Don’t worry if your chimney is blocked in. You may not have a roaring fire, like the one pictured but you can create a fantastic feeling of cosiness using lights and decorations.
“Deck the halls with boughs of holly
Fa la la la la, la la la la.
Tis the season to be jolly”
Try filling the grate with Christmas baubles or glass vases filled with tea lights for fairy lights. Use small mirrors as a backdrop to reflect the light.
It may be dark and cold outside but inside you can create a warm festive feel inside. Dress using mantlepiece using a combination of fairy lights, candles and greenery.
You can get some fantastic fairy lights these days but you can also work wonders with plain white lights by intertwining them with other decorations, a few of the straggly bottom branches snipped from the Christmas tree, or even some ivy liberated from a garden wall. Homebase currently have strings of 160 warm white static fairy lights reduced in price from £12.99 to £8.99 – a £4 saving. Homebase is also where we found our wallpaper.
Use white or light colours to bounce the light around the room.
The old drawer unit on the right was transformed using chalk paint and then dressed with cushions and throws.
Remember to give what you plan to revamp a thorough wash down with sugar soap to remove dust and grease.
Garden lanterns can be cleaned and brought indoors. Even your paint job doesn’t have to be that fantastic as a rough finish will give an antique feel doesn’t have to last, as the lanterns will be back in the garden by next spring.
If you want to know how we created this fireplace feature using just a couple of rolls of wallpaper, read Part One here.
We know your up to your armpits in Christmas shopping and the last thing you need is to whip the paint brushes out, but giving a living area a pre-Christmas makeover is cheaper and quicker than you might think.
Hilary transformed the fireplace in this room (pictured left) in one weekend. Even if you don’t have an open fire you can create a festive focus around a blocked in chimney breast, a feature wall or by papering a couple of room alcoves.
Hilary even found time to create some seating using an old cupboard, white chalk paint and scatter cushions!
The key to the transformation is a roll or two or super duper wallpaper. And because you’re not tackling the whole room you can afford to go for something a little more expensive (or possibly something that’s been marked down in price because it’s the last roll of a particular design).
This is what you’ll need:
Rolls of wallpaper are usually 0.53m wide and 10m in length. Measure the space you plan to wallpaper carefully.
You need the total width you plan to cover in metres divided by 0.53 and then the height of the space mutiplied by the number of widths. This will give you the total amount of wallpaper needed.
If you have a large or complex pattern your will need to match this up, which will take extra paper. Good decorating and DIY outlets will allow you to take extra rolls and give you a refund if you return them unopened.
If you were papering a whole room you’d usually start a window and work into the darkest corners of the room. This is because very few walls are entirely true and you can find you pattern ceases to hang completely straight after a while. A plumb line can tell you how out of true your walls are before you start.
If you’re simply going to do a section of the room, start in the centre of the space you plan to paper and work outwards. The joy of a fireplace is that the wallpaper will curve around the chimney breast and any lack of alignment will be hidden in the dark corners at the edge of the chimney.
Follow the paper hanging instructions for your particular wallpaper carefully and apply the paste thoroughly. Cut lengths of wallpaper so there’s enough at each end to trim it carefully into the ceiling or dado rail at the top and the skirting board at the bottom. Smooth out any bubbles as you go.
In the next article in this makeover we’ll give you some fabulous ideas for dressing your fireplace feature to add Christmas magic and sparkle. Read Part Two here.
Thanksgiving is usually celebrated on the fourth Thursday of November. In the United States it’s an official holiday but, if you’re planning to invite family and friends to a meal and you live elsewhere in the world, give them plenty of warning – many people don’t expect a slap up dinner on a work night! (And if you invite a Canadian, keep in mind they celebrate Thanksgiving in October.)
What’s really great about this very America tradition is its focus on your nearest and dearest sitting round the table to celebrate friendships, family, good fortune and nature’s abundance. And it’s becoming increasingly popular outside North America.
We’ve got some great recipes for you below. Thanksgiving is about sharing and so getting everyone to contribute to the meal by bringing a dish is part of the spirit of the occasion. And it’s also traditional to serve all the dishes at once. The mix sweet and savoury dishes is very American.
