SHOW+TELL: Spray Paint a Briar Rug

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There once was a girl named Alison who had an awkward entry space and no good options. She went searching for a rug to protect what was left of her ugly carpet. She went to store after store with no luck, instead bringing home a rug that was so bland it made her cry.

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No really. I could find NOTHING that I liked. Everything was either too small, too bold, to “contemporary”, or too “tempting for a cat to destroy.” I decided that bland was better than something that was REALLY not me, and I grabbed a can of spray paint in case I got inspired.

This month’s theme was a great chance to embrace my inner subtly-secret-goth-girly-girl and decorate the rug with a few briars (á la Sleeping Beauty, or Briar Rose.)

 

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I used Con-Tact paper to make a mask for the rug. I cut a bunch of free-hand curved pieces, and laid them across each side of the rug in a random arrangement. When each piece was in a location I liked, I stepped on it to adhere it to the rug firmly ( are an awesome tool, too!) Once I had the stems all lined up, I began to decorate each with triangles of thorns.

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When I was happy with everything, I sprayed a thin layer of white all-purpose spray paint across the rug, paying special attention to the edges of the mask. Then I tortured myself by leaving the whole thing to dry a few hours before removing the mask and seeing what it was going to look at.

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After those couple of hours, I gently peeled the mask material off of the rug…

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and had the big reveal.

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After airing the rug out overnight, I put it in place in my entry space.

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No more bland rug!

 

Here’s a word of warning: This was so fun and transformative that I want to spray paint everything in the house now.

I’ve got my eye on you, dining rug… what do you think about circles?

SHOW+TELL: Hanging Basket Gnome Home

Gardens grow, and so do ideas, so this month is a great time to sit back and realize that some projects keep growing with you, they aren’t just done in one sitting. Some can be done a bit at a time, though, and this fairy garden (AKA Gnome Home) is a great example of a quick project that uses a lot of imagination and a little time.

The inspiration for this garden was a hanging basket that I let wild, which filled up with all sorts of awesome moss. I loved all the textures and colors, and decided that I would express a little whimsy.

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I started collecting bits and baubles from the yard and house. Copper penny steps, a gravel riverbed and a small sparkling glass pond. Piece by piece I placed them into the basket, using a small spoon to pull the moss away as I went.

I put the basket aside for a week, then came back to it when I had time, adding more detail to the door with paint, a button, and some dremel carving.

I also added a swing, because no house is complete without a swing. (My personal motto.)

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All the while I was imagining the little guy who lives in the house, and swings each afternoon- because sometimes it’s fun to let your imagination run wild.

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What’s your most whimsical project?

 

SHOW+TELL: Growing Garden Journal Kit

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I don’t really have a green thumb, so I’m always trying to learn more about my garden in hopes I can make it flourish. This year, in anticipation of spring planting, I am going through my notes and compiling it all in a garden journal. I made a ring-bound set of cards with a thick chipboard cover that can grow with me and with my garden!

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In addition to helpful information fields on the front and the back of each card, I left a little space for a plant doodle or collage.

IMG_5664_growinggardenjournalSince each card is decorated differently, it’s easy to sort through the book and quickly find the plant I’m looking for, plus it’s fun to illustrate the plants. (It would be a great project with the kiddos.)

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I decorated the book cover with scraps from my seed packets and collage materials. (Waste not, want not!)

I’m excited to add more layers and more pages as I go along, and I thought I’d make up a few kits in case anyone wants to follow along with their own gardening adventures.

You can find a kit on the Adventures-in-Making etsy shop – here
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April Growing Garden Journal Includes:

  • Punched Chipboard Cover pieces (labeled “Growing Garden Journal”)
  • 15 front/back printed and punched plant cards on assorted cardstock
  • 1 binder ring
  • Additional plant cards are available as a refill.

Garden Journal Kits and Refills available here.

All you need is a pen and some plants to write about!

Show+Tell: Printable Color-in Birds and Postcard Kit

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I’ve been trying to do a little more illustration lately, and the bird theme this month was a perfect opportunity. I had a ton of fun making these whimsical feathered friends and thought I would share them as a free printable sheet.

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Click here to print a free coloring sheet!


Even better! These guys make lovely postcards, and if you’d like a set to color and share, you can pick up a set from our Etsy Shop. Each postcard set is printed on thick, durable 110# smooth white stock. The sheet is perforated into four postcards with a a space for a message and address on the back. All your purchases go to help us continue sharing our creative adventures and yours!

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Just color in as much as you’d like, and send them to a friend to finish.

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Pick up a set to share!

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.

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!

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

SHOW+TELL: Mounting a Phone to a Tripod Using Sculpey

IMG_1329_tshirtrugWhen I was working on the rag rug post I had to finally face up to the fact that I need a tripod for my phone. In a crunch, I decided to try my hand at making one, using an extra phone case and other materials I had around.

