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Illustrator & eco clothing designer

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Monthly tutorial: Spring decorations

This month I’m showing you how to make your own spring decorations. These clay butterflies are super easy to make and would make a lovely handmade gift for someone.

You will need:

  • Polymer clay in two or more colours (such as Fimo or Premo)*
  • Thin ribbon or embroidery thread
  • A small rolling pin (or even a pencil will do!)
  •  Something to make holes (such as a large safety pin)
  • A cookie cutter

* A more eco-friendly alternative to polymer clay is air-dry clay. I’ve noticed it now even comes in different colours, take a look at hobbycraft’s selection here: link

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Step 1

Take a chunk of each of your coloured clays and warm them between your hands until pliable. Roll your clay into a sausage shape and twist, working the clay until you get a marbled effect.

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Step 2

Roll your clay out evenly using your rolling pin and place your cookie cutter over the clay, before pressing down firmly.

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Step 3

Carefully pull away the excess clay (save this, you can use it to make unique beads!)

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Step 4

Poke a hole in the top of your shape (depending on your shape you may need two) and thread some colourful embroidery thread or ribbon through and knot the ends.

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Last minute Mother’s Day make

If you had your heart set on something handmade this Mother’s Day but left it a little too late to order anything, why not try making your own? This month’s tutorial shows you how to make a simple decoration and is suitable for anyone who can use back-stitch. This can also be done on a sewing machine but I find it relaxing to work by hand.

You will need:

 

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  • Pink felt (you can choose whatever colour your mum will like)
  • sew-on decorative elements
  • embroidery thread (or ribbon) in keeping with your colour scheme
  • Cotton (I used a stand-out colour for a decorative effect, you can use same colour as your felt if you like)
  • scissors
  • pins
  • Cookie cutter or template
  • Stuffing (you can use pillow stuffing but all items should be available in HobbyCraft)
  • Optional: essential oils

Step 1

Fold your felt in half and draw around your shape with tailors chalk (available super cheap from craft stores)

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Step 2

Pin inside your outline and cut out your shape.

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Step 3

Separate your two pieces and position your embellishments where you’d like them before pinning into place and sewing.

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Step 4

Place your two pieces together and pin into place, leaving a gap at the top to stuff/insert your embroidery thread or ribbon.

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Step 5

Back-stitch (or machine sew) around the edge of your shape (remember to leave a gap for stuffing)

Step 6

Get bits of your stuffing and start filling your heart. If you want to you can add some essential oil. I used lavender. Carefully use a pencil to push the stuffing in and make sure it’s evenly distributed before sewing up the gap.

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This idea is highly adaptable. You can attach all sorts of things, even add beads for a bit of sparkle. Craft shops usually have ready-made shapes for you to buy so you can skip the delicate cutting out and get straight to the sewing.

 

 

A handmade Mother’s Day

It’s been a couple of weeks since I’ve posted as I’ve been fighting off illness but I’m alive! And this week I’m bringing you some unique card and gift ideas for Mother’s day. As any regular readers of my blog will know, I love to promote other creatives and support small businesses, so all of my choices are handmade, making them extra special!

Primrose Place Art

This Folksy shop is run by Helen Wainwright who uses her artistic talent to make cards and prints. Her work is super cheerful, which is what I love most about her designs. Here are some of my favourite Mother’s day cards (click the picture for a direct link).

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DaisyWings

Tina Martin designs and prints all her cards and has recently started stocking an eco-friendly range, offering 100% recycled cards/envelopes in biodegradable bags. Below are some of my favourite picks for Mother’s day but it’s well worth looking at the rest of Tina’s shop as you’ll find everything from prints and gift tags to painted stones and bookmarks.

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Art Glass By Jessica

I’ve always loved glass work and Jessica’s shop is a treasure trove of beautiful gifts. There were two decorations that really caught my eye and I think the daffodil one would also make a wonderful Easter gift.

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Warm Glass Fusion

This Etsy shop, run by Christine Layton is another must-see for glass lovers. I love Christine’s cards with little glass art keepsake!

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Next week I’ll be bringing you a quick last-minute handmade gift tutorial and as this is the time of year when my favourite flower is in bloom: the daffodil. I’ll leave you with the famous (and also my favourite!) Wordsworth poem.

I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud
I wandered lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o’er vales and hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host, of golden daffodils;
Beside the lake, beneath the trees,
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.
Continuous as the stars that shine
And twinkle on the milky way,
They stretched in never-ending line
Along the margin of a bay:
Ten thousand saw I at a glance,
Tossing their heads in sprightly dance.
The waves beside them danced; but they
Out-did the sparkling waves in glee:
A poet could not but be gay,
In such a jocund company:
I gazed—and gazed—but little thought
What wealth the show to me had brought:
For oft, when on my couch I lie
In vacant or in pensive mood,
They flash upon that inward eye
Which is the bliss of solitude;
And then my heart with pleasure fills,
And dances with the daffodils.
               – Williams Wordsworth, 1804

Monthly Review: Perspective & Composition

Last week I talked a bit about the online art course I’ve started and how one unit had been focusing on perspective (link). The unit prompted me to dig a bit deeper into the subject and today I’ll be reviewing the book ‘Perspective & Composition’.

