Category Archives: Gift ideas

Baby shower central

Gluten-free lemon cupcakes

My nearest and dearest seem to be popping out babies left right and centre at the moment. I swear it’s catching. After the very girly baby shower a few weeks back I had two more to go to last weekend, which meant two lots of gluten-free cupcakes (I love Doves Farm’s recipe with lemon icing) and two more taggie blankets. I’ve just finished another new baby gift – a playmat – but I’ll save that for another post in case the new mum spots it on here before I have time to give it to her (because of course she’ll have time to sit and read my blog…)

Taggie blankets on the line

I think that’s a total of 6 baby showers now – including my own last year – and I’ve seen some lovely handmade gifts at each one. A couple of friends are great at making nappy cakes, another made a beautiful patchwork quilt, and another a gorgeous crochet blanket. I’ve made so many taggies now that I think it’s high time I found a new ‘speciality’. I’ve started a board of crafty baby shower ideas on Pinterest, but if anyone else has any bright ideas please give me a shout!

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Filed under Babies and kids, Baking, Gift ideas, Party

Gift idea: photo tray

Photo tray

I bought a white wooden photo tray for my nan’s birthday recently. I never know what to buy her – there’s only so much Anais Anais one woman can wear, after all. So this seemed like a pretty good option – pretty and practical, right?

The thing is, I couldn’t give it to her empty of photos – it just looked a bit, well, crap. And filling it with my own pictures didn’t work, either. Would she really want to sit in front of the tellie of an evening eating her tea off my face?

In the end, I decided to fill it with pretty things so it looked nice when she opened it, but so that she could add her own photographs later. I left a couple of pictures of the grandkids in for good measure, and the rest of the squares are filled with scraps of fabric and ribbon, bits of stamped paper, and a happy birthday message from us.

The gold fabric is left over from my curtains. and the ribbons were salvaged from a nicely-wrapped present

The gold fabric is left over from my curtains. and the ribbons were salvaged from a nicely-wrapped present

This one's a bit of paper (a charity-shop songbook) with a floral motif stamped over the top

This one’s a bit of paper (a charity-shop songbook) with a floral motif stamped over the top

 

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Taggies to go…

Star taggie, 95x70cm, £18

Star taggie, 95x70cm, £18

I’ve had a few requests for taggie blankets in the past few weeks, so I’ve just finished this one off for a friend. I made a similar version for my little boy before he was born, and it’s travelled pretty much everywhere with us since – it’s big enough to be folded in half as a snuggly car seat/buggy blanket, and when it’s laid out flat it doubles as a play mat. He’s also recently ‘discovered’ the tags, so it keeps him occupied when we’re out and about.

I’ve got a couple more in the same design available, and will be rustling up a few baby blue and baby pink versions over the next few weeks, so get in touch if you’ve got your eye on one. (You can also learn to make one yourself, of course.)

Star taggie blanket

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Filed under Babies and kids, Crafts, Gift ideas, Sewing projects

These are a few of my favourite things…

Mum's bunting in action in our kitchen

Mum’s bunting in action in our kitchen

So here’s this week’s big news. I’ve finally signed up to Instagram.

I realise this admission proves just how far behind the times I am (incidentally, I still have a tellie that requires a corner, have not quite got my head around Twitter, and like to occasionally send letters. Through the post).

I have, though, recently upgraded my mobile phone to something a little more 2013, so I decided it was about time I jumped on the Instagram bandwagon. To test out the different filters I started snapping some bits and pieces in my little boy’s nursery, and realised how many lovely handmade gifts we’ve been given. As my own crafty pursuits have been somewhat slowed by his arrival, it’s nice to get a bit of inspiration from talented friends and family. I’ve included the name of the Instagram filter for each photo below, should anyone else out there be as far behind as I am.

My mum’s handmade bunting
My mum made this floral bunting to decorate the house for my birthday-slash-baby-shower-slash-summer-barbecue last year. I haven’t found anything in the shops that’s anywhere near as pretty – it looked gorgeous in the kitchen and I planned to put it up in the nursery if I had a little girl. Alas, it’s more likely to be a Liverpool FC poster if the husband has his way.

