Friday, 30 October 2015

The Spoonflower Handbook, by Stephen Fraser. Review.

A DIY Guide to Designing Fabric, Wallpaper & Gift Wrap

By Stephen Fraser, with Judi Ketteler & Becka Rahn

Stewart Tabori & Chang 2015

Paperback £16.99 UK/ $27.99 US/ $33.50 CAN

Star rating: *****

“This book is about the joy of making something mingled with the challenge of learning new things.”

-     Stephen Fraser

Spoonflower is the online service that has brought pattern to the people since 2007. If you have a computer, an internet connection, and appropriate software then Spoonflower can digitally print your original designs on to fabric, wallpaper, or gift wrap.  Everyone’s a maker, anywhere in the world, 24/7. 

Makers do need a little know-how and encouragement before taking the DIY printable plunge. This enthusiastic and empowering book, by the website’s  founder, Stephen Fraser, and key Spoonflower contributors is both a Spoonflower-specific user manual and a project book. The 30 projects build your design skills while simultaneously showcasing the creative possibilities of Spoonflower-printed makes. 

The book covers info about Spoonflower’s choice of printable surfaces and their project suitability, as well as giving pointers on how to get the utmost from the Spoonflower website. For example, in addition to supplying aids to colour selection,  and pattern creation, the Spoonflower website is also a vibrant online community whose members share their creations and participate in weekly competitions.

Need -to -know basics covered include essential info about colour specification and how to scan an image so that it is reproduced to the correct size. There’s essential  knowledge about working with photo-editing and vector design software. You will learn how to create repeats by both methods, and also to craft engineered non-repeating surface designs.

The selection of projects highlights a myriad of design possibilities – surely some will appeal to your particular method of working. Drawing skills are not required   photographic  images or collaged and scanned shapes can be used to create pattern. One fabulous less-is-more project is the Recipe Tea Towel from Emma Jeffery. Scanned-in, bigged up, and printed on fabric, it makes the perfect kitchen wall decoration.  Another timely, genius idea is the colouring wallpapers – channelling the ubiquitous colouring trend and giving kids a sanctioned opportunity to draw on the walls J!  Designer Ellen Giggenback has designed a baby quilt from a scanned  paper collage – a very appealing technique.  Another idea for the drawing-averse is the use of copyright-free clip art.

The can-do attitude of this book is irresistible. I for one will be putting “design a Spoonflower print” on my list of New Year’s resolutions for 2016.

Thursday, 29 October 2015

Pleated Paper Party Lanterns Tutorial

This festive party bunting is a fun papercraft challenge to make. Once you've cracked folding the concertina box - which is the body of the lantern - you've just got to add the lantern top and base (the "hats") and join the lanterns with paper chain links.

Here are your templates:


I have provided you with templates for a square lantern and a hexagonal lantern - but you can make the bunting with just the square shape if you wish.
My pleating binge has been inspired by Paul Jackson's super new book,
Complete Pleats:
Concertina Lantern Party Bunting Tutorial

1 The pic above shows all the pieces of one lantern. The lantern body is cut out from copy paper-weight coloured paper (I used a Paperchase Spectrascope A5 pad). The "hats" are cut from thin black card.

If you are lucky enough to have a Silhouette Curio machine, then it will emboss the fold lines for you! Simply cut by colour. (Blue = fold, Red = cut.) (When embossing with the Curio, you must put the shape to be cut on the cutting area for the cut lines to be visible.) 

(If not, use the .pdf version and print the fold lines on to the wrong side of the paper, then set to and mark them with a finepoint embossing tool held against a small metal ruler.)

2 Pic above shows how to fold a concertina box - the lantern body. It is important to "prime" the fold lines - that is, pre-fold them, so they fall into place when you fold them for real. So - fold all the horizontal fold lines both front and back (this is a "universal" fold according to Paul Jackson). Also pre-crease the zigzag Vs. 

The secret to the folding is that the direction of the accordion pleats reverses at the Vs. If you press each V to fold it - kind of like popping bubble wrap (!) - the folds will fall into position and almost fold themselves!

