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!

Butterfly birthdays!

I have been playing with these new Jane Shasky butterfly papers (Jane Shasky Vintage Butterfly paper pad) a lot in the last few weeks. I took them onto Create and Craft at the beginning of February and they sold like hot cakes, which was a great feeling – lovely to know the viewers agreed with me, they’re fabulous.

It’s very straightforward to create a beautiful card using these sheets – I love card making but often I want a beautiful delicate result without hours of grumbling and re-doing and frustrations.

This card used backing papers from the Age of Elegance CD – another ‘must have’ that I love to use on vintage cards.

The ingredients used here are:

  • 8″ white card blank (our Joanna Sheen range really are 8 x 8 – not slightly smaller)
  • Backing paper from The Age of Elegance CD
  • Jane Shasky Vintage Butterflies paper pad
  • Antique gold and pale lilac cardstock
  • Length of cotton lace and gold satin ribbon
  • A few flat backed pearls and peeloffs
  • Glues (I used double sided tape and some Pinflair)

Layer the main topper onto some lilac card and then wrap some ribbon around each corner as shown. It is easy to secure with a piece of Sellotape at the back.

Now layer the backing paper onto a piece of gold card that has been trimmed to approx. 7 1/2″ inches square. Cut the border from the Jane Shasky pad sheet – stick this to the bottom, lined up with the backing paper so a tiny bit of gold still shows.

Wrap some ribbon and lace around as per the picture and again secure with tape. Now attach to the card with Pinflair or foam pads (to accommodate the bump made by the ribbon/lace). Add the layered topper to the card again using foam pads or glue gel and then layer up the little sentiment and add that to the bottom as per the photo.

Finally decorate with some flat back pearls and dare I say it peeloffs. I know we don’t tend to use them as much these days, since the invention of dies but they do still have their place and this just adds some little gold highlights!

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Guerrilla gardening!

There is a roundabout, just off the A30 on the way to my crime writing partner Julia’s house, that is a delight to behold in the spring and summer when it is a mass of colour with wildflowers in profusion. This oasis in the middle of a three-way junction is the work of a local ‘guerrilla gardener’!

Marvellous, we cry! But did you know that planting roundabouts and road verges with flowers and plants is actually illegal? Going onto and planting any land you do not own is illegal in most countries in the world. How very dull…

However… very few people have ever been prosecuted. Councils are in a difficult position because there are, understandably, health and safety issues around people gardening on roundabouts at night and they can’t be seen to condone it. Sense seems to prevail though and most authorities take a relaxed stance and, if people enjoy the results and no damage is done, they tend to turn a blind eye.

If you fancy a bit of rebellion in a terribly nice and green-fingered way, you may want to look at The Guerrilla Gardener’s blog. He says: “Let’s fight the filth with forks and flowers” which strikes me as a very fine sentiment!

As you may know from previous blogs, I am a bit of a fan of things in miniature. So if you fancy trying some guerrilla gardening on a smaller scale, have a look at the fabulous images and ideas on The Pothole Gardener’s blog. He creates miniature gardens in potholes – and before you rush out into the middle of your local dual carriageway, I should add these are potholes in pavements, not roads! As much as I would love to do this, I fear my knees would not be co-operative!

Have you spotted any guerrilla gardening near where you live? Or, have you ever undertaken any yourself…? Do let us know!

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I love lavender!

I know I write often about lavender, but it’s a herb that brings me so much pleasure. I love the way it looks in the flower beds in the garden, but I also admire the many different ways it can be used.

Let’s start with drying or preserving it, so simple … the trick I feel is picking it at the right time. I find I get the best results if I pick lavender that is fully out but only just. If I need decorative dried lavender or just lavender flowers for filling sachets etc., then the bigger the better really. If you pick it too early, the flowers are tight and narrow with minimal colour. Pick a reasonable length of stalk and then bundle together with an elastic band and hang up to dry.

The reason for the elastic band is that the stems shrink as they dry and can slip out of string ties – so use an elastic band and it will shrink to fit so to speak!

