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Bubble Painting Made Easy (With Any Age)

Bubble painting is a great craft for any age. It can also get really messy very quickly. The good news is that it doesn’t have to. Just follow this method and the simple tips will let you stay in control!


Materials Needed:

  • Ready mixed washable paints ( I used these )
  • Washing up liquid
  • Mixed media paper or thin card sheets
  • Plastic drinking straws (5 or 6 per kid)
  • Sellotape
  • Blue tack
  • Old yogurt pots or disposable plastic cups
  • Something to cover your table with, newspaper will work but I like to turn black bin sacks into sheets and use them.



How To: Bubble Painting…


Step One:

Cover your table to stop it getting painty. Newspaper or a cheap plastic party tablecloth work well but Tip No. 1 is to cut the bottom off of a black sack and spread it out.

Step Two:

Tip No. 2 is to use sellotape to tape together five or six straws. This helps small lungs get enough air into the paint to make bubbles without passing out!.

Step Three:

Get your young one to choose their first colour. Tip No.3 – Mix about a teaspoon full each of paint and washing up liquid together in an old yogurt pot or plastic cup. I used the straws to stir the mixture. The paint works best when it’s about the same consistency as milk so you may need to add a teaspoon of water if your paint is thick. The containers get pretty manky during the process so being able to bin them at the end is a blessing.

Step Four:

Tip No. 4 – Put four small dots of blue tack on the bottom of the cup or pot. When you press the pot down onto your work surface it should stop it being knocked over so easily.

Step Five:

Get your youngster to put the end of the taped straws in the cup and blow until the mixture bubbles up above the rim.

Step Six:

Place your paper face down onto the bubbles then lift STRAIGHT UP to take it away. If you take it off sideways the bubble painting will smudge. Tip No. 5– I recommend using either mixed media paper or thin card as they don’t wrinkle when they get wet.

Step Seven:

Repeat step six until you have all the you want of that colour on the page. Tip No. 6 – It looks really good if you overlap some of the bubble shapes. Then put your sheet to dry.

Tip No. 7 – If you want a multi-coloured masterpiece get your young one to make two or three pictures at the same time. Start each with the same colour. The first one will dry while they do the next. Once the third is finished they’ll be able to move onto the next colour with the first picture.  No smudges. This can carry on for as long as your child’s attention span lasts!

Step Eight:

Leave the pictures to dry. This takes longer than usual because of the soap. But they’re usually dry by the next day.


Bonus tip!

If you want simple home made presents for your kids to give friends and family      Hobbycraft do basic notebooks with kraft paper covers that take bright colours of bubble patterns well. Open them out, print onto them and BOOM! Pretty handmade gifts.



I think these are great ways to keep a potentially messy craft under control. Go on, try them and let me know what you think!

Charity Knitting:10 Ways Of Helping The Poor, Sick & Vulnerable

Around this time of year lots of us are thinking of those less fortunate than us.  Chatting with the ladies in my knit and natter group (Yarning) the other day it became very clear that we’ve all run out of people to knit or crochet for. Our confessions amounted to the same thing. That we would LOVE to have new victims, ahem, “recipients” for our yarn-y efforts. That put me on a mission to find groups that want your charity knitting or crochet.

10 Ways of helping the poor, sick and vulnerable via charity knitting this winter.It turns out there are loads of charities who can really be helped by knitters or crocheters. To make things interesting I’ve tried to include a wide range of projects.

It is amazing the hugely inventive ways which charities are using yarn talent.  This list is just a small taste.  “Let’s Knit” magazine features a different charity each month so it’s worth checking their website regularly.

Without further ado, here are my favourites:

(All these charities are actively looking for donations at this time. If you are reading this weeks or months after the original post, December 2016, it is definitely worth clicking on the links and double checking that they are still taking donations).

My Favourite 10 Charity Knitting/Crochet Seekers:

  1. Hampshire Hospitals10 Ways of helping the poor, sick and vulnerable via charity knitting this winter. are looking for people to make “Twiddlemuffs” to help people with dementia. They even have a PDF with all the information that you need to make one.
  2. Naomi House and Jack’s Place accept donations to their shops to be sold to raise money for their local work.
  3. Bliss (A Charity For Babies That Are Born Premature Or Sick) have knitting patterns suitable for premature babies. They do ask that you contact your local hospital directly to give your donation. If you don’t feel able to contact your local hospital Preemies UK will distribute your makes if you send them to them.
  4. Knitted Knockers UK recruit volunteers who knit cotton prosthesis for women who have single or double mastectomies. You have to apply for this one!
  5. The Big Issue sponsor The Big Knitathon around November each year. You can find details of how to join in by clicking on the title.
  6. Project Linus supplies blankets to children who really need a sense of safety and security. It’s named after the character in “Peanuts” who is permanently welded to his blanket (how cute is that!).
  7. Oxfam need a range of items, mainly to sell in order to raise funds. They are catering to the trendy festival crowd and can get up to £35 for a nicely made blanket!
  8. Knit for Peace match donations with charities. They send out a monthly email newsletter to keep you posted on where your items are being used and have a range of pattern suggestions for a range of abilities.
  9. Loving Hands is a similar organisation to Knit for Peace but you may choose to go with this one because it focuses on UK charities.
  10. Finally UK Hand Knitting have a brilliant list of charities that need knitted items and links to what they need.