Mum's handmade bunting. Filter: Mayfair

Mum’s handmade bunting. Filter: Mayfair

My auntie’s Wonky Wilma
My auntie Linda makes and sells everything from cute knitted hats to beautiful patchwork quilts on her Plum Cottage blog. She got this particular project from Janet at Kitchen Table Sewing – a fellow Bedford-based craft blogger who designed the Wonky Wilma pattern to raise money for Great Ormond Street Hopsital. Thanks to this crafty pair, Wilma the elephant now has pride of place on my little boy’s toy shelf.

Auntie Linda's Wonky Wilma. Filter: Earlybird

Auntie Linda’s Wonky Wilma. Filter: Earlybird

My sister’s quilt
I made a patchwork quilt for my sister’s little boy a few years ago, and she returned the favour with a much more complicated and absolutely gorgeous hexagonal quilt. It’s beautiful, and the fact she hand-stitched the whole thing makes it even more special to me. Unfortunately the photo just doesn’t do it justice – it’s so pretty I’m saving it for best.

My sister's quilt. Filter: Toaster

My sister Zoe’s quilt. Filter: Toaster

My friend’s Scrabble frame
My friend Rachel is one of the craftiest people I know – her house is full of beautiful projects she’s made, not to mention bits of furniture she’s upcycled. She gave me this framed, personalised Scrabble picture – made with pieces from a vintage Scrabble set on eBay – just yesterday, and I’m already excited about getting it up on the nursery wall.

My friend Rachel's Scrabble picture. Filter: Amaro

My friend Rachel’s Scrabble picture. Filter: Amaro

 

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All I want for Valentine’s Day is… a Diptyque candle

The quickest way to tart up a shabby mantelpiece...

The quickest way to tart up a shabby mantelpiece…

I can’t resist a posh candle.

It all started almost a decade ago when I got my first editorial job on an interiors mag – Kitchens, Bedrooms & Bathrooms. A newcomer to the world of swanky interiors, I went on a few shoots and watched in awe as the stylist transformed each room into a magazine-worthy scene with the help of a few well-placed props. And one of the things that kept cropping up – both out on shoots and in the glossy pages of the magazines I leafed through in the name of research – was the Diptyque candle.

Diptyque’s first store was launched in Paris by 3 friends and fellow creatives (an interior designer, a painter and a theatre director) back in 1961. Initially designing and selling wallpapers and soft-furnishings, the trio took their first foray into the world of perfume in 1968 with their original eau de toilette, L’Eau. Fast-forward 40-odd years and their scented candles in particular have achieved cult status.

A large part of it is down to the scents. From the fruity Baies (top of my wish-list), to the woody Santal (burning away on my coffee table as I type), there’s a candle for pretty much every mood and season. And they pack quite a punch – a couple of minutes after lighting one, the whole room is filled with fragrance. And I’m not just saying that to defend the £40 price tag.

A lot of it, though, is down to aesthetics. They’re just gorgeous. Each block of white wax is held in a simple glass cylinder stamped with Diptyque’s iconic oval label – itself taken from one of the founders’ fabric designs. And it seems I’m not the only one who’s so enamored with them – Mary Portas’ home is ‘swathed in Diptyque fragrances’ and more than 34,000 fans on Facebook can’t resist a whiff either.

Unlike Portas, though, I’m yet to visit one of the cult candlemaker’s stores. The husband – who, in a cruel twist, can’t actually smell – took a trip to the Notting Hill store to pick up my Christmas present with strict instructions to avoid anything sickly sweet or vanilla-scented. He explained to the lady in the shop that I liked anything woody, fig-y or pomegranate-y, and came back with Santal. Proof, I’d say, that they know what they’re doing.

If you can’t make it to one of their stores, though, you can pick Diptyque candles up from places like John Lewis and Heal’s. And if that’s just not luxe enough, you can add a Photophore candleholder like the one below to turn it into a light-diffusing lantern – they’re now available to fit standard-size candles as well as mini.

