Remember when I got my caravan on the road again last year? I’d imagined that my caravan would never move again (which was okay with me, as I was using it as my sewing and writing workshop) so you can can imagine how excited I was to see those wheels turning again. It was towed with ease to our new home and I thought that we might be in for a summer of adventures in the caravan last year. However, the year ran away with me and we never did get round to doing all the little jobs needed to turn my ‘office’ back into a functioning holiday home. This year is going to be different. I’m definitely going to be on the road with my caravan, and do you know why? Because I’m starting the planning for my summer holidays now! That means I’ve got 6 whole months to fit out my caravan with the necessary bits ‘n’ pieces to turn it back into a fully fitted camper. What’s on the list? Well, aside from the camping kitchen and bathroom facilities that I mentioned in my last post, it really needs a new bed and I’ll tell you why.
There’s nothing more delightful than spending a crisp evening in front of a fire. Whether it’s indoors by a fireplace or outdoors at a fire ring, accumulating the wood is the hardest part. The easiest part is getting the fire started, thanks to salvaged wood shavings and old candles. That’s because when you combine them, they make great fire starters. Couple them with long matches and pop them into a 1-gallon collector’s Ball jar, and they are pretty enough to display or give as a gift. Supplies, 1 cookie sheet, aluminum foil, small wax-paper nut/party cup (the individual cups from cardboard egg cartons work too), wood shavings leftover from a past project (natural wood only – no treated wood!), 1 old saucepan, old candles, 13’’ long matches, one 1-gallon collector’s Ball jar with decorative lid, craft glue
MAKING YOUR FIRE STARTER & MATCHES JAR
- Line the cookie sheet with aluminium foil. Lay the party cups on the foil, right-side up. Pack each cup with wood shavings.
- Melt old candles over low heat. Slowly pour the wax into each cup until full.
- Put the matches into the jar and glue the matchbox’s striking surface to the inside of the jar’s lid. When the wax has cooled and hardened, fill the other side of the jar with the fire starters.
Extracted from Mason Jar Nation by JoAnn Moser, published by Cool Springs Press (£11.99). Find the book online here.
What do you think of this thrifty project? It would be handy to use around the campfire during the summer, and it’s a great way to light your fire in the living room in the winter. And don’t forget to prepare a batch for Bonfire Night too! Let me know if you have any other home tips or DIY hacks by leaving me a comment below.
If you have to go camping, it might as well be in one of these. I hereby admit that I am a bell tent fan. I feel like I’ve been spotting them everywhere I go and it’s only making me covet them more and more. Yes, glamping is certainly a holiday I can get on-board with, if it’s in one of these canvas beauties. I’ve only stayed in a bell tent once, for a couple of nights at Blogstock, (check out my Blogstock pics here) but it was one of the best camping experiences I’ve ever had. The extra height meant that my husband could stand up without any problems, and I didn’t have to crawl in and out of the tent doorway. There was plenty of room for all our stuff (we don’t really travel light, I blame our car with it’s giant boot for that) and it could even fit a double bed in too, so you can imagine how comfortable we were.
And when it rained, our canvas tent remained pleasingly dry. There was no chance of accidentally bumping the canvas and causing moisture seepage like in a traditional tent; the sides were so far away from us! We could simply lie back and watch the rain pitter-patter down outside out tent, feeling super-cosy tucked under a blanket with a carpeted floor beneath our feet.
I’m taking glamping to the next level. Yes, I’m talking about camping indoors. Okay, maybe this playden for the little ones isn’t quite waterproof, so it’s not really festival-friendly. And it’s more a playhouse than a stayhouse. Even so, it’s something that my nephew really wanted – his very own campervan, just like daddy. One sunny afternoon I set about making a mini-version of a VW camper especially for him, and actually stitched it up in my own caravan workshop. How many caravans went into making this playhouse? At least two! Read on to find out how to make a mini camper den for your children, your friend’s little ones or your nephews and nieces.