10 Ways of helping the poor, sick and vulnerable via charity knitting this winter.So, Do You Feel Inspired?

Hopefully there’s a cause in amongst this lot that tugs at your heartstrings. Who knows, some of your “downtime” over Christmas may mean a charity knitting boost for someone who really needs it.

If you know of other charities looking for knitters/crocheters (especially in Hampshire). Please do leave the details below or on my Facebook Page.

The Easy Way To Block Your Granny Squares

Blocking knitting or crochet (pinning it out to the correct size whilst damp) is tedious and time consuming. When you have hundreds of granny squares for a project it assumes nightmare proportions. I thought I would share with you today easy way to block your granny squares. The way that I do it saves time, effort and sanity!

This is the easy way to block your Granny Squares to the right size and shape for your projects.

I’ll keep this short, and to the point. You will need:

  • Four knitting needles (metal or plastic ones and make sure they are fairly fine).
  • A fairly sturdy cardboard box (I used one that holds my cat’s food sachets!)
  • A felt tip pen
  • A ruler
  • A craft knife
  • Spare cardboard (heavyweight)

This is how you use them to block your granny squares:

This is the easy way to block your Granny Squares to the right size and shape for your projects.

  1. On the top of your box draw out a square that is the size that you want your finished squares to be.
  2. In each of the four corners use the craft knife to cut a small slot.
  3. Push the knitting needles through the slots, make sure they are straight and mark where the point of the needle touches the bottom layer of the box.
  4. Cut slots in these four points too.
  5. Push the knitting needles through all four slots (both layers).
  6. Having the two layers helps them to stay straight and the right size.
  7. On the spare cardboard mark out two additional squares the correct size.
  8. Cut slots in the four corners of both square for the knitting needles.
  9. Check the squares fit.
  10. Load all your granny squares into a pillow case (this stops things unravelling!)
  11. Wash your granny squares according to the washing instructions on your yarn.
  12. Thread the damp granny squares onto the knitting needles in a stack. When the stack is half way up the needles thread on one of your card squares. Then continue until the needles are full.
  13. Once you have blocked your granny squares it is time to put them on a window sill to dry.
  14. Once you are sure they are dry take them off of the knitting needles. They should be square and a regular size ready to put them together!

No individual pinning onto towels, space saving and inexpensive. This is my idea of easy but I am always on the lookout for ways to make things easier, all tips and tricks welcome!

6 Ways Blogtacular 2016 Inspired Me To Change My Perspective

Nothing in my year excites me, challenges me and motivates me as much as Blogtacular.  This two day creative conference for bloggers sees major names from the creative world speak.  I have come back from the conference buzzing, exhausted and excited to put what I learnt into practice but I wanted to use this post to share what I got from the whole experience.

This year (my second at Blogtacular) really picked me up by the scruff of the neck and shook me. These are the 6 Ways Blogtacular 2016 Inspired Me To Change My Perspective.

6 Ways Blogtacular 2016 Inspired Me To Change My Perspective

YOU are enough.

I made a commitment at the beginning of this year to push myself beyond my comfort zone and really flourish. I have found what I am passionate about doing with my life but now the devil is in the detail as to how to accomplish it.  I have spent a lot of time feeling a bit like the rug has been pulled out from under me. I am 41 and self employed for the first time. Working from home I have put on some weight (up until now I have pretty much always had jobs where I am on my feet all the time) and there is no-one to blame for any decisions I make but me. I was feeling old, out of touch and frumpy. How I used to define myself is no longer relevant. I am at a big crossroads where I have to choose how the rest of my life will go.

Blogtacular Creative Conference 2016 Image Courtesy of Mollie Makes © Will Ireland-91

Blogtacular Creative Conference 2016 Image Courtesy of Mollie Makes © Will Ireland-91

In he late thirties our keynote speaker Lisa Congdon found herself, newly single and unhappy in her job.  Lisa joined her brother in an art class and found her purpose in life. She became an artist and illustrator and her colourful, quirky work was hugely in demand.

Earlier this year she reached another crossroads. She realised that she had let her work become how she defined herself. She was perilously close to total burnout. She shared with us Jen Pastiloff’s “Girl Power Manifesto” as illustrated by Emily McDowell

The Girl Power Manifesto by Jen Pastiloff

Words © Jen Pastiloff Design © Emily McDowell

We are bombarded with the work, appearance and opinions of others via the internet.  That makes it hard to hold onto this. Lisa admitted this which took her to her next piece of advice…

Choose the metrics by which you evaluate your success or failure.

“Scarcity tells you that you are not enough now, and you must be more to have some chance of being enough in the future... Being more usually gets translated into doing more. Because you are not enough, you can never do enough to become enough. This leads to an ongoing tap dance of over-commitment, workaholism and super-sized ambition that is never satiated...”

Image © Lisa Congdon Quote © Tara Rodden Robinson

The quote that Lisa shared from Tara Rodden Robinson stopped me in my tracks. The metrics by which I judged myself were all wrong, all skewed, how did I know that? Because I didn’t use the same criteria to judge anyone else, and, most importantly, I hated the thought of anyone else judging themselves like that.

