Please support the last Action Pack Magazine


I was surprised to find a picture from this project I sent off for the Whip Up Action Pack back in 2013 in my Inbox this morning.

Anyone familiar with Whip Up will know that the publisher, Kathreen Ricketson and her husband Rob both sadly died in an accident two years ago. Days after I sent this project off I received that heartbreaking news. 

With the help of Kathreen's family and friends, that issue is now being published. It will be the last Action Pack Magazine published. 

Whip Up was an incubator for the Internet craft movement. And Kathreen was more than a curator of photos and projects. She was a conversation starter, brilliant writer, editor and maker too. 

Many people met through the community built around Whip Up all those years ago when craft blogs were young. I used to check Whip Up each morning, it was a treat to read before starting my day – I'm sure thousands of others did the same. 

Kathreen and Rob's two children will receive all of the proceeds from the sales of Action Pack. What a lovely tribute it would make to help this issue sell like crazy. Please buy it. Even if you have no children, sit down and get stuck into the projects yourself.

Please spread the word. Learn more about Action Pack Magazine here.  And go here to purchase the latest or past issues.

UPDATE: Sadly, Whip Up and Action Pack are no longer available. It became difficult for friends and family to carry on managing the sites. The Whip Up community will be missed, but I'm personally grateful for friends made there and the countless hours of enjoyable reading both provided.

Go on, go share those links.


Fabric gift box or bag, tutorial – in time for Christmas!

Fabric gift box
Fabric box/bag with unfinished edges

I made a necklace for a friend recently and had no spare box or bag to package it in so I thought it was a good time to try out making a gift box I'd been mulling over in my mind for a while. I used buckram to support this box, which really has more of a bag look to it.

Inside gift box
Inside the box is lined

I'd bought buckram to use for making fairy hats for Gracie when she was younger and somewhat girlier and I massively over bought the stuff. The type of buckram I bought is used for making roll-up shades; it's white, thin and foldable (not sure that word exists). I've thought of many uses for it since then but haven't followed through on any ideas yet apart from this one. I know it exists in heavier, more hessian style weights and I'm sure that would be a great support material for larger jobs.

This box is just a few inches tall. I sandwiched the buckram between two layers of fabric using fusible webbing and I left the edges unfinished. I've created a quick template in the actual size I used but it could easily be scaled up or down. As I uploaded these images the box has reminded me of fabric lunchbags so there are probably similar templates around. If you'd like this one here is the Fabric Box Template and tutorial in a PDF file to download.

I also thought they'd be easy to make for wedding favours, they could be dressed up or down with lace or flowers, buttons, rubber stamps...

Grace car driver

Yesterday was spent on some belated birthday present activity, as you can see, Gracie is way beyond the fairy hat making stage, now she prefers being a "Gracecar" driver ;)

Children went back to school today after half-term break, time to catch up.

Have a great week.


autumn views and new workshop

Autumn 20131

So many pretty views right now, looking up or looking down. This Picasa collage is not great but I'm being lazy at the end of a long week.
Dog & butterfly


Naomi and I are back at Moorish for another felt workshop soon. She's over committed on commissions for Christmas already so we'll be teaching people how to make their own pets from fleece. As the Spring Grove Alpaca and sheep herd has grown so has the colour range. Find out more about the workshops here.

I've gone through my current stack of books and recently returned to classics. The Heart is a Lonely Hunter by, Carson McCullers and Sweet Thursday by, Steinbeck. I loved them both so much. It's astonishing that McCullers was only twenty-three when she wrote The Heart is a Lonely Hunter. And while reading Sweet Thursday I was struck by how all the issues in the novel are so relevant today, especially concerns about overpopulation. I've always loved Steinbeck and Sweet Thursday made me want to re-read Cannery Row, as Steinbeck revisited the same characters.

Do you have any favourite classics?

Tonight the BBC were recording here in our tiny village and visiting our monthly music club that Tristan has performed at several times. I usually go but a silly cold kept me in tonight. Rumour has it they were here to record the local brother duo Ben & Alfie. They are brilliant to see live and they were just shortlisted for the BBC2 Young Folk Awards – have a listen.

And speaking of listening, Matthew Oomen's new music has been helping me through some creative yet sometimes tedious jobs this week; it can be downloaded here.

I'll be back soon with that template and tutorial mentioned previously.

