Hello Nancy

DIY Scandinavian Wooden Gift Tags

I really look forward to wrapping up all the Christmas gifts for my friends and family. Buying and wrapping the presents is one of my favorite things to do during the festive season, to me there's something so relaxing about choosing the papers and wrapping up the gifts.

Every year I try out new ideas to create even more thoughtful and pretty wrapping than the year before, can you tell I'm competitive? This year I found some gorgeous wrapping paper in John Lewis and the theme I've opted for is navy blue and gold. To match the metallic wood effect paper I thought I'd try my hand at making some handpainted wooden gift tags. I was inspired by Scandinavian dala horses and folk art for the design but you could paint whatever pattern you like.

The paint I used is Chalk Paint by Annie Sloan. I have various pots of Annie's paint at home, I wanted to use them as chalk paint can be applied to any surface and can also be blended to create custom colours. I mixed the Graphite colour with Greek Blue to get a dark navy paint.

If you've read my blog for a while you'll know how much I love using chalk paint. Read about the Annie Sloan furniture painting workshop here and my DIY chalk paint recipe here.

I bought the wooden letters from my local craft shop for 80p each, so this is a very inexpensive yet impressive looking project. I also tried my hand at painting onto some brown craft paper which worked beautifully too. If you had the time you could purchase a roll of inexpensive plain paper and paint on your own design for all the gifts you need to wrap. I think that would be such a lovely personalised gift in itself!

What You'll Need

Chalk Paint in various colours
Wooden Gift Tags
Paint Brushes
A Pencil

So the first thing you need to do is plan out your design. I opted for letter shapes to add a personal touch but you could choose any shaped tag you like, stars, hearts, circles or something a little more festive. Using a medium pencil sketch out your design lightly on the letters. I love dala horses so the patterns seen in Scandinavian christmas ornaments and embroidery was my inspiration.

Once you've drawn out the design on your tags it's time for the fun part. Get your paints ready and begin filling in the design, make sure to choose very fine brushes if you have a detailed design like mine. Personally I found it very relaxing to focus on the painting, if you enjoy adult colouring books I think you'll also find this a mindful creative exercise!

I continued filling in the pencil lines with paint until I was completely happy with the result. Please be aware that if your paint is too runny it may bleed into the grain of the wood. Also, if you're using white like I did you may need two coats of paint to fully cover the pencil lines of the design. I then added a few sprigs of leafy branches to the brown paper ready to wrap my gifts in!

To continue with the painting fun I also tried out a much more abstract and messy design on the brown paper, you could also apply this sort of technique to the gift tags too. A looser design would work best on less delicate tags, though, so avoid letters if you can. If you like this abstract look I would choose circular or star shaped tags so you have more surface area to paint onto.

I hope you enjoyed this DIY tutorial and if you would like to learn how to wrap the perfect gift I have a blog post for that too! I covered each step in detail so you can wrap presents neatly and stress free this Christmas. Read that post right here.

Weekend in The Cotswolds

I've always wanted to visit the Cotswolds but for some reason I never made the time to visit, I suppose that's the problem when the U.K offers so many beautiful places. One by one I'm trying to tick certain areas off my holiday list and I'm so glad that I recently got the opportunity to finally spend some time in the Cotswolds. 

The Lords of The Manor very kindly invited Simon and I to stay in their beautiful boutique hotel in the heart of the countryside in the village of Upper Slaughter. Lords of the Manor dates back to around 1649 which is clear to see in the architecture of the house. The Slaughter family (originally Sclostre meaning “a slough or muddy place”), purchased the Manor from Henry VIII. The hotel was stunning and felt so welcoming and cosy, it was such a lovely building to relax in after a walk through the nearby woods and moor covered hills.

After we unpacked and settled in to our room I enjoyed a cup of tea and gazed out of the original stone window into the wintery garden. The room was traditional and very homey, I particularly liked that our amazing bathroom was down a set of stairs. I managed to squeeze in a long pamper session in the large bath before dinner. After all you can't stay in a hotel and not have a bath!

Before getting ready for dinner Simon and I decided to explore the garden and village, we knew it would be getting dark soon so we donned our walking shoes and quickly headed out into the cold. I've always loved gardens in Winter, the colours of the fruit trees, grasses and berries are so pretty. Lords of the Manor had lots of apple trees growing and if you scroll up to the first photo you'll see how pretty all the rusty planting looked.

We were invited down to enjoy canapés and an aperitif before dinner was served. All the rooms of the hotel feel incredibly welcoming and I felt so at home exploring the various rooms. My favourite space was a small study that had plenty of books and games to keep us entertained, it felt just like a friend's house.

Dinner was the five course tasting menu in their Michelin star restaurant which was delicious. Unfortunately the dining room was much too dark for me to take any photos of our meal but you can see images of the food on the website here. The course that really stood out for me was a slow cooked beef dish that was one of the most delicious things I've ever eaten. Head chef Richard Picard-Edwards searches the local area to find producers and farms that produce the highest quality ingredients.