Lisa shared her criteria for measuring her own success and I think they are a great starting point for me (and pretty much anyone), although I expect that they will evolve to become more personal over time.

# Move your body everyday # Get help # If the answer isn't "Hell Yes", say no. # Approach everything as a beginner. # Create space for your relationships. # Embrace your imperfections.


Time for a change and to embrace the principle of Wabi Sabi .

Know what you are offering and have a plan.

This gem actually came from Kristobel Plummer’s session on “Blog Business”. Her point was actually made with regards to working with brands for sponsored posts and alike but I feel it fits very well with life in general. Everyone has principles and being clear about what they are equips you to evaluate any opportunity and maybe avoid that sinking feeling in the pit of your stomach when you realise that you are on the wrong path.

Blogtacular Creative Conference 2016 Image Courtesy of Mollie Makes © Will Ireland-106

Blogtacular Creative Conference 2016 Image Courtesy of Mollie Makes © Will Ireland-106

Be clear and intentional in your communications.

Kristobel also stressed the importance of clarity in all your business communications. You can then manage expectations successfully and build a relationship that is beneficial for both parties. This started me thinking about how clear and regular communication would benefit every aspect of my life.

Sara Tasker reminded me that  not all communication is via words. In her “Phoneography” session. She talked about the fact that “you are only as good as your top 3 rows” (of images on Instagram) and her 126k followers can’t be wrong. By having three words that describe your style. If your image does not fit at least one of these words, it doesn’t make it onto Instagram. ALL my communications  matter and using some of Sara’s visual techniques will help improve mine immensely.

Blogtacular Creative Conference 2016 Image Courtesy of Mollie Makes © Will Ireland-195

Blogtacular Creative Conference 2016 Image Courtesy of Mollie Makes © Will Ireland-195

When the blurb on the Blogtacular website boldly stated that “Laura Jane Williams believes that none of us is screwing up like we think we are.” I knew that I had to take her writing workshop. I wasn’t disappointed. Funny, bold and brave she had all of us working through three drafts of a piece about a first meeting and she also made the point that words can either paint a picture or move a story along with pace.

Both of these have their place but I need to be clear which I am aiming for.

Laura shared the Maya Angelou quote,

“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

Blogtacular Creative Conference 2016 Image Courtesy of Mollie Makes © Will Ireland-220

Blogtacular Creative Conference 2016 Image Courtesy of Mollie Makes © Will Ireland-220

All of this emphasis on the importance of the quality of your communication could have been, quite frankly, terrifying. At the last Laura saved me from paralysis as a result of the expectation placed on me by telling us to write (or communicate) from a place of “NOBODY CARES”. This lets you find your voice while no-one is listening. This is going in big letters above my desk!

You have a tribe and many of them will be struggling with the same things you are.

This year I decided to jump in with both feet and apply to get onto one of the organised photowalks on the Friday afternoon, attend the party at West Elm on the Friday evening PLUS the big event itself (9 1/2 hours plus travel time) on the Saturday. I used the last of my tax rebate to fund two nights in a hotel and off I went. During the course of the two days I chatted to a LOT of people. As we Photowalked, at the West Elm Papermakers Party and during the conference itself, and do you know what I found?

Quite simply this tribe “gets”me. They understand an outgoing introvert because a lot of them share the same traits. Some of them went through far more than me to get to and get through Blogtacular. As we talked they shared the same insecurities about blog post frequency and quality and there was loads of excited “me too!” moments. Even the speakers seemed to be kindred spirits. Lisa’s “vulnerability hangovers”, Kristobel’s regret that she hadn’t educated herself on business matters from the get-go, Sara’s belief that life is messy and your images should reflect this, just about everything that Laura said and Enid’s office with the “Done is better than perfect” poster on the wall!

I lost count of the number of times that I heard other bloggers say that they didn’t think they were posting enough or that the quality of posts wasn’t strong enough. I read a lot of these blogs for pleasure and I would totally disagree. I hold their blogs up as examples of what I want to achieve and how I wish I sounded. Everyone looks at themselves and their work with a very distorted lens. Being able to discuss our issues and insecurities in person was liberating.

Blogtacular Creative Conference 2016 Image Courtesy of Mollie Makes © Will Ireland-181

Blogtacular Creative Conference 2016 Image Courtesy of Mollie Makes © Will Ireland-181

Be brave and be flexible.

In my opinion all of the speakers were brave for just getting up in front of the crowd and sharing their stories. As if this wasn’t enough they all put themselves out there in a very personal way via their chosen creative outlet.  That requires a huge amount of bravery just to keep “showing up”. As Lisa explained it was about balancing the potential they have for great creativity against the risk of exposing themselves to trolls. That takes bravery.

All the speakers showed that they have all evolved from their starting point into what we see before us today.  Something has helped them do this. Enid Hwang spoke of the importance of having a process to help you deal with change. This flexibility allows a creative person to roll with the punches and find a way to get around the reach of the person throwing them. Being flexible gives you the capability to keep showing up.

In conclusion.

What the other 349 (ish) attendees took home from Blogtacular (aside from an awesome goodie bag) I would be really intrigued to learn. I know that some of the things I picked up on certainly weren’t explicitly spelt out and were a result of where my head was at just before the conference. It was the message I was ready to hear and the one that Blogtacular gave me.

