Saturday, 31 December 2011

A mock up - it's getting there!

Going to have to stop now for a day or two to reclaim the house for my New Year guests. I'v stained the floorboards and cut and stained the beams so some progress this morning.

I'm a bit stuck now as I need to make a decision about fireplaces before I can finish the downstairs rooms. I can't find what I'm looking for so I think I'll have to make something.  That is now the top priority. Trip to the Richard Stacey site now needed for flagstones and bricks - this could be expensive!

Before clearing away though I couldn't resist a quick putting together using some masking tape to see how the overall look is coming along.

To finish on a happy note the door funriture and hinges I ordered from Tony Hooper Minatures arrived incredibly quickly especially as it is over the holidays; only ordered Thursday!

Friday, 30 December 2011

A lot of hanging around

Trying to make as much progress as possible before New Year when a house full of guests means that I have to clear up and put away for a few days.  Also return to work looms which will significantly slow things down. Ah well have to work to be able to afford to do this!

Been a day of lots of bits and pieces which meant a lot of paint, wait a bit, paint again, wait a bit. Well you get the idea.

I didn't want the shiny brass hinges so they got a coat of white enamel. I did mention that the OH is Virgo? Love his Heath Robinson drying system. Yes that IS my cooling rack....

The front doors have now been decorated on both sides but the final tidying up of the rough edges still needs to be done before fixing the sash windows.

The windows themselves have been stained and are needing to be left to dry. These unfortunately were pre glazed and I hate masking real windows for painting, never mind these. Kept missing bits as well. I had no idea that working sash windows had quite so many edges!

The original windows had too much fancy trim glued to them but that was easily fixed. Unfortunately the windows are now a little too small for the holes so some fetttling is going to be needed. Shouldn't be too hard though.

Finally the dormers are painted, constructed and stuck in roof. Still not sure how I'm going to thatch it so any ideas on that are very welcome.

Thursday, 29 December 2011

Had a bit of a shopping trip.....

Didn't of course get anything I actually went out for. I'm going to have to order most of the bits and pieces I need to finish the house from the internet  but I did discover the local Dolls House shop in Blagdon...

This is going to prove expensive.  Although I am nowhere near ready to be thinking about furnishing it was nice to be able to see such a wide selection of room sets and I picked up a few bits and pieces from the bargain bucket. When the owner saw me studying the unfinished furniture he went out for a moment and came back in with a carrier bag.

It proved to be furniture made by a local craftsman and was of course exactly what I've been looking for, especially the dresser. Other than the staining it is unfinished and has a rough rustic look. Perfect! I was going to work on the finish a bit but having got it home I don't think I will need to do much. I've put a few of bargain bits and pieces on it already. I'm pleased with the empty bottles; all I've seen to date are already filled.
 The full haul. The coffer is going to need some work as it is a horrid colour but  the settles just need  staining and polishing.

Good progress too on the house itself. The exterior is now rendered but I can't move it to take a picture until it sets which judging by progress so far could be some time yet.

Wednesday, 28 December 2011

Braided Rug

Whilst the render was drying I thought I'd have a practise go at a braided rug, following the instructions  here

Just a couple of comments. This took me far longer than 10 minutes to do, more like a couple of hours. I also cut the thread much longer than the suggested 18 inches, I used 7 British standard arm lengths - a term widely  recognised amongst lace makers! This made a rug about 3 1/2 inches across which was a little smaller than I'd hoped for. I also didn't need the was paper or the weight. It lay perfectly flat without that.

For various reasons I also wanted to use 4 colours so I made a 4 thread braid rather than the suggested 3 braid. Long lengths of stranded cotton are horrible to cope with; from long experience I know that if they can twist and tangle they will.  Time to press some of my lace bobbins into use.  I made a couple of inches on the pillow then tied a loop of the braid around a chair leg to act as a giant pin as the pillow was obviously much too small to make the braid on and constantly moving it up every couple of inches just ruins the tension and make the braid uneven. It meant that I had to keep moving backwards myself but it worked!

