Crafts Happy Stuff Home Sewing

How to make a face mask


Hi all, hope you are at home and staying safe! Right, I’ve not used this blog in a million years, but was asked to share my face mask instruction with a friend, and decided to write it up so that others can use it. There are endless instructions online, so I’m sure I’m just duplicating – however, I’m really happy with my design, as it has comfy and adjustable straps, is really well covering over the lower half of the face, and has a pocket for additional filters to be inserted. And it may not surprise you to know I have an enormous stash of fabrics that have been begging to be used, so perhaps this will finally start to clear them. 

It may also be the kick I needed to update my blog and get writing again…although I’m not promising anything!

Let me know if anything isn’t clear, or if there are any cool modifications you make. And please share a pic of your finished mask :-) 

YOU WILL NEED: 10″x16″ rectangle of fabric, plus 2 pieces of approx 5″x 1.5″ to make the seam binding (this will depend on your pleat distribution and seam allowance, so a top tip is to not cut this bit of fabric until the main body of your mask is constructed).
10″x16″ rectangle of iron-on interfacing
An approx. 40″ strip of cotton jersey (or a strip cut off an old tshirt will do).

Optional: Metal nose strips or even a paperclip would do for the top edge – but don’t worry if you don’t have this.

So, here goes!

  1. Cut one rectangle of woven, breathable material 10 inches by 16 inches- ideally quilting cotton. Different fabrics will be more effective than others, but a good rule of thumb is to hold the fabric up to the light – the more light that comes through, the poorer the filtration. 

    Cut a matching rectangle of iron-on interfacing and attach it to the wrong side of your cotton layer.

    At this point you should have something that looks like this (the front on the left, the interfaced back on the right):

2. This will be folded in half shortly, to make the main body of the mask. Before you do that, you need to hem the top and bottom (not the sides) of your rectangle. This is the two 10″ sides. To hem it, just fold and approx 1cm, and then fold it over and press again. It should be able to just hold like that, but you might want to put one or two pins in before stitching.

Secure these hems on the sewing machine, using a basic running stitch.

TOP TIP – if you have any paperclips or malleable metal nose strips to insert into your mask, you can secure it into this top hem with a few stitches. 

3. The next step is to fold your rectangle, but we need to make sure that both hemmed ends are on the face side of the mask, rather than on the edge of the mask where they will tickle your nose! To do this, I folded down the nicely hemmed top edge by 1cm, and then lined up the bottom hem alongside it, something like this, and then pressed and pinned into place:

You will notice that this creates a pocket in the mask where you can add extra filtration if you want. I have added in a removable filter insert into mine, which allows me to wash the fabric portion without damaging the filter insert. 

ANOTHER TOP TIP – when pinning, keep the pins perpendicular to the edge of the fabric – this will help with the next stage (pleats)

4. Pleats: I did this by eye, which is definitely easier on your second or third attempt! Using straight pins and/or an iron, measure 2 or 3 evenly-spaced folds (approximately 1”) on each side of the mask. The wider you make your folds, the shorter the sides of your mask will be. Make sure that the folds go in the same direction, and make sure that the folds point downwards on the outside of the mask (i.e. the side that is not against your skin). This is very important as it will prevent dirt and debris collecting in the folds. Press and pin into place.

There is no law on how many pleats you make, but I noticed that a 3-pleat mask was far more comfortable than a 2-pleat one (it fits better over my nose!) – so the instruction below is for 3 pleats, but 2 will do if you are happier with this.

Now stitch the pleats down 1cm in from both sides, to secure the folded shape.

5. We are now going to add seam binding to each side, which will also form a channel to hold the straps on each side. Measure the length of the stitched side of your mask (where you have just secured the pleats). Using the additional fabric you have, cut 2 rectangles of fabric 2″ longer than the side, and approx 1.5″ wide, to make seam binding. Take one of the small fabric pieces and line it up with the edge of your mask, right sides together. stitch and press out, and then press the short edges in (middle left picture below)

Once you have done this, fold the remaining section of the seam binding over onto the back of the mask and pin into place before stitching across with the machine. Remember, this is a channel for your straps, so don’t make it very tight – also try and stitch as close to the edge of your binding as possible so that it gives the largest possible channel (bottom left pic)

6. Once the seam binding is attached, you pretty much have your mask! All that is needed is to add a strap.
The reason we have seam binding on the mask is to create a channel on each side for a strap to slide through. This means that we can have one continuous, adjustable strap, which goes round the back of the head or neck, through both channels, and can be secured with a single bow, rather than with two.
I have used cotton jersey for this strap, for a few reasons – firstly, it doesn’t need hemming as it doesn’t fray. Also, it’s stretchy, breathable, washable, and in plentiful supply in lots of pretty colours!
This is the trickiest bit of the whole make – you now need to thread the cotton jersey through the channels – I did this by using a small crochet hook as a guide through the channel, but you could use a knitting needle or even a chopstick or something similar.

