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Illustrator & eco clothing designer

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Monthly Review: Making Handmade Books

Last week I showed you some ways to use up your leftover wrapping paper from Christmas, including how to make a boring notebook look a little more interesting by covering it with paper. It got me thinking about how over the years I’ve liked to create my own books and folders to suit my needs (in fact I’ve only just recycled the planner I constructed two years ago; I made it to suit everything I needed, including a to-do section,a shopping list section,a notes section,an emergency contacts section,a day-by-day plan section, and even an inspiration section for when I was low and in need of focus). As someone who loves to work things out and create my own patterns (it’s the asperger’s in me! I love to construct/deconstruct things!) I’ve spent many hours working out measurements for folders,books and boxes. However, sometimes a little inspiration is useful in creating new designs, and for those who aren’t sure where to begin it’s good to have some step-by-step instructions along with lots of visuals. In my second year of university we had an exceptionally brief workshop on bookmaking, which actually set me off on the joy of creating my own books and folders. In the workshop a book was recommended and that’s the book I’ll be reviewing today: Making Handmade Books, by Alisa Golden.

Full title: Making Handmade Books 100+ Bindings, Structures & Forms

Author: Alisa Golden

Price: £9 – £20

Where to buy: Waterstones, BookDepository, Amazon, Ebay

Brief description: Step-by-step instructions along with a generous helping of visuals showing you how to create many different books, wallets, folders and more.

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The Good

For me the best feature of this book is the use of images. I benefit greatly from being shown visually what to do in addition to just being told/given written instructions so this book is great for both text-based learners as well as more visual learners. However, not every single step is shown, just ones that the author deems most in need of extra explanation.

The second thing I like about this book is the layout. Each project is divided clearly, with a bold title for each. Each step is also clearly numbered and diagrams are labelled. I feel this approach is very useful for those who struggle to follow instructions, as it allows you to break your project up into smaller bits, allowing you to focus on one step at a time.

Another thing I like about this book is that you get more than you may have initially expected. You learn not only how to construct some interesting books/folders etc but you also find yourself discovering some unique artists. As someone who enjoys learning, I read the ‘Artist’s Bio’s’ section with curiosity. I feel this would also be useful for art and design students who may wish to research the artists further.

Continuing with the topic of ‘extras’ this book is full of them! In addition to the bio’s the book also includes several pages dedicated to ‘Ideas & Concepts’, complete with inspiring images and stories of interesting collaborations.

The not-so-good

Whilst the book provides lots of information and numbered steps to guide you through each stage of your project, some designs are particularly difficult. The majority would be too complex for children, which is why I feel this book is aimed at adults and older teenagers. This is a foray into the world of serious bookmaking as an art form, rather than a weekend project to occupy children. I admit that some of the designs put me off as it was evident that a lot of time and concentration would be needed and the diagrams themselves were very complex (for example the ‘Tetra-Tetra Flexagon’).

The only other potentially negative point is the need for specific tools for some of the projects. For example, linen tape, awl, certain boards.

Conclusion

Personally, I would recommend this book to anyone who has a serious interest in bookmaking. I think it’s best suited to adults and older teenagers, particularly those on design courses or who have a love for making and creativity. I find myself revisiting this book on regular occasions and for myself it has been worth every penny. The price is reasonable and it can be found easily.

 

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Happy New Year!

Happy New Year! I hope everyone had a lovely festive season, I know for some it’s still not over yet but with a little disappointment I took down my decorations earlier today. On the other hand, I’m ready to start a brand new year and have been creating an ‘inspiration board’ to refer back to when I’m feeling a little lost.

An inspiration board can be a great way to almost ‘meditate’ over your goals. Get yourself some mountboard (available in hobby/art shops like Hobbycraft), a stack of old magazines and any crafty extras you want to make your board beautiful (glitter glue etc) and pull out any images or text that relates to your goals.

