paper craft

DIY Knights and Princesses Party: Invitations and Arrows!

Knights and Princesses Party

Harry’s birthday party is at the end of the month and he is already beside himself with excitement.  Befitting a boy who is passionate about knights, swords, acts of heroism and needy princesses, it will be set in a castle (or rather a draughty village hall, but we’ll make do), and will involve mostly lots of running games until the young partygoers are just exhausted enough to collapse at the table for tea.

For Harry, the invitations are one of the most important bits; he loves to hand them out to his friends and tell them all about the party.  Last year we had a pirate party and made message-in-a-bottle invites.  This year we’ve gone for medieval castle scrolls and feather arrows, making use of the 6 billion empty toilet rolls we find ourselves with after an extended period of festive entertaining..

DIY Castle invitations for a boy's party!

I took each cardboard tube and covered it with a piece of this cool wallpaper, fixing it in place with double-sided tape..we’ll use the rest of the roll to cover the tables for tea on the day.  I rolled up an invitation and slid it into each tube..

DIY Castle Party Invitations Step 1

To make the glitter feathers I used inexpensive duck feathers from a local craft shop (Hobbycraft in the UK and Michaels in the US sell these), and sprayed the tips with CraftMount glue before sprinkling liberally with glitter.  Do this in an area with no wind, and where a small boy is unlikely to come hurtling through at great speed, displacing even heavy objects and certainly a tableful of glitter.  I offer you this as a learning from experience.

DIY Castle Party Invitations Step 2

Finally, I tied on the feather with ribbon and added a faux wax seal leftover from Christmas supplies (mine are snowflake ones I ordered from here for holiday envelopes; I love them and they stick ferociously, generally surviving the mail).

DIY Castle Party Invitations Step 3

Job done!

DIy Castle Party Scroll Invitations

To make the decorative arrows, I used lengths of dowel and attached a feather to one end with bright paper tape.  For the tip of the arrow, I glued on pencil eraser caps which I painted silver; the rubberiness helps if you get accidentally impaled during an over-zealous bout of play-fighting, and also means it’s almost impossible to poke someone in the eye, and Lord knows that’s an occupational hazard at most children’s parties.  Life is too short to produce these in large quantities (by which I mean that my attention span is too short), but a quiver-full is fun to play with and running repairs can be made in an instant simply by adding more tape.

DIY faux arrows

DIY Arrows

For the invite itself I used powerpoint and some clip art, and this lovely medieval font which is free to download.

Knights Party Invitation

 

(It obviously had a bit more detail on it than this!)

I should point out that making Harry’s birthday party invites is an annual small labour of love, and that if I had more than one child the effort would be by necessity scaled down immensely.  Also, that it is the most effortful aspect of the party itself, which requires little more of us than filling a large hall with balloons, sugar, loud music and small children and retreating to safety as soon as possible.

Did I tell you that I am required to dress up as a princess?  My birthday present from Harry was an adult-sized Maid Marion costume which looks alarmingly insubstantial and should certainly never be waved near a naked flame.  In his eyes though it is beautiful, and I must play my part in agreeing to be rescued valiantly by the birthday boy.  And who am I to argue with such chivalry?

Wish us luck…

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Recycling Christmas!

Gift tags from Christmas Cards

Possibly the simplest DIY you’ll ever see here – but a timely one!

Do you recycle old Christmas cards by using them to make other things?  it’s a thrifty tradition I remember from early childhood, though the memory of curled and yellowing card trimmed with pinking shears put me off it for a long time.  This year we received some beautiful and fun cards; whilst adults are gradually paring back on card-giving (a combination of saving-the-trees and a lack of organisation, in my house), Harry and his classmates traded cards daily, keen to show off budding penmanship skills and thrilled by the constant flurry of envelopes to open.