Et voila – your finished mask should look a little like this:

And you will look like this:


I am really happy with this mask as it has good coverage all the way under the chin and to the ears, and the straps are far comfier than others I have tried! If you find that the mask is not fully secure around the nose, I’ve read that some people are using a paperclip or some florists wire to make a nose strip (as you would see in a bought builders’ mask), to shape the fabric.

A number of things –
a) I’ve just written this up but there are endless variations on mask instructions online. So there is no one right answer. If you only have a 9″x15″ rectangle, or if you use ribbon rather than jersey for the straps, or if you use a different interfacing, or if you choose not to have a pocket in the middle, or if you add 2 pleats or 4….then it’s still going to create a protective barrier between you and airborne particles when in public. So don’t worry too much about the specifics, and enjoy making it.

b) This mask is in no way a subtsitute for a real particle-filtering N95 mask. However, recent studies suggest that a double layer of good quality cotton quilting material may reduce particles by 60%-80%. The iron on interfacing is a non-woven additional double layer, which will also reduce particles.

c) This mask is completely washable! However, quilting fabrics soften and lose some of their fibres over time, so the mask will reduce in filtration ability with successive washes. I am mainly using mine as a cover over a builders’ mask, to prolong the life of the builders’ mask.

d) To boost the filtration, you can use your handily created pocket in the middle of the mask to add more protection. I have used a thin, double layer of meltblown fabric, which is the material used to make the commonly used disposable masks. It is non-woven so is likely to catch the particles that the cotton missed. There are lots of suggestions online, and I’ve even heard of people using HEPA vacuum filters. This is all a balance between ultimate filtration, and still having a comfortable, breathable, cool mask which you can wear for long periods if necessary.

e) UV has been proven to reduce the life span of germs on materials (although not Covid-specific) so after washing or after wearing, it is good practice to hang it up in a sunny place for a few hours or until you need it again. 

f) If you are making a stack of these for a local care home or hospital, please check if masks of this type are required and if they have any specific requirements. Also, if you are making a stack, it really cuts down on time to make a bunch all in one go – cutting 10 rectangles, then ironing in 10 interfacings etc. I found that one mask took me 40 mins, but 10 took me just over 2 hours. 

Crafts Crochet Travels

Crochet Winter Warmers



Anyone residing in the UK for the past few months would be aware that it’s been, well, rather parky out. I won’t be the only one who should have spent much all of January and much of February, shrouded in blankets and refusing to leave the warm environs of my flat for any non-essential reason.


However, the course of my life has never been sedentary. I was back in my seaside hometown of Southport during the cold snap, so I decided to hibernate at my Grandparents house – until cabin fever struck. I decided to take a stroll along the deserted beach, which gave me the perfect opportunity to play with the settings on my new camera.


For those of you who know anything about the North West coast, you won’t be surprised to hear that the wind was whipping up in every direction which made the chilly temperatures feel even colder! Eventually, I retreated back into the town to seek retail therapy and hot chocolate. It was then that I discovered a gem of a place: the Yarn Fairy on Wesley Street.
It was inevitable of course, that an addicted crafter such as myself would succumb to the lure of independent boutique yarn shops and the prospect of lovely new crochet projects. As I was wearing my deliciously warm new winter coat, I decided to try and pick out some colours to create some cozy accessories.


Unwittingly, I selected some yarns which perfectly matched the shades of the seaside, where I had taken my stroll and where my mind must have still been wandering. The yarn was from Rico studio, and was 50% acrylic, 50% wool, so I thought that would be a good choice. Both the blue and the cream yarns were variegated, and contained all sorts of different shades from my coat. Perfect!

I’m not really a fan of crochet patterns – I’m much happier just setting off and discovering where the stitches take me. However, I had recently seen a tutorial for making a hat from brim to top, rather than the other way round – I decided to give that a go.

I began by making a loop in the pretty, blue yarn, which fitted snugly around my head, and then hooking a row of double crochets to get the hat started. Onto row 2, I began a row of treble crochets, doing a hooked treble stitch every 4 stitches. A hooked treble is where you push your crochet hook crosswise, around the post of the stitch below, rather than putting it through the top of the stitch below. I hope that makes sense! It is the same technique used when doing the basketweave stitch.

After a few lines, I switched colours to the cream, but continued doing 3 trebles, 1 hooked treble for the first few rows -then as I wanted to reduce the stitches, I began doing a hooked stitch for every three, then for every 2 and so on, so that the raised columns were preserved, and the hat began to form into the correct shape. For every two rows I completed, I probably unravelled another, as I worked out how the hat should fit me.

I wanted slouchy, beret style to the hat, so I tried it on after every row or so, checking that I was progressing how I wanted. As I reached the top  of the hat, I got to a stage where each stitch was a hooked treble, and then for the next row, I began hooking two raised ridges together, to close up the hat at the top. Finally, once the hat was completed, I used a spare strand of blue yarn to make a simple bow at the top.


Next, it was time to get started on the hand warmers. I have a track record with handwarmers, and have made a whole series of them for myself and others over the years (a few examples are below). They are a quick and easy make, which doesn’ use up too much yarn, and can be embellished in countless ways.



