How to make a Seed Heart Bird Feeder

Baby it’s cold outside! February can be a really harsh month, with biting winds and ice even on the brightest of days and so if you’re feeling the cold in all those layers, just think of all the wildlife braving it outside, day and night!

So as Valentines day approaches, we thought we’d spread the love to all those little birdies out there with these really super, easy to make and nutritious (for birds ONLY you understand!) Seed Heart Bird Feeders.

Now we do warn you, they are a bit messy to make but it’s well worth it and don’t worry if you don’t have heart shaped cookie cutters in the cupboard, other shapes work just as well . (Unless it’s like a big eagle shape…or a scarecrow…Mmmn yes perhaps you might want to avoid them!)  Read on for our ‘how to’ guide and…Enjoy making!

materials

We used:   Approx 275g to 300g of Bird Seed –  250g of Lard (or animal suet if you prefer) – Cookie cutters (or make your own shape from tin foil) –  A Pan –  A Tray  – Tin Foil or Clingfilm – A Spoon – A Skewer (or pencil), Ribbon (or Twine).  Oh you might want to have some soapy water and a towel handy too! (well I did say it might be a bit messy!)

  1. Firstly, preparation is key so line a tray with some clingfilm or tin foil and place your cutters on there ready.
  2. Carefully heat the Lard in a pan until it’s just melted and then remove from the heat. (Note that the lard can be quite hot at this stage so be careful not to burn yourself!) Stir your birdseed into the fat a bit at a time until you feel you’re happy with the consistency of the mixture.  (Don’t worry if you have a small amount of birdseed left over you can always add it in at a later stage). As a general rule you should be able to see approximately a couple of mm of melted lard sitting above the seeds in the pan.
  3. Before you can start to fill your cookie cutters, allow your mixture to cool down by placing it outside or somewhere away from room temperature until it is at a temperature where the Lard begins to go white (but just before it solidifies.)
  4. When the fat has whitened (but you can still stir it), this is the perfect time to fill your shapes with the mixture. (Note that if the liquid has not solidified enough, it will seep out of the bottom of your cutters!). It’s also the best time to decide if you need to add more birdseed. You need just enough lard to hold the seeds together and so if you need to add more, do so now. Then use the spoon to fill the cutters  with the mixture, pushing it down firmly and ensuring you fill any corners or edges well to ensure you take on the shape of the cutter.
  5. Once you’re happy they are filled enough, take a skewer or pencil and form a decent size hole (this will be to thread your ribbon/twine through at a later date).
  6. Next, place them (whilst still in the cookie cutter) in a cool place or fridge until  they’re as solid as they can be….As lard will only go so hard.

Finally….Gently press out the hardened mixture with your fingers (yep that’s the most messy bit!) and thread the Ribbon or Twine through the hole. Hang them in the garden and stand back and admire! (Preferably in the warmth of the house with a nice cup of hot tea whilst humming “feed the birds”) Nice work …Mary Poppins has nothing on you!

2 hearts back garden

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Recycling Christmas Cards

Every year I receive the most beautiful Christmas cards and the thought of throwing them in a bin (even a recycling one) after someone has spent time, thought and money buying them for me just isn’t something I can bare. So this month we’re bringing you some crafty ways to use or keep them instead!

Firstly how about getting ahead for next Christmas by making some Gift Tags. It really is easy, fun and a great way to use up any bits of ribbon or twine you have lying around too.  There are many styles of tag you can make too, we’ve used a couple of methods…

Some designs lend themselves to a spot of freestyle cutting and this gorgeous Christmas tree is one.

xmas tree cardThen there’s the easiest way I know and that’s using a luggage label as a template to draw around the chosen picture and then just follow the lines to cut it out. If you’re not confident in cutting straight then a craft trimmer or guillotine can be most helpful!

