Tuesday, 18 December 2012

Book Review: Making an Impression

Making an Impression: Designing & Creating Artful Stamps
Geninne D. Zlatkis
ISBN 978-1-4547-0125-5
Lark Crafts
(£12.99 on Amazon)

Geninne D. Zlatkis's delicate, nature-inspired designs have the finesse of lino art prints. It is hard to believe that they are created with hand-carved rubber stamps - and printed with ordinary pigment-ink stamp pads. Wow.This beautifully-produced book is a fabulous beginner's intro to the inexpensive craft of stamp-making.

Making my own hand-carved stamps is something I've been meaning to do for a while, and it is with that intention that I bought this book
(and a Speedball Speedy-Carve Stamp Making Kit - more below). 

The how-to section is top notch, and it includes several invaluable tips that might not be immediately obvious. The author has an artists's eye, and her advice for creating a successful designs is excellent. For example, she says "repetition is never dull" - then goes on to explain that "no two stamped impressions are ever the same" and she suggests varying the pressure of your stamped impressions to create different effects. 

Another winning suggestion is to carve a collection of stamps in related designs that will work together to make a larger, unified design.

The projects are presented in three sections: Stamping on Paper, Stamping on Fabric, and Stamping on Other Surfaces. All the projects are imaginative and delightful. The garden journal is charming. The printed fabric embellished with embroidery works a treat, as do the stamped butterflies hand-colored with watercolours. The terracotta pots are charming and would make great gifts. Painted stones have - up until now - made me yawn. But Geninne's stamped stones are something else. They look like they've been carved in relief.

Full-sized motifs for the stamps are provided back-of-book - and there's even a page of extra designs.

One of the top craft titles of 2012. 

Note: I purchased this book myself.

The Speedball Speedy-Carve Stamp Making Kit contains a carving block, a wooden lino-cutter with two tips, tracing paper, and instructions. All you need to get started apart from stamp pad and paper. (This product has not been endorsed by the author - I've included details of it to be helpful.)

Monday, 17 December 2012

Book Reviews: Ruby Star Wrapping, Pop-Up Cards

Two craft titles today: 

Ruby Star Wrapping: Creative Packaging to Reuse, Regive & Relove

Melody Miller & Allison Tannery

Roost Books

ISBN 978159030995

£14.99 paperback

This title is slightly off-piste for a review in a papercraft blog, but I want to make amends for all the Scandinavian forests that I have been slicing and dicing in my digital paper cutter. As the title says, this is a book of eco-conscious wrapping ideas – brought to you by the team behind the wildly successful Sew, Mama, Sew blog. It contains a mix of projects, including papercrafts, but  – as you would expect – mostly sewing ideas.

The Introduction to the book is delightful. It tells of the Japanese approach to gift packaging, “this simple philosophy : a unique, charming presentation can be made from even the most unassuming objects.”  Even better if the packaging is made from re-purposed materials that can be used over and over again!

This book has lots of heart and it does have some lovely ideas – the box from a recycled gameboard, and the inside-out boxes, for example. Or the concept that the gift doesn’t necessarily have to be entirely concealed – just embellished (like the painted bowls for food packaging, or the trimmings made from felt balls). The recipes are a nice touch, too. I did find that some of the projects were a bit same-y and obvious (stick it in a drawstring sack!, re-cover a box!). The sewing skill level is pretty basic – great if you are a beginner.  (I note that the authors came to sewing relatively late.) Also, this is very much a hipster/craftster title, targeted at 30-somethings.

What I really admire about this book is how it encourages you to think – not only about how to recycle, but about fitting form to function. And about how low-fi forms of gift presentation can be highly effective – like adding a garland to a gift.

If giving this book as a gift, remember to eco-wrap it!

Note: I was given a review copy of this title.

