{How to} Grow borax crystals

Home grown crystals to add a little sparkle to your life in a few short hours. I made some of these to go on our Christmas tree but with Spring in the air (or at least it was!) it’s time to take the snowflakes down and make room for a new season full of makes. I wondered if the decorations would get brittle as they dried out but they seem just as solid as when I made them back in December, so I am going to put them away to next year and see how well they fare. They are so simple to make though if I have to make a whole new batch it wont be much of a problem.

To make your own borax bling you will need:

borax pipe cleaner jar crystals

  • borax powder
  • hot water water
  • pipe cleaners
  • jar/ heat proof container large enough for your pipe cleaner shape to be suspended in the solution without touching either side.
  • thread
  • a pencil
  • food colouring (optional)

 

 

  1. Bend your pipe cleaner into shape. I have tried this with super fluffy pipe cleaners, normal pipe cleaners, metallic pipe cleaners and twisted metallic pipe cleaners. They all worked fine but you can see from the photos that the crystals grew differently on each one. It’s also worth knowing that I untwisted the same type of silver and blue pipe cleaner I used to make the snowflake to make the heart and the star. Weirdly the crystals grew differently on the pipe cleaners after I had separated them… although maybe that was to do with something else. I guess we’ll never know!
  2. Tie a  loop of thread around the pipe cleaner shape. Then thread the loop over the skewer so that you can suspend your decoration in your jar so that it is not touching the sides or the bottom.
  3. Boil enough water to fill the jar and completely cover the decoration.
  4. Pour boiling water into your container (allow it to cool slightly first if you think your jar might pop!). Add one tbsp of borax powder, stir until dissolved, then keep adding a tbsp of the powder and stirring until the borax stops dissolving and starts collecting at the bottom of the jar, at this point the solution is saturated. If you want to you can add food colouring to the solution and grow coloured crystals, (I haven’t tried this but if you hop on over to the Yoyomax12 YouTube channel they’ve given it a go. [If you aren’t already hooked on Yoyomax12 click here and prepare to loose hours of your life] )
  5. Gently lower your decoration into the solution. In all the tutorials I have read it says that you should see some crystals growing after a couple of hours, I don’t know if I got a bad batch of borax (is that even possible?!) but I have found that I need to leave mine for at least 4 hours to get a good covering of small crystals. As far as I can make out you can leave them to grow as long as you like I think but the crystals will only ever grow so big. Out of curiosity I  left mine over night and ended up with some really great cubic crystals, which leads me on to step 6…
  6. When you are happy with the size of the crystals gently lift your decoration out and either hang it up somewhere to dry, or lay it down on some absorbent paper away from prying fingers.

Cleaning up – Crystals will grow on the inside of the jar but these will wash straight off with  a little warm water and you can pour any unwanted solution down the sink. Just like you would with any laundry detergent type chemicals it might be worth wearing gloves when you are washing up and obviously be careful not to splash it in your eyes and to clean the sink carefully afterwards so that it doesn’t come into contact with anything you would use for cooking.

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{How To} Turn an old shirt into a cushion cover.

{How to} Upcycle a shirt into a cushion cover 2

This simple twist on the classic envelope cover is a great way to give new life to an old shirt; 4 straight lines of sewing and someone has already done all the fastenings for you. Here’s how you do it…

You will need:

{How to} turn a shirt into a cushion cover, sewing, handmade

 

  • 1 shirt
  • 1 cushion inner – I bought mine but you could make your own.
  • measuring tape/ ruler
  • chalk/ pen/ pencil to mark out your pattern
  • pins (in the altoids tin!)
  • scissors
  • thread

 

 

I made my cover on a sewing machine but you could easily make this by hand.

You will not necessarily need to make your owl tape measure look like it is flying a kite, but it does help.

1. Find/ steal a shirt from unsuspecting partner/ housemate/ father/ brother. Mens’ shirts are probably best because they are bigger and tend not to be fitted. I got this one fair and square by helpfully offering to put it in the recycling box and secretly snaffling it away into the fabric stash.

appropriated shirt

2. Measure your cushion inner, mine is 45 cm (18 inches) square. To make your cover you need to add on 2 cm (1 inch) to the height and width for seam allowance.

Iron your shirt before marking out your pattern. Yes I know it is a pain but do it anyway, you will thank me when you have a beautiful square cushion cover.

3. Measure and mark out a square on the front and back of the shirt. For my inner this will be a 47 cm sided square.

front and back

This is where you get to choose. If you are lucky this will fit perfectly within the sleeves of your shirt. If not the choice is yours. You can:

a.) Just ignore the sleeve seams and cut right on through ( I think this adds to the upcycled-shirtiness effect)

OR

b.) You can just re-adjust your pattern making it slightly smaller to sit within the seams of the shirt. Cushion inners are squishy and forgiving to this kind of behavior.

4.) Decide that despite having gone out and bought an inner specially that your shirt would look much better as a bolster cushion than square and grab a cushion off the sofa to use instead. (Optional)

5.) Pin the front and back pieces together, right sides facing each other and sew the four sides together. I have allowed for 1 cm (1/2 inch) seams in my pattern, you can leave more if you wish. I used a line of straight stitch and then a line of zigzag stitch running parallel just to keep the edges from fraying too wildly.

pin right sides together

Once you’ve finished sewing you can turn your cushion cover inside out and iron it flat. (Yes, iron it again, it DOES make a difference.)

All that is left to do is unbutton the shirt, slip your inner inside and sit back and relax on your latest sewing triumph. Shirts will never be safe in your house again.

finished productIt doesn’t need to stop at shirts either. I made an old cardigan into a cover to fit the square inner, before finding yet another old shirt and now have more covers than cushions! They are so simple to make that all three of these covers only took me an afternoon.

