Thursday, 3 December 2015

Unabashed Plug Time

Okay, maybe this is an unabashed plug for my own products but hey, why not?!  You can have fun making these cards, tags and boxes and they can be printed out from your own computer without having to make a trip to the craft store.  Print them on glossy card for best results and either layer them up if you are handing them to the recipient, putting them in with a parcel or don't mind the extra charges.

First up, a card showing my painting of a barn owl in the snow:


 Now for something vintage:


Or this:
Try something a different shape:
Or a mashup of old and new, an extravanganza with its own envelope:
Or try a spot of cross stitch:
You can buy all these and more from here








Friday, 31 July 2015

Going Crackers - Jacobs Cracker Crisps

Uh?  What on earth could this possibly have to do with green issues or crafts?  Absolutely nothing but hey, it is my blog and why not??!  Maybe I want to shout to the rooftops how great they are, which is absolutely true.  They come in three flavors Sour Cream and Chive (my favorite), Thai Sweet Chilli and Salt and Balsamic Vinegar.  Are they a cracker or a crisp?  A bit of both and no, nobody is paying me to say this.  I got them from BzzAgent which can be joined right here so you can try out a few things and let people know what you think, just like I am doing right now.

Jacobs has been making tasty treats since 1850 and are still going strong.  It was started by baker William Jacob in Waterford, Ireland and in 1885 the cream cracker was born.  Now they are based in Aintree, Essex and still baking merrily away bringing out old and new snacks for us to enjoy if you live in the UK at least, not sure about other countries.  Visiting their website makes me want to start making out my shopping list!

I can heartily recommend Cracker Crisps anyway, available in most good supermarkets.  A good supermarket is one that sells things like this...

Friday, 24 July 2015

Fun With A Bun

That's it, fun with a bun.  Not the sort you find in a bakery and eat, but the sort you wear on your head and a pretty band to go around it once it is up.  This helps stop the pins falling out and breaking the vacuum cleaner, and also finishes if off nicely.  Updos are really in right now, and so are leathercrafts.  The beads are made from leather offcuts, and the bun ring is made from old stockings and tights.  Yes I know you can buy them in shops, but if you make your own you can choose the color to go with your hair instead of being limited by the usually three colors they are sold in.  This one is a reddish shade and matches my own hair.

How do you make these items?  You need to get the latest issue of Bead Me magazine, available at the iTunes store here.  There are lots of other projects to make as well as this, which also includes instructions on actually putting up the bun once you have made the ring. Sometimes it is not only easy being green, but fun too...

Wednesday, 22 July 2015

Big Butterfly Count

Have you signed up for the Big Butterfly Count yet?  If you live in the UK Butterfly Conservation wants you to log how many butterflies you see every day between 17 July and 9 August.  You don't have to have a garden to do so, you can see them out and about anywhere where you live.  Sign up here, it is not too late.

Here is one you are bound to see at some point (I hope):





Yes, it is a Small Tortoiseshell.  This one is on a buddleia growing in my garden that I didn't even have to plant, they are that profusive and now a wild plant although not a native of the British Isles.  If you don't have one and want one you can find out more about them at The Urban Butterfly Garden website here and get sent to the Thompson and Morgan website.  Be warned, most of them grow rather large but you can get dwarf ones now so there is something for everybody, including a patio or balcony.




A comma, not seen by me for several years now.  They are on the wing from spring until autumn and again, consult that useful website to find out more about them and what to grow to attract them here  Guess what, they also love buddleias!

A pearl bordered fritillary, more of a woodland specialist so not actually seen in my garden.  Adults seem to love brambles and various other woodland plants like bluebells and the caterpillars enjoy munching various violets.  One attribute is they are one of the very few butterflies to obligingly open out flat when resting so are very easy to photograph!  Find out more here

Now sign up, do your bit for conservation and see what you can spot in your area!







Sunday, 21 June 2015

Having A Field Day

I know, I know.  I am not the world's best blogger but rest assured that I have been out and about and will be reporting back about it all.  Things I have done for the 30 Days' Wild since my last posting have included:

*  Noticing which flowers attract pollinators and which don't, especially in my garden.
* Photographing more wild flowers and escapes
* Smelling all the roses I can find!
* Yes I did get to dance in the rain but only once as we are having a drought
* Maintaining the more valuable (ie those attracting pollinators) plants in my garden and weeding out others
* Having a field day...

