Christmas Napkins

The beauty of this craft is that it is a thousand times easier to make than it looks, and it can be completed while sipping wine and watching your favourite Christmas movie – now that is my idea of an ideal Christmas craft.

On the other hand, if you have a household of Halflings, and are looking for a way to keep them entertained on a dreary Tuesday, this will also work a treat for that (although maybe without the wine – depends on how your Tuesday is going I suppose). Even the littlest ones can join in – I usually put them in charge of adding the stickers – a sufficiently important while simultaneously sufficiently easy task.

What you will need:

Green square napkins – paper if like us you go for cheap and cheerful, linen if you’re a bit posh

Star stickers

How to

  1. First, fold it twice to get a smaller square

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Then, fold up the corner of each layer to the top and be sure to leave one inch between each fold.

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Flip the whole thing over, holding the folds.

Fold both sides to the centre. Remember to align the top of each panel to form a triangular space at the top of the napkin.

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Flip back the napkin (remember to hold it tight so it doesn’t unfold).

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Fold the upper layer to the top to form a peak of your Christmas tree. Hide lower layers’ tips underneath the upper folds.

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Now decorate with stickers

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Craft shops: Moving from the Stall to the Online Store

Craft

When a retail giant like Penny’s, whose market strategy has traditionally been pile ‘em high and sell ‘em cheap, suddenly takes a leap into the eCommerce arena, you know there has to be something to this online retailing.

From Tesco to Amazon, these massive retailers have recognised a shift in consumer behaviour. Customers no longer have the luxury of an hour for lunch with which to wander around the shops or time after work with which to do the grocery shopping. Nowadays lunch invariably consists of a hastily inhaled sandwich while manning the phone-lines and absorbing the latest updates through social media platforms, while grocery shopping is ordered sitting in traffic dreaming of dinner but making your way to the gym instead. Retailers have to fit into this new fast paced world to prosper. The manner with which they do this will be the difference between making enough to put bread on the table, or, making so much they manage to give the whole family gout.

A company could be fortunate, like An Post, where this tidal wave of change carries them from one era to another seamlessly; as snail-mail dies a death, parcel delivery from online purchasing has increased dramatically, and looks set to continue into the future. Postmen are no longer shoving unwanted bills into spider infested post-boxes, but rather are more akin to Santa’s elves asking people to sign for little parcels of joy.

However, if you are not so fortunate, you must then be a little creative.

Online shopping offers the small and agile retailer a chance to reach the hearts and minds of their customers, and through that, their wallets. There have been leaders in this charge; C&A allowing the number of virtual likes to be shown above the product in their physical stores, Urban Hitlon Weiner giving credit to customers for posting selfies, Kate Spade creating a digital storefront.  These strategies take advantage of activities in which their customers are already engaged and capitalise on them. They convert product interaction into purchase opportunity, turning the passive consumer into an engaged advocate.

All around us the traditional tools of retail are being adapted and modernised. “Customers who purchase this item also purchased…” has become the online version of sweets at the till. “Share this purchase” is the online equivalent of parading the bargain you picked up at lunch to your co-workers. “What other customers are looking at right now..” induces the same panic of a half empty shelf holding this Christmas’ must-have item.

Communication is moving forward, and retail is moving with it. The new era holds untold opportunity to those who embrace it, ask HMV what happens to those who don’t.

Jewellery Organisation without a Scout Knots Badge

JO 5

Every woman has been there … you are rushing to leave the house, last thing is to throw on a quick necklace to finish the look, only to discover that the one necklace that suits this outfit has become entangled in every other decent chain you own. The only detangled choices are some plastic thing you got free with a magazine that the other necklaces don’t want to be seen dead next to, or a nineties number that really should not see the light of day again. In panic I inevitably shove the whole tangled mess into my handbag so I can pull them apart on the bus, but this leaves me with one, probably bent, chain that I want to wear and fifty extra swirling around the bottom of my bag, causing unnecessary weight and coiling like a boa constrictor around my purse and phone.

 

After one particularly irritating incident where the bus journey was not long enough to detangle the one chain I wanted, I swore I could come up with a better storage solution that shoving all my costume jewellery into a box under my bed. And I did. I invested in two simple jewellery holders from Pennies. They were two sided, had little pockets and could be hung up. Alas, as Roy Walker would say ‘it was a good answer.. but it’s not right’.

