Paper Paper!

Paper crafts

The Lost Art of Letters

As a child I was completely obsessed by beautiful stationery. The dark, furry space under my bed reserved for Special Things To Be Kept Safe From My Brothers was stuffed with papery treasures given to me at birthdays and Christmases, but which I deemed far too precious to use; gift sets of paper and envelopes, 5-year diaries in which my most important thoughts would be captured for posterity, and so forth.  I would regularly take these out and admire them but rarely actually used them, lest they run out.  Or, in the case of the diaries, in case my thoughts turned out to be not quite important enough after all.  A hopeless case, as you’ll agree…

Now, as a mostly-grown-up, I love making stationery to use myself and to give as gifts, and with a printer and a cupboard full of paper to hand, I’m less inclined to stockpile.  As a parent, I also want Harry to be able to say a proper ‘thank you’ for presents and the kind of general loveliness that frequently arrives from relatives and Godparents. So when the Easter Bunny delivered big time, bringing not only chocolate but also, awe-inspiringly, a fire engine, I made him these cards to send out as thank-yous.  Big enough for a crayon scribble on the front from H, and small enough for a brief but heartfelt thank you from me, they do the trick nicely, and also make him keen to join in the fun…

Even for younger children and babies, it’s nice to have something personal; I made cards like these for a friend’s daughter on her first birthday, both to make her mother’s life easier and to give something a little different to the norm.  Tips and notes for both projects below, for those interested in giving this a whirl….

Here’s what I used for the two projects above:

1. craft edging punch for the ‘Amelie’ paper; this one from Martha Stewart 2. A selection of A5 coloured, textured card – Papermania does great packs in different sizes. 3. soft bristled brush for removing loose glitter 4. coloured triangle cut freehand from scraps of card 5. Glitter – any type will do, though Martha again has a great range 6. Glue pen (for precision) and craft knife, and finally 7. Paper tape – not shown in these projects but great for accessorising home-made notecards and paper.

Making the Monogram Cards:

1. Choose your letters and colour combinations.  I used a die-cutting machine for these but you can buy pre-cuts shapes in craft shops and on Ebay, or simply draw and cut out freehand. 2. draw a half-circle for your bunting; I used a glass cloche so I could see both sides of the line. 3. Add your bunting triangles alternating colour; use a glue pen for neatness. 4. Find a toddler and scribble away!

For the faux-letterpress Nursery Notelets:

1. Print out your chosen wording onto an A5 sheet, centring on the page. 2. Measure and cut your card to fit the size of your chosen envelope 3. Use an edging punch to carefully decorate the top edge (this is MS’s Birds on a Wire, from Amazon) 4. Carefully glue one of the birds and sprinkle liberally with glitter before brushing off. 5. Admire. Decide these are too pretty to use. Store carefully under the bed and accidentally forget about them.

After all this careful snipping and sticking and sighing at how zen and restful such crafting can be, especially when one’s son and husband are exhausting themselves with much shrieking on the new trampoline, I decided I wanted to make some of these for myself (below).  The final version of course has my address, but I thought that might just be over-sharing, so here’s the website instead..

Champagne on Ice, Dinner at 8…

Some friends you just know are going to be in your lives for the long run, and our former neighbours fall firmly into that category. In the space of just a couple of years we’ve camped out in each others’ kitchens, set the world to rights more times than I care to remember,  celebrated some of life’s great milestones and donned a myriad of fancy dress costumes whilst sinking an inordinate number of bottles of wine – all the usual stuff that bonds you and transcends the superficial differences in age and life stage.  So it was a no brainer that they’d be the first people invited to dinner the moment the new cooker was connected, and last weekend we celebrated in style.

Of course, anyone who has ever had a new kitchen fitted will immediately recognise my amateur error above, namely to throw a dinner party without having even idly flicked through the 368 page cooker manual beforehand, and indeed such a laissez-faire attitude was foolhardy to say the least. The food was certainly eye-watering, but not alas because of its grandeur and finesse but because of the smoke which billowed from the oven and created an atmospheric if throat-constricting backdrop to the evening.

Still, the champagne helped, and the table decor distracted – I made these personalised placemats earlier in the day using a basic graphics programme and some vintage cutlery clipart, before adding a touch of silver leaf to the knife and fork to catch the light from the candles on the table.  Stencilling the initials of our friends on these slate tags below with a chalk pen made for unique (and wipe-clean) napkin rings, into which I tucked a sprig of rosemary for a flash of colour and a hint of barely discernible scent. Tips and techniques below…

 

For the placemats (I used Powerpoint, but adapt these guidelines for your chosen programme)….

  • Draw a simple coloured square for your background colour, and choose font colour
  • I googled an online dictionary and copied the phonetic layout and invented appropriate descriptors for each guest
  • Either paste your clip-art directly onto the backdrop or carefully print, clip and paste on to each
  • I printed these onto UK A3 sized paper – using recycled paper gave a great matte finish, but normal copy paper would work fine
  • Rub the clip-art image lightly with low-tack glue (I used Pritt-Stick) and brush on a little silver leaf, using a dry brush to remove any excess.
  • Save the template – you can use it infinitely and just change names and descriptors each time – ta da!

