Friday, 25 November 2022

Three mini Christmas embroidery kits

 A couple of years ago I bought these mini Christmas embroidery kits from Hobbycraft. They were really good value, I'm pretty sure that they were 3 for 2 in the basket deals that they often have by the till. I've just had a quick look on the website and they currently have similar mini Christmas cross stitch kits for £2.50 each or three for £6 (you can see the whole range here) which again I think is very reasonable.

Mini Christmas cross stitch kits from Hobbycraft

I love doing little cross stitch kits like this, especially when they have a seasonal theme. These particular kits were quite complicated for such small designs - as well as cross stitches there were plenty of French knots and lazy daisy stitches along with some intricate back stitch work.

My problem is that I never know what to do with them when they are finished! I think they are designed to be used in a card, but I wanted to have them out on display as part of my Christmas décor. My original plan was to come up with some kind of fabric hanger using some of my Christmas fabric, but I couldn't work out exactly what I wanted. I also looked at some panoramic frames but again I didn't think that was quite what I was after.

So I went with my tried and tested framing method of embroidery hoops. I was reluctant to spend any more money so I repurposed three small 4" hoops that I already had. I painted the frames with my favourite Christmas colours - red, green and gold - and found that each one matched one of the cross stitch designs perfectly. I couldn't resist finishing them with a coat of glitter glue for some sparkle!

Mini Christmas cross stitch designs in embroidery hoop

I'm really pleased with them! When it comes to displaying them at Christmas I will either prop them along the mantlepiece or else I'll add some Christmas ribbon for hanging. Another one of my ten craft projects to complete by the end of the year ticked off!

Christmas mini cross stitch designs framed in painted embroidery hoops

Wednesday, 23 November 2022

Mini Christmas cross stitch gift tags craft

Last year I shared some free mini Christmas cross stitch designs which can be used for all sorts of pixel crafts. I've written about lots of different ways that you can use mini Christmas cross stitch motifs in your crafts, and today I thought I'd share the latest one that I've been working on! These mini Christmas cross stitch gift tags with a glittery frame are really quick and simple to make and add a sweet personal touch to Christmas gifts.

You can find the cross stitch designs here - free mini Christmas cross stitch patterns.

I chose four of my favourite designs to turn into Christmas gift tags. They are really quick to stitch up, and are a great way to use up scraps of fabric and thread from your stash. When stitched on 14 count Aida fabric each design measures about 2cm square. Make sure to leave a border around the stitching to allow for a frame, I used a piece of fabric that was 5cm square. 

Mini Christmas cross stitch motifs

To make the frames I used some glittery card. I cut out a frame that measured 5cm square with a 1cm border. I trimmed my cross stitch pieces slightly, then used some tape to stick them to the back of the frame, making sure that the design remained central.

Tutorial for Christmas cross stitch gift tags

To back the gift tags I used white card so that the recipient's name can be easily seen. I used double sided tape to stick the cards to a backing piece of white cardboard.

How to make cross stitch gift tags

Then I used a single hole punch to make a hole in the corner of each gift card, and I threaded through some festive string to attach to a present or gift bag.

Mini Christmas cross stitch gift tags

I'm really pleased with how they turned out, and I think that they look really sweet!

Christmas cross stitch gift tags free tutorial and pattern

Monday, 21 November 2022

Felt Christmas tree and bauble ornament bunting decoration

I love crafting for Christmas, I think it's so nice to be able to get out the same, familiar homemade decorations year after year. When you bring them out just once a year I think that you appreciate them more, and they brings back all the memories of years gone by.

This felt Christmas bunting was one of many crafts that I've been working on this year in an attempt to use up some of my various craft stashes. To make this bunting I used green and purple felt in various shades, some gold ric rac trim, coloured plastic buttons, toy stuffing and a length of dark red ribbon.

The bunting is padded and is double sided, so I'm intending to hang it in my front window so that it can be enjoyed from both outside and inside. I made four Christmas trees and four baubles to alternate along the ribbon and they each measure about 12cm in height.

