Paper : : Pleated Flowers

These pleated paper flowers are super-easy to make, and a great way to recycle colorful magazine pages, giftwrap paper, old book pages, or any other bright paper you have on hand. I’ve come across a lot of pleated flower tutorials on the internet, but I’ve come up with a trick in this tutorial that will keep your flowers from falling apart so easily.

This is a good project for kids, too, if you do the punching and sewing step for them and stick to glue or double-sided tape for adding the decorations.
Continue reading

Posted in cutting & pasting, paper, Recycle That S#!T... | Tagged , , , , | 8 Comments

Blackwork on Card

Allover back work embroidery on cardstock

You will need:

  • a sheet of grid or graphing paper, a.k.a. engineer’s paper, the same size or bigger than…
  • the piece of cardstock you have chosen to embroider on. (I did my embroidery on the cover of a black Moleskine sketchbook, but of course any strong, medium-to-heavy paper should work as well.)
  • adhesive: ideally, a removable or re-positionable adhesive, though I used a weak kids paste, or if you don’t care that there is graphing paper on the back, you can use PVA;
  • an awl or a medium-to-large sharp needle (stuck in a cork for a handle is good!), for punching the holes in the card;
  • a tapestry needle that fits through the holes you punch in the card AND accommodates your choice of embroidery thread, too;
  • embroidery thread: I used 6-stranded DMC embroidery floss, but don’t see why Perle cottons, silk threads, fine crochet yarns can’t work just as well;
  • a blackwork pattern

A sheet of grid paper and the cardstock of your choice

Adhere the grid/graphing paper to the back of the card. Had I found it in time, I would have used a removable/re-positionable adhesive, so that the grid paper could be peeled away after punching, but I didn’t find my glue stick, so I used a weak paste, which sort of came off but left bits of the grid paper behind.

paste the grid paper to the back of your cardstock using a repositionable adhesive

On a folded-up placemat or dishtowel, take your awl or sharp needle and punch holes using the lines of the grid as a guide.

In this picture the grid squares are 7 mm. but on the picture of the finished Moleskine  cover I used 4-millimeters-to-a-square grid paper, for a more detailed and dense embroidery. The smallest squares I would attempt to punch into cardstock without reinforcing would probably be 3 millimeters.

For squares smaller than this I recommend lining the paper with fabric on the back—to avoid tearing—and using a smaller sharp needle to do the punching.

With an awl and using the grid lines as a guide, punch holes through the paper and card

Peel away the grid paper when you’re done punching everything.

When you have finished punching, peel the grid paper away gently

Stitch the black work pattern on this card as though it were a piece of Aida evenweave fabric. Use the blunt tapestry needle for this. You can tie knots in the thread or use tiny dot of glue to hold your thread tails down.

Made in France: Blackwork By Sonia Lucano (Murdoch Books)

Find a blackwork pattern to work. I took my pattern from this book, but there are many online resources for free patterns, as well. They are amazingly beautiful, for all their simplicity of color and design. No reason why you couldn’t work these designs in color, if you preferred. Blackwork is stitched using the back stitch and the Holbein stitch (also known as double running stitch, Spanish stitch, and line stitch). I try to use the Holbein stitch as often as the design will allow, as it uses less thread and looks neater on the back of the embroidery than the backstitch does.

Stitch the blackwork pattern onto the card as though it were an evenweave fabric

And here’s what the back cover of the sketchbook looks like, head-on.

The finished cover in tactile blackwork stitching

Posted in embroidery, paper | Tagged , , , , , | 2 Comments

Make an album (and coloring book) of your favorite patterns

Don’t you secretly want to gather all those loose leaf pages of pattern and design—from magazines, photocopies, downloaded, wherever—and turn them into one mammoth archive that is both useful and gorgeous to look at ? I have…it’s a disorganized person’s control fantasies. I’m going to give it a try, though.