Again, the easiest way to get a good fit for your handwarmers is to begin with a chain of around 34 stitches (depending on the dimensions of your hands and wrists), and to try on the glove after completing every row, to check they are fitting well. This time, I began with the cream yarn, and instead of producing ridges around all of the handwarmer, I just created two ridges, 3 stitches apart, which would run along the top of the item.


When I reached the bottom of the thumb, I began to alternate rows backwards and forwards, leaving a gap. Once the gap was sufficient, I added a chain of 3 and then began doing circular rows again – this technique gave my glove a thumb hole.

To match the design of the hat, I switched to blue yarn when I reached my knuckles, to give a blue border to the tops of the handwarmers. Once I had completed the glove to a desirable height, I then began building the rows around the thumb joint, using a selection of slip stitches, double crochets and treble crochets, to mould the shape. This is a little fiddly in explanation, but is very quick in reality!


The big task then was to make an identical twin for the gloves! This is always easier said than done, but it’s manageable as long as you continue to check and compare the work as you go along.


I”m really happy with my new creations, and especially like the silver flecks in the yarn that makes the items sparkle. My new makes came in handy last month, when I spent the weekend in Cologne, Germany. My trip coincided with a giant snowstorm, and I was grateful for my warm accessories whilst sightseeing in a blizzard!




Scandimania Pt 5: Copenhagen

Oh patient readers, I assure you that I have finally finished the last of my blog posts about my trip to Scandinavia back in October – sorry it has taken so long!

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After stopping at Stockholm, Trondheim, Oslo and Gothenburg, I finally made it to Copenhagen, for the last few days of my adventure. I had visited the city before, so it felt much more like seeing an old friend than exploring another new place. I only had one full day in the city, so I spent it cycling around, revisiting my favourite spots, and visiting a few places that I hadn’t had the chance to check out last time I was here.


The first place I had to check out was the Carlsberg factory in the heart of Copenhagen. I kicked myself for missing this last time I was in the city, so made a beeline for it as soon as I woke up on the last full day of my trip. The brewery has been producing delicious beers and ales since 1847, and the company has had a huge influence on Copenhagen art and culture.


I really enjoyed visiting the enormous factory complex. I learned about the Jacobsen family who founded the brand, and had the opportunity to taste a few of their rarer brews, including the one in the picture above….I can’t believe they spelled my name wrong!DSC_5471

Many of the works of art on display in the city were donated by the Jacobsen family, including the famous Lille Havfrue – the Little Mermaid, and my personal favourite, the Gefion Fountain, near Kastellet.


Whilst the Little Mermaid may be the most famous (but in my opinion, rather disappointing) statue in Copenhagen, the standout public artwork for me has to be this incredible fountain. It depicts the Viking story of Gefion, a humble farming woman who wanted some land of her own to plough. The King did not want to give any of his land away, so reluctantly agreed to grant Gefion whatever land she could plough in a single night.


What the King didn’t know was that our humble farmwoman was in fact a goddess, and she had a trick up her sleeve… Gefion used her powers to transform her 4 sons into enormous, powerful oxen, to help her plough all night. The oxen were so strong that they managed to clear huge swathes of land, so much so that the earth disappeared and the area left became Lake Vannern in Sweden. The land that Gefion ploughed that night fell into the sea, and became Zealand, the island mass upon which Copenhagen stands.

The fountain is a spectacular sight. Gefion wields a whip, pushing her transformed sons on to plough the land. The fountain has so many impressive details, from the steam shooting out of the nostrils of the oxen, to the snakes coiling themselves around the fountain’s surround.

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After revisiting Gefion and her oxen, I continued my day of sightseeing by strolling around the picturesque Langelinie area, and passing through Nyhavn. Copenhagen is a really photogenic city, so it’s a fantastic place to wander around, taking pictures.
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My final stop for the day was the Christiansborg Slot, or Christiansborg Palace, which is in the town centre. It costs some kroner to visit the reception rooms, the chapel, stables and other areas of the palace, but there is, thankfully, one part of the palace is free to visit: the tower. From the entrance, you can take an elevator right to the top of the clock tower, for unrivalled views of wonderful, wonderful Copenhagen! 

I wasn’t able to take any pictures to show you, but there was one more place I visited on my trip. If you ever find yourself in Denmark’s capital, and you like swimming, you absolutely must visit Vandkulturhuset. Let me warn you right now – this is no ordinary swimming pool. The main pool is egg shaped and has a mammoth, 100m circumference, around which swimmers follow eachother round in long, graceful, elliptical lengths. In the middle of the egg is a second, rectangular pool, in which lessons are taking place, and swimmers are crossing into it by way of a bridge from the poolside. It was quite an experience! I really recommend Vandkulturhuset to anyone visiting Copenhagen, for a truly unique splash around.

Anyway, it was time to end my Scandinavia adventure, after nearly a fortnight of incredible sights. By the time I boarded the Oresundstag to Malmo, I was running so late for my flight that  I was unable to explore Malmo – with a paltry half hour of my holiday left before heading to the airport, I decided to treat myself to a real Swedish delicacy, one that is relatively unknown in the UK except to those who are fans of The Great British Bake Off – the Princessetorte.

