Twig flower pots for giving, or keeping: a tutorial

Twig flower pot

I like to give plants to friends or family instead of cut flowers. Plastic pots aren't pretty so I usually wrap them in something like hessian (burlap) and tie them with nice string. I recently tried repurposing laundry detergent containers and dressed them up with twigs - I liked the results. 

They're very easy to make, here's how:

Supplies: Small saw (optional), hessian, a straight sided container, twigs or small branches that are fairly straight, jute twine, glue gun or string


Gather a pile of twigs and cut them down to roughly the same length; you'll want them a little taller than your container. You could forgo the saw and break them if you like.


Take a long piece of twine (about a metre and a half) and at the middle of your piece of twine begin tying the sticks together. Tie near one end of the twigs, single knots should be fine.

Continue tying your remaining twigs until you have long row of them, then gently wrap them around your container to check the length; the twigs should meet but not overlap. In the image above you can see there's no need to remove smaller twigs, I left a few on. 


After checking the length, tie the twigs again at the other end.


Cover a straight sided container with a strip of hessian (burlap). I folded under the bottom edge and tucked in the top edge. I secured it with a glue gun but you could stitch it or tie it on with string. No need to be perfect, it's getting covered anyway. I just pop the plastic pot inside this one but if you plant your flower in this container be sure to poke drain holes in the bottom. 


Now just wrap the twigs around and tie it on.

Told you it was easy!

These are also great to use as vases, if they're too light pop a couple of large stones inside to help weigh them down. When I bring flowers to school to decorate the entrance these are perfect because I can just leave them behind.

This is also a nice project for children who are old enough to tie a simple knot - you may want to help out with the saw though ;) 

Note: The sculpture in the top image is by Dutch artist Toos Bressers, previously seen here.


Don't forget to enter the NM blog birthday giveaway, ends June 18.



Mr Owl: carved paper sculpture tutorial


These eyes have been staring up at me from the recycling bin for the longest time; I've finally attached a body to them.

 Mr Owl was so easy and fun to make I'm now hoarding egg cartons. Egg cartons have such an uneven, sculptural texture that cutting them feels more like carving. I think adults and children alike would enjoy making these owls and it's simple to alter the cutting to make each one unique.

Paint or paper scraps could also be applied to these. I'm picturing a trio painted black with larger feather flaps and votive candles shining through for Halloween. 

To make Mr Owl you simply need:


  • egg carton (I used a 6 egg carton but a 12 egg carton could be cut in half)
  • scissors
  • pencil
  • craft knife (optional)
  • craft glue


Using pencil, draw two shapes from the bottom side of the carton for, 1. the eyes and beak and 2. the ear/feather tufts that go above and behind the eyes and beak. Then cut them out with scissors. 
On one end of the top of the carton, draw a shape sort of like this; then cut the shape out (the head will slot in that section.) When your head is ready, you may need to add a couple of vertical cuts to firmly slot it into the body (see vertical cuts under the beak in the finished, yellow owl picture at the top of the page.)

Next, on the other end of the lid, draw some feet and cut out the section under the feet. Draw in some "U" shaped feathers and use a craft knife to cut around them (probably not a job for young children.) Then bend in the bottom of each side of the lid on a diagonal. The dotted line above indicates where you should bend the carton.

Cut feather shapes around the eyes of your owl if you wish. I cut slits and points and curved them under to give a feather appearance around the eyes. Do the same or create your own eye design. Then cut and gently shape the beak. 

Glue the ear piece behind the eyes. A piece of tape will help hold it in position while it dries.

When it's dry slot it in place on top of the owl body.


I'd love to know if you give these a go :)


We're still seeing our Little Owl friend nearly everyday when we return home from school. He's inspired this and more upcoming projects. Maybe one day Little Owl will let us take a photo of him. He's very cute, but shy - unless you're a mouse!

Pams-shrooms Remember the repurposed storage containers turned toadstools? They were one of the patterns in the Stitch Village pattern book. Pam has made a whole village of them to store her sewing notions. Instead of embroidering lettering she's sewn a sample of the containers contents above each door - genius. It's very sweet and an incredible amount of work.

Go see Pam's whole village!

Current goings-on

It seems an age since I last updated NM. I'm pleased to report the lace across the windows seems to be doing the trick thus far. I've witnessed more than one bird come right for the window and skate away just in time.

