papercraft

Quick Tricks: Printing Onto Tape

Magic tape printing master

How are you… are you having a good week?  We are beyond excited as our New England trip looms; suitcases are packed and stand in the hall (somewhat prematurely, meaning we have to rummage in them daily for crucial things buried deep inside).  Harry is determined that his entire Lego collection should accompany us, along with his stuffed-animal menagerie, so every night under cover of darkness we stealthily unpack his backpack and try to lighten the load a little.  We cannot wait!  A quick craft therefore this week, squeezed in between frantic completion of work projects and endless small preparations and errands; I present to you the art of printing onto tape.

This may well be one of those crafts that divides readers into those who cry ‘Lawks! That’s genius! However did I live without this knowledge?’ and those who are frankly mystified as to how this could ever come in useful.  Have faith; read on.  I used Scotch magic tape, because I had it to hand, but coloured washi tape also works well and easy to print on and peel.  I decorated a box of inexpensive wooden pencils from here, and now have a pot of prettiness on my desk for those times when only graphite will do…

pencil on book

To print onto washi or satin tape (don’t try using high-glass tape like Sellotape; the ink won’t adhere and you will end up in a tangled, inky mess and blame me..), firstly print out your words onto a regular sheet of paper.  Check that the font size is right for the width of your tape, and then cover each line with the tape, as below.

printing on tape 1

Now run the sheet back through the printer, positioning it the same way as before so that it prints over the original text and – Ta-Da! – over the tape itself.  Wait for the ink to dry (don’t skip this step; adopt a yoga pose and think zen thoughts until you are sure it has dried).  Then gently peel the tape away, and position it onto your pencil (or envelope, or giftwrap, or whatever else you want to use it for).

tape printing 2

printing on tape 3
If you’re covering pencils like these, gently roll the tape around the sides and then press firmly into place.  I’ve gone for the understated, Muji-esque look, but blinging bright washi tape would be equally delicious.

printing on tape 4

Pencils on notebook

Printed Pencils

I used exactly the same technique to print a sheet of tape strips to use on the back of envelopes to help them stand out from the dreary bills and other junk mail that arrives each day;

Washi tape Printing

So there, as promised, a lightening quick technique to use whenever the fancy takes you….

DIY printed pencils

I’ll see you soon!

Kate

The Cheats’ Guide to Calligraphy (or: How to Acquire Beautiful Penmanship In No Time At All).

calligraphy using your PC

I love receiving post, and I love to write letters, though I don’t do so nearly often enough. There’s something so rare and lovely about seeing an envelope poking out from a pile of brown bills and circulars which is obviously something fun.  This week, a few tips on how to create beautiful and accomplished-looking envelopes, invitations, gift tags or any other paper paraphernalia, using just your PC and a printer.  Whether you have a Windows PC or a Mac, your basic in-built programmes are likely to contain Powerpoint (tool of jaded office executives the world over, and hence an old friend of mine).  As well as producing mind-numbingly dull graphs and bulleted presentations, it can be surprisingly versatile; I do practically all of my crafty stuff using it, including the montages you see on the blog.

If your capability with Powerpoint extends to the point where you can open a file and create a text box, then we’re cooking and ready for the off.  If you are a Photoshop aficionado and are reading this with horror at my simplistic and antiquated ways, then please cast your eyes away from the screen and cease your tut-tutting.  Right then…

amelie calligraphy envelope

harry calligraphy envelope

george envelope

  • Choose a great font.  Either choose from the default font menu, or start with the list and resources below of mostly free-to-download fonts, and have a play until you find one you like.  Many of the sites let you type in your own words to sample the font before downloading (urbanfonts is good for this), so if you have a particular phrase or wording in mind, head there to see what it looks like in each font; with calligraphy and ‘handwriting’ fonts the letters can vary a lot.
  • Use a new text box for each line of text, so that you can move words around, rotate and position far more organically than you can within a single text box.  You can see here that I’ve used a large font for the surname and then used the green rotate icon to turn it slightly.  Having individual boxes also allowed me to overlap the ‘B’ of Brown with the ‘A’ of Amelia.  The stars here were drawn using Powerpoint’s own shapes library (create one, copy and paste until you have a small constellation).