Pop-Up Cards: 
Over 50 Designs for Cards That Fold, Flap, Spin, and Slide
Mari Kumada

Roost Books

ISBN 978-1-61180-004-3

£14.99 paperback

I greatly enjoyed Mari Kumada’s previous title, Creative Paper Cutting, so I was keen to take a look at this new offering. I was not disappointed. This book radiates sweetness and charm. The beautiful simplicity of the presentation and the content is irresistible. It is a translation of a Japanese title – so the expectation of quality papercrafting is very high. What you get is a prettily presented primer for making simple pop-ups and mechanical cards. Easy enough for beginners, but enough to fascinate the more experienced papercrafter. There are over 50 card designs, complete with step-by-step how-tos and full-size templates (that will make lots of people happy). All you need is a cutting implement, paper, and glue.

One of my favourite cards is “Special Delivery Present”, in which a dove unties the ribbon on a gift. I also particularly like the spinner cards, where you rotate the dial to create the special effect. There’s a psychedelic Dahlia with a whirling pattern and an Elephant balancing on a ball. Nice idea to combine the dial idea with cut-outs. I can’t recall seeing them elsewhere.

The book’s first section is a class on pop-up cards:  Horizontal Fold, Vertical Fold, V-Fold, Pop-up Coil Cards, Pop-Up Cone Cards, and Pop-Up Cube Cards. ( Very impressive that the last two sections are presented in a way accessible to beginners.) The book then continues with a selection of pop-up cards designed for special occasions and holidays. The third section of the book is about Cards that Move and Spin. That means Sliders, Cards that Flap, Cards that Spin (the dial cards), and Cards that Spring.

A special touch is that the author includes several of her own reflections – such as “My Favourite Pop-Up Card”. This really helps to personalize the book. You can tell it’s a labour of love. 

More experienced papercrafters may find some of the cards a bit basic. Just add your own bells and whistles. I prefer these cards to sing on their own.

Note: I was given a review copy of this title.

Book Review - Paper: An Elegy

Books make ideal last-minute presents, so I'm running several reviews of very giftable titles in the run-up to Christmas. First up:

Paper: An Elegy
Ian Sansom 
Fourth Estate
ISBN 978-00-00-748026-5

This delightfully quirky – and very personal – appreciation of paper is an erudite compendium of curiosities – and wonder. This book is a personally curated paper museum, a sort of Schott’s Almanac of paper in prose. I subscribe to a very lovely blog by Ann Martin, called All Things Paper (http://www.allthingspaper.net/) – and that is a very apt description of this book. The book is a guided tour of the history of paper – and the author has definitely thought outside the cardboard box in formulating its contents.

The premise is that mankind’s recent  (well, the last 2,000 years plus) of social and cultural history is inextricably tied to paper and paper products – perhaps in ways that may not even have occurred to you.  And the age of the e-book is an appropriate time to reflect on the physical history of paper in all its many guises, as well as all its many influences. There are chapters on the history of paper manufacturing, maps, books, paper money, advertising and packaging (including board games and toy theatres). Art, literature, science, peace treaties, wallpaper – it’s all here. The scope of this book is astonishing. It is like a pop-up book for the mind.

The chapter on origami is a revelation!  As a papercrafter, origami  is a term you’ve probably grown up with. But its mainstream use was only popularized in the 1950s – before that, in the Western world, it was generally known simply as paper folding. When I was a child, my grandfather used to entertain me with a party trick in which he turned a rolled up newspaper – with a few deft cuts – into a telescoping ladder. Apparently this trick was in a 1922 book by Harry Houdini. Who knew?!

This book is filled with gems of information that are so good, they are like unwrapping presents (so I won’t reveal them here). A very entertaining read, you’ll want to keep each chapter as a treat. The author does have a cringe-inducing  tendency towards twee overload – so be warned – this is well worth overlooking.

This book is illustrated in black and white with well-chosen material.  The quantity and quality of the illustrations is not lavish – and you are left wanting more. However, this  is not meant to be a coffee table book . 

For an info-taining and thought-provoking diversion for paper-holics, look no further.

It is very appropriate that, at the present time, this book is only available in paper – not electronically.  As you would expect, it is a handsomely bound hardback with a very classy embossed cover.

Note: I was given a review copy of this title.