Said birds have ushered in spring for our household. I know spring is truly here when the Dawn Chorus wakes our children at unsociable hours.

The above image was a sort of recycled regatta we made for an upcoming GP article. Lucky we had some good friends visiting for the weekend to help out with the sailing. The children spent literally hours playing with these mini boats, even the 11 year olds.

And finally I've been working on learning more than chain stitch in crochet. I've been online, studied books and racked my brains trying to become more proficient (also unintentionally stayed up way too late.) I'm finally learning the language and a bit of pattern reading and just finding that like anything, it takes practice, practice, practice. I can tell you I am now VERY proficient at ripping out stitches.

I set myself a goal, learn how to make one of Lucy's hexagons. My sample took many other forms before reaching full hexagonal glory, still not perfect, but pleasing none-the-less. Her crochet is just so cheerful that following Lucy's tutorial was fun; the fact that she's a fairly recent self-taught hooker also inspired me.

This first hexagon will be a coaster for my desk but I'm now working on creating a scarf out of them in a solid colour for spring. I'll let you know how that goes. Now I feel prepared to tackle more tutorials, like any number of these from Margie.

A fabulous package from Pam arrived in the post for us too. Tins of chocolates for the children and loads of Kool Aid to try this tutorial of hers (we don't get Kool Aid here and my enamel deficient daughter thinks she gets to drink it all instead.) Pam also added some agates found on beaches in Oregon then polished. The frog in the hydrangea image is one of her photos - amazing. Thank you kind Pam, we loved going through your whole lovely parcel. 

Lastly, here's a little tip for making large envelopes, use newspaper.

Gracie had a double birthday party to attend yesterday so these two envelopes were made for the occasion. I'm sure there's no need to walk you through making these, but but just in case you want one, a short explanation is here.

And remember there are templates to make cards for upcoming special occasions here.

Hope you're all enjoying spring as much as we are. With a recent deluge over (hopefully) and the children now off school for Easter break we look forward to a few weeks free to immerse ourselves in the season.

Last minute make

Angel-ornament Make these spontaneous patchwork angels to hang on the tree or to tie to gifts. Yet another way to use up more scraps and the unfinished edges mean these ornaments are quick and easy to make.

 Here's how:

  1. Download Ornament template, print it and cut out an ornament shape
  2. Cut out two pieces of fabric larger than your ornament shape
  3. Take one of the pieces of fabric and using a small zig-zag stitch, sew scraps all over the piece of fabric going in any direction - be sure each edge of each scrap is stitched down
  4. Cut a piece of felt or heavy interfacing out using the smaller, inner template of your ornament pattern
  5. On the unstitched piece of fabric trace your ornament template in fine pencil or water soluble pen, then flip it over, tape it to a window so the light shines through it and trace the template on the other side (the tracing should be in the same position on both sides of the fabric)
  6. Add a tiny bit of glue to your felt piece and center it in the middle of one side of the tracing and let it dry for a couple of minutes
  7. Lay your zig-zag patchwork fabric on top of the other fabric (patchwork side up) sandwiching the felt shape inside
  8. Pin a looped ribbon or string, loop pointing up, inside the sandwiched pieces at the top of the ornament template
  9. Pin the pieces together, turn them with the plain fabric facing up and stitch around the tracing marks using a straight or zig-zag stitch
  10. Trim the fabric right up to the edge of the outer stitching, finished!

Note: Try embroidering a name, message or date on the plain backing fabric before gluing the felt shape on the opposite side and pinning your pieces together.

The down-loadable template includes a few different simple shapes which can be used in many different ways. Tristan and Gracie have been colouring, cutting and gluing them today.

I hope, unlike me, everyone is very organized and ready for Christmas, then you'll have time to whip up this simple project.

Also, thanks to Annet for sharing her Tree Family wall hanging with me.

I love the ornament earrings she gave the mama tree and the spotty, snowy fabric she used. Visit Annet's blog Fat-Quarter to see more of her fantastic quilting and patchwork pieces.

Hope you're all cuddled up with your families, or your cat and are keeping warm.


It's starting to feel a lot like Christmas

Silhouette-ornament School's out for Christmas break, today we got the tree and the holiday festivities are in full swing. I've had this Robertson's marmalade lid sitting on my work table for months with the aim of putting a tiny silhouette in it and today was the day. When the Christmas tree is up later it will be our newest ornament addition.

