A different creative project each week…from children's parties to sewing curtains

Monday, 25 March 2013

Three Easter crafts

This week I have put together three easy craft projects that are perfect for Easter. I hope you will enjoy reading about them and maybe have a go at making them on your own, or maybe with a child!

First are these adorable little eggs, which are perfect for filling up with chocolate mini-eggs. I made them with my little girls who helped with the cutting, sticking and then sewing.

First I cut out a template of an egg about 12cm long from thick cardboard. I also cut out one slightly smaller for the patterned fabric. You need two felt eggs made from the larger template and one smaller patterned egg. I then used bondaweb to stick the patterned fabric onto one of the felt eggs, but you could use fabric glue or sew them together.

Then I cut a zigzagged line across the second felt shape to look like a cracked egg.

Here is Jessie sewing the two felt eggs together around the bottom of the egg using embroidery thread.

We filled our eggs up with mini-eggs and look forward to handing them out in the coming week.

With Spring looking less and less likely to ever turn up I have decided to bring some colour and fun into our home with these brightly coloured tree branches.

I selected some branches from the garden, scraped off the dirty layer of bark and dried them for a day or two.

Then I set about making the leaves for my Spring branches. I made a leaf template that I drew around onto all the scraps of paper that I have. I used a variety of scrap-book paper, wrapping paper and wall paper.

Each leaf needs two layers of paper with some garden wire sandwiched between. Now you can twist the wire onto your branch to display your leaf as desired.

I found the easiest way to do this was to wrap the wire around the branch several times and then stick another leaf on the end of the wire to finish it off.  This project did take a while, but it is not hard. Perhaps a good one to do whilst watching TV!

As a Christian Easter is one of my favourite celebrations. The centre of my faith is around Jesus coming back to life after being so brutally killed. The cross could not contain Jesus, and so Easter celebrates all that Jesus accomplished.

I wanted to make something for our home that would celebrate the empty cross, and so I had fun making this simple and yet profound picture. I used an IKEA frame and removed the glass. I cut strips of tissue paper and layered them over the glass and then stuck them on. I made sure there was always a layer of glue under and over each strip of tissue paper.

I have heard lots of American crafters talking about ModPodge and finally found some in Hobbycraft. I enjoyed using it, but I think you can get the exact same effect using PVA glue.

The following day the glue had dried and I was able to put the glass back into the frame, minus the cardboard back. This allows the sun to stream through the picture making it look like a stain glass window.

I then added a cardboard cross that I cut out and stuck straight onto the front of the glass. Had I done this project before I think I would have stuck the cross onto the glass first and then stuck the tissue paper over, but you learn as you go!

I hope you have a wonderful Easter and that you know something of Jesus' deep love for you. Let me leave you with these words of Jesus himself…

'I am the Way, the Truth and the Life'

Monday, 18 March 2013

Cake Pops

Cake Pops are a tasty and creative alternative to cupcakes.
They are easy but time consuming to make, and I haven't met a person who doesn't love them!

I love making them for parties or just as treats for the children after school. This recipe makes 25-35 Cake Pops that can be stored in the fridge for up to a week.

You will need to make a sponge cake, I normally make a chocolate cake but you can use any flavour cake (plain, lemon, coffee etc). This is a basic chocolate cake recipe:

6oz Soft Butter
6oz Sugar
3 eggs
5oz Self Raising Flour
2 oz cocoa

Lots of bakers insist on creaming butter and sugar together first. Personally I have found no difference in the cake if you put all ingredients into the mixer and blend them together, though I find the longer you can leave them - ideally several minutes - mixing then lighter the sponge.

Put your sponge mixture into a baking tin and bake at 180 degrees for 25 minutes or until cooked. Leave to cool.

While your cake is cooling, mix up the icing (flavoured as your cake):

2oz soft butter
1oz Cocoa Powder
4oz Icing sugar
Dash of Milk

Now break the cake into a bowl using your hands so that you end up with fine crumbs. Add 2 rounded tablespoons of the icing. Again with your hands knead the icing into the cake (slowly add more icing until it gels together). Fashion into small pingpong sized balls and lay on a baking sheet.

In my typical impatient fashion I like to freeze my cake balls, but you can refrigerate yours for 3 hours if you have the time. Once they are firm to touch you are ready to decorate.

You can use Candy Melts, from HobbyCraft, which come in all sorts of colours, or normal chocolate - plain, milk or white. The covering in the photos is caramel flavour that I bought at a cake shop.

Melt slowly in the microwave or over a heatproof bowl set over a saucepan of simmering water.  Once melted the texture should be like runny yogurt. If you need to make it thinner then I suggest adding a tablespoon of sunflower oil to the chocolate or candy melts which loosens the texture.

Dip the end of a lollypop stick into the melted chocolate/candy melt, before pushing it firmly into each cake pop. This will make the cake pop much more stable. Then dip them into the melted chocolate/candy. Coat evenly and gently tap on the side to get rid of any excess coating.

   If you are decorating the cake pops it is essential that you do it straight away as the chocolate/candy melts will harden against the cold cake pops almost immediately.

You can decorate with 100s and 1000s, drizzly chocolate,  Edible Butterflies, sprinkles etc before the chocolate or candy sets.  You can leave the finished cake pop to dry on a baking sheet or you can see from the photo above that I put oasis into a container and prodded each cake pop into it.

