SHOW+TELL: A Rainbow of Faux Embroidery

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I have spent quite bit of time working on my studio lately, and in the process have embraced a few truths about my personality. 1-I like to turn chaos into order 2-I love clean visually simple spaces with little subtle details 3-Rainbows are the best.

With that in mind, I set out to turn this basic curtain (that hides the closet that houses the clutter) into something a tiny bit more special.

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I have an absolute wealth of Sharpies, and I decided to use them to doodle a faux-embroidered rainbow trim across the curtains.

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First I cut strips the length of the curtains and about 8″ wide to doodle on.

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I ironed under the raw edged, and put a seam down the middle as a reference point for the decoration.

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I then gleefully sorted my Sharpies by color (to understand my glee, see points 1 and 2 above) and chose the best colors for my rainbow.

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I divided the length into a small portion for each color, and made a light mark where each color began and ended.

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Overlapping those marks a bit, I began to draw shapes with small dots and dashes– mimicking the stitches on decorative embroidery pieces. I used a lot of botanical shapes (cause I love ’em) and tried to break up the space with a lot of variety.

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When I had the strips all filled up with decoration, I pinned them to my curtains, and used a simple zig-zag stitch on my machine to attach them for good.

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I really like the little touch of color this added, and it was tons of fun to doodle inch-after-inch of floral rainbow.IMG_4545_fauxembroidery
One day I’ll show you some of the other rainbows I’ve captured in here…

Cause they’re the best.

TOOLBOX: Tips for Sharpening a Grumpy Paper Punch

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I ask a lot of my tools, which is why I forgive my paper punches when they hesitate to punch happily through yet another piece of cardstock.

Instead, I grab a piece of aluminum foil, fold it several times, flatten and…

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punch through it again and again until I have a foil mess…

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and a cleaner punch.

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Tip shared.

 

Do you have any tips we should know about? Email your little tricks to hello@adventures-in-making.com and we might be able to share them with our little community.

DIY: Photo Album Pop-up Ornaments


Okay. I’ll admit it. I have possibly been making too many ornaments.

The floor is covered in little bits of paper, the ribbons are everywhere, and cat is oh so happy. (Happy and thus in the background of many of my photos.) I can’t help it. I’ve given myself over to the ornament bug, and even though I’ve told myself that these are ‘just this year’s ornaments’, I’m not sure I’ll have the self control to throw them all away.

I need a crafter help line… or maybe I can just spread the decoration disease and have you all join me in the madness. (*evil laughter*)

My sister recently handed over a large bag of family photos, and after the proper period of mortification I decided that I needed to do something with them. The best part about being in charge of photo projects is that you can include only adorable pictures of yourself, and edit out the slightly more awkward times.

I pulled together a selection of photos of family that yelled “HAPPY HOLIDAYS, Y’ALL!” Scanned and shrank them, then pulled out a few basic tools to turn the faces I love into ornaments I’ll cherish.

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SUPPLIES

  • Resized photos printed on medium-heavy weight paper
  • Extra colored paper or cardstock
  • Medium to large hole punches– any symmetrical shape will work, I used circles and ovals
  • Ribbon or string
  • Buttons, bells, or beads
  • Paper glue or adhesive

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To begin I punched my favorite people out of my favorite photos, and the same number of circles out of cardstock. Then I chose between 4 and 6 of my favorites, the same number of solid circles, and folded each in half– top to bottom.

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I chose a button than matched my cardstock, then cut about 16 inches of string and fed it through the button.

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I used my Scotch ATG gun to apply adhesive to each folded piece (glue works too).

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I attached each piece to the one before it in a stack, alternating photos and cardstock. (Make sure that you don’t accidentally glue your sister in upside-down. She wouldn’t like that. All photos should point the same way.)

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I laid the string and button across the spine of my stack (button on the bottom), added a little adhesive to one of the folded pieces, and attached the top and bottom piece to form a ball shape.

