Light my fire!

This welcoming fire is in a cosy Cornish pub!

I know it hasn’t been that cold this winter, but it’s been so wet and miserable I think we can all do with a bit of treat now and again. Sitting in front of a log fire, or a log burner has to be classed as a real winter treat! While not all of us have real fires, we all seem to love it when we enter an ‘olde worlde’ pub and see logs blazing in the grate. We are lucky here in the Westcountry as there are plenty of such pubs about.

Sadly, I’ve always found that the romantic ideal of putting a match to the kindling and settling back with a book and a glass of wine on the sofa (oh and with Richard of course!) while it blazes away is very far from reality. Lighting a fire is an art… and an art that has so far escaped both of us!

Sofa, wine, fire… perfect!

There is always much debate about what is the best way to light a fire. Should you use firelighters (smelly), or is that cheating? Everyone has their own idea about how best to do it, but after extensive research online and consultation with some friends who are successful firelighters, this is my definitive guide:

  1. Make sure the grate is clean, so sweep away any ash from the hearth if it is an open fire or if a log burner, clean out the tray. You need airflow to get the fire going, flames feed on oxygen.
  2. Scrunch up balls of newspaper and lay them in the grate. Don’t skimp, and make sure the paper is dry. Some people swear by making the newspaper into a tube and then knotting it – I am told this is a lot of faff and makes no difference!
  3. Plenty of kindling and newspaper are essential.

    Place very dry pieces of kindling onto the newspaper. Kindling is small pieces of wood or twigs that are essential to get the fire going. Again, don’t skimp on these, and poke them in amongst the newspaper to ensure a good base.

  4. Place a couple of well-seasoned logs (small to medium-sized, don’t swamp it with a whopper) on top of the pile and then light the newspaper with a match. If you are using a log burner, close the door, and make sure the vents are open to draw in the air.

Ta-da! That should be the perfect recipe for a blazing fire! If it doesn’t work either paper or wood are very probably damp, in which case… cheat, and use a firelighter or go and have a hot bath, or simply snuggle up under the duvet!

PS. Don’t throw your ash away, mix it into your compost!



Jane Shasky vibrant nasturtium card

I am rather fond of nasturtiums. Partly because they grow so easily and fight on regardless of how crummy the soil is… but also because their bright colouring attracts my little granddaughter and she keeps them regularly watered for me!

This image is from one of our Jane Shasky pads called Garden Herbs and the backing paper comes from Jane’s CD – From the Heart of the Garden. I know I say it often, but it is one of those really useful CDs you will use over and over again for many different projects. The papers are fab and so are the images.

The Garden Herbs card making pad has the same really useful selection of pictures on it. I find Jane’s work so easy to use and turn to it frequently. The die is from our Signature die range, Crocus SD470. It has been cut out on green card a couple of times and then a third time with white card and the flowers coloured and snipped off to paper piece the finished embellishment.


Roses and lace

A happy new year to you and I do hope it has got of to a positive start! This card is just gorgeous combining two of my favourite things – roses and lace. It’s an 8” x 8” base so makes a really good impact. The main artwork is an image from Marjolein Bastin, whose work is so pretty, her cardmaking pads are just full of pages that make you want to start on a card!

This particular image is from the Marjolein Bastin Summer pad and is one of my many favourites. It has been used with two Signature dies, Jessica lace border and the Climbing Rose. I would say they are amongst my most heavily used dies – especially the rose… not that I use flowers a lot! It does make a stunning card to send someone though and although I laugh about my love of flowers and tendency to add them to everything, they are a very beautiful embellishment!

Two borders have been used here, so you need to grab the second border from the second sheet of this pink rose design in the pad. There are plenty of other cards that you can do with the main images and other bits on the second sheet, so it’s not wasted. That’s the joy of having two sheets the same of each of the twelve designs.

The climbing rose die has been die cut in white and coloured. There are two schools of thought on this. Some people swear by cutting the die a few times in the required colours and paper piecing but I think colouring can be quicker and easier. Unless of course you don’t like colouring much and there are plenty of those that don’t! The Jessica lace has been cut in a white pearl effect card.

