RSS Feed

Category Archives: Crafty Stuff

Parasol Purses

Posted on

Last time I was in Edinburgh, I bought the prettiest vintage headscarf. It was covered in parasols. And mysterious stains.

On Sunday, I chopped the headscarf up (the unstained bits) and turned it into a vaguely protective cover for my Kindle.

Polly was a big help. Here she is measuring the fabric: It was cat sized x cat sized, so just right for lying and licking her bottom on while I waited to chop it up.

There was loads of fabric left over so I also made a compact camera case for Lola; she has a fondness for umbrellas so I hoped parasols would seem like the next best thing.

Today I Made…

Posted on

…a reversible sewing machine cover!

It’s maybe a little baggy but I created it without a pattern and filled with trepidation about turning it the right way round once it was all sewn up so I’m feeling pretty pleased with myself.

The black fabric I bought specially but the white is a vintage bed sheet I found in a charity shop years ago and couldn’t resist.

Polly was, of course, a huge amount of help trying to stick her paws between the scissor blades and catch the fabric on its way through the machine!

Making Time

Posted on

Earlier today, I came across this post by Cassie at The Veda House and some of it struck a chord with me.

Now, I’m not bad at recognising my small successes – I’m always looking for an excuse to have a celebratory bakewell tart (“Yay! I put my tights on without twisting the legs back to front!”) – but what I’m not great at is motivating myself to make things.

If you’ve been stopping by here for a while, you’ll know that I like to think of myself as a wee bit crafty. I spend a lot of my working life designing things for other people. I sewed up a couple of items I’m proud of when I had a scheduled class to go to. I’ll chuck together a handmade card for about 25% of the birthdays my Google calendar reminds me about. But my head is full of plans of things to make… and very few of them ever get done. If there’s no deadline or timetable or obligation impelling me, I’m much more likely to waste my time on Facebook.

What Cassie mentions in her post is that making time to create things is just as important as making time for all the less fun stuff – if I can find twenty minutes to get the dishes washed, I can set aside twenty minutes to make… something, anything. Just to be getting that creative buzz.

Well, tonight was not a night when I could devote much time to crafting, but I did snatch a quarter of an hour to throw together something I’ve had in my head for a couple of days – a velcro-legged spider for the cat. Polly has a real thing for chewing velcro; she looks so pathetically hurt every time I tell her to stop chomping on the loop of velcro wrapped around my laptop cable – I thought I could make her something velcro-related she’s allowed to enjoy. So I did:I could point out everything that’s wrong with the spider – I chucked it together in minutes without a pattern and it’s by no means a quality piece of workmanship. But that’s not the point. The point is that I found the time to make it. I crossed it off my list. I was pleased with myself and Steve seemed fairly impressed.

Polly less so.

But she did give it a bit of a sniff and chew thoughtfully on one of its legs for a while.

I consider that to be a success.

 

Space Vampires One Page Mini Book

Posted on

On Monday, Alistair had 122 hits on his still relatively new but very entertaining blog, Pointless Ephemera; I was impressed and a little bit jealous as the most I’ve ever had in a day was 86.

Anyway, we got talking about the search terms people use to find our blogs. Many surfers stumble across his by searching for “space vampires”; most find mine by looking for “one page mini books”. We speculated what would happen if there was a post combining the two… and so I decided to create one.

So, here it is: The Space Vampires One Page Mini Book (keep scrolling to see all the pages the right way up!):

You remember how to print and fold a mini book, right? You can click on the image to view and print this one, if you like, but strictly for personal, non-commercial use only and remembering to credit me if you show or tell anyone else! Cheers!

But if you’d rather just read it easily on screen, here are the individual pages:

How to Make Digital Fabric Prints

Posted on

The one thing I’ve been asked time and again since showing off my pictures is how I do the vintage fabric illustrations like these:

They’re super-easy to do, so I thought I’d show you all how.

We’ll start with a distinctly tatty 70s T-shirt with an amazing nautical print:

I love this T-shirt which was a hand-me-down from my then-flatmate in 1999. It’s mis-shapen now and has teeny little holes dotted all over it… it’s about time it got recycled into something else. But the good thing about this project is that it doesn’t have to be. All you have to do with your T-shirt (or curtain or pillow case or whatever) is stick it in your scanner.