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Then I fed another button on above the ball, tied a knot, and fluffed open all the pages.

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I love how simple they look from far away, but each page is a memory of the holidays and of my family.

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I did a few variations, using different punches, and combining shapes on one ribbon; but they are all put together the same way which means I could spend more time remembering good times than obsessing over the process.


It also means it’s a great project for kids, who might get a thrill out of punching holes out of photos.
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and keeping them forever.

DIY: Playing Card Ornaments

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An old deck of cards in one hand, and the perfect Christmas Tree outside… something weird’s gonna happen.

We love games at this house. Card games, board games… you name it. I don’t love worn-out cards, though, so I’ve been looking for a clever way of getting rid of a couple of our older decks. After playing with strips of paper as Christmas ornaments, I started thinking about ways to turn flat cards into 3-d shapes. Internet searches gave me a few options, including this great tutorial for making ornaments out of MTG playing cards. After following the tutorial, I made a couple of tweaks and ended up with another great collection of ornaments for our outdoor holiday tree.

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Supplies

  • A deck of cards
  • Thin-ish wire: I used 22 Gauge floral wire
  • Assorted beads or buttons: Make sure the wire will fit through the holes.
  • Wire clippers and pliers
  • Craft knife or paper cutter
  • Awl or large needle for piercing cards
  • Ribbon or string

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To begin you will cut several playing cards into 1/2″ strips. Choose 16 of those pieces to turn into your first ornament.

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Poke a hole, at the bottom and top of each piece, approximately 1/4″ from the end. (You should be able to pierce through multiple cards at once.)

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Trim a length of wire, approximately 10″ long, and put a small loop in one end. String at least one bead as a stopper, then start feeding your card pieces on, one at a time. This will be the bottom of your ornament, and the side showing from the bottom (shown above) will be the side of the card facing out on your ornament.

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The red side will be hidden on the inside of this ornament.


Once you have all your card pieces fed on the wire, add about 1-1/2″ of beads as spacers.

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Starting with the bottom piece of card, gently feed the wire through the pierced hole at the other end.

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Do the same with the next lowest piece of card, letting it rest against one side. Repeat with the next lowest piece of card EXCEPT let it rest on the other side of the center.

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Repeat this action on each piece, going back and forth between each side of the ornament. It should begin to form a sphere.

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There should be just enough space to feed the last (most interior) piece through. If you feel like the pieces are too cramped, you may want to gently tear a piece or two off your wire.

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When you have all the pieces wrapped back around, add another bead or two, make a loop in the wire, and trim. Feed a ribbon through the loop, and you have a nifty ornament!

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Other things to try

  • Make the spacer inside the ornament longer for a more spherical ornament, or make it shorter for a more compressed “space saucer” ornament. The different shapes will need a slightly different number of card pieces, but I’ve found that they all use between 14 and 16 pieces.
  • String two ornaments on the same wire for a more complex shape.
  • Mix and match back pieces and front pieces for a striped pattern.
  • String an extra piece of beaded wire or string to the bottom of the ornament for even more decoration.
  • Go crazy with bead spacers and see what happens.

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What do you think? Trash to treasure?

DIY: Scrap Paper Strip Ornaments

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Up until the last couple of years, Safety Husband and I would go home to Texas for the holidays, and we never felt the need to decorate for the season. For the last couple of years we’ve talked about decorating the “Christmas Tree” that just happens to be growing in our upper yard, and this year we’re making it happen. I’ve been putting my brain power into making ornaments that are either weatherproof, or are meant to be thrown away in January. It’s been a great chance to work through some of the materials I’ve been… ahem… collecting.

I love vintage ornaments and paper, and after a couple of years of experimentation I was ready to combine those two loves in this one ornament design. Super quick, because they are held together by staples, a couple of basic techniques can build a whole tree’s worth of decoration.

