Back on the production line…

As you will no doubt have noticed, after moving house in February, I suffered a small bout of creative ennui which lasted throughout March and early April (hence lack of posts or activity in Etsy store).  So I took a break & read lots of books, instead!  Thankfully, in time for the May update, the creative impulse returned and I have been working on various coming-soon projects over the last few weeks.  

Today, I have had my nose to the grindstone, and finally prepared a decent-sized print run of the long overdue Valley of Dolls zine, complete with DIY Intuition Doll kit.  It is my first real collaborative zine, and is full of creative contributions from my crafty friends – very different to anything I have done before!   Please check out the resurrected listings in the Etsy store for more pics & full list of contents.

Oh, and in my role as emissary between realms, I also added another new item to the Etsy store a few days ago: a booklet of the latest TangleStamps, Dandelion Smile.  This is the first time the Local Post of Tangledom has made its wares available to the outer realms, but will hopefully not be the last.  Please note that while useful for decoration of correspondence and/or as envelope seals, TangleStamps are not valid as postage outside of the Realm of Tangledom.

New Craft Leftovers Monthly!

Where would we be without a monthly issue of Craft Leftovers Monthly to look forward to?  I’ve just received my copies of the October (‘Falling into Fall’) issue, and it’s full of awesomeness, as always.  Autumn is my favourite season anyway, but reading this issue really reminded me of all the cosy things the colder weather, and darker nights make possible.    What will you find within its pages?  Here’s a little taster:

  • an interview with me, about the history of TangleCrafts, the way I work, and an introduction to Tangledom
  • an exclusive reprint of my very first mini-zine, ‘Small Ways to Save the World’ (by craftily re-purposing)
  • lots of projects – how to dry gourds, knit mittens, crochet a scarf, sew a ‘coffee cuff’ for your mug, build a birdhouse!
  • Productive & Smiling a feature article by zen master Mary Jaksch
  • how to plan your Christmas crafting
  • recipes for Tortilla Stew of Awesomeness, Absolutely Lentil Soup, and an Oat Straw Infusion
  • Crafty Life cartoon by Fanie Gregoire
  • fun stuff – a colouring page, a wordsearch
  • and more!

Available now, in the TangleCrafts Etsy Store! 🙂

Friends & Faux – the first wanderers return!

It was with complete lack of prescience that I opened two envelopes that dropped onto my doormat, this morning.  They were both from overseas, but I receive letters and mail art of all kinds, every day, so I had no reason to believe that these particular envelopes held anything of especial significance (beyond the usual happiness at receiving interesting mail).  So to say I was somewhat excited when I opened the first envelope to discover the completed face of Friends & Faux Postcard #1 is something of an understatement!  It has travelled from the UK to Australia, back to the UK, to the U.S.A. to Argentina and finally home, with wonderful artistamps added at every step of the journey. The back of the postcard is almost as interesting, with the over-labelled addresses, plus postage stamps and postmarks from the various countries it has visited en route:I was thrilled enough at the prospect of documenting the return of Postcard #1, but my happy mail day did not end there – oh no!  Upon opening the second envelope, in a state of equal unawareness as I had the first, I was amazed to see the return home of a second Friends & Faux postcard, this time #8! How curious/coincidental that I should receive them both on the same day, later in the same week that I had posted my first update on the project.  Both cards must, of course, have been mailed before my update post which just intensifies the level of happy coincidence.

I was even more surprised by the return of Postcard #8 than #1, as I had received no updates on its progress whatsoever, since it left my hands.  I know it first travelled to the U.S.A.  and returned home via Australia, but where did it stop off, in between?  Here I acknowledge the failure in my postcard design –
I have spaces for names and dates, but not locations (or means of contact).  D’oh!  So if you are reading this & happen to know the locations of Kit Gonzales-Moore, ASKA, T-Lea or Pete Spence, please do drop me a line to let me know, so that I can update the Postcard Log accordingly.

But regardless of my shortcomings in logging the in-transit progress of these postcards, I am very grateful to all who contributed to them en route!  Thank you for your creative additions and for keeping the cards moving. 🙂  I really didn’t expect any of the cards to make it home so soon, so I am super-pleased with this result, and now even more eagerly awaiting the return of more.

There is currently no deadline on joining the Friends & Faux project, so if you would like your very own postcard to add your very own artistamp, please get in touch, and I will set the wheels in motion. I’m so excited about this project now! Can you tell? 😀

New zines, old zines, something for everyone!