Here!
Buckfast Abbey, home to a remarkable building constructed from scratch by only six monks only one of whom was a mason!  It took 32 years starting in 1907 but was well worth the effort as you can see.  Also home to the notorious "Bucky" which if you are Scottish you will know more about than the average Devonian ('nuff said) and Brother Adam, who bred a unique type of bee known as the Buckfast bee which is resistant to disease and stings less.  You can see them everywhere here, because they have planted the right plants!  We arrived before 9.30 and the restaurant does not open until 10 so there was plenty of time for chilling out and watching the bees.
Geraniums.  Not the pelargonium type or the red ones with the addictive scent but this simpler variety.  It was everywhere and covered with bees.
Lavender of the English and French varieties.  The French was out in force being earlier but the other types were just coming out.  You can see how hot it was, a glorious "flaming June" day and again alive with bees because all varieties of lavender attract them.
Honeysuckle, another popular plant with pollinators.  So you can see that it wasn't just me that was having a field day, the bees were too!






Monday, 8 June 2015

Poppies & Pimpernel

What did I do over the weekend?  I went shopping on Saturday and didn't manage to spot anything of interest apart from in the shops!  On Sunday I spent some time in the garden...signed up for The Big Butterfly Count which runs from 17 July to 9 August.  You can do this here if you live in the UK.  I did it last year and managed to see a few, but sadly I see fewer every year.  I remember as a child "cabbage whites" munching their way through the brassicas but now these are getting scarcer.  I can even remember being very young and seeing my last Large Tortoiseshell whose population crash was linked to their food plant the elm.

On a brighter note I spotted a red poppy (going over so I didn't photograph it) and one of my very favorite wild flowers, cow parsley:

Rather a blurry image due to the wind, and it doesn't even look much like cow parsley!  It is however, and this plant (aka Queen Anne's Lace) conjures up images of going on vacation as a child and stopping in laybys for a snack.  It is also getting more common due to it not getting eaten by farm animals as verges used to be or cut for hay but being trimmed by councils and the trimmings left in place.  These enrich the soil too much for most wild plants which prefer poor soil, and so a few robust large species flourish like this one which likes richer soil and is a member of the carrot family.  Do not grow it in your garden or it will take over, do not eat it as it is poisonous.  Another similar-looking plant (though not of the same family) is giant cow parsley aka giant hogweed which is a lot more poisonous even to the touch and looks like a huge version, growing up to at least 16'.  Another plant that looks attractive but not in your back yard!

Smaller and less obvious is scarlet pimpernel.  Another blurry photo due to the sea breezes:
I must try and get a better one but I keep getting very funny looks from people as I take my flower photos.  I could understand it if I was taking shots of manhole covers or bins but then it might look as if I worked for the council...oh well.  The flowers only open when the sun shines hence its old name "poor man's weatherglass".  There is also a rarer blue form which I have never seen, despite it being associated with south west England where I live.  It is not native to this country but very widespread these days and I cannot find out any creatures that pollinate it but it grows well on poor, light limey soils.  You can buy it to put in your own backyard wildflower meadow right here.
 


Friday, 5 June 2015

Periwinkles & Pokers

On my walk along the seafront today I could see that the red hot pokers were in full bloom.  These always grow on the cliffs every year in some profusion, and are yet another garden escape that has become naturalized.  It is rather depressing to see how few native wild plants there are around here, maybe they have been crowded out by these brash, robust incomers.  This plant origiinated in South Africa and is hardy - after all, it has come from a place chilly enough to have penguins!  There are many cultivated varieties and you can find out more about growing them in your garden here and buy them from Mr Digwell here if you live in the UK.  In their native country they are pollinated by birds, here by bees.  When I was a child just about every garden was full of them including ours.  Now you don't see them so often.
Note the slightly bigger photo.

Growing on the edge of the beach and in clumps in various other spots I also spotted periwinkle.  This is lesser periwinkle vinca minor, and you can buy this pretty plant here which is pollinated by bees and is poisonous so no tasting!  It is a hardy, tough plant that grows just about anywhere and can be invasive, but makes a good ground cover.
I had no idea how much I was going to learn doing this! 



Thursday, 4 June 2015

Ragwort

It is Day Four of the 30 Days Wild challenge and don't think I didn't do anything yesterday because I did!  I went into my own garden and had a look around - more about that another time.  Today it was fine and bright so I went for the same walk and took this picture:
This was on the very edge of the beach near the mallow and growing in clumps.  Looking it up back home I could see that it was a type of ragwort, but I was not sure which variety.  It most resembles Oxford Ragwort, which is not a native plant to the UK unlike several other ragworts but which is often seen growing on waste ground.  If you are concerned about ragwort being poisonous or a nuisance there is a whole website devoted to myth busting here which is useful.  Common Ragwort is a more useful plant which is important to the existence of many insects, some of them rare and vital to the cinnabar moth which is in decline.  Oxford Ragwort arrived in the UK in the early years of the 18th century where is was put in the Oxford Botanical Gardens as an ornamental plant.  It escaped and spread, spreading further with the advent of the railways until it was a common sight everywhere.  I used to live in Oxford and know the Botanical Gardens well.  It is the oldest botanical garden in the UK and has a website here so you can see how lovely it is. 


