Archive for the ‘make it yourself’ Category

small blue
Today, I spent a fair bit of time sat in the shade of the big umbrella, needlefelting hedgehog pincushions, as you do. It’s bizarrely warm for April, I mean.. sitting outside.. in the shade! We’ve been barbecueing and walking in the evenings too. Far too nice a day to craft inside, in fact the house was colder than outside.
I brought my camera too, as I had a lot of company:
The swallows are very chatty, and sit on the telephone wire above my head telling it all. Behind me on the rosemary the bees carefully worked each tiny flower
honeybee and rosemary


butterflies taunted me, an orangetip scooted by several times without stopping, and it took a lot of leaping up with the camera before I snapped a picture of the small blue. She seemed to like the marsh marigold, as did the bees
marsh marigold and bee

The flowering currant was covered in all types of bees, this, I think, is a tree bumblebee
tree bumble bee and flowering currant

Not a bad place to work

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It’s beginning to look festive here at CIG towers, as tonight’s storm pushed us to go harvesting large holly branches from the hedges (to be our big Christmas tree) whilst it was dry yesterday, and now it is cut, seemed we might as well put it up. So once again we have three trees in our living room. The twiggy one we always have, now festived up (no, I’m sure ‘festived’ is not an actual word) with bird ornaments, the large dark holly tree with our eclectic mix of ornaments collected over the years, and in the window our little tree, as we love to have lights in the window adding to the festive feel in our road.

As I have mentioned before, we have a passion for found things – sea glass, shells, fossils, and driftwood. What to do with all this driftwood though.. we are gathering a fair bit with all our beach trips. Enough to make a driftwood tree.

surferEasy to make, we bought a metal rod from B&Q for a couple of pounds, found a drill bit the same size and spent an evening choosing the wood from our stash. We laid them out flat on the floor and when we had achieved the shape we liked, drilled in the middle of each piece and put it together. Rummaging through the wood, I found a piece shaped like a person with their arms held up, so build a little surf board his size, and put him on the top – seems apt since the wood came from the sea.

We like it so much we want to make a bigger one.. which means more beach trips to find my driftwood.  Oh well!

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Elderflower season is relatively short, and during this window of opportunity, whilst the elders are actually flowering, we make our entire year’s supply of elderflower cordial, batch after batch. It comes at the right time of year too, just as the warm weather arrives, so do the ingredients for a soft drink.  I make other cordials too, and most require citric acid, for both the sharp flavour, but also the preserving qualities.

Buying citric acid brings its problems.  Not available from the supermarket, the chemist is the next port of call, and quite often they wont sell it to you – as citric acid is used with certain drugs.  Sometimes they just question you – the mentioning of the secret codeword ‘cordial’ might score you a 50g packet.  And that isn’t going to make a year’s supply of  soft drink.  Try and get some more, and eyebrows rise.   It’s a tad ironic that the chemist is careful about who they let have citric acid, when the stuff is handed out for free, along with needles to keep users safe from using other things.  I only want to make cordial.  I am a pusher. A cordial pusher.

In my village chemist, they are more familiar with the cordial making, but at this time of year, everyone is doing the same and they run out. Homebrew shops sell it no problem (I’m guessing serious drug users have no need for homebrew).  But alas we don’t have an actual homebrew shop nearby.  So what to do?  Well obviously have 1 kilo packets of white powder delivered to our house.  (Yes, the last lot did come from a company called Bigger Jugs…and yes it was on the packaging….).  I do wonder if people can get the wrong impression.

This made me think about last time we bought saltpetre.  We bought it, of course, to use in the making of bacon, ham and salami.  We don’t use it any more, as we are not actually trying to make ham that will actually keep – we have the fridge and freezers for that, and the only other thing saltpetre can bring to the party is keeping the meat pink, a side effect, and given too much saltpetre is bad for you, we can live with not so pink bacon.  When I bought it, though, I did notice the suggestions.. ‘other people who bought saltpetre also bought: fuses, rocket tubes, a book on pyromania, fertilizers….’ – it’s a bit worrying isn’t…..

To complete the wrong impressions purchases, we finish off with some small measurement scales.  This set from myco is great, pocket sized, battery operated, they can measure a fraction of a gram.  I recommend them.  We bought them for measuring dye.  We dye our own sheep’s wool, and for repeatable results, you need accurate measurements of dye to weight of wool ratio.  Also great for measuring spices and eggs ( I like to keep an eye on egg sizes from our  breeding flock).  From the ‘other people who bought this also bought’ links, I think other people are using these scales for something else…

It probably doesn’t help that himself insists on referring to them as ‘the drug scales’, and doesn’t hesitate to shout it out in the garden, pub,  where-ever.

So now, in this post I have mentioned, drugs, fuses, pyromania, white powder, bigger jugs, score, acid,  needles, users, and more.  I expect to have the authorities around within minutes of publishing , and have to hope that when they see the elderflowers steeping in syrup, an egg balanced on the scales and the dye pot simmering on the side, they will believe we are innocent!

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green patchwork

green patchwork cushion
Today the new roof begins.  Well today the house became clad in scaffolding, the new roof should follow.  Fingers crossed for no more nastier surprises than the ones we have prepared ourselves for.  Still I guess they wouldn’t be surprises then…  Anyhow, it is going to be stressful, and expensive. But necessary. And hopefully it will fix various damp problems too.

