Homemade Gifts

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Making gifts for family and friends is so rewarding and there are many crafts that can be turned into pleasing and organic homemade gifts.

And you don’t have to be a crafting expert to create beautiful gifts. A while ago, I wrote an article called ‘Giving Green which includes a few project ideas to inspire new ways of giving gifts.

We all tend to live busy lives and often realize a week before a special birthday or a celebration such as Christmas that we haven’t sorted out gifts and/or decorations. So, off we trot to the shops and buy something we hope will be gratefully received.

And if you’re living on a tight budget as many of us are, that purchase can be based on cost and will possibly create a hole in the budget that week or month.

A couple of years ago, I found myself with a huge amount of knitting yarn in October and very little money so I bought a knitting pattern from Etsy (only a few pounds) for a pair of cozy slippers and spent most evenings knitting for my family.

On Christmas morning, they were all delighted with their gifts. I also made some finger-less gloves and, to avoid buying plastic coated wrapping paper, I tied each ‘package’ with a wide red ribbon.

Altogether, I had to buy some stop slip glue – which, yes, is plastic based, but unfortunately I couldn’t find an alternative at the time. It seemed quite expensive – around £5 for a small bottle, but the bottle covered all 12 pairs of slippers.

And I bought a few metres of wide red ribbon (Instead of wrapping paper) which also only cost a few pounds. Oh, and the original pattern, because I couldn’t find one I liked in any of my knitting books.

All, in all, I spent around £12 and created 12 gifts. Now, I did have the yarn to begin with, but a lot of that yarn was bought in charity shops and some was recycled by un-ravelling previously hand knitted items.

knitting

Getting into recycling and handmade mode is incredibly good for the soul. Even if you have to go to work every day, there are still evenings or a couple of hours every day when you could be enjoying a creative hobby, and turning that hobby, not necessarily into a side hustle business, but a way of giving handmade and unique gifts as well as saving money.

And a special bonus, is that you have complete control over the materials you use, which means you can be plastic-free as far as possible.

Have a quick look at the ideas in ‘Giving Green‘ and come up with some of your own that suit you and your abilities. Crafting for a couple of hours or even 30 minutes a day frees your mind from problems and as an added bonus, helps eliminate snacking in front of the TV – no more diets necessary!!

Happy Crafting!

Linda x

P.S. I’ve just updated my knitting pattern designs which are available on Etsy, Amazon and Payhip. Check them out and get knitting now 🙂 Knits U Love

Put Your Feet Up

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This quote always make me kind of chuckle at the craziness some of us – millions of us in fact – go through every Christmas.

And oh, it doesn’t have to be that way!

I’ve been guilty of remembering it’s Christmas on or around the 15th December -ish. In my defense I have an awful lot of birthdays in the family during the last three months of the year and I tend to prioritize those if I can.

But then comes the awful realization that gifts have to be got, wrapped and hidden. That’s a big enough job in itself without all the other Christmas paraphernalia, various pantomimes, school nativity plays, office parties… oh, I’m getting tired thinking about it all.

The year before last, I knew – as early as September – that a lot of the family were gathering together at Christmas – they are often scattered 🙂 . That gave me a definite advantage in the Christmas gift giving department. Yep, I got my needles out and started knitting. I even bought a pattern!

So, I had a lot of yarn, bits and pieces mostly but enough to make 12 pairs of cosy slippers 12 pairs of fingerless gloves and 12 neck scarves.

I bought a few metres of wide red ribbon and tied a pair of slippers, a pair of gloves and a scarf together – reasonably well matched – and got lots of oohs and aaahs throughout Christmas and the new year. 24 cosy feet make 12 happy people when its cold outside!

So, that’s my take on the Christmas rush/panic whatever you want to call it. Do a little planning now..

**make a list of people you usually buy for
**make a list of things you could possibly make, and match them up!

Knitting is just one idea. Have you other needlecraft skills? Or think outside the armchair a little and maybe take some cuttings of your plants and re-pot them as gifts.

Making gifts is a win-win all round.

**People love receiving something you’ve made yourself.
**Your creativity gets a chance to shine – that always feels good
**And by dabbling in home made stuff, you can avoid, or at least minimize, plastic packaging and cheap plastic toys.

There are hundreds of different things you could make as gifts to give others (and yourself!).

Start now, you don’t have to feel Christmassy – just think about winter/ all season gifts. Plenty of time to get Christmassy around the 15th of December 🙂

Check out the Knits U Love page for some knitting downloads for beginners. There’s a free spider pattern too, so that’s Halloween sorted!