Yesterday we took some of them down and had fun making these over-sized gift tags for next year; a way of preserving the beauty of the cards but also of creating tags which are big enough for Harry to write on himself (because no 5yr old can be easily constrained to a tiny square of card), and also a way of refining scissor-skills; Harry busily chopped and snipped his way through a pile whilst I attempted a more measured and symmetrical clipping …

Christmas Card Recycling

I used bits of string and ribbon we’d saved during the frenzy of unwrapping on Christmas Day, and a hole-puncher and eyelets to thread the string through.  We chose the strongest cards as well as the prettiest; they’ll spend a year in the loft and then a few weeks under a tree next Christmas so we wanted to make tags that could last that long.  Also, check that your cards only have writing on the inside ‘back’ of the card and not the back of the image; if they do, you’ll need to just stick them onto another piece of thin card so you cover this up.   A few other tips;

Use ribbon or cord which picks out a colour of the main tag and it really makes them pop!

Colour pop gift tags

Cutting around interesting images on the card cane make some fun shaped-tags, like this pear tree from a larger, square Christmas card…

 

 

Partridge gift tag

Polar Bear Gift Tag

Mounting your cut-outs onto other backgrounds can  make them even more special; I glued this Christmas goose image onto a narrow strip of gold glitter card and then trimmed the corners to make a large swing tag;

Festive Goose Tag

And sometimes cards are so striking that all you need to do is snip off the back and simply make a hole for the ribbon, like this gorgeous graphic print;

Stag Gift Tag

Once we’d finished, leaving a sea of tiny snips of card, drifts of glue and wisps of ribbon fibre, we put all our tags into a leftover gift box and I’ve labelled them ready for next year – a satisfying way to recycle and have fun making things in the process!  Do you recycle your cards? Any other creative ideas for things to do with them? I’d love to hear…

Boxed Christmas Gift Tags

Have a wonderful evening tonight if you’re out celebrating, or simply taking quiet stock in the warmth of home. May I wish you a very Happy New Year for 2015!

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Quick crafts: DIY Santa!

DIY Torn-Paper Santa

Harry and I are beginning to feel a bit festive (if you’re in Bah Humbug-mode, look away and shush your tut-tutting…).  Perhaps it’s the steady thud of Christmas catalogues arriving in the post, or the relentless holiday music playing in every retail space we wander through.  By December, we’ll probably be fatigued, but right now we’re loving it.

We’ve been discussing what our home-made Christmas cards should look like; last-year’s button tree cards went down a storm so the bar is high.  Harry is keen that we should feature the iconic Big Man himself, so we’ve chosen Father Christmas as our focus.  Or Santa Christmas as H calls him, in one of those 4yr old linguistic mash-ups I want to remember always.  I was inspired by these fun gift bags with their simple graphic image, and had a play to try and create a picture which could be made very simply, involved some fun tearing and ripping, and would be very forgiving if one of us got distracted by Lego (him) or wine (me).

DIY Santa face giftwrap and cards

To make these you’ll need:

  • Red paper
  • White watercolour paper (any white paper will do, but textured paper like watercolour paper looks great for the beard and hat)
  • Pink or flesh tone paper; I used this
  • A black marker pen
  • Make-up blush or a pink crayon
  • Glue

Firstly, decide on your base / background; we used white cardstock for making cards, and also decorated a brown kraft paper bag and a gift tag, to practice and see how they looked.  Here’s the bag, step by step…

1. Cut a wide strip of pink paper and paste across the centre of your bag.  Trim at the sides to fit.

Step 1

2.  Cut and glue a wide strip of red paper above, to the top of the bag (or card, or tag, or whatever).

Step 2

3.  Tear a thin strip of watercolour paper; do this roughly, don’t use a ruler, and don’t worry if it’s irregular.  Glue it over where the red and pink paper meet; this is the trim of Santa’s hat.  Now tear a wider piece of the white paper for the beard and moustache shape; aim for a shape which curves up in the middle like this:

Step 3

4. Now take your marker pens and dot two eyes and sketch a little smile (play around with expressions; each one can be different!).  Use a pink pen to ink in a nose.

