Blog My own art and craft

Pyrography Part 2.

My pyrography hobby seems to have been short lived. The very quick lesson from this blog is don’t buy cheap pyrography pens – they will snap!

My daughter leaves nursery soon to go to school, and so I’d planned to make her keyworker a present. She’s been there for years so I thought it’d be a nice thing to do.

My first pyrography project was good (after some teething problems), and I learnt quite a lot on how to use the pen. For more info see:

So, I sat down last night and actually things went well to start, I’ve learnt how to use the different tips a lot better, and found I was much quicker.

Within an hour or so, I’d almost finished and it look like this.

Pretty nice really, the aim is to put it in a box frame and give it to them on her last day. The only thing in terms of making it, was the tip snapped off in the barrel of the pen, so it’s now unusable. Luckily I’d pretty much finished but it was annoying when I was just starting to get the hang of it.

I’ve now looked at the reviews (maybe should have done that beforehand) and this seems to be a fairly common issue. Shame really as I was enjoying it, but need to have a think about whether I’ll get enough use out of it if I buy a more expensive one. My plans to save a small fortune by making a load of presents for Christmas have been thwarted for now!


Pokémon drawing

This week has seen my son get into the Pokémon Go app. Yeah, I know we’re about 5 years later than everyone else but better late than never! The whole thing confuses me to be honest but this post is just a reflection on getting different ideas out of an interest, rather than Pokémon itself.

I started doing this blog during lockdown as a way of finding some space for something creative and to force myself to think of things to do with the kids. I genuinely think it has helped us put a bit of energy back into doing things, and what I’m pleased about is that kids have become more proactive about sitting down and coming up with ideas themselves. The bird box on Sunday was one (see, but I’ve noticed that quite often lately they’ll sit down and pick up a pencil and paper. Don’t get me wrong, the telly is on in the background – but one step at a time eh!

Last week for example, my son sat down to make his own Superman comic. He put loads of effort into it, and then showed his sister how to do it. I thought that was great.

He spent ages coming up with a cover and storyline for this.

This week its been Pokémon, and rather than just sitting watching the cartoon, on Tuesday we went out with the Pokémon Go app and walked almost 10 miles together. To be fair, I was really impressed with both the app itself and his ability to walk that far – he didn’t moan once.

In terms of the craft/creative side of things – tonight I sat and started drawing Pikachu. The kids sat next to me, and it was great to see them pick up a crayon and start to copy me, without prompting. My son took ages trying to copy the pictures from his comic book as accurately as he can. He did really well. I found that at age 7, he can get a bit frustrated when what ends up on the page doesn’t look like how he pictures it in his mind, but he’s getting more patient as he improves, which is a small victory in terms of lockdown home schooling.

My daughter coloured mine in and went her own way with the colour scheme; but again, took her time and tried to do it properly.

My son took it upon himself to cut them out with scissors and then asked if it was possible to scan them in the computer and resize them so Pikachu was sitting on Ash. I do genuinely feel that sort of thinking has come since we’ve been doing more art based stuff together. One idea leads to another and all that.

After he’d gone to bed, I did just that using Paint 3D (free on Windows). I’ll print that for him as a surprise, he’ll love it.

I’m going to try and think of what else we can do to keep running with the idea. Hopefully we’ll come up with something!

Ideas for arts/craft to make with kids

Bird box

It took us three hours, but we got there in the end!

One of the benefits of doing this blog is that the kids have started to think a bit more creatively, and are now coming up with ideas of things we can do themselves. I’m quite proud of that, I do think its genuinely helped us cope with some of the tougher elements of the lockdown. I’m trying not to lose that momentum as things get back to ‘normal’.

As an example, today my son asked if we could make something big with wood – ‘like a tree house or something’. It makes me smile that he’s still of an age where he thinks a) I can do these things and b) we have the stuff to do it. That said, I want to make the most of the few years I have left before he realises my general incompetence – so as a compromise (not wanting to let him down completely) we agreed a bird box might be more manageable for both of us.

