Handicrafts by Kate Perry and other ramblings

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!!

No comments: