A Calendar for 2015?

I know we concentrate on cardmaking most of the time but there are just some products that immediately make me think about calendars and Howard Robinson’s cottages are one of those things!

We have produced a new decoupage pack using 10 of Howard’s designs (you get 20 sheets in a pack) and they make wonderful decoupage with little frames and borders. Some of you may recognise Howard’s work from jigsaw puzzles you have seen or bought, he is madly popular and successful both in Europe and across America.

This country scene is what many of us consider a perfect country idyll. There are golden labrador retrievers by the doorway, roses, ducks, swans what more could we want!

The calendar is simple to make, you take half an 8” square card and cover with some backing paper. Add the image and all the layers of decoupage and then use one of the very handy little calendar pads which you can buy at craft shops or online. The hanging ribbon is made by punching a couple of holes along the top and tying the ribbon securely in a knot. Easy-peasy and a fun little gift that someone will enjoy for the whole year!

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Planning for a Merry Christmas!

Ok, so it’s too early to start sending festive greetings but last weekend, I thought it really was time I got down to more card making. I can’t say a whole load was achieved but lots of preparations, die cutting and cardstock organising got done!

Here’s an example of a card made with the Margaret Tarrant cardmaking pad. It works really well building a slightly larger card around the main image that appears on the sheet. This means the 6” x 6” pads can be flexible – ideal for smaller cards or by adding layers as on this card, they can make far larger cards too.

The ivy in the corners is using my much loved (by customers and myself) Signature die ivy corner. This and the ivy flourishes are definitely the most popular dies that we sell and I love using it in green obviously but here in white it looks really beautiful.

The diecut backing piece behind the design is a Sue Wilson die entitled Spanish background which makes a lovely border.

How are you getting on with your Christmas planning?

 

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A step in the right direction!

Top to bottom: The gradual build up of the paint effect on the steps.The paint effects course I recently went on with my partner in crime writing, Julia, has come in unexpectedly handy! Rather than a nice coat of wax on a wardrobe or a bit of light distressing on a dresser, Julia decided to ‘go for it’ on a grand scale and create a paint finish on her front doorsteps. I’ll let her explain…

It all started when my Other Half (OH) decided to replace our steep, crumbling and positively lethal steps up to the front door with nice new, wide concrete steps. Fine, I said – although secretly wishing for granite – but needs must and he was keen to get on with it… Eventually, we were the proud owners of three drab, hard edged, business-like concrete steps up to our nice old house. They looked awful! If Prince Charles had dropped by he would have described them as a “carbuncle on the face of an old friend”… or whatever it was he once said that got him into hot water.

I decided to make the best of it and, with the OH’s blessing, bought masonry paint in different colours. I bought one big tin of a sort of stone colour and then small sample pots of various different colours including black, terracotta, ochre and white. My aim was to try and dull down the steps and make them blend in better with the granite that is everywhere here on Dartmoor from the cobbles in the yard to the walls all around the house and garden. 

Having slapped on two coats on the base colour and let it dry, I got down on hands and knees and started stippling with a stencil brush. I covered about one square foot in an hour – this was not going to work. Then I tried a hard roller to skim over the top of the rough concrete surface – better, but not ideal. I then tried crumpled up newspaper – messy, a scrunched up plastic carrier bag ­– OK but very slippery.

By lunchtime, I was suffering from sore knees, backache and arm ache, so I decided to throw in the sponge – a nice big bit of natural sponge that I had forgotten I owned! Ideal! I was able to dab on the different shades in a random pattern and splodge away to my heart’s delight. The soft sponge got into the dips and bumps and the irregular texture of the natural sponge meant nothing looked regimented and regular.

It was almost dark when I finished, but I was pretty happy with the result. By the time it has weathered and got mucky and a bit of moss growing on it, I think it won’t look too bad. 