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Supplies

  • Stapler
  • Ribbon (3/8″ to 1/2″ wide is great)
  • Scrap Paper: I used leftover 12×12 scrapbooking paper, but catalog or magazine pages would work well too! If you’re using thin paper, you might want to double up on the number of strips per ornament.
  • Clips: binder clips work great for this, but a clothespin will work in a pinch. (Pun intended.)
  • Scissors

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To begin, cut about eight 1/2″ strips off your paper. (You can vary the number, just make sure you have an even number of strips.)

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Cut a length of ribbon about twice the length of your paper strips.

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Fold the ribbon in half, and stack half the strips on each side. Staple near the bottom of the stack, away from the loop of ribbon.

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The staple will go through all the paper and the ribbon, securing that point. (Staples must be cheating, because they make this too easy.)

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Put a clip about halfway down the paper, clamping the whole stack of paper and ribbon. With one hand, hold the clip, and with the other gently pull on the loop of the ribbon.

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This should cause the paper to pooch out a little on the other side of the clip. Repeat the holding and pulling step, but this time grab the ribbon loop and the two strips of paper closest to it on either side.

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Repeat again and again, adding another strip on either side, until you reach the outer strip.

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Then carefully put a staple through the area the clip was holding.

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Trim any excess paper with a pair of scissors.

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If you want, you can curl some of the extra paper to add a little decorative detail. Simply roll the paper around a small pencil or paintbrush to curl it.

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Once you get the hang of the whole pull method, you can shake things up by doing a similar technique, upside-down.

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Staple in the middle of your ornament, and turn each strip back down. Once you’ve turned each strip, staple them at the bottom to form a heart shape.

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Using these two techniques you can make a whole range of funky vintage ornaments.

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If you get sick of looking at the staples, you can replace them with a couple of stitches. Simply poke a hole in the middle of the stack, and make stitches back and forth to secure the ornament.

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Remove the staple, and you’ll never know it was there.

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Or spend that time making a whole army or ornaments. It’s up to you!

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One set down, more to go.

DIY: Simple Trees for Your Chipboard Forest

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Even before I was done building little chipboard houses I knew they would need a little setting to live in. I wanted to come up with a simple and flexible tree template that I could make a whole forest out of. Inspired by my old paper bird project, I used strips of chipboard to build these trees.

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Supplies

  • Scrap chipboard: from the backs of notepads or boxes. My pieces were 8.5×11″
  • You favorite paper glue
  • Clothespins or clips
  • Craft knife
  • Scoring Tool: a bone folder or dull knife work great

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I began by making two score lines along the long side of the board, at .5″ and at 2.5″.

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Then I cut two pieces, 1″ wide, off the other side for the trunk of my tree. The remaining piece of chipboard had my score marks on it, and I trimmed it into 1″ pieces (each piece has the same score marks).

I applied glue to the trunk pieces, and clipped them together to dry.

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While the trunk glue was drying, I folded each of my small pieces along the score marks, forming an L.

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Piece by piece, I applied glue to the .5″ flap and the top of the L…

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then clipped them to the trunk. In this picture you can see that I folded the two pieces of the trunk away from each other at the base; this will allow the trees to sit by themselves.

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I continued to add tree pieces until I liked what I saw (typically between 2 and 4 tiers), holding each piece with a couple of clips.

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When I was happy, let the glue sit overnight, held by the clips. (Happy little trees, as the man said.)

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On some I trimmed the top a bit, some I left tall. I love the way the variety turned out. These would be great with snowy glitter added, or paint. I’m just happy to have a forest for my little chipboard houses.

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Trees for the little paper world.

 

Yes, I know I sound crazy. Now go make something!

(;

DIY: Chipboard Village with Free House Template

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You might have noticed things have slowed down a little over here at A-I-M. Life goes in cycles, as we know, and unfortunately it’s been tripping us up lately. I’m still making things (some of them more therapeutic than others- like the DIY below), but the timing is tricky, and sometimes things don’t make it online as quickly as they should. We’d like to ask you to be patient with us, and give us time to refresh and collect ourselves. We’ll be back to full speed before you know it.

