Gone gardening

I’m off out today, for the whole day on my own. The very first time since I had the little sproglet back in July last year.

Vintage watering can image
Image from the Graphics Fairy

And I’m not just on any day out, but starting the first day of a new course: the RHS horticulture certificate (level 2).  Which is a slightly confusing title since, as far as I can find, there is no level 1. At least, I hope not, otherwise I’m going to be a total dunce when I arrive.

For the rest of the year, once a week I’ll have a break from nappies and get to spend a day learning about plants and seeds, soil and weeds, garden design, mulch and a host of other things.

So, in honour of this momentous occasion, I thought I’d leave you with a few vintage gardening pictures… (Vintage pictures being, as I’m sure you agree, one of the best ways of celebrating just about anything.)

English garden
From the New York Public Library digital gallery

Hopefully by the time I’ve finished the course in a year, I’ll have my very own floral fantasy in an old English garden. And maybe I’ll float around it in a kaftan, gazing into what may well be a crystal ball or perhaps a gigantic drop of dew…

Mary Mary
From the New York Public library digital gallery

Contrary Mary’s garden is looking rather lovely with lots of nice tulips. Ample watering seems to be the key.

From the New York public library digital gallery

Ahem. “How does my lady’s garden grow?” I shan’t say anything more about that.

Wish me luck remembering the Latin names of all the plants today!


Please excuse my appearance

Just a quick message to everyone arriving at my blog today: please excuse its squiffy appearance!

As far as I know, my blog hasn’t been out drinking late last night and isn’t suffering from a hangover. No, I think instead there is some problem with WordPress, which is causing my footers to show on the right hand side, and those ugly blue and black horizontal lines to be showing up half way down the page.

I’ve just been visiting the WordPress support forum and lots of people appear to be having problems today, so let’s hope they fix it up soon.

(Apologies to WordPress if I do later find out my blog snuck out in the early hours and drank too much gin.)

Since we’re talking lines, I thought I’d share with you a quick picture of some amazing fabric I stumbled across recently on Pinterest, made just with lines. Hopefully this will take your attention away from my ugly blog design for a second or two:

Richter fabric by Bonnee Sharp
Stunning line-based fabric

It’s called Richter, is designed by Bonnee Sharp for Bon Studio and you can buy it from Schumacher. I love the repetition of the really simply pattern and the irregular spacing of the repeats. It reminds me of a visual representation of sound waves (though I suppose it is inspired by the richter scale used to measure earthquakes…)

Stunning. Now please, mull on those lines and not the horrible ones sticking through the centre of this page…

Box of delights: gift box template and tutorial

Waaaay back in December I told you about some homemade soaps I made for Christmas presents. I said I had great plans for the packaging, which I was planning on sharing if they came off.

Well, I’m sure you’ve hardly been able to concentrate in 2013 for wondering, nay, worrying if it all came together in the end. Perhaps you took my silence on the matter as a bad sign. You feared, I am sure, some packaging catastrophe had occurred, the memory of which was so upsetting for me, I couldn’t bear to re-live it on my blog. (“It’s a safe place,” you wanted to reassure me, “you can share anything here…”)

Worry not, though, my boxes came off a treat – better than I could have hoped.  My wait was just because I wanted to pester my partner into helping me get a template for them into pdf form to share with you all… (I’m a bit of a thicko when it comes to any sort of design work on the computer, so even this basic use of lines was a bit beyond me…)

So this was the final result:

Handmade box template
A ribbon and a personalised label: my go-to wrapping favourites

Attractive, no?

I’d tried a few other templates I’d seen first, but none worked properly for the size of my soaps.

So I drew the dimensions I wanted on a piece of A4 and, a bit of head-scratching later, realised that you actually only needed to make four straight cuts to create a box and decided to just make my own. Away I went…

I bought some nice ocean coloured card to make the box with and used one of my favourite vintage labels, which are free to download at the World Label blog. Obviously, the ribbon was the final touch…

But back to the present day. Two months later, with the template finally ready to share, I tested it out by making a second box.  For this one, I used a sheet of A4 printed one side with this gorgeous feather image, from the Graphics Fairy blog, and on the other with my template.

