Super-cool playing card notebooks

playing card notebooksThey’re notebooks, they’re made out of playing cards, and they’re very cool indeed.  What more is there to say?  Well, plenty, actually.  Check out the full post (including a tutorial for making similar notebooks) over at Diane Gilleland’s Crafty Pod.  Can you resist?  I’m not sure  I can…

A cool (& quick!) stamp carving project. And some other stuff.

rubber stampThe wonderful Dollar Store Crafts has once more done that thing it does best and found another fantastic low(/no)-budget crafting idea, this time courtesy of Yarni Gras.  Click here for the tutorial to carve a miniature rubber stamp from the tiny eraser on the end of a pencil! There must be all kinds of variant miniature designs that you could carve with just a few cuts – my imagination is racing!

This project combines 2 (more) of my current favourite things – eraser carving and crafting on a small-scale.  I signed up to Swap-Bot a couple of months ago and participating in a couple of swaps has really helped me to think outside of the box a little bit, and work on some projects that otherwise may never have seen the light of day.  One was for a mini-zine to fit in a matchbox, which I gave a Borrowers (Mary Norton) theme.  I was really pleased with the result, and am just in the final stages now of expanding it slightly to put out into the world for a wider audience (via my Etsy Store).

Similarly, I signed up for a swap to make 3 lino cut prints (4″ x 4″ each), to illustrate poetry.  This was a real challenge for me, as I had only done those few small stamp carving experiments I have blogged about, previously.  I was slightly worried when I realised just how big 4″ x 4″ was – much bigger than the scale I usually prefer to work on!  But once I’d signed up, I was committed, and I have made drawings (something I haven’t done for about 14 years!), and very quickly learned some lino-cutting processes, as I couldn’t afford to waste the lino I had bought.  My prints are nothing amazing, but for my first attempts, I’m more than happy with the results, and feel like it was worth pushing myself outside my comfort zone.  I’ve put it together in zine format (surprise surprise) including additional text besides poetry and the prints, because as always, the idea grew.  I will post some pictures once the swap has been completed, and copies will be available a little while later.  Although I’ve hand-carved the prints and bound the zines, it’s a very different piece for me, as it includes no craft projects at all (even the Borrowers mini-zine includes Borrower-crafts).  I’ll reveal more in a couple of weeks…

Potentially useful stuff

In my office, I have drawer of ‘potentially useful stuff’ (or as Corey would prefer to call it, tat).  The contents range from postcards to pencils, doorstops to stones, from ribbon to a plate rack.  Today I was looking in the drawer for inspiration, and I found it!  Today I saw French knitting looms…:

knittingnancyI used to have a French knitting doll; you know the type.  Mine was called a Knitting Nancy.  I’ve also seen them called knitting spools, knitting reels, etc.  Traditionally, they are one of the ultimate re-purposed or at least handmade craft tools.  Back in the days before all cotton reels were made out of plastic, they were made out of wood; and in those days, french knitting dolls were made very simply by hammering 4 nails into the top of the wooden reel.  cotton reelI wanted to make a French knitter, but it’s impossible to get the wooden reels, any more (unless you are willing to pay ridiculously high price on an auction site).  However, my drawer of potentially useful stuff yielded all kinds of interesting possibilities, and I have spent a happy Sunday morning trying them out.

doorstopOnce you start thinking laterally, there are literally tonnes of everyday things you could potentially make a French knitter from.  For my first experiment, I used a doorstop, with 4 push pins pushed into the top around the hole, spaced at regular intervals.push pins The pins pushed in easily, but were held securely.  I used an ordinary paperclip with the outer ‘leg’ bent down into a straight line to hook the yarn over the pins.  The hole in the centre of the door stop narrows off to approx. 5mm diameter at the bottom, but the cord that was knitted expanded to ‘normal’ size once it came through.  A normal double knitting yarn or a thick embroidery cotton would fit through without a problem.