I’ve been trying to simplify my life because I have accumulated too many “things”; and I’ve made a resolution to truly embrace the making of things, rather than the buying or the keeping. (Our house is getting smaller by the second. Someone’s cursed us, I swear!)

So rather than storing ornaments, sparkles, trees and lights, I’m making new temporary baubles from recycled materials.

With that in mind I sat down to make my version (sweet and simple) of a winter village. I built a template that you can use to start your own winter wonderland, and I hope you’ll get as much peace and joy out of it as I did.

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Supplies

  • Scrap Chipboard: I like to save the backs of paper pads for projects like this, or you can grab a food package out of the recycling.
  • Pen and pencil
  • bone folder or scoring device
  • Craft knife
  • Paper glue: Elmer’s works great!
  • The printed template: click here or on the pdf below.

chipboardvillage_template

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Chipboard is great because you can mark it simply by pressing down hard on it. To trace the template on my piece, I clipped the paper down, then…

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used a bone folder and ruler to score the dotted lines (that will eventually be folded).

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Then I traced over the rest of the lines by pressing down firmly with a pen.

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Once I finished tracing all the lines I had a faint guide to work with. (If you like, trace the lines lightly with a pencil to help when you’re cutting.)

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Like most cutting projects, it’s easier to start by removing the small pieces of the template. In this case that meant cutting out the windows, the notch on the back, and two sides of the door. (Refer to the template to make sure you are cutting only the solid line pieces.)

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When I had the building and roof all cut out, I used a bone folder to score the folds a little more deeply. Then I began folding each flap gently away from the score mark. (Including the roof piece.)

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When I had the main part of the building folded, I applied glue to the flap (shown in gray on the template sheet) and held the pieces together until the glue held firmly. (You can also use clips or clothespins to hold it closed for a bit.) Once the base of the house was holding firmly, I added glue to the roof flaps (also shown in gray) and aligned and attached the roof. (You will want to hold this together by putting your hand into the house-box and pressing the flaps against the roof.)

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To frost the windows, I took a piece of cello tape slightly larger than the window, and attached it to a piece that was even larger. Then I taped that frosted pane right into the window-sash. I left the door bent slightly in, to welcome little chipboard guests!

Now that you’ve got the hang of home-building, you can reuse this template by resizing it, or come up with your own design!

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For my second building, I used the natural folds in a cracker box, and drew windows and a door with a pencil before trimming it out. Remember to leave flaps to attach the roof! (But in a pinch, a piece of tape will work as well.) Simply erase the lines, glue everything together, and plop it into your village… and when it gets dark…

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slip a few LED Christmas lights under your buildings for ambiance. (The notch I included in the template is super handy for running the wires out the back of the house.) Make sure to use low-heat lights, since they will be surrounded by paper!

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If you’re anything like me, you won’t be able to stop at chipboard houses. I really want to add some chipboard critters… These little houses make my imagination run free.

One thing that’s for sure, they need to be surrounded by a forest. Next week I’ll show you a quick and easy way to build your own magic woods.

 

One note: I’m a big fan of letting the materials show in my projects, but remember you can camouflage the materials quickly by adding a little paint (spray or acrylic would work great) or by using it as a base for decoupage or collage (like our shadowbox project). Go crazy!

SHOW+TELL: Easy Tiered Cardboard Display

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Whenever I write a post about my favorite tools or methods I often get this wistful feeling; imagining someone inspired by the step-by-step instructions. I’m always so interested in figuring out how to use new tools, how to make everything myself– and I picture a couple of people taking some of my ideas and really making them their own. Changing up the steps, making use of their materials, and generally going crazy.

Viva creativity!

In the vacuum of cyberspace, I don’t get a chance to see too many examples of this, so while these little scenarios exist mainly in my brain, I thought I would share a simple display project inspired by my friend Tara (who LOVES spray paint), using the method from the box tutorial.