We followed Rachel's suggestion for peppermint bark earlier this week and made it for the teachers. Ours doesn't look as pretty as the batch Rachel showed us, or the one in the original recipe at Brown Eyed Baker. We used Green & Blacks white chocolate which has small bits of vanilla in it and it's very yellow – but I can tell you it was very tasty regardless of it's less than perfect appearance.

Mush-cap Also, I got into the habit of melting chocolate in the microwave, why, I don't know. This time because of  the large quantity of chocolate I popped it in a huge stainless steel bowl and put it over a giant pot of boiling water so the kids could do all the stirring and watch the melting process happen more easily. They loved it - probably their favourite culinary adventure to date, I highly recommend it.

We made jars like these on the right for gifting the peppermint bark, a pattern for them is coming soon ;)

Tiny tutorial
The silhouette project above was very easy but it was so tiny to cut that I gave up after several tries and decided to Photoshop her instead. It was very easy to do and I'm sure any image editing program would work, here's how to do it:

  • Measure the inside of your lid to find out what size you'd like the image to be, mine was just under 2.5" or about 6cm in diameter.
  • Photograph your subject in profile against a plain, light background then open the image in your image editing program.
  • Reduce your image to a size that will fit within your lid and save it to 300 pixels per inch.
  • Select the light background and then invert it. In Photoshop you would select the background with the magic wand then choose "Select" from the menu, then "Inverse." This step will make your subject selected.
  • Lastly fill the selection of the subject with black (make sure the background is white)
  • Print it out on to heavy weight paper, cut it into a circle (fitting the diameter of your lid) around the subject and glue it to the inside of the lid.
  • Glue a looped ribbon to the back, finished.

Note: Gimp is a very good, free image editing program, I'm not that familiar with all of it's features but I bet it could handle the simple tasks for this project. Also, cutting the silhouette out probably would have worked with manicure scissors, my embroidery scissors were not tiny enough.

Now I'm hoping my boy will pose for his profile so we can have a matched set, but now I must make a start on some Christmas cards.

Quick advent calendar


I'm resurrecting this advent calendar idea from a couple of years back. It was first made for a craft magazine and the editor liked colourful materials so we used Christmas themed paper. I think we'll use newspaper this year (we'll sift through our recycle pile to find some without horrible headlines.) Or we'll paint newspaper or brown craft paper for a colourful but more rustic look.

Adventtree_2 For a different magazine I made these packets and a twig tree using tracing paper, that would be fun to use for the bunting too.

We like to create little activities, riddles, or jokes instead of sweets or chocolate because we find there are already plenty of sugary goodies around every where this time of year. Making up knock-knock jokes is big with my two at the moment so I think the bunting might be stuffed with several of them.

If you're as far behind schedule as I am this year and you'd like to make advent bunting here's a handy template for you. Just trace the template on paper of your choice, fold on the dotted lines and punch holes in each one to hang. Here's what you need:

long twine to tie the bunting to • paper for folding • ribbon or string to tie the bunting to the twine • small sweets or chocolate coins and/or lots of jokes, riddles and activities

Have a great Monday everyone, I think I might spy some sun peeking out from behind a black cloud - things are looking up around here but I won't be taking my wellies off just yet.

Cheater's patchwork, a tutorial


Yet another project that uses up those scraps. These mini patchwork patches have multiple uses and are so easy it feels like a cheater's version of patchwork. They can be used to appliqué on t-shirts, for patching holes, stitching on to paper or cards or used as whole pieces of fabric to cover moleskines, make wallets, etc.

Sewing machine * fabric scraps * small iron * fusible webbing * rotary cutter or scissors

How to
Determine the size you want the final piece of patchwork to be, cut out a piece of fabric that size and iron a piece of fusible webbing to it.


Cut out a variety of small squares of fabric, best to use a rotary cutter for accuracy. My squares are very small, about 13 mm or 1/2 an inch; larger squares would be even easier.


Peel the backing paper of the fusible webbing off of your base piece of fabric then begin lining up your squares (right-side-up) on to the side of the fabric that you removed the paper from (the "glue" side.) Line them up horizontally and vertically with no spaces between the squares forming a grid with them.