Step 4

5.  Finally, dip your finger in some blusher (or use a crayon if you’re a dude), and swirl on two rosy cheeks.  You could dab some on the tip of the nose too if you like; it gets cold out there on the sleigh.  Ta-da; you’re done!  Now just repeat  - or you can scan your work of art and print it out instead; the lazy crafter’s guide to mass-production at Christmas.

Step 5

If you use a red base, as we did with this gift tag, you can skip a step and it’s even simpler; just add the pink and white papers on top.

Santa Gift Tag

Our living room is now adorned with smiling Santas, who are partially stuck to various surfaces as they dry.  The rain is beating down and we are slowly beginning to think about work and school bags and clean clothes, with that small heartsink that comes with the end of a lovely weekend and the prospect of Monday morning.  An open fire tonight, I think – let the weekend linger just a little bit longer.

Have a great week, wherever you are and whatever you’re doing.

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DIY Dutch Canal House Luminaries

DIY Dutch House Luminaries



Back in the Springtime, Mum and I went to Amsterdam for a weekend which we spent in cafes, galleries, stores, bars and – most of all – walking along all the beautiful canal streets, picking the houses we most wanted to live in, transfixed by the rooflines with every conceivable shape and architectural feature.  These were some of my favourites;

Canal Houses in Amsterdam

With the nights slowly but surely drawing in, I wanted to recreate  the houses as delicate luminaries which could be backlit with candlelight on the mantle.  I drew different house shapes (templates at the bottom)…

Dutch House Luminary 1 BLANK

 

Dutch House Luminary 2 PLAIN

Then printed them onto A4 sheets of cardstock (go for card as thick as your printer will take – mine was quite flimsy which made it very easy to cut, but the luminaries will be more likely to curl and bend over time).

Carefully cut out all the tiny windows with a craft knife and self-healing mat.  Use a safety-ruler for this if you have one, the kind with a deep groove for your fingers, particularly if you’re as easily distractible as me.

Making luminaries

…fold the side-flaps so that you have a self-standing shape, and then simply glue a sheet of vellum or tissue paper on the back.

Making Luminaries 2

Stand them up on your cluttered desk and admire them with the natural daylight shining through…

DIY Luminaries in daylight

IMG_1971

…and then watch them come into their own by placing candles (in jars! Safety first..) behind them as the light fades.

Luminaries

With the festive season around the corner I designed two styles; one plain, and one with a sandstone texture and snowflakes.  You could also print out the plain one and paint or decorate it and send as a greeting card…You can colour in the windows to avoid having to cut them all out (cunning, and very labour-saving… life’s too short to spend too much time with an x-acto knife in hand).

We love our small canal-house street, and lighting the luminaries has become an evening ritual as we shed school bags and coats, briefcases and umbrellas and head for the warmth of the snug to catch up on the day’s events.  Just don’t forget to blow them out before bed!

Templates below to download… enjoy :-)

Dutch House Luminary 1 FESTIVE

Dutch House Luminary 1 BLANK

Dutch House Luminary 2 FESTIVE

Dutch House Luminary 2 PLAIN

Dutch House Luminary 3 FESTIVE

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May The Force Be With You

Darth Vader DIY Cardboard Ship

Today I have an answer for that universal question which troubles us all at one or other time; ‘How Does One Make a Star Wars Fighter Ship Out of Cardboard?’.

Well alright,  I know that in reality it’s not a problem that many face, but it was a challenge laid down by Harry who was desperate that we should build together a spacecraft worthy of Darth Vader.  His actual specifications (‘One that really flies, Mummy!’) were a bit ambitious, but we emptied out the recycling bin and did our best….

DIY Star Wars Ship

It was a voyage of adventure (and misadventure), involving a pile of cardboard boxes, empty milk containers, a staple gun and some black and silver paint.  We took our inspiration – loosely – from the TIE Advanced cruiser that Darth Vader uses to shoot across the galaxy.  Can you see the resemblance, just a weeny bit?