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Apparently the cake is a very popular birthday treat in Sweden, and despite its sickly sweet appearance, the flavour was actually quite delicate! The sponge was light and the raspberry jam gave a tangy lift to the whipped cream. I don’t know what Mary Berry would have thought of the folds in the green marzipan covering though!

I usually feel a mild sense of disappointment when I step off a plane, knowing that the holiday is over and I am back in the real world. However, on this one occasion, I felt nothing but excitement as I landed on British soil. I had just completed a magical holiday, full of thrilling sights and new experiences, and I had the good fortune to land at 16:45 on November 5th – bonfire night!


As soon as I had collected my bag from the carousel, I sped to the car as quickly as possible and set off, hoping to get home in time for the fireworks show that takes place less than a mile from my home. Fortunately, it was a clear, dry night, and there were no holdups on the motorway. I raced into my flat, dumped my bags, and ran out to the lake, clutching just my keys, my camera and a glass of wine hastily poured in the kitchen.DSC_5600

I was not disappointed – within 5 minutes of arriving, I was treated to a spectacular show, which was the perfect end to an enchanting, illuminating holiday. I’ve really enjoyed writing about my trip, as it has given me the chance to relive my adventure – if you are planning a holiday right now, I’d recommend you explore Scandinavia-  although I only saw a small amount, I am sure I will return.


Crafts Happy Stuff

Charlotte – Style Icon and Craft Muse


My lovely and immaculately stylish friend Charlotte, who has featured in my articles on many occasions, has started writing her own fashion blog here at

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Imagine my surprise when she published an article all about me – I couldn’t quite believe it!


I feel it is my duty to confess that in 6 of these pictures, I am wearing clothes donated by, or stolen from, Charlotte herself. However, the observant of you will spot me wearing hand-made pieces in 3 of them (four if you count my purple mittens)

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In order to repay the favour of featuring me in her blog, here are some of my favourite pics of the two of us generally getting up to no good. Charlotte is the best!


If you are into fashion or travel, please check her wonderful new blog out –

Crafts Pottery

Souvenir Makes No. 4: A Swedish Christmas

Yes, I realise that, 3 months after returning from Scandinavia, I still haven’t finished blogging about it. However, I’m faring better than when I promised you I would post some articles about my Scottish road trip, and I didn’t complete the tale until 9 months later. My tardiness is slightly improving!

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Despite not completing my Scandinavian saga yet, I thought I would show you that my little Swedish dala horse cutter (which has already come in rather handy for festive baking) was put to very good use this Christmas – to make clay tree decorations.

The ubiquitous little wooden horses hail from the Swedish town of Dalarna, and are a national symbol which dates back to the 1600s. The most common dala horses are painted red, with a white, green, yellow and blue harness, but I read that you can find horses in a variety of colours, with each local area producing the wooden ornaments in their own special design.


I had enough clay to make seven, and I decided to decorate each with a different pattern. I used a tiny star cutter, which I bought to use in my pottery classes, although I think it was originally a cake decorating tool. I was able to attach the stars carefully to the surface of the piece, using a paintbrush and a bit of slip.


When the designs were finished, I used a dowelling rod to pierce a hole in the top of each one, so that I can thread ribbon through when they are finished. I left one of them sans piercing, as I am toying with the idea of starting a wall display of dala horses in my bedroom, and this is going to be the first one.


Given that each horse was only half a centimetre thick, I expected they would dry fairly quickly… not so! I patiently waited 2 weeks before the items could be fired in the kiln – then I set to work on painting the little creatures.

I tried to keep the colours to the traditional palette of red, white, green, yellow and blue, although I found that the poppy red and dark, galaxy blue appealed to me the most! I think it’s fair to say that none of the horses conform to the traditional dala design, but I am happy with the way they have turned out – especially the ones with the raised stars across the surface.

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One of our family traditions is the giving of a set of baubles each year. My mum, my brother and I each give a bauble to each other, so that no matter where we are in the world, we have matching Christmas trees. Over the past few years, I have been making a bauble for each of them every year, as well as one for myself. This year, my new sister-in-law Kate got involved with the family tradition, making a beautiful set of perfect crochet snowflakes! I can see this tradition running for years!

Finally, I come to the bauble I made for myself. I really loved the star designs, but for my own bauble I wanted something that reminded me of my wonderful adventure. I’m sure you can guess which one that would be! I painted mine, simply, with a blue blackground and a solid yellow cross, to depict the Swedish flag. My flat is so small that I don’t actually have a Christmas tree, but you can see my Swedish dala creation, hanging proudly on my aloe vera plant in my living room. I can’t wait to, one day, have him adorn a beautiful Christmas tree, which I’m sure he will do for many years to come.

Crafts Pottery Travels

Road Trip to Royal Worcester

I’ve been spending quite alot of my time travelling up and down motorways for work recently – I usually work in Yorkshire, but in the past few months I have also had a few projects in the South West of England. Although the long drives on congested motorways have left much to be desired, it’s been great to have time to explore a different part of the country.