Collaging can be very relaxing and I find it very therapeutic allowing myself to just be creative with no worries of how the final product will look. You can make words by cutting out different letters, make areas stand out using 3D tape/craft dots and really experiment creatively. Put it up somewhere where you can look at it throughout the year, to refresh your enthusiasm.

If you’d prefer a less ‘busy’ board or have some material hanging around that you’re not sure what to do with, you can take a look at one of my tutorials from a couple of years ago that takes you step-by-step through creating a fabric-covered inspiration board (click here)

Before Christmas I visited a local Christmas market as I like to support local small businesses, especially art and craft-based ones. Unfortunately I was on crutches meaning hobbling at a snails-pace from stall to stall, but I discovered some real treasures! The handmade item that made me most excited was the gorgeous fairy tree topper I came across from the ‘Magical Fairy Emporium’. You can find them on facebook here: link 

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In my last post of the year ‘How to have a greener Christmas‘ I told you to hang on to any wrapping paper you couldn’t recycle and gave some ideas on how to put it to good use. Next week I’ll be demonstrating some of these ideas in a step-by-step tutorial.

Happy New Year to all my blog followers!

Monthly tutorial: Halloween treat bag

Halloween is coming up so this month I’ll be showing you how to sew your own mini drawstring treat bag. As my blog followers will know I’m a huge fan of recycling/upcycling material (take a look at my eco wear: link) so when I was given a stash of random bits of material I was keen to get stuck in and get sewing again. I hand-sew all my items as I like the control and the feeling that i’m really engaging with what I’m doing. I also feel that hand sewing can be therapeutic due to the repetitive motion and concentration it requires but this bag can be done using a sewing machine if you don’t have much time. Some materials are easier to work with than others. Generally speaking thinner cotton fabric is quite easy to work with. The spiderweb material I used had a lycra-esque quality to it which made it difficult to work with, for this tutorial I recommend sticking to non stretchy fabrics.

You will need:

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♦ A cutting mat (optional but useful!)

♦ Fabric scissors

♦ Fabric marker/pencil

♦ Pins

♦ Sewing needle

♦ Cotton thread (in colours matching your material)

♦ A piece of material measuring at least 32 x 18 cm

♦ A piece of contrasting material measuring at least 32 x 8cm

♦ 2 pieces of ribbon approx. 32cm

Step 1

You’re going to need to cut out two pieces of material for the main part of your treat bag. Using a fabric marker/pencil, mark out two rectangles measuring 16 x 18 cm and cut out.

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Step 2

For your casing you’ll need to cut out two rectangles measuring 16 x 8cm.

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Step 3

To give a neat edge, fold shorter ends of your casing over 1cm and pin in place before sewing. I used basic backstitch.

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Step 4

Pin your larger pieces of fabric together around three edges (2 long edges,1 short) with the wrong sides facing. Sew with 1cm seam allowance and turn the right way.

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Step 5

Take your casing pieces and fold in half so you can see the neat side of your stitching. At this point if you have time it’s good to press your pieces with an iron but as I had limited time I skipped this step. It just makes your material more well behaved and neat. Pin your folded pieces to the top of your bag (raw edges at the top)

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Step 6

It’s up to you how far down you wanht to sew, the further down you sew the less of the contrasting material you’ll be able to see and bear in mind you’ll need to be able to get your ribbon through. As I had a gap at the top of my material where the spiderweb pattern stopped I chose to sew quite low down, just above half way but anything 1cm or over is fine (providing you can fit your ribbon through).

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Step 7

Turn your casing in. This is also a good time to press your material to keep your joins/edges crisp. Please remember that some fabrics can only be pressed at a very low heat though! Stretchy fabrics can actually melt. If you’re using cotton as recommended this isn’t a problem.

Step 8

Attach a safety pin to the end of your ribbon and feed it through the gap you’ve made with the casing.

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And there you have it, your own unique Halloween treat bag! This pattern is so versatile, it can be used for any occasion, including Christmas and birthdays. You can alter the sizes to make a smaller or larger bag and is a great way to use up scraps of fabric.

Happy Halloween everyone!

Creative chaos!