Deconstructing DIY Calligraphy

  • For dramatic capital letters, use a text box for each letter, whack up the font size and then – using a new text box – position the rest of the word (in a much smaller font) where you want it. You can see below how for this address I used multiple font sizes:

Calligraphy font sizes

  • When you’re ready to print, cut out practice templates from inexpensive paper which are the same size as your envelopes, and print /adjust until you have it exactly positioned right, to minimise wastage or misprints.
  • For white text on a coloured background, create a large coloured square to sit behind your text onscreen before converting the text to white.  You can either print this directly onto the envelope as I did here, or onto a large self-adhesive label to then stick onto plainer envelopes. To avoid a white edge around your image when printing directly onto envelopes, select a print size slightly bigger than your envelope.
  • Don’t be afraid of mixing fonts, and adding graphics like I did for my envelope flap ‘monogram’ below, which I print onto a stash of envelopes for thank-you cards or letters;

Screen Shot 2013-09-19 at 14.12.03

envelope flap signature

Incidentally, I love printing things on the back of envelopes… be it a warning not to open birthday cards before the big day, a simple return address or a message; it’s all the more fun because it’s unexpected…

One Good Thing envelope flap

I could continue for hours on this topic, but in the spirit of brevity, and due to the pile of actual letters I’ve meaning to write for far too long, I will stop here for now.  Below are some of my favourites and all of the fonts I’ve used here.  All are free for personal use apart from the delicious Jacques & Gilles which cost me about $30.   I use it all the time, such as for these labels and this post, and it makes me smile.  Definitely worth it for me.

Calligraphy Fonts Sourcesheet

And finally, here are some of the things I create with calligraphy fonts;

  • Personalised stationery, particularly as presents for little people, like this
  • Monogram stickers to use as gift seals or for the back of envelopes
  • The letter from Santa which mysteriously appears in our hearth in late December
  • Invitations and gift tags
  • Labels for homemade baking and jams

signature

A Love Letter to Paris

ParisTraveler_Bicycle_pinup

Well hello, how are you?  I’m back from a few days away with my boys and am feeling refreshed, reinvigorated, renewed and all sorts of other startling words beginning with ‘re’ which provoke mild anxiety in those who know me, who rightly anticipate huge bursts of energy and vigour, just when they are ready to relax and chill out.  Whilst I’m still in holiday mode, I wanted to share the highlights of my recent Paris weekend – a quick visual feast if you have no intention of ever visiting, or possibly a resource to bookmark if you do.  Many of you added comments with some lovely ideas about where to visit which we loved (thank you); the sun shone, the Seine sparkled and we saw the city at its finest, beginning with;

Marais by katescreativespace

A big highlight for me were the endless stores dedicated to all things paper and craft, like this one;

Paris shopping guide by katescreativespace copy

In terms of food, we ate mostly at bistros and cafes, choosing freshly baked bread and pastries from the many patisseries for breakfast, but on our last day we treated ourselves;

Sunday brunch in Paris

We were both keen to try a cookery class when in Paris, so elected to study the art of the macaroon via an afternoon masterclass here

macaroon making by katescreativespace

And finally we squeezed in a couple of hours of window shopping and wandering back through the cobbled streets of the Marais, stumbling across some beautiful boutiques like La Chambre aux Confitures; a tiny place of worship for all things jam and jelly-related (fig, olive & nut jam to accompany your cheese plate, madame? Pas de probleme.  Strawberry & champagne jam for that special breakfast?  Mais oui!).  Then onto the magnificent windows of legendary ballet shop Repetto, piled high with shoes and bustling with young ballerinas eagerly queuing to try on the wares..

repetto store paris

lepetto ballet shoes

A wonderful weekend, and an inspiring one – I spent lots of time photographing amazing window displays and scribbling notes of things to try back home (watch this space..).

But now back to earth, and fortunately in our small corner of the world it’s an earth which is still basking in a heatwave, moderated by overnight showers which bring the garden back to life and cool the air.  It’s proven the perfect conditions for our sunflowers to give a final triumphant push for glory, and as I type they are teetering outside the window (note the carefully chosen words to indicate magnificent height and beanstalk-like prowess; we take competition very seriously…).  Photos and final measuring next time, once I’ve had the chance to add a last dash of plant food under cover of darkness.

Have a wonderful weekend, wherever you are; we have a night of outdoor theatre and picnicking to look forward to – summer at its best!

Kate x

nb all photos and illustrations in this post are my own, apart from the glorious Paris poster (top) from here

DIY Concertina-Fold Photobook

DIY Concertina Photobook Project

When I was in Paris recently, I saw a range of beautiful silk-covered concertina photo albums in the window of a stationery boutique.  A tiny, eclectic paradise stuffed full of the most beautiful things, it was a shrine to all things paper.  Their beauty diminished a little when I saw the price; about 25 Euros, or £20/$35.  Alors!