Once the braid was made I cut a circle of pale pink felt and started gluing the braid into place. This was much easier said than done and despite the aid of a darning needle as a laying tool, was a long, sticky and frustrating process. Covering the whole piece of felt with glue was a mistake. It was much easier to just apply glue to a small section at a time and to turn the felt rather than try and turn the braid. 

The finished rug. It is a little smaller than I wanted and isn't entirely round but I've learnt a thing or two so I'll have another go.

Don't think I can do it in 10 minutes though!

The decorators are in

Some progress today - yes I have been allowed near it!

The first job was obviously to work out how to put the extra wall in. Fortunately there is quite a lot of MDF in the garage so I let the other half play out there and cut me a piece.

Whilst he was at it he's also cut me a nice big baseboard which will replace a very tatty old table top so I have somewhere to keep the cottage once it is presentable.

It was clearly going to be easier to do the wall finish before putting the stairs and the wall in so the internal rendering has begun. It's a mix of polyfilla and  an "almost but not quite" white paint. It looks a bit patchy at the moment as it is still drying but I've got the rough plastered look I was going for. I should finish the internal and external render tomorrow if the weather is as foul as it was today.

I'm still not sure how I'm going to do the thatching but I can put that off for a while yet. The more significant problem of what period the furnishings will be has yet to be addressed.

Tuesday, 27 December 2011

The building begins

I've finally been allowed to open it!

I was expecting lots of "bits" but was a little nonplussed by the sheer number. It more or less took over the dining room table. The front windows are already glazed and real working sash windows!

The door I made is about the width needed but is an inch or so too short so I'm going to have to make a few more. I definitely don't want to use the ones that came with the kit; they are much too modern looking.  I'm not going to be using the fancy turned banisters either.

At this point I made a fatal mistake  
Already been shopping and just unpacked the dolls house kit. Then I made a fundamental mistake! I asked the other half  to come and hold on to a corner whilst I started the "dry build". I really should have known better...

All of a sudden I found myself relegated to builders mate. The holes for the light fittings were drilled, the channels made in the floor for the wiring and the kit checked for "squareness" ( it failed that - he is a Virgo through and through) and apart from being told to hold this or that I was totally redundant!

A lot of sanding and fiddling went on to make it  "square" before it was pinned and glued. Actually the quality of the kit is very good and it went together very well. I bowed to the inevitable, made a cup of tea and left him to it!

 I have been allowed to paint the stairs!

The base kit is now ready for some personalisation. I don't want the fancy staircase with the awkward space behind it -so a bit of kit bashing is now in order. I'm not sure I'm going to be allowed to do it though....

Saturday, 10 December 2011


The base cottage is a bit modern so it is going to need some kit bashing. As I'm dying to get started and the house hasn't even arrived yet, I thought it would be a good idea to try out a few ideas first.

I know I want to replace the doors with something more rustic looking but my woodworking skills are rudimentary - OK to be truthful non existent!

I couldn't resist the urge to pop into the local dolls house suppliers ( Phil's Dolls Houses in Taunton if you are interested) and pick up a few bits and pieces. I've ordered some light fittings ( shiny brass or Tiffany style isn't going to work with my vision) and some antique brick paper which will be ready to collect the week before Christmas. Yes I could have saved a few ££ buying over the internet but nothing beats actually looking at the real thing and if we don't buy from our local shops we soon won't have them.

Anyway homily over - Phil ( I assume it was him!) gave me a quick lesson in beam making which I have taken to heart and decided to extrapolate into door making.

I have plenty of craft "stash" already and the basic tools so all I had to buy was some balsa wood and the wood dye in the colour I wanted.

The cutting board and quilting measures came in useful here. The base is a rectangle about 6" by 3". If I'm lucky it will fit, if not then this is a good practice run.

