Mini Magazine Notebook (with pockets!)

I was thinking about how to present the next issue of ‘Telaic Fantasy‘ (just because I have a model that works doesn’t mean I can leave it at that – that’s just not the way I am!).  I wanted a cover with integral pockets, so I played about folding a piece of paper in various ways, and found something that worked.  It’s slightly smaller than I would have preferred, so whether it will actually be the model for the next TF remains to be seen (although I can always add extra pages, to compensate).

Front, back & inner of a readable notebook!
Front, back & inner of a readable notebook!

But I had some magazines lying around in my room, and I used them to experiment with the format rather than using up my printer paper.  I thought the combination of pretty pictures and random text worked really well – I love the idea of having a notebook with something to read on the cover, when you get bored!

Rather than have a roomful of empty prospective zine covers, I stapled some blank paper in the middle of the prototypes to make mini notebooks.  Okay, so I thus used up some of my printer paper, anyway, but now it’s in handy notebook form, so justifiable!  Notebooks are like bags (no, really!) – you can just never have too many.

Click here for the how-to & template to make your own notebook out of the page of a magazine (or whatever).

Front cover, inner & back cover of 2 notebook prototypes
Front cover, inner & back cover of 2 more notebook prototypes

Jelly Packet Matchbook Notebook

I don’t know why. I was lying in bed, trying to sleep, when my mind flickered to the uneaten packet of jelly sitting in the kitchen cupboard.  I wasn’t hungry, but it wasn’t leaving my mind – suddenly, I could visualise the potential of this innocent little packet of jelly.

So I got up, found the jelly, removed the actual jelly,  and took the box upstairs.  A bit of glue, 2 small snips, 1 piece of paper and 2 staples later, and I had a funky re-purposed matchbook-style notebook.  I scanned the process (only 4 steps) as I went along, and have written up instructions to make your own as a PDF freebie.

The only thing I would change if making another (& why wouldn’t I?  My husband loves jelly, so I know he won’t complain!) is to position the paper slightly higher before stapling.  I think this is such a cool notebook!

Jelly Packet Matchbook Notebook
Jelly Packet Matchbook Notebook

N.B.  I also noticed that this kind of jelly packet is exactly the right size to store ATC cards.  You can’t tell me there’s not potential there…!

ELF

No, I’m not talking about small magical beings akin to fairies & pixies, nor have I mis-spelled a reference to that hairy alien from the 80s sitcom.  ELF is short for Envelope & Letter Folding.

My motto if is, ‘If it tangles, I’ll craft it’, so you might wonder why I’m about to show you how to fold an envelope out of a single piece of paper (no threads or yarn in sight).  Well, I’ve been thinking about practical options for re-packaging my kits – options that minimise cutting and labelling. I thought it would be very handy to be able to fold a packet for a kit from a single sheet of paper, as I would then be able to print any packaging info directly onto the paper, rather than printing separate labels, cutting and sticking them onto envelopes (etc) which can all get very time-consuming.

So, here’s my lovely little envelope:  atc-envelope-pic
It’s just the right size for an ATC, but just think of all the other possible cool, crafty uses –
gift cards, invitations, seeds, buttons, anything!

I made it out of giftwrap, which worked really nicely. You could use anything, from standard printer paper to the page of a magazine.  It’s a great way of using up any old papers you have lying around.  If you work from my printed template, just make sure you trim your paper to the right size for your printer, first.  If you decide to fold without guidelines, don’t worry about what size it is, just fold/cut the excess length to turn it into a square.  Of course, origami or scrapbook paper would be ideal!

I’ve made a template that you can print directly onto the paper you want to fold.  This is really just to help you out to begin with – once you’ve made a couple, you’ll be able to do it blindfolded!  But I think the guidelines are useful.  Some of the sites I came across while I was researching were not very easy to follow!  You’ll also find step-by-step photo instructions, for the envelope in the pic above.

The first template is carefully sized so that it is just right to fit an ATC, but of course you can use it for anything.   Unless you specifically want to house ATCs, though, try out the second template, instead. This fits 2 slightly smaller envelopes to a page, which is obviously the more economical approach.   (N.B. You can vary the finished envelope sizes by ignoring the templates entirely, or increasing/reducing the print scale, or just by varying one or two of the folds. Experiment!)  I should mention, the second template fits 2 envelopes to a sheet of A4 size paper (standard UK size).  Standard US copier paper is slightly shorter, so you will need to adjust the scale a little to fit the 2nd template fully on one page.