All went well! So the suspense is finally over and the tutorial and template follow, in case you’ve got a hankering to make your own gift box too…

Gift box template and tutorial


  • A printer
  • A piece of A4 card or paper. As the side you print the template on will form the inside of the box, you could use some coloured card, or simply print a nice design onto the other side of the paper.
  • Glue or sellotape
  • This pdf gift box template

What to do

Step 1. Print out the template onto the blank side of your A4 sheet of paper or card.  Most printers automatically put a border around the outside, so select “Actual size” as your print setting.

Box template
Of course, you won’t have two separate sheets of paper, I’m just demonstrating both sides…
Box template
The template so complicated I couldn’t transfer it to the computer on my own. Ahem.

Step 2: Cut along the thick black lines marked with scissors (you could have figured that out on your own, couldn’t you?)

Make your own gift box
Snip, snip, snip

Step 3: Fold all of the dotted lines inwards, so the fold is towards you.

Make your own gift box
Fold, fold, fold

When you’re finished, it will look something like this:

Make your own gift box
Creased and crumpled and almost there…

On the two long sides, you now have an overlap at the left and right hand corners:

Make your own gift box
But what to do about those overlapping edges? Hmmmm…

Step 4: Fold the long side flaps towards you at a right angle for each of the four corners

Make your own gift box, free template
Aha! Fold the edges inwards, to create the corner

And the whole thing will look like this:

Make your own gift box
Not quite there, but it’s starting to take shape…

Step 5: Lift the short side flaps up and insert the long side corners underneath them.

Handmade gift box template and tutorial
Fold them under the short end flap
Homemade gift box template and tutorial
Hold in place.
Homemade gift box template and tutorial
Fold the short flap over the top…

Step 6: You now have your basic box, though the inside flaps are a bit, well, flappy still:

Homemade gift box tutorial and template
Confession, I left my box looking like this. But I know you’re less slapdash than me, so we’ll move onto step 7…

Step 7: Glue or sellotape into position.

Make your own guft box: template and tutorial
Since I didn’t actually glue my sides in place, I’m just pretending to use the Pritt Stick here

Which gives you nice crisp corners

Make your own gift box
Nice crisp corners

Step 8: Turn over and you’ve finished the top of your box!

Homemade box lid

Step 9: Take a moment, if you like, to admire the lovely details of your chosen images.

Box lid detail, make your own gift box
Of course, this isn’t a step at all, I just wanted to show you a close up of this gorgeous design

Step 10: Repeat all the same steps on a piece of plain paper for the bottom of the box, and place the top over it…

Make your own guft boxes: template and tutorial from Wolves in London
Top and bottom together
Make your own gift box: template and tutorial
The finished box. I know this looks pretty much the same as the photo in step 8, but if you peer really closely, you can just see a sliver of the white box bottom underneath…

This template will make a box of 19x10x3cm, but of course you could alter the dimensions and make a box of any size you need.

Enjoy! And if you do make up one of these, do post a comment to let me know how it goes…

Related articles

Update: I’m chuffed that this was chosen as a feature at the following blogs:

mop it up mondays feature

Homemade deodorant

Or, Knitting your own yoghurt

Homemade deodorant
Made by my own fair hands, for my own fair pits…

I try and live a relatively “green” life, but I  could hardly claim to be an early adopter.

Back in my carefree, childless days (otherwise known as my early 20s) I used to flit around the capital doing fun things and, I have to admit, rather scoff at people who were overly concerned about the environment. Sure, I minded about things like the polar bears dying out or pandas or whatever, but to translate that concern into actions in my every day life seemed a bit tedious. Verging on the overly fastidious and definitely lacking in humour.