The plank markings were made by my embosser tool and the edges nibbled out with a craft knife. These make good dots to join up on the reverse side so the planks match.

So far so good. I wanted a dark wood so I've used a "Jacobean" wood dye.

Once painted on I sponged a lot of it off to get an uneven finish.

The dents have taken the dye more strongly which is the effect I wanted.  I still need to make some nail holes ( forgot!) but I'll use an oil pastel crayon to blacken them.

Having got the bit well and truly between my teeth I decided to try out an idea for the external walls. I want the cottage to look old and shabby with flaking render and exposed brickwork in places.

I downloaded and printed some brickwork wallpaper to play with and got out some scrap MDF and the polyfilla. Next step was to tear the wall paper into pieces and glue randomly to the MDF with PVA glue. Whilst it was drying I mixed the polyfilla.

Then it was a case of applying the polyfilla with a spatula.

Whilst I'm pleased with the brick peeping out  I'm still not sure whether I want a smooth render or something more rough but I'll be using this sample piece to try some weathering effects once it's dry.

It's still soft at the moment but I'll be sanding down the "window" around the lower brick work.

I've already been looking out for some furniture and accessories for Tลท Awen although it's going to be a while before I need to.

Couldn't resist this though ( and I can see now how to make my own books!)

Wednesday, 7 December 2011

Lichen dyeing revisited

A chance conversation with a friend over the weekend sent me scurrying for the wool I'd dyed a couple of weeks ago.

This friend is a professional dyer and always uses artificial dyes as she told me that many natural dyes ( and lichen!) were photo unstable. I hadn't actually got around to putting my fleece away so I was a bit worried about what it would look like.

And yes it has changed colour quite a lot. It is now a soft warm tan colour rather than bright yellow.

This is the colour that my references told me that the lichen I used should produce! I hope it will now stay this colour. I might put it away properly but leave a little out to see what happens next.

Monday, 5 December 2011

Dolls House Project

I've always hankered after a dolls house - no idea why!  So why not?

The dolls house project posts will follow my (mis)adventures in creating a minature world.  This has been a project I've been thinking about for a while but I've been waiting for the muse to strike and for a suitable property to catch my eye.

This is the starting point - Blossom Cottage from the eBay seller smallerhomes

Part of the difficulty has been finding a small cottage type house- Georgian or Tudor houses with lots of rooms seem to be in vogue but for my little witchy cottage I want only a few rooms and a plain cottage exterior.

This looks very modern at the moment  but I plan to render the walls and thatch the roof. Might add a few beams inside as well.

First of course I have to wait for it to be delivered.  I have some homework to do in the meantime on just how you render and thatch a dolls house!

Sunday, 30 October 2011

Natural Dyeing with Lichen

This is something I've been wanting to do for quite a while. Lichen has been used to produce dyes for longer than anyone can remember and in the not so distant past  dye was still made this way commercially.

This is Ramalina farinacea. It was collected from fallen oak twigs and branches in North Wales. It is a soft grayish green and very common. High winds and rain had stripped a woodland of lots of small  twigs many of which were bearing a good covering of the lichen.

Lichen colonies are easily damaged by collecting and  this is the first time I've seen sufficient dislodged naturally for me to pick up enough to try this.

The first stage is to boil the lichen to release the colour. I used the old pan I generally reserve for melting candle wax. I boiled it for an hour and then left the liquor to steep overnight. I personally found the smell of the boiling lichen unpleasant and was glad when the hour was up.

The following morning I strained out all the plant matter and was left with this insipid pale greyish green liquor.

I almost gave up at this point and tipped it away. However I thought I might as well carry on. I brought the strained "tea" back up to the boil and added some white wool gleaned from the Welsh hillside and pre washed.

Doesn't look promising does it? Once it was boiling I turned off the heat, covered it and left it steeping overnight - close to 24 hours.