They were too small to fit all my jewellery in one pocket each, so I ended up putting two or three pieces in together, which inevitably tangled up together defeating the point of the change, or one big piece hid a small piece and I forgot I owned it. Also, being two-sided meant that I never looked at the pieces on the reverse side, and ending up wearing the same pieces time and time again.

 

So, I decided I need a customised solution… a jewellery organiser that would hang on the back of my closet door and display all my jewellery at once, without allowing it to become entangled … queue the DIY music (vaguely similar to the MacGyver theme tune played on homemade bag pipes – music that inspires you to finish whatever you are doing fast so that the horrible sound will stop).

C31. JO 3

You will need;

  • Sewing Machine, thread, needles, scissors
  • Cloth – light but durable. I chose cotton.
  • Cloth – smaller piece to reinforce top of organiser. I chose canvas because it is strong and I had some already left over from another project, but you could chose anything that can withstand weight.
  • Ribbon
  • Buttons – large for preference
  • Hammer and Nails (for the strong) or Staple Gun (for the clever and lazy)

C31. JO 2

How to;

  1. First things first, get out the sewing machine, blow the dust off it and check it still works.
  2. Select a fabric. I have a box where I store random pieces of fabric that I use for this type of situation. You will need something light but durable – I choose an old sheet that I had chopped other pieces from.
  3. Measure the door that you are going to hang the final piece on (and, I say from experience, don’t cheat and just measure the door closest to you at the moment – not all doors were created equal). Add 5cm around the boarder to allow for hemming.
  4. Cut fabric to size. I doubled the measurements and folder my fabric over to make it twice as thick. This is only necessary if you have a lightweight fabric.
  5. Hem 2cm around edges.
  6. Take stronger fabric and sew it to top of organiser – this will prevent the lighter fabric from tearing under the weight of jewellery.
  7. Take ribbon and lay them out across organiser to choose positions. I placed my ribbon with a 1cm gap at the top and graduated this to a 3cm gap at the bottom to allow for different sized jewellery. I also took the opportunity to recycle pieces of ribbon that we used in the menus for our wedding. Waste not, want not.
  8. Pin ribbon in place.
  9. Now, starting at the top of your sheet, sew across the ribbons from top to bottom at even intervals (depending on the size of your organiser). This will give strength to the ribbon and stop it from sagging in the centre when you add the jewellery.
  10. Sew some buttons if you like so you can hang rather than hook some pieces.
  11. Measure against door to double check size still correct. Hem boarder to give finished appearance.
  12. Nail or staple to door, ensuring that the top and sides are very secure.
  13. Hang jewellery and voila, the ability to get dressed and accessorise without earning your Scouts Knots badge.

C31. JO 4

 

Upcycling: Tee-Shirt Cushions

C29. t-shirt 1

The style of my office is eclectic and offbeat. I created a bench of sorts from storage boxes and wanted some cushions for the top that suited the style of the room (funky, rocky, edgy, everything U2 are not) but didn’t break the bank (because cushions of these sort can be crazily expensive).

At the same time I was trying to de-clutter my wardrobe as we headed from summer back to winter. There were a few tee-shirts with either great images or slogans that I didn’t want to throw out, but at the same time really could not be worn anymore.

The two problems led to a beautiful solution: upcycling the tee-shirts to make customised cushions.

Note: I was also updating my husband’s wardrobe who still doesn’t see the problem with wearing tee-shirts with holes in them. I don’t know why men’s tee-shirts are generally cooler than women’s but they just are. I spotted a few in his pile that he could live without and would make awesome cushions – finders, keepers (or more accurately: finders, cut-up-until-no-longer-wearable-as-tee-shirts, keepers)

C29. t-shirt 2

 

For this project you will need

  • Sewing machine, thread, needles, scissors etc
  • Backing cloth – I upcycled an old sheet and used this
  • Old Tee-shirts
  • Cushion stuffing. I actually recycled a flat pillow I was going to throw out, but you can buy this in Hickeys or the like very cheaply.