» Also check out our simple recipe for roast turkey and gravy
“Thanksgiving for me is caught up in childhood memories from Texas: turkey (that I no longer eat), dressing(stuffing), gravy, cranberry sauce, sweet potato pie with marshmallow topping, macaroni and cheese, collard greens or green beans, cornbread and pumpkin pie.
Scattering autumn leaves on the table along with miniature pumpkins and squash gourds always looks festive.”
Make it and Mend it fan, Jamie Lehrer, New York
You can’t go far wrong with Jamie’s autumn leaves mentioned above. But here are some other ideas:
» More on gilding candles in our garden candles article
It was first celebrated by the Pilgrim Fathers in New England in 1621. It celebrated a successful harvest but also recognised the extraordinary hardship the settlers had been through.
The meal itself was based around what the pilgrims had grown – including corn or maize. The wild turkey was native to the United States and was wriiten about in the ‘History of Plymouth Plantation’ by William Bradford some 22 years after the first known celebration.
As more and more of the new American states adopted the idea, President Abraham Lincoln appointed a national day of Thanksgiving in 1863 .
We may not have the tradition of Thanksgiving – but this is one celebration that has to worth adopting. What could be nicer than dedicating a day to simply saying thanks for all the good things in life – when so much of the time we’re moaning about the bad ones? And the lovely thing about Thanksgiving is it doesn’t involve an orgy of gift-giving and commercialism – just a great excuse to spend time with friends and family and reflect on how much we have to be thankful for.
Set a figure now and stick to it. Let all the family know your budget so that you can manage their expectations. One of the best ways to manage your Christmas finances is to start thinking about them as early as possible. Having set your budget, starting thinking about ways of working around it and making the most of it.
I know, I know… there’s not much time, but there are lots of little savings you can make on a daily basis that can add up by Christmas. How about stopping that daily Starbucks habit? Stop now and you could save around £100 by Christmas.
And if you stop buying your lunch at work and start taking your own homemade lunch you could save another £100.
» In praise of the packed lunch
Do you buy a daily paper? Why not try reading a free one online. There are lots of little money saving habits you could take up in time to save a fair amount by the big day.
Get off the bus a few stops earlier – not only will you be fitter from all that walking, but you could save money as well
Don’t switch on the heating during the day – make use of hot water bottles and extra jumpers – » How to make a hot waterbottle cover from an old sweatshirt
Start buying supermarket own brands and budget alternatives, avoid ready meals and take aways. You can save lots of money this way.
Do you want to make your own presents this year? Then you need to get cracking now. Make yourself a plan. Sit down and list all the people you need to give presents to and think about all the things you could make for them. Can you knit, sew, paint, make jam, bake etc? You don’t have to make big presents as it really is the thought that counts.
» Why homemade presents are better
What about autum fruits that haven’t been harvested? Talk to family and friends with apple trees etc (don’t forget about walnuts – they can be harvested too). There may still be fruit out there that’s crying out to be turned into homemade chutney. » 10 top tips for jam making and preserving
And how’s the garden looking? Are the last flowers ready to be rescued and turned into homemade pot pourri?
If you’re a savvy saver you’ll already have saved your wrapping paper and cards from last year. But don’t panic if you haven’t, or if like me you can’t remember where you stored them… there are lots of other bits and pieces that you can find to use. Old books, maps and even junk mail can be turned into amazing gifts, cards, wrapping paper or decorations.
» How to make junk mail Christmas Trees
» How to make junk mail stars
Your own presents. Make use of all that lovely free fruit that’s around. This time of year there’s still fruit around the hedgerows you could harvest and use of to make your own jams, jellies and cheeses and even sloe gin – great presents for all your friends. We’ve tons of ideas.
» Start making your own fabulous Make it and Mend it Christmas now!]]>
In some cases you wanted just wanted to say ‘thank you’ to a loved family member, or share an interesting conversation with a celebrity. In some cases (George Clooney being an example) we suspect you had a wider range of motivations.