Happy Crafting

Linda x

greatvalueyarn-ig

This looks like a handy pack to get going with if you’re making lots of little colourful things! Found it on Amazon. 12 colours, free patterns, good customer service and only just over a tenner – yay! Amazon Yarn

 

 

Rainy Day Zombies Begone!

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What is happening with the weather? Global warming seems to be the answer to any weather questions that come up, and maybe that is the answer. But it doesn’t really help on a day to day basis, when you’re trying to have a reasonable summer and it’s pouring with rain all the time.

Especially if you have children at home and they are all turning into zombies in front of their various devices. Bring them back!

Reality may not be ideal at this moment, but there’s something to be said for the Power of Now (great book btw) and enjoying the moment. The little darlings may assure you they are having fun and anything you suggest will be totally boring, but we know better! So, time to kick your slippers off, find a few basic items and have a fun day without maxing out the credit card…. You’ll probably have to exercise a little authority as well, but in a fun way 🙂

All the creative stuff like baking cupcakes, crafting greetings cards, moulding salt-dough animals etc; is great and always rewarding and educational, but sometimes you don’t feel like finding all the aprons, table covers and gluepots. So let’s simply play.

colored-pencils

First find a few bits and pieces like:
-a regular pack of cards – yep, they’re still around and very affordable if you can’t find any in the house.

-6 numbered dice and a few counters (these could be home-made)

-plain paper – invest in a pack of printing paper – grab it when it’s on special offer if you can’t steal any from your home office.

-selection of pencils, pens, felt tips maybe or crayons

-the kid in you…. and you’re pretty much ready to go.

With these simple items, you can play hundreds of games and variations – and maybe make up a few yourself. There’s a whole month of rainy day games in Indoor Family Games listed on the good life page. Quick download and get playing!
But how do you drag them from their screens in the first place? That part is easier than it sounds. The best way to get your kids’ attention is to appear to be having more fun than they are! Simple ay?

The way you do this will depend on their ages, their mood and various other components, but you will know what these issues are. Change the dynamic by getting a little dynamic yourself.

dancing

Go for something different if you can. If the kids are used to seeing you dance like a crazy person to some cheesy 1980s music, they will just ignore you.

But if they’re not used to seeing you do this awful terrible thing, they will definitely react in some way.

Be aware of the general mood and flip it on its head. You can do this. You’re the grown up, and about to have a fun day behaving like a kid!

Find traditional games you can play for all ages. Google is only a click away after all – yes of course devices have their uses, we’re just trying to de-zombiefy a few individuals here.

**In a fairly kid-proof room, you could rig up a net and play balloon tennis to get some movement going on.
**Or, get some co-ordination skills in action and place a clean bin or large bowls in the centre of the room as targets and throw rolled up newspaper or soft balls.

Pick your moment. Have a few ideas stashed and bring them out at a moment that feels right for you. If you’re at home with the children a lot, you’ll have a pretty good idea of what’s going to happen next if you don’t step in right now.

So, whatever the weather and whatever the current mood is, get your fun on and enjoy playing with the kids today. You’ll nourish your body, mind and spirit and some of it may even rub off on the next generation.

Have fun!

Linda x

Circle of Fun

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I remember playing this game with my kids, but before I go any further I’d like to apologize for the non-PC title of the game. Back then we didn’t really think of racism or political-correctness and certainly no thoughts or feelings of racism came into the mix.

Anyway, titles aside – this game is more like crazy whispers and can be played all around the house. Whisper something to one of your children and they will love to run off and find someone else to whisper it to. Can get a bit confusing but that’s really the nature of the game.

Crazy + confused = fun and laughter.

I copied this straight from ‘Indoor Family Games’.

Chinese whispers

Why this game is called ‘Chinese’ whispers I have no idea. I guess that those of us who played in the West many years ago considered Chinese to be a language that made no sense at all to us. This game can certainly end up making no sense!

Position as many players as possible in a circle, or around a playing area. All players should be sitting. One person is chosen to start the game by thinking of a sentence of at least four or five words. This sentence is whispered to the next player.

The sentence must not be heard by anyone else and should only be repeated once.

If the player doesn’t hear correctly, they will have to decide what they ‘thought’ they heard and then whisper that sentence to the next player.

When all players have heard the whisper, the last player in the circle says out loud what he or she thinks they heard. Then the player who started the whisper has to say what they originally whispered. The starting phrase can be very different from the finishing one!

The more players there are will produce more variations on the original sentence.

Variation:

This game can be played outside and players don’t have to sit in a circle. As long as everyone gets a turn in the right order, players can be scattered all over the house and garden.

Enjoy!

Linda x

P.S. Indoor Family Games is available from various bookstores and is a handy digital download.