C29. t-shirt 3

The process

  1. Decide the size of cushion you would like. This will be dictated by the size of the tee-shirt you have; bigger the tee-shirt the bigger the cushion – that is why men’s tee-shirts are so useful. The measurements below are for a finished cushion about 45cm*40cm. I was going for an unfinished look, the beauty of which is that the is that the measurements do not have to be too exact here.
  2. Cut out 3 squares about 45cm*40cm from you backing cloth. I had a piece of cloth that was 137cm*77cm, so I just cut this into six equal parts – waste not, want not. They ended up 47cm*40cm.
  3. Cut out design from tee-shirt. This can be any size so long as it is less than about 40cm*35cm. This will leave enough room for the boarders.
  4. Place the tee-shirt section between two backing sections. Pin in place
  5. Sew around the boarder of the piece of the tee-shirt you want to be seen.
  6. Cut out front facing backing cloth to reveal pattern (love this reveal moment!).
  7. Take third backing square and sew a 1cm double hem around the edge. Don’t worry too much about being perfect – it is meant to look rough. Remember to leave a gap in the bottom corner to add stuffing.
  8. Add stuffing. Sew gap closed
  9. Voila – customised cute cushion

C29. t-shirts 4

 

 

C29. t-shirts 5

Sales Season & the Elusive Matching Pillow Case

 C30. pillowcase 3

Sales season has started, and, if like me your household budget dictates that you must wait for the Sales to update things like bed linen, then this is a time of rapidly fluctuating emotions.

The excitement of the potential finds as you make your way to the department store nice and early. You have probably being doing recon missions over the previous few weeks, so you know what they had in stock and what might potentially be in the Sale.

The moment of ecstasy when you find the bed sheet that you are looking for in the correct size and colour marked down to €5.

The moment of horror when you realise at there are no pillow cases to match.

You frantically search again, scanning all piles, looking under and behind stands where experienced savvy customers may have hidden gems until they get a chance to come in and purchase them. Hawk-eyed you look at what the other customers have in their hands in case one is holding the elusive treasure unbeknownst to themselves, and might choose to put it down at any stage, giving you a chance to swoop in. In vain you might even try and ask the staff, who look at you like this is your first tour of duty and say ‘everything we have is out’.

What do you do? It’s like a Choose Your Own Adventure book, a crossroads in your story:

  • Do you leave the bargain sheets behind, because really they are useless without matching pillow cases?
  • Do you buy the sheets and then search every other branch of the shop for the coveted cases, which takes HOURS and you may not even find them?
  • Or do you simply buy an extra sheet and make your own pillow cases at some point?

If you chose door number three then here are some helpful instructions:

C30. pillowcase 1

You will need:

  • Sewing machine, thread, needles, scissors etc
  • Sheet from which pillow cases will be made.

In terms of bang-for-your-buck the Single Flat Sheet is the best choice of sheet, because it is usually the cheapest of the set and at 260cm*180cm if will give you 5 pillowcases. The Double and King Flat Sheet will only give 6 pillowcases, there is more waste material and they are usually more expensive than the Single.

 C30. pillowcase 2

 

Process

  1. Cut a rectangle 170cm*50cm
  2. Hem the short sides top and bottom 0.5cm
  3. On the right side of the fabric fold the top down 20cm and fold the bottom up 75cm. Pin in place. This is the shape of your pillowcase. Now turn inside out to begin sewing.
  4. Hem 1cm down the length on either side. Double hem to add strength.
  5. Voila, one matching pillowcase.
  6. Repeat for the number of pillow cases you need.

 

C31. JO 1

Hotpress

hotpress

Let me stress that I am not a bully. I have never intentionally harassed or bullied anyone in my life. On top of that I have received my fair share of hassle for defending someone else by standing up to their bullies. However, I must be truthful and say from the start, that this is an article about a plan that was conceived and executed with the sole purpose of mocking something else; something that has never offended or hurt me in any way, but only because I saw a weakness and pounced. I’m not proud of the initial intention, but there we have it.

 

The victim was Hotpress Magazine. An innocent publication, of some standing nationally, which covers diverse and interesting topics in the genres of music and politics, and does so in a professional and comprehensive manner. So far so good. What could my problem possibly be?

 

It’s the name. The name is terrible. Now I know where they were going with it: Hotpress – hot of the press, new and cutting edge, dynamic. And I know how hard it is to come up with a good name for your work (see title of blog). But at the end of the day, it’s an Irish magazine for Irish people, and there is only one thing that Irish people associate with the word hotpress and it is not a Music and Politics Publication, it is the big boiler in your house that heats your water and warms your clothes. Nothing could be less rock’n’roll than a bloody big boiler. I’m sorry but that’s the harsh truth.

