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Tuesday, 10 July 2018

CRAFTY POST - My revolting conservatory-camping-store-room, really needed a makeover....


 So I get asked, where do I store all my camping kit?

The answer is everywhere...attic...shed...trailor....campervan...but by far the worst what can only be vaguely described now as a 'once conservatory'

This disgusting storage set up is where I stack all the canvas tents and awnings. Horrific isn't it (turn away you domestic goddesses)

So even I know its in dire need of a tidy up.

With two weeks off work, and impending grandchild due, I couldn't actually go anywhere camping. So I took on 'Mount Shithole'.  What an amazing idea to take on this room, in the middle of the only heatwave I can remember us having, in the last 25 years

I still needed to store my beloved tents, but just not so visually.  I still also wanted the option to make up a spare bed in there, as under all that garbage is actually a bed sofa

At christmas I half tidy up, and this is my Harry Potter bedroom under the stair cupboard

Sourcing and pricing the foam (extortionate) was the first task.  I finally managed to find euro pallet size foam pieces, and based the storage on this size.  Found some fabric, and I started clearing it out.

I found the easiest way to clear it out, was just to move it all into the nearest room (the lounge)

Woodwork commenced, and the first of the five seating units were made.  Each has lift off slats on the top, for comfort, access, and airing.

Is it finished?
Seems comfy enough. Is it finished

 Plenty of wax, stencilling, liming wax, then the daunting task of making removable covers, wiped out days of my life, but finally they were all done.  I didnt like the squareness of the foam with just the fabric on, so bought some 270g wadding, and wrapped this around the foam, before making the covers

To get the wadding to stick to the foam, and put the cover on, I just used the last of the spray glue I had for fixing the carpet line in the camper

Next came the fun bit...titivating and making shite to go in there.  Whilst waiting for baby elephant's arrival who had been stuck in my daughter for what seemed like 18 months now, I had a lot of time to crochet, and learn some macrame.  So after another 8 overdue days, i had macramed pretty much everything, and run out of wool on the crochet

The Lights got macrame...

The Plants got macrame

 The candle holder got macrame...

Until I ran out of things to macrame

Eventually the crochet throw was also finished (first c2c I have ever done)  The centre triangle was from a throw called South Western afghan.  The original had lots of triangles. As a beginner I found one hard enough, without tangling my feet into it permanently

The grotty old sale lantern got a bit of treatment (sprayed gold, and a few test pots later), and it passed for a new battered looking lantern

More messing around, as the dimensions of the room, meant I couldn't find anything remotely suitable for tables.  Not having the master skills of a craftsman, I bodged together some very 'rustic' tables

Coffee Sack Blinds

Possibly the most soul destroying part of the process was making the coffee sack blinds...not a problem making 1, but never ending when there are 11 of them.
Needless to say they aren't to be subjected to any scrutinising on my needlework, but they came out ok

As a few asked how I made these, this was the basic process:

Materials required

Coffee Sacks
Calico Backing
Cotton Washing Line for ties
1" Dowel rod

Source and find coffee sacks (mine were an ebay job lot, and I got for £12 for 14 of them)  Generally they will cost about £3-£4 each.
Unpick the sacks.  The most shittest job of the process.  Some will work cunningly, and come apart at the seams, when you pull the threads in order.

Some don't. Some are cleverly crafted by a skilled brain surgeon, never to come apart unless painstakingly snipped on every stitch

Cut and measure the calico to the same size as the sacks (mine was 140 wide, so I got two blinds at 70cm wide from the fabric)

They measure up at about 2m deep

Sew the sides and bottom on the sack and calico

Turn right side out

Measure the bottom distance (mine was about 65cm, but the sacks do vary slightly), and cut the dowel this length

Just drop the dowel in and shake to the bottom of the sack, until it lies at the bottom

Cut two lengths of the cotton washing line (or cotton binding) to make the ties - I made my 3m long, so 1.5m falls either side of the blind

Fold the washing line in half, and pin about 6 inch from either end of the top seam.  Keeping the long ends on the outside, tuck the seam in neatly, and sew along the top, trapping the two loops at the top of the washing line.

I then just folded over the top, and made sewed a channel all along - the cords will all be at the back of the blind, you just throw one side of the cord over to the front

Slip a curtain rod, or pole through the channel, and its done!


Next was to actually stack all the camping stuff into the storage, plenty of room thankfully!

Next was to try out the bed option

The end seating panel was just placed between the 2 middle ones...

And I had a huge comfy 2.4m x 2.4m bed (apart form the small cut outs triangles)

Event with Tarq in it, there is a stupid amount of room

Four days later, I have slept on the bed twice. Put it away back to seating after the weekend, and crashed on the benching as it was for the next two nights...I really need to move into the rest of the house... 

And yes.....the grandson finally arrived!

