Tag Archives: tutorial

Notecard tutorial: Tiptoe through the tulips

I had a birthday last month and was well and truly feted. Among my gifts were a lovely bouquet of pink tulips, and a copy of this fabulous book by the wonderful and talented Alisa Golden:

Actually, when my birthday came around, I already had a copy of this book at home, one from the library that I had already renewed as many times as I was allowed, and which I had briefly considered simply . . . forgetting to return.  A little birthday gift card from my favorite sister made that bit of miscreance unnecessary, and now I have my very own copy. Which is already getting dog-eared and paint-spotty.

After a while the pink tulips began to look as old as–well, as old as I now am (NOT complaining–I’ve been on this side of the hill for a while now and I love it).By the time I got the notion to preserve my last tulip blooms by painting them, they were wearing their age in a wabi-sabi kind of way.

It was one of those everything-comes-neatly-together projects. I needed notecards on which to write my birthday thank you notes.  I happened to have some LOOOOONG pieces of watercolor paper, part of a stash I scored when a print shop and paper warehouse not too far from me closed (to becom a block of condominiums–a moment of silence, please). And I had this Golden (in all senses of the word) book containing just the right project.

As I said, this is Alisa’s (may I call you Alisa?) project, but this is my take on it.

Make a painting. Mine ended up being of the pink tulips. Watercolors, a little sumi ink, a big dry brush and a little wet brush. Dash it out–don’t think too much. Some of my tulips got deconstructed just a little, but I liked them that way.

So did second child. She loved them. The painting stayed around on my kitchen wall clothesline gallery overnight.

Then the guillotine fell. Literally. Second child was mightily annoyed with me.

I’m the fortunate, temporary guardian of a fabulous, heavy, sharp, old school guillotine-style paper cutter. I walk around looking for things to cut up with it. I’m thinking of using it to make cole slaw.

Anyway, take a deep breath and cut your painting up, too.  Cut it into squares or rectangles a bit smaller than the dimensions of the front of your blank note cards. Attach the now smaller, more concentrated mini paintings to the fronts of your note cards, using your adhesive of choice. I used Zots adhesive dots–they make the card stand out a little, like a painting on a wall.

It’s a little like quilting in reverse. I love how each one expresses its pinky tulip-ness in a different way.  And when I sent out the thank you notes, it was like sending the people I love their own spring tulips.


Notepad tutorial

So here it is. To make your own notepad (read previous entry to understand why you should bother to do such a thing) you will need the following:

  • Paper, preferably cut into uniform sizes. I pick stacks of these up from the copy/print shop every time I’m there–they sell cellophane wrapped blocks of individual small sheets of paper leftover from printing something that didn’t use a whole page. These, called shorts, are your friends and will save you hours of heartache and elbow grease if they’re all the same size–mine are 3-1/2″ square. You will have stamped these with your chosen image. This notebook is stamped with a pale green canning jar.
  • Lightweight cardboard for the notepad backs. I also get these at the printers and I’m charged something different each time, but it’s never much. They just sort of eyeball a stack of it and say, “How about 20 sheets for $2?” and I say yes and scram with my loot.
  • Something to cut the cardboard with. I actually usually cut these by hand (matching the size of your notepaper) with sharp paper scissors, but you could easily do this on a paper cutter.
  • Paper clamps (not paper clips)–2 for each notebook
  • Little scraps of cardboard
  • A small, stiff-bristled paintbrush. I got a pack of these for about $1 at the odd lots store.

And now, the magic ingredient:

  • A small jar of padding compound. It comes in huge buckets for industrial users, but you might want to try getting just a few ounces. It comes in white (which dries clear) and pink and possibly in colors I haven’t come across. So far, my money’s on the white.  I have heard that you can make notepads in this way with white school glue, but, honestly, I’ve tried it and it works a million times better if you just buy some padding compound.  The compound has a lower percentage of water in it and it won’t make the top edge of your notebook swell up and wrinkle like the school glue can.

Where to get padding compound? I got two 4 ounce jars on etsy a year or so ago for some reasonable price, perhaps around $14  for the two (but it’s been a while, so don’t press me on that).  That person doesn’t seem to be around any more, but there is another etsy seller of it, just at the moment, and there are also several places online you can get it. A little goes a very long way, so start by finding someone who will sell you a very small amount.

[Dum te dum te dum . . . waiting with you by the mailbox while your padding compound wings its way to you. Ah! There it is.]

Now we can get started. The rest is easy.