Tuesday, 2 June 2015

Lavatera

It is Day Two of the 30 Days Wild challenge.  Again I did the longer walk and instantly spotted a pretty flowering plant growing on the beach and elsewhere.  Here it is:






Back at my keyboard I looked it up and discovered it was a type of Lavatera, the mallow family.  I am not sure which one as it frankly did not exactly resemble any of the photos, but it is happy growing right on the edge of the beach amongst the pebbles.  You can also find it growing out of walls, up on the cliffs and all over so I imagine it is a garden escape as it did not look that much like the wild Marsh Mallow despite its penchant for growing in salty places.  I can't discover either whether it is popular with pollinators, but it is widely available if anybody wants to grow one and has lovely leaves.

I snapped a couple of other pictures and could only see garden escapes, so I will have to look elsewhere for something truly wild.  In the meantime it is still wet and very windy but at least I have learned something today.



Monday, 1 June 2015

It's Partee Time!

No, I haven't stopped being able to spell.  This is a rather feeble pun on the word "tee" as this is the third in the series of sporty cards aimed at Fathers Day, and also aimed at recycling bits of your craft stash.  In this case you can use up oddments of card, or even colored envelopes to make a card for the golfing Dad, or golfing afficionado of either sex you want to send a greeting to. 

Amass the following items:


Shopping List:
Basic card kit plus:



White card blank 5” x 7”
Pale blue card or paper to cover the front
Scraps of gray, white, green and gold card
Adhesive stones from Papermania Docrafts
Computer program with Acklin font or similar
Permanent marker pens in red, blue and green



Instructions For Golf Card:


  1. Cut a piece of white card 10" x 7" and score down the middle.  Cover front of card with pale blue card.  Cut out from templates a gray golf club, white tee and ball and gold crown.


 A template for the gold crown:


A template for the gray golf club:

Finally a template for the white golf tee:

2)  Cut a strip of green card 14cm (5”) across and draw zig zag lines up and down to resemble grass.  Cut out and assemble all these on the card as shown.





3. Stick adhesive stones onto the crown, and add smaller ones onto the points.  




4. Choose a chunky masculine font like Acklin (available in Word) and print out the words “It’s Par tee Time!” about 5/8” high.  Transfer to the card using a fine embossing tool and ink in with a black pen all but the letters “tee”.

Here is the printout being transferred.  You will be able to see the indentations if you press hard, or use some carbon paper.

Coloring in the letters with permanent markers on the gold flash.  You could use a paler flash made of non shiny paper or card if you want to use ordinary waterbased felt tip pens.

All done anyway and just the football card to go. 

 



 


Going Wild!

Perhaps that should be blowing wild, as although today is the 1 June and the first day of 30 Days Wild weatherwise it is not quite what I had hoped.  Blowing a gale and with squally showers it does not bode well for the first month of the summer, but this is Britain and nature carries on regardless.  You can find out more about 30 Days Wild at http://www.mywildlife.org.uk/30dayswild/ but sadly you are a wee bit late to sign up for it.  Never mind, you can read what I am doing and maybe be inspired to do the same.

The idea is to do something different every day for a month that puts you in touch with the wild world.  As humans we are part of the wild world, but becoming less so.  Now here is a great excuse to get back in touch with nature!  So, what did I do today then?

Took the long way around home which meant going down the road until shops and houses run out and I am on the beach.  Then turning around and instead of going back the way I had come I went along the beach path and up over the cliffs.  Past the piles of lobster pots and beached fishing boats, past the rows of pastel beach huts, the cafe on the beach (deserted) and past...the vegetation.  I want to try and find out more about this and see if anything would be suitable for my own garden if it attracts pollinators.  Living in East Devon not far from Lyme Regis the cliffs are unstable and keep eroding.  This means that there are not just garden esapes but plants growing on the cliff edges that used to be in gardens.  You used to be able to see tiled floors when I first moved here.  Resplendent up here is this plant, red valerian:





Pretty, isn't it?  You can buy it here http://www.crocus.co.uk/plants/_/centranthus-ruber/classid.750/ to grow in the garden and it is salt tolerant, a good plant to choose for seaside gardens that have neutral to alkaline soil that is well drained and rather on the poor side, just like the soil in my own garden.  Looking at it on the Wildlife Trust's own site here http://www.wildlifetrusts.org/species/red-valerian you can discover that it is also good for bees, butterflies and moths like the hummingbird hawk moth, one of the few hawk moths that I have actually seen.