 

The pockets are a handy extra too. You need never loose the remote control again…

Chandni Chowk shirt

 

 

{How To} Upcycle an old jumper into a bag.

Featured

Every so often a friend of my Mum’s brings me a huge bag of hand-me-downs. It’s such a treat. After her last visit I plunged my hand into a bag, rummaged around and pulled out a huge knitted jumper. It was a chunky, grey wool knitted in loose, wide stitches. The body of the jumper was a T shape, two large squares for the body and four smaller squares for the arms. I loved it, it looked dreadful on me.

Tools of the trade

But did I give up and throw it to one side? Oh no, I wasn’t letting this one go to the charity shop. So here is what I decided to do with my new jumper instead…

1) First I cut both arms off the jumper leaving me with a vaguely square bag shape. When you cut into a knitted fabric you have to stitch along the edges you are about to cut otherwise when you snip through the stitches your jumper will unravel. For smaller knits you can do this on your sewing machine using a zigzag stitch. I used a tapestry needle and a strand of the wool I was using for my edging to catch in the stitches around the arm holes.

Single crochet edge2) Next for a nice chunky edging. Using three strands of double knit yarn together I single crocheted all the way around two sides and the bottom of the bag, closing all the openings as I went.

 

CAT BAG 01

 

Hmmm, not so much plain as blank don’t you agree? I decided to stuff new bag with squashy balls of yarn for some wooly inspiration. Once the bag was full there was really only one way to go…

3) I cut eyes, nose and whiskers out of some pre made felt and I had all the best intentions of stitching them on, but ended up sticking them to the front of the bag with fabric glue. (They will fall off eventually, there wasn’t much surface to stick them to but when they do I will actually take the time to hand stitch them on, promise!).

Yarn Bag

From misfit jumper to the cat’s whiskers of a yarn bag in an hour and a half, and I had everything I needed in the house already. Purrrfect.

{How to} Make a felted rose

Video

So in the same week that I wrote my first guest post I find myself posting my first video tutorial. It’s not perfect but I’m really pleased with it.  I couldn’t wait to finish typing up the instructions to go alongside these photos before posting my video but they are on their way very soon.

Click here to go to youtube:

Rose tutorial24

{How to} make a beautiful Easter basket

The lovely people at Bristol With Kids asked me if I would like to write a guest post for their blog so I shared this super simple, 5 minute craft with them. We LOVE living in Bristol, and if you’re looking for things to do here then Nichola and Fritha’s blog is a great place to find out the best sights and sounds in this fabulous and family friendly city.

Easter basket templates

I first started making these baskets about 6 years ago when I used to run drop in craft days for families. The shape of the baskets is pretty standard but I wanted to be able to decorate my own, printed ones from the supermarket weren’t going to cut it! So I made my own template that fits neatly on an A4 sheet and is so simple that you can put it together in 5 minutes. Making these baskets has become a much loved tradition in our house, if you want to have a go all the instructions are written on the template so print yourself a copy off using the links below and let your creative skills run riot. How to make an #Easter #basket 5 minute make #craft #kids

We’d love to see some of the beautiful baskets you’ve made, share your pics on my facebook page, tweet me a photo @picklepintweet, #LSEASTERBASKET on instagram or just drop me a line at info@laurastepney.co.uk.

PLEASE REMEMBER: If you want to share your photo of your basket these pictures will be on public display.

Printable goodies.

Basket template

Easter hunt this way!

egg template

(Each of these files will open as a pdf)The end!

{How to} Care for your felted lantern.

crumpled lanterns

Whether your lantern has just started to soften and sag, or your cat has mistaken it for a comfy sleeping spot, the following steps will restore your lantern to its former glory.

You will need:

your lantern
a balloon
soap
hand hot water
a tea towel/ drying rack

  • Sit your lantern on a flat surface.
  • Inflate the balloon inside the lantern. The idea is that when you have inflated the balloon and tied a knot in the end, the knot will be roughly in the middle of the lantern opening. The curved top of the balloon gives the curved shape to the base of the lantern. When inflating the balloon it is important that the walls of that lantern should be taut over the balloon to avoid too many wrinkles, but not so tight that it puts pressure on the neck of the lantern. But there is no need to be overly precious.
  • Now we need to wet the wool. I always use hand hot water to wet the wool first and  just a touch of olive oil soap. (You can use a little of whatever hand/ dish soap you have by the sink.)  Agitate the wool gently, make gentle circular movements across the surface of the felt for 1 or 2 minutes. Trial and error has taught me that if you apply too much pressure you can end up forcing the balloon to bulge on the opposite side to the one you are rubbing and because the wool is wet, it can stretch the shape.
  • Rinse all of the soap out of the wool. This one needs to be done with cold water. Turn the cold tap on to a slow steady flow and holding the lantern close to the spout of the tap allow the fresh water to gently displace all of the soapy water.
  • Leave your lantern to dry. Apply some gentle pressure to press some excess water out or pat with a clean, dry tea towel and then it’s up to you. You can leave your lantern on a windowsill, on the radiator ( if you have the sort of radiator that has two raised lines across the top you will get lines in the bottom of you lantern, but there are worse things that can happen!) or you could also dry them upside down by resting them in a bowl. How long they take to dry will depend on so many things – how much you patted them dry, how thick they are, how warm the room is. I guess the best advice I could give you is don’t dry them with a hair dryer but don’t let them stay wet for so long that they start to smell like a damp sheep.
  • Pop the balloon and your lantern will be as proudly upstanding as the first day it was made.

If I haven’t made the process clear, or you’ve tried this and think I’ve missed something out please let me know, I’m only to happy to help and am always on the look out for new hints and tips!

Pictures coming soon!