We found a large Italian-English Dictionary in a rubbish pile behind some buildings in the CBD. It had been sitting on my shelf for a year when I decided to use it another way:

I’m gathering that wild pile of patterns and designs that I have been saving since I was 16 (it lives in filing cabinets, cardboard boxes, in ring binders and plastic shopping bags and large zippered portfolios), and whenever I need a break from doing other things I’m going to freehand a pattern…okay, maybe just a tiny fragment of a pattern?…onto a page in this big, yellowing dictionary. Do you think that’s crazy?

make your own pattern collection slash coloring book

You will need:

  • one of those large empty sketchbooks you hoard, or a large book with suitable paper that you want to ‘alter’ in this way. I used the dictionary because text adds quirkiness and does away with my fear-of-the-white-page problem altogether. And because it was there.
  • pencils or pens…waterproof for drawing the design outlines, and not so strong that it bleeds and blots through to the next three pages. I put a sheet of plastic behind my working dictionary page, just to be sure.
  • All those coloring materials you never use…cheap pastels, the boxes of broken crayons and colored pencils, kids’ marker sets, watercolors and poster paints, those tubes of acrylic from 1987 that are drying up. Don’t buy anything new for this, use up what you have, use up what your kids have outgrown or lost interest in.
  • Possibly an eraser and a ruler, if you want to muck around making perfectly scaled copies of patterns, or if you want to analyze something complicated and mathematical, like Islamic interlaced patterns

make your own pattern collection slash coloring book

Try not to trace or transfer the designs using the usual tricks. You can do that, of course, but you won’t understand the pattern that way, or learn how it was made, and you’ll miss out on a chance to hone your draughtsmanship skills, and become better at drawing in general.
make your own pattern collection slash coloring book

So here’s my ‘fragment’ of an old French embroidery pattern, in black outline…and it’s very different from the original, but  the basic idea of the flowers and the curving stems is there. I would prefer to do several of these pages, just the outlines of designs…to have a dozen or so designs just waiting to be colored in, like my very own hand-made coloring book, when I’m in the mood to do something fun and easy. But I colored the first couple I did, so that I’d have pictures.

I tried to use color combinations other than my usual favorites, too, to introduce myself to new palettes. I took inspiration from palettes created on

Color by COLOURlovers

The pages of a discarded Italian dictionary sprout oversized, exotically colored flowers and vines
Color by COLOURlovers
So much fun! And the results are spectacular! Is this something you’d like to try, too? Will you show me a pic if you do? Would love to see the sort of patterns you’ve been squirreling away…

Posted in art materials, mark-making, Recycle That S#!T... | Tagged , , , , , , , | 11 Comments

Make a Spool Bird

red brocade spool bird

The Project:

There is a very cute bird softie project over on Spool Sewing that I fell in love with the instant I saw it.

Right away I made a trial bird, in pink and yellow—

a week later she was traveling with my husband, Kristian, who made a 34-day, 3,252-kilometer journey by recumbent bicycle from Darwin to Adelaide.  At one point during the trip the string broke and spool bird fell off the handlebars, unnoticed. When he realized she was gone Kris turned around and found her, 10 kms. back, lying in the middle of the desert. What an adventure for my first Spool bird!

fat pink dove

—but what I really wanted was for the pattern’s fabric to be more specific…to complement the bird’s shape and what it was. A silkscreened fabric would have been fun, but there are too many problems with a silkscreen setup, on a boat without electricity or running water. So I picked embroidery. This time, anyway.

The Materials:

One bird doesn’t use a lot of material…a handkerchief-sized piece of fabric for the upper part, half that for the breast piece—so this wasn’t going to be “the project that decimated my fat quarter pile”—though if you make enough of these birds you could do some serious damage to The Great Cloth Heap. But it did promise to use up a couple skeins of DMC embroidery thread (albeit only red)

I used a small square of white linen for the top part, and cut the underside piece from a red linen jacket that somebody had thrown away.

I plundered an old pillow that I cut open three years ago for the stuffing.
red spool bird collage

Posted in embroidery, fabric, sewing, thread | Tagged , , , , | 5 Comments

Join a movie-themed embroidery swap: the Phat Quarter

PROJECT: Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill!

The Project

I have ‘d Mr X Stitch loooongtime, but didn’t have the nerve to join one of their FFF of F (Fifth Friday Festival of Fabulousness) swaps until now. The theme this time is Movies…something I have not had much contact with of late, though I watched a lot until I left university. Then my movie education came to a standstill, and I am utterly ignorant of modern movies. Which, if you want the truth, suits me just fine. I’d rather read a book, any day.