Large Photophore - Coast

Large Photophore – Coast

As for me, I’ve just discovered that 2 Diptyque scents can be burned together to create a third, so I’ve started dropping hints in time for Valentine’s Day. When you’ve spent all day up to your elbows in nappies, nothing beats lighting one of these babies and imagining – just for a couple of minutes – you’re wandering down boulevard Saint-Germain. Well, a girl can dream…

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Bye-bye work, hello hand-stamped cards…

Hand-stamped 'Totes Amaze' card

Pretty much sums up the feeling you get when you set your Out Of Office for 365 days.

And so the time has finally come… Yesterday, at 36 weeks pregnant, I said farewell to my desk, my office and my workmates for a whole 365 days (budget willing). It’s a weird feeling. I’m completely excited about having a year ‘off’ and having a baby. But I can’t imagine not going in to work every day – especially for the next 4-ish weeks before The Big Arrival.

It does mean I’ll finally have a bit of time to get through my ‘to-make’ list, though. We’ve been so focussed on getting the house finished (lots more on that to come), I’ve not had the sewing machine out for what feels like ages. I have, however, managed to find some time to feed a new obsession, and my hands (and kitchen table) have been covered in ink ever since.

Unmounted rubber stamps

I ordered some unmounted rubber stamps to print the numbers on an advent calendar, and as the postage was pretty high I thought I may as well throw in a few alphabet sets while I was at it. As soon as the funny-looking bits of rubber arrived in the post I had to try them out, and after a few botched jobs, I managed to make a couple of goodbye cards and gift tags for friends at work.

'OMG' gift tag

‘OMG’ gift tag

The letters are a bit higgledy-piggledy – I’m not really following a proper stamping method yet (I’ll post a ‘how to’ once I’ve figured out what on earth I’m doing) – but I quite like the effect and it’s nice to be able to print whatever you fancy. The one below, for example, is a long-standing joke between myself and a fellow editor in the office. We’re going to see if she can last the year without adding the apostrophe in. I’ve bet her a bottle of wine she can’t…

Hand-stamped card

Yes, it caused me actual pain to print this.

 

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Filed under Cards, Crafts, Gift ideas, Stamping, Typefaces

How To Make A Taggie Comforter

Taggie comforter

These baby comforters are even easier to make than full-sized taggie blankets (take a look at my previous post on how to make a taggie blanket if you’re after full instructions). Plus, they’re a nice way of using up any offcuts. I made this one with a 30cm x 25cm piece of fleece and a matching piece of cute elephant-print fabric from eBay  – just remember to machine-wash all your fabrics before you start, to avoid them shrinking later on.

I still had loads of ribbons left over from the last blanket I made, so the first step was to tack them in loops and place them strategically around my comforter. Bear in mind you want your base fabric right-side up and your tags facing inwards, like they are in the photo below.

Taggie comforter - step 1

Once you’ve roughly tacked the ribbons in place (believe me, it makes the next bit a lot easier), just place the second layer of fabric on top, with the right side facing down (inwards), like it is below. Pin then tack the whole thing together, ready to machine sew around 3 of the edges, catching all the ribbons at the base as you go. When you’re on the 4th edge, stop about half-way along so you can turn the whole thing outside-in. Then just close the gap up, this time sewing on the outside of the comforter, as close to the edge as you can get.

Taggie comforter

I finished it off by sewing a centimetre trim all the way around the outside of the comforter, which made it lie nice and flat. The photo below shows the front and reverse.

Taggie comforter

As this was a present for a friend, I made a really simple fleece blanket to match (I just edged a 1-metre square of fleece with 3″ ribbon and added a little patch of the elephant fabric in one corner).

Taggie comforter and fleece blanket

A taggie comforter and matching fleece blanket for baby Harry.

And of course, I couldn’t leave the big brother out, so I made him a bag of honeycomb to keep him sweet! I used a recipe from Leon’s Baking & Puddings book (there are 3 in the series, and they’re all equally brilliant), but you can find loads of honeycomb recipes online (try the Beeb’s for size).

The best bit? I’ve got loads left over ‘to store in my cupboard for cake decorating’. If only I thought it’d last that long…

Honeycomb

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