Wednesday, 12 December 2012

Xmas Card Racks & Gift Boxes

Snowflake Xmas Card Rack (card from W.H. Smith).
Xmas Tree Card Rack (card from W.H. Smith).
Snowflake gift boxes for small surprises.
Boxes in two sizes.
Bird's-eye view.
The prop snowflakes are the "outsies" from Tonic Studios Simplicity Daisy Dies.

Do you prefer to browse rather than display your Xmas cards? Are you awash in a sea of seasonal greetings? Today's projects are for you! I have designed two different styles of toast-rack style Xmas card racks - Snowflake or Xmas Tree motifs. Just pop your greetings cards into the slots for handy, browsable card storage. You can fit more than one card into each slot. 

In addition to the card racks, I have included Snowflake gift boxes. They are inspired by snowglobes. You never can have enough gift packaging at this time of year..

All the projects are easy-make - here are a few how-to notes and tips:

All files: I have given you files with visible outlines so you can see the pattern pieces. Before printing, ungroup the file and click Line Style invisible, so the outlines don't print. You can, of course, change the colour of any design element by ungrouping the file and changing the outline and fill colours.

All of the files are designed to be printed on A4 cardstock. 

Turn on the registration marks before printing!

Snowflake Card Rack: there are two files, one for the end pieces, and the other for the slotted rack. Score the folds with an embossing tool held against a metal ruler. Attach the bottom flaps of end pieces to the base of the slotted rack. Join the long edge of the rack to the rack base to complete the arching rack. Then attach the side flaps and top tabs of the side pieces. I used double-sided tape, but tacky glue would work fine, too. I have provided a base reinforcement to weight the rack - but you will probably not need to use it!

Xmas Tree Card Rack: two files, one for the end pieces, one for the slotted rack. Made in a similar way to the Snowflake Card Rack, but you must score a fold line in the centre of the slotted rack piece - this forms the apex of the tree. Fold this carefully! 

Snowflake Boxes: the larger boxes are in two pieces - this is required to fit onto the A4 Card. Simply attach the plain tab side of the box bottom flap (not the notched tab) to the box body, as indicated by the arrows. The smaller box is all in one. To assemble the box, score the folds, stick the side flap, and tuck in the top and bottom lids.

The plan for making a box is called a net. I learned this from a fantastic design book by Paul Jackson, the papercraft guru. The book is entitled
Structural Packaging: Design Your Own Boxes and 3-D Forms, Laurence King Publishing, Ltd, 2012. The book is a how-to course on how to design your own boxes, and it includes some very handy tricks of the trade. Here's a link:


I hope you all have a wonderful holiday season and a happy and creative New Year!

Big thanks to Leah - for taking the pics!

Tuesday, 4 December 2012

Paper-Punched Paper Chains Tutorial

Trad-with-a-twist paper chains, made in a jiffy with Tonic Studios products.
Here's a variety of poinsettia-accented paper chains and buntings, all made using Tonic Studios products. The looped chains are made using Simplicity Pattern strip punches (a Petal Pairs poinsettia conceals the join). The Scandinavian-style woven hearts are made using the Daisy Border punch. And the frilly fan bunting was made with the Simplicity Daisy Circle Die. Just in time for the holidays - get punching now! 

Here are pics of the chains and the products used to make them:
Top: Simplicity Pattern Punch Doily Strip (Item 966e); Bottom: Simplicity Pattern Punch Daisy Strip (Item 940e).

Top: Simplicity Pattern Punch Daisy Border (Item 941e); Bottom: Simplicity Daisy Circle Die (Item 229e).
Petal Pairs for the poinsettia: Flower from Petal Pairs Box Set 1 (Item 880e); Leaves from Petal Pairs Box Set 3 (Item 882e). The flower center is a punched circle.

Now that you know which punches to use, here's how to make your
festive garlands:

To make the lattice, punch 7 units for each strip. I have used Inspire Me paper for all the chains and buntings, in traditional Christmas colours. Cut the strip out of the paper. Overlap the ends to make a loop, gluing with tacky glue applied with a cocktail stick. Glue the chain links in the usual way, to the desired length. Conceal the join in each loop with a Petal Pairs poinsettia: two interlocked flowers, two cut leaves glued underneath, a white dot glued onto the flower centre.