Next begin pressing your squares with a small hot iron, I used a Clover Mini Iron but a travel iron would work too. I found it easiest to do one line of squares at a time instead of trying to line up the whole grid.


When you have filled the area you want to cover with squares secure them using a zig-zag stitch with your sewing machine stitching along the gutters of the squares of your grid. Experiment with your zig-zag stitch width and length before stitching the patchwork.

Note: It's easiest to not clip the threads at the end of each line, just lift the presser foot and gently move the fabric to your next line.


To finish, trim the edges of your fabric or cut a shape out of it and adhere another piece of fusible webbing to the back of your finished patchwork - thus creating a finished, ready-to-use patch. When you remove the backing paper from your finished patch be sure it is completely cool before gently lifting it off.


I find I can iron these patches on to paper to make cards or iron them on to fabric with equal success. You will need to stitch around the outer edge on to the fabric or paper the patch is adhered to. This is also an easy way to create quick pieces of patchwork for making small sewn items like wallets, just skip the final step and leave off the last piece of fusible webbing.

Note: I use the Bondaweb brand of fusible webbing because in the UK it seems to be easiest to come by. If you've never used fusible webbing before simply follow the manufacturer's instructions for whichever brand you use.


I hope you give these a try. It's another project that becomes a little addictive, I started going mad with tiny squares when I first tried out this idea.

About the Clover Mini Iron
Of all the various forms of appliqué one of my favourites is using fusible webbing then stitching the edges, it makes a neat job of small pieces appliqué. I bought the mini iron mainly for this purpose. Mine was about £25 which has been a worthwhile investment as I use it a lot. Clover now make a new version (Clover Mini Iron II) which allows for different attachments.
If like me, you wouldn't need any of the attachments the new iron can accommodate there are now bargains to be found on the old models like mine - I've seen it as low as £7 on ebay.


Let the great world spin for ever down the ringing grooves of change.


We are definitely in a spin, ringing the grooves of change around here. Not only the obvious changes, new home, new school but even more.

Gracie has been off school the last two days with a streaming cold. Today she was feeling better which meant a lot of artwork being made. Spin art, water colour painting, clay shape making and letter writing in calligraphy; and that was nearly all before lunchtime - clearly she's ready to go back to school.


This year she has many more options for after school clubs and has chosen all sports: netball, judo, football and gymnastics (not all at the same time.) In the past she'd have opted for the art clubs but says she gets a lot of art at home and "I finally get a chance to play football!" Changing indeed.


She wanted me to show you her special spin art machine, an old favourite that she recently rediscovered. I looked for a salad spinner at boot fairs forever to make spin art with the children but never found one, luckily Gracie received this machine as a gift.


We had a lovely visit back to Kent at the weekend for a big birthday party (happy birthday Tim.) We had a chance to meet up with lots of other friends and I finally got my chance to cuddle baby Rufus and so did Tristan, he loves babies.


And Tristan just returned from two days away at an adventure and bonding session with his new classmates. He returned full of stories and though it was late when he returned we had a lengthy conversation about his time away before he fell into bed for an early start tomorrow. As he was talking I realized that this was a new type of conversation, a little boy wasn't explaining things to me, a more mature little man appears to be emerging. Though I'm not that familiar with this little man yet, I'm very happy to get to know him. Spin on!


For Lovers of Spin Art

I'm a spin art lover. It reminds me of happy days at the county fair where I could sidle up to a booth and make my own abstract masterpiece in minutes.

Make Your Own
If you've never tried the salad spinner version with children here's how it goes:

Use an old salad spinner and put a paper plate in the bottom of it, the plate should fit snugly. Make it spin, remove the lid while it's spinning and drip paint on the plate. If your spinner stops spinning when the lid is removed then put some big drops on the plate first then put the lid on and spin.

Paint that's slightly runny but not watery works best.

I've also toyed with the idea of rigging up my electric drill to create bigger art but I haven't finished figuring that one all out yet.

Many uses for the finished art
We've used the finished artwork for collage, gift cards and framed art. For the gift cards we cut shapes out of the finished spin art. For instance, we cut lots of petals and created a multi-coloured flower.
For the framed art we lined several finished pieces of spin art up together in four stacked rows to create a larger piece of art.

If I could find any samples of these ideas in our many boxes of junk/treasure, I would show you.

