Painted wooden serving boards: a tutorial

small aqua ended cheese board gold knife on angle

Last Christmas my brother gave me Jamie Oliver’s latest cookbook: ” Jamie’s 15 minute meals”.  It both inspired and perplexed me.

Blue cheese platter close up

I was  inspired by the painted serving boards in the book but perplexed by the notion that anyone could complete some of the recipes in there in 15 minutes.

Edge of red edge cheese platter

Achievability of the food within aforementioned time limit aside, I’m here to tell you these painted wooden boards (if not Jamie’s recipes) whip up in under 15 minutes. Well, the first coat, anyway. Okay, so maybe don’t start these at a quarter to I’ve-got-to-be-somewhere.  Twenty to should be plenty though!

Pile of 3 wooden cheese boards

Once again, I’ve employed my very favourite masking tape and paper punch stencil method…

Wooden cheese platter board painters tape stencil

with much success.

Painted wooden cheese board blue dots

I hesitated to call this a tutorial as (with so many of my thangs) it really is criminally simple but I’m going to go ahead and do that anyway because I’m badass like that.

Small aqua edged cheese platter gold knife below

What you need:

  • Wooden serving board, cheese board, platter. Whatever takes your fancy. Do ensure it is not treated ie, safe to serve food on.
  • Food safe paint.
  • Painter’s tape or good quality masking tape

I got my food safe paint from ecolour paints.  I highly recommend them. They were lovely to deal with on the phone and very helpful despite the fact I was only ordering sample-sized quantities of paint. You  only need a small amount for this project and 0.5 litre typically costs AUS$13. Pretty decent I think.

Eco colour paint pots

I’m sorry I can’t give you international suppliers but I’m sure a google search in your area would lead you to what you want.

Blue cheese platter with walnuts, olives, quince paste, brieThe other thing I truly LOVE about this company is they can mix up any colour at all. You just choose the paint swatch you want and let them know the brand and name of the colour.

Aqua stripe cheese platter

What to do:

1. Paint your wood.

You can use steel wool to rough it up for a distressed look once it’s dry. Or use painter’s masking tape to create stripes and perfect straight lines. And use your paper punch to make templates. Endless possibilities.

Painted wooden platter in progress masking tape

I am making some of these for Christmas gifts this year. I think a board along with a beautiful cheese knife or even a round of cheese and some quince paste makes a beautiful Christmas present.

Red edged cheese platter closer

I collected my boards from various spots including IKEA and the local supermarket. The olives, however, are our backyard 2013 crop. Salty little bastards but I love ’em. Quince paste is mine too. Satisfying to have two homemade comestibles on the one platter.

Homemade olives

And don’t feel limited to cheese. I had a party last night and served a pile of homemade brownies on some of these boards. If you can put it on a platter, you can put it on one of these.

Red-edged painted wooden cheese board

Acqua stripe cheese board close up

PS: I’ve updated the look of my blog. I struggled to let go of my twirling chick on horseback but I’m much happier with the cleaner feel of this new design. Also, for a long time I’ve wanted a theme that  showcases my photographs better. They’re now bigger (in the horizontal view) and, I hope, better for that fact. Whaddya think?

Homemade edible confetti: a tutorial

Edible cake confetti 5

Edible confetti. What’s not to love.

edible cake confetti 4

After I had the idea I googled it and it turns out you can actually buy this stuff. Hence the “homemade” in the title of this post. But making it yourself means you can control the colours and the additives. And spend time when you should otherwise be doing mundane housework enjoying the meditative qualities of kneading fondant icing and flexing your punching muscles.

Edible confetti on cake on white stand

What you need:

  • Fondant icing (I use Orchard brand, available in large supermarkets here).
  • Gel food colouring (I use Americolour and Wiltons brands).
  • Icing sugar and a sieve
  • Baking paper
  • Paper punch (a handheld circular punch works best for this project)
  • Rolling pin
  • Cake cooling rack (good but not essential).