How to make felt Christmas bunting craft

I began with the Christmas trees. I took inspiration for the shape of the tree from these DIY Felt Christmas ornaments and I was pleased to find that I also had some star shaped buttons in my stash. I used them on both sides of the bunting, and they work well to conceal the stitches used to attach the ribbon. I also used blanket stitch around the edges but my thread colour is closer to that of the felt so it's not as visible. A good thing, as I find blanket stitch tricky to create a neat finish when it comes to starting and finishing a length of thread! 

I found the gold ric rac in my stash too, and luckily I had just enough for all four trees. I sewed the ric rac and the buttons to the tree shapes before sewing the two sides together, adding a little bit of stuffing towards the end. Then I attached the star button to the top on one side, sewing on the second button after I had attached the ribbon to hide the stitches.

Felt Christmas tree ornaments craft

Then I made my four ornaments. Again I sewed the buttons and did all the embroidery before sewing the two pieces together and adding stuffing. I tried to make each one different yet similar enough that the worked well together. They have a contrasting felt circle sewn to the middle, using two colours based on what I had in my felt stash!

Felt Christmas tree and ornament festive decor

The final step was to add the ribbon. I sewed the top of each felt creation to the ribbon, and then I added a second star shaped button to hide the stitches.

This Christmas bunting would work well to decorate a fireplace but I'm planning to use it in a window. I think I'm going to buy some small suction cups that will stick to the window, and then maybe I can add some fairy lights as well!

Felt Christmas bunting diy craft

Friday, 18 November 2022

Some books I've enjoyed recently

I read a lot, and every now and then I like to share some books which I've read recently and particularly enjoyed, all books that get a five star rating on my Goodreads tracker. It's a really varied selection this time, and I hope that it gives you some reading inspiration!

The Shuttle - Frances Hodgson Burnett

This one had been in my Kindle to be read pile for ages. I enjoy hunting through the free Kindle books and downloading all the ones that take my fancy, especially if they are by an author that I like. Frances Hodgson Burnett is the author of The Secret Garden and A Little Princess, both of which I love, so I thought I couldn't go wrong with this one. But it isn't a children's book as I assumed, it's actually quite a long read!

The book looks at the relationship between the US and England at the beginning of the 20th century, and in particular American heiresses moving to England to marry impoverished aristocrats. They gained a title and prestige, and the aristocrats were able to use their money to restore their estates. The shuttle of the title is an analogy for the ships that cross back and forth between the two countries, creating more and more threads and pulling them tightly together.

The book follows the story of a very rich but naïve young American multi-millionairess who marries an English man who mistreats her, distancing her from her family while he spends her money on his own pursuits. When her much younger sister reaches adulthood she travels to England to see her and find out why she has cut ties with her family. 

The confident and beautiful young woman arrives when her sister's husband is fortuitously away, and uses her money to rebuild both her sister's confidence and her home and estate. She forms relationships with the other local landowners, they both enter fully into society, and she forms a romance of her own. 

I really loved this book. I particularly enjoyed reading about how the house and estate were brought back to their former splendour. The book also felt very modern in it's approach to domestic violence and psychological manipulation. It was a really good read.

The Children of the New Forest - Frederick Marryat

Another of my free Kindle classics, and one that I had been wanting to read for a long time! The book is set during the English civil war, starting in 1647 when when King Charles I has been defeated and has escaped to the New Forest. The home of one of his supporters is burned down and his four children believed killed, but they escape and hide in the forest in the cottage of a local man. They disguise themselves as foresters and manage to live successfully from the land. They have lots of adventures as well as romance, and are eventually able to reclaim their titles and place in society.

It's a children's book so it's easy to read, but it deals with quite complex issues. I wasn't particularly familiar with that era in history but the book made it all really easy to follow and inspired me to do a bit of my own reading about the period!