So, one scanned bit of fabric:

Now all you have to do is draw on it. This can be done is MS Paint or any other basic drawing package, but I use Photoshop; unless you’re absolutely confident of your ability to draw well first time, the layers in Photoshop are invaluable.

Create a new layer and draw your image on it. I actually prefer to draw my image on several layers, one piled on top of the other, as it allows me to move different bits of the image around and delete or filter just one part at a time. For this image, I used one layer for the boat, one for the body and one for the head.

You could also draw a stick figure on a separate layer to use as a guide, then delete it when you’re done. I don’t often do this because my illustrations are scrappy, but it can be useful if you want nice, tidy lines!

Happy with your drawing now? Good.

In the layers palette, hold down CTRL and select all the different parts of your drawing (not the fabric background), then right click and select “Merge Layers”. This will leave you with one solid line drawing.

Colour your drawing in using the Paint Bucket tool.

I still wasn’t completely happy with this one; the background was a little too sharp for the dreamy effect I was trying to create. I selected the fabric background layer and applied a radial blur filter at a very low setting:

Still on the fabric background layer, I then used the gradient tool set at 20% opacity to add a sky blue corner. And that’s it – from tatty old T-shirt to illustrated print:

Chase the January Blues Away

Posted on

It’s cold and wet outside, the festive season’s over and summer seems ever so far away. No wonder so many of the people around me are feeling the January Blues.

In an effort to put smiles on a few more faces (and to distract myself from my own “the doorbell’s broken; the end of the world is nigh!” wintery doom and gloom), I decided to compile a list of cheap and cheerful ways to brighten a sad friend’s day.

I turned to my chums Lola, Kirsten, Kirsty and Sue for a few suggestions – and they must have appreciated it because one of the first responses was, “Ask for their advice or opinion; it always makes me feel valued.”

Here are some more:

  1. Make them a mixtape (or mixCD or mixSpotifyplaylist or whatever your mixmedium of choice is). I still have about twenty mixtapes a friend made for me in the late 90s and I don’t even have a tape deck any more – that’s how much a well selected compilation can mean! Give the tape a catchy name and design a fun cover; if you’re feeling ambitious, include an image to represent each of the songs you’ve selected.
  2. Bake them something tasty (or, if they’re on a post-Christmas diet, invite them round for homemade soup).
  3. Write down a compliment or a happy message and hide it somewhere they’ll find it when you’re not around – their coat pocket; inside the book they’re reading; under their mouse…
  4. Invite a bunch of friends round to play boardgames. Kirsty did this last winter and it was great fun, everybody lolling around her house playing Cluedo and Risk.
  5. If you’ve got a few pounds (or dollars or whatever) to spare, track down one of their online wishlists (e.g. Amazon/Etsy); there are so many sales on just now you could have a DVD or a shiny hardback or a pretty little necklace sent directly to their door for very little cost.
  6. Speaking of sending them surprises through the post (who doesn’t love getting cheerful, unexpected mail?!), buy a bunch of pretty postcards or make your own using chopped up cardboard and a little imagination and send them to all your friends.
  7. Convince them to come and try something completely new with you. Climbing walls and winter sports centres often do inexpensive taster sessions and local dance classes can be really cheap.
  8. Loan them a book or a DVD you think they’d like, even though they didn’t know to ask for it.
  9. If you’re going away, draw a little cardboard version of your friend or glue a photograph of their face to a stick figure, take your mini mate with you in your handbag, then take lots of pictures of “the two of you” seeing the sights.
  10. Send them flowers, whether real or handmade.
  11. And finally… if your friend happens to be me, fix their doorbell for them. I guarantee that they’ll appreciate it!

Neglected Projects Update

Posted on

So, at the start of the festive break I made a list of all the projects and repair jobs which I had been failing to get around to doing in the hope that I would get some (but definitely not all) of them crossed off before returning to work. In the end, I got quite a lot of the little ones done, but didn’t make a dent into the big projects or the crafty things… I have a good excuse, though, and if you skip to the last item on the last list you will find out what it is!

