Wednesday, 24 October 2012

£300 for you to spend on a home improvement project

Over on the website we're running a new competition. We've teamed up with Wickes, the UK's leading home improvement supplier, to find out what your ultimate home improvement project would be. The winner gets £300 to spent at Wickes and 4 runners up each get £25 each.

So get yourself over to the main site and share your inspiration. 

What would it be - swanky new floors for the dining room, taps and tiles in the kitchen, a new bath? Would you paint or wallpaper your way to a new look?

Maybe you need some tools to get the job done? Personally, I've always fancied a pressure washer. Maybe then I'd get the patio looking exactly the way I want it, with a fire pit in the centre, so I can toast my toes even when its chilly.

Win £300 to spend at Wickes

Good luck!

Monday, 20 August 2012

Here's what I just made!

I don't like carrying paintbrushes in my pencil case so decided to make a waterproof roll for both brushes and pencils using laminated cotton fabric from our MIAMI shop. 

I'll be posting the instructions for this on the website shortly - but I'm very pleased with the result - and made from just a quarter metre of fabric plus some cotton fabric for the edging from my stash - and a couple of buttons.
So now I'm all set for my painting holiday in the Scilly Isles next month - can't wait!

We'll also be offering a pencil case kit to make shortly - all ready complete with instructions and supplied by our MIAMI Shop partners RU Craft. More news on this soon!

Clare F

Friday, 17 August 2012

The best things in life are free...

Well derrr….you don’t say?  There are moments in life when I wonder about the value of research – and I say this as a researcher!  Do Sainsbury’s need to spend a vast amount of money to realise that children prefer the simple things in life? 
Sainsbury’s have created a ‘pleasure per penny index’ by asking children aged 5 to 11 to rank their favourite holiday activities according to how happy they make them feel and how special and memorable they are….and guess what? -  playing in the garden or park, water fights or building a den come out on top, while expensive day trips out are way down the list. 

Contrary to popular belief, children value time spent with friends and family over material entertainment. Intuitively this is something we parents already know, but the problem is that we're conditioned to feel guilty that we aren’t doing enough for our children if we don’t take them out to theme parks and fast food restaurants.

Newsflash!…if left to their own devices children don’t get bored! They might have a few moments of whingeing, but they very quickly find something to do and can entertain themselves for hours.  A little  boredom is actually good for kids as it helps them develop their creative skills.  If we constantly force-feed them entertainment, we're denying them the chance to learn to enjoy being alone and find ways to entertain themselves. 

Even on a rainy day there are plenty of things to do.  Give them paper and paints, or salt-dough, or let them build a den and they'll be happy for hours.

So back away from the theme park, keep your hand away from your wallet and give your kids a summer holiday they'll remember!

We've got lots more ideas to keep the kids happy over the holidays

 >> Great ways to entertain the kids in the holidays  
 >> Recycled crafts for kids
  >> Get the best from your holiday

Hilary B

Friday, 3 August 2012

Advance copy of our new book arrives!

The first advance copy of Make it and Mend it, our new book, arrived today.

The book is already pre-selling on Amazon in both UK and USA as well as other online bookstores, including Waterstones and Blackwells. It will be in the shops around about October - just in time for you all to buy it for Christmas gifts! - or add it to your wish list.

The illustrations are beautiful - thank you to the lovely photographer Sian Irvine.

Here are a couple of spreads - snapped on my kitchen table - shown here are Stained glass biscuits and how to make a cake stand from old plates - both of these were Hilary's creations.

Clare F

Sunday, 8 July 2012

Lifting a rainy day with decoupage bunting

Decoupage bunting
It being the summer of 2012, I guess I shouldn't have been surprised when testing out the new Make it and Mend it Rainy Day Pack, that bunting would feature large in the imaginations of my two trusty testers - Florrie and Martha.

In fact Martha got stuck in with gusto as soon as she realised just how easy it is to decoupage (the art of covering objects with decorative paper).

The girls were testing MIAMI's new Rainy Day Pack designed to inspire kids' imaginations and get their finger creating when stuck inside during what looks to be the wettest British summer most of us can remember!

It's a real mixed bag of materials with fabric, card, pens, needles, thread and wool we've specially picked to give them loads of ideas - and test their making skills. 

They used cardboard from an old cereal packet to cut the pennant shapes and then started covering them with the Pack's special decoupage papers with the special quick drying thin decoupage paste. As soon as the pennants were all covered, they were dry and simply needed stringing up. 

