Crafty Blogs

Thursday, 1 October 2009

Handmade Holiday Book

When I was younger I was obsessed with documenting family holidays. I made scrapbooks, kept diaries and, on one memorable holiday to the South of Ireland, I even put together a little holiday newspaper with glued-in photos and headlines about days out. Well it turns I haven't changed very much after all these years, so that while my boyfriend and I were getting excited planning our first real holiday together I was also getting really excited about the prospect of making something to document the experience. I would be going back to Ireland, but rather than making another newspaper I decided to take some inspiration from my recent book-making exploits and make a holiday book.

My first step was to gather together lots of different kinds of paper. I had an idea that the holiday book should look like a bundle of scraps, so I packed a variety of papers to write on. Some lined, some plain, papers of differnt colours and sizes. I also took along 3 or 4 empty envelopes to keep smaller objects and scraps in. These were of different colours too! Very importantly I also made sure to prepare each sheet and envelope for binding before-hand by marking each one with a 2cm margin on the left-hand side. This only took a few minutes with a ruler and pencil and ensured that nothing I wrote or drew on holiday would be hidden from view inside the binding of the final result. I put all the papers in a freezer-bag along with pens, paper and paper-clips and they were packed along with the rest of our luggage.

Every day of the holiday I was making notes and drawing sketches while my boyfriend took photos. I was also careful to keep hold of bus, train and plane tickets and to pick up plenty of leaflets and postcards that I knew would look great in the book. The paper-clips were useful to hold notes and leaflets from the same day all together. By the end of the holiday I had a big bundle of papers covering every aspect of our holiday. All there was left to do was to make a book!

In fact the bundle was so thick (it included a fair amount of card as well as lots of paper) that I couldn't bind it all at once. Instead I devided the pile up into three and bound them together with needle and thread in just the same way that I have made notebooks in the past. I then glued the three smaller bundles together along the spines. All my scraps were together, I just had to make a cover that would do the holiday justice. My final design is a map of our holiday destination, Cape Clear. The design was virtually sew-free, with the exception of the buttons everthing you see on the front was glued into place.

Both covers are made from thick card covered in cotton, again just glued into place. On the back I attached our festval tickets with a few small stitches. I had hoped to sew the covers into place, but I didn't have the necessary tools to bind through the thick card as well as the large bundle of papers, so in the end I glued the covers into place. The binding effect on the outside is just for effect because I had my heart set on how it should look!

My final touch was a ribbon to hold the book closed, two short legths of spare ribbon, one sewn onto the inside of each cover.

It was so much fun to make this holiday book that I'm hoping to make another next year. With any luck it will be a completely different holiday that will inspire a completely different end result. We already had a visual record of the good time we had in the form of our holiday photos, but I think a holiday book compliments the photos really nicely.

If anyone has anything similar they've made I'd love to see it, any handmade albums or scrapbooks. In the meantime I think I'll have a flick through the holiday book again, just remind myself that it wasn't so long ago! Thanks again for reading, stay lucky

The Lucky Ladybird
x x x

Wednesday, 30 September 2009

Yorkshire Tea Bag

Those of you who read my previous post on recycled notebooks may have noticed my fondness for Yorkshire Tea. I love to drink it, but I also love to reuse the colourful packaging. Imagine my delight then when the cafe where I work started buying Yorkshire Tea in bulk, bags of 480 at a time. I couldn't resist the chance to repurpose the colourful bags, and this is what I made with one.
This project was a fun bit of opportunistic crafting. I waited several weeks for the cafe to sell enough tea before I could take the bag home!

The bag itself is quite sturdy, but I wanted to make sure that the weight of anything inside would be carried by the fabric rather than the plastic. For this reason the bag has two linings - one of cotton and one of my favourite polka-dot fabric.

As you can see the handles are also lined with polka-dot fabric and I added buttons and a bow to give it little bit of flair. I also included a small pocket for my mobile phone.

Lots of people have been asking my about the possibility of making more of these bags, but I'm afraid the bags are too few and far between, even I couldn't use 480 teabgs on a regular basis, so for now this is just a one-off.

Thanks for reading, stay lucky

x x x

Sunday, 7 June 2009

Basket weaving update - Carolyn's Amazing Creation!