I also saw bumblebees on dog roses which I stopped to smell, but not of course on the more usual type of rose.  They might smell much the same but the flat, single type is the one to grow not the tightly curled variety.  Bees and other pollinators need to be able to get inside, and many fancy "garden center" types of plants are sterile.  Rosa rugosa is a good choice, a nice red color to match the valerian!

Now it is raining again and they are giving out weather warnings.  I might venture forth later, but in the meantime here are some of the things I plan to do this month:

1) Find out more about the wild plants I see everyday where I live.

2) Do a garden bioblitz when I get a nice fine day.

3) Before I pull up "weeds" try and find out what they do for nature.

4) Get my pond sorted out.  Not a lot going on in there - why?

5) Take my walk further than I did today.

There are things to do every day for the first week at the Devon Wildlife Trust's website.  Check out http://www.devonwildlifetrust.org/random-acts-of-wildness/

Saturday, 25 April 2015

Racing Car Card

Here's another potential Fathers Day or birthday card for the petrolhead in your life.  Petrolhead of either sex I hasten to add.  You can personalize the card by using a local map and clay in the recipient's favorite color of the color of their car.  It also does not have read DAD of course.





Shopping List:
Basic card kit plus
White card blank 14cm x 18cm (5” x 7”)
Map
Polymer clay in red, black and white
Scraps of white card
Silver peel-off lettering
Computer program with Acklin font or similar
Foil tray


Instructions:



 1.Cover front of card with map.  Cut out eight exhaust shapes using the leftover white card.

 
  
2. Roll out polymer clay to a thickness of about 2mm and lay the relevent templates on top; cut around using a craft knife or clay tools.  Lay car body onto a foil tray and assemble.  Bake as to manufacturer’s instructions.




3. Choose a chunky masculine font like Acklin (available in Word) and print out the word Dad in letters about 4.5cm (1¾“) high and transfer to red card using a fine embossing tool.  Cut out and stick in bottom right hand corner of card.



4. Stick peeloff letters reading Happy in top left hand of card and glue car onto bottom left hand area.  Postion and stick down the exhaust shapes to look as if they are billowing across the card and write Birthday in black letters, one in each.



 

Wednesday, 22 April 2015

Make A Racket!

Or a racquet if you are into spelling.  With the warmer weather upon us it might be time to think of getting fit and playing a sport.  Or even if this is not for you maybe making a card for somebody keen on that sort of thing is more your bag. With Father's Day coming up I am going to be posting some ideas for men's cards and this is the first one.
 


These four cards (yes I can count but this is just the first one) were made using just basic craft materials like coloured card, metallic thread, polymer clay and peel-offs.  Add in a computer for more lettering and clipart options and you have everything you need to make some simple but effective cards. Most men don't like fussy cards after all, do they...

Shopping List:
Basic card kit plus:
White card blank 5½“
Lime card or paper to cover the front
Scraps of black, red and white card
Silver thread (eg Madeira Metallic No6 Silver)
Needle
Masking tape
Pricking mat and tool

General Instructions For All Cards:

Using a sheet of A4 white card cut blank to size.  For the 14cm² (5½“²) cards you will need to cut a shape 14cm x 28cm (5½“ x 11”) and score down the middle with a craft knife or bone folder to make the fold.  Don’t throw the rest away; you will need it for all the scraps of white card mentioned in the Shopping List. 

For the 14cm x 18cm (5” x 7”) cards you will need to cut a shape 28cm x 18cm (10” x 7”). 

To make the templates either print, scan and photocopy or trace the pattern pieces onto card. 



  1. Cover front of card with lime card.  Cut out a racquet from black card (not too thin) and cut out the centre.
   

2. Using a pricking mat and tool prick out all the holes.
 
  
 3. Thread up a needle with a length of the thread.  Find the bottom centre hole and count it as one; count six more and bring the thread up through the hole.  Attach at the back with a piece of masking tape.  Take the thread up and push the needle down into the corresponding hole in front, and then bring it up through the next hole and repeat.  Do this all the way along the racquet until you reach the same place on the opposite side.  Cut thread and secure.