My Hygge Home - Meik Wiking

Another fantastic book from the author of the original Little Book of Hygge. It's a lovely hardback book with plenty of cosy photographs and illustrations, all about how to make your home that little bit more hygge. I loved the idea of needing a Viking chair - a place to sit with your back against a wall, preferably in a corner, where you feel safe from attackers. It made me realise why I feel so comfortable in my favourite spot on the sofa in my study! Lots of really good ideas, and a great book to flip through. 

The Lido - Libby Page

This was a quick read but well worth it. It tells the story of Rosemary who has spent her life swimming in her local lido in Brixton. When it is threatened with closure a local young reporter is sent to cover the story and the two of them become close friends. It's a story about friendship and community and I found it a really heart warming read. It left me with a tear in my eye!

The Secret History - Donna Tartt

I think this was the third time that I've read this book - it's one of my favourites! We recently visited Athens and all the classical history surrounding me made me want to read it again. It's a classic of the 'dark academia' trend - an aesthetic which I've seen is very popular on social media. It's an idealised version of higher education and study - libraries, candles, ink pens, dark furniture, piles of books and papers and so on.

The book is set at a university in New England and tells the story of a group of classics students, detailing the events which lead up to a murder and what happens afterwards. It's a really gripping read, really well written and I could read it over and over!

First time travelling? Three things to help you prepare for your trip away

This is a collaborative post

Preparing to take your very first trip abroad can be simultaneously exhilarating and daunting. It can be difficult to know what to expect, and your mind will be undoubtedly abuzz with conflicting thoughts, feelings, and emotions. 

If you’re getting ready to take your first overseas trip and you are unsure where to begin when it comes to proper preparation, we’ve got you covered. Check out this guide with three things you’ll need to think about when preparing for your first trip away. 

Get yourself insured

Anything can happen while you’re on holiday. The last thing you want is for you to pick up an injury or fall ill. This is a terrible situation at the best of times but will only be exacerbated if you happen to be in a strange, foreign country at the time. 

Medical services abroad can be significantly different to what we are used to, and they can often incur substantial bills. Getting travel insurance ahead of time can help to mitigate these risks. Providers like Staysure offer a range of insurance packages, with potential unlimited cover for medical expenses and cover for a number of pre-existing medical conditions. So make sure you spend some time going through the types of packages you can get before you set off. 

Get ready for the flight

For most of us in the developed western world, flying is completely normal and is something most of us do at least once a year, if not much more frequently. However, for someone who has never flown before, the idea can be strange, alarming, or even downright terrifying. 

Fear not, flying is incredibly safe. In fact, you’ll find many people fall asleep and snooze for the majority of the journey unworried. Bring some headphones so you can listen to music or a podcast, or a book to read, or simply enjoy the view if you happen to be at a window seat. 

If your ears start to hurt, don’t worry. This is perfectly normal and relatively common side effect of flying that is caused by sudden shifts in air pressure. Suck on sweets or chewing gum or swallow repeatedly to minimize the discomfort. 

Plane landing by mountains
Photo credit Pascal Meier via Unsplash

Pack everything you need

When it comes to packing for your very first trip away, it can be hard to know where to even begin. The most effective way to pack is to do it methodically. Make an itemized list of everything you think you’re going to need and assess each point individually. 

Many people pack too much, while some of us don’t pack enough. Either way, this is due to improper planning. Packing in an organized and structured way will make the process much less stressful and will ensure you don’t forget anything essential. 

Number one should be your passport, wallet, and money. Next, you’ll need enough clothes for your trip. Ensure these are appropriate for the particular climate of your chosen destination. Don’t forget your personal items too, you’ll need your phone, a phone charger, and all the necessary toiletries. 

Check everything off your list as you pack, this will save you having to unpack everything in a panic if you manage to convince yourself that you’ve forgotten something. 

Three blue suitcases in a colourful hallway
Photo credit American Green Travel via Unsplash

Conclusion

Going on your first trip away can be a scary experience. The best thing to do is embrace the nerves, they’re totally normal and you’ll feel them drift away as the plane takes off and you see your hometown disappear into the distance. Know what to expect from the flight, get travel insurance, and ensure you pack everything you need to guarantee yourself the trip of a lifetime. 