I’ve made the decision not to include a template of what we did as you can find loads on the internet of many different shapes and sizes if that’s what you’re after. We didn’t use a template because we only had some old floorboards to work with, and so wouldn’t have been able to follow a lot of them anyway as they weren’t big/wide enough.

Also, I really wanted to let my son do most of it as there’s loads of different skills this project brings with it. Measuring, a bit of maths, problem solving, sanding, painting, visualising in 3-D, screwing etc. Probably most importantly he quickly realised that it also needed patience and perseverance; which is something none of us are particularly strong at.

I’ll be honest it wasn’t perfect, there’s gaps where it doesn’t quite fit together, but it has a charm and we were all proud of it. Three of us worked on it solidly for three hours without any major arguments or strops – which in itself is a triumph!

Anyway, here’s how we did it.

First off you need wood. We have a load of old floorboards, and so used them. We wanted to do one with a peaked roof but quickly realised we didn’t have enough wood for that, so settled on a flat roof.

We figured we needed:

  • Two sides pieces and a front pieces – all the same size.
  • A back piece – we went for a long piece for this so that the back can easily screwed onto wherever we hang it.
  • A top and bottom – the same size; you’ll need to figure out how big these should be based on how the size of the other pieces (mock it up on top of the bottom piece and mark how big you need it, then use the bottom piece as the template for the top).

Get the kids to measure and mark off where you need to cut them. As a guide, our front and sides were about 25cm high.

Cut the pieces with a jigsaw. My son’s not quite old enough to do this, and I’m not competent enough to supervise him with a power tool, so I did this bit myself. Get the kids to sand them off though to smooth the edges.

You should now have all your pieces. One last thing to do before you put the jigsaw away – you need a hole on the front for the birds to get in (otherwise you’ve just made a box!) There’s probably an ideal size depending on which type of bird you want to attract but I have no knowledge of what that might be so just cut one smallish. The trick to do this (which it’s probably no surprise to anyone who has the slightest knowledge of power tools but has come to me through trial and error!) is to use a drill to make a few holes in the middle of where you want it to be so that you can then get the jigsaw blade in. You can then cut a circle.

Next step to paint them. We used some blue paint that we’d done the garden furniture with as it was waterproof. I suppose the other option would have been to use any old paint and then varnish it at the end.

This took two coats of paint, during which my son got bored. However, with a bit of encouragement he did carry on and was pleased when the second coat made them nice and neat.

Now for putting it all together. If you had strong glue, I guess you could use that and save a lot of bother. However, we didn’t and so we used screws. We ran out near the end so had to go on a mad dash around the house to see whether there were any more loose screws in drawers etc. We did in the end find enough but probably a good idea to make sure you’ve got these before you start!

There’s no real trick to this, you just need more than one set of hands! We just took the back piece as the starting point, then drilled a couple of holes into the sides pieces so that it wasn’t too much effort to then get the screws in. The bottom went on with the same process. The front actually slotted in then quite nicely (only a small gap but we’ll ignore that!) and finally screwed the top on.

That’s it! Simple, but took a while for us to figure out what we had to do.


Took three hours, but we got there. Actually looks pretty good.

For other wood based projects:

Little birds:

Penny drop game:

Personalised wood chimes:

Feed me garden game:

Wheel of fortune:

Whittling wood:


Ideas for arts/craft to make with kids

From cardboard box to Handbag!

A craft session involving a cereal box, some paint and glue. Make yourself a fab-u-lous handbag!

First off, you need a cereal box. Open it out and cut along the folded lines. We used pretty much all of it, so don’t throw any away at this stage.

Then paint them all! Do it as simply or as flamboyantly as you want!

When they’re dry, draw the shape of your handbag on to one of the bigger bits. Cut it out and then use it as a template for the other one. Keep the thinner strips as they’ll give the handbag its depth.

You should now have fours pieces, two handbag shaped bits (for the front and back) and two strips.

Take one of the strips, and draw a straight line about centimetre from the top, all the way along. Do the same at the bottom. Take a pair of scissors or a knife and score it (not too deeply) so that it folds over and makes a crease.

Glue one of these thin folded edges of the strip on to the length of one of your handbag pieces. It should look like the picture below, with the painted bits on the outside and the cereal box still showing on the inside (unless of course you’ve been clever and painted both sides of the card, which thinking about it now might have been a good idea).