IndoorFamilyGames

 

 

Pop over to the Good Life page and choose your favourite online store.

1870 Knitting

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I’ve just been looking at a book published in 1870 by Isabella Beeton called Beetons Book of Needlework.

It includes crafts such as:

Engravings
Tatting Patterns
Crochet patterns
Knitting patterns
Netting patterns
Embroidery patterns
Point lace patterns
Guipure D’Art.
Berlin Work
Monograms
Pillow Lace and Lace stitches

I have no idea what some of these are. However, because I am a passionate knitter, I looked up knitting instructions and, honestly, had a lot of trouble understanding them. It would seem that the English language; the words we use and how we use them today are light years away from the average reader 150 years ago. And there were so many of them!

Maybe we are dumbing down our language and creating shortcuts wherever we can, but in today’s world, with so many distractions, old style how-to books couldn’t possibly survive.

Check out this pattern for a child’s sock copied exactly as it appears in the book – I don’t think paragraphs were an option back then 🙂

sock

 

Knitted Sock for a Child.

 

 

Materials for 1 pair: 1 ounce of single Berlin wool; 1 yard of narrow pink or blue ribbon; 2 fine steel pins.

This sock fits well, and is easy to make. It is knitted upon two pins, backwards and forwards. Cast on 22 stitches and knit 22 rows, but increase once at the end of every other row on the right side of the work, so that there are 33 stitches in the 22nd row. Now cast off 28 stitches and knit 12 rows, increasing 1 stitch at the end of every other row. Now 12 more rows, decreasing 1 stitch at the end of every other row; this forms the toe. Cast on 28 stitches on the same needle, and knit 22 rows, decreasing 1 stitch at the end of every other row, and cast off. Pick up the 68 stitches on the upper part of shoe, and knit 20 rows, alternately 2 plain and 2 purl rows, decreasing 1 stitch on each side of the 12 stitches in every other row, which forms the toe and front of sock. Knit 14 rows of 2 plain, 2 purl stitches alternately, then 3 open rows with 1 plain row between. The open rows are worked as follows:–* Purl 2 together, purl 1, make 1, repeat *, 3 plain rows, 1 open row, 1 plain row, and cast off. The sock is sewn together down the back of leg, centre of sole, and the point joined like a gusset to form the toe.

Make any sense? Well, maybe some but phew, glad I can order socks online today!

Linda x

P.S. There are some fun patterns for beginners listed on our Knits-U-Love page – written in straightforward language with illustrations and paragraphs!

Rainforest UK

rainforestexperience-pinSo proud of my grandson who just received his university exam results, Straight A’s in 7 modules in his horticultural course!

I’d like to think he’s taking after his Granny but I left school without a qualification to my name, so maybe not 🙂

He’s studying at the Eden project in Cornwall. If you’re in the area, it’s really worth a visit. So much going on. A couple of (particularly cold) winters ago, my friend and I spent many happy hours in their Rain forest Biome, soaking up the heat, the smells and pure enjoyment of the wonderful plants they grow there.

With the over-powering heat this year, the tropical paradise might not be the place you want to spend time in just now, but don’t let that put you off. They have all sorts of wonderful stuff going on….

Outdoor Gardens
Rainforest Biome
Mediteranean Biome and Terrace
Seasonal Plant Highlights
Wetern Australia Garden
Invisible Worlds Exhibition

plus loads of soft play for kids to do, as well as delicious healthy food. Oh, and they’ve just built a couple of new atractions. One of them is a zip wire experience, which of course my grandson and his girlfriend tried out as soon as it was finished!

zipwire

He’s actually waving to the camera. I’d be terrified!

Anyway, proud Granny signing off now.

Have a great day!
Linda x

P.S. Google The Eden Project and see what I mean 🙂

 

Inside Out Games

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With school holidays looming, there will be plenty of opportunities to play, have fun and enjoy tons of quality time with the kids, especially if we have a warm dry summer this year – fingers crossed 🙂

Family days out can get expensive and you can’t always rely on the weather being on your side – especially in UK=style climates.

But with a little planning and a little cash, if any, big fun can be had by everyone of every age.

If casting your mind back and replicating games of yesteryear isn’t an option for you, pop over to google and do a quick search for outside or traditional games. I remember loving bean bags as a kid and of course you can buy them on Amazon. These are colourful and fun….

beanbags

 

First-Play original Beanbags
size 15cm x 10cm. sold as a pack of 12 assorted colours.

 

I’m not sure about the fillings though. Apparently commercial bean bags are filled with plastic granules which isn’t a great idea if you’re going completely plastic-free but the other way would be to make them yourself and two-thirds to three-quarters fill them with rice or lentils. Then you’re using food which could be considered wasteful and they will have to be stored in an animal-free zone.