Amazingly enough the girls now have 2 metres of their own decoupaged bunting to decorate their room. And believe me - the 'I did that' factor makes all the difference.

Added to which there was a selection of cards, purses and friendship tokens produces. Brilliant work and if it hadn't been a school night I expect our little production line would have gone on for far longer than the 4 hours they spent using their imaginations and learning brand new skills.

Buy your own Rain Day Pack through RUCraft, Make it and Mend it's shop partner. It's  a life saver for this especially wet summer!

Martha and Florrie and their Rainy Day pack
PS: we're going to be publishing a gallery of the most imaginative projects made from the Rainy Day Packs. Have Fun. Clare O'B. Check out the MIAMI site for more 

Wednesday, 4 July 2012

Doing a spot of decoupage

I was about to chuck out this very tired old lampshade. Just as my hand hovered over the dustbin I pulled it back and decided to spend an hour trying to rescue it. Here's the before:

 And here's the after. Not bad eh? I haven't varnished it yet. Will do that and post the instructions on the website.

Meanwhile here's Hilary's instructions for a decoupage dining chair and a decoupage kitchen cupboard door.

Instructions and video now on website and our You Tube channel

Clare F

Tuesday, 3 July 2012

The Homemade Home for Children

Following on from her fabulous book, The Homemade Home, Sania Pell has written The Homemade Home for Children, a beautifully produced publication with 50 child-friendly projects for parents to make for their children. There are also projects suitable for kids to make themselves.

The book is lavishly illustrated with colour photographs of the finished items and line drawings of the steps involved. Interspersed between the main projects are Quick Ideas - projects that can be done with a minimum of time and effort - such as pictures made from children's handprints.

There are ideas for personalising kids bedrooms, easy to make dressing up projects, jewellery made from buttons, vintage dolls and felt brooches - a cornucopia of ideas to delight your children. You can make your kids a garden playhouse using remnant fabric and your clothes line. Sania also makes good use of found objects, remnants and oddments, such as making a sail boat from an old tin bath, a dolls' house from an old bookcase and storage boxes from old suitcases. So the ideas in here aren't going to cost you a lot of money. 

This book would also make a fantastic gift for any creatively minded parent or grandparent.  
The Homemade Home for Children

Clare F

Friday, 29 June 2012

Cake Glorious cake

MIAMI team meeting at Clare O's today and we've been admiring the birthday cake she's made for her god daughter's Hollywood style birthday party.

It's based on Nigella's Malteser cake and features Maltesers transformed into glitter balls. Looks scrummy - and in order to prevent us from stealing it, Clare has even made a jam and cream sponge for us to have. Can't wait

Clare F

For loads of cake baking recipes check out the main site

Friday, 1 June 2012

Britain has gone bunting mad!

Its official: the British love a bit of bunting and there’s nothing like a royal celebration to bring it out in full force.  Wherever you look in cities, towns, small hamlet or out in the wilds, there's bunting fluttering in the breeze.

It seems that bunting brings out the party animals in all of us and sums up our summer celebrations.  But don’t panic if you haven’t got your bunting out yet. There’s still time to make some.  It’s really easy and can be very cheap to make if you choose the right materials.You don’t have to buy fancy fabric and spend hours stitching it perfectly.  
The joy of bunting is that it's fun and free.  Just grab some tape and some old clothes and start cutting. 

You can use old clothes, shirts, sheets cut into triangles and sewn onto a strip of tape to make quick and easy bunting.

Better yet, you don’t even have to use fabric or a needle and cotton.  You can make fabulous bunting from old books, newspapers, even plastic bags stapled to a piece of tape – it really is that easy. 

Even good old salt dough can be turned into the party spirit.  You could make salt dough into flags, pennants, roses or even corgis if you felt like.  

So what are you making your bunting from?

For more ideas and instructions:

Wednesday, 18 April 2012

Queen in a day!

Fancy knitting your very own Royal family? 
Well you can start with the Queen!
Deramores have teamed up with Fiona Goble and are giving away a free pattern for this fun 
Elizabeth II Jubilee Doll


Monday, 19 March 2012

We've finished the shoots for our new book

It's been harder work than we thought - so many things to make and all the step-by-steps to be done, but we're pleased to say "It's a wrap folks!"

The last of our total 6 days of still photography was on location down in Dorset, after 3 days at Hilary's and 2 day's at mine (Clare F). We're really excited about the book, although publication date still seems a long way away - not till October. Sian the photographer and her assistant Nick have done us proud and we're sure you're going to agree when the book's published.