You’ve now got the front of the bag glued to the bottom. You can trim this off if your strip is a bit longer than the front.

Take the other strip, and cut it in two, which hopefully should give you enough length to cover both of the sides. Do the same in terms of creating a fold on each side if you haven’t already.

At one end of both strips, fold it over about a centimetre from the end, and then make a small cut down each side to make some little tabs which can fold over (see the picture on the right above). If you fold the sides up and press the tabs on the end, it should give you a box like edge. Glue that together.

Next step is to glue the side with the glued/folder edge on to the front and the bottom of your handbag. Do that on both sides, and it should look like this from the inside.

You then need to glue the back on. This might be the trickiest bit so far as unless you’ve measured if all really accurately (which I didn’t) there’s a bit of push and pull to get it to hold together. If you use a fairly strong glue, and press it though, it should hold after 30 seconds or so.

Once it’s dried you should have a surprisingly strong structure. Feel free to accessorise with diamonds!

Final step is the handle. We had some spare ribbon, so just made a hole in each side (not so close to the top that it rips straight away), pulled it through and knotted it. you could use string, or a proper handle of another bag etc.

And there you have it! One fab-u-lous bag! My daughter loved marching round the house with it!

Ideas for arts/craft to make with kids

Whittle wood – Little birds

A relatively quick project using a block of wood and a wire coat hanger. It does need some power tools (jigsaw and drill), but you can involve the kids in sanding and glueing. You could go to town and spend a lot more time on them, making them more lifelike and painting them etc, but I think they look quite sweet as they are.

This genuinely is easy to do. Firstly, take a block of wood. I used this one.

Then draw the outline of the bird. Ideally I wanted to have the shape of a robin when I did mine, but it didn’t really fit on the the wood, so just went for a generic bird shape.

Once you’ve done that, cut a rough outline with a jigsaw. Leave yourself a bit of extra space around your edge so that you can refine it once its cut.

I realised that the wood I was using was too thick for what I needed, which gave me the idea of making two birds rather than one. I cut them in half up the length.

Keep the bits that you cut off as they might make a good base.

Now’s the time to involve the kids. Give them some sandpaper and ask them to smooth it off. This will take about ten times as long as if you did it yourself (and you’ll probably end up taking over anyway after a while when they get bored) but there is a novelty to using it that they will probably enjoy.

If you can’t get the shape you want just through sanding, then sharp tools or a wood whittling set ( will help. This would allow you to get more detail, texture and shape but for today, I wanted to make sure the kids were involved and so left it as just sanding.

We got them nice and smooth. We also sanded two of the bits of spare wood to make the bases smooth too. If you wanted to paint them, this would be the time.

Next step, the legs. I took a wire coat hanger (actually harder to find than I thought as everything’s plastic these days) and cut four roughly equal pieces off it. I had to use gardening clippers as didn’t have anything else to cut it with, so I’ve probably ruined them now but never mind. Obviously if you’ve got any old wire lying around you won’t need to go the lengths of finding a coat hanger!

Drill two holes in the underside of each bird, wherever you want the legs to go. You can either drill straight or at an angle depending on what position you want the bird to be in at the end.

Take two of the metal pieces and glue them into the holes in the bird to act as legs.

Leave it to set for a few minutes then make two more holes in the base and insert the legs into them. I drilled in a small hole on each side for an eye too at this point. Then let it all dry, and Voila!

Look good!

My own art and craft

Painting …part 1

I’m slowly, slowly, getting better at painting with acrylics. This is just a short blog entry with pictures to show a process and where I’m at up to now. Might be useful to those who are on a similar journey.

My acrylics paint set is just a basic set of colours from the Works I buy a lot of white paint in larger volume as I tend to get through more of this than the others. The canvases I get in packs of about 5 from either the Works, Hobbycraft or Amazon (depending on who has a deal on at the time). I mainly buy larger canvases now, simply because it seems easier to paint on a bigger space, but the one for this dog painting is about A4 sized. If you’re a beginner and you go too small, it becomes really tricky.