FIRST stack up your printed papers and cut a cardboard backing to the same size as the papers. (You’ll love yourself better if you make all your pads the same size.) Stack them neatly so that all four sides look smooth and lined up.  As you can see from the Tower of Notebook in my previous post, I just sort of eyeballed the number of pages to put into each pad and they weren’t all the same thickness. Give thicker ones to people you like better.

Make sure you know which edge of the notebook is the top and take care to check that your stamped design is oriented in the right direction:

NEXT clamp the papers so they don’t shift around, keeping the design oriented. Use small scraps of cardboard as shown below to keep the clamps from marring the paper. Keep the clamps close to but not touching the top edges.

THIRD, take a little padding compound on your brush and brush it along the top edge of the notebook. Use enough that it covers the whole top edge, including the top edge of the cardboard backing. Use enough so that there aren’t any bare spots, but not so much that it drips down onto the paper or the cardboard drips are easy to wipe away with a clean finger or rag). If you look closely you can see a little of the shine from the padding compound on the top edge.

Wash your brush in warm water, and lay or prop the notebook somewhere safe. When I did big batches of them, I threaded a dowel through the wings of the clamps and laid the ends of the dowel on the backs of two kitchen chairs.

Let dry for 4 or 5 hours, then put on another coat of compound, making sure it connects the paper with the backing.

Again, wash the compound out of your brush and close the jar securely (I’ve had mine for over a year and it shows no sign of drying out).

When it’s all dry, take off the clamps and add (if you like) some kind of mark or signature on the backs of the notebooks. I mark mine with my stick of incense hand carved seal:

And that’s it. Now, go and make about 60 more and you’ll be a weekend closer to holiday gift giving.

A little wall art

More wall hangings–some gifts I made this morning for some people who have been very helpful to me lately:

Hui Neng: “The meaning of life is to see.”

From Basho:

a cicada’s shell

it sang itself

utterly away

And a Chinese proverb: “That the birds of worry and care fly over your head, this you cannot change, but that they build nests in your hair, this you can prevent.”

The quotations are printed on some of my suminagashi pieces. A wonderful easy craft–great for teachers’ gifts at this time of year. I did a little tutorial for them back about . . . well, about this time of year! Seems to be the season for thanks.

Instant gratification (and library book bag tutorial)

Yesterday I played hooky. Seriously–Second Child got a snow day and my flight (I was meant to be on my way south to visit my mom) got canceled. And I wouldn’t have gotten much work done had I been doing the car/airport/plane/airport/plane/car/visiting family thing, right?

So I played.

Took a long bath with a craft magazine (which I would name, but it turned out to be a disappointing issue and I wouldn’t want to embarrass them).

Watched Monster in a Box on tv, putting My Better Half to sleep almost instantly, but entertaining myself enormously.

Made what we call around here Instant Gratification Cookies. You know, those great oatmeal chocolate raisin peanut butter cookies you cook in a saucepan but don’t actually have to bake.  Three of us nearly wiped out one huge batch in one day, but I’m convinced they’re actually pretty good for us.

Made this:

Want to make one, too? I’ve been needing a bag for toting books to and from the library (which one member or another of this family visits at least 4 times a week), and, inspired by this, I suddenly knew what to do with one of the pre-sewn fabric bags I bought a few weeks ago at Michaels.  Next time I might sew the bag myself out of a somewhat sturdier fabric, but I was in for instant gratification here.

Here’s what you’ll need:

  • computer, printer, and ordinary printer paper
  • two pieces of freezer paper (not waxed paper) cut to the same size as your printer paper
  • masking tape
  • a black pen or marker
  • an X-acto knife with a sharp blade
  • a bag to print on (should be pre-washed and ironed; I ironed but I didn’t wash–instant gratification day, remember?)
  • black fabric paint
  • a foam brush with which to apply the paint
  • an iron and ironing surface
  • a pair of tweezers

Step 1. Use your computer and printer to print out a sheet with the lettering you want. I played with various fonts and then decided something simple and quick was best, so I printed out my image in Times New Roman, increasing the font size to 200 pt. I had to print in landscape format to get the lettering arranged the way I wanted it on the page.

Step 2. Lay your paper on a forgiving cutting surface (I used my trusty Alvin self-healing cutting board) and use masking tape to make sure it stays put:

Step 3. Lay one sheet of the freezer paper, shiny side down, over your image and tape it in place, too.

Step 4.  Use a pen or marker to trace the outline of your letters on the (non-shiny side of the) freezer paper.

Step 5 (bet you’re way ahead of me by now). Use the knife to cut out each letter.  You’re cutting through two layers, here, but it’s really only the top one (the freezer paper) that matters. NB: as you cut, set aside the 4 little cutouts from the centers of (in my case) the q, e, o, and p. Your letters may vary, but whatever they are, don’t lose these bits!

