music, man…

Garden moodboard: November

It’s been something of a frantic November, so far, with the excitement / stress of packing all the boxes in time for the builders to arrive. But yesterday I managed to grab a few minutes to go out into the garden for my November moodboard photos.

November garden moodboard
Just a few things to show you, this month

It was a gloriously sunny Autumn day, here in London, so I took my white card outside and photographed these leaves and berries in the dappled sunlight. Such autumnal colours!

The acer has changed leaf colour even since I photographed it last week, its stems and the tips of its leaves a really bright red now. I adore this lovely plant.

Acer leaves
There’s something terribly sweet about the way they’re holding hands (stems)

The rosehips are from the front garden, from next door’s rose that I constantly claim as my own. I’m not sure how good they’d be cooked, since they’re not a dog rose or a rosa rugosa, which I have read taste the nicest, but I’m tempted to make some up into some cordial just to try it out…

Rosehip
Whether or not they taste good, they look blooming pretty

The beautiful pink-tinged leaves are from one of my much-maligned azaleas. We removed 10 and still have about four dotted around the place. I’ve got no idea whether the ones that are left in the beds are the nicer ones, or not, so it’ll be interesting to what flower colours we have next Summer. The leaves, unquestionably, are stunning at this time of year.

Azalea leaf
Dear azalea, I apologise for my previous rudeness about your gaudy flowers, because you make a gorgeous Autumnal leaf for sure…
Azalea leaves
The whole spectrum of autumnal colours

Then, I was scratching around searching and searching for something else attractive to photograph, when I wandered into the greenhouse and discovered, rather to my surprise, that there were still tomatoes on my tomato plants. These are seriously over-ripe and past eating, but goodness they have gone a fabulous red colour…

Tomatoes
The last of this year’s tomatoes

Finally, a couple of “behind the scenes” photos for you. This was my little set up, with the kitchen chair dragged out onto the lawn, to get my photos this month. I thought the whole thing looked rather bucolic:

Garden moodboard November
Gasp! The Wizard of Oz is revealed…

And this next one isn’t “behind the scenes” so much as “opposite the scenes” — a view of the trees in the street opposite where I live. They change colours for the Autumn in the most wonderful way, starting at the top and then spreading down towards the trunk. If I draw the curtains in the morning, I can see them from my bed, which is always a cheering start to the day if the sun is out.

Autumn trees
Traffic light trees

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  • Oooh, if you’re keen on a garden moodboard, I’ve a whole host of others for you to admire. Check out May, June, July, August or October. (Really wishing I hadn’t missed September now, that list looks stoopid.)