It really helps that the conference is sponsored by brands which really “get” the importance of fostering creativity. West Elm, Mollie Makes, Sudo, Microsoft, Annie Sloan and Pinterest all sponsor and most of them are returning for at least the second year. That helps make Blogtacular a “safe” space for all attendees to get the most from the experience.

Thank you Kat and Team and thank you sponsors for charging my batteries for another year.

How I Felt Before And After Blogtacular

Image ©Claire Reynolds


I am not affiliated in any way with any of the products used during this article. I have received no compensation (monetary or in kind). All opinions are my own.

Cute And Easy Bunting Jewellery To Show In The Summer

Summer is on it’s way (no, honestly, don’t laugh!) and getting rid of the thick jumpers and scarves is just the excuse I need to indulge in some costume jewellery. If you love outfit coordinating jewellery and hate spending lots of money on it, this is the tutorial for you. It uses Polyshrink (Artists Grade Shrink Plastic) and basic jewellery findings to make a range of bunting jewellery products so you can have one for every outfit!

Use heat shrinkable plastic to make this cute bunting jewellery to co-ordinate with all your summer outfits.

Materials You Will Need to Make Bunting Jewellery:

To make this bunting jewellery you will need: Polyshrink Artists Grade Shrink Plastic, A length of chain, necklace clasps, coloured pencils, fine grade sand paper, jump rings, a pencil and sharpie markers


Tools You Will Need To Make Bunting Jewellery:

The tools you will need to make this bunting jewellery are: Paper scissors, two pairs of pliers, a heat proof surface, a heat tool or oven, wire cutters and a single hole punch.


How To Make Your Bunting Jewellery:

Step One:

Take your sheet of Polyshrink and sand the surface on one side with a fine grade sandpaper. That allows your printer ink to stick to the sheet instead of running off of it. Make sure that you get all areas.

A tip; the harder the lead in your coloured pencils, the rougher the sheet needs to be for it to show.

Use a fine grade sandpaper to sand the entire surface of your sheet of shrinky plastic

If you want to make all the options of this jewellery you will need to prep two sheets of plastic for printing. If not you will need to print accordingly.

Step Two:

Draw out your bunting flags. I used pencil and a ruler and mine were 4.5cm wide (at the top) by 4.5cm long (along the centre line. I used a penny to be the outer line of the peace logo.

Use a pencil to draw out your bunting jewellery. Mine was about 4.5cm wide by 4.5cm long

Step Three:

Use your coloured pencils to colour in the pennants that you want for your piece of jewellery. My advice is to enjoy this bit with a glass of wine in front of the TV!

Use coloured pencils to colour in your bunting jewellery.


Step Four:

Use scissors to cut out your flag shapes and diagonally trim off the corners so that they don’t rub a sore spot whilst you are wearing the necklace.

Use paper scissors to cut the shapes out and trim off any sharp corners so that they don't rub whilst wearing.

Step Five:

Use the single hole punch to punch holes in the corners of each flag. Don’t put the holes too near the edges as this will distort the shape when you shrink it.

Use a single hole punch to put holes in each corner, but not too close to the edge.

Step Six:

I then used Sharpie markers to colour the edges of my bunting flags to match their main colours, (excuse the appalling photo quality, I had to zoom right in and set the timer!).

Use co-ordinating Sharpies to add colour to the edges of your bunting jewellery

Step Seven (Version 1):

Pre-heat your oven to  177º C/ 300º F.  Place all your flags onto a baking tray on top of some baking parchment. Place in the oven. You will find that the plastic curls up as it shrinks and then flattens back down when it is fully shrunk.

You need to keep a close eye on the tray because occasionally the plastic curls up in such a way that it sticks to itself. If that happens you’ll need to sort it out.

The Polyshrink website says:

“Expect PolyShrink to curl and move during baking. Occasionally a piece may stick to itself as it shrinks. To separate, allow the piece to cool slightly and pull gently. You’ll hear a “snap” as the joint comes apart. You can now reheat the piece and finish shrinking”.

Step Seven (Version 2):

Use an embossing heat tool to heat the piece of plastic and heat proof tweezers (or disposable chopsticks!) to secure the plastic in place and apply heat as shown in the video below.

Step Eight:

Using pliers twist one of the jump rings to open them (don’t pull apart as they never line up again, and besides twisting is easier!) thread two of your shrunken flags onto the ring and then use the pliers again to close.

Repeat this until all your flags are linked.

Step Nine:

Use a jump ring to link one end of your chain to one end of your row of flags.

Use pliers and a jump ring to connect your chain to one end of your bunting jewellery.

Step Ten:

Position the row of flags into the position that you want to wear them around your neck. Loop your chain around the back of your neck and figure out where you need to cut the chain to get the look you want.

By placing the chain around your neck you can get a more accurate idea of how short to cut the chain of your bunting jewellery

Cut the chain using wire cutters and join that end to the opposite end of your bunting with another jump ring.

Use wire cutters to trim your chain to the right length for your bunting jewellery

Step Eleven:

Find the middle of the chain section of your necklace and cut on that spot with the wire cutters.

Lay out your bunting jewellery and find the centre of the chain. Cut it with wire cutters

Step Twelve:

Use a jump ring to attach the clasp to one side (which one you will prefer depends on whether you are right or left handed) and attach a jump ring to the other side.

