May 042014

My favorite Friday night activity is some variation on the following:

Crafty still life

Crafty still life

Candle lit, notebook out, and crafty supplies at the ready – a lovely way to end the week and start the weekend.

Rounding up where I’m at with my current crafty projects:

-I’m almost done cutting out interfacing for the Dorothy bag. Since moving to NYC and getting rid of our dining room table, I’ve yet to figure out a good setup for cutting fabric. Instead of continuing to avoid the bag project, I remembered that interfacing isn’t nearly as wide as fabric, and so less intimidating to cut. I made do on my cutting mat and sewing/crafty table, which is wonderfully long but not very deep – the 24″ axis of my mat hangs off on both sides. I picked up some heavy washers to act as pattern weights, and am digging this no-pin rotary cutting.

-My cross-stitch phone case is coming along nicely. I’m stitching daily on my commute, assuming I can get a seat or a good “standy-spot” – one where I can brace myself against the subway doors for balance and keep my hands free for stitching. Last weekend I was this far, sharing my work with a friend:



Now I’ve finished the fox face but for the eyes, and am on my third chevron stripe. I’ve decided to leave the black chevrons blank rather than stitching them, both to save time (ohman this grid is tiny), and for textural interest. My progress is going along faster now that I discovered I can cross stitch while watching a show (catching up on Mad Men season 5).

-In crafty dabbling news, I started an advanced papertcut project yesterday while volunteering at Brooklyn Craft Company. Some photos here. Our instructor, Annie of Bmorepapercuts, brought some of her amazing work to show us, including part of a huge piece – practically my height – cut out of Tyvek. My papercut is still very much in the early stages, since I spent lots of (too much) time customizing my design and getting the lettering right (you write it out backwards in this process). Also because I listened to my body and took frequent breaks when my hand/neck/back/shoulders starting aching. I need to learn a less claw-handed knife grip! The tip of my right index finger still feels vaguely tingly. I’m going to pick up a pack of exacto blades so I can continue this project at home.

I’ve been riding my newly-tuned-up bike more often, the cherry blossoms are in full bloom in the botanic garden, most of my sweaters have been put away in exchange for shorter sleeves and the occasional bare legs, and spring looks like it’s finally here to stay. Happy May!

May 022014

Spring fever for me often means starting lots of new projects and not seeing anything get finished for a while. So to switch up the startitis pace, I’m digging into my personal crafty archive and sharing something I made last fall!

One perk of my job is that occasionally I can take one of the art classes we offer. After a few weeks of sitting in on a silk painting workshop, I came away with this:

Silk bonsai scarf

Design: I spent almost the entire first class thinking about the scarf design. The leaf image in our instructor’s templates was one of my favorites, and I wanted an interesting, curvy tree to go along with the leaves. After class I found a stained-glass bonsai tree image online, which I enlarged and modified – adjusting the number and size of the stained-glass panels, etc. The color scheme developed organically, with cobalt blue as the starting point.

Process: First you iron the silk scarf and stretch it onto a square frame, using clips or pins to attach it. Draw your design elements on paper in pencil, and then trace over with black marker (or use existing templates). Then draw the line-work onto the scarf using a gutta resist. Silk absorbs dye reeeeally well, so you need something to stop the dye from spreading if you want to have any defined color sections in your work. The resist creates a barrier so that the fabric will resist taking the dye. Dry the resist with a hair dryer.

Test the “French dyes” on scrap silk and mix colors as desired. To begin with, all dyes were diluted with a 50/50 alcohol/water solution. You can dilute the colors even further, but I skipped this step since I wanted highly saturated hues. Apply dyes to the scarf with paint brushes.

The instructor took students’ scarves to her studio and set the dye for us by steaming. After the silk was steam-set, I washed the scarf in cold water until the water ran clear, washed it again in warm water and mild detergent (Eucalan wool wash), and laid it flat to dry.

Silk bonsai scarf closeup

While I’m usually more drawn to wearing head-to-toe color than a solid black dress, it’s a great blank canvas for showcasing the scarf as a focal point.  I threw in some pops of ultramarine and cobalt blue, to tie it all together and because I can’t help myself. Here’s a shot of the scarf in action:

Silk bonsai scarf

How I usually wear the scarf: folded in half into a triangle and tied around the neck bandana-style

And a silly, blurry shot of me hanging out inside one of the office’s art supply closets:


Materials: 21″ square 8mm silk habotai scarf, Dupont Silk Dyes and Sennelier Tinfix Design Silk Dyes

Resources: Lots at Dharma Trading Co: Silk painting techniques, and learn more about guttas and resists. Check out my instructor’s Etsy shop for silk painting inspiration: Leslie Silk Studio

Apr 062014
Hand-marbled paper

Marbled paper from my session at Brooklyn Brainery taught by HappyGoCrafty

Last post I shared my first dabbles in learning paper marbling. What will I do with my marbled paper? I’ll use some for cards, and probably hold on to my favorites for a while. Maybe use a sheet as a background or matting for framing an embroidery project.