Next up, the Broderie Anglaise (Eyelet Lace)-look links. Punch 9 units for each strip. Cut a strip of coloured paper 8mm-wide and lace it though the punched lace strip. Lace under, over through the daisy-shaped holes; glue the ends of the coloured strip down. Glue the strip into a loop, matching scallops. Make a paper chain in the usual way, alternating red- and green-laced links. Glue on poinsettias to camouflage the loop joins when you are done.

Scandinavian Heart bunting next. This is an update of the woven hearts you may have made as a kid. 

First, cut a strip of paper 12cm (4-3/4in)-wide. Fold it in half (as shown above). Punch a border along the open edge, punching an even number of scallops. Make sure you use the Daisy Border Punch (not the Daisy Strip punch that you used for the lacy loops paper chain).

Next, cut the punched paper into crosswise strips, as shown. Each strip must be two scallops wide. Snip down the middle of each strip, dividing it in two - but stop short of the scallops at the top.
For each heart that you make, you will need two strip units - in contrasting colours.
 Weave the first loop under, over: inside one loop, over the other.

Weave the second loop over, under: over one loop, inside the other. Pre-opening the loops helps. The woven loops make a pocket. You can make a mini-basket by gluing on a handle strip at the top.

To make the woven-heart bunting, make a bunch of hearts, alternating the colour combinations. Decorate each heart with a glued-on Petal Pairs poinsettia. String the hearts side-by-side, tying a bow through the adjacent daisy holes. Tip: when you tie the bow, knot it around the centre to stabilize it. I've used soft embroidery cotton for the bows, but you could use Baker's Twine or ribbon. For each bow, you need 25cm (10in) of string or ribbon. 

Finally, it's time to make the frilly fan bunting. For the bunting, cut a bunch of die-cut Daisy doily circles in contrasting colours. Cut an equal quantity of each colour.

Prep each doily: mark the centre of the doily with a pencil dot. On the back of the doily, glue a 2.5cm (1in) paper circle, centred - this acts as a reinforcement. Next, remove a wedge from the doily circle, two scallops wide, from centre point to edge. Use an embossing tool and a metal ruler to mark lines that divide the remaining shape into pie wedges. Each daisy scallop makes a wedge.

Pleat the doily as shown, crease the folds, scrunch the doily. Do this for each doily. 

To assemble the bunting, glue the doilies into the formation shown: fan up, fan down. On the flip side of the bunting, trim the flaps into a triangle. Glue a poinsettia over the apex of each fan. That's it, you're done. 

You can, of course, make individual fans as hanging ornaments. Just tie on a loop at the fan apex, then glue on a pretty poinsettia.

That's it. Have fun playing the chain game. You can make these up pretty quickly, especially the Scandi Hearts. Fun as a group project - set up an assembly line (don't forget the snacks). Enjoy the festive season!

Saturday, 1 December 2012

Snowflake Rosette Tutorial

Print, punch, pleat! Make snowflake rosettes as ornaments or as a cascade.
Snowflakes are my favourite festive decs because they have a life beyond the festive season. You can keep these cheerful pleated flakes hanging around in gloomy January. Make a bunch using the free printable download (below). The fancy edges are made using Simplicity Pattern Punches from Tonic Studios.

The snowflake design is engineered to coordinate with two styles of Tonic Simplicity Pattern Punches - either the Scalloped Diamond design (Item 962e) for a more geometric look or the Victorian Border (Item 963e) for a lacy edge.

Just download a file below and print them onto plain white copier paper - then you'll be good to go with the tutorial. Choice of .svg, .jpg, or .studio file:


These files are meant to be printed. They are not cutting files in the case of the .studio and .svg files. They should fit exactly onto an A4 piece of copier paper.