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Full title: Essential Guide to Drawing; Perspective & Composition

Author: Barrington Barber

Price: £4.99 – £23

Where to buy: WaterstonesBook Depository, Amazon, ebay

About: An instructional guide to the ‘rules’ of perspective and composition, with step-by-step exercises.

I first came across Barrington Barber’s instructional drawing books when I was a teenager and used to lap up the art books in The Works. Although this particular book claims to be ‘practical and inspirational’ I’d argue that the former is at least true! As someone who loves step-by-step instructions both written and with visuals, I do like Barber’s books. However, this more methodical, instructional tone doesn’t exactly get you fired up with creative ideas. The covers of Barber’s books tend to be quite tame with a ‘school’ vibe about them and the interior looks almost text-booky. However, the contents is quality.

The layout is logical, with a clear font, sub-titles and diagrams so is good for all kinds of learners, be they visual or more text-based. There are also mini projects throughout to ensure you understand the concepts being explained so there’s a good balance of theory and practical.

I think this book would be best suited to art students, particularly around GCSE and would be useful in a classroom or tuition setting. Although, it would also be useful for those teaching themselves. One section mentions ‘Compositions by Master Artists’, which could potentially encourage further research and study.

Another thing I like about this book is that although it’s short it tries to keep the users interest by covering different ways of using perspective, for example when drawing people or objects in addition to just landscapes and scenes.

Although this book wouldn’t encourage me to purposely seek out any more of Barber’s books I did take something away from it and it’s worth a read if you’re really struggling with the concept of perspective. For me, the best way to learn about perspective is to practice, practice, practice and learn to trust your eyes; draw what you see, not what you think you should see.

This month’s ‘three to see’: handmade books

Last week I reviewed the book ‘Making Handmade Books’ (link) by Alisa Golden. Keeping with the theme this week I’ve decided to bring you some wonderful examples of books made by talented craft enthusiasts, which would make wonderful gifts, or maybe even inspire you to learn the craft yourself!

Immaginacija Bindery – Lucie Forejtova

I love Lucie’s work and think her handmade sketchbooks would make a wonderful unique gift for an art lover. Lucie creates everything from mini notebooks to planners, albums and more! Her online shop is full of treasures! I especially like her ‘sensory journal’ and recycled paper ‘rainbow notebook’.

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‘Sensory Notebook’ by Lucie Forejtova
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‘Weekly Planner’ by Lucie Forejtova

 

Jenny Robson Design – Jenny Robson

As a vegan I feel it’s important for me to promote businesses that are concerned with animal welfare and use ethical materials. I was so happy to come across someone who sold unique, vegan-friendly handmade books. Jennie’s lino print notebooks are quirky and affordable, with my favourite being her recycled A5 heart design journal.

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Jenny Robson, A5 Notebook

 

The Book Case -Pippa Mac

In Pippa’s own words she has a ‘passion for paper’ and you can see she’s very skilled at what she does! I’m in love with her beautiful books, especially her ‘Garden’ note/sketchbook (below). So beautiful!

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‘Garden’ note/setchbook – Pippa Mac

 

And finally here’s one of my own handmade books. Bookmaking is an enjoyable craft and it’s a lovely feeling looking at your finished product after all your work. This one was made using materials I already had in my stash, including upcycled/recycled elements.

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Happy crafting!

 

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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Monthly tutorial: Fun paper projects

Before Christmas I promised I’d show you some crafty ways of making use of that mountain of wrapping paper that inevitably amasses after Christmas day. If you’ve recycled your paper already (some papers can’t be recycled, see last months post here: link) this is a good way to use up those annoying bits that are too good to recycle but that clutter up your wrapping stash.

Please forgive my less than perfect photos, my 8 year old digicam has served me well but I have a suspicion it’s on its way out!

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You can easily find origami tutorials online and your library may even stock some books. If your new years resolution was to try a new craft, what better excuse to give it a go? This works best with thicker wrapping papers.

Another craft you may enjoy (and which I find very relaxing) is decoupage. You can buy special materials such as decoupage papers and glue/sealer but really all you need is some thin wrapping paper and PVA glue. It’s so simple you can get stuck in without much preparation. The Range stock extremely reasonable wooden shapes. I’ve used a little wooden birdhouse.

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You will need:

  • Your base shape (such as my birdhouse)
  • Scrap wrapping paper
  • PVA glue
  • A paintbrush
  • A container with a little water in

Instructions

  1. Tear your wrapping paper into small pieces
  2. Mix a little bit of water in a pot with a blob of PVA glue (make sure to stir well until fully mixed)
  3. Paint a thin layer of your PVA mix onto one area of your shape and put bits of wrapping paper over it
  4. Paint over with your PVA mix
  5. Keep layering and painting on glue until you’ve finished the entire shape
  6. Put somewhere to dry

Useful Tips

  • Don’t mix your glue with too much water or your paper won’t lay flat
  • Smooth the paper as you go along to get rid of any lumps and bumps (yes, you will get a little messy!)

 

This is great to do with children as it’s simple and your get results quite quickly. The next how-to is also fun to do with slightly older children but again be prepared for gluey fingers!