Wednesday, 16 November 2022

Ways to use mini Christmas cross stitch motifs in your crafts

This post contains Amazon affiliate links

Last year I shared my free mini Christmas cross stitch and pixel art designs and they have been really popular! I definitely want to use them in my Christmas crafting this year and so I've been having a brainstorm of different ways that that they could be used in Christmas crafts. I'm sharing them below in case you are looking for some Christmas cross stitch inspiration!

You can click the link above to download the printable pattern in classic colours and as a blank outline, and I've also designed a red and white Christmas cross stitch colourway

This is a smaller picture of the pattern:


Free mini Christmas cross stitch design motifs

And here are some different crafts that you could make with them:

* There are twenty four mini designs which lend themselves perfectly to an Advent Calendar. You could stitch the designs on to small individual drawstring bags.

* You could also use the designs to decorate the boxes of a wooden Advent Calendar. In this case, making the designs using a sturdier craft material like mini Hama beads or diamond painting dots might work better. 

* You could make a sampler style cross stitch design, either using the pattern as it is or changing it around to suit your taste. It would look lovely in a small frame, you could also add some text.

* The individual designs are the perfect size for gift tags when mounted in a cardboard frame. You can see how I made these here - Christmas cross stitch gift tags.

Mini Christmas cross stitch gift tags

* You could also make bookmarks with a row of four or five.

* The designs would also work well for Christmas cards, either individually or maybe in a block of four.

* Using Hama beads you could make some Christmas magnets, perhaps attached to a gift as a little extra present. You can see some examples of Hama bead magnets here.

* You could also use them with Hama beads to make some Christmas keyrings, again they would make a great gift tag.

* You can buy all sorts of tiny frames for displaying cross stitch. As well as for display they can also be turned into ornaments for the Christmas tree, magnets or a festive pendant.

* The designs would make some lovely mini Christmas bunting. You could stitch them onto felt like my felt Christmas bunting, or mount the stitched cross stitch onto cardboard flags.

Some Amazon affiliate links for things that you might use for these crafts:


Tuesday, 15 November 2022

What to consider when repairing or replacing your heating system

This is a collaborative post

Keeping your home warm is vital, especially in the winter months. There are many different ways that you can heat your home too. From radiators to electric space heaters, there are so many options. But when the time comes that they need replacing, you might start to wonder which system is best for you. So, keep reading and find out what you need to consider when repairing or replacing your heating system. 

The Type Of System

There are many different types of heating systems, but the main two are central and electric based heating. Most homes are fitted with central heating which runs off of gas, but with the general public becoming more eco-conscious, it might not be your go to choice. Gas central heating has many benefits such as the boiler being extremely efficient, and you might find that your house gets warmer a lot quicker and for longer. However, there are some drawbacks to gas central heating such as the use of fossil fuels to run, annual maintenance from a Gas Safe Engineer, and the risk of a carbon monoxide leak. 

Electric heating systems are similar in that they have benefits and drawbacks too. Some of the positives of electric heating systems are that they’re cheaper to repair and need less maintenance, more often than not they have smart controls, and in the current energy crisis they’re cheaper to run. There are some disadvantages to electric heating systems in that they can be more expensive to install at first, lots of homes have storage heaters which are not very efficient, and old electric storage heaters have been known to contain asbestos. So, there are benefits to both types of systems and disadvantages too. This means it’s all down to your personal preference to which one is right for your home, but it’s important that you weight up the pros and cons of each before deciding. 

Your Budget

Budget is going to be super important when it comes to deciding which heating system to go for when repairing or replacing your current one. Some systems are a lot more expensive like air-source heat pumps for example. If you don’t want to be spending your entire savings on repairing your heating system, then it’s important that you find out what options are actually within your budget. Try speaking to different suppliers and engineers to see which option will be right for your wallet. You might find that sometimes replacing the whole system is cheaper than repairing it, so you may want to look at all your options before going head first into the repairs. You also want to think about the cost of running that particular heating system too. Some will cost you a lot more than others, so make sure you take this into account and work out if it will fit into your monthly budget. 

