Dreaming Big, Thinking Small

What with the preparations for the landscaping and garage, and the post-landscaping pre-mulch tasks, birthday parties, coming book publicity, Paul’s half year assessment, and the looming end of year madness, we’ve had rather too much on our minds lately.

My creativity gave a couple of coughs and twitches, then died.

This worn out brain can’t contemplate the WIPs. They’re all too large and involved. The only one I’ve managed a little time on has been the olive handspun fabric, because it’s easy plain weave and isn’t demanding on the hands.

The jewellery twitch has passed. It was good for producing short term satisfaction – a quick fix of achievement. I think I need that right now, so I’m looking for something else to provide it.

The printing supplies box came out a week ago. I usually make wrapping paper, but what I really need is a stash of greeting cards. So I’ve been cutting up cardboard and brainstorming. An idea came to me. I have doubts but haven’t talked myself out of it.

100 cards by Christmas.

Each one unique – no repeats. Some themed (wedding, Christmas, etc.) but most just simple cards that I can then stamp “Happy Birthday”, “Congratulations” or “Get Well Soon” inside as needed. Some using stamps, some not. Some that I can do while watching tv.

100 little achievements. I like the sound of that!

First Craft Day of 2013

Yesterday the lovely Karen and Michael hosted the first Craft Day of the year. I tried out the crime scene cookie cutters Paul gave me for Christmas the day before so I could contribute to the general sugar intake:

Dead tasty.

There was quilting, stamp carving, cooking and the sewing of 50s dresses:

The first project I tackled is a knee blanket made from swatches from flannelette fabric blind sample book. Yes. That’s right. Flannelette blinds. They are – or more likely were – a thing. I’m sewing them together in the same way as this strip quilt tutorial, but not cutting them into strips.

I also brought some stamp carving supplies, so when the lovely Beky arrived and produced her own, I put aside the blanket so we could work together. After making a very simple demo fish, I decided to try making a bookplate stamp. After several hours of delicate carving, I did a test print. Then started laughing.

So, what’s wrong with this picture?

2012: Craft

The machine knitting:

Not as much weaving compared to previous years, but a lot of time went into inkle weaving:

I also didn’t do as many home decorating projects as usual, just a bit of macrame and a garden seat:

But I did make a LOT of jewellery:

(Some of the jewellery I made during the year is missing, as I decided I didn’t like it and returned the parts to my jewellery-making box.)

I also made some paper beads:

And I had my usual bout of the refashioning bug in Spring:

During Blogtoberfest I revived a stamp making hobby and made lots of wrapping paper:

And, of course, I made Christmas cards:

The Lost Paper

When the time came to test out my new stamps, I decided to use a roll of brown paper I’d salvaged from something. I also wanted to try using paint rather than the printing ink. Unfortunately, I don’t recall some of the paints I used with the different stamps, which is annoying because keeping records of such things is partly what this blog is for. But I’m fairly sure that gouache didn’t work as well as acrylic.

The first ‘stamp’ I used was the woodgrain making tool. Usually you paint the surface one colour, then when it’s dry apply a second colour and scrape it back using the tool in a rocking motion – which creates waves and whorls. But I didn’t think the paper was robust enough for that so I used a monoprinting method. I covered a ceramic tile in acrylic paint, scraped it back, then used the tile as the stamp. On the second sheet I used a comb-like scraper on the paint.

Then I tried the rollers. I’m fairly sure I used acrylic paints for these, as the colours are ones I’ve been trying to use up:

After that I tried the clear perspex backed stamps:

Lastly, I laid out a piece of plastic lace tablecloth and rolled gold paint over it (gouache, I think) then placed a sheet of coloured paper over that. The result was lovely. The paper is too thick to use as wrapping paper, however.

It is thick enough to cut up into greeting cards, though.

There are a few more printing ideas I’d like to try, and they involve printing on fabric. But at the moment I’m concentrating on the usual cards and presents projects of this time of year.

The Lost Prints

This morning I discovered a pile of photos in the directory I keep pics for this blog in that hadn’t been resized and tweaked. I had a closer look and realised that I thought I’d posted something I actually hadn’t got around to before going interstate – the last batch of stamps and wrapping paper I’d made. There are quite a few pics, so I’ll start with the stamps.

Visits to Bunnings are always perilous, but going soon after a whole lot of printing had me seeing everything as potential stamp material. Like these self-adhesive anti-skid pads:

I’d seen a tutorial somewhere in which the artist stuck dots onto a rolling pin. I didn’t want to sacrifice our rolling pin and I’m always looking for ways to recycle things, and it turned out we had just the thing:

Used silicone and caulk applicator tubes. They come with their own handle, too:

One even provided this cone of solidified silicone, which may also become a stamp in the future:

These ones were self-aligning.

I got Paul to cut up some clear perspex supports got these, so each print can be matched to the last easily:

I also found these clear plastic sauce trays in a discount shop to use as stamp supports in future:

And dug out a woodgrain scraper tool I’ve had since I was a teenager:

My next printing session was definitely more on the experimental side. I’ll post the pics next.