Searching for project inspiration, I came across decoupaged votive holders, cards, framed wall art, bookbinding, furniture(!), and more:


marbled paper boxes and envelopes (tutorial) by the Saturday Market Project

gift bag

marbled paper gift bag (tutorial) by Aunt Annie’s Crafts

Gorgeous paper weaving by Boombox Bindery

gorgeous paper weaving by Boombox Bindery

marbled paper lamp base

marbled paper lamp base by Elise Blaha Cripe

marbled paper table(!!) by Love Your Pad

marbled paper table(!!) by Love Your Pad

I also gathered a few web resources with detailed instructions, trouble shooting info, and marbling history:

  • Marbling Basics: A Step-by-Step Guide to Marbling Fabric by Dharma Trading Co. Even though it’s geared towards marbling fabric, this guide has lots of great info that would apply to paper as well, along with good trouble shooting tips.
  • When I mentioned my latest dabbling to marbling artist Katherine Radcliffe, she was very generous with her knowledge. Her website includes process shots and a brief history of marbling, along with images of her beautiful marbled work.
  • Marbled Paper Designs by BibliOdyssey provides an in-depth look at the history of marbling, tons of images showcasing different types of designs, and links for further exploration.

That’s probably it for my marbling dabbles for a while – at least until the end of May, when I’m hoping to orchestrate a group marbling playday.

Apr 012014

A few weeks ago I took a paper marbling class with a couple of friends at Brooklyn Brainery, a spot in my neighborhood that offers all kinds of classes, from hands-on crafts to lectures to walks where you learn how to identify trees (also super fun and recommended!).

I’ve dabbled in paper crafts over the years, making simple cards using stamps and collage. I was excited to add another paper technique to the craft arsenal, especially one that plays with pattern and color.

Hand-marbled paper

My favorite of the batch is a sheet of drooping curtains: turquoise, purple, blue, and black combed pattern

For the marbling process, essentially you need paint to float and spread on a thick liquid solution. After manipulating the paint to make the blobs and swirls characteristic of marbling, you lay a piece of paper on the surface of the water for a few seconds to pick up the paint.

We worked fast, both to avoid dreaded air bubbles and because class time was short (90 minutes). This speed was refreshing, as I often tend to agonize over details and trying to get something “just right”. Instead, I just played around and had a blast!

I’m hoping to organize a paper marbling get-together with some friends this summer. I record the process in detail here for anyone who’s curious, and to help jog my future self’s memory.

Sizing: Acrylic paint sinks in water, so the liquid solution needs to be thickened into “sizing” (or “size”). There are many methods to accomplish this, including using carrageenan and water or a base of shaving cream! We used methocellulose in the class. Mix up the sizing, a day in advance if necessary for the chosen method, and pour into a metal baking pan.

Paint: We used acrylic craft paints (Apple Barrel), watered down to the consistency of whole milk. Another marbling enthusiast I know loves Golden Opaque Airbrush Flow.

Using broom straw, plastic stir sticks, or another applicator, tap paint onto the sizing. Use as many colors as desired, with 3-6 recommended. If you stop here, you get a Turkish Stone design, which is the foundation for the marbling techniques we learned.


Turkish Stone pattern: classic paint spatter with veins, and the basis for most other designs

Patterns: Manipulating the colors was my favorite part! Drag combs, rakes, skewers, and other tools across the surface to create patterns. We learned the traditional Get-Gel pattern (literally forth and back, describing the path of your rake across the surface) and many variations.


You can create several concentric circles by tapping dots of paint onto the sizing with the blunt end of a skewer. With the pointy end, pull the four ‘corners’ of the circle into the center to create a clover, pull the rounded edges out into a point to create a flower, and so on. Check out this wacky psychedelic design! (Not my usual color palette. I think I applied some combination of my favored jewel tones, but pulling the paint with orange paper really changed the palette’s feel.)


Adding and manipulating concentric circles to the traditional paint spatter for psychedelic botanicals

Paper: In class we used construction paper, and the colored paper made the final results even more surprising. (The only marbling I did on white paper is the first Turkish Stone design above.) Bend the paper and gently lay it flat in the tray for a few seconds. Pull the sheet out onto a masonite board and squeegee the excess sizing off. Set aside to dry. When dry, store under heavy books to flatten.


Now what to do with all this marbled paper? I’ll share some project inspiration and more marbling resources next time around.