The method shown below is one that I’ve found helps when I’m on a fairly short timeframe and when I’m doing something where I’m bothered that the end piece looks decent.

To start, I took the canvas and put a grid on it (you can get some apps that put a grid over a photo for free on iPhone or Android so you can use that to copy an image). I’m sure there’s probably a snobbery about grids and I don’t tend to use one when I’ve got longer (as I can just keep painting over things until it looks right) but they are really effective in helping to get started.

I’m partial to a bright background, which is easy to do. Just put blobs of your chosen colour and white, and mix on the canvas. It does make a difference which colour you use, and some will work better than others. As I learn more on this I’ll try and explain in future blogs.

Next sketch a rough outline to work from. If you want to rub your grid lines out at this point, you can. Or, leave them until later.

Now time for the paint. As with sketching forget about any detail in these early stages and just map out your darkest areas and lightest areas. The colour on this was essentially yellow ochre and white, introducing a darker brown (burnt umber) and black for the darker shades.

Once you’ve got your darkest and lightest areas, you can find the mid ground for the rest and build up. Acrylics dry quickly and so you’ll need to work with that, but it does mean you can get layers built up in a short timespan.

Once you’ve got basically got everything in the right place and your tones look about right, you can start to introduce more detail. It feels good when you do start to make progress and the picture springs to life. Here, the eyes made all the difference.

You then have to make the decision as to how far you’ll go with the detail. I don’t have the patience or skills to get something that looks photo realistic, so just like to get the sense of something. At this point in time, I also don’t really do backgrounds as I feel its almost like doing another painting which is too much risk in case I wreck it! That may change, but at the minute I’m happy with a bold character on a bright background.

So this is where I’ve got to at the moment in terms of a skill set. As and when I think I’m getting better, I’ll return to the blog.

My own art and craft

Pyrography – what I’ve learnt so far.

Pyrography is the posh name for burning wood with a pen. Done well its amazing. A quick search on google images and you’ll find some absolutely incredible pictures. It’s a real skill to do it properly.

Here’s what I learnt in my first attempt.

A beginner’s kit.

I’d been thinking about having a go for a while, so took the plunge by buying a beginner’s kit from Amazon. It was about £30 I think. There are cheaper ones, and I think that Hobbycraft do the pen on its own for about £10 but I went for a set as I wanted the option of the different tips that came with it. It also turns into a soldering iron, but one step at a time.

The instructions that came with it were a bit limited so I spent 5 minutes trying to look for a description online. I could see loads of You Tube clips about improving technique but nothing that specifically said ‘use this pen tip to start’. I think the only real way to know what does what (a bit like the whittling kit ) is to get a blank piece of wood and try them out. The problem with that is you have to wait for the tip to cool down each down, which for someone as impatient as me, isn’t fun.

Unfortunately, if you don’t wait for it to cool down and you try and use your sleeve to unscrew it quickly, you end up (predictably) burning your jumper. Not advised!


For my first project I wanted to do something relatively simple. I chose a motto that a friend uses with her family and did a sketch of the design. I traced that on to greaseproof paper and then on to the wood. Here’s a quick summary in pictures…

You’ll then end up with your design on the wood.

Looks good at this point.

You then have to bite the bullet and get on with using the pyrography pen. I was nervous, I can be a bit of a liability with tools.

Choose the tip you want to use and screw it in. Then plug the pen in, turn it on and wait for it to heat up. This takes 5 minutes or so with my pen. I got immensely frustrated for about half an hour, as I didn’t realise how hot it needs to be. Mine had a temperature variation setting on it, and I had it at 36 degrees, which turns out, isn’t hot enough to burn the wood. Needless to say, I was ready to send it back and was moaning about how rubbish it was. I then realised it turned up to about 50 degrees, and once I’d put it to 45+ degrees it began to burn the wood quite easily. Wish someone would have told me that and saved me half an hour!

Ready to go. The thin tip on this worked more smoothly than the other thicker one I used. Unfortunately I didn’t realise this until too late.