Wrapping Paper: Batch #2

Once again, I started with a sheet of wrapping paper from the original batch that was a bit of a dud, and overprinted with a coffee cup stamp I’d made back then, but never used:

Don’t ask me how, but the addition of black cups was all it took to fixed the dudness. I guess that as a pattern it was pretty boring, but as a background it worked better.

Since I had black ink on the tile, I tried the paw print stamps next:

I learned at this point that the silicone stamps only stick to a smooth, glossy surface, reinforcing my suction cup theory. One of them kept falling off the lid, and when I had a closer look the only difference I could see was the slightly matt surface. Also, the silicone surface of the stamps tended to repel the ink a little, so I’m wondering if these work better with ink pads.

I tried the keys:

They worked just fine. Time for some colour. I used these old star stamps next:

To make more of the star paper from the original batch, that was so versatile:

Then I mixed in some red and blue to the edges of the yellow for the lolly stamps:

So… yes, foam core can be used for stamps, but I wouldn’t recommend it. The backing quickly fell off on the first use, they felt fragile and awkward. I like the shapes so I’m going to make these again with foam.

And then I mixed the colours together and added more to make a gingerbread colour for the meat tray stamps:

I really didn’t expect them to work, but they did. Surprisingly well. I’ll definitely be recycling any meat trays that come our way in the future.

After that I washed off the tile and mixed some new ink to use with the elastic band stamp, blending them to make a graduated colour scheme:

Again, the result was another pleasant surprise – a non-dud-ish pattern:

I then used up more of the colour with my bottle top wedding ring and diamond stamps:

Gave that one a big tick. At this point only a few sheets of paper were left but I had only a couple more stamps to try. I didn’t expect the next stamp to work that well:

Turns out that while foam core isn’t great to cut into shapes, drawing into it works quite well.

That left the cups and glasses stamps. For the final sheet I added some red to the leftover blue ink to get a bugundy colour for the wine glasses, then white to half of that for pink sparkling, then yellow to the other half for beer and whisky, then… you get the picture, until I had the whole sheet covered. An old eraser from the end of a pencil gave me lime wedges, and the last sheet was done:

It was the most time-consuming of the wrapping paper sheets, but looks great.

Normally I try to print two sheets of each design, because one sheet never seems to be enough. The only double in this batch was the stars, because I had so many stamps to try. In the last batch I did have a few single sheets where I was using up excess ink or it was a mixed colour and I didn’t have enough for two sheets. I could mix up more colour, but the time it takes to match the colour isn’t worth it for an extra sheet.

I’m all out of crappy newsprint now. I could buy more, but I have a great stack of multi-purpose paper I can use and various other batches of paper I’ve saved over the years – like some newsprint-like paper that came with some ikea furniture, and some brown packing paper. On Monday I popped down to Zart Art and, along with more carving blocks, and some fabric dye, bought an assortment of A2 size coloured paper. It’s a bit thick for wrapping paper, but I could make gift bags out of it – always good for people like us who tend to forget to buy a present until the last moment… or on the way to the event.

I’d like to try using the stamps to make cards, too. One thing I have more than enough of is sheets of cheap coloured A4 paper.

Stamping Cheap & Dirty

After my little evening session of wrapping paper printing I had lots of ideas for making more stamps. As well as using what I already had, I wanted to try making stamps from some materials I’d seen used online.

Rubber Carving Block:

The old-fashioned key I’d made needed companions, so I carved two more:

Bottle Tops

I’d also seen a stamp of two interlocking rings, one with a diamond, and figured I could do that with a bottle top and some scraps of carving block:

Foam Core:

In this tutorial foam core is recommended as a cheap stamp material. You peel off one side and draw or carve into it. I tried drawing first:

Then I carved these lolly stamps:

Meat Tray Polystyrene:

I try very hard to avoid buying polystyrene, because it’s supposed to take a billionty years to break down, but occasionally we end up with a meat tray. So when I saw a tutorial on using it as a printing material I really hoped it worked as well as it appeared to.

To make these gingerbread people stamps I pressed cookie cutters into the surface:

Elastic Bands

I’d seen stamps made by winding yarn or elastic bands around a block of wood. I figured elastic bands would give a cleaner edge, so I rustled up a few and stretched them around a piece of particle board:


The softer rubber stamp carving blocks are similar in texture to erasers, which are often recommended for stamp material. I bought this cheap pack from a $2 shop:

And they carved like a dream! I like them better than the carving block, so I’ll buy these whenever I’m making small stamps. This lot became cup and glasses stamps:

Silicone Stamps:

Venturing closer to the commercial stamp world, I saw these paw print stamps at Lincraft and couldn’t resist buying them. Only when I looked closer later did I discover you have to buy plastic blocks to stick them to. Being impatient, and frugal, I ‘stuck’ them to bottle caps instead:

By ‘stuck’ I mean that they come attached to a sheet of plastic, and the instructions say to peel them off and press onto the block, but they have no glue on them. I suspect they stick like suction cups.

Once I’d made these stamps I moved on to printing wrapping paper. But I’ll save that for another post.