I remember watching a friend cook supper and then wash out the tins of beans after she’d emptied them. I asked why. She said she was going to recycle them and they needed to be clean. Really, I thought to myself, that is taking things a step too far… Lighten up, love, live a little, put them in the damn bin! Don’t waste your time washing up your rubbish…

Now, of course, I would never dream of not recycling tins.  Why would I not? It only takes a second and helps to prevent landfill. (Though I do often sneak them into the recycling bin unwashed…)

It’s not something I’ve ever consciously U-turned on. There was no Damascene conversion, just a gradual shift as time’s gone on. Old(er) age in me? Changes in society? Both, most likely.

Nowadays, I recycle, have a wormery, use my own bags, watch my water consumption, turn off light switches, buy organic, blah blah blah; all the standard, liberal, woolly green behaviour of your average Guardian-reading Londoner.

But I remembered my (carefree, thin, smoking) twenty-year-old self the other day when I decided to make some of my own deodorant. Honestly. Making my own deodoorant! Once, if I’d heard that someone made their own deodorant I would have rolled my eyes, exhaled a puff of smoke in the middle of the restaurant and made some droll quip about knitting their own yoghurt…*

In fact, even the week before making the deodorant, I might have thought this was a step too far. As I mentioned in my post the other day about homemade cleaning products, I am always suspicious of people who make their own cleaning products / beauty stuff and then proclaim them to be “better” than the expensive mass-produced chemical-filled products they were previously using.

Yes, there are hundreds of reasons not to use aerosols, but it could never be said that one of them is that they don’t work. All of the noxious, dangerous chemicals filling up these things make pretty sure they work really well.

And let’s face it, nobody wants to smell.

But, inspired by the shame I’d felt looking at that great cupboard of natural products, I decided to have a crack at some homemade deodorant.

I found a simple-sounding recipe on How about Orange, which uses coconut oil, baking powder, arrowroot and grapefruit essential oil, and thought I would give it a bash — fully expecting it to meet the same fate of my homemade cleaning products. (Tried for a day or two then relegated to the back of the shelf in favour of some shop-bought but effective alternative…)

But to my surprise, this was a total success.

Homemade deodorant
Looks very pretty, but whoda thunk it actually works?

Firstly, the deodorant smells great. I am possibly the world’s biggest fan of anything with grapefruit aromas, so the grapefruit essential oil in this couldn’t be beaten by anything shop-bought in my opinion.

Then there’s the cute little tin. There’s something imminently appealing about your deodorant sitting on your dresser in a shiny silver tin, with a nice label on, rather than an ugly plastic spray bottle. (The round vintage labels are from the world label blog if you want to print some yourself…)

I was initially put off by the idea of scooping it out by hand and rubbing it into my armpits, thinking it would leave my fingers greasy. But really it’s totally not a problem at all, and it means that I actually get it into the right place as well (the number of times I’ve sprayed an aerosol into my eyes, or my clothes, or the side of my body, or just in the air behind me. Okay, most people probably don’t have that problem, but it was a frequent one for me…)

Make your own deodorant
Just scoop it out, squish it between your fingers and slap it on…

And, finally, it actually works! That was the outcome I was perhaps expecting the least.

So, an all round success story for my first attempt in 2013 of using up the eco beauty ingredients stash. Any other suggestions for things I should try? Post a comment below and let me know any ideas…

Related articles

*For any non-UK readers, “knitting your own yoghurt” is a disparaging reference to someone being such a hippy that all they do is knit and eat mung beans and homemade yoghurt…

I’m linking this post up at: Beyond the Picket Fence, the Shabby Creek Cottage, Romance on a Dime. Head over to see what others have been up to this week!

My lovely new header

You’ve probably noticed my lovely new header, sitting there looking gorgeous right up above this blog post.

