Birthday T-shirts

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…

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Man present: homemade paperweights

It turns out, it’s really simple to make your own paperweights. Or, more accurately, it’s really simple to insert your own pictures into some pre-made paperweights for a brilliant personalised present. I always struggle to come up with good homemade presents for men, so this is particularly pleasing as you can put in any images you want and personalise it for whoever you’re giving it to…

I first tried this for my partner’s birthday and I was really pleased with the results. As was he. So pleased, that we decided to make some more for Christmas presents.

It’s a really simple and quick process, but I thought I’d share a quick tutorial, anyway, in the hope it might inspire someone out there somewhere across the online ether…

Homemade paperweight tutorialHere’s what you need and how to do it:

Supplies

  • Glass paperweights with a recess. I’ve used these 70mm round paperweights, which are the best value ones I can find online in the UK.
  • Some graphics (or photos). I am crazy on free vintage graphics at the moment and my favourite sites to find them are The Graphics Fairy, Clip Art ETC, Vintage Printable and the NY Public Library digital archives. Warning: you could lose hours of your day browsing these sites. For this set of paperweights, I’ve used some old scientific images (found on Clip Art ETC) which show the life cycle of the asparagus beetle. Love the images, love the title even more…
  • Printer
  • Scissors

What to do

1. Unpackage your paperweight kit, which will have three parts: the glass paperweight with recess, a green bit of felt with sticky back and a cardboard circle. Check whether the cardboard circle provided fits the recess perfectly. If it does, brilliant, you can use this to draw an outline for your image. But, I’ve found with most of the kits I’ve used that the circle is either marginally too small or too big. If this is the case, draw a circle round the recess under the paperweight for the exact size you will want your image to be.

Homemade paperweight tutorial from Wolves in London
All the pieces from the paperweight kit, shiny and new and ready to be assembled

2. Print out your image onto some scrap paper. Position a paperweight over the top to check whether the image is the right size. At this point, you will probably need to re-size the images a bit to make them perfect.

Homemade paperweight tutorial from Wolves in London
Paperweight positioned over trial image. I realise this photo isn’t the ideal illustration here as the image is actually a perfect fit, but you catch my point anyway. If it doesn’t fit so perfectly, re-size until it does…

3. Once you’ve got it just how you want it, make a final print onto some good paper.

4. Cut round the image carefully and put it inside the recess, facing outwards.

Homemade paperweight tutorial from Wolves in London
Paperweight plus image

5. The circle of card goes on next, with the felt on top. As mentioned, the card might not be a perfect fit, so if it’s too big trim to size and put it in. If it’s too small, try and position it in the centre of the recess, but don’t worry too much, once the felt goes on top it holds it all in place. (I’m sure you weren’t worrying that much, anyway, it’s hardly a catastrophe to have a slightly small piece of card.)

Homemade paperweight tutorial from Wolves in London
All lined up

6. Check, from the front, that everything is lined up as it should. All being well, peel off the back of the green felt…

Homemade paperweight tutorial from Wolves in London
Peeling back the felt

7 …and stick it on.

Homemade paperweight tutorial from Wolves in London
Almost there, can you take the excitement?

8. Tadaaaa, all finished:

Homemade paperweights tutorial from Wolves in London
Finished paperweight with picture in place. I’m not sure whether this part of the life cycle is the death part and that’s why the beetle is on his back, or whether this is just illustrating his underside for fun.

If you get the same kits that I did, they also come with quite a nice box to put the paperweights inside. I am all about presentation at the moment, so I love a rather swanky looking red box to display the finished product.

Homemade paperweight tutorial from Wolves in London
Looking all swanky and professional, my asparagus beetle paperweight lies nestled in his red box

I even made a nice little label to set off the red box, using the free vintage labels from the World Label blog.

Homemade paperweight tutorial from Wolves in London
Great label. Even if I do say so myself

And here’s the full set, from the start of the life cycle to the end:

Homemade paperweight tutorial from Wolves in London
A to E, the whole life cycle of my new favourite beetle in paperweight form

If you have a go at making some, do post a comment and let me know how you get on and, most importantly, what excellent images you find to put inside…

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How to make your own soap

I have to admit, my favourite type of craft project is one that involves little more than putting a few things together. Okay, as I’ve written that, I realise that “putting a few things together” is a distillation of every craft project there ever has been, as well as any food recipes too. But, when the putting of things together is really straightforward, then you have a happy London Wolfe.

With this in mind, don’t be put off by the rather alarming title of this post. Make your own soap, I say. Make my own soap? you ask. Why on earth would I make my own soap? I can buy lovely soap for not very much money and besides, I’m no chemist, I won’t have any of the equipment needed for making my own soap… But fret not! Rather than suggesting you don a lab coat and goggles and mix together a range of ingredients to bubble away on your stove top, I’m only actually suggesting that you purchase yourself a “melt and pour” soap kit and then add some nice flavours.