Have a great weekend. x

Updated - Forgot to mention the dog and the butterfly were made by Naomi Stannard.


come sail away, a new project and giveaway

Cork sailors - pirates

The latest Action Pack by Whip-Up is out and this special Water Edition is brilliant, not that they aren't all brilliant. It is full of fantastic water-related projects and activities. As usual, this e-mag is great for a varied age range and I know we will be diving into it time and again.

This edition features a recycled boat making project by me*, and also a Cork Sailors and Pirates tutorial that shows how to make little cork people to ride along in the boats. The Cork Sailors and Pirates project is a special free excerpt from this latest e-mag and publisher, Kathreen is offering it up here.


There are so many wonderful contributors and projects jammed between these virtual pages, it's a pleasure to be part of it once again.

As a special treat to regular readers I'm able to offer two free issues as a giveaway courtesy of Kathreen. And as I'm not blogging as much as I once did due to time constraints followers of this space have dwindled so you have a VERY good chance of winning one of these two free editions.

To enter, simply leave a comment on this post by next Thursday, March 7, 2013. The winners will receive this e-mag, all 44 excellent, ad-free pages of it! The e-mag will be delivered in PDF form. I will announce the winners on the evening of March 7, 2013 GMT time.

I have several new makes, a sewing pattern review and an artist review all waiting to be posted here but I just had to share this fun Action Pack first and of course, the giveaway. I highly recommend subscribing to Action Pack if you have children still at home, it's well worth every penny! Don't take my word for it, read what other parents say about it here.

Happy Thursday!


*The boat project first appeared in the Green Parent magazine in the June/July 2010.

long weekends

Having Friday off school due to snow has led to a fun extended weekend for us. Friday was a fantastic yet exhausting day of tobogganing culminating in an impromptu sleep-over with five teenage boys, equally as exhausting - for me. They made a pancake feast Saturday morning and sort of even tidied up afterwards, in a teenage boy kind of way.

Riding for G on Saturday turned into mostly more tobogganing on the fantastic Quantock hills. Now some of the snow has melted but it's still so pretty. More is forecast for tomorrow so the children are crossing every finger and toe for an even longer weekend.

Today mummy has refused to go anywhere. After doing the usual morning chores and returning the most necessary emails I've snuck back to bed with my coffee and stitching. I've been into faces lately, not sure why the faces haven't become complete dollies but I'm sure they will eventually.

Though I've been working a lot lately, this week I'll enjoy squeezing in a project for Whip Up, Action Pack; they have a "water" issue coming up and I know it will be another great one.

I hope your weekend has been fun filled too.


PS, I'm trying out the Typepad app for iPhone, I can't see a way to make links in it and this post might end up looking odd too!

long weekends

long weekends

long weekends

long weekends

candlelight, crafts and mulled wine

Candlelight fair
Candlelight fair in the village church

The first glass of mulled wine always makes me feel like the festivities have truly begun and this week I had one at the village Christmas fair. As this is our first December in the village we get to take part in all the festivities for the first time. 

Our stall
Our table

The candlelight Christmas fair in the village church was a real treat and we were invited to share space on a friend's stall. Gracie and I did some last minute making and nearly sold out which was really fun. She's a born salesperson. At the end of the evening she had a handful of her hand painted bookmarks left so as I was packing away she walked around to the other stall holders and sold them all!

We forgot to take pictures of our things so this is at the end of the fair.

Gift making

Now I'm stitching away at gifts ordered by other people and I'm not too sure if any of my own gift list will get made this year. 

Paint pallettes
Improvised palette

Gracie loves to use real palettes but instead of the bought kind we experimented with turning milk bottles into palettes and found they work brilliantly. The curve of the bottle and the opening is a perfect shape for a thumb. If you paint and have plastic bottles in the house, give it a try.

December skies
December skies

It's been so cold this week but the colour in the skies has been spectacular. The combination of a low winter sun and storms speeding through has made for beautiful views while walking.

Our tree
And the tree goes up

And we got a very pretty tree this year, worth the struggle getting it up too. It's on the large side because we have a tall ceiling but our stand is on the small side; this equals a wobbly situation – it fell twice (me underneath it) but luckily the ornaments weren't on it yet ;) Good thing there's no toddler in the house.

I hope your celebrations are all off to a wonderful start.

