Saturday, 18 April 2015

Paper Pinwheels

I made a bunch of paper windmills for a craft fair last week.  I know, I used the American word pinwheel in the title of this post, but it rhymed better - sorry!  I saw the dies at Make the Day Special - unfortunately out of stock at the moment but there are others on the market. When they arrived I realised the windmills were mean for cards and papercraft decorations and would not spin - a bit disappointing.  Anyway not to be thwarted I decided to try and make them spin - which is what windmills are meant for aren't they!

I have to admit it was a bit fiddly but eventually I worked it out and thought I'd share.  Hope this makes sense.  I've numbered the steps to go with the photos above.
  1. I used wooden kebab sticks you can find easily in supermarkets.  A hole is needed but they split easily when the awl is pushed through so a piece of tape (I used washi tape) wrapped round the top before you make the hole stops the splitting.
  2. I die cut the pieces from double sided scrapbooking papers. If you want to make a 'bunch' a pad of paper will ensure all the papers will look nice together.
  3. Arrange 6 pieces in a wheel (a pin helps keep them together) and hold them in place with finger and thumb.
  4. I found it best to staple the pieces together in the middle - if you don't do this you will find it very frustrating getting them to stay together for the next step. I used my Tim Holtz Tiny Attacher bought on a whim but I've found it SO useful - LOVE IT!
  5. I had some pearl headed florists' pins but any long pin with a head will do - there are lots of different designs on the market but a ball head is required here. You need to add something decorative for the centre of the windmill and a small bead which will enable the spinning. I had these flower shape sequiny things I thought I'd never find a use for (NEVER throw anything away!).
  6. Gently shape the pieces with your fingers as in the photo.  This will make it easier to get the pin through all the pieces and the hole in the centre. I'm not going to kid you, its rather fiddly getting everything on the pin but practice makes perfect! Add another couple of small beads to the pin at the back.
  7. I've used a clothespeg to hold the windmill on the pin in the photo - otherwise it will jump off! Make sure you hold everything on and push the back and front slightly together but only a LITTLE BIT.
  8. Poke through the hole in your wooden stick and bend the pin down at a right angle with a pair of pliers. I thought children might want these so I cut the sharp end of the pin off with wire cutters.
  9. Finally wrap another piece of tape round the pin end to tape it to the stick.

Ta-da your windmill. Give it a sharp puff to make it spin. Well, I have to admit they don't spin as well as those you buy in the shops but they do and they look very pretty in a jar on the windowsill.

Saturday, 4 April 2015


Happy Easter all! Its been a miserable Easter here in North Wales so far - but the perfect time for crafting without the guilt of staying indoors! Love this illustration from an Enid Blyton Holiday book though I really can't work out what the girl is offering the little chick - a worm perhaps??

I recently treated myself to a Free Motion Stitching workshop at The Coach House. I've struggled to find time to practise much since and I really really want to improve on what I learnt from the delightful and hugely talented tutor Fliss Owens.  But I have finished one project and yesterday started another.......

I made my first embroidered picture into a peg bag as I much prefer things I make to have a practical use rather than just sticking them on the wall or leaving them in a pile on the side.  And guess what, the sun has suddenly broken through the cloud cover so maybe I can use it this morning!!!!

My picture was inspired by this little sketch in Rebecca Crompton's Modern Design in Embroidery published in 1936.  Rebecca, Kathleen Mann and Priscilla M Warner are embroidery heroines of mine and I've been lucky enough to collect a lovely library of books by them full of gorgeous inspirational work and advice, mostly at very modest prices. However for some reason this book of Rebecca's commands a very high price so when I saw it on sale as what I thought was a very reasonable amount I jumped at it and was not disappointed when it arrived. If you are curious I've a Pinterest board of their work you might like to look at here.

I'll definitely be dipping into it for inspiration for my next creation. Lastly here are a few photos from our class at the Coach House last month, including my very first attempt - the flower in a pot. Although I wasn't happy with it as I was creating the embroidery, Fliss was right when she said it would turn out fine and I really liked it once it was finished and sewn into a lavender sachet.

Saturday, 28 March 2015

Easter Cheap Cheap!

If you watch my Plowmen's Clocks facebook page you may have noticed I changed my banner to a herd of origami bunnies for Easter.  I wanted to make some decorations for the window of the Greyhound Rescue charity shop where I volunteer but didn't want to spend much money.  The bunnies were the first thing I thought of. I used a pad of quite thin pastel coloured craft paper I found at Poundland and a simple instruction video - you can find it here.

Don't they look cute all lined up on this lovely table.  I also made the banner you can see in the top photo. I printed out the letters as big as would fit on an A4 sheet (using an outline font I found in my word processing programme), cut them out, laminated them and strung them on cotton twine.

Next I wanted to add some egg decorations but couldn't find any I liked cheap enough so back again to Poundland where I bought two bags of polystyrene eggs and a packet of pretty tissue paper.

If you want a cheap Easter too here's how I did them. To make it easier and less of a sticky process I stuck the eggs on wooden kebab sticks. Cut strips of tissue paper about three quarters of an inch wide and tear them into pieces about 2 inches long. Use a brush to paint the egg with watered down PVA glue. Make it about the consistency of single cream.

Starting at the bottom stick the strips on using the brush to smooth down the paper and at the same time coating with the glue. Carry on layering the strips until the egg is covered nicely.

Leave them to dry somewhere warm. The tissue is very thin so don't be too rough with the brush. When they dry the paper will shrink a little making a smoother covering but they will still look handmade.