Use pliers again to securely attach the clasp and a jump ring for it to attach to.

Et voila! Your necklace is complete.

Quirky and cheap bunting jewellery with very little time invested and maximum impact, enjoy

If you want to make earrings you can hang shapes from a ball wire or kidney wire fitting or you can use glue to stick shapes to studs.


The Rewards of Building a Business Around a Passion or a Hobby

(Or Why I Do What I Do!)

Those of you who regularly read this blog know that I am a craftaholic. It was my love of crafts and my inability to choose one over all the others that led to the start of Il Magpie Miscellancea Di S. I can say without a doubt that the last year has been one of the most rewarding, challenging and exciting of my life.

For me the decision to base my business on crafts was easy. Over the years I have watched the people I have came in contact with and without a doubt the people who have been the happiest have been those that have had the opportunity to take their ideas and run with them!

You have a sense of ownership that can’t be equalled and that means your heart and soul shine through. You are on display like never before but that means you can embrace and communicate your own values, no more singing from the company hymn sheet. You actually believe in what you do. This means you meet like minded people.

That could be one of the reasons why my craft workshops and groups like the Mumpreneurs Networking Club are a huge bonus. The old saying that “It takes a village” also means that we women are hotwired to support each other through good times and bad. If a friend has something to celebrate I am the first to open the champagne or to pass the tissues when things go wrong. In fact the whole reason I am on the Mumpreneurs Networking Club Bus Tour is because a friend thought it would be a great opportunity for me. My passions chime with theirs and the support comes through.

The Mumpreneurs Networking Club Bus Tour

It seems obvious that I would wake up each day and run towards my day’s work because I am lucky enough to share what I love doing. But everyone has off days. There are the days when the website crashes or I meet a troll on social media,or indeed the infamous day when I put my hand into a band saw (don’t advise it, very painful).

The same day can also see me teaching to someone to knit, or get to play with a new material and the huge variety in a single day is stimulating, exciting and takes me out of my comfort zone almost daily. Variety is the spice of life and that means my life is really spicy.

Running any small business means that you are constantly learning and running one that reflects your values and passions mean that learning is exciting and interesting. You can see the point of everything you do, because YOU are deciding to do it. No more sense of time-wasting in order to just tick boxes!

Make A Simple Wifi Password Sign Using Canva

Back in 2014 I used a holiday photo to make a home wifi code sign for our guest bedroom as a way of making visitors feel more welcome. Since then we have changed our router, and indeed our internet provider. That means a new password for the wifi and an opportunity to introduce all of you to one of my new favourite (and free) resources  I thought I’d get you all started with a tutorial for a simple wifi password sign using Canva that you can stretch your creative muscles on.

Make your own version of this stylish wifi password sign using Canva and your guests will feel right at home.

I am not affiliated in any way with any of the products used during this article. I have received no compensation (monetary or in kind). All opinions are my own.

This is a brilliant way to become familiar with the design programme and make something that is personal and useful in a short space of time.

Materials You Will Need:

Make a stylish wifi password sign using Canva displaying your home wifi code for guests, using just an empty photo frame, photo print paper, a computer and printer

Kit You Will Need:

You will need very little kit to make this wifi password sign using Canva. A computer, a craft knife, a cutting surface, a steel rule and a printer.

How To Make A Simple Wifi Password Sign Using Canva:

Step One:

Go to and make yourself a free account. You will need your email address and a password (or you can use your Facebook or Google account).

You will need an email address, Facebook or Google Plus Account to make your wifi password sign using Canva

Step Two:

Selecting the “work” option will lead you to a paid account so selecting personal is completely adequate for most purposes! You will also need to confirm your email address via the email they send you.

 Select the personal option to make your wifi password sign using Canva

Step Three:

Canva will then take you on a little tour of the programme. It’s worth doing this and you will end up on the page that allows you to choose a “canvas” (or working area size) from a large range of templates. You will then need to measure the size of the image area in the frame you have chosen. Mine was 178mm x 128mm.

Measure the size of the image that you will need to make your wifi password sign using Canva with a ruler.

Step Four:

If your frame is a standard size to fit (for example) a postcard, you can select that option for canvas size on Canva (make sure that you click on the plus sign to see the full range of pre-set canvas sizes, there are loads!)

Make sure that you click on the plus sign shown at the top of the home screen so that you see the full range of canvas sizes available for your wifi password sign using Canva

Click on the one that fits and the programme will present you with a blank canvas.

If none of them fit click on “Use Custom Dimensions” in the top right hand corner of the screen. You will need to change the unit of measurement to mm (millimetres) and then type in the size that you want your image to be.

To create your wifi password sign using Canva if none of the template canvas sizes match the frame you have, then use custom sizes to make your own

Step Five:

There will be a menu on the right hand side of the screen that provides a large number of layouts that you can pick for your sign. You may choose to have one large image or a collage of smaller ones.

In your wifi password sign you can use one single, large image or a collage of many to make your sign from.

These are all free to use so just click on the one you want to have it appear on your canvas.

Step Six:

Start adding images to your layout. Here you have two choices. You can click on the “elements” tab at the right of the screen and click on the “Free Photos” icon. This will give you a choice of loads of lovely professional stock images to use. To add them you just click and drag them into the spot you want.