I resolved to have a go at making a few of my own at home to capture photos  of special days or big events  - and to make and give as gifts, packaged up with a little pack of photo-corners so that recipients can fill them with whatever photos they like.  I made one to go in Harry’s Time Capsule, with a selection of photos reflecting a typical day this summer, so he can look back and remember what it was like to be 3yrs old…

Concertina Photobook DIY folding Photobook
DIY Photobook Then for something a little more grown-up, I found some pretty Paris street map paper and made a concertina book of the best photos from our Paris trip; a copy each for me and my best friend Vicky who came with me…

Paris Concertina Photobook
Parisian Concertina Photobook
DIY Vacation Photobook

All you need for this is a large sheet of black craft paper (or any colour, if you prefer something brighter for the inside), two pieces of cardboard, some spray glue and a sheet of decorative paper.  Oh, and a stack of heavy books to place it under at various stages.  If you’re feeling inspired, click below for the step-by-step directions (and do let me know how you get on!)

DIY Concertina Photobook Instructions (click the link to download and print, or simply view them below)

DIY Concertina Photobook Guide Notes

Fragile Worlds

le paper globe

I thought hard about how to prepare Harry for my recent extended trip. He’s very used to me being absent for a night here or there when work takes me away, but an absence of Eight Big Sleeps was unprecedented.  We talked about it in the few days beforehand so that it didn’t come as a surprise, and that seemed to work pretty well.  A couple of days before I left for India, I stumbled across this free downloadable paper globe kit, so we made one together and worked out where Harry would be, where I would be, and how long a plane takes to fly between them.

the globe

We painted India in bright pink so it was easy to find, and then carefully placed the globe on the fireplace where it could be taken down and examined whenever Harry wanted.

paper globe on mantel

These paper globes are beautifully tactile and surprisingly sturdy; I used 170gsm heavyweight recycled paper for ours.  If you download the PDF, you’ll see it is constructed by building a paper skeleton and folding the spherical globe segments into place around it.  I tried this, then cheated and simply abandoned the inner skeleton, instead just cutting, folding and glueing the outer pieces together to form our hollow-but-robust version.  (nb If you choose our method, you’ll only need to print the first 4 pages of the PDF).

paper globe diy

I had a few emails and comments asking about my trip, so I’m sharing a little more below; I work in healthcare ( so not creative, but very fulfilling), and I went to India to see how NGOs and government try to tackle some of the challenges of providing basic healthcare and access to education to those who live in urban slums and remote rural communities.  I expected to see – and did – some sobering and shocking things.  What struck me equally though were the things that I didn’t expect;

That there is beauty and entrepreneurialism to be found everywhere….

onion seller of ravi nagar

..That the children I met who live and work in the most extreme poverty have an irrepressible energy and joie de vivre, and bonds that run deep;

the children of ravi nagar slum

boys on roof

boys with flowers

These children (above & below) are all ‘rag pickers’ living  illegally in Deonar,  Mumbai’s largest dumping ground for waste.  They and their families pick through the dump looking for items they can sell.

Mumbai boys

…And that the next generation of women can together change their world.

women together can change the world copy

These girls live at the dumping ground but are now attending school and spoke impressive English.  Shy and proud in equal measure, their ambition is to be able to move their families out of the slum, ‘and also to become a doctor’.

India was a land of extremes; complex, beautiful, impressive and startling.  The only place I have been where you will see a man leading a goat along the highway on a length of frayed string, scrolling through his smartphone with a free hand.  And where (below) you find market stalls with the most vibrant and lush fruit and vegetables… alongside a stall selling puppies, packed into bamboo cages.  Abhorrent? Or perhaps just a different kind of normal.  Certainly food for thought.

crawford market mumbai

Back to the home-front now though, and what promises to be a weekend of sunshine.  I’ll be putting the finishing touches to the interior of Harry’s house which I’ve been busy kitting out for a Summer of outdoor living.  More next week…

Come tell me a story…

Fun with the Storybox

Storytelling is big in our house.  From tales of the little people who live behind the skirting boards, to the owl family up our chimney; from the lego men who come to life after bedtime and party hard in the playroom all night, to Mummy’s magic shoes which dance when anyone steps in them; we weave stories into the fabric of our days almost without thinking, and Harry loves it.  Experts may say that we are storing up untold problems and creating a fantasist; I like to think that we’re just unleashing Harry’s imagination throughout the wonder years before the real world starts to hem it in.

And indeed, Harry  loves telling stories too.  ’My turn, my turn!’ He’ll exclaim as we sit around the table, or bundle into bed together.  And Harry’s stories are a delight, though they tend towards repetition and rely heavily on goodies and baddies, robbers and jail, and cars.  Oh, and usually someone falls into a giant vat of mud at the end.