The campervan den is actually a table cover. Its frame is created by the dining table so the first step is to take the measurements of the table you’re planning to use. It could be a fold out picnic table, a 8 person dining table, whatever kind of table you have at home is fine, as long as the kids can sit underneath it. The table will determine the side of the playhouse you’ll be able to make so measure the top and each side so that you have the measurements you’ll need to cut out a cover from fabric. I used the measurements to make a paper template of all four sides and the top. I then divided the sides into thirds, cutting the top section out of strong white fabric, and the bottom two-thirds from green canvas. The top was the same white fabric and I simply cut one of the longer sizes in half to create a door entrance. If you want to create a VW campervan effect on the front of the cover, cut a ‘V’ shape at the bottom of the white fabric to extend into the green area. I drew the symbol on the fabric using a permanent pen, but you could sew on the shape at this stage if you prefer.Use a cereal box to make a template for rounded window holes. When you’re happy with the size of the windows, trace two holes onto the front white piece of fabric, two on the side piece, one on each ‘door’ and one window on the back piece. Cut out the holes and then – the fun part – I used some sparkly silver tulle to cover the windows.
Wooo my little vintage caravan has made it into the June issue of Caravan Magazine. My little blue Sprite is becoming quite the celebrity in the touring world! I’m excited to share the article with you today and show off my little renovation project again.So here it is: a double-page spread! In the article I discuss the progress of my caravan makeover and how difficult it had been to find storage that would fit. Aside from my very tiny desk (which had a pastel pink makeover and a patchwork interior) I couldn’t find any storage cupboards that would even fit through the door of the caravan. Even if I could have manoeuvred a chest of drawers in through the window, most items of furniture are too deep for the narrow space in the caravan. A standard piece of furniture would stick out too far into the centre of the caravan and cause a bottleneck into the space. I needed a space that I could use for crafting, cutting out patterns and sewing, so I didn’t want to fill up all the room with furniture.That said, I did need storage. Somewhere to store my fabrics, ribbons, books, paperwork, buttons and bobbins – along with my Maneki Neko collection of course. So what was the solution? Why, children’s furniture, of course! It’s smaller and more narrow than conventional furniture so it fits in the limited space nicely. Plus, it’s flat-pack furniture so I could take it into the caravan in pieces and construct it in-situ. I wrote all about my new caravan storage solution on my blog so have a read, check out all the photos and let me know what you think of this idea.And if you get hold of a copy of Caravan Magazine this June, please let me know what you think of my first article too. It’s also online at OutandAboutLive.co.uk so you can have a read of the full article there too. It’s very exciting for me, and I’d love to know what kind of a response it’s had so please get in touch by leaving me a comment below or by tweeting me @Cassiefairy.
Remember my little vintage caravan? It tends to be more of a focus of my blog posts during the summer, because I seem to spend most of my time out there when the weather is good. When it’s chilly and windy, like it has been this week, I’ve been rather more reluctant to work outside in my little tin can. Without a lot of heating it can be rather unbearable during the winter. BUT the good news is that I have been giving my neglected caravan a little bit of unseasonal attention this month and here’s why…It’s been on the road! Yes, the caravan that I thought would never move again is actually road-worthy! Okay, I probably wouldn’t want to take it all the way from Land’s End to John O’Groats but those wheels do still turn, the tow-hitch is secure and the body is solid. I actually imagined that the walls would just fall down if I ever moved it, quickly turning it into a ‘flat-packed’ caravan. But it didn’t; the walls stayed where they should be and the windows didn’t pop out (quite amazing because one window sometimes slips out when you try to open it!). After holding my breath for about 2 hours while we attempted to move the caravan up the garden, I finally breathed a sign of relief as it smoothly rolled onto the driveway.So, now I know that I actually could go on holiday in my little vintage caravan, I’ve started thinking about the things I’d need to make a trip easy and comfortable. Quite a lot of the usual caravan ‘home comforts’ were removed when I turned it into my home office: all the cupboards were damp and rotten so they were taken out – and this included the kitchen. In fact, everything apart from the bed and table was taken out and we basically started again from scratch. Instead of building in new cupboards I simply found some small cupboards at carboot sales and secondhand shops and upcycled them with a lick of paint.Aside from possibly building Continue reading “My little vintage caravan – On the road again!” »
After years of writing about my own little vintage caravan, today I’m sharing a new-found friend with you: Daisy the caravan. She lives in Ellesmere Port and is packed full of vintage charm so I couldn’t resist borrowing some photos from her website in order to share this retro home-on-wheels with you today.Daisy is a beautiful pre-loved vintage caravan which has been lovingly restored to its former glory by her owner Sian. Weeks of hard work went into fixing up this retro beauty as Sian installed fresh new upholstery and soft furnishings, completely made over the vintage décor and cleaned Daisy from top to bottom.
