Welcome to my Country Days Blog!

I’ve lived in Devon for over 30 years and while I spend most of my time working in my studio, or in front of a TV camera or on an exhibition stand, country living does give me some time and space… to think about my next project!

A crafter in the country is never bored – nature is a huge treasure trove! Beachcombing, walking on Dartmoor, or rummaging about in hedgerows (while Richard pretends not to notice) produces all sorts of goodies. Shells, feathers, wildflowers, leaves – natural things are so often the ‘light bulb moment’ that gives me an idea for something new!

I have hundreds – actually, make that thousands ­– of ideas and projects from crafts to cookery to flowers that I thought I could share with you through a weekly country-inspired blog.

I love hearing from fellow crafters and swapping ideas and useful hints and tips, so do please feedback your comments on my blog, I’m sure it will be a lot of fun!

Several ideas from one set of dies

It’s important to be able to use any die you buy in several different ways. Flexibility makes dies so much better value and this little trio of cards gives some inspiration on quick and easy cards with our recent flower dies.

The bunch of roses uses Tied Bunch of Roses SD624, together with the Harriet Lace Edger SD191. I love the versatility of the lacy edger dies – well I like most things lacy I guess! On this card, the diecuts have been coloured with Promarkers, but you could easily diecut in a green and then pale lilac card and paper piece the design.

The orchid card looks so stylish, yet can be made up in a very short time once you have your diecuts. Again you could paper piece and cut in various colours but you can achieve such lovely subtle colours using a marker. The die for the vase and flowers is Orchid Trio SD634– the little banner with the forked ends you can just cut by hand.

Finally, the ‘Just for You’ card uses a combination of Tied Bunch of Roses SD624 and the vase from Vase of Flowers SD641. I think it’s important to be able to mix and match dies from any range of dies I buy.

The best value way to have all the dies used in these cards is to buy our special offer Floral Bouquets Multibuy!

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Pearls of wisdom

Surely one of the most popular embellishments for card makers – pearls manage to be pretty and elegant without being overly showy, classy rather than brash I always think! Of course, the pearls we use are synthetic, but a real natural pearl is a thing of extraordinary beauty.

If you have been to see Mama Mia II (like me!!), you will know there’s a scene where a young suitor opens an oyster for his beloved (no names, no plot spoilers!) and there just happens to be a great big pearl nestling in it! In reality, finding a pearl in an oyster is very rare… but in fiction, of course, anything can happen!

So what is a natural pearl? I always think it is incredible how they are produced… Pearls are made when a small object, such as a grain of sand, is washed into a mollusc. As a defence mechanism to an irritant inside its shell, the mollusc creates a substance called nacre (mother of pearl). Layer upon layer of nacre, coat the grain of sand until the iridescent gem is formed. The ideal pearl is perfectly round and smooth, but many other shapes, known as ‘baroque’ pearls, can occur. The finest quality natural pearls have been highly valued as gemstones and objects of beauty for many centuries. Because of this, ‘pearl’ has become a metaphor for something rare, fine, and valuable.

The most valuable pearls occur spontaneously in the wild, but are extremely rare, which is why they command such high prices. These wild pearls are referred to as ‘natural’ pearls. Cultured or farmed pearls from pearl oysters and freshwater mussels make up the vast majority of those sold. Imitation pearls are also widely sold in inexpensive jewellery – I think most of us of a ‘certain age’ probably own a string, but their iridescence is poor compared to genuine pearls.

Pearls are cultivated primarily for use in jewellery, but, in the past were also used to adorn clothing – think of the Elizabethans and their bodices encrusted with pearls. They are also been crushed and used in cosmetics, medicines and paint formulations.

Whether wild or cultured, gem-quality pearls are almost always pearlescent and iridescent, like the interior of the shell that produces them… hence the rather lovely term ‘mother of pearl’ as found inside the mollusc’s shell.

Cultured pearls are formed in pearl farms, using human intervention as well as natural processes. As with natural pearls, the initial formation of cultured pearls is the response of the shell to an ‘irritant’ – a tissue implant. A tiny piece of tissue (from a donor shell is transplanted into a recipient shell, causing a pearl sac to form into which the pearls structure starts to form. There are a number of methods for producing cultured pearls and one is by adding a spherical bead as a nucleus and most saltwater
cultured pearls are grown in this way.