Finally to recap on the three glues that I use constantly, and all three were needed for this card. Pinflair glue gel is used to create the decoupage and attach the rose embellishments. The backing paper and little square images are all stuck down with double sided tape and then the centrepiece is attached with foam tape.


Poppies, butterflies and lace

Poppies, butterflies and lace, such a pretty combination! This is a relatively quick and easy card and I love the finished effect. I have a pack of white lace edged hankies that my Mum thought would be useful for smarter occasions (she was never happy with the small packet of tissues solution). I am afraid I never really used them and they just sat in my cupboard, so I transferred them to my craft room in case I got inspiration.

You never know I might have fancied embroidering my initials or screen printing…. ok, stop being silly, you ended up cutting them up for card making – much more realistic!

So, to make this pretty background, I folded the square hanky into four and then across that quarter to make a pointed shape as you would with an icing bag. I cut across the plain cotton in the centre to remove the bulk and was left with a handkerchief with a massive hole in the middle.

Using red liner tape as it is that much stronger than double sided, I added at least two strips to each edge. Then gently press and shape the handkerchief around, the red liner tape will let you reposition a bit and make it fit the square card. Add more pleats if it’s a bit big.

The main image comes from the Jane Shasky poppies pad. I layered the topper up on blue and green card to make it nice and study and then using tons of glue gel placed it over the fabric. Press gently and then leave to dry overnight.

Finishing touches were extra butterflies provided on the sheet.


Make it a lovely local Christmas!

As crafters, I think we can all understand how much skill is involved in turning a hobby into a successful business. At Christmas, I do like to try and find unusual gifts, rather than rushing to a high street chain or relying on Amazon to do my shopping. I also feel it is important to support local producers wherever I can. If we don’t, they won’t survive and the world will be a poorer, less interesting place.

I have already spotted several super local producers in my neck of the woods and will be getting quite a few local gifts for family and friends. I have included links (where I can) if you are interested in buying from my local producers, but I hope it will inspire you to have a look around your own area and see what is on offer. I bet you’ll be very pleasantly surprised!

Twool sounds lovely – and it is lovely! Super sustainable twool products are made in Devon from the ‘lustre’ long wool of the rare breed Whiteface Dartmoor sheep. Versatile twool yarn is the eco-friendly British alternative to jute. Their online shop is full of lovely gift ideas from garden twine to posh woolly bags to dog leads. They also have some special Christmas gifts including a ‘Chelsheepensioner Dumpling’ hand knitted from twool – you’ll have to go and look at their website now just to see what that is!

I confess I have mentioned The Dartmoor Soap Company before, but I truly believe it is worth another mention! Their soaps are fab and make great stocking fillers. Their artisan soaps are handmade using natural ingredients which, wherever possible, are sustainably sourced and harvested on Dartmoor. How good is that? They produce a wonderful range of soaps including aromatherapy soaps, soaps for men and even soap for pets! There is definitely a soap for every member of your family!

Clare’s Preserves is a true artisan producer of multi award winning marmalades, jams, jellies, chutneys and relishes. Based in the foothills of Dartmoor, all products are handmade by Clare in small batches, using traditional open pot methods. Clare’s preserves include some wonderful flavour combinations – Beetroot & Orange Chutney, Blackcurrant & Lime Jam, Lemon, Dartmoor Honey and Ginger Marmalade and many more! You’ll be spoilt for choice.

Not wishing to be accused of being sexist, but… here’s one for the boys well, definitely for Richard anyway! Dartmoor Brewery is the only brewery on the moor producing Dartmoor branded beer, the brewery is passionate about preserving and promoting Dartmoor and its traditions. The Brewery’s own shop at its HQ in Princetown sells everything from its popular beers — including Jail Ale, Dartmoor IPA, Dartmoor Best and Legend — to Dartmoor Brewery branded goods such as T-shirts, rugby shirts, hoodies and beer gift packs.

And finally… how about a bit of light Christmas reading material? I know, absolutely shameful self-promotion but the fourth book in the Swaddlecombe Series is entitled The Proof is in the Pudding and has a Christmassy theme, so I feel I am allowed to include it! You can buy this one (and the previous three!) in paperback from my website, or on Kindle.