Today I’m proud to tell you that I’ve been interviewed about my little vintage caravan makeover project by the fabulous writer Lela from the Simple Caravan Insurance blog. I’m really pleased with how this article turned out (see the original article here) and wanted to share the interview with you to give you a bit more of an insight into my caravan project.
What made you choose the caravan model that you did for your makeover?
I chose this particular caravan for my project partly because of the low price (it was only £100!) and also because the Sprite has a cute curved shape. It was the kind of caravan that I’d conjured up in my mind’s eye as a “vintage” caravan, and I knew that it would look considerably nicer once it had been painted.
When conducting your makeover, did you have a plan from the get-go?
The only plan I had at the start of the project was to strip everything back and start from scratch with an empty shell. The old interior was so badly damaged that only the bases of the seats could be salvaged so once the interior has been removed I could see exactly where damp was coming in and what needed to be done, and only then was I able to make a to-do list. The design of the interior wasn’t planned out at all – all of the makeover decisions were made based on cost! The paint colours were chosen because I’d managed to pick up some end-of-line pots of paint, the wallpaper patchwork wall was made from ends of rolls, off-cuts from friends’ decorating and I even reused old paper that had stripped off my mum’s walls while she was decorating. All of the furniture was bought from charity shops or rescued from a skip, while my fabric was mostly thrifted – the seat covers are my in-laws’ old bed sheets!
What has been the most difficult part of your caravan makeover so far?
The most difficult part of the makeover was replacing the window trims. It was easy to remove the old window seals because they were crumbling off and letting in a lot of leaks! But adding the new window trims took an entire-day because I needed to move the caravan in order to get access to the rear window and stretching the trim around the frame was complicated – no sooner than I had smoothed one piece into place than another piece would pop off! To make matters worse, I discovered that the side window was held in place with silicone and once this had been removed to fit the window trim, the glass started sliding out of the window and very nearly smashed on the floor! It has now been refitted but I still can’t open the window and it would be good to get it working, so that’s next on the ever-growing list!
If you did the makeover again, what would you do differently?
I would possibly decorate the space differently, choosing coordinating wallpaper and paints for a more professional finish rather than throwing everything I could get my hands on at the walls! I think this would make the space more desirable if I were ever to sell the caravan in the future. But then again, I’m not intending make a profit nor am I ever planning to sell it, so I’m happy that is becoming ‘my’ space and it is very personal to me. As the project is still evolving I can continue to decorate it and add bits to my patchwork wall as I find them – I doubt it will ever really be ‘finished’!
What will be the primary use of the space?
My initial plan for the caravan was to use it as a work space. It would be my version of a garden shed where I could keep all of my sewing equipment and an office space to run my blog Cassiefairy.com from. I use the table as a sewing and writing desk and am currently working on adding more storage space for fabrics and crafts. A second use for the caravan has emerged over the past year: it’s become a spare room. Our house doesn’t have a guest bedroom so when we have visitors either my husband and I will camp out in the caravan (and very cosy it is too!) or my visitors will ask if they can stay in the caravan. So it’s become a very useful second bedroom! It is a also a great space for family meals, because we can’t fit a group of 8/9 around our dining table indoors, but there’s plenty of room in the caravan for a long table and we’ve had many meals out there all year round!
The only thing that I don’t think it will be used for again is towing away for a holiday. This is a shame because I’d love to camp in it, but we needed to remove all the electrics when the caravan arrived (they were rather dodgy) so it would need a complete overhaul of lights for towing, as well as fitting a new electric hook-up point. Also, I’m worried that removing the interior fittings might have destabilised the structure because there is no internal bracing now that the cupboards, kitchen and wardrobe have been removed. I don’t know how much this affects the usability of the caravan but I think it’ll take a lot more work to get it back into towing-and-camping-condition!
