a craft mission : : from Hell to Breakfast

From Hell to Breakfast” means “from one end to the other,” or “from top to bottom,” or “from start to finish”.

It’s about my art and craft materials stash, the quest to find projects and ways of using it all up, and documenting the process with tutorials and photos.

The Rules

  1. …pick up one bit of material from the stash—be it a piece of fabric, a bag of beads, a packet of Fimo, a ball of yarn, a primed bit of canvas—

  2. …decide what to make :: pick a project from wherever

  3. …search the stash again for additional materials that the project needswithout buying anything else (with the exception of basic consumables like glue and staples…)

  4. …make the thing…

  5. …photograph the process…

  6. …write down the steps…

  7. …and then get rid of it, somehow; i.e. put it in my Etsy or Madeit shop, or give it away, or swap it with somebody. With very few exceptions, I don’t see myself keeping all these things…

  8. Keep going until I’ve used it all up.

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Art journal techniques : : sgraffito with acrylics

art journal page: squid music

sgraffito |sgraˈfiːtəʊ|
noun ( pl. -ti |-ti|)
literally ‘scratched away’; a form of decoration made by scratching through a surface to reveal a lower layer of a contrasting color, typically done in plaster or stucco on walls, or in slip on ceramics before firing.

This technique is pretty much like scraperboard work…or those oil pastel drawings you made in primary school art class that you covered with a thick black poster paint, and then scraped back to reveal the colors…with the advantage of being fully smudge and waterproof once dry, because you only use acrylic paints, which makes it a great technique for the art journal.

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Displaying embroidery in a hoop

Embroidery hoop finishing

SO why shouldn’t you just take a pair of scissors and hack off all the excess fabric that sticks out behind your wooden embroidery hoop?

Because it looks like a butcher did the job with a cleaver. Because a hooped embroidery always loses tension over time, and goes saggy, and if the embroidery goes saggy, you can’t stretch it taut. Because you can’t undo the hoop to clean the embroidery, as you’ll never be able to get the fabric back into the hoop. Because if the edges of the embroidery ever fray, they may come dangerously close to showing on the front of the piece. Because you can’t later change your mind and move the embroidery to a bigger hoop, or make something different out of it, when it’s been cropped so close. Because you’ve gone to all this trouble to stitch something nice, it’s a shame to rush through the finishing steps like a knucklehead. Because you are not a knucklehead.

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Exercises in Imagination

drawing prompts

Ideas. Sometimes there are so many ideas that it’s hard to decide what to start on first, or which ones to include and which to leave out. Sometimes I need a wild card, a random way of decision-making that will, paradoxically, introduce restrictions and parameters to my ideas. And sometimes I need to exercise my mind’s ability to mix the ideas up, to take two or more qualities and hybridize them. To give birth to monsters and mongrels.

I keep a plastic bag full of words written on little strips of paper.

What sort of words?

Nouns, mainly…only things that have personal significance to me, and that I have—at an earlier point—thought, “I’d like to draw that someday.” So no trawling the internet for trendy words. No reading other people’s blogs, or leafing through magazines, looking for whatever’s in vogue. No adding the word “polaroid camera” to the bag, when I have never owned, used, nor even held one before. No fake nostalgia and enthusiasm for things I cannot honestly say have been part of my life until now.

“Personal Significance” is my watchword, here. Things I care about, or despise, or fear, or admire; things I know a little about, or have always been infinitely curious about. Passions. Activities I actually engage in. Events I’ve experienced. Objects that are symbolic to me, or to my life. Anyway, you get what I mean.

Also, adjectives…a color, or color combination, that I want to play with. Textures or patterns that I love to look at, or love to draw, or would like to draw more of. Or my feelings:

Avocado green. Chocolate and seashell pink. Swamp green. Hairy. Crackled. Fat. Bundled. Aged. Exuberant. Embarassed. Dripping.

Much less common, but making an appearance once in a while, are verbsSmoking. Scream. Bite. Cycling. To fly. To melt.

I write them down on the little strips of paper. Not everything all at once…I let the words appear naturally, as life unfolds, and add them to the bag when I think of them. More often I cull the slips, throwing some away when I feel that what I wrote was too influenced by something I saw, or heard, or had come across elsewhere…the ones that strike a false or pretentious note, a mainstream hipster vibe, and that don’t actually stand up to the simple questions “Is this really me? Is this important to me? What do I know of this?”

To do the exercise, I pull two or three slips out of the bag. I don’t make any special effort to pick one each from the nouns, adjectives, and verbs…I simply pull two slips out, and if the combination seems a little thin, I pull one more, and it usually introduces enough disturbance to birth an image.

rough sketches traffic lights

Then, scribbling in a small sketchbook, I try to combine those words…naturally, the easiest and laziest ideas come first: tired clichés, popular depictions, cute arrangements that are influenced by what I have seen elsewhere. As soon as I realize that something is vaguely familiar or commonplace, I flip a page and try again…the push being to come up with something beyond what I know. Beyond comfort zones, or at least beyond what I am aware exists already. I try to come up with a little bit of difference.