In the end, our first prize – Habitat’s on trend Make your own satchel kit £65.00, their lunch box nano £20.00 with its own keep cool wallet and the Eva solo water bottle £20.00 with its cute wrist strap – goes to Lizzy of Gateshead who wants to make lunch for Sheldon Cooper, the nerdy ultra-particular scientist in cult American comedy Big Bang Theory. “I think I could make it to his high standards of perfection!”
Our second prize – the lunch box and water bottle combo worth £40 – goes to Kelly in Berkshire – who wants to make a ‘super healthy nutritious lunch’ for Eli Manning, the American football quarterback (to help him win more games and so turn round her favoured team’s performance).
And congratulations also go to our five runners up – - Matthew, Emma, Lisa, Denise and Helen – who each receive the stylish water bottle.
All the items are part of Habitat’s Christmas gifting range and there’s so much more in-store and online.
Forget that darling little bistro round the corner, or the extra skinny, decaf latte with sugar free caramel syrup. If you really want lunchtime chic – pack your own.
Time was when packed lunch was a limp sandwich in a plastic box forced on children to take to school. Grown ups who unwrapped tin foil at their desks were deemed sad or penny pinching. Who wanted a vacuum flask when you could spend a fortune on milky coffee in a paper cup? How times have changed.
Packed lunches have grown up. Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, one of our favourite chefs, is a packed lunch guru. In fact, Hugh would be the person we’d like to pack a lunch for.
Not only are children bringing far more adventurous packed lunches to school, but an increasing number of us are breaking the 9 to 5 grind with a lovingly created homemade lunch.
And not only has regularly dining on packed lunches become très chic but they also bring a warm, much loved feeling to our pockets. Buying overpriced lunch items on the high street is a remarkably efficient way of making sure you run out of cash before your next pay check.
And forget coffee! Try herbal teas served chilled, or homemade cordials. Even tap water is so much more when sipped out of your Eva solo water bottle (with a slice of lime or a sprig of mint).
Finally, if you want to look gorgeous in that little black dress this Christmas, pack up your lunch – don’t pack on the pounds. Make it yourself and it can be as deliciously low calorie as you want. Kate Moss may say nothing tastes as good as skinny feels – but we beg to differ.]]>
Here at Make it and Mend it we know how important it is not to throw money away, so here’s our guide to prolonging the life of school clothes – whether you’re buying new this term or trying to squeeze more life out of the items you already have…
The way that buttons are attached in factories means they’re always falling off. Pull one little thread and the whole lot is gone in a second. So before you let your children wear anything, re-sew all the buttons and finish off with a dab of clear nail varnish over the thread to hold it in place and stop it unravelling. » Button sewing tips
Little boys (of any age) and trousers don’t mix well. Within minutes of putting on a new pair, the knees will be worn, if not torn. To help prolong the life of the trousers, simply reinforce them by adding a patch on the inside of the trousers over the knee area.
If the knee area is already too damaged, turn the trousers into shorts for next summer, by cutting off at the knees and hemming them up.
3. Brush up your sewing skills – or acquire new ones
You can develop your sewing skills so you’ll soon be patching and mending clothes, letting out or taking in a waistband and hemming skirts and trousers. A few basic skills go a long way. And if you invest in a decent sewing machine you’ll save yourself a fortune in the long run. Modern machines are much easier to master. And own brand machines start at just over £100 – the JL125 from John Lewis has a choice of 18 stitches, stitch width control, twin needle sewing, freehand darning, monograms and embroidery.
The Supermum basic repair kit: sharp scissors with points that you can insert in seams etc. A selection of good quality thread in neutral colours (and including white, black and grey), hemming tape for emergency repairs (see our link to hemming without sewing), pins to hold things in place while you carry out repairs, a pack of needles, needle threader, iron-on patches (that can be cut to shape), marker pen and name tape. Name tape tip: Kids often hate having their names in things as they get older. Try sewing the name tag inside sleeves or under seams where they can be checked but are not on show.
» John Lewis sewing machines
» Basic hemming skills
» Hemming without sewing – the non-sewers solution
» Sewing accessories, knitting and haberdashery
Take your washing machine down to 30 degrees. Not only is this environmentally friendly, but clothes friendly too.
Make sure you turn jumpers, skirts and trousers inside out before you wash them. This will protect them from damage and keep the colour longer.