What is your favourite feature in the caravan?
My favourite feature in the caravan is the back window. This may sound like a strange favourite to choose, but it runs across the whole width of the caravan and it opens upwards on hinges to let in a lot of fresh air (a must when I’m working in there on hot summer days!) and I love listening to all the sounds of birds chirping in the garden. It lets in plenty of light so that I don’t need to plug in lamps and when you’re lying in the double bed at night you can pull back the curtains and see a wide-angle view of the stars.
What is left to do? Have you stuck to a timeframe or set a ‘due date’?
I have lots more left to do – some of which I’ve already mentioned: fix the side window so that it can be opened, build in some fitted storage for fabrics etc, paint the interior of the door (I like the idea of chalkboard paint there), add a chest of drawers for guests who stay in the caravan, lay slabs outside the caravan and plant a few flowers, find some steps to make it a little easier to hop in and out of the caravan and, if I’m being picky, I think the outside of the caravan need repainting already because it’s not looking as fresh as it did this time last year!
Is another caravan makeover on the horizon after this one?
I certainly hope so! I’m completely hooked on caravans – I subscribe to Vintage Caravan Magazine and am always daydreaming about getting a caravan that I can actually tow and take away on holiday. I actually want a smaller caravan; just a little two-berth would be perfect for hubby and I to go away in for a weekend. I’ve found plenty of vintage caravans for sale that have already been renovated but I enjoyed the process so much that I’d like to get my hands on one that hasn’t been touched for years and give it a new lease of life.
Last week hubby and I were lucky enough to be invited to take part in a photo-shoot for Alde Garden campsite. Although I’d visited the site before it was exciting to see the garden at dusk with all the pretty fairy lights glittering in the trees and to enjoy a little peace and quiet, with the crackling campfire and birdsong being the only sounds I could hear.
We were given a tour of the wildlife garden and popped our heads inside the gypsy caravan and bell tent, and felt the warmth of the wood burners inside the gorgeous yurts and tipi. Even though we were there for ‘modelling’ purposes, the whole aura of the site is so calm that we instantly found ourselves feeling relaxed and spent most of the evening chilling out around the campfire with a beer rather than posing for photos!
My beady eye had previously spotted a clay pizza oven beside the outdoor camp kitchen (above) and I really wanted to have a go a making a proper stone-baked pizza. So we took some dough and toppings with us to the campsite and I couldn’t wait to get it fired up to make a couple of pizzas to share with the campers and owners. Inspired by our recent trip to Jamie Oliver’s Pizzeria in Cambridge (read my blog post here!) I chose to use Jamie’s recipe for pizza dough, which you can follow here on Jamie’s cookery website. We made a tomato sauce by sautéing one finely diced onion with garlic and tomato puree before adding a tin of chopped tomatoes, a few torn basil leaves, seasoning and a teaspoon of sugar. We allowed this to simmer down into a thick sauce and then popped it into a jar so that it was easy to transport with us to the campsite.
On site, hubby prepared the base and spread on the tomato sauce. I added a few olives, sautéed courgettes, some fresh herbs from our garden and a grating of cheese before carefully sliding it onto the plank to transfer it into the hot pizza oven. This photo looks like we’ve added it straight into the fire, but the picture was taken solely for ‘photo-shoot’ purposes! The fire was actually scraped out of the oven and the embers were pushed to the sides before the pizza was flopped onto the hot stone oven base. A wooden door covers the front of the oven to keep the temperature up and it had been soaked in water so it added a little steam to the process. After only about 7/8 minutes the first pizza was cooked, with a crispy bottom and puffy dough, so we popped the second pizza in and began tearing it up to share with the happy campers.
It was a magical evening at Alde Garden and I hope to go back there as a ‘proper guest’ sometime soon because I just can’t get enough of the relaxed ambience of the place, plus I’ll get to make more delicious stone-baked pizzas! Let me know if you use my tomato sauce recipe and tweet me photos to @Cassiefairy if you have a go at making your own homemade pizzas.