There has recently been a little flurry of activity in my Etsy store with all sorts of interesting new arrivals!  Time for an overview:

First up, I am thrilled to offer copies of Kristin Roach’s latest issue of Craft Leftovers Monthly.  Inside there is a bounty of crafty goodness, including a ZineBomb mini-zine (by me!) and a Postal Travel Kit guest article (also by me!).  The best part is the accompanying pattern for a fantastic Postal Clutch that Kristin has designed with pockets to fit all your mail art essentials. Click here for more details and to buy your copy from my Etsy store, where I’m offering two FREE mini-zines with every copy sold!  It’s such an honour to be included in this awesome zine. 🙂

My own latest zine is called ‘The Thief of Time‘ – very apt considering how time has been escaping me of late!  It is a collection of blank to-do lists for you to fill in, to help organise your own time, combined with an overview of 7 crafty days of my life – projects, pics and points of view.  It covers everything from doodle-stitching to artistamps, mini-zines to stamp-carving, and it also includes a free copy of Going Postal mini-zine, Volume 6.  Thief of Time is available with the usual plain kraft paper cover, or a special edition with a funky fabric cover, instead – check the Etsy Store now to choose your copy!

Yes, there’s more!  I am about to retire one of the old TangleCrafts favourites, Leftover Lavender.  Inspired by the lavender currently in bloom in my garden, I have put together 3 final copies, each with a bundle of beautiful overdyed embroidery threads in greens and purples.  Buy it now, while you still can (located in the Special Editions category)!

…and even more from the Special Editions category, I have  put together a bumper edition of the ultimate guide to Tangledom’s mythology and customs, the Mulberry Digest. This is lots of fun for the eco-romantics out there, with the creation myth of a land that was dreamed into being, free mulberry seeds for a spot of guerilla mulberry activism, an exploration of the symbolism of Tangledom’s arts and crafts, and two free cross stitch charts.  The Mulberry Digest is printed on A5 (half-size) mulberry pulp paper, with a ‘unique’ hand-stitched binding of my own devising!

Last but not least, we have yet another issue of Going Postal, which has now reached the giddy heights of Volume 7! Click here to find out more about the Going Postal project, and how to take part.  If you’re feeling inspired, your artwork could be included in the very next volume!

Well, I do think that’s all for now (isn’t that enough?!).  Please browse through at your leisure, and remember, you will get FREE membership to the TangleClub with any order, which then entitles you to discounts on future orders, as well as access to the TangleClub Archive with a new free project or printable available online, every month!

Borrowers & matchboxes

Borrowers coverIt’s felt like a very long time in the making, but my Borrowers zine is finally complete!  I actually wrote the main text for the zine back in June, when I made a miniature zine to fit in a matchbox, for a swap.  I really went to town, and included a set of pins for Homily’s ‘knitting needles’ and the lens from a pair of reading glasses to magnify the text.  I wanted to expand the idea before I released it, though, and around printer problems, internet connection issues & various other deadlines, have finally managed to get everything finished!

The new version of the zine is A5 (half-sized) – but don’t be disappointed if you were hoping for a matchbox zine: I have also included a printout of the miniature version, matchbox templates, a page from a rescued edition of the Borrowers, and a magnifying lens, so that you can make your own micro matchbox zine!

The larger format of the zine just means that you can read all of the text without straining your eyes!   If you ever wanted to find out more about Borrowers, this zine is your place to begin, tracing Borrower history back to Lilliputian times, looking at depictions of Borrowers in literature, as well as considering the likelihood of Borrower colonisation in your own home…  I have illustrated the text with lots of pictures that I have ‘borrowed’ from the many various editions of ‘The Borrowers’ that have been published, over the years.

Both the mini & full-size zines include 5 Borrower-inspired projects, taking elements from Mary Norton’s classic depictions of Borrower life, such as postage stamp art, re-purposed junkmail, a retro rug to put red blotting paper to shame, Homily’s knitting needles, and – of course! – the classic matchbox chest of drawers. The larger version of the zine also includes additional resources for re-purposed & miniature crafts, as well as spaces for you to fill in your own Borrower-themed ideas!

Click here to buy your copy from the TangleCrafts Etsy Store, or here for Folksy.

As a taster, or just if you want to play with any matchbox-themed craft, I have posted a matchbox template in the freebies section.  Enjoy!

Does anyone have any leftover lavender?

LL FrontThe reason I ask is, I’ve just added a new mini zine to my Etsy store that is absolutely packed with project suggestions for your leftovers.  The zine is printed on recycled paper embedded with real lavender flowers, and will show you how to make lavender sugar, tea, incense sticks, infused oils and more!  Cunningly concealed on the inside of the zine, you will also find a cross stitch embroidery pattern and instructions.  You just need to turn the zine inside-out to find it!  And if you don’t have the leftover threads in your stash to stitch the pattern, I have also put together a limited edition kit including 21 different shades of overdyed floss + fabric so you can get started straight away.  Check out listings for both zine and kit for more info.