I roughly scribble five, six, seven thumbnails…very approximate, very rough. When I feel like one of the thumbnails is onto something, I work it onto a page of my visual journal…still very rough, but with at least the basics of composition, and an idea of colors, if there are to be colors.

an exercise in imagination

I don’t consider these exercises to be ‘art’ in any grand sense. They are, still, really just exercises, and because of the random way the images are put together, they often tend to be silly. Maybe one in twenty of these drawings will call out to be treated more seriously, will deserve to go into a painting, or an embroidery, or whatever.

Most of the time, though, they stay in my sketchbooks.

But the imaginative work that the mind does, while performing these exercises, is the more lasting reward. If you keep pushing beyond what comes to you easily, and tell the mind, “You can do better than that,” it often does. It grows more flexible, and more playful.

This isn’t about teaching you how to draw, although I tend to learn a little about how to draw when I do these exercises, for the simple reason that I may have to look up a picture of traffic lights to see how one is built, or study an anatomy book to see how a human body is put together. It all adds up. A little bit of effort goes a long way.
Mehndi + purple and orange

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Ice-cream sandwiches part 2

miniature Ice Cream sandwiches
If you’re looking for Part 1, it’s right here. Continue reading

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Ice-cream sandwiches part 1: Biscuits

It’s taking longer than I thought to put this tutorial together. I sort of rushed this, sorry about:

  • the fluoro orange nail polish…an experiment that I won’t repeat! Gah!
  • the harsh red lettering…especially in the first photos, where I was writing by hand with a crayon on the table. 😀
  • the terrible yellowy color-cast these photos have

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Homemade stripey giftwrap

Red Stripey gift wrap

You will need:

  • paper large enough to wrap your present in…I used Canson Mi-Tientes in bright red.
  • masking tape…I used 1-inch wide masking tape.
  • Metallic acrylic paints…I used Lumiere® by Jacquard, Folk Art® by Plaid, and Atelier® Interactive™ metallic acrylic paints
  • pencil and cartridge paper
  • Removable adhesive
  • x-acto knife or other sharp scalpel.
  • black card..I used black Optix in cover weight…and a contrasting color of card for the center of the medallion…I used Japanese paper in gold momigami
  • glue or paste


Start with the masking tape…easier done when the paper is lying flat, obviously, but I didn’t know what I was going to do until I’d wrapped the parcel, so I did my masking around the object…


Painted the paper with metallic paints. I used gold, pink, copper and pearl metallic paints…brushed on, no thinning with water, but spreading the paint thinly. Let dry.

Carefully remove the masking tape. Again, up to this point I could have done everything on a flat piece of paper, and it would have made my life easier. I worked slowly, removing the tape, trying not to tear the paper. I still managed to get a little tear right on the front of the parcel. Doh!


On a piece of plain paper, draw the main medallion and the ribbons. Split the elements up into distinct shapes that can be cut from black paper later. Leave little gaps between the elements, to accentuate the fact that the design is made from cut paper.
I used removable (also known as re-positionable) adhesive to stick the drawing down to black card, and an X-acto knife to cut the shapes out. When all the pieces are cut out, you can peel the white drawing paper away cleanly from the black card.

red parcel

To raise the medallion away from the surface of the paper I stuck a circle of foam core—cut smaller than the medallion—to the back of the medallion. I cut a second, smaller medallion out of Japanese gold momigami paper, and centered that on top of the black medallion. When I had positioned and glued the medallion down to the present, I arranged the ribbon pieces around it, and glued those down directly to the red giftwrap paper.

Just something quick that you can do when you’re in a pinch and need to wrap up a present, so that it still looks nice.

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Fabric Bunting Beads

Fabric Bunting Beads

Nothing says “Fiesta!” like colorful bunting flags hanging all over town…

Another quick way to use up fabric scraps. I dreamt these tiny stringable fabric bunting flags up just before falling asleep last night, and spent a quick hour this morning making some, to see if the idea would work. The sort of thing you can make using junk from around your home…I found everything I needed just rummaging through my “crafting junk” boxes.

Can be made with colorful scrapbook paper, too, as decor, though I don’t know if I’d wear paper bunting—wouldn’t look good for very long, and the sharp points might be irritating to the skin.

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Low-brow patchwork

patchwork for book covers

This is a favorite method of mine for putting together quick fabric patchwork pieces that I then use to cover my handbound books with.

It’s “low brow” because the fabric scraps are laid down with raw edges: I don’t turn the edges of the pieces over, or stitch one piece to the next with a neat ¼-inch seam. I don’t measure or use templates to cut the pieces out…I don’t even use fabric* as the foundation!

It is a great method to use if you plan to mount the patchwork to something hard and stable afterwards, as a purely decorative skin. Use the resulting fabric to cover a box, or medium density fibreboard (MDF) craft shapes…to cover book boards, or glue onto greeting cards. I’ve made postcards and artist’s trading cards (ATCs) with it, stitching or gluing the fabric to heavy paper.

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Tutorial : : Felt Doughnut Softie

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How To : : Headbands (bookbinding)

Most frequently used by bookbinders today, the Headband with a Bead on the Edge features a two-color stripey band with little ‘beads’ of alternating colors that sit right on top of the paper and just underneath the headband itself.

I’ve put together a photo how-to for sewing these. Tutorials do exist on the internet for these headbands, and I found a couple eventually, but it wasn’t easy, so I ended up buying a book on the subject; one more tutorial in cyberspace might just make it that little bit easier for people who want to learn.

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