Handicrafts by Kate Perry and other ramblings

Monday, January 31, 2011

Bah! Humbug!

I am sure most of you are still recovering from Christmas, and you certainly don't want to look forward to the next one, so you must be wondering why I have started making next year's Christmas cards. The simple answer is so that I can take part in the Bah! Humbug! Challenge, set by three lovely ladies on their blog of the same name. The idea is that each week they set a challenge (theme etc) and anyone can make a card, or other Christmas crafty-make, and post it on their own blog. We then link it to the host blog so they can view it.

I thought this was an excellent idea and fun too. 2010 was the first year that my cards were made and ready well in advance, and this was because I knew my cataract appointment was imminent. It was so nice not to feel rushed in an effort to make the last posting date, so I thought I should try to be organised again this year, and this challenge is just the incentive I needed.

I missed the first three weeks so I am coming in at Challenge 4, 'An Oldie but a Goldie'; the idea being that we use something that has been lurking in the cupboard for a while, but we just don't use it, either because it has been forgotten, or it's just so nice we want to keep it.
So here's my first entry. I used some lovely gold embossed paper that have had for years, and it was so hard to cut into it! The stamp is from an Elusive Images plate that I bought for the holly images, and somehow the tree has never been used.

For the topper I stamped the tree and embossed it with sea-foam white embossing powder. Then I sprayed it liberally with Sticky Fingers gold spray and Candy apple red Glimmer mist. I wiped the spray off the embossed image and mounted it up on the background paper along with a stamped greeting by Stampendous on a Cuttlebug label, which I threaded on to some very, very old parcel ribbon.

I have added a close up of the tree as the spray effect does not show very well in the main image.

I can't wait to see what they challenge us with next week.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Pay it forward

This is a lovely idea that I first came across when my son posted it on Facebook. I commented and now await with interest whatever he has made for me! However, no-one else commented and when I reposted it from myself, I got no response either. I wasn't too surprised as I only keep a small list of 'friends' on Facebook, and use it primarily to keep up with the family happenings back in UK.

So, when I saw the scheme had been launched amongst my crafting friends, via their blogs, I thought I might be able to get a better response.

Here is the plan: All you have to do is leave a brief comment for me on here, and I promise to give the senders of the first five comments, something handmade by me, some time during 2011. You won't have to wait too long, because if I don't get on with it, I will forget! As you know, I dabble in all sorts of handicrafts so I can't say what you will get, but you will definitely get something!

The only condition is that you must repost the challenge on your blog and send to the first five who comment on it.

Happy crafting! Happy blogging! Kate x

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Cutting and Scrapping!

My first attempt at making a scrapbook was done for the youngest of our five sons. I started it for his 21st birthday but he didn't get it until his 23rd, so it took a while. Now I am doing one for the next son and he is 25 now. I hope he gets it before he's 30! I showed one page in my last post, and I thought I'd now show you a few more pages that illustrate why I like my craftRobo so much.

As you get to know me better you will find that every page in my scrapbooks has a title, and I like to make a feature of it. The first page in this book is a family tree. I printed papers from the Artylicious 'Essence of Nature' CD for the background, and downloaded the free font 'JF Wildwood' from www.dafont.com for the title. After a few false starts I found a paper that enabled even this very intricate design to be cut out on my Robo.

I have made these two complementary pages that face one another in the book and they are called 'Fire and Ice'. The word Fire is made with stickers I picked up in America many years ago, but the flames behind them was a downloaded template from UK Scrappers. It's very effective isn't it? The word Ice uses a font purchased from www.scrapnfonts.com and the snowflakes behind that are an adaptation of a spellbinders brass stencil. Then a couple of snowflakes also cut with Robo, nicely highlight the journalling.

The software for craftRobo enables me to print a title with any font that is on my computer, and I have over 800 to choose from. I can then outline it to cut a mat in a different paper, as I have done here for the Biker Boy page. The bike itself started out as an open source clipart picture which gave me the basic shape so I could make this silhouette, and of course, cut it out with my Robo.

And finally this page was inspired by the Memory Makers book 'Creative Photo Cropping for Scrapbooks'. I am not sufficiently expert at placing items to be cut onto the carrier sheet, to risk cutting photos with craftRobo, so instead I used it to make a stencil of this design which I then drew through onto the photo for each drop, ensuring I got exactly the part of the picture I wanted each time. Of course I then had to cut them out by hand, but the stencil made this, and the placing of them on the page, very straightforward. I then used up the left-over pieces of sea and sky, and some scraps of blue paper, to make the filler drops.