This week we introduced The StoryBox, and it’s transformed our tales.  Filled with random but enticing words – like custard, mud, helicopter, sword and pirate – each person has to pick out a word and use it to begin their story.  Whenever you run out of narrative steam, you choose another word and have to incorporate it.  At three-and-a-half, Harry grasped the idea immediately and loves the unpredictability of what might come next.  It gives him triggers to keep his own story going, and it also allows him to direct – or perhaps sabotage? – our stories too, by pulling out words and insisting that we now need to add in a huge pile of elephant poo – or grandma on a motorbike, or a slimy monster, or whatever is written on the card.

The StoryBox Game

To make this I used a sturdy giftbox and filled it with chips of foamboard to which I glued interesting words.  I chose the names of family members, comic concepts and ideas involving mud, poo, custard and slime, and current obsessions like Lego men, the emergency services and all forms of transport.  And I added in a few completely new words, so that we could explain them and continue to expand his world.  It’s helping with Harry’s word recognition too (though you have to shut your eyes when actually choosing, to add to the drama and unpredictability…).

make your own storybox game

Some very cool stories have emerged.  Like the one where Granny had to rescue Daddy who slipped on a banana whilst escaping from the naughty pirates, who she then chased  on her scooter before making them jump into a big bowl of custard that they had to eat all up before going to jail.

Making stories

You can make this at home in just a few minutes, and it can be as simple or as finessed as you have the energy for.  For the five-minute version, scribble a host of words onto scraps of paper and place them in a hat, shoebox or bowl for family members to pull out.  For the lux version, you can print them out and glue to something more substantial as I did, and decorate a special box to keep them in.

If you want to use my graphic (below) for the cover of your box, you can find a printable version to download at the bottom, albeit one without Harry casually strolling through the pages..

StoryBox

I will keep adding words to our game as Harry’s vocabulary expands and his interests change, to keep it fresh and ensure that the StoryBox retains a firm place in family life. And now I must go; apparently there’s a cross-eyed camel running loose in the garden, and we need to find a saucepan full of sausages to tempt it over with.  No rest for the wicked…

Storybox Main Graphic

An Easter welcome…

Easter approaches, but not the vibrantly green Easter of sudden unseasonal heatwaves, spring picnics and al fresco fun.  Instead, Easter in our small corner of the world promises to be sprinkled with snow flurries, with only the hardiest early apple blossom and narcissi spikes braving the chill.  We don’t care; at Easter each year the house fills with family and friends, and we’ve been adding some decorative touches to spruce things up for their arrival.  Let’s start with lunch…

wallpaper table runner

I wanted to create an interesting Easter table that will see us through a number of meals and provide some distractions for little hands; I used a leftover piece of wallpaper for a simple, natural table runner.  It’s wipe-proof, unlikely to tear and means there’s no need for a tablecloth beneath.  I love using wallpaper for table runners – our local DIY store lets you cut sample lengths and I have a bundle of offcuts from when we were decorating bedrooms; some vibrant and some, like this, more subtle.  Simple brown kraft paper looks great too, or you could use a roll of black paper to mimic a chalkboard; I’ve done this for informal dinners with friends and it looks gorgeous when decorated with white chalk pens (leave some on the table for guests to doodle with..)

spring hare napkin rings DIY

I made these seasonal napkin rings by cutting toilet rolls in half and glueing a length of fabric around each.  I sourced the archive image of the spring hare from here; it was once a bookplate in a dictionary…  I printed it out several times on a sheet of white paper and cut into strips before glueing around each ring.

I used the same image for placemats, printing onto A3 recycled paper, and creating a set of hares racing around the table…

march hare placemat

For the centre of the table, I trailed a variety of spring elements to create a narrow but interesting feature, that can stay in place throughout the long weekend…

tonal spring table

We dragged a mossy log back from the park and this, when dried out, provided the backbone (n.b. if you do this, I’d suggest leaving it in the porch overnight for any existing many-legged residents to seek alternative accommodation, thus avoiding a mass exodus across the lunch table). Homemade nests were placed at each end, with smaller ones tucked along the log.  Old terracotta pots planted with narcissi are scattered at intervals, and should come into bloom at just about the right time…

easter or spring table centrepiece

Hard-boiled white duck eggs sit alongside faux eggs and blown quails eggs, filling bowls and egg cups, and even a tiny vintage silver tea pot from Harry’s play kitchen.

easter table display with teapot

 

