Tuesday, 28 June 2011

String art anniversay gift & some artistic recycling ... ...

It has been two years since me and my wife got married (our anniversary was on the 24th of June) and we decided last year that we would try and stick to the traditional gifts, so for our first anniversary we gave each other handmade gifts made from paper, and this year it was cotton.

I must admit I found it quite difficult to find something I could make from cotton, I wasn't even sure I should, but thanks to twitter and the mention of string art I thought I was onto a winner, so instead of string I used cotton :-)

This is the gift I made for my wife -

I made the frame from bits of wood and the edging is buddleja.
It turned out pretty good, although I did a lot of swearing trying to get the pattern right, I also did a little swearing trying to find the right sort of pins to use, I wanted copper pins / nails and eventually I found them, after looking in 4 different places.

Here's a picture of the lovely photo frame my wife made for me -

Much modge podge was used :-)
So there's the string art, I'm sure people will remember doing similar things when they were kids ? today I sat here pondering what about using wire to do the same thing ? so I gave it ago.

I've used the same heart pattern, but this time I've used fine copper wire instead of string (I'll include a like to the website where I got the templates from) so I started the wire version in the same way as I did the cotton one, although this time I glued a piece of black card to the wood as I figured this would make the copper stand out more.

Here's the template I used - 

It's easy to follow.

After fixing the template to the wood I marked out where each pin needed to go, then I removed the template and started putting the pins in, I used to same copper pins as with the cotton one.

Putting the pins in -

Nearly done, there's only 80.
Once that was done it was time to start adding the wire,it's just a matter of repeating a sequence all the way round the circle, until it looks like the picture in the template.

First section done -

So much easier the second time round.

 One thing with using wire is that it can cut your fingers if you pull it too hard, so be careful, I'd also recommend wrapping the wire around the odd pin now and then to keep it tight, and to  stop it un-wrapping.

And here is the finished article, the picture doesn't really show it off very well, it catches the light in a way that seems to make it move almost, and as it's copper it will eventually start to go green, which adds another dimension to it, and you can hang it up outside, although I wouldn't use card as a backing, maybe paint the wood black before putting it outside, this will make it go green faster.

The finished article -

I still need to add a frame of some sort.
Now copper wire like this can be quite expensive, this uses a couple of metres of wire, which could cost a few quid, but there is a way you can get free copper wire to use for all sorts of craft type projects, including jewellery making.

The wire I used for this came out of an old computer power supply, it was an old one that had recently decided it wasn't going to work any more, so as we do with a lot of things we took it apart to see if we could use any on it for other things.

Most electrical items will have some kind of copper wire in them, especially things that have a motor, like a hoover for example, or old stereo and other things as well, like old tv's (not the flat panel type) it's always worth taking broken electrical items apart as there are some very useful bits and bobs inside them.

Before you get to work with a screwdriver it's a good idea to let whatever you intend to take apart sit for a few days, just to make sure all the electricity has discharged.

This is what you're after - 

There is usually loads of wire on these.

Here's how to take an old computer power supply apart to find one.

It's pretty easy, just a few screws and if all you want is the copper wire then a hammer is an effective extraction tool :-)

Power supply - 

I have quite a few of these lying about.

All you need to do is undo 4 screws on the casing and then 4 more on the inside, then you should be able to get at the coil.

Case screws -

Screws already removed :-)

Once you have it open you'll need to remove the other 4 screws I mentioned, these just hold the circuit board down.

Case open -

The coil is just under the 2 silver plates with holes in.

The coil -

They are usually covered in plastic, and there's only 1.

And that's about it, the wire may vary in gauge (thickness) and there maybe some other bits of copper wire as well, so it's worth having a good look, here's the link to the website where I found my template, they have some free ones, and some you have to pay for.

Sting Art Fun ---> http://www.stringartfun.com/

Thanks for reading.

Inspire Me Beautiful

Monday, 20 June 2011

Knitted back scrubber ... ...

It seems there is some kind of singularity or some other anomaly that eats random objects from our house, least that's my theory. The latest thing to be eaten is the back scrubber we had in the bathroom, we have no idea where it went it's just vanished, although I suspect it'll turn up in years to come in a very strange place for a back scrubber.

I have to say I was a little annoyed at it's disappearance, as back scrubbers go it was a good one, nothing special, just plastic with plastic bristles, but it did the job :-)
So I decided I would make one, although not out of plastic and it's not a brush either, it's just not satisfying to get out of the shower without giving your back a good scrub.

Here it is -

Yes it's knitted, and yes it is made of string :-)
Yes I've been knitting again ;-) it may seem odd to use string in this way, but we noticed when I made the dish cloths that the string was similar to the fancy exfoliating cloths you can get, so I though that string would make a good back scrubbing material, it works well, and cost less than a new back scrubber (under £2) it's washable, not sure this matters considering it's for use in the bath or shower ? and it will start to break down eventually and you can just chuck it on the compost heap when it's reached the end of it's life, so it's biodegradable unlike those nylon shower scrubber things.