 

picture template

My top tip when making gift tags is to not just look at the front of the card but the back too as there can often be plenty of ‘white space’ and a cute picture you can use ..Like this one!

back of card

And voila…Here’s just a few I made earlier (including the image from the back of the card as shown above!)  Aren’t they just super? A sure winner to saving you time and money next Christmas…Not to mention what a goody two shoes you are for recycling!

labels collection2

If you fancy making something to give as a gift, how about a Christmas bookmark? A nice addition you can add to a stocking or home made Christmas Cracker. Just look for an image on a card that is a good length then cut to size, hole punch the top and add some matching pretty ribbon. How fab is that?!

bookmark2

And finally,  one of my absolute favourite things to do is to frame those cards that I love or that mean something to me and then I bring them out each Christmas, dotting them around the house on book shelves and dressers etc where I can see and enjoy them.  You’d be surprised just how effective this can be. Here’s just a couple of my newest editions from this years received cards…

picture stood up

most wonderful time picture in fram

….There are lots more ideas for recycling your cards but I suspect that might just be plenty to be getting on with for now!

Have fun being creative and don’t forget…If you enjoyed this blog do please ‘pass it on’ by forwarding to a friend or sharing on social media!

Find out about our workshops at http://www.moreprettythings.co.uk and if you’d like us to keep you up to date by receiving our monthly E-newsletter it’s simple to subscribe….Just add your email address to the box provided on the homepage!

Get Crafty with Kraft this Christmas

Bored of doing the same old thing with your gift wrapping and looking for some creative inspiration this Christmas? Then look no further than Kraft paper!

Being plain, Kraft paper is one of the most versatile papers to use. A blank canvas, it can change its look quite dramatically (depending on what you do with it!)

In this months blog we’re going to show you some crafty and creative ways to transform your Kraft paper using just a chalk marker, a few bits an bobs found around the house (or garden) and a little imagination!

Start by wrapping your gifts in kraft paper…Not looking very festive? Don’t panic! What could be more Christmassy than snow? Queue the chalk marker! Generously add lots of white spots over your kraft paper and voila….See how easy was that!

kraft white dot uni and wool

With this super snowy background whatever you now add will be sure to look fabulously festive, so it’s time to be creative and have some fun!   Here’s some we did earlier…!

stag

We simply love the Scandinavian look and it’s so on trend!  We’ve added a wooden decoration and tied it in with some plain white satin ribbon. Ta dah!

bauble coaster side view

Simplicity in itself….We’ve added a red felt coaster (that we got free in a home magazine some time ago) and tied on some matching wool we had in our craft basket. Easy but effective!

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Got lots of buttons you don’t know what to do with?  Why not use them to make a cute picture. We’ve added in some wool scarves for colour and used a marker to draw in some detail and complete the picture.  The buttons can then be placed in their final position and securely stuck with double sided tape or glue.

 

washi tape

Ever wondered what you can do with your Washi tape? Why not recreate a look of bunting with some string and write a festive message! (Well as long as it’s not ‘bah humbug’ that is!)

kraft white ribbon foliage and pine cones

Want a classy look but in a hurry?  Just add some fresh foliage and pine cones then tie with a simple white satin ribbon. 

Merry Christmas and happy wrapping everyone! x

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Fabulously Festive Gift Wrapping

In our workshops we not only teach lots of gift wrapping techniques but we also like to reveal our secrets of how to transform something rather plain looking into something stunning by adding simple to make, handmade decorative touches!

So this month we thought we’d share one of our festive favorites with you, just in time for all that Christmas wrapping – This gorgeous Pine Cone and Foliage Corsage!

There are various artificial alternatives you can find in the shops but none that will look quite as stunning  or be as inexpensive to make being that our version involves a spot of scavenging in the garden and surrounding woodland for most of your materials! By using fresh foliage it’ll not just look stunning but (depending on the type of foliage you use) it will smell gorgeous too, filling the air with a beautiful aroma and bringing that festive feeling into your home (and to the person’s you’re giving it to too!)

So here it is…Do have a go! But don’t forget…Foliage will dry out without water so to keep it looking as fresh as possible our tip is to have your gifts wrapped and cones wired up and waiting, then simply add your foliage at the last minute!