Now for the tutorial:

1) Print the snowflakes and cut out the individual pattern bands. For the smaller size snowflake, remove a strip 1cm (3/8in) wide from the bottom edge of the snowflake. I'm using scissors, but a paper trimmer is even better for the job.
2) Fold the pattern band in half crosswise. Mark the centre of the punch with a piece of masking tape, as shown (the "n" in the Tonic logo at the punch bottom is the centre).
3) Make the first punch. Make sure that the pattern band is facing the direction shown (with the snowflake point facing towards back of punch). Really important!

4) Punch the pattern band halfway (7 punches), then finish punching the band in the opposide direction (6 more punches). 
5) This pic shows how to align the punches. See how the cutout matches the design on the base of the punch.

 6) Trim the ends of the punched pattern band.

7) Next, fold over alternate points and glue them down. Glue down only the points without a snowflake point on them. This creates a pretty double-sided paper effect which highlights the punch design!

8) Accordion-pleat the pattern band as shown, aligning your folds with the punched scallops.
9) Accordion-pleat once again, folding your first set of pleats in half. There should be a mountain fold in the centre of each snowflake point, with valley folds in between.

10) Glue the pleated strip into a ring, overlapping the last segments on either end. The finished ring looks like a cracker crown!

11) Tricky bit! Flatten the pleated crown, points to the outside. Ease the pleats into position so the ends meet at the centre. Don't let go!
You should also have on hand a 2.5cm (1in) paper circle with a hole pierced in the centre.

12) Carefully turn the rosette over and glue the paper disc onto the centre. 

13) Now turn the rosette over once more and adjust the pleats. Make sure they meet at the centre and that the creases are sharp.

14) You can weight the rosette with a punch as the glue dries. The punch shown is from Tonic Studios Petal Pairs Box Set 4 Item 883e. When the snowflake rosette has dried, use the punch to cut out a Petal Pair flower from white paper. Pierce a hole in the middle of the Petal Pair flower. You can use any punch in the Petal Pairs range to make the snowflake rosette centre.

15) With a sewing needle, thread a bead onto a piece of soft embroidery cotton or craft thread (white). Slide the bead to the centre of the thread.

16) Switch to a tapestry needle and thread both thread ends through the eye. Thread the bead through the centre of the Petal Pair flower.

17) Knot the thread on the back of the rosette. Trim ends. 
 18) You've finished your snowflake rosette! It makes a lovely decoration as is, especially useful for gift wrapping. Since the snowflake design is only printed on one side, if you want to make a hanging ornament, then you must stick two snowflakes back-to-back.

Here's how to make a hanging snowflake rosette ornament:

1) You need two completed snowflakes. On one snowflake, thread a hanging loop. (Use a needle to thread a loop of string through the cardboard circle.) Knot the hanging loop near the end. On the centre disc of the other snowflake, stick a Dodz 3D Adhesive Dot by 3L Scrapbooking Adhesives.
2) To complete the ornament, join the snowflakes back-to-back, with points alternating. Press the snowflake centres to make sure the snowflakes are stuck together well. Your ornament is finished!

Completed snowflake rosette ornaments. Double-sided for hanging!

That almost does it for the Snowflake Rosette workshop. Just a few fine points and extras:

If you are making the larger size of snowflake, you must clip into the folds for ease like so (above).
Big and little snowflake sizes contrasted.
If you like paper chains (and who doesn't), then you can make a bead-linked snowflake vertical cascade. Hang it against the wall because the snowflakes are one-sided. The vertical format look fresh.
(Don't make a horizontal chain - the snowflakes will twist.) 
Petal Pairs "Centre Perks" make pretty snowflake centres.
Instead of a bead, you can add a Petal Pairs "Centre Perk" to the rosette centre. You need two Petal Pair flowers to make the Centre Perk. Pierce holes in the centres. Knot a piece of thread in the centre, fold it in half, and thread it through the Petal Pairs, like so:

To fold the Centre Perk: fold the top petals to the centre; open them back out, then fold them down consecutively, tucking the last petal in.
And of course, you can make pleated rosettes from other papers besides the snowflake printout. Great all year round.

Thanks to Leah for taking the pics. Gratitude and cheesecake to you.