Constant washing can make whites go a bit grey and dingy but, with a little forethought, you can keep shirts looking clean and fresh.
To keep shirts white, simply soak the shirt in a bowl of warm water and lemon slices and then leave to dry in the sun. Lemon juice and sunshine are natural bleaches and the clothes will smell lemony fresh.
7. Download our fantastic stain busting guide
Stains on school shirts are inevitable, but with a little help from our stain guru Stefanie Zia, ink marks will be a thing of the past and you’ll be equipped to conquer even the worst grass stain.
» Join up and download a FREE copy of our stainbusting guide
Apart from costing a fortune in electricity, dryers do dreadful things to clothes. Use an old fashioned clothes line and you will be saving money and clothes. Did you know that in the United States 10-15% of domestic energy is expended on dryers. We support Project Laundry List – campaigning in the USA for a return to line drying.
When hanging dark clothes on the line turn them inside out. Remember the sun is a bleach, by turning coloured clothes inside out you will help stop them fading and keep them looking newer for long.
One of my son’s infant teachers always wore cream clothes to school and always looked immaculate, despite being surrounded by lots of little children. Her secret was that whenever she bought anything new would give it a quick spray of Scotchguard first before wearing. The result was a pristine outfit that was easy to clean.
» Buy Scotchguard products online
Nothing makes clothes look worn quicker than bobbling and unfortunately the cheaper the item of clothing the more likely it is to bobble. By investing in one of these cheap little machines your jumpers will retain that just bought look for a little longer.
» There are a range of wonderful de-bobblers to choose from…
11. Looking after school shoes
If you can afford it, buy leather shoes. They may be more expensive initially, but they will last much longer and are easier to keep looking good. Get into the habit of cleaning shoes at least once a week. Remove any dirt with a little saddle soap first and then nourish with a leather conditioner or a good quality shoe polish. Not only will they look better for regular cleaning, but you will be feeding the shoes and will keep the leather nourished and waterproof.
And invest in some Dubbin
Dubbin is an old fashioned product that isn’t often seen these days except by hikers and treckers, but it works brilliantly for nourishing shoes and keeping them waterproof. It’s a tub of wax that you rub gently into the shoes on a regular basis and can be used with polish as well.
» Read our great tips on shoes care
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Some waste products can’t be recycled, or recycled cost effectively. Apparently similar-looking materials can have widely different environmental impacts, so it’s worth some research into types of disposable containers before you buy your next takeway.
Look out for words like biodegradeable. Stick to paper and card where possible and avoid things that look like cardboard but have a plastic or foil lining.
Polystyrene, or Styrofoam – once thrown away, polystyrene essentially becomes a permanent part of our environment. A total inability to biodegrade makes it the least green option available. You might get your takeaway soup, noodles or coffee in a Styrofoam cup, but think before you use. You make love the odd takeaway but choose one that avoids Styrofoam.
Plastic – a great deal of plastic can be recycled, but there are still some, such as yogurt pots and margarine tubs, which have to be shipped to other countries to be recycled or they are sent to landfill. Recycling rates still remain relatively low – at just 20% – despite the fact that this is a material which is in high demand by many manufacturers.
Cartons – Cartons are made from paper and lined with plastic or aluminium. In the UK alone, consumers use about 4 billion cartons a year and the layer of aluminium makes them impossible to recycle. What’s more, schemes to at least partially recycle these cartons are only just launching in the UK.
Paper – Paper can be 100 per cent recycled into new paper or card, even cardboard boxes, but it is important to make sure the recycled paper is not contaminated by non-recyclable material getting put into recycling bins. If paper is sent to landfill it rots and emits methane into the air. Methane is a powerful greenhouse gas, so when it is produced in significant quantities via landfills, it is in fact contributing to climate change. Paper with the National Association of Paper Merchants (NARM) mark is made from a minimum of 75% genuine waste paper.
Glass bottles – The UK recycles 60 per cent of its glass while other EU countries recycle up to 70 per cent. 600,000 tonnes of glass are thrown away everyday. The average glass bottle contains over 25% of recycled glass, green glass bottles manufactured in the UK contains at least 60% – and sometimes as much as 90% – of recycled glass. Glass bottle banks are ubiquitous in the UK in 2013.
