Hand decorated jewellery boxes

I mentioned back in November last year that I had a new jewellery box design. Well, since I was making up a new batch of boxes recently, I thought I’d share how I do it! It’s very satisfying to turn a plain box into something nice and pretty :)

paint stamped and ribbon gift box

If you want to decorate a box to look like this, you will need:

  • Plain box
  • Pencil with an eraser on the end (to stamp round dots with)
  • Craft knife
  • Acrylic paint
  • Felt
  • Ribbon
  • Scissors
  • Lighter (optional)
  • Sewing needle and thread in a similar colour to your ribbon
  • Glue

I order my boxes from this Etsy shop. They come flat packed and you have to fold them up yourself, which isn’t hard. Plus, it’s actually easier to decorate them flat!

I’ve got a thing about polka dots at the moment, so the first step is to put dots all over the lid! I wanted to stamp white dots but I haven’t found a good opaque white ink pad, so instead I use acrylic paint.

First, you need to slice the end off the pencil eraser. I used a craft knife to do this but any sharp knife will work fine. If you don’t do this, the edges of your dots will be less well defined because there is a slight curved edge at the end of the eraser.

slice off the end of a pencil eraser to stamp round dots

Next, you want to stamp your dots. A great way to avoid getting too much paint on your eraser is to place a piece of felt over your paint and press on it until it has soaked up the paint. Then simply press your eraser onto the felt, like you would an inkpad, and stamp your dots onto your box! (I saw this tip on Pinterest, from this tutorial, so handy!)

stamping with paint using a felt pad

I found I needed to re-paint my eraser every 2-3 dots to get nice even dots each time.

stamping polka dots with acrylic paint

Keep going until you have covered the whole external surface of your lid (you might need to work which bits to paint if you’re decorating your lid while it’s flat).

stamped polka dots

When the paint has dried (which shouldn’t take long, since you will have a nice thin layer of paint on each dot), make up your box into its final 3D shape.

paint stamped polka dot gift box

Now it is time to make the bow. You will need 3 pieces of ribbon: one to attach to the box, one to make the loops of the bow, and one to wrap around the middle.

To find out how long your first piece of ribbon needs to be, place one end of your ribbon on one of the inside edges of the lid.

ribbon placement

Keep it in place with one finger and run the ribbon around the outside of the box and under the opposite inside edge.

ribbon round the centre of the lid

Mark where the end of the ribbon meets the inside edge, and cut the ribbon here. My lid measures 3.5″ square and 1 1/8″ high, and my ribbon length is 7 7/8″. It doesn’t matter too much if the length is not very accurate since it can be trimmed at the end if it is too long, and if it is a little bit short, it will be inside the box so it won’t be seen.

measuring the length of the ribbon

For the second piece of ribbon, make a ribbon loop so that there is a small overlap at the end.

making a ribbon box loop

Then pinch the middle together. This will show you how big the bow will be. I wanted my bow to cover most of the box, and I found that a 6¼” length of ribbon worked quite well for this.

pinch ribbon loop to make a bow

Your final piece of ribbon needs to be a little over 3 times the width of your ribbon. My ribbon is 10mm wide, and my final piece is 1¼” long.

Optional step: you can seal the ends of your ribbon pieces using a lighter. This stops the ribbon fraying, which I don’t think should be an issue, but it does cut out the possibility.

To make up your bow, you need to first find the centre of your longest piece of ribbon. You can either measure and make a mark, or just fold it and put your finger on it. Now loop your second piece of ribbon and pinch like you did before, and place the pinched part over the centre of your first piece of ribbon. Then wrap the shortest piece of ribbon round the place that you are pinching so that the ends are underneath. Sew a few tiny stitches on the same spot to secure the three pieces of ribbon together.

simple ribbon bow

Now you want to attach your bow to your box. To do this, make a line of glue running along the middle of the box where you want your ribbon to be (in the same place that you wrapped your first ribbon round to see how long it needed to be). I prefer to use tape glue (no mess, no drying time!) but you could use any glue for this, such as white glue.