Edible confetti on cake 1

What to do:

1. Start by sifting some icing sugar through your sieve onto a corner of your workspace. Make a little pile of it. You’ll use this to dry the fondant out a bit as you knead it.

2. Tear off a golf-ball sized piece of fondant and knead until smooth and pliable. If it is too sticky, add some sieved icing sugar.

3. Add a drop or two of food colouring. These gel colours are very intense and you only need a little. Better to add a little and more as needed.

4. Knead the colour through the icing until it is even, adding icing sugar as you go to keep it soft but not sticky. It tolerates quite a lot of icing sugar being added without compromising the texture or colour so don’t be afraid to add a fair bit if required.

5. Roll out your ball of fondant as thinly as you can between two sheets of baking paper. It doesn’t have to be paper-thin – just thin enough to get into the paper punch.

Green fondant icing rolled out

Peel your flattened fondant off the paper and place on another piece of baking paper on a tray to dry for a few hours. When it is dry and you can lift the whole thing off the paper without it drooping too much, transfer it to a cake cooling rack if you have one to let the air get to all sides of it. If not, just leave it on the tray and allow to dry for 24 hours.

Once the icing is stiff enough, get punching.

Icing with paper punch

Try not to do this:

Edible confetti on my fingers

That’s it.

I am loving how this looks. Quite “spectacleear”, as my 4 year old would say.

Edible cake confetti 2

And there you were thinking your paper punches were limited to use with paper, washi tape, masking tape, soap and fabric. Oh, you!

This is a post in twirling betty’s paper punch-a-palooza series. If you enjoyed it, you might also like:

1. Paper punch stencils

2. Paper punch fabric luggage tags

3. Paper punch washi tape stickers

4. Paper punch fabric confetti

4. Paper punch sparkly snowflake envelope

5. Paper punch soap confetti

6. Paper punch washi tape cake stand decoration

7. Paper punch stencilling on clothes with masking tape or freezer paper

Large paper punch-a-palooza series header

Decorating clothes with free motion sewing: a tutorial

Daisy top for Daisy

It’s been babypalooza around here. No, I have not been delivered of any more of my own (“delivered of” – love that phrase,  used most recently by Buck Palace to announce bonny Prince George’s arrival), but friends and family are popping them out all over the place.

Most recently, my darling brother-in-law and his bewdiful wife had a baby girl.

To celebrate I made her this little top using the free sewing technique I’ve talked about before when I made these napkins, and these personalised paper gift bags.

Now as you can see, this is not a neat and perfect art. By its very definition free motion sewing gives a sketchy, scribbly look which I adore but won’t be everyone’s cup of tea.

Close-up free-motion Daisy

But if it is, then that is awesome on a stick and here’s a little how-to.

What you need:

  • Garment to sew onto (duh!)
  • Free motion sewing foot
  • Eraser pen for fabric
  • Your design.

What to do:

1. Print your design onto paper and trim it down so you can slip it under your garment.

2. Trace the design using your eraser pen. If the fabric is too thick to see the pattern underneath, you may wish to use another method for transferring your design like a transfer pencil and hot iron. However be aware that not all transfer pencils wash out so make sure you use one that does.

Flower pattern

3. Fit your free motion sewing foot to your sewing machine. I have a standard Brother foot that I modified using this really excellent tutorial. You don’t have to modify your foot – just makes life a bit easier. I’m all for easier.

Modifiedf free motion sewing foot

4. Sew over your design.  Free motion sewing can take a little bit of getting used too so you might want to practise on some scraps first. Here are some good tips and here’s a video of a guy doing a free motion sewing portrait. It’s amazing but his fingers seem to go so very close to the needle it makes me shudder. No blood on the fabric – that’s my rule.

T-shirt for Daisy

You’ll notice how the fabric has puckered – especially around the flowers. That’s what happens with stretchy material and, again, I like it because it gives texture. However, if you want a flatter result, simply iron some tear-out or wash-out stabiliser behind your design before you begin.

So can you guess my niece’s name?  And no, smart arse, it’s not Roughly-Sketched Indeterminate Flower.