Click here for the ‘How to Fold an ATC Envelope’ PDF freebie link

In case anyone else wants to find out more about ELF techniques, or the odyssey that brought me to this one, this is the (condensed, honestly) account of my search for the perfect envelope:

A quick google search will reveal hundreds of envelope templates free online, such as this seed packet site I have mentioned before, and Mirkwood Designs, who offer a wide range of cool templates (not just envelopes) to cut and fold.  But cutting out around lots of little corners was not on my agenda.  I also found this site, which is really pretty cool, and has lots of different directions for folding lots of different envelopes, out of single sheets of paper.  I thought I had found what I was looking for, but…

I sat down with a stack of paper scraps (my room is full of them – half-printed, patterns that went wrong, misprints, paper jams, etc), and I worked my way through the list of envelope-types.  Having no background in origami (I think this would have helped) I had difficulty reading some of the diagrams – but I also think a lot of the diagrams were just plain confusing.  Anyway, to cut a medium-length story short, some of them worked, some of them didn’t, some were too fiddly to recreate lots of times over, and some weren’t the shape I was looking for.  I also realised that the one that I liked most/found easiest (the Fern Letterfold) was actually completely impractical in terms of an actual envelope – it had no inner pocket!  You would have to completely unfold the entire sheet of paper to get to the inside, ruining the whole envelope ‘effect’.  Admittedly, you could tuck a folded letter behind the sealing flaps, but as envelopes go, that’s not especially secure.  (It could work nicely as a place-setting at a dinner party with the right accessories, though…)

A different site had another design that appealed with its nice, securely folded nature: The Pocketbook Letterfold – unfortunately, it’s another design that is really more of a securely folded letter rather than an actual pocket/envelope.

I tried out a folded seed packet design (I’ve found the same instructions on a couple of different sites, but this one has good, clear photo step-by-steps & I like the fact that it re-purposes a page from a seed catalogue rather than using ‘normal’ paper).  This design does work, is very secure, and you can put something inside it.  However, I thought it was a bit fiddly to open and close if you didn’t want to store seeds in it.

Hmm.

I found the answer by mistake.  In my continued scouring of ELF techniques, I discovered another design that I didn’t think worked very well.  There’s a variation here and a variation here.

But when I didn’t follow the instructions, and folded the envelope together in a marginally different way, I finally discovered an ELF technique that met my requirements (the one pictured above) – not only does it have a functional inner pocket, but it has at least one, potentially two additional inner pockets, depending on how you seal it.  That’s its downside: the flap isn’t self-sealing. But seriously, I can live with that.  It’s a sturdy, secure envelope that I can fold from a single piece of paper.  I’m not claiming to have invented this variation – my investigation showed me just how many variations there are out there, and I’m sure I’ve not discovered them all (yet); I’m just happy to have found what I’m looking for. 🙂

All this research has left me with still more envelope ideas brewing, so watch this space!

2nd cute creation of the day!

Misshape RabbitOh. My. God.  I can’t believe it, but it’s even cuter!  Misshape #2 has long rabbit ears, and is stuffed with lavender rather than moong beans (I thought lavender suited the colours of this one; but I have to say, it’s much easier to stuff with beans!).  He was made in exactly the same way as Misshape #1, and as you can see from his poor, malformed body, was stitched freehand rather than from a pattern.

The fabrics I cut this one from were a lighter jersey than the t-shirts of Misshape #1, so I was extra careful when pinning them together, as both cuts were keen to spring in unhelpful directions.  The patterned fabric is from what used to be one of my favourite dresses (which I sadly know I will never fit into again) so I’m very happy to have created something so cute from it.  And of course, there’s tonnes of fabric left, so maybe I’ll make a little family of misshapes…

Jeans Pocket Pincushion

Pocket PincushionAfter the ‘success’ of my Mis-shape, I was still itching to stitch.  I dug out an embroidered pocket that I saved from a pair of jeans that I threw out years ago.  All I did was running stitch across the top, closing the pocket, except for the last couple of centimetres.  This time I was better prepared, rolled some card into a funnel, and made less of a mess filling the inside with moong beans.  Finished stitching across the top.  I could have left it there, but my streak of pink stitching looked a bit wishy-washy, so I whip-stitched back across it with a 6-ply hand-dyed cotton, so it looked as though it wasn’t pretnding not to be there.  It makes a great pincushion (actually, it makes a pretty good paperweight) and I’m really pleased that after about 5 years I have finally done something with that rescued pocket.  I knew it was worth saving!