The Phat Quarter , Mr X Stitch’s community base, is an embroidery, cross stitch, and all ’round radical stitch and fibre arts group on flickr; it’s where all the creative and subversive stitchers you hear about on the Mr X Stitch site—plus their readers and groupies and fans and colleagues—go to post pictures of their work, discuss in forums, and participate in swaps. Subscribe to their feeds to get news of swaps and projects and call outs in the future! However, a word of warning: this ain’t your granny’s stitching…

For the Movie theme I chose a film poster from 1965, Russ Meyer’s Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill! Here’s what Wikipedia says about it:

is a 1965 exploitation film directed by Russ Meyer, who also wrote the script with Jack Moran. The film features gratuitous violence, sexuality, provocative gender roles, and campy dialogue. It is one of Meyer’s more boldly titled and unflinchingly exploitative films, yet unlike most of his movies, it contains virtually no nudity.

Three thrill-seeking go-go dancers — Billie (Lori Williams), Rosie (Haji), and their leader, Varla (Tura Satana) — encounter a young couple in the desert while drag racing. After killing the boyfriend (Ray Barlow) with her bare hands, Varla drugs, binds, gags and kidnaps his girlfriend, Linda (Susan Bernard). On a desolate highway, the four stop at a gas station, where they see an old man (Stuart Lancaster) and his muscular, dimwitted son, Vegetable (Dennis Busch). The gas station attendant (Mickey Foxx) tells the women that the old man and his two sons live on a decrepit ranch with a hidden cache of money. Intrigued, Varla hatches a scheme to rob the lecherous old man, who is confined to a wheelchair.

The poster I did was the cartoon version, featuring a very large-breasted Varla (Tura Satana). The bad-girls image in this movie is laid on so heavily that the whole thing is just a caricature…a supercliché…the camp is so extreme as to have perversely sophisticated appeal. The curves and bulges around the word ‘pussycat’ in this poster brought more breasts to mind, so when I stitched the word I used shades of pink and flesh, and put little French knot ‘nipples’ (knipples!) in the round shapes, to keep in the spirit of “laying the kitsch on with a shovel.”

The Materials

A swap is a good way to use up small pieces of fabric (incidentally, I used a fat quarter for this project) and a bit of all that embroidery thread that is slowly degrading in the sun and air.
pale fabric
snarled rainbow

The Process

WIPpink pussycat
I didn’t take many pictures of the embroidery part, because I was rushing to meet a deadline! But I am a little proud of the way the finished embroidery has been “blocked and mounted” by repurposing a cardboard box, so I took a few shots of this process:

Mounting an embroidery on a cardboard box
The finished effect is an all-fabric block that is neat, chunky—like a book or a brick—and yet weighed next to nothing and was shipped to the UK, where my swap partner is, very affordably. I was really happy with it…and happy that I could present Babs with something that was ready-to-hang, if she wanted to.

PROJECT: Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill!


Posted in embroidery, fabric, Recycle That S#!T..., thread | Tagged , , , , | 5 Comments

Fill a sketchbook

Fill a sketchbook with drawingsAugust 9 : : I can’t walk into a newsagent or art supply shop without buying a sketchbook, it seems. Never mind that there are ten, twelve, maybe 15 empty ones waiting at home…the new sketchbook, with its pristine cover, crisp-cornered pages and clean block profile, promises something: a fresh start, maybe? Absolution from ALL previous, crappy drawings and the unglamorous scuff marks from living at the bottom of a cluttered backpack?

Whatever it is, the giddy joy of possessing something that has the potential to become something else—a potential that is boundless and absolute until the paper receives its first impressions—seems too good to pass by, and so home I trot, a horizon of golden promise that stretches as far as the eye can see, tucked into my bag.

At any rate, I have a paper fetish. As the daughter of a printer, the smell of printing inks and the ambient light of a press room stacked high with glacial white peaks and walrus-ivory boulders of paper confers more feelings of peace and security than a kitchen full of warm bread and cinnamon.


Posted in art materials, mark-making, paper | Tagged | 1 Comment

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.

Posted in Hell2Breakfast | 6 Comments