Happy Monday,


blustery benefits

In the making

The severe storms we've experienced this week have left some pretty detritus in it's wake. On my walks I've been pocketing these bits and pieces that are littering the ground. I love them. On one of our windiest, rainiest days this week I got so carried away hunting for these pieces that I walked further than intended and returned home soaked all the way down to my toes, even with wellies on. It was worth it though; when I emptied my pockets and saw my treasure, along with the odd slug too, I was giddy. I put it all on a dish, sat the lichen and myself next to the Rayburn and warmed up. 
This little wreath was easy to make and only a little fiddly, this is how I made it:
  • Gather lichen, preferably after a storm and not during one :) Find it on the ground, it flies off trees easily in windy weather, don't pull it off of branches. Lichen love big old trees like oaks. Our local apple orchard was a good hunting ground too, specifically under the oldest, biggest apple trees.
  • Use wire to thread through the slightly thicker parts of the lichen near where it previously was attached to the tree and just keep threading, like stringing popcorn. Pack the lichen together on the wire firmly but gently. (I'm not sure what gage this wire is, it's thin yet strong enough to poke like a needle through the lichen).
  • When you have enough threaded to make a sturdy circle (my wreath is about 13 inches in diametre) twist the ends but don't cut the wire at the twist, cut a long length about four inches longer than the circumference of the circle.
  • On the under side of the wreath loosely string another circle of wire. No need to thread it through every piece, just in four of five places, this will help the wreath hold it's shape and be sturdier.
  • Twist a small loop in the wire for hanging and trim any excess wire. If you have any slightly bald patches, just glue some loose piece of lichen in here and there.

I added a simple gold ribbon but I think I'd prefer a simple silver one. I might try adding some hawthorne berries like in this picture and when I saw some mother of pearl buttons on my desk I couldn't help thinking how lovely they would be dotted around it instead of berries. 
I'm not sure how long this wreath will hold it's colour, if it were to hang outside I'd have made the wreath with fresh lichen instead of dried. I might have to make one for our tiny garden shed. There are loads of lichen filled trees on a hill where I'll be tomorrow (if the floods allow us to travel), I'd better take big pockets. 
My wreath has four or five different types of lichen, if you want to identify the lichen you find there's a great site I've found and a whole society dedicated to the stuff right here, how cool is that?!
It's been an exciting week of weather around here, if you follow me on Instagram you'll have seen some of the craziness. If you're in the UK, no doubt you've seen it in the news.
Hope you're having a smashing weekend.
PS, Grrrrr to Typepad, it won't let me make paragraph breaks. Also, the colour in the second photo isn't as accurate as in the first photo, if your a lichen lover you probably already guessed that ;)

needle felting, cakes and laughs

Glammed egg
Goose eggs glammed up

With goose eggs in hand and fleece fluffed and packed Naomi and I arrived at Moorish for an early morning start.

Wrens in light
Wren brooches in progress

Walking in to a lit fire and the smell of coffee on a clear and frosty morning, all felt perfect.

Demonstrating carding
Demonstrating hand carding and colour blending

And it was.
We met a lovely group of ladies and in just minutes we were laughing and making like crazy. 

Nancy, lovely light
Nancy robin making

It wasn't long before blue tits were chirpping, wrens were tweeting and robins were perching on branches.

Tipsy blue tits
Tipsy blue tits

It went so smoothly we actually sat down and ate cake Naomi and I, and amazing cake it was! Thank you chef Sally.

Robin in egg
Cheeky robin

The fine glitter in the eyes, glued to my phone, my hair and the dog was definitely worth it. We can't wait to do it all again. 

Happy Tuesday.

Now I'm off to check out the election news before I snooze.


PS, I have no idea how I managed to only get photos of serious faces, this was not a serious group, they were loads of fun.

Some autumn notes and a message to Typepad

Pinata time
Piñata in the making

I apologise to Instagram users, these images are repeated there.

We enlisted helpers for Gracie's birthday piñata this year. It made fast work of the job. We won't tell the helpers that the piñata balloon lost air overnight and became the shape of a giant raisin, it might "deflate" their enthusiasm to help next time. Problem averted, new piñata in the making and we'll try and salvage the first one to use on another day. 

I forgot to tell G the secret of keeping a punching balloon inflated for papier mache. I must make a list of our tips and tricks for piñata making and smashing. As this is the 24th birthday piñata we've made we've come up with quite a list of tips for successful birthday piñata. They were included in an article a few years back, I'll have to dig it out and share it here.

