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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.

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

Monday, 10 March 2014

Impulsive Buying!

Do you ever buy things spontaneously, on a whim, knowing they will be useful for something, somewhere, sometime? 

I do, quite often!

Now generally these things end up being put away - to be saved for just the right occasion, and what tends to happen is they get lost in my house and I completely  forget all about them.

About 2 years ago, I was walking through Ikea – you know the place you go to not wanting anything, but always managing to come out having bought something. Well, I had almost got through the entire shop without purchasing a single thing - when there it was, this adorable little wicker chair
 If you saw it in real life you too would spot its adorableness!
I just had to purchase it!
I think that I may have been wearing my new Granny hat at the time, even though he was only 6 months old!
I put my new chair away to save it for that special occasion. Luckily as it was rather an odd shape it was quite difficult to lose in my house, so it was always noticeable and therefore not easy to forget.
Many months later I was rummaging through the fabric shop’s remnant box when I came across an off cut which I knew would be just perfect for my little wicker chair. The fabric was a print of Noah’s Ark and some of the pairs of animals.
 I scanned various sections of the fabric onto my computer and cropped and manipulated and cut and pasted …

I know it makes it sound as though I know what I am doing, but trust me, I have no idea! I kept all the images the original size, (not as shown here) but I could have altered them if it had been necessary.
I have a flatbed scanner so I was able to scan the fabric without first cutting it, I didn’t want to cut it as I was going to use it later. If you look carefully at these pictures you can see the images from the folded fabric beneath, luckily the scanner didn’t pick them up. I could have placed a white sheet of paper in between the fabric folds to prevent this, but didn’t think of that at the time!
Anyway when I had all the sections that I wanted scanned into the computer I then printed each section onto tissue paper. I used the sort of tissue paper that you use for wrapping, I cut it down to A4 size and stuck it with sellotape onto a sheet of A4 paper and then fed it VERY CAREFULLY (I did manage to jam the printer quite a few times!!) through the printer.
It took a while for the ink to dry because the tissue paper was not absorbent, but when it was dry I cut around the images fairly close to the outline but not too precisely.
In the meantime I spray painted the little chair using Plasti-kote Satin Super; I chose a pale blue colour to signify sky and water. TIP Don’t spray paint in a force 10 gale!
It took several coats of paint to cover the chair, but I was being a little too perfectionist and maybe 2 coats would have been just as good, plus I wasted a lot of paint in the wind!
I held the tissue pictures up against the chair to decide where I wanted them. Then using ordinary PVA glue, I spread some onto the chair where the picture was going, pressed the tissue picture gently into place and covered it (the picture) in PVA glue.  I did this with all the pictures and then left it alone to dry. When it was dry I re-coated all the pictures with more PVA glue, paying particular attention to the edges of the tissue.

When everything was completely dry I sprayed Plasti-kote Hobby and Craft Sealer all over the  pictures and lightly over the entire chair.
I cut some 1” thick foam into the shape of the chair seat and using the fabric, which I still had, I covered the foam making a comfortable chair seat.
I found the tiniest cushion I could and made a cover for it too.  

By the time I gave it to my grandson he was 2 ½. But he loved it!
So there you have it - impulsive buying, but worth every penny!!

Tuesday, 25 February 2014

The Owl and the P̶u̶s̶s̶y̶c̶a̶t̶ Elephant.

I have just completed my first commission - how exciting is that?

I'm not sure how excited you are, but I am very excited, it makes me feel really special and I am very proud.

Apparently in Brazil there is a tradition of giving small presents to friends and family when they come to visit your new-born. Fancy having to think about this as well as having to think about giving birth! So glad I am not from Brazil.

I was asked to make some fragrant pouches themed on animals or birds

The one thing that I can't do - well actually there are hundreds of things that I can't do, but the one that is relevant here - is draw. I can copy but I have absolutely no ability to draw. So I trawled through the internet, searched through various books, took inspiration from here and there and mushed (that's a good word) it all up and came up with some ideas and lots of sketches.

I tweaked a bit here and there and changed the sizes and finished off with some chubby little baby owls with sleeping eyes. I then traced out all the different areas for the different fabrics, body, tummy, eyes and beak. I do think they are rather gorgeous.


I really enjoyed mixing and matching the fabrics and the ribbons and coordinating the embroidery floss for the eyes - I know, simple things - but it was fun!

The original order was for around 15 to 20, so I made 21. Why? I don't know, but I did.

These are the chosen 15.


I had to resort to buying the 'aromatic dried lavender buds'  from the internet, I searched and searched locally but no one stocked it, not even the garden centres! The lavender I choose was being sold by weight - who knows the weight of lavender required to stuff an owl's tummy?

Obviously I don't because I do have quite a considerable amount left over!

Fast forward several days and I went into town, probably just for a coffee, but I'm really glad I went because the Elephant Parade was in the shopping precincts. Check out the website to see the beautiful elephants and for all sorts of information. I think I have a bit of a soft spot for elephants, I have always wanted a baby elephant in the back garden - but my husband won't let me have one! How mean is that?

The elephants were gorgeous, they were so colourful and vibrant and then I had a flash of inspiration, I rarely get these flashes, but I decided to make some elephants to use up my remaining lavender - who knows the weight of  lavender required to stuff an elephant's tummy????


I still seem to have a considerable amount of lavender left over so next time I really think I need a bigger animal. I may try some woolly mammoths ....

If you pop along to my new Etsy shop you will see a few of the Owls and Elephants.