And I’m worried you might think they called her Carnation.

Free motion Daisy with stem

It’s a daisy, people. And so is she.

PS: Alex and Jo own and run the fabulous  and beautiful St Isidore on the NSW South Coast. The restaurant is in both the 2013 Gourmet Traveller’s Restaurant Guide and the Sydney Morning Herald Good Food Guide. Do go and give it a go if you’re in that part of the world and tell ’em I sent you. It’s a cracker.

LOVE: Action Pack e-mags for kids

I’m sure many of you are already fans of Whip Up – one of the earliest and most respected blogs that brings to one spot all things handmade from everywhere along with stacks of other good stuff.

A while back, Kathreen Ricketson, Whip Up’s founder, began producing Action Packs for kids:  fabulous downloadable magazines full of activities based around a theme.

Previous themes have included, among others,  Mad Scientist with the best simple experiments (my fave is the oily fireworks), Go Tribal, Family Cooking and Celebration.

The magazines are free of ads and just really truly inspiring. Full to the brim with alluring, fun and simple activities,  the baby Bettys are practically foaming at the mouth to try pretty much everything in the editions we have bought. Plus, they learn stuff along the way.

The magazines are beautifully put together with gorgeous illustrations and natural, uncontrived photography.  And if I’m honest I want to do most of the activities just as much as my kids.

The most recent edition is Family Apothecary. It’s filled with natural lotions, potions, salves, balms, deodorisers and detergents. I’ve just printed our copy out and it’s beautiful.

I think purchasing a link to this edition (or indeed any edition) and printing it out for the kids in a family would make such a great Christmas present. You could bind it nicely if you were so inclined or just bulldog clip it if you weren’t. You could even make one of the things from the mag –  a zesty bath bomb or jar of healing  salve – to give along with the magazine. There are even gorgeous tags included in this issue you can cut out and use for your home made gifts.

What’s not to love.

All photos from the Action Pack website.

Buy the Action Packs here.

PS: Do be good eggs and make sure you buy a link for each family for which you plan to download and print a copy – or send a link to. The packs are so reasonably priced (the bundles even more so) for what they are and it’s just wouldn’t be cricket to see all Kathreen and her family’s work go unrewarded.

PPS: As always, I’m at pains to be clear about stuff. I have a link in my sidebar to Action Packs under the heading Things I Love. Kathreen has an affiliate program whereby if you link to her on your blog you receive a commission every time someone clicks through from your blog to buy a pack. I am not an affiliate. I decided I just loved it and didn’t want to take a commission for promotion. I think she deserves every penny that comes her way. But don’t let that stop you promoting the Action Pack if you love it and joining her affiliate program. A great way to spread the word and earn money to buy your next pack!

Simple felt and fabric ipad cover: a tutorial

I love any opportunity to make something to snuggle something else within. And this ipad case is snuggly in extremis.

I hit on the idea (and it slapped me for being so presumptuous) the night before our trip to Far North Queensland last year. I’ve been using it ever since and it has held up like a trooper. I also love a pretty trooper.

Yet another thing I love is the ikat-inspired fabric.

Ikat, as I’m sure you know, is so hot right now. But did you know real ikat has been hot in Indonesia since the dawn o’ time? Did you also know we get the English word “amok” from Indonesian? As in “she saw swathes of authentic ikat  in Jakarta and very nearly ran amok”.

What you need:

  • Two pieces 3mm (1/8″) thick wool felt. Each piece measures 27cm x 22cm (10 1/2 ” x 8 3/4″)
  • 1 piece fabric measuring 25cm x 20cm (9 3/4″ x 7 3/4″) (if your fabric frays easily, you may wish to add an extra centimetre or 1/2 inch to the fabric measurements then hem your piece to end up with a rectangle 25cm x 20cm. We are going to stitch along the very edge of the fabric though so if it’s not too bad, just cut straight to size. You could also dab some Fray Stoppa or similar around the edges if you’re concerned.
  • 1 piece sturdy ribbon or twill, 60cm (approx 23 1/2″) in length and at least 2.5cm (1″) in width.
  • Elastic of a similar width to your ribbon. It needn’t be exact.