I wandered around the house collecting any small vases or bowls of the right sort of palette, like this duck-egg blue vase which normally sits on a mantel but looks just right here…

easter tablescape detail

I decided to make a decorative banner for the fireplace in the kitchen, so set about painting some eggs in fantasy colours and designs (don’t try looking these up in any bird book; accuracy was never my strong point).  These beautiful paints are from legendary Parisian art store Sennelier, and were a gift from my father; I don’t break them out very often but when I do they’re a joy to use.

watercolour eggs

I painted my eggs onto watercolour postcard paper, then scanned them in so I could cut out enough for a banner; I like how they turned out, and think I’ll use them as individual place cards, or maybe transfer print them onto a plain tea towel in the future; if you want to use them for anything seasonal I’ve attached my file as a PDF below, which looks like this when you open it;

bird egg collection

If the weather-man is right, we’ll be lighting the log fire more than once and it will be the centre of attention, so I’ve arranged the folded books from a couple of weeks ago to add a spark of humour and interest…

easter fireplace

And as a final touch, on the large cook’s table sits a vase filled with plastic eggs and a fallen cherry-tree branch, a victim of the recent storms; we rescued it, trimmed just a little and then decked the branches sparingly with speckled eggs.  To do this, I placed a drinking glass inside the vase, filled it with water and inserted the branch, before carefully dropping the plastic eggs all around, filling up the space between the glass and the vase.

easter vase filler

Elsewhere, a collection of  wicker baskets which we’ve collected over the years sits waiting in the hall for the small hands of eager egg-hunters on Easter Monday.  We’re all ready to lay out the hunt (below), but are waiting till the very last minute to decide whether this is a bracing outdoor escapade calling for wellies, scarves and hot chocolate, or whether instead we’ll be placing eggs in nooks and crannies around the house before unleashing indoor chaos…

egg hunt signs

Our next task is a spot of seasonal baking; these baby chick cupcakes went down well last year so a newly hatched batch is top of the list.  If you click on the picture below you can find the details of how we made them.

Hatching Chick Cupcakes

Have a wonderful Easter weekend, wherever you are and whomever you’re with; may spring sunshine and good chocolate find their way to your door…

March hare tablemat

Six Speckled Eggs by Kate

A spot of DIY Book Art, and a Giveaway…

DIY Book Art

Firstly a huge thank you for the lovely comments about Harry’s playroom and the Book Nook; it quite made my week.  The folded book art seemed to capture a few imaginations, so this week here’s a mini tutorial on how I made the various books above and below, using a pile of 20p junk shop books.  Trial, error, glue and a large glass of wine all played a role in the end results, but if you’re inspired to have a go, read on.  If the idea of laboriously folding your way through a fusty and dog-eared old novel is about as appealing as dental extraction, whisk straight to the end and allow me to tempt you with a giveaway instead.

book art tutorial

1. Creating a hanging ‘Cascade’ book

I made this one last night using a small (6 inch) hardback Peppa Pig book from a charity shop.  Find any hardback book; kids’ books are great for this as they don’t have many pages.  You’ll also need glue or double-sided sticky tape, a round pencil or pen (for rolling the paper), and a stack of paper for your cascades.  I used Papermania solid card stock, which I adore, but anything will do; brightly coloured tonal papers give this lovely effect, but clashing rainbow colours or plain paper also look great, depending on where you intend to hang it.

  • Start by rolling each page over on itself and sticking it in place so you have a series of gentle loops.  Doing this will gently force the book covers out to lie flat (or at least to be held open), and create a kind of concertina of folds for you to tuck your cascading pages into.
  • Take a series of sheets of paper that are approximately the same size as the original book pages, and again gently roll each one over on itself and stick the ends together, giving you a selection of tubular, petal-shaped inserts.  Don’t use too much pressure here; you want rounded curves rather than creases.
  • Tuck in your pages randomly between the folded book pages, and secure in place with glue or tape.
  • Add a few more pages by taping these to your first layer of inserts
  • Next, take some strips of contrasting colour paper and roll them up in a pencil, before gently pulling out to give a tendril-like effect.  Glue these in place between the lowest layer of looped paper.
  • Finally, screw a small eyelet hook into the centre of the cardboard book spine and use this to hang it from the ceiling or a wall hook.
  • You can make these as big and fluid as you like, by adding layer after layer; it would make a beautiful mobile or sculpture trailing down a wall.. when I get the time I’m thinking of making a huge, floor to ceiling one in muted papers for a corner of our bedroom.

cascade book

2. Creating Rolled Books

Roll-folding books

These are the easiest to make, if you choose the right kind of book.  They look beautiful when stacked in loose piles, but also when hung as barrel-like pendants.  First, decide whether you are going to fold just the middle of the book like the first one above, or whether you want to create a whole rolled book (middle).  You can also leave a single sheaf of pages standing proud (above right) for added interest.