 

Lepidoptery for the Lily-Livered

As a child on holiday in Cornwall, I remember scuffing my way along the hedgerows in Summer and finding seemingly hundreds of butterflies which had quietly met their last and were now decoratively, if a little sombrely, adding a flash of colour amidst the green.  We’d gather them up and head home, carefully cupping our deceased quarry as if it might still fly away.  But here the nostalgic reminisces grind to a halt because I cannot for the life of me remember what we did with them next.  Even at the age of 10 when one’s barbaric tendencies are at a peak, the idea of pinning them to a board or glueing them into a macabre holiday craft montage  seemed a little, well, unnecessary. So instead I imagine they  sat on the kitchen table, shedding and gathering dust in equal measure, until swept to their ultimate doom by my mother in a fit of domestic zeal.

This week I discovered a far more humane way to reignite my brief flirtation with the world of lepidoptery; a cheap and cheerful craft punch, which has proven to have a multitude of uses.  I worked my way through some leftover gift wrap, then experimented with watercolours and finally some old walking maps, which my husband had unwittingly left lying around.  I am mildly apprehensive about the day when he confidently whips one open when lost on a Yorkshire moor and finds that there is a butterfly-shaped hole in the place where the footpath was once shown, but I’ll endeavour to not lose any sleep over it.  A word of advice on maps; if using the more mundane modern versions like me, rather than the romantic olde worlde versions, do check what map detail you are stamping out before attaching your butterfly irrevocably to a card; I had to prise a fluttering ‘Public Sewage Works’ butterfly off and start again…

Close-ups, tips and tools below.

A Kaleidoscope of Butterflies on pastel paper. If you had the time or inclination to keep going, these would look beautiful en masse in a box frame. (Fact of the day; a kaleidoscope is indeed the beautiful and apt collective noun for a group of butterflies…)

Map butterflies glued to a square of mount board with a watercolour wash

Fun layering with leftover gift wrap – this would work well on tags or headed notecards too

A wallpaper butterfly on mount board as before, this time with a dash of glitter glue

Materials:

  • Hobbycraft small butterfly punch (£3.99)
  • Decorative paper scraps and maps
  • Gel craft glue or hot glue (glue sticks like Pritt will work fine for flat butterflies but are not quite strong enough if you’re folding and mounting at an angle)

 

Valentine’s Day Revival

It’s very easy when wrestling with jobs, toddlers and a crumbling, weary gem of a house to become a little, well, unmoved by Valentine’s Day.  The hustle and bustle of life combined with the unspoken thought that one’s Intended is not only now Intended but actually sort of already In The Bag can lead to a distinct lack of effort.

We realised we needed to remedy this and furtive, concerted efforts have been made in recent days, with much rustling and the occasional shriek of ‘don’t come in!’ when the other approaches unexpectedly.  The challenge we face is that of how to make grand romantic gestures on the deliberately austere budget we have agreed for such measures.  How dull.

My solution – at least in part – is to go personal with this homemade gift wrap, using a poem from our wedding, the lovely and highly unusual ‘Valentine’ by John Fuller.  Featuring the immortal lines ‘You are the end of self-abuse/I’d like to make you reproduce’, it certainly caused a stir amongst the congregation, and also a fit of choking in the Best Man who hadn’t read it properly before giving the reading.  Still, it has special memories so I played with some fonts and colours and printed it on A3 recycled paper, which just covers a box of the right size for my gift and has a suitably tactile texture. Let’s hope it does the trick..

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Homemade Family Tree

Your toddler years are probably the only time in your life where you are allowed – nay encouraged – to believe that you are the Centre of the Universe, around whom everyone else revolves.  Why not celebrate that with a scrapbook-style family tree? Harry is by now pretty clear on who his relatives are, but sometimes needs reminding.  He’s also fascinated by the connections between them and to him – particularly given that we’re a modern, blended family with all sorts of interconnectivities and the kind of complex histories that only a venn diagram could truly give order to.

We’re making this together (or rather, I make it with Harry issuing commands about who is placed where, wielding the glue stick and frequently peeling people off for a closer look, or to attempting to insert their photos into Postman Pat’s van, or attaching them to the fridge..so it’s hardly a zen, bonding crafting experience, it has to be said). We’ve taken a pretty liberal view of family, including favourite toys and friends as well as those from who Harry is genetically inseparable. It’s a work in progress as we collect photos to add in.  Be warned if you try this at home; EVERY single person who sees it will claim that you have used a terrible picture of them…

5 Minute Makes: Placemats

I’m always looking for ways to keep my toddler distracted in restaurants in the time it takes between ordering his spaghetti (and it’s always spaghetti if he’s choosing), and it arriving at the table.  These table mats take 5 minutes to design and print-off onto A3 paper using simple clip art frames, and I’ve taken to keeping a stash in the car ready to whip out whenever life slows to an unpalatable pace for a 2yr old. The surprising news is that these are even more popular with grown-ups, particularly as a post-prandial activity when inhibitions have been dampened by alcohol and everyone fancies themselves an artist.  We keep the best – or the most irreverent – and hang them in the kitchen. For older kids the following suggestions also work well:

  • Draw your favourite outfit
  • Draw the Christmas / birthday present you want most in the world
  • Draw your favourite meal (though this can be a dangerous game, particularly if what you’re actually serving is considered a real let-down in comparison, and/or contains an inappropriately high level of vegetables…