Regular readers of this blog will know that I have been taking pottery classes for the past few months. A tiny proportion of readers may actually think I am slowly improving at pottery…but the jury is still out on that one!

Anyway, on a recent trip to Bristol, I had the chance to visit the Royal Worcester museum on my way back to sunny Doncaster. Royal Worcester ceased production after nearly 260 years in 2009, but some of the finest works have been put on display at the Royal Worcester Museum, which stands on the site of the original factory.  I thought a visit might give me some pottery inspiration, and I would learn a little bit about design trends and production methods.


Whilst I was there, there was a presentation by one of Royal Worcester’s professional ceramic painters. Ken Russell. As I visited on a quiet afernoon, I took my opportunity to ask Ken lots of questions, and he did his best to answer all of them!


Ken was working on some very intricate painting on teacups and saucers. He explained that the plate was fired then gilded, and then he needed to use a resin to painstakingly build up dots across the piece, which could then be painted when they reached the desired height.


Ken explained that the glaze used would sit proud on the resin, giving the exquisite texture on the piece, but without the resin, the colours would not have any height. There were so many stages in completing a plate, and Ken explained how the process needed huge amounts of focus and concentration, as one mistake could mean starting the whole plate from scratch again.


The pattern that Ken was imitating was from a famous Royal Worcester collection called the Dudley Service, which was made for the Countess of Dudley in the 1860s. The original set was so admired that a replica was made soon after, for the public to view. This replica set was on display at the museum, and I was amazed to see how fine the porcelain work was – when a cup was held to the light, the porcelain was so thin that the portrait painted on the outside was illuminated!


Given the concentration needed, I decided to leave Ken in peace and have a look at some of the other exhibits. The items on display were beautiful, intricate, and faultless. Although I have no realistic hopes of ever being able to produce a pottery item like those on display, I was at least able to get a few ideas for techniques I could use in my evening classes.

I especially liked the neat beading around the top edge of this pot (above) – this would certainly be something I could incorporate into an item. I also thought the Japanesque tea service was interesting, with its lozenge-shaped cups and saucers and raised flowers on the surface.

However, my favourite item of the day was a small, novelty tea pot, which Ken suggested I check out. This little teapot was produced by James Hadley in 1882, and is based on the characters from a Gilbert and Sullivan comedy opera. It is called the ‘aesthetic teapot’, and one side depicts a foppish man, eaching a green jacket ornamented wiwth a sunflower. On the reverse, you can see his female counterpart, also wearing green, but this time it’s a smocked blouse, decorated with an arum lily.

The Gilbert and Sullivan opera on which this item was based was apparently a satire of Oscar Wilde and the aesthetic movement – art for art’s sake. Despite the obvious stylisation of this item, it is still a fully functioning teapot, fusing art and function. However, I’m sure if James Hadley were alive today he would be horrified to learn that his satirical teapot had become the very thing it once mocked – art for art’s sake, as its sole purpose now is for visitors to view it and marvel at its design.

Despite what Hadley would have thought, I still loved it, and am glad I had the opportunity to view the beautiful creations at Royal Worcester. If you happen to be in the vicinity of the visitor centre, I would highly recommend a visit!


Crafts Travels

Scandimania Pt 4: Gothenburg


After a few busy days in Oslo, I arrived in Gothenburg in need of some rest and relaxation. Fortunately, the next 48 hours were not going to be another bustling city break – after a quick sightseeing tour of the city, I would be taking a ferry out to the Southern Gothenburg archipelago for some much needed peace and quiet.


Gothenburg is fast becoming one of the hottest places to visit in Northern Europe. It’s cuisine, music, art and nightlife is attracting visitors from across the world, and after spending the afternoon there, I could see why. Despite the weather being overcast at best during my time there, the city felt buzzing, with lots of amazing independent boutiques, record stores, coffee shops and bars.


In order to escape the inclement weather, I retreated into a wonderful coffee shop in the traditional Haga district, where I sampled a mouthwatering apple and almond cake, topped with pumpkin seeds and candied walnuts. It was absolutely delicious, and gave me the energy I needed to make the next stage of my journey, to the island of Hono, about an hour away from the centre of Gothenburg.


I arrived by ferry, late at night, at the home of Sarah and Graham, which I found via AirBNB. The home was previously Sarah’s grandparents, and her grandfather had built the home himself. I had a beautiful, peaceful apartment on the top floor of the house, and Graham thoughtfully provided me with home-made bread and freshly-laid eggs. My R&R was off to a good start!

After the miserable, drizzly weather the day before, I was amazed to wake up the next day to sunlight streaming through the windows. Somehow, the fates had decided to grace my island stay with glorious, uninterrupted sunshine. I decided to make the most of it, and borrowed a bike from my lovely host Sarah, so that I could explore the island of Hono, and the neighbouring islands of Foto, Ockero and Halso, which were reachable by bridge.