(If you were thinking Brilliant, finally a chance to get out the Bunsen burner and test tubes and use all that glycerin I’ve got stored in the attic then I apologise, this article is going to be a sad disappointment to you…)

So, slight misnomer title aside, on with the actual soap making.

How to make your own soap, easy tutorial from Wolves in LondonAs I mentioned in my post on Homemade Christmas presents, lack of funds this festive season has meant that I’m making all my gifts this year and only spending money on supplies.

Okay, this does mean that it’s December 17th and I’m in a slight panic because I’ve only made three presents, but on the upside, I’ve discovered the joy and simplicity of home made soap. With some readymade soap base you can easily make up absolutely any flavour soap you can imagine. And, because it’s the time of giving, I wanted to share that joy with you…

For a really attractive, distinctive and unusual present, this is all you need to do. I’m going to talk through how to make lavender soaps, but I’ve put suggestions for lots of other flavours at the end…

Supplies

Soap ingredients

  • Melt and pour soap base. As ever, because I am frequently too lazy to leave the house and look for something I haven’t bought before in the actual shops, I got this from eBay. It cost me £9.86 for 1kg – which is enough to make about 18 small bars. I got a translucent base, which was SLS free.
  • Dried lavender
  • Lavender essential oil (other flavours suggested at the end of this article…)
  • Soap moulds. This can be anything you like the shape of: old yoghurt pots, soft cheese pots, Tupperware or cake moulds. I’ve used a 12-hole silicon cupcake mould in the photos of round soaps below and Tupperware for the square ones. Of course, you could also buy an actual soap mould if you’re so inclined.

What to do

1. Melt the soap base squares in a big jug in the microwave. Or, if like me you don’t have a microwave, use a double boiler. Or, if like me you don’t have a double boiler, stick a pyrex bowl into a much bigger saucepan filled with boiling water.

Homemade soap tutorial from Wolvs in London
My super-professional equipment: an old wok and a Pyrex bowl

2. Once all the soap is melted, add in some drops of lavender essential oil and stir round. If you’re making one batch all the same flavour, add the essence straight into the mixing bowl. If you want to make each bar a different scent, you can add flavours directly to the individual moulds. Use approximately one or two drops per bar of soap.

Adding essential oil to homemade soap
There’s something really pleasing about a photograph of a drop of liquid, isn’t there?

3. Pour the liquid soap base into the moulds to about half an inch deep, using approximately half of your total mixture.

Making homemade soap
Pour to half your chosen depth first

4. Return remaining liquid soap to heat, so it doesn’t set.

5. Add a sprinkling of dried lavender to each mould (or see below for other solid flavours you can add)

Making homemade lavender soap
Sprinkle on as much lavender as you fancy

6. Let the soap set for a minute or two, then pour the remaining liquid soap over the top (this lets the lavender sit about half way through the soap…) You may find a few air bubbles get trapped inside as well. Personally, I think this is really pretty, but if it bothers you, spray your first half with pure alcohol before adding the second batch and they should disperse.

Making homemade lavender soap
Two separate layers of soap. The lavender tends to float a bit in the second layer

7. Leave your soap to set for at least four hours

8. To release the soap from the moulds, put it into the freezer for ten minutes. When you take it back out, the difference in temperature loosens it from the mould. (If you’re using a silicon mould, you can probably skip this step and just push the soap out.)

9. Admire your beautiful homemade soap…

Homemade lavender soap from Wolves in London
Smells beautiful, looks beautiful

Other ideas for flavours

Just add a pinch, sprinkle or drop of the following flavours more other delicious smelling soaps…

Earl grey tea and bergamot oil:

Of course, being English, I’m all about a good cup of Earl Grey. Just a word of warning: once you’ve added the tea leaves, they’ll continue to bleed into the soap day by day, so if you’re making this as a present, leave it to the last moment to make, if you want to still see the contrast between the tea leaves and the clear soap. (After approximately a week, the whole thing will be brown.)

Earl grey tea homemade soap
Good enough to drink…

Honey and ginger:

Mix these together in a separate container before adding to the soap.

Honey and ginger homemade soap
I think this one looks particularly appealing

Cinnamon and clove:

Perfect for Christmas! You really only need a tiny pinch of each of these otherwise the soap turns a rather unappealing dark brown colour…

Clove and cinnamon homemade soap
Christmas in a soap!