Under the elements tab there are a lot of free stock photos that you can use in your wifi password sign

Simply drag and drop the photos to where you want them on your wifi password sign.

Step Six (alternative version):

If you want to use your own holiday snaps uploading them to Canva couldn’t be much easier. Just click on the “Uploads” tab (again at the right of the screen) and select “upload an image”. It then takes you into your documents or pictures to select the image you want and uploads it to appear in the “gallery” on the right hand side of the page.

Use the upload an image command to import your own photos into Canva to use in your home wifi password sign.

Step Seven:

If you want to move a picture to a nearby area you can just click and drag the picture to where you want it. To get rid of it altogether just double click and click the cross (X) to remove it.

If the wrong part of the photo can be seen inside the frame you have chosen for it you can change that really easily. Simply double click on the image and the whole thing will appear with the area that can be seen in the frame highlighted. Just drag the image so that it lines up the way you want. You can also rotate the image in this way.

If the wrong part of the picture is in focus on your wifi password sign using Canva , double click and drag the image to the correct spot.

Step Eight:

Once all your images are in their frames and you are happy with the layout of your wifi password sign using Canva it is time to add some text to the picture. If you put text straight onto the images it is likely to disappear into the background where you can’t read it. I get around this by adding a “shape” into the mix.

“Shapes” are again found under the “Elements” heading on the right hand side of the screen. There are loads of free ones. Once you have selected a shape you can change it’s colour and how transparent it is by clicking on it an using the menu that appears.

By clicking on a shape a menu appears and allows you to change the colour or transparency of the shape you have chosen for your wifi password sign.

If you want to you can place a shape over the entire collage and adjust the transparency to make the image appear slightly faded. That helps any text that you put on it to stand out.

Step Nine:

Next in your wifi password sign using Canva  you add your text via the “Text” tab on the right hand side of the screen. Again, there are lots of free text layouts that you can use, either on their own or in combination with each other. However I often find that I want to put more text in them than will fit and you can only edit them so much.That means I use the provided layouts as inspiration and use the heading, subheading and body text commands choosing the fonts and colours that I want.

You can use pre formatted text combinations or make your own for your wifi password sign using the text tab.

Step Ten:

The image on the left was produced using my own holiday photos, whilst the one of the right uses Canva’s free stock images.

Two examples of a wifi password sign that you can design using Canva, one using stock photos, one my own images.

Because the images in the sign on the left have brighter colours they have been “knocked back” using a semi transparent rectangle (from the “Elements” menu, under “Shapes”) placed over the top of the collage. When you add the lettering on top of this it stands out more.

Step Eleven:

When you are happy with your wifi password sign using Canva, it will automatically save it for you on their cloud so that you can access it by logging into your account at any time. However you can download your design in several formats. If you just want to print it I suggest downloading a PNG file as this will give you a better quality print.

The download button is at the top right of the Canva screen. Click on it and select the PNG format to download a file of your wifi password sign that gives a good quality print.

The download button is at the top right of the Canva screen. Click on it and select the PNG format to download a file that gives a good quality print.

Step Twelve:

Print your wifi password sign using Canva design, frame it up and enjoy!

Once you have printed your wifi password sign and trimmed it to size it can be displayed for guests to use whenever they need it.

The possibilities are really endless for a wifi password sign using Canva. You can produce collages, or use one single image. Make a plain background for your text or use icons from Canva’s stock list. Remember that if a $ sign appears when you hover your mouse over it you will need to pay for it when you download the project but there are loads of free resources to choose from.

I use Canva for so many different things and find it so easy to use in comparison to some others. Your party invitations, posters and graphics will never look to professional!

How are you getting on with Canva? I would love to see the things you create with it. Tag @IlMagpie on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram if you post anything!

5 Of The Most Useful YouTube Videos For Learning To Crochet

Now that my social “knit and natter” group “Yarning” has been running for a few weeks (If you love Yarn crafts come and join us, more details here) I have found myself posting links to videos in the group Facebook page so that attendees can check them out in their own time and come back to them repeatedly if they need to. Five of the videos have stood out as being useful YouTube videos for learning to crochet in particular so I have decided to corral them into this post for easy reference.

The 5 Most Useful YouTube Videos For Learning To Crochet like this (and this includes left handers too!)

There are loads of useful YouTube videos for learning to crochet but as I am left handed I wanted to make sure that (wherever possible) there are decent left handed versions available as well.

Before we start I have to point out that most of these Tutorials are American. That means they use US crochet terms. If they are using UK crochet terms I will make it clear in the title. If you don’t know how US crochet terms translate into UK ones you can download my free guide here.

Without further ado here are my…

5 Most Useful YouTube Videos For Learning To Crochet

Crochet Slip Knot – Beginner Course: Lesson #4 (by the Crochet Guru)

I like the fact that she takes you through THREE different ways to tie a slip knot and that this video will work for you whether you are left or right handed. Her explanations are really clear and don’t waffle. I have to admit that I’m a pretzel girl myself 😉

Crochet basics – Chain stitch & Foundation chain (by Bella Coco)

This is the same in both the UK and US.