Knitting one is easy, even for someone with limited knitting skills such as myself, all you need to do is a basic stitch and knit a strip about 5 or 6 inches (15cm) wide and about 12 inches (30cm) long.
Then you need a couple of straps / handles to hold onto so you can actually use it, to do this I just crocheted 2 chains of string about 12 inches (30cm) long, you can knit them as well, once you have your 2 straps it's just a case of tying them to each corner of the larger strip, a few knots should do the trick.

Here's a picture of each end -

One end with the strap attached.

And the other end, which oddly enough looks very similar ;-)

All finished, ready to scrub :-)
 And there you have it, one fancy recyclable back scrubber for very little money, a ball of parcel string costs about £2 but you can get them from poundland type shops, so if you need a back scrubber because yours has been sucked into another dimension why not knit one from string ?

Thanks for reading.

Sunday, 19 June 2011

How make a gate (a rough guide) ... ...

I figured it's about time I wrote another post seeing as it's bee a while since the last one.
Things have been a little hectic of late, finally got approval to build a small poly-tunnel on our allotment plot, so got that to do, spent 3 hours weeding the plot in the rain the other day, not ideal, but had to be done weeds grow very quickly.

Anyway I thought I'd give people a rough idea on how to build a simple gate, it's really not that hard even if you don't have much practical experience it's a good starter project, and it's easy enough that the kids can help as well.

I had to build a gate for our allotment plot, well I didn't have to it was the easiest option for the small issue of no fencing on the front of the plot, and as it's half a plot, fencing off the front was cheaper than fencing our section and putting some kind of divider down the middle, not that it cost that much as I recycled some wood from various places.

Here's the gate in place -

The fencing was recycled from our pond cover.
It's not a perfect gate, but it does the job, I got the wood for it from a couple of saw horses I made to hold our desktop whilst I worked on it. Ideally the diagonal piece should go from corner to corner, but it wasn't long enough :-)

Making a gate is easy, and you can approach the job in different ways I've made a few gates through the years, big ones, small ones and all sorts of other types.
You can make your gate as simple or as complicated as you want, it depends on what you want it for, the gate for the allotment just need to serve as an entrance into the plot, so I was too bothered about aesthetics, just as long as it could be locked and opened easy I was happy.

Here's a closer look at the allotment gate - 

It's upside down in this picture, but you can see how it's built.

It's basically a square frame with some extra bits for strength, I chopped the wood out on the uprights and the diagonal piece so that the diagonal sat inside the main frame, but you could just fix it across without chopping it in, although for a nice neat job it's probably better to chop it in.

This is a picture of our front garden gate, I built it 4 years ago and it's still as strong now as it was then :-) it's a slightly more complex build, but don't worry I drew some diagrams (all be it dodgy ones) to give you an idea of how it's made.

Front garden gate -

Could do with a coat of paint now :-)
This one is made to be a lot sturdier than the first one, it's a good idea to think about where the gate is, how much it's going to be used and things like where will hinges fix to it and any locks, the allotment gate only has a few small hinges and a small slide bolt, the gate itself weighs very little compared to this one.

If you click on the picture you should get a larger view, which will give you a closer look at how it's made (don't forget to click back in your browser ;-)

Here's a picture of the other side of the gate -

I used some large t hinges on this, and it's self closing, by way of the spring.
I made a diagram to show how it fits together, but again if you click on the picture you can get a closer look, the main frame of this gate is fixed in a different way to the allotment gate, this one uses wooden dowels to secure the main frame, I didn't want to see any fixings when looking down on the gate, I just used screws on the allotment gate.

Dodgy diagram time ;-) 

This is how I built the front garden gate.

Feel free to copy the pictures, they might prove useful, this gate was perhaps a little more complicated than it needed to be, I guess I was experimenting a little with it, but it works so I'm pleased (not all my experiments work) I've made another diagram which might help explain a little more what's going on with this particular gate.

Another diagram -

Perhaps not the clearest of descriptions.
If you compare the above diagram to the pictures you should get a clearer idea of how this gate is built, however if you don't want to get this complicated you can build a gate easily, in about an hour (maybe less) and for as little as £15 if you buy new wood, if you can recycle some wood from some where then it'll be even cheaper.

Here's the last diagram (I promise ;-)

Doesn't get much easier.
As it says in the diagram this gate uses 9 pieces of wood, depending on how many uprights you use, obviously more uprights the wider the gate, so it's a good idea to measure the hole where you intend to put the gate, this will give you an idea of how much wood you'll need, you can also work out how far apart to put each upright and how high to make it. 

You can see that the upright pieces are fixed to 3 other pieces (the 2 horizontal and the 1 diagonal) this isn't going to stop a charging bull, but it'll do to keep things out of certain areas of your garden (things like the kids or the dog, or both) and as the diagram says you don't need the diagonal piece, but I would use it as it will make the gate much stronger.

Thanks for reading.

Wednesday, 8 June 2011

If you build it, they will come ... ...

Yes if you build it they will come ... ...

