Making cards

At the beginning of January I launched a range of new scrap bags to try to clear out some of my stash of indigo shibori and ecoprinted fabrics. I’m pleased to report that they have been very popular – I’ve already had to restock the indigo bags.

However, some scraps were too small to include in the bags (I wanted the minimum size to be 15 x 15cm (6 x 6 inches)). So I thought I would use them to make some cards. I ordered some card blanks with windows and stuck in some of the smaller pieces of fabric.

fabric cards

The card below was made from a cotton/silk upcycled top that I dyed with indigo but didn’t like the result. Most of the garment I tore up to put in the scrap bags but I thought this stitched detail from the neck area worked well in a card.

fabric card stitched detail

However, there was a problem with the iron on some of the ecoprinted fabrics leaching out through the wet glue. You can see this in the top left-hand corner of this card:

ecoprint card

And also below the bottom left-hand corner of the panel on this card:

ecoprint card

The glue I used was slightly diluted PVA, and I pressed the cards between baking parchment while they were drying to avoid them crinkling up.

Does anyone have any thoughts on how to avoid this problem, eg by using a different glue?

Otherwise I might have to stick to just making indigo cards.

indigo card



Shreds of life

Between Christmas and new year I had a bit of a clear out, which involved emptying various files and shredding lots of documents. I had assumed that the shredded paper could go in the recycling bin, but then I discovered that our local council doesn’t accept shredded paper for recycling.

I certainly didn’t want to throw this all away in the normal rubbish, so I started researching what else to do with it. Apparently it can be used as a mulch (though I’m not really sure I want my garden covered in bits of shredded paper) or composted (better!).

Another suggestion was to soak it and then squash it into balls or bricks that could be burnt after drying out. I did try this, but they took a long time to dry and it seemed like a lot of effort for not much return.

So in the end I thought I would use the shreds like papier-mâché to make some bowls. I inflated a balloon, brushed it with PVA glue, and started sticking the paper shreds on. You can’t see the balloon in the photo below, but this is the work in progress.

After four layers I popped the balloon – and voilà: a papier-mâché vessel!

This one was made out of old T-mobile bills (the pink is a giveaway!). I’m not sure whether to trim the rim – I quite like the random organic edge.

I then made a couple of others: the one in the photo below with red and green shreds is made from nPower gas bills, while the one with green shreds is Egg credit card bills.

I think I could create a whole installation of these and call it “Shreds of Life”. What do you think? 🙂

Shoe decoupage workshop

To be honest, I’ve always viewed decoupage as slightly old fashioned, conjuring up images of carefully cut out pretty-pretty flower images stuck onto boxes and trays. But like so many craft areas (including felting!) decoupage has moved on, and a workshop on shoe decoupage I did with Gabriela Szulman a couple of days ago really opened my eyes to the possibilities.

shoe decoupage workshop

For a start, there was the subject matter. Decoupage shoes? What a fabulous idea!

[Warning: shoe digression! If you do not have a footwear fetish you may want to skip this bit. 🙂

When I had a “proper job” in an office I was a bit of a shoe fanatic, and the bottom of my wardrobe is stuffed with dozens of shoe boxes, each with a photo of its contents so I could find them easily. 🙂 Now I work from home I rarely wear any of them, so looking for a pair to decoupage revealed footwear I’d long forgotten about!

Despite the quantity, however, my choice was fairly limited, as leather or plastic are best for decoupage, and most of my shoes are suede or fabric. So in the end I took a pair of slip-on trainers.]

shoe decoupage before

The other surprise was that we didn’t have to cut round specific shapes and carefully place them – in fact, Gabriela rather discouraged this. Instead we tore bits of tissue paper or paper napkins and glued them down so they overlapped to produce an interesting all-over pattern. This is the paper napkin I used.

paper napkin for shoe decoupage

The four of us on the workshop all brought different types of shoes, so it was really interesting to see the different results.

Kate of Made by Mrs M fame transformed a pair of ballet flats.

shoe decoupage

Carol of Carol’s Creative Workshops coated a pair of boots with exotic flora and fauna.

boot decoupage

Damilola beautifully converted some Converse trainers.

shoe decoupage

And this is how my old trainers turned out.

shoe decoupage

The result was four very happy upcycled shoe owners hoping for dry weather so they can wear their new creations! 🙂

Gabriela’s next shoe decoupage workshop is on 22 August, with further dates in September and October – see her website for details of how to book.



Marbling paper workshop

A lovely new gift shop, Turpentine, has just opened up in Brixton, and also runs workshops. They advertised one for yesterday on marbled paper, and as I am an enormous fan of the gorgeous Falkiner papers, I couldn’t resist the chance to have a go myself.

marbling workshop

The space is quite small, but they managed to get 12 people, plus a demo table and drying racks in there. I thought they were very brave to have people doing quite a messy activity just a couple of feet from the shelves holding their wares! Hence no photos of the process, as there was very little room to put anything down, let alone take photos. 🙂 But this was their first workshop, and they said afterwards that they realised they had been a bit ambitious with the numbers!

We each had a large plastic tray filled with the size, made with carrageen, or Irish moss. Because it is quite thick, it helps prevent the paint sinking to the bottom.

On top of the size we dropped blobs of acrylic paint mixed with water and washing up liquid, and then “combed” the surface with an implement improvised from cardboard and toothpicks, or swirled it with a paintbrush.

The paper had been treated with alum on one side to help the paint stick to the paper (like a mordant on fabric, I guess). We placed this side on top of the paint, pulled it off, washed off excess size, then hung it to dry. After making a huge mess, we left owners Jude, Amber and Alice to clear up and iron our dried paper before picking it up today! 🙂

Although the colours looked quite dark on the size, quite a lot got lost when we washed the paper, and it’s even lighter when it’s dry. Between each piece we tried to scrape remaining paint off the size with a piece of cardboard before applying more paint. But inevitably some gets left, and after three or four pieces it’s tricky to judge exactly how much paint is on the surface. It’s a bit of an art to get the right ratio of paint to water, too.

But the results were endlessly fascinating – and addictive, as we each tried to squeeze in just one more piece before the end of the workshop!

marbled paper 1 marbled paper 2 marbled paper 3 marbled paper 4

I was wondering whether this would work on fabric, given that it’s floppier, but discovered there are lots of sites giving advice on marbling fabric – there are some links here.

Something else to be added to my ever-expanding list of things to try! 🙂

Silk paper

Right at the beginning of last academic year at Morley College, we were shown how to make “paper” by lightly spraying gummy silk waste with water and then ironing it between baking parchment. I remember thinking that it was an interesting technique but with so many other things to explore I never got round to having a go.

silk paper by sarah lawrenceI was reminded of it when I found this book in a discount bookshop. The author, Sarah Lawrence, was British (she sadly passed away last year) but the price on the back is in dollars, so it must be a US edition. The cover is different, but there seem to be a couple of similarly titled books also by Sarah Lawrence available in the UK and published at the same time, and I’m assuming the content is similar.

The book starts with the ironing method, combining it with layers of sinamay or knitting, or using it as a base for embossing, moulding and die cutting. It also explains how to make paper with degummed silk by soaking it in a mediium like PVA, or by stitching through layers using water-soluble film to create 3D vessels .

Finally, there’s a very inspiring section on using silk carrier rods and cocoons.

Of course, I immediately began to wonder how I could combine these techniques with my beloved felting and shibori. Felting should be fairly straightforward – adding silk is an easy way to create more texture and colour.

But would silk paper fall apart if I put it in an indigo vat? Is it strong enough to stitch or bind? I may have to find out.