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


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. 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

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.


Craft comes to Cardiff at Made By Hand Wales

Scene 3 copyThe idea of a craft fair may conjure up childhood memories of being dragged around musty church halls commandeered by older generations’ knitting collections. While these village pop-ups still happen, the recession has left us with an appreciation of the artistry of homemade handcrafted goods. Contemporary craft fairs house locals’ labours of love that you would genuinely want to own and would happily display in your home.

Made by Hand Wales is the first of a number of creative events and opportunities sponsored by the Welsh Government. The government scheme supports small creative businesses across Wales, like the SME crafters at this event. Made by Hand Wales also gave attendees the chance to get closer to crafting through public workshops, exhibitions and demonstrations. Here, we round up five of the most eye-catching craft stalls of the fair.

Treefall Design

ARTIST Treefall Design 2 resize ARTIST Treefall Design 9 resize ARTIST Treefall Design 11 resizeTreefall Design, the creations of Manda McGrory, sells clothing, accessories and cuddly toys for little ones. With one of the best dressed stalls at the fair, their bold and unconventional wares were impossible to ignore.

EllyMental Jewellery

ARTIST EllyMental 2 resizeCardiff-based EllyMental Jewellery caught my eye with beautifully displayed pug and bear necklaces (oh, Santa…). Elly layers her illustrations (drawn on paper) onto shaped metal, then finishes them with resin to form brooches, pendants and other delicate jewellery.

Megan Alice England

ARTIST Megan Alice England 4 resizeCheltenham-based textile and screenprint wizard Megan Alice England makes cute, witty gifts and accessories. Her simplistic designs make an impact on the natural materials they are printed onto.

Print Garage

ARTIST Print Garage 1 resize
These prints by Iain Perry – a.k.a. Print Garage – are made by hand in Iain’s Stafford garage (hence the name). The pastel colours contrast with injections of neon, while the pop culture references push you to notice their understated appeal.

Samantha Bryan

ARTIST S Bryan 3 resizeSamantha Bryan crafts 3D mixed media fairies going about their everyday lives, each with their own back story.

The artists featured here are just five of the 130 companies that attended the Made by Hand Wales fair. It’s really promising to see such a wealth of talent coming from the UK, and even better to see hoards of visitors enthusiastically supporting the exhibitors. To find out more, visit the Made By Hand website.

Next time you see a pop up craft fair or stall, pop in and have a browse. You never know what you may find!

Amy sig

Halloween zombie make-up from everyday items

Halloween comes once a year. Unlike most other fancy dress opportunities, it is an occasion where you can get away with looking hideous, frightening and socially unacceptable.

Joke shops and fancy dress stores stock make-up kits for wannabe spooks, but these are usually overpriced and poor in quality. You don’t need any liquid glucose, white face powder or stick-on plastic sores from these guys – we’ll show you how to make grizzly, realistic zombie wounds out of household items for a fraction of the price, resulting in a super-fun dress-up sesh with a horribly realistic result. You have been warned.

Gather these household items:

An old magazine or newspaper
Flour (plain, self-raising, whatever you can get your mitts on)
A cup of tap water
A pinch of porridge oats
A plate
PVA glue
Kitchen roll
An old towel
Cocktail sticks, skewers or something similarly pointy
Wet wipes (useful if you have them, but if not, it’s no biggie)

Raid an old make-up collection or bargain shop for:

A generic, no frills black eyeshadow
A cheap black liquid eyeliner
An old make up brush (an eyeshadow brush is ideal)
An old brush with a small tip (like a lipstick brush, or a fine paintbrush)
Fake blood (a very red lip stain/gloss/stick also works)
Liquid foundation
The remains of an old powder compact

The prep

Protect the workstation by covering it with loose magazine or newspaper pages. Make your artist’s palette by scooping up a handful of flour and putting it on one quarter of your plate, then add your oats to another quarter of the plate. Squeeze a blob of fake blood onto the third quarter, away from the flour and oats. Lastly, hold your black eyeshadow above the final empty quarter of the plate and scratch it so that little dust-like flecks of the eyeshadow fall onto the plate.