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SUPPLIES

 
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First I rolled out a 3/8″ piece of clay and cut it into a fun shape. I pressed the nut into the bottom portion to give me a template to cut out with my craft knife.

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I placed the nut into the hole, and pressed the clay firmly around it.

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I worked the clay form around the camera case, and squeezed it into a speech bubble shape. (Why not?)

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Since I was going with a speech bubble, and had some lead type on hand, I pressed a cheery little message into the clay before baking it.

Afterwards I remove the clay from the case, and added a couple of pieces of wire across the bottom to reinforce the form. Then I popped the whole thing into the oven at 275˚ for 22 minutes.

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When it was done cooking and cooling, I used pieces of double stick mounting tape to attach it to the extra phone case…
 
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and bolted it onto my tripod mount.

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A quick project that let me record some videos of the trickier parts of the weaving process.

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Now, to admit the reason this is a “Show+Tell” instead of a “DIY”. This little guy worked great in a pinch, but I am scared to death that it will break if I’m not careful enough. I tried my best to reinforce it, but it’s just light weight polymer clay.

Have you seen or made a custom mount for your phone that can withstand repeated use? Any advice for making this design work?

SHOW+TELL: Turning an Old Sweatshirt into an iPad Sleeve

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This is another typical Alison project; one part problem (needed an iPad Sleeve), one part recycling (awesome old hoodie sweatshirt.) I’ve been donating and repurposing things left and right lately, and this old hoodie was no different. It was made for me by a college classmate, and I’m not sure the last time I even put it on

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I decided to embrace the ragged look, since the pattern was already worn and “vintage” and I knew it would be tricky to work with multiple layers of sweatshirt and zippers. (Also, I am NOT a tidy tailor. I’m just going to accept that about myself.)

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To get the size right, I traced the iPad on a scrap piece of card stock to make a template.

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I cut the tablet shape out of the card stock, used it to “frame” the part of the design I wanted to feature, and traced it with chalk.

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I left an allowance of about half an inch on all sides, folded the sweatshirt there, and cut the a rectangle out of the folded sweatshirt.

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I decided to line the pouch with another layer of sweatshirt, and used this as an opportunity to include the zipper that was already stitched on. I cut two more of my template pieces from either side of the zipper…
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then stitched them together at the bottom. I refed the zipper pull into the zipper pieces– backwards because the raw edge of the zipper would face out when the pouch was finished.

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I then stitched my original pattern pieces across the zipper on either side, leaving me with an almost-pouch with open sides. At the last minute I decided to slip a piece of chipboard through the side to reinforce the front of the pouch (and hopefully save the tablet from rogue poking accidents). After sewing up the open sides (pinked edges out) and reinforcing the ends of the zippers with a few hand-stitches, I was done.

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I’m really glad I went with a rough-and-tumble look, because it hides a few of the difficulties I had with pre-worn stretchy material.

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Now I don’t have to worry as much about carrying my iPad around with me, and I have one less piece of wearable nostalgia to hoard. Now to move on to the next pile….

SHOW+TELL: Art Journaling Through The Years

SHOW+TELL: Art Journaling Through The Years
This article was originally posted last year over at Punk Projects. But because art journaling is so near to my heart, I thought I’d share it here on Adventures-In-Making too!

SHOW+TELL: Art Journaling Through The Years

My high school art journal.

I’ve been art journaling ever since I first discovered this book by Sabrina Ward Harrison in high school. It was the first time I’d ever seen an ‘art journal’ and I was hooked. I cut up my Seventeen magazines, old National Geographics, and used watercolors, chalk, ink, and anything else I could get my hands on to fill my precious art journal with song lyrics (I was obsessed with Jewel and Alanis Morissette), quotes, collages, and all sorts of angsty teenage FEELINGS. At the end of my senior year, I gave my precious art journal to my English teacher to keep as a time capsule to send me 10 years later. Boy, was that a trip to get in the mail at age 28!

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Crazy collage from my high school art journal.

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Pages from my high school art journal.

I’ve kept many art journals since then and now use it as a safe place to create intuitively. Whenever I’m feeling lost or overwhelmed by life, I get out my art journal and start filling pages. Doing this calms my nerves, and helps me to reconnect with my true self. I use many of the same techniques I loved in high school. I collect vintage National Geographic magazines, old books and postcards. When I’m working in my art journal, I don’t question or judge myself, but just let my mind and body relax and reflect on where I’m at in life.

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Pages from my current art journal.

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I’ve been enjoying using color as a main theme.

Since college, I’ve been using vintage books as my art journal medium. There’s something about drawing inside the pages of a book that feels so satisfying. There are no blank white pages staring at me saying “this better be good” and I love choosing an old book with a title and cover that speaks to me.

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I now use vintage books at my art journal medium.

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I still collect magazine clippings and other ephemera to fill my pages.

What are some of your favorite art journaling supplies, techniques and inspirations?