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I’ve been wanting a nice tiered display for my Doodleware glasses, and finally I decided to build one. It simply consists of two boxes and a back flap that I painted black…

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so that the etching detail can stand out.

Easy peasy, and basically free. It’s the perfect dimension to display the glasses in the cube I have available.

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Now it’s that much easier to find the letter you’re looking for!

If you’ve done one of our projects, we’d love to see your finished piece! Email us at hello@adventures-in-making.com to tell us how it went.

Have something you’re dying to know about! We love questions. Send them to us and we’ll see if we can figure it out!

DIY: Finger Crochet a Round T-shirt Rag Rug

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Despite my sister’s best efforts I’ve never been able to make sense of real crochet. The “finger crochet” method I describe below is something that came out of a lot of experimentation, but I’m guessing you fiber wizards could whip up something even better! If you’ve done a similar project, or have suggestions to make this DIY more clear, please feel free to tell us about it in the comments below.

When I finished re-weaving my t-shirt rug (updated photos at the bottom of that post) I figured out two important things.

  1. There is better way to cut a t-shirt into strips (fewer, longer strips.)
  2. Once you know how to cut t-shirts into long strips, no t-shirt is safe.

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Which translates to: I had a lot of leftover strips of jersey, and wanted to use them up! I started braiding, tying knots, and eventually settled on a method that can best be described as the frumpy cousin of crochet.

PREP: Cutting one long strip

Knotting small strips of jersey (demonstrated in the woven rug post) is time-consuming, so the longer the strip the better. After digging around a bit I found this video that shows how to turn a loop into one long strip.

IMG_2100_roundtshirtrugI started by cutting the large loop of the shirt from the top, and sliced across from one side, stopping about an inch from the other edge.


Then I slipped the loop over my arms, and starting at the end of one cut I cut diagonally towards the end of the next cut on the other side of the fabric. Then the whole thing unwound in a continuous strip.

MAKING THE RUG


To begin I tied a slip-knot near the end of the string by making a loop, reaching through and grabbing the strip, pulling it though and gently pulling to tighten. (There’s a great demonstration of a slip knot at the beginning of this video.)

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Then I reached through that loop, pinched the strip, and pulled it through to create my first chain stitch. (See steps 2 thru 4 on this Red Heart blog post). This whole project breaks down into pulling a new loop through an old loop.

I repeated this chain stitch about 5 times, then…


tucked the loose string end through the last chain stitch to loosely close the first set of chains into a circle.

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To connect the next ring of chains I pulled the next strip (navy) through two existing loops– the one I just made (pictured here closest to my thumb), and the inside of an earlier chain that lined up with my new one (closer to my fingertip).

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This way my newest loop connected my existing chain to the one inside of it. I then started a pattern of 3 chain stitches, 1 connecting stitch, 3 chain stitches, 1 connecting stitch, 3 chain stitches, 1 connecting stitch, 3 chain stitches, 1 connecting stitch, 3 chain stitches, 1 connecting stitch…

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going around and around the circle.

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When I ran out of strips, I pulled the end of my string through the last loop, and tucked it into the rug– because one day I will have more t-shirts to dismantle, and this rug will keep getting bigger!

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TIPS

  • As you are working, make sure not to pull your loops too tight, or stretch your chain when you’re doing a connecting stitch. The looser you work the flatter the rug will sit.
  • Different shirts will make thicker or thinner strings based on the thickness of their fabric. I opted for a very irregular look with lots of inconsistencies in my strips (width ranging from 1″ – 2″) but if you want a more regular look, stick with shirts of a similar weight, and cut your strips about 1.25″ wide.
  • If it’s looking weird, pull out your loops and start over! Once you get the hang of this version of finger crochet you’ll fly through this project, so you will quickly make up the time redoing it. Practice has never been more fun.
  • If you can, work for longish stretches to keep your tension consistent. This is a great “while watching tv or daydreaming” activity.
  • As always, plan to make one more rug than you have cats.