TIE_Advanced courtesy of wikipedia

We tasked my husband with rummaging in the undergrowth during his evening runs in search of discarded hubcaps; he did brilliantly and managed to drag home a large and filthy selection.  Cleaning old hubcaps in the kitchen sink in order to stick milk-bottle caps onto them will be a defining moment of motherhood I think.  Still, it meant we had all our core components assembled;

Recycled materials

I sawed up cardboard to make wings and fixed them to a box (I punched holes and wired them together for strength, rather than using glue; these ships take quite a battering in astro-warfare..).  Harry was in charge of paint, a task he took to with enthusiasm.  I discovered belatedly that our paint of choice is not in fact washable; neither boy nor shirt have looked quite as box-fresh since last weekend…

Painting the Star Wars Ship

The rockets were made by spraying milk containers with silver paint and stuffing them with strips of tissue paper; I threaded a length of wire through bendy straws and used these to secure the bottles in place where they could provide jet power at the touch of a button.

DIy Milk Bottle Rockets

Star Wars Ship Straps

Foil pie cases were glued on in abundance by Harry to add a bit of bling and space-age style, as were faux jewels from the art cupboard, and then finally I cut a large square out of the bottom of the box for Harry to step through and then added wide bands of elastic to act as straps to hold the ship in place.  A star cruiser was born.

I’ve not included detailed instructions for how we made our ship because I have a hunch that this is a rather niche craft activity (though mothers of small boys – and larger ones – may find inspiration here).  Instead, here’s a pictogram of what we used and how it all vaguely came together…

DIY Star Wars Ship Materials

And now I must leave you; the universe is in peril, I hear, and Darth is on the warpath. I don’t have the time or cardboard to knock myself up a lightsaber, so I will be relying on my wits.  This means I am doomed.

All being well, however, I’ll be back on Friday with a cheat’s guide to how to make hollowed-out books for storing treasures.

See you then!

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The Letter Box: Preserving The Magic of Snail Mail

The Letter Box

I’ve written often on this blog about my love of letters and the abiding magic of good things in the post.  For someone who delights in receiving mail, I don’t write to others nearly often enough, so have gradually been gathering together lovely supplies to make it easier to scribble a pretty card or note in the moment I think of it, before life rushes on and the distracted hunt for a stamp or an envelope causes me to abandon my good intentions.

Harry too is becoming a man of letters, and has discovered the presence of the Royal Mail and the astonishing fact that letters, when posted into a box on our street, can be transported to far flung corners of the world in a matter of days (actually, in truth the time element has yet to be understood; Harry’s default expectation is that anything we post will reach it’s destination – wherever that may be – by teatime).

I’ve made Harry a Box of Letters which contains all sorts of lovely things for making and sending letters and cards to grandparents, family and friends – and even to us.  It’s helping him with his writing and means we can distribute the growing pile of artwork somewhat more widely.. and also has the bonus of generating letters in reply, which he adores.

Writing Letters

Here are some of the things in the modern man’s stationery bureau;

1. Enticing coloured crayons, pencils or pens.  We love Giotto pencils which have an almost oil-pastel like vibrancy and creaminess and go on thickly and easily.  They’re also triangular which helps with learning pencil grip, if you’re 4-5yrs old and facing such grown-up challenges.

Handful of pencils

 2.  Fun, bright stationery which doesn’t require much writing to fill it all up.  I’ve given Harry a fistful of my Happy Notes which only need about a sentence-worth of concentration and heavy-breathing before they are full.  I’ve also packed in a few of our home-made holiday postcards and some of Harry’s monogram stationery – again, just the right size for the attention-span of a small child.

Happy Note

3.  Decorative paper tape and stickers to adorn envelopes and add a dash of flair.  I also use the tape to hold the paper or cards in place whilst Harry writes and draws; with the flamboyance and heavy-handed pressure involved, it’s easy for them to skid and slip around unless I tack them lightly in place.