Meet Leo

Monday, 18 June 2018

REVIEW: Star Bell Tent from Boutique Camping

So here we have something a bit different from the standard 5m bell tents....the Star Bell Tent from Boutique Camping

Finally there was a dry weekend forecast, and as we were having a bunch of mates from the Crafty Campers Group meeting up, I took it along.

So I laid everything out, and worked out what was a bit different from the normal

The star bell has an inbuilt canopy, so the extra five minutes you spend pitching this one, are justified in that you don't need to put a tarp or anything else at the front.

The canopy whilst not massively deep (about 500-750mm), is big enough to shield the doorway from rain etc, and gives some protection for shoes, wood and other bits

The actual doorway itself is also larger than a standard bell - in summer this is a really nice bonus (not that summer lasts more than 48 hours generally)


Mallet - Initial thoughts were 'YAYYY, I got a free mallet'

Pegs - Decent strong pegs supplied (enough to peg the groundsheet once, but elastics share the same peg.  In fairness most suppliers only ever supply one set of pegs for this purpose)

Guy ropes - seem to have been upgraded with little metal barrel sliders. The same 'boutique purple' guy rope

Rain Cap - Simple things! - They added a screw to the rain cap, so you just screw it on and off! No more lost rain cap, and it secures the canvas down

screwy rain cap
Purple Guys and metal runner

Centre Pole
Canopy pole

Canvas - Nice deeper sandstone colour, and same quality as most credible bells

Groundsheet & zips - again, fairly standard, thick and decent quality

Packaging straps - Nice quality, decent straps for pulling the canvas tight for packing

Poles - Made of aluminium, rather than the normal steel.  Centre pole is in 4 sections with the button type push out joins, which work just as well, if not better than the standard springs (which always break anyway).  The hook on the centre pole doesn't look as sturdy as the usual steel ones, but its easy enough to add a bolt if you wanted anything more substantial.  The A-frame is made of the same aluminium.  Lighter and look fine, my only gripe would be the ease of them sliding into each other - they tend to be a bit 'sticky' when you push them in.  Perhaps after a few uses, this will wear off, and connecting will be simple....


1. As normal, peg down the groundsheet - as there are fewer panels than a standard bell, this is a bit quicker.  The info sheet advise to then do the elastics - I don't. Why pull the canvas taught, before inserting the centre pole?  I always do the elastics around the edges, after the centre pole has been positioned

2. Sling exciting new lovely free broken mallet in bin, and dig out stronger mallet from the van


3. Once the groundsheet is pegged, you then slide the long thin pole through the edge of the front of the canopy, and push the ends over the 2 pins at the end of the canopy edges - this gives it its shape.

4.  Insert the centre pole.

5.  Then you do the A-frame. Except it isnt. It's a H frame. Now if I am going to have any whinge about this tent (and in honesty, I really like it), its the bloody H frame!!!  This part of the process took me longer than pitching the rest of it.  The H frame falls as you are trying to slip it into two pockets, which go at right angles in the corners of the tent.  You have to place the frame into the entrance, then add the extra section at the bottom on either side.  This was a total ball ache.  As I said previously, the pole is quite stiff/sticky to slide into each section, so the frame didn't want to go together properly, until it was locked into place, and tied into position.

I had a H style frame on my canvas and cast, and was never very impressed with them then, either.

I am presuming it has to be this shape, to get the entrance of the star bell in position, as the standard A frame wouldn't work (but is a lot quicker)  It probably didn't take that long to do it, but it doesn't take much for me to throw my rattle out

Then you go round and guy the star portions of the outside of the canvas.  Now rather than guy ropes, you insert the peg into a webbing strap at the end of each of the star points.  Read the info leaflet for this.  I tried to put the peg into the open strap at the end. Went back, read the info, and realised you need to make a loop behind the buckle at the top. The peg then goes in there.  The beauty of these points is that the tent feels a lot more stable and secure (windy weather etc), and as the points cover a lot of the wall canvas, there is less chance of leakage around the ZIP



The tent has the standard mesh door nets included

The stability seems sturdier than a standard bell

The aesthetics (in my opinion) are nicer than a standard bell

The canopy at the front is incorporated into the design, so you dont need to faff with tarps and canopies, to give some protection to the door entrance

Pitching time is probably similar to a standard bell

At 29kg, its no heavier than any other 5m 285g bell, despite having the canopy

The walls are higher than other bells - always a bonus

No crouching to get into the entrance

The bag was generally larger than normal, so it was easy enough to pack away

Higher Walls
Lantern Holder

Large Entrance 


The H Frame.  Farty thing

No inner tent available at the moment (if you are handy with a sewing needle, you could probably easily adapt an inner)  The plastic rings are in place for an inner to hook to, so I am presuming there is one in the pipeline

I'm not sure you would get clearance with a wall exit wood stove - It would take a bit of manouevering to get it into a decent clear space (roof exit would be fine)

It you want fit a larger tarp to the front, for kitchen use etc, you would struggle to fit it against the existing porch