If you want dried heads for their scent not their looks, then you can strip the flowers and lay them out to dry – I tend to use a metal pizza tray as it has holes in it (meant to crisp the pizza base no doubt!) cover the tray with some kitchen paper and then sprinkle the flowers across and leave to dry out of strong light.

The final tip I would add is that if your particular variety of lavender has long stalks as opposed to a stubby variety, then don’t waste your stalks – they look interesting bundled (maybe 30-40 stems) and tied with a ribbon – or if you are a real fire person, they smell nice chucked onto the fire with logs.

But really this blog is meant to be about the card – it’s using the new Jane Shasky Garden Herbs paper pad, which I love.

Mat some backing paper onto cardstock and add to the card blank. Tape on the border from the paper pad and mat the main image onto card and glue on, then add white die cuts using our Signature die Bubble narrow ledger (SD484). Add an embellishment of some ribbon and other pieces from the paper pad page and there you are! Simple but fun to make. Maybe you could scent the card with some lavender, or include a sachet?

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All wrapped up!

I seem to have spent a great deal of my life surrounded by bubble wrap – let’s just clarify that – I said ‘surrounded by’ not ‘wrapped in’! Running a business that posts out thousands of items by mail, bubble wrap is an essential product for protecting fragile objects.

While this is clearly what it was designed for, did you know there are many other wonderful ways you can use it too? As bubble wrap contains lots of little pockets of air, it is a great insulator as well as highly effective padding.

Keeping food cold

Cool bags are great, cool boxes even better, but they are expensive and can be cumbersome. If you just keep a sheet of bubble wrap lying flat in the back of your car, you can prevent your cold or iced foods from getting too warm by lining your shopping bags with it. It also works to keep hot foods warm, so great when you are driving home with a takeaway curry!

Insulating glass

Throughout the winter months, bubble wrap is ideal for lining your greenhouse to help keep heat in. And it’s not just great for plants, if you’re feeling chilly and there’s an annoying draft, you can tape a sheet of bubble wrap across a window – instant insulation for little or no cost, and it still lets the light in.

Hand cushions

That may sound a bit odd, but bubble wrap is perfect for creating makeshift hand cushions. Whether you want to add more comfort to the handles of crutches, a shopping bag or gardening tools, it will stop you getting sore palms.

Knee cushions

OK, I admit this isn’t going to be the fashion trend of the year, but you can tape patches of it to the knees of your trousers and use them as protective pads in the garden!

Protecting your plants

Bubble wrap your outdoor plants the night before a frost to keep them protected, much cheaper than garden fleece and very effective.

Outside taps

Securely wrap your outside/garden taps, and any exposed pipe work with bubble wrap, and fix with something like gaffer tape – job done for the winter!

Relieving stress!

And finally… bubble wrap has to be the best stress reliever ever! I should know, I have popped my way through yards and yards of it over the years!

So, the next time you have a delivery of something precious and the box is full of bubble wrap… think before you throw it away!

Photo copyright: www.eoartlab.com; joannabanana; www.diligentgardener.co.uk; www.builditsolar.com; www.keepcalm-o-matic.co.uk

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Thank you!

 

‘Thank you’ truly is a magic phrase at times. It’s amazing how powerful just saying thank you – or forgetting to say thank you – can be. We all feel good when someone thanks us for a card or a present and it’s obvious that you have pleased them.

In the old days, we would perhaps dutifully write thank you letters and this has understandably changed a bit over the years, I am just as chuffed with a thank you email or text these days! But a particularly lovely way to say thank you is to make a beautiful card like this one.

The main butterfly image comes from the Jane Shasky Vintage Butterfly paper pad – I can’t rave on enough about how beautiful the images are and every sheet will make a fabulous card for loads of different occasions.

The backing paper, which blends perfectly is from our Age of Elegance CD. This is such a handy resource to have tucked away in a drawer. There are dozens of quite gorgeous papers on here apart from the main toppers/images etc. My favourite component of this CD has to be the William Morris paper collection.

There’s nothing complex about this 8” x 8” square card – but it proves absolutely how heavy techniques or tricky ideas are sometimes outshone by simplicity!

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