LL kit[Update: June 10th] N.B. The first kit sold straight away, so I have just made up &  added a second.  There won’t be more than 5 kits made, so buy now if you want one!

Stamp carving experiment #3

(Firstly, a note to anyone who’s waiting for me to catch up with mail-outs, I’m finally feeling on top things here in the new house, and orders & subscriptions will all be in the post tomorrow or Saturday.)

Moving house was a horrible nightmare of packing, throwing away, unpacking, throwing away.  So many things I wanted to be getting on with just had to be put on hold – very frustrating!  But I’m now all unpacked & have managed to actually get rid of various miscellaneous extraneous ‘stuff’, & my new workroom is feeling like a very nice place to be.  The light floods in, which is great!  (& the house came with built-in wardrobes replete with numerous shelves and cubbies, perfect for storing all my crafting paraphernalia – hurrah!)

You know how when you pack and unpack you come across all sorts of stuff that you’d forgotten you ever had?  I made some great discoveries!  Firstly, I found a craft knife set – including 2 slightly sturdier knives than the one I broke during my last stamp carving experiment – and (even more exciting!) an unopened pack of anti-slip furniture/floor protectors. cork-tiles What? But yes, honestly this was an exciting discovery: I saw these miniature, self-adhesive cork tiles and instantly saw all sorts of wondrous possibilities leaping out at me.  Not least, a very definite premise for Stamp Carving Experiment #3.  After SCE #2, I invested in a (cheap) lino-cutting tool with a selection of cutting blades, so I was ready to roll.

  1. cork-stampsI started with one of the little round tiles, and drew my design straight on (oops, used a pigment ink pen rather than nice, quick-drying Sharpie – now I have very inky little fingers).
  2. I quickly discovered that lino-cutting tools make no impact whatsoever on cork, so lucky I found that other craft knife set!  I carved out along the lines with a craft knife.  Cork is very crumbly, & I just kind of nudged quite a lot of it out.  I quickly gave up on the prospect of perfect, clean-cut lines.  I took a second tile, & cut it into a rough flower shape with a pair of scissors.  While I was carving the first tile, I suddenly thought larger blocks of colour might work better, so worked the 2 tiles simultaneously, for the sake of comparison.
  3. It seemed almost wasteful, but considering the incredibly convenient self-adhesive backing, the logical thing to do seemed to be to mount the carved/cut tiles onto more of the same.  I cut a very quick stem from a 3rd round tile to go with the scissor-cut flower, and mounted on one of the larger tiles.
  4. flower-printsI was surprised by the results: I had expected the larger ink blocks of the scissor-cut flower  to stamp more smoothly.  The stem is very clean, but the carved ‘pinwheel’ flower gave a more consistent overall print.  The cork absorbs ink very quickly, which I think makes the surface texture more evident than printing with other mediums.  Probably a thicker printing ink would negate this slightly – but then, if you want a perfectly smooth print, there are other surfaces you can carve, instead.

ray1I was really pleased with the results, another happy learning curve.  In fact, given the success of the pinwheel flower carving, I immediately set to another.  I used the remainder of the tile I had lopped a side-curve off to make a stem earlier.  I decided starting off with straight rather than curved lines would be a quick way to get cleaner edges (lesson learned from stem of flower).  It is supposed to be a rising/setting sun, with rays outwards.  I really like how it came out, but depending on your perspective, it could probably just as easily be a beach ball, a shell,  or even half a daisy…!  Hmm, half a daisy? bat-rayA quick bit of photo-editing ‘magic’ and hey presto!    Um, not so much a daisy though, really, as what?  A bat, maybe?  Perhaps I’ve strayed back to the unintentional Egyptian theme, and it’s some kind of scarab…  And what is that creepy skull/face thing that has emerged in the centre?  This print really makes me think of those old Rorschach inkblot tests…!

So there you have it, Stamp Carving Experiment #3.  It’s definitely a learning process, but I’m enjoying it!  Next stage is a lovely smooth piece of lino (it’s sitting on the sofa, calling to me) – but it’ll have to wait a day or two: there are lots more things I have to catch up on, first.

It’s good to be back 🙂 – see you again soon!