 

So in order to mock this in my own little way, I brought the two of them together- what if my hotpress (the boiler)released a self-titled publication for other hotpresses? What would the headlines be? What would be their specific area of interest? What would be breaking news or cutting edge?

 

The result: a hotpress door with aspirations of journalism.

 

 

THE PROJECT

Decoupage (and not décolletage which is a very different thing – still fun, but in a different way) is the act of gluing little bits of paper to objects with a glue that turns transparent when dry. I thought this would be an excellent way of making a door which looked a little like a pop magazine cover (and a little like a threatening ransom note – just so Hotpress Magazine know where they stand).

 

Required

  • Old Magazines
  • Paint & paintbrush for background colour
  • Decoupage glue
  • Varnish to finish
  • Space to lay a door down on the ground, and be able to leave it there for a few days

 

Cost:

If you have to buy the magazines this could get very expensive – I had my friends and family collect them for a few months and very quickly I had more than enough.

The decoupage glue is really expensive – I used decopatch that cost me e7 for 70g (a tiny pot) but in saying that, I did the whole door for about half a pot, so the stuff really spreads.

It was the cost of the decopatch varnish that pushed me back to B&Q for ordinary varnish. I double checked on the back of the door that clear varnish meant clear – sometimes it can have a slightly yellow hue.

 

Duration

HOURS. Hours and hours and hours; the cutting of the letters, sticking them all on first with blue-tack and then with the glue – hours. I did not do this project start to finish in one sitting as you will read – most of it was done in spurts in front of the telly over a few months.

 

The Work:

  1. I started by taking down the door, being careful with hinges and screws as I would need these to put the door back up later.

 

  1. I drew a rough outline of what I wanted to have on the door – this let me know what letters I would need from the magazines. Mimicking Hotpress Magazine radio ads I decided upon:

“2013 Edition of Hotpress Magazine Issue 505

Readers Inane Views on Life, Drugs, Sex, Church, Law, Society, Welfare & Cutlery”

  • From Lovely Lacies to Skid Row: Underpants a gritty reality
  • Construction Underwear: How to build up your portfolio
  • Arranged at Birth: Twin Sets on Predeterminism, Partners and Parents
  • Custodians of the Fun Bags: Bras tell an uplifting tale of life up top
  • Disappeared Partners: Socks tell a harrowing tale of separation, abandonment and loss
  • Life in the Barracks: Toilet paper on waiting for deployment to live combat
  • High Impact: the rise and fall of cheap suspenders
  • Power behind the throne: Hot Water Tank tells of life in the system
  • Cleaning up their act: Towelling in today’s political theatre
  • Airing their laundry in a half-way house: hoodies try to change perceptions
  • Fresh Starts & Scraping the Slate Clean: Hot pants dish the dirt on festival season

 

I also needed a political message. The hotpress with its principle role in laundry and household chores is a female dominated space. Despite this being an era where gender roles are often mingled and, as blur would say, boys can be girls and girls can be boys, 80% of household chores are still carried out by women. What could best represent my discomfort and yet resigned acceptance of this fact? A modern version of a Sheela-Na-Gig, that’s what.

 

Sheela-Na-Gigs are found in Ireland in prominent positions on Medieval Churches and Castles. In a society which is often assumed (perhaps incorrectly) to have been male dominated, these crude carvings of women exposing their vulva remind us that real power is often wielded invisibly. Society is made up of two halves, there have always been two genders, and while outward appearances can suggest the dominance of one, what goes on behind closed doors (or in this case behind 3ft thick stone walls) can reveal a very different reality.

 

So to represent this I chose a collection of women who in their own way represent this idea of unexpected power.