Millennium theatre
Wales Millennium Theatre, Cardiff

We had such a brilliant time at the Green Day stage show in Cardiff at the Wales Millennium Centre. We were really lucky to get the tickets, and what an amazing venue. The building, designed by architect Percy Thomas, is beautiful. Not just it's famous facade, but all the way around it and from every angle it's stunning. The use of materials and form and function are all outstanding. The theatre itself was also fantastic, great acoustics and there's not a bad seat in the house for viewing. The show itself also lived up to all the great reviews and awards it's received, we loved it.

Apples shaken
Apples shaken

The big apple orchard that's part of one of my walks is full of apples for cider making. Cider is a big local speciality. In the UK cider is alcoholic, not apple juice. The method for harvesting the cider apples is to shake the trees and scoop the apples up with a big vaccuum type machine attached to a tractor.


Cider time
Loaded up for cider making

I wish I actually liked cider, local ales are my pub beverage of choice. But the smell of the apples at harvest is amazing.

Geese on the move

The geese are on the move and I might be on the move again too. Not moving house (thank goodness!) but moving from Typepad to Wordpress or other blogging platform. For me Typepad was by far the best solution for blogging without having to code when I first started blogging. Back then I felt Typepad blogs stood out from the crowd for their design differences and the platforms stability, but I don't feel Typepad has kept up with trends and the needs of it's users. 

In order to make simple changes to my blog (for instance taking extra pixels or padding out from around photos) Typepad wants a person to upgrade to a more expensive monthly package. This means to make a simple aesthetic change and improvements I have to up my monthly outgoings. It may be just a few pounds to them, but to me on a monthly basis it's significant in the financial grand scheme of things. Pay extra pounds to remove a few pixels, grrrrrrr. 

Typepad keep up. The internet is information and image focused, especially blogs. We want to be able to display our images to their full potential and not have to use CSS to do so. Even if we want to take the time to use CSS we don't want to have to pay for it, not when there are free blogging platforms that are offering just as much as Typepad if not more for the image and design enthusiast. I used to be able to adjust things in html easily in Typepad, but their model has changed over time and now we must pay more to make minor changes.

Typepad, if you want to continue with this business model then it's time to add more design flexibility for all your users, especially your dedicated, long-time users. Offering me 10% off doesn't cut it. At the very least, design new themes that are dedicated to creative image use and add attractive widgets that are keeping up with your competition or I see doom in your future Typepad. Come on, you started so strong; put some dosh back into development directed to us time-short, design-centric users. I want to be loyal to you Typepad because you've served me well, but you must keep a sharper eye on your user's needs. It's very simple, if you want to charge premiums you must offer more value than the free systems and right now you don't.

I chose to pay for your service over Blogger and Wordpress when I started for three reasons. Superior layouts, site stability and customer service. Even Blogger has caught up on the first two points and the third is less of an issue now with users in forums being as savvy as they now are. 

If I can find an easy and inexpensive way to make the switch I will. I want to keep this online diary going but I don't want to be held to ransom by a service that may keep adding expenses at will. If anyone knows of a way, let me know. I'm still researching it but at the moment I'm leaning towards moving to because I'm now visually attracted to sites in the way I used to be attracted to Typepad sites. I think the whole process will take a lot of time, and time I am very short on so I might be stuck here for a long while.

If you use Typepad have you experienced these frustrations? Have you simply upgraded or found another solution? Please tell.


More honkers
See you in the spring geese

Thanks and blues

Voodoo felting
voodoo felting

This is one of those weeks where lots was accomplished but not in a tangible sense. Lots behind the scenes stuff that just needs doing. As well as planning, designing and the usual busy family stuff.

I wanted to say thanks to everyone for the incredibly kind words about the moths both here and on Facebook too. It's fun to get such great feedback on something I loved doing. And thank you to those who made kind donations for the full pattern set too, it's always appreciated.

The tiny stitching above is a thank you gift I whipped up. I know hog weed is considered a pest here in the UK but I love the structure of it, especially in skeleton form that we're left with come autumn.

The other images are from last weekend when I had a few hours on my own and I spent them at Kilve. The landscape there is all consuming, I could spend all day at Kilve and feel like I'd just arrived.

We're off this afternoon to see this show in Cardiff.  Green Day are one of T's favourite bands, he can play all their songs, but we didn't think we could swing it for the price of the tickets. We happened to see an offer for three tickets for next to nothing by someone in a neighbouring village who couldn't go. Now we get to go – someone up there likes us :)

Better run, have a great weekend.


Hog weed stitching
hog weed stitching

Rock formations
rock formations, kilve

Natural paving
natural paving