Now stick your ribbon on. I usually start with the bow, to make sure it’s central and then smooth the ribbon down either side and under the edges of the lid. And there, you are done!

hand decorated jewellery box

Have I inspired you to have a go at decorating some boxes yourself? They would make great gift boxes for other things as well as jewellery boxes. And there are so many ways you to decorate, such as painting patterns, sticking on sequins or using washi tape! Do let me know if you have a go!

Thanks for reading!

Rachel

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Easy home-made baby toys

There are so many baby toys in the shops, but as any mum will realise, babies are often more interested in the packaging or random kitchen implement that you’ve left lying around! You can channel this by making some of your own baby toys from things you might have lying around your house, or if not, easy and cheap to find in the shops (if I can find it in Hong Kong, then it can’t be that hard to come by!). There are so many ideas for making baby toys online – you can scour Pinterest or google to find them. I can’t remember where most of my ideas came from, but I’ve included references where I do know.

Here are some things that I’ve made for my own children. I hope you find inspiration to find some things to entertain your own babies with! (or you could make some for other babies that you know…)

Hanging toys

These were the first things that I made, and they comprised woolly pompoms and balls of tin foil.

I made some pompoms before the twins were born and blogged about how to do so here, and I hung these from their activity centre for them to bat at (note: these come apart pretty easily so keep them out of grabbing distance – mine are now almost completely demolished!).

The tin foil balls were the ones that caught their eye the most though, they took quite a bashing! I just scrunched up a large piece of foil into a ball and wrapped some string around it to hang it with. The foil balls did fall out of the string sometimes so you might want to try other ways of attaching the string – perhaps you could glue it inside somehow?

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You can see the pompoms and foil in the middle of this photo, although they’re a little blurred. I forget how small the twins were once upon a time!

Discovery bottles

These are so easy to make and my twins still play with them at 15 months. All you need to do is find some plastic bottles and put interesting things inside them. Here are some of the things that I have put inside our discovery bottles:

  • Beads of different sizes and colours (note: my twins didn’t like this when they were really little because it’s actually very noisy when shaken, but they love it now!)
  • Pipe cleaners, some curled into twirls
  • Little pompoms (bought from a stationary store)
  • Coloured rice

Discovery bottles baby toys

The easiest way that I found to make the coloured rice was to squirt a small amount of hand sanitiser into an old margarine tube, mix with a fairly generous amount of food colouring, and add enough rice so that it was all covered and there was no hand sanitiser left at the bottom. You really don’t need much hand sanitiser for this at all.

I got the idea for the discovery bottles here and they have lots of ideas for other things to put in the bottles too! I can’t find the website I used before for the rice colouring, but this one does the same thing.

Glitter bottle

These are everywhere online, they are sometimes called calm bottles or time out bottles. I ended up looking at a few different websites before I made mine so I can’t give a reference, but they’re really easy to make. A little side note: many people make them with mason jars or other glass jars but obviously that wouldn’t work for babies, so I just used a plastic bottle with relatively smooth sides so you can see the glitter easily.

To make mine, I filled the bottle most of the way up with fairly hot tap water. (Note: I tried using hot boiled water from the kettle but it melted the bottle! Do not try this!) Then I squeezed in two small tubes of glitter glue and poured in some additional loose glitter. I also added some CLEAR glue (again, I know by trial and error that white glue does not miraculously go clear in warm water and you end up with a foggy mess!) which slows the movement of the glitter in the bottle – the more glue you add, the slower the glitter settles. And finally, I added some food colouring.

The reason the water needs to be hot(ish) is to break up the glitter glue. I found that it clumped a bit to start with but after a couple of hours there were no more clumps even though my water wasn’t that hot to start with. If you’re not using glitter glue, you can just use clear glue and loose glitter, and you then don’t need to use hot water, it can be cold.