Paper beads

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You will need

  • Left over/scrap wrapping paper
  • cocktail sticks or kebab skewers
  • PVA glue

Instructions

  1. Mix a small amount of water with PVA glue
  2. Cut strips of wrapping paper approx 1/2 cm in width (the length you use will depend on how layered/thick your beads will be)
  3. Get one of your skewers/cocktail sticks and loosely wrap your paper once, fixing it with a dab of glue (try to avoid getting too much glue on the wood or you won’t be able to get your bead off later!)
  4. Continue to build up, adding a coating of glue as you go and smoothing out gently with your fingers
  5. Once you reach the end of your paper strip, make sure the outside has a coating of glue and either put your bead stick somewhere to dry or continue using it
  6. Leave until completely dry (the glue will have given your beads a slight gloss and hardened them up) then gently twist to get your bead off the stick.

Tips & Notes:

There are two ways you can make your beads, either tapered at the ends or just even. To get a tapered effect (like the red beads above) your beads will be a bit longer as you need to work from one side to the other. The easiest way is to just keep rolling your paper up, but once you’ve practised a little you can start trying other ways of wrapping.

This works best with brighter, patterned paper and you can use this method with fabric too. Get creative and try wrapping bright threads around your beads!

The most useful tip is to NOT WRAP TOO TIGHTLY around your cocktail stick/skewer as you won’t be able to get your bead off. I made this mistake myself when I started learning to make paper beads but you’ll soon get the hang of learning just the right ‘hold’ on the stick.

Whilst I waited for my wrapping paper beads to dry, I made a bracelet using some paper and fabric beads I’d already wrapped before. For these I used scraps of handmade paper, felt scraps, recycled sari material and even some left over paper I’d been stamping on (rubber stamping that is! Not foot stamping!)

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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: How to have a greener Christmas

Although for many this time of year is one of the most exciting, it’s also one of the most wasteful. It’s lovely to see the beautifully wrapped gifts under the tree, and the sparkling decorations hung everywhere, but so much of it eventually ends up in the bin. Unfortunately not all wrapping paper can be recycled (you can read more about this on recyclenow.com, which also has a handy search tool to find your nearest local recycling centre!) and plastic can take hundreds of years to biodegrade. Recycle what you can, but if you fancy getting a bit creative, today I’m going to give you some ideas on how to give your wrapping paper and broken decorations a second life.

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Beaded Christmas jumpers, beaded tree decorations…we’ve all had that moment where somehow they catch on something and suddenly beads are scattering in all directions! Instead of chucking them in the bin, save them and make yourself a brand new decoration! These make wonderful gifts, especially as each is guaranteed to be unique! It’s worth saving little metal charms etc that sometimes come on posh packaging as these can be used too!

Upcycled hanging decorations

You will need:

♥ Jewellery-making pliers/wire cutters (an investment if you’re thinking of making jewellery/decorations in the future. You can get these from most craft shops and online)

♥ Collection of beads/charms

♥ Moderate thickness wire (you can double up beading wire but I like to use florists wire)

♥ Thin ribbon

 

Start by cutting a length of wire. Mine is around 19cm (you’ll be cutting the excess off later, it’s better to have too much than too little as this can be amended)

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It’s good to work out a ‘pattern’ for your beads, for example ‘big  bead, small bead, medium bead, big bead, small bead, medium bead… etc. Bend your wire a little so the beads don’t fall off the end.

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Keep going until you reach the desired size and can make a small circle.

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Slide the right-hand bit of wire through a few of the beads on the left and pull lightly so you have a complete circle.

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Now you need to secure things. Tightly twist the bit of wire on the left around the straight wire that the beads are threaded on a few times, then snip off the excess wire. Slide the beads over to disguise it.

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Do the same with the other side until you have a complete circle.

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Now’s the time to add your charm. If you can see a bit of wire, this is your chance to disguise it. Fold your ribbon in half and slip it through the loop on your charm.

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Put your ribbon through the circle, with the folded half facing you and slip the untied side through the loop of ribbon, like below.

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You need to secure your charm into place, so gently pull the ends of ribbon through the loop until it’s quite tight and the charm is hanging down.

Now you can tie the ends of your ribbon so you can hang your decoration.

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This ‘pattern’ is really versatile and can be adapted to use up what you have. You can use broken earrings, broken necklaces, and you don’t even have to limit it to just Christmas! You can use any colour beads you have to create summery, girly, gothic, any style of decoration to suit your taste and hang them in your car and around your home.

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Wrapping Paper Inspiration

There are so many ways you can reuse wrapping paper too! Here are just a handful of ideas:

♦ Wrap boring notebooks with it to transform into interesting stationery

♦ Shred it and reuse as colourful gift shred

♦ If your new year’s resolution is to learn a new craft why now try origami? The colourful papers make beautiful decorations!

And finally, as someone who loves making unique clothes out of upcycled/recycled materials, next month I’ll be showing you how to make your very own paper beads! They’re fun to make and you can get really creative incorporating other materials.

Merry Christmas everyone and as we say in Wales: Nadolig Llawen!

 

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