Washi tape and Stickers

4. And my favourite… personalised stamps and fun stamps.  I made some stamps for Harry using the Royal Mail Smilers service, and there are similar websites for the US and Canada which will allow you to upload photos and turn them into personalised stamps (lovely for a wedding or event as well as fun for kids).  They’re fun to use and raise a smile when they arrive on the mat at their destination.

personalised stamps

I made the storage box out of an old shoe box, and designed the picture below for the top (you can download a PDF printable below if you want to make your own).  I found some cow-print paper in Harry’s art cupboard which I used to line the box and lid – and now we have our correspondence kit to hand for whenever inspiration strikes!  I think one of these would make a lovely gift too for anyone young or old with a passion for stationery and lovely things; something to think about perhaps as Christmas stealthily approaches.

Letter Box Lid

Letters Box Printable

I’d love to know any other ideas for bits and bobs to include in Harry’s box or ways you’ve encouraged letter-writing and managed to avoid it becoming a tortuous semi-annual task after birthdays and Christmas; all tips welcome!

Have a wonderful weekend wherever you are and whatever you’re doing; we have a back-to-school party and a small family reunion to look forward to – and baking too; September sees the return of our Saturday Cake-in-the-House tradition; a glass of wine and a new recipe book await me this evening.

Kate x

Stationery box for kids

 

How to Capture a Kiss…

A Kiss in a Box

On Mothers day this year (which in the UK falls in March), Harry produced a large, wrapped box which he’d decorated at nursery with tissue paper and paint. ‘You can’t open it’, he said ‘But there’s a kiss in it that I blowed before I shut it’. Harry’s very familiar with the notion that kisses can be blown and caught; from when he was tiny we’ve been sending kisses his way for him to chase, catch, and occasionally swallow.  I love the idea of capturing a kiss and keeping it safe, so inspired by my mother’s day gift I’ve made a kiss-catching kit which can be used to transport love through the post or in a pocket, and is small enough to be carried like a secret talisman whenever needed.

Kiss in a Box DIY

The printable wrappers below will cover a small, standard matchbox, which you can then either leave empty (because kisses are invisible after all…) or add a photo in the base.  I blew my kiss into a small glass bottle, but if you’re worried about glass then you could use a tiny bag or envelope, or a simple heart or Hershey’s chocolate kiss instead.  Simply cut out the templates, fold and glue around your matchbox, using pegs or paperclips to hold the wrapper in place whilst it dries.  I made two versions; a hessian-effect wrapper and a suitcase-style cover modelled on this beautiful one from Globetrotter, which will join my wardrobe when I eventually win the lottery (but probably not until then).

How to Capture a Kiss Kit

DIY Matchbox Covers from katescreativespace

Harry’s box is small enough to be tucked deep into a pocket to provide secret reassurance during any moments requiring mild bravery; unaccompanied playdates, sleepovers or Big Days at school – a discreet kind of comfort blanket that can be gripped when necessary without anyone else knowing.

A kiss in a Pocket

My own original box-with-a-kiss sits atop my desk and always makes me smile.  It came accompanied by a Mother’s Day breakfast-in-bed menu, which Harry had collaged by cutting and pasting a variety of options from the pages of a magazine.  He arrived at our bedroom door at dawn in chef’s whites ready to take my order (below), but then swiftly climbed into bed and delegated the preparations to his father, ‘now that I have done the hard work of the menu’.  What a smooth operator…

mothers day breakfast

Have a great weekend!