I was fully prepared to write off this experiment as a complete failure so I wasn't expecting much...

...and certainly not this - once rinsed and dried I have yellow wool! The colour is actually a little stronger and brighter in real life.

Sunday, 16 October 2011

Natural room fragrancer

I hate those artificial "air fresheners" and have been making my own gel based ones for a while now. It avoids all the nasty chemicals that would be released into my home and of course the scent is infinitely customisable ( is that a word??)

 Basic ingredients are water, salt, gelatine and some essential oils of your choice.

I use some old glass containers that once held scented candles that I got from someone on Freecycle.

First  measure out how much water you need. Simply fill each container to the required depth with water and pour into a measuring jug. I needed just short of a pint.

 Boil sufficient water and dissolve the gelatine following the packet instructions. I generally like a firm gel so I use rather more than the minimum recommended. Add a couple of teaspoons of salt to the mix  to avoid the gel going mouldy.

Whilst the water is boiling place add the essential oils to the glass jars. The more you use the stronger the scent. It doesn't matter which oils you use if you just want room scenters - just chose ones with a pleasant scent and maybe some of the cheaper ones. If you are using a couple of  containers you can of course use different oils in each  of them

I often have other  objectives so I will use a blend depending on what I want to achieve. This batch contains a blend of patchouli, rose attar, nutmeg, clove and a couple of others. You are going to want 30-40 drops of oil per vessel. If you want a coloured gel then you can also add a few drops of food colouring. I don't generally bother as I like the natural amber colour but each to his//her own!

Once the gelatine has dissolved simply pour the mixture into the jars, stir well with a toothpick ( use a different one for each jar if you have a different blend in each one) and leave in a cool place to set.

I find they last about 4-6 weeks before needing replacing but that will depend on the location and the atmosphere.

Friday, 14 October 2011

A way with CDs

I've managed to collect a lot of old CDs over the years- mostly unwanted freebies from the newspapers. Why do they think we want this crap?

Anyway I've been squirrelling them away pending some inspiration. The new die cutter has certainly given the crafting mojo a new lease of life and finally I have some ideas.

This one is nice and easy. All you need is an old CD, some paint and some peelable stickers. I used the black spray paint I bought for the dark mirror but ordinary acrylic paint will also do. I've seen this done on the web with a design scratched into the paint but I'm drawing challenged so I had to find another way.

Firstly spray the printed side of the CD and leave to dry  - I left it overnight. If you are going to display the CD in a way that hides the back you can skip this stage.

Once it is completely dry, turn over and stick the peelable stickers to the shiny side in your chosen design. As they are peelable you can reposition  them until you are satisfied. I chose some filigree butterflies I found lying around.

Once the stickers are in place simply paint the whole front surface ( over the stickers as well) and leave to dry thoroughly. Peel off and discard the stickers and you're done. Using a pin to lift the stickers off makes this much easier.

If you want to use as a coaster I'd recommend adding a coat of spray varnish over the paint before removing the stickers. The butterflies look rather "flat" in the picture. In reality they flash with colour as they reflect the light.

Sunday, 9 October 2011

Halloween crafting

I had a friend staying over this weekend and we had a great time playing with our ( well mostly her!) craft stash....

Here are some of the results:

This is a block of wood, painted white and then covered in stamped tissue paper and decorated with some Tim Holtz dies. The bats are hinged with strips of plastic packaging and the feet are glass beads stuck on with hot glue.

Some cards:

Hand made paper

The paper was first stamped with the plant image and then embossed with the pumpkins.

The witch was cut from grunge paper, painted with black acrylic paint and then the edges sanded clean. They were then stained with brown dye to give a soft contrast to the black. 

This is less successful. Love the raven and the grunge paper flower but not so much the rest of it.

I may remove the flower and have another go. I did cut some spare ravens for future use!