 

  • Jackie Onassis – often assumed to be the weak-willed wife of a cheating president, however this woman continues to have an influence on the decorum of women in the media today
  • Alien Queen – self-explanatory, while representing the outside influences of powerful women on Irish society
  • Super Woman – again, in a time when women were told to ‘shut-up and sit down’ this crime busting female was out there doing the business (albeit in scantly underwear)
  • Queen Elizabeth – despite her role as a mere figure head, she has resounding influence in the society which support her
  • Sluts – like it or not, these manipulative be-atches can wield incredible power in certain communities
  • Maggie T – like her or hate her, she was the first and so far only female Prime Minster. You have to respect that.
  • Kate Middleton – again often seen as the quiet, dutiful wife, but while she hold the baby, she holds the King. I think there is more than meets the eye here.
  • Mummified Cleopatra – again, a power house in her day, whose legend is still with us
  1. Once I realised how big a space a door really is in decoupage terms, I decided to paint it a background colour to fill in some space and to allow the decoupage really stand out. I choose a new-fangled paint I found on one of my many trips around B&Q that was silver and was meant to look like it was hammered when dry – very rock and roll I thought. Unfortunately it just dries silver. Yes if you look really, really hard you can see the hammered impression, but not if you just walk by the door. But still I liked the silver colour so it stayed.

 

  1. I started cutting out letters and pictures from the magazines

Hotpress

  1. I stuck them all in place using blue tack, so I could get an impression of how everything looked before committing to it with glue

 

  1. Put back up the door to live with the draft version for a few days to make sure I liked it.
  2. Days went by, and then weeks. We had a good few visitors over to the house and all commented that while it looked great (what else were they going to say with me standing right there) they found it hard to read. I took the feedback on board and had a little think. I realised that it would be easier to read if there was a break between the different headlines.

 

  1. I started to move the letters down to give the headlines the break.

 

Move letters down to make space
Move letters down to make space
  1. Once finished I lived with this for a few days, which again turned into months, then I decided that it was time to tackle the glue.While the vast majority of images and letters were from glossy magazines, some of them were from newspapers and some were laser-ink printed – I was not entirely sure if these would run when I applied the glue …. Only one way to find out.. They were fine (breath sigh of relief).

Hotpress10. And finally I varnished to seal it all in for years to come.

Hotpress

 

Guest Room Art

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During the summer months the late setting sun illuminates our guest room in such a beautiful manner I felt compelled to make a piece that capitalised on its beauty. The interplay between light, shadow and darkness at that time of the dwindling day is so relaxing and therapeutic. To create this interplay I knew I wanted pieces that would protrude from the wall, which would cast shadows back onto the wall.

I decide to take inspiration from the method used to display historical tapestries. Often pieces that survive are pinned in such an arrangement so to leave space for the parts that are missing.  Sometimes the arrangement of these surviving pieces can actually be more interesting than the original piece.

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Difficulty of Project: Easy
Overall Cost of Project: Minimal as this project   mainly uses things that you have around the house
Duration of Project: 10+ hours (although I did   it in short bursts)
Required for Project: Stencil (you can make this   yourself or for a short-cut, I like the ones on Etsy or Ebay, although your   local DIY store probably has a selection as well),
Paint (I used old metal paint I had, but so long as it hardens when dry any   paint will do and depending on the size of the stencil a small pot will do),
Scissors,
Canvas (or some stiff material),
Dressmakers pins (and hammer)
  1. To start lay your material out on a flat surface and your stencil on top. Stick stencil to material with masking tape so it does not move.
  2. Paint stencil to material. Remove Stencil. Allow paint to dry (I always leave things overnight, but follow the paint guidelines.)
  3. Cut out stencil of the material. Look at the scraps as you do, keep any interesting shaped pieces.
  4. Now we get to the interesting bit; putting it on the wall. You can if you like draw the stencil onto the wall to use as a guide, and then remove the pencil lines afterwards (or keep them depending on how it looks), but this sounded like way too much hard work for my liking, so I decided to wing it. I laid out all my pieces on the floor and made a pattern with them. I then pinned this pattern to the wall.
  5. 1 straight image
  6. To pin the pieces, first put the dressmakers pin through the piece, or many pins depending on the size of the piece and how ridged you want the end result to look. I wanted a slightly aged organic look (and I’m a bit lazy) so I used as few pins as possible.  Then insert the pin into the wall. If I am honest I used a hammer to gently knock them in because those tiny pins were killing my thumb and a thimble was useless. The hammer sped up the job dramatically, just be careful to only hammer the pin in tiny bit – the aim is to have the piece of material stand proud of the wall. Repeat until all your pieces are on the wall.
  7. Now lie back on the other side of the room and watch the setting sun illuminate your work.

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