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Making Christmas crackers from scratch

Making Christmas crackers from scratch

by Clare Mansell

I’ve been filling my own crackers for years, after I finally got tired of sweeping the Christmas lunch table clear of unwanted (no matter how ‘luxury’) cracker gifts, but this year I decided to take it a step further and make the crackers from scratch. Even empty crackers cost nearly £1 each and although I often bought them for half that price in the new year sales, I thought there was an opportunity for a thrifty and unique craft project.

 

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zero waste party tins for children

Every year when Theo’s birthday approaches I worry a little about waste. I try to think about the kind of food we can cook at his party that won’t be nibbled and cast aside, I try (and nearly always fail) to think about how to keep a handle on incoming toys and for the last two years I have also attempted to do something close to zero waste party bags.

 

Some might say that the answer to party bags is simply not to have them, but I think it’s possible to do them in such a way that still gives pleasure without creating waste.

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Spray chalk paint bunting tutorial

On Sunday I finished a four day stint at the Country Living Magazine Spring Fair at Alexandra Palace in London. I was working with Novasol Spray UK a brand you will previously have seem me collaborate with who sell (amongst other things) spray chalk paint. I stayed up in London for the whole four days in a great Air BnB flat in Muswell Hill that was a seven minute walk through the park from the venue. Lindsay my host was lovely and I found my first Air BnB experience vastly better to staying in a budget hotel. The room was quieter, the bed more comfortable and I had just the right amount of company at the end of the day when I wanted to download over a glass of wine!

During the show I ran three (sold out!) workshops showing how to use the chalk paint to make strings of wooden bunting. It was a relatively simple idea using pre-cut wooden shapes and masking off areas of the bunting with washi tape and stencils, but the workshop participants all put their own individual spin on the idea and some really brilliant creative lengths of bunting were produced.

 

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String art sign for my studio

String art sign for my studio

by Clare Mansell

If you’ve been following me on Instagram you may have spotted that a few weeks ago I attempted my first piece of string art. String art has been around since the 70s and can be either incredibly simple or extremely complex. Once you start browsing Pinterest and looking at how people have used the concept you’ll be blown away with the potential of it.

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I wanted to create a sign for my studio largely because it was being photographed for a book about She Sheds and it was an effective way of squeezing in a bit of branding! Here’s what I started out with… The wood for the sign was a simple pre-cut soft word plank which came from B&Q

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If I’d known this was going to be a successful project I would have sourced my equipment a bit better. As it is nearly everything in this photo had changed by the end! The packet of Panel Pins was what we had in the garage and I ran out of them halfway through the project and then couldn’t find an exact match! The embroidery thread was from my stash and it turned out it just wasn’t thick enough to be effective and even the hammer wasn’t right, I ended up buying a small toffee hammer!

But anyway, here’s how the process works! To begin with you measure your wooden surface and work out how big you want your art or wording to be, then print a template, I used Photoshop to do mine. Cut the letters out and attach them to the wooden surface with selotape. I used a piece of string fixed with drawing pins at each end to create a horizontal line to work on.

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Once the template letters are stuck down you can start knocking in the panel pins and the fun begins! It’s tempting to spread the pins out, but the closer you can get them the more interwoven your thread will be and the better it will look. I learned that the hard way. As you can see I’m only one letter in and I’ve already switched hammers…

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Once the pins are all in you can start the fun part… or if you are ridiculously impatient like me you can strat the fun part before you’ve done all the pins, just so you can see how it’s going to look! My new embroidery threads came from The Eternal Maker. I went into the store with a copy of my blog logo and matched up the colours as closley as I could.

string art sign in progress using embroidery thread

It was at about this stage when Jim said to me “You’ll hate me for this, but I really think you should have painted the wood” – I was too far in to turn back! I should warn you string art is very relaxing and great fun, but it takes ages to do and every now and again as you are twisting the thread round one of the pins it unloops and spirals backwards unlooping round half a dozen pins and taking you back several steps – aaahhh!

Despite everything I did manage to finish the main part of the sign in time for the photographs, but I deviated from my original plan to do smaller string letters underneath and cheated by cutting them out of felt. For a first attempt I’m pleased with the result, but next time I’d use panel pins with slightly bigger heads, put them as close together as I can and yes…. paint the board!

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Next time I’d love to do a large picture, though based on how long this took I think that would be quite an epic project… maybe something for the winter! If you are inspired by the concept have a look at some of the examples on the Pinterest board I created…

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