‘Tis the season to dig out your glitter glue, fa la la la laaaa, la la la laaa. Find your festive foil, stock up on sparkly sequins, and grab your sharpest scissors – it’s Advent tomorrow and high time you were getting crafty. Homemade Christmas cards show you really care, are all very now (what with the ‘crafting revolution’ and what-not) and – an added bonus – they’re CHEAP AS CHIPS. Winner all round, really.

Here are some cracking craft ideas…numero uno: Use sweet wrappers to make festive cards. Yes, I know. This looks like a shameless excuse to eat a load of tea cakes in the name of art. You might be right. But look how sweet (boom boom) the results are…

I’ve got 50 people to send cards to. That’s a lot of tea cakes to eat, even for me. SO, I might also make some cards using this cute personalised stamp idea…

I guess you take an actual (used) stamp and glue your photo on top of it. Love it! And this is pretty quick to make. You could use this idea on your envelopes too, as long as you put a real stamp on it as well, obviously! Sometimes, the simplest ideas are the best – like this paper doily card idea:

Some spray paint (such as Plastikote), a doily or two (99p for a million from your local pound shop!) and a load of cheap plain card, and Bob’s your uncle – job’s a good ‘un. You can find loads of craft ideas on the wonderful House to Home website, too – from how to make your own crackers to how to make a Christmas stocking – they’ve got it covered. Right, now where are those tea cakes? Better get started straight away… – Ellie

Quirky Advent calendar

November 26, 2009

Time’s ticking on – so you better be quick if you want to order an Advent calendar for this year. This lovely DIY calendar kit from Bodie and Fou caught my eye recently. 

It’s 24 flat-packed boxes, ready for you to fold. Each little box has two faces with super cute designs from Noix de Coc and the other two faces have been left blank for you to customise…then you (or Father Christmas!) can fill them with sweets and gifts.
The fab thing about these little boxes is they can be hung on the Christmas tree, on a wall garland or displayed in a row on the mantelpiece, plus, you can re-use them year after year. Chouette! – Ellie

The bell jar obsession

November 25, 2009

There’s an atmosphere of slight hysteria in the office today. It might have something to do with the arrival of a scratch ‘n’ sniff Yankee Candle press release (low-lights include  ‘Strawberry Buttercream’ and ‘Tutti-Frutti’…), or perhaps it’s the news that two of the most lovely home brands, Farrow & Ball and Jo Malone, are teaming up to launch an exciting new collection next week? (We’ll keep you posted!) Then again, perhaps it’s the thought of today’s annual Cath Kidston sample sale that’s getting us all a bit over-excited. For me though, it’s bell jars that are floating my boat today…

Whether it’s ogling the gorgeous bell jar displays in London’s hippest Shoreditch shops, Comfort Station and Caravan, or staring longingly at the stunning pages of Australian stylist Sibella Court’s new book Etcetera (which has just landed on my desk. Hurrah, hurrah! Hopefully we’ll show some pics on here soon – it’s due out in April in the UK. For now, check out her shop The Society Inc for a flavour or click here for a preview…), I seem to be surrounded by glass domes filled with curious objets…and I’m hooked! This all ties in with the current vogue for dark romanticism, macabre Victoriana drama and dusty museum display cases – something we’ve discussed before. All very Darwin. All very Gothic. All very dead. Of course, you don’t have to fill your bell jar with beady-eyed taxidermy or creepy skeletons…dried hydrangeas, vintage silk ballet pumps and mercury glass candlesticks would all look lovely. Or you could always opt for a little china bird. For reasonably-priced bell jars, see yesterday’s hot shop, Dee Puddy (£22 for a large 30cm one), Hibbitt, or Crocus. If you can wait until springtime, we spotted a fab little glass bell jar in the new Sainsbury’s spring/summer 2010 collection for just £7.99! Bargainous, to be sure. Of course, garden cloche bell jars DO look a bit like boobs, and they don’t come with bases – but a glass cake plate does the trick. Vintage lab bell jars with bases are REALLY expensive, even on eBay, tragically.

Here’s a cute bell jar pic from The Guardian to add yet more fuel to my bell-jar-obsession fire! I really can’t stop thinking about bell jars. Perhaps I’m actually losing the plot. Or maybe I’m just high on ‘Tutti Frutti’ scratch ‘n’ sniff…– Ellie

Hot shop: DEE PUDDY

November 24, 2009

Dee Puddy has a fabulous name. It’s a bit like P Diddy, but cooler. Dee runs a lovely online shop, selling some wonderful little treats…

I like her vintage section in particular (surprise, surprise) and recently bought one of her little 1950s tea tins. You’ll spot some of these soon in the January issue of Ideal Home if you look closely. They were originally used for storing thousands of tea samples from North India, Malawi and Bangladesh. A small amount of each numbered batch was retained by the tea company for a year in case of any quality complaint from a buyer then, after the year had elapsed, the old samples would be tipped out and given or sold to staff. The tin I have still smells of tea! But I think I’ll be using it to store jewellery on my dressing table. I also bought a little ceramic ‘Buttons’ tag to tie to my jar of never-ever-used-or-needed-yet-lovely-to-look-at buttons:

