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Welcome to the Toadstool Cottage Crafts blog.

Hi I'm Pip and this is my blog about the behind the scenes goings on of my business - Toadstool Cottage Crafts. I've always loved craft and sewing but last year I thought I'd see if I could make it into a business.

This blog is a way of sharing my journey with you the ups and downs the successes and disasters (and there have been a few!). I know it will at least give you something to laugh at, but hope it will provide you with tips and inspiration for your own craft endeavours! If you have a question or something to say just leave me a comment.

Sunday, 5 March 2017

With a Heavy Heart and .....

With a heavy heart and a thickening waistline I have to admit I am longer a size 12.

Very slowly over the years I have ‘grown’ from a size 8, to a 10, and then to a 12 and I don't remember being the slightest bit concerned.

The actual numbers are not important, it is the 'extra' bits that have arrived without an invitation. They have been coming for years but I have been ignoring them. At only 5' 2" these extra bits are now quite noticeable, especially to me.

I admit to having been extremely lucky, I have eaten whatever I wanted all my life. I eat chocolate like there is no tomorrow and still have 2 sugars in all my drinks.

When I stand on the scales I discover that I weigh less than the 'average' for my height, and yet my stomach is too big, my waistline has vanished and my bottom- that I have never really noticed before, has suddenly become quite noticeable!

I am not the shape I want to be!

 As I said the actual numbers are not important, it is the lumps and bumps that are important and all in the most ridiculous places, I mean who knew you could get ‘back fat’? I certainly didn't and what is more I don't want fat there or anywhere else either.

Can you remember that advert that said "If you can pinch more than an inch..."?

Well I can pinch far more than an inch!

I blame Joe Brown for all this.

I do love Joe Browns clothes, they are different and quirky and I just love them. I don't own many of them because they are not all suitable for someone of my age! However I spotted a couple of lovely tops in their Autumn collection but I thought they were too expensive so I waited and waited until their sale and just before Christmas the tops were reduced and I bought them. Naturally I ordered my normal size 12. When they arrived I was bitterly disappointed to find that they were far too tight for me!

I am going to have to do something about my ‘shape’ as I cannot afford to replace my entire wardrobe.

However in the meantime I have decided that I am going to 'alter' my tops  and I have found a lovely dress in the local charity shop which I am going to chop up and use to enlarge one of them. It may take me quite some time.....but I will post an image when it’s done!

Joe Browns have now sent me their Spring catalogue and once again I have found some lovely tops which I couldn't resist. This time I have bought them in a size 14 and they fit me! Soon they will be too big.........I hope!

Thursday, 12 January 2017

First time for Gel nail varnish.

I bought some gel nail varnishes and an LED lamp for both of my daughters and my daughter-in-law for Christmas, so naturally I had to buy one for myself.

I had spent quite some time researching the best buys for the lamps (we all had different ones so that we can compare) and the varnishes and was very proud of myself for selecting 'soak off' varnish. Ideal for one of my daughters who has very sensitive skin on her hands and fingers, my only concern was - if the varnish soaks off, then surely it will soak off in the shower and whilst washing dishes etc.
However we discovered that it doesn't 'soak off' in water, it requires nail varnish remover to soak it off!
We tried them out on Boxing Day. It did take quite some time to cure our nails this was because the lamps were 12 watt and all the instructions I could find on the internet were for 36 watt lamps, so we just tripled the times required for all the various layers. I think we probably over did the times and in future we will experiment with shorter times.
18 days later and my nails are still looking brilliant.
Can you spot the nail that I broke on Christmas Eve?
I never managed to get 10 perfect nails at once.

