How to: Cute Calcifer Studs

I made these little studs as part of a festive craft swap with two schoolfriends. The other item was my Up cross stitch. The brief was that the items were to be tiny and based on a list of our top ten films that we sent each other. In case you’re not familiar with Howl’s Moving Castle, here’s a picture of Calcifer.                                                                       Calcifer

Here’s a pic to show the size of these things. They’re tiny! Single slice

You will need:

  • Red, orange, yellow, white and black Fimo, or other brand of polymer clay. I used translucent Fimo for the main colours as I think this gives a better finish, but opaque would look nice too.
  • Fimo varnish (optional)
  • Craft knife
  • Plain stud backs
  • Strong glue


  1. Preheat oven to about 100C, or follow instructions on packet.
  2. Roll a thin tube of yellow Fimo, about 2mm in diameter and a couple of centimetres long.
  3. Make a flat square of orange Fimo, as long as your yellow tube and about a millimetre thick. Loosen from your work surface and roll around your yellow tube, cutting off any excess and rolling until smooth.
  4. Make a slightly larger square of red Fimo, about 1.5mm thick. Roll around your orange tube.Finished Calcifer tube
  5. Cut cross-sections with a very sharp craft knife. Shape them so that they are a bit more tear shaped.Two slices
  6. If you want, cut little indents in the sides so they look less perfectly round.
  7. Clean your fingers on a little waste white Fimo and then roll very tiny spheres of white Fimo. They really should be minuscule, about 0.5mm across. Squash into place.                               Just white eyes
  8. For the pupils and mouths, roll a tube of black Fimo as thin as you possibly can.Black tube
  9. Cut off tiny bits for Calcifer’s pupils. Carefully position in the centre of his eye and squash into place.One white eyes, one finished eyes
  10. For the mouths, either use lines from the black tube. Making round mouths also looks cute but forming the black rings is incredibly fiddly! If you want to make these into dangly earrings, make little holes at the top at this stage.One complete, one no mouth
  11. Bake for about 30 mins. Leave to cool completely. I often leave mine in the switched-off oven.
  12. If desired, varnish.                                                          Varnished
  13. Glue carefully to your posts and you’re done!

How to: Teeny tiny Up! cross-stitch

Now I can’t take much credit for designing this as I found some very similar images online as inspiration. But I think it has a bit of everything- balloons, a house and it’s absolutely minuscule. Also, it’ll only take you a couple of hours to put together, so this cross-stitch would make a great present.


You will need:

  • about 15x15cm square of 22 count aida.
  • embroidery thread- black, yellow and then at least 7 other colours. In a pinch, you could use cotton.
  • a fine needle
  • optional: embroidery hoop. If you’re new to stitching this will help you to keep your tension correct, so I would recommend it but it’s by no means essential.

Note: With aida, the higher the count, the smaller the squares as the number corresponds to the number of holes per inch. You could make this bigger by just using different aida and the doubling up the strands of embroidery thread you use.

Work with a single strand of thread if you are using 22-count aida.

  1. Feel free to use my pic as a reference image. OR you could use this handy dandy ‘chart’ I madeChart
  2. I started with the balloons, though now I’m not entirely sure why! I started out by trying to slavishly copy another design but actually that’s quite tricky when it’s a photo rather than a nice pattern.
  3. Anyway, use one colour at a time and pick out a few stitches that aren’t too close to one another. Don’t be too precious about this as I think it will look good however it turns out. I would recommend saving a couple of pale, neutral-ish colours, such as yellow and pink, until last and using them to fill in any gaps.The thread will become very thick, but don’t worry about this.Next, I worked on the house. I used the bottom right corner of the balloon mass as a reference point for the uppermost point of the house. Leave the balloon strings until last, and I would say this is a good way to start as you don’t need to go back on yourself or carry long bits of thread across the back of your design. If you do carry thread in this way, the black might show through the aida.Started outline
  4. You can see that I did the windows before starting the outline. I think I did this so that the yellow thread wouldn’t be visible on top of the black. Go ahead and do the yellow first if you’re good at counting stitches, but it is a bit of a headache. I carried the thread down from the balloon mass and between the windows. Otherwise, it would be virtually impossible to work the ends of the thread under the stitches at the back to secure them.                                                       Windows and most balloons
  5. You can see here that I worked the windows when the yellow thread was live.Either way, finish the out line of the house and the highlighted windows. The balloon strings are single long stitches connecting the balloon mass and the house.Secure the ends of the black thread and you’re done!If your design looks a bit messy with fingerprints etc, you can block it by gently washing it in lukewarm water with a tiny bit of delicate fabric soap or baby shampoo. Don’t wring the fabric or you might distort the stitches. Just squeeze the water out as best you can and leave on a clean towel in a warm place to dry. You can then iron the piece so it looks perfect. I didn’t do this stage as the fabric looked fine and I knew I would be framing it, which helps to stretch everything out nicely anyway.You’re done! This cross-stitch looks great in a tiny frame like this.                                                         Framed

Up and Away: Silver Charm

This week I made one of my favourite ever things, thanks to my fellow crafty crusader. She found a most excellent voucher for a silver charm making workshop and we spent a most enjoyable three hours designing and making our own silver jewellery. She made a beautiful bunny charm in honour of her pet rabbit. I made this.


