Category Archives: Handmade

Handmade how-to.

The Light Box – progress report

I made some progress today in meeting my self inflicted deadline to complete the sewing machine drawer project…. I wasn’t entirely happy with the art cover I made earlier so I spent some of yesterday doing some acrylic pours onto plexiglass sheets.

 

Even though they were promising in design when I placed them over the light box the acrylic paint was too thick to let enough light through- although where it was thin some very lovely “light holes” appeared – so there’s an idea bubbling away for a design where I intentionally screen out some areas to get a light pattern- think starry, starry night or bioluminescing water.

Anyway back to the project…I tried an ink pour next and it looked sort of OK .

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Playing with ink pours onto plexiglass sheets.

 

So , out with the drawer which I had previously kitted out with LED light strips attached to a transformer, and on with the plexiglass sheet.

 

The sheet isn’t fixed in place at this stage but I thought it could be OK even though at this stage it looks a little dull. Anyway – on with the lights!!!

 

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WOW! Love it when the light comes on!

It was an instant hit of lovely, warm, bright colour. There are parts of the panel at the top I would like to change but the pouring process is 1 part control, 99 parts out-of-control, and I could do another 100 and not be totally happy. This time I’m going to override my inner perfectionist and let my ‘it’s good enough” out of the box for a play.

I still have work to do because even though I measured twice before I cut it’s still a whisker too tight to recess into the drawer. I’m considering my options carefully to try and avoid shaving the bottom edge of the plexiglass which will be a very painful process-if anyone has any good ideas I’d love to hear! Meanwhile I’ll be straining the brain for a fix or going back for another cut and pour.

The sewing machine drawer project…

I’m brimming over with ideas at the moment and have a lot of projects on the go and a pretty messy studio. It’s not unusual for me to get caught up in a new idea and jump straight in feet first adapting the method to use whatever I have lying around the studio, the kitchen, the workshop or the paddocks! Mostly things work out OK, I’ve got very adept at adapting over the years.

Why all the adapting? It’s all down to my absolute impatience to start creating once I get an idea. Also my absolute impatience to complete a project once started. In my peak sewing days I was heard to say “if I can’t make it in a night it’s not worth making”. This inevitably led to some pretty late nights. Anyways, I start before I completely work out the details and somewhere in the middle I realise I don’t have the tail feathers of a rare Peruvian parrot which is absolutely essential to finish. Not to be thwarted in my headlong assault on the current creative make I head outside and find a couple of sparrow feathers , slightly mangled after the owner’s altercation with our cat ( no acrimonious letters please – the sparrow won), and surprisingly they work just fine.

So it’s been a slight departure from norm that I’m currently working on a new idea that is crawling along…definitely not a one night wonder. I had an idea for using the drawers from my grandmothers old Singer sewing machine to make light boxes. The top of the machine cabinet is wrecked but I didn’t want to throw it out because of the Nan connection so I got my creative side working overtime to come up with a repurposed use for it. The idea of a light box with some sort of art component was the winner and since I wasn’t quite sure how to go about it  I did a spot of googling and started making a list.

There’s actually a lot of bits and bobs that made it onto the list, none of which I had – a thorough search of the house and environs failed to turn up any subs so I headed to Ebay and ordered an express delivery of patience! I’m glad I ordered the XXL bag because the rest of the parts on the list have been slowly trickling in over the last month or so. The day the last bob arrived I had to fly out for a week visit to my father-in-law so the drawers remained unfinished, sitting on a bench overflowing with little packets of LED light strips and solderless connectors, plugs and transformers scattered around and sheets of cut and uncut plexiglass cluttering up the place.

I’ve been home 3 days and there’s been some progress. The box is all wired up, the lights work fine, the panels cut to size with a few spares, the wooden fixing strips are cut to size and it’s all set for the art panel to be attached. The problem is I keep changing my mind about the artwork. I’ve tried ink painting , acrylic pouring and photo transfer on the  plexiglass panels and just can’t decide what to go with. I think the problem is the art panel is going to be permanently sealed in place so once it’s done I can’t go “oops -should have gone with the other one!”

Bottom line is I fly out to Europe in 10 days and it’s going to be finished or I’m not getting on that plane…

How to make a folded window artist’s book

This concertina artist’s book displays mini garden paintings in graduated windows on each page. You can cut any size window you want but I like the way this book seems to zoom out from the flowers to the full garden as the windows get progressively bigger.