Ok, you can let out a cheer because this video is BRITISH! She starts by giving you yet another way to tie a slip knot and then de-mystifies the chain stitch. I particularly like the fact that she puts the pattern shorthand (ch) on the screen AND the UK and US terms. In this case they are no different but it’s still nice to have this reinforced.

If you are LEFT-HANDED and want to learn this most of the videos are disappointing because they are either poor quality or they are the same tutorial as that for right handed people where they have just mirrored the footage (cheats!).

The best of a bad lot is another video by the Crochet Guru. The video is really clear and easy to follow I personally just find it disappointing that it isn’t being done by a left hander!

Crochet basics: US Single crochet (UK Double Crochet) starting a foundation chain (by Bella Coco)

The single crochet stitch is one of the basic building blocks of crochet. A lot of the patterns you see are made up of different combinations of chain, single crochet, double crochet, half treble crochet and treble crochet stitches.

Disappointingly I couldn’t find a single video that I felt both explained the process of putting single crochet stitches into a foundation chain clearly AND that had decent quality video. I may have to resort to making one!

US Double Crochet Into A Foundation Chain (UK Treble Crochet) (by Crochet Guru)

Both the right and left handed versions of this video are lovely and clear.  The video deals with making US double crochet stitches into a chain to give a square(ish) result.

This is the left handed version of the video

How to Crochet Magic Circles: Double Crochet (The Crochet Crowd)

This video shows you how to start any circular project (including Granny Squares) in the simplest way. I particularly rate it because he shows you how to tie a slip knot clearly and is very clear about how to finish off stray ends or “stragglers”.

It is a long video and he doesn’t feel the need to fill in any gaps of information with chatting (which I find confuses me when I am following instructions).  At 11 minutes in he shows you how to turn a corner and at 19 minutes he gives a valuable “rule of thumb” for making sure that included stragglers don’t get unwound.

And the same thing for left-handers-

I hope that you find these videos all nice and easy to follow. In my opinion these were the most useful YouTube videos for learning to crochet although there are a lot of others. If you have any links to videos you think would be clearer please feel free to post them in the comments section or in our Yarning Facebook Group.

How To Make Russian Doll Family Portraits

Capturing each incarnation of family as it evolves with time is a constant challenge. Photos are great but it’s nice to change things up and these stylised Russian doll family portraits will provide a quirky and original way to document your family as it is now.

Make these cute Russian Doll family portraits of your family using blank dolls and my free templates

As my son is currently in Australia and the family cat is getting on a bit I decided that making these Russian doll family portraits  now would not only be a great way to re-unite the family (in spirit anyway) but would also make an amazing addition to the new gallery shelves in our kitchen re-vamp! My first action was to find recent photos of all the family

To make Russian doll family portraits you will need recent photos of all the family like these

As I was making these it occurred to me that others might like to do the same so I have put together this tutorial and some templates help.

Materials Needed For Your Russian Doll Family Portraits:

If you gather the materials pictured you will be able to make your own Russian doll family portraits

If you are looking for blank Russian dolls you can find some on Amazon (not an affiliate link) but if you want the ultimate selection of family member numbers and shapes try Russian Crafts.


Assemble the kit pictured so that you can make Russian doll family portraits

Step One:

Print out the free templates for each size of your Russian Dolls and cut out the appropriate hairstyles, clothing etc. for your family. Glue them onto the template to assemble your family.

Cut out the most appropriate parts of the templates and glue onto the base to assemble your own Russian doll family portraits

Step Two:

Using a fine grade sand paper sand your dolls to remove any rough surfaces or little nubs left by the manufacturing process. If there are any dents, holes or cracks you can use wood filler to fill them and allow it to dry.

Use a fine grade sand paper to remove rough patched from your doll blanks

Step Three:

Using a soft pencil transfer the designs onto the wooden dolls. Only bother transferring the lines for the clothing and hairstyle at this point (the paint will cover any more detail and you will end up re-drawing it!). Use masking tape to put a centre line down the front of your dolls and across the dome of the head, run a pencil along the edge of the tape to give you a line. Then put another piece at right angles across the top of the dome/head to give you a cross. This gives you a way to line the ears up! You can also use masking tape to help you draw (fairly) straight lines around the circumference of the dolls.

Use masking tape to help you line things up and get a nice finish when transferring your designs to the Russian doll family portraits.

Step Four:

Separate your doll halves and put masking tape around the rims on the lower halves. For taping inside the top halves it is easier if you cut thin strips of making tape to do this with, rather than doing the whole round in one length.  You don’t want paint to get onto this area or your dolls won’t fit together properly so it’s worth taking the time to do this with some accuracy.

Use short lengths of masking tape to cover the joint area in the middle of each doll. This means that they will still fit together

Step Five:

If you aren’t confident in mixing paints to make different colours I have a couple of pieces of advice for you

  1. Buy small bottles of pre mixed craft acrylics in the colours you need from Hobbycraft or The Range (for example the Decoart range).
  2. Use a paint mixing helper like Try Colours to get the colour you are looking for then jot down the recipe (how many brushfuls of each colour you need to make the recipe).

Again, you can use masking tape to give your painting straight lines if you don’t have a steady hand. I recommend painting in this order as it means you swap between top and bottom halves giving colours a chance to dry.