The weather was perfect for cycling. Equipped with some bread and cheese in my rucksack, I set off on my adventure. The entire day was so peaceful – the island itself is home to breathtaking, unspoilt scenery and surrounded by deep blue waters.

The islands seemed almost deserted, with the exception of the areas around each harbour. At the first harbour I passed, I noticed a small shop was selling delicious local preserves, which I felt obligated to sample! The fig and hazelnut was to die for, and became a perfect accompaniment to my picnic on Hono beach.


Being on the islands allowed my thoughts to easily unwind and settle, leaving me with space and energy to appreciate the simple things in life – sun reflecting off the water, the sound of the breeze filtering through the trees.  Life doesn’t get much better than this!

Soon enough, as with all the other stages of my trip, it was time to move onwards to a new destination. I felt so relaxed that I was actually ready to head home, but this would have to wait for just a few more days. It was time to travel towards my final stop – Copenhagen. This little creature did his best to accompany me on my journey, but sadly I had to leave him behind! Until next time, little kitty.


Crafts Happy Stuff Making Gifts Recipes Travels

Christmas Confectionery Cavalcade!

Some days at work are better than others…

A few weeks ago, I was informed by my manager that I would be taking the Eurostar to Brussels for the day, for a Conference. As I have never been on the Eurostar before, I was delighted at the prospect, and spent the preceding week before the trip, bouncing around the office like a kid at Christmas.

I have visited Brussels briefly, once before, when my lovely friend Charlotte and I were stranded there overnight after a disastrous Belgian music festival. We were tired and had tents and sleeping bags to carry, so had been in no mood for sightseeing – perhaps this trip would give me a chance to see the city in a different light!


My excitement slightly wore off when I discovered how much of a flying visit my time in Brussels was going to be – we would have around an hour an a half to sightsee, and the rest of the time would be spent in meetings. Oh well, ninety minutes was better than nothing! I certainly didn’t waste my time, and used it to visit Brussels Old Town. The two things that the city is famed for (besides sprouts, of course) are chocolate and waffles, so I thought it was only right and proper that I sampled as many of these tasty treats as I could in the time I had.


Delectable liqueur truffles and chocolate-covered cakes, biscuits and waffles…


…adorable solid chocolate characters and exquisite fudges and caramels…


….every imaginable chocolate-based spread, sauce and dip. I was in heaven!

Although my trip was short, my chocolate tasting inspired me to have a go at making some confectionery as gifts for Christmas this year. My creations may not be quite as classy as those I tried in the artisan confectionery boutiques of Brussels, but it’s the thought that counts!

I had been lucky enough to receive a book on making confectionery from my brother and sister-in-law for my birthday – Sweets Made Simple by Hope & Greenwood. Some of their recipes looked so mouthwatering that I nearly ate the pages! I decided to give some of their truffle and fudge recipes a try.


Firstly, I tried making delicious, refreshing Gin and Lime truffles. The recipe was really easy to follow, and recommended chilling the mix, and then rolling into small balls and coating in cocoa powder. However, I found that the mix was a little too soft, so I opted to coat the balls of truffle mix in milk chocolate to make the truffles a bit more stable. This obviously involved melting large quantities of chocolate in a bain marie, and generally making a chocolatey mess. It’s a tough job, but someone’s gotta go it! to decorate the truffles, I finely grated a small amount of lime zest, and used it to garnish the top of each truffle before the chocolate set.


After the success of the gin and lime treats, I attempted a second truffle recipe from the book. I tried the recipe for white chocolate and limoncello truffles, which I thought would be perfect as my brother Alex and his new wife Kate brought me some limoncello back from their honeymoon in Italy earlier in the year.

Again, I found the ganache a little too soft, so I painted tempered white chocolate into a confectionery mould, and painstakingly filled each chocolate cup and left it to cool, before sealing with a layer of white chocolate and popping out of the silicon tray.

The finished result was glossy, pyramid-shaped truffles, with a pleasing snap as you bit through the chocolate, to reveal a creamy, citrusy centre. Divine. Painting the moulds took a fair bit of time, but the finished confection was certainly worth it.


For my last sweet treat, I decided to make a non-boozy option, for a change. A recipe in the Hope and Greenwood book had caught my eye – Black Forest Fudge. Well, with dark and white chocolate and the addition of morello cherries, what’s not to love?

It was my first time at making fudge, and I’m pleased to say, the result was really successful. I followed the instructions very carefully, using a sugar thermometer to remove the fudge mix from the boil when it hit 113 degrees exactly. I then combined the grated chocolate, poured into a silicon case, and liberally topped with halved morello cherries.


I found that the first attempt was absolutely delicious, but a little too crumbly. However, on successive batches I got better at mixing the chocolate through thoroughly, easing the melted mix into the corners of the tray before it sets, and using a hot knife to cut the squares more neatly.

Ever reluctant to waste anything I have produced, I collected up the crumbs from the crumbly fudge and refrigerated them – perhaps I could use these as an ice cream topping, or better yet, maybe they could be churned into an ice cream of their own? I will make a note to try this as the weather warms up!