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DIY Matchbox Covers from katescreativespace

Quick Tricks: Painted Paper Hearts

DIY watercolour hearts for valentines day


Thanks for the wonderful cake ideas last week; inspiration enough to keep us going through till Springtime!  This week has been a crazy one at work (I’m back to full-time now), but with Valentine’s day just around the corner I’ve spent a few minutes making these hand-torn, watercolour hearts to use in various ways.  All you need is a heart-shaped cookie-cutter, a sheet of watercolour paper and some basic paints – and about 10 minutes to spare.  No more artistic skills than that, I promise you… Torn paper hearts Valentines watercolour hearts
Take a sheet of regular watercolour paper, and place a heart-shaped cookie cutter on it.  Cut very roughly around it and snip at each end of the shape to get you started.  Now press the cutter down hard on a flat surface and tear around it so you have a heart shape.

how to make torn paper hearts

making paper hearts

Loosely mix up some red & white paint and swirl until you have a vibrant, watery pink.  Load a big brush and just wash it all over the shape.  You can add areas of deeper colour for an ombre effect.

painted paper hearts

Let them dry (you can paint both sides if you’re using them for a garland), and you’ll find they settle into a beautiful array of different shades and tones, with the colour deepening at the torn edges;

Watercolour hearts for valentines

…and the only thing left to decide is how to use them!  I’ll be using mine to make a Valentine’s card and matching gift tag, and will also use a white chalk pen to scribble our planned Valentine’s day menu on it (I’m cooking for us at home), to nestle on plates on the table.  These would also look great strung together to make a garland, or simply adorned with a love message and then tucked discreetly in your loved one’s pocket to be discovered later in the day… the possibilities are endless.

valentines card



Finally, if you enjoyed my post about watercolour stencilling, try using cookie cutters instead of stencils – it works beautifully (and is great fun with kids…)

Have a great weekend, wherever you are and whatever you’re doing..

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A Swashbuckling Adventure!

It’s Harry’s birthday in a couple of weeks, and once again we’ll be taking to the metaphorical high-seas for pirate-themed adventure.  He’s captivated by a programme called Swashbuckle at the moment; a sort of fast and furious show for under-1os where the kids have to outwit naughty pirates and reclaim their stolen treasure.  We’ve been tasked with recreating some of the games from the programme, and dressing up accordingly; I’ve been combing charity shops for suitably piratical clothing, and glueing metres of gold braid to second-hand coats and old wellington boots.  First things first though; the invitations!

Homemade Message in a Bottle Pirate Party Invites

I wanted to create something that would feel a bit magical and nautical for Harry’s friends to receive, so used plastic water bottles to create a kind of message-in-a-bottle invitation (we’ve got through quite a lot of Evian over the last few days; I’m hoping my skin will thank me at some point..).  I substituted the screw-top for a champagne cork and strung an eye-patch around each one.  (I’d love to be able to say that we’ve been nobly working our way through endless bottles of champagne over the last few days too, but in fact I’ve been saving these corks up for years in the vague expectation of putting them to some crafty use).  I secured a label to each with bakers’ twine and then set about designing the invite itself.

Swashbuckle Invitation

DIY pirate party invitations

I designed the invite on my PC, then printed a copy and carefully burned the edges away to age it and add a bit of drama, then photocopied the original to produce a whole set.  I fed these through the printer to print all the party details on the other side.  If you have a young pirate at home and want to try this, I’ve uploaded a PDF of the invite you can use at the end of the post.

We filled an otherwise gloomy and wet Sunday with the exciting task of posting these through local letterboxes, emailed invites to those further away and then began to think about costumes.  I wanted Harry to have a pair of proper pirate boots, so as a birthday present I’ve been secretly customising and accessorising these charity shop wellies which I bought for £2 and which are the perfect size…

Pirate Boots Makeover Project

DIY Pirate Boots detail

I used strips of faux leather for the cuffs, then super-glued braid around the edges, adding red ribbon and plastic coin trim around the front for a spot of extra bling (you can never have too much bling, if you’re a real pirate..).  I stitched silver buttons to the cuffs and then sewed miniature picture frames onto a length of wide black elastic for the buckles, and then slipped these over the top of the boots.

Upcycle old wellies into pirate boots

The pirate treasure chest gift box was a fortuitous find at TK Maxx, and will keep these Pirate Captain boots a secret for the next couple of weeks, to be opened on the day of the party and hopefully received with great excitement… we shall see!