The next morning we grabbed our umbrellas and headed out to walk from Upper Slaughter to Lower Slaughter. It was great to be able to see some traditional Cotswold villages and despite the rain we had a lovely slow ramble through the countryside. We ended our day with an afternoon tea and ploughman's lunch at The Cotswold Tearoom in Moreton-in-Marsh before getting our train back to London.

A huge thank you to the Lords of the Manor hotel, Simon and I had a wonderful few days and an escape from London was just what we needed!

Christmas Gift Guides - Girly Gifts

Unlike previous years I have decided to put together multiple beautiful gift guides for you all to gather inspiration for the big day. First up presents for the ladies, or whoever enjoys the finer more feminine things in life for that matter. I've tried to include a range of items, making sure to feature lots products that are ethically made or by wonderful independent designers.

All of these goodies are also in my Girly Gifts Pinterest board here. Enjoy!

Meet the Makers - Meylor

I've been wanting to share the work of Grace aka Meylor Goods for a while now. We were introduced by a mutual friend at Top Drawer and I instantly fell in love with Grace's sensitive floral illustrations, they remind me of a more feminine version of Quentin Blake's work, which I love. Rather excitingly we're collaborating to design my wedding invites which I am so excited about.

As well as sharing her lovely creations I wanted to know more about Grace's design process and business goals so continue reading to find out more about her work.

What made you want to work with paper?

I have always had a love for luxury and finish; this is strongly reflected in the paper stock that I choose for my products. The lean towards paper as a medium comes from my profession as a graphic designer. Whilst at university, I would be fascinated by the finish and process of any promotional material, from a product catalogue to a coffee table book. I used to visit Shepherds paper shop, at the time it was based in Holborn (now near Victoria). The shop was very oldie worldy, with amazing floor to ceiling old-fashioned dark wooden paper drawers with old stepladders where the shopkeeper would retrieve my order. It was during these visits that I introduced myself to the world of merchants like GF Smith, Fedrigoni and luxurious handmade papers. This exploration made me realise how the finish of the paper reflects the content of what I am designing and these choices would reflect the level of luxury. With my love for anything-high quality, I was over the moon when I was hired straight after university to work as a graphic designer for Burberry in London. After spending four years working on amazing projects from campaigns to the fashion show invites I really cemented my knowledge of luxury. The paper stock is a key component to that process.

What is your favourite part of running your own creative business?

It is an avenue to express your personal creative standpoint. To make your stamp in the creative industry so that other creatives and industry professionals can observe and see your creative identity. I had a longing for my own creative outlet and working for myself, what is more exciting than making an interest or hobby into business and working on your own ideas day to day?

If you could own a brick and mortar shop where would it be and what would it be like?

It would be tricky to choose one place, I have always been torn between country and city life. I feel I would have to have a shop in both locations. I am partially based in South Buckinghamshire; greater west London, it would be amazing to find a location which has a creative hub that would support a  stationery shop a stones throw away from London life.

Have you got any new ranges coming up?

Meylor's Christmas range will be introduced in the coming weeks. Then the second collection will be launched at Top Drawer Spring in January.

Any tips for my readers in case they want to set up a creative business too?

Do spend time thinking about your brand and what you stand for amongst the crowd of the market. How do you want to communicate this across your website, and social channels? When starting a business, there will always be instances you were not expecting. Be aware of the unexpected, and remember to keep striving for your end goal. It is that focus which will keep you pushing forward.

What's the best piece of advice you've ever been given?

Advice and feedback is always well received, especially from individuals who have experience and background in their chosen topic. I.e. I am no marketer, and I love hearing advice from experienced individuals about social media and website strategy. I would say the best advice so far is to have patience, for some this may come naturally. However, when you're eager for something to succeed, it's important to remember to keep going and thriving off positive feedback and remember you can't conquer everything overnight.

Thanks to Grace for answering my questions so thoughtfully. I hope you found Grace's work inspirational and enjoyed learning more about her process. Don't forget to visit her website to see more of her gorgeous products.

New Prints and Notebooks

I just wanted to quickly update you all and let you know that I have two new prints and three new notebook designs up on my site. I had so much fun designing this new collection of paper goods. I think they help to add some cheeriness and colour into the otherwise dark wintery weather of the season.

The notebooks are A5 and come with either lined, dotty, grid or plain pages so you can choose what suits you best. As always they are made in the UK using sustainable and eco friendly methods. Gotta look after the earth folks. £4 each

The prints are either A4 or A3 in size and are printed on a thick slightly textured card stock so my paintings can really sing. From £15 for an A4 print. I think they'd make a lovely Christmas gift if you framed them in a gold or copper poster frame.