I must say that I’m pretty pleased with how it turned out. I took a few pics, so I’ll do a blow-by-blow of how I went from a solid square of silver to this.

Template and raw material

I started out by sketching the template. This is the plain silver.Etched balloon

The next step was to etch the design into the silver. You can see the reflection of my high-quality camera in it, too.Cutting balloon

Next came the sawing. Getting the blade into the saw was tricky and they were very fine, which meant that they snapped if your technique was bad. You can see the hole I drilled in the balloon so that I could cut out the highlight.

Both cut out

I finished a little bit early and thought it would be cute to have a little heart hanging from the string of the balloon. It was surprisingly difficult to cut due to its teeniness- I broke one blade in cutting out my balloon but FIVE when cutting the heart.Annealing

The next step was to anneal the pieces. This involves going at them with a little blowtorch in order to make the silver malleable. I forgot to take a picture of them pickling in an acid solution after this step.Stamped balloon and a hole in my heart

Next came the decoration. You can probably see that my balloon has become fatter- the pattern is applied to the silver by putting it next to a brass mold and then putting it through a roller. I set the pressure a bit too high. Oops. I also nearly forgot to drill the hole to attach the chain ‘string’ of the balloon. This was nearly a disaster too- you can probably see that the hole is ridiculously close to the edge of the shape. I like to live dangerously.

Vanity stamped back

I also stamped my initials into the back of the balloon, in case I forget who made it.Filing

Next came the filing stage. This took forever! It was followed by the sandpaper stage.Both polished

The final thing was to give them a good ol’ polish. This was done on a big cool machine that I also forgot to photograph. You first polished it using brown stuff called tripoli, I think. After a quick wash, the final polish with rouge left the pieces looking shiny and beautiful, ready for the jump rings to be added. It was an excellent evening with a wonderful souvenir.IMAG0652

How to: Budget Super Mario costume

I’m going to pretend this is festive by saying that you could wear this Mario costume to a New Year’s party. If anyone from Nintendo is reading and feeling litigious, then any resemblance to your character is purely coincidental. I think that should cover me!

Here’s a pic of the finished cossie

All finished

Definitely not the most flattering picture of me, but it’s the only one where you can see all the elements of the costume. Isie, if you ever read this, don’t be annoyed that I covered you up, I just wasn’t sure you’d want your image used on here!

I’ve got a few pics of my process so we’ll start with the hat. Here we go!

Mario’s hat

You will need:

  • Fabric or all-purpose glue
  • Cheap red baseball cap
  • White felt
  • Scissors (proper sharp ones)
  • Scrap paper and pencil

This was really very easy.

  1. Find an image of a Mario M online and use it to create a template on the scrap paper. To make sure it’s the right size, I found a circular object that looked a good size and used that to draw the large circle like so.Measuring M for hat
  2. Here’s my finished template
  3. M template
  4. I folded it half so I was sure it would be symmetrical, then trimmed it up a bit.
  5. Place the template on your felt and carefully cut around it. You could use a fabric pen to draw it on but I worried that it would stain the felt and end up looking dodgy.
  6. Cut out M
  7. Now you just carefully glue it in place. My hat had a helpful seam down the middle so I knew the M was perfectly in the centre. Put glue just on the bottom of the felt and below the cut-out M. Carefully glue just the first half. This allows you to make adjustments more easily.Sticking M
  8. Once you’re satisfied that it’s looking good, glue the rest and voila!M hat finished

The moustache

This is very easy. All you need is:

  • Black felt
  • Scrap paper and pencil
  • Sharp scissors
  • Tit tape
  1. Again, find a good reference image online and draw your template. The folding-in-half-for-symmetry trick works here too.Moustache template
  2. Again, lay on your felt (pin if you wish, but I didn’t) and cut out
  3. I found that I had to trim this one a bit more- if you don’t pin the template, it can slip around a bit.

The ? Box

This was actually the most complicated part of the whole enterprise! Don’t bother with it if you’re stuck for time, though it does look very cool and you could use it to give a present to a nerdy friend once you’ve finished with it.