Cat lying asleep on radiator
Photo credit he gong via Unsplash

Efficiency

Being aware of the impact that our heating systems have on the environment is important to a lot of people, so you probably want to compare the different systems out there. You’ll find that a lot of them are much energy efficient than others, so rushing into the system that you go for can be detrimental to your bills and the planet. You’ll find that the more eco-friendly systems tend to be cheaper to run as well, and some of them (like solar panels) can even make you money. Efficiency can help ensure that your home is well heated too, as a lot of older boilers are nowhere near as efficient as modern ones. So, replacing your system to something more modern could boost your efficiency much more than repairing the same old system. 

Technology

With the rise of modern technology, it’s become a lot more popular with heating systems. From radiators that can be controlled by an app on your phone to boilers that can be controlled remotely by engineers, there are so many advancements with heating systems, that you need to consider the technology carefully. If you’re not a fan of using things like your phone for smart things around your home, then you’ll want to make sure that you avoid electric radiators that can only be controlled this way. This doesn’t mean you have to go for old models though, you just need to go for ones that incorporate both types of controls. This way you’ll be able to enjoy the new heating system that you’ve got and be able to make the most of modern technology in terms of efficiency. You may want to avoid heating systems that don’t make use of modern technology at all as it could mean that repairs are a lot more expensive should you encounter issues. So, make sure you really research the technology that your chosen heating system comes with, and you’ll definitely have a much better user experience when it’s fitted.

Making sure that your home is well heated is important to everyone, so you want to ensure that you go for the best heating system possible. However, there are things that you need to consider beforehand such as your budget, the type of technology used, and how efficient the new system is. Thinking about all of these things will really help you make the best choice possible for your house and allow you to warm each and every room. So, if you’re thinking about repairing or replacing your heating system, make sure that you take these tips on board and you’ll definitely have a well heated home. 

Monday, 14 November 2022

Snowflake cross stitch embroidery hoop design - free pattern

This post contains Amazon affiliate links

I recently shared my simple snowflake cross stitch designs, and today I'm sharing a larger free snowflake cross stitch design. This circular design fits perfectly into a 6" embroidery hoop for display, and it makes a lovely festive decoration for your home this Christmas.

I stitched this design using white embroidery thread on navy blue 14 count Aida fabric. The design measures 67 x 67 stitches. Because the pattern uses just the one colour it is very quick and easy to stitch. I think that it would also look great on fabric in a different colour - perhaps green or red - or if stitched with metallic threads. 

Click here to download the pattern below as a .pdf - Snowflake Embroidery Hoop Pattern

Snowflake embroidery hoop free pattern

This was a really satisfying make as it stitched up so quickly, especially because no colour changes are needed and there are no fancy stitches or backstitch! The only thing to watch is if you are using dark thread on white Aida, because if you carry the thread across the back then it might show through.

I used a plain wooden embroidery hoop for my design, but to make it a little more festive I used a few coats of silver acrylic paint to cover it which worked really well. A gold or white frame would also look good - there are so many different colour combinations that you could come up with.

Happy crafting!

Embroidery hoop design with snowflakes circular

Saturday, 12 November 2022

Adopting an animal - a great Christmas gift idea

This is a collaborative post

Last year my daughter spent some of her Christmas money on a primate adoption. She chose to adopt a golden-cheeked gibbon called Kim who lives at Monkey World in Dorset, and we upgraded to a family adoption so that we could all enjoy as many visits to the sanctuary as we wanted during the year. We've been several times and have been able to see Kim and her partner Tien up close, as well as having some lovely family days out at the park seeing all the animals that live there.

As well as knowing that her adoption is been used to support Kim's care, it has also given Mia a lot of interest in the particular species as well as in all the other primates at the park. She keeps up to date with all the latest news on the website and social media and she's learned a lot about how the animals live, both in the park and in the wild. 