In case you didn't know what the format is - it's (very imaginatively!) called Make it and Mend it and is full of projects for the whole year season by season - including a section on special occasions such as Easter and Mother's Day. All kinds of things for you to make and mend are included, from sewing a quilt from old sweatshirts to making chocolate truffles.

We'd expected the shooting was going to be a doddle - as most of the projects were ones we had already featured on the site - but most of them had to be tweaked and twiddled and generally re-made from scratch so we've been very busy bees.

Watch this space for more news.

Clare F

Wednesday, 14 March 2012

Casserole dishes no longer a family essential!

The basket of goods and services used by the UK government to calculate the annual inflation rate is updated every year by the Office of National Statistic (ONS). 

It's an interesting take on what the modern family considers essential (in the government's eyes at least).

The latest basket of contents - containing hundreds of items - was published this week. Not surprisingly, tablet PCs like the iPad have made it into the basket for the first time. But to our horror, step ladders and casserole dishes have been booted out.

From where we sit, DIY and slow, oven cooking are on the increase. Lots of other DIY items find their way into the basket but we're a bit concerned by the ONS observation that casserole dishes are "an over covered area of the basket" well represented by other pots and pans and that expenditure on them is dropping.

One possible reason why this particular piece of kitchen equipment is off the menu could be the fact that the ONS still thinks of a casserole dish as something made of heat resistant glass. The whole earthenware and cast iron revolution seems to have passed them by.

So, are casserole dishes old hat, or has the government got it wrong?
And if your not sure making this green bean casserole will convince you
Or check out the joys of a Romoska - the 'plug in' casserole

Anne Caborn

Thursday, 16 February 2012

We love Too Good To Waste

We caught celebrity chef Thomasina Miers on BBC 1 Breakfast TV yesterday. She's owner of the Wahaca Mexican restaurants in London and has thrown her stylish eateries behind the Too Good To Waste campaign.

The campaign was launched by the Sustainable Restaurant Association towards the end of last year and is designed to make diners feel more comfortable about asking for doggy bags or boxes and encourage an increasing number of restaurants to offer them. Celebrity backers of the idea include Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, Giles Coren the restaurant critic for The Times, and food writer and broadcaster Matthew Fort.

The doggy bag concept comes from the United States and most of us probably associate it with huge American portions that are just too much to eat in one sitting. But the fact is that for every meal eaten in a UK restaurant, nearly half a kilo of food is wasted – through preparation, spoilage and what’s left behind on the plate. We’re throwing out 600,000 tonnes of food waste from restaurants every year.

Here at Make it and Mend it we launched our Thinking Outside the Bin campaign last week. It's all about the joys of upcycling things that would otherwise end up in the waste bin. You can find out more about our campaign here.

We're all for reducing the amount of waste that finds its way into restaurant bins. How many time have you left part of a delicious meal on a restaurant plate and then suffered an attack of the munchies later? Today's doggy bag is tonight's snack or tomorrow's packed lunch.

BBC presenters this morning were a bit concerned about re-heating things, but as all Make it and Menders know, you just need to follow some common sense rules when making tasty food from leftovers

But perhaps we could come up with a better term than doggy bag or box? What do you think?

You can find out more about the scheme at Too Good to Waste. Sadly their interactive Where to dine map only covers London.

Anne Caborn

Wednesday, 8 February 2012

Our first shoot

Hilary and I spent yesterday with the team from our publishers doing the first of several shoots for our new book, Make it and Mend it, which comes out in October.

We did it at Hilary's place, dashing between the greenhouse and summer house and freezing to death out in the snow. The team - Pru from the publishers, photographer Sian and her assistant Nick, were marvellous and very tolerant of the freezing cold weather. We did a few indoor shots but mostly decided to brave the elements.
As a point and clicker, I found it fascinating seeing all the care that goes into each shot, all the measurements and tests.

The next shoot is at my place and we'll be doing a day on cooking and a day on sewing stuff.

We're almost finished writing the final manuscript - due at the publishers next week. So exciting!

Clare Flynn

Sunday, 22 January 2012

Made with love...

Recent research has shown Our good intentions can ease pain and add to our sense of pleasure…they can even make food taste better. 