I made these little Easter cake pop chicks using small triangles of red fondant icing and poking holes through the yellow candy melts to make eyes. As you can see from the photo of my grown-up brother cake pops aren't just for children!

Monday, 11 March 2013

Cheats WaterColour

When I was a teenager my generous Aunty and Uncle bought me a watercolour set that I have adored ever since. I enjoyed using it for my A Level art project, but in recent years I have not used it and have become increasingly scared of it!

But with my newly acquired art room needing some pretty pictures I decided to have a go at painting some portraits of the children.

This blog entry is a hideous reflection on how much of a cheat I am, but I am so thrilled with the results that I hope you might find it in your hearts to forgive me and maybe even try some painting yourself.

Firstly I located a picture of each child. I quickly discovered that the best photos to use were the ones you had to enlarge. The fewer pixels meant it was easier to pick out the tones. You can see from this photo I have chosen Jessie (top left). Her face has a light and dark shadows which again will help you work out the colour tones.

I use a Mac, but I understand on most computers there is the ability to mess around with your images.

Here I have enlarged her face, then go onto the 'Edit' button and then 'Adjust'. I was able to move the levels around to create a black and white image with the contrast between the black and white tones as stark as I could.

I copied the image to a word document, creating it the exact size I want.
Once I printed the image, I laid it onto some good quality watercolour paper and drew around the dark areas of the image using a biro.

Ideally you want to keep these lines fairly simple. If necessary you can go back over the image later.

Once you have finished remove the image to reveal the marks you have made.

Now it is a case of picking one or two colours that you fill in the shapes. I used a red for the darkest areas and a yellow for the lighter shaded parts. Nothing should be painted over the white areas on your image. You need to constantly refer back to your printed image to work out what needs colouring or not.

Watercolours are a fun and easy medium to use. I know it sounds obvious but you should use lots of water to pull your colours around.

Once your basic shapes are there then you can add more detail like the eyes, nose and teeth. If this scares you then keep it simple.

Up close it looks like blodges of colour, but once you stand back the image comes together.  If you are more brave than me you should try more colours. 

As you can see I certainly became more confident as I went on.

I know this painting is cheating, but it was a great encouragement to me that I could pick up a paint brush and create something simple and yet beautiful. I love having photos of my children, but there is something so lovely and charming about a portrait painting, especially one you have done yourself.

This post is dedicated to my very creative Aunty Jenny and my fabulous Uncle Richard for providing me with the watercolour set in the first place!

Monday, 4 March 2013

5 minutes projects

For many of us life is full and frantic and the thought of spending hours on hobbies or crafts is a dream that starts and ends reading a blog like this!

In an attempt to encourage you into creativity this week I am blogging three 5-minute projects that anyone can accomplish.

Pretty FlowerPots 

For the first project you will need empty cans, double sided sticky tape and decorative paper (wrapping paper, wall paper or scrap paper will be perfect).

I measured the height of each can, and to ensure I cut my paper in a straight line I aways fold it first making sure the edge of the paper lines up. This will ensure the width of the paper is the same all the way along. I used sticky tape on both edges of the paper and carefully stick the paper onto the can and then wrapped it around.
You can see from this photo that I have used different shaped cans, and different paper, though with some pretty flowers these brightly coloured cans have added some real flavour to my table.

I love that this project is not only quick and easy, but that it uses old and cheap materials and brings so much cheer.

It took me 4-minutes to make all four of these cans.

Scrummy Chocolate Lollypops 

I love handing my children something delicious to eat straight after school.

These fun chocolate lolly-pops are so easy to make and you can vary the theme easily.

Firstly I melt a bar of Tesco Value White Chocolate (30p a bar) in the microwave. I put half the chocolate in a microwavable bowl and put it in for 30 seconds at a time. Stir well after each 30 seconds and once it is all melted add the remaining chocolate and stir until all melted.

Whilst the chocolate is in the microwave I draw around a roll of tape onto some baking paper. If you use a dark enough pen you can turn the paper over and still see the mark on the other side.

I do this to ensure that all my lolly pops are the same size and so I don't get any unhappy children!

Once the chocolate is melted lay lollypop sticks onto the round shapes and gently pour the chocolate over the circles.

Whilst this is cooling melt one small square of dark chocolate in the same way (though with so little chocolate you will not need long at all).

With a spoon drizzle some of the dark chocolate over the white chocolate (see the two lollypops on the right), and using a knife or lollypop stick pull the chocolate around to create a marbled effect (see the two lollypops on the left).

Once you have completed the marbling you can add any flavours you fancy.

I sprinkled freeze-dried strawberries, but you could use smarties, toffee pieces, cranberries, fudge or sprinkles.

These took just under 5 minutes to make, which included the time it takes to melt the chocolate. It takes almost an hour to set at room temperature.

Lovely Pin Cushions

To make these sweet pin cushion you will need some pretty fabric, some wadding or cottonwood, a small container (like these mini buckets or an old tea cup) and a hairband. These buckets were £1 from Hobbycraft.
Turn the fabric over so the print is unseen. Place the wadding or cotton wool in the middle of the fabric and wrap the fabric around the fabric. Collect up the edges and tie together with a hairband or elastic band.

If you want to trim off the excess fabric do, then place it into your receptacle.

I didn't need to fasten mine, but you could glue yours onto the bucket or cup using a glue gun.

This took me under a minute and has proven to be a very useful addition to my craft room.