Then decide how you want to display them. I wanted to thread them onto twine to hang down in the window. I used a long doll making needle to pierce and thread twine through the egg.

Lastly I used paper punches to create some quick flower shapes and to make the job even quicker I stapled two flowers back to back between the eggs onto the twine, making sure I didn't trap the twine so I could slide them evenly into position.

I think they look quite effective in the window - you can just about see them in the top photo.  So was that cheap enough for you? Total outlay £4 for the pad of paper, two bags of eggs and a packet of tissue paper.  All from Poundland's Easter range.  Everything else I already had in my craft stash. Poundland also had some lovely little craft projects for the kiddos - I couldn't resist and hope our lot wouldn't have preferred chocolate eggs.

I have to say I was quite impressed with the range on offer.  All very pretty in spring-like colours. I loved the traditional yellow "pipecleaner chicks" and they had black and white lambs too. Hypocritical I know, but I just don't like to think about how much the manufacturers paid their workers to produce such lovely items at such a low cost!!!

Friday, 20 March 2015

First Day of Spring and a Total Eclipse of the Sun...

 As all we crafters know, one should never throw anything away! I managed to find these eclipse shades last used in 1999 and tried to get a shot through them as my basic digi camera could not cope with the sun - it was not very successful.  However we were lucky with the weather, the clear sky dimmed eerily and the gulls seemed rather confused, so on the First Day of Spring, International Happiness Day, and Solar Eclipse Day I was happy with that!

 And we were lucky as just as the shadow of the moon was moving away from the sun the clouds drifted over.  Looking forward to 2026!!!!!

Sunday, 15 March 2015

Mothers Day - Hooray!

Hope all my lovely Mother followers are being spoiled rotten today.  I'll be going to my Mum's any time now with my bunch of paper tulips.  Mum does love flowers but will not throw them out until they  are utterly and completely gone - which means there are always vases of most unpleasant dead things around the house!

So I decided to give her (and my sisters) something that won't die for a long time.  I expect they will get dusty and faded one day but that won't be for a while yet.  I used some gorgeous Italian crepe paper which is easy to cut and then mould into shape.  There are full instructions and a free template on Lia Griffiths' fabulous blog here.

I love the way real tulips start stiffly upright but once in their vase start to let themselves go - if you know what I mean! Mine are stiff and a bit unnatural at the moment but the wire stem means they can be bent into a more informal shape once in their vase. One of my most favourite scenes in a most favourite film is the conversation between Miss Eleanor Lavish (Judy Dench) and Miss Charlotte Bartlette (Maggie Smith) sitting in a wild flower meadow eating pears:

Charlotte: I find the cornflower the most delightful of flowers.
Eleanor: I prefer something bolder - the reckless rose, the tempestuous tulip.

Don't you think that perfectly describes the tulip's character?

Well wonder of wonders (and with a lot of hinting!) my son brought me a bunch of tempestuous pink tulips last night.  They started letting themselves go within half an hour of putting them in water!  Apparently the stem carries on growing once picked.  However I saw a tip somewhere - if you stick a pin through the stem just under the head they will stand up again.  I tried it once before and it works - my tulips are upright again.

Saturday, 7 March 2015

Daffs for March and Marie Curie

Last year I was organised enough to make and sell daffodil brooches in time for St David's Day on 1st March and was able to donate £85 to Marie Curie and MacMillan cancer charities.  But this year it just didn't happen.  However Marie Curie's Wear a Daffodil in March fund raiser goes on for the rest of the month so I've made a few anyway. 

I normally just sell through my Facebook page and locally to friends and family but just in case anyone that reads this would like one just let me know.  £2.00 covers postage and £1.50 goes to the appeal.  Leave a comment or email on

Thursday, 5 March 2015

World Book Day 2015 and the book I'd never lend

Which book would you never lend the presenter asks the guest on a Radio 4 programme each week.  An impossible question for me and many others of course, but if I did have to choose I think it might be my copy of Lowri by Grace Roberts, a local writer.  Its basically a love story (that ends unhappily for Lowri) but it beautifully describes Welsh rural life at the end of the 19th century in my neck of the woods.

Lowri lives in the fictional village Llanara but it could be any of the villages set around our small market town, though I always imagine it as one of the hamlets out to the west where the sun sets.  My copy, bought in a charity shop somewhere, is signed by Grace herself and there's an inscription from her to a Geraint Morgan which to me makes it special and a copy I would never willingly lend out.

I may be getting sentimental in my old age but re-reading the Prologue is enough to bring a tear to my eye.  If you have time I'd love you to read it below and perhaps if you like what you read seek out a copy for yourself - you don't need to be local to enjoy it, nor even Welsh. There are four copies on ebay right now at ridiculously low prices.

I tried to research Grace when I first found the book but there was not much to find.  As far as our local library knew she did not write another book. Looking again now with all the resources of the internet at my fingertips, there is still nothing recorded about her. I might try and track her down on Ancestry and at least find her birth and death records - just for my own satisfaction.

On the same detective tack, I recently bought a small photograph taken in 1908 at Criccieth.  I thought I'd try and find out a bit more and searched the 1911 census for 10 Arvonia Terrace. 

Low and behold it seems one Mary Agnes Long was the only inhabitant.  A single lady aged 70 and a superannuated teacher, ie retired and in receipt of a pension I believe.  Also recorded is her place of birth, Devonport, Devonshire and her only language being English.  So there she is, Mary tending her front garden with a little help from....... no, I'm afraid even with the miracles of the internet I cannot tell you who her young visitor is!


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