What you’ll need:  2 pine cones ,  some foliage  (we’ve used a mix of rosemary and hebe from our garden), wire (£1 for 15 wires) and florist stem tape (£2.50 per roll) both from our More Pretty Things shop.

blog 1a

Gather your pine cones, foliage and materials together.

pine cone wire

Place a wire near the base of the pine cone in between one of the sections and wrap the wire around the cone.

pine cone wire 2

Bring the two ends of the wire together to meet one another and…

pine cone twisting

…Twist! Keep twisting the two wires together and when you near the end, turn the sharp ends of the wire over so that you have a rounded end instead.

pine cone wire stem tape

You now need to cover the wire with stem tape. To do this start at the top, pinch it on and then twist it on to the wire all the way down the stem…

pine cone wire stem tape next

Continue winding stem tape down to the bottom of the stem then fold over and come back up the stem to the top. Repeat with other pine cone.

taking off greenery on rosemary

Take your foliage and remove some of the greenery from the ends to reveal about 2 inches of the stalk.

finished 2

Add your foliage and cones together and secure in the centre with a small amount of stem tape. This will prevent it all from falling apart when attaching it to your gift.

wine wrapped and bits

Take your wrapped gift and using ribbon, tie on your pine cones and foliage corsage.

wrapped bottle

Voila! A fabulously festive wrapped gift ready for giving!

Easy once you know how isn’t it? Know someone else who might like to try it? Please feel free to forward our ‘how to’ with a friend or share on social media.

Happy Festive Wrapping!

For more information on our Gift Wrapping Workshops and Demonstrations please visit our website at http://www.moreprettythings.co.uk .

Hello birdie!

In my line of work I have the pleasure of meeting lots of wonderful people, many of them very creative!  This week was no exception and I was thrilled to stumble upon the very talented Artist and Illustrator, Iona Buchanan.

Iona has designed a fabulous collection of homewares ranging from a rather gorgeous artichoke apron to a really delightful wren tea towel…Ooh and a lovely lobster cushion that caught my eye… I have just the place for that!

Lots of lovely things there were but you can imagine my delight can’t you when Iona introduced me to her gorgeous gift wrap! It didn’t take me long before the scissors were out and I was wrapping with it…

iona buchanan guillemot

Not just for twitchers this fabulous Sea Birds Paper is an instant reminder of the seaside and perfect for anyone with a love of nature. It’s sold in a pack of 2 sheets with matching tags and is currently available to purchase along with another lovely gift wrap pack (called ‘garden birds’) as well as Iona’s full range of products on her website www.ionabuchanan.com

Our wrapping tips: From a practical point of view (for storage/posting out etc) wrapping papers can often be sold flat packed and invariably this will mean you have some creases to contend with. Before starting to wrap have a look at the paper and try to line up the creases with the edges of the object you’re wrapping. This will help to disguise them as a natural folding line and give a neater look.  Also, when choosing a lovely paper like this which is full of fabulous detail that would be a shame to hide, tie your ribbon in an off centre position that will show it off at its best (as we’ve done) and pick a ribbon colour that will bring out the colour in the wrap. We’ve chosen this lovely sunny yellow, inspired by the Eider Ducks beak!

We hope you’ve enjoyed this months blog and if so … Please do pass on the gift wrapping love by sharing with your friends!

For more information on our gift wrapping workshops or demonstrations find us at www.moreprettythings.co.uk  or contact us on 01226 492770 for more details.

 

Just add a Gift Tag…

Over the years I’ve found myself with a variety of unintentional collections of this, that and the other. Things that I’m sure I’ll need in the future so can’t bear to throw away…You know the kind of thing….Odd buttons, old keys, mini toiletries from hotels and…..Gift tags!

Yes, it’s a thin line between ‘collector’ and ‘hoarder’ at this point and my profession as a gift wrapper won’t save me on this one as after rummaging through a very large box of gift tags, it’s clear my love of them started way before my business began! (Many moons ago judging by some of the styles.. Apparently tastes do change!)