2Add a small amount of water to the flour and work it into a dry dough in the palm of your hand. Congratulations – you have just made your zombie skin!

Let it sit for a minute while you prep your face. With the black eyeshadow, add shading to the darker bits of your face to make yourself look worn and hungry for human meat (your inner eye sockets, your jawline, the caverns of your neck and collar, plus your temples). If you have particularly oily skin or you want to make yourself look a bit paler, pat a thin layer of flour onto wider parts of your face using the old powder compact. Your face is now ready for a pain-free beating.

Grazes and flaky skin

1To make simple grazes, add a tiny amount of water and a drop of foundation to a small amount of flour on your plate and mix – it should be crumbly. Dip your finger in the black eyeshadow dust and pat onto the area. Follow with a patting of fake blood. Lightly wet the area of skin that you want to graze (use water or, if you can take it, PVA glue) and apply the floury mix (fake flaky skin) to the patch of your face. Dab the flaky skin with some black eyeliner and fake blood to make it look grazed. You can make realistic scabs by adding some oats to the area – use the same foundation/ black/ blood method to get them looking gross.

grazeSmall scrapes like this are great for adding subtle and realistic detail

Flesh wounds and blisters

3To make a big wound like a slash or a blister, take your previously made ball of zombie skin (flour and water dough) and rip off a section the size that you want your gory wound to be – we chose to rip off a size that would fit onto Matt’s cheek area. Holding the piece, massage in foundation and a small amount of black eyeshadow dust, aiming to recreate pallid, ashy zombie skin colour. Once it looks suitably fleshy, wet the area of skin you want to apply it to (again, use water or PVA glue) and stick the flesh piece onto your skin. Press it down around the edges, trying to make it look as seamless as possible by dragging the edges outwards slightly. It’s okay for it to look quite thick at the moment.

4Carve some lines into the piece using a cocktail stick, the deeper the better. Mix together some fake blood and eyeliner, then paint the dark colour right into the deepest parts of the slashes you’ve made. Around the slashes, dab fake blood and black eyeshadow dust so that it layers up into a dirty-looking bloody mess. It is good to leave some bits flesh toned for contrast and realism. As with the grazes, you can experiment with oats (or ‘blood clots’) and different application techniques, such as dribbling diluted blood out from the wound. Once complete, spray with hairspray to achieve a glossiness to the blood and hold it in place.

5Urgh… how’s that for gore? We did warn you!

Bullet wounds

6To make a bullet wound, take a generous pinch of the zombie skin (flour and water dough), put it into the palm of your hand with a dot of foundation and black eyeshadow dust then roll into a fleshy ball. As before, wet the area of skin you want to apply it to and push the ball onto your skin, crafting it into a dome shape with your fingers.

Dig the end of your brush into the centre of the skin dome, creating a pit (or ‘bullet hole’). Mix some fake blood  and a generous amount of eyeliner together and paint them into the pit to create the illusion of depth. Trickle and splatter some fake blood and black eyeshadow dust around the area so that it looks like it has been marked by the impact of a bullet. Feel free to get gross with it – for example, you could create some globules out of oats or small bits of the zombie skin to create blood clots, warts or flaps of skin. Once you’ve finished grossing yourself out, spray with hairspray to hold in place.

6bA bullet wound in the neck gives your undead character a gruesome back story

Take a look in the mirror at the overall monster you have created. Add black eyeshadow to anywhere that needs a bit more definition and pat some fake blood here and there, just for the hell of it. If you feel a bit sick looking at yourself, you’ve done a great job. Now go scare!

Have you given yourself a horror make-under? Share your photos with us on @Creative_Hacks so that we can be terrifying together! HAPPY HALLOWEEN!

Amy sig