Here is my green glitter beauty!

Green glitter bottle

And here it is when the glitter has settled…

Glitter settled glitter bottle

I made mine in a fairly large 750ml bottle, which makes it quite heavy for the twins to lift and carry (although they still do) – I’d recommend using a smaller bottle, less than 500ml if possible, if you’re giving this to babies to play with.

Buttons

These were a big hit! I just bought large buttons (as big as I could find) in different colours from a button shop in Sham Shui Po (THE place to buy all things haberdashery in Hong Kong). The twins loved to play with them, bang them together and against anything else, drop them so they made a spinning noise on the floor (like a coin does), or watch while I spun them. It was fun trying to make as many spin at the same time as possible! Sadly, these had to go away when the twins got bigger because their mouths grew enough that they could fit the whole button in their mouths and would walk around like that! I hope they’ll come out again soon when they stop putting everything in their mouths.

Big buttons as toys

I got the idea for the buttons from one of the Babycentre emails, which features activities to do with your babies every week.

Ribbons

This was a bit of free thinking on my part, but partly based on some props used at a music class I go to with the twins. I had some hair bands lying around and bought some cheap brightly coloured ribbon (again, in Sham Shui Po) and just tied long lengths of ribbon to the hair bands. I tied simple knots in the ends of the ribbons to help stop fraying, but I’ve since bought a lighter which I now use to seal the ends of ribbons. I assumed that I would put the hair bands on their wrists, but they just like waving them around in their hands instead!

Ribbon pom poms

I also tied long lengths of doubled-up ribbons into a plait. I just did it for a fun thing to do, but Isobel quite likes playing with it.

Ribbon plait

Something else that I’ve seen at the same music class is that they sellotaped long lengths of ribbon to the end of a chopstick to make a streamer. I fancy doing this myself!

I’m sure there are many other toys you can make with ribbons, just let your imagination go wild!

Water play tray

I got this idea from this website. They used plastic milk bottle tops but I didn’t have any (for some reason the milk here comes in tetrapaks instead) so I used large jam jar lids instead. Also, I used a large oven tray on the floor rather than the high chair tray. My twins didn’t really get the idea of bashing the lids around the water so they float, but they did enjoy taking them out and trying to eat them. And also splashing the water all over the floor. This activity is best to do on a hard floor rather than carpet! As I said, my twins didn’t really get what was going on, but it did entertain them for 10-20 minutes so that gets a thumbs up in my book :)

Some other things that I’ve wanted to make but haven’t got round to yet…

Baby treasure baskets – basically find a basket or container and put things in that your baby will find interesting. Lots of ideas of what to put in on this website

Sensory bag for baby – looks like fun!

Rainbow spaghetti – colourful sensory play

Post the blocks – my twins are at an age now (15 months) where they just love to put things in things and take them out so I think they would love this. It probably isn’t very suitable for babies under 1 year as they won’t have the co-ordination, but you will know what your baby is and isn’t willing to try

Block painting – I’ve not tried much in the way of ‘art’ yet with my twins but this is something I’d love to try soon! I saw somewhere the idea of using plain yoghurt with food colouring in instead of paint if your baby likes to put everything in their mouths, which I think is a great idea!

Update: I have pinned many more things you can make or do with babies on my Activities for Babies Pinterest board – take a look if you’re looking for more inspiration!

Let me know if you have any other great ideas for easy to make baby toys. I’m sure the ideas must be endless!

Thanks for reading!

Rachel

New Little Koo jewellery box design!

This is just a quick post to let you know about my new jewellery box design! From now on, whenever you buy some Little Koo jewellery, it will come in a box that looks like this:

Little Koo jewellery box design

The boxes are decorated with handpainted polka dots and a pretty mint green ribbon bow. And inside I’ve made some fun inserts with mint green polka dots. I’m all about the dots at the moment!

What do you think? I hope you like them!

Thanks for reading!