Do a dry run of the folding on scrap paper. Practice makes perfect!
3 Pic above shows how to assemble the concertina box. It is seamed at the centre of one side to make a tube. You must unfold the creases to join the seam ( I know!). Use a piece of double-sided tape on the short side of the rectangle. Overlap the seam to make a tube. Once you've made the tube, gently coax the folds back into position. Tah dah! A square concertina box.
4 Time now to make the "hats" to cap the concertina box. Pic above shows how it is done. The band fits into the brim. For the top, add the looped handle. For the bottom, reinforce the brim bits with the holes, then tie on a tassel. The tassel is made out of craft thread in a colour to match the concertina box. Wind the tassel around a 6cm (2-1/4in) piece of card. (For how to make a tassel, I've got a tutorial - click on the link.)
5 Okay - it's the homestretch. Time to stick the "hats" on to the top and bottom of the concertina box. Just stick double-sided tape onto the concertina box top and bottom edges (whee- the box collapses right down flat!). Next, just stick on the "hats" with edges aligned.
6 To complete the bunting, simple join the lanterns with paper chain links.

If you want a further challenge, I have provided a pattern for a hexagonal lantern. It is made in the same way as the square concertina lantern - just slightly more fancy-folding. (When you glue on the "hats" to the hexagonal lantern, make sure that the sides are aligned top and bottom.)

Enjoy the fancy folding! When you've mastered the concertina box, you will be proud of your new pleating skills. 


Monday, 26 October 2015

Wall Art, by Clare Youngs. Review.

35 Fresh and Striking Projects to Decorate your Walls

By Clare Youngs

Cico Books 2015

Paperback £12.95

ISBN 978 1 782492474

Star rating: ****

To a crafter, a bare wall is a blank canvas. Prolific author and craft all-rounder Clare Youngs is here to take up the challenge. Her new title is a fun collection of mixed-media home dec ... Wall Art. (Yes, papercrafts are featured.) Clare Youngs is not averse to a bit of D-I-Y lite – cue hammer and nails. In fact, this imaginative low-cost collection of projects put me in mind of vintage TV show Changing Rooms (in a good way).

The subject of the book being wall art, super-sized pics feature large. Front-of-book, there are how-tos for enlarging templates from small sketch to ginormous.

The Threads and Stitches section contains many appealing projects. There are patchwork pics probably inspired by Albers squares and an Aztec-style wall hanging (stencilled onto a textured jute rug). I wasn’t so sold on the Wonderful Weavings (cue pompom trim)- they do remind me of a Brownies project (sorry – there is enough truly wonderful stuff in the book to make up for them).  Example: the Retro Chair Embroidery.  Pic of chair, chair outline stitched in black, with a colourful bullion stitch (highly-textured loopy knot) cushion. Thumbs up to the Cute Kitty appliqué – patches zigzagged in place with a sewing machine.

The co-oridinating group of stencilled and stamped Cactus Pot Print is charming. 

The papercraft section is called Cuts and Folds. “Star project” is the papercut shadow box, illuminated with LED fairy lights. This layered papercut night scene is notihing short of spectacular and is very do-able. 

There’s lots of good stuff in the Big and Bold section. The Floral Dress is a jumbo paint + collage piece. Very effective, and cost – next to nothing. I saw something vaguely similar at an art exhibition with an astronomical price tag. In the Shapes and Colors section, the Magnetic Puzzle Board is a genius idea. Concept: bigged-up Tangram shapes on a magnetic paint ground. (Tangrams are geometric shapes which can be rearranged to make images.)

On my blog, I have been championing the popular Scandi-craft of Himmeli, and Clare Youngs has cottoned on to its attraction, too. Here you will find a drinking straw himmeli wreath and a washi-tape Leaping Hare (the cover pic), which is a Himmeli-inspired design.

The Living Wall is a winning idea – a mini-sized vertical garden- on trend. The plants protrude through a mesh grid. The Silver Spot Bike – a bike silhouette in adhesive dots would work a treat in an entry hall.

The illustrated step-by-steps are very clear and to the point. There are reduced-size templates back-of-book.

The projects in the book are budget-friendly and most don’t make huge demands on your time - so this title would make a fun gift for students or those moving into first homes.

Tuesday, 20 October 2015

Pleated Rosette Ornament Tutorial

I have been on a paper pleating binge for two reasons - I have been inspired by Paul Jackson's new book , Complete Pleats (link to my review)- and I have a lovely Silhouette Curio machine to score the folds for me - a top notch productivity assist! Paper pleating is a skill I have long wished to acquire. Now that I've cracked it, I want to share so that you can get the pleating bug, too. So today, I have a fun seasonal project plus tutorial - pleated rosettes. They make great tree ornaments, or can be used as gift packaging embellishments.

I have designed rosettes in two sizes, standard and small. (Always nice to have contrast.)