Materials:

fabric scrap or piece if scrap canvas decorated in any way you like ( I used acrylic inks)

PVA glue ( preferably acid free)

scraps of thick mat board or other card for covers

straight edged metal ruler

craft knife or mat cutter

cloth tape

watercolour paper- you will need a sheet approx 100cm wide

length of ribbon or cord

 

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Step 1 Make the covers

Cut 2 pieces of card the same size . Mine were 5 x 15cm. Cut two pieces of your cover canvas or fabric 2 cm larger all round and then cut the corners as shown so you don’t have too much fabric to fold under at the corners. Spread glue on the face up side of the covers and use a scrap of card to squeegee the glue all across the surface of the card so it’s smooth. Turn the card over and centre on the fabric and smooth out so there are no wrinkles.3b

 

Fold the corners in neatly and then tear off strips of the cloth tape and tape leaving 1 cm all round free of tape3c

On the back cover lay a length of card/ ribbon accross the cover side to side and tape over it. The tape should be 3 times the width of the cover.3e

 

The front of your covers should look like this ( only not bluury!)3d

Step 2  Prepare your paintings

Now make sure you have 6 mini paintings ( or poems , or cut outs – whatever you like) that will fit in the windows you’re about to cut. I did flowers but it could be anything you like.3f

 

Step 3 Measure and cut your paper.

Now you need to measure your covers and cut a length of watercolour paper that is

LENGTH =(the width of the cover – .5cm) x 6

WIDTH = ( the height of the cover -.5cm) x 2

Step 4  Mark and fold your pages

Once you have cut the paper fold in halve bringing the long sides together. Crease the fold with the back of a bread and butter knife . Open up your paper and mark six equal sections  along the length of the paper strip.

Step 5. Cut the windows

Now you can cut the windows on the top half of the sheet however you like. I cut mine starting 1.5 cm in from the pencil marks leaving 1.5 cm border at top and bottom of the folded half. I increased the length of each window by 1.5cm.

Use a metal ruler and a craft knife for cutting the windows.

Now fold the long edges together again.

3g

 

Step 6  Position the paintings

Next match up your 6 paintings with the 6 windows and try them inside for positioning. I marked around the corners with pencil so I could position them again easily.

Step 7  Fold the pages.

Then you need to fold the strip of paper at each of the 6 sections you marker earlier. Place the metal ruler on the left of the first section mark and fold the right length of paper over the ruler to the left and press the crease. Now lay the ruler on the right of the second section mark which will line up with the start of your paper strip. Fold back over the ruler to the right. Continue the rest of the folds going in opposite direction for each fold. You will end up with a concertina strip as below.3h

Step 8 Glue in the paintings

Open up the strip and glue all along the non window side spreading the glue smoothly with a piece of card. Also place a bead of glue around each window. PLace the painitngs in the pencilled marks you made earlier , fold the strip long side to long side and smooth down to make full contact with the glue. Smooth out any wrinkles or creases. It should look like the photo below.

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You can make sure your page folds are crisp and smooth by ironing them with a warm iron.3i

Then I sandwiched them between some card and placed bulldog clips around until they set.3m

Step 9 Glue pages to covers

When fully dry cover the inside of your cover with glue, smooth out and then carefully position the front page painting side up on the front cover leaving an equal distance from the edge around all sides.3k

Do the same with the back page and back cover.3l

 

Leave for a few minutes then fold up the concertina book , wrap the cord around it twice and tie up.1

Step 10 Weight down for 12 hours

Now place under a heavy weight such as a brick or stack of books for 12 hours and you’re all done!

Step 11  Enjoy!

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Why not try one yourself and send me a link to your art book? I’d love to see where your imagination takes you.

 

A little inspiration

I dropped into a local home furnishing fabric shop this week and rifled through their bolt end bins for some inspiration. I’m not into formulaic handmade bags and although I often make a series of bags with the same basic form I like to mix it up with different fabrics, patterns and accents. So a bin of odds and ends of fabric is a great kick starter for ideas.

Surprisingly it was a $3 sample swatch of faux leather that got my creative ideas flowing.

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I loved the colours and the fabric had a lovely suppleness to it that meant it would sew well but the swatches where only a couple of inches so what could I do with them??

I was sorting through my handmade stamps later that day when I hit on the idea of combining the two as an accent patch on some of my little black bags.

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So here’s the result

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You can check them out in my Etsy shop  for more pics.

 

Painting overload!

 

Now, I love painting, you all know that, but this last month has had me on the annual Christmas rush orders overload and I am definitely looking forward to a break over Christmas. I’ve only had time for my day job and painting. Staying up to midnight and getting up at six  has been the only way to get through all the custom orders – I’m still waking up with only 10 days to go to find hopeful emails from distant lands requesting 2 x 3 ft paintings to be done , shipped and under the tree by Christmas morning! It’s becoming increasingly difficult to find a polite way of saying ” Are you out of your mind!!!!!” Still, I finished the last order I was prepared to take on 2 days ago and only have one small commission for a very fussy customer ( me) to finish off  and I can put away the brushes for a few days. No doubt I’ll be itching to get back into it after the break .