This has proved to be an expensive weekend! I'd already cracked and bought the die cutter machine after seeing the leaves made by it but my friend is a very talented mixed media artist and has given me a good insight into what can be done with my new toy. No plastic packaging is now safe!

Unfortunately I now covet all her cool dies and embossing folders and although the flower cutters, witch and bats are mine, none of the others used were so I feel a shopping trip will be coming up probably sooner rather than later and I'll have an extensive wish list for my birthday! I've already  ordered grunge paper and a  rosette maker...

Oh dear.....

Sunday, 18 September 2011

Candle Recycling

I get through a lot of candles! An awful lot of candles really  and most of them leave me with a stub. Being too mean to throw them away I collect them in a basket and when I have enough I spend a day or two recycling them.

It can be a bit of a messy process so I have a pan and jugs that are devoted entirely to candle making. Most were picked up in various charity shops but I have splashed out on a couple of proper metal moulds for the large pillar candles - secondhand! I haven't found a substitute for wicks  but at around 40p a metre they are not expensive and most general craft shops stock them. The wax is already suitable for pillar candles so it doesn't need an additive - you definitely don't want to be using the type of wax found in melts or votives

Otherwise it is surprising what you can use - I've made candles in old flower pots, odd Victorian china tea cups and I save old tealight cases ( or ask on Freecycle) to reuse. I don't make a lot of tealights as they are so cheap to buy and I prefer to use new candles for ritual purposes but occasionally I want a specific colour or want to incorporate certain oils etc so I'll make my own.

So here's how I do it. Firstly an unpromising pile of candle ends! The large candle was one where the wick was far too small for the candle so it "drowned". I did take it back and have it replaced but exactly the same thing happened again so I gave up and added it to the recycling pile. I notice the retailer no longer sells that size so I guess I wasn't the only one who had problems.

Fill your pan with  hot water  and place over a low heat - you are aiming for a shimmering temperature where the surface just shivers slightly rather than boiling.
 Put the candle ends in your chosen bowl or jug and place in the water bath. The candle ends are generally awkwardly shaped so you may not get many in at a time but as they melt down more can be fitted in.  This method keeps the wax temperature well  below ignition point but I still keep an eye on it.

The big candle was too wide for my jug so I broke it up and used a bowl

While the wax is melting you need to pepare the moulds.

Dipping the end of the wick into the melting wax stiffens it nicely to poke it though the hole in the bottom without needing to use a wicking needle. You then need to remember to seal the hole with some plasticine or similar to stop the wax running straight back out - an error you only make once <ahem>! Once the wick is through I tie it around a skewer which  I rest on the top of the mould.

Once you have enough melted wax, remove from heat and SLOWLY pour the molten wax into the mould. This is where using a jug makes it much easier. A ladle also works.  You need to do this gently, firstly to reduce as much as possible any air that could get trapped and also all the debris, old wicks, sooty bits etc  tend to drop to the bottom and you want to avoid them getting into the new candle as much as possible. I generally pour the dregs into an old tin to throw out. Try and do the pouring in one stage. If you haven't got quite enough and need to melt more the  join does show where you restart even if it is only a few minutes later. Once you're done make sure that the wick is still central.

Fill the mould to within 1/2 inch or so of the top and place on a flat surface out of the way to cool and set.  As it cools the wax will start to shrink and you will see a big depression or even holes forming. I often use another skewer to stab holes in the bottom as well to release any air that may be trapped. I then melt a little more wax and use it to fill the depression back up to the top again. Make sure the wax stays in the dip. The cooling candle will have shrunk away from the sides of the mould and if you get wax  into this gap it will a) spoil the nice smooth sides of your candle and b) make it extremely difficult to remove from the mould.

You may need to repeat the infilling more than once. Once you are happy then leave the candle to set solid ( generally over night), remove the plasticine seal from the bottom, upend and the candle should drop out. Trim the wick to a suitable length and you're done.

There are lots of colours and scents you can buy to add to the molten wax  if you want to get more creative.