Step 6. I missed a photo here, so work with me. Lay your ironed bag face up on your ironing board. Heat the iron to the cotton setting (no steam). Now take your non-cut piece of freezer paper and slip it inside the bag with its shiny side towards you (inside the bag) in a position that corresponds to the position in which you will lay the letter stencil you’ve made on the outside. Don’t skip this step–this will keep the paint you’re going to use from bleeding through the bag. Now iron the outside of the bag over where the paper is on the inside.

Step 7.  Lay your stencil (face up and shiny side down, with letters positioned as you see them above in Step 5) on the outside front of the bag, positioning your design where you want it. Carefully iron over the whole paper until your stencil is staying put on the fabric (marveling, as you do, at the miracle of freezer paper).

Now take those little bits you saved–the insides of any letters that have insides–and put them in their proper positions back inside their respective letters, and iron again. The tweezers may come in handy here so you can hold them in place as you start to iron each one. Burned fingers are definitely not instantly gratifying.

Step 8. This is the instant-est step of all.  Pour a little bit of fabric paint onto a non-porous surface. I save recyclable lids from deli cartons and the like for this, then rinse and reuse (or recycle) them, but you could even use a little scrap piece of freezer paper. Dab your brush into the paint and then gently pounce it down onto the open spaces in the stencil. There are flat sponge applicators made just for this, but I couldn’t find mine, so I just used the tip of a sponge paintbrush. Use 2 or three light layers instead of one thick one. Take care to apply paint straight down–if you brush back and forth you run the risk of dislodging the finer bits of your stencil. Look carefully to make sure you haven’t missed any part of any letter.

Step 9. This is the only non-instant, non-gratifying part. Wait for the paint to dry. Follow the instructions on the fabric paint you’re using–mine recommended letting the paint dry for 4 hours.

Step 10. Slowly, carefully, peel away the freezer paper sheets. Use the tweezers as needed to help peel the finicky bits. Stand back and admire your amazing tote bag. Ta-daa–(nearly) instant gratification!

What did you do on your snow day?

Solstice baby

I love Christmas, though I don’t always celebrate it in what we have come to think of the traditional way. I’ve also been doing some reading and giving a lot of thought to the winter traditions and themes that are shared by various religious and cultural groups.

Take, for instance, the theme of nativity. which just means birth. Last winter I wanted to represent this theme in our holiday decorations, and I came up with this little swaddled child (“swaddled,” by the way, is such a great word).

Anyway, I had a huge bag of scraps of merino wool felt from Morehouse Farm in my stash. Back in the day when they had their fabulous retail store (Sheep’s Clothing) in Red Hook, New York, I used to stop in a few times a year on my regular trips to the Catskills and buy scrap bags of this stuff (they don’t seem to have these any more, though they do still have wonderful yarn and related items–wonderful knitting patterns, for instance–at their web site). Yummy.  This felt is so thick and soft, and comes in such brilliant colors. So I played around with it at the last minute last Christmas and made and gave away a number of these little babies, who look so warm and cozy even though they were born in the middle of the winter.

At first I made them in what we think of as traditional skin colors–the faces, that is. But after I ran out of tans and ochres and pinks and blacks, I just started mixing them up. I made babies with purple faces, green faces, orange faces, gray faces (only one of these, actually–it looked a bit macabre) and used all the colors I could.

I promised you a tutorial for them, and here it is. The only trouble is that Second Child is taking a photography class at school and she’s had my camera all week, so I thought it might be fun to draw one up by hand (and it was). Have a go and see what you think–the finished babies are about the size of hen’s eggs, but you could fiddle with the pattern and make them any size you want.

Click here to go to the illustrated tutorial. And I promise I’ll put up some actual photos when my camera comes back to me.

Inspiring words: A tutorial

In trying to come up with a little gift for someone, I made up this little wall hanging and thought I’d share with you how I put it together, though it’s really a pretty intuitive project. It was cheap and quick and–with the end of the school year almost upon us– it might make a great teacher’s gift, too, especially if for the background you scanned a child’s drawing or painting, and then added a quotation about teachers or kids. Just thinking out loud here . . .