In sucessive batches, I also increased the quantity of cherries, as they were simply too delicious. My favourite thing about the fudge is that it’s sweet and creamy, but not too sickly – once you’ve had one square, it’s hard to resist another! So, next time you see me and I’ve gained a stone, blame the fudge.


To complete the repertoire of Christmas edible treats, I bottled up some sloe gin (reprised from last year’s success) and also baked a few more batches of the Swedish sugar and spice cookies. Never let it be said that I would let friends and family go hungry (or sober) at Christmastime.


Crafts Happy Stuff Travels

Scandimania Pt 3: Oslo

After the tradition and tranquility of Trondheim, my arrival in Oslo was a jolt to the senses – as soon as I stepped off the train, I felt like I was in an entirely different and exciting city. I arrived after dark, and was dazzled by an impressive display of lights from every building. This is a beautiful city by night! I strolled along the waterfront, and simply tried to take it all in.

I’m warning you in advance – I didn’t have time to do any crafting whilst in Oslo, I was too busy immersing myself in everything the city had to offer. To be honest, I feel like I fitted so much in to 4 days there, I barely know where to start…


Taking my cues from the bronze tiger at Oslo Centralstasjon, I decided to spend my first morning prowling around the city, getting lost and finding treasures. I started my day at the Akerhus fortress, which, from its imposing position on the waterfront, has defended Oslo for hundreds of years.


I was really lucky with the weather – every day was cold, crisp and sunny. Many of the locals I spoke to asked me why I had chosen to visit Norway in November – most tourists either come in the warm Summer months, or during Christmas. At this time of year, the city is relatively uncrowded, and the colours of the leaves turning added to the gorgeous surroundings.  From the walls of the fortress, you could get a fantastic view of the city, and a great perspective on the Radhus, Oslo City Hall (below).


It’s free to visit the Radhus (a welcome fact when you’re staying in one of the most expensive cities in the world), and the building is simply magnificent. As this is the City Hall, it’s a focal point for the city, and I learned that the Nobel Prize ceremony takes place here every year.

I was really impressed by the amount of decoration on every surface within the hall. As well as the enormous murals that make up many of the walls, there are also huge friezes of geometric patterns, whose colours shift as they travel across the walls. I visited the City Hall in the late afternoon sun, so light was illuminating different parts of the artwork as I looked around. Amazing!

In particular, I loved the stylised birds in the staircase, and and the sheer scale of the murals. I learned that Henrik Sorensen was responsible for the beautiful images on the wall of the main hall, with othern Norwegian artists contributing to the works in other parts of the building, such as the one below, taken from the Festival Gallery, designed and painted by Axel Revold.

I could have spent hours looking at the art and the murals here, but sadly I arrived only 40 minutes before closing. I would definitely visit here again, especially as I didn’t get a chance to look at some of the tapestries on the walls, which were also made specially for the City Hall. 


As I had just seen the home of the Nobel prize ceremony, I thought it would be a good idea to have a look round the Nobel Peace Centre next, before continuing my exploration of the city. It was really informative, giving lots of information on who has won the peace prize each year, and even walking you through how a candidate is nominated and selected for the prize.

There is art everywhere you look in Oslo, which adds to the feeling that it is a vibrant city. Despite the fact Norway is much colder than the UK, all the outdoor artworks encouraged me to spend more time outside, rather than cozy and warm inside.

With this in mind, on the second day I decided to hire a bike and cycle up to Vigelandsparken, one of the main tourist attractions in Oslo. The park is home to the sculptures of Gustav Vigeland. It is is the world’s largest sculpture park by a single artist, and it contains 212 sculptures of men, women and children, all produced by Vigeland himself during the 1930s and 40s.

The sculptures are all made of either stone or bronze, and some are life size, whilst others are absolutely enormous! My favourite work was a fountain, with bronze trees around the perimeter, which each had a person sitting inside the branches. Around the walls of the huge fountain were bronze tiles depicting all sorts of relationships – parents and children, siblings, friends and lovers.

It’s inspiring to see one artist’s vision in its complete form – the whole park is a testament to Vigeland’s work.

The next stop on my Oslo expedition was the place that kickstarted the whole Scandinavian journey: ever since learning about the Oseberg viking burial ship on a BBC documentary a few years ago, I have become fascinated by Viking culture, and have been reading Viking sagas and learning as much as I can. It was this interest in Vikings that inspired my Orkney adventure earlier in 2014, and it was a desire to see the Oseberg ship which got me thinking about planning a trip to Norway. Words cannot describe how excited I was to be here!

One of the greatest joys of visiting Oslo out of season, was that I had the Viking Ship museum almost entirely to myself! It was just me, three Viking ships, and a handful of other stunned visitors, for the few hours that I was there. As soon as I walked in, I was brought face to face with the elegant bow of the Oseberg ship, the most preseved Viking ship to have ever been found. It is a myth that Viking burial customs meant that the dead were deposited in boats, which were then set on fire as they sailed into open waters. In fact, many boats were buried beneath the ground, containing the dead and any objects that they might need in the afterlife.