  • Adjust the various dresses in my wardrobe which are waiting to be made wearable.
  • Spackle hairline cracks in the kitchen ceiling.
  • Sort the gap in the bedroom coving.
  • Clean up the replastering splatters from the living room ceiling.
  • Replace the manky bathroom carpet with something hair dye resistant.
  • Frame the assorted prints I’ve got lying around.
  • Hang Steve’s dinosaur garland.
  • Come up with some pretty way of covering up where the cooker hood used to be.
  • Adjust the wonky kitchen cupboard doors.
  • Decide what to do about the cracked lie in in the living room (replaster? somehow repair? cover with bumpy wallpaper?).
  • Paint the new strip of skirting board.
  • File away about six months’ worth of bills and official letters.
  • Create some artwork for the bathroom.
  • Find a solution to Steve’s mountains of Stuff.
  • Clear out my old T-shirts to either the charity shop, the bin or my scrap fabric box.
  • Do a blogroll.
  • Generally spruce up the blog.
  • Make some sort of print with Glow in the Dark paint.
  • Make curtains for the living room; possibly blinds for the kitchen.
  • Do a post involving the first photo I ever took.
  • Repair my two favourite work dresses, both of which have split on the left side.
  • Touch up the paint under the new windowsills.
  • Turn vintage suitcase into a coffee table.
  • Do something with the enormous canvas I’ve had lying around for months on end, thanks to a brief and crazy idea that a huge painting could be the solution to the cracked lie in dilemma (donating to it to Simon).
  • Replace the seal around the bath.
  • Tighten the buttons on my winter jacket, all of which are one big dinner away from bursting off.
  • Replace fusty linings in two vintage display cases.
  • Get the doorbell fixed.

Also, I forgot about these:

  • Change address for Premium Bonds.
  • Switch back to Pay as You Go.
  • Send window invoice and receipts to the heritage folk so they’ll pay me my grant!
  • Generally touch up iffy paint jobs around the flat.

And these ones took me by surprise:

  • Replace kitchen light fitting when the old one makes a loud popping noise, blows a fuse and one of the bulbs appears to melt.
  • Order photo prints for exhibition and create a hell of a lot of illustrations in a hurry!

Make Your Own Mini Books!

Posted on

I have something very important I’m supposed to be working on this week (more about that on Sunday)… so last night I decided to make a mini-book instead. All you need to do the same is one sheet of paper, something to draw/design with, and an idea – mine was a little book of blog challenges for Lola.

Here’s the incredibly simple process (mine was done in Photoshop so had been printed before I folded or cut anything; these instructions assume you’re hand drawing and therefore working with a blank sheet of paper for the first two steps):

  1. Concertina a sheet of paper into four equal sized sections; it’s easiest but not compulsory to divide it along the longest side:
  2. Unfold the concertina, then fold the same piece of paper back on itself it along the other side:
  3. Write/draw/glue your content. With the paper sitting landscape-style in front of you, the top left rectangle is the front cover; the other pages work round anti-clockwise from there. Pages 1-4 will be right way up; pages 5-7 will be upside-down as you look a it:
  4. Cut or tear horizontally between the centre four pages:
  5. Then you fold the paper up along the creases you made earlier; it will fold into a basic cross pattern. Fold the arms of the cross around until they make a little book like this one:

If, like me, you want to design your book in Photoshop, simply measure your paper beforehand and create guides in your image file to divide it up into eight equal-sized rectangles. Design your book, bearing in mind which images need to be right way up and which upside-down, then print, fold, cut and you’re done!

Capturing Moments

Posted on

Just recently, a friend made a throwaway comment to me about “every moment of [my] life being documented with photos.”

“Yes…” I said, wondering whether this was meant as a criticism or just a comment. And then: “Well, no, actually: only the pretty ones.”

Increasingly, I’m finding this to be true. I’m taking ever greater amounts of pictures, but more and more often parties are hosted and events are attended and old friends are met for dinner without my camera leaving my bag. I post about “The Week I’ve Had…” every Sunday but many of the most important moments of my life are missing from it, not because I don’t think they’re worthy of a mention – if this was a straightforward diary, they absolutely would be – but because I wasn’t in the mood to take another photo of hot chocolate that day or catching up with a loved one held my full attention.