So what makes pearls so beautiful? The unique lustre of pearls depends upon the reflection, refraction, and diffraction of light from the pearl’s translucent layers – the thinner and more numerous the layers in the pearl, the finer the lustre. So it’s the overlapping of successive layers causes the iridescence that pearls display. So now you know!

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Such a fan!

I am indeed a huge fan of the series of boxed sets I am working on with Practical Publishing. Nothing gives me greater pleasure than being able to be part of creating a product that is stunning value for money. Any one of the boxed sets that have come out so far is highly recommended. These cards come from Cardmaking Collection Issue 5 – it is all based around Victorian fans and has just been so popular, I am glad so many thousands of people enjoyed it.

The boxed sets are always available from lots of high profile outlets, like Tesco and other supermarkets, WH Smith – and of course our website and Create and Craft just to mention a few and I love hearing from Practical Publishing when an issue has jumped off the shelves!

This fan themed issue was a huge success – at the time of writing this, we have a few left here on the website but not sure they will be around much longer.

The great thing is that apart from having great freebies, the magazine that comes in the set shows you how to make every card pictured in the set (including these two) and I don’t know about you but I do love having clear step by steps right in front of me to work with.

The next issue (6) is due in early September and is going to be a real wow – we have been working with Jane Shasky and I know any regular reader of the blog will have seen her amazing artwork, so without wishing away the summer, roll on September!

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Sundays in rural France…

Time for another of Tina’s travel blogs, written by Tina Dorr. It’s fun to hear how different Sundays are in France, I wonder what our Sundays might be like if the shops and supermarkets weren’t open?

“Now that we live in rural France, we get to experience a completely different way of life that has its own special pace. It is very relaxed, and family orientated and, wherever you go, the roads are pretty clear and the scenery, beautiful.

Sundays in France are family time, a quiet time where shops are closed (unless you live in a tourist town) and people do things ‘en famille’. Sometimes, it is as simple as having friends and family round for lunch or going for a bike ride or, in the summer, it can be driving out to one of the many man-made beaches which children love.

One of the big things on a Sunday is going to a Vide Grenier, which means ‘empty attic’ and these are like car boot sales, except in France, whole streets are closed off to accommodate the many stalls and food vans.

At a Vide Grenier, you can find real treasures, such as antiques, furniture, toys, clothes, flowers, books, handmade carvings, soap and so much more. If you allow yourself a few hours, you can peruse the stalls, barter for goods, stop for a drink (beer seems very popular!) and have something to eat, which is usually sausage in a baguette or some chips. Entire families come along and leave laden down with their bargains. The Vide Grenier is truly a fun occasion; often having fairground rides, hook a duck, ice cream and candyfloss stalls too.

If you want something more relaxing to do, then the man-made beaches are beautiful. You can swim, sit on the sand, go for a boat ride, and with some, there is even pony riding and biking. There is always a nice café offering some shade, cool drinks and snacks, where you can sit and people watch.

Apart from the beach, they all have some sort of playground for the youngsters for when they tire of the sand. We took our little granddaughter to one at a place called Sillé-le-Guillaume which as well as the beach and all the other things mentioned, also had a petite train that takes you for a ride around the area, and the whole thing is surrounded by beautiful forest.

Once everyone has enjoyed their time, eaten their picnics and the day has drawn to a close, most people head home for dinner. In France, the main meal is always eaten at midday and so many restaurants don’t open in the evenings on a Sunday.”

 

 

 

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Congratulations – well done you!

Friends, children, grandchildren, siblings – they can all be involved in exams, tests or other achievements that we want to acknowledge and cheer for and offer our congratulations.

This is prime exam and end of term time that often involves passing things (or not) and I think it’s really important to appreciate everyone’s effort. I recently heard that a friend had received a congratulations card when her son had finished all his A-level exams. Not saying well done to the son but saying well done to her for living through the undoubted stressful times!

We all like being acknowledging and it’s lovely when someone says “well done”, or “you did a good job” or a mass of other things – so why not make a congratulations card? These two are very focused on exams but you could just as easily congratulate someone with flowers or a pretty landscape!

The card with the cap and gown on uses a Signature Die – Graduation Gown SD323and the owl die is Beautiful Owl SD101. The words are all part of the collection one inevitably accumulates. I think it’s great to have several different fonts for words like Congratulations – but my favourite is our sentiments die that has You Did It (SD507)… just something a little bit different.

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