You can even see how much my nails have grown over the last 18 days. I have never had 'gel' nails before and I am so impressed with them, no cracks or chipping, still intact all around the tips and still so shiny.
Today I decided to attempt to remove the varnish.
I had read somewhere that you should soak the cotton wool pad in acetone, wrap it around your nail and then wrap it in foil.
However they kept falling off, so I wrapped them in cling film as well.
They stayed on slightly better but all my fingers kept sticking together!
Reminds me of the time I tied to glue a broken finger nail back together, don't actually remember exactly how I did it, but I managed to glue my finger to my lip!
I removed the first foil and as the varnish was still there I began to scrape it off with a metal cuticle scraper. By the time I got up to about the seventh nail I realised that if I had just waited longer the varnish was now quite soft and bubbly and came off easily!
Scrapping off the varnish was not a good thing to do
I have now rubbed a cuticle/nail oil all over my nails and they look a little better.

I am going to invest in those plastic peg like structures that clip the cotton wool pads onto the ends of your fingers and in future let them 'soak off' for longer.
Despite my problems removing the varnish I absolutely loved my beautiful, long lasting, shiny nails and I will soak them for longer next time to avoid scrapping and damaging their surface.
We each had 6 different colours of varnish, so I have another 5 colours to choose from and I can't wait to try my next colour.

Wednesday, 28 December 2016

Goodbye to 2016

Surprise! It's me, I'm back.

I must apologise, to those of you who were reading my blog, for my absence, but life got in the way.
This time around I am going to attempt to keep up to date with my ramblings.

Having spent weeks preparing for Christmas and being so excited about everything ....... I had to go to bed very early on Christmas Eve because I felt poorly. I had a lousy night and just wanted to stay in bed on Christmas Day but managed to drag myself out of bed when I heard my husband trying to cancel all the arrangements.  Nooooooooo.

Currently still wrapped in my dressing gown but beginning to return to normal, although my family would probably not agree with the 'normal' bit.

I have some fantastic presents that I will be using in 2017 and a massive list of exciting things that WILL be done and I will keep you informed all the way.

Just to whet your appetite......
  • I am going on a stained glass workshop course - so excited.
  • We are having secondary double glazing put in. You may not think that is very exciting, but believe me it is.
  • My husband and I are going to attempt to landscape our garden and build 3 (yes 3) patios.
  • I have a Dremel 3000 - can't wait to use it.
Plus there are a million other things on the 'To Do' list.

But I won't be starting any of these until 2016 has finished.
So Goodbye 2016.
Roll on 2017 and a very Happy New Year to one and all.

Wednesday, 25 June 2014

Happy Strawberry Parfait Day.

Hands up all those who knew that today June 25th was National Strawberry Parfait Day.

As I have been glued to Wimbledon since it started on Monday and getting a little envious of seeing people eating strawberries and cream, I thought perhaps I should make myself a Strawberry Parfait.

I couldn't find a recipe that I liked the sound of, so I decided to take a bit from one recipe and a bit from another and add a few bits that I liked and I came up with this....

Ingredients: Strawberries, Double Cream, Brown Sugar, Condensed Milk, Brandy (not essential!), Black Pepper, Muesli (or a flapjack!)

Keep a few strawberries for garnishing the finished parfait.
Add the remaining strawberries to a frying pan and sprinkle one dessertspoon of brown sugar over the strawberries.

Heat the strawberries gently - you don't want to make jam!
Once the strawberries have softened add a dessertspoon of Brandy (only if you fancy) and grind some black pepper all over the top.

Squash the strawberries a little and mix well.
Remove sufficient of the mix to fill your bowls/glasses.
Beat together 125ml of double cream and 125ml of condensed milk.
Once the cream and condensed milk are mixed together well, add the strawberry mixture that is still left in the pan.
Leave some of the juice in the pan for later.
Keep beating until this now pink mixture thickens.
Choose your bowls/glasses and add the strawberries to the bottom, then carefully add the cream mixture onto the top.


Slice the strawberries you kept back for garnishing and place on the top (mine are a little too large).
Scrape the juices from the pan and pour over the top.


Place in fridge to chill until required.
My original idea was to sprinkle muesli (or flapjack) over the top just before serving - but as my strawberries are so large I don't really have the space, and anyway I can always eat the flapjack later!!
Please let me know what you think if you make it.
Better still send me images of your Strawberry Parfait.