I’ve always loved photography – it fascinates me how a click of a button can capture a fleeting instant, show how somebody views the world, share a secret or a joke or an emotion – but it’s only in the past couple of years that I’ve developed much confidence in my skills. After all, anybody can pick up the same camera as me (a lot of my friends have done; it’s decent without being intimidating and I often recommend it); anybody could snap the same photo if they happened to have the same items in front of them or be in the same place at the same time I am; anybody can fiddle around in Photoshop until they stumble across a filter they like.

It took me a long time to realise that, yes, they could, but very few of them do. A lot of people don’t see the world chopped up into rectangles of greater or lesser beauty. A lot of people aren’t interested in learning what their camera can do or how images can later be manipulated. A lot of them just don’t see images in the same way that I do. Taking pictures I’m proud of really is something special.

I remember being so thrilled by the first photo I ever took… and so disappointed when all anybody else ever said was, “What a shame you’ve chopped your mum’s toes off.”

I remember my Grampa giving me a camera all of my very own and how excited I was… but I didn’t know anything about focal lengths and was often disappointed when close ups of pretty flowers came back as brightly coloured fuzz.

Back when I was using film – and even after I learnt about things like f stops and apertures – I would see great shots but let them pass me by because I didn’t know what I was supposed to do with them. They would just be more bits of glossy paper, tucked in folders under my desk. Expensive bits of glossy paper, at a time when I was struggling for money.

Digital photography and the internet made such a difference.

Finally, I could afford to take risks, to try something new, to explore what my camera could do, because if a photo was rubbish I didn’t need to pay for printing. I could store images neatly on my hard drive. I could share them with people other than my often disinterested friends by uploading them to the internet.

I could – and did and sometimes still do – post photos to Flickr with minimal effort. I could – and did – take part in photo a day projects like Shuttercal. Either way, I could get feedback from people I had never met, people who may never have been to Scotland, who may be living completely different lives from me, and yet saw something in one of my pictures which prompted them to comment.

As I stopped having to focus on what my friends would be prepared to look at, my attention turned more and more to the quirky details around me and less and less to smiley faces at social events.

Oh, sure, it’s nice to have pictures of drunken shenanigans and food-splattered babies to look back on, but the pleasure I get from photography isn’t about having visual proof of my popularity (such as it is); it’s about creating an engaging or a beautiful or an entertaining image.

So why blog the images?

Because Flickr made no demands of me other than breaching no copyright – there was nothing to push me onwards, to keep me carting my camera around.

Because photo a day projects narrowed my focus to finding just that: one photo a day. Sometimes it became a chore; other times, I would leave shots unsnapped because I already had a picture for that day and didn’t want to waste a good idea.

So my blog is a nice compromise between the two. There’s a self-imposed weekly requirement, a reason to keep taking photos, but not such an overwhelming one that it ever feels like a burden. I love getting comments on my posts, but my priority is not attention; it’s having a creative outlet and building some momentum. It’s not about documenting every bit of my life with a picture, it’s about capturing those fleeting moments when something beautiful or funny or moving comes my way.

Neglected Projects

Posted on

I am three days into an eleven day break from work. I don’t remember ever having had the full Christmas-New Year season off work before (maybe once when I worked at a university?) and was feeling both thrilled and overwhelmed by so much free time… Thinking perhaps I might put some of it to good use, I made a list of all the projects and repair jobs I’ve been failing to get around to for some or all of the past year:

  • Adjust the various dresses in my wardrobe which are waiting to be made wearable.
  • Spackle hairline cracks in the kitchen ceiling.
  • Sort the gap in the bedroom coving.
  • Clean up the replastering splatters from the living room ceiling.
  • Replace the manky bathroom carpet with something hair dye resistant.
  • Frame the assorted prints I’ve got lying around.
  • Hang Steve’s dinosaur garland.
  • Come up with some pretty way of covering up where the cooker hood used to be.
  • Adjust the wonky kitchen cupboard doors.
  • Decide what to do about the cracked lie in in the living room (replaster? somehow repair? cover with bumpy wallpaper?).
  • Paint the new strip of skirting board.
  • File away about six months’ worth of bills and official letters.
  • Create some artwork for the bathroom.
  • Find a solution to Steve’s mountains of Stuff.
  • Clear out my old T-shirts to either the charity shop, the bin or my scrap fabric box.
  • Do a blogroll.
  • Generally spruce up the blog.
  • Make some sort of print with Glow in the Dark paint.
  • Make curtains for the living room; possibly blinds for the kitchen.
  • Do a post involving the first photo I ever took.
  • Repair my two favourite work dresses, both of which have split on the left side.
  • Touch up the paint under the new windowsills.
  • Turn vintage suitcase into a coffee table.
  • Do something with the enormous canvas I’ve had lying around for months on end, thanks to a brief and crazy idea that a huge painting could be the solution to the cracked lie in dilemma.
  • Replace the seal around the bath.
  • Tighten the buttons on my winter jacket, all of which are one big dinner away from bursting off.