Alongside the pirate preparations we’re also starting to think ahead to Christmas, so Harry and I have broken out the glitter and craft paper and are on a roll.  The builders are still here to keep us company, so the house is a sea of sparkly glitter, half-empty mugs of tea and brick dust (who needs dry shampoo? Just plaster a wall and you can wash your hair far less frequently..).  It’s chaos, but we’re still feeling zen and trying to hold on to that holiday afterglow.  In the absence of any aptitude for yoga or meditation, wine is definitely helping with the relaxation.

Ahoy There Pirate Invitation

Message in a bottle labels

 

Lost Arts: Paper Boats

tutorial on how to make paper boats

Do you remember making paper boats as a child?  Or perhaps paper hats?  I was thinking last week about how easy it would be for these oh-so-simple and yet so magical crafts to vanish in the modern world.  I grew up knowing how to make boats and hats, how to write secret letters in home-made invisible ink , how to tie a myriad of different knots – albeit mostly with the aim of binding my  brother to a tree – and how to build bivouacs and signal in morse code using my torch, illicitly, late at night.

It helped that my mother was a Girl Guide leader, and that most Friday nights saw the garden filled with girls flamboyantly  lighting campfires (health and safety be damned..) and practicing outdoor skills.  It was a gung-ho upbringing and I just assumed that all parents knew this stuff and could whip up a sailing boat, a double-half-hitch-crossover-hench-twist* or a series of intelligible smoke signals at the drop of a proverbial hat.

*Don’t try to look this one up; accuracy is not my strong point.

Of course, I have forgotten nearly all of it, so in an attempt to ensure I can create the same delight and awe in Harry, I gave myself a refresher crash course in elementary boat building.  If your skills are similarly rusty, arm yourself with a sheet of letter paper and follow this.  Pause it when you get lost and start-over.  Don’t do this after a glass of wine.

tradewinds paper boat with mast and ribbon flags

I made my boats from map paper and poked twigs and wooden skewers through each to form a mast.  Washi paper tape and scraps of fabric complete the sail, and I used a rubber stamp kit to print random numbers and letters on them.  I christened my boats with suitably nautical names – Tradewinds, Siren Song, Night Trawler et al – and prepared to set sail.

paper boat with sail

Tiny silver bells and paper dolphins accompany the boats as they take to the high seas; these are beautiful if you’re making boats to tuck into bookshelves and on mantels, but obviously won’t survive a voyage across the bathtub.

paper dolphine

If you find you’re having balance problems, try adding an anchor; I used a handful of beads from an old necklace which look a little like ancient maritime fishing bouys.

paper boat with anchor and paper dolphins, and linen sail

And finally if you want to produce an armada to be sailed across lakes, rivers or ponds, try using an old book.  The pages are perfectly thin and work brilliantly for folding.  I found an old book of letters in my local junk shop for 50p and now have a handful of tiny boats that we can practice bombing, sinking and blowing off course…

paper boats made from old book pages

Staying with our nautical theme, we managed a long weekend at the seaside, having a very British kind of minibreak; each day we acquired a smattering of freckles, a dash of windburn and the kind of bracing exfoliation that only frequent, brief hail-storms can provide.  Every time we turned to face each other our hair had been coiffed into evermore improbable positions by the briny crosswinds, and we practised our sprint-starts by racing each other to shelter under the pier when the heavens opened.

And yet, and yet …it was beautiful.

vibrantly coloured doors of houses and seaside photographs

In three brief, heady days we had a ball; crabbing in the harbour with leftover bacon from breakfast; building mermaids and forts in the sand; watching astonishing sunsets with a glass in hand, and gradually amounting a huge collection of dubiously scented seaweed, driftwood and flotsam, which has left a lingering & evocative presence in the car ever since that no amount of ventilation can quite dispel.

postcards 2

We came home, unpacked the car, collapsed in a heap together on the sofa, and then remembered our sunflowers.  A feverish scramble to the windowsill revealed…