Cans – Recycling aluminium drinks cans is well established in the UK and therefore supporting it is a must for green consumers. They can be recycled into new cans and other products. Recycling just 1kg of aluminium can save 8kg of bauxite, 4kg of chemicals and 14wH of electricity. Because the cans can be recycled time and time again it is the best thing that can be done for the environment. It conserves non-renewable fossil fuels and reduces emission of greenhouse gases like carbon monoxide.
Next time you are buying from a superstore or ordering from a takeaway, stop and think about the packaging and what you will do with it afterwards. Packaging with the recycling mark is favourable but also try and reuse all packaging.]]>
If you want a perfect finish it’s worth spending time getting accurate measurements – before you buy. This can help you make a final decision about whether to go with tiles or vinyl on a role. You may even buy able to grab yourself an end of role bargain if you know exactly how much you need.
Depending on your vinyl thickness and your skirting boards, it may be possible to tuck the vinyl under the skirting, so remember to allow for this. Role vinyl is usually available in different widths, so think about which way round you lay it – down the length of the room or across. This can make a significant difference to how much to you need, or where any joins will be located.
If you’re going to need a join between two pieces think about the best way of locating this so it draws the least attention, or the least wear. Patterned vinyl poses more of a joining challenge and you may need to buy extra to allow for this.
Vinyl flooring comes in a variety of thicknesses and qualities. Avoid anything too thin, particularly for high traffic areas. Ideally, go for something between 1.3mm to 4.5mm. Vinyl on a role can be laid more quickly but is probably better suited to larger, more uniform areas.
If you fancy tiles and particularly if you’re thinking about luxury vinyl tiling, always buy a few extra in case you need to replace laid tiles later due to damage or wear.
You need a clean, smooth, stable, dry surface to lay your flooring on. If laying onto floorboards, cover these with hardboard or ply boarding.
My personal preference is for ply. It can be slightly harder to cut but I’ve found hardboard can sometime leach a yellowish tinge into paler floor coverings over time. Concrete or uneven flooring will need to be screeded using a self-levelling compound. You may want to get a professional in to board our or scree the surface.
If you are laying round curves or challenging shapes – such as round the loo – you can always cut out a template first using newspaper. But remember to lay it on the lino the right way up or you could end up cutting out an uneven shape the wrong way round!
If you’re using tiles it’s worth laying out the tiles roughly first – before you glue – starting in the centre of the space where your eyes will focus. After the initial rough lay out think about how much cutting you need to do and if there are some really tricky areas – such as around pipes, or where you may end up with a row of half tiles.
You might want to jiggle with your layout at this stage to make the job easier, reduce how much cutting you need to do and create the most visual attractive layout.
The most important piece of equipment you’ll need is a utility knife – often called a Stanley knife after one of the main manufacturers. You need straight blades but also something called a vinyl hook if you’re laying vinyl on a role.
This allows you to cut in long continuous movements. Cut vinyl tiles from the top of the tile. Thick tiles can sometimes be snapped when part cut. This is not option for tricky to cut out shapes, such as round door frames and pipes. You will need glue to join vinyl sections or hold the floor in place.
Some stay flat lino does not require gluing. And some vinyl tiles are self adhesive. Ask about the fixing requirements before you buy. Once laid, remove any bubbles for under vinyl flooring by firmly sweeping a broom over the surface starting at the centre of the room and working outwards.]]>
De-cluttering is the act of clearing out the old to make way for the new, and is especially suited to springtime, as we are working the same way as nature herself. We simply can’t Spring Clean efficiently if there’s clutter about. Think about de-cluttering your home, your office – even your life!
Old things – clothes, furniture, books and even people, harbour old energy. You can tell that from the smell of old clothes in a wardrobe or the mustiness of old books. Compare it to the smell of a newly printed book, a new shoe, fresh coffee, spring flowers or a baby.
De-cluttering, is an exchange of energy – getting rid of the dark decaying, winter, yin energy, and replacing it with the sunlight, fresh buds and spring flowers of yang energy.
