A boy’s favourite things

I’m the oldest of four siblings, all born within six years of each other.

(Looking back now, with the experience of having my own family, I wonder how on earth my Mum coped without having a serious breakdown, or running off with a Greek waiter at least once in my childhood. But, to the best of my knowledge, she never did…)

I don’t remember my next sister or brother being born, but I do, very clearly, remember the excitement I felt at my youngest sister’s birth. Or, more accurately, the excitement I felt about the fact that she brought me a present when she arrived. And not just any present, oh no, this was a ballerina Sindy doll… …one that my parents had already told me I wasn’t allowed to have.

Ha ha, parents, take that, it’s me and my new sister together against the world!

Ballerina Sindy from the 1980s
This delightful lady would win you round to any disruptive new sibling… (NB, not a photo of my *actual* doll who will have been given away to charity at least 20 years ago, but just a photo I nicked off the internet.)

Personal memories aside, I’ve been given advice by almost everyone I know with more than one child to buy the older sibling a present “from the new baby” as a softener and I’m certainly not above bribery to try and make everyone get along.

So the sproglet has been purchased a couple of new books; one about both doggies and counting, which are two of his absolute favourite things in the world. And last night I finally got around to making him some T-shirts with some more of his favourite things on the front, following my usual method (see more info at my fabric transfer tutorial).

This is they, photographed against the bare plaster walls of our bedroom, shortly before being wrapped.

Homemade dog T-shirt | Wolves in London

The dog print is my favourite. The image is from the Graphics Fairy website (here: vintage dog pic). There’s something so comical about waddling little dogs with long bodies, isn’t there?

Dachshund T-shirt | Wolves in London

The “R for rhinocerous” is from this amazing vintage alphabet I found at Rook No 17, with which I have also planned many, many other projects, but not quite got round to making any of them yet…

Homemade rhinocerous T-shirt | Wolves in London

Yes, it’s just possible that the sproglet’s actual name starts with an R.

Here’s the full alphabet in all its glory as well:

Vintage alphabet
Click on image to go straight to the site for download

Finally, this circus elephant image is also from the Graphics Fairy: circus elephant.

Homemade circus elephant T-shirt | Wolves in London

There is a whole selection of circus animals from the same series, again I have had something planned to make with all of these for ages, but once again not got round to it. I did, however, use the giraffe a while ago on another T-shirt as a present for a first birthday.

Homemade giraffe T-shirt | Wolves in London
Remember her?

So, hopefully these will appease the sproglet just a little when he suddenly has to share his Mum and Dad with a milk-guzzling interloper. Fingers crossed, at any rate…

Related articles:

  • You can find all my vintage image pics saved on my Pinterest board Free graphics.
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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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Top 10 homemade Valentine’s presents

Best homemade Valentine's projects round-up
The ten best homemade presents for the day of lurve

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ten best Valentine's tutorials
Best Valentine’s ever?

1. Love bugs

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

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

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

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

Top 10 homemade Valentine's
Oh to be Sarah!

2. Felt envelopes

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

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

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

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

Top 10 homemade Valentine's presents
No pink here!

3. Funny Valentine

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

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

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

Top Valentine's homemade presents
Yum yum

4. Felt hearts

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

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

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

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

Top 10 homemade Valentine's ideas
Glorious!

5. Hanging hearts

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

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

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

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

Homemade Valentine's presents round-up
South Bank dating

6. Valentine’s paperweights

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

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

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

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

Best homemade Valentine's projects round-up
Sweet heart

7. Heart cake

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

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

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

Round up of the best homemade Valentine's presents
Pencil pushing

8. Just write

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

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

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

Find more info here: Pencil arrow Valentines.

Top ten homemade Valentines projects
Please, have my heart

9. Vintage card

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

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

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

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

Round-up of the best homemade Valentine's presents
Fried love © Carey Nershi

10. Fried egg heart

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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…

Three secret projects

As well as my homemade Christmas, I’m working on some other homemade presents too, these for my partner’s birthday in November.

This is proving trickier than it used to be, as my time for making anything during the day is a bit limited. Somehow, looking after the baby, taking a walk and remembering to get washed and eat lunch seem to easily take up 12 hours. So I really only have the 30 minutes or so between putting the baby to bed and Jamie getting home from work to actually get anything done.

Still, as ever undaunted by the genuine lack of time to finish what I’m planning, I’ve got three secret projects that I want to make him by the time his birthday arrives in the middle of November.

The first is a knitted scarf, smart enough for him to wear to work when the winter starts to get cold. I’ve found a free pattern for the appropriately named “His (Birthday) scarf” (pattern found through Ravelry, but I’ve linked direct to the blog it appears on). I’ve splashed out on some Debbie Bliss Cashmerino Aran yarn – normally I’m too mean to buy Debbie Bliss yarn as I do think it’s very expensive, but since this is for a special birthday present I thought I could give it a whirl. And oh my goodness, having knitted the first four rows, I am amazed at how gorgeous the yarn is… Really soft, but it doesn’t split while you’re knitting at all, and it’s lovely and solid on my bamboo needles. I’m using a 4.5mm needle, though the yarn calls for 5mm and the pattern for 4mm (I thought I’d take the middle road, sounds sensible, no?) So far, it’s looking gorgeous, will update on progress…

The second project is to go with some bento boxes that I’ve ordered him through Amazon. I thought that the boxes are all well and good, but he’ll still want a bag to put them in, rather than just sticking them straight into his rucksack. So, at the moment, I’m torn between two different patterns that I’ve got pinned on my Pinterest boards. The first is a bag from the long thread and the second is a similar version but made with oilcloth by Tonya Staab: handmade lunch bag. Ordinarily, I’d go for the oil cloth version without thinking, but I do know that I want to make this for him with my Spoonflower fabric, so I’m umming and ahhing over this.

The final project is the most fun: ironing on some sort of awesome old-fashioned marine related picture to a T-shirt. Something like this, from the New York Public Library archives.

Octopus image from New York Public Library digital archive
Love the vintage marine vibe going on here

Awesome? Awesome.

If I get these all finished, I’ll update with more info and pictures.