What to do:

1. Place your fabric in the middle of the sheet of felt that will be the front of your cover. Just eyeball it. Choose an overlocking-type stitch (or even just a tight zig-zag) on your machine and sew the fabric to the felt.

2. Now, leaving a seam allowance of approximately 1/2cm or 1/4″, sew your front cover to the back.

Case done!

3. Fold each end of your ribbon or twill in 2cm (3/4 “). Fold another 2cm (3/4”) so the messy ends are now effectively hidden and stitch around the square end you’ve created to make it really secure.

4. Sew your elastic to each end of the ribbon to create a loop. Make sure the elastic is slack as you sew it.

The last up-close photo shows you little bits of pilling on the felt and wear on the elastic. Bear in mind though, I have been using this baby non-stop for over 12 months and I take my ipad pretty much everywhere.

Slip your ipad in, slip the ribbon loop over to secure and sigh with contentment. Maybe stroke your pretty little trooper just a bit. Up to you.

As if you won’t.

And if I need tougher protection, I snuggle my snuggly case into this very fab protective case.

It was designed in Italy, made in China and I bought it in New Zealand. So it was well-travelled before I even met it. I love a well-travelled travel companion. This is the brand.

Let me know if you make one my loves.

Fabric (clip) magnets : a tutorial

Now that you know how to make my fabric clips, don’t feel constrained to use them just in your hair.

They make cute magnets too.

All you need are these things:

It appears I have a thing for making magnets. Oh well, better that than cocaine I suppose.

The photo at top is me as a little tacker with one of our succession of beloved labradors. Owners of dogs will be familiar with the “Flat-eared I’m not enjoying this and I will not deign to look at you” face that Alistair is sporting. Perhaps that’s where the expression “hang dog face” comes from?

And there’s nothing like some animal print to enliven your fridge front and pep up the display of your wedding photos.

Yep, that’s us almost 12 years ago on our wedding day in Bali.  Some of those flower petals went down my cleavage and the lining of that top is still stained pink and red in places. Not that I wear my wedding dress that often any more. Mainly just to pick up the kids from school these days really. Oh, and during the summer solstice of course. Same as everyone really.

In truth, these days one would struggle to fit oneself in that dress. Bloody child birthing. Yep, I’m blaming the whole thing on my kids.

twirling betty’s fabric clips : a tutorial

These little clips kicked off the whole shebang.

Back when I came up with these in 2007, twirling betty didn’t even exist. All that existed was my daughter’s crazy baby hair: a  mohawk at the top  and mullet at the back. I christened it (the hair, not the child) a momullet.

Sick to death of twee clips for little girls in predictable pinks, I decided to have a go at making my own. And these clips were born.

It wasn’t as simple as the following tutorial would have you believe. There were lots of trials and even more errors but I finally hit on the perfect prototype when I discovered tacky craft glue. Ahhh tacky craft glue – let me count the ways I love thee.

So here, my darlings, is a tutorial for the craft that pretty much started it all for me.

Look how little my model was back then. Now, after I burst into song (usually from the musical Annie) in front of her friends she puts questions to her friends along these lines (and this one is an actual quote): “My mum: cool or weird?”. For the record, her friend just shrugged.

And you know what I always say: it wouldn’t be twirling betty without polka dots now would it?

Happy weekend everyone!

EDITED TO ADD: In response to queries (sorry I didn’t include this originally): in the old days I had to search high and low for my supplies – especially the particular kind of clips I like. After a quick search I found them here (for Aussies) and here (for US and European readers).

I really don’t recommend alligator clips ie. the ones with ridges  along the bottom. They just don’t grip hair (especially fine hair) all that well. For great grip, simply line the inside of your clips with a strip of felt or thin craft foam. I use a silicone gel to line mine but, again, a pain to source and buy in small lots.