Standard lantern holders won't fit around the bigger centre pole


So overall, yes ok , I am sold on it.  If I was starting out and wanted a 5m bell - I would go for this option rather than the regular shape

As it was a decent weekend for weather, I can't comment yet on waterproofing etc (thankfully, no rain)  So I will pitch it again, when I can go through the lovely chore of camping in horrible wet conditions.  I will pray that summer comes on the day I take it down

Link to the seller:

The standard manufacturers blurb is:

  • Brand new Boutique Camping 5m Star Bell Tent design 
  • All Boutique Camping tents come with zipped In groundsheet (ZIG)
  • Luxury bell tent with heavy duty zipped in water resistant, extra thick groundsheet (540g per sqm)
  • Total weight 5m = 29kg 
  • 3m lightweight 35mm diameter Aluminium centre pole.
  • Centre pole has a loop to hang chandeliers
  • This bell tent does not fit our current, standard inner tent.
  • 3 Extra thick 5mm guy ropes for the canopy entrance
  • 360 netting around the 75cm walls, can be rolled up for airflow
  • Heavy Duty Pegs; 6mm groundsheet pegs and 8mm robust groundsheet pegs
  • Packed downsize (105cm x 36cm x 36cm)
  • Big entrance door 2m high & 2.90cm wide
  • Bendy pole for canopy
  • Integrated canopy with a 50cm overhang at the entrance
  • Breathable and durable polycotton canvas 285g per sqm, with reinforced double stitched seams. For more information, please click here.
  • Webbing to secure the tent to the ground
  • Double-sided zippers
  • 3 way zips with loops that can be easily padlocked for extra security
  • Secondary zipped mosquito door
  • 4 zipped windows for airflow and ventilation with mesh cover to keep insects away
  • Canvas tents are renowned for retaining heat and their cooling effect, as they are a breathable material.
  • Canvas is treated with UV, mildew, rot & water repellent
  • All our bell tents will fit a wood burning stove, however, you will need to create the opening yourself
  • Can sleep up to 6 adults on airbeds comfortably with space for luggage, furniture or a walkway
  • Easy to assemble – one person can assemble in under 15 min
  • Comes with 12 months manufacturers warranty
Alcohol is flowing

Tuesday, 8 May 2018

CRAFTY POST - Making a DIY Pom Pom Rug

It was easier to put some instructions on this blog, than post responses on facebook, so here they are...

It's very simple to make, just takes forever to make them

I went fairly large for a pom pom rug (there's a surprise) - Most you see on Pinterest or google tend to be smaller

In total I made over 400 pom poms. Time consuming, but so easy to make anywhere, so you stop becoming aware you are even making them.  You zone out, and your hands just keep going

You will need:

Wool - (fairly obvious).  It uses quite a lot. I used cheap double knit from my stash (which has obviously grown again, as I bought more in case I ran out)

Latch Hook Canvas - I got this off ebay.  The piece I used was 70cm x 100cm

Pom Pom Maker (You can use traditional cardboard rings, but you will probably be 110 years old before you finish)

I used the 45mm Small Clover Pom Pom maker.  (the yellow one)

(Don't bother with ebay chinese copies - they are crap)

These aren't massive pom poms, but it would have used even more wool, if I had used my larger ones.  It takes roughly 2-3 minutes a pom pom

Its faster if you use two strands of wool at a time - you need to wind around the pom pom maker until the centre is level with the arcs - approx 100 times around each side of the maker (50 if using double strands)

I found if you wind it in the centre, then push the wool to the side, repeat, then fill the middle, its easier

Reverse of the rug - poms poms tied, and edges finished

The Design

I made small flowers - two coloured poms in the middle, and six plain colours around them.
When I started to tie these to the rug, I had small gaps. To fill these gaps and the edges, I made a lot of contrasting black and white, and plain black pom poms - these just filled the spaces

How to make

Start making a good stash of pom poms in different colours - I made about 50, which was the first row of flowers

When you tie each pom pom, make sure it is as tight as possible.  I double the strands I used to tie them - and leave long tails - you will need these.  I do 2 knots on one side of the pom pom, then wrap the wool to the other side of the pom pom maker, and do two knots on this side

Now just tie the pom pom to the latch hook canvas, again as tight as possible - Leave a small edge of about 2cm around the edge of the canvas

Keep going until you are happy with the amount of pom poms.  Fill any spaces that look a bit gappy with a contrasting pom pom


I turned over each of edges of the canvas and sewed them over to get rid of the raw edges

On the outside edge pom poms only, I also sewed from the back of the rug to the front, through the pom pom and back again.  This stopped the outer pom poms falling outwards

Once I was happy with this, I backed it with Hessian (I used a coffee sack I had), and just oversewed the edges.  If any pom poms go astray, I can always replace and sew through both layers to attach them again

All done, and in place!

It passed Tarqs stringent testing standards

CRAFTY POST - My revolting conservatory-camping-store-room, really needed a makeover....

Finished!  So I get asked, where do I store all my camping kit? The answer is