The Oseberg ship was found in a field around 100km south of Oslo in 1904, and the fascinating thing about its discovery was that it did not contain a King or Warrior, but a wealthy woman and her younger servant. Little is known about the pair, but aboard the boat with them were slaughtered farm animals, chariots, caskets and valuables. Considering the ship is over 1200 years old, the quality of the carvings is exceptional. I learned that these originally would have been brightly painted, and when the boat was originally unearthed, the colours were still visible. However, in order to preserve the ship, scientists had to use chemicals that did not save the paint.

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This was absolutely a bucket list activity for me – I’m so glad I got to see it!

I needed to come back down to Earth after my Viking ship adventure, so I spent the afternoon strolling around the Norsk Folkemuseum, which is five minutes’ walk from the Viking ships. At the Folkemuseum, you will find buildings from different eras from across Norway – a sort of medieval theme park! It was really relaxing wandering through the various farmsteads and traditional villages.


Just as the sun was fading, I found myself walking towards a genuine Norwegian stave church, on the top of a hill. It had been transported from a town called Gol, an hour North of Oslo. The church was built in the 1200s, but was transported to the Folkemuseum in the late 1800s when the people of Gol proposed demolishing it to make way for a new church. It was mind blowing to be standing in the doorway of a building that was over 900 years old! I nabbed a passing tourist to take a quick snap of me, but I realise the pictures don’t do it justice. Fortunately, for this one, I don’t really need pictures – every time I think of the stave church, I can still smell the incredible scent of 1000 year-old, smoky, pine sap coming from the walls of the building.

I can’t believe one city held so much excitement! I wanted to get every last drop of experience out of Oslo before I had to leave, so on my final afternoon, I had time to quickly take the train North, out of the city, to Holmenkollen,  the famous ski jump used in the Lillehammer winter Olympics in the 1990s. Despite my fear of heights, I bravely made it right to the top – the views were totally worth it.


After a thrilling week in Norway, it was time to wave Ha det! to Oslo, and return to Sweden. However, I wasn’t sad to be leaving, because I know I will definitely return to this amazing country.

Crafts Happy Stuff Travels

Scandimania Pt 2: Trondheim

Right, I know I’m taking my time in posting blogs at the moment – life has been frantic and I’ve hardly known whether I was coming or going. I’ve really been looking forward to spending an hour or so, casting my mind back to my amazing Scandinavian adventure, and sharing my memories here on the blog. Here goes!

So, after waving a fond farewell to Stockholm, I took a flight North West, to begin 6 blissful days in Norway. It was my first visit to this beautiful country, and I divided my time between two places which couldn’t be more different – firstly, the historic city of Trondheim, in Central Norway, and then onto the capital city, Oslo, in the South. It truly  was a tale of two cities.


I am lucky enough to have friends that live in central Norway – Emily is originally from England, but teaches at an international school in the historical city of Trondheim, and lives there with her Norwegian boyfriend Magnus. When they heard I was visiting Scandinavia, they kindly said I could stay a few night with them, and see what Trondheim has to offer!

It’s a beautiful, traditional city, which actually used to be the capital of Norway until 1217. It was founded by the Viking Olaf Tryggvason, and there is a tall monument to the man himself in the centre of the city square.


I only had 2 days to spend in Trondheim, so I tried my best to fit as many sights as possible. The city itself is peaceful and picturesque, especially the idyllic Old Town area, with its brightly coloured buildings.  I had the opportunity to visit the spectacular Nidaros Cathedral,  as well as walking all the way up to the Kristiansen fortress overlooking the city.

I was happy to see that the city was not immune to guerilla crafters! Many of the statues had been adorned with handmade orange scarves, which I’m sure the statues were grateful for, given that it was just above freezing!

Of course, no holiday would be complete without some crafty purchases, so it will not surprise you to discover that I found a wonderful craft supplier in Trondheim. In the evening, I met up with Emily to stroll around the town. Down a quiet cobbled street, I spotted M. Sommer, which supplied an abundance of ribbons, buttons, trimmings and fabrics. The shop is something of a Trondheim institution, and has been in the same place for 125 years!

It was difficult to know what to pick, when there was so much to choose from! Finally I found the perfect souvenir – some ribbon in the colours of the Norwegian flag. This will be perfect for decorating an item for my flat. I also picked up some lovely blue and green glass beads, as I thought I could probably make a necklace that would remind me of the light sparkling on the waters of the Norwegian coastline.

On my final evening, Emily and Magnus took me to a traditional Norwegian diner in the Old Town. It was called Baklandet Skydsstation and served wonderful, hearty Norwegian food. The diner itself was beautifully decorated with handmade cushions and old portraits and embroideries. I had the most delicious meal of poached salmon in a broth, and I even had a little taste of Magnus’s wild reindeer stew!

I felt refreshed and relaxed after my brief break in Trondheim – the next stage I had to look forward to was a scenic, six-hour train journey through the mountainous Norwegian landscape, towards Oslo.


Thank you to Emily and Magnus for making me so welcome in your beautiful home city! Onward to Oslo…..