Thursday, 11 September 2014

5 ways to spice up a letter

Now that it costs 62p to send a letter first class in the UK, I can understand why people are less inclined to write to one another. I have friends who don't understand why I still love sending and getting mail the old fashioned way. But a letter on the mat from a friend makes such a change from the brown envelopes containing bills. I have a few pen pals as well as people who share my love of snail mail. With that in mind, here are some ways to spice up a hand written letter.

1. Cool stationary

Letter sets make all the difference! I get most of mine at Artbox, but places like Paperchase and most quirky gift shops stock cute themed envelopes and writing paper.

2. Stickers and tape

Use these to brighten up envelopes and letters.

3. Origami!

Peace cranes are a symbol of... well, peace, and can be flattened into an envelope, making them an ideal little addition to a card or letter.

4. Postcards

I buy postcards when I am out and about, or pick up cool free ones. Put one or two into a letter for your friend to stick up on their wall.

5. Zines

My penpal and I make and swap zines. For those who don't know, zines are simply handmade little books, made to be cheaply reproduced via photocopier. They can be about anything under the sun - poetry, photography, feminism, your novelty pen collection, stories, anecdotes... Find them on Etsy or wemakezines, or make your own to give your penpal something to read on the bus.

Any more ideas for spicing up a letter? Leave a comment or get in touch :)

Tuesday, 2 September 2014

Upcycled paper - Make your own scrapbook

Make your own little book containing lots of different types of paper in this easy project.

You will need:

  • Scraps of paper (old maps, pages from old books, lined or squared paper, tracing paper, magazine pages)
  • Long-armed stapler
  • Card for outside cover

  • Once you have your pages all arranged, fold them in half and attach them using a long-armed stapler. I used a plain piece of card for the outside cover which I then decorated using a paper-cut style decoration, but you could also use stamps, stickers or pens to customise it, or personalise it for the intended recipient if it is a gift. :)

    Write, draw, or stick stuff in it. It's up to you!

    Tuesday, 26 August 2014

    Upcycled canvas

    I really am a dummy - I had a series of step by step photos showing how I upcycled this canvas into a piece of patchwork art for my bedroom, and somehow I seem to have deleted all the photographs except the ones showing the finished article! 

    It's not like they are essential for showing you how its done, but it does mean you don't get to see how truly hideous this canvas was previously. My friends gave it to me straight from their man cave - it had a painting of a snake-like woman on it on profile, with a weirdly contorted body and massive boobs. One of those mass-produced things you can get in Ikea etc. Gross!

    They charged me with doing something else with it, so I decided to create a collage made up of fabric, photographs, drawings and found items. It was a very organic process and I just added to it and made it up as I went. If you want to attempt something like this you just need the following:

    • Old/horrible canvas you no longer want (You can just use a wooden frame too of course)
    • Upholstery staple gun
    • Scraps of fabric
    • Pictures/photos
    • Glue
    • Any embellishments you want (broken jewellery, buttons, badges etc).

    This makes a great project to do alone or in a group. It's fairly budget friendly, and you can theme the canvas, or make it match whatever wall you hang it on. Easy-peasy :)

    Thursday, 10 April 2014

    One-word mini photography project: Yellow!

    I have had to juggle several different things lately and sadly this means not as many posts on here as I would like. But today I managed to get out with my camera on a bike ride and see spring sprouting in all its glory :-)

    I would love to be a better photographer,, but as well as limited knowledge of technique, etc, I often dont know what to focus on when out and about. So I texted my good friend Karen Harvey, asking her to text back a one-word stimulus to base a day-long photography project around.

    She texted back from a train that was travelling though rapeseed fields, saying: Yellow! So off I went with my camera into town, and out again into the countryside beyond. And this is what I found!

    Bizarrely, my favourites are: the money shop, the broken voltage sign, and the straw. I love pattern and texture so it was this I was seeking out more than objects, though I think I got an even balance. The tulips one I like only because I lay on my front in the grass next to a busy road to get that shot, that was fun! Also, the one of the yellow wall next to the dual carriageway? I took that whilst riding along on my bike. The camera was held up to my eye and it was the weirdest experience trying to take a picture whilst steering a bike - I almost came off!