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Chaotic! That’s the best way to describe my creativity lately, flitting from one project to another depending on my mood. I’ve been in search of inspiration in many areas, from spending time in beautiful natural spaces (which often stirs something in me) to searching pinterest for art, sewing, interiors, and everything in between. I’ve been re-visiting pieces and photographs, working on my seascape (yes, finally tackling it again) and searching my photo file to create a ‘thank you’ piece for a kind health professional.

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That’s one tip I’d give anyone embarking on learning/developing artistic skills: compile a reference image folder. That way, when the feeling to draw/paint strikes, you only have to reach for your file for inspiration. Mine is divided into sections: places, people, flower/plants and misc. It also encourages an interest in photography, and is a way to capture a little part of your day. I often carry my digicam with me, even if I’m going somewhere familiar. The beauty of natural spaces and even man-made spaces/views is that things are constantly changing, so there’s a constant supply of new material to work with.

Sewing-wise I’ve been letting my creativity have free-rein, and have been creating a colourful panelled skirt with bright colours, beautiful patterns, and those little details that bring a piece together. I found the perfect fabric which I immediately saw the potential in the moment I set eyes on it.

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Although my clothing project is a little behind where I’d initially planned by this point, I’ve decided the best route to take is to take my time making and researching, and to try to enjoy the creative process, which is in keeping with my objective to be more ‘in the moment’.

 

 

Spring/summer eco clothing collection

April is finally here, which means it’s time to reveal the textile project I’ve been working on since last year. Below are my 100% hand-sewn children’s clothes, made predominantly from recycled/upcycled materials/garments.

 

Green skirt: A skater skirt featuring vintage decorative ribbon from a local market, with each bead stitched individually. This is age 10, and has a stretchy waist band.

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Floaty shoulder-tie top: Made from wonderfully cool cotton, this floaty top has an adjustable neck/shoulder, and features a hand-embroidered element, as well as unique, patterned wooden beads and leaf design buttons. Age 8.

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This summery skirt is made of lightweight, cool cotton, and is decorated with upcycled red glass beads. Age 4-5, with a stretchy waist band.

 

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Layered skirt: this layered skirt includes beautiful rescued shell-like beads, as well as vintage ribbon from a local market, and is decorated with individually sewn bronze-colour sequins. Age 12, with a stretchy waist band.

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Peacock dress: In a former life this colourful creation was a faux pashmina, and has a lovely smooth feel, whilst still being lightweight enough to keep cool in spring and summer. Decorative lace added to the bottom was sourced from a local market, and each bead attached individually. This is a tie-sleeve design, so can be adjusted. Age 6.

 

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The following items will be donated to charity shops.

Colourful pattern top: A loose and light-weight cotton top with adjustable shoulder ties. For this piece I included vintage buttons. Age 9.

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Feather-pattern top: A cool, light-weight cotton top with adjustable neckline and shoulder ties. Each sequin was attached individually.

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Colourful skirt: Similar in design to another skirt, but with individually-attached wooden beads.

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Tag design

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nextOver the coming weeks I’ll be adding these to my online Folksy shop as soon as I include care labels, so keep an eye out! If you’d like a custom order please contact me (I’m happy to create skirts in ‘grown up’ sizes as well!)

 

 

Spring has sprung!

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The days are getting longer, the daffodils are in bloom, and each morning I’m greeted with the sound of a blackbird singing his heart out. It can only mean one thing…spring has sprung! I’ve been celebrating the changing of seasons by capturing the beauty of nature by collecting and pressing interesting leaves and flowers (non-protected species of course) to use in a craft I’ve been wanting to try for quite some time: paper making.

I have a family member who adores card making, and her birthday is coming up in April. I’m always looking for something meaningful that reaches further than just being a mass-produced item, so, in support of recycling and hand made crafts, I’ve decided to make a mini paper stack for her to use in her own craft, with petals and leaves from my mini adventures set in. I’ve been taking photographs of the beauty I’ve witnessed along the way, to share my experience with her, which I’ll put in a miniature handmade album (tutorial to make your own coming later this year!)