The illustration is by an amazing artist called Paola Zakimi. Here’s a bigger look at it, so you can really admire the full glory:

Wolves in London illustration

I mentioned a few weeks ago that I’d been looking for vintage wolf images for my blog header, but not meeting with any success (due to the rather grizzly portrayal of the poor old wolf…)

Then in my Googling I stumbled across this amazing print of a girl wearing a wolf mask on Etsy. I emailed Paola, the owner of the shop, and it turned out she could make me my very own wolf illustration. The beauty of which you can see right here, any time you drop by my blog. I know. Amazing.

She also made me a fabulous logo, which you can see on my About me page.

If you like these, take a look at Paola’s Etsy shop, Holli, where she sells prints of her amazing illustrations. Or visit her website www.paolazakimi.com for more info about her.

Thanks so much Paola!

Falling water scarf

I love it when a knitting pattern has a good name.

My (relatively) recently completed Wurm hat carries a great moniker. Even though I had little to say about the project itself (“Knit a hat. Finished it. It is nice.”) I was tempted to write a blog post about it, just so I could call it A “wurm” and fuzzy feeling. Ha ha, I know, a comedian in the making right here.

Other great names I’ve knitted include the Shale baby blanket, the name of which manages to sound rugged and rural at the same time as cosy and warm. Oh, and if anyone out there is looking for a baby blanket pattern, I recommend this one.  Definitely the best one I’ve come across and it’s proved amazingly versatile and useful in the first six months of my little sproglet’s existence.

Shale baby blanket
Detail from my shale baby blanket. The daddy of all baby blankets (metaphorically speaking, I don’t think it’s actually spawned. Or if it has, it’s been very discreet about it…)

The Star crossed slouchy beret brings a touch of Shakespeare and ill-fated love to the otherwise prosaic act of keeping your head warm. (Though, sadly, I didn’t display similar levels of  genius when knitting it, instead messing up the cables…)

And it was partly the fabulous name of the Arsenic and old lace shawl that convinced me to cast on and tackle something way out of my knitting league. (Which reminds me: must dig that out of my project box and have a crack at finally finishing it…)

More successfully knitted than the last two examples, but just as pleasingly named, is the star of this post. Fresh off the needles, this falling water scarf.

Falling water scarf
Little droplets cascade down the scarf

This is a belated Christmas present for my godmother and I’m pretty pleased how it’s turned out. In my usual style, I woefully overestimated the amount of time I have for knitting and cast on in January, thinking I’d have it finished in a week, tops. Yeah. Five weeks later I’ve just sewn in the last end and blocked it.

I wouldn’t choose a brown for a scarf myself, but I know she wears browns and oranges the most, so I hope she likes it (and doesn’t think it’s too poo-coloured, ha ha…)

Falling water scarf
Please excuse the creases on my bed sheet behind the scarf…

The pattern, by Bonnie Sennott, is really simple to understand and quick to memorise. And, the staple of most good patterns as far as I’m concerned, free on Ravelry.

My yarn choice was probably a bit off. The last lace scarf I made ended up too fluffy, because I used wool with a lot of alpaca in it. This time, in response, I seem to have swung widely to the other extreme, choosing a crisp cotton glace by Rowan. The stitch definition is very clear but it’s not as soft (nor, I suspect, warm) as it would be if I’d stuck to wool.

You can see all the details at my Ravelry project page: falling water scarf.

So, now this is completed, I’ve got time to start on one of the excellent patterns in the retro Knitting in Vogue book I found second-hand. But which one, which one?

This article is linked up at today’s creative blogCRAFT, Keeping it simple crafts, the Shabby Nest, Romance on a Dime, Katie’s Nesting Spot and the Shabby Creek Cottage. Head over there to see what others have been up to this week.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Valentine vintage image
Image from the New York Public Library digital archive

Don’t keep me on the fence, darlings, just say the word…

Hope you’re all having a lovely Valentine’s Day, wherever and however you’re celebrating.

And if you’ve just gone “Shoot, it’s Valentine’s Day, I completely forgot!” then take a look at my article on the top ten homemade Valentine’s presents, there are definitely a few ideas here you could whip up at the last minute…

Bibliophiles present: bookplates

I think it’ll give you an idea of the sort of child I was if I tell you I used to think bookplates were glamorous. The height of desirability.