tapeFor my second experiment, I wanted to see how the size of the centre hole affected the thickness of the cord. I used a reel of brown insulation tape (I don’t think the colour of the tape matters, except perhaps aesthetically) with a central hole of approx. 3cm.  I didn’t use the tape up first, by the way (that’s still available for a future occasion); it doesn’t really make much difference either way.  My advice would be to push the pins into the inner cardboard ring, though, as when pushed into the tape they move about more.  Using 4 pins, the cord was about the same thickness as the door stop cord, but a much looser knit, because of the hole’s diameter (and therefore the wider spacing of the pins).  The cord was not as sturdy as the first cord, but if you especially wanted a looser, lacier effect, wider spacing of pins around a larger hole is the way forward.

For my third experiment, I used the insulation tape knitter again, but pushed in an additional 4 pins, spaced roughly 1 cm apart around the centre hole.  It was fascinating watching a real web build up between the pins, and it was obviously going to be a much closer knit than the previous experiment.   The resulting cord was far more obviously tubular than the previous cords.  The knitting looked like the finger of a glove (prompting me to ponder on the usefulness of ‘gloveless fingers’ as a substitute for fingerless gloves…).  The knit was just a standard tension, not especially tight or loose, just ‘normal’.

Conclusion: It is the spacing (and therefore number) of pegs that affects the diameter of the cord, rather than the size of the hole itself.  4 pegs would produce roughly the same diameter cord whether knitted through a 5mm or 5cm hole, but the knit would be looser, the more widely spaced the pegs are.  The larger the centre hole, the more pegs can be used, and therefore the diameter of the ‘cord’ increases accordingly  – and the less cord-like it becomes.

The tubular aspect of the third experiment prompts me to imagine all kinds of possibilities.  If you used a larger reel of tape as the loom, you could knit a drawstring coin pouch very easily.  Or if you knitted a VERY long cord, a tubular scarf.  If you found a much larger circle to use as a loom, and used a strong, non-elastic, yarn (maybe string, or garden twine?), you could knit a seamless shopping bag!

I have also previously made a successful knitter using the plastic centre of a cash till roll, with 4 paper clips clipped around the top edge.  The paper clips were held in place surprisingly firmly by a single covering of sellotape.  So if you don’t have push pins to hand, but you do have paperclips, you could try taping them around the inner circle of a reel of tape, instead.

Another thought: you could cut the base of a disposable drinking cup, and cut notches (like the turrets of a castle) along the rim to make a different sized knitter.   Honestly, if you think about it, you can use almost anything!

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!

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…

Mmm, coffee…

Aaaah, that’s better…  Have just returned from a very pleasant coffee run, which was actually more of a stroll, under a beautiful clear blue sky, and warm sun.  I even wore a sundress!  Yes, I still have way too much packing to do (I’m far too good at talking about it rather than actually doing it), but I’ve set myself a target of 5 boxes for the day, and there’s still plenty of time.  For now, I’m just going to unwind with my large cup of coffee, and catch up on emails.

save-the-world-jpegOh, nearly forgot – while I was procrastinating rather than packing the other day, I put together a mini-zine, ‘Small Ways to Save the World’.  It was just one of those things that really had to be done, right there and then.  It’s about saving the world by looking differently at how we use paper.  The wordsearch on the cover is the only puzzle (I was just considering ways to make a title page with just a few words on it more interesting), the rest of it is full of ideas for recycling and upcycling old paper and used stationery.  The zine itself also converts into a notebook for you to use, made from rescued graph paper!  If you buy one, it will be delivered in a self-mailer envelope which you can use as a template for making your own self-mailers.  I love the idea of writing a letter that turns into its own envelope – it’s a perfect way of reducing unnecessary paper usage.  Check out the Etsy listing for full details.

‘Small Ways to Save the World’ is currently a stand-alone zine (an absolute bargain at just £1! 😉 ), but it’s possible it will grow into a sporadic mini-zine mini-series, as more small ways to save the world come to me…

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!