Saturday, 26 April 2014


Don't we all love a bit of bunting. It makes us feel like there's a bit of a celebration going on. I shared Kathryn Grogan's Mud Kitchen photo on facebook this week and I have to say it went NUTS! Currently it's had 396 shares and over 26,000 views which is unheard of for my little page.

The group is Isle of Wight Wildlife Tots and the web address is
As you can see it is a cracking photo but I was wondering what made it so VERY special to be whizzed around the world that much. I think it's the stump oven, I've not seen one of those before and it is a wonderful creation. But a few people commented on the bunting and I thought yes, bunting does make things look marvellous. 

The street I live in had a Bunting Evening once. We like a street party every now and then and had an evening of cutting and sewing to make some for our 25 Year Party (our Jubilee!) We used the kids old duvets, sheets, flowery 1980 dresses and anything we had really. When it's up I like to look and see what memories are hanging up there.

I think this was a Royal Wedding street party - any excuse!

I've also made Hapa Zoma bunting when I've been working with students. It's quck and easy and a wonderful collaboration as everybody contributes to a beautiful whole.

 I started thinking of ways to make cheap bunting with what I already had and remembered all those plastic bags shoved down the side of the cupboard in the hall. You know those 10p 'bag for life' ones - the ones I always forget to take with me to the shops so end up buying more each time. I dug out the ones which were a bit tatty and the ones with holes in and decided to use those. I also thought these would be great in England where we have so much rain. Waterproof bunting!

Step one - cut down the sides of your bags and turn them inside out. Fold then in half again so you can cut lots out at once.

Step two - make a triangle template and use a sharpie marker to draw a long row of triangles.

Step three - cut out (I had about 22 from one bag)

Step four - lay in the order you want and attach to string with staples. Well, this was my original plan but after jamming two staplers and finding myself banging them hard on my desk I switched to double sided tape!

I hung a short length on my children's old playhouse (now my tool shed) and I think if it can make that look bright and cheery it would do a good job anywhere.

As soon as I took this it poured with rain and ten minutes later was sunny


Thursday, 10 April 2014

Bug House

Oh what a fun morning I've had. At the end of the Hallr Wood visit we had to make a commitment to DOING something when we'd left and I said I would make a Bug House. I do love them, I have a whole album full of them on facebook but I have never made one. My garden is full of rotting wood, a pond with stones all around and most of the garden is pretty unkempt. I have a lot of bugs and over the years have had hedgehogs, grass snakes and slow worms  too. 

I always think of Bug Houses as more of a DT project for children than much to do with bugs because let's be honest, once you've put the thing together you're not going to take it to pieces to look inside. So I would still have the rotting wood and the carpet tiles around to lift up and peek under and put back again carefully afterwards.

But if a school or nursery is looking for a great design project using lots of different materials get some pallets and GO!

I didn't need a pallet as I had an old wooden box the kids had found chucked in the ditch at the end of the garden years ago. It was only small - just over a foot across - but I decided to use this as a practice for my MASSIVE bug house which I have all beautifully designed in my head :)

I wanted to give it a bit of protection from the elements so made some tin can tiles with tin snips. These are REALLY sharp so I bent the edges over by bashing with a hammer on the edge of the table (outside table not dining one!) I held the tin still with an oven glove which worked really well. I tacked the tiles on the roof which was tricky because the tin kind of bounced! So I used a big nail to make a hole and then little tacks. I don't think it is particularly waterproof as it really needs a pitch in the roof, but I like the look of it.

Bean tins and tin snips

bashing the sharp edges over
Once the roof was on I filled the sections with a variety of plants from the garden and some seed heads and also some bark. Had to press gang Charlie into cutting the last few pieces as my hand was hurting! Once he saw it though he was more than happy to get involved. I had one piece of hazel that I cut as a measuring stick and we used that for all of the cutting.

measuring stick
I didn't glue anything in, although I had read that some people do it didn't seem very natural to me so we just rammed everything in really tightly. It will dry out and shrink and we'll have to top it up in a couple of months.

Sid was really helpful

Ta da!
 I have put it against the fence in a quiet corner that gets a little sun in the morning, it's balanced on some old wood where there are already some bugs. I asked on facebook where the best place to site it was and Lily said  'Where the bugs already are' pure common sense!

Friday, 4 April 2014

Creative Landscapes at Hallr Wood

When I took redundancy from the council one of the things I was most excited about was LEARNING again! Since 'The Cuts' most council training had been internal or a bit of feedback from a course someone else had been on, travelling out of county for anything needed a special permit and networking with other counties seemed to have faded away. So as soon as I could I booked a few things and the day at Hallr Wood was the first to come up.

I'd connected with the wood's owner Deb Millar on the FEI facebook page but we'd never actually met in person. Tori and I arrived on a bright sunny morning and made our way up the slope to the camp area of the woods. We were met with lovely tea and proper coffee and an explanation of how to make a Nature Book to document our day. This was a lot of folding of wallpaper backing paper, tucking it into a cover and holding it together with a stick and wire.

Performance area
We split into two groups to walk around the site which was truly beautiful. The slope had been well utilised to create a tiered seating area looking down to a stage, paths edged with timber led to a wood steaming machine (I'm sure there's a proper name for it!) made of an old gas bottle and cob. 

Steam machine!
As we walked Deb explained that many of the projects (including a Tardis) had come from comments that the young people they worked with had made. For instance the cob kiln was after someone had asked to make pots and been told they could but they wouldn't be hard enough to use properly so the girl said 'Well let's make a kiln then'

The pee-pit and beautiful beach hut style loo 'shed' solved the question of  'Do bears...?' A quick stop by a pond with tiny pond-dipping platform - where I could have stayed all day - and back up to the camp via a kitchen stocked with an enviable array of huge cooking pots and pans, many ex-Guides utensils because apparently they cook on gas these days.

We then worked in groups of three on a variety of activities - Deb quickly syphoned off Lewis recently back from re-building earthquake torn Christchurch to get stuck into her mud kitchen re-build. The group I was in chose to build a bug house down by the fairy garden to protect the path leading to it. It was  a fabulous sunny spring day and as we created and chatted some of the magic of the wood crept into all of us.

We stopped for an amazing lunch of veg and bean soup - more like a full-on stew to be honest - which Deb topped with snipped wild garlic, also large chunks of bread and more lovely tea and coffee.

Back to work and swapping activities we ended up down at the mud kitchen where we finished off the draining board (I only bent two nails - not bad for me) and started to cob the cooker and pot stand. This mud kitchen was not only for mud play but was actually made of mud too. How very special. The clay was from the wood and just a wonderful consistency, I worked in a pottery years ago and was eager to get my hands into it whilst at the same time being quite frustrated that I couldn't take any photos! So it was a bit of cob, a bit of hand washing, a few photos and back to the cob.

Our group ended the day at the top of the woofinishing off a contemplative space that the others had been working on throughout the day. It was a well defined area so we decorated it with leaves, ivy and twigs. We were feeling that we were the design team of the day after our beautiful bug house and mud kitchen re-vamping. End of activities was heralded by a hunting horn which sounded once more and the rest of the group came up to the top to view the space that everyone had had input into.

The whole wood is a series of spaces, often bordered by live willow arches and you can't see the whole thing from any one point so as you walk around you are constantly surprised and delighted. We all felt at the end of the day that we had added to the spaces and learnt about defining them too.

We finished with a re-cap around the fire, free packets of seeds from Deb - party bags! - and left feeling elated at such an inspiring and collaborative day, and I think we all hope to return to Hallr Wood too.