And for iPhone and iPod Touch users of course there's an app. It looks fun, not as fun as real paint, but fun enough to amuse yourself if you're unfortunate enough to be on a long commuter train journey with no book to read or sketchbook to fill. Oh and of course there's a Flickr group for art made with the Spin Art app.

If I had an iPhone, I might have to get it just so I could be whisked away to my 10 year old self at the county fair whenever my little heart desired :)

Have a great Wednesday!

Dragonflies revisited, a tutorial


I love dragonflies and wanted to make them with my class but they're a little young to manage the wirework dragonflies I made with previous classes so we simplified by using recycled plastic to create the wings.

Supplies: scissors • hole-punch • permanent marker • recycled plastic (we used the lids from strawberry containers) • 2 pipe cleaners • coloured tissue paper • white glue • sequins and glitter optional

How to:
First use this wing template, or draw one of your own and trace around it four times onto plastic using a permanent marker. Cut out the four wings then glue pieces of tissue paper on to decorate them. Leave the wings to dry; the glue will make the tissue paper more translucent when dried. When the wings are dry, put a hole in the squared off end of each one with a hole-punch.

Note: I've drawn two wing shapes on the template, a simplified shape to make it easy for younger crafters to cut out as well as a slightly more realistic shaped wing.

Click on this diagram to see it close-up.


  • To assemble thread one wing each onto the pipe cleaners. Push the wings about 4 cm down the pipe cleaners then twist the top of the two pipe cleaners together tightly a couple of times just above the wings.       
  • Now tightly wrap the long end of one pipe cleaner around the wing two times close to where the wing was threaded and repeat with the other pipe cleaner.
  • Twist the long ends together 3 or 4 times tightly under the wings then thread on the two remaining wings and repeat step 2.
  • Twist tightly under the second set of wings and continue twisting down the length of the pipe cleaners making a small loop at the end completing a tail.
  • Curl the short ends of the pipe cleaners into small loops to create the dragonfly eyes.
  • Finish by adding a bit of glitter and sequins if you like.  
    There are a lot of great books about dragonflies to be found in libraries, they're fascinating little creatures. Children always think it's amazing that dragonflies start their lives in water and they also marvel at their amazing colour variations. Look out for dragonflies and damselflies this time of year near ponds and lakes, they're a real treat to observe in nature.

    If you give these a try let me know, I love to see children's interpretations of these projects, grown-ups too. Get a group of friends together and make several, they look fantastic hanging from the ceiling in one big swarm!

    Have a great Friday :)

    Ship Ahoy! Father's Day Card


    These are the sea-faring cards my class made for Father's Day this year. Like the tie cards, this project is one that can be enjoyed by all age ranges - and although they're all based on the same template the childrens' choice of fabrics and assorted supplies make each card very individual.

    As we have a limited time frame to work on projects in the class room we kept the decorating of the ships simple. If we'd had more time we might have added little people standing on deck and strings to mimic ropes for the rigging. 

    To make them you'll need these supplies:
    Scraps of fabric, old lace or ribbons • cereal boxes or other card stock • white glue • scissors • brown paper (we used pieces cut from old magazines) • a twig or a stick • card stock for the folded card • corrugated cardboard or foam mounting stickers
    1. Begin by tracing this template on to the back of a cereal box then cut out the three shapes. The shapes are simplified to make them easy for little hands to cut but if you have limited time like I did, pre-cut the shapes for the children.
    2. Glue scraps of fabric to the sails, leave to dry then trim off any excess fabric from around the edges.
    3. Glue scraps of brown paper or fabric to the boat leave to dry then trim off any excess brown paper from around the edges.
    4. Cut out 6 small squares (about a cm square) of the corrugated cardboard. Glue two squares to the back of each piece of the ship. Spread them apart for balance and don't place them too near the edges.
    5. Put glue on the small squares, turn the pieces of the ship over and put them into position on the card. The ship parts will now be set off of the page and allow you to glue the stick for the mast behind them. (Alternatively use foam stickers instead of cardboard squares)
    6. Glue the mast on then cut out a small triangle of fabric and glue it to the top of the mast for a flag. 
    7. Draw some waves for the sea and write a message inside the card.
    I hope you try it out, my class really enjoyed putting these together and we'll definitely be making a few up at home for daddy and the grandpas.