Stamp carving experiment #2

I couldn’t resist: I went out and bought the bargain pack of erasers, 7 for £1.  Nice little rectangles, approx. 3/4″ wide x 2″ long x 3/8″ deep.  I drew my pattern freehand onto the first eraser, with a fine point Sharpie (currently 5 for £1!).

needlestamp1With my craft knife, I outlined the pattern, trying to take care to angle the blade outwards from the line I was drawing.  Then I cut inwards from the outer edge, and sliced out chunks of the surface around the pattern.  At first, I was very impressed with how smooth and easy it was to cut.  Then I noticed how the once smoothly outlined lines were actually flaking off leaving little ragged edges behind.  On my first test print (above right), it is most obvious around the eye of the needle, and you can also see ‘feathering’ along the edge of the swirl of thread.

I decided not to worry about the flakiness, as this was just a practice run to get used to the technique of carving.  I just made sure to be as careful as possible to avoid knocking any bits off if I could help it, and tried to neaten up any especially ragged areas.  I carved away more of the background area and, in the end, just cut off the uncarved areas of the eraser – the easiest way to avoid them picking up & transferring ink in unwanted places!  This was when my craft knife broke…

needlestamp21I was really pleased with the next test print, though.  To be honest, I really don’t mind the ‘feathery’ effect where the eraser crumbled.  What I mind is the knowledge that with use, the eraser will continue to crumble, ruining the stamp very quickly. Not much use, really!

needlestamp3But this was a very educational test run.   I discovered that there is a reason people buy particular brands of eraser or carving blocks for their stamps, and that is quite simply that they are better quality and (in the case of carving blocks) designed specifically for the job.  Likewise, my budget craft knife was just not up to the job, so looks like I will have to invest in at the very least a better craft knife, if not one of those lino-cutting tools.

But while the flakiness of the rubber means that these £1 erasers aren’t going to go very far in terms of my stamp-carving ‘career’, I still think they were great value, as their budget price did enable me to test out the principles of  carving, to see if I enjoyed both the process and the results.  Which I can now confirm I do!  It may not last very long, but I’m really happy with how my needle & thread stamp turned out :-).

Unfortunately, I think my next carving experiments will have to wait until after the house-move, when I will have chance to pick up more adequate supplies…

(Check out my stamp-carving experiment #1, where I used a mouse mat, instead of an eraser – it worked!)

Hand carving stamps

After my little experiment with carving a mousemat stamp earlier today, I’ve done a little research, and found this great tutorial for doing it ‘properly’.  I love the retro flower motif she uses in the example.  I think I might invest in one of those lino-cutting tools, as it will just make life easier (you need to be careful you don’t ‘under-cut’ the lines you carve, or they will just crumble off, with use).  I’ve seen a multi-pack of erasers at one of the local pound shops, though, so that might account for my next foray in this direction…

The bumblebee flies anyway

combboardweaveAt my local Pound Store, they sell 2 mouse mats for £1. While I try, in principle, to be against unnecessary consumerism, I am powerless to resist the lure of a potentially useful bargain.  By useful, of course, I don’t actually mean practical in ‘normal’ terms; more craft-able.   I bought them a while back, and one (with a comb glued along the top) was used as a very handy weaving loom.  The other is also very useful: I use it upside down (foam upwards) when I’m making zines & booklets to cushion the pin-stabbed bindings while I stab them.

I’ve been thinking for a while about carving a stamp, either out of a carving block, or an eraser, or…something.  I’ve never really been into rubber stamping as a craft, yet there’s something very appealing in the more primitive aspect of a hand-carved stamp.  I’ve seen some very cool & funky designs around on Etsy, and the simplest of designs seem often to be the most effective.  I thought it would be nice to personalise packages I send out with a stamp from a hand-carving, or maybe use a stamp on the cover of a zine, instead of printing.

Anyway, this morning, there is no coffee in the house, and I am having difficulty getting motivated to get on with stuff.  So for some reason, I decided now is the time to try carving a stamp.  No erasers or carving tools to hand, I just cut a chunk from mouse mat #2, and carved my design freehand with a craft knife.  I could have drawn bee-block1 my design first (just as you can’t see the carving too well to the right, you can’t see pencil marks on black foam rubber, but I could have outlined first with the knife); but I just got stuck straight in.  This is why my intended ball of wool is now a bumble bee… 😉 bee-printI also forgot, in my eagerness, that the design would be reversed in the printing, so it quite took me by surprise to see my bumble bee flying in the opposite direction when I lifted the block (no coffee yet, you see).

For my first attempt, I’m really pleased with how this turned out, and will definitely be doing further experiments!  My trial print (above left) went straight onto the corner of one of my stash of board envelopes (I love the idea of using a stamp as an actual postage stamp), so if you buy anything from the Etsy store in the next week or two, you might receive this very bumble bee, in the mail!

In short, I feel my £1 shop bargain has been well-justified!