Rachel

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DIY wall display

I’ve been thinking for a while about finding something to hang on our wall which could be used to display cards and things. We used to just put them on the coffee table or TV unit but now the twins grab anything like that as soon as they see it and crumple or chew it all up.

Some friends of ours have got something like this, and I was so pleased when I found it online because every time I see theirs I think about getting one myself! It’s pretty reasonably priced too. But unfortunately the shipping to Hong Kong is over double the price of the item!

So I thought I would make something myself. I also thought I would be a total cheapskate and use things I already had to make it! And this is what I made:

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Having now finished it, I think if I did it again I would do it a little differently, so I’ll give you another method for making something like this at the end of this post.

If you want to make it the way I did, you will need:

  • 4 hooks (mine are hooks with Command strips, since we are only renting this place and can’t put too many holes in the walls)
  • Ribbon
  • Needle and thread
  • Pegs

1. Measure out where you are going to put your hooks. I arranged mine in a 40cm square.

2. Attach the hooks to the wall.

3. Make the outside edge of your frame with the ribbon. I looped the ribbon around each hook and sewed a few little stitches on top of one another where the ribbon overlapped at each corner and then sewed the ends together. Doing the corner stitches was the trickiest bit! It was so hard to keep the ribbon as taut as possible whilst holding the ribbon together to make the stitches.

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4. Mark out where you want your criss-cross ribbons to meet at the frame. I decided to mark out roughly thirds.

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5. Cut the ribbon to the correct lengths and sew in place with a few little stitches on top of each other at the ends and where the ribbons cross. I wrapped the ends of the ribbons around the ribbon frame and sewed through all three layers at once. This should help stop the ends of the ribbon fraying.

When sewing these ribbons in place, be sure to keep everything nice and taut without distorting the overall shape.

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6. Use your pegs to attach your items to display (btw, in this photo, you can also see my wire button heart and birthday candles card).

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Aren’t the pegs great! They are the only thing I actually bought for the project, everything else I already had. I got them from Living Plaza for HK$12 (approx. £1) per pack!

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When I was in the middle of this project (which only took me a couple of hours, by the way) I thought it was going to look really rubbish! I just couldn’t get the ribbon nice and taut. However, I did the best I could with it and I’m actually really pleased with the result.

An alternative way of doing a display like this would be to use a wooden picture frame, or make a wooden frame yourself by nailing wood together. You can then attach the ribbon to the back of the frame using drawing pins (thumb tacks), and put the little stitches where the ribbons cross. This is actually what I did to make an earring display that I use on my stall at craft fairs!

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Let me know if you have a go at your own wall display. It’s a great way to remind you of nice things people have sent or things you’ve been to!

Thanks for reading!

Rachel

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How not to make a felt phone pouch

I was planning on buying a phone cover for my new phone, and then I saw this tutorial for a felt iPad case and it inspired me to make my own! The reason for the title is that it didn’t quite turn out how I planned. I don’t know a lot about sewing and made many mistakes along the way. But I think I learned enough whilst making it to advise you on how to make a better one. And perhaps it wasn’t so bad after all…

Felt phone pouch finished

I’m sure that many of you may read this tutorial and be thinking “I know a much better way to do that”. If this is the case please let me know how it could be done better in the comments!

For this tutorial you will need:

  • Felt
  • Ribbon (or other decoration – the original tutorial uses a fabric daily)
  • Thread (I just used normal cotton)
  • Needle
  • Scissors
  • Pins or spray glue

1. Cut two shapes out of your felt so that it is approximately 1 cm bigger on all sides than your phone (or more or less, depending on the thickness of your phone).

[Edit: After having used my pouch for a little while, I would suggest that you don’t need to leave a margin as big as this around your phone at all. In fact, as long as your phone isn’t very thick, just a few millimetres will be fine. My margin was quite small and the pouch is still quite loose around the phone.]