I hope this has given you a few ideas of how you too can use your craftRobo, or similar cutting machine, to enhance your scrapbook pages.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

My friend Robo

A trait I seem to have inherited from my mother is the love of gadgets. (I passed it on to one of my sons too, though his gadgets are mostly too technical for me!). I used to go to the Ideal Homes exhibition and get excited by all the kitchen gadgets, but now it is crafting tools that enchant me. Before I retired I was able to indulge my whims and when it first came on the market, I found myself the proud owner of a CraftRobo. For the uninitiated, this is a clever cutting machine that enables me to cut files from my computer without the need to keep buying expensive design cartridges. But I have to admit that for several years it sat on my desk and did very little. Now I am retired I have the time to investigate it more and I am now beginning to see the real value of it. I especially like it when I am in 'Scrapbook mode', and I use it to cut out most of my page titles. I have added several extra fonts to my computer that I recognise as being suitable for cutting. There is a wealth of free fonts available on the internet, and I have also bought some from www.scrapnfonts.com. But I don't only want to cut out script, and I needed to find a way to also cut out silhouettes and embellishments for cards and scrapbook pages. Again there are now many sites on the internet where I can buy template files, but I don't always want to use someone else's designs, and I haven't always got the patience to go through pages and pages of them trying to find what I want. I soon discovered that most of the designs that have been uploaded by other crafters to such sites as www.craftsuprint.co.uk, or ukscrappers to name but two, are designed in that very powerful graphics program inkspace. It can be downloaded for free and is open source making it very versatile. Unfortunately I haven't mastered designing cutting templates of my own yet, but I have several tutorials to look at, so one day soon I shall give it a go. (If only there were twice as many hours in a day ...!)
In the meantime I have found another way that works for me. In Spain most of the village houses have wrought iron railings and rejas, (the iron security grills that cover the windows and doors), and these can have quite intricate designs within them that would make lovely embellishments for papercraft. So last summer I took a photo of some in my own garden. The towel draped behind the railing was to help me. I knew it would be easier to edit out than the brick wall.

Once the photos were on my computer I used my photo editor to turn them into a greyscale picture and then adjusted the brightness and contrast until I had almost achieved a black silhouette on a white background. Then I used that old faithful 'windows paint' to tidy up any uneven edges, and to remove any residual background colour. Once the picture was as sharp as I could make it I saved it as a bitmap (bmp file), which my Robo machine can recognise. Finally I decided that the metal bar running down the centre was too heavy so I removed it, again using Windows Paint, and cut the design in half. Using the additional software called Design Master which is sold by Graphtec who manufacture the CraftRobo, it is easy to open the bitmap with the scan and trace wizard. Once on the page it can be resized and cut, and then using 'file' > 'save as..' it can be stored as a GRA file (Robo's own file system) ready to open again whenever it is needed.

I used these designs on a page about weddings in a scrapbook that I am making for my son, about his life so far. It is nice to know that they are unique to my work, and it is a technique that makes it possible for me to use everyday objects that exactly match the piece I am working on.

Just as making scr
apbooks has altered the way I take photographs, so using this technique has altered the way I look at the world around me. Everywhere I go I find myself thinking 'Oo, that would make a good cutting template!' To that end, I almost always have my little 'point and snap' digital camera with me, which came in very handy when I was visiting a nearby town recently. I was sitting at a street cafe when a small very muddy delivery van drew up alongside me. I noticed that under the dirt, there was a lovely little dragon painted on the back door. I took a quick snap, and despite the mud I was able to edit the picture as above, and use the vague outline as a starting point for creating this dragon. Here is the black and white bitmap I made and next to it is the dragon cut out of red paper. He is now waiting for me to make a scrapbook of the three months I spent travelling around Thailand and Vietnam, back in 2008. I hope he is a very patient dragon!!

Saturday, January 8, 2011

And the play continues ...