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Whilst on the subject of unique and handmade gifts, I’d also like to introduce you to a talented crafter who works with stained glass. Wanting something beautiful to brighten someone’s day I came across Joy’s Folksy shop and found a gorgeous one-of-a-kind sun catcher. I recommend taking a look at the stunning items in her shop. It was so difficult to choose just one!

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Joy’s Folksy shop: link

Joy’s website: link

As my readers will know I’m often working on multiple creative projects, and one I’ve been working on for a good half a year is soon to be revealed! At the beginning of the year I promised to produce a collection of spring/summer eco wear by April, and now April is just around the corner. On the 1st I’ll be posting the first images of my hand-sewn children’s clothing, made almost entirely from recycled/upcycled material. I promise lots of colour, pattern, and of course uniqueness. And just for my blog readers, here’s a little sneak peak of what to expect…

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sketch

How do you turn frustration into something productive? How do you share an experience with someone when the moments gone?

Until the end of 2017 I’ll be working on a mini-project (project ‘Speedy Sketch’) where I’ll be documenting the health-related side of my life through quick illustrations. Moments spent in hospital, doctor, and clinic waiting rooms will be put to use to capture my surroundings, and at the end of the year I’ll curate an online exhibition, to share with my readers little glimpses of what I’ve seen along the way.

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nextmonth

1st April – the big eco clothing reveal!

7th April – Easter Inspiration, including alternative (and further-reaching) gift ideas

15th April – Monthly tutorial: The second of 2017’s new content addition: vegan recipes. This one will be how to make a healthier, delicious alternative to Easter eggs for those wanting something a little more nutritious or different; Vegan bunny-shaped savoury oat cakes (and how to present them)

23rd April – The previously promised Graphitint pencils review

Art vs Craft

There’s nothing new with me dividing my time between art and sewing, but as I’ve been working towards a deadline (in this case a birthday) the balance has been significantly tipped, and I’ve been dedicating as much time to embroidering and sewing as possible.

The giftee owns a camper van and is always complaining of cold hands (yet refuses to wear gloves!) and so the little grey cells in my head set about providing a solution…

Introducing the cuddly camper cushion! A personalised cushion to keep in the back of your van, with a pouch to store reusable hand warmers.

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And as I’m so fond of recycling/upcycling, I made use of fabric left over from December’s inspiration board tutorial and utilised studs rescued from a handbag destined for the landfill.

artyWhen I’ve had the chance I’ve been sneaking a few hours here and there to work on an illustration using graphitint, putting the pencils through their paces ready for next month’s review. The piece was inspired by some old books I came across whilst sorting through my grandmother’s belongings. She, like myself, has always appreciated the beauty of nature. One book in particular caught my eye – The Hamlyn Animal Encyclopedia. It may have a dingy, stained exterior, but inside lies a treasure trove of detailed illustrations.

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For my piece I chose animals and fungi native to Britain that I thought would compliment the limited colour palette of the tinted graphite and not deduct anything from their natural interest/beauty; the shape was as important as the palette, with the curved backs of the Pine Marten adding to the symmetry – something I use quite often in my work, particularly my paper cuts.

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Pine Marten’s used to be a regular sight in Wales in the past, but during the 19th and 20th century became all but extinct. However, conservationists are trying to prevent this, and in 2015 the Pine Marten Recovery Project (part of The Vincent Wildlife Trust) attempted to recover numbers in Wales by transporting some from Scotland.

Finally, as my regular readers will know, I like to discover and share inspiring artwork and artists, so this week I leave you with a mini collection I’ve named ‘Wonderful Wildlife’. Click the icon to be directed to each artist gallery/profile. Click image to view full-size.

Mountain Bluebird‘ by Pamela Earleywine

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About: Caroline’s Deviantart gallery is full of beautiful nature/wildlife inspired art work, as well as exquisite portraits and sketches.

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White Lies‘ by Tess Garman.