I would recommend that you measure and cut each piece very carefully. I didn’t and I really regretted it! I roughly drew round the phone and then folded the felt in half and cut the two pieces at the same time which actually resulted in them being wildly different sizes so I had to trim a lot to make them match.

Felt phone pouch marking out

Felt phone pouch cut pieces

2. Decide on the pattern that you want your ribbon to be and cut lengths longer than you will need and pin in position. Alternatively if you have spray glue, I’d recommend that you spray the back side of the ribbon and temporarily stick it to the felt that way (I’ll explain more later). I chose to have the ribbons at randomly crossing angles but you may prefer to make parallel lines with them, or a more regular ordered pattern. Or you could decorate with buttons or beads. The possibilities are (almost) endless!

Felt phone pouch ribbon layout

3. Sew along the edges of the ribbon to secure it to the felt. Start by making a few stitches in the same place on the back of the felt near an edge to secure your thread. It is best if you choose a spot for this that is underneath where the ribbon will be so it doesn’t show on the front.

Felt stitch start

4. Make a small stitch, coming up through the ribbon close to the edge (mine had a small border so I tried to make the stitch at the edge of the border) and go back down into the felt as close to the edge of the ribbon as possible.

Stitching ribbon to felt

5. Pull tight.

Small stitches ribbon to felt

6. Repeat this stitch every 2-3mm asking the edges of your ribbon decoration. Try to make the spacing as even as possible. I found it very hard to make sure I was sewing the ribbons straight, especially as the material got bunched up where the pins were. My best solution was to remove a pin when I was getting close to it and pull the ribbon straight while I was sewing. This is why I think gluing the ribbon instead of pinning it would work better!

Stitched ribbon to felt phone pouch

7. I trimmed the edges of the ribbon using the scissors so they matched the edges of the felt. This was not as straightforward as I was expecting as the ribbon kept sliding along the scissors! I found the best way to cut a straight line was to pull the ribbon taut between two fingers and then cut. HOWEVER, very soon after cutting the ends of the ribbon started to fray. Therefore, I’d actually recommend that you don’t cut the ends but wrap them under the edge of the felt and perhaps secure with a stitch or two. That way, the frayed ends of your ribbon will be inside the phone pouch where no-one can see!

Cutting ribbon ends

8. The final step is to sew the two halves of your phone pouch together. The tutorial used a machine blanket stitch, and I was going to do blanket stitch by hand but then I came across this great video showing you how to whip stitch on felt. I just followed the advice on the video and did a whip stitch around the edge of the phone case with doubled-up cotton thread. I started and ended with 4 stitches on top of each other at either side of the pouch opening to increase durability. In the video, Wendi recommends that you use the same colour thread as the felt so that any unevenness in your stitching doesn’t show – I ignored this advice and regretted it! I think it would look a lot more professional if you couldn’t see the stitches as clearly.

Felt whip stitch

Felt phone pouch

So there you go, it didn’t turn out quite as badly as I was expecting when I was part-way through but it looks very badly “homemade”! When I’ve got over the disappointment, I may make another – this time with straight sides, straight ribbons, no ribbon ends on display and stitching in the same colour as the felt!

Felt phone pouch phone inside

Thanks for reading!

Rachel

How to make a wire button heart

Even though it is the beginning of February, I decided that I would make this wire button heart a while ago. So it’s not really a Valentines project, although it would make a sweet gift for your loved one!

Handmade wire button heart

I found this project on the Hobbycraft website here. I found it to be a bit more complicated than the tutorial suggests, so I’ve added some detail below. It took me well over 2 hours to make the heart, which included restarting at one point so it wasn’t the quick make that I thought it would be. I’ve tried to put what I learned into this tutorial so that you can do it a little more easily. I hope you find this useful!