Tuesday, 20 May 2014

It is best not to blink.

I seem to have been so busy recently, I blinked and half of April and May just disappeared!

So I decided to get some help... meet my new helper!
He is called Toby.

I had to go away for a few days on business which meant working in the day and then spending quite a bit of time in the evening on my own, so I thought I would take Toby with me as I would have plenty of time to make some accessories for him.

So here he is... making himself at home in my room,



                not looking too bad after a long

 Luckily we don't need one of these
and we definitely don't need one of these!
However we do need one of these,
and these will be very useful.
Time to freshen up

and now we're ready for a bit of crafting!
I felt as though Toby needed something to show that Winter was over and it was now Spring, what better than a basket of flowers. So I opened my box of goodies and set to work on making a basket.

Using the string I made a 'snake' coil by just wrapping round and round, keeping it flat to make the base of the basket. I sewed the coils with blanket stitches every so often to secure it all together. When it looked as though the base was big enough I began to come up the edges of the basket by wrapping on top of the previous layer of string, again using blanket stitch to secure it all.
Here is a close up of the basket in progress...
I must admit it took a lot of wrapping and sewing before I thought the basket was large enough and as you can see by the lights in the car park it took a lot of time as well!!
I made the handle by plaiting three lengths of string and tying a knot at each end and then sewing it onto the sides of the basket.
I then loosely sewed the basket to Toby's hand.
Now for some flowers. Using the yellow felt I cut around a 20p piece and a 5p piece (for each flower) and then I fringed the edges of the shapes.
The next picture shows how I threaded first the larger 20p shape and then the smaller 5p shape onto a cut length of pipe cleaner. Scrunched and sewed them together. I then cut out two of the moustache shaped leaves from the green felt, put a small hole in the middle and threaded them up from the other end of the pipe cleaner.
Now if only I could have found the green pipe cleaners when I did my packing I wouldn't have had to do the next bit....
I made 6 flowers in total, 4 in his basket and 2 in his hand.
Here is Toby on my stall at the Bakewell Show
and here he is checking out the local talent!!
Looking forward to fashioning his Summer wardrobe!!

Tuesday, 15 April 2014

Some Days You Wish You Hadn't Bothered To Get Out Off Bed.

Today has been a disaster.

I have come up with a design for a new bag.
Not just any old bag but an all singing and all dancing one!

Now its only a small bag approximately 18cm wide by 12cm tall and 4cm deep (to be precise), but it has to work on so many levels.
So there is a zip here, and a pocket here, and a thingy for holding something here, and another one exactly the same over here.
Then there is a security strap here and a keyring there, oh and I want the bag to have some body to it I don't want it all flimsy floppy.
Then the lining has to be wipe clean, but the whole bag has to be very pretty and suitable for many different situations.

So I started on Saturday and drew the pattern - which in itself was very easy until I discovered that my ruler doesn't seem to draw a straight line any more and the set square is not square!

Usually I only make one bag at a time but this time I decided to be efficient and make more than one, it has to be quicker.
So I cut out 8 different pretty fabrics for the outer bag and then I cut the interfacing for all 8 and then the linings for 8.
I ironed all the interfacings into place and by now it was Sunday evening!

I was still trying to work out how to make the bags firm, I have some really stiff interfacing but it is so stiff that it can't be turned through to the right side after sewing.

On Monday morning I came up with a brilliant idea!
I will cut the stiff interfacing small enough to slip in between the lining and the outer fabric after they have been sewn, but before they are sewn together.
So I spent Monday cutting the stiff interfacing and ironing it onto some thin white fabric.

Today is Tuesday and everything is ready and I can start to sew and the bags will be ready in no time at all.

However I hadn't reckoned on today being one of those days!
'Some Days You Wish You Hadn't Bothered To Get Out Off Bed.'

Everything went wrong!