Homemade bookplates
Of course, I didn’t have this sort of bookplate when I was little. Instead, I distinctly remember a purple bookplate with a little bespectacled mole on it. This one’s more my cup of tea now

Not for me a sandpit or a doll, no, I could think of nothing better than a quiet corner and a new book, with the pleasure of sticking a bookplate to the front and filling in my name under “this book belongs to” in my neatest possible handwriting.

To be honest, not so much has changed in the 30 odd years since then. That still sounds a pretty auspicious start to any Saturday.  (Not least because, with a six-month-old, there isn’t a hope in hell that I’d get to start a Saturday in that way…)

But having rather forgotten about the existence of bookplates in the intervening years, I’ve been pleased to notice them popping up all over the shop recently…

You can buy them from a few different places, but of course they’re really simple to make too.

I whipped up a few sets for my Mum and my sister-in-law (both voracious bibliophiles as well) as mini presents back at Christmas.

There are quite a few different templates available out there on the internet (oh, internet, how I love you), but I settled on favourites from three places:

Print your own bookplates
All my lovely bookplate designs, printed out and just waiting to be chopped up

From Design Sponge, these lovely snake, head and hand designs.

From Besotted Brands, these old-school profiles.

And from the Graphics Fairy, these children reading.

To see some more designs, as well as lots of other great vintage images, check out my Pinterest board Free Graphics.

Once you’ve selected your pictures, just print them out and cut them to size (I did this with a craft knife and ruler, which shows the level of care I give to my books, where I would normally just stick to good ol’ scissors).

As these were a present, I decided to make some cute little envelopes to house each of the sets. I made a basic template and then cut each envelope from cardstock and glued together.

As a final touch, I traced round the envelope tip and cut a liner out of some printed out hat images. (Which you can find here on Vintage Printable, if you’re inclined to do the same…)

Lined envelope
Little old hats to welcome you to the inside of your bookplate envelope

I then stuck a bookplate to the front, so you know exactly what’s inside in each envelope.

Print your own bookplates
Lovely big open mouth on the outside of the envelope, lovely big open mouth inside the envelope…

And held each set of four envelopes together with ribbon.

Print your own bookplates
Stick a ribbon round anything and it suddenly looks a hundred times better

I’d love to say this was really quick to make, but actually the envelopes and all the finishing touches took a little while. But hey, the devil’s in the detail, right?

Of course, you’ll also need some glue (or double-sided sellotape) to put the bookplates inside the books once you want to use them.

Simple, inexpensive and sure to put a smile on the face of any booklover (especially my eight-year-old self)…

Related articles:

Yes, if you’ve checked in to these parts before, you’ll know I have a great love of projects that use vintage images. Here are a few more:

Knitting in Vogue

When I moved south of the river last September (I mention this move a lot, don’t I? I clearly haven’t quite come to terms with being a South Londoner yet), I was somewhat disappointed to discover that there was not a single second hand bookshop in walking distance from my house.

Yes, I have two amazing independent book shops, so I’m not really complaining, but what with the whole maternity leave, not-earning-any-money malarkey, I did miss the brilliant, cheap second hand bookshop on Stoke Newington Church Street.

So, you can but imagine my delight to discover a teeny, tiny second hand shelf in Rye Books. (Which is, itself, something of a tiny, but absolutely excellent bookshop.)

Whatever delight you originally imagined, now double it, nay treble it, nay multiply it by a hundred, because this was what I found on said shelf:

Knitting in Vogue
Best second hand book find ever…

Knitting in Vogue, volume 2, from 1983. “Patterns from the ’20s to the ’80s for men and women.” And all fronted by what seems to be a dewy looking Andie MacDowell in a pastel pink number. Perhaps she knitted it herself?