Researchers at the Maryland Mind Perception and Morality Lab have found that physical events are influenced by the perceived contents of another person's mind. "It seems we also use the intentions of others as a guide for basic physical experience," whether this was the sensation of pain or quality of a massage. They even found that this effect could affect our taste buds.

Participants were given sweets in a package with a note attached saying either  "I picked this just for you. Hope it makes you happy” or  "Whatever. I just don't care. I just picked it randomly."  In both cases the sweets were identical however the candy from the benevolent group was perceived to not only taste better, but was thought to be significantly sweeter. The researchers conclude that "Perceived benevolence not only improves the experience of pain and pleasure, but can also make things taste better,"

However bearing in mind that we are coming up to Valentine’s Day, the real message is to make sure your partner, sibling, friend, etc. knows you care. Assistant Professor Kurt Gray notes,
 "It's not enough just to do good things for your partner -- they have to know you want them to feel good!"
 So if you’re thinking of making a present for someone make sure they know that it was made with love.

>> The psychology of gift giving - why homemade presents are best 

Hilary Bruffell

Monday, 16 January 2012

Blue Monday - You're having a laugh!

Today is ‘Blue Monday’, allegedly the most miserable day of the year, due to a combination of factors such as the weather, proximity to Christmas, levels of debt etcSo it’s interesting that on the supposedly the ‘worst’ day of the year a new report is launched in the press suggesting that money does indeed make us happy. According to a comprehensive think tank report, our happiness is indeed related to how much money we have and, contrary to previous studies, there isn’t a capping effect.  It It would seem that our happiness doesn’t level off at a certain wage band. 

But does this really mean we need money to make us happy? Don’t panic, the answer isn’t quite as simple as it’s presented.  This piece of work only focuses on the financial implications of happiness and it takes no account of the positive effects of health, relationships, lifestyle etc.

Here at MIAMI Towers we're taking very little notice of this piece of work as we know that one of the best paths to happiness is Making and Mending things.  There's a wealth of research out there that supports the positive effects of making things and we know from experience how good these activities can make us feel. 

However if you do want to buy into the ‘money makes you happy’ myth, you can rest assured that the MIAMI lifestyle can only enhance this effect, because let’s face it, if money makes us happy, making our money go even further, must surely make us even happier!  So either way, let’s make 2012 the year that we make every penny count and make ourselves even happier!

Hilary Bruffell

Tuesday, 3 January 2012

Make 'making' your New Year resolution

This Christmas I set out to make as many presents as possible myself. What surprised me was that I  received several handmade gifts myself - as well as the means for making more - materials, equipment or instructional books. So much so, that on Christmas morning we all started yelling "Craft!" in unison every time someone opened a present that was either hand made or related to making or creating.

If you visit Make it and Mend it often you may have seen some of the gifts I made - some when reviewing books such as this cute felt pincushion and lavender bag and some where I've shared instructions with you such as this tea cosy and these cushions.

But here are a couple I don't think I've shared on the website. First is this apron for my sister-in-law. She wanted a 1950s style pinny and her brief was "Surrendered Wife" (if you knew her you'd know she was being deeply ironic!). I already had a coupole of metres of retro fabric in my stash on the theme of "How to keep your Husband Happy", so with the addition of some contrasting fabric for the straps and pocket - also from my stash, plus a bit of frilling, I made her an apron that perfectly fitted the bill. She was thrilled and asked me where on earth I'd bought it!

I wanted to make something for my six year old god daughter that could be something she could keep forever, so I made her a quilt. I was pretty worried that she might be disappointed not to get something to play with, but half an hour after opening it she'd dragged it off to her room and was later found curled up under it fast asleep! 

And I didn't only make an apron, I also received one - made by my sister -  monogramned with my intials, Masterchef style. (You can find out how to make an apron on the website.) She'd been very busy, using transfers to add motifs to homemade aprons for almost the whole family.
She also gave little jars of her scrumptious Chilli jam.

My brother-in-law made a most fantastic gift for me. In fact I think it's my favourite present of all. It's a lamp made from an old tree trunk. I love the way he's used the place where a branch was to place the flex. Fabulous! He also made a beautiful wall plaque for my sister to hang her jewellery on, and a similar one for sister number 2 to hang her keys. All from beautifully turned wood.

The pleasure of hand made gifts can't be over estimated. Knowing that someone has spent time and effort making something personal is so much more touching than anything bought in a shop. But doing it requires planning and time. So if you want to make it your New Year resolution you need to start right now!

What hand made gifts did you make or receive this year?

Clare Flynn