When you’re finished you’ll have created a fresh space where you can relax, have new ideas, be creative and you’ll have helped by handing out your unwanted things to others who can make fresh use of them. You’ll find all sorts of things you forgot you had, or thought you’d lost forever.
You can do lots of recycling along the way and you may even make a bit of extra cash from some ebay sales too!
First organise your bags and boxes:
Then systematically work through each room, from the top down. Start with book- shelves, ornaments, surfaces, pin boards, wardrobes and cupboards and drawers.
You need to have a clear goal and detach yourself emotionally from things. Just ask yourself every time:
Is it useful, beautiful, valuable or essential?
If it’s not at least two of these, then it MUST go!
Select the relevant box or bag and stick it in, no turning back! If you feel wobbly get your de-clutter buddy to back you up and bin or bag it up for you. Don’t wallow in memories, remember your Goal and keep moving!
It’s all about letting go and allowing newness to enter our lives – new people, activities, clothes, space, money, but most importantly, fresh energy.
It’s essential to de-clutter before any large project, such as starting a new business, moving house, attracting a new partner or having a baby. It removes the old negative energy and allows fresh new positive energy in, which gives us breathing space, enables us to see more clearly and become more productive, and makes available valuable physical space. It’s just like cutting back dead wood!
The simple act of removing, old, no longer useful or unwanted items from ones personal space is liberating. You feel clean, light, exhilarated and more relaxed. Try it – you get a natural high.
It can be therapeutic too, clearing your head, reducing claustrophobic feelings, helping with loss or bereavement or releasing an ex partner, as the removal of physical objects helps to erase emotional memories and heal the hurt which otherwise holds us back.
De -cluttering is the foundation for all Feng Shui activities as it improves the energy flow, attracting more positive energy into our lives and those who share our space.
Kids can actively participate and benefit from the whole thing.
When we de-clutter, we learn how to group, organise and grade things. We learn how to be generous, to give things away, let go, and even how to sell things on e-bay! These are all great life skills.
The ancient art of Feng Shui, deals with maximizing one’s Earth Luck and protecting oneself from un-fortuitous happenings through the position and arrangement of your house, furniture, and posessions. De-cluttering is intrinsic to this, as it allows for the fresh positive chi energy to flow through your space, bringing with it health and inner peace.
If you have any questions for Fiona or would like some advice please send her an email
We’d love to hear your own de-clutter stories – and maybe some before and after pictures. You can email us on email@example.com or post your story on the Forum
>> Organise a clothes swap (swishing) party
>> How to clean you kitchen cupboards without losing your mind
Get ready for a weekend makeover! Just follow our recipe for adding a dash of retro kitchen chic…
You can makeover your kitchen with the minimum of fuss and the accessories for a retro look can be picked up in charity shops, or created using a little ingenuity and only a modest amount of cash.
Are you thinking post war homespun or American diner? Define your style before you go looking for charity shop finds or build your colour scheme around a key feature, such as a wall clock.
Can your kitchen counter be made over as a breakfast bar area? Even if you can’t afford new work tops, think about adding a touch of diner style using Fablon or other sticky backed vinyl covering, or add some retro bare stools.
Modern kitchens tend towards cool, pale colour schemes. For retro chic, choose something bolder and brighter. Reds and oranges for the diner look. Blues and deeper creams for a hint of the 1950s.
Alternatively, choose pale colours for the walls and opt instead for retro items, such as old Coca Cola signs and bright blinds to introduce colour. It’s quicker and you can always redress your kitchen when you get tired of the retro look.
Genuine vintage kitchen items can be costly but charity shops and car boot sales often have reproduction items that were actually manufactured in the 1980s or 1990s.
Look out for advertising signs painted on metal and vintage china, such as the salt and pepper shakers shown – even tea towels. Be choosy. Stick with an era, a theme or a colour scheme, otherwise the end result is going to be less retro and more junk shop.
If you have an eye for colour and shape it is possible to go for a more eclectic mix, but keep to one or two key colours and a central theme such as floral or geometric. Mis-matched crockery can look fantastic.
Combine patterns with bolder blocks of colour, such as teaming flowery cups with plain but boldly coloured plates and saucers. Non-matching china can be picked up for pennies.