Washi tape stickers: Part 3 in the Paper Punch-a-palooza series

What do you get when you combine a paper punch with Japanese washi tape? Why you get homemade stickers that are almost as cute as a dwarf rabbit in a sock.

It’s a really simple process and I actually came up with the idea months ago when I was trying to work out a way to decorate my sewing machine. What? Doesn’t everyone decorate their sewing machines? Of course you do.

Anyway, I googled the idea to see if anyone else had come up with it, and they had. A wonderful blog called Creature Comforts did this post on making Easter stickers back in March. So while I can’t claim to be the first person to combine washi tape with paper punches (although apparently can lay claim to the hilarious title of being the first to combine washi tape with magnets  – my most popular tutorial EVER, btw) , I have come up with a slight variation or two on the theme.

What you need:

  • Washi Tape (duh)
  • Paper punches (double duh)
  • Baking paper.

What to do.

1. Lay strips of washi tape onto the baking paper. Ensure the edges of each strip of tape overlap just a fraction so that the sticker will stay together when you peel it off the  backing.

2. Punch it up my friends. Punch it UP.

I decided to see how a border paper punch would go.

It went beeeuuuutifully.

As I mentioned above, I decided to decorate my sewing machine with some of these stickers. The results make me happy.

There’s a sneak peek at the Christmas centrepiece I’m working on in the background, too.

And as I’m in complete love with my jumpo tag punch, I decided to give him (yes, he’s a big, strong male of the species) a run while I was at it. I must confess that the tag punch didn’t come out quite as neatly as I’d hoped and I trimmed the edges a little bit to neaten it up. But it wasn’t too bad. You can see the rough edges in this photo in which I’m peeling the sticker off the backing.

If you do have trouble getting the punch edges to bite cleanly through the tape and baking paper, you could try layering your stickers between two sheets of paper. This gives the punch something more papery to bite in to and seems to help.

Given the season, here are a couple of other ideas for wrapping your pressies – or making cards.

What? You’ve never heard of Christmas bunnies? Eeeeveryone knows about them. They run around in a flurry of silver snow flakes being very Christmassy indeed.

I had to pop that silver paint pen in the picture because I just bought it yesterday and it makes me very nostalgic for my childhood. It was probably one of the few crafty supplies I had as a kid. I loved my gold and silver paint pens deeply, used them sparingly and, worryingly, inhaled their heady, painty scent with glee each time I pulled the cap off. So I was transported back to my childhood as I uncapped my pen yesterday and inhaled deeply. And passed out dizzy on the couch. Joking.

Sharpening paper punches

A commenter on the fabric luggage tags post asked me a good question about sharpening paper punches. And given the abuse I often subject my punches to, she raises a really good point. If your punch edges do dull, there are a couple of things you can try. The first, also mentioned by aforesaid commenter, is to punch through some tin foil a few times. But if you need to bring out the big guns, I find punching through thick-ish sand paper a few times works really well. Just ensure the rough side is faced onto the cutting edge.

This is the third in my Paper Punch-a-palooza series. If you enjoyed this then you might also like my first two Paper Punch-a-palooza posts:

1. Paper punch to make stencils

2. Paper punch to make fabric luggage tags

Fabric lamp shade (IKEA hack): a tutorial

I have always been an IKEA fan. When we lived in Rome pretty much our entire apartment was furnished with IKEA furniture. Which means that when I am wandering around this Swedish store in far-flung antipodean Melbourne I feel like I am in Rome. How’s that for bang for your international buck!

In fact, just a glimpse of the bedside tables we had in Italy can reduce me to nostalgic tears. Sometimes it’s all I can do not to throw myself down onto the closest Ektorp and bawl my eyes out.

I generally manage to control myself but that’s not to say my handsome husband hasn’t found me misty-eyed and gently fondling the familiar curves of a white plastic chair.

Aaaaanyhoohaa, enough about my inappropriate advances on Swedish furniture and on to the tutorial for this lovely fabric covered lamp.