  • Skin tone on head and face.
  • Lower half of clothing (trousers or skirt)
  • Hair
  • Shoes
  • Upper clothing (pale colours first and allow them to dry before adding the next one)

Outline the area with a fine brush first and then you can “fill in” with a larger brush if the area is big enough. It is really worth using decent brushes for this rather than the ones that came free with your kid’s art set. You will get a smoother finish and much more accurate lines.

Start painting with pale colours first. Outline with a fine brush and then fill in. Swap between halves to allow drying time.

Don’t overload the brush with paint or it will go *splodge* and spoil your design.

Step Six:

Repeat the painting process with all of your dolls. If you go over the lines or make a mistake LET IT DRY and then paint over. If it is a pale colour it may take a couple of coats with drying time in between to cover it but it will work.

Leave all the halves to dry.

Step Seven:

When all the paint is thoroughly dry take your pencil  and tracing paper. Trace the facial features, the collar and the hairline off of your original design. Flip the tracing paper over and trace over those same lines on the back.

Use a soft pencil and tracing paper to transfer the face designs to the dolls. Go over the design with Sharpie

You can then put this paper (back around the right way) onto the face area of your doll and re-trace over the lines with your pencil. This will leave a copy of the features on the doll. If you are not happy with the result you can use an ordinary rubber to erase the marks and try again.

Once you are happy with the facial features on your Russian doll family portraits take the Sharpie pen and line them in. You can also outline the edges of the clothes and details of the hair if you wish to.

Step Eight:

Set up the halves on Newspaper outdoors and spray with a THIN coat of spray varnish/sealer. It is really important to spray thin coats and build them up. If you spray a thicker coat the paintwork will run (as you can see in the picture below).

Spraying varnish on must be done in thin coats or the paint will run as in the picture.

If your paint does run you can leave it to dry and then re-paint and re-varnish but it is best to avoid it all together.

Leave the dolls to dry thoroughly.

Step Nine:

Remove the masking tape around the  joints of your Russian doll family portraits and enjoy!

Once all varnish is dry remove the masking tape and assemble the dolls.

Now your dolls are finished. I can’t wait to get a reaction from Australia about mine!  I would really love to see them if you do make any so please share to my Facebook page.

If you want to download the templates and make your own click on the image below.

Click on this image to download the free templates pictured

Finished Russian Doll Family Portraits

Creating the Environment That Will Make You Love Your Workshop

I love running my craft workshops and have been regularly running them from my home for a while. However the Il Magpie workshop environment has not been all that I would wish for and I worried that this affected the overall customer experience. Our long, narrow kitchen was too small for much movement and it was difficult to separate the work in progress, completed work and the refreshments provided. As workshop environments go it was adequate but not ideal.

This blog post takes you on a tour of the exciting changes that are happening at the nest to make YOUR workshop experience more enjoyable.

Now the Il Magpie workshop environment is getting a radical make over! It will give forthcoming workshops an inspiring & practical space to get creative in.

However at the moment it looks like this:

Building work well under way to make the Il Magpie workshop environment an inspiring and practical place

What Is Happening?

A rethink of almost the entire downstairs footprint is giving us a much larger, squarer kitchen.

These quick sketches of the old layout versus the new layout really give you an idea of the better use of space.

The kitchen units will form a U Shape around the farthest end of the kitchen. The computer generated picture the kitchen company have given us shows the room when looked at from inside the back door (I am beginning to think that they know us too well, including the bottle of wine!)

Detailed plans to make the Il Magpie workshop environment an inspiring and practical place

The under stairs cupboards have been improved and extended. They will contain a cloak room, extra storage space and a chalk board on the outside of one.

These three doorways will contain a cloak room and more storage with a chalk board on one door

Finally there is a re-vamped and easily accessible bathroom situated just inside the door for workshoppers convenience.

How Will The Changes To The Workshop Environment Improve The Experience?

This means that the workshop environment will be much easier for attendees to move around, getting new perspectives on their work in progress or picking up further materials.

Plug sockets in the floor under the central work table allow sewing machines, hot glue guns and other electrical tools to be plugged in without trailing cords. Plugs with USB sockets will allow me to use more technology to help in the teaching and learning process.

These brushed steel double electrical sockets mounted in the floor will make using sewing machines much safer

The space now has two windows and French doors allowing lots more natural light in and 10 recessed LED spotlights throughout the rest of the room simulate daylight when none of the real stuff is available.

There will be a gallery wall in clear line of sight from the work table that students can use for inspiration or display.

This cheerful yellow wall will showcase a gallery of inspiration and if you look carefully under the building supplies you can just see the pew.

A separate space for relaxing with a hot drink and a slice of cake is now possible and will be furnished with a converted pew and side tables to let students chat and socialise.

At the other end of the table a movable trolley allows students to watch videos or presentations of techniques they are learning on repeat.  A blackboard on the door of one of the cupboards can be used to brainstorm ideas or write reminders for drying times. Another cupboard hides a cloakroom where coats can be safely stored away from paint and dye.

Finally there is a re-vamped and easily accessible bathroom situated just inside the door for work-shoppers convenience.

The downstairs work-shoppers bathroom with the tiles just starting to go on the wall

When Can You Come And Try It Out?

Work is scheduled to finish in early May so sign up to my mailing list below to be the first to know when the grand launch event is and what workshops there are for you to enjoy!
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