If you are interested in adopting an animal, it's worth having a look at any extra benefits that are included with the price of your adoption, as all zoos and animal parks are different. It's typical to receive entry to the park, a certificate and a few updates about your animal over the year, but some places also offer a few extras which are nice to have, especially if you are looking for something to wrap as a gift. For example if you choose a child Giraffe adoption at Marwell Zoo as well as an entrance ticket you'll also received a stuffed giraffe, recognition on the adopter board at the zoo and a few extras like stickers and a bookmark. 

Giraffe in an indoor zoo enclosure
Photo credit Annika Ashley via Unsplash

Mia only took out her adoption for one year, and she is still thinking about what she will do when it runs out in January. I know that it will be very difficult for her to give up adopting Kim, and so I suspect that she will want to renew it! Another option might be for us to sponsor a different primate at the same park, or perhaps a complete change and choose to adopt an animal that lives at a zoo closer to home - it's a bit of a trek over to Monkey World for us!

She has had so much enjoyment out of the adoption that I'd really recommend it if you are looking for a Christmas gift for a child or an adult, especially if they have an interest in a particular animal. It's something a bit more unusual and most importantly would really make a difference to the zoo that you choose.

Wednesday, 9 November 2022

Book review - It's Christmas Everywhere by Hannah Barnaby, illustrated by João Fazenda.

Today I'm sharing a beautiful new Christmas book. It's Christmas Everywhere by Hannah Barnaby and illustrated by João Fazenda is a festive board book for young children. The shaped book opens up to form a beautifully illustrated Christmas tree, and each double page spread introduces readers to some of the different ways that people celebrate Christmas around the world. The book tells the simple story of a plain pine tree that longs to be a real Christmas tree, and so there's a particular emphasis on the way that trees are traditionally decorated in different countries.

It's Christmas Everywhere by Hannah Barbary

I love learning about festive traditions from different places, and this book shares interesting facts in a really engaging way. Younger children will enjoy the simple rhyming story, and older children (and adults!) will enjoy learning some fascinating festive facts. For example, in Mandarin the world for apple sounds similar to the word for Christmas Eve and so apples form a key part of the decorations!

It's Christmas Everywhere book review inside Australia

This is a wonderful book to keep by the Christmas tree for children to pull out and explore. It would also be a perfect addition to a Christmas Eve box, and can be brought out year after year to enjoy together.

It's Christmas Everywhere book review inside Greece

Amazon affiliate link

Monday, 7 November 2022

Free simple cross stitch snowflake designs and patterns

Today on the blog I have a simple festive cross stitch pattern to share - some mini cross stitch snowflakes. These tiny designs are easy to work on and look great when stitched up. To keep the designs small it was necessary to simplify the snowflake a little so these are eight sided snowflakes rather than six sided, but I think that they still work well!

The snowflakes would be great for all sorts of winter and Christmas crafting projects. For example Christmas cards, mini bunting, tableware, Advent calendars, baubles and all sorts of decorations. I definitely have a lots of ideas in mind which I will be sharing here!

I found that the snowflakes worked really well when stitched with white thread on a darker background. You could also use silver metallic thread on a dark background, or if you want to use a white background I think that they would look great stitched in a contrasting colour like red for a Scandi feel.

Free mini snowflake cross stitch designs and patterns

I have worked some of these designs up into a full embroidery hoop cross stitch pattern which I will be sharing on the blog very shortly. Hopefully this sneak peek will give a good idea of how the simple cross stitch snowflakes look when they are stitched! I used navy blue Aida fabric and white embroidery thread for my hoop.

Free cross stitch snowflake designs

These small snowflake designs can also easily be used for other pixel art projects. Last year I used some of the simpler designs to make some mini Hama bead snowflakes. You can see in the blog post how I adapted the designs to add a background so that they were more stable for the tiny beads. You could also use the designs for knitting patterns, digital art projects, diamond painting and much more.

Mini Hama bead small snowflake embellishments

Happy festive crafting!
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