But build what exactly ? (don't worry this is going somewhere) I'm talking bugs, or more specifically ways you can attract bugs into your garden, and not just bugs all manner of wildlife.

Why would I want to attract bugs into my garden ? I hear you ask, quite frankly why wouldn't you ? see attracting bugs leads to other wildlife coming to your garden, for example if you grow things that attract slugs and snails (like we do) then you may find that after time you get things that eat them, like frogs and toads, and if your really lucky you'll get a hedgehog.

Not a great picture, we were stunned by Oh my god it's a hedgehog !
When we first moved into this house we saw a hedgehog in the garden, and set about trying to make sure it was okay, we didn't put food out, but we adapted the pond so they couldn't get stuck in the water, and if they did manage to get into the pond we made it so they could get out, but we only saw one hedgehog,and to the best of our knowledge we haven't had any since, that was four years ago, so needless to say we were a little surprised when we saw this little hedgehog snuffling about the other night.

You see the place you call a garden where you like to sit and chill out is much much more than that, even small gardens are little eco-systems, you'd be surprised at how many living things are right outside your door, and even if you don't have a garden I bet you could find loads of different things living around your house, inside and out.

I've said it before and I'll say it again, kids (and adults) are losing touch with nature, and it's a shame, especially when we can do something about it, and it's simple stuff that doesn't cost loads of money, and it will also benefit us as well.

So here's how to build a bug house, they are really easy to make yourself, but you can also buy them, but this will cost a little more, and to be honest it makes more sense to build one yourself because you can get the kids involved and they will learn about bugs and wildlife in general.

All you need for this is 4 bits of wood, about 4 inches wide and a load of garden canes (obviously you'll need some nails or screws as well)

What you're going to make is something like this -

It's not the best bit of wood work I've ever done, but it doesn't need to be.

It's basically a box stuffed with bits of garden cane, but it creates little nooks and crannies that bugs love, this is the second one we've made, and it's easy enough for the kids to help as well.

So to make this you will need 4 bit of wood, the size isn't that important, but the wood needs to be about 4 inches wide, you can make it as big or as small as you want.

Measure out your wood, the pictures are just for reference really as the size of the bug box is up to you -

Measuring out, ours is made from old bits of floor board.
Once you have your 4 bits of wood you then need to fix them together to make a box, like so - 

You can use nails or screws to fix it together.
You may or may not have noticed that the bug box I made is rectangular, but the one in the picture is square, this is because I didn't have enough garden cane to fill it, so had to shorten the sides a little, so top tip, make sure you have enough stuff to complete this project before starting it :-)

Once you have your box all you need to do is stuff it full of short lengths of garden cane, which you need to cut at roughly the same width as the box, you can leave some a little shorter or longer as this will create extra holes and gaps for bugs, the thicker the garden cane the better, about 1cm or more is good.

When that's done you can fix it in a warm spot some where in your garden, or on a wall somewhere (if you don't have a garden) a nice warm spot is good for bugs, you might even get some bees staying for a while.
Like I said this is the second one we've made, the first was built for ladybirds, we even painted it red and gave it black spots (feel free to decorate your bug box) however we didn't get many ladybirds, mainly because these guys moved in.

Meet Nuctenea umbratica The Walnut Orb Weaver.
Yes our ladybird house got taken over by big black spiders, but we don't mind as spiders go these are quite interesting, they only come out at night and they make really great webs. Here's some information about this spider - Walnut Orb Weaver (opens in new window) So even if you don't get the bugs you intended you will get something equally as interesting.

Here's something else you can do, this time for bees, and no you don't need a bee hive, in fact all you need is some tube and a couple of plant pots.
Some bees don't make hives, they make much smaller nests of sometimes a few and sometimes just one or two, you might have seen them going into holes in the ground, or into holes in trees and such like, well you can build them a hotel, which will give them a warm dry place to rest up when the weather gets cooler.

Here's ours -

Confession time, I actually made this last year :-)
Yes I made it last year, and I finally got round to putting it in the garden this year (bad I know) but better late than never right ? ;-)

Here it is in the garden -

You can just see the tubes poking out from under the rocks.
I used some old hoover hose pipe I had lying about this works well, but you can get bits of tubing from diy type shops quite cheaply, and most people have a couple of plant pots lying about.

Here's the how to (if you click it you can get a bigger view, then just right click and save the picture to your system)

Bee hotel -

Easy to follow instructions :-)
Of course you can also grow plants in your garden that will attract bugs and such like, and bees love a nice flower, and even if you don't have a garden it's not the end of the world, get a small window box and plant some flowers in it, you may not get anything straight away, but they will come, and you can sit at your window and watch them come and go with the kids.

And if for some reason you can't do any of the things I've mentioned, you can always go looking for bugs in and around where you live, you'll be surprised where bugs end up, take a camera and a magnifying glass, and a book to help identify the bugs you find, trust me kids love looking for bugs, and please if you find any bugs under rocks and such like always put the rocks back in the same place when you are finished looking, you wouldn't like it if some one moved your house and didn't put it back again ;-)

Thanks for reading.