The tension wouldn't work properly, it had ideas of its own.
The security strap was so fiddly and kept getting jammed under the foot of the machine.
The wipe clean material was sticking to the sewing machine and causing problems.
Worst of all was the 'brilliant idea' that I had of just sliding in the stiff interfacing - basically it would not slide in! I started with the bag flaps and I had to cut a bit off here and then some more off there and then shape it around the curved outer edge and then ease it into place (brute force was used) but then I remembered that it was 1/2cm too tall so I had to pull it out and cut off the 1/2cm and then ease(?!) it back in. This happened 6 times, most people would remembered after the first one, but not me.
I only had 2 more to go but as I was having such a bad time of it I decided to move onto the zip pockets. Not such a good idea because just at the crucial point of the zip insertion the bobbin decided to run out - it could have been my best zip ever, but now I will never know.

I found myself looking at the clock thinking "Is it time for alcohol?"
 - - - but it was only 3 o'clock!!

Quite glad that I had finished the bottle last night otherwise I might actually have poured a large one!

Enough is enough, I turned the machine off and came away.

So far I have spent almost 3 full days on these bags and I'm not even half way through one of them never mind all eight!!

Oh well, tomorrow is another day....and my new gazebo is coming! Yipee!!


Monday, 7 April 2014

My Rustic Chair.

I have had the most amazing weekend but I ache in muscles that I didn't even know I had!
My husband bought me a two day, chair making course, for my Christmas present and it finally happened this weekend.

The course was run by John at his lovely cottage - but  there is no point in me telling you all about the cottage because he is moving in two weeks! There should have been four of us but due to illness there were only two of us, and it should have poured with rain all weekend but apart from a couple of very short showers we were able to spend the entire weekend working outside in John's garden. Even during the showers we worked under a tarpaulin.

The entire chair is made out of hazel and willow,  all coppiced by John so thankfully we didn't have to chop down our own trees.

First we started with the front and back legs, selecting the right pieces of wood and sawing them to the correct lengths, then we cut the side pieces and to add strength and stability we put in diagonal supports. Every thing was nailed together and every nail hole was pre-drilled to avoid splitting the wood. So now we had a left side and a right side and under John's watchful eye we sawed and nailed and sawed and nailed some more, and eventually we had the framework of a chair.

Now we used willow to create the arms, each piece was individually chosen, cut to length and  fixed in place, then shaped into a sweeping curve.

Next we started with the first piece of the arch for the back of the chair, again this is made from willow so using a fair bit of strength it was possible to curve the willow right around the back of the chair.

This took the whole of the first day to build and trust me it was non stop - apart from the mid morning coffee and flapjack break, the lunch break and the afternoon tea and cake break. Cakes and flapjacks were made by John's wife, Helen, and they were delicious.

The day finished at 4.30pm and I was home by 5.00pm - and ready for bed, a mixture of fresh air and physical work meant I was exhausted and slowly beginning to seize up.

The second day was less strenuous, in fact all we had to do today was to finish the arch at the back of the chair and to fill in the struts on the back and the struts on the seat.

These struts are made from hazel and here is where you can put your own mark on the design of your chair. By choosing particular parts of the hazel different shapes and patterns can be formed and so each chair will be unique.

Simple though it looked and sounded (when John explained it), it took quite a long time to select and cut each particular strut and form a pleasing pattern for the back of my chair. At the same time the remaining back arches are fitted and again everything is pre-drilled and nailed into place.

Lastly the struts are cut and fitted to form the chair seat.

Finally you can sit on your chair!

Now I have my chair at home in my garden it seems to be permanently raining and a little overcast and dark, so the pictures are not very good, the chair is also quite heavy and my muscles are no longer working so I can't move it into a better position.

I think my chair is absolutely amazing, I am so proud of it and I really can't believe that I actually made it myself. I am so looking forward to some lovely sunny days, a large glass of Baileys and a good book!

If you would like a similar chair, I can highly recommend