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About: This gallery is packed full of impressive use of colour, with animals being a core subject. She captures expression so well and there’s a boldness to her work.

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Fungus Study’ by Ruvell Saylon Ates.

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About: Ruvell’s gallery is an interesting mixing pot of studies such as the one above, fantasy, and the occasional photo. I’m especially keen on his fungi studies, including ‘ Black Morel Study‘.

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Coming next month: Special crafty tutorial to mark St David’s Day.

 

Sew colourful – upcycled clothing collection update

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Introducing the latest addition to my 2017 eco clothing collection. Made using upcycled material, and sewn entirely by hand! The breathable, light-weight cotton and vibrant colours make it perfect for summer. The bottom is decorated with delicate and wooden beads, and the waist is elasticated. I’ll be using this pattern again with all kinds of interesting and unique materials, so keep an eye out for photos on my twitter and facebook!

 

In celebration of all things upcycled and eco-friendly, I’ve done some digging to unearth some of Folksy’s best upcycled and eco makes. Support small businesses whilst also supporting our Earth by checking out these talented makers:

Andiecrafts – Who would want to use plastic shopping bags when you could show off this colourful creation?

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QuiltingDemon I love all of shop owner Lesley Bywater’s colourful, unique creations, and the majority are made using upcycled materials! I adore her crazy patchwork slippers and coats.

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JD Crafts – Talented crafter Jan’s shop has a wonderful collection of makeup bags and tote bags made using recycled fabric. 

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First glimpse of my Eco wear and some photographic inspiration

A couple of weeks ago I posted a review of Heidi Adnum’s book ‘Taking great photos’ and have been experimenting with putting the techniques to the test. After owning my digital camera for a few years now, I’ve finally (on Heidi’s instruction) actually read the manual! Such an obvious tip, yet one that’s so often over-looked.

I was amazed at just what my camera could do, so decided to play around with the settings to take photos of my handmade clothing for the ‘Eco wear‘ section of my website. Oddly enough, I found myself drawn to the accidental ‘romantic’ effect that occurred when I set my camera to shoot in cloudy conditions. I liked the soft, sepia feel.

 

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Before doing my own shoot I decided to browse the web to get some inspiration from other designers and see how they go about displaying their items. I came across some really creative examples that also showed their work clearly. Here are some of my favourites:

augblog1 Leiladelle – I love the simple but endearing use of paintbrushes here. It adds a sort of playfulness to the image without taking too much attention from the skirt. In her shop she uses models, intriguing backgrounds, and cute props.

 

 

 

 

augblog2 Indigenous Revival – I was drawn to this image because of the use of lighting. The flare adds a sensual softness to the image. In her shop you’ll find natural and neutral backgrounds.

 

 

 

 

 

augblog3 Piel De Lobo – Aside from the fact that this Folksy shop contains real works of art (such as unique prints) I love the way the photographer has made use of a more ‘industrial’ style background to add a certain ‘feel’ that compliments the style of clothing.

 

 

 

 

augblog4 Rooby Lane – The use of a neutral background in the majority of the images in this shop gives it a professional edge, and importantly allows the clothing to speak for itself (something which is so important with the amazing and often detailed patterns you’ll find in this shop)

 

 

 

augblog5 Ellie Ellie ltd – This is just one example of the clever use of props to add just enough interest to a photo. All of the photographs in this shop look professional, with clever use of minimalistic elements.

 

 

 

 

augblog6 Ninety5Prints – I included this shop as it perfectly demonstrated something mentioned in Heidi Adnum’s book – making use of natural, neutral backgrounds and opting for wooden coat hangers. Small details that make a huge difference. The fact that the majority of tops in this shop are displayed in this similar way also demonstrates another thing mentioned by Adnum : consistency. This can help people to identify your brand.

 

augblog7 From Rags To Bags – The odd one out! Yes, not clothing, but I couldn’t not include this one. I love the feel this rustic-looking chair adds to the image. A wonderful example of how carefully chosen props can communicate and give a certain undertone.

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