As you can tell, this isn’t one of Joanna’s master classes in crafting, but it does hopefully show a few things:

  1. Don’t be frightened to ‘have a go’
  2. Improvise – if your initial idea doesn’t work, try something else
  3. Make sure you use the right paint for the job – this had to be masonry paint to be durable
  4. Experiment – if you discover a good technique, try it on something else.
  5. Don’t be afraid to think big
  6. If all else fails – just paint over it and forget you ever started!
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Dramatic Couture!

How about a really over the top card for a fashion loving friend or family member? These images come from the CD featuring Janet Kruskamp – the collection. Janet has the most amazingly diverse range of things she paints and sketches and these are something wonderfully different.

This is a particularly large card measuring about 11.5” x 8” – but obviously you could take this idea and create something much smaller if you didn’t want to be quite so dramatic!

The corners can be achieved several ways – you could use something as easy as a punch, a die – even good old peeloffs. So mat your backing paper onto some black card. Add the corners and then mount all of that onto an antique gold card blank. This size of card blank would be something you would do yourself and is easiest with A3 card.

Then arrange the toppers with different couture designs, decoupage the outfits to add height to the card and then add a wonderfully grand ribbon bow. The hat pins are then tucked into the bow and glued in place with glue gel.

Have fun!

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The spirit of the harvest…

HTop to bottom: A westcountry ‘neck’ and a Suffolk horseshoe.ere’s a clue: Staffordshire has the knot, Suffolk the horseshoe and Devon has the Topsham cross. Any ideas what I am talking about? Other local names include Maiden Cross, Boat and Turnip while in the westcountry they were often called a Neck. Today, we generally just refer to them as corn dollies.

I’ve always rather liked these intricate and rather beautiful woven shapes and have had various designs hanging on beams and on mantlepieces over the years. In fact, this blog was inspired by me finding the tattered remains of a dolly that had fallen behind an arrangement in the kitchen fireplace – oops, housekeeping fail Joanna!

It is said that the name corn dolly comes from a corruption of ‘corn idol’ and that this straw ‘idol’ was a winter refuge for the ‘Spirit of the Harvest’. Normally the spirit lived in the growing crops but when they were cut it became homeless and so the hollow straw woven corn dolly provided a winter sanctuary.

As with so many old traditions, the concept has its roots in the pagan ‘circle’ – as in everything is born, dies, and is reborn, just the harvest is sown, it ripens, the crop is harvested and then the spirit, represented by the corn dolly, is eventually ploughed back into the soil where it grows again.

Each county had its own variation on the corn dolly theme resulting in lots of different shapes and designs. In Devon, the most traditional design was the ‘neck’, which was always made from the last sheaf of corn to be cut on any farm. Linked to this was the tradition of ‘crying the neck’ in which great ceremony was displayed when cutting the last sheaf.

It appears that there were two sorts of tradition concerning the last ‘neck’, it was either taken in as it was or made into a corn dolly. Either way, the neck was kept until after Christmas and then on ‘Plough Monday’ (the first Monday after Twelfth Night) it was cast into the first furrow and returned to the soil, this would ensure a good harvest for the year. If the dolly was not ploughed under then the harvest was doomed to failure.

Wheat straw was the easiest material to plait and old varieties with long hollow stems – such as the wonderfully named Maris Widgeon, Flamingo or Squarehead Master – were used. Today, farmers grow shorter stemmed cereal varieties and modern harvesting methods cut the straw shorter. Finding ears of corn with stalks long enough to make corn dollies has become difficult and sadly they have largely faded into harvest lore. And yet, a few farmers still grow the old, long stemmed cereal varieties for thatching and some people who have retained the skills still make the dollies. So, if you are lucky, you might come across a ‘dolly maker’ at a country show and craft fair.

Well, I’m debating sneaking outside and digging a small furrow and burying the remains of this particular corn dolly specimen. I’d hate to blight the crops, and it might do my garden good. I’ve just got to manage it when Richard isn’t looking…!

 

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