My box has two sides with ?s, two with brick print and the top and bottom are plain yellow.

You will need:

  • Lots of paper. Preferably, coloured paper- 6 sheets of yellow, one orange, two brick-coloured and one black. Yellow wrapping paper would be ideal. If you don’t have coloured paper, you’ll need paint.
  • A cardboard box
  • Squared/graph paper
  • Scissors
  • Ruler
  • Pencil
  • Black permanent marker
  • Patience
  1. If you don’t have coloured paper, paint your paper and leave somewhere to dry flatPainting paper yellowSix yellow sheets
  2. Prepare your template for the ? Again, find a good reference image online. Since it is 16-bit, this actually makes this much easier. I used the squared paper so my dimensions were perfect. The shaded bits will be black and the rest, orange.
  3. ? template
  4. Draw around your template onto orange paper and cut out carefully.
  5. Using the black marker, carefully draw and then shade in all the hatched parts of the ?Half done ?
  6. Make another one. I love this pic.
  7. ??
  8. Using the squared paper again, cut out four pixels for each corner of the block.
  9. Stick the yellow paper all around the box, overlapping the corners so that it is completely yellow. You could also spray paint the box, I imagine, or use wrapping paper if you’re sensible.
  10. Hold your breath and glue on your ? and pixels
  11. Finished box
  12. For the brick pattern, you really only need the ruler and a marker. Again, a reference image helps.
  13. Carefully rule out your grid pattern with the marker. I used the width of the ruler for the brick and then the edges of the numbers for the black parts. This avoided some unnecessary measuring. Although I did measure a bit to ensure that the lines were straight.Brick pattern outline
  14. Colour in all the black bits
  15. Brick pattern
  16. Cut and stick to your box

The rest

You’ll need

  • Some blue dungarees. I got mine cheap on eBay.
  • Yellow Fimo (optional)
  • White gloves

I created some little discs of yellow Fimo for Mario’s yellow buttons. This was slight overkill, so I’d only do it if you have Fimo lying around the house. You could also use stiff card.


Strut your stuff- you look like an awesome diminutive Italian plumber!



You’ve been framed

I finally went to see my recently married friend for the first time since the wedding, so I was able to take a picture of my framed cross-stitch.


What you can’t see (happily) in this picture is that I improvised the framing process as well. I went to visit my mum soon after starting this project and she happened to have a frame of the correct size. When I went back on my way down to the wedding, however, the frame no longer fit as I hadn’t factored in the size of the date. Luckily, mum is also a bit of a hoarder and so managed to dig out this lovely golden frame for me. Which was slightly too BIG. After more digging, mum came up with the marbled-effect card. Luckily you can’t really tell that I had two pieces of card, laid together and cut by eye.


I’m posting about this as I think it’s interesting even though my sense of perfectionism/harsh superego (shout out to any psychoanalytically oriented readers!) nearly prohibits it. Recently, some friends and I went to a mosaic-making workshop. For somewhat obscure reasons, I decided on a Mario theme and chose the exact design based on the tiles available. Here’s my rather rough-around-the-edges finished productHere’s how this wonderful effect was achieved.Image

Step 1: The highly technical drawingsImage

I laid the tiles down to check that dimensions were okay. The baseboard is just an old piece of MDF.

Step 2: Cut tiles into fragments and glue down with PVAImageImage

Step 3: High and dry

Leave your board to dry for at least an hour, so that the pieces of tile will stay solid when you start grouting. Looking back at this picture, I wish I’d used a darker colour of grout. Oh well, it’s all learning for next time.

Step 4: I’m a mosaic, get me grout of here!

Mix up your grout with water to approximately the consistency of toothpaste and then get messy. Smear it all over the place, using either a proper tool or an old credit card to work it down into all the gaps.ImageLeave for about 10 minutes until it begins to dry, while you prepare a bowl of warm water and a sponge.

Step 4: Clean it up

Gently clean the grout from the surface of the tiles with your clean sponge, rinsing frequently. You’re just wiping off the surface, trying to keep all of the grout between the tiles level. This step takes ages, but you should be left with something like this.Image

Step 5: Polish

Just polish it up with a clean t-shirt and voila!

How to: Lattice me up ribbon notice board

I’ve been meaning to make a lattice notice board for ages, so now that I have time (thank you, summer holidays) and motivation, I thought I would go for it. Here is the finished item.

I must say, without a shred of modesty, that I am very pleased with how it turned out.