What you’ll need:

  •  IKEA Tassa Natt lamp. The article number, in Australia at least, is 201.316.08


  •  Fabric.
  • Sticky tape
  •  A low-wattage bulb. I used 15 watts.

What to do:

1. Unscrew front plastic cover from lamp and take off the annoying whimsical dancing frogs.

2. Use the paper as a template to cut your fabric to size. Alternatively, the measurements are roughly (and you can be a bit rough with this) : 25cm x 17.7cm or 10″ x 7″”.

If you want to hem your fabric, add whatever your seam allowance will be to the measurements above.

You can just use a rectangle of fabric and either hem the edges (although I, true to form, didn’t bother) or, as you can see in the next photo, simply sew some cute ribbon or trim along each edge.

3. Using sticky tape on the inside edges, attach fabric to plastic cover.

4. Whack that sucker back into its mounting frame (which you will have previously screwed into your wall)

5. Let the line shine in.

Easy, non? Mais oui.

One word of caution: there is always a risk of fire danger when you add materials to a lamp (or indeed anything that generates heat). I recommend using a very low wattage bulb as I have (15 watts) which, even after hours of continuously being on, was barely warm. That said, this is probably better as a mood light rather than something you would leave on all night long in your or your child’s room.

No need to limit ourselves to kids’ bedrooms though.

I think two of these (perhaps not so much in this fabric) – one either side of a headboard  – or indeed in any room would look fab. In fact, I am working on some wall decorating in our living room and think this might be just the trick in among our pictures.

I also love that the fabric can be changed so easily – always a good thing for someone like me who falls in love with something new every other day.

Here’s the lamp in situ. This is Sophia’s little nook. We live in a small house so when I put both my girls into a bedroom together a year or so ago, I wanted to create a tiny space for Sophia to retreat into if she felt the need. A space just for her. A curtain (IKEA, of course) strung between her wardrobe and the wall makes the perfect little spot.

She likes to sit and read books in there.

Although she’s getting kind of long now. We might need to start thinking about an extension.

So there you have it my darlings, a lovely fabric lamp for a cosy space. I hope you are inspired to brave the never-ending maze of halls and pathways at IKEA and have a go at your own. Take lots of water and a GPS if you want to be absolutely sure you’ll make it back out alive.

Braided headband with beads: a (brief 5 step) tutorial

My most darling young whippersnapper of a friend (well, she’s 23 but I still consider that whippering age) went to an outdoor musical festival the other day. Frankly, I can’t think of anything worse than sloshing around in the dirt with thousands of other dirty music lovers, but this is apparently what the young folk like to do. You dig?

So, she was casting around for some kind of accessories to wear on the day that was in keeping with the whole festival vibe so I decided to make her something that would fit the bill and whipped up (not to be confused with whippersnappered up  (vb) : to acquire oneself a cool, young thing) this headband.

It’s just strands of lovely, soft leather braided, tied and then strung with beads.

I actually love it and would totes wear it if I was ever on my way to a mud pit. I mean mosh pit. I mean fancy dress party dressed as Stevie Nicks. So, um, never. But I do like it.

If you would like to make your own, the simple instructions are:

1. Take 3 long pieces of soft leather and hold them around your head as if the piece were finished and mark the points on your strips where your fingers meet at the back of your head.

2. Now take your strands and slide a rubber band onto them and tie it off at the first point you have marked.

3. Carefully plait your leather strands all the way from the rubber band to your second marked point. Test your plait for length around your head and either extend or unplait if necessary.

4. Sew or otherwise secure the three strands together at the point where your fingers met ie, the circumference of your head.

5. Decorate the ends of your strips with beads or whatever takes your fancy.

We went for a really natural, neutral look but you could go all tribal on this thing’s arse and weave on feathers at different points or twist fabric scraps along the ends.

If it had occurred to me earlier, I would have woven a really thin strip of cute fabric into the braided bit. So if you make one and do that, do send me a photo of it. And of you. Dead centre of the mosh pit thanks.