I mentioned in a previous post, Beautiful Baskets, that I'd been learning to weave baskets with my friend Carolyn. I finished my basket quite quickly because I made it small and because I have quite a loose style. After I was done I got obsessed with many other craft projects, especially notebook making, but all this time Carolyn's basket was growing. She'd been aiming for something much larger right from the start and had a much neater, tighter weaving style than me. She also worked out ways to make her basket a more unusual shape and style to mine. She only finished a few days ago and the results were just amazing so I thought I would share them.

As you can see from this photo the basket is large enough to act as a proper laundry basket. Because the individual bags are more tightly bound together, and Carolyn used more tape to keep them secure, it's also strong enough to hold a wash-load of wet clothes. You can just about see in this photo that the basket has an oval shape, here's how she achieved that.

Initially Carolyn coiled the basket, giving the base a circular shape, but when it reached a diameter of about 5 inches she added two triangular pieces to opposite sides of the circle and continued to coil around them.
Another respect in which Carolyn took a different approach to the one included in my tutorial was in the handle-making. My smaller basket has so far not been called upon to carry a great deal of weight and the plaited handles I made have worked fine for this. Carolyn's basket would, however, clearly be called upon to carry my larger amounts, so she came up with a way to make a strong integrated handle.

A few rows before the basket was the height she wanted it Carolyn created handles on either side of the basket by effectively 'dropping stitches' and leaving 4 inch sections of plastic bag not bound to the lower row. These 4 inch sections were then bound with the rows that followed. the handles stretch when the basket is bearing weight, but they spring back quickly and are very strong.

I'm very sad to say that since finishing her basket Carolyn has had to leave the country, but I hope she'll get the chance to see these pictures soon and be inspired to more crafting. We will be thinking of you Carolyn and hoping for your quick and safe return.

Much love, and luck

x x x

Thursday, 4 June 2009

Rough and ready recycled notebooks

As some of you may know by day I work in an Italian coffee shop, and because it's fairy new we've still not been able to set up all the recycling facilities that I would like to see. As a result all the staff have been making an effort to reuse and recycle anything useful that normally would be thrown away. One lady has been taking home honey-jars to put her preserves in, another has been taking home and painting our unwanted jam jars. I've been concentrating on collecting all the interesting paper that is used as packing material. Our deliveries come straight from Italy, and for some reason the Italian suppliers use interesting, and sometimes beautiful, papers to wrap delicate items. Gathering them up I noticed that the papers included pictures of smiling housewives, ice-cream cones, footprints, meat products, cows and pastoral scenes. It seemed like a tragedy to throw that paper away, so I've been re-purposing it and binding it into notebooks using cardboard packaging to create hard covers. The technique is really simple, all you need are basic sewing skills, and after a bit of practice you can create something beautiful, unusual and useful in under an hour.

Inspiration for this project comes from Esther K. Smith and her fantastic book How to Make Books. If you like the idea of sewing or folding your own books then I highly recommend her book.

You will need:

Plain or printed packing paper

A thin cardboard box with a nice printed design on the front. Anything that catches your eye.

Pencil, ruler and scissors

A thumb-tack or noticeboard pin

A large needle

Brightly coloured thread

Bulldog clips (also known as butterfly clips)

Begin by choosing a cover for you notebook. Any thin cardboard box will make a great cover. Consider the size of notebook you are hoping for and carefully cut separate front and back covers for your notebook making sure that they are of equal size.

To make the pages of your notebook measure your cover. Each page should measure the same height as the cover, but double the width. From my experience twelve pages cut in this way makes a nice size of notebook. Fold each page in half widthways and stack them together so that the folded edges face left. Already you can begin to see the notebook taking shape!

Before you can start binding the pages together it's a good idea to prep the covers by scoring them where the notebook needs to be hinged. Measure 1 ½ cm (or 1inch) from the left-hand edge, mark this with pencil and score gently with a pair of scissors. Gently bend each cover along this scored line to make sure your notebook can be easily opened.

Now you can start putting the notebook together! Put the front cover on top of your stack of pages and the back cover behind. Check that all the pages are facing the right way and then line the whole thing up as neatly as you can by tapping the spine on a flat surface. Secure the stack in place with bulldog clips on the top, bottom and on the right-hand edge. Leave the left-hand side free so you have room to sew. If you think the bulldog clips might dent the covers then use pieces of scrap paper to cushion the clips.