The cats were not very impressed and spent  a lot of today glaring at the men through the window – on every level of the house too!, and I admit they had a point, it was very inhibiting, venturing out wondering if  a scaffold plank will land on my head.  I did enough to check the sheep and poultry, and making rounds of tea, then stayed in and indulgently sewed this cushion.  Green is my favourite colour – no surprise there then, but it also seemed an apt colour choice  for St Patrick’s day.

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mitts for son

This thingymas just gone, we didn’t base all our presents on homemade gifts, but making a few does make the budget go a little further – specially when using materials readily to hand. I made some mitts for my son – he requested non wool so he could mistreat them and then stick them in the wash without worry – and of course they had to be blue, Always blue… To make it more interesting I played with Fairisle patterns – makes your head muddle when you are trying to fit in patterns but the thumb increase means a different number of stitches every three rows!

Still this is my first Fair isle pattern I designed, so I’m happy, my son was happy with his blue mitts too.

mitts for mr cig

Boosted by achieving the first set of gloves – and thankfully writing up the pattern as I went – I then went on to make a pair for himself, although I made them a little bigger and so had to adjust the design. This time I knitted them using our own homegrown home spun wool. This is wool from our Shetlands and is lovely and soft, I just used two of the natural colours  and the Fair isle pattern carrying the second colour across the back makes them very snuggly. He loves his fingerless gloves. …and wants mittens next…
wooden bowl

Himself carved an ornament by hand (this time no trip to A&E and stitches necessary, so a bonus there!) and turned this bowl – which he says is apple wood – Bramley no less (we did do some major pruning last year!), as I had put in a request for a little trinket bowl, and this hits the mark perfectly.

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swim bag 1
Sometimes you find you end up doing the same thing as other people for all the same reasons. Take patchwork, I had always seen it as a hobby whereby people took a few different types of material, cut it up, then reassemble it back into material. Often making quilts.  I can see the attraction, but not desperately calling me.  Each to their own I guess.
Then my son requested a new swim bag. Blue. As far as he is concerned everything ought to be blue. So I had a hearty delve in the fabric stash, only to find a distinct lack of decent quantities of blue material. I do however have lots of bit and pieces because, as previously mentioned, I am a hoarder.

I came up with this cunning idea.. if I stitched the material together, even worked on a simple design, rather than looking like a bag botched together from rags, it would like a deliberate plan, whilst using up oddments. Clever me! – that is until I realised I had reinvented patchwork – because that is the truth of it, a way of using up scraps.
swim bag 2

So here it is, a bag made out of parts of 2 maternity dresses, some old swimming trunks (nice shark design) and fully lined out of old shirt material.

Yes a realise it could with pressing – but it is not going to happen! – Son was delighted with the result.

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sea glass lampshade

seaglass lamp

Last Christmas I revealed the homemade presents we had made, and, by popular request, here is how I made the lampshade:

  1. Collect a lot of sea glass.  For us, this was easy, we are natural beach combers, love found things and have been fascinated by and collecting beach glass way before it became fashionable. But you do need lots. Really. And ideally lots of different colours and types, if you find pieces with patterns or words, that’s good, and precious special colours that don’t come up much – such as blue, purple or yellow, even if they are only specks, add to the overall lamp. This lamp was made from glass collected on one particular holiday.
  2. Finbase lampshaded a suitable lamp base and shade.  I had this one in my craft box already – I’m a hoarder I admit it.It arrived with himself and sported a really horrible lampshade originally…which we got  rid of, but the base was nicely turned onyx and I was sure it would be useful one day.  That day was long coming but it did eventually arrive.  The base needs to be heavy like this as all that glass weighs quite a bit, so the shade has to be balanced with a suitable base or there will be toppling issues.  The shade I bought from a DIY store for £3 – but there are often shades like this in charity shops.  Try the two together before you make a start, because it would be heart breaking to do all that work only to find it didn’t really fit the base.
  3. buy some glue.  I used super-glue  and bought these in handy 3g tubes, which is much better than one big tube that super-glues itself closed when you take a break from the project.  This glue worked a treat, held the glass firmly, and grabbed it fast.  I did manage to super glue a tube of glue to my hand at one point.. and that was not ideal… so really.. don’t do it!
  4. Tear the fabric off the lampshade.  a shade with a wire frame is the way forward. Dig the glue off too.
  5. Spread out lots of glass (did I mention you need a lot?) and start sticking it to the frame – this involves selecting a piece to fit the space, working out where it touches, applying a very small amount of glue (you don’t want to see the glue so keep it to a minimum)  to both surfaces, placing it, holding it until the glue has grabbed and repeat.  I worked along the top of the frame and then down the verticals, then filled in and only completed the bottom edge last – this way I was sure the glass was really fixed and not just propped on pieces below it.  I tried to mix up the colours, and it did get trickier to find the exact shaped piece . There will naturally be small gaps, but so long as they are small, this lends to the charm. That’s what I say anyhow.  It was handy to put the lamp on the base and this gave me a natural turntable.  The whole structureseaglass lamp 2 becomes stronger as all the pieces go in and support each other.
  6. Test your work.  Allow it to set properly then tap the sides with your fingers and gently bang the base down on a table – don’t treat it rough, but the lamp needs to be able to cope with being used, so any pieces of glass that fall off now need to be re-glued.
  7. Carefully place and glue  special tiny pieces of glass in suitable gaps.
  8. enjoy your lamp!

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