Cardamom:

On their own, these won’t provide  much scent, but I thought they looked really beautiful. You could mix in another essential oil to provide more flavour. (Or crush some cardamom seeds and add to the liquid soap.)

Cardamom homemade soap
Is it a peanut? No, it’s the gorgeous-scented cardamom pod!

Star anise:

Another one that I’ve used more for the way it looks than its flavour or scent. But bung in an essential oil too and you’ll have both…

Homemade star anise soap
I hate the taste of star anise, but it’s certainly beautiful to look at

Or, of course you could just add any pure essential oils and have a beautiful clear soap. I tried lemon, grapefruit, ylang ylang and rosemary.

Homemade glycerin soap
Pure and clear, but still delicious smelling

Happy mixing!

Oh, I have great plans for the packaging for these soaps. If they materialise and look as nice as they do in my head, I’ll add a post on that with some templates for boxes too…

Update:

I did indeed manage to make some attractive packaging for the soaps. Take a look at some photos, along with a free template and tutorial: gift boxes.

Related articles:

  • These soaps make a great present, if you’re looking for more homemade present ideas, check out my round up of the top 20 homemade Christmas present tutorials from around the internet.
  • Or take a look at my homemade presents category for more things I’ve made. The recipients said they liked them…

Top 20 tutorials for homemade Christmas presents

Like these ideas? I’ve got more! Take a look at 17 homemade Christmas presents too…

Top 20 tutorials for homemade Christmas presents

Last year, I was in Hong Kong for six months over Christmas so I had to buy presents online for my family back in the UK. Despite the fact I was on what I cheerfully referred to as a “sabbatical” (read instead “long holiday”) and wasn’t earning any money, I felt a bit sad that I wasn’t with the rest of my family for Christmas and wanted to make sure I sent nice presents over.

So I over-compensated. I spent £800 on presents. £800! And that’s not on presents for everyone, just my family. And to clarify again, I don’t mean aunts and uncles and cousins and grandparents. No, I mean mother and siblings and siblings-in-law. Eeeeeep. I didn’t even buy everyone grand amazing presents, I just did that thing where you see something cool online and it costs £15 or so and you think “Oh, that would be a nice little present for x” and you buy it and then you forget you’ve bought it and you keep on going until you’ve got five “little” presents for x and accidentally spent a fortune.

Anyway, lesson learned this year, and the plan is to spend nothing at all and make presents for everyone (or at least only spend money on supplies…)

With this in mind, here’s a round-up of 20 appealing-looking tutorials for presents. I’ve only made a few so far, but I’ll keep you updated on any successes (or amusing failures…)

20 homemade Christmas present tutorials | Wolves in London

You can find more craft projects that I’m planning on making at my Pinterest board I could make that. Go on, follow me there, you know you want to.

Knitting

I’m normally tempted to go all-out on knitted presents, but this year I am trying to keep the selection small, as this is one of the slower ways of making presents and I have less time on my hands than normal, what with a four-month-old to look after and the past few weeks spent making presents for my partner’s birthday. Here, then, are a few quick and simple knits:


1. Baby aran bodysuit
by Eileen Casey.

I absolutely adore this little cabled romper suit (and the cute baby in the photos…)

I’ve had the pattern saved in my Ravelry queue for ages and a Christmas present for my baby is the perfect excuse to get it out of the queue and onto the needles. By the way, if you’re on Ravelry too, do friend me. I’m here: Wolves in London.

If this romper suit is  just so much adorable cuteness that you can’t actually bear to stop knitting once you’ve finished it, there is a matching hat and booties to go with it too. All for free. Amazing…

2. Bella’s mittens. A free pattern by Marielle Henault found through Ravelry. These look lovely and snuggly with a big thick wintery cable pattern. I’ve already started on these, in fact, and the first mitten knitted up super-quick.  I’ll dedicate a separate post to them, once finished.

3. Selbu Modern hat. This looks so elegant and comfy. Free pattern found through Ravelry (as always!) I’ll be making this for the same sister who is getting the mittens. I’m currently trying to decide whether to match yarn or just make two completely different items. Hmmmmm…

4. Cable knit socks. Classy, woolly sock pattern from the Purl Bee. These would be perfect for wearing under wellies or boots, or just for slouching around the house.

5. Cornish dormouse tea cosy. I know, I know, it’s amazing isn’t it? Not a free pattern, sadly, but surely worth $3.99…

Bath and beauty

6. Citrus sugar body scrub. I followed this tutorial from Maybe Matilda to make up a tub of sugar scrub for a friend earlier this year after she had a baby.

She said it smelt so delicious that she had to taste a little bit to try it.  If that’s not high praise, I don’t know what is.