Wrapping Paper: Batch #1

So, having made some stamps I got stuck into printing wrapping paper. First up I grabbed these leaf stamps that I used for the last batch of paper:

I had a few sheets left over that I’d never liked which I planned to cover in leaves, but I found all it needed was some blue ones:

Then I reproduced the leaf paper that had worked so well before:

There was some red ink left, so I used it up with this old rose printing block:

I tried the tree stamps:

And the sea shells:

Then used up the blue paint making stripes:

And finally, tried a Mini stamp I’d bought in the UK with some coloured stamp block ink. Which looks cute, but looks a bit wishy-washy next to the previous wrapping paper sheets.

Next I’d like to try the key, and reproduce the star themed wrapping paper I made previously. I have a few more stamps to try that I didn’t get around to printing with last time, too. And there are many, many more stamps I want to carve, as well as some materials to experiment with.

Stamping Down & Dirty

Some years ago I bought a few alphabet stamps from a friend selling Stamping Up products, so when one of the crafters at Craft Day turned out to be selling the same thing I was curious to see how the it had developed.

As before, I found that the quality was excellent and there were some really nifty effects you could get (and cookie stamps!) and they have a great range of stamp colours, but the stamps themselves don’t get me excited. I suspect it’s because I like things a bit more rough and bold and messy. The sort of project that requires a smock and washing up afterwards. I guess it would be best described as ‘Stamping Down & Dirty’.

Still, looking at the catalogues got me thinking about the stamping I like and got me inspired to dragged out my stamping supplies:

The stamps I’ve generally liked the most have been simply cut out of these old foam pet dish mats with scissors then stuck with double sided tape to a chunk of foam core or particle board. I also like the print block sheets, both the harder green variety and the soft white stuff that’s the texture of erasers. I’ve made stamps out of floor tiles before and it was really tough to carve, so I don’t recommend it.

The ink shown here is specifically for printing, but I’ve also used plain old acrylic paint with great results. You could also use fabric paint. Anything sticky enough to coat a roller and transfer to the stamp works just fine. And, of course, is water soluble for easy clean up.

Last time I made foam stamps I used them to make a batch of wrapping paper out of some newsprint from the craft store for life drawing classes that turned out to be too shiny to hold charcoal. I’ve just about used that up, so I decided to make some more.

Some of those wrapping papers were used pretty quickly but others weren’t at all because they didn’t suit any occasion. I still have some lovely paper covered in red hearts, but the only person I’d use it to wrap gifts for is Paul and we don’t bother with wrapping paper. So I reviewed the stamps I’ve made and wanted to make with this in mind.

The first stamps I made were cut from a cloud and two rain drops I’d made before, but never used (’cause what would you use wrapping paper of rain clouds for – a funeral?). I turned them into trees:

I used up some foam scraps to make a strip stamp for borders or stripes, using an offcut of particle board for the backing, then I got more creative and carved a key:

By then I was getting the feel for carving and made some shell stamps out of white rubber for a happy non-event specific theme:

I find keeping them simple works best. My back and hands won’t cope with long hours carving stamps anyway. For inspiration I trawl Pinterest and Etsy, though I suspect this is going to lead to me buying hand carved stamps because some of the artists have a wonderful, distinctive style. But for me half the fun of stamping is making the stamps.

Here’s a great tutorial on making stamps from free or cheap materials.

Alisa Burke has a mini online workshop if you’d like more guidance and inspiration.

Some handcarved stamp artists on Etsy to admire:
Enchanting Stamps

And these stamps aren’t hand carved, but I included them because they’re adorable:

The Devil in the Retails

You know how it goes. To buy something hard to find (in my case, ink for a fountain pen) you end up at a big shopping mall. While you’re there you discover a sale on at a shop that’s closing down, and an intriguing new stationary chain, and suddenly you’ve swapped some of those thin rectangles of plastic (paper if your local currency is low-tech) for some pretty stuff.

I didn’t know there was a Borders at Doncaster. Well, not for much longer. It was having a closing down sale. Along with some novels and a book on art, I picked up these for 20% off (which probably equals 5% off considering that Borders prices were usually hiked up by 15% to begin with):

The finishing techniques one actually contained a few tips/techniques I didn’t know, so definitely worth getting. The other two ought to be polar opposites – classic vs latest fashion – and yet I found more than a couple of patterns inside both that I thought I might actually knit.

The stationary store was like Smiggle and Ikea got together and had offspring. Cute things, but lots made out of pale wood, pastel colour schemes and prices so surprisingly cheap for this sort of thing that the words ‘mass production’ and ‘third world sweatshop’ whisper at the back of your mind. I couldn’t resist these:

Today I found Interweave Knits Spring issue at my local newsagent. I asked him what happened to Interweave Knits Winter since I hadn’t been able to find it in the five or so newsagents I usually look for it in. He looked it up and discovered that, while they’d been ordered, the stock had never arrived. So I wasn’t imagining things. That issue never did show up locally. Which is annoying because I usually only buy the autumn and winter issues.