To begin piercing the spine find the mid-point along the fold you created in the front cover. You can measure this or judge by eye. Press a thumb-tack into the fold. Make sure you do this on a soft surface! Flip the book over and press the thumb-tack into the back of the hole you just created, just to make sure the hole is clear and will be easy to sew through. Now measure the mid-point between the central hole and the top of the book. Pierce another hole in the fold the same way as the first. Finally repeat the process by finding the mid-point between the central hole and the bottom of the book. You should now have three equally spaced holes along the spine, like this:

Now you can bind everything together. Thread a large needle with 1 ½ metres or so of brightly coloured thread and thread the needle through the central hole, front to back. Leave a tail of thread on the front of the book, this can be tied off later. Once through, bring the needle to the front of the book again and thread it again front to back, creating a loop which wraps around the spine.

Turn the book over and thread the needle through the lower hole, back to front. You will see you have begun to create a mixture of horizontal and vertical threads, the horizontal wrapping around the spine and the vertical following the line of the fold. Re-pierce the lower hole, back to front once again, and you will have created a horizontal thread for this hole too.

In order the finish the bottom of the notebook you need to complete the vertical thread, to do this simply bring the needle down to the bottom of the book and re-pierce the lower hole one final time, back to front. The thread should follow the fold around the bottom of the book, like this:

The thread should now be at the front of the book, so put the book face-up again and thread the central hole again, front to back. Take the needle up to the upper hole and, as with the lower, pierce it back to front twice to bind it horizontally. To complete the upper half of the book bring the needle upper over the top of the book so that the thread follows the line of the fold. Pierce the upper hole a final time, back to front. All there is left to do is to tie the working thread to the tail left at the central hole. The thread should look as pictured without any doubling-up or any gaps. Release the bulldog clips and your notebook is complete!

Once you get more confident you can try to incorporate buttons and beads into you design, or can can experiment with more unusual binding patterns.

I've become a bit obsessed with notebook-making over the past month or so and have made far more than I can ever use, so if you like the look of any of the notebooks pictured or don't have access to interesting Italian packing papers then take a look at my etsy shop where I have many for sale.

Thanks very much for reading and even greater thanks to my boyfriend for putting up with the bales of paper that have taken over our house recently!

Stay lucky everyone

x x x

Friday, 27 March 2009

Beautiful Baskets

Over the past few weeks me and my friend Carolyn have been trying our best to find a way to recycle all the carrier bags we've collected by weaving them into baskets. With no prior weaving experience I got some inspiration from fellow blogger Michelle of Conserve Plastic Bags. In one of her posts she suggested coiling the plastic bags and provided a link to, a fantastic website with detailed instructions on Native American weaving techniques. This is how I transferred those techniques for use with plastic bags. It was great fun and I hope you enjoy the tutorial.

To make a recycled plastic bag basket you will need scissors, a bodkin or large tapestry needle, plenty of clear tape, around forty carrier bags (depending on the size of the basket) and garden twine. While looking for garden twine I found a fantastic product called DYNA-TIE which i think is only available in the UK. It's a strong plastic strip that comes in lengths of a hundred meters for only 50p, and the colour is pretty too!

To start the basket you first need to prepare the carrier bags so that they take the place of a bundle of pine needles. Begin by laying the bag on a flat surface and smoothing out. If the bag has handles which extend upwards carefully cut these off to create an even rectangular shape. Keep these as they will turn out to be useful later. Before you start rolling the bag I've found it helps a lot to cut a few strips of tape so they are to hand.

Roll the bag from the closed end as tightly and evenly as possible. Once you reach the top quickly tape the roll in place, first securing the middle and both ends and then adding tape to smooth out ragged edges. You should be left with a long thin bundle perfect for weaving with.

Now I think it's probably best I hand you over to the capable hands at to explain the first stages of weaving. These diagrams are beautifully clear and explain the process so much better than my blurry photography ever could!

Unwind a length of garden twine to begin work. At first it won't be necessary to thread the twine onto a needle. Leave a small gap at the top of the plastic-bag-bundle and as shown wind the garden twine around the bundle to create a section around 2" long which is entirely covered in twine (steps 2 and 3). Carefully fold this section in half to form a loop and with help from a little more tape seal the loop (step 4). Now you can begin the first 'round'. Fold the carrier-bag-bundle around the central loop so that you begin to create the spiral shape. Passing the twine around the outside and through the centre you will create a strong central ring.

You should continue to bind the central ring in this way for one full rotation, and then you can begin to work the second round. For this round, and all the rest that were to follow I found that the interlocking stitch was the best option. If you are using garden twine which is more fibrous then you might find that the split stitch is stronger.