(Disclaimer: no matter how gorgeous your scrub smells, I don’t advocate eating it…)

7. Bath Fizzies. Simple sounding instructions from the Martha Stewart website.

8. Also from Martha Stewart, these grass soaps look amazing…

There is something about the presentation here that is so fantastic. There are lots and lots of different soap making projects on the website so I definitely plan on buying some melt and pour soup base and having a crack at a few of these.

9. Bergamot and coconut skin salve. Even the name of this sounds delicious, doesn’t it? I’m going to try and find some nice vintage tins to put it in.

10. For all my bath and food creations, I plan on printing out and attaching some homemade labels. I was inspired by this post on a thousand word’s blog. She’s made a whole hamper for her friend’s birthday with matching labels on all the products. So gorgeous. There’s a raft of great labels to download and use on the World Label blog.

Sewing

11. I’ve been planning a quilt for my sister and her husband for some time. I bought some stunning Liberty fabric a few years ago and it’s been sitting waiting to be transformed ever since. Consequently, I’ve been storing lots of quilt tutorials, so can offer a few options:

12. Lavender and cedarwood bags in matching fabric to the quilt. I met up with my sister the other evening and was gratified to see that she was wearing the snood I made her for Christmas two years ago. Less gratifying to see though, was that there were a couple of holes in it — however, gratifying again, that when I pointed this out, she was genuinely annoyed at seeing them and said they have got a serious moth problem in their new house. So, lavender and cedarwood bags are an essential. I won’t actually be following a tutorial for this as it’s pretty straightforward, but there is a great tutorial on Martha Stewart’s site that also tells you how to print your own designs onto fabric first.

Wood

I’m not entirely sure where I’d be finding big slabs of wood, but if I do I will certainly be making…

13. These amazing chopping boards by Centsational Girl and

14. The Design Sponge pencil holder

Prints

15. This must be one of the simplest ideas for a present ever. Print out some beautiful vintage bookplate designs and cut to size! I’ve come across a few different free graphics for these, so I’ll be putting together a combination of the ones I’ve found at The Graphics Fairy (pictured on the left), Design Sponge and Benign Objects (links take you directly to the bookplates). I think I’ll also make some little envelopes to hold them all. Will cut some to size out of card, stick one of the bookplates that is inside on the front and embellish the insides using the Guardian’s guide to making envelope liners. It’s a really simple idea, but hopefully will be appreciated  by the bibliophiles in my life…

16. I’m going to have my first crack at grown-up potato stamp printing, inspired by the tutorial for this stunning feather-printed gauze blanket. I think I will try and craft mine into a scarf, however.

17.  I’ll be following my own tutorial for transferring printed images onto fabric to make some more printed T-shirts, this time for friends’ children. I’ve been storing cool free graphics to use for this. The advantage of doing this is you can make the perfect T-shirt for their tastes. One friend’s son is crazy on horses, so he’ll get a horse T-shirt and I am already excited about how much he’ll love that…

Food

18. I’ll be making some more of the delicious apple and sage jelly that I cooked in September.

This is a really perfect homemade present: hard to find in the shops, a bit unique, looks beautiful and, best of all, utterly delicious…

19. Christmas wouldn’t be Christmas without Turkish delight. I’ve never tried to make it before, so I don’t know how well it would turn out, but this turkish delight recipe from the Guardian sounds pretty simple.

20. These peppermint hearts from Flossie Teacakes blog (love that name, don’t you?) originally got on my radar as a potential Valentine’s Day present. But I think they’d be great for Christmas too: all wrapped up in a nice box, with a jolly ribbon tied on. I think I’ll make up a couple of batches of these to use as “back-up” presents, just in case I forget to buy someone something…

So tell me, what have you got planned for your DIY Christmas presents? And what amazing tutorials have I missed off this list? Please share anything fabulous you’ve seen or created by posting a comment below…

Happy Christmas-crafting…

Update:

I’ve made a few of these projects now, so I’ll add links here to anything I’ve tried out

soap square
Lavender soap

My favourite of the completed Christmas presents was definitely the homemade soap. It went down really well with the recipients and I made so many I’ve used a fair few myself! Read more about it: how to make your own soap

Knitted hot water bottle cover
Hot water bottle

I managed to get a fair few things knitted in time, including the lovely Bella’s mittens, along with a hot water bottle cosy and a nice slouchy cable hat. See more photos and details of all at  Christmas knitting

Printing on fabric
Printed T-shirts

After printing more T-shirts, I put together some tips for transferring images to fabric, along with photos of some that I made

Homemade bookplates
Bookplates

The bookplates were certainly one of the simplest but most appealing of all the homemade presents. See the finished bookplates and the cute little envelopes I made for them (ahem, even if I do say so myself…)