Here’s a peek at all the commissions that will be finding themselves under far flung trees this Christmas. Whilst some of them might not have been my first choice of subject , all of them have real significance for the people who commissioned them.  I’ve enjoyed helping others bring their ideas to life and being part of a very special and thoughtful gift giving experience. My favourite is the prairie sunset…. what’s yours?

 

 

Eco printing.

After a weekend visit to the Tasmanian Craft Fair I was inspired to try my hand at eco dying. The Writer bought me a beautiful autumn eco printed wool scarf in Italy this year which I love – the colours are soft oranges and muted browns on a cream ground. I treated myself to a locally made silk scarf with a smokey grey and burnt orange print of eucalyptus leaves at the fair and headed home with a plan to try it myself. (Craft fairs will do that to me – I have a list of three new crafts to try from this fair!)

So I did a lot of googling and found some great articles on how to eco print and had a stab at it. My first attempt gave me some gorgeous colours despite my slapdash approach! I would have pre mordanted the cloth with alum if I’d had any but really I couldn’t wait to try it so I just spread lots of eucalyptus leaves and rusty slabs from the old corrugated  roof I ripped off the Potter’s shed onto a length of calico, placed another piece over it and rolled it all tightly around a metal pipe. Then I wrapped it with string and placed in on a rack above simmering water. I covered the whole thing with foil to seal in the steam and left it to do it’s magic for a couple of hours.

Eco printed fabric bags
Eco printed “Rust and Eucalyptus”

I love the rusty colours and those smokey greys. I was a bit too liberal with the rusty metal additions and lost the eucalyptus pattern but didn’t mind as I like the abstract design that emerged.

The next day I went out and bought some alum from my local art supply shop. It was pretty pricey but will last for ages and as I’ve got the bug I’ll be getting my monies worth out of it. So, armed with the alum  I pre mordanted my second batch of fabric by soaking in a 10% alum solution overnight ( 10% of the weight of the dry fabric mixed with enough water to cover the fabric). Mordanting helps the dye from the leaves attach to the fabric. Then I repeated the process of layering the wet fabric with leaves ( I used maple leaves from the garden this time), rolling and tying. Then into the steamer for 2 hours. This batch was more successful at capturing the leaf shapes and I managed to get some subtle greens as well.

 

I’m a quick project girl and I love the fact this requires so little time and yields such interesting and unpredictable results. I can see me doing a lot more eco printing and dyeing in the future. Can I see me keeping a detailed note book of each experiment as every googled article suggests? Nope! I know I should but I also know I won’t – best just to acknowledge my lack of crafting rigour and get on with the dyeing and enjoy the anticipation every time I snip the string, unravel the cloth and release the print.

Eco dyeing has been a comfort to me this week, making something beautiful feels like a small antidote to the madness that has been the US elections.

 

The RDO report- a black sheep day.

On Monday I posted off  my latest commission and was waiting for a client to get back to me before I could start the next one so Tuesday found me with a RDO (rare day off) and no paintings waiting to be done! That really doesn’t happen often at this time of year with a steady stream of Christmas commissions coming in( as I write there’s already a new painting on the easel and 2 more waiting to be started).

Scottish Moors - acrylic on canvas painitng
Scottish Moors – just finished.
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Lone Mountain – current work in progress

With no painting on the go I found myself eyeing off my stash of fabric and favourite black sheep stamp . I love cottons and had a lovely earthy piece with tan,cream and terracotta stripes that I decided to pair with a tan cotton drill and turn into a couple of bags. I stamped away happily , making some decorative patches to sew on the flaps and backs and then spent a few hours at the sewing machine which has been feeling very neglected lately. By the end of the day I’d finished off 3 bags featuring the sheep print  and felt reconnected to my  sewing machine !

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But now it’s back to the easel……………I need to get some big snow covered pines on the foreground ridge , and maybe a few falling snowflakes.

RDO report- bags of fun!

I love my rostered day off (RDO)! Every second Tuesday I get a day off work that is just for me. I can do whatever I like with it and I try and pack a lot into those 9 hours. Here’s what I did today:

  • cleaned the washing machine before I did the washing because I truely thought the clothes would come out dirtier than they went in
  • took the car to Artery for some supplies that just won’t fit on the scooter
  • dropped in to see my brother and check out some fantastic plan drawers he has that I’ve been coveting – think they’ll be mine soon!!
  • exchanged the router that died for a new one that no doubt will die within the next 12 months
  • and made three bags using some really beautiful upholstery fabric featuring
  • shot some photos and added the bags to my Etsy shop

 

It’s been a good day!