    I loved doing this and will definitely be doing it again. Having a one-word starting place really gets you focused and looking for things to photograph. I think its best if you let a friend choose a word for you, or else have a selection of words you can pick at random. This would also be a great project to set for kids!

    Tuesday, 18 February 2014

    Origami boxes

    I had an origami session one night at a youth club, and I was surprised at how popular it was with the teens, they couldn't stop making them once they knew how! But on reflection it's easy to see why this craft is so popular with all ages.

    As you can see I ended up with simply loads of them. Put sweets in them, or little gifts such as earrings. If you are planning a crafty wedding, they would look great as favours on the tables for guests. Also if you make two boxes with slightly different sizes of paper, then hey presto! A box with a lid!

    Step 1: Fold your origami sheet in half to make a triangle. Unfold and do the same the other way. Unfold your sheet to reveal creases as shown.

    Step 2: Fold each corner into the middle, until you have all four corners meeting like so.

    Step 3: Now take your square, and fold the opposite flat edges into the middle. Rotate and do this for the other set of edges until your square has shrunk as shown. This is just to make the creases necessary for the next step.

    Step 4: Now fold your sheet back out until it looks like the top picture of Step 4 above. The dotted line shows the creases we are now focusing on. Fold these creases in, and as you do so, the sheet should rise up to fold neatly and make your first two corners. It's a little difficult to explain but your box should start to take shape, with the inside starting to resemble an open envelope.

    Step 5: Now we're going to 'close the envelope' - that is, fold the top triangular edge down, pressing it into the bottom of the box. You need to fold the flap just where my thumb is in the picture on Step 4.

    Your box should be finished! Not only is this is cheap quick and non-messy craft for kids, but also an addictive activity for adults, and useful for making parties or occasions even more special, when filled with little treats or knick-knacks. 

    Wednesday, 13 November 2013

    Crafting and boys

    I volunteer at a youth group for secondary school-aged children (11-16 years). Every week for an hour and a half in the evenings, a community centre in my city opens its doors. Some of the kids are from deprived backgrounds or have chaotic home lives. 
    Boredom in these kids can be an absolute nightmare so we try to make sure there is plenty to occupy them. For some time now I've been in charge of the craft table, and I've been able to observe the impact art and craft can have on the kids that visit us. The results have been really surprising.

    The girls do join in, of course, although a lot of the girls are quite happy to sit and chat, play on their phones or with a tatty card deck we put out. The boys are the ones that really seem to benefit from the craft activity, something I never would have guessed before I started going there.

    Funny really, how just having something to do with your hands opens up conversation avenues. I get to chat to the kids in a way that would be much harder if I just went up to them when they are lounging on the easy chairs or round the pool table. A lot of the time, at the end of the night, the boys aren't interested in keeping the thing that they've made, they toss that night's project on the table and walk out. It seems the process itself matters more than the outcome. I don't think this is a problem, as long as they are enjoying the process of making something, that's all that matters. As I start to make a career change into teaching, all this observation is really valuable. It may not sound surprising to those that work with kids full time or have a better knowledge of the therapeutic effects of art and craft, but still, I've learnt a lot at this youth group. I struggle sometimes to think of craft ideas for boys, but I may put together a list soon of crafts I have tried with lads that have gone down well. I'd love to hear from other people with thoughts about this.

    Wednesday, 14 August 2013

    Fun with blackboard paint

    Hannah, Hannah, Hannah. When did you get so bad at updating? Now Transformers Prime has finished airing I really have no excuses. Britain has been basking in hot sun which has lasted for more than five minutes. That's been nice. I also made a little something for the kitchen: a blackboard, which I've always wanted, out of an old picture frame.

    All you need to make a customised blackboard of your own is the following:

    • Old picture frame
    • Blackboard paint
    • Paints for the frame (I used acrylic)

    Buy an old picture frame in a charity shop, or find a disused one in the home, and chuck away the print and the glass (obviously not literally). You should be left with the frame and the wooden backing that holds the picture in.

    Paint the backing board with blackboard paint, and fix it back to the frame. I think I gave mine about three coats, and that's basically it. I could try to drag out this simple upcycling post, but theres really no need. I decided to go for a fun, jolly look with the foods, plus food is colourful and kitcheny. Stripes would have looked good as well, maybe I'll sand and re-paint it when I get bored of it. Hope you're having a good summer. :-)