Vintage restyled: Cardiff’s Castle Emporium

Cardiff Castle Emporium general outside shotFor the past two years, the old converted cinema opposite Clwb Ifor Bach was home to Cardiff Fashion Quarter, the go-to place for vintage clothing and knick-knacks. While it had a lot to offer fashionistas, it was perhaps quite limited, both in its offering and the layout of the space.

Relaunched by new owner James Morgan-Rees, CFQ has transformed into The Castle Emporium. While some of the old traders remain (Rock-ola Reborn, Eagle Eye Vintage, AMARAS), there is a new range of stalls, i.e. a whole lot more vintage-gem-hunting to get excited about.

We took a walk around the Emporium, snapping some of the independent businesses that have set up shop.

Cardiff Castle Emporium aerialThe view from the first floor – the colourful stalls are a treat for the eyes

Cardiff Castle Emporium candle tinsRoughneck Candles recycle pocket sized tins by turning them into kitsch homeware

Cardiff Castle Emporium minotaur booksJust some of the bookshelves at Minotaur Books, who stock everything from popular poetry to obscure dystopian literature

Cardiff Castle Emporium Al's Musique BoutiqueCardiff Castle Emporium bow ties suitcase Cardiff Castle Emporium horse whiskyAl from Al’s Musique Boutique poses alongside vintage clothing and accessories for gentlemen

Cardiff Castle Emporium mario kart yoshi playstation 2Cardiff Geek Party‘s shop houses games memorabilia, retro consoles and stacks of bargain computer games

Cardiff Castle Emporium Super Mario Bros gaming stationWe’ll be heading back here for the Mario Tournament. There’s a different game leaderboard each month; Matt’s hoping he gets a chance to show off his Crash Team Racing expertise

Cardiff Castle Emporium vegan chocolate cake Cardiff Castle Emporium vegan snacks chocolateSo many yummy treats at Simply V, including marshmallows, wagon wheels and chocolates – and they’re all vegan!

Cardiff Castle Emporium vintage clothes Rock-olaCardiff Castle Emporium vintage jumpers Cardiff Castle Emprium shelves of bric a bracFor fans of upcycling and vintage fashion, there are stacks of menswear, womenswear and accessories to dig through

With the rejuvenated vintage haven sitting firmly at the top end of Womanby Street, it makes what is already a culturally busy passageway even more exciting. Take a stroll winding around the Emporium then down to Urban Tap House; you won’t be disappointed.

Know any other great spots in Cardiff for finding vintage treasures? Comment below or tweet your suggestions @Creative_Hacks.

Amy sig

Six tips to stay warm without turning up the heating

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Oh, winter. The season of sipping hot drinks beside a roaring log fire while watching the snowflakes fall. It can also be the most expensive season in terms of heating bills. Nobody likes being cold in their own home, but rather than turning the thermostat to a tropical 30 degrees, try some of these easy, low cost tricks to stay cosy without it costing the earth.

1. Insulate yourself

The first thing to do if you’re feeling chillsome is to wrap yourself up. Put loose layers on top of loose layers to give yourself maximum insulation. Girls, pop a pair of tights under your leggings or jeans, and guys, layer up socks and sweaters. By keeping the layers loose, you trap more heat and allow blood circulation, meaning heat will spread around your body better.

2. Jump around

Jack Russell Terrier dogs jumping with ball
Exercise may not be the most appealing activity when you’re cold and grouchy, but just thirty star jumps can give you a quick and free heat boost. You can also do simple things like running on the spot, lunging or practicing your dance moves ahead of the weekend.

3. Mind the gaps

Take a few minutes to look carefully at your windows, doors and walls. If you have a gap between the bottom of your doors and the flooring, plug it with a draught excluder (or, for a makeshift version, the leg of a pair of tights that has been stuffed with socks). Make sure all windows are tightly shut and sealed. If there are any little holes in your walls or small gaps where cold is coming in from outside, use duct tape as a temporary sealer. In the long run, you may want to think about sealing these air holes properly.

4. Central eating

Hot chocolate with cream and sprinkles in teacup
Nothing seems better than hugging a mug of freshly made tea, coffee or hot chocolate when the weather turns. Make your own, or head out for a treat in a local café every now and again (cafés are a source of free central heating too, so look for one with steamy windows!) Some people report feeling much warmer in winter after they have eaten something really cold; if you can brave a sub-zero ice cream, give the theory a try.

5. Grab a hottie

Cuddle up to a hot water bottle, a microwavable heat pack or a human hottie. The heat from them will transfer to you and the air around you, so your shivers will stop in no time. You could also pop a thick blanket on top of you and your hottie to further raise the temperature.

6. Cook up some warmth

Baking pumpkin pie with pastry leaf decoration
Like you need an excuse to get a tray of cookies or fudgy brownies on the go! Not only will baking deliver delicious warmth right to your core, the heat from the oven will transfer all around the room. Did someone say cake?

If you have any more ideas on how to keep warm without cranking up the heating, let us know in the comments below or drop us a tweet @Creative_Hacks.