I set about going around the design with the pen. I think I chose the wrong tip as I went for one with quite a thick circular end. This just seemed to make a circular hole (unsurprisingly) and didn’t pull along very well – this meant that I kept just making holes rather than a fluid line. It was too late by the time I’d realised, so I had to see it through. When it came to the sunflower, I used the thinner point (see above) and this worked better.

It took me hours to do it, but steadily I made progress. I think that my choice of wood didn’t help as the grain is circular, which adds an extra dimension to trying to pull the pen around. I’d say get a flat piece of wood with the grain running in one direction, and make your life easier as a beginner. Also, I wrote with curved, looping letters – avoid this as well as curved lines are harder than straight lines! Basically, do everything that’s opposite to what I did!

Anyway, regardless of all that, I got there in the end.

It’s a bit clumsy, but for a first attempt I was fairly pleased. The infinity sign at the bottom didn’t go too well, but you can’t win ’em all!

Why not have a go yourself?

Ideas for art/craft to make for kids

The Penny dropped

Got an old kitchen cabinet door (or any block of wood)? Turn it quickly in to a fun game with just a few nails. I had some ‘help’ from my daughter, or literally it would have taken half an hour, tops.

Combined with the ‘Feed Me’ garden game and the Wheel of Fortune, you could have a nice little fairground in your back garden by now for basically free!

You’ve probably played this type of thing loads of times at school fates or fairgrounds. It never occurred to me before today how easy it was to make.

First you need a block of wood. I found this old kitchen cupboard door going a bit fusty in the garage.

I gave it a quick clean and then marked a selection of dots across the width of it. I measured them just over 3cm apart as that seemed to fit a 2p coin through. I was just guessing that this would work, you could probably do something a bit more precise if you wanted to. The important thing is that the coin you want to use to play the game can fit through and drop down, without there being too much space left over.

Don’t forget you need marked sections at the bottom for your scoring areas.

Finish your first line then repeat this at regular intervals going down the wood, as in the photo above. You obviously need to make sure the rows alternate in terms of where the dots sit on the wood – so that after you’ve put your nails in, the coin will drop down to the next row and bounce through (if you get them all in a straight line it’ll just drop to the bottom!).

The overall number of dots will depend on how many nails you’ve got spare and how big the wood is. We did 6 on a line, with each row a little bit more than a ruler’s width apart.

I then just got a bag of spare nails and hammered them in roughly where the dots were. My daughter helped me knock them in and actually she was pretty sensible about it. I did get a little thump on my thumb once or twice but no major injuries!

At the bottom, you need to separate some scoring areas. You need some ‘0’ points and some higher points to add a bit of jeopardy. We painted the scores on into the sections at the bottom. I did the red ones, my daughter did the black ones- you’ll see that for some reason she chose to put ’14’ as a score, which made the maths a lot more tricky when adding up how many points you’ve got! Pop another nail on the separating lines so that the coin drops in to one and stays in.

The good thing about using this cupboard door, is that it had a ‘lip’ already cut into it at the bottom, which serves to stop the coins. If you are just using a straight piece of wood, then you’d need to screw a thin piece of wood on the the bottom of your run to then catch them in the scoring areas.

Once you’ve added any further ‘decoration’, you’re good to go. Take it in turns to drop a coin down and see how many points you can get!

Mine wasn’t perfect, every now and then the coins just fall through the gaps, or dropped on the floor. This wasn’t very often though and we found that if you lean it at an angle away from the wall, it helps with making sure the penny falls down better.

Have a go! Keep it for parties. Probably good for drinking games as well when the kids aren’t around!

Ideas for art/craft to make for kids

From kid’s picture to soft toy!

Get your kids to draw a picture and then wow them by turning it into a soft toy. This took a couple of hours, it became a bit fiddley but my daughter was over the moon with the result. I managed to make it without a dreaded sewing machine, though it would be quicker if are good with one. You will need some very basic sewing skills to make it, but nothing too taxing.

(For another sewing project, see )

Here’s how we did it….

First off, ask your kid to draw a character. The simpler the better really, as the more fiddley it is the longer it will take to sew. My daughter drew the character below. If I was doing it again, I’d probably try and talk her out of doing all the spikes at the bottom!