 

 

 

 

A day in the studio.

I had a rostered day off work today after a horror couple of weeks with equipment breakdowns that have played havoc with our work schedule. I love a RDO ! Unlike a weekend it’s all MY time! I can share it with The Writer if I choose but he never takes it for granted that I’ll go for a walk or sit down for a long conversation over lunch, which is a good thing, since I always have a long list of stuff I want to do on my precious day off.

Today I got up early and put on some washing , showered,had a quick breakfast and checked my email. Then I had a fun morning making some little felt phone pouches. They’re quick and easy but I did have to change the cotton colour quite a lot! I’ll be popping them into my Etsy shop later on tonight. Then I hung out the washing ,which I have to admit I forgot about!

 

Then I started a large pastel painting for an upcoming charity exhibition and made a good start. I’m happy with the water and sky. The rocks are coming along well- although I may knock the colour back a little in some places. There’s going to be a lone seagull in flight when it’s finished but I haven’t got that far yet. The photo’s not the sharpest as the cat was purring round my legs when I took it with the tablet and there’s a bit of camera shake going on but I was just too darned busy to break the schedule and get out the camera on the tripod.

 

pastel painitng - rocks
Bay of Fires rocks – pastel painting

Around one thirty my stomach reminded me to take a minute out for lunch so I made a sandwiched and then headed back to the studio. I kept working on those rocks for the next couple of hours until the chill reminded me to get the washing in. A few domestic chores, a quick flit to the shop for some butter and a foray into the bush for the greenery that I need for tomorrow nights decorations for a mid winter feast and it was time to put dinner on.

While dinner cooked I cut out snowflake templates stuck them to empty jars and then spray painted  the jars  white . Once the template came off  I dropped in a tea light and voila! a safe and pretty candle for the table centers.

 

So by the time I would usually  be heading in the door from work I’d managed to tick off a fair bit from my “to do” list!

 

 

 

Coptic bound book

I’ve really got the book making bug at the moment – I tend to go in cycles of enthusiasms that parallel my main painting passion and help to balance out my creative life. Last night I finished my first attempt at coptic binding and I totally enjoyed the experience. I found a lot of useful tutorials online and this one by tortgialla was very helpful in giving me a good idea of how it’s done. Any faults in my stitching are down to me not the well photographed and clearly written instructions in the tutorial!

The Cover

I’d made covers before so that wasn’t too difficult. In fact I made a double cover because I wanted it a bit thicker , so I just covered two pieces of mat board with different fabric and then glued them together and weighted them overnight to make sure there was a strong bond.

 

 

The signatures

I’ve learned a whole new vocabulary swotting up on book binding – that’s one of the things I love about diving into new crafts. It’s like I’ve now got the secret password to an exclusive club. I can decode the articles and tutorials and understand the nuances of  specialists writing about their passion. So I now know that a signature is not only a written name but is also a collection of papers stacked on top of each other and folded in half. A number of signatures together make up the inner pages of a book. Book is a term I already knew in case you were curious.

So I made up six signatures with each having 4 sheets of ivory Mi Tientes pastel paper.

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The tricky bit!

Now I had to join the signatures to the covers and to each other and that’s where the coptic stitching comes in. If you want to know more about how to do this there are plenty of online tutorials and videos . What with threading and re threading my needle, holding covers and papers  tightly, manouvering the needle while holding the paper and the covers tighty, while also pulling the thread tight, and putting band aids on fingers after mistaking flesh for paper there wasn’t much time for taking photos! You might have noticed there’s a bit of an emphasis on keeping everything tight! This is because you want the pages to be snug against the covers and each other so the book doesn’t move around too much. Mine is OK for a first attempt but I think I need to keep it all a little it tighter next time – not sure how I’ll do that but I expect it’s like everything else and just requires a bit of practice.

Stitching to the cover was quite tricky , especially as I tried a bit of a fancy pattern for my first attempt. Once that was done the signatures were plain sailing and not fiddly at all – I think this was helped by using a curved needle which was a tip from the tortagialla tutorial.

Coptic bound book
Coptic bound book

 

The IT Geek wanted to know was it worth all the time it took and I gave a resounding YES. It’s a very satisfying thing to create your own book and even more satisfying to then fill it with your  prose, poetry, and art. I’m going to make a library of them – there’s a ton of different stitching patterns out there and I may well have a go at creating my own. Then there’s the long stitching method of attaching the signatures directly to the spine of a leather cover – I’d like to try that as well. …and maybe some wooden covers ………..