So, if like me you have some (??!!) very pretty gift tags you’re hoarding (I mean saving for a rainy day) that you don’t have matching paper for, then fear not….You can use them up and plain paper is your friend!  Couple the tag with a bit of ribbon and some imagination (in other words hole punch a second hole in the tag, thread a length of ribbon through, secure on the back with double sided) and this is the result….A unique and pretty decorative touch to embellish a gift!

kraft and tag final

Like being creative?  Don’t forget to sign up for our e-newsletter on our home page at www.moreprettythings.co.uk to receive month updates and gift wrapping tips etc

Bespoke Mothers Day Wrapping!

Need some last minute wrapping inspiration for Mothers Day? We’ve got a few ideas to share with you and don’t worry if you’ve not got time to dash out for materials…This is all about using what you have around the house to create something pretty and bespoke.

And, if the time you’ve saved by not traipsing to the shops means some extra time spent with your lovely mum then I suspect that will be the most precious gift you can give her anyway.

Creating something bespoke… So, first off, what type of mum do you have…Is she glitzy and glam, modern, crafty (I mean that in the best possible way you understand ie sewing, knitting), a gardener, fashionista, cook or musician perhaps…Whatever her hobbies, loves or likes, the first place to look in is the magazine rack!

From recipes to articles on gardening, magazines provide lots of pages you can use as gift wrap which can tie into most hobbies (pardon the pun) or link to the gift inside.

AlternativelyIMG_3473, there’s lots of other materials you might have handy which would be perfect to wrap with …Everything from scraps of leftover wallpaper, music sheets, baking paper (great for bottle or plant wrapping as its quite pliable) and a real favourite of mine for all occasions…Maps!

Yes with many of us using sat navs there’s plenty of old maps discarded and hiding somewhere in the house or a travel guide with a map in the back. So whether she has a passion for Italy or has some happy memories of her childhood spent at the seaside, find the page it’s on and use that to wrap with! Perhaps you can find a photo of her there, take a copy and make it into a gift tag.  It’s such a lovely way to show her you have thought of her and a great way to inspire her to tell you more stories about her past travels (whilst partaking in copious amounts of tea and cake of course!). And for those with mums who have dementia/alzheimer’s, it’s a clever way to help recall some precious memories and promote conversation too.

Also don’t forget the humble knitting or sewing pattern…Like this fabulous vintage one by Vogue. It’s way too wonderful to sit in the bottom of a drawer, never seeing the light of day. Instead, give it the airing it deserves and turn it into some stylish wrap. Retro is very ‘in’ and so will suit most mums tastes but also perfect for a mum who is a bit of a fashionista or who loves sewing…Unless of course it’s too precious to cut up…You may lose Daugher/Son points if you have ruined a rather good pattern or a rare antique!

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Another very versatile wrapping material…Wallpaper! Here’s an example of what you can achieve with just a small scrap of left over wallpaper from a DIY project. We’ve used this lovely Laura Ashley wallpaper to make a pretty gift bag and just tied a simple bow. Voila! An elegant and bespoke gift bag for a piece of jewellery or pretty scarf!

mothers day

And finally, gift vouchers…in an envelope…They really don’t have to be so, well, plain!  Even just a bit of ribbon criss crossed on it or tied simply in a ‘shoe lace’ bow would make the world of difference. Or you could go a bit further and add some flowers, a tag etc..There’s always something you can add to pretty it up.

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Finally…. I couldn’t end this blog without sharing with you the inspiration behind it.

Last year I received a gift which was wrapped in a rather unusual material. Not one I see or use on a regular basis in the wrapping room…Tin foil! My eldest Son (who is a chef!), said he couldn’t find the gift wrap and his wife was at work so he’d improvised.  That’s my boy!  I couldn’t have been happier had he have wrapped it in gold leaf as I do just love that he took a minute to think about it and rather than dashing off to the shop, he found a way around it (Although if he resorts to wrapping in foil every year I reserve the right to put him on the naughty step!).  It makes me smile every time I think about it…A real memory maker that inspired me to write this blog today after remembering it and at story to recall in years to come (to future grandchildren who may want to wrap for him on fathers day and need some inspiration themselves!)

Happy mothers day wrapping everyone …And for those of you who are sadly without your mums this year, you’re very much in my thoughts, I hope tomorrow you are able to enjoy happy memories of the times you spent together. x