If you’d like to make one, you will need:

  • A large empty photo frame. A cork board or similar would also do nicely. You don’t need the glass. Mine was 50x70cm.
  • Wadding/batting. I used 2oz/1/4inch thick stuff that I bought on eBay. It needs to be about 15cm larger than your frame, so I used about 65x85cm.
  • Fabric. Go crazy here. Needs to be about 25cm larger than your frame, so I used 75x100cm.
  • Ribbons in complementary colours. I used about 10m of ribbon in total.
  • Upholstery nails. These are also knows as furniture nails or tacks. I got these from eBay as well and used about 30.
  • Straight pins
  • Strong glue or a staple gun

As a note, though using an old picture frame worked very well, getting the furniture nails through the back board without proper tools was extremely difficult. It was also a bit difficult to get the backboard back into the frame once it had all the wadding etc on it. I would recommend cutting out a piece of reinforced cardboard, craftboard, corkboard or similar to avoid this difficulty, though it is not insurmountable. Making the board 5mm smaller than the original backboard would also help.

Step 1: The batting

Cut your batting to the correct size so there is a 4cm-ish border around your board. Then glue or staple the overlap to the back of the board like so.

ImageStep 2: Jeremy Irons

Pretty self-explanatory!


Step 3: The fabric

Cut your fabric to the correct size- so there is a 7cm-ish border around your board and then glue or staple it down.

ImageStep 4: The ribbon

Flip the board. Begin placing your ribbon in a pattern you like. I took ages doing this, and measuring helped to make sure they were even.ImageOnce you have them placed as you wish, pin them down with straight pins. This will be important later! You can also do some basic weaving to make the lattice look even cooler and help keep the ribbons in place.ImageDon’t stress about the ribbons too much as it’s not too late to add more later if you wish.

Step 5: Things get tacky

Once you’re happy, you can begin pushing tacks through the intersections of the ribbons. Place carefully…Image…then push throughImageThe pictures make it look easy, but as I said at the beginning, beware of doing this with a wooden backboard. I took a picture of my hands afterwards and it ain’t pretty!

Anyway, this is how it starts to look. Don’t remove your straight pins yet!

ImageStep 6: Tie up the loose ends

Once you’ve finished with the tacks, flip the board again. If the pointy bits are sticking through the back, you might want to cover them up to make it more user-friendly. I cut up small pieces of cork, but you could use plasticene or something similar.

Now, secure the ends of the pieces of ribbon however you wish- I used a combination of glue, pins and tape. Those suckers won’t be moving any time soon!ImagePull the ribbon gently and make sure you follow it around the board so that it lies nice and flat.

Step 7: You’ve been framed!

Shove… I mean carefully place the board back in to the frame, step back and admire your handiwork , you crafty thing!

Nifty Gifty

Now that my best friend’s wedding is a happy memory, I can post about the making of her present. I suffer from some confusion about the niceties of social etiquette, so it took me some time to realise that I actually had to give a gift other than my amazing company. One of my mottos is ‘if you’re going to do it, do it well’, so about a month before the wedding, I decided to embark on an ambitious project. The bride’s sister had made some fabulous hand-drawn invitations.


After some umming and aahing, my quest was clear: to reproduce this in cross-stitch form. Initially, I was naive enough to think I could do the whole thing. Happily, I was disabused of this idea after completing about five stitches. With the help of an online cross-stitch design programme, I managed to create this pattern


Now the real work could begin.

Unfortunately, it only occurred to me to take pictures after a good 100 hours of labour. Lesson for next time, I suppose! By which time I had reached this stageImage

I think I started taking pictures here because I was terrified I would make a mistake and ruin the whole thing. For example, it took me a while to realise that the program had rendered all of the stitches next to black lines in weird shades of green that I didn’t want in my final work. Improvising rocks!

Anyway, here are some more pics




Apologies for some of the dodgy quality. As you can see, rather than taking these on a sensible surface, I shot them on my bed. Awesome.


Here you can see that I’ve done the outline around the groom’s cigarette. This was surprisingly tricky and hard to get right. I expect that cross-stitch perfectionists will cringe at my choice, but it looked weirder when done in any other way.

Nearly done now!


Can you sense the smug satisfaction through the screen? This feeling was only slightly diminished when I realised I hadn’t done the groom’s belt buckle.


Much better!

This photo was taken as an insurance policy in case I burnt the whole project when I ironed it. But, miraculously, I didn’t. The only thing left was to frame it…

Shake your moneymaker

I’ve been a busy bee today. I went home at the weekend and my mum saw my purse.

Oh dear.

She very kindly gave me this purse as a very belated birthday present.

Very cool. But a bit plain for my taste. A few hours later and the above had become…

Much more my style. And if you look very closely, you can see…

…that every cloud has a silver lining. Cute, eh? Now I just need some money to put in it!

One day I will learn to take step-by-step pictures, too.