Amy sig

How we filled our home with Christmas decorations for less than a fiver

presentsIt’s nearly Christmas. You’ve bought all the presents you needed to and are feeling ready to celebrate the festive season. It’s all going to plan… until you realise that all that cash you spent on gifts and  mulled cider has left you with none for buying decorations.

Don’t panic! Here’s our Christmas present to you: a handful of DIY decorating tips that so you can create a winter wonderland with ease and at a low cost.

treeThis little tree came from my parents. My family used to pop it on a side table as a secondary mini-tree, but in our compact flat it makes a perfectly adequate centrepiece.

The felt decorations (baubles, presents and holly) were really simple to make. Cut out two identical shapes on flat felt (we got a pack in a pound store) – one shape will be the front, the other the back. Sew your desired design on the front. Put the two shapes together, one on top of the other, then sew up the sides until there’s about a two centimetre gap. Stop to fill the felt pocket with rice or lentils before sewing the gap up. Tie a loop onto the top so that you can hang it from branches.

wreathFlorists’ wreaths are expensive. We made our own for a fraction of the price and had a whole lot of creative fun in the process. To make it, we used a metre of thick flexible craft wire (£1) and bent it into a circle shape. Then, using a combo of double sided sticky tape, normal sticky tape and clear thread, we built up layers of leaves, clipped from overhanging trees and bushes in our neighbourhood. Tying red ribbon to the top for hanging purposes and adding a cute bow transforms the craft into a classy looking garland.

buntingWagamama have been handing out origami paper to their diners so that they can get crafty while waiting for their noodles. I decided to use the paper to make this hanging star bunting. Paired with a bit of red ribbon, this adds a lot of festive character to one of the white walls in our flat. You can find out how to make an origami star here.

snowflakesRemember making these at school? It’s still fun to go a bit crazy with paper and scissors before unfolding that seemingly hacked up scrap to reveal a delicate snowflake. We wanted to stick some festive fun to our fridge, but white on white wouldn’t have been so striking. Colourful magazine pages look much classier.

We hope that you’ve had as much fun as us decking your halls with Christmas decor! Hopefully we’ve proved that it can be done on the most modest budget while still bringing out the holiday cheer.

We’d love to see photos of your homemade decorations, so send us your pics in the comments below or via @Creative_Hacks on Twitter. Have a very merry Christmas!

Amy sig

Five ingenious uses for empty toilet paper rolls

IMG_7001If you’re anything like me, you spent a good portion your childhood awestruck at the potential for fun that an empty toilet paper roll can offer.

From taping a couple together to make a nifty pair of ‘binoculars’ to fantasising about the lofty loo roll spires of a home crafted castle, there seemed to be an almost endless list of things that I could do with those unassuming tubes. Don’t even get me started on the even more magnificent empty kitchen roll… double the length means double the fun, am I right?

With so much resourceful joy to be had, it still feels like a sin to chuck away empty toilet rolls. And while building Tracey Island from cardboard cylinders isn’t my top priority as a busy adult, it has recently come to my attention that you can still get a lot of use out of these little beauties. Here are five examples.

1. Make an advent calendar

DIY-Advent-CalendarThe John Lewis advert is on TV, so it’s officially nearly Christmas (damn, that penguin’s cute). Prepare for December by making your nearest and dearest an advent calendar – toilet roll tubes happen to be the perfect size and shape for hiding festive treats like chocolates, sweets and small gifts. Here’s a neat tutorial courtesy of creative blog Northstory.

2. Grow a plant

how_to_make_seed_starter_pots_using_toilet_paper_rolls_p1smfPlanting a seed and watching it grow is a timeless and satisfying thing. You can be both economical and ecological by using old toilet rolls as mini planters. Once your seed is ready to be replanted outdoors, you can conveniently bury it along with the biodegradable roll, safe in the knowledge that it will decompose without harming the plant or the local environment. GardeningClan.com has all the instructions you need to make a loo roll seed starter.

3. Develop your own photos

Digital photography is great and all, but sometimes you need to take it back to the old school. For a truly analogue insight into how photography works, make yourself a pinhole camera, also known as a camera obscura. Empty toilet rolls make ideal developing chambers. You don’t need much else, but this pleasingly retro blog has the full details.

4. Have a cracking Christmas

christmas_crackers_09Shop bought crackers are overpriced and underwhelming. It’s way more fun to make your own from empty toilet rolls. Fill them with personalised party hats to really blow the Christmas socks off your friends and family. Just follow this 10-step guide by the clever people at Mookychick.com.

5. Sell them!

You read that right. You can actually sell empty toilet rolls to make extra pocket money. Crafty people who need cardboard tubes but don’t want to channel their inner Andrex puppy on shop-bought paper will regularly purchase them from eBay. The going rate seems to be around five pounds per twenty rolls – not bad for bathroom rubbish!

If you have any more ideas for upcycling household junk, let us know in the comments below or drop us a tweet @Creative_Hacks.

Matt