Here are your rosette files:


The pics above are of the .pdf versions. I include a low-tech - handmade - alternative because not every papercrafter has a digital papercutter - yet :)

Pleated Rosette Tutorial

1 Print out two copies of each design. The strips are pieced to makeup the full rosette length. 
Making by hand: score the folds with a fine-point embossing tool held against a small metal ruler. Punch the holes with a 1/16 circle handpunch. Cut out the rosette rectangles with a craft knife held against a blade (use a cutting mat).
Curio version: turn on the registration marks and print two copies of the rosette design. After printing, move the folding guide on top of the rosette design, with edges aligned. Proceed to cut by colour. The ratchet blade goes in the the lefthand holder, the fine-point embossing tool on the right. Emboss first (blue lines), then cut (orange lines). I have given you a selection of rosette designs, simply choose the design you want and place it in the cutting area as required.

2 Pic above shows you how to join the rosette strips. Once the strips are joined "prime" the folds so they will fall into place when you fold them for real. Fold the pleats both ways - mountain and valley (a universal fold, according to Paul Jackson) and  also squeeze the zigzag Vs - crease and pinch.
3 Time to start folding for real! I won't lie to you - this is a bit tricky - so do a practice run. The tricky bit is that the folds reverse direction at each crease. Insies turn into outsies at each V! What you have to do is "pop" each V - kind of like popping bubble wrap. When the action clicks, you will find that the accordion pleats fall into place when you fold the concave Vs. Whee!
When one side of the rosette is folded, it forms a crocodile (pic above).
4 Now fold the other side of the rosette strip. A horseshoe shape is formed (pic above). Your rosette folds are made. You now have to join the strip into a ring.
5 To join the rosette into a ring, overlap the last accordion sections. Double-sided tape does the trick. The action of joining opens out the pleat a bit - coax the rosette into shape, folding the accordion pleats inwards.
6 Now all you have to do is lace through the holes (use craft thread and a tapestry needle) and knot the ends. Repeat for the other side. I like to add small beads onto the ribbon tails.
7 For a hanging ornament, thread 45cm(18in) of narrow ribbon through the centre hole. Knot as shown, just above the rosette and another 10cm (4in) along. Trim the tails.

Aren't pleats neat? Happy pleating! If you want to find out more, here's the pleating motherlode:




Wednesday, 14 October 2015

Japanese Paper Embroidery. By Atsumi, Chiba, and Kamio. Review.

Japanese Paper Embroidery
By Atsumi, Minako Chiba & Mari Kamio
Search Press 2015
Paperback £12.99 UK/ $19.99 US
ISBN 978 178221 248 5

Star rating: ****

As a follow-on to the colouring-books-for-grown-ups trend, can sewing cards be far behind?  They’re here – in the guise of this delightful new book, Japanese Paper Embroidery! The three authors are design professionals from Japan, where both papercraft and embroidery have long traditions. Endearingly, the book begins with a haiku about paper embroidery, to set the tone of creative enthusiasm and appreciation. 

The book contains 20 projects, appealing and imaginative designs that are not labour-intensive – the concept being to add a touch of handmade charm to everyday items. In addition to the expected cards, many of the projects are 3-D (beyond the dimesionality of the stitching itself). There are ideas for packaging food gifts, an entire paper embroidery party set (love the animal cup holders), and even a clock face. You will find stitched booklet spines – made of elegant, yet simple stitch patterns. There’s an entire embroidered alphabet for monogramming purposes – cue the typography trend. (In case you were wondering, although this book was first published in Japan, all of the embroidered text is in English). Another fantastic idea is to revive 1950s-style embroidered postcards (you know – kitsch holiday cards with Spanish dancers, etc.)... adding stitched highlights to photos or printed designs. 
Back cover - channelling the typography trend.
The book contains Q & A interviews with the authors, finding out what drew them to embroidery on paper, and discussing fine points of the creative process.

The instructional parts of the book are well done with photographic step-by-steps. You are taught how to transfer designs, then pierce the stitching holes. There is a section entitled “All About Embroidery Thread”, which  shows how to choose, use, and store it. There is also a spread illustrating the “Basic Stitches for Paper Embroidery” and suggestions on how to combine stitches to build designs – such as the very fashionable mandala-style design on the book’s front cover. 

Back-of-book is a template section (not all full-size). The templates are helpfully annotated with how many strands of thread to use for the design lines, and with making-up tips.

Although the actual process of transferring a design and then piercing stitching holes is fiddly, the paper embroidery is used sparingly so that the amount of work per design is reasonable. The concept of adding stitchery as a dimensional embellishment to papercraft projects is a  winner.

For papercrafters this book offers a pleasant introduction to a new way to add to your decorative skillset.