  • For a ‘barrel’ book, choose a chunky book (200-300 pages); the width will help it hold its shape. First, ease off the paperback book cover and any loose pages which come away with it.  Flex the spine a bit until it loosens – as if it’s been read many many times.  You’re hopefully using old junk shop books so this won’t take long.
  • Glue a long piece of string along the exposed spine; this will allow you to hang the book when finished and is much easier than trying to thread string through the finished piece.
  • Open the book in the middle and take a section of about 20 pages and roll it into the spine.  Do this 3 or 4 times and they will start to hold their form and push the book outwards.  You can glue or tape these loops in place by gluing the upper most sheet and pressing firmly into place, but often you won’t need to use any glue at all.

rolled book close up

  • Once you get to the end of the book, go back to the middle and work around the other half, doing the same.  The book will naturally form an increasingly tight barrel, and you will end up tucking your loops in. Glue your final loop in place and – hey presto – you have a rolled barrel book.  If you want to hang it up, thread a bead to the bottom of the spine string to hold it in place and for the book  to ‘sit on’, and you’re done.

Display below from Anthropologie

anthropologie

3. Folded Books

These are very simple but a little more time-consuming.  I showed you one last week which involved folding just a section of the book.  If you follow the same principle and work your way all through the book, you’ll end up with a diamond-like hanging pendant like this;

folded book pendant

I made these by the making the same two simple folds – just over and over again.  If you’re making a hanging pendant, choose a thick book (at least 300 pages) so you get a nice full shape.  And yes, that’s 600 folds, hence the large glass of wine.  Other learnings; don’t do this whilst your 3yr old son is still awake and, inspired by the crafting environment, is demanding to be allowed to do some ‘scissor practice’ on your book.  Also don’t practice your folding technique on the paperback being read by your husband, even if it was lying temptingly on the table; it won’t be appreciated. So, take your book and simply fold once to the centre;

fold 1

And twice to bring the top corner down to meet the fold; then keep doing this for every single page.  As before, if you want to hang these ultimately, glue some cord down the external spine before you begin folding, leaving a good length hanging out at either end.

fold 2

Once you’ve got the hang of folding, you can experiment with punches too; I used a circle punch to take a slice out of each page of this one below.

DIY folded book pendant

Phew; enough curling and folding; I’m now bedecked with small paper cuts and doubtless the beginnings of repetitive strain injury, but I do have a beautiful shelf full of repurposed books.  let me know how you get on..

And finally.. I have a $100 gift certificate for US craft supplier the Shoppe at Somerset to give away.  I received this as a ‘thank-you’ for a piece that I wrote for one of their publications, but whilst the e-store is filled with a myriad of tempting things, prohibitive transatlantic shipping costs mean that I’d much rather a reader of this blog is able to benefit and to spend every cent on frivolous but delicious craft materials.  If you’d like to win this, just let me know in a comment below and Harry will do the big draw on Monday.

vibrant book cascade

Happy folding (and wine drinking…)!

Starstruck at Christmas



Regular followers will know of my obsession with all things paper, and with projects which take very little time or specialist skill.  As Christmas draws ever closer, I’ve been experimenting with different types of festive stars and bring you some simple projects to try today.  My usual reassuring criteria apply; these had to be things I could a) get right the first time – or very occasionally the second; b) could do in front of the TV, merlot in hand, and c) look far more elegant and skilled than the actual labour would suggest.  I hope you’ll agree!



Below you’ll find my instructions on how to make each of these stars; the classic 5-point Amish barn stars, 6-point folding stars and concertina or snowflake stars, which look beautiful hung in windows.  Once you’ve got the hang of it, each of these are really simple to make and look beautiful when clustered together on a tree, or hung on a staircase  - or even just gathered in a large bowl on the table.



Five-point stars are in some ways the most striking and simple stars; reminiscent of Amish barn stars and New England folk decorations, they are the kind of stars that children draw in their first pictures.  They make beautiful garlands or tree decorations, and once you’ve made one you can knock up a whole galaxy very simply.

I love layering these stars once I’ve made them, and propping them on mantels and against walls. I’ll also be hanging them on bedroom doors this Christmas with monograms or name tags on, so that all our visitors can still find their room after an evening of eggnog and mulled wine.. Just overlay your stars and use glue dots or hot glue to secure them.  I added a Christmas bell and a pearl bead to these below;

They make gorgeous gift-toppers too….