Want to take a look inside? Of course you do…

The inside cover shows you how well-represented the 1980s are going to be, with this fetching pair in their fetching polo-necks:

Knitting in Vogue retro book
But you mean if I knit myself a polo-neck, I could look as glossy and in love as this? Let me at my needles now!

In fact, every pattern has the original photo from the decade it was released, along with a re-shot 1980s photo where the knitting has been “brought right into the current era” (okay, despite the quotes, those are still my words, but I bet it’s what they said to each other as they were brainstorming the photoshoot…)

Knitting in Vogue
But you mean this jumper could look as fashionable as this if it was worn by… …by a woman?

Needless to say, I prefer the original photos, especially those from the 1920s to 1940s. Especially those with dashing men riding bicycles in knitted wonders, looking catalogue-tastic.

Vintage knitted jumper
“This jumper? Oh it’s just something my wife made me while I was out cycling through meadows, what what…”

The big delight of the book though, wasn’t just how wonderfully retro all the pictures are, but the fact that I actually want to make every single pattern. There’s not a dud in here. Say what you like about the ’80s, but they clearly knew how to pick out a good knitting pattern. Here are a few more that look outright amazing…

Vintage knitting pattern
Awesome leaf pattern knitted cardie
Retro knitted twinset
Everybody needs at least one twinset in their life
Vintage aran jumper
The jumper, the belt, the bag – there is nothing about this I don’t love

Knitting in vogue? I certainly think so.

But tell me, which of these patterns should I cast on first?

Happy National Carrot Day!

My Abel and Cole calendar* tells me it’s National Carrot Day today.

It would surely be a crime to let such a prestigious occasion pass uncelebrated…

Print your own carrot onesie
Hooray for National Carrot Day!

I was just going to share a nice vintage carroty image with you in celebration of this momentous event, but on my search round my favourite vintage image sites I was completely inspired by a baby carrot bib and hat set, shared on one of the Graphics Fairy’s Brag Mondays.

Well, never one to resist an opportunity to get out my iron-on transfer paper and stick some images to fabric and since my baby has just started solids in the past few weeks, I completely stole the idea and made a carrot baby set of my own.

I whipped up four bibs laboriously drafted and sewed a single bib (and broke my sewing machine three times while doing so) and ironed the cute carrot pattern onto the front.

Print your own carrot bib
Three fat carrots, sitting on a bib

When I fix the sewing machine / find some new reserves of patience, I’ll finish the other three bibs and pdf the pattern I made to share it here. I just drew round one bib we had that fit and then cut the pieces out of terry towelling and an old white shirt, stitched together and turned inside out.

This image is available at the Graphics Fairy here: vintage carrot.

Here’s a picture of the bib in action:

Print your own carrot bib
Just waiting for the slobber to hit

Getting a little carried away, I packed up the sewing machine and decided to emblazon a couple of (pre-owned) white baby-grows too, using carrot images from Clip art ETC: this horizontal carrot and these vertical carrots.

Print your own carrot onesie
Oh what a luverly bunch of… carrots

As I’ve mentioned before, I don’t normally advocate using images with blank space and fine lines, as the transfer paper where there’s no image can look quite shiny. However, since baby clothes mostly get covered in sick, food and dribble for a month at best before they’re too small, I wasn’t too fussed…

Print your own carrot babygrow
Just waiting for Peter Rabbit to turn up

Non-UK based readers of my blog are probably filled with jealousy right now, but fret not! I did a little Googling just for you and discovered that it’s International Carrot Day on April 4th, 2013. I know! Which gives us two whole months to prepare some suitable carrot shenanigans. Suggestions below please…

*Yes, I am the sort of person who has an Abel & Cole calendar. What can I say? It was free with my weekly veg box, but I know that doesn’t really improve matters does it?

Related articles:

I’ve linked this project up at the following link parties. Pop over and see what others have been up to this week: Katie’s Nesting Spot, Momnivore’s Dilemma, Brag Monday at the Graphics Fairy.