To form the second round continue to wrap the plastic bag around the central ring in a spiral, but instead of passing the twine through the centre thread the twine onto your needle and use the interlocking stitch. Thread the twine through the loop of each stitch in the foundation ring, passing the needle from front to back. The stitches should be even and close. In this way the whole basket is made up. To insert a new plastic bag simply roll and tape as before and tape to the previous bundle with an overlap of around half an inch for extra security.

As you work round you'll find the basket grows quickly! At this stage you could also easily use your spiral as a colourful place-mat.

Once you feel the base is large enough you just need to begin working upwards. This is a lot easier than it sounds! Simply lay the next round on top of the previous one and, still using the interlocking stitch, pass the twine from the inside of the basket to the outside.

Once your basket is of a height you like the only thing to add are the handles. For mine I decided that the best thing to use would be the leftover handles from all the bags I'd been using! To do this flatten out the handle and roll, as with the bags, to form a miniature bundle. Create nine of these in a variety of colours and set them out int groups of three. Tape each group of three end-to-end to create three long thin bundles and then plait them together. This plaited length should be long enough to make a good handle.

Pass each end of the handle through the basket, two rounds below the top layer, and then tape the loose ends together. Make this connection nice and secure. To finish lift up the loops of handle inside and outside the basket and hold them together. Bind them in this position, as close as possible to the top of the basket, with more twine.

The great thing about baskets made in this way is that they are waterproof and very flexible. When I first started weaving my basket I was worried about the base holding its shape, but now it's finished I've found that the flexibility means that the base bows beautifully, creating a lovely pear-shape. Here are some more pictures of the finished result, which I'm intending to use as a laundry basket.

Once Carolyn has finished weaving hers I might include some pictures of hers too. As well as weaving more closely than I have she's been very creative in working an oval shape into the base of the basket, giving it a very different style.

I hope you've enjoyed the tutorial. If you have any questions about how the basket was made please let me know.

Stay lucky,

x x x

Friday, 6 March 2009

Beginning with baggins.

This is the first craft commission I've taken in a while, and it came from a course-mate of mine. She'd heard about my previous work making sushi bags (something I'll talk about in another post) and wanted to know if I could make a bag for her that she'd already designed. She'd been inspired by the mini cube pandas available at shanalogic, but wanted something a bit different. I've never been sent design sketches from a commissionee before, but I might now consider asking for them in future. It was so fantastic to be shown exactly what she wanted and to have something to refer to without the need for constant correspondence.

At first she send me this annotated design:

When I had a few questions about the size of the bag she also sent me another sketch:

I'm so glad she sent me this picture, not only because it features an awesome eyepatch and an incidental duck, but also because I'd been picturing a larger messenger bag when she had said she'd wanted it to have a long strap.

To cut down costs I decided to base the panda body on a basic bag, but finding a small rounded-square bag took longer than I'd thought. Only when I realised that a lot of washbags are square did I have any luck. I chose I set of three clear-plastic washbags from Boots that were only £7 in total and after a bit of consideration I chose the smallest of the three to transform. I covered the bag in white fleece, embroidering on a mouth and sewing on round buttons for eyes. Before finishing this stage I also put in a layer of stuffing, front and back, so that baggins has a rounded shape. The arms and legs were made from black fleece and stuffing, stitched simply onto the body. The triangular ears were made in the same way, but as requested I appliqued on a little flowery fabric for a girly touch.

The washbag didn't come with a handle of any kind, so I bought 2 metres of strap from a local craft shop and created an across-the-body strap for baggins sewing through fleece and plastic alike to make sure it was secure. That might have been the end of the project, but because I'd chosen a clear plastic base it was obvious that baggins needed some kind of lining, otherwise opening the bag revealed all the stuffing and stitching! More flowing fabric to the rescue, this time the off-cuts of a flowery fabric that I bought to make a dress from last year.

Now baggins is finished, and here in his finished form:

As you can see the finished thing unzips all the was around, unlike the original design, but otherwise I was as faithful as I could be to the sketches I was given. Because I already had many of the materials needed he was also quite cheap and easy to make. I still have the two slightly larger washbags to hand for future projects. If I can find a way to incorporate this shape of bag into any future projects then I certainly will, and I'll put them up for sale on etsy if possible.
Be lucky everyone
x x x