Sewing? Me?

Okay, so I woke up this morning, on the first of a few days off.  I’ve been looking forward to catching up on all the things I’ve been talking about getting around to.  But this morning, when I woke up, I had an unprecedented urge to sew something.  Me!  Sewing machines scare the life out of me, & I’ve not sewn anything since a badly appliqued sewing case when I was 9!  Oh, and I attempted to sew up a hole in a jumper on request of an ex-boyfriend who didn’t understand the difference between sewing and embroidery.

Well, I have been being seduced lately by the fantastic books of cuteness by Aranzi Aronzo, the fabulous ‘Stray Sock Sewing’, and the weirdly cool ‘Plush-o-Rama’.  Every time I look at these pattern books, I think, ‘That looks easy; surely I could do that’; so I guess my inner self decided it was time I put myself to the test.

I was up very early, very twitchy to do something.  But I decided that I needed felt, and dried beans to fill whatever I made, so I dashed out to the shops, and got there before they were even open.  In the end I got some moong beans, but had a flash of ‘insight’ that suggested I already had some felt at home.  Turned out I was wrong.  Well, I was itching to get on with something.  I’m not a fabric addict (threads & yarns, that’s another story) so I didn’t have any interesting oddments to use up.  What I do have, however, is LOTS of old clothes, many of which are either too big or too small.  One quick rummage later, and I was finally ready to begin.

I cut 2 very rough squares of fabric, approx. 4″ square.  I used 1 plain t-shirt, and 1 patterned.  I pinned them together around the edges, with the right side facing inwards.  Oh, before I pinned them, I sewed 2 buttons and stitched a nose/mouth (randomly positioned) onto the right side of the plain fabric.

Mis-shapen front (top) and back (bottom)

This was just a trial for me, so I didn’t want to copy a pattern from a book or online.  And I certainly didn’t want to bother with fiddly things like tracing, and cutting paper patterns!  I decided just to (running) stitch a fairly random outline, within the pinned border of the fabric.  It turned out slightly more random than anticipated, but I was fine with that.  I remembered not to sew it closed, and turned it inside out (after trimming off the excess fabric to 0.5cm outside my stitches).  I then poured as many moong beans onto the kitchen counter as I did inside the ‘thing’.  I slip-stitched the hole closed, et voila – my very first hand-sewn Mis-shape (‘It’s a mis-shape with ears’, as my husband said when he saw it).

I think he’s very cute.  More will have to follow.   I can’t believe that suddenly I want to sew…

(N.B. I promise that the beautifully centred pattern on the back is purely accidental!)

Recycle your Christmas cards!

Okay, the 12th day after Christmas has been and gone, the tree and decorations are down, and everything is ready to be thrown out or stored for next (sorry, this…) year.  But wait!  What are you going to do with all those Christmas cards?  Well, you could cut them up into gift tags for the next round of xmas presents.  You could also turn them (or at least some of them)  into a handy D.I.Y. weaving loom!

Find 2 cards that are the same size (or cut a second down to the same size as the first).  Glue them together, using a solid glue stick (eg Pritt Stick) face to face, back to back, or face to back – it doesn’t matter!  Glue down any open edge so that you have a single rectangle of fairly sturdy (and festive!) card.

Now all you need to do is mark & cut notches, and you’re ready to weave!  Follow instructions in FREE How to Weave on Anything PDF, using Christmas cards as your loom!

Weaving with plastic bags

For the ultimate recycling/re-purposing craft project, make your own yarn from strips of plastic carrier bags!  Click here for instructions.  So now on the days you’ve forgotten or already filled your stash of eco-cotton bags, you no longer need to feel guilty for accepting plastic bags.  Weave, knit, crochet – the possibilities are endless!  (Colours may be somewhat limited, but that is your penance and challenge!)