Here’s my step-by-step guide to creating 5-point stars.  You can use any thickness of paper or lightweight card; paper is perfect for stars you want to thread into garlands or hang from the tree; card stock is best when you want to prop them up on their own ‘points’ – the greater thickness will give strength and avoid them bending or curling after a few days.  You’ll need a compass and a protractor.  I’ve marked my star in black pen for simplicity, but use a pencil to avoid it showing through.

Finally, fold!  If you’re working on the ‘wrong’ side – with your markings facing you like in the picture above – you want to fold the dotted lines towards you  (mountain folds), and the solid lines away from you (valley folds), so that when you flip it over your star looks like this finished one below.  The good news is that the stars are quite forgiving and can take a bit of refolding before they collapse.  Make one out of newspaper or a tax bill first, then use your prettiest paper when you’ve got the technique nailed.

If you’re making a garland or a set of same-sized tree decorations, I’d suggest that you draw your one star onto card stock and then use it as a template for all of the others by just tracing around it; very gratifying, and it means that you can throw your compass and protractor out of the window with glee.

You can find my original tutorial on how to make 6 point stars here, so I won’t repeat all the steps below; suffice to say I find these even quicker than the 5 point stars to make, and they look beautiful when strung together round a wreath frame, threaded by their points into a garland or hung in clusters like these on Harry’s playroom staircase.

If you are stringing them into a decorative garland (looks beautiful over a fireplace or along shelves), poke a needle threaded with invisible thread through two of the  tips of the stars as shown below.  If you thread them through the opposing, centre tips they’re more likely to spin in the air and you will spend a lot of time gazing at the backs… not ideal.

Again, if you’re mass-producing these, draw one out onto stiff card and use it as a template for all of the others; it’ll save you hours.

Which brings us finally to the easiest of all (and arguably the prettiest); concertina or snowflake stars.  I’ve made mine using 12″ square polkadot paper, but try using a large sheet of tissue paper or thin white paper to get far more folds/points and a large, ethereal white snowflake.  Again, newspaper is great to practice on here; the paper thickness and size is perfect for these kind of stars.



The visual steps are set out below, and here’s the lowdown:

  • Take a large sheet of paper and fold over an inch – you can measure this but I always do it by sight; these stars can cope with a bit of innacuracy!  Flip the paper over and fold it back again by the same measurement to create a concertina fold.  Repeat this until you run out of paper or have at least 4 full folds.
  • The more folds you have, the fuller and more ornate your star will be.  I’d practice on newspaper making one with lots of folds and one with fewer (like mine), to decide which style you prefer.
  • Trim off any leftover paper, making sure that your raw edges are both pointing down (like the first pic below), and you haven’t been left with a half-fold; if you have, just trim it off.
  • Fold your concertina in half to find the middle point, and then draw freehand a pattern which looks symmetrical on both sides (fig 3).  Make sure that you are keeping most of the folded side intact – I’ve just made a couple of circular patterns as you see – and cutting mostly on the side with the raw edges.
  • Cut out your pattern, holding the concertina tightly together, and then add a stitch in the centre (fig 4)
  • Fan out your concertina and spread and flatten the points out to form your star
  • Flip it over and staple the raw edges together on each side to form the star
  • Tada! Congratulate yourself and hang it in the window for all to admire…

Experiment with drawing different designs and seeing the effect that they have; my curvy drawing produced these fat, cheery stars.  Creating more folds and drawing a pattern with straighter lines and more geometric angles makes for a more icicle-like, frosty snowflake which would look beautiful when made on pure white or sparkly paper.

FInally, if after all of this you’ve caught the star-crafting habit, here are a couple of other ideas to try;

Let me know how you get on if you try these, and have a great weekend when it arrives.  We have Harry’s actual birthday tomorrow, and of course the first day of Advent so will be starting our advent tree which has now been laden with tiny boxes in the playroom.  The first snowfall of the season is rumoured, so we are waiting with slightly bated breath; it would be just too perfect for it to arrive on a birthday Saturday, but we’re hopeful nonetheless!

Making a Statement: brighten up a dull day



I’ve just finished redecorating the room in our house I use for all-things-creative; the walls are whitewashed, the old navy blue carpet ripped up and consigned to a skip, and it feels light, bright and inviting at last.  I wanted to paint the ceiling and walls bright white to maximise the light, but as a result they can look a little bare.  Last night’s project was therefore a simple paper banner which I can change at will, loosely strung between two wall tacks along a length of ribbon.  It adds a vibrant splash of colour but is entirely temporary, and can be reconfigured to create other words when I get bored….