Once you’ve got your finished character, cut it out. I doubled up on the card in case I needed to do one for the front and one for the back, but in the end I don’t think I need this (I just doubled up on the material as explained in a bit).

Then choose some material. You could always buy some, but my daughter had recently put a hole in her leggings and so rather than throw them out, I used them! It was probably not the easiest material to work with as its quite stretchy, but it turned out okay in the end.

Holey leggings.

When you’ve got some material, draw around the template on to it. You need two layers, so as mentioned above, you could do a front and a back separately, or pin two layers of material together and just do it in one go. I used the leggings and these had two layers to it anyway (the front and the back of the trouser) so I just used a safety pin or two to hold them together to make sure they didn’t move around when I was cutting them.

Make sure you leave a bit of space around the template where you cut as when you sew it together, it’ll turn out smaller unless you give yourself some room. I forgot about this until it was too late, so as you can see, I only gave myself extra material on one side. Oops.

The next step is the laborious bit. Face the two bits together, with the sides that you want to be on the outside when its finished, facing inside, towards each other for the time being (you’ll turn it inside out later on).

There’s no getting away from it then, you just have to sew around the edge. I’ve tried to explain how to do a running stitch in an earlier blog (see link above). It’s the only sewing I know how to do, and it seems to work so if ain’t broke, don’t fix it! It doesn’t matter if its not mega-neat, but you do need it to be small enough and in enough of a coherent link for it to hold when you turn it the right way.

This was tricky, I admit it. It was made trickier by all the jagged edges; definitely stick to a circle or straight edges if you want an easier life.

Make sure you leave a gap at the top as you’ll need to be able to flip it, and stuff it!

Okay, so next step is to turn it inside out (or outside in, as actually what you’re doing is getting it the way you want). Again, this was much fiddlier because of the shape of my daughter’s drawing. I had to get a pencil and force the points out at the far end.

Once you’ve done that, the next bit is to stuff it with filling via the part you’ve left open. I bought some toy filling from Hobbycraft. I don’t know if there is something else you could use, but it wasn’t expensive and for this sized toy, you hardly used any so there was loads left. Do try and pack it in relatively full, as it spreads out once you handle it.

Once you’ve done that. Sew up the hole with a few stitches. That should be your basic shape done. Hopefully it looks roughly like the initial drawing?

Nearly there! You then need to sew on the face or anything else from the drawing. If you’ve been unfortunate enough that your child has drawn arms and legs, I guess you could have either done those as one whole piece with the body, or do the arms and legs separately and sew them on. Luckily I didn’t need to bother with that this time.

For the face, I used felt from out of the kid’s craft box, and just tried to cut the right shapes. You could sew these pieces on, but I glued them for speed (there’s no hard pieces so no choking risk). I added a few stitches for the pupils and the tongue, just going around and around with the cotton in roughly the same spot (not the most technical explanation!).

And there you go!

From picture to soft toy in a couple of hours!

Ideas for arts/craft to make with kids

Pebble Art

I owe my wife credit for this blog entry as she made me aware of how pebble art was taking off. She did a quick picture of our family which was great (see below).

I had no idea this is as popular as it is. Since becoming aware of it, I’ve seen that people are starting to charge quite a price for framed pebble pictures. Don’t get me wrong, they can be really appealing and can capture something about a scene in lovely simplicity. That said, if you can find the time yourself to find a bag of various pebbles (easier for some than others if you don’t live near anywhere particularly pebbly!) and buy some card and a frame, you could make some really personalised art yourself in just a few minutes.

We got a bag of pebbles, put them in front of the kids with some different coloured card as backgrounds, and then just let them go with it. Obviously at first they moaned about it and said they couldn’t think of anything but after me showing them a couple of examples they carried it on with it and came up with some nice ideas. Here’s some…

A footballer
Walking the dog
Down the slide. Weeeee!
Can you guess what this one is? Yep, it’s a Rhinoceros! What do you mean you can’t see it?

So that’s it! A cheap way to pass a bit of time, and if you do find one you particularly like, then glue it onto some card, pop it in a frame and hang it on the wall.