Hmm, as I’ve been promoting non-plastic toys, I’m tempted to go for making them myself – still trying to work out a filling alternative but may just go for rice for now.

Use bean bags to
*play catch – easier for little hands to hold on to
*target practice – throw onto the steps of a small ladder or into a bucket in the centre of the lawn
*have a juggling competition – for those aspiring to circus skills

And if there aren’t any breakables indoors, bean bags can be played with inside as well as out.

Have fun!
Linda x

P.S. Just in case of rain, grab this quick download so entertaining can be an indoor joy as well – actually the games in this little book can all be played outside as well

website-IndoorFamilyGames

 

Indoor Family Games

Choose from your favourite book shop

Amazon US , Amazon UK , Barnes & Noble , iTunes , Kobo , Google Play , Payhip , Etsy Books ,

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Penguins of Paradise

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Last year (ish) I designed a simple knitting pattern for beginner knitters called Winter Nits – listed here – of a snowman, a father christmas, a penguin and a sleeping bag.

Simple quick to knit and fun to play with. Recently I took it one step further. I bought some new yarn and started making penguins in stunning colours… Penguins of Paradise!

Really, they kind of look like little birds without wings but for pure cute and cuddliness they definitely hit the spot. They fit in the palm of an adult’s hand and they’re so easy for little fingers to hold on to.

You need just a small amount of yarn in a few colours and a scrap of toy filling. And the tools are easy too; a pair of knitting needles, scissors and a darning needle… And tahdah they only take about an hour… Make one in the evening and it can be admired and played with by breakfast 🙂

Added bonus – very cheap to make and NO PLASTIC!!

Happy knitting
Linda x
P.S. I resisted the cheesy joke of saying very CHEEP – did you notice? 🙂

Showing Up in the Sunshine

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Uh oh, gorgeous sunshine lighting up all the dust and clutter in the house … outside it is then ….. but if you really really want to get the house de-cluttered and don’t have a clue where to start, there’s a handy step-by-step download on The Good Life page

This is one of the great ideas lifted from the book:

Make a large cushion cover with a zip or Velcro opening and keep your scatter cushions inside. Use as a floor cushion and empty out the scatter cushions when you want them or when a pillow fight is due 🙂

NB: Don’t do this with delicate, embroidered or beaded cushions

Colours can help or hinder when you’re looking to create a serene and uncluttered living area. Too many bold colours may work in a child’s bedroom but in a communal living space it may not. And too many colours can create a cluttered appearance

Choose your colours carefully when decorating or freshening up the décor.

Or, just go outside in the sunshine and close the door behind you 🙂

Have a Great Day
Linda x

 

Tea Snob

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(extract from ‘Afternoon Tea’)

How I turned into a tea snob:

Afternoon tea has been a traditional English affair for centuries but over the years has been dropped in favour of a quick snack at lunchtime and a larger evening meal.

This reflects the speed and ‘lack of time’ we all seem to suffer from nowadays – and the fact that most employers take a dim view of their workforce popping out every afternoon for tea and cakes. 🙂

Many dieticians will promote eating ‘little and often’. Of course, they may question the wisdom of eating cake but, hey, a little of what you fancy does you good!

Back in the year 19something, my school separated boys from girls for science lessons. The boys learned how to do ‘man’ things and the girls learned how to do ‘woman’ things… it was a while ago.

One of the girls’ first domestic science lessons was ‘How to Make Tea’. If my memory serves me, we learned this incredibly important skill over the course of three weeks or so. (!) The attention to detail settled in my mind and slowly but surely over the years I became a tea snob.

I am not a happy soul if I have to go without a cup of tea every day. Going abroad can be a nightmare and if someone serves me tea made with a tea bag, I sip cautiously for a few moments then ‘accidentally’ forget to finish it. I blame school entirely for my addiction to the perfect cup of tea

So, as I rather enjoy the habit anyway, I’m going to share with you the fundamental elements to get the perfect cuppa in this elegant little download that includes:

Afternoon Tea

 

*How to make a perfect cup of tea.
*a traditional Victoria sponge cake recipe
*everyday scones with an ‘afternoon tea’ makeover.
*sandwiches to savour.
*fruit teas and herb teas that change the tone from time to time.

Create cakes and sandwiches to make afternoon tea a royal occasion.Choose your favourite shop –

Amazon US , Amazon UK , Barnes & Noble , Apple iTunes , Kobo , Google Play , Payhip

Enjoy!
PS: Please note that the recipes contain gluten, sugar and dairy although a little experimentng with alternative ingredients never goes amiss!