Sunday, 11 September 2011

A Foraging Trip and a rant

The trip out this week whilst pleasant turned into more of a forage than anything else.

The hedgerows are heavy with berries. I picked more hawthorn to replenish my stocks as well as the ubiquitous blackberry. Plenty of sloes there too but I've made the gin for this year and have no use for more berries. Rosehips and Elder berries were also left. I'm just not going to have time this year to do anything with them

I also picked up some immature acorns and hazelnuts that had dropped from the trees as well as some larch cones. I wanted some this week and couldn't believe that I hadn't any left.

Finally one hedgerow was festooned with byrony berries. I have long wanted to try and grow this climber in the garden so I picked a few to have a go. I'm not sure I'll be successful as I've never seen any growing around here but it is worth a try.

Finally the rant. WTF does our neighbour  farmer think he is doing putting a combined chicken run and pigsty right up against the side of our house? I'm not going to be able to open one of the windows now for the smell and the flies. Not happy at all. 

Friday, 9 September 2011

A Dark Mirror

I've wanted one of these for ages but the commercial ones are horribly expensive and I'm not that much into mass produced gothic resin either. I'm a believer that tools should be beautiful objects in their own right  and should be  hand made wherever possible by me.  

So back to the mirror. 

All you need is a picture or photo frame of your choice and some matt black paint.

Secondhand ones from charity shops are very cheap or you may already have one.  Although normally I would "recycle" an old one I chose to buy a new one for this exercise ( for various  reasons) but it was  half price in a clearance sale and a nice oakwood frame.

The first task is to disassemble the frame and remove the glass.

I painted one side of the glass with matt black spray paint and after some thought decided to paint the frame black too. It tool several coats but I ended up with this.   

The essential thing  when reassembling is to have the painted surface at the back and the unpainted shiny side of the glass on the outside.

You can see how reflective this is.

 If you like plain and simple the mirror is done! 

I wanted to add some decoration and some symbolisation that is personal to me. I decided I wanted a woodland theme with ivy creeping around the mirror but the possibilities are endless. I might do another one with shells and seaweed.

I collected the items I wanted to use together to see what worked. The ivy is silk but the rest are all berries) and nuts that I've harvested and dried. 

Some time later with the help of a glue gun the finished article!  


I have long been fascinated by labyrinths and decided that it was about time to have one of my own. Creating one in the garden is not practical at the moment so the idea had been put to one side.

I came across a reference to a Cornish practice of carving a labyrinth on a piece of slate and tracing it repeatedly to trigger a mediative trance state  - perfect!

Obtaining a  suitable piece of  Welsh slate was fairly easy - mine is round and about 12" in diameter. Getting the labyrinth on  the stone was rather more challenging!

Instructions on drawing your own are easily found online and there are plenty of templates around but how to transfer the drawing to the stone?  I was not brave enough to try and draw directly on the stone as it was hard to draw smooth curves on a rough surface.

After a couple of false starts I found that  having got my drawing on paper, rubbing the underside with blue tailor's chalk ( I always knew I'd find a use for that one day!) allowed me to simply draw over the template with a pencil, leaving a blue line on the slate.

Then it was simply a matter of following the blue line on the slate with a suitable sharp object - in my case the vintage sewing box came to the rescue again with a steel circular knitting needle.

It isn't quite finished. I'd like to deepen the carving a little so it doesn't wear off  but I haven't yet got around to getting the Dremel out.

Hello and Welcome

I've wanted to do a sister blog for  Pagan Wanderings  for  a while now. That is primarily a travel blog that wanders off into the esoteric only occasionally but I'd also like to blog on some more Craft orientated subjects

The focus here will be on witch crafts, witch politics and even the occasional witch rant!  There may well be some overlap in content but plenty of unique stuff as well.

Please feel free to comment and I'd love some guest posters as well - just let me know if you'd like to write something for the blog.
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