4. Do this all the way along the racquet until you reach the same place on the opposite side.  Cut thread and secure.


 
5. Next you string along the horizontal lines.  Find the bottom centre hole again and count it as one; count three more and bring the thread up through the hole.  To string this way you need to weave the needle under and over the vertical threads, then down the opposite hole and up the next one.  Repeat going under and over different threads to resemble a real racquet.  If you need to attach new threads do so in the same way.


6. Stick the racquet to the card and cut out a circle 2cm (¾”) in white card; stick this in the bottom left area.  Attach peel-off letters to spell Having A Ball in the top right hand corner.

Or Happy Birthday or of course Happy Fathers Day.  Simple but effective and like all the best handmade cards requiring more effort than actual cash.


Friday, 17 April 2015

Bee Friendly

What is nicer than standing in a garden filled with flowers and the sound of buzzing bees?  Add in some other pollinating insects and a few butterflies and you are on the way to a well balanced eco system.  If your garden is filled with flowers but is strangely silent there is a simple reason.  You are growing the wrong plants!  There may be other factors but garden centers and catalogs are filled with brightly colored showy flowers which are no use for pollinating insects. Many have no pollen or fancy tight shapes (eg double flowers) that nothing can get inside.  This is particularly true of bumblebees, and without pollinators or "real" plants we run the risk of losing vital crops as we rely on these creatures to do this.  In the last fifty years the UK has lost 95% of its flower meadows but there are a lot of gardens, so it is up to garden owners to help out.  

Here is a list of the garden villains which do no good.  How many do you have?



. Begonia
. Busy Lizzie - Impatiens
. Geranium - Pelargonium
. Hydrangea
. Livingstone daisy - Mesembryanthemum
. Pansy
. Petunia
. Polyanthus
. Scarlet salvia / Salvia splendens 

Most of these have been bred to look impressive to humans and of course nobody wants their garden filled with weeds or insignificant "wild" plants.  However there are a lot of plants that look just as pretty but which will soon have the garden buzzing again.  Here are photos of four of them:


FEBRUARY: A crocus, nice and early and easy to obtain.  This will help bees when they are looking for nesting sites early in the year.

MARCH: A wild primrose, also early but most assuredly not a polyanthus!



APRIL: A beautiful, sweetly scented bluebell.  In April the bee's nest is growing and the young need plenty of food.  This is a plant that looks best in profusion and needs to be planted under trees but not in deep shade.
MAY: Foxgloves are a tall, stately flower that is very easy to grow and will help the bees as the year goes towards summer. 


Here is a list of a few more:


. Berberis
. Bluebell
. Broom
. Bugle
. Comfrey
. Crocus
. Dicentra
. Flowering currant
. Hellebore
. Lungwort
. Mahonia
. Muscari
. Pieris
. Pussy willow
. Rosemary
. Skimmia
. Viburnum
. Winter heather 

All early plants that are around as I write this.  Too late to plant them now, but when you are planning what to plant for next spring do spare a thought for the pollinators who make it possible for most things to grow.   

Of course, not all varieties of these plants attract anything other than people.  A good catalog, website or garden center ought to have some symbols that show if a plant is good for nature.  The yellow RHS "Perfect For Pollinators" is one to look out for.

Next time it is back to the crafts!



 


Saturday, 4 April 2015

Coloring Crazy!

I do love to dive into whatever the latest craze is.  Line dancing, Scoubidou, loom bands, soutache...coloring books!  As a child I spent many a happy hour absorbed in a coloring book and as an adult missed that zen-like trance they put me into.  Nothing else quite hits the spot, does it?  Then I read that in France coloring books were outselling cookery books and when you think of the French and their passion for cuisine this meant this was one major craze.  Of course I had to get in on the act too and dug out every coloring tool I could locate (quite a lot but quantity rather than quality).  If you are like me and favor pens over pencils and don't have a lot of cash to splurge on the pricier brands you buy the budget packs in stores like W H Smith.  This means you require detailed pictures 'cos the pens run out so fast, and anyway these are ADULT coloring books not kiddy ones.  Here then are a trio of designs to print out and color in.  Let me know if you like them, and if you don't...
This is Mandala A.  Can you think of a more interesting title for it?  I hope so...
And this is Mandala B.  An all over design this time to keep it interesting.  I don't want them all to look the same...
Mandala C.  If you belong to a coloring group on Facebook do post your work so we can all see it.

But what do you do with a coloring book when the pages have all been filled in?  Use it as inspiration for another project perhaps.  Crafty Computer Paper has transfers you can iron on dark or light fabrics, fabric you can actually print on and all sorts of other things to do with ink and various crafts.  Of course you cannot break coopyright laws unless your picture is public domain but you can use it for inspiration or make your own in a graphics program as I have done with PSP.