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SHOW+TELL: A Look at the Letterpress

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With the weather turning gloomy it’s becoming less practical (and pleasant) to work outside, but I have had more chances to work more with my lovely letterpress. It dawned on me (while I was listening to the clunking and whirring of the machine) that I haven’t ever shared my adventures with this 126-year-old guy, even though he takes up a huge space in my heart (and my bedroom.)

I thought I’d show you a couple of behind the scenes shots, and talk about my printing process.

An old etching of the letterpress model I work with, in the amazing American Wood Type book my mom passed down to me. Synchronicity?

There are a lot of great resources for learning about the history of printing (I’ve listed some resources below) so I won’t get too much into a subject that I’m learning more about all the time.

My first experience printing was at the University of Texas, on a Vandercook press using antique wood type (from the Rob Roy Kelly collection) and modern polymer plates. I eventually acquired a small table-top platen press (a Craftsmen Imperial) and started printing greeting cards and more using the same method I use today on my floor-standing platen press.

Nearly two years ago we moved the one-ton California Reliable into a corner of our bedroom, and it has become a my go-to for printing with love.

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Polymer plates before they are aligned on the aluminum base for printing.

While I still use lead type and wood type occasionally, I mainly print with polymer plates on an aluminum base. I draw up the artwork, scan it, clean it up and prep it for the plates, then send the artwork out to have plates made. The plates are somewhat similar to the clear sticky stamp sheets some people use with a clear block; however the material is much harder which allows for much more detail and lets it stand up to the high pressure of the letterpress. The height of the material has to be just right to bring it up to type high on the aluminum block and allow for the ink rollers to roll, and the printer to print.

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Hand carved linoleum blocks being printed on a small tabletop press.

Occasionally I get a wild hair and print from hand-carved linoleum blocks. There’s less perfection in this mode, but you can end up with really great results with lots of character. There’s a trick to raising the blocks up to the right height, but it’s definitely possible.

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There’s a long list of things I love about letterpress printing, but color is at the top. I love how each color I print is one solid color instead of being made up of a pointillistic nightmare of Cyan/Magenta/Yellow/Black. (There’s no room in my blue for little pink dots.) Each color on a letterpress print is printed separately; each color has its own plate. I’m a somewhat inexact ink mixer, but I always seem to end up at the right color (and I try not to get ink everywhere.)

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Printing the first color of a leafy card.

Alignment (registration) is something that has taken a little getting used to, but I’ve come up with a method that works great for me. Here you can see a couple of polymer plates on my aluminum base, printing the first color of a two-color card.


The opening and closing action on this Gordon-style press is powered by a flywheel and a foot-powered treadle. There is a single magical dance that inks the rollers on the ink plate, rolls them across the printing plate, then presses the paper into that plate to make a print. (I’m learning a little more all the time about the mechanics of this magic, but the first lesson was DON’T LEAVE YOUR HAND IN THERE.) I’m responsible for pumping with my foot/ankle/hip and feeding paper.

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Printing on paper handmade from the scraps of other cards.

One of the nicest things about the letterpress is that with a little ingenuity you can print on just about anything flat. Most of my pieces are printed on thick cover stocks, often 100% cotton. I’ve started printing more and more on sheets of handmade paper that I make from the trimmings of those other cards. I love the texture and softness of the paper I make, and I adore the fact that it means I’m contributing less to the landfills. (Want to know more about making paper? 1 2 3)

I’ve also just started to experiment with printing on fabric…. I have ideas….

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So that’s my old guy. Our love is still new, but I think it’s made to last.

Time will pass– I will get more ragged and he will get less, and he’ll always have new things to press.
I’ll keep learning.

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Resources and Links

Briar Press: A never ending resource for letterpress parts and printers
Letterpress Commons: Developed by Boxcar Press with articles and resources
Boxcar Press: My usual source for polymer plates and some other materials and supplies
Reich Savoy: One of the papers I print on.
Van Son Rubber Base Plus Ink: My preferred ink