However you envision your version, you’re going to need:

  • A computer image of piece of artwork you can use for the background. You want the text you’re going to add to be as readable as possible,  so extremely dark or bright colors or very busy patterns might not be suitable.   Be sure, of course, that you have the right to to the piece you choose–stealing other people’s images is bad karma.
  • A few words you find inspiring, appealing, funny, ironic–your call.
  • A good quality printer.
  • One or two (depending on the size of your artwork) binding bars, those plastic thingies you slide over the left edge of a stack of papers to bind  them together. I get mine here (fastest shipping ever, these folks) and buy them in a box of 100 (that sounds like a lot, but wait until you start making these–you’ll find you really do want to keep them around, and they don’t cost much).
  • An X-acto razor saw or something similar that will cut through the plastic binding bars without also cutting through your fingers (adults only, of course, for this step)
  • scissors
  • A nice piece of cord or ribbon

First, select your photo/artwork/what have you. If it’s not already on your computer or your flickr site, start by scanning it in. Then, using your photo editing software of choice, rotate and crop it to the size you want. I’m starting with this piece of suminagashi (floating ink!) that I did back in the winter, and I have in mind a long rectangle about 4 x 11 inches, so I’ve used a cropping tool to make it the right size:

Second, select the quotation you want to use (I collect all kinds of these in a Word file) and just type or copy your chosen words into the text tool. Select an appropriate font and size for your artwork, and play around with its placement until it looks right to you.  I’m using a quotation from Carl Sagan, in 28 point Tempus ITC:


Next, print the image on your trusty color printer (can you tell I’m enjoying my new one?). I’m using a soft gloss printer paper designed for presentation reports, but a good quality matte printer paper will work, too.

Trim away any unwanted white parts using either a ruler and a sharp blade,

or a paper cutter:

I did one side with the paper cutter and one size with an x-acto knife–each did a serviceable job–thank you to my Better Half for the photos–that’s his sneakered foot there. I’m not trimming the white edges from the top or bottom–they add a tiny bit of extra length and they’ll be hidden by the binders anyway.

Now measure the width of the piece you end up with, and mark one of your pieces of report binder to indicate the cutting point. Now use your little craft saw to cut two of these, so depending on the width of your artwork, you’ll need either one or two binder thingies.

Be sure to save the cut-off parts of the binders. You’ll get around to using them on smaller wall hangings, and they can also be used to protect your saw blade when you’re done:

Now take your cord or ribbon or string or a licorice lace or whatever skinny thing you’re going to use to hang the work, and cut a piece about 2-1/2 times the width of your artwork and your binder thingy.  Thread the cord through the binder thingy (you only need to do this for one of the two pieces) and tie the ends of the cord together in a knot or a bow, leaving whatever you consider to be the right amount for a pleasing hanging cord.  I’m using a piece of waxed linen cord here. Allowing for differences between your cord and mine, it should look like this:

Take your artwork and slide the top edge of it into the binder thingy as nature intended:

Slide it gently along so the ends of the binder line up with the sides of the artwork. If your binder is very tight, you can get the piece started by inserting the tip of a sturdy table knife blade (don’t try this with a sharp or pointed knife) to open it up a bit.

Now slide the other binder piece, the one without the string, onto the bottom edge of the artwork. This bottom piece weights the paper to keep it from curling, but it also adds a certain finish to the piece.

Hang it on the wall, pat yourself on the back, and go and make other ones for everybody you know. If you want to mail one, you can roll  it gently and slide it into a paper towel tube.

Star light, star bright . . .

Great origami tutorial tonight. Oh, okay, this morning. Just wanted it to rhyme.

Over at Domesticali there’s a great little tutorial for making paper stars. These 8-pointed beauties would make great tree ornaments, window hangings, package ties . . . what have you. They’re simple and addictive.  I came across them in my morning browsing and thought, “Hey, I’ll just whip one of these up and then I’ll get straight to work”  (work today means trying to get on top of the Christmas present pile-up and finish making stuff).

Make one. Yeah. Right. One. I ended up making about 12, out of all kinds of papers. Here are some of the ones I like best:

The one on the bottom left is made of two kinds of paper–some scraps from I-don’t-know-where, and the inside layer of one of those security envelopes in which you get Import Papers from the bank.  The other is a page from a Russian book that was part of an ephemera pack I picked up along the way.

Then I thought “I need some red and green paper”–and, lo, there was red and green paper hanging right on the kitchen bulletin board with the other take-out menus.  I like the inclusion of the Happy Families menu item.  My very favorite star, though, is the black one, made of paper strips cut from a pack of envelopes from Ikea–they’re made of newspaper in an Asian language, printed over with the pretty design of branches and leaves. I’d be happy to make a whole tree full of these, but there’s just a part of me that would like to use the gorgeous envelopes for (shhhh . . .) envelopes.

Anyway, slip over to Domesticali‘s blog and make some for yourselves. Now I want to scale some up and make a few out of quite large paper to hang on the walls.