Here as promised is part two of my session using moulds and clay. Quite often I want a little embellishment for my work and nothing in my limited stock of charms quite comes up to the mark, or I have what I want and it's my last one, so I'm reluctant to use it, so when I saw advertised Suze Weinberg's Mold-n-Pour I just had to buy some. This comes as two small pots of soft putty, one white and one purple. You take equal quantities of each and knead them together until they are all one colour. Then it is simply a matter of pressing into it any small object, such as a button, brooch, or toy, and leaving it to set for about ten minutes. Then you remove the object and you have a flexible mould that can be used over and over again. I hadn't used mine for ages, so I hunted through my 'stuff' and found that, even after being opened about two years ago, it was still soft and good. I then raided my mum's old button box, and my fancy craft buttons, and came up with this little selection of goodies to try.I didn't want the teapot to look like a button, so before making a mould I filled the two holes with pieces of a cocktail stick. Once the moulds were set I made a few of each with my clay, and I showed these drying in yesterdays blog. Then came the fun part of decorating them. The big gold button made a very deep mould so I only partially filled it. Once again I gave them all an undercoat of white or beige acrylic paint, and then used a mixture of paints, pens, and foil to decorate them. So here are some of the results. You can tell I like metallic paints can't you? The angels turned out well. The first is simply painted with perfect pearls, the second is highlighted with paint and has stikles glitter glue on the wings, and the third is simply sprayed with glimmer mist and left to dry. The third medallion was painted in the same way as yesterday's were but this time I added highlights with gilding leaves instead of foil. I have been following a thread about using these on a craft forum and it prompted me to hunt mine out. The effect was similar to using foil but the leaves are very fine so it was easier to gently push them into some of the crevices with a soft brush. The teapot was freehand painted, and for the rabbit I used two shades of distress ink pad dabbed on a white tile and applied with a water brush. I think he is lovely. I shall enjoy using him. I included the tiny reindeer just to show how suitable this method is for almost any shape. The bottom row of this picture is a few attempts I made at using the mould with a material other than clay. The frame and shell were made by melting a quantity of Ultra Thick Embossing Enamel and pouring it into the mould. My melting pot burnt itself out several years ago, and I now use a tin-foil dish from a bought pie. I can form a pouring spout before I start, and I stand it on a silicone mat, on a wood block, just to ensure I don't damage the surface of my desk! The UTEE works well in a smaller mould. It sets almost instantly, and while it is still warm, it is easy to use scissors to trim any excess from around the shape. For the medallion on the right I wanted to have a pearl centre so I tried experimenting. First I melted some Mother-of-pearl UTEE and poured it into the dome part of the mould. Then, in a second pie dish, I melted some Gold UTEE and poured this on top of the pearl. I under-estimated the amount I would need so I had to melt some more and this shows on the finished result, but does that matter? I don't think so. I have long ago stopped striving for perfection, and accept that my efforts are a true reflection of me. I am happy to use it as it is, and shapes made in this way are very light so they will be easy to fix to a paper project.
And finally, the reddish reindeer at the bottom of the picture was made from a tiny strip of melted friendly plastic, cooled until it was handleable. I do not find this material is particularly suitable for moulds as if it is heated before putting in the mould, the colour tends to float on top leaving the plain matt colour on the visible part of the shape. Also it stays hot for a long time so it is difficult to handle. I have read that it can be placed face-down onto the mould and then heated until it sinks in, but I think you would need the hard plaster moulds for this, and possible a releasing agent, as the silicone moulds do warp and spoil if too much direct heat is applied to them.
Of course these moulds can also be used with candle wax, soap and even sugar paste, so I'd love to hear of your successes or failures with them. I'm always open to more ideas.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Playing with clay and moulds.

I wanted a change from making cards so I had a few days playing with clay. I recently bought a couple of new moulds from Crafty Individuals, and I wanted to try them out. Although these can be used with a range of media, I prefer working with air-drying clay. As soon as it is pressed into the mould, it can be carefully removed and set aside to dry which means I can use the mould again straight away and make a run of one type if I want to. I have a couple of hard plaster type moulds but I much prefer the soft silicone ones. They are flexible making it quite easy to remove the clay, and nothing sticks to them. I find the embellishments dry quite fast, only needing over night, and on sunny days out here, they are often dry in a couple of hours. But I usually turn them over and leave them for a while longer to ensure they really are dry. Here are a few I made yesterday. The colour is not very true in the picture. They have dried from a fairly deep grey to almost white. Some are a bit rough around the edges, especially the little rabbit, but this is easily smoothed off with a fine sanding block, or nail file.
Next comes the fun of decorating them. I like to give mine a quick base coat first, usually of an acrylic paint. Then it is a case of looking through my stash and seeing what works best. Here are some samples I made using a variety of techniques. They all have a base coat of light grey or beige acrylic paint.The first one was then painted over in black and when it was dry I used a glue pen on some of the high points and pressed on a sheet of rainbow foil. The result is rather fun. The other medallions were painted in one colour and then highlighted with Inka-gold in a contrsting colour. Inka gold is a thick, creamy paint which I wiped on with a piece of kitchen roll.
You can see which are my new moulds can't you? The pretty little hearts were all painted with Viva precious metal colours, a range of gorgeous rich colours. The gold one had some of the paint wiped off again while still wet, and on the next one I used a very fine brush and several colours to highlight the design. The little flower was simply coloured with permanent brush markers and then glazed with a thin layer of glossy accents. Glossy accents also gives a lovely sheeen to the African head. The mask is an effective piece that I usually paint in a shades of brown with a little black added to darken the eyes and mouth. This one was lightly touched with some bronze paint to finish it off. It turns out different every time I make it.

These are my favourites from my latest session. The medallion was painted in a dark grey with some of it wiped off again. It was then foiled as above in gold. This technique was recommended to me by Jean from Crafty Individuals, and it gives a very pleasing, aged look. The little humming bird is painted with Precious metals. The colours are even prettier than they look here, and the green on the wings fading into deep blue is very effective. And finally my little elephant. He is only about 1.5cm across, and I am very fond of him. This time I painted him black and when he was dry I sprayed him liberally with Memories mist - Bright gold. At first I thought this had not had much effect, but as it dried, the mica settled into all his creases and gave him a really good finish.

Tomorrow I will show you what else I have done using moulds.