To make this, I decided on my phrase and typed it into a document file, one letter per page.  I switched the font randomly each time, and played with the colours.  I then simply printed out the sheets and glued each to an A4 sheet of coloured cardstock (I love these tonal papers and use them for most projects, and tend to always have a pack in my drawer)

I then strung a length of ribbon between two tacks I nailed into the wall, and used wooden pegs to attach the sheets.  In my usual slapdash style, I didn’t make any measurements and just did this by eye – it looks rough ‘n’ ready and that’s fine by me!

I can see these appearing round the house in due course in various permutations; I can create an ‘enter!’ banner from my existing letters to string over a door, and by adding an ‘H’, ‘L’ and ‘M’ to my collection I can make a ‘Harry’ sign for his bedroom door, a ‘NOEL’ for Christmas, and a ‘Be Mine’ for those romantic moments which manage to occasionally elbow their way into life with a young family.  The possibilities are endless.. almost.  ’Never Be Ordinary’ seemed an appropriate motto for a family whose various members will frequently go shopping in a cowboy hat and swim goggles (Harry), and hold a Guinness World Record for running the fastest 3-legged marathon whilst tied to your brother (the unlikely-but-true pick-up line used by my future husband soon after our eyes met across a crowded room…). Embrace individuality – and so say all of us!


Wallpaper Waistcoats

I’ve got a bit of a thing at the moment for paper clothing.  Not to actually wear, of course – the memory of those giant disposable paper knickers they hand you as you wince your way out of the maternity hospital is still far too vivid for that. No, I’m thinking of the fragile beauty of works like these, and even the current trend for origami dresses which is spreading across Pinterest faster than a bush fire in Summer.

So when I opened a cupboard last week and was hit by a cascade of rolled up wallpaper offcuts and samples we’ve been collecting for our home makeover, I decided to have a go myself, and knocked up this natty waistcoat to hang decoratively on Harry’s wall – albeit safely out of reach.  It took a couple of hours from sketching out the template to glueing on the last button; I describe all the steps below and will attach my hand-drawn template this weekend for download if you fancy having a go yourself.  A great way of doing this is to simply draw around a favourite item of clothing and use that as a rough paper pattern for crafting.  Simple girls dresses would look beautiful made out of wallpaper, kraft paper or sturdy gift wrap, especially if trimmed in leftover ribbon – a gallery of my favourites from across the web can be found at the bottom for inspiration!



To make my paper waistcoat I used…

1. Leftover wallpaper (this is a slightly textured, iridescent print we used as an accent on a feature wall), or wallpaper samples procured illicitly from your local DIY store. 2. A contrast paper for the ‘lining’ and pocket cuffs; I used a cheap map-of-the-world wall chart; I buy a few at a time and use them for all kind of projects. 3. Ribbons for edging, or use bias binding for an even simpler, pre-folded alternative. 4. Suitable glue and sharp scissors and finally 5. Buttons! Anything goes here… I had a handful leftover from an old shirt. Oh, and 6. Chocolate, red wine (not shown); well, a crafter needs fuel, right?

I used a waistcoat of Harry’s to draw a rough template of a back and the two front sides, then laid them out along my roll of wallpaper to allow me to cut out a single piece (with a smaller piece of wallpaper you could cut them out as separate pieces and attach them together later).  As with a sewing pattern, I left an extra inch all around to fold under like a seam, giving my paper waistcoat a nice edge. I cut and folded my outline into the basic shape of the waistcoat (below).

Once you have this basic shape, the possibilities for embellishing it are endless.  Here’s what I did (no step-by-step pics I’m afraid as I did this one evening after darkness fell..):

  • Stapled the should seams together (do this with the sides too if necessary), as close as possible to the edges – you’ll hide the staples later with your ribbon edging.
  • Folded and glued ribbon around all of the raw edges (sleeves, neckline and front edging)
  • Cut a piece of contrast map paper using the ‘back’ template and glued it in place, adding a splash of colour and hiding my raw edges around the neckline
  • Cut out pocket shapes from both papers and laid them on top of each other, gluing in place with a piece of the ribbon as edging
  • Fashioned a handkerchief pocket from offcuts and folded an interesting section of map paper for the ‘kerchief
  • Found a handful of matched buttons and glued them in place.

I used the materials I had to hand, making it both cheap and an instantly ‘do-able’ project.  Next time I’ll try it with a more brightly patterned wallpaper and some primary colours for the ribbon and buttons; at this rate, I can feel a paper wardrobe coming on ;-)

Here are some more ideas for paper clothing from around the web, from the ethereally beautiful through to hardcore shoe fetishism; all references below


Images 1&2 by artist Elisabeth Lecourt, Images 3&4 via here, Image 5 via here