As my eleven days are rapidly filling up with plans and schemes and decent movies, there may not be much crossed off this list by January 5th, but it will be interesting to come back to it in a few months and see how much progress I’ve managed to make!

**edit: I forgot about replacing the fusty linings in our two vintage display cases and about getting the doorbell fixed**

A Quick Note to Say:

Posted on

To everyone who has sent birthday wishes or been around to make my day so special.

Print a Prezzie

Posted on

I had the best time on Saturday; I was learning to screenprint at Peacock Visual Arts!

Here’s my highly technical, completely expert, screenprinting for beginners how to:

1. Create your image. Do this by drawing or painting on this weird acetate sheet (it’s somewhere between tracing paper and cling film) or by sticking shapes to the sheet. Christmas confetti was popular in our class, but one student made a really cute bag using a chain of paper girls she cut out herself:

2. Put some kind of blue goo on a screen. Alternatively, sign up for a one day class and there’s a good chance your teacher will have done this for you.

3. Put your design against this screen then blast it with UV light. Wherever the light can’t get through (your pencil marks/paint strokes/paperchain), the goo will burn/disintegrate and can be washed off to leave a lovely smooth, detailed stencil:

4. Put paper, card, fabric or whatever else you’re printing onto under the stencil, then squeegee paint over it:

5. Allow to dry:

6. Congratulations! You have a screenprinted item. That was totally thorough enough for you to work from… right?

I’m very pleased with this tote bag (left) which I printed using handcut snowflakes.

The class was called Print a Prezzie and some of the other students and I were expecting just that: to print a prezzie. In fact, I came home with this bag, six prints, ten gift tags, eight thank you cards and a sheet of gift wrap that the teacher had made to inspire us. Alas, I can’t show you the other items as it would spoil a few birthday, Christmas and Secret Santa surprises, but I was thrilled to bits with my haul.

Anyway, art lesson over.

This was the first time I had been up to the printing room at Peacock and I was fascinated.  I thought I’d show you some of the snaps I took on the day:

And, finally, I took this on my way home:

Happy Thoughts

Posted on

Although today I’d rather be brought hot cherry crumble in the snow.

These are all copyrighted to MEEEEEE. Please don’t use without my permission. Thanks!

Secret Santa

Posted on

Danielle over at danielleyc is putting together a Secret Santa for UK-based crafty types. What a cute idea!

For more info, click on the picture below (her image, alas, not mine!).

The Creature Curiosity Project

Posted on

This is such a sweet idea! The Creature Curiosity Project is asking illustrators to design half of a creature; the other half will be drawn by children at workshops throughout the UK.

I might just have to dig out my crayons and give this a go!

Old Favourites

Posted on

I’ve been rooting through my archive over the last few days. Alas, some of my favourite old shots are not really sharp enough to have printed full size so here, because I don’t know when else I’ll have an excuse to share them, are two of which I’m particularly fond:

While I was browsing through my Flickr archives, I also found this one which I can’t imagine anyone wanting to buy and frame but which still amuses me, five years on:

I wonder if they’re still together?

First Birthday

Posted on

Happy first birthday to my one and only nephew, Jasper!

Here he is, looking both dapper and alert at his granny’s wedding last month.

And just to turn the topic back to me (*grins*), here’s an in-progress snap of the card I made him. My second ever craft knife creation so I’m quite pleased with it; it was finished off by erasing all the pencil marks and inserting a bright yellow background.

%d bloggers like this: