Background Papers

After the enjoyable crafting session yesterday I felt very enthusiastic about similar work this morning.  I set out with the idea of making 4 small cards, roughly A6 size.  I opened photoshop and used it to recolour and to select a small part of the poppy seed head picture from yesterday:

I love the bright colours and the way the stems lay behind the seed head.  There were other colour variations I really liked too, and these may appear in the near future.

So, after spending an hour tidying and cleaning up this morning out came the blue scrap papers:

Honestly, why did I bother tidying up beforehand?

I used a piece of computer paper as the backing.  I pulled out mainly the darker and purple-ish blues, and simply ripped pieces off and positioned them on the computer paper using a little bit of Pritt.  I threw in other shades too, and found myself again using bits of paper that I never thought I would use in a project – the inside of envelopes, paper bags etc.  This is how the paper looked when the background had been covered completely:

By this time I was feeling quite excited about using this.

The next step was to add some stitching to hold down the papers. I used some purple metallic and blue variegated thread (the slight change in colour is probably due to lighting conditions):

While I was tearing papers earlier I started thinking about Myfanwy Hart.  As many of you know, Myfanwy has been kind enough to spend much of her precious time writing and providing creative prompts for crafters around the world on her Be Creatively website.  What’s more, I know for a fact that Myfanwy is very supportive of those who use the prompts – Thank you Myfanwy.  Following some of the February 2014 Be Creative Prompts I’d torn paper from a prompted colour scheme, pasted it onto a background, scanned it, printed it, and torn and stuck it down again to create a new design.  I suddenly realised that If I scanned the above paper I could not only save it and print it, I could alter it using photoshop, so that I have many different colour combinations.  I could add details, do what I want with it really.  Then, another thought – two in a row – that’s a first!.  The last time I went to Colourcraft in Sheffield I went searching through the bargain bins and found four packets of Inkjet transfer paper – for just 50p each pack (containing 5 sheets).  I was already thinking about moving onto fabric to try to create a similar background, now I’m starting to think about the different ways to do that.

So, once again, I have no cards to show after my crafting session today.  That doesn’t bother me as I do have the background and a few ideas as to how I can create more in future.  I’m leaving it here for today.  I’ve been out walking this afternoon and I’m jiggered!  I doubt that I have the energy to work out how to use the scanner tonight, but I know I will find it first thing in the morning.  More on this tomorrow.

Air Dry Modelling Clay and Poppy Theme

I’m feeling very chilled today.  After the performance I had yesterday I was determined to avoid planning anything too taxing.  I was looking forward to going to an Embroiderers Guild meeting this evening, but without my little micra I’m grounded.  Anyway, this is me making the best of it with an early post and then I’m going on one of my long strolls through the lovely Yorkshire countryside.

I started working towards this post three or four days ago.  I’d been having another craft supplies reorganisation moment (and there are many) when I came across some air dry modelling clay that I’d bought eons ago.

I bought the air dry modelling clay from Colourcraft.  I wanted to use it to make some buttons and small items to use on notebook covers etc, but most of them I never used. I wasn’t really inspired by them when they were finished.  So, I needed to find another use for the clay as it was just taking up space.  I had no idea what to use if for so I searched google images for inspiration.  There were some beautiful air dry clay bowls that really got my mind working overtime.  After a few minutes of brain cells firing and popping and clunking and grating, a few ideas connected together and it was time to make a start.

I have collected some beautiful poppy seed heads:

There is something so attractive about them that makes me want to preserve the beauty forever, and to have a constant reminder of how wonderful nature can be.  Sometimes I’m drawn to the colour, sometimes it’s the shape, and sometimes it’s the pattern.  I’d been playing with the idea of using the top of a seed head as a stamp on paper and then fabric.  My little brain had taken me one step further – I wanted to try to use it as a stamp on the air dry modelling clay.  First though I had to work out how to make a small dish (working on a very small scale to try out the idea), and how to stamp the design into it without making the clay stick to the work surface.  It was easier than I thought.

First of all I rolled the clay into a ball with my hands, then rolled it out on the kitchen work surface with a rolling pin (I tried various glass jars as a rolling pin first but all the ones that were suitable had seams along the sides).  Then I randomly pressed the poppy seed head pattern onto the clay:I used a pastry cutter to cut out a circle and gently removed the excess clay:

Then I found that I could use a knife to lift the edge of the circle so that I could turn it over:

I then stamped the pattern onto the back of the circle, just being careful near to the edges so that it didn’t go completely out of shape.  Next the circle was gently pressed over a small metal pudding basin:

Then it was just a matter of waiting for the clay to dry, remove it from the pudding bowl and wait for the inside to dry (I left it overnight to make sure).

Next came the magical part; painting the dish.  I mixed up some very watery ultramarine blue acrylic paint, making sure that there were no bits left in the mix.  Then it was just a matter of loading the brush and gently drawing it over the surface.  The interesting thing was the way that the paint moves along the indentations to fill all the cracks, it was lovely to watch (mental note to myself must learn how to do videos).  Again it was left to dry and then covered with acrylic wax which was buffed a little when dry.  This is the finished dish (there are actually two of these, but both look very similar): OK, so my verdict on this – it could be addictive!  These dishes are tiny (meant to hold my very small objects like the odd paper clip, pin, elastic band and any other escapees that flee from my crafting sessions), and, if I’m being honest, they are smaller than I woud like.  The bowls are a little mis-shapen, but I can live with mis-shapen hand made objects. The colour is lovely (though I was left wondering about using the green of the poppy seed heads, but I didn’t think it would beat the blue).  Overall I love the effect.

Of course I didn’t stop there.  The next step was to use a larger circle and a larger bowl.  When I draped the clay over the bowl it took on its own shape (there were a few pokes and prods in the right places but it still did it’s own thing):

How on earth woud I achieve a circular bowl shape I wonder?  More investigation is required.

After letting the bowl dry overnight I decided to paint it a shade of bluish green.  I decided to use pth..thfh..ffhhph…

phthalo green ha!  This was the dish covered with watery green acrylic paint:

No.  Doesn’t do anything for me.  Wrong colour choice, paint not watery enough.  Now what?  More brain trundling (is that even a word?) and I came up with a number of different options (saving some for another day).  This  one won:

A few layers of copper acrylic paint were brushed and sponged over the green – no water added, so that the green indentations were still visible.

The technique has a very strange effect.  As you move, the colours seem to shift.  Also, depending on the lighting, it gives the effect that the indentations are holes – may be worth investigating this with an object’s first layer painted in the colour of the object it is going to be placed on?

Anyway, I’m quite taken with this air dry modelling clay.  I have more left and it may be out again very soon.  I’m sure there must be a way to make this, as the texture and weight of the dry product seem to be similar to papier mache.  The object’s won’t last forever, but they will be fun to have around for a short time.  I’m sure they will make nice little gifts too.

The sun is shining, and the gentle breeze is beckoning.  Time for walkies!

Machine Stitched Cards Delphiniums and Sunflowers

Yesterday I went shopping for card stock.  I decided it was time to take the card making a little more seriously.  When I returned home I started another card.  I looked at the backrounds I’d cut a few days ago and found this one:

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAfter staring at it for a few minutes I decided it reminded me of delphiniums.  I selected a green and a purple thread and started stitching.  First of all the green stems and leaves:


Next the purple delphiniums:

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThen I used the card stock and more coloured paper to make the card.  I’d realised that the coloured paper would be much cheaper to use than cardstock for mounting the stitched pictures:

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAToday I made three more cards, this time sunflowers.  I started with a small dark brown circle,  a lighter brown circle and a yellow circle (rather than flat yellow I used paper with touches of other colours – a bit of a risk, but sometimes you have to dare to be different):

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI used black thread to stitch a pattern over the two central circles (curves going one way followed by curves going the opposite way), then the petals were stitched (being careful not to go too close to the edge):

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI applied some pva to the back, left it to dry, then cut out the sunflower close to the stitching.  I cut out a stem and petals, stitched them onto background paper, then stitched the sunflower head onto the background.   The pictures were mounted on coloured paper, the edges stitched, then stuck onto cream card.  These are the finished cards:




I’m now keeping myself busy making cards from the postcard sized pictures I’ve made this last few days.

More Machine Stitched Cards

I was on a mission today to complete more machine stitched pictures for cards (I really must buy some card stock tomorrow).  All three pictures today were inspired by nature at this time of year.

The blossom trees are blooming.  This first card is made from painted/dyed paper.  I had to figure out how to stitch over the blossom without it looking a mess.  I worked out that I could use circles over the blossom to secure it (I used a Pritt stick first) and to move from one blossom flower to another by changing the direction each time.  This card was the quickest and easiest to make today.


The tulips are flowering.  Again this card is all stitched paper.  The leaves were stitched onto the background before the flower heads were added.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAFinally, the buttercups and daisies are starting to appear. This card took quite a while to cut out and stitch.  The daisies are white fabric backed with bondaweb.  The buttercups are handmade silk paper.


When I finished stitching these this evening I was thinking that I’ve come a long way since the beginning of January.  I’m managing to produce more work than I ever did previously, and I’m feeling much more positive about the work I produce.  I’ve always been a bit of a perfectionist, worrying that many things are not quite right and that people will see my mistakes.  Now it doesn’t bother me so much.  It’s handmade, and not meant to be perfect.  It’s individual.  Vive la difference!

Stitched Cards

This morning I thought I’d start making some postcards.  I searched through my dyed and painted papers for suitable background papers and cut them to postcard size:


Next I went in search of my tin of tiny pieces of material (I don’t like to throw anything away)::


Some of these were ironed onto a piece of bondaweb:


My intention was to cut out small pieces to stitch onto the postcards.

Today I stitched 3 of the postcards, though they do still need edging.  The first one was inspired by the blossom theme:


The second one was inspired by all the beautiful magnolia trees which are in full bloom at this time of year:


The last one was made by stitching the background first, then flowers were added by cutting out of spotty material and stitching on top of it:


I’ve not stitched the edges of the postcards because I’m thinking of using some of these on small cards instead of postcards.

I’ve thoroughly enjoyed stitching these today, and I’m looking forward to more tomorrow.

Blossom Theme Post 15

Yesterday I painted trees and doodled on them with white acrylic ink, then outlined the trees in black ink.  Today I wanted to try out something similar using fabric and thread.

The background fabric (cream cotton) was painted using Lyra Aquarelle water soluble crayons:


The colours weren’t as deep or dark as I would have liked them to be even after a second coat, but I decided to carry on.

Leaf patterns and blossom patterns were stitched onto the trees using white art silk thread (rayon):


Because I was working on fabric only a little more than A5 size the leaf patterns and blossom patterns didn’t show up that well, but this is only a test piece.

Next the background was stitched with white thread:


Finally, the trees and the land/sky division were outlined twice in black thread:

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWhat a difference those lines of black thread make.

Though this is not exactly what I wanted (the colours aren’t quite right and the white stitching isn’t showing the patterns well due to the size) I’m feeling really pleased with it.  I’m now thinking of further work on this idea, maybe useing transfer dyes, or acrylic paints and fabric medium on a larger piece.  I love these little trees!

Blossom Theme Post 14

I can’t believe I’ve been working on the blossom theme for two weeks now, the time has flown.  Today I wanted to focus on blossom trees, so I took out my sketchbook and started to draw some different trees.  I had an idea of using basic shapes and adding doodles, a bit like zentangles, but maybe less structured.  So I drew some outline trees and added some Brusho colour.  The colours were much stronger and darker than I anticipated, so I decided to doodle with white acrylic ink.  I do have some white Signo pens, but I don’t think they cover paper very well.  I used a very fine brush and started to doodle blossom with the ink:


The more white acrylic I added, the better it looked:


I liked this as it was, but felt that the edges of the trees needed a little more definition.  The big question was ‘Do I add black?’  I thought it was a big risk, it could make it or break it.  I took the risk:


It was the first time I’d used the acrylic ink.  I used the brush because it was easier than working with the calligraphy pens.  I thoroughly enjoyed the time spent doodling, and I’d like to try again with the pens.  The other thing is I’m wondering what this would look like stitched.  I could use applique trees, or trees painted on fabric, stitch in white and outline in black.  I really like this idea so I could be following up with the stitched version tomorrow.

Though my two week challenge of using the blossom theme is up, I still want to continue working on this theme.  I’m seriously considering another two week challenge, maybe leaves or trees?  I’m going to sleep on that one tonight.

Blossom Theme Post 13

Today I was determined to get out the gelli plate.  I don’t have much experience of gelliprinting, but I do know that some people can produce beautiful monoprints by layering one print on top of another.  I started by using the blossom linocuts to press on the gelliplate before printing.  I soon realised there was a major problem with this; when I tried to remove the linocut my nails were catching the gelliplate.  If I add a block to the back of the linocut I won’t be able to use the brayer to press on the back when printing.  More problem solving I think.  Anyway, this is the kind of print made by the linocuts:



These were the best prints of a bad bunch.  I really thought the linocuts would produce good images and I wasn’t impressed.  I threw my teddy out of the cot and went off to town for a few hours. After a good walk with my pal Sandra, and lots of blossom and photos, I returned determined to produce at least one good blossom gelliprint

I was aware that I’d been ‘playing it safe’ with colours on the gelliplate.  I was worried about colours mixing to produce mud.  Time to change things.



I understood that there were always unexpected surprises waiting to be had.  This is a piece of textured wallpaper I’d used in the printing process.  It picked up the paint and so reminded me of Autumn:


:I don’t think I can bear to part with this, it is just lovely.

At the end of this session I’m thinking that I’m learning every day.  Gelliplate printing is about being brave with colours.  I’m now wondering what I can do with these prints.


Blossom Theme Post 12

Yesterday I finished the four linocut stamps I’d started carving on Wednesday:


The good news is that the more time I spent carving, the more relaxed I felt, and more control of the cutting I seemed to have.  By the time I’d completed them I was already thinking it would be great to carve a larger stamp for cards etc. Then. as usual, the problems started!  I spent ages trying to get a clean print, and discovered it wasn’t going to be as easy as I thought it would.  I tried stamping with Memento Tuxedo Black ink pad, a clear Dovecraft Premium Embossing Stamp Pad and a couple of embossing powders, a multicoloured Hobbycraft Ink Pad, a black Colourcraft Opaque Fabric Paint and acrylic paints (tube and liquid).  No matter what I tried, I just could not get a clear print.  This is what most of them looked like:

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI’d used a brayer to spread out any paint on glass before using the brayer to roll over the stamo to add colour.  The ink pads I ensured the stamp was always well covered with the ink before stamping.  I found that rolling over the back heavily with another brayer did improve the image, but none of them were that good.  The embossing stamp pad and powders came out best of all, and the images using gold acrylic paint from a tube were attractive.  This is what some of the images looked like (selected from the mountain of experiments:

Gold acrylic from a tube:

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAGold acrylic on coloured background, much more subtle, but quite attractive:

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAStamped blossom cut out (the pink with the border removed because it was poor):

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAFinally, despite all the trials and tribulations of linocut stamping, all was not lost.  I managed to make a card from blossom images I stamped:

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAYesterday I felt it was frustrating.  Today I’m seeing it as another learning process.  Where do I go from here?  I’ve already done a little more reading on the good old Internet.  If I’d done this first I wouldn’t have wasted so much time.  Acrylics don’t really work well on linocut stamps as the paint doesn’t stick well.  I need some proper ink (it’s a good thing that it’s my birthday this weekend – any excuse).  I’m going to invest in a little pot of black ink to see what difference it makes).  I’m guessing the papers I’m using may not be ideal, so I’m going to ask a local craft shop owner for advice on that one.  I don’t really want to get into buying expensive papers though.   I’m going to get out the gelliplate and use the stamps to make impressions in the paint.  Hopefully that one will work.  My hands yesterday were a dirty shade of blue.  I’m guessing I’m going to be up to the neck in acrylic paints later on today and I’m already wondering how bronze hands will look to the rest of the village!.

Blossom Theme Post 11

Yesterday I checked my list of things to do within the blossom theme.  One of them was to carve some stamps.  I sat down and doodled some shapes in a sketchbook first.  I wanted to keep the 5 petals, and I wanted them fairly evenly spaced (though these would be hand made stamps so I wasn’t going to be too worried if they went a little awry) and roughly circular.  I made some different sized circle templates with 72 degree angles on them as a guildline for positioning the petals, then drew circles on the lino, and marked the guideline points using the templates:


The next step was to draw the shapes:


So far, so good.  Then everything went downhill.  I’d tested the cutters ages ago, and managed to make a few stamps, but I’d forgotten everything I learned first time round.  I remembered the safety aspect (keeping both hands behind the cutting tool in case the tool slips), but found that when I started cutting the blade was slipping.  After ruining the first shape and slipping on the second I went back to the Internet to refresh my memory on cutting, and found that I needed a slightly steeper angle to avoid the slips.  After a few major mistakes, and lots of slow cutting, this is what I’d achieved;


As you can see it’s still unfinished.  Hopefully later today I’ll be able to finish the linocuts post some prints.

Last night I also started to reorganize my threads.  I realised that if I’m going to dye lots of threads my current system would not be much good due to limited space and the annoyance of threads constantly coming loose from cards.  I checked out the alternatives and decided that the cheapest and most secure would be clothes pegs (50 in a pack at the pound shop), so I’m moving from this:


To this:


The pegs hold the end threads really securely.  The other great thing about this is that I can use wire between the holes in the pegs so that I can organise colours together and secure them together.  I already have colour coded boxes of loose threads, so these will fit in with them nicely.

Ok, so that’s me away to do some linocutting and printing!