..that we have life!!  A magnificent 4 inches of life no less; we are very proud.

sunflower germinating

Have a wonderful weekend when it arrives, wherever you are and whatever you’re doing.  It’s a holiday weekend here in England, and for once the skies are blue and cloudless.  I feel a barbeque coming on…

Handmade Memory Books

My love of paper is well-known to anyone who has visited this site with any regularity since I began writing in January; show me a craft knife, a gluestick and a roll of interesting papers and my heart starts to race faster than if Mr Clooney swung by announcing I was his plan for the evening.  Well, maybe not quite that fast, but fast enough nonetheless…..

Where was I? Oh yes, back to far more appropriately maternal thoughts for a moment and this week’s project; a homemade scrapbook for Harry to colour in, fill out and cover randomly with photos of his choosing.  Documenting his friends, passions and a carefully curated collection of his exuberant artwork, it will capture a little piece of his life at 2, and will be a great rainy day project (and we have plenty of rain right now…).

I learned the sublime art of book-making a few months ago at the hands of the serene and wonderful artist Ciara Healy.  Ciara takes a zen approach to paper craft and despite spending her days upto her elbows in PVA glue manages to look effortlessly elegant and well-manicured, without attracting all the bits of discarded paper and ribbon that seem to adhere themselves to my entire body surface by the time I’m done.  The scrapbook or memory book I’ve made above is deliciously simple, and can be made with two sides of a cardboard box, a few large sheets of white paper, a roll of giftwrap and very little else (though you can increase the sophistication endlessly).

The pages for this book are standard size sheets simply folded in half. You can choose any starting size – I used A3 – and decide whether to leave them blank or add text as I did by running through the printer first.  I added headings to some pages ‘my favourite toys’ ‘my best friends’ etc, and left others blank.  When making grown-up books for friends I love to use old maps, diagrams, and textured papers interleaved with regular paper stock to make each book more interesting and individual; you can also add vellum envelopes for the recipient to store keepsakes.

Score and cut your cardboard so that it is 1″ longer than the folded paper at both the top and bottom and 1.5″ wider in total.  Choose some colourful strong gift wrap, wallpaper or even fabric for your cover (plastic coated fabric like tablecloth material works brilliantly for this), and a contrasting strip of book cloth or tape for your centre seam.  Decide how deep you want your seam to be, and then measure and lay out your card so that you have a gap of 0.5″ between the two covers (1).  Apply PVA glue liberally to the book cloth seam and then lay the cardboard in place, scoring down the sides for definition.  Place a sheet of greaseproof paper in the middle and fold the book shut, weighting it down to dry out (this will help flatten any bumps and prevent the cardboard from curling).  Once dry, it should look like this (2); overlay various decorative papers to decide which looks best, and work out which part of any pattern or design you want to show (particularly important with large prints or images). Carefully apply PVA to the back of each sheet of your paper and lay over the cover, overlapping your seam by a fraction.  Trim off the corners and fold under neatly, before weighting to dry out as before, at which point it should look like this (3).  By this time I had become too covered in rapidly-drying glue to take intricate photographs of each stage so have simply described them, but for the visually minded and determined, there’s an excellent online tutorial here.

Whilst your cover dries, stitch together your pages as shown here, using a strong thread that won’t snap easily, and then glue the front and back pages into your board cover, which should leave a lovely decorative border around the side whilst masking your stuck-down edges.  If the thought of sewing makes you want to weep, you can staple your pages together instead, just don’t tell anyone I suggested it…

As a final touch, you can add a closure for your book; I opted to punch small holes in Harry’s book cover and sew on two contrasting buttons, then added a ribbon to the inside back cover (secured with another piece of glued cover paper), as shown below.

Harry is rightly proud of his new book and marches around clutching it possessively in the manner of a trainee Traffic Warden looking to note down infringements.  I am attempting to follow closely behind and impound the gluestick before all important bits of household paperwork become irrevocably adhered to its pages. Wish me luck…