And, since we’ve just officially launched Christmas on this blog, Dee does a lovely range of festive bits and bobs, too…

I was tempted by the French goose tape, because it goes so well with the goosey Thornback and Peel inspired (in other words, blatantly ripped-off) Christmas cards I am making. Should I tape each envelope shut? Shall I put a Hobbycraft feather in each card…? Hmmm. So many questions. What a very serious job I have. On a par with being an MP or a surgeon I’d say. Mwah ha ha haa. – Ellie

Christmas is coming

November 24, 2009

I can’t ignore it any longer. The lights are twinkling away on Oxford Street, the carols are playing in the shops, and I overheard a woman on Saturday saying she only had one more present to buy, which sent me into a mad panic. Advent starts next week – SO, it’s time to bite the bullet and get festive…

Our gorgeous December issue front cover is just the picture to get us in the mood. Highlights include: walls painted in the lovely Potter’s Wheel matt emulsion, Dulux; Glass dome bell jar, Dee Puddy; White bird bottles, Polly George; Large 3d star, Heal’s; Porcelain church tealight holder, Dotcomgiftshop; White Christmas trees, M&S; and white metal tree centrepiece, Velvet Brown. I love the Potter’s Wheel grey walls in this shot, and it’s made my current obsession with dark grey even worse. As has this December shot:

The wooden stars in this pic are from RE and the cool twiggy tree is from John Lewis. Check out stylist Milly Goodwin’s lovely flat, and you’ll see my dream combo of dark grey walls and brightly coloured accessories – just got to persuade the OH that it’s the way forward! Colours that have made it through to the shortlist for our living room include: Farrow and Ball’s Downpipe, The Little Greene Paint Co’s Dark Lead, and Fired Earth’s Mercury. OH says, like the front door swatches, they all look the same. He might have a point. – Ellie

Let’s start the week with some inspiration! Bethan’s just stumbled across Sadie Olive, a lovely blog written by Sara Duckett, a Californian photographer. Her love of vintage lace, antiques and all things pretty means every post is a visual treat.

This makes me want to rush home and tie pink velvet ribbons around my vintage cutlery too! At the moment, we store it all in French Cassoulet tins – practical, but not half as pretty!

What a lovely start to to the week! I love the vintage scales above, and the beautiful styling in these shots. On closer inspection, it turns out Sadie Olive is not just a blog – it’s a whole empire! Sara runs three shops – she sells antiques, postcards and prints of her photographs, does graphic design and sells collectibles…is there anything she doesn’t do?! She’s also on her third blog. I’m exhausted just thinking about it. – Ellie


Awright, crumpet?

November 20, 2009

It’s Friday. We’re all tired. It’s raining in London, and flooding in other parts of the UK. It’s very GREY. For some unknown reason, our office air con is set to somewhere in the region of freezing, so it’s also COLD. It’s the kind of day when you’d give anything to be wrapped up in a snuggly woollen blanket, wearing soft cashmere socks, sipping hot chocolate (or even better, a mulled wine!), beside a roaring fire, playing Scrabble and toasting crumpets. In fact, I just want to climb into our lovely November issue cover shot:

Crumpet toasting is an art which requires proper toasting tools – check out this lovely traditional extendable toasting fork, just £6 at Cox and Cox – perfect for toasting crumpets in the winter, and also useful for cooking sausages over a campfire in the summer months.

I’ve also got a few Grandpa’s Fireforks from Light My Fire – they just clip onto a fire poker or a stick, so you can easily store them and carry them. They came in handy recently when I dragged the OH to a forest for a bushcraft week of wild camping without civilisation (well, except for an Aero Bed, and a trip to Tesco, SIGH). Cox and Cox also sell a chestnut roasting pan, for £15:

We always roast chestnuts at Christmas by burying them in the ashes below the grate, but I suppose using a pan is much less messy! Are you feeling cosy yet? Thanks to these pictures and the steaming coffee that Ros has just delivered to my desk, I’m warming up slightly now! Check out this snug Scottish-style bedroom from our November issue and these cosy shots from our archives:

That’s all for this week, folks. I’ve signed up for a tray-making class with Ella Doran on Sunday to make some personalised Christmas presents, so I’ll let you know how it goes. I’m slightly concerned that everybody else there will be under 10 years old, having seen lots of photos of little kids making trays on the website, but surely, like pottery painting, there is no age limit (!?). My plan is to basically rip-off a Charlene Mullen design, but since drawing is required (not my strong point) it could go either way. Have a lovely – and hopefully a warm – weekend! – Ellie