For this project you will need:

  • Approximately 2m of wire. I used 0.6mm (22 gauge) silver plated craft wire. Check that two pieces of your wire fits into each hole of your buttons with plenty of space to spare.
  • 18 buttons (you can use more or less as you wish). The buttons I used were approximately 15mm diameter.
  • Wire cutters
  • Pliers
  • Vice (if you have one – I don’t, but it would have been useful!)
  • Ribbon (I used 3/8″ wide grosgrain ribbon)

1. Lay out your buttons in a heart shape to see how big the heart will be and to pick the pattern of your buttons. Mine measured about 15cm across. I had 3 types of buttons so I just alternated them to get a nice pattern.

Lay out buttons in a heart shape

2. Cut two pieces of wire with your wire cutters, each approximately 1m long (you can adjust this, depending on how big your heart layout is compared to mine).

3. At one end, wind both wires together into a loop about 3cm from the ends of the wires and roughly wrap the free ends around the base of the loop. This is the loop that you will hang your ribbon on. Cut off the free ends with your wire cutters.

Double wire loop

4. Thread the wires through one hole of your first button from back to front (this should be the top centre one). Now thread the wires back through the second hole. This is the hardest part! Start by pulling the wires until you have large loops above the button:

Threading the button - wire loops

Before you start pulling any tighter you need to do two things: (1) make sure that the two wires aren’t tangled (I moved the wires around in the hole until they were running parallel), and (2) make sure the button is pushed back to the bottom of the wire wrapping/twist and put your finger on the wire going into the back of the button to stop it moving. I frequently found that the button had moved once I had pulled my wires tight. These are both very difficult to correct once you have pulled the wires tight.

Now pull one of the wires until it is tight across the button. Use pliers to grip the wire if it helps. Pull very slowly and gently and if you notice the wire kinking or twisting, immediately stop pulling and pull some wire back through the hole to smooth out your loop before slowly pulling tight again. Once you have one wire tight, repeat with the second one.

Threaded ribbons on wire

The first heart I made broke so I had to start again. This was because I was tugging and bending at a wire that had got all kinked up, and I was much too rough with it and the wire broke! This is why you must be very gentle and make sure that there are no kinks or twists in the wire when you are pulling it through. After that I made very good use of my nylon jawed pliers (my favourite jewellery tool!) to smooth out the wire at every opportunity, which definitely helped the second time I made the button heart.

5. Twist the wires together so that you have a twisted length of about 1-1.5cm (for me this was about 5-6 twists). The Hobbycraft tutorial does not say to twist the wires between the buttons but I chose to do it to make the heart stiffer, as the wire I was using is quite soft so I thought my heart would lose its shape really easily.

I found it easiest to twist the wire if the button was gently clamped whilst making the twists. I do not have a vice so I used a pair of pliers as shown in the picture. I held the pliers closed between my thighs so that I had both hands free for the twisting (I’ve not shared a photo of that – it looked very odd!). The hardest bit was to stop the long wires tangling while twisting. I had to stop twisting and untangle them every couple of twists.

Clamping and twisting wire

6. Thread the next button on and repeat steps 4 and 5 until you have used up all the buttons. This will take some time! Your work should look something like this:

Long string of buttons on wire

7. Now check that the buttons are all secure and not loose. If any of them are loose and rattle, just hold that button and the one next to it and make a full twist so that the twisted wire between the two buttons becomes tighter and holds the button in place.

8. Bend your string of buttons into a rough heart shape. I started by holding the button that will be at the bottom centre and bending the wire up either side. Then curve the sides in at the top until the two ends meet.

Rough heart shape

9. Bend the free end around the base of the wrapped wire loop…Connecting the two ends together

… and then wrap the wire around the other wire wrap (keeping it hidden behind the button). Trim the ends with your wire cutters.

10. Bend your heart into a more well-defined heart shape, thread a ribbon through the loop and hang somewhere in your home! Mine is hanging on the chest of drawers in our bedroom :)

Hanging wire button heart

Let me know if you make a wire button heart. I’d love to hear how you got on!

Update: mini wire button hearts are now available to buy in the Little Koo Etsy shop! Click here to check them out!

Thanks for reading!

Rachel

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